Monique and Tyronne learn about African saints Rosita M. Dennis
The twins, Monique and Tyronne, are brother and sister. They live in the city and go to St. Annes, which is both their school and their church. They live downtown in a busy neighborhood on Maple Street. Every weekend, they visit their friend, Sister Josephine, they call her Sister Joe for short. She is a nun who lives in the monastery at the end of the Street, just 5 blocks from their house. Sister Joe always teaches them something new about God and the Holy Catholic Church. This month, she is teaching them about some saints from her home country, Africa. 1
Saint Monica Monique and Tyronne rode their bikes to the monastery to see Sister Josephine. They rang the doorbell and waited patiently outside for someone to answer. Sister Josephine answered the door. â€œHello little ones. I was just thinking about you. Come inside and have a snack.â€? They followed Sister Joe down a long quiet hallway, passing by windows that looked out to a garden. They continued down the hallway until they entered a small dining room. They then both sat down quietly at the dining room table, as Sister Joe served them milk and cookies. Sister Joe smiled as she sat by the window while they ate their cookies.
“Why do nuns pray all the time?” asked Monique. “We pray because prayer is the most beautiful and powerful thing in the world!” said Sister Joe. “It's also the best gift you can give to anyone.” “Come here and look out the window. “ Upon reaching the window, Sister Joe said “Do you see those early spring flowers? Each flower is like a prayer in heaven. When it springs up, God sees it and answers it. God hears every prayer. Each one does something good, even if we don't see any results right away.” “Monique, your question reminded me about one of my favorite saints who loved to pray.” “What's their name?” Monique asked. 3 3
“Her name is Saint Monica.” Then Sister Joe rolled out her map of Africa and pointed to a country called Algeria. “Algeria is a very large country in Africa. It has mountains, but it also has part of the Sahara desert. A long time ago, in the year 331BC, a very holy woman lived in Tagaste, which is modern day Algeria. Her name was Monica. Monica was married to a man who was a pagan and treated her cruely. Out of her three children, two were Christian. However, Augustine, who was the wildest, 4
did not belong to the faith. Day and night, Monica shed many tears and prayed constantly for her husband and her son Augustine to become Christians. She prayed for Augustine, so long that, a Bishop comforted her and said 'It is not possible that a child of so many tears should perish'. The Bishop was right, because after 17 years of praying, Augustine finally became a Christian. His father became a Christian too. Monica's prayers were not only answered but later in life Augustine became a Bishop and eventually a famous saint of the Catholic Church. 5
Saint Moses the Black The next weekend was rainy. Instead of riding their bikes, Tyronne and Monique put on their rain boots and raincoats and quickly skipped down the sidewalk, jumping over puddles, as they went to the monastery. They rung the doorbell as the rain softly patted their raincoats.
Sister Joe opened the door and said “Hello little ones, I am so glad you came today! Isn't it a rainy day? How about some hot chocolate with marshmallows?” “We would love some!” said Tyronne and Monique. “What saint are we going to learn about today?” asked Tyronne. Sister Joe pulled out her map of Africa and pointed to Ethiopia. “Since it is raining, we should talk about a saint from Ethiopia, a country in Africa that gets a lot of rain. It has mountains and part of the Nile River.
Saint Moses the Black is the patron saint of Africa. Moses lived during the 4th century and was a slave in Egypt. After some time, he was freed from slavery and joined a wild gang. While in the gang, he would fight and steal and bully the village people with his gang friends. One day, when he was running from trouble, he hid in a monastery. The monks at the monastery were very kind to him. They were also very peaceful. He became friends with them. This experience changed his life. After some time, Moses decided to live at the monastery, get baptized and become a Christian. They say that when he first went to confession, a Holy Angel appeared, and as he confessed his sins, the angel erased them on a white tablet.
Moses became a very holy monk and later became a saint. He lived a life of prayer and peace and inspired many people to follow Jesus. We have to remember to ask St. Moses to pray for us in heaven. We need to pray for all the gang members today. The Bible verse I want you to remember for today is from 1st John 1:9: 'If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Isn't it beautiful that confession washes away our sins, just like the rain cleanses the earth. Always remember to go to confession!” “Thank you Sister Joe” said Monique and Tyronne. They waved goodbye as they stepped out of the monastery to go home.
Saint Josephine Bakhita
On their way to the monastery, Tyronne and Monique wondered what new saint they would learn about today. When they arrived at the monastery, they rang the doorbell and waited. Sister Joe answered. “Well hello little ones! You came later today. I was expecting you earlier.” “Awww, Sister Joe, we’re sorry. Do you still have time to tell us a story?” “Yes, I always have time to tell you a story.” As they sat down at the dining room table, Monique noticed there was a pretty white table cloth and flowers at the center of10 the table. 10
“Sister Joe, you have new flowers today! What kind of flowers are they?” “Thank you for noticing! They are called African Violets,” answered Sister Joe with a smile. “The saint that I am going to tell you about today is known as Africa's flower, her name is Saint Josephine Bakhita.”
Sister Joe pulled out her map of Africa and pointed to Sudan. â€œSudan is one of the largest countries in Africa. It borders a very old body of water called the Red Sea. Saint Josephine Bakhita was born in the year 1869. You see, like flowers sometimes brave hard conditions, heavy rain, scorching sun and attacks from insects; Saint Josephine had a very hard life too, full of sorrow and suffering. But through all of this, she still blossomed for God. When she was very young, she was kidnapped and became a slave. For many years, she had to work very hard and was cruelly beaten. Her life as a slave eventually took her far away to Italy, where she found refuge one day with the Cannosian Sisters in Venice. After many trials and a court order, she was finally granted her freedom and the Cannosian Sisters welcomed her into their order.
Saint Josephine became well loved by the people of Italy. She was always known for her kindness, gentleness and peaceful way. She touched many lives . She loved God very much. One day, a young student asked Saint Josephine "What would you do if you were to meet your kidnappers again?" Without hesitation, she responded "If I were to meet those people who kidnapped me and tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and religious today". Even though Saint Josephine suffered so much, she was still wise enough to see how God's goodness can make every life, even the hardest ones, bloom in beauty. So the scripture verse I want you to remember today is Romans 8:28: ‘All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called to His purpose’. Now you hurry home, because the sun is starting to set and it’s getting late! “Thank you Sister Joe” said Monique and Tyronne. They waved goodbye as they stepped out of the monastery to go home. The setting sun glowed like a gem in the deep blue sky.
Saint Charles Lwanga
The next weekend, Monique and Tyronne decided to stop and see Sister Joe on their way back from playing in the park. They wondered what saint they would learn about today as they rung the doorbell. “What saint are we going to learn about today?” asked Tyronne. Sister Joe pulled out her map of Africa and pointed to the country of Uganda. “Uganda is a country in Africa that has many beautiful lakes and rivers. It lies to the east of the continent. 14
Today, I am going to tell you about a boy that was born there. His name was Charles Lwanga. He was born in the year 1860. As a young man, he became a worker for the King of Uganda; at the same time, he also became a Christian. The King, however, was a pagan that did many evil deeds and tried to encourage the young workers to do the same. Charles Lwanga protected the others that worked under the King from his immoral ways. However, one day, the king became so angry with Charles Lwanga and the rest of the Christians. He was so mad that he ordered all the Christians that worked under him to die, unless they bowed down to him and his pagan gods. Charles Lwanga, along with 21 other Christians, refused to give up their faith in God. The King ordered them all to be killed. He ordered Charles Lwanga to be burned to death. On June 3rd, Charles Lwanga became a martyr of the Catholic Church by dying for his faith.
Saint Lwanga reminds us to always strive to be pure and holy and never give up our faith in God. Saint Lwanga is the patron saint of African Youth and Catholic Action. Even though the king killed his body, he did not destroy Saint Lwanga's heart and mind, which was safe in Christ Jesus. The Bible verse I want you to remember for today is from Philippians 4:7: 'The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' They both gave Sister Joe a big hug and then skipped down the sidewalk all the way home.
Illustrations by Eva Angelova