CANONIZATION OF CYPRAIN IWENE TANSI: WHY THE DELAY? (2)
Read from the beginning
So we are not in any way meddling in matters that are none of our businesses or not within our competence; No!! We are only showing our concern and perhaps sounding a note of warning against ugly situation that might ensure as a result of inaction from parties or those expected to take decisions.
CANONIZATION OF TANSI: NEED FOR ACTION AND PRAYERS
Let us specifically return to our main topic of interest and great concern, namely the canonization of TANSI. IGBO PEOPLE OF NIGERIA, in one of their popular sayings inform those who care to listen, that ONE WHO IS NOT AROUND OR WATCHFUL FINDS HIS YAM ABANDONED OUTSIDE THE FIRESIDE. The precious king of Igbo agricultural farm produce, YAM, can be eaten, boiled or roasted, often with well prepared delicious local sauce. To get it well roasted, especially when a great number of people as well have theirs by the fireside, it is advisable and wise to make sure yours is well placed among others in the center of the glowing firewood. If you care the less, you find yours displaced and pushed aside the fire place. In other words if you are not watchful and attentive and even aggressive your very important case or matter may be overlooked and not given proper and urgent attention it deserves. It is a saying, warning the indolent fellow never to relax. Stay awake and fight for the right cause !
Nigerians are always good at pointing accusing fingers at others, blaming Dick and Harry for being responsible for the numerous problems confronting our fatherland today. Politicians are corrupt and are responsible for the bad economic, political, social and religious situation in the country today! The masses have no hands in our misfortunes? We have many unsurmountable problems facing us today, and they are not only political and economical. The church has also a lot of problems, but whatever these problems are, there is need for solidarity in asking for, in praying for God’s intervention in the resolution of our problems, whether economic, political, religious, and spiritual.
While some may place hope in simple Christian faith, namely that God’s time is the best, and therefore maintain that demand for action is unnecessary, we have to note that INACTION on the part of the authorities concerned, ROME or Nigerian ecclesiastical authorities, may put the IWENE TANSI case in the LIMBO, namely in an uncertain unpleasant situation all of us will not like! There is no need to provoke unnecessary speculations. The matter may eventually be forgotten, as everyone accepts to leave the ‘sleeping dog lie!’ No! There is urgent need to talk about the case at hand, ask questions, create awareness, until prayers for the canonization of the first Nigerian Saint are heard by both God and the competent ecclesiastical authorities involved . If we pray and cry aloud the competent authorities may, out of pressure decide to look into our complaints and therefore give them the proper attention they deserve. We remember the Parable of the needy neighbor in the middle of the night!
PARTS OF THE DEAL
There are ‘deals’ of various formats, shapes and sizes, especially in business everywhere and in many areas of human endeavor. These are arrangements and agreements entered into by parties involved. A boy asking for a pocket money from his dad or mom may have to make a deal with the parents in order to get what he is asking for. “You wash my car, then you get the picket money”, may be one of the deals. “Unless you improve in Maths you are not traveling with the rest to watch the movie”, may be another. The journey to the SAINTHOOD, like that to the priesthood, or religious life, or any other profession has no doubt, a lot of ‘deals’ attached to them. We examine some of the deals here. It is necessary for Nigerians and those interested in the canonization of Blessed TANSI to take note and appreciate them here.
(1) CHURCH AND POLITICS
Most ardent Catholics may already be aware of the various factors and elements involved in the canonization processes . No well informed Christians and Catholics can deny that today there is found what people refer to as “POLITICS” in the church. “POLITICS” here, we must clearly emphasize, has nothing to do with CROOKEDNESS and all the paraphernalia associated with politics, ancient and modern. These dirty items include deceit, falsehood, hate, ethnic rivalries, or tribalism, racism, bigotry and divisions of groups and peoples in order to gain advantage, to name just a few. No doubt the word ‘politics’, in every discussion today all over the world instils fear in our minds. “It is all politics”. “He is playing politics”. The listener is warned to be wary, to pay close attention and not to be misled! “Stay alert ! You are in a different world of the unreal!
This is not the type of political arena we are referring to in this part of our essay. “Church and politics” did not begin their ‘association’ just today! Church and politics have worked hand in hand from the earliest times of Church History. There have been CONCORDATS (covenant, agreements entered between a pope and a sovereign or government for the regulation of ecclesiastical matters?). In certain nations of Europe, America and Asia, governments have or have had roles in the appointments of bishops and certain categories of the clergy. Elsewhere, “political considerations” play powerful role in the appointments of bishops, nuncios, and even the Pope. If such situations had existed in the past; today not much has changed. Therefore if there are some POLITICAL DEALS OR REALITIES involved in the canonization of saints, hopefully Nigerians must adhere to the rules and conditions to get IWENE TANSI canonized soon.
“Political” considerations here might include powerful representations from religious and political bodies, including cultural, social civic organizations. Financial and traditional groups of elders and youths may get involved. There is need to get sponsorship from big corporate groups involved in the campaigns. Travel agencies and local, national and international tourist organizations have roles to play in this type of religious campaign.
2) TESTIMONIES & CONTRIBUTIONS
Popular evidence as well as undeniable testimonies from historical facts can influence canonization of saints. We have such examples in stories of persecutions of Christians and death of Christians which the church call martyrs. Such testimonies in the past and present times about wicked kings like HEROD, NERO or KING OF UGANDA, surely played major role in the canonizations JOHN THE BAPTIST and some of the apostles, the MARTYRS OF ROME AND UGANDA. Popular stories gave strong and emotional descriptions of the deaths of John the Baptist, (His head was cut off and given to a young girl who handed the bleeding head to the mother). In the case of Peter or Paul (They were crucified upside down.) Most of Roman martyrs were thrown to the lions in the coliseum or Roman amphitheater. Some of the Ugandan African martyrs were thrown into the fire or beaten to death at the orders of the cruel King. The wickedness of the reigning king or monarch, no doubt, convinces any doubting Thomas that faith of the Christian martyrs was unshakable; so also was the torture and the type of death they underwent just to have their heavenly and eternal reward. There was no need for further testimonies for miracles or the ‘miraculous’.
Added to uprightness and exemplary lifestyle and contributions to the church and world at large one who has exhibited heroic qualities of holy life can qualify to be a SAINT by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. These have excelled above others in various areas of human life and endeavor. These include contributions in academic and spiritual spheres, including writings and teachings in theology and philosophy. On top of the title of SAINT, these revered people are also known as DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH. Their style of leadership, in the promotion of peace, alleviation of poverty and fight for freedom and justice in the world can equally earn a SAINT an added title of THE GREAT. There are many examples, past and present, among the categorized saints of the church. There is no doubt that there may be a multitude of ‘Saints’ in heaven, but only a few are know by name, thus are publicly declared to be ‘special’ . Likewise not many evil people (Devils) who are languishing in hell since the creation of heaven and hell are known by name. But if there is a way of knowing the ‘mighty’ among the whole lot, we can be sure of only one by name. He is Lucifer (aka) Beelzebub, the prince of the evil ones. He is the “great” and “Doctor” among the multitude of ‘Angels’ in hell!
Speciality or greatness among the saintly in the Catholic Church and in heaven no doubt, has an additional value of great positive and godly contributions to reckon with. Bishop FULTON SHEEN of the UNITED STATES, for example is well known saintly personality who has written a lot of books on theology and spirituality and whose teachings and preaching have made many of his admirers clamor for his elevation to “Blessed” status as well as “Saint” and Doctor of the church. If Fulton Sheen is to qualify, his life, writings and teachings must be examined by competent authorities. The quality of his writings and preachings can give an added boost to sainthood.
(3) MIRACLES AND THE MIRACULOUS
These surely constitute one of the most important part of the deal on the journey to sainthood. There may be one, two, three ……….as many miracles as possible that must be reported or presented, investigated by competent authorities, including the so-called DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and finally accepted as valid testimony that a miraculous ‘healing’ OR EVENT has occurred as a result of the intercession of the saintly person. (A Devil’s Advocate is a person who expresses contentious opinion in order to provoke debate to test the strength of the opposing argument.) Therefore one can see the role of the Devil’s Advocate as important and crucial in the investigation of the reported MIRACLES having been attained through intercession of the saintly person. Are the reported cases of healing and cures of VICTIMS OF HIV/AIDS, CANCER, TB, STROKES and HEARTH ATTACKS, LIVER FAILURE and many others mere hoax or can their authenticity be supported by modern medical tests? Thus reports of the dead rising to life, the blind seeing again, the lame walking and all the stuff are thoroughly investigated by competent authorities before these “MIRACLES” can be accepted as valid testimonies in the sainthood debate.
Sometimes a reported MIRACULOUS EVENT can look like a mere trifle, an unimportant matter before the human eye. It is the work of the appointed investigators or ‘Judges’ to accept or reject it. There was a report once that through the intercession of a BLESSED a sick dying man who had not been able to eat or swallow any piece of food or meat, at last ate a whole leg of a chicken (“una gamba di pollo”) ! That was accepted by the judges as a MIRACLE. Therefore we do not often need to see the dead rise in order to declare an event a ‘Miraculous’. There is also an “Eye of Faith”.
(4) NOBEL PEACE AWARD AND SAINTHOOD
LIKE NOBEL PEACE AWARD, Sainthood elevates one to a higher level of honor, respect and admiration. Not all researchers, academics in various fields of knowledge receive a Nobel Peace Prize. And when it happens to one’s kinsman or woman , one from the same ethnic, social, cultural and religious group, there are always grounds and reasons to celebrate. Therefore, society through special groups of “Judges” acknowledges the special status of a particular individual who has made great contributions in special areas of interest that have thus impacted human development . The receiver of Nobel Peace Prize is a “Saint” in this context . This “Saint” as an individual now becomes a role model whose life style is worthy of emulation, and revered by those who have the ambition to succeed and if possible win subsequent Nobel Peace Prizes.
In religious domain it is possible that one who has received the secular Peace Prize, as example, in this world, automatically qualifies for “Sainthood” according to various traditions of religious organizations worldwide. Was that what equally influenced the Beatification of Mother Theresa in 2003, about 14 years after she had been adorned with the prestigious Nobel Peace Award in 1979! Wow! Truly one who qualifies after the stringent screening procedures undertaken to determine who receives the referred secular treasure, may likely be accepted by the gods and heavily powers with little hesitation, as worthy of honor in the blissful and heavenly land of the Dead. A person’s secular virtues and good quality of life no doubt will always provoke or induce popular demand or acclamation for his or her immediate canonization just after death, surely as in the case of Pope John Paul II.
Pope John Paul II deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote New York Times, October 11, 2003, though the pope did not receive it before his death! “Is there any other leader who has so reshaped the political world for the better and done it peacefully? John Paul helped shatter one empire. For a quarter century, he has been a tribune of the poor, a champion of human rights and a defender of local cultures. He has struggled tirelessly though not always successfully against war…..,” argued the New York Times. Regrettable ? Not so!
How we live the life here and now, in this passing world, no doubt points to the level of enjoyment we must expect in the next which we believe is permanent and eternal. It points to certain fundamental values and qualities that are most crucial in the assessment successes and failures of humans in this earth and in the beyond.
(5) SAINTHOOD, MONEY AND FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
NO SERIOUS contributor to this debate should question the role or importance of MONEY in the promotion of the quest for sainthood. There is need for financial sponsorship as investigations into the life of the saintly person are involved. Researches in various fields of science and human endeavor can cost a lot of money. Archeological undertakings, digging into the remote parts of history and science cost a lot of money. There are equally some ECONOMIC gains for both the universal, local church as well as for the nation or localities to which the SAINT belongs. Places, institutions, and historical structures identified with SAINT TANSI will, like in other places and names, ancient and modern, witness great interest in number of visitors, tourists, and pilgrims. Nigerian will be a great land of fame and gain a lot in respect, popularity and economic growth. Look at what happens in places and lands which have produced SAINTS and men and women of honor!
(6) ROLE OF PATRIOTISM IN THE CAMPAIGN FOR SAINTHOOD
THERE IS NEED TO REVIVE THE SPIRIT OF PATRIOTISM AMONG NIGERIANS. Patriotism in simple language is love that people feel for their country. But there is little doubt that this spirit is miserably lacking among Nigerians, and many attribute this to the “tragedy of our birth”, namely the circumstances that brought about the unification of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914. The unification of diverse ethnic groups that are colossally different in culture, religion and language has made love of a nation almost impossible to attain in Nigeria. There are no T-Shirts with inscription like ” I LOVE NIGERIA” or any state in the fatherland. Local or indigenous names and products are NOT patronized. NEW YORK, LONDON, PARIS are well known by most Nigerian kids than ABUJA, LAGOS or KANO. Nigerian kids know a lot more about DAVID CAMERON, the former British prime minister, DONALD TRUMP and HILLARY CLINTON, the current United States republican and democratic presidential candidates, than they can boast about the Nigerian head of state and the governors and key ministers.
Voracious appetite for Foreign made goods leave Nigeria’s locally produced materials unpatronized. THAILAND or INDIAN imported rice is preferred to ABAKALIKI rice . How can ITALIAN shoes compare with those made in ABA? TOILET SOAP from SOUTH AFRICA is better than the one made in Nigeria. There are so many agonizing memories of unpatriotic attitudes of Nigerians towards their fatherland. Unfortunately this lack of patriotism has extended to RELIGIOUS SPHERES . Most of the names of CHURCHES and INSTITUTIONS in Nigeria are “foreign”. SAINT KIZITO’S SECONDARY SCHOOL, ST MULUMBA ACADEMY, ST JOHN’S COLLEGE and many others. There is no doubt that the major martyrs of the Ugandan saints are better known and patronized in Nigeria than elsewhere in Africa and beyond .
Nigerians have great fascination for FOREIGN big popular names, dignitaries and titles. Name some! JOHN F. KENNEDY MEDICAL CENTER, POPE JOHN PAUL II AUDITORIUM , MOTHER THERESA HOME FOR THE NEEDY, POPE FRANCIS HALL. There is nothing bad in expressing admiration for the “godly” or the “great”. After all IGBO PEOPLE maintain that “there is something in name!” But what we are saying here is that such love or admiration for good and big names should be extended to our local entities and love for fatherland.
Nigerians are quick at accepting and promoting great MOVEMENTS, name them WAR AGAINST INDISCIPLINE (WAI), END OF MONTH CLEAN UP EXERCISES, CATHOLIC TEACHERS ASSOCIATION , CATHOLIC YOUTH VANGUARD, TANSI SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT and many others. “How many of these movements and organizations function today!”, one would ask. There is an unbelievable number of (PROGRESSIVE) UNIONS in Igboland and in Nigeria, in almost every town and community. How many are active and really perform their functions ? There is no doubt we have often as many as 50 POLITICAL PARTIES during elections in Nigeria. How many are buried and forgotten immediately after elections? Often they resurrect a few months to next elections!!
(7) TANSI SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT – IWENE TANSI – LONG ROAD TO SAINTHOOD
What has happened to the “TANSI SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT” which became a popular organization immediately TANSI was declared BLESSED by the mother church, about 18 years ago? The enthusiasm shown by many Catholics all over the ONITSHA and OWERRI ecclesiastical provinces through the formation of BLESSED TANSI SOLIDARITY MOVEMENTS must not be allowed to die. It must be rekindled now and the goal geared towards the CANONIZATION of the first Nigerian Saint! There is need for Nigerians and NDIGBO in particular to wake up and do what they can to see that the canonization of BLESSED TANSI becomes a reality and soon! The committees invested with the powers of pursuing the cause for the canonization of TANSI need to come out openly and let the interested public know what is withholding the SAINTHOOD.
According to Roman Catholic tradition, miracles are required through the intercession of the ‘BLESSED’. They can be disputed as we have pointed out above as in the cases of Pope John Pail II and Mother Theresa and some others in the past. What are Nigerians and Igbos at home and in the Diaspora doing? Have we lost our spirit of prayer and faith in the power of the BLESSED AND THE SAINTS to come to our rescue at the hour of frustrations and despair ? There is no better times to beckon on BLESSED MICHAEL TANSI to come to our rescue ! Nigeria is at the brink of collapse, economically and politically. Hunger, sickness, disease, and death are exacting great toll on our population. Nigerians wake up and pray without ceasing ! Report all MIRACLES/MIRACULOUS that occur through the intercession of BLESSED MICHAEL TANSI to the appropriate ecclesiastical quarters ! A period of 18 years must be enough to finish investigations and get official pronouncement made, and hence preparations for the great celebration. We can then peacefully and joyfully add Himalayas the Litany of the Saints: “SAINT IWENE TANSI……PRAY FOR US!!”
By Rev. Msgr. Nathaniel I. Ndiokwere