CANONIZATION OF CYPRAIN IWENE TANSI: WHY THE DELAY? (3)
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!!”
…. the end
By Rev. Msgr. Nathaniel I. Ndiokwere