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The Deacon's Bench

Here’s something inspiring for you.

A priest visiting friends in a far-removed Nigerian village last year found himself unexpectedly celebrating Mass in a Muslim home.

He writes:

Within a short time of my arrival, news went around the community that a priest was visiting, and people started coming around to visit with me. Some of the Catholics in the village pleaded with me to say a Mass for them. They had not had a Mass for a long time. Luckily enough, I had my Mass kit with me in the car.

​We decided to have the Mass in the church at 8 p.m. This community had no electricity. The church relies on a small generator to provide light for the church. Unfortunately that night, the generator would not power on. Close to the church is a Muslim family that had a small power generator that worked. We decided to approach them and say an outdoor Mass in their compound. When we approached them, they were excited to have us celebrate the Eucharist in their company, and they partook in the celebration. I did not for once think about whether or not it is liturgically or theologically proper to do this, nor do I believe the Muslim family had any theological issues with us celebrating Mass in their home. The fact that Catholics in this community wanted to worship God in their own way was most important to me. It delighted me that Muslims and non-Catholics were open to help them in their worship.

​We finally gathered for Mass at 9 p.m., and the opening song to the celebration lasted for one hour. Present at the Mass were Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, African Traditional Religionists, Muslims, and others. Everyone sang, and the women danced — and danced and danced. The Mass lasted till 1 a.m. The Mass was powerful and moving for me. I had never had such a wonderful experience in the celebration of the Eucharist, not even in my very first Mass as a priest. If this was the only Mass I had to celebrate as a priest, I told myself, it was worth my becoming a priest. The people gathered for this celebration did not see each other as foreigners from different tribes, religions, and churches. They saw each other as one people, with one common origin. This unity is never portrayed in the media. What we see are stories of the radical fringe elements in the different religions. They seem to be the loudest, and so often, their story is one that is told, casting religion in bad light.

Read on.

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