On the first vespers of the Assumption the aeroplane is going to take me away from Africa, the land where I arrived a few months ago. I shall take with me the memories of an experience which I never dreamt I would have.
I would like to say goodbye to those I leave behind me. To Fr. Wall, a priest with the soul of a gentleman, who every day was an example of the England of Chesterton, Newman, Belloc and Benson and attenuated my previous prejudices against
perfidious Albion. He surprised me with his gift for languages, an example of the multifaceted richness of his personality. And his piano and zither playing at evening recreation. He might speak a little louder in his sermons so that everyone can have the benefit of his excellent English – I write this of course knowing that he might read it some time when I’ve gone and I can’t help but think that he might remind me he was a boxer…
To Brother Konrad with his serenity and good humour looking after the running of the house every day, not an easy task, which he did without attracting attention, making sure the priory life ran smoothly. He always amazed me because he understood with his heart when my Spanish words couldn’t get to his understanding.
To the Superior, Fr. Daniels, whom I thank for the confidence he showed me in sending me to the various chapels and for his inside knowledge in the workings of African life.
To all the faithful both those I could speak to and those with whom it wasn’t possible.
To those in Cape Town, hoping that that community grows every day and doesn’t give way to apathy; hoping they unite their efforts to those of the priest, as well as their voices so that Mass may be sung to the edification of all present – I hope they don’t treat my successor as if he couldn’t speak English.
I would like particularly to mention Mr. and Mrs. Tierlinck. I hope he keeps the happiness of those years which he spent in the Salesian colleges in the Belgian Congo always in his heart, a happiness both pure and innocent which will be able to dissipate the dark clouds of an ever approaching apocalypse. It’s thanks to them that I also got to know, with Mrs. Melodie Nolan, the beauties which God has placed at the end of the African continent – Table Mountain, Cape Point, Stellenbosch. I spent many unforgettable moments with her in lively conversation discovering the marvellous world of diamonds. Also Countess Bolza-Kezdy who with her noble Hungarian Catholicism edified us with her zeal for the salvation of souls like a good missionary in the style of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus through prayer and sacrifice. Captain van Laren, walking through whose house is like travelling once more on his boat through the various ports of the world; and his charming wife who overcomes the pain of her operations with such courage and sweetness. I hope Mr. van der Walt’s health improves and that, together with his wife, he is ready to receive the next priest whom God sends, having for his only aim to sit in his house with his pipe in his hand and with sparkling eyes tell the priest about his escapades from the war or, with a sadder expression, tales about Zimbabwe.
Goodbye to the faithful of Namibia. I hope that the small group of families doesn’t get discouraged in their isolation there and that they become a strong community in the shadow of the desert thanks to their situation rather than despite it; and may Gregorian chant continue to resound from the church in Omaruru in imitation of the undulations of the endless dunes.
I say goodbye to the faithful in Port Elizabeth, encouraging them to work hard for Christianity even though they live in a place that is better suited for having a holiday. Hoping that no-one becomes lukewarm and the fire which God brought to the earth may also blaze in this corner of Africa. May this chapel soon have as many faithful as the stops of Mr. Pekelharing’s organs and as many voices to sing the kyriales as the pipes he puts in his work .
Goodbye to the faithful in Durban, a community which is the muster of the universality of the Church; the Mauritians who show such a fidelity to the catechism which they received from their parents, who look for the causes of the crisis and who not only live the Church but also suffer the consequences; who with a great sense of hospitality welcomed me as an additional member of their clan, who taught me about their Island, which is a chapter of geography and history in itself, so that I love it almost like one of them. How can I thank the Le Bretons, the Suchons, the Hardys, the Avices, the Lincolns, the Duvals, the Massons, the Descroixilles? How can I forget my English lessons or catching octopus? How shall I ever forget them? To all of them a big “merci”.
So much for the Mauritians, but the English too, including the one who confessed to me that his grandfather had been a spy for the English during the Spanish civil war… and who with a big smile always looks at me through binoculars formed with his hands.
The Hungarians, worthy heirs of the spirit of Cardinal Mindzenty who with the pen and with devotion continue the fight for Tradition. The friendly Irish who put all the fire of celtic fervour in the service of the Faith of St. Patrick.
The Zulus who moved me so much with their singing, an exotic prayer coming from the depths of pain, the mysterious agonies of fear and darkness, the cry of a child on the lap of its Mother the Church, who alone is the one who can console it. Christopher, Anastasia…
Each of the families who have kept the faith they received from St. Francis Xavier in the South of India, always ready to do a favour or to help out. I hope they preserve their family spirit which will protect them from the selfish disintegration of modern individualism. I hope all the youngsters who come to Mass with them will be as firm in the faith tomorrow as their elders were.
Our altar boys, Samuel, Dusty, Hilton, Calvin, Mike who serve with devotion and punctuality and an exemplary sense of responsibility of what the liturgy means.
All those who day in day out brought us our lunch which they have prepared at home with such care with recipes from India, Mauritius, Hungary, Portugal, delicious things to feed those who give them the Bread of Angels; because the modesty and humility with which they do this can only come from a supernatural intention since it requires a great effort and perseverance.
James who gives us a lesson in the spiritual life looking after the garden with a singular care, pulling up the weeds by the roots so that the good plants can produce their fruits. That’s the sort of care we should take of souls so that God can be happy in our heart, our interior garden.
The Springboks who will have to get a lot better if they’re going to have any chance against the Pumas, the Sharks who still haven’t lost in the Currie Cup. I’m sorry I won’t be there when they become the champions.
The Indian Ocean with its depths full of sharks and dolphins, so many mysterious creatures, molluscs, crustaceans, fish and whales. The boats waiting in a line to get into the port many of which have treasure within them. The hills of Natal, its breezes combing the sugar cane, its birds and insects and all the snakes which, thank God, I never saw. The round huts with straw roofs with paths paved with coloured stones seen from above. The extraordinary antelopes, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, impala and springbok; the zebras, giraffes, rhinoceros, and buffalo… that’s quite a list and I’m sure no-one will be offended if I’ve left them out.
I would like to say goodbye to each and everyone, assuring them of my prayers, especially in the memento, that, in the Heart of the Mystical Body which is the Holy Mass, we, who have the honour and the grace to belong to the Church Militant, may find the strength and courage to continue the fight for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and that the Holy Church may attain the victory over her enemies and we all may obtain the grace of final perseverance.
For all I ask the Lord that I may say goodbye showing once more that on earth we have no lasting dwelling and that we must continue our pilgrimage and thus obtain the necessary merits so that one day we may meet all our friends for ever on the shore of the Ocean of Infinite Love. May God preserve you in the Heart of His Mother.
In corde Matris,
Padre García Gallardo