‘In the West We Have Money — In Africa They Have Life’, by Edward Pentin

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Africa is characterized by a natural transmission of life among the people and a joy that’s contagious.

By Edward Pentin, EWTN News, 9/6/19

“In the West we have money,” an Italian Comboni missionary once told me. “In Africa they have life.”

It was the 1990s and I was in London, having just returned from spending nearly two years teaching in a German Benedictine mission in Tanzania.

The missionary’s words strongly resonated with me. Depressed to be back in a deeply secular, soulless metropolis, I used to say that one felt more alone in a heaving Western city where communal bonds had been severed than in a remote bush area in Tanzania where community and sharing were an essential part of life.

What I was really missing, though, was a deep sense of the transcendent — a society where everyone believed in the supernatural and were conscious of the reality of God’s existence, even if some had not fully embraced or come to know Christ. The experience I had was both life-giving and life-changing. Effectively evangelized through Tanzanian Catholics, I was received into the Church a few years later.

I’ve been reminded of this reality having had the privilege this week of traveling with Pope Francis to southern Africa. Generalizing about Africa as a single entity should be avoided, as the continent is enormously diverse, but one characteristic does seem unique to it: a natural transmission of life among the people and a joy that’s contagious. I’m always struck by it every time I come back here, and on this occasion, it’s not just related to jubilation at seeing the Pope. ….

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