Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Beginning

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God - Theotokos. On this important day, our Holy Father Francis will open the Door of Mercy in Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome - the largest Catholic Church dedicated to Our Lady in the world. 

The ancient Basilica enshrines the venerated image of Salus Populi Romani, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary as the health and protectress of the Roman people, which was granted a Canonical coronation by Pope Gregory XVI on 15 August 1838 accompanied by his Papal bull Cælestis Regina. The image is particularly dear to the Holy Father as he customarily makes his personal pilgrimage to Our Lady every time he comes back from the international voyage. Not only him, but also Saint Pope John Paul II requested that an oil lamp burn day and night under the icon of the Salus Populi Romani, as witness to his great devotion to the Madonna.

One of my major disappointments in my missionary life in Diocese of Musoma in Tanzania was the termination of the process of spiritual affiliation of Holy Mary, Mother of God Cathedral in Musoma to the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica - caused by my transfer from Musoma Cathedral back to Kiabakari. Musoma Cathedral would become the very first Theotokos church in African Continent affiliated to the Basilica. I initiated the process back in 2003 after the lengthy conversations in Rome with prelates responsible for the Basilica who suggested and encouraged me to pursue this goal. The then Bishop of Musoma - Rt. Rev. Justin Samba - showed some interest in this idea and took the documents for his perusal and involvement. His premature death and my subsequent transfer to Kiabakari terminated the process.

In this Year of Mercy the urge to restart the process has become more vivid in my soul and - though I am no longer affiliated with the Musoma Cathedral - nevertheless I will go and see the Bishop of Musoma - Rt. Rev. Michael Msonganzila to suggest the reopening of the process.

I strongly believe that this spiritual affiliation would be of major benefit to the People of God in Musoma Diocese and beyond.

What is special about this affiliation with the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore?

This basilica holds the relics of the crib where our Lord lay when He was born from the Virgin Mary. This same basilica is the oldest church dedicated to the holy Mother of God as a fruit of the Council of Ephesus in the year 431. According to Catholic pious tradition, the site of the basilica was personally chosen by the Blessed Virgin when during a summer month in Rome, snow appeared over the hill where the present basilica now stands. For some periods in church history, the popes also lived in this basilica. This is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. 

We must realize realize that Musoma Cathedral would have been deemed worthy to be linked to this rich history and immeasurable value of the papal basilica of the Mother of God! And to be a part of that historic papal basilica. How can we not be proud! How can we keep quiet when the grace of God is so admirably and incredibly shown to us! Also, we would not have to go to Rome to Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica to obtain privileges, blessings and indulgences proper to that sacred place. We would obtain them right here, in Musoma Cathedral!

What would the affiliation of the Musoma Cathedral with the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore mean for us?

The Holy Father assures all the pilgrims who come to the spiritually affiliated church - his apostolic blessings and the spiritual graces of the Church. In Musoma Cathedral the voice of Our Lady - as in Santa Maria Maggiore - would always be heard “Turn away from sin and return to my Son”. In Musoma Cathedral - as in the Basilica in Rome - the voice of the priests saying over our offerings of bread and wine “This is my Body...This is my Blood” would be heard, constantly inviting the faithful to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. In Musoma Cathedral, the rosary would be prayed with same graces and blessings obtained as in Santa Maria Maggiore when rosary is recited in front of Salus Populi Romani image. 

In Musoma Cathedral, the Holy Father could always count on his spiritual warriors praying that the mission of Peter may continue in the church with loving children faithfully obeying him. In Musoma Cathedral, we - the People of God of Diocese of Musoma - would commit to be proud of our Catholic faith, to defend it, to preserve it, to share it, to live it.

As you can see, our Cathedral in Musoma spiritual affiliation with the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore speaks more of duties than privileges. This affiliation demands from us greater fidelity to the Lord and to the Church. It calls on us for more heroic obedience. It challenges us to be more vigilant against the attacks to our faith, to be more humble and to be more repentant, to be more zealous and to be more loving and merciful. Truth to tell, the real indulgence is really when all of us live as faithful disciples of her Son. 

As we come to Holy Mary, Mother of God Cathedral in Musoma to enter the Door of Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy and meet our loving, caring and merciful Mother, the spiritual affiliation with Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome would be a priceless gift of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, for the Church in Musoma and Tanzania at large.

Thus, we would always - generation after generation - come to Musoma Cathedral to meet Our Lady - Theotokos - and Her Merciful Son - for the blessings and for the indulgences and privileges proper to the Basilica in Rome which we could gain in Musoma, but also to renew our faith, to strengthen our hope and to increase our love. This is the real fullness of grace! This is how our Lady, full of grace, wants us to be!

Let us pray that this process is reopened and successfully finalized in the Year of Mercy! Let us hope for the new beginning!

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