Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 1st: Algeria - Our Lady of Africa

Feast Day: April 30th

Our Lady of Africa: Ancient shrine at Algiers, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It was originally a small statue of the Madonna, set in a frame of shells at a spot often visited by Barbary robbers. Fishermen came there to pray for safe voyages. In time, the grotto became a chapel and eventually a large church. A great miracle made the revered chapel even better known. Archbishop Lavigerie of Algiers was on his way to Rome accompanied by seven hundred soldiers, priests, and a Trappist abbot when their ship was caught in a violent storm. The crew despaired of the ship's safety. The archbishop had promised the Mother of God a pilgrimage to the shrine of "Our Lady of Africa" if she would save them. The ship was saved and the promise was kept. In 1872 an impressive cathedral was consecrated and now houses the crowned statue of Mary. Pope Pius IX donated the golden diadem with precious stones that Mary, "Consolation of the Afflicted," now wears. At the shrine there are as many Moslem pilgrims as Christian. To the faithful Moslem she is "Lala Meriem," who bestows her favors. The Holy See has entrusted the care of the sanctuary to the congregation of White Sisters of Africa. (Fr. John A. Hardon)
I loved this African Madonna and Child picture and chose it to print for Little Cherub as I couldn't find a picture of the Our Lady of Africa statue at Algiers.


I had more luck later when I thought to search in French and found this old prayer card.


Here is the Basilica at Algiers. Wikipedia has a short article on the Basilica and links to more photos. Over the altar of the Basilica is written this prayer:

Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.


In 1996, a funeral Mass for took place in the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa for seven Cistercian monks from the monastery of Our Lady of Atlas who had been abducted by terrorists and beheaded. This article tells their story, and includes the last testament of the prior, Father Christian. This is what he wrote to the unknown Algerian he anticipated would kill him.
And you, too, my last-minute friend, who would not have known what you were doing; yes, for you too I say this thank-you and this a-diar--to commend you to the God in whose face I see yours. And may he grant to us to find each other, happy thieves, in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both. Amen! Inshallah!"
This site gives a brief history of the Church in Algeria - the modern country includes Carthage, the city of St. Augustine.

There is much information about the Church throughout Africa on the website of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa (White Fathers), which is available in an English version. The White Fathers were founded in 1868 by the then archbishop of Algiers under the patronage of Our Lady of Africa. Archbishop Lavigerie told his missionaries
  • you will speak the language of the people
  • you will eat their food
  • you will wear what they wear
Archbishop Lavigerie also founded a sister organisation a year after the White Fathers, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Sisters)

In 1989 Pope John Paul II visited Africa. You can read his Act of Entrustment of Malawi to Our Lady of Africa here.

Prayer to Our Lady of Africa

Our Lady of Africa, Mother of us all,
be specially mindful of the peoples of Africa.
Gather together all those who follow Jesus Christ.
May they be one in the Church of your Son.
May all those who have not yet recognized Jesus
as the Son of the Father be drawn by his Light.
May all those who have been seized by C
hrist
proclaim the Good News by their whole life.
You who were present with the Apostles
at the beginning of the Church,
support the apostles of today
that they may boldly proclaim the Word of God.
(from White Fathers website)


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