The liturgy takes us to the Easter celebration: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Holy Week opens with Palm Sunday. Here in Bozoum we meet at 8.00 am in front of the school "Isidore Bakanjia": lots of people, with beautiful palm trees, many of them artistically twisted. There is a festive atmosphere, as it was 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, when the people welcomed Jesus with great joy. After reading the Gospel and blessing of the palms, we enter in procession (more or less tidy ...) in church. Here the Mass continues normally, with the reading of the long evangelical story of Jesus Passion.
Tuesday I leave driving towards Bouar where I arrive early afternoon. While there, in our seminary of Yole’, arrives the Apostolic Nuncio. He is pretty much the ambassador of the Holy See, and given the absence of our Bishop who is in Italy for health reasons, it is He who presides over the Chrism Mass. He is welcomed by songs and greetings. Then we spend a moment in the chapel, where he could meet the kids and youth of our Seminary. He speaks very enthusiastically about the visit of the Pope in Central Africa Republic, on 29 and 30 November. Suddenly he stops and asks young people who were in Bangui for that occasion, to share their personal experiences. And our young people do express deep and very beautiful thoughts. Leonce ends the series of testimonies. He is one, together with five others, who could be confessed by the Pope.
Wednesday morning at 8.00am we are in the Cathedral for the Chrism Mass, the Mass that brings together all priests of the diocese in order to celebrate the Priesthood. During the celebration, the priests renew their priestly promises, and then the bishop blesses the oils that will be used for the celebration of the sacraments. After lunch together with my community members I leave immediately to return to Bozoum, where I arrive at 7.00 pm.
On Thursday morning I meet the catechumens for a moment of prayer and reflection and, in the afternoon, we celebrate the Mass named as the "Lord's last supper", in which we commemorate the priesthood, the Eucharist, and the commandment of Love. As Jesus did at his last Supper, I wash the feet of twelve persons chosen among the poor of the parish.
Friday is a day of silence and prayer. In the morning I meet guys, girls, youth and adults. All of them will receive on April 10 the sacrament of Confirmation. In the afternoon, we are in church for the Passion of Jesus celebration. We now are very close to the Easter Celebration, preceded by Holy Saturday, a day of waiting, but in which we are already sure that He will win!
I end by sharing with you the Easter wishes, adding a very beautiful “prayer of the Good Thief": Happy Easter from Bozoum! During these “normal” days something exceptional happens: Jesus suffers, is betrayed, and died for us! I pray and ask you all to help me and help us all not to "get accustom” to God, not to just settle for some time and some thought, but to live all our days in the memory of that gesture of infinite love which is the entire life of all Jesus. I pray and ask you all to help me and help us all not to "get accustom" to the pain and suffering of others, but to be able to stay close, even without many words, but with all the love possible and impossible! Happy Easter!
The good thief speaks
The worst moment comes when they swing you up nailed to the dead tree.
A blinding thud follows as they drop it into the earth
Some say you have a black-out
I shall know soon enough
Trees should be places of song
Now Jam being swung upward
The soldiers are pulling on the ropes
I am rising to meet my death
Then everything goes a blank...
When I come round there is no singing to be heard
My bones are screaming with pain
Dogs are barking — but there are no robbers about
We stay clear of Jerusalem on days such as this
The man next to me speaks from time to time
He is thirsty
He cries out to his father in heaven
He asks mercy for those around him
Last night in the cells there were some who said he might be a king
I find myself urged to speak to him
I say "Remember me when you come into your kingdom"
In a clear voice he answers "You shall be there before the sun goes down"
I am struck silent by this promise
His words take away my last fear
Before night falls I shall be far away from this evil hill with its demons
I begin to feel like a bird about to be released into a sky without ending
My strength is slowly leaving me ...
Below us are a group of patient women
There is one who has kept repeating "Never forget what my son has promised"
Sometimes she speaks as if she were praying — "Our fathers trusted in God and he set them free"
What simple faith women have
My own mother died many years ago
Now I have another —0 Lady in the Blue Cloak protect and watch over me
It is getting harder to breathe
My tongue sticks in my dry mouth...
Yesterday nobody came to the prison
No one cared
Yet this man beside me cares
I should like to kneel at his feet
But I cannot move
It is 3 o'clock and the sun has left the sky
Darkness is everywhere
Then suddenly I realize I am no longer nailed to a dead tree
I have only to stretch out my hands and they will be taken