HOUSTON, TX – November 23, 2015
From an interview conducted earlier this year by the National Catholic Register.
The Holy Ghost Fathers, a French missionary order, inspired your faith as a child. Why was their missionary effort so effective, and what can it teach us about spreading the faith in missionary territory in the West?
The Holy Ghost Fathers in 1912 came to my village of birth, Ourous, to preach the Gospel and establish a Catholic mission. These missionaries made great sacrifices and suffered many deprivations, without complaining, and gave of themselves with great generosity.
I owe my Christian faith to the dedication of the Holy Ghost Fathers. It was also a Holy Ghost missionary, Father Marcel Bracquemond, whom God has used to reveal to me my priestly vocation. I will always admire these men who have left their families and homelands to bring the love of God to the furthest corner of the Earth.
Every evening, the fathers gathered the children near a large cross set up in the mission courtyard. Under the cross, the missionaries taught us the Catholic faith. Gathered around this cross, we were given our cultural and spiritual education. The cross in the courtyard, then, came to symbolize the heart and center of the village.
The moments seated around this great cross to learn about the Catholic faith would prepare us for the revolutionary persecution that the Church in my country would face in the following years of its history. It’s thanks to these missionaries, who made me understand that the cross is the center of the world, the heart of mankind and the place where our stability is anchored.
One of my most profound impressions of the Holy Ghost Fathers was their faithful prayer life. Their daily life was filled with moments of prayer with the Lord; whether it was celebrating Mass or individual and community prayers, they devotedly prayed. They were completely consumed by the fire of God’s love. They were great and holy missionaries, thanks to their deep and persevering prayer life.
So a good prayer life is the essential element to successfully spreading the faith to any part of the world. Even Our Lord, in the discourse of the Last Supper, reminded us of this important truth: “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for, apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
In August, Ignatius Press released God or Nothing, a book-length interview with Cardinal Sarah conducted by Nicolas Diat. The new paperback offers a moving account of Cardinal Sarah’s childhood faith, the fruit of his parents’ conversion to Catholicism and the family’s contact with the Holy Ghost Fathers, a French missionary order that established a thriving mission in his small village in the African nation of Guinea. God or Nothing also provides a forum for the cardinal’s views on liturgy, reform of the Roman Curia, marriage catechesis and an aggressive secular agenda from the West that threatens the developing world.