Friday, July 9, 2010

African Saints African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women

By Camille Lewis Brown, 145 pages,St Anthony Messenger Press.

Africans have contributed richly to Christian history and theology, but because the ancient world was not as preoccupied with color as contemporary Western culture is, the ancient documents don't indicate which saints were from what race of people.

North Africa played a central role in early Church history as home to many Church Fathers and Councils, though many of the Christians would have been Roman or Greek colonizers. But many others would have been black, "So the participation of black people in salvation history and early church history is definite and impressive. Blacks were there from the beginning."

North Africa, most notably Alexandria, Egypt, was the site of countless martyrdoms as well, prompting the controversial Church Father from North Africa to write that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of evangelization. A plague in Alexandria occasioned 1 of the saddest, most heroic Christian purges, as many Christians came out of hiding during a persecution so that they could nurse the plague victims back to health. Because of this charity, Roman authorities easily picked them out and martyred them.

In addition to general history, African Saints African Stories examines the lives of individuals, thereby showing the essential role of Africans in building the foundations of Christian practice, theology, and culture. St. Anthony, the "Solitary Saint," sold everything and lived in a tomb. He "further defined what is expected in the monastic life." Christians trusted him for his insights into the spiritual life.

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