Sunday, 21 January 2007

Blessed Cyprian Tansi

Since yesterday was the Feast of the Nigerian beatus, Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (1903-64 - seen above in a painting in our church), we've just had a large and colourful Nigerian Mass - if I say it was scheduled to start at 12.15pm and the bidding prayers began an hour later, you'll understand what I mean! The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Patrick Lynch from Southwark (seen below), who kindly crossed the river to be with us.

It was organised partly by my next-door neighbour in the presbytery, my good friend Fr Albert Ofere, the National Nigerian Chaplain (seen here posing in my study):

Blessed Cyprian Tansi is an impressive character. Born in Aguleri near Onitshain, he was ordained for the diocese of Onitsha in 1937 and spent 13 years ministering to souls in Eastern Nigeria.This involved travelling by foot over long distances and spending whole days hearing confessions. One of the many thousands he baptised was a certain Francis Arinze, now Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Amidst such a busy pastoral life, he felt a call to follow a more contemplative vocation and gained permission from his bishop in 1950 to enter the Trappist monastery of Mount St Bernard's in Leicestershire and, if it was the Lord's will, to eventually establish a house in Nigeria. The shift to English climes was a great hardship to the Blessed Cyprian and led to a decline in his health. By the time a monastery was founded in Africa in 1962 - in the Cameroon rather than Nigeria - Tansi, who had been appointed Novice Master, was too poorly to go. He died on 20 January 1964 and was buried at Mount St Bernard's. His body was transferred to his home diocese in 1986 and it was there that John Paul II beatified him eleven years ago, referring to him not only as a holy monk but as a model of priestly zeal and prayer

Here's an extract from a retreat he gave in 1962:

We do very little good when we embark on our own. We do much good when we allow God to direct us and direct our enterprises. The apostles, you remember, went out fishing, laboured the whole night and got nothing. They were on their own, the Lord came and told them to cast the net and they would find. They did so and were not able to draw up the net, so great was the number of fish caught.

When they worked by themselves, they took nothing. When they worked in the company of our Lord, they were full. So with us. We must learn to avoid worrying ourselves about things, learn to do away with anxieties of all sorts.

When you have something to do, an assignment to perform, remembering that we are not doing our work, but God's work, we must first go to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, place our plans before Him and ask for his advice and assistance. We must examine before him how he would like us to produce, whether he would like us to do one thing or the other. If any doubt, consult your spiritual director for advice. You should never undertake to do anything unless you are sure that God wants it done in the way you are planning. Above all things you should never do your own will: you should do only what the superiors want to be done. You should never force the superiors to yield to your will by any stratagem.

And while doing whatever you have to do, you should do it at a pace and speed that will allow you time continually to turn to God for guidance. Your conversation with God should be continual. Remember that you cannot achieve this spiritual disposition in a day. You need time, practice and patience. All that I request you now is to examine and to see whether what you are told is the truth. If it is, then make a resolution to continue to make effort in this direction without minding whether you succeed or fail.

Blessed Cyprian Tansi, pray for us (and especially the people of Nigeria)!

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Blogger Jeffrey Smith said...

That's a wonderful painting. Do you have any more surprises like it around the place?

7:56 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Not really - except a statue of St Patrick carved by Evelyn Waugh's son, Septimus.

8:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the Diocese of Nottingham, in which I live, haven't made more of the Bl. Cyprian; a truly holy man who lived in our midst for many years has been overlooked.

4:14 pm  
Anonymous patricia said...

Nottingham hasn't forgotten Blessed Cyprian! The cathedral Justice and Peace Group is under his patronage, and we organise a pilgrimage in his honour to Mount St Bernard each year - this year it will be on Saturday 7th July, and Abbott Joseph will celebrate mass for us at 2.45 - all welcome! bring your friends ....

There is also an icon of Blessed Cyprian in St Augustine's church in Woodborough Road in Nottingham.

Patricia [chair of the J&P Group at St Barnabas cathedral, Nottingham]

5:22 pm  

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