I’ve been reading Robert Cardinal Sarah’s book, God or Nothing. It’s been slow going, since I’ve been so busy, and I’m only 75 pages into it. But I have found a new hero!
Cardinal Sarah’s childhood circumstances are fascinating (he was born in one of the most remote villages in Guinea); his call to the priesthood is inspiring; his journey through seminary (both physical and psychological) is practically unimaginable to my Western mind. Cardinal Sarah is one of those bishops I thought didn’t exist anymore: he has experienced hardship and persecution, and while he had good reason to fear for his life, he stood on the firm ground of Christ’s truth, and persevered.
I wish every Protestant (and Catholic, for that matter) who thinks that Catholics don’t have a “personal relationship with Jesus” would read at least the first few chapters of this book. They will find a very Catholic version of what that “personal relationship” looks like as Cardinal Sarah’s story unfolds.
Here’s an excerpt that I read last night, revealing a little of Cardinal Sarah’s spiritual depth:
…[I]t was the internal struggles that I had to face [as Archbishop of Conakry], that shattered me by showing me with increasing clarity that I was objectively incapable of leading the Church of Conakry.
In order to address the situation, I established a program of regular spiritual retreats. Every two months, I would leave, alone, for a completely isolated spot. I would subject myself to an absolute fast, with no food or water for three days. I wanted to be with God, to speak with him in private. When I left Conakry, I would take nothing with me except a Bible, a small traveling Mass kit, and a book of spiritual reading. The Eucharist was my only food and my sole companion. This life of solitude and prayer helped me to recharge and to return to battle. (p. 69-70)
I think this man would make a good pope.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
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