Madagascar to Celebrate Beatification

1st Native La Salle Christian Brother

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ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, JUNE 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The first La Sallian Christian Brother of Madagascar will be beatified this Sunday in his hometown.

Brother Rafael-Luis Rafiringa was born in 1856 in the Malagasy capital, the son of an official of the queen. The year of his birth, the Indian Ocean island off Southern Africa lost independence and became a French colony.

The context in which he would grow up made him a significant player in the evolution of his country, Christian Brother José Warletta told ZENIT.

Brother Rafiringa was a Malagasy situated at the crossroads of two epochs. And his experiences brought him into contact with many environments: pagan, Christian, scholarly, literary, political and even judicial.

Gifted with a keen intelligence and will power, he resisted his family’s hopes for him and requested to join the “strange” missionaries — who weren’t priests — recently arrived on the island.

He devoted himself to translation and the composition of textbooks, until he found himself elected the leader of the Catholic population on the island. This occurred because activists seeking independence managed to expel all foreign missionaries from Madagascar. With this unexpected responsibility, his uncommon capacities became evident as he formed catechists, organized meetings and paraliturgical celebrations all over the island, wrote booklets and summaries of Catholic doctrine, and even composed songs and poems.

When the Christian Brothers were able to return to Madagascar, they were surprised to find the Christian communities even more numerous than when they had left.

Brother Rafiringa died in 1919 in Fianarantsoa.

According to Brother Warletta, this pagan-made-son of St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, “is a splendid example of the power of the grace of God when it finds fertile soil. Because of his knowledge, his actions and his holiness, he is already one of the most genuine glories of which the Great Island can take pride.”

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