This week, given the situation facing the Catholic Church in Dominica, I think it is fitting to publish my review of Bishop Malzaire’s book, “A Decade of Grace” delivered on October 4, 2012 at its launch. I pray for God’s Grace for all parties directly involved and for all of us.
“A Decade of Grace” is such a fitting title, for we are told in 2 Corinthians 12:9, that God’s Grace is sufficient for us, for God’s power is fully revealed in weakness. What is Grace, this thing we often talk about and rely upon for strength, for hope and for faith? What is this Grace, which we speak of when we say, “Here but for the Grace of God, go I” or “the will of God will never take us where the Grace of God cannot keep us?” Grace is defined as “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His will to become children of God, sons and daughters, partakers of the divine nature of eternal life (CCC, 1996). Another definition is “The favor of God’s life within us”.
When we think of favour, it conjures images of free, gift, something done without expectation of repayment, something done for us by someone else, often a family member, friend, acquaintance but also by total strangers. And we are often appreciative of favours done for us or on our behalf.
His Lordship titled his book, “A Decade of Grace”, in other words a Decade of God’s Favour. This, though I have not discussed this with him, was not a chance thing, but a deliberate decision. It is an acknowledgement and appreciation of the hand of God working through him during his ten years as Bishop of Roseau. Those ten years have not been easy sailing. There have been challenges with the Church, in getting the funds to rebuild the Cathedral and other churches around Dominica, challenges to meet the needs and demands by other church institutions like the Morne Carmel Retirement Home, Reach, the Catholic Schools. There have also been challenges with the unrelenting and unjustified attacks on Bishop personally. However through it all, Bishop has shone. Bishop continues to lead God’s flock, ministering to our needs, spiritually, helping us to remember and accept, that “if we seek first the Kingdom of God, everything else will fall in line.” (Mathew 6:33)
And he was able to do that so well because he knows and is confident that God’s favour is on him and His Grace is sufficient. He knows that he does not have to worry for God knows all his needs and He will fulfill them in His time. He understands well, that it is not about his will but that of God (Mathew 26:29).
Bishop has segregated the book in twelve segments, based on occasions: Christmas Homilies, Christmas Messages, New Year’s Homilies, Good Friday Homilies, Chrism Mass Homilies, Ordination Homilies etc. In each segment, there is a central theme. Example for the Christmas Day Homilies, the message is “Christ among us, and calls us to be more Christ-like in our relationship with each other and to God. In the New Year’s Day messages, it is that we are sons and daughters of God and his Grace (that word again!) is sufficient for us, even amidst our failed resolutions or destined to fail resolutions!
The Good Friday message is one of God’s unconditional love for us and his sacrifice on our behalf and asking us to examine deeply our relationship with God. In the Chrism Mass messages, it is one of the responsibility of Priests to be bearers of God’s good news and to serve as mediators between God and man and very importantly to take care of their own souls.
In his Ordination homilies, the message is one of gratitude, appreciation and thanksgiving to the families of the priests for nurturing and accepting their sons’ journey towards the life of a priest. You sense his empathy for the parents who appear to be losing their sons, and for some their only son, for some their sons being miles away, yet he reassures them that they have not lost a son, but gained a church of children! He tells the priests that they share in God’s ministry and must represent “Christ Alive” to His flock. He leaves each one with some key messages, the central ones being to celebrate Mass daily growing in love with Jesus in the Eucharist, partake regularly in the sacrament of reconciliation, providing pastoral care for Jesus’ flock by loving and caring for them authentically and he guarantees them they will receive that love in return a hundredfold and above all to grow in their walk with God, getting to not only know him better but live their lives as living testimony of God’s Love.
In his message at the Catholic School anniversary celebrations he emphasizes that the Catholic Schools are to provide not just an education but play together with families and society as a whole, a key role in character formation and development and deepening of faith. He thanks the many persons who have played key roles in shaping the men and women of the future and the leaders of the nation.
This book is truly one of Grace! It causes us to reflect on our own spiritual and life’s journey. It helps us to celebrate the goodness of God and provides comfort and solace to give thanks in our valley periods, to see God at work in our lives, every moment, every day, all the time. It is a strong reminder that God is with us, he knows us and calls us by name, he has promised us life in abundance and through God’s Grace, like St. Paul, though we are surrounded by trouble on all sides, we are not crushed; perplexed, we are not driven to despair, for as in Isaiah “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strengths, they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not get weary, walk and not faint; (Isaiah 40:31) for God is a God of His Promises. And this is why we know and believe that “God’s grace is sufficient for us”, and Bishop can boldly declare that his first Decade of his Episcopal Ordination as Bishop of Roseau, was one of Grace!
Until we meet again. May God Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.