As I wrote earlier, I was not surprised by the great congregational singing at mass yesterday.  That is because nothing happens here among of African friends without music.  We have heard literally two dozen testimonial speeches by common folk and almost all of these were begun by a song.  To my ears, the voices carry a distinctive sound.  Usually unaccompanied by instruments, they are loud and proud instruments with an incredible range.  A song begins with one daring note given birth by one person whose courage is buoyed no doubt by the fact that Africans always join in with enthusiasm.  And remarkably, for all the songs we have heard, they appear to know every word of every song.  It is as if every lyric was as familiar as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  It seems that no one can fully express themselves without singing.  And so deeply runs the sense of community that harmonies can change randomly and everyone follows along.  Yet, it is a quiet moment that will stay with me longest.  As I was praying my rosary outside my room, Bernice, one of the housekeeping staff was softly singing while doing the laundry. My prayer, my breath and maybe my heart seemed to move in rhythm to her sweet soulful song. 

And what they are inevitably singing are hymns.  I would not say that God is more in their hearts than elsewhere, but God appears more often on their lips.  Nothing is done without giving praise and thanks for the One who has allowed it to happen.  Through a time of incredible struggle they found hope in the God whose justice simply had to prevail.  They have asked not how can they sustain faith in the face of oppression, but allowed their faith to sustain them in their politics and in the many challenges of their life.  So fluent are the people in their faith that coleslaw also goes by a different name.  Because its ingredients are readily available and cheap, so much so that even in the most desperate  of times, one could always provide cole slaw, it is known as John14.  The fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel begins with Jesus saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”  It is true of much more that their cole slaw among South Africans.  It is their approach to life.

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