May 19, 2016

Blessed Raphael-Louis Rafiringa, F.S.C.

Today the Lasallian world marks the feast of Blessed Raphael-Louis Rafiringa, F.S.C., a Christian Brother from Madagascar.  The Christian Brothers have a presence in 20 African nations, including Madagascar where they first arrived 150 years ago.

Bro. Raphael was born in Madagascar on May 1, 1856 to a wealthy, non-Christian family.  He attended the Christian Brothers' school in the capital of Antananarivo and was baptized at the age of 13.  Inspired by the work and vocation of the Christian Brothers, he joined the order about 10 years later, the first native of Madagascar to join the order (the brothers came to Madagascar in 1861).  Throughout his ministry, he was a distinguished teacher and prolific author.

In 1883, all foreign missionaries were expelled from the country so Bro. Raphael, as a native, was named the president of the Catholic Union for All Madagascar, making him responsible for much of the Catholic spiritual life and Catholic schools on the island.  He had this role thrust upon him again in 1894 when a similar situation occurred and he once again thrived in his work of teaching and maintaining the Catholic faith and spiritual lives of the Catholics in Madagascar.  For his efforts in teaching and maintaining relations, he was named a member of the Academy of Madagascar in 1902 and was awarded the Medal of Civil Merit in 1903.

Brother Raphael was arrested on Christmas Eve, 1915, under suspicion of being a member of a "secret society" that was aiming to overthrow the monarchy during World War I.  When faced with the charges he said, "...I have nothing against the government, nothing against the state or against any person. My only preoccupation is to do good among the young Malagache by spreading the message of the Gospel. There is surely some error."

He was released from prison on February 18, 1916 but he would die 3 years later in the city of Fianarantsoa from the effects of living in an unhygienic and filthy prison cell.  His body was found to be incorrupt when it was moved to to the capital in 1933 and his cause for sainthood began.  A former student of Bro. Raphael's, Pierre Rafaralahy, suffered from paralysis and visited Bro. Raphael's coffin as it was being transferred.  He placed his hand on the coffin and "felt a tremor" in his body and was cured of his paralysis.  This was the miracle that led to Bro. Raphael's beatification by Pope Benedict XVI on June 7, 2009, Trinity Sunday.  This past March, a monument was raised in honor of Blessed Raphael in Madagascar.

We pray:

Blessed Brother Raphael-Louis, help us to be faithful to the Gospel and lead lives of service for others.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle and all you holy Brothers who have gone before us, 
inspire vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Blessed Raphael-Louis Rafiringa...pray for us.
Saint John Baptist de la Salle...pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts...Forever! 

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