Sunday, April 21, 2013

An American Monk's Call to Africa

I have had the honor of meeting Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O. on several occasions and have had the privilege of being in a retreat led by Father Anthony.  Father Anthony has been a monk of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia since 1948.

Father Anthony Delisi, O.C.S.O.

In Black Like Licorice: A Contemporary Monk’s Call to Africa (Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2011), Father Anthony tells of his call to the priesthood and monastic life.  At age 9, in the back of his family’s delivery truck for their produce business, he heard a voice telling him that he would be a priest and that he would one day go to Africa.

The title Black Like Licorice comes from an anecdote about the first time Father Anthony saw a person of African descent.  He asked a neighbor why their skin was black.  She replied “From eating too much licorice.”  Father Anthony’s memoir is like a “Who’s Who” of great Catholics from the mid-twentieth century.  He has visited the poor with Dorothy Day, went to school with scripture scholar Raymond Brown, prayed with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and discussed the Charismatic movement with Thomas Merton.

Father Anthony is an accomplished farmer.

Father Anthony tells about his racist novice master from Texas who did not want the novices to wave at black children while they worked in the fields on the monastery farm.  Father Anthony loves to grow things, especially tomatoes, and the story of how he became the primary tomato grower at the monastery is very entertaining.

Father Anthony makes fudge at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit

In the late 1970's, true to his childhood revelation, Father Anthony went on a mission to Nigeria to help found a Trappist monastery there.  This was to be the first of three mission trips to Africa.  Altogether, Father Anthony lived in Africa for approximately eight years.  After helping to found the men’s monastery, Father Anthony returned to Nigeria and Cameroon to serve as chaplain to a foundation of Trappistine nuns.

Father Anthony’s memoirs of these years are truly fascinating.  Father Anthony’s holiness and love for God and his fellow human beings shines through on every page of this wonderful book.  

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