BY DAVID MOCZULSKI, OFM
My earliest real remembrance of Nelson Mandela, apart from the media, was from Sr. Berchmans, a registered nurse who ministered for many years as a nurse and midwife in South Africa in the 1960s. We worked together at a free clinic that was operated by the friars of Santa Barbara Province in San Francisco. She herself was a heroic woman. Sr. Berchmans talked a great deal about her time in South Africa and her admiration for both Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
As the years have gone by what I remember most about her tales was how Mandela was such an integral part of the society – even though he spent many years isolated in prison. Those prison walls never separated him from the people and the struggle that defined his life, his work against apartheid. Although he was absent, Mandela was a spirit alive in the midst of the people and gave a constant message of hope.
One of my favorite quotes from Mandela is: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” I think his words sum up so much about what his
life and struggles were all about. He did not want an end to apartheid only to have it replaced with a reverse apartheid. Mandela worked to ensure that a greater, lasting respect would be made real for all people.
With reports that he is gravely ill, the focus turns to a life that reflects the lives of all great prophets. Nelson Mandela will live forever in the hearts of the people – not only the people for whose freedom he fought in South Africa. His spirit will be evoked among all those who strive for freedom and equality, for justice and respect.
In life or in death, Mandela lives among all those who struggle.
(For anyone who would like to learn more, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory offers a good overview of his life and legacy at http://www.nelsonmandela.org.)
“No one is born hating another person
because of the color of his skin,
or his background, or his religion.
PEOPLE MUST LEARN TO HATE,
and if they can learn to hate,
THEY CAN BE TAUGHT TO LOVE,
for love comes more naturally to
the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela