(A tribute to Monsignor Law Madubuko on his 72nd birthday)
Hardly does a tribute begin with a ‘mea culpa’ yet it is fitting that this begins with a confession of failure and repentance. I must confess our failure as the students of this sage for not getting out his thoughts for the next generation. Thought of this nature is hardly inconsistent with historical reality whereby the ideas of great sages and thinkers were made available to posterity by their students. Plato relative to Socrates is an obvious example. The only justifiable alibi about the Madubuko’s is that his former students do articulate his thought and theology across the length and breadth of the local Church, which has its foundation in Onitsha, stretching from Mamfe to Nsukka, Calabar through Port Harcourt to Abakaliki. His past students embody his thought and theology; nevertheless, this alibi neither excuses nor suffices.
This effort is only a hymn of gratitude to God from whose grace we have a person so human, priestly and godly as Father Lawrence Madubuko. He is never afraid of living the embodied existence or being found in human form with all its gifts and responsibilities, gains and pains, strengths and weaknesses. He lives this embodied existence―the sacramental life―that manifests the goodness and glory of God, in an earthenware vessel with dignity and grace. His life is a sacramentality that signifies and embodies the hope of salvation, and actively lives it.
Though he is not an orator, one cannot but be amazed and consumed in the wonder of the depth of his insight, and sagacious way of its delivery that outclasses oratory. Listening to him takes one up in wonder and contemplation – into a thought that only contemplates thought, and makes the superficiality of eloquence evident. The profundity of his thought is well balanced with the prodigious simplicity of his life. You can only give testimony in gratitude to God for an excellent gift of this priest, prophet and professor, Monsignor Madubuko.
The Sage: The agelessness of his emotion and his intellectual pre-eminence combine to accentuate his sagacity. Fr Lawrence delivers the truth without diminishing its forthrightness and potency. He transforms silence into power, which eventually sorts out disputations and echoes the wisdom of his stand within the limits of human perfection. His silence proves a resounding echo of words that one ignores to his peril. What he restrains in words, he compensates in the depth of his ideas. Economy of words, deep thoughts! That’s Madubuko.
Simple parsing of madubuko corresponds to maduka, and finds its meaning in Chukwuka! It is stunningly striking that Monsignor believes that madu-bu-uko precisely because his fundamental anthropology is maduka. His anthropology is not only theocentric but also rooted in Christ. Man is theo-logical, and truly defined in Christ. No wonder he connects divine truths with the sacramental experience of man, because of the continuity of Christian mystery with the divine economy. As such, he teaches the mysteries from the anthropological continuities and Christological discontinuities. Consequently, the novelty of Christianity shines out as discontinuity in continuity. The profundity of what he professes and the depth of his thoughts compensate for his economy of words.
The Sacerdos: Father Madubuko has lived his life nursing the wounded humanity, mediating the comfort of God to the harassed, desolated, dislocated, the wounded and the deprived people, as he traverses the paths of history and exists in a web of existence in the rhythm of time. He applies the healing balm of consolation and fatherly support, the sanctifying oil of the priestly benediction, and redeeming medicine of brotherly correction and encouragement. He understands when it seems difficult to do so, and chastises when it feels odd but, above all, supporting and encouraging, with an iconic capacity for equanimity. His ability to maintain emotional equilibrium even in the face of provocative circumstances gives him out as a legendary elder. His priestly disposition puts agelessness to his youth and his priesthood.
The Scholar: Monsignor Madubuko’s teaching requires attention, but once understood, it is difficult to forget. His greatness runs on the profundity and durability of the knowledge he impacts. Madubuko’s pedagogy undoubtedly is centred on the human person. This anthropological angle contributed to his consciousness of the learning subject whom he places at the centre of all learning experience. This ability to treat one and each as a person, hence, a learning subject helps him to realize the plurality of human experience as a result of each person’s history of grace so that even if united ontologically in identity, humanity is distinctly expressed.
This knowledge and wisdom guide his pedagogy and engagement with worship. Because of the ontological and anthropological constitution, there is a possibility of the unity of faith, cult and ethics but on account of the plurality of the existential, he appreciates legitimate and healthy diversities and also nurtures them. Man is at the centre of worship as a flock of Christ, a brother of Christ and as a subject of Christ, hence in all worship, Christ exercises three modes of the same act of which man is substantially implicated.
The Man Madubuko: This piece is not beatificatory, rather it is a testimony of a life of beatitude. I make no pretence that he made perfect decisions in every circumstance; otherwise, he would be an angel. Saints either made mistakes in decisions or their implementation or both, yet saints are so called because grace always triumphs in them. In him, the profundity of a believer who is well rooted in faith and the soil trumps all superficialities. His deep sense of sobriety liquidates inanities of life of their allures. Faith and love norm his life.
Disciplined, yet very compassionate, Madubuko not only appreciates the reality of humanity’s squandered sonship but is fully aware that the gratuitous mercy of the Father already compensates it. Hence, he lives the Christian fraternity. He lives the informed brotherhood, which in part, is an expression of the reconstructed family of God. No wonder, he lives for the Eucharist, the sacred meal of encounter that builds communion, which entails sacrifice and presence of mutually additive parity. He embodies the priestly mysticism of John, the sagacious prophetic mission of Paul and the personalized authority of an elder-leader of Peter.
He is a mentor and mensch to the most exact meaning of the words. He is never a wannabe, but instead accepted his uniqueness and taught his students to appreciate, and to be enamoured with their specific gifts, and labour to develop them to the glory of God. As such, one would overcome the temptation of dissipating energies, time and resources in wannabeism. According to him, unity and distinction, variety and difference characterize God’s creative wisdom. As persons-in-communion, we live our union in difference.
Praising a creature is ultimately praising his Creator. I am convinced that Madubuko deserves to be celebrated as an oracle of iconic proportion, which he is because he allowed grace to keep winning in his life. I am privileged to have passed through him. It’s Thursday, 23rd May!!! Happy birthday, Monsignor Lawrence Nwafor Madubuko!
72 Hearty Cheers to the Holy Sage!
Fr George Adimike writes from Rome