A little flower

I have been deeply affected by the death of Plaxedes Ruvadiki Kamudiya, a teacher at St George’s intermediate school in Harare.

I do not live in Zimbabwe at the moment and may not have all the facts correct. It seems she went to Mutemwa, the settlement near Mutoko where people living with leprosy and other disabilities are cared for. Mutemwa has drawn people who wish to “go away for a while” (Mark 6:31) since the time John Bradburne – the “vagabond” of God – who lived and was killed there in the 1970s.

Plaxedes was one of these pilgrims and she wanted to share with her young students the experience of peace and encouragement the place gives. She went with a friend to plan a pilgrimage and, after the logistics were settled, she went up the mountain alone to pray as many have done before her. But a man saw her and attacked, raped and killed her. She had resisted and when her body was recovered from the dam, where the man had dumped it, it had several bruises and had been bleeding.

I cannot say I knew Plaxedes well but I met her a number of times when we worked together preparing the liturgy in her school. She was a beautiful person, centred on God and his people and she used her gifts of teaching, singing and composing to give joy and hope to many hearts. Her family and companions in the school, especially her young students, must be in shock and profound sadness.

We crack our heads to make sense of such tragedies. All is quiet and then suddenly evil erupts like a volcano spreading its darkness and ashes over the earth. We cannot “explain” evil but we know it presses on us as part of the struggle we are all in. Something similar happened to a young Italian girl, called Maria Goretti, at the beginning of the last century and, in the 1960s in the Congo, Anwarite Nengapeta endured the same fate. Maria and Anwarite were honoured by the Church as models of courage in the struggle against evil which Jesus came to lead.

Once again, as so often in our faith story, weakness is greater than strength (1 Cor. 1:25). Maria forgave her attacker and wanted him to come with her to Paradise. Plaxedes, when she was a religious for a time, chose the name Ruvadiki, little flower, fragile and beautiful. She seems to have kept that name together with her religious vows if I interpret the photo on the internet correctly. She, like John Bradburne, shared in the death of Jesus and added her name – little flower – to that of the vagabond in consecrating Mutemwa, a place for the ostracised, as a source of courage for Zimbabwe.

29 October 2017                                 Sunday 30 A

Exodus 22:20-26                                 1 Th. 1:5-10                             Matt  22;34-40

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