Monotony kills the spirit” they say, but not with Christian stories. The power of repetition when positively applied can change situations for best. “Practice makes perfect,” we often say, meaning that something that’s constantly repeated can bring about perfection. As we celebrate this year’s World Communications Day, we have been invited to look at the power of stories especially Christian stories that have been told again and again for furtherance of faith and salvation. In his message for the 54th World Communications Day, the Holy Father, Pope Francis invites all to reflect on journey of life as a history; the totality of human story – Storytelling. Basing his reflection on Exodus 10:2, Pope Francis extols the act of storytelling in human history.
“Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together” he says. It is these human stories that have the capabilities of connecting the past to the present and forecasting into the future. It’s these human stories that have held the world together; interconnecting and interweaving one culture to the other. Today, people long for narratives that can help change their lives because man is by his very nature a storyteller. No wonder, our African cultures and traditions have survived thousands of years through oral storytelling. In Yoruba culture, we have “Alo” which means story; in Igbo culture, we have “Akuko” meaning story, etc.
I feel the nostalgia of “Tales by Moonlight” which was a powerful TV series of NTA in the 80s and early 90s. Two years ago, the Federal Government suspended the study of history in our school curriculum, as published in Vanguard Newspaper on 10th May, 2018. This is wrong and should be redressed. Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, reacting later to this callous action by the Federal Government said, “I feel like strangling the Minister who removed History from the curriculum” (May 22, 2019). Here lies the power of repetitive stories that make up the history of the human race.
Hence, the power in storytelling is inherent in repetition. The celebration of the holy sacrifice of the mass for instance is a repetitive religious act and storytelling that is never monotonous nor meaningless. The Sacred Scriptures, (Bible) is a compendium of stories. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the stories of God and man are told in a repetitive manner so that they sink into human heart and history. God the Father at creation, becoming both the Creator and Narrator, and Jesus Christ His Only Son through his birth, death and resurrection wrought our salvation and at the end, imparting the Holy Spirit on us. These are the stories of Divinity and humanity interwoven in a series of interactions.
Therefore, if we do not tell our own stories, others will take advantage and smear devilish and exploitative campaigns against us. As our Holy Father has said, “But whereas the stories employed for exploitation and power have a short lifespan, a good story can transcend the confines of space and time. Centuries later, it remains timely, for it nourishes life.” To tell our own stories, we must possess divine wisdom, have courage, patience and discernment to counter falsehood; what the Holy Father called “deep-fake” news of our time. But we must tell our stories again and again. The Holy Father says, “At this point life becomes story and then, for the listener, story becomes life.
.” We can cite here, the stories of many Catholic figures and heroes of our time even in Nigeria. Vivian Ogu of Benin Archdiocese, a young teenager who would rather die than have herself defiled by robbers or the story of Michael Nnadi, a seminarian from Sokoto diocese, who even at gunpoint continued to preach the gospel of repentance to his abductors. These are just few. There are many others. These stories must continue to resonate to the whole world in order to know that every day in the corners of the earth, there are constant appendages to the gospel of Christ. “Telling God our story is never useless: even if the records of events remain the same, the meaning and perspective are always changing.” Finally, we must seek to use the media (print, broadcast, IT, social media, etc.) to tell stories that foster the truth of human life and existence. All fake news (false); news without facts and figures must be repelled and deleted.