Latest Two Minute Teachings

3 November 2019

Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB

 

 

November is Black Catholic History Month. If we are to talk about Black Catholic history, the preeminent name in Black Catholic history is a Benedictine priest, Fr. Cyprian Davis.

Clarence Davis was born in Washington DC in 1930 into a prestigious family. His father was a professor at Howard University and the first African American general officer in the US Army; his uncle was the first African American Air Force general. Clarence himself was baptized in the Catholic Church as a teenager and joined the Benedictine Order receiving the religious name “Cyprian”.

Cyprian was enamored with the history of the Catholic Church which became a focus of his studies. He authored several books, the most important entitled The History of Black Catholics in the United States which still is a classic work of scholasticism. His work drew the attention of the US bishops who included Cyprian in the writing of the bishops’ pastoral letters Brothers and Sisters to Us and What We Have Seen and Heard, both of which deal with the faith, the lives, and the needs of Black Catholics in the United States.

Inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, he criticized the American Catholic Church, calling it a white racist institution. He spoke with the authority of historical study on his side, receiving the support of his Benedictine superiors who likewise recognized that the Catholic Church had not always lived out its mission especially with regards to Black Catholics. He wrote, "We should be aware that [Black Catholics] are an integral part of the Church. We are not negligible."

In 2004, Cyprian Davis also wrote these words: "In another decade or so, U.S. Catholics will learn that our Church is more black, brown and in-between than Caucasian and more ‘catholic’ than they dreamed. Will we be prepared for what that will mean?" Now, more than a decade later, his words ring true. Cyprian Davis died in 2015 at the age of 84

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Noviembre es el Mes de la Historia Católica Afroamericana. Si hablamos acerca de la historia católica afroamericana, el nombre más es el de un sacerdote Benedictino, el Padre Cipriano Davis.

Clarence Davis nació en Washington DC en mil novecientos treinta en una familia prestigiosa. Su padre era un maestro en la Universidad Howard y el primer oficial general en el ejército estadounidense; su tío era el primer general afroamericano en la Fuerza Aérea. Clarence fue bautizado en la Iglesia Católica siendo un joven y se unió a la Orden Benedictina recibiendo el nombre religioso “Cipriano”.

Cipriano estaba enamorado con la historia de la Iglesia Católica lo que se convirtió en un foco de sus estudios. Escribió muchos libros, el más importante titulado, La Historia de los Católicos Afroamericanos en los Estados Unidos, que todavía es una obra de escolástica. Su obra se centra en los obispos americanos quienes incluyeron a Cipriano en la escritura de las cartas pastorales episcopales, Hermanos y Hermanas a Nosotros y Lo Que Hemos Visto y Oído, ambas hablando de la fe, las vidas, y las necesidades de los Católicos Afroamericanos en los Estados Unidos.

Inspirado por el movimiento de derechos civiles en los sesentas, criticó la Iglesia Americana Católica, llamándola una institución blanca de racismo. Habló con la autoridad del estudio histórico en su favor, recibiendo el apoyo de sus superiores Benedictinos quienes también se dieron cuenta que la Iglesia Católica no siempre ha vivido su misión, especialmente con respecto a los Católicos Afroamericanos. Escribió, “Debemos ser conscientes de que los Católicos Afroamericanos son una parte integral de la Iglesia. No somos despreciables.”

En el dos mil cuatro, Cipriano Davis escribió también estas palabras: “En otra década o más, los Católicos Americanos aprenderán que nuestra Iglesia es más negra y morena y ‘entre Caucásica y más ‘católica’ o universal que ellos soñaron.” Ahora, más que una década después, sus palabras suenan verdaderas. Cipriano Davis murió en el dos mil quince a la edad de ochenta y cuatro años.

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