Sunday, March 13, 2005

The arms of God

Psalm 22:22 I will declare your name to my brothers;

in the congregation I will praise you.

23 You who fear the LORD , praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

Hallelu Yah, I made it this morning to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Xitun Road (西屯路) this morning for the 11 AM English Mass. If for nothing else but the novelty of visiting a new parish in a new part of town, it was such an invigorating feeling going there! I didn't know what or who to expect, though on Thursday I had met the priest, a Vietnamese named John Nhuan, who had studied and lived in the USA for about 20 years. I made sure to leave home early so I could have ample time to pray and reflect before worship began. I climbed the stairs to the chapel on the second floor. It was much smaller than the Sanmin Road parish (三民路教堂) I have been going to for months, but somehow also humbler, warmer and brighter.

I knelt to pray for about ten minutes and then got my bearings. I was overjoyed to see a steady trickle of Filipinos finding their seats. (It was, and actually always is, such a comfort to be in the company of Filipinos, especially Catholic ones. Don't ask me why; it's just one of my cultural affectivities.) There was a handful of white-like-me foreigners and some other not-so-sure-what non-Taiwanese. Two funny (dare I say adorable?) Filipino, or maybe Sri Lankan, altar boys chatted about boy-things before Fr. John entered. I loved the diversity of it, and I suspect the different demographics of Our Lady has much to do with its warmth.

After the general confession, we performed a penitential rite. After reciting a prayer before confession, we said a litany of repentance, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, meanwhile people had the chance to enter the sacristy at the back of the room for confession. Once that was all done, we continued with the Mass. Fr. John's homily was heartfelt and simple: we need both bodily and spiritual healing; Jesus has met these needs with the sacraments of anointing and confessional; our return to God in these sacraments makes Jesus very happy. Oddly enough, although he had lived in the USA so long, Fr. John's English really was quite hard to understand at times. I guess he went there too old, his neural tongue already fossilized in Vietnamese. Despite any small problems with his pronunciation, I was very grateful to be able to worship in my mother tongue. As I may have said, it's one thing to remain or progress as a Catholic in a non-Catholic foreign country. It's something entirely different, and entirely more trying, actually to become a Catholic in such an inaccessible setting. English worship is a good crutch for me as I make my infant steps into the Church.

Today has been a very nice (dare I say tender?) day. I feel the arms of God, reaching out through the Church, more closely around me every day. Lord, here am I.

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