By Daniel Rice, Seminarian
This past Saturday evening, I attended the Filipino Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Springfield, where over 100 Filipinos come to celebrate Mass every 3rd Saturday at 7:30 PM. While most of the community knows Tagalog (the principle language of the Philippines), all of them know English, the language in which I was greeted at once. After meeting several people—a few too many to remember all their names—I went to the Sacristy to prepare to serve. The previous altar servers of this Filipino Catholic Community have graduated high school and are now in college, so two young altar boys have risen to take their place and serve in God’s holy sanctuary. I gave them some pointers and helped to direct them throughout the Mass. They seemed to look forward to the opportunity for an altar server training session, which I hope to provide for them later this summer.
Father Magat joked that this will be my most English-speaking multicultural experience in the diocese, and I expect so! All of my interactions with these immensely friendly people were in English, making it very easy to communicate with them. Even most of the Mass was in English, all except some hymns and Mass parts (the Creed, Our Father, Sanctus, etc.), which were in Tagalog and led by a choir. I learned the meaning of only one Tagalog word, the one for “faith,” which Father spoke about in his homily—this Corpus Christi homily was so excellent that I wish I could recount it here in its entirety! Father said that when we come forward to receive the Body of Christ and say “Amen,” we are not merely saying, “I believe.” Even the demons believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and they cower in fear. “Amen” means, “so be it;” it means the same thing as the Tagalog word for “faith”: not only belief, but a willingness to stake my life on this truth and a determination that my life will reflect this great mystery that I receive. The saints, many of whom died to protect the Eucharist, had this faith. Take, for example, the faith of Saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, the first two Filipinos to be canonized.
After our minds were nourished with the Word of God, our souls and bodies were fed with heavenly delights, the Bread of Angels, Jesus Christ Himself. Once the Mass had concluded, I encountered the Filipino love for “fotos” and food, smiling for numerous pictures and joining a group of 20+ Filipinos for their post-Mass tradition: Chinese dinner at Golden Hong Kong. What a fitting end to a good evening: pleasing food, humorous story-telling, and joyful conversation.