Filipino Faith, Fellowship, Food, and Foto

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

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Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

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.

20170617_205322.jpgAfter 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.

Saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, pray for us.

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“Making Us Holy”

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

from online

An Eritrean Ge’ez Rite Mass at Holy Spirit Parish

On Saturday, I attended a Mass in honor of St. Michael with the Medhanie Alem Ge’ez Rite Eritrean Catholic Community of the Diocese of Arlington, which meets at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale. This group was smaller than the usual community that attends weekly Mass on Sundays, since these Catholics were only those from a specific village in Eritrea.

I arrived at the Church early, and the first thing that struck me was the way the Eritrean people greeted one another. Their faces and smiles radiant with joy, they greeted one another as if the best of friends not seen in a long time. Each one said to the other, “Selam” (which literally means, “Peace”), and kissed him, rhythmically placing his own head next to his friend’s as if in a reverent bow. I recalled the words of St. Paul, “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom 16:16; 2 Cor 13:12; cf. 1 Pet 5:14). As the time for the liturgy approached, more people came and all conversed in Tigrinya, the native Eritrean language, enjoying the reunion so much that the liturgy began almost half an hour late. I introduced myself to a few people, but felt like I had come to a foreign country on my own, not looking like or speaking like these people who know each other so well, many of them being relatives of one kind or another. A few men of the community kindly welcomed me and conversed with me in English. Nevertheless, Tigrinya made me a complete stranger; but later on, when I learned the name of the liturgy, it became a great source of encounter with Eritrean Catholic Culture.

I knew that most Eastern Catholic Rites, although they celebrate the same Holy Sacrifice as Roman Catholics, do not call their liturgy the “Mass” (after all, the name “Mass” comes from the concluding words of the Mass in Latin: “Ite, misa est,” “Go, it is sent”). A man named Shum, who graciously guided me through the entire liturgy, explained to me that in Tigrinya there is a word used for God that means, “Holy One.” The name of their liturgy is the verb form of this noun, which—although it has no direct translation—basically means, “making us holy.” Thus, the very name of their liturgy communicates the reality that we ourselves are not holy without God and that we cannot make ourselves holy; rather, He Who is all Holy and the source of all holiness makes us holy.

20170617_103103.jpgThe entire liturgy had an aura of sacredness. Most of the women, dressed in traditional Eritrean garb, had their heads veiled. Even more important and significant than the elegant beauty of these clothes was their highest purpose: reverence for Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. The liturgy was sung in Eastern Chant, the style of which was evidence to me of Eritrea’s geographical and linguistic proximity to the Middle East. Thus, the sacred words were communicated a way that was fitting for the mystery being celebrated and that urged the heart to cry out with Christ, “Abba, Father.” At a few points in the liturgy, the women uttered high-pitched ululations, trilling with their tongues in highest praise of God. Most of the liturgy was in Ge’ez, which, like Latin, is an ancient language that used to be common, but is now only spoken within the Church. Since the second Vatican Council, the vernacular (Tigrinya) has also been inserted for a few parts of the liturgy.

20170617_141047.jpgThe liturgy lasted a few minutes less than two hours.  Father Hagos had to chant less elaborately and rush the liturgy this much because the church needed to be used for another liturgy scheduled to be after their own. (Hearing how and why they were “rushing” their liturgy made me wonder about how and why some English Masses are rushed.) The gathering afterward, however, was not rushed: four hours of eating delicious Eritrean food, talking, speeches, singing, and dancing while clapping and stepping with the music. In this way, these people, many of whom came to American to flee from war with Ethiopia, have preserved their Catholic culture and traditions. Hopefully, these traditions will continue to be passed down to their children, most of whom speak Tigrinya and English.

Many thanks to Fr. Hagos and the Eritrean Catholic Community of the Diocese of Arlington, and may God continue to bless you!

Saint Michael, pray for us.

Welcoming Seminarian Daniel Rice to the Office of Multicultural Ministries

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Mural of (top to bottom) Christ the High Priest, the virtues, several Saints, and the minor orders.  St. Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum.

Hello!  I am Daniel Rice, a seminarian for our Diocese of Arlington.  I entered seminary right after graduating high school, and I just finished my fourth year of seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and having the honor of giving the valedictory address to my classmates and their families.  I have five years of seminary formation remaining, the next of which is a spiritual year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  During this year I will be on a technology fast, have classes on Scripture, the Catechism, Spiritual classes, etc., go on retreats, live in community, and do many other things to focus on interiority with the heart of Christ.  I was born and raised in Chantilly, Virginia, and St. Timothy’s is my beloved home parish.  I love to sing, read good books, play sports, hike, and do almost anything athletic or outdoors.

Daniel-Rice (4) mycropped.jpgThis Summer I am living at Blessed Sacrament Parish and working in the Office of Multicultural Ministries here in the diocese.  Our mission is to serve the pastoral needs of the various ethnic communities within the Diocese of Arlington (of which there are many, e.g., Hispanic, Filipino, African-American, Korean, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Ghanaian, Eritrean, Cameroonian, and Asian and Pacific Islander), to serve as a resource to newcomers, and to evangelize with communion and solidarity.  I hope to visit as many of these communities as possible during the summer, serve in whatever capacity I can, be present as a seminarian of the diocese, and obtain a greater understanding of the diocese as a whole.

Seal of Office of Multicultural Ministries.jpegAfter I visit these communities, I will be posting short entries on this blog about my experiences.  So check in occasionally and hopefully you can learn more about the diocese with me.  Also, know that all of the communities I will be visiting and the events I will attend are open to everyone!  As my work this summer begins, please join me in praying for the whole people of the Diocese of Arlington.

Mary, Queen of all Saints, pray for us.