St. Paul Chung

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

20170709_131455.jpgOn Sunday, July 9, I went to the only weekly English Mass at the Korean Catholic Church, St. Paul Chung. I was welcomed by Joseph, whom I had met a couple weeks before, and shown to the sacristy. After vesting in my cassock and surplice, I spoke for several minutes with the three altar servers (some of the best and most reverent I have ever seen at a parish!)  and a couple others who assisted with the liturgy. One young man, who was the head of the altar serving program, asked the servers if they knew why my cassock has thirty-three buttons. One answered correctly that they signify the years that Christ spent on earth. I was reminded of this encounter a few days later when I read an Old Testament foreshadowing of Christ. After the Scriptures say that King “David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David,” it is recorded that “the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 2:10-11). Jesus, the Son of David, the King of Israel and of all creation, lived in Israel and Jerusalem for thirty-three years and inaugurated the new reign of the Kingdom of God, which will have no end.

20170709_130934.jpgOnce Father Paul had finished hearing Confessions, he came back to the sacristy and quickly vested before Mass began, meanwhile giving us a sneak-peak into his homily about the yoke of Christ. He explained that when you have multiple animals plowing a field (e.g., two oxen), the yoke is the wooden beam that is placed on their necks and keeps them moving together. Christ says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When we are yoked to Christ, our work becomes one with His. When we let Him set the pace for our lives, not rushing ahead, dragging behind, or turning every which way, then our yoke is easy and we learn from Him. What a beautiful image of companionship with God Himself, Who became man for our sake and abides with us.

This Mass, which was fairly well attended, is packed during the school year, the time when Sunday CCD follows the liturgy. From my place next to the priest’s chair, I looked out upon families who had come there together. This Mass had been described to me as the “students’ Mass,” and a large portion of the congregation were indeed young people. The music was led by a dozen or so young people, who together made up a small choir and strings section. The three altar servers, vested in red cassock and white surplice, masterfully and prayerfully assisted at the altar and gave me pointers on how to serve in this particular church.

20170709_131356.jpgAt the end of Mass, I was able to give a short version of my vocation story. Because Korean culture is family-oriented, I focused especially on my relationship with my family and their support in my journey toward the priesthood. I also shared this anecdote: The day after a priest is ordained, he celebrates his first Mass—I attended two first Masses this past June. At the conclusion of this Mass, it is a tradition that the newly ordained priest will give a gift to each of his parents. He gives to his father his first confessional stole, for it is his father who taught him justice and mercy. He gives to his mother a special cloth called the maniturgium. At his ordination, after his hands were anointed with Sacred Chrism, he used the maniturgium to wipe the excess holy oil from his hands. Upon his mother’s death, she is to be buried with this cloth wrapped around her hands. The tradition goes that when she comes before God, He will say to her, ‘I have given you life. What have you given me?’ Handing our Lord the maniturgium, she will respond, ‘I have given you a priest.’

St. Paul Chung, pray for us.

Cameroonian Catholic Community

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

Flag_of_Cameroon.svg.pngOn Sunday, July 2, I made my way over to Our Lady of Good Council Catholic Church in Vienna. The Cameroonian Catholic Community of the diocese usually fills the Parish Chapel for their monthly Masses. During the summer, however, with people traveling and out of town, the attending group was smaller and more intimate. Father Mbinkar, their spiritual leader, was not able to be present due to travels of his own: a several week long trip to Cameroon. However, Father Dennis, who concelebrates most of the Masses for this community, and Father Elvis, a visiting Cameroonian priest, welcomed me to serve the Mass.

Accompanied by a couple of traditional African drums and a keyboard, these people sang joyously to God. Most of the Mass and music was in English, but the unique spirit of this group was evident. I was permitted to briefly say a few words of vocational testimony after Mass. I told a little bit about myself and my journey towards the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and also encouraged all married people present to live out that Sacramental Vocation with great love. After Mass I had the pleasure of meeting most of the members of the community there, and was invited by several to come to Cameroon at some point in the future!

Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.

Praise the Lord!

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

20170702_123952.jpgOn Sunday, July 2, I drove into Old Town Alexandria to attend and serve Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church. St. Katharine Drexel and her family were instrumental in funding and founding (in 1915) the parish, which served the African American population of Alexandria in a time of intense segregation. When I was there, I saw the stain glass window on which St. Katharine and her sister had left a dedication to their parents. Historically, this Josephite parish has been predominantly African American, but welcomes everyone and now has parishioners of various ethnicities.

Before Mass began, any visitors in the congregation were invited to stand, give their name, and announce where they were visiting from. Each of them was then greeted with a hearty “welcome!” from those gathered for Mass. That day, there were people from as near as St. Mary’s in Alexandria and as far as Massachusetts. Three of the visitors from Boston were Daughters of St. Paul, whose order has a branch of Pauline Books and Media (a renowned Catholic shop and bookstore) in Alexandria on the corner of King and Henry. I was blessed to meet them and talk with them briefly after Mass.

20170702_124432.jpgThis Sunday, as on the first and third Sundays of every month, St. Joseph’s Gospel Choir sang at Mass; what a treat! This soulful music revealed the deep love of God that this community has.  My favorite song was after Communion, when the choir praised God and sang, “Yes, Lord.” May we always praise the Lord, our God, with our hearts, souls, and voices. “Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”

Saint Joseph, Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.

“We, though many, are one body in Christ” – Romans 12:5

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

20170624_202210.jpgOn Saturday, June 24, I was privileged to attend the annual Diocesan Multicultural Mass at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church. Members of so many communities within the diocese were present to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist.  Serving at this liturgy, celebrated by our very own Bishop Michael Burbidge and several priests in the diocese, I looked out at the congregation gathered there and saw people of various and sundry ages, races, places of origin, and garb.  I heard the voices of many faithful Catholics—singing together in a diocesan multicultural choir for the first time—ring in harmonious praise of God.  Yet what truly united us was not being in one choir or in one church building, but our faith in Christ, our Savior.

The Church is the body of Christ, Who is her Head, and it is through Him that we become one with Him and therefore truly one with each other.  This was expressed vocally in a particular way at the end of Mass as we sang, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.”  One can call to mind also the beginning of the first Eucharistic Prayer, in which the priest, on behalf of the people, beseeches God to guard, unite, and govern the Church together with the pope, the bishop, and all who “hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.”  We were indeed blessed to be made one together with our bishop, a successor of the apostles, through whom we have that direct link to the very beginnings of the Church.  In addition, Saint Paul speaks of how we are united through the Eucharist. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). What better way to reflect upon, manifest, and bring about our unity than to come together for the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Mass.

Afterward, we made our way to the school gymnasium, where we celebrated the 7th annual multicultural fair.  An Indonesian cultural dance performance, Korean drummers from St. Paul Chung, and a Ghanaian youth dance provided entertainment while a crowd of people waited in line to experience an abundance of ethnic cuisine.  These communities could only send a small contingent of their members to this Mass and fair, since the church and gym are only large enough for so many people.  Each community had their own table showcasing photographs and descriptions of their ministries, worship, traditions, and events within the diocese.  At the multicultural fair and reception, I met in-person the clerical and lay leaders of several communities with whom I had already corresponded via email.  I have enjoyed visiting many of them already, and I look forward to visiting as many more of them as I can throughout this summer.

20170624_202431.jpg

Left: “SANCTA MARIA + REGINA APOSTOLORUM + ORA PRO NOBIS.” Translation: “Holy Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.”  Right: “SALVE REGINA + VITA DULCEDO + ET SPES NOSTRA.” Translation: “Hail, Queen, our life, sweetness, and hope.”

Our Lady, the Mother of the Church, is truly the Queen of the Apostles, who, after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, went out to the far reaches of the world to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News. Through a line of succession that stretches through the centuries down to our own bishops (for us in Arlington, Bishop Burbidge), we are united to them and thus to Christ. May His Most Blessed Mother always unite us more and more in true Christian charity.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

 

“This is My Body . . .”

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

20170618_140713.jpgOn Sunday, June 18, I arrived at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, finding that the preparations for the weekly afternoon Ghanaian Mass were well underway.  A representative from the Ghanaian Catholic Community introduced himself, welcomed me, and escorted me to a pew near the front of the church, casually informing me that this week’s Mass was to be a wedding!  The 2:00PM start time was delayed due to the Parish’s Corpus Christi procession, which concluded by making its way back into the Church.  As the pastor, Father Leopoldo Vives, DCJM, leading the procession, bore our Lord down the center aisle, those in the church ceased their decorating and stood in adoration of our Lord, then knelt for Benediction.  Those in the procession and the others present praised the Holy Trinity by singing Holy God.  After Father Leopoldo thanked many people, including that day’s first communicants, Father Tony Appiah, who was the principle celebrant of the Ghanaian Mass, came to assist in the rest of the preparations and invited me to serve at the Mass.

The Ghanaian Catholic Community attends Roman Rite Mass, and most of their Mass is in English.  However, several Mass parts and almost all of the music are in the language of Twi. The sound of this language, especially when sung, lends itself wonderfully to the joy of the Ghanaian people and was appropriate for the festive spirit of the occasion.  Led by the choir of a score or more members, all sang with smiles on their faces, sometimes swaying with the music, sometimes clapping, and sometimes waving white handkerchiefs.  The singing was accompanied by a pair of traditional Ghanaian drums and a lightly rattling instrument (which could be labeled a percussion instrument), which harmonized wonderfully with the African music.  There were also a modern drum kit and an electric keyboard (probably just there for the wedding), which to me did not seem to be part of the traditional Ghanaian music.  Due to the wedding ceremony, there seemed to be a bit more dancing than usual.  I noticed that Father Tony was trying to ensure that, while encouraging celebration, the people remembered that we were partaking in a sacred liturgy.  A meeting of old traditions and modern customs was also apparent in their clothing: some were robed in colorful, traditional Ghanaian garb, while those in the wedding party were in tuxedos and dresses.  Overall the Mass was beautiful, joyful, and holy, clearly engaging the hearts of all present in prayer to God.  I hope to attend another one of their Masses in the near future.

20170618_170911.jpgNot only was the glorious sanctuary of Queen of Apostles a sign of the heaven, but the wedding itself acted as a window into the heavenly realities made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  For married people have a special relation to the life of the Trinity and to the Eucharist.  The One God is Himself a Trinity, a communion of Persons, the Father Who Begets the Son, from Whose love for each Other proceeds the Holy Spirit.  In an analogous way, a husband and wife love each other in such a way that they become united to one another and that from them comes new life.  They also symbolize the love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33).  They can understand in a deep way the sacrifice Christ makes in the total gift of Himself to us as He says, “THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.”

Besides being a Sunday with first communicants, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and a wedding, Julius and another man were commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion during the Mass.  In addition, Fathers’ Day was incorporated with a blessing of the Fathers at the end of Mass.  Even with so much going on during this nearly three hour long liturgy, everyone was relaxed and joyful, praising God with voice and spirit.

 

Update: On Sunday, July 9th, I went to another Ghanaian Mass at Queen of Apostles. While this Mass was not a wedding, it was still celebratory and joyful.  Since there was not so much going on, Father Tony introduced me to the community after Mass and allowed me to say a few words.  I expressed my gratitude for being welcomed and for their joyful witness, then offered a few words about discerning God’s will in one’s life, including my go-to piece of vocational advice: whether you have already discovered your vocation or have not yet, entrust your vocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Fiat (yes, “let it be done”) was perfect and brought Jesus Christ to the world.

Mary, Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.