“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.