I thought that I would not have a chance to go for All Soul’s day mass since even All Saint’s day is not a holy day of obligation in China, and there is few Church will offer extra mass besides the super early daily mass… To my great surprise I had a really amazing experience for this year All Soul’s day.
I went back with my friend to her rural Catholic village in the middle of nowhere…. It is soo small to have a permanent bus stop , but the village and couple surrounding villages are really really Catholic.. far more catholic than one can imagine.
Crossed the river, entering into to the town… The handsome piggies were the first thing to welcome there… Piggies were walking freely around the village so as the chickens.. Friend show me the Church… seems really rough from outside…
BUT, what amazed me was… they have a traditionally designed Latin Mass altar.. and just couple years ago, they still have Latin mass there regular until the pass away of the old priests. The Parish in my friend’s village is named after St. Joseph and the parish in the village nearby is named “immaculate Mary”. Similar design inside.. simple but really authentic Latin mass altar…
After showing me the Church, friends showing me the little houses where Catholic lives.. They try to use every part of their house to demonstrate their identity of Catholic… They all have Crucifixion at the main doors.. and the couplet at doors are the traditional Chinese poets about holy spirit.. ant the top written shinning the holy spirit…
(see communion railings.. and no separate new mass altar.. if priest comes for new mass, they will put on a table.. but now.. just old style altar…)
Besides that, when Catholics live together.. Their house connected to each other.. At the roof, they will also have a cross to show that these houses all live Catholics… What a amazing demonstration for the faith?
(the left picture showed the door for her home and the right one shows the cross on the roof)
Friend only go back to hometown twice a year, one is in during Chinese New Year.. it is the most important time in our tradition.. other time is in November… because it is the time that their family get together to pray for the soul departed in their village.. I cannot say how much I was surprised to hear this thing.. Because traditionally our day of remembrance of the relatives who passed away is in April… But this village..totally converted local tradition to Catholic tradition.
No Local Church has offered extra mass on All Soul’s Day… But this village invited a priest who worked three hours away to come to here to offer mass for their village and to pray with them in front of tombs of their ancestors.
After dinner on All Soul’s Day.. My friend and I were waiting for the beginning of prayer and mass.. I asked.. how will we know it stars?”
I heard the bell ring.. 33 times.. The first time the bell ring is 11 per set and three sets and ten minutes later is 3 per sets and 10 sets.. 33 reminds us of the time of Christ on earth… We went into the chapel… women and men set separately and prayer were all chanted.
Then prayer began.. The prayers is in local dialect… I cannot understand.. but really traditional.. Verspers.. Rosary.. and prayer for the soul in Purgatory.. They prayed an hour before mass started. Although the mass was new mass, the tradition is old.. No girl altar server… Because my friends told me that the senior in the village does not allow that… even some young priests were trying to encourage.. but the senior only allow girls to be lectors but definitely not servers.
My friends told me that priests rarely came to the village these days, but they keep the tradition of chanting prayers.. Two times a day: Laud and vespers and four times each Sunday… (which is really amazing… ) when the bell rang, every people have to set aside what they do and come to Church to pray……
The second day, I went with friend to visit the tombs of her ancestors.. She told me that her grand grandpa’s brother is a priest who was the first one bring the entire family and village to the Catholicism.. When I stood in front of her family’s tombs… The gospel showed in my mind:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”