Maria Holland

Deacon Zhao Becomes Father Zhao

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2009 at 11:00 pm

We had an early wakeup call and ate breakfast quickly before heading to nearby St. Ignatius Cathedral for the main event of the trip – the ordination.  We got there just before 8 and the place was packed.  I don’t mean ‘crowded’ or ‘full’ – I mean ‘packed’ in a way that I had, until now, only experienced on public transportation . . . in China . . . during rush hour. 


The ordination Mass didn’t start until 9, which meant an hour of musical pews.  I can’t imagine that seats on the Titanic’s lifeboats were fought over more intensely; it was quite ridiculous.  There was shoving and pushing and arguing and no one seemed to find this behavior out of line with the sacrament of unity we were about to celebrate. 

There were 12 deacons there to be ordained, and it largely fell to them to find places for their families, friends, and parishioners to sit.  Even despite this unpleasant task, I was struck by the sense of peace and calm that they exuded.  Out of all the people I’ve met in China, I think that the priests I know are the quietest, calmest, and most unassuming of them.  In a country where everyone is striving to the loudest, you would think they would get drowned out and covered up, but in my opinion the opposite happens.  Interesting . . .

The Mass began with the entrance of the bishop (of Shanghai, I’m guessing), the deacons, and a ton of concelebrating priests. 


We used the Misa de Angelis, the beautiful Latin chant setting of the Mass, which almost brought me to tears.  It was familiar and reminded me of the chant classes I used to participate in, but even more than that, by using Latin – the language of the Church – it spoke to me of the universality of the Church.  Also, it was kind of nice that for once everyone was using a second language :)

The ordination Mass lasted almost three hours.  Unlike ‘normal’ Mass, which I’ve celebrated at least once a week for my entire life, I’ve never been to an ordination so I didn’t always know what was going on.  The deacons knelt before the bishop several times, and at one point lay prostrate on the ground. 


Once they were ordained, they came back to the pews where their families helped them put on their vestments.  They hugged their family and friends and everyone was crying – happy tears, though.  I got a hug from Father Zhao, too, and really felt like a part of the church. 

After the Mass was over, we went outside for pictures.  Here’s most of our group:


Here’s me with Father Zhao (formerly Deacon Zhao):


Here’s Fr. Cai with the two new priests:


After that, it was time for the rest of the group to leave.  They were all quite worried about me staying by myself and Father Zhao, who was staying for a few extra days, took it upon himself to ensure that I had a place to stay – just like a good shepherd.  He tried his best to get me stay in a nearby hotel, but at 200 kuai a night, it couldn’t compare to the 45-kuai-per-night hostel I found.  He settled for making sure I knew how to get there and sent me on my way. 

I managed the subway pretty well and found my hostel fairly easily.  After dropping off my stuff, I walked a few blocks to Nanjing Lu for a stroll down the whole length.  I really wanted some milktea, but everywhere I looked I saw Starbucks.  I think that when Starbucks outnumber milktea shops, China has lost pretty much everything I love. 

At the other end of Nanjing Lu is 人民广场, or The People’s Square.  I met some friendly Chinese students who wanted to practice English and got to see a beautiful sunset disappear behind some skyscrapers.


I took the metro from there under the river to Puxi (literally, “West of the Huangpu River”) where I had heard it was possible to get a boat ride on the Huangpu.  I stopped a young man for directions and he ended up accompanying me in my search.  His desire to help, while typical of Chinese, went even above and beyond what I was used to.  We walked for at least half an hour down the riverside and crossed the river on a ferry before he saw me onto a boat and said goodbye. 

The boat ride was pretty expensive (100 kuai, or about $13) but I think it was worth it.  I got to sit down for a little while (!) and then went up to the roof of the boat to see the night lights.  I was pleased to see that the Pearl is much better-looking at night:


I was also fortunate enough to meet a tourist from Anhui who pleasantly chatted with me for most of the hour-long boat trip.   I learned the word for captain – 船长!

I was tired by the time I got back to my hostel, so I treated myself to a full-body massage.  70 minutes, 60 kuai ($9) . . . perfect end to a long day. 


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