Weeks go by quickly here (only 12 left!), but it always seems like an eternity has passed between each Mass. As I enter the church courtyard after what feels like a four-year absence, I have to do a mental check to see if I was even there last week.
This weekend is Good Shepherd Sunday, which is awesome because I’m pretty good with sheep-related vocabulary. I understood a lot and even tried paying attention during the homily instead of sleeping! Victory is mine.
Another pleasant surprise was different Mass parts – instead of the Chinese ones we usually do, we sang the entire Misa de Angelis (a fairly elaborate chant setting that I happen to love). The last time I had sung them was at the ordination in Shanghai, and before that who-knows-when, but Padre’s chant classes have stuck with me pretty well. I remember the notes with no problem and even the words for the shorter ones, but I could only remember the beginning of the Gloria and barely even tried the Credo.
It occurred to me that it was probably not a coincidence that we were singing these new Mass parts (often used for important Church events) with the installation of Fr. Cai as bishop of Xiamen only two weeks away. So after Mass, I went up to the choir loft and asked Sister ManGu if I could join the choir for the ordination. She said they’ve already been practicing for two months but, what with my chant class experience and my native Latin-based language, I think I should be able to handle it just fine.
BingBing also told me that he signed me up to help at the ceremony. I’m not sure exactly what this job will entail, but it probably has something to do with helping all the foreigners who don’t usually come to Chinese Mass. I’m glad to have a chance to help out my church here, and I can’t tell you how delighted I am that helping out entails chanting in Latin. Life is good again – I’ve even decided to forgive China for the unfortunate gynecologist appointment yesterday.
I’ve been super psyched about Fr. Cai becoming bishop ever since I first heard the rumor back in December. Now that I know it’s for sure, I’m even more excited. There is a small cloud, however, ready to rain on my parade at any moment. As I’ve said before, the Church in China isn’t in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, a small schism most noticeable when it comes to bishops. Basically, the Chinese government claims that appointing bishops lies within its jurisdiction, while the Catholic Church reserves that authority for the Pope.
Because of this, there are three types of bishops in China: there are those who are recognized by the Chinese government but have not sought papal approval; there are the bishops of the underground who were appointed by the Pope but are not officially recognized as such by the government; and there are those who have received both government approval and papal mandate (often not at the same time). I know that my church is part of the CPCA and therefore any bishop must be government-approved, but I don’t really know about the papal mandate and I’m a little scared to ask.
But last week brought good news and, I’m hoping, good tidings. Sunday was the first ordination of a mainland bishop in two years, and another followed on Wednesday. Both bishops (in Inner Mongolia and Jiangsu Province, respectively) have the approval of both the Chinese government and the Pope, which many are heralding as a positive sign in Sino-Vatican relations. This news gives me hope. As far as my knowledge of Chinese bishops goes, they tend to be installed in groups, leading me to believe that Fr. Cai might soon join them – similarly approved. In another interesting note, all three bishops (including mine) are taking over dioceses that have been vacant for significant periods of time (4, 5, and ? years).
I went dancing after Mass. It had been forever which meant lots of questions about where I’d been. I also noticed that I got tired really quickly; is it possible that I’m out of shape after my hiatus, or is it just because I was out dancing until 3 last night?? Dad – I gave the officer the patches you sent and explained what they were. I think I failed at conveying the concept of “ROTC”, but I did okay on the others and learned two new words in the process: infantry (骑兵) and armor (坦克兵). And the pictures sparked another conversation on just how freakin’ tall you are – trust me, you are missed!