Building the TLM and liturgy in China

From a friend from back in my native Minnesota who has been living in China for some years now.  He is Catholic and has been doing his best.  It seems that he is helping to build where he is something that many people would love to have in their parishes.

If he can do this, why can’t you?  Surely your resources and personnel where you are are greater than that upon which John and his friends can draw.

Enjoy slightly edited:

Dear Fr. Z,
I just got back from a whirlwind trip through several cities in China with a visiting friend from Minnesota. I see that you’ve been doing the same sort of thing in Italy (though with better food, lucky you!). We saw churches in all the cities we went to except for Guangzhou which we were in too briefly to come across it, and got to mass in the Extraordinary Form in Hong Kong where there is a lovely community the Salesians there host. I have some interesting news from them: they just received confirmation that Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana Kazakhstan will be visiting Hong Kong on December 15th and hopefully will celebrate a pontifical mass. I have a Messiah concert with my main choir in Beijing that day, so probably can’t go, but I am glad to see good things in the works there. We had dim sum with one of the parishoners after mass and had good conversation on various matters. He’s a friend of John Paul Sonnen [Does everyone remember him and his blog from Rome?  John Sonnen is also from St. Agnes.  He posted beautiful photos of the Eternal City.  Now he is married and, I think, in Canada.] and met him in Rome on one of his tours, which is how we got in touch with him. From Hong Kong we saw friends briefly in Guangzhou, arriving on the same day they baptized their youngest son, and rejoiced with them, before boarding an overnight train to Wuhan. We met a few singers there who want to learn Gregorian chant to do the daily office, led by a young musician who studied in Germany and picked up materials there from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. … We ended the day by going to the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Wuchang (the traditional politcal capital of the Wuhan tri-cities along with Hankou and Hanyang), where we chanted vespers (or compline–I’m new to it so I can’t say which it was) in the church. The electricity was turned off so we had to use our cell phone flashlights in the darkened church–it put me in mind of the early Christians in the catacombs. Deanna left her book of chant with the musician leader (I call him “chant master”) for their use. There is also a Latin mass every month I hear, that I hope to make another time, and help them out with if I am able to. Along with the monthly Latin mass in Shanghai, and the daily low masses in Beijing, there are a few Latin masses in mainland China around that I know about, plus the one in Hong Kong of course. I hope to see one in Beijing at a more workable hour than 6:00 in future, that would permit singing chant or polyphony instead of having the congregation chanting the rosary throughout the entire service except for the Gospel, Consecration, and reception of the Eucharist, but I’ll see what comes as God directs.
Music in Beijing is going very nicely–my friends in Nine Gates Polyphony will be doing our next polyphony mass (Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices) at the Church of St. Joseph on Wangfujing November 10th, … And there will be Christmas caroling happening in December as there is every year, which I look forward to. I’m going to be planning for the German Catholics’ patronal feast, St. Joseph Freinadmetz, with my friends in their choir and hope we can do a bit more than last year’s chanting of the Missa de Angelis. Their kantor and keyboardist Daniel Tappe is an accomplished professional organist, probably the best organ player in China truth to tell, who is doing his best to make good music here despite the difficulties.
Have a good trip home, and do keep up the good work where you are! I’ll try to do what I can where I am as God directs. Blessings to you, John

This message has been intercepted by the NSA: the only branch of government that listens.

That’s a little humor there at the end.

No.  Really.  It is pretty funny.

At least I think it is a little humor.   Hmmmm….

Get to work!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I had always wondered if there were any traditional Masses in mainland China. That’s very interesting. I’m assuming they are probably part of the ‘underground’ non-State sanctioned Church. Very cool; I’d like to hear more.

  2. Hank Igitur says:

    Emeritus Cardinal Zen has supported the TLM in Hong Kong. He has offered the old Mass there with a Chinese FSSP priest acting as MC. This rev Fr has also said Mass for them himself. There is a seminarian from HK, now a deacon, at the OLGS seminary in Denton Nebraska USA who will deo volente be ordained next year.

    I have been to a “Latin Mass” at St Joseph’s in Beijing, a hybrid kind of Mass, part TLM but with much of the Mass chanted in Chinese by the congregation and communion distributed standing either on the tongue or in the hand at the preference of the communicant. There was a deceased family members commemoration ceremony after Mass with photos of the departed loved ones. I was the only non Chinese worshipper and it raised some eyebrows but people were respectful to me. The church is in the main street of the downtown, very prominent, lots of couples having wedding photos outside at all times of day for both religious and secular reasons, I do not know the canonical status of the priests there but I went anyway.

  3. J Kusske says:

    I was at the low mass in Latin in Beijing last week, and it’s true the congregation chants the Rosary in Chinese through most of the mass barring the Gospel, Consecration, and reception of Eucharist, and it’s also true that people receive standing and either on the tongue or in the hand, as is normal practice in China. I have not yet been to the Wuhan mass but I suspect it’s similar. The mass in Shanghai is a cut above though, with the responses said in Latin to the priest, chanting of the ordinary, and perhaps reception kneeling on the tongue (my memory fails me, it was nearly five years ago now). At least Beijing has daily extraodinary form mass, albeit at a very early hour, and there are people in China trying to learn the music and liturgy to go with it. I’m doing what I can with sacred music, and I hope bit by bit the liturgy will fall into place too, through the efforts of others and what small things I can do…

  4. CharlesG says:

    Keep in mind that examples of the EF in China, even in the above ground “Patriotic” churches, would likely not be new introductions, but remnants of the pre-OF liturgy. Without any proper Church government, the Vatican II liturgical reforms were not implemented in China as they were in the rest of the world, but the EF survived in most places in China until the 1990’s, when the above ground Church in China decided on its own to implement the OF in Chinese vernacular based on Chinese translations from Hong Kong. I know that some churches maintain a few old style Latin liturgies even to this day. The Latin liturgies I’ve been to in China (all in above ground churches) are on the old Low Mass principle that the priest does his thing pretty much silently up front, while the congregation is signing its own thing, perhaps in the vernacular. It’s certainly interesting, but there is definitely a disconnect between the clerical action and the congregation that does rather cry out for a little reform to promote participation actuosa.

  5. dirtycopper says:

    Almost 12 years ago we were in Guangzhou at the tail end of our trip to adopt our beautiful daughter. What instantly struck me was the fact that there was no evidence of any church in the city. It serves as a constant reminder to me that while we are often consumed with issues like preferred liturgical practices the people of China must constantly battle and endure great hardship just to practice their faith. Pray for the Church in China and in the many parts of the world where people must be very strong just to have this simple joy.

  6. rbbadger says:

    The status of bishops in China is a vexing one. If you look in the Annuario, you’ll note that the last bishops of the Chinese dioceses are all from the 1950s. That being said, most of the above-ground bishops have reconciled. One of the most celebrated and controversial of these, Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, S.J., died in Shanghai earlier this year.

    Bishop Jin, like most the clergy in Diocese of Shanghai, spent over 20 years in prison. He was rector of the seminary before the Communists took power and he returned to that role after being let out of prison. He did receive episcopal consecration as a bishop illicitly. He has said in interviews that he felt obliged to accept it because of he did not, they would have probably chosen a candidate even more pliable towards the demands of the Communist Party.

    The way in which he accomplished things is generally not reccommended if you want to avoid incurring all sorts of ecclesiastical penalities. During the 1980s, Cardinal Zen, who was not yet ordained a bishop, came over from Hong Kong to teach in the seminary. It was around then that the Shanghai Diocese adopted the Chinese translations. Bishop Jin was able to get the Pope’s name back in the Eucharistic Prayers. Sometime in the 2000s, Bishop Jin reconciled with the Holy See. Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, an underground bishop, is the current Bishop of Shanghai. Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, S.J., the state-approved bishop, was appointed his coadjutor.

    When Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was ordained a bishop last year, he publicly announced at his episcopal ordination that he was severing ties with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sponsored group all those who belong to the above-ground church must belong to. Bishop Ma was taken into custody immediately afterward and has not been seen since.

    During Bishop Jin’s years, the Diocese of Shanghai had a level of freedom many other dioceses in China did not have. Bishop Jin was a very shrewd diplomat. In an interview with Ignatius Insight, he said: “The government thinks I’m too close to the Vatican, and the Vatican thinks I’m too close to the government. I’m a slippery fish squashed between government control and Vatican demands.” He had a thriving seminary full of men recruited from all across China. Bishop Jin travelled across the country recruiting men for his seminary. He also, unlike most other bishops, had his own printing press.

    Of course, now that he is gone, there is a great deal of uncertainty. There is a bishop, but he is barred from even meeting his faithful. The Church in China has produced many saints and heroes of the faith. It’s hard to say where Bishop Jin would fit. He accomplished an awful lot, but also had to submit to the demands of the Party. He has critics and some in the underground church have felt betrayed by his public criticisms of them. Bishop Jin’s memoirs were published by Hong Kong University Press in an English translation earlier this year. Unfortunately, only the first volume is likely ever to see the light of day. The translator told me that after Bishop Jin’s death, the rest of the manuscript was seized by the authorities. Thankfully, though, the first volume made it to print. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in contemporary Chinese history.

    The situation in Hong Kong is mercifully different. There, the Church is free and is very outspoken. I was deeply impressed by the members of the Tridentine Mass Apostolate. The love they have for the liturgy is deeply admirable. The laity are deeply involved. The people know how to chant a number of Gregorian Mass settings and do so loudly. They have produced a Missal for the benefit of the faithful which has English, Chinese, and Latin text. After the gospel is chanted, the readings are again proclaimed, this time in Cantonese and the sermon is generally in Cantonese. On one of my visits, one of the parishioners saw me and figuring correctly that I didn’t speak Cantonese, sat next to me and translated Father Li’s homily as he was giving it. Also, while in Hong Kong, one should visit the Cathedral, where one can venerate the relics of the Chinese Martyrs canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 2000 as well as the relics of Blessed John Paul II himself. The relics are locks of the deceased Supreme Pontiff’s hair.

  7. dans0622 says:

    My experience of Mass in China comes from Guangzhou’s Our Lady of Lourdes church on Shamian island, one year ago. It was an English Mass, with a European priest and what appeared to me to be a mostly Filipino congregation. It was totally “Ordinary Form” in the piano/guitar, somewhat informal style.

  8. theophilus says:

    Fr Z,
    Tell your friend I localized the TLM calendar into simplified Chinese, in case he finds it useful

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