College General, Penang is one of the few seminaries in the world which possesses relics of martyrs who were once either students or professors who have borne the ultimate witness to Christ, in blood. Its rich tradition of heroic men who have achieved martyrdom is a testimony to all Christians, especially those who have walked along its corridors as well as those who will do so in the future. It is hoped that the faith of these martyrs will inspire and motivate us to emulate their love of Christ.
The men from College General who have endured suffering and undergone death were:
Two French Priests of the Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP), who were professors of College, martyred and canonised in Korea:-
1) Bishop Laurent Imbert
2) Father Jacques Chastan (my former parish priest)
Five Vietnamese Priests, seminarians of College in the early 1800s, martyred in their home country and canonised in Rome in 1988:-
1) Father Philip Minh
2) Father Peter Qui
3) Father Paul Loc
4) Father John Hoan
5) Father Peter Luu
About fifty other martyrs, mostly Vietnamese, martyred in the 19th century. Among them was Fr Paul Chau, whose crucifix was sent to College General according to his wishes.
Yesterday, the College General celebrated the memorial of the Vietnamese martyrs, St. Phillip Minh and Companions, with a special Mass. Continuing it's tradition, an alumni ordained the year before was invited to preside over the celebrations and Fr. Francis Andrew, whose ordination I attended last year was chosen.
Before Mass began, the museum where many interesting artefacts such as a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the first book ever printed is displayed. The chapel was packed, despite the rainy weather. I was glad to have a place near the front although it was a tight squeeze.
Because the celebrations coincided with the monthly clergy recollection, the attendance amongst clergy was sparse this year. Usually, the Bishop of Penang, who is president of the Seminary, would be in attendance. The priests from the neighbouring parishes would attend as well as was the case last year.
The Gospel was read by Fr. Ignatius Huan (who gives great and thoughtful homilies) who is current accompanying the theology students from College General who are studying in Singapore. All the readings, from the common of martyred saints, starting from the martyrdom of Eleazar from the Book of the Maccabees, emphasize total commitment and witness.
The homily was then preached by Fr. Francis Andrew who emphasized the continued call to all Christians today to live lives in total fidelity to the Gospel, even to the point of death, the ultimate witness in blood.
The 'good' chalice was brought out for the Mass.
Fr. Decroix, MEP and Fr. Paul Cheong OFM Cap were concelebrating as well.
Mark, going up for Holy Communion.
After the Mass, Fr. Rector, Fr. Edwin Paul thanked the people, the friends of the seminary, for their continued support and presence and invited them to the Monday evening masses celebrated at the seminary. He quipped that if you may come on any other day, when the Mass is at 6.30AM but the gate will be locked.
The reliquary containing a bone fragment from St. Phillip Minh is placed in the sanctuary for veneration and can be seen in front of Fr. Edwin Paul in the photo above.
They even had a special song commemorating the College martyrs. Interesting. There was some Taize chant (Bless the Lord my soul) that was sung in English, Tamil, Chinese, Malay and Latin and another song that sounded suspiciously like it was lifted from the Sound of Music.
After the Mass, the people were invited to view and venerate the relics of the saints and martyrs at the side altars. The seminarians played tour guides. In the photo below, all the people walked right pass the relic of St. Philip but when they were told that his relic was displayed there, there was a rush towards it. That was funny.
Tomorrow, I plan to do a post on the Vietnamese martyrs and do also look out on another post on relics which will follow.
After the mass, all adjourned to the refectory for dinner.
Here's a view of the spread that was laid before us. Wow.. happy days.
The people having fellowship over dinner. Usually, durians from the college grounds are served but this year, due to the wet weather, the fruits have not dropped yet. The duraians were planted by Msgr. Stephen Liew, the Vicar General, when he was a student here. He is from Balik Pulau, the heart of Penang durian country.
This old crucifix hangs in the refectory.
The Last Supper.
An old Marian statue.