Thursday, September 04, 2008

Celebrating 25 Years of God's Faithfulness

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Rev. Fr. Francis Xavier Selvarajoo

My former parish priest, Fr. Francis Xavier celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on the 31st of August of this year. However, since this was a Sunday, the grand Mass of Thanksgiving was held on Monday instead, which was a public holiday in Malaysia. The festivities took place at the Church of St. Anthony in Nibong Tebal of which Fr. Francis is the parish priest. He is also administrator of 2 other nearby parishes.

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The Church was packed when we arrived. Fortunately, there were several seats reserved in the front for us outstation guests, thanks to the generosity of Fr. Francis and his parishioners who took the lesser seats and seats in under the canopies places outside the Church. The concelebrants and ministers made a grand entrance preceded by musicians playing the Indian trumpet and drums and bunga manggar bearers.

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The Mass was said by His Lordship Antony Selvanayagam, the Bishop of Penang (below, left), His Grace Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur (below, right), Fr. Francis Xavier, Msgr. William Sabang, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kuching (above, centre) who was Fr. Francis' classmate in the seminary and many other priests including the Vicars General of Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca-Johore.

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Msgr. James Gnanapragasam, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur delivered a magnificent homily, one of the best I've ever heard. It was one heck of a sermon, witty and scriptural. I was very impressed. We need priests like that in Penang. When he finished, spontaneous applause occurred, the first time I've ever seen a congregation clap for a sermon.

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After the homily, Fr. Francis renewed his ordination vows before the Bishop.

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Part of the seminarians and priests attending.

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The presentation of the gifts, by Fr. Francis' relatives.

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The nicely decorated altar. The rather good frontal is obscured by the beautiful floral arrangement.

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As an exercise in inculturaturation, girls bearing incense, lighted candles and flowers paid homage to the Sacrament, reminiscent of the Hindu rites performed in a temple.

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A closer look at the inculturation thingy during the Doxology.

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After the Pater Noster, during the Sign of Peace, Fr. Francis exchanged the Sign of Peace with Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez who ordained him to the Sacred Priesthood at the Church of Christ the King, Sungei Petani 25 years ago when he was Bishop of Penang, the last ordination he conferred before being elevated to the Archiepiscopal See of Kuala Lumpur.

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After the Thanksgiving Prayer, some Indian dancers did a jig.

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A song was dedicated to Fr. Francis by his parishioners and Fr. knelt as the congregation honoured and prayed for him in a gesture of humility.

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The Grotto Fr. Francis built in Nibong Tebal soon after his transfer, all decked with flags for the Malaysian National Day celebrations.

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A grand dinner was held in the hall of a Chinese school about 1Km down the road. The outstation guests, priests and Fr.'s family members were seated in places of honour. The locals graciously sat at the back of the hall.

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The main table where the Bishop's and Vicars General were seated.

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To cap off the celebrations, an anniversary cake was cut by Fr. Francis, Msgr. William Sabang and an unidentified person to commemorate this jubilee.

May God continue in His faithfulness to Fr. Francis Xavier and grant him continued guidance his ministry as a Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments and Leader of the Community. God has chosen Fr. Francis and he has said yes to God and offered the Lord the gift of self in obedience to His call. May Fr. Francis be granted many more years of service in the Lord's Vineyard and finally attain the rewards that God has promised after he has run the race.

Ad multos annos!

27 comments:

Gregory said...

You beat us to it. Our (my wife and I) report in the Herald would probably in a couple of weeks time. But then it would not be so grand as yours due to constrains of space. At the most they may a carry a photo only. Anyway it was indeed a grand celebration and so much of inculturation. Great

Rita said...

Is the background behind the altar your work? I seem to remember there was a different screen last time you posted from St Anthony's.

I remember Fr Francis as a warm, loving and charismatic (in the best sense of the word) priest.

May God bless him and the community he serves.

Alex said...

Andrew,

Glad to know of your priest who celebrated his 25th year of his service towards his Lord and the flock of God.

However, i don't understand why did the entire service was dedicated to him. It didn't make sense to me how the entire service could centre on a person with so much grandeur. It probably made sense to you, and therefore i appeal to you to enlighten me about it.

And with regards to the women who offered offerings close that which resembles the Hindu offering, i wonder if the verse applies here from Deuteronomy 13:9?
"you must not worship the lord your god in their way..."

Since we are new creations in Christ, should we not shed our pagan backgrounds behind? As much as i feel like getting creative and have lighted candles by my altar with a picture of Jesus, i don't believe that how he demands worship from us.

Thats my honest two hoots and again, this is done bonafide with no elements of malice, therefore, i hope no offence is taken.

In Christ,
Alex
alexlxc@yahoo.co.uk

Andrew said...

Dear Uncle Greg,
It was indeed a grand celebration and a fitting tribute.

Dear Rita, nope, this was all Fr. Xavier's doing. There's another one we put at the back of the Church. Very nice. He also painted the ceiling a sky blue with clouds.

Dear Alex, thank you so much for commenting and leaving your email address. I appreciate it very much, especially when dealing with the many anonymous flamers. =)

Perhaps it might not have been too clear, but the Mass, as the heading of the post states, was dedicated towards celebrating 25 years of the Lord's faithfulness to Fr. Francis whom He has called out from among the people to shepherd a part of His flock. But we also thanked and paid tribute to Fr. Francis for responding to God's call and for giving the gift of self.

As you might know, a Catholic priest, following St. Paul's injunction in the whole of chapter 7 of 1Cor, especially in v32 "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord.", is unmarried and has traded the happiness of wife and family to tend to the Lord's flock. Not because married life is not good, but he has given up something good and great for something greater, namely, to serve the Lord fully, giving up something he loves, for someOne he loves more.

He has also professed obedience to be sent where he is needed and not where he wants to go. For all these sacrifices for the sake of God's people and to further the Kingdom, those very same people wish to thank him. It's a natural and Christian thing to express gratitude not only to God as the ultimate source of all gifts, but also to the channels which God's gifts and graces reach us, the people of God.

Anyway, each and every Mass centres on the Lord. His Word is read aloud, with one reading each from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms and the Gospel. The command of Christ to 'Do this in memory of me' is carried out in the Lord's Supper, the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented by Christ, at once High Priest and Victim, to God the Father. It was indeed a very Christocentric celebration.

I think you are referring to Deut 12:4. But the Lord was warning them against worshipping as the Canaanites did by setting up altars anywhere and everywhere. The Lord Himself would choose the place where he was to be worshipped, so the prohibition against worshipping as the Canaanites did refers in this case to this. Of course as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, this injuction to worship the Lord only in the Temple of Jerusalem is no longer in force but we are free to worship Him anywhere in Spirit and Truth.

This warning also, IMHO, applies to following the ways of the Canaanites to having fertility cults and offering child sacrifices and the like.

Anyway, this must not be taken as an absolute prohibition against imitating anything pagan. Just because the pagans used incense in the worship, had a Temple, had priests, had sacrifices did not mean that the Israelites were forbidden to do all those things. In fact, God commanded them to do all those things. Just because pagans pray, lift their hands or sing hymns does not mean we can't do so because it would be emulating them. Who we pray to is more important that how we pray.

As for the particular way in which they choose to express their worship of Jesus, it's more of a process of inculturation, of being all things to all men (1Cor 9:22b). People everywhere have an innate desire to worship God and honour Him. Such is the way in which the Indians express honour and respect for God, by lifting up light, sticks of incense and flowers to Him. If the intention is to honour God in the best way they know how, is it not a good thing?

Anyway, in our private spaces, the way we pray and the helps we use to pray such as images or candles or incense of whatever, should foster prayer and not be a distraction to prayer. If lighted candles and a picture of Jesus helps you to focus on Him, remember His gracious deeds and the many blessings that He has bestowed, then by all means use them, AMDG, ad maiorem Dei Gloriam, for the greater glory of God.

But if these serve as an impediment to prayer, then by all means lose them.

That's my 2 cents worth.

Thanks again, for commenting as I do appreciate the feedback and moreso, the questions. I hope that this helps a bit. Do post back for any clarifications and God bless!

Alex said...

Thank you, Andrew for your graceful and patient explanation.

I absolutely understand the need for mature discussion and not mere verbal ballistics and therefore, left my email so i would be able to hear from you.

Andrew said...

Thanks, Alex. I wrote you an email. I hope you receive it. In any case, my email address is andrew4jc [at] blogspot [dot] com. Feel free to mail me.

Andrew said...

Scratch that. It's andrew4jc [at] gmail [dot] com. Feel free to mail me.

Anonymous said...

so what is next after the hindu style thingy ....

there is so much Catholic traditions yet ..we prefer top cut and paste from the other religions ....

too much of hero worship on Father's anniversary .....

Andrew said...

Hey, don't shoot the messenger. I'm just the reporter.

But I believe that next time, we'll incorporate some lion dances, pouring tea and wine on the floor and perhaps slaughtering a chicken or two and sprinkling its blood on the altar. Hey we don't want the natives to be offended that their culture is left out.

Anonymous said...

yep ..dont forget the mayan marijuana too ...

I was at assupmtion in penang a few weeks ago....beautiful church ...but the priest ....kind of funny..the way he sings and talk ....

well no inculturation there ..pheww

Andrew said...

Rev. Fr. Michael Thoo was, for many years, my parish priest. I grew up with him saying Mass. He does indeed speak funny!

Assumption, which for me will forever be the Cathedral, is beautiful, housing the only pipe organ in Penang. But if you had seen it in it's glory days when the Bishop's canopied cathedra was still there and the old high altar... sigh...

Anonymous said...

that is why nowadays I prefer to attend the tridentine mass if I had a chance ..

I once wrote to FSSP to have some masses here but the our bishops may be a problem ..of course they replied in a very diplomatic church style way ..hehehe

the only tridentine masses offered in Malaysia is by the SSPX but they are not in full union with the church ....sigh but it is still a valid mass by the way ...

I wish they would unite soon...

Andrew said...

Yup, the local bishops and clergy are still very very hostile to tradition, so I don't foresee that anytime soon. They condemn clericalism, but yet desire to exercise the power of priests of old, the power of their fiat, in running their parishes.

But the fact remains that the SSPX is still not in full communion with the Pope. That's sad. And hanging around in those circles, one can get infected with the 'judging the Church and the Pope' mentality. Even if we disagree with some of the Pope's decisions, for example, Pope JPII's Assisi gatherings and the horrid thing Pope Benedict allowed to be put on him when he celebrated Mass in Austria (or was it Germany), one still has to be respectful when commenting about the Vicar of Christ.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you andrew but sometimes I am confused on which is worse ....a bunch of priest or bishops with a so call union with ROME but nevertheless never follows the GIRM OR what the Pope says or do or the SSPX which is in inperfect union but holds the deposit of faith with love...

sigh....

Andrew said...

I sometimes wonder the same thing, and have said as much. I also sometimes wonder what's the use of the much vaunted hierarchy and Petrine Ministry in the Catholic Church if authority and discipline cannot be effectively exercised in the face of manifest and open disobedience from cardinals, bishops and priests.

But the trajectory that the SSPX is taking, the public pronunciation of her bishops and the private utterances of her Mass-goers and priests concerns me. To be frank, it's the with love part that I'm particularly concerned about.

Holding the faith is one thing, but practicing the faith in its entirely is another. The magisterium of the Pope and his universal and immediate authority and jurisdiction is an example. When the Holy Father issued the new wording of the Good Friday prayers for the Jews, Traditional communities which profess belief in the Petrine ministry complied in obedience, recognizing the Pope's authority to do so as Supreme Legislator. The Transalpine Redemptorists, now the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer come to mind. Moreso, as it did not change doctrine but merely the wording of a prayer, what's the big objection in showing some actual obedience to the current Pope and his teaching and authority?

But the SSPX, while claiming to adhere to the teaching of the Catholic faith, which teaches the Pope's authority to do stuff like this (which is a smaller change than John XXIII's insertion of St. Joseph in the CANON(!) of the Mass or removing the word perfidious in reference to the Jews which they follow), rejected outright this change and manifested disobedience to the Pope even in matters like this. Where is the love and devotion to the Holy Father? He's not asking for them to say the NO you know.

So, I find love much lacking in the practice of the SSPX, especially in deference to the person of the Holy Father. And I feel unless this breach is healed fast, it will be permanent, like the Old Catholics from Vatican I. And that would be very sad.

Anonymous said...

true andrew...i have many lay friends and priest friends friends in the sspx and yes the stay away mentality has creep in but nevertheless from my conversations with them they love rome and the Holy Father very much...

the only hope is that they make perfect the union with ROME...by personal prelature ...and we would see them in Malaysia...

I know many people are actually fed up with the liberal and inculturations of the liturgy of Malaysia ..some have stayed away , some try to fight from within like you while others would non chalantly just attend mass. The soul is at risk here and if the bishops or priest dun do anything anything about it the the laity would like what has happened in France

Anonymous said...

oh yeah another things ..why are the girls on the altar during the doxology ....

I have always suspected Bishop Anthony Selva to be the most liberal in Malaysia ...somehow the photos confirm my suspicion ...

Andrew said...

Because my profile is public, there are certain things that I cannot openly say, to prove or disprove that. Contact me for more info. andrew4jc [at] gmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

andrew ..your e-mail very confusing leh..

if u receive my email pls reply

Anonymous said...

i have sent you a email ....

tks

Andrew said...

I replied. Not sure if you got it. Sorry about the [at] and [dot] cos putting down your full email address invites spammers.

Anonymous said...

none receive.maybe u could reply me at orientalsushi@yahoo.com...

tks

Andrew said...

Sent.

Anonymous said...

i have receive it..tks

Collin Michael Nunis said...

How I wish that the bishops would be more accomodating to other forms of Catholicism in Malaysia. I currently live in Perth at the moment and here are some interesting thoughts that might put a smile on your face:-

i) A new Ethiopian Catholic community has just be established. Their priest has been given biritual faculties. Here's to the authentic Catholic liturgical rite of Africa!

ii) We have a Melkite and Ukrainian church, both of whom have a close working relationship with the Archdiocese of Perth. Yes, those priests are also biritual. My assistant priest and his wife are Catholic chaplains in one of the hospitals here. Most of the crowds in these churches are slowly becoming less ethnic and much younger.

iii) There is a strong following of the Extraordinary Form here. The Archbishop occasionally celebrates the EF from time to time. However, there is also an African priest who celebrates the EF every Sunday, as part of his Mass schedules. And no, they're not SSPX. They're your everyday Catholic priest.

Andrew said...

Collin,

Nice to hear from you.
Yep, the Ge'ez or Ethiopian Rite is one of the most ancient in the Church. However, that Rite, as with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic rites now are rather Romanized. But still it's great that you have the opportunity to experience the diversity of Rites that make up the worship of the Catholic Churc.

Collin Michael Nunis said...

Well, save for kneeling and sitting (which is not a usual practice in the Byzantine Rite), and the commemoration of the Latin Rite bishop, most of the churches have returned to their original ways. We don't say the filioque as well.