Thursday, May 24, 2007

Novena to the Holy Spirit

The great Feast of Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the Descent of the Holy Spirit the Gift, Helper, Advocate and Comforter, the Great Paraclete promised by Jesus and sent in the name of the Father to the Church assembled in the Upper Room. The descent of the Holy Spirit marks a turning point in the history of the fledgling Church and enabled and empowered the followers of Jesus to be true disciples and apostles, commissioned, sent and empowered to carry out the Great Mission to the Nations to baptize all men in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all the commandments of Jesus.

What a great transformation the Holy Spirit had wrought in the lives of the Apostles. From a bunch of quivering scaredycats, hiding in the Upper Room, with the doors barred out of fear of the Jews, they became fearless witnesses. When the Holy Spirit descended in Power upon them, they became great evangelists, fearing nothing by God alone.

The same Peter who denied his Lord was empowered to speak to the nations gathered in Jerusalem and even, though he was unschooled, to preach the Gospel to the Sanhedrin themselves. What marvels the Holy Spirit had accomplished when these men offered themselves to be empowered by Him. And what marvels will we accomplish in the name of Jesus if we but let our hearts be opened to the Holy Spirit so that He may work through us to renew the face of the earth. Truly, as Jesus had promised, we would work great wonders in His Name.

Many of the Churches in Penang, including my own parish of the Immaculate Conception, the Church of St Anne in the mainland and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit have organised special novenas and prayers to prepare the people spiritually as we wait to celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost and commemorate that day the the Holy Spirit descended upon the first disciples amidst the wind and tongues of fire. The novenas serve to remind people of the reality of the Holy Spirit and to ensure that the people are open to receive His gifts.

Some of you might be wondering what Oi have been up to, since there have been no posts for a while. Well, for the past few days, I've been attending the Novena to the Holy Spirit organized by it's namesake Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Penang.

The Novena is themed upon Discipleship. Fr. Francis Anthony, the Administrator of the Cathedral has invited speakers who is supposed to give an hour long homily at each evening following the novena prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Msgr. Eugene Vaz (right ->), the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Singapore started of the novena and preached for the first 3 days. Fr. Vaz is a charismatic and powerful speaker. He kinda reminds me of Master Yoda ( <- left) in the Star Wars movie where he hobbled in with a cane and then proceeded to thrash Count Dooku with a lightsaber and then hobbled off on a cane again. Msgr. Vaz too limped up the chancel steps to celebrate the Mass and limped to the Ambo to preach. But once he was at the ambo, he transformed from the gentleman on the left to the gentleman below. Wow! Speaking and emphasizing his points with gestures and changes in voice pitch and intonation, he certainly managed to hold the parishioners rapt attention as he challenged them to live a life of radical discipleship in following the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the redoubtable Msgr. Vaz, the newly ordained Deacon Stanley preached on the fourth day. He began by telling us that he did not know that he would be following Fr. Vaz who had been his speech instructor at the Seminary or else he might have declined. Although his delivery has hampered by some technical problems with the mike, Fr. FA declared that he had full marks for content. The newly ordained Deacon Stanley preached the fourth day.

The preacher of the fifth and sixth days was the Redemptorist, Fr. Neville Sinnappan CSsR from the Church of Mother of Perpetual Help, Ipoh. Fr. Neville highlighted the founder of the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus Ligouri as a model of discipleship.


This is the chancel of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Penang, where the novena Masses were held. Note the Bishop's Cathedra of chair on the left. The chair of the Bishop gives the Cathdral it's name as it is his seat from where he governs and teaches his flock, the local Church of the diocese of Penang.


I normally come early, after work and this is what it looks like.


Another shot. The crucifix has a depiction of the Risen Christ and used to be hung at an angle but is had recently been straightened and a spot light attached to highlight the altar which was previously in the dark.


Here, Fr. Francis Anthony is saying Mass with deacon Stanley, who preached on the fourth day of the novena.


The Cathedral entrance. You might be wondering why the u sphoto is like that, as opposed the usually nice photo you see here. It's because Joshua took it, that why. =)


Fr. Neville Sinnappan CSsR giving the homily. Fr. Francis and Fr. Henry can be seen in the background. Fr. Sinnappan is a Redemptorist priest from Ipoh.


More tmrw as we celebrate the completion of the novenas and the great feast of Pentecost. I will be celebrating Pentecost in my parish where we'll be having a coffee morning to raise funds for the new Church being built in Sungai Ara. More pics and reports to follow.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to comment much about Fr. Eugene Vaz, the Vicar-General of Singapore. He's a very controversial clergy in Singapore. By the way his Monsignore is just titular, not conferred by the Holy See. Judging from his 'popularity' amongst his fellow brother-priests and the conservatives, it's highly unlikely he'll be conferred one in this life-time.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm not sure what the prev comment abt fr vaz is abt ... care to elaborate?