Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Feast of St. Anne 07

Some of you might have started to wonder whether this blogger has departed this life. I apologize for the lack of posts these few days as several things came up, not the least of which is the Feast of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I had previously posted about this Church in several posts.

The Stations of the Cross. The life sized stations are placed all around the Church grounds.
The Shrine Church. The Old Church of St. Anne. The High Altar and sides altars are still intact and Mass is still said there once a month.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Beautiful, quiet and prayerful.
The Chapel of Reconciliation. The great grandmother of all Confessionals.

This post is about the Feast of St. Anne, celebrated last week.

The statue of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The relic of St. Anne is in the golden reliquary.

In Malaysia, we do not have great Shrines such as those in Lourdes or Fatima. Though several localized Feasts such as the Holy Cross in Tanjung Malim and St. Peter and St. Francis Xaxier in Malacca do attract significant participation, the closest Malaysia has to a national Shrine is the Shrine of St. Anne in Bukit Mertajam, with visitors and pilgrims from all over Malaysia and from neighbouring Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia as well. Many come year after year after having their prayers and petitions answered by God through the intercession of St. Anne.

The old hilltop Church of St. Anne, the Shrine Church

The new Church of St. Anne

We in Penang are very fortunate because the Church is located only about 45 minutes away from the island. So, on Thursday, the actual Feast Day and on Saturday, the transferred Feast, I was at the Shrine as a pilgrim.

The Santuary of St. Anne consists of 2 Churches, the main new Church, built with it's roof in the traditional Minangkabau style which lets lots of natural light in and the old hilltop Church which is also known as the Shrine Church.

The feast, as I mentioned, attracts huge crowds of Christians from all over the region. On the Saturday that I was there, the final day of the nine day novena, a carnival atmosphere had descended over the place. This is what I saw.


The normally busy Kulim Road in front of the Church had been transformed into a huge street carnival. There were stalls selling fruits and food and candles and religious items and all sorts of things stretching as far as the eye could see.


The photos above and below show the 2 sides of the street from where I was standing.


Here's a what it looks like from the gate at about 3 PM, 5 hours from the main Mass at 8. Actually, Masses were going on continuously since morning, both at the Church and at the Hall, opposite the road. There were Masses in English, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai and whatnot to cater to all the pilgrims who had made their way to the feast.


There were also pilgrims praying the Way of the Cross at the 2 sets, the life sized one around the compound and the stations up the hill. Both Churches, above and below, lie beneath Bukit Mertajam or Mertajam Hill which is the highest peak in that area.



The pilgrims try to make their way into the old Shrine Church and there to lay their petitions or their offerings of candles or flowers in thanksgiving at her statue. The photo below shows the old high altar, one the few remaining intact in Penang. Mass is actually celebrated here on the first Saturday of the month.


To get to the Shrine, one has to pass by a long line of official beggars. During the feast day celebrations, the Church used to have a problem of beggars trying to fleece the pilgrims. So the Church's solution was to get volunteers to beg instead! So they stand in a long line while pilgrims drop coins and cash into their baskets or scarves. The money collected goes to the Church and funds stuff like the haemodialisis centre. Pilgrims normally bring lots of change to give these 'beggars'.


The Shrine Church is nestled on an elevated platform. Behind the Church is Calvary, the 15 stations of the Cross placed up the hill. At the top is another Shrine to St. Anne. The hill also has a spring whose cool, refreshing waters are drunk by the pilgrims to quench their thirst after a hard climb.



We were there after the rains so the hill is still enveloped in mists.


A furry friend rests at the door. All creatures great and small are welcome at God's House.


The high altar in more peaceful times.

The New Church in more peaceful times.

I then made my way to the main Church to attend the 6 o'clock Mass which I had expected to be in Latin as it was in previous years.


The processional statue of St. Anne was placed in the sanctuary for the veneration of the faithful.



When I arrived, the Mandarin Mass was still going on, presided by a young priests who sang the Eucharistic Prayer in Chinese. Cool. We also spotted his cassock and surplice at the gift shop. Mark asked whether it was for sale only to be told that it belonged to Fr. Simon. I haven't the foggiest idea what it was doing there.

The Church of St. Anne is the largest of the Catholic Churches in West Malaysia and seats about 2 thousand. The photos below give an impression of the scale of this Church. Note the natural lighting that filters through the roofs.


View from the back of the Church.


View from the front.


Here's some photos from the Mass on Thursday when I sat much closer to the altar. The flower girls for the procession were in front of me.



No, we did not have an earlier pre-motu proprio celebration of the usus antiquior. The place was so packed that Mark and I could not get a seat in any of the 3 wings and had to settle for separate seats behind the altar. Our former parish priest was presiding over the Mass with Msgr. Stephen Liew, the Vicar General of Penang and parish priest of St. Anne's concelebrating.


Surprisingly, despite the huge crowd, there were only 10 extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, somethign truly extraordinary as in my parish, with these numbers, they would have probably trotted out 50 of them. The distribution of Holy Communion took about half an hour and all the hosts including those from the Tabernacle was used up. Hosts had to be broken up to give Communion to those present. The turnout was huge for an auxiliary Mass. I had wanted to ask Msgr. Stephen how many hosts were used throughout the Feast but did not get a chance to see him. Previous estimates put the number at 100,000, repeat visitors inclusive. The local newspaper placed the figure of those who attended the final Mass and procession on Saturday night at 10,000.


Another Mass in Tamil was going on in the parish hall opposite the Church. It was packed to overflowing too.


As I exited the Church, the priests, all vested in chasubles, were preparing to enter to celebrate the main Mass of the day.


His Lordship, Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang was the main celebrant.


Anyway, since I did not attend the procession on Saturday, I'm present you with these images of the procession on Thursday, the real day for the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne.

The people gathered in the narthex of the Church as the statue of St. Anne makes it's way out.


The procession was led by altar boys bearing banner and flower girls.



The procession then slowly makes its way round the Church grounds.



Followed by the people. The procession usually ends with Benediction in the Church.


Finally, before I left for home, I snapped these photos of the multitude make their way into the Shrine Church atop the hill bearing flowers and candles.



Till next year, St. Anne, ora pro nobis.

Previous posts:

The Stations of the Cross.
The Shrine Church.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
The Chapel of Reconciliation.

I plan to do a couple more posts on the architecture of the new Church and the Stations of the Cross on the Hill as well as the hilltop Shrine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Family Carnival in aid of the Church of the Divine Mercy

After a lapse of thirty or more years (more if you don't count re-constructed Churches), a new Church is finally being built on the island of Penang. Although the land was donated decades ago, only now did the fates comes together to allow the construction of a Church, dedicated to the Divine Mercy.

What do you think? Chartres it is not, but as modern, new Churches go, it could have been much worse, like the new OL of Guadalupe Church in Puchong and the proposed Putrajaya Church. Modern looking, but keeping the traditional look of a Church and identifiable as such.

It's located in a very awkward looking plot of land, almost triangular in shape in a housing estate.

The Church seats about 552 persons in the nave and 216 in the loft. Not too bad.

There are also numerous classrooms, a multipurpose hall and quarters for the priests.

To raise funds for this new Church, a Family Carnival was held in the grounds of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which is tasked to raise funds and see through the construction of this new Church, also known as the Sg. Ara Christian Community Centre.

I attended, with Mark. Adam and a couple of other friends were volunteering their services to man the stalls.

His Lordship Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang consented to grace the occasion and officially launch the fair by cutting some ribbons and releasing the balloons bearing the carnival banner.

Bishop Antony unveiling the model of the new Church of the Divine Mercy. Fr. Francis Anthony, the Cathedral Administrator and his assistant Fr. Henry Rajoo (in cap) were also present with a Boys Brigade honour guard.

Bishop Selva with the organizing committee.

His Lordship, Bishop Selva looking at some plants.

"How much did you say that was?" His Lordship drives a hard bargain.

One of the BEC's or cell groups decked out in the same colour. Each of the stalls were manned by the Cathedral BEC's or ministries. Other parishes also participated.

The crowd at the games tents.

The crowd at one of the 2 food tents.

The other tent.

After buying your food, you can enjoy it in the coolness of the air-conditioned Cathedral Hall where tables had been set out.
A general view of the hall.

My parish was in charge of selling drinks, so here, we see some of the IC parishioners manning the one of the 4 drinks stalls.
There was food, glorious food everywhere!

Yummy, mouth watering Indian curries.

Desserts and treats!

Satay, or marinated meat slowly roasting over an open fire. Mr Peter Gan, the roaster, was formerly advisor of the Catholic Youth Group at my college.

Burgers and hot dogs! Yum..

A chef busy at work preparing her delights.

Pre-packed food for patrons on the go.

The Little Sisters of the Poor not wanting to miss out on the action.

The Boys Brigade volunteers did an excellent job. They were assigned to collect the used plates and cups from the diners in the Hall. They did such an excellent job that oftentimes, they'll grab a plate or cup right out of your hand! =)

Fr. FA mingling with the people.

Hand painting. One of the many fun activities on offer.
Face painting too.

A clown was there to entertain the kids as well with his antics and little balloon animals..

A model of the proposed new Church of the Divine Mercy. That's what it's all about.

Fr. FA trying his luck at the lucky dip. If you're lucky, you'd be very clean as soap featured prominently as the most common gift.

I'll leave you with this image of Kebabs on a stick. Mmmm... Cya...