Sunday, September 21, 2008

No Front Pew For the Ballas in Beijing

You have to arrive pretty early for Mass if you want even a shot at our normal seat. I mean...really early. Today we visited our second cathedral in Beijing (Xuanwumen) and, by chance, arrived close to an hour early for Saturday evening services. Already, the church had many parishioners on site. Some were inside, practicing songs with the choir director, and some were outside, sitting on benches and talking, or praying near a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother.

After sitting outside for a bit, we entered the church in search of a seat. At first, we sat in the front pew of the second section (that was the closest we could get and still see the altar). We were quickly, but politely, told that this is where the "little angels" sit. These little angels are little children who process in at the beginning of Mass dressed like angels.

After moving to the side pews, we found our view obstructed by large columns. We moved back further...still couldn't see. (It must have been funny to see the waiguoren on a quest for the perfect seat.) "Let's just sit somewhere," I thought. We found three pews that each had one seat that had a view. Z in the first, Julie in the second, and Steve and me in the third. While Steve still couldn't see the altar, we did have a TV right in front of us. I think Steve would call this a "Catholic church with Chinese characteristics."

While I'm certainly enjoying the enthusiasm that the Chinese bring to the entire setting of the Mass--hearty responses and joyful singing by everyone--the Mass is exhausting. Trying to pray in my head in English while trying to figure out some of the Chinese language while trying to recognize some of the Chinese characters in the songs (which are flashed up on the screen) while being in awe of just being here...I think you get the picture.

I have a new appreciation for our usual "distraction-free" front pew...



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