Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Church in the Philippines

I have survived my third trip to the Philippines and had a wonderful time. A few unorganized thoughts in the upcoming post(s):

Mega Churches
This term is laughable as commonly applied to American ones. Lakewood Church in America is supposedly the largest church in the US with 43,500 members in 2008. (1) This is small potatoes compared to any parish I know of in Manila. I visited three parishes while I was there. The first was only full.. maybe 2,000 in attendance I guess? It was the 7:00 PM Sunday service. Most of the parishes have mass every hour on the hour all Sunday long in addition to however many vigil services they might have. That parish alone may have had 40,000 in attendance that weekend. This probably translates to twice as many members.

Quiapo. Holy communicants batman! As we pushed our way through the crowded streets of the Quiapo market and I noticed the vendors gradually becoming sellers of religious items (rosaries, candles, incense etc...) I knew we must be nearing the famous church. We rounded a corner into a packed square. When I say standing room only, I mean it took us about 10 minutes to cover 50 yards across the edge of the square, pushing our way through the dense crowd. I don't know how many people the church holds inside, if my memory serves me correct - something like 4,000 normally sitting, and I'd guess 15,000 with standing room. That's just inside though. There had to be 20,000 or more between me and the church building standing outside praying and watching the huge monitors. And that's only what I could see. It looked like a Stones concert or something. This wasn't Sunday morning mass though, this was Friday afternoon prayers! There is a miraculous statue there "the Black Nazarene" and this is why the people gather on Fridays there.

St. Peter's Cathedral - Quezon City

On the Sunday before we left, I was priveleged to experience another mass with standing room only. The 7 PM service let out (crowds flooded out to the bottom of the steps) and the 8PM service had no seats left by the time we were able to make it inside. I can't figure out what diocese it was in, I'm surprised that Quezon City doesn't seem to have its own diocese (city has 2.7 million people) but I'm sure the mass was celebrated by the bishop (he was sitting in the bishop's chair) and I received the Blessed Sacrament from him.

It would be easy to be romantic about all this. But the Church in the Philippines has problems similar to America. A lot of casual dress (though imminently more understandable there - very hot and no AC makes shorts rather acceptable I suppose), holding hands during the Our Father, general lack of participation, terrible music (bishop's chanting excepted) and during the last mass there were two women near me who were talking and laughing obnoxiously through most of the Liturgy of the Word and homily. At least they started behaving like adults during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Funny thing is, I saw a sign on the parish just two blocks from my wife's house where we were staying, "Traditional Latin Mass Every Sunday". SWEET!!! On closer inspection though, it was SSPX. Bummer. Maybe by the next time I visit the Philippines, it will be licit for me to attend there.


Andrew Preslar said...

Good read. I hope you post more stuff about your sojourn.

George Weis said...

Well that was a fun trek with you Tim :) Glad you had fun, and got around to see some key sites of interest.

They have some nice buildings there for being modern... not like the oddball ones we have in the states that are modern... yuck!

Still hammering about people holding hands? I think that would be a bottom rung problem compared to the laughing etc. Interesting how certain little traditions get around isn't it?


Tim A. Troutman said...

The holding hands by itself isn't much of a problem at all. It's just one of many small problems that are reflections of the large problem of horizontal liturgy which plagues much of modern Catholicism.

Overall though, the Filipino liturgies seem more vertical than the American ones. And what I could understand of the homilies were much more potent than the drivel we usually get on Sunday mornings.

Ivan said...

There is a diocesan parish in Cubao that offers the TLM Everyday. It's in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City: the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy under Father Michel Zerrudo! Hope to see you there on your next visit!

PS: You can visit Fr. Zerrudo's blog "The sense of the sacred" and Mr. Gerald Cenir's "Pro Deo et Patria" for details. Also, check out Dennis Raymond Maturan, the cantor of the church. :)