Thursday, July 1, 2010

Feast of St. Peter: On This Rock

The bishops of the Solomon Islands with their priests to celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul: Bishop Luciano Capelli SBD, Bishop of Gizo is at the center in the red vestments. Archbishop Adrian Smith SM, the Archbishop of Honiara, is on the left and Bishop Christopher Cardone OP, Bishop of Auki is on the right.

June 27: Today we marked a triple-celebration in grand style: the conclusion of the National Gathering of Priests, the end of the Church's Year of the Priest, and the feast day of the patron saint of the Gizo cathedral and parish, St. Peter. The program in the church began at 8am with a holy hour and concluded at 12:30 after a beautiful liturgy and a series of talks by representatives of all the different religious orders in the country. I spoke about the mission of the Marianists, and I noticed a few eager faces when I mentioned that anyone who wanted to join us would have to come to New York! A great feast for the entire parish and the many visitors followed with speeches and entertainment, wrapping up after 4 pm. The people of Gizo really know how to keep the Sabbath holy and happy.

Bro. Johnson Tola OP, Sr. Saniella OP and May Tugea directed the choir for the Mass. Music for the Mass included parts sung in six of the major languages from all over the Solomon Islands, as well as English and Pigin. There are over 70 different languages spoken by the people of the 300 inhabited islands of the Solomons. English is the official language, going back to the days of the British Empire, and Pigin is a "linga franca" used for communication between all the different language groups. The average Solomon Islander is conversant in 4-5 languages.

The Gospel was brought to the altar in a joyful procession of song and dance. The women of the parish presented the book of the Gospels to Deacon Stephen.

Bishop Luciano preached the homily. He emphasized that the "rock" of the Church is built on three great "yeses": Jesus' yes to the Father; Mary's yes to the Holy Spirit; and Peter's yes to Jesus his Lord. If the Church is to have a solid foundation, all of us must echo that yes of faith, service, and obedience. Bishop Luciano illustrated his point with a touching example from the reconstruction of the cathedral after the earthquake and tsunami of 2007. The new church is built one metre higher than the old one. The new foundation was built from the rubble of the old church. The seminarians, on holiday from their studies, did the difficult work of carrying and laying the stones. When more stones were needed, people from a nearby seaside village which had been completely washed away by the tsunami brought the coral stones which were all that remained of their houses to strengthen and support the new church. The church of "living stones" stands on the rock of its history and tradition; on the fidelity and generosity of its people; and on the work of its ministers.

The offertory procession was made by a group of Gilbertese women. Most Solomon Islanders are dark-skinned Melanesians. The Gilberteste, originally from the islands of Kiribas, are Polynesians, reflected in their features and in the style of their dance.

"Jesus mi kam long ai blong yu. Yu Lord blong mi yu God blong mi.
Bodi blong yu iliap blong mi, Blut bilong yu I wasim mi klin."
Jesus, I come before you. You are my Lord and my God.
Your Body is life for me, your Blood washes me clean.

The National Gathering of the Priests of the Solomon Islands
Lord, renew the life of your Church with the power of your sacrament.
May the breaking of bread and the teaching of the apostles
keep us united in your love.
May the keys of Peter and the words of Paul,
their undying witness and their prayers,
lead us to the joy of that eternal home which Peter gained by his cross,
and Paul by the sword.
The Lord has set you firm within his Church,
which he built on the rock of Peter's faith.
May he bless you with a faith that never falters.

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