The 2013 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering took off with an amazing multicultural liturgy. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston and concelebrating were Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockdon CA and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines IA. The Mass was the opening liturgy for the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering which was preparing us for advocacy on global and domestic issues of social concern regarding poverty and human dignity throughout the world. To place these global issues within the context of the Church the liturgy reminded us of our multicultural Catholic family by incorporating cultural elements within the Mass.
When the liturgy of the Word had begun a Church community from the African nation of Cameroon celebrated their cultural reverence for our Sacred Scripture by processing the book to the Cardinal as a community that declared in their native language “The Word of God, sweet in my heart. The Word of God, sweeter than honey.” As the community approached the Cardinal he removed the Lectionary from a pack that their elder woman had been carrying on her back. It was a slow and deliberate procession full of reverence and awe.
The Celebration continued with an intermingling of four languages throughout the Mass. The responsorial Psalm was done in the language of English, Spanish, Cameroon and Vietnam. The first two represent traditional Catholic communities whereas the last two are areas where the young Catholic community is growing at an ever increasing rate.
Appropriately the Gospel reading was the passage from Luke where Jesus instruct his disciples to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Certainly one could not fail to catch the message of evangelization into the unknown. Bishop Pates offered the homily where he integrated our combined work for advocating on the social issues that concern us and our global family: the plight of domestic and international poverty and our obligation to respect all life including the unborn, the refugee and the immigrant.
After the Liturgy of the Word their was the petitions that were again done in the four languages. We responded to the petitions by saying, “Oye nos, Señor; Ding-gin mo kami; Xin nham loi chúng con; Hear our prayer, O Lord.”The Vietnamese community then came out and organized the procession of gifts through their own cultural expression. It was absolutely breathtaking as these gifts were presented in such a way that again displayed a cultural reverence from our Asian community.
This entire celebration was moving to say the least. To add an historical dimension of our vast tradition it also incorporated both Greek and Latin aspects. In the introductory rite we declared the Kyrie eleison (Lord have Mercy.) And prior to communion we sang the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God.) This liturgy transcended time and space.
As with all Catholic Masses the pinnacle moment was the Eucharist. This is the common element of the Mass throughout the world. As familiar as this moment is, the concept of the “Body of Christ” took up a new meaning as we celebrated it in this way. This was not a parochial event. We very much felt that the “Body of Christ” was a mystical community that did indeed transcend all limits of time and space. Here the Christian community had an experience of those deep waters and affirmed our Church’s role in casting its net far and wide.