Friday, February 04, 2011

Welcome to the Macau - China Bulletin: February 2011

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit

新年快樂, 恭喜發財 & 身體健康
[San Nihn faai lohk, Gung-hei faat-choih & Santaih Gihn-hohng]

Happy New Year, Good Luck & Good Health

The Spring Festival - Celebrating the victory over the evil

It’s that time of the year again – time for the most important Chinese holiday of them all – the Spring Festival (春节 – chūn jié). Also known around the world as Chinese New Year (农历新年 – nóng lì xīn nián), this holiday begins on the first day of the first month (正月 – zhēng yuè) of the lunar calendar, and ends on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival (元宵节 – yuán xiāo jié). A visual from the famous "Lantern Festival" in Beijing

While China has many festivals, this one is by far the most important and it is also the longest. Students enjoy a lengthy vacation, while all working adults will get seven days off. During the Spring Festival, everyone in China heads home, representing the biggest mass migration of people on Earth every year. This is known in Chinese as Spring Festival travel season (春运 – chūn yùn). There are many traditions and customs associated with this holiday.

Nian - the horrible beast.

In Chinese mythology, this holiday stems from the story (故事 – gù shi) of a beast called Nian (年兽 – nián shòu), who lived under the mountains or the sea. Once a year, the beast will come out of hiding to attack and even people. Worst of all, it was especially fond of children. As the story goes, it attacked a village one year, ravaging crops and eating people. From then on, the villagers would flee the village every year in order to avoid the devastation. However, one year an old man came to the village and asked a local grandma if he could stay in her home. She obliged, although she and the others thought the man would surely die. Once again, all of the villagers ran away, while the old man stayed behind.
Girls at the annual flower market at Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

That night, Nian showed up just like always. However, this year things were different, as it noticed red (红色 -hóng sè) paper on the gate. Then it heared the crackeling of firecrackers (烟花 – yān huā), which terrified the monster. In the middle of the home stood the old man, dressed in red from head to toe. The abundance of red and the loud sounds of the firecrackers were too much for Nian to bear, and he fled in fear. The next day, the villagers returned, surprised to see the old man had survived. Annual Flower Market, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

From that year on, they decided to wear red robes and light firecrackers in order to scare away the beast. Luckily, their plan worked, and the evil Nian was scared away for good. It never bothered that village again, and while it is still believed to exist, it is said that the Nian is scattered amongst the mountains and will never appear in front of humans again. Annual Flower Market, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

From this story come many of the Spring Festival traditions, such as decorating homes with all things red, lighting firecrackers, and performing a lion dance. In the days leading up to the official New Year celebration, there are many things to do. Many of the modern day preparations for Chinese New Year can also be traced back to an ancient myth…

The Kitchen God
In Chinese mythology, there is a Kitchen God (灶君 – Zào Jūn – lit. “stove master”) who protects the home and the family. As the story goes, on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, just before the Spring Festival, Zao Jun returns to heaven to report back to the Jade Emperor (玉皇 – yù huáng) about the activities of every household. After seeing Zao’s report, the Emperor will either reward or punish a family, based on what he has heard. In order to have a positive report passed on to the Jade Emperor, families will do many things.
To begin with, it is important to clean the house (打扫房子 – dǎ sǎo fáng zi) inside and out. In addition to pleasing Zao Jun, it is believed that this sweeps away bad luck from the past year, and prepares the home for the good luck of the new year. Also, people will decorate their homes and their front doors with all sorts of red decorations and the particular animal that represents the coming year. Before the New Year (which started on Feb. 3 for the record), the old decorations are taken down and new ones are put up, where they will stay for the duration of the year. Also, for the new year, everything must be new – new clothes, new shoes, and a new haircut.

New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve (除夕 – chú xì), families will gather together to have a huge dinner (年夜饭 – nián yè fàn). In the northern part of China, most people will eat dumplings (饺子 – jiǎo zi), which are symbols of wealth as the represent ancient Chinese currency. Some will even add a few coins into a few of the dumplings, and whoever ends up eating those will enjoy great luck and prosperity in the new year. Down south, people will cook up a special New Year cake (年糕 – nián gāo), made of gluttinous rice flour. This is another play on words, as it can also mean “a more prosperous year.”
Annual Flower Market, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Another famous tradition for Chinese New Year is the lighting off of firecrackers (放鞭炮 – fàng biān pào). As I mentioned in Part One, it is believed that doing so helps keep the evil Nian beast away, as well as other evil spirits in general. Around Spring Festival, it is not uncommon to hear firecrackers going off all day long, and on New Year’s Eve, it seems as if they never stop.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Holy Father inists on his right to ordain Bishops

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI insisted Saturday on his right to ordain bishops as he consecrated a Chinese prelate in an implicit challenge to attempts by China's official church to ordain bishops without his approval.

Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, a 60-year-old Hong Kong prelate recently named to the No. 2 spot in the Vatican's missionary office, was one of five bishops ordained by Benedict in St. Peter's Basilica.His elevation comes amid a new low point in relations between the Holy See and Beijing over the Chinese state-backed church's ordination of bishops without papal consent.
Newly ordained bishop Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, a 60-year-old Salesian prelate from Hong Kong, right, receives a blessing by Pope Benedict XVI during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
Holy Father did not refer specifically to China in his homily but insisted in general on the duty and need for the pope to name bishops to ensure apostolic succession. He said one of the key jobs of a bishop is to ensure that there is an "uninterrupted chain of communion" with the apostles.

Hon was recently appointed to head the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He has said he hopes to be a bridge between Rome and Bejing and that his high-profile appointment was a sign of the pope's love for China.

Liu Bainian, spokesman for the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, congratulated Bishop Hon on his new appointment and said there was no need for him to be a bridge since the Vatican and China already had a dialogue.

But in an interview with The Associated Press in Beijing, he said the church could improve relations between the two by respecting what he said were two conditions put forward by the Chinese government: "First, to sever the so-called diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government. Second, do not interfere in China's internal affairs, including in the naming of bishops," he said.

Antony Liu Bainian
The Vatican has said it is ready "at any time" to switch its diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. Liu said Hon could help improve Sino-Vatican ties. "Bishop Hon is a Chinese citizen and has the responsibility to build the socialist country with Chinese characteristics together with the Chinese people and make contributions to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," he said.

'Third Church' China's New Face of Christianity

BEIJING - Christianity in China began decades ago in the countryside, but today, a dramatic shift is happening. Young professionals in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai are changing the face of Chinese Christianity, as faith moves from rural to more urban areas.

Mission in Harbin

Harbin is the capital city of the Heilongjiang Province which is the most north-eastern part of China and borders Russia. During the long cold winter months the temperature can drop down to as low as -22°F (-30°C). Snow carvings, ice lanterns, fireworks display and snow recreations make Harbin one of China’s most popular winter destinations.
The Harbin International Ice Festival is one of world’s four largest international ice festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival. It starts annually on January 5 and lasts for over one month, weather permitting. During this period, people throughout the world take part in the various artist, cultural, athletic and tourist events. The 27th Harbin Ice and Snow Festival started on January 5, 2011.

Taking advantage of the Chinese Lunar New Year vacations two lay missionaries, both of them nurses by profession, left their responsibilities in Hong Kong and Macau for the Mission in one of the Northern Provinces of China.

Their destination: a group of Catholics, many of them young college students, in the Province of Harbin, anxious to listen to the message of the Gospel.

Their mission: To share with their listeners a simple idea: “God does not abandon us, instead always takes care of us”.

But God had reserved a surprise to them… This is what had happened to them: They arrive at the airport of Harbin about 4 in the afternoon. Braving the icy winter, with sheer eagerness to reach their destination, they take the first taxi they find and for the hour-long ride to the city, to their destination. At the Hotel, as they prepare to check-in, one of them realizes to her alarm that she left her valet in the Taxi. The taxi had left already. The valet had almost everything important: passport, airplane ticket, credit cards, quite good amount of money, cell phone, diary… all that the women take in their purses!

A visitor sits atop a snow sculpture at the 12th Harbin Ice and Snow World display, during the official opening of the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival

The desperation spreads… but it is time for them to begin the first session with the group that was waiting. Hiding the nervousness and the tears our missionary speaks to the group of how God does not abandon those who love Him… without mentioning what had happened to them. Those who knew what had happened could not hide their nervousness. About 10 o’clock in the night, when the function had finished, they decide to return to the airport, some 60 kilometers away from the Hotel to look for in the lost documents, at the same time preparing to accept the worst.

Workmen put the finishing touches to an ice sculpture of a castle at the 12th Harbin Ice and Snow World display

As they are already on their way, they receive a call that asks them to go to a place in the city to claim their lost valet. With much joy but also with caution they arrive at the place indicated by the caller. A gentleman directs them to come out of the car and they enter an old building. The temperature outside was of 30 degrees below zero. They could not believe their own eyes…they were greeted by the conductor of the taxi with a friend, very happy because they had managed to make a call with the cellular found in the valet to contact one of the organizers of the event.

Workmen put the finishing touches to a large snow sculpture at the 12th Harbin Ice and Snow World display

Consider this:

• The taxi driver, extremely in cheers as he gave back the complete valet to them. Everything was there. It did not lack anything.

• The taxi driver in fact had another passenger on his way back after dropping the missionaries. He noticed the man trying to pick the “ladies’ bag” from the seat and so he asked him if that bag “of woman” was his. It was only then, he realized that the bag belonged to the women and began to look for the way to give it back.

• Good Samaritan `communist' did not want to receive `absolutely nothing except gracias'. Miracle…? In the cold city of Harbin, on that frozen night, God kept them smiling!

Spectators watch fireworks explode over ice sculptures at the 12th Harbin Ice and Snow World display, during the official opening of the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival

On return to Macau they tell us that the people of Harbin are thirsty for the Word of God. The missionaries explained to the youngsters and the priests how to make use of the Lectio Divino individually and in groups. This is how they observed the Church in the city of Harbin: “The priests were very friendly, they help and work together; they are open to new ideas. Once per week they meet to celebrate the Eucharist together… and their sermons are well spoken. They are very friendly and close to people.” Meanwhile, our missionaries went to evangelize and they left evangelized!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

World Migrants' Day Celebrated

Sunday, January 16: The Church celebrated World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday January 16. The diocese of Macau invited all migrants in Macao to gather to pray for unity in diversity; the Mass was presided by Msgr. Jose Lai, bishop of Macao and 13 priests. Macau, a city with half a million people is hosts to migrants from many countries, races and cultures as these migrants have to care for local people as well as for almost 30 million visitors the city receives every year.
The following is a clipping from the TDM News - a Macau TV Channel:

One of the main organizers was Claretian Fr. Jojo Ancheril. Together with the Catholic Pastoral Center they asked for support to feed more than 1300 people who gathered for a concelebrated Mass and later lunch and a cultural program that lasted several hours.

Local government official as well as authorities from different embassies participated in the event. Local TV media were present and interviewed Fr. Jojo who spoke in Cantonese and English.

A Maryknoll Sister who participated in the event wrote to us:
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Celebration of the Day of the Migrant. That surely was a joyous occasion enjoyed by all. We just watched the Macau News tonight, and we saw that they gave quite a bit of time to cover the activity. I was happy to see Fr. Jojo being interviewed in Cantonese for the Macau TV. You Claretians are already getting to be a wonderfully vibrant force here in the Macau Church. Something that is VERY much needed!

The following slides will bring you the captured moments from the celebrations. A bit lengthy, but, hope you will enjoy this!