Newsletter of the District
- Dec 2002
of Thailand, known as the Land of Smiles, lies in the heart of Southeast
Asia, roughly equidistant between India and China. Thailand is approximately
the size of France and has a population of around 62 million. Thailand
is 94% Theravada Buddhist with only 265,000 Catholics—a Catholic
for every 240 Buddhists. It is the only country in Southeast Asia
that has never been conquered and occupied by a foreign power since
the foundation of the first Thai kingdom in 1238.
has been governed by a constitutional monarch since 1932, and it
does not take long to see how the Thais love and respect their present
King, H.M. Bhumipol (Rama IX). Large and richly ornate framed photos
of him are displayed at traffic junctions, at round-abouts, along
highways. Thai Airways even celebrated his birthday on their aircraft.
The present King has been in power since 1946! The stability of
the monarch has certainly been a source of strength against the
endeavors of the Communists to infiltrate the land. Unfortunately,
he has not been able to curb the corruption, prostitution of all
kind, for which, Bangkok in particular, is infamous.
is one of the surprisingly numerous Asian rulers - for instance
the Empress of Japan, the President of Sri Lanka, and the late King
of Nepal - who were educated in Catholic schools in their youth,
at a time when Catholic schools towered over other teaching institutions..
He studied under the St Gabriel Brothers.
In the following
pages, we have put together some articles to give our readers an
idea of the history of the Catholic missionary life in this relatively
peaceful country (see A
Brief History Of The Catholic Church In Thailand).
There are no canonized Saints, yet, in Thailand. However,
a group of Seven Blessed Martyrs, and another martyred priest, Blessed
Father Nicolas, were beatified in the late 1997. In fact, the very
first missionaries who reached the Thai shore, two Dominican priests,
were martyred in 1567, in the peninsula.
The story of
the Seven Blessed
Martyrs of Thailand is given as a Christmas story, since they
were martyred on December 26, 1940. It is a story which resembles
in its beautiful simplicity the story of the early Martyrs of the
The faith of
such Martyrs, recently proposed to us as models by the Church contrasts
terribly with, or should we say contradicts, the new Conciliar spirit
which has unfortunately also reach these shores. In another article
we give some extracts of an interview
with the secretary of the Thai Bishops’ Catholic Commission
for Liturgy. Inculturation at any cost is the order of the day.
Even at the cost of the Faith - and therefore ultimately of the
eternal salvation for has not St Paul written, “Without faith
it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11.6).
at any cost, particularly in liturgical matters - the intravenous
drip by which all the Conciliar spirit reaches the people - shows
a total misunderstanding of the liturgy. Liturgy is the official
prayer of the Catholic Church, to give God the worship which is
due to Him. Every country has official ceremonies, official protocols
for official functions, and all of these are in the country’s
official language. The Liturgy is that official, or public, adoration
given to God by the Roman Catholic Church, by the explicit order,
command of Our Lord Jesus Christ. “Do this for a commemoration
of Me!” The 1917 Code of Canon Law said: “If worship
is offered in the name of the Church by persons lawfully deputed
for this function and through acts which, by institution of the
Church are to be offered only to God, and the saints and blessed,
the worship is public; otherwise it is private.” (c. 1256)
And the following canon added: “It pertains exclusively to
the Holy See to control the sacred Liturgy and to approve liturgical
When a priest
offers the Holy Mass or says his breviary, he does it by the mandate
of the Church, in the name of the whole 2000 year-old Catholic Church,
triumphant, suffering, and militant. The celebration of the Mass
is a public prayer as is the recitation of the Divine Office, whether
there are 1000 or only one faithful attending Mass or the Divine
Office is said by the priest alone or by a dozen. That is one reason
why the Holy Mass and the Divine Office are so powerful. When the
same priest says his rosary or prays the Stations of the Cross,
since these are not parts of the liturgy, he prays them as private
prayers, in his own name. Which is quite a big difference. This
distinction between private and public prayer is of utmost importance
in order to understand the Liturgy in itself, and to see how truly
un-liturgical is the conciliar liturgical reforms, which introduced
creativity in the liturgy, or in other words, which reduced the
public prayer of the Church to the personal moods of the celebrant.
Of course this
monopoly of the pre-Vatican II Liturgy by Rome (as in canon 1257)
has now been dismantled in favor of Bishops’ Conferences.
This was perhaps the one single change which has had the most dramatic
consequences in all the Liturgical Reform. The most important, key
text of Vatican II on this issue, is in its Constitution on the
virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy
within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of
bishops' conferences, legitimately established, with competence
in given territories.
has been a real ‘privatization’ of the Liturgy, therefore
its destruction as a common, public prayer of the universal Church,
and, as a necessary outcome, a de-Catholicization of the Liturgy.
The Liturgy has now lost its Catholic note. It is no longer universal.
It is a local issue, not even a national one, as it may change from
parish to parish, from dialect to dialect, from tribe to tribe,
within the same country.
has also lost its note of Unity. The concept of “unity in
diversity” is very deceiving. Imagine a group of people of
different languages all speaking in their own tongue at the same
time in the same place. That would be real cacophony. Compare that
then with the same crowd singing in the Church’s Latin a Credo,
or a Salve Regina. That is the unity in diversity that the Church
has had for centuries. Before the arrival of the New Mass, you could
travel in most of the world and find the unique Roman Rite of the
Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as it was at home, in your own parish
, the Liturgy has also lost its note of Apostolicity. The beautiful
prayers of the Traditional Roman Rite embody the whole history of
the Church in them, the history of the Apostolic beginnings, of
the persecutions, of the heresies, of the Councils.
as it may be perhaps the most obvious, the reverence, the heavenly
Sanctity of the Holy Mass has given way to a ‘human’
celebration, adapting any local element in the supreme act worship
due to God. Last August, to give a fresh example, during the ceremony
of canonization of Blessed Juan Diego, the privileged seer of our
Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico, Aztec dances and rituals were held
during the Mass. What an irony, when one thinks that Our Lady of
Guadalupe came to free the Mexican from this incredibly blood-thirsty
dare say that people did not know how to pray before the liturgical
reforms of Vatican II, before this inculturation, that they did
not know the meaning of the Holy Mass, such statements are truly
scandalous and insulting for centuries of devout Catholic and hundreds
of thousands of martyrs who certainly knew what their faith was,
and what they were dying for.
Here is an
example of the consequences of leaving the liturgy in the hands
of any Episcopal Tom, Dick and Harry. When asked, last July 2002,
what the Thai Liturgical Commission was doing to improve the liturgy,
one Thai Bishop, Bishop Joachim Phayao Manisap, replied:
the past 10 years, we have tried to look more deeply into Isan
culture. It is wrong for us to criticize Isan people for believing
in "phi" (ghosts) and accuse them of believing in the
devil. We have no right to judge people believing in ghosts as
bad people and say they will go to hell. They believe in good
ghosts, not bad ghosts. In fact, they are better and more decent
human beings than we are, more merciful and forgiving. We need
to change our understanding of them and use a new understanding
to help us with catechism.”
very well another episcopal ‘pearl’ which shows how
far one can go in this real revolution of the notion of mission.
The following text concerns this time the Amazon Indians, in Brazil.
One can simply replace ‘Indian’ by any local tribe’s
Indians are already living the Beatitudes… The Indian communities
are a prophecy of this new way of living where the most important
is man.…The indigenous communities must be received as evangelizers,
so that they can become the model of our society which has a lot
to learn from them.…The Indian has a mission to accomplish:
to make sure that the civilized rediscover civilization.….Today,
missionary activity discovers in the indigenous culture evangelical
values, to the extent that not only is the Indian evangelized,
but is also able to evangelized us, … by the education of
liberty, … by the links with the religious, … the
evangelization is able to discover the presence of Christ in the
tribe, which lives in a more Christian way than ourselves with
our baptism and our religious practice.…The Bishops hold
the thesis that the principal mission of the Church is not to
catechize and to convert the Indian but to guarantee his values
and to guide his cultural progress in order to avoid conflicts
this text goes back to 1972! It is found in the Pastoral Plan
of the Bishops of the Amazon, in ‘O Estrado de São
Paolo’, May 26, 1972.
One of the
Asian liturgical experts understood this very well when he said,
“Liturgical renewal requires predominantly a cultural integration
of the space and materials used for the liturgy instead of only
the texts, rites and symbols. This,” he said, “can be
achieved through some adjustments with local culture.” He
noted that for “many Asian Catholics, the official liturgy
is no less than a strange ceremony which does not touch their hearts.”
(Father Ramon Fred C. Ofredo, at the July 20-24,2002, Fifth Asian
Liturgy Forum-South East Asian Region in Denpasar, Bali.)
had recently a very opposite experience. Last August 15, in La Vang,
the National Marian Shrine of Vietnam, 200,000 faithful were gathered
to honor the Mother of God. Rome had allowed them to have the liturgy
either in Vietnamese or if they wished so, even in Latin. Well,
for the whole three day pilgrimage the only Latin that I heard was
Gounod’s and Lourdes’ Ave Maria, and played
on the speakers. About a dozen Bishops were there with hundreds
of priests. Latin — Rome said yes, the local clergy said no.
Three days later, I visited a mountain village in the Central Highlands,
and heard 800 natives, the minorities as they are called
there, sing the Missa de Angelis, on an ordinary Sunday
morning. The day before I had met some members of the choir who
sang - by heart and wholeheartedly if you please - for me the Salve
Regina, Puer natus est, Pueri Hebraeorum, Regina Coeli and
a few other pieces of the Gregorian repertoire. These people have
no need to adjust the liturgy to their local culture, they love
it as it is. Unfortunately, as it is the case most frequently, it
is the clergy who imposes - literally - the changes, instead of
simply explaining the liturgy to their people.
As we are speaking
of Thailand, many of our readers have heard of Bishop John Bosco
Manat, the good friend of Bishop Lazo. Read his conference given
in Winona in February 2001, and published in the November
2001 Angelus. At this moment, there is also
one young Thai lady who has joined our Bethanians, in Manila, and
is working on her French before choosing her future Congregation.
Manat offering his first Traditional Pontifical Mass
in Saint Mary's, Kansas, on February 3, 2001
Manat visiting the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, Québec,
on February 8, 2002.
The priest on the let is Fr. Yves Le Roux, principal of the SSPX
Holy Family School, in Québec.
More on Asian
vocations: as I am writing these lines, four Indian young men, have
just transited through Singapore and are now in the plane on their
way to Australia to enter Holy Cross Seminary. They have spent a
good six months with our priests in Southern India and, thanks be
to God and to St Rita’s intercession, got their Australian
visa. Another young Filipino should join them soon.
2002 is the 450th anniversary of the death
of St Francis Xavier off the Chinese coast on the island of
Sancian near Hong Kong. We give after the Dossier on Thailand, the
account of his lonely death and his burial. Last year, I was fortunate
to visit the island and pray there for all our friends and benefactors.
A blessed Advent-tide
to all, as well as a truly spiritual Christmas, filled with an increased
knowledge of our Divine Savior, the only hope of our sinking world.