Guests were greeted with calls of “Happy New Year!” and a barrage of firecrackers to begin the Lunar New Year Mass on Feb. 6 at St. Therese’s Chinese Catholic Church, 218 W. Alexander St.
The mass is a must at St. Theresa, now a place of worship in St. Mother Theresa Parish of Calcutta, and it includes a lion dance, other traditional dances, ancestor veneration and even red envelopes, with $1 for children and the year of the Tiger Prayer Cards for adults.
“At Lunar New Year when I was a child, it was always about new clothes,” said Father Francis Li, pastor of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “New clothes, sweets and red candles.”
Now, he said, the holiday, which is celebrated in several East Asian countries, goes far beyond that.
“The Lunar New Year celebration is about family,” he said. “It’s about family and friends, it’s about the love of God, it’s about joy and laughter and sending good wishes to others.”
It is also a time to express our gratitude to God for the blessings we have received, Li said, and to ask for continued blessings throughout the coming year.
Li celebrated Mass on Feb. 1, the official Lunar New Year date this year, for students at St. Theresa’s Chinese Catholic School, and he asked them what they were asking God for this year. Their answers surprised him.
“They said, ‘I pray for God’s blessing for an end to racism, an end to the pandemic, a solution to our ecological crisis, for peace, an end to violence,'” he said. . “These are not small things. These are big issues that we face in our daily lives.
Li urged those present at Mass to follow Peter’s example in today’s Gospel, in which he heeded Jesus’ command to dive into the depths and lower his nets again, after a night of fishing that yielded nothing, and in Peter’s decision to give up his job as a fisherman to become a “fisherman of people” and follow Jesus.
“Listening is not easy,” he warned. “You need trust. It requires acceptance. »
It hit him when he called relatives in China for the New Year and his new great-nephew, born since Li was last able to visit China before the COVID-19 pandemic, did not call him. spoken on the video call, not even when Li promised to bring her a red envelope – the traditional Lunar New Year gift – on her next visit.
“He doesn’t know me,” Li said. “He doesn’t trust me.”
But devotees know the Lord, Li said.
“Let us renew our commitment to listen to Jesus in our lives,” he said.
Sharon Wong, Co-Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, helped plan the Mass and greeted parishioners and guests in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. The Lunar New Year Mass is important, she said, because of the importance of the holiday in China and for Chinese families in the United States.
“It’s a family reunion,” she said, noting that celebrations in China usually last about two weeks, with different traditions on different days: getting new clothes and cleaning the house to prepare, stay home to rest the night before, spend the first day with family, visit friends the following days.
Red, considered a lucky color, decorates the church and features prominently in clergy vestments and congregational attire. During the offertory, children brought gifts of incense, fruit and rice wine and rice cakes in addition to bread and wine.
During the Lunar New Year holiday, families traditionally honor their ancestors, and Lunar New Year Mass attendees do as well, Wong said.
“A very important part of the Mass is the ancestral rite, to honor the people before us,” she said. “In Asian cultures, the celebration of ancestors is very important. We have incense, food on the table and we remember where we come from and we also remember our roots.
Parishioner Wing Chan, who led the rite, said Asian Catholics hold the Holy Family as a model of family values and the Communion of Saints as an example of reverence for those who came before them.
“Through the Communion of Saints, we can pray and express respect for our ancestors,” he said.