Saturday, February 28, 2015

REMEMBER THE PAPAL TYPHOON MASS IN THE PHILIPPINES? HERE'S A FIRST HAND ACCOUNT!



The comment below was sent to my post about the recent papal Mass of Pope Francis  in Tacloban, Philippines. As you will recall, there was a torrential rain and a modified altar was used. It was most unusual. The original post is HERE.  But his comment gives us insights from one who was a part of the committee on the liturgy that oversaw the preparations for the Mass:
Ivo Velasquez said...
For us, survivors of typhoon Haiyan (local name:Yolanda) it was a very emotional experience. I was part of the committee on liturgy that oversaw the preparations for the Mass; we had prepared everything according to the guidelines from the Vatican, the only things that we couldn't control was the weather...the Archdiocese of Palo had issued the oratio imperata for good weather but the typhoon chose that particular day to make a landfall.

The initial plan was to have the Mass indoors in the sacristy tent, it being broadcast ousted to the more than 200,000 faithful who have gathered the night before (by the time the Pope arrived we had already endured more than 6 hours of cold rain and lashing winds). But the Pope insisted on celebrating outside. we couldn't use the altar done for the occasion because the rain was practically torrential in that part, so we moved the mass over to one side of the stage, where the roof was lower. The altar was really heavy, and so we used the credence table for an altar. But by then the wind was stronger than before, strong enough to make the sturdy structure tremble, and all of us--from the Pope down to the last server--drenched to the bone.
the Papal Mass in Tacloban is an interesting case because of the precedents it made in the history of papal liturgy outside of Rome: aside from the extreme weather, the Pope elevated the ciborium instead of just the host, he wore a rainiest over his chasuble, and communion wasn't given to the faithful during the Mass, but rather afterwards (and in an orderly fashion), in the tabernacles surrounding the venue, and in churches the next day, Sunday.

But over and above all, it was therapeutic for all of us who survived the onslaught of Haiyan. traumatized as we were, we lost our fear of the rain and the wind. We realized later on, in retrospect that, having been wounded in a storm, maybe it was God using a similar experience to heal us collectively. An hour after the Pope left for Manila, the wind died down, and the typhoon left us.

2 comments:

quicumquevult said...

Interesting. I do wish they had gone with the plan to have it inside, though.

On a more urgent note, wasn't someone killed at this Mass due to the weather? Prayers for that person's soul and his/her family!

Ivo Velasquez said...

Actually Msgr. Marini and the other papal mc's had already anticipated the possibility of the Mass being celebrated inside the tent. We had already set up the table for the Mass, the candlesticks (only two of them) plus the altar crucifix had already been situated upon the table, over which the vestments (tastefully done, done under the direction of one our priests, admired even by Msgr. Marini himself) had already been placed. The rest of us local MC's were on a standing by. The readers, deacons and acolytes were also there, and we all had the same flimsy yellow raincoats over over our cassocks. Even Marini and his companions had by then donned the same raincoats which the Pope had when he finally entered the sacristy.

It was immediately decided that the Mass be celebrated outdoors, on the stage, something which was universally applauded. The Pope knew that the multitude had braved the cold rain and the wind since 6pm on the evening of Friday (by the time the Pope arrived it was about 9am of Saturday). He didn't wish to remain dry and cozy while the rest were turning blue because of the wind and rain. So off we went bearing all of the things for Mass; this was something quite difficult because the torrential rain had made the stage quite slippery. There were to be no concelebrants, except the Cardinal of Manila and my Archbishop...the rest of the suffragan bishops were just present near the altar, as were the members of the papal suite. I found myself seated next to a cardinal of the curia. Basically very minimal was very protocol was observed, practicality and common sense was the rule of thumb. Actually, the whole arrangement reminded me of the Masses I would've celebrated whenever i would hike up to the mountains or in far-flung areas to visit communities and celebrate the sacraments: very simple, intimate. We were more than about 200 thousand in that venue, all drenched, tired (I only had an hour's rest since the previous night) and hungry. But somehow that sense of intimacy was present to all of us, and we all felt close to the Pope, whose homily drove us all to tears, which mixed with the rain that ceaselessly fell on our faces (Since I speak Spanish fluently, I was really impressed by the Pope's translator: not only did he translate the Pope's words well, he also knew how to communicate the precise sentiment along with the words themselves).

The person who was killed that day at the Mass site was actually a lay volunteer of the Catholic Relief Services. The mishap took place after the Mass, the Pope having already gone to Palo, and people were already vacating the area in an orderly manner. I happened to be at a bus that was just passing by the audio tower when it was toppled by the strength of the winds. People were screaming and running to help the unfortunate woman who was trapped under a ton of metal equipment. I think she died instantly. The Pope condoled with the woman's father in Manila, and was impressed by the man's faith, who told the Holy Father that he knew that his daughter didn't die in vain.