In the first days of our trip to Hong Kong, Tricia and I, representing the St Francis Xavier Lay Missionaries, had days brimmed with meetings with Church dignitaries. After a midafternoon appointment with one of the Bishops of Hong Kong, we were invited to visit Rosaryhill, the lone Priory and School of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Rosary.
Being the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, we knew that that this is an auspicious day. It’s a Dominican feast day, St Catherine is the patron of the Catherine of Siena Institute, of which the Called and Gifted stems from, and Tricia herself is a zealous lay woman trying to ignite the lay faithful to a deeper sense of mission. Not to say that Tricia is a “new Catherine” but in some way, it all fits.
Anyway, we were invited by one of the friars to come celebrate with the Dominican community. Thing is, we had no idea what kind of celebration it was.
The previous afternoon, I called up the provincial of the Holy Rosary Province.
“Hello Father,” I said, “this is Isaiah Mary Molano of the Holy Name Province in the United States.”
“Hello!” he responded, “I can’t hear you very well. I was told that you were coming. Do you need a room in Macau?”
“No, actually, I’m fine—I’m in Sai Kung and…”
“Are you coming to Rosaryhill for the celebration?”
I exclaimed, “Yes! What time is it? What is the celebration of?”
“Ah yes,” he said, “We are celebrating St Catherine, of course, at Rosaryhill.”
“In the evening.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“Well, brother, I really cannot hear you, so I will see you tomorrow!”
So here we are, Tricia and myself, sitting outside the Chancery of the Diocese of Hong Kong, desiring to see the brethren at their (/our/my) house. Yet we didn’t know what the celebration is, nor at what time.
…typical Dominican. The only thing we know for certain is that there is going to be food.
I remember looking at the ground, feeling the deadweight of jet lag. My forehead felt like a lead headband pressing against my eyes and ears. I remembered—in the bad way—of the time when I sat in the middle of the Catholic Cathedral in London…feeling rather tired, and a little alone. As Tricia had said once, I was living off of fumes and the Holy Spirit.
Please allow me to be clear. I wanted to celebrate St Catherine with other Dominicans—I just didn’t know what kind of celebration we were having. In my fatigue, I was having a waking nightmare of myself singing “Take on me” by A-HA into a karaoke mic.
Our taxi ride to Rosaryhill could have been more fun if I had more energy. It kinda reminded me of that one time when I went on that roller coaster called “The Hulk” at Universal Studios in Orlando. Only this taxi ride had more 360s.
Once we made it to Rosaryhill, Tricia—the superhero that she is—found out what our celebration was. I think she used telepathy. Or prayed and Jesus told her exactly what was going on. Or read it on a bulletin board.
“Okay,” she said, “at six, the friars and the laity are having a Mass to celebrate St Catherine.”
“Oh—wait—what?” I said. “When does the Mass begin?”
“In ten minutes.” She bit her lip.
I mean, we didn’t even know where the chapel was. In retrospect, I had trouble locating the front door.
Till present, I fanaticized what this was going to look like.
I imagined having a calm walk into the chapel at Rosaryhill, shaking hands with the provincial and the prior, sitting down with the other brothers. Opening our hymnals, praying to St Catherine to bless this priory and bless XLMS’ mission to renew the Church.
I had imagined meeting the brothers in a nice room and having a simple, elegant dinner, comparing provinces and our formation process, sharing stories and email addresses.
I had imagined a large group of friars chanting the Salve Regina and O Lumen to celebrate St Catherine, remembering our vows and our mission as members of the Order of Friars Preachers.
What I didn’t imagine was running up a set of stairs just to run into another set of stairs and then into an elevator where a middle aged Chinese woman with this oversized shirt saying “Amen Alleluia” over her chest looking and Tricia and me as though we just got out of the cab and into her quiet world (which, let’s be honest, we did) and then, bypassing her, opening a door and finding a cavern of a room with a mosaic at one end of the Blessed Mother giving the rosary to Holy Father Dominic and stumbling into a large chapel as 60 people patiently and calmly and quietly waited for our liturgy to begin, with this friar (me) from some unknown province and a lay missionary (Tricia) walking in looking as lost as a pair of Americans in the middle of Hong Kong, with the priests and deacons in the back of the chapel with stoles on, looking around, and seeing me, asking, “Oh, are you Isaiah?” and me stuttering, “Uh hi, yes, Holy Name Province, I can sit with the laity if that is okay—I had already said Mass” then being handed a stole and being shoved into the procession while everyone was singing and me noticing about 14 friars sitting on one side of the chapel with one brother playing an electronic keyboard and another with a guitar and about thirty people, mostly women, with large scapulars with the Dominican shield emblazoned on the front and then a priest turning to me and saying, “You know that this Mass in Cantonese, yes?” and me saying, “It’s in who?” because I really didn’t hear him and then walking up to the Altar and almost tripping because I didn’t see the step—and feeling like Jennifer Lawrence except the…except, the well, everything Jennifer-Lawrence-y…and then ending up sitting right next to the main celebrant which is on a rise so that I am about four feet above everyone else—no I didn’t imagine that one at all, thank you very, very much.
…and then the celebrant began the Mass. In Cantonese.
I looked at Tricia. And she looked at me. And it was understood. I was dying of embarrassment.
Now, the short is that the Mass went well….though in Cantonese and some English. But anyway, this post is getting long. I’ll tell you all about the dinner in a just a few.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!