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Merging Chinese culture with Filipino Catholicism

Text and photos by Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2019 10:51 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2019 03:36 PM

Rather than shunning traditional Chinese practices and risk alienating a significant sector of its community, a church in San Juan City incorporates age-old Chinese traditions into its Roman Catholic Holy Mass.

The movement of inculturation in the Catholic faith is not a new concept, according to Jesuit Priest Fr. Aristotle Dy, citing existing practices of merging God's Gospel with particular cultures.

After Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church began to move away from a “one size fits all” approach on Roman rites and studied how the Gospel could be expressed in different cultures as part of the church's mission to spread God’s word.

As a way of integrating Chinese cultural practices, the Mary the Queen Parish opened its doors on the eve of the New Lunar Year to Chinese-Filipino Catholics so they can light their first incense sticks in the Year of the Earth Pig.  Chinese-Filipino Catholics commonly have to go to Buddhist and Taoist temples to light their incense sticks.

The parish began an Inculturated Chinese Mass 5 years ago, where devout Catholic Chinese welcomed the New Year through prayers and the Liturgical celebration infused with English readings, Chinese songs and traditions.

Ancestor-veneration followed after the Mass with parishioners lighting their incense at the Ancestor Altar at the side altar of the church. Incense lighting, which is often seen as a Buddhist tradition, is similarly used during Catholic worships for purification and sanctification.

To cap the celebration, parishioners were treated with the festive Dragon and Lion dance at the church patio performed by the Xavier School Dragon and Lion Dance troupe. This is part of Xavier School’s program to promote deeper understanding of Chinese cultural traditions among its students.

Fr. Ari Dy, SJ, who has been involved in the Chinese-Filipino Apostolate in the Philippines, says we should remain open to inculturation, emphasizing that “God can express himself in different cultures.” As we welcome the Year of the Pig, he reminds the Catholic faithful “to keep journeying in faith as God is in charge.”

Chinese lanterns adorn the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan as part of its New Year Celebration on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

The Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan opens its doors for the New Year’s Eve lighting of the incense on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A Chinese-Filipino family lights incense at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A woman prays at Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan after it opened its doors for the New Year’s Eve lighting of the incense on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A family visits the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan after it opened its doors for the New Year’s Eve lighting of the incense on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

The Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan opens its doors for the New Year’s Eve lighting of the incense on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Incense sticks burn at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan after it opened its doors for the New Year’s Eve lighting of the incense on Monday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

The statue of the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, is displayed at the entrance of the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Clergy prepare for the Inculturated Chinese Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Lion dancers enter the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan before the Chinese New Year’s Mass on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Ari Dy, SJ lights an incense at the opening of the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan before the Chinese New Year’s Mass on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A choir sings Chinese Mass songs as part of the inculturation at Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan during its Chinese New Year’s Mass on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Ari Dy, SJ leads the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan before the Chinese New Year’s Mass on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Catholic devotees greet each other during the Liturgical celebration at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan to welcome the New Lunar Year. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Catholic devotees receive Holy Communion during the Chinese New Year Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Jiggers with wine are offered during the ancestor-veneration, part of the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Incense sticks are burned for the ancestor-veneration during the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A lay minister lights an incense during the ancestor-veneration, part of the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A parishioner lights an incense during the ancestor-veneration, part of the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Ang Pao (red envelopes) are distributed after the Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish Church in Greenhills, San Juan on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Members of the Xavier School Dragon and Lion Dance troupe perform after the Inculturated Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Members of the Xavier School Dragon and Lion Dance troupe perform after the Inculturated Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Parishioners watch the performance of the Xavier School Dragon and Lion Dance troupe after the Inculturated Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A member of the Xavier School Dragon and Lion Dance troupe after the Inculturated Chinese New Year’s Mass at the Mary the Queen Parish on Tuesday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News