Today was the occasion of the annual gathering of church pastoral workers at the pastoral center in Phnom Penh Thmey. Click here to see the activities of the program.
This is a photo from our last coffee and doughnuts Sunday (the third Sunday of each month) and it shows the lively conversations and exchanges that go on each month. For too many Catholics, we “go to mass on Sunday” as an obligation, a requirement, overlooking Jesus’ command to be brothers and sisters to each other. To be family like that means to actually talk to each other and to get to know each other, not just sit beside someone in mutual isolation for an hour during mass. Other Christians are so much better at that than we are and we could learn a lot from them about what Jesus had in mind.
Every the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center for girls has a Christmas Bazaar and I’ve been going for eighteen years. It is a fund-raiser for the school but also just a fun event that involves all the girls in reaching out to the community.
This morning I was riding a motorcycle taxi (a motordupe) across town to our 10:00 AM mass, just like I do every Sunday, and I was thinking it was strange that this microfinance place was open on Sunday.
Then it dawned on me: “This isn’t Sunday! It’s Christmas!” and I considered how it’s just like a Sunday with all of us off from work and going to mass and that I would have the afternoon after mass to catch up on some paperwork.
Then it further dawned on me: “Wait! This isn’t Sunday! And it is Christmas, but it’s a work day in Cambodia” where 94% of the population is Buddhist with zero interest in Christmas and the birth of Christ. As I saw this woman dusting off the wares in her little shop, I realized that this afternoon after mass I would be heading back to work at the Deaf Development Programme. “It’s Tuesday!”, just an ordinary Tuesday and an ordinary workday for all of Cambodia except for the few of us Catholics who had a service on Christmas morning.
We had our second Christmas mass at St. Joseph Church this morning. We had to bring the crib and nativity set from the Korean Diakonos Center where we used them last night. Click here to see some pictures of our congregation today.
Our Christmas Eve service this year was held at the Korean Center. We had a very good turnout and had to add extra chairs. Click here to see some of our arrangements.
Normally we have most of a week to take down the Advent decorations and replace them with Christmas trimmings, but this year the last Sunday of Advent was today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve, is the beginning of the Christmas season so we had to change the church environment today. Click here to see the crew that gathered for the task.
In this Buddhist country, probably a good number of people would know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus—but they wouldn’t know much about who Jesus is. And the greatly larger portion of the population would associate Christmas with Santa Claus and Father Christmas rather than with Jesus. Santa Clauses are everywhere. They sell things. Jesus is nowhere to be seen.
Some church groups get caught up in this cultural confusion. At the Catholic school where I have mass on Fridays, they contribute to the confusion with this nativity set to which a Christmas bear and Father Christmas have been invited. Maybe I should be satisfied that at least the manger is still empty.
This weekend as we celebrated the Third Sunday of Advent, we also included a memorial service for Br. Terry Heinrich who died three weeks ago. Click here to see photos from the service.
At World Vision, we rent their hall and so have to set up for mass every week and decorate the room with banners, candles, etc. When Fr. Bob Wynne was here, he made sure that the seasons were kept distinct and arranged all the changes in colors, banners, etc. Now that he is gone, things sometimes go awry.
Here is a picture of our Advent Wreath as we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. That’s great. But on the pillar behind the wreath, is a Christmas wreath, a decoration that shouldn’t have gone up yet. Today we were supposed to have violet banners hanging on all the pillars but….