Posted by: rbbadger | August 15, 2009

Holy Day of Obligation

Today is one of the Holy Days of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church, six of which are obligatory in the USA and three of which are obligatory here.  I decided to go to the cathedral again, given that this is one of the occasions when the Cardinal says Mass in his own cathedral.  He is usually away visiting other parishes on Sundays most of the year.  Anyhow, it was pretty well packed for a Saturday morning.  Cardinal Cheong was in his cardinalatial glory, or as much of his cardinalatial glory he dares to wear as it is very hot and the air conditioning at the Cathedral is sort of hit or miss.  Mostly miss. 

It is also National Liberation Day, the commemoration of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule.  This day is also a holiday in Japan, though it is perhaps more of a day for profound reflection on the part of the Japanese.  Suffice it to say that the national anthem was sung at the end of Mass.  Not only that, they sang all four verses.  Koreans love to sing and they can get pretty loud when singing the hymns at Church.  However, when the national anthem was sung, the sheer rush of sound was pretty amazing.  And they sang ALL the verses, too.  How many Americans could sing all four verses of “The Star Spangled Banner”? 

When I was back east, one thing which many of us got very good at was noticing the quircks of the various bishops that came our way.  Some had gotten pretty good at impersonating them, too.  In Los Angeles, the tradition continued thus proving that some things are universal to seminary life.  Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, tended to be rather amused at those who impersonated him.  One deacon, right before he was ordained a priest was told by the cardinal “I hear you impersonate me pretty well.  Can you do it right now?”  And so, he had to impersonate the cardinal to his face.  At least he had a good sense of humour about it.

Watching Cardinal Cheong in action is interesting.  He tends to like a lot of the old things associated with bishops, things which aren’t commonly used anymore.  He likes to wear the episcopal gauntlets, something which all bishops used to wear and something which ended up in the optional category following the Second Vatican Council.  For some reason, he also likes to wear red shoes when he celebrates Mass, something which generally only the Pope uses.  While he doesn’t seem to have too many quirks, there is a sort of odd cathedral tradition which always happens when Cardinal Cheong celebrates Mass.  I’ve never seen it happen on the occasions when Bishop Kim or Bishop Yeom, his auxiliaries, celebrate Mass in the cathedral.

Basically, right after the Mass ends, the cardinal goes into the sacristy and removes all of his vestments.  He emerges wearing the episcopal simar or choir cassock, a pectoral cross, and the zuchetto, the skull cap that all Roman Rite bishops wear.  Everyone waits for him and nobody really leaves.  Then, he makes his way down the aisle with an entourage consisting of the rector of the cathedral and some of the other cathedral priests shaking hands and blessing nearly everybody and everything in his path.  The Koreans, who love digital cameras just as much as the Japanese and who take them everywhere (we can’t go on any outing with the students without taking at least five digital cameras in tow) are also able to take pictures of the cardinal as he makes his way out.

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