Tridentine Mass with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches
Last Sunday, my friend and her family were invited to a mass with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches, Quezon City. She asked me to come along. She told me that the mass is Tridentine, but the rite is Asperges–something new to the sisters themselves. The priest who will celebrate is a young priest learning his ropes. So I should not expect that everything will go smoothly.
The gate was opened by the sisters in gray habit and sky blue veils. A gray cord is on their waste and sandals is on their feet. There were also brothers wearing similar clothing, but instead of veils, they have hoods. These are real monks in habits. When they saw that we are bringing a car, a sister and a brother took the driver’s wheels and moved back their cars farther to the side of the church. We went inside. The gate closed.
We were seated at the back pews. Her parents, her brother, and her sister were on the left side. She and I were on the right side together with two sisters. I counted about twenty-one sisters and three aspirants or novices–those with white habits. There were two statues on the the altar: I think they were those of Mary and St. Francis (or St. Joseph)–I can’t be sure. But I am sure that on the left side of the church is that of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
I was having difficulty following the mass. A sister is helping my friend what chant page they are singing. And she in turn showed it to me. The chants are all in Latin in Gregorian chant notation, where the notes are drawn as little black squares instead of modern flagged circles. I have a some background in chant reading. I know that the C symbol locates the Do. I know that these notes are higher pitch, these are lower, these are prolonged. I am not a singer, but I can play these notes in my guitar. I chanted softly by listening to how the sisters chant. After each chant, I had to look at another pamphlet for the missal. I am familiar with the Order of the Mass, so I try to guess what is happening on the altar. It was confusing. It is difficult to concentrate both on the mass and the chants. Lots of things to learn. I feel like a Kindergarten trying to solve algebra. This is my first try, and its a difficult one. I asked for a Tridentine Mass for Lent. I got more than I asked for.
During communion, a kneeler was placed before the stairs of the altar. The sisters lined up and they knelt one by one, as they received the Blessed Host. My friend and I followed.
After the mass, my friend introduced me to the vocation directress. She’s a woman in her early forties. She told me that if I want to meet the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, they are coming on Thursday and Saturday. She said that if I want to be a priest, the cut-off age is 33. If my age is beyond that, I can only be a brother. But these are in case-to-case basis. I nodded.
The noon sun was shining through the trees. It’s time for lunch. We said goodbye.