Tales from a Taiwanese Church
I live within fifteen minutes of two Catholic churches. Serendipitously, the one I visit twice a week (once for Mass and once for the college youth group) is the same one I visited when I traveled to Taipei last year. The Spanish priest I met then is still around! This time last year he was in my Facebook profile picture. Today was his birthday. He turned 93. Yes, 93. He remembers the Spanish Civil War, but he’s been in Taipei for a few decades now. Everyone loves him because he smiles, shakes hands, and kisses people all the time. Every day, he’s happy to be alive and to see his friends again. He only ate one piece of cake because he was greeting friends and parishioners for an hour straight. Before he blew out the candles, he proclaimed, “I’ll see you all here next year!”
It’s a pretty active church, with 5 Masses per weekend, twice daily, and multiple priests. The pastor comes to the youth group meetings, as well. The hymns are very pretty, and they sound like native Chinese music. I can’t understand the sermons, but I know he made jokes about iPods and iPads once, and during the Prodigal Son homily, he flashed a $1000 (Taiwan dollars – $32 US) bill and asked, “Does this have value?” “Yes,” the congregation replied. He crumpled it up and unfolded it again. “How about now?” “Yes.” He stomped on it, picked it up, and showed it to people again. “How about now?” “…Yes.” “Yes, it’s still worth exactly the same thing. And that’s what people are like, no matter what they do, and no matter what happens to them,” he (probably) said.
Every week, on the back page of the bulletin, there are a couple stories for reflection, and they usually seem to come from America because so many in the congregation have heard the Chinese fables already. I haven’t heard these stories yet, either! I liked today’s, so I’ve typed them and translated them below.
A farmer and a lawyer had a car accident. The lawyer arrogantly pulled out a business card and presented it to the farmer. The farmer went to his trunk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He said to the lawyer, “You look like you’re really shook up! Take a drink of this. It’ll help you feel better.” The lawyer took a small sip. “Your face is still pale!” the farmer said. “You’d better drink some more!” Following the farmer’s suggestion, the lawyer had five or six more swigs from the bottle. Then he said to the farmer, “Why don’t you drink some?” “I can’t,” the farmer replied. “I’m waiting for the state trooper.”
A pig, a lamb, and a cow lived in the same pen. One day, the pastor came to take the pig. The pig let out a piercing squeal and furiously resisted him. The sheep and the cow hated the sound of his voice and said, “He comes for us all the time, and we don’t even make a sound.” The pig heard them and replied, “When he comes for you, it’s completely different! When he takes you away, he just wants your wool or your milk. When he comes for me, he wants my life!”