English Mass in Ulsan
My family went to English Mass at Samsan Catholic Church (삼산 성당
), the only church I've been to in Korea with flying butresses. The parish is under the patronage of Saint Peter Yu Tae-Chol (성 유대철 베드로
), who, at age thirteen, became the youngest of the Martyrs of Korea
This was only the third English Mass I've attended in Korea, and since I converted here, I've only attended probably a dozen in the US. I found myself saying some of the main prayers, like the Confiteor
, in Korean. Of course, I'd rather everything be in Latin.
Like the two other English masses I have attended in Korea, one in Busan the other in Daegu, those gathered were about 95% Filipino. I was not happy to hear the electric guitar, but at least there were no drums. The hymns were in Tagalog, which seems like a fine language.
The feel was much too charismatic for my tastes, and I was approaching to receive the Body of Christ, I heard the lyric, "If you only believe in yourself..." Now, that hymn might be appropriate in the presence of Oprah, but it seems hardly appropriate in the Presence of Our Lord.
Still, there was an edifying moment. Mass began late. A pretty young Filipina emerged from a long time in the confessional. She was crying. After Mass, newcomers were invited to the front of the church to introduce themselves. She stood next to me. She was still crying, and thanked God for being able to "finally" attend a Sunday Mass.
Mass was presided over by Father Matteo, a Korean, whom I've run into before. The day after my wife and I were received into the Catholic Church, he was presiding at another parish in Ulsan. At the end of Mass, before we were dismissed, he asked me were I was from. When I answered the United States, he said, "Oh, sh*t," and told me, "I have something to say to my people." He then began to rally the masses to right the injustice that had been done when a not-guilty verdict in the court martial of two American servicemen who were driving military vehicles that killed two schoolgirls in a traffic accident. A few days later, I saw him on the news shaving his head, a sign of great protest here in Korea.
We talked after Mass. Father Matteo is a bit like the "labor priest" played by Karl Malden in On the Waterfront (1954)
, but with the sense of humor that seems required of Catholic priests these days. Perhaps I'll make him my confessor. Confessing in Korean can be quite a chore, and I always wonder whether the priest understands what I say.