A Fijian Easter

Source: FSSPX News


Although the Society of St. Pius X opened the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel in Suva – the nation’s capital – seven years ago, this visit of three weeks was to include the first celebration of the traditional rites of Holy Week and Easter since the liturgical revolution.

In the first week, much preparation was required for the grand ceremonies to come. Having never seen them before, the boys had to be taught to serve, and the choir to be taught the most essential chants.

Every second day, Father visited Nakavu (a village about an hour from Suva) to say Mass in the spacious church, built by the villagers for the Tridentine rite. It was in this village that the entire Catholic congregation followed a village elder to Tradition; and only when the Archbishop of Suva began threatening excommunications did a small number return to the Novus Ordo. In this little village, the one source of electricity is a single generator, supplying light from six o’clock in the evening till half passed eight at night. There, Father discovered the villagers’ paucity of means for attending the ceremonies in Suva. With no public or private transport, a bus would have to be hired for a day, costing more than all the villagers together could afford. Since it had been noticed that a good number of the men, while coming to the Mass even during the week, had not received the sacraments, Fr. Arthur decided to offer these villagers a deal. He would see to the cost of the hiring of the bus for Good Friday on the condition that all these men made their Easter duty (implying a good confession for more than a few!). The men sheepishly agreed, and to seal the pact a king-size bowl of kava was passed to the priest. Kava is a non-alcoholic (and highly disgusting) beverage made from a pepper plant. It looks and tastes like mud, but everyone drinks it all the same. Fr. Arthur won for himself the distinction of being the first Society priest ever to drink out of this enormous communal cup!

In the course of Holy Week, Father visited the Regional Pacific Seminary, the ecclesiastical college for eleven South Pacific countries, especially Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Caledonia along with the Solomon Islands. Among about fifty seminarians, Father was able to distribute pamphlets on the New Mass, the work of the Society and small business cards displaying contact details of St. Michael’s Chapel. After inviting any seminarians interested in discussing the questions outlined in the pamphlets to visit him at the chapel the following week, a good number expressed interest. In the end, not a man came, as (Father learned later) the seminarians were to be on vacation that week, and would return to their homes. All the same, please God, a few seeds have been planted. While at the seminary, Fr. Arthur decided to meet the rector, who received him cordially, and introduced him to the rest of the faculty. The Society’s stance regarding the New Mass and the Council were outlined to the attentively listening priests. One of the Fathers asked for a copy of Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ biography of Archbishop Lefebvre.

Society priests usually stay only one week in Fiji, but with Fr. Arthur’s prolonged visit, he was able to make some “parish” visitations. Many whose names were found in the register had ceased attending the Mass and “Mass prayers”. (When the priest is not present the congregation comes together nevertheless to read the prayers of the Mass.) Some had become sedevacantists and could not be persuaded otherwise. The rest were guilty of sloth, and these for the most part were brought persuaded to make their Easter Duty.

The ceremonies went remarkably well for a first effort. The boys served well, and the choir sang the Masses and hymns beautifully, à la South Pacific! Men, women and children naturally sing with enormous gusto in perfect four part harmony! There was no lack of palms for Palm Sunday, and exotic flowers from the chapel’s own garden plentifully adorned the altar as required. The villagers of Nakavu travelled to Suva on the bus hired for the Good Friday ceremonies. Throughout the following days, the men of Nakavu came one by one to make their Easter Duty, though not always without some extra encouragement from Fr. Arthur! Many had held back from confession due to the awkward number system, used to overcome the language barrier.

Easter Saturday should have seen Fr. Arthur fly to Rotuma, an island to the North of the mainland, but unfortunately Saturday’s flight was postponed until Wednesday – there is only flight to Rotuma each week – and Wednesday’s flight was cancelled. What a pity for our eighty faithful in Rotuma, who had not seen a priest since May 2002! They heroically persevere nevertheless. With an extra week in Suva, Father visited more lapsed members of the congregation and continued teaching catechism to the children and chant to the schola.

The second of May marked the seventh anniversary of the opening of St. Michael’s chapel and a celebration was held in the priest’s quarters. While the kava flowing freely, the history of the chapel was told Fr. Arthur. It seems the people of Nakavu have had to suffer the most; some being actually beaten by “Catholic” neighbours and relatives for their adherence to the old Faith.

Too many of us take the Mass and Sacraments for granted, but these tenacious souls truly appreciate them, as they receive them only irregularly and often at great intervals. Please pray for these eminently faithful souls, removed from all major centres of the Society of St. Pius X.