Tuesday 5 May 2015

The TLM in Singapore

Today a GUEST POST from my good pal, Expat Housewife. As it says on the tin, this post is about the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form of the Mass) in Singapore. Today is Traddy Tuesday, and I am delighted that someone else has something to say about it. Here we go:

The TLM in Singapore
by Expat Housewife

 I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Together with my husband and two children I left Edinburgh three years ago for an Asian adventure. Life here is enjoyable and exciting, but one of the things I miss most about Edinburgh is the mass in the Extraordinary Form. Here in Malaysia it is still not allowed to be celebrated publicly, so I have been attending the NO again.
Last weekend I visited one of my favourite cities in the world – Singapore. My mission was a simple one: I had to leave Malaysia and return in order to get a stamp on my new passport for immigration purposes. Some people complain that Singapore is too orderly, too clean, too organised; I don’t understand those people. The country, or rather city state, is beautiful, cultured, safe, and is home to St Joseph’s church where traditional Latin mass is celebrated regularly.
Last time I was in Singapore the EF community used the chapel of the St Joseph’s Institution International School, but just over a year and a half ago they were moved into the lovely St Joseph’s church that is in the very city centre. Priests in Singapore began celebrating EF masses in 2009, two years after Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum on liberalising the old rite. In September 2013 Archbishop William Goh of Singapore attended the EF mass at the school chapel and spoke favourably about the two forms enriching each other. The EF mass is freely advertised on the archdiocese website, the weekly bulletin of St Joseph’s, as well as on the board outside the church where it is listed alongside all the other masses as ‘Latin mass 3 pm’. They offer a Latin course, catechesis for children, as well as opportunities to learn Gregorian chant. The number of people regularly attending has grown over the years.
I arrived early and as I entered the church I heard the Rosary in Latin. I was just in time for the mysteries and joined a group of about 30 people. After we finished, the leader of the men’s schola told us that this Sunday he will continue with instructing us how to sing Vidi Aquam properly. A woman sitting next to me told me to get a missal from the back of the church, and to my surprise I saw a big pile of St Edmund Campion missals provided. Beautiful new missals with lovely pictures and notation. By that time more people had come into the church. The schola master sang Vidi Aquam line by line and we repeated. He had a beautiful voice and his singing was perfect. The rest of us did not do that well but we tried, and afterwards he smiled and bowed and said the lesson would continue the following Sunday.
By that point the church was full, and we were ready for the mass to begin. The all-male choir, called Schola Cantorum Sancti Gregorii Magni, consisted of four singers and they were amazing. I am an amateur music lover but it was obvious that they were well trained in Gregorian chant. Afterwards I found out that the schola went to Solesmes, France for a course. There were 7 altar servers, two of them were younger boys. They were well trained and there was no confusion around the altar. The sitting, kneeling and standing was a bit different from how we do it in Edinburgh, but at every EF mass that I have ever attended in several countries there were always variations regarding this. At first I followed from the missal but then just relaxed and prayed the propers, soaking it all in. The beautiful singing made it easy to enjoy the beauty of the mass and to feel transported into another world.
The sermon focused on the Gospel reading. It was to the point and not too long. I must confess I found it a bit bland because in Edinburgh we get updates on [controversial Church matters] , [requests for prayers] for unity, comments on the decaying culture, and an occasional warning about white martyrdom. The Edinburgh priest is the best I have ever encountered and is the closest that one can get to a fire and brimstone sermon Catholic style, although delivered in an elegant way. Singapore is safe and nothing bad ever happens, so there is not much material for heavy topics. Among other parish related updates, the priest told us that the NO celebrates the Vocations Sunday and asked us to pray for four people from the EF community who have joined the seminary and religious orders.
Singapore is predominantly Chinese and that reflected in the congregation. There were a few Indians and apart from me three other westerners. There were older people, young student types, families with children and everyone in between. More than half the women wore mantillas, white being the most popular colour. After the mass finished I asked a man about numbers and he told me that on average they get between 150 and 200 people every Sunday. He was beaming with pride. He said a lot of effort went into building this and that it has paid off. New people are coming and discovering the beauty of the old rite. I went to thank the schola for their singing. They thanked me for coming and said they would love to see me again. The feeling is mutual. Singapore is a city I would love to live in, and the existence of the EF community makes it even more attractive.
That sounds just marvellous. I hope Expat Housewife finds an TLM (EF) in Vietnam, too, for what she has told me about it so far--she travelled there sometime before Christmas--makes me LONG to go there!  Oh, er. Of course, Vietnam is a Communist country still, though, isn't it?


  1. What? Why can't the EF be celebrated in Malaysia?

  2. Expat Housewife7 May 2015 at 13:08

    The bishops are opposed to it and have forbidden the groups requesting it to celebrate publicly, and to advertise the mass on Facebook, among other things. I'm sure that people who are interested in it are aware that there should be no such ban on the EF mass, but Asians are people who respect authority so they obey the bishops. It is disappointing but at least the number of people who want it are slowly growing.

  3. Beautiful writeup. Hopefully one day,my home diocese will see a return of the EF masses.


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