Fr Provincial on GC36 opening Mass and Basil Fawlty
"The last time I saw the Master General of the Dominicans was in Westminster Cathedral in the early summer when he was the guest of honour at an 800th anniversary of the Dominicans in Britain. Yesterday he was before my eyes again, this time as the main celebrant at the solemn opening Mass for the Jesuit General Congregation at the Church of the Gesu in central Rome.
This role might seem a little strange for a big solemn Jesuit occasion, but there is a centuries old tradition that when a Jesuit General dies, the Master General of the Dominicans officiates at the solemn requiem – and vice versa when a Master General of the Dominicans dies.
Now that a Jesuit General might now retire and not necessarily die-with-his-boots-on, there is a possibility that such a wonderful tradition of inter-congregational ecumenism might disappear; so, to begin the Thirty Sixth General Congregation and the search for a successor for Fr Adolfo Nicholas, the Order of Preachers were asked to step in at the beginning of our process, and Fr Bruno Cadore OP presided over the occasion with grace and gentle confidence.
The whole liturgy was wonderfully interlaced together with various musical styles, and a volunteer schola choir and musicians prayerfully accompanied and shaped the participation of a church full of Jesuits and friends, so making it a solemn occasion with a lightness of touch and thus an occasion for all to enjoy.
The multiple use of languages was impressive: Italian gave the spine of the liturgy, but Spanish, English, Portuguese, German Hindi and Irish made subtle appearances. Brother Stephen Power stepped-in notably to read a bidding prayer in French (the French Provincial might have been flinching, but my monolingual heart was proud) and one of the highlights came towards the end when Fr Mike Lewis of the South Africa Region boomed out a final blessing in fluent Zulu.
It obviously impressed the gathered delegates. One of the other Provincials came up to see me afterwards with a smile: “So, can you speak Zulu?” he asked pointedly. On such occasions, Basil Fawlty is most helpful. “I speak classical Zulu,” I said, offhandedly, “not the strange dialect that Mike Lewis seems to have picked up…”