Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Damien, Patron of Hula

As the 500-strong Hawaiian pilgrimage wended its way to Rome for Sunday's canonization of the islands' cherished "apostle," now St Damien de Veuster, reports emerged of "solemn hula" breaking out across Europe in the finest tradition of the 50th State.

As the nine-day trek neared its end, the tour's resident halau got its biggest stage of all, performing the time-honored dance during a Thanksgiving Mass yesterday in the sanctuary of St Paul's Outside the Walls, one of the Eternal City's five "papal basilicas" -- and, of course, home to the Apostle's tomb.

The Honolulu Advertiser runs video... and photos... and, a story, to boot:
On their last night in this city, on the day after seeing Father Damien elevated to sainthood, hundreds came together for a Hawaiian Mass yesterday that filled the ancient basilica with Hawaiian chanting, songs and hula.

Many said the Mass gave them chicken skin [i.e. goosebumps] — and got them ready for the trip home.

Honolulu Diocese Bishop Larry Silva, wearing a black kukui nut lei, celebrated Mass, telling attendees that it "was a great joy as people from Hawai'i to pay tribute to a new saint."...

About 530 Hawai'i residents, who have been on a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization, were at the service. There was also a large contingent of Belgians, and a fair number of people who stopped to watch because of the hula halau and the choir.

The halau members wore shades of green in honor of Moloka'i.

They sang "Kamiano" and performed, drawing a standing ovation.

When the Mass wrapped up, many were wiping tears from their cheeks.

"For me, it was amazing. Never has there ever been (this) ... in one of these churches in Rome," said Father 'Alapaki Kim, pastor of St. Rita Church in Nanakuli....

The Hawaiian Mass included readings in Hawaiian. And even beyond the 30-member hula halau and the choir wearing Father Damien aloha shirts, it had a decidedly Hawaiian feel: Many wore lei. The 'ukulele was a spotlighted instrument. And when the services concluded, the bishop took photos with the crowd.

Robert Mondoy, organist for the Hawai'i choir, said the Hawaiian Mass, which came the day after Father Damien became Saint Damien, helped Hawai'i residents express their gratitude and their joy in the ways they feel most comfortable. "It's kind of nice having our people using their own vocabulary of praise," Mondoy said. "It's our local voice."

Once upon a time, see, another American's canonization-night dinner at a Roman hotel was famously called to order with "Tiny Bubbles"... but only now, 32 years later, did the Urb finally get Aloha. And not soon enough.

It's a big church, gang... and whatta church it is... and to everyone who plays a part in its life, a great big Mahalo.

PHOTOS: Mary Vorsino(1); Kim Taylor Reece(2)/Honolulu Advertiser