By Anthony Barich
Brother Mannes Tellis lived out his Dominican vocation on a massive scale on July 20 when he sang the Gospel to over 400,000 at the final Mass of World Youth Day at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse.
Brother Mannes, 31, is in the home stretch of his several-year priesthood training with the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans – started in the early 1200s by St Dominic, the great preacher who fought the verbal fight for the Church against the Albigensians.
A similar spiritual battle is being waged today for the souls of Australia’s youth, and Catholics around the world are hoping WYD08 will prove to be a telling blow to the secularism that has engulfed the nation and much of the western world.
For Brother Mannes, who will be ordained in Adelaide in December, chanting the Gospel at the final Mass carried out the charism of his order’s founder – preaching the Gospel, the Good News.
Brother Mannes said that the whole experience increased the burning desire in him to become a priest.
“Something at WYD which made me desire the priesthood more was the amount of young people who wanted to hear more about the faith, or wanted their confession heard,” Brother Mannes said, referring to the hundreds of youth who queued around the city of Sydney from July 15-20 to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from hundreds of priests during WYD08.
“Those two things are crucial and that is what the priesthood is for – the preaching of the Good News and the bestowing of God’s mercy. I hope to go to Madrid as a priest in 2011.”
While chanting the Gospel at the final Mass was certainly the biggest moment in his life thus far, his Priestly ordination Mass and the first Mass he celebrates as a priest will be “far more meaningful in the long run.”
Even so, “this opportunity will be one I never forget,” he said.
While he jumped at the chance to chant the Gospel to a sea of young people when approached by the event’s Master of Ceremonies, Fr Don Richardson, he was humbled and was nervous about whether he’d do a good job.
“I was really nervous as I brought the book to the lectern, but about halfway through singing the Gospel I became a little more composed as I had rehearsed the tune so many times, it had become a part of me,” he says.
“I did look out at everyone part of the way through, because I had sort of memorised the text somewhat, but it did not compute that I was really singing in front of so many people, let alone the viewing audience via internet or TV.
“It was really surreal.”
With a global audience estimated to be in the millions, he received Communion from the Pope – which he will never forget – though he had met the pontiff when he was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The Mass expressed for the hundreds of thousands of youth at WYD08 the universality of the Liturgy – the same miracle of the altar performed every day in every parish, school and community throughout Australia and the world.
“I was impressed that it all worked out, but at the end of the day it was a Mass – and the Mass is the Mass whether the Pope is celebrating it or a humble country parish priest,” he says. “It is the action of Christ that matters, not so much the environment in which it takes place.”
Brother Mannes often chants the Epistle and Gospel in the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (Latin), which he finds easier than singing in the vernacular – plain English.
While the Dominican order in Australia has stagnated in terms of vocations over the past 30 years, there has been a new springtime during and following the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Young men driven and drawn by the truth of the Catholic faith are standing up to be counted – young men like Brother Mannes, his order’s WYD coordinator Father Dominic Murphy, and Bishop Anthony Fisher, Cardinal George Pell’s Auxiliary Bishop in Sydney.
Bishop Fisher ordained Brother Mannes on December 22 last year as a deacon – the last step before being ordained a priest. The Dominican bishop was also originally Brother Mannes’ Student Master at St Dominic’s Priory in the leafy suburb of Camberwell.
Under his guidance, Brother Mannes has developed a love for the Church, the truth it proclaims and the Trinity at the centre of it all. And he’s not alone as a young man passionate about the faith.
“I enjoyed being with my group of university students (at WYD08), and what’s more one of the lads actually said he has considered a vocation to the Dominicans, so I will be praying that the gives us a go,” Brother Mannes says.
As for himself, Brother Mannes had considered the priesthood long before he ever heard of WYD, though he was involved in the Palm Sunday Mass for the WYD Cross and Icon in 2006 in Rome, and was “one of the lucky ones” to actually receive the Cross from the German contingent who hosted WYD05 Cologne.