The following comes from a January 12 Catholic San Francisco article by Christina Gray:

During the first week of January when most Roman Catholics were enjoying the spiritual afterglow of the Christmas season, Russian Byzantine Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco were preparing for the celebration of their Christmas Day on January 7.

Byzantine Catholic churches follow the Julian calendar in which Christmas falls 13 days after that of the Gregorian calendar.

During an interview in the midst of Christmas week preparations, the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church in San Francisco told Catholic San Francisco that few Roman Catholics in the archdiocese are familiar with the lyrical Byzantine Divine Liturgy or know that it can fulfill their Sunday obligation as a Roman Catholic.

“The Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine Catholic Church are fully and equally Catholic,” said Father Kevin Kennedy who became pastor three years ago after the small church – one of only 20 Russian Byzantine Catholic Churches in the world – found a home in the former convent at St. Monica’s Church where he also serves as parochial vicar. The Divine Liturgy is held in the former convent chapel.

“Our origins are Russian Christianity, but we are a multi-ethnic Catholic Church open to any Catholic,” he said. “It’s like, just because you go to Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have to mean you have to be Italian.” he said.

Byzantine Catholicism was “smashed to smithereens,” according to Father Kennedy, by Communists in both Russia and again in Shanghai, China where members scattered to escape persecution. Those that kept the tradition alive retained everything of their Russian heritage, including all their liturgical books adding to them the commemoration of the intentions of the pope.

Many of the 100 or so regular parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima are Roman Catholic who have discovered and fallen and love with the Russian liturgy just as Father Kevin Kennedy did after he walked into Holy Virgin Eastern Orthodox Cathedral on Geary Boulevard as a theology student at the University of San Francisco.

The Byzantine liturgy is much more elaborate than the “simple and sober” Roman rite because it arises from a different culture, the Eastern half of the Roman Empire called the Byzantine Empire, which was focused on a more Hellenistic philosophy of art, drama and poetry, Father Kennedy said.

“I think what people find is a very rich liturgy that’s very focused on the mystical dimension of the Eucharist,” he said. “You have what ends up being almost like a two-hour movie, a whole drama wherein the Eucharistic itself is celebrated with ritual historical enactments and ceremonial processions, a great entrance with the bread and wine.”