May 26, 2010

A Study in Contrasts - May 23

We've attended Catholic Mass at two different churches, and it's almost as though they were different religions.
Last Sunday we were at Collégiale Notre-Dame, also known as La Chapelle du Château. 
Mass was presided by Bishop Lefebvre, a very old man with a droning voice.  The service lasted well over two hours and was completely sung in Latin.  (I think I heard a Gregorian chant thrown in for good measure.)  It included a great deal of incense, Holy Water, kneeling on wooden slats without the benefit of padding,  genuflecting, and signing the cross.  Before Mass started, we recited the chaplet and I had almost forgotten the version of the Hail Mary which included "... le fruit de vos entrailles... Ainsi-soit-il".

A young girl, Marie-Cécile, was celebrating her "Communion Solennelle" and was dressed in white from head to toe, with a substantial wooden cross hanging from her neck.  She processed with the Bishop and 6 altar boys who wore red and white gowns.  All the women attending mass wore lace head scarves, except for a few who wore hats, one sporting a red hat "à la Séraphin".  (You had to have watched "Les Belles Histoires des Pays d'en Haut" to understand this reference.)  When a few babies wailed, they were soon banished to the back of the church with rather nasty glares from some of the parishioners.  At communion we kneeled to receive the host on our tongues, with our hands safely tucked under the communion tablecloth.   
 After Mass we chatted with an animated gentleman who was most anxious to invite us to come back.  The zeal he exuded in his speech was quite remarkable.  He proudly showed us the baptismal gown that had been made for the chapel bell when it had been commissioned.
There had only been about 30 people at the service, so I'm sure more participants would be welcomed.   My impression is that this group of parishioners has heard of, but chosen to ignore, the teachings of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. 

This Sunday, we attended Mass at St. Médard, the church around the corner from us that is central to Thouars.  The church must have held about 200 people and because there were 5 baptisms, there were many happy people singing and taking photos, with little children running up and down the aisles.  We didn't kneel once since there were no kneelers, but did bow our heads at the appropriate times. 

Once the 5 babies were baptised, the Godparents were invited to bring their lit candles to the front of the Virgin Mary, asking her guidance to assist in raising these children as strong believers of their Faith.

 The Mass was in French and I knew all the words.  The hymns were sung by the parishioners, directed by a woman with a very full head of hair - no hat.  The music was both organ and violin that resonated beautifully within the timbre of this grand building.

I'm sure we all worshipped in a way acceptable to God, but it was interesting nevertheless to attend two very different celebrations.

~ AM

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