Thursday, 25 September 2014

As You Like It

One of the best albums ever made - but is it suitable for mass?
I have had a pet theory for a while - that the priests round here seem to make things up as they go along during a service. Being an English Anglican - where things are well organised - you get a book when you enter the church and you just follow the instructions. Sometimes there is an either/or option and depending on the church you go to, they may take a course you are not used to, but, if you remain on the ball, you can follow things.

The church services I have been since we moved to France (excluding Taizé which is extremely well organised) you get given what could loosely be called an order-of-service sheet when you enter. This piece of paper serves to give you the songs to be sung (I refuse to call many of the offerings put before me, hymns) and a rough guide as to what might or might not happen. Then it appears that the priest does and says what the heck he likes. The songs are not necessarily sung in the order given on the sheet and as to the instructions, well forget it. The one Protestant church service I went to, I failed to spot the God link at all. Don’t get me wrong I am a great fan of Pink Floyd and Shine On You Crazy Diamond is my all time favourite, but how that fits into a religious service is slightly lost on me.

Whilst I have shared my theory with our church-going French neighbours, I have tended to get blank looks, as though it is obviously me that doesn’t get it. Well this is France and things are different, so I suppose it is just me and I certainly don’t get it. But now I know I am right and I have the proof!

We spent a few days in Provence and we visited the Basilica of St Maxime la Sainte Baume, reputedly the last resting place of Saint Mary-Magdalene. The church itself was not that spectacular and I am not a great fan of looking at caskets full of bones no matter who they reputedly belong to, but there was a notice in the church that I just have to share with you.

Proof !
Rather freely translated it welcomes visiting priests to the church to pray and to say mass if they like. However there is a condition, that they stick to the words given in “the book”. Ah ha, so there is a book, there are proper words and priests must be commonly making it up as they go along otherwise there would be no need to politely remind them to do things according to the liturgy or to not to do them at all.

So bravo to St Maxime la Sainte Baume for sticking to your guns and demanding that things are done properly. Sadly there was no mass said the day we were there so I couldn’t experience a French service along official lines. Next time we are near there, I will make sure I go on a Sunday.

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