Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Crucifix in Verdelais
I’ve lived here for a long time now and generally I’m pretty much at home in France. I’d say that with a few idiosyncratic tweaks, French culture is more or less my culture*. But yesterday evening I had to go to a memorial mass and it was brought home to me that I’m really just an imposter here.

I’m not a Catholic and church services here are an absolute mystery to me. (My English-speaking Catholic friends tell me that it isn’t much clearer for them). For a start, I have no idea when to stand and when to sit and end up doing everything several seconds after the rest of the congregation. The priest makes some innocuous pronouncement and with no warning the entire church answers in unison giving me the fright of my life. Sometimes they all mumble the same words with total confidence, sometimes they all sing a couple of lines, sometimes they all cross themselves. Meanwhile I’m left fumbling around, surreptitiously glancing sideways to work out what everyone else is doing and and trying to look as inconspicuous an idiot as possible. Usually I have P. with me to prod me in the right direction, but last night I was all by myself.

At least this time I wasn’t fooled into queuing up with everyone else while they waited to take mass – something I’m pretty sure I'm not allowed to do anyway. Last time I joined the queue by accident and ended up having a statuette of Jesus thrust towards my face. I kissed the wee plaster man on the lips – it just seemed like the right thing to do. How was I supposed to know that it’s the done thing to kiss his feet ?

*except for a few obvious exceptions such as:
the consumption of snails,
jumping queues with impunity/letting other people jump queues with impunity
driving gaily through red lights


Ms Mac said...

Having kissed the feet of Jesus every Good Friday for at least 20 years of my life, I can tell you that I am absolutely dying of embarrassment for right now. I can just imagine the old ladies talking about it over their cuppas in the church hall after mass!

Now you see, Vatican II was supposed to have made the mass the same the world over so that good Catholics everywhere could understand the word of God, no matter what language it was in. Or something.

y.Wendy.y said...

Am rolling here...kissed the wee man on his funny.

I am not a Catholic so wouldn't know the difference either. I went to a mass once with a boyfriend and ended up giggling the whole way through - so weird, all those things they do. I know - I am a disrespectful old tart.

Vivi said...

We went to a church wedding a few months ago, with my friend Doc on one side and my non-religious husband on the other (I'm Lutheran, myself). When the priest said "Thanks be to God we can all sit down" the three of us started on a giggle fest that lasted the rest of the service. At one point, my husband tried to translate the "Our Father" into English. He got no further than "Our Father in sky" and we were rolling again.

Can't take us anywhere, eh?

I don't get so stressed at Catholic events. I stand when the others stand, I sit with the others, and when they're speaking in unison or singing, I take the opportunity to check out the stained glass. It has never happened, but I imagine that if someone said something to me, I'd simply reply that I'm not Catholic.

Vivi said...

That's to say, "Our Father in the sky." *sigh* It's still early.


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...