Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Sacred Heart

One of the numerous 'beginnings' of this pilgrimage was my second departure from Blantyre, Lanarkshire, on Saturday 4th May. After Mass at the Church of St Joseph there, (conscious of my hope, at some point, to visit Fatima, Portugal) i had in mind to light a candle before the statue representating Our Lady's Immaculate Heart - but the rack was full. Next to her however, was Our Lord, and His Sacred Heart, before whom the candle rack had just one empty place - at the top centre. Fast forward to Friday 7th June, and the last, somewhat bad-tempered kilometres to marvellous Mont St-Michel. I tried to flag down a horse-drawn carriage, with a full compliment of day-trippers and other visitors, to no avail. It was then explained to me, at the Tourist Info office at the foot of the steep little Mont, that they couldn't look after my baggage while i went up. Climbing wearily, i saw that Mass was celebrated in the extremely beautiful Abbey church at 12 noon each day - it was nearly 12.30, so i assumed i'd missed it. Amazingly though, as i finally entered, the Gospel acclamation was being sung. I was unable to follow the text at the time, but here is the Gospel for that day (Luke 15, 3-7):

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes: "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance."

I've been told that if one is at Mass in time to hear the Gospel, one can receive Our Lord in Holy Communion (providing certain other conditions apply). Since the Eucharist is a remedy, and not a reward, as the priest gave his homily (in which i could make out some references to Jesus's Heart, so terribly wounded, and His great love, even for those, like us, who have wounded Him), i realised that i would be able to receive Communion. Then, it was only during the dismissal, after Communion, that i understood from the priest's words that on that day was celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!

There is so much more that i could say about France, but because libraries open at funny times, and there aren't many internet cafes, i'm unable to say it in detail. Yesterday though, at the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours in Liguge, where i was accommodated by the very kind Benedictine community, i met a young man from the USA with excellent French (much better than mine). I mention this, because it happens that i was less impressed by a North American fellow who came into a cafe where i was, in Normandy. He asked for a glass of Calvados, without even knowing the word for 'please' in French. Not that i've ever been tempted to ask for a glass of Calvados. Ever since one or two regrettable experiences in my teenage years, i've been affected by a condition which might be called 'Scrumpy-Jack-na-phobia'. A fear of ciders.  

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Boulangerie - Tapisserie

Greetings from Bayeux, where the somewhat pricey internet café confines me to perhaps fewer words than usual. Faced with over-subscribed crossings from Ireland to France at the weekend, partly due to the simply immense summer holidays enjoyed by a certain proportion of Irish schoolchildren, i was fortunate to get a berth on a ferry which left Rosslare on 30th May, feast of St Joan of Arc, arriving Cherbourg on 31st, the feast of the Visitation. Subsequently i've made modest strides towards Mont St Michel, but have come by train to Bayeux from Coutances today, partly to pick up a package sent to the post office here by my very understanding parents(!).
   After a lunch of typically French pain and fromage, i made for the Tapestry, telling the story of 1066 and all that. Almost half is devoted to the visit of Harold, as Earl of Wessex, to the continent, at some time in the later years of King (St) Edward the Confessor, and his solemn oath of allegiance to Duke William; thus demonstrating the impeccable credentials of the Norman claim to the English crown. But in any case of course, it's all a very long time ago, with virtually no bearing on British society in 2013. Such descendants of those Norman invaders as there are, can be found in the most humdrum of occupations, such as Foreign Secretary (William Hague) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osborne).
   Even without the Tapestry, Bayeux would deserve to draw numerous visitors to see the spectacular cathedral, where i hope to attend Mass in honour of today's saint, Clothilde (about whom more later, God willing), in a few minutes.