We were clearing the lunch table when Benji looked up at the kitchen clock and said “I have to be at the wine cellar by 3 for the blessing”.
What? A blessing? By who?, what for?…
My questions came fast. The new wine cellar is now fully operational and receiving grapes with its first harvest. It’s an amazingly interesting site (hemp lime bricks, egg-shaped tanks, energy produced = energy consumed), worthy of much discussion – but a blessing?
This must be my Jesus week.
Do you ever get this, weeks where a theme comes out of nowhere? You might think of someone, something just once – and then the whole week you are bombarded with reminders of it, like some sort of grand message? The theme manages to plant itself into conversations and activities throughout the day, reminders of itself everywhere – and it sticks. It doesn’t even have to come from you, which is the freakiness of it.
When I was little my auntie used to take me to Sunday church in Adelaide. I enjoyed the ‘costumes’ and the sound of all the voices singing together in the large, impressive Cathedral but other than that, I was bored with the speeches I had no hope of understanding and Auntie Paul would hand me little picture books about Jesus to keep me occupied. I would have given anything to be able to have the small disc of ‘bread’ on my tongue and drink the wine – but all I got was a small pat on the head so no, not very exciting. The only things that excited me were seeing ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ repeated on tele each Christmas (Robert Powell was so hot!) or seeing Julie Andrews as a nun and my consequent decision to become one. But this was short-lived.
So this Jesus week, all these years later, did seem to spring from nowhere.
OK, I am living in a rural area where many of the locals remain strongly connected to Catholicism (one of the primary religions in France) – of course I’ll see religious symbols, they’re on almost every corner! And maybe I’m reading too much into things, simply trying to reassure myself with these ‘messages’. But it does make me stop for a bit and think.
Gee I’m babbling now and sounding bonkers. But when Benji came out with the whole blessing thing, it sounds strange but it made sense for me. A couple of days before we’d had a shock with our daughter in an accident. Lilas was ok, but it really threw me and I’d been murmuring thank-you’s ever since. Attending a blessing sounded completely logical.
“Can I come?” I asked Benji.
All the staff were present but no one said much. We followed Frere Francois outside and then through the cellar as he gave his blessings and threw the holy water . It was a strange moment and I didn’t understand everything that was said, but was I happy to take it all in – his gentle manner and the ambience he created, of kindness and tranquility.
It was over before I knew it and I was even sad to see him leave.
A couple of days later I took some friends, visiting from Australia, to a vide-grenier (flea market) after Sunday lunch. Walking back to the car we saw the door was open to the small village church. Doors of village churches are normally always locked so we made the most of it and had a look.
For such an unassuming exterior the inside was a lovely surprise – very colourful and much bigger than I’d expected. We had a wander and then Michelle pointed out something on the pin-up board:
“It looks like a quiz for children maybe?”
Looked like it to me. Here are some of the questions – they’ve got to be shared:
Q 11. The Mother of Jesus was called: A) Marie? B) Nathalie? C) Sylvie?
Q 12. Jesus is: A) A great Frenchman? B) The Son of God made man? C) An ordinary Italian?
Q 13. Jesus died: A) Crucified in Jerusalem at the age 0f 33? B) In an accident in Rome at the age of 21? C) In his bed in London at the age of 70?
Q 14. Why was Jesus crucified: A) Because he did nothing? B) Because he did bad things? C) Because, as Son of God, he did good around him?
The following Wednesday (nearly all French children have it off from school) I had to take Lilas to collect her new French passport in a town some distance from our place, in Capestang. As is quite common around here, the church physically dominates the town.
It was late in the afternoon and I wanted to get back home, but we had to pass the church to get back to the car. Lilas saw it and was very keen to visit it. She insisted we see if it was open. It was – another one open!? And once inside, I was so happy we’d taken the time.
It was beautiful and we had it all to ourselves. Lilas loved every minute of it and I was happy to have her around.