Saturday, 2 June 2007


Our Lady, when she appeared at Lourdes, called for penance (though I always think it sounds better in French: "Penitence, penitence, penitence") for our own sins and those of others.

For me, the biggest penance at Lourdes has to be contemplation of the English music and hymns.

Mass at the Grotto for our group was on the last morning: there is at least one Mass at the Grotto per major language each day, and if you have a small group you "share" this slot at the Grotto. The priests sort out in the sacristy who will do the readings, who leads (and chooses) the hymns, who preaches and so on (I think it's according to the number of pilgrims they have with them) and then convey this information to their groups. I have absolutely no idea what goes on in the sacristy, but watching the fallout afterwards can be quite amusing.

There is a group who have turned up several years on the trot for the Friday English Mass at the Grotto armed with guitars. Faced with such preparation, the other groups generally allow them to take charge of the music. This year there was another large group who had chosen their favourite hymns. However, as they didn't have guitars, they were given the job of doing the readings instead. Much murmuring ensued when, after the psalm, the music group commenced singing the Alleluia (and the second reader had to turn around with reading unread!)

The choice of hymns was pretty ghastly: this is in contrast to many of the other language groups. There was a Mass attended by a Ukrainian group just before the English Mass, and the chants were beautiful. No guitars, just voices.

At the baths, the Rosary is recited and hymns are sung while people queue. The main language varies: usually several verses of Immaculate Mary are sung between the decades, but everyone can join in the Latin chorus (Ave, ave, ave Maria!) Invariably, if the main language is English, hymns are sung instead. Only the English can join in, as the hymns are not really sung anywhere else. This year I think we scraped the bottom of the English hymn-barrel with a rendition of "Kum-ba-ya"

This lack of inclusivity makes itself most noticeable during the Torchlight Marian Procession. Decades of the Rosary are recited, and verses of Marian hymns are sung in different languages (often all at the same time!), but the chorus of "Ave Maria" is pretty standard, and the tradition seems to be that, at the Ave, everyone raises their candle in salutation. This is one of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful moments: to see thousands of candles go up in the air as we process round the Domaine. Alas, on the Thursday night, an English music group lead the singing, and substituted their own music for the last three decades... perfectly nice songs, in other circumstances, but it meant that no-one could join in with the hymns... and no candles were raised...

Oh well... penitence, penitence, penitence !

1 comment:

the owl of the remove said...

Glad you're back - thanks for the photos!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...