Monday, November 8, 2010
This morning's Liturgy in St. Romain exceeded all expectation
As planned my husband unlocked the church at 7.30am. It was cold and pouring with rain. Just before 8am I went across to turn on the lights in the main body of the building and to light the sanctuary lamp in the chapel of the Virgin where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Judging that the priests would prefer privacy for their Office I then retired to the house before they arrived. I went back at 8.50 and as I opened the church door I heard singing. Going in as quietly as possible, I turned into the west end of the south transept. And there a glorious sight met my eyes. Pere Marchand was there with not one, but two other priests, the three ranged immediately in front of the Blessed Sacrament chanting the psalms of Lauds, directly to and for the Lord. They were singing in French to a harmonised setting which could have been one of the many written during the 20th century by Cistercian monks, which are familiar to me from visits to a Trappistine monastery about 20 km from here. I once mentioned here that Pere Marchand has a beautiful but totally unshowy singing voice. So did his confreres. All three were profoundly musical and although they were in harmony they sang as one. Riveted to the spot, I could not have been any more 'spellbound' even had they been singing Plainchant!
By the time the Psalms were completed Christiane had joined me. (She takes me to Mass at nearby St. Severin whenever possible.) As the office proceeded, she silently brought two chairs and we sat next to each other in the absolute stillness of prayer until it ended. Pere Marchand then brought the two priests to meet us. One was from the Bordeaux Archdioece and the other from Limoges Diocese. We thanked them for the privilege of being able to hear the sung Office and I managed to explain that for me it had been an answer to prayer. Many times when I'm alone with our Lord, I have told Him how much I long for more people to pray and adore Him here; and how I long for the church to be filled with music. One of the priests commented that he was glad that now when I'm alone with the Blessed Sacrament, I will always remember the occasion. I agreed and said that each time I would offer Him that living memory.
Then to my astonishment two more priests arrived and the five went into the Sacristy to vest for Mass. It transpired that they were all from the same year at the Seminary (Bordeaux). It was their annual day together, for discussion and the sharing of experience in their parishes.
And so it happened that our little congregation of two had a concelebrated Mass, also sung by our five priests in the same style as the Office had been before it. At times during the Mass I had to 'pinch myself' to make sure it was really happening. The word 'surreal' took on a new meaning a new truth. The nearest I can get is 'above earthly reality'. (Remember that we have Mass here only three times a year, and that in itself is a new arrangement since Pere Marchand began his ministry as our Abbe. Before that, and for nearly 20 years, there was nothing.) But today Our Lord had gathered five of His beloved sons in our little church, and had seen fit to allow myself and Christiane to be present. It was the priests' private Mass but I was allowed to see, and trust Christiane did too, the love of Christ for these young priests, and theirs for Him. There was no question of feeling excluded, or of not participating. Quite the reverse, it was an utter joy to be there. Such words were totally irrelevant and only occur to me now because of those who like to apply them in regard to the laity at Mass. Anyone who wants to use those words should have been in my shoes this morning. At the moment I can write very little else that is intelligible about it, if indeed I have been intelligible so far ; I am still too moved to make any sense with words, but have no doubt that this occasion will feature in future posts, as the experience shakes down and perhaps, I become capable of expressing its many messages.