Back From Spain

Well, I am back from a small holiday in Spain on the beautiful Costa Blanca, as you may be able to tell from my marginally less pallid complexion than the last time George and I sung. There was no internet at the resort, so I was unable to offer my personal commentary on all affairs Catholic, but actually a week off blogging is quite healthy now and then.

Refreshed from a week of swimming in the sea, drinking Coca Cola, slapping on sun cream, speaking Spanglish to locals and being aghast at the appalling liturgy of Our Lady of the Rosary in La Mata ('Mata' apparently means 'Death' in Spanish, as confirmed by my packet of Marlboro for just 3 euros 50 cents), I am ready once more to cast a glance over Catholic ongoings and have a little rant.

So, let's start with my holiday snaps...

'Open wide the windows of the Church...'
Unfortunately, due to travelling I missed the Feast of SS Peter and Paul (mea culpa) Mass at the local Church but was able to attend the Sunday morning Mass. To the left is a picture of the stained glass of the little Spanish Church which is never open unless there is a Mass. This seems to be quite common in Spain, unlike Italy and actually even Brighton, where some Churches are open during the day.

I found it a little ironic that the windows were open during Mass to let in some 'fresh air' given the interpretations of Vatican II of which we are all aware, but then, it is Spain and as we all know Spain is hot.

The Church is quite pretty, beautified and perhaps rescued by its many statues of Our Blessed Lady, Our Blessed Lord and the Saints. Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary all line the walls on plinths. The question is, what does Our Blessed Lady make of the liturgy? Let's guess!

Aside from the fact that the liturgy was in Spanish, not English or Latin and so therefore was definitely not "my Mass" (if you will excuse the awfully blasphemous connotations of that phrase) I was truly shocked and appalled of Tunbridge Wells by the lack of reverence that the congregation gave to the Blessed Sacrament. Nevermind the fact that the CTS have published a Mass card more or less telling us all to stand to receive Our Blessed Lord, the locals didn't think to kneel at the point where we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  In fact, even at the Consecration itself, there were some men and women still standing.  Even at English Masses that I have attended where the liturgy has been shambolic, the people know to kneel after the Agnus Dei. What has happened to the Spanish? Anyone would have thought it was Spain, not England, in which there was a Reformation.

As you will see from the picture below, pride of place in the Church is dedicated not to Our Lord, who is pushed to the side, but to the Priest himself. That, I felt, was just plain eerie. Take a look at where his chair/throne is...

Yes, that is the very centre of the Church's sanctuary, replete with really rather naff Angels that look like they've been made by the local souvenir shop only just rescued by a glorious Our Lady of the Rosary crowned with twelve stars. Below one of the naff Angels you will see the Tabernacle. At least the Priest did genuflect to Our Lord on his procession at the end.

This seemingly common lack of appreciation for the fact that Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist was verified when I was told that at a procession for Corpus Christi on the previous Sunday, whenever the Priest stopped at various 'stations' around the small town to lift up the Monstrance, nobody knelt then either.

You can rest assured that we English do not have a monopoly on terrible ditties written by arch liberals as well. I don't know what hymns the congregation were singing, but while the tunes were similarly naff to our own, it sounded truly dreadful.  I know this is hugely uncharitable but it reminded me of that scene in Gremlins when all the gremlins are singing the theme tune for Snow White in that cinema.

I know I sound like a miserable old git, but I was genuinely surprised by the liturgy and the perhaps near total lack of appreciation by the congregation to the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Recognition and acknowledgement of the Real Presence is not an 'esoteric' thing. It isn't something about which we feel 'holier than thou'. It is just something that Catholics have practised down the ages and it really frightens me that this Mass, and doubtless many other Masses across Spain and Europe, put the Priest and People of God at the centre of the liturgy.  It must be hugely damaging to the Faith of all present.

I can't help thinking that with so much of the liturgy that men and women experience at Mass on Sundays in the West, that the problem with things like the 'Soho Masses' is not that they are 'gay Masses' as such, but that so much emphasis is placed on the particular community that a sense of the truly sacred is all but lost.

Anyway, now that the rant is over, onto those lovely statues. You've got to give the Spanish credit, because they do have beautiful statues and they do love a good procession, making public their Faith to both locals and visitors.  On the Saturday, they made a procession with St Peter (right) dressed in vestments to mark (belatedly or did the Spanish Bishops move it?) the Feast of SS Peter and Paul.

There was also a truly awe-inspiring Ecce Homo statue and a lovely if small St Jude who was dressed in white and pink, which is not a colour I usually associate with the Martyr and Apostle as pictured below.

Apparently the Faith in Spain has taken a real battering since the 1960s.  I know that socialism is a popular ideology there and that the gay rights movement and abortion movement have made considerable gains over the last 20-30 years, but it is hugely sad that some commentators have suggested that Spain is becoming 'nominally Catholic'. I really wondered over the period of the holiday why that should be the case, when in Poland and other predominately Catholic countries the Faith is still going so strong. When I went to Mass at this Church, however, I wondered whether it was not just Spain that was becoming 'nominally Catholic' but the Church itself.  Beautiful statues are a wonderful aid to devotion. Processions are a wonderful demonstration of our Catholic Faith. At the end of the day, however, if liturgy fails to communicate the essential truths of the Faith and people are not led into an appreciation for the sacred mysteries of Faith then it counts for little - because our Faith is really not about those things - it is about an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

George and Diane are coping remarkably well even though they are being shoved from "pillar to post" by the local authority. I have some truly shocking footage of the inside of 17-19 Grand Parade which I will post up in my next blog and I believe it is worthy of attention from the national press. Aside from that the Walsingham Pilgrimage with the LMS is approaching in August and George and Diane are wondering whether they might come. There is also talk of guitars being taken for the journey.

Is there any chance of a discount for the unemployed, I wonder?


Welcome back...

Yes, unfortunately there are large parts of Spain, France and Italy where the laity have completely stopped kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer and / or Consecration. It's really awful how quickly these people adopted a stance that seems to contradict the doctrine of the Real Presence!

Lots of people from Europe attend Masses in London and refuse to conform to the universal norm whilst here - and insist on standing throughout the Canon (even when 99% of the church is kneeling)! Needless to say, they tend to sit (or stand, as the case may be) right at the front, so that the rest of us have our view of the Lord impeded by their egos! I believe that the Brompton Oratory used to employ a man who would go round and tell these characters to kneel. Sadly, this man is no longer there. It's a shame as there's one standee who attends the EF Mass at the Oratory! I wouldn't mind if she has arthritis, or something, but she seems quite able to kneel when she wants to!

It really is frightening how the Church was infected by human pride in such a short amount of time!

Having just ranted like that (lol), I must say that everyone knelt at Mass when I lived in Valladolid. The churches were also very (very) Catholic and traditionally so. It seems, then, that there were pockets of resistance to the post-Vatican II European liturgical innovations!

God bless (and thanks for the post).

epsilon said…
missed you! Thank you for your perspective on a place in Spain
Anonymous said…
Wondered where you'd been. Welcome home! I too have seen liturgical horrors abroad. As for not kneeling, there is a church near here where the kneelers have been removed so the congregation just sit through the consecration. (Those who aren't playing with noisy toys on the floor that is.) Sitting through the consecration is usual at any school Mass celebrated in the school hall too, so the children never even see anyone kneeling. Be thankful for Fr Blake!
Margaret said…
I drive elderly neighbours to their churches and take them in, one Methodist and one "low" Church of England ie not Anglo-Catholic.

In both there are rails and the congregation kneels for Communion. Kneeling is the norm it seems.
How suprising that these denominations that have a different interpretation of the Eucharist seem to show a greater reverence than my own. Their Communion is monthly but has meaning for them and a distinct spirituality.
epsilon said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sixupman said…
There was/is a TLM celebrated in Benidorm.
Mike Cliffson said…
Right or wrong, like it or not, Standing throughout or through parts of the mass brits knelt at is pre-vat II in many parts of Spain, some France, Italy I know not.General de Gaule caused considerable comment in this regard when visiting Ireland in the early sixties. A holiday spot in spain will have the customs of spanish tourists as well as foreign ones.
Sure, many things in many parishes in many parts of Spain have grevious laxity even among remaining massgoers. But "prevatII good, post vatII bad" produces inconsistencies and undermines fraternal correction-if that was intended.