There are fireworks here for the birthday of St John the Baptist. That will be nice. However, I have noticed one or two things about Catholic Spain which are more than worrying.
Firstly, on Sunday I went to Mass in a Church in Begur, lovely Church it was too. However, I was quite shocked by the almost total absence of any kneeling during the Mass. And I mean none. The priest did not seem to mind, but I assume that not that long ago, every lay person would be down on the knees at the sound of the bell. I have been to liberal parishes in England and seen nothing like it. The vast majority of the congregation did not kneel at any point. At the Eucharistic prayer, through the consecration and beyond the Agnus Dei. I have no idea what the priest preached other than the fact that he informed his flock that there would no longer be a midday Mass on Sundays, only one on Saturday night, because he serves too many churches in the region, so it has been moved to 9pm. No vocations you see. There are no weekday Masses at that Church.
This was related to me by an English speaking lay person after Mass. I could tell the news was bad because the sound of chatter after the priest said it was even louder than the sound of chatter 3 seconds before the Mass started. There were about two young people at the Mass, there were mostly old women and a handful of elderly gents. Organ music played O Come all Ye Faithful and other hymns on a CD player that began before Mass continued throughout the Mass on a lower setting. Please recall that this is a 'Catholic' country. It was as if some devil had decided that in this church there would be times of silence whatsoever.
The one young man present was a reader. He looked like he was visiting a retirement home in his pink shorts, or going to the beach. For the homily the priest sat enthroned in the centre of the Sanctuary where once the Blessed Sacrament had been. There were no altar servers and therefore nobody to hold a Communion plate. The person who could have done that was an EMHC who stood by the priest giving out the Lord.
As if to echo this catastrophic lliturgical landslide, today I saw two Spanish men next to us cavorting with each other on the beach, kissing etc. Well, I guess that's everyday activity in Brighton but did not expect it in Spain. I felt I should go and say something like, "For Heaven's sake, think of the children", but they would have been justified in replying that every other Spanish woman has her tits out so what's the problem? I guess that not that long ago a Spanish lady would go over to them and shake her fist while making the Sign of the Cross and put them straight on a few matters. The kind of public modesty you might find in Bournemouth is simply not here. I was reminded of His Holiness's recent ecological remark, which would make a great opener for an Evelyn Waugh novel...
'As he looked out at the world he saw nothing before him but a scene that resembled more and more an immense pile of filth...'
We haven't heard much about filth since the days of Benedict XVI. Lovely beaches here though and the food is nice. We should definitely conserve the environment as best we can but here in Spain the environment does in no way resemble an immense pile of filth. The Church is nearly dead in Catalonia on the knees on which it refuses to use to worship God and public morals thought of as innate for every generation previous to this one have been utterly abandoned but the natural scenery is really quite stunning in Costa Brava. Perhaps His Holiness could do with a break somewhere where the air is clean and the beaches are too, as long as he does not mind being witness to the most irreverent liturgy in Europe. I hope that Pope Francis feels as passionately, as passionately as to proselytise even, about conserving the Faith of our fathers as he does about conserving the fragile eco-system of earth for future generation.
I suppose that we could say 'future generation or two' if current Western societal trends concerning natural marriages and birthrates continue, and vocations dry up as much as they have here in Catalonia. You would think such issues would be important to the Pope, more important, even than the environmental sorrows we are told we will experience should no agreement be made for a planetary climate regime in 2015. His Holiness is very keen, so keen as to address his encyclical to every person on the face of the earth, to warn us of the ecological doom facing humanity unless 'something is done'. I guess His Holiness understands that that sacred faith in Europe passed down to us, and the values it gave us has all but disappeared, except perhaps in certain parts.
The Church is as fragile, if not more so, than the environment. Men can plunder, rape and pillage the Church of God as well. The Faith, and the Holy Eucharist, souls, need protection and care as well as the family and the unborn, the poor and the elderly. May God inspire His Holiness to preserve that Holy Faith that nurtured and nourished men like St Thomas More and St John Fisher and may they pray for us. All the Saints knew that within themselves, in the pure light of God, there was little clean and pure about themselves, but today's Saints washed themselves in the Blood of the Lamb, even shedding their own blood to preserve and bear witness to the saving faith they had received. May we who claim the name of Christian, make it known by our words and deeds. May God give long life and years to the Pope, so that he may make it known, so that Europe and the formerly Catholic continents may not sit in darkness, but know the light of Christ.