Sunday, June 3, 2012

Paris, Brussels, Cologne

Paris I found more than a bit daunting (having very little French, and being surrounded by so many!): my accommodation, a down-at-heel affair in the 10th arrondisement, was not to my taste, and I think I was having withdrawal symptoms after catching up with those with whom I could converse intelligibly.  But I must be clear, despite fears, the Parisians (and all the other French) weren´t rude or haughty, indeed quite the opposite of the stereotype, being friendly and helpful.  If I´d had the energy, I had planned to tour Versailles on the Wednesday, but I was overtired, still, from the pilgrimage, so I napped instead in a hot and airless hotel room.

Again, the early Mass (offered by a father of the Institute of the Good Shepherd) on the Thursday had its curiosities - certain usually-silent parts of the Canon said aloud, and, more pleasingly, the celebrant breaking into Gregorian chant to sing the Communion!  Yet, while a dialogue Mass, with the readings in French, there was still the 3rd Confiteor used; which doesn´t make so much sense if everyone said it together to begin with anyway (whereas, if the older practice of having the server alone say it had been followed, it would then make sense for him to say it at the start for himself and then, at Communion, on behalf of the communicants).  Which reminds me: the poor priest had no server anyway.

I found a little secondhand bookshop staffed by a grizzled fellow in a cassock who sold all manner of Catholic volumes of yesteryear - alas, I discovered too late that the Psalterium I bought contained that horrid Pian version of the Psalms, not God´s own Vulgate.

Paris being for me a bit of a write-off, I was gladdened to escape (travelling first-class, of course) on the highspeed train to Brussels, capital of Belgium and the whole E.U. (the French pretend that Strasbourg is, but they would, wouldn´t they).  Brussels I infinitely prefer to Paris: cleaner, helpfully multilingual, with good beer as well as good food (waffles for breakfast), a completely disfunctional government (I forget if they finally have a coalition agreed after their last general election several years ago or not), and best of all, a royal palace with a real Catholic king in it, not some nasty socialist President.  The palace looked quite decent; God save the King!

A quarter-hour walk from my hotel brought me conveniently to the Church of SS John and Stephen of the Minims, centre of the FSSP apostolate: hence, on Friday evening and Saturday morning, I heard Mass there.  Indeed, it also supplied my need of Friday penance (assuming I needed to do some, as in the EF it was a 1st class feast, but canonists will dispute whether that applies when in the OF it´s a feria), as I´d eaten saucisson avec stoemp for lunch (moules mariniere being out of season, alas): Mass was a quasi-Missa cantata (everything was sung by priest and people except for the chants of the Proper!), and thereafter came Exposition, with Adoro te devote, Litany of the Sacred Heart (chanted in Latin), Consecration to the Sacred Heart (in French: I just said Ainsi soit-il), and Benediction itself (ending stirringly with repeated Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat).

This being a primarily religious blog, I leave aside the details of my secular sightseeing (my, the Grand´ Place really is something though, imagine a Gothic town hall with a 96 metre tall spire just for fun!), but (as beer is Catholic, there being a blessing for it in the Rituale), I will say I delighted in the Tripel Karmeliet and Lindemans Gueuze that accompanied my simple lunch in Brussels.  The former, brewed to a 17th century recipe from wheat, hops and oats, is a fine beer; while the latter has a unique, sour but pleasing taste, since it ferments spontaneously, acquiring the necessary microorganisms from the Brussels air (the process doesn´t work elsewhere).

Oh, and the chocolate in Belgium really is the best (a nice 100g block proved this), and I had an excellent meal at a local Moroccan restaurant (as in Paris, it appears, how shall I put it, that much of Africa has moved north - with pleasing results in many instances, such as this culinary delight, I hasten to add).

To return to religious matters, the Church of Our Lady of Sablon was also magnificent - but I have suddenly realized I must have missed the Cathedral.

In any case, to-day, Whit Saturday, saw me cross the border into Germany; after dinner at a Persian restaurant here in Cologne (in Paris, did I mention, I ate Vietnamese), now I´m catching up on messages before turning in.  Cologne Cathedral is utterly magnificent, I must say; conveniently, I was able to go to Confession there.

Enough for now.  To-morrow, I´ll go to the local FSSP church for High Mass for Trinity Sunday.

No comments: