Friday, July 24, 2009

Međugorje - of how I attend two masses, one rosary and go for confession

Providence, providence, providence. Up I pop from my delicious slumbers, out the door, past a few stores selling religious miscellany, tat and gaudy monstrous Virgins so cool and composed int he blistering suntrapped shop windows, and I hear the words "Thomas!" it is Luigi! We kiss once, he detecting my early morning unsophistication and so failure to mitigate any understanding of his custom, and so foregoes the second customary peck of the italian, we nevertheless are quite understandably happy and surprised to see one another.
"Let us eat!" So we stroll to a nearby bakery and, looking in my pockets, I haven't enough KM (convertible mark) money, so rather brilliantly I am able to make up the difference with euro of various shapes and numbers. It is like the way Willy Wonka would pay!
Then to mass, an italian one, and I take a bit of bread (no currency required). I am quite happy to try anything, and after a bit of singing in italian (from a projector, my name is not Leonardo!) we wander out into the sunshine and, yet more shiny stones, and repair back to Luigi's hotel and meet the landlady, the eponymously named Maria. Some Schnapps is offered, so I take two extravagently alcoholic doses, and we drink Turkish coffee (is thicker, with the coffee grounds included, dark and chocolaty to taste and less bitter than coffee I am used to). She is very hospitable, and at only 7.5 euros for the night I accept another night. Then Franco appears, and we hug and resume a casual and earnest relation of a free and uninhibited friendliness, Luigi and he discussing my arrival. Then we head out to Konzum supermarket (with a crucifix on its wall) for spaghetti and return, Maria cooking it up for us three vagrant lords and serving it to us with her homemade wine, refreshing, sweet and with a taste of aniseed, sitting under kiwi trees trained to a sun-shading trellis.
Franco and Luigi are concerned that as a baptised protestant I go to confession to ask a priest about whether or not I should have taken eucharist. To catholics, the bread is Jesus incarnate, whereas to anglicans the bread is a mere symbol of something greater. "Do you have any big sins to offer up?" asks Luigi.
So a siesta, internet cafe and purchase of rosary beads later, Mr Thomas, trainee Catholic, finds Franco at the church in a slight agitation at my failure as yet to procure the services of a priest. There are ten minutes still until the rosary, and so I join a queue for the english peaking priest, among queues formed for about 15 priests. A crowd has gathered, and the english speaking priest is sitting ouside so I will be sitting en plein air when I reveal my revelations, as yet undefined. The rosary starts and with Franco next to me keeping me company I begin working my way from bead to bead while the queue gets smaller, feeling slightly penitent for I do not now what reason, and a little baffled by the heat and being surrounded by people subscribing to beliefs and acting them out all around me, that I do not subscribe to.
"Santa Maria, madre dei, forgive us for our sins, and pray for us at the hour of our death" This, the spoken component of the Hail Mary, is uttered once for each of the ten beads of each of the 5 "decades" that form the circle of the rosary chain.
I get to the front and the priest is free, an american man with kind intelligent eyes and after a quick crossing, we establish me as the impostor that I am, and he says that I would need to convert before taking bread. No confession! I can take my stories of self-harming with me to the grave then!
I enjoy the rosary, its meditative quality, and the fact that it is interspersed with singing. It all becomes a bit much for me though, and when the mass starts all my spiritual energy has etherised, we wend our way back and I set my alarm to get up early for the hike up to the Vigin's hill.
But then...oversleep! Drat. Nevermind. Franco is dissapointed with me, somewhat cryptically, but mutters an italian prayer and blesses me as i take off accross the cricket-hopping field. Maria helps me with my little bag and takes me to the bus stop.

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