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Report from Paris - V

posted Jun 28, 2014, 1:42 AM by Rochester Ordinariate   [ updated Jun 28, 2014, 1:54 AM ]
For my third Sunday, I decided to go local.  I attended the parish church in the village I am staying in, Cachan, just to the south of Paris.  The parish is St Germaine - well, that is technically the church, since it is "clustered" with Saint Jean to make the parish.  In fact, many of the things one sees in the U.S., one sees here too.  Happily, the day I attended was the patronal feast day, so there was a good turn out.  The church - which is fairly large - was about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

The priest was an African, and there was a good population of Africans or French of African origin in the congregation.  I understand there is a clergy shortage here, and it is not uncommon to import the priest from other places.

I would indeed say that the mass had many features in common with the local parishes in the U.S., showing a surprising universality.  Like the U.S. groups, this was clearly the parish church - the people that attended lived around the corner, and there was a strong connection with the community, which is a good thing.  On the positive side, the priest had a strong sermon on the blessed sacrament, preaching robust Catholic doctrine. However, it also had many features that I am not so fond of - plenty of extraordinary ministers of communion, altar girls (who were very sweet little French girls whose practice it was to personally greet every person on the end of the pew during the peace), the choice of music, including some upbeat songs to which we were to clap, the insistence of having one lady at the front of the church "leading" the congregation in song, no kneeling, etc.  However, I must say that their pipe organ made the music much nicer than is typical in my experience.

My conclusion from this experience is that this mass is a kind of fixed point of the modern order.  There are variations and some places are better or worse, but this seems to be the default option.   One occasionally hears about people trying to change this by introducing Gregorian chant, etc., but it often fails.  To use a physics analogy, this service minimizes a free energy; perturbations to it will be suppressed, restoring the original state.  Only a large and persistent change can drive the system to a new energy minimum.