Happy Easter

Nobody expects the Spanish Resurrection

I see there are very few views of the recent pilgrimage blog posts and – as usual – no comments. That takes the pressure off. I am usually motivated by page views and comments to get the next stage of the pilgrimage up quickly, and I don’t feel such an obligation if it looks like nobody is reading it anyway! There’s nothing like knowing you have an audience for motivating further writing! I’ll put up the next episode of Walking Out of the World when I have a moment or two… There are some other practical matters to attend to around the place.

Wait until Tuesday, folks, and I’ll let Rubí donkey write her blog. I have quite enough on my plate anyway… The US blog WherePeterIs.com is taking more of my time at the moment and after four articles in Lent and Holy Week, I’m preparing a sample article for the series “Postcards from the Camino” which will feature on that site from time to time.

The pitch: “This is the first of an occasional series “Postcards from the Camino” which will combine aspects of Catholicism, pilgrimage and life in modern Europe, focused on the Way of Saint James to the shrine of the apostle at Compostela. The writer is British and lives in Spain, where he is a committed opponent of Brexit and sees the wider European project as one that reflects a centuries old culture rooted in the Catholic tradition.

If you disagree with any of that, don’t bother commenting here. The point of that blog is to de-fuse the culture wars!

Easter joy in Sella

I arrived in good time for Mass. Having messaged Father Vicente to ask what was the timetable for Easter services and received no reply, I went to the village early and found a notice on the door of Santa Ana, the door being still locked twenty minutes before the 11.00 Easter Mass and no sign of any parishioners. I went for coffee in the Bar Casino next door.

Five minutes before Easter Sunday Mass was due to begin, somebody with a key opened the door of Santa Ana. There were three people waiting outside.

A man with a head wound waits to go into church. Has he been banging his head against the door hoping to get into the church to spend some time in quiet reflection before Easter Sunday Mass? No chance.

Easter Sunday Mass began with the usual panic. Father Vicente turned up at the appointed hour and found everyone sitting in the pews with nothing prepared, so he dashed around the sacristy, the altar, and the statue store, where he found a dusty statue of the resurrected Christ and asked a parishioner to hold it while he brought a rickety stand from the statue store.

“Nooooo…!” they cried from the front pews, the ladies in black. “That’s the rickety stand. We usually use the small table!”

If they knew that, it might have been useful to arrive a few minutes earlier and put the small table in place (maybe dust the resurrected Christ as well?) Father Vicente dusts the resurrected Christ, while a lady in black arrives from the sacristy with a white tablecloth.

“You forgot the tablecloth, padre.”

He ignores her and carries on dusting the Christ, trying to make him white, not grey. In fact He actually needs repainting, I mean Jesus not Father Vicente. Will we have to wait another hour while Father repaints Him? Thankfully, the arrangement is satisfactory now there is a white tablecloth, so we can take the Resurrection as accomplished.

Father Vicente tells a parishioner to distribute the Easter Sunday song sheets which are on a table at the front of the church. The idea of distributing them has not occurred to anybody, although presumably someone had the idea of printing them at some point since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1459, so the need for distribution was not exactly a surprise. Father Vicente rehearses the congregation in four of the songs on the sheet. They are songs about the joy of the Easter Resurrection. The congregation sings a verse of each of them, and they are relieved to discover that all these songs can be sung to the usual tuneless dirge, so no effort is required to either lift their voices or learn a new tune.

Father dashes into the sacristy and returns, breathless by now, wearing a white chasuble and black face mask, and ready to start the liturgy. We soon get to the Scripture readings. And it would have been sooner had anyone organized the bookmarks or volunteered to read.

“Who is going to read?” he asked.

The usual two ladies who do the reading stood up from the pews, as if totally astonished at the idea that readings were part of today’s Mass, and they made their way to the lectern, whereby we waited as Father Vicente explained what they should read, what were the responses, and who was going to read what. Part way through the New Testament reading, he stopped the reader to spend five minutes explaining the text. This would normally form part of a sermon, I thought. But it made an interesting intervention and kept us all on our toes, not knowing what happens next in a Mass.

The sermon, often delivered in a mixture of Castillano (modern Spanish) and Valenciano (which is actually Catalan, but called Valenciano for local political sensitivities) was today delivered entirely in Valenciano, so I didn’t understand a word of it. I spent the entire sermon glaring at the face of the plaster God framed in a triangle in institutional-cream coloured plaster clouds looking down from above the sanctuary, thinking that I hate depictions of God in plaster, and even if I didn’t, He shouldn’t be depicted like THAT!

When it came time for Holy Communion, I did not go up to receive the Lord (which is the whole point of coming to Mass on Easter Sunday) because Father Vicente was putting wafers directly into people’s open mouths… Fourteen months into the Covid pandemic, and after all we have learned, he is still putting wafers into people’s mouths. I’m wearing a double FFP2 mask. I’m taking all the precautions. And at this Mass I’m invited to go up and make one deadly mistake while celebrating the Resurrection of the Giver of Life…


Bar Casino, Sella

After Mass, most people gather in the Bar Casino. Today, after Mass it is cloudy and a thunderstorm threatens. The temperature is dropping fast. I did not bring a pullover and I am shivvering. But today, finally I witness the Easter miracle: there are free tapas with the beer at the Bar Casino. Olé ! The alternative communion…

It is time to return to my hermitage. It has been referred to as a “hobby hermitage”, which is fair enough as I have a matching “hobby farm” with donkeys. Maybe it’s a blessing that I also have a “hobby parish” to visit for major feasts.

The true miracle of Easter: free tapas with the beer at Bar Casino


Simon just messaged me to say the commenting was turned off. Thanks, Simon. (I must change the default settings.) Commenting is on.

9 thoughts on “Happy Easter

  1. Perhaps a linguist can correct me, but I recall reading that modern Catalan is the closest present day equivalent to the ‘oc’ language of the late Middle Ages?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a very good point, Simon, and indeed I’ve always been quite interested to know that the Langue d’Oc (Languedociene?) was also the second language of Saint Francis of Assisi. His mother was from that part and she named him Francesco = ‘little Frenchman’. When I was writing my two Holy Week articles for WPI recently (https://wherepeteris.com/mysteries-of-the-san-damiano-cross-part-1/ & Part 2), I reflected again that it was Saint Clare who knew Latin best of the two, and she wrote all her correspondence in Latin, wheras Francis had Umbrian Italian and the Langue d’Oc. Catalan is derived from that mediaeval language and Valenciano is indistinguishable from Catalan. (Don’t say that in a bar here or you will end up in a fight.)


  3. So in the Middle Ages they would have spoken the same lingo on both sides of the Pyrenees. Just over 2 years ago I was visiting a small fortified church in the Ariége some 20 miles north of Montaillou. As I walked through the door, an elderly lady doing the cleaning detached herself to give me a run down on the building. She must have seen myself cross myself at the holy water stoup, but still asked ‘are you orthodox?’ ! Bearing in mind that the Ariége was the home of Catharism, I nearly followed up my ‘Oui, Catholique’ with ‘Pas Cathar’, but restrained myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The same language is still spoken on both sides of the Pyrenees: Catalan. (Like Basque is spoken north and south of the frontier in the western Pyrenees.) Your juxtaposition of ‘old lady’ and ‘holy water stoup’ reminded me straight away of the French phrase ‘grenouilles du benitier‘ (I hope I’ve got the spellings right!) The old ladies who hang about at the church door gossiping are known as the frogs of the holy water stoup.


  5. If you are going to object to another reader’s imprecise categories by adding confused categories, this doesn’t help anyone! (I notice you repeat the confusion in this comment too.) So I re-emphasize: there is no common variant called Balearic: there are variations of Catalan which self-identify as Ibicenco, Mallorquin and Menorquin.

    But your points on dialect and idiolect are relevant. I too studied linguistics, though not in relation to Latin or Romance languages. As one who has lived in the French Catalan department of Perpignan, Spanish Cataluña, Ibiza and País Valenciá, and as a secondary school teacher has had countless discussions with teachers of Valenciano (compulsory in all schools here including British Schools, though in the latter only for Spanish pupils) , I would make my own judgement – from long experience – that there is no more difference in the Catalan language spoken in Perpignan, Ibiza or (yes!) Benidorm, than the English spoken in Canterbury, Hull or Liverpool. Valenciano teachers – when they are being honest, and not simply political – entirely agree!

    Thanks for clearing up the Langue d’Oc. And as far as I can see, to the question made by Simon in the first place, the answer is simply ‘yes’!


  6. By the early 14th c, the Cathars of the Languedoc were diminished in numbers, but more than just a couple of hundred. ‘The Yellow Cross’ (Viking 2000), that very readable and well-researched book by René Weis – which draws on a wider range of documents than Emmanuel LaRoy Ladurie’s seminal ‘Montaillou’ – documents the flourishing community of them centred upon Montaillou in the Sabartès which was part of a wider network of Cathars and their sympathisers across the Languedoc and into Catalonia. The population of Montaillou alone is estimated at around 250.
    At its peak around 1200, the Cathar sect in the region was much bigger than that, which required a large army from the north to undertake the ‘Albigensian Crusade’. Thousands died in the sack of towns like Béziers (1209) and Marmade (1219) among others. At the latter, the entire population of 5000 was put to the sword. It was recorded that four hundred ‘good men’ were burned at the siege of Lavaur in 1211 alone. So no, not just a couple of hundred.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, thanks for correcting that point, Simon. I let it go, as we strayed far from a simply post about Easter Sunday in Sella, and the fact is that I seem to either get no comments at all on my posts, or comments about everything under the sun except what my post was about! Hey ho…

    When I was researching the activity of the Dominicans in that region for an postgraduate essay at the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, I remember being appalled by the numbers slaughtered at that time. Of course the numbers sacrified were probably greater than the actual Cathar following, but the sect numbered thousands and the Church was very thorough in keeping contemporary administrative records.


  8. I asked Paco Amillo, the historian of Benidorm and retired Director of the main secondary school, to give an opinion on these ideas about Catalan and Valenciano etc., and he has offered the following:

    “La teoría más extendida es que el catalán de Cataluña, el valenciano y el balear son TODOS variantes dialectales de un mismo idioma, el catalán. Algunos políticos afirman que el valenciano es una lengua diferente y totalmente independiente pero el Tribunal Supremo dictaminó que todas eran la misma lengua, lo cual se traduce en convalidaciones automáticas de títulaciones académicas en esas tres Comunidades Autónomass. Ha habido y sigue habiendo conflictos porque hay personas que mezclan política con ideología. Reconocer que lo que se habla en Valencia es una variante del Catalán, tan legítima como las variantes que se hablan en Barcelona, Gerona o Baleares, no implica sumisión política ni cultural de Valencia hacia Cataluña como algunos creen erróneamente. Desde el punto de vista filológico está todo claro, pero siempre hay personas dispuestas a enturbiarlo.”

    I have translated this as follows:

    “The most widespread theory is that Catalan from Catalonia, Valencian and Balearic are ALL dialect variants of the same language, Catalan. Some politicians affirm that Valencian is a different and totally independent language, but the Supreme Court ruled that they were all the same language, which translates into automatic validation of academic qualifications in these three Autonomous Communities. There have been and continue to be conflicts because there are people who mix politics with ideology. Recognizing that what is spoken in Valencia is a variant of Catalan, as legitimate as the variants that are spoken in Barcelona, Gerona or the Balearic Islands, does not imply political or cultural submission of Valencia to Catalonia as some mistakenly believe. From the philological point of view everything is clear, but there are always people willing to muddle it.”

    Further discussion on this point is now closed.


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