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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Blessed Sacrament procession at Lourdes


Every afternoon at Lourdes, there is a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. At the closing Benediction, the Bishop who leads it takes the Blessed Sacrament around to bless the sick. I understand that this is in fact when many of the accredited miracles of Lourdes have happened, as well as when people go to bathe in the waters.

As with all the major events at Lourdes, everything is impeccably organised with the sick, elderly and disabled firmly being given priority and recognition being given to the different groups in an imaginative and appropriate way. For example, the young people working hard on the various diocesan pilgrimages get to carry banners and flags, and to help in marshalling the crowds.

The arrangements also make for reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. There is a quite moving period of silence before Benediction: silence is moving when it is 10,000 people or more being silent. The Tantum Ergo is sung and the Bishop says/sings the Corpus Christi collect.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Liturgy is pretty excruciating. The endless responses and Bidding Prayers always remind me of the Monty Python sketch of the solemn inauguration of a post box in several European languages.



Apart from the Tantum Ergo, the Pater Noster (which is sung by everyone at one point) and the popular setting of the response Lauda Ierusalem, it is all self-consciously "right-on" reflections on the Church as community or Gaudium et Spes type ponderings earnestly boomed out across the PA either in the form of intercessions or, even worse, in chants of Too-many-syllables-in-a-line-adapted-for-six-languages. Alleluia! Aaaameen!.

It would be a significant task to "build down" this style of service and replace it with chants in an, um, universal language, so that everyone was actually united visibly and audibly in Ze universal Chuuuurch. It would also be possible to inform all the pilgrim groups that at the various major events, certain well-known polyphonic motets would be sung so that if people knew one of the parts, they could turn up for the practice. Then you could have an international choir that actually sang together instead of in language groups.
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