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Whilst on hols this past week, I did what I never would have dreamt in my old Palie days, namely deliberately sought out local facilities for participation in the Mass, not only the regular Sunday service, but also – this past Friday – in observation of the Assumption.  (And for those of you who sneer, yes, it’s an obligation by the rules of the R.C. Church, but I did so because I wanted to. So there.)

On Sunday, I attended services at St. Katharine Drexel, a little mission chapel recommended to me by certain persons familiar with the area.  Well, now.  The building proved to be one of those modern structures that could serve not only as a chapel, but also as a pro shop.  Or else, possibly, as the manager’s office for a new condo development.  You know the thing – all pine board, neutral colors and open spaces.  It seated maybe 350 souls, and I was quite gratified to note that just about every place in the pews was full when I attended. (Less gratifying was the fact that most of the congregation was older than me.)  The Padre was wired, which struck me as odd, considering the size of the place.  The fact that he kept getting overwhelmed with feedback only heightened my belief that the sound system was not necessary.  But never mind – his homily was perfectly sound, and there was no liturgical funny business.  No, there were only two things that bugged me about the place.  First was the musick.  It was all gooshy 70’s musak crap (belted out by an middle-aged lady with a thick New Yawk accent), the sort of stuff that is designed to emphasize that the Church is With It and Inclusive, but which in actuality only demonstrates how far the culchah has fallen of late.  Bleh.  Second was the practice of the congregation (sans Yours Truly, of course) of joining hands for the saying of the Lord’s Prayer, and especially raising them in unison for the last couple lines about the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, etc, etc. We hates this.  So far as I am concerned, the Eleventh Commandment is “Thou shall keep thy bloody hands to thyself.”

On Friday, I travelled early into Brunswick to attend services at St. John the Baptist , a nice, albeit musty, old establishment marred only by the fact that much of the interior decor of angels and saints is done in rayther garish pastels (a nod, so I am told, to the heavy French-Canadian influence on the place).  Here, despite the fact that the church is laid out as a kind of mini-cathedral, the music was served up by a piano and a pair of male singers, one of whom was a dead ringer for Ned Flanders, and the other of whom believed that all hymns should end on a long, drawn out and heavily vibrato’d note.  Feh.  Although the actual musickal selection was not so bad – one of the hymns was composed in 1710 – the delivery was so awful that what charm it had was completely thrown away.  And again, the congregation went in for that hand-holding bizness during the Lord’s Prayer. Oh, and the fellah who read the Epistle began his delivery with St. Paul’s improbable greeting, “Bruddahs n’ Sistahs”.  Heh.  Never mind, tho’.  Again, the place was surprisingly crowded (albeit again with a fairly ancient congregation – I spotted exactly two other people out of the hundreds in attendance that might also pass for being in their 40’s).  And the Padre’s message was perfectly solid – no moral ambiguity, not cant about “options” and “alternative perspectives”.

All in all an interesting experience, but it made me long to scuttle back to my own parish.

Yes, my friends, I am back from the vac.  Or rayther, I am back from the travelly part of the vac – I am taking another week off at home before heading back to the salt mines (more on all that later).

As for the first part, what can I say but……wow.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I tell you truly that I cannot remember having a more pleasant week away from the Old Homestead – relaxed, carefree and totally without stress or friction.  All three of the gels behaved themselves more or less, the Missus got on splendidly with both the Mothe and my sister, and although I never got the chance to crack even one book, I had ample opportunity for loafing about and letting the world (or at least my very small corner of it) roll by at its own pace, which is to say very slowly.

May I admit something rayther awful to you? A significant part of what might be called the enjoyability of the hols was the direct result of the fact that the Old Gentleman was not there to fuss, fume and generally make a pest of himself.  (For new readers, a quick footnote: Dad died about a year and a half ago.  While he had some very good qualities, the fact of the matter is that he was a very difficult fellah with whom to deal.  And while the Family all, of course, mourn his passing with suitable respect, we also can’t help the sensation of for the first time actually being able to, well, breathe. With all due acknowledgement of the Fifth Commandment, it is most pleasant.)

On the other hand, Maine did her best to make things unpleasant.  On at least two days she threw wind, rain and cold at us, to which we replied, “Ha, Ha!” and checkmated her by stoking up the ol’ fireplace.  Some folks may find the concept of building a fire in the middle of August rayther appalling, but for those of us used to summahs in the steam-bath of Northern Virginia it was a truly gratifying novelty.  The only time the Pine Tree State and Cold Miser managed to thwart us was when I took the gels over to the beach at Popham State Park.  As fond as we are of the place, on this occassion there was both a stiff breeze and a heavy fog (even though it was all blue sky just a few miles inland).  After an hour or so, even my gels admitted that they could not take it any longer.  Of course, it was perfectly clear back at our cottage, but we could still see the fog bank away across the bay at the mouth of the Kennebec grinning at us in malign triumph.  It was there all day the next day, too, defying us to travel the forty-five minutes or so just to be enveloped in its cold, grey arms again.  Bastard.  Never mind, tho’.  In a fit of insanity, the Missus took the gels off to an amusement park at Old Orchard Beach that day. No fog there, as I gathered, although the Missus described it as Maine’s answer to Myrtle Beach (horribile dictu).  Never mind – the gels had fun.  And I got to spend the day sitting about, doing nothing but drinking tea (and later, adult beverages) and remarking on the damned fog-bank away there across the bay. 

Oddly enough, both the high and the low points of the vac involved fellow-bloggers.  Certainly the main set-piece was the family’s trip into Portland last Wednesday to see the Sea Dogs play against the Altoona Curve.  Not only did we have terrific seats about twenty-five rows behind home plate, I also got to have a middle-innings brewskie with the Irish Elk, who was also on hols in the neighborhood.   On the other hand, I was forced to cancel a later rendezvous with the Abbot.  Without giving away his secured location, I can say that my time-table for the trip back was totally thrown by traffic congestion on a certain well-known New England thoroughfare, with the result that a leg I had hoped would take about half an hour took, instead, something closer to two hours.  With the family near mutiny, I had no choice but to make for the nearest service island for lunch, instead of meeting the Abbot on the other side of the traffic snarl.   I felt like an absolute hound when I called the Abbot and broke the news.  And even though he is a good friend and a very patient person I couldn’t help sensing his disappointment at my annoucement, after all the arrangements that we had made, that I was going to bail. All I can say is mea maxima culpa.

All in all, however, a dem fine hols, sir.  A dem fine hols.

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