It was the same as the movie: sad and shocking. Unfortunately, nothing of the movie´s strange beauty, though.
Saturday afternoon mass. I run to a church with the usual unpronounceable name, in the city centre. Mass is about to start; not on the main altar, but in a space at the back.
It turns out they celebrate mass in the old choir. A wonderful altar is just ignored. There is a long table, the priest with two altar boys celebrates on the short side. A very small crucifix on the table/altar, and that´s all.
Due to the beauty of Vatican II, I don´t understand a goddamn word. The priest is young, very trendy. At a certain point he starts with the homily, and explaining a point takes a coin. There is a young boy among the 41 people present (including myself, the priest, two altar boys, the chap at the portable organ and an old lady who fancies herself the director of a non-existent orchestra, but is so satisfied with herself it seems in bad taste to tell her she makes an ass of herself). The boy is around 15, blond locks, tall and slender, looks like a cherubim from a Hans Memling painting.
The priest goes to him, and poses him a question. He answers, correctly as it seems. Creepy, thinks yours truly. After a couple of minutes, the “scene” happens again, the priests walks the entire space to pose a question to him. Goddamn creepy, thinks yours truly; but we are in Belgium, and no one notices.
The homily ends, and after a while the organists plays an Elvis Presley song, “Can´t stop loving you”, whilst the priest pronounces the consecration prayers. I am not joking, and this is not a movie.
The vessels are of a ceramic wanting to look like clay, which in my eyes is a liturgical abuse (but hey, this is Belgium, right?). At this point all the present gather around the table, and it becomes clear why the priest was on the short side: they all keep hands like many schoolchildren, but the meaning is that they participate in the consecration. I stay at my place, alone, and everyone of the present notices that the foreigner doesn´t do trendy masses.
In an heroic effort of inclusiveness, some of the consecration words are pronounced in English. The host is a huge flat thing, which he then proceeds to break (with great attention, I must say) in many pieces, each one of them fitting to damage the roof of the mouth but hey, it´s so trendy.
I have some short moments of reflection, at the end of which I reflect that the consecration is probably valid nothwithstanding the vessels (I might be wrong), and decide to receive. I am the only one who receives on the tongue.
Everyone comes back to his place, and the mass is soon at an end.
I doubt that I have fittingly described the atmosphere of sugary music, sugary attitude, sugary everything. It was a diabetes-inducing circus dominated by the desire of letting everyone feel “included”.
Particularly the blond boy.
It seems to me that this was an entirely self-serving exercise, that always the same people attend (who seemed to be in family groups; I doubt more than ten families were represented) and that these people are very satisfied with the look of things and don´t care that everyone else is just so disgusted that they prefer to attend elsewhere, if they still attend.
That was a portrait of the Church in Belgium, and no mistake. Including the boy attracting the attention of the priest.