Private Priest

Since I have come to the Beguinage, it has been my habit to pray in ‘The Trente,’ the name of the small chapel within the convent, before the day begins. I have a beautiful crucifix, a sister and a brother (religious) buried under the tile floor, a lovely painting of Mary and baby Jesus, and one of Sr. Marie Alacoque (a local Saint) to keep me company.

The Beguinage changed priests in the last few months but our previous priest still came to the Beguinage chapel to say his daily Mass. He came often enough for me to run into him occasionally a little after eight. It is a wonderful experience to have Mass said for only me!  I am conversant enough now in Nederlands, having mimicked the Eucharistic responses for nearly a year to follow the Mass. At first, I could not pronounce the responses, then I could pronounce but still could not understand. Now at last I have arrived at both and even alone I can respond in Nederlands at the right places in his Mass.

When I was teaching school overseas, especially in Latin American countries colonized by Catholic Spain, I found a number of old convents and abbeys with wonderful small chapels where Mass was still said occasionally. Also a number of wealthy haciendas had private chapels built in the home where the priest could visit and say Mass for the family. Some of these old fincas/haciendas are now bed and breakfasts where visitors can stay and relax and imagine themselves in the old Spanish colony.

Whenever the priest and I meet in the chapel, I feel I too have my own private priest and chapel; luckily, he seems as happy to have me there as I am to be there.

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