This weekend, I participated in a pilgrimage at La Grande Motte to celebrate Palm Sunday. It was open to all aumôneries des étudiants and aumôneries des jeunes professionnels in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. It was a great experience and I made friends from all over the world; Senegal, Mali, Mexico, Martinique, la Guadeloupe… While the theme was about being missionaries which made me a little leery, the theme centered around the joy found in the love of God/Jesus and sharing this love and joy with others. Sharing, not forcing it upon others.
Père Luc drove my friend Christelle and I, taking a scenic route through the Camargue region. Upon arrival, we were introduced to the leaders and then began our pilgrimage. We had been told it would be on the beach. Lies! Really, we walked through a forest in order to get to the beach. On our way, we discussed part of the the Evangelii Gaudium in small groups, and then stopped again to listen to our leaders explain how they came to their vocation as missionaries. We ended on the beach with vespers and took a much shorter route back after enjoying the splendid seaside sunset.
We had dinner back at the school we were staying at. Besides the little dinners we were supposed to pack, they provided grilled merguez sandwiches (I love merguez!). While waiting for the merguez to cook, a really dynamic priest (from Montpellier, I think) played some songs on his guitar and taught us dances to accompany them. It was really fun! Someone joined in with a djembe. After the sandwiches, more dancing followed, animated I believe by Perpignan. I learned how to do a la gigue/la chapelloise! It was so much fun, though my dancing really needs practice. Here’s a video of other people doing the dance so you get the idea.
After that, time for evening prayers and then adoration. In groups of two or three, people took one hour turns throughout the night, though you could stay longer if you wanted and many people did. The next day, we headed off to the church for Palm Sunday mass. In France, this is called Dimanche des Rameaux. Rameau translates to branch, and we were given branches that looked like the photo at left. A bit different and a lot more prickly than what I’m used to receiving in the United States. We had lunch at the church, involving the equivalent of a clam bake except with moules (sans frites et sans mayo yo yo yo yo), pasta, bread and fromage (bien sûr), and fougasse. It was nice relaxing with my new friends, and I’m sad that I’m leaving so soon and may not get to see them again. At the pilgrimage were also several of the young professionals from Montpellier whose group I was part of at Taizé, and it was nice to see them again.
It was quite a nice weekend. I’ve had trouble finding a faith community in the states that isn’t too closed-minded, judgmental of others, or too militant in their practices. I’m definitely going to miss my faith community here. Because guess what? I have exactly one month left, and I don’t like that. No, I don’t. I’m not ready to leave, but leave I must. I’m grateful I got to squeeze in this experience before leaving.