Monday, October 7, 2013

The Celebration Begins...

The Abbey church at dusk
I arrived in Conques mid-afternoon on Saturday for the special activities celebrating the feast day of its venerated saint, Sainte Foy. After checking into my hotel, I had some time to wander through the church and around the village before Vespers began at 17h30. There's nothing I like better than wandering in Conques. While all of France feels like the home of my heart, Conques feels especially right to me. And this was a weekend of celebration...anticipation was palpable; everyone was smiling and eager to start the festivities! At Vespers, pilgrims walking the Way were awarded 'compostelles' for kilometers walked. The faithful were invited to approach the altar to kiss the relics of the honored saint. Vespers concluded, I had time to eat before the next event...a candle-lit walk through the village.
People began to gather in the parvis outside the great doors of the Abbey well before the walk's  20h30 start time. We were given candles and song sheets and watched as the priests began to emerge from the church...
We had an accordion playing priest...
a cross-bearing priest...
two Greek Orthodox priests...
and the priest whose special joy it was to carry the glass and silver vessel containing the relics of the little saint, Sainte Foy.
Our way through the village was lit by hundreds of flickering red and white votive candles. Many of the houses and businesses put out their own votives on windowsills, steps and garden walls.
We sang songs of Sainte Foy and of pilgrimage as we walked. Several times we stopped for readings and words of praise...
It was a joyous prelude for Sunday's solemn Mass in honor of Sainte Foy.


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