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Bread, wine… Mass

Gillian Kantor

September 22, 2008
gillian-caminoblog.JPGShould you rate the Masses you go to? Probably not. Probably we should celebrate the fact that, regardless of music or homily or our attention span, we meet Christ in the Eucharist and that is more than enough.
Still… if I were asked to pick my favourite Mass, it would begin with a story and it would be this:
This past February, my husband and I walked the Camino de Santiago. It was an excruciating, joyful, challenging, glorious 25-day journey and we would do it again tomorrow if we could. We loved the quietness of each morning; we loved the simplicity of each day; we loved the purpose of each footstep; we loved the intention of each of our prayers; and we loved the goodness of the people whom we met.
And one of those people – we had the particular honour of following the same route and staying in the same refugios as Fr. Andras, a solid Hungarian man with a love of onions for breakfast and who spoke little English, but relied on charades and drawing in his notebook to convey his stories to us. But even with limited communication, Andras spoke big things with few words. A satisfied "Aaahhh" meant the refugio was comfortable. An abrupt "Okay" meant he was done trying to figure out what I was saying. And my favourite... after only a couple of brief meetings with Andras, David and I had to take a mandatory rest because of injury while our priest friend continued on. The day before we started walking again, we took the bus to a town further along the route and who should walk into the refugio but Andras. Even though we had hardly talked with him in our previous meetings, he smiled a big mustached-smile in seeing that we were healthy again. We invited him to share in our supper and, as I dished out a plate for him in the kitchen, he thumped his chest. "I," he said, "happy... in my..." and he hit his chest again. "Heart?" I asked. "I am happy in my heart," he replied.
So, from that day on began a game of cat-and-mouse. Fr. Andras would arise early and be out the door about an hour before us. We would follow in his footsteps, looking for the peck marks of his walking sticks to reassure us that we were on the right path and that someone had walked before us. On one particular evening, we talked about the town we would enter the next day, where there was a community of monks, who invited pilgrims to join them for evening Vespers with Gregorian chant. We would meet there to pray with them.
But the next day, when we walked into the town, we learned that the monks had gone to Germany on holiday (even monks need a holiday, I suppose) so there would be no Vespers and no opportunity to visit the Church. We headed, instead, to the refugio, where we met up with a disappointed Andras. We exchanged looks of turned-down faces and shakes of the head to express our disappointment and began to settle in to our home for the night. Andras, who had bought some groceries upon his arrival into the town, began pulling out his supplies for dinner. Soup mix, sausage, bread, and a bottle of wine were pulled, one by one, out of his grocery bag.
And then he stopped, looking at the fare before him. Then he looked at us.
“Pan,” he said in his gruff voice, pointing at the bread. “Vino,” he continued. And then, putting it all together, he finished with a flourish of his hands and a triumphant, “Masa!”
Bread. Wine…. Mass.
We had the basics. We had a priest. And we had a true desire in our hearts to celebrate together. We cleared away the other food and, with the essentials that Christ himself had shared among his disciples, we celebrated the Eucharist together in its most simple, basic, beautiful form. It was – it will always be – my most favourite Mass.