Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Countryside Churches

One of the real joys for us this summer was the chance to experience Catholicism as it is practiced out in the Chinese countryside. While staying in a small village for a few days, we were informed that the nearest Catholic church is located in a slightly larger village not that far to the north. That's the church you are looking at in these photographs.

Although the church is a bit run down, with broken windows, it really is a beautiful place, where we had the chance to pray on a Friday afternoon (after a short tractor ride up from the village where we were staying).

The family that lives adjacent to the church has been Catholic for generations. (We discovered a lot of long-standing Christianity during our countryside travels.) When asked, family members informed us that there would not be Mass at the church on Sunday, as a priest is able to come by only about once a month.

With this in mind, we made arrangements to head elsewhere for Mass. These plans notably entailed a 4am wake-up call. (Yes, 4 am!)

At 5 am, with the sun now up, we all piled into a small van, to head to a church about 45 minutes away. This church was going to be celebrating Mass at 6 am, which was when the priest was coming by. (Apparently, this priest spends his Sunday barnstorming from church to church. We happened to be at the beginning of his schedule, I guess.)

Pulling up to this village church at 5:45 in the morning, we were astounded that the pews were pretty much filled up already. Graciously, room was made for us...Z and I on the left side with all of the other men, Desi and Julie on the right side with all of the other women. (We've been told that this is a long-standing tradition in countryside churches.)

And the assembled were not just sitting there. We walked into the middle of a congregation that was all together chanting the rosary. First the men...Then the women...Then back to the men again...

Absolutely beautiful...And all before 6 am!

After Mass, it was off to the home of one of the villagers who had invited us into their home for breakfast. Another courtyard, another outside hole in the ground for a bathroom. (It is the poor countryside, after all.)

Breakfast, as is typical in China, involved all kinds of hot dishes...tofu, vegetables that had been harvested from the family's plot of land...Great stuff! And there was plenty of beer to go around. Yes, you heard that right...It was not yet 8 am, and all of the men in the room were toasting one another with cheap, local beer.

~Steve

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