We arrived at the basilica to find a street fair going on. Men and women dressed in period costumes, playing ancient instruments, flutes, drums, percussion. Others were dressed in a kind of military regalia with capes, hats, ribbons with large metal medallions. I got a good look at one of the medalions a genlteman was wearing. It was the heraldic emblem of a local vineyard. In a short time I figured out what was going on. I had not been told that I was invited to the feast of St. Vincent Martyr, patron of winegrowers, in Provence. (It really isn't my fault - or my intention - that much of this whole blog seems to be about food. Celebrating food and wine is simply everywhere around here. It is totally unavoidable.)
Anyway, here are a few pictures of the events of the morning.
|Mgr. Dominique Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon, the former pastor of the Basilica St-Maximin to the right, the Current pastor to the left, and your's truly in the wings.|
|After Mass, the Guild is on the stage for speeches, giving awards to exceptional vineyards, and the naming of the new Guild members selected for that year. |
|Some of the tables for the "degustation".|
|Bishop Rey and his driver, Matias Zulueta (wearing the bishop's hat.)|
As Bishop Rey was working the crowds, he passed off his hat to Matias and walked away. Now Matias was faced with a dilema, use one of his hands to hold the hat, which of course would make tasting that much more difficult, or put on the hat and continue the feasting. Smart young man he that is, he chose the latter. A while later when the bishop saw Matias wearing the hat, he burst into laughter (He is one of the happiest bishops I know) and insisted on this picture. I was happy to oblige.
We returned to the bishop's residence via the seminary to give me a little tour. I was told we would return tomorrow to give me the opportunity to meet some of the seminarians. A nice dinner at the bishop's house and a comfortable night.
The following morning, we celebrated Mass in the chapel of the residence, the bishop, his secretary - Pere Jose, Dominique - a friend from Paris, Matias, another young man I did not get to meet, the bishop's house staff - an Italian husband and wife team - he cooks, she is the housekeeper, and me. The following picture is remarkable.
|This stole is a relic. It is the stole worn by St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars - an amazing gift to the Diocese. It is placed in front of the altar in the chapel of Bishop Rey's residence.|
After Mass, I was taken to the seminary by Fathers Sean and David, two Irish priests incardinated into this diocese. They belong to an order of priests whose apostolate is to promote Eucharistic Adoration. We arrived at the seminary - you guessed it - in time for lunch. Mgr. Rey has drawn young men from all over the world to study here. I met of course French, and Italians, SriLankan, Chinese, Vietnamese. On Mondays, they seat themselves for the noon meal by linguistic groups. When I was introduced as a priest from the USA, some of the seminarians came over immediately and invited me to sit with them at the "English" table. They were 3 French and 2 SriLankan. They had all spent time in England for summers, or a pastoral year, so they were quite fluent. Nevertheless, they were glad for the chance to practice. I spoke more English today than I have in the past two weeks. It was a great time. Fun conversation. The rest of the refectory was heading for desert and we were still on the first course. In the middle of the main course, the rector stood up for the blessing after meals. The rector allowed us to remain a bit longer. After lunch the men go for a walk through the seminary grounds. It's a beautiful place. I'll explain more after the next picture.
|Left to right, Matthieu, Charles, and Luc|
Luc, Charles, and Matthieu
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|Gathered with seminarians in front of the original chateau of "the Castille"|