One of the great moments of my new life as a local correspondent.
I had seen a poster stuck on a tree: "Saint-Christopher's blessing". Knowing that my newspaper is read by a majority of true catholics (masses, pilgrimages, rosary meetings), it was a professional duty to attend, even though I was born and raised a Protestant. What a day! Wonderful!.
Saint-Christopher is workshipped in a tiny chapel lost in the mountains. "Lost" to a point I was unaware of. From the valley, I followed an arrow towards a forest road. Very quickly, I became worried. My small car couldn't manage it in second gear. The dirtroad went up, up, up. You know the feeling? To be hours away from the first trace of civilization, hearing stones and rocks roll in the ditch? Very beautiful, of course, but endless. My mobile went dead.. Half an hour later, further up among the pine trees, what do I see? A beautiful red convertible Caravel ( vintage car). Am I hallucinating? No. Obviously, even collection cars need a Saint Christopher.But where is he? Further up, I found a nearly desperate couple in their sunday best. "We wanted to go to the blessing, but I am not sure we'll make it.". In a cloud of dust, we finaly made it.
It was packed. In a spectacular mountains landscape, a very small chapel, kitchen sized and hundreds of cars parked around. Mass was finished. I arrived just in time for the blessing.
Remember that I am not catholic. The wo hundred people who had driven here had not come for a fun summer excursion, but really for the blessing and the Saint-Christopher's insurance against accidents. While snapping away with the camera at the priest who went about the blessing with a boxwood branch and a holy water cut, I saw the car owners make the sign of the cross, and even kneel.
Among the blessed cars, a motor-home, the marvellous Red vintage Caravel , a 2CV, several SUV, and every day cars from far-away departements And quite o few motor bikes and Mopeds. With the bikers, the priest was stern, in a fatherly fashion. "You will drive safely, hein?". "Yes, father ". Car accidents wreak havoc with the young generation here. The cemeteries are heart breaking. Each one has a brand new grave, sometimes decorated with a mini electric guitar: young victims of the roads. Sometimes, young couples are buried together. Killed together in a car accident when coming back from a night out, buried together by their buddies and their families.
I asked the choir boy, who proudly held the holy water cup, where he came from. "From Paris, I do that just today ". One saw on his face that he lived an important moment of his childhood
In the car park, the priest asked whether I wanted my own car to be blessed.
- well...First, I am a Protestant. And second, it's a rented car.
- That doesn't matter.
My small white car had a royal blessing and a special dedicace. I was a valiant messenger, running on the roads to carry information to the readers of my newspaper (catholic), It was fully entitled to a full Premium St Christopher's car insurance. I loved it, but I did not dare take a photograph of my personal blessing.
Everyone gathered under the pine-trees for the aperitif. The bottles had found a way up there, as well. A very old but very feisty priest, who did a lot to restore the chapel and update the blessing of St Christopher, was a guest of honor. When I asked him if I could take a photograph , he automatically raised his glass, filled to the brim with not very diluted Pastis. I hesitated. But nobody minds, around here.
It was one splendid sunday,in a splendid panoram. I learned lots of things from the villagers. The existence of a miraculous and secret spring, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A communal lawsuit. Why this village and the next one can't stand each other. "Did you see? They blocked the access to our road on purpose, with their sunday market, to block the pilgrims ".
When I told the garage where I rent my car that their car had been blessed by Saint Christopher, they looked at me as if I was insane.