Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Spiritual Notes from All Over

Attendance in conventional Christian churches has been declining for some time, and nowhere is that clearer than in Quebec. Many denominations are affected, including the Roman Catholic Church which for 300 years wielded enormouos influence in the province. Just two weeks ago Saint-Denys-du-Plateau in suburban Quebec City heard a final mass celebrated, but a number of other churches have also closed their doors as the Catholic Church tries to rationalize its congregations. The standard ditty about ordinary life says it's all "Métro, boulot, dodo"--or commute, work, and then you're exhausted. But the church closing led Pierre Verville on Radio Canada to comment that religion here has become a case of "Credo, Bingo, Condo."

Portugal underwent the same great secularization that Quebec did in the last quarter of the 20th century. Certainly there seem to be churches on every corner, although how frequented they are, is unclear. I dropped in on the Basilica de Estrela on Sunday for part of the noon mass. The church was about two thirds full (including some tourists) but, for what's worth, there were a half dozen young families. One of them, I noted, came equipped with sand toys and balls--there´s very nice park across the street and perhaps the kids were promised an outing if they were good! Ah, the wiles of parents!

Today I'm off to Belem, where Vasco da Gama left from on his voyages. But my trip will be on public transport: times have changed.

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