Monday, May 14, 2007

Menorca

On Thursday afternoon I left the parish to catch a flight to Menorca where I´m currently visiting a friend who is parish priest on the island. The plane was late taking off from Heathrow with the unfortunate consequence that while I successfully changed plane in Barcelona my luggage didn´t. On Friday we went to Ciutadela, the old capital of Menorca where the bishop still has his residence. The capital was changed to Mahon by the English when they took over the island in order to diminish the strength of the Menorquin nobility and the Church.
I met the bishop on Saturday when he came to the parish for the confirmations. Here first Communion celebrations and Confirmations usually take place in May. If there´s not sufficient time in May the Confirmations get delayed until October. School finishes in June which means that, although summer is very busy with tourists, nevertheless administratively there is a quiet season of about three months. Now that´s a thought!
I´d heard that parish priests in Menorca have to learn how to ride a horse (a proper one - not a pony!) and yesterday I found out why. Being an island Menorca was subject to constant attacks from Corsairs and, more dangerously, from the Moorish invaders. There are lookout towers all along the coastline and when the ships were seen in the distance fires would be lit to raise the alarm. The men would gather arms and ride to the beaches where the invaders could land in order to defend the island. On the way they would call in on the Church to collect the priest who would carry with him the Holy Oils in order to administer the Sacraments to the injured and fallen. This continues to be commemorated today and at least twice a year Fr Francis, with whom I am staying, has the patio in front of his house invaded by horsemen who bring with them his horse and with whom he rides off to the cheers and acclaim of the people. It´s a pity it won´t take place while I´m here - I´d love to post some photos.

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