Mystery Worshipper: Aggie
Church: Parroquia de Santa Teresa de Jesús
Location: La Cala de Mijas, Costa Del Sol, Spain
Date of visit: Friday, 15 October 2010, 7:30pm
Modern, square-shaped and unremarkable white-painted building. The two large stained glass windows above the door and the whiteness of the walls inside give it a light and airy feel, although it is very minimalist in terms of furnishings. The sanctuary is dominated by a huge crucifix, and around the church and adjoining Lady chapel are images of St Teresa, Our Lady, and a life-sized image of Nuestro Padre Jesús Cautivo (the Captive Jesus) clad in a purple robe.
Dedicated to St Teresa of Jesus (also known as St Teresa of Avila). Mass is celebrated every weekday evening and on Sunday mornings. There are further masses in English a couple of times a week and on Sunday afternoons.
The former fishing village of La Cala de Mijas is situated on the Costa Del Sol, in southern Spain, between the towns of Marbella and Fuengirola. It is home to a large community of locals and a fluctuating population of predominantly British and German residents and tourists. It is a mixture of traditional, narrow Spanish village streets full of tapas bars and local shops, which sit side by side with British and Irish pubs and supermarkets, and modern holiday apartments complexes.
Don Ramón Tejero Díez, parish priest.
What was the name of the service?Misa de Romería de Santa Teresa (Mass for the Patronal Festival of Saint Teresa).
How full was the building?
Packed out, and bursting at the seams. I think the church could seat at least 100 people, but all available seats were taken, and those who could not get a seat stood in any available space. Some (including me) spilled onto the pavement outside.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
I didn't get a seat, so I stood in the doorway along with many other people.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Buzzing with chatter and people greeting friends and neighbours with kisses and handshakes. Some of the ladies were dressed in flamenco dresses and many of the men wore suits and ties. Outside in the street, members of the brass band that accompanied the procession after mass were tuning up their instruments.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
What musical instruments were played?
No instruments were played, but a tiny grey-haired Spanish lady with an ear-splitting voice sang the antiphon at the start of the mass, the responses to the psalm, the alleluia acclamation before the gospel, and a hymn after communion, all unaccompanied.
Did anything distract you?
Yes. There was a family sitting in one of the pews at the back of church consisting of three young children and their parents. The children munched on crisps, sweets and chocolate bars all through the mass.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard modern mass in Spanish, fairly formal, but not too stiff upper lip. The priest was vested in a white and gold chasuble, and altar boys and girls were robed in plain white cassocks. No smells or bells during the mass, but afterwards the image of St Teresa was censed before being taken on procession around the town.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 – Don Ramón spoke in a low voice as he read from notes. Unfortunately, he was mostly inaudible due to the poor acoustics and sound system. What little I could hear, though, sounded uninspiring and very basic. He quoted an excerpt from one of St Teresa's poems but his analysis seemed superficial. It would have been good to hear a more intellectual meditation on the words of that great mystic saint, Teresa of Avila.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
From what I could hear it was a sermon on the words of St Teresa: "Christ has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours." Don Ramón mentioned that enemies of the faith are all around us, and that Christianity is under threat throughout Europe. He implored the congregation to remember their Catholic heritage, and that they were Christ's Body, and therefore must uphold and defend the Catholic faith from those who seek to destroy it.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The peace, which is unusual for me, as I am usually indifferent to whether the peace is exchanged or not. The peace was shared enthusiastically amongst the congregation both outside and inside. It was a joy to see so many people moving away from their groups of extended family and friends and exchanging the peace so warmly with those around them who were evidently strangers. Although the service was mainly attended by the Spanish local community, there were also many other nationalities present, and it was good to see the integration of all communities in the shared peace and celebration of mass.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was far enough away from the crisp-crunching children not to be bothered by them. However, a lot of people standing at the back of the church and around the doorway were chatting amongst themselves, making it difficult to hear and concentrate on the mass. A man standing behind me on the pavement nonchalantly smoked cigarettes all through the mass. Even during the consecration, he puffed away as he crossed himself.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A procession followed immediately after mass. The priest, accompanied by a couple of boy and girl servers, took the statue of St Teresa down from its plinth in the church and placed it on top of a large float that was bedecked with flowers. He blessed the statue and the float and then censed them. Several local young men lifted the heavy float aloft and carried in on their shoulders. As the float emerged from the church into the street, it was heralded by a trumpet fanfare from the band. Many people burst into rapturous applause and cried out "Viva Santa Teresa" in approval. The image was carried in solemn procession around the town accompanied by various uniformed local youth organisations, the brass band, and clouds of incense. People lined the streets to watch, and many people spontaneously broke into songs and paeans to St Teresa of Jesus as the float passed by them.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none, I dont think Spanish churches do that. Furthermore, this mass started off the week long celebrations in honour of La Calas patron saint. As it was quite damp weather, a large marquee had been set up in the centre of town for some of the festivities: eating, drinking, live music and dancing, and childrens entertainments.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – Even if I were Roman Catholic or lived over there, I don't think I would want to make it my regular. I find mass in most Spanish churches to be too perfunctory. I didn't like the church building - too bland and modern for me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not so much the service, except for the peace, but the procession afterwards did. It was orderly and dignified, yet at the same time uninhibited and unapologetic in its veneration of the town's patron saint.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The procession, with its mixture of solemnity and emotion on a damp October night.