Travel, Spirituality Worship in Pula

I come from a country in which - simply put - one-third of people is without faith, another third is Roman Catholic and one third is Protestant. Of course there are also Muslims in Germany. Their number has almost doubled in recent years due to immigration. However, they account for only about 5 percent of the total population. (After all, that's almost as many people as all citizens of Croatia together.) Other religious communities are also there, but their share is low.

Here, in Croatia, I am in a country where statistics tell us that less than 10 percent are without a creed and the remainder are almost exclusively Roman Catholic. How do these people practice their Catholicism? That interested me. So I went to church here on Sunday, like I do most at home. I've been here for two weeks now. The first time I witnessed the Thanksgiving. The second time probably a normal Sunday.

  In Croatia more than eighty percent are Roman Catholic. How do these people practice their Catholicism?

I thought it would be full, and arrived well over 10 minutes before the start. The church was already half full each time. Mainly in the back rows, as it is the case with in Germany too. From my place near the entrance, I could easily follow the coming and going of the participants.

It was surprising that those present were not waiting silently for the service, but prayed together the Rosary. A mixed choir of about 25 people strongly supports the prayer. New people are constantly coming in, blessing themselves with holy water, more or less suggesting a kneeling and looking for their seats. Like everywhere. But then they usually take part in the rosary prayer. It is not just older people or even old people, like often at home, but the whole cross section of the population comes: families with children, young people, old people. The behavior of children and adolescents shows that it is not unusual for them. They behave completely casually.

When the service began one or two minutes after the bell had rung, nothing was free. Some people who had found no seat, or did not want to push forward, remained at the entrance. The church was full, like ours maybe at Christmas. A total of about 300 to 400 people. Only the place right next to me remained free, as if it had been arranged so.

I have experienced many services in foreign languages, including languages I do not understand. The liturgy is the same everywhere, so I find it easy to follow the course. In many places, the German text automatically comes to my mind, like a subtitle in a movie. For example, if in the intercessions, the individual petitions are interrupted by "Christ hear us, Christ graciously hear us" as here, then I recognize the rhythm. Even if it is in Croatian. However, I had no chance with the songs. The lyrics of lesser-known songs are projected onto the front wall of the church next to the cross with a small computer, which I find very convenient. But of course it's in the national language. Only for the first song I recognized the melody, but the text did not come to my mind.

Otherwise the songs are quite different from ours. The melodies sound pleasing to me, sometimes have an Italian character. They remind me partly of songs of the Franciscan Roland Faustin from South Tyrol, which I like. People are singing full throttle. Not only the choir, who supports everything, but also the community itself. However, it seems to me that it was a bit quieter in the back where I was sitting. But right behind me, a woman sang very nicely the second voice.

I did not have a chance to understand the gospel text. I also understood almost nothing about the text of the sermon. Only the words "Jesus" and "Pilate" seemed to me to appear. So I thought that it must be the interrogation of Pilate in the version of the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of John. After the service, I then read on the website of the Archbishopric of Munich, that it was "Christ the King Sunday" and the text came from the Gospel of John. Because I did not understand the text, I was able to pay more attention to the emphasis of the priest. He spoke clearly and very well modulated. He was obviously aware of the fact that there are children among his listeners. I think it's important for a priest to speak well. Otherwise the church could have stayed with the Latin text of the liturgy.

The reception of communion is different here. I had already learned that on Thanksgiving. The kids come first. A boy and his mother next to me had gotten up and had joined the line of waiting children. For me, that was a sign that now is our turn. So I followed both of them and found myself in the middle of the children. Now, the second time, I was more careful. I stayed to see what happened. But the process is difficult to see through. After the children rise here, then single people, families or small groups go to the reception of the host. I could not recognize a sort of ordered sequence. Undoubtedly, this has the advantage that it does not stand out so clearly who doesn't actually go to communion. Later I went myself, but I guess that only about half of the visitors actively participated.

After prayer and blessing, part of the congregation quickly starts to move. Even while the community is singing the last song with the choir, the first ones are leaving. That seems to be common, no one takes offense. There is something natural about the course of the whole service. It all happens less reverentially and reserved than at home. More like a piece of happy Sunday interrupting the series of business days without questioning the unity of the week. Of course that's just the vague feeling of one who has understood almost nothing.

Inside the church

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