Brian and I have been going to Mass in German. A good thing about being Catholic, we figured, is that Mass is pretty much the same wherever you go, even if you can't understand what they are saying. And after a lot of internet research, we gave up on any hopes for an English-speaking church. If we were Lutherans, we'd probably find one since there are a lot more Lutherans than Catholics here. It seems a lot easier to learn German than to convert.
St Hinrich's is down the street from us, about a 10 minute walk, and it looks sort of like a medieval fortress on the outside. There is a tall square steeple and the exterior is all dark stone and heavy doors. The inside is sort of bright and plain and generic, which makes me think that maybe the church was damaged in the war and redone. When we first went there, we sat in the back and tried to pay attention to how things worked. Keeping a low profile was key, so we weren't too obviously foreign. Everything seemed pretty normal until communion. Rather than a single file line where everyone walked up to the priest, everyone filed up and stood around the altar in a big square. Then the priest went around the square to each person, while everyone that didn't fit in the square stood and waited in the aisle. Then the first group left and the next group did the same thing. We were just on the edge of the first square, so Brian shoved me to the side so that he could fit in and wouldn't have to start the square for group two.
Then we found St. Elisabeth's. That church is definitely old. It's a little smaller and less imposing looking from the outside. Inside, every surface of the walls is painted or decorated with some sort of art. It has a lot of small stained glass windows, murals of the life of St Elizabeth, the ceiling is covered in paintings - it's beautiful. It's safe to guess that the church has been around, undamaged, for a long time. Maybe more than 100 years. Communion happens in a standard single file line. The kneelers are just wooden boards, no padding, so you know it's not for the casual Mass-goer.
Since both churches are in the same parish, they share a cheery Asian priest. He speaks very clearly and slowly in German, which means I catch about 15% of what he says. He likes to do songs with clapping and hand motions. Sometimes he calls all the kids to the front and passes the microphone around to them so that they can participate. On Sunday, he skipped the first two readings so that there would be time to act out the gospel, with props and everything. Maybe next time he will pull out a guitar. After Mass at St Elisabeth's, he jumps on his bike and heads down to St. Hinrich's. He's a busy guy.
I get a song book every time we go. I feel like following along by reading the words as I hear the song will help me learn better. I am not sure if it works.
Mass in German makes us feel like we are still somewhat practicing Catholics. We don't go as often as we did back home, though. We've even considered going to the Spanish Mass instead, though we'd have to ride a train to get there. For the time being, though, I will keep studying German and we do not plan to become Lutherans.
- Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.