At Easter I spent a few days ski-ing with the family in the French Alpine resort of Val Cenis. As I’m not that great a ski-ier I spent some time wandering around the older part of the traditional mountain village, away from the ski-slopes.
As I passed by, I noticed that the old church at the heart of the village was open and being a fan of old churches, popped in to have a look around. It had a beautiful interior with lovely painted plasterwork and gilding. As I sat there quietly reflecting I realised that more and more people were coming to attend the Stations of the Cross service for Good Friday. I was greeted warmly and given a service sheet, so I hardly felt I could leave at that moment. Although I’m a good Catholic girl, in the ski holiday mindset, I’d completely forgotten that it was Good Friday.
Most of the parishoners were older locals but there was one young family with three beautifully turned out children. During the service the congregation walked around the church, stopping at each of the stations of the cross and reading the story from the gospels of what had happened to Jesus at that point on his journey to his crucifiction. It was touching to see the older lady leading the service bringing the children to the front and taking great care to explain to them the story. The small village school was right next to the church and I expect that as in many rural parts of France, families with children are welcomed to keep the village alive.
It was a glimpse of the alternative life of the village that continues when the ski-ers have gone home.