Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ecclesia Campus!

I just got back from a truly fantastic weekend! Shout out to my catholic bible study friend Siobhain for inviting us all.
Myself and three of my other bible study group headed off the the city of Rennes this week for a French Catholic student retreat, called Ecclesia Campus. We honestly had no idea what it would be like, but it was our first Bible Study field trip so we were excited.
And it was SO good.
We took a bus bright and early on Saturday morning. We had to meet downtown at 6:45sm. Naturally I set two alarms to ensure that I woke up by 5:30 so that we could leave at 6:00am. I remember waking up to my alarm and the next thing I know it is 6:05 and Siobhain is knocking on my door. I have never gotten ready so quickly in my life. We managed to make it on the bus just in time, no thanks to my falling back asleep!
We arrived safe and sound in Rennes with the group from Nantes and found our way to the downtown conference centre. The weekend began with an address by the mayor and a couple of talks, followed by some sweet worship music provided by a band called EssentCiel, who came from Grenoble (I think). They even wrote a song specifically for this event, which was really catchy. It was really remarkable to be in a huge centre with 2500 other French students all praising God! It has been awhile since I have had an experience like this, so I was really excited.
The centre

After eating a picnic lunch (which was very generous!) and meeting some new friends from Bordeaux, we came to the piece de la resistance... the flashmob!! It was not quite like a real flashmob, since it wasn`t in a random crowded place, but it was in public outside of the centre and it was all filmed. Pretty fun, and I have never done one before so I had a blast!
The flashmob begins!
After the flashmob, we went to ateliers (I think it means workshop) that we had signed up for. I signed up for "etudiants etrangers" (foreign students) which was about helping foreigners feel welcome and how the experience of leaving your home country affects you. To be honest, I didn't get a ton out of it because it was a lot of what I already knew. But on the flip side, I met some really nice people, 2 guys named Philippe and one named Florent who I went to the next event with. The Philippe who was from Paris convinced me to join them for some sort of choral event put on by some sisters in a nearby cathedral. The last time I went to a catholic service was the last time I was in France, and to be honest it kind of freaked me out... everyone knew what to do and say and I thought it was strange, in my 17-year old mind. This time, I absolutely loved it. It was beautiful listening to the sisters sing and actually be able to reflect during the worship, rather than just focussing on how fun the music is. It kind of gave me a new appreciation for tradition. I also found it really wonderful how everyone knew what to say and do this time... I guess all the traditions are quite universal, so no matter you are in the world what is said and done is the same, just in different languages. It was remarkable to see so many christian students so dedicated.
Anyways, after this, we found my Canadians and ate a tasty Bretonne dinner of sausages in gallettes! Tasty. Oh, and it was outside and I froze. But it was all good because after dinner it was concert time!
And the concert was amazing! It was put on my a French band called "Glorious". They are similar to Hillsong United in style, but on a smaller scale. It was awesome though... all of us were dancing around and singing along to their very catchy songs. I almost bought their new album, but I'm glad I didn't because I can get it cheaper at Fnac! So the concert=amazing.

What an awesome way to finish the day. If you want to give them a listen, type in Glorious in (not or .com) and follow the link to their webpage. After the concert, we made our way back to the rendez-vous point to find out where we were staying for the night. We were being put up with various families, but we didn't know who yet. We were lucky enough to be put all together with the sweetest lady who lived just across the street. She is a sister who has lived in Rennes forever, and was so accomodating. We each got our own room and in the morning she made us coffee, hot chocolate, bread and jam, and fruit for le petit dejeuner (breakfast). Oh, and she came and woke us up to make sure we made it on time which reminded me of when I was younger... she knocked on my door at 6:30am, said good morning, and turned on the light so I couldn't fall back asleep. When I was younger and had to go to day care, this is what my dad always did to wake me up, so I found it oddly comforting despite the fact that I just wanted to crawl back under the sheets!
We also woke up to... snow! It snowed overnight and stayed right throughout the day, so the French were pretty excited. Something weird that they like to so is throw snowball at cars while they're moving... it's bizarre.
We made our way to the cathedral for morning mass, and then attempted to find our conferences. Ours was way the heck away and it was freezing, but luckily a man who had hosted some students the night before took pity on us and drove us to the school where the conference was. It was pretty interesting; there was a Taizé brother (this community north of Lyon) and another priest who shared their personal stories and took questions. Afterwards, forced with another long walk back in the freezing cold and no buses in sight (after all, it is a Sunday), we went out on a limb and stuck out our thumbs to "faire le stop" (also known as hitch-hiking!). We got picked up by a nice couple who took us to the lunch spot. They were supposed to host some students but ended up not having to. First hitch-hike=success!
Lunch was great, if not ridiculous. Try to feed 2500 hungry students and it becomes pretty insane... we had to wait a bit because they were making more croque monsieurs, and the crowd got restless. Buuuuut I met some nice French people to talk to (and a German who spoke fluent French). Did I mention that I got to speak French all weekend and it was awesome?? After another delicious meal, we made our way back to the cathedral for the closing mass. It was pretty nice again, but really long and we didn't have seats so it was rather cold and uncomfortable. My friend Philippe got to be on of the procession people, so that was pretty cool! It also went on for like... 2.5 hours... so yeah, kinda long. But still really encouraging.
I had been trying to think of that word all weekend to describe the event. Sometimes when you're learning a new language you can't think of words in your own language nor the language you are learning. I kept trying to think of this word and I finally thought of it while taking a very hot shower (after not feelings one's feet for 12 hours one is entitled to a very hot shower). Encouraging. It was encouraging to see so many young people my age with a spirit for God. Even though they weren't protestant, I believe that despite our religious differences, when it all co down to it we believe in the same God. So for me it was wonderful to feel the community that I have ever only felt in Canada. I think that a lot of people, myself included before this weekend, have a perception that a) France is a catholic country but the people don't really live out with faith and b) that catholicism is boring or too rooted in the past. Well, this weekend definitely helped to completely tear down these assumptions for me.
But, after that very long post, I must say that I am exhausted from the weekend and need to head off to bed. But before I do, here are some lyrics from the main song we sang by EssentCiel:
"Unissons nos voix, unissons nos coeurs, unissons nous: pour bâtir, pour créer, pour servir, pour aimer, un monde nouveau"
(Unite our voices, unite our hearts, unite ourselves to build, to create, to serve, to love a new world)


  1. Hello Nicole,
    Thanks a lot for this post! I felt exactly the same emotion than you! Do you allow me to translate it for my french friends who don't understand english?

  2. Hey Francois,
    You can definitely translate it! I`m glad you enjoyed the post and also the weekend :D

  3. Actually, Sunday morning prayer was not really a mass (no eucharist) but a "Taizé prayer" led by a brother from the same ecumenical community organizing the conference you went to then. They organize very nice youth European meetings for all Christians at New year's time and you can visit them whenever you want in Bourgogne. There are always people coming from many different countries there :)
    As you liked Glorious, you can enjoy it any thusrday evening in Lyon so you make the most of your trip if you want ! ;)
    If you wanna listen more, you can find good quality tracks here :)
    I don't have their CD yet but I think I am gonna buy it too as they do a really nice job and are worth getting encouraged !!!
    Here is also Essentciel (play on words between "essential" and "sky" in French) officiel website :
    You can listend to "Unissons-nous" (soon freely downloadable) and ask by email for the album if you'd like too. I've it and it totally rocks !!!
    I must add I am very glad to know there were also protestant Christians. We should emphasize the efforts int that direction as we still know each other's traditions too little. Thanks again to have shared with your experience, Nicole ! :D

  4. Hi Richard!
    Thanks for the correction. I'm still learning about the Catholic faith so it is always good to make sure I've got it right! There is lots to learn. I am considering going to Taize in April. I also went and bought the Glorious cd and have been listening to it every day--I love it! Wish I could make it to Lyon. I hear it is really an awesome city.
    Thanks for the comment :D