This morning I drove to Fuengirola to meet the husband and son, both called Mike, of a woman whose funeral I'll be officiating at on Saturday. Apart from finding my way up to a suitable motorway junction uphill a few kilometres from Rincon, the journey was easy, as I remembered its various stages from the time I've spent ministering in Chaplaincies along the Costa del Sol over the past five years.
We met at the crematorium where the funeral will take place, which enabled me to show them where the service is scheduled to take place. This is their first experience of a family funeral, and they needed help to understand how a public service would unfold. I left them to choose music. They weren't familiar with hymn singing, like many others these days. They needed permission to select music to evoke memories - the soundtrack of their lives - was how I described it to them. I think they understood.
Last time I took a service here, the crem sound system was broken, and last minute efforts to improvise with a portable CD player weren't outstanding. There was no member of staff around to enquire about the current status of their sound system, and frankly you can't trust funeral directors to possess certain knowledge of the many locations they work in. The tendency they have is to leave it to families to sort out for themselves, rather than help them, as would happen in Britain. Conscious of the risk that the same thing could happen again with playing music, I advised them to make their own arrangements for reproducing whatever music they decided they'd like to use. If I had the equipment, I'd help, but I don't.
Rather than dropping in on friends in the area, I drove straight back to Rincon and had lunch, and a siesta. The Golf estate version is a nice car to drive, more luxurious than ours at home, and a bit longer, so it did take me a little while to get used to on the open road. Driving on crowded urban motorways is more demanding than the routes I am used to driving in Spain - Nerja - Almunecar, Vinaros - Alcosebre or L'Ampolla. I am conscious of the need for adjustment, and indeed, it's more tiring now that it would have been ten years ago, so more caution, less speed is necessary. A consequence of ageing, no doubt.
In the evening, there was a big festive Mass at the Parish Church of Nuestra Senora de la Victoria, from which the commune derives its full title - Rincon de la Victoria. I walked to church at the other end of town, for Mass. The church was full, about 200 people I guess. It was a Sung Mass. I guess it might be called a Flamenco Mass, as the texts of the Ordinary were sung by a guitar playing duo in tight harmony while the congregation listened. It was a powerful and evocative sound, quite unexpected.
During the Eucharist, a band could he heard tuning up outside. After the service they processed into the square outside the church from the main street, and waited outside for the procession of dignitaries of the town's cofradia to emerge from the church, with a team of thirty men carrying Our Lady's image on a trona. It was wonderful to see how many children and young people took part in the procession. Every now and then a woman with a loud and penetrating voice would act as cheerleader, shouting out: 'Que viva Nuestra Senora de la Victoria!' To which the reply is 'Que viva!' Or 'Que viva, la patrona de nuestra paroquia!', then shouts of Guapa! Guapa! Guapa! (comely!) with rounds of applause.
From the church square, the procession moved a few hundred metres up the main road, then turned left, heading towards the beach. It passed through a crowded car park and out the other side into a street parallel to the main road, through the oldest area of housing in Rincon, the remnants of its its original fishing village. At a guess, a couple of hundred people were involved in the procession in their various roles. Hundreds more watched, locals and visitors like me, taking photographs.
All the usual evening sea front activities continued as usual - games one the beach, cyclists, joggers on the old rail path, folk dining in the many restaurants. A witness to living faith expressed in the midst of everyday life, and a marvellous expression of local community in a place that usually seems much more anonymous because local life is overshadowed by the demands and presence of visitors.
As darkness arrived, so did my realisation that I was hungry, so I missed the last hour of the procession walked back to the apartment and had supper. I found the evening quite inspirational, and impressed that a busy town can involve so many parishioners in a diverse and demanding activity on a weeknight. It's hard to imagine British communities working together in such numbers, to the glory of God.