Wednesday 4 March 2020

Matka Chrzestna, Córka Chrzestna, and the Naughty Dog

We are back from Poland, and I have a new goddaughter. Her daddy loves privacy, so no photo. Maybe I will be successful at blotting her sweet little head out of a photo of her with me, and then at least you can admire her christening gown, which was made by an English seamstress who is the go-to mantilla-maker of British trads-in-the-know.

Poles do not really go in for long and ornate christening gowns, which was a surprise to me, since I thought they were universal to Christendom. Instead they have ornate handkerchiefs which serve as the official "baptismal garment." My fortunate goddaughter has both, plus a quilted jacket and a quilted bonnet. The planning that went into these garments was intense and ultimately quite rewarding.

We had a few adventures on our way to the Saturday christening and after the christening, one involving a stray husky shedding the black feathers of a murdered hen. My biggest adventure was learning both the Apostles Creed and the Lord's Prayer in Polish while discovering how hard it is to say them automatically when English and sometimes Latin come to mind first.  In the end, I decided I could just read them from my handy Polish prayer book, but then I was handed the baby and had no hands for the prayer book.

Thanks to a miracle, and much reading and re-reading of the Latin-to-Polish text of the Christening according to the Extraordinary Form beforehand, my Nerves melted away when the service started. I actually knew what the priest was saying, and Córka Chrzestna stared up at me in a hypnotic sort of way, and I remembered the responses, e.g. what her name was and what she wanted.

On our walk up the aisle towards the altar, it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't learned the Skład Apostolski in Polish, for CC began to cry and wailed so loudly nobody could tell if I said it or not.

The service, which was in one of the most famous and beautiful shrines in Poland (13th century),  lasted about 40 minutes, and it was really splendid. Afterwards, I handed the baby to her grandmother and was thus freed from any lingering fear of dropping her on the cold, hard, mediaeval stone floor. But really, we had quite a nice 40 minutes together. Her relations wondered why we spent the first part of the ceremony staring wordlessly at each other. Naturally we were having a spiritual conversation.

The adventure of the dog and the murdered chicken was on Sunday morning after breakfast when I convinced B.A. to walk to the nearest country church with me. It was too late for Mass, unfortunately, but we found the church without being squashed by cars or bitten by dogs or deafened by cockerels. It was very plain, but it was there, if you see what I mean. On our way back to our host hamlet, we were joined by a husky who seemed to have broken his chain. However, he was respectful and friendly, so we didn't mind him trotting along ahead of us, even when he drove captive dogs insane by marking his new territory right in front of them. But then he spotted some chickens, who began to scream as he chased them around a farmyard, and came trotting back with a wailing,
 black hen and broke her neck right in front of us.

City-bred, we were horrified.

"Niegrzeczny pies" was all I could think of to say as he rushed forward again, trailing black feathers from his mouth. "Niegrzeczny pies! Naughty dog!"

We feared that the villagers (hamlet-ers?) would see the dead hen--which the dog didn't even eat--and assume the bad dog belonged to the obvious foreigners who were so uncivilised as to let it run around killing Polish hens. However, this didn't happen, and when I did my duty in informing the local grandee (i.e. Polish Pretend Son) that there was a hen-killing stray on the loose, he said only that I was lucky, for he had never seen anything like that.

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