Saturday, August 28, 2010

An unlikely mix of the sacred and profane: Porcaro has priests and incense and holy water but also AC/DC, studded leather, piercings, and tattoos

…on the occasion of the Assumption, the Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary’s ascent to heaven … [the] festival of the Madonna of the Bikers, which organizers promote as the largest motorcycle “pilgrimage” in France — there are few aspirants to the title — attracted nearly 10,000 motorcyclists from across Europe … to [Brittany's] soggy wheat fields of Porcaro, population 650
writes the New York Times' Scott Sayare.
It was an unlikely mix of what Roman Catholic Bretons call the “sacred and profane”; many came to pray, many to carouse, a surprising number to do both.

There were priests and incense and holy water and much solemnity and prayer, but also AC/DC and studded leather, body piercings and tattoos and, beginning well before noon and lasting well into the night, the consumption of prodigious quantities of alcohol.

…The program [in the “French bikers’ capital”] features two Masses, the blessing of the bikes, and a 45-mile “pilgrimage” ride through the fields and dark forests of central Brittany, in addition to several non-denominational rock concerts and ample supplies of beer and wine.

…“There are never too many problems,” [Marine] Perrichot said, recalling with a laugh when a gentleman rode his motorcycle into the ground-level barroom several years ago. “We can’t complain,” she said. “They’re all adorable.”

…“The essential thing for me, as a priest — as a biker-priest — is to show this community that God is close to them,” said Father Audrain, who rides a BMW F 800 ST and has helped coordinate the Madonna of the Bikers since 2007. “My work, in the first place, is about making God seem all right, and making the church seem all right.”

“It’s tricky,” he noted.