Before going to Rome where I am expected on January 10th, I made a detour to visit my family in Brittany, France. This gives me the opportunity to tell you a bit about the region of Europe I come from before taking you to Rome.
Brittany is a region with a cultural identity quite distinct from the rest of France because it was an independent duchy for a long time before being annexed to France in 1532. Even though Breton is now spoken by only 200,000 people because of the pressure of Parisian cultural hegemony and forced cultural assimilation policies, Breton culture still stands out in music, cuisine and conviviality. I will surely have the opportunity to talk about it in another blog or even share some recipes!
Like the Welsh and Irish cultures, Breton culture and language are Celtic in origin (the only Celtic culture left on the continent!) but it has been strongly influenced by many others, beginning with the Latin and Roman one. Christianity in Brittany is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, but it is also marked by its Celtic heritage. If you want to know more on the subject, we recorded a class on Celtic Christianity at St. Esprit. I explain a little how this way of being Christian has marked the Breton landscape.
In addition to Catholicism, there is also a small Protestant presence in Brittany, mainly in towns like Rennes. Often born from the Protestant Awakening in the 19th century, these communities are generally flourishing and bring together Christians of all origins. Anglicanism is also represented in Brittany by a small community of English expatriates. They have a few churches, notably in Dinard, a former seaside resort where the English have been coming as tourists since the 1830s. These Anglican communities (called chaplaincies and belonging to the Diocese of the Church of England in Europe) have hardly ever had missionary ambitions and this continues to this day. They only offer services in English.
All this to say that my native Brittany is quite different from Rome where I am about to go! This difference does not necessarily appear when you look at Europe from the United States, but it nevertheless testifies to the diversity of the European continent. I think this will be key in my experience of Rome : there, I’m expecting to find many familiar things but also to be unsettled by notable cultural differences.