Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 16, 2004
On this rock I will build my Church
Dramatic statues richly enhance the spiritual story
St. Peter's Chair -- Feast Day -- February 22
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Three men, slowly moving in a glider in the shoreline park across from the church, were the only sign of life in tiny Barachois. So much for excitement on a summer Sunday morning in the little village far out on the end of Quebec's famed Gasp‚ Peninsula.
It takes its name from a position at the north corner of a triangular barachois, a lagoon enclosed by a sandbar (banc), usually in front of a small stream or river delta - here the Riviere Malbaie. A companion town at the other end of the lagoon, Coin-du-Banc (corner of the bar) shares with Barachois a history as a mainly English-speaking summer cottage resort. Since 1971, both settlements are now part of the expanded municipality of Le Rocher-Perc‚.
The unusual, colourful hip-roofed church proclaims its patron's name in bold letters, St. Pierre. It's a reminder of Christ's naming of the saint, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18), pierre being French for a "stone, flint or rock".
It's appropriate therefore that a larger-than-life statue of the first pope should stand in front of his church at Barachois. Here, he holds "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19) promised to him after his famous profession of faith, "You are the Christ" (16:15-18) in his left hand and the gospels in his right.
At his side is a cockerel, identified with the saint because of his denial of Christ three times - "before the cock crows" (Matthew 26:34, 75) - a commentary on this most human of the followers of Christ. The rooster is also an appropriate symbol for the first leader of the Christian Church, representing the dawn and new beginnings.
A semi-festive celebration of Peter's chair commemorating the early years of the Church, appears on some church calendars on Feb. 22.
Although it was hoped to attend a 9:30 a.m. English-language Mass here, the seasonal time change at Labour Day meant that the next Mass was now not until 11 a.m. Fortunately, the pleasant sacristan, closing up after an earlier celebration, graciously left the building open to allow for a brief visit.
St. Peter honoured
Inside, the hip-roof design of the exterior continues into the expansive nave and focuses on the altar, a simple table with a crucifix above. St. Peter is well-represented in the church d‚cor. A circular head of the white bearded saint is flanked by dramatic scenes from his life.
On the right, Peter is depicted as he panicked and began to sink when walking on the water towards Christ. "Jesus put out his hand at once and held him," stating that Peter was a "man of little faith" (Matthew 14:31-32). The complementary scene shows the saint meeting with the risen Christ.
To the left of the sanctuary, a statue of the church patron has him displaying the heavenly gold and silver keys. A realistic brown rooster stands at his feet, the symbol of light and rebirth, the beginning of a new era in world history.
Visit over, the sacristan suggested that there was plenty of time to get to 11 a.m. Mass at the modern Cathedral of Christ the King in Gasp‚, a short distance along the coast. So, after a final salute to the first pope, prominent in front of his Barachois church, a leisurely drive down the shore of La Malbaie, past Pointe-St.-Pierre and along Gasp‚ Bay ended at the cathedral city and Sunday morning Mass.
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