The church was full, and not just Polish-church full but Polish-church-on-an-important-day-like-Palm-Sunday full. Every seat of the cavernous church was taken and crowds had filled every available space beside the pews and in the little alcoves to the side. We found a space to stand in, and I settled in for the long haul.
As the mass proceeded, I tuned out the priest's monotone and looked around me at the families and kids holding tightly to their brightly coloured palms. I'm always amazed by the ability of Poles to recreate Poland in Brussels. Someone's doing a good trade in palemki at any rate.
I'm reading the God Delusion at the moment, and have always been a bit on the fence when it comes to the God stuff, but Polish religion has always struck me as such a fundamental part of the nationality, the culture, that philosphical debates about the imponderables of religion tend to seem irrelevant. I have a soft spot for the music and a problem with the intolerance but this is not the time or place to get into that...
We got the bus back and as we turned into our road, a couple of men were just knocking at a door, two children by their sides and hands full of leaflets.
As we approached, one of the men nudged a boy towards us. He came up and thrust a leaflet into my hand. 'Good afternoon Madame,' he said a little nervously. 'here's an invitation, about Jesus Christ' he turned back to his father, who smiled encouragingly. 'Would you like it?' he asked, eyes wide with innocence.
I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'You're wasting your time with us little boy. We've just come back from church. I don't believe the bible word for word, and I believe religion has been responsible for some of the most atrocious parts of the world's history, but overall I have some sympathy for the basic values. My husband here is a full-blown Catholic. I have a problem with Jehovah's Witnesses because they would rather let their children die than make use of modern medical technology, don't believe in celebrating birthdays and don't care about disturbing people in their own homes on Sundays to thrust their views down other people's throats...'
No I didn't.
I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'Do you enjoy this? Would you not prefer to be home with your brothers and sisters playing? Do you believe all this? All this stuff your family tells you about being the chosen ones? If you are the chosen ones, why are you trying to convert more? Don't you lot believe in a certain number of spaces for those who will be saved when judgement day comes? Isn't that you? I can't quite remember everything from my GCSE religious education classes...'
No, I didn't.
I took the paper and looked at the boy. 'Thank you. We can have a look at what it says.' He grinned and skipped back to his father, excited at his success. 'Have a good Sunday' his father called after us as we walked away.
I sighed and we went home.