On Sunday, I attended evening mass at Paparčių convent, located in a small town in the rural countryside between Kaunas and Vilnius. I was invited to join a group of Lithuanians, several of whom were childhood friends with the priest who was celebrating the mass. Originally established as a Dominican monastery in 1649, it was closed during Soviet times. Since 1994, the convent has been the home of the Sisters of Bethlehem and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary [loose translation from the Lithuanian].
It was a beautiful service in a simple wooden church with whitewashed walls and large icons. Visitors had to stay inthe entry hall or in the balcony so that only the nuns were in the church proper. I found it quite moving to look down on the nuns in their hooded white robes, especially when they formed a half-circle in front of the altar and sang a hymn with their hands raised in the air. I was touched that the Mother Superior came to the visitors’ section during the sharing of the peace and shook every single person’s hand.
After dinner, we went to the home of the priest friend. He serves in a rural parish and lives in an old wooden house next to the old wooden church. We ate fresh farmer’s cheese with local honey and homemade jam, plus tea made from fresh herbs and mint. I can’t even express how delicious fresh farmer’s cheese spread with honey tastes. I also tasted rūgpienis for the first time — it’s kind a cross between yogurt and cottage cheese and is very sour. Not so delicious, but much more edible when I mixed some jam in it. I was lucky enough to sit facing a window that looked out over the colorful flower garden and the fields beyond. It was a simple meal but shared by people who are obviously close friends. I felt privileged to be included.