I walked into the church as a thief.
But all I wanted to do was steal a little bit of tourist time.
I have noticed a disturbing trend in Mexican churches. With the exception of some of the larger churches, most church doors are locked when services are not being conducted.
That baffled me until I was told the locks exist for the same reason houses are locked. Even with the presence of local watchers and security cameras, objects are stolen. I suspect thieves hope that God will be forgiving.
The locks are not merely a Mexican phenomenon. I saw them in Spain this year. And our Salvation Army church in Salem finally resorted to locked doors when equipment went missing.
The Mexican church doors are opened for the regular daily masses. If a tourist is quick, he can duck in and out between services.
It is the "quick" part that leaves me out. I am fascinated with church architecture and art.
So, there I was, standing in front of the grill of an ornate side chapel near the front of the church when I felt a change in the atmosphere. I turned around, and there was the priest saying the opening prayer for the mass. And the scattered parishioners were standing with heads bowed.
Now, I can be a philistine -- at times. And I would have been entitled to the Goliath award by walking out the full length of the church while everyone was in prayer.
I took the more honorable course and found a seat I could use when it was time for the congregation to be seated. Of course, that meant a place I could sit or stand or sing when the appropriate response was required.
Not being a member of the Roman church and knowing only a smattering of Spanish, I was at something of a disadvantage in fully participating in the liturgy. At least, that is the excuse I used for letting my mind --and eyes -- wander.
This particular church has a series of stunning crystal chandeliers. But, as I looked at them, something seemed out of place.
And then I saw why. At the bottom of each of the chandeliers, where a globe-shaped incandescent light once hung, was one of the new pig-tail lights.
It appears the church has gone green. But it will take a bit of time for me to adjust to a light whose very shape seems to be designed to be hidden. Aesthetically, the combination is -- at best -- jarring.
Purists, of course, will point out that chandeliers were designed to enhance candle light. And the very presence of electric lights are not aesthetic.
And a good point it would be. Maybe enough time will pass to erase thoughts of Miss Piggy hanging from the ceiling.
Of course, if I had paid more attention to getting in and out of the church on my tourist jaunt, none of us would have been subjected to this rumination on how the pope chooses to light the places of worship that belong to the Mexican state.