I had a bit better luck today than Friday and
Saturday-- or perhaps just dogged determination won the day. I
had to stop just short of the Colorado border for the night, and
unfortunately, the location I chose was not an optimum location
for finding a morning Mass. I started heading for the largest
town on my way to where I'm going, but getting there took all
day. I stopped at probably half a dozen churches along the way,
hoping for perhaps a 9 AM Mass or a noon Mass, but it was not to
be. It was a shame too-- some of them looked rather nice.
Finally, I reached the first of two large towns around 3:30 PM.
Mass Times said that the church there had a 6 PM Mass on Mondays,
but the sign disagreed.
Not wanting to take any chances, I headed for the next large town and checked things there with Mass Times. One parish had a 5:15 PM Mass on Mondays, so I started looking for that one but had difficulty finding it partly on account of the synthesized voice's odd pronuciation of the street name (although the directions were otherwise good). Nevertheless, after 45 minutes of driving around town, and a second call to Mass Times, I managed to locate it at 5:00 PM. I saw people entering, so that was a good sign.
The building has a 1990 cornerstone and is somewhat modern, with an "in-the round" arrangement (it might have been theatre-style too, but it was darkened and hard to tell). I did manage to see lots of trusswork on the high ceiling, and an organist was practicing at the far left of the sanctuary. Adjacent to the main church is a small daily Mass chapel; that is where Mass would be offered. It is very simple, with a flat ceiling of white acoustical tile. A window allows a view (I think-- it was darkened inside) into the main area; this may be the cry room on Sundays. A small wooden altar partly covered with a green cloth was at the front, not elevated. A table for the cruets was immediately adjacent to the altar. The room had white walls adorned only with the Stations of the Cross and a small bedroom-size crucifix on a short section of wall to the left of the window. An entrance from the main vestibule was in the rear; to the right of that was a pigeon-hole style rack with the names of individuals on it; it appeared to be filled with missals. I guess the regulars here leave their missals in the chapel rather than drag them to and from home every day. The chapel has about four rows of wooden pews with kneelers and two additional rows of individual seats with kneelers in the rear.
After I entered and took a seat in the very last row, hoping not to be noticed, I saw someone else enter after me and go to the table with the gifts at the rear. He moved a host from a glass dish to the paten (although, watching this from the corner of my eye, I did not see the critical detail of the direction of the movement). I immediately got nervous; would I foul things by not moving a host for myself? What if I moved one in the wrong direction? Do they have them counted exactly? (I had heard of this practice and was told that some extras are usually there in case someone neglects his duty, but what if...) My hands were dirty too from looking under the hood of the car a bit, and I didn't have a chance to wash them first, so I really didn't want to handle a host that might not be mine. Anyway, it was too late; the fellow who entered after me was behind me, and attempting to move one then would look awkward (another city slicker who doesn't know what he's doing). So I just worried about that all through the Mass. In fact, this Mass was actually decent; the worst thing about it was my own anxiety about what would happen, since I had no place to hide. Hand-holding? Altar-circling? Dialogue homily? Nonetheless, at 5 PM on a Monday far from home, a beggar can't be a chooser, so I just remained and hoped for the best.
The Mass began as the celebrant and a concelebrant entered the chapel from the rear. He looked a bit like a priest from my old parish, and he enunciated everything very precisely. He did, however, say, "The Lord IS with you" (emphasized just like that). Usually, this is something foreign priests seem to do for some reason, but this priest looked 100% American. He used Form C of the penitential rite without invocations. During the readings, he and the concelebrant sat in the front row while a reader gave the reading and recited the psalm from a small ambo.
He proclaimed the Gospel and gave the homily from the center of the room, in front of the altar (I think). It was fairly brief and mentioned that the Pharisees were the "traditionalists" of their time. Also important is that God does not need our adherence to His laws or any of our worship or adoration; those things are for our good, not His. The message is that we must be careful to separate God's laws from our implementation of those laws.
The celebrant combined the two "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation..." prayers as he held the metal paten and chalice together. I breathed a sigh of relief as everyone remained in the pews for the consecration. He used the second Eucharistic Prayer. Only a few people joined hands at the Our Father; it was far from expected, although we numbered only about a dozen anyway. At least I didn't see anyone crossing the aisle or reaching across rows, and the reader (who sat two places to my left at the rear) did not seem to care one way or the other. The sign of peace was omitted.
At Communion, a lay minister offered the chalice while the concelebrant sat. The celebrant distributed the sacred Hosts at the head of the center aisle; those on the right received first, and those on the left followed. I heard no cries of "All right, who forgot?" so I guess some provision was made for naive visitors from New York (or the last Host or two was simply broken in half). I just wish I didn't have to concern myself with these details at Mass.
After a short period of silence, the celebrant gave the closing prayer and final blessing, and we left. I went to the vestibule to obtain a bulletin; the celebrant spotted this and came over to show me that it had an error that he thought I probably wouldn't have noticed: the list of Mass intentions for the week had the wrong dates alongside them (they were last week's dates). He's right: I'd not have noticed. What's worse is that I had the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation with him and muffed it. I could have told him I was from New York and found his church through Mass Times; that may have been of interest. Oh well, maybe when I get home I'll send him an e-mail.
After that, I decided that I would try to return to the parish in the first town for the folks back home. I had also noticed a pizza parlor there that advertised pizza by the slice, so I figured I'd buy that too while there. Upon my return at 6:05 PM, I discovered a darkened church; the sign was right, and Mass Times was wrong. I'm still thankful for Mass Times, though; it surely beats nothing at all, which is what someone like me would have had before. Anyway, I went to the pizza parlor; I was going to order one slice but decided upon two. It is a vacation, after all!