"You know, it's been quite a while since Andrew took a walk to Mass."
"Now that you mention it, you're right. It must be ages."
"That's not like him. I'm wondering if he might have grown weary of all that travel and simply subcontracted the series to a ghost writer."
"Do you really think that anyone else would be crazy enough to go to a different parish every week-- even for money?"
Today was absolutely a picture-perfect day, so I decided to take a walk to one of the closer parishes that I've been saving for a sunny day in the fall. This parish is a little over an hour away by foot, so I set forth at about five to ten with my portable radio tuned to Italian music and walked as fast as I could. About four or five minutes from the Church, I saw a well-dressed woman leave her house and start to head in the same direction, but even though I was almost sure she was heading for Mass, she seemed to be in no hurry. Meanwhile, I arrived in the nick of time for the 11:00 AM Mass, which was not quite full.
The church probably predates 1950 but obviously has been remodeled. It has a brown, brick exterior; the inside is mostly white, with a dark brown paneled ceiling. The original sanctuary appears to have been closed by a new wall with a huge window that fills the upper portion; behind that may be a chapel of some sort. It is not likely to be a Eucharistic adoration chapel, as the metal tabernacle has been relocated to the niche where the right side altar was. The new sanctuary is in front of the old one, and the seats in the short transepts have been reoriented to face the freestanding altar. The white ambo is at the right and has a reasonable elegance to it. The small cantor's lectern is at the left along with seats for the choir (which today, numbering about two dozen or so, filled the left transept). The organ takes a small piece of the first few rows of the left front sections of pews in the main part of the church. The wooden pews in the main section are split conventionally with a center aisle, side aisles, and a break about halfway back. Also notable here is that the old choir loft is used for ordinary seating, and that section was probably almost full today. I might have taken a chance on sitting there had I known that such a thing was allowed; I may well never have viewed a Mass from a choir loft, and that might be an interesting view. (The closest I may have come to that was a Mass at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, NY; Mass there is offered in a circular amphitheatre.)
As I arrived, the cantor was leading the congregants in rehearsing a photocopied hymn stapled into the back of the hymnal, but this hymn was not used during the Mass. Maybe that's for next week? I quickly copied the hymns from the hymn board at the front left; the first hymn was "In This Place." Three servers, six lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, a concelebrating priest, and the principal celebrant formed the opening procession through the center aisle. A few minutes after the Mass started, the woman I passed entered and sat a couple of rows ahead of me. The celebrant led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was sung to the "Mass of God's Promise" setting by Dan Schutte. I noticed during this that the choir sounded really good, but it was not given much opportunity to sing anything on its own. Perhaps this is as it should be, as a choir ideally serves rather than performs, but I also see some waste in having a really good choir and burying it for the entire Mass under the voices of the rest of the congregation.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the Today's Missal booklet in the pew. (Of course, the other OCP booklet, Music Issue, was in the same blue plastic binder.) The reader stepped to the side while the cantor went to the cantor's lectern to lead the psalm for the day. After the reader gave the second reading, the cantor led the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. Then the concelebrant proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo.
The homily, given by the principal celebrant, started by noting that all of us possess a piece of the truth. I found that interesting, as I have often thought that perhaps one of the effects of original sin was the scattering of truth-- some of it given into the hands of evil people, who we would not be inclined to trust. He then mentioned that "we were guilty of teaching that 'there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church'" but after the Second Vatican Council came to realize that other faiths possess elements of truth. I wish I had a doctrinal expert (or at least a tape recorder) with me for that part of the homily; I'm not 100% sure that what I was hearing was entirely correct. However, it did relate to the Gospel, and I did like the idea that the priest was trying to underscore what was taught in a recent Vatican document.
We recited the Creed, and the cantor led the intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Glory and Praise to Our God." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon was used for additional wine.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation (A), Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were also from the "Mass of God's Promise" setting. (I'm not familiar with it, but it is obvious from the arrangement, which was in the hymnal.) The celebrant offered the third Eucharistic Prayer with some assistance from the concelebrant. At the Our Father, which we recited, I saw almost no joined hands even though most people were close enough to do so.
At Communion, the choir and those in the right transept received first. Stations were located in the expected locations at the front and at the break; the chalice was offered as well in both locations. Those in the choir loft had to come downstairs to receive; after the distribution was complete in the front, the celebrant and lay minister from the front went to the rear door to distribute there. The Communion hymn was "Bread of Life."
After Communion, someone from a "parish outreach" program went to the lectern to invite everyone to a continental breakfast in the auditorium. Then the concelebrant, who apparently is returning to Nigeria, offered some parting words and received a round of applause. After that, we stood for the closing prayer; while we were still standing, the cantor gave several announcements, including another mention of the continental breakfast and a note that a box of bulletins "had been taken" from the bulletin company's truck, causing a shortage this week, necessitating a request that each family take only one bulletin. The celebrant then imparted a simple blessing and departed with the concelebrant and servers via the center aisle to the closing hymn, "Lord, You Give the Great Commission." In contrast to the other hymns, of which all the verses were sung, we sang only two verses of this hymn, but almost everyone remained until the end. When I got to the doors, I saw that they were not kidding about being short on bulletins; the racks were completely barren. I have often joked about bulletin theft, but I can hardly believe that anyone would deliberately steal a box of church bulletins. Or would they?
In any case, sans bulletin, I started the walk home with my heart set on a vanilla thick shake at a McDonald's on the way home. When I ordered, I learned that no shakes were available. No bulletins, no shakes. I guess I used all my good fortune finding a decent Mass today without any silliness!