The weather continued to be absolutely wonderful today, so I decided to embark on another extended walk. I looked at the map and made a very quick measurement of the distance to the target parish, which appeared to be about 10 kilometers from home. Since I can walk 6 km/hr, I figured that I could get there in an hour and forty minutes, so I left at about 9:35 AM under the theory that I would have plenty of time to reach the 11:30 AM Mass-- but with some odd doubts; something inside me said that I was about to be wrong again. By 11:15 AM I realized that I was, in fact, wrong; but without too many other options, I continued, and I arrived at about 11:45 AM and listened to the remainder of that Mass from the vestibule. It was pretty much the same as the following Mass, so I'll just mention the homily the priest gave.
He explained that we are wrapped in our possessions, and that we foolishly expect to take everything with us. We need to let go of all our things in order to unlock ourselves to God so that He has room to enter our lives-- that is the key to the mystery. He also mentioned that God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want or think we need. We have to have a willingness to change in order to conform to God's will. Further, the things to which we cling are in fact a way of hiding from life instead of facing its challenges and growing in faith and holiness.
The 11:30 AM Mass was completed in 42 minutes; after that, I entered and spent some time in prayer before the 12:45 PM Mass. The church is a "T" configuration, with rather large transepts. It is rather simple all around, but not completely barren of religious aids. The high, peaked ceiling is of dark wood paneling; a bit of an eyebrow window of stained-glass is found over the sanctuary. The walls are white, broad stucco over a lower portion of dark wood paneling. Some small, arched stained-glass windows are not abstract in a modern way but rather in a traditional way, with small portraits of Jesus and other religious figures within. The pews are of dark wood and are split by a center aisle in the transepts and the main section; side aisles are also present. Racks hold the hardcover OCP JourneySongs hymnal and the softcover OCP Companion Missal that has all the Sunday readings for the entire year. The sanctuary is at the junction of the "T" and is completely open. The domed, metal tabernacle is slightly to the right of center on a stand. The celebrant's chair is slightly left of center; the servers sit to the far left. The wooden ambo is at the left and consists of two heavy legs joined by a horizontal center section with decorative trimming on the front. The small cantor's lectern is at the right. The freestanding altar is at the center; behind that is a huge figure of the risen Christ alongside a cross. A medium-sized baptismal font is to the right of the lectern, at the foot of the sanctuary.
Almost everyone arrived after 12:40 PM (In fact, I was starting to get worried); by the start of the Mass the Church appeared to be less than half-full, although perhaps the transepts, which abut the main parking lot and were slightly obscured from where I sat about halfway back in the main section, were better filled. The hymn boards proved to be totally incorrect, but nobody made note of this; fortunately, I had taken notes on the hymns from the previous Mass, so it did not disrupt me much. The opening hymn was "Gather Us In," played on the organ. Three servers, five lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The priest led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, and then we recited the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. Then the cantor crossed the sanctuary and led the psalm for the day from the ambo (the advance scout reports that this is a recent change in this parish) with organ accompaniment. The reader returned to the ambo to give the second reading. The cantor led the singing of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel to organ accompaniment while the priest waited for two of the servers to take candles and position themselves on either side of the ambo before carrying the Book of Gospels solemnly to the ambo. The priest proclaimed the short form of the Gospel as it appeared in the missalette, and the servers returned the candles to their places.
The priest, who happens to be the pastor and was formally installed last night, started by recalling a Flip Wilson skit in which Wilson played "Brother Leroy." Brother Leroy was having a hard time getting the sleepy congregation going one morning, so he said, "Folks, we have to get this church going. First, we have to crawl!" Everyone shouted, "Amen!" Then, he prodded them a bit, "Then, brothers and sisters, we have to get this church to walk!" Everyone shouted, "Amen!" Next, he prodded them some more, saying, "After that, we have to get this church to run!" Almost in a fever pitch, everyone shouted the louder, "Amen, Brother Leroy!" Finally, Brother Leroy exclaimed, "Finally, brothers and sisters, to keep this church running, we will need all your talents, your skills, your spare time, your energy, and your money!" Everything fell silent, and one person in the congregation said, "Brother Leroy, let's go back to crawling."
The priest also recalled a news article about the renovation of a church. In that article was a brief mention of a man who positioned himself in the belfry with his feet pointing up to heaven. The priest said that this was a good way to show that we all need to remember that our feet should be pointing in the direction in which we intend to travel, just as the man in today's Gospel needs to keep his feet pointing in the right direction. These remarks were tied together with some praise of the parishioners for their warmth and holiness, which has impressed the relatively new pastor. The priest mentioned that in Mark's Gospel, the man who asks Jesus what he has to do to be saved is simply a "man," not a young man; many Scripture scholars believe that the man could be St. Mark himself.
We recited the Creed, and then the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as the offertory hymn, "Lead Me, Lord," was played on the piano. The chalice was of metal; the hosts were in a huge silver dish (probably too large to be called a paten).
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation, and all were sung to organ accompaniment. The priest (like the priest in the previous Mass) offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration. At the Our Father, which was recited, I saw no one joining hands; I suspect everyone was just too scattered.
At Holy Communion, the priest from the previous Mass joined the pastor and five lay ministers in the distribution. The chalice was not offered; stations were located at the head of each aisle, with the second priest taking a position at the rear of the center aisle in the main section. The Communion hymn, played on the organ, was "Table of Plenty."
The pastor then offered the Prayer after Communion and read a few short announcements while everyone stood. He then imparted a simple blessing and stood at the head of the center aisle long enough to force a second verse of the closing hymn, "Take the Word of God," which was played on the organ. Most people remained until the end, which came 42 minutes after the start-- just like the previous Mass.
Before leaving, I went closer to the front to get a closer look at the decent-looking female cantor; I noticed that her left hand seemed free of any undue encumbrances, so I figured she might be entranced by my sharp new haircut and follow me out the door. She might even take the same train home as I was going to take; maybe she'd decide to sit next to me and chat for the fifteen minutes or so. For some reason, however, she simply took no notice of me whatsoever! I even stopped at a nearby Burger King to get a vanilla shake (which was so thick I had to scoop it out of the cup with the straw), but she didn't go in there either. I don't know-- I just have no luck. Maybe it's time to join the Foreign Legion.
When I arrived home, I checked that map again. Of course, I had measured wrong, too-- the church was actually 12 kilometers from home instead of 10, so naturally I wasn't going to be able to get there in less than two hours. The moral: Measure twice, walk once.
* * * * * * * *
"Hello, Foreign Legion."
"I think I'm ready to throw in the towel and join. It's useless. I'll never have any luck with women. I need to go someplace to forget about them."
"Sir-- that's the old Foreign Legion. The New Foreign Legion is different. We have seminars, counselling, and lots of psychiatrists who can treat you with the latest medicines. We even have training classes in the latest pickup lines, and we'll show you how to write a personal ad. After your tour with us, the ladies will be all over you."
"No, no-- I just want to defend a lonely fort somewhere in the Sahara where there are no pretty female cantors. Just get me a uniform and a musket and I'll be on my way."
"You don't understand, sir! Today, there's hope even for-- wait a minute-- did you say, 'female cantors?'"
"Um, yes. Why?"
"Are you by any chance that guy who's been going to a different parish every week for Sunday Mass and posting an article on Internet?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"Oh. Okay. I see. I'll get your uniform and musket ready; report to the airport next Monday. I know just the lonely fort for you."