I raised the shade this morning and found another gorgeous day awaiting me for the second anniversary edition of this series, so I decided that another railroad ride would be in order. Even as I boarded the train, I wasn't sure which of two parishes I was going to select. One, with a 10:30 AM Mass, was somewhat closer than the other and would get me home by 12:40 PM or so, while the other, with an 11:00 AM Mass, required a transfer to a second train and would not get me home until almost 2:00 PM. I did not have to decide until the conductor came to sell me a ticket, so I deferred the decision until then. Twenty-five minutes later, when I arrived at the stop for the first parish, nobody had come to sell me a ticket, explaining that to the conductor on the second train would have been a hassle, and I didn't want to make today too long a day, so I decided that I would simply buy a round-trip ticket on the way back and disembark at the station of the closer parish.
After a five-minute walk, I quickly entered the grounds of the target parish at about 10:20 AM and noted the cornerstone, which reads "1941." The building is somewhat small, with a peaked roof and brick exterior. The main entrance is at the top of a short flight of steps with an arched window over it. The inside has almost certainly been renovated slightly, as the metal tabernacle is at the right in what was probably an old side altar. I suspect that two sets of confessionals may also have been removed, since I see two side projections that look rather unusual otherwise. The one at the left now holds a baptismal font; the one at the right just holds a candle rack. The arched, stained-glass windows are mostly abstract, with small circular portraits towards the top. The wooden pews are very conventional, split into two sections by a center aisle, and hold about nine people each; they are lined by side aisles.
The ceiling is dark wood with some trusswork; the walls are mostly white. A small choir loft, slightly cantilevered over the pews, remains over the main entrance and is still in use (possibly because the church can't afford to lose any seats in the main area, but that doesn't always stop folks from making a change anyway). The sanctuary is somewhat small, with a small, freestanding wooden altar at its center and a small wooden ambo at the left, and a smaller cantor's lectern at the right. A small sort of canopy of dark wood remains behind the altar, and underneath that hangs a crucifix that has Christ so neatly positioned, with a halo and a serene look (His eyes appear to be closed), that it is best described as a cross between a traditional crucifix and one of the Risen Christ.
As I entered, I heard someone say something about getting books, and I actually had the presence of mind to obtain the OCP combination of Today's Missal and Music Issue from a rack by the door. Perhaps there is hope for me yet. Before the Mass, the choir rehearsed in the loft, and we could hear its leader thanking the members for attending today. Soon afterward, the cantor appeared and announced that this was a "family Mass," which left me somewhat concerned, but this was perhaps one of the more bearable types of family Masses, and in fact the only instrument used at the Mass was the organ. The opening hymn was "As Grains of Wheat." Two servers, the full choir, an adult reader, a young teenage reader, and the priest formed the opening procession down the center aisle. (The procession was so crowded that I did not see if the two lay ministers of Holy Communion participated.) The Confiteor was recited, and the the Gloria was also recited.
The adult reader took the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. The cantor, who had walked behind the sanctuary and emerged from the door at the left, then went to the ambo and with the choir led the singing of the psalm of the day. (In many places, the choir sings only the responses.) Then the young reader gave the second reading, stumbling upon only one word, with which some in the congregation helped her. Next, a woman who might best be described as a "chaperone" went to the lectern and invited all the children present to gather in the sanctuary for the Gospel and homily. The cantor, who had disappeared behind the sanctuary again, then appeared at the lectern to lead the singing of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel.
The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the long form of the Gospel. Following that, he left the ambo and turned to the children, sitting on the floor in front of the altar, and gave a sort of lesson that reinforced the message of the Gospel. He had a Polish accent and his microphone was not too loud (or the sound system was poor), so I could barely understand him. However, the chaperone, beaming the entire time, had prepared large cue cards for the children so that they would know what to say. One read, "HELP OTHERS," and the other read, "ME FIRST," as I recall (the latter being the attitude of James and John). I think they also had lettering on the other side, but I forget exactly what they said. These cue cards were on constant display throughout the entire homily in one form or other, and the children kept repeating what was written on them as the priest prompted them. This probably took about fifteen minutes or so; after that, the children returned to their places. It wasn't awful-- I've seen worse, actually, and things were pretty straightforward after this.
The Creed was recited, and the adult reader led the intentions of a typical Prayer of the Faithful. Two collections, one for the parish and the other for Mission Sunday, were taken in succession by ushers using handleless wicker baskets that never left their hands. During the preparation of the gifts, the choir sang an hymn on its own; the words were easier to understand than usual, which I appreciated. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation (III), and Great Amen were from a setting familiar to me from my own parish but which I am unable to identify. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. I thought I heard a church bell (as opposed to the typical hand bell) sound once at each elevation of the consecration, but I'm not sure of that.
The Our Father was recited, but even though the small church was packed, I saw no one joining hands. The Agnus Dei was sung to David Isele's Holy Cross Mass setting. A second priest joined the celebrant and two lay ministers in distributing Holy Communion using the "dual-station" method from the head of the center aisle. The chalice was not offered. The Communion hymn was "Ubi Caritas."
After Communion, the adult reader read several announcements from the lectern. A representative from a service conducting a blood drive in the parish spoke for several minutes about the need for blood and told stories of several people who benefitted from donated blood while reassuring everyone about the ease and safety of the procedure. The chaperone then thanked the celebrant for doing such a good job with his very first family Mass (he feared not saying the right words), and he received a round of applause. Then the celebrant offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "For the Beauty of the Earth." We sang one verse, and most people remained to the end, although I got the feeling that they were leaving even if the cantor and choir had continued, and a noticeable number of people had left after Communion. As I left, I heard a teenage girl complaining that her knees hurt; I felt like telling her, "Wait until you get to be my age."
After that, it was back to the train station; I figured I would have plenty of time to make the next train, but the Mass ran almost an hour and ten minutes, and after buying the round-trip ticket from a cranky vending machine, and not taking the receipt because the train was rumbling overhead, I just barely made the train, saving myself an hour's wait for the following train.
For next week, our scheduling department has planned an extra-special treat for the loyal WIDOS audience, as a special commemoration of the second anniversary of this series, and I think I can safely say that you all will not want to miss it, so be sure to take a look next Sunday night or Monday morning.