News reports broadcast around the country have been suggesting that a storm deposited a significant amount of snow in the New York City metropolitan area yesterday. Those reports are true. A meeting of the executive committee was called to discuss the situation and determine an appropriate course of action. One committee member suggested simply attending Mass at my own parish, hoping that so few people would appear that I would not have to introduce myself to anyone. Instead of a new article, we could have posted an encore presentation of WIDOS 10 or WIDOS 62 (past Masses on the Feast of the Holy Family). While this had advantages, including the possibility of walking there if the roads were too hazardous, it was quickly dismissed; I had only just stomached that bit of silliness at the beginning last Monday and was in no mood for it again so soon.
Then the advance scout rose and spoke. "I have a suggestion," he said. "I have a parish on the 'not yet visited' list that is definitely part of the hand-holding rite. It's only an hour and a half walk or a twenty-minute drive in normal circumstances. It's usually well-attended too with few gaps in the pews. The day after a heavy snowstorm would be a perfect time to check this one off the list."
"Scout," I said, "You're brilliant!" With those words, figuring that the main roads would be reasonably clear by this morning, I set forth on what actually was a very slow drive of 35 minutes to the aforementioned parish. The roads were hardly clear at all, and while they were navigable if one drove slowly and cautiously, being careful not to accelerate or brake suddenly, and being careful not to accelerate or brake while turning, a good reason not to drive on such roads is simply all the other loonies who think that their anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive, or something makes them invincible. One of those persons could easily cause an accident. Nevertheless, I arrived in the parking lot at about 10:20 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass; the lot had been plowed and was fully ready for use. I stopped to call my mother to let her know I had made it and then entered.
The church bears a 1952 cornerstone, but its basic structure could pass for a 1962 or even a 1967 church, though perhaps a bit smaller. It is a simple rectangle with a peaked wooden roof. The dark, wooden pews are split by a center aisle and a break about halfway back; side aisles are also present. Racks in the pews hold combined English/Spanish hymnals and missalettes titled Unidos en Christo/United in Christ from OCP. The missalette is similar to OCP's Companion Missal as it has only the Sunday Mass readings for the whole liturgical year in large type (no daily Mass propers), but in this book the English readings are on the lefthand side of the page and the Spanish readings are on the righthand side. Traditional stained-glass windows depict scenes from the Rosary and various saints. A choir loft is at the rear of the church and is still in use; today, a choir of about a dozen people served with an organist (give them credit for appearing when the roads were so bad).
The sanctuary probably has not been changed much, except that the square, metal tabernacle is at the left in the old side altar niche. A freestanding altar is at the center, with a wooden ambo at the left ahead of the altar. The servers sit at the left, and the celebrant's chair is at the rear. Over the rear wall of the sanctuary (which is of dark wood) is a round, stained-glass window depicting Jesus with Martha and Mary. No altar rail is present, but no effort has been made to pull the sanctuary forward either. A figure of the risen Christ on a cross hangs on the rear wall.
As I had figured, the attendance at the Mass was well below normal, affording me ample cushioning for later use, although it was still about a third to a half full. I started near the center of a pew towards the right a few rows ahead of the break but drifted towards the aisle when I could be reasonably sure that nobody else would need the aisle seat. First, the reader introduced the Mass and summarized the readings from the ambo; she then proceeded to the rear to join a server, six lay ministers of Holy Communion, the deacon, and the priest in the entrance procession through the center aisle. After a bell sounded (as for daily Mass), the cantor announced the opening hymn, "Angels We Have Heard on High."
The priest began by instructing us to welcome those around us. I was not surprised, but at least it was just "welcoming" and not "introducing ourselves." The cantor (who may have been the organist as he was an unseen voice from the choir loft) sang the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. Then we sang the refrain to the Gloria ("Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo; Gloria, Gloria et in terra pax") but oddly recited the verses to that setting (which I've heard before at my own parish but in its fully sung form).
The reader went to the ambo and started by instructing us to lay aside the missalettes as the readings in them differed "slightly" from those that would be used. This had some basis in fact, since the missalette contained only the readings from 1 Samuel and 1 John. She then gave the first reading, from Sirach. The unseen cantor led one of the two psalms for the day (128) from the choir loft, and then the reader gave the alternate (approved) reading from 1 John instead of the reading from Colossians that includes the line about wives being subordinate (formerly "submissive") to their husbands. (My parents say that they got that reading at our parish; my pastor is a stickler for explaining that reading properly, so give him credit for not evading it now that the 1 John reading is a legitimate option.) The Alleluia and verse before the Gospel were sung to a setting familiar to me.
The deacon went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel, which ended with another sung Alleluia. Then he gave a homily that spent a considerable amount of time simply recapping all the readings without really adding a whole lot to them or offering any fresh insights. He did explain, however, that in today's Gospel we see that Jesus for the first time says something that shows that He is more than just a mere mortal; He is really one with His Father in heaven. The remainder of what the deacon said seemed to focus on love.
The Creed was recited, and then the Prayer of the Faithful was recited. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "What Child Is This?" The chalice was of plain glass; the ciboriums were of metal. A small glass flagon was also used for additional wine.
The Sanctus was sung to a setting familiar to me (it also occurred in week 83); it has that odd pause in "comes_in... the name of the Lord." The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer without any undue embellishments. The Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to the setting from Haugen's Mass of Creation. Why the Sanctus was not from that too is a mystery to me.
At the Our Father, the priest validated his credentials in the hand-holding rite by using the line, "Let us join our hearts, our hands, and our voices as we say..." Fortunately, my carefully crafted plan served me well, and I was able to escape that bit of silliness as nobody was really near me. The six lay ministers all went forward at this time from their pews to join hands with the priest, deacon, server, and reader; this is clearly against the prescriptions of the new Institutio Generalis (GIRM), which directs that lay ministers not enter the sanctuary until after the priest has consumed the Body and Blood of Christ. Oh, well; I could not have done much better here myself, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining. The Our Father itself was sung to the most common setting.
Communion was distributed in the typical stations at the front and at the break, with ministers of the Precious Blood at the sides. The Communion hymn was "Away in a Manger."
After Communion, the reader said that she had "only a few announcements" as if she were apologizing for not having enough of something really important that everyone came to hear, when actually a multiplicity of announcements at Mass is a problem of sorts. Then the priest offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing before leaving via the center aisle with those in the original procession. The closing hymn was "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen." Almost everyone remained for all four verses even though the priest was at the main exit by the end of the first verse.
As I left, I spotted a suggestion box mounted near the door. I had a brief urge to scribble "No more hand-holding!" on a scrap of paper and drop it in the box, but I just sighed, figuring that it really would do no good. Still, I wonder-- after all, that should be why the box is there-- or is it? Maybe I should just drop a copy of the revised Institutio Generalis in the box-- but that would demote that important document to the status of "suggestion" when it is really a set of requirements. Maybe the new bishop will get things straightened somehow after he's appointed. Maybe, maybe, maybe-- sigh.