Week 12

Baptism of the Lord


Yesterday, I visited a parish about an hour's drive from where I live. This parish was actually my third choice. The first parish I had targeted had a 10:00 AM Mass, but I saw guitars and fled to a 10:30 AM Mass in another parish nearby. I decided to flee again when I saw guitars there too, so I came to rest at an 11:00 AM Mass not too far from the first two. In between, I stopped at a fourth parish for a bulletin. A 9:45 AM children's Mass was in progress; a woman was sitting in front of the altar talking to a group of children gathered around her.

The parish where I finally landed has one Mass in its small church and three in its auditorium, which is where the 11:00 AM Mass was offered. The auditorium was fairly well fitted and looked more like a church in many ways than lots of churches do. The windows were stained glass, and the tabernacle rests on a permanent shelf in the traditional location in the sanctuary (auditorium stage, actually). The altar stands on a platform in front of the stage, much like those in churches in which the altar has been pulled forward. A large figure of the risen Christ sans crucifix is found over the tabernacle. On either side of the altar are groups of upholstered, folding, metal chairs without kneelers. The two main sections of seats consist of rows of ten or so wooden, low-back, stackable, interlocking chairs. Underneath each chair is a simple, detached, upholstered box that can be used as a kneeler. On either side of the sections of wooden chairs are sections of stackable high-back upholstered chairs (kind of like what might be found in a restaurant), also without kneelers.

I got there about twenty minutes early and thought I heard whispers of, "El exigente está aquí," but that may have been the result of too much holiday egg nog. Actually, some people were talking the whole time prior to Mass, and since the room was not particularly large and had no carpeting to dampen the sounds, it was kind of distracting. They probably could have done that in my own parish church (much larger) and it wouldn't have been noticeable, but this building just didn't lend itself to that sort of thing. I'm sure they didn't mean any harm, though.

The Mass started at least five minutes late, but apparently this is normal since many people hadn't arrived by 11:00 AM. The cantor doubled as organ operator. I hestiate to say "organist" because she may not actually have known how to play the organ, located in the rear corner of the auditorium. It must have been a player (automated) organ of some sort because she started each hymn and then walked to the front of the auditorium to lead the singing, leaving the organ to play by itself. The first hymn was "Baptized in Water." Three altar servers accompanied the priest down the center aisle to the sanctuary.

The first form of the penitential rite (Confeitor) was used. The Gloria was recited. The readings must have come from the new Lectionary, since they differed from the text in the Paluch missalettes. The cantor lead the singing of the actual response to the responsorial psalm but the reader recited the verses, which is somewhat unusual (and perhaps a bit strange).

After the gospel, the priest introduced the pastor, who appeared to talk about the Renew 2000 small discussion groups that will be forming shortly, so I'm not sure that that constitutes a homily, but he just gave a straight talk about it without any undue fanfare. For some reason, he spoke from behind the altar instead of the ambo (both of which have microphones). At the end, he thanked the parishioners for their generosity in the Christmas collection, which totalled over $30,000. He said that this put the parish slightly in the black for the year, which as a priest who wears a black shirt, black pants, and black shoes, he found rather to his liking.

The Renew 2000 prayer, recited by the priest and congregation together, totally replaced the usual Prayer of the Faithful. The offertory hymn was "Come Holy Spirit, Wind and Fire." The third Eucharistic Prayer was used, and apparently Marty Haugen bought exclusive rights to the liturgy in our diocese because the Mass of Creation provided the setting for the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, the Great Amen, and the Agnus Dei. The Our Father was recited.

Three lay ministers assisted the priest in distributing Holy Communion. The cup was not offered. The altar servers stood at the Communion stations and used patens as in the olden days to catch any falling particles; this practice is rare nowadays in my experience, probably on account of Communion in the hand. Of the 40 or so parishes I've visited in my diocese, I know of only one other that still does this; the pastor there doesn't permit girls to serve, either. The Communion hymn was "Prayer of St. Francis."

The closing hymn was "Glory and Praise to Our God." This Mass wasn't too bad for something I found just driving along a country road, and although it's a small parish, the folks seem to make the most of what they have.

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