For fans of this series, good news is afoot! The ratings have been good, the response generally favorable, and the network executives have been pleased, so the series has been renewed for another thirteen weeks. Also working in favor of the series is that the writer is willing to work cheap (i. e., free), which is always a plus in these bottom-line oriented days in which "maximizing stockholder value" is the overriding concern. Stay for the ride if you dare. :)
Today's drive took twenty-five minutes and landed me in a parish whose church building is either brand new or totally renovated within the last few years. (I suppose I should know, but I don't recall.) It's not quite a "T" style, as the inner corners of the T are cut at a 45-degree angle with entrances, giving the building a very open look as opposed to a plain T, in which those on the short sides are often not visible from the stem. The wooden pews are arranged almost as if it were a plain T, though.
The sanctuary is pulled forward between the two side sections of pews, with the altar ahead of the ambo, as is typical in newer designs and renovations. No altar rail is included. Behind the sanctuary is an dome-style chapel in which the tabernacle resides, separated from the rest of the church by a see-through partition that's kind of hard to describe, although I suspect that anyone who's seen one will know what I have in mind. It separates the tabernacle from the rest of the church while still retaining it in a place of honor and seems like a reasonable solution to the problem of keeping the distinction between the reservation of the Eucharist and the actual sacrifice of the Mass without moving the tabernacle to an obscure portion of the building.
The building also features a pair of Greco-Roman decorative detail strips along the walls, along with stained-glass windows. The crucifix is a medium-sized traditional type suspended over the rear of the sanctuary. Two small electronic message boards of about five or six characters each are found high on the wall on either side of the sanctuary; these are used to indicate the hymns that are used. About the only thing I really didn't like is the flat roof, which left things looking kind of, um, flat. It is a high roof, to be sure, but I like soaring a soaring, peaked roof much better-- something that speaks of "reaching out" to God in the heavens.
The male cantor (ah, my heart can rest peacefully for the hour) was accompanied by a female pianist (who was kind of hidden behind the organ). Although I prefer organs, (the walls on either side of the sanctuary had huge collections of pipes which I presume were part of a working organ and not merely decorative) I can live with a piano at Mass. It does, however, seem to make things rather subdued compared to a good organ. The priest and deacon were accompanied by one altar server as they made their way through the center aisle as we sang the first hymn, "Gather Us In." The cantor had a very soft voice and was probably chosen to complement the piano well. (Unless he has a different style with an organ, the organ would overpower him.) The Gloria was sung to a setting that seemed unfamiliar to me, but that could have been simply on account of the piano arrangement, as I was unable to identify any of the other settings during the Mass either. The psalm was sung with the usual text for the day. The readings must have been from the new Lectionary, as they differed from the text in the OCP books.
The priest did a fairly good job with his homily, stressing the two themes of today's Scripture-- the "suffering servant" of Isaiah and the "Lamb of God" from the Gospel. After the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful, two collections were taken, one immediately following the other. Presumably everyone else knew the purpose of each collection, as no announcements were made. The offertory hymn was "Here I Am, Lord," which I had trouble singing as I tried to follow the progress of both collections, hold the hymnal in my lap, and pass the basket to the person at the far end of the pew twice (the ushers insisted on doing it that way even though this 8:00 AM Mass was far from packed and many pews had only two or three people of a possible ten or so.)
The Eucharistic Prayer was one of those from a Mass of Reconciliation, although oddly enough, when the priest came to the words, "Therefore, we celebrate the reconciliation Christ gained for us..." he substituted the word "Eucharist" for "reconciliation." I don't know if that has any significance or was just an honest mistake, but changing the one word that summarizes the theme of that Eucharistic Prayer seemed a bit odd. (Also, I have never actually seen the text of that prayer, but my own pastor uses it often, and I'm presuming that he has it right.) The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were all sung with a piano arrangement.
The priest made a point of inviting everyone to join hands for the Our Father, and the deacon and cantor joined hands with him, but owing to having carefully selected the right place to sit, I was again spared as nobody was really near me. However, I noticed one gentleman a few rows ahead of me joining hands with someone in front of him and another person behind him. I guess his definition of "near" differs from mine somewhat.
Although this parish has four priests and five deacons assigned full-time plus a weekend assistant priest, four lay ministers assisted the deacon and priest in distributing Holy Communion. A lay minister was sent to the tabernacle to retrieve the ciboriums to be used; although it's not a serious issue, I think that, as an ordained minister who wasn't particularly occupied, the deacon probably could and should have done this instead. The cup was not offered. The Communion Hymn was "Christ, Be Our Light."
A few short announcements were read by the reader, who seemed to be short of breath; I hope she's okay. The closing hymn was "City of God." Afterward, I took a look and noted that a ramp leads to the chapel where the tabernacle is located, and it holds some chairs and kneelers, so obviously it is available for private devotion, which I find encouraging. Someday, I'd like to return for the organ Mass-- that set of pipes looked rather magnificent!