"Seventy-one point eight!" bellowed the bathroom scale as I lowered my massive bulk onto it. "On account of what you ate!"
"But Sir Scale," I stammered, trying to flatter it, "It's the Easter season. Mankind is redeemed! The gates of heaven are flung open! We have to celebrate."
"No more room to celebrate," it began again. "Get slimmer or you'll never mate."
"Come on," I tried again. "Could this not be a mistake?"
"Young man, now go walk," it continued. "No calories burned with talk."
Condemned by my rhyming, wisecracking scale to walk to church this morning, and not finding any excuses in the beautiful day greeting me outside, I set forth by foot on a one-hour journey to a parish I've often visited for daily Mass but have never seen on a Sunday morning. Believe it or not, I actually left an hour and twenty minutes for the trip, so I arrived at about 10:10 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass and found the choir practicing as I entered and took a seat at the right front of the church.
The building, which has a 1956 cornerstone buried behind some bushes, is red brick both outside and inside; it features a bell tower with a stone crucifix on the front top. The roof is very high and slightly arched. The stained-glass windows are very high and tall (their bottoms are above ceiling height) and depict scenes from the Rosary as well as various saints, not to mention the founding bishops and pastor. The light wooden pews are split by a center aisle and a break about halfway back; two small transepts also contain pews that are still oriented in their original direction. Racks at the ends of the pews hold the 1994 edition of GIA's hardcover Gather Comprehensive hymnal and paperback copies of GIA's Sunday's Word missalette. A choir loft is in the usual location and was actually used today by a very good choir of about thirty or forty people.
The sanctuary is notable for having not only its original altar rail, but also an inner knee wall of some sort-- but neither was used today. The marble ambo is way to the left in a corner with walls directly to the left and behind it; a similar cantor's lectern is at the far right. The freestanding altar is at the center, further back and in front of the tabernacle, which was covered with white cloth and not otherwise visible enough to describe. Over that is a large painted crucifixion scene. The rest of that wall is painted or wallpapered dark green with pictures of saints and angels.
The choir rehearsed "I Danced in the Morning" to piano accompaniment at least twice as I waited for the start of the Mass. I copied the hymns from the hymn board even as I speculated on why none of those required rehersal. While I like to hear a good choir, it does take a bit of the mystery from things when one actually hears the rehersal-- like watching a magician prepare for his show. Finally, the reader went to the ambo and introduced the Mass, including a complete list of the servers, which I neglected to copy. She then went back to the sacristy and joined the six servers, deacon, and priest in the entrance procession, which, after a bell sounded, started in the left transept, passed down the left aisle, through the break, and back up the center aisle to the hymn, "Glory and Praise to Our God."
The priest was a Dominican who is visiting this week as part of a two-priest team giving a parish retreat; he looked very much familiar to me, and after a few minutes of thought, I seemed to recall having seen him more than once at the parish of week 98, although he is not listed in its bulletin. I was tempted to ask him afterward if my hunch was correct, but, you folks know the drill by now. After the priest introduced himself and explained his purpose here, the deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was sung to a setting familiar to me (a "straight-through" setting-- no refrain) but which I am unable to identify.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. I did not notice if the cantor went to the ambo for the psalm, but I suspect not. Then the reader gave the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was sung as the deacon and two servers bearing candles went to the ambo; they remained there throughout the deacon's proclomation of the Gospel. We sang another Alleluia after the Gospel.
The priest talked a little bit about the retreat and also touched the readings somewhat. He told a joke about a little boy who was told by his mom to get a can of peanut butter from the pantry. The boy was afraid of dark closets, so he refused several times. Finally his mom said, "Do it because Jesus wants you to do it. He will be in the closet with you." The boy headed for the closet but still hesitated. Then he cracked open the door and said, "Jesus, as long as you're already in there, could you hand me the peanut butter?" The priest also noted that Jesus selected St. Peter to lead the Church despite all his flaws and shortcomings.
We recited the Creed, and then a standard Prayer of the Faithful was offered. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed slightly into the pews (but not all the way across). The choir sang "I Danced in the Morning" at this time; the hymn on the board, "Hold Me in Life," was omitted at this Mass (but may have been sung at other Masses). I think this time the organ was used as accompaniment but was played much like a piano, so I could perhaps be wrong.
The chalice and ciboriums were of metal; glass serving chalices were used later. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation (B), and Great Amen were from Richard Proulx's "Mass for the City" setting. The priest offered one of the Eucharistic Prayers for a Mass of Reconciliation (changing the several instances of "He" at the start to "Jesus").
The Our Father was sung to the most common setting; the deacon and the servers all joined hands, but the priest and reader (standing behind the row of servers) abstained. About half those I could see in the pews seemed to be joined as well, but those to my left and right (each two places away) made no attempt.
The Agnus Dei was sung to the Mass of Creation setting. Eight lay ministers assisted the deacon and priest in the distribution of Holy Communion. The chalice was offered. Stations were located at the front and at the break, with one extra station for each transept. The transepts shared stations for the chalice with the main sections. The choir sang "Come to the Water" on its own; again, the hymn on the board, "I Am the Bread of Life," was omitted. After Communion, a lay minister was given Holy Communion to take to the sick and dismissed with a formal blessing.
The reader gave a few announcements as the Peter's Pence collection was taken in the same manner as the first collection. The priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing before leaving with the deacon and servers via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Crown Him with Many Crowns." Most people remained for the two verses that were sung.
* * * * * *
I've missed several weeks of articles but hope to have the energy to write more consistently in upcoming weeks, although even now my eyes are sagging. I've used the number that would be correct if I hadn't missed any weeks; in a way, it actually is correct as I have still been visiting a different parish each week even if I haven't written about the experience. I still have yet to visit a handful of parishes in my own diocese for Sunday Mass, and many, many more remain in adjacent dioceses, so I shall be busy for some time, it seems.