I received a new supply of "A" cards, so this week we travel twenty-five minutes by car to a parish that appears to have been established in the 1950's or early 1960's. (Yes, I forgot to look at-- everybody together now-- ) The entrance features a White House-style front with large white columns. Inside is a simple layout of two columns of pews with center and side aisles and the common break towards the middle. The walls are white with dark wood trim complemented by a high, peaked, dark wood ceiling. The pews are also dark wood with white sides and probably hold twelve to fifteen people comfortably. Large inscriptions are found on the rear wall of the sanctuary as well as over what were the side altars. Stained glass windows are also present.
As I entered, I looked for the tabernacle and saw that it had been moved from the center, where a medium-sized traditional crucifix remains. I looked to an old side altar on the right and saw a small cabinet and genuflected in that direction, but then I looked to the former side altar on the left and saw what obviously is the original tabernacle and felt rather embarrassed; I hope nobody was looking at me. The cabinet on the right apparently holds holy oils; underneath is a small baptismal font on a small pedestal. I guess I should be more careful before underestimating things, although I didn't want to look too much like a wide-eyed tourist, either, by taking too much time as I entered.
A cantor and an organist served at this 8:00 AM Mass. The organist, located directly behind the cantor's lectern at the right of the sanctuary, actually used a small keyboard/synthesizer (I guess) and occasionally switched to piano or string accompaniment, but she basically stuck to using it as an organ, and it sounded reasonable. No servers were present; the lay ministers accompanied the priest and deacon through the center aisle to the opening hymn, "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days." The priest walked very slowly and far behind everyone else so that all the verses would be sung, and he mentioned the final verse in his opening remarks. The Kyrie was sung with a combined English/Greek setting (but no invocations).
In the pews is primarily a combined version of OCP's Today's Missal and Breaking Bread, but without readings, so I didn't follow the readings as the reader proclaimed them. However, I did see scattered, worn copies of the regular missalette with readings elsewhere in the pews as well as standard copies (just like the one I have next to my bed) of the New American Bible on the aisles (I never saw that before). I meant to see if the NAB was the 1986 revision or the 1970 original but forgot. If it's the 1986 edition, that might explain its presence there, as it would basically match the new Lectionary. In any case, I see mixed signals in that, as if they're not quite sure about not having the readings in the missalette-- or maybe a decision was made and didn't go over well. The psalm was sung, and it was the regular one for the day. The deacon read the Gospel.
The priest's homily was good, focusing on the Transfiguration. He drew many parallels between it and the memories people have after a loved one dies, and he suggested that the Transfiguration was a sign that Christ gave the apostles to strengthen them when things didn't look too promising later, kind of like a picture of a loved one we might cherish after the person's death. Later, I wondered if the Transfiguration might have been what brought St. John to the foot of the cross, although St. Peter and St. James also received the same sign and were absent, and Our Lady is not seen at the Transfiguration.
After the Creed, the Prayer of the Faithful was recited but ended with a recitation of the Renew 2000 prayer by everyone instead of the usual priest's prayer. The offertory hymn was "Center of My Life." The Eucharistic Prayer was that of a Mass of Reconciliation, and the Mass settings came from Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation. The chalice was traditional, but the priest used a glass dish (though with a large stem and base) to hold the Hosts. The Our Father was recited, and I noticed a considerable number of joined hands, even front-to-back as well as side-to-side, even though the priest said nothing about it.
Two lay ministers assisted the priest and deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion; the cup was not offered. Two stations were in the front and two stations were at the break. The Communion hymn was "Ubi Caritas" (which is used at my own parish only at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, giving it kind of a special significance to me). Distribution of Communion seemed rather quick, probably less than four minutes; the lay ministers may not really have been needed. The Mass lasted only about 50 minutes, and the next Mass wasn't until 9:30 AM, so another few minutes for Communion should not be a problem. (Others might say that the lay ministers could have offered the cup instead-- that's another possibility, I suppose.)
After Communion, the priest rose to offer what I thought was the Prayer After Communion, and from habit I rose too, but for some strange reason nobody else stood, so I sat, wondering what on earth was happening. It was the Prayer After Communion, but then two lay ministers of Communion to the sick came for an informal blessing, which the priest introduced with a lengthy speech, implying that this is a new practice at this parish. Then the reader gave some short announcements, and only then did everyone rise for the final blessing. I guess everyone doesn't like standing for the blessing and the announcements-- but why not just move the Prayer After Communion after the announcements where most other parishes have it?
The closing prayer was "Lift High The Cross," one of my favorites. It too has been used at every Mass of the Lord's Supper I've attended at my own parish (probably seven or eight now), and I have kind of a sentimental attachment to it. It even figures prominently in my novel.
Meanwhile, back at my own parish, the "Stewardship" program was formally introduced today. (The pastor says in the bulletin that it's not "a synonym for tithing or a pseudonym for Increased Revenue.") I wish I had the name of that speaker from the parish of week four so that I could warn my pastor in case someone suggests that he be imported for a week. Although I wouldn't have to endure his talk again myself as things stand, I'd hate to see my fellow parishioners stuck having to hug one another. They've done nothing to deserve that as far as I know.