Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
Eph 1:3-14 or 1:3-10
I marched into the barber shop and dumped the pile of receipts on the counter. In my fist I waved a printed copy of an article I had found on Internet. "It's here in black and white," I said impatiently. "'Let me cut your hair and the next time you come in here, I guarantee that you will be married to the best young lady in the world,' is exactly what you told me two years ago. Well, I'm still waiting."
The barber looked carefully at the printed article and then at me. "I dunno," he started. "The haircut is essential, to be sure, and I think we certainly have improved your chances greatly. You could be looking in the wrong places, though."
"Where, where do I look? Tell me!"
"How about Manhattan? Lots of women live there, and you haven't been to too many Masses there."
"If that's what it takes..."
"You also have to believe in your haircut, too. Women can tell."
"It's hard to explain-- but you have to concentrate hard and just believe in the haircut. Just try it and you'll see the difference. Meanwhile, let's get you back in shape."
"This is crazy."
"Well, do you want to get married or not?"
"Okay, okay," I stammered. "Start cutting."
* * * * * * * * *
The weather was suitable for another train ride, and Manhattan beckoned, so I looked through my printed copy of the Mass Times listing for the New York archdiocese and selected a parish I could reach in time for the next Mass. The printed copy said 9:15 AM, so I walked to the railroad station and took an 8:15 AM train to Manhattan, switched to the subway, and arrived at the target parish at about 9:05 AM. It looked kind of dark inside, and I began to worry that the rug had been pulled from underneath me again. A quick check of the bulletin showed that the rug had merely been repositioned slightly; the Mass would be at 9:30 AM. Probably God meant for me to spend some extra time preparing for the Mass-- either that, or I need to print a new copy of the Mass Times schedule, as these days they tend to get stale after a year or so.
I saw the church easily from the corner; its medieval architecture contrasts starkly with the mish-mash of modern whatever that surrounds it. The church bore a cornerstone of 1917 A. D., and inside almost everything seems to be as it was originally, save for the "temporary" wooden altar at the center of the sanctuary. The ceiling is at least six stories high, with huge stained-glass windows depicting various saints. A huge traditional crucifix hangs over the sanctuary and includes angels at Christ's hands and feet. At the left, the ambo is balcony-style, with a rather noticeable engraving at the bottom memorializing it (here, it says, "pulpit"). The side altars remain, with the usual statues of Mary and Joseph as well as the now-necessary flower stands in front of each of the side tabernacles (otherwise, one could easily start playing To Tell the Truth with the three tabernacles, as main tabernacles are often moved to the side these days). The celebrant's chair is to the right. The original altar and reredo also remain. A smaller metal crucifix is over the tabernacle, and one of the paintings over the tabernacle depicts the Crucifixion. The Stations of the Cross are painted plaques in groups of three or so in the usual locations at the sides of the nave. A huge choir loft is at the rear and houses a huge organ. A piano, however, is found to the right of the ambo (but was not used today). Racks in the pews hold copies of Paluch's Seasonal Missalette.
I took a seat in the right front section of dark, wooden pews about ten rows back. As usual, I left space for a holy lady to sit next to me, but she must have missed her train this morning and failed to show. I copied the hymns from the hymn board and prayed a bit extra hard in the extra time that God provided me as I waited for the lights to be activated. I also took a few moments to review the readings before Mass so that I would not need a worship aid (a/k/a missalette) as the readings were proclaimed. Soon after the lights were raised, the organist started playing some prelude music, and it sounded as though he may have been rehearsing the responsorial psalm as well.
Before Mass, the cantor appeared and rehearsed the offertory hymn, "You Are Mine." I would have preferred going over the recessional hymn, as I don't recall hearing that one before, but nobody ever consults me about those things. Then Mass began with the entrance hymn, "On Eagle's Wings." We sang two verses as the server (an older woman, but dressed in an alb) bore the cross before the reader, two lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest across the left rear of the church and through the center aisle. The reader and lay ministers sat in the front pew, while the server remained in the sanctuary.
The priest led the recitation of the Confiteor (Form A of the penitential rite) followed by the Gloria. After the opening prayer, the reader ascended the stairs of the ambo and gave the first reading, somewhat deliberately and slowly. Then, from the cantor's lectern, the cantor led the singing of the responsorial psalm, which had a tune familiar to me (leading me to expect a different set of words for some reason). The reader continued with the second reading before yielding the ambo to the priest. The verse before the Gospel was sung.
After the priest proclaimed the Gospel, he gave a homily that, past the first few sentences, seemed to have very little to do with the readings. Instead, he focused on tomorrows memorial of the martyrdom of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. He noted that images of she and Isaac Jogues are found over the main doors of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and that "Tekakwitha" means "one who must grope around in the dark" as Kateri was blind. He gave a brief history of the Mohawks and the part of upstate New York where they live. He concluded that the saints are "a challenge" to us. I'd have like this homily very much tomorrow (or indeed anything similar on a saint's day) but probably more consideration should have been given to today's readings. On the other hand, I often wonder how much those who skip daily Mass are missing-- not least the beautiful prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer used on saints' days.
The Creed was recited (I didn't catch much bowing at "by the power of the Holy Spirit..."), and then the cantor led the intentions of the General Intercessions from the lectern. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets; the cantor thanked us for our generosity just at the start of this. We sang two verses of the offertory hymn, "You Are Mine." At the Orate Fratres ("Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice..."), the congregation remained seated until after the response, although one timid gentleman rose just before the response was complete to signal that something is not quite right.
The Mass setting was one familiar to me but which I am unable to identify. If anyone knows of a web site that has audio samples of the most common Mass settings, I'm really interested. I could name it if I had a reference sample. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. I remember seeing bells at the server's station, but I don't recall hearing them used. The Our Father was recited; no joining of hands was evident, but the church was only about half-full, so it may not have been easy to do in any case.
At Holy Communion, the organist played music on his own; the cantor served as a lay minister of the Eucharist. It probably is the usual situation; only three hymns were posted on the board, so that contraindicates a last-minute change made of necessity. Believe it or not, after 247 weeks, that is something I have never before seen. One of the lay ministers retrieved an additional ciborium from the tabernacle. The priest and one minister offered the Body of Christ, while the others offered the Precious Blood. The priest stood in the center serving two lines and another line formed on one side. That is an unusual arrangement and I am at a loss to explain it.
After Communion, the priest offered the Prayer After Communion; the cantor then gave one quick announcement. The priest gave a simple blessing. As the recessional hymn, we sang both verses of "Sent Forth By God's Blessing." The server and lay ministers joined the priest in the procession through the center aisle; the priest waited before the altar until the first verse was complete in order to force the second verse. Nearly everyone remained until the hymn was complete.
* * * * * * * *
The conductor approached me and saw the bulletin in my hand. He looked at my sharp, fresh haircut and gave me a sad look. "I see them here every Sunday," he mused as the puncher made its distinctive "click-click" on my ticket. He pointed to the empty seat next to me and said, "You really have to believe in the haircut, you know, if you ever want to fill that seat. Otherwise it just doesn't work."
"No, thanks," I said. "I'm beginning to think I have a better shot with prayer."
"Suit yourself," he said as he left.
"Maybe that's it?" I wondered silently. "A new suit?"