Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23
Eph 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32
With a newly-repaired car available, I decided to take a long trip to no place in particular. I left at about 9:25 AM and started looking for a resting place around 10:45 AM. I saw one parish that, according to my printed list, had an 11:00 AM Mass, and I arrived there at about 10:53, figuring that even though my map stopped just before that, the church would be on or near the main street and I'd have no problem finding it. Unfortunately, I was wrong. What is often rather frustrating is that every church except the Catholic church has some sort of helpful signs to direct travellers. Indeed, at 11:00 sharp, on my backtrack pass through the area, I spotted a sign for a Protestant church that was on the same street as the Catholic church. "I should have known that trick-- it helped me once before," I lamented to myself as I drove past the church anyway to take a look at all the folks streaming inside before I headed back to the main road to renew the search.
I drove further north and finally decided upon a church with a noon Mass. It is on a main street in an old area, but everything about it looks new-- the outside of the building, the inside of the building, the sidewalks, the asphalt in the parking lot, and even the landscaping. The building may have been renovated, but if so the configuration of the original building is hard to spot. I tried to find a cornerstone for reference but saw none. The layout is cross-like. The outside is plain white, as is the inside. The stained-glass windows are rather simple with small symbols and shields, except for some larger ones in the rear of the domed sanctuary. The upholstered pews are arranged in sort of a semi-circle in four sections (the side sections, near the front, actually seem longest). A traditional crucifix hangs over the altar; it has small red beams with a neatly-pinned (as opposed to a hanging) figure of Christ. The marble altar is of moderate size with columns matching the rest of the church's architecture as support. The matching ambo is at the left and has a small wall to one side, indicating that it has aspirations of being a balcony-style ambo. The baptismal font is to the left of the ambo, underneath a circular canopy that gives it almost equal prominence to the modernistic canopy over the tabernacle at the right, which is a simplified version reminiscent of its predecessors from the early part of the twentieth century. Two confessionals in the rear look like ordinary closets apart from the nameplates on the doors. The organ is in the left rear. In the very rear is a glass wall with aluminum or steel framework much like a storefront; this separates the nave from the narthex. The pews held copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette and a matching hymnal.
The priest began the Mass by announcing that we had no organist and led the opening hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy." He was accompanied by an adult cross-bearer and a reader in the procession via the center aisle. He led us in Form C of the penitential rite and the recitation of the Gloria.
The reader gave the first reading and led the psalm of the day. We got the abbreviated version of the second reading, which is horribly imbalanced (though still beautiful even out of context) compared to the full version. The reader led the recitation of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel (actually supposed to be omitted if not sung-- an Alleluia is supposed to be a bursting, joyful song and not a hurried, tired chore).
The homily started with a story that I found linked here via a Google search of "out of order," "popcorn," and "boy." I expected to find the story, as the priest mentioned that it came from elsewhere, but I had a belly laugh when I found it in a homiletics site. Basically, a boy sees a popcorn machine and asks his mother for some popcorn, but she has to refuse him because the machine has an "out of order" sign on it. The boy cries, and the storyteller starts to cry too for all the people whose lives are out of order in some way or another. This story was followed by the tale of the time when Clarence Darrow, athiest and lawyer, was debating the existence of God with a believer and told the believer, "I can't see, smell, touch, or sense God in any way-- why should I believe God exists?" The believer responded with, "I can't see, smell, touch, or sense your mind in any way-- why should I believe it exists?" The priest concluded with a reminder that God really does love us all, even if it doesn't seem that way at times, and the observation that St. Peter's response to Jesus is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture-- "to whom shall we go?"
We recited the Creed, and the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed back and forth across the pews while the priest played some recorded Gregorian chant (another example of "they can't kill a good thing altogether no matter how hard they try") and prepared the gifts. No one stood until after the response to the Orate Fratres.
The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Our Father and only a few people joined hands. Three lay ministers assisted the priest in the distribution of Holy Communion; those in the rear were called to receive first, and the chalice was not offered. The priest played more recorded Gregorian chant during Communion in lieu of a hymn.
After Communion, the priest gave the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing. A person in the front pew quickly announced the closing hymn, "How Great Thou Art." Most people remained to the end of the one verse as the priest and cross-bearer departed through the center aisle.
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