Ps 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
"Aw, Gabriel, do I have to work on Sunday?"
"This is a very important mission. That microphone has to be disabled."
"Can't you get someone else?"
"Everyone else is out fighting hunger and working for world peace. And this poor soul asks for nothing more than a decent Mass and a decent wife. You can work on that one if you want, but..."
"Oh, no! You're not tricking me into taking that assignment! I heard even St. Jude turned down that one! Give me the address of the church-- that microphone is as good as dead."
* * * * * * *
I originally intended to take an early ferry ride this morning, but I was unable to locate a place to park the car, so I had to improvise even though I did not have my printed lists of Mass schedules nor my usual collection of maps. I drove an hour an a half until I turned my head and saw a church a block away from the main road. It was 8:45 AM and the church had a 9:00 AM Mass-- perfect under the circumstances. 9 AM is a risky time as it is easy to hit a far out Mass then, but I had visions of driving all over New Jersey just missing Mass after Mass until it was 12:30 PM, and I just did not want to go through that again.
The church bears a 1957 cornerstone. It shows; the architecture is in the transitional period between "ornate rectangular" and "plain round." It is shaped like a cross but with a bit more emphasis on the horizontal beam than usual. The center sections of pews hold about sixteen across; the side sections in front hold just as many, which is unusual and combined with a loft over each side leaves lots of room for feeling compartamentalized and also leaves some good arguments for round churches. The two lofts are large and can hold about 100 people each; in the rear is also a full choir loft with organ (not used at this Mass). The center sections go back about 20 rows after the break. Racks in the pews hold copies of GIA's Gather hymnal. I don't recall seeing any missalettes anywhere, but I may simply have overlooked them (some parishes keep them on separate racks by the doors to discourage their use). Traditional confessionals slightly modified for face-to-face confessions remain in the rear.
The ceiling is rather high and has high traditional stained-glass windows depicting various saints. The sanctuary is flanked by two side altars honoring the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph; the domed metal tabernacle has been moved to the right of the left side altar. I didn't really see it until I started looking for the tabernacle lamp, which kind of suggests a basic clash between the architecture of the building and this placement. In the complementary position to the left of the right side altar is a Bible on a wooden box of some sort (an ambry, maybe?). A large, circular, light wooden ambo is at the left of the sanctuary in front of the servers' chairs and the celebrant's chair (separate from the servers). At the right and still within the sanctuary was a group of about 20 folding metal chairs stacked in bleacher style for the choir. A cantor's lectern and black piano (the only instrument used today) round out that area. A large, traditional, wooden crucifix hangs on the rear wall.
The period before Mass was a bit distracting as the priest kept testing a hand-held microphone, which along with the choir seats in the front put the notion of "performance" into my head. Eventually a children's choir appeared and one of the cantors (we had a man and a woman as a team) introduced the first hymn, "Stand Up, Friends." We sang three verses as four servers, the reader, and the priest (who reminded me of the singer John Denver) processed through the center aisle. After we recited Form C of the penitential rite with invocations, we recited the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. Then, from the cantor's lectern, the cantors sang what I think was a seasonal psalm as a duet (with the congregation responding). The psalm listed for today doesn't look like what I recall hearing. The reader followed with the second reading. We sang Alleluia to the "Traditional Caribbean" setting ("Alle, Alle, Alle...luia") found in the Gather hymnal before the priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo.
The homily began with an apology from the priest; he really wanted to hear about the children's summer vacations, but last week not enough children were present, and this week the wireless microphone was not working, so he wouldn't be able to leave the ambo and would give a homily for both adults and children. A member of the congregation offered a silent prayer of thanks at having been spared some tedious entertainment. Next we heard the story of a man the priest saw in a hospital; the man had a "near-death" experience and was walking around telling everyone, "I've been to the other side! It exists!" This led the priest to wonder if the man was Catholic or at least Christian and tempted him to approach the man to question him a bit, though he did not do so. Later the priest was a bit troubled at the possibility that the man could be of another faith or perhaps even no faith at all. The priest compared this to what we see in today's readings-- Joshua trying to protect Moses, and John trying to protect Jesus from those "not in the group." The priest called this "falling into the trap of exclusivity" and highlighted Moses and Jesus' response, which basically was to "let God be God." The priest then explained with reasonable clarity (at least it sounded that way to me-- perhaps someone who didn't already know it might hear it differently) the Catholic doctrine on non-Catholic faiths, quoting by name Lumen Gentium #16 and further explaining that those validly baptized in other faiths cannot be rebaptized in the Catholic Church because their baptisms are already valid.
We recited the Creed, and the reader led the intentions of a typical Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as the children's choir sang the unannounced hymn "Share the Light" on its own (I had to do some Internet research to determine the name of this hymn.) "Send Us Your Spirit" was listed on the hymn board but not used at this Mass; perhaps it was used at other Masses without a choir. The pianist played "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" as an interlude as the priest prepared the gifts. The hosts were in a large glass dish; the chalice was metal; a glass flagon held additional wine. At the Orate Fratres no one stood until after the congregation's response.
The Mass setting for the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and possibly the Agnus Dei was the Land of Rest (Pruner/Proulx). (Again, some Internet research proved useful in identifying this-- and I had another belly laugh as "Land of Rest" plugged into Google yielded an article from my own web site; I had forgotten having made reference to this setting!) The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Our Father; I did not detect much hand-joining, but I was sitting in a location with a poor view of the rest of the congregation. For some reason, everyone knelt before the Agnus Dei; I don't recall ever seeing this before and wonder if it wasn't a fluke caused by one errant person who led everyone else astray. (I've seen that happen when I know it to be not the normal routine at a particular parish.)
I counted eight lay ministers of Holy Communion, including the reader, but I may be off by one or two. One lay minister poured the Precious Blood from the flagon into the smaller serving chalices. The Communion hymn was "I Say 'Yes', Lord." Communion stations were where one might expect in a church of this layout.
After Communion, we heard a few announcements from the cantor. The priest gave the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "This Little Light of Mine," which the children sang as they waved their arms about and clapped their hands, which incited a round of applause.
* * * * * * * * *
"I just don't understand it. That microphone was working fine before today."
"Some days it just seems as though we're beset by demons, doesn't it, Father?"
* * * * * * * * *
"Good work there on that microphone. You handled that so well, how about you--"
"Gabriel, I told you "no way" on that other job and I meant it! I'll go reconcile the Arabs and the Israelis before I touch that one!"