On this beautiful spring day, the first day of the season for short-sleeved shirts, I drove 40 minutes to what may be one of the smallest parishes in the diocese, tucked into one corner of a long peninsula in a tiny village. The building is about the size of a Knights of Columbus hall and is small even after apparently being expanded into an L. It is smack on a street corner with no front or side yard; a small parking lot is across the street. I relapsed this week and forgot to look at the cornerstone, but this modest building may not have had one anyway. It probably predates 1960.
Inside are two groups of wooden pews separated by a center aisle and lined by side aisles. A break in the pews comes about seven rows from the sanctuary, followed by perhaps ten to fifteen more rows. The extension has a single group of wooden pews with side aisles. The roof is peaked, but inside the peak is flattened about halfway down. Further down are long wire braces painted white to match the ceiling and part of the walls. The stained-glass windows are double-hung sashes with clamshell locks, and all have the same abstract pattern. The tabernacle is on a stand at the left of the sanctuary, where the curtain remains in its original location underneath a canopy. The altar may be the original (but if so, moved forward); it is a simple wooden table on two columns. A large, traditional crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary over the curtain. The rest of the rear wall has a gray brick facade. No altar rail is present. What appears to be a mission cross made of dark, heavy wood is to the left, draped with a white cloth. The organ is at the right of the sanctuary, along with the cantor's lectern. The ambo is at the left. Small sculptures of the Stations of the Cross line the walls, and statues of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and, I believe, Jesus, are placed around the sanctuary.
I arrived at about 9:45 AM for the 10:00 AM Mass. The reader began by introducing by name the priest, the altar servers, those who would be bringing the gifts to the altar, the organist, the cantor, and a deacon and then gave her own name. She then introduced the theme of the Mass. The cantor then announced the first hymn, "City of God." The priest, lay ministers, and altar servers then processed through the center aisle. Form C of the penitential rite was used, and the Gloria was recited (after the priest said, "May we now recite the Gloria," or something like that). After the Opening Prayer, all the children were given a blessing, removed, and taken across the street by the deacon (apparently dressed in lay clothes; if he hadn't been announced by the reader at the start, I would have had no clue that he was a deacon) for a childrens' Liturgy of the Word. Because I haven't met a nice young lady yet and don't have any children that I could have sent there to give me a report, I don't know what happened there.
The reader betrayed an agenda while proclaiming the first reading. The OCP missalette has the readings from the new Lectionary, and the reading as proclaimed almost matched what was in the missalette except for an instance of "men" which she found necessary to change to "people" and another reference (I think) to "brothers" which required the addition of "sisters." (I remember two instances, but my memory is unclear about exactly what the second was and I don't have the new Lectionary to check.) This sort of thing was bad enough before the new Lectionary, but now that a revision has been discussed, rediscussed, debated, redebated, and finally approved by the Holy See, this issue is settled. Those who do not read what's in the Lectionary are wrong. They are not accepting the legitimate authority of the Church. What was the point of all that wrangling between the bishops and the Holy See if people aren't going to pay attention anyway?
The psalm was the one for the day, sung by the cantor, and the verse before the Gospel and its Alleluia were also sung. The homily was okay, but the priest's style was very slow and subdued, with long pauses. His main point, I guess, was a comparison of the Mass to the journey from Emmaus, except that Jesus does not disappear after Holy Communion; he is with us always. He concluded with a reading from something a friend had written, which wasn't too bad, actually.
The Creed was omitted entirely. The Prayer of the Faithful followed and was routine until the end. Instead of the usual priest's prayer that concludes it, we were all asked to read the "Stewardship" prayer that is on a card taped into the inside of the clear plastic cover of the missalette and hymnal. (This card obscured the "Guidelines for Reception of Holy Communion" that is required to be printed in all missalettes; the card or the cover of the missalette would have to be removed in order to read that.) A collection was then taken; the baskets were passed around the pews without much help from the ushers, which worked well as the main part of the Church seemed fairly crowded. At this point, the children returned for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The offertory hymn was "Center of My Life."
The Sanctus and Great Amen were from Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. The third Memorial Acclamation was used and sung to a setting unfamiliar to me. At the "concluding doxology" ("Through Him, with Him, in Him...") everyone else in the congregation recited the words together, even though these words are to be said by the priest alone. (I imagine this gets started when people see ten or twenty priests at a concelebrated Mass properly saying the concluding doxology as one, but however innocently it starts, for the congregation to say those words is still wrong.)
At the Our Father, which was recited, I had to do penance for the nice Mass God granted me on Easter Sunday; the priest instructed us to join hands. I was unable to escape this illicit action as the tiny church was just too crowded. Even the center aisle was kind of narrow, and I saw some people joined across that. The Agnus Dei was then sung to a setting with which I am unfamiliar.
Another priest appeared to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion. The celebrant distributed the Hosts to the four lay ministers of Holy Communion and the reader, cantor, and organist before receiving Communion himself. This he did by simply passing the ciborium in front of them; they took the Hosts from it on their own. After he consumed his Host, the lay ministers consumed theirs. He then received from his chalice and simply placed it on the altar and stepped back to allow each of the lay ministers to self-communicate. (Ouch.)
The Communion hymn was "Christ, Be Our Light." Stations were located at the front of the church and at the break; the cup was offered only in the front until the lay ministers were finished there; they then moved to the break until the distribution there was finished. After Communion, the priest simply left his chalice on the altar until after Mass. A second collection was taken for Peter's Pence as some short announcements were read. Following the Prayer After Communion and the final blessing, the priest, servers, and lay ministers left via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Sing to the Mountains."
After Mass, I took a look at the other side of the "L," which I hadn't noticed on my two previous visits to the church to collect bulletins last fall and hadn't really noticed today either until about halfway through the Mass. It's kind of easy to miss, actually as it's small and unobtrusive itself. I saw very few people leaving from there, and that part of the church probably wasn't crowded at all. "Rats," I said to myself, "if only I had sat there, maybe I'd have escaped the hand-holding." Oh, well. Better luck next week.
The bulletin is definitely the most spartan in the diocese; it consists of a single legal-size sheet printed front and back and probably produced on a photocopy machine after being typed on an ordinary typewriter. Notable notices included a reminder that Earth Day is April 22 and a "thank-you" note from a family for kind deeds done during recent troubles. I guess this is the kind of parish where everyone knows everyone else.
As is evident, this experience ranks kind of low on the list so far-- maybe only a bit better than week four. I hope it doesn't get displaced by more aggressive challengers aiming in the wrong direction.