Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
The first day off Daylight Time proved to be overcast with predictions of rain, so I drove an hour and a quarter to a city made famous by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in two Warner Bros. shorts released many years ago. Many steeples are visible from afar, and I figured I would land at one of those, but I arrived a bit after 10:00 AM, and the next Mass was at 10:30 AM in a parish which I was not able to locate immediately. I had the street address but my maps didn't cover the area, so I panicked and called Command Central to check a map on Internet. Just after my mother answered the phone, I happened to cross the street I needed anyway (but if I hadn't called her I'd probably still be wandering around looking for a church-- that's the way these things go), so I cruised around a bit back and forth griping about the demons who seemed to take the street numbers out of sequence and placed a decoy church in my path to confuse me. That one appeared to be on the right street but the name was different and it was deserted. Finally, I just kept going in one direction and spotted a huge four-sided building with tall, vertical, windowed projections that rose above the rest of the roof. I still had plenty of time, so I parked, walked through a parking lot covered with bird droppings that could have pleased only St. Francis, and went inside.
The church has a 1969 cornerstone and seems to be a reasonable attempt at something modern but not sterile. The inside is truly round (as opposed to the ersatz "in-the-round" churches that are common today). A circular sanctuary is at the center, surrounded by a metal altar rail. A dark, wooden traditional crucifix hangs over it. A medium-length, white, marble altar is towards the front, while a matching ambo is at the left but further back. A tiny wooden cantor's lectern is at the right. Behind this is a large structure that does not rise to ceiling height, giving the appearance of a building within a building. This area houses two confessionals, at either side of the sanctuary. A cry room is at the left (almost behind the altar). The tabernacle is wide, rectangular, and metal and is adjacent to the cry room. At the center of this rear structure is a low niche for the choir (consisting today of about half a dozen people) and organ. I actually liked this placement; it is still suggestive of service rather than performance (the choir is behind the sanctuary, rather than within it, and the area is designed and lighted in such a way that the emphasis truly remains on the sanctuary) and it was easy for the choir to receive Holy Communion later in the Mass. Large stone carvings of the Stations of the Cross are on the side wall to the right; they blended into the wall a bit too much for me to notice them until I was almost out the door after Mass. Three circular plaques are mounted on the wall behind the sanctuary; the one over the choir niche was of a dove. I believe the other two were of Mary and Joseph, but my memory is starting to fade even this early on Sunday evening. Four sections of wooden pews surround the sanctuary and are subdivided about halfway back to keep the rows from being too long. Racks are underneath the benches and hold copies of OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue in a plastic binder.
I selected a seat about halfway back alongside one of the shorter aisles but this proved unimportant; even though the 10:30 AM Mass was one of only two Sunday morning Masses, this church was less than half full and I had that pew all to myself. The reader introduced the Mass and then went to join three servers and the priest in the procession through the center aisle. The entrance hymn was "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come." We recited the Confiteor and the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The choir sang the psalm for the day, and then the reader gave the second reading. We sang the Alleluia to a setting familiar to me but which I do not know by name. Then the priest went to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel and give the homily. He appeared elderly and perhaps somewhat frail and barely audible, so perhaps we should cut him a bit of slack, but the three-minute or so homily consisted of nothing more than his rereading or slightly paraphrasing large parts of all three Scripture readings and then asking us, "What do we ask of God?"
We recited the Creed, and I noticed that the priest and servers (among others) had bowed at the appropriate moment. A typical Prayer of the Faithful followed, though we chanted the response. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, Amazing Grace. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres, no one stood until after the congregation's response.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung to the setting from the Mass of Creation. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. I noticed bells alongside the cushion where the server would kneel, but I don't recall hearing them used. It is the sort of thing I could miss, though; the use of bells is still common enough today that it would not jump out at me.
We recited the Our Father and I noticed no joined hands at all. The Sign of Peace was what one would expect at a half-empty church; straightforward and not ostentatious. We sang the Agnus Dei to the Holy Cross Mass setting by David Isele. Three lay ministers retrieved additional ciboriums from the tabernacle and then assisted the priest in distributing Holy Communion as we sang the Communion hymn, "Bread That Was Sown." Two lines were at the center and one was at each side; the choir received first. The chalice was not offered.
After Communion, I waited for announcements but none were given. The priest imparted a simple blessing and left via the center aisle as we sang one verse of "City of God." Almost everyone remained until the end. This Mass ran about forty to forty-two minutes.
After I returned home, I rechecked the railroad schedule for this town; all the trains arrive four minutes before the hour, and all the other Masses begin on the hour. I may have to drive to visit the remainder of the parishes; none is really within four minutes of the railroad station. We'll have plenty of time to catch the rest of them, though, it seems.