"Aw, Gabriel, why are you bothering me again on a Sunday? Don't you have any respect at all for the Sabbath?"
"This is a very important mission. The poor guy forgot his pen this morning. He feels like two cents. We have to help him."
"Why are we always bailing this guy out of trouble? He's 41-- isn't it about time he learned to look after himself?"
"Well, there is another possibility-- you could get someone to look after him for us, you know; I'll put you on that assignment if you like."
"Oh, no-- how many times do I have to tell you I'm not taking on a mission that even St. Jude won't touch? What do I have to do about the pen?"
"Just put a pencil in the pew for him. Anyone else will think it's a leftover from a fundraising appeal-- if it's even noticed at all. It will really warm his heart."
"Okay, Gabriel-- not one, but two pencils."
"And while you're out, let me know if you see someone who might take an interest in him."
* * * * * * * *
I stumbled around this morning until I located a small brick church with a small peak only an hour and a half from home. Its cornerstone reads "1952" but it looks as though it could have been built ten or fifteen years later. When I entered, I was surprised to see a layout of four sections and three aisles with a break in the middle and the side sections abutting the walls-- I had figured this church to be much too narrow for this and expected a two-section arrangement. The wooden pews each held four or five people and had many hat hooks and racks for OCP's Music Issue and Today's Missal (without the blue binder). The rest of the architecture is very streamlined. I'm not sure exactly how much renovation was done, but I'm sure the metal tabernacle wasn't originally in a small niche on the left in what appears to be a converted confessional (and what has to be among the worst tabernacle placements I've ever seen; I needed a very long time to find it). The stained-glass windows are high and narrow with semi-traditional depictions of scenes from Scripture. The sanctuary is simple with a rear wall of a wide section of white marble and narrow sections of green marble on either side; the small ambo, to the right front, matches with a white marble top and two green marble pillars. A traditional crucifix is mounted on the rear wall. Two additional sections of pews are located on either side of the sanctuary, which was not pulled forward; instead, I suspect that these may not be original but may have been the original sacristy and another adjoining room. The current sacristy is in what appears to be an extension along with a modern reconciliation room and a rest room. In front of the other original confessional is the organ and near that are individual seats for a choir (not present at this 12:00 noon Mass).
I reached into my pocket for my pen to write the hymns off the hymn board but discovered to my frustration that I had forgotten my pen at home. "Why couldn't today be a fundraising day?" I thought to myself. "Where are those little wooden pencils when you need them?" Some time later in the Mass, I suddenly saw not one but two pencils in the corner of the pew ahead of me (which no one occupied; this Mass was less than half full). I attributed this to nothing less than angelic intervention; none of the other pews had them, and no appeals were made today. Besides, I don't think the hymn boards were correct, anyway, and the two boards disagreed about the order of the hymns, so writing them as I went was probably better.
We sang "To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King" as three servers, two readers, two lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest processed through the center aisle. The organist doubled as cantor. We recited Form C of the penitential rite and then the Gloria.
One of the readers went to the ambo to give the first reading and then returned to his place. A brief silence followed before we sang the psalm for the day. Then the second reader went to the ambo and gave the second reading, which was followed by another brief silence before we sang the Alleluia. The priest went to the ambo anproclaimed the Gospel.
We didn't really have a homily; instead, the pastor emerged and gave an instruction on the new GIRM, covering four main points:
He did a reasonable job with this, stressing the importance of unity in the Liturgy and the fact that these are directives from the diocese and the U. S. bishops. He also made a point of explaining the correct way to receive in the hand ("one hand over the other... do not take it back to your seat").
We recited the Creed; I didn't notice any more bowing than usual at "by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." The first reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, including a very long list of sick parishioners. We sang "The Lord is My Light" as the gifts were brought forward and prepared and a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. At the Oratre Fratres prayer, almost everyone stood at the right time.
The musical setting for the remainder of the Mass was Owen Alstott's Heritage Mass (with the fourth Memorial Acclamation). The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Our Father; almost no one was close enough to join hands.
Two lay ministers and the pastor assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion as the organist sang an unannounced hymn which sounded like "You Alone Are My Heart's Desire." The chalice was offered at two stations off to the sides.
After a brief silence, the priest read a few short announcements before offering the closing prayer and imparting a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle with the servers, lay ministers, and readers. The closing hymn was "Come Now, Almighty King." Most people remained through the three of four verses that were sung.
* * * * * * * *
"Good work there on that pencil. Aren't you glad you took care of that? Did you see how it made his day?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Worth losing some Sunday morning rest, I suppose."
"Now, how about you start looking into that other job for me. The Seraphim are starting to make cracks about us Cherubim not being up to the task."
"Gabriel-- I don't care how many Seraphim make fun of us-- it's a hopeless task. If they think it's so easy, let's see them do it!"
"Well, okay, if you want me nudging you out of bed next Sunday..."