Week 27

Fourth Sunday of Easter


Well, after last week's experience, I wanted to get as far away from that sort of thing as I could. That was north of me, so I arranged to have the car the entire morning (as my uncle and aunt are staying the weekend and could drive my parents to Mass) and drove to the opposite end of the diocese, an hour and three quarters east of here. "With two and a half hours between me and last week's parish, I should be safe," I said to myself. This week's parish is in the southeast corner; last week's is in the northwest corner. Only two other parishes are further east; beyond that is the Atlantic Ocean.

I left at 7:40 AM, leaving plenty of time to get there. On the way, after I got past the most congested areas and pretty much had the road to myself, I took twenty minutes to say a Rosary. Also, I passed a street named Phyllis Drive and thought of Ed and Phyllis, our newlyweds in the CompuServe Catholic forum, and said a short prayer for them. In addition, I stopped at a few parishes in the area to get bulletins. I noticed that one had a brand-new sign in front listing the Mass and confession schedule; on my prior visit, I saw no sign or other identifying markings of any sort and duly noted this in my online diocesan Mass schedule. Could someone actually have been reading it?

I arrived at about 9:45 AM for the 10:00 AM Mass in this old whaling village. The parking lot bore a sign warning that it is "private property" but did not say whose property it is; I saw a concrete walkway and a short set of steps leading from a break in the fence separating the lot from the church and decided that the lot must belong to the church. (That's one reason why I prefer walking; I don't have to worry about what to do with the car when I arrive.) I looked for a cornerstone but did not see one; perhaps the wooden facade precluded the possibility of a cornerstone.

The building is fairly simple; a rectangle with a peaked roof and white exterior. Inside, the seating, separated by three aisles, consists of four sets of wooden pews: two medium-length sets in the center, and two short lengths directly against the side walls. Hat hooks on the pews date the building prior to 1960. The sides may have been extended at some point to accomodate the short sections; some arches and supports (bearing old-fashioned electric fans) are evident along the side aisles. The large, arched sanctuary is not drastically changed apart from the addition of a new marble altar. The original tabernacle, in an ornate framework typical of its time, remains over the original altar but is not used; the current tabernacle is found in an old side altar to the right, partially obscured from where I sat by one of two nearly floor-to-ceiling banners hung near the old side altars. The wooden ambo is ahead of the altar, and the presider's chair is in front of the new altar. A marble altar rail of the same style as the new altar is present. A larger-than-life crucifix is hung on the right side of the church; I suspect that it was moved from a more prominent location. (The size of this keeps it from being inconspicuous in any location, however.) Large, traditional stained-glass windows remain. The ceiling appears to be a newer type of white acoustic tile. A large choir loft is in the traditional location over the main entrance.

While I was waiting, I saw a board on the right with hymn numbers on it and decided to check the hymnal and write the names of the hymns on the bulletin before Mass so that I would not be distracted during Mass. ("Am I smart," I said to myself.) One of two cantors working as a team began by announcing that the organist has come down with lymphoma and would be unable to serve today, so we would be singing without accompaniment. We also were told that one of his jobs is to change the numbers on the hymn board, so the hymn numbers were all wrong. (So much for being smart.) Then we briefly rehearsed the responsorial psalm. Two servers, a reader, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest passed through the center aisle to the hymn "Join in the Dance."

The priest began by asking us to turn and greet those next to us. Form C of the penitential rite was used, followed by a sung Gloria (the setting sounded unfamiliar to me, but the lack of accompaniment may have kept me from recognizing it). The reader served well; the readings matched those in the OCP missalette. The psalm for the day was sung, as was the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The priest read the Gospel and preached from the ambo in calm, measured tones, linking the theme of the Good Shepherd to Vocation Sunday, saying that, these days, sheep aren't too popular, and we identify more with the shepherd than the sheep. He ended by saying that priests and religious are needed and that anyone who wants to become a priest or religious should "come and speak with us."

The Creed was recited, followed by a standard Prayer of the Faithful. As the collection was being taken, using long-handled baskets, we sung the hymn "This Day Was Made by the Lord." A server snuffed the candles near the ambo, and the other server brought candles to the altar and used a barbeque lighter to light them.

The paten, chalice, and pitcher were all glass; the pitcher had a cover which the priest carefully kept closed except during the actual words of consecration. On the other hand, all the wine probably would have fit into the priest's chalice, strengthening the symbolism of "one cup." (When everything is glass, this is kind of obvious.) The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung to settings unfamiliar to me. The priest did a nice job of singing the "concluding doxology" on his own; even at a sung Mass, lots of priests don't even try to sing it.

At the Our Father, which was sung, everyone in the sanctuary-- priest, servers, and cantors-- joined hands. Although the priest did not actually say to do this, his example was clear enough, and everyone in the congregation did so as well. Again, I selected the wrong spot and was unable to escape. (This church is slightly larger than last week's but still below-average in size and was fairly well-attended.) The priest's prayer after the Our Father (Deliver us, O Lord from every evil...) was totally discarded; it would have interrupted the festivities. I guess we no longer have any need to be delivered from evil and freed from sin. Instead, everyone segued directly into the response, "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory..." During this part, everyone, hands still joined, reached even higher towards the ceiling than at first. (At least last week, hands unjoined after the Our Father, and the priest said the prayer he is supposed to say.) All that wasn't enough, either; we still had to give each other a sign of peace (now anti-climactic) in the usual point during the Mass. (Remember that omitting the sign of peace is a legitimate, licit option.)

After the Agnus Dei was sung, three lay ministers appeared to assist with distributing Holy Communion. The cup was offered; two stations at the center were used for each form. A strange system of going for Communion is in use here, and I'm not 100% sure I understand it even now. An engineering degree is probably required for that. Starting from the front rows, those near the side aisles went down those aisle to the rear of the church and then used the center aisle to approach the sanctuary. Then I think those near the center aisle just used the center aisle. I may not have done it right; I was closer to the center aisle but went to the side aisle and eventually was unable to return to my original place until those next to me went for Communion. Well, if I looked foolish, at least I have the consolation of knowing that I need not return to this parish. Two Communion hymns were sung: "Bread for the World" and "Be Not Afraid."

The usual Prayer After Communion was said, and while we remained standing some short announcements were made by the reader. Then the priest offered a Solemn Blessing (not asking us to bow our heads as is usually done). The closing hymn was "Up From the Earth."

This visit, I think, qualifies as one of those "more aggressive challengers" I mentioned last week, though not by much, really. Then again, hope springs eternal in this venture; next week may be better.

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