Week 280

First Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Dt 26:4-10
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
Reading II
Rom 10:8-13
Gospel
Lk 4:1-13

"Today's Sadie Hawkins Day. I'm gonna get me a man, Fran!"

"But who, Emmie?"

"That guy who goes to a different parish every week for Mass. He looks really fascinating. I'm-a-gonna pop the question today."

"How are you planning to find him? It's Sunday, you know."

"I'll just look for him at Mass. He goes every Sunday."

"But which church? It will be like searching for a needle in a haystack."

"Well-- um--er--"

"Come on, Emmie. Give it up. You'll never find him by midnight."

* * * * * * * * * *

This morning's trip lasted an hour and placed me in a small church that exists in the shadow of a much larger building a few blocks away. The latter is easily visible from a nearby interstate; the former is tucked away from the hustle and bustle, nestled on the side of a hill. It is shaped like a cross. The wooden pews are split into two sections, with a center aisle and side aisles. Racks hold copies of the third edition of GIA's Worship (psalms only, old Lectionary, no readings) and the first edition of Gather. The original altar and reredo remain, and the tabernacle there is still in use. The side altars look as though they may have been modified, as I noticed no tabernacles there. A small, traditional, wooden crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary. A free-standing marble altar is at the center; the celebrant's chair is at the right; the reader sits at the left. Traditional stained-glass windows with Latin inscriptions show various Biblical scenes. (This probably dates the church prior to 1950; I couldn't find a cornerstone despite the stone exterior.) The organ remains in the choir loft, along with many other things that I didn't get a chance to inventory; it looked kind of cluttered up there in my one glance. The roof is peaked with some dark trusswork.

Mass began with a few bars from the organist as the reader went to the ambo and welcomed us; the bars stopped as the reader gave a few announcements, including a note that the new pastor was installed the previous evening by the bishop. (Just missed him!) Two servers, one lay minister of Holy Communion, and the priest then passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession as we sang "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God, Almighty." This hymn was announced by the reader by number only and, like all except the last hymn, did not match what was listed on the hymn board. The priest made note of his vacation plans for the next few weeks and then led the recitation of Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was omitted for Lent.

The reader went to the ambo to give the first reading. She pointed us to the correct page in the Worship book for the responsorial psalm. The reader returned to her seat in the sanctuary for about a minute after the psalm and then went to the ambo again to give the second reading. The priest led us as we recited the Lenten verse before the Gospel, and then he proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo.

The homily began with a riddle about a 21-year old who had a 20-year-old granddaughter; the 21-year-old was revealed to have been born on February 29. The priest made a remark about Sadie Hawkins Day, saying that things have changed and thus it isn't needed any more. Then we heard the joke about the guy from Massachussets who didn't make it to heaven and annoys Satan by being happy despite stifling heat and hard work. Finally Satan shut off the heat altogether, making everything freeze solid. The guy became absolutely thrilled silly, prompting Satan to demand to know why. The usual form of the joke has him saying, "The Red Sox must have won the Series," but in this telling, he says, "The Patriots must have won the Super Bowl!" We also were told that Lent is a second chance to implement our New Year's resolutions that have fallen by the wayside, and the priest explained that if we count the number of days in Lent, it comes to more than 40 because Sundays don't count. This was reinforced with a quote from St. John Chrysostom (which I was unable to find in a quick Internet search). We also received a detailed explanation of how the date of Easter is determined (as decided by the Council of Nicaea). The priest spent a few serious moments on the Gospel, telling us that Satan tempts us to see ourselves as the center of the universe, echoing the invocations he used in the penitential rite. He also explained that we should never, like Satan, put God to the test or demand that he "prove himself." Finally, we were treated to the joke about the woman who spent $250 on a new dress, to her husband's shock. He asked her, "Why did you do this?" She said, "Satan stood in front of me and said it looked great on me. I tried to resist, so I said, 'Get behind me, Satan!' Then he said, 'It looks good from behind, too!'" This ended with the reminder, "you can resist temptation."

We recited the Creed; I caught the priest and several others bowing at the correct point. The reader gave the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, which was followed by a collection taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Jesu, Jesu." The chalice and ciborium were of metal. At the Orate Fratres, the priest motioned for everyone to rise before he began the prayer, so almost everyone stood before the appropriate time.

The Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation were sung to the Mass of Creation setting. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. At the concluding doxology, he began by reciting it but then segued into singing it; the Great Amen was a single sung Amen and not really any "setting" at all. At the Our Father, I saw one woman try to grab the hand of a man behind her; he finally relented. She probably cornered him outside after Mass and proposed. Apart from them, the rest of the congregation in the less than half-full church was too scattered to attempt hand-joining.

At Holy Communion, the servers received from the chalice, which as I've noted previously is very unusual. The priest distributed the Sacred Body to everyone all by himself by alternating between two lines in the center aisle. A single lay minister stood in the left front to distribute from the chalice. The Communion hymn was "Take Our Bread."

The priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing before leaving via the center aisle with the servers and lay minister. The closing hymn was "Lift High the Cross." Most folks remained through the single verse we sang. The 9:30 AM Mass was complete by 10:15 AM.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Well, Emmie, did you find that elusive man?"

"No such luck, Fran-- and I'm not waiting another four years. It's no use. I'm becoming a nun. You can do that any day, and they certainly need me."

"Oh, well, I hope he finds someone else."

* * * * * * * * * *

"See what happens when you won't help out? Look at poor Emmie."

"Gabriel, it will take a whole army of angels to pull off a job like that. And you want me to do it all by myself-- on a Sunday at that."

"O, ye of little faith."

* * * * * * * * * *

When you're passing through Princeton, Illinois, you can stop for Mass at St. Louis Church on South Gosse Blvd. There and everywhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

* * * * * * * * * *

Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999

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