Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15
Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12
This morning I repeated my squirrel routine and drove around in circles for a bit, including a stint in a deserted industrial park (the sort of thing that drives me crazy on a Sunday morning when I'm looking for a church) but finally landed in an old church with a red brick exterior and a plaque inside that indicated the dedication date as being 1876. The inside appears to be renovated but not drastically so. The middle roof is higher than the sides, with stained-glass windows on the short vertical walls at the top as well as the longer walls on the sides. Many figures of angels stand guard over the nave from high on the walls over the columns that fall into the pews. The original reredo remains but looks a bit odd because the metal tabernacle has been moved to the left niche and the old tabernacle space is covered. (This sort of thing just never looks right-- I almost think removing the reredo altogether is better if the tabernacle simply must be moved.) A small, ornate, metal crucifix is at the top of the reredo.
The light-grained, wooden pews are in two sections with a break in the middle and appear to be newer than 1876. Racks hold copies of OCP's Breaking Bread hymnal (minus readings but with the psalms). The marble altar is at the center; the ambo is at the left; the cantor's lectern is at the right. Unusual here was the deacon's location; usually, he sits to the priest's right, but here he was seated at the far left behind the ambo, like a server. Plaster sculptures of the Stations of the Cross are located along the side walls. A choir loft not only remains but apparently is still in regular use; I saw no other location for a choir.
The noon Mass began with a few short announcements from the cantor (who wore a maroon robe). Instead of an entrance hymn, we sang the entrance antiphon for the day, although the cantor sang some verses not printed in the hymnal. Two servers, the deacon, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The priest chanted the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, and the cantor chanted the Greek "Kyrie eleison" and "Christe eleison" before we joined her. The Gloria was omitted as is proper during Lent.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor crossed the sanctuary from her place at the right to lead the responsorial psalm from the ambo. Then the reader returned to give the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was omitted; the deacon simply went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel without incident.
The homily, given by the priest from the ambo, focused on God's constant call to conversion despite our sinfulness, no matter how bad. It emphasized God's love for us but also reminded us that eventually our time here will end-- we know not when-- and we must repent, convert, and improve now rather than later. The priest recalled the fire and brimstone preacher-pastor from his youth and suggested that that priest's idea of God was probably lacking. He also mentioned God's way of naming Himself in the first reading and said that it wan't just a cute, evasive way of not answering Moses' question; in the Hebrew, "I am who am" connotes a very deep, abiding presence and relationship. Finally, God's call to conversion is constant, repeated, and unending.
We recited the Creed; I didn't see much evidence of bowing at "by the power of the Holy Spirit..." The deacon led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. Two collections were taken in succession as a children's choir sang "Lord of All Hopefulness" from the loft. The gifts were also presented during this time. The second collection was not quite complete when the priest began the Orate Fratres prayer; almost no one waited until he was finished before standing. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal; the serving chalices were of glass.
The Mass setting seemed consistent and somewhat more traditional (closer to chant) but I am unable to identify it. The priest offered the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation I. We recited the Our Father, and I saw no interest in hand-holding.
At Holy Communion, six lay ministers entered the sanctuary to assist the priest and deacon. The priest distributed to them from the ciborium, while the deacon offered them the chalice. The children's choir formed two lines in the center aisle and received first before returning to the loft. The Communion hymn was "Have Mercy On Us, Lord."
The priest offered the Prayer after Communion, imparted a solemn blessing, and then departed with the deacon and two servers via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Renew Us." About a quarter to a third of the congregation departed before the second verse was complete.
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"Hey, Andrew-- did you hear about the scientists who think we can build a super-fast rail line across the Atlantic Ocean? They say the trip will take only an hour."
"Hmm-- I could use something like that. I'd be able to attend Mass in London on a Sunday morning."
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If you're near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, you can stop for Mass at St. Joseph Church on Smith Street. Across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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