Week 283

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Jos 5:9a, 10-12
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Reading II
2 Cor 5:17-21
Gospel
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Early this morning, I boarded a railroad train to an area with lots of old churches. One had four Sunday Masses listed, with three in Spanish and only the first in English. I arrived in time for that first Mass and saw no English bulletins and nothing on the sign to indicate that the first Mass would be any different from the other three. The few others who arrived were speaking Spanish. I concluded that the Mass Times listing was inaccurate, decided not to wait around (I didn't want to leave after the Mass started), and instead started roaming the streets for the next three hours. Finally, I entered a very old church in time for its 11:30 AM Mass. It is marked "1833" but I suspect that it has been altered somewhat.

The inside, mostly white, looks somewhat sterile. A full, stadium-style balcony rings the outer walls with about four rows all around, including the choir section in the rear. Tall, traditional stained-glass windows start above the balcony and continue underneath it. The wooden pews are in four sections, with short side sections abutting the walls. The hymnal is Worship, third edition, no readings. A painting of the Risen Christ is on the rear wall of the sanctuary behind what is likely the original altar (without a reredo). I didn't see any crucifix. A freestanding altar is at the center, and the white ambo is at the left, slightly ahead of the altar. A cantor's lectern is at the right; to the right of that is a covered piano. The metal tabernacle is at the far left, underneath the balcony as well as a four-pillar canopy.

Mass began as the cantor (in a red robe, like the 20 or so in the choir) announced the opening hymn, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." An adult cross-bearer and two adult servers (in white cassocks), the choir, and the priest participated in the entrance procession down the right side aisle and then up the left side aisle (after which the choir went through the center aisle to the loft). The priest led the recitation of the Confiteor and then the choir sang the Kyrie from "Mass for Four Voices," by William Byrd (1543-1623)-- information courtesy of a purple flyer handed to everyone before Mass in addition to the bulletin.

A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The readings from Year A were used because of the presence of RCIA candidates. I guess if one attends the same Mass every year and RCIA candidates are always present, the Year B and Year C readings go by the wayside altogether. The cantor led the psalm for year C. A second reader went to the ambo and gave the second reading. Then the cantor led a setting of the Gospel Acclamation by Christopher Willcock. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the long form of the Gospel from Year A.

In his homily, the priest mentioned that the Year A readings were used, and he seemed to like the Year A Gospel in particular, describing the interesting interaction among the characters in the drama. He explained that all religious authorities have a tendency to become over-defensive and protective of their position, and that they too easily get bewildered and confused, as did those in the Gospel. They need to be open to new revelations and understandings, even if they upset the status quo. He also noted the gradual transformation of the ex-blind man, who first referred to Jesus as "that man," then "a prophet," and finally "Lord."

The RCIA candidates were called forward for the Second Scrutiny, and a series of intercessions were recited over them by a reader as a second priest (presumably the pastor) blessed them. The Creed and standard Prayer of the Faithful were omitted. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets as the choir sang "God So Loved the World" on its own. (The flyer indicated that "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days" was used at the Saturday evening Mass.) The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres, everyone was already standing because one of the servers had just incensed us with the thurible.

After the Sanctus (Thomas Tallis setting) I became incensed myself as the congregation remained standing for the entire Eucharistic Prayer, despite the presence of fully-functional kneelers-- so much so that I don't even recall which Eucharistic Prayer was used (probably was II or III, though). Harrumph. The Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen were also from the Tallis setting.

At least some common sense prevailed at the Our Father; we chanted it to the most common setting without joining hands. We sang the Agnus Dei to the Holy Cross Mass setting (David Isele). At Holy Communion, two lay ministers assisted the two priests in distributing; the chalice was offered off to the sides. The organist played music without any singing.

After Communion, the priest gave the closing prayer, read one short announcement, and imparted a simple blessing. The flyer listed "Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven" as the closing hymn but the cantor had us sing "There's a Wideness In God's Mercy" instead. The choir descended from the loft and walked to the front of the church to join in the closing procession with the servers and priests through the center aisle. Most people remained to the end of the hymn; the Mass took about 65 minutes.

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"Father, why did this copy of the GIRM come in the mail this morning? Don't we already have one?"

"Oh, don't worry about that. Just put it on the shelf next to the other one. We'll probably never need one, much less two. They'll make a nice pair of bookends. Who sent it, anyway?"

"The return address says, 'An itinerant worshipper.'"

"Oh, him-- what could an itinerant worshipper know about liturgy?"

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While you're in Kahuku, Hawaii, you'll find Mass at St. Joachim Church on Kamehameha Hwy. Throughout the nation and anywhere on the globe, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999

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