As they say, "time heals all wounds," so today I made up with the car and took a twenty-five minute drive to a parish near last week's. I diligently searched the front of the building for a cornerstone, but I guess the builders had no sense of history, as I was unable to locate one. The only possible clue to the age of the building is a plaque on a statue in front of the building reading "1953-199?" (I forget the second date.) However, my guess is that the building dates from the late 1950's or early 1960's.
It is a simple rectangular design with a peaked roof. The ceiling is dark wood, and the walls are of concrete blocks painted white. Almost all of the fairly-large stained-glass windows depict the Blessed Mother in one way or other. (One small window was of St. Patrick; someone must have pressed really hard to get him included.) The tabernacle has been moved to the old left side altar, and I don't recall seeing an altar rail. The dark, wooden pews are divided by a center aisle and separated about halfway back by a break. The pews are somewhat unusual in that each one is broken into three main sections (an odd number), and each of those is in turn divided into two smaller sections. The side aisles seem narrower than usual. A very large traditional crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary underneath a canopy. A choir loft is in the usual location and bears a huge pipe organ.
One facility that seems badly misplaced is a rest room located at the right front of the building in rather an obvious location. It even bears a sign reading "REST ROOM." Several people required the use of this room during the Mass, which was something of a distraction. I will not question the need; I know that I absolutely had to get to the rest room once during Mass myself. I just wish that it were located towards the rear where we wouldn't have had to watch people passing in and out all through Mass.
I arrived at about 8:45 AM for the 9:00 AM Mass. The bulletin lists a 10:30 AM Family Mass on the third Sunday of the month, so I figured that the 9 AM Mass would be an organ Mass, but once again I was shown to be flawed, fallible, lacking, and just plain wrong. (I now suspect two Masses at 10:30 AM on the third Sunday.) "Nothing imperfect shall enter the kingdom of heaven." I certainly have a long way to go.
The Mass began with nothing other than a ringing bell, as one might find at a daily Mass without a reader or cantor. No one said anything at all to introduce the Mass or even announce the opening hymn, "Blest Be The Lord;" the folk group simply began singing it from the front row of the right side of the church. A hymn board did correctly list all the hymns; I suppose that a board does eliminate the need to announce hymns, but I never saw that before. Three servers, members of the Holy Name Society, five lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest processed through the center aisle. The lay ministers all wore white robes, while the reader and cantor wore darker robes. (I forget the exact color.)
Form C of the Penitential Rite was used; the folk group sung not only the refrain (in Greek) but also the invocations normally given by the priest or deacon. After that, the Gloria was sung to a setting unfamiliar to me (but not bad). The readings came from the new Lectionary and matched those in the OCP missalettes. The psalm was obviously a seasonal psalm, "This is the day the Lord has made," rather than the psalm for the day. The cantor sung the verses alone and the folk group joined in the responses.
While the priest read the Gospel, two servers held candles. His homily was not really bad, but it dealt primarily with the Sacrament of Confirmation, and it may well have confused some people. He stressed heavily that bishops almost always confirm, conceding only briefly that Eastern-rite priests ordinarily confirm, and Roman-rite priests can do it if given the faculty by the bishop in a particular case or in danger of death-- this despite the fact that we have an episcopal vicar who is not a bishop, and he regularly confirms adolescents (with the faculty from the bishop, of course). He also spoke a bit about baptism. I think he got a bit bogged down in details that may only have confused people; the subject matter was a bit astray from what we probably need in a Sunday homily. It wasn't really wrong, but it wasn't too inspirational, either.
After the Creed, the Prayer of the Faithful was recited in the usual way. Then several announcements were read. The ushers waited for the announcements to end before beginning the collection (using long-handled baskets). That was ridiculous; the offertory hymn, "Hail Mary, Gentle Woman," followed, and we were distracted by the collection while singing. The hymn-- a part of the liturgy-- is more important than the announcements; take the collection then! Announcements, by contrast, are more of a grudging accomodation born of necessity. In fact, whoever runs things at this parish seems to think that way in general; both the offertory and Communion hymns were announced at the offertory, as if announcing a hymn just before Communion would be a terrible intrusion, as would announcing the opening hymn. (I can understand that view somewhat.)
A traditional metal chalice and ciboriums were used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, Our Father, and Agnus Dei were all sung to typical folk group settings. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used; the priest helped by singing the introductions to the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen and did a good job. Those in the pews remained largely independent of each other during the Our Father.
At Communion, the five lay ministers assisted the priest, who distributed the Host to them but left the cup to one minister to distribute to the others. The cup was not offered to the congregation. Two stations were located in the center aisle at the front, and four were located at the break, two on each side. To be honest, if the line is going to be broken anyway with a choice of stations, I'd just as soon see the extra ministers offering the cup, which does express the symbolism of the Eucharist better. The ministers from the front could assist in the rear afterward if that is really necessary because more people sit in the rear. The Communion hymn was "You Are Mine."
After Communion, a hymn of thanksgiving was sung-- "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." I must confess that I never heard that sung to guitars before-- it actually wasn't too bad. After that, about a dozen or so members of the Holy Name Society rose to renew their membership pledge. Then followed the Prayer After Communion. The priest then gave a blessing to the mothers present from the Book of Blessings. Then the closing hymn was sung. It wasn't in the hymnal or missalette-- "The Lord Is Risen To Life."
In the bulletin, an announcement states that Ascension Thursday is "a holyday of obligation. We are required to attend Mass." Now, isn't that redundant? Then again, I guess people need to know this these days, but it is discouraging. On the plus side, the pastor apparently takes the holyday seriously and has two vigil Masses on Wednesday and six Masses on Thursday scheduled. (The normal daily schedule has three Masses.) Many parishes add one or two extra Masses at most. Sigh.