"Gabriel, it's Sunday. Do you know what that means?"
"Well, it means our itinerant worshipper needs a helping hand."
"That's not what I meant!"
"Be that as it may. He's slightly behind schedule. He's driven almost two hours to reach this particular parish, and if we don't help him, he'll be late."
"Yeah, 'we,' as in, 'me.'"
"All the other angels--"
"Are out doing more important things. All right, cut to the chase, what do I do?"
"Hold that Mass for five minutes. Otherwise he has to start looking for another parish, and he's in the middle of nowhere."
"How on earth do I do that?"
"They're baptizing a baby. If the baby's diaper--"
"You're kidding me! Of all the jobs--"
"Well, I've offered you a more dignified task, but you keep turning me down."
"Dignified? No-- impossible! And you won't trick me into getting involved in that. Not now, not ever!"
"Well, okay, then, I guess you're on the baby job."
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I had such roaring success with last week's method of selecting a parish that I repeated it for this week. It yielded a similarly limited selection of parishes, so I selected one with an 11:00 AM Mass in a remote corner of a neighboring diocese (one which I like because I feel at home there during the Eucharistic Prayer; the bishop's first name is the same as my own bishop's) and pointed the car in that direction. After an hour and three quarters, demons began to appear in the form of "SPEED LIMIT 25" signs and unmarked intersections, and I actually arrived after 11:00 AM. Somehow, an angel must have been willing to give me a hand, because for whatever reason, the Mass had not started by the time I entered, and it probably did not start until 11:05 at the earliest.
The church is a complex of sorts; I walked through a multipurpose room to what I guess would be called a narthex in a more traditional church but is probably called a "gathering space" here. The nave is square with a low, flat ceiling apart from a raised, square section in the center. A separate chapel at the right front holds the tabernacle (which is not visible from the nave; it's at a right angle to the individual, upholstered seats). The rear wall of the sanctuary is of stone, with a circular, abstract stained-glass window depicting a dove and a chalice and host. A freestanding altar is at the center of the sanctuary; a simple, wooden ambo is at the left. At either side of the sanctuary are glass patio doors. Framed pictures of the Stations of the Cross are hung on the side walls. A small, wooden, bedroom-size, traditional crucifix is hung at the right of the circular window. A section for the organ and choir is at the left front. The organ was not used at this Mass; instead, a four-person folk group served from that location. It was too late and too remote to look for anything better, and besides, I did have a reason (however arbitrary it may have been) for selecting this parish, so I decided to swallow hard and take some more penance.
As usual, I neglected to obtain a copy of the Heritage Missal; I was more concerned with obtaining a seat before the start of the Mass (and I never look for hymnal racks anyway). More demons reared their heads as the Mass started with an announcement that we should all stand and introduce ourselves by name to those around us. Well, I won't be returning to this parish any time soon. They could have done that while they were waiting for me to arrive. The opening hymn was "All the Earth." A server, three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (two bearing candles), a family carrying an infant, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The family took places in the sanctuary, at the right, and the priest began by calling attention to them, explaining that the infant would be baptized. He took them through the introductory part of the rite of baptism, which apparently replaced the penitential rite. After that, we recited the Gloria and the priest offered the opening prayer.
A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. He then led the recitation of the responsorial psalm for the day and gave the second reading. He and the priest both left a noticeable pause after the reading but before the acclamation "The word (Gospel) of the Lord." We sang the Alleluia ("Alleluia, Alleluia, Give thanks to the risen Lord, give praise to His great Name.") and verse before the Gospel before the priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.
His homily was reasonable; it admitted that an explanation of the Trinity is rather difficult and took us through St. Patrick's famous explanation using a three-leafed clover as well as a reference to Star Trek that remained unclear to me. The priest explained the doctrine as best as he could, emphasizing that "three gods" was wrong and attempting to use a "relational" approach that described the relationship as that of perfect love and perfect knowledge. He suggested that this ideal could be applied to the people of the parish as a goal towards which they should strive.
The baptismal rite followed and seemed fairly straight as the infant and family were called to the baptismal font at the front right (which I really didn't get to see well). The renewal of baptismal promises and the Prayer of the Faithful were incorporated into this. After the baby was baptized, and the folk group sang "Welcome to My World," and a round of applause was offered, the priest carried the baby all around the aisles so everyone could get a good look and some more applause.
After the priest explained that the Creed and Prayer of the Faithful had sort of already been done, the gifts were brought forward by a group of children and a collection was taken using wicker baskets with no handles; these were passed around by those in the congregation. The offertory hymn was "Lead Me, Lord." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost everyone stood before the priest's invitation to pray.
The Mass setting sounded familiar but I'm not able to identify it. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer and added a long pause to remember anyone we might wish. We sang the Our Father, but unlike last week, the priest chanted the usual prayer between that and the "For the kingdom, the power..." response. We sang the Agnus Dei as well.
Three lay ministers assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion, and the chalice was offered. The priest instructed those not receiving Communion "if you are not of our faith, or for any other reason, including children" to come forward anyway, cross their arms in front of their chests, and receive a blessing. Like last week, the two guitarists wore their guitars to Communion; it just doesn't look right to me. The folk group then sang "We Are Gathered" by itself.
After Communion, the priest made several announcements, including an update on the bishop's appeal, and then started rambling, finally forcing a teenager to rise for a round of applause for some accomplishment or other. He looked for a second teenager to give her recognition as well, but she was not present. He then invited everyone in the congregation to visit the newly-baptized infant after Mass to offer congratulations and a blessing. Finally, he offered the closing prayer and a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle with just the server. The closing hymn was "Holy, Holy, Holy," which is probably very rarely heard on a guitar.
* * * * * * * * * *
"See, look how happy the poor fellow is. He knows we were looking after him, even though he doesn't deserve it. He didn't want to have to sweat another hour."
"I know, I know. But still-- that sort of task isn't the point of being an angel. I mean, come on, think of the poor mother!"
"Well, speaking of poor mothers, I've been called into the Blessed Mother's office for a meeting this afternoon."
"I have a pretty good idea what's on the agenda and I think you do too. She's going to want to know what progress we've made to resolve that other problem I've been trying to interest you in tackling."
"That's too bad. I'll say a prayer for you."
"Now, what am I supposed to tell her-- that we're still short-handed after losing a third of our staff? I've told her that too many times now, and that excuse is going to wear thin on Our Lady's patience. The first few times, she smiled, but sooner or later she's going to start demanding results."
"Gabriel, it's a hopeless task no matter who asks us to do it!"
"One Sunday morning, my friend, it won't be me jostling you from bed-- be prepared."
* * * * * * * * * *
As you pass through Eureka, Utah, look for Mass at St. Patrick Church on Church Street. Wherever you in the world you may find yourself, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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