Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 Cor 11:23-26
For the third consecutive week, I used the same method to select a parish. This week's result was somewhat better than the previous two. I drove an hour and a quarter past obstacles in the form of rubbernecking drivers and barely made it to the target parish in time for the 10:30 AM Mass. The property consists of the original church with brown stone exterior, still in use, a school with a cornerstone of 1940, an extension dated 1957, and, across the street, a parish hall that appears to have been the original school. As I approached, I wondered why I saw no activity near the church itself; instead, I saw people entering the school. That could mean only one thing; Mass was inside the school somewhere. I followed the other worshippers and found inside the current school an auditorium that appears to have been converted to permanent use for Sunday Mass, complete with permanent confessionals. I guess a reason for this may have been air conditioning; this area had it, and it was in fact somewhat chilly today, so much so that I wish I had brought a jacket.
The inside has the shape of an auditorium, but serious attempts have been made to keep it from having the sterile look typical of an auditorium. It has tall, narrow, stained glass windows, mostly just colored but with small emblems towards the top. The confessionals are wooden and extend into the side aisles slightly with old-fashioned "PRIEST HEARING" lights. The sanctuary is fairly standard, with a wooden canopy over the square metal tabernacle and traditional, wooden crucifix. A wooden ambo is at the left, along with a section for a choir and organ (in addition to a full choir loft and second organ in the rear). The celebrant's chair is at the right. The ceiling is mostly flat and painted white like the rest of the nave. The light, wooden pews are in two sections split by a center aisle with two breaks towards the rear. Racks hold copies of OCP's Breaking Bread hymnal (no readings).
The opening hymn was "I Am the Bread of Life." Four servers, six extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. After the penitential rite, we sang the Gloria to the Mass of Creation setting, and the priest offered the opening prayer. At this time, all the children were called forward to be taken elsewhere for a children's Liturgy of the Word. (I really do need to have some children so I can find out what transpires at these things.) They left to the accompaniment of what sounded like recorded, soft music.
A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading before stepping aside for the cantor. The cantor led the singing of the hymn "Taste and See" instead of the psalm for the day. I guess this isn't too bad; according to Breaking Bread, several common psalms could be used in place of Psalm 110, and one of these is Psalm 34, upon which "Taste and See" is based. Then the reader gave the second reading. The Sequence for Corpus Christi was omitted; however, Breaking Bread says that the GIRM says that today's Sequence is optional. Its omission is still disappointing, though. We sang the Alleluia (Celtic, I believe) and verse before the Gospel as the priest carried the Book of Gospels to the ambo. He proclaimed the Gospel and stayed at the ambo for the homily.
The priest seemed to say the right things and deep down I think has great respect for the Eucharist-- but he also seemed too concerned with entertaining us. He actually used the word "transubstantiation" and did say that the Eucharist is the most important point of what we do as Catholics and that Jesus is really present in the form of bread and wine. When he started telling us of how nuns used to have schoolchildren march to the front of the church and genuflect in military style as soon as the nun would pound her fist, he kept getting laughter. I don't know; I think I'd be a bit more serious about this, considering that belief in the Real Presence is at disappointingly low levels these days. He also recalled how bells used to be sounded at the consecration, but again with a lack of seriousness that kind of hurt.
Instead of the Creed, we recited a "Parish Consecration" prayer for some reason or other. A standard Prayer of the Faithful followed, led by the reader. As a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets, we sang "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" to piano accompaniment. Two people brought the gifts forward. The hosts were in a large glass dish. The chalice was of metal. A glass flagon held additional wine. Children trickled into the nave as the children's liturgy apparently ended. At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost no one stood until after the congregation's response was complete.
The Mass setting for the remainder of the Mass was the St. Louis Jesuits'. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, which we recited, I saw no one joining hands.
At Holy Communion, I liked the way the six lay ministers actually formed a line to receive from the priest; they then formed a second line to receive from the chalice from a second priest who assisted. They definitely did not look like concelebrants this way. Four glass serving chalices were used. Two stations for each form of Communion were in the front, and two were at the middle break. The Communion hymn was "Here in this Place," which was printed on a pink flyer that was found in the pews.
After Communion, the priest gave a blessing and sent some lay ministers to the homebound to give them Communion and then offered the closing prayer. The reader went to the ambo and gave several brief announcements. The priest made another brief reference to his homily and the nun's gesture, eliciting another burst of laughter, and then he imparted a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle with those in the entrance procession. The closing hymn was "Lift Up Your Hearts." About half the congregation left before two verses were complete. The Mass took about 50 minutes.
I walked around and peeked inside the old church, which was open; it looked almost as big as the auditorium, and I kind of wondered why it couldn't be used. It wasn't as though the auditorium was a radically different arrangement, either (90-degree rotation, or "in the round" for example). It must have been the air conditioning, I guess.
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In West Rutland, Vermont, turn onto Church Street and you'll find Mass at St. Bridget Church. All across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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