Zec 12:10-11; 13:1
Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
I checked my map and my printed list of Mass schedules for a neighboring diocese and located an unvisited church just a bit more than an hour away, so I hopped into the car and journeyed there. It is on the corner of a main road and a small side street. As I passed the front, I noticed a sign that listed the Mass schedule and figured that a double-check would be worthwhile (my list is somewhat old by now), so I turned around and re-circled the front. I was a bit annoyed when I observed that the lettering on the sign was not nearly large enough to read when passing at a reasonable speed; I had to pull onto the grass, stop, and squint. "Hiding one's light under a bushel" comes to mind here. In any case, the sign confirmed my schedule, so I stopped for the 11:30 AM Mass.
The cornerstone reads "1970" although a sign indicates that the parish was founded in 1902. The church is truly round on the outside with a spire at the center, so I kind of hoped for a truly round interior as well, but instead the pews were straight and arranged in three sections like a "V" with an extra section at the left for the organ, choir, and a large, white piano that was not used today. The sanctuary is at one side, with a giant rendering of the Risen Christ. A freestanding marble altar is at the center; the celebrant's chair is behind that; the deacon sits to the left, somewhat away from the celebrant (unusual); the reader sits to the left of the deacon; the servers sit to the right, and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion sit to the right of that. The marble ambo is at the left. Two niches are placed on the sides of the sanctuary; at the left is a Bible on a shelf with a kneeler; the metal tabernacle is in the right niche. I've started to wonder about these attempts at balance; the one that really drives me crazy is when the ambry is used to balance the tabernacle. I'm not even sure if one can properly balance a tabernacle, although I'm a bit more comfortable with the Word balancing the Real Presence. The stained-glass windows are tall, abstract, and rectangular. Racks in the pews hold copies of OCP's Today's Missal (large-print) and Music Issue but without the usual blue plastic binder.
The church was about a quarter full when the Mass began, as the cantor announced the opening hymn, "There's A Wideness in God's Mercy." Three servers, a reader, two extraordinary ministers, the deacon, and the priest passed through the center aisle in the procession. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, and then we recited the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor led the responsorial psalm for the day from his location next to the organ. The reader then gave the second reading. The cantor led the singing of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The deacon proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo and then yielded it to the priest.
I tried to follow the homily and found nothing wrong with it, but as I may have indicated in an earlier article about another homily, even immediately afterward I had a hard time recalling anything significant about it.
We recited the Creed, and then the deacon led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. Two successive collections were taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang "Amazing Grace." After the presentation of the gifts, including the large combined collection basket, the priest prepared the gifts; the organist was still playing a postlude as the priest said the "Blessed are You, Lord God of all creation" prayers, but even though the priest was clearly attempting to say them in a normal voice, the organist made no attempt to stop or wind down, which left the effect of competition. (Actually, the priest can offer those prayers inaudibly if the music is not finished.) The chalice and ciboriums were of metal; a glass flagon was also used for additional wine. At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost everyone stood at the correct point. By this time the church was about half full.
The Mass of Creation setting (Haugen) was used for the remainder of the Mass. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. Notable was that the deacon knelt for the Eucharistic Prayer; this is extremely uncommon despite being correct.
We recited the Our Father; almost no one joined hands. For Holy Communion, those in the right side section were invited first, front to rear, but they had to go to the rear of the center aisle first and proceed from there. Then those in the rear of the two center sections were invited, and eventually those in the front rows received. Two stations for each form of Communion were provided. The Communion hymn was "Gift of Finest Wheat."
After Communion, the deacon read an announcement or two and the priest offered the closing prayer before imparting a solemn blessing, but without waiting for the congregation's "Amen" after each invocation. The closing hymn was "Sent Forth by God's Blessing." The exit procession consisted of the same people who were in the entrance procession. About a third of the congregation had departed before the conclusion of the hymn. I was a bit relieved, actually; the organ (apparently connected to the speaker system) was a notch or two too loud, and despite my great respect for it, it was a bit much, proving that one can get too much even of a good thing.
* * * * * * * * * *
In Richmond, Victoria, Australia, Mass is offered at St. Ignatius Church on Church Street. Almost anywhere in the world, you can find a Catholic Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *