1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21
Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Gal 5:1, 13-18
I consulted my list of Mass schedules and located a parish I had never noticed before, even though it is only a few blocks from a major highway I've used often to travel to and from other parishes. It was actually my third choice, I suppose, but heavy traffic forced me to change course and eliminated the other two possibilities from consideration (they were earlier Masses). At about 11:25 AM I located the target parish, parked the car in the shade two blocks away, and approached on foot for the 11:30 AM Mass.
The church bears a 1969 cornerstone and has a brick exterior. The stained-glass windows are about halfway between traditional and modern and depict various Biblical scenes and quotations. The inside is not too bare considering the date of construction; it seems to have a bit of character. The wooden pews are grouped into four sections with a break about halfway back; the side sections are slightly shorter than the middle sections. Racks hold copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette. A small corner at the right holds a section for the choir; this is at a right angle to the rest of the pews and is bleacher-style. A piano is situated in front of this section but was not used today. Instead, the organist serves from a corner at the right of the sanctuary. This area has a high wall; the organ (and perhaps the original choir area) is behind a latticework of sorts. A similar design is on the left but is darkened; the pipes for the organ may have been behind there. Between these curved areas is a larger-than-life depiction of the Risen Christ over the square, metal tabernacle, which rests on an altar-like white marble pedestal. The freestanding altar is very similar but somewhat larger. The white marble ambo is at the left. The front of the sanctuary is circular and retains an altar rail, fully intact. Side altars for statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph also made it into this post Vatican-II design. A traditional crucifix is at the right front corner of the nave; it isn't particularly small in itself but is tiny compared to the giant depiction of the Risen Christ.
By the start of the Mass, the church, which can probably seat 750-1000, was about a third to half full. From what to me was an unseen location, the cantor/organist announced the opening hymn, "Love Divne, All Loves Excelling." This placement made the choir look kind of orphaned; choirs usually have leaders (although this one seemed okay nevertheless). Two extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (one of whom bore the processional cross), a reader, the deacon, and the priest participated in the entrance procession, which began on the left where the sacristy entrance leads into the break, passed through the break into the center aisle, and then to the sanctuary. An unusual motion was that the reader made a point of placing the Book of Gospels on the altar before those in the procession genuflected. We recited the Confiteor and the deacon led the Kyrie. We sang the Gloria to the Mass of Creation setting, and the priest offered the opening prayer.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading before stepping to the side. The cantor led the singing of the responsorial psalm for the day from her location behind the screen at the right. The reader then gave the second reading from the ambo. We sang the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel; the cantor led this. It was a three-Alleluia setting familiar to me. Then the deacon went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.
The homily, given by the priest, focused on the significance of the decision that Jesus asks of us all: to follow Him or not to follow Him. Today's Gospel was described as a "primer" for the really difficult decisions that Jesus will have for us later. The priest mentioned that he felt the reason for declining numbers in the priesthood had little to do with celibacy and more to do with the lack of people willing to make any sort of lifelong commitment (as is also evidenced by large numbers of people simply "living together" instead of actually getting married). Nevertheless, Jesus must come first, as He explained in a rather "honest and blunt" way, and no excuse is sufficient to stand in the way. "Not yet" is not a good enough answer to Jesus' call: it is either "yes" or "no." As difficult as it may be, we have to make that decision not only once, but every day, and the decision we may have made earlier is unimportant. Some of us, perhaps too keenly aware of our sinfulness, hesitate, thinking that we are unworthy or incapable-- but we need look only at the Cross to see how much God loves us and how much He wants us to follow Him. He also made mention of the pastor-- now a bishop-- of a parish from his childhood, but I've forgotten what the pastor said to him. Maybe before I finish this article it will come to me.
We recited the Creed, and I noticed that several of those in the choir bowed at the appropriate moment. The deacon led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Set Your Heart on the Higher Gifts." The chalice, paten, and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost no one stood until after the congregation's response was complete (except that the choir, which was already standing, remained standing throughout).
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung to a setting familiar to me but which I am unable to identify. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The server, who appeared shortly after the start of the Mass and who wore an unusual vestment (I guess one could call it a white robe with green surplice), sounded bells at the consecration.
We recited the Our Father; only those in the choir joined hands, as the rest of the congregation was too scattered to follow suit. The sign of peace was straightforward. We sang the Agnus Dei to the Holy Cross Mass setting.
At Holy Communion, the two extraordinary lay ministers of Holy Communion assisted the deacon and priest. The four stations were in the center aisle and at the sides. The chalice was not offered except to the extraordinary ministers. The choir and cantor sang an unannounced hymn on their own during Communion.
After Communion, a second collection was taken in the manner of the first while the organist played some music. Then the reader gave some announcements, all of which appeared in the bulletin. The priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle with the deacon, lay ministers, reader, and server. The closing hymn was "Now Thank We All Our God." About two-thirds of the congregation had left before the second verse was complete.
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Like most hamlets of any stature, Hinsdale, Massachussets has its very own Catholic parish: St. Patrick on Church Street. All around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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