Week 299

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Dt 30:10-14
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37 or Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
Reading II
Col 1:15-20
Gospel
Lk 10:25-37

Wandering about the mainland looking for an 11:30 AM Mass, I settled on a church with a noon Mass in a suburban area with a downtown section. The building is colonial on the outside with a steeple on one corner; on the opposite corner a cornerstone reads "1961." At about 11:45 AM, I ascended the high steps towards the front entrance only to find that they were locked. "I will gain entry to this church," I vowed to myself nevertheless. Boldly, I walked to a side entrance to the left and descended a short flight of steps leading to the church basement, which was open. There, I saw a noisy group of people at one corner towards the sanctuary, nearest the parking lots; this would be the genesis of the congregation that would form over the next half hour.

I actually noticed that the wooden pews (separated into two sections by a center aisle and flanked by side aisles) were utterly devoid of any sort of hymnals or missalettes, so I returned to the lower narthex to look for them, but I did not see them anywhere else either, even though I saw a hymn board with numbers on it, so I decided that those in this parish must have all 600-800 hymns in the Gather hymnal committed to memory and were able to dispense with actual copies of the hymnal. Maybe next they'll get like the prisoners who know all the same jokes so well that they simply tell them by number? I know they use Gather only because the cantor said that the hymns were there. I actually saw one copy next to someone; maybe people buy personal copies for themselves? That remains a big question mark to me.

The lower church is pretty simple: the sanctuary has a canopy where the tabernacle and altar may have been originally, but the square metal tabernacle is now in the left niche. The altar is freestanding, with the celebrant's chair to the right rear. The ambo is at the left, and the choir and organ are at the right. The windows are simple, square, stained-glass with small emblems depicting saints and other religious themes. I believe the church is cut into the side of a hill, so the narthex end of the lower church actually has decent sized windows, while the sanctuary end has none at all, and the narthex end is not too far lowered below ground level. Air conditioning was used this afternoon; perhaps that is why Mass is offered in the lower church at this time of year if the upper church has none.

Mass started as the cantor welcomed any visitors to the parish. She then said, "As a sign of our unity, let us greet one another." Well, as long as I don't have to introduce myself, I guess I'll live. At this time the church (which seats 800-1000) was about half full. We sang the entrance hymn, "No Greater Love" as the procession passed through the center aisle. Three servers, seven extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, two readers, and the priest participated. Once in the sanctuary, the priest announced that he would be baptizing three babies at the Mass. He called their parents forward and asked them what they wanted for their children; they replied, "Baptism." I think this replaced the penitential rite; the Gloria was also omitted.

The first reader went to the ambo to give the first reading. The cantor led the singing of Psalm 19 from her spot at the right. A second reader gave the second reading from the ambo. We sang the Celtic Alleluia and verse before the Gospel as the priest carried the Book of Gospels high across the sanctuary to the ambo. After he proclaimed the Gospel, he went to the center of the sanctuary to deliver the homily.

The priest started by saying that Jesus really didn't answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Actually I think He did, but I decided not to say anything at that point. (I think Jesus was saying that everyone is our neighbor-- but if I wanted to give homilies, I should have become a priest.) Next was a story of five children with Down's syndrome who were competing in a race. One fell, got hurt, and started crying. Instead of completing the race, the other four stopped and started tending to their fallen comrade. The priest then wondered what robs us of the innocence with which we are born-- the natural inclination to help others in need. He also quoted Mother Teresa as she said that she tries to see Jesus in everyone she meets. Then he started tying the readings into the baptisms that were to take place.

The Creed was omitted. One of the readers led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, which included intercessions for the babies and their parents. Then the priest went through the Rite of Baptism. After each baptism, the Celtic Alleluia was repeated. After each baby was anointed with chrism, another acclamation of sorts was sung. After all this was completed, the priest asked us to welcome the "newest parishioners" and they received a round of applause.

A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed halfway across the pews and back; notable is that ushers started in the front and rear and met in the middle. The offertory hymn was "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." After the collection, the gifts were presented. By this time the church was about three-quarters full. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal; the typical glass flagon was also used. At the Orate Fratres prayer, most of those in the congregation stood at the right moment, though a few jumped the gun.

The setting for the remainder of the Mass was the Mass of Creation. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. Quite a few people joined hands for the Our Father (recited), but it was not suggested and quite a few people did not.

At Holy Communion, the "dual-station" method was employed with two stations for each species serving each of the two lines that formed in the center aisle. As I suspected based upon my initial observation of the distribution of the congregation in the pews, the left side finished much faster than the right, leaving me wondering why people don't redistribute themselves more sensibly (it makes things confusing for those on the more populated side in the back, since they get directed to the "wrong" side and get to take the grand tour, getting badly unsorted in the process). I imagine this situation is the norm at this parish on account of the parking lot location. The Communion hymns were "Blest Are They" and "Now in This Banquet." A sad note is that as much as a quarter of the congregation left immediately after Communion, including half the people in the pew where I was sitting. (I kept waiting for them to return, but I was disappointed.)

The priest offered the closing prayer; we remained standing while two announcements were read by a (I presume) lay person at the right. Then the priest gave a special blessing to the mothers of the infants, the fathers of the infants, and the remainder of the congregation. The closing hymn was "We Are Called." This was played to piano accompaniment, but despite this effort at populism, more than three-quarters of the congregation fled before it was complete. Those who remained started hand-clapping towards the end of the hymn for some reason and broke into a round of applause when the hymn was complete.

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In Theresa, Wisconsin, Mass is offered at St. Theresa Church on Church Street. Across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2003
Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999

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