Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a
Lk 14:1, 7-14
The day was nice and I managed to get a bit of extra rest yesterday, so I left at 6:45 AM to take a walk to the railroad station and a pair of trains to a distant city on the bank of a river. Plan "A" called for a church with a 10 AM Mass to the south of the destination station, but owing to a late departure and electrical problems later in the trip requiring a reverse switch onto the center track, the train ran half an hour late, and Plan "A" had to be shelved for another day. I switched to Plan "B" without missing a beat; this led me to a parish with a 10:30 AM Mass to the north. After a ten-minute fast walk, I located the church and made my entrance. The outside cornerstone reads "1957;" the church is a replacement for an earlier building which was destroyed by a fire shortly before. The cornerstone from the original building is incorporated into the new building inside, near the sanctuary, and is dated "1866." The new building is a bit of a precursor to what would commonly follow in the 1960's but not nearly as plain.
The building is rectangular with a slight arch down the center. A square, peaked bell tower is situated on the corner, to the right as one enters the main doors. Inside, tall, rectangular stained-glass windows depict various biblical scenes. The wooden pews are split into two sections and probably hold between 700-1000 people when full. The racks are stocked with dog-eared copies of OCP's Breaking Bread from 2000 and current copies of WLP's ¡Celebremos!/ Let Us Celebrate! bilingual hymnal. The sanctuary still has a metal altar rail, at the top of a raised marble wall, but it likely is no longer used. The tabernacle is in the right side niche, apparently moved at some point from underneath the canopy over the location of the original altar, which also was moved or replaced. A freestanding altar covered in green is ahead of the canopy; underneath the canopy is a simple, traditional crucifix. At the left is the American flag; at the right is the Vatican flag. The marble ambo is at the right, flush with the altar rail. It has the initials of the four evangelists inscribed on it underneath a dove. Dark green pillars line the sides of the sanctuary. The celebrant's chair is at the left, facing the congregation, and near a second lectern. The rear wall of the sanctuary also has four statues mounted on it; they may have been the four evangelists, but it wasn't obvious. A choir loft is in the rear and is lined with the coats of arms from various bishops. Large electric fans were on pedestals along the side aisles.
Mass began near the stated time after the cantor eyed the 70 or so of us rather warily for a minute or two from the ambo. He then announced the opening hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth." An adult acolyte (a seminarian, perhaps-- not sure if he was officially installed), two readers, and the priest passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession. A server arrived slightly late and joined the others in the sanctuary shortly afterward. The priest took a moment to apologize for the lack of air conditioning and explained that on account of electrical storms in the area last week, a critical component of the air conditioning system was damaged and needed to be replaced but that would not be completed for another week or two, although the expense would be covered by insurance. Nevertheless, we should offer our sufferings to the Lord in praise and gratitude simply for being allowed to be in His presence. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. We then recited the Gloria.
The first reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor went to the ambo to recite the psalm for the day (maybe on account of the air conditioning situation?). Then the second reader went to the ambo to give the second reading. The cantor led the singing of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The deacon then went to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel.
The priest gave his homily from the ambo. He explained that Jesus was giving some rather practical advice, perhaps because people had a tendency to vie for the honored places in Jesus' time. He compared it to someone sitting at the table reserved for the bride and groom at a wedding reception, or someone walking in front of everyone standing on line at the supermarket checkout. The priest said that Jesus was definitely not telling us to do less than our best but that we need to do it in a spirit of humility, keeping in mind that Jesus-- not the priest, not the bishop-- is the guest of honor at Mass.
We recited the Creed, and then the deacon led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "Jesus Christ, Bread of Life." The organist played a verse of it on his own before the cantor invited us to join. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, some people stood immediately when the priest began the invitation; others stood at the correct point, after the invitation; and others waited until the congregation's response was complete.
The Mass setting was Mass of Creation, but it was a rather unpleasant rendition. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer after a slight pause while everyone knelt. We recited the Our Father. The sign of peace was quick and dignified, as one might expect in such a scattered congregation. After we sang the Agnus Dei, those to the left remained standing, while those in front of me to the right knelt. (Why does life seem like such a metaphor at times?)
Holy Communion was distributed by the priest, deacon, and acolyte at two stations in the front plus one additional station that I think was in the rear (maybe the choir loft?). The chalice was not offered. Distribution proceeded swiftly. The organist played music in the background.
After Holy Communion, the priest made three or four announcements, including a call for religious education instructors, a plug for a 50/50 raffle, and an invitation to anyone interested in the RCIA program starting in the fall. A second collection was taken. Then the priest imparted a simple blessing and the deacon gave the dismissal. The closing hymn was "All Creatures of Our God and King." The server, acolyte, readers, and priest left via the center aisle while we sang one verse. Most people remained to the end. I then slipped out via a side door and headed back to the train station. I didn't hustle, though, and I took an unnecessary detour of a block, so I barely missed the train even though I had just as much time to return as I had to get to the church. Thus I waited half an hour for the start of the journey home, and even though I was holding a church bulletin the whole time, no holy young ladies noticed and sat next to me, inquiring why anyone would be crazy enough to be taking a train to Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *
In Río de Janeiro, Mass is offered at Divine Mercy Church on Rua Divina Misericordia. There and elsewhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *