Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Phmn 9-10, 12-17
My mother said that today would be a nice day, so I consulted a railroad schedule and decided upon a three-hour railroad trip to a city noted for an important university. I printed a map and a list of several nearby parishes, figuring that I'd get to one of them. After I left the second train, I started looking at the map. One parish had a 10 AM Mass but the train arrived on schedule just before 10 AM and I did not have enough time to get there on foot. If only I could stomach taxicab drivers and their insane ways, I might have a chance on that one. My second choice had a 10:15 AM Mass. After a twenty-minute walk, I managed to enter just in the nick of time.
I stole a glance at the cornerstone as I hastened my way inside; it showed a date of 1912. The highly ornate church appears mostly intact. It is so ornate that I can barely begin to describe it, much less do it justice in such a short article. Atop the cornerstone, at the left, is a short, peaked bell tower. To the right are three arched entrance doors. One passes through a small narthex underneath the choir loft before entering the nave. The wooden pews are in four sections, with the side sections abutting the walls. Rising from a small corner of the left center section is a balcony-style ambo that was not used today. (As I often ask, for what Mass are they saving it?) Hanging on the side wall at the right front is a large crucifix. The side altars remain with statues of Mary and Joseph (I think) but their tabernacles received the flower stand treatment. The tabernacle within the reredo on the original main altar is the one still in use. A large freestanding marble altar has a full-color depiction of the Last Supper on the front. The marble altar rail remains, minus the center gates. The church is filled with traditional stained-glass windows depicting various saints. The Stations of the Cross are full sculptures mounted on the walls. Racks in the pews hold copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette and copies of OCP's Glory and Praise hymnal are stacked on the ends of the pews.
A voice from the choir loft, where the organist and about half a dozen choirsters were located, announced the opening hymn, "Come, Christians, Join to Sing." Five servers, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion dressed in the same white cassock as the servers, and the priest participated in the entrance procession from the sacristy at the right front, down the side aisle to the break, and then through the center aisle. We recited the Confiteor and the Gloria. After the opening prayer, everyone remained standing until the priest returned from behind the altar to his chair at the left-- except for an itinerant worshipper who didn't know any better and was unfamiliar with this local custom.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading, stepping aside while a voice from the loft led us in singing the responsorial psalm for the day. The reader went back to the ambo to give the second reading. We sang the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The priest then went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.
In the homily, the priest explained that we can't simply ignore what Jesus is telling is today simply because it seems harsh. He told us that what Jesus wants is not really "hate" but rather total dedication to Him. In fact, Jesus repeatedly emphasized our obligations to our neighbors and friends. One cannot be a "half-Christian." We must take our Christianity and allow it to influence everything we say and do.
We recited the Creed, and then the reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Here I Am, Lord." The gifts were presented, and a second collection was taken in like manner as the first. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer everyone stood as soon as the priest began the invitation to pray.
The Mass setting was Mass of Creation. (Some of you are probably asking, "Why does he take three-hour railroad trips to hear Mass of Creation?" Sometimes I ask myself the same question.) The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration. We sang the Our Father to the most common setting. The ushers marched to the front before the sign of peace and worked their way through the pews greeting those in the congregation all through the Agnus Dei.
Only the one lay minister assisted the priest in distributing Holy Communion at two stations on the center aisle; the chalice was not offered. The servers held patens to collect fallen particles. The Communion hymn was "Unless a Grain of Wheat." After Communion, a "meditation hymn" was "Christ Be Beside Me."
The priest gave the closing prayer, and then the reader made one announcement while we remained standing; it concerned nuns, stationed at tables outside, selling raffle tickets. The closing hymn was "Lift High the Cross." Those in the entrance procession made their way through the center aisle as we sang two verses. Most people remained to the end, around 11:05 AM.
Afterward, I meandered through the streets of this city, looking for other Catholic churches, as I had almost an hour to return to the railroad station. One church was supposed to have a 10:45 Mass but was locked and deserted by 11:10 AM. Another church is also nice-looking and tempting; it has a 12:00 noon "solemn Mass" advertised as having Latin (though probably not Tridentine, which makes it all the more interesting). Maybe a return visit is in order. Nearby is the university; all its buildings look like small churches or chapels, which I found confusing. Then I passed a large, multi-story building belonging to a charitable organization, but this looked like the headquarters of a major conglomerate instead. Finally, I made it back to the railroad station just in time for the train home, saving me an hour's wait for the following train.
* * * * * * * * * *
If you happen to be near Biddeford, Maine, why not stop for Mass at St. Mary Church on St. Mary Street? There and everywhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *