Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Tm 1:12-17
Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10
I worked hard yesterday and thought I would sleep a bit late this morning, but, despite his injured leg, the cat got on the bed with me during the night and awakened me by 4:30 AM. I started thinking about work again and couldn't go back to sleep. Instead, I showered and shaved and left almost in the dark at 6:15 AM to take a long drive to a state where I don't get to attend Mass often. Yawning all the way, I took the most direct route and landed in the target state at about 8:40 AM. I saw a church that had a sign reading "9:30 AM" and drove around looking for something sooner but was unsuccessful. I drove back to the first parish but realized that I hadn't read the sign correctly; the 9:30 Mass was at a different church that I was unable to locate by 9:30. Instead, its Masses were at 8:30, 10:00, and 11:30. I returned at 10:00 AM but determined that the church was too small and crowded to accomodate itinerant worshippers, so I drove to the nearest large city and after some plaintive pleas to the Lord, I happened to drive past a big, old church at 10:25 AM or so, just as people were entering for what I hoped was a 10:30 AM Mass. After a few more anxious minutes, the demons were put at bay for a time, and I managed to locate a suitable parking spot and hurried past the cornerstone that read "MCMXXX." A check of the small sign on the door confirmed my suspicions, so I hastened inside and had no trouble finding a mostly empty pew.
The church is high and grand, mostly as it probably was in 1930. The walls are of light grey stone, with traditional stained-glass windows raised above head height. The Stations of the Cross are shown in small rectangular tapestries. The dark, wooden pews are split into four sections by a center aisle and a break about a third of the way back where the side entrances are located. The Gather Comprehensive hymnal, from GIA, is in racks in the pews. The dark brown reredo remains, minus the metal tabernacle which has been moved to the right side altar. An effort to balance the tabernacle was made by placing a Bible on the left side altar; I suppose this is better than placing an ambry or something of even lesser dignity there. A freestanding altar was covered in a white cloth with what looked like an American flag of sorts (might have had something to do with yesterday's anniversary). A white marble ambo with wood trim is at the left; A small cantor's lectern is at the right. The American flag is in the left rear corner of the sanctuary; the Vatican flag is at the right corner. A dark brown traditional crucifix (like all the other statues, including that of the Blessed Mother and the parish's patron saints) hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary. A choir loft is located over the narthex; a reasonably good choir of about eight people served from that location today.
Before Mass, the cantor led the recitation of the Pope's prayer for peace, pasted on the inside cover of the hymnal. Then we sang the entrance hymn, "Amazing Grace." Three servers, the reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. We recited the Confiteor and the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor led the responsorial psalm from the lectern; I don't think it was the psalm of the day. I recall that it was posted as number 100 on the hymn board. Then the reader gave the second reading. The cantor led us in singing the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the short form of the Gospel (no prodigal son).
The priest's homily began with the story of a prison inmate who was assigned to prepare the prison chapel for Mass each week. I may not have caught all of this as the priest had a bit of an accent. He would not attend the Mass at first but later relented-- but he still would not receive Communion. One Good Friday the other inmates venerated the Cross but this inmate did not. The chaplain asked about this and the inmate told him that he just looks at the Cross and tells Jesus that he is sorry for all his sins. Yes, I think I missed something. Sigh. The rest of the homily focused on how God is very much interested in recovering each and every one of His lost sheep.
We recited the Creed; the priest made a deep bow at the appropriate time. The reader 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, "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." A family presented the gifts. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. Everyone stood before the priest even began the Orate Fratres prayer.
The Mass setting was Mass of Creation. (I could probably take a plane to Africa, drive three hours, then hike on foot for another six hours through dense woods, mountains, and marshlands to a remote straw chapel and still get Mass of Creation.) The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Our Father as only a few close people discreetly joined hands.
The three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, who were seated in the right front pew, did not enter the sanctuary until the last possible moment, after the server sounded the bells and the priest had consumed the Sacred Species. Two stations were located in the front and two at the break; the chalice was not offered. Since more people were in the rear, it took almost twice as long to distribute to them as it took to distribute to those in the front. The Communion hymn was "Shepherd of Souls." The choir also sang a hymn on its own afterwards. I didn't notice what provision was made for the choir to receive Communion. After the priest finished distributing in the front, he and the servers sat at their seats in the rear of the sanctuary while the other two lay ministers were still distributing in the rear and the tabernacle was still open.
The priest gave the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. We sang the closing hymn, "Let There Be Peace on Earth," as the servers, reader, and priest departed via the center aisle. Most people stayed to the end.
Afterward, I roamed around this decaying industrial city typical of middle America today-- past many beautiful, old Catholic churches; rusty, abandoned steel mills; and overgrown railroad sidings. I thought of all the immigrant Catholics who worked so hard here in years past and wondered who will replace them.
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As you pass through Vine Grove, Kentucky, feel free to stop for Mass at St. Martin of Tours Church on St. Martin Road. There and elsewhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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