Am 6:1a, 4-7
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
1 Tm 6:11-16
Since the best thing to do after falling off a horse is to remount immediately, I put aside last week's disappointing experience and continued my liturgical meanderings today by taking a railroad train and five subway trains to a parish that has been beckoning to me for some time from the foot of a major bridge as I passed many times en route to other destinations. After a two and a half hour journey (including the twenty-minute walk to the railroad station), I ascended the staircase from the subway at 10:51 AM and looked around; the church was directly across the street and the pedestrian signal was even in my favor; the final obstacles had been overcome. I ran across the street past a cornerstone reading "A. D. 1925" and made my way inside.
The church has been renovated since 1925 but still looks halfway decent, all things considered. Outside we see brown brick with a high, peaked roof and a high, square, peaked bell tower at one corner. As we enter, we walk underneath a large choir loft that was used by about a dozen folks in red robes. The arched, stained-glass windows depict various biblical scenes. The pews are separated by a center aisle, side aisles, and a break about halfway back. The side pews are slanted to give the appearance of "in the round" and abut the walls. (This almost certainly was not an original feature; in 1925 nobody cared about that sort of thing.) The altar rail is gone and the sanctuary has been pulled forward slightly and now has a circular front. A freestanding white marble altar is at the center; the white marble ambo is at the left and to the front. To the left of that, a chapel was created for the metal tabernacle behind where the side altar was originally located. It is an open chapel, and it wasn't too hard for me to locate as I entered even though it is in a corner. A confessional near that has been converted to a single-door arrangement; its mate on the opposite side of the church-- yes, the right side-- retains the traditional two-door plan. (Did someone have a sense of humor when this was decided?) The canopy on the rear wall of the sanctuary remains. Underneath that is a painting of the Crucifixion, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John standing at the foot of the Cross. The cantor's lectern is at the right, near where the right side altar was. That space is now home to both the statue of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, which were almost certainly separated in the original layout. They are mounted on the wall, under an arch, with Mary slightly higher than Joseph.
This leads to the theme, I suppose, of this week's article. Whereas last week's theme was mostly anger, today the theme is sadness, for once again I had to sit through a Mass looking at a pretty young female cantor who had no ring I could see. Sigh. I tried to use some telepathy to interest her in running over to me after Mass, but it didn't seem to have any effect. "A great chasm is established..." She started the Mass by announcing the opening hymn, "The Summons." It was in the Music Issue in the racks in the pews (along with Today's Missal) but because I selected a spot at the center of the pew and other worshippers quickly sat on either side of me, and, as in many parishes for reasons bewildering to me, the center sections of the pews have no missalettes or hymnals, I was unable to obtain a copy, so I couldn't sing that one as I don't know the words. Three servers, three extraordinary lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. We recited the Confiteor. We sang the Gloria to a nice setting that I don't believe I had heard before. (I wish every parish had program sheets, although that wasn't enough to redeem last week's parish.)
To my surprise, the cantor walked across the sanctuary to the ambo and gave the first reading. She then led the responsorial psalm for the day, singing the refrains but reciting the verses. The cantor then gave the second reading and led the singing of the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The priest walked from his seat underneath the canopy and proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo before giving the homily.
The message of the homily was pretty much that of the Gospel. The priest explained that we all are different, but some differences, such as height are insignificant and others, such as wealth and poverty, are not. He said that these differences can become occasions of sin if they lead to indifference to the plight of others.
We recited the Creed, and the cantor 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, "Whatsoever You Do." The proceeds of the collection were brought with the gifts to the altar; the priest weighed the basket in his hands before returning it to the usher to be removed via a side door. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, while a glass flagon held additional wine. At the Orate Fratres prayer, a few people stood while the priest was still speaking; most rose at about the correct time; and some stragglers were still rising during the congregation's response.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were from the Mass of Creation. This particular rendition wasn't too bad; a few horns and a soprano/alto split gave it a bit of class, and possibly even some of those in the anti-Mass of Creation camp might have found this parish's arrangement appealing. After the Sanctus, everyone knelt. (It should go without saying, but after last week...) The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration, while someone from the loft added three chimes. We recited the Our Father without any joined hands I could see but sang the embolism, "For the kingdom..." That is something I don't believe I ever saw before. The sign of peace was fairly quick, as the choir promptly stepped into the void with the Agnus Dei, sung to a setting I cannot identify.
At Holy Communion, three additional lay ministers materialized to join the other three. One quickly grabbed a ciborium and rushed to the choir loft while the others remained, though they too eventually took vessels on their own instead of waiting for the priest to give them in an orderly and dignified fashion. (They were given Communion by the priest though.) At least no leavened bread was used; I guess we have to be thankful for the positives. The Communion hymn was "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." Four lines formed, two in the center aisle and one in each side aisle, with a minister for the chalice shared between two lines on the left and two lines on the right. Those in the rear received first, but more annoying was that those in the center pews could go either to the right or to the left. Since I was in the center, neither those to my left nor those to my right waited for me to return the the pew and I was actually shut out and had to go to a different pew (possibly disrupting others). Distractions such as this are rather annoying when one should be focused on the Sacrament and not the incidentals, and it makes a good case for a more orderly method of distributing Holy Communion.
After Communion, a lay woman went to the ambo and made several announcements, several of which she said were "not in the bulletin." (She was reading my mind!) A second collection was taken at this time. She received a round of applause for her fine job of reading those announcements. Then a nun went to the ambo and made a pitch for a gala dinner to be held at a big hotel in a neighboring diocese. She also received a round of applause. (Sometimes I think if I went to the ambo and gave a stern condemnation of applause at Mass I'd receive a round of applause too!) Finally, the priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing before leaving via the center aisle with only two servers and three lay ministers to the closing hymn, "How Great Thou Art."
I was sorely tempted to ask the pretty cantor what Gloria she used, but she just might have fallen for me, and I'd have a bunch of angry, unhappy parishioners beating me for trying to take away their wonderful cantor. Instead, I slipped out the door and headed back to the subway, never to see her again in this life, instead wandering to other parishes to sigh at their pretty female cantors or raise my fist at liturgical abuse or indifference.
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In Cheney, Nebraska, Mass is offered at St. Michael Church on First Street. Across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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