Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14
I rose this morning and once again dressed up for Mass before heading for the railroad station in search of an uplifting Mass. My mother admired my appearance (a haircut and fresh soles on my shoes help too) and my father said, "The women must think you're too good for them." Sigh. Today's journey involved a railroad train, a two-block walk, two subway trains, and another block or two of walking. I was aiming for a church that I recalled had a 10:00 AM Mass, so when the train started slowing at 9:52 AM or so just before the stop where I would exit, I began to suspect demons at work again, although I had some confidence that the angels would win somehow in the end. The train finally stopped in the station at 9:54 or so, and I made it to the target parish by about 9:57. When I opened the doors and found an empty church, I realized that the demons were simply playing on my nerves, lack of organization, and lack of basic liturgical knowledge. I glanced at the bulletin and saw that the Mass was at 10:30 AM. Oh, well. At least I was early and not late.
The cornerstone reads "1941" but some changes have been made inside since then. The outside is brown brick with a large circular stained-glass window in the peak over the main doors. Behind those doors is a small narthex where a sign instructs the faithful on the importance of regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even if one does not recall any mortal sins. Another sign encourages regular recitation of the Rosary. Over the narthex is a medium-sized choir loft, where the organist and a choir of about half a dozen people served today. The pews are split into four sections by a center aisle and side aisles and a break about a quarter of the way (six rows) back. Copies of GIA's RitualSong hymnal and WLP's Seasonal Missalette are stacked at the ends of the pews. Signs of modernity have crept into the plain stained-glass windows high atop the nave in the form of ordinary window air conditioners cut into a corner of each window-- they are even inside a pair of small circular windows near the front.
The square, metal tabernacle has been moved to the side altar in the right transept, making it difficult to see from behind some of the pillars along the side aisles. That may not be the original tabernacle; I suspect that the original may have been a vault in the rear wall of the sanctuary inside a simple reredo. That space was covered by a flower stand today. A freestanding altar occupies the center of the sanctuary, and this may well be the original as I did not see an altar on the rear wall-- just a bare marble wall that looked as though it needed an altar in front of it to be complete. A wooden ambo is at the left, and to the left of that is the other side altar, where the statue of Our Lady remains and the statue of St. Joseph holding a young Jesus has joined her-- as last week, slightly lower and off to one side. Six figures are painted on the reredo underneath a painting of the Crucifixion. Small posters of the various mysteries of the Rosary, including the Luminous Mysteries, are pasted on the pillars. A statue of St. Therese of Lisieux surrounded by red roses is found at the front right of the sanctuary, in front of the cantor's lectern.
I took a seat in the last row of the front section, but one by one four Sunday school classes entered; when the third one appeared, I decided to move further to the rear before someone came to escort me. Someone sat next to me after this, but somehow a missalette appeared alongside me (this person must have read last week's article and knew what to do to keep me from complaining). During this time, several of the elder ladies of the church were preparing for the induction of new members of the St. Theresa Guild; the Guild occupied four or five rows at the front left of the rear section. They were talking quite a bit. The priest seemed to be spending quite a bit of time in the sanctuary preparing as well. At about 10:33, the Mass finally began with the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers." We sang two verses as a server, two extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest passed through the center aisle. We didn't get to the third, modern verse that started "Faith of our mothers..."
The priest went to the ambo and asked us to sit as he blessed medals for the new members of the St. Theresa Guild and along with a lay woman (not sure if she was a cantor or maybe president of the Guild) inducted the three new members (a fourth was called forward but failed to appear). After the induction, the three ladies received a round of applause. We then rose and the priest made the sign of the Cross before reciting the entrance antiphon and inviting us to recite the Confiteor. The choir led the Kyrie (in English). We recited the Gloria.
From a seat in the first row, the reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The choir led the responses to the psalm for the day but the reader recited the verses. Then the reader gave the second reading. We sang the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. In an unusual twist, the priest proclaimed the Gospel and gave his homily from the altar.
The homily was directed toward the Sunday school children. He explained that Jesus response to the disciples in the Gospel was basically, "Faith is not a matter of degrees. Either you have it or you don't." He told a story of an eager young child who was about to receive his first Holy Communion. He ran and asked his grandfather if he would receive with him. The grandfather said sadly, "I can't go with you. I have no faith. Pray that God may give me faith." Finally, he pointed to a "Jesus, I trust in You" banner in the right transept and asked the schoolchildren to stand, face the congregation, and say, "Jesus, I trust in You." Then he asked the adults to say to the schoolchildren, "Jesus, I trust in You."
We recited the Creed, and the reader went to the ambo to lead the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as the gifts were presented and we sang "To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King." The chalices and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, no one stood until after the congregation's response was complete.
A musical setting I am unable to identify was used for the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. Everyone knelt during the consecration. We recited the Our Father without any serious hand-holding that I could see.
At Holy Communion, three lay ministers assisted the priest in distribution in a conventional manner at two stations in the center aisle for each form of Communion. We sang "I Am the Bread of Life" as the Communion hymn. After Communion, a second collection was taken while the choir sang a hymn on its own. The reader went to the ambo to give a few short announcements. The priest read the Communion antiphon, offered the closing prayer, and gave a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle to the hymn "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." Almost everyone left after the first refrain (before the first verse)-- including the schoolchildren, led by their teachers, which I found particularly offensive. However, those in the St. Theresa Guild remained until the end. I wonder if any single young ladies were members of that organization?
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In Bush, Louisiana, Mass is offered at St. Michael the Archangel Church on Highway 41. Almost anywhere across the nation or around the world you may be, you can find a Catholic Mass.
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