Ps 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
2 Tm 3:14--4:2
I wandered about the region as I am wont to do on Sunday, searching for a parish where I haven't yet attended Sunday Mass. Once again, my printed schedule betrayed me, indicating 8:30 and 11:30 AM Masses at my second choice, whereas the sign outside read "9 and 11 AM." Consequently, I missed that by about fifteen minutes. I looked around some more, entering a parish that the printed sheet indicated had an 11:45 AM Mass. No, it was 12:30 PM. I then scooted to a nearby parish with a noon Mass and arrived just in time. It looked familiar, but I realized that I was there one All Saints' Day for what was probably a simple Mass.
The cornerstone reads 1882, but some features have not survived renovation. This church has not changed nearly as much as the one I visited last week and remains very ornate, but after we pass between the twin spires outside, the signs are obvious inside. The original altar and reredo are intact, and the main tabernacle there is still in use, but the sanctuary has been pulled forward and a freestanding altar now rests at its center. A few rows of pews on either side have been turned at right angles to the rest to give the "in the round" feeling that so many liturgists and church architects seem to covet these days. Still, this is less forced than last week's approach and didn't look too bad in this particular building, which is large enough to withstand the treatment. (In a smaller church, it can border on the ridiculous.) The side altars with their statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph remain but with small flower stands in front of the tabernacles. I think I saw remnants of the altar rail moved forward somewhat. The organist and choir of about half a dozen folks served from a spot to the left of the sanctuary (although the empty choir loft remains). A balcony-style ambo with a spiral staircase also remains to the right of the sanctuary and was actually used today. Six sets of triple-arched niches line the sides of the nave. The front four sets are confessionals that look unchanged from the outside. The rear two sets house candle stands and shrines; perhaps originally these were confessionals too. The pews are in four sections with a center aisle, side aisles, and a break about halfway back, but wooden dividers split each section into two dead-end halves. Massive stone columns fall about where the wooden dividers run. The domed ceiling is very high, with large, traditional stained-glass windows depicting various saints and biblical scenes.
I entered and grabbed a bulletin but neglected to obtain a copy of the Gather Comprehensive hymnal in order to preserve my reputation. By the time I realized my error, it was too late to go get one. Mass started with the entrance hymn, "Sing of the Lord's Goodness." The hymns were all announced by number only. A server, three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest passed through the center aisle. We sang the Kyrie without any invocations, and then we sang the Gloria to "A New Mass for Congregations" setting by Carroll T. Andrews.
The reader, a religious brother in his habit, ascended to the ambo and gave the first reading. We sang the psalm for the day, and then the reader gave the second reading. We sang the Alleluia without the verse before the Gospel verse as the priest ascended the steps to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel. He came down from the ambo and stood in front of the sanctuary to give the homily. This may not be standard; a group of Sunday school students occupied the front sections, and many priests preach from that point when students are present even if they use the ambo otherwise.
The priest engaged the students in some dialogue, asking them for what sorts of things they pray, and then said that perhaps we should not pray for some things, such as that the Yankees win or that someone get some sort of curse. He kind of reiterated the Gospel message about being persistent and not losing heart.
After this, he went over three points of change in the liturgy. WIDOS readers learned of these a year ago, but news must travel slowly in this remote region far from civilization, and probably few people in the parish monitor this web site. At least he tried, though. He explained about bowing at the appropriate moment during the Creed, standing for the response to the Orate Fratres invitation (based on his explanation, I doubt that this parish will get it right), and bowing before receiving Holy Communion. That last explanation was seriously defective inasmuch as it also included the proper way to receive Communion in the hand (one hand over the other) but made no reference whatsoever to Communion on the tongue as an option.
We recited the Creed, and I didn't notice any more bowing than usual. The reader returned to the ambo to lead the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets held by the ushers. The offertory hymn was "The Lord Is My Hope." I think this was sung to piano acompaniment (a synthesizer may have been used). A family of three presented the gifts. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. The priest didn't even give the Orate Fratres invitation; he asked everyone to stand, and everyone stood and gave the response without an invitation. Sigh.
I can't identify the Mass setting used, but I'm working on techniques to make this less of a problem, as we can see from the link to the Gloria above. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Our Father without much hand-holding. The sign of peace was dignified, marred only by the priest's walking to the front rows to greet those in the congregation, despite the GIRM's prohibition on such activity.
We sang the Agnus Dei. Three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assisted the priest. Everyone received via the center aisle, including those on the sides. The chalice was offered. The Communion hymn was "On Eagle's Wings." A considerable number of people-- possibly a quarter to a half of those in line-- received only a blessing from the priest or lay minister. I find this tedious, but it's lots better than giving Communion to people who shouldn't be receiving it.
After Communion, the priest made a few announcements, gave the closing prayer, and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Though the Mountains May Fall." The server, lay ministers, reader, and priest passed through the center aisle; almost everyone remained to the end of the hymn. The Mass lasted an hour and a quarter. Then I had to plot a course of exit that somehow passed me through the only unlocked pair of doors without taking me past the priest, who was standing outside. I eventually waited for him to come inside so that I could leave. A sad, sad case, this itinerant worshipper!
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In Tabernacle, New Jersey, Mass is offered at the Church of the Holy Eucharist on Medford Lakes Road. All around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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