2 Sm 5:1-3
Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Rain caused me to elect to use the car to get to Mass this morning, so I drove 45 minutes to the outskirts of a city that would be a destination in its own right if it weren't so close to a larger, better-known city. I parked twice and consulted my printed list and my map, finally settling on a parish with a 12:30 PM Mass. As I approached, I wasn't exactly certain of the exact location of the building, but a helpful sign reassured me that I was in the correct location. The parking lots mostly use a system that can try one's patience: cars are parked in lines such that one has to wait for all the cars ahead to leave. In a lot of low capacity and high usage, this may be the only realistic way to go. Nevertheless, I decided that parking on a nearby street made more sense and left closer spaces for the needier.
The building is square and bears a 1950 cornerstone. Upon entering, I heard shouts of "Renovation!" from the pews, the walls and the floors. Inside this square building I found a sanctuary at the center, surrounded by straight wooden pews in six main sections arranged in a complete circle around the sanctuary. Unlike other renovations, however, I see this one as not being arbitrary or unnecessary. Splitting the center of the square are several pillars, and a close inspection reveals that the flat ceiling on one side is somewhat lower than the flat ceiling on the other side. A side altar to the Blessed Mother is in one corner, along with the sacristy. Its mate seems to be missing, although a matching statue of St. Joseph is in another corner. Clearly the purpose of this renovation was necessary expansion more than silliness-- the original church must have been rectangular, and the size was doubled with an addition on the left side. The original main doors are evident, too-- all on the one side. It looks as though they made the best of a difficult situation, short of demolishing or abandoning the existing building (a common choice these days, since everyone covets "in the round").
A sort of circular dome is mounted over the sanctuary, and the traditional wooden crucifix hangs from that. The metal tabernacle is behind that. A black wrought-iron railing surrounds the sanctuary. A freestanding, white, marble altar is at the center. A matching cantor's lectern is at the right, and a slightly larger, matching ambo is at the left. Square plaster plaques on the side walls depict the Stations of the Cross. The stained-glass windows are high and rectangular. On what was the rear wall of the original sanctuary is a large painting depicting the universe with a figure of either God or Jesus (I didn't look closely enough) emanating from the center. Near that is the organ; the cantor served from a music stand at this location instead of the sanctuary. Racks by the doors hold copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette.
As I entered, I actually remembered to obtain a copy of the missalette (he never does that-- must be another counterfeit article-- get those authorities on the phone again) and proceeded to a location at the center of a section at a 90-degree angle to the sanctuary. By the start of the Mass, the pews were about half full. One of the two servers rang the bell outside the sacristy, and they proceeded with the priest across the back of the pews into the center aisle toward the sanctuary. The opening hymn was "Crown Him With Many Crowns." The priest gave a brief introduction from the altar and then went to his place (the center seat of three large bench-like seats, the other two of which were used by the servers). We recited the Confiteor and then the cantor led a chant of the Kyrie. We sang the Gloria to a setting that I am unable to identify. The priest chanted the opening prayer.
A young lady served as reader and gave the first reading from the ambo without incident. The cantor led the singing of the responsorial psalm from the music stand. The reader gave the second reading and then returned to her seat in the front pew alongside a woman who may have been her mother. Then the priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.
In his homily, the priest emphasized the kingship of Christ and expressed dissatisfaction with the political situation in his native country, which is now headed by a woman. Apparently a supreme court justice was murdered, and chaos looms on the horizon. He has lost his faith in earthly rulers, and the lesson is that we should place our faith in Jesus alone.
We recited the Creed, and a collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed across the pews by those in the congregation with only minimal assistance from the ushers. By this time the pews were more than three-quarters full as people continued to stream inside all through the Liturgy of the Word. The offertory hymn was "The Church's One Foundation." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, no one stood until the congregation's response was complete.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung to the Mass of Creation setting. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. One of the servers sounded bells at the consecration. At the Our Father, which we recited, I saw no evidence of joined hands. The priest did not invite us to offer the sign of peace, but some people did anyway even though the Agnus Dei (Holy Cross Mass) followed almost immediately after the preceding prayer. A note in my parish's bulletin says that the sign of peace is suspended for the winter, so perhaps this was done here as well. (I still say if it's unsafe in the winter, it's unsafe the rest of the year too. Disease takes no holiday.)
At Holy Communion, two additional priests appeared and assisted in the distribution. No extraordinary ministers were used, and the chalice was not offered. The three priests deployed themselves in a "Y" pattern, each serving two lines. The servers held patens to catch falling particles. The cantor sang what may have been some Gregorian-type chant on her own. After Communion, the celebrant and servers remained standing until one of the other priests returned the remaining Hosts to the tabernacle. About a fifth of the congregation disappeared after Communion.
A second collection was taken at this time in the same manner as the first, for Thanksgiving assistance to the needy. One of the extra priests gave a few announcements from the cantor's lectern. He seemed to have something tucked underneath his belt-- it looked a bit like a gun but I hope I was mis-seeing that object. Then the celebrant chanted the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Hail, Redeemer, King, Divine." We sang two verses, but most people started to leave during the first refrain because the priest had already made his way to the rear pew by then. By the end of the hymn, less than a quarter of the congregation remained.
I poked around the vestibule and found a program from Mass from two weeks ago-- it made reference to a "schola" that would sing Gregorian chant. Did I miss a great old-fashioned Mass at 11:00 AM, just like three weeks ago? I guess I'll never know. Sigh. After that, an itinerant worshipper returned to his car for an hour's trip home alone.
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In Goshen, Indiana, Mass is offered at St. John the Evangelist Church on Main Street. All across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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