Even though I was doing better on foot and by mass transit in recent weeks, it was a bit hot for that today, so I went outside and had a chat with the car. "Car," I said, "In the spirit of forgiveness, I'm going to give you another chance. Take me to a decent parish today." The car sat silently, saying to itself, "This guy is crazy. Talking to a car. They should lock him up."
I drove 40 minutes to a parish near the center of the diocese, in the home town of a well-known entertainer. The 9:00 AM Mass is marked "family Mass first and third Sunday of the month," so I figured that the 10:15 AM Mass might be a choir Mass. I actually guessed correctly again, as far as I can tell, so I won't be buying any lottery tickets this week, as I used all my luck on that.
I arrived at about 10:00 AM and looked for a shady spot in the parking lot, but the large lot has no shade of any sort, so I just took a vacant spot near the perimeter and went inside. I could not help but notice that many attendees were dressed for barbeques or the beach, but I guess it's no wonder when so many parishes use barbeque lighters to light the candles. (I didn't actually see how it's done at today's parish.) The building is kind of non-descript; it's basically a large auditorium that flares wider in the rear, although it's not "in the round," either. The rear wall of the sanctuary consists of dark wooden paneling with lattice work and a large, square, abstract stained-glass window in the center. The tabernacle has been moved to the right side altar; both side altars are on gray brick walls. The wooden ambo is to the right and has vertical millwork. The windows are clear, rectangular glass; the rest of the church is white. The ceiling has some ruffles but is otherwise plain with obvious circular air-conditioning vents and recessed loudspeakers. The light, wooden pews are divided into four sections with five aisles and no break.
I took a seat in the center of a pew about two-thirds of the way back and decided to copy the hymn titles onto the back of the bulletin. Of the two hymn boards, only one was in use. Paluch missalettes are in racks at the ends of the pews; the middle sections are neglected and have no racks for some reason. I looked in the missalette and quickly saw that the highest number in the book was lower than the number of the lowest hymn to be used today. The presence of GIA Gather hymnals in some pews and a wheeled cart by the door holding those hymnals then registered in my head, so I trudged back to the entrance to obtain the Gather hymnal, which is the 1994 edition-- rather different from the 1986 edition in use at my parish.
As I was collecting my bearings, a small choir of about five people gathered with the organist in the choir loft in the rear. Some of the choir, I suppose, may have been absent on this holiday weekend. The Mass began as the cantor announced the opening hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord, God Almighty." Only one verse of this hymn was sung. A server, the reader, and the priest were the only participants in the entrance procession down the center aisle. The penitential rite was recited, followed by a recited Gloria.
The reader did a good job with the first reading. The young cantor then sung the psalm for the day but appeared to have a bit of trouble with it. The reader continued with the second reading, and then the verse before the Gospel was sung. The priest then carried the Book of Gospels to the ambo and read the Gospel. Following that, he introduced a lay speaker who would give us a talk on Stewardship. My first reaction was, "Oh, no! I hope he's not the infamous speaker from week four!" Fortunately, God had mercy on me, and a different speaker took the ambo, so we were spared hugging and the like. As he began, he was almost inaudible and had to be told to speak louder, but the priest was barely audible too, so I must conclude that the loudspeaker system in this building is a bit weak, particularly towards the center of the pews. (Extra speakers are mounted on the side walls, so it may have been better there.)
The speaker, who spoke only of Time and Talent, noted the 38 ministries in the parish and suggested that all of us could do something and could join at least one organization. He asked us what would happen if the roof started springing leaks, requiring buckets to be placed in more and more places throughout the church, and nobody said anything. He mentioned last week's second reading, which referred to "many gifts but the same Spirit." After he left, he was given a hearty round of applause.
Rather than skip the homily altogether, the priest, to his credit (or the pastor's credit, as the pastor usually decides these things), gave a brief homily about the Trinity, which made me feel a bit better, as I had been thinking that the subject of the Trinity was too important to overlook. He started by mentioning an Army pin of some sort, although I forget how he tied this into the Trinity. (He was still kind of hard to hear, and frankly, I had trouble paying attention even though I wanted to record the gist of his remarks here.) His point was basically that the Trinity is a community of sorts, and likewise, we as believers are called to be a community.
The Creed was recited, and then the Prayer of the Faithful was also recited, ending with the group recitation of the Stewardship Prayer rather than the usual priest's prayer. The prayer is on laminated cards in the racks with the missalettes, which made it hard to obtain at that time from the center of the pew. A collection was taken using long-handled baskets as all the verses of the hymn "O God, Almighty Father" were sung.
The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung from the Mass of Creation. The priest sung those parts that should be sung. The Our Father was sung a cappella to the usual setting. At the Sign of Peace, the priest stepped into the pews to shake hands with some in the congregation. The Agnus Dei was sung to the same setting as I heard last week, which I think must be the Mass of the Angels and Saints as all the others I know are in the Worship and Gather hymnals at my parish, and I'm sure it's not any of those. (It starts, "Laaaaaamb of God...")
Five lay ministers stepped forward to assist with Holy Communion; one retrieved ciboriums from the tabernacle. The cup was not offered. The choir members came from the choir loft and filed to the front of the church to receive first. Two stations were at the center, and a dual-station approach was used for the two side sections of pews (somewhat shorter than the center sections). The logic of this is not clear to me. The Communion hymn was not listed correctly on the hymn board; it was "I Am the Bread of Life," #828 rather than #428, the Latin hymn "Surrexit Dominus Vere I." (I had found the possibility of a Latin hymn interesting and puzzling when I looked before Mass, but it was not to be.) After Communion, a lay minister returned ciboriums to the tabernacle.
A second collection was then taken. The reader waited at the cantor's lectern until the collection was almost finished to read several announcements. I cannot understand the reason for this; in week 29 I noted that announcements are a grimy compromise included of necessity and not a highly solemn part of the liturgy requiring our undivided attention. The same can be said of the collection, so performing both actions at the same time is perfectly acceptable, and waiting for one to finish before beginning the other is silly. I'd rather see the first Eucharistic Prayer used than serializing the announcements and collection if a choice has to be made.
The priest then offered the closing prayer and then asked us to bow our heads to pray for God's blessing as if he were going to offer a solemn blessing or "prayer over the people," but instead he just imparted a simple blessing. Two verses of "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" were sung. The cantor did not keep pace with the choir and organist, who were going fairly rapidly. This confused everyone so much that about half the people left after the first verse. [grin] Those remaining at the end offered a round of applause.
As I left, I started running toward the car, but then I remembered my solemn duty to obtain the date from the cornerstone, so I walked toward the building and started looking for it. I finally found the date "1961" on an attached school; since no other date appears on the rest of the building, and it seems reasonable given the architecture of the building, I presume that it applies to the entire structure.
I grabbed a Stewardship leaflet as I left; it lists all the ministries in the parish. Among them is that of "Proclaimers." For those baffled by this designation, a helpful hint is offered in parentheses: "(Lectors)." Well, at least that might alleviate the confusion between rare, canonically-installed lectors and the almost universally used ad hoc readers (as I call them).
In any case, I think the car learned its lesson and at least kept me from a really poor experience, so perhaps I will use it again next week.