Is 35:1-6a, 10
Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
The clerk in the auto parts store explained the situation to me carefully but emphatically. "You don't just want any old pair of wiper blades," he said. "You want winter blades."
"What on earth is the difference?" I asked, betraying my utter lack of knowledge of automobiles and anything related to them.
"Women can spot winter blades a kilometer away," he patiently continued. "They will see that you are a sophisticated person, and they will be able to rely on you to be not just a warm lover, but also a good provider and a handy gentleman. All women want to marry a man who can maintain a car-- they don't want to have to be embarrassed by having to go to their fathers when they have car trouble."
"You sure about this?" I said hesitantly, recalling similar experiences in other establishments.
"Just put these winter blades on your windshield and park your car near a church on Sunday morning. I"m absolutely certain you'll have a crowd of holy young ladies milling around your car when you return, just dying to see who the sharp young man with the winter blades is."
"They do cost more than regular blades..."
"Look, do you want that finger to be bare all your life?" he said impatiently as he pointed to my naked ring finger.
"Okay, you win. Put them in the bag, " I said, mesmerized by the thought of a crowd of young ladies encircling the car.
"I knew you'd see the light," the clerk said as the "approved" message flashed on the credit card terminal and a look of satisfaction brightened his face.
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The demons were busy doing their holiday shopping, so I managed to awaken at a sensible hour, left at the reasonable time of 8:40 AM, and had clear sailing to a parish with a 10:00 AM Mass. I had figured that I might have a line of cars following me after women noticed my new set of winter windshield wiper blades, but I kept looking back and saw no one behind me. Perhaps the sensible ladies were sleeping late this morning. In any case, despite some slight wrong turns, I arrived at the church around five minutes to ten, looked about the wooden pews split by a center aisle and a break about halfway back, and selected a seat in a row shortened by a baptismal font at the right front section of the nave.
I glanced at the cornerstone as I hurried inside; it reads "1951." One could be forgiven for wondering if it were laid then and left without a building for ten or fifteen years, as the inside is essentially a large rectangular auditorium. However, a closer inspection reveals that the inside has various trimmings that actually hearken back to the 1930's and 1940's. By 1951 the process of change had begun-- long before the Second Vatican Council-- but it still had a distance to go. The ceiling is quite high over walls with traditional, arched stained-glass windows depicting various saints. The lower half of the walls is finished with light brown marble-- something that would be less likely in a later church. The Stations of the Cross are shown on square carvings recessed into the lower portion of the walls. Candle holders line the walls about half way up. The two left confessionals have been removed. One now is a little shrine to the Blessed Mother, while the other now is home to the statue of St. Joseph that undoubtedly was bumped from the right side altar after the tabernacle was moved there from its original location. One has to wonder if Mary and Joseph would rather be in a stable than have homes at the expense of a place for forgiveness of sins. In any case, the confessionals at the right remain, and in fact I saw a priest leave one confessional just before Mass (confessions are heard before every Mass). Now, does this mean that only rightists sin?
The sanctuary is in its original location, but as I mentioned, the tabernacle migrated to the right. The presider's chair and servers' chairs are at the center of the rear wall underneath a traditional crucifix. A long, freestanding marble altar is at the center of the sanctuary; this could perhaps be the original, moved forward. At the left is a circular marble ambo which matches the walls. On the right is a small cantor's lectern consisting of a top over two posts. The altar rail is truncated to short sections at the left and right. The left side altar retains its statue of Our Lady. Over the main entrance is a choir loft that apparently is still used, as the organist served from there.
Mass began as the cantor, dressed in a white robe, introduced the entrance hymn, "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus." Like all the hymns used today, it was in OCP's Today's Missal, which was in racks in the pews together with Music Issue. Seven servers, six extraordinary ministers of holy communion, a reader, and the priest passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession. Three lay ministers took places in the right front pew and the other three took the left front pew. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite, chanting the words, "Lord, have mercy." The Gloria was omitted for Advent. The priest offered the "regular" opening prayer.
A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor led the responsorial psalm from the lectern; he had noted before Mass that we would be singing the psalm from the first Sunday of Advent, "just so there would be no confusion." Okay. Next, the reader gave the second reading from the ambo. The cantor led the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel, which we sang to the Mass of Light setting (Haas). This is the one that in Lent goes, "Glory to You, O Word of God, Lord Jesus Christ," but today was simply three Alleluia's sung to the same tune. Accompanied by two servers bearing candles, the priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.
After the servers returned to their places, the homily began with a joke about a preacher and his director of music, who did not get along well. Eventually, the preacher would preach something, and the music director would follow it with a hymn that undermined the preaching. Finally, the preacher informed the congregation that he was quitting, as Jesus had led him there and now Jesus was leading him away. The music director then announced the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." (One version of this joke is found here.) I tied to discern the relationship of the joke to the rest of the homily or the readings but was unable to do so. This was followed by a historical background of the political situation at the time of the Gospel; in particular, the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to be an earthly warrior leading huge armies to liberate them from the Romans. Even John the Baptist started to have his doubts; he was languishing in prison after having spent so much time announcing the Good News. This led to the question of whether we are willing to accept God on His terms rather than our own-- if we believe only if God does X, Y, and Z just as we ask, then we aren't much better than the scribes and Pharisees.
We recited the Creed, and then the reader went to the lectern and led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. This included a necrology of parishioners who died on this date over the last forty years or so. Two collections were taken in succession using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "People, Look East." After this was concluded, the organist played "O, Come, O Come Emmanuel" and (I believe) the Hyfrydol tune alone while the priest prepared the gifts. The common glass flagon made an appearance, but it would be only a cameo as its contents were immediately poured into four smaller serving chalices made of metal (as was the ciborium). At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost the entire congregation stood as the priest was offering the invitation to pray.
We continued with the Mass of Light setting as the priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer and we sang Memorial Acclamation B. The servers knelt in front of the altar. At each consecration, someone sounded three gongs. I had been wondering about the need for seven servers, speculating that someone felt that the biblical number of perfection would be appropriate, but when we came to the Our Father, an eminently practical reason suggested itself. The servers quickly formed a large arc behind the altar with the cantor and reader and they all joined hands. This would not have been possible with only two servers! Fortunately, I had the short pew all to myself, so I managed to escape unharmed. I didn't see great enthusiasm for joining hands in the pews, but attendance was sparse in this church which can probably hold 1000 in just under two weeks.
At Holy Communion, a second priest joined the celebrant and lay ministers (one of whom was a nun in white habit) to assist in the distribution. I believe the lay ministers did not enter the sanctuary until after the priest had received Communion. Stations were located at the front and at the break. The lines at the front were imbalanced, so some from the left were forced to the right to walk all the way around and then get blocked by the minister of the chalice at the break. There must be a better way. The Communion hymn was "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." After that was finished, the organist was joined by a violinist, and they played a hymn together.
After Communion, everyone stood for the announcements. The priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The cantor announced the closing hymn, "On Jordan's Bank." The servers, lay ministers, reader, and priest left via the center aisle. Most folks remained until the end. An usher handed me a bulletin as I left and sneaked past the priest. I couldn't wait to get back to the car to see what sort of women were awaiting my return, but I was dumbfounded to see that the car was deserted. I even checked the windshield to see if one of those wiper blades might have held a note with a woman's phone number written on it, but I had no such luck.
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"Gail, look at that car with the spiffy wiper blades! Aren't they cool? I wonder who owns it? Maybe he's single-- he certainly looks like a good car owner..."
"Aw, Helga, don't get excited. It's probably a woman's car. You should know by now only women are smart enough to get winter blades. Men are just too stupid to do anything that sensible. Even if you did find a man who took care of his car like that, he'd probably be obsessive about it, and he'd never have time for you. You wouldn't want that, now, would you?"
"Well, Gail, I never thought of it that way-- I guess you're right."
"Now, let's go home and look through the personals. I saw this guy listed there who says he's tall, handsome, and fit, and he'd probably be just right for you..."
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In East Goshen, Pennsylvania, Mass is offered at Sts. Peter and Paul Church on Boot Road. All across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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