Week 330

First Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Reading II
Rom 5:12-19 or 5-:12, 17-19
Mt 4:1-11

Awakening at an earlier hour than on many Sundays, I managed to leave at about 8:45 AM and drove through a major city to a parish on a main highway near a major airport. My printed schedule read "10:15" but the sign read "10:30" and at 10:10 the 9:00 AM Portuguese Mass was just finishing, the parking lots were packed to the gills, and the narrow side streets were chock full of cars, so I figured I had plenty of time. I parked a block away and entered a little before 10:25 AM, just as the priest and servers were passing through the center aisle to the hymn, "We Gather Together." A confused parish, this. I think a change in this tight schedule might be in order.

The church is large and old, with fluted columns falling into the center of the pews. The sanctuary area hasn't seen too much renovation apart from the removal of the gates on the altar rail and the relocation of the metal tabernacle (with small figures of angels on either side) to the right side altar. A small cantor's lectern is at the right, while a white marble ambo is at the left. A freestanding white marble altar is at the center, in front of a small marble lectern where the priest and servers sit. Above that, within what was the top of the reredo, is a large painting of Jesus displaying His Sacred Heart. I didn't see any crucifix. The left side altar is probably as it was, with a statue of the Blessed Virgin over a side altar and small tabernacle (which looks as though it has been permanently covered and painted so as not to be noticeable). An organ is in the transept at the front left, where what sounded like a children's choir and its leader served today. The Stations of the Cross are depicted by painted plaster figures in arched niches between the traditional stained-glass windows. A choir loft remains but was probably empty today. (I sat almost right underneath it and had no view of it.) Of the four confessionals on the right side, only one was converted into a shrine. (The left side had no confessionals at all, once again proving that only rightists sin.)

As the hymn was progressing, I realized that the missalettes were by the door, so I went back and obtained a copy of WLP's Seasonal Missalette in time to muster the courage to enter the song. We recited the Confiteor. The Gloria was omitted for Lent.

A reader went to the ambo to give the first reading. Almost directly in front of the ambo is a small lectern. Several people signed the Mass for the deaf from this location. It took a few moments after each reading for the signer to catch up to the reader, which introduced a sort of silence after each reading. Another reader went to the ambo to lead us in reciting the responsorial psalm for the day. A third reader gave the long form of the second reading. Another person introduced each reading from the cantor's lectern. We sang the verse before the Gospel; the Alleluia was replaced by "Praise and honor to You, Lord Jesus Christ" as is customary during Lent.

The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel. His homily was fairly straightforward. He mentioned that one reason for Jesus' temptation was to show us how we should deal with temptation. He suggested that we face many more temptations today than ever before, and one reason for this is that television depicts all manner of aberrant behavior as normal. I like this priest. He could write for my other web site. We need to remember that no matter what we see on television, if it's sinful it isn't "normal." He then said that many people come into confession and confess temptations, which is not really right; as long as we resist, there is no sin. Finally, he explained that temptations that we resist make us stronger in the end and are an opportunity for us to grow in holiness.

We recited the Creed. I believe the commentator led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the cantor's lectern. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang "You Are Mine." The choir sang all four verses, paused for a rest, and then repeated the refrain one last time. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, only one person stood immediately after the priest's invitation to pray, while everyone else stood after the congregation's response.

We sang the Sanctus to the Mass of Creation setting. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. Bells were sounded at the consecration. We recited Memorial Acclamation A and the Great Amen. I think I caught a bit of hand-joining among the 200 or so people in the church as we recited the Lord's Prayer but nothing overt that I could see from the rear of the 800 to 1000-seat church. We sang the Agnus Dei to the Mass of Creation setting.

Three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assisted the priest as the servers held patens to catch any falling particles. The stations were located one on each of the three aisles, with an extra location halfway down the center aisle. The chalice was not offered. The Communion hymn was "One Bread, One Body." As before, the choir paused before repeating the refrain at the end.

After Communion, the priest gave the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "These Forty Days of Lent." The priest and servers retreated into the sacristy, and almost everyone left immediately, not even waiting for the hymn to get past its first few breaths, although at least one person waited for the second verse to finish. The Mass ran about fifty minutes.

My mother insists that I mention the Mass schedule in the bulletin. The 9:00 AM Mass shows 33 intentions listed. The other Masses are similarly overbooked. While bishops have been giving permission for Masses of multiple intentions, this is a bit extreme and fertile breeding ground for modern-day Martin Luthers. The right way to handle this is to go back to one Mass, one intention and send the surplus intentions to priests overseas who would greatly appreciate the stipend. Priests in retirement facilities would also appreciate being needed.

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The two archaeologists probed deeper and deeper into the cave. They passed their flashlights across their path, looking for some sort of interesting find that would cement their names in the annals of archaeology. They brushed back cobwebs and dust as they passed piles of old bones and primitive tools. As the flashlights shone on the walls, they saw many ancient paintings and took pictures to review at a later time. Finally, one of them spotted something.

"Al, take a look at this!" he shouted, creating a slight echo.

"What is it, Fred?"

"It's a pile of papers," said Al. "Here, take a look."

"The title reads, 'What I Did on Sunday 330.' This must have been a garbage dump many centuries ago. It looks like a rough draft of someone's homework."

"Undoubtedly. The third paragraph has me puzzled though. Have you ever heard such an odd line?"

"You mean, 'the courage to enter the song?'"

"Yeah, that one."

"Probably an obscure colloquialism. It no doubt came naturally to anyone who spoke the language then but fell into disuse. Or maybe it was dialect."

"Should we hang on to this?"

"Nah, leave it here. This sort of stuff must have been a dime a dozen back in this kid's time. Let's keep looking and maybe we'll find something really valuable. No sense filling our backpacks with stuff like this."

"Agreed," concurred Al as he dropped the article back on the floor, kicking up a cloud of dust as the two explorers proceeded to search for more interesting artifacts.

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In Leslie, Michigan, Mass is offered at Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian Church on Catholic Church Road. There and everywhere, you're almost sure to find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2004
Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999