Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8
Jn 4-5-42 or
4-5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42
This morning I drove an hour and a quarter to another big, old inner-city parish whose population apparently has deserted it for modern, in-the-round churches in the suburbs. It was my second choice; a parish almost literally around the corner had a 10:30 AM Mass but when I arrived the sign said "Slovak," another language I haven't learned yet. I'll try to get to the 9:00 AM Mass there and at yet a third church almost within a stone's throw of the other two. When I see this sort of thing, I can't help but sympathize with diocesan officials who see the need to close some parishes. The problem may not be as much that they want to close churches today, but rather that perhaps some of these churches were not strictly necessary in the first place. I like to imagine that they were full when originally built, but sometimes I wonder.
The cornerstone of today's church reads "1885" but it appears to be in fairly good condition considering that the weekly collection is only about $1500. I entered behind a group of Sunday school students who had just crossed the street from the parish school building. In the narthex is a rest room that looked fairly clean and modern for a building that old. Decent rest rooms are amenities I generally associate with more modern churches. The inside appears mostly unchanged, apart from the domed metal tabernacle where the right side altar was originally. The wooden pews are arranged in four sections. The side sections abut the side walls, while the center sections have a break about halfway back. A baptismal font is located behind the break at the right and shortens about three or four rows of pews there by half. As one might expect in an 1885 church, hat hooks were provided but now are simply artifacts. The hymnals are stored in a metal cabinet at the rear-- and I actually thought to get them today. The church stocks old copies of NALR's Glory and Praise as well as current copies of WLP's ¡Celebremos!/ Let Us Celebrate! bilingual hymnal. High, arched traditional stained glass windows are interspersed with large plaster plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross. Over the stained-glass windows are also paintings of various saints, with an odd space in the name of each one that I can't explain-- "St. Ag nes," for example. The sanctuary may have had a crucifix but the rear wall had a large violet cloth hanging from top to bottom, so perhaps that was obscuring it for Lent (as I have seen elsewhere). A freestanding altar is at the center of the sanctuary; the ambo is at the left. The organist and cantor serve from a space at the front left where some pews have obviously been removed to save everyone the trouble of going all the way to the large choir loft in the rear. A traditional confessional is found in the rear left corner, jutting out from the wall.
The entrance hymn was "Forty Days and Forty Nights." A server, a reader, the priest, and deacon made their way through the center aisle in the entrance procession. The deacon led the recitation of the intentions of Form C of the penitential rite, which had rather a poetic flavor to them. The Gloria was omitted for Lent.
A reader went to the ambo and carefully waited until all the children were led to another area by someone holding a book (a children's Lectionary?) high. This left about fifty or so people in the congregation. Even after the children were all safely out of the nave, she stood looking out the side door as if she had to be absolutely certain that the children did not hear a word of the adult readings. After a pause, she gave the first reading and then stood to the side while the cantor led the responsorial psalm for the day from her spot next to the organ. The reader went back to the ambo to give the second reading. The deacon proclaimed the short form of the Gospel, which to me doesn't make a whole lot of sense in this case without the omitted portions.
The homily, preached by the deacon, described how Helen Keller, after going blind and deaf, was led to cool, refreshing water by someone who managed to communicate to her what it was called. After this, she felt a tremendous joy. The deacon drew a parallel between this experience and that of the Samaritan woman in the Gospel. He called attention to what she did afterward; she went and told everyone who would listen of the experience. Likewise, we must experience the refreshment of God's grace and proclaim it to all who will hear it.
We recited the Creed, and I think the priest said, "... for us and for our salvation..." meaning he found a certain word offensive. The deacon led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from his chair. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Like A Shepherd." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. At the Orate Fratres prayer, only one person stood after the invitation to pray, while everyone else remained seated until after the congregation's response. Somewhere around this time, the children filtered back to the pews.
The Mass setting for the remainder of the Mass was Mass of Creation. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. Most people were too scattered to join hands at the Lord's Prayer. The sign of peace got a bit out of hand, though, as the server and ushers walked through the aisles all through the Agnus Dei greeting people, which is a bit distracting for one trying to sing it.
For Holy Communion, two extraordinary ministers offered the chalice at stations to the sides while the deacon and priest administered the Sacred Body at the center. The Communion hymn was "Gift of Finest Wheat."
The priest offered the closing prayer and departed via the center aisle with the reader, server, and deacon as we sang the closing hymn, "Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive." In an unusual twist, the priest and deacon stopped at the rear of the pews and faced the congregation, thanked us for being present, and then imparted a simple blessing. I then returned to the car to eat a McGriddle sandwich that I had purchased earlier. The Mass ran about 50-55 minutes; back where I was last week, Mass was probably not yet finished even though it starts an hour earlier than did this 11:00 AM Mass. I'm not sure what that means, but it's interesting.
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After you live your myth in Greece, stop for Mass in Athens at St. Denis Church on Stadiou Street. All around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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