1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Jn 9:1-41 or
9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
After six and a half years, I finally managed to get my parents to accompany me on my weekly trip. "7:00 AM," I told them when they asked the night before when to be ready. Sunday morning, I was awake by quarter after six and was ready by ten after. I grabbed the pile of maps and printed Mass schedules even though I had a fairly good idea what my target was-- the same city I visited in week 262. Not far from the viaduct leading from one bridge on the long path to Atlantic City, New Jersey is a tall steeple. They pass this church every time they head for the casinos, so I figured that the time for them to go inside had come. I drove them to the foot of the bridge and exited the freeway at about 8:30 AM. "Is this the hamlet where we will be attending Mass?" inquired my father. "Sure is," I replied before driving them past several Eastern-rite churches, some Orthodox churches, and about three other Roman-rite churches in an effort to kill time before the 9:00 AM Mass. My mother remarked, "They say Brooklyn is the 'city of churches' but this one has quite a few too." Finally, we approached a big, old church that I figured would not embarrass me. "That's our target," I said, pointing to it. We drove past, looked around town a bit more, and then returned at about 8:50 AM and found a spot in the adjacent parking lot.
I think my parents were impressed by this church. The outside is dark grey stone. The inside is a bit deteriorated but repairs are in progress. The ceiling is high and peaked, supported by massive, fluted, marble pillars that fall into the two middle sections of pews. The side sections abut the walls, except in the transepts where the pews are a bit longer and have side aisles. The hat hooks are not only still there but the one in front of me actually looked as though it may have been replaced recently. The stone altar rail is completely intact, even retaining its gates. The balcony-style ambo is at the left, a few steps above the rest of the sanctuary. A smaller lectern is at the right; it could serve as an ambo at many other parishes. The original, ornate, white reredo and high altar are there, and the main tabernacle is still in use, covered by a white cloth with violet trim. A freestanding altar is placed in front of this. Over the tabernacle is a small bronze crucifix; off to the right in front of the side altar is a larger wooden crucifix. Traditional stained-glass windows depict various saints. A giant choir loft with a huge pipe organ is still in use. Racks in the pews hold copies of WLP's We Celebrate hymnal and missalette. A Polish hymnal is also in the racks.
Two servers, a reader, the pastor, and another priest emerged from the sacristy at the right and passed down the side aisle informally before starting the entrance procession at the rear of the church. They passed through the center aisle as we sang the hymn, "From Ashes to the Living Font." The pastor went to the lectern and introduced the celebrant, who was beginning a parish mission this week. We recited the Confiteor, and then the organist/cantor led the Kyrie in English. The Gloria was omitted for Lent.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The organist led the responsorial psalm for the day from the loft. The reader gave the second reading, and then we sang the verse before the Gospel. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the long form of the Gospel.
The homily did not focus on Scripture, as it was primarily a preview of the parish mission, but it contained many interesting points. The word "magisterium" was used favorably. We were told that in the Real Presence in the Tabernacle, we have the greatest riches of any faith, and that the most important building in any city is the Catholic Church.
We recited the Creed. The reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled metal baskets as we sang ten verses of the offertory hymn, "Yes, I Shall Arise." The four ushers presented the gifts and the proceeds of the collection. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. No one stood until after the congregation's response to the Orate Fratres invitation was complete.
I'm not sure of the Mass setting, but it may have been the Heritage Mass. It was a fairly simple setting as I recall. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration. The Great Amen was recited, but we sang the Lord's Prayer to the most common setting. We didn't notice any joined hands. For the sign of peace, most people waved, even the three nuns in black habits seated in the row directly in front of us.
The pastor reappeared to assist the celebrant and two extraordinary ministers in the distribution of Holy Communion. Stations were located in the center aisle and the two side aisles; those in the center pews split left and right instead of all using the center aisle. The servers held patens to catch falling particles. The chalice was not offered. The Communion hymn was "Taste and See." After Communion, we sang "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name."
The pastor went to the ambo to give a few announcements after he made a pitch for the parish mission, saying that "it is for everyone," and that anyone who thought he didn't need it should "look behind him to see if the devil is standing there." The celebrant offered the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing using the Prayer Over the People formula. The closing hymn was "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise." We sang two verses as the servers, reader, and priest left via the center aisle; most people remained to the end. On our way out the door, my father remarked that the congregation was composed almost entirely of women; men were conspicuously absent. I probably would not have noticed that, but he isn't the first to notice such a thing, and in some circles it is a hot topic.
Before leaving, I grabbed a peek at the cornerstone, which read "1915." It hadn't let me down in front of my parents, which was great. Afterward, I drove my parents to a nearby buffet and treated them to breakfast for enduring a few hours of me and my unusual ways.
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In Bloomfield, New Mexico, Mass is offered at St. Mary Church on North Church Street. There and everywhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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