Week 334

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Ez 37:12-14
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Reading II
Rom 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45 or
11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

I decided to return to the same place I visited two weeks ago; a parish around the corner from the one of week 332 also had an 11:00 AM Mass, according to my printed list. Your foolish writer should have driven past it that week, though-- the sign now reveals that the church has fallen victim to the "8-10-12" syndrome. Fortunately, I didn't pass it at the very last minute, and I had time to get to another 11 AM Mass in a neighboring city. The sign outside that church reads, "11 AM (Festive Choral)." Well, that sounded interesting, so I parked in the adjacent parking lot and made my way inside.

The cornerstone matches the one that would be engraved on me if I had a cornerstone-- 1962. It is a typical suburban church of its era-- not totally stripped down, but greatly simplified over its counterparts of fifty years earlier. This one has seen some renovation, though precisely what has been changed is not completely obvious. We can tell that the metal tabernacle at the left probably was moved from the center of the sanctuary, where we now see a plain angled marble wall underneath a giant painting of the Annunciation. A freestanding altar is at the center, with a large, square, marble ambo at the left and a small cantor's lectern at the far right. In the left transept are pews angled slightly towards the center. The right transept likely had a matching set of pews but now is the location of the organ and choir. The original loft is probably no longer used, but the giant pipes remain. The remainder of the wooden pews are in two sections with a center aisle and side aisles and a break about halfway back. Traditional stained-glass windows depict the mysteries of the Rosary. A small crucifix is behind the ambo and was half-covered with a purple cloth; two large purple cloths were hung on the rear wall of the sanctuary. Three of the original four confessionals have been converted into shrines. Racks at the ends of the pews (not in the middle-- don't ask me why) hold old copies of GIA's Worship (3rd ed., no readings) and Gather (2nd ed.) hymnals.

I was pleased to see purple flyers in the pews that had the music listing for the Mass-- this is usually a good sign, and a quick look at the contents was encouraging. I took a seat at the rear left and waited a few moments for the Mass to begin. Two servers, a reader, the choir (about a dozen people), and the priest emerged from the sacristy at the front right and passed through the right side aisle and back through the center aisle as we sang all four verses of "Christ Is the World's Light." We recited the Confiteor and then the choir led the Kyrie in English. The priest offered the opening prayer, which was rather lengthy and may have been the alternative opening prayer but sounded even a bit lengthy for that.

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor, at the lectern, and the choir led the responsorial psalm for the day. The reader then gave the second reading. The choir led the Gospel Acclamation, credited to Richard Proulx in the flyer. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the long form of the Gospel.

The homily was brief and focused on the "unbinding" of Lazarus by giving several examples of unbinding; those in the parish the Narcotics Anonymous group are unbound from drugs; the children preparing for confirmation are unbound from the ways of their youth by accepting the responsibilities of adulthood, and so on. After the homily, a lay woman presented high school students who are candidates for confirmation for what I guess was the third scrutiny. I've never seen those on the "normal" track for confirmation go through the scrutinies, so perhaps these were stand-ins for catechumens in the absence of adults. We had to indicate our acceptance of their candidacy by a round of applause, and the lay woman assured the priest that they were ready for confirmation. One thing I liked was that they were told that confirmation is not the end of their religious education. I hope they believe it.

We skipped the Creed, and the reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. The response was, "Lord have mercy." A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as the choir sang "Verily, Verily I Say Unto You," credited to Tallis. In a rather unusual move, the priest did not bother to use a chalice and simply kept all the wine in a glass flagon throughout the consecration. This later led to the odd imagery of the priest referring to a "cup" while he was holding a glass pitcher. I don't recall seeing a ciborium either, so perhaps all the Hosts were from a previous Mass except for the priest's. He incensed the altar and then the congregation stood to be incensed as well.

The Mass setting was David Hurd's New Plainsong. The priest offered the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation I. At first, I thought everyone was going to remain standing for the consecration, but after I knelt, everyone else did so as well. Was it my good example? I'm not that egotistical. Probably they were standing but were recently told to stop and not everyone is fully used to it yet. At the consecration, a single chime sounded.

I was still desperately trying to like this Mass, which did have a bit of a solemn air about it, but then the tomfoolery started as everyone spread across the pews to join hands for the Lord's Prayer. I need to find the Gospel that says, "Jesus said to His disciples: 'When you pray, pray like this. Join hands...'" Perhaps it was one of the Gnostic ones. Fortunately, my careful selection of a pew saved me from embarrassment as no one was to my left and a huge space separated me from those to my right at the opposite end of the pew. We sang the Agnus Dei to what has become the most common Latin rendition-- credited to Gerard Farrell, OSB in the flyer. The sign of peace wasn't too bad; I got to shake hands with two pretty young ladies behind me, but I guess I didn't do it right as neither one grabbed me after Mass to offer to go to lunch with me.

After the Agnus Dei, almost everyone remained standing. Harrumph. The Precious Blood was poured into long-stemmed glass vessels to be distributed at two stations by lay ministers while three other lay ministers assisted in distributing the Sacred Body using the dual-station method across the front. The choir sang "Lord, We Beseech Thee" as a motet followed by hymn #357 from the Gather hymnal. The choir received after everyone else.

In another unusual twist, the priest offered the closing prayer and then we sang "I Am the Bread of Life." After he imparted a simple blessing, the servers, reader, choir, and priest departed via the center aisle singing Psalm 51, followed by an "organ voluntary" of J. S. Bach's "Little Prelude and Fugue in A Minor." Then I slipped out the main entrance and headed back to the parking lot.

The bulletin has an interesting note. It reads, "Since we are not allowed to have our traditional Communal Penance Service, confession time will be extended. Next Saturday, we will have an extra priest and the time will be from 4:00 to 5:00 PM." First, I surmise that the bishop stepped in and forbade general absolution. The tone seems to indicate that some evil external force was at work. The implication is, "hey it's not our fault, complain to the diocese." Second-- they're adding a half hour-- wow. I guess I'm supposed to be impressed. I'll save my impression for another week.

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In East Pembroke, New York, Mass is offered at Holy Name of Mary Church on Church Street. There and everywhere, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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