Week 335

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

At the Procession with Palms

Mt 21:1-11
Reading I
Is 50:4-7
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Reading II
Phil 2:6-11
Mt 26:14-27:66 or

I thought I would try to find a seat at an underutilized church this morning in order to help correct some of the imbalance in the pews that often results today. I stopped at my first choice, a big, old church with a wrought iron gate across the front. It was padlocked and remained so right until 9:30 AM-- the time of the only English Mass according to my sheet. I saw no sign that a Mass would be offered there and drove to a nearby parish with a single English Mass among three other Polish Masses. My sheet said 10:00 AM; the sign outside said 10:00 AM; the people inside said 9:30 AM. The bulletin agreed. Sigh. I selected a third parish and a fourth parish with similar results. The demons were out in force today. I even got confused and started looking for one parish and drove past another one on the same street and thought I had goofed again. Finally I approached a small church named for an Italian saint. The 10 AM Mass was Spanish and the 11:30 AM Mass was English. The Spanish Mass was not finished until 11:25 AM, and the church of about 400 seats tops probably took ten minutes to empty while I waited on the steps in the drizzle. By contrast, the English Mass was attended by perhaps 75 people and the pews were more than half empty.

The church is a simple rectangle with a high, peaked roof. I tried my best but was unable to locate a cornerstone. It looks as though it was renovated at some point, though. The rear wall of the sanctuary has a high, marble, arched, niche over what was probably the original high altar, of marble and wood.Over the niche is a blue outline of a dove; this appears to be a later addition. In the niche is a statue of the patron saint (I presume). He stands over a small, bronze crucifix atop the spot where the tabernacle used to be; this is obscured by flowers and some additional wood. In front of this is a freestanding altar. To the left is the ambo, and to the right is a similar lectern that actually appeared higher. To either side of the altar are arches that were probably side altars. The metal tabernacle is at the left, while the baptismal font is at the right underneath the legend "I Baptize You..." Atop the side walls are square, traditional stained-glass windows. Underneath are arched niches; each niche contains a statue of a saint and a group of votive candles (I think they were electric but wasn't paying close attention). On the right wall, near the front, is a medium-sized traditional wooden crucifix. The wooden pews are split into two sections with a center aisle and side aisles; the front three rows are slightly shorter in the center (as is typical). The choir loft is still in use and is curved, with the center closer to the doors than the sides. Copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette (with a Spanish supplement of yellow pages) are in the pews.

The Mass began as the celebrant and another priest (dressed in a stole and alb) stood by the palms on a table by the door and began the opening rite of the Mass, which today starts, "Dear friends in Christ, for five weeks of Lent we have been preparing, by works of charity and self-sacrifice..." The celebrant blessed the palms, which were then distributed by the usher. Then he read the Gospel account of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. After this, the reader and priests passed through the center aisle to the hymn, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor." The reader took a moment to announce the "focus" of the Mass, which in part is that the Passion is "the greatest love story ever told." (He said this twice.) The priest chanted the "regular" opening prayer and then some of us sat. The priest had to motion to everyone else to sit as well.

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The voice from the choir loft-- presumably the organist-- led the responsorial psalm for the day. The reader gave the second reading, and then the organist led the verse before the Gospel. For the reading of the Passion, the celebrant stood behind the altar and took the part of Jesus, the second priest went to the ambo and read the "single speaker" parts, the reader narrated from the lectern, and the congregation attempted to do the parts for multiple speakers. We were told to sit for the Passion reading (although we knelt at the point of Jesus' death). For some reason, the congregation couldn't stay together in reading its parts, which sounded not too good. The reader could barely read and stumbled over most of his parts. Finally, the priests and reader were apparently using the old Lectionary, because it did not match what was found in the missalette. I suppose I should not dwell on such distractions and focus on the content (some of the most solemn mysteries of our faith), but they are distractions nonetheless.

The celebrant went to the ambo and gave a short homily that touched on the main points of Holy Week but didn't really leave me with much to say about it. Even immediately after it was over I had a hard time summarizing it. We recited the Creed. The reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the lectern. A lone usher took the first collection using a long-handled wicker basket as we sang all seven verses of the offertory hymn, "Hosanna, Son of God." Two people from the congregation presented the gifts. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. At the Orate Fratres invitation, only one person in the congregation stood at the correct point, after the priest's words were finished. The remainder of the congregation stood after the response was complete.

I believe the Mass setting used was Richard Proulx' Mass for the City; it had a distinctive triple "hosanna." The priest chanted the Preface and then offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The reader also served and rang bells at the consecration. We recited the Lord's Prayer without any noteworthy activities in the pews.

For Holy Communion, the celebrant distributed on his own to a single line in the center aisle as the reader held a paten underneath to catch falling particles. The chalice was not offered. We sang "Our Father, We Have Wandered," to the same tune as "O Sacred Head Surrounded." After the former was complete, the organist quickly told us to begin the latter.

The usher found someone to help him take the second collection, which made it a bit easier. The priest chanted the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing. The reader and celebrant left via the center aisle (I think the second priest disappeared after the Passion reading) as we sang two verses of "Lift High the Cross." As I walked back to the car, I thanked God for having mercy on me and finally leading me to a halfway decent Mass before afternoon had broken.

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In Scotia, Nebraska, Mass is offered at St. Patrick Church on North Greeley. Wherever you may land, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999