Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3-1-4 or
1 Cor 5:6b-8
The roofless, double-decked sightseeing bus cruised down the city street as the guide noted various points of interest. "To your left is the Miller Building, one of the oldest examples of neo-tyrolithic architecture in the country," explained the guide as the tourists all dutifully snapped photographs as if on cue. "Over there is the famous Perricone Park, where George Washington slept on his way to Boston back in 1775," he continued as more flash bulbs lit. "Just ahead is the notorious LeGrand Pothole, which has claimed over 54,000 tires since it opened in 1967 and resists all efforts to repair it." Then, as the bus headed toward the southern part of town, the guide became excited and shouted into the microphone, "Driver, please slow a bit! To our right is indeed a rare species-- the itinerant worshipper!" He pointed to a lone man in a light brown trenchcoat; the man was hustling at a furious pace toward a church in a forgotten part of town. The crowd released an "oooooh!" almost in unison and flashbulbs started a frenzied popping. "This gentleman attends Mass at a different parish every week; this week, he's actually in our part of town. This is really fascinating! Note that the female of the species is missing; that's one reason it's endangered." One of the sightseers said, "I had doubts before, but now I know you're making all this up!" Another said, "Yeah-- I want my money back!"
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I attempted to select a parish where I wouldn't be taking a seat that someone else would need, so I thought carefully and caught a 7:15 AM railroad train to a city near where I live. From the railroad terminal I walked about 45 minutes to a small, old church tucked between other buildings near the entrance to a major river crossing. The main doors were locked, but a small sign directed me to a side entrance. Inside, a chair blocked access to the church and a sign pointed the way to the lower hall. When I first entered, I peeked inside the hall and saw that only two people were there. Fearing questioning, I stepped back outside and waited for some more people to enter. When it finally looked safe, I went back inside and took a seat in one of the thirty or forty folding chairs arranged in rows of three with an aisle in the middle of what looked every bit like a Knights of Columbus hall, complete with bar along the side. A folding cafeteria table was set with an altar cloth over it; a metal chalice waited for its chance to serve. Two potted plants were placed on either end of the table. A podium that would serve as an ambo was at the left. Each chair had a copy of OCP's Today's Missal placed on it.
I waited a few minutes for the priest to appear from a room on the right. By the time he started the Mass, seven of us had arrived. We recited the entrance antiphon. He quickly went through Form C of the penitential rite but without any invocations. We recited the Gloria. The priest offered the opening prayer.
A lady from the congregation slowly made her way to the ambo and gave the first reading. She led the recitation of the responsorial psalm and then gave the second reading, from 1 Corinthians. She looked at the priest and asked if she should read the Sequence, and he said "no." However, he proceeded to chant it rather well in Latin. By this point, an eighth person had joined the assembly, spoiling the biblical symbol of perfection.
The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel. I don't know if what followed constituted a homily, but he simply read the Sequence in English because "I know you want it in English." He said that the Latin is beautiful and the tune nice, while the English is "atrocious." That was it.
We renewed our baptismal promises, and the priest led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. He prepared the gifts. Two or three people stood after the priest gave the Orate Fratres invitation, but the rest waited until the congregation's response was complete.
The priest offered the first Eucharistic Prayer and read the entire list of saints. The seats had no kneelers, but most of the congregation appeared elderly enough to be excused even if kneelers were present, and probably only one person was young enough to kneel on the uncarpeted, hard, wooden floor; that person did kneel. We recited the Lord's Prayer but did not join hands. At the sign of peace, most of us waved even though moving around to shake hands would not have been entirely outrageous under the circumstances.
We recited the Communion antiphon. The priest distributed Holy Communion on his own; the chalice was not offered. After a brief pause while he purified the chalice, the priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing. He tried to lead our response to the dismissal, which is supposed to be "Thanks be to God, Alleluia! Alleluia!" during the Easter season, but I was perhaps the only one to catch this, so he stopped and reminded us, saying that "for the next few weeks" we should be saying that because "it's supposed to be like, 'hooray, hooray, we're saved.'" Well, at least he tried. The Mass was finished in about twenty-five minutes according to the clock on the wall.
I took a bulletin that appeared to be from last week; it was the Ligourian version, which is professionally printed on one side (like "network news"), leaving the other side blank for "local news." That side was simply typewritten and photocopied. It did say that Triduum services would not be held at the church because the roof had not yet been fixed. Perhaps that's why we were downstairs this morning. Then again, considering that no collection was taken, and even if a collection were taken, a congregation of seven or eight people could hardly be expected to contribute enough to pay for ordinary maintenance much less major repairs, I would not be surprised if that roof is never repaired.
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The itinerant worshipper walked back towards the railroad station by himself. As he progressed, he saw a sightseeing bus stopped on the side of the street. Police cars with their flashing lights surrounded it, and they were in the process of breaking up a riot. He was tempted to snap a photograph, but he had neglected to bring his camera with him, so he simply continued on his way home.
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Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, Mass is offered at San Jose Church on San Jose Road. In El Paso, all across the nation, and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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