Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Pt 1:3-9
It looked as though it would clear this morning after a day of heavy rain, and I needed the exercise, so I decided to walk to the railroad station to board an 8:15 AM train to a transfer point that would put me on a 9:07 AM train to a city a bit south of a major airport. Both trains ran more or less on time, and I arrived in the target city at about quarter to ten. The city has two churches almost a stone's throw from each other. One had a 10:00 AM Mass and the other was at 10:30 AM, so I figured that even if the train was late I'd be in decent shape. I walked toward the churches and spotted the one with the 10:30 AM Mass first, but since I had plenty of time to get to the other, I selected that one even though the later Mass was in a more traditional-looking building. Nevertheless, the cornerstone on the church I selected reads "A. D. MDCCCLXXI" and it hasn't suffered serious renovation.
The church is relatively small, with two groups of wooden pews that probably held about six people each last week; perhaps three hundred altogether could be accomodated. Two narrow transepts have been modified. The left transept now has a reconciliation room, while the pews in the right transept have been rotated a quarter turn to the left. Hat hooks remain but are no longer used. Traditional stained-glass windows line the sides, and three more surround the circular, domed sanctuary; two are of St. Mark and St. Anne, while the center window-- behind the reredo, original altar, and metal tabernacle-- is of a dove. A freestanding altar is at the center of the sanctuary; possibly two or three rows of pews were removed to accomodate this. The celebrant's chair is behind the altar, slightly to the left, while the ambo is at the right. Small grayish plaques on the walls depict the Stations of the Cross. The side altars at the left (Blessed Virgin) and right (St. Joseph) remain. A small glass ambry is mounted to the left of the right side altar. I couldn't locate a crucifix. The choir loft houses a huge pipe organ, and a choir of about ten people served from there today. Copies of OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue are in racks in the pews.
I arrived at about five to ten and selected an open pew about six rows from the front right. At about the right time, the priest reached into the sanctuary from the sacristy and rang the bell before heading down the side aisle as we sang the hymn "Allelluia, Alleluia!" a cappella. None of the hymns were announced; we were expected to be able to read the hymn board at the front right and locate the hymns on our own. The Mass had no musical instruments of any sort either; I have no idea if this is usual at this church, the organist was ill, or perhaps the organ was silenced as a means of mourning the late Pope John Paul II. After an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest (smiling and saying hello to people) passed through the center aisle, the priest led Form C of the penitential rite, the recitation of the Gloria, and the opening prayer.
The reader gave the first reading and stepped back to her place on the right of the sanctuary. A solo voice from the loft sang the verses of the responsorial psalm, while the rest of the choir and congregation sang the responses. Then the reader returned to the ambo to give the second reading. I think the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel may have been from the Mass of Light. The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo.
The homily focused on our need to accept Jesus and His teaching on faith. The priest told of the author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who had been sentenced to death for subversive activities. After the sentence was commuted and he served time at hard labor in Siberia, he became deeply religious but later developed a gambling problem and fell away from his faith. Later, near death, he became religious again, but when someone suggested that he had refound his faith, he said, "My hosanna has passed through the crucible of doubt. In other words, facing death, it was easier for him to see where he was heading-- it was less a matter of faith and more a matter of simply facing death squarely in the face.
We recited the Creed, and the reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "We Walk by Faith." The gifts were presented and an usher followed with the proceeds of the collection. The extraordinary minister also functioned as server as the priest prepared the gifts. The priest's chalice was of glass, but the two other chalices were of metal, and the priest poured the wine directly into those chalices. Instead of a paten, the priest kept the host in a glass dish. The congregation stood immediately upon the beginning of the Orate Fratres invitation by the priest.
We sang the Sanctus to the St. Louis Jesuits' setting. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. We sang the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen to a setting I am unable to identify, but it wasn't the St. Louis Jesuits'. The priest appeared slightly unsure of what to do when he reached to point of offering prayer for the Pope; I think he neglected to mention his bishop as well.
We recited the Lord's Prayer and I didn't see anyone joining hands despite the cozy atmosphere. I believe we sang the Agnus Dei but actually I don't recall now and if we did the setting didn't register, meaning I probably wasn't familiar with it.
At Holy Communion, two additional extraordinary ministers entered the sanctuary to assist. The choir, dressed in red robes, came from the loft and received first. Then the rest of the congregation received, back rows first. When the choir was reassembled in the loft, we sang the Communion hymn, "The Supper of the Lord."
The priest offered the closing prayer and, with the bulletin in his hand, he started reading from it, highlighting in particular a woman who decided that she would start a group for widows and widowers. He then imparted a simple blessing and left via the center aisle with the reader and extraordinary minister as we sang "At The Lamb's High Feast."
On my way back to the railroad station, I stopped at the Plan B church. Of interest is that the bulletin shows that the pastor of the Plan A church is also the administrator of the Plan B church. Perhaps consolidation of some sort is planned. While looking more traditional on the outside, the Plan B church appears to have fallen into the hands of renovationists, as a peek through the crack in the solid, closed doors showed that the original altar and reredo were gone, replaced by a modern backdrop of some sort. I did hear the organ playing an Alleluia after the Gospel, though, so perhaps another Sunday morning that church will become Plan A-- or maybe it will become the best possible plan after another morning's plan is scuttled by the demons.
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Mass is offered in Statesboro, Georgia at St. Matthew Church on John Paul Ave. In Statesboro, across the nation, and all around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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