Week 346

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Hos 6:3-6
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 50:1, 8, 12-13, 14-15
Reading II
Rom 4:18-25
Mt 9:9-13

The founder was insistent. "Wear the sport jacket. It will help."

"It's hopeless. No one will notice."

"Do it anyway. What do you have to lose?"

"Oh, okay. The weather shouldn't be too bad."

"Stand tall. Look proud. All the young ladies will be impressed."

"I'll try."

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Having driven enough this week, I decided this morning to don a sport jacket, drive only to the railroad station, and board the usual 9:15 AM railroad train to a big nearby city. Upon exiting the railroad train, I switched to a subway train for a 45-minute ride to a station that I figured would have some churches nearby. I consulted the Neighborhood Map on the wall near the booth and located two or three possibilities, checked my printed schedule, and settled on one that had eluded me on at least one previous occasion. It had an 11:15 AM Mass in English, so I would have plenty of time to walk to it. The demons were not to be found this morning, and despite my best efforts to make a simple procedure complicated, I entered the target parish at about 11:00 AM and found a seat in one of the wooden pews.

The church has a 1957 cornerstone and looks every bit the part. The walls are of red brick with some white colonial trim. The altar was probably underneath a tall, simple, square canopy at first but was later moved so as to be freestanding. In the original tabernacle location are the celebrant's chair and deacon's chair. The ambo is at the left; it had some iron as I recall. The tabernacle is at the right, on the old side altar underneath a statue of either Jesus or St. Joseph (it was hard to tell which; I should have taken a closer look afterward). The main crucifix is bronze-like; a wooden version is mounted to the right on the side. The marble altar rail remains but saw no use today. The stained-glass windows are traditional; square, silver plaques between them depict the Stations of the Cross. The church was probably built with four confessionals, but two (one on each side) have been converted into shrines. One of those has a sign reading "Pray for Vocations." I thought that was appropriate in a converted confessional. The choir loft is still used; today a few people were there, including the organist and cantor. (I didn't notice if these were two separate people or one and the same person.) Copies of Paluch's Seasonal Missalette are stacked at the ends of the pews.

Mass began as the reader went to the ambo and announced the first hymn, "Sing a New Song." Two servers, the deacon, and the priest passed through the center aisle. The Rite of Sprinkling substituted for the penitential rite. We recited the Gloria. The priest offered the alternative opening prayer (which is familiar to me as many priests use it locally during the week).

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. We recited the responsorial psalm. The reader gave the second reading, and then we sang the Celtic Alleluia minus the verse before the Gospel. (That is lots more common at daily Mass and very unusual at Sunday Mass.) The deacon carried the Book of Gospels to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel.

The priest stepped to the front center of the sanctuary to give the homily, the substance of which wasn't wrong, but when it degenerated into just another pitch for non-judgmentalism, I got the impression that it could have used quite a bit of clarification and amplification. The priest gave a historical background of tax collection in Jesus' day and compared the tax collectors of that day rather unfavorably to today's IRS agents, explaining that the tax collectors were expected to collect with a fixed total amount of money any way they could-- and if they made a bit extra for themselves in the process, no one in Rome cared. The priest also explained that the people Jesus chose were the most unlikely folks imaginable. In any case, any mention of non-judgment of souls today simply must be accompanied by an admonition of the absolute necessity of judging actions-- the two principles are inseparable, which is one reason why we get into so much trouble these days after we try to separate them.

We recited the Creed; the priest clearly omitted the word "men" in "for us men and our salvation," but he did bow at the words, "by the power of the Holy Spirit..." The reader led the recitation of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang, "Be Not Afraid" to piano accompaniment. After the collection, the gifts were presented, including the proceeds of the collection and another basket that appeared to have food in it. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. The congregation stood at various points during the Orate Fratres invitation to pray; most stood at about the middle instead of waiting for the invitation to be complete. (Of course, in many parishes, everyone is standing even before the priest opens his mouth.)

A folksy Mass setting was used but I can't identify it. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A server sounded bells at the consecration. We recited the Lord's Prayer. The priest omitted the prayer before the Sign of Peace and then unduly prolonged the Mass and ignored the GIRM by leaving his post and insisting on walking all the way up and down the center aisle greeting those in the congregation as the organist played some music (might have been part of the Agnus Dei) to pass the time.

Two extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assisted the priest and deacon by ministering the chalice. The servers held patens underneath the communicants to catch any fallen particles. The Communion hymn was "You Are Mine."

After Communion, the priest returned to the front of the sanctuary to read some announcements, which I believe are in the bulletin. He also spent several minutes thanking the parishioners for surprising him with a birthday party the previous evening; this may explain a balloon that was stuck near the ceiling all morning. He received a round of applause, and then he got a round of applause for someone else if I recall correctly. Then he offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. He almost left at that point but quickly injected congratulations to a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary and someone back from vacation before yielding to the reader, who announced the closing hymn, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You." Almost the entire congregation was gone by the end of the first verse, leaving a man in a blue sport jacket and striped clip-on tie to represent the parish for the second verse.

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In Barstow, California, you can find Mass at St. Joseph Church on East Mountain View Street. Across the nation and all around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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(The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time was skipped liturgically in each of the previous four years I was writing.)