Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
"You should give the sport jacket another shot."
"It didn't work last week."
"You weren't wearing it right."
"Well, okay, maybe it wasn't that. Try the grey one instead."
"Nothing ever seems to work."
"As your employer, I have an interest in your spiritual welfare as well as everything else. Just do it."
"Well, okay, if you insist."
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I awakened early this morning and decided to make it a green day by walking to the railroad station to board the 8:15 AM train that would connect with a second train. That train deposited me in a small borough at about 10:00 AM. I figured I could locate the church using my internal detection facilities, but these proved useless as they simply led me to a bunch of non-Catholic churches. I called my mother, and after some difficulty, she used a printed map to direct me to the target church in time for the 10:30 AM Mass (I could have made it there by 10:05 had I taken a direct route). Wearing a light grey sport jacket that was just the ticket for the breezy, clammy, overcast day, I made my way inside.
The cornerstone was well-concealed behind bushes, so I had to do some Internet research to determine that it probably reads 1922 or so. The red brick church has been renovated since then but it isn't far-out. The inside is mostly white. The rear wall of the sanctuary bears a huge carved figure of the Risen Christ, reminiscent of the figure in the Natrional Shrine in Washington, DC. A small bronze crucifix-- which could be mistaken for a processional crucifix-- is on a stand at the right of the sanctuary in an attempt to satisfy the complaints of those who point to the requirement for a crucifix. (I've seen these starting to appear in churches that otherwise do not have a crucifix.) A freestanding, green, marble altar is at the center of the sanctuary. To the left is a moderate matching ambo and to the right is a small cantor's lectern. The rectangular, metal tabernacle is at the far right where a side altar probably was in the beginning. Over that is a carving that highlights the Eucharistic theme. To the left is the ambry, underneath another carving. The wooden pews are arranged in two sections split by a center aisle but without a break. Racks underneath the pews hold copies of GIA's Worship (3 ed.) and OCP's Breaking Bread. Painted plaster plaques in between traditional stained-glass windows depict the Stations of the Cross. The choir loft has been retained, and the organist served from there this morning.
Mass began after the cantor, who might best be described as unctuous, implored us to take "just one moment" to greet those around us. He then introduced the opening hymn, "Glory and Praise to Our God." Three servers, three extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, two readers, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite, and then we sang the Gloria to the Mass of Creation setting.
A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor crossed the sanctuary to led the responsorial psalm for the day from the ambo. He paused briefly after the psalm before folding his music and returning to his place. Some effort to add appropriate silence seemed evident at this parish. Then a second reader went to the ambo to give the second reading. The cantor led the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel from the lectern. The priest paused for several seconds to hold the Book of Gospels high at the center of the sanctuary before proceeding to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel.
The priest, who resembles actor Sam Waterston, gave a homily from the ambo in which he focused on Jeremiah's call. Jeremiah came up with excuses why he wasn't right for the job, but if God calls, none of that matters; one simply must respond. Likewise, when we want to learn what God wants of us, we must ask, be prepared to follow, and then listen. The response won't likely be in the form of a thunderbolt, but instead may be simply in a quiet reassurance that God is with us.
We recited the Creed, and I think the priest bowed at the right point. The second reader went to the lectern and led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Two collections were taken in succession using long-handled wicker baskets while the organist played soft music. As the gifts were presented by a family, we sang the offertory hymn, "Be Not Afraid." The chalices and ciborium (a large dish) were of metal. A glass flagon held the wine but it was immediately emptied into the smaller chalices and removed from the altar. People stood at various points during the Orate Fratres invitation but a few waited until the proper moment, after the invitation was complete.
Mass of Creation held its grip on the liturgy until the bitter end. The priest offered the fourth Eucharistic Prayer. He recited its preface half from memory, and also notably did not change the masculine references to so-called "inclusive" versions, as most priests these day seem to do when they actually use this Eucharistic Prayer. We recited the Lord's Prayer. The Agnus Dei was notable for creative first and second tropes used in place of "Lamb of God."
Five extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assisted the priest across the front of the nave; the "dual-station" method was used, and the chalice was offered as well. The Communion hymn was "Table of Plenty."
After Holy Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer and then gave a few brief announcements. The fathers in the congregation were asked to kneel for a solemn blessing but did not receive any applause. The closing hymn was "Lift High the Cross." We sang one verse as the servers, lay ministers, and priest departed via the center aisle; most people remained until the end.
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"Hey, Henrietta-- look at that sharp guy in the grey suit. He looks like just your type."
"Cassandra, I told you yesterday I'm engaged to Ernest."
"You could break it off-- you had to compromise too much for him. This guy looks perfect."
"It's no use-- besides, we already called the caterer..."
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In Flagstaff, Arizona, you can find Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on South Kendrick Street. All across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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