I decided to head for a small parish south of here this morning, so I called a travel agent and tried to book airline tickets. "You can't get there by plane," I was told. "But won't lots of people want to visit this parish?" I inquired in disbelief, adding, "Surely they need an airport to handle all the traffic." "Only you are crazy enough to go to a different parish every week," the agent told me. "Why don't you take up stamp collecting? It's loads of fun and has potential for profit, too." I promised to consider it someday if I ever had time and then proceeded to walk an hour and a half to get to the parish, located in a small city. I picked the 8:30 AM Mass because the following Mass is a Spanish Mass and the one after that is a bit late.
Our old friends, the hat hooks, make another appearance, letting us know that this church probably predates 1960. The layout is rather simple, only slightly changed after some alterations. It consists of dark wooden pews divided into two sections with side aisles, a center aisle, and a break near the front. Each pew can hold about nine people, although six is a bit more comfortable. A few columns land within the pews. The sanctuary has been pulled forward slightly, perhaps eliminating a few rows towards the front. The first two rows or so now wrap around the altar; a folding partition at the break apparently is closed during the week to force everyone to sit near the front for daily Mass. (A sign advises people to use the side door during the week.) The peaked roof is now obscured by air-conditioning ducts over the side aisles; the ducts would be truly awful save for some dark wood slats that cover them and lend some kind of grace. The wooden ambo is to the right but ahead of the altar; a cantor's lectern is to the left, and a piano (and possibly an organ) are hidden in the left corner. A medium-sized traditional crucifix of light wood hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary along with short lengths of purple curtain. A choir loft remains but I suspect that it may not be used here. Traditional stained-glass windows line the walls.
I arrived at about 8:25 AM and was issued an OCP missalette and hymnal (in a combination blue plastic cover) by a gentleman seated by the main door. The pews have plenty of racks, but I guess someone has decided that leaving books in book racks doesn't make sense. I looked for the tabernacle, but it was hidden behind a banner of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hung almost directly in front of it (as seen from the center aisle), and it was tucked in a corner to the right anyway, so after looking around and not seeing it, I genuflected on faith, figuring it had to be around somewhere.
A young woman wearing rather a short skirt for a liturgical minister approached the cantor's lectern and read about three announcements and then introduced the first hymn, "Glory and Praise to Our God." She then went to the piano and served as both cantor and pianist. No standard servers were to be seen; an adult served as cross-bearer and preceded the reader, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest in the procession down the center aisle.
The priest ad-libbed Form C of the penitential rite, and then the Gloria was recited. One of the lay ministers of Communion held the Sacramentary as the priest offered the opening prayer. The reader then took the ambo to give the first reading; his voice was a dead ringer for that of Scott Hahn, which I found most interesting. Then the pianist/cantor sang the responsorial psalm for the day from the piano. The reader returned to give the second reading, and then the pianist/cantor sung the verse before the Gospel. The Gospel was read by the priest.
The priest's homily started by wishing all fathers well, and he then tried to tie the readings to Father's Day. He mentioned that his own father died 40 years ago, and we should pray for all those who have died. He mentioned that the term "Father" is liberally scattered throughout the liturgy and counted five times we had already used it to that point, including several times in the Gospel, which spoke of God the Father provides for us, and we had hardly begun. The priest also noted that the attributes of the Holy Spirit, such as Wisdom, are often described in feminine terms, so God has a feminine side too, and in fact the Fathers described the Eucharist as "God's milk."
The Creed was recited, followed by a recited Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was then taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "Be Not Afraid." Two of the lay ministers of Communion went down the aisle to lead forward those bearing the gifts; the other lay minister prepared the altar and brought the water and wine to the priest. She also brought the basin to the priest so he could wash his hands, but he did not see her standing behind him, so she just stood there holding the basin through the Prayer Over the Gifts until the beginning of the Sanctus, when she threw in the towel and returned to her place, where she and the other lay ministers remained standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.
The chalice and a small flagon were of glass; the ciboriums were metal. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were sung to piano settings. The third Eucharistic Prayer was used, and the priest sang the concluding doxology well. The Our Father was recited without incident. At the sign of peace, the ushers began at the front and moved their way towards the rear, shaking hands with everyone on the aisles. The Agnus Dei was sung to a piano setting.
The Communion hymn was "The Cry of the Poor." Four stations were used for the distribution of Holy Communion; two for each form. Returning to one's place is a bit tricky here; one has to wind around the side pews around the altar, make a U-turn, and then dodge the partition that juts into the side aisle. It could be worse, though. I guess the real Body and Blood of Christ are worth it. After everyone else had received, one lay minister walked to the rear to offer Communion to some disabled people who were in the back. I watched to see when the extra Hosts would be returned to the tabernacle (since that's when I usually sit) but saw no sign of this being done.
After the closing prayer, the priest imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Let There Be Peace On Earth." I decided that I'd sing it from memory and noticed as I did so that the traditional, non-inclusive form of the hymn was being used-- something that I figured had been settled by popular acclamation or something. I then looked in the Music Issue hymnal and saw that both forms are printed, one above the other. ("Let me walk with my brother.../Let us walk with each other...") I find that interesting-- I never thought I'd see the older version again. Most people remained for the entire verse.
After the Mass, all the hymnals had to be collected and returned to the cart by the door; leaving them in the racks even for a short time would be unacceptable. Outside, I again looked for a cornerstone, but this one must have chameleon-like properties that allow it to blend into the surrounding wall, so I did not see it. Some people might say it just wasn't there, but that seems a bit simplistic to me.
The Mass ended in just over three-quarters of an hour, leaving me fifteen minutes to wait for the bus home, so I elected just to start walking the whole way. Perhaps by the next time I need to visit they'll have at least a heliport available for visitors such as me.