Week 351

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Is 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Reading II
Rom 8:18-23
Mt 13:1-23 or 13:1-9

I took one car for a ride this morning through a big city and landed in a smaller city nearby. I tried to get to a 10:00 AM Mass but arrived in time to find all the spaces in the church parking lot numbered. That usually means "reserved" and I didn't see any spaces on the adjacent streets, so I headed for another city that fortunately had a choice of two 10:30 AM Masses. I started looking for one street that I was able to see easily on my map, but then the other one leapt into my path and begged me to turn, so I made the turn and arrived by 10:25 AM. This one had plenty of parking and was huge, so I had no choice but to give it a try.

The church has a brown brick exterior with a large dome at the center of a cross-shaped nave. The transepts are particularly long, giving a particularly spacious appearance. The cornerstone reads "1939 1960" so I presume that this building replaced an earlier building. Inside, the sanctuary is at the intersection of the transepts and the center axis, with the light-grained, wooden pews in the transepts at right angles to the main axis. In this church, it works, probably because it was designed that way from the start. Also, the first six rows or so in the main axis are circular, which is an interesting touch. The main part of the nave has a break about halfway back on the right side where several rows are missing, leaving room for a baptismal font, the large, glass ambry on a marble pedestal, and some individual upholstered seats without kneelers scattered in the void. Racks in the pews hold copies of OCP's Today's Missal (large print edition) and Music Issue in the usual plastic binder along with WLP's Voices as One hymnal. The side walls are whitish-brown marble to head-height, with small, traditional stained-glass windows above that. Marble pillars line the side aisles, and more stained-glass windows are above that. The metal tabernacle is way at the rear of the sanctuary, a little hard to see simply because of the distance, underneath a large, wooden, traditional but stylized crucifix. A freestanding marble altar is at the center of this sanctuary, with a matching ambo at the right. An organ (the one used today) is at the left along with a small cantor's lectern. The choir loft remains, with what appears to be another organ there. At the ends of the transepts are four original confessionals which have been gutted and not even been converted into shrines; instead, the center space between them now serves as two reconciliation rooms. Entrance is made from one of the old confessional areas. Each of these new rooms has a large piece of mostly frosted glass on the outside, presumably to show our commitment to transparency. Sigh.

Mass began as the cantor, who from the rear of the large nave reminded me of Martha Stewart, announced the first hymn, "America." That struck me as an odd choice for today, as it is usually heard only on national holidays or nearby Sundays, and Independence Day was last weekend. Some may even question its appropiateness at Mass at all. We sang verses one and four. Four servers, the reader, the deacon, and the priest passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. We recited the Gloria. The priest used some opening prayer, but it wasn't either of the two printed in the missalette for today. (Of course, there was yesterday, when the priest admitted in his homily to making up an opening prayer because he didn't have the Sacramentary handy...)

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor crossed the sanctuary to sing a psalm from the ambo, but it wasn't the one for the day. Instead, the refrain was "The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger..." That doesn't fit nearly as well with today's Gospel, but I guess they think that everyone needs reinforcement of the concept of a kind and forgiving God, since confessional lines are so long these days with scrupulous people confessing questionable sins. More charitably, maybe they think that the lack of people at confession is because people are afraid to confess to a harsh God anxious to punish them. Moving right along, the reader gave the second reading from the ambo and then returned to his place in the pews. The deacon held the Book of Gospels high as he processed to the ambo while the cantor led the Celtic Alleluia and sang the verse before the Gospel. The deacon returned to his place after proclaiming the short form of the Gospel.

The priest moved to the center aisle to give his homily. He focused on how wasteful God is, noting that the sower in the parable seems not to be a very good farmer, just casting seeds willy-nilly wherever they happen to fall rather than carefully selecting a good spot and preparing the soil. He gave numerous examples of how wasteful God is and then told a story he saw on the That's Incredible television program many years ago. A boy was born but was apparently totally unresponsive to external stimuli, but his mother perservered in attempting to elicit some signs of life. Finally one day she sat with him at a piano and repeatedly played one of Tchaikovsky's symphonies while holding him in her lap. One night after that they suddenly heard music coming from the piano during the night. The boy-- who had never so much as dressed himself-- was playing the symphony by ear. He turned out to be an autistic savant whose talent was playing music by ear. This was an example of sowing on rocky soil.

We recited the Creed, and then the deacon led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from his seat next to the priest. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang "O God, You Search Me." A family brought the gifts to the priest. The chalice and ciborium were of metal, but a glass flagon lingered on the altar throughout the consecration. The priest used a very large main host that appeared not to be perfectly round but seemed to have many flat edges. Almsot everyone stood even before the priest began the Orate Fratres invitation-- a particularly bad example of the generally poor implemenation of this liturgical change.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were from the Mass of Creation. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. Notable was that the deacon gave the cue, "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith." The priest chanted the concluding doxology, which is also somewhat unusual and actually welcome; priests should be able to sing a bit.

We recited the Lord's Prayer but nothing untoward happened. The Agnus Dei was from Dan Schutte's Mass of God's Promise and featured creative tropes instead of simply, "Lamb of God." During the Fraction Rite, in an attempt to be reverent, the priest held the giant Host very high above his head as he started to break it, which I found to be rather careless; particles could fall all over the altar or on the floor that way. The fraction should be done in such a way as to insure that any small particles fall into a ciborium or paten rather than just any old where. That to me seems like common sense, but I guess that's why I'm just writing these columns instead of doing something more useful.

At Holy Communion, an additional priest and probably six lay ministers assisted in the distribution. They and the altar servers formed two lines behind the altar to receive first from the priest and deacon. The dual-station method was used in the center aisle but I don't think it was used in the transepts. The Communion hymn was "Christ, Be Our Light."

After Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer and then announced that for the first time since he was at this parish, he had no announcements. He imparted a simple blessing and departed via the center aisle as we sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Only about a quarter of the congregation left before the single verse was complete. I then returned to the car for a two-hour ride home, extended by about half an hour as a result of traffic for a Yankees game. Maybe some day churches will generate that kind of traffic on a regular basis.

* * * * * * * * * *

In Amarillo, Texas, Mass is offered at St. Mary Church on South Washington. Across America and all around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

* * * * * * * * * *

Same Sunday in 2004
Same Sunday in 2003
Same Sunday in 2000
Same Sunday in 1999