Wis 12:13, 16-19
Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Mt 13:24-43 or 13:24-30
Wandering around the metropolitan area in heavy rain at about 10:20 AM, I came upon a parish that my printed list said would have a 10:30 AM Mass. The printed list was wrong. The astute reader knows that by now, of course. I looked at the sign and thought it read "11:00 AM." I wandered around some more and passed a huge church that looked inviting but didn't have a Mass until 11:30 AM, so I returned to the previous one at 10:55 AM. My eyes were wrong, too-- but the really astute readers know that too by now. Now facing a choice of two 11:30 AM Masses, I decided to go back to the larger of the two. All readers-- astute or not-- are probably getting dizzy by now, though the most astute of all probably know enough to bring medication for seasickness when travelling with me.
I finally came to rest at a church in a medium-sized borough. A sign outside noted that the parish was 100 years old, and the exterior of the church looked as though it might well have been that old, but the cornerstone read "1965." A check of the parish web site confirms that this building was indeed constructed from scratch at that time. The web site describes it as "modified Gothic" which looked right to me. It bears the marks of a transitional church; huge (seats 1500 people) and auditorium-like on the inside but not completely stripped-down like many of its successors. The outside is of light-brown brick with a pair of thin spires that rise to the level of the peaked roof. The transepts are quite long, and I'm almost surprised that someone didn't decide to rotate the wooden pews in those sections by 90 degrees and place the sanctuary in the middle-- at least here it would kind of work, and the church would probably still be able to seat 1200 or so. It certainly isn't necessary, though. The existing sanctuary, with a huge Gothic arch to frame it, is just fine, thank you. The lower wall of the sanctuary is light marble. The metal tabernacle is at the center of the rear wall, underneath a wooden frame that would have a canopy over it in an earlier church. Instead, here the canopy (inscribed "Holy, Holy, Holy" as opposed to the earlier "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus") is somewhat forward of the wall, so that it is suspended over the freestanding marble altar. A slightly stylized traditional wooden crucfix hangs from the canopy. The ambo and celebrant's chair are at the left, while a piano and cantor's lectern are at the right. The white marble altar rail remains, but mostly as a decoration. Side altars are present and covered with candles and flowers. Traditional stained glass windows depict the seven sacraments and the seven joys of the Blessed Mother (courtesy of the web site). Traditional confessionals are located around the corners of the church. Carts along the side aisles held copies of OCP's Companion Missal (Sunday readings only) and Music Issue in clear plastic binders; hardly anyone used them. A choir loft is located over the narthex but was empty today.
I arrived at about 11:05 AM and had my choice of seats; in the end, I had a whole pew to myself, but that says as much about the immense size of the church as the level of attendance. I also picked a seat away from the parking lot doors; seats closer to those doors were more likely to be filled. It was actually about half full by the Gospel. As I waited, church bells outside played various tunes, including the acclamation, "Keep in mind that Jesus Christ died for us and is risen from the dead..." Before Mass, the reader went to the cantor's lectern, warned us to turn off cellular telephones and pagers, and gave a few brief announcements before heading for the rear of the sanctuary. The cantor announced the entrance hymn, "Gather Us In." The piano was used for the entire Mass. Three servers, the deacon, and the priest participated in the procession through the center aisle. We sang three verses. We recited the Confiteor and the Gloria. The priest offered the opening prayer.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor led the responsorial psalm for the day from the lectern. The reader gave the second reading. The cantor led the Alleluia and chanted the verse before the Gospel to a familiar setting that I am unable to identify. The deacon took the Book of Gospels to the ambo and proclaimed the short form of the Gospel.
The priest went to the ambo and gave a homily that focused on the Gospel. He went through a list of evils in the world and wondered why God allows them. He explained that in Palestine, wheat that has just sprouted is almost indistinguishable from weeds, which is why the weeds are not easily separated until harvest time. We need to remember that God gave us great freedom and will not interfere with it or force us to do anything, but he does invite us over and over again so that we can be ready on Judgment Day. In the end, he referred to the responsorial psalm, "Lord, you are good and forgiving."
We recited the Creed, and then the reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets and metal dishes passed into the pews by the ushers and occasionally emptied into the baskets. Come to think of it, the metal dishes in various forms used to be more common. I don't know why they have disappeared. The offertory hymn was "O God, You Search Me." After the collection was complete, two members of the congregation presented the gifts. By that point, the pianist was simply playing background music. The chalice and ciborium were of gold metal. Four smaller silver chalices already filled were also on the altar throughout the consecration. The congregation stood before the priest began the Orate Fratres invitation. (In one parish I visited last Friday, the bulletin explicitly says that the congregation is not to stand before the invitation but only after. Half of them stood before the invitation anyway.)
We sang the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen to the Mass of Creation setting. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The Agnus Dei came from the Holy Cross Mass setting.
At the last possible moment, after the final elevation, eight extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion entered the sanctuary in pairs to assist the priest and the deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion. I believe they were stationed singly across the front and at the break; after the front sections were finished, the priest and deacon moved to the break to assist there. The Communion hymn was "Seed, Scattered and Sown."
After Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The pianist then started an instrumental postlude; about half the congregation left at that point, while the priest and servers were still standing facing the altar. Even the servers seemed confused and turned to leave before the priest and deacon had moved. They all went toward the parking lot entrance in the right transept, leaving the main entrance clear for my escape.
* * * * * * * * * *
In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Mass is offered at St. Francis of Assisi Church on NW 18th. No matter where your travels take you, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *