Week 36

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Back in ninth grade, my earth science teacher assigned each of us students a number for bookkeeping purposes; this number was to be written in the upper right corner of every assignment and test we submitted. (I guess he was either a bit eccentric or he watched too much of The Prisoner.) I was number 36. I did kind of well in earth science, so I figured that perhaps 36 is a lucky number for me and hoped that today's visit would be pleasant as I began my drive to a parish located near the center of the diocese. I picked the 8:00 AM Mass, since my schedule showed a Spanish Mass and a family Mass following that. (The current schedule shows no family Mass, though.)

I arrived at 7:40 AM and began to search for the cornerstone, which I found in the front of the air-conditioned building; it reads "1936." However, the building was in the process of being totally renovated last fall when I visited to obtain a bulletin, so everything appears to be brand new. (Masses were in the parish hall last fall; the cornerstone may indeed be almost all that remains of the old building.) The main entrance leads to a kind of long foyer that eventually leads to the main part of the church. The layout of this very small church is basically a "T" with very small sides. The original area has about fifteen rows of wooden pews divided into two sections separated by a center aisle and no side aisles; the first two rows of that area plus the sides of the T have wooden upholstered chairs. Each pew can hold about six people comfortably. The interior is plain white with darkish brown trusswork, a peaked roof, and plain stained-glass windows with small pictures. A traditional crucifix hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary.

As I entered, I looked for the tabernacle, but, unlike last week, the spartan interior left me little room for a genuflection on faith-- the tabernacle was plainly not visible, so I bowed my head to the altar. The tabernacle, in fact, is behind the sanctuary wall in a small chapel suitable for adoration. The sides of the rear sanctuary wall are bordered with narrow windows that allow a glimpse inside the chapel (but no view of the tabernacle). The organ and piano are in the side section to the right. After I sat, I saw others entering with GIA Lead Me, Guide Me hymnals and realized that once again I had walked past a cart by the door that held those books, but I had a feeling that the hymnal would not do me a whole lot of good, and I just didn't feel like going back for one, so I figured I'd just look over the shoulders of those in front of me. Much loud talking was to be heard until the Mass began. (In fairness, the same talking in a larger building would probably be absorbed by the larger space, but still...)

A cantor announced the first hymn, "Wade In the Water," which was sung to an organ accompaniment. A reader accompanied the priest in the procession down the center aisle. The Confiteor was recited; the Gloria was omitted. The reader then proclaimed the first reading and appeared to do well, although the OCP Breaking Bread hymnal found in the racks in the pews does not have the readings, so I can't comment on how well the reading matched the official version. The responsorial psalm for the day was sung to an organ accompaniment; the cantor remained behind a black metal music stand for this. After the second reading, the verse before the Gospel was also sung very nicely to an organ accompaniment.

After the priest read the Gospel from the wooden ambo, he sat in the presider's chair for about twenty seconds, which is nice but left me fearful that he would just skip the homily. Fortunately, if he was tempted, he must have received my brain waves and rose to deliver a homily from the front of the altar. He related a story of how golfer David Duval explains that in order to hit a golf ball properly, one must concentrate exclusively on placing the ball in the cup and forget about all the shots he missed and all the celebrations or boos that may occur later. This was linked to Jesus' warnings not to worry about tomorrow or yesterday. The priest also told a story of how he fell asleep before locking all the doors and windows at a retreat house, saying that while he's not promoting irresponsibility, we also should not get overly anxious about such things if we slip now and again. He got several laughs during the homily, which overall seemed reasonable as far as I can recall.

The Creed was recited, followed by a typical, recited Prayer of the Faithful which ended with about seven or eight people in the pews offering their own intentions (the first three were just "for my special intention") and about thirty seconds of silence as the priest made sure not to step on anyone's toes. This practice is very common at smaller daily Masses but is new to this series for some reason; actually, I had expected to see it by now. Two collections were then taken, one immediately following the other, using long-handled wicker baskets. The second was announced as a local custom of making a monthly donation to a local charity (the same one each month). From this point forward, the piano was used instead of the organ; the offertory hymn was "Give Me A Clean Heart."

Two glass chalices and purificators were brought on a glass platter to the altar by a lay minister, who did not assist the priest further, although unlike last week this priest at least did not skip the ritual washing of hands. I believe the ciborium was also of glass, although a metal ciborium was later retrieved from the tabernacle. The Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation were sung. After the Sanctus, I went to kneel on the standard kneeler attached to the pew, but I noticed that almost everyone else remained standing except for someone kneeling directly to my right. Since I wasn't doing any harm, and I know that kneeling is required by the U. S. bishops with Vatican approval until the Great Amen, I remained kneeling. Unfortunately, with everyone in front of me standing, I wasn't able to see much. Oh, well; at least nobody apprehended me. The Eucharistic Prayer itself sounded unfamiliar; the priest clearly was reading it but must have been improvising a bit. It must have been either one from a children's Mass (I can't imagine why) or one of the Swiss Synod prayers.

Before the Great Amen, which was sung, almost everyone else joined the priest in singing the concluding doxology; readers from week 26 will recall that this is not allowed. Then came the recited Our Father; although no instruction was given, people started scrambling all about the church intertwining with one another. A wall was to my left (not entirely accidental, as walls are generally not inclined toward intimate gestures) and the person to my right was too far away, so I thought I'd be spared, but the gentleman in front of me took pity on me and offered his hand. Oh, well; I lived. The "Deliver us, O Lord" prayer was recited, and then the pattern of week 27 was followed in which hands were raised even higher. Then a brief period of descrambling ensued, followed by a sung Agnus Dei and the "This is the Lamb of God" dialogue.

At this point, I would have been willing to remain standing, as that is the official posture prescribed for this part of the Mass (despite the noble custom of kneeling), but everyone sat, so I decided that kneeling would be less obtrusive. (Sitting just doesn't cut it during this part of the Mass.) Three lay ministers assisted the priest in the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds. One pair of stations was in the main area and another pair of stations were in the side section to the left (the right side, where the organ and piano are, was not used). Everyone from the left side received first, followed by those on the right. The woman seated to my right was sharp enough to let me out first so that I could return easily, which I appreciated. The Communion hymn was "That There May Be Bread."

After Communion, I noticed that many people on the right (I am not kidding here) were kneeling and sat after the ciborium with the remaining Hosts was returned to the tabernacle. We stood for the closing prayer and then sat for several announcements. One thanked a nun who has served as administrator of temporal affairs for the last six months, which resulted in a round of applause for her. The priest then thanked her as well as graduates of a pastoral formation program who were also in attendance; they too received a round of applause. Then we stood again for a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "God Be With You." Most people remained for all that was sung of it.

Before I left, I went to look at the adoration chapel just to be sure it was really there and then headed for the parking lot. On my way toward the car, a gentleman extended his hand, so I shook hands with him. I guess I have some sort of pleasant look about me that naturally attracts people.

So much for "36" being a lucky number for me; I'm 37-- maybe that's the lucky number? We'll see next week.

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