Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Phil 4:12-14, 19-20
Mt 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
"Okay, pal, time's a wastin'..."
""Time's a Sunday morning and I'm trying to get some Sabbath rest, if you don't mind."
"Our friend needs a hand again."
"Our friend? Your friend! My friends sleep late on Sunday morning."
"In any case, he'll get stuck joining hands if we don't help him. I need you to break a kneeler for me."
"And all the other angels are helping earthquake victims?"
"Now that you mention it-- yes. Didn't you hear the news?"
"It's always something, Gabriel... hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, terrorists-- that miserable Satan..."
"Look, just go and I'll put a letter of commendation in your file. How's that sound?"
"Oh, okay. Give me a map and I'll go on my way-- but that letter had better paint me in glowing terms!"
"You want glowing terms, well, there is that other job Our Lady, Raphael, and I would like done, you know."
"No way, not even for glowing terms-- that job is impossible and I told all three of you that again and again. I'll settle for slightly laudatory terms!"
* * * * * * * * * *
Once again, I set forth into the bowels of a nearby city, hoping to unearth rays of hope in the liturgical desert. My first stop was a church that was listed with an 11:30 AM Mass. I located the school, the rectory, and the convent, but the church was nowhere to be seen, and I saw no evidence of people walking toward anything nearby. I drove to a nearby church that my recently-printed schedule claimed would have a Mass at noon, but on my arrival I saw the church emptying and a sign that read "9-11." I made an about-face and headed for a parish with a 12:15 PM Mass. Despite my impatience and inability to back-park quickly in a not really tight space, I arrived in time as the Mass started late, probably around 12:20 or so.
The building bears a 1932 cornerstone but could have passed for a much later model, perhaps because it has either a rectory or classrooms over top of it, or because it has suffered renovations. The roof is flat and the rectangular stained-glass windows are abstract. Despite a huge choir loft over the narthex, an almost equally huge space was sliced off the pews in the front right to create a space for a choir, piano (used today), and organ (not used today). This leaves the right front pews chopped in half. It looks ridiculous, another horrid example of attempting to force an old building to do something it was not designed to do and never can do well. Apart from that, a center aisle and a break about halfway back split the wooden pews. Racks hold copies of Seasonal Missalette and Lead Me, Guide Me. A freestanding altar is at the center of the sanctuary, and on the rear wall is some sort of reddish artwork (probably symbolic of the fire of the Holy Spirit) on which is mounted a wooden image of the Risen Lord. A wrought-iron and wood ambo is at the left. The metal tabernacle is at the far left, where a side altar may have been originally.
Mass began as the leader of the choir said, "Good morning, Church!" She then announced the opening hymn, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." Two servers, four extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest passed through the center aisle. He made some opening remarks and led us in Form C of the penitential rite. "Now that our sins are forgiven," he said, "let us sing our hymn of praise." No wonder confessional lines are so short these days. We sang the Gloria to a setting consistent with piano and tambourines.
Before the reader went to the ambo, the priest read an introduction to the first reading from his chair at the rear of the sanctuary. The reader said, "Good morning, Church," gave the reading and then stepped aside while a member of the choir led something beautifully sung but which I was unable to understand.I hope it was the psalm of the day; whatever it was, the priest said something about it first-- it sounded as though he was saying that it was one of the most beautiful psalms, which would be consistent with Psalm 23. He also introduced the second reading before the reader returned to the ambo to give that. We sang an Alleluia before the priest went to the ambo to proclaim the long form of the Gospel. He moved to the center aisle to give the homily.
The content of the homily was actually fairly good, although the priest may have been trying too hard to be entertaining in style. He said that biblical scholars have suggested that the parable we heard today was actually two different parables fused together by Matthew, which would make it a bit easier to take, since we tend to see the king as a hard, unreasonable man when he throws the improperly dressed guest into the night to wail and grind his teeth. The priest suggested that while the fusion theory may be true, even so, we have to presume that it was done with good reason. When God invites us to His feast, He gives us the garments of righteousness and forgiveness that we need. If we show up anyway having chosen to wear our "old, smelly garments" instead (as the priest put it), God is rightfully upset. The priest followed this with the "top 5 reasons" why we might not accept the garments God gives us. These were read from index cards. In brief, they were "What will people think?" followed by "What about my family?" "What about my stuff?" "I need my weapons," and the last, which I may have missed because all I heard was "This is mine; what's yours?" Maybe he was pointing to something? Somewhere in here was a mention that the priest was in jail last week for protesting the war, which is why no one saw him last weekend.
The priest led the Creed from the center aisle as well; I noticed that he said, "he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became one of us." The reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo while the priest remained at the center of the sanctuary. Towards the end, the priest said, "Please bring forward the Scroll of the Sick." We prayed for those listed on the scroll, and then those who were sick were asked to step into the aisles so that we could pray over them with arms outstretched, and they received a special blessing. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Go." After this was finished, the choir sang another hymn and received a round of applause. The chalices and ciborium were of metal. A glass flagon held additional wine but its contents were immediately emptied into the chalices and it was dismissed. The congregation did not stand until after the congregation's response to the Orate Fratres invitation was complete.
We sang the Sanctus to a setting consistent with the general atmosphere. The priest used the Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time VI but said "Each day You show us a mother's love." He then offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. We sang the second Memorial Acclamation and recited the Great Amen. The congregation joined hands for the Lord's Prayer, but a broken kneeler in the pew ahead of me may have spared me, as the woman who had been sitting directly ahead of me on the end moved halfway in to use a functioning kneeler, and thus was too far away to attempt to grab my hand when the time came, and the entire pew separated me from the nearest person at the far end. The sign of peace could have been lots worse, but the priest did ignore the GIRM and entered the nave to shake hands with those in the congregation. Members of the choir also wandered away from their posts and down the aisles to greet others in the pews. We sang the Agnus Dei to a setting I am unable to identify.
Six lay ministers assisted the priest in the distribution of Holy Communion; stations were located at the front and at the break for both species. The truncated pews in the front made the lines severely imbalanced and confused matters greatly. The Communion hymn was "Here I Am, Lord," which arguably was the most "conventional" hymn of the whole Mass.
After Communion, the reader went to the ambo and read all the announcements that were in the bulletin (fortunately that amounted to only one page). Then the priest offered the closing prayer and paused to ask the choir to sing "Happy Birthday" to Richard, who then received a round of applause. The priest imparted a simple blessing and left via the center aisle as we sang "I'm So Glad, Jesus Lifted Me" twice through plus verse one a third time. An itinerant worshipper returned to his car for an hour's drive home.
* * * * * * * * * *
In Wheatfield, Indiana, Mass is offered at Sorrowful Mother Church on South Grace Street. Across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
* * * * * * * * * *