Is 45:1, 4-6
Ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
1 Thes 1:1-5b
This morning I braved high winds and took an hour and a half drive to a parish in a city by a river. My schedule listed three Masses at 11:00 AM. The first church had been changed from 11 and 12 to 11:30, so I went to the second. That one was now at 10:00 AM. I didn't have time to make the third, but I drove past it and it was still at 11. What luck. I returned to the one with an 11:30 AM Mass and actually arrived early for that. The church has a 1928 cornerstone and a twin-spire design very common in Quebec. One of the three main doors has had a concrete ramp with wrought-iron railings built to lead to it, leaving just the two left pairs of doors opening onto the steps. Just inside the narthex is a traditional, wooden crucifix.
Inside is a beautiful, old church that is mostly as it was in 1928. It looks as though the original high altar may have been moved forward, away from the square metal tabernacle at the rear of the domed sanctuary. A small ambo is at the left. To the left of that, in a rather prominent location, is a statue that certainly was not present in 1928. It depicts St. Padre Pio. I wonder what was removed to make room for it; statues abound in this church and the spot must have been occupied prior to the start of St. Pio's tenure there. The pews are in four sections, with the side sections abutting the walls and the large pillars failling into the ends of the middle sections. The altar rail is intact minus the center gates. The side altars and their tabernacles remain, but somehow I knew that the main, center tabernacle was the one in use. Racks in the pews hold copies of Seasonal Missalette. Inscriptions were all over. It looked as though some of the small windows above the columns in the higher section of the nave depicted various titles of Our Lady, but they were in Latin so I must admit in shame to being uncertain. The larger windows on the lower walls depicted various biblical scenes.
As I entered, I heard the choir singing "The First Noel." I guess it isn't too early to start practicing for Christmas. Mass began with the sound of a bell; nothing happened at first, so the priest walked up the aisle backwards several steps until he could see into the choir loft to ask, "Are we on?" The choir proceeded to start the first hymn, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say." The church has no hymn board, and no one announced any of the hymns, so the choir basically sang by itself. That is the opposite extreme of the cantor who begs and pleads-- perhaps orders-- the congregation to sing. One server, the reader, and the priest passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession. We recited the penitential rite and sang the Gloria to a through-composed setting I am unable to identify.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading, led the recitation of the psalm for the day, and gave the second reading. We sang the Celtic Alleluia as the priest went to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel. He left the ambo and went to the center aisle to give the homily.
The priest mentioned an incident in a neighboring town in which a high school coach apparently resigned his position because he wasn't allowed to pray with the team for its safety in travelling. The priest compared this favorably to St. Thomas More and Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis and was executed as a result. If unjust laws are not overturned, it is because we don't do anything about them, he told us, saying that a law about the use of eminent domain will be changed because powerful property owners will want it done. We need to pressure our government leaders regularly if we want to be effective, instead of being a silent majority.
We recited the Creed, and the priest led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken, back to front, using long-handled wicker baskets as the choir sang, "We Have Been Told." The chalice and ciborium were of metal. The congregation stood as soon as the priest began the Orate Fratres invitation.
We sang the Sanctus to the Mass of Creation setting. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. Bells were sounded at the consecration. We sang the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen to the Mass of Creation setting. I didn't notice any joined hands at the Lord's Prayer, even though the church was well-attended enough to have made it possible. We sang the Agnus Dei to what I believe was the Heritage Mass setting (slightly similar to the Holy Cross Mass setting, with the long "Laaamb's", though they aren't nearly as long as the ones in the Holy Cross Mass).
At Holy Communion, one extraordinary minister assisted the priest. They distributed in the center aisle first and then moved to the side aisles, which actually impressed me as a conscious effort to avoid overuse of lay ministers and kept Communion from going too fast. The chalice was not offered. The choir sang "Like a Shepherd He Feeds His Flock."
After Communion, the ushers took a second collection. The priest offered the closing prayer, stopped for a moment as if he just couldn't help himself, said he had no announcements, thanked the choir, the servers, and everyone in the congregation but did not elicit a round of applause, and imparted a simple blessing before leaving via the center aisle with the lone server. The closing hymn was "Now Thank We All Our God." Almost everyone left before the end of the first verse even though the choir and an itinerant worshipper from parts unknown sang two verses.
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In Grainfield, Kansas, Mass is offered at St. Agnes Church on Cedar Street. Almost anywhere in the world, you can find a Catholic Mass.
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