Week 367

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 131:1, 2, 3
Reading II
1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13
Mt 23:1-12

I left early, meandered about like a lost sheep, and finally landed at a noon Mass in a parish I don't believe I visted before. (After 360 parishes, and as one ages, one's memory does start to blur.) It bears a 1959 cornerstone and is more or less typical of its time, although it has seen slight renovation. The metal tabernacle has been moved to the left side altar, while the statues of Mary and St. Joseph share the right side niche. The freestanding altar is pulled forward and the right transept is now a choir area, with organ. The left transept appeared empty. The light wooden pews are slanted slightly toward the center because a modern church just has to be "in the round," and this puts everyone on notice that "hey, we really wanted a round church but our forebears were not enlightened enough to build one for us so we have to make this tiny statement that we really are enlightened but we just don't have the money to bulldoze this old cross-shaped church and build a new one..." The side aisles are underneath a lower roof, and large pillars line the ends of the pews. Racks hold copies of Gather and Breaking Bread (without readings). The traditional stained-glass windows on the higher part of the walls depict biblical scenes, while those on the lower walls depict various saints. A traditional crucifix is mounted on the rear wall of the sanctuary over the old high altar. A large choir loft with a huge pipe organ remains but only the organ is used now.

I entered at about 11:50 AM and saw a helpful paper sign that read, "Restrooms downstairs." As a weary traveller in need of a rest room, I walked downstairs and found another decent facility, though not nearly as immaculate as last week's. After that, I walked back upstairs, obtained a copy of the bulletin, and selected a spot in a pew at the front left, slightly ahead of the break about two-thirds of the way back. I had this pew to myself for the entire Mass, which was not particularly well-attended as only about 150 to 200 people showed. Once again, a dagger was planted in my heart as a pretty female cantor stepped to the small lectern at the right. She sang beautifully, although the material she was given was not of particularly high quality. If only I could interest her in Gregorian chant... anyway, she started by announcing the first hymn, "God Is Here! As We His People." Four extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (who also functioned as servers), two readers, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. We sang all verses of all the hymns. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite. We sang the Gloria to a setting with refrain that I don't hear often and can't identify.

The first reader went to the ambo (at the left) and gave the first reading. She returned to the rear of the sanctuary and the pretty cantor went to the ambo and sang the psalm for the day. Then the second reader went to the ambo and gave the second reading. One of the extraordinary ministers handed the priest the Book of Gospels, which he took to the ambo as we sang the Alleluia. He proclaimed the Gospel and started the homily from behind the ambo but shortly into it wandered into the nave.

The homily started with a reference to Lord of the Flies, which demonstrates that people need structures in order for society not to degenerate so that people start killing each other. The Jewish people developed their extensive laws for much the same good reason, and the lesser laws were intended to induce the people to keep the greater laws, but the laws became so burdensome that all but the most fastidious despaired of ever being able to keep them. The Pharisees proceeded to label all those less fastidious people "sinners." The priest then started preaching about last week's readings, reiterating the two great commandments, and with an abrupt ending, probably leaving the impression that all that mattered was love.

We recited the Creed, and then a reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. Two collections were taken in succession using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang "We Are Many Parts." The second collection was for a new copy machine for the religious education office; this is expected to cost $5000. Two members of the congregation brought the gifts forward; they gave them to the priest and walked behind the altar before returning to the nave from the other side. (I can't understand the significance of that unusual maneuver.) The chalices and ciborium were of metal. A large metal container held the wine, but it was emptied into the smaller chalices immediately and removed. The congregation stood as soon as the priest began the Orate Fratres invitation.

We sang the remainder of the Mass responses to a setting unfamiliar to me. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. The congregation was too scattered to attempt serious hand-joining during the Lord's Prayer.

An additional priest assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion. Three stations were at the center for the Sacred Body and four stations were at the sides for the Precious Blood. The Communion hymn was "Bread for the World."

After Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer. The pretty cantor gave a few brief announcements while we remained standing, and then the priest imparted a simple blessing. He remained in the sanctuary until the fourth verse of "Community of Christ" started, so almost everyone remained until the end. An itinerant worshipper left another piece of his heart with the pretty cantor, who failed to follow him out the door as he slipped back into the anonymity of a place far from home.

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In Bluefield, West Virginia, Mass is offered at Sacred Heart Church on Wyoming Street. In Bluefield, across the nation, and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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Same Sunday in 2004
Same Sunday in 2003

Same Sunday in 1999