Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
1 Thes 5:1-6
Mt 25:14-30 or 25:14-15, 19-21
Once again, I lacked ambition and developed a simple plan to get to a big, old church that I don't recall visiting for Mass. I boarded a railroad train, which cooperated by being scheduled for 8:47 instead of the 8:45 I had figured, and took it to the last stop, which was about a ten-minute walk from the target parish. After passing various peep-show and DVD stores as well as a bus terminal, I arrived at the church well in advance of the 10:00 AM Mass. The 9:00 AM Croatian Mass had just finished, and a handful of people remaining were reciting a prayer of some sort in a language I was unable to understand.
The cornerstone reads "1902," and little has changed since then apart from the name of the church; two parishes seem to have been combined at some point and the parish bears both names. The wooden altar rail is fully intact, including the gates. In the left niche is a statue of Jesus depicting His Sacred Heart. Underneath that is what appears to be a baptismal font, with an organ near that. On the right is a niche containing a statue of the Blessed Mother, and underneath that is a canopied stand holding a red rose (Rose for Life?). Possibly a tabernacle was here at one point but was removed, leaving someone to figure out something to put here. The side altars seem to have been removed; I am sure that a 1902 church would have had them, complete with auxiliary tabernacles. At the top of the rear wall of the domed sanctuary is a large painting of the Crucifixion. A typical white reredo and tabernacle are underneath, while in front of them is a freestanding altar. A smallish wooden ambo is at the right, and to the right of that are the celebrant's chair and two other chairs. I don't know how they are normally used here as they were vacant today. (Perhaps vacant is how they are normally used.) The wooden pews are in six sections: two long, wide, main aisles, two shorter side aisles with some rows shortened by stone pillars, and two short sections in the transepts. The building could easily hold 1000 people in better days. Large, traditional, stained-glass windows depict various Biblical scenes. A circular choir loft sits over the narthex, but I believe the loft was empty today. Traditional confessionals remain in their original locations. Hardbound Croatian hymnals were in the pews. I found a handful of paperback English missalettes from Advent by the doors but they weren't of much use.
The 10:00 AM English Mass began after a bell sounded and the priest emerged from the sacristy and the reader led the recitation of the entrance antiphon. About twenty to twenty-five people were in the congregation. The priest used Form B of the penitential rite, although he did a full set of "Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy" after the initial invocation, "Lord, we have sinned against you," where the rite only calls for a single "Lord, have mercy." We recited the Gloria.
The reader took a decidely unusual position to give the readings and lead the recitation of the psalm; he stood directly behind the altar. I can only presume that he did this because the altar had a working microphone and the ambo did not, and his voice (reminiscent of that of New York Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard) sounded clear from the rear of the church. On the other hand, I don't think this man would have had a hard time projecting his voice in the mostly empty church, which almost certainly did not have microphones in 1902. The reader led what I believe was the Celtic Alleluia. The priest, however, did go to the ambo to proclaim the long form of the Gospel-- but he may have been using a wireless microphone.
In the homily, the priest made two main points: first, that if we believe we have nothing to contribute to building God's kingdom, we are mistaken, and, second, going through life and not doing anything wrong is not sufficient. When we finally meet God, we will need many good deeds to show for our efforts. They need not be spectacular or grandiose deeds, because we are not all called to do those things, and the everyday, mundane good deeds we do can be worthy-- but we do need to be ready to show something for our efforts, just as the servant who was given the least talents was expected to show something.
We recited the Creed, and then the priest and reader stood behind the altar to lead the Prayer of the Faithful. No collection was taken; I guess it isn't worth it with so few people. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. The congregation more or less stood at the correct point, after the priest gave the Orate Fratres invitation.
I believe the priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer, but it may have been the third as I was somewhat distracted. No one was close enough to join hands for the Lord's Prayer.
The priest distributed Holy Communion by himself. After Communion, the reader led the Communion antiphon.
The priest ended by offering the closing prayer and imparting a simple blessing. He returned directly to the sacristy. The Mass ran about half an hour. I walked back to the train station by another route and returned home.
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In Winfield, Alabama, Mass is offered at Holy Spirit Church on U. S. Highway 43. In Winfield, across the nation, and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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