"Do you think this will work?" I asked the clerk at the car rental agency.
"The girls always go for convertibles," he smiled.
I lowered the top and sped off. Pammy was waiting by her apartment and hopped in. "It doesn't get much better than this," I thought. "A fast car and a pretty girl all to myself."
"Where are we going today, Bob?" she purred.
"I think we'll head for a church on the East End," I offered.
"Church? Are you crazy? What about the beach, a picnic, a movie, or miniature golf?"
"Church comes first," I said firmly.
Pammy yanked the sunglasses from my head and cried, "I thought so! You're no Robert X. Cringely! You're a fake!" Then the real Cringely pulled alongside us with a friend and forced me to stop, tossed me from the car and punched me a few times, leaving me in a heap by the side of the road. "Get your own imaginary friends," he yelled as he sped down the road with Pammy falling all over him. Shortly afterward, old Bing strolled past, puffing on his pipe. "Looks as though you made a mess of things, son," he said. "You should quit trying to be something you're not and just be yourself. Now go on home, get the station wagon, and start looking for a nice young lady who wants lots of children."
Taking Bing's advice, I decided to take the station wagon and head an hour and a half to the east, to the 9:15 AM Mass at a small nonterritorial Polish parish. (The following Mass was in Polish and the one after that was kind of late.) First, I stopped at my own parish to drop my envelope in the basket before the 7:30 AM Mass. A large group of people was clustered near the fans on the side aisles in the front, as it was already hot and humid. I saw that the day's announcements were tacked by the main door; the "introduction" is still in use. I also saw that two or three other envelopes were already in the basket; perhaps others were heading for other parishes too. They may have been looking for air conditioning, but the "introduction" apparently didn't hold them either.
I stopped next at the other parish in the same hamlet as today's parish to check the 9 AM Mass and maybe get a bulletin, but no bulletins were to be found anywhere in the building; apparently bulletin theft is a problem there. The Polish parish is a three-minute drive from there; it is a twin-spire building that has been re-sided with light brown vinyl that doesn't look too bad but makes the aged green spires look in need of repair.
The inside is air-conditioned and highly ornate, typical of churches of its period. About twenty-five rows of wooden pews are separated into four sections by three aisles; the short side sections abut the walls, which hold dark, detailed stained-glass windows. The pews in the side sections hold about three or four people each; those in the middle sections hold six to eight comfortably. The domed sanctuary has a large painting of Jesus apparently rising to heaven accompanied by angels over a space-eye view of the Earth. The original altar and integral tabernacle remain (as do the side altars with their own tabernacles) and fall into the category of "artistic treasures" with their large, colored statues and intricate detail. A newer marble altar has a colored sculpture of the Last Supper on its face. A light brown, large, traditional crucifix is hung to the right of the cantor's lectern but facing the opposite wall rather than the congregation.
The original presider's chair and attached servers' chairs remain but are not used for some reason; simpler seats placed in front of the old altar were used today. Each Station of the Cross is depicted by a colored sculpture attached to the wall. Large columns line the sides of the arched center of the church and fall into the middle sections of pews. About half of the ornate marble altar rail remains. Behind that are the ambo and the cantor's lectern, which are almost identical except for a slightly larger top and an eagle on the metal post of the ambo, which should really be replaced with a more substantial structure (marble would fit well here).
I arrived at about 9 AM and selected a seat on the center aisle. I saw a hymn board and started copying the hymns. Two Paluch books are in the pews; a red Rejoice hymnal and the green Seasonal Missalette. (Polish missalettes were also in the racks.) One hymn was posted in red numbers, so I figured that was in the red hymnal and the others (in black) were in the green missalette. Wrong again! The red hymn was in the green book and the black hymn was in the red book. Anyone who can explain the logic of this should apply for a sacristan's or sexton's job at the nearest parish. After that, a server used a barbecue lighter to light the candles.
The reader entered and introduced the Mass from the cantor's lectern; the pretty young woman who served as cantor sang from the choir loft with the organist. The opening hymn was "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus." An oddity is that the reader announced all the hymns; this is normally the cantor's job. Two servers wearing white cassocks and the priest entered via a side door (not the door directly from the sacristy) and went across the front of the church to the sanctuary. Form C of the penitential rite was recited as was the Gloria (which I sang a bit during my drive).
Before each reading, the priest offered a short introduction (something a priest who served in my old parish used to do). The readings were exactly as they appeared in the missalette. The responsorial psalm was recited by the reader, as was the actual verse before the Gospel, but the Alleluia itself was sung to a common setting.
The priest, who is from Malta but works in the diocese, is serving at this parish for July; this was his first Sunday here. After reading the Gospel, he gave a decent homily, starting by noting how God chooses the weak, as He did in the first reading from Zechariah. He mentioned that Pope Paul VI wondered aloud why so many people came to visit Padre Pio from all corners of the world when Pio was alive, saying, "Is it because he was wealthy? No. Is it because he was clever? Influential? No. It was because of his humility and wisdom." He concluded by reaffirming that Christ's yoke is easy, and we can handle all our problems if we draw our strength from Jesus.
The Creed was recited, followed by a standard Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken at this time using long-handled wicker baskets; the offertory hymn was "Where Charity and Love Prevail." The chalice and ciborium were both of metal. The Sanctus was sung to a setting familiar to me. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer, being careful to sing the invocation to the second Memorial Acclamation (sung) as well as the concluding doxology before the sung Great Amen. The servers knelt until the words of consecration, when they inexplicably went to stand by the altar. However, they did ring the bells at the appropriate times.
The Our Father was recited. A few people assumed the orans posture, and perhaps some even joined hands, but the church was no more than half-full, so it was not really conducive to anything more, and I was close to the front, where fewer people sat, so I may not have had a great view anyway. In any case, I saw no scrambling for position as I did last week. I think the Agnus Dei was sung, but I seem to have a memory lapse on that, so I'm not 100% sure now.
One additional priest and one lay minister assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion; the cup was not offered. Each minister handled one aisle; people simply approached the nearest aisle and blended into a single line somehow, returning via the same aisle. The cantor came from the choir loft and was the first to receive in a side aisle; at this time I noticed that her skirt was slightly short of the minimum requirement. After she returned to the choir loft, she led the Communion hymn, "O Lord, I Am Not Worthy," sung to the tune of "O Sacrament Most Holy."
After Communion, another collection was taken. The Prayer After Communion was offered, followed by a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory." The priest and servers exited via the center aisle, walking slowly enough that two verses of the hymn were sung; most people remained for both verses.
Following the Mass, I went outside and remembered that I had not obtained the date from the cornerstone; a careful search revealed one which almost completely blended into the background. Not to my surprise, it read "A. D. 1906." They just don't build them like this anymore. The cantor also passed the main entrance; I thought that perhaps she had noticed the station wagon and may have been interested in purchasing some longer skirts and starting a large family, but she must already be married, because she made absolutely no effort to speak to me. I certainly can't think of any other reason why she would have behaved this way.
I then returned to the other parish, still hoping to obtain a bulletin, figuring that perhaps they were available after the Mass. I had no luck on that front either. Well, I'll just have to talk to Bing again and see what he thinks I should do next week.