Ez 34:11-12, 15-17
Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Cor 15:20-26, 28
I started wandering around a neighboring diocese in my automobile until I came across an ornate-looking parish that almost literally is in the shadow of its cathedral. I didn't see any sign, so I checked my printed schedule and determined that I had half an hour before the 11:00 AM Mass. I used the time to stop and take a peek at the cathedral, also hoping to locate a rest room there. I found the rest room, but right in the middle of Mass, even though it was on the third floor, it was as busy as Grand Central Terminal, so I decided to wait for a better opportunity elsewhere. I returned to the first parish and parked alongside an elaborate plaza that also happens to be a shrine to a popular saint. A plaque mounted on the outside of the building announces that the building is a national historic site, and explains that the architect, Neil Convery, employed the Romanesque Revival style in the design of the 1925 structure. The front has a small peak and on one corner is a short bell tower. I entered, looked for a rest room but did not see one, and then waited until the 10:00 AM Spanish Mass was complete before entering.
Inside, the pews are arranged in four sections, with three aisles and the short side sections abutting the walls. The inside is as ornate as the outside and appears to be fully intact, down to the altar rail. The reredo and main tabernacle (still in use) are very traditional, and the side altars are still in place. Off to the right in the transept is a statue of St. Padre Pio. A small lectern is at the right of the sanctuary, and the high, balcony-style circular ambo is at the left. Between those is a freestanding altar. Traditional, tall, stained-glass windows show saints and Biblical scenes. The racks in the pews have a very small number of copies of OCP's Today's Missal, with the yellow Spanish supplement. The original confessionals, two in the rear and one in each transept, appear to be as they always were. In the rear is a large choir loft housing an organ, and I believe a small choir served from that location this morning.
Mass started with the sound of a bell. About 100 or so were present at that point and maybe 25-50 more trickled inside afterward. None of the hymns was announced, but I had no trouble recognizing "Holy, Holy, Holy," so I was able to join even though the pew where I sat had no missalette. A server, deacon (wearing a dalmatic), and priest entered from the sacristy at the right of the sanctuary. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite. After a short pause, we recited the Gloria, but I saw the deacon gesticulating to the priest as if he had made a mistake; perhaps the choir was supposed to sing the Gloria.
The deacon went to the small lectern and gave the first reading. The choir led the responsorial psalm for the day. The deacon gave the second reading and then the choir led the Celtic Alleluia. The priest went to the lectern and proclaimed the Gospel.
The pastor emerged and ascended the steps of the ambo to give a few announcements: first, a mention that today's celebrant was not the usual 11:00 AM Mass celebrant but was a fill-in and, second, an introduction to a visiting priest who was to make a pitch for Food for the Poor. Something was wrong with the way the ambo was used at this Mass; announcements are not as important as Scripture, and an appeal for funds is not really a homily. I would have reversed the usage. In any case, the priest who made the appeal made a very brief mention of the Gospel and then told us that something like 25,000 people die of starvation in the world every day, but our small donations go a long way in other parts of the world and can feed many, many people. Sometimes I wonder if I should be investing my spare money or just giving it away. Still-- if I live long enough to retire, it would be nice to have some money to give away then as well, since "the poor you will always have with you." During the appeal, the ushers (who wore smart red suit jackets with the parish logo) handed out brochures for Food for the Poor as well as blank weekly envelopes.
We recited the Creed, and then the deacon led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The response was "Thy kingdom come." The choir sang a hymn on its own as the ushers took a collection using long-handled wicker baskets. About a dozen members of the congregation brought bags of food forward, and the ushers took these at the right side altar. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. Those in the right stood first after the priest gave the Orate Fratres invitation, followed by those in the center rear, and finally after the people's response was complete, those in the front center stood.
The priest chanted the Preface. We sang the Sanctus to a nice setting that I don't know if I ever heard before. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. We sang the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen. Before we recited the Lord's Prayer, there was an extremely long pause, as if the priest was correcting for what may have been his earlier error, but I guess they don't sing the Lord's Prayer here, so once again the priest had egg on his face. The sign of peace was quick, but not long enough for many in the congregation, who were greeting each other well into the singing of the Agnus Dei.
A small surprise was in store at Holy Communion. Everyone used the altar rail! The deacon distributed at the left, and the priest distributed at the right, with the server holding a paten. (Of course, one could argue that this is in defiance of the U. S. bishops' instruction on the matter, unless the parish has some sort of permission to do otherwise. Then again, perhaps even those who receive standing should do it at the altar rail, which would make kneeling less of a problem for those who wish to do so, and then maybe the bishops could simply change the rules again, since they seem to love liturgical tinkering.) The offertory hymn was "Gift of Finest Wheat." The choir sang another hymn after that. (I think it may have been "Ave Maria.")
After Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing before leaving via the sacristy. I didn't quite get the closing hymn, but neither did anyone else, since almost everyone left immediately, leaving me to stand alone in the pews until it was complete.
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In Bakersfield, California, Mass is offered at Christ the King Church on Bedford Way. In Bakersfield, across the nation, and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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