Is 40:1-5, 9-11
Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14
2 Pt 3:8-14
I drove to a Polish parish I had passed a few times but not at the right time and hoped that today would be the right time. From up the block, I could see a steady stream of people leaving. I figured that was a good sign. I arrived at about 8:25 AM and read the paper sign plastered on the door. "New Mass Schedule," it announced. "English 9:00 AM 11:00 AM." Rather than flee, I decided that the most sensible thing to do would be to take a seat and wait the half hour.
The church is old (1903 cornerstone) and rectangular, with a high, peaked ceiling. The sanctuary is highlighted by a large traditional crucifix with figures of the Blessed Mother and St. John the Evangelist at His sides. The original reredo, high altar, and tabernacle are underneath. That tabernacle is still in use; the side tabernacles appear to have permanent decorative boards in front of them so as not to create confusion as to which one is the active tabernacle. Underneath the reredo is an illuminated relief of the Last Supper, a feature that seems to be extremely common in Polish churches in my experience. The celebrant's chair is at the right, behind a rather ornate lectern. A freestanding green and white marble altar is at the center, while a large, circular, white ambo is at the right. The light-colored, wooden pews are in two main sections, with side aisles and a narrow break about halfway back. Marble pillars fall about a third of the way into some of the rows, dead-ending some. Racks hold copies of WLP's Seasonal Missalette and the Polish Pan Z Wami missalette. Traditional, tall, stained-glass windows depict various saints. The confessionals look to be original and unrenovated. A large choir loft hangs over the narthex, but it was not used today. Signs in the narthex warn, "Do not stand in the vestibule. An usher will escort you to your seat."
About 8:45 AM a man dressed in black, including black gloves, started setting up music stands, microphones, and a synthesizer in front of the right side altar. He looked like a robber-- it looked sinister somehow. About five minutes later, someone placed a box at the front center, and the young children in the front right two pews rose and grabbed ragged copies of the parish song book and started down the aisles to distribute them. Just before the Mass, the children took places near the music stands and formed a choir that would serve at the Mass. Someone who looked like a sexton lighted the Advent wreath, which had no other role during the Mass.
Probably about 100 to 200 people were in attendance. Mass began as one of the children announced the first hymn, "Into the House of God." Two girls who would serve as readers and the priest participated in the entrance procession via the center aisle. (Later, a boy and girl would go from the pews and don red robes to become servers.) The priest used Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was omitted for Advent.
The first reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading for the Immaculate Conception. The choir led a musical rendition of Psalm 27 ("The Lord is my light and my salvation...") instead of the psalm of the day. Perhaps it qualifies as a seasonal psalm. Then the first reader gave the correct second reading for the Second Sunday of Advent. The choir led the Alleluia and the keyboard operator sang the verse before the Gospel. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel. After the Gospel, the priest paused as the children in the choir filed back into the first two pews on the right.
Given from the ambo, the homily was workmanlike. The priest mentioned that the purpose of St. John the Baptist is to tell us how much we need Jesus-- John in his humility realized that even he needed a savior, and that his baptisms, noble as they were, were essentially worthless. We need to be ready to meet Jesus whenever He comes-- in particular, he mentioned frequent confession as being important.
We recited the Creed, and then the second girl went to the ambo and led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful in rather a wooden way. The offertory hymn was "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." Members of the congregation presented the gifts as a collection was taken by red-jacketed ushers using handleless wicker baskets. The chalice and ciborium were of metal. Only two members of the congregation stood after the priest completed the Orate Fratres invitation; the rest of the congregation made the response and then stood.
The Mass setting for the remainder of the Mass was J. Michael Joncas' "Sing Praise and Thanksgiving" composition (which might actually have been used at last week's parish as well-- it sounded familiar). The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. A chime was sounded at each consecration. The choir remained standing by the side altar for the rest of the Mass.
We sang the Lord's Prayer to the same setting, but I didn't see anyone joining hands. The priest chanted the "Deliver us, O Lord from every evil..." prayer while the keyboard operator continued to play. The sign of peace was concise.
A nun in black habit assisted the priest in distributing Holy Communion; the chalice was not offered. The Communion hymn was "Here I Am, Lord."
After Communion, a second collection was taken; the envelopes looked like flower offering envelopes. The priest offered the closing prayer and then led the recitation of a prayer for vocations, which was found on sheets in the pews. After that, he instructed us to sit for the announcements, which were read by the second girl. These were all found in the bulletin, although I concede that the announcement about Masses for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was important. We stood, the priest imparted a simple blessing, and we sang the closing hymn, which apparently was not in the hymn book as it was not announced. The lyrics sounded like "Children Join With Us Today, Waiting For Jesus." The priest, readers, and ad hoc servers departed via the center aisle. The Mass took about 45 minutes.
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In Springfield, Georgia, Mass is offered at St. Boniface Church on Highway 21 South. No matter where you go across the nation and around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.
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