Week 40

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


I was in the general store the other day buying some beeswax and whale oil when the clerk, who has been reading this series, asked me, "Say, by the way, what do you call those little stories that you add to the beginning of the articles?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "They're actually throwaways. Kind of like the first panel or two of a Sunday comic strip. If the editor doesn't have space, he just discards them and no one is the wiser. I guess you could call them bumpers."

"Well, whatever you call them, I think they're silly. Besides, someone might actually believe that you have a time machine or some such nonsense. You'll lose credibility."

"I suppose you think that people will believe that I'm buying whale oil at a general store too."

He gave me a dirty look as I left with my purchase; I can't imagine why.

Meanwhile, today I drove an hour and three quarters, parked the car, caught a ferry that took me five minutes or so to a much smaller island reachable only by ferry, and walked a bit more than five minutes to a small parish located on top of a steep hill. As I ascended the hill, I prayed, "Please, Lord God, no hand-holding today."

The church has a fairly simple layout with an original section of two sets of wooden pews and a section obviously added later to the left with one longer section of pews; the three sections are divided by four aisles. The main sections hold about six to eight people across and the newer section holds maybe eight to ten across, and I guess about twenty rows are found in the church. The pews have detached cushions on the seat itself but no upholstery on the back. The ceiling, peaked but with the top flattened inside, has a facade of light wood panels. A medium-sized traditional crucifix hangs over the sanctuary, which houses a small wooden altar and is flanked by small niches with statues of Mary and Joseph that may have had side altars at one time. The tabernacle is in the original location, an arched, backlit niche with the unusual detail being reachable only by a pair of stairways with a wooden railing across the front. The stained-glass windows are mainly simple, abstract designs. The simple wooden ambo is to the left of the altar, not noticeably behind or in front of it. No altar rail is present.

The cantor and organist served from the left front of the newer section; seats for a choir are also there. The cantor has no lectern but simply uses a microphone on a stand next to the organ. After the organist played some instrumental music, the cantor began by stating that, before Mass, the parish has a custom of reciting the Memorare (found on a card inside the OCP Music Issue hymnal), and we did that. Then he introduced the opening hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King," by means of a short exhortation of some sort, which also preceded the other hymns. The hymns were also described in a new fashion-- for example, the opening hymn was a "gathering hymn" and the closing hymn was a "parting hymn." The procession through the center aisle did not begin until after the second verse; two servers, a reader, and the priest participated. One more verse was sung before the priest began, using the Confiteor and the leading a recited Gloria. His voice reminds me very much of that of the Inquizitor on the Game Show Network quiz show Inquizition, although his style is not like that of the game show host.

A reader then proclaimed the first reading as it appears in the Today's Missal booklet. The cantor sang the psalm from his microphone, doing well. Then the same reader proclaimed the second reading. As the priest read the Gospel, the servers stood alongside him at the ambo, although without candles as is seen elsewhere. He must have been using an older Book of Gospels, as his reading did not match that in the missalette but did not seem to have been changed with any particular motive. After the Gospel, the priest returned the Book of Gospels to a shelf on the front of the ambo.

No homily was given; instead, the priest introduced the cantor, who happens to be one of the parish trustees; he gave what the priest said is an annual talk on stewardship. The trustee spoke briefly of "time" and "talent," twice describing the parish's volunteers as an "army." Then he dwelt on "treasure" for the rest of the talk, ending with a plea for parishioners to use the envelope system so that the trustees can make an accurate budget for the parish. (The bulletin shows that of 307 envelopes mailed, 89 were used last week.)

The Creed was recited, followed by the usual Prayer of the Faithful with intentions read by the reader. The cantor read a short prayer before the collection, taken using handleless baskets; he waited for the collection to finish before beginning the offertory hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth." Participation was not notably good at this parish; the cantor's voice seemed to be the most noticeable.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to a setting familiar to be but which I cannot name. The priest used one of the "Swiss Synod" Eucharistic Prayers, namely, the one with the phrase, "Christ now opens the Scriptures for us and breaks the bread."

At the Our Father, which was recited, the priest began, "Let us join our hearts, our hands, and our voices..." Oh, well, I guess my prayer was banked for another occasion or someone who needed it more. The person to my left apparently was indifferent, although she was two places away from me; the person to my right was closer and would not be denied. On the plus side, I saw no intrusive jockeying for position or the like at this parish. The "Deliver us, O Lord..." prayer did not lose its place in the Mass, either.

Two lay ministers appeared to assist the priest with the distribution of Holy Communion. Two stations were located in the main aisle, and another was off to the side for the newer section. The cup was not offered. No hymn was sung during Communion; after Communion, we sang four verses of "The Supper of the Lord." One of the lay ministers returned the remaining Hosts to the tabernacle as the priest sat.

After the closing prayer and final (solemn) blessing, the priest made two announcements, one concerning an upcoming parish picnic and another about a young man who was in the hospital suffering from burns over 50% of his body but was recovering, though in need of prayers. Then the cantor led the closing, er, parting hymn, "Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens." Finally, it was time to run back to the ferry and head home.

On my way back, scouting parishes for upcoming weeks, I spotted one noteworthy item: a carpeted cry room with a TV monitor inside showing a picture of the Mass outside; a couple of adults were there, and several children were playing with toys on the floor. (I was relieved to see that the TV was showing the Mass and not something else!) I also made an additional attempt to obtain a bulletin from the parish I mentioned in weeks 37 and 38; I thought that perhaps I could get one between Masses while nobody was looking, but someone was there guarding them. Sigh.

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