Week 41

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Today I drove almost two hours to another parish located in a summer resort area of the diocese. The Mass schedule is 8, 10, and 11:30 on Sunday morning, with the last of those being a "summer only" Mass, so I figured that the 8 would be okay. First I stopped at a nearby parish for a bulletin but found the doors locked, so I figured that I was too early but wondered why so many cars were in the lot. Later, I obtained the bulletin and saw that a 7:15 AM Mass was listed; now I'm really puzzled. Could they actually be locking the doors to keep latecomers out and earlycomers from being earlygoers?

I arrived at about 7:45 AM at the target parish; the pastor was sitting in prayer in the sanctuary, so I thought he would offer the Mass, but I guessed wrong again; another priest showed to do that. The metal chalice, two glass serving cups, and basin for the priest to wash his hands were already on the altar before the Mass began.

The building is fairly conventional, with an exterior of white shingle. The layout consists of two main sections of about twenty or twenty-five rows of wooden pews, each able to hold six to eight people, plus two smaller side sections of about ten rows each facing the front. (If the building is ever renovated, the altar will probably be pulled forward and the side sections rotated.) The sanctuary is located within a high arch; the tabernacle and original marble altar remain in place, although naturally a newer freestanding altar has been erected in front of that. Long, narrow stained glass windows are largely abstract but have a detailed circular picture at the top; a more detailed window behind the tabernacle depicts the patron saint of the parish. Over the tabernacle is the inscription "PANOM DE COELO PRAESTITISTI EIS." The peaked ceiling has considerable dark brown trusswork decorated with lighter details of some sort. A life-sized traditional crucifix shows Jesus with the same sort of pained look found in the parish of week 11; it is located in the front right corner of the church. The dark brown, wooden ambo at the left of the sanctuary is exceedingly modest and in fact more resembles a schooldesk than an ambo. A choir loft is also present and appears to contain an organ or piano, but another organ or piano is at the front left of the church. The presider's chair is between the altar and the tabernacle.

I was surprised to see that this Mass has no music; I figured that a "no music" Mass was a luxury found in a parish with more Masses. If it's this way in the winter, the parish has two morning Masses and only one has music. I think that "no music" Masses on Sunday are another form of liturgical extremism anyway, but this schedule is particularly disappointing. The reader appeared and read several announcements before the priest and one server emerged from the sacristy. They sounded the bell and we recited the entrance antiphon. Form C of the penitential rite was used, and the Gloria was recited. I think I heard someone near me say, "and peace to God's people on Earth." The significance of that, as usual, is left as an exercise for the reader.

The reader then proclaimed the readings and psalm as they appeared in the Liturgical Press Celebrating the Eucharist missalette (available in the pews in both regular and large-type editions) and very quickly went into the verse before the Gospel. The priest read the Gospel and gave a homily in which he revealed that he is a hospital chaplain. He started by saying that he would offer some "exegesis" on the Gospel (which lasted about a minute or two) before telling an extraordinary story. Apparently he had a friend who fed 3000 people at a large party, which made an impression on the priest as he had read about it often in the Gospel but had never seen it done before. The priest finally went to his friend and asked how he fed all those people, and the friend replied, "Money, Father, money."

After the recitation of the Creed, the Prayer of the Faithful was recited; at the end, the priest added ad-libbed intentions for the Kennedy and Bessette families. Then a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The Eucharistic Prayer was that of a Mass of Reconciliation (I) and the priest made no noteworthy changes that I can recall. Bells were sounded at the consecration. The fourth Memorial Acclamation was used. The Our Father was recited, but either because the church was only about half full or because the customs there are simply reasonable, hands remained unattached to one another.

After the Agnus Dei, three lay ministers entered the sanctuary to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion; one retrieved previously consecrated Hosts from the tabernacle. The distribution was straightforward, with two stations for each form of Communion located in the places one would normally expect. The communion antiphon was not recited. After Communion, a lay minister returned the ciboriums to the tabernacle.

Then the pastor, who did not assist in the distribution of Communion, tapped the other priest on the shoulder as he was purifying the chalice at the altar and then took the ambo to remind everyone about an upcoming lobster dinner; volunteers are needed and it is limited to 250 people, so people needed to know to make reservations now. Finally, the priest offered the closing prayer and a simple blessing and then exited via the center aisle to greet people at the rear of the church. The pastor remained near the exit to the parking lot.

According to the hymn board, these are the hymns which were probably sung at the 10 AM Mass: "Shepherd of Souls," "Come to the Water," and "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee." The hymnal in the pews is a later edition of GIA's Gather. I later returned and heard the Sanctus being sung; it sounded recognizable and reasonable, and I think it was sung to the organ.

I went outside and remembered that I should look for a cornerstone but did not find one at first. I was almost ready to throw in the towel when I saw a small stone rendering of a set of rosary beads on a corner of the building and said, "Ah, ha!" Walking closer, I had to look behind a bush in front of the cornerstone to read the date: 1914.

A noteworthy item in the bulletin's boilerplate says that those wishing to be married should make arrangements in the rectory at least two months in advance. This is the shortest time period I have seen; the vast majority of parishes ask for six months' notice, and requests for nine and twelve months' notice are becoming more and more common. The bulletin also contains a poem dedicated to the memory of John Kennedy Jr., his wife, and her sister. (I must wonder if John or Jane Public, perhaps more deserving, would merit similar treatment.)

Afterward, I visted four more parishes. At one, a 9 AM Mass was just starting, and an organ was in use. Then I stopped to check a 9:30 AM Mass just starting; it too had an organ, but even into the Gloria folks just kept streaming down the walks. (Parking was not good there and long walks were common, but those who know that ahead of time should plan ahead!) Then it was back to the parish with the 9 AM organ Mass; guitars were in use at the 10 AM Mass. What a difference an hour makes!

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