"Why are you doing this?" my father asked before I left this morning. "Is it some kind of penance or something?"
"I'm hoping to get a book from it. Besides, other people are enjoying it."
"Well, you'd just better hope that Vatican III doesn't come along and render all of it history-- 'what things were like in the olden days.'"
With that thought, I left at about 9:20 AM for a 10:30 AM Mass about 50 minutes by car from where I live. I suppose I could have taken a train, but then I'd have missed bulletins from four other parishes, including one that is changing its Mass schedule in two weeks. The 10:30 AM Mass seemed best because the 9:00 AM Mass is listed as a "family" Mass and the following Mass is at 12:00 PM. I figured that if a choir served, it would be at this Mass.
After stopping at another parish, I arrived at about 10:15 AM. As I walked from the parking lot, I said to myself with determination, "Check the cornerstone. You're early for once and have plenty of time today." I promptly cleared my brain and entered the church without checking the cornerstone. Fortunately, I was so embarrassed at this lapse that I did remember to look later, as I left; it reads "1961." An older church remains on the grounds about a block away but is no longer used for weekend Masses. The inside looks like 1961; the basic elements of an older church are present, but very much simplified. The tabernacle, covered with a green cloth, is in the older location at the center of the rear wall of the sanctuary underneath a large canopy and a traditional crucifix. The sanctuary is recessed into the front of the church in a high arch. The peaked ceiling is of light wooden panels with heavier beams at intervals. The walls are white with square, old-fashioned stained-glass windows. Arched side altars to Mary and Joseph are well-decorated. I don't recall seeing an altar rail; it may never have been there or it may have been removed. Small, plain, green banners hung from the rear of the sanctuary. The mostly wooden ambo is at the left and has some wrought-iron (I guess) grillwork; the cantor's lectern, at the right, is a plain wooden box.
The seating arrangement is fairly straightforward: the pews are separated by three aisles and a break about halfway back. The side sections abut the walls and hold only about four or five people each; the center sections can hold about twelve people apiece. About two or three rows were removed on the left at the break to accomodate a small baptismal font on a pedestal. A choir loft is in the traditional location in the rear; about fifteen to twenty people served today.
I took a seat at the center of a pew about ten rows back and hoped for the best. Fortunately, I was early enough to begin to plan ahead and began to look around, starting with a hymn board (none), which led me to notice that all the hymnals were on racks at either end of the pews-- none were in the center. I was lucky inasmuch as at that point nobody had yet sat to my right (some were already to my left), so I was able to slide over and grab an OCP missalette and hymnal before it was too late. After that, others did sit to my right, so I was just in time.
The cantor went to the lectern and announced the opening hymn, "Sing a Joyful Song." Three servers, four lay ministers of Holy Communion, a deacon, and the priest participated in the opening procession down the center aisle as all four verses of the hymn were sung. One server wore some sort of cloth over his head; I presume that he is recovering from an injury or medical treatment of some sort. The lay ministers took reserved seats in the front pew. (Most parishes seem to let them fend for themselves these days.) The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, and then the priest introduced the Gloria, which was sung to a setting I am unable to identify but which seemed reasonable nonetheless. The choir sang most of it, and we sang the refrains. Notable here is that the cantor sang the whole Gloria along with the choir (raising her hand at the refrains); at my parish, the cantor mostly remains silent and simply leads the congregation in the refrains, which gives more emphasis to the choir's part. The cantor's singing today, with the microphone, tended to drown out the choir.
A reader took the ambo to proclaim the first reading as it appears in the missalette. The cantor then led the responsorial psalm of the day from the cantor's lectern; the choir took only the refrains with the congregation. The reader then offered the second reading, again doing well. The verse before the Gospel was sung, with two refrains of "Alleluia" after two separate invocations (not the one for the day) as the deacon held the Book of Gospels high while walking to the ambo. He read the Gospel well and then made way for the priest to offer the homily but not until after another invocation and sung verse of "Alleluia" were led by the cantor.
The homily was reasonable; it began with a story of two children who were selling lemonade for twenty-five cents a glass. A very thirsty man appeared, bought two glasses and gave them five dollars. The children were puzzled; one dollar would have been great but five? They went to their mother, who was also alarmed, and she told them, "Never speak to that man again." Then the mother called the neighbors and said, "Should we tell the police?" The point is that, just like those in the Gospel, we are very suspicious of generosity, as it goes against our capitalist mentality. We simply cannot believe that God can be that generous, and we are more comfortable with the idea of earning our salvation-- yet we cannot earn it no matter how hard we work. It is a gift from God.
The Creed was recited, and then a second deacon (the director of religious education at the parish) appeared and asked us to be seated. He then spoke briefly about the religious education program (as it is Catechetical Sunday) and called forward those involved as catechists. He gave them a blessing and then handed each one a piece of paper and thanked them. They then received a round of applause. The Prayer of the Faithful followed; it was standard.
At the offertory, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "River of Glory;" again, all four verses were sung. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation (III), Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung; a look through the hymnal (and consistency among them) suggests that they may have come from the "St. Louis Jesuits" Mass setting-- the Sanctus in particular had the phrase "Hosanna on high," which appears in that Mass setting. Perhaps the Gloria was part of that setting too. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer, as well as a metal chalice and paten.
The Our Father was recited; I did not see any hand holding at all, although again all the hand-holders may have been in the rear sections out of my range of vision. I am considering an upgrade to my head that would add a rear eye, but that's a bit pricey for now, so we'll have to make do.
The second deacon and another priest stepped from the sacristy to assist the four lay ministers and the first priest and deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion. The cup was not offered; stations were at the logical locations, one for each section of pews. I believe the choir had its own minister as well (that would actually make five lay ministers all together; here, I guess, as at my own parish, a member of the choir serves as its minister). The organist played background music as the choir received; following that, the Communion hymn was "Seek Ye First."
After Communion, the second deacon took the ambo again to ask for additional catechists to serve the religious education program, basically saying that being alive is the only requirement to serve and that several catechists have just left the program after serving for some time, so the parish is in need. Then the Prayer after Communion followed along with a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus." Two verses were sung; most people left during the first verse. Almost all the parking is in the rear, and everyone had to exit through the main doors, so I guess waiting for the end was too much to ask.