Week 51

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time


I hurried into the editor's office, hoping he'd be in an understanding mood. I dropped my disk on his desk and apologized profusely. "Sorry I'm late with this," I said. "I got waylaid with lots of other things yesterday."

"You're always late with these," he said. "I'm sick of it. I don't know why I hired you in the first place."

"I work cheap," I reminded him.

"Well, I can find scores of others who'll work as cheaply as you, and they'll get their reports here before midnight at the bargain. Go home and don't darken my doorstep again."

I decided to wait in the receptionist's office until he regained his senses.

Meanwhile, yesterday's parish is about a 40-minute drive from here. The advance scout reported that the choir Mass was just moved to 9:30 AM from 10:30 AM, so I figured I'd go give that a try while it is at an earlier time, in case it gets moved again. A Spanish Mass is held in the church at the same time as the choir Mass, so the latter is held in a chapel in an adjacent building. The church was built in 1903 and is rather small and typical of its time, with just two sections of wooden pews, stained-glass windows, and an altar in a sanctuary within a niche. I had figured the "chapel" would be rather spartan, perhaps an auditorium with folding chairs or something on that order. Much to my surprise, the chapel, in a building which bears a "1923" cornerstone, is equipped fairly well.

Two groups of dark wooden pews are separated by a center aisle and lined with side aisles. Each pew can hold about ten to twelve people, and hat hooks are provided as well. The room has no windows but its white walls make it somewhat airy nevertheless. The ceiling in the rear is rather low, supported by two columns about five or six rows from the front. The remainder of the ceiling is much higher. A cry room is at the far left; in front of that is a group of individual chairs. The wooden ambo is at the left of the sanctuary; a small, wide-beamed crucifix is at the center of the wall over the sanctuary; and the domed, metal tabernacle is to the right. Several banners and other decorations reading, "El Seņor de los Milagros," adorn the sanctuary, and at the right is a small shrine of sorts. To the far right is a raised section with a rail across the front; the choir and organist are located there.

I arrived just in time for the Mass; the priest was already in place near the main entrance. If I knew the building better, I'd have picked another entrance, but I didn't want to get lost. I quickly looked around and excused myself into the center of a pew blocked at both ends. After I was trapped, the cantor, who was at the ambo, immediately announced, "Please take a copy of the hymnal from the racks by the doors on your way into Mass." Well, that should teach me not to get to Mass early. The opening hymn was "Gather Us Together." A server, the reader, two lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest passed through the center aisle to organ music. About half a dozen or so people of various ages were in the choir, which basically kept a low profile.

The Confiteor and Gloria were recited. The reader took the ambo to offer the first reading and then stepped aside as the cantor sang the psalm for the day (I peeked over someone's shoulder at the OCP missalette) to piano and keyboard music. The reader returned to proclaim the second reading without incident. The verse before the Gospel was also sung to a piano/keyboard setting.

After the priest proclaimed the Gospel, he offered a medium-length homily which began with the observation that the wedding guest who was hauled off the street had received a fairly good deal; after all, he didn't even deserve to be invited to the wedding. The least he could have done was to put on some decent clothes for the occasion. He got an invitation he didn't deserve; was the host of the party supposed to provide his clothes too? Likewise, we must make some effort on our part to reach heaven; we cannot expect God to do it all for us. We cannot enter heaven (where nothing imperfect can exist) as we are; even Jesus in His humanity suffered much before ascending to the Father. We must see every opportunity to give of ourselves as an opportunity for sanctification so that we will be ready for heaven.

The Creed was recited. During the Prayer of the Faithful, which was otherwise typical, I noticed the organist playing some *very* soft background music, which almost sounded as if it were coming from another room. Then two collections were taken, one immediately after the other, using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "The Supper of the Lord." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.

The Sanctus was sung to what sounded like a folk-type setting. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. Instead of a standard Memorial Acclamation, a verse or part of a hymn of some sort apparently was used; it was totally unrecognizable to me. The Great Amen was sung and appeared to match the Sanctus.

At this point, things were going fairly well, but someone must have opened the door for a minute and all the good sense seemed to escape. The cantor, reader, and lay ministers rushed to the altar and joined hands with the priest, and of course almost everyone else imitated this. I managed not to become entangled as I was at the center of the pew with sufficient space on either side of me. The Our Father was recited. The Agnus Dei was sung; it might have been from the Mass of Creation, but I was a bit distracted at that point and am not certain.

One lay minister retrieved ciboriums from the tabernacle. Holy Communion was offered at three stations, two in the center and one at the left. The choir came forward and received first; meanwhile, one lay minister went to the cry room first to distribute there before starting on the left. The cup was not offered. The Communion hymn was "Gift of Finest Wheat."

After Communion, the reader returned to the ambo to make several announcements. Following the Prayer After Communion, the priest offered a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Let the Heavens Be Glad." Most people remained until it was concluded.

Now, a few hours after the editor tossed me from his office, a young, rosy-cheeked college student passed me and entered the office. I listened and heard some mumbling and muffled tones for a time, when all of a sudden, the door flew open and the student went flying through the air into the corridor outside the reception area. "I won't stand for highway robbery!" shouted the editor at the top of his lungs. He then looked toward me and smiled; I knew I was reinstated.

"What happened?" I asked him.

"That bandit had the temerity to ask me for a nickel an hour! What audacity!"

"Oh, indeed. Indeed." I was going to ask for a refill for my ball-point pen, but I knew better.

"Actual money! I still can't believe that someone would come in here expecting to get paid money to work. Maybe you're not that bad, after all," he said softly. "I tell you what. Here's a sheet of paper. From now on, write your notes on this instead of on the back of your hand. Oh, yes-- it's on me."

"You're too kind."

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