"Okay, now make a wish."
"Quiet, everyone, let him think!"
"One, two, three..."
"Well, what was your wish?"
"I think I'll reserve that to myself for now."
* * *
Believe it or not, we've just passed the first anniversary of this series, which is why we had a cake with a single candle to commemorate the occasion. Honestly, I never figured on continuing this long; I thought that after a few weeks, the folks at my parish would get tired of introducing themselves to one another before Mass, and I could head back there without having to endure that. For some reason, however, they're still doing it. I can't imagine why, but I've grown accustomed to seeking out a new parish each week, and many near me remain to be visited, so as long as people are finding something useful in these articles, I'll stick with it. I'm not sure what remains to be seen that I haven't already seen, but I've been surprised too often to think that it can't happen again. Without any further adieu, then, let's continue our tour.
Yesterday's parish is about twenty minutes from my sister's house, where I was staying for the weekend. I'd been there about three times before and found it to be about middle-of-the-road by today's standards, and I knew the 10 AM Mass to be the choir Mass with an organ. I decided to head there, since I wasn't in the mood for anything less (although I've experienced better). I arrived at about 9:45 AM as the choir was rehearsing.
The building is rather modest; a middle section with a peaked ceiling has about fifteen rows of light wooden pews separated by a center aisle; each pew holds about eight people comfortably. Side sections, which look as though they may have been added at some point, hold slightly shorter sections of pews underneath lower ceilings. The front right pews are turned at a right angle to the rest; a section on the front left is oriented similarly, and another section on the left is at a 45-degree angle. The sanctuary is pulled slightly forward, probably as much as the small building would allow. The large ambo is behind the square altar and slightly to the left; the presider's chair is at the right; and the tabernacle is to the left, not really too hard to see in what must have been an old side altar. A large crucifix of the risen Christ hangs over the sanctuary, which at its rear has a large stained-glass window depicting a river filled with Hosts. A choir loft remains but apparently sees little use as the choir has a section to the right of the sanctuary.
After announcing the name of the priest and the name of the family that would later present the gifts, the cantor introduced the opening hymn, "Rain Down." Two servers, seven lay ministers of Holy Communion, and a reader accompanied the priest in the entrance procession down the center aisle. After the penitential rite, the Gloria was recited, and the priest remembered to welcome a group of Pre-Cana participants that he neglected to mention in his opening remarks.
The reader proclaimed the first reading as it appeared in the OCP missalette. Then the cantor led the refrains of the psalm for the day, but the reader read the verses as the organ played quietly in the background. The reader proclaimed the second reading, which was followed by a sung Alleluia but no verse before the Gospel.
After the priest proclaimed the Gospel, he stepped to the front of the center of the sanctuary and gave his homily, beginning with what he termed a "prophetic statement" that the New York Yankees would win in five games. (Well, actually, I guess that wasn't part of the homily, strictly speaking.) The theme was "you can't give what you don't have." Among the points he made were that he would rather confess to a priest who fell flat on his face and experienced God's mercy than a priest who was completely holy because the former would make a better confessor; that being holy is more than just being "nice;" that a dollar a week in the collection just isn't enough; and that whatever we return to God comes from God.
Next, the RCIA candidates, who appeared to be mostly between 7 and 14 years old, were given an ad-libbed (but reasonable) blessing and taken elsewhere as the choir sang, "May God Bless You." After the RCIA candidates left, the priest blessed some prayer books (I forget exactly what they were) that would be given to the Pre-Cana couples after Mass, and then he asked them to stand and gave them a blessing as well.
I feared that the Creed would be found expendable after the somewhat lengthy homily and the dismissal and blessings, but to my relief, the Creed was recited. The petitions of the Prayer of the Faithful were read by the reader, and the response was "Lord God, hear us, hear our prayer," sung by the choir and congregation. After that, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The cantor stepped to the front right of the sanctuary to lead the offertory hymn, "I Say 'Yes,' My Lord." Only the refrain was sung by the congregation as the cantor raised his arms; a second member of the choir led the verses. I don't think this was in the Music Issue hymnal, but I seem to recall it being sung here on previous visits, so perhaps it is a local tradition of some sort.
The chalice and ciborium were of metal, and a glass flagon was also used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen all came from the Mass of Creation. The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer. Some hand-holding was evident at the Our Father, which was sung to the most common setting, but given the small size of the church and the fact that it was nearly full, I would not have been surprised to see lots more.
The Agnus Dei was sung to a setting not familiar to me. At Communion, the seven lay ministers were given the Host in the usual way, but those distributing the Precious Blood were left to self-communicate from the chalices (one of which was the one the priest used earlier; it was identical to the others). Stations were found in the places one might expect, at the center aisle and each side aisle. The choir received Communion first; after that, the Communion hymn was "We Remember."
After Communion, everyone stood and several announcements were read. I think the Prayer After Communion followed the announcements, but it may have come before; I don't recall exactly now. Then, after reading the contents of a petition-- concerning local immigrants lining the streets every morning seeking work-- that was being circulated outside the doors, the priest offered a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "They'll Know We Are Christians." I noticed that almost nobody seemed to be singing; about a quarter of the people left right after the hymn started, and about three-quarters were gone before the final refrain began.