This week, I wasn't quite sure where I'd land; instead, I left at 8:30 AM, just started driving east, and figured that God would steer me to the right parish. I had a couple in mind, but I didn't leave early enough. The first parish, which we shall call "Target 1," has a 9:30 AM Mass. By 9:20 AM I could see that I wouldn't make that, so I continued further east to another parish ("Target 2") with a 9:45 AM Mass. I didn't get there until about 9:53 AM or so, so I decided just to peek inside to see what I was missing and make a note for future reference. I stepped into the vestibule, looked around, and spotted someone holding something that appeared to be a guitar. I suppose it could have been an organ disguised as a guitar so that nobody would steal it, but since the bulletin indicates that a "folk group" serves at that Mass, I shall presume it to be what it appeared to be and mark that Mass as a "folk" Mass in my schedule and plan on attending the 8:30 AM or 11:00 AM Mass there.
Next, I returned to "target 1" to see what I missed there. I looked inside at Communion time and listened carefully; the plucks of guitar strings were in the air. Mark that Mass "guitar" too then and figure on the 8 or 11 there.
With time to kill before the 11 AM Masses at those parishes, I decided to head even further east to a third parish for its 11 AM Mass after purchasing some gasoline at a local dealer. "A rolling stone gathers no moss," as they say. I can always catch the other parishes another week.
My final resting place is a stately old church with a 1907 cornerstone and a very medieval look. It has a high, peaked roof with an even taller bell tower to the right. The inside is kind of dark, with a dark wood ceiling with lots of supports. The walls are a greyish beige and hold many stained-glass windows. The circular sanctuary has about a dozen paintings of scenes from the life of Christ, and the original stone altar and tabernacle remain with their integral, intricate surroundings of spires and carvings. A small, traditional crucifix is over the tabernacle. A newer, free-standing altar is in place; it matches the rest of the surroundings. The dark, wooden ambo is a balcony type with a circular staircase and a canopy over it. The dark, wooden pews are split into four sections by three aisles. The center sections can hold about eight people comfortably; the side sections, directly abutting the walls, are much smaller and probably can hold only four at most. Thick columns fall at the edges of the center sections and noticeably shorten those rows where they stand. Oddly enough, I don't recall seeing any hat hooks. A choir loft is in the usual location; a choir of from six to ten people was serving along with an organist.
I arrived at about 10:55 AM and selected a seat at the center of an empty pew about halfway back. I quickly noticed that all the hymnals (OCP Music Issue) and missalettes were in racks at the ends of the pews, so I grabbed a set before it was too late. The organist was playing some somewhat soft music until the cantor stepped to the cantor's lectern to announce the first hymn, "We Gather Together." Three servers, the reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle.
Form C of the penitential rite was used; a recited Gloria followed. The reader ascended the steps to the ambo to proclaim the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. Then the cantor led the psalm for the day from the lectern; the reader followed that with the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was sung before the priest climbed into the ambo to proclaim the long form of the Gospel; he remained there for the homily.
The priest began the homily by noting several religious programs that were on television this past week. One was on Joan of Arc, another was about something else, and the one about the Virgin Mary was the third. He seemed satisfied with all of them and was pleased that something good was actually on TV. He noted that portraying Jesus dramatically is very hard; it too easily starts to look "preachy." The theme of the rest of the homily was "responsibility and accountability."
After a recited Creed and a typical Prayer of the Faithful, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "We Are the Light of the World." Two glass serving chalices were already filled and brought to the altar; a metal chalice, ciborium and paten were also used.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to settings from the Mass of Creation. The priest apparently used a Eucharistic Prayer for a children's Mass; although the text is unfamiliar to me, I don't think he was ad-libbing it as he clearly had the Sacramentary in front of him turned to the back and was reading from it. Although some children obviously were present, it was definitely not what one would call a "children's Mass," though, so I'm not sure how wise this was.
The Our Father was recited, and I saw no evidence of joined hands. Many people were close enough to do so but chose to abstain for whatever reason. At Communion, I once again witnessed an unusual custom. The pastor and four lay ministers assisted in the distribution; the chalices were offered at two stations to the sides, while four other stations were located in the center aisle in the front. First, those from the side sections walked to the rear and approached the stations via the center aisle. Then those of us in the center sections were invited forward, starting with those in the back pews first. ("The last shall become first and the first, last.") It works, I guess, although it does feel strange when Communion begins with people taking long strides as opposed to the more common approach. The Communion hymn was "Amazing Grace." (I am at a loss to explain the relationship of that hymn to Communion.)
After some brief announcements read by the cantor, the priest offered the Prayer After Communion and a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Praise to the Lord;" we sang all three verses, although a few people chose to leave before the hymn was complete. The choir was not overpowering, but it was noticeable through the Mass, and perhaps not too many other people were participating, although I wouldn't say that the congregation was dead silent either.
Then it was on to the other parish in town for a bulletin and a check of its 11:30 AM Mass, which had an organ. Well, you can't lose them all!