"That is very interesting-- I'm glad to know that. Okay, thank you very much."
"Who was that?"
"I just got a tip that that character who attends a different parish every week is probably on his way here. He's heading to another nearby parish first, but he's going to find guitars there, and this is the backup parish, so he'll probably flee their 8:30 and check our 9. I'm going to fix him, though."
"I'm going to give the guitarist the day off and put away all the guitars. He'll poke his nose in the church and think it's probably safe because he won't see any guitars."
"After he's stuck, we switch to the "guitar/piano" setting on the keyboard."
"Oooooh! That's devious!"
* * * *
Once again, I set forth on my weekly journey with kind of a flexible itinerary. I figured I'd first check the 8:30 AM Mass at a parish where I saw guitars at the 10:00 AM Mass some time ago; if it looked okay, I'd stay for that. However, I did not leave early enough and, after driving an hour or so, I arrived a few minutes too late. While I was there, though, I stood alongside the wall and listened to hear what I was missing. I heard a folkish "Alleluia" coming from within; it must have had guitar accompaniment. I think I'll save that parish for Lent and attend the 7:00 AM Mass.
Next, I drove another fifteen minutes further east to my second choice for a 9:00 AM Mass. After I exited the expressway, I noticed a sign reading, "CRAFT FAIR," with the parish's name underneath. After that, additional signs reading simply, "CRAFT FAIR," were placed at key points along the route. This could prove to be a useful tactic when the next persecution comes in this country; instead of having signs reading "MASS" we can post signs for a "craft fair," which insiders will know is really a covert Mass. I could not help but recall the sketch from episode 41 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a customer in a department store is looking for the manager's office and is directed to go to the toupee department, which is marked by signs reading "Electric Kettles," since people would be embarrassed to ask for the toupee department. After following the signs to the craft fair for a few minutes, I found myself at the church at about 8:55 AM. Knights of Columbus were assembled near the main entrance; I thought to myself, "How bad can it be with K of C folks at the Mass?" I saw that most people were entering through the main doors, so I went around to a side entrance in order to maintain my credentials as a countercultural type. This proved useful in any case, as most of the empty pews were near the entrance less used. I looked for guitars but did not see any, so I figured that this Mass would not be too bad and stepped past a woman seated at the very end of a pew into a large cavity in the center.
The church is rather simple and appears to be another 90-degree rotation. The original cornerstone reads "1960," but signs of rotation are evident and probably date from the 1980's or early 1990's. The main entrance is at one end of the building; the wooden tabernacle is in a niche at the opposite end. This is probably the original location, but the altar is now in the center of one of the longer sides of the building. The flat ceiling is composed of white acoustical tile that seems to cover some air conditioning ducts. Behind the altar is a large crucifix of the risen Christ. The long, vertical, narrow, stained-glass windows bear abstract designs. The wooden pews are in four main sections; a fairly large section to the left is reserved for a choir or folk group. Some short sections of pews facing the altar are directly in front of this area. Three of the larger sections basically face the same way, and the fourth section, on the right, is at a right angle to those. The ambo is at the left and has a niche for the Book of Gospels. The altar is at the right but further back from the ambo. An additional row of pews is located against the rear wall, and many people chose to sit there.
After a few moments, I heard some music begin; it was a blend of guitar and piano, but I figured that perhaps it would not last, as I have seen many Masses in which the setting on the keyboard varies throughout the Mass. This Mass did not fit that pattern, however; apparently, the person operating the keyboard was unable to get the "organ" setting to work, so we heard the guitar and piano blend for the entire Mass. Finally, the cantor introduced the first hymn, "At the Name of Jesus." The Knights of Columbus (about eight or so), three servers, five lay ministers of Holy Communion, two readers, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the aisle to my right. As they reached the front of the aisle, some (perhaps all, I don't recall) turned toward the tabernacle at their left and genuflected.
The Confiteor was recited, but the concluding prayer of the penitential rite, "May almighty God have mercy on us..." was omitted. The priest then welcomed the Knights of Columbus before beginning the recited Gloria. After that and the opening prayer, the first reader stepped to the ambo to proclaim the first reading as it appeared in the OCP missalette. Then the cantor (from a music stand) led us in the hymn, "Shelter Me, O God," instead of the responsorial psalm for the day, Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...") The hymn is partly based on Psalm 16; I am at a loss to explain why anyone would not want to use perhaps the best-known and most popular psalm of them all. A second reader followed with the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was sung.
The priest proclaimed the Gospel but twice changed the word "righteous" to "holy ones" and the word "brothers" to "brothers and sisters." Once again, even after much wrangling and debate which should now be settled, we see people simply refusing to accept the decisions of our leaders. Besides, what's wrong with being "righteous?" Sigh. The homily was within reason; it focused on the Gospel, particularly the call to service that Jesus gives. We were told that our faith is not about apple-polishing (a different, coarser phrase was used) but rather about service. This led into another pitch about stewardship, mentioning the three "T's"-- time, talent, and treasure, particularly about treasure.
The Creed was recited. The Prayer of the Faithful was typical but ended in the Stewardship prayer instead of the usual priest's prayer. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "Whatsoever You Do." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal; a glass flagon for additional wine was also used. The Sanctus appears to have been the St. Louis Jesuits' setting (ending in "Hosanna on high.") The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer. The Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen were sung to settings unfamiliar to me. Everyone knelt until the beginning of the Memorial Acclamation; at that point, everyone else stood and remained standing for the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer. I thought I'd seen everything, but even in week 57 something new appeared; piano notes were played all through the second part of the Eucharistic Prayer.
At the recited Our Father, most people joined hands, but I was spared as large cavities remained to my left and right. I watched for the raised hands at the "For the kingdom, the power..." prayer but did not see that innovation. The Agnus Dei was sung to a setting unfamiliar to me. Everyone knelt for the "This is the Lamb of God..." proclamation, but everyone else sat after that. Three sets of stations were used; two were moved from their initial positions as needed. Some people knelt after receiving Communion, but others did not. The Communion hymn was "Bread of Life."
After Communion, we all stood as the Prayer After Communion was offered, and then we were asked to sit for a few announcements. A second collection was taken for the Campaign for Human Development. The priest then thanked the Knights of Columbus again and mentioned their breakfast downstairs and the craft fair. Then we stood and he imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Christ, Be Our Light." We sang verses one and five; since the priest remained at the altar for the first verse, most people remained until the end, although several had left immediately after Communion.
I then visited my sister, her husband, and their dog; following that, I went to visit a parish where I have made three or four unsuccessful attempts to obtain a bulletin over the last several months in order to update my diocesan Mass schedule. I arrived at about 2 PM but found no bulletins in the church, which was littered with flyers about a vote of some sort. (The Mass schedule is not posted either.) After finding the auditorium (where Sunday Masses are also offered) locked, I walked in discouragement through the parking lot and around the block. Coming around to the main entrance of the church again, I spotted a waste basket on the sidewalk and approached it with a glimmer of hope. I looked inside and found what I needed; a bulletin from that day was right on top. "Victory is mine!" I said aloud. "Once again, dogged persistence and relentless perseverance triumph!"