"Hi, this is Regis Philbin from ABC's 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'"
"Oh, well, that's nice. What can I do for you, sir?"
"Your friend Jim here has a question on Catholic liturgy that he needs to answer, and he wants to use you as a lifeline."
"Hi, Andrew! They want to know which instrument is 'held in high esteem' in the Latin Church. The audience says, 'the guitar.' What do you think?"
"Oh, never mind the audience-- that's easy. It's the organ. You can bank on it."
"Hmm-- I don't know, Andrew. 'Guitar' makes so much more sense. I see as many of those as I see of organs..."
"Don't be a fool, Jim."
"Okay, I was hoping you'd go with the audience and make it easy for me, but thanks anyway, Andrew."
"What do you say, Jim?"
"I'm going with the guitar, Regis. All those people in the audience can't be wrong."
"Okay, Jim. Guitar it is. Final answer?"
"That's it! Jim, you're our lucky new millionaire!"
* * * * * *
Today I drove about 40 minutes to a parish that has a 9 AM Spanish Mass followed by a 10:30 AM Mass. The 10:30 time was typical for a choir Mass, so I figured I'd give that a shot. Inside, a section was reserved for a choir, so I looked in that area, and someone drew a guitar. This automatically triggered Plan B, which involved driving an additional ten minutes to a neighboring parish with a 10:45 AM Mass. A rather reverent young priest with a beautiful singing voice who had served at my own parish is now there, so I had hopes of something really nice. He did not celebrate the 10:45 though, but I was still hoping.
The building was constructed in 1972 and looks as though it came from that era. That time is past the "huge auditorium" stage and just into the following stage, where they tried to make things a bit "homier." Entry is gained by passing through a long foyer of sorts. The light wooden pews are upholstered and arranged in six sections forming a semi-circle around the open sanctuary, which is backed by a huge, traditional crucifix mounted on a dark wooden wall. Behind that wall is the tabernacle, totally hidden from view as far as I can tell. The marble ambo is at the left, with a wooden cantor's lectern at the right and a freestanding marble altar between them. The organ is to the right; near there must be where a choir would sit, as about six objects are hung from the ceiling directly over that area. I presume those are microphones. The designer must have been a "square" type, as the decor is heavily laced with small squares. (The only circle is behind the crucifix.) The abstract, stained-glass windows are square, arranged in two parallel rows all around the walls. On a soffit above the windows are more squares, but these are filled with varying shades of solid color and look as though they may have been reserved for something to be added at a later date, perhaps contingent upon obtaining a sufficient number of donors or something.
I arrived at about 10:35 AM and selected a seat at the center of a longer pew, near a bend. This made perfect sense to me, but after others filled in either side of me, the folly of this became apparent. While a person can sit in this bend, the kneelers do not reach far enough to accomodate such a person. In fact, the kneeler is more of a hindrance in that spot, as I could have knelt on the floor more easily if it were just a tad shorter. That, of course, is the price I pay for wandering about the diocese-- when one attends the same parish week after week, he soon learns all the inside secrets of each parish. I waited for a choir to appear but was disappointed when none showed. Oh, well, better luck next week.
The cantor, who looked very much like a nun somehow (I don't know if she is a nun) even though she was not wearing a habit, stepped behind the cantor's lectern and began by asking us to turn and say "hi" to those around us. Hi. Then we sang the opening hymn, "Let us Go to the Altar." Three servers, six lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, a deacon, and the priest participated in the opening procession through the center aisle. The deacon led Form C of the penitential rite using standard invocations. This was followed by the Gloria, sung to Peter Jones' setting, which is somewhat common around these parts. ("...glory in the highest, peace to His people, peace on earth.")
The reader went to the ambo to proclaim the first reading. The racks in the pews held OCP's Breaking Bread, without the readings, so I presume that the new Lectionary was used without any deviations from the text. The cantor then went to the ambo to sing the psalm for the day. The reader gave the second reading, which I noticed had several contractions. I need to check one that against the NCCB web site, actually. Contractions in Scripture are not common in my experience. The cantor sang the Alleluia from the lectern as the deacon took the Book of Gospels to the ambo. After he proclaimed the Gospel, he returned the Book to a shelf on the front of the ambo; the Book was left open.
The priest gave a short homily which noted that the first reading was rather a downer, and we may have naturally felt a bit strange in saying "Thanks be to God" after that. Nevertheless, we all feel like Job at times, but, like Jesus, who went by Himself to pray often, we must make time in our busy schedules to pray as well. This is how we can keep from getting depressed like Job; by prayer, we, like Jesus, can be ready to respond enthusiastically when we are told, "Everyone is looking for you," instead of saying, "I'm in a bad mood-- tell them to go away." This led into a pitch for the new season of Renew 2000; the priest made believe he was asking someone to speak spontaneously, but the speaker had a prepared pitch that he read from a sheet of paper. This ended with a round of applause.
The Creed was recited, and the deacon gave the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, raising his hand at the end of each one as he said louder, "we pray." As the offertory hymn, "Shelter Me, O God" was sung, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets passed across the pews by the congregation. About six people or so presented the gifts. They stood around the altar throughout the whole period of preparation holding ciboriums (or maybe patens, I'm not sure now) for some reason until after the priest finished preparing the wine. They looked rather awkward somehow. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon for wine was also used. The organist continued playing after the hymn was concluded, and the priest audibly offered the preparation prayers over the organ music.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation. The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer; noteable is that he sang the concluding doxology to the same setting, with assistance from the organist. The Our Father was recited. Many people appeared to join hands, but many did not, including those on either side of me (although the woman to my right was joined to the woman to her right), who apparently did not care.
The six lay ministers of Holy Communion were given their Hosts by the deacon during the Agnus Dei. The priest I mentioned earlier (who had served at my parish) also assisted. I think six stations were used for the Precious Body and three for the Precious Blood, the latter being shared by more than one line. The Communion hymn was "You Are Mine."
The priest read several announcements before offering the Prayer After Communion. Then he imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens." Almost everyone remained until it was concluded.
Afterward, I returned to the first parish to check the following Mass. I arrived when a homily should have been in progress; instead, I heard someone talking about cancer. I don't think he was a priest, and it didn't sound like a homily. Sigh.
* * * * * * *
"I want to complain about an answer on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'"
"The one that made the guy a millionaire. That answer was wrong. The Vatican II documents said so."
"Look, fella, you go to almost any church today and you're going to see guitars. You think they're not held in high esteem-- try getting rid of them and see what happens. What do you want from us?"
"You should read the documents to get your answers."
"Why should we read them? Hardly any Catholics read them. Besides, we don't get that technical."
"I guess nobody does these days."