Week 7

Second Sunday of Advent


This week I visited an older parish in a small city south of where I live. I saw that it had a 9:30 AM Mass, which is kind of risky for me without any additional information because around here any Mass between 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM is very likely to be either a folk, guitar, family, or children's Mass. The time was right, though, so I decided to take a chance, figuring that if I saw guitars I could simply select another Mass.

The building seems in slight need of repair, but not too much so. The inside has not been renovated, and the tabernacle remains in its original location. I don't recall seeing a crucifix, but my memory may be faulty as I did lots of things since yesterday morning. The church has a simple layout-- two sets of pews separated by a middle aisle, and no side pews, L or T additions. Each row could probably seat twelve to fourteen people comfortably. The pew I selected had a cracked seat, which I thought I could escape by sliding down a bit, but I was wrong, and changing seats didn't occur to me. I had to hope that I didn't acquire any splinters during my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised in some ways and slightly disappointed in others. The priest was assisted by an organist, reader, and three EM's. Despite the lack of a cantor, it was a sung Mass, with the priest making a serious effort to fill the void. (Again, since this was my first time there, I can't say if the Mass usually has a cantor or not.) Participation was poor, however; a better selection of hymns may have encouraged the congregation. Possibly the organ was too loud; sometimes, that can drown out those in the pews, but I just got the feeling that they weren't trying too hard. The hymns weren't too familiar to me, except for the communion hymn, "Amazing Grace." (I couldn't help but think of Tony Liotta.) I'd have tried harder myself if I had known the hymns better.

No altar servers assisted either, which made things look doubly spartan. Even at my parish, although servers frequently fail to show for daily Mass, I rarely see a Sunday Mass without at least one server. Again, I don't know if this parish even uses servers; the priest did have the water, wine, and chalice on the altar before Mass started, so he must have known ahead of time that he wasn't going to have servers. If servers were assigned, I guess they had the courtesy to call in sick.

Apart from leading the hymns, the priest chanted the various prayers during the Mass, including the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. This is something I rarely see, and I guess it compensated for the lack of a cantor. On the other hand, the responsorial psalm was recited by the reader, which is a bit disappointing since the psalms are meant to be sung-- but without a cantor, it's understandable. The verse before the Gospel was omitted, but that often happens at daily Mass too for some reason.

The readings came from the new Lectionary, which I noticed since the words were not what was printed in the J. S. Paluch booklets. Unlike the OCP booklets, Paluch's did not contain a warning about the new Lectionary. During the Gospel, I decided to be a sport and try listening to the priest read it. It wasn't too bad, although I have to wonder what I might have missed. I did catch something that never occurred to me before-- the parallel between God's words in Genesis, "Who told you that you are naked?" and John's words in the Gospel, "Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?"

The General Intecessions were closed with the congregation reading aloud the entire prayer printed in the Paluch booklet. The third Eucharistic Prayer was used and read well. Although I knew the settings to the Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei, I don't recall their names or who did them, so I can't give that information.

The cup was not offered to the congregation, so only the three EM's were used. All four stations were in the front of the church (two for each of the two lines down the center aisle), though, which confuses things by (1) distracting the communicant's focus from thinking about receiving Jesus to deciding which minister to use and (2) disrupting the order of the line (meaning that people have to reorder themselves somehow afterward). In this case, if four ministers are really needed, perhaps having two in the rear of the church is a better alternative, although I realize that some people find fault with that arrangement as well.

This Mass wasn't really bad; it just needed a cantor, really. The priest had too many other things to do to serve well as cantor besides. (For example, the offertory hymn is sung while he's preparing the gifts.) This is a case where a bit of subsidiarity would have been highly appropriate. In any case, I wouldn't mind attending this Mass every week.

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