Today, I decided to make my first stop a parish a little over an hour from where I live. The 9:15 AM Mass is staffed by a children's choir, so I thought that might be worthwhile. A flute I saw looked interesting; it often gives a bit of special flavor to the Mass of the Lord's Supper (with an organ) at my own parish. Unfortunately, I then heard guitar plucks. Between that and a girl in the front row of the choir with a somewhat short skirt, and on the other side a mother with two children, also in a short skirt, I decided that this was not the place to stay today. I just wasn't in the mood for such distractions and needed something a bit better.
Next, I drove half an hour more and visited the parish I mentioned in week 66, which had guitars at its 11:00 AM and 12:30 PM Masses. I arrived just after the beginning of the 9:30 AM Mass, knowing I was late and not intending to stay, but just wanting a peek inside. Once again, a guitarist was standing in the musicians' area. Wow. Well, this one gets added to the list for Lent at 8 AM. Surely the poor guitar needs some sort of rest!
After grabbing a bulletin at another parish, I finally landed at a parish I had visited several years ago while I was staying at my sister's house. That day, I attended the 9 AM Mass, which was a huge disappointment, as the priest had all the children congregate around the altar for the homily and attempted to entertain them, among other things. (That may have been a children's Mass, but I didn't know beforehand.) Since I haven't written about it, I figured I'd give it another chance and today selected the 10:30 AM Mass. Fortunately, a different time and a different priest made things, well, different-- very different. (If you don't like Mass at a given time in your parish, try a different time before bolting altogether-- it can make a huge difference.)
The building bears a 1966 cornerstone, but it may have been renovated in the 1980's or early 1990's; it just has too many newer features. It is more or less rectangular, with a slightly arched roof (kind of like a bowling alley's roof-- again, that's not meant to be insulting but is just the most obvious comparison that comes to mind). The walls are white with arched stained-glass windows bearing scenes depicting various feast days and seasons on the Church calendar. One window is marked "Ordinary Time." That may be a clue as to when that window was installed; 1966 seems a bit early for that. The sanctuary is pulled way forward, so that the perpendicular side sections of wooden pews are rather long. The two main sections are also long, perhaps holding 18 to 20 people across. The square altar is of white marble resting on four pillars and is far ahead of the ambo, which is on the left and has marble sides surrounding a dark, wooden main section. The rear wall of the sanctuary is of ornate, dark wood and holds a huge, traditional crucifix. The metal tabernacle is in a niche at the far left; at the far right are a piano (not used today) and an organ, along with three or four rows of pews facing the congregation. Underneath each pew is a holder for the GIA Worship and Gather (second edition) books. The lighting is provided by recessed fixtures in the white ceiling; chandeliers are also present but I think they were not used today.
I arrived at about 10:15 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass. I heard the choir practicing in the basement, apparently to a piano, which I hoped was just for practice. The priest, fully vested, was sitting in the rear row of the empty church, apparently preparing for Mass. (The priests in my parish often sit at one side of the sanctuary, where the servers sit, to pray before Mass.) I selected a place at the center of about the sixth or seventh row on the left and copied the hymns from the hymn board and was happy to see that the Mass setting was listed too. At about 10:29 I looked at my watch and then looked around to see the church only about a quarter full. By the time the Mass started it may have been half full or more.
The cantor asked us all to face the rear of the church and announced the opening hymn, "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy." A server bearing the processional cross, the seventeen members of the choir (wearing white robes with red vests of sorts), the reader, the deacon, and the priest formed the entrance procession down the center aisle. All the verses of the hymn were sung as the choir took its place at the front right. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, but the priest omitted the "May almighty God have mercy on us..." prayer that ends the penitential rite, instead motioning to the choir to begin the Gloria, which was sung to a setting new to me.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading, which matched that in the missal. The cantor led the psalm for the day from a music stand alongside the choir section. The reader then gave the second reading, which differed slightly from that in the missal and must have come from the new Lectionary. Then the deacon took the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel, also apparently from the new Lectionary. He remained to give the homily, which was not bad. He mentioned something interesting that I had never heard before, namely that some have speculated that John's disciples may have been fasting on account of John having been recently beheaded, which would be understandable as fasting was a normal thing to do after the death of a friend or relative. He gave a bit more background into the Gospel as well.
The Creed was recited, and then the Prayer of the Faithful was offered in the usual manner. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed across the pews as the choir sang a hymn on its own. (The board listed "O God Beyond All Praising," but I'm not sure that was it; that was probably for some of the other Masses.) The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon was used for additional wine.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were from the Mass of Creation. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, I saw a few people using the orans posture as the prayer was recited, but no hand-holding was evident; in fact, the deacon took a few steps back from the priest at that point.
The Agnus Dei was sung to what I am told is David Isele's setting. Six lay ministers assisted the priest and deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion. Again, as we saw last week, the rear rows approached the Eucharist first, going back to front. Once again, an unusual practice is seen in consecutive weeks without any attempt on my part to stack the deck. The chalice was offered; each section was assigned one station for each form of Communion. After the ministers finished with the smaller side sections, they assisted with the main sections. The Communion hymn was "Eat This Bread;" after this, the choir sang another hymn on its own. This choir is very good, though not quite as good as the one in my own parish or the one of week 66. (Then again, a different selection of hymns might make a difference; I was sentimentally partial to "Ave Verum.")
After the priest offered the Prayer After Communion, the deacon called two lay ministers forward and gave them a quick blessing as they each took a pyx for the homebound. Then the priest read two short announcements before imparting a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Come, Now Almighty King." The words seemed a bit different, even though they were from the same Worship missal used in my own parish since I've been there. My mind must be heading south somehow. The server, reader, deacon, and priest formed the exit procession on their own towards the rear door; the choir remained in its place. More than three-fourths of the congregation fled before the final verse of the hymn was complete, as the parking lot has only one exit. The priest and deacon stood at the main doors afterward to greet those leaving, even though all the parking is on the sanctuary side of the building, but many people left that way anyway.