This week's parish, only a twenty-five minute drive from where I live, is a type new to this series-- a circular design with a large dome. (I may refer to this as an "O" in the future, as opposed to an "L" or a "T.") Inside, the pews are arranged in a semi-circle around the sanctuary. I forgot to look for a cornerstone, but based upon stained-glass windows depicting Pope Paul VI visiting the U. S. as well as Pope John XXIII welcoming our first bishop to an unnamed "ecumenical council," my guess is that the building dates to 1965 or so. A series of stained-glass windows also showed the Creed, which I kind of liked-- that's something that can help put flesh and blood on what can be (but doesn't have to be) a rote recitation each week.
Overall, the design looked fairly good for a circular arrangement, which tends to be found much more in recent designs. In fact, this seemed to be a reasonable blend of traditional and modern elements-- perhaps this building was constructed at just the right time. The altar rail remains, although the large depiction of Christ is of the risen Christ as opposed to Christ crucified. The tabernacle was still at the center of the sanctuary. Later designs seem to have more of a tendency to discard almost all traditional elements in favor of recent innovations.
The Mass started at 8:30 AM. Two altar servers assisted the priest. The entrance hymn (I believe it was "On Jordan's Bank") and the others were older hymns, which I liked. As soon as the priest spoke, I recognized his voice and recalled that he had celebrated the funeral Mass for my uncle's mother-in-law at another parish. It's a small world, after all. The organist sung the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, followed by "Kyrie eleison," "Christe eleison," and "Kyrie eleison." Usually, a priest or deacon reads the invocations, so I'm not 100% sure about this, but it sounded good, especially the non-vernacular responses. After the penitential rite, the priest lit the Advent wreath without prayer or comment.
The readings must have been from the new Lectionary, since they did not match what was in the ancient (1975) copy of GIA's "Worship" that was in the pew. As I looked at the worn hymnal set in an obviously older-style font (almost certainly not by computer, either), I thought that perhaps one reason why the liturgical books in the U. S. are being updated is to provide cover for pastors who want to replace older hymnals such as these but don't want to look like poor stewards. (That's cynical, to be sure, but after all, the Church does have both divine and human elements. My cynicism, of course, is directed toward those human elements.)
The homily was worthwhile, as one could expect from an older priest who has a generally no-nonsense style about him. Rather than an offertory hymn, the organist simply provided background music as the gifts were presented and prepared and the single collection was taken. The third Eucharistic prayer was used, and the Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei all came from Haugen's Mass of Creation. I noticed that the priest took above-average care in his style of offering the Mass. For example, he laid a special cloth on the altar before preparing the bread and the wine. (Dollars to donuts Arthur Amidano knows the name of that cloth. I was never an altar server. :( Next time, I'll know better than to let others serve when I could be learning.)
With the semi-circle layout split into five or six sections, I thought that distribution of Holy Communion might become a problem, but this parish seems to have things under control. The cup was not offered, and two priests and one lay minister assisted the celebrant. Initially, two alternating lines formed at each of the four stations, and as the shorter lines at the sides dissipated, the lines at the center stations each got their own ministers. My own parish has three priests and two deacons assigned full-time, plus another priest who assists on weekends, but very rarely do any of these ordinary ministers of Communion appear to assist during Mass (in fact, I often see priests hiding in the sacristy as Communion is distributed), so I appreciated seeing the two priests helping. (In fairness, this parish has four priests and three deacons assigned full-time plus two priests in residence-- but still...)
An odd moment occurred towards the end when, after the Prayer After Communion, as everyone was standing, the priest motioned to the cantor (who looked to be not a day over eighteen but sung well) to read the announcements. She read a single announcement, and then the Mass ended. I don't know if that's the way they do it every week, but it was kind of strange. In my parish, the announcements seem interminable some weeks, and I don't think people would go for standing as they are read. Actually, though, I liked the idea of limiting the number of announcements-- that's why bulletins are printed and distributed every week.
As was the case with week 7, this wasn't too bad for a spur-of-the-moment decision. (I hadn't decided where I was going until five minutes before I left.) I wish I could do this well any time I went looking for a Mass at an unfamiliar parish.