Liturgical Term of the Week:
Transept: transverse portion of church at right angles to nave.
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Today, we set forth at about 9:10 AM to begin a drive of an hour and forty minutes to a small parish in a rural part of the diocese. The parish has two facilities: the main church and a mission church down the road. Except for a Spanish Mass, all the Sunday Masses are offered in the mission church, which is slightly larger, in better condition, and better located, so that is where we headed.
The mission church, bearing a 1931 cornerstone, has rather a medieval look to it; its exterior is basically brown brick. The inside is simple-- two groups of dark, brown, wooden pews separated by a center aisle and lined with side aisles. The left aisle is underneath a series of low arches that take some space from the pews on that side. To the left of the sanctuary is a niche for an old side altar; in it now hangs a Jubilee banner. The organ is in front of that. The small lectern-style ambo is to the right of the organ, ahead of the altar, which appeared to be rather ordinary. The rear wall of the sanctuary has a large, circular, stained-glass window (the most detailed one of all) over a plain cross draped in red and white (no corpus was obvious; perhaps it was not deemed appropriate for the Easter season). The rectangular, metal tabernacle is in the niche for the old side altar on the right. The side walls are mostly brown brick again, with large stained-glass windows that have small designs on them, such as a picture of the Sacred Heart. The peaked ceiling has dark brown trusswork against a lighter background. The building has no transepts.
I arrived at about 10:50 AM and headed inside to see the first two rows on the left occupied by a choir of about a dozen or so people wearing white robes with yellow V-neck trimming. I took a seat at the center of a short row next to a column on the left, prayed a bit, and copied the hymns from the hymn board. Just before the Mass began, the choir rose, stood behind the organ, and sang a hymn that I could not identify. Then the cantor/choir leader announced the first hymn, "Hymn of Joy;" we sang all four verses. Three servers, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, the reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession down the center aisle. After some initial remarks, the priest used Form C of the penitential rite. We sang the Gloria using a setting unfamiliar to me (it had an "Alleluia" in the refrain). The choir then returned to the front pews.
The reader took the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the Paluch Seasonal Missalette. Then, from the ambo rather than from near the organ, the cantor led the psalm for the day, which seemed a bit hurried. After the reader gave the second reading, the verse before the Gospel was sung. The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo, and it sounded as though he was mixing and matching from both the old Lectionary and the new. I got the feeling throughout the Mass that he was trying to be gender-neutral; perhaps here he was trying to use the language of the old Lectionary while consulting the new one for gender-neutral language. After the Gospel, we sang another Alleluia as the priest solemnly carried the Book of Gospels to the front of the ambo.
The homily, given from the center of the sanctuary, began with several joking references to the many unfamiliar faces from last week, including a remark that he was glad that we "got our seats back." He spoke of Divine Mercy Sunday, which is drawn from today's reading, in which one of the first things Jesus did is to give the apostles the power to forgive sins, after breathing on them, which is reminiscent of God's breathing on Adam to give him life. The priest then swiped most of his homily from the missalette, which has introductory remarks before the readings. He recalled a former pastor of his who was named "Thomas," and who was so disturbed about the term "doubting Thomas" that he had a plaque made that read, "Thomas: Seeker of Truth." This underscored the idea that St. Thomas got a "bum rap" (in the words of the missalette); he was actually very faithful, even willing to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus, as Scripture tells us. Chances are that Thomas was the only one who was not fearful, given that he was absent while the other apostles were hidden behind locked doors. Later, we were told that we must forgive others as Jesus forgave us, just as we ask in the Our Father.
The homily segued directly to the Creed, which the priest began from the location of the homily before he returned to the celebrant's chair. After a standard Prayer of the Faithful, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "At the Lamb's High Feast;" the choir went back to the organ for this but I think went to the pews as the priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The chalice and paten were of metal. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation. The servers sounded bells at the consecration.
At the Our Father, I saw no evidence of hand-holding, which sort of surprised me in this small building that was more than three-quarters full. At Holy Communion, one of the lay ministers retrieved additional ciboriums from the tabernacle. The "dual-station" method was used (after one minister distributed Communion to the members of the choir); the chalice was not offered. The servers held patens underneath communicants to catch any fallen particles. The Communion hymn was "Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Holy Anthem Rise." After that, the choir also sang a hymn on its own that sounded like "Cantante Domine," or something like that.
After the Prayer After Communion, the priest imparted a Solemn Blessing. The closing hymn was "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today." Almost everyone remained for the two verses sung. Participation seemed above average in this parish, which was refreshing. Afterward, the choir received a round of applause; I suppose it was well-earned even though applause at Mass is not really a good idea. The choir really seemed dedicated and had a decent sound, though perhaps a bit higher pitched and faster than would be ideal.