"Just look at that shirt. I bet that was in the cargo hold on Noah's ark."
"Yes, look at it. Shakespeare probably wrote a sonnet about that shirt. The time has come."
"Absolutely. You will never find a girl as long as you wear clothes such as that."
Condemned by my drinking buddies to shop for a new shirt, I finished my apple juice and headed for the shirt store. The clerk was in total agreement with the accusers; I needed new shirts. "Buy a few of these fresh shirts, and you'll be awash in offers for Saturday night," she assured me, adding, "the young ladies in church just won't be able to resist."
"But the fellow in the shoe repair store said something like that too," I protested.
"What do shoe repair folks know?" she said. "A new shirt is the ticket to eternal bliss."
"I don't know-- I'm just not sure."
"Look, do you want to get married or not?"
Seeing the compelling logic in the sales pitch, I agreed to purchase four new shirts and began to worry about how to schedule all the young ladies who would now be interested in me.
* * * * * * * *
Dressed in a brand-new, light green broadcloth dress shirt, I left yesterday morning not knowing for sure where I'd land and just hoping to avoid any Sunday morning circuses at parishes with First Communion at Sunday Mass. I stopped for a bulletin at one parish already visited and saw the end of a Mass where quite a bit of applause was being generated. Then I decided to head for a small parish with a medieval-looking building on a peninsula. Once again, the cornerstone elves were at work; by every standard of logic known to me, this building should have had a cornerstone, but I saw none, and no bushes or other obstructions prevented me from seeing one. I figure it dates from between 1900 and 1950, though.
The exterior is dark granite and has a large bell tower in the front. The inside walls are mostly white with small, arched, abstract stained-glass windows. The ceiling is of very dark wood planking with some trusswork. The circular sanctuary has its original altar and tabernacle; a tall, narrow canopy rises over the tabernacle. Behind that is a series of arched columns that line the rear. The two side altars retain their own tabernacles. A free-standing altar has been added but remains behind a small ambo at the left and a cantor's lectern at the right. A traditional crucifix hangs on the wall at the left side of the church. The red tabernacle lamp is suspended over the end of the center aisle. A small transept apparently was added at some point on the right side of the church and has about fifteen or twenty pews that hold about a half dozen people each; the remainder of the pews are in two groups in the main area and also hold six people each (maybe seven on Easter) and are split by a center aisle and flanked by side aisles. The pews have book racks stocked with OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue in the usual blue plastic cover.
I arrived a little after 10:45 AM for the 11:00 AM Mass and took a seat at the center of a pew about halfway back on the right. I noticed that dress seemed slightly above average at this parish, with many men wearing suits and many women wearing long dresses, although a woman led three girls dressed in shorts and miniskirts into the building as well. (Later, I would pray for that mother.) Shortly before Mass, a young lady who was dressed rather impeccably in a decent-length skirt took the seat at the far right of that pew. There is a certain terror that strikes when one starts to wonder if a prayer to God has actually been answered; such terror began to manifest itself at that point. (After all, why should God listen to me of all people?)
The reader began by making a few remarks and then instructed us to greet those near us. I calculated that nobody was really near me, as the pew in front of me was half-empty, nobody was to my left, and two empty places formed an unbreachable chasm between me and the young lady to my right. (Yes, I hear the cries of "fool!" from the audience.) The reader then announced the opening hymn, "Behold the Glory of God." Three servers, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest formed the opening procession down the center aisle. Soon after the Mass began, additional people entered the pew on the right, forcing me to the aisle on the left and the young lady to sit immediately to my right. Maybe she would notice my new shirt? The priest led the recitation of the Confiteor; the Gloria was also recited (a bit of a disappointment). On the other hand, the priest chanted the opening prayer.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. Then he stepped aside, and someone from the choir loft intoned the psalm response; after that, the full choir sang the verses of the psalm. Then the reader returned to the ambo and gave the second reading, which was followed by the sung verse before the Gospel. The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo before giving a decent homily on vocations. About here, I noticed that the young lady was wearing a wedding ring; this allowed me to relax considerably and pay a bit more attention to the Mass (as I suppose I should be doing anyway, as difficult as it is for me at times).
He joked around a bit, mentioning a time when he gave a talk on vocations to some youngsters, and a small boy asked him, "How do you become a bishop?" to which the priest, who is retiring soon, replied, "I don't know." This produced laughter in the pews (presumably if he knew how to become a bishop, he wouldn't still be a priest). After a few other light-hearted remarks, he listed ten objections that are most commonly raised by people who think that priesthood or religious life is not for them; he addressed each objection individually and showed rather conclusively that it was not valid. Some examples were, "the priesthood is a lonely life," "the priesthood is boring," "I'm too young," and "I'm too old."
The Creed was recited, and it was followed by the usual Prayer of the Faithful, with the reader giving the intentions from the cantor's lectern. It ended with the priest asking us all to recite the Jubilee 2000 prayer, instead of the priest offering his usual summary prayer at the end. A collection was taken using wicker baskets with no handles; the baskets never left the hands of the ushers. The offertory hymn was "Like A Shepherd." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.
As with the opening prayer, the priest chanted the Prayer over the Gifts as well as the "Lift up your hearts!" dialog and the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used; bells were sounded at the consecration.
The Our Father was sung using the most common setting. Despite this small church being almost full, I could see no evidence of hand-holding. I was certainly relieved not to have to hold hands with a married woman. That possibility caused considerable anxiety for me. (Of course, the possibility of holding hands with an unmarried woman caused an equal amount of anxiety.)
At Communion, the two dozen or so members of the choir left the choir loft and waited to receive before anyone else. The Communion hymn, "We Will Rise Again," was started as they waited, although they were back in the choir loft in time to give the hymn a rousing ending. The "dual-station" method of distribution was used, with four stations at the center aisle; the chalice was not offered. (I did not notice how those in the transept received.) After the Communion hymn, the choir sang what sounded like a Latin hymn on its own; this sounded quite nice, actually meeting the standard set at my own parish.
After the reader gave some brief announcements, including congratulations to all mothers on Mother's Day (he paused after this and looked up as if he expected applause to materialize, but none ensued), the priest asked those who just received or will be receiving First Holy Communion shortly to stand; a few children stood, and they received a round of applause. Then he asked all mothers of every stripe (enumerated individually) to stand; they were given a blessing and sprinkled with water. (As I suggested, this was a good time to pray for the mother of the immodestly-dressed girls.)
Then the priest chanted the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing. The closing hymn was "Jesus Is Risen." Almost everyone remained until the end. The young lady left, no doubt thankful that she had a ring to save her from falling in love with a fellow in a green dress shirt. Now, maybe if I had worn my new yellow dress shirt, a single young lady would have sat beside me first, and, oh, what wonders would have occurred...