"Good morning, sir; how are you today?"
"Smoking or non-smoking?"
"Music or no music?"
"Organ or guitar?"
"Greeting or no greeting?"
"Hand-holding or no hand-holding?"
"No hand-holding, please."
"What an unfriendly sort you are, sir!"
* * * * * * * * *
I probably should have considered a train ride to today's parish a bit more closely, as it is only about two blocks from the railroad station and only a half an hour away by railroad plus a twenty-minute walk. However, I thought the 10:15 AM Mass would be the best choice, and trains arrived at 9:21 AM and 10:21 AM. The latter, of course, was unacceptable, and the former was rather early, so I decided to swallow hard and take the car there.
The building is a tall, domed church with red brick visible both outside and inside. The few stained-glass windows are rather small or narrow, so the inside is very dark until the lights are activated. That is a bit of an asset in the summertime, I guess, as it may keep the sun outside where it belongs, particularly in a building without air conditioning. It looks mostly unchanged from its original state (probably in the early part of this century). The original altar is probably now the free-standing altar in the front of the sanctuary; an arched canopy with two tall, white, marble pillars stands over the original tabernacle and a bronze crucifix that is larger than a processional cross but smaller than a typical crucifix. The square, metal tabernacle is now at the left in a small arch where a side altar may have been; the space that held the original tabernacle has been filled with material identical to the surrounding structure so that it is not awkwardly obvious (as I have often seen) but instead noticeable only to those really looking for this sort of detail. (The seams are visible.) A simple ambo with a dark wooden top and white base is at the left; a smaller cantor's lectern is at the right.
The sanctuary may have been pulled forward slightly but it is not obvious. Any altar rail that may have been included originally has been removed. The pews are more or less standard, made of wood and holding between ten and twelve people across. They have a book rack in each section, stocked with OCP's Today's Missal (regular type edition) and Music Issue. A center aisle divides them, and side aisles are also present. On the right, about halfway back, is a baptismal font that seems to be an addition, as it takes two or three rows away from the right, whereas no rows are missing from the left (and I don't recall seeing a break). At the front right, a niche in the brick wall holds a confessional with a modern, dark brown, aluminum-frame wall with retail-store type door, apparently converted at some point so as to accomodate face-to-face confessions. The walls are lined with statues depicting the Stations of the Cross.
I arrived at about 9:55 AM and began a search for a cornerstone, but this search was fruitless, probably on account of innumerable bushes directly against the wall around the base of the building. However, I later saw a 1932 cornerstone on the rectory, which looks very similar in design to the church, so perhaps the church is of the same era. Although about two or three dozen people were already there, the lights were not on, so it was rather dark inside. I carefully considered the safest location to select and settled upon the center of a pew in a row slightly shortened by a huge column at its far left; this selection proved to be rather useful, as we shall see. After I had copied the hymns from the hymn board and waited a time, the lights were turned on, and people began to arrive; by the start of the Mass, it was not packed but comfortably filled.
The cantor started with a simple greeting, including the fact that this was the 10:15 Mass. He led the opening hymn, "Now As We Gather," as three servers, the reader, and the priest processed through the center aisle. I noticed at this time that a choir of about half a dozen people served from the choir loft. The priest began by welcoming all those who were visiting the parish for the first time (thanks), noting that it is a "friendly" parish. "Oh, oh," I thought to myself. He then said, "How about we all turn to those near us and say, "Good morning?" Well, okay-- as long as they don't make me introduce myself; I could walk to my own parish for that. After I had said, "good morning," to a few people, the priest said, "Now doesn't that feel good? You could have been sitting next to the same person for ten years and not have had two words between you." Next he led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite as well as the recited Gloria and the opening prayer.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. Then the cantor led the responsorial psalm for the day from the cantor's lectern in the usual way. The reader returned to the ambo and gave the second reading, again as it appeared in the missalette. The Alleluia and verse before the Gospel were sung to a setting new to me but not bad at all. From the ambo, the priest then proclaimed the Gospel using the long form, after taking a moment to identify it as Mark 5:21-43.
The priest began his homily by saying that today's Gospel passages were among his favorite passages of the Bible. He recalled the accounts of the Gospel and brought them to life a bit more. Then he told the joke about the woman whose house was slowly being covered by floodwaters as she insisted, "I have faith; God will save me." Two boats and a helicopter passed her, and she refused their help, firm in the belief that God would save her. Finally, after she drowned, she complained to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates that God had abandoned her, to which St. Peter replied, "God sent you two boats and a helicopter; why are you complaining?" Even though everyone laughed, he repeated the punch line and said, "we need that air conditioning, I guess."
The priest followed this with a reading from James, 2:14-17, which he used in support of a general theme that prayer alone is not sufficient. He made the point that the two people in today's Gospel did not just sit around; they made the effort to seek out Jesus. The priest also mentioned an Irish woman who was unashamed of her Catholic faith and took every opportunity to mention it and discuss it with others; he said that it was sad that we are not all like that, and instead we have taken "separation of church and state" to extreme levels."
The priest introduced the Creed by saying. "If anyone ever asks you what it means to be a Catholic, it's all right here." After we recited the Creed, the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful; the response was, "Lord, have mercy." A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Christ, Be Our Light." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung, apparently to the setting from the Heritage Mass, as I saw the cantor holding the missalette, and that is the only setting that appears there. It seemed to match the music besides. The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer.
At the Our Father, the column to my left proved its usefulness as the priest said, "How about we join hands?" A long pause followed; I could not see what was happening (and probably did not want to see what was happening) but the priest was mumbling a few words-- I suspect that the servers were a bit squeamish or less than enthusiastic about joining hands with him, but finally, the recitation of the prayer began. I was spared as I had left a plausible amount of space between me and the woman to my right, and as we have seen in earlier weeks, columns usually prefer not to join hands. Unfortunately, most of the others in the congregation had little choice.
At Holy Communion, three lay ministers assisted the priest in distribution. The chalice was not offered to the congregation, but the priest did allow the servers and lay ministers to share his own chalice. Four stations were located at the front of the church; the "dual-station" method was used. Those in the rear received first; I also noticed that at the very end, those in the front pew received kneeling without walking to the front, which was interesting. This may have been because a disabled person was in that pew, but I couldn't tell. The Communion hymn was "Gift of Finest Wheat."
After Communion, the reader went to the ambo and gave several announcements, including one mentioning that air conditioning will be installed later this month and will necessitate moving daily Mass to the Spanish chapel in an adjacent building for one week. The priest followed by saying, "Isn't that a wonderful announcement?" which was met with a round of applause. Then he offered the closing prayer and final blessing. The closing hymn was "I Am the Bread of Life." The priest waited at the head of the center aisle until the end of the first verse before proceeding down the aisle with the servers and reader.
* * * * * * * *
"Those columns have to go."
"I saw a guy today who didn't have to join hands on account of one. Not tolerable."
"But the church will collapse if we remove the columns."
"Joining hands is more important. We are a friendly parish, remember?"