"I've confirmed it-- he's on his way."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. His cat just called to tip us off."
"His cat? Are you crazy?"
"Well, he never tells anyone else where he's headed on Sunday morning. Rumor has it that he sometimes doesn't know himself until the last minute."
"Sigh. Oh, all right. I feel so sorry for the poor guy-- always getting the short end of the stick. That means we'll have to reschedule the 10:30 AM Mass we had cancelled for today, though. I'd hate to see him wandering about the church in a daze. Start making the phone calls. Tell everyone that Mass is at 10:30 as usual."
"That will take years!"
"In that case, the sooner you get started, the better. You now have one hour and twelve minutes to fill that church."
Today's parish is a twenty-minute drive from where I live. It is rather a simple building of the "L" style, perhaps expanded at some point and perhaps not. The shorter leg of the "L" bears a 1952 cornerstone, while I was unable to find a cornerstone on the other leg. The outside is mostly gray brick; the inside is mainly white with light wood paneling below waist level. The windows are stained-glass, but of uniform color with no designs or patterns of any sort. The roof is peaked, but low trusswork makes the ceiling seem much lower than perhaps it is. A battery of ceiling fans hangs from the ceiling, and, combined with the open windows and a nice breeze made the inside comfortable despite the lack of air conditioning. Lighting is provided by simple white globes. The pews in the longer leg of the "L" are broken into four sections by a center aisle and a break about halfway back and have side aisles as well. The pews in this leg hold about ten to twelve across. At the break, a baptismal font takes a bit of space from one or two of the pews. The organ is at the front right of the longer leg, facing the altar, along with seats for a choir facing the shorter leg. That shorter leg, as I recall from sitting there for daily Mass some time back, has shorter pews but is also split down the middle.
The tabernacle is in a separate chapel to the left of the sanctuary (from the longer leg of the L-- it is behind the sanctuary as seen from the other leg). It has large panes of clear glass with wooden frames so that the metal tabernacle is visible from outside. I did not see if the chapel had any accomodations for adoration. The sanctuary itself is a slightly domed semi-circle joining the two legs of the L. A small, white cantor's lectern is at the left; a small, white altar on two pillars is at the center; and a medium-sized white ambo with one pillar is at the right. A traditional crucifix hangs on an abstract stained-glass background at the center of the area. The ceiling in the sanctuary area is much lower (despite the dome, apparently) than the ceiling in the pew areas; this inversion makes things look kind of constricted around what should be the focal point of the building.
I arrived at about 10:05 AM and entered the longer leg of the L to take a seat on the right, two rows ahead of the break. Some organ music was evident, which was reassuring, although I found the presence of one of those ubiquitous water bottles, resting on the organ, somewhat discouraging. The building has no hymn board, so after saying my prayers I simply waited silently for the Mass to begin. At about 10:20, a pair of musicians took their places at the organ; one took a sip from the water bottle. They began an extended duet of some sort; this is mentioned in the bulletin as a new practice before Mass called a "prelude." Despite the organ accompaniment, something about it gave me a bad feeling in my stomach, although I know that they were really trying hard to accomplish something useful. Maybe it sounded more like nightclub singing than sacred music; this determination may be beyond my competence, though, so I hesitate to make a more decisive statement. When they finished the duet, the reader, who had been waiting at the cantor's lectern, began to introduce the Mass but was interrupted by a round of applause.
The reader resumed and gave a few announcements before stepping aside for the cantor, who announced the first hymn, "Glory and Praise to Our God," which like all the hymns was in the OCP Music Issue. An older cross-bearer, three servers, thirteen lay ministers of Holy Communion, the reader, and the priest participated in the opening procession through the center aisle of the longer leg of the L. After the priest made a few opening remarks to introduce himself, as he is apparently new to the parish, he led the recitation of Form C of the penitential rite and then the Gloria.
Before the reader began the first reading, the priest explained that he always gives a short explanation before each reading. Of the reading from Ezekiel, he said that God does not always send us to the unevangelized as we might expect, but rather, just as Ezekiel was sent to the Israelites-- those already chosen-- sometimes he sends us to those already in the Church, perhaps those right near us. The reader, already waiting at the ambo, then gave the first reading as it appeared in the OCP missalette (Today's Missal). The cantor went to the ambo to lead the singing of the responsorial psalm for the day, and then the priest said a few words about the reading from 2 Corinthians before the reader gave the second reading. Before each reading, the priest closed with, "Let's listen," which leads me to believe that he may have something forceful to say on that subject once he becomes established in the parish.
The cantor, who had remained at the right of the sanctuary during the second reading, returned to the ambo to lead the singing of the Alleluia to a setting familiar to me. Then the priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo before giving his homily, which he did by strolling back and forth across the sanctuary. His main point seemed to be that we have to be careful not to be deceived by outward appearances. Sometimes, like those who thought they knew Jesus, we think we know those around us but really know them only in a certain way, just as the priest knew his father only as "Dad," while others knew him as their boss, or as a Marine, or a college student, or possibly in some other way. He closed with a story about a monastery that had fallen on hard times, and many of the monks had poor relations with the others; the new abbot went to a nearby hermit to get suggestions about how to reverse the downward spiral. The hermit explained that Jesus had returned to Earth as one of the monks, but he would not reveal which one. The abbot, upon returning, relayed this information, which caused everyone to start wondering which monk was really Jesus; eventually, they all started seeing Jesus in one another.
The Creed was recited, and a standard Prayer of the Faithful followed. Two collections, one immediately following the other, were taken using long-handled wicker baskets; the second collection was for the Catholic University of America. The offertory hymn was "Be Not Afraid." The chalice and large flagon were of glass; the short ciboriums were rather odd-looking, with vertical black and white or beige stripes all around, which somehow reminded me of a flying saucer. They may have been ceramic; it was hard to tell. We sang all three verses of the hymn, plus the first verse again, to be sure to "cover" the preparation of the gifts.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to the setting from the Mass of Creation. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, I guess most people joined hands, although it was a bit hard to tell. Sufficient space between me and the person to my right spared me.
After the Agnus Dei, the sanctuary became rather a busy area as the thirteen lay ministers (one of whom retrieved additional ciboriums from the tabernacle), the reader, the two musicians, and the cantor formed a circle around the priest, who distributed Holy Communion to them before he himself had received. He was barely visible as he raised the Host for the proclamation, "This is the Lamb of God..." Stations were located in the locations one would expect, with the "dual-station" method in use at the break just behind me. Of course, with so many ministers, the chalice was offered. The first Communion hymn was "We Are the Light of the World;" the second was "You Are Mine."
Before concluding, the priest left us with this thought: the word "respect," means "to take a second look," which he explained by breaking the word into its parts-- re, meaning "again," and spect, as in "spectacles." He said that we should respect those around us by taking a second look at them and by trying to see beyond what we normally see of them. He then concluded the Mass with the Prayer after Communion and a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee;" about half the congregation had left before two verses were complete. The lay ministers did not participate in the closing procession, which went to a side door near the sanctuary instead of the original doors; this obviously is because the priest wanted to greet those leaving, and he thought that the side door would receive the greatest traffic.