Today, we finally visit the parish the advance scout checked in week 94-- the parish where my cousin was married about two or three years ago. The scout's report indicated piano music at both 9:30 AM Masses, and the absence of kneelers in the parish hall, where all the later Masses are offered. "Try the 8 AM Mass-- maybe that's an organ Mass, and it's in the church, which has kneelers," is the final recommendation scribbled at the bottom of the sheet. So, taking the scout's advice, I awakened at 7 AM and departed by car at 7:20 AM, making it just in time for the 8 AM Mass. (I'd have much preferred a train ride and a walk on this picture-perfect day, but the railroad schedule did not work in my favor; I'd have had to leave the house two hours earlier.)
I looked high and low for a cornerstone but was unable to locate one; it may be buried behind some bushes, and I certainly didn't want to call attention to myself by climbing behind them. The building is rather similar to the one we visited in week 89: tall, domed, brown brick (inside and out) with lots of trimmings and a bell tower. (The other one happens to be in the adjacent parish, which is interesting.) The windows are slightly larger, though, and are traditional stained-glass. The inside has been renovated somewhat; the tabernacle is hidden in a side room somewhere (the only hint is the tabernacle lamp hanging from an arch on the right), and the sanctuary has been pulled forward. Substantial remnants of the altar rail remain but are unused. The marble ambo is to the right of the octagonal (or maybe hexagonal-- hard to tell) marble altar; the cantor's lectern is to the left and much further back. The original domed sanctuary wall has a huge painting featuring the patron saint of the parish, and other walls also bear paintings as well. A large, traditional, red, painted crucifix hangs over the sanctuary. The wooden pews are now arranged in a "T" formation, and they hold between six and nine people each. The main sections are split with a center aisle and lined with side aisles; the two sections in the transepts are not split at all.
I entered via the side aisle and was able to drift toward a seat on the center aisle. The cantor opened the Mass simply and announced the opening hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King," which we sang to organ accompaniment. (In fact, the whole Mass was an organ Mass, as the scout suspected.) The reader, four lay ministers of Holy Communion, a deacon, and the principal celebrant participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle; an additional concelebrating priest awaited them in the sanctuary, as he held a cane and is obviously unable to walk very far very easily. The Confiteor was recited, as was the Gloria.
The reader, who with the lay ministers sat in the front pew in the right transept, gave the first reading, which I presume was done correctly, as the OCP Breaking Bread hymnals in the racks in the pews do not contain the readings. A thought occurred to me: perhaps the reader should memorize the reading so he doesn't have to read it either. I guess sometimes I think too much. After a brief pause, the cantor crossed over to the ambo to lead the singing of the responsorial psalm, which was actually the hymn "Taste and See" in the hymnal (although that at least is based upon the same psalm as is prescribed for the day and I guess is within reason). Then the reader returned to the ambo to give the second reading. The cantor led the Alleluia and the verse before the Gospel from the lectern, and then the deacon proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo; the Gospel was followed by another Alleluia.
The celebrant gave a decent homily, the focus of which was "faith." He noted that what Jesus was teaching about the Eucharist was scandalous to those without faith, who equated it to cannibalism; they actually "quarreled" about it. He then noted Abraham and Mary as two examples of deep faith, relating the history behind each of them. They did not murmur or complain, no matter how bad things got; they simply trusted in God and knew that He had a plan and a purpose behind what He allowed to happen to them.
We recited the Creed, and then the deacon led the Prayer of the Faithful in the usual way, concluding with the priest's prayer at the end. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets; the offertory hymn, "On Eagle's Wings," started shortly afterward, and three of the four verses were sufficient to cover the preparation of the gifts, in which the deacon assisted as server in the absence of typical servers. The chalices and ciboriums were of metal.
The principal celebrant offered the second Eucharistic Prayer as it appears in the Missal, with some assistance for a paragraph by the concelebrant, who did improvise slightly with some additions to the list of those for who the gifts were being offered. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation. Noteworthy is that the priest motioned to the deacon to give the invitation, "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith;" I do not recall seeing this before.
Some hand-holding was evident at the Our Father, which was sung without accompaniment, and, in fact, the principal celebrant and the deacon joined hands (I did not notice whose idea it was), although the concelebrant remained behind them all alone, which demonstrates the impropriety of a lack of uniformity of posture and gesture in the Mass. Most people I could see were content to wait for the sign of peace to demonstrate fellowship and unity.
At Holy Communion, the elderly concelebrant did not assist, which I'm sure is okay, especially if he needs the cane to stand. One station was assigned to each section of pews for the Sacred Body, and two stations were shared for the Precious Blood. The Communion hymn was "You Are Near."
The celebrant offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing. Those in the entrance procession reassembled for the closing procession through the center aisle; although the procession was almost entirely to the doors of the church before the sung part of the hymn started, almost everyone remained for the one verse of the hymn, which is quite admirable.
Afterward, the pastor, who did not assist in the distribution of Holy Communion, emerged to give the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to about two or three dozen people who gathered, standing, around the edge of the sanctuary. This took about ten minutes or so, I believe; few remained to witness it. Most of the people did not look obviously sick, but I'm sure one can be sick without having to have any blatantly obvious signs. It's not a bad practice, I suppose.
As I was in no hurry to leave, and my curiosity was piqued, I decided to take a look at those 9:30 AM Masses again, just to see if they were the same today. After I took a short walk to the railroad station to see if I would have made the 8:54 train home (maybe, but probably not-- the Mass ended at about 8:46 or so, and it was just a bit too far), I returned to poke my nose inside once again. I waited for the opening hymn, which of course was the same as before-- but guess what? Surprise! It was done to organ accompaniment! Then I scurried over to the parish hall, and what do you know? The organ was in use there too. Maybe they have "organ days" and "piano days" to keep everyone happy? Might they have "guitar days" too? Now I'm wondering-- but I can't make a career of studying just one parish, now can I? Dozens of other parishes in the diocese, both far and wide, await my visit, and I certainly don't want to overstay my welcome in any one place, now do I?