Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Since the new shoes I purchased a few weeks ago yielded no fruit, I decided to take another pair that had developed holes and have them repaired. I walked into the shoe repair store, and placed the shoes on the counter. The clerk, new to the store, eyed me warily, furtively glanced underneath the counter, and made an odd motion with his hand. I began to explain my plight, but he quickly interrupted. "We repair shoes here, sir, not broken hearts. The previous owner told me about you. You're crazy-- and he was crazy for pandering to you!"
"You mean-- fixing these soles won't do me any good? None at all?"
"It will keep your feet dry if you walk through a puddle in the rain. But," he continued, pointing to a new sign above his head, "NO GUARANTEES ON RELATIONSHIPS."
"My spirit had come to depend on this as the last hope," I began. "I need--"
Just then a pair of detectives burst through the door, and the clerk shouted, "There he is! Get him before it's too late!" A pair of handcuffs was locked around my wrists, and I was read my rights. "You are accused of making a bad pun in week 59. We knew you'd return to the scene of the crime, some day, though-- you left another bad pun just waiting to be used-- but we nailed you. Thanks, Joe, for hitting that silent alarm; he was probably about to commit another travesty. Get in the car, you bum!"
I languished in the jailhouse for several hours until suddenly the jailer approached and unlocked the bars. "You're in luck," he began. "A sympathetic cardinal posted your bail. But if we catch you making any more puns, we throw you back in here."
I decided to enjoy my freedom and drove two hours to a rural area with several small towns. I passed a small white church with a 10:30 AM Mass but decided to save that for another day. A neighboring town had an 11:00 AM Mass (one reason I decided to pass the first church) according to my dog-eared Mass Times sheet, but as soon as I arrived I knew that something did not look right; indeed, the church was empty and the bulletin confirmed that 11:00 AM Mass was apparently history. I proceeded to the other parish in town and remained for its 11:30 AM Mass.
The church looks to be a 1980's model, possibly designed by the iconoclasts of the time. It is square, with six sections of light-grained wooden benches arranged in wedges around the sanctuary. The roof, light wood on the inside, rises in pyramid style to a peak at the center. One side of the square leads to the narthex, which is actually underneath a choir loft that is no longer used for a choir. I did see about twenty people actually sitting there, which interested me as I'd like to sit in a choir loft for Mass some day. The other three sides have tall clear glass windows that rise above the rest of the roof in dormers. The square metal tabernacle is on a pillar at the left window; the ambry is in the window at the right. The altar is at the center of the sanctuary, and behind that is an upholstered triangular bench suggestive of the three command chairs in the Star Trek: The Next Generation bridge. The organ is to the right of the altar, with chairs in front of it facing the congregation. I didn't really get a look at the ambo from where I sat, but it was to the left of the altar. Above the altar hangs a large cross sans corpus. Racks underneath the benches had copies of OCP's Heritage Missal.
Mass began with the opening hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth." Three servers, a deacon, and the priest passed through the center aisle as we sang three verses. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite, and we recited the Gloria.
A reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The choir sang the verses of the responsorial psalm of the day. After the reader gave the second reading, the choir led the verse before the Gospel and the deacon proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo, being careful to return the Book of Gospels to the altar before preaching the homily. He told of an old priest in Kentucky who went on a retreat after many years of saying what he thought his parishioners wanted to hear. When he first arrived at the parish, he preached against gambling the first week, tobacco the second week, and alcohol the third week, but each week one of the parish elders took him aside and warned him against doing that on account of all the generous parishioners who made their living from those vices. Finally the exasperated priest asked what he could say, and he was told, "Preach against warmongers and corrupt politicians-- we don't have any of those here!" At the retreat, the priest realized that he had erred like the priest Jack Lemmon played in the film Mass Appeal. The following week, he preached a terse homily: "First, millions of people are starving and suffering all over the world. Second, nobody gives a ---- about it. Third, most of you are probably more upset that I said ---- in a homily than that people are starving." This homily was praised as a model homily and was related to the Gospel readings for the day.
The Creed was recited, and then the cantor went to the ambo to give the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Each invocation bgean with a line from the second reading followed by a related intention. After that, she read a long list of announcements; once again, the ushers refused to begin the collection during these announcements. I simply cannot understand why announcements (most of which belong in the bulletin anyway) are given such reverence. As soon as we began the offertory hymn, "This is My Song," the collection began, using long-handled wicker baskets. This song seems like a counterpoint to "America, the Beautiful," which we would sing later. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon was used for additional wine. No one stood until after the response to the Orate Fratres prayer.
The Mass setting seemed to be the Heritage Mass. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The server made what sounded like three taps on a triangle at each consecration (a bit unusual in my experience apart from one parish I know that uses one tap on a gong).
At the Our Father, a few people, including the choir, joined hands. At the Sign of Peace, the priest defied the latest US adaptations for the GIRM and left the altar to mingle with the congregation. Three lay ministers assisted the priest and deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion. Three stations for the Sacred Body were located between two sections of pews and one minister served two lines; two stations for the Precious Blood were located behind the other three. The choir sang a hymn on its own during Communion.
After Communion, the deacon made a short announcement of his own concerning student help for a fair and joked about being too old to set up the fair all by himself. The priest then told a joke about a deacon and then gave the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn, as I mentioned, was "America, the Beautiful." We sang four verses, and about half the people remained to the end, which included one of the choirsters using his trumpet (which always gives a bit of class to the music). On my way home, I passed some other nice-looking churches in the area, so perhaps I'll drive this way again soon.