"Hey, Rocky! Watch me get to that 9:15 AM Mass two and a half hours from here on foot."
"But that trick never works."
"This time for sure!"
"Here we go again..."
"Nothing up my sleeve-- presto!"
"Hey, you really did it this time."
"Nothing like old-fashioned moose-like determination, huh?"
"Now here's something we hope you'll really like."
A particularly nice day presented itself for consideration this morning and passed the requisite evaluation with flying colors, so once again I made another assault on the flat ribbons of concrete of Long Island, leaving this time at about 6:35 AM for the same 9:15 AM Mass which eluded me in weeks 44 and 46. Apparently, I stumbled upon the right combination of departure time and walking speed, and at 9:00 AM I set foot on the grounds of the target parish.
The church was originally a chapel of a neighboring parish and remained that way for many, many years, finally being upgraded to a separate parish a little over ten years ago. It appears to have been built before 1960, as it bears few of the identifying marks associated with later buildings. The layout is rather simple, with two groups of dark, wooden pews separated by a center aisle and a break about halfway back and lined with side aisles. Each pew can probably hold twelve people reasonably well. The peaked ceiling is of light wood, while the walls are white with stained-glass windows. The sanctuary is set into the wall and has a dark wooden partition, less than half the height of the ceiling, across the back. A small, traditional crucifix is on the partition. The domed metal tabernacle is in the older location at the center of the rear wall on an older altar with handrails leading to it. In front of the newer altar is a row of five chairs, including the presider's chair; these combined take more width than the altar itself. Side altars to Mary and Joseph are in the usual niches at either side of the sanctuary. The ambo, at the left, is of dark, carved wood but not highly ornate; the cantor's lectern is much simpler, at the right. That lectern was not used today; the cantor served from the choir loft along with the organist and choir. My source had not told me about the choir, saying that the Mass had simply an organist and cantor, so I was pleasantly surprised. Each of the 13 choirsters wore a dark blue robe with a white "V" trimming.
The proceedings began as the reader walked from the rear of the church to the ambo to read the introduction to the Mass; she immediately returned to the rear to join the two servers, six lay ministers of Holy Communion, a deacon, and the priest in the entrance procession. The cantor announced the opening hymn, "Sing A New Song." The choir has a nice sound and seems to exaggerate well, although this gives it a somewhat higher pitch than that to which I am usually accustomed. It could be heard over the organ, though, which is better than having the organ drown out the congregation. The deacon led Form C of the penitential rite with the most common invocations ("Lord, you were sent to heal the contrite..."). The Gloria was sung to a setting familiar to me but which I am unable to identify. Again, the choir enhanced this prayer nicely.
The reader then proclaimed the first reading as it appeared in the OCP missalettes. The psalm for the day was sung, led by a deep-voiced male from the choir loft (who as I noted also did well last week). Then the second reading was proclaimed, followed by the verse before the Gospel, also sung. The deacon proclaimed the Gospel and returned to his place so that the priest could give the homily. It began with the observation that if one tries to remove the mercury from a thermometer, the mercury is slippery and very hard to hold without cupping one's hand. (Children, don't try this at home; mercury outside a thermometer is a toxic substance.) One who attempts this will likely lose the mercury. Similarly, love and forgiveness cannot be separated; love outside forgiveness is very slippery and likely will be lost. Forgiveness is an important sign of love. The priest, who spoke in calm and measured tones, then reinforced these observations (as well as the rest of the message from the day's Scripture) and returned to them at the end of the homily, so they stayed with me.
The Creed and the usual Prayer of the Faithful were recited. As a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets, the reader, who sat in the sanctuary until this point, read several announcements from the ambo and then returned to a seat in the pews. The offertory hymn, again announced from the choir loft, was "The King of Love My Shepherd Is." A metal chalice and paten was used as well as a glass flagon for additional wine.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung from the Mass of Creation. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, which was recited, only a few people ahead of me joined hands, but I was very close to the front, where the distractions are fewer, so any activities behind me will go unreported. At the center of a pew, and with plenty of space to either side of me, I was safe in any case. I had noticed a not stunning but decent-looking young woman alone to my left on the aisle; at the sign of peace, I also noticed her wedding ring. Okay, not this week. Sigh.
At Communion, the six lay ministers entered the sanctuary to assist the deacon and priest in the distribution of Holy Communion; one retrieved a ciborium from the tabernacle as the deacon was administering the cup to the lay ministers. Then the members of the choir came down from the loft and formed two lines to receive Communion first. The cup was offered; stations were in the front and at the break in standard positions. The organist quietly played a verse of the offertory hymn, "I Have Loved You (With an Everlasting Love)" until those in the choir returned to their places, after which the hymn was actually sung. As Communion was being distributed, the two servers stood alongside the priest and deacon in the front but did not hold patens or offer any other services.
After Communion, the closing prayer was offered and the priest gave a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "O Bless the Lord." Only one verse was sung, but many people started to leave before the completion of the hymn even though this nice Mass lasted but 45 minutes. (The choir Mass at my own parish, by comparison, rarely runs under 55 minutes, although the attendance is usually higher and the choir also offers two "anthems" on its own.) The reader and lay ministers returned from their places in the pews to join in the procession down the center aisle.
Next week, we offer a change of pace: a drive. Where? Who knows? It's a big diocese, though, and many unvisited parishes remain, waiting patiently for their day in the spotlight. One will be selected, though, so do check to see what we find.