"A shirt!" exclaimed the clerk in the pants store as he showed me a crisp new pair of pants. "You'll never find a girl by just wearing a new shirt-- but with new pants, well, that's another story."
"Well, the guys at the ol' watering hole thought that a new shirt would work wonders."
"Forget those losers at the 'ol' watering hole.' Take it from me: pants make the man," he said with absolute certainty.
"I guess I don't have much to lose, but everyone seems so sure, and nothing ever happens."
"Did you ever go to a wedding and see a man get married without a pair of pants?"
"So there you have it. Now, do you want to get married or not?"
"I was hoping not to have to go for a whole new wardrobe, actually..."
"Well, okay, then," he said sadly as he put the black dress slacks back on the rack. "Another lonely Saturday night for you..."
"Okay, okay-- I'll take them. And give me a navy blue pair too."
"Now, you're talking sense," he said smiling.
Dressed in a brand new pair of navy blue slacks and the same new white shirt from last Sunday, I headed for a parish about a 45-minute drive from where I live. The 12:00 noon Mass is served by the "Chamber Choir" there, so I figured that anything that regal-sounding had to be good, and as things happened, it was well worth waiting to attend Mass that late in the day.
The church, which bears a 1957 cornerstone, is simply a rectangle with a high, flat roof of dark, wooden paneling and wooden pews cut into four sections by a center aisle and lined with side aisles; a break is about halfway back. It is about three stories high; dark wooden paneling is on the walls about the height of one story, and above that is white stucco with high, arched stained-glass windows depicting the mysteries of the Rosary. The sanctuary is largely unchanged from its original configuration, with even the altar rail and original marble altar still in place. A free-standing marble altar has been added as well; in front of this are the deacon's chair and the celebrant's chair. Behind that, more dark wooden paneling reaches all the way to the ceiling, with a bit of a flat canopy over that (but with no columns). On that section hangs a larger-than-life traditional crucifix draped with a white linen and notable for a halo behind the figure of Christ. The tabernacle has been moved to the left side altar underneath the statue of Mary (often, in this situation, the statue is either relocated or removed altogether). The wooden ambo is large and somewhat circular, with a dish-type ornamentation on the top. A cantor's lectern is at the right but was not used by a cantor today.
After collecting bulletins at other parishes, I arrived at about 11:50 AM and found a seat at the center of a pew in the left front section. The young ladies must have been intimidated by my new clothes, saying to themselves sadly, "He's too good for me." Thus, even though I left about six to eight places to my right, they (along with many other seats) remained empty throughout the Mass, which was fortunate as I did not think to get a hymnal (OCP Music Issue) and missalette (OCP Today's Missal) until the first hymn, "God Is Love," was announced by the cantor, who served from the choir loft with the organist and choir of about fifteen to twenty people. The racks are at the ends of the aisles, so I'd have had to disturb anyone who was sitting at the end of the pew in order to obtain one. Sometimes, one gets a break in a situation such as that.
Three servers (one tiny boy and two tall teenage girls wearing makeup), three lay ministers of Holy Communion (who would remain in the sanctuary for the entire Mass), the reader, the deacon, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The penitential rite consisted of the choir leading the Greek "Kyrie eleison... Christe eleison..." without invocations; the "May almighty God have mercy on us..." prayer was omitted. The Gloria, sung mostly by the choir, followed immediately afterward; it was unfamiliar to me, and I could not find it in the hymnal, but I picked up the refrain, "... sing glory to God," rather quickly. I do like the practice of distributing a program sheet before a Mass such as this and wish that it would be done here. For whatever reason, participation seemed poor at this Mass; it could have been an example of those in the pews being content to leave the singing to the choir.
The reader, whose skirt was slightly short of the mark, went to the ambo and gave the first reading without incident. The cantor intoned the response to the psalm for the day once, after which the choir sang the verses together, and everyone sang the responses. Then the reader returned to the ambo to give the second reading. The deacon then approached the ambo to proclaim the Gospel, after which he gave a homily focusing on love. It started with a story about a girl who, while under surveillance, posted a note on a tree. When those watching her retrieved the note, they found that it simply read, "To whoever finds this note: I love you." This showed that the girl understood that the way to get love is to give love, unconditionally. The deacon then gave a list of parish liturgies and activities (such as First Communion and Confirmation) conducted in the past month that showed the great love pouring forth from the parishioners. I was beginning to get a bit concerned about the direction the homily was taking, fearing that the deacon would do an impression of the infamous speaker from week four, but my concerns were groundless. The closing line of the homily referred to the song, "They'll Know Us By Our Love," and the deacon ended with, "Will they?"
The Creed was recited, and this was followed by the Prayer of the Faithful, led by the deacon from the cantor's lectern. Then the priest read the announcements from the celebrant's chair, including one that the second of two collections (taken one immediately after the other at this time using wicker baskets passed across the pews) would be for the building maintenance fund. The offertory hymn was "On Eagle's Wings." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from a consistent Mass setting familiar to me from use at my own parish but which I am unable to identify. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer. During this, a woman about three rows ahead of me fell ill; ushers and several nearby folks tended to her.
At the Our Father, which was recited, I saw almost no joining of hands. The sign of peace was notable as the ushers passed down the aisles from front to rear greeting people themselves. At Communion, the woman who was ill was brought Communion at her seat; after this, she was given water and placed flat on the pew. Two stations were at the front, and two stations were at the break, and the choir had its own minister. The chalice was not offered. While the choir received Holy Communion, the organist played background music. When the choir was again ready to sing, it led the Communion hymn, "I Will Raise You Up."
After Communion, the priest gave the closing prayer and imparted a solemn blessing before leaving through the center aisle along with everyone else who was in the opening procession. The closing hymn was "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory." This is always a rousing hymn when sung by a choir, and today was no exception. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of those present saw fit to remain for the fourth verse (the third was not sung but played on the organ only) and the outstanding conclusion. At the end, those remaining offered a round of applause. I must admit that despite my serious misgivings about applause at Mass, the choir really earned some sort of recognition, and it was actually after Mass was over.
Outside, an ambulance and police car were waiting for the unfortunate woman who was ill. It was kind of hot inside the church, even though it was only warm outside, so perhaps this did contribute. Maybe some of that second collection will be put aside for air conditioning the building.
"Hortense, did you see that nice-looking guy in church today?"
"The one in the white shirt and blue pants?"
"Yes, that's the one. Maybe you should have sat next to him."
"Nah, Priscilla. Nobody dresses like that anymore. He must be a seminarian."
"Yes, I guess you're right. Oh, well-- we'll find you a nice husband someday..."