"Shepherd to base, are we there yet?"
"Roger, Shepherd, you're just about ready. Make sure your altitude and speed are just right."
"10-4, base. Altitude and speed are perfect. Copy that, Archangel?"
"Okay, captain, I have the payload ready."
"Begin countdown, Shepherd. 10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... 0-- initiate distribution of the payload, Shepherd!"
"10-4, base. Go, Archangel."
"They're on their way, captain. Two thousand of these little gems. I hope they'll help."
"Archangel, I wish we could target them all. But if we can convert just one parish, maybe some of the others will follow suit. People are always fascinated by conversion stories. We just don't know any other way to do it; we've tried everything else."
Sunday's trip took me to the parish originally passed over in week 39. I decided that if it didn't have kneelers by now, after the new bishop (very orthodox, I hasten to add) has served over six months, that waiting any longer wasn't worthwhile, and I'd just as soon cross it off my list and be done with it. It is a very plain, "L"-shaped building covered with white vinyl siding and fitted with clear, double-hung windows. A cornerstone would not have been appropriate, and none was included, although the building is no more than ten years old. Inside, the ceiling is flat, not much higher than what one would find in a typical private dwelling, and made of white acoustical tile such as might be found in an office building. The building has no pews; instead, two groups of individual, red, upholstered, metal seats rest on a floor of linoleum tile, while another group of white, upholstered, folding chairs is located on one side of the "L." The sanctuary is in the corner, slightly raised. The tabernacle is a cabinet hidden behind a wall; the only places from which it is visible at all are along the side walls. I don't recall if the church had a crucifix; actually, I was rather disoriented, so I missed some of the details. The Stations of the Cross are tiny wooden plaques hung on the walls. The main entrance is at what would be the inside corner of the "L," which is actually cut on an angle. The inside walls are white on top and pink underneath a moulding at waist level. An organ and keyboard are at the right of the sanctuary.
I arrived at about 10:20 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass. I actually, really, and truly remembered to take one of the OCP Breaking Bread hymnals (without readings) from the rack by the door; this is remarkable, as longtime readers will verify. I then tried to take a seat in a fairly unpopulated section of the building, away from most of the parking. Beforehand, the three singers, one of whom played a guitar (sorry, not sure I could do better here, I think) sang a song to set the mood. It was an improvement over the unwhispered talking that preceded it. The opening hymn was "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus," played to piano accompaniment as was everything else in this Mass. The opening procession passed through the center aisle; I immediately recognized the priest from a Mass I attended on Passion Sunday about five or so years ago. He instructed us to introduce ourselves to one another, "as is our custom in this parish," and people started wandering around doing so. My selection of a seat spared me what I find to be an awkward, difficult experience, as nobody was really near me, and I chose not to leave the seat. Form C of the penitential rite was used; the Gloria was omitted.
A reader gave a somewhat dramatic interpretation of the first reading from the ambo, and one of the singers led the singing of the psalm for the day. Then the reader gave the second reading, and the singers led the verse before the Gospel. The priest read the Gospel from the ambo; the Gospel was followed by another sung Alleluia. The homily was not bad, to be honest. People continued to enter all through the beginning of Mass, and about here, two people came and sat almost right next to me, which I found rather odd, as they could more easily have remained on the opposite aisle. The homily concerned the story of a boy, Peter, who was beaten badly by his drug-addicted stepfather, so much so that he welcomed being taken to the hospital just to get out of the situation. While at the hospital, another boy lent him his jacket. Later, Peter asked the priest for work to earn bus fare to visit a nearby town. After a few days, the priest finally asked why Peter needed to get to the other town; it turned out that he was visiting the other boy, now dying of AIDS, in the hospital. At first, he just wanted to return the jacket, but he saw that the other boy needed a friend so as not to die alone. After the second boy died, Peter and the priest went to the funeral and found that they and the minister were the only ones there; the boy had been totally abandoned.
From here, it was almost all downhill. The Creed was omitted, and then the Prayer of the Faithful was recited. A collection was taken by passing wicker baskets around the seats. The offertory hymn was "As Grains of Wheat." The chalices were of glass; I did not notice the ciboriums, as I was a bit far back and still disoriented.
The musical setting was unfamiliar to me, as I recall. The priest offered what must be described as a loose paraphrase of the second Eucharistic Prayer. Everyone stood through this on account of the lack of kneelers; had nobody been near me (which was my original plan), I might have knelt, but I lacked the courage of my convictions, and my knees aren't in such great shape that I can go around kneeling for long on a hard tile floor. I did, however, genuflect as best as I could at the moments of consecration. It looked as though the priest was holding a stack of large hosts, something I have never seen before. At the concluding doxology, the priest instructed us all to join him (dead wrong), and the singers and congregation assisted him in singing it. Then, at the Our Father, "as is our custom in our parish," he instructed us to join hands and even "go across the aisles," while he came from the sanctuary and joined hands with some in the front row as we sang it. I was only half-stuck, as I was on the aisle. He omitted the "Deliver us, O Lord..." prayer (or "Embolism") that is supposed to follow the Our Father and went directly into the following acclamation.
After the priest instructed us to sit, a few (three or maybe four, I think) lay ministers assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion; the chalice was offered. The Communion hymn was "I Am the Bread of Life."
Before the final blessing, the priest offered a few more words to reinforce the message of the homily. The closing hymn was "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name," which I don't think I ever heard played on a piano before. At that point, I had much reason for praise, as my list had another check mark on it-- but perhaps one day we can revisit this parish after things improve.
"What a great Mass, Dan."
"Really uplifting, Lee. Joining hands makes me feel so good."
"Glad they ditched some of that tedious stuff like the Creed, too."
"Keeps the Mass from being too long, eh?"
"Hey, look up in the sky."
"Well, what do you know? Some leaflets are falling from that plane."
"I wonder what they're selling?"
"Hang on; one should be here any moment."
"Okay, let's look at it. Hmm-- 'Institutio Generalis,' it says. Underneath, it looks like, I think, 'G... I... R... M...'"
"Never heard of any of that stuff. Wonder what it's about?"
"Must be an ad for a couple of new rock groups or something."
"Must be. Maybe the teenagers will be interested."
"Yeah, we don't have time to look at leaflets now-- we're late for golf."
"Say, Lee, why is Father so red-faced? He seems to be grabbing those leaflets rather quickly."
"Yes-- already has a fistful. Must know some teens who like rock."
"Oh, yes-- that must be it. Of course."