Week 11


Today I drove twenty minutes in driving rain to a parish whose church bears a 1925 cornerstone. The interior has not been renovated apart from the removal of portions of the altar rail. The side altars of Mary and Joseph even retain their own tabernacles, which is somewhat unusual today. (I doubt that they see any use.) The seating arrangement is absolutely conventional: two columns of wooden pews separated by a middle aisle and flanked by side aisles. One item which would not pass modern building codes is the lack of any exit apart from the one in the rear of the church. (I think the sacristy may have an outdoor exit, but who would think to use it in an emergency?)

A fairly realistic, life-sized crucifix is hung to the right of the side altar of Mary. It depicts Jesus with a particularly pained expression looking toward heaven. I find more spiritual profit in this type of crucifix, which emphasizes the humanity of Jesus' death. (I recognize that others may benefit more from crucifixes of the risen Christ.) Often, we too easily see the divinity in Jesus' death (thinking that He just walked through it without apprehension) and the humanity in Jesus' resurrection (dead certain that we'll follow him to heaven regardless of our choices in life) and miss the humanity in His death and the divinity in His resurrection, which tends to leave us spiritually muddled.

A deacon and three altar servers assisted the priest, who looked on the young side of 40. A very pretty cantor beautifully sang the Christmas carols used as hymns, but she also wore a very pretty wedding ring. (Sigh.) As at last week's parish, the Gloria was sung with a Christmas setting, and the responsorial psalm was from the Mass of Christmas during the day.

The deacon preached a full homily covering a wide range of points, with the general theme being "now that Christmas and its busyness are over, you have no excuse not to take time to be with God in some way or other." Immediately afterward (before the Creed) a layman talked at length about the Renew 2000 program and encouraged us to join one of the small faith groups that will begin meeting shortly for several weeks. His talk wasn't particularly outstanding but avoided the excesses of the stewardship talk of week four with its hugging and all that stuff. At least we got a homily, though, which is very important.

The second Eucharistic prayer was used (after a full homily and the other talk, I couldn't blame the priest, and after all, I did see Pope John Paul II use the second Eucharistic prayer at his Christmas Mass). Once more, Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation provided the setting for the memorial acclamation, the Great Amen, and the Agnus Dei. The Our Father was recited.

Although fewer than a hundred people attended this 8:00 AM Mass on a rainy morning, a lay minister assisted the priest and deacon in distributing Holy Communion. She was at the rear of the church while the priest and deacon took the front stations. The cup was not offered. Distribution of Communion must have taken less than two minutes, tops; I was able to get on line almost immediately, and by the time I returned to my place, the priest and deacon were returning their ciboriums to the tabernacle. This small church might seat three or four hundred at most-- perhaps they really don't need any lay ministers if a deacon is present.

By and large, I guess this is a typical Mass, and I wouldn't hesitate to return here if the occasion arises. The pastor previously served in the cathedral parish-- perhaps that was a good experience for him and helped him to see the limits of good liturgy.

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