Week 17

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our visit today is to a small parish located very close to the border of the diocese, about a half hour's drive from where I live. I again forgot to check the cornerstone (if I were using a word processor that would be in a macro assigned to its own key) but the building probably predates World War II. It is a fairly conventional layout with two sets of pews divided by a center aisle. The only twist here is that each set of pews has a divider running from front to back which separates each pew into two sections holding four to six people each. (This is also found in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, for anyone who's been there.) The purpose of this eludes me, but it must have been done for some good reason. The numbered pews and hat hooks betray the age of the building, which is otherwise in good repair.

The domed sanctuary has seen only slight modification, although a permanent altar now stands in front of the old altar, which, along with the tabernacle, remain more or less as they were. The new altar is well built, apparently designed to match the original altar rail, part of which also remains. The ambo is dignified and ornate but not particularly large. A large, traditional crucifix hangs on a column to the right of the sanctuary. It looks as though it may have been moved, as a hook remains directly over the altar, but that could possibly be for a projection screen (the pastor made an allusion to the showing of a film, but that could have been done elsewhere too). The rear of the sanctuary has a large painting, and the windows are of nice stained glass. A choir loft is in the traditional location over the main entrance, but the organist played from a pew-level location to the right of the sanctuary. Side altars to Our Lady and St. Joseph remain along with several statues. Unlike last week's bright look, this one is somewhat darker overall.

I arrived at about 9:15 AM for the 9:30 AM Mass. I had had my overcoat and pants dry cleaned last week, and I figured that perhaps a nice young lady would be attracted to me by the sweet smell of dry cleaning chemicals and ask me after Mass which dry cleaner I used, but that was wishful thinking. The Mass was not particularly well attended, but those who were there seemed to be mostly young families. A relatively new elevator was in operation and punctuated the quiet before Mass with occasional "dings" as it let people into the building, although I noticed no one in a wheelchair. Before Mass, the pastor, who offered the Mass, came to review with us the Sanctus, which we would later sing in Latin (believe it or not!). He sang it a few times, stopping along the way to translate it into English and explain it a bit. He also made note that the Gloria would be sung (though in English). This looked slightly odd, since this is something the cantor, who was standing right there, would usually do, but perhaps he wanted to do it himself in order to translate the Sanctus. I also got the impression from this, the bulletin, and the weak participation that he's desperately trying to revitalize the parish. This priest will be in my prayers.

Two servers accompanied the priest in the procession from the sacristy, down the side aisle to the rear of the church, then through the center aisle to the opening hymn, "Come, Christians, Join to Sing." This and the other hymns were found in OCP's JourneySongs hymnal. Form C of the penitential rite was used. The priest served as reader, and he did an outstanding job; I suspect he had some kind of dramatic training before entering the seminary. The hymn "All the Earth" was used as the responsorial psalm; I haven't had a chance to see if that corresponds to today's psalm. Because no missals or missalettes were in the pews, I don't know which Lectionary was used.

The homily was reasonable, although the priest took about seven or eight minutes to begin to link it to the readings. Mostly, he talked about St. Valentine, and not in a sentimental way either; in fact, I believe he mentioned that love is a tough decision of self-sacrifice. My other reservation (apart from St. Valentine not being in today's readings) is that St. Valentine's story rests largely on legend, which left the homily on slightly shaky ground. I think he made a decent effort, though-- he did actually refer to each reading, as I recall.

After the Creed, the Prayer of the Faithful was omitted entirely. No offertory hymn was sung; the organist played background music as the first collection was taken and the gifts were brought forward and prepared. After the Latin Sanctus, the second Eucharistic Prayer was used along with a setting for the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen that I could not identify. I noticed that one of the two servers was standing alongside the priest throughout the Eucharistic Prayer and began to wonder why; she looked like a concelebrant, and the other server looked kind of useless in his seat towards one corner of the sanctuary. I then saw that she was turning the pages of the missal for the priest. Well, okay, I guess.

After a recited Our Father, the Agnus Dei was also sung in Latin. (Wow; two in one Mass.) Two lay ministers assisted the priest in distributing Holy Communion. This was made more complicated by those dividers. The priest took a station in the center aisle, alternating between two lines, while the lay ministers each took a station on the sides. The cup was not offered. Communicants had to return through the same aisle by which they approached, which is awkward. If I were the pastor, I'd see if I could get rid of those dividers. Not too many people were there, so at least one fewer lay minister would be needed, and communicants could all receive in the center and return through the side aisles. The Communion hymn was "We Will Rise Again."

Distribution of communion took less than four minutes, and no time was allowed for individual prayer after Communion before the second collection was taken and the cantor and priest each made a few announcements. The closing hymn was "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." Participation at this Mass was generally poor, and few waited for the end of the one verse to leave.

In the bulletin, I spotted some interesting items. Last week's collection for the diocesan newspaper totalled about $1200, but the parish pays for 380 copies at $20 each, which amounts to a $7600 bill. The regular collection was about $2900, but the weekly budget is $4000-- sad numbers indeed.

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