Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
Jn 21:1-19 or Jn 21:1-14
This morning I leapt onto the railroad platform just as a train was to open its doors to board new passengers and scurried inside to head for a parish that would be an hour and a quarter away. At the terminal, I exited the train and hustled to the church by running a block and walking a block so as not to have to wait at every corner for a traffic signal. After 26 blocks of this, I finally turned a corner and set eyes on the target church about four minutes before its 10 AM Mass. I was unable to locate a cornerstone, but some Internet research revealed that the building was dedicated in 1885. It is grey stone on the outside with two short towers on either side of the main entrance. I ascended the high steps to that entrance (sporting modern glass doors) and obtained a missalette and program from one of the greeters stationed by the door (they're good for something-- I never think to look for a missalette by the door in parishes that are uncomfortable leaving them in the pews). This missalette, OCP's Unidos en Cristo / United in Christ offering, has English text on the left pages and Spanish text on the right pages.
As I passed the small table where the gifts of bread and wine were already positioned, a loud warning alarm sounded in my head and I was tempted to make a quick exit. For in this Roman Rite parish, I saw what clearly appeared to me to be leavened bread, the first time in 288 weeks that this happened. (Just when I think this series might be getting stale...) However, I chose not to panic and thought carefully for a few moments, remembering that leavened bread is used in Eastern-rite churches, so it most likely was not invalid matter simply on account of being leavened. Of course, my mind also started wondering what else might have been in that leavened bread, although short of a chemical analysis or an unseemly inspection, I'd not have any way to know for sure. I decided to remain, figuring that if at some point I felt the Mass to be invalid, I'd still have time to get to another parish for a later Mass.
The inside was grand enough to begin that it has resisted the efforts of HGTV types to ruin it altogether. The original altar and reredo remain underneath a high canopy with the inscription "Tv es vas electionis Sancte Pavle Apostole." The main tabernacle, of metal, is still in use. Several traditional stained-glass windows surround this domed area. Large side altars also remain at either side; in fact, this big church has several additional large altars along the side aisles. However, the old sanctuary is now far to the rear of a large wooden platform that now serves as the sanctuary. This was dropped into the front center of the nave, probably eliminating the first ten or twenty rows of pews. A section for the choir was placed at the right, with the seats more or less facing the rest of the congregation, and individual upholstered seats were positioned at the left, at a right angle to the congregation. Today, the servers sat on the left. An ambo of light wood is at the left of this sanctuary, next to a freestanding altar. The original balcony-style ambo is at the right alongside a pillar and is of dark wood. It appears as though it could be used as it seems to have lights and microphones (wires were hanging from the bookstand) but it was not used today. The celebrant's chair is at the right, near the choir seats. (The original, huge celebrant's chair is still in the rear.) The arches are painted in various bright colors that somehow reminded me of the decor of the Village in the television series The Prisoner. The wooden pews are in four sections; two wide sections at the center and two short sections on the sides, not against the walls. The old choir loft remains, but I doubt that it is used much any more.
Mass began as the cantor announced the first hymn, "Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks," which we sang to piano accompaniment. I noticed that verse four was not printed on the program flyer, though verses one, two, three, and five were. A blank space substituted for the missing fourth verse. I started to wonder just what was in that-- maybe something about using unleavened bread? Or was it praise to Cardinal Ratzinger? Ten servers, two readers, seven extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. Instead of the penitential rite, the priest sprinkled water on the congregation as we sang the Gloria to Steven Janco's setting (piano again).
At this point the children were removed to a back room for a children's Liturgy of the Word. The first reader went to the lower ambo and gave the first reading. One of the choir members went to the ambo and led the choir and congregation in singing the psalm of the day, being careful to modify all the masculine pronouns referring to God to "God." The second reader then went to the ambo and gave the second reading. The cantor led the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel to organ accompaniment. The priest proclaimed the long form of the Gospel from the ambo and then stood at the center of the sanctuary to deliver his homily. He started by imagining a new MasterCard commercial which begins with "Tiber River Bass: 50 shekels" and ends with "Jesus serving breakfast to the apostles: Priceless." For this the priest received a round of applause. Then he mentioned the television series "The Apprentice" in which Donald Trump takes 13 weeks to select a new employee and the priest thought of how stinging it must have been to hear "You're fired." He talked about Peter's threefold affirmation of his love for Jesus and the apostles' apparent desire to return to "business as usual." (As an aside, my own impression of this Gospel is wonder at how the apostles, after having spent three years with Jesus and witnessing His death and resurrection, could simply go back to fishing as if nothing had happened-- it still hadn't made much impression on them! That's the big question here-- what on Earth are they doing fishing?) The priest also spoke of some of the good things that people are doing in the parish and suggested that like the apostles, we may be called to do something for God.
We recited the Creed, and the second reader returned to the ambo to read the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. A collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as the choir sang "I Know that My Redeemer Lives." (I believe the piano was used.) The paten, ciborium, and chalice were of metal. A glass flagon was used for additional wine despite this being explictly forbidden in Redemptionis sacramentum. The presence of the ciborium was encouraging but confusing; I correctly deduced that it contained standard unleavened hosts, but this left me bewildered as to the reason for consecrating both leavened and unleavened bread at the same Mass. At the Orate Fratres prayer, only one person stood at the correct time, after the priest's invitation is concluded but before the people's response begins.
The Mass setting for the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen was the Mass of Creation (with organ accompaniment). I was so distracted by the leavened bread that I didn't notice which Eucharistic Prayer was used, but I believe it was either II or III (or else I probably would have noticed). The priest attempted to ruin my day by saying, "Let us join our hearts and our hands," at the Our Father, but I just kept my hands clasped across my waist and no one challenged me. We sang the Our Father to the most common setting. At the Sign of Peace, the priest flouted the GIRM by leaving the sanctuary and going to those in the congregation.
We sang the Agnus Dei to a setting unfamiliar to me, with a few changed tropes at the beginning. I was trying to determine if the distribution of leavened vs. unleavened hosts had any rhyme or reason to it, but I wasn't able to see any. It did appear, though, that each minister had a little of each. One minister for each species was assigned to each of the four sections of pews. The Communion hymn was "Lord, When You Came to the Seashore." By the time I reached the priest, he had no leavened hosts on his paten, so I was spared any further anxiety.
After Communion, the priest offered the closing prayer and asked us to sit for some announcements. He thanked various people, including a visiting priest in the congregation, and there was applause. Another priest, in lay clothes, then went to the ambo to thank us for something or other which I can't remember, and he lingered at the ambo until he too was applauded (which may have been a polite way of saying, "Okay, let us leave already!"). The priest then imparted a simple blessing and left via the center aisle with the servers, readers, and lay ministers. The closing hymn was "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus!" After the hymn was complete, those remaining succumbed to the temptation to offer a round of applause. Most folks remained until the end.
As I left, I saw a large suggestion box on a table and simply could not resist the temptation to make a suggestion. I had no suitable paper, though, so I had to tear off a corner of one of the program flyers, write "GIRM" on it, and place it in the box. (In retrospect, I probably should have been more specific, but I didn't have enough paper and I'd have been late for the train.) Then I ran as fast as I could back to the railroad terminal before anyone spotted me. I boarded a train just as it was about to close its doors for the 45-minute ride home alone.
Like most decent places, Harrington, Delaware offers Mass at St. Bernadette Church on Dixon Street. Almost anywhere in the nation or around the world, you can find a Catholic Mass.