Week 304


Reading I
Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16
Reading II
1 Cor 15:20-27
Lk 1:39-56

I used one of my inimitable methods to select a parish this morning. It narrowed the field to a handful of candidates, so I began the journey in the direction of some of them and finally made a decision at 11:45 AM when I located one with a 12:15 PM Mass. I decided to enter early and spend some time near the Blessed Sacrament (sometimes God leads us a certain way). The church bears a 1940 cornerstone and is of grey stone on the outside. It is in the shape of a cross, with a square, flat bell tower in the front right corner. The inside is fairly straightforward with two sections of wooden pews in the center and individual upholstered seats with kneelers (still facing the front) in the transepts. Racks hold the OCP combination of Today's Missal and Music Issue. The sanctuary may have been simplified in the process of moving the domed metal tabernacle to the left side niche (balanced by the baptismal font in the right side niche). The celebrant's chair is situated underneath the traditional wooden crucifix at the center of the rear of the sanctuary, directly behind the long, wooden, freestanding altar (with some white paint). A matching wooden ambo is at the left. Traditional stained-glass windows are found on the white side walls.

I was briefly concerned when I heard a voice on the speaker system start making some rather chatty remarks that I thought were the start of the Mass, but then the side door opened and I saw the priest helping an elderly lady into the building, so I guess he just had his microphone on a bit early. (Those wireless microphones are going to be the death of some priest some day.) Afterward, the reader went to the ambo and introduced herself by name and then read the roster of ministers and servers for the Mass. A voice from the choir loft introduced the opening hymn, "Immaculate Mary." Two servers, four extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The lay ministers took seats in the front left row. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite and then we recited the Gloria.

The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The voice from the choir loft led the responsorial psalm for the day. The reader then gave the second reading. We sang the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel. The priest went to the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel. His homily followed; it began with mention of an article he read in Maryknoll magazine. The article was written by a priest who had spent time in South America and it explained that he had learned more about Mary from seeing mothers of slain and missing children there than he had ever imagined. Those mothers show how Mary must have suffered when she and Joseph were searching for Jesus when He was in the temple, as well as how Mary suffered when she held her dead Son in her arms. The homilist then connected all this suffering with the "feast" we celebrate today by saying that Mary's presence in heaven is a reward for all her suffering on Earth and assured us that whether we are young, middle-aged, or elderly, no suffering we endure on this Earth goes unnoticed by God. He was careful to explain the actual doctrine at some point as well. He finished by quoting the today's preface to the Eucharistic Prayer.

We recited the Creed; I noticed several people, including the priest, bowing at the right moment. The reader led the recitation of the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. She made one announcement about the collection, which was taken using long-handled metal baskets. An unusual touch was that two young ladies passed the basket in the center aisle. The offertory hymn was "The Summons," sung to piano accompaniment. (I thought I also heard some strings here-- it may have been a synthesizer.) The chalices and ciborium were of metal. No flagon was used; instead, the priest used his own chalice and two smaller chalices and consecrated them directly, as is more common at daily Mass. At the Orate Fratres prayer, almost everyone stood as soon as the priest began his invitation.

The Mass of Creation setting (Haugen) was used for the remainder of the Mass. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, which we recited, I didn't see much hand-holding, although I was in a corner where I couldn't really see much of the congregation. At Holy Communion, an additional priest emerged and retrieved ciboriums from the tabernacle. The lay ministers did not enter the sanctuary until after the priest had received Communion himself. Two stations for the Sacred Body were located at the center aisle and two stations were located along the sides; after those in the small transepts were finished receiving, the two side stations were transferred to the center and "dual-station" distribution began. The Precious Blood was offered at two stations orignally shared by the center lines and the side lines. The Communion hymn was "My Soul Rejoices."

After Communion, the reader made an announcement about the parish festival next month, and then the priest chimed in and encouraged people to volunteer to help. He then offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing before departing via the center aisle with the servers and lay ministers. The closing hymn was "Hail, Holy Queen." Most people remained to the end of the three verses, as the priest waited until the third verse to begin his walk down the aisle.

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In Charlotte Hall, Maryland, Mass is offered at St. Mary's Church on St. Mary's Church Road. All across America and all around the world, you can almost always find a Catholic Mass.

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