Week 31

Pentecost Sunday

Today was not a good day for serious walking, as it was raining. Fortunately, my sister and her husband appeared about the time I would have left, so I accepted their offer of a ride to a parish of my choice, as several candidates were to be found on their way home. I wanted a choir Mass for Pentecost, so I took a chance on a 10:30 AM Mass near a railroad station about a twenty-five minute drive from where I live. Even though I had no information about types of Masses at this parish, my guess was correct, which is almost unusual, as regular readers of this series will attest.

I arrived at about 9:50 AM; the 9:00 AM Mass was just finishing. Several people had already left before the final prayer. I don't know if I saw or heard guitars, but the musical group at that Mass served from the right side of the sanctuary and did have a piano accompaniment on the last hymn, which ended with a round of applause. I went inside but was alone apart from a few clusters of people chatting afterward, and the candles and most of the lights were extinguished between Masses. I also remembered that I had forgotten to check the cornerstone, so I went back outside to look around for a few minutes.

I found a detached brick monument reading "A. D. 1898," but a glance at the adjacent building indicated that the monument and building were not related to one another-- clearly this monument marks the founding of the parish and may have been salvaged from an earlier building. Inside, on a wall, I located a citation congratulating the parish on the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the church; this is dated "1989." Drawing on my background in mathematics and computers, and using sophisticated analytical techniques, I was able to calculate the date that would have been on a cornerstone: 1964.

The building is of colonial style, not uncommon in the late 1950's and early 1960's. A cupola rises above the columned front entrance. The inside is rather simple but large, with the heavy white mouldings that characterize this style of architecture. Two sets of wooden pews, lined with side aisles, are split with a center aisle and a break about a third of the way from the front. Each of about thirty rows can accomodate between twelve and eighteen people. In the very front, the sides extend slightly for about ten short rows of pews; in many other parishes, this arrangement would be ripe for pulling the sanctuary foward and rotating those side sections 90 degrees, but major renovations have not been done here as the original marble altar rail and the canopy over the altar remain. The tabernacle, however, has been moved to the left side altar, which in any case is easily located in this church. Beneath the canopy is a large painting, probably of the patron saint of the parish. I don't recall seeing a crucifix of any sort, but I also did not consciously look for one, so possibly I missed it. Stained-glass windows with arched tops mostly depict scenes from the Joyful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. A marble ambo is at the left of the sanctuary, ahead of the altar. Large chandeliers hang from the ceiling but were not used as recessed floodlights in the ceiling sufficed.

The cantor began the Mass by announcing the opening hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost." The choir, consisting of about fifteen to twenty people, and the organist served from the choir loft (from which hung a series of banners spelling "Alleluia") and were easily heard. (What a difference a half-hour makes!) Two servers, two confirmation candidates and their sponsors, five lay ministers of Holy Communion, two readers, a deacon, and the pastor passed through the center aisle in the entrance procession. The Kyrie was recited with invocations; after that, a brief pause ensued, and the cantor looked toward the choir as if something was not right. I'm not sure if the Gloria was to be sung, but finally the pastor began its recitation, which I found disappointing after he introduced the Mass by describing Pentecost as the third most-important day on the Church's calendar, behind Easter and Christmas (I think). A sung Gloria would be most appropriate on such an important day, particularly at a choir Mass.

After the priest offered the "alternative opening prayer," one reader handled the first reading, which was from the new Lectionary and matched that in the OCP missalette. This particular version is rather complete-- it even includes those "alternative opening prayers" as well as the full readings. The psalm for the day was sung by the choir and cantor. A second reader handled the second reading. The special Sequence for Pentecost, printed in the missalette, and not marked "optional," was omitted entirely.

The Alleluia was also sung well by the choir and cantor. The deacon did not read the Gospel as usual; instead, an Augustinian priest who is giving a parish mission this week appeared to read the Gospel and give a pitch for the mission. Even though he's a priest, I hesitate to characterize his pitch as a "homily," which by definition is based on Scripture. He's clearly what one would call a "cut-up," and I'm sure his missions are interesting. He made an obvious point of drilling into us the times of the mission, particularly tonight's starting time, so that he would point to us and have us say "7:30" all together. He also invited us to come and "wallow" in God's love for us. He went through several possible excuses for not attending the mission, destroying each one, starting by saying that he reviewed the TV listings for the four days and found absolutely nothing worth watching, and concluding by announcing that the pastor had agreed to provide free door-to-door limousine service to anyone who needed a ride. He spoke about two kinds of prayer: "Gimme, Help me" prayers and "Forgive me, I'm so rotten" prayers, and explained that the word for people who think that God will love them more and give them all manner of good things after they tell Him they're so rotten and undeserving is "sick." (That was about the only substance in the talk.)

Finally, he targeted a teenage boy in a maroon shirt near the front, asked him to stand, and attempted to shame him into attending the mission tonight by asking him a series of simple "yes/no" questions, leading to, "Have you thought about becoming a priest?" and finally finishing with, "Are you coming at 7:30 tonight?" The boy replied, "I'll try," which caused the priest to call the boy to the ambo and tease him even more. The pitch ended with this cliff-hanger: "Come tonight to see if John is here!" Then the priest left via the center aisle to applause, making wisecracks along the way as he headed towards the rear of the church.

Next, the Confirmation candidates and their sponsors were brought foward, and Confirmation was administered by the pastor, with the deacon at his side. This appeared fairly straightforward, starting with a renewal of baptismal promises and proceeding to the laying on of hands and anointing with holy oil. Finally, the priest asked us to give the newly-confirmed Catholics a round of applause. I was disappointed that the priest could clearly be heard saying, "I do," to the questions, whereas the candidates could not be heard at all. Even though it's a large church, and the priest had a microphone and they didn't, their responses should have been loud and clear. The Creed was omitted, which I believe is usually the case when Confirmation is administered during Mass.

The Prayer of the Faithful was recited, and a collection (actually a combination of two collections at once, according to an announcement made at this time) was taken with long-handled baskets, starting in the rear. The offertory hymn was "Christ, Be Our Light." I think that was the second time I heard it; I kind of liked the refrain and noticed it dates from 1994, which may be a good sign. (It might not be in the older GIA Worship or Gather hymnals used at my parish, so maybe that's why I never heard it until I started travelling.)

The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a small glass flagon was also used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen all came from the Mass of Creation, composed by Marty Haugen. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer. The Our Father was sung to a setting unfamiliar to me. A few people joined hands, but the pews were less than half-full (more than half-empty?), and many of those present were scattered about the church, so absent telescopic arms, further meshing simply could not occur. The organ continued to play during the priest's prayer ("Deliver us, O Lord...") as is more typically seen at a folk Mass, and the embolism, "For the kingdom..." was also sung. The Agnus Dei, sung as well, was not from the Mass of Creation but possibly from the Mass of the Angels and Saints. I recognize it and can sing it but am unsure of the actual name.

Two priests appeared to assist in distributing Holy Communion; I do not believe I saw the Augustinian return. One priest immediately went to the choir loft to distribute there, even before everyone else was ready. I think the cup was offered at two stations of the total of eight (other than the choir's station). Two stations were at the side sections in addition to the obvious two at the front center and two at the break. The Communion hymn was "Send Us Your Spirit."

After 31 weeks, I sometimes wonder if this series is becoming stale, but even today I saw something I had never seen before. After the hymn and Communion, I saw the lay ministers remaining in the sanctuary and figured that they were going to leave together, possibly making a unified genuflection before the tabernacle as I saw one other week. Instead, when they were all together, the cantor joined them, and they all received at this time. (I hadn't noticed that they did not receive at the usual time after the priest and deacon but before everyone else.) I don't know why it was done this way but I guess it's interesting. Then the pastor gave them a formal blessing and distributed a pyx to each of them for the homebound. I still like that custom and wish that it had lasted in my parish.

After the Prayer After Communion, the final announcements were read; one indicated that all children should obtain a special "children's bulletin" at the doors as they leave. That's something else I never saw before. Then the priest offered a solemn blessing. The closing hymn was "One Spirit, One Church," which concluded with a small round of applause. I would not have selected that hymn for use in the same Mass as "Come, Holy Spirit," as the verses of both hymns are the same. I then headed to the railroad station to wait ten minutes for the twenty-two minute train ride home.

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