Week 42

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The young man saw me enter the delicatessen and quickly turned to the older man beside him behind the counter. "Is that him?" he asked eagerly.

"Yup," the proprietor said. "That's your man. Go for it."

I approached the counter with a newspaper, and he smiled at me, saying, "Mr. Saucci, what do I have to do to make the What I did on Sunday series?"

"It has to be something interesting or funny," I replied. "It has to be on Sunday before or after Mass too."

"I know a church where they have a harmonica Mass," he said confidently.

"Okay. Where?"

"Um, well, I forgot. But it's there. See for yourself."

"No, no, not good enough."

"How about a church with a neon sign out front?"

"No, just not interesting, really."

"How about I show you a picture of the church in Landru-- it has dancing bears at Mass."

"No, I'm afraid that won't do. You just won't make the WIDOS series; you're not interesting enough."

"Aw, rats," he said. "Joe here said I was a shoo-in."

"What does Joe know?" I said as I paid for the newspaper.

Today's parish is at a far corner of the diocese, a drive of forty-five minutes from where I live. The cornerstone reads "1913" and was not obscured by any bushes or other decorations. The church is an absolutely beautiful red brick building with all the trimmings, including a high peaked roof and traditional, detailed stained-glass windows. Two main sections of wooden pews holding about ten to twelve people each are divided by a center aisle with a break about halfway back, and side aisles are also present. Near the sanctuary, the sides expand slightly to allow for a few rows of additional pews facing the front. From where those rows end, large columns line the side aisles to the rear of the church. The interior is almost entirely of red brick, save for a large painting of the Crucifixion on the rear wall of the sanctuary (instead of a crucifix). As I noted in another parish, the painting is notable for the lack of the two thieves on either side of Christ. It also shows several women at the foot of the cross in addition to the Virgin Mary and St. John.

Very ornate side altars with their own tabernacles remain; they are in niches in the side walls rather than what seems to be the more common, later practice of placing them beside the sanctuary. A large balcony-style marble ambo is at the left of the sanctuary but was not used today for some reason; perhaps it is saved for a bishop or Pope. Instead, a very modest lectern-style ambo just to the right of the larger one was used. An additional lectern for the cantor is at the right. The tabernacle and its ornate framework are in the original location; the presider's chair is to the right of that. The stone altar rail remains, apparently unaltered.

I arrived at 10:10 AM for the 10:15 AM Mass. I saw a group of people in the parking lot with instruments, which was a bit unsettling, but I figured that they must have been left over from an earlier Mass and simply proceeded into the church. Doors flung wide open indicated that the building is not air-conditioned; half-empty pews were another indication. Unlike most parishes, this one has gone in the opposite direction with bulletin placement and control and stuffs a few bulletins into the hymnal rack in each pew. (I guess someone figures that if people are going to leave the bulletins in the pews anyway, why not put them there to start?) The cantor, whose dress was only slightly short of the mark, began by making a short announcement about a second collection and then rehearsed the responsorial psalm. An organist served from the choir loft.

The opening hymn, which like all of them was in OCP's Music Issue, was "Morning Has Broken." Five lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and two servers accompanied the priest, who holds a chancery position, in the opening procession through the center aisle. The lay ministers and reader took seats in the front pew to the right. The priest has a wonderful speaking voice; if I were making an audio recording of Mass, he'd be my pick as celebrant. Form C of the penitential rite was used, and the Gloria was recited.

From the smaller ambo, the reader delivered the first reading as printed in the large-type edition of OCP's Today's Missal, although she was slightly muffled on account of the noise from the electric fans. (I almost wrote "the fans" there but caught myself.) Then the cantor sang the responsorial psalm from the cantor's lectern. The reader delivered the second reading; following that, the verse before the Gospel was sung, and the priest read the Gospel, again from the smaller ambo.

The priest moved to the center aisle to give his homily, beginning by noting that Peter's reaction to seeing Jesus on the water is rather strange; most of us would have said, "if it's really you, Lord, come here." He then explained that Peter was not selected to be the Rock on which Jesus founded His Church on account of his courage, wisdom, scholarship, or anything like that; it was account of his deep love for Jesus. In fact, Peter often is overwhelmed by his love for Jesus, which even explains many of his mistakes and sins. We can serve God best if we root everything we say and do in our love for God.

After the recitation of the Creed, the reader returned to the smaller ambo to read the intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful. Then a collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets; during this, the organist played soft background music. The hymn board listed "Be Not Afraid" as the offertory hymn but it was not sung. The metal chalice had a long stem and small cup; a large glass flagon for additional wine had a metal handle which formed a wide band around the narrower top. Only a small amount of wine was placed in this flagon. After the priest prepared the gifts, he used a tissue or towel to wipe sweat from his forehead.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen came from the St. Louis Jesuits' Mass. (This was on the hymn board; I would not otherwise have recognized it, but it did match what was in the hymnal, so I know it is correct.) The second Eucharistic Prayer was used. Bells were sounded at the consecration. The Our Father was recited; the lay ministers in the front row and a family occupying the entire row ahead of me joined hands but the rest of us were too scattered even to attempt such a difficult chore.

The Agnus Dei was sung to a familiar setting (that one that starts "La-a-a-a-amb of God...") that I am unable to identify. The five lay ministers then went to the altar to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. The cup was offered only at the front stations and not at the two stations at the break, but otherwise everything was rather straightforward. The Communion hymn was "On Eagle's Wings."

The priest spent a considerable amount of time purifying the vessels after Communion; during this, a second collection was taken for American missions, and the reader returned to read several announcements from the smaller ambo. Then the pastor, who did not assist in the distribution of Communion, took the cantor's lectern to announce that he had two projects planned and wanted "permission" and support from the parishioners before proceeding. First, he wanted to air-condition the church, noting that attendance drops significantly during the summer and it gets rather hot in there. Second, the wood on the 90-year-old stained glass windows was rotting and needed to be replaced in order to preserve those works of art. He especially asked anyone who opposed these projects to contact him either personally or in writing. A fund-raising campaign would be required, but he thinks the projects are feasible.

After the Prayer after Communion and a simple blessing, the priest, servers, and lay ministers left via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Amazing Grace." Three verses were sung; most people remained to the end, although participation was not noticeably good for any of the hymns.

On my way home I stopped at a bank; I found no bulletins there for some reason. I also stopped at two other parishes. Only one had bulletins out, and I heard organ music during Communion. Perhaps that will be next week's Mass.

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