Week 45

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Pick a car," my father said. "Any car." Ever the obedient son, I picked the sedan and then began a half-hour trip to a small parish with just two Sunday morning Masses, an 8:00 AM and a 10:30 AM (but not until I stopped at three other parishes first for bulletins). The 10:30 Mass seemed to be a good risk, so I decided that I would try that one, arriving at about 10:20 AM.

The building looks not particularly new but, like me, bears a 1962 cornerstone. The exterior is of light brick. The inside, mostly white, does not look obviously renovated, but something about it doesn't look as though it came from 1962; perhaps the sanctuary has been pulled forward somewhat. The ceiling, which begins as dark wooden paneling with trusswork as it rises but is truncated at the peak by a flat white section holding air-conditioning ducts, is very high, and a large partition at the rear of the sanctuary holds a traditional crucifix along with figures of Mary and St. John (I presume, although St. Joseph is also a possibility). The sacristy is presumably behind that partition, which does not quite reach the ceiling. A small baptismal font is to the left; the tabernacle, square with a pointed top, is to the right of the sanctuary. The black marble ambo, bearing a picture of a sword or knife piercing a Bible, is at the left of a matching altar. The presider's chair and two servers' chairs are behind the altar. A cantor's lectern is to the right near a piano (not used today) and the tabernacle. No altar rail is present. A large easel at the left holds a pledge signed by confirmation candidates.

The light-grained wooden pews are divided into four sections by three aisles. Two main sections in the center have very long pews (holding perhaps 20 people) that bend slightly to give a slight "in the round" flavor, and these meet short (5 people) sections of pews on the sides in the front. A break is about halfway back; the side sections do not go past the break. Racks in the pews contain both GIA's Worship (third edition, with readings) and OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue. Confessionals are located both in the front and rear on both sides. Lighting is provided by long, narrow cylinders apparently intended to recall candles. The stained-glass windows are moderately large and have semi-abstract renderings. A choir loft at the rear holds an organ; today it also held an organist and a small choir of about half a dozen people.

As I entered, I saw someone handing out flyers and irrationally veered in the other direction; my instinct says "avoid that" all the time, and I guess even if the flyers had serial numbers and pictures of Andrew Jackson on them I'd still not want to get involved. I later saw that these flyers contained nothing more than a prayer that would be recited at the end of the Mass for a pastoral associate who was leaving for another assignment. I don't know why I think that accepting the flyer will constitute a contract to enter slavery or something like that. I then took a seat at the center of a pew, but I probably could have sat on an end as the Mass was only about half-full at best.

The cantor began by welcoming us and introducing the opening hymn, "Lift High the Cross." Three servers, a reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession-- which did not begin until at least the third verse-- through the center aisle. The priest took several minutes to introduce the Mass and welcome the pastoral associate and her family (in the front row), relating their presence to the readings. He then recited the Kyrie without invocations. The Gloria was sung to the "Heritage Mass" setting by Owen Alstott. (This information is in the bulletin, which includes a two-page program; otherwise I'd not have recognized that one.)

A reader stepped to the ambo and proclaimed the first reading as it appears in the missalette. The cantor walked behind the sanctuary partition and appeared at the ambo to sing the responsorial psalm for the day. The reader continued with the proclamation of the second reading; the cantor then sang the verse before the Gospel from the cantor's lectern. Two of the servers took candles and held them beside the ambo as the priest proclaimed the Gospel, ending with "This is the living Gospel of the Lord."

The homily was good; the priest is a very energetic speaker. He started with a story to which I will probably not do justice as he had a slight accent. I probably missed significant details. In any case, it involved someone who was complaining about the difficulty of carrying his cross. He whined until finally God decided to let him choose his own cross. The fellow looked at many crosses, rejecting those that were too long and heavy or otherwise unsuitable, finally settling on a short, light cross. "Lord, this is the one I want; I'll never complain again," he said. God then sent him to carry the light cross through life, until the time came for the fellow to die. He came to the chasm between heaven and earth with his short, light cross and discovered that the cross was what he needed to bridge the chasm; the cross was neither long enough nor sturdy enough for the man to use to cross into heaven, so he perished. The rest of the homily essentially reinforced the points made in the readings.

After the Creed, the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful were recited by the reader, but the response was sung. At this point, the organist began background music, and even after 45 weeks, something new appeared in this series. I keep wondering when this will run its course, but I guess one can teach an old dog new tricks. Instead of a standard collection, three wicker baskets were placed at the edge of the sanctuary, and people began to walk toward the baskets to make their contributions. This was not done in any organized fashion but rather without direction of any kind. I would have joined in the procedure, but I kept waiting for either the people to my left or to my right to go forward so that I could leave the pew, and only one member of the couple to my right appeared to do so, so the parish missed my modest donation.

The chalice and paten (a deep, rimmed version) were of metal. Of particular note is that although the cup would be offered at four stations later, only one chalice-- and no flagon or serving cups-- were used for the consecration. This chalice was not particularly large but apparently was deep enough to hold whatever was needed. This, I believe, is far preferable to having on the altar two or more cups or even a flagon in addition to the priest's chalice. It definitely strengthens the symbolism of "one body, one cup."

I had hoped that, as the bulletin had almost complete information on the Mass setting used today, a setting unfamiliar to me would be used so that I could perhaps learn the identity of a new one, but alas, Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation provided setting of the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used.

The Our Father was sung to the most common setting (not listed in the bulletin). Some people in front of me and perhaps some others joined hands, but the church was mostly too empty for anything more. I personally was in absolutely no danger today, in the center of the long pew.

Six lay ministers joined the priest in the distribution of Holy Communion; one removed a ciborium from the tabernacle. I thought I had counted eight at first, but two apparently vanished because only three stations, one for each aisle, were used to distribute the Precious Body, and four (two on the center aisle) were used to distribute the Precious Blood. The lines formed much as they did earlier for the collection, with people simply going to the nearest aisle and forming a single line in each aisle. The Communion hymn was "Behold the Lamb of God."

After the Prayer After Communion, a woman took the ambo to read a short "thank-you" to the Religious who was leaving as pastoral associate for a new assignment. The priest then led the prayer on the flyers, which included a "May the wind be at your back," among other invocations accompanied by the outstretched arms of the assembly. This was completed without any applause, which I found surprising, and maybe even somewhat disappointing, but then the pastoral associate took the ambo herself to say "you're welcome," and the assembly could no longer restrain itself, interrupting her almost before she could say anything.

After a simple blessing, the priest and servers left via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Blest Are They." Three whole verses were sung even though the priest was gone by the beginning of the second verse; most people remained anyway, which was refreshing.

Next week, weather permitting, we attempt to repeat the journey of last week, this time being certain to allow a sufficient amount of time to complete the task so as not to look foolish, like the builders who, in one of Jesus' parables, did not plan a building properly and thus were unable to complete it.

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