Week 50

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

I can't sugar-coat this one much, so if you're already depressed, skip this for now.

This week's parish, about an hour's drive from where I live, seems to have been designed by the same sort of people who renovated last week's parish. The parish was established within the last ten years or so, and the goal at the time was to try to make smaller parishes if possible. It is a simple, peaked building with light gray (maybe white-- I don't recall exactly) vinyl siding and a small steeple at the center. I looked for a cornerstone, but it would probably look pretentious amidst the vinyl. Inside is a small vestibule which may double as a cry room as it is separated from the main part of the church by a glass partition; the parish offices are to the right in the same building.

No crucifix is within; a circular, abstract, stained-glass window in a small niche is all that is found over the sanctuary, which is not raised at all from the seating area. The ceiling, with lots of trusswork, is of light wooden planks. Plain, clear, double-hung windows are on white walls. The wooden ambo is to the right of the sanctuary. An organ is in the left front corner. Individual wooden, upholstered seats lacking kneelers (but incorporating a shelf underneath for books) are arranged in five sections with slight curvature around the sanctuary. Notable is a row of seats lining the rear and side walls. The tabernacle was nowhere to be seen and must be in a separate chapel somewhere in the building.

I selected the 9 AM Mass as that is the first Mass; the following Mass is in Portuguese, and the one after that is at noon. I arrived at about 8:50 AM and took a seat one row from the rear, as that was one of the longer rows, with seven seats (which eventually didn't matter as the Mass was almost full) and I could kneel later without too many people behind me taking notice and calling the liturgical police. The organist, guitarist/cantor, and four-member choir practiced during this time, which I found a bit distracting in the small room.

The opening hymn was "This Is The Day." The organist seemed to be playing throughout the Mass, but the guitar overpowered the organ. Three servers, a reader, a deacon, and the priest joined the procession through the center aisle. The Confiteor was recited, as was the Gloria. Notable at this Mass is that the priest chanted the opening prayer as well as the offertory prayer and the prayer after Communion; the guitarist led the responding "Amen."

The reader proclaimed the readings as they appeared in the OCP missalette on the shelves underneath the seats. (Music Issue is there as well.) The psalm for the day and the Alleluia were sung, again with the guitar taking precedence over the organ. At the Gospel, two servers held candles near the ambo. The deacon proclaimed the Gospel; the priest gave the homily from the center of the sanctuary. The homily focused on how one translation of "bad fruit" could be "rotten fruit." The priest explained that we are rotten fruit every time we do not hear the cry of the poor, giving several examples, including "welcoming strangers," which is a hot issue in a neighborhood where immigrants line the streets each morning seeking work from passing tradesmen. The priest then segued into a pitch for Renew 2000 small prayer groups. (My mind is not focused well today, so I may not have done this justice.)

At this point, the priest called the ushers forward and asked them to distribute signup cards for the fall season of Renew 2000 small groups. A few minutes passed and then the cards were collected. Following this, the Creed was recited. A Prayer of the Faithful was offered in the usual manner. Then a collection was taken by passing baskets around the seating area. (I almost said "pews" but that would have been silly.) A noteworthy addition to the presentation of the gifts is the inclusion of the Sacramentary as one of the gifts. I don't think I saw that before, but I don't usually pay too close attention to that particular part of the Mass. The offertory hymn was "One Bread, One Body."

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the Mass of Creation. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer. I did not have the nerve to kneel at first while everyone else remained standing, but then after the first paragraph or so, I noticed a few other older people kneeling, so I mustered the nerve and knelt myself, remaining on my knees until the end of the Great Amen. Nobody seemed to mind, so I guess tolerance is practiced at this parish. Fortunately, the floor is carpeted, but that really isn't important.

At the Our Father, which was recited, most people joined hands without any prompting from the priest, but even though the church was nearly full, I was spared as two apparently indifferent (I hope) young children were on either side of me.

After the Agnus Dei, everyone sat. I guess I should have remained standing, but I just did not have the nerve. Life's daily struggles, both great and small, have me weary at this point. Four lay ministers assisted the deacon and priest in distributing Holy Communion. Two ministers offered the cup between the other four stations, two of which were at the center and one on either side. I did stand a bit earlier than I would have done had I been kneeling, but after I returned to my seat, I sat because the woman to my left and her son had not yet returned. I would have done that anyway in a church with kneelers, and by the time she returned, Communion was over anyway. The Communion hymn was "Bread of Life."

After the guitarist/cantor read several announcements, the deacon took the ambo and gave another pitch for Renew 2000, including a request for people to offer their homes as meeting places. He assured everyone from personal experience that the participants were well-behaved and did not do any damage in previous sessions. Then the priest offered the closing prayer and a simple blessing. The closing prayer was "Lead Me, Lord." Most people left before it concluded.

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