Week 52

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It was a foggy morning, and driving was a bit risky, so I grabbed my pogo stick instead and hopped six hours to...

"Just a minute, there. This is going too far. You've done some unusual things, but I refuse to believe that you used a pogo stick to get to church."

"Well, fifty years ago nobody would have believed that guitars would be allowed in church someday or that Latin would fall into disuse."

"Oh. Hmm. I see-- you do have a point there. Okay, carry on."

So as I hopped on my pogo stick past lush, green cornfields...

* * *

Now, I don't have the heart to pull our heckler's leg any more, even though it's kind of fun, so I'll admit to having driven fifty minutes to today's parish for the 8:30 AM Mass. A dusty, yellowed scouting report from two or three years ago said that the 10 AM Mass had guitars (the scout had already been given a missalette and awkwardly had to leave it on a table after he decided not to remain), so I figured that the earlier Mass was probably the better choice. (The last Mass is at 12 noon.)

I arrived at about 8:15 AM and saw a girl heading for the entrance; she was wearing platform shoes and a skirt that made it only two-thirds of the way to her knees. As I have been doing for some time now, I prayed silently, "Lord God, please have mercy on us." After I passed the 1991 cornerstone, entered, and obtained a missalette from a greeter at the door, I saw that the same girl I saw outside was standing behind a music stand on the right; she was the cantor. Make that a double, Lord. [sigh] She then began practicing for the Mass by singing the psalm, Sanctus, and other things. (In her defense, I must note that she did sing well.) I saw the "in the round" seating and started my usual thoughts, kind of wanting to sit closer to minimize distractions but also planning ahead in case of problems after the Great Amen. The closer pews are shorter; I decided on a longer pew closer to the back that might provide some margin of safety on either side. Before I sat, I looked for the tabernacle but did not see any sign of it, so I bowed to the altar and sat at the center of the pew. Only later did I notice the tabernacle light at the right of a niche on the left that completely obscured the tabernacle.

The church has a large dome at the center of the white ceiling. The wall behind the sanctuary is of brick and holds a small crucifix of the risen Christ and some long, narrow banners of solid color. The wooden altar is not particularly large. The ambo is at the left and is somewhat ornate. An organ and keyboard are to the right; another niche to the right of that held a group of stacked chairs, presumably for a choir or folk group. The stained-glass windows, on white walls, have abstract designs. The pews, fully upholstered, are rather comfortable. A marble baptismal font is near the tabernacle. A cry room is at the rear to the right; another scout's report from a while ago indicates that this doubles as a daily Mass chapel by turning the seats the other way; indeed, another altar and ambo are located there, although only a keen observer might have spotted the significance of this on a Sunday. The OCP Music Issue hymnal is in racks in the pews; why the hymnals can remain in the pews while the missalettes must be collected and kept by the doors is a mystery to me.

The pianist/keyboardist (the organ was not used as far as I recall) announced the hymns and assisted the cantor with the singing, making for some interesting two-part harmony. The opening hymn was "Let Us Go to the Altar." Two servers, a reader dressed in jeans and sneakers, four lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest participated in the procession down the center aisle. Form C of the penitential rite was used; the Gloria was recited.

The reader then stepped behind the ambo and proclaimed the first reading. From behind the music stand, the cantor sang "We Are Your People," based upon Psalm 100, as the psalm, instead of the one for the day (Psalm 96). I noticed that Psalm 96 (which was in the OCP missalette) includes the line, "Worship the Lord in holy attire." Perhaps the cantor and reader discussed this ahead of time and concluded that Psalm 100 would be less of an indictment. The reader then proclaimed the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was sung to a folksy arrangement.

After the priest proclaimed the Gospel, he stepped to the center of the sanctuary and gave a decent homily that basically recapped the Gospel. The main emphasis seemed to be that we have to keep our priorities in order, making certain to keep God at the center of our lives.

The Creed was recited, followed by a typical Prayer of the Faithful, except that the Renew 2000 prayer, recited by the congregation, replaced the usual priest's prayer at the end. A collection followed; it was taken using wicker baskets passed across the rows by those in the pews. The offertory hymn was "Beatitudes."

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to settings not really familiar to me. The priest used one of the "Swiss Synod" Eucharistic Prayers-- this one includes the line, "Christ now opens the Scriptures for us and breaks the bread." The chalice and ciboriums were metal, and a glass flagon was also used, but as in a previous week, for some reason, three chalices were on the altar throughout the consecration even though two of those were empty until after the Fraction Rite. Maintaining the symbolism of "one body, one cup" is hard enough these days without having empty chalices on the altar.

At the Our Father, which was recited, common sense seems to have prevailed, as few people found a need to join hands, although the Mass was not particularly well-attended, and many gaps were to be found in the pews.

At Communion, the priest took the center station and alternated between lines from the two center sections of pews, while two lay ministers offered the cup on either side; the other two lay ministers took the two side sections. This worked all right, I suppose. The Communion hymn (slightly delayed as the pianist and cantor received Communion) was "Here I Am." (This is the Tom Booth composition rather than Dan Schutte's more common "Here I Am, Lord.")

After Communion, a lay minister returned a ciborium to the tabernacle, and about two minutes of silence followed. The reader made one announcement, and then the priest wished us a nice day before giving the closing prayer and a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "Blest Be the Lord." About three-quarters of the congregation left during the first of two verses. Some of those who remained at the end offered a round of applause.

Next, I visited a nearby parish whose bulletin announced that two rows at the 9:30 AM Mass were to be reserved for "the choir." Could that mean... No, a quick peek inside the door revealed guitars. I guess it's the 11 there. Sounds drifting from the inside of another nearby parish's 9 AM Mass also indicated the presence of guitars; maybe the 10:30 there will be right. After an enjoyable visit to my sister's house, a stop at a parish I once fled at 10:30 AM on account of guitars showed that guitars were playing between that Mass and the noon Mass. 7:30 AM there, perhaps? Sigh.

From there, it was back on the pogo stick for the long hop home...

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