Week 55

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week, we take a twenty-minute drive to a seaside parish tucked in a small hamlet in a corner of the diocese. It is a simple white, rectangular building with a peaked roof and a small parking lot on each side; a parish hall is about half a block away on the opposite side of the main street. A check of the building revealed no cornerstone, but it appears to have been built before 1960 or so. Inside, few renovations have been made; a free-standing marble altar and the lack of an altar rail are about the only concessions to modern liturgical practice. The small, domed, metal tabernacle is in the original location; a medium-sized wooden ambo is at the left; and a small cantor's lectern is at the right. A small, traditional crucifix hangs on the wall over the tabernacle. About twenty rows of light-grained, wooden pews are divided by a center aisle and lined by side aisles and split about halfway back by a break. Each pew can probably hold about eight people comfortably. The sanctuary is in a large, arched niche; two smaller niches (probably old side altars) hold representations of Mary and Joseph. The stained-glass windows are somewhat abstract. The wooden ceiling matches the pews; the walls are mostly white. A choir loft is still the home of an organ, although a piano is also in the rear.

I arrived at about 8:50 AM for the 9:00 AM Mass; this seemed to be the safest option as the following Mass is sometimes a "family Mass" (with due respect to last week's observation that not all family Masses are alike). The church was nearly empty, and I expected it to fill, but the filling never really materialized, and by the time the Mass began only about 50 to 60 people were in attendance. As I waited, the cantor was rehearsing the psalm with the organist. The reader appeared at the lectern first to introduce the Mass briefly, and then the cantor announced the first hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy." Two servers and two lay ministers of Holy Communion accompanied the priest in the entrance procession through the center aisle.

Form C of the penitential rite was used, and the Gloria was recited. The reader, who along with the cantor sat in the right front pew for most of the Mass, stood at the ambo and proclaimed the first reading as it appeared in the OCP missalette. The cantor sang the psalm from the lectern, and then the reader returned to the ambo the proclaim the second reading. The verse before the Gospel was also sung before the priest proclaimed the Gospel.

The homily began with the remark that Jesus' warning, "I tell you, I do not know you!" is one of the most chilling in Scripture. In this week's diocesan newspaper, a priest who is a columnist discussed a homily he gave on hell; apparently, this column is starting a trend, as the rest of the homily focused on that subject. The priest explained that what we are told of both heaven and hell is highly metaphorical, since they are not physical places. He also said that hell might be simply the state of being alone as opposed to the communion of heaven. He quoted from C. S. Lewis and Jean-Paul Sartre along the way, including the line from Dante's Inferno, "better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."

The Creed was recited, and then a usual Prayer of the Faithful followed. A collection was taken using wicker baskets as the offertory hymn, "I Have Loved You," was sung to a piano accompaniment. Notable is that the priest first washed his hands and then, after the singing was over, offered the two "Blessed are You, Lord God of all Creation..." prayers, which he must feel are too important to be offered inaudibly.

The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. The Sanctus was sung to a setting familiar to me but one which I cannot name. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used; the priest broke the Host at the words of consecration, and the servers sounded the bells. "We Remember" was used in place of a standard Memorial Acclamation. The Great Amen was also sung.

The Our Father was recited; attendance was definitely too sparse to promote joining of hands. At least one person silently breathed a sigh of relief. The Agnus Dei was sung to what I am told is David Isele's setting.

The Communion hymn was "The Cry of the Poor." The chalice was not offered; the priest distributed in the center aisle in the front, alternating between lines, and the two lay ministers distributed at the break. Since so few people were in attendance, the distribution moved very quickly.

After Communion, the reader made a few brief announcements from the lectern. Then the priest asked for additional donations of food for another parish of the same name elsewhere in the diocese. Following the usual Prayer After Communion and final blessing, the closing hymn, sung to the organ, was "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." Almost everyone stayed until the end.

Then it was time for more scouting; a 9:30 AM Mass was in progress at another local parish. What type of Mass was it? Should I attend that one or the 11 AM there? I looked inside and heard the St. Michael prayer being used to conclude the Prayer of the Faithful. Hmm-- interesting. Then a children's choir sang a hymn to a piano arrangement. Not too bad, I suppose. But does a regular choir sing at the later Mass? Decisions, decisions!

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