Week 59

Second Sunday of Advent

I was sitting in the bar drinking a glass of orange juice lamenting my single state with some drinking buddies when one of them looked down at my shoes and said, "You know, with shoes looking like that, you'll never find a girl. Let me see the soles." I let him see underneath, and he nodded his head sadly. "Nope. Look at them. Full of holes. If you ever want to be married, you need them resoled. No self-respecting young lady would be caught dead with someone with shoes looking like these." Agreeing with him, I rose to head for the shoe repair store; as I left, another person shouted, "You might want some harder stuff in your glass, too!" I ignored the latter advice, of course.

I asked the fellow in the shoe repair store what he thought; he said, "Get these resoled and you'll be a veritable magnet for young ladies." Another customer agreed, saying, "They say resoling shoes always helps." Large posters in the store showed suave, debonair men flashing resoled shoes as they had gorgeous women clinging to their arms; in one poster, the man was smugly winking at the camera. Then a woman entered, and we asked her opinion; she said, "I had never noticed my husband until one day when I spotted new soles on his shoes; after that, we fell madly in love!" So I plunked down my credit card and took the plunge. "I'm sold," I said.

* * * *

With a shiny, polished pair of newly-resoled shoes, I headed for a parish about an hour and three-quarters from where I live. I arrived there about forty minutes before the 11:30 AM Mass and figured that I had time to check another nearby parish first and return; unfortunately, my calculations were erroneous, and I returned as the first reading was beginning. So I just grabbed a bulletin and headed for the next closest parish with an available Mass, which was at 12:15 PM. I would have preferred the 11 AM Mass there, as that was probably the choir Mass, but at that point I wasn't in any position to fool around much.

The church is rather new, bearing a 1996 cornerstone. The original building, which looks rather conventional from the outside, is still on the grounds and is currently being renovated for use as a parish hall. The current building is a rectangle with a fairly high ceiling; apart from the main entrance on the long wall in the rear, away from the street, it could perhaps pass for a "90-degree rotation." The large vestibule is separated from the rest of the church by a glass partition. The seating is "in the round," with six sections of wooden pews on a light-brown, tiled floor. The arched windows are stained-glass; they bear moderately detailed pictures about halfway between "abstract" and "intricate." The tabernacle is to the left of the circular sanctuary behind another glass partition in a small chapel with several pews suitable for adoration. A small, traditional crucifix hangs in the chapel. A canopy of sorts covers the sanctuary area. The wooden ambo, altar, and cantor's lectern are very close to one another and are arranged in a perfect row-- none is closer to the pews than the others. A small Christmas tree was placed between the ambo and altar; the Advent wreath was near the outer perimeter of the sanctuary. A large figure of the risen Christ sans cross is mounted on a large stained-glass window on the rear wall of the sanctuary; the window depicts a wreath that surrounds Christ's head. The presider's chair is behind the altar; the servers have a pew at ground level in front of the tabernacle's chapel. The organ is way to the right; to the left of that are about three rows of seats for a choir or folk group.

I arrived at about 12:05 PM, passed a small baptismal font near the main entrance at the rear, and took a seat slightly off the center aisle in a pew about five rows back. The cantor was hanging around the organist, who rehearsed all four hymns before the Mass. The church was only about half full, so things were looking fairly safe. After I copied the hymns from one of two hymn boards, a pretty young woman took a seat directly ahead of me by herself. Maybe those resoled shoes would make a difference?

The cantor announced the first hymn, "The King of Glory." Three servers, a reader, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. Then, while we were all standing, even before the priest began, the reader welcomed us to the church and read several announcements. After that, the priest gave the opening greeting and launched a talk of two or three minutes that could have qualified as a homily at daily Mass. It concerned being nice to those who we meet in the course of this busy time of year as we prepare for Christmas, especially those on the road or in the stores. Following that, without any mention of "calling to mind our sins," Form C of the penitential rite was recited.

The reader proclaimed the first reading as it appears in the OCP Heritage Missal (which is supposed to be more like a hardcover missal even though it's a paperback-- unlike the Music Issue, it contains readings for the entire year in the same volume). The responsorial psalm was recited, which longtime readers of this series will know is always a disappointment at Sunday Mass. Following the second reading, the verse before the Gospel was sung to a common setting.

The priest proclaimed the Gospel without incident and gave a homily from notes written on a page taken from a notebook or memo pad. He began by remarking that God's message is not meant to disturb us or frighten us but rather to reassure us: God has not abandoned us. The priest also noted that while we consider what John the Baptist ate to be rather unusual to say the least, he saw one book that said that grasshoppers had more important nutrients than several types of meat, so we might see John as eating rather well-- "health food" as he said-- instead of being deprived in some way.

The Creed was recited, and a usual Prayer of the Faithful was offered. The reader then announced that only one collection was to be taken today; this was executed using deep wicker baskets passed around the pews mostly by those in the congregation. The offertory hymn was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Notable at this point is that the priest combined the two "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation..." prayers. Many priests seem to do this these days for some reason or other. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to settings unfamiliar to me. The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer; a server sounded bells at the consecration. The Our Father was recited without any noticeable effort on the part of those in the congregation to reach out to one another, but this might have to do with the sparse attendance as much as anything else. At the sign of peace, the young woman showed a pleasant demeanor as she exchanged a greeting with me; the shoes were still working.

Another priest showed to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion; the reader and I think three other lay ministers also assisted, covering six stations all together. The chalice was not offered as far as I can recall. Readers should note that the chalice is not always offered at all Masses at a parish, so perhaps it was offered at earlier Masses at this parish. The distribution of Communion was very fast, taking probably under three minutes. The Communion hymn was "One Bread, One Body."

Following the Prayer After Communion, and a simple blessing, the pastor grabbed the ambo to make an announcement about a bric-a-brac sale of some sort in a room in the back after Mass. Then the celebrant noted that a store in town has many religious articles for sale as well. The closing hymn was "Sing to the Mountains." The first and third verses were sung, but more than half those in the congregation had left even before the opening refrain was over. The young woman ahead of me remained until the end; this was a doubly good sign, as it meant (1) she knew enough to stay for the end of Mass and (2) she must have been dying to have a few words with me. To my shock, however, at the end of the hymn, she simply left! This is absolutely incredible. I even kept an eye on the rear-view mirror as I drove home to see if she might have realized what an opportunity she blew, but I saw no sign of her or anyone else tailing me. I guess she must have been married. Next week, I'll try a different parish and maybe a brand-new top hat or something.

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