Week 73

First Sunday of Lent

With the beginning of Lent, once again we start to take a look at some of the parishes whose midmorning Masses were unattractive to me for one reason or other. I usually try for a traditional choir Mass, as everyone knows, and I avoid the first morning Mass on Sunday as it's likely to be barren of music altogether. During Lent, however, I'm willing to risk a "no music" Mass as that's the only time such a thing might be appropriate for Sunday Mass, if in fact it's appropriate at all.

Keeping that in mind, I set forth at about 6:45 AM for the parish whose 9:15 AM Mass two weeks ago featured a children's choir and the instrument I try to avoid at Mass if possible. I figured that the 8 AM Mass would be safer, and for once I was proven correct in my evaluation. It was raining heavily, and driving would take a little over an hour, so I chose not to walk and took the car instead.

The church was opened just last fall after an older building was razed to make way for this new one, amid much controversy. The new building is a sort of a T-style, with the inside corners slightly beveled. The ceiling is very high and rounded, and thick columns fall just inside the side aisles. The pews are split into six (eight, maybe?) sections; the two closest to the rear wall were upholstered chairs, while the rest are standard wooden pews. The inside is almost all white, apart from the partially-detailed stained-glass windows and the spired framework from the old tabernacle and altar, which is red with gold trim. The latter two items, among other things, I believe were preserved from the old building. The tabernacle, however, is located in a chapel to the right of the sanctuary behind a glass wall with dark wooden doors, which makes the spired framework look a bit strange. (I glanced in here a couple of months ago, and my first impression before seeing the chapel was, "oh-- they kept the tabernacle at the center of the sanctuary.") The chapel was dark during Mass, so the tabernacle itself was not visible, although the chapel itself is easily spotted. At the left of the sanctuary, two confessionals have arched, pointed doors of dark wood. The small, wooden ambo is at the left, further back than the rectangular altar. A cantor's lectern and organ are at the right. The high-backed celebrant's chair is just to the right of the altar and also appears to be preserved from the old building. A small crucifix about the size of a monstrance is above the place where the tabernacle would have been in the old building. A larger, traditional crucifix, visible as one leaves, hangs over the main entrance, which has a large vestibule. Overall, it seems to be a reasonable design. Perhaps it could be better, but I've seen far worse.

As happened last week, I approached the church on a street with a 30-mph limit, and a vehicle was tailgating me; at a signal, it made a point of passing me, but by the next signal, I was still directly behind it. Along with other vehicles, it turned into the street on which the church is located, and I have reason to presume that it was headed for the church, although for the same reasons stated last week, I chose not to follow it and instead turned into a different driveway to the parking lot hoping not to be noticed. I arrived at about 8:50 AM and passed a greeter at the door; she wore an engraved, laminated tag bearing her name and the title "GREETER." I found a seat at the center of a pew in the stem of the T and noted the lack of a hymn board. The organist's soft music before Mass was rather reassuring. The pews contain copies of OCP's Today's Missal (large type) and Music Issue combined into a single plastic cover.

The cantor began by announcing the opening hymn, "Lift High The Cross." That was welcome as it was the opening hymn at my own parish, so it made me feel as though I wasn't missing it (though it is usually done much better back home). Four servers, the reader, the deacon, and the priest formed the entrance procession through the center aisle. After the opening greeting, the deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was not recited, as is proper during Lent.

The reader stepped to the ambo and gave the first reading, and afterward returned to a ground-level seat while the cantor led the psalm of the day from the cantor's lectern. Then the reader returned to the ambo to offer the second reading. The deacon approached the ambo and proclaimed the Gospel. He remained to preach the homily.

The homily began with a long story about a rather talented and religious young woman, who, unfortunately, also had a problem with drugs and as a result was in and out of jail. The deacon came in contact with her through his work at the jail, and he worked long and hard with her, trying to get her back on an even keel, going as far as to sponsor her for confirmation when he learned that she had missed that sacrament earlier in life, and pulling some strings with her probation officer when she lasped at one point. He had her move from a drug-infested area into a halfway house in a better area, and she seemed for a time to be heading in the right direction and was even able to obtain a decent job.

The deacon then contrasted Mark's version of Jesus' temptation to the other versions, particularly Luke's, which ends with the important note: "the devil left him [Jesus] to await another opportunity." In other words, Jesus was not just tempted once, passed the test, and never again had a problem with Satan-- he had to fight Satan all His life, just as we must. In order to be ready for these temptations, we must stick with the program, which in our case is the Church and all her devotions (which the deacon enumerated), especially the Mass. The woman's story ended tragically with her death in a car accident, but the deacon is convinced that she is now in heaven.

The Creed was recited, and it was followed by a typical Prayer of the Faithful with the intentions read by the deacon from his place alongside the priest. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed from one end of the pew to the other by those in the congregation with slight assistance from the ushers. The offertory hymn was "Hosea," notable as the theme for the television series "The Way Home." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to organ settings unfamiliar to me. The priest used the third Eucharistic Prayer. A server rang the bells at the consecration. At the Our Father, which was recited, a few people joined hands but not enough to be considered a movement or a trend of any sort.

Three lay ministers of Holy Communion (one of whom retrieved additional ciboriums from the darkened chapel) assisted the priest and deacon in the distribution in a more or less conventional way; the chalice was not offered. The servers, who received on the tongue (rather unusual for servers) held patens to catch any fallen Hosts. The Communion hymn was "On Eagle's Wings," which was also sung at my own parish.

After Communion, a lay minister returned the remaining ciboriums to the chapel, and a second collection was taken for the victims of flooding in Mozambique; it was conducted similarly to the first collection. The priest then imparted a solemn blessing, and we sang the closing hymn, "Now Thank We All Our God." Most people remained to the end, although only one verse was sung, and the priest was barely halfway down the aisle by the time it was over.

Same Sunday Last Year

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