Week 75

Third Sunday of Lent

Yesterday, we continued our mini-tour of parishes that the advance scout had suggested would be good choices for an early morning visit during Lent. I set the alarm for 6:05 AM and awakened at 5:45 AM in order to leave enough time for a 55-minute drive to a parish with a 7:30 AM Mass. Guitars had been reported at the 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM Masses, so the first Sunday Mass seemed safest. I expected it to be a "no music" Mass, but once again I was proven wrong.

The building has no cornerstone that I could see (some small bushes may have obscured it if it was small), but it appears to be a 1960's design. The outside is of red brick with a depression around the perimeter to allow for basement windows; a small, flat bridge carries traffic across this waterless moat into the main entrance. The inside is basically a large auditorium with short, rectangular stained-glass windows across the very top of the side walls. Each window highlights one of the sacraments with a small symbol of some sort against an otherwise abstract design. The peaked ceiling appeared to be covered with large, white, office-type tiles. The wooden pews are almost conventional, with two main sections and short side sections slightly angled so as to imitate an "in the round" design. Three aisles and a break about halfway back separate the pews. At the break is a baptismal font that had a steady flow of running water. The sanctuary remains in its original large niche, but it may have been slightly altered, as the domed, metal tabernacle is now on a lighted stand to the right of a circular wall that appears to have been added. On the wall is a life-sized crucifix of Christ crucified. A simple, medium-sized ambo shaped in the form of a chalice is at the left and ahead of the altar. The pews are stocked with OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue combined in a single plastic cover; also found there are special parish hymn booklets with the words to about 100 additional hymns.

I arrived at about 7:25 AM and entered to hear a choir of six people singing a hymn to a keyboard accompaniment. The keyboard sounded as though it was set for a cross between an organ and piano of some sort, with perhaps something else mixed together with that-- maybe a hint of a guitar. A pair of huge speakers over the sanctuary amplified this group considerably. Each of the six people had a music stand and a free-standing microphone. A section of pews for a choir was at the front right, behind where these people were standing. They sung almost until the start of the Mass, which began as those who were visiting were welcomed, and the opening hymn, "Turn to Me," was announced. Two servers, two readers, and the priest formed the procession through the center aisle. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite.

The first reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. Instead of the psalm for the day, a hymn, "Have Mercy on Me," from the parish booklet was sung. I'm still not sure if we were supposed to sing the whole hymn, just the verses, or just the refrains. I don't think anyone else knew either, so few participated as far as I could tell. Then again, this amplified choir seemed to be one of those that drowned out the congregation. Next, the second reader went to the ambo and gave the second reading, again according to the printed text. The Lenten "Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory," refrain was sung, but the actual verse before the Gospel was omitted. Facing the priest, the two servers stood holding candles on either side of the ambo as the priest proclaimed the long form of the Gospel from cycle B.

The priest noted in his homily that the account of Jesus chasing the money-changers from the temple is found in all four Gospels. He then drew a parallel between the fact that Jesus referred to His body as a temple and what Jesus was doing in the other temple and suggested that, as Jesus cleansed the temple of Jerusalem of impurities, we must use Lent as an opportunity to cleanse our bodily temples of whatever does not belong there. This is a very interesting observation that I had never heard-- well worth the trip, I guess.

The Creed was recited, and the Prayer of the Faithful was offered in the usual manner with the first reader giving the intentions. The offertory hymn was "One Bread, One Body," sung as a collection was taken using long-handled baskets. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass pitcher was used for additional wine. The priest used the second Eucharistic Prayer. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to settings I am unable to identify.

The Our Father was recited, but since the Mass was sparsely attended (maybe a third full at best), the gaps between worshippers were too great to be overcome by those who may have wanted to join hands. At Holy Communion, four lay ministers assisted the priest in the distribution. One station for the Precious Body was located on each of the three aisles; those in the main sections of pews split, approached the nearest station, and returned via the same aisle. The two stations for the Precious Blood were located between the other three stations and shared. The choir apparently sang a hymn on its own at this time after receiving Communion before anyone else-- I don't recall it being announced.

After Communion, a very nervous woman who was one of the lay ministers of Holy Communion approached the ambo and explained that students are preparing for their first Communion; she was much relieved to see one such student in the congregation and called her to the ambo, where she stood beaming alongside the woman. We raised our hands and helped bless her after hearing a lengthy explanation of how we should take a card with a child's picture, pray for the child, try to attend the Sunday Mass at which that child would receive first Communion, and then introduce ourselves to the child and say that we've been praying. After all this, the child received a round of applause.

The second reader stepped forward and gave a few announcements from the ambo. The priest then asked us to remain silent for a few moments of thanksgiving after receiving the Blessed Sacrament. He offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a solemn blessing before leaving with the servers and readers through the center aisle to the closing hymn, "Rain Down." Almost everyone left well before all three verses had concluded.

Later, I stopped at a few other churches. At one, a Mass with a "young adult choir" was in progress. The congregation looked no different from a typical group. About six young adults were in the choir; one carried a flute, while another brandished a guitar. Attendance was sparse, even though the parish has only one Saturday evening Mass (marked "senior choir") and two other Sunday morning Masses, one of which is a children's Mass. At another, the Gospel from cycle A was being proclaimed; the bulletin explained that this was on account of having catechumens in attendance.

Next week, we visit the parish that had guitars at its 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 12:30 PM Masses. Will the 8 AM Mass have them as well? Will any esteem be given to the organ at this parish? Learn the answer in next week's episode.

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