Week 76

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today, we finally visit the parish that had guitars at three of the four Sunday Masses. I decided to chance the first morning Mass, which the advance scout hadn't checked, and left at 6:45 AM to begin the 70-minute drive for the 8 AM Mass.

The building had no cornerstone that I noticed but appears to be a late 1960's or 1970's design; it is rather unusual. The building is square with a high, pointed (not peaked) roof, but it is split diagonally all the way from one corner to the other. Almost half the building is apparently a parish center, while the other half is the church proper. The windows are at the very top of the walls and are very short, which combined with dark wooden beams across a ceiling of wooden planks and little lighting, makes this a very dark church. The square sanctuary is dead center of the larger square, with a corner cut into the parish center half of the building. The tabernacle is in a separate chapel to the far right of the sanctuary, also in a space cut from the parish center side; a side entrance there is left open all day with a folding gate that cordons off the rest of the church when it is not in use. To the left of the sanctuary is a small niche with a statue (I think) of the Blessed Mother. The sanctuary is somewhat small with large plants (possibly artificial) on the wall. A small ambo is at the left, and a smaller cantor's lectern is to the right. The marble altar is between these; it is small and triangular so as to fit the surroundings. Over the altar is suspended a circular lighted crown of sorts; on the rear wall of the sanctuary is hung a larger-than-life figure of the risen Christ, without a cross of any sort behind it. The wooden pews are fully upholstered and arranged in an "L," with two large sections and a tiny stub section on each side of the "L." The music section is to the right of the sanctuary and apparently contained a piano and an organ, although one of these was covered (and I suspect, little used). The pews are stocked with plenty of copies of OCP's large-type Today's Missal and Music Issue.

I arrived at about 7:55 AM and entered via a side door that nobody else was using, as the priest and servers were already in the main vestibule, located on the corner opposite the altar. I went against my usual practice and sat almost on the aisle, figuring that the first Mass would be sparsely attended the day Daylight Saving Time took effect, but two folks came and wanted to sit in that pew anyway, so I had to move in. Lesson: one may as well sit in the center to start, as I usually do. I guess I needed a refresher course. A priest who was not the celebrant was walking around the church chatting with various people in the pews, "waking them up" as he put it.

An informant told my sister that "none of the Masses" at this parish had no guitar, so I would not have been surprised to see one at this Mass either, but instead it was a "no music" Mass, which turned out not to be too bad. Every now and then things go according to the plan. It began with the sound of a bell and the entrance procession consisting of two servers bearing votive candles, five lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest, who sounded much like Cardinal O'Connor of New York. The priest used Form C of the penitential rite and omitted the Gloria as is proper for Sundays in Lent.

The reader took the ambo and gave the readings from Year B without any incident, pausing to return to his seat between each one so as to leave a bit of silence. The verse before the Gospel was omitted entirely (which may be okay, as it would not have been sung without a cantor). As the priest proclaimed the Gospel, the servers stood on either side of him holding the candles.

For the homily, the priest stood behind the altar. He did rather well in my estimation, speaking of salvation and heaven and-- gasp-- even hell. First, he reiterated the fact that people sometimes choose darkness (as is stated in the Gospel) because they are doing things that they don't want to be seen. Usually, people who are committing evil acts don't go around bragging about them; otherwise, they might get caught. Darkness helps keep evil under cover. This led to a story about some college students who insisted that a loving God would not create a hell; therefore, it could not exist, as that God would never send anyone there. The priest underlined the fact that God doesn't send people to heaven or hell; they choose it themselves. He also wondered why any sacrifice would be worthwhile in life if everyone is going to heaven; if that's the case, why bother doing good things-- what would be the point if none of it matters in the long run? The point, of course, is that it all does matter, so we'd best get started doing those good things that will demonstrate our faith. Somewhere in here was also a story about a Boston Red Sox fan who found himself down below with Satan. Satan was exasperated with this guy, because he apparently enjoyed the intense heat, and no matter how high Satan adjusted the temperature, the Red Sox fan just smiled and said everything is just dandy. Finally, Satan had his fill of that guy and decided to shut off all the furnaces just to annoy the fellow. It grew bone-chilling cold, everything was frozen, and icicles were hanging all over the place. Satan went to the Red Sox fan and said, "Well, how do you feel now, smarty-pants?" The Red Sox fan replied, "I feel great! The Red Sox must have won the World Series!"

The Creed was recited, and the Prayer of the Faithful was offered in the usual manner. The first of two collections was taken using wicker baskets with no handles; these were passed across the pews by those in the congregation with some assistance from the ushers. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon was also used. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer and we recited the third Memorial Acclamation.

We recited the Our Father, and for some reason I expected joined hands at this parish, but the practice did not seem to be at all popular at this Mass. I won't complain. At Communion, the five lay ministers assisted the priest in distribution. Two stations were located on the center aisle and two were located on the corners for the Precious Body; two stations for the Precious Blood were located between the others and shared by those returning from the other lines.

After Communion, a second collection was taken as the reader gave some brief announcements. Then the priest said, "One of the nice things about this job is that I get to have the last word," and he made two additional, short announcements. He gave the Prayer after Communion and imparted the final blessing using the "Prayer over the People" form.

Same Sunday Last Year

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