Week 83

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Today, we took a half-hour drive to a parish in a heavily-populated section of the diocese-- so much so that it is within a ten-minute walk of another parish, as well as a fifteen-minute walk of a third parish and a five-minute drive of a fourth parish. The 9 AM Mass is marked "family Mass third Sunday of the month," so I figured that the 10:15 AM Mass would be safe.

The church is actually attached to the school and, according to the parish web site, was once the school auditorium. A cornerstone adjacent to the building reads "1894" but that must have been salvaged from an earlier building. This structure appears to date from the 1950's or early 1960's. The church is a simple rectangle with a flat roof. Light wooden pews that hold 16 to 20 people each are split into four sections by a center aisle and a break about halfway back. Side aisles are also present. The square, metal tabernacle has been moved to the left of the sanctuary. The rectangular, stained-glass windows depict the various gifts of the Holy Spirit; between them are light green bricks. Lighting is provided by small, shallow fixtures attached to the white ceiling. The sanctuary is small but functional, with a free-standing altar that was covered with a mosaic-type cloth. (Note that when I don't comment much on the altar, it is probably because the altar was totally covered as it was today. Lacking x-ray vision, I'm at a loss to determine the materials used in such an altar's construction, the design of that altar, or anything else notable about it.) The ambo, at the left, and the cantor's lectern, at the right, are almost identical. Plain white banners were hung on the curved rear wall of the sanctuary. The organ is at the far right in the front, facing the opposite side wall. A figure of the Risen Christ against an abstract cross hangs on the rear wall of the sanctuary over the celebrant's chair. The pews have no racks but OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue, bound in the familiar blue plastic cover, were scattered throughout the church.

I arrived a little after 10:05 AM and took a seat just to the left of the center of a pew about four or five rows ahead of the break in the left front section. Unlike the last few weeks, this church is much larger and much less crowded (perhaps because more Masses are offered), so I had about eight or nine empty places on either side of me all through the Mass, and I was not in any danger of breaking my streak of consecutive Sundays without meeting any nice young ladies.

The Mass began with one note sounded on a bell, at which everyone stood, and the cantor announced the opening hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost." Two servers and the priest participated in the opening procession down the center aisle. Apparently, either the scheduled reader was absent or no reader is ordinarily used. In many parishes, the servers sit off to the side or even in a pew; today, they sat on either side of the priest (a practice which I think may have been more common in the past). The priest led the recitation of the Confiteor, which was followed by a recited Gloria (always disappointing at Sunday Mass).

The priest went to the ambo to give the first reading as it appeared in the missalette and then returned to his chair while the cantor led the psalm for the day from the cantor's lectern. She sung only the response; she recited the verses without even a background organ accompaniment. The priest returned to the ambo to give the second reading, and then we sang the verse before the Gospel. The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo and gave his homily from the same location.

The homily was rather good; in it, the priest began by telling us of his nephew, who ostensibly was on a soccer team but in fact mostly sat around gazing into space, contributing very little to the team. Eventually, "Trophy Day" was announced, and the priest started wondering what that would hold for his lazy nephew. When the day came, the priest was flustered to see the coach open his van, revealing a van load of identical trophies, one for every child on the team. His sister said, "Isn't that nice?" to which the priest replied, "No, it stinks." He explained that the whole thing was a pointless waste of time if everyone received the same recognition regardless of performance. This tied into today's Gospel, in which Jesus stresses the importance of our bearing fruit. The priest also noted that elsewhere, Jesus tells us that his disciples will be known by the fruit that they bear; thus, for one to claim discipleship is not enough; one bears fruit first and only then has a rightful claim to discipleship. If we do not bear fruit, we will be "thrown into the fire and burned" with the withered branches. He also attacked our culture's obsession with "feelings," saying that while Jesus, Mary, and Joseph must have had strong feelings about the difficult events in their lives, they did not allow those feelings to dictate the choices they made. As difficult as the way of the cross was for Jesus, and as bad as it must have made Him feel, He still chose to follow that path. The time we spend in "navel-gazing" and fretting over our feelings is time not being spent doing God's work and bearing fruit.

The Creed was recited; notable is that after I bowed at the lines, "by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man," I caught the priest raising his head as well. Unfortunately, I didn't notice anyone else following his good example. The priest then offered the Prayer of the Faithful on his own from the altar; it was very generic and very short, with I think just two intentions-- including one for the Pope-- apart from those for the sick and the deceased. The offertory hymn was "Alleluia No. 1." During the hymn, a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The ciboriums and chalices were of metal; the priest immediately poured the wine from the glass flagon into the four serving chalices and had the flagon removed from the altar.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from a setting familiar to me but which I could not find in the hymnal. It is notable for the unusual pause in "Blessed is he who comes_in... the name of the Lord." It may have been the Mass of the Angels and Saints or the Community Mass. I'd know if I had the music before me. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer, and a server sounded bells at the consecration. The Our Father was recited, and almost no one saw fit to join hands, which would have been difficult anyway as large gaps were to be found between those in the pews.

Another priest and six lay ministers assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion, which was done in a very straightforward way, with two stations for each form of Communion at the front, and another identical group of stations at the break. One of the servers received on the tongue, which struck me as rather interesting. The Communion hymn was "We Have Been Told," also popular at my own parish.

After Communion, and a second collection for the Catholic Communications Campaign taken in the same manner as the first collection, the priest went to the ambo to give rather an irreverent reading of the announcements, almost as if he considered it a nuisance. It was a noticeable contrast to the rather straight way he offered the rest of the Mass. Among his remarks was one on an upcoming collection; he said that we had "better cough up" the required money. The priest then offered the closing prayer, imparted a simple blessing, and quickly departed with the two servers down the center aisle to one verse of the closing hymn, "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name."

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