Week 86

Pentecost Sunday

Today, we took a trip of about 35 minutes by car to a hilltop church at the northern end of the diocese. I stopped at a few other churches to obtain bulletins; at one, a crossing guard was awaiting the end of a Mass as I entered and quickly left with a bulletin in my hand. I imagined him saying to himself, "Now I've seen everything-- a fellow who fulfills his Sunday Mass obligation just by grabbing a bulletin three minutes before Mass ends."

The target church bears an 1899 cornerstone, making it one of the oldest I've visited, but renovations, including air conditioning, make it seem somewhat newer. It is gray stone on the outside, and the same gray stone halfway up the walls on the inside. The rest of the inside, including a high, arched ceiling, is white. Tall, very traditional arched stained-glass windows line the side walls over red-bordered plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross. A medium-sized white marble baptismal font is at the left in the rear section. The wooden pews are split into two sides with a break about halfway back and center and side aisles; notable is that people can sit behind the break and kneel in front of it. The pews hold about 8 to 12 across. Racks for OCP's Music Issue and Today's Missal are located only in the divisions on the aisles-- the two center divisions in each pew have no racks. The marble ambo, resting on four pillars and holding two microphones, is at the left of the sanctuary, which has been pulled slightly forward. A cantor's lectern, with only one microphone, is at the right. Between them and further back is the freestanding, covered altar. Behind that is a wooden screen that obscures the original tabernacle and its framework, with a tall spire acting as a bit of a canopy. At the left side of the screen is a freestanding, life-sized, traditional crucifix, while at the right is the celebrant's chair. Seats in the transepts have been reoriented 90 degrees to face the altar.

I arrived at about 11:20 AM for the 11:30 AM choir Mass and walked up the steep hill from the distant parking lot, passing the doors near the sanctuary and entering through doors at the opposite side of the building, facing the main street. This door was locked for some reason, but a kindly gentleman opened it for me and several other countercultural worshippers. I noticed that many folks were dressed in red, as many bulletins this past week had suggested for Pentecost. I'd have considered doing that, but unfortunately, I do not own any red clothes. (I have a pair of maroon pants and a maroon tie, but those probably don't count.) I took a seat in the third row at the right in the rear section and awaited the start of the Mass, which came as the cantor welcomed us and announced the first hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost." The sound of the organ, as always, was most refreshing, and it had no competition today from other instruments. One server bearing the processional cross, eight lay ministers of Holy Communion who would sit in the right transept, the reader, and the priest formed the entrance procession through the center aisle. The priest led the recitation of Form C of the penitential rite; this was followed by a sung Gloria. I am unable to identify the setting, which was new to me but nice; I really would like to have had it on a sheet at least so I'd know if any of the parts were reserved for the cantor or choir (which consisted of about ten people of various ages). I think it began, "Glory, Glory to God."

The reader approached the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. This was followed by the responsorial psalm for the day. The verses were sung by the cantor from the cantor's lectern, and we all sang the responses. After that, the reader returned to the ambo to give the second reading, using the "B" option. He then asked us to stand for the recitation of the Sequence for Pentecost. The Alleluia was sung; the priest then proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo. Again, this was the "B" option.

The priest just arrived from India for the summer; his homily began by noting that in India, Catholics commonly have innumerable pictures and images of the saints and other sacred things located throughout their homes. The main point of this homily seemed to be that, like the apostles, we are called to be witnesses to the Holy Spirit in all that we say and do.

While Confirmations are common on Pentecost Sunday, especially at the main Mass at a parish, I suspect that most of those being confirmed around here today were to attend a big Mass offered by the bishop at a local arena this afternoon. I was not surprised, then, to see that no one was confirmed at the Mass I attended. The Creed was recited, and then the Prayer of the Faithful was offered, with the reader reciting the intentions from the ambo and the cantor leading the sung response from the lectern. The priest inserted a "Hail Mary" but did not abandon the prayer usually offered by the celebrant at the end, as is usually done when some prayer or other is added at this point. Then a collection was taken using long-handled wicker baskets as we sang the offertory hymn, "Envía Tu Espíritu," whose refrain is in Spanish but has verses in English. This was a change from the hymn listed on the hymn board, "Spirit, Come;" the cantor did not explicitly condemn the hymn board but simply stressed the change by the tone of her voice.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were from a consistent Mass setting that unfortunately is unfamiliar to me. (Oh, for a printed program.) The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon held additional wine to be consecrated. Empty serving chalices remained on the altar throughout the second Eucharistic Prayer.

At the Our Father, which was recited, I saw some evidence of discreetly-joined hands, but little evidence of anyone going to much trouble to join with those not particularly close. I also saw a mother who seemed to be twisting her daughter's arm, but that may have been my imagination. The Agnus Dei was sung to a setting unfamiliar to me.

A minister from the choir joined the other lay ministers to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. The stations were rather conventional; two each for the Body and Blood of Jesus in the front, and another set of stations at the break. The Communion hymn was, "I Am the Bread of Life."

After Communion, a young lady who is to graduate from the regional Catholic school attached to the parish took the ambo and gave a short speech of some sort, telling us what a wonderful education she received and how much she appreciated it and expected to do well in a Catholic high school along with her classmates, 100% of whom were accepted to Catholic high schools. She was dressed in a gray graduation cap and gown. After her speech, she received a round of applause, and the reader gave several announcements.

The priest then offered the closing prayer and imparted a blessing using the "Prayer over the People" form. The server and priest processed alone through the center aisle to the closing hymn, "Sing a New Church." The choir sang the third verse on its own without the cantor and most of the congregation, which left after the second verse.

Later, I passed some strident protesters at the side of the road in front of a fur store; they were decrying the killing of animals for their fur. I hope that at least some of them are able to find time to protest in front of abortion clinics as well. I visited another parish to obtain a bulletin; it was about 2:00 PM, and it looked as though a graduation Mass was in progress. It may have been the 12:00 noon Mass, stretched considerably, or it may have been an additional, special Mass after that. In another parish, the loss of one priest caused the loss of one Sunday morning Mass. Pray for vocations.

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