This morning, before I left, my mother told me, "You know, if you think you're going to get stuck introducing yourself or holding hands, you could always sit next to a pretty girl and make the most of it. Just say, 'Hi, I'm Andrew.'"
I think some people in the audience have been feeding her lines! You know who you are, too. Of course, if I were that brave, I'd not have started this series in the first place. You wouldn't want that now, would you? Let's continue our tour, then.
Every Sunday has the potential for a big surprise. Because every factor: priest, time, traffic, when I arise, my mood, and so on seems to matter, fate seems to have quite a bit to do with how things go-- pick a different day, time, or priest, and everything is changed. This morning, I was about to take an hour and a half walk to one parish when my father told me that his source at that parish said that the choir is off for the summer-- even though a bulletin from a couple of weeks ago plainly said in its weekly listing (not the boilerplate on the front cover) "choir Mass." Thus, once again, I changed my plans at the last minute.
Instead, I decided upon a parish that left a bad taste in the advance scout's mouth and was going to be saved perhaps for next Lent. The scout's report says simply, "First Communion. Madhouse. Guitars. Left." With First Communion season safely behind us, though, I decided to give it another go at the same time as the scout had selected. I drove twenty-five minutes and arrived at about 10:10 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass. The church is L-shaped, with the longer end being what was a parish hall but now fitted with permanent wooden pews. The cornerstone was hidden behind some bushes and is not legible unless one walks right to it and peers behind the bush. I did what had to be done and extracted the necessary information: 1953. The main section is of red brick, while the longer end is red vinyl (maybe aluminum) siding. A bell tower is at the inside corner of the "L." The stained-glass windows in the main section are rather traditional and depict saints and the like. The old hall has clear windows.
The inside has almost certainly been renovated. The walls are red, like the outside. A wooden altar with four narrow legs is at the center of the sanctuary, ahead of the wooden ambo at the right. A traditional crucifix hangs over the sanctuary. The domed, metal tabernacle is covered with a green veil and is on a stand at the left (actually, dead center if one is looking from the longer part of the "L"). At the foot of the sanctuary is a large, low baptismal font with flowing water suitable for total immersion, I suppose. The wooden pews are split by a center aisle in each leg of the "L", and the longer side has a break about halfway back. The servers' seats are at the right of the tabernacle, and the celebrant's chair is in the corner. An ambry hangs on the wall to the right of the sanctuary, near the sacristy. The building is not air-conditioned; numerous ceiling and wall fans created a loud roar as they attempted to create a comfortable atmosphere.
After I sat a while, anxiously awaiting the start of the Mass, I noticed a priest (probably the pastor) and a server fiddling with what looked very much like a remote control unit. These are not rare at daily Mass; several parishes near me use some sort of recorded music during the week. Usually, that doesn't bother me much, as the recorded music is often better than what we would get live, and choirs aren't going to serve during the week anyway. Today is Sunday, however, so I was getting a bit concerned, as I saw no organist, pianist, cantor, or even a guitarist near the piano and organ located near the baptismal font. The priest flipped through a song or two, including an "Alleluia," and then departed, leaving me scratching my head. Not only was it Sunday-- it was the 10:30 AM Mass. It would usually be the biggest Mass of the day at most parishes. No music? Meanwhile, an usher recruited two men from the pews to assist him later in taking the collection.
Sure enough, at 10:30, a bell sounded, and two servers, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, a reader, and the priest came from the sacristy (not even a full procession!) and took their places. Even the entrance antiphon was omitted. (It is often omitted during the week, but on Sunday, with no music, well...) The priest led the recitation of Form C of the penitential rite and the Gloria.
The reader went from a pew to the ambo and gave the first reading and led the recitation of the responsorial psalm. I noticed that she paused for a few moments after announcing the second reading; the OCP Today's Missal (found along with Music Issue in the pews) showed a short form and a long form for that reading, and it seemed as though she might have been trying to decide which to use. I really hope that the pastor or at least the celebrant decides that sort of thing and not the reader. In any case, after she saw that the long form includes the part about wives being subordinate to their husbands, it was doomed, and the short form was used.
The priest led the singing of the Alleluia and the verse before the Gospel, which made me a bit happy, anyway. After he proclaimed the Gospel, he gave a homily that began with a lament about how little coverage was given in the news media to World Youth Day and remarked that he was fortunate to be able to have followed most of it on EWTN. He feels that it was really a wonderful gathering and shows how much interest young people have in their faith despite what most people would think. Most of the rest of the homily seemed to be a rereading and underlining of the Gospel and the first reading; the second reading was overlooked anyway, even though it was supposedly made easier and more focused. I didn't hear anything really bad, though; I've heard far, far worse.
The Creed was recited, and the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. He ended it with the Jubilee Prayer, but he recited it by himself. This may not be the norm here; perhaps the priest usually asks for participation from the congregation, but for whatever reason, he did not do so today. A collection was taken using handleless wicker baskets passed across the pews from one end to the other and then back. The traditional chalice was of metal; the paten was silver or maybe pewter and was shaped like a large, irregular dish.
The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer and seemed to be in a bit of a hurry; it went even faster than usual. At the Our Father, I saw no hand-holding, but the church was almost full (making the lack of music even more puzzling), so some people may have been able to hold hands discreetly.
At Holy Communion, an additional lay minister and another priest joined the celebrant and the original three lay ministers in the distribution at two stations in the main section and four in the side section (two in front and two at the break). The chalice was not offered. Two or three selection of recorded music were played at this time; it was traditional and probably better than I hear live at many parishes. The last selection was the Gloria (obviously not planned well); as soon as the tabernacle was closed, the server abruptly cut off the Gloria.
After the priest offered the Prayer after Communion, he read a few announcements and imparted a simple blessing. After saying, "Have a nice day," he then returned to the sacristy with the reader and lay ministers about forty minutes after the start of the Mass.
"Why did he have to come today of all days?"
"Yeah-- the one day the cantor and organist both got bubonic plague."
"At least we had that bit of recorded music."
"He'll think we do that every week, though. So will his readers."
"He wasn't supposed to come here today, you know-- changed his mind at the last minute."
"Well, that will teach him to change his mind at the last minute."
"Put away all the bunting and streamers. He's not coming today after all."
"But I spent all morning painting this 'WELCOME ANDREW' sign!"
"They say he'll be here in the fall when the choir is back. You can use it then."
"What about the pretty, single girl we asked to sit next to him?"
"Can't she wait?"
"I was lucky to find her-- single folks seem to be so scarce at Mass. She also happens to be taking a tour of local parishes, you know-- goes to a different one every week and writes a little article just like him. She's just here for today. Next week, she'll be at a different parish."
"Oh, well. Too bad. That will teach him to change his mind at the last minute!"