St. Denis, Lexington MI

Sunday I was up visiting my family, and since I hadn’t been to a Christmas Midnight Mass (it not being Christmas)  and nobody was awake, I had no reason to sin by not showing up. Here is Lexington’s franchise of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church:

St. Denis RC Church, Lexington MI

Inside, the church is finished in a style that could be described as white-picket-fence Gothic : all white, lots of arches, fairly high for a newish church, niches for statuary, stone tile floor…all in all a very attractive place, and though acoustically it’s not Cathedral-live, it’s not suburban-dead either.
Inside St. Denis Lexington
Now, you’ll notice above the one eccentricity of design: the church is Y-shaped. It would appear that the end facing the street is original, and the wings of the Y were an addition. The original ceiling was plastered, but the ceiling of the addition is white board. This would have made the original worship ad occidentam. That’s a compromise with available space made by many churches of the period; St. Michael’s in Windham has the altar in the south, which, considering the history of the town, is a bit like Moslems facing Mecca. I came in, saw the layout, and made my way to the Y facing the parking lot, so that I could face East. Interestingly, the priest also celebrated the Eucharist facing east. So one had a choice: if you’re a liberal who is offended if “the priest turns his back to us”,  then sit in the east of the church. If you’re a troglodytic Mackerel Snapper like yours truly, sit in the west.

Before I discuss the rest of the service, I need to note that it was a new priest’s first weekend. Fr. Robert Schikora has been ordained all of 6 weeks, so he’s still finding his legs as a working priest, let alone as priest of this diocese. So there’s no blame in any of what I might say. He’s an older vocation, so I don’t know where he’s coming from in terms of liturgy. “Fr. Bob” is generally a bad sign, but the chanting and general take on the Eucharist suggested a more traditional orientation. The homily tried to cover too much ground and was diffuse. Notes might have helped, but that’s hard to do without an ambo… and with an ambo in that space, he’d need to look Janus-like in three directions at once. But like I said, it’s his first gig, and there was a definite will to catechesis on display.

Music…you know I was going to start there, right?  Positives: Heritage missal, all traditional hymns, mostly all verses, SIX in all (2 Introit, 2 Communion). There was a piano there but it was not used; all organ (though little solo). People seemed to want to sing…lustier than most urban parishes I’ve been to.

Negatives? Well, this is more a liturgical critique than a musical one. Apparently, Independence Day is a Holy Day of Obligation that gets moved to the nearest Sunday. I didn’t mind  the patriotic cover of the bulletin; it’s a much catchier image than anything you could associate with the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time. But alas, fully HALF the hymns were songs in praise of the state rather than God, and the fact that the word “God” pops up in all of them does not constitute a baptism. I come to church to praise God, not Caesar, thankyouverymuch, and I pointedly kept my mouth shut. If we participate in liturgical abuses, we just encourage them.

Other hymns were something to Finlandia, and How Great Thou Art; good solid stuff, if not particularly Catholic. The Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acc. were oddly done: the responses were sung, the text spoken. This did not work; it was as if the responses were wore important than the Psalm. Surely they could find somebody (or several somebodies, if need be) to sing the Psalm on a psalm-tone?

Ordinary…I dunno. Memorial acc. was “Christ has died…”, troped with Alleluias yet. 5 more months of that! But when it comes to modern congregational Mass settings, I’m like General Grant: I only know two; one is Mass of Creation and the other one isn’t. Particularly in a tourist town like Lexington, where not everyone will know the local practice, it’s  important to encourage full active and conscious participation. Pew cards are a lovely idea…let’s have the notation for whatever jingle the Sanctus is being sung to. Given that parishes don’t change Ordinary very often, and are going to have to soon, it’s an idea whose time has come (hint: the Roman Missal has music…maybe we should use it).

Other stuff:  SEVEN servers, most of them female. They’re called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communon, not everyday-get-’em-out-to-the-beach servers. And there were THREE instances of car alarms going off in the parking lot (possibly the same car). Look, Lexington is not the ghetto. If you can’t trust a locked car in a church parking lot at 8 AM, you’re a paranoid and need to seek medical treatment immediately….or they could do a Blessing of the Cars in the name of St Nicholas of Myra.

So, all in all, we have a very typical small-town parish…no flagrant liturgical abuses, but a lot of borderine cases…good friendly people. Where to go from here? Fr. Bob didn’t ask me, but if he did, here’s what I’d suggest:

1. Pew cards with notes and words for anything besides hymns that you actually expect the congregation to sing.

2.  Phase out the EMHCs for Masses. They can take the Precious Body to the shut-ins; that’s what they were made for. Actively recruit men for this, and for the choir. It’s funny; in my experience, Tridentine churches don’t have a problem recruiting men; Queen of the Holy Rosary has 33% more men than women in the choir, and the Mac is about the same.

3. Phase in some Latin! Let folks do the Kyrie and Sanctus in Latin, or throw in an occasional Gregorian hymn (a good idea even in English…you could start there, and then do it in Latin once people know the tune cold.)

4. Find out what musical talent is in the parish, and use it. Yes, most of that gets saved for the 11:00 mass. But try to find a cantor for 8…or speak the responses.

I wish them luck in adjusting to their new pastor, and the new translation. As Bl. John Paul said, “Be not afraid…”

6 Responses to St. Denis, Lexington MI

  1. kishnevi says:

    Look, Lexington is not the ghetto. If you can’t trust a locked car in a church parking lot at 8 AM, you’re a paranoid and need to seek medical treatment immediately

    Of course you can trust the car. It’s the thief who figures everyone inside will be too focused on Mass to notice that someone is breaking into the cars outside that you shouldn’t trust.

    Of course, I used to lock the car when I walked from the pump to the cashier to pay for my gas, ever since I read an article in the paper many years ago about a woman whose car got snatched while she was inside paying. The only reason I stopped is because I started to pay with a credit card at the pump when gas prices started going up.

  2. mes Quick says:

    Well my Son, You being the only practicing Catholic in our family of wayward Lutherans, I cannot comment on your blog except to say that over half of the Parrish flock are summer dudes from Detroit surroundings. Their City habits are very strong. The female singers and communion assistants are a local custom. Around here, the Ladies do most of the talking, most of the singing and most of the work. Recall your Saintly late Mother. Me thinks your musical background has caused your expectations of the musical abilities of ordinary folks to be unduly high.

    Popa Jimbo

  3. Thomas says:

    I drove by a beautiful Catholic Church in Lexington last summer, I really wanted to look inside. I thought it looked older, like maybe 1890 or something.

    If this is a new church it’s definitely above average, if it’s old and they remodeled the inside then that’s a shame.

    I’m from Sarnia across the river in Canada. We have some beautiful Churches downtown but unfortunately we don’t have the beautiful tridentine Latin Mass to go along with them. I for one am waiting for the a day a Pope comes along condemns Paul Vi’s mass forever.

  4. Jeffrey Quick says:

    I doubt they changed very much in the inside, aside from the addition. It’s a simple country church in essence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And it IS above average, sad to say.

    Sarnia has a right to a Tridentine Mass; y’all just need to organize and pressure the bishop to make it happen. As for the extinction of the Bugnini-mass, it’s not likely to happen in our lifetimes. The attenuation of the Kyrie, the Sign of Peace and the screwy calendar are problems. The Responsorial Psalm is a wash. But most of the problems in the Mass are problems of implementation rather than the liturgical template.

  5. Thomas says:

    Well all the offeratory prayers are gone so the sacrificial nature is absent in the new mass. Plus the words of consecration were changed therefore rendering the new mass doubtful if not invalid. The old mass on the other hand there can be doubt. I don’t live in Sarnia anymore but was there last summer, 3 Catholic Churches have been closed in the last 5 years or so, including a large one that catered to the Italian community. It is now a men’s club.

  6. […] I found myself back in Lexington MI for a class reunion, and had to make provisions for Mass. I reported on St. Denis back in 2011.  I found, sadly, that they had undergone a parish blending last year with the Port Sanilac parish […]

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