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:
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.
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…”