Thursday 5 November 2009

Wish you were here

"Sometimes even the Ordinary becomes Extraordinary, as I experienced last night. I actively participated in the most beautiful Mass it has ever been my privilege to attend, completely by chance (well, except for that whole bit about guidance from the Holy Spirit!) because only the night before in this city I am visiting I learned of what I thought would be a concert. It's a parish of 700 families, but they had a special Mass in honor of All Souls day. What made it so exceptional?

Arriving an hour before Mass began I found more than 150 young seminarians, cassock and surplice, seated quietly, filling the front dozen or so pews on the right hand side. Then the people began to dribble in. Families, mostly, with an enormous abundance of children. They kept coming until the 1500 seats in the church were filled.

Meanwhile the instrumentalists were tuning up, surprisingly quietly, in the loft as the choir made its way into position. An altar boy, perhaps four and a half feet tall, entered to light candlesticks that towered far more than twice his height.

Precisely at 7:30 the entry procession began. Led by the Cross bearer flanked by two candle bearers, it entered at a doorway to the left of the sanctuary, wended itself to the back of the church and up the main aisle. Included in the procession were the celebrant, eight fellow priests including his deacon and subdeacon, and the newest Bishop-elect in the United States (and most likely the world) all vested in black. They were led by forty-five altar boys, the censor and boat bearer, book bearer, master of ceremonies, all of whom made their obeisance to the altar with a precision that equals any military branch of the Church Militant. Throughout the procession and arrival at the altar, the choir and orchestra intoned the Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which indeed was the music of the entire Mass.

The Mass itself was a Novus Ordo Mass, celebrated ad Orientam. It was never rushed or hurried, but followed the music which was quite evidently never accompaniment, but instead was the actual prayer of the Mass. The people were active and attentive throughout. Even the children remained docile, taken up by the awesome majesty present in the church. The time of the sermon was used as a time of teaching, a reminder that the fear of death and reluctance to accept it is a characteristic of mankind that we need not maintain as God's saved people.

Perhaps the greatest vision of the evening was the consecration. As the church bell tolled, the celebrant, facing the East, elevated the host while the eight priests and the bishop looked on. They in turn were surrounded by the altar boys, the last row of which included 6 candle bearers, who knelt immobile for the duration. It was an image of massed members of our Church all looking earnestly in the direction of God, present through the miracle of our Eucharist.

At the proper time the congregation made its way to the communion rail where we knelt to receive the Body on our tongues, presented by three priests and altar boys with patens. We then returned to our places to await the end of the Mass, our blessing and dismissal, and the exit procession. And we all stayed.

While I am not often given to crying at a Mass, this night was an exception. There was beauty, majesty, and glory in the air - right along with the incense. And there was a reminder of the fact that a Mass, be it Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, can elevate us just as Christ willed when He told His disciples to do this in His memory."

- by priorstf at [] recounting All Soul's 2009 at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA (their long history of dignified and proper Masses continues.