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Pleasantly Surprised

June 13th, 2010, Promulgated by Nerina

Today my family and I attended Mass at a small, country church in Ontario County.  It is located not far from my home parish and is a historical landmark.  I wasn’t expecting much and was only hoping to escape the monthly preaching of our “authorized lay preacher” (a.k.a. Sr. Barbara Moore, RSM) whose preaching my husband and I can no longer tolerate.  So, after writing a letter to our priest explaining why we would no longer attend our church on the second Sunday of the month (because we really didn’t want to listen to a person foment division by referencing an incredibly bigoted article written by Nicholas Kristoff that talks about “two churches” or to someone who proposes that “perhaps it is time for Vatican III“), we set out to find a church within our local community.

We immediately ruled out St. John’s of Rochester.  Now, I know many people who have many positive things to say about this particular church.  I have good friends who attend there frequently, but I find the building itself very off-putting.    It suffers from the usual liturgical practices that many of our churches do: an excessive number of EMHCs, improper vessels for the Eucharist, choir upfront and center, lay preaching, and a priest who recently signed a petition to delay the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal.   One very positive attribute is the presence of 24 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Next we considered attending OLV, but my husband felt strongly about remaining somewhat in our local area.  Plus, he and my oldest son are gluten-intolerant which means receiving Communion requires advanced planning.  We thought briefly about attending St. Mary’s in Canandaigua when I remembered St. Bridget’s in Bloomfield.  I asked around but none of my friends had ever attended there.  I looked up the church’s website and together with my husband we decided to give it a try.

Boy, am I glad we did.  What I noticed immediately was the absence of extraneous noise before the Mass.  People were quiet. They were prayerful and reflective.  It was quite a change from my home parish where “catching up” before Mass is the norm.  I also noticed that though the choir was upfront (and the church has a beautiful and large choir loft), it was way off to the side.  There were no guitars.  There were no banjos, no bongos.  Just a piano and three women.  There was a crucifix hanging above the altar of repose (or what would have been the altar of Sacrifice in the Extraordinary Form).  The altar of repose was expansive and beautifully maintained.  The ceiling was painted white and at least 20 feet high which allowed for pretty good acoustics.  I found the Stations of the Cross to be traditionally sculpted (not the minimalist, avant-garde type that are often found today).  The stained glass windows were simple.

The Mass itself was “by the book.”  Fr. Mull was the celebrant.  People sang simple songs with easy to follow melodies that were theologically sound.  There was no “I am the bread of life.”  We followed the Missal (in my home parish the choir director chooses a psalm for each season and never varies from this choice – I always feel cheated of hearing more Scripture after singing the same Psalm week after week after week).  The Agnus Dei was unadulterated.  “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.”  Not, “Tree of Life, you take away,” or “Bread of peace, you take away…”

Of course, it was not a perfect celebration of the Mass.  Fr. Mull encouraged self-communication when he offered the ciborium to the EMHCs for them to choose their own hosts (cringe) and we did hold hands during the “Our Father,” but in this church several people received Holy Communion on the tongue.  One man even received kneeling (both the host and the cup).  After Mass, the entire congregation got back down on its knees to recite the Leonine prayers.  It was dead silent.  A smile came to my lips.

Overall a very worthwhile trip and one which I think we will make again.  On the way home, my 11 year old son commented, “Wow.  It’s amazing how dignified the music is when there are no guitars or banjos.”  Truer words were never spoken.

In His Peace,

Nerina

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16 Responses to “Pleasantly Surprised”

  1. avatar Choirloft says:

    Thanks for all the update on St. Bridget’s, Nerina. FYI – We have gluten-free hosts at the Tridentine Mass at St. STan’s. You’ll have to come and bring the kids. Just tell me that you’re coming and I”ll have some hosts for your son and your husband. Sorry, but only the priest consumes the Precious Blood at the Tridentine Mass. Christ is present 100% in both species anyways. Also, unless you have a physical disability, you receive on the tongue at the TLM. Hope to see you sometimes at St. Stan’s. We had our last High Mass of the season on the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was beautiful, sorry that you and the family didn’t get there.

    Oremus pro invicem! See you at the communion rail.

  2. avatar Nerina says:

    Hi Choir,

    Actually, I made it to the last High Mass. It was beautiful and I sat behind some friends who I haven’t seen in quite a while. I was moved to tears by the Eucharistic Procession. I am hoping to get the whole family to the TLM in the fall. Baby steps.

  3. avatar Choirloft says:

    Dangnabit – I wish I had known you were coming as I would have baked a cake, or maybe some Eucharistic bread. Seriously, you were there and I missed you…darn 🙁 We won’t have another High Mass until September. Even choirs need a summer break. If you bring the family we can all go out for a nice early-bird special (Italian) down the street.
    Illegitimi non carborundum

  4. avatar Dr. K says:

    After Mass, the entire congregation got back down on its knees to recite the Leonine prayers.

    Something I have been advocating to be more widespread for some time. Great to hear!

  5. avatar Mike says:

    Choir,

    Does this mean that the summer Masses at St. Stan’s will be totally sans music, or will an organist at least be on duty?

  6. avatar Louis E. says:

    I thought that completely gluten-free hosts were officially invalid matter?

  7. avatar Choirloft says:

    Mike – We will have an organist playing until later in August when he goes to Paris/Chartres for an international organ competition.

    Louis E – Maybe I messed up on the wording of those hosts. They are from the Benedictine Sisters in Missouri and are valid matter. Sorry. My mistake.

  8. avatar LarryD says:

    Nerina – is that the same Fr Mull who used to serve at Sacred Heart?

  9. avatar Nerina says:

    Louise E. – Choir is right. They are low-gluten hosts that have been approved by the USCCB as valid for consecration. Our local church used to use rice flour hosts which my husband would not use. When questioned about it, my husband reminded the person that rice was not valid matter for the Eucharist. Many people found this take on it to be “legalistic.” That’s why previously it has been a great option to receive Communion under both species. But now that the low-gluten hosts are available (and with a little planning) my husband and son are no longer excluded from the host.

    LarryD – I have no idea. I’ll have to check.

  10. avatar Choirloft says:

    Larry D. Yes, it is the same Father Mull that was at the Cathedral.

  11. avatar LarryD says:

    Thanks, Choir. I thought so. He was assigned there while I was still a Rochester resident. From what I remember, he was fairly solid.

    Now – does anyone know whatever happened to Fr. Endres?

  12. avatar RochChaCha says:

    Nerina, don’t rule out St. John of Rochester. You can attend one of their picnic masses this summer. Just call whomever is hosting it and tell that you would like them to provide a gluten-free host. Also be sure to let him/her know your preference for either a hot dog or hamburger and what type of drink you would like. This way there won’t be a lot of hots and hamburgers left over. You’ll enjoy the ‘relaxed’ setting of the picnic masses.

  13. avatar Nerina says:

    RochChaCha – too funny. I hate the idea of “picnic Masses.” Absolutely hate it.

  14. avatar Mike says:

    There is a place for outdoor Masses, but certainly not in the way SJoR does it.

    I remember one Sunday maybe 15 years ago at Massawepie Scout Camp when the Protestant service and the Catholic Mass were both scheduled for the same time. The Protestants were assigned to the mess hall while we Catholics celebrated Mass along the lake shore. It was a very reverent and memorable Mass.

    After Mass I talked with the priest for a few minutes. He was a dual-rite Jesuit who taught school downstate. His family had a cottage in the area where he spent a good part of the summer “reading, writing, praying and fishing” (or words to that effect). On weekends he would try to get to either four or five nearby camps between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I remember he carried an impressive Mass kit, including what I later learned was an Antimins with a relic sewn into it, instead of a corporal.

    BTW, there was no picnic after Mass.

  15. avatar Dr. K says:

    According to the ’09 DoR directory, Fr. Endres was chaplain at Strong Hospital.

  16. avatar Susan Mary says:

    If you ever travel to the Western southern tier of the state, check our St. Patrick’s in Belfast, NY (Allegany County.) Very devout priest who is bi-ritual (ordained in both the Latin and Ukrainian rites.) Solid preaching, a Novus Ordo at 8:45 a.m. and weekly traditional Latin Mass at 12:15. Take exit 30 off Interstate 86 (the exit sign will say Houghton) and continue north on Route 19 for about 20 minutes until you reach the small village of Belfast. Take a right turn onto Merton Street & you’ll see the red brick church. Beautiful restored high altar, statues, Holy Communion rail, etc., a real architectural gem. It’s like walking back into a church from the pre-Vatican II days.


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