Arriving ten minutes early to look around the church, we were among the first ones there. We entered under the choir loft and sat in a pew about halfway up the center aisle. While the church may be tall, it is not large. Its wooden floors and pews creak pleasantly, and the pew backs still have hat clips every few feet. The walls are white plaster with Stations of the Cross oil paintings between the windows. The gaze is drawn to an ornate high altar at the back of the apse, tabernacle at its center. In front of it is a simpler altar-table, flanked by a pulpit on one side and chairs for the priest, deacon, and servers on the other. The back walls are crowded with statues of angels and saints, a crucifix with bright red marking Christ’s wounds, and a Divine Mercy painting.
We’d intended to blend in by sitting where we did, but our choice backfired: almost everyone else took seats toward the back of the church, leaving us, a few older women, and a latecomer or two in sole inhabitance of the front half of the nave. Closer inspection at the Rite of Peace and Communion yielded a congregation profile. Numbering around seventy, it skewed older and middle-aged, though with a few younger couples mixed in. There were only three or four young children, and our kids doubled the number of teens present. Casual dress predominated. Like the figures in the church’s statues and paintings, all were white.
Mass started right on time. A young female cantor welcomed the congregation and announced that we would have a guest celebrant. My wife and I shared a smile as we recognized the recently retired priest from our own archdiocese, who had also crossed the river for Mass that morning. What followed was a serviceable liturgy—familiar, meaningful, and heartfelt, but not especially moving or spirit-filled. An ordinary Mass, though not in Ordinary Time, as it clocked in at a brisk forty-five minutes.
Led by the cantor in front and an organist and small choir in the back loft, the music was solid, though the cantor struggled a bit with the Responsorial Psalm. There was the usual selection of songs, ranging in style from “Canticle of the Sun” for the processional to “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” for the recessional. The congregation’s singing was dutiful but not enthusiastic.
A female reader did a great job with the first and second readings—clear and measured, her tone appropriate to the text—while the deacon was reverent but a bit more rote when reading the gospel. Delivering his short, six-minute homily without notes, the priest was warm and genuine. Picking up primarily on Jeremiah in the first reading but bringing in the Gospel’s call for fearless witness to Jesus, his focus was prophetic service to the poor in the world today, invoking Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis. An amusing story from his past added a bit of humor, even if its connection to the homily’s actual message was less clear.