Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm not sure what possessed me to request a ticket to the Pontifical Solemn High Mass offered last night at St. Hedwig's Church in Trenton. It may have been the silly hope that ticket holders would be envied as excitement surrounding the event swelled. But anyone interested in Latin Mass hasn't a covetous impulse in their whole soul.

As parking downtown is limited, the diocese arranged busing from Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville. Besides having been there many, many times for catechist training workshops, I had just recently visited with my son for a high school open house. No surprise to see athletes still getting picked up when I arrived on campus around 6.

A coordinator held up a shuttle bus for me and then another dozen people climbed aboard for a ten minute ride. From the drop-off point in the rear of the church, I walked passed a television crew, set to broadcast live on EWTN. Inside the church vestibule, I approached an usher desperate for a program. I flashed my ticket, afraid he would collect it, but he instead simply acknowledged it and I went in.

The interior of the church is as stunning as the outside, only more so because it was lit up. It was not quiet so I felt comfortable taking non-flash photos from the back. With as little ado as possible, I casually tied on my handkerchief, the same one I wore inside the Orthodox Church surrounding Jacob's Well in Shechem. Then I found a seat next to two women. Shortly, another couple came to our row and I moved down to make room. Then the row filled from the other end, as another two women sat down. I estimated that twenty percent of the ladies wore head-coverings.

I expected the schola to be singing but there was no prelude. When the bishop entered, the church was not full because it was still quite early1. After kneeling at the side altar, the bishop went into a side room to vest. He was in there a long time. Meanwhile, folks began lining up for the procession. The Maidens of the Miraculous Medal were adorable! The Knights of Columbus, less so. I fancied they never dreamed they'd wear those outfits ever again.

There was likely quite a smirk on my face as I eyed the cross bearer, a traditional priest of the diocese vested as a subdeacon. He seemed to eye me back and I wondered whether he recognized me. I haven't visited his church in a long time.

I was unable to catch up with the printed text until the Kyrie. We didn't make the sign of the cross to begin the liturgy but I had crossed myself when the bishop blessed everyone on his way to the sanctuary. The schola's singing of the Gloria was quite fabulous. I think it was polyphonic and frankly I had expected plainer music. It sounded very like Simon & Garfunkel's Benedictus but with several more voices. Then the Collect and another subdeacon sang the Epistle. I didn't think his skill was much in evidence but it was a brief, familiar reading2 from Revelation 12. The congregation made very few of the replies printed in the provided rubrics, leading me to believe that the expected knee-jerk response has waned with the years. The only response made consistently was the proverbial et cum spiritu tuo.

There was plenty of picture-taking throughout. And flash photography at that. A professional photographer was making the rounds. View his work here. The woman at the end of my row snapped a picture during the elevation of the host. The distribution of holy communion was quite involved. First of all, everyone on the altar had to receive. And there were a ton of folks on the altar! The gesture they all performed prolonged the distribution: a genuflection before kneeling to receive, then another genuflection. It was almost like Irish folk dancing. They'd come from their respective camps on the right of the altar and on the left to the center and back again. Finally, the ushers brought the laity forward, beginning with the little Maidens. Then they brought up the side pews which outraged the woman next to me. She complained to her husband that everyone was going up ahead of her. I've seen it done before, taking the side pews first. It is uncommon but what's one more uncommon thing on top of so many others? I thought for a fleeting moment that I might receive from the bishop himself but then I could see he was working the far side of the rail.

It seemed to me that we're all rusty at taking communion (1) on our knees, (2) on our tongues, (3) at the rail. The worst part is, of course, that upon returning to our seats, everyone is out of sequence. In the N.O., that only happens if someone takes the wine. The two ladies on the center aisle ended up going all the way around the back of the church to their seats. The man next to me entered the pew without waiting for his wife. I stupidly followed him in and the other two ladies followed me. The man's wife showed up presently and had to climb over all of us! Which she did without hesitation. And the pews in this old Polish church are narrow.

I noted some left before holy communion. The two ladies to my left left right after holy communion which, in the TLM makes more sense than in the N.O. because there could be another dozen minutes of service remaining, what with the Last Gospel3 and all. I remember the Last Gospel being read in English at another Latin Mass I attended occasionally when I lived in Dayton, OH. Well, after all, I couldn't hear any of it last night, so I can't be certain what language it was. We all genuflected at the appropriate time during the reading, those of us who remained 'til the end, that is.

I got a real sense that the TLM is a kludge. That "best practices" have been incorporated over the years centuries. Take the Last Gospel, a private priestly devotion. There was also quite a defensiveness about the mass of the faithful. And I don't mean the presence of the Knights, even though they seemed, in some way, to be handling security. Maybe it was simply the sheer number of people on the altar. Or even when the bishop took to his throne during the homily, surrounded by servers and others, like some club, a club I couldn't join even if I wanted4.

After the mass, everyone posed on the steps of the sanctuary for photographs. One woman nudged passed me, saying, "That's my daughter up there! I need a picture!" That made me wonder how many people attended the mass to see a friend or relative participate. And how many people were like me, just out looking for a good time? I don't know but it might account for the general absence of any air of reverence. The sheer number of photographs taken and the constant chit-chat of those around me suggested they were spectators. I flirted momentarily with reverence myself immediately after receiving communion merely because the communion line was still so amazingly long, I had nothing else to do but bow my head and close my eyes until it passed. That worked. I affirmed to myself, "It's the same communion bread, nothing extra, still just Jesus."

I took all the pictures I wanted after mass and walked outside to pick up the bus back to my car at NDHS. A row of four buses waited at the curb and I got on the first one. Two buses from behind pulled around the lead bus and left. How strange. Still I waited, noticing the bus was not acquiring many passengers. The driver closed the door and began to move the bus, then stopped and seemed to go in reverse, then forward again, then stopped and opened the door to about six people, women and children. The lady asked, "Is this bus going to Notre Dame?" The driver said, "No, to St. Gregory's" and the lady stepped off. I bolted up and down the bus stairs. I had no idea St. Greg's also ran buses to the mass! Imagine if I'd stayed on that bus! And I felt stupid for wasting 20 minutes on that bus when I could have been back at ND already.

I'm not in any part Polish, but I have these occasional brushes with Polish Catholicism:

Jezus pociesza płaczące niewiasty.

"Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him."

1 The church never did fill completely.
2 It was the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, old Catholic calendar.
3 "Gospel - The Last Gospel" from Catholic Encyclopedia, Adrian Fortescue, Vol. 6, 662.
4 The club I have in mind is not the clergy but the entire Latin Mass community / apostolate, yet another closed, church clique.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My post this week: Pilgrimage account - from Philadelphia to Frankfurt

Click to join sunday_snippets
Upon landing in Lisbon, we were to rendezvous with our tour guide. When I spotted her, I let her know that I needed to get a SIM card for my iPhone. "Make it quick," was all she said. I wasn't able to.

Ideally, I would have picked up the SIM card somewhere in the colossal Frankfurt Airport when there was time between flights. However, I was so concerned about, first, getting through customs and then getting to my gate that then I was too far away from any shops. I mean, I think I would have had to walk back to the other terminal. So not an option.

There were only two staff people in the Vodafone at the Lisbon Airport when I stepped inside the booth, both were serving other customers. But I did my best to show my impatience and even interrupted one salesperson whose transaction seemed to have moved into a casual conversation. How would I know, right? The young lady freed up before the gentlemen did but she seemed nervous about her English and the technology. I allowed her to insert the SIM card for me and a good thing, too: she had to cut it to make it fit. Then I allowed her to configure the phone to use the SIM. She tried to show me the phone number but I was only going to use Facebook and an instant messaging app. I'm glad that I added another 10 € to the prepaid card because I drained it just as I arrived at Lourdes two days before returning home.1

All this buying and configuring took too long, of course, and the tour guide had taken everyone outside to board the tour bus. One lady stayed behind with my suitcase which I appreciated very much. She remained there and I stepped outside the airport to see what I could see. Only tour bus after tour bus. So I waited in sight of the other woman who said the tour guide would return for us. And she did along with Father who gave me grief for holding up everyone else. I told him it would not happen again and that I was very grateful to be able to keep in touch with my husband and four young kids who were coping with post-Sandy conditions in Monmouth County, NJ. I mean, what's a couple of minutes for that?

When I reached the tour bus, there was a commotion. A couple were being asked to leave the bus. They retrieved their luggage from underneath just as I was approaching with my suitcase. I waited on the sidewalk until I was sure the driver would put my suitcase in the cargo area, then I boarded and took an empty seat behind Father and his sister, Sister Brenda. I learned later that the couple had boarded the wrong bus and I believe that their departure opened up such a prime seat for me, very near the front of the bus. I sat there the entire tour, joined by someone on only one occasion and Father gave her such a chewing out for her hours and hours of senseless chatter that no one else dared sit so close to him, with me, again. The tour guide suggested that we switch up our seats from time to time but even when I boarded the bus last, my second row seat was available. Since I can get motion sick, it's probably a good thing I sat in front.

I allowed myself to try out the SIM card on the bus ride to Fátima, scanning Facebook for news. I don't have a smartphone in real life, so I'm not actually addicted. The complaints of my friends on Facebook were my primary source of news throughout the trip on how things were going post-Sandy. Someone on the bus cautioned me to "Remember the time difference!" thinking I was making a phone call. But it was 12:30 and the East Coast was only four hours behind, so a call would have been reasonable. We recovered an hour between Germany and Portugal and Daylight Savings Time had not yet ended in the U. S. However, I suspected quite correctly that no such services like telephone or electric were yet available again in New Jersey.

Our hotel in Fátima was within walking distance of the holy sites. We checked in and walked over there for our tour with a local guide. It was raining off and on and when it wasn't, a full rainbow graced the sky behind the old church. I posted a picture to Facebook.

Next post in the series: "When you enter the shrine at Fátima ..."

1 Fortunately, our hotel in Lourdes had free WiFi but that's another story in itself.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Last Thanksgiving, I distinctly remember thinking it would be the last time I'd say the "old" responses at mass. And I had trouble finding the readings that were actually proclaimed in my missal.1

Fearing that my new missal wouldn't have the correct readings either, I checked a couple of iPad apps - iMissal and iPieta - but they displayed only the readings for the weekday, St. Cecilia. I went to the US Bishops' site and cached the readings found there for Thanksgiving Day. But in the end, my new missal provided the readings, so I didn't use my iPad at church. Except my new missal indicated only a first reading - like a weekday mass - with other reading options from both testaments. So I think there may be a mistake in my missal.

One line from the prayer after communion made a impact on me because I'm not familiar with the patristic expression, time and eternity: "that we may share with them the good things of time and eternity.” I suppose one could emphasize "good things" in that phrase but I choose to stress "time and eternity," that good is found in both.

The restaurant family in town always provides a loaf of bread for everyone at mass which Father blesses. The family provides free pizza for parties at the end of the kids' religious education school year. But I've actually heard the owner of the restaurant say that he'll never set foot in the church again. I've no idea what the story is but since they offer gluten-free pizza, it may be some battle over that.

I realized that the town didn't hold an ecumenical prayer service yesterday as it had in other years. I asked a lady who I'd seen there last year and she said there was no interest. She said it's always difficult to drum up interest but this year it seemed to be especially hard. I said that folks were probably too busy dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy ("the storm"). She didn't agree but I don't see why not.
1 I just checked my old missal, by the Daughters of St. Paul, which I generally prefer to the St. Joseph's missal, but the readings for Thanksgiving Day are left out altogether with a line that goes "Various texts may be used." True, but what's a few more pages in a book with over 1,000?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's a shame gossip is so denigrated in the Bible because the stories of people's lives can be quite captivating. I'll try to be neither casual nor unconstrained in my remarks. And truthful, always truthful.

On the flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt, I shared a row but hadn't yet made her acquaintance. I noticed she carried a black NKJV Bible and a rosary. "An odd combination," I thought. She read the Bible only briefly during the long, overnight flight, from the Psalms. I couldn't tell whether she prayed the rosary, but probably.

When we landed in Frankfurt, I watched to see whether she would address Father who was traveling in the next row. She did not and I decided, mistakenly, that she was not in our party.

We changed not only flights but also terminals in Frankfurt for Lisbon. The terminals are connected by a long underground tunnel, which plenty of people walked although there is a train available. She was traveling with a couple who fell far behind and were later brought by airport transportation just before boarding. All three are Septa employees, the couple a part of the SEPTA 48 who became millionaires in the spring time lottery.

She had a thing for Our Lady and for Lourdes. Her mother had visited years ago and she felt called to imitate that. We had much in common, too much for me to be comfortable: working class childhood, married high school sweetheart, finished grad school later in life. A key difference was that she's the breadwinner in the family because her husband is chronically unemployed. On the contrary, I'm the bum here.

Her friend, who I discovered paid for her entire trip out of her lottery winnings, was a convert from an assortment of Protestant backgrounds, most recently Presbyterianism. I felt I could talk to her from that perspective and she asked me a question about the Bible. Immediately, I looked up the verses in question using the ESV Bible app on the iPhone Jeff had loaned me and we talked about them. She was impressed, saying she didn't think that Catholics "did Bible." All the Mary stuff on the trip wasn't working for her. I told her it didn't have to and she can't force it anyway. She invited me out to dinner, her treat, but I already had plans. It would have been interesting to talk with her some more but that's all we had.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here's my limited experience with Hurricane Sandy:

I heard about the expected storm on Thursday, Oct. 25th. with precise details. On Friday afternoon at Ella's kindergarten pick-up, a classmate's mother was overly concerned about her Saturday evening flight to Disney for Halloween. She kept checking the flight status on her phone. I didn't think she had anything to worry about and, as it turns out, her family's flight left as scheduled. They had a great time in Orlando.

Tim's Fall Ball game took place on Sunday afternoon, surprisingly. The other kids I took to church so they could wear their Halloween costumes and trick-or-treat after mass.

I was wondering whether this would be the only trick-or-treating they would have.

I baked bar cookies and banana bread on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 28th) so we'd have some things to nibble on if the power went out. My Lufthansa flight out of Newark (EWR) to Europe Tuesday evening was cancelled Sunday afternoon at 2:45. I was tracking the flight and received email right away. I contacted our tour leader and the cancellation was news to him. Kenny learned on Xbox that school was cancelled Monday.

On Monday afternoon the weather turned bad in earnest. Our power went out at 16:40 Monday and I expected it to be back by Wednesday. I was informed that my flight to Europe would leave Philadelphia on Wednesday evening instead of Newark. Bucks County was hit pretty hard by the hurricane but the city of Philadelphia was in good shape. On Wednesday morning, I tried to find a place to take a shower because our electricity (and water) was still out. But the gyms I use, Peddie High School in Hightstown and the YMCA in Freehold, were both dark and closed.1 Driving was tricky with all traffic signals out. In most cases, the dominant road took precedence and drivers on the side streets had to be cautious. At lesser intersections, folks implemented all-way stops. But there would always be someone who disregarded what everyone else was doing and would zoom through without stopping.

I didn't want to drive around longer than necessary because I was afraid of running my car low on gas. I was unable to make a left on 33 West from Freehold until Twin Rivers. Seeing dark stores with empty parking lots along Route 33 was becoming strangely normal. I entered one store that was open, exact change only. Little was left on the shelves and I saw a man load 20 loaves of bread into his car.

In preparation for my flight to Europe and the beginning of my ten day pilgrimage, I took a decent sponge bath on Wednesday using water from our filled bathtub. The house was getting cold after so many days without heat. Jeff took me to St. Veronica in Howell with my luggage to meet up with other pilgrims. We had prearranged a car service to drive several of us to the airport. The traffic on Route 9 south of 195 was stop-n-go but we were early so the delay did not make us late. We couldn't make a left until the road was no longer divided in Lakewood, then we had to double back northbound. I was optimistic that the car service would show but the tour coordinator had not been able to get in touch with them about our flight changes from Tuesday to Wednesday and from Newark to Philadelphia. He was not as optimistic. In the end, Jeff took me to the Philadelphia airport with two other women and everyone who was waiting in that church parking lot got to the airport in time for the flight.

We had not planned on that, however, and called the neighbors to check up on the kids at home. I thought it would be dark before Jeff could get home again but he said it wasn't. Philadelphia was civilization! Yes, we saw long lines at gas stations along the NJ Turnpike and I suggested Jeff fill up again before heading home from PA. But just the sight of open stores and normalcy was jaw-dropping. How bad things were hadn't really sunk in until I had something to compare to. But I was already getting a sense of how stark things were and were going to become in the next few days. I suggested Jeff take the kids to the Catskills but he was determined to stay home. He was curious about when power would come back and concerned about possible looting. He brought home Dunkin' Donuts after dropping me at the airport, the neighbor who watched the kids later brought over a hot pizza and Jeff took them to the Americana Diner on Friday just before the power was restored.

It wasn't as hard to leave as you might think. I knew that Jeff had options and he'd make the right decisions. He wasn't as able to keep in touch with me initially so that meant that I didn't worry about how things were going. I was excited about my trip and pretty concerned at how getting there would go, not really knowing anyone and having a connecting flight in Germany.
1 In the end, Peddie pool remained closed until Monday, Nov. 5th. and the Freehold Y opened up Saturday, Nov. 3rd.