Mass this past Sunday was a rather interesting experience. And in a good way.
The church is old and un-renovated – even the altar rail remains. The long-time pastor of the church before his death several years ago was a man not to be trifled with and indeed ran his parish his way. I imagine if he wanted the rail to stay…it would.
What fascinated me was that the youngish priest who offered Mass struck an important balance. No improvisation, focused demeanor, clearly spoken. Not my show.
But during the homily..he was terrifically personable. He proclaimed the gospel (Jesus calming the storm, as you recall) with just the right amount of storytelling panache (too much and it’s fake, right? Too bland and it seems as if you don’t care.) and then preached a good homily about the apostles’ response to Jesus and then somehow worked it into joining our suffering with those of Jesus. I am not quite sure how that transition worked, but it was fine. No funny stories to start us off – he just jumped right into a discussion of storms and the Jewish understanding of God’s power over storms, which then highlights what the apostle’s instinctive request that Jesus do something reveals about what they experienced in his presence.
The delivery was pretty much ideal – relaxed, but not idiotically chummy, authoritative but not stiff, with an application to life that made sense, was helpful, but on a different level than vague advice no different from your bedside self-help book. I was impressed, and glad to have been there to hear it.
The most striking thing about the liturgy was this: During the prayers from the chair, the priest faced in the same direction as the people, at a slight angle, facing the crucifix. During the greeting and such, he faced us, and the Eucharistic prayer was ad populum. But I’m telling you – even his slight, 45 degree turn so that he was facing in the same direction we were set a tone, and rather effortlessly, too.
And all done in a pretty awesome Southern accent.
Cardinal Ruini and Bishop Fisichella came over from Rome to consecrate the new Archbishop of Oristano, Italy. The interesting thing is that the Mass of Episcopal Consecration was celebrated ad orientem. The decision has been taken there to remove the free-standing table that had been in place for a couple of decades and to return the Mass to the cathedral’s high altar.