Sunday, 9 June 2013

Two very busy weeks. (Part 1)

I have been extremely busy these past few weeks, and have developed a considerable backlog of posts.  So herein I will try to consolidate them all into three, mind-numbingly tedious-to-read posts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 30 May
The feast of Corpus Christi!  One of my favourite feasts of the year.  A feast to which I look forward, for the beautiful Solemn High Mass we have at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, sometimes followed by a procession.  But alas!  This year, the Mass was cancelled.  My morning Mass being in the Ordinary Form (which does not commemorate it), I was suddenly faced with the prospect of missing the feast entirely.  Yet, there was still one option:

Every Thursday evening at 19:00, St. Bernadette's Catholic Church has a Young Adults group which meets for a Holy Hour with confessions and a spiritual reflection (when a cleric is available to come).  I am a founding member of this group, and have been their altar server for the entire time, giving me some influence over the running of the group.  Additionally, the leader of this group is very traditionally minded, so we work together well.  So, a phone call was made:

"Heeey.  Tonight for our Holy Hour, since we have a priest, if I make the handouts and provide an ombrellino and coordinate everything, can we have a Eucharistic Procession pretty please?"  Amazingly, it worked!  Having a large turnout and three servers, we were able to pull off a procession with bells, a candle, incense and an ombrellino.

I also got free reign to arrange the candles on the altar.  You can say I had fun.

Also, today is the day when my article was run in the newspaper.

Friday, 31 May
This evening's adventure brought me out to St. Charles, Missouri to the Chapel of the Eternal Father, a private chapel erected at a mansion with the permission of the Archdiocese.  For the feast of the Queenship of Our Lady, the chaplain of St. Mary of Victories Chapel was invited to say an evening Missa Privata, and being his altar server, I was invited to come along. (Read: invited myself along.)  The Mass was scheduled for 19:30, but Father was invited to join them for dinner beforehand (which meant I got to, as well).

One thing which was very special about this Mass was that in our company was an actual relic of the veil of Our Lady, which was obtained directly from the Vatican over a century and a half ago.  In his sermon about the Queenship of Mary, Father pointed out how this veil, in a way, was the crown which Our Lady wore whilst on Earth.  Quite amazing, when you think about it!

After Mass we were all individually blessed with the relic and given a chance to venerate it.  (Just as a side note for those who wish to venerate relics, or to receive the Precious Blood at Mass: please remove your bright red lipstick before doing so.  Thank you.  Sincerely, the sacristans of the world.)

But, I am getting ahead of myself.  So, vestments, antique altar cards and a raincoat in tow ("there's a chance of thunderstorms tonight"), I hit a traffic jam en route to meet Father, delaying our departure.  In spite of this and a second traffic jam, however, we still somehow arrived exactly on time.

Upon our arrival we were given a tour of the chapel, and I thoroughly inspected it for rubrical compliance, making adjustments as necessary.  The biggest issue to be seen were two large pillows left out for the servers to kneel on.  Being faithful to the rubrics I insisted on their removal, but had to mentally cringe whilst doing so because the altar steps were uneven, and made out of  brick.

Leaving for a delicious, meat-free dinner (Friday, remember), we returned to find the chapel full of people, including a former seminarian of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, who had received tonsure.  Being a cleric, I let him be first acolyte, and after briefly discussing a few rubrical points, we begin Mass.  It is only a few moments though until I realise the large differences in serving styles between the FSSP and ICRSS.  At first I assumed he was simply mistaken, but soon realised this and, as an obedient second acolyte, deferred to his customs.  Whilst slightly disconcerting . . . some of them I found a hard time objecting to.  "Oh, we're going to stand for the Credo instead of kneeling on the hard, uneven, brick step?  Well, I suppose, if you insist . . . "

During the sermon, I held a brief whisper-conversation to verify the FSSP customs, and then stood attentively listening.  Soon however, the atmosphere changed, when outside of the chapel tornado sirens started sounding.  My interior meteorologist was inclined to say, "Cool!" but immediately instead my mind started churning through rubrics.  "Okay, if the power goes out, we will need a candle for light.  It cannot look too similar to a bugia, however.  Oh, there's a candle over in the corner there, we could grab that along with the (unlit) sanctuary lamp for the (empty) tabernacle.  Hm.  What if the tornado hits though De Defectibus X.II covers that . . ." and so on.  Working this all out in my head, I whispered to the other server my plan, who after a brief moment of, "Huh, what?" understood and nodded in agreement.  At points during Mass you could see the rain horizontally streaking across the windows, but thankfully otherwise our Mass was not disrupted. (Though at least one person decided to take shelter huddling in the hallway outside of the chapel, as we on the altar continued as if nothing were happening.)

Unfortunately, this was not the case elsewhereBeing a meteorologist I excused myself after Mass to check the weather, and saw that a large tornado did in fact form and came within roughly a mile of the chapel, leaving devastation in its wake.  ("Chance of thunderstorms")  More concerning to me though was that it came within only a few blocks of a friend's house, but thankfully all was well for her.

Afterwards when all had left, Father was invited to stay for dessert, and we chatted for a while before departing back to St. Louis.  As we drove, a second, massive storm descended upon us, making for a very unpleasant and noisy drive, but also presenting me with one final obstacle.  Remember the antique altar cards I brought?  The fragile, ornate, century-old altar cards?  Well, they needed to somehow make it into my car through the intense rain.  Pulling up right alongside my car, wrapping them, and using an umbrella we were able to make the transfer safety, though the two of us were soaked in the process.

All together, it made for a very interesting experience, both as an altar server and a meteorologist.

You can find part two by clicking this elegant and finely-crafted link.

Datum S. Ludovici, die VII mensis Iulii, in festo Ss. Cyrilli et Methodii Pont. et Conf., anno MMXIII.

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