Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Echoes of Our Lady of Vilnius in St. Mary of the Lakes, Otis, MA

I spent this weekend close to nature in the woods of Otis, Massachusetts.

On Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM we attended the Mass of Anticipation at Saint Mary of the Lakes in the Archdiocese of Springfield. St. Mary's, a mission church of a larger parish in Lee, MA, looked like it had at one time been a hall for the imposing Congregational church nearby. At 3:55 PM the sleepy little lot next to the building and the deserted Post Office lot across the street became a hive of activity.

The faithful filed into the lobby and those who wanted to receive placed an unconsecrated host into the chalice. The church was sparsely ornamented and sparkling white inside. Three ceiling fans whirred above the center aisle, mounted in a low, flat ceiling of new white accoustic tiles. The small rectangular windows of the hall were all open half way. In lieu of stained glass they were ornamented with a press-on plastic stained glass motif. Four women in summer dresses stood along side of the electronic organ at the right front. The tabernacle was built into the wall and was reminiscent of the night depository of a bank. The priest was assisted by two white robed women of a certain age, an altar server and eucharistic minister and another who served as lector. A statue of Our Lady stood in the left corner, near a door marked "Confessional Room." The altar was a nice wooden trestle table covered with a white cloth. The lectern was draped with a hand appliqued banner depicting a chalice and host, much like the one at St. Stanislaus Kostka.

The space was filled with as many pews as it could hold and every pew was at least half-filled. The prayers were said with conviction and in an impressive unison. Most of the congregation joined in the singing of the hymns and the greetings at the Sign of Peace were genuinely warm, with sincere smiles and firm handclasps.

Most of the congregation filed up to receive Communion and the sight was very moving to me: the diversity in age, style and mobility humbly inching forward to receive the Lord.

Everyone remained in place until the last note of the recessional faded, then they left quickly for the cacaphony of conversations in the parking lot.

A simple service in a simple space where everyone presents the gift of themselves. This is what Our Lady of Vilnius was, and what it could be again.

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