Yesterday was probably the last Sunday we would have been free to go to Mass somewhere ... our weekly parish apostolates will start soon, and I think the expectation is that we assist at Mass at the place we're assigned.
So, I went with some friends (Adam, Bree, holla!) to the noon liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, just up the street from us. Wow. We got there at 11:59; the place was packed. However, we entered through the side door, in the transept, and, since there was a bunch of good Catholics present, the front pews were kinda empty :-) The choir is great and the music was just beautiful, especially the three pieces by Orlando di Lassus forthe Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei), with an offertory chant from the Proper thrown in. Acolytes in cassocks and surplices, robed choir members, deacons in dalmatics. Incense galore. Smells and bells baby! And the preaching was excellent!
Of course, this is the Shrine's "showcase" liturgy, so the feel is that of being at a "touristy" thing ... and the place is humongous, so it can't really feel intimate ... but the liturgy was reverent and beautiful. During the Liturgy of the Word I was struck again, how in the midst of such dazzling splendor, the Gospel strikes a counter-cultural chord, with that reading from the Epistle of St. James.
In the pew in front of us was a family of nine: Mom, dad and seven kids, all amazingly well behaved through Mass. More power to you and may your tribe increase! [This reminded me of a couple of articles from this week's issue of the Aussie online journal Mercator: Child-free and losing it, What populaton explosion? takes a different view on the rising birthrates in Africa. Links also to articles in the IHT: Empty playgrounds in an ageing Italy and the WSJ: Missing children.]
Here's some pictures of the Shrine I took on a visit to DC in March 2005.
That's the Papal Tiara, last worn by Pope Paul VI, who sold it and donated the proceeds to the poor.