This past week we took the whole Nod clan up north to Massachusetts for my sister's wedding and a family vacation. In the middle of Cape Cod is the town of Osterville where there stands a modest little Catholic church, Our Lady of the Assumption.
I must confess to having some assumptions of my own prior to going up there. We actually live in the Arlington Diocese which is fairly conservative. My neighbor is from Massachusetts and she regularly regales me with tales of its liberality. Combine this with reports of strange liturgical abuses from the Northeast, and I have to admit to being nervous about going up there for Mass.
"Form and matter. Form and matter.", I kept muttering to myself. All we need is a priest with correct intention to say, "This is my body" over a simple wheat host and we have a properly confected Eucharist. Everything else is of lesser account, although I pray fervently not to be subjected to liturgical dancing or Wonder bread.
I don't insist on Latin only, or the extraordinary form; I don't demand organ only music, or exclusively male altar servers. I won't refuse Eucharist from an extraordinary minister who is not a priest, and I won't pitch a fit in public if people hold hands during the Our Father. I certainly have my preferences, but other than following the rubrics of Mass, most of these things are not my responsibility -- those are on the various priests and bishops.
So I was pleasantly proved wrong at Our Lady of the Assumption. (Hey, I can admit I was wrong.) The church itself has a semi-classical architecture, although I couldn't tell you what specifically. (Ask Denis McNamara, he might know.)
There is a large crucifix in the center over the altar, and a tabernacle prominently displayed. It has cute little confessionals on each side of the church with a draw curtain for privacy. One side is face to face, the other is a traditional little wooden kneeler - so little, in fact, that I slipped off it when I knelt down and made a big noise. The priest chuckled at me a little. "Maybe you should have chosen the chair."
It is simply and tastefully decorated and populated mostly by a bunch of gray-hairs. They have holy hours for vocations, a "Deus Caritas Est" Study Group to study the Pope's encyclical, and have even had a Eucharistic procession.
My only complaint is fairly minor. Some priests, like this one, have a penchant for giving an overview before the Gospel and readings are read. Rubrics aside, I find it slightly annoying and a bit tell-them-what-you're-going-to-tell-them, tell-them, tell-them-what-you-told-them Army style. To be fair, I've seen this in my own Diocese once or twice.
The most important thing is that Jesus was there. Simply, wholly, eternally. The priest absolved sins compassionately, Mass was celebrated reverently, and a wedding was performed validly. What more could you ask?