Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal in Eastern Oregon

Hoping for the best, but expecting the mediocre, I went to Sunday morning Mass in La Grande, Oregon, at Our Lady of the Valley.

Our Lady of the Valley
The drawing card was the fact that our new Bishop Liam Cary was scheduled to say Mass there and administer the sacrament of Confirmation. There were also a number of children receiving First Holy Communion, though I wasn’t aware of that when I planned to make the 90-minute round trip to La Grande.

I wanted to see Bishop Cary “in action”, and I wanted to see what the parish would do in terms of liturgy suited to a bishop.

I’ve been to Mass at Our Lady of the Valley plenty of times; we attended there on a weekly basis for almost a year. I knew what the choir was capable of, and I knew what they usually do. My hopes were, sadly, not very high.

But I was pleasantly surprised! The music, sung by the main choir joined by some of the musicians from the outlying mission, included a Gregorian chant ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). There were a couple of traditional hymns which sounded nice, although if that darn piano could be transformed into an organ, it would’ve been much better! There were a couple of standard OCP ditties…but Rome was not built in a day.

Our Lady of the Valley does not have a deacon, but there is an ordained permanent deacon at one of the missions, and he served at the Mass today. OLV’s instituted acolyte – a very capable and reverent server – was on hand as well, joined by one of the diocese’s seminarians who lives in La Grande. I believe there were a couple of altar boys serving as miter and crosier bearers, but there were also a couple of very cute little altar girls bouncing around (almost literally) the sanctuary. If only we could limit the servers to boys! Having all servers vested in cassock and surplice would add a nice touch, too. Someday...

Bishop Cary had a wonderful episcopal presence! His homily was geared somewhat to the young confirmands and first communicants, but it was certainly not juvenile. He talked about some "wonderful-sounding words" - like "transubstantiation" and "epiclesis"! He was gracious and pastoral throughout.

And Bishop Cary can sing the Mass! How amazing, in Eastern Oregon, to have a correctly and beautifully chanted Preface followed by a fitting Sanctus! There were no tambourines, and the trumpet was silent, as the chanting voices of the choir floated down from the choir loft. 

The First Communicants were all given First Holy Communion on the tongue (and by intinction as well). The Confirmands were given the choice as to how to receive, and I only noticed one young person receiving on the tongue.

“Cute” did make its appearance as the First Communicants were gathered in front of the altar after Communion to sing “Oh, How I Love Jesus”. Yes, it was cute – very, very cute. And then the whole congregation was cleverly led into joining them for the last rousing chorus, and after that everyone applauded loudly. So the trump card was played, but at least it wasn’t at the beginning of Communion. There was more applause as the pastor thanked everyone involved.

Still, if we could go back and edit out everything after the last person received Holy Communion up to the Bishop giving the final blessing, it would have been a pretty good liturgy. And those cute children singing the cute song? Why not have them sing it at the reception in the parish hall?

Even with the “cute” card being played, and way too much applause, I still give this Mass a “thumbs up”, considering that it was way above the standard for the Masses I’ve experienced in Eastern Oregon. I hope the Cathedral can at least come up to the liturgical level of this Mass when the new bishop makes his first visit there at the end of this month.

After Mass, Bishop Cary stood on the steps of the church and greeted every single person who presented himself to be greeted. He did that with patience and attention, without seeming hurried or tired or overwhelmed. He exuded grace, confidence, gentleness, and interest in each person.

Here are some photos:

The church was packed.

Ugh. Where is it written that we must have "banners"?!?!

A number of children and adults asked the bishop to bless an item.

I am not immune to "cute". The little girls were adorable!

Well, of course, I had to have my photo taken
with the new bishop! 


  1. OF COURSE you had to have your photo taken with your bishop...I would have expected nothing less! And, yes, I would have done the same! Awesome're such an excellent writer. Keep up the great work!

  2. Liz - ha! Yes, and if we'd been there together, it would have been a photo of all of us! Thanks for your vote of confidence!


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