February 3, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Parish: Our Lady of Lourdes
5333 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46219
Number of families: 594
Church capacity: 700
This is a beautiful church, no better way to describe it. I’m no architect, but it looks to be neo-Gothic. It has tall, peaked entrances, several of which have Latin inscriptions (Dormus Dei).
The interior is just magnificent. This is a church who was saved from the ravages of Vatican II and the stripping of the altars. The ceiling is original to the church, and thank heavens they didn’t try to hide the exposed beams and deep brown rafters. It is definitely Germanic, with tall windows, rich polished wood panels, and one of the most beautiful pulpits I’ve ever seen, with a bronze eagle for a bookstand. It is ornate without being garish. The crucifix is larger-than-life, with a somewhat stylized Christ looking down almost sternly, as if to say to those who look at him, "You are the ones who put me here".
The church was built in 1941 (according to the cornerstone), and does show it’s age. It is in the middle of the Irvington neighborhood, and like most buildings, looks run down even when it is not. The interior also shows signs of age, but not in a run-down sort of way. It is more that this used to be a much more heavily used church, and had to be at it’s best at all times. Now, it is at rest, content to serve those who wish to attend, good rather than grand.
And in the middle of this, looking like a garage sale remnant, is the altar. Whereas the rest of the church is oiled, lustrous oak, this free-standing altar looks like it was made of some cheap veneer over particle board. The altar cloth looked like a polyester tablecloth that some high school home-ec class decided to embroider. It is an ugly blemish in the midst of this classic elegance
My ranking: 3.5 out of 5. I wish I could rank this higher, but that altar just destroys the harmony of this place.
There were four main instruments used during the Mass: pipe organ, grand piano, hand bells, Yamaha electric keyboard. One of these things does not belong. Any idea which? Seriously, the bells were delightful, and as they were the first sounds I heard as I entered the church, they sounded like the voices of angels. The keyboard, on the other hand, was an unwelcome intrusion, a screeching that shattered the reverent tranquility of this place.
There was no choir, just a single female cantor. Her voice was strong and in tune, definitely talented, but her singing style reminded me of Bette Midler, with just as much saccharine sweetness. The congregation has the usual mix of good and bad voices. The man behind me, however, was terrible; if you’ve ever heard Robin Williams impersonating Elmer Fudd singing Bruce Springsteen, you’ll know what I mean.
The musical selection was almost good. By that, I mean that the hymns they chose were somewhat modern (within the last 50 years), but they were still fairly traditional, and the lyrics either referenced or were taken straight from Scripture. The sung responses, though, were a different story. I’ll describe them more below, but they took whatever positive points I was going to give the music and flushed them down the drain.
My ranking: 2 of 5.
If the man sitting behind me sounded like Elmer Fudd, than this priest looked like him, with a little Peter Boyle thrown in. That’s not a very nice thing to say, but it’s true. Late 50s, somewhat on the rotund side, bald on top with gray fringe around his head. In his voice and mannerisms, he sounded like a Southern revivalist preacher, proclaiming the word of “JEEEEE-sus” and the Holy “SPEEEEER-it.” And he was rather flamboyant.
Let me rephrase that. He was… I don’t know or care if he was straight, gay, celibate, or otherwise, but he minced and pranced about like the most stereotypical nancy-boy. He moved about like a cabaret performer, making grand gestures, throwing his head back and shaking it like he had a shoulder-length wig, and the way he flounced in his vestments, you didn’t have to use much imagination to see him in a sequined costume working in a lounge act in Vegas.
That being said, and going solely on the merits of the Mass, he was a good priest. Adhered to the rubrics, wasn’t a game-show host during the homily, and probably gave a decent homily. As I’ve said earlier, unless they’re a real knock-your-socks-off sermon, I rarely remember the homily, and in this case, I was trying very hard not to picture him sitting in the top right corner of Match Game. This was a case where the man truly was getting in the way of the message.
My ranking: 2.5 of 5.
Again, on the face of it, this was a good and reverent Mass. Everything was right where it should be, the parishioners were a good cross-section of young and old, and there was nothing overtly wrong with the Mass. So why did it feel so unsatisfying?
Oh, yeah, now I know…THE INCREDIBLY BAD MUSIC!
I stated earlier that the sung responses were really bad. The Gloria was actually passable, but it wasn’t in any sort of melody I had ever heard before. There was a song sheet in the pew, so I was able to muddle through. The responsorial psalm between the readings was also OK, again because it came from the hymnal. However, once we got to the Sanctus, things changed. The cantor and the electric keyboardist were doing their own thing, and it wasn’t like any version of the Sanctus I had ever heard. It was overlong, had multiple verses, and the only way I knew they were done was that the keyboardist stopped playing. The Acclimation (usually "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again") was also radically different from any of the usual variations, and even the Amen was changed. The Agnus Dei was completely off the map, and I didn’t even try to follow along. I just let the cantor do her thing, and knelt when everyone else did.
I really dislike the cantor, and by extension, the musical director, for taking what should be a beautiful expression of the love of God and turning it into a disjointed, discordant cacophony.
My ranking: 2 of 5. Before the Canon, it was scoring around 3.5 or 4. The train wreck that followed earned 1 point, for sheer talent and nothing else.
Two altar servers, both boys, both wearing sneakers.
The weekly announcements were made before the service started, which I think is a much better place for them than during the homily or before the final blessing.
The Eucharistic ministers did wear crosses, but they were simple metal crucifixes, not with gold lettering like last week.
Today was also the feast of St Blaise, so we all got our throats blessed.
My overall ranking: 3 of 5.
Would I return: unfortunately, no, and that decision pains me somewhat.
This really is a lovely church. I walked in with great expectations. Sadly, these expectations were dashed by two major distractions: a prissy priest, and responsorial music which was way off-base. If one or the other was changed, I would be more than happy to give this church another go, if for no other reason than to envelop myself in the sheen of the dark woods.