Lengthentide

Friday 24 March 2017 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Eve of Annunciation Day

Here we are, dear readers, already on the cusp of the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Time flies when you’re having fun. 

The old Anglo-Saxon name for Lent, “lengthentide,” referenced the lengthening hours of daylight. In other words, Lent means spring. In this neck of the woods, this involves Daylight Saving Time. When we “spring forward,” our biological clocks go haywire. Even my dog Lurch was discombobulated — and he doesn’t even know what day it is, or what hour of the day for that matter. He knows only when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to sleep. Nothing else matters to him. Lurch reminds me of Thomas Merton. When asked by a visitor to Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky the secret to being a monk, Father Merton responded, “When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re tired, sleep. You’ll then be a good monk.” 

The debate continues over Daylight Savings. Eric Fisher, the weather forecaster on Channel 4, Boston, has long led a campaign to do away with it. I’m with him. Governor Charlie Baker introduced a bill to switch Massachusetts to Atlantic Time. Resolving such legislative action, it seems, takes a long time. 

Contrary to popular belief, Lent doesn’t just happen. Lent requires advance preparation. The first matter needing to be addressed (as soon after Christmas as possible) is this: are there going to be any additional Spiritual activities for the season?

Following the tradition of most parishes worldwide, our schedule here includes Stations of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent. These days, parish deacons are well-qualified for the task. Of course, any parishioner can lead the Stations.

One Lent we had an evening of faith sharing prepared and presented by our own parishioners. It went very well. This year, the decision was made to hold a Spiritual formation series on four Wednesdays of Lent. The topic is the Cenacle of Divine Mercy. Following each presentation, a meatless Lenten lunch of soup and sandwich was planned. This Lenten program will hopefully lead to an enthusiastic observance of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23. As is our custom here in Falmouth, the town-wide Knights of Columbus Council leads the devotions on Divine Mercy Sunday. 

One very unique aspect of our parish Lent this year is the Liturgical music. Father Ray Cambra is a composer and director. He composed (specifically for us) the Entrance Antiphons prescribed for each of the Sundays of Lent and accompanying Gospel Acclamation, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen as well. All are scored for organ or piano, flute and hand bells since these are the instruments to which we have access. 

In fact, the antiphons are set to the precise length of time it takes an Entrance Procession to get from the north lobby of our church to the Sanctuary steps (that’s 125 feet). Talk about custom-made Liturgical music. 

On the Second Sunday of Lent, the entrance procession somehow ended up in reverse order and had to be reorganized. As a result of the confusion, I was only halfway down the center aisle when the musicians ran out of antiphon. I decided not to sprint up the aisle. It might have appeared undignified to some in the assembly. Barbara Leighton, the parish music director, simply improvised until I eventually reached the Sanctuary. With apologies to the Scottish poet Robert Burns, it reminded me of that old adage, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I prefer another saying: “The Lord provides.” In the end, I don’t think anyone noticed my tardiness. 

Of course, Lenten Spiritual exercises are always in addition to the year-round parish schedule. Falmouth Catholics have the choice of attending daily Mass at 7, 8, or 9 a.m. We have the 7 a.m. Mass Mondays through Fridays. The priest has to rise well before dawn to pray over the Holy Scripture and to prepare the homily for the day, but it’s worth it — especially during Lent when the homily can provide a meaningful Lenten message to ponder. Since ours is the earliest daily Mass in town, it fills a definite need in Falmouth.

On Saturdays, our parish daily Mass at 8 a.m. instead. It’s the only daily Mass in the area. This is due to the paucity of priests and to the popularity of Saturdays for both weddings and funerals. We intend to provide an 8 a.m. Saturday Mass as long as we are able. 

I experimented with a daily evening Mass during Lent one year. There are no evening Masses anywhere in Falmouth so I thought it might be convenient to some. 

I was wrong. Although I myself enjoyed celebrating Mass quietly at the end of the day, the Lenten evening daily Mass attracted little interest. It was an experiment I didn’t repeat. 

No, dear readers, Lent does not just happen. It takes planning. Speaking of planning, I’d better get the parish Holy Week and Easter plans finalized. I’m running behind schedule. As with Lent, neither does Easter happen automatically, although it’s supposed to look that way.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.


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