Celebrating Mass at Celebration

One of the pleasures of traveling around the country is getting to experience Mass at different parishes. This week my wife and I found ourselves in Orlando, and decided to visit Corpus Christi Church in the nearby town of Celebration.

It’s a pretty church, relatively new, seating around 500 people. It has an adoration chapel just behind the sanctuary, with a pretty and colorful stained glass window of the Annunciation.

They have four weekend Masses, one full-time priest and two deacons.  The parish offers weekday Mass every morning at 9, with the daily rosary following. Adoration takes place every Thursday from 10 am to 12 midnight (!). Confession is offered every Saturday from 3:30 to 4.

The bulletin reported that last week’s collection took in $13,912.

We attended the 5:30 pm Mass Sunday evening, which was billed in the bulletin as a “contemporary music” Mass—a lot of amplified praise music that was unfamiliar to me. (The only song I recognized was the recessional, “America the Beautiful”).  The ushers at the beginning of Mass helpfully handed out four-page flyers with all the readings and lyrics.

Shortly after we arrived, the large group of musicians and singers gathered around the altar for prayer.

Some other impressions:

  • The church was packed — nearly full — with a diverse demographic of young people, families, grandparents, you name it. There was a greeter at every door, wearing a lanyard with a name tag and offering a warm hello to every one who passed by.
  • The music was sensationally good (if over-amplified). The verse before the gospel was sung to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” As I mentioned: I didn’t recognize the music, but the bulletin said a CD was available for sale by the “choir corner” of the church.
  • The homily (from a priest whose name I didn’t catch) was good, but long: a rambling and rollicking reflection on growing up in an Italian neighborhood where Sundays were marked by family, food and faith. This tied in with the gospel’s theme of Christ offering rest to those who are burdened, and it touched (again and again and again) on the idea of Sundays being a day of rest. And eating. And rest. And eating. The priest needed an editor.  (The Mass clocked in at about 1:15).

  • The creed was sung, in the form of musical questions from the leader of song, who asked in various ways, “Do you believe…?” And the congregation sang in response, “We believe,” and at that point everybody raised their hands. I’d never experienced something quite like that before. It felt like a revival meeting.
  • There were seven or eight EMHCs who helped out, offering communion under both species.
  • Something I’d never seen before: the celebrant and congregation remained seated as the priest spoke aloud the Prayer after Communion.
  • Three altar servers: two in red cassocks and surplices, one wearing just an alb.
  • No deacon for that Mass.

All in all, Mass at Corpus Christi was a reminder of the tremendous variety and vitality in the universal church; there’s something for everyone. I was struck by the enthusiasm and warmth of the community. These seem to be genuinely happy Catholics. God bless ’em. I’d love to come back again sometime.

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