Corpus Christi, Phoenix, AZ (Exterior)

Corpus Christi, Phoenix, Arizona, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Corpus Christi
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 10 June 2012, 12:30pm

The building

A modern concrete structure somewhat reminiscent of Hadrian's Tomb in Rome. A large sculpture of Christ holding a ciborium and host adorns one of the outer walls. A tower houses the Blessed Sacrament chapel, where the Sacrament is exposed for perpetual adoration in a large monstrance attached to the wall. A courtyard of sculpture gardens connects the chapel, church, parish hall, office, etc. One of the sculptures depicts the Holy Family sitting on a bench looking as if they were enjoying an afternoon in the park. The interior of the church is spacious and bright, with a versus populum altar on a raised platform. To the right are the organ console and choir seating; to the left the baptistery. Shrines to various saints dot the side walls and rear. Stained glass depicts various artifacts and milestones of the Church, e.g. the catacombs, Vatican II, etc.

The church

They appear to be a very active parish. Among their ministries are support groups for families, young girls, disadvantaged children, the sick and homebound, etc., as well as the usual Knights of Columbus, Divine Mercy prayer group, St Vincent de Paul Society, and the Third Order of St Francis. These and others are all described on their website. The bulletin mentioned an upcoming trip to Disneyland and a fashion show "for people of faith." Masses are celebrated without music, with traditional music, and with contemporary music, and a Latin mass is celebrated each Sunday as well.

The neighborhood

This is South Phoenix, once barren desert but now a residential area with shopping centers and the accompanying traffic congestion. The church is located just to the east of South Mountain Park, a wilderness preserve that offers spectacular views of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The cast

The Revd Albert Francis Hoorman, pastor. Crucifer, acolytes, lector, cantor/pianist and organist were not identified.

What was the name of the service?

Mass in Latin.

How full was the building?

The church can easily seat 1000. It was about half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?


Was your pew comfortable?

Yes - cushioned pews.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

People entered quietly. The organist improvised softly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Today we are celebrating the parish feast, the feast of Corpus Christi." The mass itself began with the Sign of the Cross in Latin.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Gather hymnal and a paperback The Mass of Vatican II, containing the ordinary of the mass in Latin along with the service music in Gregorian chant notation.

What musical instruments were played?

Electronic organ and grand piano. The pianist doubled as cantor.

Did anything distract you?

The priest had an odd way of pronouncing his Latin, as will be seen. The lady who read the lessons was very short and very round. She was not a dwarf, but I could not help thinking of Miss Mowcher from Dickens' David Copperfield.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

This was not an Extraordinary Form Latin mass, but rather a Novus Ordo mass in Latin. Only the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Lord's Prayer were chanted (to Gregorian settings, although the Kyrie used a different tune from that given in the service booklet). All the other prayers were spoken. The gospel, alleluia verse and prayers of the people were said in English. The hymns, alas, were all overamplified "singing nun" stuff from the Gather hymnal, and almost no one in the congregation joined in the singing.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

5 – The pastor spoke softly most of the time but would suddenly shout certain phrases every so often. And I really didn't quite know what to make of his metaphor of cannibals eating missionaries.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The words "take and eat" were the most important words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. Cannibals often ate missionaries because they believed that eating someone's flesh was to take in that person's spiritual being. We take in Jesus' spirit when we receive the eucharist. "We are what we eat," as the saying goes, and so we should live so as to think like Christ and act like Christ. Receiving the eucharist is the most important event in the life of a Christian.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I enjoyed sitting in the courtyard for a few minutes before the service. The various pieces of sculpture, splashing fountains, etc. put me in a very peaceful mood.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Father Hoorman had an odd way of speaking Latin. His pronunciation was half classical, half church, and he stressed certain phrases while glossing over others without apparent regard for the meaning. In the eucharistic prayer (the Roman canon) he failed to mention the Pope's name or that of the bishop where "N" appeared in the text - I wondered if he knew that he was supposed to. But strangest of all, at times he sounded like a sideshow barker, raising and lowering his tone, and speeding up and slowing down, e.g. per omnia sae- (pause) -cu- (pause) -la sae- (pause) -cu- (pause) -lorum. Sort of like "Step right up, folks, get your blessing now ... and ... for- ... -ev- ... -er!"

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Everyone left. Father disappeared. People stood around visiting in groups, but I was in no mood to strike up a conversation.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

0 – It is something of a distance from where I live, but I saw nothing that would draw me here even if I did live closer.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

No. It was the feast of title for the parish, but no special ceremony was put on - no procession, no benediction, no after-service festivities, nothing other than a very perfunctory mention of the name of the feast day. The Latin mass was uninspiring and, in fact, a major disappointment.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Per omnia saecula saeculorum pronounced sideshow-barker style.

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