Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias
Church: Saints Faith, Hope, and Charity, Winnetka, Illinois, USA
Location: Winnetka, Illinois, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 5 April 2020, 8:12am
The building was designed by the prolific Cincinnati architect Edward Schulte, in the years just prior to the Second Vatican Council (it was dedicated in 1962), as a redesign of an existing building. He retained the Colonial Revival exterior, but wholly transformed the interior. There are no columns, giving everyone in the congregation an unobstructed view of the altar. The marble altar is large and free-standing; Schulte was already anticipating versus populum celebrations. Hanging above the altar is a large crucifix, with Mary and John on a lower level looking up at Jesus on the cross. Behind the altar is a golden choir screen with images of angels and saints.
Before the coronavirus hit, there were six weekend masses. There are the usual bereavement ministries, a soup kitchen they work with, and a variety of social groups for men, women, and seniors. There is a K-8 school. Judging from what I heard on this broadcast, the music program is of high quality.
Winnetka, roughly 15 miles north of downtown Chicago, is one of the wealthiest suburbs in the United States. There is an extensive park system, palatial homes, and architectural treasures in abundance. The film Home Alone was shot here.
There was a priest, plus two lectors, organist-pianist, and a choir of five or six.
What was the name of the service?Palm Sunday Mass.
How full was the building?
Well, mostly empty, although there were no camera shots of the nave.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, not possible under the circumstances.
Was your pew comfortable?
Our living room couch is quite cozy.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Not sure, as the video began only with the entry of the celebrant. The mass had been pre-recorded and uploaded to YouTube.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘Good morning, and welcome to our celebration.’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
They seemed to have folders specially prepared for this broadcast service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ (electronic?), and a baby grand piano.
Did anything distract you?
All of the reminders of the coronavirus: the peace was shared verbally, the choir and lectors did not receive communion, and everyone was spread out in the sanctuary area to minimize the chances of spreading the virus.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Pretty straightforward. There was a full menu of music, quite nicely done. The small choir sang the verses of the responsorial psalm to a beautiful setting (in parts), and there was an exquisite descant to the final refrain of ‘All Glory, Laud, and Honor.’ Stainer's ‘God So Loved the World’ was nicely done at communion. Palms were placed in front of the altar, blessed, and sprinkled with holy water, but they were not carried in procession.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 — The priest’s homily was perfectly suited to the occasion.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A lot of the people on the choir screen behind us were ‘missing in action’: Peter denied Jesus three times; Judas betrayed him with a kiss; and James and John fell asleep. But the Church went on because, when the leaders were not to be found, others stepped up: Mary, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea. The priest said that he has found it so gratifying in recent weeks to see how many people have stepped up in this crisis. ‘I am grateful for the Simons, Josephs, and Marys,’ he said.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The celebrant's homily, and the beautiful singing of the small choir.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I almost hate to mention this, so much of this service was so beautifully done, but the opening antiphon Hosanna filio David, sung in English to the Gregorian Chant setting (modified to fit the English text), couldn't have been chanted more slowly.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Materfamilias came over and said, ‘They've got too many people there.’
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was a short walk from our living room to the kitchen, where I prepared a belated brunch.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 — I really want to see this church in person. I love Schulte's designs. And it seems like their music is very well done.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
In these trying times, it certainly did. I'm grateful for Saints Faith, Hope, and Charity and their carefully-prepared, reverent Palm Sunday mass.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The beautiful interior of this church, or at least what I could see of it.