It would be hard to describe my experience of Mass this evening without giving the impression that I was exaggerating. I had gone to St Peter's, the downtown Franciscan church with around-the-clock services (confessions 11 hours daily; seven Masses; adoration from 1:45 to 4:45, ending in Benediction; spiritual directors available at all hours, you get the picture: a huge service to the downtown Catholic community). Actually, I left for Mass extra early because my day had been so intense that I hadn't even made my Hour of Adoration yet, so I was counting on making at least half of my Holy Hour beforehand. That went well enough (you'd have to ask Jesus!); then it started at Benediction when the acolyte intoned the first few words of the Tantum Ergo.
I joined in, as did a strong male voice from the other side. And then at every phrase, the pause for a breath got longer, and the next verse slowed down just a bit more. The rest of us in the Church (not too many, by the sound of it) were helpless to maintain either the beat or the pitch. By the time the hymn for reposition was started, I (and those few others in the pews) just gave up and accepted the fact that it would be a very slow rendition of "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name."
That's when a woman came into the pew behind me. From her voice, she seemed to be elderly. Let me tell you, she loved that hymn. Sitting directly behind me, she intoned the repeated part of the chorus (which we had already sung twice). And then she sang the entire hymn over again, in a kind of stage whisper. And then again, at a little lower pitch, and then again, until what I heard was a kind of whispered groan, "Holy God, we praise Thy Name... everlasting is Thy reign." I did my best to take the hint and try to pray with those words; if it was good enough for the book of Revelation, it's good enough for me, right?
This continued through the homily.
Then at a certain point, the little lady decided to change pews, and bolted across to the other side of the Church.
Then another woman came up the side aisle, folding up her walker and fitting it into a pew toward the front of the Church right during the consecration.
As I walked up that same side aisle for Communion, I couldn't help but admit it: It's like a Misfits Club here. I fit right in.