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3040: St Anthony of Padua Oratory, West Orange, New Jersey, USA
St Anthony of Padua, West Orange, NJ (exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Tibi Omnes.
The church: St Anthony of Padua Oratory, West Orange, New Jersey, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Archdiocese of Newark. They are administered by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
The building: A tidy modern A-frame structure, more traditionally appointed within: an elegant high altar (ad orientem, of course), an assortment of devotional statues, and quite a bit of stained glass.
The church: There are three masses each Sunday, including a high mass, and one morning mass each weekday except Tuesdays, when there is an evening mass. Novenas to St Anthony, St Joseph, the Infant of Prague, and the Miraculous Medal are held at various times, along with Holy Hours of Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The neighborhood: West Orange, along with East Orange, South Orange and simply Orange, comprise what are known as "the Oranges" – a cluster of townships formerly a part of Newark township and named in honor of William of Orange. Once among the wealthiest communities in New Jersey, each has developed a character of its own over the years, ranging from poor working class to decidedly upper class. West Orange fits into the latter category. The Oratory is surrounded by woodland and the grounds feature beautifully landscaped gardens and a large parking lot.
The cast: The Revd Canon Jean-Marie Moreau, rector.
The date & time: External Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 29, 2016, 11.00am. [Editor's note: this report was filed July 3, 2016.]

What was the name of the service?
High Mass.

How full was the building?
About half full – a good diversity of worshippers: young, old, black, white, Hispanic – dress ranging from jeans and sneakers to jackets and ties. The ladies all wore skirts and had their hair covered. There were a lot of full families present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Neither a greeting nor (as will be seen) farewell.

Was your pew comfortable?
Quite comfortable, with well padded kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A reverent well-behaved crowd, even though this was a feast day.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Although stripped-down Latin mass pamphlets were provided, most people had their own m
issals: the St Andrew Daily Missal or the 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal from Angelus Press.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and choir up in its loft, most chanting Gregorian chant.

Did anything distract you?
The wailing babies were a bit trying.

St Anthony of Padua, West Orange, NJ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was (except for the sermon) entirely in Latin. This was a traditional Latin crowd, so they meant business! It should be noted that at the start of mass, the processional cross and a banner of the Virgin were walked 'round in a very impressive progress. The service music was Gregorian chant sung from the choir loft, mostly in key. There was plenty of incense, and you had to be sure your missal was tucked away when they came asperging. I may have received a particularly stiff sprinkling since I'd probably trailed a few devils in with me. The priest's vestments were Gothic, brocaded, stiff and dignified, and were held up by the altar boys at all the crucial moves. The communion was not the free-for-all one sees at more liberal eucharists: everyone who approached the altar seemed in an evident state of grace, shriven to a fare-thee-well and fasting from midnight.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
30 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Canon Moreau spoke with a French accent that could be a little hard to make out at times, but one could sort out the puzzling parts from context. His references were scholarly but not pedantic. His genuine devotion was evident.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He said that the celebration of Corpus Christi had been transferred from Thursday to this, the following Sunday, so as to allow greater attendance. His sermon focused on the procession with the Host outside the building after mass, and how important it was to make this public display of the faith.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The procession with the cross and the banner, and afterward the march outside the church with the Host in its monstrance under a canopy with attendant bagpiper. Beautiful! The Latin was well pronounced, and sounded eternal as ever.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Some of the printed literature available described, for example, the sin of Sodom as a "crime crying to heaven for vengeance," which is the sort of thing that makes the pew a tad less comfortable.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Since I am 58, with short grey hair, and wore a bow-tie and a jacket, I was mistaken for "management." Several people asked me where the bathroom was.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None. The old Latin dismissal, Ite missa est, and scatter. The exit sign was topped by a crucifix, and I recalled that exit in Latin means "he's leaving." And so I did.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – This was an entirely proper Latin liturgical experience: moving, dignified, and quite satisfactory. It was wonderful to hear a really old-fashioned mass, and feel the tenderness that went through the whole room when the priest rose at the end to sing Salve Regina facing the candle-flanked statue of Mary. But I understand that in the course of its history, the Oratory has flirted shamelessly with the sedevacante movement, with all the attendant vitriol that sedevacantists fling at the novus ordo Church, and that the Diocese of Newark had to work miracles so as not to surrender this church to schism while at the same time not alienate the parishioners. Thus it became an Extraordinary Rite church. My lack of interest in making the Oratory my regular stems from this. I would not be over-eager to get better acquainted with people who I suspect would have little sympathy for my own point of view.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not always, but it made me feel very good about my Latin.

St Anthony of Padua, West Orange, NJ (Exit)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The crucifix over the exit sign.

 
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