Talk about a tale of two services! Where the Mass at Parish X was rushed, impenetrable, and in a dark little building, the Mass today at St. Leo the Great's was, well...great, being reverent in tempo, easily accessible, and in a bright, beautiful building.
I'll start out with the not-so-great things to get them out of the way. The microphones could have used a little work: in a brick and stone building, the acoustics can be distorted a bit if people don't speak very clearly. The sermon had a lot of good points, but they seemed to get repeated several times and so the sermon went about twice as long as necessary. The stained-glass windows were of a weird kind where there seemed to be more leading than actual glass. The choir music didn't always perfectly match the words in the hymnal. Okay, done.
As I mentioned before, the building itself was beautiful and bright (as opposed to Anglican churches, which tend to be beautiful and dark, or too many Roman Catholic churches, which tend to be dark and dreary). There was an actual choir loft...although no choir. I'm pretty sure the semi-folkish music was piped in, but the cantor (cantress?) was a girl perhaps slightly younger than me with a beautiful voice. There were poinsettias and lit Christmas trees in the front, but they did a good job of helping to set the mood rather than being distracting. Overall, it was very tastefully and reverently done, in a way I don't think I've seen done before in a Roman Catholic service.
However, my favorite part occurred while everyone was kneeling as Communion was being distributed. A very young girl (maybe four years old) turned around and looked at the girl about my age who was kneeling silently a few feet away from me (the two didn't know each other). The little girl put her finger to her mouth and noiselessly indicated that she knew people had to be quiet. The young woman near me mimicked the gesture encouragingly and the first girl turned around, satisfied. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing; I settled for smiling really broadly.