As a frequent traveller, I always look forward to attending Mass at new parishes. However, there are times that instead of feeling like a welcome pilgrim I feel like a an appalled stranger. This is usually the result of visiting parishes that are theologically and/or liturgically liberal. My attendance at Mass tonight falls in that latter category and, unfortunately, I feel extends to the former.When I drove up to the parish, the Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I took note of the architecture that was reminiscent to me of a 1970’s-style progressive layout. Once I entered the sanctuary, this was confirmed. Through the large double-doors that separated the vestibule with the pews, I could see a fountain of bubbling water next to a medium-sized stature of Our Lady. My first thought was one of mild bewilderment. This turned to utter shock when I walked past the fountain in search of a holy water font and could not find one. Not until I noticed what must have been a regular parishioner dip his hand into the bubbling fountain did I realize that this was the holy water font. Strike one. Next I looked towards the altar and noted that there was no crucifix, but rather some kind of wreath above the altar and the priest’s chair centered behind it with no other furniture nearby except the podium that was far off to the left (my left). Behind that I found the crucifix. Almost strike two. Once I decided upon a pew I felt a bit surprised. As I genuflected towards the altar and the tabernacle, I could not find the tabernacle. Because Mass was about 15 minutes from starting the main altar remained unlit. Couple that with my lack of glasses and I presumed that the tabernacle was hidden in the shadow except there was no candle indicating the presence of Our Blessed Lord. Hmmm, I thought to myself and an uneasy feeling came over me. This turned into a feeling of loss similar to that a child may feel when he “misplaces” his parents. I could not find My Lord and My God behind the altar. There was no visible tabernacle, no candles except the usual white altar candles. What happened to Advent? Where was my Lord? Strike two for sure.’ Next, I looked for a missalette. It was non-existent. Instead, I discovered what appeared initially to be a hymnal, which was curiously located under the seats of the pew. All very odd. I perused the hardcover hymnal looking for some evidence of the Scripture readings for Mass and could not find any. At this point my sense of loss began to grow and I entertained the idea of running out of the church and past the celebrant who was in his vestments walking around and greeting every one in an oddly cheery manner. Then I remembered that I was doing this in honor of Our Mother and Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. I braced myself for what I perceived may result in a liturgical FAIL. I was not disappointed…err, I was disappointed. The choir sung beautifully as the celebrant proceeded to the altar. And then he opened his mouth. His words were not in keeping with what I am accustomed to. This was not what I recall to be in the order of the Mass. I learned long ago to give the celebrant the benefit of the doubt and in light of the fact that I could not find the usual missalette, I felt it best to thing well of him. However, his actions did not respond accordingly. Overall, the order of the Mass stuck to the black and he did most of the red except in a couple of important places. For example, his greeting of the parishioners at the start of Mass seemed more appropriate for the end of Mass. Then he changed the ending words in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Rather than say, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper,” the celebrant said, “Welcome are those who are invited to this banquet.” I was like, “what?” I do not recall ever being witness to such a drastic change to the Liturgy. But this is not the worst. That actually came prior to these changed words. The worst was the celebrants lax handling of the consecrated Host – the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord! In his poor handling, the priest dropped a large piece of the Host on the floor but instead of consuming it, he placed it on the altar and I do not recall that he ever consumed the Host or even placed it with the other Hosts for communion so that a properly disposed parishioner would consume. At the end of Communion, I realized that that line of thought was pointless because apparently there were enough consecrated Hosts to feed three times the number of parishioners that attended and I would estimate that about a third or more of the church’s capacity was met. At this point I was in utter shock and felt inclined to cry for what I felt was the irresponsible and sacrilegious handling and consecration of the Host. Strike three! It did not end there. The entire parish seems to think it is proper to hold hands during the “Our Father,” the EMHCs were mostly dressed like they were doing yard work, the priest was totally improvising and people were walking around during the “Sign of Peace.” Furthermore, there were smirks, handshakes and even self-communion from the Chalice by these same EMHCs. I asked God to forgive the transgressions of this priest and the parishioners as well as myself if I was wrong in my thoughts especially that of worry for this parish once the new translation of the Roman Missal is implemented. That said, I did thank the Lord for this new translation as I look forward to it every day.