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2801: St Margaret of Scotland, Oceanside, California, USA
St Margaret of Scotland, Oceanside, CA (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: California Dearmer.
The church: St Margaret of Scotland, Oceanside, California, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of San Diego.
The building: Completed in 2007 in the Byzantine style. The interior is very plain, with large clear glass windows in the transept plus a lantern in the dome supplying ample light. White is the predominant color. The free-standing altar rests on one end of a platform, at the other end of which is a series of arches sheltering the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Pews in both the nave and transept face the altar. There are shrines to St Mary and St Margaret of Scotland.
The church: They sponsor a chapter of the Legion of Mary. There are three masses each Sunday plus the Saturday evening vigil mass, and one weekday mass. There are two masses on the first Friday of each month, plus evening prayer and benediction.
The neighborhood: The church is on Oceanside Boulevard about six miles inland from the Pacific coast, well removed from downtown. Its immediate neighbors are several corporate parks.
The cast: The Revd Cávana Wallace, pastor.
The date & time: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Thursday, January 1, 2015, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Mass.

How full was the building?
It’s a large church and it was completely full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No.

Was your pew comfortable?
Unpadded wooden pew – quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People entered quietly. The organist played a prelude, Salve Sancta Parens to the tune of Gabriel’s Message – more commonly known as “Most highly flavored gravy” by choir wags.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“Good morning, and happy new year. Please turn to number 10 in the Introit Hymns book” – which turned out to be the aforementioned “Most highly flavored gravy.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hardbound Vatican II Hymnal and the paperback Introit Hymns for the Church Year. Enclosed in a binder along with Introit Hymns was The Parish Companion Prayer Book. I had never seen any of these before. The Vatican II Hymnal is especially interesting inasmuch it contains Gregorian Chant settings both in Gregorian and modern notation, as well as a wealth of traditional hymns, the extraordinary form of the mass (in Latin), and propers for the Sundays and feasts of the church for years A, B and C.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, a nicely voiced electronic instrument well played. Music was led by a cantor.

Did anything distract you?
Southern California has been experiencing a cold snap, and the church was very cold inside!

St Margaret of Scotland, Oceanside, CA (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
One of the most dignified liturgical celebrations I’ve witnessed in a very long time! The procession consisted of thurifer, crucifer, two torches, lector, master of ceremonies and celebrant. We chanted the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei in Latin (but the Sanctus in English!), and the priest chanted all the collects plus the sursum corda and preface. Incense was plentiful, and bells were rung. The eucharistic prayer was the Roman Canon.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The pastor spoke well, referring to notes only occasionally, and delivered a well prepared message.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Today’s readings tell us that “In the fullness of time God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). It happened at just the right time. If only we had lived then! But “the fullness of time” is not only then, but now. Jesus is called Emanuel – “God with us”. We are invited to come and worship him. But we cannot keep Christ for ourselves; we must always invite others to come to him. If we are Christians, we must confess that Mary brings us closer to Christ. We must take Mary into our homes, as the Beloved Disciple did at the foot of the cross. God entrusted himself to be born of Mary; we can trust her to help us become more and more like him whom she knew intimately. The Holy Spirit will work this trust within us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The crucifer, thurifer, acolytes, servers and master of ceremonies were vested in cassocks of just the right length, and surplices again of just the right length and properly cared for – and their haberdashery was correct, black. They moved with solemn dignity and were certain of their roles – whoever trained them deserves a gold medal.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Oh, Lordy, it was cold in there! And the church, beautiful as it is, is acoustically very live. It was difficult to understand everything that was spoken due to the echo. An acoustical engineer needs to be brought in to see what can be done.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The mass ended with the priest reciting the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary at her shrine. After that, everyone pretty much left. I spoke with the cantor and the pastor about the high attention to detail given to the liturgy. None of the parishioners spoke to me, however.

St Margaret of Scotland, Oceanside, CA (Litany)

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – This church is proof that Catholics can do liturgy right if they want to. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops should require representatives from every parish in the United States to attend mass here at least once – and to learn!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How well done the liturgy was.
 
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