The noon Mass I attended today at my parish was about as far from an ordinary and routine Mass as any I have ever heard in my life. The priest who celebrated Mass juggled during the homily as a physical demonstration of a metaphor which I now remember only dimly, a lesson about multiple priorities, I think, and he also used card magic to instruct us about how we, as disciples of Christ should relate to Jesus and His Blessed Mother. He did not use a full deck, but rather only a few cards and they were very large — I was able to see most of them clearly from where I was standing in the foyer — an Ace of Spades to represent the believer (because we are all called to Apostles), the King of Hearts representing the Lord Jesus, and a Queen (I could not see the suit) signifying Mary. He appeared to turn all the cards into the King of Hearts. First the Queen was transformed because she reflects the glory of Her Son, and then the Ace, because, as we turn to the Blessed Mother and call upon the mercy of Jesus, we are transformed by grace into Filii in Filio (Sons in the Son).
Normally such deviations from traditional liturgy set my teeth on edge, but today, with so many people there who never show up any other day except perhaps Christmas, I smiled and even quietly applauded. It warmed my heart. Certainly there was nothing to object to in the doctrinal content of his sermon. The theology, Christology, and Mariology he gave were perfectly orthodox.
Just before the Liturgy of the Eucharist began an elderly man had a heart attack right there in the pew. An usher hurried to the portable defibrillation machine hanging on the wall of the foyer where I stood. A woman nearby volunteered to help, declaring that she was certified in CPR. I, too, am certified in CPR, so, after hesitating for a few seconds as I processed this situation, I walked up the aisle to the pew where the gentleman lay with his shirt open and the adhesive electrodes on his chest, ready to relieve the woman if she began to get tired from doing chest compressions. You can get tired very quickly and women are generally apt to get tired sooner than men since doing the compressions properly is a feat of upper body strength that comes easier to men than to women.
Before the paramedics arrived the man was carried to the foyer where I had been and he sat on a chair which were being used until a moment before to keep issues of the Pittsburgh Catholic for parishioners to take on the way out of church. Another man and myself went outside to visibly indicate to the ambulance where to go. Several ambulances and a police car arrived a moment later, but the man got up on his own and refused to be taken on a stretcher. He walked with minimal and superfluous assistance to an ambulance, and, as soon as the incident began, it was over, and the liturgy continued. As I left, I reflected on the obvious Easter implications: at one moment I saw a man lying horizontal, apparently near death, and then, a very short time later, I saw the same man rise up on his own two feet and walk away from death, very much alive.