WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. – As the altar servers advanced up the main aisle of Assumption Church to begin the 5:30 Mass on Saturday evening, September 2, their flickering candles provided a valid purpose: to give some light to the darkened church here.
A blackout had hit certain areas of this city about two hours previously, including the section where the friars’ church is located.
Undaunted, Brian Cullinane, pastor, walked to the sanctuary, bowed and came around to venerate the altar. Two large candelabra, used for the parish’s weekly holy hour, had been positioned there to provide an adequate area of light.
Brian greeted his flock: “Welcome to our annual romantic celebration of the liturgy for Labor Day weekend.”
Parish music director Angela Rotella-Suarez had accompanied a capella the ministry’s entrance with the appropriate hymn “Christ Be Our Light.” With all power out, the church’s newly installed electrical sound system was unavailable for use.
Small flashlights provided additional lighting for Brian to deliver the opening prayer and for lector Loretta DeVoursney to proclaim the readings. Some in the congregation of about 250, who had braved inclement weather and darkened streets, may have noted the apt text from the Letter of St. James: “Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
Brian prefaced his homily by wryly observing that perhaps the unlit house of worship was the result of “my not having paid the electric bill.”
After the Creed, with no intimation of when power would return, Loretta came to the pulpit to announce the intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful. As she has done in the past during her ministry, she instructed the congregation: “Our response will be ‘Lord, hear our prayer.’ ”
No sooner said than done. As if the Almighty had responded to her cue, the lights in the church blazed brightly. Not missing a beat, she continued on with the various intentions.
Afterwards, Brian recalled that a similar blackout had occurred at the 5:30 Mass for the feast of the Assumption during his first summer at the parish in 2002.
After Mass, Brian wondered aloud to an usher, “Why do the lights only go out when I am the celebrant?”