From the Pastor: Laetare Sunday!
This past Thursday was the midpoint of Lent. You are now more than halfway done with your Lenten penances and it is time to rejoice! At one time Thursday was the big day of celebration but, as most people couldn’t make it to church in the middle of the week, Laetare Sunday began to take on the role of that midpoint mini-celebration. The violet liturgical vestments of Lent are allowed (not mandated) to be replaced with rose-colored vestments (they are supposed to be a somewhat light shade of burgundy or red, not Pepto Bismol Pink!) if the church is so fortunate as to have them. The organ may be used once again in order to bring a bit of extra solemnity to the milestone and give the people a little hope that they can indeed make it through the rest of the penitential season. Even flowers, after having been noticeably absent from the church for the whole of Lent up until now return and, because they have been missing for the past 3 Sundays, even the few that are put out should bring more joy and cheer than an extravagant display of flowers would at any other time of the year. We are to “rejoice” (which is the meaning of “laetare,” the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass) in realizing that Our Lord is willing to forgive even us if we but repent of our sins and return to Him, while not forgetting that we still need to do penance to “make up” for our sins in some small way instead of taking His forgiveness for granted as if it was owed to us.
This is also the traditional day for the Pope to bless the Golden Rose. This was a special rose, made of pure gold slightly tinted with red or, later, decorated with rubies and other red gems. It was crafted by specially skilled artisans and given as one of the most cherished symbols of Catholicism that can be obtained on this earth. The Pope may have given it to a special parish, to a Catholic King, Queen, or other royal personages, to a distinguished military general (in the days when a Catholic military was seen as a good—even necessary—force for moral good in the world), to a city or government that was outstanding in promoting or defending the Catholic Faith, or to any other true Catholic that he wanted to honor in a special and unique way. Because the rose has both beauty in the flower and thorns in the stem, it is seen as a wonderful natural symbol of the middle of Lent.
According to the online Catholic Encyclopedia, the golden rose was originally about 6 inches tall and carried easily by the Pope in his left hand, leaving his right hand free to bestow blessings upon the people as he rode his Popemobile (horse) through the crowds. But the size and weight of the rose varied tremendously over the years and sometimes twenty pounds of gold was used to produce what I can only imagine to be a spectacularly beautiful bouquet of golden roses.
The last year the golden rose was bestowed was 1893, a gift from Pope Leo XIII to the Belgian Queen, Marie Henriette. I understand, though, that this year the Holy Father is bringing back this almost forgotten tradition. I was let in on the secret because, according to the rumors, at least, he will bestow it upon Epiphany of Our Lord parish as a token of his gratitude for the heartfelt prayers and support the Catholic Church has received from its parishioners. The only reason I am able to write about this without spoiling the surprise is that the rose will have been already delivered by the time any of you read this. I sure hope that the Pope’s horse can swim well enough to bring him to America.
Getting out of fantasyland now and returning to reality, as I was perusing the old Catholic Encyclopedia for details needed to write this article, it struck me that in the “old days,” Sundays—even Laetare Sunday—were not exempt from the quite severe Lenten abstinence from all meat and “lacticinia” such as eggs, milk, and cheese, even though Sundays were exempt from fasting in the Latin Church. But the severity of the penance was soon mitigated, little by little. This 1917 edition says, after describing the relaxation of certain rules to allow earlier meals and more food to be taken (my emphasis), “Other mitigations of an even more substantial character have been introduced into lenten observance in the course of the last few centuries. To begin with, the custom has been tolerated of taking a cup of liquid (e.g., tea or coffee, or even chocolate) with a fragment of bread or toast in the early morning. But, what more particularly regards Lent, successive indults have been granted by the Holy See allowing meat at the principal meal, first on Sundays, and then on two, three, four, and five weekdays, throughout nearly the whole of Lent. Quite recently, Maundy Thursday, upon which meat was hitherto always forbidden, has come to share in the same indulgence. In the United States, the Holy See grants faculties whereby working men and their families may use flesh meat once a day throughout the year, except Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the vigil of Christmas. The only compensation imposed for all these mitigations is the prohibition during Lent against partaking of both fish and flesh at the same repast.” In the 100 years since that was written, we have mitigated the Lenten observances even more, so that there is now not even a prohibition against eating both meat and fish at nearly every meal! I wonder if there will be any obligatory penance at all in another twenty or fifty years...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Muskrat, Beaver, and Puffin for Lent
Some of you may read the following article and swear that you have read it before. You may be mostly correct. As promised a couple of weeks ago, I pulled this out of storage, dusted it off, adjusted the dates and a few other little things, and am presenting it to you once again. Of course, this comes from quite a few years back, and most of you would probably think it was all brand new if I wasn’t writing this opening paragraph, so I could have just passed it off as original, but I don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing my own writings!
Several years ago as Lent was about to begin I wrote about a strange custom found in Michigan wherein Catholics could eat muskrat without violating Church laws on abstinence. [Hopefully, you all know that Catholics are, by Church law (rather than Divine Law, which cannot be “tweaked” in the same way) required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. All other Fridays of the Year are considered penitential but we in the United States are allowed to choose a penance other than the traditional abstinence from meat outside of those days already mentioned. We don’t get off the hook, we simply get to choose our own penance. Really. Vatican II did not get rid of Friday penance!] This year another story has been making the rounds that beavers in Quebec long ago also received the honorary title of “fish” (like tomatoes being honorary vegetables though they are really fruit) so that they, too, can be eaten on Fridays in Lent.
Our Michiganders have yet to start up a Lenten muskrat Friday “fish” fry, much to the disappointment of every other Epiphany parishioner, I am sure, but perhaps one of our Canadian snowbirds would be willing to bring down a truckload of beaver for the same purpose. Stories vary about whether the whole beaver or only the tail was allowed to be classified as “fish” for abstinence purposes, so I suppose we would need an official clarification before we start cooking. I don’t know much about the laws regarding trapping and butchering either critter but if they are both in season right now it is possible that we could even get both of them brought down here to put on our menu. Imagine the envy of the other parishes when they discover that we offer a choice of either beaver or muskrat! The hardest part might be determining the side dishes. Both rodents are northern animals so it would seem strange to fix them with cheese grits and collard greens but what else would be a suitable substitute? For some strange reason, most of the vegetable dishes we find in local restaurants all seem foreign to our friends from the north. Just mention “stewed okra” and watch their noses scrunch up. Even something as normal as “fried green tomatoes” produces a look of bewilderment among the part-timers around here. Of course, it seems all the more strange that they don’t eat those great foods when they are the ones bringing the rodents to the table!
Not to be outdone by the crazy North Americans, though, people from other parts of the world have some unusual “fish” equivalents as well. Look at the Venezuelans. They are allowed to eat the largest rodent in the world, the capybara, for Lent. One website quotes a restaurant owner (who, presumably, has capybara on the menu though that is never made clear) as saying, “I know it’s a rat, but it tastes really good.” I wonder if people from Venezuela with such discerning palates would have the audacity to turn their noses up at grits the way our own Yankees do? Or how about some French cooking for Lent? France brings us stories about being allowed to eat puffins on Lenten Fridays. You know those charming little birds at SeaWorld which are found in the cold weather displays along with the penguins? Those are puffins. Like the rodents above, these birds are semi-aquatic and so probably taste like fish or duck rather than like chicken. Unlike articles about those “brave” souls willing to eat rodents, where reporters seem to revel in the “gross” factor of eating rat-like animals, the articles about those who eat puffins (yes, you can find them easily enough) show outrage that anyone would eat a cute little birdie. So it is probably best that, as far as I know, anyway, we don’t have any parishioners coming from northern France and we will keep the puffins off the Friday menu. Of course, now that I mentioned the controversial eating of puffins, I cannot go without mentioning that in some places whales, seals, and even (gulp) porpoises seem to have been allowed on some Friday Lenten dinner menus as well.
Because our social hall only seats about 120 people around the tables and we would have to exclude way too many of you who would be clamoring to chow down on such delectable dishes, this year we won’t be able to host any of these Lenten dinners. But should we happen to have among our parishioners some avid muskrat or beaver trappers, puffin pursuants, capybara chasers, or seal stalkers willing to bring in a nice supply for next year, we might, with proper planning, be able to pull it off. Our Council of Catholic Women could bring back their tent for outdoor seating, the Knights of Columbus could do the cooking, the American Heritage Girls could serve, and, well, what a yummy penance!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Soup and Stations Q&A
From the Pastor: Soup and Stations Q&A
I underestimated the number of people who have never been to our Lenten Friday Soup and Stations. A couple of questions have been brought forth which deserve to have the answers distributed more widely than just to the one asking the question. But there is something that I must address before I can get to the Q&A. A couple of weeks ago, either during the 10:30 Mass or during the social time afterward, one of our parishioners had his SUV’s catalytic converter stolen. These things cost up to several thousands of dollars to replace after they have been hacked off by thieves, who supposedly get a few hundred dollars for them when they take them to shady car repair shops. We have men who walk around looking for such dastardly evil-doers but this one slipped by. The car was parked in the parking spots back next to the rectory where there are no security cameras. We have stepped up the number of eyes on the lookout for guys just hanging out for no good reason. We are also installing security cameras back there and increasing the number and coverage of the cameras on the church and school buildings. What a shame that we have to spend hours and dollars just to keep people who obviously want a quick trip to hell from committing further mortal sins. And, yes, I believe that stealing from the Church, even from cars in the parish parking lot, is a mortal sin.
And now we get around to the topic at hand, the Lenten Friday Soup and Stations. Question number one: Since Bishop Parkes has dispensed us from St. Patrick’s Day abstinence, can we bring in meat on March 17? Answer: Just because a dispensation is offered doesn’t mean that you need to take it! I imagine that his reason for giving the dispensation is to keep the many, many Catholics who would wilfully, purposefully, eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day even though it falls on a Friday of Lent, from incurring the pain of mortal sin from doing so. But we have our simple meatless dinner, not at a St. Patrick’s Day party but united to the Stations of the Cross. It seems to me that it would be much better for the soul to keep this as a penitential dinner. You will commit no sin by eating meat that day, but, is it really that important after the Stations?
Another important question is, “Why do we have a 5:30 starting time? Couldn’t we start later for those who work or earlier for those who wish to avoid traffic and still have daylight in which to drive home?” Let me answer by telling you the history of our starting time. Our first Lent at Epiphany was in 2016. We started the Stations at 7:00 and got perhaps a dozen people to make the Way of the Cross. In 2017 we started at 7:00 but after the first two weeks, switched it to 6:00 and saw a slight improvement in the numbers attending, but an increase in complaints about traffic. In 2018 we started even earlier to avoid some of the worst traffic, and, with a 4:30 starting time, the numbers boomed. We even ran out of booklets. But we had been having monthly Friday Rosary and Family Game Nights and it seems that every family who normally attended those events also attended the Stations, plus the others who only attended the Stations. But the Family Rosary nights slowly lost their appeal and stopped and in 2019 the numbers at the Stations plummeted. We then had more people who asked if we could move the Stations to 5:30 so that they could come straight from work, and “Soup and Stations” was born in 2020 so that the family could meet dad here and share a simple family meal together after the prayers. For the 3 weeks before covid shut us down the church was packed and the hall was overflowing with crock pots and instant pots. Soups, salads, macaroni and cheese, and bread abounded. In 2021 we kept it at 5:30 and the people responded with the largest crowds ever. After the meal, I taught anyone who wanted to listen, how to use their Missal. The time stayed the same last year but I was in St. Augustine watching masked priests lead the Stations followed by take-out-only fish fries as covid hysteria still gripped the people up that way. This year we just kept the time the same as the last two years. Is it time to change it again? You tell me. As you can see, we have moved it from 7:00 to 6:00 to 4:30 to 5:30 all in a span of 8 years! The numbers at the first Soup and Stations this year (the second one will have occurred between me writing this and you reading it) were ok. Not great, not terrible. I forgot about teaching “How to Use Your Missal” until I went back through the calendar, but I am willing to do that again. Bring yours if you need help!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
How To “Do Lent”
From the Pastor: How To “Do Lent”
It seems that there are quite a few newcomers to Epiphany who are trying to figure out if there are any differences in how a “Traditional” Catholic parish celebrates Lent (or other parts of the Faith) and what they are used to. Now that we are officially in Lent, let me tell you a few things that we do here to help you truly live a penitential life during this season. But before I begin, let me note that there is no difference in Lent itself between how Novus Ordo Mass and Traditional Latin Mass parishioners are called to holiness. Although the two Masses have different liturgical calendars and many feasts are celebrated on different days, both calendars begin and end Lent and the Triduum on the same days. In other words, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter are all on both calendars on the same day even though the feast days in between may vary. Catholics following either calendar are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent. (Outside of Lent, all Fridays of the year are supposed to be meatless unless a Solemnity falls on that day, on which day abstinence becomes optional. Also, current regulations allow, outside of Lent and Good Friday, the Friday consumption of meat, provided that another suitable penance is substituted for abstinence that day. Many people, including priests, are oblivious to that teaching.) In the old days, Catholics were expected to fast every day of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for Sundays, being the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection, are days of feasting rather than of fasting, just as Fridays, the day He died, are days of penance, which is normally abstinence. But those rules, even for those attending TLMs, are no longer binding. They can be followed voluntarily, just as the Eucharistic fast of three hours or from midnight may be followed, but they are no longer mandatory.
Such is also the case of what to “give up” for Lent. Whereas older rules may have required giving up all meat products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.) the new rules are silent in that regard. So now we are all in the unfortunate position of individually figuring out what food products to abstain from eating and/or whether to fast outside of Friday abstinence and the two mandated days of fasting. So now you may find people, even living in the same house, who vary in their penitential practices. Some only eat one meal a day. Some give up all snacks. Some give up some item(s) of food but only for six days and eat it/them on Sundays. I have never found any documentation showing this to be a tradition anywhere at any time, but it currently seems to be the law of the land. Others, following traditional ways, give up the food item for the entirety of Lent and keep Sundays as days of feasting on other foods, not on the food or drink they willingly abstained from the rest of the week. Since not everyone gives up sweets for Lent, it is not, I hope you will agree, scandalous to continue to offer donuts after Sunday Masses any more than it is scandalous to offer coffee and tea and milk even though some good number of parishioners may have given up those items. If there was a clear rule stating something like, “Thou shalt not eat donuts during Lent” it would make things a lot easier, though, for the most part. Of course, even then somebody would certainly ask, “Is an apple fritter considered a donut? It doesn’t have a hole. And how about donut holes? They are the same ingredients but...!” (It almost goes without saying that giving up non-edible things, like the internet, TV, or games is also meritorious.)
Where things are clear, we stick to it. For instance, we ask people to bring in meatless soups, bread, or pasta to share after the Friday 5:30 pm Stations of the Cross. The social hall is packed with Instant Pots and Crock Pots filled with anything but meat. The ingredients can include vegetables, potatoes, beans, pasta, fish, seafood of all sorts, reptiles, amphibians, muskrats, capybara, puffins, whales, and other delicious ingredients, but nothing that is considered “meat” although milk, eggs, cheese and other meat products are acceptable. If you are not sure about some of those above-mentioned ingredients, I will probably include more information about them in future bulletins so be patient. Or you can ask any of the old-timers and they can tell you all about it. Daily private Stations are also encouraged during Lent (and can be said all year) in addition to your daily rosary.
We also encourage daily Mass during Lent, even if it is difficult to schedule into your day. In fact, that is how we started the 6:30 am Mass, as people who must get to work at 8:00 asked for it so that they could attend and still get to work on time. It became popular enough that we continued it long after Lent ended and now it is just a normal part of many people’s year-round routine. And, before you even begin to think, “But I live too far away...” please know that some people travel from as far as Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Dade City, Ruskin and Riverview to be here for at least some daily Masses! My short walk from the rectory is nothing in comparison to the offering made by those parishioners!
Finally, if you need help discerning where to give alms, consider supporting those from our parish who are studying for the priesthood or are in formation for the Religious Life!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The FBI And Other Scammers!
From the Pastor: The FBI And Other Scammers!
I would imagine that by now all of you know that the FBI seems to have it in for conservatives. A headline will often shout something like, “Biden’s FBI...” and then fill in the blank about which conservative group is being targeted this time. But I doubt very seriously that it is “Biden’s FBI” any more than it is any previous President’s FBI. From all accounts (even from some of those within the mainstream media) the FBI has usurped powers that go far beyond what any organization can morally or should legally hold. Though they are hunting conservatives at this moment, they could easily turn on the liberals in a flash. Power of the kind they wield does not necessarily bow down to even the President, whatever political bent he may be. Currently, among other targeted conservative groups (from which they will then “justifiably” target individuals) they see pro-lifers and parents speaking up against wokeism and Marxism at Parent/Teachers or School Board meetings as domestic terrorists. The people on their targeted lists then fall under the category of those who can be publicly slandered, spied upon, and even arrested without legitimate cause. Any group with both an enemies list and the power to “erase” people from that list is a danger to society. And now an internal instruction from the Virginia FBI has been leaked showing that they are targeting Catholics. Not just any old Catholic, mind you, but only those who are faithful to true Church teachings, and one specific way of finding them is to look for those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass. I quote from a letter written by 20 State Attorneys General to Merrick B. Garland, the current US Attorney General (minus footnotes and with my bold emphasis):
On Wednesday, the public learned of an internal memorandum produced by the FBI’s Richmond Field Office. The memorandum identifies “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” The memorandum deploys alarmingly detailed theological distinctions to distinguish between the Catholics whom the FBI deems acceptable, and those it does not. Among those beliefs which distinguish the bad Catholics from the good ones are a preference for “the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings,” and adherence to traditional Catholic teachings on sex and marriage (which the memorandum glibly describes as “anti-LGBTQ”). The memorandum even appears to accuse the Supreme Court and the Governor of Virginia of “[c]atalyzing” the bad Catholics through “legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections,” singling out the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Governor Youngkin’s support for sensible abortion regulations as examples.
After defining which Catholics are the dangerous ones, the memorandum proposes dealing with those Catholics through “the development of sources with access,” including in “places of worship.” In other words, the memorandum proposes recruiting Catholics to enter a sacred house of worship, talk to their fellow Catholics, and report those conversations back to the FBI so that the federal government can keep tabs on the bad Catholics. To allocate these “sources,” the document includes an appendix with a list of Catholic “hate groups” that was assembled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI.
Read it again. Do you love those embracing sodomy enough to work and pray for their conversion rather than their continued foray into mortal sin? You are a target. Do you work and pray for the conversion of all those involved in abortion? You are America’s enemy. And so on and so on. Plus, they want to find people to infiltrate TLM parishes and snitch on faithful Catholics! I have been able to spot the FBI infiltrators when they approach the Communion rail and say, “Amen.” If you don’t understand how that identifies them, you are one of them!
Now let’s turn our attention to other scum, by which I mean scammers out for money rather than power. This week one of our parishioners (name changed to protect the innocent) received a text message that said, “Mrs. McGullicuddy i need a favor from you please text me back as soon as possible Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka”. Her guardian angel must have interfered as she tried to text “me” back and she was unable to do so. After checking, she found my real phone number and verified that the text was, of course, not from me and not sent from my phone. Several days later she also received a fake email from “me” trying to get her to contact a scammer. This is the first time I have heard of someone receiving a fake text from “me” but I have warned you several times that they do this with some frequency via scam emails. All priests and bishops have been hit. The Mr. and Mrs. McGullicuddys out there are often so overjoyed that Father or Bishop thought so highly of them that he would ask them for help in an “emergency” that they don’t question “his” odd request. Usually, the scummers want you to send gift cards quickly for a baby dying of cancer, an elderly woman half-eaten by a python before being rescued by the Troops of St. George, or other tear-jerking episodes of horror. Please don’t fall for any of this. I don’t like to ask you for money from the pulpit, let alone via text or email.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
(Or is it really someone else? The Shadow Knows!)
Covid Tests Before Dinner? Really?
From the Pastor: Covid Tests Before Dinner? Really?
Nothing in this article directly deals with Epiphany parish, so if you are pressed for time, feel free to skip it this week. If you continue reading please note that the following items may make you a bit queasy. You have been warned!
A few weeks ago I read an article from “Health News from NPR.” Why I did it is beyond me. NPR is the radio station to turn to for classical music but when they have news and “news entertainment” shows, it is generally best to turn them off. They support abortion, same-sex marriage, transgendered everything, and just about every other leftist moral evil you can imagine. But this time I took their bait. The headline was “Is it time for a reality check on rapid COVID tests?” and I guess I just couldn’t help myself from reading. Were they really going to admit that the tests were not reliable? That they don’t pick up the newest strains even as well as they poorly picked up the older ones? I had to find out. Here are the first few lines. “As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, a negative result on a little plastic at-home test feels a bit less comforting than it once did. Still, you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home. It feels like the right thing to do, right?” To continue to call this fourth year of screaming “We’re all going to die!” and “You are going to kill grandma!” a “pandemic” is, in my mind, just one more bit of psychological torture aimed at those who are already hurt, maybe permanently, by the so-called experts who have been wrong about just about everything covid-related so far. Don’t believe me? Then look again at the actions expected of those to whom this article is addressed. “...you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home.” Who in their right mind does that? This article was written now, not at the beginning, when we panicked sheep listened to the voice of anyone claiming to be a government shepherd/expert on The Science™.
I realize that as a priest I live a very sheltered life, especially at Epiphany. I am surrounded by sinners who, with very few exceptions, are striving to be holy, an essential part of which necessarily involves searching for and living the Truth. The Catholic doctors I know, to a one, professed without hesitancy or doubt, that masks don’t work against viruses. Even the non-doctor Catholics I know were intelligent enough to see that, even if a mask taped to a non-moving mannequin worked to block some amount of viruses embedded in fake spittle, viruses would not be stopped under “normal” conditions such as: wearing the mask around your chin; or over a big, bushy beard; or in such a way that your glasses fog up; or lifting it to talk, yell, cough, or sneeze; or loose enough to breathe more comfortably, etc. Before covid, all of the tests on real, living, moving, breathing people, even surgeons trained never to touch their masks, showed that they don’t work. Recently trials examining covid transmission and real-life experience have again shown that they don’t work. China and other countries in the East, for instance, wear masks much more faithfully than we do, yet the ‘vid spread through those countries like wildfire. Yet the article is indicating that people, before going to a friend’s house to eat dinner, are still taking tests? Still wearing masks? Will only interact with people whom they know and love if they all take the test and get negative results? Really? I simply do not know anyone who acts irrationally like this. I have never, even in the midst of the infamous, faithless lockouts, had anyone say to me, “Father, I want you to come hear my confession and bring Holy Communion but only if you test negative first.” I don’t currently hear anyone say to me, “We just bought a new house. Could you come bless it? Oh, I need to see your negative test result, and you need to wear, not a cloth mask, not a surgical mask, but a KN95 mask. And the family won’t be back to church for the next 10 days after you leave, for we must isolate ourselves in case you sneakily infected us even with all of those precautions. Oh, and bring a valid vax card showing how many and what brand of shots you have taken.”
Back to the article, though, what was their recommendation to these psychologically abused, covid-fearing readers (sorry, “fearing” is a weak word for people still petrified about this to the extent that they won’t live a “normal” life) about taking covid tests? Even though they included real statements like this, “Similar technology has existed for influenza for years and the recommendation was not to use them,” they couldn’t get themselves (I use the plural because I am sure the writer was also speaking for the entire NPR upper echelons) to say, “Don’t use them!” Instead, they said, “A positive test is almost always true” so you should test once if it is positive and then again to determine when you are (maybe) safe instead of (deadly) sick. “But a negative ‘does not rule out’ a COVID-19 infection” so if you test negative you should anxiously test over and over and over...
At least they ended with a common sense statement that has been used long before covid was on anyone’s mind. I will paraphrase to edit out their “covid” and “test” language: If you are sick, stay home.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Bishop Schneider is Coming!
From the Pastor: Bishop Schneider is Coming!
As announced last Sunday, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is coming for a visit and will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass for us on Sunday, May 7, at 10:30 am. He is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan, and a very well-known and respected defender of the Catholic Faith as passed down through the generations and, in particular, the Traditional Latin Mass. Among other writings, his 2008 book Dominus Est—It is the Lord! on the importance of receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion reverently on the tongue while kneeling is a treasure! I am not sure what all of the differences are between a Solemn Pontifical Mass with a Cardinal (like we just had when Cardinal Burke graced us with his presence) and with a Bishop. But we have men working on getting me and some other priests prepared to serve at the Mass. The one thing that I have already been told is that there are no archdeacons at this Mass. That figures. I was one of the two archdeacons at the last one, and my main job was to put the Cardinal’s precious miter on his head and take it off and to put his gold miter (two different miters are used at the Mass) on his head and take it off. After having spent, for the last Pontifical Mass, weeks of practice and then assisting at the Mass, I was confident that I could do it again and maybe even do it without pulling the Bishop’s zucchetto off as many times as I did the Cardinal’s. The news that that role was not available to me for this next one was quite a letdown. Now I have to find another job that takes nearly no skill, for I don’t have a whole lot of it to begin with! My MCs and altar boys always keep me on track or cover for my mistakes so well that most people don’t notice just how incompetent I am!
In other news, our long-term maintenance man, Luc Huynh, has decided to take life a little easier now and he has cut down his work week to just two partial days. As you can either see or well-imagine, there is more to maintain here than he can possibly do in that short time. So he has agreed to take on an intern or apprentice and teach him the ropes. John Paul Bauer has now joined us and, boy, did he quickly discover that being on staff is a lot different than just attending Mass and other Epiphany functions as a member of the Faithful! On his first day, a pipe in one of the classrooms burst. Not from the cold, thanks be to God, but due to corrosion from having been repaired with multiple incompatible types of metal pipe and fittings many years ago. And, before you jump to the wrong conclusion, it wasn’t Luc who caused the problem in the first place! We recently had the same issue in the attic behind the social hall. Somebody had “fixed” the hot water heater plumbing by joining the copper pipes to galvanized pipe to some other third type of pipe with chrome and other various fittings and, after years of metal to metal chemical interaction, we had a fountain spring up and pour down through the ceiling of the dungeon between the sacristy and the altar boy room. (The “dungeon” is the dark, dusty room where our boiler and all of the electrical panels for the AC system are crammed.) So now we know that any other repairs made about the same time will soon be following suit. Fortunately, we had recently discovered that the water shutoff valve for the classrooms was not functional and was buried three feet in the ground, so we had the plumbers come out and replace it and lift it up to ground level. Otherwise, we would have had to shut off all water to the property for the two days it took to make this new repair.
We also had a small issue with one of the swinging doors leading from the church to the social hall. The wood at the top hinge corner cracked open, keeping the door from operating properly. One of our elderly gentlemen (not a child running full steam ahead, in other words) pushed open the door but instead of it swinging into the hall to allow access, it simply crashed to the floor. John Paul had to figure out how to make the repair and get the door back up. A bit of new wood, a bit of drilling, a bit of glue, and the door would be ready to hang as soon as the glue set. Except we couldn’t wait. We needed it in place for the Sunday Masses. So he put the door up, latched it so that it wouldn’t open, and put signs on both sides of the door stating, “Do Not Use” so that the repaired part would not have pressure put on it before it was hardened properly. Of course, he also found out almost immediately on Sunday morning that he might as well have written the signs in Latin, for somebody interpreted the English as meaning, “Please unlatch this door. You must use this door and this door only. No other door will be good enough for you. Don’t think anything of it, for the latch and sign don’t apply to you.” Of course, it doesn’t work properly as of the time I am writing this (hopefully, it will be fixed again by the time you are reading this, though) because of the damage done by using it too early. At least he now knows that he has job security!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Candlemas Day is Here Again!
From the Pastor: Candlemas Day is Here Again!
Near the beginning of every calendar year we have some very special blessings of very ordinary items which are then to be used in extraordinary—dare I say supernatural—ways. We have already had the December 27 blessing of wine for the Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist (yes, I know that that was last calendar year, but it is still fresh in my mind). That blessed wine is/was to be used to bring health to both body and soul. January 5th and 6th brought us the Feast of Epiphany blessings of water, chalk, houses, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those blessings, especially the Holy Water blessing, are truly significant for our parish of Epiphany because, well, they happen at Epiphany. This coming Thursday, before the 8:00 am Mass begins, we will have a special blessing of Candles on the Feast of the Circumcision, also called the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas. (I will return to this blessing shortly.) With this feast, the season of Christmas officially comes to a close. The next day, Friday, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blase (or Blaise) and we have yet another blessing of candles, plus a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit, and, of course, the blessing of throats. The blessings of this day are all meant for the relief of throat and other ailments.
On many of the feast days which have special blessings attached to them the rubrics call for the blessing to be done before Mass begins (if there is a Mass attached to the blessing). Yet I choose to do them after the Mass is finished. Yes, I am a liberal priest! Don’t tell anybody! I don’t do it for any obstinacy in despising rubrics. I don’t do it to “spice things up a bit” or because I think I can do it better than those who made the rules. I do it for a very practical purpose. Because we are not a parish where all of the parishioners live in the local neighborhood but rather drive some quite amazing distances to get here, I do it for the sake of those who get caught in traffic or who misjudge how much more time it takes to get here on a weekday than on a Sunday. Oh, how many times people used to miss out on the blessings when I blessed the objects before Mass began! So I “cheat” a little. But there are some days when I cannot do that. February 2 is a great example. The multiple prayers offered for the candle blessings come BEFORE MASS BEGINS. Why is that? Because on Candlemas Day there is a procession—with the blessed candles—to the church for the beginning of Mass. It would be silly to process with unblessed candles, so the blessing must take place before Mass. In case you didn’t see the ALL CAPS AND BOLD words above, let me repeat myself in a slightly different way. If you show up exactly on time you will miss the blessing. If you show up a minute or two early, you will miss the blessing. If you show up between 5 and 10 minutes early you may be cutting it close. You are going to have to account for bad traffic, yes, but also you need to account for the time it will take you to find the place where the procession will start and the blessing will take place (outside by the rectory chapel if the weather cooperates, or inside the church if it is a terrible morning). You will have to have enough time to carry your candles to the tables set up for this blessing and find a place in the crowd of bags and boxes to place your own. But before you get to that point you will have to wait in line for the rest of the drivers in the parking lot who are going exasperatingly slow ahead of you as they each search for the way to get closest to the blessing area because they each brought 50 pounds of candles and it will take them 5 trips back to the car and they can’t walk more than 30 steps except when they are shopping in Ikea. The blessing will begin at 8:00 am. If your candles are not in the area of the blessing by then, they will not get blessed. Half blessings don’t count and the blessing will not be repeated again later in the day to suit you. Also, please note that Mass itself will not start at 8:00 and will not be done by 8:45 due to the extra time it will take for the candle blessing and procession. So plan your day accordingly. Also, please be sure to clearly mark your candles, bags, and boxes with your name so that others don’t inadvertently walk off with the wrong candles. Take this seriously, because we have sometimes had very large numbers of similar-looking containers and candles. Just as it is hard to pick out your luggage out of hundreds of other bags at the airport without some sort of identifying tag or mark, so also is finding your own candles nearly impossible without some sort of identifying feature. Of course, you could always put an airtag in the box and track where it went if it is missing, but that is sure to be a lot more of a hassle!
The fortunate thing about Candlemas is that if you miss that blessing you can always come back just one day later for the candle blessing of St. Blaise. Although it is a different blessing, at least the candles will be blessed!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What’s the Plan?
From the Pastor: What’s the Plan?
It came in the mail this week. The form letter from the Diocese arrives every winter or early spring. “Do you wish to have a change of assignment?” it asks. “If so, why, and which parish would you like to be moved to?” It also asks if I would like to have an assistant priest (parochial vicar) or a deacon assigned to the parish if I am asking to stay. Then the more open-ended questions about how I am doing, do I need a sabbatical, am I cracking up, and such. To put an end to any wild speculation, let me tell you that I replied: I wish to stay at Epiphany. Why would I want to leave the best parish in the diocese/state/country? As for the parochial vicar request, of course I would like to have one! And send a deacon along with him! Sure, there will be a learning curve for each of them but if they are willing to accept the assignment, that is a sure sign that they are willing to delve more deeply into the lost traditions of our faith than they ever had to in seminary or other parishes. They will, I am sure, benefit from the TLM as much as I have, and will bring blessings to one and all.
As for the questions about my general health and happiness, I wrote that I am doing quite well. Although I didn’t add this on the reply form, I would like to take a sabbatical, I think. I see other priests doing it all the time. But I don’t want to go to Rome (a tremendous sabbatical place if there ever was one, with so much rich Catholic history and great professors to teach—assuming I find the right sabbatical program) but it is such a spiritually and politically dark place right now that I wouldn’t currently wish to spend any time there. I figure that a self-study sabbatical on one of those new privately owned condominium cruise ships might be a good place to be. I could cruise around the world for a year and hopefully convert a literal boatload of people by the time I was done. But that would mean taking a chance that they won’t implement the recently popular “less than worthless experimental dead baby shots” protocols along with mandatory suffocation devices during that trip. No, I won’t take that chance at this time. Heck, I could just go to Vatican City if I wanted that!
As for my health, since I wrote about trying to lose weight I have received three boxes of cookies and some very good chocolate, all with assurances that I am not too fat. Of course, I plan on eating them all even though I know that the people giving the gifts were lying! After all, that will keep their lies from being lies, right? I also see the hardships my dad is going through with his numerous bodily aches and pains and, as he so often reminds me, whatever happens to him now will happen to me in the future! So, relatively speaking (pun intended), I am in great health right now!
We now move on to a more serious, though related, issue. I have been inundated with links to articles and reports about a rumored upcoming Apostolic Exhortation that will greatly restrict the Traditional Latin Mass. I suppose it is good for you to know (or else I wouldn’t be writing this) that the rumors have been around for quite a while and are getting stronger now that Pope Benedict is “out of the way.” As far as I know, there is nobody who has first-hand knowledge about what exactly this rumored document contains who has spilled the beans, so all is second-, third-, and fourth-hand speculation at this point. “What are you going to do, Father?” is the recurring question. But I have no answer. I don’t know what the supposed document says, so I don’t know what is being asked of me. I don’t know what is being asked of the bishop. I don’t know what, if anything, is being demanded, rather than asked, either! “But don’t you have a plan?” No. At least not one that will satisfy the questioners. I plan to be a Catholic priest doing exactly what I am already doing in the parish where I am already doing it. I know, that seems like a boring plan, a plan to do nothing different, but why should I take on worries about something of which I know nothing with certitude? I have complete confidence that Jesus is still in charge of His Church. He is the one who made sure that, against all odds, I was ordained a priest. (And yes, thank you, Blessed Mother, for I know that you were interceding for me full time, and you, my guardian angel, were protecting me from both myself and a whole host of enemies my whole time in the seminary and beyond!) And it was He who made sure that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right and right) so that I “had to” start celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass just to be faithful to another document that called on pastors to give this unknown-to-me Mass to the people if they asked for it. And it is He who made sure that this parish is not only surviving but thriving and leading people in the way of holiness, even as other parishes seem to be dying of self-inflicted wounds. So it is my firm conviction that no matter what document comes out and no matter what the world thinks is going to happen, He is still in charge. So please join me in following St. Padre Pio’s famous advice: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Losing Time and Gaining Weight!
From the Pastor: Losing Time and Gaining Weight!
For whatever reason, this Christmas season was the busiest yet. And no, I am not speaking only of myself but also on behalf of all of the people who have been busy at the parish as well. It seems that from the beginning of October (when the preparations for Cardinal Burke’s Mass began in earnest) until today the calendar has not ceased to be filled, whether with pre-scheduled events and meetings or with phone calls and knocks on the door when there seemed to be a free moment. As such, I am still trying to catch up with texts and emails (two inventions of the devil, as if there ever was a need for proof that he exists, as people expect immediate responses even to messages in which they don’t ask for or need one), snail mail (a Godsend, for people sending letters and cards don’t wait by the mailbox breathlessly waiting for a return response!), and even Christmas gifts. I have two gifts wrapped and ready to go to family members but due to emergencies when we were getting together, I wasn’t able to see everyone. I also have cards, bags, and wrapped gifts from you that are still unopened. I occasionally try to make time for them but something always comes up that takes me away, and it isn’t Calgon. So I open a few cards here, unwrap a package there, and set the rest aside for the next time I have a few extra minutes. I know I will never have time to write “Thank You’ notes this year but please know that I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful notes and family photos and other things you have sent. This year I think that I have managed to open all of the gifts that people told me contained food, so, unlike what happened last year, I don’t think that I will have any odoriferous surprises waiting for me hidden under brightly colored tissue paper!
Last week the bulletin contained an article about my New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. That article was actually a recycled one from several years ago, as I simply ran out of time and didn’t have a new article written by the time the bulletin needed to be published. But it is still quite timely, since I am still in need of losing weight. I have been trying, sometimes with more willpower than other times, to lose weight for quite a while. I had an old bathroom scale that I weighed myself on daily a couple of years back. But then, after losing some weight and coming to the dreaded barrier beyond which my fat would not venture, I decided to put it away for a few days. The days become weeks, then months, and soon I “forgot” about it altogether. Then a few months ago I took it back out and started the weighing process all over again. This time I was quite surprised. I wasn’t nearly as heavy as I expected. I started in earnest refusing snacks and cookies and cakes and all the other goodies which are constantly trying to force their way into my mouth. My weight would vary up and down a pound or two daily but overall kept going down. I wondered, though, if the scale might be off a bit when it started acting up. It wouldn’t start at zero when I first turned it on, but would show “- .2 lbs.” I changed the batteries. No help. I tried to find a way to calibrate it. No adjustments available. But I figured that as long as it was off by the same amount every day, it really shouldn’t matter, for that little bit was almost nothing anyway. But then it started showing different numbers: minus .6, minus .8, plus 1.2, etc. I finally tried weighing myself several times in a row and it would show different weights with each try. Then, it started showing that I had either gained or lost four or more pounds every day. The day that I was up 10 pounds after being down 7 pounds the previous day is the day I ordered a new scale.
It took a few weeks to arrive, being delivered just after Christmas. Although it looked like it was in remarkable shape, with no visible signs of scratches or dents, I believe it must have been malfunctioning, as you shall see. The instruction manual simply said, “Don’t step on the scale until it has calibrated itself or the measure will be off” and, sure enough, it calibrated itself and then showed “0.0” on the display. But wouldn’t you know it, I was up twenty pounds—20 pounds!—from the “plus 10 pounds” weight showing on the old scale. I think that either it was broken or else I must have eaten a few too many farm fresh eggs (yeah, it’s those darn eggs making my belly look like I swallowed a pterodactyl egg whole!) over Christmas. I know it couldn’t have been the chocolates or mint or cookies that I started eating once the old scale was put out to pasture (writes the priest who just had to wipe Chocolate Mint Bark off his keyboard), for those are all very small and light and flat, so surely they are low in calories, too, and would help me get a flat belly. Yep, the extra weight has to be from the eggs. Or a broken scale. That’s most likely it. The new scale is just mocking me!
Assuming though, that I am really just too fat, I need to discover how to swap time and weight. Then I would be a thin priest with all the time in the world!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
January 01st, 2023
From the Pastor: Epiphany Eve Blessing of Holy Water and More!
Our parish feast day, January 6, falls on Friday of this week, which is also First Friday. We will celebrate Masses of Epiphany of Our Lord that morning at the regular Friday times of 6:30 and 8:00 followed by the special Epiphany Blessings of chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The chalk will be used to mark the door lintels of the church, rectory, and, of course, of your homes. Because we are not a parish where everyone lives within walking distance of the church, I will not be able to visit your houses to bless them. But we will once again give out a sheet of prayers asking God’s blessing upon your home and those who live there. Pray the prayers, mark the doors with the blessed Epiphany chalk (20 + C + M + B + 23), sprinkle the house and family with Epiphany Holy water, and you should be protected for another year! Bring in any extra chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh if you want to have them blessed. If you wish to leave blessed gold and frankincense at the church, I am sure we can put them to good use! Please note that I will not be blessing other items that morning, so don’t bring other articles. Following the blessing, we will have our normal First Friday Adoration, ending with 6:00 pm Vespers and Benediction.
But although that is the Epiphany Day schedule, there is still more to put on your calendar. (This is a good time for me to write that we will not be putting out an Epiphany parish calendar this year. Yeah, I know, everyone is disappointed, including me. But sometimes life gets in the way of what we desire to accomplish.) January 8, the Sunday following Epiphany, we will celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany. That day, instead of the normal Sunday Mass, we will celebrate the Mass of January 6, which the 1962 liturgical books allow for several big feasts during the year, including parish feast days. We will have our annual luncheon following the 10:30 Mass for those who reserved tickets in advance. For those who forgot or who waited beyond the last moment to see if anything better showed up on their social calendar, I am sorry to say that, since caterers need a headcount to prepare the right amount of food (and to charge us properly for their services), we cannot accommodate those without tickets.
But wait, there’s more! At 6:30 pm on January 5, the evening before Epiphany, there is a special blessing of Epiphany Holy Water! This special blessing includes a schola solemnly chanting multiple psalms, canticles, and hymns along with the priest chanting (recto tono—a very simplified single note chant) the St. Michael exorcism prayer, all of the prayers of exorcism of salt and water, the prayers blessing the salt and water, the prayers combining the exorcised and blessed salt and water, the Te Deum and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us in giving such a great sacramental to be used throughout the year. This particular blessed water is, according to exorcists, the most powerful of all the blessed water. Every year the crowds coming for the ceremony and to receive some of the water have been increasing. We started out blessing several cases of water, then moved up to more than a dozen cases of water, then last year, when even that wasn’t enough, we brought in a 125-gallon container to bless. But the 125 gallons proved to be too little, too. Here is what will be done this year. You may bring in as much salt as you wish to have blessed and I will bless it and you can take it home with you. If you bring in water containers of 5 gallons or more, bring them in filled with water and open at the top (so that I can add the exorcised and blessed salt to them) and set them in front of the altar rail and they will be exorcised and blessed. If you have smaller containers, bring them in empty and you can fill them from the larger containers once the blessings are completed. We will have two 125-gallon containers from which to fill your gallon and half-gallon jugs, and two smaller containers (about 15 gallons) from which to fill your small—normal sized!—holy water bottles. Let me be clear that on that evening, I will only be blessing salt and water. Please don’t bring other items to be blessed at that time. Last year these beautiful chanted prayers took about an hour to complete and the filling of the water bottles took another hour or so. The chanted prayers will still take about the same amount of time but the water bottle filling may go quicker with the additional huge container. This year we may even have extra water left over for those who cannot make it to the evening blessing but can come on Epiphany day itself. Don’t forget to bring your container!
For those of you who plan ahead a few weeks, February 2 brings us the blessing of candles on Candlemas Day. The candle blessing and daytime candle procession will take place at 8:00 am outside in front of the rectory (weather permitting), and Mass will begin after we process to the church. You must come early to bring your candles to this spot! If you come late, your candles will not be blessed. February 3 brings us the Feast of St. Blaise, at whose Masses we bless throats as well as give a special blessing to still more candles (probably for the benefit of those who showed up late the day before!) plus bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Merry Christmas!
Some who are reading this may be in church for the first time in quite a while. Welcome home! Just like when children leave the home they grew up in and then come back for a visit, you might have noticed some changes. You might have even been wondering if you mistakenly entered into a non-Catholic church when you heard a “foreign” language spoken by the priest, and the altar boys giving responses also in the “foreign” language. Of course, Latin is not supposed to be a foreign language to those who belong to the Latin Rite of the Church, as most Catholics do. It is the official liturgical language of the huge majority of Catholics throughout the world. Yet it is used so little nowadays that nobody seems to understand how important it is to have an official “Church” language, a sacred language for conversing with God. Well, here we use it all the time! Let me assure you, this is indeed a Catholic parish. Since August of 2015 we have been dedicated, at the command of the bishop, to bringing the sacraments to the people according to the 1962 Missal and other liturgical books in use at that time. This is the Mass some of you older folks might still remember from your youth but the majority of parishioners here today have zero memories of it. They recognized, though, the holiness and reverence of the old Mass and were drawn to it. The prayers are precise and bold. The scriptural quotations are numerous and give a logical coherence to the “theme” of the Mass. It is different—perhaps even jarringly so when you experience it for the first time—but as it becomes more familiar it will lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding and experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
If you are a visitor from the local area, I hope you don’t just drop by occasionally but rather that you stay and make this parish your spiritual home. If you are from out of town and only come through once or twice a year, I am glad you found us, either by accident or by purposefully searching for us. Feel free to join us next time you are in town. And for those of you who may be here as “Christmas and Easter” Catholics, who remain adamantly Catholic but only occasionally attend Mass, I hope you find in this parish the reason for returning full time to the practice of the Faith. Stopping by for a visit on Christmas and Easter is a start of a relationship or is perhaps the beginning of mending a broken one but it is not enough to make the relationship a strong, vibrant one. Men and God need more time together. A weekly visit is the bare minimum God has told us that we need. Worshiping and adoring Him while entering into His Holy Sacrifice (in other words, fully, consciously, actively participating in the Mass) at least every Sunday and the few Holy Days of Obligation still on the calendar is what has been revealed to us as an absolute necessity for spiritual health. You may have wandered away from church because you were bored, because you didn’t “get anything out of it,” or because of some serious sins (your own or those of others) that made you question or even lose Faith. That was then, this is now. Now is the time to come home. This parish is not going to attempt to entertain you so don’t look for a “feel good” Mass or homily. This parish is going to change you into a Saint through serious prayer, through encouragement from others struggling for sanctity in a world of filth, through true Catholic teaching, and, most especially, through the form of Mass that converted the world. This is not just a gimmick to get seats filled or to get a heftier collection. We truly do want all the Catholic Faithful to return to the fullness of God’s grace by availing themselves of His sacraments and entering deeply into Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart, the fount of love and mercy. Only after all of us Catholics are fully loving and living our Faith can we expect the rest of the world’s people to finally see and accept the great love of the one, true God which has been revealed in and through His Son.
I don’t need to ask why you left in the first place. It doesn’t matter. Come back home. You are always welcome. The Catholic Church is the sure vessel that will lead men through the treacherous waters of this life to the eternally safe harbor of Heaven. All of the supernatural graces and love of God that are necessary for salvation are to be found in Her. To those who don’t know Her teachings, who question Her teachings, who struggle to live Her teachings, I will gladly tutor, answer, strengthen and even absolve--whatever it takes to help you get on and stay on the path to Sainthood.
Come and really discover the Faith for the first time; or re-discover it; or explore it more in depth than you ever thought necessary or helpful. Christmas is the season that we celebrate our Savior’s coming into the world. It is in the Catholic Church that you get to meet Him on a personal basis, in a sacramental way, in a loving union of God and man. Let this Christmas be the one that changes your life here upon Earth and prepares you for eternal life in Heaven. Live your Catholic Faith to the fullest. Love your Catholic Faith intimately. The true meaning of Christmas is found, lived and loved in the Catholic Church and, if I may be so bold as to write this, especially in Epiphany of Our Lord parish.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The Traditional Oplatki
From the Pastor: The Traditional Oplatki
Here at Epiphany we strive to keep Catholic traditions, as well as Tradition, alive. Such things as Eucharistic and candlelight processions, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the blessing of various foods, plants, and objects on certain feast days throughout the year come immediately to mind as examples. One tradition which comes from my Polish heritage and which gathers an ever larger and more joyful crowd every year is the Blessing of Easter Baskets on Holy Saturday morning. This year I want to introduce you (or remind you, if you are of Polish, Lithuanian or Slovak heritage yourself) to another great Polish tradition, this one for Christmas. It is the tradition of the Oplatki (singular: Oplatek). An oplatek is an unleavened and very thin rectangular bread, usually embossed with some sort of Nativity-related scene. It is made the same way that traditional Mass hosts are, using only wheat flour and water (although some may contain a small amount of food dye to color them). They are never consecrated, although they may be blessed by the priest, as ours will be. These are meant to be taken home for the Wigilia, or Christmas Eve gathering of the family.
Although details of this custom do vary, the basic format remains constant. On Christmas Eve the entire family gathers for a full day of celebrating the end of the penitential season of Advent and the coming of the Christ Child in just a few more hours. The house must be cleaned, for a dirty house on Christmas foretold a dirty house for the rest of the year, or so many a mother convinced her children. The fresh Christmas tree was cut and decorated with apples, oranges. candies, chocolates, tinsel (angel’s hair!), glass ornaments, lights, and homemade paper chains. This was a day of abstinence, so the great evening feast, which consisted of many courses (7, 9, and 13 are listed in various sources), was completely meatless. Appetizers, soups, fish dishes, and desserts were prepared. The table was strewn with a light layer of straw (reminiscent of the straw lining the baby Jesus’ manger) and covered with a white tablecloth (swaddling clothes). There were place settings for everyone plus one extra in case a beggar or unexpected guest came by. But before anyone dared to touch the food, the father of the family would take an oplatek, break it and share a piece of it with his wife. As he gave it to her he would ask her forgiveness for any harms he had done to her during the past year and ask special blessings for her in the upcoming one. She would then break off another piece from her piece of the oplatek and share it with the child next to her, and do the same. From one to another, each would follow suit. Then all would share a piece of their piece of the oplatek with everyone in the family, not just the one next to them. Only after the oplatki were all distributed and consumed was the main meal eaten. No hard liquor was served but beer and wine may have flowed in generous amounts, as celebrating Christ’s love being spread among family and friends in such a special way was certainly worth a toast or three.
When the meal was completed, it was time to sing Christmas carols. The children had already received their gifts on December 6, when St. Nicholas made his visit, but adults may have exchanged simple gifts among themselves on Christmas eve. Finally, it was time to walk to church, hopefully, through freshly fallen snow. Midnight Mass brought to completion all that was symbolically done in the home earlier that day. Christ was born. Our Savior had arrived. The Gospel message was now to be seen, heard, and wonderfully lived out.
This year I have some oplatki available in the social hall. I was only able to get a limited number this year, so please do not take them if you won’t use them, and please don’t take extras to send to family and friends unless there are some left over after Christmas. Oh, and don’t forget your barnyard animals! The pink oplatek is for them. Of course, you will have to do the breaking, sharing, and praying on their behalf, but an ancient tradition holds that at midnight, when Jesus is born and the angels are singing, the animals, who, aside from Mary and Joseph, were the only ones present for the Holy Child’s birth, are able to speak. Only the pure of heart are able to hear and understand them, so be ready!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What’s New This Week?
From the Pastor: What’s New This Week?
Last week we bid a fond farewell to Mark Rosendale, commonly referred to as “the man who can do everything.” Many of you know him as the man who has been answering the phones at the church office for the past few years. Others know him as the man who makes things—anything, actually—out of wood whenever we need it. Still others know him as the man who gets the football off the roof, or the man who sets Father’s appointments, or the man who puts announcements in the bulletin, or the man who fixes the plumbing, or the man who sets the Mass intentions, or the man who... yes, the list could go on and on. Unfortunately for us, a while ago he moved to the middle of nowhere beyond Brooksville, where he now farms a small plot of land. He has a large garden and raises chickens, goats, cows, pigs, elephants, and dodo birds. Or at least some of that. Plus, he still teaches woodworking to a group of young men. But the drive to work was getting tiresome and expensive. He started working fewer days, hoping that being able to sleep in past 4:00 am on at least a few mornings would make the remaining commutes tolerable. But it didn’t work. About the same time, Fr. Pecchie was looking for someone to come and help at St. Anthony the Abbot parish in Brooksville, a full hour’s drive closer to Mark’s house, and he finally made the difficult and sad decision to cut even his last couple of days here.
If you have his email (Mark@EpiphanyTampa.com) in your list of contacts, it is time to change it if you wish to get through to the office. We were fortunate that Jennifer Whiskeyman (Jennifer@EpiphanyTampa.com) was willing to take his place. So say “hello” to Jennifer the next time you drop by the parish during the day. So far, I haven’t seen her climb onto the roof or install a water fountain, but she is taking charge of publishing the bulletin and (a big thing right now) scheduling Mass intentions for the new year. If you are trying to get an appointment with me or trying to schedule the use of a classroom for a group meeting or activity, give her a call (813-234-8693) or send her an email.
Also new to the staff are Liesa Gonzalez and Josefina Rodriguez, who are helping to keep everything clean and neat, and in proper order. The more respect you show toward God and your fellow parishioners by doing such simple tasks as throwing your garbage in the trash can or dumpster, making sure your children clean up after themselves, not littering the grounds or restrooms, etc., the more these ladies are able to focus on doing the routine cleaning that just cannot be done by every individual, such as mopping the floors. Please treat them well and remember, when they are at Mass, they are parishioners, not employees, so don’t interrupt either of them in the middle of their prayer (or other parish activities) and expect them to go clean up a mess somewhere. If fact, now that I am mentioning it, please keep that in mind with all of the parish staff. After all, something like, “Hi, Kim! Nice Epiphany celebration, isn’t it? Here’s the paperwork I was supposed to give you last week at the office but forgot to drop off. Oh, you have a plate of food in front of you, don’t worry, I’ll just set it under your plate” doesn’t exactly make for good relations!
Now for something a bit more trivial. Last week my glasses broke. The left nosepiece snapped off when I was cleaning them. A year earlier the same thing happened to the right nosepiece but I was able to get in to see the optometrist a few days later and he simply, under warranty, put my lenses into a new set of frames. It was the new frames that broke this time. These were not cheap frames as far as cost goes, but they were certainly cheap in quality. This time, though, I couldn’t go back to the optometrist since he retired and closed up shop two months ago. I wore the broken glasses for one day, having to hold up the frames when reading (such as at Mass!), and then dug out my older glasses from years gone by. These glasses are not only an old prescription but are also barely holding together, as the arms had bent at ninety-degree angles as I sat on them one day long ago and, while mostly straight now, are not exactly able to stay in place without a lot of constant adjusting. On Tuesday I was finally able to get in to get another eye exam and order new glasses, which should be ready in a week to ten days. In the meantime, I got a pair of contact lenses to try out and to tide me over until the new specs arrive. Of course, I had to also get a set of reading glasses, since I cannot read a thing, neither the breviary nor the missal, with my vision corrected only for distance. Having to put on and take off readers while celebrating Mass wasn’t so bad, but later that day I couldn’t read the computer monitor because it was too far away for the reading glasses to work and too close for the contacts to focus upon. So if you see me squinting or adjusting my glasses or using reading glasses for the next week, now you know why. And to think that I once thought it was pretty funny watching the “old people” trying to read at arm's length!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
2 Big Masses This Week!
From the Pastor: 2 Big Masses This Week!
This is the beginning of the second week of Advent and a quick look at the calendar shows two very “big” Masses which you should put on your calendar. The first is the biggest of the big Masses. This Thursday is a Holy Day of Obligation: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To help you fulfill your obligation we will have our regularly scheduled morning Masses at 6:30 and 8:00 plus an additional evening Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8.
The second big Mass, while not of obligation, is a very beautiful Mass that, similar to the Immaculate Conception, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Saturday we will celebrate the Rorate Caeli Mass at 6:30 am. [Note that there will not be an 8:00 am Mass that morning!] Except for those who are new to the parish or to the Traditional Latin Mass, by now I think that everyone knows that the Rorate Mass is a Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent. It can be celebrated on any Saturday during this short season so if there are multiple churches near each other that will be celebrating this Mass, you may be able to hop from one to the other each week and pray it multiple times! Such is the case for those who were at the Rorate Mass at Jesuit High School on Saturday, December 3, and now will be at ours this week. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget. It is worth getting up early on the one day a week which you might normally get to sleep in a little!
The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as an aside, is why the term ad orientem—to the east—is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sins; to bring light to those in darkness. He came through—and is magnified by—the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite naturally, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth.
One last thing about the Rorate Caeli Mass that I wish to point out to you is the Postcommunion prayer. Maybe you have prayed this, perhaps even three times a day, and never knew where it came from. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Yes, this is the final prayer of the Angelus, traditionally prayed at 6:00 am, 12:00 noon, and again at 6:00 pm. The church bells would ring out at those three times and, in a Catholic town, at least, everyone would stop and bow their heads and pray the Angelus. Not having grown up in a small Catholic town, I never experienced that myself, but in old stories it seems that everyone would stop, pray, and even genuflect in public as the church bells pealed. It was a “Catholic thing” that even the non-Catholics showed reverence to. Now, even the priests don’t know it. Sigh.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
My Family Thanksgiving
From the Pastor: My Family Thanksgiving
Holiday traditions seem to be the most cherished of all family traditions. Although traditional activities and expectations are attached to each holiday, even those vary just enough from year to year to make the days both comfortable in the “normal” routine and open to new and exciting variations. This year I will share with you another peek into my family’s Thanksgiving traditions as they played out on paper if not in reality. Remember, as always, this week’s bulletin had to be printed before the office staff took off for their Thanksgiving break.
This year the entire family was going to gather for Thanksgiving Day and it was going to be absolutely normal. All of the ginned-up hysteria about coldvid19 had long since passed. Nobody was going to be wearing Halloween masks, nobody was going to keep 6 feet between family members, friends, or pets, and nobody was going to sit at home in fear of social contact. Or, at least that’s what I keep hearing “getting back to normal” means. But when no one in my family is actually normal to begin with, normal can actually be anything but normal! Once again my little sister hosted the Big Dinner at her house. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, grandparents, and cousins were all jam-packed into the house and spilled out into the backyard. We all sat or stood (depending on age) around yakking and bringing others up to speed on what was new in life as we had a few drinks and ate about a dozen pounds of appetizers each. Aunt Irma was there, of course, but she kept darting in and out, constantly going to the guest house out back. She wouldn’t say what she was doing out there and, because she is always a little “off” we were all speculating wildly. Some thought she was taking quick naps. Others joked that she was inhaling something from her new local “cash-only pharmacy.” But some of the children, who are much more inquisitive than us lazy adults, actually went over to find out and came back with the happy announcement that she was busy cooking yet one more Thanksgiving turkey! I said, “one more” because there were already a few amazing turkeys being prepared by my brother-in-law. He had one for the oven, one spatchcocked for the grill. and another for the deep fryer. Those, along with about 7 huge side dishes, fresh rolls, 6 pies, and a couple of gallons of ice cream, were probably enough to make each of us burst our bellies in a round of gluttonous feasting, but that wasn’t enough for our great Aunt. If you remember, she has had a couple of years of not being quite “with it” at Thanksgiving and she figured that the best way to “prove” herself competent once again was to cook as well as she used to when she was in charge of such festivities.
Now, I want to explain to you that I am not making fun of my elders when I tell tall tales such as what I am about to spin. After all, we all love Aunt Irma, and all of her eccentricities come as part of that lovable package that makes her who she is. And I certainly do not mean to belittle her cooking skills, for I am always ready to go through the trouble of eating anything that anyone has gone through the trouble of cooking, whether it tastes as if it came from a professional chef or from a drive-through window. But some stories just beg to be shared...
Aunt Irma was finally ready to announce that she needed a few strong boys to carry her turkey to the table. This was it. It was just about time to eat. The prayers were said and the food was set out. Aunt Irma explained that she had, during her coldvid derangement years, spent hours, days, weeks, and months listening to cooking shows so that she could pull out all the stops with the turkey she was having the boys bring over. (She had her TV set adjusted so that she only heard the audio because she was afraid of catching the ‘vid from the people on TV if she could see them. But some things really need to be seen to be understood, as you will soon learn.) Aunt Irma proudly announced that she had cooked the turkey via the Sous Vide method, in which food is immersed in a water bath and kept at a constant—the perfect—temperature so that it can never deviate from that perfect temperature. It cannot overcook, for the temperature never rises above whatever you set it for. It will never be undercooked, as long as you keep it immersed for a set minimum amount of time. It will, you are always assured by sous vide aficionados, be “just right.” Unfortunately, Aunt Irma was never able to see on her dark TV screen how the turkey is supposed to be sealed in a plastic bag before being immersed in the water. What the boys were carrying in was a huge pot filled with water with a turkey plopped directly into it, with the whole thing sealed in a plastic trash bag! Of course, nobody said anything but words of praise and thanks for the work she put into it.
But, since sous vide is supposed to be a very “hands-off” method of cooking, why did she keep running back and forth between houses? Because she knew that the turkey skin would not be crisp and brown unless she used a blow torch on it. She tried several times, each time getting a more powerful torch and using a larger flame, and let’s just say that the guest house will be unavailable for a few months...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The Weeks Gone By and The Week Ahead
From the Pastor: The Weeks Gone By and The Week Ahead
This past week we were blessed (and I do not use that term lightly here) by Fr. Shannon Collins, MSJB as he preached our first Parish Mission since the dark covid years were inflicted upon us. The subject, The Most Precious Blood of Jesus, was presented in a profoundly spiritual and intellectual manner. His catechism classes after the morning 8:00 Masses were also amazing, as he enlightened those who were able to attend by delving into current Faith issues in an understandable way with a mixture of seriousness and good humor. As a preparation for the partially penitential season of Advent, this was perfect. Thank you Father!
Of course, the Parish Mission came right on the heels of Cardinal Burke’s visit and Pontifical Solemn High Mass. This week a few bloggers and Catholic commentators mentioned his visit to Epiphany. Adrian Alvarado from the site OnePeterFive, who was in attendance that day, wrote a very nice article about his experience of the Mass and the parishioners while he was here. Several others picked up his story and passed it on or commented on it on their sites. There was one site, Abyussus Abyssum / Deep Calls to Deep, which re-posted that article with the wonderful headline in all caps and bold: IF ONLY THIS COULD BE REPLICATED IN EVERY PARISH IN EVERY DIOCESE IN THE WORLD. I couldn’t agree more! They included a photo of Cardinal Burke at the time of Consecration lifting up the Sacred Host as the surrounding ministers and entire congregation knelt in prayer and Adoration. A recently retired priest-blogger, Fr. Allan J. McDonald of the Savannah diocese, on his Southern Orders blog passed on the photo with an all caps (but unbolded) headline: EVEN A BARN OF A CHURCH BUILDING HAS AN ELEGANCE WITH THE TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC ALTAR SET-UP AND AN AD ORIENTEM MASS WITH SOME PIZAZZ. Setting aside that he doesn’t know the difference between a barn and a school gymnasium/cafeteria (which was the original intent of this building—the “real” church never got built, as happened so often in this diocese, with the “temporary” church becoming the permanent church), I love the way he put it! The Cardinal’s TLM being described as having “pizazz” certainly is quite a bit different than the image I would have in my head if someone described a NOM as having “pizazz,” for in the latter I would conjure up images of a would-be jazz pianist tinkling the keys of an electric keyboard, a soloist leading the “audience” in clapping to the beat as she belted out a peppy bilingual (English/Spanish) song, and Father dancing a conga line with 20 extraordinary ministerettes of Holy Communion after they all recited the “words of Institution” together. (Sorry for putting that image into your brain. I just took a break to go rinse my mouth out, for I threw up a little as I was writing that description!) There are probably other places where the story was published and if you know of any that are especially noteworthy, feel free to pass them on.
And now, on to the week ahead. I am sure that you are all aware of the big holiday coming up this week. Our parish office will be closed from noon on Wednesday until Monday morning. After all, the staff must prepare for and then recover from the Solemn Religious Ceremonial Day of Black Friday. In all seriousness, though, thousands of people will line up in front of their favorite shop hours or even a day ahead of this Biggest Sales Day of the year and have made a quasi-religious ritual out of doing so. I have no doubt, not even a teeny-tiny one, that each person camping out for said “event” would bitterly complain if their (probably former) priest or minister ever dared to keep them at Mass or Service for more than an hour. Those who complain that a 10:30 Mass is “too early” and that they simply can’t give up their sleep for Our Lord will have no problem staying awake all night in sub-zero or rainy weather for the chance of getting $5 off of a $20 item. “I’m bored!” they would whine at church, while they never get bored doing absolutely nothing while camping out in front of WallyMart. “I got nothing out of it” they would kvetch after church, without realizing that they literally got nothing out of buying items for a lesser discount than they spent on gas. “He’s always talking about money” they would lyingly grouse, after having spent weeks scouring the sales brochures online and in print for their Black Friday religious ceremony, all with the plan to wastefully spend a fortune on things they don’t need and may not even want. Oh, yes, the Church of the Half-Price Television is leading them to their god and they will sacrifice anything to participate in its worldly promises. Yet they will turn their back on the one True God and his Other-worldly promise of Salvation.
I write this to remind you that there are things in this life that matter eternally and those that seem to matter but only temporally. Spend Thanksgiving Day giving prayerful thanks to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Everything worthwhile that you have and that you are comes from Him. If Cardinal Burke’s Mass and Fr. Collins’ Mission did what they were attempting to do, Black Friday will pale (as in the pale horse of the Apocalypse, ridden by Death) in comparison to even the secular holiday of Thanksgiving. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy, for “where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What a Weekend!
From the Pastor: What a Weekend!
Who would have ever thought that Epiphany parish would host a Cardinal for a Pontifical Mass? Who would have ever thought that the Cardinal would stay for a few hours afterwards to greet the people? Who? Not me, that’s for sure! While there may be some relatively small number of people who see Cardinals on a regular basis, for instance, if they happen to live in close proximity to one, most people, I would guess, will never meet one in person. After all, if my count is correct there are only seven (arch)dioceses in the US headed up by a Cardinal. Chicago (Cupich), Galveston-Houston (Di Nardo), New York (Dolan), Washington, DC (Gregory), San Diego (McElroy), Boston (O’Malley), and Newark (Tobin). There are also a couple of retired US Cardinals and those who, like Cardinal Burke, hold jobs other than running an (arch)diocese. The Catholics in those big cities headed by a Cardinal may occasionally get a glimpse of their Cardinal but I would guess that even in those cities only a few ever really see him face to face, or lips to ring! I am going to go out on a limb here and guess further than none of the other Cardinals celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Vernable Old Rite, so even those Catholics who may attend a Mass with any of the other Cardinals would not get to experience what we just did. The new Rite just doesn’t seem to want to make a “big thing” out of a priest being a Bishop or Cardinal, so most of the ceremonial aspects of the Pontifical Mass were never made a part of the new Ordinary Form of the Mass. Remember that this sprang out of the 1960’s mentality of “authority bad, tradition bad, sameness (in the name of individualism!) good.”
After seeing the difference between the two rituals, though, with a period of many decades separating them for the most part, it is easy enough to see why the “simplification” (or “dumbing down”) of the Pontifical Mass took place: for ease and speed. I have mentioned before that until I started celebrating the TLM I never knew that there were specific prayers for the priest to say as he washed his hands and then put on the vestmentsfor Mass. A washing unto purity? A helmet of salvation to overcome the devil? A cleansed heart? A girdle of purity? All of those vesting prayers as well as the rest were just dropped. Not so in the TLM, except when the church is built with the sacristy in the social hall and people interrupt the prayers because “the priest isn’t doing anything right now, anyway.” But I digress. Before we made the procession into the church, the Cardinal prayed his vesting prayers (and he wears more vestments than ordinary priests do), not as he grabbed his stuff out of a drawer, but rather as the servers ceremoniously brought the vestments to him with bows, genuflections, and a great sense of reverence for His Eminence, and then his deacons assisted in vesting him. This ceremony took practice. It took space. It took attention to details. Getting rid of such “nonsense” as we have done in the new Rite certainly speeds things up and makes it easier to be an altar boy or assisting cleric. But the old ceremony gave more than it took. It gave each of us a sense that we really were in the presence of a Prince of the Church, not simply “You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, but you doesn’t hasta call me Cardinal” Burke. It must also be a reminder to him that his vocational calling is, indeed, special. He is not simply an ordinary Bishop or priest, let alone an ordinary man. People today, especially clergy and those who work in chanceries, may grimace at such a statement but it is nonetheless true. It is the college of Cardinals that elects a Pope when needed. That alone is a huge responsibility, as they each must do due diligence in “checking out” the other Cardinals’ spiritual and “practical” qualifications. They must also remember that they, too, might be chosen to be the successor to Peter, so they must always remain faithful to God, which includes being both faithful in prayer and faithful in defending Tradition. They are to be strict imitators of Christ, and lead by serving as He did, by giving all they are for the Glory of God. The vesting ceremony in itself brings that out quite clearly.
And then there were the ceremonial parts of the Mass, mostly dropped in the new Rite, that, again, took a lot of practice, space (we even had to enlarge our sanctuary!), and attention. Although many of the signs and symbols used in the Mass, as well as the reasons why some things were done might not be clear to the average person without explanation, what would be obvious to all is that this Mass was special, dare I say, more important, than even the most elaborate Mass they have ever seen their parish priest celebrate, and that the celebrant of the Mass must be someone very, very special. Nobody would walk away from a Pontifical Mass yawning and saying, “I’m never coming back here again. I didn’t get a thing out of it.” This is the type of Mass which brings sinners to repentance, which brings grown men to tears, which reinforces the faith of the pious and instills the seeds of faith in the degenerate. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took a lot of preparation. But it was worth it. God bless Raymond Cardinal Burke for all he did for Epiphany of Our Lord Parish!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Welcome, Raymond Cardinal Burke!
Welcome, Raymond Cardinal Burke!
From the personal website of Raymond Cardinal Burke, https://www.cardinalburke.com/
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is an American Cardinal Prelate of the Roman Catholic Church.
Born in 1948 in Richland Center, Wisconsin, Raymond Leo Burke attended seminary in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Rome, where he was ordained a priest by Pope Saint Paul VI in 1975. Ordained a bishop in 1995 by Pope Saint John Paul II, he served for almost nine years as Bishop of La Crosse, where he founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and over four years as Archbishop of St. Louis.
He was named a cardinal in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Burke has written and spoken widely on Roman Catholic canon law, the Holy Eucharist, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the sanctity of human life. He is a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
"Welcome to my personal website. I am pleased to communicate with you. It is my hope that your visit will be a source of encouragement to you. For my part, the website is a means of carrying out more fully my mission as a Bishop and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, especially the teaching of the Church’s doctrine and discipline. In a particular way, I hope that your visit will inspire you to pray for me. Please let me know of special intentions which you wish me to remember in prayer. May God bless you and your home."
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
From the Pastor: We Are Blessed!
What an honor to have Cardinal Burke celebrating the Mass for us on the Feast of Christ the King! How is it that this distinguished Prince of the Church should grace us with such a gift? His Emminence accepted an invitation to speak at a meeting of our local Legatus group. (Legatus is an organization whose members are Catholic business leaders.) One of the members told me that His Emminence stated that while he was here he would like to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass at Epiphany—if the pastor was agreeable to it! Are you kidding? Who would say “no” to such an offer from such a holy man? Not me!
The members of Epiphany have worked long and hard hours to make everything run so well that all who are in attendance think we do things like this all of the time. Sacristans, altar boys and their trainers, musicians, office staff, grounds crew, Knight of Columbus, Epiphany Council of Catholic Women, Prugatorial Society, and seemingly just about everyone else volunteered to do some thing (or many things) to bring this to fruition. Many, many of them even sacrificed attending the Pontifical Mass just so that others could be there. They are working while we are at Mass. Thank you, Cardinal Burke! Thank you, Legatus! Thank you, Epiphany members! Welcome, all who have never been here before!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
One Week Left To Prepare
From the Pastor: One Week Left To Prepare
There is only one week left to prepare for what may be the first Pontifical Solemn High Mass at a parish in this diocese in the past 50 years or so. I don’t know if, even when the TLM was not the “extraordinary” but rather the “only” Mass, it would have been too common for a Cardinal, a Prince of the Church, to visit and celebrate such a Mass. Because St. Petersburg never had its own Cardinal, it would have had to be a visitor coming in for such a Mass to occur. If we have any Church history buffs out there, I would love to know when the last one was!
Because we (clergy and altar boys) need the extra time to prepare and practice for the big Mass, we will have to cancel several regularly scheduled events to make time for the practices. So men, sorry to say it, but the Holy League will be canceled this coming Thursday. Practice will begin at 6:00 pm, and it will be pretty difficult to have both a Holy Hour and Mass practice in the same sanctuary at the same time. And for those of you who normally come to the Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class, it, too, will be canceled. The Saturday morning practice is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am, which means that Adoration and Confessions must be completed by then. So don’t dilly dally in getting to the church that morning if you want to pray in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament and/or go to confession. I usually allow confessions to go until the last person is finished but this time, even if there are hundreds of people in line, it will end by 9:45 at the very latest. [Note: “...end by 9:45 at the very latest” does not mean “get in line at 9:44:57” or even “enter the confessional at 9:40 and expect to stay there for a 10-minute confession.”] There are probably more things that are or will be canceled but I cannot think of any of them at this time. No Masses will be canceled, so don’t worry about that. Thank you for understanding and being willing to postpone your burning desire to be at these parish functions so that we can prepare for a truly extraordinary parish function.
But enough about that. We have to now start preparing for everything that is coming up next! Remember that the Tuesday following the Pontifical Mass, November 1, is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. We will have our normal morning Masses at 6:30 and 8:00, plus an extra Mass at 7:00 pm. The following day, Wednesday, November 2, is All Souls Day. Once again, our morning Masses will be at the normal times and, even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, we will have another extra Mass at 7:00 pm due to great public demand. [I will write more about All Souls at the end of this article.] Two days later is First Friday, and, because I doubt that my mother will be able to get too many sign-ups during the Cardinal’s big day, we will need you all to really step up to the plate and let her know that you will cover your prayer hours. With this schedule, you will be spending almost as much time at church that week as I do!
Daylight Savings Time ends the following weekend, Election Day follows on Tuesday, and Veterans Day finishes the “work week” on Friday. Those are not Church celebrations of any sort but they each need to be noted and entered into one’s schedule of life events. But then the very next weekend (November 12-13) all of the secular things can be set aside once again because that begins our first Parish Mission since the Covid meltdown. More information on the schedule for Fr. Shannon Collins’ talks on The Most Precious Blood of Jesus will be coming out soon enough but for now, just be sure to mark your calendar so that you don’t miss out! The next week brings us the big feast of Thanksgiving and then the following week begins Advent. You all know what Advent is preparing us for, so this is where I will end this “looking ahead” part.
But I promised above that I would write some more about All Souls Day. If you wish to have me and the other priests pray for your departed loved ones, be sure to write their names down (legibly, of course) and turn in those lists to the office, or leave them at the sacristy, or put them in the collection basket. There does not need to be a donation attached to the list but if you wish to leave a donation it will be divided among all of the priests who celebrate Mass here during the month of November, as all of us will be praying for all of those for whom you requested prayers all month long, not just on November 2. We keep the list on the altar to remind us to pray for them and I hope it reminds you to pray for them as well.
More and more Catholics are dying now without their children even having a Requiem Mass said for them and I doubt that those children remember to pray for them even on All Souls Day. The protestants and non-Christians never give a second thought (at least, not in a good way) to Purgatory, and now Catholics are following suit, so who will pray for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed? Only the truly faithful Catholics. You. Make long lists!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The Cardinal’s Visit Approacheth!
From the Pastor: The Cardinal’s Visit Approacheth!
His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, will celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass on Sunday, October 30, at 10:30 am. None of that should be new news to anyone. But as the day approaches, more and more people are asking questions, most of which I cannot answer! How many people are we expecting? I have no idea. We are getting a little less than 800 people for Masses on a typical weekend right now. Will they all show up at this one Mass? Perhaps. If so, we will fill the church and the social hall and still have people outside. Will many decide to go to the 7:30 Mass instead of fighting the crowds at 10:30? Perhaps. If so, depending on how many do this, we may all fit in the church. Heck, we may even have empty pews in the church if enough people do this! Will people from outside of the parish come to Mass? Perhaps. But even guessing how many is fraught with unknown factors. Will everyone who attends Traditional Latin Mass at St. Justin Martyr in Largo, St. Anthony the Abbot in Brooksville, Christ the King in Sarasota, the SSPX, or the Old Roman Catholic Church come here? It is highly unlikely, although they are the ones most likely to have heard that the Cardinal is coming here. Will even a small group come from each of those places? Perhaps. But none of them are too close, so perhaps not. Will people who don’t usually attend Traditional Latin Mass come? Perhaps, for his Eminence is well thought of by many people outside of TLMs, too. But, then again, how would they have heard of his plans? I haven’t seen any news about this Mass or the rest of what the Cardinal is doing while he is in town even in our diocesan news outlets. Traditional Catholic media, secular media, and mainstream Catholic media have all been silent as well, as far as I know. [Note: that is just an observation, not a complaint!] So, how many people are we expecting? A rough guess puts it between 53 and 1428 people, give or take a few.
Fortunately, some of the questions are easier to answer. Will there be coffee and donuts after Mass? This burning question gets asked more than any other. The answer is, yes, we will have coffee and donuts. But, because the social hall will be set up for maximum seating, there will be no tables inside. Trying to set up the coffee and donuts in there only after the Mass is done would be, due to the crowds and chairs already in place, impossible. So the ECCW is setting up outside, between the church and school. Another question deals with “real” food, as if donuts are not really food! At one time we looked into getting a few food trucks to come but there are logistical problems with that if we get a large crowd. Where to park the trucks, for instance, if the crowd is large, where they won’t take up valuable parking spots and yet still have enough room around them to handle the lines of people waiting for food. But, as it turns out, the Troops of St. George have taken the reigns and will provide a cookout as they have been doing for the Sundays in which we chant Vespers in the afternoon.
Another question deals with tickets to enter the church for Mass. Where do we get them? How much do they cost? What if we forget them? (OK, so that is more than one question.) This is another issue that we found ourselves rethinking. We obviously cannot sell tickets to attend Mass. People have a right to attend the Holy Sacrifice without cost. Anything they give to the collection is certainly a free-will offering, not a set fee. Those contributions are between the giver and God, ultimately, as to how much and how often they should put money in the basket. But if I sell tickets, that becomes a problem at my own Judgment, when God will ask for accountability for those I may have excluded due to poverty or ability to make it to the “ticket window” on time. Plus, if we give out tickets to our parishioners so that they get the first chance of getting a “good seat” in the church or hall, many will be left extremely unhappy if the crowd is large, for, as mentioned above, we may not be able to fit everyone inside even if just our own parishioners show up en masse to Mass. It would also necessitate having the ushers become a combination of police officers and bouncers, checking tickets at the door, turning away those without tickets, and having to make decisions on who gets in and who stays out. Who wants to turn away the little old lady with a walker who claims to have lost her ticket? Or the huge bruiser in the pin-striped suit pushing his way through with his Boss and Family in tow? (Nah, that would only happen in New York!)
I will end with just one more question for which I have no definitive answer at this time. Will the Mass be streamed live? I personally do not have the technical ability to do that but it still may be done by one or more of our parishioners. There has been talk about it.
Bring your lawn chair and umbrella in case you are outside for Mass or staying for food afterward. Be patient and prayerful and be sure to thank those who are giving up “their spot” in Mass so that they can serve in various ways.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Indigenous People’s Day!
From the Pastor: Indigenous People’s Day!
Yay! Monday, October 10, 2022 is Indigenous People’s Day! When I saw that on the calendar (alongside that loathsome official federal holiday, Columbus Day) I got so excited that I almost wet myself. In fact, I may have, except that my tears of joy were so copious that I couldn’t tell whether I had soaked myself from the top or the bottom. In case you don’t know why I would be so overwhelmed with giddiness about this holiday, I will give you a short history lesson. Don’t worry, I will try to make history a little more interesting than what seems to be the standard boring fare of classrooms.
First of all, let me introduce you to Christopher Columbus. He used to be a hero, an explorer, a man of true Faith, and one spoken of quite highly in American schools from elementary through post-graduate classes. But that was way back in the days of the Great Stupidity. Now that we are so much more elitist, enlightened, and generally all around good guys/gods, we know that every single thing he did or stood for was evil. First of all, he was always listed as a “man.” I know, I know. But people used to think that men were men and women were women and never the twain shall be confused for each other. The fact that there is no evidence of him ever calling himself a her, it, or non-binary, a-amorous, ex-gender-differentiated “thing” of any sort proves that he was quite depraved. Worse still, “he” was born and raised in the Republic of Genoa on Italy’s northwest coast, making him a [gasp] European man, which, we all know now, is the worst kind of man that there is. His skin was white and he never claimed to contain one one-hundredth of a percent of any racial minority, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a straight out bigot. And, speaking of “straight,” he was. How could we have ever been so witless as to have honored a straight, white European male who [guffaw] thought he was a man? Surely this shows that he was perverted, yet we celebrated this reprobate with his own holiday. Go figure. Thank Pachamama that at least he didn’t have orange hair, for that would have spelled the end of the universe as we know it. Orange man bad.
But, as preposterous as this may seem to us greatly enlightened people of this day and age, all of those characteristics mentioned above that seem to point so obviously to his being an offensive man/whatever are nothing compared to his worst attribute. He was, gosh, I find this so hard to write, he was C...no, I just can’t make myself write the whole word. Let me go get into my safe space for a little bit until I can stop shaking from this uncontrollable fear. [3 days later] Ok, I think I may be able to make it through this time. Christopher Columbus was a cat. No, that’s not it. He was cathartic. I almost got it out that time. He was Catholic. There! I said it. And I received only a slight tremor in my jab⁴-healthy myocardiacical beating thingy. And he was not just a media-favorite type of Catholic (one who would party with Coccopalmerio and admire the frescos of Paglia) but was a real, honest-to-Gaia practicing and believing Catholic. How did that slip by the censors back then (before Biden gave us the competing holiday way back in 2021)? Those really were the bad ol’ days.
But now for some good news. Let’s take a look at the peaceful, loving, gushing, sweet-as-honey, never-hurt-a-fly indigenous people of the Americas. Although they were too backward to interchange males and females, we can certainly celebrate them because they did not know about—much less believe in—Jesus Christ. They regularly and with great viciousness killed each other, sure enough, but they didn’t really mean much harm. Those were just petty tribal squabbles, that’s all. And when the nasty, evil, straight, white, orange-haired (you know it’s his fault), European men came into their land bringing the Gospel message of Salvation through the love of Jesus Christ and His Church, they responded in the way only peaceful, loving, etc., people would think to respond. With torture and death. Excepting, of course, those cruel, far right, conspiracy theorist, nut job, wackadoodle Indians who accepted the truth and converted. But we need not be inclusive of them, for they were obviously not real indigenous people. Let’s take a look at what compassion the true natives showed to St. Isaac Jogues, for instance. The kindly indigenous people enslaved, tortured, and mutilated him for thirteen months because he was teaching another group of indigenous people, with whom they were at war (but it was a benevolent war) about how to get to Heaven. They chewed off the tips of his two index fingers and possibly his thumbs for the sole purpose of preventing him from celebrating Mass. Obviously, these indigenous people had a far superior religion which should be inculturated into Catholicism today. When he finally escaped and returned to Rome his features were so disfigured by the gentle torture he received that he was unrecognizable. Jogues, the hater sharing the same vile religion as Columbus, having received a dispensation to celebrate Mass even though his “canonical digits” were missing, returned to continue his horrendous mission of saving souls. This time, he was invited by this warm-hearted group of indigenous people to come to the chief’s house, where, upon his entrance, they lovingly crushed his skull with a tomahawk. The way we sometimes show love to partially born babies today.
And now you know why I giddily await the new, merciful, holiday. Class dismissed.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Hurricane Week
If you are reading this, it means that the hurricane was not so bad that the bulletin couldn’t get printed and that you survived it no matter how bad it was. I didn’t yet this year get around to writing about what happens at the parish when a hurricane is threatening. So, although this is a little late for this one, it’s not too late for any that may follow. The basic premise is that I live on the church property so, barring extreme conditions such as the eye of the storm coming directly over Epiphany just before Mass time, I should be able to celebrate Mass and hear confessions on schedule. But you don’t live on campus so you are going to have to make a responsible judgment call about the safety of traveling. If it is not safe for you to come, please stay home! Even if you feel like taking a chance under bad conditions, remember that if you lose the gamble, you will put other people’s lives in jeopardy, especially emergency personnel who will brave all but the worst conditions to try to rescue you. This bulletin had to be written before the storm hit so I cannot tell you how things worked out, but all meetings were canceled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday just to be safe, with Friday up in the air as I type, as there is still debate about just how long the conditions will be bad, and we don’t know if we will have any electricity or clear roads. This information was sent out over Flocknote, posted on Facebook’s Epiphany page, and noted on the first page of our parish website. These are usually good ways of getting information like this, and if you don’t know how to access any of this, today is a great day to ask someone to help you!
Looking forward and assuming that there is no continued power outage or major damage in our diocese, this coming week is our annual Priest Convocation. Each year we are given the opportunity to gather and have some good food, discussions, teachings, and prayer together. I don’t believe in canceling Masses at the parish so for several years I traveled back and forth between the Bethany Center and Epiphany but it was exhausting and I wound up missing the morning talks and prayers. For a couple of years, I was able to have a Parish Mission given during that week and the priest giving the Mission also took the morning Masses. That way I was able to just stay at the Bethany Center and participate in everything as scheduled. This year, as with the last two covid years we will not have a Parish Mission. But we are having one fairly soon, as it is scheduled for the weekend of November 12/13 and then continuing on through Thursday the 17th. As for the morning convocation talks, I am not all too interested in racing over to hear them. Last year the topic was something like, “Crying together about why nobody is coming to church anymore.” I would have gotten into a lot of trouble if I went to those talks, for I could not have kept my mouth closed about what the problem really is and who is to blame. This year seems to be a similar topic, where we will hear about how to make “disciples” in the parish. As far as I can tell, that simply means that the presenter doesn’t believe that those few who actually stayed or who came back after the covid lockouts are really followers of Christ. My experience here is just so very different from what the other pastors seem to be going through that, once again, I would be in a lot of trouble if I told them what they really need to do to make disciples at each parish. Our Traditional Catholic solution just doesn’t resonate with all too many clergy, it seems.
Now for something strange that I announced last week at Mass. (I am not sure if Fr. Mangiafico also announced what I wrote out.) I said that Friday was First Friday and that my mom, who coordinates everything by making sure people are signed up to Adore every hour of the day, was out of town and therefore couldn’t sign anyone up in person. I was sure that she told me to announce that. And she did, kinda. She also told me to give it some sort of a “Don’t make me turn this car around” type of motherly threat if she came back and we still had hours without anyone signed up. So I dutifully made the announcement. Unfortunately, mom was actually sitting in the pew listening to me announce this, for it was one week earlier than she wanted me to announce it! As you probably know, Hurricane Friday was not First Friday. This coming Friday (probably!) is. So make sure you sign up for First Friday regardless of whether or not mom was able to get out of town. At this time, even her trip out of state is up in the air (so to speak) since she is scheduled to fly out on Hurricane Friday. I won’t know if she made it or not before this gets printed, but if you don’t see her you can assume that her flight didn’t get canceled.
That just about wraps it up for this week. I hope and pray that you made it through the hurricane unscathed. After all, we once again prayed the special Collect, Secret, and Post-Communion prayers to Avert Storms starting on Sunday and continuing until no longer needed. I’m going to assume that those prayers produced fruit for our area.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Thank You! And More...
From the Pastor: Thank You! And More...
Fr. Dorvil and I wish to thank you for your generosity towards his Haitian Mission. The last count I saw was approximately $6000, although I expect that several more people who didn’t bring “extra” donation money with them last week will add to that amount this week. Helping missions so close to home not only allows us to give to those in need but also, especially in this case since Fr. Dorvil lives here, allows for a real relationship to grow for those who wish to pursue further involvement in the mission. By the way, because the diocese sets up these mission co-op appeals, all of the money collected goes to the diocese to be distributed to the particular mission for which it was collected rather than going to the one making the appeal. They record the amount raised and give 100% of it to the mission. (In this case, they will send the check—made out to “Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission—to Fr. Dorvil himself, since he is the one in charge of the mission, but it is often the case that the one preaching is not the one in charge.) The diocese then knows that the mission was completed and the mission preacher doesn’t have to carry large sums of cash and checks with him as he travels back home. They also use this information to try to figure out which parish to send each missionary to next year. Some parishes are able/willing to give large amounts and some only small amounts. Each mission has varying needs, too, so they get matched up as best as possible. Please say a prayer for those responsible for making such choices, for that sure is a difficult task!
On a different topic, this past Tuesday a big van towing a flatbed trailer pulled up in our parking lot with a delivery for the parish. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it but, although our parish is named “Epiphany of Our Lord” we don’t have anything other than a sign to indicate the biblical Epiphany event. The delivery van changed that. Filling the van and spilling out onto the trailer was a large Nativity set. Three of the figures in the Nativity set, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, are the Three Kings or Wise Men, or Magi, depending on which Bible translation you read or song you sing. It is, of course, on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, that they arrived and worshipped the Divine Infant, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My plan is to set up this Nativity/Epiphany set on the grounds in a place of honor and leave it there all year round. “But Father!” I can already hear you saying inside of your head, “Plastic, wood, and even fiberglass are no match for the Florida sun! It will rot away in no time!” Yes, that is true. And most of the nativity sets out there are made out of one of those materials. But there are other alternatives! Maybe this one is made of pure, Carrara marble, lovingly hewn from the Italian mountains and hand-chiseled by the Benedictine Monks of Norcia in the free time they have between making their famous beer and rebuilding their monastery which was destroyed several years ago by an earthquake. Or maybe this one is made out of solid granite and rivals the size of Mount Rushmore, or, a bit closer to home, Stone Mountain, Georgia. Or maybe this set is made in Mexico of cast aluminum, finished and painted in Florida, and able to withstand the Florida weather about the same as your car does, which is to say, not without deterioration, but not too bad, either. And quite a bit cheaper than the other two “maybes” I just mentioned.
The Epiphany set is not quite life-sized, for, after all, camels are pretty large, but it is pretty big. We are currently working on a plan to mount the pieces in such a way as to keep them from walking off after determining just exactly where to put them. They are too large and heavy to move around easily but you never know when one of more pieces of such sets might just decide to go on a journey when nobody is looking! I’m guessing that we won’t have them out before Cardinal Burke gets here, but I have guessed wrong before.
Speaking of Cardinal Burke’s arrival, the day he comes, Sunday, October 30, is the Feast of Christ the King on the 1962 liturgical calendar. (The Three Kings of Epiphany adoring the Infant Jesus, the King of Kings, would be a nice touch outside, now that I think of it.) We will have the regularly scheduled 7:30 Mass for all of you who either don’t want to fight the 10:30 Mass crowd or who are going to be doing all of the needed grunt work during that Mass. We will have to clear everyone out of the church as soon as Mass is done so that we can set up both the church and hall as needed for the Cardinal to celebrate the Pontifical High Mass. There will be no confessions heard that day, nor items blessed, and no, you cannot just stay in your pew trying to assure yourself of getting a seat for the next Mass! Even if nobody from outside of the parish attends the Big Mass (which is very unlikely), we won’t all fit into the church and hall. Bring your lawn chair and an umbrella in case you need to be outside. More information and reminders will be coming as we get closer to the big day.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Ember Days are Here Again!
From the Pastor: Ember Days are Here Again!
Ember Days are three days of partial (full on Friday) abstinence and fasting. We celebrate them on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday four times a year, near the beginning of each season (weather seasons, not liturgical seasons!). The September Ember Days fall (a seasonal pun) next week. Wednesday, September 21, is St. Matthew’s feast day, and, although I had it printed in the parish calendar that we celebrate the Ember Day with a commemoration of St. Matthew, I got it wrong. We are to celebrate the apostle’s feast day with a commemoration of the Ember Day. The “partial abstinence” of that day and the following Saturday means that one may eat meat only at the main meal of the day. The “fasting” of all three days means that there is only one meal allowed (usually taken in the evening in our culture) and, if necessary to sustain strength or health, up to two small meatless collations, or snacks, earlier in the day. These collations are to be, if measured together, smaller than the full, regular-sized meal. Of course, these days are only found on the old calendars, not the current Novus Ordo calendar, and there is now no mandate for keeping these days of fast and abstinence. But for those of you who are striving to revive lost/forgotten/stolen Catholic traditions, I highly recommend that you incorporate these small penances into your week.
Last year I wrote more extensively about the ember days and how they were dropped from the Universal liturgical calendar with the expectation that they would be incorporated into the local calendars of various countries, something that, at least in the USA, was, sadly, never done. Since my weekly bulletin articles are so memorable, I assume that none of you need a refresher in that part of the history of Ember Days. So this year I will fabricate a completely different history of the Ember Days and present it to you as if it were the true liturgical story of bygone times.
Ember Days started, surprisingly enough, with embers. Embers are, by definition, “the smoldering remains of a fire.” There are many stories of fire and, hence, embers, in both the Old and New Testaments, and Scripture scholars are at odds as to which of them was the precursor to the first Ember Days. The most obvious beginning was from the days of Adam and Eve. The ThermoGenesis scholars believe that, while Eve ate the forbidden apple fresh from the tree, she baked the rest of it into a pie and gave it to Adam to eat, for only a man of very low character (such as we have in abundance today) would have betrayed God for a half-eaten piece of fruit, but for a “sinfully delicious pie,” well, even today’s advertisers know that that sounds mighty tempting. When they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden they failed to extinguish the cooking fire and the whole place burned. (You didn’t think the angel’s sword burst into flames on its own, did you?) The Ember Days were then set as commemorations of the end of Paradise on Earth, as they returned quarterly to reminisce and do penance at the charred remains of their formerly glorious home.
A competing group of Biblical scholars, the Exodousers, claim that a more likely source is the Burning Bush wherein God spoke with Moses. Moses secretly stuffed some of the non-combustible fire in his toga pockets to keep with him as he traveled to the Promised Land, for he knew that nights got cold in the desert. Another snake plays a prominent role in this theory, as well, for some of the desert snakes swallowed flames from his secret fire, thus getting the name “fiery serpents” which later bit the complaining people. This explanation is doubtful, however, since no embers are left over from a flame that does not consume the material upon which it rests.
Yet a third oftentimes defended position is that the Ember Days began with Elias (Elijah in some new-fangled translations). Two competing groups form this one general group. The first one, the Charcoalites, say that these days started with Elias calling down fire from Heaven upon the sacrificial bullock offered on Mount Charcoal (since changed to Mt. Carmel) when the prophets of Baal were unable to do so while calling upon their sleepy or vacationing gods. The Rhodeapple Scholars, while championing Elias, believe that the fiery horses and fiery chariot that swept him up in the whirlwind left behind burning embers, from which the beginnings of these days of penance began. It is not surprising that these two groups disagree, for they cannot even come to a consensus as to whether these two histories are found in the 2nd and 4th books of Kings or in the 1st and 3rd.
The last of the so-called scholars, a very extinguished group indeed, which is known as “The New World Smolder,” believe that the Ember Days didn’t have any true beginnings in the Old Testament but rather sprang from a beach barbeque after the Resurrection. When the apostles brought the miraculous catch of fish ashore, Jesus invited them to eat, for He had fish cooking on hot coals. It is thought that the embers of this fire might have been the inspiration for St. Peter to institute Ember Days in the early Church, for he certainly led the others in setting the world on fire. Our diocesan Patron, St. Jude, to this day does penance as a living ember (the Pentecost flame still atop his head) to make up for those who don’t keep the Ember Day penance.
I hope I didn’t re-ignite any old controversies by kindling your interest in these fantastical tales of scholarly debacle, I mean debate.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka