He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Let Us Repair Damage Caused By Sin
This week we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday and, by means of an External Solemnity, once again on Sunday. In 1928 Pope Pius XI promulgated an encyclical titled in English, On Reparation to the Sacred Heart, in which he commanded that an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus be made every year on this Feast. Here are just a few of his closing words explaining what this Act is and why it should be done. Below this quote is the actual Act which we prayed on Friday and which I am asking you to pray again today.
20. These things being so, Venerable Brethren, just as the rite of consecration, starting from humble beginnings, and afterwards more widely propagated, was at length crowned with success by Our confirmation; so in like manner, we earnestly desire that this custom of expiation or pious reparation, long since devoutly introduced and devoutly propagated, may also be more firmly sanctioned by Our Apostolic authority and more solemnly celebrated by the whole Catholic name. Wherefore, we decree and command that every year on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, - which feast indeed on this occasion we have ordered to be raised to the degree of a double of the first class with an octave - in all churches throughout the whole world, the same expiatory prayer or protestation as it is called, to Our most loving Savior, set forth in the same words according to the copy subjoined to this letter shall be solemnly recited, so that all our faults may be washed away with tears, and reparation may be made for the violated rights of Christ the supreme King and Our most loving Lord.
21. There is surely no reason for doubting, Venerable Brethren, that from this devotion piously established and commanded to the whole Church, many excellent benefits will flow forth not only to individual men but also to society, sacred, civil, and domestic... And this indeed we more especially and vehemently desire and confidently expect, that the just and merciful God who would have spared Sodom for the sake of ten just men, will much more be ready to spare the whole race of men, when He is moved by the humble petitions and happily appeased by the prayers of the community of the faithful praying together in union with Christ their Mediator and Head, in the name of all...
Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O sweet Jesus, Whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Thy altar eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries, to which Thy loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Thy pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those, who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow Thee, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Thy Law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against Thee; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holidays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against Thee and Thy Saints.
We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Thy Vicar on earth and Thy priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Thy Divine Love; and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast founded.
Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Thy divine honor, the satisfaction Thou didst once make to Thy eternal Father on the cross and which Thou dost continue to renews daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Thy Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Thy grace, for all neglect of Thy great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending Thee and to bring as many as possible to follow Thee.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to Thee, so that we may one day come to that happy home, where Thou with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Monstrance Proposal
Below is an article that I found years ago in a Catholic newspaper. (I think it was in The Wanderer but I don’t have pertinent information attached to the article. Sorry about that.) After all these years the humor remains on target. And, since today we celebrate the External Solemnity of Corpus Christi, it just begs for a re-reading.
At a time when the Church is sunk deep in controversy, faithful Catholics everywhere should be prepared to step forward when asked and be bridge builders, heal rifts. This struck me especially when I read the recent article in (a Catholic newspaper) about Bishop (redacted) of (redacted) Fla., who has directed that eucharistic exposition should not take place except during what we neatly and concisely used to call “Forty Hours,” but which now must be referred to by this ear-catching title: the “annual Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist.”
Here is a rift. Catholics all over the country are getting into perpetual adoration, Forty Hours, and all other kinds of neat stuff. Other Catholics insist that Jesus is in the gathered community just as surely as He is in the “consecrated bread.” In fact, they think that focusing on the “consecrated bread” detracts from the focus which ought to be on the gathered community.
How does one reconcile these two dramatically diverging views on the Eucharist?
I have solved this dilemma. With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I call it “A Monstrance Proposal.”
The actual concept, which I have copyrighted, is quite simple. You need first to envision the configuration of our parish church. It is large (seats 1,000), cruciform, but there was a renovation (O blessed word!) in 1975 which brought the sanctuary forward to the center of the cross, with the choir and organ in the old sanctuary area behind the altar. It was a very carefully done 1970’s renovation, and the result is truly appalling; but that is the subject of another article and we need to move along here.
We understand that we need to emphasize the Presence of Christ in the gathered community at least as much as, if not more than, we emphasize Him in the Eucharist. To this end, we are removing the choir section of our church, that section behind the current altar, and replacing it with a platform on which we will build a 20-foot tall, six-seater monstrance – a monstrance capable of sitting six parishioners in the glass chamber. We will then begin perpetual adoration.
Six parishioners at a time will take turns climbing up and sitting in the monstrance while the rest of us will take turns worshiping Them. Or their gatheredness. Or Jesus in their gatheredness. Or whatever. It’s all a bit fuzzy just yet, which makes me sure that we are on the right track. This is going to be Big. I am waiting for the call from Modern Liturgy magazine anytime now. I expect to be its centerfold.
Why, you may ask, am I offering this proposal? That is an easy question to answer. On the one hand, you have the perpetual adoration people, on the other hand, the Jesus-in-the-gathered community people. Why have another liturgical argument? Make them both happy, I say!!! Take the gathered community, and stick Them in the monstrance. Then worship Their gatheredness. You want perpetual adoration?? Make Them present all the time and you can have perpetual adoration of Their gatheredness.
Each hour of adoration sees a new crew of six climb into the monstrance, and two perpetual adorers assume the lotus position on the beanbags which have replaced pews and kneelers in our church. A devotional booklet of inclusive language campfire songs is available in the devotional booklet rack in the vestibule, conveniently placed between the soda machine and the tabernacle, just before you get to the unisex restroom. Each hour begins with the singing either of Gather Us In, our gathering song for every liturgy, or, for more traditional groups, the traditional thanksgiving hymn, We Gather To Gather To Gather Together.
People are very receptive to the introduction of gathered/enhanced spirituality, as I like to call it, as long as it is presented in the context of the tradition.
Our next step, for example, has to do with the bread plate, traditionally the “paten.” We will be reminding everyone how, years ago when we were in school, the good sisters (yes, this was years ago!) told us that when we were at Mass we should remember all those for whom we wished to pray, and “place them on the paten” as the priest presented it.
Our next liturgical step comes right out of that tradition. We will be fashioning a very large bread plate, probably about 12 feet in diameter, and affixing it to chains hanging from the ceiling. At the presentation of the gifts during the Eucharistic Liturgy, four designated “gifts” from among our parishioners will come up and hop into the suspended bread plate, singing Make Us Your Bread Lord Jesus; Then Break Us Up and Pass Us Around. We expect this will be stunningly effective.
There are still little kinks in our customs which need to be worked out (for example, on one’s way into church, if one passes by little gathered knots of parishioners, does one genuflect to Them, or is a mere bow sufficient?), but with a bit of goodwill everything will be worked out. It is all very exciting, as our people become a Eucharistic People to such an extent that they begin to wear little battery-operated sanctuary lamps in their lapels.
I sense a new age of Renewal coming on….
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Wine With Which To Please God
A while ago, before covid put an end to all such pleasures, I was enjoying an afternoon bar-b-que with some parishioners. Along with the wonderful company and food there were also some nice bottles of wine. The hosts were not only gracious to share the libations but also the stories behind several of the bottles, why they were chosen, what to expect them to pair with, and other such delightful information. We enjoyed the day and I went home fat and happy. A month or so afterward, a bottle of wine showed up with a note that said something along the lines of “I noticed that you really enjoyed this wine at the get-together. I thought it would be a nice wine to use for Mass if that is permissible!” Well, it is permissible. The requirements for the wine used at Mass are pretty simple. The wine must be made out of grapes and it must not be adulterated in any substantial way. Things that adulterate the wine in non-substantial ways include such additives as sulfites, which are naturally occurring but more are often added to fight bacterial contamination and oxidation. The use of sulfites is fine even in “Mass wine.” The grape wine may be either red or white. Color does not change the essence of the wine. The wine may be either sweet or dry, depending on the grape varietal used and the way it was fermented and processed. The wine may be purchased at the religious supply house and have a label that says “Altar Wine” (which is purely a marketing ploy and may actually be deceptive, as these companies supply goods not only for Catholics but also for other religious groups, some of which may not have the same requirements for their “service.” Think “grape juice” being acceptable to some religions.) Or the wine may be purchased at the local ABC or grocery store. It may come in a bottle, in a can, or in a box. As long as it is made of grapes and not substantially changed (for instance by adding distilled alcohol to it) it can be validly used at Mass.
So now I had a bottle of wine which this man already knew that I enjoy and he was very happy to allow me to use it at Mass, both for me to enjoy and, in a manner of thinking, for God to enjoy as well, instead of just using “whatever” wine for the Holy Sacrifice. Of course, sipping a glass of wine at a gathering is quite a bit different than consuming the Precious Blood at Mass! For instance, before almost every Mass I have either recently brushed my teeth or used mouthwash. The flavor of the wine does not come through exactly the same way when paired with Scope instead of cheese and crackers! But I liked the idea of using a “better” wine at the most Holy Sacrifice. Another man did, too, as he heard of what was done, and he, too, brought in a wine he favored and asked that it be used at Mass. Since then I have occasionally thought about sharing this story with you but never actually got around to doing it. Until now.
Do you have a favorite wine? Would it please you and do you think Our Lord would be pleased if you would have it used for the consecration? I am going to put this out there and see what transpires. We use about a bottle of wine a week (my sacristans will tell me later how much off my guestimate is!) so the wine expense is not a major line item in our budget. I tell you that so that you will know that I am not just trying to save a dollar! I could go to Trader Joe’s and get some Two Buck Chuck if saving money was the overriding factor. Instead, I want to offer you the opportunity to bring in a bottle of your favorite wine (pure grape wine only, please!) to be used at Mass. If you tape your name onto the bottle in a way that it will stay, I will be sure to read it at some point during the week and remember to pray for you during the Mass! I don’t know how to practically let people know whose bottle is being used at any one time, but at least God will know. Please don’t bring in more than one bottle, though, because if we don’t have room to store the bottles or if we get so many coming in that we cannot possibly use them within a reasonable amount of time, I will be forced to use them for our potlucks or other dinners, which will pretty much defeat the purpose of bringing them for use at the Mass. If you want to share a short story about why that particular bottle of wine is your offering to Our Lord (“It was the wine my bride and I drank as our first toast 50 years ago—different vintage, of course—and we pour a glass of it every anniversary.”) feel free to include that type of information as well.
I will end this with a simple reminder that Monday is Memorial Day. It would be quite appropriate if you offered both a toast and a prayer for those who gave their lives defending our country. God knows who His “faithful departed” are. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace, Amen. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
[From the Pastor: Thank You!
Last week’s Priest Anniversary Bash was absolutely amazing! Food, music, people spread out all over the property, games for the children, multiple priests celebrating various anniversaries, and, of course, Jesus, Who showed up at Mass once again! When things were winding down late in the afternoon, one of the women said something so simple, so beautiful, so not-being-done(!): We should do this every month! As for me, I would be glad to attend, but realize that that is all I did: attend. I did not organize it. I did not set anything up. I did not take anything down. I did not-, did not-, did not- to just about every aspect of this luncheon coming together. But somebody did. A whole bunch of somebodies did. And here is where I would like to thank each and every one but I have no knowledge of who to thank. A good number of people were working on this for weeks and months. I saw dozens of people running around during the days immediately before the party, dozens more (or perhaps the same dozens) early on Sunday morning, still more dozens during the event and yet more dozens of people until everything was completely taken down and cleared up. There were men, women, boys, and girls, each taking a role in making it all come together so “effortlessly.” And, of course, hundreds of people who set aside their Sunday afternoon to spend the day at the parish. Thank you all!
There is one person whom I absolutely must call out by name, though. She is near and dear to my heart and went above and beyond the call of duty. My mother, Carole, made the cake that mimicked our sanctuary, complete with altar rail, three steps to the altar, multiple levels on the altar, 6 candles on the top gradine, four on the bottom, a tabernacle in the center, altar cards and angels in their places, the missal, burse, veiled chalice, crucifix, rugs, altar boys kneeling in prayer, and yours truly celebrating Mass, with details down to my glasses and hair “style!” I did not take any photos of anything else, but I got a few of the cake and Mom. She struggled with this cake like you would not believe. Her arthritis constantly caused her hands to cramp up to the point of needing to stop due to pain. Making the figures and getting them to stay put took a lot of patience and prayer. She got some assistance from her other children at the end and had some knight in shining armor carry the cake to the car and then from the car to the social hall so that it arrived in one piece. And it was spectacular.
[See the cake photos below this article]
I wonder what she will pull off for my 50th!?!?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: 25 Years A Priest!
May 18, 1996 I knelt before the bishop and was ordained a priest. I cannot tell you with certainty why God allowed that to happen. My best guess is that I was so incompetent for the job that if I accomplished anything good and holy in my vocation it would simply prove that God exists, for it had to be He Who worked through me. I say this with no false modesty. I was far from a perfect Catholic man before entering the seminary and although God (directly and/or through others) corrected, healed, and formed me in some very important ways, I still did not exit the seminary anywhere near being a Saint. I am still, after 25 years, quite the sinner. But at least now I am striving, in a way I was not back then, to rid myself of sins with a seriousness that I never had in the past. I know that time is short and that eternity is llllloooonnnnnnggggg. I have battled demons of my own and those of others. Some I have, through God’s grace, conquered by means of a head on attack with the spiritual weapons provided by the Church and the brashness of a combatant who isn’t afraid of the outcome. Others I have learned to run away from, knowing that either they are too strong for me or I am too weak for them, for even Superman knows not to mess with Kryptonite, and I am no Superman! Whether fighting to win (which brings glory to God) or fleeing to win (which also brings glory to God), the fighter has greater determination to conquer his opponent the closer to the end of the fight he comes. I am now 25 years closer to the end of the fight, which, judging from the way the people of the world and the Church are behaving, may mean the Second Coming rather than my personal expiration date.
Along the way I have learned some very important lessons from some of the most likely and unlikely of people. I would like to share a few stories with you here, so sit back and relax for a spell. I will only tell of one priest, whom I will call Fr. W, who is now deceased and of whom I was fondly reminiscing recently. He had moved to this diocese after retirement and was quite active in a parish to which I was assigned. He was about as liberal as you get but, unlike so many liberal priests, he didn’t want the Church to change Her teachings so that he could enjoy sin without pangs of conscious, but rather because he was convinced that liberality would open people up to willingly embracing the Faith rather than accepting it under obligation. Anyway, I learned several important priestly lessons from him. He was available to celebrate Mass at the drop of a hat. But one priest kept making excuses for why he needed Fr. W to take his place when the reality was that he had some, ummm, problems which shall go unmentioned here but which were pretty much common knowledge at the time. Fr. W one day had heard enough of this poor priest’s lame excuses for why he couldn’t say Mass and told him, “I will celebrate Mass for you anytime you simply ask. But if you tell me one more lie about why you can’t be there, I will never answer your calls again.” Lesson: It is fine to put limits or conditions on doing even something as important as celebrating Mass. In this case, the other priest was not yet capable of admitting his sinful activity, yet Fr. W held him to what he was capable of, namely, not inventing excuses in a pathetic attempt to cover the tracks of his immorality. He stopped “meeting him where he was” and started pushing him past his “comfort level” without demanding what he could not yet do. Babysteps.
Fr. W. He was a packrat, or perhaps a term more familiar to the younger generation, a hoarder. Once when he was ill I went to his apartment to assist him. There were boxes piled floor to ceiling everywhere. Yet, in his closet, the closet of someone who seemingly never threw anything away, were, if memory serves me, only two pairs of black slacks, two black clerical shirts, and one pair of black shoes. His explanation for the sparse wardrobe was that (remember, this is a liberal priest!) no priest needs anything more than that. He said he never, in all his years as a priest, wore “civilian” clothes. Never. Lesson: When a priest loves being a priest, regardless of his liturgical or theological bent, he has no need or desire to “fit in” with the rest of the world, even in his manner of dress.
I could probably fill several more pages of anecdotes of just this one priest and his impact on my own priesthood. I cannot possibly tell of all the ways clergy and laity have helped me stay on or return to the right path over the years. I thank God for all of them and all of you. Together we can and will become Saints.
Now, one final lesson from Fr. W. He had, as older men sometimes do, bladder problems. Even in the middle of Mass he often had to excuse himself to use the little boys’ room. Although his sudden disappearances were strange for visitors, regular parishioners were very sympathetic and Mass would simply pick up as normal when he returned. Lesson number three: Always turn off your lavalier microphone when you leave the sanctuary.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Dedication to St. Joseph
Last Saturday, May 1, the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Worker, we had a Solemn High Mass instead of our usual 8:00 am Low Mass. During this proclaimed Year of St. Joseph, our Bishop, Gregory Parkes, had announced that he was going to consecrate the entire Diocese to St. Joseph on that day. He asked us to join in those prayers in whichever way we could, and this is how I decided to do so. The altar boys had been clamoring for a special Mass (ya gotta love their enthusiasm to serve!) and this gave us a perfect excuse to have it happen. What I held back from them was that they were going to be serving at the Mass wherein I was going to consecrate the parish to St. Joseph as well! I thought I would share the prayer of consecration with you for the sake of those who were not able to attend the Mass in person, as well as to provide a spiritual tidbit for the edification of all who have a devotion to this holy Saint.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH
O Glorious Patriarch and Patron of the Church! O Virgin Spouse of the Virgin Mother of God! O Guardian and Virginal Father of the Word Incarnate! In the presence of Jesus and Mary, in union with Bishop Parkes as he consecrates the Diocese of St. Petersburg to you, I choose you this day to be the father, guardian, and protector of Epiphany of Our Lord parish.
O great St. Joseph, whom God has made the Head of the Holy Family, accept the clergy, staff, and parishioners, I beseech you, though utterly unworthy, to become members of your “Holy House.” Present us to your Immaculate Spouse; ask her also to adopt us as her children. With her, pray that we may constantly think of Jesus, and serve him faithfully to the end of life. O Terror of Demons, increase in us virtue, protect us from the evil one, and help us not to offend God in any way.
O my Spiritual Father, I hereby consecrate this parish to you. In faithful imitation of Jesus and Mary, I place her and all her concerns under your care and protection. To you, after Jesus and Mary, I consecrate the parish buildings and property, each member’s home and property, our very body and soul, with all our faculties, our spiritual growth, and all our affairs and undertakings.
Forsake us not, but adopt us as servants and children of the Holy Family. Watch over us at all times, but especially at the hour of death. Console and strengthen us with the presence of Jesus and Mary so that, with you, we may praise and adore the Holy Trinity for all eternity. Amen.
Every year I try to read up a little more on St. Joseph before his two feast days, March 19 being the more ancient and well-known. There are plenty of Saints who have commented on this holy man and a few mystics who have been privileged to see and write about his life. Each writes a little bit differently about him, based on their prayers and spiritual reflections. The scriptures hold very little information about him, but that doesn’t mean that truly holy men and women haven’t been able to discern much, much more! One little delightful insight first came my way by means of St. Francis de Sales. He wrote that we have no relics of St. Joseph’s body, just as we have no relics of his blessed spouse, Mary! That we have no relics of Mary’s body is a great way of showing the truth behind the Assumption—body and soul—of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The members of the early church revered the bodies of the Martyrs and Saints with great devotion, awed that such people gave everything, including their lives, for God. We have relics of the apostles but none of the Blessed Mother. Why? Because her body is already glorified in Heaven! There is no skeleton in her grave from which to collect relics! We have no relics of St. Joseph, either! St. Francis de Sales believed that St. Joseph was also assumed body and soul into Heaven, uniting the Holy Family once again. And, although that is not a dogma of Faith, it is something held by other Saints as well. An online search quickly yields St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, Servant of God Mother Cecilia Baij, Pope John XXIII, St. Gertrude the Great, and Saint Leonard of Port Maurice all ascribing to this belief.
I will leave you with one quote from St. Francis de Sales, though he addressed this topic several times: Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: No, This Is Not An Aunt Irma Story
I saw the following a while back from William Briggs, April 20, under the title, “God Catches Cooties From Man” and thought it was just satire. I was only slightly wrong. Every one of the listed speakers is actually a listed speaker! The only satire is the topic of each one’s talk. Read it and weep.
So the Vatican is holding a health conference, promoting it using an image like the one in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, where God gives life to man. Only this time God has on a glove, and so does man, lest either man catch God’s cooties, or man gives his to God. It’s not clear. Name of the thing is Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: Unite to Prevent, Unite to Cure. Sounds like any other busybody money-sucking virtue-signaling paper-shuffling NGO, no? All the best people are coming. Like Deepka Chopra, who will try to quantum heal the coroandoom by putting sick people into Schrodinger boxes in which they are both cured and dead simultaneously. Chelsea Clinton—yes, the CC—will deliver the talk “If you abort your baby, it can’t catch a disease”. Cindy Crawford, the model, will discuss the best outfits to wear to your vaccination. Thupten Jinpa, PhD, and President of the Compassion Institute will deliver meaningful looks of sympathy at the crowd. Some sources are reporting he might even sigh. Joe Perry from Aerosmith’s talk is titled “The best guitar picks for use in a pandemic”. Oligarchs like John Scully have been tapped to push their latest investments. CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff is coming. The CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer will be there giving the joint talk “Blood Clots? What Blood Clots?” Finally, the Fabulous Fauci will come! He will decide on what he will say after hearing what he thinks the other speakers want to hear. This thing is huge. It’s well the organizers put the soul last in the title, because that element is scarcely represented, if at all. The discussion will be on “deeper meaning of human existence and seek areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences”. If my reading of history is right, the deeper meaning of human existence is something the Vatican figured out a couple of thousand years ago. Nothing about panicking over diseases in that deeper meaning. But, things change. Which is probably why they don’t mention the name of our Lord in any of the material of this conference. If one were conspiracy theorist, one would say this has all the markings of our New World Order promised by so many.
That was my introduction to an upcoming (really!) conference sponsored by the Vatican with the above photo taken directly from the website, https://vaticanconference2021.org/ where you can go to check it out yourself. Click on “Dignitaries and Speakers” at the top and you will see pages of people who are anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, new age, or just plain weird choices to speak at a “real” Catholic conference on any topic at all. Those listed above by Briggs are just a small sampling of such odd ducks for a Vatican conference on mind, body, and soul. After all, if they have strange ideas on what it is to be human in the first place, or lack comprehension of the value of each human soul and how it differs from non-human souls, how can they grasp a true unification of mind, body, and soul? How can they teach the Catholic Church anything of value regarding a “cure” in this life as preparation for eternal life if they don’t believe in eternal life? If they don’t believe in Jesus and His Church as the necessary means of eternal life? No, this is not satire, it is evil. God help us all.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: His Second First Mass!
Last Sunday Fr. Pierre Dorvil, the priest in charge of the Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission, celebrated his first Traditional Latin Mass here at Epiphany! I loved the description he used during his sermon, that this was his second First Mass. The First Mass of a priest is a very special Mass. Excitement mixes with nervousness. Joy and happiness and exuberance mark his entire countenance. None of his preparation for this celebration, neither his philosophy classes nor his theology classes, not his practicums nor “dry” Masses, not even his prayer(!) could possibly make him truly comprehend the magnificent gift God bestowed upon him just hours earlier at his ordination and which he was going to use for its ultimate end as he was about to offer back to God the gift of His Son’s Holy Sacrifice on the Cross. The new priest tries to comport himself and asks, “Am I not prepared? Of course I am. Yet, ABSOLUTELY NOT!” To stand in Persona Christi at his first Mass without dying of love shows how much grace God gives to the priest by not allowing him to fully comprehend what he is about to do! Still, at his first Mass, the priest embraces the Love of Jesus, that love shown while being crucified, to an extent that boggles the mind and expands the soul. Father Dorvil celebrated his First Mass in 1984. It was a Novus Ordo Mass, of course, and it was incredible beyond rational explanation. Yet here he was, nearly 4 decades later, after celebrating countless Masses, and he was celebrating just like he was newly ordained. This second First Mass was a Solemn High Mass in the 1962 Rite. Although the Novus Ordo Mass is the Mass which he fell in love with and which brought him into the priesthood, and although the differences between the “old Mass” and the “new Mass” are usually downplayed as if they are inconsequential, even to the point of officially calling them two forms of the same Rite rather than giving them their due by calling them two distinct Rites, priests who start in the Novus Ordo and then learn the Traditional Latin Mass can—and do—know better! This is why his first Solemn High Mass (TLM) could be such an important celebration as to put it on par with this very first Mass so many years ago. It was as important a Mass (not that each and every Mass in every Rite is not of infinite importance!) as his very first one! It took much preparation, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It evoked all of the fruits of the Holy Ghost as were first experienced oh, so many years ago as this holy priest, when he, with his newly acquired indelible mark of the priesthood, stood at the altar, his hands virtually glistening with the chrism oil with which his bishop had recently anointed them for this mission, brought the Sacrifice of Salvation to the present, bringing Heaven to Earth, and coalescing time and space within a single point, the point of Forgiveness; of Reparation; of Perfect Sacrificial Love. He was, in a manner of speaking, now being “born again” as a priest and he named it as such! A second First Mass! What a blessing it was for me (and, I hope, for you) to have been present to witness such a marvelous occurrence.
Now that he has celebrated his first one, expect to see him quite often (when his pastoral duties allow) offer the Holy Mass. He is planning on celebrating daily Masses in the TLM as well as the occasional Sunday Mass. But Wait! There’s More! We have another local priest who has been preparing to celebrate his second First Mass as well! I have already announced it to many of you but I hesitate to put his name in the bulletin beforehand out of an abundance of caution. There are still many priests and bishops who, were they to get a sniff of a priest embracing Tradition, would put up so many roadblocks as to make it impossible for that priest to celebrate a TLM. That’s just the way it is. If all goes as planned, he will celebrate the TLM next month and then the cone of silence can be lifted.
Finally, Josh Heiman, one of our home-grown seminarians still preparing for his first First Mass (which is still too many years away!), has been with us for a few weeks, acting as subdeacon for the Solemn Masses and praying for all of you, his friends, family, and benefactors, is leaving us Tuesday morning to return to the seminary. He is studying for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, whose members use no Rite except the Traditional Latin Rite. He will probably have to wait for his second First Mass until he is able to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn Mass as a holy Bishop! Please keep him in your prayers as he continues his studies. If he becomes even half as holy as Fr. Dorvil, he will be still twice as holy as me and will be a priest worthy of the call. Be sure to wish him farewell and Godspeed before he leaves, and don’t forget to pray for him as he returns to his studies. May Our Lady keep him and all our young priests- and sisters-to-be under her protective mantle during their formation.
We certainly are blessed with graces from Heaven around here, and you, the Faithful parishioners, are showing what God wants to do, and obviously can do, with any individuals and families ready to become Saints. Keep up the good work!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Easter Fishing Trip
A group of men from the parish had planned an Easter Monday fishing trip on one of the party boats out of Clearwater. I have both great memories and not-so-good memories of party boat trips, missed trips, and canceled trips from my youth. On the “great” side, I remember fishing party boats (these are not “fiesta” type of parties, but rather large boats holding 30 or more people fishing shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to a “charter” fishing boat where only a few people are on board) out of Daytona Beach and catching plenty of amberjack. That was back in the 1970s and the fish were plentiful. Of course, if you have ever caught amberjack you know that they swim all over the place when hooked, and, with everyone fishing so close together, oftentimes the person with a fish on the line would tangle a dozen more lines before he either got the fish up to the boat or it broke off. A lot of time was spend getting untangled! Every once in a while two people on opposite sides of the boat would each hook a fish and their fish would then tangle with each other, resulting in two men straining to pull in what seemed like a monster fish when the reality was that they were each trying to reel in the other man’s line! The stronger of the men would “win” but generally at least one of the fish had broken free by the time the fight was over.
The “not-so-good” memories were not really bad memories of fishing but rather of other things associated with the trip. For instance, one time the weather was absolutely terrible out at sea. We were on an all-day trip, so there was plenty of time for the captain to search for a place to fish that was not directly in the storm. But in the meantime, we were all forced to sit in the cabin, where we were crowded together like sardines. And then people started getting sick. The smell and sounds of children and adults losing their breakfasts, the humidity from all of the body heat and breathing, plus the up and down and rocking motion of the boat was, well... sickening. I don’t think I got seasick but I certainly got sick of other people’s seasickness! The groans and moans and green faces, the... sorry, to be too descriptive would not make for a good article. But just let me say that even the crew got sick just from being in the cabin helping the sick passengers. The only two people onboard who remained unfazed were the ship’s captain (he was up in his own place and not breathing in the fumes or seeing and smelling and hearing the rest of us!) and my grandfather, a life-long fisherman and boater himself. He just serenely took it all in and remained just as nonchalant as could be. He was always my fishing hero. Of course, we eventually found a place to fish. The waves and wind were both strong but not so much that we were in danger of falling overboard, so the boat stopped and we were all able to get outside. Only about half of the people were able to fish, if I recall correctly, and the rest were just miserable for the rest of the day, staying inside (the worst place to be) because they were too seasick to move. We managed to catch a lot of fish, but grandpa outcaught everyone, as usual.
We also had at least two times when we arrived at the dock only to be told that they had no record of our party making reservations. After getting up at 4 in the morning to get out to the boat, bringing all the cousins and uncles from Michigan out for a fishing trip, that news did not go over too well. But there was nothing to do about it! The boats were all fully booked and, most likely, someone slipped a few extra bucks to someone to get aboard and we were left behind. And onetime our boat simply left early and, though we were there on time, we were stuck looking at an empty slip instead of a boarding plank. Oh, those were the good ol’ days before social media or any other real way of complaining, so they could get away with whatever they pleased.
Anyway, back to the Epiphany men’s trip. They asked if I would like to join them for a half-day trip. I had to respond in the negative because I had two morning Masses and confessions and Adoration. Fishing and priesthood just don’t work out too well now that we are supposed to be catching men rather than fish! So they asked Fr. Mangiafico if he wanted to come. Instead of saying “yes” he said, “Tell Fr. Palka that I will celebrate his morning Masses for him and he can go.” So on Easter Monday, I had to wake up extra early in order to celebrate a private Mass before the morning Masses began, then drive to Clearwater through the morning traffic, and, wait, it sounds like I am complaining! Nope, this is fishing. This is how men become strong enough to be real Catholics! We sacrifice sleep, comfort, eating, and other things just to perhaps catch some fish which would have been more cheaply purchased at leisure from the market. And we love it! We brought the fish we caught to the restaurant at the dock and had them cook lunch for us. We feasted on Easter Fish and enjoyed every minute and every mouthful. Thanks, Father M! Thanks men of Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: So Many New Parishioners!
This Triduum and Easter was glorious in so many ways! Not only did we get a chance to commemorate Our Lord’s Passion and Death and then celebrate His Resurrection without having to lock the Faithful out of the church, but we had the opportunity to introduce these Traditional Rites to many people who had never experienced them before! As one person told me, “These were stolen from us last year. This year we won’t miss any of these services!” This exuberance had already been tangible through the whole of Lent, with daily and Sunday Mass attendance growing to new levels, with the Friday Stations and Soup having well over 100 people staying for the simple meal after each weekly prayerful Way of the Cross, and with ever greater participation in both our adult and children's groups and activities. And then came Easter, when we, for the first time, broke the 1000 person mark in Mass attendance.
As thrilled as I am that all of you are here, I also see problems arising from such a quick influx of people new to the Traditional Latin Mass (and other sacraments in the Traditional Form), so I want to address some issues here. Please note that I am doing this, not to chastise anybody, but rather to inform everybody! Just like we don’t want all of the people who are fleeing the covid-communism of Michigan and New York to simply move to Florida and then vote for the same things that made their previous states such terrible places to live, so we don’t want new parishioners coming in and then trying to make this parish become just like the one they came from! Exterior signs of the interior reverence and devotion which should be given to God at Mass are important, but old habits are hard to break. I know! It takes practice to really pray the Mass rather than just show up for the “entertainment” (you know, the “What will I get out of it?” mentality of so many modern Catholics).
First of all, put away your watch! A Sunday Low Mass (the silent Mass where the people come to full, active, conscious, participation through silent prayer rather than through busy-ness and vocal activity) generally takes slightly more than an hour. The High Mass, due especially to the fact that almost everything said aloud is chanted rather than recited, will normally run longer than 90 minutes. There are no “shortcuts” such as a shorter Eucharistic Prayer, or options to skip the Confiteor if the priest says the Kyrie! Everything is for the Glory of God, not for the “get in and get out” mentality of men! Giving God the bare minimum, even of time spent at Mass, leads to complaining (and often refusing) if He asks anything “extra” of you.
That leads to the second point, which is that the Mass is more properly described as “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” to remind us that Mass is not just a chintzy, meager meal where we sit around passing time until we can (finally!) get a piece of bread and a sip of wine and go home. It is the Wedding Banquet of the King’s Son, the vows of which He proclaims from the Cross upon which He gave His life for His Bride, the Church. Past, present, and future space and time come together, as the one, perfect, sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross is made manifest to us here and now. If you were physically present at the crucifixion, you wouldn’t be counted among the Faithful if you kept checking your watch and proclaiming, “Would you hurry up and die, already? I don’t want to waste my whole day with You!” No, rather you dress appropriately for the Nuptial Banquet, you pray appropriately at the foot of the Cross, and you make the whole day hallowed between your drive time to and from the church, prayers in preparation for Mass, prayers during Mass, prayers of Thanksgiving after Mass (not racing to be the first to the donuts!), and staying for social gatherings when the formal prayers are complete (outside of the church, of course, recognizing the clear distinction between “church” and “social hall”).
Finally, donuts are for eating after Mass, not before or during! Canon Law has shortened the Eucharistic Fast to a short one hour before the reception of Holy Communion, although you can always follow the previous rule of a 3-hour fast, or the even earlier fast from midnight if you are strong enough. Technically, the sixty-minute fast means that at a High Mass you could probably be scarfing down that glazed cruller in the pew during the Gospel and still fast for an hour before you receive Holy Communion! Don’t do it! You should also put an end to the “Novus Ordo normal” practice of feeding children (other than infants, of course) while in the church. “But Father, I can’t keep my children still and quiet during Mass unless I give them Goldfish or Cheerios or raisins!” Your elders can teach you how! Teach the children (a great way to learn yourself!) the glories of the TLM rather than reinforcing their childish manner of acting! For the Love of God, teach them to sit still and be quiet and pray! Don’t teach them to eat every time they “have nothing else to do” or you are setting them up for eating disorders in a few short years.
Remember that nearly everybody else around you was as lost as you are when they first started attending TLMs. What seems difficult and foreign now will soon become “normal” to the point that you wish you had never been deprived of Tradition in the first place!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Five Years of Easter at Epiphany
A look back at my Easter bulletin articles: In 2016 I wrote happily about our First Triduum in the Traditional Rite. The following year I explained Divine Mercy and invited everyone to participate the following Sunday (I invite you once again!). But then the articles took a darker turn. 2018 I wrote about our local Bay Area showing a complete lack of Faith, as shown clearly in the now almost-defunct local newspaper. From there I wrote about France’s lack of Faith and the burning of Notre Dame. Finally, last year, I wrote about everyone everywhere being locked out of Mass. I see in these topics a prophetic writing sequence. Today, let’s go back to happier times. For the sake of the newcomers (and so that I don’t write another negative prophecy), here is a rerun of my first Epiphany Easter article:
We celebrated the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) in the Traditional Latin Rite this year. It is the first time I have had this grand experience and it may be the first time in five decades that it has been done at a parish in our diocese. We also had a visiting priest (Fr. Vincent, SJ) taking it all in! Although it took a lot of work by a lot of people, it was all worth it! The choir, the altar boys, and the MCs had to be fully versed in who does what, when, where, and why for all three days. Of course, there was also the “invisible” work done in cleaning and sprucing up the church and grounds in the earlier days of Holy Week. Thank you all for all you sacrificed to bring this to our parish!
Everybody, including the other priests, kept asking, “How long will it (the Mass, the prayers, the service, etc.) take?” I kept driving everyone crazy with the only honest answer I had: “I don’t know!” I could tell how long an Easter Vigil Mass was in other parishes where I had celebrated it (usually about 3 hours long) but almost everything is longer in the old Latin Rite. How much longer, though, I could not say. Part of the problem is my lack of full proficiency in Latin chant. OK, that’s an enormous understatement. The only “formal” training in Latin chant I have ever had was a weekend chant seminar I attended five or six years ago. We were introduced to various Mass chants but it was very, very basic. Not nearly enough to prepare me to chant the Passion in three voices or the Exsultet. So while choir members chanted those (except for the part of Our Lord, which I chanted aloud), I chanted them “silently” as I do the Gloria and Creed at Sunday Mass while the choir chants what you hear. Not a perfect solution, but the best I could do the first time around. I did manage to chant the Passion in the ferial tone in three voices for one daily Mass, though, so it’s a start.
The Easter Vigil in the traditional Rite is a bit different than in the Novus Ordo. The Vigil Service and the Mass, for instance, are separate from one another, with the blessing of fire, candle procession, the extra readings (chanted by yours truly, no less!), and the bestowal of the sacraments of initiation all done as part of a “Vigil Service” before the Mass begins. During the Vigil, there were such “oddities” as me needing to change vestments and colors several times, from violet cope to white dalmatic (a Deacon’s outer vestment) back to violet and back to white. I did wind up wearing violet once when I should have changed to white and one day someone will use the photos for some sort of liturgical blackmail when they discover the gaff! After the Vigil was complete, all of the altar boys and clergy left the church (without any blessing, chanting, or gestures of any sort) and went to the sacristy to prepare for Mass. I neglected to have anyone announce what we were doing, so anyone who wasn’t paying close attention to the missal might have thought we were done. But it was a good time for a potty break or stretch for those who were in the know. I had guessed that it might take as much as 5 hours to complete but it only took 3 1/2. Of course, we only had one person receiving the sacraments of initiation, so if there were more it would have taken more time. Plus, I didn’t see where a sermon could improve on the liturgy itself, so that cut out a sizable chunk of time, too!
The only service for which I underestimated time was the Good Friday morning Tenebrae prayer. It took 2 1/2 hours. Prayerful hours, though, and quite exquisite. I immediately had requests that the choir do all three Tenebrae services next Triduum! The Good Friday Veneration of the Cross and Communion service wasn’t much different than the new rite except that it was all prayed in Latin. The traditional blessing of the Easter baskets, to which I was introduced several years ago by some good Polish parishioners, was short and sweet as always, though I did find the “official” Latin prayers for the blessing of Easter Food in the old Roman Ritual, so it was even more “traditional” than ever this year. Speaking of which, somebody dropped off a basket for me which contained the smokiest, most unusual kielbasa I have ever eaten (after Easter, when the fast was broken, of course!). I don’t know who brought it but it was incredible! And once again I have sadly run out of room.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: What Is Happening During Holy Week?
This week is Holy Week! On Wednesday evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday here are special liturgical celebrations, changes to the Mass schedule, changes to the confession schedule, and changes to the Adoration schedule. So don’t just come by at the “normal” times but check the calendar carefully! Yet be sure to come!
First of all, we have three “Tenebrae” services scheduled. The first is held on Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm. For those of you new to the parish, Tenebrae is the name given to the service of Matins and Laudes belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. Holy Thursday's Tenebrae is traditionally "anticipated", or chanted the evening before the actual day. Matins and Lauds are the two early morning “hours” of the Divine Office or Breviary that is said (prayed) by all clergy, religious, and laity who use the 1962 Office. They roughly correspond to the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the new Liturgy of the Hours Breviary, although they are quite a bit longer. Because Holy Thursday is the day set aside by Holy Mother Church for the celebration of the Chrism Mass (where all the priests gather with the Bishop to renew their priestly vows or promises and the Bishop blesses and consecrates the three oils that will be used for various sacraments throughout the coming year) plus an additional Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening, it is often hard to find time to chant (or listen to the chant) Tenebrae that day. Therefore, it is chanted the evening beforehand. So on Wednesday, the first Tenebrae will be in the Church at 7:00 pm. It takes roughly 2 1/2 hours. Choir members will be doing the chanting and the congregation will actively participate by praying silently. I will be hearing confessions during that time. The second Tenebrae will be on Good Friday morning at 6:30 am and the third will be Holy Saturday at the same time. Both of those will take approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours and I will hear confessions as these prayers are chanted. Even if you cannot come to all three, come and experience at least one of them. If you cannot stay for the full time, stay for as long as you can. It is a moving experience of prayer.
Holy Thursday, as already mentioned, usually has the Chrism Mass in the morning, so there are no parish Masses. In our diocese, as is every arch/diocese of which I am aware, the Bishop has transferred the Chrism Mass to Tuesday, later in the morning. But the Church still does not allow morning Masses on Holy Thursday. We will have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper along with the Mandatum, or Washing of Feet, at 7:00 pm. At the end of that Mass, there is a procession with the Eucharist as we empty the tabernacle and bring Our Lord to the “Altar of Repose” for a time of Solemn Adoration lasting until midnight. After the procession and as Adoration is taking place at the altar of repose, the main altar of the church will be ceremoniously stripped and the church, emptied of Our Lord’s Presence, will be symbolically in mourning for the unjust arrest and mock trial of the Son of God.
On Good Friday there are once again no morning Masses and no Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church. But as already mentioned, I will hear confessions during the 6:30 am Tenebrae. This year Good Friday falls on First Friday. The Adoration which we normally have on First Fridays is prohibited. But at 3:00 pm we will have the Traditional Latin Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross. This includes a Communion Service as well.
On Holy Saturday there is a break after the 6:30 am Tenebrae service ends and then, at 10:30 am we have the traditional Blessing of the Easter Baskets, a tradition which Eastern European cultures often have managed to keep alive even in many Novus Ordo parishes. See today’s bulletin insert for an example of what you might find in such a basket. The basket should contain a bit of everything which you will be preparing for the great Easter Feast, the big meal on Easter Sunday which breaks the hard fasting of the past 40 days of Lent. Please don’t be late arriving for this blessing, because each of the food items gets its own special blessing and I won’t be repeating all of them each time someone new arrives after the blessings are underway. This blessing should take no longer than 30 minutes. There is no Mass at the normal 5:00 pm Saturday time slot, for the Easter Vigil and Mass should not normally begin before dark. Ours will start at 8:00 pm. On Easter Sunday, the Mass schedule will follow the normal times of 7:30 am, 10:30 am, and 1:00 pm.
When there is both a Novus Ordo and a Traditional Latin Mass congregation at the same parish, it is permissible to have the liturgies “doubled” as we have done in the past with St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. Now that they have their own facilities, we thought that that would not occur this year. But Fr. Tuoc is still here and will have a Novus Ordo English Mass in the rectory chapel at 5:00 pm on Holy Thursday, Veneration of the Cross (new Rite) in the rectory chapel at 3:00 pm on Good Friday, and the Novus Ordo English Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm in the rectory chapel on Holy Saturday.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Update and Sacrament Dates
I don’t know if you paid any attention, but last weekend I hung up a chart in the social hall and highlighted Epiphany’s place on it. It listed all of the parishes and missions of the diocese and showed the number of people attending Mass during February this year and for the past few years. I reported our statistics last year after the October Mass count showed that Epiphany was the only parish that had grown from October 2019 to October 2020. Once again we have a similar data set showing that Epiphany is the only parish showing growth from February 2020 to February 2021. (We track this weekly, but the diocese asks each parish to report on numbers only twice a year, in February and October.) Not only that, but we also grew from our last October count, so we are certainly growing and on track to be bursting at the seams. Last Sunday’s 10:30 Mass, for instance, was standing room only, even though the 7:30 Mass is getting larger and we still have the additional 1:00 pm Mass which I added less than a year ago (temporarily, I thought) to alleviate overcrowding at the 10:30 when we were under capacity restrictions. Let me lay out the growth according to this most recent February survey. This data shows February Mass counts from 2012 (or maybe it is a typo since 2013 is missing), although the Traditional Latin Mass only started here in August of 2015 (long after, obviously, the February 2015 Mass count was reported), so I will start there. Watch the numbers start jumping after the TLM got here. The parishioner count averages all Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses during the weekends in February of each year listed.
2015: 87 people per weekend at Mass
So what do these numbers mean for us? Quite simply, it means that we are outgrowing our current facility. Our parish hall can hardly fit the coffee and donuts crowd after Mass, let alone allow us to host a large event such as our recent Epiphany celebration which, as you well know, had to be moved outside and into the classrooms to provide enough space for everyone who wished to participate. Our classrooms are being used at a record clip, causing scheduling conflicts with various groups which need meeting space. Our parking lot is obviously much too small, but fortunately, we have plenty of grass to park on rather than having to find street parking. These are all great problems to have, especially considering that all of the other pastors are scratching their heads trying to figure out where their people went and how to get them back. These issues are also leading to us exploring the possibility of tearing down our existing buildings and building bigger and better. We have had a civil engineer come out to determine if we have enough room to build on our property and still manage to meet city ordinances. The answer is “Yes, with certain stipulations.” So we are looking to see if we can work those out. I have spoken with the Bishop and he gave me instructions to put the plan in writing and include such things as what the issues are, how the re-building plan will solve those issues, and how we will pay for the project. That written report is in the works.
On a different note, I have some dates of importance for you to give me feedback on. First Holy Communion is scheduled for Sunday, May 23. This year I am asking that all of the children meet with me the month before, at 9:00 am on Sunday, April 18, prepared to show me that they are ready for both their First Holy Communion and their First Confession, which they must make before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. Make sure your children are signed up (on the Sacramental Prep page of our website) and that they can attend this important meeting. Confirmations are now on the calendar for Saturday, June 26, at 1:00 pm. We had Saturday Confirmations in 2017 and it went well, with a reception afterward, but in recent years we have had them at the less-convenient 7:00 pm on Wednesday nights to accommodate the Bishop, who was able to make it one of those years. Assuming he won’t be able to be here this year, I am moving it back to Saturday for your convenience. If I hear differently from him and he wants to do the Confirmations himself at a different time/date, I will change it even if he wants to do them on a Tuesday at 6:15 am. I have also scheduled a meeting on Sunday, June 13, at 9:00 am, with all of those to be confirmed, to determine if they are ready for Confirmation. Again, mark your calendars for these dates, and be sure that your children are signed up via our Sacramental Prep webpage. If there is any major date conflict, such as a Traditional Latin Mass Society National Meeting taking place on any of the above-mentioned dates, please let me know ASAP so that alternative dates can be found and published.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Current Regulations for Lent
For the past few weeks, I have been showing you some of the old regulations regarding fast and abstinence during Lent. Today I present to you some current regulations. You will see quite a difference! Pope Paul VI’s 1966 Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, On Fast and Abstinence, gives us good reasons to continue our Catholic traditions of prayer, fasting, and charity. (Abstinence falls under “fasting”.) It tells us that, although the rules of penance can be changed by the Church, it is God who commands us to do penance. It tells us that episcopal conferences are to establish local norms (more on that later). And it lays out Pope Paul’s reasons for removing the mandate to do much prayer, fasting, and charity: so that we will do it willingly and in accord with the times. The Pope actually states that he wants bishops and priests to promote “extraordinary practices of penitence aimed at expiation and impetration” (beseeching God, especially for mercy, in this context)! “Therefore, the Church, while preserving—where it can be more readily observed—the custom (observed for many centuries with canonical norms) of practicing penitence also through abstinence from meat and fasting, intends to ratify with its prescriptions other forms of penitence as well, provided that it seems opportune to episcopal conferences to replace the observance of fast and abstinence with exercises of prayer and works of charity.”
Then, in laying out his new norms, he eliminated the traditional forms of penance! With the promulgation of this document, the only days remaining wherein Catholics are mandated to fast and abstain from meat are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The products to be abstained from were also greatly limited compared to the traditions we have seen in the past few weeks. “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.” So the animal products which used to be forbidden are now allowed, including “condiments made of animal fat” such as meat gravy and perhaps even bacon sprinkles on top of salads! As for the size of the meals allowed on the two remaining days of fasting, it was left up to local custom! “The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.” I would observe that our “approved local custom” for the two smaller meals is no longer just a handful of nuts or fruit but is much more likely to be a hefty sandwich or something even more substantial.
I mentioned earlier that our bishops’ conference also issued norms in accord with this document. Within a year our bishops issued a document called, “Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence.” This is a pretty amazing document. After stating that, in union with the above-referenced document, only those two fasting days would be required, it went on to state: “13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice. 14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten Devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of ‘mortification.’" So they encouraged many penitential practices during the whole of Lent and even elsewhere showed that Our Lord separated those sent to hell from those bound for Heaven according to charitable practices (Mt 25:34-40) as they stressed the importance of keeping a holy Lent. But then they made everything optional with the supposition that the Catholic Faithful would find more meaning in doing penance of their own choosing; that they would find penances far more “with the times” than abstinence from meat; that even greater Catholic penitential practices would soon become part of our Catholic identity. They ended thusly, “28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God's people.” I leave it to you to discern if removing the obligations has led to a new birth or not.
I will end with the current (1983) Code of Canon Law, #1251. “Abstinence from meat... is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” So next week, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the Year of St. Joseph, there is no mandatory abstinence!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More on Lent and Fasting
I hope you don’t mind yet another peek into Dom Gueranger’s historical explanation of fast and abstinence during Lent, for I am still having a good time reading and writing about it. Again, let me remind you that these articles are dealing with historical Lenten practices, not current regulations. Here he describes the relationship between the “hours” (prayers of the Breviary which are prayed by clergy and religious are broken into sets of prayers which are read at set times of the day and night), the Mass, and fasting. I find it quite amusing that the hours traditionally prayed later in the day get prayed earlier and earlier so that they (the clergy and religious setting the example for the laity) could eat earlier and earlier! “It was the custom with the Jews, in the Old Law, not to take the one meal, allowed on fasting days, till sun-set. The Christian Church adopted the same custom. It was scrupulously practised, for many centuries, even in our Western countries. But, about the 9th century, some relaxation began to be introduced in the Latin Church. Thus, we have a Capitularium of Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans...protesting against the practice, which some had, of taking their repast at the hour of None, that is to say, about three o’clock in the afternoon...We meet with a sort of reclamation made as late as the 11th century, by a Council held at Rouen, which forbids the Faithful to take their repast before Vespers shall have begun to be sung in the Church, at the end of None; but this shows us, that the custom had already begun of anticipating the hour of Vespers, in order that the Faithful might take their meal earlier in the day.
“Up to within a short period before this time, it had been the custom not to celebrate Mass, on days of Fasting, until the Office of None had been sung - and, also, not to sing Vespers till sun-set. When the discipline regarding Fasting began to relax, the Church still retained the order of her Offices, which had been handed down from the earliest times. The only change she made, was to anticipate the hour for Vespers; and this entailed the celebrating Mass and None much earlier in the day;- so early, indeed, that, when custom had so prevailed as to authorise the Faithful taking their repast at mid-day, all the Offices, even the Vespers, were over before that hour.”
After a few more details such as these, he shows how inevitably the early meal led to being hungry later in the day! “But, whilst this relaxation of taking the repast so early in the day as twelve o’clock rendered fasting less difficult in one way, it made it more severe in another. The body grew exhausted by the labours of the long second half of the twenty-four hours; and the meal, that formerly closed the day, and satisfied the cravings of fatigue, had been already taken. It was found necessary to grant some refreshment for the evening, and it was called a Collation. The word was taken from the Benedictine Rule, which, for long centuries before this change in the Lenten observance, had allowed a Monastic Collation...[T]he Abbot was allowed by the Rule to grant his Religious permission to take a small measure of wine before Compline, as a refreshment after the fatigues of the afternoon. It was taken by all at one and the same time, during the evening reading, which was called Conference, (in Latin, Collatio,) because it was mostly taken from the celebrated Conferences (Collationes) of Cassian. Hence, this evening monastic refreshment got the name of Collation. We find the Assembly, or Chapter of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in 817, extending this indulgence even to the Lenten fast, on account of the great fatigue entailed by the Offices, which the Monks had to celebrate during this holy Season. But experience showed, that unless something solid were allowed to be taken together with the wine, the evening Collation would be an injury to the health of many of the Religious; accordingly, towards the close of the 14th, or the beginning of the 15th century, the usage was introduced of taking a morsel of bread with the Collation-beverage. As a matter of course, these mitigations of the ancient severity of Fasting soon found their way from the cloister into the world...But when it had become the universal practice, (as it did in the latter part of the 13th century, and still more fixedly during the whole of the 14th,) that the one meal on Fasting Days was taken at mid-day, a mere beverage was found insufficient to give support, and there was added to it bread, herbs, fruits, &c. Such was the practice, both in the world and the cloister. It was, however, clearly understood by all, that these eatables were not to be taken in such quantity as to turn the Collation into a second meal.
“Thus did the decay of piety, and the general deterioration of bodily strength among the people of the Western nations, infringe on the primitive observance of Fasting.”
Abbot Gueranger laments the laxity of Lenten fasts signs of weak faith as well as weak bodies. He remarks that it also takes away from the joy of the longed-for meal after Easter Mass, which now, much as with the first night after the wedding of an unchaste couple, has turned into just one more ho-hum, same ol’ same ol’. But perhaps reading this brief history will spark a renewed interest in greater fasting for at least a few people today. Maybe even me!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More On Lenten Practices
Last week I wrote a bit on the early Church practices of “fast” and “abstinence” during Lent. Several of you have since asked if you now have to give up donuts after Mass, which seems to be a much larger problem than giving up all meat and animal products, such as milk, eggs, butter, and cheese as the early practice required! But no, I did not say/write that you had to follow the practice of long ago. I am simply looking at what used to be done and trying to figure out how we got to where we are right now with these practices. As I mentioned, Dom Gueranger, in his voluminous, “The Liturgical Year,” gives a brief history of Lent and Lenten practices up until his time, 19th century France. Among other things, I quoted him stating that the Lent fasts were no more extreme than the fasts on Ember Days and some Vigils. Of course, nobody following the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar has a clue what Ember Days are nor have they ever seen the Vigil of a Feast change the colors of the Mass vestments to violet, a sure indication that it was a day of fasting and at least partial abstinence! We, of course, just had the spring Ember Days last Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and I am sure that at least some of you kept (voluntarily, since it is no longer a mandate) the fasts and abstinence associated with them from the good ol’ days! Now back to the old regulations for Lent, which are traced back to Apostolic times. Along with abstaining from all meat products, Catholics refrained from eating more than one meal a day and that single meal (with no animal products of any sort allowed) could only be taken after sunset. But the Abbot did not begin his history of Lenten abstinence with the Apostles but actually traced this practice all the way back to Adam and Eve. He takes his cue from some great Saints as he writes, “St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great, make the remark, that the commandment put upon our First Parents, in the earthly paradise, was one of Abstinence; and that it was by their not exercising this virtue, that they brought every kind of evil upon themselves and us their children. The life of privation, which the king of creation had thenceforward to lead on the earth, - (for the earth was to yield him nothing of its own natural growth, save thorns and thistles,) - was the clearest possible exemplification of the law of penance, imposed by the anger of God on rebellious man.
“During the two thousand and more years, which preceded the Deluge, men had no other food than the fruits of the earth, and these were only got by the toil of hard labour. But when God, as we have already observed, mercifully shortened man’s life, (that so he might have less time and power for sin), - he permitted him to eat the flesh of animals, as an additional nourishment in that state of deteriorated strength. It was then, also, that Noah, guided by a divine inspiration, extracted the juice of the grape, which thus formed a second stay for human debility.
“Fasting, then, is the abstaining from such nourishments as these, which were permitted for the support of bodily strength. And firstly, it consisted in abstinence from flesh-meat, because it is a food that was given to man by God, out of condescension to his weakness, and not as one absolutely essential for the maintenance of life. Its privation, greater or less according to the regulations of the Church, is essential to the very notion of Fasting.”
Now, these were some thoughts that I had never encountered before! Since sin entered into the world when Adam and Eve broke the rule of abstinence, that makes our own abstinence seem much more important than I ever thought of before. To me, this is almost as impactful as when I first came across the explanation of how we refrain from eating meat on Friday due to the crucifixion of Our Lord on that day. His “meat” (the flesh of Him Who was truly man as well as truly God) that hung in immeasurable pain upon the infamous cross as He freely offered His Life for our salvation was to be worshipped, received, and consumed by us once the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass made this perfect offering a Perpetual one. It is there, at the foot of the cross--at Mass--that we consume His True Flesh, the “meat” which is infinitely more substantial and beneficial to our well-being than any other meat we could consume. It’s no wonder that we abstain each Friday from other meat, the best of which pales in comparison to that which He described as “true food”! The above explanation may also help those who wonder why men don’t live as long anymore and just why we were lovingly permitted to eat animal products and wine to compensate for our newly acquired weakness.
I will come back to this topic next week but now I need to use the remainder of this space to remind you that our Parish Mission begins this very weekend, Sunday evening at 7:00. Fr. Vincent Capuano, SJ, will preach the Misison. Come and listen. Come and pray. Come and confess. Everybody is welcome, not just Epiphany parishioners. Although it will be Zoomed, it will be much better, as you know so well if you ever Zoomed a Mass or even a business meeting, in person.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Mission Update and Lent Fasting!
Good News, Everyone! Fr. Vincent managed to get back into the country and the Parish Lenten Mission is back on track. It has been delayed a bit but put it on your calendar! It will run from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm beginning Sunday, February 28, and continuing through Thursday, March 4 in that time slot. Hopefully, we will also be able to livestream it for the sake of those who would rather not drive home that late. The 7:00 start time gives as many people as possible a chance to eat dinner and drive to church after rush hour has mostly passed. I will let Father explain the topics to you. He is scheduled to arrive in Tampa the evening of the 20th (Saturday, possibly before you read this) and will celebrate the 1:00 pm Mass Sunday the 21st. Many, if not most, of you know and love Father Cap (as the Jesuit boys know him) so besiege him with breakfast, lunch, and dinner invitations. I don’t know how many he will be able to accept, especially the week of the Mission. But feel free to ask him, for he knows how to say both “yes” and “no” as is needed. Perhaps you could even offer to bring food and beverages that you know he likes over to the rectory for him since there is no rectory cook. And offer a prayer that he can be transferred back here, maybe to be the pastor and I can be his associate. You never know what may occur!
Now for a little something about Lent and fasting and abstinence and giving things up for forty days straight or for six days a pop. I have tried to find old books allowing for a practice which we were never allowed when I was young, and which I never heard of even in my first years of priesthood, yet which has taken the Catholic world by storm in recent years. Namely, that whatever we give up for the 40 days of Lent, we can consume (or use, or partake in, as the case may be) on Lenten Sundays! This is the idea that, for instance, if you gave up sweets for Lent, on Sunday you can still eat donuts after Mass. If you gave up social media, you could still check Flakebook during my sermon. Or, if you gave up TV you could watch it all Sunday afternoon. You get the idea. What do you suppose I found? Dom Gueranger, in his voluminous, “The Liturgical Year,” gives a brief history of Lent and Lenten practices. He shows that we never before (and not even in the 19th century when he was writing) chose our own penance, or what we would give up for Lent. The Church chose for us. We were to abstain from all food all day until after sunset when we were allowed one meal that did not include any meat or animal products, such as the flesh of animals (shellfish and fish only later became exceptions), milk, cheese, and eggs. We gave up all shopping, “all amusements and theatrical entertainments,” hunting, and even “war proceedings”! “Lent, then,” this good Abbot states, “is a time consecrated in a special manner to penance; and this penance is mainly practised by fasting. Fasting is an abstinence, which man voluntarily imposes upon himself as an expiation for sin, and which, during Lent, is practised in obedience to the general law of the Church. According to the actual discipline of the western Church, the fast of Lent is not more rigorous than that prescribed for the vigils of certain feasts, and for the Ember Days; but it is kept up for forty consecutive days, with the single interruption of the intervening Sundays.” Wait! Did he just mention our sought-after Sunday exemption? We shall see! But first, note that he looks askance at the continually expanding relaxation of those penitential practices. In his words, “And must there not result from this ever-growing spirit of immortification, a general effeminacy of character, which will lead, at last, to frightful social disorders?... Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges--civil discord, or conquest. In our own country [France] there is an inconsistency, which must strike every thinking mind: the observance of the Lord’s day, on the one side; the national inobservance of days of penance and fasting, on the other. The first is admirable, and, if we except puritanical extravagance, bespeaks a deep-rooted sense of religion; but the second is one of the worst presages for the future. The word of God is unmistakable: unless we do penance, we shall perish.” So did he just say that on Sundays we can “admirably” eat and do that which we abstain from during the rest of Lent? No, for even in his “relaxed” days, “During the whole of the Lent preceding Easter, milk-meats [this seems to have included all meat and food made from milk, butter, and cheese], eggs, and even fish, are forbidden. The only food permitted to be eaten with bread, is vegetables, honey, and, for those who live near the sea, shellfish... [W]ine... is now permitted, and on the Annunciation and Palm Sunday a dispensation is granted for eating fish.” Note that the fish dispensation applied to one Sunday of Lent only! Basically, you could eat more than one meal on Sundays of Lent, hence, no fasting, but you could still not eat the “forbidden” foods or do the “forbidden” activities. More next week.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Mission? Football? Soup and Stations!
A few weeks ago I let you know that the renowned holy Jesuit priest, Fr. Vincent Capuano, was coming back to the US for a short visit and that he was going to be giving us a Parish Mission one of the first two weeks of Lent. Unfortunately, he has still not been able to make it out of Argentina so the Mission is iffy at this point. If he manages to get here and is still available to do this for us, I will let you know. It might be a simple matter of having it later in Lent than we had originally planned. Please keep him in your prayers. [UPDATE: Father is set to arrive this weekend!] Late last year, before Fr. Vincent said that he would like to do it, I had asked a small TLM priest community if they would be able to come during Lent should any parish cancel on them. I thought there was a pretty good possibility of that happening due to state and local covid restrictions. I heard back from them. Their bishop asked them to cancel all of their Missions due to covid. So they might not be coming for at least a few more years (remember when it was just “two weeks”?) as we watch this thing play out.
Speaking of play, last week Tampa hosted the Superbowl. Many thanks to all of you who invited me over to watch the Big Game with our own local team participating as well as hosting. I had to decline all the invitations, though, as I haven’t watched a game since all of those bozos in the NFL competed with each other to see who could best “virtue signal” by taking a knee at the National Anthem. It was bad enough in the past when it was just one player making a fool (this is a church bulletin so I am limiting my vocabulary here) of himself, joined by just a few other miscreants looking for attention, and I was able to just ignore a couple of teams. But this time around the whole NFL went crazy, including the owners, and I just couldn’t stand (sorry about that!) supporting them while they knelt. The foolishness proved to be more contagious than a certain coronavirus which is interfering with our Parish Mission! Basketball players quickly upped the ante and made the football players look sane. All too soon I had to scratch Major League Baseball off my list as well. But at least, thought I, I still have hockey! But, alas, even players of such a manly sport turned into a bunch of little girls who were afraid of being called names if they didn’t follow suit. Heck, even Nascar got into the act. I never saw that coming. Of course, it was a lousy year to turn off the sports, as our Rays won the American League Pennant, making it to the World Series, our Bolts won the Stanley Cup, and our Bucs won the Lombardi Trophy. But it seems that I wasn’t alone in saying “You’re on your own” to football, as the Superbowl ratings were the worst since 2007. The chance of me coming back to fandom ranks right up there with the chances of Catholics flocking back to Mass if and when their bishops ever encourage/allow them to do so. It might happen, but something has to change, perhaps with management once again realizing what the whole purpose of their game/religion is.
The purpose of the Catholic religion is, of course, to give us both the natural and supernatural means necessary to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next. We are currently on a pilgrimage through this life, journeying toward Heaven, following Our Lord’s command and example to take up our cross and follow Him. We do this in a fairly literal manner, especially on Fridays of Lent, when we walk the Way of the Cross, stopping at each of 14 Stations to recall what happened to Jesus at each of these places as He paid the price of our eternal salvation by offering His Life for ours. Starting on the first Friday of Lent, we will be praying these stations in the church at 5:30 pm. Following this spiritual journey, we will proceed to the social hall where we hope to find 50 or 60 Crockpots, Instantpots, and/or dutch ovens filled with your homemade, delicious, meatless soups! Last year this sharing of soups proved to be a big hit. Everyone got to the stations early (note the EARLY part so that we have time to set your soup pot in place), put their soup pot and ladle (both marked with the family name so that they go home with whoever brought it) in rows on the tables set out for this purpose, and went into the church to pray. After Stations, we all came back out and sampled as many small bowls of soup as possible! Sometimes there were multiples of certain soups and it is amazing how each was flavored so differently. Bring your favorite or try something new! An index card specifying the type of soup is very helpful. It can also include other information like “gluten free” or “allergy warning: contains peanuts and shellfish.”
This year when we wrap up (8:00 pm), if anyone likes, I will stay and give short classes on how to use your missal. Many of you are new to the TLM and the missal is quite daunting. I will try to answer your questions and get you more comfortable following along at Mass.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Safe Haven Sunday Approaches
I cannot say enough good things about this program encouraged by our Bishop and the accompanying resources available from dosp.org. The following is straight from the Diocese of St. Petersburg website. “The family home is to be a safe haven. But the inappropriate use of technology in the home deprives it of this role and is the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriages and families today. Pornography and other online threats are often one click away, and parents can feel overwhelmed with not knowing how to best protect their children in our fast-paced digital world. The weekend of February 13-14, 2021, the Diocese of St. Petersburg is taking another bold step to help families by celebrating our third, diocesan-wide Safe Haven Sunday. This awareness day will provide access to practical resources that any caring adult can use to protect themselves and our young people from online risks.”
Ask any good, solid, church-going Catholic parent if pornography is a problem. Unlike their worldly friends, schoolmates, and co-workers who think pornography is simply a harmless diversion, instructional, a “manly” thing to engage in, or even a “means of women exerting power over men,” they will answer, “Absolutely. One of the worst problems today.” But then ask them if it is a problem in their house and they will answer, “Of course not.” They are, after all, good, solid, church-going Catholics. They would never admit to having a problem themselves and, if they are parents, will adamantly deny that their children would ever engage in viewing (or producing) such filth.
Catholics have their heads in the sand on this topic. Ask any priest who hears confessions. It used to be only men who got addicted to porn. Now it is also the women. It infects, afflicts, and damages both males and females, although it is still more prevalent among males. Now it is extremely widespread among children from Junior High up. It used to be difficult to obtain. Now it is hard to avoid it even when attempts are made to block it out. It is even more difficult to break away from it once it is found, fed upon and digested, imitated with self and/or others, and habitually sought out in ever more vivid details. It is demonic beyond most people’s wildest imaginations. Ask anyone who is trying to quit. Is it easier to give up smoking or porn? Porn. Cocaine or porn? Porn. Spousal abuse or porn? Porn. I know of no other addiction which gets so deep into man’s (in the traditional use of that word) body and soul and clings so tenaciously. And I can think of no other addiction which is so widespread. Yet, as I stated above, good, solid, church-going Catholics give their children 24-hours-a-day access to this filth via smartphones and computers and somehow convince themselves that their children will not do what they themselves would have found far too tempting to resist when they were young. Worse, many of the parents and grandparents are themselves addicted and don’t want to let it be known that they are even aware of porn’s existence or prevalence so they do nothing to protect other family members from engaging in this evil. Did I mention yet that just viewing pornography is a mortal sin? Yes, even if you do not do any of the physical stimulation that generally accompanies it. Commandments numbers 6 and 9 are broken directly, plus others indirectly when one purposefully engages in such “free speech” media.
Fortunately, though difficult to break, this addiction can be conquered! After all, if it is demonic, which I have already stated that I believe it is, the Church has the proper weapons to fight the battle. Of course, stopping yourself and--especially--the young ones from ever engaging in this deadly activity in the first place is the best thing to do. Protecting everybody from online, TV, movie, book, and other porn media heavyweights is easier than fighting the battle once you have made friends with the enemy! Don’t let satan get a foothold in your eyes, mind, soul, and body. There are many bits of help available on the diocesan webpage. Go to http://www.dosp.org/freedom-from-porn to find resources for counselors, advice, programs, and so much more to help you resist, fight and heal, and even to help you love, help, and cope with an addicted spouse or child who just can’t seem to give it up.
Do not underestimate the power of the Sacraments in this battle! But, at the same time, do not pretend that they are magic, either. Recognize and acknowledge your sin, repent, and go to confession. Having ascertained that you are in a state of grace, fast, attend Mass, and receive Holy Communion often. But physically do something more. Get rid of the literally damnable items which brought porn into your life or house in the first place. Cancel cable and all movie sources if you cannot resist watching porn even if it is branded as something “innocent,” or “soft,” or “normal.” Swap a smartphone for a flip phone. Throw the computer in the trash. Have someone put a blocker on the phone and computer that you “absolutely must have.” No amount of recreation, communication, or business necessitating those devices is worth going to hell for. None. Confide in your parents, in your spouse, or in your adult children if you need help. Do whatever it takes to get “sober” again or to keep others out of this trouble. All the while continue availing yourself of prayer and the sacraments. Rinse and repeat as needed.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Warning: False Information Below
Before all else, don’t forget that Tuesday, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas, we bless candles with special prayers. Bring yours before the 8:00 am Mass. Weather permitting, we will bless the candles outside near the rectory chapel. Don’t be late. Wednesday is the feast of St. Blase. We bless throats on that day, so come drive off all of those nasty winter bugs and other evils. Also on that day we bless bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments, so you can bring those and share with others who could not make it to Mass to get their throats blessed. Or keep it for yourself for a later day of need. It sure doesn’t hurt to have blessed things, including food and drink, around the house!
Beyond that, a celebrity is coming to town that afternoon! Fr. Vincent is returning for a visit. He flies into Tampa too late to be at the Mass of St. Blase, but at least I can share some blessed food with him later in the day. He will only be here a few hours and then flies off again for a few weeks to “quarantine” elsewhere. But he is returning on Ash Wednesday and will be with us for two weeks. One of those weeks he will be giving us a Parish Mission! He still has to work out other schedule issues so we are not sure yet when the Mission will begin and end, but stay tuned for more information. His probable topic: “Going to hell is worse than catching covid.” Or something like that. Or something completely different than that. We will see.
On a different note, this past week I was flagged for the third time by Falsebook “fact checkers'' as having passed on false information regarding covid and the World Health Organization. Ha! I loved their article explaining, in a generic article attacking, not specifically the article which I posted, but multiple “articles and tweets” “misinterpreting” WHO and PCR tests and positive cases... blah, blah, blah... and then it tried to show how all such articles and tweets were wrong to say that PCR tests have many false positives and may conflate “positive test” with “contagious.” But in defending the PCR against false positives, they stated multiple times that they do, indeed, have false positives. They quoted someone who must be quotable as admitting that many false positives will be generated in the future but not now. Only later. And then he guessed that it might be 1% false positives now. But that’s not a big thing. Except it is a big thing for those 1900 people per day (his number) who receive a false positive and must quarantine for two weeks and trace their contacts and warn them (instill fear in them) that they have been exposed and perhaps need to quarantine themselves. But even more head-scratchingly, the “true” fact-checker article went on to state several times that the PCR positive tests don’t mean that you have covid! Nor does a positive result mean that you are ill or contagious. They state this quite clearly. Being infected with a contagious disease should mean that you are both ill and contagious but it doesn’t mean that with covid because of how they define “infected.” For these geniuses, having an infection means that “a person is or has been infected.” Did you catch “or has been”? A positive test is not a false positive just because you don’t currently have covid, as long as you once had covid! So if you caught covid last February and took the test today it should return a positive result because, in their own words, you are infected. You got over your covid nearly a year ago but you are, by their measurement and definition, infected, because you are one of those “or has been infected” people. Yes, they bring that up multiple times in the article, so it is not a typo. You are a “case” because you are (not were, as normal people would put it) infected. But you are not contagious because you do not have the virus any longer. But you (“true positive” but actually immune and don’t have covid), along with the “false positive” people (who also don’t have covid), need both to quarantine yourself and to instill the fear of death into all those who have been in close contact with you. But don’t you dare call it a false positive! Unbelievable! I am glad to see what they consider to be “true” information, for they really cleared up everything about what they mean by “cases” and “false positives” and “true positives.” They also, in passing, stated that they know that the positive results are positive because they often run them a second time. They didn’t mention that if there is no concern about false positives there is no reason to run them a second time, nor did they mention if that second positive result also adds to the numbers of “cases.” But if I speculate further, this article will probably be listed as “false information.”
Had I used fact-checker definitions in the first part of this article, I would have told you that you need not bring new candles to be blessed on Candlemas because if you have ever burned blessed candles you still have them, even if the wax was completely consumed by the flame. Moreover, you cannot come to the St. Blase throat blessing if you have ever had a sore throat because you are infected now, not then.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Some Liturgical Notes of Interest
Several people have asked several other people about why we still have Christmas decorations out in the church. The answer, of course, is that it is still Christmas! Christmas usually starts about August in the stores as they line the shelves with garland and pre-lit trees for sale. I assume it was the same this year, but, due to covid mask mandates, I simply refrained from doing any shopping except for food and for such necessary things as household items. No browsing, no wandering the aisles looking for whatever the marketing geniuses were pushing. Christmas music usually begins to play on the radio at Thanksgiving, though not much of it is actually Christmas music anymore, replaced with such “traditional carols” as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Churches everywhere race to put out their manger scenes before the First Sunday in Advent, fill their bleak sanctuaries with ornamented Christmas trees and green felt banners, and generally pretend that Advent is Christmas for all practical purposes. Not so here. Advent is Advent. Christmas is Christmas. So in Advent, during which time everything is subdued in preparation for and anticipation of Christ’s birth, the flowers were taken away, replaced, in some spots, by greenery and a few poinsettias. The red on the poinsettias, by the way, are leaves, not flowers, so they don’t break the Advent rule of “no flowers on the altar.” We tried this year to set up actual Christmas decorations as close to Christmas as possible, taking into account the schedules of the volunteers and staff who undertook all of the work. We (they!) will take it all down when Christmas comes to an end, or thereabouts. (Actually, some of the real greenery has already been taken down because in our climate it had already become a droopy, sad-looking “brownery.”) So when does Christmas actually end? Some claim that once the Twelve Days of Christmas are over, so is Christmas. They will then take down the Christmas decorations once the Three Kings arrive on Epiphany (January 6 in the TLM calendar, various dates in the NOM). Others claim that the Baptism of Our Lord is the end of Christmas, so on January 13 it all gets removed in the TLM, various dates in the NOM. Some years we may follow those opinions. But this year we are opting to make Christmas last as long as possible. After all, we had Easter stolen from us last spring so we need to do something special to embrace at least this joyful season! With this in mind, all liturgical signs of Christmas end with the coming of Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 2.
I hope you know that the 8:00 am Mass will be quite a bit longer that day. We will begin outdoors, weather permitting, with a special blessing of candles. Bring your own. Bring a single one. Bring boxes of them. Bring 100% beeswax, or paraffin, or soy, or earwax candles if that is what you have available. There are multiple blessings given to the candles that day and you don’t want to miss it. After the blessing, you will be able to take part in the short procession back into the church, so be sure to bring at least one candle which you can carry in the procession. It would be ideal, as with most processions, if we could carry our lit candles and process from one church to another and have Mass at the second church, but that is not realistic here. So we move from outside to inside in what is normally the only daytime candlelight procession of the year. Unlike the Blessing of the Palms and procession where we assume it will be hot so we set up under the oak trees out front, we assume that on Candlemas we will want to be in the sun, so we set up in the field near the rectory chapel. (Our first year here we did the candle blessing in the rectory chapel --so small was the congregation and number of candles to be blessed-- since nobody had ever heard of nor experienced this blessing before!) Come early and you can drive close, drop off your containers of candles, and return your car to the parking lot before it all begins. Come late or “right on time” and you will be carrying the boxes from the parking lot and may even miss getting them blessed. I do need to stress that if you come after the blessing has begun (or finished!) you will not get candles blessed that day! You will be driving in rush-hour traffic so plan ahead.
Of course, even if you somehow miss candlemas, the next day, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blase (or Blaise). You know we bless throats on that day but did you realize that in the old Rite there is also a blessing of the candles which will be used for the throat blessing, plus a blessing for bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments and “every infirmity of soul or body”? I still have a bottle of wine I blessed for myself last year in case I got a sore throat and fortunately, through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Health, I have not had to drink it! (I won’t tell you how many bottles I had to drink due to maladies of the soul, though!) The perishables, needless to say, are meant to be eaten much more quickly. Mark your calendars before you forget!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Grumble, Grumble, Grumble
I was hoping to write a heartfelt “Thank You” article, thanking everyone who worked so hard to make our Epiphany celebration such an incredible event but the “real world” got in the way. There are just too many things going on right now which require some sort of “pastoral commentary” but are not exactly the best of topics for sermons. So let me comment here instead. First of all, the news coverage of the “Storming of the Capitol” has been atrocious. The very people and news organizations who kept outright lying about how “mostly peaceful” this summer’s leftist riots were, who praised rampagers for their tactics, who demanded that local and federal law enforcement stand down, who refused to arrest, or, once arrested, refused to prosecute the lawbreakers, are now screaming from the rooftops that everyone who not only entered the Capitol building but everyone who stood outside, who watched it, who heard of it, or who in any way ever uttered or thought the word “Trump” in a less-than-disgusted manner be immediately fired from their jobs, arrested, locked in concentration camps, and forever branded as a terrorist, including their relatives and acquaintances down to the fourth degree. I exaggerate only a little.
There is no exaggeration about the dangerous path taken by the big tech leftists in all of this. For the social media to, as a group, remove a sitting President from their platforms is a sign that they can and, mark this well, WILL go after anyone with whom they disagree. The instantaneous destruction of their “rival” platform, Parler, is one ominous example. It is one thing to call for a boycott of a company, which then allows consumers to decide either to support a company or not, but for monopolies to band together in lockstep to shut down a company for doing exactly what the Big Bullies themselves previously did with great pride in “real” government uprisings outside of this country, and were simultaneously doing during this “civil war” (as anyone who only reads headlines of mainstream media is convinced we just had) is something Al Capone and his ilk would be proud of. Farcebook pages and Bleets were used by the “Capitol Hill Gang,” yet those leftist companies have not even been “tsk-tsk’d, let alone banned,” by those controlling the internet. In fact, they are being applauded for removing tens of thousands of people whose thoughts The Left disagrees with. As one who belongs to a group already on the “terrorist threat” list (the Catholic Church, for being pro-life and pro-morality, has been several times branded a terrorist organization) I can see a day in the near future when my personal and my parish accounts will be “disappeared” in a like manner.
But now that I brought up the topic of “Catholic Church” I should like to jump to Her latest news headlines. To begin with, everyone doing any due diligence knows that the two covid vaccines currently available in the temporarily-united States use aborted baby tissue cell lines in their testing processes. And while the Bishops of these States and the Bishop of Rome all insist that everyone has an “obligation” to “voluntarily” take the shot, I have yet to see anyone broach the subject of pediatric deaths from influenza which have been drastically reduced and which will undoubtedly return to normal if we wipe out covid and usher in the flu once again. Covid has almost wiped out the flu worldwide. In the whole country, only 71 deaths of minors have so far been “associated with” covid while hundreds of youthful lives have been spared by the elimination of the flu. According to the CDC, the lives of 600 or more children in the US are believed to have been snuffed out by the flu during the 2017-18 flu season. They note that flu deaths were undercounted; I note that covid is overcounted. Those demanding covid vaccinations never mention that they may be biased in their reasoning since it is their own age groups that are being hit hardest by covid while children are mostly unharmed. I am not implying that this fact is the only one worth considering but it sure is one worth putting forth for all to see.
Now I turn my commentary to the new Moto Proprio on Lectors and Acolytes. The change to Canon Law now allows both men and women (instead of men exclusively) to be “instituted” as lectors and acolytes (basically, lectors are those who read the epistles at Novus Ordo Masses and acolytes are those who serve at the altar). Both males and females already do those things in the NOM. But until now they were only doing that as “extraordinary” ministers at a parish level. Once “instituted” to those roles, they have a “universal” role that may be fulfilled at any parish, even beyond diocesan boundaries. Since installed acolytes can function as subdeacons in the TLM, will Installed Acolyte Sister Mary Pantsuit from St. Elton John parish insist on subdeaconing our Solemn High Masses? Moreover, since only adults can be installed in these two ministries, could it be that altar boys and girls will have to give way to their moms and dads?
Lastly, there are new directions from Rome regarding the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The priest has to wash his hands “after blessing the ashes” and before distributing them, not afterward. That part makes no sense but the rest is worse. He then “puts on a facemask” (yes, it’s in the instructions!) and imposes them “without saying anything.” It is times like these that truly make me joyful that at TLMs we must use the 1962 rules!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Holy Water Blessing Ceremony
Last week I wrote a little about the upcoming Epiphany Water blessing and that this year was the first time we would be able to use the complete ceremony. I wasn’t sure how many people would come for it but I figured that, along with the choir, maybe a dozen people would make the trek. In case I was off by a lot, I printed out 25 copies of the basic blessing prayers in English for them to have. We set up 4 eight-foot tables across the front of the church outside of the altar rail and started labeling and opening up 6 cases of water bottles which I planned on blessing to give out this weekend to those who could not make it on Epiphany Eve. Some hearty helpers came in early and it is a good thing they did! People started coming in with salt (a necessary component of Holy Water in the old Rite) and water. Lots of it. We printed out 25 more copies of the previously mentioned prayers and it still seemed that less than half the people got one. All four tables were soon full and the large jugs underneath the tables had to share space with the continued “stream” of water being brought in. Most people were a bit taken back by the need to take the lids off the water, as they didn’t realize that exorcized and blessed salt had to be added to the freshly exorcized and blessed water.
Most of the time when people get their water blessed by a priest, he simply says a quick prayer over the container, and off they go. The new Rites, even when they are followed to a “t” are sorely lacking compared to the ancient Rites, as so much was simply discarded as “superfluous” and “unnecessary”. As for the Epiphany Eve blessing of the Holy Water, it is nowhere to be found in the new books. To drive this point home, let me show you what the prayer of blessing is in the new Rite “Book of Blessings.” As in most new Rite blessings, the priest “may” say a bunch of non-blessing stuff as written in the book or using “similar words” and perhaps read a few lines from Scripture, with a choice of eight passages being suggested. This part, of course, is optional. Then the prayer of blessing is written for him to say with “hands outstretched.” “Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God, who in Christ, the living water of salvation, blessed and transformed us. Grant that, when we are sprinkled with this water or make use of it, we will be refreshed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the new life we received at baptism. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” There is, of course, a second optional prayer, because, well, there always must be options! “Lord, holy Father, look with kindness on your children, redeemed by your Son and born to a new life by water and the Holy Spirit. Grant that those who are sprinkled with this water may be renewed in body and spirit and may make a pure offering of their service to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” Note that in reciting neither of these prayers does the priest make the sign of the cross, nor does he mention driving away demons (neither from the water nor with the water!), or sanctifying the persons, places, and things that will be sprinkled with the water. In fact, neither prayer of blessing even (read them again if you cannot believe this!) asks God to exorcize, sanctify, or bless the water! Need I mention that there is no mention of salt, either? It is pretty apparent even to newly ordained priests that they are better off “winging it” and making up their own prayer if they want the water to receive any sort of blessing at all.
Granted, the Epiphany Eve blessing of Holy Water is much more complex than the normal old Rite blessing of Holy Water, but even in the “normal” old blessing the priest not only exorcizes and blesses both salt and water, he also prays extra prayers while mixing them together, and, just to make sure there is no doubt about what he was doing, prays yet another prayer after the mixing is done. All of the prayers are explicit in stating what is being done and the sign of the cross is made multiple times during all of it. But on this one night, the evening before Epiphany, the old Rite adds even more solemnity to the blessing prayers. We started out with the chanting of the Litany of Saints, asking prayers of individual Saints (ora pro nobis) and multiple or groups of Saints (orate pro nobis). Then came my first beseeching of God that He would ✠ bless and ✠ sanctify the water, then we chanted the Agnus Dei, Kyrie, Pater Noster, and three Psalms. Then came the powerful exorcism prayer I showed you last week, followed by the Magnificat. Only after all of this did I pray the multiple “normal” exorcism and blessing prayers. The schola sang the Te Deum, a traditional hymn praising God with joy and thanksgiving. Oh, and a final prayer thanking God for granting all of the petitions for which we had asked. It took just over an hour, about twice what I expected and half of what I feared! Now that we have done this once in all its splendor, I believe that we may need a larger church to accommodate everybody that will participate next year!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Holy Water
This coming Wednesday, January 6, is our parish Feast Day! On Tuesday, January 5, at 6:30 pm I will be exorcising and blessing special Epiphany Holy Water which will be made available beginning the next day (along with blessed chalk) for the traditional Epiphany House Blessing. Since we don’t have a neighborhood parish, I cannot simply walk from house to house to do the blessings, so I will give you a modified version of the blessing which should be done by the spiritual head of the house. All of the new parishioners will finally realize what the chalk marks above the doors of the church and rectory mean! As for the special Epiphany Holy Water, although I will be blessing cases of water in bottles, if you wish to bring your own holy water bottles to fill or if you wish to bring gallons of water to be blessed, feel free to do so. Salt, too. I will also need some help ahead of time opening up each of the bottles (exorcized and blessed salt has to be added) and again afterward closing them again, so if any of you can come early and/or stay late, I will be very appreciative. This special water blessing on the eve of Epiphany has, until this year, been a very small, inconspicuous blessing with little to no chanting since there has always been something interfering with the schedule. This year the schola will be present to chant the Psalms and Antiphons as the Church expects to happen at such a special ceremony. I don’t know how much time it will take, though, as this will be the first time we are doing it “by the book.” I am guessing 30 minutes but so many of our Traditional Latin ceremonies take longer than I expect that I have put it on my calendar to be finished by midnight! Again, we will start the blessing at 6:30 pm. Come one, come all.
Just to give you some idea of the power of the exorcisms and blessings of the Epiphany Holy Water, I have printed below the first (not only) exorcism prayer which I will be chanting that evening.
Exorcism against Satan and the apostate angels
In the name of our Lord Jesus ✠ Christ and by His power, we cast you out, every unclean spirit, every devilish power, every assault of the infernal adversary, every legion, every diabolical group and sect; begone and stay far from the Church of God, from all who are made in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the divine Lamb ✠. Never again dare, you cunning serpent, to deceive the human race, to persecute the Church of God, nor to strike the chosen of God and to sift them as wheat ✠. For it is the Most High God who commands you ✠, He to whom you heretofore in your great pride considered yourself equal; He who desires that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. God the Father ✠ commands you. God the Son ✠ commands you. God the Holy ✠ Spirit commands you. The majesty of Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh ✠ commands you; He who for the salvation of our race, the race that was lost through your envy, humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death; He who built His Church upon a solid rock, and proclaimed that the gates of hell should never prevail against her, and that He would remain with her all days, even to the end of the world. The sacred mystery of the cross ✠ commands you, as well as the power of all the mysteries of Christian faith ✠. The exalted Virgin Mary, Mother of God ✠ commands you, who in her lowliness crushed your proud head from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and the other apostles ✠ commands you. The blood of the martyrs and the devout intercession ✠ of all holy men and women commands you. Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you by the living ✠ God, by the true ✠ God, by the holy ✠ God, by the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have life everlasting; cease your deception of the human race and your giving them to drink of the poison of everlasting damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom. Begone Satan, you father and teacher of lies and enemy of mankind. Give place to Christ in whom you found none of your works; give place to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which Christ Himself purchased with His blood. May you be brought low under God's mighty hand. May you tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before whom hell quakes, and to whom the virtues, powers, and dominations are subject; whom the cherubim and seraphim praise with unwearied voices, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!
Oh, yes, Epiphany Holy Water is special! It is powerful! It is useful! “Regular” Holy Water, blessed in the old Rite, not the new, has been exorcized and blessed and has had exorcized and blessed salt added, and has been given still more blessings. But this holy water gets so much more. Bring coolers and buckets and jugs of water for yourself and for distribution to family and friends all year long! See you Tuesday evening!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Christmas 2020
So here it is, a day or two after Christmas and everyone is sharing stories about how their family managed to cope in this most strange covid year. Since I usually don’t have time to sit down and chat after Mass (giving out penances and absolution does not count as “chatting”!) I will have to leave you with this written account of how my Christmas went. Obviously, with Christmas on a Friday and the bulletin needing to be out before the staff took off for the Holy Day, I had to write it before any of the described activities took place. Of course, these time warps happen around here all the time, so you should be used to them by now.
Christmas Eve was pretty busy around here. After the second morning Mass, there was, as normal for a weekday, Adoration and confessions. The confession lines had been long all week and the day before Christmas was no exception. Everybody and their brother wanted to be spiritually clean for Christmas, thanks be to God! After the Benediction, there was a large group of people waiting by the sacristy to have items blessed, most of which were going to be given as presents. Of course, even before I got done with the exorcisms and blessing of the various items, there was the all too often heard cry of, “Father, the toilet is overflowing!” The answer to the reply, “Which one?” determined how to fix it. It was the easy one. “Jiggle the handle,” I called back and continued casting demons out of some items on the table. “Make a note to exorcize the bathrooms, too,” I thought to myself. By the time I was finished the noon church bells were ringing. I headed over to the rectory office to plagiarize a little more from the Church Fathers, I mean, to finish preparing my sermon.
Probably 15 people came to the door bringing (more) homemade cookies, spiced nuts, and/or trail mix covered in white chocolate as they wished me and the staff a Merry Christmas. I certainly am not complaining, for that is what I ate for all of my meals last week and I probably have enough left for another week as well! Look at how thin Kim and Mark are and you know who really gets the goodies marked, “To Father and the staff, Merry Christmas!” The phones rang pretty constantly, too, as people kept calling to ask about the Mass schedule. I think Mark got tired of telling people that “That’s right, Midnight Mass starts at 12:00. No, midnight is not too late to hold Midnight Mass. Just because your parish up north always has it at 9:30 pm doesn’t mean that that is the traditional time...” He got good at figuring out where the callers were visiting from. “No, Father doesn’t celebrate the ‘Children’s Mass’ dressed as Santa Claus. You’re from Detroit, aren’t you?” “Your priest always gives general absolution before Christmas Masses? Let me guess. Chicago?” “You want to know which Mass is the shortest so that you can get in and out quickly? I thought you New Yorkers were all in quarantine!” And so passed the afternoon and evening.
A few of my family members came to Midnight Mass this year. Even though Aunt Irma was just here for Thanksgiving, she came back again anyway. It is always good to see her. I was going to re-introduce her to everyone before Mass because some of the new parishioners have never met her and some have even had the audacity to question her existence! But she showed up late and, since it was a candlelight Mass, it was too dark for anyone to see her. I know a few of you spoke with her after Mass when she handed you one of her computer tablets so that you could safely Zuum without needing masks (she still hasn’t figured that one out yet). She was also pretty vocal about the Vatican’s Nativity set, so if you heard a lady ranting about how her local boys and girls club had been ripped off by not getting credit for their work, you now know who she is. She claims that some of the special needs children back home had participated in a “Go Big or Go Home!” Beginners Porcelain class where they each created larger than life-sized characters whom they either admired or feared. “Little Jeremy, whose dad is on death row, made the ‘Darth Vader as an Executioner’ statue. Camille, who was born without legs, created a dog missing those appendages and other children followed her lead when making barnyard animals. Frankie follows Space X launches and so made a spaceman. Suzie made a chunky flying monkey from Wizard of Oz. Shawna made a soldier to honor her deployed older brother. Mary and Joseph are really just giant Weebles the Casimir twins put together...” And the list went on and on until Aunt Irma ran out of breath. “They never expected these to be Nativity figures,” she was telling everyone who would take her tablet and listen. “People would stop making fun of the pieces and calling them ‘ugly’ if they realized that these were first attempts at art by physically and mentally handicapped and abused children, not professional artists.” I was proud of her for defending those poor kids. I was equally relieved that this topic kept her from explicating her views on the recent CDF and USCCB letters on vaccinations.
I have many more Christmas stories to share, but there is no more room in this column. I hope your Christmas was as good as mine!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka