Who Likes Donuts?
From the Pastor: Who Likes Donuts?
Who likes donuts? What kind of a crazy question is that? Who doesn’t like donuts? Heck, even people who don’t eat them generally like them but simply refrain for purposes other than a lack of enjoyment in eating them. The best donuts, of course, are Sunday morning donuts. There is nothing like a fresh donut after Mass. There is just something special about participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where Jesus offers Himself to the Father in atonement for our sins, that naturally gets us thinking about eternal life and all of the joys of being in the Beatific Vision, which naturally makes the indulgence of consuming fried dough with icing on it seem like, maybe, a little peek into the joys of Heaven itself. Ok, maybe I exaggerated just a little bit there. But there is no denying that staying after Mass for coffee and donuts leads to stronger relationships among old and newfound friends. The young children eat and drink quickly so that they can (finally!) run around, yelling and playing; the young adults stand to eat their donuts and make plans for the week; and the “old” geezers—everyone over 30 and oh, so boring to the youngsters—enjoy just sitting and talking while leisurely consuming the one breakfast sweet that they will allow themselves all week. If you are following me so far, you can see just how important donuts are to parish life. And right about now it is dawning on you that you heard an announcement a couple of weeks back that the two families who have been “religiously” ordering and picking up the donuts for the past few years are ready to pass the torch to the next families who are willing to take on this grave responsibility. NO, WAIT! DON’T STOP READING YET!
The people who attend the 10:30 Mass generally have rotating groups that help make fresh coffee, set out drinks, serve the donuts, and clean up when things start winding down. As far as they know, the donuts milk, juice, cream, and other foods just appear in the kitchen, brought by angels when nobody is looking. Because multiple groups take on these tasks on a rotating basis (the groups that work the donut counter get to keep any donations over and above the cost of the food, and the parish picks up the tab if the donation jar is, ahem, light), none of the people helping out become overwhelmed with the burdens associated with occasionally working while everyone else socializes. But the people helping at the 7:30 are the ones charged with bringing in dozens upon dozens of donuts, enough for both Masses, plus stocking the refrigerator and pantry with the rest of the needed items, then getting everything set up, all before Mass begins! Then, after Mass, while everyone else is enjoying themselves as described above, the same people who brought everything in and set it all up, are the ones dishing it out and cleaning up. They also coordinate who is bringing in the extra homemade goodies (shhh, don’t tell this part to the 10:30 Mass people!) every couple of weeks when these delectable treats are made available. But there has been no rotating schedule for doing all of that, and they are ready to pass the torch to somebody else. if you remember, when the Traditional Latin Mass first started here in 2015, I was the one picking up the donuts and drinks before Mass started and I got to the point of needing others to take over for me, too. If you help take over, you will need others to pick up where you leave off at some point as well. It need not be a lifetime commitment!
It would certainly help if many families volunteered to take over so that nobody would have to bear such a heavy burden each and every week. It is really a great “ministry” and should be one that everybody wants to take turns doing. Ask those working the donut hour how they were able to do so much for so long and the answer will be something like, “Just look at the face of that young lad as he chooses his donut. It’s all worth it just for that!” They truly have enjoyed working so hard and the reward of helping others at church is just a foretaste of the reward awaiting them in Heaven. (I am not exaggerating here. This is truly an act of charity worthy of a reward for such a sacrificial and virtuous deed.) You get to know everybody and everybody gets to know you, at least by sight. And it certainly is something that helps strengthen the bonds of solidarity amongst the Faithful. If you attend the 7:30 Sunday Mass and would like to assist in this, please speak with either the Beards or the Owens’ (you know where to find them!) and let them show you what they do. Remember, that you can also, if you chose to make this a part of your parish life, change things up if you have a different vision of how things should/could be done. So if you are an “idea person” and have been thinking, “If only they would do thus and so it would be so much better” now is your chance to see your dreams come to fruition!
If nobody steps up to take over, that will be a sign that it is time to stop serving coffee and donuts at the early Mass and I will ask for volunteers at the 10:30 to pick up their donuts later in the morning. That would not be the end of the world. Even good things come and go. But if you want it to continue, don’t expect the angels to do all of the work!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
A Meeting With Bishop Parkes
From the Pastor: A Meeting With Bishop Parkes
Last Monday I received a phone call from Bishop Parkes’ secretary. She told me that Bishop Parkes wanted to see me as soon as possible. Could I come to his office tomorrow at 2:30? The timing was actually quite good. Because Tuesday was my “day off” (after morning Masses, confessions, and Adoration) I didn’t have any appointments scheduled except for a visit to my dad, who lives only about thirty minutes away from the Chancery offices. So, at the appointed time I showed up for our meeting. I was greeted quite warmly by both Bishop Parkes and his always-amiable Vicar General, Msgr. Bob Morris, and sat down for business. I fully expected that I would be told the fate of Epiphany and the other two parishes where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated. Why else would the Bishop request a rushed meeting? Two Roman documents had forced Bishop Parkes to ask permission for such Masses to continue and, up until now, I had heard nothing of a response. Do we all get to continue offering the TLM? Have only one or two of us been given permission? Have any of us been given permission to continue celebrating the Mass but not in the parish church, meaning that we have to rent a tent or barn or find some other place to continue? I was sure I was about to find out. No matter what the outcome, at least we would no longer be held in suspense, for we have been like Isaac, filled with trust that God’s will be done, patiently waiting for either his father Abraham’s knife to plunge deeply into his heart or for the angel to call off the sacrifice at the last second.
Alas, that was not to be the case. The Bishop simply wanted to give me three messages. The first, and the one directly related to the paragraph above, is that he has not yet received an answer to his request that all three parishes continue as usual. He assured me that he fully supports us and that in his letter to Rome, which he sent a couple of months ago, he had laid out good arguments for keeping the TLM going in all three Diocesan locations. He has told me several times now that he supports us (specifically, Epiphany) and that he wants us to prosper. I have passed that message on to you before and I hope you know the sincerity of his words.
The second message was that he is not sure if we—Epiphany—support him in return. The main thing he has to base such support on is the CMA, the Catholic Ministry Appeal. As he reminded me, the CMA has replaced the old APA (Annual Pastoral Appeal), which previously assessed each parish approximately 20 percent of all donations and used the money for running Diocesan programs and paying Diocesan bills such as staff salaries, insurance, electricity, and whatnot. The APA assessment was obligatory and, if not paid through parishioner donations directly, would be collected forcibly by the Diocese taking it directly from our savings account. The CMA, on the other hand, is used for the same purposes but is completely voluntary in nature. I wrote about it last year about this same time as we were in about the same situation. If the Bishop thinks that the pastor is not doing his best to encourage support for the Diocese, the CMA goal will revert back to “compulsory” instead of “voluntary.” If he believes that the best effort is being made, even if the goal is not met, he will accept whatever is willingly given and call it a done deal. Our current CMA goal is approximately $123,000 of which only 12% has been paid by only 6% of our parishioners. He sees this as a lack of support from you, the parishioners, which, in turn, shows a lack of support from me, the pastor. He asked if it would help if he sent one of his staff to explain how the program works (for instance, you can choose where you wish your donation to be used if you wish) and why it is important (the Bishop doesn’t have the ability to “pass the hat” as we do every week). I answered truthfully that while I would welcome that, the man he sends must be willing to answer the question, “Are we being shut down?” He was a bit put off by that answer because it is not him that would shut us down should such a terrible thing happen, but rather the Pope. Bishop Parkes supports allowing Traditional Latin Masses to continue. Pope Francis has been clear that he wants us “backward” TLM people eliminated from parish life. I hope nobody objects to me stating that truth so bluntly and clearly. So here is another reminder that the Diocese needs funds and the people have an opportunity, through the CMA, to supply for her needs in a manner that is much better than the previous method.
The third thing Bishop Parkes wanted to tell me is that I am not present at many Diocesan functions. I certainly cannot argue with that statement. I attend all Diocesan meetings that are mandatory or seem informative, but that number is not large. I had no priest to take over for me during the annual Priest Convocation last fall and I stubbornly refuse to cancel Masses at the parish just so that I can enjoy the company of my fellow priests for the week. I skipped the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, and I have even been unable to attend several large fundraising dinner/speaker events that I normally attend. But I certainly can try harder.
At the end of the day, though, the sad reality is that we are still in Limbo.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Taylor Marshall and Bishop Schneider’s Visits
I wish we could have many more weeks like we had during the first week of May. At the same time, I hope we never have any more weeks like we had during the first week of May! What a blessing it was for both Dr. Taylor Marshall and Bishop Athanasius Schneider to be here back to back. But the amount of planning, physical work, preparation, and so much more was astronomical. I extend true thanks and gratitude to all of you who put this together, and who worked so hard before, during, and after the visits. Although I cannot possibly list everyone who sacrificed so much for these two men to be here almost back to back (and the extra priests, subdeacon, and brother who assisted us at either one or both events by hearing confessions and/or giving instructions and prayerful service at the altar), I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the Fraternal Society of St. John the Apostle.
This relatively new group in our parish has this mission and vision: “We call upon all Catholic men to become St. Johns: courageously standing with Christ and taking Holy Mother Church into our homes and into the world. We seek to inspire men of all vocations to live liturgically in their personal and professional lives by providing events centered around Adoration, Confession, fellowship, tradition, and spiritual enrichment. Finally, we seek to invite all Catholics to experience and restore the Traditions of the Church as lived by our ancestors and Saints.” If that mission and vision is appealing and you would like to be a part of this group, please reach out to Don Orrico, Jay Kelley, Matthew Coughlin, or Luca Hickman via 813-720-7002, email@example.com, or via fssja.substack.com.
Beyond that group, though, are countless more people who sacrificed so much to make this such a spectacular week. The parish staff really worked their tails off in many and various ways to get things ready. Answering phones and emails and flocknotes and other media monsters was enough to drive some of them insane. Trying to clean and rearrange and beautify the church, hall, classrooms, and rectory took superhuman strength. How they were able to complete such tasks with such large events as bookends to an already packed “normal” week’s schedule shows the supernatural power of prayer and faith. Arranging to have enough, but not too much so as to have it go to waste, food and drinks took some mighty fine guesswork as well as back-breaking labor. Arranging flowers, killing ants, fixing plumbing and electrical issues, and setting up tents took even more people away from whatever else they would normally have been doing. And there is no way of forgetting how many people sacrificed even being able to attend the Bishop’s Mass so that they could do all the work that was required to be done while the rest of us were inside praying and listening to such a holy successor to the Apostles. (I hope it wasn’t all of the same people who sacrificed attending Cardinal Burke’s Mass who did so again for Bishop Schneider, but I have a feeling that there was a lot of overlap. If you were able to participate in both of those Masses, perhaps you would consider trading places with one of them for the next exalted visitor?)
When Dr. Marshall gave his talk, we had a lot of female “infiltrators” who figured out that, although this was a male-only event, if they volunteered to work setting up and serving food and drinks, they could “clandestinely” listen in as he spoke. Fortunately for them, we were all so focused on spotting the undercover FBI agents that I don’t think anybody even noticed that the women were there. Wink, wink. But even if we had noticed, his talk on St. Joseph had captured our attention to such a degree that nobody would have wanted to break away from it long enough to kick out the imposters, anyway.
Our altar boys also had to undergo extra training once again and they did a phenomenal job serving Our Lord. I saw many of our Troops of St. George working with boyhood energy, going far beyond their “highlight” event of Presenting the Flag and singing the National Anthem. Many of those working these events were members of the American Heritage Girls, our Epiphany Council of Catholic Women, the junior and senior high youth groups, the young adult group, Knights of Columbus, and the Holy League. I don’t know which, if any, of them were recruited specifically because they were part of the group or how many were there on their own initiative, for those who are active in one area are also the ones who volunteer for everything else as well. But it was still great to see. I don’t think there was a single Epiphany group without representatives working hard to make the week a success in both worldly and Heavenly ways.
Finally, I wish to point out, as if you didn’t already know, how blessed we are to have such a fine schola. The assisting priests from the FSSP and ICKSP, both of which have the specific ministry of celebrating the Mass and other sacraments according to the older Rites, had high praise for the choir as they sang and chanted Compline, the Mass, and Vespers. I won’t mention how high was their praise, if only so that their own choirs won’t get jealous!
Now I conclude by stating, almost unbelievably, that I have already been fielding this question over and over. “So, Father, who is coming next?” Whew! I am still exhausted and you want to know who and when another great speaker or holy Bishop or Cardinal will come and wear me out again? Let me just say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Don’t Make Waves?
From the Pastor: Don’t Make Waves?
As I wrote last week, Dr. Taylor Marshall is going to give a talk on St. Joseph this coming Monday, May 1, which coincidentally happens to be the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What luck! On Saturday, May 6, His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be with us at 7:00 pm for compline (night prayer), which will include a blessing of a new reliquary for a recently-received first-class relic of Blessed Karl of Austria. Following the prayers, he will give a short talk and then join us for coffee and dessert. He will be the celebrant of the Pontifical Solemn High Mass the next day, Sunday, May 7, at 10:30. Because I wrote more extensively about this last week, I won’t go into any more details but write it simply as a reminder. I certainly hope you put it on your calendar!
One thing I have been asked about repeatedly after announcing that both of the above-mentioned men are coming to Epiphany is, “Aren’t you making us a target? Wouldn’t it be better to fly under the radar? After all, Cardinal Roach is canceling Traditional Latin Masses all over right now.” The people asking the question are, with good reason, worried that we will have our liturgical legs cut out from under us, so to speak, if we show ourselves to be “too Traditional.” But the reality is that our own Bishop, Gregory Parkes, already knows that the parish is traditional and he has always been supportive of us. He knows that I am outspoken in both speech and writing, and, although there have been things that I have written that he has chastised me for, he knows that even where we disagree about how or if certain issues should be explained, I am not doing anything to be mean or spiteful, but rather am looking out for the spiritual welfare of my parishioners. So, from a local perspective, there is no “flying under the radar” needed or even possible. As far as the men in Rome are concerned, I doubt very seriously that even if one of our FBI infiltrators should send them a letter tattling on us, it would make any more of a difference than if a million people sent them letters praising what we are doing. They have their minds made up as to what they are going to do with those who follow Tradition and they are going to follow through as they see fit. We are already, at least generically, a target, so why be timid at this point? Of course, I could be wrong and maybe they read our bulletin every week, breathlessly waiting to see what great things are happening here to help people achieve a heroic level of sanctity and we, instead of being limited or canceled, are going to be put up as an example of what a true parish should be! That is as likely as them reading the bulletins from all TLM parishes and adjusting their “cancelation schedule” based on who is visiting which parish. I am guessing that we are either already on the hit list or not and nothing we do or fail to do (save prayer) is going to change that. Therefore, we must just keep on doing the best we can, bring in the best speakers we can, allow the holiest priests, Bishops, and Cardinals who wish to come here to do so, and keep striving to become Saints. I hope you agree that going out with a bang is better than going out with nary a whimper.
Once, when I was but a youngster, I heard a story about a man who died and went to hell. The demon “welcomed” him and told him that he would escort him to the place where he would spend eternity. Each damned soul, he was told, would receive the torment that he had specifically merited due to his particular tendency to sin. The poor man complained, “But I didn’t do anything bad! I never got into any trouble myself or caused any difficulty for anyone else! I can’t imagine why I deserve any torture at all!” Of course, the demon only cackled with harsh, throaty laughter, as only demons can do, as he dug his claws into the man's shoulder and started dragging him down a long, dark, foul-smelling hallway with doors lining either side. “But how can I be in hell? I never caused any disturbance. I was never judgmental or told people that they were wrong. I never bothered anyone at all,” the man continued to plead as he struggled against his captor. “I never rocked the boat. I have a clear conscience.” As they passed by each door he could hear various instruments of torture being used and the screams of the unseen people inside made him blubber his unheard excuses all the more. “I never protested for or against any cause whatsoever. I never took sides so that I would never anger anyone. I did everything I could to ‘make nice’ with all people. I don’t deserve this!” At last the demon stopped. They were outside of a door behind which could be heard no whips, no clubs, no roaring fire. Instead of terrifying screams of pain, there were only the soft sounds of gentle murmuring. “This is your destiny,” grunted the demon. The man said, “Oh, this doesn’t seem too bad. I guess I was worried for nothing.” The door opened and the man was thrown in, landing with a huge splash in the middle of hell’s septic tank. He found himself shackled in such a way that, if he strained with every fiber of his body, he could just barely keep his mouth out of all that foul excrement and he joined his damned companions in forever murmuring, “Don’t make waves, don’t make waves.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Two “Big Name” Guests Coming Soon!
From the Pastor: Two “Big Name” Guests Coming Soon!
In just two short weeks, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (Monday, May 1), the first of the guests whom the headline mentions will arrive. Due to the hard work of our Fraternal Society of St John the Apostle, Dr. Taylor Marshall will be here to give a presentation on St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. The Fraternity puts these talks/prayers/dinners together four times a year for men and boys, both from the parish and from outside the parish, to come together to form strong, virtuous, Catholic male bonds, to network, and to become familiar with the traditions of the Church. Dr. Marshall is the founder of the Troops of St. George, so we already have a connection to him through our very active troop. Now the boys get to meet the one who put the Troops together in the first place! Beginning at 6:00 pm we will have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confessions. Then at 7:00 pm, dinner and the presentation by Dr. Taylor. At about 8:15 we will have a fireside rosary and then dessert. Men, I expect to see you there! (Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com with a link available from our parish calendar on our website.)
Just a few days after that big night we have another guest joining us. Although it is hard to top Dr. Taylor Marshall, we managed to pull it off. On Saturday, May 6, His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be with us at 7:00 pm for compline (night prayer), after which he will give a short talk and then join us for coffee and dessert. He will be the celebrant of the Pontifical Solemn High Mass the next day, Sunday, May 7, at 10:30. At that Mass he will have the pleasure of giving First Holy Communion to nearly 30 of our children. I want to remind you that because of the First Holy Communion children and their families, the church and hall, which are normally both packed at 10:30, will be even more difficult to get into. We will not be able to reserve seats for even the extended families of those receiving the Eucharist for the first time, since that could conceivably reserve more than half of the available pews, but even their immediate families will take up a good-sized portion of the church.
I tell you this, not to scare you away, but to remind you that we had a similarly expected crowd not too long ago when a well-known Cardinal celebrated Mass for us and it worked out better than we could have hoped. Everyone cooperated when asked to exit the church and hall after the 7:30 Mass so that we could get everything set properly for the big Mass. (Nobody was/is able to just attend the 7:30 and “camp out” there in the pew so as to “save” seats for the 10:30!) The crowd outside was polite and joyful as people waited for the doors of the church to open once we were ready for them to enter. Everyone sat closer together than they ever had before so that the full capacity of the church was reached and then the overflow crowd piled into the hall. We even had speakers and at least one TV set up outside so that those who were working the food tents (at a tremendous sacrifice of missing Cardinal Burke’s Mass, I might add) could at least sporadically keep tabs on what was happening. Since it all worked out once, I expect that it will work out again.
After Mass, the Bishop will probably grab a quick snack and then greet everyone in the parish room in the old school. He will also bless objects if you bring them back there before Mass begins and you can pick up your items later that day. Those who attend the 7:30 Mass that day, whether it is because they always go to the low Mass or because they are working the later Mass or even because they don’t want to deal with the crowds at the 10:30 Mass may, of course, either stay for the “after-Mass” blessings and greetings or come back for them. You can still meet the Bishop after Mass and a leisurely breakfast!
This week, before any of the above-mentioned things take place, I will be meeting with the children making their First Holy Communion. We have multiple meeting times scheduled throughout the week so parents can take their pick of times and dates. I think everyone is already on the schedule who is supposed to be, but if you are reading this and don’t know anything about it, please call the parish office right away! You can see the dates/times of these interviews on our parish calendar, which is available on the website as mentioned earlier in this article. That really is a helpful web page, for we usually keep all of the public activities up to date there and if you think to check you won’t have to call the office, or your friends, or ask on our falsebook page or anything like that.
To close this out, I got a phone call from Aunt Irma as I was typing this. She evidently hacked into the FBI computers and, since they were hacking me, she was reading this article as I was writing it. She was laughing, sure that it was all fiction. “You might have pushed too far into fantasy to be believed,” she said. “After all, there is no parish in the world that can get both Taylor Marshall and Bishop Schneider in the same year, let alone the same week.” Imagine that. She thinks I sometimes make things up!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
An Amazing Easter!
From the Pastor: An Amazing Easter!
This year, once again, Easter and the holy days leading up to it saw an increase in participation at Epiphany. Our Tenebraes must have been well-attended. Although I am inside the confessional during those beautiful candle-lit chanted prayers and so cannot see how many people show up, I can tell you that I spent more time hearing confessions during them than in previous years. I started before the schola entered the church and I left after they did. That is a good sign, for each of these three sessions lasts for hours!
On Holy Thursday there were 800 Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, anticipating large numbers of people receiving Holy Communion both that night and the following afternoon after the Veneration of the Cross. I thought, based on previous years’ numbers, that we would have plenty of Hosts left over. I was not expecting a full church (497 people in the 500-person capacity church) on Thursday night and then an overflow crowd (539) on Friday! When we finished the Communion Service on Good Friday there was only one (1) Host left! As a reference point, in 2018 (the first year I thought to take notes like this for Holy Week) we only had 312 people who received Holy Communion between those two days.
Fr. Alexander made his “debut” at the Holy Thursday Mass as he assisted with the distribution of Holy Communion for the first time. Up until then, he had only observed the Mass. He is now starting to memorize prayers and parts of the Mass. For instance, in giving Holy Communion, he had to memorize and say not just, “The Body of Christ” as is done in the Novus Ordo Masses, but rather, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” In Latin, of course! Then, while at the practice for the Holy Saturday Vigil, he was assigned the task of chanting the Epistle. He had less than an hour to practice and he had not yet been exposed to the old chant notation! He learned how to read the notes and actually chant them as written in what I would have seen as an impossibly short period of time. He did a marvelous job. He chanted at least as well as I currently do and much, much, MUCH better than I did when I first started! It won’t be long before he will be ready to celebrate Mass or take the part of the deacon or subdeacon at a Solemn Mass.
The blessing of the Easter Baskets was also well attended. I can’t tell you how many people say how much they look forward to this simple ceremony. They even enjoy planning for it. They have to find just the perfect basket. They have to find (and some of it is very difficult to find) the objects that they will place in it. If they are cooking and baking and making any or all of it, all of that must be planned ahead of time so that the food is ready on time yet not done too soon so that it isn’t fresh by the time it gets eaten. And many people, after seeing what others put in their baskets and hearing what prayers are available for blessing the food and non-edible items, make it a point to add more things to their own list for next year! We had 6 tables filled with baskets and still had larger baskets on the floor due to lack of room! (We only filled two tables in 2018.) Check out the photos on our fleecebook page and see the variety. Plus, there were nearly 70 people in attendance. That’s not too shabby for a non-Polish parish!
At the Saturday night Easter Vigil and Mass, we had 392 people in attendance. It lasted three and a quarter hours and that is without anyone receiving the sacraments of initiation that night. (I am grateful that Bishop Parkes encourages us to bring converts into the Church throughout the year when they are ready, rather than forcing them to wait for the Easter Vigil to receive their sacraments unless the timing works out.) I am astounded when I hear that other parishes finish in less time even with a group receiving baptism and confirmation, which can easily add on another 45 minutes. In 2018 we had 112 people attend and we started it, as the old ritual says to do, late enough that the Vigil Service is completed and Mass is beginning right around midnight. That year we began at 11:00 pm and ended after 2:00 am. The cleanup from that and the setup for the Easter morning Mass kept many of us there until shortly after 4. I got about an hour of sleep that night and the choir members, not living right here on the property as I do, only got about the same amount of sleep because most have long distances to drive, families to take care of to boot, and had to return for the 10:30 Mass! I think they all threatened to quit if we did it that way again. Or else, I threatened to quit. I was too tired to remember who is to “blame” for us reverting back to a starting time of “the fall of darkness.” This year I was in bed by 1:00 am, although there was still a group celebrating in the social hall when I finally turned in. I think they bring in their blessed Easter Baskets and share the foods they contain and hang out celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus and speaking of Holy things. Their small group is growing as well. Oh, and there were 708 people between the two Easter morning Masses, up nearly 400 from 2018!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Or, From Chat GPT?
From the Pastor: Or, From Chat GPT?
I have heard a lot about Chat GPT and the “amazing” things it can do. It is artificial intelligence, which simply means that it is a computer program with access to a lot of information and it is programmed in such a way that it can spit back that information almost as if it were a human who was thinking and responding. Of course, being a computer program, it is capable of putting together information much quicker than a human can. The more complicated the response must be, the more apparent the time differential. With that simple explanation of Chat GPT, I now turn to what I did with it. I asked it to do a simple task and gave it very simple guidelines. I typed, “Write an article 700-900 words long welcoming Catholics to Mass on Easter.” That was it. Within a very short time (tens of seconds) it responded with the following 777-word article. Note well: this article is from Chat GPT, not from the pastor, and not from any human directly, but from a computer program.
As Easter approaches, Catholics all over the world are preparing to welcome the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many, this is the most important day in the liturgical calendar, offering a chance to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by the Son of God and the promise of redemption that it entails. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations will undoubtedly look different than usual, but the message of hope and renewal is as important as ever. If you are a Catholic who is planning to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, here are some tips on how to make the most of this sacred occasion.
Firstly, it is important to remember that Easter is a time of joy and celebration. This is the day when the darkness of the crucifixion is replaced by the light of the resurrection, and we are reminded that no matter what challenges we face in our lives, hope is always possible. So, as you prepare for Mass, try to embrace this sense of excitement and positivity. Wear your best clothes, bring a smile, and be prepared to sing, pray, and celebrate with your fellow parishioners.
In the current climate, it is important to be mindful of the safety precautions that may be in place at your church. Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions on how many people can attend Mass, or guidelines on social distancing and the wearing of masks. Some churches may require you to book a spot in advance, so check with your parish ahead of time to make sure you have all the necessary information. Remember that these measures are in place to keep you and your fellow worshippers safe, so try to be patient and understanding.
When you arrive at your church, take a moment to soak in the atmosphere. Depending on your parish, the decorations and music may be different than usual, but the sense of reverence and holiness should still be palpable. As you find your seat, take a deep breath and try to quiet your mind. This is a time for reflection and prayer, and it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day. Take a moment to focus on the significance of the occasion, and allow yourself to be present in the moment.
During the Mass itself, remember that the focus is on the celebration of the resurrection. The readings, prayers, and music are all geared towards reminding us of the miracle of Easter Sunday, and the hope that it represents. Listen carefully to the words of the priest and the scripture readings, and allow them to sink in. Pay attention to the words of the hymns and the responses, and try to join in with enthusiasm and sincerity. Remember that you are part of a community of worshippers, all of whom are there to share in this moment of significance together.
After Mass, take some time to reflect on what you have experienced. Think about the messages that were shared during the service, and how they apply to your own life. Consider the ways in which you can incorporate the hope and positivity of Easter into your own daily routine, and how you might share this message with those around you. Take a moment to pray in your own way, and give thanks for the gift of renewal that Easter brings.
Finally, remember that the celebration of Easter lasts longer than just one day! This is a time of year when we are invited to embrace the hope and joy that the resurrection brings, and to carry that message with us into the world. So, continue to seek out opportunities to celebrate and share this message throughout the Easter season. Attend Mass regularly, read scripture, spend time with family and friends, and find ways to serve your community. By living out the message of Easter in our daily lives, we can continue to spread hope and renewal long after the flowers have faded and the chocolate bunnies have been eaten.
In conclusion, attending Mass on Easter Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to connect with a community of worshippers who share your faith. While this year’s celebrations may look different than usual, the message of Easter is as important as ever. So, as you prepare to attend Mass, remember to embrace the joy and hope of the occasion, be mindful of safety precautions, and allow yourself to be present in the moment. By doing so, you can experience the fullness of the Easter message and carry it with you into your daily life.
With prayers for your holiness,
(The computerized) Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What Is Happening During Holy Week?
From the Pastor: What Is Happening During Holy Week?
This week is Holy Week! On Wednesday evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday there 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 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 others 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 on 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 entire 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. (It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 11:00 am if any of you wish to attend in person or listen to it on the radio.) But the Church still does not allow morning Masses on Holy Thursday. There are, of course, people who do not remember this even after reading about it in the bulletin and still show up for the non-existent Mass, but that would never happen to you! 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, there will still be some people who show up expecting both of them! More fortunately for them than for those who show up on Thursday morning to an empty parking lot and locked church, at least there will be people inside as Tenebrae is being chanted. 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 arduous 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. Our Easter Vigil will start at 8:00 pm and flows directly into the Mass. The entire service and Mass will probably take about 3 hours. On Easter Sunday, the Mass schedule will follow the normal times of 7:30 am and 10:30 am.
So mark your calendars and be prepared for a holy Holy Week!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Confession and Holy Communion
From the Pastor: Confession and Holy Communion
The end of Lent is coming soon. The Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) will bring a change of Mass times, extra confessions, extra liturgical services including reception of Holy Communion outside of Mass on Good Friday, and extra confessions. Don’t panic! Those are not happening this coming week but rather the following week. But before we get there, I believe that there needs to be a little written about the proper way to go to confession, plus one little bit of advice about receiving Holy Communion.
To begin with, Sunday, when the confessions are listed as after Mass, that means that the confessions are after Mass. As in: not before Mass. Why? The two main reasons are, first, because I despise having to celebrate Mass without time to get ready. Running straight from the confessional to celebrate Mass makes for a very hectic Mass. The second is very much related to the first, in that I often have things of which I need to take care before Mass begins even if I am not the celebrant! If I am kept in the confessional until the last minute (or longer), I don’t have time for even such simple things as a potty break, let alone the things that much less obviously (to you) need to be accomplished. Paradoxically, the more confessions I could hear from those attending the 10:30 Mass before Mass begins, the sooner after Mass I could get out to bring Holy Communion to the homebound parishioners. But I would rather have a longer day than celebrate a Mass unprepared.
For those of you confessing, a few simple reminders. Get in line. Prepare your conscience while in line. Know how to confess. Don’t wait for Father to invite you in, give you a drink, light a cigarette for you, offer you some hors d’oeuvres, and finally get around to “business.” Many of you, because you don’t say anything after kneeling down, have heard me ask, “Did you come in here for confession or to take a nap?” or “Do you know how to confess?” or something similar. I used to say, “Begin whenever you are ready” but then some people remained silent and I didn’t know if they didn’t hear me or if they were just then preparing! I cannot see who is on the other side of the screen, so for all I know Silent Bob may simply be finishing up a text conversation on his cell phone! Enter, kneel, make the sign of the cross, and say “Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been (this long) since my last confession.” There are other similar phrases or additional prayers that can be used. Don’t worry about which is “right.” Any of them are better than plain silence. Have your routine down pat and start as soon as you kneel. Then confess. That is, briefly list the sins you have committed and of which you are repentant. Don’t reveal other people’s sins. Don’t tell stories. Give just enough information so that Father knows what you did wrong but not too many juicy details to make it seem like you are bragging, making excuses, or blaming someone/something else for your sins. If the priest asks you to please stop telling stories and confess your sins, don’t say, “Oh! Yes, sorry Father!” and then continue with your story just where you left off. If you do that and he repeats the request, don't get mad and say, “But Father, I need to set the whole thing in context so that you will see...!” I can guarantee that Father is only telling you this because you are not telling necessary details but are rather telling stories to the detriment of your own repentance. These casual conversations rather than actual confessions are most certainly the result of replacing confessionals with reconciliation rooms. Those facilitate sitting down for a spell, encourage idle chitchat, and make it difficult to be brief and blunt about what sins you have committed and repented of. Instead, it leads to long, drawn out descriptions that dance around the subject, covering up anything too embarrassing to say as you and Father look at each other, and deflecting blame so that he still thinks you are a good guy when you are done almost telling him your sins, implying—though not straight out admitting—what they were, hoping he understands enough to absolve you but not enough that he thinks less of you for being a sinner. Sheesh!
If you use a phone app or a paper pamphlet for your examination of conscience, you still need to examine your conscience before you get in, not after entering the confessional. For instance, Father should not hear, “Have I missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation? No, I have not missed Mass. Do I take the Lord’s name in vain? No, unless saying @#$%^ counts, but everyone does that. Do I...” If you have been in the confessional line, you should already have your list down pat. You don't have to tell the priest anything you didn’t do wrong, and you absolutely should not read the question and then give the answer for those things you did or did not do. Just confess the sin! Also, remember that mortal sins must be confessed both in kind and in number.
The only thing I want to say about Communion is, if you have an impressive beard, please hold it out of the way of the paten that the altar boy will hold under your chin to catch any fallen particle of the Host. If you don’t, your whiskers will act like a brush and either collect the particles into the hair of your chinny chin chin or sweep them onto the floor. Neither is good.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Laetare Sunday!
This past Thursday was the midpoint of Lent. You are now more than halfway done with your Lenten penances and it is time to rejoice! At one time Thursday was the big day of celebration but, as most people couldn’t make it to church in the middle of the week, Laetare Sunday began to take on the role of that midpoint mini-celebration. The violet liturgical vestments of Lent are allowed (not mandated) to be replaced with rose-colored vestments (they are supposed to be a somewhat light shade of burgundy or red, not Pepto Bismol Pink!) if the church is so fortunate as to have them. The organ may be used once again in order to bring a bit of extra solemnity to the milestone and give the people a little hope that they can indeed make it through the rest of the penitential season. Even flowers, after having been noticeably absent from the church for the whole of Lent up until now return and, because they have been missing for the past 3 Sundays, even the few that are put out should bring more joy and cheer than an extravagant display of flowers would at any other time of the year. We are to “rejoice” (which is the meaning of “laetare,” the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass) in realizing that Our Lord is willing to forgive even us if we but repent of our sins and return to Him, while not forgetting that we still need to do penance to “make up” for our sins in some small way instead of taking His forgiveness for granted as if it was owed to us.
This is also the traditional day for the Pope to bless the Golden Rose. This was a special rose, made of pure gold slightly tinted with red or, later, decorated with rubies and other red gems. It was crafted by specially skilled artisans and given as one of the most cherished symbols of Catholicism that can be obtained on this earth. The Pope may have given it to a special parish, to a Catholic King, Queen, or other royal personages, to a distinguished military general (in the days when a Catholic military was seen as a good—even necessary—force for moral good in the world), to a city or government that was outstanding in promoting or defending the Catholic Faith, or to any other true Catholic that he wanted to honor in a special and unique way. Because the rose has both beauty in the flower and thorns in the stem, it is seen as a wonderful natural symbol of the middle of Lent.
According to the online Catholic Encyclopedia, the golden rose was originally about 6 inches tall and carried easily by the Pope in his left hand, leaving his right hand free to bestow blessings upon the people as he rode his Popemobile (horse) through the crowds. But the size and weight of the rose varied tremendously over the years and sometimes twenty pounds of gold was used to produce what I can only imagine to be a spectacularly beautiful bouquet of golden roses.
The last year the golden rose was bestowed was 1893, a gift from Pope Leo XIII to the Belgian Queen, Marie Henriette. I understand, though, that this year the Holy Father is bringing back this almost forgotten tradition. I was let in on the secret because, according to the rumors, at least, he will bestow it upon Epiphany of Our Lord parish as a token of his gratitude for the heartfelt prayers and support the Catholic Church has received from its parishioners. The only reason I am able to write about this without spoiling the surprise is that the rose will have been already delivered by the time any of you read this. I sure hope that the Pope’s horse can swim well enough to bring him to America.
Getting out of fantasyland now and returning to reality, as I was perusing the old Catholic Encyclopedia for details needed to write this article, it struck me that in the “old days,” Sundays—even Laetare Sunday—were not exempt from the quite severe Lenten abstinence from all meat and “lacticinia” such as eggs, milk, and cheese, even though Sundays were exempt from fasting in the Latin Church. But the severity of the penance was soon mitigated, little by little. This 1917 edition says, after describing the relaxation of certain rules to allow earlier meals and more food to be taken (my emphasis), “Other mitigations of an even more substantial character have been introduced into lenten observance in the course of the last few centuries. To begin with, the custom has been tolerated of taking a cup of liquid (e.g., tea or coffee, or even chocolate) with a fragment of bread or toast in the early morning. But, what more particularly regards Lent, successive indults have been granted by the Holy See allowing meat at the principal meal, first on Sundays, and then on two, three, four, and five weekdays, throughout nearly the whole of Lent. Quite recently, Maundy Thursday, upon which meat was hitherto always forbidden, has come to share in the same indulgence. In the United States, the Holy See grants faculties whereby working men and their families may use flesh meat once a day throughout the year, except Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the vigil of Christmas. The only compensation imposed for all these mitigations is the prohibition during Lent against partaking of both fish and flesh at the same repast.” In the 100 years since that was written, we have mitigated the Lenten observances even more, so that there is now not even a prohibition against eating both meat and fish at nearly every meal! I wonder if there will be any obligatory penance at all in another twenty or fifty years...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Muskrat, Beaver, and Puffin for Lent
From the Pastor: Muskrat, Beaver, and Puffin for Lent
Some of you may read the following article and swear that you have read it before. You may be mostly correct. As promised a couple of weeks ago, I pulled this out of storage, dusted it off, adjusted the dates and a few other little things, and am presenting it to you once again. Of course, this comes from quite a few years back, and most of you would probably think it was all brand new if I wasn’t writing this opening paragraph, so I could have just passed it off as original, but I don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing my own writings!
Several years ago as Lent was about to begin I wrote about a strange custom found in Michigan wherein Catholics could eat muskrat without violating Church laws on abstinence. [Hopefully, you all know that Catholics are, by Church law (rather than Divine Law, which cannot be “tweaked” in the same way) required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. All other Fridays of the Year are considered penitential but we in the United States are allowed to choose a penance other than the traditional abstinence from meat outside of those days already mentioned. We don’t get off the hook, we simply get to choose our own penance. Really. Vatican II did not get rid of Friday penance!] This year another story has been making the rounds that beavers in Quebec long ago also received the honorary title of “fish” (like tomatoes being honorary vegetables though they are really fruit) so that they, too, can be eaten on Fridays in Lent.
Our Michiganders have yet to start up a Lenten muskrat Friday “fish” fry, much to the disappointment of every other Epiphany parishioner, I am sure, but perhaps one of our Canadian snowbirds would be willing to bring down a truckload of beaver for the same purpose. Stories vary about whether the whole beaver or only the tail was allowed to be classified as “fish” for abstinence purposes, so I suppose we would need an official clarification before we start cooking. I don’t know much about the laws regarding trapping and butchering either critter but if they are both in season right now it is possible that we could even get both of them brought down here to put on our menu. Imagine the envy of the other parishes when they discover that we offer a choice of either beaver or muskrat! The hardest part might be determining the side dishes. Both rodents are northern animals so it would seem strange to fix them with cheese grits and collard greens but what else would be a suitable substitute? For some strange reason, most of the vegetable dishes we find in local restaurants all seem foreign to our friends from the north. Just mention “stewed okra” and watch their noses scrunch up. Even something as normal as “fried green tomatoes” produces a look of bewilderment among the part-timers around here. Of course, it seems all the more strange that they don’t eat those great foods when they are the ones bringing the rodents to the table!
Not to be outdone by the crazy North Americans, though, people from other parts of the world have some unusual “fish” equivalents as well. Look at the Venezuelans. They are allowed to eat the largest rodent in the world, the capybara, for Lent. One website quotes a restaurant owner (who, presumably, has capybara on the menu though that is never made clear) as saying, “I know it’s a rat, but it tastes really good.” I wonder if people from Venezuela with such discerning palates would have the audacity to turn their noses up at grits the way our own Yankees do? Or how about some French cooking for Lent? France brings us stories about being allowed to eat puffins on Lenten Fridays. You know those charming little birds at SeaWorld which are found in the cold weather displays along with the penguins? Those are puffins. Like the rodents above, these birds are semi-aquatic and so probably taste like fish or duck rather than like chicken. Unlike articles about those “brave” souls willing to eat rodents, where reporters seem to revel in the “gross” factor of eating rat-like animals, the articles about those who eat puffins (yes, you can find them easily enough) show outrage that anyone would eat a cute little birdie. So it is probably best that, as far as I know, anyway, we don’t have any parishioners coming from northern France and we will keep the puffins off the Friday menu. Of course, now that I mentioned the controversial eating of puffins, I cannot go without mentioning that in some places whales, seals, and even (gulp) porpoises seem to have been allowed on some Friday Lenten dinner menus as well.
Because our social hall only seats about 120 people around the tables and we would have to exclude way too many of you who would be clamoring to chow down on such delectable dishes, this year we won’t be able to host any of these Lenten dinners. But should we happen to have among our parishioners some avid muskrat or beaver trappers, puffin pursuants, capybara chasers, or seal stalkers willing to bring in a nice supply for next year, we might, with proper planning, be able to pull it off. Our Council of Catholic Women could bring back their tent for outdoor seating, the Knights of Columbus could do the cooking, the American Heritage Girls could serve, and, well, what a yummy penance!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Soup and Stations Q&A
From the Pastor: Soup and Stations Q&A
I underestimated the number of people who have never been to our Lenten Friday Soup and Stations. A couple of questions have been brought forth which deserve to have the answers distributed more widely than just to the one asking the question. But there is something that I must address before I can get to the Q&A. A couple of weeks ago, either during the 10:30 Mass or during the social time afterward, one of our parishioners had his SUV’s catalytic converter stolen. These things cost up to several thousands of dollars to replace after they have been hacked off by thieves, who supposedly get a few hundred dollars for them when they take them to shady car repair shops. We have men who walk around looking for such dastardly evil-doers but this one slipped by. The car was parked in the parking spots back next to the rectory where there are no security cameras. We have stepped up the number of eyes on the lookout for guys just hanging out for no good reason. We are also installing security cameras back there and increasing the number and coverage of the cameras on the church and school buildings. What a shame that we have to spend hours and dollars just to keep people who obviously want a quick trip to hell from committing further mortal sins. And, yes, I believe that stealing from the Church, even from cars in the parish parking lot, is a mortal sin.
And now we get around to the topic at hand, the Lenten Friday Soup and Stations. Question number one: Since Bishop Parkes has dispensed us from St. Patrick’s Day abstinence, can we bring in meat on March 17? Answer: Just because a dispensation is offered doesn’t mean that you need to take it! I imagine that his reason for giving the dispensation is to keep the many, many Catholics who would wilfully, purposefully, eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day even though it falls on a Friday of Lent, from incurring the pain of mortal sin from doing so. But we have our simple meatless dinner, not at a St. Patrick’s Day party but united to the Stations of the Cross. It seems to me that it would be much better for the soul to keep this as a penitential dinner. You will commit no sin by eating meat that day, but, is it really that important after the Stations?
Another important question is, “Why do we have a 5:30 starting time? Couldn’t we start later for those who work or earlier for those who wish to avoid traffic and still have daylight in which to drive home?” Let me answer by telling you the history of our starting time. Our first Lent at Epiphany was in 2016. We started the Stations at 7:00 and got perhaps a dozen people to make the Way of the Cross. In 2017 we started at 7:00 but after the first two weeks, switched it to 6:00 and saw a slight improvement in the numbers attending, but an increase in complaints about traffic. In 2018 we started even earlier to avoid some of the worst traffic, and, with a 4:30 starting time, the numbers boomed. We even ran out of booklets. But we had been having monthly Friday Rosary and Family Game Nights and it seems that every family who normally attended those events also attended the Stations, plus the others who only attended the Stations. But the Family Rosary nights slowly lost their appeal and stopped and in 2019 the numbers at the Stations plummeted. We then had more people who asked if we could move the Stations to 5:30 so that they could come straight from work, and “Soup and Stations” was born in 2020 so that the family could meet dad here and share a simple family meal together after the prayers. For the 3 weeks before covid shut us down the church was packed and the hall was overflowing with crock pots and instant pots. Soups, salads, macaroni and cheese, and bread abounded. In 2021 we kept it at 5:30 and the people responded with the largest crowds ever. After the meal, I taught anyone who wanted to listen, how to use their Missal. The time stayed the same last year but I was in St. Augustine watching masked priests lead the Stations followed by take-out-only fish fries as covid hysteria still gripped the people up that way. This year we just kept the time the same as the last two years. Is it time to change it again? You tell me. As you can see, we have moved it from 7:00 to 6:00 to 4:30 to 5:30 all in a span of 8 years! The numbers at the first Soup and Stations this year (the second one will have occurred between me writing this and you reading it) were ok. Not great, not terrible. I forgot about teaching “How to Use Your Missal” until I went back through the calendar, but I am willing to do that again. Bring yours if you need help!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
How To “Do Lent”
From the Pastor: How To “Do Lent”
It seems that there are quite a few newcomers to Epiphany who are trying to figure out if there are any differences in how a “Traditional” Catholic parish celebrates Lent (or other parts of the Faith) and what they are used to. Now that we are officially in Lent, let me tell you a few things that we do here to help you truly live a penitential life during this season. But before I begin, let me note that there is no difference in Lent itself between how Novus Ordo Mass and Traditional Latin Mass parishioners are called to holiness. Although the two Masses have different liturgical calendars and many feasts are celebrated on different days, both calendars begin and end Lent and the Triduum on the same days. In other words, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter are all on both calendars on the same day even though the feast days in between may vary. Catholics following either calendar are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent. (Outside of Lent, all Fridays of the year are supposed to be meatless unless a Solemnity falls on that day, on which day abstinence becomes optional. Also, current regulations allow, outside of Lent and Good Friday, the Friday consumption of meat, provided that another suitable penance is substituted for abstinence that day. Many people, including priests, are oblivious to that teaching.) In the old days, Catholics were expected to fast every day of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for Sundays, being the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection, are days of feasting rather than of fasting, just as Fridays, the day He died, are days of penance, which is normally abstinence. But those rules, even for those attending TLMs, are no longer binding. They can be followed voluntarily, just as the Eucharistic fast of three hours or from midnight may be followed, but they are no longer mandatory.
Such is also the case of what to “give up” for Lent. Whereas older rules may have required giving up all meat products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.) the new rules are silent in that regard. So now we are all in the unfortunate position of individually figuring out what food products to abstain from eating and/or whether to fast outside of Friday abstinence and the two mandated days of fasting. So now you may find people, even living in the same house, who vary in their penitential practices. Some only eat one meal a day. Some give up all snacks. Some give up some item(s) of food but only for six days and eat it/them on Sundays. I have never found any documentation showing this to be a tradition anywhere at any time, but it currently seems to be the law of the land. Others, following traditional ways, give up the food item for the entirety of Lent and keep Sundays as days of feasting on other foods, not on the food or drink they willingly abstained from the rest of the week. Since not everyone gives up sweets for Lent, it is not, I hope you will agree, scandalous to continue to offer donuts after Sunday Masses any more than it is scandalous to offer coffee and tea and milk even though some good number of parishioners may have given up those items. If there was a clear rule stating something like, “Thou shalt not eat donuts during Lent” it would make things a lot easier, though, for the most part. Of course, even then somebody would certainly ask, “Is an apple fritter considered a donut? It doesn’t have a hole. And how about donut holes? They are the same ingredients but...!” (It almost goes without saying that giving up non-edible things, like the internet, TV, or games is also meritorious.)
Where things are clear, we stick to it. For instance, we ask people to bring in meatless soups, bread, or pasta to share after the Friday 5:30 pm Stations of the Cross. The social hall is packed with Instant Pots and Crock Pots filled with anything but meat. The ingredients can include vegetables, potatoes, beans, pasta, fish, seafood of all sorts, reptiles, amphibians, muskrats, capybara, puffins, whales, and other delicious ingredients, but nothing that is considered “meat” although milk, eggs, cheese and other meat products are acceptable. If you are not sure about some of those above-mentioned ingredients, I will probably include more information about them in future bulletins so be patient. Or you can ask any of the old-timers and they can tell you all about it. Daily private Stations are also encouraged during Lent (and can be said all year) in addition to your daily rosary.
We also encourage daily Mass during Lent, even if it is difficult to schedule into your day. In fact, that is how we started the 6:30 am Mass, as people who must get to work at 8:00 asked for it so that they could attend and still get to work on time. It became popular enough that we continued it long after Lent ended and now it is just a normal part of many people’s year-round routine. And, before you even begin to think, “But I live too far away...” please know that some people travel from as far as Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Dade City, Ruskin and Riverview to be here for at least some daily Masses! My short walk from the rectory is nothing in comparison to the offering made by those parishioners!
Finally, if you need help discerning where to give alms, consider supporting those from our parish who are studying for the priesthood or are in formation for the Religious Life!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The FBI And Other Scammers!
From the Pastor: The FBI And Other Scammers!
I would imagine that by now all of you know that the FBI seems to have it in for conservatives. A headline will often shout something like, “Biden’s FBI...” and then fill in the blank about which conservative group is being targeted this time. But I doubt very seriously that it is “Biden’s FBI” any more than it is any previous President’s FBI. From all accounts (even from some of those within the mainstream media) the FBI has usurped powers that go far beyond what any organization can morally or should legally hold. Though they are hunting conservatives at this moment, they could easily turn on the liberals in a flash. Power of the kind they wield does not necessarily bow down to even the President, whatever political bent he may be. Currently, among other targeted conservative groups (from which they will then “justifiably” target individuals) they see pro-lifers and parents speaking up against wokeism and Marxism at Parent/Teachers or School Board meetings as domestic terrorists. The people on their targeted lists then fall under the category of those who can be publicly slandered, spied upon, and even arrested without legitimate cause. Any group with both an enemies list and the power to “erase” people from that list is a danger to society. And now an internal instruction from the Virginia FBI has been leaked showing that they are targeting Catholics. Not just any old Catholic, mind you, but only those who are faithful to true Church teachings, and one specific way of finding them is to look for those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass. I quote from a letter written by 20 State Attorneys General to Merrick B. Garland, the current US Attorney General (minus footnotes and with my bold emphasis):
On Wednesday, the public learned of an internal memorandum produced by the FBI’s Richmond Field Office. The memorandum identifies “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” The memorandum deploys alarmingly detailed theological distinctions to distinguish between the Catholics whom the FBI deems acceptable, and those it does not. Among those beliefs which distinguish the bad Catholics from the good ones are a preference for “the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings,” and adherence to traditional Catholic teachings on sex and marriage (which the memorandum glibly describes as “anti-LGBTQ”). The memorandum even appears to accuse the Supreme Court and the Governor of Virginia of “[c]atalyzing” the bad Catholics through “legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections,” singling out the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Governor Youngkin’s support for sensible abortion regulations as examples.
After defining which Catholics are the dangerous ones, the memorandum proposes dealing with those Catholics through “the development of sources with access,” including in “places of worship.” In other words, the memorandum proposes recruiting Catholics to enter a sacred house of worship, talk to their fellow Catholics, and report those conversations back to the FBI so that the federal government can keep tabs on the bad Catholics. To allocate these “sources,” the document includes an appendix with a list of Catholic “hate groups” that was assembled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI.
Read it again. Do you love those embracing sodomy enough to work and pray for their conversion rather than their continued foray into mortal sin? You are a target. Do you work and pray for the conversion of all those involved in abortion? You are America’s enemy. And so on and so on. Plus, they want to find people to infiltrate TLM parishes and snitch on faithful Catholics! I have been able to spot the FBI infiltrators when they approach the Communion rail and say, “Amen.” If you don’t understand how that identifies them, you are one of them!
Now let’s turn our attention to other scum, by which I mean scammers out for money rather than power. This week one of our parishioners (name changed to protect the innocent) received a text message that said, “Mrs. McGullicuddy i need a favor from you please text me back as soon as possible Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka”. Her guardian angel must have interfered as she tried to text “me” back and she was unable to do so. After checking, she found my real phone number and verified that the text was, of course, not from me and not sent from my phone. Several days later she also received a fake email from “me” trying to get her to contact a scammer. This is the first time I have heard of someone receiving a fake text from “me” but I have warned you several times that they do this with some frequency via scam emails. All priests and bishops have been hit. The Mr. and Mrs. McGullicuddys out there are often so overjoyed that Father or Bishop thought so highly of them that he would ask them for help in an “emergency” that they don’t question “his” odd request. Usually, the scummers want you to send gift cards quickly for a baby dying of cancer, an elderly woman half-eaten by a python before being rescued by the Troops of St. George, or other tear-jerking episodes of horror. Please don’t fall for any of this. I don’t like to ask you for money from the pulpit, let alone via text or email.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
(Or is it really someone else? The Shadow Knows!)
Covid Tests Before Dinner? Really?
From the Pastor: Covid Tests Before Dinner? Really?
Nothing in this article directly deals with Epiphany parish, so if you are pressed for time, feel free to skip it this week. If you continue reading please note that the following items may make you a bit queasy. You have been warned!
A few weeks ago I read an article from “Health News from NPR.” Why I did it is beyond me. NPR is the radio station to turn to for classical music but when they have news and “news entertainment” shows, it is generally best to turn them off. They support abortion, same-sex marriage, transgendered everything, and just about every other leftist moral evil you can imagine. But this time I took their bait. The headline was “Is it time for a reality check on rapid COVID tests?” and I guess I just couldn’t help myself from reading. Were they really going to admit that the tests were not reliable? That they don’t pick up the newest strains even as well as they poorly picked up the older ones? I had to find out. Here are the first few lines. “As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, a negative result on a little plastic at-home test feels a bit less comforting than it once did. Still, you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home. It feels like the right thing to do, right?” To continue to call this fourth year of screaming “We’re all going to die!” and “You are going to kill grandma!” a “pandemic” is, in my mind, just one more bit of psychological torture aimed at those who are already hurt, maybe permanently, by the so-called experts who have been wrong about just about everything covid-related so far. Don’t believe me? Then look again at the actions expected of those to whom this article is addressed. “...you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home.” Who in their right mind does that? This article was written now, not at the beginning, when we panicked sheep listened to the voice of anyone claiming to be a government shepherd/expert on The Science™.
I realize that as a priest I live a very sheltered life, especially at Epiphany. I am surrounded by sinners who, with very few exceptions, are striving to be holy, an essential part of which necessarily involves searching for and living the Truth. The Catholic doctors I know, to a one, professed without hesitancy or doubt, that masks don’t work against viruses. Even the non-doctor Catholics I know were intelligent enough to see that, even if a mask taped to a non-moving mannequin worked to block some amount of viruses embedded in fake spittle, viruses would not be stopped under “normal” conditions such as: wearing the mask around your chin; or over a big, bushy beard; or in such a way that your glasses fog up; or lifting it to talk, yell, cough, or sneeze; or loose enough to breathe more comfortably, etc. Before covid, all of the tests on real, living, moving, breathing people, even surgeons trained never to touch their masks, showed that they don’t work. Recently trials examining covid transmission and real-life experience have again shown that they don’t work. China and other countries in the East, for instance, wear masks much more faithfully than we do, yet the ‘vid spread through those countries like wildfire. Yet the article is indicating that people, before going to a friend’s house to eat dinner, are still taking tests? Still wearing masks? Will only interact with people whom they know and love if they all take the test and get negative results? Really? I simply do not know anyone who acts irrationally like this. I have never, even in the midst of the infamous, faithless lockouts, had anyone say to me, “Father, I want you to come hear my confession and bring Holy Communion but only if you test negative first.” I don’t currently hear anyone say to me, “We just bought a new house. Could you come bless it? Oh, I need to see your negative test result, and you need to wear, not a cloth mask, not a surgical mask, but a KN95 mask. And the family won’t be back to church for the next 10 days after you leave, for we must isolate ourselves in case you sneakily infected us even with all of those precautions. Oh, and bring a valid vax card showing how many and what brand of shots you have taken.”
Back to the article, though, what was their recommendation to these psychologically abused, covid-fearing readers (sorry, “fearing” is a weak word for people still petrified about this to the extent that they won’t live a “normal” life) about taking covid tests? Even though they included real statements like this, “Similar technology has existed for influenza for years and the recommendation was not to use them,” they couldn’t get themselves (I use the plural because I am sure the writer was also speaking for the entire NPR upper echelons) to say, “Don’t use them!” Instead, they said, “A positive test is almost always true” so you should test once if it is positive and then again to determine when you are (maybe) safe instead of (deadly) sick. “But a negative ‘does not rule out’ a COVID-19 infection” so if you test negative you should anxiously test over and over and over...
At least they ended with a common sense statement that has been used long before covid was on anyone’s mind. I will paraphrase to edit out their “covid” and “test” language: If you are sick, stay home.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Bishop Schneider is Coming!
From the Pastor: Bishop Schneider is Coming!
As announced last Sunday, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is coming for a visit and will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass for us on Sunday, May 7, at 10:30 am. He is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan, and a very well-known and respected defender of the Catholic Faith as passed down through the generations and, in particular, the Traditional Latin Mass. Among other writings, his 2008 book Dominus Est—It is the Lord! on the importance of receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion reverently on the tongue while kneeling is a treasure! I am not sure what all of the differences are between a Solemn Pontifical Mass with a Cardinal (like we just had when Cardinal Burke graced us with his presence) and with a Bishop. But we have men working on getting me and some other priests prepared to serve at the Mass. The one thing that I have already been told is that there are no archdeacons at this Mass. That figures. I was one of the two archdeacons at the last one, and my main job was to put the Cardinal’s precious miter on his head and take it off and to put his gold miter (two different miters are used at the Mass) on his head and take it off. After having spent, for the last Pontifical Mass, weeks of practice and then assisting at the Mass, I was confident that I could do it again and maybe even do it without pulling the Bishop’s zucchetto off as many times as I did the Cardinal’s. The news that that role was not available to me for this next one was quite a letdown. Now I have to find another job that takes nearly no skill, for I don’t have a whole lot of it to begin with! My MCs and altar boys always keep me on track or cover for my mistakes so well that most people don’t notice just how incompetent I am!
In other news, our long-term maintenance man, Luc Huynh, has decided to take life a little easier now and he has cut down his work week to just two partial days. As you can either see or well-imagine, there is more to maintain here than he can possibly do in that short time. So he has agreed to take on an intern or apprentice and teach him the ropes. John Paul Bauer has now joined us and, boy, did he quickly discover that being on staff is a lot different than just attending Mass and other Epiphany functions as a member of the Faithful! On his first day, a pipe in one of the classrooms burst. Not from the cold, thanks be to God, but due to corrosion from having been repaired with multiple incompatible types of metal pipe and fittings many years ago. And, before you jump to the wrong conclusion, it wasn’t Luc who caused the problem in the first place! We recently had the same issue in the attic behind the social hall. Somebody had “fixed” the hot water heater plumbing by joining the copper pipes to galvanized pipe to some other third type of pipe with chrome and other various fittings and, after years of metal to metal chemical interaction, we had a fountain spring up and pour down through the ceiling of the dungeon between the sacristy and the altar boy room. (The “dungeon” is the dark, dusty room where our boiler and all of the electrical panels for the AC system are crammed.) So now we know that any other repairs made about the same time will soon be following suit. Fortunately, we had recently discovered that the water shutoff valve for the classrooms was not functional and was buried three feet in the ground, so we had the plumbers come out and replace it and lift it up to ground level. Otherwise, we would have had to shut off all water to the property for the two days it took to make this new repair.
We also had a small issue with one of the swinging doors leading from the church to the social hall. The wood at the top hinge corner cracked open, keeping the door from operating properly. One of our elderly gentlemen (not a child running full steam ahead, in other words) pushed open the door but instead of it swinging into the hall to allow access, it simply crashed to the floor. John Paul had to figure out how to make the repair and get the door back up. A bit of new wood, a bit of drilling, a bit of glue, and the door would be ready to hang as soon as the glue set. Except we couldn’t wait. We needed it in place for the Sunday Masses. So he put the door up, latched it so that it wouldn’t open, and put signs on both sides of the door stating, “Do Not Use” so that the repaired part would not have pressure put on it before it was hardened properly. Of course, he also found out almost immediately on Sunday morning that he might as well have written the signs in Latin, for somebody interpreted the English as meaning, “Please unlatch this door. You must use this door and this door only. No other door will be good enough for you. Don’t think anything of it, for the latch and sign don’t apply to you.” Of course, it doesn’t work properly as of the time I am writing this (hopefully, it will be fixed again by the time you are reading this, though) because of the damage done by using it too early. At least he now knows that he has job security!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Candlemas Day is Here Again!
From the Pastor: Candlemas Day is Here Again!
Near the beginning of every calendar year we have some very special blessings of very ordinary items which are then to be used in extraordinary—dare I say supernatural—ways. We have already had the December 27 blessing of wine for the Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist (yes, I know that that was last calendar year, but it is still fresh in my mind). That blessed wine is/was to be used to bring health to both body and soul. January 5th and 6th brought us the Feast of Epiphany blessings of water, chalk, houses, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those blessings, especially the Holy Water blessing, are truly significant for our parish of Epiphany because, well, they happen at Epiphany. This coming Thursday, before the 8:00 am Mass begins, we will have a special blessing of Candles on the Feast of the Circumcision, also called the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas. (I will return to this blessing shortly.) With this feast, the season of Christmas officially comes to a close. The next day, Friday, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blase (or Blaise) and we have yet another blessing of candles, plus a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit, and, of course, the blessing of throats. The blessings of this day are all meant for the relief of throat and other ailments.
On many of the feast days which have special blessings attached to them the rubrics call for the blessing to be done before Mass begins (if there is a Mass attached to the blessing). Yet I choose to do them after the Mass is finished. Yes, I am a liberal priest! Don’t tell anybody! I don’t do it for any obstinacy in despising rubrics. I don’t do it to “spice things up a bit” or because I think I can do it better than those who made the rules. I do it for a very practical purpose. Because we are not a parish where all of the parishioners live in the local neighborhood but rather drive some quite amazing distances to get here, I do it for the sake of those who get caught in traffic or who misjudge how much more time it takes to get here on a weekday than on a Sunday. Oh, how many times people used to miss out on the blessings when I blessed the objects before Mass began! So I “cheat” a little. But there are some days when I cannot do that. February 2 is a great example. The multiple prayers offered for the candle blessings come BEFORE MASS BEGINS. Why is that? Because on Candlemas Day there is a procession—with the blessed candles—to the church for the beginning of Mass. It would be silly to process with unblessed candles, so the blessing must take place before Mass. In case you didn’t see the ALL CAPS AND BOLD words above, let me repeat myself in a slightly different way. If you show up exactly on time you will miss the blessing. If you show up a minute or two early, you will miss the blessing. If you show up between 5 and 10 minutes early you may be cutting it close. You are going to have to account for bad traffic, yes, but also you need to account for the time it will take you to find the place where the procession will start and the blessing will take place (outside by the rectory chapel if the weather cooperates, or inside the church if it is a terrible morning). You will have to have enough time to carry your candles to the tables set up for this blessing and find a place in the crowd of bags and boxes to place your own. But before you get to that point you will have to wait in line for the rest of the drivers in the parking lot who are going exasperatingly slow ahead of you as they each search for the way to get closest to the blessing area because they each brought 50 pounds of candles and it will take them 5 trips back to the car and they can’t walk more than 30 steps except when they are shopping in Ikea. The blessing will begin at 8:00 am. If your candles are not in the area of the blessing by then, they will not get blessed. Half blessings don’t count and the blessing will not be repeated again later in the day to suit you. Also, please note that Mass itself will not start at 8:00 and will not be done by 8:45 due to the extra time it will take for the candle blessing and procession. So plan your day accordingly. Also, please be sure to clearly mark your candles, bags, and boxes with your name so that others don’t inadvertently walk off with the wrong candles. Take this seriously, because we have sometimes had very large numbers of similar-looking containers and candles. Just as it is hard to pick out your luggage out of hundreds of other bags at the airport without some sort of identifying tag or mark, so also is finding your own candles nearly impossible without some sort of identifying feature. Of course, you could always put an airtag in the box and track where it went if it is missing, but that is sure to be a lot more of a hassle!
The fortunate thing about Candlemas is that if you miss that blessing you can always come back just one day later for the candle blessing of St. Blaise. Although it is a different blessing, at least the candles will be blessed!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What’s the Plan?
From the Pastor: What’s the Plan?
It came in the mail this week. The form letter from the Diocese arrives every winter or early spring. “Do you wish to have a change of assignment?” it asks. “If so, why, and which parish would you like to be moved to?” It also asks if I would like to have an assistant priest (parochial vicar) or a deacon assigned to the parish if I am asking to stay. Then the more open-ended questions about how I am doing, do I need a sabbatical, am I cracking up, and such. To put an end to any wild speculation, let me tell you that I replied: I wish to stay at Epiphany. Why would I want to leave the best parish in the diocese/state/country? As for the parochial vicar request, of course I would like to have one! And send a deacon along with him! Sure, there will be a learning curve for each of them but if they are willing to accept the assignment, that is a sure sign that they are willing to delve more deeply into the lost traditions of our faith than they ever had to in seminary or other parishes. They will, I am sure, benefit from the TLM as much as I have, and will bring blessings to one and all.
As for the questions about my general health and happiness, I wrote that I am doing quite well. Although I didn’t add this on the reply form, I would like to take a sabbatical, I think. I see other priests doing it all the time. But I don’t want to go to Rome (a tremendous sabbatical place if there ever was one, with so much rich Catholic history and great professors to teach—assuming I find the right sabbatical program) but it is such a spiritually and politically dark place right now that I wouldn’t currently wish to spend any time there. I figure that a self-study sabbatical on one of those new privately owned condominium cruise ships might be a good place to be. I could cruise around the world for a year and hopefully convert a literal boatload of people by the time I was done. But that would mean taking a chance that they won’t implement the recently popular “less than worthless experimental dead baby shots” protocols along with mandatory suffocation devices during that trip. No, I won’t take that chance at this time. Heck, I could just go to Vatican City if I wanted that!
As for my health, since I wrote about trying to lose weight I have received three boxes of cookies and some very good chocolate, all with assurances that I am not too fat. Of course, I plan on eating them all even though I know that the people giving the gifts were lying! After all, that will keep their lies from being lies, right? I also see the hardships my dad is going through with his numerous bodily aches and pains and, as he so often reminds me, whatever happens to him now will happen to me in the future! So, relatively speaking (pun intended), I am in great health right now!
We now move on to a more serious, though related, issue. I have been inundated with links to articles and reports about a rumored upcoming Apostolic Exhortation that will greatly restrict the Traditional Latin Mass. I suppose it is good for you to know (or else I wouldn’t be writing this) that the rumors have been around for quite a while and are getting stronger now that Pope Benedict is “out of the way.” As far as I know, there is nobody who has first-hand knowledge about what exactly this rumored document contains who has spilled the beans, so all is second-, third-, and fourth-hand speculation at this point. “What are you going to do, Father?” is the recurring question. But I have no answer. I don’t know what the supposed document says, so I don’t know what is being asked of me. I don’t know what is being asked of the bishop. I don’t know what, if anything, is being demanded, rather than asked, either! “But don’t you have a plan?” No. At least not one that will satisfy the questioners. I plan to be a Catholic priest doing exactly what I am already doing in the parish where I am already doing it. I know, that seems like a boring plan, a plan to do nothing different, but why should I take on worries about something of which I know nothing with certitude? I have complete confidence that Jesus is still in charge of His Church. He is the one who made sure that, against all odds, I was ordained a priest. (And yes, thank you, Blessed Mother, for I know that you were interceding for me full time, and you, my guardian angel, were protecting me from both myself and a whole host of enemies my whole time in the seminary and beyond!) And it was He who made sure that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right and right) so that I “had to” start celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass just to be faithful to another document that called on pastors to give this unknown-to-me Mass to the people if they asked for it. And it is He who made sure that this parish is not only surviving but thriving and leading people in the way of holiness, even as other parishes seem to be dying of self-inflicted wounds. So it is my firm conviction that no matter what document comes out and no matter what the world thinks is going to happen, He is still in charge. So please join me in following St. Padre Pio’s famous advice: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Losing Time and Gaining Weight!
From the Pastor: Losing Time and Gaining Weight!
For whatever reason, this Christmas season was the busiest yet. And no, I am not speaking only of myself but also on behalf of all of the people who have been busy at the parish as well. It seems that from the beginning of October (when the preparations for Cardinal Burke’s Mass began in earnest) until today the calendar has not ceased to be filled, whether with pre-scheduled events and meetings or with phone calls and knocks on the door when there seemed to be a free moment. As such, I am still trying to catch up with texts and emails (two inventions of the devil, as if there ever was a need for proof that he exists, as people expect immediate responses even to messages in which they don’t ask for or need one), snail mail (a Godsend, for people sending letters and cards don’t wait by the mailbox breathlessly waiting for a return response!), and even Christmas gifts. I have two gifts wrapped and ready to go to family members but due to emergencies when we were getting together, I wasn’t able to see everyone. I also have cards, bags, and wrapped gifts from you that are still unopened. I occasionally try to make time for them but something always comes up that takes me away, and it isn’t Calgon. So I open a few cards here, unwrap a package there, and set the rest aside for the next time I have a few extra minutes. I know I will never have time to write “Thank You’ notes this year but please know that I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful notes and family photos and other things you have sent. This year I think that I have managed to open all of the gifts that people told me contained food, so, unlike what happened last year, I don’t think that I will have any odoriferous surprises waiting for me hidden under brightly colored tissue paper!
Last week the bulletin contained an article about my New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. That article was actually a recycled one from several years ago, as I simply ran out of time and didn’t have a new article written by the time the bulletin needed to be published. But it is still quite timely, since I am still in need of losing weight. I have been trying, sometimes with more willpower than other times, to lose weight for quite a while. I had an old bathroom scale that I weighed myself on daily a couple of years back. But then, after losing some weight and coming to the dreaded barrier beyond which my fat would not venture, I decided to put it away for a few days. The days become weeks, then months, and soon I “forgot” about it altogether. Then a few months ago I took it back out and started the weighing process all over again. This time I was quite surprised. I wasn’t nearly as heavy as I expected. I started in earnest refusing snacks and cookies and cakes and all the other goodies which are constantly trying to force their way into my mouth. My weight would vary up and down a pound or two daily but overall kept going down. I wondered, though, if the scale might be off a bit when it started acting up. It wouldn’t start at zero when I first turned it on, but would show “- .2 lbs.” I changed the batteries. No help. I tried to find a way to calibrate it. No adjustments available. But I figured that as long as it was off by the same amount every day, it really shouldn’t matter, for that little bit was almost nothing anyway. But then it started showing different numbers: minus .6, minus .8, plus 1.2, etc. I finally tried weighing myself several times in a row and it would show different weights with each try. Then, it started showing that I had either gained or lost four or more pounds every day. The day that I was up 10 pounds after being down 7 pounds the previous day is the day I ordered a new scale.
It took a few weeks to arrive, being delivered just after Christmas. Although it looked like it was in remarkable shape, with no visible signs of scratches or dents, I believe it must have been malfunctioning, as you shall see. The instruction manual simply said, “Don’t step on the scale until it has calibrated itself or the measure will be off” and, sure enough, it calibrated itself and then showed “0.0” on the display. But wouldn’t you know it, I was up twenty pounds—20 pounds!—from the “plus 10 pounds” weight showing on the old scale. I think that either it was broken or else I must have eaten a few too many farm fresh eggs (yeah, it’s those darn eggs making my belly look like I swallowed a pterodactyl egg whole!) over Christmas. I know it couldn’t have been the chocolates or mint or cookies that I started eating once the old scale was put out to pasture (writes the priest who just had to wipe Chocolate Mint Bark off his keyboard), for those are all very small and light and flat, so surely they are low in calories, too, and would help me get a flat belly. Yep, the extra weight has to be from the eggs. Or a broken scale. That’s most likely it. The new scale is just mocking me!
Assuming though, that I am really just too fat, I need to discover how to swap time and weight. Then I would be a thin priest with all the time in the world!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
January 01st, 2023
From the Pastor: Epiphany Eve Blessing of Holy Water and More!
Our parish feast day, January 6, falls on Friday of this week, which is also First Friday. We will celebrate Masses of Epiphany of Our Lord that morning at the regular Friday times of 6:30 and 8:00 followed by the special Epiphany Blessings of chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The chalk will be used to mark the door lintels of the church, rectory, and, of course, of your homes. Because we are not a parish where everyone lives within walking distance of the church, I will not be able to visit your houses to bless them. But we will once again give out a sheet of prayers asking God’s blessing upon your home and those who live there. Pray the prayers, mark the doors with the blessed Epiphany chalk (20 + C + M + B + 23), sprinkle the house and family with Epiphany Holy water, and you should be protected for another year! Bring in any extra chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh if you want to have them blessed. If you wish to leave blessed gold and frankincense at the church, I am sure we can put them to good use! Please note that I will not be blessing other items that morning, so don’t bring other articles. Following the blessing, we will have our normal First Friday Adoration, ending with 6:00 pm Vespers and Benediction.
But although that is the Epiphany Day schedule, there is still more to put on your calendar. (This is a good time for me to write that we will not be putting out an Epiphany parish calendar this year. Yeah, I know, everyone is disappointed, including me. But sometimes life gets in the way of what we desire to accomplish.) January 8, the Sunday following Epiphany, we will celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany. That day, instead of the normal Sunday Mass, we will celebrate the Mass of January 6, which the 1962 liturgical books allow for several big feasts during the year, including parish feast days. We will have our annual luncheon following the 10:30 Mass for those who reserved tickets in advance. For those who forgot or who waited beyond the last moment to see if anything better showed up on their social calendar, I am sorry to say that, since caterers need a headcount to prepare the right amount of food (and to charge us properly for their services), we cannot accommodate those without tickets.
But wait, there’s more! At 6:30 pm on January 5, the evening before Epiphany, there is a special blessing of Epiphany Holy Water! This special blessing includes a schola solemnly chanting multiple psalms, canticles, and hymns along with the priest chanting (recto tono—a very simplified single note chant) the St. Michael exorcism prayer, all of the prayers of exorcism of salt and water, the prayers blessing the salt and water, the prayers combining the exorcised and blessed salt and water, the Te Deum and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us in giving such a great sacramental to be used throughout the year. This particular blessed water is, according to exorcists, the most powerful of all the blessed water. Every year the crowds coming for the ceremony and to receive some of the water have been increasing. We started out blessing several cases of water, then moved up to more than a dozen cases of water, then last year, when even that wasn’t enough, we brought in a 125-gallon container to bless. But the 125 gallons proved to be too little, too. Here is what will be done this year. You may bring in as much salt as you wish to have blessed and I will bless it and you can take it home with you. If you bring in water containers of 5 gallons or more, bring them in filled with water and open at the top (so that I can add the exorcised and blessed salt to them) and set them in front of the altar rail and they will be exorcised and blessed. If you have smaller containers, bring them in empty and you can fill them from the larger containers once the blessings are completed. We will have two 125-gallon containers from which to fill your gallon and half-gallon jugs, and two smaller containers (about 15 gallons) from which to fill your small—normal sized!—holy water bottles. Let me be clear that on that evening, I will only be blessing salt and water. Please don’t bring other items to be blessed at that time. Last year these beautiful chanted prayers took about an hour to complete and the filling of the water bottles took another hour or so. The chanted prayers will still take about the same amount of time but the water bottle filling may go quicker with the additional huge container. This year we may even have extra water left over for those who cannot make it to the evening blessing but can come on Epiphany day itself. Don’t forget to bring your container!
For those of you who plan ahead a few weeks, February 2 brings us the blessing of candles on Candlemas Day. The candle blessing and daytime candle procession will take place at 8:00 am outside in front of the rectory (weather permitting), and Mass will begin after we process to the church. You must come early to bring your candles to this spot! If you come late, your candles will not be blessed. February 3 brings us the Feast of St. Blaise, at whose Masses we bless throats as well as give a special blessing to still more candles (probably for the benefit of those who showed up late the day before!) plus bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Merry Christmas!
Some who are reading this may be in church for the first time in quite a while. Welcome home! Just like when children leave the home they grew up in and then come back for a visit, you might have noticed some changes. You might have even been wondering if you mistakenly entered into a non-Catholic church when you heard a “foreign” language spoken by the priest, and the altar boys giving responses also in the “foreign” language. Of course, Latin is not supposed to be a foreign language to those who belong to the Latin Rite of the Church, as most Catholics do. It is the official liturgical language of the huge majority of Catholics throughout the world. Yet it is used so little nowadays that nobody seems to understand how important it is to have an official “Church” language, a sacred language for conversing with God. Well, here we use it all the time! Let me assure you, this is indeed a Catholic parish. Since August of 2015 we have been dedicated, at the command of the bishop, to bringing the sacraments to the people according to the 1962 Missal and other liturgical books in use at that time. This is the Mass some of you older folks might still remember from your youth but the majority of parishioners here today have zero memories of it. They recognized, though, the holiness and reverence of the old Mass and were drawn to it. The prayers are precise and bold. The scriptural quotations are numerous and give a logical coherence to the “theme” of the Mass. It is different—perhaps even jarringly so when you experience it for the first time—but as it becomes more familiar it will lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding and experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
If you are a visitor from the local area, I hope you don’t just drop by occasionally but rather that you stay and make this parish your spiritual home. If you are from out of town and only come through once or twice a year, I am glad you found us, either by accident or by purposefully searching for us. Feel free to join us next time you are in town. And for those of you who may be here as “Christmas and Easter” Catholics, who remain adamantly Catholic but only occasionally attend Mass, I hope you find in this parish the reason for returning full time to the practice of the Faith. Stopping by for a visit on Christmas and Easter is a start of a relationship or is perhaps the beginning of mending a broken one but it is not enough to make the relationship a strong, vibrant one. Men and God need more time together. A weekly visit is the bare minimum God has told us that we need. Worshiping and adoring Him while entering into His Holy Sacrifice (in other words, fully, consciously, actively participating in the Mass) at least every Sunday and the few Holy Days of Obligation still on the calendar is what has been revealed to us as an absolute necessity for spiritual health. You may have wandered away from church because you were bored, because you didn’t “get anything out of it,” or because of some serious sins (your own or those of others) that made you question or even lose Faith. That was then, this is now. Now is the time to come home. This parish is not going to attempt to entertain you so don’t look for a “feel good” Mass or homily. This parish is going to change you into a Saint through serious prayer, through encouragement from others struggling for sanctity in a world of filth, through true Catholic teaching, and, most especially, through the form of Mass that converted the world. This is not just a gimmick to get seats filled or to get a heftier collection. We truly do want all the Catholic Faithful to return to the fullness of God’s grace by availing themselves of His sacraments and entering deeply into Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart, the fount of love and mercy. Only after all of us Catholics are fully loving and living our Faith can we expect the rest of the world’s people to finally see and accept the great love of the one, true God which has been revealed in and through His Son.
I don’t need to ask why you left in the first place. It doesn’t matter. Come back home. You are always welcome. The Catholic Church is the sure vessel that will lead men through the treacherous waters of this life to the eternally safe harbor of Heaven. All of the supernatural graces and love of God that are necessary for salvation are to be found in Her. To those who don’t know Her teachings, who question Her teachings, who struggle to live Her teachings, I will gladly tutor, answer, strengthen and even absolve--whatever it takes to help you get on and stay on the path to Sainthood.
Come and really discover the Faith for the first time; or re-discover it; or explore it more in depth than you ever thought necessary or helpful. Christmas is the season that we celebrate our Savior’s coming into the world. It is in the Catholic Church that you get to meet Him on a personal basis, in a sacramental way, in a loving union of God and man. Let this Christmas be the one that changes your life here upon Earth and prepares you for eternal life in Heaven. Live your Catholic Faith to the fullest. Love your Catholic Faith intimately. The true meaning of Christmas is found, lived and loved in the Catholic Church and, if I may be so bold as to write this, especially in Epiphany of Our Lord parish.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
The Traditional Oplatki
From the Pastor: The Traditional Oplatki
Here at Epiphany we strive to keep Catholic traditions, as well as Tradition, alive. Such things as Eucharistic and candlelight processions, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the blessing of various foods, plants, and objects on certain feast days throughout the year come immediately to mind as examples. One tradition which comes from my Polish heritage and which gathers an ever larger and more joyful crowd every year is the Blessing of Easter Baskets on Holy Saturday morning. This year I want to introduce you (or remind you, if you are of Polish, Lithuanian or Slovak heritage yourself) to another great Polish tradition, this one for Christmas. It is the tradition of the Oplatki (singular: Oplatek). An oplatek is an unleavened and very thin rectangular bread, usually embossed with some sort of Nativity-related scene. It is made the same way that traditional Mass hosts are, using only wheat flour and water (although some may contain a small amount of food dye to color them). They are never consecrated, although they may be blessed by the priest, as ours will be. These are meant to be taken home for the Wigilia, or Christmas Eve gathering of the family.
Although details of this custom do vary, the basic format remains constant. On Christmas Eve the entire family gathers for a full day of celebrating the end of the penitential season of Advent and the coming of the Christ Child in just a few more hours. The house must be cleaned, for a dirty house on Christmas foretold a dirty house for the rest of the year, or so many a mother convinced her children. The fresh Christmas tree was cut and decorated with apples, oranges. candies, chocolates, tinsel (angel’s hair!), glass ornaments, lights, and homemade paper chains. This was a day of abstinence, so the great evening feast, which consisted of many courses (7, 9, and 13 are listed in various sources), was completely meatless. Appetizers, soups, fish dishes, and desserts were prepared. The table was strewn with a light layer of straw (reminiscent of the straw lining the baby Jesus’ manger) and covered with a white tablecloth (swaddling clothes). There were place settings for everyone plus one extra in case a beggar or unexpected guest came by. But before anyone dared to touch the food, the father of the family would take an oplatek, break it and share a piece of it with his wife. As he gave it to her he would ask her forgiveness for any harms he had done to her during the past year and ask special blessings for her in the upcoming one. She would then break off another piece from her piece of the oplatek and share it with the child next to her, and do the same. From one to another, each would follow suit. Then all would share a piece of their piece of the oplatek with everyone in the family, not just the one next to them. Only after the oplatki were all distributed and consumed was the main meal eaten. No hard liquor was served but beer and wine may have flowed in generous amounts, as celebrating Christ’s love being spread among family and friends in such a special way was certainly worth a toast or three.
When the meal was completed, it was time to sing Christmas carols. The children had already received their gifts on December 6, when St. Nicholas made his visit, but adults may have exchanged simple gifts among themselves on Christmas eve. Finally, it was time to walk to church, hopefully, through freshly fallen snow. Midnight Mass brought to completion all that was symbolically done in the home earlier that day. Christ was born. Our Savior had arrived. The Gospel message was now to be seen, heard, and wonderfully lived out.
This year I have some oplatki available in the social hall. I was only able to get a limited number this year, so please do not take them if you won’t use them, and please don’t take extras to send to family and friends unless there are some left over after Christmas. Oh, and don’t forget your barnyard animals! The pink oplatek is for them. Of course, you will have to do the breaking, sharing, and praying on their behalf, but an ancient tradition holds that at midnight, when Jesus is born and the angels are singing, the animals, who, aside from Mary and Joseph, were the only ones present for the Holy Child’s birth, are able to speak. Only the pure of heart are able to hear and understand them, so be ready!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
What’s New This Week?
From the Pastor: What’s New This Week?
Last week we bid a fond farewell to Mark Rosendale, commonly referred to as “the man who can do everything.” Many of you know him as the man who has been answering the phones at the church office for the past few years. Others know him as the man who makes things—anything, actually—out of wood whenever we need it. Still others know him as the man who gets the football off the roof, or the man who sets Father’s appointments, or the man who puts announcements in the bulletin, or the man who fixes the plumbing, or the man who sets the Mass intentions, or the man who... yes, the list could go on and on. Unfortunately for us, a while ago he moved to the middle of nowhere beyond Brooksville, where he now farms a small plot of land. He has a large garden and raises chickens, goats, cows, pigs, elephants, and dodo birds. Or at least some of that. Plus, he still teaches woodworking to a group of young men. But the drive to work was getting tiresome and expensive. He started working fewer days, hoping that being able to sleep in past 4:00 am on at least a few mornings would make the remaining commutes tolerable. But it didn’t work. About the same time, Fr. Pecchie was looking for someone to come and help at St. Anthony the Abbot parish in Brooksville, a full hour’s drive closer to Mark’s house, and he finally made the difficult and sad decision to cut even his last couple of days here.
If you have his email (Mark@EpiphanyTampa.com) in your list of contacts, it is time to change it if you wish to get through to the office. We were fortunate that Jennifer Whiskeyman (Jennifer@EpiphanyTampa.com) was willing to take his place. So say “hello” to Jennifer the next time you drop by the parish during the day. So far, I haven’t seen her climb onto the roof or install a water fountain, but she is taking charge of publishing the bulletin and (a big thing right now) scheduling Mass intentions for the new year. If you are trying to get an appointment with me or trying to schedule the use of a classroom for a group meeting or activity, give her a call (813-234-8693) or send her an email.
Also new to the staff are Liesa Gonzalez and Josefina Rodriguez, who are helping to keep everything clean and neat, and in proper order. The more respect you show toward God and your fellow parishioners by doing such simple tasks as throwing your garbage in the trash can or dumpster, making sure your children clean up after themselves, not littering the grounds or restrooms, etc., the more these ladies are able to focus on doing the routine cleaning that just cannot be done by every individual, such as mopping the floors. Please treat them well and remember, when they are at Mass, they are parishioners, not employees, so don’t interrupt either of them in the middle of their prayer (or other parish activities) and expect them to go clean up a mess somewhere. If fact, now that I am mentioning it, please keep that in mind with all of the parish staff. After all, something like, “Hi, Kim! Nice Epiphany celebration, isn’t it? Here’s the paperwork I was supposed to give you last week at the office but forgot to drop off. Oh, you have a plate of food in front of you, don’t worry, I’ll just set it under your plate” doesn’t exactly make for good relations!
Now for something a bit more trivial. Last week my glasses broke. The left nosepiece snapped off when I was cleaning them. A year earlier the same thing happened to the right nosepiece but I was able to get in to see the optometrist a few days later and he simply, under warranty, put my lenses into a new set of frames. It was the new frames that broke this time. These were not cheap frames as far as cost goes, but they were certainly cheap in quality. This time, though, I couldn’t go back to the optometrist since he retired and closed up shop two months ago. I wore the broken glasses for one day, having to hold up the frames when reading (such as at Mass!), and then dug out my older glasses from years gone by. These glasses are not only an old prescription but are also barely holding together, as the arms had bent at ninety-degree angles as I sat on them one day long ago and, while mostly straight now, are not exactly able to stay in place without a lot of constant adjusting. On Tuesday I was finally able to get in to get another eye exam and order new glasses, which should be ready in a week to ten days. In the meantime, I got a pair of contact lenses to try out and to tide me over until the new specs arrive. Of course, I had to also get a set of reading glasses, since I cannot read a thing, neither the breviary nor the missal, with my vision corrected only for distance. Having to put on and take off readers while celebrating Mass wasn’t so bad, but later that day I couldn’t read the computer monitor because it was too far away for the reading glasses to work and too close for the contacts to focus upon. So if you see me squinting or adjusting my glasses or using reading glasses for the next week, now you know why. And to think that I once thought it was pretty funny watching the “old people” trying to read at arm's length!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
2 Big Masses This Week!
From the Pastor: 2 Big Masses This Week!
This is the beginning of the second week of Advent and a quick look at the calendar shows two very “big” Masses which you should put on your calendar. The first is the biggest of the big Masses. This Thursday is a Holy Day of Obligation: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To help you fulfill your obligation we will have our regularly scheduled morning Masses at 6:30 and 8:00 plus an additional evening Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8.
The second big Mass, while not of obligation, is a very beautiful Mass that, similar to the Immaculate Conception, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Saturday we will celebrate the Rorate Caeli Mass at 6:30 am. [Note that there will not be an 8:00 am Mass that morning!] Except for those who are new to the parish or to the Traditional Latin Mass, by now I think that everyone knows that the Rorate Mass is a Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent. It can be celebrated on any Saturday during this short season so if there are multiple churches near each other that will be celebrating this Mass, you may be able to hop from one to the other each week and pray it multiple times! Such is the case for those who were at the Rorate Mass at Jesuit High School on Saturday, December 3, and now will be at ours this week. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget. It is worth getting up early on the one day a week which you might normally get to sleep in a little!
The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as an aside, is why the term ad orientem—to the east—is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sins; to bring light to those in darkness. He came through—and is magnified by—the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite naturally, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth.
One last thing about the Rorate Caeli Mass that I wish to point out to you is the Postcommunion prayer. Maybe you have prayed this, perhaps even three times a day, and never knew where it came from. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Yes, this is the final prayer of the Angelus, traditionally prayed at 6:00 am, 12:00 noon, and again at 6:00 pm. The church bells would ring out at those three times and, in a Catholic town, at least, everyone would stop and bow their heads and pray the Angelus. Not having grown up in a small Catholic town, I never experienced that myself, but in old stories it seems that everyone would stop, pray, and even genuflect in public as the church bells pealed. It was a “Catholic thing” that even the non-Catholics showed reverence to. Now, even the priests don’t know it. Sigh.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
My Family Thanksgiving
From the Pastor: My Family Thanksgiving
Holiday traditions seem to be the most cherished of all family traditions. Although traditional activities and expectations are attached to each holiday, even those vary just enough from year to year to make the days both comfortable in the “normal” routine and open to new and exciting variations. This year I will share with you another peek into my family’s Thanksgiving traditions as they played out on paper if not in reality. Remember, as always, this week’s bulletin had to be printed before the office staff took off for their Thanksgiving break.
This year the entire family was going to gather for Thanksgiving Day and it was going to be absolutely normal. All of the ginned-up hysteria about coldvid19 had long since passed. Nobody was going to be wearing Halloween masks, nobody was going to keep 6 feet between family members, friends, or pets, and nobody was going to sit at home in fear of social contact. Or, at least that’s what I keep hearing “getting back to normal” means. But when no one in my family is actually normal to begin with, normal can actually be anything but normal! Once again my little sister hosted the Big Dinner at her house. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, grandparents, and cousins were all jam-packed into the house and spilled out into the backyard. We all sat or stood (depending on age) around yakking and bringing others up to speed on what was new in life as we had a few drinks and ate about a dozen pounds of appetizers each. Aunt Irma was there, of course, but she kept darting in and out, constantly going to the guest house out back. She wouldn’t say what she was doing out there and, because she is always a little “off” we were all speculating wildly. Some thought she was taking quick naps. Others joked that she was inhaling something from her new local “cash-only pharmacy.” But some of the children, who are much more inquisitive than us lazy adults, actually went over to find out and came back with the happy announcement that she was busy cooking yet one more Thanksgiving turkey! I said, “one more” because there were already a few amazing turkeys being prepared by my brother-in-law. He had one for the oven, one spatchcocked for the grill. and another for the deep fryer. Those, along with about 7 huge side dishes, fresh rolls, 6 pies, and a couple of gallons of ice cream, were probably enough to make each of us burst our bellies in a round of gluttonous feasting, but that wasn’t enough for our great Aunt. If you remember, she has had a couple of years of not being quite “with it” at Thanksgiving and she figured that the best way to “prove” herself competent once again was to cook as well as she used to when she was in charge of such festivities.
Now, I want to explain to you that I am not making fun of my elders when I tell tall tales such as what I am about to spin. After all, we all love Aunt Irma, and all of her eccentricities come as part of that lovable package that makes her who she is. And I certainly do not mean to belittle her cooking skills, for I am always ready to go through the trouble of eating anything that anyone has gone through the trouble of cooking, whether it tastes as if it came from a professional chef or from a drive-through window. But some stories just beg to be shared...
Aunt Irma was finally ready to announce that she needed a few strong boys to carry her turkey to the table. This was it. It was just about time to eat. The prayers were said and the food was set out. Aunt Irma explained that she had, during her coldvid derangement years, spent hours, days, weeks, and months listening to cooking shows so that she could pull out all the stops with the turkey she was having the boys bring over. (She had her TV set adjusted so that she only heard the audio because she was afraid of catching the ‘vid from the people on TV if she could see them. But some things really need to be seen to be understood, as you will soon learn.) Aunt Irma proudly announced that she had cooked the turkey via the Sous Vide method, in which food is immersed in a water bath and kept at a constant—the perfect—temperature so that it can never deviate from that perfect temperature. It cannot overcook, for the temperature never rises above whatever you set it for. It will never be undercooked, as long as you keep it immersed for a set minimum amount of time. It will, you are always assured by sous vide aficionados, be “just right.” Unfortunately, Aunt Irma was never able to see on her dark TV screen how the turkey is supposed to be sealed in a plastic bag before being immersed in the water. What the boys were carrying in was a huge pot filled with water with a turkey plopped directly into it, with the whole thing sealed in a plastic trash bag! Of course, nobody said anything but words of praise and thanks for the work she put into it.
But, since sous vide is supposed to be a very “hands-off” method of cooking, why did she keep running back and forth between houses? Because she knew that the turkey skin would not be crisp and brown unless she used a blow torch on it. She tried several times, each time getting a more powerful torch and using a larger flame, and let’s just say that the guest house will be unavailable for a few months...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka