From the Pastor: A Special Guest For Thanksgiving!
Sometimes Thanksgiving dinner at the rectory is just plain unbelievable. And believe you me, you should believe me when I tell you that this year was one of the most unbelievable ones. After all, how can you believe as accurate an account of a family gathering that was written days before it happened so that the bulletin could be printed before the staff left for their holiday days off? Be that as it may, here is a tall tale of Thanksgiving at Epiphany, 2023.
This year the family gathering was a bit larger than normal since the family is expanding as “children” from the generation behind me have begun starting families of their own and everyone was in town for this holiday. The plan was for everyone to come to Epiphany for the 8:00 am Mass and then start cooking as soon as Adoration and Confessions were concluded. Two of my in-laws were engaged in a friendly competition to see who could outcook the other, and each one started with two turkeys. My sister Karen’s husband Lee, the reigning champ of all family cookoffs, chose to roast the first of his turkeys over charcoal, and the other went into a smoker with applewood pellets. The young challenger, Fr. Nick Ward (brother to Maggie, who this year married Lee’s oldest son, Ryan) went with a classic cajun turkey deep-fried in peanut oil, and, in a surprise move, decided to concoct a very large turkey rotisserie for his second bird. Other family members were in charge of making fresh buns and bread, cookies, four types of pies, two cheesecakes, cranberry sauce, potatoes cooked three different ways, green beans, various types of stuffing and dressing, and probably more that I cannot now recall. A few volunteered to do the decorating of the hall and the picnic tables, while others were in charge of drinks. And, of course, the children “helped” by getting in everyone’s way and helped even more by going off to play.
Of course, plans and reality oftentimes don’t meet when families get together, especially if the family includes Aunt Irma. We never know exactly what to expect from her but this time her “unexpectedness” was actually something wonderful. Too wonderful, as you will soon see, but wonderful nonetheless. She has been traveling quite a bit this year and earlier this month, for reasons nobody really knows, she found herself in Baltimore during the recent United States Bishops’ Conference. The last time she had attended one of these, you may recall, she was protesting their lack of courage in calling out immoral Bishops within their fraternity. Nothing changed, so she gave up protesting outside of their meetings. But this year, completely by accident, it seems, she was in town once again. She was blissfully unaware that a certain Bishop had recently been dismissed from his job because he was doing it too well. All she knew was that she was driving down to Florida for Thanksgiving and there, along the roadside, she spotted a lone Bishop with a backpack sticking out his thumb, hoping for a ride. At first, she thought he must be a fake Bishop because he was in clerics and was neither obese nor a weightlifter. But she took a chance and pulled over for him anyway. It turns out that he had come for the conference of Bishops but was unceremoniously turned away when they learned that he not only knew all of the mysteries of the rosary, but he actually prayed it daily. The papal nuncio had plastered the walls of their hotel with “unwanted” posters of this Bishop and a warning that any Bishop found praying and/or telling the truth would soon meet the same fate as this poor fellow. Undaunted, he simply knelt in prayer for the Bishops of the country and the whole world and started his long, sad trek home. As Aunt Irma had so kindly offered him a lift, he felt “mighty obliged, Ma’am” to accept her offer to spend Thanksgiving with her family. And so he showed up early on Thursday morning. Angels must have spread the news, for somehow hundreds of people knew that he was going to celebrate the 8:00 Mass and they showed up en masse to the Mass. We wound up having a Pontifical Solemn Mass and, although he had never celebrated the TLM before, our altar boys and MCs are so proficient that they were able to make sure he was in the right place at the right time and everything went off without a hitch. He prayed his way through the Mass like an apostle, not just a successor to one. And, sure enough, as soon as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed after Mass, he headed to the confessional. All of us priests heard confessions for two hours straight before the last repentant sinner was absolved. Then the Bishop took all of the priests aside to give us a chance to get to know him and him, us.
That, of course, threw off the timing of the cooking and preparation for the day’s feast. Lee had to cook all four of the birds himself so he is still the undisputed king of the competition. We will see if his new son-in-law can handle the pressure of a rematch sometime in the future. Even though most of the crowd stayed and enjoyed the whole day we had enough food, drinks, and prayers for everyone. And right now, as you read this, Aunt Irma is dropping off a canceled Bishop in a place that he used to call home. Unfortunately, none of us thought to ask his name...
With prayers for your holiness
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka