From the Pastor: An Eight-Day Vacation!
The last week of this month I will be able to take a vacation! With Fr. Emmanuel staying here for the summer, I am going to be able to leave the parish in his most capable hands, including and especially the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The other priests here are of tremendous help with the Novus Ordo Masses, but none of them know how to celebrate the TLM. Fr. Emmanuel is now able to breach that gap. So I found a small group of people from the diocese who are going on an eight day cruise and I signed up to sail along. My mother is coming with me, too. Because she is always cold, she wanted to go someplace warm and the Eastern Caribbean fits the bill perfectly. Shortly after we booked the room, I was speaking with my mom about it after a daily Mass and some other people heard and I asked if they wanted to go. Unfortunately, the travel agent said the cruise was fully booked. One parishioner got a nice room when by chance (?) a reservation was dropped and a room became available at just the right time. Then, a week or two later, my older sister said that she wanted to come, too. Sure enough, another room became available a few days after that and now she is coming with us.
I found out that Carnival has now changed its policy about priests on board. They no longer offer them a free inside cabin, which they used to do as long as they would celebrate Sunday (or the anticipated Saturday evening) Mass for the spiritual well-being of their “guests”. I asked for a room in which to celebrate daily Mass. They set it up for 7:00 am every day. Whoa! I have to get up at five every morning to celebrate the 6:30 Mass here. I don’t want to do the same on vacation! Plus, they have us scheduled for the late dining time slot (we are on a waiting list for the early one), which means that I might not even be done eating by the time I normally get to bed. They will now give me a place later in the day if one is available. But they also sent their new policy information about the Mass. They may or may not allow anyone other than those who signed up as part of our group to attend the Mass even though I am a paying customer who has supplied them with their required “Letter of Priest in Good Standing”. Their new rules were sent in writing as follows: “...[Your] request to opening your private mass events to the public, can only be reviewed and approved once on board the ship. The attached event schedule reflects a private mass only with your approved dates and times. Carnival Cruise Lines appreciates your business and looks forward to welcoming your group onboard. Carnival Cruise Lines has a strict ‘No Solicitation’ policy. This policy prohibits any person or organization from any form of solicitation (including for non-profit organizations) to our guests and/or crew, either before sailing, during or after the voyage. Guests are prohibited from inviting other non-group sailing guests to participate in privately scheduled onboard events.” Really? They have gone from providing Mass as a courtesy to their Catholic “guests” to seeing it as a “solicitation” which cannot be tolerated if anyone else desires to attend. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled over the years (after they return and have missed Mass due to no priest on board) to write letters to the cruise lines telling them that they will, in the future, choose a cruise line which supplies at least Sunday Mass. My guess is that almost no Catholics actually write such letters or this new policy would not be in effect. Even though I can always celebrate Mass in my cabin, how they proceed with this will determine whether or not this is my last Carnival Cruise.
But enough of the nonsense. Eight days at sea. Eight days of being pampered. Eight days of no phone, no computer, no email, no facebook, no cooking, no washing dishes, no nothing! This is the first time in perhaps a decade that I will be away from my parish for two Sundays in a row. So prepare for it now. Mark your calendar so that you will know not to get sick or, worse, schedule a funeral from June 24 through July 2. Mark it so that you will not get personally insulted when I don’t respond to your electronic or voice messages. Mark it so that you will pray for me and the rest of the group! I will be remembering all of you in my Masses on the ship, whether there are a dozen of us crammed into a tiny cabin or hundreds of people filling one of the Nightclubs or Lounges. (And experience tells me that, after seeing a priest on board for the entire week--yes, I wear my clerics even while on vacation since I am not taking a vacation from being a priest--hundreds will show up to the Saturday evening Mass if given the chance.)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka