From the Pastor: Candlemas and More
This Thursday, February 2, forty days after the birth of Christ, is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is more commonly called (or, at least it used to be common to call it this) Candlemas Day. If you remember from last year, this is the day when people are invited to bring their candles to Mass to be blessed and to carry them in the procession if there is one. (Candles must contain at least 51% beeswax according to the traditional rules for all liturgical candles, so you may wish to follow that guideline when purchasing or making your candles for home use, too). After you take the candles home, they may be lit for various reasons, i.e., if the priest comes to administer Extreme Unction and Viaticum, during times of great fear or turmoil (such as a major storm or the reputed three days of darkness), or during your prayer time. They may even be used as your Advent Wreath candles.
The blessing of the candles leads, quite naturally, to the feast day of St. Blase (or Blaise) the next day, Friday, February 3. On his feast we use the newly blessed candles to bless everyone’s throats. Two crossed candles are held up to the throat and the priest prays, “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, episcopi et martyris, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis, et a quolibet alio malo. In nomine Patris, et Filii +, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” This translates to “Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all illness of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (There is also an approved version which is a bit shorter. “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis. Amen.” I am very surprised that this is not the “standard” version used today, since we seem to want the shortest version of everything dealing with prayer and devotion!)
Along with those two liturgical reminders, let me turn to other interesting items that you don’t necessarily have to put on your calendars. This Monday, January 30, all the priests of the diocese have been summoned to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat and meeting center, to meet with the new Bishop. This is the first group meeting we have with Bishop Gregory Parkes, who, in case you missed it, was just installed as Bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese on the fourth of this month. I don’t want to speculate on what he will tell us or ask us or ask of us, but I do imagine that he will give us at least a rudimentary understanding of his way of thinking and acting in his capacity as our new Shepherd. I hope to be able to discuss, even if very briefly, his vision for our parish and the Traditional Latin Mass (and other sacraments in the Traditional Rites), as well. Ideally, I would like to receive his full-fledged support. I ask for your prayers in this matter.
Something else going on this week which may be of interest to you is happening at the American Legion USS Tampa Post 5 at the corner of Kennedy and Dale Mabry at 6:00 pm on Candlemas Day. I will be participating in a tribute to “The Four Chaplains” of the USAT Dorchester, which sank after being torpedoed by a German U-boat on February 3, 1943. The USS Tampa, for which the Post is named, was one of the three Coast Guard Cutters escorting three ships across the North Atlantic during WWII. A U-boat had been picked up briefly on sonar so the men knew there was danger in the water. They were instructed to sleep fully clothed and wearing also their life jackets. When the dreaded torpedo hit well below the waterline, they only had twenty chaotic minutes to abandon ship before she went down into the depths. The four chaplains on board were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. They offered prayers for the dying and encouragement for the living. They assisted men who appeared topside without life jackets to put one on, emptying a storage locker of its bounty. When the life vests ran out, each of the chaplains took off his own and gave it to the next man in line. Survivors said that the chaplains then linked arms, prayed and sang hymns as they went down with the ship, having given up their own chances of survival. The men in the water and lifeboats were buoyed, so to speak, by the Hebrew and Latin they heard as they drifted off in the dark of night. The four chaplains, not eligible for a Medal of Honor, for which their heroism must have taken place under fire, received instead a posthumous Special Medal for Heroism designed just for them. I look forward to this ceremony and am honored to represent Father John P. Washington, hero priest.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: We Need Clarity!
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Martin Fox, whom I had known previously only through his blog (frmartinfox.blogspot.com), where he posts such things as his Sunday homilies, his always-improving cooking skills, and the everyday happenings at his parish in Ohio. Recently he posted something that dovetails well with my homily of last Sunday, dealing with the absolute need for the Pope to clarify his teaching in Amoris Laetitia. Here are his very clear thoughts on this issue (lightly edited with permission and due to formatting issues), from January 14, 2017, titled, “The Maltese Straw that breaks the Church's back”
Everyone knows about the debate over Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia, and whether it is ambiguous in places, and whether it needs to be clarified. Many -- four prominent cardinals in particular -- have publicly asked for clarification, saying that without clarification, the ambiguities in the document will invite distortions or even implicit denial of constant Catholic teaching and practice. Others have responded by dismissing, and in some cases, ridiculing, this concern.
Well, it appears a document from the bishops of Malta may have gone exactly where Cardinal Burke and others' worst fears dreaded. From the "Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, just issued, we find this paragraph: Paragraph 10: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
If so, then why shouldn’t the following likewise be true: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a same-sex attracted person who is living in a same-sex ‘marriage’ manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
Or indeed, why not: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), any person persisting in a state of mortal sin who manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
In short, doesn't this mean that all those who, in confession, say they are committing mortal sin of any sort, and because they believe they are "at peace with God" about it won't change that behavior, may receive absolution, and then receive Communion? In other words, must priests grant absolution in such cases? What happens if a priest refuses to do so? Are you telling me this isn’t a break from Catholic teaching? Tell me what I'm missing here. Specifically, please explain how this is not in direct conflict with the Catechism, paragraph 1650, and the explicit teachings of Pope Benedict and Pope St. John Paul II.
That’s the end of Fr. Fox’s blog. I end with this: Cardinal Caffarra, one of the 4 Cardinals who asked the Pope for clarity, in a great interview said something I will pass on in case you are questioning whether or not those who want clarity are “trouble-makers” or “sedevacantists” or “schismatics”: “Some individuals continue to say that we are not being docile to the Magisterium of the Pope. This is false and calumnious. We wrote to the Pope precisely because we did not want to be un-docile. I can be docile to the Pope’s Magisterium only as long as I know what the Pope is teaching in matters of faith and Christian life. But this is exactly the problem: that which the Pope is teaching on some fundamental points simply cannot be understood, as the conflict of interpretations among bishops shows. We want to be docile to the Magisterium of the Pope, but the Magisterium of the Pope has to be clear.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Praying the Rosary at Mass
A week or so ago I shared on facebook an article asking and answering the question “Is praying the Rosary during Mass correct?” I had just recently been asked that question (it comes up quite a bit, since so many people condemn the Traditional Latin Mass and, by extension, those who attend it, by using the tiresome image of the Tridentine Mass being a drudgery better laid to rest because nobody understood what was going on anyway, “proved” by the little old ladies who just prayed their rosaries to pass the time wasted each Sunday at that terrible old Mass) and this article did a fine job of answering it. If you don’t know, the answer is, plainly and simply, “Yes”. The article quoted two Popes, Pius XII and Leo XIII, and several documents from other official Church sources to explain the positive answer. I have, at other times, used explanations of “the proper way to hear Mass” from The Baltimore Book of Prayers to show that this is true, and I suspect that there are quite a few other sources which would back up this assertion.
But, boy oh boy, did it bring out the comments. 76 comments, 43 likes/reactions and 5 shares, last I checked. And more people have contacted me about it who didn’t want to put their comments on facebook because a couple of the commenters were “fighting” with each other. Here is the question which seems to now be a sticking point in all of this. “Even if it is permissible to pray the Rosary at Mass, isn’t it better to NOT do so?” The argument that praying the Rosary at Mass is bad seems to have been made so often and so vociferously that people just cannot fathom that it is a good way to pray the Mass with full, active, conscious participation! But who is to say which method of prayer is best? Even though the efficaciousness and merit are greater in a Solemn High Mass than in a Low Mass, not even that affects whether an individual has truly prayed with full, active, conscious participation at either one. Let me draw this out a little. If praying the Rosary is, as it was put in the FB comments, “not as appropriate” or of a “lesser level of participation” due to its silly meditations (NB all sarcasm in this piece is my own) on the Lord’s life, death and resurrection and our Lady’s Assumption and Coronation, rather than on the Mass (which obviously has nothing to do with the just mentioned mysteries of Faith!) then the best--and only really good--way of praying the Mass is to be the priest celebrant! I will not argue against that one, though the corollaries to it might make you wince. Greater “participation” and “appropriateness”, even at a Traditional Latin Mass, according to the modernist way of thinking, come not from praying, but rather from reading the Mass word for word as the priest speaks them. But by this measure, his deacon and subdeacon have only the reading of the “Gospel” and “Lesson” in which they “fully participate”, so their assisting at Mass is pretty much a waste of time. The other altar boys never pick up a missal, so they have zero “good” participation, right along with the rosary-clutching dolts in the pews. Choir members sing over the priest as he is reciting his silent prayers, so they have less than zero participation, as they actively take people’s attention away from their missals and sometimes make even the priest wait as they continue their “anti-participation” chant shenanigans. Parents with children who distract them during Mass? Points off full participation. Did you ever notice the statues and candles and other beautiful and prayerful church trappings? Then they caused “lesser” Mass participation for you! Has your mind ever “wandered” from the missal as the cares of the world ran through your mind? Shame on you, for that is not as “appropriate” as keeping focused on the missal.
But enough. Once you start to look at just what constitutes full, active, conscious participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, hopefully you will have your eyes opened to the fact that there are many and various ways of entering deeply into this Ultimate Act of Love. Just as a Carmelite and a Dominican have different spiritualities, and each might find the other’s way of prayer a “lesser form” as far as meeting his own needs, so, too are the pew-sitters different, and each person may find that he prays the Mass better one way or another, and even prays better differently at different stages of life. Are some ways better than others? Certainly. Standing on my head wearing a deep-sea divers helmet, yoga pants, tube top and bunny slippers, while celebrating a Solemn High Mass, is one simple and certain example of a “less appropriate” way of me participating in the Mass. But silently praying the Rosary in the pew is a “lesser level of participation” than what, exactly? Food for thought.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Starting the New Year with Holy Activities
The New Year begins with a bang this week. Not the celebratory fireworks which are sure to be exploding every night, but rather with holy activities in our parish and diocese. We begin with Fr. Dorvil’s Birthday, which falls on the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, January 1. Happy Birthday to a very holy priest! Many of you don’t know him, even though he lives at Epiphany, since he is in charge of the Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission and celebrates Mass for his flock every Sunday at St. Peter Claver. If you don’t come around during the week, you might never get a chance to meet him, which is a sad loss on your part. He is truly a blessed priest with whom it is a great pleasure to live.
Next comes my nephew Barret’s birthday. You might not know him, either, but he will probably be thrilled to find out that his name made it into the church bulletin. He is the nephew that looks and acts almost exactly like me when I was a young boy, which is to say that he is extremely good looking, very intelligent, quite athletic, humble beyond measure, and almost angelic in nearly every way. Forget all those exaggerated stories my mom always regals you with about my younger years, or the ones my sister will tell about her youngest son. (I might be the only one in the family who doesn’t ever spin yarns or tell tall tales.) Barret and I both came from the womb already wearing halos.
Only three days into the new year we have a big prayerful event, the Vespers Service for our new Bishop, Gregory Parkes, at 7:00 pm on Tuesday night at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz. Everyone is invited to this evening prayer service and no ticket is required for entrance. The address is 17512 Lakeshore Rd, Lutz, FL 33558. If you cannot make it to St. Timothy, you may watch it live on the diocesan webpage, www.dosp.org, or listen to it on the diocesan radio station, FM 90.5, or on the radio station’s webpage, www.myspiritfm.com/. The next day, Wednesday, January 4, Bishop Parkes will be officially installed as our new Bishop at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Tickets are necessary to attend this installation Mass and the meager few we were allotted have been given out. Please don’t feel left out if you were not offered one, as there were only ten to go around. You may listen to this installation Mass on the diocesan radio station or webpage as listed above, or watch it on television, as it will be available locally on the following channels: by antenna – 38; Spectrum/Brighthouse – 6 (Standard Def), 1006 (High Def); Frontier/Fios/Verizon – 14 (Standard Def), 514 (High Def); DirectTV – 38; Dish – 38; Comcast – 435. We have not had a new Bishop installed in over twenty years and you may not have been around for it, so this is a big event. Bishop Parkes is only 52 years old, so he may be our Bishop for another twenty or so years, and you may not be around for the next one, either, so don’t take this installation too lightly!
A mere two days later we come to our Parish Feast Day, Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6! This is the “real” Epiphany date marking the traditional coming of the Wise Men to worship the infant Jesus. The Novus Ordo (New Mass) liturgical calendar makes it a changeable date and places Epiphany on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8 (inclusive), so this year it falls on January 8. We don’t have an English Novus Ordo Mass on the 8th, so our calendar is really messed up. Most of our Epiphany Masses will be on Friday, January 6. There will be three Masses from which to choose: a 6:30 am Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass, an 8:00 am Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass (followed by confessions and Adoration) and a 6:00 pm Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass (which will be followed by a potluck dinner). I expect the 6:00 pm Mass will be the big one and invite you all to come to it, regardless of which Mass you usually attend! Then on Saturday, January 7th, which is not Epiphany on any calendar at all this year, the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass will be an Epiphany Mass, since it is the “anticipated” Sunday Mass. O, how I long for the day when we will only have one liturgical calendar to follow!
So mark your calendars! We start this new year running full steam ahead. Be sure you pray a lot for our new bishop and continue praying for the sanctification of our outgoing bishop as well. Both need your prayers as one takes the weight of the Diocese off of his shoulders and passes the burden to the other. May God be merciful to both!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka