He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Farewell, Father Vincent!
This coming Sunday, February 2, is Fr. Vincent Capuano’s last day with us. He is a Jesuit priest of the Argentina Province, and has been “on loan” to Tampa’s Jesuit High School for a few years but has now been called back home. Due to his other priestly duties on Sundays, he usually celebrates only the 7:30 am Mass, although occasionally is he able to assist at the 10:30. But on this, his final day, he will be able to be at both, so all of you who desire to wish him well will be able to do so. He is an excellent preacher, teacher, and priest and will be greatly missed around here. Please pray for his continued holiness as he begins his new assignment. If you were planning on giving him a gift of any sort, please remember that he is not driving a U Haul to his next assignment but is rather flying. All that he owns has to fit in his checked baggage or carry on luggage. So, as beautiful as that statue of St. Thomas Aquinas is, which you wanted to give him after being in his class on that famous Doctor of the Church, he will have to leave it behind, regardless of whether it is life-sized or fits on a tabletop. Prayers and Masses, on the other hand, don’t take up much room in a suitcase!
By happy, holy coincidence, set in motion by Our Lord through Holy Mother Church many centuries ago, his last day will be an extraordinary day for us. It is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called “Candlemas” due to the blessing of candles that occurs, and is, in some local traditions (but not “officially,” even in the older liturgical calendars, though much ink has been and still is being spilled debating this!), the ending to the Christmas season. This is the first time since I have been at Epiphany that this feast day falls on a Sunday. Last year it was on a Saturday, which allowed more of you to attend than when it fell in the middle of the week. This year all of you should be able to make it, plus you can bring others with you who won’t get the blessing of candles at their home parish, so I expect a large crowd at both Masses. There will be a small procession at the 10:30 Mass (sorry, 7:30-ers, but only the main Mass gets the most solemn rites according to the old liturgical books) but there will be a blessing of candles at both Masses. So bring in your candles! Bring in beeswax candles for the ominous Three Days of Darkness; scented candles which make the house smell like cookies or Christmas trees; dripless tapers for your romantic dinners; fancy candles for special occasions; birthday candles for all of the cakes you will bake this year; or any other kind of candle you use at home or work. We will bless them all. Due to the size of the congregations (what a great problem to have: too many people!), we won’t even try to have a table to hold all of your candles, since last year we packed a huge table full plus had candles stacked all around and under it and it wasn’t a Sunday celebration. So just keep them with you in the pew and we will bless them where they are. (If you bring in huge bags or boxes, too many to keep in the pew, we will find a place to put them which is out of the way. Don’t worry!) Although in past years you have carried your own candles in procession, this year at the 10:30 Mass we will bless enough tapers for everyone to have one for the procession and to use at Mass so that those who don’t bring in candles won’t be left in the dark. Or as dark as it gets in a daytime candlelight celebration, anyway. Remember that one of the most practical reasons for blessing candles on this day is so that we have blessed candles for the following days’ feast, that of St. Blaise (or Blase), on which we use two crossed candles to bless throats. And, before you ask, no, we will not do the blessing of throats on Sunday just because everyone is there. We follow the liturgical calendar and bless throats on the day they are to be blessed, February 3. Oh, and realize that the 10:30 Mass will be a bit longer than usual due to the extra blessing and procession. On the subject of things being a bit longer, there are five prayers of blessing given this day, rather than the single one used to bless candles during the rest of the year. The blessing of candles takes place before Mass and if you show up late and miss the blessing, do not -- I repeat, do not! -- expect to get your candles blessed after Mass is over!
Now that you are aware of what is going on next weekend, it is time to get prepared! Those of you reading this during the homily can open your phone’s Amazon app and start ordering candles... Wait, no, that stuff only happens at Novus Ordo parishes, right? Right? Put that phone away now! I was just joking! I see what you schola members are doing back there! Stop that immediately! Don’t make me turn around and come back there...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My Office Looks Like The Church
During the past 30 or so days my office has resembled a dumping grounds. I very rarely have a clean, tidy desk to begin with since once I put something in a file cabinet I forget about getting back to it. So instead of training myself to routinely open the cabinet and check on things like wedding files, upcoming events, letters that need responses, etc., I simply pile those things on the desk where I have to see them on a regular basis. Eventually, I have to move them around a bit, restack and reorganize the piles as priorities change or emergency things come in, but sooner or later everything on the desk gets taken care of. But for some reason this Advent the piles just kept getting deeper and deeper. Christmas gifts, both those I received and those I purchased for giving crowded out my floor space, too. My mailbox was also overflowing so much that I had to keep emptying it and adding all of the unopened letters, periodicals, newspapers, cards, and whatnot to the ever-growing piles of stuff on my desk. On top of that (not literally, thanks be to God) my voicemails, emails, text, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and Flocknote messages just kept outpacing my ability to read, let alone respond, file, or delete. In a world where everyone expects immediate responses to each and every form of communication, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people must have thought that I was dead.
I am finally getting things organized. I have opened up most of the Christmas cards and sent out Thank You notes to those who gave gifts (I am especially thankful for the gifts of Masses and Spiritual Bouquets) if I could find an address and read the signature (one or both of those were sometimes missing, so I will include a general “Thank You!” here for those I have missed and will miss as I open still more cards). I have been limiting myself (or trying to, anyway) to a maximum of 2 hours a day reading and responding to emails. I get several hundred every day, most of which are junk but still need to be clicked and deleted. Many times it is impossible to tell if the email is something I actually need to read or if it is simply spam or an advertisement, so I have to open it before trashing it. Some are pretty clear. If it is from a store, it is an ad. But some are not so clear. For instance, I might receive emails from seven different offices at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. I cannot just delete them, even if I think I know that they will not be useful to me, because what I assume to be just a weekly bulletin about something that I have no need of knowing might actually be a notice of an upcoming change of policy or an “invitation” to a mandatory meeting. So I have to open each one. Then, of course, I am on the mailing list of seemingly every Catholic organization that exists and it is very often impossible to determine without opening the email if they are sending me donation materials or if a real person is actually trying to reach me from that organization. It takes a lot of time to open, scan briefly, and trash. As for the FB, I don’t even have it on my phone anymore and anyone who tries to contact me through its Messenger better be prepared to wait a couple of weeks even in a normal time! Sorry, that’s just how it is. My biggest problem with both emails and texts that I want to get back to but simply cannot answer as I first see them (this happens especially if I get it from my phone, which requires a single finger typed response rather than the rapid-fire thumb movements of you younger folks) is not knowing how to keep them up at the top of the stack as I can do with the stuff on my desk. Texts are especially bad, as it doesn’t have a “search” feature like email does to help find one that I know is there somewhere but may be a hundred and two spaces down the list by the time I want to answer. (Or is there a search feature of which I am unaware? Let me know if there is one!)
So why am I writing this? Because, as the title states, this is also how the Church seems to be right now. Just this week the book about priestly celibacy written by Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict was in the news because it was coming out. Then it was in the news with the accusation that Pope Benedict never saw nor OK’d it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Sarah provided proof that Benedict did indeed write, see, and OK it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Vigano... well, I see this one little thing in the Church combined with the clutter of other matters -- such as the rewarding of homosexual-activity-promoting priests and bishops, the push toward a One World Religion, the denial of the ontological change in the sacrament of Holy Orders and so, so many other confounding issues promoted by Church hierarchy -- looking almost exactly like my office. But like my office, I hold out hope that it will all be organized and cleared out one day (or year, or decade, or century!). In the meantime, the more chaotic it gets out there, the more this parish grows!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: I Give Thanks To God Always For You
The year has just begun and already I have much for which to be thankful. You, the parishioners of Epiphany of Our Lord, are at the center of it all. First of all, I am thankful for the new handicap ramp which was just completed on the parking lot side of the church next to the handicap parking spaces. The new ramp brings many positive comments from people who never complained about a lack of a ramp before but who now acknowledge that getting up the steps was quite a challenge for them. As you know, the ramp was done with the coordination and donation of anonymous parishioners who themselves did not need a ramp. This project was sacrificial, not self-serving! Thank you!
The next thing for which I am very thankful is the people who worked tirelessly to make the church and hall clean and welcoming for the Christ Child (and us) during Advent and Christmas. People scrubbed and chiseled and polished and swept and decorated for untold hours. We even had people who are not yet Catholic spend hours helping us to make the church attractive. The people of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission worked long hours outside to bring the “bling” of thousands of lights and figures surrounding the large cave of their Nativity set. They always bring surprises with their setup. One year it was a towering dinosaur with a Christmas present in its mouth. This year is was lighted flying unicorns! The people driving by at night were treated to quite a spectacle for Christmas. Inside the church (that is how we split the decorating duties, with the Mission taking the outside and us taking care of the inside) we decorate in a much more subdued manner but the wreaths lining the walls, the tree in the corner, a few poinsettias here and there really helped the church and social hall (which were originally designed to be the school lunchroom and gymnasium) look beautiful without being glitzy. And let’s not forget the newly donated Nativity scene back in the corner. This was our first year using it and already there are plans for making it even more spectacular next year. And did you notice the Three Kings traveling to Bethlehem? They sort of hung out on the organ for a while as they followed the star and made it to the creche only on Epiphany.
I am also very thankful for all the people who made our Masses so prayerfully majestic. The Mass parts chanted by the choir at the solemn and high Masses could convert a pagan with no need of further theology or biblical knowledge. I am very thankful for the extra clergy and quasi-clergy who made themselves available for the unexpectedly high number of Solemn High Masses recently, too. (As two sidenotes within this section: 1. Fr. Vincent Capuano, SJ, who has been celebrating Mass here for several years, and who has never accepted any stipend but wished rather to be simply “rewarded” by being able to celebrate the TLM, is being transferred to Argentina. His last day with us will be February 2 so be sure to say your “farewells” beforehand; 2. Fr. Mangiafico has long been a “cheerleader” for this parish and now that he has retired from retirement duties he is here in person quite a bit. He has donated so much to us in the form of liturgical items that he, in reality, actually pays us for the privilege of being here! I am very thankful for both holy priests.) Of course, we couldn’t properly celebrate the Mass without our servers, and I am thankful we have so many boys and men who wish to serve at God’s altar. Having our new group of men serve the 5th Sunday of any given month, plus a few of the big Masses, is a blessing. Many times for our biggest celebrations we have had only the most inexperienced boys able to serve, putting them in the position of serving at roles for which they were not yet ready to be trained, let alone master. Putting men into those roles takes the pressure off the young boys and puts it all on the adults. It also allows the boys in the pews to be very attentive at Mass, for they all want to take good note of what their dad did wrong while serving! I am also thankful for those who train and set the server schedule, both of which are very demanding tasks.
I am thankful for my sacristans and teachers and Sunday breakfast people and various activity leaders but I really must end my incomplete list somewhere. So, finally, I give thanks to God for all of the people who (spearheaded by the parish’s Council of Catholic Women) put together last week’s Epiphany celebration. Decorators, setup guys, tent cleanup guys, food preparers and servers, kitchen cleanup crew, planners, CGS, AHG, and last but not least, attendees, all came together for our parish’s Feast Day Luncheon and made it incredible. Although there is no way of naming everyone who worked tirelessly to make it such a success, two parishioners do deserve special mention, though they will both probably cringe when they find out that their names are here. Julann Roe baked almost all of the bread that was in the breadbaskets, which took her untold hours immediately before the event, and Robin Johnson designed, created, and shopped for the decorative theme that transformed the tent into the beautiful venue that it was. You really outdid yourself. Many thanks!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Blessing of Homes on Epiphany
(adapted from the Roman Ritual for use by the laity)
The head of the household (the husband/father, if he is present) leads the prayers, saying:
Leader: We ask that God’s peace be in this home.
All: And in all who live here.
Leader: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
Canticle of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
Leader: My soul doth magnify the Lord...
All: And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of His mercy:
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
Leader: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost...
All: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
All: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
The home is sprinkled with exorcised and blessed Epiphany Holy Water.
Then the prayers continue:
Leader: Our Father...
All: Who art in Heaven... (and continue the rest of the prayer)
Leader: Many shall come from Saba.
All: Bearing gold and incense.
Leader: Lord, heed my prayer.
All: And let my cry be heard by You.
Leader: Almighty God, who on this day revealed Your only-begotten Son to all nations by the guidance of a star, grant that we who now know You by faith may finally behold You in Your heavenly majesty; We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Leader: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for your light is come; and upon you is risen the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. Nations shall walk in your light, and kings in the splendor of your birth.
All: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
Leader: Lord God almighty, we ask You to bless this home, and under its shelter let there be health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to Your commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. May Your blessing remain always in this home and on those who live here; through Christ our Lord.
The lintel of the main door of the house (and other doors if desired) is marked, using the Blessed Epiphany Chalk, in the following way: 20 + C + M + B + 20
The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus mansionem benedicat.” “May Christ bless the house.” The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing. The numbers enclosing them indicate the year.
The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, Whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Three Magi sanctified by their adoration of the Infant Christ. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God’s blessing.
The month of January still bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing “christens” the ancient Roman observance of the first month. The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Adorable and Eternal Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Ghost.