From the Pastor: Feeling Pain For Sin, Continued
Last week I wrote about the pain a priest feels if he should ever celebrate Mass in the state of mortal sin. Today I want to point out that the Catholic in the pew who is in mortal sin and still insists on receiving Holy Communion, is, in some way, in a worse position than the sinful priest, for the priest (in my example, anyway) had no choice but to receive Our Lord while in a sinful state, while the lay person in mortal sin makes a deliberate choice to receive Him although he has no obligation to do so.
A lay person who is conscious of mortal sin should be pained in realizing what he is doing to Our Lord. Jesus, after all, died to take away our sins, not to pat us on the back and say, “Way to go! Sin even more if you like! You can do anything you wish now, and go straight to Heaven when you die, for by My Death and Resurrection I have made immorality a righteous form of recreation.” No, a faithful Catholic knows better. He knows that Our Lord loved him to death but made that Sacrifice so that sin could be conquered, not coddled. He knows that even his venial sins caused Our Lord’s Passion to be increased and his mortal sin made it nearly infinitely worse. In His Divinity, Jesus, being outside of time, took all of our sins—past, present, and even future sins—upon Himself and in His humanity suffered beyond human comprehension for them. The faithful Catholic also knows that one of the worst sins he could possibly do, for even among mortal sins some are worse than others, is to directly sin against the man/God who came to save him from his sin. So if he were to be in a state of sin and make the choice to receive Holy Communion in that state, most likely due to pride (“I don’t want anyone to think that I am a sinner”), the pain should be magnified beyond bearing. “I just took Jesus,” he should acknowledge, “and threw Him into the cesspool which is my soul in its current state. And I did it because I care more about what people think of me than about what He thinks of me.” Such a person either really feels tormented by what he has done or else he rejects the moral teachings of the Church and lacks the faith that is necessary for salvation.
Assuming his conscience actually does ache, though, how does such a person relieve himself of such anguish? Through the same contrition, etc., mentioned last week he can return to God’s grace and peace. But, given enough time spent in mortal sin, even formerly good people will develop a perverse desire for their sin which is stronger than their desire for God, though without ever admitting to it so bluntly. At that point, they choose to numb themselves to the reality of sin and its consequences. The layman, as in the case of an unrepentant sinful priest, will anesthetize himself with drugs, alcohol, assorted physical pleasures, excuses, and denial. For both the layman and the priest, the denial must immediately include a denial that the Eucharist is Jesus. For there is no pain associated with receiving a piece of bread, even Holy Bread, if it simply signifies—but is not—God. As he proceeds down this path he ceases to be Catholic in any meaningful way. One truth after another, like tumbling dominos, falls away. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament means nothing, or, worse than nothing, is idol worship, if the Blessed Sacrament is just bread. The Mass is then seen, not as The Holy Sacrifice, but rather as a play, a terribly boring form of repetitious entertainment, one that certainly could not warrant an obligation to attend. The priest is nothing more than a man with a “make believe” job, for he doesn’t really confect the Eucharist. He also, therefore, doesn’t have the power to truly forgive sins, so confession must be denied as well. As for marriage, well, that nonsense about the two becoming one flesh is also pure fantasy, so all the Church teachings which go along with marriage (chastity, faithfulness, procreation, sacrificial love, and other such quaint notions) can/must also be discarded as pious nonsense. Yes, the need to relieve the pain of a sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion can easily lead to a complete loss of faith.
So here is something for you to ponder. Have you ever received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Did it cause you tremendous pain? If not, why not? Have you since stopped believing in other Church teachings? How many sacrilegious receptions did it take before you stopped believing? Or before you finally cracked under the pressure (a good thing!) and begged God’s forgiveness? Do you see how denials are all related? Do you really believe that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? Do you really believe that mortal sin is deadly to your soul, cuts you off from God’s grace, and that you will go to hell if you die without being restored to the state of sanctifying grace? I think it is high time for Catholics—clergy, religious, and laity alike—to acknowledge the pain of sin rather than deny it. The pain that sin causes can only be cured by humility, repentance, confession, and absolution, that is, by true love. Denial of the pain, on the other hand, only postpones it until Judgment Day, leaving one in utter agony for all eternity. “I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance. (Luke 5:32)” Therefore, do not fear refraining from Holy Communion until He restores you to grace!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Feeling Pain for Sin is Essential to Faith
A couple of weeks ago I gave a sermon on mortal sin. I specifically pointed out that a priest celebrating Mass while in the state of mortal sin still confects the Eucharist. That is absolutely necessary to know and hold onto as a truth. But I also pointed out that in celebrating with mortal sin on his soul, it pains a priest beyond imagining. Unlike a layman who, knowing that he is in mortal sin, may attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without receiving Holy Communion, the priest celebrant must always receive. He, the priest, must not only offer the Sacrifice, he must also consume the Offering in order to complete the Sacrifice. If the priest does not consume, the Sacrifice is not completed. But if the priest is in mortal sin and cannot confess before he is bound to celebrate a Mass (which means that no other priest is available to take his place, no concelebration, etc.), he must make an act of perfect contrition and continue with his duties even knowing that it is not certain that his contrition was perfect. He knows that he must offer, while standing in the place of the sinless God/man Jesus, Our Lord’s Perfect Sacrifice of His life to the Father for the salvation of many, that is, for those who accept and live in that infinite grace, persevering in unity with God to the end of life. He must do this while knowing that, in committing mortal sin, he had rejected that very grace that he was bringing to the world and was, at that very moment, quite possibly (the word “possibly” being used instead of “certainly” because he may, indeed, have achieved perfect contrition, which would then bring him back into grace) committing a sacrilegious act by celebrating Mass in mortal sin.
A priest in such a situation should have mental and spiritual—perhaps even physical—pain from committing such an act. The priest, after all, knows his Mass schedule. He generally knows the possibilities of lack thereof of confession. (He also knows that if he weighs up the possibilities that he can sin and then get to confession before he has to celebrate Mass, he is committing the mortal sin of presumption and his confession under such circumstances will be both sacrilegious and invalid!) He certainly knows the reality that he stands in persona Christi —in the very Person of Christ— when he celebrates the Mass. And yet he chose, whether due to carelessness, malice, or weakness, to cut himself off from God’s grace anyway. Once again, I point out that the Mass is still valid, the Eucharist is still confected, but the priest (not the people, who may be oblivious to his state of being) is doing just about the most damning thing that he could possibly do in his state of life. He knows that this act is worse than the mortal sin which he committed which cut him off from God’s grace, for this sin is not only directly against God, but also “forces”, so to speak, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to work miracles (as all sacraments truly are) through such a vile creature as he has turned himself into. Yes, the priest knows all of this and he should agonize over committing such a despicable act.
There are two remedies for such pain. The first is true contrition, confession, and a firm resolution to amend his life. That does not mean that the priest will not fall again but it certainly should be that he fully intends to never commit such sins again, even to desire death before repeating such evils. The second remedy for such pain is to numb it. This is done through various means, much as any layman does to numb his own pain when he sins. Drugs. Alcohol. Physical pleasures of all sorts. Denial. That last one is where all the others end up. The pain is alleviated or at least partially ignored by denying that the sin was really a sin. Excuses begin. Everybody else is doing it. It wasn’t really that bad. It wasn’t my fault. The Church really didn’t know what She was doing when She outlawed this. If only God were as smart and holy as I am, He would understand. Yes, in this scenario the priest has to convince himself that sin is not sin. Or that it is sin but is not really a mortal sin. Or that mortal sin does not really mean “mortal.” Or that there is no real punishment for sin, and certainly not an eternal punishment for mortal sin. Or that there is no hell. And it ultimately leads to the conclusion that there is no God.
Why did I preach about it and why bring it back up? Because it is imperative that you understand how the "nice guy" priests can do their evil deeds and yet "happily" (if shabbily) celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and do all their other priestly duties while committing/accepting/promoting mortal sin. They feel no pain, no anguish, no remorse, and, ultimately, no love. They will preach that sin is not so bad for they have lost their faith. They will generally strip all vestiges of beauty, truth, and reverence from liturgies to make them as “easy, fun and quickly done” as possible, just to get it over with. They will downplay holiness, ridicule piety, and persecute all who remind themselves of what they have lost. They anesthetize themselves with worldly adulation. You will recognize them and rightfully refuse to follow them once you understand this.
This also applies to Religious and laity in their own vocational realms.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Celebrating Epiphany!
Last Sunday we celebrated our big Epiphany Luncheon and it was a tremendous event. The tables in the hall were decorated absolutely beautifully, although that beauty also kept quite a few families from staying there during the preceding Mass because the parents were afraid that they would spend all of their time policing their children’s hands to keep them out of the salads and dining utensils! That certainly made for one crowded church as so many people decided that it was easier to stand for the Mass! It seems to me that it was worth it to be in the church, though, as the choir outdid themselves (no small feat, for they are always superb). Plus, there is just something special about seeing such a prayerful yet excited crowd of fellow Catholics joining together to pray the Mass before celebrating our parish feast day with a feast. On the downside, I did have a report that several pregnant women were standing the whole time and none of our men got up and gave them their seat. It is possible that there were gentlemen who made the offer and were politely turned down but it is also possible that men are no longer taught the simple courteous act of sacrificing a seat for a lady. “Women’s lib” has certainly wounded our sense of chivalry in many such areas. I put this out there not so much to scold anyone but rather to remind the men to be gentlemen and treat all women, especially the elderly and those with special needs (pregnant, or carrying two infants while corralling 4 others, or hobbling on crutches, etc.) as if they are “ladies” rather than just “one of the guys.” Now, for the sake of those who may be reading this online and are not part of Epiphany parish, please let me explain that “pregnant women” at Mass, although an anomaly at many other parishes, are a common feature around here.
Now, back to the feast. After the big Mass, the choir led the congregation in singing Christmas Carols while the last of the festive preparations were being made. The classrooms were all set for fine dining, the hot chocolate booth was loaded with plenty of mini marshmallows, candy canes, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauces, and sprinkles, the catering tents were staffed and supplied with copious amounts of lasagna and gluten-free spaghetti. I didn’t know that the spaghetti was gluten-free until near the end of the day but once I found out it explained why so many people didn’t even know that spaghetti was an option! I hadn’t been through the food line so I had just assumed that the trays were side by side and people were given a choice. Instead, those who had specified that they wanted/needed a gluten-free meal when they purchased their tickets were given the “secret knowledge” of the hidden food. I never did find out if they had a secret handshake or special code word they used but somehow they figured it all out. There was also an option for a vegetarian (maybe vegan?) meal but I only saw one person who got that. It looked like we had just enough food to feed the volunteer workers, who gave up sitting down and enjoying the meal so that they could serve the rest of us. They really deserve a lot of thanks and extra prayers! Those who set up the tents, tables, chairs, and other things also took them all down again by the end of the day. It was a lot of work done by a lot of workers and they made it all look like it wasn’t work at all. What a blessing to have such a great group of people here! Thank you all.
Last week I let you know that I will be gone for a vacation during the month of March. Since I don’t know what to do or where to go where I don’t need jabs or a suffocation device on my face, people have been making suggestions. Two families have suggested Utah. I checked online for the weather. Whereandwhen.net was the first search result for “weather in Utah in March.” The red banner across the top said boldly, “very bad weather.” It said to expect 19 days under 32 degrees with a mean temperature of 38℉. No thank you! I didn’t need to bother reading further about why the weather was listed as bad. Freezing bad is bad enough. Yes, I am a spoiled Floridian. Somebody, knowing my desire for good weather and the ability to breathe freely, said that I should go to Texas. That is a good choice. But I don’t know exactly what to do in Texas. I have only been there one time, in the heat of summer, visiting my sister who was working on a Master’s Degree somewhere near Dallas. I only remember a few details. First of all, it was extremely hot. (Yes, I complain about heat as well as cold. Go figure.) I remember the oak trees having stunted growth, and seemed to be only about 8 feet tall. And the only lakes were man-made. What else is there in Texas? Anyone know? Finally, one of you suggested that I go to Richmond, New Hampshire. Teens and twenties for overnight temperatures all month long with 1.6-3.5 inches of rain and/or snow during the month. Hmm... That sounds lovely. Not! That actually made Utah look pretty good! Keep the suggestions coming, though. I have already have said, “It’s too cold. It’s too hot.” Maybe in response to the next suggestion I will, like Goldilocks, say, “This one is just right!”.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More Water Needed!
Right off the bat, I need to apologize to all of you who were not able to receive any special Epiphany Holy Water! Our newest water jug, at 125 gallons, which I thought would be sufficient, was shown to be woefully lacking in capacity. I had 15 gallons in two smaller containers as well as the large one, all filled to the brim. But they were all empty before even the daily Mass people could fill their containers the next morning. On Epiphany Eve (January 5) we held the traditional Exorcism and Blessing of the Holy Water. Many people brought their own salt to be exorcised and blessed and quite a few even brought their own filled 5-gallon water jugs. Smaller containers were brought in empty to be filled from the large fonts. Several people had asked, “Don’t you exorcize and bless salt and water every week? What is different about this salt and water, then?” The answer to the first question is, yes, I exorcize and bless salt and water and mix them together and pray even more prayers over them every week. We use a lot of holy water around here! Unlike “new” blessed water, which is often just “made” by a priest or deacon making up words of blessing, or, worse, using the non-blessing blessing from the “new” Book of Blessings, to make our “regular” holy water I first exorcize salt and then bless it. Then I exorcize water and bless it. Then say a prayer as I mix them together. And finally, pray again, each prayer building on the others and asking that the water and salt will be sanctified, that it will drive away all sorts of evil spirits and physical evils, bring blessing to things and people, and even that it protect, nourish, and heal those who would use it. The power of that “old rite” Holy Water is even more apparent when compared to the “new rite” “holy water” which does not use salt, does not exorcize the water, does not sanctify the water, does not ask for demons and other evils to be driven away, does not do much of anything except ask that those sprinkled be “refreshed” and “renewed.” Heck, the priest doesn’t even make a single sign of the cross over the water as he prays this ridiculous prayer! But to answer the second question posed above, even this powerful “old rite” holy water pales in comparison to the “old rite” Epiphany Holy Water! For on this one day the choir chants beautiful hymns, psalms, and prayers. The priest adds additional exorcisms preceding the “regular” exorcisms and blessings. He even chants all of his prayers (recto tono, or in a single tone, probably because priests generally won’t be able to chant as well as the choir!). All of this is done with solemnity beyond the usual blessing. It took just about an hour instead of the usual 4 minutes of blessing, giving some idea of how much more effort and ritual goes into making this a special offering to God and, as He is never outdone in generosity, receiving special graces from Him as a result.
Unfortunately, this special blessing is missing from the new rituals, so few priests know anything about it, let alone how to do it. I know this quite well, for I never knew about it until recent years. One pastor asked for information about it this year, with the desire to do it at his parish next year. His parishioner is taking some information back to him. But all of the “old rite” blessings are required to be done in Latin, so I am not sure if he and his choir will be able to pull it off. And, since it doesn’t exist in the new rite, it is not found in English except in the “unofficial” translations supplied in the old rite books. In the front of those books, though, it states quite clearly that the blessings are “invalid” if done in the vernacular. Anyway, word is out that this is a powerful sacramental, and people came out in droves to get the water. Since our parish is growing and even people who don’t attend our parish come for things like this that they cannot get at their own parish (begging the question: so why are they not Epiphany parishioners?), we will have to exorcize and bless even more water next year!
Now, for something completely different. Fr. Vincent Cappuano, SJ, who used to assist here and teach at Jesuit High School, has offered to come and take over my duties for the month of March. Everything has now gone through the proper channels, his superior and our bishop have both agreed to it, and, unless covid panic ruins everything, I will be gone for the entire month! Of course, there is no place to go, for I do not wish to wear a face diaper as I travel or relax, so visiting relatives in Michigan, Massachusetts, or Chicago is out of the question. Taking a cruise is impossible without multiple jabs and coverings. Even campgrounds are full. But rest assured that I will still find someplace to prop myself up against a tree and read a book or wet a fishing line. I have no problem not responding to emails and phone calls even now, so on vacation, ha! just try to reach me! It is important for you to know that this is happening because if I just disappear as Lent begins, the grapevine might erupt with wild speculation about why I am absent, where I got sent, or other such talk. So now you have two months’ notice that all is well.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Water Blessing!
The secular calendar has turned from 2021 to 2022. We have an Epiphany Parish calendar coming out soon (I blame both the backlog of ships off the California coast and the new covid strain for the delay in getting them to you, even though neither is accurate). You should be able to pick one up on the day we celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany, January 9. We only had 800 printed up but, with the uptick in numbers the last few weeks, that now looks like a low number of copies! If you were at the 10:30 Mass last Sunday, you saw the reality of that statement. I already had the sacristan put in 50 more hosts than normal, as our numbers have been remaining about 800 in attendance (total for all Sunday Masses) for the month rather than our previous normal of around 750. But even that wasn’t enough. As I saw the people at the halfway point of the church line up, I realized that I was already more than halfway through the number of Hosts in the ciborium and I started breaking them in two. But as the line seemed to extend longer and longer, I asked Fr. Manfiafico to start doing so as well. By the time we were finished, we were quartering them. Even so, we only had a few pieces of Host left when the last person received! It turns out that we set a record last week, with over 900 people at the Masses and 654 at the 10:30 alone. And, since the church only holds 500 people, that means that the rest were relegated to watching on tv in the social hall. Not a good situation but a great problem to have!
Although I just mentioned that we will celebrate our parish feast day as an external solemnity on January 9 (which the rubrics allow, in case you were wondering), we still have to follow the proper liturgical calendar for Epiphany, which falls yearly on January 6. We will have the regular 6:30 am and 8:00 am daily Masses on Epiphany itself. But there is also a special blessing of water that occurs the evening before Epiphany. Each year the crowd grows larger as more people participate in it. On Wednesday, January 5, at 6:30 pm we will once again have this solemn exorcism and blessing of salt and water. Last year so many people brought water to be blessed that we filled tables all the way across the front of the church, then filled the space under the tables, and finally filled the floor down the sides of the sanctuary as well. Each water bottle had to have the lid removed, then, when the exorcism and blessing of the salt was complete and the exorcism and first blessing of the water was finished, I added salt to each of the water bottles before giving them all a final blessing. Although I had servers to assist, my fingers had blisters from opening and screwing shut water bottles and there was water and salt all over the floor of the church! Needless to say, it also took quite a bit of time. This year we are doing something a bit different. You may still bring in your own salt to be exorcized and blessed. But, unless you are bringing in 5-gallon or larger bottles of water, bring them in empty. Yes, empty! This year we have a beautiful, cedar-covered 125-gallon water vessel which I will exorcize and bless in the usual way, and then you can fill up your empty water bottles from the large container. We made sure that standard 1-gallon milk jugs fit under the spout, so don’t think that you can only get 2 or 3 ounces. If you will use the water, bring a container. In years past, we blessed many extra bottles of water so that people could pick some up on Epiphany or the following Sunday if they missed the actual blessing ceremony. This year, the large container will be available until it is completely emptied.
On the day of Epiphany itself, January 6, we have the blessing of chalk (to be used to give your homes the special Epiphany blessing), gold, incense, and myrrh (recalling the gifts of the Three Kings) and, of course, houses. I will put out sheets for you to use for the annual house blessing so that you know what to do with the chalk and water. Also, although it is still a month away, while you are thinking about special blessings (each of which you will find on the parish calendar) February brings us the extra special blessing of candles on Candlemas Day (February 2) so get your candles ready to bring in. The blessing and candle procession will be at 8:00 am, followed by the Mass for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following day, St. Blase (or Blaise) brings not only the well-known and beloved blessing of throats but also a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments (to take to those who cannot make it to Mass—the wine and water can be used, obviously, even later in the year when someone gets a sore throat or other ailment) plus another blessing of candles! This candle blessing the day after Candlemas has long been helpful for all of those who forgot about the first blessing until it was too late yet didn’t want their candles to “go to waste” by being unblessed, so they could take them to church the very next day while it was fresh on their minds!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka