From the Pastor: Candlemas Day is Here Again!
Near the beginning of every calendar year we have some very special blessings of very ordinary items which are then to be used in extraordinary—dare I say supernatural—ways. We have already had the December 27 blessing of wine for the Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist (yes, I know that that was last calendar year, but it is still fresh in my mind). That blessed wine is/was to be used to bring health to both body and soul. January 5th and 6th brought us the Feast of Epiphany blessings of water, chalk, houses, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those blessings, especially the Holy Water blessing, are truly significant for our parish of Epiphany because, well, they happen at Epiphany. This coming Thursday, before the 8:00 am Mass begins, we will have a special blessing of Candles on the Feast of the Circumcision, also called the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas. (I will return to this blessing shortly.) With this feast, the season of Christmas officially comes to a close. The next day, Friday, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blase (or Blaise) and we have yet another blessing of candles, plus a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit, and, of course, the blessing of throats. The blessings of this day are all meant for the relief of throat and other ailments.
On many of the feast days which have special blessings attached to them the rubrics call for the blessing to be done before Mass begins (if there is a Mass attached to the blessing). Yet I choose to do them after the Mass is finished. Yes, I am a liberal priest! Don’t tell anybody! I don’t do it for any obstinacy in despising rubrics. I don’t do it to “spice things up a bit” or because I think I can do it better than those who made the rules. I do it for a very practical purpose. Because we are not a parish where all of the parishioners live in the local neighborhood but rather drive some quite amazing distances to get here, I do it for the sake of those who get caught in traffic or who misjudge how much more time it takes to get here on a weekday than on a Sunday. Oh, how many times people used to miss out on the blessings when I blessed the objects before Mass began! So I “cheat” a little. But there are some days when I cannot do that. February 2 is a great example. The multiple prayers offered for the candle blessings come BEFORE MASS BEGINS. Why is that? Because on Candlemas Day there is a procession—with the blessed candles—to the church for the beginning of Mass. It would be silly to process with unblessed candles, so the blessing must take place before Mass. In case you didn’t see the ALL CAPS AND BOLD words above, let me repeat myself in a slightly different way. If you show up exactly on time you will miss the blessing. If you show up a minute or two early, you will miss the blessing. If you show up between 5 and 10 minutes early you may be cutting it close. You are going to have to account for bad traffic, yes, but also you need to account for the time it will take you to find the place where the procession will start and the blessing will take place (outside by the rectory chapel if the weather cooperates, or inside the church if it is a terrible morning). You will have to have enough time to carry your candles to the tables set up for this blessing and find a place in the crowd of bags and boxes to place your own. But before you get to that point you will have to wait in line for the rest of the drivers in the parking lot who are going exasperatingly slow ahead of you as they each search for the way to get closest to the blessing area because they each brought 50 pounds of candles and it will take them 5 trips back to the car and they can’t walk more than 30 steps except when they are shopping in Ikea. The blessing will begin at 8:00 am. If your candles are not in the area of the blessing by then, they will not get blessed. Half blessings don’t count and the blessing will not be repeated again later in the day to suit you. Also, please note that Mass itself will not start at 8:00 and will not be done by 8:45 due to the extra time it will take for the candle blessing and procession. So plan your day accordingly. Also, please be sure to clearly mark your candles, bags, and boxes with your name so that others don’t inadvertently walk off with the wrong candles. Take this seriously, because we have sometimes had very large numbers of similar-looking containers and candles. Just as it is hard to pick out your luggage out of hundreds of other bags at the airport without some sort of identifying tag or mark, so also is finding your own candles nearly impossible without some sort of identifying feature. Of course, you could always put an airtag in the box and track where it went if it is missing, but that is sure to be a lot more of a hassle!
The fortunate thing about Candlemas is that if you miss that blessing you can always come back just one day later for the candle blessing of St. Blaise. Although it is a different blessing, at least the candles will be blessed!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: What’s the Plan?
It came in the mail this week. The form letter from the Diocese arrives every winter or early spring. “Do you wish to have a change of assignment?” it asks. “If so, why, and which parish would you like to be moved to?” It also asks if I would like to have an assistant priest (parochial vicar) or a deacon assigned to the parish if I am asking to stay. Then the more open-ended questions about how I am doing, do I need a sabbatical, am I cracking up, and such. To put an end to any wild speculation, let me tell you that I replied: I wish to stay at Epiphany. Why would I want to leave the best parish in the diocese/state/country? As for the parochial vicar request, of course I would like to have one! And send a deacon along with him! Sure, there will be a learning curve for each of them but if they are willing to accept the assignment, that is a sure sign that they are willing to delve more deeply into the lost traditions of our faith than they ever had to in seminary or other parishes. They will, I am sure, benefit from the TLM as much as I have, and will bring blessings to one and all.
As for the questions about my general health and happiness, I wrote that I am doing quite well. Although I didn’t add this on the reply form, I would like to take a sabbatical, I think. I see other priests doing it all the time. But I don’t want to go to Rome (a tremendous sabbatical place if there ever was one, with so much rich Catholic history and great professors to teach—assuming I find the right sabbatical program) but it is such a spiritually and politically dark place right now that I wouldn’t currently wish to spend any time there. I figure that a self-study sabbatical on one of those new privately owned condominium cruise ships might be a good place to be. I could cruise around the world for a year and hopefully convert a literal boatload of people by the time I was done. But that would mean taking a chance that they won’t implement the recently popular “less than worthless experimental dead baby shots” protocols along with mandatory suffocation devices during that trip. No, I won’t take that chance at this time. Heck, I could just go to Vatican City if I wanted that!
As for my health, since I wrote about trying to lose weight I have received three boxes of cookies and some very good chocolate, all with assurances that I am not too fat. Of course, I plan on eating them all even though I know that the people giving the gifts were lying! After all, that will keep their lies from being lies, right? I also see the hardships my dad is going through with his numerous bodily aches and pains and, as he so often reminds me, whatever happens to him now will happen to me in the future! So, relatively speaking (pun intended), I am in great health right now!
We now move on to a more serious, though related, issue. I have been inundated with links to articles and reports about a rumored upcoming Apostolic Exhortation that will greatly restrict the Traditional Latin Mass. I suppose it is good for you to know (or else I wouldn’t be writing this) that the rumors have been around for quite a while and are getting stronger now that Pope Benedict is “out of the way.” As far as I know, there is nobody who has first-hand knowledge about what exactly this rumored document contains who has spilled the beans, so all is second-, third-, and fourth-hand speculation at this point. “What are you going to do, Father?” is the recurring question. But I have no answer. I don’t know what the supposed document says, so I don’t know what is being asked of me. I don’t know what is being asked of the bishop. I don’t know what, if anything, is being demanded, rather than asked, either! “But don’t you have a plan?” No. At least not one that will satisfy the questioners. I plan to be a Catholic priest doing exactly what I am already doing in the parish where I am already doing it. I know, that seems like a boring plan, a plan to do nothing different, but why should I take on worries about something of which I know nothing with certitude? I have complete confidence that Jesus is still in charge of His Church. He is the one who made sure that, against all odds, I was ordained a priest. (And yes, thank you, Blessed Mother, for I know that you were interceding for me full time, and you, my guardian angel, were protecting me from both myself and a whole host of enemies my whole time in the seminary and beyond!) And it was He who made sure that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right and right) so that I “had to” start celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass just to be faithful to another document that called on pastors to give this unknown-to-me Mass to the people if they asked for it. And it is He who made sure that this parish is not only surviving but thriving and leading people in the way of holiness, even as other parishes seem to be dying of self-inflicted wounds. So it is my firm conviction that no matter what document comes out and no matter what the world thinks is going to happen, He is still in charge. So please join me in following St. Padre Pio’s famous advice: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Losing Time and Gaining Weight!
For whatever reason, this Christmas season was the busiest yet. And no, I am not speaking only of myself but also on behalf of all of the people who have been busy at the parish as well. It seems that from the beginning of October (when the preparations for Cardinal Burke’s Mass began in earnest) until today the calendar has not ceased to be filled, whether with pre-scheduled events and meetings or with phone calls and knocks on the door when there seemed to be a free moment. As such, I am still trying to catch up with texts and emails (two inventions of the devil, as if there ever was a need for proof that he exists, as people expect immediate responses even to messages in which they don’t ask for or need one), snail mail (a Godsend, for people sending letters and cards don’t wait by the mailbox breathlessly waiting for a return response!), and even Christmas gifts. I have two gifts wrapped and ready to go to family members but due to emergencies when we were getting together, I wasn’t able to see everyone. I also have cards, bags, and wrapped gifts from you that are still unopened. I occasionally try to make time for them but something always comes up that takes me away, and it isn’t Calgon. So I open a few cards here, unwrap a package there, and set the rest aside for the next time I have a few extra minutes. I know I will never have time to write “Thank You’ notes this year but please know that I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful notes and family photos and other things you have sent. This year I think that I have managed to open all of the gifts that people told me contained food, so, unlike what happened last year, I don’t think that I will have any odoriferous surprises waiting for me hidden under brightly colored tissue paper!
Last week the bulletin contained an article about my New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. That article was actually a recycled one from several years ago, as I simply ran out of time and didn’t have a new article written by the time the bulletin needed to be published. But it is still quite timely, since I am still in need of losing weight. I have been trying, sometimes with more willpower than other times, to lose weight for quite a while. I had an old bathroom scale that I weighed myself on daily a couple of years back. But then, after losing some weight and coming to the dreaded barrier beyond which my fat would not venture, I decided to put it away for a few days. The days become weeks, then months, and soon I “forgot” about it altogether. Then a few months ago I took it back out and started the weighing process all over again. This time I was quite surprised. I wasn’t nearly as heavy as I expected. I started in earnest refusing snacks and cookies and cakes and all the other goodies which are constantly trying to force their way into my mouth. My weight would vary up and down a pound or two daily but overall kept going down. I wondered, though, if the scale might be off a bit when it started acting up. It wouldn’t start at zero when I first turned it on, but would show “- .2 lbs.” I changed the batteries. No help. I tried to find a way to calibrate it. No adjustments available. But I figured that as long as it was off by the same amount every day, it really shouldn’t matter, for that little bit was almost nothing anyway. But then it started showing different numbers: minus .6, minus .8, plus 1.2, etc. I finally tried weighing myself several times in a row and it would show different weights with each try. Then, it started showing that I had either gained or lost four or more pounds every day. The day that I was up 10 pounds after being down 7 pounds the previous day is the day I ordered a new scale.
It took a few weeks to arrive, being delivered just after Christmas. Although it looked like it was in remarkable shape, with no visible signs of scratches or dents, I believe it must have been malfunctioning, as you shall see. The instruction manual simply said, “Don’t step on the scale until it has calibrated itself or the measure will be off” and, sure enough, it calibrated itself and then showed “0.0” on the display. But wouldn’t you know it, I was up twenty pounds—20 pounds!—from the “plus 10 pounds” weight showing on the old scale. I think that either it was broken or else I must have eaten a few too many farm fresh eggs (yeah, it’s those darn eggs making my belly look like I swallowed a pterodactyl egg whole!) over Christmas. I know it couldn’t have been the chocolates or mint or cookies that I started eating once the old scale was put out to pasture (writes the priest who just had to wipe Chocolate Mint Bark off his keyboard), for those are all very small and light and flat, so surely they are low in calories, too, and would help me get a flat belly. Yep, the extra weight has to be from the eggs. Or a broken scale. That’s most likely it. The new scale is just mocking me!
Assuming though, that I am really just too fat, I need to discover how to swap time and weight. Then I would be a thin priest with all the time in the world!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Eve Blessing of Holy Water and More!
Our parish feast day, January 6, falls on Friday of this week, which is also First Friday. We will celebrate Masses of Epiphany of Our Lord that morning at the regular Friday times of 6:30 and 8:00 followed by the special Epiphany Blessings of chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The chalk will be used to mark the door lintels of the church, rectory, and, of course, of your homes. Because we are not a parish where everyone lives within walking distance of the church, I will not be able to visit your houses to bless them. But we will once again give out a sheet of prayers asking God’s blessing upon your home and those who live there. Pray the prayers, mark the doors with the blessed Epiphany chalk (20 + C + M + B + 23), sprinkle the house and family with Epiphany Holy water, and you should be protected for another year! Bring in any extra chalk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh if you want to have them blessed. If you wish to leave blessed gold and frankincense at the church, I am sure we can put them to good use! Please note that I will not be blessing other items that morning, so don’t bring other articles. Following the blessing, we will have our normal First Friday Adoration, ending with 6:00 pm Vespers and Benediction.
But although that is the Epiphany Day schedule, there is still more to put on your calendar. (This is a good time for me to write that we will not be putting out an Epiphany parish calendar this year. Yeah, I know, everyone is disappointed, including me. But sometimes life gets in the way of what we desire to accomplish.) January 8, the Sunday following Epiphany, we will celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany. That day, instead of the normal Sunday Mass, we will celebrate the Mass of January 6, which the 1962 liturgical books allow for several big feasts during the year, including parish feast days. We will have our annual luncheon following the 10:30 Mass for those who reserved tickets in advance. For those who forgot or who waited beyond the last moment to see if anything better showed up on their social calendar, I am sorry to say that, since caterers need a headcount to prepare the right amount of food (and to charge us properly for their services), we cannot accommodate those without tickets.
But wait, there’s more! At 6:30 pm on January 5, the evening before Epiphany, there is a special blessing of Epiphany Holy Water! This special blessing includes a schola solemnly chanting multiple psalms, canticles, and hymns along with the priest chanting (recto tono—a very simplified single note chant) the St. Michael exorcism prayer, all of the prayers of exorcism of salt and water, the prayers blessing the salt and water, the prayers combining the exorcised and blessed salt and water, the Te Deum and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us in giving such a great sacramental to be used throughout the year. This particular blessed water is, according to exorcists, the most powerful of all the blessed water. Every year the crowds coming for the ceremony and to receive some of the water have been increasing. We started out blessing several cases of water, then moved up to more than a dozen cases of water, then last year, when even that wasn’t enough, we brought in a 125-gallon container to bless. But the 125 gallons proved to be too little, too. Here is what will be done this year. You may bring in as much salt as you wish to have blessed and I will bless it and you can take it home with you. If you bring in water containers of 5 gallons or more, bring them in filled with water and open at the top (so that I can add the exorcised and blessed salt to them) and set them in front of the altar rail and they will be exorcised and blessed. If you have smaller containers, bring them in empty and you can fill them from the larger containers once the blessings are completed. We will have two 125-gallon containers from which to fill your gallon and half-gallon jugs, and two smaller containers (about 15 gallons) from which to fill your small—normal sized!—holy water bottles. Let me be clear that on that evening, I will only be blessing salt and water. Please don’t bring other items to be blessed at that time. Last year these beautiful chanted prayers took about an hour to complete and the filling of the water bottles took another hour or so. The chanted prayers will still take about the same amount of time but the water bottle filling may go quicker with the additional huge container. This year we may even have extra water left over for those who cannot make it to the evening blessing but can come on Epiphany day itself. Don’t forget to bring your container!
For those of you who plan ahead a few weeks, February 2 brings us the blessing of candles on Candlemas Day. The candle blessing and daytime candle procession will take place at 8:00 am outside in front of the rectory (weather permitting), and Mass will begin after we process to the church. You must come early to bring your candles to this spot! If you come late, your candles will not be blessed. February 3 brings us the Feast of St. Blaise, at whose Masses we bless throats as well as give a special blessing to still more candles (probably for the benefit of those who showed up late the day before!) plus bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka