From the Pastor: More about what to “do” at Mass
Picking up where I left off last week, aside from the most perfect act of full, active, conscious participation of the congregation at Mass (which is praying, in case you have been deprived of that most obvious bit of essential and useful information), there are things which the congregation may also “do” at Mass. But before I get into what can and/or should be done, let me clarify and correct some misconceptions about what should or should not be done.
As I mentioned, when I was growing up and when I was being taught in the seminary, “uniformity” was the Utopian ideal. Everyone in the church was supposed to be doing exactly the same thing at the same time and in the same manner as everyone else. Any deviation was considered an offence, and the greater the deviation the greater the offence. Many people, even seminary professors, took this uniformity to extremes in that even whatever the priest was doing at Mass, the congregation had to do as well. That is why you will often see people raising their hands along with the priest at the “Our Father” for instance, or priests asking people to extend their hands in “blessing” along with him when he is extending his to pray over someone. This extreme uniformity is also a culprit when investigating why so many communion rails were taken down (the priest receives Holy Communion standing up and from his own hands, after all). It also explains why the steps to the altar were removed and seats were placed completely surrounding the sanctuary (extreme uniformity means there is to be no distinction between the “people’s place” and the “priest’s place” at the celebration of the Mass). It is also responsible for an atrocity that was so offensive to the true Catholic teaching of the distinction between the ordained priest and the unordained laity--and yet had became so widespread that people were beginning to think it was “Catholic”--that the Church finally had to say, “Enough is enough! Cease and desist!” I am speaking of priests inviting the people to come join him around the altar during the consecration, as if they were somehow helping him to confect the Eucharist. Egads! And, yes, I was taught to, and (woe is me!) actually did this early in my priesthood!
There are truly distinctions, real distinctions, between a validly ordained priest and an unordained lay person. These distinctions will remain for all of eternity, so great are they. There is even a great distinction between an ordained priest and an ordained deacon, which at Mass is is supposed to be most apparent when the deacon kneels during the consecration along with the altar servers and even any ordained priests or bishops who are present “in choir” but not celebrating or concelebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Unfortunately what should be an exception to the rule (a deacon physically unable to kneel due to very bad knees, for instance) has instead become, in many places, a bishop's’ mandate that all deacons must remain standing at the consecration. This, again, is the result of the extreme view of “uniformity,” for if one deacon cannot kneel, then none will be allowed to do so under this way of thinking.
Along these same lines, another “uniformity” issue comes up that is so ingrained as to not even be apparent to the most fervent of Catholics. This uniform thinking says, “Nobody is to be in the church while Mass is going on unless they are participating in that particular Mass, at that time, in the same way as everyone else.” An example will clarify what I mean. What would you think if, during Mass, especially during the consecration, a little old lady wandered into the church, made her way up the side aisle to the statue of, say, Our Lady of Good Health, lit a candle, deposited some money, knelt to say a few prayers, and wandered out again? “Tsk, tsk.” would be a nice way of putting what most people would think. “Doesn’t she know Mass is going on? Doesn’t she know that she is distracting everyone (meaning: me)?” But in reality, that type of non-uniformity, that type of distraction, is no issue for the Church! How can I say such a thing? I point to the TLM rubrics for a priest proceeding out of the sacristy and into the church to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice. He is told what to do if he passes by an altar where Mass is being celebrated, what he is to do if he hears the bells signaling the consecration as he is passing by, and what to do if Exposition is going on at an altar he will pass. Twenty side altars could hold twenty priests celebrating twenty different Masses (different prayers, readings, vestment colors, etc.) starting and ending at twenty different times, and attended by twenty different congregations and Holy Mother Church would not pooh-pooh any of that as an offence against the Lord, against the priest celebrating Mass at any of the other altars, or against any of those congregations. Certainly the little old lady who only wished to honor the Blessed Mother or beg her intercession would not be out of line!
Darn. I have gone way too long here. More to come next week.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Postures at Mass
There is a booklet that every priest uses to help him celebrate the correct Mass on the correct day. It is called an “ordo” and it lays out which “class” each day’s Mass falls into, which Mass may be celebrated each day, which Mass must be celebrated on certain days, which color is worn for each Mass, whether or not there is a Gloria or Credo, which preface is said, and if there are any commemorations. It also includes other helpful bits of information whenever something unusual pops up, to make sure the priest doesn’t overlook some important detail. Whether celebrating the newer Mass or the Traditional Mass, a priest relies on the ordo (different ones, obviously!) to guide him in all things. There is a strange little notation in the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter) Ordo, which I use for the Traditional Latin Mass, for the beginning of Lent. It reads: “In churches where the faithful are accustomed to stand for the Collects and Postcommunion prayers at Mass, they should be instructed to kneel for these prayers on the ferias of Lent and Passiontide (not, however, on Sundays or feast days).” Because of the exemption for Sundays, this doesn’t affect most of you who are reading this, since the majority of people are not able to make it to the feria (weekday) Masses. But it points out something (“...where the faithful are accustomed to...”) which I have explained before (bulletin of 8/23/15): the Traditional Latin Mass has strict rubrics for the priest, slightly less strict rubrics for the servers, and almost no rubrics for the faithful in the congregation. When the congregation sits, stands and kneels is more by custom than by rule and so can vary from place to place!
This seems strange, so very strange, to those who, like me, were brought up in the Novus Ordo Mass. We were told exactly when to sit, stand and kneel, and everyone did it in lockstep. No matter where you traveled in the US (for our bishops asked for more kneeling to be required than in the universal Church rubrics), you knew exactly what to do and when to do it. These are a few of the things you were instructed to do by your parents and/or the rubrics in your missal, or, more likely, the missalette: Dip your fingers in the holy water when you first enter the church; make the sign of the cross on your forehead, breast, left shoulder, then right shoulder; genuflect on your right knee before entering and upon exiting a pew; kneel in silent prayer before Mass began; make the proper responses at the priest’s invocations and at the end of the readings; sign yourself with your right thumb on your forehead, lips and breast before the Gospel; etc.. Yes, the people in the pews did everything the same (or at least knew they were supposed to do everything the same even if they didn’t do it). In the NO Mass it was the priest who seemed to have no rubrics to guide him!
You didn’t have to travel to find priests not doing the same thing (i.e., the same posture, position, gestures, vestments, and vocalizations) as other priests. You could find different priests in the same parish who seemed to play by a different set of rules or you could even find a priest doing different things at each Mass he celebrated. The priest may celebrate the first Mass on a Lenten Sunday with violet vestments but then switch to a chasuble and stole with verticle stripes of brown, red, orange, and yellow for the next Mass (claiming it was an “African” vestment and used because the congregation was multi-cultural). The priest at the neighboring parish might have a multicolored chasuble that same Sunday, but this one made of tiny images of children from different races, for the so-called “children’s Mass” and he might have his stole over the top of his chasuble, where the other priest wore his underneath. Where did they preach from? At the ambo (pulpit), in front of the altar, or walking down the aisles were all common practices. Various priests prayed with their arms outstretched wide, some extended them just a little, some with their palms upward, some with the palms outward. There are, of course, many more examples I could give and that you are already thinking of. But I am out of room.
I will continue along this same line in next week’s bulletin, answering some questions about just when you really should be sitting, standing and kneeling (and speaking/singing!) at the Traditional Latin Mass. (I think the Novus Ordo Mass goers have it down pat now.)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A link between the Zika virus and abortion
Everybody now knows that the world is coming to an end due to the Zika virus. Like so many other “apocalyptic epidemics” we have been hysterically warned about by our ever more facts-be-damned news outlets as they compete with each other by screaming “the sky is falling” over everything except that which truly makes the sky fall, this one also came upon us seemingly out of the blue. Amazingly, no news organization seems to have ever heard of or reported on the Zika virus until three weeks ago. Then it simply appeared out of nowhere and is now the lead story everywhere, all the time. This terrifying virus is going to cause the collapse of civilization unless we pour bajillions of dollars into it RIGHT NOW and quit traveling outside of US borders. The CDC reports that the actual illness caused by the virus is generally so mild that 4 out of 5 people will not even know they have been attacked by this monstrous invader. So why has the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency? Because it may cause birth defects in unborn babies. Yes, the same organizations which refuse to call a baby in the womb a baby whenever abortion is the topic, now have no problem at all saying the baby is actually a baby. The same reporters who shill for the pro-death political party and its minions, who never met a pro-abortion politician or cause they couldn’t support, who portray even late-term abortion butchers in the best light possible, who never cover the March for Life except if showing six protesters as if they outnumber, out-think and out-love the hundreds of thousands of prayerful pro-life marchers, who refuse to even use the term “pro-life” for those who are pro-life or the term “pro-death” for those who are pro-death, etc., now portray a pregnant woman who decides to continue with her flight to the Caribbean as a terrible mother because she is endangering her unborn baby. That “clump of cells” or “glob of tissue” that can be ripped apart limb from limb as an abortion while the mother is praised for doing the most “loving” thing possible, is somehow now, without a hint of recognized irony, portrayed as an endangered baby because the mother might not wear enough mosquito repellant.
Let me be as clear as I possibly can be: Nobody who supports abortion in any way, shape or form, has any logical claim to be worried about birth defects being caused by the Zika virus or any other virus, or by the use of drugs by the pregnant mother, or by any other in-utero means! Either the “fetus” IS a human baby and therefore should not be tortured and murdered through abortion or it isn’t. If the “fetus” is NOT a human baby, then there is no way possible for “it” to have anything to do with a baby born with birth defects. That baby born with birth defects, according to the logic of abortion supporters, just magically appeared outside the mother’s womb fully formed (or deformed). It was absolutely not, could not possibly be, no way, no how, inside the mother when the Zika carrying mosquito infected her, since the only thing inside her was simply a “fetus” and not a “baby.” For our president, the most pro-abortion president in our history, to now, in a self-aggrandizingly disgusting way, claim to “care” about the very same “whatever-it-is” that is “anything-but-a-baby-human” to the extent that he wants to spend millions or even billions of dollars to contain the Zika virus--while at the same time spending millions or even billions of dollars to kill the same baby humans whom he claims to be saving by seeking to control the Zika virus--shows just how demonically demented abortion pushers truly are. Only demons can cloud a mind and a soul to the extent that those who accept abortion have had theirs clouded.
And then there is the outcry about the Doritos Superbowl commercial. A real baby, named Freddie, had his sonogram computerized to show him moving back and forth following a Doritos chip being held by his dad, and then followed the chip out of the womb (he was born rather quickly!) when his mother, exasperated with the father’s playing with the baby as he watched the sonogram, tossed the chip across the room. NARAL and its ilk got bent out of shape because Doritos “humanized” the baby, making “it” look like a real baby human instead of a “fetus”. The facts that it was a real sonogram of a real baby human (who has since been really born) and that real baby humans really look like real baby humans in real sonograms of real baby humans, had no effect on the demonically induced cloud of moral darkness of those in the business of murdering baby humans. God help us!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Lent is here!
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent on both the newer and older liturgical calendars. To help everyone prepare for Judgement Day, Holy Mother Church always invites the faithful to receive a mark of penance, ashes, on their foreheads at the very beginning of this penitential season. If you remember such bible stories as the prophet Jonas (Jonah) walking through the great city of Ninive (Nineveh) announcing that, because of their wickedness, God was going to destroy the city, you will remember the reason for--and effect of--penances the people did in the past. In case you forgot everything except the whale in that book, here is the relevant part:
“And Jonas began to enter into the city one day's journey: and he cried, and said: Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed. And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least. And the word came to the king of Ninive; and he rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published in Ninive from the mouth of the king and of his princes, saying: Let neither men nor beasts, oxen nor sheep, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water. And let men and beasts be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn, and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish? And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which he had said that he would do to them, and he did it not.”
There are several important lessons to be learned here. First of all, notice that it is the men of the city who first react. They know that they are wicked and, when someone finally points it out to them and specifically reveals the consequences of their wickedness, they respond with belief in God. Today too many who are supposed to be prophetic by vocation (ahem, clergy) are like Jonas before the whale incident, running away from their duties. They refuse to call evil “evil” or to be “judgemental” by pointing out the wickedness of men. They are afraid to “turn people off” by telling them truthfully and bluntly what the consequences of their wickedness will be, thus depriving them of the chance to believe and repent and make amends.
Next, once they believe in God, they do not wait for any “higher authority” to tell them what to do, to give instruction, to give example. They accept that the prophet is a greater authority than any secular authority or false pagan priest to whom they had been listening. They knew what was the proper response. “[T]hey proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least...” They, the men, became the spiritual leaders of their family and society which they were always supposed to be. They didn’t worry about consulting with their wives and kids, they didn’t call a townhall meeting and try to gain consensus; they did what needed to be done, they did it immediately, and they told everyone else to do so as well.
Only then does the King hear and respond in a way proper for a man of secular authority. He rids himself of all signs of royalty, knowing he has no authority compared to God. He sets the example of not only putting on sackcloth but also sitting in ashes (he would have covered himself in them until they were piled up on the floor), and he commanded all with authority under him (princes) to proclaim a unified message, harsher than even the men had dared proclaim, of severe fasting and penance to be accepted by one and all and even their cattle! He first believed in God through the prophet’s message, responded to God with outward actions showing his otherwise invisible repentance and commanded others to do so as well (again, no consensus building, no wishy-washing wringing of hands wondering if he was being too “rigid”, no ecumenical groveling to see if any other religion or god would be a means to an easier, nicer, kinder, salvation without a need to throw off sin). Notice also that he had received absolutely no indication that fasting and penance and prayer would have any effect and he did not bargain with God about it, but rather held out a simple hope that by doing the right thing now, God would forgive the past wickedness. And He did.
To help you follow the path of the Ninivites, I am adding an additional Mass on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 pm plus one more (6:30 am) Mass Mondays through Fridays in Lent, beginning the day after Ash Wednesday. Turn from evil ways, fast and pray and do penance and hope. We may yet be saved.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka