From the Pastor: Almsgiving or Almsdeeds?
During my preparations leading up to Lent, I noticed something that had never caught my attention before. In almost all of the newer writings about Lenten penances, the three “biggies” are always listed as fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Those are the three with which I grew up. During Lent we pray more, we limit our consumption of various foods and drinks, and we give to the needy the money saved from our fasts. That is the norm as I have known it since childhood. But this year I started noticing that in the older books the three biggies were quite often listed somewhat differently, as fasting, prayer, and almsdeeds. Hmmm... What gives?
I am not sure when the change occurred in our English language usage of almsgiving completely replacing almsdeeds but changing the one word has certainly affected my own Lents for my entire lifetime, for “giving” was the exclusive “deed” I practiced as I prayed and fasted. I remember filling up those little “rice bowls” for Catholic Relief Services with spare change during Lent, from childhood through my college years. I remember having “soup days” at church where we would have a bowl of thin, tasteless soup and piece of bread in the church hall and pay the same as if it were a full meal, with the profit going to some homeless shelter and us all feeling good about being united in hunger with the less fortunate. I remember as a young adult trying to determine just how much money I would have spent during Lent, had I not been fasting and abstaining, on my regular groceries and restaurant meals and alcohol and donating it to a mission or some charitable organization, and realizing that it was not a whole lot of money that I saved, because Lent only has two days of fasting, I rarely ate out, and the food I ate at home was pretty inexpensive stuff all year long. I also remember passing on such Lenten almsgiving advice to my parishioners after I became a priest. And only now do I ever remember noticing that “traditional” writers don’t limit the idea of Lenten alms to giving money to the poor. (Remember, to me and my generation, “traditional” means anything from the hippie generation! If it was pre- 1970’s it wasn’t considered “traditional”, it was considered “old-fashioned”. I really grew up believing that every Catholic thing my family/parish did when I was a child was either the way the Church had always done it or that it was an improvement on how the Church used to do it.)
But this year, for whatever reason, I kept noticing trusted authors of old (like Abbot Gueranger [+1875], Venerable Louis of Granada [+1588], St. Robert Bellarmine [+1621], and Fr. Leonard Goffine [+1719]) writing about almsdeeds. The deeds part of it, not the giving part of almsgiving, was getting my attention. Usually when I have a question about the Catholic Faith which needs some clarification I turn to the Catechism. But in the new Catechism there is no mention of almsdeeds and it instead uses the familiar threefold penances of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. So I turned to my backup source, St. Thomas Aquinas. Jackpot! In the Summa Theologica, question 32 of the second part of the second part, deals with almsdeeds. In the English translation the two words are used interchangeably in his answer, but sometimes almsdeeds is much more apropos than almsgiving. For instance, in article two he writes about the “seven corporal almsdeeds, namely, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbor the harborless, to visit the sick, to ransom the captive, to bury the dead” and the “seven spiritual alms (note: here he uses just plain alms), namely, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to reprove the sinner, to forgive injuries, to bear with those who trouble and annoy us, and to pray for all”! Yes, what we now commonly call the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, he calls the works of almsdeeds. Of course, there is a fuller explanation in there as to why and how this is so, but I will leave it at that. It just makes the last of the threefold Lenten penances so much more meaningful to see it as more than simply giving money to the poor, as efficacious as that is. Going back into the CCC, paragraph 2447, in dealing with the works of mercy just mentioned, states that “Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”
So, in retrospect, what I was doing for all these years was not nothing; it was quite useful for both me and the recipients as well as pleasing to God. But it was also done with nary a thought as to how it was only part of, and, dare I say, the easiest part of, fulfilling the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Now I know I must do more. And now you know it as well...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: We Are Catholic! And Lent Stuff
First of all, a big “Thank You” goes out to Bishop Gregory Parkes for visiting our parish and bestowing the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Old Rite upon young members of Epiphany, Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission, and St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. In this simple act he, in effect, told the parishioners of all three parishes that, as tiny as they may be, they are not forgotten or ignored by their Bishop. Yowza! By Confirming in the Old Rite, he also specifically let the TLM parishioners know that he recognizes them (and the Extraordinary Form Rites) to be as Catholic as Ordinary Form Catholics and Rites. My brother priests who sent their children for Confirmation, as well as those who were Confirmed, all said the same through their actions. Double Yowza! While those unfamiliar with the treatment often bestowed upon small parishes by Bishops and upon TLM communities by everybody might wonder why this is a big deal (after all, isn’t a Catholic a Catholic?) trust me, this is truly huge.
Now to get into Lent. We started out Lent in a fine manner at the rectory. On Ash Wednesday the priests were unable to shower or use the water for any purpose due to a sewage backup in the laundry room. The office staff, too, had to trek over to the school to use the facilities once they got to work. Although somebody quipped that we could give up the three big morning S’s for Lent (if you don’t know, don’t ask!) we don’t have to because Dyser Plumbing came through for us again and by evening we had the ability to run the water without flooding the first floor. So now we have to find another penance. Darn.
Last year I suggested that during Lent all of you read up on Hell. This year might I suggest reading something on Purgatory? Again, St. Thomas Aquinas is the master of theology to whom I would suggest you turn, especially in the Summa Theologica. It is available online for free. In it you will find answers to such questions as, Whether the pains of Purgatory surpass all the temporal pains of this life? and Whether this punishment is voluntary?. His treatment of Purgatory is rather short, in fact, it is the shortest of those I am suggesting here. Dante’s classic spiritual poem Purgatorio, the second book in his Divine Comedy trilogy, is another great read, especially if you read Inferno last year. You will journey with him through seven levels of Purgatory, one level each for cleansing (through suffering and spiritual growth) of each of the seven deadly sins. Another good source of information comes from Rev. Fr. F. X. Schouppe (remember that last year I suggested his book, Hell: The Dogma of Hell). This year I suggest following up with Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints. It is a fascinating (and sometimes scary) read. Find it at Tan Books. They have a good selection of other books on Purgatory, too, and everything they publish can be trusted to be fully Catholic. Each of these suggested sources for material dealing with Purgatory will give you different insights into this very real place. Mix and match by taking one author’s writings on Hell and a different author’s writings on Purgatory to get a different perspective, or stick with the same one for both topics if the first one really touched you deeply. Theology, inspired religious poetry and personal stories each appeal to the truth in different manners. Find your favorite!
Finally for today, I leave you with a word of warning to those of you who will be attending our 6:00 pm Potluck this Wednesday evening. I was recently going through some of my cookbooks and came across one that I haven’t actually used, but, because it is Lent, it seems like the proper time finally get around to it. It is the Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, subtitled, 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect Lenten meal? It is truly a fascinating book, with something entertaining and informative on every page. For instance, in many a cookbook you will find an image of a cow with the various cuts of beef labeled for you, indicating the proper means of cooking each one. In this book under the title Choice Cuts, there is an image of a grasshopper with his parts listed. Here is the beginning of the explanation: “There’s not a lot of what we think of as ‘meat’ on most food arthropods. The large strands of longitudinal muscle (the dark meat, so to speak) that operate an arthropod’s legs, wings and tail are sumptuous fare, whether they happen to belong to a scorpion or a snow crab...” Everybody loves snow crab, so let’s try other arthropods! Some interesting bug recipes: Three Bee Salad, Cockroach a la King, Alpha-Bait Soup, and Party Pupae. And the best thing about cooking bugs? You can eat them on Fridays without breaking the rules of abstinence!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Bishop Came to Epiphany!
It happened! Our new Bishop, Gregory Parkes, came to Epiphany parish last week! This was no ordinary visit from our Ordinary, though. This was the beginning of a new era. Bishop Parkes bestowed the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Latin Rite. It was a first for him and the first time that the venerable Old Rite of Confirmation was bestowed by the Bishop in this Diocese in 50 years or so. Three Catholic communities joined together for this ceremony, which was a beautiful act of unity, a show of true Catholicity, as the priests of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission and Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission sent their confirmandi to join with those from Epiphany. The three “native” languages spoken by the families who gathered, English, Creole and Vietnamese, were blended together as if by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, by the official language of the Church, that is, Latin. Oh, for the day when we will all be united at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by this sacred language once again!
Seven priests, including the Bishop’s MC, were part of the ceremony, plus the Bishop. I don’t think we have had so many clergy in the church since I have been here. Though they will never read this, I certainly want to thank them all for being here. The altar boys and MC from our parish did an outstanding job. Thank you, gentlemen. We had no rehearsal for this, as there was no time for the Bishop or his MC to come scope out the place beforehand even to get the lay of the land (or, better, to size up the sanctuary) to see how everyone would fit, where the Bishop’s faldstool (his chair) would be placed, or anything like that. Only one priest present had even witnessed a Traditional Rite Confirmation. Trying to visualize everything only by reading the rubrics is not nearly the same as personally experiencing the ceremony. Of course, we knew that nobody in the congregation knew what we were supposed to be doing, either, so as long as we projected confidence nobody would be the wiser no matter what happened. The schola was able to... well, you all know our schola. You know that they filled the church with heavenly--even angelic--voices. Thank you all for pulling it off with such seeming ease. Then, after the ceremony was done, the Epiphany Council of Catholic Women, who had swarmed the social hall in the afternoon setting up for a Confirmation party, had a surprise for each of the just-confirmed youngsters from each parish. Not only did they supply cake and drinks, balloons and decorations, but they also had a gift bag for each newly anointed Saint-in-the-making. Thank you, wonderful ladies, for all the work and resources you put into this.With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You Follow-Up; plus Something Important!
Two weeks ago I put a “Thank You” in the bulletin for all of last year’s APA donors. As I mentioned, it was primarily for the true purpose of thanking everyone who donated to the Annual Pastoral Appeal but secondarily so that all donors who didn’t see their names in the list could see that their donation went to some other parish instead of Epiphany. I know this will shock you but there are occasions when information, whether it is financial or sacramental, is not properly recorded. We have discovered through this list that several donations did indeed fall into that “not properly recorded” category. So far, everyone whose APA donations were “missing” (and there were several) found that their donation had been incorrectly credited to the parish where they are registered even though they attend Epiphany and requested that it be credited to Epiphany. So this is a second reminder, but this time it is going out specifically to those of you who have not yet changed your parish registration, to check to make sure your donation was recorded. It is not that I don’t like the other parishes and don’t want them to get your money but I certainly want your donation to go where it is meant to go... especially if it was meant to go here! And, perhaps it is time to make the change to Epiphany “official” by calling or stopping by the office for a change of registration. Parish registration is not absolutely necessary, nor is it addressed anywhere in canon law, but it helps out every once in a while in this day of computerized file keeping and parish hopping.
I have now received word that Bishop Parkes will indeed be here for Confirmations on Wednesday, February 7 at 7:00 pm. This is a first for us, for in prior years the Bishop has been unable to be here in person and has instead given me delegation to Confirm. This time the “proper” or “ordinary” minister of Confirmation will be here in person. What a great blessing. One of you recently reminded me that In 2016 I wrote about being delegated as follows:
While studying the old books to make sure I both licitly and validly bestowed the sacrament, I came across some wonderful information which I would like to share with you. The following quotes are found in the 1950 Roman Ritual. “First, in regard to the minister of the sacrament of confirmation, the Code of Canon Law (canon 782), restating the dogmatic definition of the Council of Trent, says that the ordinary minister is a bishop only, but the extraordinary minister is a priest to whom this power has been granted either by common law or by a special indult of the Holy See.” So delegating priests to confer confirmation, though not the norm, is obviously not a novelty, either, though now the local bishop can make the delegation. A bit later it continues, “This goes back to the practice already followed by this Sacred Congregation in the indults granted to ordinary priests the power to confer confirmation in certain unusual instances...these priests would either already be honored with the distinction of Protonotary Apostolic, or that they be elevated to such, so as to carry out their function with greater dignity.” For those of you who missed it, that means that I should have, according to the old Rite, been given the title, “Monsignor” when I was granted delegation. I got ripped off! It even says that I, as “the substitute for the ordinary minister of confirmation be constituted, so far as possible, in some ecclesiastical dignity and that he (I) belong to the diocese, so that for example, he (I) could enjoy the use of the pontifical vestments and appurtenances, as also the other honors and privileges and distinctions which customarily belong to Protonotary Apostolics (Monsignors).” What exactly those “pontifical vestments and appurtenances” are, I have no idea. But I should have been able to wear them! Another rip off!
The person who reminded me of this writing (and whose memory is better than mine, for I often forget what I wrote even before the bulletin is published!) put forth this interesting question: Is there any chance that Bishop Parkes is planning on surprising all of us by announcing at the Confirmations that he is going to “right a wrong” after the Rite and make me a Monsignor? Hmmm...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka