From the Pastor: Ash Wednesday And Father Vincent Coming!
As you all must certainly know by now, this Wednesday is special for two important reasons. Primarily, because it is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We will have three Traditional Latin Masses that day, at 6:30 am, 8:00 am, and 7:00 pm, and one Novus Ordo Mass in the rectory chapel at 8:00 am. Fr. Tuoc will celebrate the chapel Mass. Fr. Mangiafico and I will assist each other at the two morning TLMs in the church, and then I will take off for a nice Lenten vacation. (I will be in a private hermitage with a bed, a bath, and a chapel. No emails, no phone calls, no meetings!) Fr. Mangiafico will then assist Fr. Vincent, who will arrive in time to celebrate the 7:00 pm TLM and then take over for me in my absence (the second reason Wednesday is important!). For those new to the TLM, it is important to know that the ashes are blessed and distributed to the people before Mass begins. We will start at the announced Mass times, so the blessing and distribution begins at 6:30 am, 8:00 am, and 7:00 pm. After the ashes are blessed, the people kneel at the altar rail and the priest marks the sign of the Cross on their foreheads saying, “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris” (Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return). After the people return to their seats, the priests wash their hands and the Mass begins. So if you arrive late, you will miss out on the ashes unless you are able to stay for the next Mass time. Let me reiterate: Ashes are blessed and imposed before Mass, not during, not after, not later in the day when you remember that it is Ash Wednesday and race to church. I am leaving town right after Mass. Fr. Mangiafico does not live in Tampa and will be returning home for the day. Fr. Vincent will not be at the parish until the evening Mass. So, if you are late for Mass you will not get ashes imposed by any of us for we will not be here! Actually, I am grouchy and ornery enough that I would probably turn you away even if I were at the parish, and, though the other two priests are far nicer, I will stress again that they will not be here. Do you get the sense that I am warning you to be on time?
Ash Wednesday is a day of both fast (1962 rules: age 21-59 inclusive) and abstinence (1962 rules: age 7 and up). Fasting means not eating. Abstinence means not eating meat. So we fast from all food for most of the day and are only allowed to eat one full but regular-sized meal, usually in the evening. No snacking is allowed but one or two small “collations” or snacks (not snacks like we normally think of them nowadays, such as candy, chips, and other junk food) can be taken if necessary but the total amount of food taken can not equal or exceed the one full, regular-sized meal you will eat later. And, of course, due to abstinence, neither of the collations nor the meal can contain meat.
Now back to Fr. Vincent. Somebody around here is a tattle-tale! They told him about the plumbing problems in the rectory and he called wondering if he was going to have to give up not just hot showers (a-la-Exodus 90) but all showers! Fortunately for him (and for you, too, I suppose!), the plumbing problems in the rectory have been fixed. But, if you remember what I told you last Sunday, we should ask for and be thankful for all the penances that God sends our way, as they all may contribute to our sanctity. So I was very thankful when, nearly as soon as the rectory plumbing was fixed, the sewage pipes near the lift station between the rectory and office began spewing raw sewage all over the ground. Taking it in stride, I invited many of you to come and try out our new “swimming pool,” but there were no takers. The city construction crews across the street have previously knocked out both our water and our internet, and this time they did something to the sewer system. According to their own representative when our plumber reported our problem and asked for any reported damage, they answered that there have been numerous calls in our area. The city sewage pipes were backing up onto our lawn, but, after supposedly checking it out, they said it was our problem, not the city’s. It took until Wednesday afternoon, but it is now fixed. Of course, the smell is still there and won’t go away until we have a really, really, good rain. But for now, even though it is all pretty dry, I wouldn’t park near the lift station if I were you. You will certainly be tracking that nasty stuff into your vehicle even in this dry weather, but if we have just a light rain you will be tracking home “fresh” stuff, too, as it rehydrates. Then again, it is almost Lent, and if you were looking for extra penance...
Oh, I forgot that I was writing about Fr. Vincent. He is taking my place while I am gone. He is a beloved, good, holy priest, and I don’t know how much free time he will have for purely social activities, but don’t hesitate to ask for his assistance in caring for any of your spiritual needs while he is here. Bringing food for him (except for on Ash Wednesday!) might be nice, too!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Two Epiphany Lenten Traditions
Those who have been parishioners for a few years will already know most of this information but there are many of you who are new and might be wondering what is coming up for Lent around here. Let me give you some background on two of our biggest and best Lenten traditions! (Actually, somebody from the Epiphany Council of Catholic Women — ECCW — suggested that I do this and also supplied the material, so thanks go to her for all of this!)
In 2019, the ECCW Board was discussing the upcoming Lenten season and how parishes hand out "rice bowls" to collect for CRS. The Board knew they didn't want to do that. There was a Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DCCW) program involving pennies and prayers and the concept of collecting change for vocations was born. The original name was "Prayers and Pennies for Semmies." The money would go towards paying for their tuition (if needed) and other expenses such as books, clothing, toiletries, auto repairs, and other general necessities that are needed. After all, the men are not allowed to work a “real” job during their seminary school years. During Lent of 2019, we had two young men from our parish who were in formation to become priests and we raised enough funds that they each received $1,000. We decided to have a separate campaign during Advent 2019 for the two young ladies who were discerning religious life. We called that campaign "Prayers and Cents for Sisters." We raised enough to provide them with $600.00 each. The following Lent, 2020, we combined the campaigns into one program and the new name of "Prayers and Pennies for Sisters and Semmies" was launched. Since 2019, we have grown vocations to a total of (5) active seminarians (and a few more discerning) and (4) active sisters in formation. In 2020, we raised $3,250.00 to assist our vocations. We followed that up in 2021 by raising $8,730.00. We try to give to each as his/her needs require and you have been very generous in this! Thank you! The ECCW will be handing out plastic cans once again beginning on Ash Wednesday, which is less than two weeks away. Please take one home. Put it in a central location so every time you see it you remember to pray for our sisters and semmies along with praying for an increase in vocations, especially from our own families. Your prayers are powerful and we are seeing the fruits of those prayers right here in our parish. And if you see fit, please be generous in your donation of change to the can. Putting in your change daily keeps you constantly reminded to pray for these young men and women, but if you prefer to fill the can with 100 dollar bills or million dollar checks, nobody will frown upon you. The ECCW will collect them after Lent, although we ask you to continue your now-habitual prayer for our Sisters and Semmies all year ‘round. Thank you once again!
But wait! That’s not all! Each Friday in Lent (excluding Good Friday) we also have Soup and Stations! “What’s that?” you might ask. It is what it seems to be, though in reverse order, as we pray the Stations before we eat the soup. Join us on Friday evenings at 5:30 pm during Lent for the Stations of the Cross. “Why 5:30?” you might ask. So that those traveling from home can beat at least the very worst of the Friday rush hour traffic. We follow that prayerful reflection with a meager (ha!) meal of soup. Bring a crock pot or instant pot filled with your favorite meatless soup to share and plug it in in the social hall, then join us in the church. After we make the Way of the Cross together, we return to the social hall, which has miraculously been filled with dozens of soup varieties, to break our Friday fast together, we will share supper as a community. “Why the ‘(ha!)’ in the middle of ‘meager meal’?” you might ask. Because the soups people cook up, even though they are meatless, are incredibly delicious (almost too good to be considered a penitential meal!) and you get to try a bit of everyone else’s culinary masterpieces. Don’t let that last line frighten you just because you don’t consider yourself to be a master chef, though. Even if all you can do is throw a bag of frozen mixed vegetables into a pot with boxed seafood broth and heat it up, somehow it will turn out tasting like you are a Food Network star. And there are always a few people who bring in macaroni and cheese, bread, crackers (please be sure to bring baskets or trays for these), and other such things for persnickety children (and adults) who would rather be flogged than to try a multitude of soups. No desserts, though! This devotion has really taken off at Epiphany over the last couple of years and people even bring friends and family who don’t go to this parish or maybe to any church at all. Feel free to evangelize through Soup and Stations! The Epiphany community provides bowls, spoons, cups, and water. You provide the soup and a ladle :). For those that work, feel free to join us whenever you can get here, even if you miss most of it. There is always plenty of food, so even if you cannot bring a soup, come along anyway for the devotion and the supper! Oh, and labeling the ingredients helps those who have food allergies, too. Just write it out on a paper or index card in large print, if you remember.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Not Writing About What I Really Want To Write About
I really want to write about covvid. Really! There are so many great stories out there right now showing that the covvid solutions were worse than the covvid problem itself. There are so many stories about tyrants refusing to acknowledge those truths because that would mean giving up a bit of their newfound power. There are finally doctors and scientists and medical journals willing to risk telling the truth. Yes, even though farcebook “fact checked” the prestigious British Journal of Medicine without being able to point to a single misleading or erroneous statement in a pitiful attempt to hold onto their dear covvid narrative, I will not bring it up here today. Nor will I bring up the Junior Fidel Castro of Canada who received three failed vaxxxine shots and still got covvid so he couldn’t talk to the truckers for more than 10 days (as this is being written), that tiny group of radical fringe right weirdos whom he despises because they wear big boy pants and want their human rights back. No, I won’t even go into the bishops who continue to support the covvid fear by requiring failed vaxxxines for admittance to the sacraments. I won’t even mention those of apostolic succession who first denied both the “new” and “old” rite sacraments to everyone, due to covvid, but who now have focused their wrath more narrowly, and who are showing that they despise more than all the rest the one group of people who statistically embrace the Catholic Church teachings more than any other single identifiable group and so have taken steps to greatly limit or even eliminate their ability to receive sacramental grace in the rites which most of our great Saints received and administered them (whew! what a long sentence!). Goodness gracious, I won’t even mention humanized mice, the aborted baby body parts they are injected with and have genes transferred from, the absolutely skyrocketing frequency they are being used, and the dreadful number of “medicines” which use such baby human/mouse parts so that we will all, unknowingly, use murdered babies to save ourselves from minor and major illness at the expense of lives and souls, including monoclonal antibodies to treat covvid.
I would really like to write about how covvid issues were highlighted to try to hide the communist civil rights abuses before the current winter Communist Olympics began. Or how mask-mandate communists closer to home hold their breath while taking maskless photos with basketball stars while simultaneously forcing everyone else in the stadium to wear face diapers; or while vacationing in the cesspool of covvid deaths which is Florida, without a mask; or while visiting an elementary school filled with mandatorily-masked children and teachers while not wearing the useless mask and crying “racism” when called on the hypocrisy; or attending maskless meetings after vowing to keep mask mandates in place to “follow the science” even after the state supreme courts called such mandates “unconstitutional” and real science has proven them both useless and harmful; or...but that list could continue forever, as tyrants show that they are above the most insidious and idiotic and damaging laws they impose on others. But I will refrain from writing (today) on these trivial covvid issues (or even spelling them properly so as to avoid “fact checkers”) that affect everyone in this parish, country and world, because I would then be put on the Domestic Terrorist List for spreading false and/or misleading information by stating the moral and scientific truth that is as odds with the officially mandated “truth” of The Science.”™
Yes, I wanted so desperately to write about covvid this week, for the world is showing its colors (red) and not even trying to hide the cloven hooves and spiked tail of its leader anymore. But instead, I have to write about our own parish problems and let the world sort out those outside of our property. So here goes. Earlier this week, the day it rained all day long, our rectory chapel started leaking. Just five short years ago, the roof sprung a leak and we had to have a new roof put on and redo the destroyed ceiling. And now it has started all over again. But now the roofing company has returned to see what went wrong and discovered that the rainy day was just a coincidence. The plumbing in Fr. Tuoc’s bathroom is the culprit. When the shower is turned on, it rains in the chapel, even though the chapel sticks out from the building so his room is not directly above it. The entire ceiling is once again damaged, maybe needing to be replaced once again. So he has to use the last remaining empty bathroom at the other end of the hall until we can get the plumbing fixed, which will involve ripping out walls and, perhaps, floors and/or ceilings. We know this because the pipes have needed to be replaced in other parts of the house, requiring such extensive, intrusive repairs. But the plumbers have not yet come, and only God knows how many days it will take to complete the job once started. And now it looks like the guest room across from Fr. Tuoc’s, now occupied, may drain into the same broken pipes, so both priests have to use the last guest bath. And we have another visiting priest coming to spend next week with us, and he will be staying in that last guest room! What a way to show hospitality! Yes, I realize that this is not nearly as large a problem as covvid or the rest of the associated evils, but this is the latest update on the parish. Please pray for a speedy fix!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Death; and Service at the Altar
On Monday, February 7, at 11:00 there will be a Novus Ordo Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help for Hector Buria, who may have been Epiphany’s oldest parishioner at 96 when he passed away. OLPH is the parish where he grew up and he asked to have his funeral there, as long as it wouldn’t be seen as a slight against Epiphany in any way! Of course, we are not in competition with our fellow parishes, so all is good in that regard. Any of you who attend the Saturday evening Vigil Mass probably knew him, maybe even by name, because he was one of the dedicated parishioners who was always there. His niece usually accompanied him, for his eyesight had gotten too bad for him to drive, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him from coming to Mass! He was also on the board of Epiphany Arms, the senior housing complex next door to us, and always took interest in making sure the residents there were given everything they needed. We don’t often have a weekend between the time of death and the funeral Mass to announce it, but this time we even had time for it to be mentioned in this article, so hopefully everyone who knows him will be able to make the trip to OLPH. The address is 1711 E 11th Avenue in Ybor City, Tampa. The past few months Hector has been homebound and I have been bringing him Holy Communion. After confession and Communion (and anointing several times when he thought he was not long for this world) he would tell me stories of the days gone by, always apologizing for keeping me so long but always glad I encouraged him to continue. One week he had put together an album of old newspaper stories from when, in his younger days, he was in the news. As we went through it he explained who was with him, why they were meeting or where they were going that merited him getting into the local paper, and reminisced about oh so many details about his past, things that obviously brought back good and happy memories. It was like sitting with my grandfather and hearing stories about his life. I think the article and photo he was most proud of, out of all of them (and there were a lot!) was the one when he was about five years old. I don’t remember why he was in the paper but it had his photo and a story that showed how much the times have changed for the worse, for it showed the now-lost innocence of sharing a young boy's good news, rather than crimes committed by or against him. Oh, for the good ol’ days! But even they pale in comparison to the eternity to come for those who die in God’s grace. And Hector certainly took advantage of the time he had to prepare for his Judgment Day. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
On a much different topic, last Wednesday was Candlemas Day, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We began with the special blessing of candles outside by the rectory chapel. I remember well the days when the congregation and the number of candles they brought were so small that we actually fit in the chapel for the blessing instead of being outside! This year we filled 4 tables with candles and had to put the extras on the ground. I thought, going into this liturgy, that we would have someone to chant the chants at the blessing of the candles but that we would have a low Mass once we ended the procession in the church. But we had someone volunteer to chant the Mass, too, so, at the last moment, we decided to have a high Mass. The only problem was that the altar boys we had would be taking on positions that they had never held before, but they were up to the challenge. With only one adult and three boys (and no time to practice or even divvy up the positions), we started out on the proverbial angel’s wing and a prayer. Fr. Mangiafico was also present and he became my biretta bearer! Young Landon jumped right into the position of MC, the hardest job (including the priest’s!) in the Mass. Even younger Chase and Owen had to hold the candles at the Gospel, a job that I thought they would be too small to do, for those candles get pretty heavy pretty quickly. But they toughed it out. The boys managed to complete the task of caring for the thurible even though the chains are probably longer than they are tall, assisted me at the incensations, and got the water and wine to me at the right times. Nothing got dropped, nobody got injured, and Jesus showed up for the Mass once again! I must say that I am very proud of the boys for doing such a fantastic job. Of course, they wouldn’t have done so well except that they have good training and a willing and eager attitude toward serving Our Lord. Thank you Mr. Nathe, for always encouraging the boys to know every job, even those they don’t think they will be doing for a few more years. Their mother deserves credit, too, for so often bringing them to daily Mass along with their sisters, something that is no small feat of itself. And, of course, thank you, dear parishioners, who pray for our servers on a regular basis. These boys will one day make great priests!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka