From the Pastor: How To “Do Lent”
It seems that there are quite a few newcomers to Epiphany who are trying to figure out if there are any differences in how a “Traditional” Catholic parish celebrates Lent (or other parts of the Faith) and what they are used to. Now that we are officially in Lent, let me tell you a few things that we do here to help you truly live a penitential life during this season. But before I begin, let me note that there is no difference in Lent itself between how Novus Ordo Mass and Traditional Latin Mass parishioners are called to holiness. Although the two Masses have different liturgical calendars and many feasts are celebrated on different days, both calendars begin and end Lent and the Triduum on the same days. In other words, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter are all on both calendars on the same day even though the feast days in between may vary. Catholics following either calendar are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent. (Outside of Lent, all Fridays of the year are supposed to be meatless unless a Solemnity falls on that day, on which day abstinence becomes optional. Also, current regulations allow, outside of Lent and Good Friday, the Friday consumption of meat, provided that another suitable penance is substituted for abstinence that day. Many people, including priests, are oblivious to that teaching.) In the old days, Catholics were expected to fast every day of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for Sundays, being the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection, are days of feasting rather than of fasting, just as Fridays, the day He died, are days of penance, which is normally abstinence. But those rules, even for those attending TLMs, are no longer binding. They can be followed voluntarily, just as the Eucharistic fast of three hours or from midnight may be followed, but they are no longer mandatory.
Such is also the case of what to “give up” for Lent. Whereas older rules may have required giving up all meat products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.) the new rules are silent in that regard. So now we are all in the unfortunate position of individually figuring out what food products to abstain from eating and/or whether to fast outside of Friday abstinence and the two mandated days of fasting. So now you may find people, even living in the same house, who vary in their penitential practices. Some only eat one meal a day. Some give up all snacks. Some give up some item(s) of food but only for six days and eat it/them on Sundays. I have never found any documentation showing this to be a tradition anywhere at any time, but it currently seems to be the law of the land. Others, following traditional ways, give up the food item for the entirety of Lent and keep Sundays as days of feasting on other foods, not on the food or drink they willingly abstained from the rest of the week. Since not everyone gives up sweets for Lent, it is not, I hope you will agree, scandalous to continue to offer donuts after Sunday Masses any more than it is scandalous to offer coffee and tea and milk even though some good number of parishioners may have given up those items. If there was a clear rule stating something like, “Thou shalt not eat donuts during Lent” it would make things a lot easier, though, for the most part. Of course, even then somebody would certainly ask, “Is an apple fritter considered a donut? It doesn’t have a hole. And how about donut holes? They are the same ingredients but...!” (It almost goes without saying that giving up non-edible things, like the internet, TV, or games is also meritorious.)
Where things are clear, we stick to it. For instance, we ask people to bring in meatless soups, bread, or pasta to share after the Friday 5:30 pm Stations of the Cross. The social hall is packed with Instant Pots and Crock Pots filled with anything but meat. The ingredients can include vegetables, potatoes, beans, pasta, fish, seafood of all sorts, reptiles, amphibians, muskrats, capybara, puffins, whales, and other delicious ingredients, but nothing that is considered “meat” although milk, eggs, cheese and other meat products are acceptable. If you are not sure about some of those above-mentioned ingredients, I will probably include more information about them in future bulletins so be patient. Or you can ask any of the old-timers and they can tell you all about it. Daily private Stations are also encouraged during Lent (and can be said all year) in addition to your daily rosary.
We also encourage daily Mass during Lent, even if it is difficult to schedule into your day. In fact, that is how we started the 6:30 am Mass, as people who must get to work at 8:00 asked for it so that they could attend and still get to work on time. It became popular enough that we continued it long after Lent ended and now it is just a normal part of many people’s year-round routine. And, before you even begin to think, “But I live too far away...” please know that some people travel from as far as Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Dade City, Ruskin and Riverview to be here for at least some daily Masses! My short walk from the rectory is nothing in comparison to the offering made by those parishioners!
Finally, if you need help discerning where to give alms, consider supporting those from our parish who are studying for the priesthood or are in formation for the Religious Life!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The FBI And Other Scammers!
I would imagine that by now all of you know that the FBI seems to have it in for conservatives. A headline will often shout something like, “Biden’s FBI...” and then fill in the blank about which conservative group is being targeted this time. But I doubt very seriously that it is “Biden’s FBI” any more than it is any previous President’s FBI. From all accounts (even from some of those within the mainstream media) the FBI has usurped powers that go far beyond what any organization can morally or should legally hold. Though they are hunting conservatives at this moment, they could easily turn on the liberals in a flash. Power of the kind they wield does not necessarily bow down to even the President, whatever political bent he may be. Currently, among other targeted conservative groups (from which they will then “justifiably” target individuals) they see pro-lifers and parents speaking up against wokeism and Marxism at Parent/Teachers or School Board meetings as domestic terrorists. The people on their targeted lists then fall under the category of those who can be publicly slandered, spied upon, and even arrested without legitimate cause. Any group with both an enemies list and the power to “erase” people from that list is a danger to society. And now an internal instruction from the Virginia FBI has been leaked showing that they are targeting Catholics. Not just any old Catholic, mind you, but only those who are faithful to true Church teachings, and one specific way of finding them is to look for those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass. I quote from a letter written by 20 State Attorneys General to Merrick B. Garland, the current US Attorney General (minus footnotes and with my bold emphasis):
On Wednesday, the public learned of an internal memorandum produced by the FBI’s Richmond Field Office. The memorandum identifies “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” The memorandum deploys alarmingly detailed theological distinctions to distinguish between the Catholics whom the FBI deems acceptable, and those it does not. Among those beliefs which distinguish the bad Catholics from the good ones are a preference for “the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings,” and adherence to traditional Catholic teachings on sex and marriage (which the memorandum glibly describes as “anti-LGBTQ”). The memorandum even appears to accuse the Supreme Court and the Governor of Virginia of “[c]atalyzing” the bad Catholics through “legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections,” singling out the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Governor Youngkin’s support for sensible abortion regulations as examples.
After defining which Catholics are the dangerous ones, the memorandum proposes dealing with those Catholics through “the development of sources with access,” including in “places of worship.” In other words, the memorandum proposes recruiting Catholics to enter a sacred house of worship, talk to their fellow Catholics, and report those conversations back to the FBI so that the federal government can keep tabs on the bad Catholics. To allocate these “sources,” the document includes an appendix with a list of Catholic “hate groups” that was assembled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI.
Read it again. Do you love those embracing sodomy enough to work and pray for their conversion rather than their continued foray into mortal sin? You are a target. Do you work and pray for the conversion of all those involved in abortion? You are America’s enemy. And so on and so on. Plus, they want to find people to infiltrate TLM parishes and snitch on faithful Catholics! I have been able to spot the FBI infiltrators when they approach the Communion rail and say, “Amen.” If you don’t understand how that identifies them, you are one of them!
Now let’s turn our attention to other scum, by which I mean scammers out for money rather than power. This week one of our parishioners (name changed to protect the innocent) received a text message that said, “Mrs. McGullicuddy i need a favor from you please text me back as soon as possible Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka”. Her guardian angel must have interfered as she tried to text “me” back and she was unable to do so. After checking, she found my real phone number and verified that the text was, of course, not from me and not sent from my phone. Several days later she also received a fake email from “me” trying to get her to contact a scammer. This is the first time I have heard of someone receiving a fake text from “me” but I have warned you several times that they do this with some frequency via scam emails. All priests and bishops have been hit. The Mr. and Mrs. McGullicuddys out there are often so overjoyed that Father or Bishop thought so highly of them that he would ask them for help in an “emergency” that they don’t question “his” odd request. Usually, the scummers want you to send gift cards quickly for a baby dying of cancer, an elderly woman half-eaten by a python before being rescued by the Troops of St. George, or other tear-jerking episodes of horror. Please don’t fall for any of this. I don’t like to ask you for money from the pulpit, let alone via text or email.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
(Or is it really someone else? The Shadow Knows!)
From the Pastor: Covid Tests Before Dinner? Really?
Nothing in this article directly deals with Epiphany parish, so if you are pressed for time, feel free to skip it this week. If you continue reading please note that the following items may make you a bit queasy. You have been warned!
A few weeks ago I read an article from “Health News from NPR.” Why I did it is beyond me. NPR is the radio station to turn to for classical music but when they have news and “news entertainment” shows, it is generally best to turn them off. They support abortion, same-sex marriage, transgendered everything, and just about every other leftist moral evil you can imagine. But this time I took their bait. The headline was “Is it time for a reality check on rapid COVID tests?” and I guess I just couldn’t help myself from reading. Were they really going to admit that the tests were not reliable? That they don’t pick up the newest strains even as well as they poorly picked up the older ones? I had to find out. Here are the first few lines. “As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, a negative result on a little plastic at-home test feels a bit less comforting than it once did. Still, you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home. It feels like the right thing to do, right?” To continue to call this fourth year of screaming “We’re all going to die!” and “You are going to kill grandma!” a “pandemic” is, in my mind, just one more bit of psychological torture aimed at those who are already hurt, maybe permanently, by the so-called experts who have been wrong about just about everything covid-related so far. Don’t believe me? Then look again at the actions expected of those to whom this article is addressed. “...you dutifully swab your nostrils before dinner parties, wait 15 minutes for the all-clear and then text the host ‘negative!’ before leaving your KN95 mask at home.” Who in their right mind does that? This article was written now, not at the beginning, when we panicked sheep listened to the voice of anyone claiming to be a government shepherd/expert on The Science™.
I realize that as a priest I live a very sheltered life, especially at Epiphany. I am surrounded by sinners who, with very few exceptions, are striving to be holy, an essential part of which necessarily involves searching for and living the Truth. The Catholic doctors I know, to a one, professed without hesitancy or doubt, that masks don’t work against viruses. Even the non-doctor Catholics I know were intelligent enough to see that, even if a mask taped to a non-moving mannequin worked to block some amount of viruses embedded in fake spittle, viruses would not be stopped under “normal” conditions such as: wearing the mask around your chin; or over a big, bushy beard; or in such a way that your glasses fog up; or lifting it to talk, yell, cough, or sneeze; or loose enough to breathe more comfortably, etc. Before covid, all of the tests on real, living, moving, breathing people, even surgeons trained never to touch their masks, showed that they don’t work. Recently trials examining covid transmission and real-life experience have again shown that they don’t work. China and other countries in the East, for instance, wear masks much more faithfully than we do, yet the ‘vid spread through those countries like wildfire. Yet the article is indicating that people, before going to a friend’s house to eat dinner, are still taking tests? Still wearing masks? Will only interact with people whom they know and love if they all take the test and get negative results? Really? I simply do not know anyone who acts irrationally like this. I have never, even in the midst of the infamous, faithless lockouts, had anyone say to me, “Father, I want you to come hear my confession and bring Holy Communion but only if you test negative first.” I don’t currently hear anyone say to me, “We just bought a new house. Could you come bless it? Oh, I need to see your negative test result, and you need to wear, not a cloth mask, not a surgical mask, but a KN95 mask. And the family won’t be back to church for the next 10 days after you leave, for we must isolate ourselves in case you sneakily infected us even with all of those precautions. Oh, and bring a valid vax card showing how many and what brand of shots you have taken.”
Back to the article, though, what was their recommendation to these psychologically abused, covid-fearing readers (sorry, “fearing” is a weak word for people still petrified about this to the extent that they won’t live a “normal” life) about taking covid tests? Even though they included real statements like this, “Similar technology has existed for influenza for years and the recommendation was not to use them,” they couldn’t get themselves (I use the plural because I am sure the writer was also speaking for the entire NPR upper echelons) to say, “Don’t use them!” Instead, they said, “A positive test is almost always true” so you should test once if it is positive and then again to determine when you are (maybe) safe instead of (deadly) sick. “But a negative ‘does not rule out’ a COVID-19 infection” so if you test negative you should anxiously test over and over and over...
At least they ended with a common sense statement that has been used long before covid was on anyone’s mind. I will paraphrase to edit out their “covid” and “test” language: If you are sick, stay home.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Bishop Schneider is Coming!
As announced last Sunday, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is coming for a visit and will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass for us on Sunday, May 7, at 10:30 am. He is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan, and a very well-known and respected defender of the Catholic Faith as passed down through the generations and, in particular, the Traditional Latin Mass. Among other writings, his 2008 book Dominus Est—It is the Lord! on the importance of receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion reverently on the tongue while kneeling is a treasure! I am not sure what all of the differences are between a Solemn Pontifical Mass with a Cardinal (like we just had when Cardinal Burke graced us with his presence) and with a Bishop. But we have men working on getting me and some other priests prepared to serve at the Mass. The one thing that I have already been told is that there are no archdeacons at this Mass. That figures. I was one of the two archdeacons at the last one, and my main job was to put the Cardinal’s precious miter on his head and take it off and to put his gold miter (two different miters are used at the Mass) on his head and take it off. After having spent, for the last Pontifical Mass, weeks of practice and then assisting at the Mass, I was confident that I could do it again and maybe even do it without pulling the Bishop’s zucchetto off as many times as I did the Cardinal’s. The news that that role was not available to me for this next one was quite a letdown. Now I have to find another job that takes nearly no skill, for I don’t have a whole lot of it to begin with! My MCs and altar boys always keep me on track or cover for my mistakes so well that most people don’t notice just how incompetent I am!
In other news, our long-term maintenance man, Luc Huynh, has decided to take life a little easier now and he has cut down his work week to just two partial days. As you can either see or well-imagine, there is more to maintain here than he can possibly do in that short time. So he has agreed to take on an intern or apprentice and teach him the ropes. John Paul Bauer has now joined us and, boy, did he quickly discover that being on staff is a lot different than just attending Mass and other Epiphany functions as a member of the Faithful! On his first day, a pipe in one of the classrooms burst. Not from the cold, thanks be to God, but due to corrosion from having been repaired with multiple incompatible types of metal pipe and fittings many years ago. And, before you jump to the wrong conclusion, it wasn’t Luc who caused the problem in the first place! We recently had the same issue in the attic behind the social hall. Somebody had “fixed” the hot water heater plumbing by joining the copper pipes to galvanized pipe to some other third type of pipe with chrome and other various fittings and, after years of metal to metal chemical interaction, we had a fountain spring up and pour down through the ceiling of the dungeon between the sacristy and the altar boy room. (The “dungeon” is the dark, dusty room where our boiler and all of the electrical panels for the AC system are crammed.) So now we know that any other repairs made about the same time will soon be following suit. Fortunately, we had recently discovered that the water shutoff valve for the classrooms was not functional and was buried three feet in the ground, so we had the plumbers come out and replace it and lift it up to ground level. Otherwise, we would have had to shut off all water to the property for the two days it took to make this new repair.
We also had a small issue with one of the swinging doors leading from the church to the social hall. The wood at the top hinge corner cracked open, keeping the door from operating properly. One of our elderly gentlemen (not a child running full steam ahead, in other words) pushed open the door but instead of it swinging into the hall to allow access, it simply crashed to the floor. John Paul had to figure out how to make the repair and get the door back up. A bit of new wood, a bit of drilling, a bit of glue, and the door would be ready to hang as soon as the glue set. Except we couldn’t wait. We needed it in place for the Sunday Masses. So he put the door up, latched it so that it wouldn’t open, and put signs on both sides of the door stating, “Do Not Use” so that the repaired part would not have pressure put on it before it was hardened properly. Of course, he also found out almost immediately on Sunday morning that he might as well have written the signs in Latin, for somebody interpreted the English as meaning, “Please unlatch this door. You must use this door and this door only. No other door will be good enough for you. Don’t think anything of it, for the latch and sign don’t apply to you.” Of course, it doesn’t work properly as of the time I am writing this (hopefully, it will be fixed again by the time you are reading this, though) because of the damage done by using it too early. At least he now knows that he has job security!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka