From the Pastor: What Is Happening During Holy Week?
This week is Holy Week! On Wednesday evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday here are special liturgical celebrations, changes to the Mass schedule, changes to the confession schedule, and changes to the Adoration schedule. So don’t just come by at the “normal” times but check the calendar carefully! Yet be sure to come!
First of all, we have three “Tenebrae” services scheduled. The first is held on Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm. For those of you new to the parish, Tenebrae is the name given to the service of Matins and Laudes belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. Holy Thursday's Tenebrae is traditionally "anticipated", or chanted the evening before the actual day. Matins and Lauds are the two early morning “hours” of the Divine Office or Breviary that is said (prayed) by all clergy, religious, and laity who use the 1962 Office. They roughly correspond to the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the new Liturgy of the Hours Breviary, although they are quite a bit longer. Because Holy Thursday is the day set aside by Holy Mother Church for the celebration of the Chrism Mass (where all the priests gather with the Bishop to renew their priestly vows or promises and the Bishop blesses and consecrates the three oils that will be used for various sacraments throughout the coming year) plus an additional Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening, it is often hard to find time to chant (or listen to the chant) Tenebrae that day. Therefore, it is chanted the evening beforehand. So on Wednesday, the first Tenebrae will be in the Church at 7:00 pm. It takes roughly 2 1/2 hours. Choir members will be doing the chanting and the congregation will actively participate by praying silently. I will be hearing confessions during that time. The second Tenebrae will be on Good Friday morning at 6:30 am and the third will be Holy Saturday at the same time. Both of those will take approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours and I will hear confessions as these prayers are chanted. Even if you cannot come to all three, come and experience at least one of them. If you cannot stay for the full time, stay for as long as you can. It is a moving experience of prayer.
Holy Thursday, as already mentioned, usually has the Chrism Mass in the morning, so there are no parish Masses. In our diocese, as is every arch/diocese of which I am aware, the Bishop has transferred the Chrism Mass to Tuesday, later in the morning. But the Church still does not allow morning Masses on Holy Thursday. We will have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper along with the Mandatum, or Washing of Feet, at 7:00 pm. At the end of that Mass, there is a procession with the Eucharist as we empty the tabernacle and bring Our Lord to the “Altar of Repose” for a time of Solemn Adoration lasting until midnight. After the procession and as Adoration is taking place at the altar of repose, the main altar of the church will be ceremoniously stripped and the church, emptied of Our Lord’s Presence, will be symbolically in mourning for the unjust arrest and mock trial of the Son of God.
On Good Friday there are once again no morning Masses and no Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church. But as already mentioned, I will hear confessions during the 6:30 am Tenebrae. This year Good Friday falls on First Friday. The Adoration which we normally have on First Fridays is prohibited. But at 3:00 pm we will have the Traditional Latin Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross. This includes a Communion Service as well.
On Holy Saturday there is a break after the 6:30 am Tenebrae service ends and then, at 10:30 am we have the traditional Blessing of the Easter Baskets, a tradition which Eastern European cultures often have managed to keep alive even in many Novus Ordo parishes. See today’s bulletin insert for an example of what you might find in such a basket. The basket should contain a bit of everything which you will be preparing for the great Easter Feast, the big meal on Easter Sunday which breaks the hard fasting of the past 40 days of Lent. Please don’t be late arriving for this blessing, because each of the food items gets its own special blessing and I won’t be repeating all of them each time someone new arrives after the blessings are underway. This blessing should take no longer than 30 minutes. There is no Mass at the normal 5:00 pm Saturday time slot, for the Easter Vigil and Mass should not normally begin before dark. Ours will start at 8:00 pm. On Easter Sunday, the Mass schedule will follow the normal times of 7:30 am, 10:30 am, and 1:00 pm.
When there is both a Novus Ordo and a Traditional Latin Mass congregation at the same parish, it is permissible to have the liturgies “doubled” as we have done in the past with St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. Now that they have their own facilities, we thought that that would not occur this year. But Fr. Tuoc is still here and will have a Novus Ordo English Mass in the rectory chapel at 5:00 pm on Holy Thursday, Veneration of the Cross (new Rite) in the rectory chapel at 3:00 pm on Good Friday, and the Novus Ordo English Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm in the rectory chapel on Holy Saturday.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Update and Sacrament Dates
I don’t know if you paid any attention, but last weekend I hung up a chart in the social hall and highlighted Epiphany’s place on it. It listed all of the parishes and missions of the diocese and showed the number of people attending Mass during February this year and for the past few years. I reported our statistics last year after the October Mass count showed that Epiphany was the only parish that had grown from October 2019 to October 2020. Once again we have a similar data set showing that Epiphany is the only parish showing growth from February 2020 to February 2021. (We track this weekly, but the diocese asks each parish to report on numbers only twice a year, in February and October.) Not only that, but we also grew from our last October count, so we are certainly growing and on track to be bursting at the seams. Last Sunday’s 10:30 Mass, for instance, was standing room only, even though the 7:30 Mass is getting larger and we still have the additional 1:00 pm Mass which I added less than a year ago (temporarily, I thought) to alleviate overcrowding at the 10:30 when we were under capacity restrictions. Let me lay out the growth according to this most recent February survey. This data shows February Mass counts from 2012 (or maybe it is a typo since 2013 is missing), although the Traditional Latin Mass only started here in August of 2015 (long after, obviously, the February 2015 Mass count was reported), so I will start there. Watch the numbers start jumping after the TLM got here. The parishioner count averages all Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses during the weekends in February of each year listed.
2015: 87 people per weekend at Mass
So what do these numbers mean for us? Quite simply, it means that we are outgrowing our current facility. Our parish hall can hardly fit the coffee and donuts crowd after Mass, let alone allow us to host a large event such as our recent Epiphany celebration which, as you well know, had to be moved outside and into the classrooms to provide enough space for everyone who wished to participate. Our classrooms are being used at a record clip, causing scheduling conflicts with various groups which need meeting space. Our parking lot is obviously much too small, but fortunately, we have plenty of grass to park on rather than having to find street parking. These are all great problems to have, especially considering that all of the other pastors are scratching their heads trying to figure out where their people went and how to get them back. These issues are also leading to us exploring the possibility of tearing down our existing buildings and building bigger and better. We have had a civil engineer come out to determine if we have enough room to build on our property and still manage to meet city ordinances. The answer is “Yes, with certain stipulations.” So we are looking to see if we can work those out. I have spoken with the Bishop and he gave me instructions to put the plan in writing and include such things as what the issues are, how the re-building plan will solve those issues, and how we will pay for the project. That written report is in the works.
On a different note, I have some dates of importance for you to give me feedback on. First Holy Communion is scheduled for Sunday, May 23. This year I am asking that all of the children meet with me the month before, at 9:00 am on Sunday, April 18, prepared to show me that they are ready for both their First Holy Communion and their First Confession, which they must make before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. Make sure your children are signed up (on the Sacramental Prep page of our website) and that they can attend this important meeting. Confirmations are now on the calendar for Saturday, June 26, at 1:00 pm. We had Saturday Confirmations in 2017 and it went well, with a reception afterward, but in recent years we have had them at the less-convenient 7:00 pm on Wednesday nights to accommodate the Bishop, who was able to make it one of those years. Assuming he won’t be able to be here this year, I am moving it back to Saturday for your convenience. If I hear differently from him and he wants to do the Confirmations himself at a different time/date, I will change it even if he wants to do them on a Tuesday at 6:15 am. I have also scheduled a meeting on Sunday, June 13, at 9:00 am, with all of those to be confirmed, to determine if they are ready for Confirmation. Again, mark your calendars for these dates, and be sure that your children are signed up via our Sacramental Prep webpage. If there is any major date conflict, such as a Traditional Latin Mass Society National Meeting taking place on any of the above-mentioned dates, please let me know ASAP so that alternative dates can be found and published.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Current Regulations for Lent
For the past few weeks, I have been showing you some of the old regulations regarding fast and abstinence during Lent. Today I present to you some current regulations. You will see quite a difference! Pope Paul VI’s 1966 Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, On Fast and Abstinence, gives us good reasons to continue our Catholic traditions of prayer, fasting, and charity. (Abstinence falls under “fasting”.) It tells us that, although the rules of penance can be changed by the Church, it is God who commands us to do penance. It tells us that episcopal conferences are to establish local norms (more on that later). And it lays out Pope Paul’s reasons for removing the mandate to do much prayer, fasting, and charity: so that we will do it willingly and in accord with the times. The Pope actually states that he wants bishops and priests to promote “extraordinary practices of penitence aimed at expiation and impetration” (beseeching God, especially for mercy, in this context)! “Therefore, the Church, while preserving—where it can be more readily observed—the custom (observed for many centuries with canonical norms) of practicing penitence also through abstinence from meat and fasting, intends to ratify with its prescriptions other forms of penitence as well, provided that it seems opportune to episcopal conferences to replace the observance of fast and abstinence with exercises of prayer and works of charity.”
Then, in laying out his new norms, he eliminated the traditional forms of penance! With the promulgation of this document, the only days remaining wherein Catholics are mandated to fast and abstain from meat are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The products to be abstained from were also greatly limited compared to the traditions we have seen in the past few weeks. “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.” So the animal products which used to be forbidden are now allowed, including “condiments made of animal fat” such as meat gravy and perhaps even bacon sprinkles on top of salads! As for the size of the meals allowed on the two remaining days of fasting, it was left up to local custom! “The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.” I would observe that our “approved local custom” for the two smaller meals is no longer just a handful of nuts or fruit but is much more likely to be a hefty sandwich or something even more substantial.
I mentioned earlier that our bishops’ conference also issued norms in accord with this document. Within a year our bishops issued a document called, “Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence.” This is a pretty amazing document. After stating that, in union with the above-referenced document, only those two fasting days would be required, it went on to state: “13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice. 14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten Devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of ‘mortification.’" So they encouraged many penitential practices during the whole of Lent and even elsewhere showed that Our Lord separated those sent to hell from those bound for Heaven according to charitable practices (Mt 25:34-40) as they stressed the importance of keeping a holy Lent. But then they made everything optional with the supposition that the Catholic Faithful would find more meaning in doing penance of their own choosing; that they would find penances far more “with the times” than abstinence from meat; that even greater Catholic penitential practices would soon become part of our Catholic identity. They ended thusly, “28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God's people.” I leave it to you to discern if removing the obligations has led to a new birth or not.
I will end with the current (1983) Code of Canon Law, #1251. “Abstinence from meat... is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” So next week, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the Year of St. Joseph, there is no mandatory abstinence!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More on Lent and Fasting
I hope you don’t mind yet another peek into Dom Gueranger’s historical explanation of fast and abstinence during Lent, for I am still having a good time reading and writing about it. Again, let me remind you that these articles are dealing with historical Lenten practices, not current regulations. Here he describes the relationship between the “hours” (prayers of the Breviary which are prayed by clergy and religious are broken into sets of prayers which are read at set times of the day and night), the Mass, and fasting. I find it quite amusing that the hours traditionally prayed later in the day get prayed earlier and earlier so that they (the clergy and religious setting the example for the laity) could eat earlier and earlier! “It was the custom with the Jews, in the Old Law, not to take the one meal, allowed on fasting days, till sun-set. The Christian Church adopted the same custom. It was scrupulously practised, for many centuries, even in our Western countries. But, about the 9th century, some relaxation began to be introduced in the Latin Church. Thus, we have a Capitularium of Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans...protesting against the practice, which some had, of taking their repast at the hour of None, that is to say, about three o’clock in the afternoon...We meet with a sort of reclamation made as late as the 11th century, by a Council held at Rouen, which forbids the Faithful to take their repast before Vespers shall have begun to be sung in the Church, at the end of None; but this shows us, that the custom had already begun of anticipating the hour of Vespers, in order that the Faithful might take their meal earlier in the day.
“Up to within a short period before this time, it had been the custom not to celebrate Mass, on days of Fasting, until the Office of None had been sung - and, also, not to sing Vespers till sun-set. When the discipline regarding Fasting began to relax, the Church still retained the order of her Offices, which had been handed down from the earliest times. The only change she made, was to anticipate the hour for Vespers; and this entailed the celebrating Mass and None much earlier in the day;- so early, indeed, that, when custom had so prevailed as to authorise the Faithful taking their repast at mid-day, all the Offices, even the Vespers, were over before that hour.”
After a few more details such as these, he shows how inevitably the early meal led to being hungry later in the day! “But, whilst this relaxation of taking the repast so early in the day as twelve o’clock rendered fasting less difficult in one way, it made it more severe in another. The body grew exhausted by the labours of the long second half of the twenty-four hours; and the meal, that formerly closed the day, and satisfied the cravings of fatigue, had been already taken. It was found necessary to grant some refreshment for the evening, and it was called a Collation. The word was taken from the Benedictine Rule, which, for long centuries before this change in the Lenten observance, had allowed a Monastic Collation...[T]he Abbot was allowed by the Rule to grant his Religious permission to take a small measure of wine before Compline, as a refreshment after the fatigues of the afternoon. It was taken by all at one and the same time, during the evening reading, which was called Conference, (in Latin, Collatio,) because it was mostly taken from the celebrated Conferences (Collationes) of Cassian. Hence, this evening monastic refreshment got the name of Collation. We find the Assembly, or Chapter of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in 817, extending this indulgence even to the Lenten fast, on account of the great fatigue entailed by the Offices, which the Monks had to celebrate during this holy Season. But experience showed, that unless something solid were allowed to be taken together with the wine, the evening Collation would be an injury to the health of many of the Religious; accordingly, towards the close of the 14th, or the beginning of the 15th century, the usage was introduced of taking a morsel of bread with the Collation-beverage. As a matter of course, these mitigations of the ancient severity of Fasting soon found their way from the cloister into the world...But when it had become the universal practice, (as it did in the latter part of the 13th century, and still more fixedly during the whole of the 14th,) that the one meal on Fasting Days was taken at mid-day, a mere beverage was found insufficient to give support, and there was added to it bread, herbs, fruits, &c. Such was the practice, both in the world and the cloister. It was, however, clearly understood by all, that these eatables were not to be taken in such quantity as to turn the Collation into a second meal.
“Thus did the decay of piety, and the general deterioration of bodily strength among the people of the Western nations, infringe on the primitive observance of Fasting.”
Abbot Gueranger laments the laxity of Lenten fasts signs of weak faith as well as weak bodies. He remarks that it also takes away from the joy of the longed-for meal after Easter Mass, which now, much as with the first night after the wedding of an unchaste couple, has turned into just one more ho-hum, same ol’ same ol’. But perhaps reading this brief history will spark a renewed interest in greater fasting for at least a few people today. Maybe even me!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka