From the Pastor: Judas was the first to deny Jesus in the Eucharist
This is one of the greatest days in the lives of many young children within the parish. It is the day that they receive Holy Communion for the first time. This Sacrament is the one toward which all other sacraments point. This is called the Most Blessed Sacrament, the one that stands above all the others, for even though the others bestow God’s supernatural grace, this Sacrament is God Himself.
A sad reality is that so many people, to what may eventually be their eternal shame, adamantly refuse to believe this Truth. This hardness of heart is nothing new. In what is called the “Bread of Life Discourse” in the Gospel of John, when Jesus clearly spells out what will happen at every future valid Mass, many people simply cannot believe that He is telling the Truth. Jesus plainly tells the people that He is the Bread from Heaven. He will give His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink. He tells everybody that those who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. He restates this several times, insisting that His Flesh is true food and His Blood is true drink, that He is the Bread of Life and that the Bread that He will give is His Flesh for the life of the world. The people listening to Him knew that He was speaking absolutely literally. No one took Him to be speaking in parables or figuratively or symbolically. And because they could not accept this literal Truth, many turned from following Him and walked away. As He watched them go, He invited the Apostles to leave if they, too, did not believe. When they opted to stay with Him, He pointed out that one among them, the one who would betray Him, did not believe Him. He even went so far as to call His betrayer, this apostate Apostle, Judas, a devil. Later in John’s Gospel, at the Last Supper (the first Mass and the first reception of Holy Communion) it is pointed out that when Judas, the non-believer of what we now term Transubstantiation (where the substance of bread and wine change into the substance of the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus) ate the morsel, Satan entered into him. He then left quickly to betray Jesus and hand Him over to be crucified. (Have no qualms about stating the obvious in this regard: Judas is now and will be forever in hell. Our Lord ominously and specifically stated, “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born.” Were the betrayer even in purgatory, even if for the entire time from his death until the General Judgement, it would not have been better for him to have not been born, for he would eventually reach Heaven. No, only Hell is a worse fate than non-existence.) So here we see the Satanic possession of this unbelieving Apostle at the first Mass. It is the first recorded mortal sin related to unworthy reception of Holy Communion. Jesus, the second Person of the Holy Trinity had said, “This is My Body. This is My Blood.” Yet Judas said interiorly, “You lie. I know better. This is only bread and wine. I do not believe You. You must not be God.” He will regret his arrogant lack of faith for all eternity.
The children receiving this Sacrament of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus will be receiving with the full faith of the other eleven Apostles. They know that Jesus, as stated by St. Peter, has “the words of eternal life.” When He says that something is true it is true even if we cannot fully comprehend it. Our children are receiving Jesus and they know it. They are joyfully and faithfully uniting themselves to Him and He is uniting Himself to them. This unity is a foretaste of the perfect unity they will experience in Heaven. Those who reject this unity with Christ in this life will be hard pressed to justify desiring the complete fulfillment of this unity in the next.
Today I ask you to pray for the conversion of those who may or may not even know that they need conversion yet whose souls are in danger because they, like Judas, do not believe everything our Lord taught: those who do not believe our Lord’s teaching that He founded the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; that He instituted the seven Sacraments; that He is present in the Eucharist, which is confected only by a validly ordained Priest; that participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is obligatory on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; and that one must ordinarily be Catholic and in a state of Grace to receive Holy Communion. Pray for the whole of mankind to be as fully, faithfully and joyfully Catholic as these children who celebrate their First Holy Communion today. In short, pray that we all become Saints.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You for a “Good” Lent and Easter!
Holy Week and Easter Week have now come and gone for another year. I have received many, many compliments and accolades and thanks for the beautiful Holy Week and Easter Masses and prayers we offered here. While I certainly appreciate it, I truthfully cannot take credit for most of what you found mentally and emotionally enriching and spiritually uplifting. I cannot tell you how many people worked long hours to make our parish celebrations as spiritually beautiful as possible, but there were quite a few. The pastor, believe it or not, does not make Mass and other liturgical services “good” by himself. He can, if he is a real jerk, or tries to be “innovative” in all things, or wants to be the center of attention, make everything “bad” all by himself. But the Mass and other liturgies celebrated and led by a less than stellar, average, or superior priest will all be made “good” almost exclusively by those who assist him. (I put quotation marks around the words “good” and “bad” because, in their essence, all Catholic liturgy is “good” and not “bad”. But the external trappings of, and experience of, even things which are “good” in essence, can be either “good” or “bad”.) The people of both Epiphany of Our Lord and St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission made the priests here look pretty darn “good” by all the effort they put into our celebrations. Thank you all for what you have done!
Nobody except God knows the answers to the following questions but even without answers, it can become apparent that the above paragraph is not just false modesty coming from the pastor! How many hours did the choir practice? How much effort did it take to set aside, at least temporarily and inconveniently, family necessities in order to practice the multiple chants and musical settings? How much anxiety did our altar boys go through as they prepared to tackle once-a-year liturgies, worrying about what would happen if they forgot something, or did something wrong, whether large or small in detail? How many of their family members had to sit around twiddling their thumbs (or praying!) after bringing in altar boys an hour early so that they could practice and get ready for the “big events”? How many parishioners went out of their way to welcome the newcomers to our parish (and to our country, for that matter), be it with simple greetings or with elaborate introductions to our Easter customs? How many elderly people did a huge penance by attending evening Stations or early morning Tenebraes when it was a struggle to drive in the dark? How many people came into the church or hall and saw something not quite “right” and either cleaned it up or rearranged it or fixed it? How many of our parish employees, after spending the day here on the job, spent the evening hours here, too, even though everybody, knowing that they have keys and knowledge of where everything is, puts them right back to work? How many parishioners, after forty days of fasting, praying and almsgiving, still came back willingly and joyfully to the loooooonnnnnng (relative to the newer, truncated, anemic versions which many or most of us grew up with and still think of as the “norm”) Holy Triduum Masses and prayers? How many “how manys” can I think of? There will always be more that go unmentioned. But add up all of those “how manys” and you will see a congregation (actually, two congregations here!) with not only Faith but with a true spirit of self-denial. They--you--were willing to work extra hard, travel extra miles, pray extra long, lose extra sleep, spend extra money, and empty yourself in many other ways, all for the Glory of God, for your own sanctification, and for the salvation of others for whom you offered it all up. Thank you all. You are the ones who made all of these Masses and services “good”!
So many of you expressed concern about how tired I either would be or was after all of this. Let me tell you a secret. You might not realize it but I don’t have ten kids or 34 grandkids to take care of (with both normal stuff and holiday extras like fitting with new Easter outfits, filling Easter baskets, painting Easter eggs, etc.), a wife to please, a “job” to attend to outside of all of these prayers and Masses, a 50 minute commute to and from church, in-laws to visit as well as parents, keeping track of when to take or give dozens of medications, or how to schedule visits to the cardiologist, urologist, gastrologist, hematologist, dermatologist, endocrinologist, and ologistologist, and so many other things that most of you have to deal with. Yep, right now I am in a sweet spot. Not too young of a priest that I think I have to do everything myself and not too old to be completely broken down. Thanks for your concern, but I am more concerned about YOU! Parishioners certainly need their priest to stay holy and healthy but priests also most certainly need their parishioners to do the same.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Easter especially to those who have fallen away!
Easter Sunday is one of the biggest days of the Church year in more ways than one. First of all, it is the day proof positive that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who fulfills all of the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Savior of the world. He was not simply resuscitated, coming back to the same life as He had before, but rather Resurrected, coming back to a whole new manner of life. This new life is one that we all plan on participating in, one with a completely glorified human body and a perfect human soul, sharing in His divinity for all eternity in the splendor of Heaven.
But Easter is also one of the biggest days of the Church year as far as bringing back fallen away Catholics. This column is specifically aimed at you if you fall into that category. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a fallen away Catholic, though, unless you have been away from the Church and Her sacraments for a period of years or even decades. I, however, am including you in this category if you have been away from the Church and Her sacraments even if just for a period of one or two weeks!
You see, it is only in remaining in direct contact with God in this life that we can possibly hope to be in direct contact with Him in the next. He unites Himself with us totally in the seven Sacraments. These channels of grace are the primary paths of supernatural love, mercy, and strength that He has given us. Rejecting them by, say, purposefully missing Mass for even one Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation, not to mention years at a time, says without words, “Jesus, You died for my salvation, yet I reject Your Holy Sacrifice; You offer Heaven, but I prefer Hell.” Faking a sacrament says the same thing. Instances of this would include faking the sacrament of Holy Matrimony through sex outside of marriage (with others or self) or by getting “married”, perhaps even legally, without the blessing of the Church; or faking the sacrament of Confession by pretending to “go directly to God” while rejecting the absolution He offers through His priests.
Still more instances of rejecting or faking sacraments, which happen not infrequently, include failing to Baptize children, by which parents withhold the supernatural graces necessary for salvation; failure to receive Confirmation, which shows that “mature” Catholics think they have no need of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost; receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, which is akin to tossing Jesus into a cesspool; rejecting God’s call to Holy Orders or the religious life; or delaying the Sacrament of the Sick to avoid “scaring” the dying loved one. All of these are serious sins! But why point out these dangers to the soul on such a holy day? Because there is an incredible means of repairing any damage to your relationship with God coming up next week. I want to reach the “fallen aways” today so that I can invite all of you to next week’s Divine Mercy celebration.
Next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. About a century ago, our Lord Jesus appeared to Sister (now Saint) Faustina and told her of an incredible outpouring of His Mercy that He would make available to anyone, even the most hardened of sinners or the most naively innocent “fallen away” Catholic, on the Sunday after Easter. He will offer complete remission of sin (and even its due punishment!) to all who will spend just a little bit of time meditating on, praying for, and acting in accordance to, His Mercy. He has made it so easy to get back into His grace (and thereby headed for Heaven once again) that it would seem to be too good to be true if it weren’t Jesus who made the promise.
Hardened sinners, those who have knowingly committed grave sins for long periods of time, may have despaired of ever being able to become a Saint. Divine Mercy Sunday is God’s gift to them so that they can be forgiven and made holy. The other fallen away Catholics, those who don’t really see much wrong with their immoral actions, even though they know the Church calls them mortal sins, can also find the supernatural graces that they have been unknowingly missing out on.
Come next Sunday afternoon at 2:30. We will recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I will hear confessions and absolve repentant sinners. No sin is too great to be removed; no sinner who repents is too evil to be loved and brought back to a state of Grace. Afraid of lightning striking? But you will die in a state of grace and go to Heaven! Examine your conscience. Repent of all known sins. Confess those sins. Do your penance. Remember the Scripture passage, “I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance”! You will receive Divine Mercy! Jesus promises that your soul will be pure once again. He loves you that much.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Holy Week
This week is called Holy Week. It marks the end of the penitential season of Lent and, with the special Masses and other liturgical services, Holy Mother Church makes sure that the Faithful understand that no one can get to Easter but by way of Our Lord’s Passion and Cross. The liturgies bring out into the open that our hope of resurrection, our entrance into Heaven, which, as Christ so clearly revealed, depends not only on His dying and rising, but also on us taking up our own individual crosses and following Him. No cross, no conquering death. No suffering, no rejoicing. No faithful following in His path, no spending eternity with Him, either.
Please be sure to check the calendar in the bulletin and online several times to be sure you show up on time and don’t show up when nothing is going on. The schedule changes for the last part of Holy Week. For instance, this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there are no morning Masses. Driving three minutes to get to Mass only to find the Church empty is a head-scratcher and then, as it dawns on you what happen, a bummer. But driving 55 minutes to church and having the same thing happen might bring one very close to committing one or more serious sin!
There are also several liturgical “treats” this week. For instance, there are Tenebrae Services from 6:30 to 9:00 am on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Last year we only had one on Good Friday. At these services (not Masses) several members of the choir will chant psalms and biblical canticles and a series of 15 candles will be extinguished in an orderly and solemn fashion. It is a beautiful, prayerful service. Last year 21 people plus choir and two priests were present and they begged for all three Triduum day Tenebrae services to be offered this year. We are still one short, but one more than last year. It makes for an early and long time of prayer, but what a blessed way to begin those days of Our Lord’s sufferings!
On Holy Thursday, although there is no morning Mass, we will celebrate (at 8:00 pm) what is commonly known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This Mass brings to mind the fulfillment of the Passover, which the Chosen People had celebrated for generations without realizing that God was using this commemoration to prepare them for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At this Mass, the Apostles were shown the amazing true meaning of the unleavened bread and the saving blood of the Lamb. The Eucharist and the Priesthood are, though perhaps not completely understood by the Apostles until after the Holy Ghost came upon the remaining 11 of them at Pentecost, instituted on that “fateful” night.
Good Friday (did I mention that there is no Mass at any time on Good Friday?) we will commemorate the Passion of Our Lord with a liturgy of prayers, scripture readings, a Communion Service and Veneration of the Cross beginning at 3:00 pm.
Holy Saturday services (remember: no Mass in the morning) also includes the Polish tradition of Blessing the Easter Baskets. That will occur in the church at 10:00 am. Bring your Easter Baskets for the blessing! They should be filled with meats (kielbasa, ham, bacon), butter (in the shape of a lamb, if possible) and too many other foods to list here. See the bulletin insert for more information. And, please don’t forget that there is no 5:00 pm Novus Ordo Vigil Mass that day. But there will be the intensely spiritual Easter Vigil and Mass after dark on Holy Saturday night (8:30 pm). We do not have anybody being baptized or brought into the fullness of the Faith this year, so the Mass will actually be a little bit shorter than what you would expect! Although on the surface that seems like a good thing, it means that we are not bringing anyone new into the Church at Epiphany this year. That is something that we don’t want to become a norm. Do all that you can to encourage non-Catholics to enter the Church for the sake of their salvation. You know how important your Catholic Faith truly is; now share those graces with others by encouraging their conversion! Bring them to the Holy Week and Easter services and Masses. What a great introduction to Catholicism that will be.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
PS Today I want to introduce to you James McCoy, our newest office staff member and parishioner of Epiphany. You may recognize him from the 6:30 daily and 10:30 Sunday Masses.
From the Pastor: Conference. First Holy Communion. Other Stuff.
Last weekend we hosted a conference featuring Michael Voris and two local speakers, Dr. David McKalip and Travis Ferguson. It was, even with short notice and without special advertising, a full house. Our Catholic Women’s group did a bang up job of taking care of every need, including setting up--and cleaning up--everything, from the social hall to the outdoor registration, to the parish room where lunch was served. They worked tirelessly (or, at least, selflessly) for two days before the conference, throughout the conference itself, and even after everyone else had gone home. Thank you, ladies! (I will not mention anyone by name, lest I leave out any of the women or their sons or husbands, whom they recruited to do some of the grunt work, too.) The speakers, from what I understand, gave wonderful presentations. (I had to miss most of it due to a funeral, but I heard exactly zero complaints, which is a miracle in itself, and received many, many compliments--as if I had anything to do with how well the speakers did!). The talks given by Michael Voris were recorded by his crew and should be available on his site (ChurchMilitant.com) within a few weeks, after editing is complete. The rest of the talks, as far as I know, were not recorded. Too bad. I wanted to hear them myself.
On to different subjects. Although we have not yet entered into Holy Week (which is coming up next week) we are already planning for First Holy Communion, which will be two short weeks after Easter. This is a friendly reminder: We need baptism certificates for all children who are to receive their First Holy Communion (and, soon enough, Confirmation). If you somehow forgot to register your child for this sacrament and they are properly prepared, please go online to our parish webpage and fill out the needed information. First Holy Communion will take place this year on April 30. Confirmation is still scheduled for the day before Pentecost, June 3, at 1:00 pm, but we are still waiting to hear if Bishop Parkes will be able to celebrate it for us on that day. Get ready for a last minute change if he needs to adjust the schedule. Our now-retired bishop, thinking he would be too sickly to perform many Confirmations himself, had told the pastors to schedule Confirmations for any date/time they wished, as he would simply give each pastor delegation to confirm at his own parish (as happened here last year). So Bishop Parkes did not “inherit” a well-planned, orderly schedule! Now he is trying to fit in as many as possible. For us, he also has to learn the Traditional Rite of Confirmation, adding a small additional burden if he should be able to come. So now you can see one more reason to pray for him in his new assignment in our diocese!
Time for yet another change of subject. The roof of the chapel has been leaking badly every time it rains, so we have a tarp over it. The roof of the old school, now used as meeting rooms, classrooms, etc., has long been leaking. The roof of the rectory, though not yet leaking, is the same age as the others. We have received quotes from many roofers and are finally getting everything in order to get the roofs replaced. We are, as of this writing, simply waiting on the diocese to give us permission to spend our money on something so desperately needed. The final cost will be (gulp) over $100,000. Thanks be to God we have the money in reserve, but we will need to build our reserve up once again to cover any further big projects like this, which is routine maintenance. So please check with God and find out if you are giving to His Church as He would have you give. I am not going to set up a special campaign or collection for this, as this is the type of thing that should be anticipated and saved for as part of regular budgeting, the same as you would do for your house. But this is a good time to remember that just meeting our daily expenses is not enough. There must always be money set aside for a rainy day. In the case of leaking roofs, the idiom becomes literal.
Finally, get ready to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima’s requests for prayer on five consecutive First Saturdays, beginning in May. More information will be coming to you soon but mark your calendars already for the mornings of May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5 and September 2. The Adult Catechism Classes will be pushed back about 20-30 minutes those First Saturdays to accommodate what we have in store for you! (And the June 3 CCC classes might be canceled if the Bishop is coming for Confirmations that day. We will know more as we get closer.)
Be sure to keep up with our parish facebook pages (Epiphany Families, Epiphany Homeschoolers, Help for the Amani Family, and AHG Troop FL 0106), and our website, EpiphanyTampa.com for news and information and scheduling at our parish. Or at least read the bulletin.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka