From the Pastor: A New World Order Without God
This week it became illegal to be outside from 9:00 pm until 5:00 am in Hillsborough County. According to the Tampa Bay Times E-Newspaper on Thursday, “The penalties for violating the curfew are the same as those in place for the safer-at-home order. It's a second-degree misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail.” Did the Wuhan virus turn all of our government officials into Chinese Communist government officials? Can you imagine getting fined $500 for stepping outside to smoke? Going to jail for two months for taking your crying baby for a nighttime walk or drive to calm him down and to allow the rest of the household to get some shut-eye? Of course, those are two silly extreme cases and nobody would ever get fined or jailed for either one, right? Right? You cannot say “right” with certainty anymore. One month ago, this would have been seen as preposterous. Today, not so much. The mayor of Tampa, according to the same article, wanted the curfew but thought it should start two hours later. Big whoop. “Castor said she doesn't want people to get 'wrapped up around the axle' of details like dog-walking. She hopes they'll focus on the larger picture the need to keep practicing safe behaviors to slow the virus.” So she doesn’t mind the house arrest if it starts when she thinks it should start, and thinks we shouldn’t get worried or upset about getting in legal trouble for night-time dog walking as if it is no big deal! And for what purpose is this martial law imposed upon us? To “slow the virus.” Note: not to “stop” the virus. Not to “eliminate” the virus. Simply to “slow” the virus. For what purpose? To make sure everyone gets sick at the most convenient time for the hospitals? To make sure everyone gets sick at the most convenient time for those who want to instill more communism and socialism into government? Certainly not for MY convenience! I would rather have been sick two weeks ago so that by now I would either already be dead (highly unlikely, as the death rates keep inconveniently staying waaaaay below the predictions of all of the “experts”) or already recovered. But as it now stands, I and all of my fellow priests (save one, who picked up the virus while traveling before this lockdown went into effect) are all safe and snug in our little rectory cocoons. We have not been exposed to the virus. We have not gotten sick from it. So what happens when the world and churches, which have been following, rather than leading the world, open up again? Everyone who has been sick will probably (if this is like most coronaviruses) be immune to it for maybe three years, as we experienced with SARS. But those who have been sheltered and sequestered and curfewed will be exposed all at once and will start getting sick all at the same time and we will start the whole shutdown and panic all over again. Only those who carry proof of immunity will be allowed back out in public.
“But Father,” you might be thinking, “you are only a priest and not a government lackey. How could you possibly know what is happening? Shouldn’t you trust the government leaders? You stick to protecting man’s soul and they will stick to protecting man’s body.” Horsefeathers! “Flattening the curve” has absolutely nothing to do with caring for man’s body, his life, or his health. It is simply, as government is wont to do, procrastinating and kicking the can down the alleyway to be dealt with at a future time. “Trust us!” they say, “We will have a vaccine for you (developed from aborted baby body parts) in another 18 months or so. You can resume normal activities then.” Even a fool can see that there will no longer be a “normal” then. Communism will rule, tyrants will have complete control, and the Church, which has all but carried the water for the government team up to this day, will be dissolved, with only the remnant remaining underground.
This week a protestant minister, whose entire congregation was fined $500 (each) after having come to services in the church parking lot, where they stayed in their cars with the windows rolled up and listened to his sermon on the radio, won a quick ruling from a judge who said that religious rights cannot be trampled like that. The local government is appealing and still threatening more $500 per person fines for every occupant of each vehicle which drives up this Sunday. Attorney General William Barr issued a statement that "Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens." The protestants and the seculars are outshining the Church leaders! To date (this is being written Thursday, April 16) only one Catholic Bishop, Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has once again allowed “public” Masses to be held. But even he has gone along with the absurd government rule of allowing no more than 5 people (including the priest) to congregate at any one time! Yet he is the epitome of Courageously Living the Gospel among bishops.
Will some or many of the Catholic laity and priests of Las Cruces get sick? It seems possible, even likely, though nearly infinitely less so at Mass than at the grocery store, even though Mass will get the blame. Some tiny percent will even die. But sickness and death afflict everyone, even without an atheistic, police state takeover of their lives. Why would any Catholic prefer deferred illness and death with neither sacraments nor liberty?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Easter?
For the past week, I have been making sacramental home visits to parishioners. So far, I have visited parishioners in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Manatee counties and have traveled 663 miles while giving people the ability to go to confession and receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament according to the old Rite of Distribution of Holy Communion Outside of Mass. (On occasion I have turned on the radio when driving, only to find a constant stream of gloom and doom, death and destruction, superficially all about the coronavirus but in reality all about a raw power grab by government and quasi-government officials. So, instead of filling my head with pure sewage, I pray the Rosary as I drive. Lots and lots of rosaries!) I now bring a sheet with me that gives the people all of the prayers they need for this Rite, and I have it in both Latin and English. I am required to say my prayers in Latin, of course, but the people may say theirs in English if they are not conversant in Latin. Most have given the Latin a shot, as they are familiar with the prayers because they hear them and/or recite them at the Mass and at Adoration, just before the Benediction is given. Doing the visits outside has been working out quite well. The weather has remained pleasant, never going above the mid 80’s and so far most people have shade for their makeshift alar-table and for a confession spot. There are, of course, bugs and creepy-crawlies in many of those places and I have had many critters pestering me as I sit to hear confessions. If I don’t die of the coronavirus, I may just get West Nile disease, Zika, or Equine encephalitis from the mosquito bites! One particularly fun episode occurred in a yard where small spiders were finding my cassock particularly worthy of exploration. If you have ever flicked a spider off of your clothing you will know that they often put an anchor of web down before they go flying off, and swing in an arc on that new web strand, slowing down and landing quite gracefully when they near the ground. One particular spider, when I flicked him off my sleeve, landed on a nearby log only to have a lizard immediately slurp him up and chomp on his freshly delivered lunch! It’s the little things like that which make these home visits memorable in ways I never imagined when I first announced them.
Because the visits have been, so far, made during Lent, I have been bringing with me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich each day. Not that the sandwich is a penance, but in the old rite every day of Lent, excepting Sundays, is a day of fasting. Although two small collations are allowed, no meat may be taken until the later full meal, hence the PB&J sandwich snack. Many people have offered me a bottle of water, but, since I am not entering into the houses, I cannot put in what cannot come out, if you get my drift! One of the best, most loving acts of kindness offered was something that under normal circumstances would have seemed more than a bit strange. One family asked if I needed anything and then said, “We haven’t been able to find any toilet paper and are just about out, but if you need some, Father, we will give you a roll!” Now that might be as close to the “Widow’s Mite” story being lived out as I have ever seen! By the way, another family more recently sent me off with a couple of bags of food and, yes, toilet paper to give out to anyone who comes to the church in need. We have also had others drop off canned and boxed goods for the same purpose, and there have been people coming needing food and paper supplies. It really doesn’t matter if the grocery stores are still open as “essential” businesses when the government says your job is not “essential” and forces you into unemployment and home imprisonment.
Oh, but I forgot. This article is about Easter! So let me tell you how my Easter went. You have to remember that I needed to write this before the Feast actually occurred in order to get it into the bulletin, but this is what might have actually happened. Like many other elderly Floridians who live at home by themselves, my Aunt Irma spends most of her time doing crossword puzzles and playing Candy Crush (whatever that is). She rarely reads or listens to the news, she cooks for herself rather than going out to eat, and, like so many other Catholics, she usually only goes to Mass on Christmas and Easter. So, in her normal-life self-isolation, she had no earthly idea that the bishops had canceled all public Masses for the last month and into the foreseeable future. She woke up early on Easter Sunday morning, took her best dress and Easter bonnet out from under piles of mothballs in her old trunk, and happily drove down to her local parish church. She thought it was odd that there was no traffic on the road but she knew something was amiss when there were only three other cars in the church parking lot. There were five puzzled people standing at the locked church doors when she finally made it up to the entrance. They were discussing the sign posted in the front. “Happy Easter! Leave your monetary donation to St. Nonfide Catholic Community in the basket. Go home and watch us on... Oops! I ran out of space. Sorry about that. Happy Easter, I guess.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Very Strange Holy Week
This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Passiontide, or Palm Sunday. It will be a Palm Sunday like none I have ever celebrated. I wish I could say that it was going to be the “best” one or the “most solemn” one or something like that but instead the truth is that it will be the oddest one. Some general guidelines came down from Rome with the expectation that Bishops could tweak them as their own circumstances necessitated. Here is what we will follow as per our diocese's chancery office:
There are more guidelines for Holy Week, especially for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil/Mass. None of them allow for a congregation and there will be no sacraments of initiation even for those who are prepared to enter the Church. We don’t know when they will be allowed entry but it will be as soon as possible. With the exception of those “ministers” needed for the Masses and ceremonies, nobody will be present for these days which are so looked forward to all year long. Thanks be to God that the Communion of Saints is a reality! The altars will be surrounded by all of the Saints and Angels who are worshipping God in Heaven, for Heaven and Earth touch during these celebrations. Two thousand years and today are brought together either through time or outside of time for these celebrations. All of the faithful of the Church Militant who are deprived will cry out in anguish for what they are missing but also in joy for what is being done on their behalf. We priests, too, are crying in anguish that we cannot bring you in for the Masses and ceremonies and blessings, but we are also crying out in joy that we are still able to bring these graces, although hidden, to Earth. May God have mercy on us all.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka