From the Pastor: His Second First Mass!
Last Sunday Fr. Pierre Dorvil, the priest in charge of the Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission, celebrated his first Traditional Latin Mass here at Epiphany! I loved the description he used during his sermon, that this was his second First Mass. The First Mass of a priest is a very special Mass. Excitement mixes with nervousness. Joy and happiness and exuberance mark his entire countenance. None of his preparation for this celebration, neither his philosophy classes nor his theology classes, not his practicums nor “dry” Masses, not even his prayer(!) could possibly make him truly comprehend the magnificent gift God bestowed upon him just hours earlier at his ordination and which he was going to use for its ultimate end as he was about to offer back to God the gift of His Son’s Holy Sacrifice on the Cross. The new priest tries to comport himself and asks, “Am I not prepared? Of course I am. Yet, ABSOLUTELY NOT!” To stand in Persona Christi at his first Mass without dying of love shows how much grace God gives to the priest by not allowing him to fully comprehend what he is about to do! Still, at his first Mass, the priest embraces the Love of Jesus, that love shown while being crucified, to an extent that boggles the mind and expands the soul. Father Dorvil celebrated his First Mass in 1984. It was a Novus Ordo Mass, of course, and it was incredible beyond rational explanation. Yet here he was, nearly 4 decades later, after celebrating countless Masses, and he was celebrating just like he was newly ordained. This second First Mass was a Solemn High Mass in the 1962 Rite. Although the Novus Ordo Mass is the Mass which he fell in love with and which brought him into the priesthood, and although the differences between the “old Mass” and the “new Mass” are usually downplayed as if they are inconsequential, even to the point of officially calling them two forms of the same Rite rather than giving them their due by calling them two distinct Rites, priests who start in the Novus Ordo and then learn the Traditional Latin Mass can—and do—know better! This is why his first Solemn High Mass (TLM) could be such an important celebration as to put it on par with this very first Mass so many years ago. It was as important a Mass (not that each and every Mass in every Rite is not of infinite importance!) as his very first one! It took much preparation, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It evoked all of the fruits of the Holy Ghost as were first experienced oh, so many years ago as this holy priest, when he, with his newly acquired indelible mark of the priesthood, stood at the altar, his hands virtually glistening with the chrism oil with which his bishop had recently anointed them for this mission, brought the Sacrifice of Salvation to the present, bringing Heaven to Earth, and coalescing time and space within a single point, the point of Forgiveness; of Reparation; of Perfect Sacrificial Love. He was, in a manner of speaking, now being “born again” as a priest and he named it as such! A second First Mass! What a blessing it was for me (and, I hope, for you) to have been present to witness such a marvelous occurrence.
Now that he has celebrated his first one, expect to see him quite often (when his pastoral duties allow) offer the Holy Mass. He is planning on celebrating daily Masses in the TLM as well as the occasional Sunday Mass. But Wait! There’s More! We have another local priest who has been preparing to celebrate his second First Mass as well! I have already announced it to many of you but I hesitate to put his name in the bulletin beforehand out of an abundance of caution. There are still many priests and bishops who, were they to get a sniff of a priest embracing Tradition, would put up so many roadblocks as to make it impossible for that priest to celebrate a TLM. That’s just the way it is. If all goes as planned, he will celebrate the TLM next month and then the cone of silence can be lifted.
Finally, Josh Heiman, one of our home-grown seminarians still preparing for his first First Mass (which is still too many years away!), has been with us for a few weeks, acting as subdeacon for the Solemn Masses and praying for all of you, his friends, family, and benefactors, is leaving us Tuesday morning to return to the seminary. He is studying for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, whose members use no Rite except the Traditional Latin Rite. He will probably have to wait for his second First Mass until he is able to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn Mass as a holy Bishop! Please keep him in your prayers as he continues his studies. If he becomes even half as holy as Fr. Dorvil, he will be still twice as holy as me and will be a priest worthy of the call. Be sure to wish him farewell and Godspeed before he leaves, and don’t forget to pray for him as he returns to his studies. May Our Lady keep him and all our young priests- and sisters-to-be under her protective mantle during their formation.
We certainly are blessed with graces from Heaven around here, and you, the Faithful parishioners, are showing what God wants to do, and obviously can do, with any individuals and families ready to become Saints. Keep up the good work!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Easter Fishing Trip
A group of men from the parish had planned an Easter Monday fishing trip on one of the party boats out of Clearwater. I have both great memories and not-so-good memories of party boat trips, missed trips, and canceled trips from my youth. On the “great” side, I remember fishing party boats (these are not “fiesta” type of parties, but rather large boats holding 30 or more people fishing shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to a “charter” fishing boat where only a few people are on board) out of Daytona Beach and catching plenty of amberjack. That was back in the 1970s and the fish were plentiful. Of course, if you have ever caught amberjack you know that they swim all over the place when hooked, and, with everyone fishing so close together, oftentimes the person with a fish on the line would tangle a dozen more lines before he either got the fish up to the boat or it broke off. A lot of time was spend getting untangled! Every once in a while two people on opposite sides of the boat would each hook a fish and their fish would then tangle with each other, resulting in two men straining to pull in what seemed like a monster fish when the reality was that they were each trying to reel in the other man’s line! The stronger of the men would “win” but generally at least one of the fish had broken free by the time the fight was over.
The “not-so-good” memories were not really bad memories of fishing but rather of other things associated with the trip. For instance, one time the weather was absolutely terrible out at sea. We were on an all-day trip, so there was plenty of time for the captain to search for a place to fish that was not directly in the storm. But in the meantime, we were all forced to sit in the cabin, where we were crowded together like sardines. And then people started getting sick. The smell and sounds of children and adults losing their breakfasts, the humidity from all of the body heat and breathing, plus the up and down and rocking motion of the boat was, well... sickening. I don’t think I got seasick but I certainly got sick of other people’s seasickness! The groans and moans and green faces, the... sorry, to be too descriptive would not make for a good article. But just let me say that even the crew got sick just from being in the cabin helping the sick passengers. The only two people onboard who remained unfazed were the ship’s captain (he was up in his own place and not breathing in the fumes or seeing and smelling and hearing the rest of us!) and my grandfather, a life-long fisherman and boater himself. He just serenely took it all in and remained just as nonchalant as could be. He was always my fishing hero. Of course, we eventually found a place to fish. The waves and wind were both strong but not so much that we were in danger of falling overboard, so the boat stopped and we were all able to get outside. Only about half of the people were able to fish, if I recall correctly, and the rest were just miserable for the rest of the day, staying inside (the worst place to be) because they were too seasick to move. We managed to catch a lot of fish, but grandpa outcaught everyone, as usual.
We also had at least two times when we arrived at the dock only to be told that they had no record of our party making reservations. After getting up at 4 in the morning to get out to the boat, bringing all the cousins and uncles from Michigan out for a fishing trip, that news did not go over too well. But there was nothing to do about it! The boats were all fully booked and, most likely, someone slipped a few extra bucks to someone to get aboard and we were left behind. And onetime our boat simply left early and, though we were there on time, we were stuck looking at an empty slip instead of a boarding plank. Oh, those were the good ol’ days before social media or any other real way of complaining, so they could get away with whatever they pleased.
Anyway, back to the Epiphany men’s trip. They asked if I would like to join them for a half-day trip. I had to respond in the negative because I had two morning Masses and confessions and Adoration. Fishing and priesthood just don’t work out too well now that we are supposed to be catching men rather than fish! So they asked Fr. Mangiafico if he wanted to come. Instead of saying “yes” he said, “Tell Fr. Palka that I will celebrate his morning Masses for him and he can go.” So on Easter Monday, I had to wake up extra early in order to celebrate a private Mass before the morning Masses began, then drive to Clearwater through the morning traffic, and, wait, it sounds like I am complaining! Nope, this is fishing. This is how men become strong enough to be real Catholics! We sacrifice sleep, comfort, eating, and other things just to perhaps catch some fish which would have been more cheaply purchased at leisure from the market. And we love it! We brought the fish we caught to the restaurant at the dock and had them cook lunch for us. We feasted on Easter Fish and enjoyed every minute and every mouthful. Thanks, Father M! Thanks men of Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: So Many New Parishioners!
This Triduum and Easter was glorious in so many ways! Not only did we get a chance to commemorate Our Lord’s Passion and Death and then celebrate His Resurrection without having to lock the Faithful out of the church, but we had the opportunity to introduce these Traditional Rites to many people who had never experienced them before! As one person told me, “These were stolen from us last year. This year we won’t miss any of these services!” This exuberance had already been tangible through the whole of Lent, with daily and Sunday Mass attendance growing to new levels, with the Friday Stations and Soup having well over 100 people staying for the simple meal after each weekly prayerful Way of the Cross, and with ever greater participation in both our adult and children's groups and activities. And then came Easter, when we, for the first time, broke the 1000 person mark in Mass attendance.
As thrilled as I am that all of you are here, I also see problems arising from such a quick influx of people new to the Traditional Latin Mass (and other sacraments in the Traditional Form), so I want to address some issues here. Please note that I am doing this, not to chastise anybody, but rather to inform everybody! Just like we don’t want all of the people who are fleeing the covid-communism of Michigan and New York to simply move to Florida and then vote for the same things that made their previous states such terrible places to live, so we don’t want new parishioners coming in and then trying to make this parish become just like the one they came from! Exterior signs of the interior reverence and devotion which should be given to God at Mass are important, but old habits are hard to break. I know! It takes practice to really pray the Mass rather than just show up for the “entertainment” (you know, the “What will I get out of it?” mentality of so many modern Catholics).
First of all, put away your watch! A Sunday Low Mass (the silent Mass where the people come to full, active, conscious, participation through silent prayer rather than through busy-ness and vocal activity) generally takes slightly more than an hour. The High Mass, due especially to the fact that almost everything said aloud is chanted rather than recited, will normally run longer than 90 minutes. There are no “shortcuts” such as a shorter Eucharistic Prayer, or options to skip the Confiteor if the priest says the Kyrie! Everything is for the Glory of God, not for the “get in and get out” mentality of men! Giving God the bare minimum, even of time spent at Mass, leads to complaining (and often refusing) if He asks anything “extra” of you.
That leads to the second point, which is that the Mass is more properly described as “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” to remind us that Mass is not just a chintzy, meager meal where we sit around passing time until we can (finally!) get a piece of bread and a sip of wine and go home. It is the Wedding Banquet of the King’s Son, the vows of which He proclaims from the Cross upon which He gave His life for His Bride, the Church. Past, present, and future space and time come together, as the one, perfect, sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross is made manifest to us here and now. If you were physically present at the crucifixion, you wouldn’t be counted among the Faithful if you kept checking your watch and proclaiming, “Would you hurry up and die, already? I don’t want to waste my whole day with You!” No, rather you dress appropriately for the Nuptial Banquet, you pray appropriately at the foot of the Cross, and you make the whole day hallowed between your drive time to and from the church, prayers in preparation for Mass, prayers during Mass, prayers of Thanksgiving after Mass (not racing to be the first to the donuts!), and staying for social gatherings when the formal prayers are complete (outside of the church, of course, recognizing the clear distinction between “church” and “social hall”).
Finally, donuts are for eating after Mass, not before or during! Canon Law has shortened the Eucharistic Fast to a short one hour before the reception of Holy Communion, although you can always follow the previous rule of a 3-hour fast, or the even earlier fast from midnight if you are strong enough. Technically, the sixty-minute fast means that at a High Mass you could probably be scarfing down that glazed cruller in the pew during the Gospel and still fast for an hour before you receive Holy Communion! Don’t do it! You should also put an end to the “Novus Ordo normal” practice of feeding children (other than infants, of course) while in the church. “But Father, I can’t keep my children still and quiet during Mass unless I give them Goldfish or Cheerios or raisins!” Your elders can teach you how! Teach the children (a great way to learn yourself!) the glories of the TLM rather than reinforcing their childish manner of acting! For the Love of God, teach them to sit still and be quiet and pray! Don’t teach them to eat every time they “have nothing else to do” or you are setting them up for eating disorders in a few short years.
Remember that nearly everybody else around you was as lost as you are when they first started attending TLMs. What seems difficult and foreign now will soon become “normal” to the point that you wish you had never been deprived of Tradition in the first place!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Five Years of Easter at Epiphany
A look back at my Easter bulletin articles: In 2016 I wrote happily about our First Triduum in the Traditional Rite. The following year I explained Divine Mercy and invited everyone to participate the following Sunday (I invite you once again!). But then the articles took a darker turn. 2018 I wrote about our local Bay Area showing a complete lack of Faith, as shown clearly in the now almost-defunct local newspaper. From there I wrote about France’s lack of Faith and the burning of Notre Dame. Finally, last year, I wrote about everyone everywhere being locked out of Mass. I see in these topics a prophetic writing sequence. Today, let’s go back to happier times. For the sake of the newcomers (and so that I don’t write another negative prophecy), here is a rerun of my first Epiphany Easter article:
We celebrated the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) in the Traditional Latin Rite this year. It is the first time I have had this grand experience and it may be the first time in five decades that it has been done at a parish in our diocese. We also had a visiting priest (Fr. Vincent, SJ) taking it all in! Although it took a lot of work by a lot of people, it was all worth it! The choir, the altar boys, and the MCs had to be fully versed in who does what, when, where, and why for all three days. Of course, there was also the “invisible” work done in cleaning and sprucing up the church and grounds in the earlier days of Holy Week. Thank you all for all you sacrificed to bring this to our parish!
Everybody, including the other priests, kept asking, “How long will it (the Mass, the prayers, the service, etc.) take?” I kept driving everyone crazy with the only honest answer I had: “I don’t know!” I could tell how long an Easter Vigil Mass was in other parishes where I had celebrated it (usually about 3 hours long) but almost everything is longer in the old Latin Rite. How much longer, though, I could not say. Part of the problem is my lack of full proficiency in Latin chant. OK, that’s an enormous understatement. The only “formal” training in Latin chant I have ever had was a weekend chant seminar I attended five or six years ago. We were introduced to various Mass chants but it was very, very basic. Not nearly enough to prepare me to chant the Passion in three voices or the Exsultet. So while choir members chanted those (except for the part of Our Lord, which I chanted aloud), I chanted them “silently” as I do the Gloria and Creed at Sunday Mass while the choir chants what you hear. Not a perfect solution, but the best I could do the first time around. I did manage to chant the Passion in the ferial tone in three voices for one daily Mass, though, so it’s a start.
The Easter Vigil in the traditional Rite is a bit different than in the Novus Ordo. The Vigil Service and the Mass, for instance, are separate from one another, with the blessing of fire, candle procession, the extra readings (chanted by yours truly, no less!), and the bestowal of the sacraments of initiation all done as part of a “Vigil Service” before the Mass begins. During the Vigil, there were such “oddities” as me needing to change vestments and colors several times, from violet cope to white dalmatic (a Deacon’s outer vestment) back to violet and back to white. I did wind up wearing violet once when I should have changed to white and one day someone will use the photos for some sort of liturgical blackmail when they discover the gaff! After the Vigil was complete, all of the altar boys and clergy left the church (without any blessing, chanting, or gestures of any sort) and went to the sacristy to prepare for Mass. I neglected to have anyone announce what we were doing, so anyone who wasn’t paying close attention to the missal might have thought we were done. But it was a good time for a potty break or stretch for those who were in the know. I had guessed that it might take as much as 5 hours to complete but it only took 3 1/2. Of course, we only had one person receiving the sacraments of initiation, so if there were more it would have taken more time. Plus, I didn’t see where a sermon could improve on the liturgy itself, so that cut out a sizable chunk of time, too!
The only service for which I underestimated time was the Good Friday morning Tenebrae prayer. It took 2 1/2 hours. Prayerful hours, though, and quite exquisite. I immediately had requests that the choir do all three Tenebrae services next Triduum! The Good Friday Veneration of the Cross and Communion service wasn’t much different than the new rite except that it was all prayed in Latin. The traditional blessing of the Easter baskets, to which I was introduced several years ago by some good Polish parishioners, was short and sweet as always, though I did find the “official” Latin prayers for the blessing of Easter Food in the old Roman Ritual, so it was even more “traditional” than ever this year. Speaking of which, somebody dropped off a basket for me which contained the smokiest, most unusual kielbasa I have ever eaten (after Easter, when the fast was broken, of course!). I don’t know who brought it but it was incredible! And once again I have sadly run out of room.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka