From the Pastor: First, Middle, and Last Holy Communion
Next weekend we have children making their First Holy Communion at both Sunday Masses. Before receiving Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament for the first time they have been studying and examining many of the Catholic Church teachings, especially those dealing with the sacraments of reconciliation or confession, and of the Holy Eucharist. For the most part, each of the children had already been exposed to the most important teachings simply through observation while at Mass, or by tagging along with mom and dad when they went to confession, and other such normal things Catholic families do. But even so, deeper understanding often is sought with great enthusiasm when there is an important goal in mind, and, since the goal of receiving Holy Communion is to give greater glory to God and to receive extra grace even unto Eternal Life, children preparing for this “event” go at it with great gusto. But how about the adults? After receiving Our Lord countless times over many years or decades, do they ever go back to school, so to speak, and, with the eagerness of a second grader look more closely at what they are doing? Those receiving Communion for the second, last, or in-between times should occasionally brush up on basics, too.
First off let me remind you of the very basic truth that all must know and believe. Jesus said, “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” Throughout the remainder of the Bread of Life Discourse in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus made it clear that the Eucharist was to be not simply a symbol of His body and blood but was to actually be Him. He is both man and God, so in the Eucharist we know that the fullness of His manhood (man is composed of body, blood, and soul) and the fullness of His Godhead (His Divinity) is to be found. The priest, consecrating wheat bread (unleavened in the Latin Church) and grape wine, procures, through the power of God, a substantial change in those simple foods, and, although the “accidents” remain, the very substance of bread and wine are changed into the very substance of Jesus; His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He did not explain the details about how this “Transubstantiation” would happen, but He was very clear that it would happen. At the Last Supper, He was very clear who would make this happen (his apostles, the first priests and bishops of His Church, and their successors) and when they would do so (the fulfillment of the Passover Meal was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). Jesus offered His true self (not a symbol) on the cross. Only by that offering can we be saved; can we have eternal life. The Mass brings that same sacrifice to us in an unbloody manner, and it is through full participation in this sacrifice, including consuming (in a state of grace) the true Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, Who was slain and Who rose again, that we receive eternal life.
It is also helpful, almost necessary, to know about “Concomitance.” By this term, the Church means to explain that, although the one offering the sacrifice (the priest) must consume both Species, that is, both the consecrated Bread and the consecrated Wine, in order to complete the sacrifice, the rest of the people need not receive under both Species to receive the fullness of Jesus. For one can be assured that the fullness of Jesus, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is contained in either Species, in fact, in the smallest particle or droplet of either Species.
Before we receive Him in Holy Communion, though, we must first of all believe that He is really the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and that what He says is true. For if He is not God, or if He is a god who speaks falsehoods, it would be an abominable thing to receive communion, for it would be unholy and a sacrilege. But if He is Whom He both claimed and proved Himself to be — God — then we must approach Holy Communion in fear and trembling! We must confess our sins and allow Him to cleanse our soul before we dare to approach and consume the Sacred Host. Moreover, we must put aside our natural eyes and gaze upon the Host with eyes of Faith and say with the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” while those without Faith will see only bread and wine even after the consecration.
Knowing that It is the Bread of Life, the True Bread from Heaven which we are to receive at Mass, we must fast from all natural food and drink (water and medicine excluded) for a minimum of one hour before receiving this supernatural food. We must never hunger for food that nourishes only our bodies in the same way as that true Food that gives us Eternal Life.
Finally, don’t forget to stay and say your prayers of thanksgiving after Mass! Rushing to receive coffee, milk, and donuts without first saying at least an “Anima Christi” would seem to make a mockery out of the fast before the Mass!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. 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, Low Sunday, is also 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. Holy Mother Church offers a plenary indulgence to those who participate in this devotion and fulfill the three normal conditions (sacramental confession, Holy Communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff). The homebound, sick (and their caretakers), and others not able to make it, meeting those last 3 conditions, may recite the Our Father and the Creed before an image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus and pray for mercy (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you).
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Holy Week 2022 and My Vacation
This is Holy Week. We will have extra confessions, Tenebrae services, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross, the traditional Blessing of Easter Baskets (or, rather, the blessing of the Easter foods within them!), and, of course, the Easter Vigil service and Mass. Last year, since Fr. Tuoc was still unable to return to Vietnam due to covid restrictions, he did many of these in the Novus Ordo Form (in English) in the rectory chapel while they were also being done in the Traditional Form in Latin in the church. He may do the same again this year, as he is still around and active here. Watch the bulletin and web page (EpiphanyTampa.com) for the schedule. Remember, even the daily Mass schedule changes for Holy Week, so pay attention! Since you can find more information on each of these online and elsewhere in this very bulletin, I will not go into further details here.
Instead, I will write a bit about where I have been for the past month. After I returned, I was peppered with questions about where I went, what I did, and if I enjoyed myself. So here are a few little bits in response. First of all, as I told you before I left, I was not going to go to any place where I had to wear a mask or prove a jab, or get a swab. That ruled out any journey on a plane or cruise ship. I wasn’t even sure which state I could enter without getting pressured into such nonsense, so, of course, I stayed in Florida. I was offered a little “hermitage” or a small apartment built next to the garage under a house on stilts just south of St. Augustine. The lovely couple that lives in the house work with a religious order based in Italy and they made this place specifically to house visiting priests when they come to assist in their mission. It was quite comfortable and secluded. Overlooking a saltwater marsh, I saw plenty of ospreys, an owl, and even a bald eagle searching for their meals. There were no neighbors in sight, just nature. They had a little chapel which I set up for the TLM and celebrated Mass every morning upon waking. I usually prayed the first hours of the breviary right after Mass and then went for a walk. The beach (which was very, very sparsely populated) was about a half a mile’s walk from the house. A mile or so of walking the beach and a half a mile back made for a great rosary. I did learn that I had to check the tides, though, as high tide forced me to walk through soft sand instead of the packed sand, and that made it a lot of work rather than a nice walk.
It was a 35-45 minute drive to the historic section of St. Augustine, so I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche and the rest of the area on a regular basis. The church near the shrine has confession and Adoration daily, so I took advantage of it regularly. I was also able to visit a number of other parishes in the area and even found a Carmelite Monastery which had a drive-through Stations of the Cross and Rosary Garden. Very unique.
Bike Week in Daytona Beach, which evidently lasts nearly two weeks, started just as I began my time off. A1A makes for a beautiful, leisurely ride from the northeast, so there were hundreds of motorcycles on the roads and packing each restaurant parking lot. I never saw any bikers in the Shrine, but I met quite a few while getting something to eat or visiting State Parks and such things as forts and the ruins of sugar mills. Most bikers were very respectful (of course, I was in cassock, even while walking the beach or on the nature trails, so they knew I was a priest) and I got to hear some great stories from some of them about their good ol’ days as altar boys. For instance, one Sunday morning I went out to breakfast (something I never get a chance to do here!) after an early Mass in my chapel. I went to an ocean-side food truck which always had a lot of people around it other times I had passed by. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and coffee and started walking past a young couple at the closest picnic table. They nodded. Then the only other person there so early in the morning called out to me, “Father! Come sit here with me!” A biker with a leather vest covered with skulls was sitting by himself and motioning me to join him. After reciting the almost-compulsory “Ad Deum, qui laetificat iuventutem meam'' (which always brings great grins to men when they realize/prove that they still remember their responses) he told me a short version of his life since leaving the Lord’s service at the altar. Although still dressed for intimidation, he was trying to finally change his life, be a good husband, and come back to God and His Church. Will I ever see him again? I doubt it. But maybe, just maybe, I was able to be a good part of his re-entry into Grace. It’s been quite a few years since I rode a motorcycle, but maybe there is a need for a biker priest in cassock!
This is necessarily just a small smattering of how I spent my time but mostly, for a month when there was nothing scheduled on my calendar, I did a lot of nothing!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka