From the Pastor: Don’t Make Waves?
As I wrote last week, Dr. Taylor Marshall is going to give a talk on St. Joseph this coming Monday, May 1, which coincidentally happens to be the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What luck! On Saturday, May 6, His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be with us at 7:00 pm for compline (night prayer), which will include a blessing of a new reliquary for a recently-received first-class relic of Blessed Karl of Austria. Following the prayers, he will give a short talk and then join us for coffee and dessert. He will be the celebrant of the Pontifical Solemn High Mass the next day, Sunday, May 7, at 10:30. Because I wrote more extensively about this last week, I won’t go into any more details but write it simply as a reminder. I certainly hope you put it on your calendar!
One thing I have been asked about repeatedly after announcing that both of the above-mentioned men are coming to Epiphany is, “Aren’t you making us a target? Wouldn’t it be better to fly under the radar? After all, Cardinal Roach is canceling Traditional Latin Masses all over right now.” The people asking the question are, with good reason, worried that we will have our liturgical legs cut out from under us, so to speak, if we show ourselves to be “too Traditional.” But the reality is that our own Bishop, Gregory Parkes, already knows that the parish is traditional and he has always been supportive of us. He knows that I am outspoken in both speech and writing, and, although there have been things that I have written that he has chastised me for, he knows that even where we disagree about how or if certain issues should be explained, I am not doing anything to be mean or spiteful, but rather am looking out for the spiritual welfare of my parishioners. So, from a local perspective, there is no “flying under the radar” needed or even possible. As far as the men in Rome are concerned, I doubt very seriously that even if one of our FBI infiltrators should send them a letter tattling on us, it would make any more of a difference than if a million people sent them letters praising what we are doing. They have their minds made up as to what they are going to do with those who follow Tradition and they are going to follow through as they see fit. We are already, at least generically, a target, so why be timid at this point? Of course, I could be wrong and maybe they read our bulletin every week, breathlessly waiting to see what great things are happening here to help people achieve a heroic level of sanctity and we, instead of being limited or canceled, are going to be put up as an example of what a true parish should be! That is as likely as them reading the bulletins from all TLM parishes and adjusting their “cancelation schedule” based on who is visiting which parish. I am guessing that we are either already on the hit list or not and nothing we do or fail to do (save prayer) is going to change that. Therefore, we must just keep on doing the best we can, bring in the best speakers we can, allow the holiest priests, Bishops, and Cardinals who wish to come here to do so, and keep striving to become Saints. I hope you agree that going out with a bang is better than going out with nary a whimper.
Once, when I was but a youngster, I heard a story about a man who died and went to hell. The demon “welcomed” him and told him that he would escort him to the place where he would spend eternity. Each damned soul, he was told, would receive the torment that he had specifically merited due to his particular tendency to sin. The poor man complained, “But I didn’t do anything bad! I never got into any trouble myself or caused any difficulty for anyone else! I can’t imagine why I deserve any torture at all!” Of course, the demon only cackled with harsh, throaty laughter, as only demons can do, as he dug his claws into the man's shoulder and started dragging him down a long, dark, foul-smelling hallway with doors lining either side. “But how can I be in hell? I never caused any disturbance. I was never judgmental or told people that they were wrong. I never bothered anyone at all,” the man continued to plead as he struggled against his captor. “I never rocked the boat. I have a clear conscience.” As they passed by each door he could hear various instruments of torture being used and the screams of the unseen people inside made him blubber his unheard excuses all the more. “I never protested for or against any cause whatsoever. I never took sides so that I would never anger anyone. I did everything I could to ‘make nice’ with all people. I don’t deserve this!” At last the demon stopped. They were outside of a door behind which could be heard no whips, no clubs, no roaring fire. Instead of terrifying screams of pain, there were only the soft sounds of gentle murmuring. “This is your destiny,” grunted the demon. The man said, “Oh, this doesn’t seem too bad. I guess I was worried for nothing.” The door opened and the man was thrown in, landing with a huge splash in the middle of hell’s septic tank. He found himself shackled in such a way that, if he strained with every fiber of his body, he could just barely keep his mouth out of all that foul excrement and he joined his damned companions in forever murmuring, “Don’t make waves, don’t make waves.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Two “Big Name” Guests Coming Soon!
In just two short weeks, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (Monday, May 1), the first of the guests whom the headline mentions will arrive. Due to the hard work of our Fraternal Society of St John the Apostle, Dr. Taylor Marshall will be here to give a presentation on St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. The Fraternity puts these talks/prayers/dinners together four times a year for men and boys, both from the parish and from outside the parish, to come together to form strong, virtuous, Catholic male bonds, to network, and to become familiar with the traditions of the Church. Dr. Marshall is the founder of the Troops of St. George, so we already have a connection to him through our very active troop. Now the boys get to meet the one who put the Troops together in the first place! Beginning at 6:00 pm we will have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confessions. Then at 7:00 pm, dinner and the presentation by Dr. Taylor. At about 8:15 we will have a fireside rosary and then dessert. Men, I expect to see you there! (Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com with a link available from our parish calendar on our website.)
Just a few days after that big night we have another guest joining us. Although it is hard to top Dr. Taylor Marshall, we managed to pull it off. On Saturday, May 6, His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be with us at 7:00 pm for compline (night prayer), after which he will give a short talk and then join us for coffee and dessert. He will be the celebrant of the Pontifical Solemn High Mass the next day, Sunday, May 7, at 10:30. At that Mass he will have the pleasure of giving First Holy Communion to nearly 30 of our children. I want to remind you that because of the First Holy Communion children and their families, the church and hall, which are normally both packed at 10:30, will be even more difficult to get into. We will not be able to reserve seats for even the extended families of those receiving the Eucharist for the first time, since that could conceivably reserve more than half of the available pews, but even their immediate families will take up a good-sized portion of the church.
I tell you this, not to scare you away, but to remind you that we had a similarly expected crowd not too long ago when a well-known Cardinal celebrated Mass for us and it worked out better than we could have hoped. Everyone cooperated when asked to exit the church and hall after the 7:30 Mass so that we could get everything set properly for the big Mass. (Nobody was/is able to just attend the 7:30 and “camp out” there in the pew so as to “save” seats for the 10:30!) The crowd outside was polite and joyful as people waited for the doors of the church to open once we were ready for them to enter. Everyone sat closer together than they ever had before so that the full capacity of the church was reached and then the overflow crowd piled into the hall. We even had speakers and at least one TV set up outside so that those who were working the food tents (at a tremendous sacrifice of missing Cardinal Burke’s Mass, I might add) could at least sporadically keep tabs on what was happening. Since it all worked out once, I expect that it will work out again.
After Mass, the Bishop will probably grab a quick snack and then greet everyone in the parish room in the old school. He will also bless objects if you bring them back there before Mass begins and you can pick up your items later that day. Those who attend the 7:30 Mass that day, whether it is because they always go to the low Mass or because they are working the later Mass or even because they don’t want to deal with the crowds at the 10:30 Mass may, of course, either stay for the “after-Mass” blessings and greetings or come back for them. You can still meet the Bishop after Mass and a leisurely breakfast!
This week, before any of the above-mentioned things take place, I will be meeting with the children making their First Holy Communion. We have multiple meeting times scheduled throughout the week so parents can take their pick of times and dates. I think everyone is already on the schedule who is supposed to be, but if you are reading this and don’t know anything about it, please call the parish office right away! You can see the dates/times of these interviews on our parish calendar, which is available on the website as mentioned earlier in this article. That really is a helpful web page, for we usually keep all of the public activities up to date there and if you think to check you won’t have to call the office, or your friends, or ask on our falsebook page or anything like that.
To close this out, I got a phone call from Aunt Irma as I was typing this. She evidently hacked into the FBI computers and, since they were hacking me, she was reading this article as I was writing it. She was laughing, sure that it was all fiction. “You might have pushed too far into fantasy to be believed,” she said. “After all, there is no parish in the world that can get both Taylor Marshall and Bishop Schneider in the same year, let alone the same week.” Imagine that. She thinks I sometimes make things up!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: An Amazing Easter!
This year, once again, Easter and the holy days leading up to it saw an increase in participation at Epiphany. Our Tenebraes must have been well-attended. Although I am inside the confessional during those beautiful candle-lit chanted prayers and so cannot see how many people show up, I can tell you that I spent more time hearing confessions during them than in previous years. I started before the schola entered the church and I left after they did. That is a good sign, for each of these three sessions lasts for hours!
On Holy Thursday there were 800 Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, anticipating large numbers of people receiving Holy Communion both that night and the following afternoon after the Veneration of the Cross. I thought, based on previous years’ numbers, that we would have plenty of Hosts left over. I was not expecting a full church (497 people in the 500-person capacity church) on Thursday night and then an overflow crowd (539) on Friday! When we finished the Communion Service on Good Friday there was only one (1) Host left! As a reference point, in 2018 (the first year I thought to take notes like this for Holy Week) we only had 312 people who received Holy Communion between those two days.
Fr. Alexander made his “debut” at the Holy Thursday Mass as he assisted with the distribution of Holy Communion for the first time. Up until then, he had only observed the Mass. He is now starting to memorize prayers and parts of the Mass. For instance, in giving Holy Communion, he had to memorize and say not just, “The Body of Christ” as is done in the Novus Ordo Masses, but rather, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” In Latin, of course! Then, while at the practice for the Holy Saturday Vigil, he was assigned the task of chanting the Epistle. He had less than an hour to practice and he had not yet been exposed to the old chant notation! He learned how to read the notes and actually chant them as written in what I would have seen as an impossibly short period of time. He did a marvelous job. He chanted at least as well as I currently do and much, much, MUCH better than I did when I first started! It won’t be long before he will be ready to celebrate Mass or take the part of the deacon or subdeacon at a Solemn Mass.
The blessing of the Easter Baskets was also well attended. I can’t tell you how many people say how much they look forward to this simple ceremony. They even enjoy planning for it. They have to find just the perfect basket. They have to find (and some of it is very difficult to find) the objects that they will place in it. If they are cooking and baking and making any or all of it, all of that must be planned ahead of time so that the food is ready on time yet not done too soon so that it isn’t fresh by the time it gets eaten. And many people, after seeing what others put in their baskets and hearing what prayers are available for blessing the food and non-edible items, make it a point to add more things to their own list for next year! We had 6 tables filled with baskets and still had larger baskets on the floor due to lack of room! (We only filled two tables in 2018.) Check out the photos on our fleecebook page and see the variety. Plus, there were nearly 70 people in attendance. That’s not too shabby for a non-Polish parish!
At the Saturday night Easter Vigil and Mass, we had 392 people in attendance. It lasted three and a quarter hours and that is without anyone receiving the sacraments of initiation that night. (I am grateful that Bishop Parkes encourages us to bring converts into the Church throughout the year when they are ready, rather than forcing them to wait for the Easter Vigil to receive their sacraments unless the timing works out.) I am astounded when I hear that other parishes finish in less time even with a group receiving baptism and confirmation, which can easily add on another 45 minutes. In 2018 we had 112 people attend and we started it, as the old ritual says to do, late enough that the Vigil Service is completed and Mass is beginning right around midnight. That year we began at 11:00 pm and ended after 2:00 am. The cleanup from that and the setup for the Easter morning Mass kept many of us there until shortly after 4. I got about an hour of sleep that night and the choir members, not living right here on the property as I do, only got about the same amount of sleep because most have long distances to drive, families to take care of to boot, and had to return for the 10:30 Mass! I think they all threatened to quit if we did it that way again. Or else, I threatened to quit. I was too tired to remember who is to “blame” for us reverting back to a starting time of “the fall of darkness.” This year I was in bed by 1:00 am, although there was still a group celebrating in the social hall when I finally turned in. I think they bring in their blessed Easter Baskets and share the foods they contain and hang out celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus and speaking of Holy things. Their small group is growing as well. Oh, and there were 708 people between the two Easter morning Masses, up nearly 400 from 2018!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Or, From Chat GPT?
I have heard a lot about Chat GPT and the “amazing” things it can do. It is artificial intelligence, which simply means that it is a computer program with access to a lot of information and it is programmed in such a way that it can spit back that information almost as if it were a human who was thinking and responding. Of course, being a computer program, it is capable of putting together information much quicker than a human can. The more complicated the response must be, the more apparent the time differential. With that simple explanation of Chat GPT, I now turn to what I did with it. I asked it to do a simple task and gave it very simple guidelines. I typed, “Write an article 700-900 words long welcoming Catholics to Mass on Easter.” That was it. Within a very short time (tens of seconds) it responded with the following 777-word article. Note well: this article is from Chat GPT, not from the pastor, and not from any human directly, but from a computer program.
As Easter approaches, Catholics all over the world are preparing to welcome the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many, this is the most important day in the liturgical calendar, offering a chance to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by the Son of God and the promise of redemption that it entails. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations will undoubtedly look different than usual, but the message of hope and renewal is as important as ever. If you are a Catholic who is planning to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, here are some tips on how to make the most of this sacred occasion.
Firstly, it is important to remember that Easter is a time of joy and celebration. This is the day when the darkness of the crucifixion is replaced by the light of the resurrection, and we are reminded that no matter what challenges we face in our lives, hope is always possible. So, as you prepare for Mass, try to embrace this sense of excitement and positivity. Wear your best clothes, bring a smile, and be prepared to sing, pray, and celebrate with your fellow parishioners.
In the current climate, it is important to be mindful of the safety precautions that may be in place at your church. Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions on how many people can attend Mass, or guidelines on social distancing and the wearing of masks. Some churches may require you to book a spot in advance, so check with your parish ahead of time to make sure you have all the necessary information. Remember that these measures are in place to keep you and your fellow worshippers safe, so try to be patient and understanding.
When you arrive at your church, take a moment to soak in the atmosphere. Depending on your parish, the decorations and music may be different than usual, but the sense of reverence and holiness should still be palpable. As you find your seat, take a deep breath and try to quiet your mind. This is a time for reflection and prayer, and it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day. Take a moment to focus on the significance of the occasion, and allow yourself to be present in the moment.
During the Mass itself, remember that the focus is on the celebration of the resurrection. The readings, prayers, and music are all geared towards reminding us of the miracle of Easter Sunday, and the hope that it represents. Listen carefully to the words of the priest and the scripture readings, and allow them to sink in. Pay attention to the words of the hymns and the responses, and try to join in with enthusiasm and sincerity. Remember that you are part of a community of worshippers, all of whom are there to share in this moment of significance together.
After Mass, take some time to reflect on what you have experienced. Think about the messages that were shared during the service, and how they apply to your own life. Consider the ways in which you can incorporate the hope and positivity of Easter into your own daily routine, and how you might share this message with those around you. Take a moment to pray in your own way, and give thanks for the gift of renewal that Easter brings.
Finally, remember that the celebration of Easter lasts longer than just one day! This is a time of year when we are invited to embrace the hope and joy that the resurrection brings, and to carry that message with us into the world. So, continue to seek out opportunities to celebrate and share this message throughout the Easter season. Attend Mass regularly, read scripture, spend time with family and friends, and find ways to serve your community. By living out the message of Easter in our daily lives, we can continue to spread hope and renewal long after the flowers have faded and the chocolate bunnies have been eaten.
In conclusion, attending Mass on Easter Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to connect with a community of worshippers who share your faith. While this year’s celebrations may look different than usual, the message of Easter is as important as ever. So, as you prepare to attend Mass, remember to embrace the joy and hope of the occasion, be mindful of safety precautions, and allow yourself to be present in the moment. By doing so, you can experience the fullness of the Easter message and carry it with you into your daily life.
With prayers for your holiness,
(The computerized) Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: What Is Happening During Holy Week?
This week is Holy Week! On Wednesday evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday there 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 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 others 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 on 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 entire 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. (It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 11:00 am if any of you wish to attend in person or listen to it on the radio.) But the Church still does not allow morning Masses on Holy Thursday. There are, of course, people who do not remember this even after reading about it in the bulletin and still show up for the non-existent Mass, but that would never happen to you! 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, there will still be some people who show up expecting both of them! More fortunately for them than for those who show up on Thursday morning to an empty parking lot and locked church, at least there will be people inside as Tenebrae is being chanted. 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 arduous 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. Our Easter Vigil will start at 8:00 pm and flows directly into the Mass. The entire service and Mass will probably take about 3 hours. On Easter Sunday, the Mass schedule will follow the normal times of 7:30 am and 10:30 am.
So mark your calendars and be prepared for a holy Holy Week!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka