From the Pastor: Undeserved but Appreciated “Thanks”
Last week I celebrated twenty years as a priest. Thank you all for the wonderful reception in the social hall and for all of your prayers. One thing I heard over and over was how I had done “this” or “that” so very well. Without false humility, let me correct that mistaken notion. Most of what everybody was praising me for had very, very little to do with me! For instance, we have a very good choir. I didn’t put it together, I didn’t train them, I didn’t choose musical settings for them, or do anything else for which to claim credit. I simply inherited them from Incarnation parish, which had already done all the work. I didn’t know the choir director, either, but several people pushed very hard to keep Anders as the head, so I took their word for his abilities and his faith, and he has proved his worth. Heck, I didn’t even know the value of a good choir for the Traditional Latin Mass, since all I had ever celebrated were silent low Masses which have no choir involvement.
I was also thanked profusely for making Epiphany a parish focused on the Traditional Latin Mass. But this, too, was not anything I did. I was perfectly content at my old parish where I was in my seventh year as pastor. I had just finished building a new school and raising the funds for renovating the old school and had fully expected the bishop to leave me there for another five years. After all, it is his policy to give six year terms to pastors. At the very least I expected to be left in place for at least one more year so that I could complete the renovation project. But the Bishop had other plans. It was his plan to move me here and to make this parish, in his words, the “center for the Latin Mass.” So I went from a parish where the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass was a minor part of the parish to an assignment where it was the main focus of the parish, but my entire work toward making this happen was to say, “Bishop, I will do whatever you wish.” That’s hardly something for which I can take credit.
“Well, at least you have to take credit for the extra daily Sung Mass which we now enjoy” you say. No, I cannot take credit for that, either. Several members of the choir volunteered to sing the Mass as long as it would be done by 7:15 so they could get to work. A couple of men also volunteered to serve the Mass if it was scheduled and a sacristan said she would set up. Well, when there are people volunteering to do all the work necessary, to prepare the chants for a daily Mass, and to commit to being there every day, the least I could do was agree to celebrate it. The daily Masses are not crowded, but the small congregations are very faithful.
You thanked me for having a high school youth group which the teens love but once again I must redirect the credit to the Ballings and the others who took on the responsibility of organizing and planning the group activities, keeping the kids and families notified and reminded of everything and, of course, making sure the kids have plenty of food to eat!
I was thanked for the daily confessions during Adoration and for making confessions available on Sundays. I don’t see this as a very big thing, though, since I am pretty good at just sitting! By making confessions available when you are already here for Mass or Exposition, I am simply giving you a convenient way to clean your soul without making a separate trip. Plus, if there is a lull in the action, so to speak, I can use the time to pray my divine office or rosary, so it is not a big sacrifice for me to “sit in the box.”
And finally, for those of you who thanked me simply for answering the call to the priesthood, though I had a lot to do with that, suffering through years of cemetery--oops, seminary-- studies and torture, it is really the Bishop who deserves most of the credit for my priesthood. I presented myself to Holy Mother Church stating that I believed God was calling me to be a priest. The Church, through the seminary professors, through the pastors, staffs and parishioners of various parishes wherein I had pre-ordination assignments, and ultimately through the hands (quite literally--through the laying on of hands) of Bishop Robert Lynch, made the ultimate decision to ratify my belief.
In short, while I appreciate the glowing comments, I can truly say the real credit for my twenty years as a priest belongs much more to others than to me. Thank you for your role in all of this!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: I Never Expected It!
This month, with First Holy Communions, Confirmations and my 20th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, has been hectic, tiring, joyful and rewarding. Those three things were not even on my radar screen when I was ordained in 1996. Sure, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was foremost in my mind leading up to my becoming a priest, but actually giving Holy Communion to children (and adults) for their very first time -- as opposed to the daily/weekly reception of Holy Communion for the “ordinary” Catholic -- was something I don’t remember ever thinking about. But what a thrill it is! The kids are so excited and nervous, so filled with new knowledge and yet still also filled with questions about what it will be like, and I am right there soaking in all the spiritual blessings and emotional wonderment.
When I was first ordained, confirming kids (and adults) was not something I gave a second thought to, either. Growing up I had neither seen nor heard of confirmations being done by anyone except a bishop. It was probably mentioned in a seminary class at some point, but I don’t have memories of it making much of an impression on me. Yet even at my first assignment, though I was just a wet-behind-the-ears associate, I confirmed what seemed to be dozens of people each year at the Easter Vigil Mass. I can now say that confirming the adults was, for the most part, a more moving experience than confirming the teens. Many of the adults were brought to tears when they were confirmed. They were much more likely to have studied the Faith because they wanted to, rather than because somebody (namely, parents) told them to. They were usually leaving a partially correct church in which they were raised, which they had previously thought contained the full truth, yet by studying Catholicism had realized how lacking their old faith had been and how much they had missed until now. They often sacrificed a lot to become Catholic, including alienation from family and previous friends who could not get past long-held false notions of Catholicism being somehow the evil bogeyman. Yet when one of the teens really “got it” that made even the ecstatic adults pale in comparison, since it was apparent how “different” they were than all of their peers.
Finally, when I was first ordained, it never dawned on me what all I would have to experience (both good and bad) in order to make it to my 20 year anniversary. It is pretty funny watching people look at my ordination photos without being able to figure out which young priest is me. But I have seen myself much more frequently and for a much longer time than any of you, and if, twenty years ago, I had been able to see a photo of my current self, I am almost positive that I wouldn’t have been able to identify my own photo! Yet the physical changes have nothing on the spiritual changes. I am a better teacher of holiness than live-er (is that a word? “Liver” doesn’t seem right, either) of holiness but the growth of my belly at least roughly corresponds to the growth of my soul. I like to think that I have lost as many sins as I have lost hairs, too!
One thing I was certain of, then as now, is that I was called to be a priest. I didn’t know why, but I was convinced that God had called me to this vocation. I still didn’t know everything that a priest did, I still didn’t know what the greatest hardships or the largest rewards or the most mundane tasks would be. I was still completely baffled regarding why God had called me, how I had ever passed the screening process to enter the seminary, or survived the seminary discernment process. Yet I still knew, just knew, that I was destined to be a priest. Even so, the fact that I have made for twenty years is as mind boggling as the fact that the Church has survived for two thousand years. Over that time, I am pretty sure that most priests were as clueless as I as to the whys, whats and hows of their call. Yet Holy Mother Church survives through the grace of God.
To all of you who have received your First Confession (I didn’t previously mention this, since it was one that I had understood to be a part of the “job” from the beginning), your First Holy Communion or your Confirmation at my hands, congratulations and thank you. I have given you a great gift containing sacramental, supernatural power. You have given me a greater gift than I ever expected when I was “growing up” in the seminary. Bestowing the sacraments is the second best thing to receiving them. As for the rest of you, thanks for helping me live and celebrate my priesthood! May God bless you all abundantly!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: For Those Not at the Confirmation Ceremony
By the time you read this, I will have (God willing and the creek didn’t rise) conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite upon a group of new “soldiers” in Christ’s army, the Church Militant. While studying the old books to make sure I both licitly and validly bestowed the sacrament, I came across some wonderful information which I would like to share with you. The following quotes are found in the 1950 Roman Ritual.
“First, in regard to the minister of the sacrament of confirmation, the Code of Canon Law (canon 782), restating the dogmatic definition of the Council of Trent, says that the ordinary minister is a bishop only, but the extraordinary minister is a priest to whom this power has been granted either by common law or by a special indult of the Holy See.” So delegating priests to confer confirmation, though not the norm, is obviously not a novelty, either, though now the local bishop can make the delegation. A bit later it continues, “This goes back to the practice already followed by this Sacred Congregation in the indults granted to ordinary priests the power to confer confirmation in certain unusual instances...these priests would either already be honored with the distinction of Protonotary Apostolic, or that they be elevated to such, so as to carry out their function with greater dignity.” For those of you who missed it, that means that I should have, according to the old Rite, been given the title, “Monsignor” when I was granted delegation. I got ripped off! It even says that I, as “the substitute for the ordinary minister of confirmation be constituted, so far as possible, in some ecclesiastical dignity and that he (I) belong to the diocese, so that for example, he (I) could enjoy the use of the pontifical vestments and appurtenances, as also the other honors and privileges and distinctions which customarily belong to Protonotary Apostolics (Monsignors).” What exactly those “pontifical vestments and appurtenances” are, I have no idea. But I should have been able to wear them! Another rip off!
Enough about me, though. Here are some parts which I really enjoyed reading about which deal with the confirmandi and sponsor. “The candidates for confirmation should take care that they approach this sacrament with clean countenance and hair properly combed. They as well as the sponsors should be dressed modestly and simply. The female candidates especially and their sponsors should not come to church decked out with ornaments of vanity or rouged faces; instead they should be modest and reverent in attire and appearance.” Do you really think they were telling both boys and girls that they had to bathe and brush their hair? Not hardly. Today, though, they might have included the boys in the admonition to not wear ear and face piercings (ornaments of vanity) and perhaps even the rouge.
Here is perhaps my favorite instruction for the ceremony. “...the adult candidates should place one foot on the right foot of the sponsor...” What? I had to reread that several time to see if I was missing something. I even checked with several “old” people to see if anyone remembered that. Nobody did. Notice that I ended in the middle of the sentence, though, which continued with another option. “...;or that the sponsor should place his right hand on the right shoulder of the subject, whether child or adult.” That second option (and usually options are given in the order of preference; therefore the foot stepping is the prefered method), is the only one I can find anyone admitting. If your confirmation included stepping on your sponsor’s right foot (with your right foot? Your left foot?), please let me know. I would love to hear stories of how that worked!
One final quote to leave you with. Often, the “old ways” demanded much more of us Catholics than the “new ways.” Not so with confirmation. How many of you who were confirmed in the past few decades had to struggle through the boredom of at least two years of classes before you were allowed to be confirmed? That’s the new way. The old way? Get a load of this instruction. “In conclusion the priest is seated, and he counsels the sponsors to foster within their godchildren right living, that they may shun evil and do good; moreover, he instructs the sponsors to teach their godchildren the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary, since such is their obligation.” Yes, in the Traditional Rite of the old days, it was expected that you would be confirmed by the delegated priest before you knew even the most basic prayers! You now have my permission to go slap that beastly DRE who berated you for trying to get out of the terrible “Faith Formation” classes and the dreaded “Confirmation retreat/slumber party.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Can a Faithful Catholic also be a Mason? NO!
The other day I was out and about when I had the opportunity to speak with a man who had never seen a priest in a cassock before. We got to talking religion, of course, and I soon discovered that he was a non-practicing Catholic, was engaged to a delightful young lady, had a new house on the Gulf of Mexico, and was living a “good life”. I invited him to return to the Church “full time” rather than just claiming a Catholic childhood and encouraged him to do so now, before the wedding, so that he and his bride would start out on the right foot. It was a fun conversation with a lot of bantering back and forth about the trials and tribulations and hardships of practicing the faith but also about the eternal rewards of doing so. All was going well (though that doesn’t mean I expected him to run to a confessional the following Saturday!) until he asked if I had ever been to a Mormon service.
That question was a lead up, strange as it may seem, to his announcement that he was a Mason. He explained that a Mormon service and a Masonic service were very similar. He said that the founder of the Mormon sect, Joseph Smith, had been a Mason and had modeled his new religion’s service on the one he had been familiar with as a Mason. I had never heard that before and had never been to either service so I could not verify the similarities or differences. This was his opportunity to proudly proclaim that he had been with the Mormons several times but that he attended his Mason service “all of the time”, which was his excuse for his missing Mass for many years now. He then asked what the Catholic Church taught about Masons and was shocked when I told him that any Catholic who joins the Masons is committing a mortal sin. He couldn’t believe it. His stated view of the Masons was that they were a group of good men, mostly Catholic and other Christians, who did good to each other (I got an earful on that), who ran many charities (Shriner’s hospitals being the big one) and who tried to live good, moral lives. How, he asked, could the Church say anything was wrong with that?
Without answering here, I write this today in case there are any Catholics at this parish who, not knowing this prohibition, belong to the Masons. If so, you must renounce your Masonic membership immediately. I have run into quite a few Catholic men over the years who belonged to Masonic organizations and who were quite adamant that there was nothing in that “club” which was incompatible with the Catholic Faith. Yet Holy Mother Church keeps saying something quite the opposite. In 1983, for instance, shortly after the new Code of Canon Law came out, in response to many questions regarding the formal excommunication of Masons, the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (the future Pope Benedict) wrote, “Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.” Furthermore, it stated that, “It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above...” That last little bit is important because sometimes Masons have told me that their pastor told them it was OK for them to remain a member of their particular lodge, as it seemed harmless enough in and of itself. Here the Church says that no pastor or even bishop can do that!
There are many good articles and books written on the true (and evil) nature of Masonry, and anyone with questions can and should read up on it. No bulletin article can not do justice to the topic so I won’t even attempt to expound on the “why’s” and “how’s” of the history of the Masons or the reasons why it is incompatible with the True Faith. But I want you all to be aware of at least this basic teaching: No Catholic can be a Mason and remain in good standing in the Church.
Please pray for the young man I was speaking with. Seemingly without realizing the gravity of the situation, he got involved in an anti-Catholic organization. And, though he had originally been open to coming back to the Church, when faced with the choice between Church and Masons, he was adamant that the Masons came first, even if it meant risking his eternal soul. That, in and of itself, is a huge red flag showing that something is wrong, when anything --anything!-- becomes more important than Salvation.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Birthday Party with Mom
Last Saturday I had a rare weekend road trip planned with my mother. Good friends of mine, Dong and Nhung Nguyen, whom many of you already know, live in Deerfield Beach, on the east coast of Florida. They have two boys (and a girl on the way) and they were throwing a combined birthday party for the boys as one turned three and the other turned one year old. After my Saturday “obligations” were completed, I jumped into my car, picked up mom and we began the four hour drive across the state, trying to get to our destination between 5:00 and 6:00 if at all possible. We wanted to (without picking up a speeding ticket) get there as quickly as possible, knowing that our time would be limited before having to head back that night.
The trip was just as nice as could be. Mom talked and talked and talked (it is her favorite activity, but don’t let her know I said that!) and I pretended to listen to most of it (don’t tell her that, either!). We prayed the Rosary, we saw how vastly different the towns along highway 60 are now compared to when either of us used to drive that road on a regular basis, and we passed the time as we passed the mile markers. The weather was great for a drive, there were no accidents, the construction zones were devoid of workers, and all was going well. Until the tire blew.
I pulled off to the side of the Florida Turnpike within sight of the sign proclaiming, “Exit 97, Southern Blvd.” So much for making good time. The “donut” spare tire in my Honda Pilot is under the car. I decided not to crawl underneath but instead called AAA. After all, that’s why I pay for that service. The nice lady on the phone assured me that someone would be out within 45 minutes. So I called Dong and told him we would be a bit late. Believe it or not, I was pretty happy about the timing of the flat. After all, we were in a fairly safe spot just outside of West Palm Beach, we had been traveling through many miles of nothingness on highway 60, and the tire could easily have gone flat in a much worse place. Or it could have blown on the way back, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere! So I was happy. Next, I got online via the phone to check for a tire store, since there was no way I could travel all the way home on the tiny spare. Cell phones can be great tools, sometimes, and this one one such time. A quick search for tire shops showed a whole list of shops which closed early on Saturday, but one, Tire Kingdom, was not only still open but was only 3 1/2 miles away! A phone call later proved that they had tires in stock that would fit my vehicle and they were open until 7:00 pm, giving me about 2 1/2 hours to get there. No problem.
Then, after thirty or forty minutes, the phone rang. It was Dong telling me that his brother, who was also going to the birthday party, was on his way to change the tire. He figured he could get the job done before AAA got there and was happy to assist. So we waited to see who would get there first. I know this will surprise you, but AAA was not the first on the scene, even though their 45 minute timeframe had elapsed. A van full of kids and adults came up behind us and stopped. A couple of men jumped out and started to jack up my car. The old tire came off without any problem and the spare was retrieved from it’s place underneath. But the darned thing wouldn’t fit! “Sorry, Father,” the brother said, “it is the wrong size rim. The holes don’t line up.” He wound up taking my flat tire to the shop to have them put a new tire on it. A half an hour or so after he left, AAA finally showed up but there was nothing to be done so the tow truck left again. It took a while but eventually we got the new tire on and headed back down the road. We made it to the party, had a bite to eat, laughed about the stupid spare tire and headed back home. I dropped mom off at her house about 1:30 am. She’s a “bit” older than I am yet still had to get up early to teach RCIA class. I don’t know how she does it. I certainly am blessed to have her with me, that’s for sure. (You can tell her that part!) But no more Saturday road trips for a while.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka