From the Pastor: Coming Up This Week
Monday is Memorial Day. True, it is not a religious holiday but it is certainly worth noting anyway. It is the day we honor those who died while serving our country. People may debate, argue, discuss and needle each other about what is good and what is not so good about our country without ever seeing eye to eye about many issues, but anybody who thinks this country isn’t worth defending and even dying for always has the freedom to go live in a “better” country. Many have threatened to do so. I suppose there might be some who have actually gone somewhere they were imagining to be perfect. But when it comes right down to it, generally even the most anti-American Americans stay put, knowing that there is something special about this union of states. I did get a big kick out of all of the quasi-communist celebrities who, upset with Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s threats to return illegal Mexican immigrants to their legal country and his anti Muslim-terrorist rhetoric, threatened to move to Canada if he got elected! Not one of them threatened to move to Mexico or to any majority-Islamic country. No, they spent all their bluster denouncing this country but even in their idle threats couldn’t manage to see themselves living anywhere else, except maybe in the country closest to us not only in geography (for Mexico would also fit that bill) but also in language and customs. And, notably, not a single one of the leftist blowhards wanted to go to a communist country, even though they want to make us one. Remarkably--and quite unfortunately--not a single one of those idiots actually left. No, even the Hollywood elites know that only in America could they have become the rich and famous know-it-alls that they are. Thank God that, unlike them, so many men and women have loved this country enough to stand up for her, to fight for her, to die for her, the current lack of morals notwithstanding.
Moving on, Saturday, the Vigil of Pentecost, we will have confirmations here. Bishop Parkes regretted that he could not be here to bestow the sacrament himself but he will be in Pensacola ordaining a man to the priesthood. It seems that Pensacola is without a bishop for some reason... Anyway, he has delegated me to confirm. Last year I was also given delegation to confirm and I wrote about some of the instructions for doing so in the Traditional Rite that seem a bit, well, odd and/or humorous. This year I want to be a little more serious and present to you the prayers which will be said (in Latin) during the ceremony. I am using the English translation found in the three volume Roman Ritual, which varies slightly from the two English translations found in the missals in our pews, both of which also vary slightly from one another. I do note a couple of oddities along the way.
After the initial verses and responses, the priest says, “Let us pray. Almighty, everlasting God, Who hast deigned to beget new life in these thy (there is no capitalization of “thy” in this case. A typo perhaps?) servants by water and the Holy Spirit (yes, the Roman Ritual uses Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost, something it oddly does on occasion but not as a norm), and hast granted them remission of all their sins, send forth from heaven (“heaven” isn’t capitalized here, though I would have had it marked “wrong” while in secular school, as “Heaven” is a place and place names are/were capitalized) upon them thy (again a small “t”) Holy Spirit, the Consoler (the Latin is “Paraclitum” but I do sometimes see either this translation or “Advocate” instead of “Paraclete” elsewhere, too) with His sevenfold gifts. Amen. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding. Amen. The Spirit of counsel and fortitude. Amen. The Spirit of knowledge and of piety. Amen. Fill them with the Spirit of fear of the Lord, and seal them with the sign of Christ’s ✠ Cross, plenteous in mercy unto life everlasting. Through the selfsame Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee (small “t”) in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God eternally (what happened to “world without end”?). Amen.”
Next comes the actual conferral of the sacrament of Confirmation. “N. (Saint’s name), I seal thee with the sign of the Cross ✠, And (capital “A” in the middle of a sentence. Who edited this book?) I confirm thee with the Chrism of salvation. In the name of the Father ✠ and of the Son ✠, and of the Holy ✠ Spirit.” The newly confirmed one replies, “Amen” and the priest “lightly strikes the confirmed upon the cheek, saying: Peace be with thee.” From that point, there is only one prayer left and a final blessing. We will conclude with a Mass.
As you can see from my comments on the prayer, it takes me a long time to read through even such a simple ritual, as I often see many things which either seem like inconsistencies or bring to my mind further questions. It’s a good thing that not everybody dissects everything like that. But it also explains why my Catechism classes last for a decade!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Ascension Thursday is an Important Feast!
This Thursday is Ascension Thursday. It is the 40th Day after Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, “It is one of the Ecumenical feasts ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter and of Pentecost among the most solemn in the calendar, has a vigil and, since the fifteenth century, an octave which is set apart for a novena of preparation for Pentecost, in accordance with the directions of Leo XIII.” Now stop to think about that just a bit. It is one of the most important feasts on the Church calendar, ranking alongside Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost. Did you know that? (Notice that it seems to be of even of higher rank than our own beloved feast of Epiphany!) How many people make every effort to come to Easter Sunday Mass yet think nothing of Pentecost Sunday (50 days later)? How many people (much, much fewer in number, to be sure, than the Easter crowd) make almost heroic efforts to attend Good Friday services at 3:00 pm but never even think about attending Mass in the middle of the week on Ascension Thursday?
Some time back our illustrious bishops were grappling with those questions and trying to figure out the way to increase at least the attendance at Ascension Thursday Masses. Was their solution greater education of the priests regarding the solemnity of the feast so that they would then do more to encourage lay participation in this Holy Day of Obligation? No. Was their solution the encouragement of more abundant Masses or Mass times before and after “working hours”? No. Was their solution to remove the “Obligation” part of the Holy Day and make it optional? No again. It was to remove the importance of the “40 days after Easter” aspect of this feast and move it to the following Sunday. There it kept its Obligation by making it a twofer, allowing the people to make no extra effort to attend an Ascension Mass, as they were supposedly obliged to be at Sunday Mass already. This was, of course, already preceded by the earlier removal of the “octave” (and almost all other octaves) during the “reform” of the liturgical calendar, which, as a practical matter, had basically destroyed any thought of a novena leading up to Pentecost. The new change, by shortening the time period between the Ascension and Pentecost, did away with any remnants of remaining piety regarding that novena.
Has this change accomplished the goal of restoring this feast to its former (since apostolic times) glory? I think not. What the day change said, in essence, is that for centuries this has been seen as such an important feast day that people would willingly give up a day’s salary if that is what it took to attend Mass. But, as with all “traditional” things, the Church was wrong. She was just making a mountain out of a molehill and, now that we are more enlightened, we know how silly all that was. So go about your normal Thursday business. The apostles and the Blessed Mother had spent nine days in the upper room praying for the coming of the Holy Ghost, which Our Lord had promised to send after he returned to Our Father in Heaven. They had set for us the example of a true novena but they didn’t understand as well as we now do that too much prayer is not good for us. So let’s chuck the whole thing, laugh about how foolish our ancestors in the Faith had been, and go about doing more important things like sleep in, or make money, or watch reruns of Wheel of Fortune rather than attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on a Thursday.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Just because I am pointing out the failure of the new, hip, easy liturgical calendar to emphasize the importance of this feast, that doesn’t mean that the questions asked in the first paragraph are properly answered simply by reverting to the older form of the “new” calendar or even by reverting to the 1962 calendar which most of us follow here at Epiphany. Far from it. I still need a greater understanding of this solemn celebration and I need to find good ways to pass on that education to you. Once traditions have been lost for even a relatively short time, it is very difficult to bring them back to their original glory. But no tradition can be restored by downplaying its importance or by ignoring the symbolic significance (40 days has great symbolism throughout all of scripture). So, unlike those priests bound to the new calendar, I have the opportunity to bring you this feast on its proper day, Thursday. This coming Thursday, May 25. You will have (as will anyone else, even those Catholics who don’t normally attend the Traditional Latin Mass) three Masses available. The first is at 6:30 am, the second at 8:00 am, and the third at 7:00 pm. The Bishops have removed the Obligation of attending on Thursday, but coming out of devotion is even more meritorious.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Mother’s Day and Ordinations
This Sunday is Mother’s Day! Of course, you knew that already, either because you really remembered it or else because somebody near and dear slapped you upside the head when you forgot. You would think that a day which helps us keep the fourth commandment would be an easy one for Catholics to remember. You would think that a day which commemorates someone so necessary for one’s very life would never go unheralded. You would think...wrongly. Why, you ask? Because men. That’s it. No further explanation needed. No verbs, no adverbs, no adjectives, no conditional clauses, no nothing. Because men. Every girl and woman remembers Mother’s Day every year. Not just those who expect a Mother’s Day card, gift or, at least, acknowledgment. No. All females throughout the land know and prepare for, in some manner and fashion, Mother’s Day. They do something for their own mother. They do something for their husband’s mother. They help their own small children draw colorful Mother’s Day cards and then delight in the “surprise” when they receive them. They remind their boyfriends (remember, these are not all the same women with husbands and children and boyfriends!) to do something for the perhaps future mother-in-law. And, when the big day comes, they remember. Yet huge numbers of men, who have been reminded in numerous ways for weeks on end, forget. Men and women, believe it or not, are different. Only women can be mothers and only men can be priests. What? How did I jump to that? Husband-fathers, priest-fathers. Both groups are reserved for men. Or, if you like to whine, you may prefer it to be stated that both groups discriminate against women. As God ordained from the beginning. Oh, look! I took the topic of Mothers and transitioned to men, then to priests and now with the inclusion of God and the word “ordained” I get to adroitly introduce the next paragraph. That was so smooth you probably didn’t even realize I did it. Unless you read the last couple of sentences, anyway. So don’t read them, please. Or, unread them. Or something.
One of these men (who may or may not have forgotten Mother’s Day), Deacon Elixavier Castro, will be ordained to the blessedly discriminating Priesthood this coming Saturday, May 20. The Ordination Mass will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 11:00 am and all are welcome to attend. (I have canceled the Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class so that I can attend his Ordination Mass.) The faithful are also invited to a Vespers service wherein we will pray Evening Prayer at Christ the King in Tampa, specifically asking God’s most bountiful blessings upon him. That will occur the night before the ordination, Friday, May 19, at 7:00 pm.(I will also miss our Family Rosary and Game Night so that I can be there praying for him.)
Now, after writing this, you would think that I will remember Mother’s Day. I can tell you from past experience that you just may remember...wrongly. Why? Because men. That’s right. Did you already forget that only men are priests? (Read this with a Tarzan voice:) “Father, man. Not woman. Not ape. Man.” (Sorry if I forgot you, mom! And sign my brother’s name to that apology as well.)
And now to tie this all up nice and sweet. With a bow. Like a girl would do. While we are on these topics, have you ever read the document from the Congregation for Clergy titled, “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity”? It encourages all women to join the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer for the men who share in the true Priesthood of her Son, Jesus. It encourages women (blessed discrimination!) to become Spiritual Mothers, and does so in a delightful way. In which other document would you ever find quips like this:
Every priest has a birth mother, and often she is a spiritual mother for her children as well. For example, Giuseppe Sarto, the future Pope Pius X, visited his 70-year-old mother after being ordained a bishop. She kissed her son’s ring and, suddenly pensive, pointed out her own simple silver wedding band saying, “Yes, Giuseppe, you would not be wearing that ring if I had not first worn mine.” Pope St. Pius X rightfully confirms his experience that, “Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it goes through the heart of a mother!”
It is on account of this document that our Spiritual Mother’s group (Happy Mother’s Day, ladies!) publicly prays for priests every Wednesday after the 8:00 am Mass during Adoration. I have put a link to the document up on our parish website and encourage you to read this delightful document. Women, Spiritual Mothers, do not forget to pray for their sons, not once a year, but every single day. Why? Because Mother Mary.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Welcome Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro
In September of 2013 I wrote a bulletin article introducing Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro to the people of St. Anthony of Padua, where I was currently pastor. This holy young priest was coming to study at the nearby St. Leo University and would reside at our parish. He has now graduated (magna cum laude!) and is going to be staying here at Epiphany until the new school year starts in August, when he will be heading to West Florida University in Pensacola to obtain a Master’s Degree. I will now introduce him to you by letting you read the original article. As you will see, this was also his introduction to my sometimes odd writings. The poor man didn’t know what he was getting into!
This week Father Emmanuel came to the United States for the first time. He is a priest of the Diocese of Dodoma, Tanzania in Africa. He previously studied in Italy and now his Bishop has sent him to St. Leo University for further studies. There was a delay in getting his student visa so he was not able to get here before classes began. I have not yet even been able to introduce him to our Bishop since he arrived over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Those of you who were not vacationing (and attending Mass elsewhere, of course!) last weekend met him briefly but even then our diocesan Director of Vocations, Fr. Carl Melchior, got most of the attention as he preached about Vocations at all of the Masses.
I highly encourage you to get to know Fr. Emmanuel while he is here. You can learn from him about Africa and he can learn from you about the United States. Even simple things, like what types of foods and beverages are typical American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are right now quite foreign to him. Even though he will be taking classes I assume that he is going to have much more free time than your typical parish priest (me) since he will not be responsible for operating and maintaining the parish and school. Trust me, it won’t hurt my feelings if he gets invited to do things without me. So ask him out for a meal, a family outing to a theme park, a pilgrimage to your favorite shrine, a fishing trip or even a home Mass or house blessing. He will be living with me here at St. Anthony and is blissfully ignorant of what I am writing about him in this column.
Now for the fun part. I get to tell you some of the more interesting parts of Father’s life that he has not shared with me but which I will gladly pass on to you as if they really occurred. To begin with, he came from an average size Tanzanian family. He was number 16 of twenty-four siblings. Not all of them survived to adulthood, as two brothers were carried away by large ants, one sister was snatched up by a condor and another fell down the rather deep hole of a little-known animal, the burrowing wildebeest. The rest all lived together in a three-room dirt floor hut along with several aunts and uncles and their maternal grandparents.
In the village where he lived the people had community livestock for food, raising such barnyard animals as hyenas for their meat and hides and toucans for their eggs and feathers. They had even managed to tame several giraffes which the tallest women would milk daily. They sheared them once a year like sheep and the girls would weave the giraffe fleece into clothing for the men, while the women wore the decorated hyena hides. Banana vines and sweet potato trees were abundant in the wild and did not need to be cultivated.
For the larger festivals (Catholic Holy Days, such as Christmas, Easter and the feast of St. Anthony) the men would hunt a young hippopotamus or baby elephant (even small ones feed a lot of people and only the young ones are tender) and roast them whole on a spit the traditional way. The men would take turns cranking the bamboo rotisserie for the better part of the day while drinking fermented papaya juice and telling tall tales. The women and children would spend the day gathering and cooking the side dishes such as beetles, grub worms, and crickets, and the children would often eat just as many of the bugs as they put into their baskets.
I am sure Father could captivate you with many more such tales, perhaps of adolescent pranks (rhinoceros tipping anyone?), chivalry and proper manners (the man walks on the snake infested side of the jungle path while out on a date, for instance) and such things much better than I. So introduce yourself, get to know him and let him get to know your family as well. You certainly don’t want your entire knowledge of his life to come from what you just read!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka