From the Pastor: Wine With Which To Please God
A while ago, before covid put an end to all such pleasures, I was enjoying an afternoon bar-b-que with some parishioners. Along with the wonderful company and food there were also some nice bottles of wine. The hosts were not only gracious to share the libations but also the stories behind several of the bottles, why they were chosen, what to expect them to pair with, and other such delightful information. We enjoyed the day and I went home fat and happy. A month or so afterward, a bottle of wine showed up with a note that said something along the lines of “I noticed that you really enjoyed this wine at the get-together. I thought it would be a nice wine to use for Mass if that is permissible!” Well, it is permissible. The requirements for the wine used at Mass are pretty simple. The wine must be made out of grapes and it must not be adulterated in any substantial way. Things that adulterate the wine in non-substantial ways include such additives as sulfites, which are naturally occurring but more are often added to fight bacterial contamination and oxidation. The use of sulfites is fine even in “Mass wine.” The grape wine may be either red or white. Color does not change the essence of the wine. The wine may be either sweet or dry, depending on the grape varietal used and the way it was fermented and processed. The wine may be purchased at the religious supply house and have a label that says “Altar Wine” (which is purely a marketing ploy and may actually be deceptive, as these companies supply goods not only for Catholics but also for other religious groups, some of which may not have the same requirements for their “service.” Think “grape juice” being acceptable to some religions.) Or the wine may be purchased at the local ABC or grocery store. It may come in a bottle, in a can, or in a box. As long as it is made of grapes and not substantially changed (for instance by adding distilled alcohol to it) it can be validly used at Mass.
So now I had a bottle of wine which this man already knew that I enjoy and he was very happy to allow me to use it at Mass, both for me to enjoy and, in a manner of thinking, for God to enjoy as well, instead of just using “whatever” wine for the Holy Sacrifice. Of course, sipping a glass of wine at a gathering is quite a bit different than consuming the Precious Blood at Mass! For instance, before almost every Mass I have either recently brushed my teeth or used mouthwash. The flavor of the wine does not come through exactly the same way when paired with Scope instead of cheese and crackers! But I liked the idea of using a “better” wine at the most Holy Sacrifice. Another man did, too, as he heard of what was done, and he, too, brought in a wine he favored and asked that it be used at Mass. Since then I have occasionally thought about sharing this story with you but never actually got around to doing it. Until now.
Do you have a favorite wine? Would it please you and do you think Our Lord would be pleased if you would have it used for the consecration? I am going to put this out there and see what transpires. We use about a bottle of wine a week (my sacristans will tell me later how much off my guestimate is!) so the wine expense is not a major line item in our budget. I tell you that so that you will know that I am not just trying to save a dollar! I could go to Trader Joe’s and get some Two Buck Chuck if saving money was the overriding factor. Instead, I want to offer you the opportunity to bring in a bottle of your favorite wine (pure grape wine only, please!) to be used at Mass. If you tape your name onto the bottle in a way that it will stay, I will be sure to read it at some point during the week and remember to pray for you during the Mass! I don’t know how to practically let people know whose bottle is being used at any one time, but at least God will know. Please don’t bring in more than one bottle, though, because if we don’t have room to store the bottles or if we get so many coming in that we cannot possibly use them within a reasonable amount of time, I will be forced to use them for our potlucks or other dinners, which will pretty much defeat the purpose of bringing them for use at the Mass. If you want to share a short story about why that particular bottle of wine is your offering to Our Lord (“It was the wine my bride and I drank as our first toast 50 years ago—different vintage, of course—and we pour a glass of it every anniversary.”) feel free to include that type of information as well.
I will end this with a simple reminder that Monday is Memorial Day. It would be quite appropriate if you offered both a toast and a prayer for those who gave their lives defending our country. God knows who His “faithful departed” are. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace, Amen. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
[From the Pastor: Thank You!
Last week’s Priest Anniversary Bash was absolutely amazing! Food, music, people spread out all over the property, games for the children, multiple priests celebrating various anniversaries, and, of course, Jesus, Who showed up at Mass once again! When things were winding down late in the afternoon, one of the women said something so simple, so beautiful, so not-being-done(!): We should do this every month! As for me, I would be glad to attend, but realize that that is all I did: attend. I did not organize it. I did not set anything up. I did not take anything down. I did not-, did not-, did not- to just about every aspect of this luncheon coming together. But somebody did. A whole bunch of somebodies did. And here is where I would like to thank each and every one but I have no knowledge of who to thank. A good number of people were working on this for weeks and months. I saw dozens of people running around during the days immediately before the party, dozens more (or perhaps the same dozens) early on Sunday morning, still more dozens during the event and yet more dozens of people until everything was completely taken down and cleared up. There were men, women, boys, and girls, each taking a role in making it all come together so “effortlessly.” And, of course, hundreds of people who set aside their Sunday afternoon to spend the day at the parish. Thank you all!
There is one person whom I absolutely must call out by name, though. She is near and dear to my heart and went above and beyond the call of duty. My mother, Carole, made the cake that mimicked our sanctuary, complete with altar rail, three steps to the altar, multiple levels on the altar, 6 candles on the top gradine, four on the bottom, a tabernacle in the center, altar cards and angels in their places, the missal, burse, veiled chalice, crucifix, rugs, altar boys kneeling in prayer, and yours truly celebrating Mass, with details down to my glasses and hair “style!” I did not take any photos of anything else, but I got a few of the cake and Mom. She struggled with this cake like you would not believe. Her arthritis constantly caused her hands to cramp up to the point of needing to stop due to pain. Making the figures and getting them to stay put took a lot of patience and prayer. She got some assistance from her other children at the end and had some knight in shining armor carry the cake to the car and then from the car to the social hall so that it arrived in one piece. And it was spectacular.
[See the cake photos below this article]
I wonder what she will pull off for my 50th!?!?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: 25 Years A Priest!
May 18, 1996 I knelt before the bishop and was ordained a priest. I cannot tell you with certainty why God allowed that to happen. My best guess is that I was so incompetent for the job that if I accomplished anything good and holy in my vocation it would simply prove that God exists, for it had to be He Who worked through me. I say this with no false modesty. I was far from a perfect Catholic man before entering the seminary and although God (directly and/or through others) corrected, healed, and formed me in some very important ways, I still did not exit the seminary anywhere near being a Saint. I am still, after 25 years, quite the sinner. But at least now I am striving, in a way I was not back then, to rid myself of sins with a seriousness that I never had in the past. I know that time is short and that eternity is llllloooonnnnnnggggg. I have battled demons of my own and those of others. Some I have, through God’s grace, conquered by means of a head on attack with the spiritual weapons provided by the Church and the brashness of a combatant who isn’t afraid of the outcome. Others I have learned to run away from, knowing that either they are too strong for me or I am too weak for them, for even Superman knows not to mess with Kryptonite, and I am no Superman! Whether fighting to win (which brings glory to God) or fleeing to win (which also brings glory to God), the fighter has greater determination to conquer his opponent the closer to the end of the fight he comes. I am now 25 years closer to the end of the fight, which, judging from the way the people of the world and the Church are behaving, may mean the Second Coming rather than my personal expiration date.
Along the way I have learned some very important lessons from some of the most likely and unlikely of people. I would like to share a few stories with you here, so sit back and relax for a spell. I will only tell of one priest, whom I will call Fr. W, who is now deceased and of whom I was fondly reminiscing recently. He had moved to this diocese after retirement and was quite active in a parish to which I was assigned. He was about as liberal as you get but, unlike so many liberal priests, he didn’t want the Church to change Her teachings so that he could enjoy sin without pangs of conscious, but rather because he was convinced that liberality would open people up to willingly embracing the Faith rather than accepting it under obligation. Anyway, I learned several important priestly lessons from him. He was available to celebrate Mass at the drop of a hat. But one priest kept making excuses for why he needed Fr. W to take his place when the reality was that he had some, ummm, problems which shall go unmentioned here but which were pretty much common knowledge at the time. Fr. W one day had heard enough of this poor priest’s lame excuses for why he couldn’t say Mass and told him, “I will celebrate Mass for you anytime you simply ask. But if you tell me one more lie about why you can’t be there, I will never answer your calls again.” Lesson: It is fine to put limits or conditions on doing even something as important as celebrating Mass. In this case, the other priest was not yet capable of admitting his sinful activity, yet Fr. W held him to what he was capable of, namely, not inventing excuses in a pathetic attempt to cover the tracks of his immorality. He stopped “meeting him where he was” and started pushing him past his “comfort level” without demanding what he could not yet do. Babysteps.
Fr. W. He was a packrat, or perhaps a term more familiar to the younger generation, a hoarder. Once when he was ill I went to his apartment to assist him. There were boxes piled floor to ceiling everywhere. Yet, in his closet, the closet of someone who seemingly never threw anything away, were, if memory serves me, only two pairs of black slacks, two black clerical shirts, and one pair of black shoes. His explanation for the sparse wardrobe was that (remember, this is a liberal priest!) no priest needs anything more than that. He said he never, in all his years as a priest, wore “civilian” clothes. Never. Lesson: When a priest loves being a priest, regardless of his liturgical or theological bent, he has no need or desire to “fit in” with the rest of the world, even in his manner of dress.
I could probably fill several more pages of anecdotes of just this one priest and his impact on my own priesthood. I cannot possibly tell of all the ways clergy and laity have helped me stay on or return to the right path over the years. I thank God for all of them and all of you. Together we can and will become Saints.
Now, one final lesson from Fr. W. He had, as older men sometimes do, bladder problems. Even in the middle of Mass he often had to excuse himself to use the little boys’ room. Although his sudden disappearances were strange for visitors, regular parishioners were very sympathetic and Mass would simply pick up as normal when he returned. Lesson number three: Always turn off your lavalier microphone when you leave the sanctuary.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Dedication to St. Joseph
Last Saturday, May 1, the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Worker, we had a Solemn High Mass instead of our usual 8:00 am Low Mass. During this proclaimed Year of St. Joseph, our Bishop, Gregory Parkes, had announced that he was going to consecrate the entire Diocese to St. Joseph on that day. He asked us to join in those prayers in whichever way we could, and this is how I decided to do so. The altar boys had been clamoring for a special Mass (ya gotta love their enthusiasm to serve!) and this gave us a perfect excuse to have it happen. What I held back from them was that they were going to be serving at the Mass wherein I was going to consecrate the parish to St. Joseph as well! I thought I would share the prayer of consecration with you for the sake of those who were not able to attend the Mass in person, as well as to provide a spiritual tidbit for the edification of all who have a devotion to this holy Saint.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH
O Glorious Patriarch and Patron of the Church! O Virgin Spouse of the Virgin Mother of God! O Guardian and Virginal Father of the Word Incarnate! In the presence of Jesus and Mary, in union with Bishop Parkes as he consecrates the Diocese of St. Petersburg to you, I choose you this day to be the father, guardian, and protector of Epiphany of Our Lord parish.
O great St. Joseph, whom God has made the Head of the Holy Family, accept the clergy, staff, and parishioners, I beseech you, though utterly unworthy, to become members of your “Holy House.” Present us to your Immaculate Spouse; ask her also to adopt us as her children. With her, pray that we may constantly think of Jesus, and serve him faithfully to the end of life. O Terror of Demons, increase in us virtue, protect us from the evil one, and help us not to offend God in any way.
O my Spiritual Father, I hereby consecrate this parish to you. In faithful imitation of Jesus and Mary, I place her and all her concerns under your care and protection. To you, after Jesus and Mary, I consecrate the parish buildings and property, each member’s home and property, our very body and soul, with all our faculties, our spiritual growth, and all our affairs and undertakings.
Forsake us not, but adopt us as servants and children of the Holy Family. Watch over us at all times, but especially at the hour of death. Console and strengthen us with the presence of Jesus and Mary so that, with you, we may praise and adore the Holy Trinity for all eternity. Amen.
Every year I try to read up a little more on St. Joseph before his two feast days, March 19 being the more ancient and well-known. There are plenty of Saints who have commented on this holy man and a few mystics who have been privileged to see and write about his life. Each writes a little bit differently about him, based on their prayers and spiritual reflections. The scriptures hold very little information about him, but that doesn’t mean that truly holy men and women haven’t been able to discern much, much more! One little delightful insight first came my way by means of St. Francis de Sales. He wrote that we have no relics of St. Joseph’s body, just as we have no relics of his blessed spouse, Mary! That we have no relics of Mary’s body is a great way of showing the truth behind the Assumption—body and soul—of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The members of the early church revered the bodies of the Martyrs and Saints with great devotion, awed that such people gave everything, including their lives, for God. We have relics of the apostles but none of the Blessed Mother. Why? Because her body is already glorified in Heaven! There is no skeleton in her grave from which to collect relics! We have no relics of St. Joseph, either! St. Francis de Sales believed that St. Joseph was also assumed body and soul into Heaven, uniting the Holy Family once again. And, although that is not a dogma of Faith, it is something held by other Saints as well. An online search quickly yields St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, Servant of God Mother Cecilia Baij, Pope John XXIII, St. Gertrude the Great, and Saint Leonard of Port Maurice all ascribing to this belief.
I will leave you with one quote from St. Francis de Sales, though he addressed this topic several times: Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: No, This Is Not An Aunt Irma Story
I saw the following a while back from William Briggs, April 20, under the title, “God Catches Cooties From Man” and thought it was just satire. I was only slightly wrong. Every one of the listed speakers is actually a listed speaker! The only satire is the topic of each one’s talk. Read it and weep.
So the Vatican is holding a health conference, promoting it using an image like the one in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, where God gives life to man. Only this time God has on a glove, and so does man, lest either man catch God’s cooties, or man gives his to God. It’s not clear. Name of the thing is Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: Unite to Prevent, Unite to Cure. Sounds like any other busybody money-sucking virtue-signaling paper-shuffling NGO, no? All the best people are coming. Like Deepka Chopra, who will try to quantum heal the coroandoom by putting sick people into Schrodinger boxes in which they are both cured and dead simultaneously. Chelsea Clinton—yes, the CC—will deliver the talk “If you abort your baby, it can’t catch a disease”. Cindy Crawford, the model, will discuss the best outfits to wear to your vaccination. Thupten Jinpa, PhD, and President of the Compassion Institute will deliver meaningful looks of sympathy at the crowd. Some sources are reporting he might even sigh. Joe Perry from Aerosmith’s talk is titled “The best guitar picks for use in a pandemic”. Oligarchs like John Scully have been tapped to push their latest investments. CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff is coming. The CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer will be there giving the joint talk “Blood Clots? What Blood Clots?” Finally, the Fabulous Fauci will come! He will decide on what he will say after hearing what he thinks the other speakers want to hear. This thing is huge. It’s well the organizers put the soul last in the title, because that element is scarcely represented, if at all. The discussion will be on “deeper meaning of human existence and seek areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences”. If my reading of history is right, the deeper meaning of human existence is something the Vatican figured out a couple of thousand years ago. Nothing about panicking over diseases in that deeper meaning. But, things change. Which is probably why they don’t mention the name of our Lord in any of the material of this conference. If one were conspiracy theorist, one would say this has all the markings of our New World Order promised by so many.
That was my introduction to an upcoming (really!) conference sponsored by the Vatican with the above photo taken directly from the website, https://vaticanconference2021.org/ where you can go to check it out yourself. Click on “Dignitaries and Speakers” at the top and you will see pages of people who are anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, new age, or just plain weird choices to speak at a “real” Catholic conference on any topic at all. Those listed above by Briggs are just a small sampling of such odd ducks for a Vatican conference on mind, body, and soul. After all, if they have strange ideas on what it is to be human in the first place, or lack comprehension of the value of each human soul and how it differs from non-human souls, how can they grasp a true unification of mind, body, and soul? How can they teach the Catholic Church anything of value regarding a “cure” in this life as preparation for eternal life if they don’t believe in eternal life? If they don’t believe in Jesus and His Church as the necessary means of eternal life? No, this is not satire, it is evil. God help us all.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka