From the Pastor: Can You Pass This Test?
On Saturday, we held a one day retreat for the children who are about to be confirmed. After a good beginning, with Mass, confessions, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we got down to business. I passed out a quiz to see just how much they already knew about the basics of Catholicism, so that I would know how best to aim the talks of the day. Most of you have already been confirmed and, after seeing the test results, I wonder how you would fare. So here goes. Take it if you dare!
—How many Gifts of the Holy Ghost are there? Name them. What is the purpose of each one?
—What are the 12 fruits of the Holy Ghost and where are they found in sacred scripture?
—Why do some lists only include 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit? (Tip: note the change from Holy Spirit to Holy Ghost!)
—What is the difference between a Gift and a Fruit of the Holy Ghost?
—Write out the 10 commandments.
—Name the 7 sacraments. Put an asterisk next to those which, once all are received, fully initiate a Catholic into the Church.
—Give the definition of a Sacrament.
—Answer (honestly!) yes or no to the questions below:
Can you recite the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer)?
Can you recite the Hail Mary?
Can you recite the Glory be?
Can you recite the Angelus?
Can you recite the Hail Holy Queen?
Can you recite the Blessing Before Meals?
Can you recite the Grace (thanksgiving) After Meals?
Can you recite the St. Michael the Archangel prayer?
Can you recite the Guardian Angel prayer?
Can you recite the Act of Contrition?
Can you recite the Apostles Creed?
Do you know all of the mysteries of the Rosary?
Do you know all of the Stations of the Cross?
Now, obviously this was not meant to be an in-depth examination of their Catholic knowledge. With the exception of the questions about the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Ghost, which they certainly should have been studying in preparation for Confirmation, they (and you!) should have been able to breeze their way through the rest of the test. After all, I expect even our First Holy Communion recipients to know the basic prayers and to be able to list the 10 Commandments and seven Sacraments. How do you think they did? I cannot tell you here, since I had to write this for the bulletin before the retreat took place! I assume they all passed with flying colors. How did you do? Would you like to know the answers to the first questions?
—Which are the gifts of the Holy Ghost?
A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
—What purpose do these gifts serve?
A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost serve to establish us in Faith, Hope and Charity, and to render us prompt in the exercise of those acts of virtue necessary towards attaining the perfection of a Christian life.
—What is the Fear of the Lord?
A. The Fear of the Lord is a gift which makes us respect God and fear to offend His Divine Majesty, and which detaches us from evil while inciting us to good.
—Why do we receive the gift of Fear of the Lord?
A. We receive the gift of Fear of the Lord to fill us with a dread of sin. On account of the goodness of God and the punishment He can inflict.
—What is Piety?
A. Piety is a gift enabling us to venerate and love God and His Saints, and to preserve a pious and benevolent mind towards our neighbour for the love of God.
—Why do we receive the gift of Piety?
A. We receive the gift of Piety to make us love God as a Father, and obey Him because we love Him.
—What is Knowledge?
A. Knowledge is a gift enabling us to estimate created things at their proper worth, and to learn how to use them rightly and to direct them to our last end, which is God.
—Why do we receive the gift of Knowledge?
A. We receive the gift of Knowledge to enable us to discover the will of God in all things.
—What is Fortitude?
A. Fortitude is a gift which inspires us with valour and courage to observe faithfully the holy law of God and of the Church, by conquering all obstacles and all the assaults of our enemies.
—Why do we receive the gift of Fortitude?
A. We receive the gift of Fortitude to strengthen us to do the will of God in all things. Some know the will of God--what they should do--but they have not the courage to follow the dictates of their conscience. For example, a person goes with bad company: the gift of knowledge will teach him that he should give it up; but the gift of fortitude will enable him to do what his conscience shows him to be right.
—What is Counsel?
A. Counsel is a gift by which, amidst the doubts and uncertainties of human life, we are enabled to recognise those things that redound more to God's glory, to our own salvation, and to that of our neighbour.
—Why do we receive the gift of Counsel?
A. We receive the gift of Counsel to warn us of the deceits of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation. The devil is much wiser than we are, and has much more experience, being among the people of the world ever since the time of Adam--about 6,000 years. He could therefore easily deceive and overcome us if God Himself by the gift of counsel did not enable us to discover his tricks and expose his plots. When at times we are tempted, our conscience warns us, and if we follow the warning we shall escape the sin. Counsel tells us when persons or places are dangerous for our salvation.
—What is Understanding?
A. Understanding is a gift which facilitates, as far as this is possible to mortal man, the understanding of the truths of faith and of the mysteries of God, which we are unable to know by the natural light of the intellect.
—Why do we receive the gift of Understanding?
A. We receive the gift of Understanding to enable us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith. "Mysteries," truths we could never know by reason, but only by the teaching of God; and the gift of understanding enables us to know better what His teaching means. The Apostles heard and knew what Our Lord taught, but they did not fully understand the whole meaning till the Holy Ghost had come.
—What is Wisdom?
A. Wisdom is a gift by which the mind is lifted up from earthly and transitory things, enabling us to contemplate things eternal, that is to say, God Himself, the eternal truth, and to relish and love Him, in which consists all our good.
—Why do we receive the gift of Wisdom?
A. We receive the gift of Wisdom to give us a relish for the things of God, and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory.
I hope everyone passed the test!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: To Die For Wearing A Cassock
The other day I had to look up something in Canon Law (Church Law) to answer a question about the proper attire for priests and religious. Canon 669, under the section specifically dealing with religious, has two subsections. “§1 As a sign of their consecration and as a witness to poverty, religious are to wear the habit of their institute, determined in accordance with the institute’s own law. §2 Religious of a clerical institute who do not have a special habit are to wear clerical dress, in accordance with canon 284.” So Religious Brothers, Sisters, and Priests must wear a habit unless their order does not have one, in which case they are to wear the attire that their Bishop’s Conference determines is proper. Secular clergy have their own rules spelled out in Canon 284, which states, “Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and legitimate local custom.” Furthermore, Canon 288 establishes that, “Permanent deacons are not bound by the provisions of cann. 284..., unless particular law states otherwise.” So, as far as I can tell, permanent deacons can wear clerics or lay attire as they see fit. After reading these laws, the question naturally arises, “What has our Episcopal Conference determined to be the norm for priests and religious?”
I found that answer on the USCCB website under a heading simply labeled, “Canon 284 - Clerical Garb”. Here is what they determined to be proper:
On November 18, 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States. The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated September 29, 1999.
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 284, hereby decrees that without prejudice to the provisions of canon 288, clerics are to dress in conformity with their sacred calling. In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric. In the case of religious clerics, the determinations of their proper institutes or societies are to be observed with regard to wearing the religious habit.
As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be December 1, 1999.
Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on November 1, 1999.
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
I write this today to remind you that just because I wear a cassock doesn’t mean that all priests must do the same. Although I am within my rights to wear it, I am neither “the norm” nor “abnormal”! For secular priests (and religious priests whose orders have no habit), “a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire.” Not to be too picky, but notice that a suit is the norm, not just a short sleeve shirt with a collar! Therefore, please don’t look askance at any priest just because he doesn’t wear a cassock. On the other hand, don’t let anyone berate a priest for wearing one, as if he was breaking Church law, either! But for those priests and religious who wear neither habit nor collars, at least give them a good-natured poke in the ribs!
I put this out the week before the May 29 feast day of Rolando Rivi, one of my favorite Blesseds. It has been a few years since I last wrote about him, and many of you may not know who he is. In short, he was a young Italian boy who wanted to be a priest. He was in seminary for that purpose and wore his cassock with honor, as it showed that he was dedicating his life to Jesus Christ. In 1945, at the age of 14, he was beaten and shot to death by communists, who targeted him simply because he wore his cassock. In their words while killing him they showed their hatred of all that Rolando held dear, "Tomorrow one priest less." He died praying for his father and mother. On April 4, 2001, a young boy was cured of leukemia through his intercession, leading to his beatification. I encourage you to find out more. And may his story inspire the boys and young men of our parish to desire the priesthood with such relish, even if they decide to wear a black suit and Roman collar instead of a cassock! Blessed Rolando Rivi, pray for us.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Please Help With Confessions!
How can lay people help with confessions? Only priests can hear confessions, after all. Well, that brings me to problem number one for which I need your assistance. Anyone, not just a priest, can hear confessions. Only the priest can absolve you after your confession, but anyone else can certainly hear it! For instance, people who sit or stand too close to the confessional may, indeed, overhear confessions, especially if the person confessing is loud. (People who are hard of hearing often speak loudly without realizing it. Also, a priest who is hard of hearing may need you to speak loudly so that he can hear and understand your confession.) Anyone who, for whatever reason, overhears someone else’s confession is bound to the seal of confessional secrecy. But people trust the priest to keep secrets a whole lot more than they trust the “average Joe” who is standing outside the confessional door. I bring this up because people have been noticing (and worrying about) people who insist, for whatever reason, on sitting in the very last pews right outside the confessional door on the left (looking to the rear of the church) or even in the choir stalls on the other side of the church. Can you hear what is said from there? It doesn’t matter! People think you can! Be cognizant that privacy is a very important part of confession and you shouldn’t sit close to the confessional, for even if you cannot hear what is said, people may make bad confessions if they are worried that you can.
That leads to the second way I need your help with confession. Because confessions are heard during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and people rightly don’t want to turn their back on Our exposed Lord as they wait for their turn in the confessional, we have our confession line start in the pew in front of the choir area rather than having you stand in the aisle looking towards the confessionals. This keeps you a nice distance from the confessional so that you cannot hear what is said and it allows you to face Our Lord in the monstrance (most of the time) or the tabernacle as you prayerfully prepare to confess. But it also means that you cannot see when the person in front of you leaves the confessional and they often “sneak out” without you knowing it. Please, if you are the next one in line, turn around and watch so that you know when it is your turn. It is not disrespectful to Our Lord if you do so. Very often the priest (Fr. Mangiafico and I are the usual priests hearing confessions) waits many minutes between confessions even if there are twenty people waiting in line, all because the next person isn’t paying any attention. This is also a reminder that sometimes there are two priests hearing confessions, so watch both confessionals!
This also leads to a third way I need your help with confessions. Please be in line for confession. Very often when there are two priests hearing confessions one will be done before the other. He will leave when the line is finished. But then twenty more people come who were not in line and the other priest is there for another hour by himself. We also get chased down quite often, after we have left the confessional, by people who were eating donuts rather than lining up. Not too many Sundays ago I had five people race up to me begging for confession when I was between the confessional and the sacristy. That is, I left and returned to the confessional five times for five different people who caught me as I was walking through the church or social hall on my way to the sacristy. Five! I would like to just say “tough luck, try again next week” (remember, I am a grouchy old priest) but I don’t want somebody in mortal sin (which may or may not be the case) to have to wait for absolution just because demons managed to convince them that donuts were more important than confession for just a few minutes. Please get in line if you want confession!
Finally, spend your time in line actually preparing for confession! It seems like a no-brainer but it must not be. Many people, after confessions have been going on for quite some time so I assume that they have been in line, come in quite unprepared. “Just a minute, Father, I’m not done, I’m just thinking of my sins!” Oh, what a terrible thing to say, since by it you are basically admitting that you just spent the last 30 minutes in line just grumbling about how long the people in front of you are taking rather than praying that God would allow you to remember all of your sins and to be truly sorry for them!
And, as a bonus request, parents, once again I beg you to see if your children have any clue whatsoever about how to confess! Test them! Priests cannot tell you (remember the seal?) that your children (and not just the youngest ones!) are coming in not knowing to make the sign of the cross, not knowing to say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been this long since my last confession,” not knowing if they have committed any sins, or not knowing the act of contrition (or even how to read one), but it happens all too often! Don’t assume that just because they go into the confessional regularly that they are actually confessing!
Thank you for your help with confessions!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Roe v. Wade May Be Overturned
As you must know by now, a leaked draft from the US Supreme Court is showing that the Justices may overturn the horrible piece of judicial legislation, called Roe v. Wade, through which their predecessors managed to inflict the evil of “legal” abortion upon the nation. Anyone who has ever looked at any information about that evil ruling, whether they were in favor of making it legal to kill babies or against it, knew that the Supreme Court made this unjust law out of whole cloth, that is, they made up a reason to present abortion as if it were Constitutional when everyone—everyone!—knew darned well it wasn’t. The new ruling, if it actually comes to light as the draft is written, shows the audacity of the previous Justices in taking such power by brute force and lies. Everyone—everyone!—knows that the baby in the womb of the mother is actually a baby. Everyone—everyone!—knows that killing the baby and calling it abortion is simply a way of adults avoiding consequences (and losing the benefits!) of their own sexual actions or of those of their post-pubescent children. Abortion—murder of the most helpless and most innocent of all humans—is an evil that cries to Heaven (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1867) but is accepted, ignored, rationalized, defended, and promoted, all due to a greater desire for one’s own short term relief than for one’s own long tern benefit, the benefit of mankind, and, ultimately, God’s love. Those who support (in any way) abortion would rather go to hell than deal with the hardships of having living children to raise, or to be given up for adoption.
Be mindful that it is not only the mothers of the dead babies of whom I write. Often, it seems that they are pawns in a chess game being played by everyone they trust, with Satan himself controlling the board. No, there are many, many more people who have an even greater share in the responsibility for the murder of the unborn children. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists several ways in which people “cooperate” in the sins committed by others and, thus, as is in the case of abortion, are themselves guilty of mortal sin and both the temporal and eternal consequences of that mortal sin! CCC 1868 lists four ways in which this happens. First: “by participating directly and voluntarily in them.” So the doctor, nurses, and everyone else who works in the abortuary; the one who pays for it; and clinic landlords are all morally responsible for these mortal sins.
Second: “by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them.” That would include all of those people whom the pregnant girl should be able to turn to for good advice and assistance, but who rather encourage her to kill her child. Included here might be the man/boy who impregnated her; parents and grandparents and other relatives and friends of either the male or the female involved; school counselors and teachers; those who write, publish, display, or distribute such things as Planned Unparenthood brochures; those who vote for pro-death political candidates or who support pro-death political parties or social organizations; the “friend” who drives the girl to the clinic as a supposed act of compassion; the people who say something to the effect of, “I would never do it myself...,” or “I am personally opposed...,” but then concludes with “but who am I to judge?” or “but I won’t let my religious views interfere,” or anything similar. Also included are certainly all politicians who vote pro-death; all societal and religious leaders who champion abortion; everyone and anyone who tolerates, promotes, encourages, orders, or advises the use of contraceptives; the office-holders, representatives, and lobbyists of pro-abortion unions, such as public school teachers unions, and those who willingly pay dues to such extremist groups; journalists, reporters, and decision-makers in main stream media; medical personnel who, even if they don’t perform abortions, willingly refer “patients” for them; and finally (although there are many more examples, I end this section with this one) everyone who, by means of the backdoor, so to speak, supports abortion for reasons such as “Keeps them off the welfare rolls...,” or “Better than having another unwanted child in this world...,” or “They probably would have been raised as criminals anyway...,” or “It solves overpopulation...”. You get the picture. A lot of people commit mortal sin in this area.
The third way of being responsible for others’ abortion is “by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so.” Once again, family, friends, and others close to the couple who know what is going to happen or might happen, yet remain silent so that it can happen, are in mortal sin.
And listed fourthly as a way people are responsible for the mortal sins of abortion, “by protecting the evil-doer.” The ones who keep it secret from parents; who don’t turn in the incestuous father of the child (allowing his crime to be covered up through destruction of the “evidence”); the judges, police, and politicians who combat pro-lifers rather than the pro-deathers; and those who protect and defend the “rights” of all of the above listed people as if they were noble.
Importantly, religious, deacons, priests, and bishops who refuse to preach and teach about the evil of abortion or to correct those under their authority who fit any of the above 4 criteria are even more responsible than anyone else listed above.
But there is hope. God is infinitely loving and will forgive anyone for anything, provided they truly repent. The confessional is just about the best place in the world!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Glimpse Into Spiritual Motherhood
Although we have the Spiritual Mothers praying for priests every Wednesday, many of you might not know that the origins of this group (and others like it) comes from a document from the Congregation For The Clergy. Promulgated on the Feast of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, 2007,entitled “Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood For Priests.” This document is very unique, in that it is a Church document that is a pleasure to read! In preparation for Mother’s Day, I have reproduced below the short “introductory story” and just one more to whet your appetite. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. You need not be a theologian to enjoy this document!
“I have my mother to thank for what I have become and the way that I got there!”- St. Augustine
Independent of age or social status, everyone can become a mother for priests. This type of motherhood is not only for family mothers, but is just as valid for an unmarried girl, for a widow, or for someone who is ill. It is especially pertinent for missionaries and religious sisters who have given their lives entirely to God for the sanctification of others.
Every priest has a mother and often she is a spiritual mother for her children as well. Giuseppe Sarto, for example, 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, indicating her own simple silver wedding band said, “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!”
The little village of Lu, northern Italy, with only a few thousand inhabitants, is in a rural area 90 kilometres east of Turin. It would still be unknown to this day if, in the year 1881, the family mothers of Lu had not made a decision that had “serious consequences”.
The deepest desire of many of these mothers was for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to place her life completely in God’s service. Under the direction of their parish priest, Msgr. Alessandro Canora, they gathered every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring for vocations to the priesthood.
Through the trusting prayer of these mothers and the openness of the other parents, an atmosphere of deep joy and Christian piety developed in the families, making it much easier for the children to recognize their vocations.
Did the Lord not say, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14)? In other words, many are called, but only a few respond to that call. No one expected that God would hear the prayers of these mothers in such an astounding way.
From the tiny village of Lu came 323 vocations!:152 priests (diocesan and religious), and 171 nuns belonging to 41 different congregations. As many as three or four vocations came from some of these families. The most famous example is the Rinaldi family, from whom God called seven children. Two daughters became Salesian sisters, both of whom were sent to San Domingo as courageous, pioneer missionaries. Five sons became priests, all joining the Salesians. The most well-known of the Rinaldi brothers is Blessed Philip Rinaldi, who became the third successor of St. John Bosco as Superior General of the Salesians. Pope John Paul II beatified him on 29 April 1990. In fact, many of the vocations from this small town became Salesians. It is certainly not a coincidence, since St. John Bosco visited Lu four times during his life. The saint attended the first Mass of his spiritual son, Fr. Philip Rinaldi in this village where he was born. Philip always fondly recalled the faith of the families of Lu: “A faith that made our fathers and mothers say, ‘The Lord gave us our children, and so if He calls them, we can’t say no.’”
Fr. Luigi Borghina and Fr. Pietro Rota lived the spirituality of Don Bosco so faithfully that the former was called the “Brazilian Don Bosco” and the latter the “Don Bosco of Valtellina”. Pope John XXIII once said the following about another vocation from Lu, His Excellency, Evasion Colli, Archbishop of Parma: “He should have become pope, not me. He had everything it takes to become a great pope.”
Every ten years, the priests and sisters born in Lu come together from all around the world. Fr. Mario Meda, the long-serving parish priest of Lu, explained that this reunion is a true celebration, a feast of thanksgiving to God who has done such great things for Lu.
The prayer that the mothers of Lu prayed was short, simple, and deep:
“O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest!
I myself want to live as a good Christian
and want to guide my children always to do what is right,
so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka