From the Pastor: I’m Outa Here!
About a month ago I told you that I was going to soon take a little vacation with my mom and my older sister. Now the vacation is finally here. As you read this during the homily time of the Saturday Vigil or Sunday Mass, our ship will have already departed for the Eastern Caribbean. If you see me still here, something went terribly wrong! I had written that my cruise was for 8 days (Saturday, June 24 through Sunday, July 2) and someone told me that I can’t count all of that time as vacation. “Normal” people, I was told, don’t count the weekends in their vacation day count, but rather only count weekdays, since those are their “working days.” Since the weekends are the priests’ “working days” in the eyes of most people, I have to count vacation days backward compared to “real” people with “real” jobs. So the first Saturday doesn’t count as vacation, as I will be celebrating the morning Mass before I go, making it a work day. The Sunday of my return doesn’t count as vacation, since I will be back in time to, if need be, celebrate the evening Mass, making it, too, a work day. And, because weekdays are considered the priest’s “weekend” according to this method of thinking, the Monday through Friday that I am gone don’t count as vacation, either. So in total I will be on vacation for only Sunday, June 25 and Saturday, July 1. The person telling me this was a real killjoy. I was sooooo looking forward to just over a week of vacation. Now I am depressed that I will only be getting away for two days!
During those “two days” on which I am gone, there will be plenty of priests around here to make sure that all spiritual necessities and emergencies are taken care of. Father Emmanuel is going to be celebrating all of the Traditional Latin Masses, while Fathers Dorvil, Tuoc and Peter will cover the Vietnamese, Malayalam and English Masses. As of this writing, Father Emmanuel has been celebrating the weekday Low Mass for a few weeks and he is now pretty good at it and has even celebrated the daily chanted Mass, too (which is the most simple form of a High Mass), but he has not yet celebrated a Missa Cantata with Incense. Those of you at the Sunday 10:30 TLM will either witness him doing this for the very first time or, if his nerves get the best of him, a simple chanted Mass instead. All joking aside, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not something to be played around with, so he will only “go High” if he is confident of doing it, if not perfectly, at least competently.
I don’t think the other priests will let Fr. Emmanuel starve for the week, but, just in case, if anyone wishes to take him out to eat or bring some food to the rectory for him, I am sure he won’t mind. As long as he is on your minds, I ask that you offer up a prayer or two for him to find a rectory to stay at in Pensacola, where he is hoping to work on a Master’s Degree in Mathematics at his bishop’s request. So far, all of his leads have petered out, and there is no room at the inn. Because his student visa extension was obtained through the University of West Florida, if he cannot find housing and is not able to attend classes there he will be unable to stay in the US. So please, offer yet another prayer for him. The difficulties of getting another student visa so that he could return here if he loses this one are so great that he would probably never come back for his degree.
As I am writing this, there are three weather formations brewing. Brett, plus Cindy and Don (if they get named) all seem to be heading a little bit south of where we will be traveling before passing into the Gulf of Mexico and up and away from both the ship and the parish. But what to do if a tropical storm or hurricane comes our way? Pray and don’t worry, in the words of St. Padre Pio. On the ship, we shouldn’t have to worry, since we will simply (simply!) change course and maneuver around the worst of it. If we miss a couple of ports, Oh Well... And if the ship is rocking and rolling, we will have a great time watching the dishes slide off the tables, the patio furniture fall into the pool, people stumbling around as if quite drunk even early in the morning, and things like that. We will just make the best of it and know for certain that we are on a boat in the middle of the ocean! That is the reality that we understood when signing up for a cruise and yet we still got on board, anyway. Meanwhile, back here you all should just use as much common sense as possible. Come to Mass only if it is safe to do so. Mass will still be celebrated, since the priests don’t have to travel to get to church. Everyone might be wet and there is always the possibility of not having electricity for the lights or A/C but prayers in the middle of a storm are always worth the sacrifice. But don’t come if it is unsafe for either you or for those who would have to rescue you.
See you in a week or so!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Father’s Day and Corpus Christi Combine!
“I and the Father are one.” Thus saith the Lord. So it seems quite right that Father’s Day would be celebrated the same day as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The day dedicated to the Father is also the day dedicated to His Son, making a distinction without division. The Father is Father because He has begotten a Son. Without the Son, Who is One with Him, He would not be Father. Likewise, the Son, Who, if not begotten by the Father, would not be Son. Relations “make” the Persons, so to speak, as was made perfectly clear by last week’s Trinity Sunday homily. Or maybe it wasn’t so clear. It’s a mystery.
Today’s feast teaches us (or reinforces what we already know to be true) that Jesus is not only fully God but also fully Man. He existed as sole-begotten Son from all eternity, but He took on our human nature about 2000 years ago at the moment of the Incarnation. From that time on, He looked like us, though in reality, it is probably more proper to say that it is us, made in His image and likeness, who look like Him. But it is not just an appearance. In His humanity, He is like us in all things but sin, to borrow a teaching from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. Even now, in His glorified state, He still is fully God and fully Man. His Body is still true food and His blood is still true drink, as He eloquently taught in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. There, He taught that we must eat His body and drink His blood to have eternal life. This command we fulfill when we receive Holy Communion in a state of Grace. What are we receiving at that time? A piece of bread? No. A piece of holy bread? No. A piece of blessed bread? No. We do not receive bread (or wine or grape juice) at any Latin Rite Catholic Mass anywhere throughout the world. For the bread and wine have, by the time we receive, undergone a change of substance such that the bread and wine cease to exist and, though the “accidents” remain (taste, smell, color, etc.), neither bread nor wine does. By the power of the Holy Ghost working through the validly ordained priest, Jesus Christ, though “hidden” by the accidents, is truly made present: His Body, Blood and Soul (in other words, the fullness of His humanity) and His Divinity (the fullness of His Godhead).
Just as last week we saw Holy Mother Church, out of necessity in trying to explain what is, for humans, unexplainable, namely, God as He Is, had to develop new vocabulary in order to describe to the best of Her ability the Most Holy Trinity, so this week we see Her come up with the word “Transubstantiation” to describe the aforementioned change. Plus, I have already mentioned a similarly “new” word, “Incarnation”, in this article, about which most likely nobody raised an eyebrow, so common has its usage become among Catholics. Yet out of these three “mysteries”, or God-revealed truths beyond (but not contrary to) human reasoning, Transubstantiation is the one that most people, including nearly all non-Catholic “Christians” and a great many Catholics, refuse to believe. Many of these poor lost souls claim (or pretend) to comprehend the Trinity, as if the one true God in three Persons is a common occurrence, common knowledge, or is just plain common sense. They claim (or pretend) to comprehend the Incarnation, as if man can really grasp how the Second Person of the Holy Trinity could become Man without losing or in any way corrupting or diminishing His Divinity. Yet this multitudinous sea of mega-genius theologians cannot accept the words directly out of the Living Word of God as passed down by the written Word of God in John’s Gospel, chapter 6. “Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” This and the rest of His discourse on the Eucharist was rejected by many of His followers (including one of His Apostles--Judas) when He first revealed this Truth. It is rejected by most of those claiming to be His followers (perhaps even among the successors to His Apostles) to this very day. I pray that you, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, know the Truth. The Father sent His Son for our Salvation. He, in turn, gave His flesh for the life of the world. Believe.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My Confession About Confession
I confess that every once in a while I discover something that every Catholic ought to know but that somehow I didn’t know. That seems a bit odd, doesn’t it, coming from a priest? But it is true. I have told the story many times that I never knew that there was a Catholic prayer after meals as well as before until I had been a priest for half a dozen years or so. I had been taught growing up that grace before meals was, as every Catholic knows (!), “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” But according to my fourth book of the Baltimore Catechism, that is the “Blessing before Meals” rather than “grace.” “Grace,” it explains, “means thanks.” “We should thank Him also after we have eaten it and found it good, pleasing, and refreshing. When God provides us with food He thereby makes a kind of promise that He will allow us to live a while longer and give us strength to serve Him.” It then gives examples of how hurt God must be for our ingratitude when we fail to thank Him after He has given us this nourishment. Yet, until an old Jesuit priest recited this after every meal during one of my many priestly assignments, I never knew it existed. Though the English translations vary a bit in different prayer books (yes, once you look for it, you can find it in other prayer books!), this is the one that Fr. Frank taught and which I have since passed on to many parishioners. “We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Once I started celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, someone gave me a 3 book set called the “Roman Ritual.” This official book of Catholic prayers, blessings, exorcisms, sacraments, etc., has something even more to say about the mealtime blessings. In Volume 3, The Blessings, there are listed “Blessings at Meals.” Under that heading fall “Before the Noonday Meal,” “After the Noonday Meal,” “Before the Evening Meal,” and “After the Evening Meal.” But notice that there is no blessing or grace before or after the Morning Meal or Snacks! Plus, the “Bless us O Lord...” and the “We give Thee thanks...” are only a small part of the prayers before some Noonday and Evening meals. Taking it a bit further, it includes a note, “If only one meal is taken, the prayers are those of the evening meal. The preceding method of blessing and rendering thanks is observed at all times of the year, except the days noted below, when only the versicles and psalms differ.” Did you catch the part about “If only one meal a day is taken”? I don’t know if that is an indication of extreme poverty so that only one meal a day is available or if it was speaking rather about Lent, when all 40 days were days of fast, so that only one meal was taken. Remember, there is no blessing for snacks, and during Lent there was only one meal and two snacks (which would not together equal a meal) allowed at the time this Ritual was promulgated. Either way, we are (or at least seem to be) blessed to have so much food available to us. Did you also notice that special days had different meal prayers? These included Christmas through Epiphany, Epiphany and its octave, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and its octave, the Ascension through Pentecost vigil, and Pentecost and its octave. No wonder the United States Bishops shortened it to the simple prayers above. Otherwise, a book and a calendar would be needed just to say the right prayers throughout the year!
But, like so many other times, I have gotten sidetracked. This article started with the odd statement that I, a Catholic priest, occasionally learn something each Catholic ought to already know. I wasn’t going to write specifically about the meal prayers, so let me move on. The real topic of this article, as you know if you read the title, is not meals but, rather, Confession. What is the most important aspect of making a good Confession? It is not knowing where the Confessional is. It is not knowing how to make the sign of the cross and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been X number of days/weeks/months/decades since my last Confession and these are my sins...” It is not having memorized the Act of Contrition. No, according to the Baltimore Catechism, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Roman Ritual it is...
Oops! I am out of space. I will have given a talk about this very thing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Tampa Homeschool Conference by the time you read this. Hopefully, it is recorded and online so that, if you really want the answer, you can listen to it on our parish website. (I think I may have to go to Confession for doing this to you!)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: An Eight-Day Vacation!
The last week of this month I will be able to take a vacation! With Fr. Emmanuel staying here for the summer, I am going to be able to leave the parish in his most capable hands, including and especially the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The other priests here are of tremendous help with the Novus Ordo Masses, but none of them know how to celebrate the TLM. Fr. Emmanuel is now able to breach that gap. So I found a small group of people from the diocese who are going on an eight day cruise and I signed up to sail along. My mother is coming with me, too. Because she is always cold, she wanted to go someplace warm and the Eastern Caribbean fits the bill perfectly. Shortly after we booked the room, I was speaking with my mom about it after a daily Mass and some other people heard and I asked if they wanted to go. Unfortunately, the travel agent said the cruise was fully booked. One parishioner got a nice room when by chance (?) a reservation was dropped and a room became available at just the right time. Then, a week or two later, my older sister said that she wanted to come, too. Sure enough, another room became available a few days after that and now she is coming with us.
I found out that Carnival has now changed its policy about priests on board. They no longer offer them a free inside cabin, which they used to do as long as they would celebrate Sunday (or the anticipated Saturday evening) Mass for the spiritual well-being of their “guests”. I asked for a room in which to celebrate daily Mass. They set it up for 7:00 am every day. Whoa! I have to get up at five every morning to celebrate the 6:30 Mass here. I don’t want to do the same on vacation! Plus, they have us scheduled for the late dining time slot (we are on a waiting list for the early one), which means that I might not even be done eating by the time I normally get to bed. They will now give me a place later in the day if one is available. But they also sent their new policy information about the Mass. They may or may not allow anyone other than those who signed up as part of our group to attend the Mass even though I am a paying customer who has supplied them with their required “Letter of Priest in Good Standing”. Their new rules were sent in writing as follows: “...[Your] request to opening your private mass events to the public, can only be reviewed and approved once on board the ship. The attached event schedule reflects a private mass only with your approved dates and times. Carnival Cruise Lines appreciates your business and looks forward to welcoming your group onboard. Carnival Cruise Lines has a strict ‘No Solicitation’ policy. This policy prohibits any person or organization from any form of solicitation (including for non-profit organizations) to our guests and/or crew, either before sailing, during or after the voyage. Guests are prohibited from inviting other non-group sailing guests to participate in privately scheduled onboard events.” Really? They have gone from providing Mass as a courtesy to their Catholic “guests” to seeing it as a “solicitation” which cannot be tolerated if anyone else desires to attend. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled over the years (after they return and have missed Mass due to no priest on board) to write letters to the cruise lines telling them that they will, in the future, choose a cruise line which supplies at least Sunday Mass. My guess is that almost no Catholics actually write such letters or this new policy would not be in effect. Even though I can always celebrate Mass in my cabin, how they proceed with this will determine whether or not this is my last Carnival Cruise.
But enough of the nonsense. Eight days at sea. Eight days of being pampered. Eight days of no phone, no computer, no email, no facebook, no cooking, no washing dishes, no nothing! This is the first time in perhaps a decade that I will be away from my parish for two Sundays in a row. So prepare for it now. Mark your calendar so that you will know not to get sick or, worse, schedule a funeral from June 24 through July 2. Mark it so that you will not get personally insulted when I don’t respond to your electronic or voice messages. Mark it so that you will pray for me and the rest of the group! I will be remembering all of you in my Masses on the ship, whether there are a dozen of us crammed into a tiny cabin or hundreds of people filling one of the Nightclubs or Lounges. (And experience tells me that, after seeing a priest on board for the entire week--yes, I wear my clerics even while on vacation since I am not taking a vacation from being a priest--hundreds will show up to the Saturday evening Mass if given the chance.)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka