From the Pastor: Finances and (Unrelated) Priest Change
The more exciting and/or interesting stuff is found later in this article, but I have to start out with financial information. Yuck. [Don’t skip ahead! Read this part first!] The Diocese runs her fiscal year from July through June. So every spring each parish has to put together a budget and submit it to the Diocese for oversight. It forces us to make plans, to see how well or poorly we kept to the last year’s plan, and to see if there is any trouble lurking around the corner. Those of you on the financial council know this quite well and most of the rest of you have some sort of idea of how it works either through business accounting practices where you are employed or through simple bulletin and pulpit announcements seen every year at every Catholic parish you have ever attended (assuming you hear announcements and read the bulletin!). This year we have the following numbers listed in our submitted budget: Two years ago the actual offertory income was $249,415.91. Last year the actual offertory income was $283,084.18, which was a nice bump upwards! This fiscal year the actual offertory income (well, almost actual, since the last few weeks have to be estimated at this point) went back down to $250,330.87. The past years we also met our APA goal (which, to every accountant’s horror, runs by the calendar year instead of the fiscal year) while this year we are halfway through the year and only halfway to the goal. That seems reasonable enough except that the vast majority of all APA money is historically collected in the first two months of the appeal, so it looks like we will not make it this year, which is strange now that we are sure we have a Bishop who actually supports this parish’s mission! What you do with this information is up to you. My goal in showing you the numbers is simply to remind you that the traditional fifth precept of the church (according to paragraph 2043 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from which I take this quote) is, “(“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his ability. The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.” And, yes, in the current edition of the Catechism the last two lines are nearly identical, for reasons I will discuss when we get there in my Catechism class! And, if you check the online Catechism at the Vatican website, you will find it very different, as they seem to have only the old edition of the CCC there rather than the new edition. Give them a few decades...
[You skipped ahead, didn’t you? Go back right now and read the first paragraph before you get to the good stuff. Don’t make me interrupt my homily and come down into the pew to snatch this bulletin from your hands...] But enough about that. What you give is between you and God. Now for some much different and, I hope, exciting or at least interesting news. July 1 is not only the start of the new fiscal year, it is also the day most priest changes take place. This year we have a change of priests here. No, not me. Father Peter, who is a Blessed Sacrament priest, had a contract with the Diocese to be in charge of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission for three years. His term is now up and he is moving on. I have not announced this earlier (though it has been public knowledge ever since its publication in the Diocesan Pastoral Bulletin and website some time ago) because Fr. Peter is only announcing it “officially” this weekend to his community. Please pray for him and wish him well if you see him before he heads out to wherever his Religious Order will send him next. The new Priest-In-Charge of St. Joseph will be Fr. Chien Xuan Dinh, S.V.D., a priest of the Divine Word Missionaries. Here is the (very minimal) information which was included in the letter from the Diocese informing me that he is coming, “Father Dinh is originally from Vietnam but has been living in the U.S. since 1990. He is currently the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and Saint Benedict the Moor Parish, both in Indianola, Mississippi. He was ordained on May 24, 2008, in Techny, Illinois and has worked in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as well as in the Diocese of Jackson, MS.” Father Chien stopped by very briefly last week to introduce himself and drop off some belongings. He will be living at the rectory with Fr. Dorvil, Fr. Tuoc (although he is leaving in a couple of weeks for another long stay in Vietnam) and me. He does not (yet!) know the Traditional Latin Mass and has never been in charge of a Vietnamese parish, but is up for the new challenge on both counts. Please start praying for him now and he will get off to a great start!
Oh, and for those of you who skipped waaayyy ahead hoping the really good stuff would be in the very last lines, let me return to the financial report. Gotcha! We sent in a balanced budget. That’s not great since it means that we will set aside no savings but we will have no disheartening deficit, either. Thank you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
I was recently speaking with some parishioners about the proper time to stand at the beginning of Mass. (At the “asperges” if there is one, and then when the priest says "Oremus" and ascends the altar steps after the prayers at the foot of the altar.) When I first got here, a chart was requested with that information. Many people have since lost it, forgotten it, or, being new here, never saw it. So here it is once again for your edification.
Below is the chart in a png file instead of a document. Some people may find one or the other easier to view on their computer.
From the Pastor: The New Tabernacle
Last weekend, for the celebration of Corpus Christi, you might have noticed a new tabernacle behind the altar. It was a donation from a very holy and generous priest, Fr. Mangiafico. As beautiful as the tabernacle is, it is still a bit out of place, something which will be rectified whenever we can finally find a suitable altar/reredos which will fit our limited space. Once we find a truly noble altar setup, the sanctuary floor will be renovated, making it stronger, perhaps giving us the extra (third) step that should be there, and with marble instead of carpet. Once that is complete, with the altar in its proper place up against the wall, the tabernacle, the place of safe repose for the Blessed Sacrament, will then be intimately associated with the altar of sacrifice which brings the Blessed Sacrament into being in the first place. The tabernacle will also be immediately available to the priest, as it will be within arm’s reach, which is practical as well as aesthetically superior to a disconnected altar/tabernacle setup. But something a bit odd to common man’s current way of thinking about liturgical beauty will occur even before the complete transformation of the sanctuary takes place. The tabernacle will soon be covered with a veil and, therefore, beyond our sight.
Why cover the tabernacle? It is beautiful and covering it would seem to hide its beauty from us, so why even have a gorgeous tabernacle if it cannot be seen? Couldn’t we just have used a (much cheaper) plain steel drum with a door if we were going to cover it? After all, nobody would know the difference. Why spend good money on something that will be hidden? Those questions will be asked, so you might as well know the answer for your own enlightenment and so that you can explain it to others later. First of all, it is important to understand that the beauty of the church, its architectural majesty, its style, its furnishings and appointments (stained glass, light fixtures, chalices, pews, flooring, etc.) is for God’s glory first and only secondarily for our edification. Unfortunately, the first thing we often think of is ourselves. Since in Florida we are so used to ugly, non-traditional church buildings filled with junk (following Judas’ lament on the costly spikenard used to anoint Jesus’ feet, “Why spend money on ornate vessels made of good-quality materials when that money could be given to the poor and plastic vessels are available in the clergy department at WallyMart?”) once we finally have something truly worth looking at, something of such great artistic design that it lifts up or minds to Who is contained therein, we think, “Shouldn’t we, rather than veil it, put spotlights on it and encourage everyone to gaze in awe?” But something isn’t quite right in this thought. The beauty of the church and its appointments, although certainly for our enjoyment, for our spiritual nourishment, and even for our catechesis, is secondary to its primary purpose, which is to please God and to manifest His glory. Yet it is not completely understood in today’s society, as we have the notion that everything must have practical value first and foremost. But what we do to please God does not have the same “practical value” as those things we do to please ourselves or others. For instance, to please God in the Old Testament, the Jews had to sacrifice the first and best of their livestock and their produce. That has no “practical value” as we commonly think of either “practical” or “value.” It is a “waste” of perfectly good resources, things which could be sold (“for the poor”, of course!) or which one’s family could certainly use. But God asks us for our first and our best. The man who understand that God is God and man is not God will, with little or no hesitation, demur to His will, and not even think about keeping the best, the most costly, the most beautiful, the most important anything for himself, including the tabernacle.
In the document, Inaestimabile Donum (Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery) from the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and Approved and Confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II April 17, 1980, we see the instruction: “25. The tabernacle should be solid, unbreakable, and not transparent. The presence of the Eucharist is to be indicated by a tabernacle veil or by some other suitable means laid down by the competent authority, and a lamp must perpetually burn before it, as a sign of honor paid to the Lord.” As no other “suitable means” has been “laid down by the competent authority” (even long after Vatican II) the veil still remains the decreed means of indicating His presence in the tabernacle, while the sanctuary lamp shows honor to Our Lord (though many people assume the lamp is the “indicator”!). The beauty of the tabernacle, though hidden to us by the veil, is quite clear in God’s eyes, so to speak, and we make the sacrifice of not visibly seeing the sacred vessel, for inside of it Our Lord has chosen to veil Himself from our eyes in the guise of Bread. The hidden beauty of the container is a reminder of the even greater hidden beauty of the Contained. Do you long to see the beauty of the tabernacle? Good! Long to see the Beauty of Christ Jesus in all His Divine Majesty and Splendor even more. Become a Saint and all will be revealed. Thus ends the liturgical lesson.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: I Survived Alberto!
Dateline: Tampa, Florida. May 28, 2018. Memorial Day. Oh, that great and terrible day! It all started a couple of days earlier with a few clouds forming as a low pressure system lazily organized in the Gulf of Mexico. News channels lit up with alarmed but somehow gleeful weathermen and weatherchicks (spell check doesn’t accept either “weatherwomen” or “weathergirls” but didn’t flag “weatherchicks” when I tried that on a lark. Go figure.) and pointing to amazing high tech screens with diagrams of winds, gusts, rainfall and lightning strike predictions in multiple colors and, of course, 3D imagining. “Do not worry!” they all said as if reading from the same script, “Just because we are getting a storm this early in the year doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all going to die.” Oh, what a relief that statement was! But then, I suppose maybe just because there is no sports news now that the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to reach the Stanley Cup finals and the Rays management seems to have spent too many hours in Ybor City after hours, the cameras didn’t cut away from the weatherpeoples (I’ll figure out what to call them sometime). So, with the cameras still rolling and time to kill, each weather expert kept prattling on and on about weather disasters of the past and then turned to possible future catastrophes until they were all of one accord that sanity in this “situation” was just too boring. So they continued, “But then again, maybe this really is the Great AlGorian Apocalypse™ we have been warning about ever since we discovered that by bowing to the peer pressure of Core Curriculum Science we could receive accolades, power, and prestige, plus get oodles of Federal grant money for promoting Global Warming/Cooling/Change-of-any-sort Hysteria™!” Somehow the new script got passed around to each station and soon the message became, “We have never, ever, neverever seen even a rainstorm occur in May until Manmade Greenhouse Gases™ (notice how there is never a demand to use “inclusive” language in that phrase) were produced by the two most evil inventions ever to emerge from mad scientists’ scary laboratories, namely the internal combustion engine and cow flatulence. Now we are all doomed. Doooomed...”
By the time the weekend had ended, almost all of Florida was closed down. For instance, all outdoor events in Tampa were canceled on Sunday due to us receiving only approximately 10 hours of sunshine that day. Then came that dreadful Monday morning and the predicted worst-case scenario was upon us. Things were so bad and I was so panicked about the Great Rain Event™ that I almost took an umbrella with me as I walked from the rectory to the church to celebrate morning Mass. We were not sure how it happened but somehow everyone who came to church that morning survived the next couple of hours of frantic and frenetic prayer. “Perhaps,” someone in the still-terrified congregation mused, “we didn’t drown because our church building, like the Church, which has often been seen as a New Ark, physically rose up when the devastating storm surge wiped out all of our city and we, like Noah’s family of old, are the only survivors.” As we all raced to the door to peek out, we half expected to see nothing but waves crashing around us. To our great surprise and relief, though, even the ground, grass, trees, roads, and other buildings seemed to be floating on the floodwaters along with the church, so we all, taking great risks and braving the invisible storm, went home. The parishioners were blessed to be driving cars so they were probably oblivious to the dangers I faced while walking. I was completely exposed to the elements and had to struggle mightily to brace myself against the oncoming 3 mph winds, with gusts up to (it still give me chills as I put this memory in writing) 5 or 6 mph. All I could think of, once I finally battled the elements and arrived safely home, was that God must have some special plan for me to allow me to survive the storm thus far. But I knew that I was not out of danger yet. I immediately went to turn on the TV and stared at the screen for the next twelve hours or so, hanging desperately onto every word uttered by the weather gurus (yeah, maybe that’s the word I was looking for) and “sending good thoughts” to my fellow Tampanians (a much better descriptive word for the city dwellers than “Tampans”) who might not be so fortunate as to be hypnotically hanging on to every word of the dire warnings of “doom, doooom...”. Those poor, ignorant people who had not paid any attention to the weather forecast were stuck spending Memorial Day outside, someplace like the Veteran’s Memorial Park, praying for our deceased military vets, grilling hotdogs, playing with the kids and being completely oblivious to the great disaster which Subtropical Storm Alberto was wreaking upon them. Even though it was a painful experience for them, I sure hope they learned their lesson!
To all of the other Alberto survivors out there, I salute you. And, as a well-deserved (though postponed due to inclement weather) Memorial Day gift to all who gave their lives defending this country so that I would have even seemingly trivial freedoms such as the ability to publish this ridiculous church bulletin article, please pray along with me: 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