From the Pastor: A Trip to the Heart Doctor
A few months ago the priests of the diocese received word that the bishop had teamed up with a top-notch cardiologist to give us an opportunity for a full cardiac exam if we wished to take advantage of it. I ignored the invitation, as I am a male. An unmarried male. As in, a man without a wife to nag him into going to the doctor. My last “real” doctor, as in the one who gave me Tamiflu when I got the flu one time and who made sure I had antibiotics whenever my normally bad sinuses went into full-blown infectious assault, passed away five or six years ago. Other than some allergy relief medication and another dose of sinusitis repellant, which has been swiftly supplied by a doctor from the church pews, I haven’t seen much of a need to have anything checked out. Our Lady of Good Health takes care of me. But then the diocese sent a nurse, Pat Mullarkey, out to give us a sales pitch. She had the initials RN and BSN after her name. I know the “RN” stands for “Registered Nurse” and I assume the other initials stand for the mandatory training needed by any nurse before dealing with the likes of me. (Let it sink in, you’ll get it.) At her presentation, she mentioned that quite a number of priests had already gone through with the screening and a couple were found with unexpected, undiagnosed, but potentially serious heart conditions which necessitated immediate action.
I signed up for a screening. I don’t know why, exactly. I always figure that I have to die of something sometime, so let nature take its course. Plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I signed up. For four hours worth of tests. A list of do’s and don’ts was sent to me. No eating or drinking before the tests. No coffee from midnight. Early morning appointments were out of the question because of my Mass schedule. I couldn’t very well fast from Holy Communion, though, and still celebrate the two Masses of the morning. I got the OK to receive the Eucharist but was told no other food. No problem there, fasting comes with the job. But no coffee? That’s just cruel. I should have done this during Lent. A few days before my appointment, I was on the phone with an out-of-state cousin and she mentioned that her favorite priest had been out of action for a few months after an emergency heart operation. He never knew he had issues until his bishop asked his priests to get tested—wait, that sounds familiar—and he wound up going straight into surgery. I told her what I was about to do. “What if,” she asked, “the liberal bishops are doing this as cover to get rid of the conservative priests?” Dang. Why put that into my head? Like they could be so evil. It is to laugh. Ha ha...heh..um..gulp.
The morning of the tests I was met at the doctor’s office by nurse Mullarkey. She was already there with one of the youngest priests of our diocese and he was sweating and breathing hard, having just come from one of his tests. Hmmm. I almost had a heart attack just pondering going through whatever it was that he just did. They took me to a little room where they checked vital signs and hooked up wires to my chest to see if I had a heart. Back to the waiting room. The nurse and other priest had disappeared. I was sitting there, confident that I was in great health. Pulse? Good. Blood pressure? Good. Weight? Just 18 inches too short. But then a man came out to tell me that I had to go get a CAT scan right away. “Where’s your nurse?” he asked as he lead me to the door. “Gone? Well, you have to go to that building right now,” he said, pointing across the parking lot, “even without her. Did you drive yourself here? You might want to take your car. We normally walk but you might want to drive...” He seemed afraid that I was going to collapse just walking across a parking lot. I somehow survived the journey, got the scan, and returned to the building without keeling over. As I walked back in, I spotted the nurse and young priest and went to join them. But before I could even get comfortable in the chair, a nurse came out beckoning me to come. “The doctor wants to go over the test results with you right away,” she called. Yikes! What in the world was wrong that he was already looking at them?
I went in and the doctor introduced himself and as I shook his hand he said, “How did you pronounce your name? I didn’t quite catch it.” He was not expecting “Palka”. They had called the wrong priest. I was just the only one looking like a priest (the instructions said to dress comfortably, so I was wearing my cassock) but they really wanted the “incognito” priest. I don’t know how he fared for I was having other tests done when he got finished with the doctor, but eventually it was really my turn to see the results. I found out that, probably due to my obviously marvelous exercise regimen and carefully monitored diet (the cassock is heavy, not me!), my heart is in great shape and there is no plaque in my arteries. Whew! Just what I expected...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Note From Sister Rachel Maria
You all know that we currently have two young men currently studying to be priests, Joshua Heiman, who is studying for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and Esteban Merkt, who is studying for US Military Archdiocese and is being sponsored by the St. Augustine Diocese. We also have several young ladies who have been seriously contemplating entering Religious Life. A couple are even in the first stages of formal discernment. But later this year we will be blessed to have one who has completed her discernment period, who has already spent years as a Sister under temporary vows and will now be making those vows permanent. This is a VERY BIG THING! Sister Rachel Maria (Hernandez) sent the following note to her family and I received permission to share some of the more explanatory parts with you, her parish family. Enjoy!
Hello [Epiphany] Family!!
I hope you are all doing very well. It's been a very long time since I've seen or spoken with most of you! I would have liked to write to each one of you individually but it would be impossible. But know that I've been keeping all of you in my thoughts and prayers and I hope things are going well for each one of you in your lives and that you are happy.
As you know in 2009 I entered the community of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a religious community based in Spain, because I believed that God was asking me to surrender my whole life to Him. As this is a very serious commitment there is quite a long process of formation and discernment. I was in "training" if you like as a candidate for 3 years until I moved to Spain in 2012, and officially took the habit and entered the community as a novice that summer. For 2 years I did more intense "training" until summer of 2014 I made my vows for the first time. (In the religious life three vows are taken: of poverty, chastity, and obedience...as a sign of the commitment of our entire life to God. And in our community as well we take a 4th vow, to defend the Eucharist and our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary in and with our lives.) After making our vows we can be sent to the different communities that we have in different parts of the world, in order to spread the message of God's love and help people in any way we are able. So for the past 5 years I've been living and working in different communities, mostly in different parts of Spain, until last year I moved here to Ireland, and am now living in Mitchelstown, near Cork in the south of Ireland.
Anyway, that in a very brief summarized way has been my life for the past 10 years, and I am very very happy!! Now finally after 5 years of what we call "temporal" vows, I will be making this coming September 8th my final or perpetual vows, which means I will be formally surrendering my life totally to God forever, even though I already did so in my heart a long time ago! It's going to be beautiful ceremony in Madrid, Spain, and several other Sisters who have followed the same process as I have over these past several years will also be making their perpetual vows along with me. It's the equivalent to a wedding, if you like, only we don't say "until death do us part" because it lasts for all eternity!! And we have this ceremony on September 8th, which is the day we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary's birthday, as a sign that we give our lives to her because she is the best one to help us love God and others, fulfill our mission in life, and reach Heaven.
So I would love for you to be able to come to the ceremony, I'm sure you've already heard about it from my mom and dad, and they can give you more of the practical details. And even if you would not be able to come, please keep me and the other Sisters in your prayers during these next few months and especially on that day!! I keep praying for all of you every day!
With lots of love, God bless,
Sr. Rachel María (Rachel Lee Hernández)
So now her family members are making plans to get over to Spain for the big day. Since there isn’t really anything that Sister Rachel Maria needs, the greatest “Profession gift” that she could receive (other than prayers, obviously!) is having her family present for her vows. A couple of her older sisters are out of the house and independent and so are able to make it there on their own but Kevin and Cheryl, her parents, are trying to bring five more of their younger dependent children along with them for the ceremony. Supporting vocations is a big part of this parish’s modus operandi and this is a great opportunity for you all to help the family fly to Spain and, by doing so, to help support our first (of many more to come!) Perpetual Profession among our parish families. You know the drill. Homemade breads will be offered this weekend and a couple more times this summer. Take some home when you make a donation towards airfare as a gift to Sister Rachel. Thank you for your continued generosity to our children who give themselves to God through Holy Mother Church!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Father’s Day and Corpus Christi
Although this is not a Catholic Feast Day, in the secular world we are celebrating a very important day. Father’s Day. Being a priest Father myself, I may be a bit biased, but I think that this is a great feast day! We have had our Father’s Day Mass cards available for the past month and I hope you have taken advantage of them, sending your father a loving note of prayer, something he certainly needs more than a new tie! At Dictionary.com there is a short story explaining the origins of Father’s Day. I think you might enjoy reading it.
The Origin (And Grammar) Of Father’s Day
While Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, Father’s Day took a little longer to be considered a national holiday. And its origin, sadly, lies in two, unrelated tragic events. How did Father’s Day begin? About six months after the Monongah mining disaster of 1907, in which the small West Virginia town lost over 350 men, Grace Golden Clayton organized an event to honor the fathers killed in the catastrophe—including her own. On the other side of the country, Sondra Smart Dodd, whose mother died in childbirth, had a similar father-related thought. Inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon she attended in 1909, Dodd believed there should be a corresponding holiday to celebrate fathers. After all, she and her five siblings had been raised by her father and Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart. Dodd successfully gained support for her idea, and the first Father’s Day was celebrated by Washington State in 1910 in June, the month of her father’s birthday. Though President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported the holiday in 1924 and President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation naming the third Sunday in June Father’s Day, it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon officially signed Father’s Day as a permanent, national holiday into law.
Why is the apostrophe in Father’s Day singular? People often wonder why Father’s Day has an apostrophe before the S and not after. We’re celebrating all fathers on this day … not just one, right? The quick answer is that Mother’s Day set a precedent on this fuzzy grammatical issue of apostrophe placement. With the apostrophe before the S, Father’s Day “belongs” to each individual father. If the apostrophe fell after the S, the meaning slightly changes. That would be a holiday “belonging” to fathers as a collective, implying we’re prioritizing honoring all fathers on the occasion over our own father. The holiday April Fools’ Day, for example, takes the possessive plural (fools’) rather than the singular (fool’s). Perhaps this is because the individual fool doesn’t matter here in the way that each individual father matters to his children.
With that in mind, our prayers go out to all of our fathers, individually and as a group. From Sunday through the rest of the month we will be praying for all fathers, especially those whose names you have written and have been placed next to the tabernacle. May God give each of them whatever graces and blessings he needs to fulfill his role and bring his family to Heaven!
In the Church later this week we are celebrating a very special feast, too. Corpus Christi is this Thursday. For many, many, many decades (since an indult dated November 25, 1885) the United States has had the exceptional mandate to celebrate this feast of the Body of Christ on the proper Thursday (the Thursday following Trinity Sunday) as well as celebrating it again on the following Sunday as an external solemnity, at least at the main Mass. We will be doing that once again this year but with the added solemnity of having a Solemn High Mass at 10:30 am next Sunday, followed by a procession with the Blessed Sacrament. Corpus Christi commemorates the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. A young Belgium religious Sister named Juliana (now Saint Juliana, + 1258), who had a great love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, was the one most influential in getting this feast day started. Although there was already a feast day commemorating the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood (Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday), on that day the immanent Passion of Our Lord seemed to overshadow His giving of Himself in the Eucharist, so the new feast of Corpus Christi was not seen as “competition” in any way. Of course, there is a whole story that goes along with the eventual proclamation of Corpus Christi as a universal feast day. The story began with a German priest who doubted that Jesus was actually present in the Eucharist and so Our Lord revealed the Truth to him through a Eucharistic miracle as he was celebrating Mass. The blood-stained corporal and the Sacred Host are still on display in the cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.
So here we have two feasts, one secular and one of the Faith, in which fathers (even a not so faithful one) play an important role. The role of fathers in the family and in the Priesthood has been severely denigrated in our society. But in times when God and His designs are mocked and/or despised, the greatest of Saints rise up. The next great Saint, believe it or not, could be the one who raised you or married you. Pray for him! While you are at it, please pray for all fathers, whether they obtained their fatherhood through biology, adoption, spiritual relations, or the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Fathers are essential, as we see most clearly in the Person of God the Father, the perfect pattern for all fathers.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Congraduations! Congratulations Graduates!
“The Epiphany Council of Catholic Women would like to acknowledge and celebrate your college or high school graduate on June 9th after each Mass. Please let us know your student’s name if you would like them included.” That preceding note went out to all of our parishioners who have signed up for our parish “Flocknote” communications system a couple of weeks ago. (Don’t know what “Flocknote” is? More will follow at the end of this article.) Though there may be more graduates out there of whom we are currently unaware, the Women were able to ascertain that at least 9 of our youth graduated high school this year and one graduated college. Though a simple acknowledgment in the bulletin seems hardly a big thing, it is backed up by a “real” celebration in the social hall after Sunday Masses this weekend! The ECCW is supplying caviar and champagne, hosting hot air balloon rides, passing out full academic scholarships, and is even giving away free unicorn ponies to all who stay. Oh, wait, they had to cancel those things due to the weather. Or something like that. Just stop by after Mass and congratulate any grads who are there while you get a bit of cake and punch to eat and drink. Obviously, not everyone attends each Mass and the college grad might not even be home yet, but give your best advice, your heartiest felicitations or even your business card to those whom you meet. Graduating from high school we have, in some ingeniously cryptic order, Catherine Beard, Irene Brewster, Matthew Cantu, Maximillian D'Water, Maria Hernandez, Maddie Hyatt, Michaela Salcido, Anthony Stanley, and Eric Zayricki. Graduating Cum Laude from Franciscan University of Steubenville with her bachelor’s degree is Claire Rose Tomeny. If there are any more out there, let us know that day!
Since most of those listed above are graduating from high school, I figured that I would reminisce a bit about the years, back in the Stone Age, when I was in high school. There are things which I remember fondly, such as sports and lunch, and there are people whom I truly loved being around or, though I would never dare say it back then, even loved being taught by. The science classes were the most challenging. Memorizing the periodic table in chemistry class seemed nearly impossible for this freshman, which now seems silly since there were only three elements in the periodic table at that time: water, air and wood. I understand that it has expanded a little since then. In my human physiology class we had to memorize all of the parts of the body. Thankfully, we thought there was only one long, strangely formed bone called the skeleton but the body’s “outer covering” had to be studied based on both size and sex. We learned that the girls were covered with maximus bodacious beauteous (my first introduction to Latin) and, after figuring that part out, none of us boys cared about the rest. Oh, and we also had to study the inner organs but they were simply named by general labels of “yuck” or “icky”. But overall, even though I never would have thought it, let alone admitted, it, high school was a good 6 years of my life.
But enough about me. This is about our kids. They had to learn all that I did plus so much more. So let’s give them a big hand, and let’s encourage them to excel far beyond what any of us have accomplished in worldly and, most importantly, in Godly things.
[The following is an important announcement aimed at those of you who don’t know what Flocknote is. It is a system of communicating among parishioners via email or cell phone text messages. We have been using it for quite some time now and I have gotten some good feedback about it. While signing up for our parish Flocknote you get to choose which parish groups you wish to receive notes from. For instance, if you belong to the He-Man Woman Haters Club you can sign up for that group’s reminders of upcoming meetings without having to also receive all messages meant only for the Knights of Columbus. You can choose to receive messages from both of those groups, yet still remain blissfully unaware of the messages being sent to the Schola if those would be of no interest to you. Each person can customize his/her own preferred method of receiving messages, so that if you don’t text, you can get them via email. Sorry, there is no option for carrier pigeon or snail mail. I still don’t know exactly how it works but every once in a while I remember to use it to send out reminders of upcoming meetings. I might send out messages to the Holy League, for instance, via email a day early and via text on the day of our meeting. Recently I sent out a general message asking for a ride for a visitor who wanted to attend Sunday Mass but was in Pinellas County without transportation. We got him a ride because of this message service. Sign up by going to Flocknote.com and hitting the “Get Started Free” button. Then click on “My church is already using Flocknote.” Enter our zip code (33610) in the search box and Epiphany of Our Lord will appear as one of the options. Click it and follow the sign up instructions by adding your name, email, and cell phone number and you should be able to then sign up for individual groups’ messages. Pretty nifty!]
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Novena to the Holy Ghost
Last Thursday we celebrated (according to the 1962 Traditional Latin Mass calendar) the Ascension of Our Lord. According to the revised and re-revised Novus Ordo calendar, that feast is celebrated Saturday evening and Sunday of this current weekend. During the days after Our Lord ascended into Heaven and before He sent the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles and others in the Upper Room, they remained in prayer, waiting and watching for that promised Paraclete. It is from these nine days of prayer, from the Friday after the Ascension to the Saturday Vigil of Pentecost, that we get our tradition of praying novenas (see Acts 1:6-14). I want to encourage all of you to seriously pray as much of a novena to the Holy Ghost as you possibly can. Not all of you can time-travel back a couple of days (the Novus Ordo switch of the Ascension shortened up the days between that feast and Pentecost) so as to start it on the traditional day, but don’t let that stop you from starting today. You can always “double up” on a couple of days along the way and pray what you missed. So just start today if you haven’t already begun, and don’t ignore the whole prayerful period just because you forgot or didn’t realize that it already started. Novenas are powerful prayers and by praying this one you will certainly be more prepared for God to work on and through you at Pentecost than if you just let it slide this year! According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the novena made prior to Pentecost is offered for the reconciliation of non-Catholics. That’s a worthy and needed intention! At the first Catholic Pentecost, the Holy Ghost gave the Apostles the gifts necessary to go into the whole world and bring all people of good will into the one true Church, which is necessary for salvation and founded by Jesus Christ, namely, the Catholic Church. Perhaps He will continue to bestow such graces upon all who pray this novena that they (you), too, may bring others into His Church (or back to His Church), with each receiving special assistance in the form of the various Gifts of the Holy Ghost to do so according to his/her state of life.
There are many novenas to the Holy Ghost which are easily enough found in good Catholic books. They can also readily be found online. One particular one which I have promoted in years past can be found on EWTN’s website and in a 1948 book titled simply, “Novena to the Holy Ghost” and republished by Tan Books in 2010. It gives no specific author but rather simply credits “Holy Ghost Fathers”. (This religious congregation is also known as the Spiritans and its priests have the initials C.S.Sp after their name.) This novena is based on the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are received at Confirmation (I will give more information on these in the following paragraph). There is another novena which shows up high in my search results that is based instead on some of the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (some recent writings like this one only list 9). The Gifts, by the way, are given so that one can produce the Fruit, so the two groups are very obviously necessarily related to each other. Just to be clear, there is no “official” novena for these days, since novenas are not considered part of the liturgy of the Church. That is, they are encouraged, even to the point of many receiving approbation for indulgences, but they are generally done “in private”, even if done in groups at the parish and even if led by a priest, rather than being found in the official liturgical books with particular rubrics to follow, vestments to be worn, and other specific rules to be observed. So go search for one that seems “doable” to you and pray it!
Once you get to searching, you will inevitably find more than you were looking for. As an example, on the EWTN page I found an article by Fr. William G. Most with this little nugget (and lots of good things that followed, too!): We turn now to the Seven Gifts of the sanctifying category. They are: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. They each perfect certain basic virtues. Four of them perfect the intellectual virtues. Understanding gives an intuitive penetration into truth. Wisdom perfects charity, in order to judge divine things. Knowledge perfects the virtue of hope. The gift of counsel perfects prudence. The other three gifts perfect virtues of the will and appetites. The gift of piety perfects justice in giving to others that which is their due. This is especially true of giving God what is His due. Fortitude perfects the virtue of fortitude, in facing dangers. Fear of the Lord perfects temperance in controlling disordered appetites. I very much like this grouping and simple explanation of the Gifts. Has it occurred to you that it is essential to know what any particular gift is used for in order for it to be useful, appreciated, and cherished? Have you ever, for instance, opened a Christmas present from, say, Aunt Irma, and said, “What the heck is this?” That gift and the gift giver will be mocked even if it is truly a splendid gift unless its purpose is understood. Too often we do that very thing with God’s Gifts! Learn what purpose they have so that you can properly use them and love more fully Him Who gave them!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka