From the Pastor: Important Update
Several weeks ago I told you that Fr. Mangiafico and I were taking turns celebrating Masses. We were making sure that we were never in the same building at the same time and even staying away from people who had attended Mass or confession with the other priest, so that, should somebody either of us was in contact with be infected with the coronavirus, we would not be in a position of both having to quarantine for two or more weeks at the same time. That scenario, which we were attempting to avoid would, obviously, shut down everything, including Masses, confessions, and Adoration, at Epiphany. Whichever of us took the 7:30 am Mass one week would take both the 10:30 am and 1:00 pm the next week (because confessions after the 10:30 would overlap with the other priest being in the church getting ready for the 1:00 Mass). Last Sunday I had the 7:30. But just before 10:30 I got a frantic call. “Fr. Mangiafico is not here yet!” I got myself over to the church, hoping that he was just caught in heavy traffic and, though arriving too late for the 10:30 Mass, would be here very early for the 1:00. Some of the people tried reaching him as I prepared for Mass, but he didn’t answer his phone or emails. After Mass I expected to hear that he had arrived late, but he still wasn’t here and wasn’t answering his phone. There were no reported accidents along his route. I took the next Mass and confessions and when I finally finished I headed back to the rectory to get my phone (left behind in the rush) and called. Thanks be to God he answered! But he sounded like he just woke up and I could not understand a word he spoke. I called emergency and sent EMS to his house. He had suffered a series of strokes and is now in Largo Medical hospital. Please pray for him! The first three days the hospital allowed one vistor per day. The fourth day they, due to covid panic, eliminated all patient visitations. He is supposed to go to rehab and may be there by the time you read this. He has full use, it seems, of his arms and hands, legs and feet, but not his mouth. His speech consists only of mumbled sounds and he is not swallowing properly. He can write and asked for prayers through the intercession of St. John Chrysostom, the priest with such eloquence in speech that he was called “Golden-mouthed.”
The covid panic is such that Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco have all enacted “must-mask” decrees inside all public buildings. We are still exempt from those regulations (though you are most free to wear a mask if you wish) as long as we remain at an anti-social distance from non-family members. I cannot be your mother, telling you where to sit, stand, and kneel, carrying both a measuring tape and family ID reader with me to enforce those mandates. I ask you to self-police in this regard. Please do not remove the blue tape and sit in a closed off pew. Please remember that we must keep you out of the church and hall until we have sanitized everything with alcohol after the previous Mass. Please do not congregate together laughing and carrying on outside the church doors making the congregation of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission run the gauntlet to exit the church. If you notice, almost every one of them wears masks and then they have to brush past you if you crowd around the exits. It takes 10-15 minutes after they leave for us to be finished sanitizing, so there is no reason for you to be near the doors while they are still in the building. Please notice the blue “6 feet lines” on the floor keeping you at the regulated distance while standing in line for Holy Communion. Following these mandates keeps us from being fined or closed down. Starting next week our Knights of Columbus will be assisting in reminding you of these things. Please be courteous to them. And remember, you still have the dispensation from your Sunday obligation if you have any qualms about being here for any reason.
Finally, and this is a direct result of the preceding two paragraphs, if you are sick, please take extra precautions! Coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing is pretty standard stuff in a normal year. But not this year. Things will only get worse if the panic remains constant throughout the summer. Even when taking precautions, colds and flu get passed around. You will second guess your own symptoms, plus everyone around you will assume the worst, believing that if you dare leave your house you are a heartless, selfish murderer. Even if the covid test (which you will take) comes back negative after 6-10 days of your self-quarantine, you may be retested and retested until it finally shows a false positive! Then what? Contact tracing and, perhaps, emptying or even closing of the church? I don’t yet know what I will do if I get the sniffles. Being the only priest at a parish, I have had to celebrate Masses with such a bad flu that I couldn’t stand for the whole of the last Mass. But with a covid possibility could I even show up for Mass? Until Fr. Mangiafico recovers, I have no backup. Would you attend Mass offered by a coughing priest under these circumstances? I hope we never have to answer these questions!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Corpus Christi Sequence
Last week we celebrated Corpus Christi on Thursday, the actual day of the celebration, and then on Sunday we celebrated the External Solemnity of Corpus Christi for the sake of those who could not make it on Thursday. I had mentioned on Thursday that it would behoove everyone to get a copy of the sequence (written by St. Thomas Aquinas) and read and study it. Although you will probably find a beautiful poetic translation in your missal, I want you to be able to compare it to a more literal translation, for it is very difficult to translate and keep the same meaning and doubly difficult to do so while also trying to keep a rhyme and meter in a foreign language. So here is one from Abbot Gueranger’s “The Liturgical Year”, a classic commentary on the Masses on the Church’s liturgical calendar of old. It isn’t as melodious as some other translations you might find, but it is powerful in Catholic teaching about the Eucharist!
Praise thy Saviour, O Sion! praise thy guide and shepherd, in hymns and canticles.
As much as thou hast power, so also dare; for he is above all praise, nor canst thou praise him enough.
This day there is given to us a special theme of praise -- the living and life-giving Bread,
Which, as our faith assures us, was given to the twelve brethren, as they sat at the table of the holy Supper.
Let our praise be full, let it be sweet: let our soul’s jubilee be joyous, let it be beautiful;
For we are celebrating that great day, whereon is commemorated the first institution of this Table.
In this Table of the new King, the new Pasch of the new Law puts an end to the old Passover.
Newness puts the old to flight, and so does truth the shadow; the light drives night away.
What Christ did at that Supper, that he said was to be done in remembrance of him.
Taught by his sacred institution, we consecrate this bread and wine into the Victim of salvation.
This is the dogma given to Christians -- that bread passes into Flesh, and wine into Blood.
What thou understandest not, what thou seest not, that let a generous faith confirm thee in beyond nature’s course.
Under the different species, which are signs not things, there hidden lie things of infinite worth.
The Flesh is food, the Blood is drink; yet Christ is whole under each species.
He is not cut by the receiver, nor broken, nor divided: he is taken whole.
He is received by one, he is received by a thousand; the one receives as much as all; nor is he consumed, who is received.
The good receive, the bad receive, but with the difference of life or death.
‘Tis death to the bad, ‘tis life to the good: lo! how unlike is the effect of the one like receiving.
And when the Sacrament is broken, waver not! but remember, that there is as much under each fragment, as is hid under the whole.
Of the substance that is there, there is no division; it is but the sign that is broken; and he who is the signified, is not thereby diminished, either as to state or stature.
Lo! the Bread of angels is made the food of pilgrims; verily it is the Bread of the Children, not to be cast to dogs.
It is foreshown in figures: when Isaac is slain, when the Paschal lamb is prescribed, when Manna is given to our fathers.
O good Shepherd! true Bread! Jesus! have mercy upon us: feed us, defend us: give us to see good things in the land of the living.
O thou, who knowest and canst do all things, who feedest us mortals here below, make us to be thy companions in the banquet yonder above, and they joint-heirs, and fellow-citizens with the saints!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Extra 1:00 Mass Not Always TLM!
I want to thank all of you who are making the sacrifice to attend the extra Mass we have started up at 1:00 pm on Sundays. The first week about 140 attended (it was a First Holy Communion Mass for the children who were locked out of their most special Mass during the Covid panic), most of whom would have normally been at the 10:30 Mass. (As a side note, we had a number of children who were not able to make it to their re-scheduled First Holy Communion date, so we will welcome them at the 1:00 Mass on June 28th as they receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time!) The 10:30 Mass that first Sunday back had about 180 people at it. That low number allowed for mandated anti-social spacing in the church. 114 people attended the 7:30 that day as well, about normal for that Mass. Last week, with no First Holy Communion bringing people specifically to the 1:00 Mass, we still had just over 80 people there. The 7:30 was about the same, so the rest of the people attended the 10:30, overflowing into the social hall once we reached the limit in the church. I am going to continue offering the extra Mass as long as it is needed and as long as people continue to make the sacrifice to attend what is admittedly not the most convenient Mass time. If everyone from the 1:00 Mass attended the 10:30 Mass either of the two weeks it has so far been offered, both the church and hall would have been maxed out to capacity and people would have been standing outside for the entire Mass. I do have to remind you that, no matter which Mass you attend, you have to wait outside or in your car until after we sanitize the pews, doors, etc., between Masses. Congregating in the social hall or near the doors is not allowed.
Things are not normal. And when things are not normal, it should not be a surprise when even more abnormal things occur. During this time when we are just getting back to Sunday Masses and are trying to figure out what kind of Mass schedule will allow for the Covid limits on the congregation, I received a letter which I had already given up on getting. Long ago I had offered to celebrate Mass according to Divine Worship, the Missal used by the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, since they did not have a priest of the Ordinariate anywhere in our diocese. The Ordinariate is composed of members of the Anglican, Episcopal, or Methodist churches who have converted to Catholicism. They retain the use of their own missal and many other traditions and they have their own bishop. My bishop, Gregory Parkes, and the Ordinariate bishop, Steven Lopes, agreed that I can celebrate Mass for the Ordinariate once per month for the next year and see if their community can be built up in this area. It is a Catholic Mass and is very much like the Traditional Latin Mass except that it is done in English. It also, strangely, uses the Novus Ordo readings even while keeping the Traditional calendar.
Of course, I now have the problem of already having added in an extra Mass for the TLM community on Sundays and I just cannot see adding yet one more Mass, rushing through it to get done before St. Joseph Vietnamese Community comes in for their Sunday evening prayers and Mass. So on the first Sunday of every month the 1:00 pm extra Mass will not be a TLM but will be an Ordinariate Mass. The first one will be on July 5 and will continue each first Sunday. Again, it is Catholic, and all Catholics fulfill their Sunday obligation (which is still not an obligation due to the coronavirus dispensation given by Bishop Parkes) by attending this Mass. So come if you like!
One more note of interest for you. Fr. Mangiafico and I are taking turns with the Masses and will not be assisting at each other’s Masses due to the possibility of Covid Contact Tracing. Should somebody who attends Mass later turn up with Covid we don’t want to both be told that we must quarantine for two or more weeks at the same time, which would eliminate all Masses at Epiphany! By staying away from each other and by avoiding being with the same people at the same Mass, even if one of us gets quarantined, the other can take over all the Masses. Is this being overly cautious? Maybe, maybe not. After a deacon who attended a deacon ordination Mass in Georgia was found with Covid, three parishes canceled Masses because the pastors had been at that Mass. Since shortly after this thing began, somebody calls the police on us every week, sometimes several times a day. What do they think we are doing that’s illegal or expect the police to do? I don’t know. Complaints and photos from inside our church have also been sent to the bishop. It seems that somebody wants to stir up trouble and we can take steps to avoid at least this one thing. So if you attend Mass with Fr. Mangiafico, don’t then come to the rectory looking for me or vice versa. You could then be the link to us both being in quarantine. Sheesh! What a world we live in.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Belief in the Trinity
This weekend we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Belief in the Blessed Trinity, that is, in the reality that God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons in One God, is absolutely essential to our Catholic Faith. Yet it is such a profound mystery that even contemplating it for one’s entire life will never allow for a complete understanding. It is the essence of God, after all, and we are just puny brained humans. Created in His image and likeness, no doubt, but not All Knowing like He is. Yet still, in order to more fully know, love, and serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him forever in the next, many a man has attempted to understand and explain this mystery as well as possible. Many have done so incorrectly, falling into heresy. Many have done so well, but even the best still falls short. St. Augustine, for instance, wrote 15 books on the Trinity and still ended with a prayer that basically said (and I am grossly paraphrasing here), “I wrote a whole lot of intelligent words but still failed to fully grasp and explain You due to my ignorance. Sorry about that, Lord.” St. Athanasius, on the other hand, has a creed attributed to him in which, in just a relatively few words, he gives his best shot at summing up the Trinity, or at least our belief in the Trinity. It, too, is incomplete, but at least it is brief! Today is a good day to read this, multiple times, perhaps, and come to a greater understanding (or at least appreciation of) the Most Holy Trinity. Enjoy.
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreated, the Son Uncreated, and the Holy Ghost Uncreated. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka