From the Pastor: Helping Fellow Parishioners
During the midst of this covid panic, the economy has taken quite a hit. Anyone who owns a large corporation that was deemed “essential” (including our governments, local and national) has no worries about it since they are thriving. The Mom & Pop businesses, though, were deemed worthless and have been forced to close, have had unsustainable restrictions forced upon them if they were able to reopen for an undetermined amount of time before the next closure, and have generally been put through the wringer. Many have been destroyed and many more are struggling to survive. But have you noticed that as I have been writing about this, that actual people have not been referenced? Yet for every business that gets mentioned, many, many real people have their livelihood at stake. I am not writing about some theoretical cosmic goo called “business” but rather about rea- life shops, corporations, and institutions which somebody or many somebodies (real people) worked hard to devise, to build, to manage, and to make successful. Each business employs real people with real needs who do real work for real recompense. Until they are deemed worthless, that is. I know, the word “worthless” was not used directly, but it was surely implied. There were seemingly only two types of businesses addressed by the politicians as they separated those that would stay open and those that would be forced to close. The “open” or “essential” businesses were the ones the politicians owned or the ones which owned the politicians. The “closed” or “non-essential” (worthless) businesses were the ones they were not relying on for re-election. If I am wrong on this or if their calculations were incorrect on this, the politicians who closed the majority of small businesses will all be voted out of office this fall. If I am correct, the incumbents will, by and large, retain their seats even though they have destroyed livelihoods, degraded the majority of hard-working people, inflicted grave harm on countless families, and basically ruled as tyrannical kings and queens. We shall see.
But this article is not specifically about the political evil which we are still experiencing. That was just a starting point to remind you that real people had their lives disrupted. Real people who need to pay their rent or mortgage, who need to feed themselves and their children, who need to keep their health insurance, who need to, well, support themselves and their families. And some of those real people are among us right now. I have heard from and prayed for a number of parishioners whom I believe to be very competent in their field of work who have lost their jobs during this time of economic turmoil and fear. I have offered encouragement to them when they were getting down and congratulations when they have gotten new jobs. I have even (with the help of other parishioners who know how to do such things) helped a couple find temporary assistance when things got really bad. But recently, as yet another parishioner said that he lost his job, I retorted with a smart aleck remark that I should start putting notices in the church bulletin to see if other parishioners might be hiring. Catholics helping fellow Catholics when the need was great, after all, is how the Knights of Columbus got their start, so maybe this is not a bad idea at all. I am not sure the best way to put this out in a church bulletin but I am willing to give it a go and see how it works.
The man I made the comment to is Alex Folkerts. You know him from the choir and from chanting the 6:30 am Mass several times a week. But he is also a computer programmer. I don’t know what exactly that means so I asked him to give me a few sentences to pass on. “I'm a seasoned, full-stack developer working in Agile software development with 6 years experience with Java, 6 years C# .NET, 3 years React.js, and 6 years Microsoft SQL. I've developed several key features in my previous position, developed multiple cross-product integrations, developed and enhanced REST apis, and implemented full unit and integration testing from the front end to the back end.” I still don’t know what he does, but if any of that makes sense to you and you need his skills, or if you know someone who may be hiring such a programmer, please let him know. Contact me if you don’t know how to reach Alex.
You might also know the Smith family (five children visible and one on the way). The husband/father manages a Lakeland print shop (https://mailpro.org/) which is struggling right now because families, neighborhoods, and businesses have not been able to engage in normal activities, many of which ordinarily require printed materials such as business cards, flyers, brochures, booklets, postcards, wedding invitations, and whatnot. If you have any printing needs, you might consider using his business over one of the big box stores.
I am sure there are others reading this right now who might also benefit from a bulletin mention. If so, send me a few lines about what you do, your skills, etc. and I will get it into future bulletins. If you are in a position of hiring, you know that an active Catholic’s work ethic, based on Catholic morality, will be (or should be, at least) better than your average Joe Sixpack. Plus, they have to face you at all parish functions, so they know they better do right by you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Strange Start To Priesthood!
This past week I got my official invitation to the 2020 priest ordinations for our diocese. I feel sorry for the three men who will be ordained under such strange circumstances. Most men in Florida, regardless of which diocese they are going to live in once they are ordained priests, complete their studies at our Regional Seminary, St. Vincent de Paul, in Boynton Beach. Each diocese schedules the priest ordinations in such a way as to allow classmates to attend each other’s ordination either before or after their own. It is a good system allowing men who lived and studied together and became great friends to participate either as deacons or priests as their classmates around the state get ordained. Until this year. The coronavirus threw a monkey wrench into the whole system. I do not know how the other dioceses are handling the issue but I see no way that the guys will be traveling from one diocese to the other to the other as their classmates get ordained in empty cathedrals. The risk of exposure to the evil virus and then missing out on one’s own ordination will probably force the men into at least a couple of weeks of self-quarantine, so each will be ordained without being surrounded by their closest seminary friends. The men from the St. Petersburg diocese normally get ordained on the third Saturday of May. This year it was transferred, due to everything being shut down at that time, to August 15. Now, that being the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems that at least our three men getting ordained (Deacons Joshua Bertrand, Connor Penn, and Mark Woodke) get a great consolation prize, so to speak, for having to wait for this great sacrament. May the Blessed Mother always cherish these priests as special to her!
But even with the postponement, things didn’t get back to normal. With still-rampant fears of a coronavirus outbreak, the ordinations will not be “open to the public.” Only select family and friends of each of the three Ordinands will be allowed access to the cathedral. Even people who normally attend each ordination, such as permanent Deacons and diocesan staff will not be present but will instead be invited to watch it livestreamed. Priests of the diocese can attend but must remain anti-social at all times. I cannot imagine how they will get the priests vested while keeping them apart from each other. The vesting room is always jam-packed with priests both literally and figuratively bumping into one another, renewing old friendships, catching up on everything, and yelling across the room to get each others’ attention. Priests will also be seated 6' apart from each other in the cathedral and will be wearing matching white masks during the Mass. During the time of “laying on of hands” the priests will have disinfectant given to them to use before placing their hands physically on the heads of the newly ordained priests and then again to disinfect their hands after touching the new priests. I wonder if they will have to disinfect between each one? Then, after the Mass is concluded, there will not be a reception, which is where all of the people present for the ordination line up to congratulate the priests and to humbly knee and ask for his “first” blessing.
I understand the thinking behind these changes. After all, which bishop wants to see the worst case scenario emerge where one infected person takes out not only the three new priests but also every priest, deacon, and seminarian throughout the entire diocese, not to mention all of the parish and diocesan staff members?!?! Even so, I cannot help but pity these three men. During the lockdown, we had several weddings with basically the same limitations. Bride, groom, family, and wedding party. Nobody else except the priest. No rehearsal dinner, no wedding reception afterward, and no travel for a honeymoon. I am sure none of those brides ever dreamed of their wedding in such a manner! We also had several funerals with the same limitations. In fact, several priests lost their mothers during the lockdown and, though priests usually turn out in droves for the funeral Mass for the mother of a priest, none were able to attend except the one burying his own dear mother. And now the newly ordained are forced to experience that type of strange upheaval of normal life, perhaps showing a glimpse of what their entire priesthood will be like. Empty seats where there should be crowds. Anti-social behavior where there should be bear hugs and slaps on the back. Fear of being either infected or infectious where a common sense “stay home if you are sick” mentality used to be sufficient. Face masks covering up and hiding from sight the exuberance of those few blessed enough to be in attendance. And, most sadly of all, nobody to bless when the aroma of the chrism oil is still fresh on the newly consecrated hands of the new priests. It is difficult to determine if they are the new lepers or if the rest of the Church is.
The ordination Mass will be livestreamed for all who wish to view it. For the past few years this was done because not everyone could physically travel to or fit into the packed cathedral. This year it is being done to keep people out of an empty cathedral. What awaits these men in their priesthood? With such a strange beginning, expect the unexpected! Pray for them. They will need your support more than any of us can know!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Clean Air at Epiphany!
I was reading something recently from a priest who was describing his vacation a few years back. He wrote about how nice it was to be able to just sit in “somebody else’s” church and read his breviary without anyone breathlessly running up and exclaiming, “Father, we’ve run out of toilet paper in the restroom!” I think that every priest who reads that line can respond with a knowing smile. It happens all the time. Everywhere. Although bathroom tissue disappears faster than food in a house full of teenagers, and church toilets cease to function with the same regularity as cell phones ringing during Mass, not every parishioner who sees a problem expects Father to fix it, though. In fact, one of the sweetest melodies in a pastor’s ears might be words to the effect of, “Father, I see a need at the church and I am ready, willing, and able to tackle it. May I help?”
Such an angelic song was being sung not too long ago by one of our parishioners after the covid lockdown took place. Don Reagan approached and introduced himself (probably with a Handshake of Death™ which didn’t kill either of us since we were not yet so intellectualized as to know how dangerous such a thing is) and said that he works for a company (Stan Weaver and Company, 4607 N Cortez Ave., Tampa, FL 33614, 813-879-0383) that installs, among other things, air purification systems in air conditioning units throughout the area. With an increasing worry about a particular coronavirus floating around, he thought that a few ionization air purification units might be a good thing for the church to have installed in her A/C system. He pointed me to a webpage (https://globalplasmasolutions.com/) so that I could check out what he was talking about. After poking around a bit I found the description of “How Ionization Works...” to kill off viruses, odors, mold, particles, allergens, and bacteria. This is what it said: “GPS’ NPBI technology works to safely clean the air inside industrial, commercial and residential buildings. The patented technology uses an electronic charge to create a plasma field filled with a high concentration of + and - ions. As these ions travel with the air stream they attach to particles, pathogens and gas molecules. The ions help to agglomerate fine sub-micron particles, making them filterable. The ions kill pathogens by robbing them of life-sustaining hydrogen. The ions breakdown harmful VOCs with an Electron Volt Potential under twelve (eV<12) into harmless compounds like O2, CO2, N2, and H2O. The ions produced travel within the air stream into the occupied spaces, cleaning the air everywhere the ions travel, even in spaces unseen.” And certified to be ozone free, to boot!
Now, I don’t know much about air purification and I am just a bit gun-shy about buying cure-all snake oil from the back of an average peddler’s wagon, which is what this sounded like. This company claims that it tests for (and finds great reductions in, of course!) Norovirus, Tuberculosis, Human Coronavirus, MRSA, Legionella, Staphylococcus, Clostridium Difficile, and E. Coli. It really sounds either too good to be true or a fantastic system to have installed. But which is it? I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I do know the value of two old sayings, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” and “Follow the money.” What I haven’t revealed until now is that Don did not come up and say, “Father, have I got a deal for you! Act now and I’ll throw in an extra magic doohickey for free! Just pay shipping and handling...” Rather, he said something like this, “This is my parish, and this system is something that I know works. I want my parish to have the cleanest and healthiest air in the Diocese. If you allow me, I will have this installed at no cost to the parish.” He didn’t attach any strings, he wasn’t looking for me to write about it in the bulletin as I am doing here, he wasn’t looking for an advertisement or for a payment or a reward of any sort. He will probably be a bit embarrassed that I am even including his name in this article, but I believe he deserves a pat on the back. A couple of weeks ago three of these GPS Auto-Cleaning Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization Air Purification Devices units were installed in the church A/C ducts. There was no fan-fare, no advertising banner hung up, and no photo op for a company guy. Just another one of many parishioners who saw a need, had the ability and desire to help out, and asked a simple question. “May I help you, Father?” You all really are a great congregation! Thanks for all that you all do without looking for any earthly reward.
Oh, I guess I better make this clear so that nobody freaks out. Even with the air purification system, we are still disinfecting all the pews, door handles, and other touchable surfaces before people come in for Mass; we still encourage anti-social distancing, wearing of masks for those who wish, frequent hand washing, and other mandated or recommended precautions. And remember, though I might jest about the Handshake of Death™ I have tried very hard to refrain from the natural impulse to reach out my hand in greeting. How strange it is that we have dozens of new families at Epiphany whom I have never shaken hands with or picked up their babies. What strange times in which we are living!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Update on Fr. M. and Tutorial on Receiving Holy Communion
To get right to the point, Fr. Mangiafico is in Largo Medical Rehab in Indian Rocks Beach. Although quite apologetic, they will not allow me to enter the facility to visit him. I was able to deliver some cards to him when I went. I figured it is much more difficult to say “no admittance” to me in person than over the phone, but they did so anyway. Please continue to keep him in your prayers as he recovers from his strokes.
Next on the agenda is either a reminder or a tutorial on how to -- and how not to -- receive Holy Communion at a Traditional Latin Mass. It is a reminder for those who have been attending for a while and a tutorial for all of the new people, whom we are welcoming by the busload, it seems! Due to the covid “condition red” we are experiencing, there are a few guidelines from the diocese to which we must adhere. First of all, by now everyone knows the drill about staying 6 feet away from everyone who is not in your household. The lines in the aisles are reminders of how great a distance that is and we ask you to stay back from the person in front of you in the Communion line. Of course, you don’t have to stay away from your family members, so everyone else sees you bunched up like a normal family going up to Communion during normal times, and they have a tendency to revert to normalcy as well. How can I put this? We are asked to refrain from being normal in oh, so many ways! Stay back! Have some fun with it. Bring a six foot stick and... no, no, no, not at Mass. Leave that for the grocery store. Ok, so you have now approached the front of the church and there is an altar rail, or Communion rail, in use. Please be anti-social there as well. It is permitted to kneel down together as a family, you know, side by side as if you like each other, but leave a gap between you and any non-family member who is already kneeling at the rail. I know, you don’t breath out of your ears, so it seems silly to have to stay away from people to your side when “they” claim that the anti-social distancing is to keep you from breathing virus globs into other people’s eyes, nose, and mouth, but then they also want you to avoid what? Ear to ear infections? Or perhaps they are worried that there are aliens among us with breathing apparatus on the side instead of in front. Laugh at it if you will, but then just do it.
If you cannot kneel due to physical infirmity, don’t panic. Stand at the rail and I will still give you Holy Communion. Or, if you are in a wheelchair, come to one end or the other and I can easily step down to give you Our Lord. Holy Communion is distributed from the priest’s left to right and he will be accompanied by an altar boy holding a paten. I will hold the Host before you and give you a blessing. While I am doing that, tilt your head slightly back, open your mouth and stick out your tongue slightly past your bottom lip. Don’t stick your tongue out all the way unless you can keep it straight instead of reaching down toward the floor à la Gene Simmons of the old rock band, Kiss. There is no safe way to place a host on a tongue which is pointed downward. You do not say “amen” or “howdy Father” or anything else as you do at the Novus Ordo Mass. Please don’t wait until the Host comes close to your mouth before you open up and reach out with your tongue. People who do that usually also lunge forward with a licking motion. If you stay silent and still and already have your mouth open and tongue slightly out, you will not lick me. If you are a “licker” you will lick the back of either my index finger or thumb. That doesn’t normally affect anyone else, since I grab the next Hosts with the dry pad side of my thumb and finger, but the next “licker” will get a mouthful of whatever you put on my fingernail, and if there was a licker before you, you got what s/he left behind! Seriously, though, don’t speak or lick or lunge. It’s been a long time since I have been licked, but some of you give my reflexes a workout!
When kneeling it is quite natural to keep your hands folded with palms together in front of your breast but please don’t do that at the altar rail. The paten must go under your chin to catch the Host or particles of the Host that may fall. If your fingers are in the way, the paten cannot do its job. Also, if you wear a mask, please, for the same reason, don’t leave the mask under your chin. The mask is supposedly only protecting others if you have the coronavirus and if you do, the virus will be concentrated on the mask, which then gets transferred to the paten when it touches it, which then passes it on down the line to every other mask or fingers that get in the way and, finally, to the priest as he purifies it. So please take your mask off completely before receiving Our Lord. And that’s enough for today’s lesson.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka