From the Pastor: What Will Our Bishop Do?
As I announced last weekend, Bishop Parkes is on vacation. In response to the latest motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (Jailers of Tradition) regarding the Traditional Latin Mass, he authorized me to continue as normal but wanted to speak further about it upon his return to the Diocese. He returns on Tuesday of this week and the appointment is already set for that afternoon. 3:00 pm, the time of our Lord’s death; the time of Divine Mercy.
I heard that last week we had a number of people in attendance who had never been to the Traditional Latin Mass before but wanted to show their support. We also had one lady call and leave a voicemail of support as well. If any of you are reading this, please know that I am very grateful for your love and compassion! Somebody asked me how many of my fellow priests have gotten in touch with me in a like manner. Sadly, but not surprisingly, not a single one who doesn’t already celebrate the TLM.
The people, if not the priests and bishops, usually get the answer to “Why?” if they simply attend a Traditional Latin Mass 3 or 4 times. Some get it before they even hear a Mass. (I like the term, which is only found in old books, “hear Mass” more than I like “attend Mass” as is found everywhere these days, including my own sentence at the beginning of this paragraph!) As an example, last month after our parish Confirmations (without a Mass but followed by Benediction) were finished one of the sponsors, who had never been to a TLM parish before, approached me with awe. “I have never experienced anything like that before in my life!” she gushed. I thought that maybe she had never been to a Confirmation before. Or maybe she had never been to a Benediction (something that I hear from cradle Catholics on an all too regular basis). But no, that wasn’t it either. “Every time I go to First Holy Communions or Confirmations or even Mass,” she said, speaking of her Novus Ordo experiences, “the people are noisy and boisterous and spend their time beforehand just talking and laughing as if they are in a local park. But here they were silent and prayed even though we started 40 minutes late!” She was absolutely thrilled over something that should be common practice yet everyone knows is absolutely not found in Novus Ordo parishes. For those of you who were not there, we were set to start on time except that there was a huge accident on the interstate. Several families were caught in it and couldn’t get to an exit to bypass the mess. I made the decision to wait for them so that their children would not have to wait another year to get Confirmed. It took quite a while for all of them to get to the parish and during all of that time the people remained silent and prayed. I had exactly zero complaints about the delay, as everyone knew that they would have wanted to be treated in the same way had they been unavoidably caught in the traffic jam. Yes, the Faith and demeanor of our families are impressive to first-timers even though disparaged by so many antagonists (now given cover by a new document that even the fully Novus Ordo George Weigel calls “theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary, cruel — and a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently”) who unjustly label them (you/me) as “misfits” or worse.
I have, of course, been watching with great interest the writings of bishops throughout the world regarding the implementation of the document in question. Although the Church usually moves slowly, the document was to be implemented “immediately” even though the bishops were assumedly not privy to its contents before its promulgation. I have been amazed by the speed at which bishops and even bishops’ conferences have put out written responses. Some have been pastoral and some not. I have been encouraged to see that even some bishops who do not seem to care very much for the Traditional Latin Mass still care about the members of their flock who avail themselves of this Mass of the Ages. They are, for now at least, indicating that they will not abandon, disparage, or run roughshod over this most marginalized of all sub-groups of Catholic Faithful. One bishop in particular caught my attention. Bishop Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. Citing Canon Law (Church law) paragraph 87.1, he dispensed the parishes in his diocese already celebrating TLMs from needing to adhere to Traditionis Custodes. Our bishop, being himself a canon lawyer, may even do something similar (hint, hint: this is something to pray for!) or may even go further and dispense those who may wish to celebrate this Mass in the future. We shall see.
In the meantime, I am left with this burning question. If the TLM must be abolished because using only the Novus Ordo all Catholics will supposedly be united. But last year I celebrated a monthly Mass according to the Ordinariate missal. Is that next on the chopping block? There are other Latin Rite usages as well. Will they be denounced and squashed as dis-unifying Rites? Will the many and various Easter Rite Catholic Churches all be forced to become Novus Ordo for the supposed sake of “unity”? Or is “lack of unity” a disingenuous lie and the current animosity and insult is rather solely reserved for the Traditional Latin Mass and those who grow holy by participating in it? Inquiring minds want to know.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You!
This past week has been a doozy. The Catholic Enrichment Week (sort of like a Vacation Bible School except Catholic and Educational instead of generic Christian pablum of singing cutsie songs with hand gestures) was our largest yet. The volunteers who worked hard at this are truly a few steps closer to Heaven. Thank you! Also, thank you parents for trusting us with the Catholic formation of your children. It is a long drive for most of you. It takes a long time through heavy traffic to bring your children here and pick them up later, and you only did it because you trusted that it would be worth it for them to learn about Jesus’ Apostles. I also especially appreciate those who went through the Diocesan-required Safe Environment Training and Fingerprint Background checks so that you could take an active supervisory role. We couldn’t do anything like this without you!
The first afternoon of the CEW we had a strong storm that came through here. Lots of very close lightning, strong winds, and extremely heavy rain. Then 10 minutes later it had passed by. But not before destroying two out of the three tents we had set up for some shade for the daytime activities. We didn’t have anything like that even during the recent tropical storm. Fortunately, it blew through after the children had all gone home. Thank you, Lord, for such good timing! Of course, like all typical Florida thunderstorms, it was a very localized squall, and those who had to clean it all up couldn’t figure out why there was so much damage since none of them had any major storm at their houses. I just happened to have been home when the storm passed by so I could figure it out. But shortly after that, I was on my way out to a convent in Riverview where I was leading a retreat for the Sisters, so there may have even been multiple unseen short storms that came by. I certainly kept hitting them along the drive. Each lasted only about 1/2 to 1 mile and then abruptly ended. That’s the nice thing about these outbursts: if you can just keep moving, you will soon come to clear weather again!
The retreat was focused on the three Evangelical Counsels, or the three Counsels of Perfection, namely Voluntary Poverty, Perpetual Continence (commonly named “chastity” or “celibacy”), and Obedience as explained not by me but by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Some of you who are new here may not realize that we currently have two of our young ladies in the early stages of formation with the Sisters and Sons of Jesus the High Priest whom you see at 7:30 am Mass on Sundays and 8:00 am Mass on weekdays when they are not teaching school. This retreat theme was chosen so that they could get a better understanding of what those three vows mean, why they are so important that they are virtually essential, and how those vows can teach them the perfections which are possible here on Earth in this life. It is humbling as a secular priest to be teaching this to those already in and those soon to take vows since St. Thomas makes it very clear that the Religious who take vows are in a State of Perfection (that takes a lot of explaining, as you can probably imagine) even before being perfected, whereas the secular priests—who take promises rather than vows—are not in that same state.
Through the grace of God, the Liturgical Calendar gave me some great examples to use in explaining these three Counsels. St. John Gualbert, Abbot, began the week. Although he became an abbot, he was never in Holy Orders, not even the minor ones. He lived out his vows with heroic virtue nonetheless and, as his title of “Abbot” indicates, was elected the Superior of his monastery and even founded many others. Then came St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan and contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, which allowed me to explain some differences in how different “Orders” live their vows as they strive for perfection. Next up came St. Henry II, a King and Emperor, who died in the year 1024. Although a layman, he always wanted to be a priest and once, even though already Emperor, begged admission to a monastery with a promise to be a simple monk. He could point to his current life to prove that he could live the three vows. 1) He used all of his money for the glory of God and to help His people placed under his care. In fact, he spent so much money building up the Church and assisting people to get to Heaven that his own brother raised an army to depose him, feeling that the money rightly belonged to the royal family rather than the family of God. Henry won the battle, by the way. 2) He and his wife, St. Cunigunde, remained, by mutual consent, virgins even after marriage, so he had already proven himself capable of celibacy. 3) He was obedient to no secular power but was completely at the service of the Pope and Our Lord. The Abbot accepted his clearly demonstrated ability to live the Evangelical Counsels and immediately put him under obedience to return home and remain King and Emperor!
Add to that daily Masses, confessions, Adoration, sick calls, urgent appointments, and whatnot, and you have some idea of my week. I wouldn’t trade this “job” for anything in the world! Thanks for letting me be your pastor! Now if only I can find time to do some laundry...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Survivors of the Storm
If you are reading this I can make the assumption that you are a fellow survivor of the storm. Which storm? The one that, according to news reports ahead of time, was to prove that global warming, global cooling, and/or climate change were all man-made evils that were going to destroy the world. That was before they realized that it was not going to grow into a level 8 himicane (they/he/she/it felt too masculine to be called a “her”icane). I had gotten a few “disaster” type news articles coming in on my phone when the storm first formed but I didn’t pay much attention to it. That changed when I started getting emergency messages from the Diocese. Emergency messages came via my church email, my personal email, and my cell phone. On the cell phone I received both phone recordings and text messages. I was told/shown emergency contact information for all of the “big” players in the diocese. I was told/shown corrected emergency contact information after the first set of information proved to contain old numbers or personnel who no longer worked for the diocese. All of that showed that our emergency network was working well enough to reach me but it also made me think that a really big storm must be on the way. I got reminder messages about how to secure the church, the office, the documents of the parish, and the grounds. I was reminded to give the staff swimming lessons and “Jesus loves you” floaties to keep them safe. (I made up that last one just to see if you are paying attention.) I dusted off the old TV set and turned on Bray News 9 to see the weather report. I figured there must be a bad storm brewing and I needed to see when to batten down the hatches. Of course, I had to wait through 7 minutes of commercials before the weather man/girl/woman/thing (these new trans words make it hard to know what to call people these days) came on with a very generic report about it being hot with a chance of rain in the afternoon (no kidding, people get paid to tell us that!) and that the tropical storm update would come later. So much for a weather update about the most killer storm of all time! So I waited. And fell asleep before the next commercial finished. I woke only to have to sit through two more 9 minute periods of commercials in order to finally hear that a tropical storm was coming and that the British model said it would fall apart over the mountains of Cuba but the American model showed it missing the mountains and continuing to build strength once it got over water again and would affect Tampa soon afterwards. Rain squalls would begin Monday morning and continue to increase. The eye of the storm would hit late Tuesday, maybe as a category 1 hurricane, and give us storms all day Wednesday. But get this: for the first time in my recent memory they said it would not be a major issue for us even though it was expected to come directly over us! No gloom! No despair! No agony on me! No deep dark, depression, excessive misery... (come to think of it, recent years’ storm reports seem to have been plagiarizing Hee Haw). No, calmly they said that we could expect a storm surge of only one to three feet, 2-4 inches of rain, and some strong winds. I was shocked. It was a storm report that could have been taken from my childhood years when they told the truth instead of engaging in sensationalism.
Even so, I prepared for a storm by bringing an umbrella to Mass Monday morning. (Lotza preparation!) I didn’t need it. I was supposed to do a house blessing in Lakeland on Tuesday. I spoke with the parishioners and we agreed that if the storm got bad, we would reschedule. I would know how bad the storm was by their presence or absence at the 8:00 Mass. If it was safe for them to come to Mass, it was safe for me to go bless their house. Of course, with zero storm winds or rain, they showed up on Tuesday. I still didn’t need the umbrella, which was a good thing, since I had left it at the church the day before! Once in Lakeland, with good driving weather all the way there, we had time for lunch and a house blessing and a bunch of story-telling before a squall came. Heavy rain, strong winds, and I knew it was time to leave. By the time my doggie bag was packed, it had passed. I had no more inclement weather the whole drive back. We had no heavy rain the rest of the day and no indication of heavy rain overnight. If there was a nighttime storm, it wasn’t bad enough to wake me up. Wednesday was about the same, with a few light sprinkles but not even our typical afternoon thunderstorm.
I received more text messages, automated phone calls, and emails from the Diocese asking me to “press 1 if everyone is safe.. press 2 if you need assistance...” and even a real phone call from a real monsignor asking about my well-being and the condition of the property. I am really not sure how I survived this terrible man-made disaster, but I did. And somehow you did, too! I would thank God, but everyone knows that He only gets blame for bad things, not credit for the good...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Birthday, Dad!
After the censors got a hold of my column last week and chopped out half of it due to its “controversial” content, I didn’t want to put much effort into a column only to have it disappear again. So here is a reprint from 2018.
This past week I went to my dad’s house for his birthday. We sang “Happy Birthday” and “Sto lat” (which means “100 years” in Polish) and he blew out the candles on the cake. He mentioned half-jokingly and half-ruefully that until he reached his 80’s he had always thought that wishing someone 100 years was wishing them a really long life but now he thinks 100 years might not be long enough after all! As a side note, I had to look up the proper spelling for “Sto lat” and found the Polish lyrics translated into English. I can say with certitude that one verse sounds like something that the men in my family would have made up, yet it was already a long treasured traditional song before these guys were old enough to alter it. It begins and ends as a cheerful song which, like a toast to the birthday boy, proclaims a wish that he live among us 100 years in health and happiness. How nice. But in the middle verse there is also a wish that anyone who doesn’t drink to this toast gets struck by lightning! There are some things so “out there” that you just cannot make them up. Such is not the case with the rest of this article, though.
When I was about to depart, my dad took me aside and nearly begged me for one more birthday present. “Son,” he whispered (in the “hushed tones” of someone who is badly in need of new hearing aids) “if you want me to make it to my next birthday, you have to rescue me today. Please take your Aunt Irma with you. She is driving me absolutely crazy and I don’t think I can survive her much longer.” How do you tell your tearful 82 year old father “no” on his birthday, especially when everyone in the house (except Aunt Irma, who at that moment was quite happily inviting some telemarketer and his family over for the birthday celebration) heard his “whispered” plea? Seeing no way out (I wish I could honestly say, rather, “Seeing a beautiful opportunity to show my love to both my dear old dad and my aunt...”) I put on my happy face and called out to her, “Aunt Irma, I am going to Pensacola to spend Independence Day with Fr. Emmanuel. Would you like to come with me?” Before she could answer, dad already had her suitcase packed and in the car and was ushering her out the door with what sounded like a sincere (I see where I get it from) “Oh, you’re leaving already? I’m sorry you weren’t able to stay longer. Please do come again in another 82 years!” This man, who, even with his cane cannot walk 100 feet without stopping to rest, said all of that as he practically carried her out the door, down the driveway and to my car which was parked several houses away. He lifted her into the front seat, slammed the door and, leaning back against the car wiping tears and sweat from his face said, “I’ve never had such a happy birthday as I’m having right now. Take her far, far away and tell her I moved to Oregon if she asks. Now go before she figures out how to unbuckle her seat belt.”
So off I went for an eight hour trip which turned into 10 (and seemed like 20) because of bathroom breaks, wildflower sightings (of which each supposed new variety must be smelled) and an occasional need to pull over for random things such as to stop her from ripping the GPS unit apart as she insisted on finding out how they folded up the map to make it fit into such a small plastic box. Along the way she sang Sto lat approximately 300 times, asked where we were going 250 times, and told me in more detail than human knowledge could possibly impart every aspect of the life, job and family situation of the previously-despondent telemarketer who was perhaps currently on his way to dad’s house to celebrate with the one person who was happy he called. When we finally arrived, since we were running late we had to almost immediately head out to the beach where we were going to watch the fireworks. Fortunately for everyone, Fr. Emmanuel was “fresh” and he and Aunt Irma had a wonderful time as she tried to figure out what side of the family he was from. He, of course, was constantly kept in stitches laughing, not knowing that she was serious. He played right into it, telling her that he and I were twins, and, as proof, said we both had the same name, Father, because our parents didn’t know that “twins” meant “two babies instead of one” and couldn’t come up with a second name under pressure. Right at that moment we entered the town of Gulf Breeze and a sudden look of clarity came over Aunt Irma. “I know this place,” she said in a reverent tone that was filled with either awe, fear, or bliss, and I couldn’t determine which. “It was the night of November 11, 1987...” and her voice trailed off and she hasn’t spoken about it since. You might want to look it up. The time, date and place might explain quite a bit about dear Aunt Irma!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka