From the Pastor: Ember Days of September
This Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are the Ember Days of September in the 1962 liturgical calendar. They are non-existent in the new order calendar, but that doesn’t mean that they are not to be taken seriously. In the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence dated November 18, 1966, they have this to say under the subheading “Vigils and Ember Days”:
17. Vigils and Ember Days, as most now know, no longer oblige to fast and abstinence. However, the liturgical renewal and the deeper appreciation of the joy of the holy days of the Christian year will, we hope, result in a renewed appreciation as to why our forefathers spoke of "a fast before a feast." We impose no fast before any feast-day, but we suggest that the devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self-denial, penitential prayer and fasting.
If you recall, it is this document that also removed the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays outside of Lent and Good Friday, leaving it up to each individual Catholic to choose whichever penance they found most edifying on those other Fridays. That change went over exactly like the Vigil and Ember Days change. You would be hardpressed to find anyone, even among clergy, who “for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety” takes seriously the four sets of Ember Days in the old calendar if for no other reason than since the issuance of this 1966 Statement the USCCB has failed to issue any guidelines for when Ember Days are now to be celebrated! There are no Ember Days listed in the new liturgical calendar, so how are Catholics, even those who want to “freely bind themselves” to the old ways, to do so? The answer is simply, “Follow the 1962 Mass!”
We are the only parish in the diocese that does so. Although there are other parishes where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated according to the 1962 Missal of Pope John XXIII, the others do not have those Masses daily and therefore, it is not on the radar for most of the parishioners who only attend Sunday Mass in the venerable Rite. But here we not only have the 1962 Mass offered daily, so that all of the Ember Days will be celebrated, but we have also, for the past few years, put out a parish calendar listing such things so that even those who cannot attend the Ember Days’ Masses can still see that they are being celebrated and can willingly (for there is no obligation even for us) follow the penitential practices behind those days.
Many people will think that the current rules removing obligations from such things as Friday abstinence and Ember Day fasting with partial abstinence (meaning meat can only be consumed at the one allowed meal that day) is a very pastoral—even holy—thing to do. After all, if good things are done out of piety instead of out of obligation, so the current thinking goes, it is much more pleasing to God and more virtuous. But that is not the traditional way of looking at this topic. Pope St. Leo the Great explains this in several sermons on Ember Days! “Although it be lawful for each one of us to chastise his body by self-imposed punishments, and restrain, with more of less severity, the concupiscences of the flesh which was against the spirit, yet need is that, on certain days, a general fast be celebrated by all. Devotion is all the more efficacious and holy, when the whole Church is engaged in works of piety, with one spirit and one soul. Everything, in fact, that is of a public character is to be preferred to what is private; and it is plain, that so much the greater is the interest at stake, when the earnestness of all is engaged upon it. As for individual efforts, let each one keep up his fervour in them; let each one, imploring the aid of divine protection, take to himself the heavenly armour, wherewith to resist the snares laid by the spirits of wickedness; but though he may act bravely in his own private combats, yet will he fight more safely and more successfully, when he shall confront the enemy in a public engagement; for in that public engagement, he has not only his own valour to which to trust, but he is under the leadership of a King who can never be conquered, and engaged in a battle fought by all his fellow-soldiers; so that, being in their company and ranks, he has the fellowship of mutual aid.” Another September he again preached on these Ember Days, “God has sanctioned this privilege, that what is celebrated in virtue of a public law is more sacred than that which depends on a private regulation. The exercise of self-restraint which an individual Christian practices by his own will is for the advantage of that single member; but a fast undertaken by the Church at large includes everyone in the general purification. God’s people never is so powerful as when the hearts of all the faithful join together in the unity of holy obedience, and when, in the Christian camp, one and the same preparation is made by all, and one and the same bulwark protects all...” Oh, how different was our theological understanding of such things as “obedience” and “obligation” in years past!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Large Numbers at Daily Mass!
Six years ago when I first came to Epiphany, the daily Mass was held in the rectory chapel. I know that not many of you remember that since the chapel Masses were only attended by a handful of people. Between 2 and 6 people in the pews was the norm for the first week or so. But then the Masses started to get crowded. The chapel only fits about 24 people in the pews and there were days when we had “standing room only” crowds for the Traditional Latin Mass. It wasn’t long before we had to move to the church to accommodate everyone. Then, for Lent that first year, some parishioners asked for a 6:30 am Mass to be added so that they could attend before work. (The TLM was at 9:00 am, set at that time because there had already been an 8:00 am daily Novus Ordo Mass which had continued to be celebrated by the other priests living at the rectory.) When that Mass started we averaged about 12 people at the early Mass and anywhere between 10 and 35 people at the 9:00 Mass. The early Mass was much more consistent as it was for those who made it a part of their workday, whereas the later Mass was attended more by retirees and by homeschool families. Just two or three families coming on any particular day made for a large swing in attendance, as there could be 3, 5, or 8 people all coming as a group instead of individuals! But the other priests were not always able to celebrate the 8:00 Mass due to other commitments, so I was having to celebrate all three Masses those mornings. When Lent was over, the people begged that the 6:30 remain, and, since I could not continue to celebrate three daily Masses on a regular basis, I made the decision to change the 9:00 am Mass to 8:00. Since the two different 8:00 Masses were celebrated in different places there was no conflict in the schedule and if there was no priest for the 8:00 Novus Ordo Mass, the people could always come to the TLM at the same time just a few steps away.
As time went on, the Latin Masses grew. We are a “commuter parish” and when I see that people are driving not only from Tampa but also from other areas of Hillsborough county as well as from Pasco, Pinellas, and even Polk counties, I am amazed by our crowds! For our last First Friday, we had more than 20 people at 6:30 and over 75 people at 8:00. On First Saturday (we drop the 6:30 Mass on Saturdays) we had well over 100 people in the congregation. On the feast of Mary’s Nativity, we again had around 75 people at the 8:00 alone, although the potluck following the Adoration and Confessions after Mass might have been a factor bringing in people, too! The number of schola members who show up to chant the 6:30 am Masses is up, too, as now we often have 3 or 4 men chanting. Even the FSSP and ICKSP priests are envious of a daily chanted Mass!
So why am I writing about the daily Mass count? Because most of you don’t know how many or how few people attend daily Mass. It might surprise you to find out that we total more than 50 people showing up even on “slow” days for Mass. You know how many people show up for Sunday Mass, since you have seen it go from a partially full church to a crowded church, even to an overflowing church at the 10:30 Sunday Mass. But because of work schedules, school schedules, or other good reasons, you have never been to a daily Mass outside of Holy Days of Obligation. So I wanted to show that there are “die-hard Daily TLM Catholics” who find the time, energy, and gas money to come at least occassionally during the week. So why is that important? For two reasons. First, to encourage those of you who have thought about coming to daily Mass but figured it might be too much of a burden, or who figured that nobody else came, either, to change from “thinking about it” to “doing it.” Sometimes it helps to know that people drive from Dade City, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, and other far-flung locations to attend Mass, and it might give you the impetus to at least attempt it once or twice a week yourself! The second reason is that we have finally put our building committee together to see about the possibility of building a new church and other needed buildings. Those who only come to Sunday Mass may sometimes forget that we must plan for other things as well, such as daily Mass, meeting space, storage (a big necessity!) classrooms, bathrooms, play areas, and many other “non-Sunday-Mass” things that go on in a parish. We will soon be coming up with plans for our property to present to you and to the bishop (not necessarily in that order!) to see if we can get enough support for such a major undertaking. We will have to find a way to pay for it, of course, but more than finances are involved. We will need a place to celebrate both daily and Sunday Masses, to hold meetings, to play, to pray, and, for the priests, to live while the destruction/construction takes place. Pray for us as we plan it all out!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This Wednesday, September 8, we celebrate The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We will have a special high Mass at 8:00 am instead of the usual low Mass at that time. Below is an excerpt from The Golden Legend as it describes some early scholars’ attempts to outline the lineage of Our Lady. What they describe is not Gospel. Some authors will refute some of what is written here, as, for instance, Fr. Leonard Goffine in The Church Year states that Luke’s Gospel contains the lineage of Mary rather than that of Joseph. The uncertainty does not detract from the theory!
The nativity of the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, of the lineage of Judah and of the royal kindred of David took her original beginning. Matthew and Luke describe not the generation of Mary but of Joseph, which was far from the conception of Christ. But the custom of writing was of such ordinance that the generation of women is not shown but of the men. And verily the blessed Virgin descended of the lineage of David, and it is certain that Jesus Christ was born of this only Virgin. It is certain that he came of the lineage of David and of Nathan, for David had two sons, Nathan and Solomon among all his other sons. And as John Damascene witnesses that of Nathan descended Levy, and Levy engendered Melchion and Panthar, Panthar engendered Barpanthar, Barpanthar engendered Joachim, Joachim engendered the Virgin Mary, which was of the lineage of Solomon. For Nathan had a wife, of whom he engendered Jacob, and when Nathan was dead Melchion, which was son of Levy and brother of Panthar, wedded the wife of Nathan, mother of Jacob, and on her he engendered Eli, and so Jacob and Eli were brethren of one mother but not of one father. For Jacob was of the line of Solomon and Eli of the line of Nathan, and then Eli of the line of Nathan died without children, and Jacob his brother, which was of the line of Solomon, took a wife and engendered and raised the seed of his brother and engendered Joseph.
Joseph then by nature is son of Jacob by descent of Solomon. That is to wit, Joseph is the son of Jacob, and after the law he is son of Eli which descended of Nathan. for the son that was born, was by nature his that engendered him, and by the law he was son of him that was dead, like as it is said in the History Scholastic. And Bede witnesses in his chronicle that, when all the generations of the Hebrews and other strangers were kept in the most secret chests of the temple, Herod commanded them to be burnt, wishing thereby to make himself noble among the others. If the proofs of the lineages were failed, he should make them believe that his lineage appertained to them of Israel. And there were some that were called dominics, because they were so nigh to Jesus Christ and were of Nazareth, and they had learned the order of generation of our Lord, a part of their grandsires' fathers, and a part by some books that they had in their houses and taught them forth as much as they might. Joachim spoused Anne, which had a sister named Hismeria, and Hismeria had two daughters, named Elizabeth, and Elind. Elizabeth was mother to John Baptist, and Eliud engendered Eminen. And of Eminen came S. Servatius, whose body lies in Maestricht, upon the river of the Meuse, in the bishopric of Liège. And Anne had three husbands, Joachim, Cleophas, and Salome; and of the first she had a daughter named Mary, the Mother of God, the which was given to Joseph in marriage, and she childed our Lord Jesus Christ. And when Joachim was dead, she took Cleophas, the brother of Joseph, and had by him another daughter named Mary also, and she was married to Alpheus. And Alpheus her husband had by her four sons, that was James the Less, Joseph the Just, otherwise named Barsabee, Simon, and Jude. Then the second husband being dead, Anne married the third named Salome, and had by him another daughter which yet also was called Mary, and she was married to Zebedee. And this Mary had of Zebedee two sons, that is to wit, James the More, and John the Evangelist...
But it is marvellous for to see how the blessed Virgin Mary might be cousin of Elizabeth as it is tofore said. It is certain that Elizabeth was Zachary's wife, which was of the lineage of Levi, and after the law each ought to wed a wife of his own lineage. And she was of the daughters of Aaron, as S. Luke witnesses, and Anne was of Bethlehem, as S. Jerome says, and was of the tribe of Judah. And then they of the line of Levi wedded wives of the line of Judah, so that the line royal and the line of the priests were always joined together by cousinage... And our blessed Lady was of both lineages, and so our Lord would that these two lineages should entresemble together for great mystery. For it appertains that he should be born and offered for us, very God, and very king, and very priest...
There is, of course, too much to reproduce here. But I hope you enjoyed reading about one possible explanation for Jesus’ “brethren” and a bit about His family ties to biblical characters and even apostles. There is always more to read and learn...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka