From the Pastor: Thank You! And More...
Fr. Dorvil and I wish to thank you for your generosity towards his Haitian Mission. The last count I saw was approximately $6000, although I expect that several more people who didn’t bring “extra” donation money with them last week will add to that amount this week. Helping missions so close to home not only allows us to give to those in need but also, especially in this case since Fr. Dorvil lives here, allows for a real relationship to grow for those who wish to pursue further involvement in the mission. By the way, because the diocese sets up these mission co-op appeals, all of the money collected goes to the diocese to be distributed to the particular mission for which it was collected rather than going to the one making the appeal. They record the amount raised and give 100% of it to the mission. (In this case, they will send the check—made out to “Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission—to Fr. Dorvil himself, since he is the one in charge of the mission, but it is often the case that the one preaching is not the one in charge.) The diocese then knows that the mission was completed and the mission preacher doesn’t have to carry large sums of cash and checks with him as he travels back home. They also use this information to try to figure out which parish to send each missionary to next year. Some parishes are able/willing to give large amounts and some only small amounts. Each mission has varying needs, too, so they get matched up as best as possible. Please say a prayer for those responsible for making such choices, for that sure is a difficult task!
On a different topic, this past Tuesday a big van towing a flatbed trailer pulled up in our parking lot with a delivery for the parish. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it but, although our parish is named “Epiphany of Our Lord” we don’t have anything other than a sign to indicate the biblical Epiphany event. The delivery van changed that. Filling the van and spilling out onto the trailer was a large Nativity set. Three of the figures in the Nativity set, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, are the Three Kings or Wise Men, or Magi, depending on which Bible translation you read or song you sing. It is, of course, on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, that they arrived and worshipped the Divine Infant, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My plan is to set up this Nativity/Epiphany set on the grounds in a place of honor and leave it there all year round. “But Father!” I can already hear you saying inside of your head, “Plastic, wood, and even fiberglass are no match for the Florida sun! It will rot away in no time!” Yes, that is true. And most of the nativity sets out there are made out of one of those materials. But there are other alternatives! Maybe this one is made of pure, Carrara marble, lovingly hewn from the Italian mountains and hand-chiseled by the Benedictine Monks of Norcia in the free time they have between making their famous beer and rebuilding their monastery which was destroyed several years ago by an earthquake. Or maybe this one is made out of solid granite and rivals the size of Mount Rushmore, or, a bit closer to home, Stone Mountain, Georgia. Or maybe this set is made in Mexico of cast aluminum, finished and painted in Florida, and able to withstand the Florida weather about the same as your car does, which is to say, not without deterioration, but not too bad, either. And quite a bit cheaper than the other two “maybes” I just mentioned.
The Epiphany set is not quite life-sized, for, after all, camels are pretty large, but it is pretty big. We are currently working on a plan to mount the pieces in such a way as to keep them from walking off after determining just exactly where to put them. They are too large and heavy to move around easily but you never know when one of more pieces of such sets might just decide to go on a journey when nobody is looking! I’m guessing that we won’t have them out before Cardinal Burke gets here, but I have guessed wrong before.
Speaking of Cardinal Burke’s arrival, the day he comes, Sunday, October 30, is the Feast of Christ the King on the 1962 liturgical calendar. (The Three Kings of Epiphany adoring the Infant Jesus, the King of Kings, would be a nice touch outside, now that I think of it.) We will have the regularly scheduled 7:30 Mass for all of you who either don’t want to fight the 10:30 Mass crowd or who are going to be doing all of the needed grunt work during that Mass. We will have to clear everyone out of the church as soon as Mass is done so that we can set up both the church and hall as needed for the Cardinal to celebrate the Pontifical High Mass. There will be no confessions heard that day, nor items blessed, and no, you cannot just stay in your pew trying to assure yourself of getting a seat for the next Mass! Even if nobody from outside of the parish attends the Big Mass (which is very unlikely), we won’t all fit into the church and hall. Bring your lawn chair and an umbrella in case you need to be outside. More information and reminders will be coming as we get closer to the big day.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Ember Days are Here Again!
Ember Days are three days of partial (full on Friday) abstinence and fasting. We celebrate them on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday four times a year, near the beginning of each season (weather seasons, not liturgical seasons!). The September Ember Days fall (a seasonal pun) next week. Wednesday, September 21, is St. Matthew’s feast day, and, although I had it printed in the parish calendar that we celebrate the Ember Day with a commemoration of St. Matthew, I got it wrong. We are to celebrate the apostle’s feast day with a commemoration of the Ember Day. The “partial abstinence” of that day and the following Saturday means that one may eat meat only at the main meal of the day. The “fasting” of all three days means that there is only one meal allowed (usually taken in the evening in our culture) and, if necessary to sustain strength or health, up to two small meatless collations, or snacks, earlier in the day. These collations are to be, if measured together, smaller than the full, regular-sized meal. Of course, these days are only found on the old calendars, not the current Novus Ordo calendar, and there is now no mandate for keeping these days of fast and abstinence. But for those of you who are striving to revive lost/forgotten/stolen Catholic traditions, I highly recommend that you incorporate these small penances into your week.
Last year I wrote more extensively about the ember days and how they were dropped from the Universal liturgical calendar with the expectation that they would be incorporated into the local calendars of various countries, something that, at least in the USA, was, sadly, never done. Since my weekly bulletin articles are so memorable, I assume that none of you need a refresher in that part of the history of Ember Days. So this year I will fabricate a completely different history of the Ember Days and present it to you as if it were the true liturgical story of bygone times.
Ember Days started, surprisingly enough, with embers. Embers are, by definition, “the smoldering remains of a fire.” There are many stories of fire and, hence, embers, in both the Old and New Testaments, and Scripture scholars are at odds as to which of them was the precursor to the first Ember Days. The most obvious beginning was from the days of Adam and Eve. The ThermoGenesis scholars believe that, while Eve ate the forbidden apple fresh from the tree, she baked the rest of it into a pie and gave it to Adam to eat, for only a man of very low character (such as we have in abundance today) would have betrayed God for a half-eaten piece of fruit, but for a “sinfully delicious pie,” well, even today’s advertisers know that that sounds mighty tempting. When they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden they failed to extinguish the cooking fire and the whole place burned. (You didn’t think the angel’s sword burst into flames on its own, did you?) The Ember Days were then set as commemorations of the end of Paradise on Earth, as they returned quarterly to reminisce and do penance at the charred remains of their formerly glorious home.
A competing group of Biblical scholars, the Exodousers, claim that a more likely source is the Burning Bush wherein God spoke with Moses. Moses secretly stuffed some of the non-combustible fire in his toga pockets to keep with him as he traveled to the Promised Land, for he knew that nights got cold in the desert. Another snake plays a prominent role in this theory, as well, for some of the desert snakes swallowed flames from his secret fire, thus getting the name “fiery serpents” which later bit the complaining people. This explanation is doubtful, however, since no embers are left over from a flame that does not consume the material upon which it rests.
Yet a third oftentimes defended position is that the Ember Days began with Elias (Elijah in some new-fangled translations). Two competing groups form this one general group. The first one, the Charcoalites, say that these days started with Elias calling down fire from Heaven upon the sacrificial bullock offered on Mount Charcoal (since changed to Mt. Carmel) when the prophets of Baal were unable to do so while calling upon their sleepy or vacationing gods. The Rhodeapple Scholars, while championing Elias, believe that the fiery horses and fiery chariot that swept him up in the whirlwind left behind burning embers, from which the beginnings of these days of penance began. It is not surprising that these two groups disagree, for they cannot even come to a consensus as to whether these two histories are found in the 2nd and 4th books of Kings or in the 1st and 3rd.
The last of the so-called scholars, a very extinguished group indeed, which is known as “The New World Smolder,” believe that the Ember Days didn’t have any true beginnings in the Old Testament but rather sprang from a beach barbeque after the Resurrection. When the apostles brought the miraculous catch of fish ashore, Jesus invited them to eat, for He had fish cooking on hot coals. It is thought that the embers of this fire might have been the inspiration for St. Peter to institute Ember Days in the early Church, for he certainly led the others in setting the world on fire. Our diocesan Patron, St. Jude, to this day does penance as a living ember (the Pentecost flame still atop his head) to make up for those who don’t keep the Ember Day penance.
I hope I didn’t re-ignite any old controversies by kindling your interest in these fantastical tales of scholarly debacle, I mean debate.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Father Dorvil Will Be With Us!
Next weekend, September 17 and 18, we will have a special guest priest celebrating Sunday Masses and preaching! Fr. Dorvil, who lives at Epiphany and has an office here, has been celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass twice a week since August of last year so those who attend the 8:00 am Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays know him already. But most of the rest of you don’t, even though he has been at Epiphany much longer than I have been here. So let me introduce you to him before explaining why he will be preaching next weekend.
To begin with, Fr. Pierre Dorvil, SMM, is a De Montfort priest from Haiti, though he is now a US citizen. His order, need I say, is named after the famous French priest, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, whose classic 33 Day Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, found in his book titled, “True Devotion to Mary”, many of you have undergone. His books, including The Secret of Mary and The Secret of the Rosary, are also so well known that most of you have read them as well. Fr. Dorvil is in charge of the Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission here in the diocese. His Masses are celebrated at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church which is a few miles south of here, which explains why you never see him around here on Sundays!
But this Sunday will be different, as he will stay with us for a change. Every year each parish is expected to host a Missionary Preacher one weekend during the late summer. The mission may be close, as is Immaculate Conception, or it may be in a different country, possibly even a different continent. Because Epiphany was the sponsoring parish for St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission, for years no outside Missionary has come to make an appeal here. When St. Joseph became its own parish, that changed. The Missionary Appeal preachers were already assigned (the diocese gets many, many requests each year and has to choose who to accept and which parish to assign them to) the year after the departure of the Vietnamese community, so this is the first year we have been assigned a Missionary preacher. Since Fr. Dorvil is familiar with the parish and many parishioners are familiar with him, and since he celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass as well as the Novus Ordo Mass, whoever makes the assignments at the chancery level must have determined that we would be a good fit for him and he for us!
I am writing this a week ahead of his appeal to get you ready for it. Monetary appeals are hard to make. Nobody likes to have to beg for money. But the reality is that not all missions, whether a local parish mission like Immaculate Conception (and formerly St. Joseph) or a foreign mission (perhaps in a poor section of India or Africa) can afford to pay the bills without appeals like this, asking assistance from kindhearted and dutiful fellow Catholics. Because I know Fr. Dorvil and know his mission, I can assure you that none of the money you contribute to him will be wasted or foolishly spent. Thank you in advance for your generosity and your prayers.
This Missionary Appeal is not to be confused with a Parish Mission! Due to covid restrictions, we haven’t been able to have one of those in a couple of years but we do have one on the books for November 13 through 17. Fr. Shannon Collins, MSJB (Missionaries of St. John the Baptist) will be preaching that Mission on the topic of The Most Precious Blood of Jesus. If you have been here for a few years you may very well remember another MSJB priest, Fr. Sean Kopczynski, who has preached parish missions for us in the past. While a Mission Appeal asks for donations from us to keep a mission funded, a Parish Mission brings spiritual renewal to our own parish. Although more information will be given when we get closer to the Mission, just be sure to mark your calendar already so that you can take advantage of this spiritual gift in preparation for Advent and Christmas.
Finally, I hope you don’t mind me giving an update on one more type of Appeal. Our parish donations to the Catholic Ministry Appeal, which pays the bills for the diocese, have been slowly increasing and I want to thank you for that (for the “increasing” part, not necessarily the “slowly” part!). We are about a third of the way toward our approximately $94,000 goal, up from 23% when the bishop wrote me in June. I believe letters from the diocese got delivered to you (with my signature, though not with my writing!) last week “inviting” you once again to give generously to this appeal. It’s hard to balance a family budget when prices keep rising but it’s hard to balance a diocesan budget, too, while facing the same price increases! Please prayerfully consider how much you should give and to which appeal(s) it should go rather than just randomly giving or not giving. One of the Precepts of the Church (that is, one of the bare minimum requirements to be a Catholic) is to give to the Church. The pastor (parish), the bishop (diocese), the missionary preacher (missions), the preacher of missions (spiritual nourishment), and many good charities (those with Catholic goals and which use Catholic morality as guidelines) are all waiting for you and God to come to an agreement about who gets what! When money (or time and energy) and prayer are combined in a gift, out of love of God and neighbor, the Church shines brightly and her mission (the salvation of souls) can be accomplished.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Three Holidays This Week!
Monday is Labor Day! I think that, given how many baptisms we have here, Labor Day should be our parish’s Number Two holiday, second only to Epiphany itself. But that’s not the kind of labor they were thinking of when this holiday was established. No, they were thinking more along the lines of the laborers who toil so diligently around here making the grounds look spiffy; the Purgatorial Society ladies who labor so hard to keep the metal liturgical items shiny; the office staff who labor incessantly at their desks filling out forms, making appointments, scheduling meetings, and doing all those other pesky things that keep a parish humming; the countless volunteers who work so tirelessly making sure that everyone, especially our children, know, love and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next; and everyone else who grunts and groans and sweats and heaves and lifts and sweeps and fixes and all the rest of that good stuff. In short, we honor those who labor. Even in the secular world, we cannot get by without people laboring at jobs, many of which each of us individually would be unable to do, and most of which we would be unwilling to do, yet all necessary for our life as we know it.
This is how the US Department of Labor website begins describing this holiday: “Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.” The page goes on to explain the origins of the holiday, the “controversy” about who should get “credit” for starting it, and the way the holiday grew in a relatively short time from being an idea, to being celebrated in several states, to a couple of dozen states joining in, to being a national holiday. If you like holiday trivia, go check it out. They even have a “Labor Hall of Honor” in which men and women are inducted who have been somehow outstanding in their work for laborers rights, pay, and more. This list includes people of diverse backgrounds, and some of those who may be familiar to you include Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy (yes, both on the same list!), Helen Keller, and Adolphus Busch. More on this latter man later.
The next holiday is not a secular one and not even one that is seen as particularly important even in the Church liturgical calendar, but one of which I am particularly fond. Thursday, September 8 is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, although I don’t want to in any way detract from that minor feast, for me it is overshadowed by another feast not well known around here. It is the feast of Our Lady of Good Health. I have written about this feast several times over the years, as I try to increase devotion to Our Lady under this title. I give her credit for keeping me healthy enough to carry out my priestly duties. This is no little thing, for, without an associate priest as backup, if I get too sick to do my job, there is nothing to do but cancel everything that requires a priest! I still occasionally get the sniffles, the flu, and maybe even deadly pandemic diseases, yet she gives me strength to carry on even if I whine about it and go back to bed at the first chance I get. And no, I am not joking about this. A Religious Sister introduced me to this devotion which is quite popular in India, where the Blessed Mother appeared under this title, and I have worn her medal around my neck ever since. Our Lady of Good Health, continue to pray for me!
So the first holiday of the week is a secular one (although our parish office will be closed for it!) and the second holiday is a Catholic one, though not (yet) well known in the US. The third holiday is a Catholic holiday, too, but with ties to the secular holiday. Remember that I mentioned Adolphus Busch being in the (secular) Labor Hall of Honor? He is there due to his advances in the making, pasteurizing, refrigerating, shipping, and distributing beer. Notably, stated the site, he developed Budweiser, the best selling beer in the world. (I am not sure if this award means he gave laborers jobs in beer factories or because laborers often enjoy beer when the work is done!) Now, how does this man fit in with a Catholic holiday? Certainly, by now you have all remembered that September 9 is Buy a Priest a Beer Day! Good ol’ Adolphus made it much more convenient for this holiday to be celebrated, for you no longer have to take your priest to a Belgian Trappist monastery for a good, hearty, draught, since exceptionally satisfying beer can now be found just about everywhere. Several years ago I suggested that, “If you buy one for a Traditional priest, I suggest a full-bodied, flavorful dark beer such as a stout or porter, whereas for a Novus Ordo priest a more fitting choice might be something light and fruity.” Some of the more “sensitive” priests whimpered that I was making fun of them (no, not them personally—but, yes, I was!) so this year I retract that advice and simply change it to, “If the priest still has mask signs up at his church, you might want to buy him a Capri Sun and a blankie instead.” Even Mr. Busch would understand.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka