From the Pastor: Odds and Ends
1) Last week I received the following email from Bishop Parkes. He asked me to extend his thanks to you for your “expressions of support and gratitude.” I wish also to express my thanks to all of you who have thus far sent him the notes and letters he references. It shows that he knows that you are paying attention to what he is doing on our behalf, that you really do support him, and that you are not somehow “outsiders” in the Diocese but rather are a dear part of his flock. If you have not yet sent him a card, please do so. One day I hope he becomes convinced that we are not just fairweather friends but faithful Catholics who—of course(!)—support their Bishop in all things Catholic! The parish contributions to his Catholic Ministry Appeal keep growing, too, which, although he is too refined to mention it, is something that I am sure he pays attention to as well. We still only have 23% participation in the appeal, so if you plan to give to this appeal yet have been procrastinating, this is a good time to follow through on your donations as well. Thank you for your generosity! Here is his email. Dear Fr. Edwin, I hope that you are doing well and feeling ok. I just heard that you were recently ill. I wanted to let you know that I have received many cards and letters from parishioners at Epiphany Parish over the past several weeks. This includes notes received from children as well as adults. Almost all have expressed appreciation and gratitude that the Dicastery has granted an additional two years for the celebration of TLM. They are also appreciative of my efforts in requesting this permission. Please extend my thanks to your parishioners for their expressions of support and gratitude. And most importantly, for their prayers. May you have a blessed weekend! Sincerely yours in Christ, + Gregory L. Parkes, Bishop of St. Petersburg
2) Fr. Vincent Capuano, S.J. sent this short but sweet message. The ACU has a women's retreat scheduled for Thursday, January 18 to Sunday, January 21. Manresa retreat house Miami. Same as last year.They asked me to direct it. Send a message on whatsapp to Erik Vieria 352-263-7201 to register. Of course, if you know Fr. Vincent, you know that this retreat will be worth attending, even though it means a drive to Miami. For those of you who may be new here and don’t remember him from his years of assisting here, I can assure you that the initials, “S.J.” after his name are not the scary initials of the (unfortunately) typical Jesuit of this day and age. He is an outstanding Catholic priest. Yes, Jesuit and Catholic. Really.
3) There is an amendment to the Florida Constitution being proposed that needs your attention. Please go to suncoastcatholics.org for more information, but here are some highlights. The “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” is in the petition stage right now, meaning that if enough signatures are collected it will be on the ballot in November of 2024. From the above-mentioned website, here is what will happen if it gets passed.
This unGodly amendment will:
4) Our annual Priests’ Convocation is coming up soon. From the afternoon of October 2 through the afternoon of October 5 most of the priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg will be gathering at the Bethany Center for prayer, meals, and talks. The topic at hand this year is National Eucharistic Revival: A Grassroots Response to God’s Invitation. I will be attending the convocation this year so you won’t be able to make appointments with me that week. The morning Masses will continue as scheduled but more than likely there will not be confessions or Adoration after the 8:00 Masses so that I can get back to hear the morning talks at the convocation. Of course, should there be a need that requires me to be here, such as a Requiem Mass, the parish comes first on my list of priorities. But it would be very nice if you all, as you have been so kind to do in the past, refrain from dying at such a time as to require my presence at Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: From 8/16/15 when Epiphany's TLM was new.
Here is a question raised now that Epiphany has become the Center for the Traditional Latin Mass™ in Tampa. Why don’t we (the congregation) make the responses at the low Mass? Answer: Because I said so. Yes, for those of you who are raising children, you know this is a pretty stock answer to any question that you would rather not answer because either 1. you don’t know the answer or 2. the explanation would be beyond the ability of the child to grasp or 3. you are short on time (or patience) or 4. for any other good parental reason. But that is not a very fulfilling answer. So here is a “real” answer.
I don’t know the TLM very well. I have no formal training in it and I did not grow up with it. All I knew about it when I started came from books and the insights of several adult altar boys. I think I celebrated the Low Mass for about two years before I could even attend one and see if I was doing it right. While some of the old books I consulted mentioned a “dialogue Mass” in which the congregation responded, it was almost always put forth as a novelty that never really caught on in most places. Exceptions to the “silent Mass” seemed to be mostly limited to places where altar boys were not available, such as cloistered convents and all-girls schools. At such places, one or two Sisters or female students were allowed to kneel outside of the altar rail and make the responses in place of the altar boys (who were themselves, in fact, making the responses in place of additional clergy). Upon seeing that the “dialogue” in the Mass was originally between priests and between the priest celebrant and God the Father, it made sense to me that the congregation remained silent. Altar boys (men) who helped train me came from a TLM which was a “silent Mass” and the first TLM which I finally attended was also a “silent Mass” so I naturally started with and continued with a silent Mass.
I have a respected How-to-TLM type of book by Rev. J.B. O’Connell in which he writes, “At low Mass, in which the people are not participating by common prayer or song...” and contrasts it with a “sung Mass.” This is a pretty clear indicator that at the low Mass the people are silent, neither responding to the prayers, joining in with the responses, nor singing. But later he adds an appendix on “the active participation of the people in the Liturgy.” In this section, he gives directions to be followed if the people are to engage in a “dialogue” Mass. He first states that “participation” in the Mass is already achieved when the people “spontaneously share in the Mass by due attention to its principal parts and by their external behavior” (in other words, by silently praying, sitting, standing, kneeling, striking the breast, making the threefold sign of the cross on the head, lips and breast at the introduction to the Gospel, dressing appropriately, keeping custody of the eyes, etc.). Then he gives other ways of participating. “If possible, they ought to follow the Mass in a Missal--at least in a small Missal arranged for the use of the laity--but if they cannot do this they should meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ and say prayers in keeping with the sacred rites. Better still they should pray aloud and sing hymns in common--prayers and song in accord with the different parts of the Mass at which they are used. Such common prayers and hymns should not, however, be said or sung when the celebrant of Mass is reciting aloud important parts of the Mass, especially the presidential prayers (such as the Collect, Preface, Postcommunion). And silence is desirable from the Consecration to Pater noster.” Whew! So in the low Mass the congregation can “better participate” by praying together the rosary or stations of the cross, for instance, as long as they know when to shut up? Yes! Now I have to ask those who attend the Low Mass: would you be able to understand and pray the Mass more fully if everybody started singing hymns and/or praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart together at some point and then abruptly became silent and then started again somewhere along the line? I don’t think so.
O’Connell goes on to explain four different methods of “dialogue Mass,” each getting “more complete,” and ends by stating, “[I]t is not of obligation, nor is any one of the four possible forms imposed--it is for the rector of the church to judge which of these is feasible at any time--but if it is used it must follow one or the other of these forms and other parts of the Mass may not be recited aloud.” So if and when I decide a “dialogue Mass” is going to be used I believe I must first teach you all four forms and be sure you do not mix them. Without going into detail but giving you simple examples of how the four forms differ, it is not allowed for you to respond at a “form 2” Mass (at which you say aloud only the altar boy parts) but also pray aloud the Pater Noster as in the “form 3” Mass. Want to say the Domine non sum dignus? Not in form 1 or 2, you don’t! Can’t recite the Introit and Offertory in Latin? Too bad, but you just lost out on the number four form! Too confusing for my blood. So, at least for now (and still in 2023!), I simply tell you to remain completely silent throughout the entire Mass. Why? Because I said so.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Belated “Welcome Back” to our Choir
Several weeks ago I had every intention of writing an article about our choir, which goes by the name “St. Dunstan Schola.” I got waylaid by several things that popped up that needed my immediate attention, so I put it off. I believe that the first issue that came up was the letter the Bishop received from Rome giving us two years to continue celebrating the TLM at Epiphany and at the other two parishes in the diocese which have that form of the Mass. I had to break up Bishop Parkes’ letter to us into two separate weekly bulletins in order to get it all in. The following week I was whining about being sick so we ran an old bulletin article about hurricanes in this spot. Of course, Hurricane Idalia zoomed in past us right after that so I had to write about her and also give a health update. But this weekend—finally—I have the opportunity to write a bit about our incredible schola.
Every week they spend more time than most people could possibly imagine learning new chant pieces, practicing both old and new Mass settings, and preparing for Sunday and special feast day Masses. All of the time spent is, I hope it goes without saying, time spent in prayer, for all that they do is for the glory of God and the sanctification of souls. Whether they are studying the chant notation, practicing in the choir room with everyone else, singing in the car as they drive to work, or even spending their lunch hour or children’s nap time going over particularly difficult pieces, it is all part of their prayer life. It is truly a ministry and one which our schola takes very seriously, as you can hear from the results. If we had a church building with even mediocre acoustics, they would sound even better than what you hear already, and that is saying something since they sound pretty darn good even in our “acoustically challenged” building. They are truly a blessing for all of us who attend (or celebrate) the 10:30 Mass on Sundays.
Every year they take about a month off so that members can either go on vacation, sit with their families at Mass (a true luxury for them!), or simply get a break from the constant preparation they do the rest of the year. While they are not singing we have been blessed to have at least a few choir members do some “simple” chants for the Masses so that we can keep our main Mass as a High Mass instead of a Low Mass (where nothing at all is chanted, neither by the choir nor the priest). But as great as it is that we have those few stalwart members chanting for us, it is still a huge grace to once again hear the whole choir when they return. This year I was caught by surprise when the time came for them to return from their respite. I was lining up with the altar boys before our entrance procession and asked where the “chant men” were, for they had been processing in with us. The boys, of course, all knew that the choir was already back in their stalls and ready to start singing. The pastor really is the last to know anything at the parish! I was so impressed with their singing at that Mass that I was tempted to follow my old seminary training and have everyone clap for them! You all know that that defeats their whole purpose of being in the choir, though, as it turns them from being an important part of the “prayer ministry” of the church into being the “entertainment squad” of the parish. Even at other parishes, I think that more choir members understand that reality than their priests do and they get quite embarrassed when the clapping begins. Even so, I had the urge...
But now that I finally get a chance to write about them, I don’t have the ability to enjoy them. As you know, the first part of my recent illness was an almost complete loss of my voice. In case you missed it, I couldn’t preach even a simple sermon that week, since nobody could hear me even if I shouted into the microphone. I had to chant the High Mass, but the choir knew ahead of time that they were going to have to just guess as to when I was finished with my “lines” as they would not be able to make out most of what I was trying so desperately to chant. Heck, even the altar boys couldn’t hear me and they were just a few feet from me all the way through Mass. But after getting my voice back, my hearing went out. As I write this my ears still have not yet cleared and everything I hear is muffled. Some tones are missing as well so I can’t even recognize people’s voices when they speak to me. Everyone sounds a bit squeaky, like cartoon characters. Even my own voice, which sounds very loud in my head, sounds completely different than normal. So when I hear the choir sing, I hear the strangest voices ringing through the church. It’s not quite as bad as listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks sing, but it’s somewhat toward that spectrum. Maybe by this weekend I’ll be able to hear them properly once again.
Anyway, I am still grateful for Mr. Bergmann and the schola he leads. We are very blessed to have them here. If you agree with me, please say a prayer of thanksgiving for them and ask God to bless them as much as they bless us.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Good Timing!
Last week we ran an old article in this space about what to do to prepare for a hurricane. The timing was perfect. First of all, I have been sick for a while now and wasn’t feeling up to writing an article for the bulletin. It was good to have something worthwhile to put in there without me having to work at it. The information it contained was meant especially to help all of the newer parishioners who may not know about such things as prayers to avert storms or the fact that we will still have Mass under most circumstances. The fact that we had a hurricane come through right after it ran in the bulletin was another piece of good timing. Not that one caused the other, mind you, but good timing nonetheless. Of course, it also showed how many people do not read that part of the bulletin, since the parish phones and other means of communication were lit up with the same question over and over. Will there be Mass? We had more people asking if we would continue to have Mass than actually attend weekday Masses during normal days! Or it seemed like it, at least. It was very similar to our annual routine on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when everyone calling has a bulletin in their hand in which they look up the church phone number, yet don’t bother to look at the three places in that same bulletin for the Mass schedule. Which reminds me, Ash Wednesday is this coming week. Masses are at 4:00 am, 5:00 am, and 5:45 am, not at Epiphany, but at whatever parish is closest to your house. Just go very early to any of those churches and knock on the rectory door if the church is not yet open. Father will be very happy to cover you with sackcloth and ashes when you wake him up. Just don’t tell him that you read it here! But enough joking. Ash Wednesday really isn’t until the following week.
Hurricane Idalia came through pretty quickly instead of just hanging out in the Gulf and making everyone wonder what her plans might be. On Tuesday, we prayed the prayers from the Mass to Avert Storms. On Thursday, we prayed the prayers of the Mass of Thanksgiving for the storm having missed us. It is a pattern we have seen often enough. It would be nice if we never needed to pray either of those two Masses again but, this being Florida, I think we’ll keep the pages marked well! This time the eye of the storm stayed more than 100 miles away from us and we didn’t have any flooding, fallen trees, or damage to buildings or property. We didn’t even lose electricity. Thanks be to God.
Now for an update on my health. Two weeks ago I had no voice. Last week I had a voice but no hearing. At the time I am typing this out, I still have very little hearing. My ears are so blocked up that I cannot tell how loud or soft I am speaking. I cannot tell if I am chanting anywhere near on tune or not (although I am guessing not) when doing something so easy as leading the simple chants for Exposition and Benediction. I can’t understand most of what people are saying when they speak with me. There are some benefits to this. I haven’t been waken by the train all week. If there were any storms during the night the hurricane went through, I wasn’t bothered by them, let alone waken by them. But I still can’t hear well enough to hear confessions. All week long I have had to leave signs up stating that point. It is disappointing to people, but really, you would have to speak pretty loudly in order to make yourself understood, too loud for privacy. I am just starting to hear some crackling and squealing in my ears indicating that the congestion inside them (or whatever is doing this) is starting to break up. Perhaps by this weekend I will already be back in the confessional box. We shall see. The other symptoms are all slowly going away as well. Thank you for all your prayers. I want to say a special thank you to all of you who did not phone and text or knock on the rectory door but rather kept your prayers and other assistance between just you and God. Have you ever tried to rest and relax and recuperate under doctor’s orders but your loving family members keep calling or stopping by to check on you (all mothers raise your hands now!) and manage to keep even a small nap from being a reality? Now imagine your family is 900 plus strong (Bauers, quit scoffing at such a low number!) and each decides that their visit, their cold remedy, their phone calls, their text messages, and/or their special meals (all good things in themselves) are absolutely necessary for your well-being. The constant barrage of love, rather than being of assistance, actually makes things worse. This is what it can be for priests who are loved too much, too. Thankfully, I had both my mother and sister able to run interference for me to push me through the crowds and get me from the church to the rectory without being stopped. The office staff kept a variety of tactical weapons such as drones, bazookas, and electric cow prods on hand to stop anybody trying to sneak past the trenches and barbed wire during the week. And the sign on the front door to the rectory telling people to Go Away kept most people from attempting to sneak past the other defenses when nobody was looking. Thanks for understanding!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka