From the Pastor: Nothing Humorous This Week
Last week’s article was just for fun. This week’s is all business. Sorry about that! The first order of business is All Souls Day. This is your last week to write down the names of those whom you wish me to pray for on All Souls. Remember, since most priests seem to canonize the deceased person at each funeral Mass, most people have become convinced that their loved one is now “in a better place” or “playing golf with Jesus” or something like that. Priests and people (but Father, priests are people, too!) alike spout lovely nonsense such as, “The funeral Mass is for the living, not the deceased” and therefore do not pray for the repose of the soul of the very one being laid to rest. November 2, All Souls Day, is the one special liturgical day which really focuses on the fact that the dead person may very well be suffering terrible pains of purgation, as if being refined by fire, and will benefit tremendously by the prayers of the very few living who still care enough to pray and offer sacrifices (and The Sacrifice) on their behalf. So write down the names of your departed family and friends and bring them in sometime this week or this coming weekend. They will be eternally grateful for your love and prayers. If they get released from Purgatory or even if their sufferings there are lessened because of your simple act, you know that they will pray for you with great fervor whenever they see God face to face!
The second order of business is an update on the air conditioning system in the church. You would not believe how many AC technicians simply shake their heads and leave once they get a good look at what we have. Even the head honcho at the diocesan office of construction came out to see why the estimates were so high. He came expecting that we were being ripped off. He left understanding why we are seeing such a high cost looming ahead. He did have some good news for us, though, insofar as the possibility of building a new church, social hall, school, parking lot and retention pond goes. He thinks we have plenty of land to work with here if we want to build new rather than spend like new on this current building. So if any of you have a few million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, let me know. In the meantime, we are looking into keeping the old AC units functioning as long as possible and perhaps adding some smaller units to make up for the half of one which is currently not functioning. Heck, I am even looking at putting in window units everywhere rather than spending 400 grand replacing the old system. They wouldn’t look too good, but if they replaced the current stained glass windows it might even be an improvement!
The next and last item to be covered is the latest bit of unexplainable stuff to come out of Rome. Here are the headlines: “Pope Francis, in Shift for Church, Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions” (NY Times); “Pope endorses civil union laws for same-sex couples” (CNN); “Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine” (NBC News); and from the UK’s highest circulation paper according to Ed Pentin’s tweet of their front page, “Pope Blesses Gay Weddings” (Metro); the list could go on and on. Did the Bishop of Rome really make such statements? Yes. Did he make it part of Church teaching? No. Or, a more accurate answer might be, not yet. He simply gave yet one more interview which never should have been given, only this time it is an interview on camera and shown in an anti-Trump movie which has just now (curious timing!) been released. There is no Catholic priest (no real Catholic priest, that is) who ever hears the words, “He gave another interview” without cringing and wondering out loud and with a groan, “What now?” So far (I had to write this the very night that this news broke, so hopefully there will be more like this coming) one US bishop has put forth a useful statement about the political propaganda movie’s big quote. From Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, we read on his website, “October 21, 2020. The Holy Father’s apparent support for the recognition of civil unions for same-sex couples needs to be clarified. The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions. The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships. Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible.” He also later tweeted, “Popes John Paul and Benedict, in formal teaching said that same-sex civil unions were wrong and that Catholics had to oppose them. Pope Francis, in a movie, said that same-sex civil unions were helpful and should be promoted. So, I ask, how could there possibly be any confusion?” I answer that there is no real confusion. There is a battle between good and evil being played out for all to see. The “confusion” is hiding nothing. All who have eyes to see, see quite clearly. “Choose this day...whom you would rather serve.” Where and how you spend eternity depends on your choice. “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Prime Days or Doomsday?
Amazon Prime Days returned! Yes, these are the days that everyone seems to go gaga over shopping online. Prime Days were postponed by a few months this year due to that nasty computer virus, COVID 19. When the CO(mputer)VI(rus)D(duh!) 19 virus first started spreading throughout the internet, I quickly shut my electronics down for safety’s sake. Nothing electric, no computer, no tablet, no TV, not even the refrigerator, was left running. I wasn’t about to let that nasty particle into the rectory where it would infect all of the appliances and would probably spread to even the battery operated gizmos like smoke detectors and wall clocks once it got a foothold. Heck, even the wooden chairs might not be safe. But after months of being cut off from the web, I really wanted--needed--an internet fix. I would have settled for a quick glance at Farcebook, and I nearly did several times, but my Catholic guilt got the best of me and I couldn’t justify “killing grandma”--as everyone kept accusing gamers and bloggers of doing when they just wouldn’t stop playing and writing even to save the world--just to see posts about what people were eating (accompanied by the inevitable nasty comments from “friends” and trolls deploring the restaurant of choice, the type of food, etc.) and memes with Jesus facepalming just about everything. I nearly caved to the desire to watch cute kitten videos on YouTube but thankfully the Google censors were removing them as soon as they were reported in a fairly successful attempt to keep us from temptation and electronic transmission of the infection. But when it was announced that Prime Days were back on the schedule, I knew the time had come. If Amazon was having this massive event, it must be safe to go online!
I set my alarm clock for 2:37 am so that I would be up and ready for the 3:00 am start time. I needn’t have bothered, though, since I was so jacked up that I couldn’t sleep a wink anyway. As I prepared to get my computer fired up and running, the panic the government so lovingly instilled in me kept welling up. My index finger trembled as it hovered over the power button. Was I doing the right thing, entering into this crowded buying frenzy? I wanted to push such doubts out of my mind but I was not certain that all of my precautions would keep my computer free of this terrible virus. Maybe I was going online too soon, I thought, and putting the entire network in danger of contamination. But I knew that I had taken all of the precautions touted by Fauci and Friends. After months of government mandated interpersonal outdoor social activities, I tried to believe that the Great Isolated Indoors were finally free from contagion, or at worst would only kill off old DOS and XP systems. We have “flattened the cord” by now, so I wasn’t endangering the world by participating in this mob transaction, was I? I went over my safety checklist one last time. No computers or other electronic equipment within six feet of any other. Check. A mask over the breaker box so that the virus could not get in through the electrical outlets. Check. Lysol glistening on the keys of the wireless keyboard just in case some of the tiny little critters slipped past the mask and somehow travel through the air rather than staying confined to electrical cords (experts are still contradicting themselves and other as to whether this virus is spread more through wires or wifi or bluetooth). Check. A full protective suit of plastic bags enclosing both the modem and the router. Check.
I took a deep breath and told myself that everything was going to be just fine. I was finally ready to step back into the world wide web by buying something--anything--on Amazon before somebody else could purchase it. As you can tell, though, I was nearly as worried as I was excited. My mind continued to race. What if my computer gets sick? Will it infect all of the others in the house? Am I putting the Geek Squad in danger unnecessarily just for the thrill of spending money on things I really don’t need? What if the virus lurks, unbeknownst to anyone, in the computer without doing any damage, and then one day, Bam! Bam! the government knocks on the door with a Norton Security Suite and detects that my machine is an asymptomatic carrier, contact traces all connected equipment, both those things physically present and those in the cloud, and quarantines every last thingamajiggy for two weeks or more? How could I live with myself should somebody in Nebraska have their fancy IoT toaster suddenly switch from “bagel mode” to “pop tart” after it connected to the same server in Utah that my DNS server possibly passed a few ones and zeros through? Maybe, I whined to myself, I should just curl up in bed and admit that the world will never go back to being connected, for even if a rushed computer vaccine is found to be safe and effective, the COVID might hack itself and bypass all antivirus measures in no time. I was truly torn about what to do.
In the end, I caved to my temptations to return to “normalcy” (i.e., virtual reality). I turned on the computer, clicked the mouse, and bought a reusable metal straw. Doggone it, if I am going to doom the planet, I will save it at the same time.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: All Souls Day Is Coming Soon
All Souls Day is coming up soon and it is time to get your list of the Faithful Departed ready to give me for prayers. All Saints, November 1, falls on a Sunday this year, so you don’t get the opportunity to take off of work on a weekday for this Holy Day of Obligation. Maybe that will make it easier for you to come on Monday for one of the (non-obligatory) All Souls Day Masses (6:30 and 8:00 am and 7:00 pm). At these Masses, we pray for the souls of our deceased loved ones so that if they are in Purgatory our sacrifices and offering may help alleviate their suffering, cleanse their souls, and allow them to enter without stain into Heaven. Type or write (legibly, please) your list and bring it in before the end of this month. I will pray for those souls at that day’s Masses and remember them at Masses through the rest of the month. Why pray for them? The Council of Trent explains (bold emphasis mine). “[T]he Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar...” Not only does Purgatory exist (no, Vatican II did not “do away with it”) but of all the various prayers offered for the souls “there detained” it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is most beneficial. Of course, that means that the Mass for such souls must be done with all due reverence and devotion. “But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service). Trent also offers this tidbit for any who hold the protestant notion that purgatory is not real. “If anyone says that after the grace of justification has been received the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out for any repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be paid, either in this world or in the other, in purgatory, before access can be opened to the kingdom of heaven, anathema sit [“let him be anathema” or excommunicated].” So, believing what the Church teaches, write out your lists and get them to me!
Now I want to tell you how my “week off” went last week since so many of you have left messages, texts, and emails asking how I am doing as you state that you know that I am not answering messages, texts, and emails! Monday morning started off as normal with Masses and confessions and Adoration and blessing of objects at the church but I was back at the office by 11:00. Weekend and morning messages were waiting for me. I had three sick calls to make in three different cities in two different counties. That was going to take the rest of the day, so I managed to fit in two house blessings along the way as well, clearing up the remainder of the week, or so I thought. On Tuesday I managed to get out to see my dad for a couple of hours after the morning schedule but had to spend the rest of the afternoon answering emails from people in pretty bad spiritual crises. That evening I tried to get some dinner from a favorite hole-in-the-wall Caribbean take-out restaurant only to find that covid panic put them out of business. On Wednesday I had some more important emails to answer after the morning routine but decided to use a computer in my room rather than stay at the office so that I would not get sidetracked with other business. Bad decision. After the “necessary” emails were finished I opened some from the diocese and soon fell asleep in my chair. Three and a half hours later (unbelievable!) I woke up and had to get going, for I had a dinner date with my mom, and then the “day off” was over without it really ever seeming to have begun. Thursday there was a noon funeral and burial across the bay so I got done with just enough time to prepare for the Holy League Men’s Group. After the morning routine on Friday, I went to Jesuit High school and heard confessions until the end of the school day. Then it was back to the rectory to do laundry which had been piling up too long. Saturday morning brought once again the Mass, confessions, Adoration, and Adult Catechism class, followed by the Rosary Rally in the afternoon, and, finally, the Youth Group in the evening. Somewhere along the way I also had to write this article, which means that the last couple of days had to be written before they actually happened, so they might have actually been busier than what was on the calendar! So much for a “week off”! It’s a good thing I love my vocation!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Week Ahead
This is the first full week of October and you all know what that means: it is time for the Annual Diocesan Priest Convocation. Yes, that week when all of the priests get together and hear some lectures, share some stories, eat a lot of good food, pray a bit as a group, and generally enjoy each other’s company. It is also the week that I generally have a visiting priest come and give a parish mission and take over the Masses while I am at the convocation. So for the next few days you won’t be able to find any of us priests around... Oh, wait. I forgot. Covid. Drat! How could I have overlooked that pesky little virus? There is no Priest Convocation this year. Quite a few months ago the command decision was made to cancel it. And with travel restrictions and an ever-lengthening two week “straighten the curve” set of “guidelines” that somehow found more force than the law itself, the parish mission was canceled as well. So life will go on pretty much as normal around here this week. Or will it? After all, who really knows what “normal” is anymore when the “new normal” (wearing masks, avoiding people, bathing yourself in kerosene every five minutes, etc.) is being touted as something wonderful all the time?
You might have realized when you came into church this week that the “new normal” blue and green tape has been removed from the pews and floor. That is a result of the Bishop’s allowing us to follow the Governor’s elimination of occupancy restrictions. That does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind and start licking doorknobs (once again?), but it does mean that there is more flexibility in achieving your own sense of “safe space” in the church and hall. For now, I am keeping the social hall open for overflow during Mass, where you can arrange seats close or far from each other in the open space, while being “morally present” to the Mass which is being celebrated just feet from you although visible only via the monitor unless you have x-ray vision. You can hear it over the speaker system of the church as well. I will also keep the 1:00 pm additional Sunday Mass for now as we see how many people do or don’t rush back to the other Masses. “But Father!” I have heard the cries from so many people, “But Father! What about coffee and donuts?” Yes, that is a real issue. Not quite “the” real issue, but a real one nonetheless. All of the new people want to meet all of the regulars and vice versa. Old friends want to catch up and enjoy some time together. Everyone wants to get back to the old “normal” not just in the spiritual but also in the social aspects of the Church. Would you believe that there were no written guidelines sent to us from the Diocese about this so very important thing? So I have made a command decision. If restaurants can open full bore, so can we. Gathering for coffee and donuts is not mandated under any sort of obligation. Please use your common sense. Don’t cram into the hall like sardines. Grab a bite and sit outside at one of the many picnic tables, or stand under the oak trees chatting if the hall is crowded. Above all remember that if you are sick, if you have even the beginnings of symptoms of covid, stay home! One sure way of getting the churches closed down again is coming while contagious and spreading this darn thing throughout the congregation. Remember that even asymptomatic covid is counted as “killing grandma” in the headlines and official statistics, and the media is searching diligently to gloat about a superspreader event at a church. Don’t let that be us!
In other news, in case you didn’t catch the announcement last week, St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission is in the process of purchasing their own property and church in the Town and Country area of Tampa. Fr. Chien has told me that they expect to move out of Epiphany before Christmas. They have already started a very successful fundraising campaign and have further financing set up with the Diocese. They have the Bishop’s blessing. They are assessing the structural issues of the current buildings on the property which need to be fixed, rebuilt, or otherwise transformed into something usable for them. Some things might need to be fixed before they can move in, others might wait until later. The best-case scenario will be something like this: everything is functioning and there are no safety issues, so they can move right in and do simple repairs and upgrades and aesthetical work while already occupying and using the church and other buildings. But a more likely scenario is that they will have to do some work before they can move in while doing most of the work afterward. Only time will tell.
Speaking of time, I am looking forward to taking some time off. Since this whole week’s normal events were canceled, I plan on taking the “canceled” week off. Well, taking off whatever time is left after praying the breviary, celebrating the morning Masses, hearing confessions, giving the Benediction, blessing all the religious articles brought in, and then checking the mail, answering emails and texts, returning phone calls, writing bulletin articles, attending meetings, and doing all of the other little tasks that pop up. You know, that didn’t sound so restful once I put it down on paper. Sigh...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka