From the Pastor: Novena Prayer and Mass Intentions
Stories about priests nowadays tend to focus on something they did wrong. But every once in a while you might hear a story about a priest who gets things right. I am about to tell you one of those stories. Six years ago a priest showed up at my rectory where he would be a guest for the extent of his studies at the local university. He was from Tanzania, Africa, and had never been to the United States. This priest, Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro, was a quiet, even shy, skinny young man. He knew nothing about me except that I had agreed to let him stay. He knew very little of what to expect in the USA. His Bishop had sent him, via an academic scholarship, to get an undergraduate degree in mathematics so that he could teach once he returned home. (Their schools are staffed by priests and religious so that they don’t have to pay salaries, for they will work for merely room and board!) I could tell many stories about what it was like watching him experience things that are common for us but mind-boggling for him, such as seeing a grocery store for the first time, with more food than he had seen in his entire life. But of all the stories about him, the best is simply that he was a very holy, prayerful, and faithful priest. He studied hard and it was not just because he enjoyed studying but more so because his Bishop sent him here for that purpose. Obedience was key. He got an undergraduate degree, then a Masters and then his Bishop asked him to get a Ph.D. Out of obedience, he said “yes” to each request. But recently the workload of Ph.D. courses, plus having to teach (required by the scholarship) and grade papers each and every day started taking a toll on his prayer life. He noticed that he rushed through his priestly duties to get to his “necessary” academic duties. He realized that if he kept up the pace and stayed on that path, he would soon be a very poor priest, and not in a monetary sense of the word “poor.” As I said, though, this is a story about a priest who gets things right, so he took an unwanted but necessary action. He prayed in what little time he had for prayer and decided to ask his Bishop if he could return home without the degree but while he still cared about and cherished his priesthood. Fortunately, he has an understanding Bishop and he was given permission to withdraw from classes and return home.
It hurt him to have to ask such a thing. It hurt him to think that he might be disappointing his Bishop. It hurt him to see that he had compromised and shortchanged his priestly ministry and duties for the sake of things that, while good in and of themselves, were much less important. It hurt to leave good friends. He never wanted to burden anyone with his struggles in that area, but he was hurting as he said his good-byes. One of our dear parishioners pointed out that he might need more prayers right now than we know. She asked if we might pray a novena for him. I think that is a great idea. I suggest praying the Novena of Grace to St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of African Missions, which, by Divine coincidence, starts November 24! Please pray it for nine consecutive days for any spiritual, emotional or physical healing Fr. Emmanuel might need so that he can be a reinvigorated, holy priest. The novena prayer is inserted in today’s bulletin [on our website: see it below this article]. Thank you for joining in these prayers for him!
The next topic is about Mass intentions. The Mass Intention Book will be opened the first week of December. (Please do not bother Kim or Mark at Mass regarding even such important and holy things like Mass intentions, for they get bothered so much that they cannot truly pray and sometimes have to go elsewhere for Mass just so that they can pray in peace! They are at Mass for Mass, not so that you can treat them like an “OPEN SUNDAY” branch office of the rectory.) The Masses available include the Novus Ordo weekday Masses both in English and Vietnamese, the Saturday evening Novus Ordo Vigil Mass, both TLM Sunday Masses, the 6:30 TLM weekday Masses and the Saturday morning 8:00 am TLM. In other words, we don’t take Mass intentions for the Sunday Vietnamese Masses or the Monday through Friday 8:00 TLMs. I reserve those weekday 8 am Masses for “emergency” Masses, such as when one of you comes with a request for an injured friend or a relative who just passed away. The Mass stipend requested is $10 for those which go into the book (paid when you request the Mass, please) and ZERO for the 8:00 special requests (priests can only take one Mass stipend per day and I will have normally accepted one for the early Mass, so I don’t take one for the second Mass!). Please don’t wait until the day before the anniversary of your grandmother’s death to ask for a Mass for her, or chances are slim you will get it. Plan ahead. Ask for it when the book for next year first opens. This year I am setting a limit of 21 Masses by any one family (my rule, not Canon Law). You will see another reminder of this in next week’s bulletin as well.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
St. Francis Xavier Novena (for Fr. Emmanuel)
Pray for nine days beginning Nov. 24th. Feast Day: Dec. 3
O St. Francis Xavier, well beloved and full of charity, in union with thee, I reverently adore the Majesty of God; and since I rejoice with exceeding joy in the singular gifts of grace bestowed upon thee during thy life, and thy gifts of glory after death, I give Him hearty thanks therefore; I beseech thee with all my heart’s devotion to be pleased to obtain for me, by thy effectual intercession, above all things, the grace of living and dying in a state of grace.
Moreover, I beg of thee to obtain any spiritual, emotional or physical healing Fr. Emmanuel might need so that he can be a reinvigorated, holy priest.
But if what I ask of thee so earnestly doth not tend to the glory of God and the greater good of my soul, do thou, I pray, obtain for me what is more profitable to both these ends. Amen.
(Special Font for Fr. Emmanuel: Cambria Math!)
From the Pastor: St. Jude Award, Latin Class, and Sisters
Next weekend we will celebrate the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Every year on this particular Sunday it is customary in our diocese that the Bishop bestows a St. Jude Award medal upon someone whom each pastor chooses, in recognition of important work done for the benefit of the parish, often with little to no recompense or fanfare. Time and time again the recipients are shocked as much as they are honored when they receive a letter inviting them to the ceremony. This year I chose an employee of the parish to receive the medal. He is a man whose value I knew nothing of when I first came to Epiphany. I had not expected to need his talents for I had done without them for years before at other parishes. Yet I was fortunate enough to have trusted the advice and pleading of others who assured me of his great worth and so I gave him a part-time job. It was a good decision. Perhaps it was a wise one, perhaps just a lucky one, but a good one nonetheless. You see, at my last two previous assignments, the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass was limited to the Low Mass. Once Bishop (now retired) Lynch saw the light, jumped on the Traditional bandwagon with great gusto and made Epiphany Tampa’s Center for the Traditional Latin Mass in order to give it greater exposure and make it available to far more people, I, for the first time, needed a schola so that we could also have Sung Masses. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Anders Bergmann, the director of the schola, is this year’s St. Jude Award recipient. I am very grateful for the hard work and dedication that it takes to train and lead the great schola he has put together. And God bless his wife, Katherine, who takes care of all of their children without his assistance while he is busy! If group awards were given out I would have asked for one medal for each member of the schola and family. The ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to attend. It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 24. (FYI, here’s some background information on what a “schola” is from Britannica.com: “Schola cantorum, medieval papal singing school and associated choir, the ancestor of the modern Sistine Choir. According to tradition, the schola cantorum was established by Pope Sylvester I (d. 335) and was reorganized by Pope Gregory I (d. 604), but the first written mention of it dates from the 8th century. The purpose of the schola was to teach both singing techniques and the plainsong repertory, which was then learned by oral tradition. Under Pope Gregory the course of study was said to be nine years. In the gradual standardization of Western church chant, the schola’s musicians were a prime influence.”)
On a different note, so to speak (or is that “so to chant”?), one of our parishioners has volunteered to teach another Latin class! This one is going to be different than our last one in that we are looking for families who want to learn Latin together. It should be quite different than any language class you have already taken elsewhere. It will be an attempt to make understanding the Latin used in the Mass become a fun family project, with multiple people of obviously varying ages and abilities all helping each other uncover the “secret code” of our liturgical tongue. Small families (around here that might mean fewer than five kids!) and individuals will be teamed up with others so you can come even if nobody else in your family or circle of friends wishes to join you. Watch for more information coming up soon and talk it up in the meantime.
The last item for the day is a request for prayerful assistance for our girls entering into religious life. Last Lent the Epiphany Council of Catholic Women asked you to participate in their “Pennies for Semmies” campaign, encouraging you to pray for our seminarians and to make a monetary donation to help them with their expenses while they are in formation for the priesthood. This Advent the ECCW is asking you to participate in something very similar for our young women who are in formation to become Religious Sisters. They are calling this campaign “Cents for Sisters” and it will officially kick off in two weeks, so this notice is just a “heads up” to get you prepared. I am also using it as a request. I am much less informed about the needs of those entering into the first stages of Religious Life (whether they be girls discerning a call to be a Sister or Nun or boys looking at becoming a Brother) than I am about those young men discerning priesthood. If your child, male or female, has in the past or is now in some stage of Religious Life formation, I (and the ECCW) could use your input as to how best to help without overstepping bounds or getting in the way or seeming to ignore their real needs. We also want to be sure that we have the names of all of our parishioners who are in formation of one sort or another. So if you have good information to share, please contact either me or someone in the ECCW so that we can learn how best to support and encourage vocations.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More on Pachamama Idolatry
Last week I showed a short quote from the online Catholic Encyclopedia’s listing on “Idolatry.” This week I want to share just a bit more from that entry, one that is both clear about the severeness of this sin and also quite soothing in its depiction of those who may commit that grievous sin unknowingly. This is found under the subheading: “Moral aspect” of Idolatry.
“Considered in itself, idolatry is the greatest of mortal sins. For it is, by definition, an inroad on God's sovereignty over the world, an attempt on His Divine majesty, a rebellious setting up of a creature on the throne that belongs to Him alone. Even the simulation of idolatry, in order to escape death during persecution, is a mortal sin, because of the pernicious falsehood it involves and the scandal it causes. Of Seneca who, against his better knowledge, took part in idolatrous worship, St. Augustine says: ‘He was the more to be condemned for doing mendaciously what people believed him to do sincerely’. The guilt of idolatry, however, is not to be estimated by its abstract nature alone; the concrete form it assumes in the conscience of the sinner is the all-important element. No sin is mortal — i.e. debars man from attaining the end for which he was created — that is not committed with clear knowledge and free determination. But how many, or how few, of the countless millions of idolaters are, or have been, able to distinguish between the one Creator of all things and His creatures? and, having made the distinction, how many have been perverse enough to worship the creature in preference to the Creator? — It is reasonable, Christian, and charitable to suppose that the ‘false gods’ of the heathen were, in their conscience, the only true God they knew, and that their worship being right in its intention, went up to the one true God with that of Jews and Christians to whom He had revealed Himself. ‘In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ . . . . . the gentiles who have not the law, shall be judged by their conscience’ (Romans 2:14-16). God, who wishes all men to be saved, and Christ, who died for all who sinned in Adam, would be frustrated in their merciful designs if the prince of this world were to carry off all idolaters.”
Did you notice that idolatry is the greatest of mortal sins? Greater than murder, abortion, homicide, eugenics, manslaughter, lynching, assassination, genocide, etc. Greater than any sexual sin whether that be onanism, fornication, adultery, bestiality, sodomy, prostitution, pedophilia, rape, or any other hideous perversion. Why is idolatry so evil? Because it is a direct attack against the might, majesty, love and very being of God. Yet the same article also seems to open wide the gate of the possibility that idol worshippers may not, due to lack of knowledge, be deprived of sanctifying grace (assuming they had it in the first place), for they know not what they do. Certainly, this shows a very “balanced” and “merciful” approach to the subject. Yet it does not mean that ignorance is bliss, for not all idolators are in invincible ignorance. For instance, the article is very clear that for those to whom the knowledge is imparted, the “simulation of idolatry” is yet more grave than actual idolatry. I know, you just read that, so why am I repeating it? To stress the point that nobody wearing a Roman collar can honestly claim ignorance of the grave sin of idolatry or its simulation. Nobody. No, clerics will be judged more severely than laity for, among other reasons, we (yes, I am included in this group) are supposed to know more than the average person when it comes to the tenets of Faith. We will all be judged according to what we know as well as what we are supposed to know. Let me assure you that even in the worst of seminaries, this recently enacted form of idolatry is not taught as a morally good thing. On the topic of whether or not idolatrous pagan religious rites were carried out to kick off the recent Amazon synod, here’s a quote from Lifesite News: “Paulo Suess, one of the key authors of the Amazon Synod's working document, commented on this ceremony, saying “so what. Even if it would have been a pagan rite, then it is nevertheless a pagan worship of God.” No, this is not a “so what” issue. This is out and out the “greatest of mortal sins.” And, with the exception of 7 cardinals and bishops who went public, there is silence from on high, or, worse, accusations that those denouncing this idolatry are enemies of the Church and Bishop of Rome. Do not believe it. The Faithful need real leadership (Apostles and martyrs, come to our aid) right now but effeminate priests fear that speaking the truth will get them in trouble with their Bishop. Emasculated Bishops fear that speaking the truth (or allowing their priests to do so) will get them in trouble with their own wimpy priests, their fellow Bishops, and their Boss Bishop. These fears are correctly held, I believe, but if priests and Bishops don’t overcome their fears, we will not be, in any real sense of the word, Catholic for very much longer, so what “job” of theirs will they be protecting through keeping silence or silencing others? As man cannot serve both God and Pachamama, so Pagan-Catholicism cannot get anyone to Heaven. The salt is losing its savour...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Pachamama in Rome
Just in case some of you have not been following Catholic news recently, I want to present to you something that the rest of the world, Catholic or not, has been viewing, reading about, and hearing of for more than a week now. It is all part of the recently concluded “Amazon Synod.” No, I am not going to write about the women deaconettes which the final document recommends, nor am I going to write about the new Amazon Rite which will, I am sure, be taken up with great gusto by numerous priests and bishops who adamantly oppose only one particular Rite within the Church, nor will I even broach the topic of viri probati, the suggested married men who will “save” the Church by being ordained as priests. Heck, I am not even going to be writing about the poster that the Amazonian “missionaries” displayed showing the “circle of ecological life” which includes a woman holding a child while breastfeeding--not him--but a piglet. No, I am simply going to present to you something about the statues of naked, pregnant women which were part of a somehow non-idolatrous pagan Earth-worship ritual in the Vatican gardens with [ahem] certain high ranking clerics, whom I will leave unnamed, sitting in approval, and then later set up for worship and veneration in several churches nearby: Pachamama idols. What is Pachamama?
Here is the opening paragraph of the Pachamama page of Wikipedia. “Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth. Her shrines are hallowed rocks, or the boles of legendary trees, and her artists envision her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves. The four cosmological Quechua principles – Water, Earth, Sun, and Moon – claim Pachamama as their prime origin. Priests sacrifice llamas, cuy (guinea pigs), and elaborate, miniature, burned garments to her. Pachamama is the mother of Inti the sun god and Mama Killa the moon goddess. Pachamama is said to also be the wife of Inti, her son.” You can find much more about the pagan rituals to this idol, the sacrificial offerings to this “Mother Earth”, and the New Age interpretations of her worship with very little effort, so I will not include more.
“Certainly,” you must be thinking, “no Pachamamas would ever be prostrated before, blessed, and enthroned by any real Catholic, let alone high-ranking members of the Church!”, but you would be wrong. Although the Prefect of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications, Paolo Ruffini, is quoted as saying, “There were no rituals. No prostration took place. We have repeated this here. We have to be rigorous in saying things that actually happened before cameras. We said that this did not happen”, it is the Vatican’s own video which shows what he denies. (Look up “gaslighting”.) “But certainly,” you might then follow up with, “nobody knew what they were! They must have thought them to be just ordinary statues!” Unfortunately, Wikipedia shows that Pachamama worship is found in Argentina and a certain Argentinan gave a short address in which he says quite clearly, “Good afternoon, I would like to say a word about the pachamama statues that were removed from the Church at Traspontina, which were there without idolatrous intentions and were thrown into the Tiber. First of all, this happened in Rome and, as bishop of [redacted to protect his identity -auth.], I ask pardon of the people who were offended by this act.”
I cannot explain how idols can be prostrated before or honored in churches without idolatrous intent. Instead, let me quote the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Idolatry with emphasis on its result: The first undoubted mention of idolatry in the Bible is in Genesis 31:19: "Rachel stole away her father's idols [teraphim]", and when Laban overtook Jacob in his flight and made search for "his gods", Rachel "in haste hid the idols under the camel's furniture, and sat upon them" (31:34). Yet Laban also worshipped the same God as Jacob, whose blessing he acknowledges (30:27), and on whom he calls to judge between him and Jacob (30:53). A similar practice of blending reverence to the true God with the idolatrous worship of surrounding nations runs though [sic] the whole history of Israel. When Moses delayed to come down from the holy mount, the people, "gathering together against Aaron, said: Arise, make us gods, that may go before us". And Aaron made a molten calf, "and they said: These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And . . . they offered holocausts, and peace victims, and the people sat down to eat, and drink, and they rose up to play" (Exodus 32:1 sqq.). In Settim "the people committed fornication with the daughters of Moab, . . . and adored their gods. And Israel was initiated to Beelphegor" (Numbers 25:1-3). Again, after the death of Josue, "the children of Israel . . . served Baalim . . . and they followed strange gods, and the gods of the people that dwelt round about them" (Judges 2:11 sq.). Whenever the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of Jehovah, swift retribution overtook them; they were given into the hands of their enemies.” [emphasis mine -auth.] I need add nothing more.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka