From the Pastor: My Virtual Thanksgiving
Although last week I wrote a tongue in cheek “not much to be thankful for this year” article, you all know that I really have had too many blessings from God to count. One of the biggest blessings is family. Not the normal type of family. Not the Norman Rockwell type of family. Certainly, not the perfect family. But a crazy family keeps things from being boring. Or so my sister recently told me, not realizing that I would soon be quoting her! My crazy family Thanksgiving story is about to begin, so sit down for a spell. Remember, as always, that due to early bulletin publication printing deadlines during the holidays, I had to write this before our office closed for this feast day.
It has been a while since any of us had seen Aunt Irma, what with the covid panic and all. The only news she gets is from the Communist News Network and her online news”paper” subscription, so every day she hears and reads with growing terror about the daily “Record Cases” count and number of “deaths with covid associations.” In her mind, as planned by the great powers, of course, every “case” equates to a new, gory death. She is proud to proclaim her support for the censorship being done by NotYouTube, Tweeter, and Farcebook, which keeps her safe from hearing “conspiracy theorists” asking such things as “Where did the flu go?” and “Is the efficacy of increasing Vitamin D and decreasing excess weight being ignored because the powers that be cannot make millions of dollars selling a ‘miracle cure vaccine’ if something simple and cheap works?” or doctors quoting actual CDC studies about the futility of wearing masks, or even people simply quoting from the WHO website about how contact tracing doesn’t help stop the spread of viruses after the first few weeks that they are unleashed and lockdowns do nothing except prolong the course of the infection and destroy lives beyond what the virus does. She is, of course, terrified of breathing, speaking, singing, and touching. So it was a shock when she accepted my sister’s invitation to come and spend Thanksgiving with the rest of the family!
She wasn’t very forthcoming but she simply stated that she had heard of a new technology that would allow her to remain safe. We were all taking bets about what kind of protective devices she was going to show up with. I bet that she would show up with a hazmat suit and N100 mask. My brother figured that she would be decked out with a deep-sea diver’s full getup including a long oxygen hose which would, pumped full from a clean source of air outside (maybe on the roof so that nobody would be able to stand next to it and breathe), be dragged throughout the house, snaking after her wherever she went. Mom guessed, feeling a little cheeky just then, that Aunt Irma would wear one of the old “stork masks” that people wore during the Black Death plague, insinuating that she may just be old enough to have saved hers! As you can imagine, our guesses just got silly from there. But we were all wrong. Further wrong than backward, if that is possible.
Aunt Irma hadn’t yet arrived on Thanksgiving Day when the festivities got underway. We were doing a wine tasting with various appetizers that had been set out. We had a bourbon barrel aged pinot grigio paired with ghost pepper poppers, a white cabernet sauvignon accompanying pumpkin spiced stone crab claws, and a 1934 Dom Perignon mutually benefitting some exquisite Ketchup flavored Doritos from Canada. My brother-in-law was just about to put the spiral ham into the deep fryer and his turkrabbeapig (like a turducken but this turkey was stuffed with a rabbit which was stuffed with a guinea pig) was nearing perfection in the smoker. We had just about given up on Aunt Irma when in she burst. She wore no mask, no gloves, no protective gown, no goggles. Just regular old-lady-imitating-a-teenager clothes. She was struggling with a rather awkward box and asked everyone to hold their breath and come quickly to help her distribute the goodies inside. It was full of small electronic tablets, one for everyone. They weren’t early Christmas gifts, she explained, but rather safety devices to protect her from us and us from her and from each other so that none of us could catch the covid. She couldn’t exactly explain it, she said, but we had to trust her and follow her directions. We each powered on our tablet and then signed in to Zuum. “This,” she nearly squealed, “is the greatest medical miracle thing. Public service announcement ads keep telling us that we can have a fun and safe Thanksgiving if we just Zuum with each other. They say businesses are doing it all the time now to keep their employees safe and we can do it as a family, too!”
So this is how we spent the rest of the day. We each held our tablet and, whenever we wanted to speak with or listen to Aunt Irma we had to look at her image on our tablet to safely converse, even if she were sitting right next to us. She was convinced that somehow this electronic Zuum thingy zapped the virus and kept us all safe. Maybe it was just the wine, but we haven’t laughed as much since covid was created as we did Zuuming the rest of the day. And now we know we will see Aunt Irma for Christmas, too!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thanksgiving? For What?
This week we have a national holiday that has me wondering, "What, exactly, are we to be thankful for this year?" For our health? No, for we are told every time we are forced to put on a face diaper or stand on the little blue “6 feet for your safety!” dot or refrain from shaking hands that we are ill; that we harbor a deadly, wildly contagious disease. We cannot visit grandma because we will willfully, purposefully, perhaps even gleefully, carry our contagion to her in order to make her die a terrifying death (after locking her up in a hospital prison cell with no visitors allowed, neither family nor friends nor priest). No, we are so unhealthy that we are constantly bombarded with dire warnings of “skyrocketing cases!!!” of people who may not even have imagined that they were deathly ill but were forced to take the covid test so that they could fly or go to a ball game or attend school or some such used-to-be-ordinary event and, lo and behold, turn up positive for something that may or may not be a current covid infection or past coronavirus infection or nothing at all. Mandatory reporting of such ill people to the health authorities, 10-14 days of quarantine, and contact tracing does not show much of an indication of good health, even if the grandma-killer has no illness of any sort. In fact, that sort of person is put forth as the most fearful kind of unhealthy person of all, since those who are showing signs of covid sickness are never highlighted in what used to pass for the news as the “superspreaders”. That’s right, anyone who has symptoms of illness is certainly a killer but those who are healthy are the most unhealthy of all. Plus, even after beating all odds and somehow surviving the unsurvivable covid monster, those who are scientifically shown to be immune must still wear the mask, refrain from physical contact with any other human person, and never, never visit grandma in the nursing home. After all, two people out of the millions and millions of those who, to the experts’ consternation, somehow survived covid have been reinfected so immunity cannot be real. So no giving thanks for health, for the sick ones are not healthy and the healthy ones are even less healthy.
How about giving thanks for family? After all, the days around Thanksgiving are always the most traveled days of the year, as people go home to enjoy the great festival with their families. But, alas, this year we are told that we should not go to anyone’s house nor to have anyone over to our house for fear of killing them. Or them killing us. Or all of us killing each other. Family members cannot come if they have the sniffles, of course, since even suffering from allergies proves them to be grandma killers. But they most certainly cannot come if they are well, for that somehow offers even more proof that they are going to infect everyone.
So maybe we can be thankful for all the food that we will have? Especially since we cannot share it with anyone, we will have plenty of leftovers this year, which, in “normal” years, would be something worth celebrating. But this is not a normal year. The food came from the grocery store, where, judging from the fact that everyone wears masks, everyone must be ill from covid. Shoppers and workers were all mutually infecting each other, killing each other’s grandmas. Plus, covid attacks plump people more than skinny people, so eating more of the Thanksgiving meal will make people more prone to dying from the disease that they spread while purchasing it in the first place. Nothing to be thankful for in any of that.
But at least we can give thanks for the money we saved by staying home instead of traveling or the money we saved by not entertaining those who didn’t travel to see us, right? Not so fast. Our economy has yet to recover from the “two-week” lockdowns and continuing restrictions and fear, so for far too many people there is a net loss of income rather than any kind of savings. The social isolation during this holiday just makes the financial desolation that much more unbearable. A sarcastic, “Thanks a lot” is not a true thanksgiving.
At least we can go to church on Thanksgiving, to give thanks to God for --so far-- not getting arrested for breathing. But wait! The same “news” outlets screaming that the asymptomatic cases are setting records insist that bars, restaurants, and churches are the main places that covid is spread, so those three big baddies must be cut out of our holiday this year along with cutting out family, friends, and travel. Just to drive home the evil of ignoring the covid experts’ suggestions/demands, imagine a horror movie where the main characters combine these major grandma killing activities by 1) gathering with family and friends (maybe even *gasp* traveling to be with them!) and either enjoying food and drinks at a parish potluck after Mass; or 2) by praying grace and giving a toast at a restaurant. Either awful scenario is enough to send shivers down the spine of any caring person.
Well, I guess that leaves only one thing left to give thanks for: that our nation united together to hold an honest, fair and square, unquestioningly above board, and verifiably on the level election in order to choose the brightest, most competent, and most morally upright people to run our local and national governments.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Bid Farewell to the Vietnamese Mission
Next week St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission will celebrate their last Masses at Epiphany. They recently purchased a Lutheran church compound, which includes a church building, a gymnasium with an indoor basketball court (plenty of room as a social hall), and a school building. They have been spending countless hours fixing it up, inside and out, to make it their new home. The one thing lacking on this property, which is located in the Town and Country area of west Tampa near Incarnation Catholic Church is a rectory. So Fr. Chien has asked to continue to stay at our rectory until they can build a new house for him next to the new church. When they leave they will be taking many objects and items with them which will be of use in their new church so that they don’t have to start completely from scratch. Although I have offered to round up some volunteers to help them move, they have assured me that they can--and want to--do it by themselves. So say goodbye and say a prayer for them!
What will this mean for Epiphany? There are some good and some bad aspects to losing them. They have been here for a long time and, although there used to be some interaction between the two communities, ever since the primary Masses and sacraments of the parish began being celebrated in the Traditional Rites, there has been very little to no overlap. There were no more bilingual “combined” Masses, for instance, for Christmas or Easter, since the forms of the Mass were incompatible with each other, where previously only the language was different. So, of necessity, there have been constant tradeoffs between “good” Mass times and “bad” Mass times, with each group switching each year. Now both communities can set their own schedule! Both communities had also grown so large that neither of us could fit in the social hall for a large gathering, let alone invite the other one to join in the celebration. It hadn’t been so difficult when both groups were small. In their new place, they now have a large hall and we will try to figure out how and where to build a new, larger one ourselves! But for now, at least there is no competition for the limited space we have. Sundays the classrooms will also be available for us to use before, during, and after our Masses. Back when Epiphany had no children (it seems impossible, yet there was only one child in the parish when I arrived 5 years ago, a three year old girl whose family left shortly thereafter), St. Joseph got used to having all of the classrooms to themselves. It was difficult for them to adjust to the fact that we needed the space for our children, too. Now we won’t be in each other’s way.
But we will also have to pick up the entire bill for such things as electricity, maintenance, and staff, all of which we currently split with St. Joseph. We will also have to take over things that their parishioners used to do around the grounds. Many of the plants and flowers were tenderly cared for by them, and I am sure we will find out many more things only once nobody is doing them anymore! Of course, they are in the same situation as we are as far as all of this goes, and they will have to deal with us not being there to assist them, either!
Lest I forget something very important, I must make sure to mention that they will also be getting a new name! They will now be called, “St. Joseph Vietnamese Parish.” They will no longer be a mission but a parish! Most people won’t think much of that but it is a statement of trust on behalf of the Bishop that they can make it on their own without needing any assistance from others. (They still won’t have any parish boundaries but will instead be independent of but within the parish boundaries of Incarnation, meaning that St. Joseph’s priest will not be responsible for the spiritual well-being of any of the neighborhood people, nor have to make sick calls at the local hospital or nursing homes, but will be solely responsible for those attending St. Joseph parish.) They will no longer be “children” but “adults” in a manner of speaking, which I hope will be well appreciated by everyone in their community. As for us, like proud parents, we can shed a few happy tears as we watch them go, with mixed emotions, but mostly with happiness for them as we wish them well in their new parish home and new responsibilities.
As for our future, we are working on a temporary fix to the air conditioning problem and have had a couple of meetings with civil engineers and others to see about what we can build on our property, how we can expand to meet our increased needs due to our current and future growth, and plan accordingly. Of course, a lot depends on the Bishop and what his plans are for us and for the diocese, especially as so many parishes are struggling right now. Building projects may not even be on his radar for a while. For now, we are growing and have become a respite for the weary, a source of hope for the disheartened, an inspiration for the young-at-heart, and a light in a world of darkness. No matter what the future holds, since God is in charge, great things await the people of Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You For The Spiritual Bouquet!
This week I finally got around to reading the Spiritual Bouquet cards so many of you filled out for me for Priesthood Sunday a while back. I was touched by the beauty of the cards themselves, although I had seen them before they were written upon, but even more so by the beauty of the offerings of prayers expressed so sweetly and succinctly. If you remember how they were laid out, with the chosen prayer to be offered on my behalf followed by a number of flowers, you can see how different people filled them out differently. Some circled a few flowers. For instance, on one card next to “Mass” followed by five flowers, three of them were circled. Three Masses for me! Others wrote next to or above the flowers, so next to “Memorare” the four flowers were untouched but three stars were inked in! Still others made little notes, such as “One a week” after the “Act of Charity” flowers. Some cards had written notes on the back, a few were signed with names or initials, and one was obviously from one of the youngsters and was just scribbled on. It was my favorite! There were too many prayers listed for me to count (since I wasn’t homeschooled!) and I appreciate them all. I want to comment on one of them in particular that caught my attention. Under “Other” “Psalm 35, 5 times” was written. I picked up my trusty Douay-Rheims bible to see what was being prayed for me (no, I do not have all of the Psalms memorized!) and I will share this with you. I have to confess: I am not quite sure what to make of it. “The unjust hath said within himself, that he would sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Oh-oh! What is this person trying to say to/about me? I continued reading, hoping for a change in tone. “For in his sight he hath done deceitfully, that his iniquity may be found unto hatred.” No change of message yet! “The words of his mouth are iniquity and guile: he would not understand that he might do well.” Okay, I thought to myself, this is being prayed five times for me. I better start paying attention to something in here, even if it hurts! “He hath devised iniquity on his bed, he hath set himself on every way this is not good: but evil he hath not hated.” Whew! That’s not exactly a pleasant way to be seen by a parishioner! “O Lord, thy mercy is in heaven, and thy truth reacheth even to the clouds.” All right, at least he or she is asking God to be merciful to me, a sinner! “Thy justice is as the mountains of God, thy judgments are a great deep.” Oh, no! Mercy, Lord, not justice! “Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord: O how hast thou multiplied thy mercy, O God! But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of thy wings They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light we shall see light. Extend thy mercy to them that know thee, and thy justice to them that are right in heart. Let not the foot of pride come to me, and let not the hand of the sinner move me. There the workers of iniquity are fallen, they are cast out, and could not stand.” So it ends on a good note. Maybe this is being prayed for me so that I may repent of my numerous sins and receive mercy from God rather than reap His justice? I hope so! Heaven awaits only those who do so, even among priests.
Of course, there could also be another possible meaning to the Psalm being prayed. Maybe the person praying it used a different bible translation. The translation itself would not be so vastly different as to change the meaning, but the numbering system used is not always the same! Did you know that different bible versions number the Psalms differently, even among Catholic bibles? So I pulled out the New American bible and opened to Psalm 35. “Fight, O Lord, against those who fight me; war against those who make war upon me.” Oh, yeah, this one might be the one! “Take up the shield and buckler, and rise up in my defense. Brandish the lance, and block the way in the face of my pursuers; Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’” This Psalm is a bit too long to quote in its entirety but it continues by showing that the writer (King David) has enemies who plot against him, who fake friendship, whose delight is to destroy him through any evil means, similar to what we are currently witnessing so clearly in both the secular and ecclesial worlds. But it is a Psalm of trust in God to conquer evil men and for the good men to give glory to God through both their reliance on Him and their praise of Him. It is scary due to the evil that even “God’s chosen one” had to endure but comforting at the same time, secure in the knowledge that God is always in control even when wicked men seem to be winning. This Psalm, by the way, is numbered 34 in the Douay-Rheims. Whichever Psalm is being said five times for me, I am sure God knows the reason it was chosen! Thank you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Expanded Plenary Indulgence Opportunities!
November 1-8 we are always given opportunities to receive (or rather, to give!) a plenary indulgence on behalf of a soul in purgatory by visiting a cemetery and praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed (along with the other necessary things that go along with the actual indulgenced act, such as prayers for the intentions of the Pope, confession, being in a state of grace, not being attached to even venial sin, etc.). Due to covid, the following decree expands this to every day of the month of November! Also, the plenary indulgence for 2 November for the faithful who visit a church or oratory and recite an Our Father and the Apostles Creed can be transferred to the previous or following Sunday or to All Saints or even on another day of November as the faithful choose. Sorry, it is not yet available in English.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
D E C R E T U M
Vertente anno, propter pandemiam morbi “covid 19”, Indulgentiae plenariae pro fidelibus defunctis totum prorogabuntur per mensem novembrem,commutatis condicionibus piisque operibus, ut christianus populus in tuto sit.
Ad hanc Apostolicam Paenitentiariam complures Sacrorum Pastorum supplicationes nuper pervenerunt, quibus postulabatur ut vertente anno, propter epidemiam morbi “covid-19”, piae commutentur operae ad plenarias lucrandas Indulgentias, animabus in Purgatorio detentis tantummodo applicabiles ad normam Enchiridii Indulgentiarum (conc. 29, § 1). Quam ad rem eadem Apostolica Paenitentiaria, de speciali mandato Ss.mi D. N. Francisci Pp., libenter statuit ac decernit ut, ad vitanda concursa, nonnullis in nationibus et territoriis vetita vel saltem dissuasa, vertente anno:
a.- plenaria Indulgentia pro pie visitantibus coemeterium et, vel mente tantum, pro defunctis exorantibus, singulis octo diebus, more solito a primo usque ad octavum Novembris tantum adfixa, pro fidelium utilitate, in alios dies usque ad octo, etiam seiunctos, intra mensem Novembrem transferri possit, a singulis fidelibus libere eligendos;
b.- plenaria Indulgentia, diei II Novembris, in Commemoratione omnium fidelium defunctorum adfixa, pro pie visitantibus ecclesiam vel oratorium ibique “Pater” et “Credo” recitantibus, non tantum in diem Dominicum antecedentem aut subsequentem aut diem sollemnitatis Omnium Sanctorum transferri possit, sed etiam in alium diem intra mensem Novembrem, a singulis fidelibus libere eligendum.
Senes, infirmi omnesque qui gravi causa domo exire nequeunt, ex. gr. decretis prohibentibus, ut fedeles frequentes in loca sacra conveniant, plenariam consequi poterunt Indulgentiam, dummodo, animo voto sese iis sociantes, qui pias egerint visitationes, de quibus supra, concepta detestatione cuiusque peccati et intentione praestandi, ubi primum licuerit, tres consuetas condiciones (sacramentali Confessione, eucharistica Communione et oratione ad mentem Summi Pontificis), coram quavis imagine D. N. Iesu Christi vel Beatae Virginis Mariae, pias pro defunctis preces recitaverint (ex. gr. Laudes et Vesperas Officii Defunctorum, Rosarium Marianum, Coronam Divinae Misericordiae aliaeque preces pro defunctis christifidelibus magis caras), vel Evangelii lectionem e Liturgia Defunctorum ad modum lectionis spiritalis legerint vel in misericordiae operam incubuerint, doloribus vel propriae vitae incommodis Deo clementi oblatis.
Quo igitur accessus, ad divinam veniam per Ecclesiae claves consequendam, facilior pro pastorali caritate evadat, haec Paenitentiaria enixe rogat ut sacerdotes legitime adprobati, prompto et generoso animo celebrationi Paenitentiae sese praebeant ac S. communionem infirmis ministrent.
Attamen, pro spiritalibus condicionibus ad Indulgentiam plene acquirendam, semper valet huius Apostolicae Paenitentiariae Nota De Reconciliationis Sacramento, tempore pandemiae morbi “covid 19” celebrando.
Denique, cum autem animae in Purgatorio detentae fidelium suffragiis, potentissimum vero acceptabili Altaris sacrificio iuvantur (cfr. Conc. Tr., Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), sacerdotes omnes enixe rogantur ut die Commemorationis omnium fidelium defunctorum, ter sacrum facere ad normam Constitutionis Apostolicae “Incruentum Altaris”, a Benedicto Pp. XV, v.m., die X Augusti MCMXV datae.
Praesenti totum per mensem novembrem valituro. Contrariis quibuscumque minime obstantibus.
Datum Romae, ex aedibus Paenitentiariae Apostolicae, die XXII mensis Octobris anni MMXX, in S. Ioannis Pauli Pp. memoria.
MAURUS Card. PIACENZA