From the Pastor: My Family Thanksgiving
Holiday traditions seem to be the most cherished of all family traditions. Although traditional activities and expectations are attached to each holiday, even those vary just enough from year to year to make the days both comfortable in the “normal” routine and open to new and exciting variations. This year I will share with you another peek into my family’s Thanksgiving traditions as they played out on paper if not in reality. Remember, as always, this week’s bulletin had to be printed before the office staff took off for their Thanksgiving break.
This year the entire family was going to gather for Thanksgiving Day and it was going to be absolutely normal. All of the ginned-up hysteria about coldvid19 had long since passed. Nobody was going to be wearing Halloween masks, nobody was going to keep 6 feet between family members, friends, or pets, and nobody was going to sit at home in fear of social contact. Or, at least that’s what I keep hearing “getting back to normal” means. But when no one in my family is actually normal to begin with, normal can actually be anything but normal! Once again my little sister hosted the Big Dinner at her house. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, grandparents, and cousins were all jam-packed into the house and spilled out into the backyard. We all sat or stood (depending on age) around yakking and bringing others up to speed on what was new in life as we had a few drinks and ate about a dozen pounds of appetizers each. Aunt Irma was there, of course, but she kept darting in and out, constantly going to the guest house out back. She wouldn’t say what she was doing out there and, because she is always a little “off” we were all speculating wildly. Some thought she was taking quick naps. Others joked that she was inhaling something from her new local “cash-only pharmacy.” But some of the children, who are much more inquisitive than us lazy adults, actually went over to find out and came back with the happy announcement that she was busy cooking yet one more Thanksgiving turkey! I said, “one more” because there were already a few amazing turkeys being prepared by my brother-in-law. He had one for the oven, one spatchcocked for the grill. and another for the deep fryer. Those, along with about 7 huge side dishes, fresh rolls, 6 pies, and a couple of gallons of ice cream, were probably enough to make each of us burst our bellies in a round of gluttonous feasting, but that wasn’t enough for our great Aunt. If you remember, she has had a couple of years of not being quite “with it” at Thanksgiving and she figured that the best way to “prove” herself competent once again was to cook as well as she used to when she was in charge of such festivities.
Now, I want to explain to you that I am not making fun of my elders when I tell tall tales such as what I am about to spin. After all, we all love Aunt Irma, and all of her eccentricities come as part of that lovable package that makes her who she is. And I certainly do not mean to belittle her cooking skills, for I am always ready to go through the trouble of eating anything that anyone has gone through the trouble of cooking, whether it tastes as if it came from a professional chef or from a drive-through window. But some stories just beg to be shared...
Aunt Irma was finally ready to announce that she needed a few strong boys to carry her turkey to the table. This was it. It was just about time to eat. The prayers were said and the food was set out. Aunt Irma explained that she had, during her coldvid derangement years, spent hours, days, weeks, and months listening to cooking shows so that she could pull out all the stops with the turkey she was having the boys bring over. (She had her TV set adjusted so that she only heard the audio because she was afraid of catching the ‘vid from the people on TV if she could see them. But some things really need to be seen to be understood, as you will soon learn.) Aunt Irma proudly announced that she had cooked the turkey via the Sous Vide method, in which food is immersed in a water bath and kept at a constant—the perfect—temperature so that it can never deviate from that perfect temperature. It cannot overcook, for the temperature never rises above whatever you set it for. It will never be undercooked, as long as you keep it immersed for a set minimum amount of time. It will, you are always assured by sous vide aficionados, be “just right.” Unfortunately, Aunt Irma was never able to see on her dark TV screen how the turkey is supposed to be sealed in a plastic bag before being immersed in the water. What the boys were carrying in was a huge pot filled with water with a turkey plopped directly into it, with the whole thing sealed in a plastic trash bag! Of course, nobody said anything but words of praise and thanks for the work she put into it.
But, since sous vide is supposed to be a very “hands-off” method of cooking, why did she keep running back and forth between houses? Because she knew that the turkey skin would not be crisp and brown unless she used a blow torch on it. She tried several times, each time getting a more powerful torch and using a larger flame, and let’s just say that the guest house will be unavailable for a few months...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Weeks Gone By and The Week Ahead
This past week we were blessed (and I do not use that term lightly here) by Fr. Shannon Collins, MSJB as he preached our first Parish Mission since the dark covid years were inflicted upon us. The subject, The Most Precious Blood of Jesus, was presented in a profoundly spiritual and intellectual manner. His catechism classes after the morning 8:00 Masses were also amazing, as he enlightened those who were able to attend by delving into current Faith issues in an understandable way with a mixture of seriousness and good humor. As a preparation for the partially penitential season of Advent, this was perfect. Thank you Father!
Of course, the Parish Mission came right on the heels of Cardinal Burke’s visit and Pontifical Solemn High Mass. This week a few bloggers and Catholic commentators mentioned his visit to Epiphany. Adrian Alvarado from the site OnePeterFive, who was in attendance that day, wrote a very nice article about his experience of the Mass and the parishioners while he was here. Several others picked up his story and passed it on or commented on it on their sites. There was one site, Abyussus Abyssum / Deep Calls to Deep, which re-posted that article with the wonderful headline in all caps and bold: IF ONLY THIS COULD BE REPLICATED IN EVERY PARISH IN EVERY DIOCESE IN THE WORLD. I couldn’t agree more! They included a photo of Cardinal Burke at the time of Consecration lifting up the Sacred Host as the surrounding ministers and entire congregation knelt in prayer and Adoration. A recently retired priest-blogger, Fr. Allan J. McDonald of the Savannah diocese, on his Southern Orders blog passed on the photo with an all caps (but unbolded) headline: EVEN A BARN OF A CHURCH BUILDING HAS AN ELEGANCE WITH THE TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC ALTAR SET-UP AND AN AD ORIENTEM MASS WITH SOME PIZAZZ. Setting aside that he doesn’t know the difference between a barn and a school gymnasium/cafeteria (which was the original intent of this building—the “real” church never got built, as happened so often in this diocese, with the “temporary” church becoming the permanent church), I love the way he put it! The Cardinal’s TLM being described as having “pizazz” certainly is quite a bit different than the image I would have in my head if someone described a NOM as having “pizazz,” for in the latter I would conjure up images of a would-be jazz pianist tinkling the keys of an electric keyboard, a soloist leading the “audience” in clapping to the beat as she belted out a peppy bilingual (English/Spanish) song, and Father dancing a conga line with 20 extraordinary ministerettes of Holy Communion after they all recited the “words of Institution” together. (Sorry for putting that image into your brain. I just took a break to go rinse my mouth out, for I threw up a little as I was writing that description!) There are probably other places where the story was published and if you know of any that are especially noteworthy, feel free to pass them on.
And now, on to the week ahead. I am sure that you are all aware of the big holiday coming up this week. Our parish office will be closed from noon on Wednesday until Monday morning. After all, the staff must prepare for and then recover from the Solemn Religious Ceremonial Day of Black Friday. In all seriousness, though, thousands of people will line up in front of their favorite shop hours or even a day ahead of this Biggest Sales Day of the year and have made a quasi-religious ritual out of doing so. I have no doubt, not even a teeny-tiny one, that each person camping out for said “event” would bitterly complain if their (probably former) priest or minister ever dared to keep them at Mass or Service for more than an hour. Those who complain that a 10:30 Mass is “too early” and that they simply can’t give up their sleep for Our Lord will have no problem staying awake all night in sub-zero or rainy weather for the chance of getting $5 off of a $20 item. “I’m bored!” they would whine at church, while they never get bored doing absolutely nothing while camping out in front of WallyMart. “I got nothing out of it” they would kvetch after church, without realizing that they literally got nothing out of buying items for a lesser discount than they spent on gas. “He’s always talking about money” they would lyingly grouse, after having spent weeks scouring the sales brochures online and in print for their Black Friday religious ceremony, all with the plan to wastefully spend a fortune on things they don’t need and may not even want. Oh, yes, the Church of the Half-Price Television is leading them to their god and they will sacrifice anything to participate in its worldly promises. Yet they will turn their back on the one True God and his Other-worldly promise of Salvation.
I write this to remind you that there are things in this life that matter eternally and those that seem to matter but only temporally. Spend Thanksgiving Day giving prayerful thanks to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Everything worthwhile that you have and that you are comes from Him. If Cardinal Burke’s Mass and Fr. Collins’ Mission did what they were attempting to do, Black Friday will pale (as in the pale horse of the Apocalypse, ridden by Death) in comparison to even the secular holiday of Thanksgiving. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy, for “where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: What a Weekend!
Who would have ever thought that Epiphany parish would host a Cardinal for a Pontifical Mass? Who would have ever thought that the Cardinal would stay for a few hours afterwards to greet the people? Who? Not me, that’s for sure! While there may be some relatively small number of people who see Cardinals on a regular basis, for instance, if they happen to live in close proximity to one, most people, I would guess, will never meet one in person. After all, if my count is correct there are only seven (arch)dioceses in the US headed up by a Cardinal. Chicago (Cupich), Galveston-Houston (Di Nardo), New York (Dolan), Washington, DC (Gregory), San Diego (McElroy), Boston (O’Malley), and Newark (Tobin). There are also a couple of retired US Cardinals and those who, like Cardinal Burke, hold jobs other than running an (arch)diocese. The Catholics in those big cities headed by a Cardinal may occasionally get a glimpse of their Cardinal but I would guess that even in those cities only a few ever really see him face to face, or lips to ring! I am going to go out on a limb here and guess further than none of the other Cardinals celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Vernable Old Rite, so even those Catholics who may attend a Mass with any of the other Cardinals would not get to experience what we just did. The new Rite just doesn’t seem to want to make a “big thing” out of a priest being a Bishop or Cardinal, so most of the ceremonial aspects of the Pontifical Mass were never made a part of the new Ordinary Form of the Mass. Remember that this sprang out of the 1960’s mentality of “authority bad, tradition bad, sameness (in the name of individualism!) good.”
After seeing the difference between the two rituals, though, with a period of many decades separating them for the most part, it is easy enough to see why the “simplification” (or “dumbing down”) of the Pontifical Mass took place: for ease and speed. I have mentioned before that until I started celebrating the TLM I never knew that there were specific prayers for the priest to say as he washed his hands and then put on the vestmentsfor Mass. A washing unto purity? A helmet of salvation to overcome the devil? A cleansed heart? A girdle of purity? All of those vesting prayers as well as the rest were just dropped. Not so in the TLM, except when the church is built with the sacristy in the social hall and people interrupt the prayers because “the priest isn’t doing anything right now, anyway.” But I digress. Before we made the procession into the church, the Cardinal prayed his vesting prayers (and he wears more vestments than ordinary priests do), not as he grabbed his stuff out of a drawer, but rather as the servers ceremoniously brought the vestments to him with bows, genuflections, and a great sense of reverence for His Eminence, and then his deacons assisted in vesting him. This ceremony took practice. It took space. It took attention to details. Getting rid of such “nonsense” as we have done in the new Rite certainly speeds things up and makes it easier to be an altar boy or assisting cleric. But the old ceremony gave more than it took. It gave each of us a sense that we really were in the presence of a Prince of the Church, not simply “You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, but you doesn’t hasta call me Cardinal” Burke. It must also be a reminder to him that his vocational calling is, indeed, special. He is not simply an ordinary Bishop or priest, let alone an ordinary man. People today, especially clergy and those who work in chanceries, may grimace at such a statement but it is nonetheless true. It is the college of Cardinals that elects a Pope when needed. That alone is a huge responsibility, as they each must do due diligence in “checking out” the other Cardinals’ spiritual and “practical” qualifications. They must also remember that they, too, might be chosen to be the successor to Peter, so they must always remain faithful to God, which includes being both faithful in prayer and faithful in defending Tradition. They are to be strict imitators of Christ, and lead by serving as He did, by giving all they are for the Glory of God. The vesting ceremony in itself brings that out quite clearly.
And then there were the ceremonial parts of the Mass, mostly dropped in the new Rite, that, again, took a lot of practice, space (we even had to enlarge our sanctuary!), and attention. Although many of the signs and symbols used in the Mass, as well as the reasons why some things were done might not be clear to the average person without explanation, what would be obvious to all is that this Mass was special, dare I say, more important, than even the most elaborate Mass they have ever seen their parish priest celebrate, and that the celebrant of the Mass must be someone very, very special. Nobody would walk away from a Pontifical Mass yawning and saying, “I’m never coming back here again. I didn’t get a thing out of it.” This is the type of Mass which brings sinners to repentance, which brings grown men to tears, which reinforces the faith of the pious and instills the seeds of faith in the degenerate. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took a lot of preparation. But it was worth it. God bless Raymond Cardinal Burke for all he did for Epiphany of Our Lord Parish!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka