From the Pastor: A Special Guest For Thanksgiving!
Sometimes Thanksgiving dinner at the rectory is just plain unbelievable. And believe you me, you should believe me when I tell you that this year was one of the most unbelievable ones. After all, how can you believe as accurate an account of a family gathering that was written days before it happened so that the bulletin could be printed before the staff left for their holiday days off? Be that as it may, here is a tall tale of Thanksgiving at Epiphany, 2023.
This year the family gathering was a bit larger than normal since the family is expanding as “children” from the generation behind me have begun starting families of their own and everyone was in town for this holiday. The plan was for everyone to come to Epiphany for the 8:00 am Mass and then start cooking as soon as Adoration and Confessions were concluded. Two of my in-laws were engaged in a friendly competition to see who could outcook the other, and each one started with two turkeys. My sister Karen’s husband Lee, the reigning champ of all family cookoffs, chose to roast the first of his turkeys over charcoal, and the other went into a smoker with applewood pellets. The young challenger, Fr. Nick Ward (brother to Maggie, who this year married Lee’s oldest son, Ryan) went with a classic cajun turkey deep-fried in peanut oil, and, in a surprise move, decided to concoct a very large turkey rotisserie for his second bird. Other family members were in charge of making fresh buns and bread, cookies, four types of pies, two cheesecakes, cranberry sauce, potatoes cooked three different ways, green beans, various types of stuffing and dressing, and probably more that I cannot now recall. A few volunteered to do the decorating of the hall and the picnic tables, while others were in charge of drinks. And, of course, the children “helped” by getting in everyone’s way and helped even more by going off to play.
Of course, plans and reality oftentimes don’t meet when families get together, especially if the family includes Aunt Irma. We never know exactly what to expect from her but this time her “unexpectedness” was actually something wonderful. Too wonderful, as you will soon see, but wonderful nonetheless. She has been traveling quite a bit this year and earlier this month, for reasons nobody really knows, she found herself in Baltimore during the recent United States Bishops’ Conference. The last time she had attended one of these, you may recall, she was protesting their lack of courage in calling out immoral Bishops within their fraternity. Nothing changed, so she gave up protesting outside of their meetings. But this year, completely by accident, it seems, she was in town once again. She was blissfully unaware that a certain Bishop had recently been dismissed from his job because he was doing it too well. All she knew was that she was driving down to Florida for Thanksgiving and there, along the roadside, she spotted a lone Bishop with a backpack sticking out his thumb, hoping for a ride. At first, she thought he must be a fake Bishop because he was in clerics and was neither obese nor a weightlifter. But she took a chance and pulled over for him anyway. It turns out that he had come for the conference of Bishops but was unceremoniously turned away when they learned that he not only knew all of the mysteries of the rosary, but he actually prayed it daily. The papal nuncio had plastered the walls of their hotel with “unwanted” posters of this Bishop and a warning that any Bishop found praying and/or telling the truth would soon meet the same fate as this poor fellow. Undaunted, he simply knelt in prayer for the Bishops of the country and the whole world and started his long, sad trek home. As Aunt Irma had so kindly offered him a lift, he felt “mighty obliged, Ma’am” to accept her offer to spend Thanksgiving with her family. And so he showed up early on Thursday morning. Angels must have spread the news, for somehow hundreds of people knew that he was going to celebrate the 8:00 Mass and they showed up en masse to the Mass. We wound up having a Pontifical Solemn Mass and, although he had never celebrated the TLM before, our altar boys and MCs are so proficient that they were able to make sure he was in the right place at the right time and everything went off without a hitch. He prayed his way through the Mass like an apostle, not just a successor to one. And, sure enough, as soon as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed after Mass, he headed to the confessional. All of us priests heard confessions for two hours straight before the last repentant sinner was absolved. Then the Bishop took all of the priests aside to give us a chance to get to know him and him, us.
That, of course, threw off the timing of the cooking and preparation for the day’s feast. Lee had to cook all four of the birds himself so he is still the undisputed king of the competition. We will see if his new son-in-law can handle the pressure of a rematch sometime in the future. Even though most of the crowd stayed and enjoyed the whole day we had enough food, drinks, and prayers for everyone. And right now, as you read this, Aunt Irma is dropping off a canceled Bishop in a place that he used to call home. Unfortunately, none of us thought to ask his name...
With prayers for your holiness
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Quite a Week!
Last week was busy around here, and it was a good busy. First of all, our parish mission was a huge success, as measured by the spiritual benefits bestowed upon all who were present for the multiple Masses and conferences. Many thanks to Canon Talarico and Canon Huberfeld for all of the holy insights imparted upon this community! I knew the mission was going to be a great gift to the community by seeing how the demons attacked our AC systems when the priests first showed up and then continued to do so throughout the week. Our rectory AC on the bottom floor, where my office is, as well as the chapel, kitchen, and laundry room, froze up and quit working the day they arrived. We were able to get it working again, but it sure is strange timing. One other time a mission was being held here the upper floor AC went out, making for miserable sleeping conditions in very hot weather. That time the fix took longer to happen. Then, as you probably noticed if you stayed for coffee and donuts last Sunday, the AC in the social hall quit working. Rebooting the system, resetting the breakers, and kicking the units didn’t seem to do much of anything. Then one night, during a “heated” mission talk, I was sitting next to the thermostat and decided to turn the compressors off and keep the fans running. All I accomplished was having the thermostat blink on and off, on and off, on and off, making clicking sounds as it did so, for the next five minutes or so before the screen finally just stayed blank completely. Turning the compressors from “cool” to “off” and the fan from “auto” to “on” should not have had that effect. But the demons seem to love working through all electronic devices, and revel in doing the most ridiculous things to show that, or at least make it seem like, they are in charge. But the next morning, although the system was supposedly shut off, it was freezing in the hall! The thermostat screen was back on, the compressors were on, the fans were on, and, although showing that the temperature was set for 74 degrees, it was also showing the actual temperature of 68! No amount of settings changes made any difference at all. But which is worse for sitting through a mission talk? 82 degrees or 68? Half the congregation likes it hot while the other half likes it cold. It seems that the demons figured that they would negatively affect those who found the previously high temperatures quite nice so as to not allow anyone to enjoy the whole mission in this regard! But what they failed to do is realize that the talks were good enough that everyone was willing to “suffer” (or, more accurately, put up with a very small inconvenience) for a while in order to grow in holiness. By the time this bulletin is published, we may even have the AC working properly again. If not, mildly hot or cold temperatures won’t hurt anyone all too much.
Not to be overlooked, we have a new addition to the front of the church building. The Baker family had, many years ago, decades, even, donated the very large wooden cross that was attached to the front right side of the church front. Over the years the wood had not only been weathered by the sun and rain but had also been munched on by termites. (Do you remember the huge black tarps covering the church shortly after we arrived as we exterminated those pests?) It was in need of being replaced and the Knights of Columbus volunteered to take on the project for the parish. They replaced the plain wooden cross with a very nice crucifix. After the 10:30 Sunday Mass last week I solemnly blessed the crucifix in the presence of the two mission priests, Fr. Mangiafico, the altar boys who had just served Mass, and whoever made it out the front doors in time for the blessing. The next time you look up at that crucifix, please say a prayer for the repose of the souls of any of the Bakers who have passed since the original donation and for blessings upon any who are still with us, as well as our Knights of Columbus who worked so hard to make this replacement a truly noble and worthy gift to the parish. I’m sure the Bakers would be proud.
One more very notable thing happened last week, and, although it was not at Epiphany, it still is worth noting, as it affects the Church throughout (especially, though not exclusively) the entire US. Bishop Joseph Strickland was unceremoniously and, seemingly at least (to give every benefit of the doubt), without cause, forced out of his role as Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Speaking the truth about what is happening in Rome is absolutely necessary for a priest or Bishop’s own salvation as well as that of his flock, and, under normal circumstances, he would be commended for doing so. But at a time when Fr. Rupnik can molest dozens of religious Sisters and still preach a Papal Retreat, still retain his faculties, and even be incardinated into a diocese; at a time when Religious Sisters, priests, and Bishops can openly promote homosexual unions and the blessings thereof; at a time when Bishops and Cardinals bow down in prayer before Pachamama; and when all of the aforementioned evildoers remain in good standing and are even shown approval, the faithful, bold sister, priest, or Bishop who simply does what God expects a faithful servant to do will not be tolerated. Please pray for Bishop Strickland. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:10)
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Progressive Priests? Not For Long!
A study of a study, with the unwieldy title, “Polarization, Generational Dynamics, and the Ongoing Impact of the Abuse Crisis: Further Insights from the National Study of Catholic Priests” has just been published. If you want my quick summary and then wish to quit reading further, here are three of the main points. 1. The wildly progressive priests are dying or retiring. 2. The priests taking their places are mostly orthodox in their theology. 3. Priests don’t trust their bishop if he is not orthodox in his theology. Here is how the authors described the origin and purpose of this new paper:
In October 2022, The Catholic Project at the Catholic University of America released initial findings from The National Study of Catholic Priests*, the largest survey of American Catholic priests in over fifty years. That study involved three primary components:
• A survey of 10,000 Catholic priests, receiving 3,516 respondents across 191 dioceses/eparchies (36% valid response rate).
• In-depth qualitative interviews with more than 100 priests selected from survey respondents.
• A census survey of U.S. bishops, receiving 131 responses (67% valid response rate).
Since the publication of initial findings from that survey, researchers at Catholic University and elsewhere have continued to study and analyze the data. This report highlights several themes which have emerged from closer analysis of the quantitative data, as well as careful study of the qualitative data collected from the one-on-one interviews with priests.
Here is the beginning of the paper’s insight. My comments will follow.
Political polarization in the United States has been a common and growing concern in recent years, as have concerns about growing polarization within religious communities including the Catholic Church. Our data does show a significant divide between the political and theological self-identification of older priests and younger priests.
Yet the data also suggests that the American presbyterate is, over time, becoming less polarized. Simply put, the portion of new priests who see themselves as politically “liberal” or theologically “progressive” has been steadily declining since the Second Vatican Council and has now all but vanished.
This decline is especially stark theologically. Asked to describe “their views on most matters having to do with theology and doctrines” on a scale from “very progressive” to “very conservative/orthodox,” there are significant cohort differences (Figure 1). More than half of the priests who were ordained since 2010 see themselves on the conservative side of the scale. No surveyed priests who were ordained after 2020 described themselves as “very progressive.”
Yes, priests are becoming less polarized for one simple reason. The “progressive” end of the spectrum of priests rarely encouraged vocations and certainly never taught a good reason for anyone to become or remain Catholic, let alone dedicate his life to being a Catholic priest. As they die off, they do so without “reproducing” so to speak. The newer priests, especially those entering seminary after the 2002 major priest scandals, went in to fight for the Truth, not to change it. They looked with horror at the beliefs and actions of the priests making the news and said, “That is not a priest at all. I will be a real priest! I will be faithful in words and actions. I believe what the Church teaches, will live it to the best of my ability, and will proclaim it to the people in its full glory!” The progressives die, and their replacements are really Catholic, so there is now very little overlap, thus, no polarization!
Regarding the trust priests have in their bishops, which varied widely across dioceses from 100% trust down to as low as 9% trust, the authors state:
If a priest describes himself as theologically conservative, for example, and he believes that his bishop is also theologically conservative, it is likely that he would report a high degree of trust in his bishop. In contrast, if a priest reported that he did not align with his bishop on theological matters, he would predictably report low trust in his bishop’s leadership; a similar line exists for political values.
Well, of course. If a priest is orthodox and his bishop is “progressive” (see 2 John 1:9 in the New American Bible Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God) the priest cannot trust his bishop to faithfully teach, preach, and act on Catholic faith, morals and discipline. Likewise, if the bishop politically aligns himself with the party of death, socialist, or communist parties, he must not be trusted, as those political parties are at odds with the Catholic Church on issues with the greatest moral significance!
Further insights may also be found in this document, so I have added a link to it on our parish website. Enjoy the good news!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka