From the Pastor: My First Christmas at Epiphany
How was your Christmas? I hope and pray that everything went well, that you started with a Holy Mass, that your family gathering was wonderful, that the gifts you gave were appreciated by the recipient and gifts received were of the “Just what I always wanted!” kind. You probably expect that mine was that kind of Christmas, too, but things don’t often seem to work that way for me. So, even though I have to write this during the last week of Advent in order to get it to you the weekend after Christmas, here is my rendition of what happened my first Christmas at Epiphany.
Everything started out normal enough. Fr. Dorvil celebrated the Christmas Eve Mass, all the priests ate a nice meal together and Fr. Peter celebrated the Vietnamese Mass. Finally, I went to the church to celebrate Midnight Mass (at Midnight!) and everything was well with the world. Until “they” showed up, that is.
Suddenly, outside the church headlights were beaming, tires were squealing, car doors were slamming, and the noise of dozens of boots on the ground and unintelligible barked orders competed with our choir’s glorious chanting of the Credo. The church doors cracked open and a remote controlled military looking drone/robot came gliding in and proceeded down the center aisle, its camera swiveling back and forth scoping out the congregation. Whoever was on the other end of the camera viewfinder very briefly saw several dozen men leap from their pews before the camera went dead. The men of the Traditional Latin Mass, true men that they are and thinking this thing might be some sort of a terrorist bomb, immediately subdued it, ripped it to pieces to render it incapable of detonation, and immediately took up defensive positions around the women, children and sanctuary. At least half of the congregation has concealed weapon carry permits, so plenty of guns were drawn and at the ready.
One group of ex-Marines (they hate the use of “ex” though!) took the fight directly outside to the militants, ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of the rest. The women, during all of this, simply kept kneeling in silent Adoration, praying their rosaries or following in their missals and having a calm that showed their complete trust in God and the Blessed Mother. Serenity like they possessed comes only from choosing husbands wisely and raising boys properly, and they had, by and large, done both. All these actions were done with such precision and confidence that not even the children were upset and not a single infant cried in fear. It wasn’t long before the marines reappeared, bringing with them dozens of police officers and swat team members, who then joined them for the remainder of the Mass.
Neither I nor the altar boys had realized any of this was happening, so engrossed in the Mass were we, and it wasn’t until much later when we saw the uniformed men at the Communion rail (most men who serve are Catholic, of course!) that we knew something was up. After Mass we got the rest of the story. It seems that we had a first-time visitor at Mass. Seeing men wearing suits and women in dresses shocked him. He thought he had entered an evangelical church by mistake. Then when all of the altar servers were male, he began to get suspicious that something nefarious was going on. When no women got up to read or lead the responsorial psalms, conspiracy theories jostled together in his brain. Seeing me stand “with my back to the people” and chanting Latin prayers, he finally put two and two together and called 911, for he realized that he was surrounded by a group of people he had often heard denounced by his Catholic friends, family and even his priest as evil people worse than any terrorist organization on the face of the planet: the dreaded Traditional Latin Mass Monsters! Fortunately for everyone involved, by the time the swat team got here he had already had a “conversion,” so beautiful and spiritually moving was the Mass, that he had reported his mistake to the 911 operator and about the same time the police robot was dismantled inside, everybody outside was being informed that we were just faithful Catholics attending a glorious Midnight Mass. Calm heads prevailed and a Silent Night, Holy Night, was had by all.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Year of Mercy
As of December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have formally begun a holy year, a jubilee year, a year of “Mercy” which extends through November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (in the newer liturgical calendar). As in all Jubilee Years, there is a generous allowance for the reception of plenary indulgences for the Faithful. A link to the entire letter explaining how to obtain these indulgences can be found on our parish webpage or on the Vatican’s site. Excerpts, to get you started, follow:
It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.
My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.
Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.
I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.
There is more. Find the links to the Vatican and to our Diocese on our parish webpage. Plenary indulgences are great gifts of mercy. Get as many as you can!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Come alive, Fix-It Felix!
When I was young I sometimes dreamed and oftentimes wished that characters from TV and the movies were real. Oh, to be able to hide a real ET in the bedroom, or to romp through the woods with Baloo while singing about the Bear Necessities! Not all such daydreaming was so innocent, though, for I would have loved to find myself in a Charlies Angels caper, and take the place of either Bosley or Charlie, but (thought I in my adolescent bravado) showing them what a real man was like. (Or, perhaps, I was just a bit more holy than I give myself credit for, since I was, after all, pining away after Angels!). But--alas--I outgrew those childhood fantasies and haven’t, for quite some time now, desired a make-believe character to come to life. I am now serious, mature, and far beyond those early years of wishful thinking. Or, at least I thought I was was until fairly recently.
Now I want to have a real Fix-It Felix. around the house. OK, so he is not as exotic as a space alien, as fun as a cartoon bear or as beautiful as an Angel, but talk about practical... This is the character I want to come alive, and don’t get any weird ideas in your head just because he is a guy. After all, I think ET and Baloo were, too, and none of you thought anything of it a few sentences ago. Those of you with children probably know who Fix-It Felix is. A few years ago he co-starred, so to speak, in an animated movie called, “Wreck-It Ralph.” Ralph was the bad guy who went around destroying buildings and Fix It Felix was the hero who rebuilt anything Ralph wrecked. I finally had a chance to see the movie just about the same time that everything in our guest bathroom got plugged up. The movie was cute and silly. The backed up sinks and tub were nasty. Everything in the movie got fixed, and everything was put right (in fact, better than before!) in a short time. The bathroom resisted all efforts. Felix’s magic hammer did far more good than my decidedly un-magic plunger, gallons of drain cleaner and even a plumber’s snake.
When we (the maintenance man and I) finally gave up and called in the professionals, I thought I was finally getting my Fix-It Felix. This guy climbed onto the roof and snaked the pipes from up top. Nasty water still filled the tub and sinks. Hours later, the toilet had been removed, larger, longer snakes had been brought in, the outside lines were cleared, and... he was no Fix-It Felix. Another day and another two plumbers sent to assist and presto! Nothingo! Fix-It Felix was still not real. One more day and two more, very experienced plumbers came to wave their magic snakes and, well, scratched their heads and couldn’t figure out how the toilet flushed while nothing else worked and why the sinks were not draining into the tub. In desperation, a hole was cut into the wall and a pipe was cut. Nothing was fixed but at least it showed us that the snakes were not going into the right pipes, so they would never work to clear the mess. I brought out the old blueprints showing the plumbing system and it was determined that the ceiling of the room below needed to be cut into to find the problem. The blueprints were incorrect and the pipes went in a different direction than indicated but two more holes later and the problem was apparent. To the plumbers, that is, not to me. But this time they assured me that they knew what the problem was and that they could fix it. Tomorrow. And so they did. Perhaps a couple of pounds of rust came out of the pipes when they opened them. It had been piling up in a place no snake could reach and chemicals designed to dissolve hair and grease would have, obviously, no effect on metal shavings. But the problem was fixed and water drains.
Fix It Felix did not show up with a magic hammer but the experts eventually got the job done. Just in time, too, for Cardinal Chibly Langlois from Haiti and other big wig priests (I mean that affectionately, not pejoratively) are coming this weekend (and will be here when you read this). Reverting to my childhood, I am praying that the Angels keep Wreck-It Ralph away from the rectory (wreck-tory?) and church for at least a week, for I could not Bear Alien-ating the Cardinal.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka