From the Pastor: Epiphany! Our Feast Day Cometh!
According to ancient tradition, the three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem to worship the infant Lord Jesus Christ on the thirteenth day of His birth, that is, January 6 according to the current calendar. Thirty years later to the day He was baptized by John in the River Jordan. The following year on the same date He performed his first public miracle, changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. According to a not-so-ancient tradition, the Catholic Women’s Club at this parish hosts an Epiphany Ball on or around the parish feast. Thank you, holy ladies, for doing so! The last two years we had a high Mass at 6:00 pm followed by a potluck dinner and dance on the actual feast day (it fell on a Wednesday in 2016 and a Friday in 2017) but it made for a long night and was horrific trying to keep the food fresh and hot and edible, especially for all those who had to show up early because they were in a choir or altar boy family. [I have in my mind the following as a best-case scenario: The meal you are cooking to bring for the potluck gets ready exactly at the time you have the whole family buckled in a ready to go. (Ha! Already I laugh.) Your normal (for a Sunday Mass) 45-minute drive to church is, on a workday, now estimated by Siri to be 1 hour and 15 minutes long. You leave at 4:00, hoping to get here by 5:00 but praying that you arrive no later than 5:30 in order to get everything set for Mass (altar boy family) or to practice the hymns and chants (choir family). Then, the Mass begins a little after 6:00 because somebody is running late and it lasts until 7:30 (or a bit later if Father rambles, err, I mean if he has a lot of very good things to say about the parish Feast Day; or if the choir sings everything in beautiful, but long, polyphony for the special occasion). Add time of prayerful thanksgiving after Mass and then the time it takes to get settled in the parish hall, and finally the blessing before the meal takes place at 7:55 pm. The last person in line gets their food about 8:35. How in the world did you all do that? Did you, instead, cook the meal in the van while on the road? Did you jump up and reheat it during the 17 minute Credo? I really cannot figure out how the food tasted so good!] This year January 6 falls on a Saturday and there are Saturday evening vigil Masses going on at 5:00 and 7:00 pm, so keeping the Ball on the actual Feast Day was impossible. That means that we get to try out a new format for the festivities. Will it be better or worse than the previous years? There is only one way to find out! I hope to see you all there at 7:00 pm on Friday, January 5. (You did get your tickets, right? The absolute last day for purchase is Sunday, December 31. $5 per person or $ 30 max per family.)
Before we get to the end of the week, though, we have to survive New Year’s Eve. I know, that’s not a Catholic Holy Day, but every once in a while someone wants to make it into one. A long time ago, in a parish far, far away, the pastor heard of a cutesy thing that some other “really with it” parishes were doing: having a Midnight Mass for New Year’s Day, giving the faithful a safe alternative to drunken parties or watching the ball drop on TV. Oh, so precious! Like taking a pagan holiday and “baptizing” it, as so many times “scholars” have told us we did when we made up out of thin air the Catholic Holy Days such as Christmas, All Saints Day, and Easter. The people were thrilled. The Mass, I was told, was beautiful. (I slept through it, thankfully, as I had the early Mass the next morning.) But there was one tiny, little, itsy bitsy problem, which should have been apparent from the beginning of this harebrained idea. Everyone who attended Midnight Mass was trying to avoid the drunks, yet everybody had to drive home from the church as all of the New Year’s parties were closing down! The Mass-goers might have been the only sober ones on the road! We were fortunate that nobody got killed. Why am I bringing up this old memory? Because somebody this year asked me why we cannot have a midnight Mass for New Years! “But we always do it at my old parish, Father. It’s a TRADITION! Isn’t this a traditional parish?” Oh, brother. Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The New Year’s Midnight Mass at my previous parish started at midnight, but Christmas Midnight Mass was at 10:00 pm because, well, it was just too much to expect anyone to come to Mass at such a late hour as midnight! Tradition? What’s that?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Merry Advent and Christmas Vigil and Christmas!
The 4th Sunday of Advent is missing this year. Perhaps it is better to say that it is not completely lost, but rather misplaced or even replaced. As I mentioned last week, in the Traditional Latin Mass when the Vigil of Christmas falls on a Sunday, it replaces the 4th Sunday of Advent. Not so in the Novus Ordo Calendar. The Vigil of Christmas, instead of taking the place of the 4th Sunday, is instead celebrated in the evening, Christmas Eve. Since we don’t normally have a Novus Ordo Mass scheduled on Sunday, we will have no 4th Sunday of Advent Mass that day. But wait. We have a Novus Ordo Mass Saturday evening, so the 4th Sunday of Advent will be celebrated on Saturday instead of on Sunday. As for the TLM, both of the Sunday morning Masses will be Christmas Vigil Masses. We have added a NO Mass on Sunday evening but even though it is celebrated on Sunday, it will not be the 4th Sunday of Advent Mass, for that Mass will be replaced by the Christmas Vigil Mass. But the TLM Christmas Vigil Masses of the morning will have different prayers and readings than the NO Christmas Vigil Mass of the evening. Even had we added another TLM on Christmas evening, it would be the exact same Mass as the morning TLMs and so would still be different than the NO Christmas Vigil. Add to that confusion the people who keep checking the Sunday evening calendar online and complain that there is no Midnight Mass scheduled. Of course, what they fail to comprehend is that Midnight Mass is not held on Sunday evening but rather first thing on Monday morning. The Sunday calendar ends at 11:59:59 so to find the Christmas Midnight Mass one has to look on Monday’s calendar, because Christmas Midnight Mass begins as soon as Christmas begins, and not two or three hours earlier as so often happens at NO parishes. Monday is Christmas. Did that clear up anything? Yes? Then let me just forget about complicating things by telling you what St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission is doing with their Christmas Vigil and Day Masses, or you will just get confused again. And it is probably not a good idea for me to explain that there are three different and distinct Christmas Day Masses in both the NO and TLM calendars, each with its own general time frame in which they are to be celebrated (midnight, early morning and later morning), except that with the NO Mass one can be substituted for the others if the priest chooses. Or if the liturgy committee plans it. Or if the lectors read the wrong readings. Or something like that.
Moving on, I want to thank all of you who have sacrificed so much to be active members of this parish, naming especially those who work as well as pray. Altar boys and choir members (and the parents or family members who transport them and wait for them as they practice and again as they fulfill their function, sometimes very early in the morning and sometimes very late at night, are amazing in their dedication. Thank you all. The women’s guild and other volunteers, who do so much planning and serving and cleaning, allow us to have such things as coffee and donuts after Sunday Masses, an upcoming Epiphany Ball and many other events. You do so much. Thank you all. Those of you who support the Amani family, who assist the American Heritage Girls, who donate generously to those young ladies who are discerning vocations to the religious life and the young men entering seminary, who prepare the altar, who wash and iron the liturgical linens, who clean, repair and replace broken pews and other church items, who teach children the faith, who lead the Holy Rosary with the Spiritual Mothers on Wednesdays or at the Friday Family Rosary and Game night, who show up and bring food for the Wednesday night and Sunday potlucks, who attend adult Catechism classes, who taught (sorry, past tense only due to the teacher having babies!) Latin classes, who organize the youth group and the new Juventutem group, who come to the Holy League men’s club, the K of C... (Did I leave anyone out? Probably. Sorry about that.) You are all amazing people. With travel times averaging approximately 45 minutes one way just to get here, bypassing several other more conveniently located parishes as you do so, you humble me, who only has to walk a hundred yards. All you do, all year ‘round, is a Christmas gift this pastor truly appreciates. May God bless you all.
Oh, one more thing before I forget. This Wednesday, December 27, is the feast of St. John the Evangelist. There is a special blessing of wine after Mass (remember, enemies of the Church tried to kill him by poisoning his wine, which he simply blessed and drank to show the power of God), so don’t forget to bring in your favorite bottles that morning!
Merry Christmas Vigil to you all. Rejoice, for the time of the Savior’s birth draws near!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: You Can’t Kill Two Liturgical Birds With One Stone!
A lot of angst and turmoil which is showing up in most other parishes this year which Epiphany parishioners will eagerly avoid. What is the issue? Next weekend on the Novus Ordo Mass calendar, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is celebrated on Saturday evening and on Sunday. But Sunday is also the Vigil of Christmas, so there will be Christmas Eve Masses. Most other parishes have only NO Masses and many people are planning on killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, to keep from being “burdened” with that most terrible of all afflictions, namely, “having” to attend Mass twice in one week. Let me set aside for the moment the terrible tragedy of a Catholic who doesn’t rejoice in participating in as many Masses as possible and rather look at the logistics of what they plan to do.
Remember, this is happening at many parishes, but not ours! Those who normally attend the Saturday evening vigil Mass to get their Sunday obligation “out of the way” will skip it that evening, December 23. Likewise, many of those who normally attend on Sunday, whether in the morning or early afternoon or evening will also forgo attending the earlier Masses for the 4th Sunday of Advent on December 24th. Instead, all of them will attempt to get to the Christmas Eve Masses or the “midnight” (shudder) 8:00 pm Mass. That way, they claim, they have been to Mass on Sunday, thus fulfilling their obligation for the last Sunday of Advent, plus they have attended a Christmas Mass (since, in the NO Mass the vigil “counts” as if it were the actual day), so they have also fulfilled their obligation for the Christmas Holy Day. “Yay!” they will exclaim, “We fooled God and only had to go to Mass once this week, plus we fooled the pastor and only had to put one crumpled up dollar bill into a single collection, not two! Woo Hoo! We are the smartest Catholics in the world!” Yep. Damned smart Catholics, if you get my drift. There was even one pastor (in the diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not here locally, thanks be to God!) who, in his parish bulletin a week or two ago, “dispensed” his parishioners from their Sunday Obligation with this statement: “Therefore, by my authority as pastor, I hereby grant a dispensation from the obligation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in individual cases that meet the following conditions: 1. You are reading this dispensation as an individual right now; 2. You are my canonical parishioner, either by geography or by registration; 3. You place ALL the envelops for BOTH celebrations in the collection basket at whatever Mass you attend.” He foolishly (as if there was anything about his ridiculous stunt which was not foolish) did not tell the people that they had to actually put a monetary contribution in to the envelopes, so if his people wanted to play games the way he taught them in this fiasco, they could have deposited empty envelopes or, better still, stuffed lumps of coal into them. Fortunately, his bishop found out about it and quickly put an end to it. Please pray for his poor parishioners, for their shepherd is lost himself.
So why do I say that such a thing won’t happen here? Well, for the NO Mass parishioners, I assume that they have, for many years, been well catechized and they are excited about getting the opportunity to attend Mass for both Sunday and Christmas. They will attend their normal 5:00 vigil Mass Saturday evening and then come back for the 5:00 pm Christmas Eve NO Mass on Sunday. These are the only two English NO Masses available for the two days in question, so unless they wish to attend a Vietnamese NO Mass (which would certainly fulfill the obligation as well) their choices are limited. I am convinced that nobody that attends the NO here would try to “double up” by only attending the Sunday 5:00 pm Mass. As for the others, those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass don’t even have to have good catechesis behind them to do the right thing in this circumstance, for in the TLM there is no such thing as a vigil Mass substituting for the actual feast day Mass! The Vigil of Christmas actually takes the place of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year. It is the Mass of the day, not the Mass of the evening before the feast. So TLM parishioners will attend either the 7:30 am of the 10:30 am Sunday Christmas Vigil Mass and fulfill their Sunday obligation and then they will attend one of the Masses on Christmas Day itself and fulfill that obligation. The Midnight Mass in the TLM, is the first Mass of Christmas Day, and is never held before real midnight, so there is no silly game which can be played with that Mass.
Anyway, there you have it. Epiphany parishioners can relax and pray while others scheme to avoid prayer. Come twice. Enjoy them both. Glorify God with your prayers and presence at His Most Holy Sacrifice.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Real Blessing or Counterfeit?
The other day I had a couple in my office asking for a blessing. The wife was pregnant, so what better time to bless her and their newly conceived child? Ah, what a glorious thing to do. I remember that a few years back the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made a big deal out of creating a “new” rite for blessing the unborn baby within the womb. This was a “big deal” because, supposedly, the Church had never had such a blessing for the child in utero before now. I am skeptical about most liturgical things that come out of the USCCB and I certainly find consternation in their “Book of Blessings” which mostly fail to actually bless anything. Yet, since it was supposedly the only one of its kind, I was about to grab it when common sense took hold of me. I instead went and got the old, traditional Roman Ritual book containing blessings and found, lo and behold, a “Blessing of an Expectant Mother”. I gave the blessing and the happy (three-persons!) couple went merrily on their way.
Sharp readers might have discovered a small but significant discrepancy between what the USCCB spent countless hours and dollars pulling out of thin air and what the old ritual already had. The new rite (yes, they developed a “rite” rather than just a “prayer” so that they can sell you a bilingual English/Spanish book for $6.95) is called the "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb". The old prayer is a blessing for the mother carrying the child. Slight difference but pretty big at the same time. At least it is if they both limit the blessing to only one particular person, mother or baby. But do they? Let us see.
The new Rite is five (English only) pages long for the version within Mass and 11 (English only) pages long for the version outside of Mass. It contains three prayers which it calls blessings, and which are preceded by this rubric: “If appropriate, the mother is invited to come forward, along with the father and other family members. With hands extended, the celebrant blesses the child in the womb and all those present, in these words:” That says that everyone there is being blessed, not just the preborn baby. The first prayer asks God to bless the unborn child and bring comfort to the mother (comfort, but no blessing). The second (optional) prayer says it is for the father but only asks that he be granted courage and be made an example of justice and truth. No blessing. Blech. The third (also optional) prayer, is for the family but is even more troublesome to me. “Lord, endow this family with sincere and enduring love as they prepare to welcome this child into their midst.” Why is it troubling? First, there is no blessing asked for them. Second, if welcoming the child in their midst is still a thing in the future, what is the reason they are there present for the blessing in the first place? Is it not because they have already acknowledged him to be in their midst? Have they not already welcomed him and now desire God’s blessing upon him who is already a new family member? Yet this prayer excludes the unborn baby from the family by not including him in those who will be filled with love. Why not, if he is a family member and this is a family blessing, ask that he, too, be filled with love? These prayers are nice enough until and unless you think too much about what they actually say and don’t say, do and don’t do. And, of course, there is no sign of the cross made over anyone by the priest.
So now let’s see what the old ritual says and does. It, too, is bilingual, with three pages in English and 3 in Latin. Two preliminary prayers ask for the mother to have a solid faith and constant protection from all adversity, that she be guarded and defended from the unfeeling enemy, that her baby be born and baptized and come to eternal life. Those are pretty powerful prayers of preparation for the actual blessing, if you ask me! The actual prayer of blessing drives away “all snares of the enemy” and calls upon the holy angels to preside. The blessing is not bestowed (with the priest making the sign of the cross) only until the baby is born, but it is to be ever present. It then asks that they (mother and child) be saved and given everlasting light. It concludes with a Trinitarian blessing (and another sign of the cross) upon both mother and child.
Why does any of this matter? Because I am constantly asked, “Why do you celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass?” This, though not the Mass itself, is one very obvious reason. Through the TLM I have discovered a treasure trove of discarded and forgotten liturgical gifts, of which the rest of the Church only has pitifully woeful imitations.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Advent is Upon Us!
The way Advent and the early December dates line up this year, the first week of Advent is chock full of marvelous feast days! I know you already have your calendars marked for December 8, the Holy Day of Obligation (yes, there are still a few of them!) celebrating the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We have three Masses that day: the normal Friday 6:30 am and 8:30 am Masses, plus an evening Mass at 7:00 pm. But a full lineup of heavy hitters warms us up in preparation for that day. Monday is St. Chrysologus, the Church “Doctor of Homilies”, with a commemoration of St. Barbara, who is one of the revered 14 Holy Helpers. Tuesday is the feast of St. Sabbas, a hermit monk whose clever and holy Bishop really stuck it to the rebellious monks who demanded that Sabbas be removed from his role as abbot (come to the 8:00 Mass to hear the rest of the story!). Wednesday, December 6, brings us... wait, do I really need to tell any of you whose feast day is December 6? I certainly hope not! St. Ambrose (a second Doctor of the Church in one week!) follows him (that is at least a small hint that the Saint of December 6 is a male!) on Thursday. All in all, it is quite a solid group of Saints.
Rather than just run down the list of all the Saints throughout the rest of Advent, I next wish to draw your attention to the Saturday following the Second Sunday of Advent. Get a good night’s rest that Friday night, for we are going to celebrate a Rorate Caeli Mass on December 16 and, as you might remember, Rorate Masses begin before dawn! We will have to change our regular Saturday morning schedule to accomplish this. The Rorate Mass will begin in total darkness save for candlelight at the altar, at 6:30 am (rather than the normal 8:00 am). We are planning on having some simple breakfast food following the Mass, followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confessions. If anyone wishes to let us know ahead of time that they will be there, or will bring food, or will serve the Mass, or will be in the Schola, it would help with the planning of this great feast.
Here is a little bit about the Rorate Mass which I wrote for the bulletin before the one we held last year: “The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as another aside, is why the term ad orientem--to the east--is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sin, to bring light to those in darkness. He came through, and is magnified by, the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation.” I know that there are many good reasons which might keep you snug in bed that morning, but if you make the effort for this Mass, I think you will be hooked and make it a yearly event.
Now for one major bit of information about something else coming up very quickly, though not until early next year. So far I have three confirmandi signed up definitely and almost two (2) more persons signed up for Confirmation next year. The first “almost” person is from our parish and actually signed up too early, using last year’s online form as if he could use my magic time machine and get him confirmed in the past. The second “almost” person is from another parish but desperately wants to attend the Traditional Latin Mass and get confirmed in the Traditional Rite but his mother and father don’t want to leave their Novus Ordo parish. He is still in negotiations with them and with his pastor! But as of this writing, even though the current Confirmation Information and Checklist is available both online and at the office, only those few have actually availed themselves of it, so our total tally is three (3) confirmandi. That is not a bad thing if it is an accurate count but, since the Confirmation date given to us by Bishop Parkes is quickly approaching (Confirmation time and date: 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018) we soon need to tell the Bishop how many kids we have who will be ready and eager to receive the sacrament. I would hate to have him bypass us this year due to having such a small class only to have several dozen more sign up after he takes us off his calendar! So please don’t procrastinate on this. If you or your child(ren) are preparing for Confirmation, please use the website for guidance and let us know at the office that we need to get ready for you/them!
With prayer for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka