From the Pastor: Christmas Was... Questionable
This Christmas was one full of questions. I hope I don’t bore you with this article dealing with a few of the questions and answers. Even though I am writing this column before the staff takes off for Christmas so that we can get the bulletin ready for the weekend, I can assure you that these questions and answers are as genuine as the questions written about in the recent dubia which brought them all on.
To the proposed question:
When Pope St. Gregory the Great codified, in the 6th century, what is now often called the Traditional Latin Mass, did he understand that it was going to cause nothing but dissent and loss of Catholic Faith for the next 1500 years?
The answer is:
Pope St. Gregory the Great, when he standardized the Mass in the same substantial form as it was to be celebrated until the Great n’ Only Council™, showed us how evil his plan was by mandating that it be celebrated in Latin and that it use, in its more solemn forms, Gregorian Chant. Now it is quite apparent that these three things,1) Standard rubrics and texts to be followed precisely; 2) Latin as the language used; and 3) Gregorian Chant used for sung Masses, show that he certainly planned to undermine the faith of the people of God and to assure that it could never to be accepted by anyone after 1969. Although he cleverly covered his tracks by stressing missionary work and converting, through those efforts, millions of people on every continent who didn’t speak Latin or chant Gregorian in their everyday lives, he must have known that the Church could not really please God by having priests reverently offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and allowing the people to, with full, active and conscious participation, spiritually take their place at the foot of the Cross as the Son of God paid the price for man’s Salvation. Gregory’s nefarious plan was to allow millions of poor, ignorant savages to become holy and die in a state of grace and thereby get to Heaven, as a long-tern “punk” of the far superior in every way (intellectually, physically, emotionally, and—needless to say—spiritually) elites of our times. Now that we are in on his “joke” we can laugh at the stupidity of our forefathers, cast off their silly rubrics, their humility, their holiness, and their sacraments, and get to Heaven without any effort or thought.
To the proposed question:
Well then, did all of our beloved Saints really become Saints if they celebrated a “bad” Mass and had other “defective” sacraments?
The answer is:
We now know, through our superior intellectual superioritiness, that the only people who were ever in danger of going to hell are those who question covid lockdowns, the delights of sodomy, or female ordinations. Oh, and those who now celebrate or attend the Traditional Latin Mass and avail themselves of other sacraments and blessings which were in use before the pre-Great n’ Only Council™. So, technically, nobody should really be proclaimed a Saint, since we all (exceptions listed above) will get to Heaven no matter what we do or don’t do, believe or don’t believe (exceptions listed above).
To the proposed questions:
Is Heaven really worth striving for, then? Do sacrifices such as prayer, penance, and almsgiving have any moral or theological value? Is God worthy of our love, worthy of us giving up everything in this world in order that we may be united with Him in the Beatific Vision?
The answer is:
What a nincompoop you are.
We don’t believe in any of that stuff anymore. You must be a plant from the TLM group.
With prayers for your holiness
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
[The above dubia is meant as satire. Should anyone reading this (or having it read/paraphrased/misquoted to them, as they are probably incapable of such intellectual endeavors as reading and understanding what was written) please take a coloring book and teddy bear to your safe spot and sound off on twitter until you feel fully affirmed in your lack of faith and sense of humor.]
From the Pastor: What To Expect For Christmas
No, this is not about toys under the tree or coal left in stockings. This is about what to expect here at Epiphany this Christmas. Let me begin with the big questions on the minds of all of the new parishioners. “Why is the church not yet decked out for Christmas? Why is the Nativity set in the rear of the church rather than in front of the altar?” And, from the parishioners who have been here longer, “Where is the inflatable dinosaur with the Christmas present in his mouth? Where are the 3000 lights and mixture of all sorts of plastic, rubber, and wicker statues, figurines, and animals which used to be out front?” As for the answers, the Church is decked out for Advent, not Christmas, since this is Advent Season. Believe it or not, Christmas did not really start 3 weeks before Halloween or the day after Thanksgiving. We are now preparing for the Christ Child to show Himself at His Nativity, not celebrating it as a done deal. As for the Nativity set, there is only one place forbidden to put it in the church building according to church liturgical documents: in the sanctuary. But, since almost nobody celebrates Mass from in front of the altar anymore, that space is considered “wasted space” which needs to be filled with something. So during Lent it often contains a desert scene with a cactus, sand, perhaps a cow skull, and either a tumbleweed or a coiled, dead grapevine. Easter usually has the space filled with lilies and sometimes baskets of colorful eggs. Autumn brings cornucopia horns of plenty, with pumpkins and other squash, and colorful leaves scattered in front of the altar. Advent, of course, fills that space with the forbidden manger scene and dozens of poinsettias and flowers. After all, modern sanctuaries are mostly devoid of anything beautiful, so kitschy items try to make up for the lack of artistic and religious content. The infamous dinosaur out front, along with the many various mismatched objects and multitude of lights, all went away with the St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission when it became its own parish. I haven’t been by their new church to see it recently but I assume that they have it all decked out in all its splendid gaudiness as always. Years ago we had come to an agreement that their community got to decorate the outside however and whenever they chose and our community took care of the inside. That was necessary because they were used to decorating the sanctuary and entire front of the church in such a way that it was impossible for a Latin Mass to be celebrated, with trees and flowers and statues and blinking lights and other objects not only causing distraction but also taking up the spaces where the priest and altar boys needed to stand, sit, and move. Our compromise worked well enough, and I have heard a few people nostalgic for the missing waterfall out front pouring over the plastic tarps draped around their Nativity set.
Anyway, last Christmas was our first with the two communities split from each other but because of the covid stuff nothing was “normal” anyway and we struggled to get into a Christmas pattern. This year we are basically starting over and trying to figure out what to do and when to do it. There are no flowers allowed in the church during Advent (except Gaudete Sunday), so we have limited the “decorations” to plain green wreaths and some greenery where flowers normally are found. The social hall will be decorated later this week. Our “flower lady” had to step aside due to family issues so we are looking for someone to step forward and take on the monumentally prayerful task of making flower arrangements for the altar and statues. Any takers?
As for the Mass schedule, on Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24 we will have a Novus Ordo Mass at 5:00 pm. Midnight Mass will start at midnight and will be lit by candles. It will be an absolutely beautiful high Mass. Christmas morning we will follow the Sunday schedule of low Mass at 7:30 and hIgh Mass at 10:30, although there will be no confessions following either Mass. The normal Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class has been canceled that day, too. Fr. Tuoc will celebrate a Novus Ordo Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm on Christmas day which will be an anticipated Sunday Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family. But if you know anyone who somehow missed Christmas Mass, they can technically attend that Mass and it will “count” for either Christmas or the Sunday after Christmas (but not both). The Sunday Mass and confession schedule will be as normal on December 26. Of the normal group meetings that take place on Sundays, none have asked us to take them off the schedule, so they remain on the calendar as of this writing. Will they really be meeting that morning? I doubt it but you never know. Just because I will be barely functioning doesn’t mean that everyone else is in the same boat. Monday, December 27, is the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and there is a special blessing of wine after Masses that day.
January 1 is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year since it falls on a Saturday. We will have the normal 8:00 am Mass but will also add an extra 10:30 high Mass for those who need a little extra time to get moving that day. The office will be closed from December 24 through January 3, so plan accordingly.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Barefoot! Thunk! Oh Yeah!
Last Sunday started out with a bit of panic before the early Mass. We were expecting a visit from good ol’ Saint Nicholas, who had promised to visit all of our good little boys and girls and bring some treats for them. The children had been instructed to place a shoe out on the picnic tables and, during Mass, Saint Nicholas was going to place in each shoe a bit of gold, Odor Eaters, or candy for the children, as he saw fit. But with only 6 minutes to go before Mass, only three shoes were sitting out. Panic set in, as people thought that the children were going to miss out on this holy visit and that the holy visitor would miss the children. But by the time Mass was done, we had shoes galore filled to overflowing with heavenly treats. It seems that many of the families forgot to bring an extra shoe (or 10 for some of our larger families!) and a simple announcement that it was all right to take off one of the shoes they were wearing and go half-barefooted for Mass this special day was all it took for the “shoe tables” to fill up. And, since we had over 800 people (combined) in attendance at our Sunday Masses, St. Nicholas was not disappointed in the numbers of children to whose faces he could bring many smiles, for we have more children than most parishes he visits. I will get to more about number of people at Mass later in this article.
At the 10:30 Mass we didn’t have problems with shoes but rather with the holy water sprinkler (called an “aspergillum”). We begin our prayers with the Asperges at this Mass, and, kneeling in front of the altar and beginning the chant, “A-a-sper-er-er-ge-es-may” I usually sprinkle the altar three times before sprinkling myself, the servers, and the congregation. But this time as I sent the holy water toward the middle of the altar, the top of the sprinkler flew off and hit the altar dead center with a resounding, “THUNK”! We found out later that the ball on top, which holds and disperses the Holy Water, has a threaded rod screwed into the handle on one side and into a nut at the top of the ball on the other, holding it all together. Somehow, it broke in two right in the middle, leaving me with the handle and the bottom half of the ball in my hand and the top piece on the floor somewhere in the sanctuary. My MC dutifully went and got the Holy Water sprinkler that I use for blessing objects outside of Mass and we continued, after that short delay, as if nothing had happened. But I was certainly thanking God that the accident occurred as I was sprinkling the altar instead of some little old lady or child. (There might have been a few altar boys that could have used a good conk on the head, though, but don’t tell them that I said so!) That “backup” sprinkler is constructed differently and instead of having an aspergillum which is dipped into a bucket of water (also called a “stoup” or an “aspersorium” for those of you who may need that information to win at Jeopardy one day), it contains water within its own bulbous handle. Fortunately, I had blessed some items earlier in the day and, realizing that it was almost out of water, had filled it up completely before Mass began! It does send more water flying than the usual one, so if you got sprinkled last week, you probably got really wet!
Now, as for the numbers of people at Mass, I have been waiting somewhat impatiently for the new Mass counts to come out for the diocese. As you know, pastors have to report their weekend attendance to the diocese twice a year, in February and October. Last year being the dreadful “covid year” the attendance was down considerably for the February count in all but one parish—ours. We increased our numbers even in the midst of worldwide panic. Of course, since everyone was thinking that they were all going to die, it seems to me that every parish should have had a great increase in Mass attendance (not to mention longer confession lines!) as people prepared to meet their Maker. But was last February’s count just a fluke? Not at all. The October count is now public. Epiphany was once again up in the count. In October of 2019 (pre-panic), we counted 412 people at our combined Masses. During the 2020 panic year, we had 627 in the pews in October. This year we moved up to 753. Fortunately for the other parishes, we are not the only parish with increasing numbers. In fact, two other parishes have now joined us in having numbers above the 2019 counts. According to the diocesan statistics, as of October 2021, Most Holy Redeemer is at 101.1% of their 2019 attendance and St. Anthony the Abbot in Brooksville is at 111.0% of their 2019 count. You may or may not know that St. Anthony the Abbot now has a Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and Tuesdays or Wednesdays (depending on the season), a factor which I am sure explains their uptick in numbers. And at Epiphany, we are up 182.8% from 2019! Not too shabby for—as I was told when I was sent here by the now-retired Bishop Robert Lynch—a Mass that nobody wants, at a parish to which nobody will go! Full details can be found on the chart hanging in the social hall. Enjoy!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Big Celebrations This Week!
As you are all quite well aware, this week brings us one of the two Holy Days of Obligation of the month of December. This Wednesday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We will have our usual morning Masses plus one extra high Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8. Oh, and the second December Holy Day of Obligation, in case you weren’t thinking too clearly due to reading this while shopping online, is Christmas!
The next big celebration, which, due to our parish’s sterling reputation as one having nothing but good little boys and girls, will be celebrated a bit early, is St. Nicholas’ feast day. The actual date for his feast is December 6 but he will make a special visit to us a day early, on Sunday, December 5. If you are reading this online before coming to Mass that day, don’t forget to have the children bring an extra shoe (with their name written inside) to lay on the tables next to the church. St. Nick likes to leave special gifts in children’s shoes during Mass!
Then there is the special Rorate Caeli Mass which you have all been waiting for! This coming Saturday, December 11, the morning Mass schedule changes. The 8:00 Mass (and confessions and Adoration which normally follow) have been canceled and instead, we will have a glorious candlelight Mass at 6:30 am followed by some—what else?— sugary snacks. The Rorate Mass is a traditional Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent. It actually can be celebrated on multiple days throughout Advent but we limit ourselves to just one. All is dark in the church with the exception of the altar, which is lit by as many candles as we can safely fit on it. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite obviously, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget.
Since I still have a small space left to write, now is as good a time as any to announce that last month we hired our new Youth Director (or Facilitator or Apostolate Coordinator whatever “new and improved” title they are officially called nowadays). Her name will soon be, if it is not already, well known throughout the diocese as well as at Epiphany, as she will be the very best Youth Director around. Jamiee Salcido has already been working for a long time with the high school youth group and will continue to do so. She is also working with the already-established Young Adult group, and they are planning on ramping things up so watch for that group to start advertising more and more functions. And, starting in January, Jamiee will be starting up an all-new Junior High Youth Group! So, for all of you with children in that age range, start paying attention to announcements, bulletin blurbs, Flocknote emails/texts, and other modes of communication. We have long had requests for activities aimed at this age group but have never had someone willing to lead the group full-time. Now we have one! She will need plenty of help, so be quick to volunteer. Those who volunteer will no longer have the worry (and a justified one at that!) that if they do just one project for the middle school children then they will be “stuck” as their leader forever, for that position is now filled. Of course, as in all positions dealing with children or vulnerable adults in the Church, volunteers must undergo Safe Environment Training put forth by the diocese (now done online at your convenience) and pass the fingerprint scrutiny, which helps to assure that the children are in good hands.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka