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