From the Pastor: Candlemas and More
This Thursday, February 2, forty days after the birth of Christ, is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is more commonly called (or, at least it used to be common to call it this) Candlemas Day. If you remember from last year, this is the day when people are invited to bring their candles to Mass to be blessed and to carry them in the procession if there is one. (Candles must contain at least 51% beeswax according to the traditional rules for all liturgical candles, so you may wish to follow that guideline when purchasing or making your candles for home use, too). After you take the candles home, they may be lit for various reasons, i.e., if the priest comes to administer Extreme Unction and Viaticum, during times of great fear or turmoil (such as a major storm or the reputed three days of darkness), or during your prayer time. They may even be used as your Advent Wreath candles.
The blessing of the candles leads, quite naturally, to the feast day of St. Blase (or Blaise) the next day, Friday, February 3. On his feast we use the newly blessed candles to bless everyone’s throats. Two crossed candles are held up to the throat and the priest prays, “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, episcopi et martyris, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis, et a quolibet alio malo. In nomine Patris, et Filii +, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” This translates to “Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all illness of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (There is also an approved version which is a bit shorter. “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis. Amen.” I am very surprised that this is not the “standard” version used today, since we seem to want the shortest version of everything dealing with prayer and devotion!)
Along with those two liturgical reminders, let me turn to other interesting items that you don’t necessarily have to put on your calendars. This Monday, January 30, all the priests of the diocese have been summoned to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat and meeting center, to meet with the new Bishop. This is the first group meeting we have with Bishop Gregory Parkes, who, in case you missed it, was just installed as Bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese on the fourth of this month. I don’t want to speculate on what he will tell us or ask us or ask of us, but I do imagine that he will give us at least a rudimentary understanding of his way of thinking and acting in his capacity as our new Shepherd. I hope to be able to discuss, even if very briefly, his vision for our parish and the Traditional Latin Mass (and other sacraments in the Traditional Rites), as well. Ideally, I would like to receive his full-fledged support. I ask for your prayers in this matter.
Something else going on this week which may be of interest to you is happening at the American Legion USS Tampa Post 5 at the corner of Kennedy and Dale Mabry at 6:00 pm on Candlemas Day. I will be participating in a tribute to “The Four Chaplains” of the USAT Dorchester, which sank after being torpedoed by a German U-boat on February 3, 1943. The USS Tampa, for which the Post is named, was one of the three Coast Guard Cutters escorting three ships across the North Atlantic during WWII. A U-boat had been picked up briefly on sonar so the men knew there was danger in the water. They were instructed to sleep fully clothed and wearing also their life jackets. When the dreaded torpedo hit well below the waterline, they only had twenty chaotic minutes to abandon ship before she went down into the depths. The four chaplains on board were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. They offered prayers for the dying and encouragement for the living. They assisted men who appeared topside without life jackets to put one on, emptying a storage locker of its bounty. When the life vests ran out, each of the chaplains took off his own and gave it to the next man in line. Survivors said that the chaplains then linked arms, prayed and sang hymns as they went down with the ship, having given up their own chances of survival. The men in the water and lifeboats were buoyed, so to speak, by the Hebrew and Latin they heard as they drifted off in the dark of night. The four chaplains, not eligible for a Medal of Honor, for which their heroism must have taken place under fire, received instead a posthumous Special Medal for Heroism designed just for them. I look forward to this ceremony and am honored to represent Father John P. Washington, hero priest.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka