He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: A Different Way
Have you ever had a friend whose comments on Facebook always come across as bossy, too blunt, haughty, or even cruel, even when you know that they never meant any offense? People like that can be completely oblivious as to how they come across, even when they have it pointed out to them on a regular basis. They are, in a manner of speaking, tone deaf to their own words and, even reading them again and again, will not see why others don’t get what they write and how they write and what they meant when they wrote. That does not mean that they are bad people, in fact they may actually be your best friends and you enjoy everything else about them, so you, knowing them outside of their social media comments, can overlook this fault. Others, though, not knowing them or, after getting upset with their comments one too many times, just cannot stand them. Blocked. Defriended. Enough is enough.
After setting this stage for you, what if the tone deaf person was your pastor? What if it wasn’t Facebook comments that he just couldn’t get right but rather it was his bulletin articles or his homilies? Yes, this is about me. I have been reminded once again by very well meaning and loving people, that I am tone deaf to what I write and preach. I can come across as giving vinegar rather than a refreshing drink of everlasting water, or as purposefully trying to raise a ruckus, or even to incite people’s wrath against, well, you name it: protestants, muslims, atheists, priests, bishops, the Pope, or the Church. I see myself as pointing out obvious and sometimes not so obvious disagreements in doctrine, Scripture interpretation, liturgy, and other issues, not to put the others down but to warn against indifferentism and other dangers to the one, true Faith. I don’t see publicly disagreeing with religious superiors about non-doctrinal issues as being disobedient or as biting the hand that feeds me, but others see it as being anything but Catholic and as being unfaithful, and certainly unloving. I read my words and hear my voice and believe that, while knowing that I am not coming across as sweet and cuddly, I am striking a good balance (usually--I really screw up royally once in while and know it) in laying out facts and opinions, moral goods and moral evils, apologetics for the Faith, lives of the Saints, and encouragement to grow in holiness. And even when people tell me that they don’t interpret me in the way I expect them to, I am tone deaf about what they see and hear.
I really don’t want to be this way. I want to be able to hear constructive criticism, understand it as it is given, and change in such a way as to actually come across the way I already think I should be coming across. So today I am putting this in writing so that you can hold me accountable to it. That doesn’t mean that I am going to compromise the Faith, saying that sin is not sin or that everybody is going to Heaven no matter what they do or believe. No, I still have a duty to be fully and faithfully Catholic in all things but I will try to find a way to do it without being a jerk. There is bound to be someone reading this who is thinking, “But Father, I like the way you preach and the things you write!” and to you I say, “Thank you for the kind words that I just put into your mouth! But I am pastor to everybody else, too, and I must find a way to be ‘all things to all men, that I might save all’ as some famous guy once said. (Or did that come across as too cutesy, instead of just attributing the quote to St. Paul in 1 Cor. 9:22?)
In the past few weeks I have used this space to vent my frustrations with Bishop Parkes specifically and many other bishops generically in their response to the coronavirus. I should not have done so and I am sorry to have forced my frustration upon you, adding to your own issues during these stressful times rather than helping alleviate your problems. I can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube, as the saying goes, but I can refrain from squirting out the next batch without purpose. I have written the bishop an apology directly, but it wasn’t until being called on the carpet that it even occurred to me that he might be very hurt by my writings. That is how tone deaf I really am. Now I apologize to those of you whom I have hurt due to my lack of taking your concerns seriously enough if you have come to me with issues of this kind. These are not empty words, I truly am sorry. I ask for your prayers in this endeavor to change. Just as I cannot imagine that Ernest Hemmingway could write a novel that sounded like William Faulkner had written it or that Ernest Borgnine could replace Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, neither do I expect that my writing and preaching will resemble anyone else’s but my own no matter how much I try to change. So please don’t expect me to become a clone of your favorite writer or homilist. But expect me to become better at being me. And hold me to it.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Safest Mass!
As the Covid-19 scare continues everyone is trying to figure out which “system” works best for opening up closed businesses. The Church is no different than businesses in this regard. How can we celebrate Mass with the least possibility of spreading around a very virulent virus? I have been trying to piece together what would be the ideal form of Mass for battling this virus. Any bishops who wish to use my findings are most welcome to do so.
First of all, some people worry that the virus can be aerosolized, or sprayed through breath, so the obvious solution is a Mass without a choir. That is not ideal for big celebrations, solemnities, and other great festivals, but it is not unworkable. The virus in its airborne form travels fewer than 6 feet unless the person infected sings, shouts, talks loudly, or otherwise projects his voice in a lung-emptying manner. There should be no singing (nor any verbal responses) from the pews, either, since if a choir can infect others, so much more can several hundred “active participants” spread the virus. With singing and speaking being eliminated the virus will not travel anywhere near six feet from the infected breather. Bishops are suggesting using only every other pew, to give the virus time to fall before hitting a person. But it will not travel 6 feet if it encounters a “roadblock”, such as the crook of your arm, or another solid obstacle. The virus will seemingly stop at the barrier and stick to it. Barriers are good but we don’t need plexiglass in the pews. We can simply use every pew, not every other one, so that the clothing on the backside of the people in front of others becomes barriers! The person behind you will, if infected, cover your back with the breathed-out virus, keeping it from going any further. You don’t touch your back so you won’t infect yourself and you become a virus filter for everyone else. Friction, which you will have every time you sit or adjust yourself in your pew, car, or Lazyboy, evidently kills the coronavirus, as does laundering clothing, so the filter is self-cleaning! Also, unless the infected person breathes through his ears, he will not infect the people on either side of him, so there is no reason to sit six feet apart from him. In fact, the closer we pack the people in, the better the chance that the human filter in front will do all the dirty work, as fidgeting, moving around, and turning every which way would be eliminated in a tightly packed congregation.
The priest should face away from the people so that he can neither give nor receive the virus. The altar boy should also not hold the missal for the priest, as each would then be breathing directly into the face of the other. Rather, the missal should remain always on the altar and the priest should say the prayers and read the readings facing away from everybody. The few times the priest should turn to address the people, he should be far from them, perhaps with the sanctuary marked off with a barrier of some sort, like an altar rail, and should keep his head humbly facing slightly down in order to force the virus particles to the floor more quickly. A homily could easily be dispensed with under such circumstances, like the Tridentine (but not Novus Ordo) liturgical rules allow, eliminating the only major time an infected priest would spew his viruses toward the people or vice versa. Obviously, a safe Mass would also have no sign of peace (even turning to wave makes people breathe towards each other) and no hand-holding at -- or even congregational recitation of -- the Our Father. At Communion time the people could approach the barrier (altar rail) and, since they don’t breath sideways, kneel (so that they are not standing face to face with the priest) side by side to receive Holy Communion on the tongue without saying a word, not even “amen.” The priest could give the Benediction to each person using a whispered prayer, virtually eliminating any chance of viruses escaping his mouth. It is much better that only one person, the priest, distribute Holy Communion rather than increase the odds of having an infected distributor by employing extraordinary ministers. Also, since the hands are the main carriers of the virus to the eyes, nose, and mouth of the uninfected person, distributing Holy Communion on the tongue eliminates all possibility of the priest touching a virus-laden hand and passing it on to every other person from that point forward. It goes without saying that the priest should be the only one consuming the Precious Blood and should purify the sacred vessels himself. Formal prayers after Mass, which break the utter silence of the congregation up until then, would be recited by the people on their knees with bowed heads and in subdued voices. Time spent afterward in silent thanksgiving not only would spread no virus but would give people the chance to depart whenever they finish rather than uniformly in an unsafe group jostling each other, fighting for the exits as the Mass ends.
It should be clear by now that the safest form of Mass is a crowded Traditional Latin Low Mass. Worldwide, only it should be celebrated until such time as we can, perhaps in stage 2, transition into an occasional High Mass or, in stage three, Solemn High Mass. By then, we should all be inoculated against all other unsafe forms of Mass and liturgical abuses will depart with the coronavirus!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Mother’s Day!
The churches in the Diocese of St. Petersburg are about to open up for public Masses again. Tomorrow. Not today. So today I want to show you excerpts of what Bishop Parkes wrote about the opening of the churches to the public celebration of Mass (you can read the whole thing on our website). There are some very good guidelines in here. Guidelines, note well, are not Canon Law. Some bishops have overstepped once again their authority and mandated (mandates are beyond guidelines) certain things that are overly oppressive and some that actually contradict Church law. Not here. Our bishop did a good job with these, using words like “should” and “recommended” instead of “must.” Anything in here that I might have done differently is simply a matter of prudential judgment, not a matter of right or wrong, good versus evil. So read them well, and get ready, for the Mass is coming back!
1. General Provisions
a. Inform all persons at greater risk that they are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass. The same should be told to those who are feeling sick or experiencing respiratory symptoms as well as those who may be fearful of gathering in large groups too soon.
b. Parishes currently live streaming Masses for those who are at risk or sick should continue doing so.
c. Place hand sanitizers near the entrances to the church. Those entering and exiting the building are to perform hand hygiene. [Note: Bring your own, as there are none on the store shelves for us to purchase.]
d. Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces in the church (see Page 5).
e. Face coverings are highly recommended.
f. Parishioners should be encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer and face coverings.
g. It is recommended that hymnals and missalettes be removed for the time being. The parish could provide one-time use service sheets with music, use projection screens or provide online worship aids to the parish webpage that are accessible by cellphones.
2. Limiting the Size of the Congregation & Social Distancing (25% of capacity) [125 for Epiphany in the church. Additional in the hall, though space is limited there. Outdoors there is plenty of space, though your vision will be blocked by walls!]
b. Distancing: The faithful are to be reminded to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other at all times.
c. Delineating Areas:
-Seating within the worship space may be limited to every other pew...
In areas where the faithful would normally stand (e.g. to receive Communion or waiting to go to confession), place tape on the floor to indicate proper spacing between persons.
-Station ushers at the entrances to “direct traffic” and to remind people to keep 6 feet apart when entering and exiting the building.
-If all available spaces are filled, do not admit additional people to the church building.
-Encourage the people to maintain social distancing everywhere on the church property (on the steps, in the parking lot, etc.).
d. Families/Households: Members of a single household do not need to practice social distancing and may sit together.
[There are many guidelines for the Mass itself which are applicable only to the Novus Ordo which I will omit here, but here are some that you may find interesting.]
-The faithful should remove face coverings before receiving Holy Communion.
-(Pastors may need to designate a special Communion station for those who prefer Communion on the tongue.)
Beyond that, Bishop Parkes is now allowing baptisms and confirmations to take place once again. We missed our First Holy Communion date and our Confirmation date for children. We also missed Holy Saturday, the day when we traditionally bring adults into the Church through Baptism, Confirmation and Communion. We can now start to plan those celebrations.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Happy Mother’s Day!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A New World Order Without God
This week it became illegal to be outside from 9:00 pm until 5:00 am in Hillsborough County. According to the Tampa Bay Times E-Newspaper on Thursday, “The penalties for violating the curfew are the same as those in place for the safer-at-home order. It's a second-degree misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail.” Did the Wuhan virus turn all of our government officials into Chinese Communist government officials? Can you imagine getting fined $500 for stepping outside to smoke? Going to jail for two months for taking your crying baby for a nighttime walk or drive to calm him down and to allow the rest of the household to get some shut-eye? Of course, those are two silly extreme cases and nobody would ever get fined or jailed for either one, right? Right? You cannot say “right” with certainty anymore. One month ago, this would have been seen as preposterous. Today, not so much. The mayor of Tampa, according to the same article, wanted the curfew but thought it should start two hours later. Big whoop. “Castor said she doesn't want people to get 'wrapped up around the axle' of details like dog-walking. She hopes they'll focus on the larger picture the need to keep practicing safe behaviors to slow the virus.” So she doesn’t mind the house arrest if it starts when she thinks it should start, and thinks we shouldn’t get worried or upset about getting in legal trouble for night-time dog walking as if it is no big deal! And for what purpose is this martial law imposed upon us? To “slow the virus.” Note: not to “stop” the virus. Not to “eliminate” the virus. Simply to “slow” the virus. For what purpose? To make sure everyone gets sick at the most convenient time for the hospitals? To make sure everyone gets sick at the most convenient time for those who want to instill more communism and socialism into government? Certainly not for MY convenience! I would rather have been sick two weeks ago so that by now I would either already be dead (highly unlikely, as the death rates keep inconveniently staying waaaaay below the predictions of all of the “experts”) or already recovered. But as it now stands, I and all of my fellow priests (save one, who picked up the virus while traveling before this lockdown went into effect) are all safe and snug in our little rectory cocoons. We have not been exposed to the virus. We have not gotten sick from it. So what happens when the world and churches, which have been following, rather than leading the world, open up again? Everyone who has been sick will probably (if this is like most coronaviruses) be immune to it for maybe three years, as we experienced with SARS. But those who have been sheltered and sequestered and curfewed will be exposed all at once and will start getting sick all at the same time and we will start the whole shutdown and panic all over again. Only those who carry proof of immunity will be allowed back out in public.
“But Father,” you might be thinking, “you are only a priest and not a government lackey. How could you possibly know what is happening? Shouldn’t you trust the government leaders? You stick to protecting man’s soul and they will stick to protecting man’s body.” Horsefeathers! “Flattening the curve” has absolutely nothing to do with caring for man’s body, his life, or his health. It is simply, as government is wont to do, procrastinating and kicking the can down the alleyway to be dealt with at a future time. “Trust us!” they say, “We will have a vaccine for you (developed from aborted baby body parts) in another 18 months or so. You can resume normal activities then.” Even a fool can see that there will no longer be a “normal” then. Communism will rule, tyrants will have complete control, and the Church, which has all but carried the water for the government team up to this day, will be dissolved, with only the remnant remaining underground.
This week a protestant minister, whose entire congregation was fined $500 (each) after having come to services in the church parking lot, where they stayed in their cars with the windows rolled up and listened to his sermon on the radio, won a quick ruling from a judge who said that religious rights cannot be trampled like that. The local government is appealing and still threatening more $500 per person fines for every occupant of each vehicle which drives up this Sunday. Attorney General William Barr issued a statement that "Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens." The protestants and the seculars are outshining the Church leaders! To date (this is being written Thursday, April 16) only one Catholic Bishop, Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has once again allowed “public” Masses to be held. But even he has gone along with the absurd government rule of allowing no more than 5 people (including the priest) to congregate at any one time! Yet he is the epitome of Courageously Living the Gospel among bishops.
Will some or many of the Catholic laity and priests of Las Cruces get sick? It seems possible, even likely, though nearly infinitely less so at Mass than at the grocery store, even though Mass will get the blame. Some tiny percent will even die. But sickness and death afflict everyone, even without an atheistic, police state takeover of their lives. Why would any Catholic prefer deferred illness and death with neither sacraments nor liberty?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Easter?
For the past week, I have been making sacramental home visits to parishioners. So far, I have visited parishioners in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Manatee counties and have traveled 663 miles while giving people the ability to go to confession and receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament according to the old Rite of Distribution of Holy Communion Outside of Mass. (On occasion I have turned on the radio when driving, only to find a constant stream of gloom and doom, death and destruction, superficially all about the coronavirus but in reality all about a raw power grab by government and quasi-government officials. So, instead of filling my head with pure sewage, I pray the Rosary as I drive. Lots and lots of rosaries!) I now bring a sheet with me that gives the people all of the prayers they need for this Rite, and I have it in both Latin and English. I am required to say my prayers in Latin, of course, but the people may say theirs in English if they are not conversant in Latin. Most have given the Latin a shot, as they are familiar with the prayers because they hear them and/or recite them at the Mass and at Adoration, just before the Benediction is given. Doing the visits outside has been working out quite well. The weather has remained pleasant, never going above the mid 80’s and so far most people have shade for their makeshift alar-table and for a confession spot. There are, of course, bugs and creepy-crawlies in many of those places and I have had many critters pestering me as I sit to hear confessions. If I don’t die of the coronavirus, I may just get West Nile disease, Zika, or Equine encephalitis from the mosquito bites! One particularly fun episode occurred in a yard where small spiders were finding my cassock particularly worthy of exploration. If you have ever flicked a spider off of your clothing you will know that they often put an anchor of web down before they go flying off, and swing in an arc on that new web strand, slowing down and landing quite gracefully when they near the ground. One particular spider, when I flicked him off my sleeve, landed on a nearby log only to have a lizard immediately slurp him up and chomp on his freshly delivered lunch! It’s the little things like that which make these home visits memorable in ways I never imagined when I first announced them.
Because the visits have been, so far, made during Lent, I have been bringing with me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich each day. Not that the sandwich is a penance, but in the old rite every day of Lent, excepting Sundays, is a day of fasting. Although two small collations are allowed, no meat may be taken until the later full meal, hence the PB&J sandwich snack. Many people have offered me a bottle of water, but, since I am not entering into the houses, I cannot put in what cannot come out, if you get my drift! One of the best, most loving acts of kindness offered was something that under normal circumstances would have seemed more than a bit strange. One family asked if I needed anything and then said, “We haven’t been able to find any toilet paper and are just about out, but if you need some, Father, we will give you a roll!” Now that might be as close to the “Widow’s Mite” story being lived out as I have ever seen! By the way, another family more recently sent me off with a couple of bags of food and, yes, toilet paper to give out to anyone who comes to the church in need. We have also had others drop off canned and boxed goods for the same purpose, and there have been people coming needing food and paper supplies. It really doesn’t matter if the grocery stores are still open as “essential” businesses when the government says your job is not “essential” and forces you into unemployment and home imprisonment.
Oh, but I forgot. This article is about Easter! So let me tell you how my Easter went. You have to remember that I needed to write this before the Feast actually occurred in order to get it into the bulletin, but this is what might have actually happened. Like many other elderly Floridians who live at home by themselves, my Aunt Irma spends most of her time doing crossword puzzles and playing Candy Crush (whatever that is). She rarely reads or listens to the news, she cooks for herself rather than going out to eat, and, like so many other Catholics, she usually only goes to Mass on Christmas and Easter. So, in her normal-life self-isolation, she had no earthly idea that the bishops had canceled all public Masses for the last month and into the foreseeable future. She woke up early on Easter Sunday morning, took her best dress and Easter bonnet out from under piles of mothballs in her old trunk, and happily drove down to her local parish church. She thought it was odd that there was no traffic on the road but she knew something was amiss when there were only three other cars in the church parking lot. There were five puzzled people standing at the locked church doors when she finally made it up to the entrance. They were discussing the sign posted in the front. “Happy Easter! Leave your monetary donation to St. Nonfide Catholic Community in the basket. Go home and watch us on... Oops! I ran out of space. Sorry about that. Happy Easter, I guess.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Very Strange Holy Week
This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Passiontide, or Palm Sunday. It will be a Palm Sunday like none I have ever celebrated. I wish I could say that it was going to be the “best” one or the “most solemn” one or something like that but instead the truth is that it will be the oddest one. Some general guidelines came down from Rome with the expectation that Bishops could tweak them as their own circumstances necessitated. Here is what we will follow as per our diocese's chancery office:
There are more guidelines for Holy Week, especially for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil/Mass. None of them allow for a congregation and there will be no sacraments of initiation even for those who are prepared to enter the Church. We don’t know when they will be allowed entry but it will be as soon as possible. With the exception of those “ministers” needed for the Masses and ceremonies, nobody will be present for these days which are so looked forward to all year long. Thanks be to God that the Communion of Saints is a reality! The altars will be surrounded by all of the Saints and Angels who are worshipping God in Heaven, for Heaven and Earth touch during these celebrations. Two thousand years and today are brought together either through time or outside of time for these celebrations. All of the faithful of the Church Militant who are deprived will cry out in anguish for what they are missing but also in joy for what is being done on their behalf. We priests, too, are crying in anguish that we cannot bring you in for the Masses and ceremonies and blessings, but we are also crying out in joy that we are still able to bring these graces, although hidden, to Earth. May God have mercy on us all.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Nothing About Corona Virus Here!
In times of panic and pandemic, we should be spending more time in prayer, especially in family prayer. Today I will give you some simple advice to help you get rid of the exhausting and soul-sucking “news” that is bombarding everyone 24-7. I want you to make this “lockdown” into a family retreat! Many of you are, sadly, already out of work, either completely or with fewer hours. You are already stuck at home under what is nearly marshall law. You are already denied the sacraments and even the group devotional prayers such as the Lenten Friday Stations of the Cross in church. In our parish more so than in others, since many of you travel at least 45 minutes to church, even that last item gives you more time on your hands than you normally have, since church activities are canceled. You have a choice of what to do with that time. Some will use it for immoral purposes (other people, not anyone reading this, I am sure!), such as watching porn, getting drunk or high, or committing crimes online or in “real life.” Others will simply waste it all, binge-watching movies (a seemingly morally neutral or good activity if the movies are neutral or wholesome and a morally evil activity when watching those depicting immorality as entertainment--so quit making excuses that it’s not rated X so it must be OK), or reading books (the same rules apply here), or watching news, or reading farcebook feeds, or playing computer games, just to fill the day. But what I am going to encourage you to do is to make the best use of your “free time” even as you get any necessary work done around the house. You don’t have the Blessed Sacrament at your house, so it won’t be the same as being in a quiet retreat house chapel for 4-6 hours a day. You won’t have the silence of a normal retreat, either, unless you happen to live alone. But each person and family can adapt a retreat “method” to their own situation.
I will give a few examples to get you thinking. Not to give you the mandate to do it this way, just to give you some basic ideas. Start out with specific bedtimes for each person as they need, so that there is a common wake up time for everyone. That way, as at a retreat house, everyone gets up at the same time to begin their prayer. It doesn’t have to be unbearably early, nor should it be lazily late. Maybe 6:30 am or whatever works for your family. Make simple morning rules for both adults and children, such as no electronics (TV, phone, computer, games, etc.) before 9:00 am. Everyone gets up, gets cleaned up and dressed, and sits down for breakfast together in silence as much as possible. If dad is the one making breakfast, he doesn’t even have to ask, “how do you want your eggs?” but can rather just make breakfast and place it in front of everyone, fixed as he was able, not necessarily tailored to each person’s whims of the hour. Pray together (out loud) the blessing before and grace after the meal but no other talking. During the time that the children wash, dry and put away the dishes (ignore your dishwasher), whichever parent didn’t cook could read part of the Bible, or Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, or some other favorite spiritual classic, and perhaps even give some reflection on how that passage could be applied to the family that day. When the dishes are put away and the kitchen is cleaned, if there is homeschooling or virtual schooling to be done, do it as normal. Pray the family rosary just before lunch, so that everyone is awake, they have already been working and need a break, yet are not yet too exhausted from schoolwork. (Those of you without school-aged children could, of course, spend much more of the morning in prayer and spiritual reading.) Lunch could be a time when the older children could take turns each day fixing sandwiches and doing the reading/reflection as the dishes are being done. Most good retreats include quite a bit of getting outdoors, slowly walking around the retreat center’s secluded grounds, praying and meditating. Do something similar as you are able. For instance, in the afternoon maybe you could go outside to pray the Stations of the Cross (daily, not just on Fridays of Lent). Maybe the kids could draw the Stations on paper plates and they could be taped to trees, fences, the house, and the neighbor’s cat. (Trying to catch up with that last-named Station in order to pray would certainly keep everyone’s interest!) At the evening meal, instead of being completely silent, dad could lead the discussion about what each person learned that day, how their prayer or the spiritual readings affected them, or if there was anything in particular about the after-meal reading/reflections that caught their attention. Once everyone has spoken their piece and had their fill and before the dishes get done, light a candle and pray the Guardian Angel prayer on behalf of all those dying alone (of anything), often without the last sacraments, and, especially, those with wavering or no faith. Then pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for them.
There you have a basic outline for a much-needed respite from the panic of today, a way of bringing back into focus our faith in God, and a reminder of the necessity and power of prayer. I hope this helps!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Offer It Up!
You have often heard me say, “Offer it up!” In fact, sometimes I can come off as a bit too cheerful about tragedy. “What a blessing! Be sure to say ‘Thank you, God, for this penance. It was certainly not something that I would have chosen on my own, but you knew that it was good for me so you allowed me to have it!’” This is especially helpful to remember during Lent, for sometimes we have the opportunity to accept great penances during a time when we, deep down, at least, are truly willing -- and perhaps even eager -- to suffer with and for Our Lord, yet we have chosen some penance without the efficaciousness of the one that He has in store for us. Be thankful, as St. Paul told the Colossians that he was, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.” And just look at what God has provided for all of us this Lent! Coronavirus!
Whether or not you ever get the virus, you are already suffering because of it. Don’t waste that suffering! “Thank you, God, for none of us would have ever thought about this penance, let alone chosen it. Our lives are being disrupted. The government is intruding where it has no right, the bishops and priests are in lockstep with the government, sacraments are being hidden away like the last roll of toilet paper, and job losses are beyond measure. Why? Why, O Lord, do you allow such things? Because they are good for us? Oh, right, I forgot. Thank you. We deserve much worse and yet you chose to reprimand us and teach us and refocus us all at the same time instead of destroying us. What a relief!”
How is this possibly good for us? First of all, look at what we have done to God and see how easy we are getting off. We are the ones who have abandoned the Faith. Most Catholics don’t even go to Mass, let alone believe it is the Sacrifice of Our Salvation. Heck, look at McCarrick and his cronies, those he promoted, those he bribed, those he covered for, and those who covered for him, and tell me that bishops believe what the Church teaches. We have undermined the meaning of the Mass; watered down the sacramental rituals; failed to teach the Catholic Faith to our children in our families or CCD or Catholic schools -- even into advanced studies; accepted without blinking such “Catholic” leaders as Pelosi and Biden; contracepted and aborted and ingested porn and embraced divorce with the same gusto as our secular neighbors; we applaud and promote “progressive” priests and bishops who openly profess grave immorality (as long as they don’t use our own children to live what they preach) because they let us off the morality hook; we made excuses for Pachamama worship in the Vatican Gardens and churches; we have, in short, made a mockery out of the Faith and treated the only Church founded by God Himself as if she was a whore. We use Her, abuse Her, and keep her around only for the occasional and quite hypocritical display of affection when we want to fool either God, ourselves, or someone else. Yes, like Israel of old just before Divine Retribution was given, we have embraced paganism while keeping a veneer of real worship, just in case there really is only one true God. We deserve His wrath and we all know it. Yet he has chosen to offer forgiveness and healing through the coronavirus instead. “Thank you, Lord!”
Let us now take a look at some of the good things that He might want us to get out of this mess. Let us begin with the family meal. Restaurants are closed. Shops are closed. Gatherings of all sorts are forbidden. What are families to do for meals? How about sit down at the dining room table and eat together? No more sports activities taking away little Jimmy. No goat yoga for mom, no basketball championship for dad. Everyone can finally be together! There will even be time for (gasp!) A FAMILY ROSARY! Next, look at what this is doing for homeschooling. Until last week, homeschool was scorned with demonic hatred. Now it is being encouraged and even forced! Just wait until parents see how little or exactly what the little tykes have been learning! And although people are currently panicking about how to stay home with the kids without killing them, many moms just might discover that the joy of being with the children is much more rewarding than the job which she had been brainwashed in thinking was necessary if she was to be “fulfilled.” Finally (although there are many more examples which could be given, so look for them) maybe the priests and bishops will start really thinking about why they got (or should have gotten) ordained in the first place. With no more meetings, no more Masses, and no more sick calls, do the clergy rejoice like third graders with a snow day? Or do they, like those same children a week into the blizzard, long for something “real” to do? The laity will be facing the same issues, though from a different perspective.
So in the end, rejoice, for this penance is good for us. God is separating the sheep from the goats. We don't know how or when this will end but for those who choose to pick up their cross and follow Him, salvation is close at hand.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!
WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!! No, that is not panic, that is reality. We are all going to die. Of something, sometime. Maybe due to the coronavirus next week or next year. Maybe due to cancer in six months or 60 years from now. Maybe because of a car accident, food poisoning, or getting swallowed by a giant python ten minutes after reading this. But no matter the cause or the time, it is certain that we are all going to die. This statement is not one of grief, melancholy, or pessimism, just as certainly as it is not one of glee and giddiness. It is just a plain, simple fact. But the way the news reporters, the politicians, the people hoarding toilet paper, and even the Catholic Bishops around the world are reacting to the spread of the coronavirus, you’d think inevitable death is a lie and, if only we do or refrain from doing “X” our death can be averted. “X” is, of course, a variable that can be changed for just about any reason at any time. We can survive the coronavirus apocalypse if only we (take your pick) a) impeach Trump; b) re-elect Trump; c) hide in a bunker; d) make everyone else hide in bunkers; e) cancel NBA, March Madness, and NHL games; f) cancel Masses; g) (choose your own favorite magic “X” to insert here). It is only reason “f” that truly troubles me.
As far as I am concerned, “f” shows the hand of satan and his demons. This is what they want. “Let’s get rid of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!” they cackle. “That Blessed Son defeated us once when we got Him put to death and now He re-presents that Perfect Sacrificial Offering, our tremendously humiliating defeat, through the hands of His priests on a daily basis. We must find a way to put an end to it! We partially succeeded by making the people abandon the Sacrifice when we watered down all of its glorious prayers, made all rubrics optional, turned it into an entertainment gig with the focus on priest and people rather than on Him Whose very name causes us to shudder and writhe in pain, and convinced bishops to train and ordain faithless, immoral men who then clawed their own way to bishops’ seats and diabolically perpetuated the cycle. But now we have a grand opportunity to rid the world, the kingdom where our dark prince rules, of this Holy Sacrifice for at least a while, even if not yet permanently. If we succeed this time in convincing the bishops to applaud and go along with our chosen politicians’ mandates to cease all religious functions at this time due to a scary coronavirus, the next time a new virus is manufactured by our evil communist puppets or even by natural mutation, they will all the more quickly acquiesce, and soon our task will be accomplished! We have convinced those poor slobs that saving the body is so much more important than saving the soul. Soon, very soon, those souls will be ours and, when their death, which they are convinced they will not face, inexorably occurs, we will torture them with every bit of pain they ran away from in the first place! And for all of eternity! What perverted fun!”
The above monologue is just a figment of my imagination. Or is it? When AIDS was an epidemic, did our politicians and bishops(!) demand that “religious services” be repressed? How about when we faced the hype-induced panic of Mad Cow Disease, SARS, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, Zika, Ebola, or any others that right now escape my memory? All of those were bad, but nobody ever dreamed that they could get away with not only curtailing civil liberties but also having people, including Catholic clergy and other religious leaders, willingly give up their spiritual sustenance! And for what real purpose? Certainly, not to save lives. If religious and civil leaders were interested in saving lives, they would forcefully preach against and immediately outlaw abortion and contraception. And clergy going along with such things as outlawing Mass, even weddings and funerals? Have they no faith? In times past, it is true, the faithful priests and laity during plagues died in far greater numbers than the unfaithful, for they took care of the sick rather than isolate themselves in a sometimes successful attempt to save their own skin. But the eternal reward of dying while caring for the dying has no comparison to the damnable and eternal price of self-love in such circumstances. The Faithful get together and pray, trusting in God, and begging His forgiveness and mercy, even if it costs them their lives. The unfaithful hide and cower and find excuses to exclude both God and His most needy people from their lives in times of trouble.
Will today’s priests continue to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass during this pandemic? Will they continue to hear confessions, even though the ones confessing are breathing directly into their faces just a few inches away? Or is the fear of bodily illness and death and earthly reprisals stronger than their fear of God? Pray for us to be true priests, who will celebrate Mass and the sacraments for you, and, like Tobias, even bury you should you need it, even if/when it becomes illegal. Finally, pray for our bishop, that he, too, may continue to care more about the eternal souls of his people than about their mortal bodies, “Courageously Living the Gospel” (his tagline) rather than “Courageously (ahem) Living a Bit Longer on Earth Without God.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Coronavirus and Holy Communion
Bishops and priests who have evidently never given out Holy Communion to people reverently kneeling at an altar rail and receiving on the tongue are working up a lather right now trying to convince people that receiving in such a way is a dangerous way of spreading the coronavirus. I get where many of them are coming from. The only experience priests of my generation and younger have with receiving Holy Communion is standing with hands outstretched and having someone place the Sacred Host in the palm of their hand. That is how they received when they made their First Holy Communion and they were forbidden to receive in the traditional manner. Altar rails were ripped out of their home parishes when they were very young or even before they were born. If they were ever in a church where an altar rail was still in place, it was only seen as a quaint relic of the old, unenlightened days of terrible fasts and penances and submission before God and His priests, and which will be torn down as soon as the last loudmouthed founding parish family member passes away. Until such time, it is only used as a place to set flowers and other such decorations, and never used as a communion rail. In the seminary, they were taught the half-truth that reception on the hand was an ancient and venerable practice that must be “restored,” so as priests teaching their parish children how to make their First Holy Communion, they never once mentioned the method that has been the Latin Rite norm for many centuries (unless to tell them that they could not receive that way), they never told the kids the scandalous reality of how reception in the hand came about in the USA, they just passed on what they were given, and never thought much about it. Their experience in actually distributing Holy Communion was, of course, that most people stuck out their hands for Communion and it works very well as a means of “distributing something” and keeping the line moving. Of course, they have to completely ignore or pooh pooh concerns about lack of reverence, or danger of someone walking off with the Host, or the “crumbs” which fall onto the floor to be trampled upon. Of the few people who approach them and insist on receiving on the tongue, the majority will remain standing, as there is no rail to assist in getting down and back up again, and no step upon which to kneel anyway. That, you might not realize, makes the person’s mouth a very difficult target to hit, as they are invariably moving, whether lunging forward or leaning back or swaying from side to side, and quite awkwardly high. This constant movement means that the priest’s fingers will often come in contact with the person’s lips, tongue, chin, or nose. Yes, really!
Anyway, with that as their experience (and I know because that was my experience in the past), I find it hard to fault the priests and bishops for thinking that they must stop people from receiving on the tongue for sanitary reasons. But just as we priests have to suspend our intellects when rationalizing the “crumbs” away, so they (I am happy to now exclude myself from this group) have to, instead of really thinking, never even consider how many times they touch the hands of those who receive in the palm, and how many germ covered surfaces those same hands have been exposed to and how they are now touching dozens if not hundreds of palms and passing from palm to palm, from Host to Host, all of those germs. Each person then takes the Host in their unwashed and (here’s the panic) potentially coronavirus bearing fingers and places it in his mouth, doing exactly what the bishops and priests are telling people that they will avoid if only they don’t take the Host on the tongue! If only they would come and experience distribution at an altar rail, they would see the reasons it became the norm! It actually encourages reverence for Our Lord in the Eucharist, a major thing lacking in many parishes today to the point that 70% of active Catholics don’t believe that the Eucharist is really, truly, substantially Jesus. They would see that even when the person receiving is unfamiliar with the procedure and lunges, sways, bites, or licks, they can only move just so far and no more and, because they are low, the priest has more control over his aim, resulting in only a very, very rare contact with saliva. They would then start a new campaign for both physical and, more importantly, spiritual health, to re-install altar rails to be used for the proper, traditional, time-tested and proven means of distributing Holy Communion. Communion on the hand would soon be a distant and shameful memory.
With that being said, please note that there is no such thing as distributing Holy Communion in the hand at the TLM due to the mandate that we follow the 1962 liturgical laws and no priest or bishop may mandate differently, nor may the one receiving. You may stand to receive only in the case of physical inability to kneel. All others kneel and receive on the tongue, with hands down (the altar boy has to place the paten under your chin to catch and fallen particles), head tilted slightly back, mouth open, tongue slightly extended straight out (not like the Kiss rock band leaders) and without saying a single word, not even “amen.” This is both reverent and sanitary!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Did You Have a Happy Birthday, Father?
For some strange reason, a whole lot of you got pretty excited about my birthday this year. I am not sure why. It wasn’t a particularly big one, as I turned 48 or 72 or something like that. In my family, we usually don’t get all worked up about even the “big” birthdays except for 80. That’s a big one for some reason. It is not like we find them unimportant, but with the exception of having mom bake a special cake for the kids and grandkids, perhaps made into a special shape, we usually don’t pay much attention to birthdays. Every fourth or fifth year it seems like my siblings and I remember to send a card or call or email or text a birthday greeting to each other, usually a few weeks late, and that’s about it. None of us worries about it and none gets hurt feelings when the day passes without hearing from the others. (Disclaimer: mom and dad always remember our birthdays, mom always offers to bake a cake, and both of them always send birthday cards. It’s just my generation that somehow lost the birthday celebration genes.) Now, I know that this seems strange to many of you, for many people really love birthdays, remember everyone else’s birthday, want to celebrate everyone’s birthday, and who may even do something special for their own birthday, like taking the day off of work, or going someplace special for dinner. And for some reason this year it seems like a lot of people were very curious about what my plans were (in advance) and what I actually did (after the date passed). Those asking beforehand got the simple reply, “Nothing much. It is just a regular day.” But now, for those who really want to know, I am going to try to show what a “regular day” is.
The alarm went off at 4:27 am. Time for a little exercise. (Stinking Exodus 90!) So I do push ups until I can’t. Only 27 that morning. I am getting old. I usually try to get at least 33, one for each year of Our Lord’s earthly life. But not today. After a shave and cold shower (stinking Exodus 90!) it’s time for a cup of coffee (sans cream --stinking Exodus 90!) while praying as much of the Breviary (Divine Office) as possible, for I know I won’t have time for it later. Leave the house at 6:00 to get to the Men’s Conference at St. Lawrence, where I will hear confessions until 7:25, praying the rosary in the car on the way. Race back to celebrate the 8:00 am Mass at Epiphany, praying another rosary on the return trip. After Mass, expose the Blessed Sacrament and hear confessions until the last repentant sinner is a saint, give the Benediction and go into the social hall to teach adult Catechism Class. Confessions ran late so class started late but I still tried to end (fairly) close to 11:30. After class I got back into my car and returned to St. Lawrence, praying another rosary as I drove. Heard confessions until 3:30 or thereabouts and drove back to Epiphany, praying another rosary during the drive. Took the Covenant Eyes books over to the church for the Vigil Mass and stayed over there speaking with those setting up for Mass and those coming in for it and, once it started (thank you, Fr. Dorvil!) came back to the rectory. With the exception of a granola bar at the Men’s Conference, I hadn’t had a chance to eat yet so I put the oven on and prayed the rest of the Office while a thin crust frozen pizza baked. Ate the whole darn thing. (This year my birthday didn’t fall in Lent but my mom still couldn’t bake me a birthday cake. Stinking Exodus 90!) By this time the Youth Group was outside playing soccer on the old school tennis/basketball court pavement (Go figure. All that grass around and they play soccer on cement!) so I went out to join them. The game ended at 7:00 pm when it became too dark to see the ball anymore (I wonder if they make glow-in-the-dark soccer balls?). They went off to eat and I went in to answer the Happy Birthday phone messages and texts which I had been ignoring all day. Finally, I hit the sack at 10:13 pm.
Although that day was not quite a typical Saturday in the life of a priest, it wasn’t too far off, either, except that I actually got a lot more “drive time” prayer in than normal and I absolved many more people than I usually do. But as I reflect on the questions, “Father, did you have a happy birthday? What did you do?” I can honestly say that I had a great birthday! Had I decided instead to take the day off, to sleep in, maybe take in an afternoon movie, or even go out to Busch Gardens with friends or family, as tempting as any of those may be, it certainly would not have been even close to being as fulfilling as what I actually experienced. None of what I did seems all too “exciting” when looking back at it. Some of it even seems to be not too enjoyable. Yet it was a great day. And I truly do appreciate your asking, for I know you really care and you want me to enjoy myself. Thank you for your messages, cards, prayers, and curiosity! Happy My Birthday to all of you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Muskrat, Beaver, and Puffin for Lent
Some of you may read the following article and swear that you have read it before. You may be mostly correct. I pulled this out of storage, dusted it off, adjusted the dates and a few other little things and am presenting it to you once again. Of course, this comes from quite a few years back, and most of you would probably think it was all brand new if I wasn’t writing this opening paragraph, so I could have just passed it off as original, but I don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing my own writings!
Several years ago as Lent was about to begin (get ready, this coming Wednesday, February 26, is Ash Wednesday!) I wrote about a strange custom found in Michigan wherein Catholics could eat muskrat without violating Church laws on abstinence. [Hopefully, you all know that Catholics are, by Church law (rather than Divine Law, which cannot be “tweaked” in the same way) required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in Lent. All other Fridays of the Year are considered penitential but we in the United States are allowed to choose a penance other than the traditional abstinence from meat outside of those days already mentioned. We don’t get off the hook, we simply get to choose our own penance. Really. Vatican II did not get rid of Friday penance!] This year another story has been making the rounds that beavers in Quebec long ago also received the honorary title of “fish” (like tomatoes being honorary vegetables though they are really fruit) so that they, too, can be eaten on Fridays in Lent.
Our Michiganders have yet to start up a Lenten muskrat Friday “fish” fry, much to the disappointment of every other Epiphany parishioner, I am sure, but perhaps one of our Canadian snowbirds would be willing to bring down a truckload of beaver for the same purpose. Stories vary about whether the whole beaver or only the tail was allowed to be classified as “fish” for abstinence purposes, so I suppose we would need an official clarification before we start cooking. I don’t know much about the laws regarding trapping and butchering either critter but if they are both in season right now it is possible that we could even get both of them brought down here to put on our menu. Imagine the envy of the other parishes when they discover that we offer a choice of either beaver or muskrat! The hardest part might be determining the side dishes. Both rodents are northern animals so it would seem strange to fix them with cheese grits and collard greens but what else would be a suitable substitute? For some strange reason, most of the vegetable dishes we find in local restaurants all seem foreign to our friends from the north. Just mention “stewed okra” and watch their noses scrunch up. Even something as normal as “fried green tomatoes” produces a look of bewilderment among the part-timers around here. Of course, it seems all the more strange that they don’t eat those great foods when they are the ones bringing the rodents to the table!
Not to be outdone by the crazy North Americans, though, people from other parts of the world have some unusual “fish” equivalents as well. Look at the Venezuelans. They are allowed to eat the largest rodent in the world, the capybara, for Lent. One website quotes a restaurant owner (who, presumably, has capybara on the menu though that is never made clear) as saying, “I know it’s a rat, but it tastes really good.” I wonder if people from Venezuela with such discerning palates would have the audacity to turn their noses up at grits they way our own Yankees do? Or how about some French cooking for Lent? France brings us stories about being allowed to eat puffins on Lenten Fridays. You know those charming little birds at SeaWorld which are found in the cold weather displays along with the penguins? Those are puffins. Like the rodents above, these birds are semi-aquatic and so probably taste like fish or duck rather than like chicken. Unlike articles about those “brave” souls willing to eat rodents, where reporters seem to revel in the “gross” factor of eating rat-like animals, the articles about those who eat puffins (yes, you can find them easily enough) show outrage that anyone would eat a cute little birdie. So it is probably best that, as far as I know, anyway, we don’t have any parishioners coming from northern France and we will keep the puffins off the Friday menu. Of course, now that I mentioned the controversial eating of puffins, I cannot go without mentioning that in some places whales, seals and even (gulp) porpoises seem to have been allowed on some Friday Lenten dinner menus as well.
Because our social hall only seats about 120 people around the tables and we would have to exclude way too many of you who would be clamoring to chow down on such delectable dishes, this year we won’t be able to host any of these Lenten dinners. But should we happen to have among our parishioners some avid muskrat or beaver trappers, puffin pursuants, capybara chasers, or seal stalkers willing to bring in a nice supply for next year, we might, with proper planning, be able to pull it off. Our Council of Catholic Women could bring back their tent for outdoor seating, the Knights of Columbus could do the cooking, the American Heritage Girls could serve, and, well, what a yummy penance!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Safe Haven Sunday
Last year about this time every parish in the diocese was asked to promote what was termed “Safe Haven Sunday.” Each priest and deacon was asked to use the topic of the evils of pornography as the basis of his homily that Sunday. Why? We were all encouraged to preach about it on the same weekend because it is a very difficult topic to deal with from the pulpit but it needs to be addressed as it is a huge and growing immoral problem in our society and in our Church. If all clergy addressed it on the same day, nobody could run to a different parish looking for a nicey-nicey sermon and demonize the priest/deacon who tackled the tough issue, because they would find the same tough issue no matter where they turned! Only about half of the parishes wound up actually doing it, though. I won’t speculate here why the other half did not. But I can tell you from discussions about the results at our deanery meetings and at other gatherings of priests that it was hard to preach but reaped great rewards. It also revealed a great level of ignorance about the seriousness of this sin among the active Catholics. So today I am writing here to let you know that next weekend is our second Safe Haven Sunday. All parishes have once again been encouraged to preach about the evil of pornography. Prepare yourself ahead of time and prepare your children as needed.
Today, besides the heads-up, I also want to enlighten you on some certain facts in a cut and dry manner. Here goes. Viewing pornography is, in and of itself, a mortal sin, and it very often leads to further mortal sins. Just by viewing such indecent material the person violates the Commandments numbered 6 and 9. Yes, you commit the sin of adultery by viewing pornography (“But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Mt. 5:28) and the sin of coveting thy neighbor’s wife (even if she is not, strictly speaking, somebody’s wife, for we are not to covet anyone’s husband, future wife, fiance, child, grandfather, etc., either). It often leads to other mortal sins such as self-abuse, rape, voyeurism, sodomy (with same- or opposite-sex partners), etc., and almost always with an increase in the vileness of the actions over time. (Don’t worry, these things will not be mentioned directly in the homily, for children don’t read the bulletins but they do hear the homilies.) This direct breaking of two commandments often is accompanied by breaking other commandments at the same time. For instance, can you really say you are honoring your father and mother (Commandment #4) if you are watching porn? Would they really be pleased to see you doing it, no matter your age? If they are, that explains how you got into this sin in the first place, yet it does not negate that it is a sin. If given the choice between pleasing God through chastity and custody of the eyes or pleasing yourself through pornography, which you know to be a mortal sin, which do you choose? If you put your own false “needs” above Him, have you not broken the first Commandment? Much of the visual “entertainment” of this sort purposely blasphemes God and His Church, encourages sick fantasies about clergy and religious, family members, and many other people, creatures, places and things which absolutely should never be seen in a sexual manner. Commandments numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 all quite often get broken by engaging in this seemingly private activity. Commandment number 3 is also often destroyed if this activity is done on Sundays or Holy Days or if, after engaging in this activity, the person receives Holy Communion in a state of serious (mortal) sin just because he or she is embarrassed to not receive, or convinces himself that he needs God in the Blessed Sacrament in order to get the strength to overcome the sin. (In case you don’t know, that is perhaps even greater than the other sins listed since it is almost always a premeditated sin. You can’t just receive Communion by accident and get sucked into it as you can with porn. You know ahead of entering the church for Mass that Holy Communion will be offered to those who can properly receive and you know ahead of time that you are not in a state of grace and should not go forward at that time. It pains me to have to warn you, but experience says that I must, that you may encounter a priest who says that it is not a big deal, not a mortal sin, or that, even if it is a mortal sin, you should feel free to receive Holy Communion anyway, as long as you are sorry and plan to go to confession sometime soon. Wrong. You must go to confession first. Period.
Finally, I want to let you know that the specific topic for Safe Haven Sunday this year is porn use among the young. Your children, your grandchildren, even the angelic ones, are, by all statistics, almost all viewing porn before they even know what it is or why people are doing the actions they are seeing. They are being hurt badly, becoming addicted to sexual sins, and being scarred for life or for eternity. What are you doing to stop them and to heal them if they have already been hurt?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Sign In The Heavens For All To See?
Several weeks ago my news feed fairly exploded with news that Betelgeuse (the star, not the movie) might go supernova. Here is a snippet from Space.com.
One of the brightest stars in the sky has been dimming. But, while it might be signaling that it's ready to explode, it's probably just fading because of strange, stellar physics. Betelgeuse, a reddish star that's one of the brightest in the night sky, has been noticeably "fainting," or getting dimmer. The approximately 8.5 million-year-old star, which is part of the Orion constellation, has been one of the most recognizable stars in the sky because of its brightness and coloration. But this recent, dramatic fading has prompted scientists to suggest that the star might be entering a pre-supernova phase, dimming before it collapses and "dies" in a fiery supernova explosion. If the star does become a supernova, Betelgeuse would likely be as bright as, or even brighter than the moon for weeks or even more.
Every news agency gave differing bits of information about what happens with a supernova, what danger (or lack of it) we would be in, and other such things. Obviously, not everything can be explained in any one article. But this quoted part about how bright it would be and how long it may be that bright caught my attention. As I started looking for more information about that aspect of it I discovered that because it lies on the celestial equator, it is already visible just about everywhere. After a supernova Betelgeuse explosion, literally everyone on Earth might witness this bright blast. The Atlantic expanded on this with the following.
The view would be mind-boggling, day or night. The Orion constellation can be seen from nearly everywhere on Earth, which means nearly everyone could see the exploding star. It would easily cut through the artificial-light pollution that prevents 80 percent of the world—and a staggering 99 percent of the United States and Europe—from experiencing a clear view of the night sky. “At the predicted brightness of a Betelgeuse supernova, you could be standing in the center of the biggest city in the world, and you would certainly see it,” says John Barentine, an astronomer and the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit that works to mitigate light pollution. “You couldn’t miss it.” Even more spectacular, the display would stick around. The gleaming orb would remain visible for more than a year, perhaps even longer. How strange it would be to witness day in and day out, to understand, for the most part, that the blaze is simply a natural wonder of the universe, but still feel, on a deeper, more primitive level, that the sky looks very wrong.
So as I am reading these sensational articles (they all admit somewhere long past the headline, that they may be off by 100,000 years or more in “predicting” that Betelgeuse will explode any day now), going through my mind was that if God wanted us to wake up and come to attention, this might be just the ticket. And, sure enough, I am not the only one thinking along those lines. Explanations are coming in about just how important the Orion cluster of stars might be to Catholic typology. Even Catholic sources vary a bit in detail, though they all agree that Our Lord put the stars in position and gave ancient men cloudy wisdom to spin tales about the constellations which in the future (our times) would be fulfilled, such as: Orion was regarded as the Loyal Shepherd of Heaven and he is battling Taurus, the bull, a symbol of evil, as he stomps on the rabbit Lepus (or maybe a serpent). All the while the constellation Eridanus River, a river of judgment leading to the underworld, flows nearby, into which is wading a monster named Cetus. There are so many details that I cannot possibly remember them, let alone try to explain them. Most of it is foreign to me, since I have very limited experience or education in astronomy of any sort, let alone in knowing the ancient myths concocted about them. But I find it quite intriguing to wonder if God would show such a spectacular sight as a supernova to all of mankind during such a dark period of humanity (dark in the spiritual and societal sense, though in the technological sense we have so much light as to obscure most of the stars which begat these myths about the constellations in the first place). What would be our general response? The Star of Bethlehem brought mostly yawns, yet it was a bright message from God. Will men of today see any of God’s handiwork in a new astronomical spectacle as has never before been witnessed by men? (Lk 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves) Or simply pat themselves on the back for knowing the “science” behind what could otherwise be seen as religious superstitious nonsense? Will this be the time each man sees the state of his own soul? Three days of introspection, fear, love or hate? Perhaps we will see. Or perhaps there is just a dust cloud passing between us and Betelgeuse which is temporarily blocking its light and its imminent explosion of death is just the latest media frenzy about nothing.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Farewell, Father Vincent!
This coming Sunday, February 2, is Fr. Vincent Capuano’s last day with us. He is a Jesuit priest of the Argentina Province, and has been “on loan” to Tampa’s Jesuit High School for a few years but has now been called back home. Due to his other priestly duties on Sundays, he usually celebrates only the 7:30 am Mass, although occasionally is he able to assist at the 10:30. But on this, his final day, he will be able to be at both, so all of you who desire to wish him well will be able to do so. He is an excellent preacher, teacher, and priest and will be greatly missed around here. Please pray for his continued holiness as he begins his new assignment. If you were planning on giving him a gift of any sort, please remember that he is not driving a U Haul to his next assignment but is rather flying. All that he owns has to fit in his checked baggage or carry on luggage. So, as beautiful as that statue of St. Thomas Aquinas is, which you wanted to give him after being in his class on that famous Doctor of the Church, he will have to leave it behind, regardless of whether it is life-sized or fits on a tabletop. Prayers and Masses, on the other hand, don’t take up much room in a suitcase!
By happy, holy coincidence, set in motion by Our Lord through Holy Mother Church many centuries ago, his last day will be an extraordinary day for us. It is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called “Candlemas” due to the blessing of candles that occurs, and is, in some local traditions (but not “officially,” even in the older liturgical calendars, though much ink has been and still is being spilled debating this!), the ending to the Christmas season. This is the first time since I have been at Epiphany that this feast day falls on a Sunday. Last year it was on a Saturday, which allowed more of you to attend than when it fell in the middle of the week. This year all of you should be able to make it, plus you can bring others with you who won’t get the blessing of candles at their home parish, so I expect a large crowd at both Masses. There will be a small procession at the 10:30 Mass (sorry, 7:30-ers, but only the main Mass gets the most solemn rites according to the old liturgical books) but there will be a blessing of candles at both Masses. So bring in your candles! Bring in beeswax candles for the ominous Three Days of Darkness; scented candles which make the house smell like cookies or Christmas trees; dripless tapers for your romantic dinners; fancy candles for special occasions; birthday candles for all of the cakes you will bake this year; or any other kind of candle you use at home or work. We will bless them all. Due to the size of the congregations (what a great problem to have: too many people!), we won’t even try to have a table to hold all of your candles, since last year we packed a huge table full plus had candles stacked all around and under it and it wasn’t a Sunday celebration. So just keep them with you in the pew and we will bless them where they are. (If you bring in huge bags or boxes, too many to keep in the pew, we will find a place to put them which is out of the way. Don’t worry!) Although in past years you have carried your own candles in procession, this year at the 10:30 Mass we will bless enough tapers for everyone to have one for the procession and to use at Mass so that those who don’t bring in candles won’t be left in the dark. Or as dark as it gets in a daytime candlelight celebration, anyway. Remember that one of the most practical reasons for blessing candles on this day is so that we have blessed candles for the following days’ feast, that of St. Blaise (or Blase), on which we use two crossed candles to bless throats. And, before you ask, no, we will not do the blessing of throats on Sunday just because everyone is there. We follow the liturgical calendar and bless throats on the day they are to be blessed, February 3. Oh, and realize that the 10:30 Mass will be a bit longer than usual due to the extra blessing and procession. On the subject of things being a bit longer, there are five prayers of blessing given this day, rather than the single one used to bless candles during the rest of the year. The blessing of candles takes place before Mass and if you show up late and miss the blessing, do not -- I repeat, do not! -- expect to get your candles blessed after Mass is over!
Now that you are aware of what is going on next weekend, it is time to get prepared! Those of you reading this during the homily can open your phone’s Amazon app and start ordering candles... Wait, no, that stuff only happens at Novus Ordo parishes, right? Right? Put that phone away now! I was just joking! I see what you schola members are doing back there! Stop that immediately! Don’t make me turn around and come back there...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My Office Looks Like The Church
During the past 30 or so days my office has resembled a dumping grounds. I very rarely have a clean, tidy desk to begin with since once I put something in a file cabinet I forget about getting back to it. So instead of training myself to routinely open the cabinet and check on things like wedding files, upcoming events, letters that need responses, etc., I simply pile those things on the desk where I have to see them on a regular basis. Eventually, I have to move them around a bit, restack and reorganize the piles as priorities change or emergency things come in, but sooner or later everything on the desk gets taken care of. But for some reason this Advent the piles just kept getting deeper and deeper. Christmas gifts, both those I received and those I purchased for giving crowded out my floor space, too. My mailbox was also overflowing so much that I had to keep emptying it and adding all of the unopened letters, periodicals, newspapers, cards, and whatnot to the ever-growing piles of stuff on my desk. On top of that (not literally, thanks be to God) my voicemails, emails, text, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and Flocknote messages just kept outpacing my ability to read, let alone respond, file, or delete. In a world where everyone expects immediate responses to each and every form of communication, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people must have thought that I was dead.
I am finally getting things organized. I have opened up most of the Christmas cards and sent out Thank You notes to those who gave gifts (I am especially thankful for the gifts of Masses and Spiritual Bouquets) if I could find an address and read the signature (one or both of those were sometimes missing, so I will include a general “Thank You!” here for those I have missed and will miss as I open still more cards). I have been limiting myself (or trying to, anyway) to a maximum of 2 hours a day reading and responding to emails. I get several hundred every day, most of which are junk but still need to be clicked and deleted. Many times it is impossible to tell if the email is something I actually need to read or if it is simply spam or an advertisement, so I have to open it before trashing it. Some are pretty clear. If it is from a store, it is an ad. But some are not so clear. For instance, I might receive emails from seven different offices at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. I cannot just delete them, even if I think I know that they will not be useful to me, because what I assume to be just a weekly bulletin about something that I have no need of knowing might actually be a notice of an upcoming change of policy or an “invitation” to a mandatory meeting. So I have to open each one. Then, of course, I am on the mailing list of seemingly every Catholic organization that exists and it is very often impossible to determine without opening the email if they are sending me donation materials or if a real person is actually trying to reach me from that organization. It takes a lot of time to open, scan briefly, and trash. As for the FB, I don’t even have it on my phone anymore and anyone who tries to contact me through its Messenger better be prepared to wait a couple of weeks even in a normal time! Sorry, that’s just how it is. My biggest problem with both emails and texts that I want to get back to but simply cannot answer as I first see them (this happens especially if I get it from my phone, which requires a single finger typed response rather than the rapid-fire thumb movements of you younger folks) is not knowing how to keep them up at the top of the stack as I can do with the stuff on my desk. Texts are especially bad, as it doesn’t have a “search” feature like email does to help find one that I know is there somewhere but may be a hundred and two spaces down the list by the time I want to answer. (Or is there a search feature of which I am unaware? Let me know if there is one!)
So why am I writing this? Because, as the title states, this is also how the Church seems to be right now. Just this week the book about priestly celibacy written by Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict was in the news because it was coming out. Then it was in the news with the accusation that Pope Benedict never saw nor OK’d it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Sarah provided proof that Benedict did indeed write, see, and OK it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Vigano... well, I see this one little thing in the Church combined with the clutter of other matters -- such as the rewarding of homosexual-activity-promoting priests and bishops, the push toward a One World Religion, the denial of the ontological change in the sacrament of Holy Orders and so, so many other confounding issues promoted by Church hierarchy -- looking almost exactly like my office. But like my office, I hold out hope that it will all be organized and cleared out one day (or year, or decade, or century!). In the meantime, the more chaotic it gets out there, the more this parish grows!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: I Give Thanks To God Always For You
The year has just begun and already I have much for which to be thankful. You, the parishioners of Epiphany of Our Lord, are at the center of it all. First of all, I am thankful for the new handicap ramp which was just completed on the parking lot side of the church next to the handicap parking spaces. The new ramp brings many positive comments from people who never complained about a lack of a ramp before but who now acknowledge that getting up the steps was quite a challenge for them. As you know, the ramp was done with the coordination and donation of anonymous parishioners who themselves did not need a ramp. This project was sacrificial, not self-serving! Thank you!
The next thing for which I am very thankful is the people who worked tirelessly to make the church and hall clean and welcoming for the Christ Child (and us) during Advent and Christmas. People scrubbed and chiseled and polished and swept and decorated for untold hours. We even had people who are not yet Catholic spend hours helping us to make the church attractive. The people of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission worked long hours outside to bring the “bling” of thousands of lights and figures surrounding the large cave of their Nativity set. They always bring surprises with their setup. One year it was a towering dinosaur with a Christmas present in its mouth. This year is was lighted flying unicorns! The people driving by at night were treated to quite a spectacle for Christmas. Inside the church (that is how we split the decorating duties, with the Mission taking the outside and us taking care of the inside) we decorate in a much more subdued manner but the wreaths lining the walls, the tree in the corner, a few poinsettias here and there really helped the church and social hall (which were originally designed to be the school lunchroom and gymnasium) look beautiful without being glitzy. And let’s not forget the newly donated Nativity scene back in the corner. This was our first year using it and already there are plans for making it even more spectacular next year. And did you notice the Three Kings traveling to Bethlehem? They sort of hung out on the organ for a while as they followed the star and made it to the creche only on Epiphany.
I am also very thankful for all the people who made our Masses so prayerfully majestic. The Mass parts chanted by the choir at the solemn and high Masses could convert a pagan with no need of further theology or biblical knowledge. I am very thankful for the extra clergy and quasi-clergy who made themselves available for the unexpectedly high number of Solemn High Masses recently, too. (As two sidenotes within this section: 1. Fr. Vincent Capuano, SJ, who has been celebrating Mass here for several years, and who has never accepted any stipend but wished rather to be simply “rewarded” by being able to celebrate the TLM, is being transferred to Argentina. His last day with us will be February 2 so be sure to say your “farewells” beforehand; 2. Fr. Mangiafico has long been a “cheerleader” for this parish and now that he has retired from retirement duties he is here in person quite a bit. He has donated so much to us in the form of liturgical items that he, in reality, actually pays us for the privilege of being here! I am very thankful for both holy priests.) Of course, we couldn’t properly celebrate the Mass without our servers, and I am thankful we have so many boys and men who wish to serve at God’s altar. Having our new group of men serve the 5th Sunday of any given month, plus a few of the big Masses, is a blessing. Many times for our biggest celebrations we have had only the most inexperienced boys able to serve, putting them in the position of serving at roles for which they were not yet ready to be trained, let alone master. Putting men into those roles takes the pressure off the young boys and puts it all on the adults. It also allows the boys in the pews to be very attentive at Mass, for they all want to take good note of what their dad did wrong while serving! I am also thankful for those who train and set the server schedule, both of which are very demanding tasks.
I am thankful for my sacristans and teachers and Sunday breakfast people and various activity leaders but I really must end my incomplete list somewhere. So, finally, I give thanks to God for all of the people who (spearheaded by the parish’s Council of Catholic Women) put together last week’s Epiphany celebration. Decorators, setup guys, tent cleanup guys, food preparers and servers, kitchen cleanup crew, planners, CGS, AHG, and last but not least, attendees, all came together for our parish’s Feast Day Luncheon and made it incredible. Although there is no way of naming everyone who worked tirelessly to make it such a success, two parishioners do deserve special mention, though they will both probably cringe when they find out that their names are here. Julann Roe baked almost all of the bread that was in the breadbaskets, which took her untold hours immediately before the event, and Robin Johnson designed, created, and shopped for the decorative theme that transformed the tent into the beautiful venue that it was. You really outdid yourself. Many thanks!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Blessing of Homes on Epiphany
(adapted from the Roman Ritual for use by the laity)
The head of the household (the husband/father, if he is present) leads the prayers, saying:
Leader: We ask that God’s peace be in this home.
All: And in all who live here.
Leader: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
Canticle of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
Leader: My soul doth magnify the Lord...
All: And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of His mercy:
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
Leader: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost...
All: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
All: Magi from the East came to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasure chests they presented Him with precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Alleluia.
The home is sprinkled with exorcised and blessed Epiphany Holy Water.
Then the prayers continue:
Leader: Our Father...
All: Who art in Heaven... (and continue the rest of the prayer)
Leader: Many shall come from Saba.
All: Bearing gold and incense.
Leader: Lord, heed my prayer.
All: And let my cry be heard by You.
Leader: Almighty God, who on this day revealed Your only-begotten Son to all nations by the guidance of a star, grant that we who now know You by faith may finally behold You in Your heavenly majesty; We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Leader: Be enlightened and shine forth, O Jerusalem, for your light is come; and upon you is risen the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. Nations shall walk in your light, and kings in the splendor of your birth.
All: And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
Leader: Lord God almighty, we ask You to bless this home, and under its shelter let there be health, chastity, self-conquest, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to Your commandments, and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. May Your blessing remain always in this home and on those who live here; through Christ our Lord.
The lintel of the main door of the house (and other doors if desired) is marked, using the Blessed Epiphany Chalk, in the following way: 20 + C + M + B + 20
The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus mansionem benedicat.” “May Christ bless the house.” The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing. The numbers enclosing them indicate the year.
The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, Whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Three Magi sanctified by their adoration of the Infant Christ. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God’s blessing.
The month of January still bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing “christens” the ancient Roman observance of the first month. The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Adorable and Eternal Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
From the Pastor: A Father Palka Christmas
Once again this year I have to write the bulletin article for the weekend after Christmas early since the office will be closed after Christmas and we have to print the bulletins while the staff is still here. So I get to tell you the story of how I spent Christmas by jocosely using my clerical time machine. Enjoy a peek into the life of a priest on Christmas Day!
I would be glad to tell you all about how beautiful, reverent, and prayerful the Christmas Masses were. I would be delighted to write a column thanking everyone who helped to decorate, clean up, set up, sing, serve, and everything else that goes into Christmas celebrations. But, while that would be an honorable and perhaps even a moving tribute to all of our dedicated staff and volunteers, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as telling you what happened at my sister’s house after everyone woke up from an all too short, “post Midnight Mass” snooze. And so the story begins midmorning on Christmas Day while I was celebrating the morning Mass at Epiphany. My sister’s house was bustling with friends and relatives, including our favorite Aunt, Irma. As many of you know from past stories, whenever she is around, weird stuff happens, and “weird” might be too tame a word. But this time, just to make sure that she couldn’t get into too much trouble, she had a simple task to keep her occupied: bake French toast for brunch. On Christmas Eve I had sliced the bread and left it soaking in an egg and milk mixture in sheet pans in the rectory refrigerator overnight for her to just “take and bake”. It was foolproof. She had a task to do, she felt needed, she couldn’t get into trouble simply turning on the oven, and hungry people love the cook. Soon the whole house, yard, and neighborhood were filled with the wonderful aroma of toasted coconut. What? You’ve never had toasted coconut French toast? Me neither, but that is what Aunt Irma was baking, with thick slices of Panettone which, if you don’t know (poor you!), is a rich, Italian form of brioche bread with fruit baked into it. Oven-baked toasted coconut Panettone French toast. Wow, what a Christmas treat! The kids could hardly wait and the adults were pretty jealous of them getting first dibs. The youngsters gobbled up as much as they could eat just as fast as they devour the donuts after Sunday Mass. Then the adults came in for the next batch and boy, did they compliment the cook. But after they finished their meal they noticed that the children were acting a bit, well, they were all acting just like Aunt Irma. It’s hard to describe their actions exactly but everyone assumed that the kids were just playing a game of imitating her. It was just about then that I finally got over to the house, having locked up the church for the day. Although I was exhausted, I wasn’t so tired that I didn’t notice how strange even the grownups were acting. The women seemed to have a bad case of the giggles. A few of the men were telling jokes and funny stories, each trying to top the other, while a couple more were arguing belligerently, the women just kept snickering like schoolgirls, and the kids were wild. To me, as one just walking in off the streets, it was pretty obvious that everyone was tipsy! “What in the world have you been doing?” I asked, “How much have you had to drink already?” But nobody had so much as even opened the first bottle of wine so early in the day. “We just had breakfast!” they said and told me what they ate. I had noticed the delightful aroma as soon as I had gotten there but had been too distracted by their odd behavior to pay any attention to it. But now, hearing what Aunt Irma had fixed for them, I was beginning to get a clear picture of what happened. You see, I had brought with me the trays of French toast she was supposed to have taken to bake that morning and which I had discovered still in the rectory refrigerator. “Aunt Irma,” I called to the figure in the kitchen, “Did you get the fixin’s for the French toast from the rectory when you came by last night?” She replied with a sweet, almost condescending, “Of course, sweetie. I gathered up all of the bread and French toast batter from your kitchen. Why? Is there a problem?” I couldn’t bear to tell her that the Panettone loaves were actually gifts that Fr. Chien was planning giving out that afternoon on behalf of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission! As for the “coconut French toast batter” she found in the refrigerator, what she actually discovered and used was several gallons of a delightful drink some cookbooks call “Carribean eggnog” which a parishioner gifted us with this year. Instead of using eggs and cream as in typical eggnog, this form of eggless eggnog, called “Coquito,” uses coconut and coconut cream as the base. Oh, and one more very important ingredient. Rum. Lots of rum. As in enough rum that thick, luscious slices of Panettone soaked in it, even when baked in the oven, does not burn off the alcohol. As in enough that children should not eat it ever, nor should adults consume it for breakfast. And that was just the beginning of Christmas Day with my family. How was yours?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Lord’s Birth is Near!
The following passage, snipped a little to fit the bulletin, is taken from The City of God, a book of visions experienced by Venerable Mary of Agreda. She is recounting the Holy Family’s last day of travel to Bethlehem a few hours before Our Lord’s Birth. One thing that struck me this year as I read it again is that even the cave they stayed at in Bethlehem was not offered by any relative but was only “discovered” due to a vague memory of St. Joseph. Beyond being told “There is no room at the Inn”, they were not even offered the stable! Enjoy this snippet of Venerable Mary of Agreda’s mystical vision.
460. The heavenly Lady [Mary] observed and knew the secrets of the different souls of those She met, penetrating into the very thoughts and conditions of each, whether of grace or of guilt in their different degrees. Concerning many souls She also knew whether they were predestined or reprobate, whether they would persevere, fall, or again rise up. All this variety of insight moved Her to the exercise of heroic virtues as well in regard to the ones as to the others. For many of them She obtained the grace of perseverance, for others efficacious help to rise from their sin to grace; for others again She prayed to the Lord with affectionate tears, feeling intensest sorrow for the reprobate, though She did not pray as efficaciously for them... The sick, afflicted and indigent whom She met on the way, She consoled and assisted by asking her most holy Son to come to their aid in their necessities and adversities. She kept Herself silently aloof from the multitude, preoccupied with the Fruit of her divine pregnancy, which was already evident to all. Such was the return which the Mother of mercy made for the inhospitality of mortals...
462... [O]ur travelers arrived at the town of Bethlehem at four o'clock of the fifth day, a Saturday. As it was at the time of the winter solstice, the sun was already sinking and the night was falling. They entered the town, and wandered through many streets in search of a lodging-house or inn for staying overnight. They knocked at the doors of their acquaintances and nearer family relations; but they were admitted nowhere and in many places they met with harsh words and insults. The most modest Queen followed her spouse through the crowds of people, while he went from house to house and from door to door. Although She knew that the hearts and the houses of men were to be closed to them, and although to expose her state at her age to the public gaze was more painful to her modesty than their failure to procure a night-lodging, She nevertheless wished to obey saint Joseph and suffer this indignity and unmerited shame. While wandering through the streets they passed the office of the public registry and they inscribed their names and paid the fiscal tribute in order to comply with the edict and not be obliged to return. They continued their search, betaking themselves to other houses. But having already applied at more than fifty different places, they found themselves rejected and sent away from them all. The heavenly spirits were filled with astonishment at these exalted mysteries of the Most High, which manifested the patience and meekness of his Virgin Mother and the unfeeling hardness of men...
463. It was nine o'clock at night when the most faithful Joseph, full of bitter and heartrending sorrow, returned to his most prudent Spouse and said: "My sweetest Lady, my heart is broken with sorrow at the thought of not only not being able to shelter Thee as Thou deservest and as I desire, but in not being able to offer Thee even any kind of protection from the weather, or a place of rest, a thing rarely or never denied to the most poor and despised in the world. No doubt heaven, in thus allowing the hearts of men to be so unmoved as to refuse us a night-lodging, conceals some mystery. I now remember, Lady, that outside the city walls there is a cave, which serves as a shelter for shepherds and their flocks. Let us seek it out; perhaps it is unoccupied, and we may there expect some assistance from heaven, since we receive none from men on earth." The most prudent Virgin answered: "My spouse and my master, let not thy kindest heart be afflicted because the ardent wishes which the love of thy Lord excites in thee cannot be fulfilled. Since I bear Him in my womb, let us, I beseech thee, give thanks for having disposed events in this way. The place of which thou speakest shall be most satisfactory to me. Let thy tears of sorrow be turned into tears of joy, and let us lovingly embrace poverty, which is the inestimable and precious treasure of my most holy Son. He came from heaven in order to seek it, let us then afford Him an occasion to practice it in the joy of our souls; certainly I cannot be better delighted than to see thee procure it for me. Let us go gladly wherever the Lord shall guide us." The holy angels accompanied the heavenly pair, brilliantly lighting up the way, and when they arrived at the city gate they saw that the cave was forsaken and unoccupied. Full of heavenly consolation, they thanked the Lord for this favor, and then happened what I shall relate in the following chapter.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Physical and Spiritual Handicap Door Openers
Last week you saw the framework for the new handicap ramp leading into the church and social hall. This week you can see that the concrete has been poured and is setting up. Perhaps by next weekend we will be given the green light to use the new ramp and steps. So the next step is to get the doors fixed up. So far we have not had any suggestions for which companies to use (or to stay away from!) so we are probably just going to have to randomly choose a number of door companies or handicap specialty shops to come by and give us a quote. Once we have expert advice as to what should be done and what needs to be done, I will be able to let you know what the cost will be. Already, though, several parishioners have stepped forward with donations specifically for the new doors and door openers. Thank you for your great generosity!
One of the nicest things about the new ramp is the visible problem which is visibly solved. People with wheelchairs previously had no choice but to go around the church to enter by means of the ramp which was as far from the handicap parking spots as possible. Visitors had an especially difficult time even finding our crazy access. Those with walkers or canes, for the most part, couldn’t make the long walk around the building to access the ramp, so everyone saw them struggle to get up and down the stairs on a regular basis. They were the visible reminders that we had a problem that needed to be solved. Everyone was constantly afraid that some frail and/or elderly parishioner would fall down the steps. Many prayers were silently prayed for their safety! But what about the invisible needs? During these last days of Advent, I hope you will consider that there are many other needs, some of which are much more important than the physical challenge of getting into a church building, which Our Lord may be asking us to find solutions to as well. I will mention two such things. First of all, how many of our parishioners might be alone for Christmas, with no family or friends to share the day? They generally won’t tell anyone that they will be alone so it is difficult to see the need. You might feel silly asking someone, even if you know them to be a widow or widower, if they need a place to go for a family celebration of Christmas, afraid that you will hurt their feelings if they have plenty of family and friends around but you forgot or never heard that part of their life’s story. You might not even know how to ask, assuming that any “outsiders” from church might feel out of place if your family is opening presents and they, being invited to join you at the last minute, have no gifts to give or receive. But maybe, just maybe, you will help someone with an invisible handicap called “loneliness” if you work up the courage and love to ask them to join you and your family for Christmas. Look around. Check your memories. Is there a new, young couple in town who might be missing extended family for the first time? Is there a man who lost his job and is struggling to put together a feast for his wife and kids? Is there an older couple whose kids and grandchildren are scattered through various states and who would actually love to put up with your little ones running around making a mess? Maybe you could invite them to join you for Christmas! Build the friendship ramp!
Another invisible need might not be found so easily, yet is even more important to fix. How many of you have neighbors and/or coworkers who have left the Faith? Perhaps they seem to be doing well, have a good job or are enjoying retirement, have good health, a nice family, maybe even a better car and house than you, yet have turned away from God and His Church. To them, Christmas once had meaning but now it might only be an excuse to give and get presents or to have a nice dinner somewhere. They no longer believe that they need a Savior, so His birth is nothing more than an excuse for a holiday. If they still believe in Heaven, they assume they will get there no matter what. Whether they lost Faith due to scandal, or due to their own lack of commitment to prayer, or because they had no real Catholic education (even if they went to Catholic schools), or simply on account of busyness with everyday cares and wanting to sleep in on Sundays, they have the mostly unnoticed but crippling disease of apostasy. They have, without, most likely, ever verbalizing it, given up all rights they once had, as baptized members of God’s Family, to Eternal Life in Heaven. Is there any way that you could build a spiritual handicap ramp for them? Maybe a ramp is too much of an undertaking right away. Start with just spiritually opening the door for them as you did here physically with the parishioners with walkers. Invite them to Midnight Mass with you. Bring them a church bulletin each week. Enthusiastically tell them about the Latin Mass or Adoration or even the potlucks. Sometimes all they need is someone (you!) to show some interest, to open the door, to give a simple invitation to come and rediscover Christ’s love.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Watch Out For Construction!
This week construction started on our new handicap ramp at the church. There is already a ramp for those who need it but it is strangely located on the side of the church opposite the parking lot! People can and do use it occasionally but it requires them to either go all the way around the church to access it or to park on the grass, away from most other people, which means that if they should have an accident, tip over their wheelchair, or fall from their walker, it is possible that they would lie there for quite some time before being discovered. Also, the old ramp only supplies access to the church up near the sanctuary so if anyone wants to enter the social hall while Mass or Adoration is in process, they have no choice but to come in through the church and, at least in their own mind, distracting those trying to pray. The new ramp will allow access from the parking lot near the handicap spots into both the social hall and the church, making it much more convenient for everyone involved. Unfortunately, it means that those much-used doors will not be functional until the construction is complete, the handrails are installed, and the cement has hardened. Will that be only one weekend or two? When it comes to construction schedules, only God knows! In the meantime, if you have trouble walking long distances, you might be better off parking closer to the front doors of the church rather than in the handicap spots so that you can get in easier. And, of course, the old ramp will remain usable even if it is not a perfect choice. Once the ramp is complete, we will need to replace the outside doors with those which can open with a push-button. If any of you have any expertise or experience in this area (doors, electronic mechanical openers, locks, trustworthy installers, etc.), please let me know. We can also use push-button operation thingies (that is the Latin technical name for them, or so I am told) for the swinging doors separating the social hall from the church. The cost of the ramp is being underwritten by some anonymous parishioners who saw the need and volunteered to do something about it. Many thanks to them. A few prayers for them from each of you reading this right now would also be wonderful!
On Saturday, December 7, a day which some of you might be reading this, there was a Rorate Coeli Solemn High Mass at Jesuit High School’s chapel. Obviously, I cannot tell you much about it since I am writing about it before it occurs but I hope you were able to attend. The chapel is beautiful, the acoustics are phenomenal, and a Mass by candlelight honoring the Blessed Mother is always a treat. We will have another Rorate Mass, this one at Epiphany, next Saturday, December 14. It, too, will start at 6:30 am, not at the normal 8:00 am Mass time on Saturday, for it is supposed to begin in the dark and end as light is dawning upon the world. Our Lady brings forth, as a result of her “fiat,” the Light of the World which scatters the darkness of sin and brings salvation to all who believe and accept and live all that He taught, most notably by entering His Church and receiving the Sacraments worthily. So mark your calendars, set your alarm a bit earlier than normal, and come for the 6:30 Mass next Saturday. Note that there will not be an 8:00 Mass that day but confessions will still be available at or around the normal time.
Finally, the Holy League Men’s Group will meet this Thursday after taking a day off for Thanksgiving which fell on our last scheduled meeting day. Men, if you haven’t been to one of these meetings or haven’t been in a while, I want to encourage you to come and see what you have been missing. We start at 6:00 pm with the Angelus and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Most guys are not there at the very beginning, as they are still stuck in traffic after work, but they trickle in when then can, so don’t be worried if you know you will be late. Vespers, or Evening Prayer, is chanted by two of the men (the rest have been taught how to join in and do so as they are able) and a rosary is led following the chanted prayers. I hear confessions during this time and then return to give the Benediction. After the pray time, we retire to the social hall to continue discussing St. Pius X’s Catechism. We are up to the section on the 4th commandment, one which those of you with children still at home certainly don’t want to miss! Last of all, we have time to socialize with other men who are struggling mightily to become better Catholic men, better fathers, better husbands, or, put succinctly, great saints. A bit of food and manly drink and even an occasional Ave Maria cigar accompany the social time for those who wish to participate in those ways, but they are in no way mandatory. Our next meeting after this Thursday (we meet on the second and fourth Thursdays) is the day after Christmas. At this week’s meeting, we will determine if there is any interest in keeping that on the schedule or not. If you are not there, you won’t get a voice in that decision!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: 50 Year Anniversary of Novus Ordo!
Fifty years ago, on the First Sunday of Advent in 1969, everything changed. It was on that fateful day when the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo in Latin) was mandated to be celebrated throughout the world. In the Church, as in the world, we like to celebrate anniversaries. 50 years is always considered a very special anniversary. But I don’t see any celebrations, large or small, for the Novus Ordo Mass. There has been no special promulgation, no encyclical written, no apostolic letter sent out, nor even diocesan luncheons. There has been nothing but silence. Why? Why would the Church leaders remain close-mouthed about something that greatly affected every single Catholic and indirectly, at least, every non-Catholic? Why, when the Novus Ordo Mass is constantly promoted as the greatest thing since sliced bread, aren’t we witnessing great processions through the streets of Rome, huge diocesan Masses with the bishops rallying all of their priests, or even individual pastors celebrating special Masses anywhere in the world? I think it is pretty obvious. Because, no matter what “everybody” says, the Novus Ordo Mass has been a failed experiment and celebrating it would put the focus where “they” don’t want it to be.
Let me sidetrack for just a moment. I constantly hear from priests that I should never say that one Form of Mass is better than the other. They give this command even though I generally don’t tell my fellow priests that I am thoroughly convinced that the Traditional Latin Mass is much more efficacious and far more pleasing to God than the Novus Ordo Mass. I don’t have to tell them. They know, just from the way I speak about my parish and what we do and why we exist, what I believe. And they don’t want to hear it. So they tell me that a Mass is a Mass is a Mass and that the Form I celebrate (most of the time, anyway) is not any better or worse than the Form they celebrate. The funny thing is, though, that they don’t believe what they say. They believe that the Novus Ordo Mass is much superior to the Traditional Latin Mass. How do I know? Because they won’t even attempt to celebrate the TLM. Most look at it with contempt and even the most “open-minded” see it as a quaint relic of days before the Novus Ordo Enlightenment. Once that line of communication is open, though, I sometimes have the opportunity to put a bug in their ear about why I believe what I believe. The people don’t know Latin! So what? My parishioners know that the Mass isn’t a dinner party (we need more food and drink if it is) but is, rather, the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who took on our human nature, perfectly offering Himself to the Father in an unbloody way just as He did in a bloody manner two thousand years ago. The same sacrifice. Even those who cannot read or hear or see can enter into that sacrifice! But what about the little old ladies praying their rosary? Isn’t that showing that they don’t know what is happening? Strange that you don’t realize that the Mass is presenting to us the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord and that the little old ladies are meditating on the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord as they pray the rosary! But the people don’t get to have full, active, and conscious participation since the priest reads all of the readings, prays all of the prayers, and distributes Holy Communion himself! 97% of your Novus Ordo Mass parishioners aren’t lectors or EMHCs, either, you idiot! (I sometimes lack perfect charity.) But certainly, you must admit that the 2 and 3 year cycle of readings is much better than hearing the same old thing year after year. And it certainly makes it easier to preach when the content is always new. No, I don’t admit to any such thing. The Mass is not a Bible study. If it is, it is a poorly designed class. After 50 years of the new lectionary, are Catholics really better Bible scholars? Are the priests really better preachers? Rhetorical questions, obviously. The TLM converted the world from paganism. Under the NOM paganism is regaining its prior stronghold and nothingism is battling for prominence.
That brings us back to why there are no celebrations. Statistics show quite clearly that millions of people left the Church when the NOM was forced upon them. Many who stayed and most of those who grew up in the new Mass don’t believe in even the core teachings. Only 30% of active(!) NOM Catholics believe that the Eucharist is really, truly and substantially Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. 98% of TLM Catholics believe. No, there is nothing to celebrate and “they” would look foolish if they tried. True faith has collapsed, religious life is decimated, pews are empty, vocations have tanked, and marriage and other sacraments are mocked or ignored. There is absolutely no statistical proof that in the past 50 years the Catholic Faith is stronger, more widespread, better practiced, or changing the world for the better. A celebration of a failed venture might open people’s eyes to the disastrous results, and the 50 year old NOM mantra “old is bad, new is great” would be seen for what it is. So they tell me, “Don’t rock the boat. Let sleeping dogs lie. Ignorance is bliss.” What would the prophet Ezekiel say? Jeremiah? The Apostles?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Novena Prayer and Mass Intentions
Stories about priests nowadays tend to focus on something they did wrong. But every once in a while you might hear a story about a priest who gets things right. I am about to tell you one of those stories. Six years ago a priest showed up at my rectory where he would be a guest for the extent of his studies at the local university. He was from Tanzania, Africa, and had never been to the United States. This priest, Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro, was a quiet, even shy, skinny young man. He knew nothing about me except that I had agreed to let him stay. He knew very little of what to expect in the USA. His Bishop had sent him, via an academic scholarship, to get an undergraduate degree in mathematics so that he could teach once he returned home. (Their schools are staffed by priests and religious so that they don’t have to pay salaries, for they will work for merely room and board!) I could tell many stories about what it was like watching him experience things that are common for us but mind-boggling for him, such as seeing a grocery store for the first time, with more food than he had seen in his entire life. But of all the stories about him, the best is simply that he was a very holy, prayerful, and faithful priest. He studied hard and it was not just because he enjoyed studying but more so because his Bishop sent him here for that purpose. Obedience was key. He got an undergraduate degree, then a Masters and then his Bishop asked him to get a Ph.D. Out of obedience, he said “yes” to each request. But recently the workload of Ph.D. courses, plus having to teach (required by the scholarship) and grade papers each and every day started taking a toll on his prayer life. He noticed that he rushed through his priestly duties to get to his “necessary” academic duties. He realized that if he kept up the pace and stayed on that path, he would soon be a very poor priest, and not in a monetary sense of the word “poor.” As I said, though, this is a story about a priest who gets things right, so he took an unwanted but necessary action. He prayed in what little time he had for prayer and decided to ask his Bishop if he could return home without the degree but while he still cared about and cherished his priesthood. Fortunately, he has an understanding Bishop and he was given permission to withdraw from classes and return home.
It hurt him to have to ask such a thing. It hurt him to think that he might be disappointing his Bishop. It hurt him to see that he had compromised and shortchanged his priestly ministry and duties for the sake of things that, while good in and of themselves, were much less important. It hurt to leave good friends. He never wanted to burden anyone with his struggles in that area, but he was hurting as he said his good-byes. One of our dear parishioners pointed out that he might need more prayers right now than we know. She asked if we might pray a novena for him. I think that is a great idea. I suggest praying the Novena of Grace to St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of African Missions, which, by Divine coincidence, starts November 24! Please pray it for nine consecutive days for any spiritual, emotional or physical healing Fr. Emmanuel might need so that he can be a reinvigorated, holy priest. The novena prayer is inserted in today’s bulletin [on our website: see it below this article]. Thank you for joining in these prayers for him!
The next topic is about Mass intentions. The Mass Intention Book will be opened the first week of December. (Please do not bother Kim or Mark at Mass regarding even such important and holy things like Mass intentions, for they get bothered so much that they cannot truly pray and sometimes have to go elsewhere for Mass just so that they can pray in peace! They are at Mass for Mass, not so that you can treat them like an “OPEN SUNDAY” branch office of the rectory.) The Masses available include the Novus Ordo weekday Masses both in English and Vietnamese, the Saturday evening Novus Ordo Vigil Mass, both TLM Sunday Masses, the 6:30 TLM weekday Masses and the Saturday morning 8:00 am TLM. In other words, we don’t take Mass intentions for the Sunday Vietnamese Masses or the Monday through Friday 8:00 TLMs. I reserve those weekday 8 am Masses for “emergency” Masses, such as when one of you comes with a request for an injured friend or a relative who just passed away. The Mass stipend requested is $10 for those which go into the book (paid when you request the Mass, please) and ZERO for the 8:00 special requests (priests can only take one Mass stipend per day and I will have normally accepted one for the early Mass, so I don’t take one for the second Mass!). Please don’t wait until the day before the anniversary of your grandmother’s death to ask for a Mass for her, or chances are slim you will get it. Plan ahead. Ask for it when the book for next year first opens. This year I am setting a limit of 21 Masses by any one family (my rule, not Canon Law). You will see another reminder of this in next week’s bulletin as well.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
St. Francis Xavier Novena (for Fr. Emmanuel)
Pray for nine days beginning Nov. 24th. Feast Day: Dec. 3
O St. Francis Xavier, well beloved and full of charity, in union with thee, I reverently adore the Majesty of God; and since I rejoice with exceeding joy in the singular gifts of grace bestowed upon thee during thy life, and thy gifts of glory after death, I give Him hearty thanks therefore; I beseech thee with all my heart’s devotion to be pleased to obtain for me, by thy effectual intercession, above all things, the grace of living and dying in a state of grace.
Moreover, I beg of thee to obtain any spiritual, emotional or physical healing Fr. Emmanuel might need so that he can be a reinvigorated, holy priest.
But if what I ask of thee so earnestly doth not tend to the glory of God and the greater good of my soul, do thou, I pray, obtain for me what is more profitable to both these ends. Amen.
(Special Font for Fr. Emmanuel: Cambria Math!)
From the Pastor: St. Jude Award, Latin Class, and Sisters
Next weekend we will celebrate the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Every year on this particular Sunday it is customary in our diocese that the Bishop bestows a St. Jude Award medal upon someone whom each pastor chooses, in recognition of important work done for the benefit of the parish, often with little to no recompense or fanfare. Time and time again the recipients are shocked as much as they are honored when they receive a letter inviting them to the ceremony. This year I chose an employee of the parish to receive the medal. He is a man whose value I knew nothing of when I first came to Epiphany. I had not expected to need his talents for I had done without them for years before at other parishes. Yet I was fortunate enough to have trusted the advice and pleading of others who assured me of his great worth and so I gave him a part-time job. It was a good decision. Perhaps it was a wise one, perhaps just a lucky one, but a good one nonetheless. You see, at my last two previous assignments, the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass was limited to the Low Mass. Once Bishop (now retired) Lynch saw the light, jumped on the Traditional bandwagon with great gusto and made Epiphany Tampa’s Center for the Traditional Latin Mass in order to give it greater exposure and make it available to far more people, I, for the first time, needed a schola so that we could also have Sung Masses. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Anders Bergmann, the director of the schola, is this year’s St. Jude Award recipient. I am very grateful for the hard work and dedication that it takes to train and lead the great schola he has put together. And God bless his wife, Katherine, who takes care of all of their children without his assistance while he is busy! If group awards were given out I would have asked for one medal for each member of the schola and family. The ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to attend. It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 24. (FYI, here’s some background information on what a “schola” is from Britannica.com: “Schola cantorum, medieval papal singing school and associated choir, the ancestor of the modern Sistine Choir. According to tradition, the schola cantorum was established by Pope Sylvester I (d. 335) and was reorganized by Pope Gregory I (d. 604), but the first written mention of it dates from the 8th century. The purpose of the schola was to teach both singing techniques and the plainsong repertory, which was then learned by oral tradition. Under Pope Gregory the course of study was said to be nine years. In the gradual standardization of Western church chant, the schola’s musicians were a prime influence.”)
On a different note, so to speak (or is that “so to chant”?), one of our parishioners has volunteered to teach another Latin class! This one is going to be different than our last one in that we are looking for families who want to learn Latin together. It should be quite different than any language class you have already taken elsewhere. It will be an attempt to make understanding the Latin used in the Mass become a fun family project, with multiple people of obviously varying ages and abilities all helping each other uncover the “secret code” of our liturgical tongue. Small families (around here that might mean fewer than five kids!) and individuals will be teamed up with others so you can come even if nobody else in your family or circle of friends wishes to join you. Watch for more information coming up soon and talk it up in the meantime.
The last item for the day is a request for prayerful assistance for our girls entering into religious life. Last Lent the Epiphany Council of Catholic Women asked you to participate in their “Pennies for Semmies” campaign, encouraging you to pray for our seminarians and to make a monetary donation to help them with their expenses while they are in formation for the priesthood. This Advent the ECCW is asking you to participate in something very similar for our young women who are in formation to become Religious Sisters. They are calling this campaign “Cents for Sisters” and it will officially kick off in two weeks, so this notice is just a “heads up” to get you prepared. I am also using it as a request. I am much less informed about the needs of those entering into the first stages of Religious Life (whether they be girls discerning a call to be a Sister or Nun or boys looking at becoming a Brother) than I am about those young men discerning priesthood. If your child, male or female, has in the past or is now in some stage of Religious Life formation, I (and the ECCW) could use your input as to how best to help without overstepping bounds or getting in the way or seeming to ignore their real needs. We also want to be sure that we have the names of all of our parishioners who are in formation of one sort or another. So if you have good information to share, please contact either me or someone in the ECCW so that we can learn how best to support and encourage vocations.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka