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