From the Pastor: Holy Week 2022 and My Vacation
This is Holy Week. We will have extra confessions, Tenebrae services, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross, the traditional Blessing of Easter Baskets (or, rather, the blessing of the Easter foods within them!), and, of course, the Easter Vigil service and Mass. Last year, since Fr. Tuoc was still unable to return to Vietnam due to covid restrictions, he did many of these in the Novus Ordo Form (in English) in the rectory chapel while they were also being done in the Traditional Form in Latin in the church. He may do the same again this year, as he is still around and active here. Watch the bulletin and web page (EpiphanyTampa.com) for the schedule. Remember, even the daily Mass schedule changes for Holy Week, so pay attention! Since you can find more information on each of these online and elsewhere in this very bulletin, I will not go into further details here.
Instead, I will write a bit about where I have been for the past month. After I returned, I was peppered with questions about where I went, what I did, and if I enjoyed myself. So here are a few little bits in response. First of all, as I told you before I left, I was not going to go to any place where I had to wear a mask or prove a jab, or get a swab. That ruled out any journey on a plane or cruise ship. I wasn’t even sure which state I could enter without getting pressured into such nonsense, so, of course, I stayed in Florida. I was offered a little “hermitage” or a small apartment built next to the garage under a house on stilts just south of St. Augustine. The lovely couple that lives in the house work with a religious order based in Italy and they made this place specifically to house visiting priests when they come to assist in their mission. It was quite comfortable and secluded. Overlooking a saltwater marsh, I saw plenty of ospreys, an owl, and even a bald eagle searching for their meals. There were no neighbors in sight, just nature. They had a little chapel which I set up for the TLM and celebrated Mass every morning upon waking. I usually prayed the first hours of the breviary right after Mass and then went for a walk. The beach (which was very, very sparsely populated) was about a half a mile’s walk from the house. A mile or so of walking the beach and a half a mile back made for a great rosary. I did learn that I had to check the tides, though, as high tide forced me to walk through soft sand instead of the packed sand, and that made it a lot of work rather than a nice walk.
It was a 35-45 minute drive to the historic section of St. Augustine, so I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche and the rest of the area on a regular basis. The church near the shrine has confession and Adoration daily, so I took advantage of it regularly. I was also able to visit a number of other parishes in the area and even found a Carmelite Monastery which had a drive-through Stations of the Cross and Rosary Garden. Very unique.
Bike Week in Daytona Beach, which evidently lasts nearly two weeks, started just as I began my time off. A1A makes for a beautiful, leisurely ride from the northeast, so there were hundreds of motorcycles on the roads and packing each restaurant parking lot. I never saw any bikers in the Shrine, but I met quite a few while getting something to eat or visiting State Parks and such things as forts and the ruins of sugar mills. Most bikers were very respectful (of course, I was in cassock, even while walking the beach or on the nature trails, so they knew I was a priest) and I got to hear some great stories from some of them about their good ol’ days as altar boys. For instance, one Sunday morning I went out to breakfast (something I never get a chance to do here!) after an early Mass in my chapel. I went to an ocean-side food truck which always had a lot of people around it other times I had passed by. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and coffee and started walking past a young couple at the closest picnic table. They nodded. Then the only other person there so early in the morning called out to me, “Father! Come sit here with me!” A biker with a leather vest covered with skulls was sitting by himself and motioning me to join him. After reciting the almost-compulsory “Ad Deum, qui laetificat iuventutem meam'' (which always brings great grins to men when they realize/prove that they still remember their responses) he told me a short version of his life since leaving the Lord’s service at the altar. Although still dressed for intimidation, he was trying to finally change his life, be a good husband, and come back to God and His Church. Will I ever see him again? I doubt it. But maybe, just maybe, I was able to be a good part of his re-entry into Grace. It’s been quite a few years since I rode a motorcycle, but maybe there is a need for a biker priest in cassock!
This is necessarily just a small smattering of how I spent my time but mostly, for a month when there was nothing scheduled on my calendar, I did a lot of nothing!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka