He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Five Years of Easter at Epiphany
A look back at my Easter bulletin articles: In 2016 I wrote happily about our First Triduum in the Traditional Rite. The following year I explained Divine Mercy and invited everyone to participate the following Sunday (I invite you once again!). But then the articles took a darker turn. 2018 I wrote about our local Bay Area showing a complete lack of Faith, as shown clearly in the now almost-defunct local newspaper. From there I wrote about France’s lack of Faith and the burning of Notre Dame. Finally, last year, I wrote about everyone everywhere being locked out of Mass. I see in these topics a prophetic writing sequence. Today, let’s go back to happier times. For the sake of the newcomers (and so that I don’t write another negative prophecy), here is a rerun of my first Epiphany Easter article:
We celebrated the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) in the Traditional Latin Rite this year. It is the first time I have had this grand experience and it may be the first time in five decades that it has been done at a parish in our diocese. We also had a visiting priest (Fr. Vincent, SJ) taking it all in! Although it took a lot of work by a lot of people, it was all worth it! The choir, the altar boys, and the MCs had to be fully versed in who does what, when, where, and why for all three days. Of course, there was also the “invisible” work done in cleaning and sprucing up the church and grounds in the earlier days of Holy Week. Thank you all for all you sacrificed to bring this to our parish!
Everybody, including the other priests, kept asking, “How long will it (the Mass, the prayers, the service, etc.) take?” I kept driving everyone crazy with the only honest answer I had: “I don’t know!” I could tell how long an Easter Vigil Mass was in other parishes where I had celebrated it (usually about 3 hours long) but almost everything is longer in the old Latin Rite. How much longer, though, I could not say. Part of the problem is my lack of full proficiency in Latin chant. OK, that’s an enormous understatement. The only “formal” training in Latin chant I have ever had was a weekend chant seminar I attended five or six years ago. We were introduced to various Mass chants but it was very, very basic. Not nearly enough to prepare me to chant the Passion in three voices or the Exsultet. So while choir members chanted those (except for the part of Our Lord, which I chanted aloud), I chanted them “silently” as I do the Gloria and Creed at Sunday Mass while the choir chants what you hear. Not a perfect solution, but the best I could do the first time around. I did manage to chant the Passion in the ferial tone in three voices for one daily Mass, though, so it’s a start.
The Easter Vigil in the traditional Rite is a bit different than in the Novus Ordo. The Vigil Service and the Mass, for instance, are separate from one another, with the blessing of fire, candle procession, the extra readings (chanted by yours truly, no less!), and the bestowal of the sacraments of initiation all done as part of a “Vigil Service” before the Mass begins. During the Vigil, there were such “oddities” as me needing to change vestments and colors several times, from violet cope to white dalmatic (a Deacon’s outer vestment) back to violet and back to white. I did wind up wearing violet once when I should have changed to white and one day someone will use the photos for some sort of liturgical blackmail when they discover the gaff! After the Vigil was complete, all of the altar boys and clergy left the church (without any blessing, chanting, or gestures of any sort) and went to the sacristy to prepare for Mass. I neglected to have anyone announce what we were doing, so anyone who wasn’t paying close attention to the missal might have thought we were done. But it was a good time for a potty break or stretch for those who were in the know. I had guessed that it might take as much as 5 hours to complete but it only took 3 1/2. Of course, we only had one person receiving the sacraments of initiation, so if there were more it would have taken more time. Plus, I didn’t see where a sermon could improve on the liturgy itself, so that cut out a sizable chunk of time, too!
The only service for which I underestimated time was the Good Friday morning Tenebrae prayer. It took 2 1/2 hours. Prayerful hours, though, and quite exquisite. I immediately had requests that the choir do all three Tenebrae services next Triduum! The Good Friday Veneration of the Cross and Communion service wasn’t much different than the new rite except that it was all prayed in Latin. The traditional blessing of the Easter baskets, to which I was introduced several years ago by some good Polish parishioners, was short and sweet as always, though I did find the “official” Latin prayers for the blessing of Easter Food in the old Roman Ritual, so it was even more “traditional” than ever this year. Speaking of which, somebody dropped off a basket for me which contained the smokiest, most unusual kielbasa I have ever eaten (after Easter, when the fast was broken, of course!). I don’t know who brought it but it was incredible! And once again I have sadly run out of room.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: What Is Happening During Holy Week?
This week is Holy Week! On Wednesday evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday here are special liturgical celebrations, changes to the Mass schedule, changes to the confession schedule, and changes to the Adoration schedule. So don’t just come by at the “normal” times but check the calendar carefully! Yet be sure to come!
First of all, we have three “Tenebrae” services scheduled. The first is held on Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm. For those of you new to the parish, Tenebrae is the name given to the service of Matins and Laudes belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. Holy Thursday's Tenebrae is traditionally "anticipated", or chanted the evening before the actual day. Matins and Lauds are the two early morning “hours” of the Divine Office or Breviary that is said (prayed) by all clergy, religious, and laity who use the 1962 Office. They roughly correspond to the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the new Liturgy of the Hours Breviary, although they are quite a bit longer. Because Holy Thursday is the day set aside by Holy Mother Church for the celebration of the Chrism Mass (where all the priests gather with the Bishop to renew their priestly vows or promises and the Bishop blesses and consecrates the three oils that will be used for various sacraments throughout the coming year) plus an additional Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening, it is often hard to find time to chant (or listen to the chant) Tenebrae that day. Therefore, it is chanted the evening beforehand. So on Wednesday, the first Tenebrae will be in the Church at 7:00 pm. It takes roughly 2 1/2 hours. Choir members will be doing the chanting and the congregation will actively participate by praying silently. I will be hearing confessions during that time. The second Tenebrae will be on Good Friday morning at 6:30 am and the third will be Holy Saturday at the same time. Both of those will take approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours and I will hear confessions as these prayers are chanted. Even if you cannot come to all three, come and experience at least one of them. If you cannot stay for the full time, stay for as long as you can. It is a moving experience of prayer.
Holy Thursday, as already mentioned, usually has the Chrism Mass in the morning, so there are no parish Masses. In our diocese, as is every arch/diocese of which I am aware, the Bishop has transferred the Chrism Mass to Tuesday, later in the morning. But the Church still does not allow morning Masses on Holy Thursday. We will have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper along with the Mandatum, or Washing of Feet, at 7:00 pm. At the end of that Mass, there is a procession with the Eucharist as we empty the tabernacle and bring Our Lord to the “Altar of Repose” for a time of Solemn Adoration lasting until midnight. After the procession and as Adoration is taking place at the altar of repose, the main altar of the church will be ceremoniously stripped and the church, emptied of Our Lord’s Presence, will be symbolically in mourning for the unjust arrest and mock trial of the Son of God.
On Good Friday there are once again no morning Masses and no Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church. But as already mentioned, I will hear confessions during the 6:30 am Tenebrae. This year Good Friday falls on First Friday. The Adoration which we normally have on First Fridays is prohibited. But at 3:00 pm we will have the Traditional Latin Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross. This includes a Communion Service as well.
On Holy Saturday there is a break after the 6:30 am Tenebrae service ends and then, at 10:30 am we have the traditional Blessing of the Easter Baskets, a tradition which Eastern European cultures often have managed to keep alive even in many Novus Ordo parishes. See today’s bulletin insert for an example of what you might find in such a basket. The basket should contain a bit of everything which you will be preparing for the great Easter Feast, the big meal on Easter Sunday which breaks the hard fasting of the past 40 days of Lent. Please don’t be late arriving for this blessing, because each of the food items gets its own special blessing and I won’t be repeating all of them each time someone new arrives after the blessings are underway. This blessing should take no longer than 30 minutes. There is no Mass at the normal 5:00 pm Saturday time slot, for the Easter Vigil and Mass should not normally begin before dark. Ours will start at 8:00 pm. On Easter Sunday, the Mass schedule will follow the normal times of 7:30 am, 10:30 am, and 1:00 pm.
When there is both a Novus Ordo and a Traditional Latin Mass congregation at the same parish, it is permissible to have the liturgies “doubled” as we have done in the past with St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. Now that they have their own facilities, we thought that that would not occur this year. But Fr. Tuoc is still here and will have a Novus Ordo English Mass in the rectory chapel at 5:00 pm on Holy Thursday, Veneration of the Cross (new Rite) in the rectory chapel at 3:00 pm on Good Friday, and the Novus Ordo English Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm in the rectory chapel on Holy Saturday.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Update and Sacrament Dates
I don’t know if you paid any attention, but last weekend I hung up a chart in the social hall and highlighted Epiphany’s place on it. It listed all of the parishes and missions of the diocese and showed the number of people attending Mass during February this year and for the past few years. I reported our statistics last year after the October Mass count showed that Epiphany was the only parish that had grown from October 2019 to October 2020. Once again we have a similar data set showing that Epiphany is the only parish showing growth from February 2020 to February 2021. (We track this weekly, but the diocese asks each parish to report on numbers only twice a year, in February and October.) Not only that, but we also grew from our last October count, so we are certainly growing and on track to be bursting at the seams. Last Sunday’s 10:30 Mass, for instance, was standing room only, even though the 7:30 Mass is getting larger and we still have the additional 1:00 pm Mass which I added less than a year ago (temporarily, I thought) to alleviate overcrowding at the 10:30 when we were under capacity restrictions. Let me lay out the growth according to this most recent February survey. This data shows February Mass counts from 2012 (or maybe it is a typo since 2013 is missing), although the Traditional Latin Mass only started here in August of 2015 (long after, obviously, the February 2015 Mass count was reported), so I will start there. Watch the numbers start jumping after the TLM got here. The parishioner count averages all Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses during the weekends in February of each year listed.
2015: 87 people per weekend at Mass
So what do these numbers mean for us? Quite simply, it means that we are outgrowing our current facility. Our parish hall can hardly fit the coffee and donuts crowd after Mass, let alone allow us to host a large event such as our recent Epiphany celebration which, as you well know, had to be moved outside and into the classrooms to provide enough space for everyone who wished to participate. Our classrooms are being used at a record clip, causing scheduling conflicts with various groups which need meeting space. Our parking lot is obviously much too small, but fortunately, we have plenty of grass to park on rather than having to find street parking. These are all great problems to have, especially considering that all of the other pastors are scratching their heads trying to figure out where their people went and how to get them back. These issues are also leading to us exploring the possibility of tearing down our existing buildings and building bigger and better. We have had a civil engineer come out to determine if we have enough room to build on our property and still manage to meet city ordinances. The answer is “Yes, with certain stipulations.” So we are looking to see if we can work those out. I have spoken with the Bishop and he gave me instructions to put the plan in writing and include such things as what the issues are, how the re-building plan will solve those issues, and how we will pay for the project. That written report is in the works.
On a different note, I have some dates of importance for you to give me feedback on. First Holy Communion is scheduled for Sunday, May 23. This year I am asking that all of the children meet with me the month before, at 9:00 am on Sunday, April 18, prepared to show me that they are ready for both their First Holy Communion and their First Confession, which they must make before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. Make sure your children are signed up (on the Sacramental Prep page of our website) and that they can attend this important meeting. Confirmations are now on the calendar for Saturday, June 26, at 1:00 pm. We had Saturday Confirmations in 2017 and it went well, with a reception afterward, but in recent years we have had them at the less-convenient 7:00 pm on Wednesday nights to accommodate the Bishop, who was able to make it one of those years. Assuming he won’t be able to be here this year, I am moving it back to Saturday for your convenience. If I hear differently from him and he wants to do the Confirmations himself at a different time/date, I will change it even if he wants to do them on a Tuesday at 6:15 am. I have also scheduled a meeting on Sunday, June 13, at 9:00 am, with all of those to be confirmed, to determine if they are ready for Confirmation. Again, mark your calendars for these dates, and be sure that your children are signed up via our Sacramental Prep webpage. If there is any major date conflict, such as a Traditional Latin Mass Society National Meeting taking place on any of the above-mentioned dates, please let me know ASAP so that alternative dates can be found and published.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Current Regulations for Lent
For the past few weeks, I have been showing you some of the old regulations regarding fast and abstinence during Lent. Today I present to you some current regulations. You will see quite a difference! Pope Paul VI’s 1966 Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, On Fast and Abstinence, gives us good reasons to continue our Catholic traditions of prayer, fasting, and charity. (Abstinence falls under “fasting”.) It tells us that, although the rules of penance can be changed by the Church, it is God who commands us to do penance. It tells us that episcopal conferences are to establish local norms (more on that later). And it lays out Pope Paul’s reasons for removing the mandate to do much prayer, fasting, and charity: so that we will do it willingly and in accord with the times. The Pope actually states that he wants bishops and priests to promote “extraordinary practices of penitence aimed at expiation and impetration” (beseeching God, especially for mercy, in this context)! “Therefore, the Church, while preserving—where it can be more readily observed—the custom (observed for many centuries with canonical norms) of practicing penitence also through abstinence from meat and fasting, intends to ratify with its prescriptions other forms of penitence as well, provided that it seems opportune to episcopal conferences to replace the observance of fast and abstinence with exercises of prayer and works of charity.”
Then, in laying out his new norms, he eliminated the traditional forms of penance! With the promulgation of this document, the only days remaining wherein Catholics are mandated to fast and abstain from meat are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The products to be abstained from were also greatly limited compared to the traditions we have seen in the past few weeks. “The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.” So the animal products which used to be forbidden are now allowed, including “condiments made of animal fat” such as meat gravy and perhaps even bacon sprinkles on top of salads! As for the size of the meals allowed on the two remaining days of fasting, it was left up to local custom! “The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.” I would observe that our “approved local custom” for the two smaller meals is no longer just a handful of nuts or fruit but is much more likely to be a hefty sandwich or something even more substantial.
I mentioned earlier that our bishops’ conference also issued norms in accord with this document. Within a year our bishops issued a document called, “Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence.” This is a pretty amazing document. After stating that, in union with the above-referenced document, only those two fasting days would be required, it went on to state: “13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice. 14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten Devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of ‘mortification.’" So they encouraged many penitential practices during the whole of Lent and even elsewhere showed that Our Lord separated those sent to hell from those bound for Heaven according to charitable practices (Mt 25:34-40) as they stressed the importance of keeping a holy Lent. But then they made everything optional with the supposition that the Catholic Faithful would find more meaning in doing penance of their own choosing; that they would find penances far more “with the times” than abstinence from meat; that even greater Catholic penitential practices would soon become part of our Catholic identity. They ended thusly, “28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God's people.” I leave it to you to discern if removing the obligations has led to a new birth or not.
I will end with the current (1983) Code of Canon Law, #1251. “Abstinence from meat... is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” So next week, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the Year of St. Joseph, there is no mandatory abstinence!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More on Lent and Fasting
I hope you don’t mind yet another peek into Dom Gueranger’s historical explanation of fast and abstinence during Lent, for I am still having a good time reading and writing about it. Again, let me remind you that these articles are dealing with historical Lenten practices, not current regulations. Here he describes the relationship between the “hours” (prayers of the Breviary which are prayed by clergy and religious are broken into sets of prayers which are read at set times of the day and night), the Mass, and fasting. I find it quite amusing that the hours traditionally prayed later in the day get prayed earlier and earlier so that they (the clergy and religious setting the example for the laity) could eat earlier and earlier! “It was the custom with the Jews, in the Old Law, not to take the one meal, allowed on fasting days, till sun-set. The Christian Church adopted the same custom. It was scrupulously practised, for many centuries, even in our Western countries. But, about the 9th century, some relaxation began to be introduced in the Latin Church. Thus, we have a Capitularium of Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans...protesting against the practice, which some had, of taking their repast at the hour of None, that is to say, about three o’clock in the afternoon...We meet with a sort of reclamation made as late as the 11th century, by a Council held at Rouen, which forbids the Faithful to take their repast before Vespers shall have begun to be sung in the Church, at the end of None; but this shows us, that the custom had already begun of anticipating the hour of Vespers, in order that the Faithful might take their meal earlier in the day.
“Up to within a short period before this time, it had been the custom not to celebrate Mass, on days of Fasting, until the Office of None had been sung - and, also, not to sing Vespers till sun-set. When the discipline regarding Fasting began to relax, the Church still retained the order of her Offices, which had been handed down from the earliest times. The only change she made, was to anticipate the hour for Vespers; and this entailed the celebrating Mass and None much earlier in the day;- so early, indeed, that, when custom had so prevailed as to authorise the Faithful taking their repast at mid-day, all the Offices, even the Vespers, were over before that hour.”
After a few more details such as these, he shows how inevitably the early meal led to being hungry later in the day! “But, whilst this relaxation of taking the repast so early in the day as twelve o’clock rendered fasting less difficult in one way, it made it more severe in another. The body grew exhausted by the labours of the long second half of the twenty-four hours; and the meal, that formerly closed the day, and satisfied the cravings of fatigue, had been already taken. It was found necessary to grant some refreshment for the evening, and it was called a Collation. The word was taken from the Benedictine Rule, which, for long centuries before this change in the Lenten observance, had allowed a Monastic Collation...[T]he Abbot was allowed by the Rule to grant his Religious permission to take a small measure of wine before Compline, as a refreshment after the fatigues of the afternoon. It was taken by all at one and the same time, during the evening reading, which was called Conference, (in Latin, Collatio,) because it was mostly taken from the celebrated Conferences (Collationes) of Cassian. Hence, this evening monastic refreshment got the name of Collation. We find the Assembly, or Chapter of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in 817, extending this indulgence even to the Lenten fast, on account of the great fatigue entailed by the Offices, which the Monks had to celebrate during this holy Season. But experience showed, that unless something solid were allowed to be taken together with the wine, the evening Collation would be an injury to the health of many of the Religious; accordingly, towards the close of the 14th, or the beginning of the 15th century, the usage was introduced of taking a morsel of bread with the Collation-beverage. As a matter of course, these mitigations of the ancient severity of Fasting soon found their way from the cloister into the world...But when it had become the universal practice, (as it did in the latter part of the 13th century, and still more fixedly during the whole of the 14th,) that the one meal on Fasting Days was taken at mid-day, a mere beverage was found insufficient to give support, and there was added to it bread, herbs, fruits, &c. Such was the practice, both in the world and the cloister. It was, however, clearly understood by all, that these eatables were not to be taken in such quantity as to turn the Collation into a second meal.
“Thus did the decay of piety, and the general deterioration of bodily strength among the people of the Western nations, infringe on the primitive observance of Fasting.”
Abbot Gueranger laments the laxity of Lenten fasts signs of weak faith as well as weak bodies. He remarks that it also takes away from the joy of the longed-for meal after Easter Mass, which now, much as with the first night after the wedding of an unchaste couple, has turned into just one more ho-hum, same ol’ same ol’. But perhaps reading this brief history will spark a renewed interest in greater fasting for at least a few people today. Maybe even me!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More On Lenten Practices
Last week I wrote a bit on the early Church practices of “fast” and “abstinence” during Lent. Several of you have since asked if you now have to give up donuts after Mass, which seems to be a much larger problem than giving up all meat and animal products, such as milk, eggs, butter, and cheese as the early practice required! But no, I did not say/write that you had to follow the practice of long ago. I am simply looking at what used to be done and trying to figure out how we got to where we are right now with these practices. As I mentioned, Dom Gueranger, in his voluminous, “The Liturgical Year,” gives a brief history of Lent and Lenten practices up until his time, 19th century France. Among other things, I quoted him stating that the Lent fasts were no more extreme than the fasts on Ember Days and some Vigils. Of course, nobody following the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar has a clue what Ember Days are nor have they ever seen the Vigil of a Feast change the colors of the Mass vestments to violet, a sure indication that it was a day of fasting and at least partial abstinence! We, of course, just had the spring Ember Days last Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and I am sure that at least some of you kept (voluntarily, since it is no longer a mandate) the fasts and abstinence associated with them from the good ol’ days! Now back to the old regulations for Lent, which are traced back to Apostolic times. Along with abstaining from all meat products, Catholics refrained from eating more than one meal a day and that single meal (with no animal products of any sort allowed) could only be taken after sunset. But the Abbot did not begin his history of Lenten abstinence with the Apostles but actually traced this practice all the way back to Adam and Eve. He takes his cue from some great Saints as he writes, “St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great, make the remark, that the commandment put upon our First Parents, in the earthly paradise, was one of Abstinence; and that it was by their not exercising this virtue, that they brought every kind of evil upon themselves and us their children. The life of privation, which the king of creation had thenceforward to lead on the earth, - (for the earth was to yield him nothing of its own natural growth, save thorns and thistles,) - was the clearest possible exemplification of the law of penance, imposed by the anger of God on rebellious man.
“During the two thousand and more years, which preceded the Deluge, men had no other food than the fruits of the earth, and these were only got by the toil of hard labour. But when God, as we have already observed, mercifully shortened man’s life, (that so he might have less time and power for sin), - he permitted him to eat the flesh of animals, as an additional nourishment in that state of deteriorated strength. It was then, also, that Noah, guided by a divine inspiration, extracted the juice of the grape, which thus formed a second stay for human debility.
“Fasting, then, is the abstaining from such nourishments as these, which were permitted for the support of bodily strength. And firstly, it consisted in abstinence from flesh-meat, because it is a food that was given to man by God, out of condescension to his weakness, and not as one absolutely essential for the maintenance of life. Its privation, greater or less according to the regulations of the Church, is essential to the very notion of Fasting.”
Now, these were some thoughts that I had never encountered before! Since sin entered into the world when Adam and Eve broke the rule of abstinence, that makes our own abstinence seem much more important than I ever thought of before. To me, this is almost as impactful as when I first came across the explanation of how we refrain from eating meat on Friday due to the crucifixion of Our Lord on that day. His “meat” (the flesh of Him Who was truly man as well as truly God) that hung in immeasurable pain upon the infamous cross as He freely offered His Life for our salvation was to be worshipped, received, and consumed by us once the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass made this perfect offering a Perpetual one. It is there, at the foot of the cross--at Mass--that we consume His True Flesh, the “meat” which is infinitely more substantial and beneficial to our well-being than any other meat we could consume. It’s no wonder that we abstain each Friday from other meat, the best of which pales in comparison to that which He described as “true food”! The above explanation may also help those who wonder why men don’t live as long anymore and just why we were lovingly permitted to eat animal products and wine to compensate for our newly acquired weakness.
I will come back to this topic next week but now I need to use the remainder of this space to remind you that our Parish Mission begins this very weekend, Sunday evening at 7:00. Fr. Vincent Capuano, SJ, will preach the Misison. Come and listen. Come and pray. Come and confess. Everybody is welcome, not just Epiphany parishioners. Although it will be Zoomed, it will be much better, as you know so well if you ever Zoomed a Mass or even a business meeting, in person.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Parish Mission Update and Lent Fasting!
Good News, Everyone! Fr. Vincent managed to get back into the country and the Parish Lenten Mission is back on track. It has been delayed a bit but put it on your calendar! It will run from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm beginning Sunday, February 28, and continuing through Thursday, March 4 in that time slot. Hopefully, we will also be able to livestream it for the sake of those who would rather not drive home that late. The 7:00 start time gives as many people as possible a chance to eat dinner and drive to church after rush hour has mostly passed. I will let Father explain the topics to you. He is scheduled to arrive in Tampa the evening of the 20th (Saturday, possibly before you read this) and will celebrate the 1:00 pm Mass Sunday the 21st. Many, if not most, of you know and love Father Cap (as the Jesuit boys know him) so besiege him with breakfast, lunch, and dinner invitations. I don’t know how many he will be able to accept, especially the week of the Mission. But feel free to ask him, for he knows how to say both “yes” and “no” as is needed. Perhaps you could even offer to bring food and beverages that you know he likes over to the rectory for him since there is no rectory cook. And offer a prayer that he can be transferred back here, maybe to be the pastor and I can be his associate. You never know what may occur!
Now for a little something about Lent and fasting and abstinence and giving things up for forty days straight or for six days a pop. I have tried to find old books allowing for a practice which we were never allowed when I was young, and which I never heard of even in my first years of priesthood, yet which has taken the Catholic world by storm in recent years. Namely, that whatever we give up for the 40 days of Lent, we can consume (or use, or partake in, as the case may be) on Lenten Sundays! This is the idea that, for instance, if you gave up sweets for Lent, on Sunday you can still eat donuts after Mass. If you gave up social media, you could still check Flakebook during my sermon. Or, if you gave up TV you could watch it all Sunday afternoon. You get the idea. What do you suppose I found? Dom Gueranger, in his voluminous, “The Liturgical Year,” gives a brief history of Lent and Lenten practices. He shows that we never before (and not even in the 19th century when he was writing) chose our own penance, or what we would give up for Lent. The Church chose for us. We were to abstain from all food all day until after sunset when we were allowed one meal that did not include any meat or animal products, such as the flesh of animals (shellfish and fish only later became exceptions), milk, cheese, and eggs. We gave up all shopping, “all amusements and theatrical entertainments,” hunting, and even “war proceedings”! “Lent, then,” this good Abbot states, “is a time consecrated in a special manner to penance; and this penance is mainly practised by fasting. Fasting is an abstinence, which man voluntarily imposes upon himself as an expiation for sin, and which, during Lent, is practised in obedience to the general law of the Church. According to the actual discipline of the western Church, the fast of Lent is not more rigorous than that prescribed for the vigils of certain feasts, and for the Ember Days; but it is kept up for forty consecutive days, with the single interruption of the intervening Sundays.” Wait! Did he just mention our sought-after Sunday exemption? We shall see! But first, note that he looks askance at the continually expanding relaxation of those penitential practices. In his words, “And must there not result from this ever-growing spirit of immortification, a general effeminacy of character, which will lead, at last, to frightful social disorders?... Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges--civil discord, or conquest. In our own country [France] there is an inconsistency, which must strike every thinking mind: the observance of the Lord’s day, on the one side; the national inobservance of days of penance and fasting, on the other. The first is admirable, and, if we except puritanical extravagance, bespeaks a deep-rooted sense of religion; but the second is one of the worst presages for the future. The word of God is unmistakable: unless we do penance, we shall perish.” So did he just say that on Sundays we can “admirably” eat and do that which we abstain from during the rest of Lent? No, for even in his “relaxed” days, “During the whole of the Lent preceding Easter, milk-meats [this seems to have included all meat and food made from milk, butter, and cheese], eggs, and even fish, are forbidden. The only food permitted to be eaten with bread, is vegetables, honey, and, for those who live near the sea, shellfish... [W]ine... is now permitted, and on the Annunciation and Palm Sunday a dispensation is granted for eating fish.” Note that the fish dispensation applied to one Sunday of Lent only! Basically, you could eat more than one meal on Sundays of Lent, hence, no fasting, but you could still not eat the “forbidden” foods or do the “forbidden” activities. More next week.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Mission? Football? Soup and Stations!
A few weeks ago I let you know that the renowned holy Jesuit priest, Fr. Vincent Capuano, was coming back to the US for a short visit and that he was going to be giving us a Parish Mission one of the first two weeks of Lent. Unfortunately, he has still not been able to make it out of Argentina so the Mission is iffy at this point. If he manages to get here and is still available to do this for us, I will let you know. It might be a simple matter of having it later in Lent than we had originally planned. Please keep him in your prayers. [UPDATE: Father is set to arrive this weekend!] Late last year, before Fr. Vincent said that he would like to do it, I had asked a small TLM priest community if they would be able to come during Lent should any parish cancel on them. I thought there was a pretty good possibility of that happening due to state and local covid restrictions. I heard back from them. Their bishop asked them to cancel all of their Missions due to covid. So they might not be coming for at least a few more years (remember when it was just “two weeks”?) as we watch this thing play out.
Speaking of play, last week Tampa hosted the Superbowl. Many thanks to all of you who invited me over to watch the Big Game with our own local team participating as well as hosting. I had to decline all the invitations, though, as I haven’t watched a game since all of those bozos in the NFL competed with each other to see who could best “virtue signal” by taking a knee at the National Anthem. It was bad enough in the past when it was just one player making a fool (this is a church bulletin so I am limiting my vocabulary here) of himself, joined by just a few other miscreants looking for attention, and I was able to just ignore a couple of teams. But this time around the whole NFL went crazy, including the owners, and I just couldn’t stand (sorry about that!) supporting them while they knelt. The foolishness proved to be more contagious than a certain coronavirus which is interfering with our Parish Mission! Basketball players quickly upped the ante and made the football players look sane. All too soon I had to scratch Major League Baseball off my list as well. But at least, thought I, I still have hockey! But, alas, even players of such a manly sport turned into a bunch of little girls who were afraid of being called names if they didn’t follow suit. Heck, even Nascar got into the act. I never saw that coming. Of course, it was a lousy year to turn off the sports, as our Rays won the American League Pennant, making it to the World Series, our Bolts won the Stanley Cup, and our Bucs won the Lombardi Trophy. But it seems that I wasn’t alone in saying “You’re on your own” to football, as the Superbowl ratings were the worst since 2007. The chance of me coming back to fandom ranks right up there with the chances of Catholics flocking back to Mass if and when their bishops ever encourage/allow them to do so. It might happen, but something has to change, perhaps with management once again realizing what the whole purpose of their game/religion is.
The purpose of the Catholic religion is, of course, to give us both the natural and supernatural means necessary to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next. We are currently on a pilgrimage through this life, journeying toward Heaven, following Our Lord’s command and example to take up our cross and follow Him. We do this in a fairly literal manner, especially on Fridays of Lent, when we walk the Way of the Cross, stopping at each of 14 Stations to recall what happened to Jesus at each of these places as He paid the price of our eternal salvation by offering His Life for ours. Starting on the first Friday of Lent, we will be praying these stations in the church at 5:30 pm. Following this spiritual journey, we will proceed to the social hall where we hope to find 50 or 60 Crockpots, Instantpots, and/or dutch ovens filled with your homemade, delicious, meatless soups! Last year this sharing of soups proved to be a big hit. Everyone got to the stations early (note the EARLY part so that we have time to set your soup pot in place), put their soup pot and ladle (both marked with the family name so that they go home with whoever brought it) in rows on the tables set out for this purpose, and went into the church to pray. After Stations, we all came back out and sampled as many small bowls of soup as possible! Sometimes there were multiples of certain soups and it is amazing how each was flavored so differently. Bring your favorite or try something new! An index card specifying the type of soup is very helpful. It can also include other information like “gluten free” or “allergy warning: contains peanuts and shellfish.”
This year when we wrap up (8:00 pm), if anyone likes, I will stay and give short classes on how to use your missal. Many of you are new to the TLM and the missal is quite daunting. I will try to answer your questions and get you more comfortable following along at Mass.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Safe Haven Sunday Approaches
I cannot say enough good things about this program encouraged by our Bishop and the accompanying resources available from dosp.org. The following is straight from the Diocese of St. Petersburg website. “The family home is to be a safe haven. But the inappropriate use of technology in the home deprives it of this role and is the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriages and families today. Pornography and other online threats are often one click away, and parents can feel overwhelmed with not knowing how to best protect their children in our fast-paced digital world. The weekend of February 13-14, 2021, the Diocese of St. Petersburg is taking another bold step to help families by celebrating our third, diocesan-wide Safe Haven Sunday. This awareness day will provide access to practical resources that any caring adult can use to protect themselves and our young people from online risks.”
Ask any good, solid, church-going Catholic parent if pornography is a problem. Unlike their worldly friends, schoolmates, and co-workers who think pornography is simply a harmless diversion, instructional, a “manly” thing to engage in, or even a “means of women exerting power over men,” they will answer, “Absolutely. One of the worst problems today.” But then ask them if it is a problem in their house and they will answer, “Of course not.” They are, after all, good, solid, church-going Catholics. They would never admit to having a problem themselves and, if they are parents, will adamantly deny that their children would ever engage in viewing (or producing) such filth.
Catholics have their heads in the sand on this topic. Ask any priest who hears confessions. It used to be only men who got addicted to porn. Now it is also the women. It infects, afflicts, and damages both males and females, although it is still more prevalent among males. Now it is extremely widespread among children from Junior High up. It used to be difficult to obtain. Now it is hard to avoid it even when attempts are made to block it out. It is even more difficult to break away from it once it is found, fed upon and digested, imitated with self and/or others, and habitually sought out in ever more vivid details. It is demonic beyond most people’s wildest imaginations. Ask anyone who is trying to quit. Is it easier to give up smoking or porn? Porn. Cocaine or porn? Porn. Spousal abuse or porn? Porn. I know of no other addiction which gets so deep into man’s (in the traditional use of that word) body and soul and clings so tenaciously. And I can think of no other addiction which is so widespread. Yet, as I stated above, good, solid, church-going Catholics give their children 24-hours-a-day access to this filth via smartphones and computers and somehow convince themselves that their children will not do what they themselves would have found far too tempting to resist when they were young. Worse, many of the parents and grandparents are themselves addicted and don’t want to let it be known that they are even aware of porn’s existence or prevalence so they do nothing to protect other family members from engaging in this evil. Did I mention yet that just viewing pornography is a mortal sin? Yes, even if you do not do any of the physical stimulation that generally accompanies it. Commandments numbers 6 and 9 are broken directly, plus others indirectly when one purposefully engages in such “free speech” media.
Fortunately, though difficult to break, this addiction can be conquered! After all, if it is demonic, which I have already stated that I believe it is, the Church has the proper weapons to fight the battle. Of course, stopping yourself and--especially--the young ones from ever engaging in this deadly activity in the first place is the best thing to do. Protecting everybody from online, TV, movie, book, and other porn media heavyweights is easier than fighting the battle once you have made friends with the enemy! Don’t let satan get a foothold in your eyes, mind, soul, and body. There are many bits of help available on the diocesan webpage. Go to http://www.dosp.org/freedom-from-porn to find resources for counselors, advice, programs, and so much more to help you resist, fight and heal, and even to help you love, help, and cope with an addicted spouse or child who just can’t seem to give it up.
Do not underestimate the power of the Sacraments in this battle! But, at the same time, do not pretend that they are magic, either. Recognize and acknowledge your sin, repent, and go to confession. Having ascertained that you are in a state of grace, fast, attend Mass, and receive Holy Communion often. But physically do something more. Get rid of the literally damnable items which brought porn into your life or house in the first place. Cancel cable and all movie sources if you cannot resist watching porn even if it is branded as something “innocent,” or “soft,” or “normal.” Swap a smartphone for a flip phone. Throw the computer in the trash. Have someone put a blocker on the phone and computer that you “absolutely must have.” No amount of recreation, communication, or business necessitating those devices is worth going to hell for. None. Confide in your parents, in your spouse, or in your adult children if you need help. Do whatever it takes to get “sober” again or to keep others out of this trouble. All the while continue availing yourself of prayer and the sacraments. Rinse and repeat as needed.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Warning: False Information Below
Before all else, don’t forget that Tuesday, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas, we bless candles with special prayers. Bring yours before the 8:00 am Mass. Weather permitting, we will bless the candles outside near the rectory chapel. Don’t be late. Wednesday is the feast of St. Blase. We bless throats on that day, so come drive off all of those nasty winter bugs and other evils. Also on that day we bless bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments, so you can bring those and share with others who could not make it to Mass to get their throats blessed. Or keep it for yourself for a later day of need. It sure doesn’t hurt to have blessed things, including food and drink, around the house!
Beyond that, a celebrity is coming to town that afternoon! Fr. Vincent is returning for a visit. He flies into Tampa too late to be at the Mass of St. Blase, but at least I can share some blessed food with him later in the day. He will only be here a few hours and then flies off again for a few weeks to “quarantine” elsewhere. But he is returning on Ash Wednesday and will be with us for two weeks. One of those weeks he will be giving us a Parish Mission! He still has to work out other schedule issues so we are not sure yet when the Mission will begin and end, but stay tuned for more information. His probable topic: “Going to hell is worse than catching covid.” Or something like that. Or something completely different than that. We will see.
On a different note, this past week I was flagged for the third time by Falsebook “fact checkers'' as having passed on false information regarding covid and the World Health Organization. Ha! I loved their article explaining, in a generic article attacking, not specifically the article which I posted, but multiple “articles and tweets” “misinterpreting” WHO and PCR tests and positive cases... blah, blah, blah... and then it tried to show how all such articles and tweets were wrong to say that PCR tests have many false positives and may conflate “positive test” with “contagious.” But in defending the PCR against false positives, they stated multiple times that they do, indeed, have false positives. They quoted someone who must be quotable as admitting that many false positives will be generated in the future but not now. Only later. And then he guessed that it might be 1% false positives now. But that’s not a big thing. Except it is a big thing for those 1900 people per day (his number) who receive a false positive and must quarantine for two weeks and trace their contacts and warn them (instill fear in them) that they have been exposed and perhaps need to quarantine themselves. But even more head-scratchingly, the “true” fact-checker article went on to state several times that the PCR positive tests don’t mean that you have covid! Nor does a positive result mean that you are ill or contagious. They state this quite clearly. Being infected with a contagious disease should mean that you are both ill and contagious but it doesn’t mean that with covid because of how they define “infected.” For these geniuses, having an infection means that “a person is or has been infected.” Did you catch “or has been”? A positive test is not a false positive just because you don’t currently have covid, as long as you once had covid! So if you caught covid last February and took the test today it should return a positive result because, in their own words, you are infected. You got over your covid nearly a year ago but you are, by their measurement and definition, infected, because you are one of those “or has been infected” people. Yes, they bring that up multiple times in the article, so it is not a typo. You are a “case” because you are (not were, as normal people would put it) infected. But you are not contagious because you do not have the virus any longer. But you (“true positive” but actually immune and don’t have covid), along with the “false positive” people (who also don’t have covid), need both to quarantine yourself and to instill the fear of death into all those who have been in close contact with you. But don’t you dare call it a false positive! Unbelievable! I am glad to see what they consider to be “true” information, for they really cleared up everything about what they mean by “cases” and “false positives” and “true positives.” They also, in passing, stated that they know that the positive results are positive because they often run them a second time. They didn’t mention that if there is no concern about false positives there is no reason to run them a second time, nor did they mention if that second positive result also adds to the numbers of “cases.” But if I speculate further, this article will probably be listed as “false information.”
Had I used fact-checker definitions in the first part of this article, I would have told you that you need not bring new candles to be blessed on Candlemas because if you have ever burned blessed candles you still have them, even if the wax was completely consumed by the flame. Moreover, you cannot come to the St. Blase throat blessing if you have ever had a sore throat because you are infected now, not then.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Some Liturgical Notes of Interest
Several people have asked several other people about why we still have Christmas decorations out in the church. The answer, of course, is that it is still Christmas! Christmas usually starts about August in the stores as they line the shelves with garland and pre-lit trees for sale. I assume it was the same this year, but, due to covid mask mandates, I simply refrained from doing any shopping except for food and for such necessary things as household items. No browsing, no wandering the aisles looking for whatever the marketing geniuses were pushing. Christmas music usually begins to play on the radio at Thanksgiving, though not much of it is actually Christmas music anymore, replaced with such “traditional carols” as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Churches everywhere race to put out their manger scenes before the First Sunday in Advent, fill their bleak sanctuaries with ornamented Christmas trees and green felt banners, and generally pretend that Advent is Christmas for all practical purposes. Not so here. Advent is Advent. Christmas is Christmas. So in Advent, during which time everything is subdued in preparation for and anticipation of Christ’s birth, the flowers were taken away, replaced, in some spots, by greenery and a few poinsettias. The red on the poinsettias, by the way, are leaves, not flowers, so they don’t break the Advent rule of “no flowers on the altar.” We tried this year to set up actual Christmas decorations as close to Christmas as possible, taking into account the schedules of the volunteers and staff who undertook all of the work. We (they!) will take it all down when Christmas comes to an end, or thereabouts. (Actually, some of the real greenery has already been taken down because in our climate it had already become a droopy, sad-looking “brownery.”) So when does Christmas actually end? Some claim that once the Twelve Days of Christmas are over, so is Christmas. They will then take down the Christmas decorations once the Three Kings arrive on Epiphany (January 6 in the TLM calendar, various dates in the NOM). Others claim that the Baptism of Our Lord is the end of Christmas, so on January 13 it all gets removed in the TLM, various dates in the NOM. Some years we may follow those opinions. But this year we are opting to make Christmas last as long as possible. After all, we had Easter stolen from us last spring so we need to do something special to embrace at least this joyful season! With this in mind, all liturgical signs of Christmas end with the coming of Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 2.
I hope you know that the 8:00 am Mass will be quite a bit longer that day. We will begin outdoors, weather permitting, with a special blessing of candles. Bring your own. Bring a single one. Bring boxes of them. Bring 100% beeswax, or paraffin, or soy, or earwax candles if that is what you have available. There are multiple blessings given to the candles that day and you don’t want to miss it. After the blessing, you will be able to take part in the short procession back into the church, so be sure to bring at least one candle which you can carry in the procession. It would be ideal, as with most processions, if we could carry our lit candles and process from one church to another and have Mass at the second church, but that is not realistic here. So we move from outside to inside in what is normally the only daytime candlelight procession of the year. Unlike the Blessing of the Palms and procession where we assume it will be hot so we set up under the oak trees out front, we assume that on Candlemas we will want to be in the sun, so we set up in the field near the rectory chapel. (Our first year here we did the candle blessing in the rectory chapel --so small was the congregation and number of candles to be blessed-- since nobody had ever heard of nor experienced this blessing before!) Come early and you can drive close, drop off your containers of candles, and return your car to the parking lot before it all begins. Come late or “right on time” and you will be carrying the boxes from the parking lot and may even miss getting them blessed. I do need to stress that if you come after the blessing has begun (or finished!) you will not get candles blessed that day! You will be driving in rush-hour traffic so plan ahead.
Of course, even if you somehow miss candlemas, the next day, February 3, is the Feast of St. Blase (or Blaise). You know we bless throats on that day but did you realize that in the old Rite there is also a blessing of the candles which will be used for the throat blessing, plus a blessing for bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments and “every infirmity of soul or body”? I still have a bottle of wine I blessed for myself last year in case I got a sore throat and fortunately, through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Health, I have not had to drink it! (I won’t tell you how many bottles I had to drink due to maladies of the soul, though!) The perishables, needless to say, are meant to be eaten much more quickly. Mark your calendars before you forget!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Grumble, Grumble, Grumble
I was hoping to write a heartfelt “Thank You” article, thanking everyone who worked so hard to make our Epiphany celebration such an incredible event but the “real world” got in the way. There are just too many things going on right now which require some sort of “pastoral commentary” but are not exactly the best of topics for sermons. So let me comment here instead. First of all, the news coverage of the “Storming of the Capitol” has been atrocious. The very people and news organizations who kept outright lying about how “mostly peaceful” this summer’s leftist riots were, who praised rampagers for their tactics, who demanded that local and federal law enforcement stand down, who refused to arrest, or, once arrested, refused to prosecute the lawbreakers, are now screaming from the rooftops that everyone who not only entered the Capitol building but everyone who stood outside, who watched it, who heard of it, or who in any way ever uttered or thought the word “Trump” in a less-than-disgusted manner be immediately fired from their jobs, arrested, locked in concentration camps, and forever branded as a terrorist, including their relatives and acquaintances down to the fourth degree. I exaggerate only a little.
There is no exaggeration about the dangerous path taken by the big tech leftists in all of this. For the social media to, as a group, remove a sitting President from their platforms is a sign that they can and, mark this well, WILL go after anyone with whom they disagree. The instantaneous destruction of their “rival” platform, Parler, is one ominous example. It is one thing to call for a boycott of a company, which then allows consumers to decide either to support a company or not, but for monopolies to band together in lockstep to shut down a company for doing exactly what the Big Bullies themselves previously did with great pride in “real” government uprisings outside of this country, and were simultaneously doing during this “civil war” (as anyone who only reads headlines of mainstream media is convinced we just had) is something Al Capone and his ilk would be proud of. Farcebook pages and Bleets were used by the “Capitol Hill Gang,” yet those leftist companies have not even been “tsk-tsk’d, let alone banned,” by those controlling the internet. In fact, they are being applauded for removing tens of thousands of people whose thoughts The Left disagrees with. As one who belongs to a group already on the “terrorist threat” list (the Catholic Church, for being pro-life and pro-morality, has been several times branded a terrorist organization) I can see a day in the near future when my personal and my parish accounts will be “disappeared” in a like manner.
But now that I brought up the topic of “Catholic Church” I should like to jump to Her latest news headlines. To begin with, everyone doing any due diligence knows that the two covid vaccines currently available in the temporarily-united States use aborted baby tissue cell lines in their testing processes. And while the Bishops of these States and the Bishop of Rome all insist that everyone has an “obligation” to “voluntarily” take the shot, I have yet to see anyone broach the subject of pediatric deaths from influenza which have been drastically reduced and which will undoubtedly return to normal if we wipe out covid and usher in the flu once again. Covid has almost wiped out the flu worldwide. In the whole country, only 71 deaths of minors have so far been “associated with” covid while hundreds of youthful lives have been spared by the elimination of the flu. According to the CDC, the lives of 600 or more children in the US are believed to have been snuffed out by the flu during the 2017-18 flu season. They note that flu deaths were undercounted; I note that covid is overcounted. Those demanding covid vaccinations never mention that they may be biased in their reasoning since it is their own age groups that are being hit hardest by covid while children are mostly unharmed. I am not implying that this fact is the only one worth considering but it sure is one worth putting forth for all to see.
Now I turn my commentary to the new Moto Proprio on Lectors and Acolytes. The change to Canon Law now allows both men and women (instead of men exclusively) to be “instituted” as lectors and acolytes (basically, lectors are those who read the epistles at Novus Ordo Masses and acolytes are those who serve at the altar). Both males and females already do those things in the NOM. But until now they were only doing that as “extraordinary” ministers at a parish level. Once “instituted” to those roles, they have a “universal” role that may be fulfilled at any parish, even beyond diocesan boundaries. Since installed acolytes can function as subdeacons in the TLM, will Installed Acolyte Sister Mary Pantsuit from St. Elton John parish insist on subdeaconing our Solemn High Masses? Moreover, since only adults can be installed in these two ministries, could it be that altar boys and girls will have to give way to their moms and dads?
Lastly, there are new directions from Rome regarding the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The priest has to wash his hands “after blessing the ashes” and before distributing them, not afterward. That part makes no sense but the rest is worse. He then “puts on a facemask” (yes, it’s in the instructions!) and imposes them “without saying anything.” It is times like these that truly make me joyful that at TLMs we must use the 1962 rules!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Holy Water Blessing Ceremony
Last week I wrote a little about the upcoming Epiphany Water blessing and that this year was the first time we would be able to use the complete ceremony. I wasn’t sure how many people would come for it but I figured that, along with the choir, maybe a dozen people would make the trek. In case I was off by a lot, I printed out 25 copies of the basic blessing prayers in English for them to have. We set up 4 eight-foot tables across the front of the church outside of the altar rail and started labeling and opening up 6 cases of water bottles which I planned on blessing to give out this weekend to those who could not make it on Epiphany Eve. Some hearty helpers came in early and it is a good thing they did! People started coming in with salt (a necessary component of Holy Water in the old Rite) and water. Lots of it. We printed out 25 more copies of the previously mentioned prayers and it still seemed that less than half the people got one. All four tables were soon full and the large jugs underneath the tables had to share space with the continued “stream” of water being brought in. Most people were a bit taken back by the need to take the lids off the water, as they didn’t realize that exorcized and blessed salt had to be added to the freshly exorcized and blessed water.
Most of the time when people get their water blessed by a priest, he simply says a quick prayer over the container, and off they go. The new Rites, even when they are followed to a “t” are sorely lacking compared to the ancient Rites, as so much was simply discarded as “superfluous” and “unnecessary”. As for the Epiphany Eve blessing of the Holy Water, it is nowhere to be found in the new books. To drive this point home, let me show you what the prayer of blessing is in the new Rite “Book of Blessings.” As in most new Rite blessings, the priest “may” say a bunch of non-blessing stuff as written in the book or using “similar words” and perhaps read a few lines from Scripture, with a choice of eight passages being suggested. This part, of course, is optional. Then the prayer of blessing is written for him to say with “hands outstretched.” “Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God, who in Christ, the living water of salvation, blessed and transformed us. Grant that, when we are sprinkled with this water or make use of it, we will be refreshed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the new life we received at baptism. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” There is, of course, a second optional prayer, because, well, there always must be options! “Lord, holy Father, look with kindness on your children, redeemed by your Son and born to a new life by water and the Holy Spirit. Grant that those who are sprinkled with this water may be renewed in body and spirit and may make a pure offering of their service to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” Note that in reciting neither of these prayers does the priest make the sign of the cross, nor does he mention driving away demons (neither from the water nor with the water!), or sanctifying the persons, places, and things that will be sprinkled with the water. In fact, neither prayer of blessing even (read them again if you cannot believe this!) asks God to exorcize, sanctify, or bless the water! Need I mention that there is no mention of salt, either? It is pretty apparent even to newly ordained priests that they are better off “winging it” and making up their own prayer if they want the water to receive any sort of blessing at all.
Granted, the Epiphany Eve blessing of Holy Water is much more complex than the normal old Rite blessing of Holy Water, but even in the “normal” old blessing the priest not only exorcizes and blesses both salt and water, he also prays extra prayers while mixing them together, and, just to make sure there is no doubt about what he was doing, prays yet another prayer after the mixing is done. All of the prayers are explicit in stating what is being done and the sign of the cross is made multiple times during all of it. But on this one night, the evening before Epiphany, the old Rite adds even more solemnity to the blessing prayers. We started out with the chanting of the Litany of Saints, asking prayers of individual Saints (ora pro nobis) and multiple or groups of Saints (orate pro nobis). Then came my first beseeching of God that He would ✠ bless and ✠ sanctify the water, then we chanted the Agnus Dei, Kyrie, Pater Noster, and three Psalms. Then came the powerful exorcism prayer I showed you last week, followed by the Magnificat. Only after all of this did I pray the multiple “normal” exorcism and blessing prayers. The schola sang the Te Deum, a traditional hymn praising God with joy and thanksgiving. Oh, and a final prayer thanking God for granting all of the petitions for which we had asked. It took just over an hour, about twice what I expected and half of what I feared! Now that we have done this once in all its splendor, I believe that we may need a larger church to accommodate everybody that will participate next year!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Holy Water
This coming Wednesday, January 6, is our parish Feast Day! On Tuesday, January 5, at 6:30 pm I will be exorcising and blessing special Epiphany Holy Water which will be made available beginning the next day (along with blessed chalk) for the traditional Epiphany House Blessing. Since we don’t have a neighborhood parish, I cannot simply walk from house to house to do the blessings, so I will give you a modified version of the blessing which should be done by the spiritual head of the house. All of the new parishioners will finally realize what the chalk marks above the doors of the church and rectory mean! As for the special Epiphany Holy Water, although I will be blessing cases of water in bottles, if you wish to bring your own holy water bottles to fill or if you wish to bring gallons of water to be blessed, feel free to do so. Salt, too. I will also need some help ahead of time opening up each of the bottles (exorcized and blessed salt has to be added) and again afterward closing them again, so if any of you can come early and/or stay late, I will be very appreciative. This special water blessing on the eve of Epiphany has, until this year, been a very small, inconspicuous blessing with little to no chanting since there has always been something interfering with the schedule. This year the schola will be present to chant the Psalms and Antiphons as the Church expects to happen at such a special ceremony. I don’t know how much time it will take, though, as this will be the first time we are doing it “by the book.” I am guessing 30 minutes but so many of our Traditional Latin ceremonies take longer than I expect that I have put it on my calendar to be finished by midnight! Again, we will start the blessing at 6:30 pm. Come one, come all.
Just to give you some idea of the power of the exorcisms and blessings of the Epiphany Holy Water, I have printed below the first (not only) exorcism prayer which I will be chanting that evening.
Exorcism against Satan and the apostate angels
In the name of our Lord Jesus ✠ Christ and by His power, we cast you out, every unclean spirit, every devilish power, every assault of the infernal adversary, every legion, every diabolical group and sect; begone and stay far from the Church of God, from all who are made in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the divine Lamb ✠. Never again dare, you cunning serpent, to deceive the human race, to persecute the Church of God, nor to strike the chosen of God and to sift them as wheat ✠. For it is the Most High God who commands you ✠, He to whom you heretofore in your great pride considered yourself equal; He who desires that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. God the Father ✠ commands you. God the Son ✠ commands you. God the Holy ✠ Spirit commands you. The majesty of Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh ✠ commands you; He who for the salvation of our race, the race that was lost through your envy, humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death; He who built His Church upon a solid rock, and proclaimed that the gates of hell should never prevail against her, and that He would remain with her all days, even to the end of the world. The sacred mystery of the cross ✠ commands you, as well as the power of all the mysteries of Christian faith ✠. The exalted Virgin Mary, Mother of God ✠ commands you, who in her lowliness crushed your proud head from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and the other apostles ✠ commands you. The blood of the martyrs and the devout intercession ✠ of all holy men and women commands you. Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you by the living ✠ God, by the true ✠ God, by the holy ✠ God, by the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have life everlasting; cease your deception of the human race and your giving them to drink of the poison of everlasting damnation; desist from harming the Church and fettering her freedom. Begone Satan, you father and teacher of lies and enemy of mankind. Give place to Christ in whom you found none of your works; give place to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which Christ Himself purchased with His blood. May you be brought low under God's mighty hand. May you tremble and flee as we call upon the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before whom hell quakes, and to whom the virtues, powers, and dominations are subject; whom the cherubim and seraphim praise with unwearied voices, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!
Oh, yes, Epiphany Holy Water is special! It is powerful! It is useful! “Regular” Holy Water, blessed in the old Rite, not the new, has been exorcized and blessed and has had exorcized and blessed salt added, and has been given still more blessings. But this holy water gets so much more. Bring coolers and buckets and jugs of water for yourself and for distribution to family and friends all year long! See you Tuesday evening!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Christmas 2020
So here it is, a day or two after Christmas and everyone is sharing stories about how their family managed to cope in this most strange covid year. Since I usually don’t have time to sit down and chat after Mass (giving out penances and absolution does not count as “chatting”!) I will have to leave you with this written account of how my Christmas went. Obviously, with Christmas on a Friday and the bulletin needing to be out before the staff took off for the Holy Day, I had to write it before any of the described activities took place. Of course, these time warps happen around here all the time, so you should be used to them by now.
Christmas Eve was pretty busy around here. After the second morning Mass, there was, as normal for a weekday, Adoration and confessions. The confession lines had been long all week and the day before Christmas was no exception. Everybody and their brother wanted to be spiritually clean for Christmas, thanks be to God! After the Benediction, there was a large group of people waiting by the sacristy to have items blessed, most of which were going to be given as presents. Of course, even before I got done with the exorcisms and blessing of the various items, there was the all too often heard cry of, “Father, the toilet is overflowing!” The answer to the reply, “Which one?” determined how to fix it. It was the easy one. “Jiggle the handle,” I called back and continued casting demons out of some items on the table. “Make a note to exorcize the bathrooms, too,” I thought to myself. By the time I was finished the noon church bells were ringing. I headed over to the rectory office to plagiarize a little more from the Church Fathers, I mean, to finish preparing my sermon.
Probably 15 people came to the door bringing (more) homemade cookies, spiced nuts, and/or trail mix covered in white chocolate as they wished me and the staff a Merry Christmas. I certainly am not complaining, for that is what I ate for all of my meals last week and I probably have enough left for another week as well! Look at how thin Kim and Mark are and you know who really gets the goodies marked, “To Father and the staff, Merry Christmas!” The phones rang pretty constantly, too, as people kept calling to ask about the Mass schedule. I think Mark got tired of telling people that “That’s right, Midnight Mass starts at 12:00. No, midnight is not too late to hold Midnight Mass. Just because your parish up north always has it at 9:30 pm doesn’t mean that that is the traditional time...” He got good at figuring out where the callers were visiting from. “No, Father doesn’t celebrate the ‘Children’s Mass’ dressed as Santa Claus. You’re from Detroit, aren’t you?” “Your priest always gives general absolution before Christmas Masses? Let me guess. Chicago?” “You want to know which Mass is the shortest so that you can get in and out quickly? I thought you New Yorkers were all in quarantine!” And so passed the afternoon and evening.
A few of my family members came to Midnight Mass this year. Even though Aunt Irma was just here for Thanksgiving, she came back again anyway. It is always good to see her. I was going to re-introduce her to everyone before Mass because some of the new parishioners have never met her and some have even had the audacity to question her existence! But she showed up late and, since it was a candlelight Mass, it was too dark for anyone to see her. I know a few of you spoke with her after Mass when she handed you one of her computer tablets so that you could safely Zuum without needing masks (she still hasn’t figured that one out yet). She was also pretty vocal about the Vatican’s Nativity set, so if you heard a lady ranting about how her local boys and girls club had been ripped off by not getting credit for their work, you now know who she is. She claims that some of the special needs children back home had participated in a “Go Big or Go Home!” Beginners Porcelain class where they each created larger than life-sized characters whom they either admired or feared. “Little Jeremy, whose dad is on death row, made the ‘Darth Vader as an Executioner’ statue. Camille, who was born without legs, created a dog missing those appendages and other children followed her lead when making barnyard animals. Frankie follows Space X launches and so made a spaceman. Suzie made a chunky flying monkey from Wizard of Oz. Shawna made a soldier to honor her deployed older brother. Mary and Joseph are really just giant Weebles the Casimir twins put together...” And the list went on and on until Aunt Irma ran out of breath. “They never expected these to be Nativity figures,” she was telling everyone who would take her tablet and listen. “People would stop making fun of the pieces and calling them ‘ugly’ if they realized that these were first attempts at art by physically and mentally handicapped and abused children, not professional artists.” I was proud of her for defending those poor kids. I was equally relieved that this topic kept her from explicating her views on the recent CDF and USCCB letters on vaccinations.
I have many more Christmas stories to share, but there is no more room in this column. I hope your Christmas was as good as mine!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Christmas Arrives This Week!
Santa Claus is coming to town! St. Nicholas is soon to arrive! He will have checked his list twice to see who has been naughty and who has been nice. Out of love of God and love of neighbor due to his love of God, he will bring presents to all of God’s good little girls and boys on the very night that God’s Love was manifest to all of creation by the birth of Jesus, born of Mary at midnight on December 25 just over 2000 years ago. I know that St. Nick already made a visit to us here at Epiphany, but he is so generous that he will also visit us at our homes! I can hardly wait but wait I must. The week will drag on endlessly as I count down the days. Monday will last a whole week. Tuesday will seem like a whole month. By the time Wednesday is done, I will think that it certainly has to be next Christmas already! But then a magical day comes with Thursday. Thursday morning will start off just like every other Thursday morning. Masses, confessions, Adoration, and everything else will be just like normal but something will be different. There will be a whiff of Christmas in the air, something hard to explain but far different from the endless, impatient waiting of the previous days. The clock races forward and then it happens! Evening comes and everything changes! Christmas arrives with the first Christmas Mass!
The Novus Ordo Christmas Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm will be the first of the Christmas Masses and, therefore, the official start of Christmas. (For those new to Tradition, Vigils are different in the new and old liturgical calendars. In the new calendar, a Vigil Mass is usually a Sunday Mass celebrated on Saturday evening or the Feast Day’s Mass celebrated the evening before a Holy Day of Obligation. Attending such a Vigil Mass fulfills one’s obligation for the Sunday or Feast Day. In the old calendar, a Vigil Mass is generally the daily Mass celebrated the morning before one of the greatest Feasts, even one which is not a Holy Day of Obligation. It is meant to prepare the people for a big Feast, not to take its place as the new-calendar Vigil does. So those Thursday morning Masses I just mentioned are the TLM Vigil of Christmas Masses. Unlike the Novus Ordo Vigil, attending one does not take the place of the Christmas Mass, nor fulfill the obligation to attend Mass on Christmas.) We never know how many people to expect at that Mass on Christmas Eve. One year, if memory serves correctly, we had three large families show up from out of town and they doubled our usual crowd. Each was simply visiting relatives in the area and found our parish either online or by word of mouth. This year I don’t know if we can expect any travelers. Our Midnight Mass (at midnight!) will once again be celebrated by candlelight. Unless we just happen to have a priest, deacon, or subdeacon stop by unexpectedly, it won’t be a Solemn High Mass this year (oh, how we miss Fr. Vincent!) but it will still be a High Mass and the choir will be heavenly. Just as I remember from childhood, Midnight Mass is expected to be the largest of all the Christmas Masses at Epiphany as you set aside all such obstacles as “tired children” and “long, very late, drives home.” In the morning our 7:30 am Low Mass will gather all of the early risers who must then wait until after Mass to open presents and eat breakfast. What a great explanation I heard one year about how the parents were teaching their children not only patience by attending that Mass but also teaching them that the greatest part of Christmas truly is attending the Mass celebrating Christ’s birth, rather than getting and giving presents, as important as that is. The 10:30 am Mass will see the return of the schola for another High Mass. This year we won’t have to worry about rushing through either of those morning Masses, as there won’t be a Vietnamese Mass in between. Parking should be a bit easier, too! Then, at 1:00 pm, we will have our last Christmas Mass of the day. Since we have never had a 1:00 pm Mass on Christmas (or any other Feast Day, since it was only begun this past June --temporarily, it seemed-- to allow covid anti-social distancing at the popular 10:30 Mass) I don’t know what size congregation to expect. Perhaps it will be full of families who were able to sleep in (hohoho) and then open presents and eat a hearty breakfast before coming to Mass. We shall see.
Fortunately, we will have two more weekends between Christmas and our big Epiphany Celebration which we will hold on Sunday, January 10. During that time we will get a huge tent set up behind the church, place dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs under it, get it all decorated beautifully, and get the hall ready for any overflow if needed. There will be a catered meal and so much more going on that day. Remember, the 1:00 pm Mass will not be celebrated that day, as there will be even more noise than normal, making it impossible to have a truly reverent Mass during the festival. The Epiphany Council of Catholic Women is the driving force behind this event, so when I wrote above that “we” would do this work, I actually meant “they”! Thank you, ladies! Merry Christmas, everyone!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Memories!
Last week I wrote about the growth, against all worldly odds, of our parish. But as I started looking back a year I saw not only the Mass attendance but also something else of great importance. One year ago this week we had our handicap ramp installed! That was a long-planned project that took quite a bit of time and effort to figure out how to get the plans approved, pass the permitting process, and comply with all disabilities legislation. It seems like such a simple thing but it certainly wasn’t! But what a blessing it has been for those who have a difficult time managing even the few stairs we have leading into the church and social hall. As I was thinking about that project, it dawned on me (you could say that I had an epiphany) that many of you don’t know what changes have occurred in the five years that the Traditional Latin Mass has been at the parish. On our website, you can find a whole section devoted to photos going back to the beginning. If you have the patience to scroll all the way back, you can see photos of the church as it was. There was a different altar. The old one is currently being used as a credence table in the social hall, keeping our monstrance, extra altar cards, missal stand, and other essential objects for Mass out of harm’s way. There were two matching side altars, one of which was being used as a pedestal for the Sacred Heart statue. The pedestals currently holding statues were used as flower stands. The old ambo (pulpit) matched the altar set. There was no altar rail (although there had been one at one time). We got one from a second-hand church supply company. That is also where we got our marble baptismal font. You really should see what it replaced! The tabernacle was completely different, too. It was shaped like a rectangle except that the top went down a couple of inches making it a “v” shape instead of flat. It was replaced first with a tabernacle which had been made to fit on top of the current altar (when it was against the wall in its previous home) and was later replaced with the current tabernacle. There are also photos of Mass in the rectory chapel. I didn’t see any which included the plexiglass altar (which you may have noticed was in the social hall for Masses during the covid lockouts, which is also when the current church sanctuary flooring and steps were installed). The dark wood paneling in the chapel was replaced when the roof decided that it was allergic to water and so let it pass through into the chapel, necessitating a remodel of sorts. That also led to a new roof being installed on the rectory and the school, both of which had been routinely patched for years. You will also find photos of the church being covered with black tarps as we had to have it fumigated to kill the termites. Even now you can check out the front right pew to see just how much damage they were doing!
Looking back at those old photos as I wrote this was fun for me. There were so many things that we were doing as a parish that few attending Traditional Latin Masses in this diocese had ever done before. Since 1969 there had not been a parish dedicated to the Old Rite in our diocese. The few places where the TLM was celebrated never had the ability to allow so much as coffee and donuts after Mass or a regularly scheduled potluck. At one of the parishes, they wouldn’t even allow the priest to keep anything needed for the TLM at the parish, so everything from books to vestments to chalice and bells all had to be loaded up, brought in, set up for use, and taken back down and packed away when Mass was done, each and every week. At this parish, we, for the first time, had the opportunity to allow the parishioners to stay and socialize after Mass and even during the week! While the adults got to know each other, the children had the ability to play and there were footballs and kickballs and frisbees and ping-pong available. What a huge difference all of that makes in a parish!
But more than that, for the first time we also had the opportunity to celebrate feasts which for decades had not been available except in the New Order Rites--if they were done at all--such as all three Christmas Masses (starting with Midnight Mass), Epiphany Mass celebrated on the traditional Feast of Epiphany (January 6), Tenebrae, Rorate Coeli Masses, Ember Days, Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross, the Holy Saturday blessing of Easter Baskets, and, joy of all joys, the Holy Saturday nighttime Vigil and Mass, all done in the 1962 form! We had processions of various kinds for Candlemas, Corpus Christi, and Palm Sunday. We celebrated, in the Old Rite, baptisms, confirmations (Bishop Parkes even celebrated them for us one year!), weddings, and funerals. We had Low Mass and High Mass and, occasionally, Solemn High Mass. I had to learn (and am still learning) how to celebrate all of these, as I didn’t even chant Mass before coming here! Many of you, new to the parish, still haven’t experienced much of this. You are in for a treat when you finally see what I mean. The photos are great. But greater still is experiencing this in person!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Mass Attendance Statistics
I have been going over the results of our October Mass counts in the diocese. We get these compilations twice a year, the other time being after the February parish Mass counts. Every parish (there are officially 80 parishes and missions in the diocese) counts noses at their Sunday Masses and sends the completed report to the chancery office in St. Petersburg, where somebody tallies the numbers and produces nice spreadsheets for whatever use they have. The pastors each get a copy of these spreadsheets to be used as we see fit. The numbers are presented in two ways. The first spreadsheet in this latest compilation had each week of October broken out with the reported numbers listed by week, followed by the average weekly total. The average weekly attendance for the Month of October was then compared to the previous year’s weekly average in October and the percent of increase or decrease was noted. It is this result that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Epiphany’s October 2020 Mass attendance from week one through week four is as follows: 636, 560, 639, and 674 for an average of 627 people attending Sunday Mass per week. Epiphany’s average during the same month in 2019 was 412, so we had an increased Mass attendance this year of 215 people, or 52.2%. No other parish in the diocese had a year to year increase in October. The next closest parishes (numbers wise, not geographically) were St. Mary in Tampa, which only had an 11.9% decrease, and St. Vincent de Paul parish in Holiday, which was down 13.7%. St. Anthony the Abbot in Brooksville and the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam in Largo were the next best with decreases of only 23.4% and 28.1% respectively. All of the other parishes were down more than 30%, for a grand total average of a 52.4% decrease across the board. (FYI, St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission was down by 39.9% even as they were preparing to move out of Epiphany and into their own church.)
The second spreadsheet shows the current year’s Sunday Mass attendance plus the last six years’ count. In October of 2014, before the Traditional Latin Mass began being celebrated at Epiphany, the numbers are shown as DNR, or Did Not Report. Perhaps someone forgot to count or to send in the results to the chancery. Regardless of why there were no numbers reported that month, it was the following August (2015) that the TLM started here. I was told (perhaps through the numbers for the February count) that 87 people were currently attending the Saturday Vigil Mass and two Sunday Masses combined. So that is our starting point. Now back to October numbers. In 2015 we had 242 people at all of the Masses combined, in 2016 that increased to 305. 2017 saw a slight decrease to 298. In 2018 we increased to 322 followed by a significant jump in 2019 to 412 and, finally, to this crushing pandemic year, where, as mentioned previously, we rose to 627! With these results, there are now 49 parishes which are smaller than Epiphany!
The most amazing thing (as I see it) about these numbers has nothing to do with our increase as every other parish decreases during this extended pandemic panic, as impressive as that is. Rather, our increase is impressive because it has all come about because Epiphany celebrates as her norm the form of the Mass that everybody insists--even while seeing such numbers--that nobody wants! Oh, we still have our sole Novus Ordo Mass, the Saturday Vigil, but that Mass still averages just over 20 people. The increasing numbers are all due to the TLM. When I was first asked by parishioners, three parishes ago, to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, I, too, was of the impression that nobody would show up for one. After all, I said, I had been a priest for over a decade and not a single person had ever asked for a “Latin Mass.” So I understand why my brother priests don’t get it. We have all been told our entire lives (those raised after the second Vatican council, that is) that the “old Mass” was terrible, that the priest turned his back on the laity, and that the old ladies prayed (O, the horror!) the rosary during Mass. It was presented as a Mass of priestly dominance, and only suitable for the widows who had nothing else to do. But every young priest (I flatter myself!) who has learned to celebrate this ancient Mass and the other sacraments out of the old Ritual--especially baptism--soon gets the cobwebs cleaned out of his brain and realizes that the old ways flourished and were fine-tuned for nearly two thousand years not because they were so awful but because they were so prayerfully effective!
I do not believe that these statistics are unique to Epiphany. I suspect that something similar is happening everywhere the TLM is celebrated by a priest who really believes in his priesthood (and, thus, in the Church), something that often happens to a much greater level after learning the TLM than before. Priests and bishops, seeing such numbers everywhere, will one day do as I did and stop assuming that the people don’t ask for the “Usus Antiquior” because they know the difference and prefer the new. Instead, the clergy will realize that the people have been cheated out of their heritage and treasure. Their people don’t ask for the venerable old Rites because they don’t know the richness of what was taken from them. Yet behold! The Restoration swiftly cometh!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My Virtual Thanksgiving
Although last week I wrote a tongue in cheek “not much to be thankful for this year” article, you all know that I really have had too many blessings from God to count. One of the biggest blessings is family. Not the normal type of family. Not the Norman Rockwell type of family. Certainly, not the perfect family. But a crazy family keeps things from being boring. Or so my sister recently told me, not realizing that I would soon be quoting her! My crazy family Thanksgiving story is about to begin, so sit down for a spell. Remember, as always, that due to early bulletin publication printing deadlines during the holidays, I had to write this before our office closed for this feast day.
It has been a while since any of us had seen Aunt Irma, what with the covid panic and all. The only news she gets is from the Communist News Network and her online news”paper” subscription, so every day she hears and reads with growing terror about the daily “Record Cases” count and number of “deaths with covid associations.” In her mind, as planned by the great powers, of course, every “case” equates to a new, gory death. She is proud to proclaim her support for the censorship being done by NotYouTube, Tweeter, and Farcebook, which keeps her safe from hearing “conspiracy theorists” asking such things as “Where did the flu go?” and “Is the efficacy of increasing Vitamin D and decreasing excess weight being ignored because the powers that be cannot make millions of dollars selling a ‘miracle cure vaccine’ if something simple and cheap works?” or doctors quoting actual CDC studies about the futility of wearing masks, or even people simply quoting from the WHO website about how contact tracing doesn’t help stop the spread of viruses after the first few weeks that they are unleashed and lockdowns do nothing except prolong the course of the infection and destroy lives beyond what the virus does. She is, of course, terrified of breathing, speaking, singing, and touching. So it was a shock when she accepted my sister’s invitation to come and spend Thanksgiving with the rest of the family!
She wasn’t very forthcoming but she simply stated that she had heard of a new technology that would allow her to remain safe. We were all taking bets about what kind of protective devices she was going to show up with. I bet that she would show up with a hazmat suit and N100 mask. My brother figured that she would be decked out with a deep-sea diver’s full getup including a long oxygen hose which would, pumped full from a clean source of air outside (maybe on the roof so that nobody would be able to stand next to it and breathe), be dragged throughout the house, snaking after her wherever she went. Mom guessed, feeling a little cheeky just then, that Aunt Irma would wear one of the old “stork masks” that people wore during the Black Death plague, insinuating that she may just be old enough to have saved hers! As you can imagine, our guesses just got silly from there. But we were all wrong. Further wrong than backward, if that is possible.
Aunt Irma hadn’t yet arrived on Thanksgiving Day when the festivities got underway. We were doing a wine tasting with various appetizers that had been set out. We had a bourbon barrel aged pinot grigio paired with ghost pepper poppers, a white cabernet sauvignon accompanying pumpkin spiced stone crab claws, and a 1934 Dom Perignon mutually benefitting some exquisite Ketchup flavored Doritos from Canada. My brother-in-law was just about to put the spiral ham into the deep fryer and his turkrabbeapig (like a turducken but this turkey was stuffed with a rabbit which was stuffed with a guinea pig) was nearing perfection in the smoker. We had just about given up on Aunt Irma when in she burst. She wore no mask, no gloves, no protective gown, no goggles. Just regular old-lady-imitating-a-teenager clothes. She was struggling with a rather awkward box and asked everyone to hold their breath and come quickly to help her distribute the goodies inside. It was full of small electronic tablets, one for everyone. They weren’t early Christmas gifts, she explained, but rather safety devices to protect her from us and us from her and from each other so that none of us could catch the covid. She couldn’t exactly explain it, she said, but we had to trust her and follow her directions. We each powered on our tablet and then signed in to Zuum. “This,” she nearly squealed, “is the greatest medical miracle thing. Public service announcement ads keep telling us that we can have a fun and safe Thanksgiving if we just Zuum with each other. They say businesses are doing it all the time now to keep their employees safe and we can do it as a family, too!”
So this is how we spent the rest of the day. We each held our tablet and, whenever we wanted to speak with or listen to Aunt Irma we had to look at her image on our tablet to safely converse, even if she were sitting right next to us. She was convinced that somehow this electronic Zuum thingy zapped the virus and kept us all safe. Maybe it was just the wine, but we haven’t laughed as much since covid was created as we did Zuuming the rest of the day. And now we know we will see Aunt Irma for Christmas, too!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thanksgiving? For What?
This week we have a national holiday that has me wondering, "What, exactly, are we to be thankful for this year?" For our health? No, for we are told every time we are forced to put on a face diaper or stand on the little blue “6 feet for your safety!” dot or refrain from shaking hands that we are ill; that we harbor a deadly, wildly contagious disease. We cannot visit grandma because we will willfully, purposefully, perhaps even gleefully, carry our contagion to her in order to make her die a terrifying death (after locking her up in a hospital prison cell with no visitors allowed, neither family nor friends nor priest). No, we are so unhealthy that we are constantly bombarded with dire warnings of “skyrocketing cases!!!” of people who may not even have imagined that they were deathly ill but were forced to take the covid test so that they could fly or go to a ball game or attend school or some such used-to-be-ordinary event and, lo and behold, turn up positive for something that may or may not be a current covid infection or past coronavirus infection or nothing at all. Mandatory reporting of such ill people to the health authorities, 10-14 days of quarantine, and contact tracing does not show much of an indication of good health, even if the grandma-killer has no illness of any sort. In fact, that sort of person is put forth as the most fearful kind of unhealthy person of all, since those who are showing signs of covid sickness are never highlighted in what used to pass for the news as the “superspreaders”. That’s right, anyone who has symptoms of illness is certainly a killer but those who are healthy are the most unhealthy of all. Plus, even after beating all odds and somehow surviving the unsurvivable covid monster, those who are scientifically shown to be immune must still wear the mask, refrain from physical contact with any other human person, and never, never visit grandma in the nursing home. After all, two people out of the millions and millions of those who, to the experts’ consternation, somehow survived covid have been reinfected so immunity cannot be real. So no giving thanks for health, for the sick ones are not healthy and the healthy ones are even less healthy.
How about giving thanks for family? After all, the days around Thanksgiving are always the most traveled days of the year, as people go home to enjoy the great festival with their families. But, alas, this year we are told that we should not go to anyone’s house nor to have anyone over to our house for fear of killing them. Or them killing us. Or all of us killing each other. Family members cannot come if they have the sniffles, of course, since even suffering from allergies proves them to be grandma killers. But they most certainly cannot come if they are well, for that somehow offers even more proof that they are going to infect everyone.
So maybe we can be thankful for all the food that we will have? Especially since we cannot share it with anyone, we will have plenty of leftovers this year, which, in “normal” years, would be something worth celebrating. But this is not a normal year. The food came from the grocery store, where, judging from the fact that everyone wears masks, everyone must be ill from covid. Shoppers and workers were all mutually infecting each other, killing each other’s grandmas. Plus, covid attacks plump people more than skinny people, so eating more of the Thanksgiving meal will make people more prone to dying from the disease that they spread while purchasing it in the first place. Nothing to be thankful for in any of that.
But at least we can give thanks for the money we saved by staying home instead of traveling or the money we saved by not entertaining those who didn’t travel to see us, right? Not so fast. Our economy has yet to recover from the “two-week” lockdowns and continuing restrictions and fear, so for far too many people there is a net loss of income rather than any kind of savings. The social isolation during this holiday just makes the financial desolation that much more unbearable. A sarcastic, “Thanks a lot” is not a true thanksgiving.
At least we can go to church on Thanksgiving, to give thanks to God for --so far-- not getting arrested for breathing. But wait! The same “news” outlets screaming that the asymptomatic cases are setting records insist that bars, restaurants, and churches are the main places that covid is spread, so those three big baddies must be cut out of our holiday this year along with cutting out family, friends, and travel. Just to drive home the evil of ignoring the covid experts’ suggestions/demands, imagine a horror movie where the main characters combine these major grandma killing activities by 1) gathering with family and friends (maybe even *gasp* traveling to be with them!) and either enjoying food and drinks at a parish potluck after Mass; or 2) by praying grace and giving a toast at a restaurant. Either awful scenario is enough to send shivers down the spine of any caring person.
Well, I guess that leaves only one thing left to give thanks for: that our nation united together to hold an honest, fair and square, unquestioningly above board, and verifiably on the level election in order to choose the brightest, most competent, and most morally upright people to run our local and national governments.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Bid Farewell to the Vietnamese Mission
Next week St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission will celebrate their last Masses at Epiphany. They recently purchased a Lutheran church compound, which includes a church building, a gymnasium with an indoor basketball court (plenty of room as a social hall), and a school building. They have been spending countless hours fixing it up, inside and out, to make it their new home. The one thing lacking on this property, which is located in the Town and Country area of west Tampa near Incarnation Catholic Church is a rectory. So Fr. Chien has asked to continue to stay at our rectory until they can build a new house for him next to the new church. When they leave they will be taking many objects and items with them which will be of use in their new church so that they don’t have to start completely from scratch. Although I have offered to round up some volunteers to help them move, they have assured me that they can--and want to--do it by themselves. So say goodbye and say a prayer for them!
What will this mean for Epiphany? There are some good and some bad aspects to losing them. They have been here for a long time and, although there used to be some interaction between the two communities, ever since the primary Masses and sacraments of the parish began being celebrated in the Traditional Rites, there has been very little to no overlap. There were no more bilingual “combined” Masses, for instance, for Christmas or Easter, since the forms of the Mass were incompatible with each other, where previously only the language was different. So, of necessity, there have been constant tradeoffs between “good” Mass times and “bad” Mass times, with each group switching each year. Now both communities can set their own schedule! Both communities had also grown so large that neither of us could fit in the social hall for a large gathering, let alone invite the other one to join in the celebration. It hadn’t been so difficult when both groups were small. In their new place, they now have a large hall and we will try to figure out how and where to build a new, larger one ourselves! But for now, at least there is no competition for the limited space we have. Sundays the classrooms will also be available for us to use before, during, and after our Masses. Back when Epiphany had no children (it seems impossible, yet there was only one child in the parish when I arrived 5 years ago, a three year old girl whose family left shortly thereafter), St. Joseph got used to having all of the classrooms to themselves. It was difficult for them to adjust to the fact that we needed the space for our children, too. Now we won’t be in each other’s way.
But we will also have to pick up the entire bill for such things as electricity, maintenance, and staff, all of which we currently split with St. Joseph. We will also have to take over things that their parishioners used to do around the grounds. Many of the plants and flowers were tenderly cared for by them, and I am sure we will find out many more things only once nobody is doing them anymore! Of course, they are in the same situation as we are as far as all of this goes, and they will have to deal with us not being there to assist them, either!
Lest I forget something very important, I must make sure to mention that they will also be getting a new name! They will now be called, “St. Joseph Vietnamese Parish.” They will no longer be a mission but a parish! Most people won’t think much of that but it is a statement of trust on behalf of the Bishop that they can make it on their own without needing any assistance from others. (They still won’t have any parish boundaries but will instead be independent of but within the parish boundaries of Incarnation, meaning that St. Joseph’s priest will not be responsible for the spiritual well-being of any of the neighborhood people, nor have to make sick calls at the local hospital or nursing homes, but will be solely responsible for those attending St. Joseph parish.) They will no longer be “children” but “adults” in a manner of speaking, which I hope will be well appreciated by everyone in their community. As for us, like proud parents, we can shed a few happy tears as we watch them go, with mixed emotions, but mostly with happiness for them as we wish them well in their new parish home and new responsibilities.
As for our future, we are working on a temporary fix to the air conditioning problem and have had a couple of meetings with civil engineers and others to see about what we can build on our property, how we can expand to meet our increased needs due to our current and future growth, and plan accordingly. Of course, a lot depends on the Bishop and what his plans are for us and for the diocese, especially as so many parishes are struggling right now. Building projects may not even be on his radar for a while. For now, we are growing and have become a respite for the weary, a source of hope for the disheartened, an inspiration for the young-at-heart, and a light in a world of darkness. No matter what the future holds, since God is in charge, great things await the people of Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You For The Spiritual Bouquet!
This week I finally got around to reading the Spiritual Bouquet cards so many of you filled out for me for Priesthood Sunday a while back. I was touched by the beauty of the cards themselves, although I had seen them before they were written upon, but even more so by the beauty of the offerings of prayers expressed so sweetly and succinctly. If you remember how they were laid out, with the chosen prayer to be offered on my behalf followed by a number of flowers, you can see how different people filled them out differently. Some circled a few flowers. For instance, on one card next to “Mass” followed by five flowers, three of them were circled. Three Masses for me! Others wrote next to or above the flowers, so next to “Memorare” the four flowers were untouched but three stars were inked in! Still others made little notes, such as “One a week” after the “Act of Charity” flowers. Some cards had written notes on the back, a few were signed with names or initials, and one was obviously from one of the youngsters and was just scribbled on. It was my favorite! There were too many prayers listed for me to count (since I wasn’t homeschooled!) and I appreciate them all. I want to comment on one of them in particular that caught my attention. Under “Other” “Psalm 35, 5 times” was written. I picked up my trusty Douay-Rheims bible to see what was being prayed for me (no, I do not have all of the Psalms memorized!) and I will share this with you. I have to confess: I am not quite sure what to make of it. “The unjust hath said within himself, that he would sin: there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Oh-oh! What is this person trying to say to/about me? I continued reading, hoping for a change in tone. “For in his sight he hath done deceitfully, that his iniquity may be found unto hatred.” No change of message yet! “The words of his mouth are iniquity and guile: he would not understand that he might do well.” Okay, I thought to myself, this is being prayed five times for me. I better start paying attention to something in here, even if it hurts! “He hath devised iniquity on his bed, he hath set himself on every way this is not good: but evil he hath not hated.” Whew! That’s not exactly a pleasant way to be seen by a parishioner! “O Lord, thy mercy is in heaven, and thy truth reacheth even to the clouds.” All right, at least he or she is asking God to be merciful to me, a sinner! “Thy justice is as the mountains of God, thy judgments are a great deep.” Oh, no! Mercy, Lord, not justice! “Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord: O how hast thou multiplied thy mercy, O God! But the children of men shall put their trust under the covert of thy wings They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure. For with thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light we shall see light. Extend thy mercy to them that know thee, and thy justice to them that are right in heart. Let not the foot of pride come to me, and let not the hand of the sinner move me. There the workers of iniquity are fallen, they are cast out, and could not stand.” So it ends on a good note. Maybe this is being prayed for me so that I may repent of my numerous sins and receive mercy from God rather than reap His justice? I hope so! Heaven awaits only those who do so, even among priests.
Of course, there could also be another possible meaning to the Psalm being prayed. Maybe the person praying it used a different bible translation. The translation itself would not be so vastly different as to change the meaning, but the numbering system used is not always the same! Did you know that different bible versions number the Psalms differently, even among Catholic bibles? So I pulled out the New American bible and opened to Psalm 35. “Fight, O Lord, against those who fight me; war against those who make war upon me.” Oh, yeah, this one might be the one! “Take up the shield and buckler, and rise up in my defense. Brandish the lance, and block the way in the face of my pursuers; Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’” This Psalm is a bit too long to quote in its entirety but it continues by showing that the writer (King David) has enemies who plot against him, who fake friendship, whose delight is to destroy him through any evil means, similar to what we are currently witnessing so clearly in both the secular and ecclesial worlds. But it is a Psalm of trust in God to conquer evil men and for the good men to give glory to God through both their reliance on Him and their praise of Him. It is scary due to the evil that even “God’s chosen one” had to endure but comforting at the same time, secure in the knowledge that God is always in control even when wicked men seem to be winning. This Psalm, by the way, is numbered 34 in the Douay-Rheims. Whichever Psalm is being said five times for me, I am sure God knows the reason it was chosen! Thank you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Expanded Plenary Indulgence Opportunities!
November 1-8 we are always given opportunities to receive (or rather, to give!) a plenary indulgence on behalf of a soul in purgatory by visiting a cemetery and praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed (along with the other necessary things that go along with the actual indulgenced act, such as prayers for the intentions of the Pope, confession, being in a state of grace, not being attached to even venial sin, etc.). Due to covid, the following decree expands this to every day of the month of November! Also, the plenary indulgence for 2 November for the faithful who visit a church or oratory and recite an Our Father and the Apostles Creed can be transferred to the previous or following Sunday or to All Saints or even on another day of November as the faithful choose. Sorry, it is not yet available in English.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
D E C R E T U M
Vertente anno, propter pandemiam morbi “covid 19”, Indulgentiae plenariae pro fidelibus defunctis totum prorogabuntur per mensem novembrem,commutatis condicionibus piisque operibus, ut christianus populus in tuto sit.
Ad hanc Apostolicam Paenitentiariam complures Sacrorum Pastorum supplicationes nuper pervenerunt, quibus postulabatur ut vertente anno, propter epidemiam morbi “covid-19”, piae commutentur operae ad plenarias lucrandas Indulgentias, animabus in Purgatorio detentis tantummodo applicabiles ad normam Enchiridii Indulgentiarum (conc. 29, § 1). Quam ad rem eadem Apostolica Paenitentiaria, de speciali mandato Ss.mi D. N. Francisci Pp., libenter statuit ac decernit ut, ad vitanda concursa, nonnullis in nationibus et territoriis vetita vel saltem dissuasa, vertente anno:
a.- plenaria Indulgentia pro pie visitantibus coemeterium et, vel mente tantum, pro defunctis exorantibus, singulis octo diebus, more solito a primo usque ad octavum Novembris tantum adfixa, pro fidelium utilitate, in alios dies usque ad octo, etiam seiunctos, intra mensem Novembrem transferri possit, a singulis fidelibus libere eligendos;
b.- plenaria Indulgentia, diei II Novembris, in Commemoratione omnium fidelium defunctorum adfixa, pro pie visitantibus ecclesiam vel oratorium ibique “Pater” et “Credo” recitantibus, non tantum in diem Dominicum antecedentem aut subsequentem aut diem sollemnitatis Omnium Sanctorum transferri possit, sed etiam in alium diem intra mensem Novembrem, a singulis fidelibus libere eligendum.
Senes, infirmi omnesque qui gravi causa domo exire nequeunt, ex. gr. decretis prohibentibus, ut fedeles frequentes in loca sacra conveniant, plenariam consequi poterunt Indulgentiam, dummodo, animo voto sese iis sociantes, qui pias egerint visitationes, de quibus supra, concepta detestatione cuiusque peccati et intentione praestandi, ubi primum licuerit, tres consuetas condiciones (sacramentali Confessione, eucharistica Communione et oratione ad mentem Summi Pontificis), coram quavis imagine D. N. Iesu Christi vel Beatae Virginis Mariae, pias pro defunctis preces recitaverint (ex. gr. Laudes et Vesperas Officii Defunctorum, Rosarium Marianum, Coronam Divinae Misericordiae aliaeque preces pro defunctis christifidelibus magis caras), vel Evangelii lectionem e Liturgia Defunctorum ad modum lectionis spiritalis legerint vel in misericordiae operam incubuerint, doloribus vel propriae vitae incommodis Deo clementi oblatis.
Quo igitur accessus, ad divinam veniam per Ecclesiae claves consequendam, facilior pro pastorali caritate evadat, haec Paenitentiaria enixe rogat ut sacerdotes legitime adprobati, prompto et generoso animo celebrationi Paenitentiae sese praebeant ac S. communionem infirmis ministrent.
Attamen, pro spiritalibus condicionibus ad Indulgentiam plene acquirendam, semper valet huius Apostolicae Paenitentiariae Nota De Reconciliationis Sacramento, tempore pandemiae morbi “covid 19” celebrando.
Denique, cum autem animae in Purgatorio detentae fidelium suffragiis, potentissimum vero acceptabili Altaris sacrificio iuvantur (cfr. Conc. Tr., Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), sacerdotes omnes enixe rogantur ut die Commemorationis omnium fidelium defunctorum, ter sacrum facere ad normam Constitutionis Apostolicae “Incruentum Altaris”, a Benedicto Pp. XV, v.m., die X Augusti MCMXV datae.
Praesenti totum per mensem novembrem valituro. Contrariis quibuscumque minime obstantibus.
Datum Romae, ex aedibus Paenitentiariae Apostolicae, die XXII mensis Octobris anni MMXX, in S. Ioannis Pauli Pp. memoria.
MAURUS Card. PIACENZA
From the Pastor: Nothing Humorous This Week
Last week’s article was just for fun. This week’s is all business. Sorry about that! The first order of business is All Souls Day. This is your last week to write down the names of those whom you wish me to pray for on All Souls. Remember, since most priests seem to canonize the deceased person at each funeral Mass, most people have become convinced that their loved one is now “in a better place” or “playing golf with Jesus” or something like that. Priests and people (but Father, priests are people, too!) alike spout lovely nonsense such as, “The funeral Mass is for the living, not the deceased” and therefore do not pray for the repose of the soul of the very one being laid to rest. November 2, All Souls Day, is the one special liturgical day which really focuses on the fact that the dead person may very well be suffering terrible pains of purgation, as if being refined by fire, and will benefit tremendously by the prayers of the very few living who still care enough to pray and offer sacrifices (and The Sacrifice) on their behalf. So write down the names of your departed family and friends and bring them in sometime this week or this coming weekend. They will be eternally grateful for your love and prayers. If they get released from Purgatory or even if their sufferings there are lessened because of your simple act, you know that they will pray for you with great fervor whenever they see God face to face!
The second order of business is an update on the air conditioning system in the church. You would not believe how many AC technicians simply shake their heads and leave once they get a good look at what we have. Even the head honcho at the diocesan office of construction came out to see why the estimates were so high. He came expecting that we were being ripped off. He left understanding why we are seeing such a high cost looming ahead. He did have some good news for us, though, insofar as the possibility of building a new church, social hall, school, parking lot and retention pond goes. He thinks we have plenty of land to work with here if we want to build new rather than spend like new on this current building. So if any of you have a few million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, let me know. In the meantime, we are looking into keeping the old AC units functioning as long as possible and perhaps adding some smaller units to make up for the half of one which is currently not functioning. Heck, I am even looking at putting in window units everywhere rather than spending 400 grand replacing the old system. They wouldn’t look too good, but if they replaced the current stained glass windows it might even be an improvement!
The next and last item to be covered is the latest bit of unexplainable stuff to come out of Rome. Here are the headlines: “Pope Francis, in Shift for Church, Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions” (NY Times); “Pope endorses civil union laws for same-sex couples” (CNN); “Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine” (NBC News); and from the UK’s highest circulation paper according to Ed Pentin’s tweet of their front page, “Pope Blesses Gay Weddings” (Metro); the list could go on and on. Did the Bishop of Rome really make such statements? Yes. Did he make it part of Church teaching? No. Or, a more accurate answer might be, not yet. He simply gave yet one more interview which never should have been given, only this time it is an interview on camera and shown in an anti-Trump movie which has just now (curious timing!) been released. There is no Catholic priest (no real Catholic priest, that is) who ever hears the words, “He gave another interview” without cringing and wondering out loud and with a groan, “What now?” So far (I had to write this the very night that this news broke, so hopefully there will be more like this coming) one US bishop has put forth a useful statement about the political propaganda movie’s big quote. From Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, we read on his website, “October 21, 2020. The Holy Father’s apparent support for the recognition of civil unions for same-sex couples needs to be clarified. The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions. The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships. Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible.” He also later tweeted, “Popes John Paul and Benedict, in formal teaching said that same-sex civil unions were wrong and that Catholics had to oppose them. Pope Francis, in a movie, said that same-sex civil unions were helpful and should be promoted. So, I ask, how could there possibly be any confusion?” I answer that there is no real confusion. There is a battle between good and evil being played out for all to see. The “confusion” is hiding nothing. All who have eyes to see, see quite clearly. “Choose this day...whom you would rather serve.” Where and how you spend eternity depends on your choice. “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Prime Days or Doomsday?
Amazon Prime Days returned! Yes, these are the days that everyone seems to go gaga over shopping online. Prime Days were postponed by a few months this year due to that nasty computer virus, COVID 19. When the CO(mputer)VI(rus)D(duh!) 19 virus first started spreading throughout the internet, I quickly shut my electronics down for safety’s sake. Nothing electric, no computer, no tablet, no TV, not even the refrigerator, was left running. I wasn’t about to let that nasty particle into the rectory where it would infect all of the appliances and would probably spread to even the battery operated gizmos like smoke detectors and wall clocks once it got a foothold. Heck, even the wooden chairs might not be safe. But after months of being cut off from the web, I really wanted--needed--an internet fix. I would have settled for a quick glance at Farcebook, and I nearly did several times, but my Catholic guilt got the best of me and I couldn’t justify “killing grandma”--as everyone kept accusing gamers and bloggers of doing when they just wouldn’t stop playing and writing even to save the world--just to see posts about what people were eating (accompanied by the inevitable nasty comments from “friends” and trolls deploring the restaurant of choice, the type of food, etc.) and memes with Jesus facepalming just about everything. I nearly caved to the desire to watch cute kitten videos on YouTube but thankfully the Google censors were removing them as soon as they were reported in a fairly successful attempt to keep us from temptation and electronic transmission of the infection. But when it was announced that Prime Days were back on the schedule, I knew the time had come. If Amazon was having this massive event, it must be safe to go online!
I set my alarm clock for 2:37 am so that I would be up and ready for the 3:00 am start time. I needn’t have bothered, though, since I was so jacked up that I couldn’t sleep a wink anyway. As I prepared to get my computer fired up and running, the panic the government so lovingly instilled in me kept welling up. My index finger trembled as it hovered over the power button. Was I doing the right thing, entering into this crowded buying frenzy? I wanted to push such doubts out of my mind but I was not certain that all of my precautions would keep my computer free of this terrible virus. Maybe I was going online too soon, I thought, and putting the entire network in danger of contamination. But I knew that I had taken all of the precautions touted by Fauci and Friends. After months of government mandated interpersonal outdoor social activities, I tried to believe that the Great Isolated Indoors were finally free from contagion, or at worst would only kill off old DOS and XP systems. We have “flattened the cord” by now, so I wasn’t endangering the world by participating in this mob transaction, was I? I went over my safety checklist one last time. No computers or other electronic equipment within six feet of any other. Check. A mask over the breaker box so that the virus could not get in through the electrical outlets. Check. Lysol glistening on the keys of the wireless keyboard just in case some of the tiny little critters slipped past the mask and somehow travel through the air rather than staying confined to electrical cords (experts are still contradicting themselves and other as to whether this virus is spread more through wires or wifi or bluetooth). Check. A full protective suit of plastic bags enclosing both the modem and the router. Check.
I took a deep breath and told myself that everything was going to be just fine. I was finally ready to step back into the world wide web by buying something--anything--on Amazon before somebody else could purchase it. As you can tell, though, I was nearly as worried as I was excited. My mind continued to race. What if my computer gets sick? Will it infect all of the others in the house? Am I putting the Geek Squad in danger unnecessarily just for the thrill of spending money on things I really don’t need? What if the virus lurks, unbeknownst to anyone, in the computer without doing any damage, and then one day, Bam! Bam! the government knocks on the door with a Norton Security Suite and detects that my machine is an asymptomatic carrier, contact traces all connected equipment, both those things physically present and those in the cloud, and quarantines every last thingamajiggy for two weeks or more? How could I live with myself should somebody in Nebraska have their fancy IoT toaster suddenly switch from “bagel mode” to “pop tart” after it connected to the same server in Utah that my DNS server possibly passed a few ones and zeros through? Maybe, I whined to myself, I should just curl up in bed and admit that the world will never go back to being connected, for even if a rushed computer vaccine is found to be safe and effective, the COVID might hack itself and bypass all antivirus measures in no time. I was truly torn about what to do.
In the end, I caved to my temptations to return to “normalcy” (i.e., virtual reality). I turned on the computer, clicked the mouse, and bought a reusable metal straw. Doggone it, if I am going to doom the planet, I will save it at the same time.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka