He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Can You Pass This Test?
On Saturday, we held a one day retreat for the children who are about to be confirmed. After a good beginning, with Mass, confessions, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we got down to business. I passed out a quiz to see just how much they already knew about the basics of Catholicism, so that I would know how best to aim the talks of the day. Most of you have already been confirmed and, after seeing the test results, I wonder how you would fare. So here goes. Take it if you dare!
—How many Gifts of the Holy Ghost are there? Name them. What is the purpose of each one?
—What are the 12 fruits of the Holy Ghost and where are they found in sacred scripture?
—Why do some lists only include 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit? (Tip: note the change from Holy Spirit to Holy Ghost!)
—What is the difference between a Gift and a Fruit of the Holy Ghost?
—Write out the 10 commandments.
—Name the 7 sacraments. Put an asterisk next to those which, once all are received, fully initiate a Catholic into the Church.
—Give the definition of a Sacrament.
—Answer (honestly!) yes or no to the questions below:
Can you recite the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer)?
Can you recite the Hail Mary?
Can you recite the Glory be?
Can you recite the Angelus?
Can you recite the Hail Holy Queen?
Can you recite the Blessing Before Meals?
Can you recite the Grace (thanksgiving) After Meals?
Can you recite the St. Michael the Archangel prayer?
Can you recite the Guardian Angel prayer?
Can you recite the Act of Contrition?
Can you recite the Apostles Creed?
Do you know all of the mysteries of the Rosary?
Do you know all of the Stations of the Cross?
Now, obviously this was not meant to be an in-depth examination of their Catholic knowledge. With the exception of the questions about the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Ghost, which they certainly should have been studying in preparation for Confirmation, they (and you!) should have been able to breeze their way through the rest of the test. After all, I expect even our First Holy Communion recipients to know the basic prayers and to be able to list the 10 Commandments and seven Sacraments. How do you think they did? I cannot tell you here, since I had to write this for the bulletin before the retreat took place! I assume they all passed with flying colors. How did you do? Would you like to know the answers to the first questions?
—Which are the gifts of the Holy Ghost?
A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
—What purpose do these gifts serve?
A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost serve to establish us in Faith, Hope and Charity, and to render us prompt in the exercise of those acts of virtue necessary towards attaining the perfection of a Christian life.
—What is the Fear of the Lord?
A. The Fear of the Lord is a gift which makes us respect God and fear to offend His Divine Majesty, and which detaches us from evil while inciting us to good.
—Why do we receive the gift of Fear of the Lord?
A. We receive the gift of Fear of the Lord to fill us with a dread of sin. On account of the goodness of God and the punishment He can inflict.
—What is Piety?
A. Piety is a gift enabling us to venerate and love God and His Saints, and to preserve a pious and benevolent mind towards our neighbour for the love of God.
—Why do we receive the gift of Piety?
A. We receive the gift of Piety to make us love God as a Father, and obey Him because we love Him.
—What is Knowledge?
A. Knowledge is a gift enabling us to estimate created things at their proper worth, and to learn how to use them rightly and to direct them to our last end, which is God.
—Why do we receive the gift of Knowledge?
A. We receive the gift of Knowledge to enable us to discover the will of God in all things.
—What is Fortitude?
A. Fortitude is a gift which inspires us with valour and courage to observe faithfully the holy law of God and of the Church, by conquering all obstacles and all the assaults of our enemies.
—Why do we receive the gift of Fortitude?
A. We receive the gift of Fortitude to strengthen us to do the will of God in all things. Some know the will of God--what they should do--but they have not the courage to follow the dictates of their conscience. For example, a person goes with bad company: the gift of knowledge will teach him that he should give it up; but the gift of fortitude will enable him to do what his conscience shows him to be right.
—What is Counsel?
A. Counsel is a gift by which, amidst the doubts and uncertainties of human life, we are enabled to recognise those things that redound more to God's glory, to our own salvation, and to that of our neighbour.
—Why do we receive the gift of Counsel?
A. We receive the gift of Counsel to warn us of the deceits of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation. The devil is much wiser than we are, and has much more experience, being among the people of the world ever since the time of Adam--about 6,000 years. He could therefore easily deceive and overcome us if God Himself by the gift of counsel did not enable us to discover his tricks and expose his plots. When at times we are tempted, our conscience warns us, and if we follow the warning we shall escape the sin. Counsel tells us when persons or places are dangerous for our salvation.
—What is Understanding?
A. Understanding is a gift which facilitates, as far as this is possible to mortal man, the understanding of the truths of faith and of the mysteries of God, which we are unable to know by the natural light of the intellect.
—Why do we receive the gift of Understanding?
A. We receive the gift of Understanding to enable us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith. "Mysteries," truths we could never know by reason, but only by the teaching of God; and the gift of understanding enables us to know better what His teaching means. The Apostles heard and knew what Our Lord taught, but they did not fully understand the whole meaning till the Holy Ghost had come.
—What is Wisdom?
A. Wisdom is a gift by which the mind is lifted up from earthly and transitory things, enabling us to contemplate things eternal, that is to say, God Himself, the eternal truth, and to relish and love Him, in which consists all our good.
—Why do we receive the gift of Wisdom?
A. We receive the gift of Wisdom to give us a relish for the things of God, and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory.
I hope everyone passed the test!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: To Die For Wearing A Cassock
The other day I had to look up something in Canon Law (Church Law) to answer a question about the proper attire for priests and religious. Canon 669, under the section specifically dealing with religious, has two subsections. “§1 As a sign of their consecration and as a witness to poverty, religious are to wear the habit of their institute, determined in accordance with the institute’s own law. §2 Religious of a clerical institute who do not have a special habit are to wear clerical dress, in accordance with canon 284.” So Religious Brothers, Sisters, and Priests must wear a habit unless their order does not have one, in which case they are to wear the attire that their Bishop’s Conference determines is proper. Secular clergy have their own rules spelled out in Canon 284, which states, “Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and legitimate local custom.” Furthermore, Canon 288 establishes that, “Permanent deacons are not bound by the provisions of cann. 284..., unless particular law states otherwise.” So, as far as I can tell, permanent deacons can wear clerics or lay attire as they see fit. After reading these laws, the question naturally arises, “What has our Episcopal Conference determined to be the norm for priests and religious?”
I found that answer on the USCCB website under a heading simply labeled, “Canon 284 - Clerical Garb”. Here is what they determined to be proper:
On November 18, 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States. The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated September 29, 1999.
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 284, hereby decrees that without prejudice to the provisions of canon 288, clerics are to dress in conformity with their sacred calling. In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric. In the case of religious clerics, the determinations of their proper institutes or societies are to be observed with regard to wearing the religious habit.
As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be December 1, 1999.
Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on November 1, 1999.
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
I write this today to remind you that just because I wear a cassock doesn’t mean that all priests must do the same. Although I am within my rights to wear it, I am neither “the norm” nor “abnormal”! For secular priests (and religious priests whose orders have no habit), “a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire.” Not to be too picky, but notice that a suit is the norm, not just a short sleeve shirt with a collar! Therefore, please don’t look askance at any priest just because he doesn’t wear a cassock. On the other hand, don’t let anyone berate a priest for wearing one, as if he was breaking Church law, either! But for those priests and religious who wear neither habit nor collars, at least give them a good-natured poke in the ribs!
I put this out the week before the May 29 feast day of Rolando Rivi, one of my favorite Blesseds. It has been a few years since I last wrote about him, and many of you may not know who he is. In short, he was a young Italian boy who wanted to be a priest. He was in seminary for that purpose and wore his cassock with honor, as it showed that he was dedicating his life to Jesus Christ. In 1945, at the age of 14, he was beaten and shot to death by communists, who targeted him simply because he wore his cassock. In their words while killing him they showed their hatred of all that Rolando held dear, "Tomorrow one priest less." He died praying for his father and mother. On April 4, 2001, a young boy was cured of leukemia through his intercession, leading to his beatification. I encourage you to find out more. And may his story inspire the boys and young men of our parish to desire the priesthood with such relish, even if they decide to wear a black suit and Roman collar instead of a cassock! Blessed Rolando Rivi, pray for us.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Please Help With Confessions!
How can lay people help with confessions? Only priests can hear confessions, after all. Well, that brings me to problem number one for which I need your assistance. Anyone, not just a priest, can hear confessions. Only the priest can absolve you after your confession, but anyone else can certainly hear it! For instance, people who sit or stand too close to the confessional may, indeed, overhear confessions, especially if the person confessing is loud. (People who are hard of hearing often speak loudly without realizing it. Also, a priest who is hard of hearing may need you to speak loudly so that he can hear and understand your confession.) Anyone who, for whatever reason, overhears someone else’s confession is bound to the seal of confessional secrecy. But people trust the priest to keep secrets a whole lot more than they trust the “average Joe” who is standing outside the confessional door. I bring this up because people have been noticing (and worrying about) people who insist, for whatever reason, on sitting in the very last pews right outside the confessional door on the left (looking to the rear of the church) or even in the choir stalls on the other side of the church. Can you hear what is said from there? It doesn’t matter! People think you can! Be cognizant that privacy is a very important part of confession and you shouldn’t sit close to the confessional, for even if you cannot hear what is said, people may make bad confessions if they are worried that you can.
That leads to the second way I need your help with confession. Because confessions are heard during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and people rightly don’t want to turn their back on Our exposed Lord as they wait for their turn in the confessional, we have our confession line start in the pew in front of the choir area rather than having you stand in the aisle looking towards the confessionals. This keeps you a nice distance from the confessional so that you cannot hear what is said and it allows you to face Our Lord in the monstrance (most of the time) or the tabernacle as you prayerfully prepare to confess. But it also means that you cannot see when the person in front of you leaves the confessional and they often “sneak out” without you knowing it. Please, if you are the next one in line, turn around and watch so that you know when it is your turn. It is not disrespectful to Our Lord if you do so. Very often the priest (Fr. Mangiafico and I are the usual priests hearing confessions) waits many minutes between confessions even if there are twenty people waiting in line, all because the next person isn’t paying any attention. This is also a reminder that sometimes there are two priests hearing confessions, so watch both confessionals!
This also leads to a third way I need your help with confessions. Please be in line for confession. Very often when there are two priests hearing confessions one will be done before the other. He will leave when the line is finished. But then twenty more people come who were not in line and the other priest is there for another hour by himself. We also get chased down quite often, after we have left the confessional, by people who were eating donuts rather than lining up. Not too many Sundays ago I had five people race up to me begging for confession when I was between the confessional and the sacristy. That is, I left and returned to the confessional five times for five different people who caught me as I was walking through the church or social hall on my way to the sacristy. Five! I would like to just say “tough luck, try again next week” (remember, I am a grouchy old priest) but I don’t want somebody in mortal sin (which may or may not be the case) to have to wait for absolution just because demons managed to convince them that donuts were more important than confession for just a few minutes. Please get in line if you want confession!
Finally, spend your time in line actually preparing for confession! It seems like a no-brainer but it must not be. Many people, after confessions have been going on for quite some time so I assume that they have been in line, come in quite unprepared. “Just a minute, Father, I’m not done, I’m just thinking of my sins!” Oh, what a terrible thing to say, since by it you are basically admitting that you just spent the last 30 minutes in line just grumbling about how long the people in front of you are taking rather than praying that God would allow you to remember all of your sins and to be truly sorry for them!
And, as a bonus request, parents, once again I beg you to see if your children have any clue whatsoever about how to confess! Test them! Priests cannot tell you (remember the seal?) that your children (and not just the youngest ones!) are coming in not knowing to make the sign of the cross, not knowing to say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been this long since my last confession,” not knowing if they have committed any sins, or not knowing the act of contrition (or even how to read one), but it happens all too often! Don’t assume that just because they go into the confessional regularly that they are actually confessing!
Thank you for your help with confessions!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Roe v. Wade May Be Overturned
As you must know by now, a leaked draft from the US Supreme Court is showing that the Justices may overturn the horrible piece of judicial legislation, called Roe v. Wade, through which their predecessors managed to inflict the evil of “legal” abortion upon the nation. Anyone who has ever looked at any information about that evil ruling, whether they were in favor of making it legal to kill babies or against it, knew that the Supreme Court made this unjust law out of whole cloth, that is, they made up a reason to present abortion as if it were Constitutional when everyone—everyone!—knew darned well it wasn’t. The new ruling, if it actually comes to light as the draft is written, shows the audacity of the previous Justices in taking such power by brute force and lies. Everyone—everyone!—knows that the baby in the womb of the mother is actually a baby. Everyone—everyone!—knows that killing the baby and calling it abortion is simply a way of adults avoiding consequences (and losing the benefits!) of their own sexual actions or of those of their post-pubescent children. Abortion—murder of the most helpless and most innocent of all humans—is an evil that cries to Heaven (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1867) but is accepted, ignored, rationalized, defended, and promoted, all due to a greater desire for one’s own short term relief than for one’s own long tern benefit, the benefit of mankind, and, ultimately, God’s love. Those who support (in any way) abortion would rather go to hell than deal with the hardships of having living children to raise, or to be given up for adoption.
Be mindful that it is not only the mothers of the dead babies of whom I write. Often, it seems that they are pawns in a chess game being played by everyone they trust, with Satan himself controlling the board. No, there are many, many more people who have an even greater share in the responsibility for the murder of the unborn children. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists several ways in which people “cooperate” in the sins committed by others and, thus, as is in the case of abortion, are themselves guilty of mortal sin and both the temporal and eternal consequences of that mortal sin! CCC 1868 lists four ways in which this happens. First: “by participating directly and voluntarily in them.” So the doctor, nurses, and everyone else who works in the abortuary; the one who pays for it; and clinic landlords are all morally responsible for these mortal sins.
Second: “by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them.” That would include all of those people whom the pregnant girl should be able to turn to for good advice and assistance, but who rather encourage her to kill her child. Included here might be the man/boy who impregnated her; parents and grandparents and other relatives and friends of either the male or the female involved; school counselors and teachers; those who write, publish, display, or distribute such things as Planned Unparenthood brochures; those who vote for pro-death political candidates or who support pro-death political parties or social organizations; the “friend” who drives the girl to the clinic as a supposed act of compassion; the people who say something to the effect of, “I would never do it myself...,” or “I am personally opposed...,” but then concludes with “but who am I to judge?” or “but I won’t let my religious views interfere,” or anything similar. Also included are certainly all politicians who vote pro-death; all societal and religious leaders who champion abortion; everyone and anyone who tolerates, promotes, encourages, orders, or advises the use of contraceptives; the office-holders, representatives, and lobbyists of pro-abortion unions, such as public school teachers unions, and those who willingly pay dues to such extremist groups; journalists, reporters, and decision-makers in main stream media; medical personnel who, even if they don’t perform abortions, willingly refer “patients” for them; and finally (although there are many more examples, I end this section with this one) everyone who, by means of the backdoor, so to speak, supports abortion for reasons such as “Keeps them off the welfare rolls...,” or “Better than having another unwanted child in this world...,” or “They probably would have been raised as criminals anyway...,” or “It solves overpopulation...”. You get the picture. A lot of people commit mortal sin in this area.
The third way of being responsible for others’ abortion is “by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so.” Once again, family, friends, and others close to the couple who know what is going to happen or might happen, yet remain silent so that it can happen, are in mortal sin.
And listed fourthly as a way people are responsible for the mortal sins of abortion, “by protecting the evil-doer.” The ones who keep it secret from parents; who don’t turn in the incestuous father of the child (allowing his crime to be covered up through destruction of the “evidence”); the judges, police, and politicians who combat pro-lifers rather than the pro-deathers; and those who protect and defend the “rights” of all of the above listed people as if they were noble.
Importantly, religious, deacons, priests, and bishops who refuse to preach and teach about the evil of abortion or to correct those under their authority who fit any of the above 4 criteria are even more responsible than anyone else listed above.
But there is hope. God is infinitely loving and will forgive anyone for anything, provided they truly repent. The confessional is just about the best place in the world!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Glimpse Into Spiritual Motherhood
Although we have the Spiritual Mothers praying for priests every Wednesday, many of you might not know that the origins of this group (and others like it) comes from a document from the Congregation For The Clergy. Promulgated on the Feast of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, 2007,entitled “Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood For Priests.” This document is very unique, in that it is a Church document that is a pleasure to read! In preparation for Mother’s Day, I have reproduced below the short “introductory story” and just one more to whet your appetite. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. You need not be a theologian to enjoy this document!
“I have my mother to thank for what I have become and the way that I got there!”- St. Augustine
Independent of age or social status, everyone can become a mother for priests. This type of motherhood is not only for family mothers, but is just as valid for an unmarried girl, for a widow, or for someone who is ill. It is especially pertinent for missionaries and religious sisters who have given their lives entirely to God for the sanctification of others.
Every priest has a mother and often she is a spiritual mother for her children as well. Giuseppe Sarto, for example, the future Pope Pius X, visited his 70-year-old mother after being ordained a bishop. She kissed her son’s ring and, suddenly pensive, indicating her own simple silver wedding band said, “Yes, Giuseppe, you would not be wearing that ring if I had not first worn mine.” Pope St. Pius X rightfully confirms his experience that, “Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it goes through the heart of a mother!”
The little village of Lu, northern Italy, with only a few thousand inhabitants, is in a rural area 90 kilometres east of Turin. It would still be unknown to this day if, in the year 1881, the family mothers of Lu had not made a decision that had “serious consequences”.
The deepest desire of many of these mothers was for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to place her life completely in God’s service. Under the direction of their parish priest, Msgr. Alessandro Canora, they gathered every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring for vocations to the priesthood.
Through the trusting prayer of these mothers and the openness of the other parents, an atmosphere of deep joy and Christian piety developed in the families, making it much easier for the children to recognize their vocations.
Did the Lord not say, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14)? In other words, many are called, but only a few respond to that call. No one expected that God would hear the prayers of these mothers in such an astounding way.
From the tiny village of Lu came 323 vocations!:152 priests (diocesan and religious), and 171 nuns belonging to 41 different congregations. As many as three or four vocations came from some of these families. The most famous example is the Rinaldi family, from whom God called seven children. Two daughters became Salesian sisters, both of whom were sent to San Domingo as courageous, pioneer missionaries. Five sons became priests, all joining the Salesians. The most well-known of the Rinaldi brothers is Blessed Philip Rinaldi, who became the third successor of St. John Bosco as Superior General of the Salesians. Pope John Paul II beatified him on 29 April 1990. In fact, many of the vocations from this small town became Salesians. It is certainly not a coincidence, since St. John Bosco visited Lu four times during his life. The saint attended the first Mass of his spiritual son, Fr. Philip Rinaldi in this village where he was born. Philip always fondly recalled the faith of the families of Lu: “A faith that made our fathers and mothers say, ‘The Lord gave us our children, and so if He calls them, we can’t say no.’”
Fr. Luigi Borghina and Fr. Pietro Rota lived the spirituality of Don Bosco so faithfully that the former was called the “Brazilian Don Bosco” and the latter the “Don Bosco of Valtellina”. Pope John XXIII once said the following about another vocation from Lu, His Excellency, Evasion Colli, Archbishop of Parma: “He should have become pope, not me. He had everything it takes to become a great pope.”
Every ten years, the priests and sisters born in Lu come together from all around the world. Fr. Mario Meda, the long-serving parish priest of Lu, explained that this reunion is a true celebration, a feast of thanksgiving to God who has done such great things for Lu.
The prayer that the mothers of Lu prayed was short, simple, and deep:
“O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest!
I myself want to live as a good Christian
and want to guide my children always to do what is right,
so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: First, Middle, and Last Holy Communion
Next weekend we have children making their First Holy Communion at both Sunday Masses. Before receiving Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament for the first time they have been studying and examining many of the Catholic Church teachings, especially those dealing with the sacraments of reconciliation or confession, and of the Holy Eucharist. For the most part, each of the children had already been exposed to the most important teachings simply through observation while at Mass, or by tagging along with mom and dad when they went to confession, and other such normal things Catholic families do. But even so, deeper understanding often is sought with great enthusiasm when there is an important goal in mind, and, since the goal of receiving Holy Communion is to give greater glory to God and to receive extra grace even unto Eternal Life, children preparing for this “event” go at it with great gusto. But how about the adults? After receiving Our Lord countless times over many years or decades, do they ever go back to school, so to speak, and, with the eagerness of a second grader look more closely at what they are doing? Those receiving Communion for the second, last, or in-between times should occasionally brush up on basics, too.
First off let me remind you of the very basic truth that all must know and believe. Jesus said, “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” Throughout the remainder of the Bread of Life Discourse in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus made it clear that the Eucharist was to be not simply a symbol of His body and blood but was to actually be Him. He is both man and God, so in the Eucharist we know that the fullness of His manhood (man is composed of body, blood, and soul) and the fullness of His Godhead (His Divinity) is to be found. The priest, consecrating wheat bread (unleavened in the Latin Church) and grape wine, procures, through the power of God, a substantial change in those simple foods, and, although the “accidents” remain, the very substance of bread and wine are changed into the very substance of Jesus; His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He did not explain the details about how this “Transubstantiation” would happen, but He was very clear that it would happen. At the Last Supper, He was very clear who would make this happen (his apostles, the first priests and bishops of His Church, and their successors) and when they would do so (the fulfillment of the Passover Meal was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). Jesus offered His true self (not a symbol) on the cross. Only by that offering can we be saved; can we have eternal life. The Mass brings that same sacrifice to us in an unbloody manner, and it is through full participation in this sacrifice, including consuming (in a state of grace) the true Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, Who was slain and Who rose again, that we receive eternal life.
It is also helpful, almost necessary, to know about “Concomitance.” By this term, the Church means to explain that, although the one offering the sacrifice (the priest) must consume both Species, that is, both the consecrated Bread and the consecrated Wine, in order to complete the sacrifice, the rest of the people need not receive under both Species to receive the fullness of Jesus. For one can be assured that the fullness of Jesus, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is contained in either Species, in fact, in the smallest particle or droplet of either Species.
Before we receive Him in Holy Communion, though, we must first of all believe that He is really the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and that what He says is true. For if He is not God, or if He is a god who speaks falsehoods, it would be an abominable thing to receive communion, for it would be unholy and a sacrilege. But if He is Whom He both claimed and proved Himself to be — God — then we must approach Holy Communion in fear and trembling! We must confess our sins and allow Him to cleanse our soul before we dare to approach and consume the Sacred Host. Moreover, we must put aside our natural eyes and gaze upon the Host with eyes of Faith and say with the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” while those without Faith will see only bread and wine even after the consecration.
Knowing that It is the Bread of Life, the True Bread from Heaven which we are to receive at Mass, we must fast from all natural food and drink (water and medicine excluded) for a minimum of one hour before receiving this supernatural food. We must never hunger for food that nourishes only our bodies in the same way as that true Food that gives us Eternal Life.
Finally, don’t forget to stay and say your prayers of thanksgiving after Mass! Rushing to receive coffee, milk, and donuts without first saying at least an “Anima Christi” would seem to make a mockery out of the fast before the Mass!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Happy Easter especially to those who have fallen away!
Easter Sunday is one of the biggest days of the Church year in more ways than one. First of all, it is the day proof positive that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who fulfills all of the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Savior of the world. He was not simply resuscitated, coming back to the same life as He had before, but rather Resurrected, coming back to a whole new manner of life. This new life is one that we all plan on participating in, one with a completely glorified human body and a perfect human soul, sharing in His divinity for all eternity in the splendor of Heaven.
But Easter is also one of the biggest days of the Church year as far as bringing back fallen away Catholics. This column is specifically aimed at you if you fall into that category. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a fallen away Catholic, though, unless you have been away from the Church and Her sacraments for a period of years or even decades. I, however, am including you in this category if you have been away from the Church and Her sacraments even if just for a period of one or two weeks!
You see, it is only in remaining in direct contact with God in this life that we can possibly hope to be in direct contact with Him in the next. He unites Himself with us totally in the seven Sacraments. These channels of grace are the primary paths of supernatural love, mercy, and strength that He has given us. Rejecting them by, say, purposefully missing Mass for even one Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation, not to mention years at a time, says without words, “Jesus, You died for my salvation, yet I reject Your Holy Sacrifice; You offer Heaven, but I prefer Hell.” Faking a sacrament says the same thing. Instances of this would include faking the sacrament of Holy Matrimony through sex outside of marriage (with others or self) or by getting “married”, perhaps even legally, without the blessing of the Church; or faking the sacrament of Confession by pretending to “go directly to God” while rejecting the absolution He offers through His priests.
Still more instances of rejecting or faking sacraments, which happen not infrequently, include failing to Baptize children, by which parents withhold the supernatural graces necessary for salvation; failure to receive Confirmation, which shows that “mature” Catholics think they have no need of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost; receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, which is akin to tossing Jesus into a cesspool; rejecting God’s call to Holy Orders or the religious life; or delaying the Sacrament of the Sick to avoid “scaring” the dying loved one. All of these are serious sins! But why point out these dangers to the soul on such a holy day? Because there is an incredible means of repairing any damage to your relationship with God coming up next week. I want to reach the “fallen aways” today so that I can invite all of you to next week’s Divine Mercy celebration.
Next Sunday, Low Sunday, is also Divine Mercy Sunday. About a century ago, our Lord Jesus appeared to Sister (now Saint) Faustina and told her of an incredible outpouring of His Mercy that He would make available to anyone, even the most hardened of sinners or the most naively innocent “fallen away” Catholic, on the Sunday after Easter. He will offer complete remission of sin (and even its due punishment!) to all who will spend just a little bit of time meditating on, praying for, and acting in accordance to, His Mercy. He has made it so easy to get back into His grace (and thereby headed for Heaven once again) that it would seem to be too good to be true if it weren’t Jesus who made the promise.
Hardened sinners, those who have knowingly committed grave sins for long periods of time, may have despaired of ever being able to become a Saint. Divine Mercy Sunday is God’s gift to them so that they can be forgiven and made holy. The other fallen away Catholics, those who don’t really see much wrong with their immoral actions, even though they know the Church calls them mortal sins, can also find the supernatural graces that they have been unknowingly missing out on.
Come next Sunday afternoon at 2:30. We will recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I will hear confessions and absolve repentant sinners. No sin is too great to be removed; no sinner who repents is too evil to be loved and brought back to a state of Grace. Afraid of lightning striking? But you will die in a state of grace and go to Heaven! Examine your conscience. Repent of all known sins. Confess those sins. Do your penance. Remember the Scripture passage, “I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance”! You will receive Divine Mercy! Jesus promises that your soul will be pure once again. He loves you that much. Holy Mother Church offers a plenary indulgence to those who participate in this devotion and fulfill the three normal conditions (sacramental confession, Holy Communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff). The homebound, sick (and their caretakers), and others not able to make it, meeting those last 3 conditions, may recite the Our Father and the Creed before an image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus and pray for mercy (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you).
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Holy Week 2022 and My Vacation
This is Holy Week. We will have extra confessions, Tenebrae services, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday Passion and Veneration of the Cross, the traditional Blessing of Easter Baskets (or, rather, the blessing of the Easter foods within them!), and, of course, the Easter Vigil service and Mass. Last year, since Fr. Tuoc was still unable to return to Vietnam due to covid restrictions, he did many of these in the Novus Ordo Form (in English) in the rectory chapel while they were also being done in the Traditional Form in Latin in the church. He may do the same again this year, as he is still around and active here. Watch the bulletin and web page (EpiphanyTampa.com) for the schedule. Remember, even the daily Mass schedule changes for Holy Week, so pay attention! Since you can find more information on each of these online and elsewhere in this very bulletin, I will not go into further details here.
Instead, I will write a bit about where I have been for the past month. After I returned, I was peppered with questions about where I went, what I did, and if I enjoyed myself. So here are a few little bits in response. First of all, as I told you before I left, I was not going to go to any place where I had to wear a mask or prove a jab, or get a swab. That ruled out any journey on a plane or cruise ship. I wasn’t even sure which state I could enter without getting pressured into such nonsense, so, of course, I stayed in Florida. I was offered a little “hermitage” or a small apartment built next to the garage under a house on stilts just south of St. Augustine. The lovely couple that lives in the house work with a religious order based in Italy and they made this place specifically to house visiting priests when they come to assist in their mission. It was quite comfortable and secluded. Overlooking a saltwater marsh, I saw plenty of ospreys, an owl, and even a bald eagle searching for their meals. There were no neighbors in sight, just nature. They had a little chapel which I set up for the TLM and celebrated Mass every morning upon waking. I usually prayed the first hours of the breviary right after Mass and then went for a walk. The beach (which was very, very sparsely populated) was about a half a mile’s walk from the house. A mile or so of walking the beach and a half a mile back made for a great rosary. I did learn that I had to check the tides, though, as high tide forced me to walk through soft sand instead of the packed sand, and that made it a lot of work rather than a nice walk.
It was a 35-45 minute drive to the historic section of St. Augustine, so I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche and the rest of the area on a regular basis. The church near the shrine has confession and Adoration daily, so I took advantage of it regularly. I was also able to visit a number of other parishes in the area and even found a Carmelite Monastery which had a drive-through Stations of the Cross and Rosary Garden. Very unique.
Bike Week in Daytona Beach, which evidently lasts nearly two weeks, started just as I began my time off. A1A makes for a beautiful, leisurely ride from the northeast, so there were hundreds of motorcycles on the roads and packing each restaurant parking lot. I never saw any bikers in the Shrine, but I met quite a few while getting something to eat or visiting State Parks and such things as forts and the ruins of sugar mills. Most bikers were very respectful (of course, I was in cassock, even while walking the beach or on the nature trails, so they knew I was a priest) and I got to hear some great stories from some of them about their good ol’ days as altar boys. For instance, one Sunday morning I went out to breakfast (something I never get a chance to do here!) after an early Mass in my chapel. I went to an ocean-side food truck which always had a lot of people around it other times I had passed by. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and coffee and started walking past a young couple at the closest picnic table. They nodded. Then the only other person there so early in the morning called out to me, “Father! Come sit here with me!” A biker with a leather vest covered with skulls was sitting by himself and motioning me to join him. After reciting the almost-compulsory “Ad Deum, qui laetificat iuventutem meam'' (which always brings great grins to men when they realize/prove that they still remember their responses) he told me a short version of his life since leaving the Lord’s service at the altar. Although still dressed for intimidation, he was trying to finally change his life, be a good husband, and come back to God and His Church. Will I ever see him again? I doubt it. But maybe, just maybe, I was able to be a good part of his re-entry into Grace. It’s been quite a few years since I rode a motorcycle, but maybe there is a need for a biker priest in cassock!
This is necessarily just a small smattering of how I spent my time but mostly, for a month when there was nothing scheduled on my calendar, I did a lot of nothing!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: How to Vacation in Lent
As I told you last week, I am now on a Lenten Vacation in a small hermitage. Since Lent has begun and you are no longer watching TV, scrolling through Factcheckbook, compulsively tweeting and twaddling, playing video games, or using electronic devices in any way, you have nothing better to do than to read about my life! So I figured that, although I am on vacation, I could write and tell you what I am experiencing so far. So, sit back in your pew and try to pretend like you are listening to the homily and read the story of my first impressions of the hermitage.
After the Ash Wednesday morning Masses, Adoration, confessions, and Benediction, I wanted to avoid stopping at the office one last time. I tried to sneak around the far side of the school and cut through the soccer field so as to avoid being seen because I knew that if the office staff caught me, they would have “emergencies” which I “had to” take care of before I could get on the road. But Kim and Mark are way too smart for me. They were simply waiting at the rectory front door, each with a sheaf of papers which needed signatures, approval, acknowledgment, etc., plus the last twenty or so urgent voicemails of people who absolutely, positively, had to see me before I took off. So, I dutifully signed a dozen more checks, filled out forms, muttered, “uh huh” a few hundred times as they blathered on about things that I wasn’t listening to anyway, and finally just pointed behind them and yelled, “Squirrel!” before making a mad dash around the corner of the house and jumping into the car, which Fr. Dorvil had pulled up and left running in a mostly successful attempt to allow my escape, for he knew that I could be held there for hours if he didn’t come to my rescue.
Kim was surprisingly spry and caught up to my Pilot as I took off. She managed to grab the roof rack and it took me weaving back and forth through the cars in the church parking lot before I finally threw her off near the front gate. I saw in the rear-view mirror that she got up without any assistance and brushed herself off, so, guessing that she was alright, I headed out for my time off. If she is upset with me, I hope she gets over it before I return!
After speeding for the first few miles I slowed to a leisurely pace, jamming to a duet of Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias chanting the Rosary in Latin, Spanish, and what Willie thinks is English. They explained at the beginning of the cassette tape (yes, my car is old enough to have a cassette player) that after collaborating on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” they both realized that they each had only one girl whom they truly loved, and that was the Blessed Virgin Mary. This rosary tribute to Our Lady was done in a way that not only combined languages but also blended Gregorian Chant with Country and Pop. The reason I like it so much is that once you get it in your head, it stays there for days and St. Paul’s admonition to “pray always” is attained whether you want it to be ringing in your ears or not.
Alas, all good things must come to an end in this world, and I eventually made it to my destination. I had to stop the tape and pay close attention to my GPS to find the place. I was looking for a hermitage but didn’t really know what one would look like, so I thought the directions were off. The woman in the map kept saying, “You have arrived at...passed by your destination” when there was nothing but a swampy forest all around me. I was picturing the desert hermits who built themselves a little dwelling on the side of a cliff after finding a natural cave and moving in. But Florida doesn’t have any cliffs or mountains so there were no caves to be found. I finally saw a little-used trail through the saw palmettos and turned to drive into the wilderness. A few miles in I found the hermitage. It was perfect! It was little more than a rough-hewn hut with a door and two glass-less window openings. On the floor at the rear of the room was a mattress made of a burlap material stuffed with old, dry, vines, with a rock set for use as a pillow. Mosquito netting in desperate need of repair hung from the palm frond ceiling above. Along the side wall was a cedar plank altar and hand-carved reredos, simple but beautiful, especially in this rustic setting. A three-legged stool was the only piece of furniture. Outside there was a simple little “shed” with a half-moon on the door and a pile of corn cobs piled next to the seat inside. On the outside of that shed, a garden hose was hanging and the other end was draped into the swamp water a few yards away. It had a hand pump to bring the colorful, aromatic water through the hose and it worked quite nicely as a primitive shower. This is going to be one great Lent and vacation!
That’s about all I have for now. One thing I forgot to mention, though, is that there is obviously no electricity or wifi in the hermitage, so I had to write this article before I left for vacation. I usually tell you such things in the first few sentences...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Ash Wednesday And Father Vincent Coming!
As you all must certainly know by now, this Wednesday is special for two important reasons. Primarily, because it is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We will have three Traditional Latin Masses that day, at 6:30 am, 8:00 am, and 7:00 pm, and one Novus Ordo Mass in the rectory chapel at 8:00 am. Fr. Tuoc will celebrate the chapel Mass. Fr. Mangiafico and I will assist each other at the two morning TLMs in the church, and then I will take off for a nice Lenten vacation. (I will be in a private hermitage with a bed, a bath, and a chapel. No emails, no phone calls, no meetings!) Fr. Mangiafico will then assist Fr. Vincent, who will arrive in time to celebrate the 7:00 pm TLM and then take over for me in my absence (the second reason Wednesday is important!). For those new to the TLM, it is important to know that the ashes are blessed and distributed to the people before Mass begins. We will start at the announced Mass times, so the blessing and distribution begins at 6:30 am, 8:00 am, and 7:00 pm. After the ashes are blessed, the people kneel at the altar rail and the priest marks the sign of the Cross on their foreheads saying, “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris” (Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return). After the people return to their seats, the priests wash their hands and the Mass begins. So if you arrive late, you will miss out on the ashes unless you are able to stay for the next Mass time. Let me reiterate: Ashes are blessed and imposed before Mass, not during, not after, not later in the day when you remember that it is Ash Wednesday and race to church. I am leaving town right after Mass. Fr. Mangiafico does not live in Tampa and will be returning home for the day. Fr. Vincent will not be at the parish until the evening Mass. So, if you are late for Mass you will not get ashes imposed by any of us for we will not be here! Actually, I am grouchy and ornery enough that I would probably turn you away even if I were at the parish, and, though the other two priests are far nicer, I will stress again that they will not be here. Do you get the sense that I am warning you to be on time?
Ash Wednesday is a day of both fast (1962 rules: age 21-59 inclusive) and abstinence (1962 rules: age 7 and up). Fasting means not eating. Abstinence means not eating meat. So we fast from all food for most of the day and are only allowed to eat one full but regular-sized meal, usually in the evening. No snacking is allowed but one or two small “collations” or snacks (not snacks like we normally think of them nowadays, such as candy, chips, and other junk food) can be taken if necessary but the total amount of food taken can not equal or exceed the one full, regular-sized meal you will eat later. And, of course, due to abstinence, neither of the collations nor the meal can contain meat.
Now back to Fr. Vincent. Somebody around here is a tattle-tale! They told him about the plumbing problems in the rectory and he called wondering if he was going to have to give up not just hot showers (a-la-Exodus 90) but all showers! Fortunately for him (and for you, too, I suppose!), the plumbing problems in the rectory have been fixed. But, if you remember what I told you last Sunday, we should ask for and be thankful for all the penances that God sends our way, as they all may contribute to our sanctity. So I was very thankful when, nearly as soon as the rectory plumbing was fixed, the sewage pipes near the lift station between the rectory and office began spewing raw sewage all over the ground. Taking it in stride, I invited many of you to come and try out our new “swimming pool,” but there were no takers. The city construction crews across the street have previously knocked out both our water and our internet, and this time they did something to the sewer system. According to their own representative when our plumber reported our problem and asked for any reported damage, they answered that there have been numerous calls in our area. The city sewage pipes were backing up onto our lawn, but, after supposedly checking it out, they said it was our problem, not the city’s. It took until Wednesday afternoon, but it is now fixed. Of course, the smell is still there and won’t go away until we have a really, really, good rain. But for now, even though it is all pretty dry, I wouldn’t park near the lift station if I were you. You will certainly be tracking that nasty stuff into your vehicle even in this dry weather, but if we have just a light rain you will be tracking home “fresh” stuff, too, as it rehydrates. Then again, it is almost Lent, and if you were looking for extra penance...
Oh, I forgot that I was writing about Fr. Vincent. He is taking my place while I am gone. He is a beloved, good, holy priest, and I don’t know how much free time he will have for purely social activities, but don’t hesitate to ask for his assistance in caring for any of your spiritual needs while he is here. Bringing food for him (except for on Ash Wednesday!) might be nice, too!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Two Epiphany Lenten Traditions
Those who have been parishioners for a few years will already know most of this information but there are many of you who are new and might be wondering what is coming up for Lent around here. Let me give you some background on two of our biggest and best Lenten traditions! (Actually, somebody from the Epiphany Council of Catholic Women — ECCW — suggested that I do this and also supplied the material, so thanks go to her for all of this!)
In 2019, the ECCW Board was discussing the upcoming Lenten season and how parishes hand out "rice bowls" to collect for CRS. The Board knew they didn't want to do that. There was a Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DCCW) program involving pennies and prayers and the concept of collecting change for vocations was born. The original name was "Prayers and Pennies for Semmies." The money would go towards paying for their tuition (if needed) and other expenses such as books, clothing, toiletries, auto repairs, and other general necessities that are needed. After all, the men are not allowed to work a “real” job during their seminary school years. During Lent of 2019, we had two young men from our parish who were in formation to become priests and we raised enough funds that they each received $1,000. We decided to have a separate campaign during Advent 2019 for the two young ladies who were discerning religious life. We called that campaign "Prayers and Cents for Sisters." We raised enough to provide them with $600.00 each. The following Lent, 2020, we combined the campaigns into one program and the new name of "Prayers and Pennies for Sisters and Semmies" was launched. Since 2019, we have grown vocations to a total of (5) active seminarians (and a few more discerning) and (4) active sisters in formation. In 2020, we raised $3,250.00 to assist our vocations. We followed that up in 2021 by raising $8,730.00. We try to give to each as his/her needs require and you have been very generous in this! Thank you! The ECCW will be handing out plastic cans once again beginning on Ash Wednesday, which is less than two weeks away. Please take one home. Put it in a central location so every time you see it you remember to pray for our sisters and semmies along with praying for an increase in vocations, especially from our own families. Your prayers are powerful and we are seeing the fruits of those prayers right here in our parish. And if you see fit, please be generous in your donation of change to the can. Putting in your change daily keeps you constantly reminded to pray for these young men and women, but if you prefer to fill the can with 100 dollar bills or million dollar checks, nobody will frown upon you. The ECCW will collect them after Lent, although we ask you to continue your now-habitual prayer for our Sisters and Semmies all year ‘round. Thank you once again!
But wait! That’s not all! Each Friday in Lent (excluding Good Friday) we also have Soup and Stations! “What’s that?” you might ask. It is what it seems to be, though in reverse order, as we pray the Stations before we eat the soup. Join us on Friday evenings at 5:30 pm during Lent for the Stations of the Cross. “Why 5:30?” you might ask. So that those traveling from home can beat at least the very worst of the Friday rush hour traffic. We follow that prayerful reflection with a meager (ha!) meal of soup. Bring a crock pot or instant pot filled with your favorite meatless soup to share and plug it in in the social hall, then join us in the church. After we make the Way of the Cross together, we return to the social hall, which has miraculously been filled with dozens of soup varieties, to break our Friday fast together, we will share supper as a community. “Why the ‘(ha!)’ in the middle of ‘meager meal’?” you might ask. Because the soups people cook up, even though they are meatless, are incredibly delicious (almost too good to be considered a penitential meal!) and you get to try a bit of everyone else’s culinary masterpieces. Don’t let that last line frighten you just because you don’t consider yourself to be a master chef, though. Even if all you can do is throw a bag of frozen mixed vegetables into a pot with boxed seafood broth and heat it up, somehow it will turn out tasting like you are a Food Network star. And there are always a few people who bring in macaroni and cheese, bread, crackers (please be sure to bring baskets or trays for these), and other such things for persnickety children (and adults) who would rather be flogged than to try a multitude of soups. No desserts, though! This devotion has really taken off at Epiphany over the last couple of years and people even bring friends and family who don’t go to this parish or maybe to any church at all. Feel free to evangelize through Soup and Stations! The Epiphany community provides bowls, spoons, cups, and water. You provide the soup and a ladle :). For those that work, feel free to join us whenever you can get here, even if you miss most of it. There is always plenty of food, so even if you cannot bring a soup, come along anyway for the devotion and the supper! Oh, and labeling the ingredients helps those who have food allergies, too. Just write it out on a paper or index card in large print, if you remember.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Not Writing About What I Really Want To Write About
I really want to write about covvid. Really! There are so many great stories out there right now showing that the covvid solutions were worse than the covvid problem itself. There are so many stories about tyrants refusing to acknowledge those truths because that would mean giving up a bit of their newfound power. There are finally doctors and scientists and medical journals willing to risk telling the truth. Yes, even though farcebook “fact checked” the prestigious British Journal of Medicine without being able to point to a single misleading or erroneous statement in a pitiful attempt to hold onto their dear covvid narrative, I will not bring it up here today. Nor will I bring up the Junior Fidel Castro of Canada who received three failed vaxxxine shots and still got covvid so he couldn’t talk to the truckers for more than 10 days (as this is being written), that tiny group of radical fringe right weirdos whom he despises because they wear big boy pants and want their human rights back. No, I won’t even go into the bishops who continue to support the covvid fear by requiring failed vaxxxines for admittance to the sacraments. I won’t even mention those of apostolic succession who first denied both the “new” and “old” rite sacraments to everyone, due to covvid, but who now have focused their wrath more narrowly, and who are showing that they despise more than all the rest the one group of people who statistically embrace the Catholic Church teachings more than any other single identifiable group and so have taken steps to greatly limit or even eliminate their ability to receive sacramental grace in the rites which most of our great Saints received and administered them (whew! what a long sentence!). Goodness gracious, I won’t even mention humanized mice, the aborted baby body parts they are injected with and have genes transferred from, the absolutely skyrocketing frequency they are being used, and the dreadful number of “medicines” which use such baby human/mouse parts so that we will all, unknowingly, use murdered babies to save ourselves from minor and major illness at the expense of lives and souls, including monoclonal antibodies to treat covvid.
I would really like to write about how covvid issues were highlighted to try to hide the communist civil rights abuses before the current winter Communist Olympics began. Or how mask-mandate communists closer to home hold their breath while taking maskless photos with basketball stars while simultaneously forcing everyone else in the stadium to wear face diapers; or while vacationing in the cesspool of covvid deaths which is Florida, without a mask; or while visiting an elementary school filled with mandatorily-masked children and teachers while not wearing the useless mask and crying “racism” when called on the hypocrisy; or attending maskless meetings after vowing to keep mask mandates in place to “follow the science” even after the state supreme courts called such mandates “unconstitutional” and real science has proven them both useless and harmful; or...but that list could continue forever, as tyrants show that they are above the most insidious and idiotic and damaging laws they impose on others. But I will refrain from writing (today) on these trivial covvid issues (or even spelling them properly so as to avoid “fact checkers”) that affect everyone in this parish, country and world, because I would then be put on the Domestic Terrorist List for spreading false and/or misleading information by stating the moral and scientific truth that is as odds with the officially mandated “truth” of The Science.”™
Yes, I wanted so desperately to write about covvid this week, for the world is showing its colors (red) and not even trying to hide the cloven hooves and spiked tail of its leader anymore. But instead, I have to write about our own parish problems and let the world sort out those outside of our property. So here goes. Earlier this week, the day it rained all day long, our rectory chapel started leaking. Just five short years ago, the roof sprung a leak and we had to have a new roof put on and redo the destroyed ceiling. And now it has started all over again. But now the roofing company has returned to see what went wrong and discovered that the rainy day was just a coincidence. The plumbing in Fr. Tuoc’s bathroom is the culprit. When the shower is turned on, it rains in the chapel, even though the chapel sticks out from the building so his room is not directly above it. The entire ceiling is once again damaged, maybe needing to be replaced once again. So he has to use the last remaining empty bathroom at the other end of the hall until we can get the plumbing fixed, which will involve ripping out walls and, perhaps, floors and/or ceilings. We know this because the pipes have needed to be replaced in other parts of the house, requiring such extensive, intrusive repairs. But the plumbers have not yet come, and only God knows how many days it will take to complete the job once started. And now it looks like the guest room across from Fr. Tuoc’s, now occupied, may drain into the same broken pipes, so both priests have to use the last guest bath. And we have another visiting priest coming to spend next week with us, and he will be staying in that last guest room! What a way to show hospitality! Yes, I realize that this is not nearly as large a problem as covvid or the rest of the associated evils, but this is the latest update on the parish. Please pray for a speedy fix!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Death; and Service at the Altar
On Monday, February 7, at 11:00 there will be a Novus Ordo Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help for Hector Buria, who may have been Epiphany’s oldest parishioner at 96 when he passed away. OLPH is the parish where he grew up and he asked to have his funeral there, as long as it wouldn’t be seen as a slight against Epiphany in any way! Of course, we are not in competition with our fellow parishes, so all is good in that regard. Any of you who attend the Saturday evening Vigil Mass probably knew him, maybe even by name, because he was one of the dedicated parishioners who was always there. His niece usually accompanied him, for his eyesight had gotten too bad for him to drive, but he wasn’t about to let that stop him from coming to Mass! He was also on the board of Epiphany Arms, the senior housing complex next door to us, and always took interest in making sure the residents there were given everything they needed. We don’t often have a weekend between the time of death and the funeral Mass to announce it, but this time we even had time for it to be mentioned in this article, so hopefully everyone who knows him will be able to make the trip to OLPH. The address is 1711 E 11th Avenue in Ybor City, Tampa. The past few months Hector has been homebound and I have been bringing him Holy Communion. After confession and Communion (and anointing several times when he thought he was not long for this world) he would tell me stories of the days gone by, always apologizing for keeping me so long but always glad I encouraged him to continue. One week he had put together an album of old newspaper stories from when, in his younger days, he was in the news. As we went through it he explained who was with him, why they were meeting or where they were going that merited him getting into the local paper, and reminisced about oh so many details about his past, things that obviously brought back good and happy memories. It was like sitting with my grandfather and hearing stories about his life. I think the article and photo he was most proud of, out of all of them (and there were a lot!) was the one when he was about five years old. I don’t remember why he was in the paper but it had his photo and a story that showed how much the times have changed for the worse, for it showed the now-lost innocence of sharing a young boy's good news, rather than crimes committed by or against him. Oh, for the good ol’ days! But even they pale in comparison to the eternity to come for those who die in God’s grace. And Hector certainly took advantage of the time he had to prepare for his Judgment Day. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
On a much different topic, last Wednesday was Candlemas Day, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We began with the special blessing of candles outside by the rectory chapel. I remember well the days when the congregation and the number of candles they brought were so small that we actually fit in the chapel for the blessing instead of being outside! This year we filled 4 tables with candles and had to put the extras on the ground. I thought, going into this liturgy, that we would have someone to chant the chants at the blessing of the candles but that we would have a low Mass once we ended the procession in the church. But we had someone volunteer to chant the Mass, too, so, at the last moment, we decided to have a high Mass. The only problem was that the altar boys we had would be taking on positions that they had never held before, but they were up to the challenge. With only one adult and three boys (and no time to practice or even divvy up the positions), we started out on the proverbial angel’s wing and a prayer. Fr. Mangiafico was also present and he became my biretta bearer! Young Landon jumped right into the position of MC, the hardest job (including the priest’s!) in the Mass. Even younger Chase and Owen had to hold the candles at the Gospel, a job that I thought they would be too small to do, for those candles get pretty heavy pretty quickly. But they toughed it out. The boys managed to complete the task of caring for the thurible even though the chains are probably longer than they are tall, assisted me at the incensations, and got the water and wine to me at the right times. Nothing got dropped, nobody got injured, and Jesus showed up for the Mass once again! I must say that I am very proud of the boys for doing such a fantastic job. Of course, they wouldn’t have done so well except that they have good training and a willing and eager attitude toward serving Our Lord. Thank you Mr. Nathe, for always encouraging the boys to know every job, even those they don’t think they will be doing for a few more years. Their mother deserves credit, too, for so often bringing them to daily Mass along with their sisters, something that is no small feat of itself. And, of course, thank you, dear parishioners, who pray for our servers on a regular basis. These boys will one day make great priests!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Feeling Pain For Sin, Continued
Last week I wrote about the pain a priest feels if he should ever celebrate Mass in the state of mortal sin. Today I want to point out that the Catholic in the pew who is in mortal sin and still insists on receiving Holy Communion, is, in some way, in a worse position than the sinful priest, for the priest (in my example, anyway) had no choice but to receive Our Lord while in a sinful state, while the lay person in mortal sin makes a deliberate choice to receive Him although he has no obligation to do so.
A lay person who is conscious of mortal sin should be pained in realizing what he is doing to Our Lord. Jesus, after all, died to take away our sins, not to pat us on the back and say, “Way to go! Sin even more if you like! You can do anything you wish now, and go straight to Heaven when you die, for by My Death and Resurrection I have made immorality a righteous form of recreation.” No, a faithful Catholic knows better. He knows that Our Lord loved him to death but made that Sacrifice so that sin could be conquered, not coddled. He knows that even his venial sins caused Our Lord’s Passion to be increased and his mortal sin made it nearly infinitely worse. In His Divinity, Jesus, being outside of time, took all of our sins—past, present, and even future sins—upon Himself and in His humanity suffered beyond human comprehension for them. The faithful Catholic also knows that one of the worst sins he could possibly do, for even among mortal sins some are worse than others, is to directly sin against the man/God who came to save him from his sin. So if he were to be in a state of sin and make the choice to receive Holy Communion in that state, most likely due to pride (“I don’t want anyone to think that I am a sinner”), the pain should be magnified beyond bearing. “I just took Jesus,” he should acknowledge, “and threw Him into the cesspool which is my soul in its current state. And I did it because I care more about what people think of me than about what He thinks of me.” Such a person either really feels tormented by what he has done or else he rejects the moral teachings of the Church and lacks the faith that is necessary for salvation.
Assuming his conscience actually does ache, though, how does such a person relieve himself of such anguish? Through the same contrition, etc., mentioned last week he can return to God’s grace and peace. But, given enough time spent in mortal sin, even formerly good people will develop a perverse desire for their sin which is stronger than their desire for God, though without ever admitting to it so bluntly. At that point, they choose to numb themselves to the reality of sin and its consequences. The layman, as in the case of an unrepentant sinful priest, will anesthetize himself with drugs, alcohol, assorted physical pleasures, excuses, and denial. For both the layman and the priest, the denial must immediately include a denial that the Eucharist is Jesus. For there is no pain associated with receiving a piece of bread, even Holy Bread, if it simply signifies—but is not—God. As he proceeds down this path he ceases to be Catholic in any meaningful way. One truth after another, like tumbling dominos, falls away. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament means nothing, or, worse than nothing, is idol worship, if the Blessed Sacrament is just bread. The Mass is then seen, not as The Holy Sacrifice, but rather as a play, a terribly boring form of repetitious entertainment, one that certainly could not warrant an obligation to attend. The priest is nothing more than a man with a “make believe” job, for he doesn’t really confect the Eucharist. He also, therefore, doesn’t have the power to truly forgive sins, so confession must be denied as well. As for marriage, well, that nonsense about the two becoming one flesh is also pure fantasy, so all the Church teachings which go along with marriage (chastity, faithfulness, procreation, sacrificial love, and other such quaint notions) can/must also be discarded as pious nonsense. Yes, the need to relieve the pain of a sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion can easily lead to a complete loss of faith.
So here is something for you to ponder. Have you ever received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Did it cause you tremendous pain? If not, why not? Have you since stopped believing in other Church teachings? How many sacrilegious receptions did it take before you stopped believing? Or before you finally cracked under the pressure (a good thing!) and begged God’s forgiveness? Do you see how denials are all related? Do you really believe that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? Do you really believe that mortal sin is deadly to your soul, cuts you off from God’s grace, and that you will go to hell if you die without being restored to the state of sanctifying grace? I think it is high time for Catholics—clergy, religious, and laity alike—to acknowledge the pain of sin rather than deny it. The pain that sin causes can only be cured by humility, repentance, confession, and absolution, that is, by true love. Denial of the pain, on the other hand, only postpones it until Judgment Day, leaving one in utter agony for all eternity. “I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance. (Luke 5:32)” Therefore, do not fear refraining from Holy Communion until He restores you to grace!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Feeling Pain for Sin is Essential to Faith
A couple of weeks ago I gave a sermon on mortal sin. I specifically pointed out that a priest celebrating Mass while in the state of mortal sin still confects the Eucharist. That is absolutely necessary to know and hold onto as a truth. But I also pointed out that in celebrating with mortal sin on his soul, it pains a priest beyond imagining. Unlike a layman who, knowing that he is in mortal sin, may attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without receiving Holy Communion, the priest celebrant must always receive. He, the priest, must not only offer the Sacrifice, he must also consume the Offering in order to complete the Sacrifice. If the priest does not consume, the Sacrifice is not completed. But if the priest is in mortal sin and cannot confess before he is bound to celebrate a Mass (which means that no other priest is available to take his place, no concelebration, etc.), he must make an act of perfect contrition and continue with his duties even knowing that it is not certain that his contrition was perfect. He knows that he must offer, while standing in the place of the sinless God/man Jesus, Our Lord’s Perfect Sacrifice of His life to the Father for the salvation of many, that is, for those who accept and live in that infinite grace, persevering in unity with God to the end of life. He must do this while knowing that, in committing mortal sin, he had rejected that very grace that he was bringing to the world and was, at that very moment, quite possibly (the word “possibly” being used instead of “certainly” because he may, indeed, have achieved perfect contrition, which would then bring him back into grace) committing a sacrilegious act by celebrating Mass in mortal sin.
A priest in such a situation should have mental and spiritual—perhaps even physical—pain from committing such an act. The priest, after all, knows his Mass schedule. He generally knows the possibilities of lack thereof of confession. (He also knows that if he weighs up the possibilities that he can sin and then get to confession before he has to celebrate Mass, he is committing the mortal sin of presumption and his confession under such circumstances will be both sacrilegious and invalid!) He certainly knows the reality that he stands in persona Christi —in the very Person of Christ— when he celebrates the Mass. And yet he chose, whether due to carelessness, malice, or weakness, to cut himself off from God’s grace anyway. Once again, I point out that the Mass is still valid, the Eucharist is still confected, but the priest (not the people, who may be oblivious to his state of being) is doing just about the most damning thing that he could possibly do in his state of life. He knows that this act is worse than the mortal sin which he committed which cut him off from God’s grace, for this sin is not only directly against God, but also “forces”, so to speak, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to work miracles (as all sacraments truly are) through such a vile creature as he has turned himself into. Yes, the priest knows all of this and he should agonize over committing such a despicable act.
There are two remedies for such pain. The first is true contrition, confession, and a firm resolution to amend his life. That does not mean that the priest will not fall again but it certainly should be that he fully intends to never commit such sins again, even to desire death before repeating such evils. The second remedy for such pain is to numb it. This is done through various means, much as any layman does to numb his own pain when he sins. Drugs. Alcohol. Physical pleasures of all sorts. Denial. That last one is where all the others end up. The pain is alleviated or at least partially ignored by denying that the sin was really a sin. Excuses begin. Everybody else is doing it. It wasn’t really that bad. It wasn’t my fault. The Church really didn’t know what She was doing when She outlawed this. If only God were as smart and holy as I am, He would understand. Yes, in this scenario the priest has to convince himself that sin is not sin. Or that it is sin but is not really a mortal sin. Or that mortal sin does not really mean “mortal.” Or that there is no real punishment for sin, and certainly not an eternal punishment for mortal sin. Or that there is no hell. And it ultimately leads to the conclusion that there is no God.
Why did I preach about it and why bring it back up? Because it is imperative that you understand how the "nice guy" priests can do their evil deeds and yet "happily" (if shabbily) celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and do all their other priestly duties while committing/accepting/promoting mortal sin. They feel no pain, no anguish, no remorse, and, ultimately, no love. They will preach that sin is not so bad for they have lost their faith. They will generally strip all vestiges of beauty, truth, and reverence from liturgies to make them as “easy, fun and quickly done” as possible, just to get it over with. They will downplay holiness, ridicule piety, and persecute all who remind themselves of what they have lost. They anesthetize themselves with worldly adulation. You will recognize them and rightfully refuse to follow them once you understand this.
This also applies to Religious and laity in their own vocational realms.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Celebrating Epiphany!
Last Sunday we celebrated our big Epiphany Luncheon and it was a tremendous event. The tables in the hall were decorated absolutely beautifully, although that beauty also kept quite a few families from staying there during the preceding Mass because the parents were afraid that they would spend all of their time policing their children’s hands to keep them out of the salads and dining utensils! That certainly made for one crowded church as so many people decided that it was easier to stand for the Mass! It seems to me that it was worth it to be in the church, though, as the choir outdid themselves (no small feat, for they are always superb). Plus, there is just something special about seeing such a prayerful yet excited crowd of fellow Catholics joining together to pray the Mass before celebrating our parish feast day with a feast. On the downside, I did have a report that several pregnant women were standing the whole time and none of our men got up and gave them their seat. It is possible that there were gentlemen who made the offer and were politely turned down but it is also possible that men are no longer taught the simple courteous act of sacrificing a seat for a lady. “Women’s lib” has certainly wounded our sense of chivalry in many such areas. I put this out there not so much to scold anyone but rather to remind the men to be gentlemen and treat all women, especially the elderly and those with special needs (pregnant, or carrying two infants while corralling 4 others, or hobbling on crutches, etc.) as if they are “ladies” rather than just “one of the guys.” Now, for the sake of those who may be reading this online and are not part of Epiphany parish, please let me explain that “pregnant women” at Mass, although an anomaly at many other parishes, are a common feature around here.
Now, back to the feast. After the big Mass, the choir led the congregation in singing Christmas Carols while the last of the festive preparations were being made. The classrooms were all set for fine dining, the hot chocolate booth was loaded with plenty of mini marshmallows, candy canes, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauces, and sprinkles, the catering tents were staffed and supplied with copious amounts of lasagna and gluten-free spaghetti. I didn’t know that the spaghetti was gluten-free until near the end of the day but once I found out it explained why so many people didn’t even know that spaghetti was an option! I hadn’t been through the food line so I had just assumed that the trays were side by side and people were given a choice. Instead, those who had specified that they wanted/needed a gluten-free meal when they purchased their tickets were given the “secret knowledge” of the hidden food. I never did find out if they had a secret handshake or special code word they used but somehow they figured it all out. There was also an option for a vegetarian (maybe vegan?) meal but I only saw one person who got that. It looked like we had just enough food to feed the volunteer workers, who gave up sitting down and enjoying the meal so that they could serve the rest of us. They really deserve a lot of thanks and extra prayers! Those who set up the tents, tables, chairs, and other things also took them all down again by the end of the day. It was a lot of work done by a lot of workers and they made it all look like it wasn’t work at all. What a blessing to have such a great group of people here! Thank you all.
Last week I let you know that I will be gone for a vacation during the month of March. Since I don’t know what to do or where to go where I don’t need jabs or a suffocation device on my face, people have been making suggestions. Two families have suggested Utah. I checked online for the weather. Whereandwhen.net was the first search result for “weather in Utah in March.” The red banner across the top said boldly, “very bad weather.” It said to expect 19 days under 32 degrees with a mean temperature of 38℉. No thank you! I didn’t need to bother reading further about why the weather was listed as bad. Freezing bad is bad enough. Yes, I am a spoiled Floridian. Somebody, knowing my desire for good weather and the ability to breathe freely, said that I should go to Texas. That is a good choice. But I don’t know exactly what to do in Texas. I have only been there one time, in the heat of summer, visiting my sister who was working on a Master’s Degree somewhere near Dallas. I only remember a few details. First of all, it was extremely hot. (Yes, I complain about heat as well as cold. Go figure.) I remember the oak trees having stunted growth, and seemed to be only about 8 feet tall. And the only lakes were man-made. What else is there in Texas? Anyone know? Finally, one of you suggested that I go to Richmond, New Hampshire. Teens and twenties for overnight temperatures all month long with 1.6-3.5 inches of rain and/or snow during the month. Hmm... That sounds lovely. Not! That actually made Utah look pretty good! Keep the suggestions coming, though. I have already have said, “It’s too cold. It’s too hot.” Maybe in response to the next suggestion I will, like Goldilocks, say, “This one is just right!”.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: More Water Needed!
Right off the bat, I need to apologize to all of you who were not able to receive any special Epiphany Holy Water! Our newest water jug, at 125 gallons, which I thought would be sufficient, was shown to be woefully lacking in capacity. I had 15 gallons in two smaller containers as well as the large one, all filled to the brim. But they were all empty before even the daily Mass people could fill their containers the next morning. On Epiphany Eve (January 5) we held the traditional Exorcism and Blessing of the Holy Water. Many people brought their own salt to be exorcised and blessed and quite a few even brought their own filled 5-gallon water jugs. Smaller containers were brought in empty to be filled from the large fonts. Several people had asked, “Don’t you exorcize and bless salt and water every week? What is different about this salt and water, then?” The answer to the first question is, yes, I exorcize and bless salt and water and mix them together and pray even more prayers over them every week. We use a lot of holy water around here! Unlike “new” blessed water, which is often just “made” by a priest or deacon making up words of blessing, or, worse, using the non-blessing blessing from the “new” Book of Blessings, to make our “regular” holy water I first exorcize salt and then bless it. Then I exorcize water and bless it. Then say a prayer as I mix them together. And finally, pray again, each prayer building on the others and asking that the water and salt will be sanctified, that it will drive away all sorts of evil spirits and physical evils, bring blessing to things and people, and even that it protect, nourish, and heal those who would use it. The power of that “old rite” Holy Water is even more apparent when compared to the “new rite” “holy water” which does not use salt, does not exorcize the water, does not sanctify the water, does not ask for demons and other evils to be driven away, does not do much of anything except ask that those sprinkled be “refreshed” and “renewed.” Heck, the priest doesn’t even make a single sign of the cross over the water as he prays this ridiculous prayer! But to answer the second question posed above, even this powerful “old rite” holy water pales in comparison to the “old rite” Epiphany Holy Water! For on this one day the choir chants beautiful hymns, psalms, and prayers. The priest adds additional exorcisms preceding the “regular” exorcisms and blessings. He even chants all of his prayers (recto tono, or in a single tone, probably because priests generally won’t be able to chant as well as the choir!). All of this is done with solemnity beyond the usual blessing. It took just about an hour instead of the usual 4 minutes of blessing, giving some idea of how much more effort and ritual goes into making this a special offering to God and, as He is never outdone in generosity, receiving special graces from Him as a result.
Unfortunately, this special blessing is missing from the new rituals, so few priests know anything about it, let alone how to do it. I know this quite well, for I never knew about it until recent years. One pastor asked for information about it this year, with the desire to do it at his parish next year. His parishioner is taking some information back to him. But all of the “old rite” blessings are required to be done in Latin, so I am not sure if he and his choir will be able to pull it off. And, since it doesn’t exist in the new rite, it is not found in English except in the “unofficial” translations supplied in the old rite books. In the front of those books, though, it states quite clearly that the blessings are “invalid” if done in the vernacular. Anyway, word is out that this is a powerful sacramental, and people came out in droves to get the water. Since our parish is growing and even people who don’t attend our parish come for things like this that they cannot get at their own parish (begging the question: so why are they not Epiphany parishioners?), we will have to exorcize and bless even more water next year!
Now, for something completely different. Fr. Vincent Cappuano, SJ, who used to assist here and teach at Jesuit High School, has offered to come and take over my duties for the month of March. Everything has now gone through the proper channels, his superior and our bishop have both agreed to it, and, unless covid panic ruins everything, I will be gone for the entire month! Of course, there is no place to go, for I do not wish to wear a face diaper as I travel or relax, so visiting relatives in Michigan, Massachusetts, or Chicago is out of the question. Taking a cruise is impossible without multiple jabs and coverings. Even campgrounds are full. But rest assured that I will still find someplace to prop myself up against a tree and read a book or wet a fishing line. I have no problem not responding to emails and phone calls even now, so on vacation, ha! just try to reach me! It is important for you to know that this is happening because if I just disappear as Lent begins, the grapevine might erupt with wild speculation about why I am absent, where I got sent, or other such talk. So now you have two months’ notice that all is well.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany Water Blessing!
The secular calendar has turned from 2021 to 2022. We have an Epiphany Parish calendar coming out soon (I blame both the backlog of ships off the California coast and the new covid strain for the delay in getting them to you, even though neither is accurate). You should be able to pick one up on the day we celebrate the External Solemnity of Epiphany, January 9. We only had 800 printed up but, with the uptick in numbers the last few weeks, that now looks like a low number of copies! If you were at the 10:30 Mass last Sunday, you saw the reality of that statement. I already had the sacristan put in 50 more hosts than normal, as our numbers have been remaining about 800 in attendance (total for all Sunday Masses) for the month rather than our previous normal of around 750. But even that wasn’t enough. As I saw the people at the halfway point of the church line up, I realized that I was already more than halfway through the number of Hosts in the ciborium and I started breaking them in two. But as the line seemed to extend longer and longer, I asked Fr. Manfiafico to start doing so as well. By the time we were finished, we were quartering them. Even so, we only had a few pieces of Host left when the last person received! It turns out that we set a record last week, with over 900 people at the Masses and 654 at the 10:30 alone. And, since the church only holds 500 people, that means that the rest were relegated to watching on tv in the social hall. Not a good situation but a great problem to have!
Although I just mentioned that we will celebrate our parish feast day as an external solemnity on January 9 (which the rubrics allow, in case you were wondering), we still have to follow the proper liturgical calendar for Epiphany, which falls yearly on January 6. We will have the regular 6:30 am and 8:00 am daily Masses on Epiphany itself. But there is also a special blessing of water that occurs the evening before Epiphany. Each year the crowd grows larger as more people participate in it. On Wednesday, January 5, at 6:30 pm we will once again have this solemn exorcism and blessing of salt and water. Last year so many people brought water to be blessed that we filled tables all the way across the front of the church, then filled the space under the tables, and finally filled the floor down the sides of the sanctuary as well. Each water bottle had to have the lid removed, then, when the exorcism and blessing of the salt was complete and the exorcism and first blessing of the water was finished, I added salt to each of the water bottles before giving them all a final blessing. Although I had servers to assist, my fingers had blisters from opening and screwing shut water bottles and there was water and salt all over the floor of the church! Needless to say, it also took quite a bit of time. This year we are doing something a bit different. You may still bring in your own salt to be exorcized and blessed. But, unless you are bringing in 5-gallon or larger bottles of water, bring them in empty. Yes, empty! This year we have a beautiful, cedar-covered 125-gallon water vessel which I will exorcize and bless in the usual way, and then you can fill up your empty water bottles from the large container. We made sure that standard 1-gallon milk jugs fit under the spout, so don’t think that you can only get 2 or 3 ounces. If you will use the water, bring a container. In years past, we blessed many extra bottles of water so that people could pick some up on Epiphany or the following Sunday if they missed the actual blessing ceremony. This year, the large container will be available until it is completely emptied.
On the day of Epiphany itself, January 6, we have the blessing of chalk (to be used to give your homes the special Epiphany blessing), gold, incense, and myrrh (recalling the gifts of the Three Kings) and, of course, houses. I will put out sheets for you to use for the annual house blessing so that you know what to do with the chalk and water. Also, although it is still a month away, while you are thinking about special blessings (each of which you will find on the parish calendar) February brings us the extra special blessing of candles on Candlemas Day (February 2) so get your candles ready to bring in. The blessing and candle procession will be at 8:00 am, followed by the Mass for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following day, St. Blase (or Blaise) brings not only the well-known and beloved blessing of throats but also a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit for the relief of throat ailments (to take to those who cannot make it to Mass—the wine and water can be used, obviously, even later in the year when someone gets a sore throat or other ailment) plus another blessing of candles! This candle blessing the day after Candlemas has long been helpful for all of those who forgot about the first blessing until it was too late yet didn’t want their candles to “go to waste” by being unblessed, so they could take them to church the very next day while it was fresh on their minds!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Christmas Was... Questionable
This Christmas was one full of questions. I hope I don’t bore you with this article dealing with a few of the questions and answers. Even though I am writing this column before the staff takes off for Christmas so that we can get the bulletin ready for the weekend, I can assure you that these questions and answers are as genuine as the questions written about in the recent dubia which brought them all on.
To the proposed question:
When Pope St. Gregory the Great codified, in the 6th century, what is now often called the Traditional Latin Mass, did he understand that it was going to cause nothing but dissent and loss of Catholic Faith for the next 1500 years?
The answer is:
Pope St. Gregory the Great, when he standardized the Mass in the same substantial form as it was to be celebrated until the Great n’ Only Council™, showed us how evil his plan was by mandating that it be celebrated in Latin and that it use, in its more solemn forms, Gregorian Chant. Now it is quite apparent that these three things,1) Standard rubrics and texts to be followed precisely; 2) Latin as the language used; and 3) Gregorian Chant used for sung Masses, show that he certainly planned to undermine the faith of the people of God and to assure that it could never to be accepted by anyone after 1969. Although he cleverly covered his tracks by stressing missionary work and converting, through those efforts, millions of people on every continent who didn’t speak Latin or chant Gregorian in their everyday lives, he must have known that the Church could not really please God by having priests reverently offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and allowing the people to, with full, active and conscious participation, spiritually take their place at the foot of the Cross as the Son of God paid the price for man’s Salvation. Gregory’s nefarious plan was to allow millions of poor, ignorant savages to become holy and die in a state of grace and thereby get to Heaven, as a long-tern “punk” of the far superior in every way (intellectually, physically, emotionally, and—needless to say—spiritually) elites of our times. Now that we are in on his “joke” we can laugh at the stupidity of our forefathers, cast off their silly rubrics, their humility, their holiness, and their sacraments, and get to Heaven without any effort or thought.
To the proposed question:
Well then, did all of our beloved Saints really become Saints if they celebrated a “bad” Mass and had other “defective” sacraments?
The answer is:
We now know, through our superior intellectual superioritiness, that the only people who were ever in danger of going to hell are those who question covid lockdowns, the delights of sodomy, or female ordinations. Oh, and those who now celebrate or attend the Traditional Latin Mass and avail themselves of other sacraments and blessings which were in use before the pre-Great n’ Only Council™. So, technically, nobody should really be proclaimed a Saint, since we all (exceptions listed above) will get to Heaven no matter what we do or don’t do, believe or don’t believe (exceptions listed above).
To the proposed questions:
Is Heaven really worth striving for, then? Do sacrifices such as prayer, penance, and almsgiving have any moral or theological value? Is God worthy of our love, worthy of us giving up everything in this world in order that we may be united with Him in the Beatific Vision?
The answer is:
What a nincompoop you are.
We don’t believe in any of that stuff anymore. You must be a plant from the TLM group.
With prayers for your holiness
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
[The above dubia is meant as satire. Should anyone reading this (or having it read/paraphrased/misquoted to them, as they are probably incapable of such intellectual endeavors as reading and understanding what was written) please take a coloring book and teddy bear to your safe spot and sound off on twitter until you feel fully affirmed in your lack of faith and sense of humor.]
From the Pastor: What To Expect For Christmas
No, this is not about toys under the tree or coal left in stockings. This is about what to expect here at Epiphany this Christmas. Let me begin with the big questions on the minds of all of the new parishioners. “Why is the church not yet decked out for Christmas? Why is the Nativity set in the rear of the church rather than in front of the altar?” And, from the parishioners who have been here longer, “Where is the inflatable dinosaur with the Christmas present in his mouth? Where are the 3000 lights and mixture of all sorts of plastic, rubber, and wicker statues, figurines, and animals which used to be out front?” As for the answers, the Church is decked out for Advent, not Christmas, since this is Advent Season. Believe it or not, Christmas did not really start 3 weeks before Halloween or the day after Thanksgiving. We are now preparing for the Christ Child to show Himself at His Nativity, not celebrating it as a done deal. As for the Nativity set, there is only one place forbidden to put it in the church building according to church liturgical documents: in the sanctuary. But, since almost nobody celebrates Mass from in front of the altar anymore, that space is considered “wasted space” which needs to be filled with something. So during Lent it often contains a desert scene with a cactus, sand, perhaps a cow skull, and either a tumbleweed or a coiled, dead grapevine. Easter usually has the space filled with lilies and sometimes baskets of colorful eggs. Autumn brings cornucopia horns of plenty, with pumpkins and other squash, and colorful leaves scattered in front of the altar. Advent, of course, fills that space with the forbidden manger scene and dozens of poinsettias and flowers. After all, modern sanctuaries are mostly devoid of anything beautiful, so kitschy items try to make up for the lack of artistic and religious content. The infamous dinosaur out front, along with the many various mismatched objects and multitude of lights, all went away with the St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission when it became its own parish. I haven’t been by their new church to see it recently but I assume that they have it all decked out in all its splendid gaudiness as always. Years ago we had come to an agreement that their community got to decorate the outside however and whenever they chose and our community took care of the inside. That was necessary because they were used to decorating the sanctuary and entire front of the church in such a way that it was impossible for a Latin Mass to be celebrated, with trees and flowers and statues and blinking lights and other objects not only causing distraction but also taking up the spaces where the priest and altar boys needed to stand, sit, and move. Our compromise worked well enough, and I have heard a few people nostalgic for the missing waterfall out front pouring over the plastic tarps draped around their Nativity set.
Anyway, last Christmas was our first with the two communities split from each other but because of the covid stuff nothing was “normal” anyway and we struggled to get into a Christmas pattern. This year we are basically starting over and trying to figure out what to do and when to do it. There are no flowers allowed in the church during Advent (except Gaudete Sunday), so we have limited the “decorations” to plain green wreaths and some greenery where flowers normally are found. The social hall will be decorated later this week. Our “flower lady” had to step aside due to family issues so we are looking for someone to step forward and take on the monumentally prayerful task of making flower arrangements for the altar and statues. Any takers?
As for the Mass schedule, on Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24 we will have a Novus Ordo Mass at 5:00 pm. Midnight Mass will start at midnight and will be lit by candles. It will be an absolutely beautiful high Mass. Christmas morning we will follow the Sunday schedule of low Mass at 7:30 and hIgh Mass at 10:30, although there will be no confessions following either Mass. The normal Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class has been canceled that day, too. Fr. Tuoc will celebrate a Novus Ordo Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm on Christmas day which will be an anticipated Sunday Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family. But if you know anyone who somehow missed Christmas Mass, they can technically attend that Mass and it will “count” for either Christmas or the Sunday after Christmas (but not both). The Sunday Mass and confession schedule will be as normal on December 26. Of the normal group meetings that take place on Sundays, none have asked us to take them off the schedule, so they remain on the calendar as of this writing. Will they really be meeting that morning? I doubt it but you never know. Just because I will be barely functioning doesn’t mean that everyone else is in the same boat. Monday, December 27, is the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and there is a special blessing of wine after Masses that day.
January 1 is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year since it falls on a Saturday. We will have the normal 8:00 am Mass but will also add an extra 10:30 high Mass for those who need a little extra time to get moving that day. The office will be closed from December 24 through January 3, so plan accordingly.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Barefoot! Thunk! Oh Yeah!
Last Sunday started out with a bit of panic before the early Mass. We were expecting a visit from good ol’ Saint Nicholas, who had promised to visit all of our good little boys and girls and bring some treats for them. The children had been instructed to place a shoe out on the picnic tables and, during Mass, Saint Nicholas was going to place in each shoe a bit of gold, Odor Eaters, or candy for the children, as he saw fit. But with only 6 minutes to go before Mass, only three shoes were sitting out. Panic set in, as people thought that the children were going to miss out on this holy visit and that the holy visitor would miss the children. But by the time Mass was done, we had shoes galore filled to overflowing with heavenly treats. It seems that many of the families forgot to bring an extra shoe (or 10 for some of our larger families!) and a simple announcement that it was all right to take off one of the shoes they were wearing and go half-barefooted for Mass this special day was all it took for the “shoe tables” to fill up. And, since we had over 800 people (combined) in attendance at our Sunday Masses, St. Nicholas was not disappointed in the numbers of children to whose faces he could bring many smiles, for we have more children than most parishes he visits. I will get to more about number of people at Mass later in this article.
At the 10:30 Mass we didn’t have problems with shoes but rather with the holy water sprinkler (called an “aspergillum”). We begin our prayers with the Asperges at this Mass, and, kneeling in front of the altar and beginning the chant, “A-a-sper-er-er-ge-es-may” I usually sprinkle the altar three times before sprinkling myself, the servers, and the congregation. But this time as I sent the holy water toward the middle of the altar, the top of the sprinkler flew off and hit the altar dead center with a resounding, “THUNK”! We found out later that the ball on top, which holds and disperses the Holy Water, has a threaded rod screwed into the handle on one side and into a nut at the top of the ball on the other, holding it all together. Somehow, it broke in two right in the middle, leaving me with the handle and the bottom half of the ball in my hand and the top piece on the floor somewhere in the sanctuary. My MC dutifully went and got the Holy Water sprinkler that I use for blessing objects outside of Mass and we continued, after that short delay, as if nothing had happened. But I was certainly thanking God that the accident occurred as I was sprinkling the altar instead of some little old lady or child. (There might have been a few altar boys that could have used a good conk on the head, though, but don’t tell them that I said so!) That “backup” sprinkler is constructed differently and instead of having an aspergillum which is dipped into a bucket of water (also called a “stoup” or an “aspersorium” for those of you who may need that information to win at Jeopardy one day), it contains water within its own bulbous handle. Fortunately, I had blessed some items earlier in the day and, realizing that it was almost out of water, had filled it up completely before Mass began! It does send more water flying than the usual one, so if you got sprinkled last week, you probably got really wet!
Now, as for the numbers of people at Mass, I have been waiting somewhat impatiently for the new Mass counts to come out for the diocese. As you know, pastors have to report their weekend attendance to the diocese twice a year, in February and October. Last year being the dreadful “covid year” the attendance was down considerably for the February count in all but one parish—ours. We increased our numbers even in the midst of worldwide panic. Of course, since everyone was thinking that they were all going to die, it seems to me that every parish should have had a great increase in Mass attendance (not to mention longer confession lines!) as people prepared to meet their Maker. But was last February’s count just a fluke? Not at all. The October count is now public. Epiphany was once again up in the count. In October of 2019 (pre-panic), we counted 412 people at our combined Masses. During the 2020 panic year, we had 627 in the pews in October. This year we moved up to 753. Fortunately for the other parishes, we are not the only parish with increasing numbers. In fact, two other parishes have now joined us in having numbers above the 2019 counts. According to the diocesan statistics, as of October 2021, Most Holy Redeemer is at 101.1% of their 2019 attendance and St. Anthony the Abbot in Brooksville is at 111.0% of their 2019 count. You may or may not know that St. Anthony the Abbot now has a Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and Tuesdays or Wednesdays (depending on the season), a factor which I am sure explains their uptick in numbers. And at Epiphany, we are up 182.8% from 2019! Not too shabby for—as I was told when I was sent here by the now-retired Bishop Robert Lynch—a Mass that nobody wants, at a parish to which nobody will go! Full details can be found on the chart hanging in the social hall. Enjoy!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Big Celebrations This Week!
As you are all quite well aware, this week brings us one of the two Holy Days of Obligation of the month of December. This Wednesday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We will have our usual morning Masses plus one extra high Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8. Oh, and the second December Holy Day of Obligation, in case you weren’t thinking too clearly due to reading this while shopping online, is Christmas!
The next big celebration, which, due to our parish’s sterling reputation as one having nothing but good little boys and girls, will be celebrated a bit early, is St. Nicholas’ feast day. The actual date for his feast is December 6 but he will make a special visit to us a day early, on Sunday, December 5. If you are reading this online before coming to Mass that day, don’t forget to have the children bring an extra shoe (with their name written inside) to lay on the tables next to the church. St. Nick likes to leave special gifts in children’s shoes during Mass!
Then there is the special Rorate Caeli Mass which you have all been waiting for! This coming Saturday, December 11, the morning Mass schedule changes. The 8:00 Mass (and confessions and Adoration which normally follow) have been canceled and instead, we will have a glorious candlelight Mass at 6:30 am followed by some—what else?— sugary snacks. The Rorate Mass is a traditional Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent. It actually can be celebrated on multiple days throughout Advent but we limit ourselves to just one. All is dark in the church with the exception of the altar, which is lit by as many candles as we can safely fit on it. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite obviously, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget.
Since I still have a small space left to write, now is as good a time as any to announce that last month we hired our new Youth Director (or Facilitator or Apostolate Coordinator whatever “new and improved” title they are officially called nowadays). Her name will soon be, if it is not already, well known throughout the diocese as well as at Epiphany, as she will be the very best Youth Director around. Jamiee Salcido has already been working for a long time with the high school youth group and will continue to do so. She is also working with the already-established Young Adult group, and they are planning on ramping things up so watch for that group to start advertising more and more functions. And, starting in January, Jamiee will be starting up an all-new Junior High Youth Group! So, for all of you with children in that age range, start paying attention to announcements, bulletin blurbs, Flocknote emails/texts, and other modes of communication. We have long had requests for activities aimed at this age group but have never had someone willing to lead the group full-time. Now we have one! She will need plenty of help, so be quick to volunteer. Those who volunteer will no longer have the worry (and a justified one at that!) that if they do just one project for the middle school children then they will be “stuck” as their leader forever, for that position is now filled. Of course, as in all positions dealing with children or vulnerable adults in the Church, volunteers must undergo Safe Environment Training put forth by the diocese (now done online at your convenience) and pass the fingerprint scrutiny, which helps to assure that the children are in good hands.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thanksgiving Day With My Family
Here I am the week before Thanksgiving having to type out this bulletin article in order to get the bulletin printed for the following Sunday before the office staff goes home for the holiday. I am fortunate in the respect that I have much practice in writing about future events before they actually happen, especially when it comes to outings with my family, so that I don’t have to wait an extra week before letting you all know how things went. So here is my Thanksgiving story.
Several weeks before Thanksgiving we received a letter from Aunt Irma. She is living in Michigan under the covid dictator who has abused, berated, threatened, and punished the populace into submission to the new religion-superstition commonly called Fauciism, and her Stockholm syndrome was showing itself in full color. In her letter, she stated that she would not attend any family gathering unless all family members, even the ones who would not be present (which makes as much sense as anything else dealing with the jab, since the official battle cry is, “Your lack of vaccination is making my vaccinations fail!”) were double or triple jabbed with the genetic engineering experimental thingamabob. Because she, being a Whitmer victim/survivor, was so full of self-righteousness, and because she correctly believes that she is the favorite matriarch of our family, she was sure that we would all dutifully agree to get sterilized—I mean inoculated with the thing that can only be called a vaccine because “experts” changed the definition of a vaccine after they started injecting guinea-people with it—before her arrival. How silly! While we would miss her terribly, the general thinking was simply, “I get dibs on the extra turkey drumstick!”
So while we were all gathered at my sister’s house having a few libations, munching on way too many appetizers, and grousing about the lies and fear being pedaled all day every day by the government, media, woke corporations, and the USCCB, the last person in the world whom we expected to arrive came bursting through the door, dutifully wearing her two masks, plastic face shield, and a tee shirt emblazoned with “Your body, My choice! Mandate now!” Aunt Irma was in the house! After she had realized that she could not Michiganize any of us into taking “the jab that makes you fear non-jabbed healthy people” (none of us Floridians, by the way, were condemning the others for either having or lacking proper jab id, for we all just sighed in exasperation at those who did the opposite of what we did—kind of like normal people used to do—instead of canceling them) she concocted her own special plan for covid safety: she just got herself jabbed and jabbed again and then again and again and again. She counted out how many relatives she suspected to be going without the injection and then she simply went from pharmacy to pharmacy getting “boosted” for each one who rejected the shot. She said that she had received 17 boosters, but that she had lost count around 12 and might have been off by one or two after that. But she was convinced that, temporarily, she need not fear the unvaxed, for her extra vaccinations canceled them out. She figures that will change soon enough, though, and she expects to face lockdowns once again this winter back home, because by Christmas her state will probably be manding an 18th shot to be considered “fully vaxed.” She is, of course, OK with that because, well, you know, “the science.”
There was one problem that she hadn’t managed to solve, though, and that was the non-vaccination status of the turkey. In her now-altered mind (from too many hours watching CNN, which did countless more damage than 17 booster shots) she “knew” that covid had come from eating unvaccinated bats in Wuhan, and she figured that a turkey is just a much larger version of a bat, so she was petrified that she would catch covid if she ate the turkey. And she loved the rest of us so much that she made a big deal out of the “fact” that we, too, were all going to die if we ate that sickly winged creature. It didn’t help at all that my brother-in-law had mentioned that he brined the bird overnight, which Aunt Irma equated with the infamous Chinese wet market. We really wanted to just be able to have a great feast in peace with the family, but we were at a loss as to what to do to pacify her. Somebody pulled out a vaccination card and tried to pass it off as the bird’s “safety inspection covid label” but it still had his name on it, so Aunt Irma wasn’t fooled. We were just about at wit’s end, unable to get her to change the topic and unwilling to listen to any more “you’re all going to die and you’re trying to kill me, too!” nonsense when one of the kids remembered watching her dad prepare the turkey. Not only did he brine it, but he injected a slurry of spices deep within the meat using a rather large syringe. She brought that out to show Aunt Irma that the turkey had indeed been vaccinated before it went into the smoker and she witnessed her daddy inject it multiple times, so it must be fully, not just partially, vaccinated! That did the trick. Aunt Irma, full of enough vax to make up for each of us, was happy to eat a rather large, wet market bat/bird thing for Thanksgiving, since it, too, was fully vaxxed. A win for “the science” and a win for the family.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thank You For Giving!
There are dozens of volunteers at Epiphany who go about their “duties” without drawing attention to themselves or to the work they are doing. It almost seems that the tasks get done by elves in the middle of the night. Some of the tasks take place even in the midst of crowds at the church but are done in such a way that nobody seems to even notice the workers. Today, the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving Day, I wish to point out a few of the things that fall into this important category. I do this for several reasons. First, to thank those who so tirelessly and selflessly give of themselves in taking on necessary or desirable or helpful jobs here at the church, not for recognition but simply out of love for God, His house, and His children. Another reason I want to point out these works of charity is to help others see what kind of things are available for them to do, or to give ideas as to what other kinds of things might be done. People are often hoping that they can help out at the church but are afraid of stepping on other people’s toes, so they don’t do anything. Others look at something and think to themselves that the parish would be at least a little bit better off if only “this” or “that” were done but are afraid of doing it, assuming that if it was always “this” way, there must be a reason far better than that nobody ever did it! As I am writing this, I am going to refrain from mentioning names, since some of the people really don’t want to be named and praised publicly (God knows their names and will reward their efforts and that is enough) but also because I am a coward! I know that I will forget quite a few people and you never know whose feelings will get hurt, so it is easier to just be general and let everyone fill in their own name where it belongs.
Let me start with the Sunday food folks. The coffee not only doesn’t brew itself, it also doesn’t stock itself in our pantry! We have volunteers who bring in, at their own expense quite often, all of the food and drinks that can so easily be taken for granted. Coffee, milk, juice, cream, sugar, tea, napkins, donuts, bagels, cream cheese, and even home-made goodies don’t just magically appear all nicely set out for the after-Mass crowd, but rather many people work very hard to make it all happen and then stay and clean up afterward. Of course, many people cannot help out with the food and drinks because they have to rush off to one of the many groups which meet after Mass. But of course those groups are run by volunteers, too! It takes a lot of people a lot of time and energy and often money to run the American Heritage Girls, the Troops of St. George, the Council of Catholic Women, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and all of the other groups which meet and fulfill needs at the parish. And even within each group there are a lot of tasks which may seem small but which are absolutely necessary to get done and there are countless people who, while not “in charge” of the group, are extremely beneficial to it running properly. Just as a means of showing this, taking a look at the Holy League, there are men who have “jobs” to do and have basically taken charge of doing them every meeting. The men who light the candles, who set out the monstrance, who lead the chanting and rosary, who put away the humeral veil, who lock the doors, who collect the prayer sheets, and so many other little tasks, which, if not done, would lead to chaos or to the overworking of just one man (me!) and the eventual end of the group. Every group which meets here has people who do those “little things” that make everything run “effortlessly” for everyone else.
Then there are those who sing in the schola, who show up for practice at church, who practice at home, who chant for funerals, for special Masses, for Sunday Vespers, and other seemingly endless times when hymns are appreciated. Of course there are altar boys (and altar men!) who serve each liturgical event and men who train them and schedule them, plus sacristans who set up and clear away all the necessary items. And the lady who launders the liturgical linens and the young ladies (DOVES) learning to sew those same linens and the ladies who are teaching them about care of God’s house. There also has been a very visible change in our outdoor area, too, as plants and shrubs and trees and grasses have appeared and disappeared in ways that make the whole landscape look much more beautiful. Unassuming workers have been toiling in hot, humid weather all for the Glory of God and for the edification of the rest of us.
Obviously, I am not able to even list all of the groups and individuals who make this church run so well but I am thankful for each and every one of them. If you were reading this and thinking something like, “I never thought about who did that” or “I would be able to assist in this” feel free to join those who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard! Volunteer for something that only you can do or that anyone could do but isn’t being done! And thanks for doing it!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Advent Calendars!
Some of you may think that this is a bit too “Novus Ordo Priest-y” so, if you are squeamish in this way, just skip the rest of the article. But for the rest of you, realize that I am not the “rigid traditional” priest that is so often the stereotypical picture painted of any priest who celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass. You may, if you wish, now shrug your shoulders as if to say, ‘oh, well, let’s see what he has to say” and then continue reading. Now that the Karen’s have left the room, I want to tell a tale about searching for Advent Calendars. Let me begin by addressing the origin of these calendars, for, just like the Advent Wreath, they come to us, not from Catholic tradition, but from Lutheran tradition. Yes, those who are no longer supposed to be reading this could very easily be calling me “Little Francis’ right about now, for, although I am not suggesting that you commission a statue of the heretic priest (Fr.) Martin Luther, I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about using, in your family home, one of his (or at least his followers’) Advent Wreaths or Advent Calendars to prepare for Christmas! Here is a small summary from Wikipedia of what an Advent Calendar is: “An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Since the date of the First Sunday of Advent varies, falling between November 27 and December 3 inclusive, many Advent calendars, especially those that are reusable, often begin on December 1, although those that are produced for a specific year often include the last few days of November that are part of the liturgical season. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries.” So, although Luther himself was long since dead and judged before the first use of these calendars, they still come from his line of protesters. To my way of thinking, though, that does not disqualify them from being very useful for Catholics!
I remember old Advent calendars which had tabs that children would pull back each day of Advent as they counted down the days to Christmas. Behind each tab was a scripture verse to look up in the bible and read, a chore or some nice thing to do for someone that day (i.e., “Make your bed before being told to do so.”) and—and this was the absolute best part—a piece of candy to eat after the first two things were accomplished! These calendars were simple, they taught children how to use a calendar, how to tell how many days until Christmas, how to look up bible passages, and how to connect “doing something good” to “preparing for Christmas”. So toss aside the protestant roots, Catholics, and climb aboard! But a strange thing has happened recently. After many years of not even thinking about Advent Calendars, I started to see them pop up every once in a while. I even managed to buy some for my nieces and nephews a few years ago when they were younger. But as they grew in popularity again (or, at least, as I started noticing them again) they began to lose all sense of their purpose: to prepare for the birth of Jesus. The calendars started to have snow scenes and winter activities drawn in the place of scenes of Bethlem, the Star, the manger, the Magi, and the Holy Family. No longer do they have bible verses or chores to help you live a Christian life, but, rather, they count down to nothing and contain nothing of substance inside. Oh, sure, the candy may still be there, but that used to be just the reward for learning about Christ’s birth or for being good on account of His love.
A few years ago a parishioner brought me an “adult Advent Calendar” of beer. I am certainly not complaining about it, for it was a fun calendar which brought a lot of “holiday cheer” at the rectory! But it wasn’t holy as the Advent Calendars of old. This year I found in my email a company selling three different Advent Calendars with chocolate pieces, so I eagerly clicked to see if they were the old-fashioned kind. Before I tell you what they looked like, I want to point out that they had no price on or around the button that said “purchase” so I couldn’t see how much they cost unless I put them into the “shopping cart”! I wasn’t about to do that, so I checked more closely and found, in small print up at the top under the photo of the calendar, the words “Pay in full or in 4 interest-free installments of $18.75 with ShopPay”! Yes, $75.00 for tiny chocolate pieces in an “Advent Calendar” that (as you have probably already guessed) except for the name “Advent Calendar” didn’t mention or even show anything to do with Jesus, Christmas, Advent, or, get this, even winter! Yes, these were completely and utterly devoid of anything except for numbers set up in calendar fashion for which, I suppose, people actually shelled out a lot of money in order to “feel good” about themselves as they entered into the “holiday” shopping season.
After seeing this, I did something that I suggest that only the strong of heart do. Google “Advent Calendar 2021” and see what pops up! Advent Calendars featuring wine, cosmetics, Harry Potter, Disney, jewelry ($499!), Star Wars, dog treats, and more, but no Infant Jesus. Covid is certainly not the worst disease we are facing today. How sad...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka