From the Pastor: Thank You for a “Good” Lent and Easter!
Holy Week and Easter Week have now come and gone for another year. I have received many, many compliments and accolades and thanks for the beautiful Holy Week and Easter Masses and prayers we offered here. While I certainly appreciate it, I truthfully cannot take credit for most of what you found mentally and emotionally enriching and spiritually uplifting. I cannot tell you how many people worked long hours to make our parish celebrations as spiritually beautiful as possible, but there were quite a few. The pastor, believe it or not, does not make Mass and other liturgical services “good” by himself. He can, if he is a real jerk, or tries to be “innovative” in all things, or wants to be the center of attention, make everything “bad” all by himself. But the Mass and other liturgies celebrated and led by a less than stellar, average, or superior priest will all be made “good” almost exclusively by those who assist him. (I put quotation marks around the words “good” and “bad” because, in their essence, all Catholic liturgy is “good” and not “bad”. But the external trappings of, and experience of, even things which are “good” in essence, can be either “good” or “bad”.) The people of both Epiphany of Our Lord and St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission made the priests here look pretty darn “good” by all the effort they put into our celebrations. Thank you all for what you have done!
Nobody except God knows the answers to the following questions but even without answers, it can become apparent that the above paragraph is not just false modesty coming from the pastor! How many hours did the choir practice? How much effort did it take to set aside, at least temporarily and inconveniently, family necessities in order to practice the multiple chants and musical settings? How much anxiety did our altar boys go through as they prepared to tackle once-a-year liturgies, worrying about what would happen if they forgot something, or did something wrong, whether large or small in detail? How many of their family members had to sit around twiddling their thumbs (or praying!) after bringing in altar boys an hour early so that they could practice and get ready for the “big events”? How many parishioners went out of their way to welcome the newcomers to our parish (and to our country, for that matter), be it with simple greetings or with elaborate introductions to our Easter customs? How many elderly people did a huge penance by attending evening Stations or early morning Tenebraes when it was a struggle to drive in the dark? How many people came into the church or hall and saw something not quite “right” and either cleaned it up or rearranged it or fixed it? How many of our parish employees, after spending the day here on the job, spent the evening hours here, too, even though everybody, knowing that they have keys and knowledge of where everything is, puts them right back to work? How many parishioners, after forty days of fasting, praying and almsgiving, still came back willingly and joyfully to the loooooonnnnnng (relative to the newer, truncated, anemic versions which many or most of us grew up with and still think of as the “norm”) Holy Triduum Masses and prayers? How many “how manys” can I think of? There will always be more that go unmentioned. But add up all of those “how manys” and you will see a congregation (actually, two congregations here!) with not only Faith but with a true spirit of self-denial. They--you--were willing to work extra hard, travel extra miles, pray extra long, lose extra sleep, spend extra money, and empty yourself in many other ways, all for the Glory of God, for your own sanctification, and for the salvation of others for whom you offered it all up. Thank you all. You are the ones who made all of these Masses and services “good”!
So many of you expressed concern about how tired I either would be or was after all of this. Let me tell you a secret. You might not realize it but I don’t have ten kids or 34 grandkids to take care of (with both normal stuff and holiday extras like fitting with new Easter outfits, filling Easter baskets, painting Easter eggs, etc.), a wife to please, a “job” to attend to outside of all of these prayers and Masses, a 50 minute commute to and from church, in-laws to visit as well as parents, keeping track of when to take or give dozens of medications, or how to schedule visits to the cardiologist, urologist, gastrologist, hematologist, dermatologist, endocrinologist, and ologistologist, and so many other things that most of you have to deal with. Yep, right now I am in a sweet spot. Not too young of a priest that I think I have to do everything myself and not too old to be completely broken down. Thanks for your concern, but I am more concerned about YOU! Parishioners certainly need their priest to stay holy and healthy but priests also most certainly need their parishioners to do the same.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka