From the Pastor: Thank You!
This past week has been a doozy. The Catholic Enrichment Week (sort of like a Vacation Bible School except Catholic and Educational instead of generic Christian pablum of singing cutsie songs with hand gestures) was our largest yet. The volunteers who worked hard at this are truly a few steps closer to Heaven. Thank you! Also, thank you parents for trusting us with the Catholic formation of your children. It is a long drive for most of you. It takes a long time through heavy traffic to bring your children here and pick them up later, and you only did it because you trusted that it would be worth it for them to learn about Jesus’ Apostles. I also especially appreciate those who went through the Diocesan-required Safe Environment Training and Fingerprint Background checks so that you could take an active supervisory role. We couldn’t do anything like this without you!
The first afternoon of the CEW we had a strong storm that came through here. Lots of very close lightning, strong winds, and extremely heavy rain. Then 10 minutes later it had passed by. But not before destroying two out of the three tents we had set up for some shade for the daytime activities. We didn’t have anything like that even during the recent tropical storm. Fortunately, it blew through after the children had all gone home. Thank you, Lord, for such good timing! Of course, like all typical Florida thunderstorms, it was a very localized squall, and those who had to clean it all up couldn’t figure out why there was so much damage since none of them had any major storm at their houses. I just happened to have been home when the storm passed by so I could figure it out. But shortly after that, I was on my way out to a convent in Riverview where I was leading a retreat for the Sisters, so there may have even been multiple unseen short storms that came by. I certainly kept hitting them along the drive. Each lasted only about 1/2 to 1 mile and then abruptly ended. That’s the nice thing about these outbursts: if you can just keep moving, you will soon come to clear weather again!
The retreat was focused on the three Evangelical Counsels, or the three Counsels of Perfection, namely Voluntary Poverty, Perpetual Continence (commonly named “chastity” or “celibacy”), and Obedience as explained not by me but by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Some of you who are new here may not realize that we currently have two of our young ladies in the early stages of formation with the Sisters and Sons of Jesus the High Priest whom you see at 7:30 am Mass on Sundays and 8:00 am Mass on weekdays when they are not teaching school. This retreat theme was chosen so that they could get a better understanding of what those three vows mean, why they are so important that they are virtually essential, and how those vows can teach them the perfections which are possible here on Earth in this life. It is humbling as a secular priest to be teaching this to those already in and those soon to take vows since St. Thomas makes it very clear that the Religious who take vows are in a State of Perfection (that takes a lot of explaining, as you can probably imagine) even before being perfected, whereas the secular priests—who take promises rather than vows—are not in that same state.
Through the grace of God, the Liturgical Calendar gave me some great examples to use in explaining these three Counsels. St. John Gualbert, Abbot, began the week. Although he became an abbot, he was never in Holy Orders, not even the minor ones. He lived out his vows with heroic virtue nonetheless and, as his title of “Abbot” indicates, was elected the Superior of his monastery and even founded many others. Then came St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan and contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, which allowed me to explain some differences in how different “Orders” live their vows as they strive for perfection. Next up came St. Henry II, a King and Emperor, who died in the year 1024. Although a layman, he always wanted to be a priest and once, even though already Emperor, begged admission to a monastery with a promise to be a simple monk. He could point to his current life to prove that he could live the three vows. 1) He used all of his money for the glory of God and to help His people placed under his care. In fact, he spent so much money building up the Church and assisting people to get to Heaven that his own brother raised an army to depose him, feeling that the money rightly belonged to the royal family rather than the family of God. Henry won the battle, by the way. 2) He and his wife, St. Cunigunde, remained, by mutual consent, virgins even after marriage, so he had already proven himself capable of celibacy. 3) He was obedient to no secular power but was completely at the service of the Pope and Our Lord. The Abbot accepted his clearly demonstrated ability to live the Evangelical Counsels and immediately put him under obedience to return home and remain King and Emperor!
Add to that daily Masses, confessions, Adoration, sick calls, urgent appointments, and whatnot, and you have some idea of my week. I wouldn’t trade this “job” for anything in the world! Thanks for letting me be your pastor! Now if only I can find time to do some laundry...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka