He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Ascension Thursday is an Important Feast!
This Thursday is Ascension Thursday. It is the 40th Day after Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, “It is one of the Ecumenical feasts ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter and of Pentecost among the most solemn in the calendar, has a vigil and, since the fifteenth century, an octave which is set apart for a novena of preparation for Pentecost, in accordance with the directions of Leo XIII.” Now stop to think about that just a bit. It is one of the most important feasts on the Church calendar, ranking alongside Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost. Did you know that? (Notice that it seems to be of even of higher rank than our own beloved feast of Epiphany!) How many people make every effort to come to Easter Sunday Mass yet think nothing of Pentecost Sunday (50 days later)? How many people (much, much fewer in number, to be sure, than the Easter crowd) make almost heroic efforts to attend Good Friday services at 3:00 pm but never even think about attending Mass in the middle of the week on Ascension Thursday?
Some time back our illustrious bishops were grappling with those questions and trying to figure out the way to increase at least the attendance at Ascension Thursday Masses. Was their solution greater education of the priests regarding the solemnity of the feast so that they would then do more to encourage lay participation in this Holy Day of Obligation? No. Was their solution the encouragement of more abundant Masses or Mass times before and after “working hours”? No. Was their solution to remove the “Obligation” part of the Holy Day and make it optional? No again. It was to remove the importance of the “40 days after Easter” aspect of this feast and move it to the following Sunday. There it kept its Obligation by making it a twofer, allowing the people to make no extra effort to attend an Ascension Mass, as they were supposedly obliged to be at Sunday Mass already. This was, of course, already preceded by the earlier removal of the “octave” (and almost all other octaves) during the “reform” of the liturgical calendar, which, as a practical matter, had basically destroyed any thought of a novena leading up to Pentecost. The new change, by shortening the time period between the Ascension and Pentecost, did away with any remnants of remaining piety regarding that novena.
Has this change accomplished the goal of restoring this feast to its former (since apostolic times) glory? I think not. What the day change said, in essence, is that for centuries this has been seen as such an important feast day that people would willingly give up a day’s salary if that is what it took to attend Mass. But, as with all “traditional” things, the Church was wrong. She was just making a mountain out of a molehill and, now that we are more enlightened, we know how silly all that was. So go about your normal Thursday business. The apostles and the Blessed Mother had spent nine days in the upper room praying for the coming of the Holy Ghost, which Our Lord had promised to send after he returned to Our Father in Heaven. They had set for us the example of a true novena but they didn’t understand as well as we now do that too much prayer is not good for us. So let’s chuck the whole thing, laugh about how foolish our ancestors in the Faith had been, and go about doing more important things like sleep in, or make money, or watch reruns of Wheel of Fortune rather than attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on a Thursday.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Just because I am pointing out the failure of the new, hip, easy liturgical calendar to emphasize the importance of this feast, that doesn’t mean that the questions asked in the first paragraph are properly answered simply by reverting to the older form of the “new” calendar or even by reverting to the 1962 calendar which most of us follow here at Epiphany. Far from it. I still need a greater understanding of this solemn celebration and I need to find good ways to pass on that education to you. Once traditions have been lost for even a relatively short time, it is very difficult to bring them back to their original glory. But no tradition can be restored by downplaying its importance or by ignoring the symbolic significance (40 days has great symbolism throughout all of scripture). So, unlike those priests bound to the new calendar, I have the opportunity to bring you this feast on its proper day, Thursday. This coming Thursday, May 25. You will have (as will anyone else, even those Catholics who don’t normally attend the Traditional Latin Mass) three Masses available. The first is at 6:30 am, the second at 8:00 am, and the third at 7:00 pm. The Bishops have removed the Obligation of attending on Thursday, but coming out of devotion is even more meritorious.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Mother’s Day and Ordinations
This Sunday is Mother’s Day! Of course, you knew that already, either because you really remembered it or else because somebody near and dear slapped you upside the head when you forgot. You would think that a day which helps us keep the fourth commandment would be an easy one for Catholics to remember. You would think that a day which commemorates someone so necessary for one’s very life would never go unheralded. You would think...wrongly. Why, you ask? Because men. That’s it. No further explanation needed. No verbs, no adverbs, no adjectives, no conditional clauses, no nothing. Because men. Every girl and woman remembers Mother’s Day every year. Not just those who expect a Mother’s Day card, gift or, at least, acknowledgment. No. All females throughout the land know and prepare for, in some manner and fashion, Mother’s Day. They do something for their own mother. They do something for their husband’s mother. They help their own small children draw colorful Mother’s Day cards and then delight in the “surprise” when they receive them. They remind their boyfriends (remember, these are not all the same women with husbands and children and boyfriends!) to do something for the perhaps future mother-in-law. And, when the big day comes, they remember. Yet huge numbers of men, who have been reminded in numerous ways for weeks on end, forget. Men and women, believe it or not, are different. Only women can be mothers and only men can be priests. What? How did I jump to that? Husband-fathers, priest-fathers. Both groups are reserved for men. Or, if you like to whine, you may prefer it to be stated that both groups discriminate against women. As God ordained from the beginning. Oh, look! I took the topic of Mothers and transitioned to men, then to priests and now with the inclusion of God and the word “ordained” I get to adroitly introduce the next paragraph. That was so smooth you probably didn’t even realize I did it. Unless you read the last couple of sentences, anyway. So don’t read them, please. Or, unread them. Or something.
One of these men (who may or may not have forgotten Mother’s Day), Deacon Elixavier Castro, will be ordained to the blessedly discriminating Priesthood this coming Saturday, May 20. The Ordination Mass will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 11:00 am and all are welcome to attend. (I have canceled the Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class so that I can attend his Ordination Mass.) The faithful are also invited to a Vespers service wherein we will pray Evening Prayer at Christ the King in Tampa, specifically asking God’s most bountiful blessings upon him. That will occur the night before the ordination, Friday, May 19, at 7:00 pm.(I will also miss our Family Rosary and Game Night so that I can be there praying for him.)
Now, after writing this, you would think that I will remember Mother’s Day. I can tell you from past experience that you just may remember...wrongly. Why? Because men. That’s right. Did you already forget that only men are priests? (Read this with a Tarzan voice:) “Father, man. Not woman. Not ape. Man.” (Sorry if I forgot you, mom! And sign my brother’s name to that apology as well.)
And now to tie this all up nice and sweet. With a bow. Like a girl would do. While we are on these topics, have you ever read the document from the Congregation for Clergy titled, “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity”? It encourages all women to join the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer for the men who share in the true Priesthood of her Son, Jesus. It encourages women (blessed discrimination!) to become Spiritual Mothers, and does so in a delightful way. In which other document would you ever find quips like this:
Every priest has a birth mother, and often she is a spiritual mother for her children as well. For example, Giuseppe Sarto, 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, pointed out her own simple silver wedding band saying, “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!”
It is on account of this document that our Spiritual Mother’s group (Happy Mother’s Day, ladies!) publicly prays for priests every Wednesday after the 8:00 am Mass during Adoration. I have put a link to the document up on our parish website and encourage you to read this delightful document. Women, Spiritual Mothers, do not forget to pray for their sons, not once a year, but every single day. Why? Because Mother Mary.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Welcome Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro
In September of 2013 I wrote a bulletin article introducing Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro to the people of St. Anthony of Padua, where I was currently pastor. This holy young priest was coming to study at the nearby St. Leo University and would reside at our parish. He has now graduated (magna cum laude!) and is going to be staying here at Epiphany until the new school year starts in August, when he will be heading to West Florida University in Pensacola to obtain a Master’s Degree. I will now introduce him to you by letting you read the original article. As you will see, this was also his introduction to my sometimes odd writings. The poor man didn’t know what he was getting into!
This week Father Emmanuel came to the United States for the first time. He is a priest of the Diocese of Dodoma, Tanzania in Africa. He previously studied in Italy and now his Bishop has sent him to St. Leo University for further studies. There was a delay in getting his student visa so he was not able to get here before classes began. I have not yet even been able to introduce him to our Bishop since he arrived over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Those of you who were not vacationing (and attending Mass elsewhere, of course!) last weekend met him briefly but even then our diocesan Director of Vocations, Fr. Carl Melchior, got most of the attention as he preached about Vocations at all of the Masses.
I highly encourage you to get to know Fr. Emmanuel while he is here. You can learn from him about Africa and he can learn from you about the United States. Even simple things, like what types of foods and beverages are typical American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are right now quite foreign to him. Even though he will be taking classes I assume that he is going to have much more free time than your typical parish priest (me) since he will not be responsible for operating and maintaining the parish and school. Trust me, it won’t hurt my feelings if he gets invited to do things without me. So ask him out for a meal, a family outing to a theme park, a pilgrimage to your favorite shrine, a fishing trip or even a home Mass or house blessing. He will be living with me here at St. Anthony and is blissfully ignorant of what I am writing about him in this column.
Now for the fun part. I get to tell you some of the more interesting parts of Father’s life that he has not shared with me but which I will gladly pass on to you as if they really occurred. To begin with, he came from an average size Tanzanian family. He was number 16 of twenty-four siblings. Not all of them survived to adulthood, as two brothers were carried away by large ants, one sister was snatched up by a condor and another fell down the rather deep hole of a little-known animal, the burrowing wildebeest. The rest all lived together in a three-room dirt floor hut along with several aunts and uncles and their maternal grandparents.
In the village where he lived the people had community livestock for food, raising such barnyard animals as hyenas for their meat and hides and toucans for their eggs and feathers. They had even managed to tame several giraffes which the tallest women would milk daily. They sheared them once a year like sheep and the girls would weave the giraffe fleece into clothing for the men, while the women wore the decorated hyena hides. Banana vines and sweet potato trees were abundant in the wild and did not need to be cultivated.
For the larger festivals (Catholic Holy Days, such as Christmas, Easter and the feast of St. Anthony) the men would hunt a young hippopotamus or baby elephant (even small ones feed a lot of people and only the young ones are tender) and roast them whole on a spit the traditional way. The men would take turns cranking the bamboo rotisserie for the better part of the day while drinking fermented papaya juice and telling tall tales. The women and children would spend the day gathering and cooking the side dishes such as beetles, grub worms, and crickets, and the children would often eat just as many of the bugs as they put into their baskets.
I am sure Father could captivate you with many more such tales, perhaps of adolescent pranks (rhinoceros tipping anyone?), chivalry and proper manners (the man walks on the snake infested side of the jungle path while out on a date, for instance) and such things much better than I. So introduce yourself, get to know him and let him get to know your family as well. You certainly don’t want your entire knowledge of his life to come from what you just read!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Judas was the first to deny Jesus in the Eucharist
This is one of the greatest days in the lives of many young children within the parish. It is the day that they receive Holy Communion for the first time. This Sacrament is the one toward which all other sacraments point. This is called the Most Blessed Sacrament, the one that stands above all the others, for even though the others bestow God’s supernatural grace, this Sacrament is God Himself.
A sad reality is that so many people, to what may eventually be their eternal shame, adamantly refuse to believe this Truth. This hardness of heart is nothing new. In what is called the “Bread of Life Discourse” in the Gospel of John, when Jesus clearly spells out what will happen at every future valid Mass, many people simply cannot believe that He is telling the Truth. Jesus plainly tells the people that He is the Bread from Heaven. He will give His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink. He tells everybody that those who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. He restates this several times, insisting that His Flesh is true food and His Blood is true drink, that He is the Bread of Life and that the Bread that He will give is His Flesh for the life of the world. The people listening to Him knew that He was speaking absolutely literally. No one took Him to be speaking in parables or figuratively or symbolically. And because they could not accept this literal Truth, many turned from following Him and walked away. As He watched them go, He invited the Apostles to leave if they, too, did not believe. When they opted to stay with Him, He pointed out that one among them, the one who would betray Him, did not believe Him. He even went so far as to call His betrayer, this apostate Apostle, Judas, a devil. Later in John’s Gospel, at the Last Supper (the first Mass and the first reception of Holy Communion) it is pointed out that when Judas, the non-believer of what we now term Transubstantiation (where the substance of bread and wine change into the substance of the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus) ate the morsel, Satan entered into him. He then left quickly to betray Jesus and hand Him over to be crucified. (Have no qualms about stating the obvious in this regard: Judas is now and will be forever in hell. Our Lord ominously and specifically stated, “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him, if that man had not been born.” Were the betrayer even in purgatory, even if for the entire time from his death until the General Judgement, it would not have been better for him to have not been born, for he would eventually reach Heaven. No, only Hell is a worse fate than non-existence.) So here we see the Satanic possession of this unbelieving Apostle at the first Mass. It is the first recorded mortal sin related to unworthy reception of Holy Communion. Jesus, the second Person of the Holy Trinity had said, “This is My Body. This is My Blood.” Yet Judas said interiorly, “You lie. I know better. This is only bread and wine. I do not believe You. You must not be God.” He will regret his arrogant lack of faith for all eternity.
The children receiving this Sacrament of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus will be receiving with the full faith of the other eleven Apostles. They know that Jesus, as stated by St. Peter, has “the words of eternal life.” When He says that something is true it is true even if we cannot fully comprehend it. Our children are receiving Jesus and they know it. They are joyfully and faithfully uniting themselves to Him and He is uniting Himself to them. This unity is a foretaste of the perfect unity they will experience in Heaven. Those who reject this unity with Christ in this life will be hard pressed to justify desiring the complete fulfillment of this unity in the next.
Today I ask you to pray for the conversion of those who may or may not even know that they need conversion yet whose souls are in danger because they, like Judas, do not believe everything our Lord taught: those who do not believe our Lord’s teaching that He founded the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; that He instituted the seven Sacraments; that He is present in the Eucharist, which is confected only by a validly ordained Priest; that participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is obligatory on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; and that one must ordinarily be Catholic and in a state of Grace to receive Holy Communion. Pray for the whole of mankind to be as fully, faithfully and joyfully Catholic as these children who celebrate their First Holy Communion today. In short, pray that we all become Saints.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
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
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 is 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.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Holy Week
This week is called Holy Week. It marks the end of the penitential season of Lent and, with the special Masses and other liturgical services, Holy Mother Church makes sure that the Faithful understand that no one can get to Easter but by way of Our Lord’s Passion and Cross. The liturgies bring out into the open that our hope of resurrection, our entrance into Heaven, which, as Christ so clearly revealed, depends not only on His dying and rising, but also on us taking up our own individual crosses and following Him. No cross, no conquering death. No suffering, no rejoicing. No faithful following in His path, no spending eternity with Him, either.
Please be sure to check the calendar in the bulletin and online several times to be sure you show up on time and don’t show up when nothing is going on. The schedule changes for the last part of Holy Week. For instance, this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there are no morning Masses. Driving three minutes to get to Mass only to find the Church empty is a head-scratcher and then, as it dawns on you what happen, a bummer. But driving 55 minutes to church and having the same thing happen might bring one very close to committing one or more serious sin!
There are also several liturgical “treats” this week. For instance, there are Tenebrae Services from 6:30 to 9:00 am on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Last year we only had one on Good Friday. At these services (not Masses) several members of the choir will chant psalms and biblical canticles and a series of 15 candles will be extinguished in an orderly and solemn fashion. It is a beautiful, prayerful service. Last year 21 people plus choir and two priests were present and they begged for all three Triduum day Tenebrae services to be offered this year. We are still one short, but one more than last year. It makes for an early and long time of prayer, but what a blessed way to begin those days of Our Lord’s sufferings!
On Holy Thursday, although there is no morning Mass, we will celebrate (at 8:00 pm) what is commonly known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This Mass brings to mind the fulfillment of the Passover, which the Chosen People had celebrated for generations without realizing that God was using this commemoration to prepare them for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At this Mass, the Apostles were shown the amazing true meaning of the unleavened bread and the saving blood of the Lamb. The Eucharist and the Priesthood are, though perhaps not completely understood by the Apostles until after the Holy Ghost came upon the remaining 11 of them at Pentecost, instituted on that “fateful” night.
Good Friday (did I mention that there is no Mass at any time on Good Friday?) we will commemorate the Passion of Our Lord with a liturgy of prayers, scripture readings, a Communion Service and Veneration of the Cross beginning at 3:00 pm.
Holy Saturday services (remember: no Mass in the morning) also includes the Polish tradition of Blessing the Easter Baskets. That will occur in the church at 10:00 am. Bring your Easter Baskets for the blessing! They should be filled with meats (kielbasa, ham, bacon), butter (in the shape of a lamb, if possible) and too many other foods to list here. See the bulletin insert for more information. And, please don’t forget that there is no 5:00 pm Novus Ordo Vigil Mass that day. But there will be the intensely spiritual Easter Vigil and Mass after dark on Holy Saturday night (8:30 pm). We do not have anybody being baptized or brought into the fullness of the Faith this year, so the Mass will actually be a little bit shorter than what you would expect! Although on the surface that seems like a good thing, it means that we are not bringing anyone new into the Church at Epiphany this year. That is something that we don’t want to become a norm. Do all that you can to encourage non-Catholics to enter the Church for the sake of their salvation. You know how important your Catholic Faith truly is; now share those graces with others by encouraging their conversion! Bring them to the Holy Week and Easter services and Masses. What a great introduction to Catholicism that will be.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
PS Today I want to introduce to you James McCoy, our newest office staff member and parishioner of Epiphany. You may recognize him from the 6:30 daily and 10:30 Sunday Masses.
From the Pastor: Conference. First Holy Communion. Other Stuff.
Last weekend we hosted a conference featuring Michael Voris and two local speakers, Dr. David McKalip and Travis Ferguson. It was, even with short notice and without special advertising, a full house. Our Catholic Women’s group did a bang up job of taking care of every need, including setting up--and cleaning up--everything, from the social hall to the outdoor registration, to the parish room where lunch was served. They worked tirelessly (or, at least, selflessly) for two days before the conference, throughout the conference itself, and even after everyone else had gone home. Thank you, ladies! (I will not mention anyone by name, lest I leave out any of the women or their sons or husbands, whom they recruited to do some of the grunt work, too.) The speakers, from what I understand, gave wonderful presentations. (I had to miss most of it due to a funeral, but I heard exactly zero complaints, which is a miracle in itself, and received many, many compliments--as if I had anything to do with how well the speakers did!). The talks given by Michael Voris were recorded by his crew and should be available on his site (ChurchMilitant.com) within a few weeks, after editing is complete. The rest of the talks, as far as I know, were not recorded. Too bad. I wanted to hear them myself.
On to different subjects. Although we have not yet entered into Holy Week (which is coming up next week) we are already planning for First Holy Communion, which will be two short weeks after Easter. This is a friendly reminder: We need baptism certificates for all children who are to receive their First Holy Communion (and, soon enough, Confirmation). If you somehow forgot to register your child for this sacrament and they are properly prepared, please go online to our parish webpage and fill out the needed information. First Holy Communion will take place this year on April 30. Confirmation is still scheduled for the day before Pentecost, June 3, at 1:00 pm, but we are still waiting to hear if Bishop Parkes will be able to celebrate it for us on that day. Get ready for a last minute change if he needs to adjust the schedule. Our now-retired bishop, thinking he would be too sickly to perform many Confirmations himself, had told the pastors to schedule Confirmations for any date/time they wished, as he would simply give each pastor delegation to confirm at his own parish (as happened here last year). So Bishop Parkes did not “inherit” a well-planned, orderly schedule! Now he is trying to fit in as many as possible. For us, he also has to learn the Traditional Rite of Confirmation, adding a small additional burden if he should be able to come. So now you can see one more reason to pray for him in his new assignment in our diocese!
Time for yet another change of subject. The roof of the chapel has been leaking badly every time it rains, so we have a tarp over it. The roof of the old school, now used as meeting rooms, classrooms, etc., has long been leaking. The roof of the rectory, though not yet leaking, is the same age as the others. We have received quotes from many roofers and are finally getting everything in order to get the roofs replaced. We are, as of this writing, simply waiting on the diocese to give us permission to spend our money on something so desperately needed. The final cost will be (gulp) over $100,000. Thanks be to God we have the money in reserve, but we will need to build our reserve up once again to cover any further big projects like this, which is routine maintenance. So please check with God and find out if you are giving to His Church as He would have you give. I am not going to set up a special campaign or collection for this, as this is the type of thing that should be anticipated and saved for as part of regular budgeting, the same as you would do for your house. But this is a good time to remember that just meeting our daily expenses is not enough. There must always be money set aside for a rainy day. In the case of leaking roofs, the idiom becomes literal.
Finally, get ready to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima’s requests for prayer on five consecutive First Saturdays, beginning in May. More information will be coming to you soon but mark your calendars already for the mornings of May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5 and September 2. The Adult Catechism Classes will be pushed back about 20-30 minutes those First Saturdays to accommodate what we have in store for you! (And the June 3 CCC classes might be canceled if the Bishop is coming for Confirmations that day. We will know more as we get closer.)
Be sure to keep up with our parish facebook pages (Epiphany Families, Epiphany Homeschoolers, Help for the Amani Family, and AHG Troop FL 0106), and our website, EpiphanyTampa.com for news and information and scheduling at our parish. Or at least read the bulletin.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Cure for the Church of Nice Disease
This weekend Epiphany of Our Lord parish was host to a conference sponsored by a newly formed lay group. Their aim is to form a “Resistance” to what their main speaker, Michael Voris, calls the “Church of Nice”. The topics, such as Reverence for the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the True Meaning of Catholic Social Justice, when heard through truly Catholic ears, were so pleasing as to make the conference a sell out (in terms of seats, not in compromising the Faith!). My firm belief is that such resistance is best lived by making the Traditional Latin Mass (and the other sacraments in their traditional rituals) the norm once again, rather than the exception. Allow me to explain.
Unfortunately, for the past 50 years or so, Catholics have been misguided and misled and mistaken in their understanding of what it means to be Catholic. I used to think, as a young, excited priest eager to share the Faith with people who, like me, grew up with less than stellar or even spiritually deadly CCD classes, that this lack of teaching and, hence, understanding, was inadvertent. I naively thought that we weren’t taught because, well, the hippie generation infected the Church much like the flu is spread, without anyone trying purposefully to make others sick. The longer I have been a priest, though, the more convinced I have become that it was done willfully. Changes were made by “experts” which even someone without Faith could have predicted to bring calamity. A few examples are in order.
First, new Bible translations changed the order of many Old Testament books and even their names, changed the numbering of some of the Psalms, and changed the names of many of the Old Testament figures. This could hardly be done by accident, yet anyone could have predicted that it would lead to great confusion and a giving up on reading and quoting the Bible, let alone checking out scripture references from other sources. How so? Find the book from the older Douay Rheims (DR) Bible titled IV Kings in the New American Bible (NAB). Not there? Huh. How about the prophet Osee? Though one of the prophetic books bears his name in the DR, his name is changed in the NAB. Remember the words Jesus prayed on the Cross quoting (NAB) Psalm 22:2 which reads, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” In the DR, Psalm 22:2 reads, “He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:” Yes, you have to look elsewhere to find the proper quote in an old Bible. (I am purposefully not giving you the answers!) What does that do to anybody reading older spiritual classics or an old missal which quotes the DR and they cannot make the connection between it and their new bible? It makes them give up. Don’t tell me that was not known before the changes were made.
Another deliberate destructive change was the liturgical (Mass) calendar. How many people were named for the Saint upon whose feast day they were born only to have the feast changed? Now their name day is meaningless. For instance, a boy born on March 7, 1964, might have been named Thomas, for that was St. Thomas’ feast day until 1969. Then it (March 7) changed to become the feast of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity (who were moved from March 6) while St. Thomas was moved to January 28. Why would anyone name their child after the Saint of their birthday when they know it could be changed yet again on a whim? No wonder we have Catholic kids who, even if blessed with a Saint’s name, can’t connect the dots between those names.
Finally, we come to the change of the entire Mass. Who could not predict that changing the words, the prayers, the language, the liturgical calendar, the colors (think: funeral), the “ministers”, the direction faced by the priest, the ways and means of distributing Holy Communion, the placement of the tabernacle, the removal of all meaningful fasts, and the destruction of both physical and musical beauty would destroy countless people’s faith? I have become convinced that this was done knowingly, not ignorantly, for it would have been simply too easy to foresee the negative consequences. Change the Mass--trivialize the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass--and you change and trivialize the Faith. Catholics become either non-Catholics or Catholics without the conviction that they belong to Christ’s own timeless Church which possesses all Truth and which is necessary for Salvation. Think about all of this next time you hear (or say) something derogatory about the Traditional Latin Mass; the next time someone asserts that the Common Core Mass (sorry, Novus Ordo Mass) is at least “equal” if not “superior” simply because it is new. Perhaps you will see why those who learn it (the TLM) or return to it after decades away from it, love it. The Traditional Latin Mass, accompanied by the other sacraments in the Traditional Rituals, is the best, most proven, cure for the disease called Church of Nice. I hope someone said that at the conference!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A Hell of a Pain? Hardly!
At the beginning of Lent this year I suggested, strongly, that you pick up some reading material on Hell so that you can refresh your brain and soul with some holy fear of eternal punishment, something that the whole world seems to completely ignore or ridicule. It is so easy to get caught up in even the wicked ideas of the world (such as there being no possible way an all loving God would ever condemn anyone to eternal punishment--except for the people I despise, of course) when everyone, including, God help us, Catholic clergy, seem to be on the same wavelength. It is imperative that real Catholics (yes, I am opposing “real” Catholic to “fake” Catholics) find time to immerse themselves in even the “harsh” teachings of Holy Mother Church so as to be immunized from the diseases of modern man. I have heard from some of you that you have taken me up on the suggestion and with good results. Hell is gruesome. Hell is terrifying. Hell is... well, Hell is a place you want to avoid at all costs once you get even the smallest idea of what it is like.
Start out trying to imagine Hell by simply thinking of the worst of everything you have ever experienced all coming together at the same time. Think of the worst smell you have ever had to endure. The day the septic tank backed up into the house? The thing your dog rolled in last week? The perfume that lady in the pew directly in front of you right now drenched herself with this morning? The stench in Hell is infinitely worse. Think of that putrid odor emanating from the most repulsive person you have ever seen, spoken with or heard of. I’m thinking here of major physical and mental deformities and abnormalities, untoward social boorishness, rudeness without parallel, complete lack of couth and hygiene, and in-your-face moral turpitude. You know, your typical liberal politician. You would be wise to choose to be surgically conjoined to that “thing” for life rather than to spend one day ten feet away from the least hideous person or demon in Hell. Think of the most discordant or earsplitting noise you have ever heard. Your kids’ music? Dentist’s drill? Fingernails on a chalkboard? (Alexa, what is a chalkboard?) In Hell you will fantasize about sitting inside one of those aggravating cars which drive around playing rap “music” which can be heard from 3 blocks away because, compared to the rest of the cacophony in Hell, it would be like enjoying a symphony at Carnegie Hall.
OK, you get the idea. I didn’t mention thinking about the loss of God and the loss God feels when He loses us (though that should be our worst grief and greatest fear) because I don’t think most people can readily conceptualize what would be even a fairly good emotional or rational understanding of just how disturbing that would be (and should be, not in imagination but in reality, whenever we commit mortal sin). I also left, until now, getting you to think about your worst physical pain, but I think that is probably what most people first sweat over if they ever consider Hell. Visions of plunging into the fires of Hell and the pools of burning sulfur quickly elicit shudders and trembling. I was thinking about such pains last week when my back went out. I don’t know why it went out, it just did. The first day was terrible. I had trouble walking. I had even more trouble bending over. It was painful to stand but sitting didn’t so much relieve the pain as shift it to other body parts. That night before going to bed I set the alarm for 30 minutes less sleep. Not that I didn’t want the extra sleep, for I knew it would be a tumultuous night, but rather because I knew what to expect in the morning. It took me about 15 grueling minutes just to struggle out of bed, to get my feet on the ground and my hands on the door jam so that I could take the two excruciating steps necessary to get into the bathroom. Anyway, it is not my intention to describe what it felt like so much as it is my objective to tell you what I did about it (besides moving very slowly and deliberately). I did what I always tell you all to do. I offered it up. “Thank you, God, for this incredible pain, especially during Lent. I would never have willingly taken this upon myself but You knew that it would be good for me, so you mercifully allowed me to experience it. Lord, I don’t want to go to Hell, where this agony will be just the warm up for the real torment. Thank you for reminding me of that so that I can redouble my efforts to remain always in a state of grace. Help me love you enough to accept this gift without complaint and to offer it up with joy.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Michael Voris is Coming
Michael Voris is coming to Epiphany on March 25, from 9:30 am ‘til 4:00 pm, for a one day conference. Here is the (slightly edited) “official” announcement as seen on the ticket form (which can be found at www.EpiphanyTampa.com):
A group of lay Catholics from the Diocese of St. Petersburg is offering a seminar at Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church called "Restoring Our Catholic Identity“ with Special Guest Michael Voris. The event’s purpose is to connect faithful Catholics with one another so they can deepen their knowledge of the Faith and unite together for addressing problems regarding the loss of Catholic identity within our local diocese.
Our special guest speaker is Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant, a Catholic lay apostolate whose mission it is to promote the One True Faith given to humanity by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mr. Voris has received his Sacred Theology Baccalaureate and graduated Magna cum Laude. He will speak on the topics of The State of the Church and the Need for Lay Involvement; Increasing Reverence for The Holy Eucharist; The Four Last Things; and Lay Action to Save The Church.
Additionally, Dr. David McKalip, M.D. of St. Petersburg will speak on FAST, HOPE and What the Catechism says about Social Justice. Catholic layman Travis Ferguson of Clearwater will speak on Steps for Action for the Laity.
The program will also include the praying of a rosary with an intention to promote the Catholic Faith. A Boxed lunch is included in the $25.00 ticket price (sorry, no discounts for bringing your own lunch). The parish also has a regularly scheduled Traditional Latin Mass at 8:00 am and a Novus Ordo Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm for those who wish to attend Mass either before or after the conference.
A special Reception and Dinner ($125.00) for 25 guests will be offered Saturday night for interested parties to spend more time with Mr. Voris. This gives you a chance to have a more intimate meeting with Michael Voris and discuss the best means to restore the Catholic Church and Catholic identity in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The event will feature a full dinner with dessert in a wonderful restaurant - Brio Tuscan Grill in the International Plaza, Tampa. 6-7 pm Reception (cash bar), 7-9 Dinner and program.
Ever since the announcement, people have been asking, “How did you get him to come here?” Yes, he is a very credible “news anchor” known well by online Catholics! (If you don’t know him, check out www.ChurchMilitant.com to see who he is and what his apostolate offers. He has Catholic news stories, in-depth investigations of various Catholic topics, exposés of known yet unimpeded scandals, apologetics works, Latin courses and much, much more.) The reality is, though, that I had absolutely nothing to do with him coming to our area. Those kudos go to a small, newly formed group of laity who simply let him know that they wanted to fight for the Faith locally, a sort of “Resistance” movement, which Michael has been encouraging in recent months. He generously volunteered to come if a local parish would open the doors for him. The only part I had in this whole thing is that I said, quite enthusiastically, that I would love to have him come here. And so he is coming. I love when things like that fall into my lap!
The others who are giving talks are going to be showing you just a small sample of talented speakers we already have in our diocese, always eager and ready to enlighten Catholics on areas of the Faith in which they have expertise. Once you hear these presentations I hope you will be ready to support this group of laity in their future endeavors, too.
Unbelievably, there are still tickets available as of this writing. It took a while to get this conference planned and to have all of the conference presenters “cleared” by the diocese and the time is very short for advertising it. So please, after you have gotten your tickets, share this message with as many people as you can, via phone, email, facebook, twitter, messenger or even the good old fashioned way, by speaking face to face with someone who might want to know about it and come participate!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Sing for Lent
Now that we are in Lent, our choir director, Anders, asked me to encourage the congregation to sing along with the choir. Why is this encouragement coming during this penitential season? Does he think it will be a penance for you to sing? Perhaps he thinks it will be a penance for the rest of us to listen to you? Or is it simply that during Lent no musical instruments are allowed to be played at Mass unless necessary to assist the choir, and he believes that enough voices, all blending together throughout the church, will overcome the lack of organ music, will help raise your level of actual participation, and will assist even the non-singers to lift their hearts to the Lord? (Hint: It’s the last one.)
Holy Mother Church encourages congregations to sing or chant at Mass. Everyone “knows” that the Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 14 states that “full, active and conscious participation” means that you have to sing (and dance, jump, yell, wave, talk and be irreverent) or else you are not a faithful Catholic. Of course, everyone at Epiphany knows that this is nonsense, and that the word translated “active” is not the Latin “activa” by which we usually mean “active in an outward, physical manner” but rather is “actuosa”, which has the contemplative properties of the mind and soul as its focus. Understanding that the modern liturgists are preying on the linguistic ignorance of the average Catholic, you, the well formed and well informed Catholic, naturally and rightly rebel against such evil-doers and their nefarious plot to destroy the Faith (O, how I wish I could insert some old Batman and Robin music and sound effects in here with a Bam! and a Pow! visually taking up the page for a split second!) and refuse all efforts to make you move a muscle. No liturgical dance for you, all right. No wandering around the building bear hugging a sign of peace. No prancing up into the sanctuary to show off your surgical implants and oratory skills as you read, nay, proclaim(!) the scriptures. No waving your arms in quasi sign language gestures as you sing, “Rain down, rain down, rain down your luv on your peeeeplllllle”. Not gonna happen.
But long before the slimy modernist liturgists gained power, Pope Pius XI (Divini Cultus) in 1928 and Pope Pius XII (Mediator Dei) in 1947 had encouraged “active” participation from the congregation, including, but not limited to, chanting and singing along with the choir. They, too, used the word “actuosa” and it is clear from those two indicated documents that they had in mind not physical exercises but rather an interior movement of the mind and soul which may be either manifested by or assisted by a physical movement. These two popes are hardly modernists, yet they saw that, for some people, joining the choirs (and the choirs of angels) singing the hymns and responses of the Mass could help them “actually” pray the Mass better. As Pope Pius XII explained, “all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest.” (MD 80) Chanting can, but does not necessarily, keep you focused. It is not absolutely necessary for everyone to chant, therefore, for the Pope acknowledged, “So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.” (MD 109)
Even so, both popes stated, “so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular." (DC 9, MD 192)
So, even if only for Lent, could you try singing and see how it “actuosa-ly” works? More from Anders elsewhere in this bulletin.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Lenten Penances
OK, this is your last Weekend to plan your Lent. What penances are you going to willingly undertake? If the penances include abstinence from food or activities (obviously, in addition to the obligatory meatless Fridays of Lent), from what will you abstain? Will it be a complete abstinence (no “xyz” for the fullness of Lent) or a partial one (no “xyz” between certain hours, or on certain days, or unless “abc” happens)? What amount of alms are you going to give and to whom? What prayers are you going to offer to God? Are you planning on fasting? For how long? How severe a fast? Have you really given a lot of thought to these questions and chosen penances which you believe will bring about a spiritual benefit or do you just pick whatever your spouse (or neighbor, or friend, or kids) are doing? Did you choose challenging penances or did you wimp out? Do you plan on following the 1962 rules for Lent’s fast and abstinence or the current rules? (See elsewhere in the bulletin for the distinction between the two.)
I really don’t want to know the answers. They are simply for your own consideration. Unless you have a good reason to reveal your Lenten practices, such as setting out a good example for your kids or others to see and, perhaps, to imitate, you are usually better off keeping them to yourself so that you don’t get into a “one-upmanship” war or allow others think you are doing it just for show. You may, of course, have to reveal at least part of your penances to others, for oftentimes penance can affect more than just oneself. For instance, if a man decides to give up all meat this Lent yet fails to tell his wife, there could be plenty of trouble when he refuses to eat the steak she prepared for dinner. So please use common sense in the disclosing of your penances.
Notice also in the questions that there can be “wiggle room” in some of the chosen penances. Perhaps instead of a blanket abstinence from TV, there was a limit to three hours a week or one show every other day, with an exception for news broadcasts if something horrendous, like the country going to war, occurred. Electronic games can be put away for the entirety of Lent (NOOOOOO!!!!!), but often cell phones, email, texts, and twitbook are thought to be “essential” communication tools, so nobody thinks seriously of eliminating them. But, short of a total blackout, why not just sharply limit them? Perhaps no cell phone use except for true necessity. (“Could you please pick up Suzy from school? She missed the bus because she was in detention.” is an emergency worthy of phone use. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something life-threatening.) You could, since you are freely choosing your own penances for the most part, also make stipulations like this: “I am going to pray fifteen decades of the Rosary each day of Lent except for the day that I am competing in the Gasparilla Triathlon.” Do not think that just because you know in advance that you will not pray the fifteen decades on that one day that you cannot choose it as a penance. Make real life adjustments if need be, while still challenging yourself to not find too many excuses to skip your chosen penance.
Something else to keep in mind and to plan ahead for is the partial abstinence on Ember Wednesday, March 8 and Ember Saturday, March 11. Following the old calendar, these days permit meat, and soup or gravy made from meat, to be eaten only once a day, at the principal meal. Keep it in mind unless you gave up meat completely, for it is easy to overlook, especially for those unable to attend daily Mass and therefore don’t see it in their missal. Speaking of which, one of the best practices I can think of to institute for Lent is the practice of attending Daily Mass. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, getting to a Traditional Latin Mass on weekdays is even more difficult than doing it on Sunday. Yes, gas prices are high and cars put on mileage and traffic is terrible and eating breakfast (or drinking coffee) might mean attending Mass without being able to receive Holy Communion. Yes, your husband, wife and/or children might whine and groan and object. Yes, yes, yes to all the reasons why you cannot make it. But here is the reason to do it anyway: Mass is the ultimate prayer of Jesus to His Father, united completely, of course, with the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Sacrifice He made for us, giving His life in exchange for ours. In other words, it is our sole means of salvation! We should greatly desire to join with Him in His sacrifice every chance we get. We should be willing to make our own seemingly large, but comparatively small, sacrifices in order to be at the altar as often as possible. It is a challenge, but it can be done!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Learning about Hell to Prepare for Heaven
Last week was, according to the Traditional Latin Mass calendar, Septuagesima Sunday, which means that we only have 70 days left until Easter! It also means that Lent, the preparation time for Easter, is coming even sooner. It is a blessing to have this pre-Lenten season, complete with violet vestments, to wake us up to the fact that Lent is coming. Catholics are often caught off guard by Lent, much like our afternoon summer thunderstorms catch foreign visitors off guard at the beach. Having the earlier change of vestment colors and Mass themes should help us avoid the sudden shock of realizing that we missed both Ash Wednesday and the Friday Stations of the Cross, haven’t given up anything, or done any penance. Of course, some Catholics, even with three weeks advanced notice, still react to Lent as the typical husband does to St. Valentine’s Day. No matter how many jewelry commercials he has heard, no matter how many newspaper inserts sport red and pink hearts, no matter how many hints his wife has dropped, he somehow still is shocked when he hears a coworker wish everyone a “Happy Valentine’s Day!” as they all walk to their cars at the end of the day. Don’t be that Catholic!
I suggested, and suggest once again, that getting a book on “hell” would be a great way to prepare for Lent, and then, rather than thinking that simply buying the book was enough, that you actually read that book during Lent. “Why ‘hell’?” several people asked, “and not ‘Heaven’?” Does the word, “snowflake”, ring a bell? It is not just the seculars who are snowflakes today. We have plenty of Catholic snowflakes, as well. Toughen up, buttercup, and read about what hell really is. Hell is not like having a headache, a sore tooth or bad knee. The pains of hell do not go away with an aspirin or even with a handful of OxyContin. There is no surgical procedure to remove the unremitting agony, no caress to sooth the hate, no vacation during which to recuperate. Hell is terrifying beyond any fear you have ever had. Hell is a place you would not wish even your worst enemy to go. But snowflake Catholics, being afraid of being afraid, don’t often spend any time thinking about or learning about hell, therefore--and this is the whole point--they do very little (or nothing!) to avoid it. And, if they are not actively trying to avoid hell, they are also not actively trying to obtain Heaven! Snowflakes’ penances during Lent are, at best, a form of physical betterment, i.e., a time to diet and exercise for health reasons. Or they might just be a social exercise rather than a spiritual exercise if the penances are simply items to either complain about or brag about.
When Catholics buck the system, so to speak, and open their eyes to the reality of hell and all of the eternal torments endured by the humans who go there, then, and, often, only then, do they begin to understand just what Our Lord was saving us from when He took on our human nature, when He underwent His Passion, when He suffered even death on a cross. That is when our own suffering, willfully undertaken and/or offered up in union with the suffering of Christ, begins to make sense. Looking only at Heaven as our goal without knowing what are the consequences of not reaching it, leads us to think it is not worth it to strive for Sainthood. Think about what the Hebrew people did in the desert when their scouting party entered into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land rich and fertile, a land beyond anything they had ever experience or even dreamt of. They reasoned that it was too hard to enter it, so they decided to “take the easy way out” and say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”. It cost them, not just 40 years of hardship in the desert, but their very lives. Only two adults, Caleb and Joshua, who had tried to convince the rest of the “people of God” to trust Him and conquer the land, lived to finally enter it. All the others perished. How few today, even if reading about the splendor of Heaven, the true Promised Land, are willing to fight to conquer the enemy, a very difficult and life-long battle, indeed. Most, sadly, will turn back, looking fondly to slavery to sin, or seeing a life of desert-wandering as “good enough”, without a thought to the eternal consequences of such a decision. Fearing hell will help you fight for Heaven.
I will leave you with three suggested readings. Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J., “Hell: The Dogma of Hell”; Dante’s “Inferno”; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 97, “The Punishment of the Damned”. These are not “fun” reads. But they are each eye-openers. Read them and weep. Read them and repent. Read them and do penance. Read them and resolve to become a Saint and to help others to do the same.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: It’s That Time, Again!
February is always parodied as a dark month. The skies are grey, the snow is grey, emotions are grey... But here in Florida, none of that, at least this year, rings true. But, just for the sake of bringing a little grey-ness to those of you who so miss the depressingly long, dreary grey Februarys of your northern memories, this week I bring you...wait for it...the diocesan Annual Pastoral Appeal. Yay, I mean, groan, it must be February.
Those of you who are registered have already received a letter ostensibly written and signed by me, your pastor, welcoming you to experience the joys of giving to the APA, of donating to the diocese to pay for those things which cannot be done without help from each parish, and, hopefully, from each parishioner. I have no doubt that, if you read my bulletin articles even every once in a while, you can tell that the letter which came in the mail was not composed by me. It is a form letter, sent out to all registered parishioners in the diocese, in the name of their own pastor. “But Father, but Father! Didn’t we just get an APA letter from you last year?” Yes, you did. I am amazed by how many people don’t know the meaning of “annual” in the APA title! (See, that’s the kind of stuff I would write.) The expenses of the diocese and her many activities, just like those of the parish (or those of your own house), rarely go down. They rarely stay the same. They almost always go up. Sometimes they go waaaaayyyyy up!
This year we have a new bishop. The diocesan expenses and the APA were already worked out on paper in numerous budget meetings long before he arrived here. He has promised to look into the finances of the diocese (he has a financial background of sorts, having worked at a bank before entering the seminary) and see if there is any “dead wood” that can be eliminated, but as it stands, this year will be “business as usual” since he knows next to nothing about the who, what and wheres of the APA recipients. Which brings us to our share of this necessary source of diocesan income.
First of all, please know that I truly appreciate all of you who donated to our APA last year, and the year before that, and even the years before I arrived. Epiphany parish has a long history of meeting its APA goal, saving the parish from having to take money from the collection to send to the diocese, as some parishes must do. You long-term parishioners blessed Fr. Tuoc every year when he appealed to your generosity. You, both long-termers and newcomers, have blessed me when I, too, made the appeal for the Appeal. Thank you very much. Now I am going to make a bigger appeal for a much larger Appeal. How large is our increase? I thought you might ask. When I came here a year and a half ago, bringing what the former bishop described as “those few people who have been attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form” to join with “the small remaining remnant of territorial parishioners”, the collections increased but our APA goal went down slightly, from $12,674 to $12192! (It was discovered that they were including non-APA-able monies as if it was our collection money.) But now you “few” have been here for long enough that a full year of your donations have been included in our (hopefully accurate) APA formulation and now, as a percentage and as a dollar amount, our APA increase is youge. This was not unexpected, as the APA is based on the prior year’s collection. But, “not unexpected” does not equal, “not a big deal.” This year our goal (and when I write, “goal”, that means that that is what the diocese will either get from us or take from us, for they make sure that each parish meets their “goal” even if it means taking out a loan) is $42,058! Though I gasped when I first saw the figure, especially since we only raised just under $29,000 for APA last year, I have to believe that you will continue in your generosity toward this appeal. This year I have to ask that everyone give to APA, not just those who have given in the past. Please don’t let a few of your fellow parishioners take on the whole burden by themselves. (Are you still registered elsewhere but attend Epiphany? You can/should still give to our APA.) Officially, we have 247 families registered (which is strange, since only 300 people attend the 3 Sunday Masses combined), yet only 47 families contributed to last year’s APA. To the 47 I say again, “Thank You!” and to the other 200 families, this additional appeal is directed specifically to you: Will you please help us make our APA goal? Donation cards are available on the table near the main church doors if you threw your mailing in the trash.Thank you in advance for your generosity.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Super Bowl Sunday
I cannot tell you how happy I am that I don’t have a Sunday evening Mass this weekend. After all, how often is our own home team in the Super Sugar Bowl? And to have it happening at our local Oldsmar stadium, no less! This is more than I can handle. I can already picture our rookie quarterback, Warren Sapp, fading back for a long pass to Bob Buckhorn for the winning run in the 5th period. With Steven Stamkos blocking the opponent’s kicker and Evan Longoria faking an end around, I can almost hear the swish of a perfect shot and Dave Miskin, the TV announcer, screaming, “GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLL”! Our fabulous coach, Stuart Campbell, getting soaked with the traditional bucket of Caldo Gallego moments before the final inning is over, will still be composed enough to diligently check that Willie Taggart’s racket is strung tightly enough so that he can block the puck on the next corner kick. Then, just to make sure that there are no high sticking penalties or red cards being shown along with the usual 9.8’s from the judges, a few buc(k)s will cozy up to the referees of the night, Anderson, Bowmer, and Kotvas. Then, when the final bell rings, signaling the end of the last round, and the Mayhem Buccaneers, decked out splendidly in their new green jackets, will lift high the Stanley Triple Crown Trophy and spray milk all around, and all will be right with the world.
What is that? None of the above made any sense? Yeah, there are a lot of things that don’t make much sense right now. Many of the things coming out of Rome and various Bishop’s Conferences make about as much sense as what I just wrote. A Pope who resigns? A Jesuit who becomes Pope? German Bishops “earning” between $131,000 and $189,000 per year and denying a funeral Mass or Catholic burial to parishioners who don’t pay the Church Tax? Last Rites for Canadians killing themselves through assisted suicide? Adulterers and others in “irregular marriages” able to receive Holy Communion? A possible reversion of the revision of the Novus Ordo Mass? A fired condom distributor reinstated into a Catholic nation’s charitable organization while the Sovereign-for-life who fired him for his lack of Catholicity is forced to resign? By the Pope? Heretic Martin Luther’s revolt celebrated in the Catholic Church? The list of nonsense could go on seemingly forever.
Just a few short years ago, which paragraph would have seemed more unlikely? Maybe this is all just a bad dream. Yeah, that’s it. Everything will once again make sense if I just wake up...
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Candlemas and More
This Thursday, February 2, forty days after the birth of Christ, is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is more commonly called (or, at least it used to be common to call it this) Candlemas Day. If you remember from last year, this is the day when people are invited to bring their candles to Mass to be blessed and to carry them in the procession if there is one. (Candles must contain at least 51% beeswax according to the traditional rules for all liturgical candles, so you may wish to follow that guideline when purchasing or making your candles for home use, too). After you take the candles home, they may be lit for various reasons, i.e., if the priest comes to administer Extreme Unction and Viaticum, during times of great fear or turmoil (such as a major storm or the reputed three days of darkness), or during your prayer time. They may even be used as your Advent Wreath candles.
The blessing of the candles leads, quite naturally, to the feast day of St. Blase (or Blaise) the next day, Friday, February 3. On his feast we use the newly blessed candles to bless everyone’s throats. Two crossed candles are held up to the throat and the priest prays, “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, episcopi et martyris, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis, et a quolibet alio malo. In nomine Patris, et Filii +, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” This translates to “Through the intercession of St. Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all illness of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (There is also an approved version which is a bit shorter. “Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii, liberet te Deus a malo gutturis. Amen.” I am very surprised that this is not the “standard” version used today, since we seem to want the shortest version of everything dealing with prayer and devotion!)
Along with those two liturgical reminders, let me turn to other interesting items that you don’t necessarily have to put on your calendars. This Monday, January 30, all the priests of the diocese have been summoned to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat and meeting center, to meet with the new Bishop. This is the first group meeting we have with Bishop Gregory Parkes, who, in case you missed it, was just installed as Bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese on the fourth of this month. I don’t want to speculate on what he will tell us or ask us or ask of us, but I do imagine that he will give us at least a rudimentary understanding of his way of thinking and acting in his capacity as our new Shepherd. I hope to be able to discuss, even if very briefly, his vision for our parish and the Traditional Latin Mass (and other sacraments in the Traditional Rites), as well. Ideally, I would like to receive his full-fledged support. I ask for your prayers in this matter.
Something else going on this week which may be of interest to you is happening at the American Legion USS Tampa Post 5 at the corner of Kennedy and Dale Mabry at 6:00 pm on Candlemas Day. I will be participating in a tribute to “The Four Chaplains” of the USAT Dorchester, which sank after being torpedoed by a German U-boat on February 3, 1943. The USS Tampa, for which the Post is named, was one of the three Coast Guard Cutters escorting three ships across the North Atlantic during WWII. A U-boat had been picked up briefly on sonar so the men knew there was danger in the water. They were instructed to sleep fully clothed and wearing also their life jackets. When the dreaded torpedo hit well below the waterline, they only had twenty chaotic minutes to abandon ship before she went down into the depths. The four chaplains on board were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. They offered prayers for the dying and encouragement for the living. They assisted men who appeared topside without life jackets to put one on, emptying a storage locker of its bounty. When the life vests ran out, each of the chaplains took off his own and gave it to the next man in line. Survivors said that the chaplains then linked arms, prayed and sang hymns as they went down with the ship, having given up their own chances of survival. The men in the water and lifeboats were buoyed, so to speak, by the Hebrew and Latin they heard as they drifted off in the dark of night. The four chaplains, not eligible for a Medal of Honor, for which their heroism must have taken place under fire, received instead a posthumous Special Medal for Heroism designed just for them. I look forward to this ceremony and am honored to represent Father John P. Washington, hero priest.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: We Need Clarity!
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Martin Fox, whom I had known previously only through his blog (frmartinfox.blogspot.com), where he posts such things as his Sunday homilies, his always-improving cooking skills, and the everyday happenings at his parish in Ohio. Recently he posted something that dovetails well with my homily of last Sunday, dealing with the absolute need for the Pope to clarify his teaching in Amoris Laetitia. Here are his very clear thoughts on this issue (lightly edited with permission and due to formatting issues), from January 14, 2017, titled, “The Maltese Straw that breaks the Church's back”
Everyone knows about the debate over Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia, and whether it is ambiguous in places, and whether it needs to be clarified. Many -- four prominent cardinals in particular -- have publicly asked for clarification, saying that without clarification, the ambiguities in the document will invite distortions or even implicit denial of constant Catholic teaching and practice. Others have responded by dismissing, and in some cases, ridiculing, this concern.
Well, it appears a document from the bishops of Malta may have gone exactly where Cardinal Burke and others' worst fears dreaded. From the "Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, just issued, we find this paragraph: Paragraph 10: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
If so, then why shouldn’t the following likewise be true: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a same-sex attracted person who is living in a same-sex ‘marriage’ manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
Or indeed, why not: If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), any person persisting in a state of mortal sin who manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
In short, doesn't this mean that all those who, in confession, say they are committing mortal sin of any sort, and because they believe they are "at peace with God" about it won't change that behavior, may receive absolution, and then receive Communion? In other words, must priests grant absolution in such cases? What happens if a priest refuses to do so? Are you telling me this isn’t a break from Catholic teaching? Tell me what I'm missing here. Specifically, please explain how this is not in direct conflict with the Catechism, paragraph 1650, and the explicit teachings of Pope Benedict and Pope St. John Paul II.
That’s the end of Fr. Fox’s blog. I end with this: Cardinal Caffarra, one of the 4 Cardinals who asked the Pope for clarity, in a great interview said something I will pass on in case you are questioning whether or not those who want clarity are “trouble-makers” or “sedevacantists” or “schismatics”: “Some individuals continue to say that we are not being docile to the Magisterium of the Pope. This is false and calumnious. We wrote to the Pope precisely because we did not want to be un-docile. I can be docile to the Pope’s Magisterium only as long as I know what the Pope is teaching in matters of faith and Christian life. But this is exactly the problem: that which the Pope is teaching on some fundamental points simply cannot be understood, as the conflict of interpretations among bishops shows. We want to be docile to the Magisterium of the Pope, but the Magisterium of the Pope has to be clear.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Praying the Rosary at Mass
A week or so ago I shared on facebook an article asking and answering the question “Is praying the Rosary during Mass correct?” I had just recently been asked that question (it comes up quite a bit, since so many people condemn the Traditional Latin Mass and, by extension, those who attend it, by using the tiresome image of the Tridentine Mass being a drudgery better laid to rest because nobody understood what was going on anyway, “proved” by the little old ladies who just prayed their rosaries to pass the time wasted each Sunday at that terrible old Mass) and this article did a fine job of answering it. If you don’t know, the answer is, plainly and simply, “Yes”. The article quoted two Popes, Pius XII and Leo XIII, and several documents from other official Church sources to explain the positive answer. I have, at other times, used explanations of “the proper way to hear Mass” from The Baltimore Book of Prayers to show that this is true, and I suspect that there are quite a few other sources which would back up this assertion.
But, boy oh boy, did it bring out the comments. 76 comments, 43 likes/reactions and 5 shares, last I checked. And more people have contacted me about it who didn’t want to put their comments on facebook because a couple of the commenters were “fighting” with each other. Here is the question which seems to now be a sticking point in all of this. “Even if it is permissible to pray the Rosary at Mass, isn’t it better to NOT do so?” The argument that praying the Rosary at Mass is bad seems to have been made so often and so vociferously that people just cannot fathom that it is a good way to pray the Mass with full, active, conscious participation! But who is to say which method of prayer is best? Even though the efficaciousness and merit are greater in a Solemn High Mass than in a Low Mass, not even that affects whether an individual has truly prayed with full, active, conscious participation at either one. Let me draw this out a little. If praying the Rosary is, as it was put in the FB comments, “not as appropriate” or of a “lesser level of participation” due to its silly meditations (NB all sarcasm in this piece is my own) on the Lord’s life, death and resurrection and our Lady’s Assumption and Coronation, rather than on the Mass (which obviously has nothing to do with the just mentioned mysteries of Faith!) then the best--and only really good--way of praying the Mass is to be the priest celebrant! I will not argue against that one, though the corollaries to it might make you wince. Greater “participation” and “appropriateness”, even at a Traditional Latin Mass, according to the modernist way of thinking, come not from praying, but rather from reading the Mass word for word as the priest speaks them. But by this measure, his deacon and subdeacon have only the reading of the “Gospel” and “Lesson” in which they “fully participate”, so their assisting at Mass is pretty much a waste of time. The other altar boys never pick up a missal, so they have zero “good” participation, right along with the rosary-clutching dolts in the pews. Choir members sing over the priest as he is reciting his silent prayers, so they have less than zero participation, as they actively take people’s attention away from their missals and sometimes make even the priest wait as they continue their “anti-participation” chant shenanigans. Parents with children who distract them during Mass? Points off full participation. Did you ever notice the statues and candles and other beautiful and prayerful church trappings? Then they caused “lesser” Mass participation for you! Has your mind ever “wandered” from the missal as the cares of the world ran through your mind? Shame on you, for that is not as “appropriate” as keeping focused on the missal.
But enough. Once you start to look at just what constitutes full, active, conscious participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, hopefully you will have your eyes opened to the fact that there are many and various ways of entering deeply into this Ultimate Act of Love. Just as a Carmelite and a Dominican have different spiritualities, and each might find the other’s way of prayer a “lesser form” as far as meeting his own needs, so, too are the pew-sitters different, and each person may find that he prays the Mass better one way or another, and even prays better differently at different stages of life. Are some ways better than others? Certainly. Standing on my head wearing a deep-sea divers helmet, yoga pants, tube top and bunny slippers, while celebrating a Solemn High Mass, is one simple and certain example of a “less appropriate” way of me participating in the Mass. But silently praying the Rosary in the pew is a “lesser level of participation” than what, exactly? Food for thought.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Starting the New Year with Holy Activities
The New Year begins with a bang this week. Not the celebratory fireworks which are sure to be exploding every night, but rather with holy activities in our parish and diocese. We begin with Fr. Dorvil’s Birthday, which falls on the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, January 1. Happy Birthday to a very holy priest! Many of you don’t know him, even though he lives at Epiphany, since he is in charge of the Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission and celebrates Mass for his flock every Sunday at St. Peter Claver. If you don’t come around during the week, you might never get a chance to meet him, which is a sad loss on your part. He is truly a blessed priest with whom it is a great pleasure to live.
Next comes my nephew Barret’s birthday. You might not know him, either, but he will probably be thrilled to find out that his name made it into the church bulletin. He is the nephew that looks and acts almost exactly like me when I was a young boy, which is to say that he is extremely good looking, very intelligent, quite athletic, humble beyond measure, and almost angelic in nearly every way. Forget all those exaggerated stories my mom always regals you with about my younger years, or the ones my sister will tell about her youngest son. (I might be the only one in the family who doesn’t ever spin yarns or tell tall tales.) Barret and I both came from the womb already wearing halos.
Only three days into the new year we have a big prayerful event, the Vespers Service for our new Bishop, Gregory Parkes, at 7:00 pm on Tuesday night at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz. Everyone is invited to this evening prayer service and no ticket is required for entrance. The address is 17512 Lakeshore Rd, Lutz, FL 33558. If you cannot make it to St. Timothy, you may watch it live on the diocesan webpage, www.dosp.org, or listen to it on the diocesan radio station, FM 90.5, or on the radio station’s webpage, www.myspiritfm.com/. The next day, Wednesday, January 4, Bishop Parkes will be officially installed as our new Bishop at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Tickets are necessary to attend this installation Mass and the meager few we were allotted have been given out. Please don’t feel left out if you were not offered one, as there were only ten to go around. You may listen to this installation Mass on the diocesan radio station or webpage as listed above, or watch it on television, as it will be available locally on the following channels: by antenna – 38; Spectrum/Brighthouse – 6 (Standard Def), 1006 (High Def); Frontier/Fios/Verizon – 14 (Standard Def), 514 (High Def); DirectTV – 38; Dish – 38; Comcast – 435. We have not had a new Bishop installed in over twenty years and you may not have been around for it, so this is a big event. Bishop Parkes is only 52 years old, so he may be our Bishop for another twenty or so years, and you may not be around for the next one, either, so don’t take this installation too lightly!
A mere two days later we come to our Parish Feast Day, Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6! This is the “real” Epiphany date marking the traditional coming of the Wise Men to worship the infant Jesus. The Novus Ordo (New Mass) liturgical calendar makes it a changeable date and places Epiphany on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8 (inclusive), so this year it falls on January 8. We don’t have an English Novus Ordo Mass on the 8th, so our calendar is really messed up. Most of our Epiphany Masses will be on Friday, January 6. There will be three Masses from which to choose: a 6:30 am Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass, an 8:00 am Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass (followed by confessions and Adoration) and a 6:00 pm Traditional Latin Epiphany Mass (which will be followed by a potluck dinner). I expect the 6:00 pm Mass will be the big one and invite you all to come to it, regardless of which Mass you usually attend! Then on Saturday, January 7th, which is not Epiphany on any calendar at all this year, the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass will be an Epiphany Mass, since it is the “anticipated” Sunday Mass. O, how I long for the day when we will only have one liturgical calendar to follow!
So mark your calendars! We start this new year running full steam ahead. Be sure you pray a lot for our new bishop and continue praying for the sanctification of our outgoing bishop as well. Both need your prayers as one takes the weight of the Diocese off of his shoulders and passes the burden to the other. May God be merciful to both!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Family but No Christ at Christmas?
When I set out to write a Christmas column for today’s bulletin, I did a search to see how often Christmas falls on Sunday. Numerous results on the search page caught my Catholic eye. The calendar stuff I was looking for (Christmas last fell on Sunday in 2011 and the next time will be 2022, then not again until 2033) was interesting but not particularly eye catching. Curiously, up popped articles indicating that many Protestant ministers, whose “churches” have no theological reasons for Sunday “worship services”, are having a conundrum about what to do this year because Christmas is a day when their audiences stay home! Stop and think this through and you will see why we need to work so much harder to bring Protestants, not just non-believers, into the fullness of the Faith. Rather than delving into their mistaken notions of what “worship” is and/or why Sunday may or may not be a necessary day to “do” worship under their theology, let me just say that these ministers know that their “worship service” has less value than a day spent at home with the family opening presents. Compare that to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which has infinitely more value than even the best family gathering!
I do acknowledge that Catholics may think and act in exactly the same way as Protestants do about church attendance on Christmas Sunday, but those Catholics do so against the very teachings of the Church, which obliges them to attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days (including Christmas) because it is essential for salvation and is the primary means of sanctifying the entire day, which God Almighty commands. At a Protestant website questioning ministers about what their plans were for dealing with Christmas falling on a Sunday, the responses were shocking: “We plan to have five Christmas Eve worship services on December 24,” and nothing on Sunday the 25th. Another pastor who also would have no Sunday services this year said, “We are doing Christmas Eve services and all of our marketing will point toward it...” Sigh. He is ”marketing” the fact that he has nothing to offer anyone on Christmas. Yet he, like the others, is not ashamed of it. Still another said, “We’ll do a production of sorts on Friday and Saturday.” That’s sad on multiple levels. Furthermore, the people asking the questions stated, “Most churches we talked to are putting their focus on Friday and Saturday nights, while taking Sunday off.” Wow! Christ takes second place to Christmas presents on Christmas in Christian “churches”. A different Protestant website showing up on the search page quoted a minister who said that on Christmas he “will offer about 45 minutes of Christmas music accompanied by acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin. I’ll do a brief sermon, and then we’re going home.” Also highlighted were novelties, like the “15 minute communion service” for those with better things to do on Christmas than “worship” but want to have the “eucharist”, and the “bathrobe and pajamas” service, and those who are also taking off New Year’s Day since it, too, falls on a Sunday. But enough. You get the picture.
Following the Traditional Latin Mass Calendar helps to combat such nonsense. You see, once the Novus Ordo calendar introduced the odd notion that Saturday afternoon/evening Masses fulfilled the Sunday obligation, many Catholic Church members have been behaving more and more like the Protestants unhappily noted above. Saturday night (in this case, Christmas Eve) becomes a substitute for setting aside a full day as a Holy Day dedicated to Our Lord, and the Sunday or Holy Day loses its essential meaning. In many Catholic parishes, Christmas Eve Masses are packed and, Sunday or not, Christmas Day Masses are nearly empty. Even what used to be the biggest Mass, Midnight Mass, has, in most parishes, been held the day before, (Christmas Eve, at 8, 9 or 10 pm) rather than as the first Mass of Christmas Day. It is just another Vigil Mass and is only called “Midnight” Mass as if to placate the “old-timers” who wanted a real one.
We are called to celebrate the Day of Christ’s Birth, not “Open Presents Day”. We “accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior” by participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, not a “Worship Service” or “a production of sorts”. Midnight Mass is the largest Mass, not because it is at a convenient time, but because Tradition tells us that the Birth took place at this hour and those able to stay awake (and drive!) want to be among the first to worship and adore the Newborn King. How sad that so many Catholics and Protestants are so far removed from the true meaning of both Christmas and the Mass that they want to shortchange Jesus and just do what is easy, quick and convenient, or novel. This Christmas, please pray for conversions all around. The Holy Infant, Whose birth we celebrate, is the Savior Who gave us the Mass as certainly as He gave us His Life.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: God’s Perfect Timing
Last week proved once again that God’s timing is pretty incredible. For the first time since arriving at Epiphany, I caught a cold. I am certainly not complaining about going a year and a half without getting sick! But my throat was sore, my nose was stuffy and running, my ears were plugged and a hacking cough threatened to turn my lungs inside out. While the evening Mass for the Immaculate Conception was pretty tough to sing, I knew that Sunday would have been nearly impossible. Fortunately, God had it all set up in advance so that Fr. Vincent, who has been celebrating the Sunday morning low Mass quite a bit, gaining confidence with every Mass celebrated, was finally ready to celebrate our 10:30 Sung Mass for the first time. What a relief. As difficult as it was to celebrate the silent Mass while striving mightily to not sneeze, cough or blow my nose, having those same struggles while chanting and using incense would have been much more of a challenge! So I was truly blessed. By the way, I credit Our Lady of Good Health with my long stretch of remaining illness-free, so if you could offer her a prayer of thanks, I would appreciate it.
While I am writing about my cold, let also give some advice about what to do when your priest has an illness. First and foremost, pray for him! Prayer against physical evil, while not as necessary as prayer against moral evil, is still important. So please pray that I return quickly to good health and that I stay healthy. But in the meantime, realize that I have no choice but to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. That means that if you have a severe immune disorder, you might want to refrain from receiving Holy Communion or Confession from any priest while he is sick! That used to be what our elders called “common sense” but nowadays is seen as some sort of punishment or, dare I write this foul word, bullying. “How dare you tell me that I cannot receive Communion,” today’s average Catholic would harrumph. “Who are you to tell me to stay in my pew? I might as well stay home, then, since you have excommunicated me!” No, you have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days but you only have an obligation to receive Holy Communion (while in a state of grace) once a year, around Easter. Many Saints and “ordinary” people attended even daily Mass (non-obligatory) while receiving Holy Communion only rarely. How many, in years gone by, Catholic school teachers, along with the entire student body, began the day attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass yet almost never received Holy Communion because, of necessity, they broke the fast with breakfast before leaving home? Still, Mass attendance was understood to be a great gift, an essential part of their Catholic education and upbringing. Their feelings were not hurt when “all” they were able to do was prayerfully accompany Our Lord as He offered His Life for theirs. As for confessions, if Father is sick and you are prone to easily catching illnesses, you may wish to wait until after his recovery to approach for a purely devotional confession, as you are both breathing in the same air in a tight, enclosed space. On the other hand, if your immune system is in good shape, you likely need not worry about either Communion or Confessions. Only you know how easily you pick up germs. Lastly on this topic, Father simply cannot make hospital calls during his illness unless the person is dying. Giving a cold to someone who is trying to recuperate could cause severe problems. It is not, obviously, an issue for those already on their deathbed.
Back to God’s timing being perfect. We have been having an unusually dry autumn but when we did finally get rain, we really got a hard, driving rain. Whichever direction the wind was blowing was exactly the way necessary to make the water come pouring in through the chapel ceiling. Why is this good timing? Well, we had a leak in the chapel quite some months ago and got it patched. Our secretary was getting quotes on getting the roofs (to this priest’s untrained eyes, the chapel, rectory, and school all seem to have the same type and age of roof and the same need of repair/replacement) but she went out on medical leave and hasn’t yet returned, so nobody followed up on this. Now we are able to get some quotes and might have a better job done when it is not 100 degrees outside with thunderstorms every afternoon. If we didn’t get just the right rain with just the right wind at just this time, we probably would have forgotten about the roof problems until next summer. As I said, good timing. We have a lot of wood, duct work, drywall, and carpet to replace (and re-install a reredos and altar rail, perhaps?). If you would like to help, let me know!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Rorate Coeli Mass!
This coming Saturday, December 17, we will have our first Advent Rorate Mass at 6:30 am. For those of you who attend the Traditional Latin Mass on Saturday mornings, you have already joined in the praying of this votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary many times already. The introit begins, “Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum” (translation below). As you probably know, when a Mass has a “name” it is usually, as is true in this case, taken from the first word or two of the introit of the Mass. This particular introit, or introduction to the Mass, is taken from both the prophecy of Isaias 45:8, “(Rorate coeli desuper...” (or, in English) “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a savior” and from the prophecy of Psalm 84:2, “Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” (If you don’t recognize the spelling of Isaias and think it is just Isaiah spelled wrong, now is a good time to realize that there are many small and great differences in various Bible translations. The TLM will generally quote from the Vulgate, whose best English liturgical translation is the Douay Rheims Version. Names do not always have the same spelling as you might be used to if you grew up with the Novus Ordo Mass and its New American Bible translation. Some Old Testament books even have different names and are in a different order than the NAB, too. Also, the Psalms will sometimes have different numbers for not only the individual Psalm itself, but also the verses. So if you check the NAB for the above quoted Ps. 84:2 you will instead find, “How lovely your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!” The NAB has our Mass quotation listed as Psalm 85:2 and unless you know that there can be discrepancies like this in various versions, you will, if you check the reference, think there is a misprint. Be careful! Even at the often-helpful biblehub.com online, which compares translations of many bible versions, they misrepresent the Douay Rheims to make if fit the protestant versions, so Psalm 85 is mislabled as if it is Psalm 84 so that it matches up. But that is all just an aside.)
So what makes this Rorate Mass (or, Rorate Coeli Mass) different from the other Rorate Masses which we already have celebrated here? The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as another aside, is why the term ad orientem--to the east--is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sin, to bring light to those in darkness. He came through, and is magnified by, the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation.
There is another Mass which makes use of candlelight in a beautiful manner similar to this: the Easter Vigil, which begins in darkness with the dark being vanquished by the new fire which is blessed and spread from person to person as those holding candles hear and proclaim that Christ is our Light and the Exultet is chanted. But nowadays the lights are turned on and most of the candles are extinguished once the Mass itself begins. At the Advent Rorate Mass, the candles alone (and gradually, the sun as well), which themselves signify both Christ, the Light of the World, and the Holy Ghost, Who came upon the Apostles in tongues of fire at Pentecost, continue to provide the only light needed to honor the Blessed Virgin, who was blessed beyond all creatures by the Light of Christ. By the end of Mass, the dawn will have broken, bringing to fulfilment Zachary’s prophecy at the birth of his son, John the Baptist, who was to “be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:16-19).
So wake up early next Saturday and join us for this beautiful, traditional Rorate Coeli Mass. You will wonder why this beautiful tradition has been hidden (stolen?) from us for the past fifty or so years!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: A New Bishop!
Last Monday morning brought some earlier than expected news that a new Bishop has been selected to replace our retiring bishop. Bishop Gregory Parkes, currently the Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, will be installed as the fifth Bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese on Wednesday, January 4. That date is said to have been chosen because the bishops of the Southeast will be here on retreat at the Bethany Center, our Diocesan retreat house complex. As a result, there should be a good number of Bishops present at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for the ceremony. Don’t get your hopes up on attending, though, since tickets will be required and will, I am sure, be meagerly rationed.
Just as, up until last week, everybody kept asking if I knew who the new bishop was going to be (as if I were part of the “inner circle” of clergy in the know!), so now everybody wants to know what I think of the new bishop. Here I have at least some little bit of knowledge, since we spent time together in the seminary, though he was about three years behind me. Yet all of my knowledge of him comes with some simple yet perhaps grand caveats, for I only knew him as a seminarian, not as a priest, and certainly not as a bishop. Believe you me, twenty to twenty five years is a long time and men can and do change over the decades. After ordination to the priesthood and getting out into the “real world” of the parish, there are many things a priest must learn that the seminary never taught. There are also, unfortunately, many things a priest must also un-learn from this seminary formation. Some priests do that better than others, and some do it more quickly than others. I assume that after he became a bishop, Bishop Parkes also had a similar experience of having to learn and unlearn what he had always thought a bishop was, how he was to lead, act, teach, manage, etc.
With all that being CYA material before I tell you what I think about how he will be as my/our Bishop, it is also apparent that there are some things that don’t change over the years. Intelligent men do not become intellectual dunces; gentle men do not become cruel; thoughtful men do not become inconsiderate; and so forth. Intelligence, gentleness, thoughtfulness: these are all characteristics of the seminarian Greg Parkes. I have no doubt that they are also the characteristics of Bishop Gregory Parkes. As you would expect for any man in the seminary, but which is not necessarily true, he was without a doubt a man of prayer, study, and integrity, a man you wouldn’t mind having as a friend or even as a family member. (His younger brother, the now-Father Stephen Parkes, was two years behind me, and was as excited as could be when his older brother followed in his footsteps and entered the seminary.) Greg was one of the good guys, a guy you could count on to do what he said, to help without being asked, and to obey without grumbling. As you can tell, he and I were very different!
Aside from just studying and praying, as seminarians we also played a lot of basketball. Greg did not play as often as I did but whenever he played, we were always on the opposite teams, as we were usually the two tallest ball players on the court. He was a lot taller than I and a lot more skilled at basketball than I, so I loved playing against him. Most of the guys were shorter and most of them were better athletes but my height gave me an unfair advantage over them. Against Greg, though, I had to use every bit of skill I possessed. He truly brought out the best in me on the court in a way that others simply could not. News reports keep referring to Bishop Parkes as a “gentle giant.” This was true even of seminarian Greg. Don’t get me wrong. He would push me around, toss me aside, steal the ball, run right over me and stuff my shots back into my face. I came away bruised and exhausted from games against him. But he would never intentionally foul or hurt anybody. He could have “killed” any of us without breaking a rule or breaking a sweat, yet he was there not to conquer but to win while keeping the game fun. It is a good combination (when you are not at the professional level, at least!).
So what do I think of the man who will soon be my/our bishop? I think he has the makings of a Saint. I will have absolutely no qualms about pledging my obedience to him and presenting you, my beloved flock, to him, as sheep willing to follow my/our new holy Shepherd all the way to Heaven.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Thanksgiving With The Family
Thanksgiving was last Thursday and you know what that means: another enjoyable, though slightly strange, day with my family. In case you cannot figure out the timing, this article had to be written before any of the below mentioned activities actually took place, in order to make the publishing deadline for the bulletin. Sometimes I fall way behind with everything and other times I have to find ways to get things done even before they occur. I wish the seminary had taught a class on this whole time warp thing so that I wouldn’t have had to figure it out on my own!
This year we all gathered at my sister’s house. There was a larger crowd than normal, as one of our cousins recently moved to south Florida with her husband and kids and they drove up to join us. We also took in a couple of “orphan” priests who had no family of their own to share the day with, and there were neighbors and neighbors’ kids in and out of the house constantly. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure whether the people around me were family, friends, or friends of other family members, but I suppose that on Thanksgiving it doesn’t really matter. We were all thankful for having plenty of people to share the great feast and festivities with. Except for Aunt Irma, that is.
She drove up in a prissy pink Prius sporting a coexist sign, a rainbow flag and a “Hillary for Pope” bumper sticker, and had a 10 inch long baby diaper pin (excuse me, “safety” pin) adorning her Che Guevara tee shirt. She had purchased all of these items (including the “car”) while on a recent retreat (sorry, “self-realization retrocognition celebration”) at the Cosmic Christ Consciousness Revolution Holistic Metaphysical Center and Hemp Coffee Shop run by the Popefranciscan Sisters of Perpetual Heresy. She had learned to channel her inner Bodhisattva and, with the great excitement of a new convert, wanted to share her new gnostic knowledge with one and all. The children escaped her by jumping into the pool, completely ignoring the chilly 81 degree midday weather. Strangely, while most of the children were turning blue in their successful efforts to keep Aunt Irma at bay, the newly transplanted Michiganders were acting like they were basking in a hottub. “This is soooo much warmer than Grand Traverse Bay!” they excitedly shrieked to the thin-blooded, jacket wearing Floridian elders.
The women all piled into the kitchen when Aunt Irma began expounding some Mother Earth savior nonsense, and they managed to chase her out simply by leaving styrofoam food packaging and chain grocery store receipts out for her to “accidentally” see. They found something almost sinfully enjoyable about explaining that, no, the turkey was not a free-range bird humanely dispatched by being gently smothered with purring kittens and butterflies; that the cranberries came from Publix rather than from the local farmer’s market; and that the pie crusts contained flour and lard rather than grated leftover gluten free pizza crust scraps and coconut oil. Though close to a swoon, my aunt managed to stumble out of the kitchen before being overcome by such barbarism, much to the relief of the women but bringing fear to the men.
We had naively thought that, in the outside patio where we were supposedly keeping an eye on the swimming children, we were safe from our loving--and loved--but crazy aunt. We were doing “manly” things that were sure to keep her away. We were watching football, drinking scotch, smoking cigars, one-upping each other with tall tales of glorious achievements during our youth, and, to stop the kids from bickering, occasionally encouraging them to do all the fun (read: dangerous) stunts their mothers wouldn’t ever let them do. All these things usually drive up testosterone to such levels that it acts like a force field against all but the most determined of women. But Aunt Irma was a very determined woman that day. She was resolved to convert someone from “old fashioned” and “rigid” Catholicism, and bring him into her newly discovered Age of Aquarius Laetitia.
Fortunately, I was ready for her. When I had heard where Auntie was making a retreat, I had asked the Bishop for faculties to perform an exorcism on her ASAP. At first he had denied my request but I gave him an ultimatum: “Either I exorcise my Aunt or I send her to spend Thanksgiving with you.” That didn’t faze him a bit. In fact, I think he was looking forward to swapping notes with her. So I got mean, rotten and nasty: I gulped, prayed that he wouldn’t call my bluff, and told him, “Either she gets exorcised or else I will spend Thanksgiving with you!” I have never seen him procure a document so fast. Aunt Irma only made it halfway across the yard before she sank to her knees at the sight of the Benedictine Crucifix I held as I prayed the Latin prayers. Soon she was back to her crazy old self and we had a great Thanksgiving. Anyone want to buy a slightly used Prius?
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka