He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Tenth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum
Ten years ago, July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated an Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum”, which, among other related things, expressly allowed all Latin Rite priests in good standing to celebrate, both privately and publicly, the Traditional Latin Mass using the 1962 Missal. Even before the letter came out it was opposed, as we see at the beginning of the letter accompanying Summorum which the Pope addressed to the bishops of the world. “The document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter. In the first place, there is fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions--the liturgical reform--is being called into question. This fear is unfounded... In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio (Summorum Pontificum), that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as unfounded...”
In the place of the ellipses (...) in the above quote, Pope Benedict gave his explanations as to why the fears of those already opposing the document (or, more precisely, opposing the Mass which, though undergoing occasional modifications through the centuries, had been in use worldwide for nearly 1500 years prior to 1970) were either unfounded or should be easily addressed by the bishops. Unfortunately, it was, by and large, the bishops themselves who were the instigators and perpetrators of such unmerited fearmongering, and, therefore, rather than working to alleviate them, they worked all the more to make them worse. But a funny thing happened even in the face of extreme opposition (with very few exceptions) from the bishops. The priests who were asked to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, like me, and the lay people who were invited to attend it, like many of you, loved the Mass anyway! I am not writing about those who already had an affinity to the TLM, who knew it from their youth or from somewhere in their past, and who always wished it would be more widely available. No, I am pointing out that people, both priests and laity, who had absolutely no prior knowledge of the TLM, who had no memories, fond or otherwise, of the TLM, those who previously never understood why anyone would want to “go back to the dark ages” or to the “bad old days” when the priest “turned his back to the people” and “nobody understood anything” and the “little old ladies clutched their beads” to escape the boredom of the Latin Mass (as the past fifty years of terrible catechesis has drilled into the social psyche), when finally learning the TLM and experiencing the TLM embraced it as they never embraced the Novus Ordo Mass ever before.
Think about this just a bit. Neither I nor any parish priests my age or younger, had any knowledge of the Traditional Latin Mass. All of us grew up with the Novus Ordo Mass as the only, and, hence,“normal” Mass. All of us embraced the NO Mass because we realized that it was the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the only sacrifice truly worthy to offer to the Father in order to bring us salvation. We embraced the NO Mass because through it the miracle of Transubstantiation took place and our Lord and God was made present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, upon the altar and given to us for our spiritual nourishment. Each of us was called by God to become a priest according to the Order of Melchizedek, with Apostolic Succession going all the way back to Jesus Himself ordaining His Apostles. We most certainly did not despise the Novus Ordo Mass, were not lukewarm to the Novus Ordo Mass, nor were we just OK with the Novus Ordo Mass. We LOVED the Novus Ordo Mass. And yet, without any exceptions of which I am aware, the priests of whom I write, when called upon to learn and to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, LOVED IT EVEN MORE! We all felt “ripped off” by not having had the ability to grow up with this beautiful Mass. It made us realize just how trivial and childish (not: childlike) and, perhaps, even sacrilegious, so many abuses to the Mass (which we had thought of as “innovative” and “welcoming” and “exhilarating”), including those we witnessed growing up, those taught and modeled in seminary, and those we ourselves had done, really were. We saw the glory of the prayers and the focus on the true Sacrifice of the Son to the Father which the TLM brings out and the NO left out. We cried in repentance and sorrow for what had been lost and what is still considered by the majority (of bishops, priests, and laity) to be somehow “evil” or, at best, “to be tolerated”. Yet now we who know the TLM rejoice and give thanks to God, for, through Summorum Pontificum, what once was lost has now been found.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Stories About The Cruise
I am away with some family and friends on a cruise. You do realize I am gone, right? Before I even left people were welcoming me back and asking how my trip went. I considered making up stories but then thought better of it, because if they later heard about my real trip, they would assume I had taken two vacations! Plus, I wanted to save the best stories for the bulletin. So sit back for a spell, get comfortable, and come along with me as I enthrall you with tales of this great vacation which I wrote before we set sail. And, in case you are wondering how I was able to do such a thing, that mystery is solved with a simple reference to the name of the ship I was on, the “Magic.”
My Sister Linda flew in from Massachusetts the day before we were to leave. Her flight was filled with turbulence, as they were skirting the tropical storm forming over Indiana (she had a stopover in Kansas City, where she picked up Aunt Irma, who was there looking for some climate change related beachfront property, but that’s another story). That did not bode well for the beginning of a cruise. When we got to the ship, the crew was assuring everyone that, though the storm was projected to head our way, once it hit the open water it would quickly lose strength and dissipate. “No worries, everyone!” they exclaimed, “Have a drink. Here, let me take your photo.” And onto the ship we went, confident that all was well. It wasn’t.
The big storm was not the problem. Lost luggage was. Or, more precisely, wrong luggage was. As I mentioned, Aunt Irma had been traveling already when she met up with us. She had consolidated everything she wanted to bring on the cruise into one bag and left the rest of her stuff, including tons of souvenirs, back at mom’s house. Or so she thought. When she went to spruce up for dinner she discovered to her horror that, where her makeup kit should have been, she had “Boot Hill, Dodge City” sunscreen. She frantically ransacked her suitcase, flinging “Dalton Gang” beach towel and vintage “KU Jayhawks” seashell necklaces across the room. She dug in past the “Land of Oz” surfboard and “Show Me State” smashball paddles, tossed out the “KCU Wildcats” flip flops and the “I *Heart* Kansas” beach volleyball, looking, hoping, praying, that somewhere below all of it was what she had packed for the cruise. Alas, it was not to be. Too proud to let any of us know what had happened, she used what she had. The first three days she wore the Chiefs jersey she had purchased for her great nephew, Bubba, which was large enough to rent out to Barnum and Bailey if they hadn’t gone under. On day four she changed into the Kansas City Royals jogging suit which had been meant for her neighbor’s girl. She could almost, but not quite, zip up the top because it was just too small and tight. It was 87 degrees, her uncombed hair looked like a rat’s nest, and with her wearing that winter hoodie and its matching skin tight heavy fleece bottoms (which made yoga pants look loose by comparison), we were all convinced that she had finally “lost it” completely. Before the ship’s captain could Baker Act her, though, she admitted what happened and we were able to get her some new clothes easily enough at the ship’s “You Need More Stuff” boutique. Whew! That, plus a toothbrush, and she was a happy camper. That was not the only wardrobe malfunction, though.
One of the ladies with us (my mom will kill me if I tell you who it was) got up on a zipline at one port of call, having packed a pair of jeans just for the occasion. Unfortunately she had lost weight while onboard, as everyone is wont to do on a cruise, and halfway down the mountain she had to let go with one hand to hold up her britches. In the video (look for it on FarceBook!) of her dangling and squirming descent she looks like one of the local boys strutting down the street, with skivvies visible 10 inches above droopy-drawers. She was screaming all sorts of strange words (to my virgin ears) about what she was going to do if anyone looked or laughed. What is the female version of “tighty whiteys”? Granny greys? Biggie Bloomers?
I could tell many more stories about our adventures, but let me end with a fish tale, a story about the one that got away. I brought a rod and reel along with me so that I could fish from my balcony. There was plenty of bait available at the seafood buffet and every time we slowed to come into port, I set out my rig. On the last day, I hooked into something big and fought it for over an hour. We couldn’t see what kind of fish it was even after I got it out of the water, because from my upper floor even fishing boats looked tiny. I only got it up about half way before the fish gave one last mighty thrash and threw the hook, flipping itself into an open window somewhere below me. I am not sure where it went, exactly, but on the flight home Aunt Irma mentioned to my sister something about her special souvenir that dropped out of the sky, and her luggage smelled strangely like day-old cat food...
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: I’m Outa Here!
About a month ago I told you that I was going to soon take a little vacation with my mom and my older sister. Now the vacation is finally here. As you read this during the homily time of the Saturday Vigil or Sunday Mass, our ship will have already departed for the Eastern Caribbean. If you see me still here, something went terribly wrong! I had written that my cruise was for 8 days (Saturday, June 24 through Sunday, July 2) and someone told me that I can’t count all of that time as vacation. “Normal” people, I was told, don’t count the weekends in their vacation day count, but rather only count weekdays, since those are their “working days.” Since the weekends are the priests’ “working days” in the eyes of most people, I have to count vacation days backward compared to “real” people with “real” jobs. So the first Saturday doesn’t count as vacation, as I will be celebrating the morning Mass before I go, making it a work day. The Sunday of my return doesn’t count as vacation, since I will be back in time to, if need be, celebrate the evening Mass, making it, too, a work day. And, because weekdays are considered the priest’s “weekend” according to this method of thinking, the Monday through Friday that I am gone don’t count as vacation, either. So in total I will be on vacation for only Sunday, June 25 and Saturday, July 1. The person telling me this was a real killjoy. I was sooooo looking forward to just over a week of vacation. Now I am depressed that I will only be getting away for two days!
During those “two days” on which I am gone, there will be plenty of priests around here to make sure that all spiritual necessities and emergencies are taken care of. Father Emmanuel is going to be celebrating all of the Traditional Latin Masses, while Fathers Dorvil, Tuoc and Peter will cover the Vietnamese, Malayalam and English Masses. As of this writing, Father Emmanuel has been celebrating the weekday Low Mass for a few weeks and he is now pretty good at it and has even celebrated the daily chanted Mass, too (which is the most simple form of a High Mass), but he has not yet celebrated a Missa Cantata with Incense. Those of you at the Sunday 10:30 TLM will either witness him doing this for the very first time or, if his nerves get the best of him, a simple chanted Mass instead. All joking aside, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not something to be played around with, so he will only “go High” if he is confident of doing it, if not perfectly, at least competently.
I don’t think the other priests will let Fr. Emmanuel starve for the week, but, just in case, if anyone wishes to take him out to eat or bring some food to the rectory for him, I am sure he won’t mind. As long as he is on your minds, I ask that you offer up a prayer or two for him to find a rectory to stay at in Pensacola, where he is hoping to work on a Master’s Degree in Mathematics at his bishop’s request. So far, all of his leads have petered out, and there is no room at the inn. Because his student visa extension was obtained through the University of West Florida, if he cannot find housing and is not able to attend classes there he will be unable to stay in the US. So please, offer yet another prayer for him. The difficulties of getting another student visa so that he could return here if he loses this one are so great that he would probably never come back for his degree.
As I am writing this, there are three weather formations brewing. Brett, plus Cindy and Don (if they get named) all seem to be heading a little bit south of where we will be traveling before passing into the Gulf of Mexico and up and away from both the ship and the parish. But what to do if a tropical storm or hurricane comes our way? Pray and don’t worry, in the words of St. Padre Pio. On the ship, we shouldn’t have to worry, since we will simply (simply!) change course and maneuver around the worst of it. If we miss a couple of ports, Oh Well... And if the ship is rocking and rolling, we will have a great time watching the dishes slide off the tables, the patio furniture fall into the pool, people stumbling around as if quite drunk even early in the morning, and things like that. We will just make the best of it and know for certain that we are on a boat in the middle of the ocean! That is the reality that we understood when signing up for a cruise and yet we still got on board, anyway. Meanwhile, back here you all should just use as much common sense as possible. Come to Mass only if it is safe to do so. Mass will still be celebrated, since the priests don’t have to travel to get to church. Everyone might be wet and there is always the possibility of not having electricity for the lights or A/C but prayers in the middle of a storm are always worth the sacrifice. But don’t come if it is unsafe for either you or for those who would have to rescue you.
See you in a week or so!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Father’s Day and Corpus Christi Combine!
“I and the Father are one.” Thus saith the Lord. So it seems quite right that Father’s Day would be celebrated the same day as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The day dedicated to the Father is also the day dedicated to His Son, making a distinction without division. The Father is Father because He has begotten a Son. Without the Son, Who is One with Him, He would not be Father. Likewise, the Son, Who, if not begotten by the Father, would not be Son. Relations “make” the Persons, so to speak, as was made perfectly clear by last week’s Trinity Sunday homily. Or maybe it wasn’t so clear. It’s a mystery.
Today’s feast teaches us (or reinforces what we already know to be true) that Jesus is not only fully God but also fully Man. He existed as sole-begotten Son from all eternity, but He took on our human nature about 2000 years ago at the moment of the Incarnation. From that time on, He looked like us, though in reality, it is probably more proper to say that it is us, made in His image and likeness, who look like Him. But it is not just an appearance. In His humanity, He is like us in all things but sin, to borrow a teaching from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. Even now, in His glorified state, He still is fully God and fully Man. His Body is still true food and His blood is still true drink, as He eloquently taught in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. There, He taught that we must eat His body and drink His blood to have eternal life. This command we fulfill when we receive Holy Communion in a state of Grace. What are we receiving at that time? A piece of bread? No. A piece of holy bread? No. A piece of blessed bread? No. We do not receive bread (or wine or grape juice) at any Latin Rite Catholic Mass anywhere throughout the world. For the bread and wine have, by the time we receive, undergone a change of substance such that the bread and wine cease to exist and, though the “accidents” remain (taste, smell, color, etc.), neither bread nor wine does. By the power of the Holy Ghost working through the validly ordained priest, Jesus Christ, though “hidden” by the accidents, is truly made present: His Body, Blood and Soul (in other words, the fullness of His humanity) and His Divinity (the fullness of His Godhead).
Just as last week we saw Holy Mother Church, out of necessity in trying to explain what is, for humans, unexplainable, namely, God as He Is, had to develop new vocabulary in order to describe to the best of Her ability the Most Holy Trinity, so this week we see Her come up with the word “Transubstantiation” to describe the aforementioned change. Plus, I have already mentioned a similarly “new” word, “Incarnation”, in this article, about which most likely nobody raised an eyebrow, so common has its usage become among Catholics. Yet out of these three “mysteries”, or God-revealed truths beyond (but not contrary to) human reasoning, Transubstantiation is the one that most people, including nearly all non-Catholic “Christians” and a great many Catholics, refuse to believe. Many of these poor lost souls claim (or pretend) to comprehend the Trinity, as if the one true God in three Persons is a common occurrence, common knowledge, or is just plain common sense. They claim (or pretend) to comprehend the Incarnation, as if man can really grasp how the Second Person of the Holy Trinity could become Man without losing or in any way corrupting or diminishing His Divinity. Yet this multitudinous sea of mega-genius theologians cannot accept the words directly out of the Living Word of God as passed down by the written Word of God in John’s Gospel, chapter 6. “Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” This and the rest of His discourse on the Eucharist was rejected by many of His followers (including one of His Apostles--Judas) when He first revealed this Truth. It is rejected by most of those claiming to be His followers (perhaps even among the successors to His Apostles) to this very day. I pray that you, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, know the Truth. The Father sent His Son for our Salvation. He, in turn, gave His flesh for the life of the world. Believe.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My Confession About Confession
I confess that every once in a while I discover something that every Catholic ought to know but that somehow I didn’t know. That seems a bit odd, doesn’t it, coming from a priest? But it is true. I have told the story many times that I never knew that there was a Catholic prayer after meals as well as before until I had been a priest for half a dozen years or so. I had been taught growing up that grace before meals was, as every Catholic knows (!), “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” But according to my fourth book of the Baltimore Catechism, that is the “Blessing before Meals” rather than “grace.” “Grace,” it explains, “means thanks.” “We should thank Him also after we have eaten it and found it good, pleasing, and refreshing. When God provides us with food He thereby makes a kind of promise that He will allow us to live a while longer and give us strength to serve Him.” It then gives examples of how hurt God must be for our ingratitude when we fail to thank Him after He has given us this nourishment. Yet, until an old Jesuit priest recited this after every meal during one of my many priestly assignments, I never knew it existed. Though the English translations vary a bit in different prayer books (yes, once you look for it, you can find it in other prayer books!), this is the one that Fr. Frank taught and which I have since passed on to many parishioners. “We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Once I started celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, someone gave me a 3 book set called the “Roman Ritual.” This official book of Catholic prayers, blessings, exorcisms, sacraments, etc., has something even more to say about the mealtime blessings. In Volume 3, The Blessings, there are listed “Blessings at Meals.” Under that heading fall “Before the Noonday Meal,” “After the Noonday Meal,” “Before the Evening Meal,” and “After the Evening Meal.” But notice that there is no blessing or grace before or after the Morning Meal or Snacks! Plus, the “Bless us O Lord...” and the “We give Thee thanks...” are only a small part of the prayers before some Noonday and Evening meals. Taking it a bit further, it includes a note, “If only one meal is taken, the prayers are those of the evening meal. The preceding method of blessing and rendering thanks is observed at all times of the year, except the days noted below, when only the versicles and psalms differ.” Did you catch the part about “If only one meal a day is taken”? I don’t know if that is an indication of extreme poverty so that only one meal a day is available or if it was speaking rather about Lent, when all 40 days were days of fast, so that only one meal was taken. Remember, there is no blessing for snacks, and during Lent there was only one meal and two snacks (which would not together equal a meal) allowed at the time this Ritual was promulgated. Either way, we are (or at least seem to be) blessed to have so much food available to us. Did you also notice that special days had different meal prayers? These included Christmas through Epiphany, Epiphany and its octave, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and its octave, the Ascension through Pentecost vigil, and Pentecost and its octave. No wonder the United States Bishops shortened it to the simple prayers above. Otherwise, a book and a calendar would be needed just to say the right prayers throughout the year!
But, like so many other times, I have gotten sidetracked. This article started with the odd statement that I, a Catholic priest, occasionally learn something each Catholic ought to already know. I wasn’t going to write specifically about the meal prayers, so let me move on. The real topic of this article, as you know if you read the title, is not meals but, rather, Confession. What is the most important aspect of making a good Confession? It is not knowing where the Confessional is. It is not knowing how to make the sign of the cross and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been X number of days/weeks/months/decades since my last Confession and these are my sins...” It is not having memorized the Act of Contrition. No, according to the Baltimore Catechism, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Roman Ritual it is...
Oops! I am out of space. I will have given a talk about this very thing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Tampa Homeschool Conference by the time you read this. Hopefully, it is recorded and online so that, if you really want the answer, you can listen to it on our parish website. (I think I may have to go to Confession for doing this to you!)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: An Eight-Day Vacation!
The last week of this month I will be able to take a vacation! With Fr. Emmanuel staying here for the summer, I am going to be able to leave the parish in his most capable hands, including and especially the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. The other priests here are of tremendous help with the Novus Ordo Masses, but none of them know how to celebrate the TLM. Fr. Emmanuel is now able to breach that gap. So I found a small group of people from the diocese who are going on an eight day cruise and I signed up to sail along. My mother is coming with me, too. Because she is always cold, she wanted to go someplace warm and the Eastern Caribbean fits the bill perfectly. Shortly after we booked the room, I was speaking with my mom about it after a daily Mass and some other people heard and I asked if they wanted to go. Unfortunately, the travel agent said the cruise was fully booked. One parishioner got a nice room when by chance (?) a reservation was dropped and a room became available at just the right time. Then, a week or two later, my older sister said that she wanted to come, too. Sure enough, another room became available a few days after that and now she is coming with us.
I found out that Carnival has now changed its policy about priests on board. They no longer offer them a free inside cabin, which they used to do as long as they would celebrate Sunday (or the anticipated Saturday evening) Mass for the spiritual well-being of their “guests”. I asked for a room in which to celebrate daily Mass. They set it up for 7:00 am every day. Whoa! I have to get up at five every morning to celebrate the 6:30 Mass here. I don’t want to do the same on vacation! Plus, they have us scheduled for the late dining time slot (we are on a waiting list for the early one), which means that I might not even be done eating by the time I normally get to bed. They will now give me a place later in the day if one is available. But they also sent their new policy information about the Mass. They may or may not allow anyone other than those who signed up as part of our group to attend the Mass even though I am a paying customer who has supplied them with their required “Letter of Priest in Good Standing”. Their new rules were sent in writing as follows: “...[Your] request to opening your private mass events to the public, can only be reviewed and approved once on board the ship. The attached event schedule reflects a private mass only with your approved dates and times. Carnival Cruise Lines appreciates your business and looks forward to welcoming your group onboard. Carnival Cruise Lines has a strict ‘No Solicitation’ policy. This policy prohibits any person or organization from any form of solicitation (including for non-profit organizations) to our guests and/or crew, either before sailing, during or after the voyage. Guests are prohibited from inviting other non-group sailing guests to participate in privately scheduled onboard events.” Really? They have gone from providing Mass as a courtesy to their Catholic “guests” to seeing it as a “solicitation” which cannot be tolerated if anyone else desires to attend. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled over the years (after they return and have missed Mass due to no priest on board) to write letters to the cruise lines telling them that they will, in the future, choose a cruise line which supplies at least Sunday Mass. My guess is that almost no Catholics actually write such letters or this new policy would not be in effect. Even though I can always celebrate Mass in my cabin, how they proceed with this will determine whether or not this is my last Carnival Cruise.
But enough of the nonsense. Eight days at sea. Eight days of being pampered. Eight days of no phone, no computer, no email, no facebook, no cooking, no washing dishes, no nothing! This is the first time in perhaps a decade that I will be away from my parish for two Sundays in a row. So prepare for it now. Mark your calendar so that you will know not to get sick or, worse, schedule a funeral from June 24 through July 2. Mark it so that you will not get personally insulted when I don’t respond to your electronic or voice messages. Mark it so that you will pray for me and the rest of the group! I will be remembering all of you in my Masses on the ship, whether there are a dozen of us crammed into a tiny cabin or hundreds of people filling one of the Nightclubs or Lounges. (And experience tells me that, after seeing a priest on board for the entire week--yes, I wear my clerics even while on vacation since I am not taking a vacation from being a priest--hundreds will show up to the Saturday evening Mass if given the chance.)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Coming Up This Week
Monday is Memorial Day. True, it is not a religious holiday but it is certainly worth noting anyway. It is the day we honor those who died while serving our country. People may debate, argue, discuss and needle each other about what is good and what is not so good about our country without ever seeing eye to eye about many issues, but anybody who thinks this country isn’t worth defending and even dying for always has the freedom to go live in a “better” country. Many have threatened to do so. I suppose there might be some who have actually gone somewhere they were imagining to be perfect. But when it comes right down to it, generally even the most anti-American Americans stay put, knowing that there is something special about this union of states. I did get a big kick out of all of the quasi-communist celebrities who, upset with Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s threats to return illegal Mexican immigrants to their legal country and his anti Muslim-terrorist rhetoric, threatened to move to Canada if he got elected! Not one of them threatened to move to Mexico or to any majority-Islamic country. No, they spent all their bluster denouncing this country but even in their idle threats couldn’t manage to see themselves living anywhere else, except maybe in the country closest to us not only in geography (for Mexico would also fit that bill) but also in language and customs. And, notably, not a single one of the leftist blowhards wanted to go to a communist country, even though they want to make us one. Remarkably--and quite unfortunately--not a single one of those idiots actually left. No, even the Hollywood elites know that only in America could they have become the rich and famous know-it-alls that they are. Thank God that, unlike them, so many men and women have loved this country enough to stand up for her, to fight for her, to die for her, the current lack of morals notwithstanding.
Moving on, Saturday, the Vigil of Pentecost, we will have confirmations here. Bishop Parkes regretted that he could not be here to bestow the sacrament himself but he will be in Pensacola ordaining a man to the priesthood. It seems that Pensacola is without a bishop for some reason... Anyway, he has delegated me to confirm. Last year I was also given delegation to confirm and I wrote about some of the instructions for doing so in the Traditional Rite that seem a bit, well, odd and/or humorous. This year I want to be a little more serious and present to you the prayers which will be said (in Latin) during the ceremony. I am using the English translation found in the three volume Roman Ritual, which varies slightly from the two English translations found in the missals in our pews, both of which also vary slightly from one another. I do note a couple of oddities along the way.
After the initial verses and responses, the priest says, “Let us pray. Almighty, everlasting God, Who hast deigned to beget new life in these thy (there is no capitalization of “thy” in this case. A typo perhaps?) servants by water and the Holy Spirit (yes, the Roman Ritual uses Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost, something it oddly does on occasion but not as a norm), and hast granted them remission of all their sins, send forth from heaven (“heaven” isn’t capitalized here, though I would have had it marked “wrong” while in secular school, as “Heaven” is a place and place names are/were capitalized) upon them thy (again a small “t”) Holy Spirit, the Consoler (the Latin is “Paraclitum” but I do sometimes see either this translation or “Advocate” instead of “Paraclete” elsewhere, too) with His sevenfold gifts. Amen. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding. Amen. The Spirit of counsel and fortitude. Amen. The Spirit of knowledge and of piety. Amen. Fill them with the Spirit of fear of the Lord, and seal them with the sign of Christ’s ✠ Cross, plenteous in mercy unto life everlasting. Through the selfsame Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee (small “t”) in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God eternally (what happened to “world without end”?). Amen.”
Next comes the actual conferral of the sacrament of Confirmation. “N. (Saint’s name), I seal thee with the sign of the Cross ✠, And (capital “A” in the middle of a sentence. Who edited this book?) I confirm thee with the Chrism of salvation. In the name of the Father ✠ and of the Son ✠, and of the Holy ✠ Spirit.” The newly confirmed one replies, “Amen” and the priest “lightly strikes the confirmed upon the cheek, saying: Peace be with thee.” From that point, there is only one prayer left and a final blessing. We will conclude with a Mass.
As you can see from my comments on the prayer, it takes me a long time to read through even such a simple ritual, as I often see many things which either seem like inconsistencies or bring to my mind further questions. It’s a good thing that not everybody dissects everything like that. But it also explains why my Catechism classes last for a decade!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
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