He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: Holy Lottery Winnings!
It is my great pleasure to tell you that two of our parishioners have won the two large lottery jackpots from last week. Mega Millions winning numbers to the tune of $450,000,000 were picked at a convenience store in Pasco County. As you know, most of our parishioners drive quite a distance to attend the Traditional Latin Mass at Epiphany, so it should be no surprise that the winning ticket was purchased at a place nearly an hour drive away. The parishioner has not yet claimed (as of the writing of this column, anyway) the money but I am sure that we will soon be the beneficiaries of a sizable tithe. A bit further away, in New Hampshire, the Powerball numbers were picked on our parish feast day, January 6, with the jackpot listed as five-hundred and seventy million dollars. Since the numbers were drawn on the real Epiphany, I am sure that this winning ticket, too, must have been bought by one of our parishioners. I don’t know of anyone who commutes quite that far to attend Mass here, so I can only assume that the ticket must have been obtained by one of our members while they were traveling, be it for a job or vacation. Either way, I am expecting this second, and slightly larger, tithe check to be showing up in the collection basket soon.
In case the two winners are reading this before they have gotten around to writing out the checks, this is a good time to answer a few common questions about tithing. Question number one: How much money does the Church expect me to put in the collection basket? Answer: You are asking a good question but asking it in a less than perfect way. A better way of phrasing this would be: How much money does GOD expect me to put in the collection basket? You see, although what the Church expects is the same as what God expects, for His Bride speaks on His behalf, it is, in our fallen state, easier to make excuses for not tithing to the Church (look at all the wealth She has in art treasures, the Bishop just wastes our money, etc.) than it is to make excuses for not tithing to God. After all, nobody wants to approach the Judgment Seat of God with a wad of money clutched in their cold, dead fingers stammering, “Here, Jesus, you can have it after all. You get whatever I didn’t use. No, no, no, it’s not a bribe. I just thought...” So, how much does He want you to give? Although there are no hard and fast rules of which I am aware (beyond, obviously, one of the precepts of the Church, namely, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”), the Biblical tithe was always 10%, and that was from the first-fruits, not the leftovers, plus almsgiving. The next question which always follows that (right after, “You are kidding, right? 10 percent? That’s nuts!”) is usually, “Is that before or after taxes?” I usually just laugh at that, because if someone doesn’t even know what percentage of their income they tithe right now (using the word “tithe” as the amount of money they put in the collection basket on Sundays, Holy Days, and special collections) it is a bit silly to start obsessing over pre- or post- tax issues! As for the lottery winners, even assuming that Uncle Sam managed to take half of what they thought they were getting, they certainly cannot use that as an excuse to “nickel and dime” God (and HIs Church) to death (so to speak) as if their paltry remaining hundreds of millions of dollars might not be enough for both them and the Church!
Seriously, though, what do you think the average person, even the above average Catholic, would think about tithing after “hitting it big” when they normally tithed only as an afterthought? When they opened their wallet every week or three, surprised once again that a collection was being taken up, and checked (almost secretly) to see if they had any bills smaller than a twenty left in there to wad up and toss into the basket so that they wouldn’t have the embarrassment of having to dig for a few coins to deposit? I am guessing that a $500 dollar check might be all that could be expected from such a good, religious lottery winner. But I am sure that is not going to be the case with our two winners. Folks at Epiphany put God first in all things!
Just for a point of reference for how cheap some people are, there was a recent report of a woman who took her dead Christmas tree back to Costco after the first of the year and demanded (and got!) a refund, since it didn’t stay alive as long as she thought it should have. Fortunately, she must not have been Catholic, or that would have been in the headline! Anyway, if you see either of our lottery winners, let them know that I am waiting for their checks!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Farewell to Fr. Clement and James McCoy
First the bad news. Fr. Philip Clement, who was so instrumental in bringing the Traditional Latin Mass to Tampa, is being transferred to Maine. This is bad news only to us, not to him or to the people of Maine. I will leave it to him to explain how this transfer came about but I want to let you all know that this is not a “punishment” assignment for him, but, rather, one of his own choosing. And, since I have already been asked, “NO!” I have not requested a similar transfer. In past years have spoken to snowbirds from Maine who have described the beauty of their state with great fondness, who have asked me to transfer there because of the great lack of priests, who have been very persuasive in their salesmanship... but not persuasive enough to get me even thinking twice about moving to a place where 64 degrees is a summer temperature rather than winter weather.
For those of you who don’t know just what a TLM hero Fr. Clement is, here is a little background, condensed version though it is. One day in conversation with his pastor, he was shocked to hear something like this: “Why don’t you celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass here?” He took that question and ran with it. He set up informational talks for his parishioners so that they would have the opportunity to understand just what the TLM is all about. After all, for the past 50 years or so, all anyone had heard was how bad the “old” Mass was, how nobody understood what was going on, how the priest had his back to the people (as if that was an insult to them, but turning his back to the Lord in the tabernacle was perfectly fine) and how nobody prayed except for the little old ladies clutching their rosaries (which nobody knows how to pray anymore, because it, too, was seen as a bad “old” tradition in recent decades). He planned, he educated, he got the people enthusiastic about the Mass which brought Christianity to the whole world (in the days when “Christianity” meant “the Catholic Faith”) and which produced countless Saints over two millennia. He showed them Pope Benedict’s writings allowing all priests to celebrate this venerable Mass even without their bishop’s permission. He revealed Pope Benedict’s explanation against the naysayers that the “old” Mass had never been abrogated and more, that what was good and holy in the past cannot now be somehow considered bad or evil. Then the (now retired) bishop, a naysayer of Catholic Tradition if there ever was one, got mad and fought to stop the TLM before it ever got celebrated. Father Clement, in saintly form, peacefully fought for the rights of the people and priests regarding this most august Sacrifice. And the Mass took off. Thank you, Father Clement. We will miss you. If you, dear reader, are able, join him at Incarnation for a farewell potluck on Saturday, January 13. More information and RSVP can be found elsewhere in the bulletin today.
Now for some (brief) good news. If any of you have needed to contact the office in the past 8 months or so, you have had the pleasure of speaking with James McCoy. He came aboard with no parish office experience but has proven himself to be a capable and amiable front desk man. Always quick of wit and willing to help as needed, he has been a blessing for us. But oh, so quickly, this morphs into more bad news. He has decided to move on to greener pastures. It is a long, early morning commute for him and the job, believe it or not, is very stressful, with constant deadlines to meet and even more constant (if there is such a thing) interruptions which seem to put the accomplishment of anything off track yet which must be handled with such charity as to not let anyone know that they are a royal pain in the culus. (Or is that auritulus? Sometimes Google Translate is not much better with Latin than I am.) Anyway, though there were aspects of this job which he truly loved (especially dealing with you, the parishioners), he, like Father Clement, decided that the time was right to go elsewhere. Please feel free to give him a call (constant interruptions are still his life until his departure on January 12, after all) and wish him well, thank him for his assistance, and, above all, offer prayers for his next stage of the journey toward Sainthood.
And finally, some more good news. Although I don’t know who will take Fr. Clement’s place (don’t worry, it’s not me), we have already--miraculously--lined up a replacement for James. Many of you already know him and will probably be thrilled to hear that he is coming to Epiphany. Unfortunately, I have run out of space so you will have to wait until next week’s bulletin to find out that it is Mark Rosendale. Oh, shoot. I blew it. Well, the cat’s out of the bag so this might as well go to print as is.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Epiphany! Our Feast Day Cometh!
According to ancient tradition, the three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem to worship the infant Lord Jesus Christ on the thirteenth day of His birth, that is, January 6 according to the current calendar. Thirty years later to the day He was baptized by John in the River Jordan. The following year on the same date He performed his first public miracle, changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. According to a not-so-ancient tradition, the Catholic Women’s Club at this parish hosts an Epiphany Ball on or around the parish feast. Thank you, holy ladies, for doing so! The last two years we had a high Mass at 6:00 pm followed by a potluck dinner and dance on the actual feast day (it fell on a Wednesday in 2016 and a Friday in 2017) but it made for a long night and was horrific trying to keep the food fresh and hot and edible, especially for all those who had to show up early because they were in a choir or altar boy family. [I have in my mind the following as a best-case scenario: The meal you are cooking to bring for the potluck gets ready exactly at the time you have the whole family buckled in a ready to go. (Ha! Already I laugh.) Your normal (for a Sunday Mass) 45-minute drive to church is, on a workday, now estimated by Siri to be 1 hour and 15 minutes long. You leave at 4:00, hoping to get here by 5:00 but praying that you arrive no later than 5:30 in order to get everything set for Mass (altar boy family) or to practice the hymns and chants (choir family). Then, the Mass begins a little after 6:00 because somebody is running late and it lasts until 7:30 (or a bit later if Father rambles, err, I mean if he has a lot of very good things to say about the parish Feast Day; or if the choir sings everything in beautiful, but long, polyphony for the special occasion). Add time of prayerful thanksgiving after Mass and then the time it takes to get settled in the parish hall, and finally the blessing before the meal takes place at 7:55 pm. The last person in line gets their food about 8:35. How in the world did you all do that? Did you, instead, cook the meal in the van while on the road? Did you jump up and reheat it during the 17 minute Credo? I really cannot figure out how the food tasted so good!] This year January 6 falls on a Saturday and there are Saturday evening vigil Masses going on at 5:00 and 7:00 pm, so keeping the Ball on the actual Feast Day was impossible. That means that we get to try out a new format for the festivities. Will it be better or worse than the previous years? There is only one way to find out! I hope to see you all there at 7:00 pm on Friday, January 5. (You did get your tickets, right? The absolute last day for purchase is Sunday, December 31. $5 per person or $ 30 max per family.)
Before we get to the end of the week, though, we have to survive New Year’s Eve. I know, that’s not a Catholic Holy Day, but every once in a while someone wants to make it into one. A long time ago, in a parish far, far away, the pastor heard of a cutesy thing that some other “really with it” parishes were doing: having a Midnight Mass for New Year’s Day, giving the faithful a safe alternative to drunken parties or watching the ball drop on TV. Oh, so precious! Like taking a pagan holiday and “baptizing” it, as so many times “scholars” have told us we did when we made up out of thin air the Catholic Holy Days such as Christmas, All Saints Day, and Easter. The people were thrilled. The Mass, I was told, was beautiful. (I slept through it, thankfully, as I had the early Mass the next morning.) But there was one tiny, little, itsy bitsy problem, which should have been apparent from the beginning of this harebrained idea. Everyone who attended Midnight Mass was trying to avoid the drunks, yet everybody had to drive home from the church as all of the New Year’s parties were closing down! The Mass-goers might have been the only sober ones on the road! We were fortunate that nobody got killed. Why am I bringing up this old memory? Because somebody this year asked me why we cannot have a midnight Mass for New Years! “But we always do it at my old parish, Father. It’s a TRADITION! Isn’t this a traditional parish?” Oh, brother. Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The New Year’s Midnight Mass at my previous parish started at midnight, but Christmas Midnight Mass was at 10:00 pm because, well, it was just too much to expect anyone to come to Mass at such a late hour as midnight! Tradition? What’s that?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Merry Advent and Christmas Vigil and Christmas!
The 4th Sunday of Advent is missing this year. Perhaps it is better to say that it is not completely lost, but rather misplaced or even replaced. As I mentioned last week, in the Traditional Latin Mass when the Vigil of Christmas falls on a Sunday, it replaces the 4th Sunday of Advent. Not so in the Novus Ordo Calendar. The Vigil of Christmas, instead of taking the place of the 4th Sunday, is instead celebrated in the evening, Christmas Eve. Since we don’t normally have a Novus Ordo Mass scheduled on Sunday, we will have no 4th Sunday of Advent Mass that day. But wait. We have a Novus Ordo Mass Saturday evening, so the 4th Sunday of Advent will be celebrated on Saturday instead of on Sunday. As for the TLM, both of the Sunday morning Masses will be Christmas Vigil Masses. We have added a NO Mass on Sunday evening but even though it is celebrated on Sunday, it will not be the 4th Sunday of Advent Mass, for that Mass will be replaced by the Christmas Vigil Mass. But the TLM Christmas Vigil Masses of the morning will have different prayers and readings than the NO Christmas Vigil Mass of the evening. Even had we added another TLM on Christmas evening, it would be the exact same Mass as the morning TLMs and so would still be different than the NO Christmas Vigil. Add to that confusion the people who keep checking the Sunday evening calendar online and complain that there is no Midnight Mass scheduled. Of course, what they fail to comprehend is that Midnight Mass is not held on Sunday evening but rather first thing on Monday morning. The Sunday calendar ends at 11:59:59 so to find the Christmas Midnight Mass one has to look on Monday’s calendar, because Christmas Midnight Mass begins as soon as Christmas begins, and not two or three hours earlier as so often happens at NO parishes. Monday is Christmas. Did that clear up anything? Yes? Then let me just forget about complicating things by telling you what St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission is doing with their Christmas Vigil and Day Masses, or you will just get confused again. And it is probably not a good idea for me to explain that there are three different and distinct Christmas Day Masses in both the NO and TLM calendars, each with its own general time frame in which they are to be celebrated (midnight, early morning and later morning), except that with the NO Mass one can be substituted for the others if the priest chooses. Or if the liturgy committee plans it. Or if the lectors read the wrong readings. Or something like that.
Moving on, I want to thank all of you who have sacrificed so much to be active members of this parish, naming especially those who work as well as pray. Altar boys and choir members (and the parents or family members who transport them and wait for them as they practice and again as they fulfill their function, sometimes very early in the morning and sometimes very late at night, are amazing in their dedication. Thank you all. The women’s guild and other volunteers, who do so much planning and serving and cleaning, allow us to have such things as coffee and donuts after Sunday Masses, an upcoming Epiphany Ball and many other events. You do so much. Thank you all. Those of you who support the Amani family, who assist the American Heritage Girls, who donate generously to those young ladies who are discerning vocations to the religious life and the young men entering seminary, who prepare the altar, who wash and iron the liturgical linens, who clean, repair and replace broken pews and other church items, who teach children the faith, who lead the Holy Rosary with the Spiritual Mothers on Wednesdays or at the Friday Family Rosary and Game night, who show up and bring food for the Wednesday night and Sunday potlucks, who attend adult Catechism classes, who taught (sorry, past tense only due to the teacher having babies!) Latin classes, who organize the youth group and the new Juventutem group, who come to the Holy League men’s club, the K of C... (Did I leave anyone out? Probably. Sorry about that.) You are all amazing people. With travel times averaging approximately 45 minutes one way just to get here, bypassing several other more conveniently located parishes as you do so, you humble me, who only has to walk a hundred yards. All you do, all year ‘round, is a Christmas gift this pastor truly appreciates. May God bless you all.
Oh, one more thing before I forget. This Wednesday, December 27, is the feast of St. John the Evangelist. There is a special blessing of wine after Mass (remember, enemies of the Church tried to kill him by poisoning his wine, which he simply blessed and drank to show the power of God), so don’t forget to bring in your favorite bottles that morning!
Merry Christmas Vigil to you all. Rejoice, for the time of the Savior’s birth draws near!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: You Can’t Kill Two Liturgical Birds With One Stone!
A lot of angst and turmoil which is showing up in most other parishes this year which Epiphany parishioners will eagerly avoid. What is the issue? Next weekend on the Novus Ordo Mass calendar, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is celebrated on Saturday evening and on Sunday. But Sunday is also the Vigil of Christmas, so there will be Christmas Eve Masses. Most other parishes have only NO Masses and many people are planning on killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, to keep from being “burdened” with that most terrible of all afflictions, namely, “having” to attend Mass twice in one week. Let me set aside for the moment the terrible tragedy of a Catholic who doesn’t rejoice in participating in as many Masses as possible and rather look at the logistics of what they plan to do.
Remember, this is happening at many parishes, but not ours! Those who normally attend the Saturday evening vigil Mass to get their Sunday obligation “out of the way” will skip it that evening, December 23. Likewise, many of those who normally attend on Sunday, whether in the morning or early afternoon or evening will also forgo attending the earlier Masses for the 4th Sunday of Advent on December 24th. Instead, all of them will attempt to get to the Christmas Eve Masses or the “midnight” (shudder) 8:00 pm Mass. That way, they claim, they have been to Mass on Sunday, thus fulfilling their obligation for the last Sunday of Advent, plus they have attended a Christmas Mass (since, in the NO Mass the vigil “counts” as if it were the actual day), so they have also fulfilled their obligation for the Christmas Holy Day. “Yay!” they will exclaim, “We fooled God and only had to go to Mass once this week, plus we fooled the pastor and only had to put one crumpled up dollar bill into a single collection, not two! Woo Hoo! We are the smartest Catholics in the world!” Yep. Damned smart Catholics, if you get my drift. There was even one pastor (in the diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not here locally, thanks be to God!) who, in his parish bulletin a week or two ago, “dispensed” his parishioners from their Sunday Obligation with this statement: “Therefore, by my authority as pastor, I hereby grant a dispensation from the obligation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in individual cases that meet the following conditions: 1. You are reading this dispensation as an individual right now; 2. You are my canonical parishioner, either by geography or by registration; 3. You place ALL the envelops for BOTH celebrations in the collection basket at whatever Mass you attend.” He foolishly (as if there was anything about his ridiculous stunt which was not foolish) did not tell the people that they had to actually put a monetary contribution in to the envelopes, so if his people wanted to play games the way he taught them in this fiasco, they could have deposited empty envelopes or, better still, stuffed lumps of coal into them. Fortunately, his bishop found out about it and quickly put an end to it. Please pray for his poor parishioners, for their shepherd is lost himself.
So why do I say that such a thing won’t happen here? Well, for the NO Mass parishioners, I assume that they have, for many years, been well catechized and they are excited about getting the opportunity to attend Mass for both Sunday and Christmas. They will attend their normal 5:00 vigil Mass Saturday evening and then come back for the 5:00 pm Christmas Eve NO Mass on Sunday. These are the only two English NO Masses available for the two days in question, so unless they wish to attend a Vietnamese NO Mass (which would certainly fulfill the obligation as well) their choices are limited. I am convinced that nobody that attends the NO here would try to “double up” by only attending the Sunday 5:00 pm Mass. As for the others, those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass don’t even have to have good catechesis behind them to do the right thing in this circumstance, for in the TLM there is no such thing as a vigil Mass substituting for the actual feast day Mass! The Vigil of Christmas actually takes the place of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year. It is the Mass of the day, not the Mass of the evening before the feast. So TLM parishioners will attend either the 7:30 am of the 10:30 am Sunday Christmas Vigil Mass and fulfill their Sunday obligation and then they will attend one of the Masses on Christmas Day itself and fulfill that obligation. The Midnight Mass in the TLM, is the first Mass of Christmas Day, and is never held before real midnight, so there is no silly game which can be played with that Mass.
Anyway, there you have it. Epiphany parishioners can relax and pray while others scheme to avoid prayer. Come twice. Enjoy them both. Glorify God with your prayers and presence at His Most Holy Sacrifice.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Real Blessing or Counterfeit?
The other day I had a couple in my office asking for a blessing. The wife was pregnant, so what better time to bless her and their newly conceived child? Ah, what a glorious thing to do. I remember that a few years back the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made a big deal out of creating a “new” rite for blessing the unborn baby within the womb. This was a “big deal” because, supposedly, the Church had never had such a blessing for the child in utero before now. I am skeptical about most liturgical things that come out of the USCCB and I certainly find consternation in their “Book of Blessings” which mostly fail to actually bless anything. Yet, since it was supposedly the only one of its kind, I was about to grab it when common sense took hold of me. I instead went and got the old, traditional Roman Ritual book containing blessings and found, lo and behold, a “Blessing of an Expectant Mother”. I gave the blessing and the happy (three-persons!) couple went merrily on their way.
Sharp readers might have discovered a small but significant discrepancy between what the USCCB spent countless hours and dollars pulling out of thin air and what the old ritual already had. The new rite (yes, they developed a “rite” rather than just a “prayer” so that they can sell you a bilingual English/Spanish book for $6.95) is called the "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb". The old prayer is a blessing for the mother carrying the child. Slight difference but pretty big at the same time. At least it is if they both limit the blessing to only one particular person, mother or baby. But do they? Let us see.
The new Rite is five (English only) pages long for the version within Mass and 11 (English only) pages long for the version outside of Mass. It contains three prayers which it calls blessings, and which are preceded by this rubric: “If appropriate, the mother is invited to come forward, along with the father and other family members. With hands extended, the celebrant blesses the child in the womb and all those present, in these words:” That says that everyone there is being blessed, not just the preborn baby. The first prayer asks God to bless the unborn child and bring comfort to the mother (comfort, but no blessing). The second (optional) prayer says it is for the father but only asks that he be granted courage and be made an example of justice and truth. No blessing. Blech. The third (also optional) prayer, is for the family but is even more troublesome to me. “Lord, endow this family with sincere and enduring love as they prepare to welcome this child into their midst.” Why is it troubling? First, there is no blessing asked for them. Second, if welcoming the child in their midst is still a thing in the future, what is the reason they are there present for the blessing in the first place? Is it not because they have already acknowledged him to be in their midst? Have they not already welcomed him and now desire God’s blessing upon him who is already a new family member? Yet this prayer excludes the unborn baby from the family by not including him in those who will be filled with love. Why not, if he is a family member and this is a family blessing, ask that he, too, be filled with love? These prayers are nice enough until and unless you think too much about what they actually say and don’t say, do and don’t do. And, of course, there is no sign of the cross made over anyone by the priest.
So now let’s see what the old ritual says and does. It, too, is bilingual, with three pages in English and 3 in Latin. Two preliminary prayers ask for the mother to have a solid faith and constant protection from all adversity, that she be guarded and defended from the unfeeling enemy, that her baby be born and baptized and come to eternal life. Those are pretty powerful prayers of preparation for the actual blessing, if you ask me! The actual prayer of blessing drives away “all snares of the enemy” and calls upon the holy angels to preside. The blessing is not bestowed (with the priest making the sign of the cross) only until the baby is born, but it is to be ever present. It then asks that they (mother and child) be saved and given everlasting light. It concludes with a Trinitarian blessing (and another sign of the cross) upon both mother and child.
Why does any of this matter? Because I am constantly asked, “Why do you celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass?” This, though not the Mass itself, is one very obvious reason. Through the TLM I have discovered a treasure trove of discarded and forgotten liturgical gifts, of which the rest of the Church only has pitifully woeful imitations.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Advent is Upon Us!
The way Advent and the early December dates line up this year, the first week of Advent is chock full of marvelous feast days! I know you already have your calendars marked for December 8, the Holy Day of Obligation (yes, there are still a few of them!) celebrating the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We have three Masses that day: the normal Friday 6:30 am and 8:30 am Masses, plus an evening Mass at 7:00 pm. But a full lineup of heavy hitters warms us up in preparation for that day. Monday is St. Chrysologus, the Church “Doctor of Homilies”, with a commemoration of St. Barbara, who is one of the revered 14 Holy Helpers. Tuesday is the feast of St. Sabbas, a hermit monk whose clever and holy Bishop really stuck it to the rebellious monks who demanded that Sabbas be removed from his role as abbot (come to the 8:00 Mass to hear the rest of the story!). Wednesday, December 6, brings us... wait, do I really need to tell any of you whose feast day is December 6? I certainly hope not! St. Ambrose (a second Doctor of the Church in one week!) follows him (that is at least a small hint that the Saint of December 6 is a male!) on Thursday. All in all, it is quite a solid group of Saints.
Rather than just run down the list of all the Saints throughout the rest of Advent, I next wish to draw your attention to the Saturday following the Second Sunday of Advent. Get a good night’s rest that Friday night, for we are going to celebrate a Rorate Caeli Mass on December 16 and, as you might remember, Rorate Masses begin before dawn! We will have to change our regular Saturday morning schedule to accomplish this. The Rorate Mass will begin in total darkness save for candlelight at the altar, at 6:30 am (rather than the normal 8:00 am). We are planning on having some simple breakfast food following the Mass, followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confessions. If anyone wishes to let us know ahead of time that they will be there, or will bring food, or will serve the Mass, or will be in the Schola, it would help with the planning of this great feast.
Here is a little bit about the Rorate Mass which I wrote for the bulletin before the one we held last year: “The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as another aside, is why the term ad orientem--to the east--is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sin, to bring light to those in darkness. He came through, and is magnified by, the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation.” I know that there are many good reasons which might keep you snug in bed that morning, but if you make the effort for this Mass, I think you will be hooked and make it a yearly event.
Now for one major bit of information about something else coming up very quickly, though not until early next year. So far I have three confirmandi signed up definitely and almost two (2) more persons signed up for Confirmation next year. The first “almost” person is from our parish and actually signed up too early, using last year’s online form as if he could use my magic time machine and get him confirmed in the past. The second “almost” person is from another parish but desperately wants to attend the Traditional Latin Mass and get confirmed in the Traditional Rite but his mother and father don’t want to leave their Novus Ordo parish. He is still in negotiations with them and with his pastor! But as of this writing, even though the current Confirmation Information and Checklist is available both online and at the office, only those few have actually availed themselves of it, so our total tally is three (3) confirmandi. That is not a bad thing if it is an accurate count but, since the Confirmation date given to us by Bishop Parkes is quickly approaching (Confirmation time and date: 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018) we soon need to tell the Bishop how many kids we have who will be ready and eager to receive the sacrament. I would hate to have him bypass us this year due to having such a small class only to have several dozen more sign up after he takes us off his calendar! So please don’t procrastinate on this. If you or your child(ren) are preparing for Confirmation, please use the website for guidance and let us know at the office that we need to get ready for you/them!
With prayer for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: An African Thanksgiving
Church bulletins are strange things. Everyone grabs one but very few people read them. Some claim to read them but swear that they never knew that the parish has a Catholic Women’s Club, homeschool group, St. Rafqa stitchers, adult Catechism classes or other such staples of Catholic parish life. Others read the bulletin but then forget to put important dates on their calendar and so miss out on parish events or special feast days. Then there is another whole group of people who claim that they read carefully but neglect to mentally note such important statements such as “This bulletin had to be printed before Thanksgiving Day since the office is closed that Thursday and Friday.” Trust me, there is a reason that such a sentence should be read and remembered.
With that out of the way, let me tell you about my Thanksgiving. This year my little sister, Karen, was hosting the family gathering and, as normal, she said to invite any “orphan” priests or Sisters who didn’t have anyplace to go. Number one on the list was Father Emmanuel. He gladly accepted the invitation and was excited to get a reprieve from his Master’s studies and from grading math tests taken by the college kids in the undergraduate classes he teaches. He really needed this break. He has been getting a bit homesick and, since he cannot go back to Tanzania for a while, he asked my sister if she could fix some African dishes for Thanksgiving. When she hesitated, not knowing what food he might be thinking of, he quickly told her that, if she didn’t mind, he would get some help and do the cooking for everyone! He said he would love to do this for us in return for making him feel like a real part of our family. Plus, it would truly help him to get schoolwork out of his head. A few years ago he had gotten some help from a couple of African Sisters and they whipped up a wonderful meal for everyone and he assured her that they could do it again, so Karen finally relented and gave most of the cooking chores to him. Mom would still bake the pies for dessert, Karen would supply the snacks for the pre-meal hours, my other sister and my brother were to bring the drinks and I was to lead the prayers. I liked that division of labor!
Since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Africa, Father Emmanuel needed a bit of help in preparing the menu. He wanted to make it as African as possible but still retain Thanksgiving traditions when he could. What nobody knew is that he turned to Aunt Irma as his American “expert”. It was probably for the best that we didn’t know! In Tanzania, they spend a lot of time cooking their food. Days, not hours, are spent hunting, cleaning, cooking, and socializing in preparation for big feasts. So he came to town a few days before Thanksgiving and he and the Sisters got to work preparing the food. He wouldn’t tell us what they were making but did give us a hint that some of it had to be ordered from Amazon or caught in traps because it wasn’t available for sale locally. Although the Africans were thrilled to be at the convent having a real 72 hours long cooking party like they would have back home, on Thanksgiving Day there was something missing for the rest of us without the normal aroma of a roasting turkey. But that little disappointment was forgotten quite quickly when the food (and the cooks!) finally arrived in mid-afternoon.
I wish that I could describe in detail each of the dishes they brought. The food, overall, was incredibly delicious, even when (or because) we didn’t know what we were eating. But it is always the “failures” that make the most memorable stories. First of all, Father and the Sisters now know that: 1) sweet potatoes are not simply red potatoes boiled in syrup; 2) not all tree leaves taste good in a salad, even with a generous amount of dressing; and 3) breadsticks don’t involve any wood at all. But those few dishes aside, the dinner was a success. There was one major surprise menu item worth noting. Evidently, they don’t have turkeys in Tanzania so they made due with birds which they would eat back home. They were smallish, much like a quail or Cornish hen, and there were enough cooked up so that everyone got at least one. They told us that the birds were called polywons in English, but none of us had ever heard of such a creature. Nevertheless, they were tender and juicy and had plenty of flavor and were truly a hit. Dare I say they were better than turkey? Everyone ate theirs and fought over the extra birds. Later that evening Fr. Emmanuel remembered that he had written down the name which Aunt Irma had called the small, colorful fowl. Maybe he was just mispronouncing it. So he pulled out his note for us to read. On it was written, “pollywannacracker”?!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Saint Jude and Other Exciting Saints
The changed date, Sunday, November 19 snuck up on me. Most of you are reading this bulletin on that very date. “What changed date,” you ask? The date of the annual St. Jude Award ceremony at the cathedral. Each year on the (new liturgical calendar) feast of Christ the King a group of very deserving yet too-humble-to-acknowledge-that-fact people receive an award from the bishop for their service to their parish. It is a beautiful, large medallion featuring an image of our diocesan Patron Saint, St. Jude the Apostle. This year, to get back to the “changed date”, the award will be given out a week early because Christ the King Sunday is also the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was feared that many people would be busy with family and friends, either out of town visiting them or hosting those from out of town, and would miss out on the ceremony. So rather than holding it next week, the award will be given out this week. That’s how the date caught me off guard. By now, because you always read every word of the bulletin and not just this column, you already know that Pat Hanson is receiving it this year. She has long been a very active member of Epiphany and has certainly earned this award with all she has done and continues to do around here. Please be sure to congratulate her when you see her. And if you read this early enough (or already have it on your calendar) you are most welcome to join us at the Cathedral at 3:00 pm.
The St. Jude award ceremony simply kicks off the beginning of a very exciting week of Saints. Look at the great feasts we celebrate this coming week: Monday is the feast of St. Felix of Valois, a co-founder of the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives. What? You don’t know him? I understand why that feast is not too exciting to you, then. But if you were captured by the Muslims in the twelfth century and were facing either death for being Catholic, a life of slavery, or forced apostasy and conversion, you would have understood just how exciting this Saint was and still is! Tuesday is the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because you all pray the Rosary daily, you certainly have meditated upon this “mystery” often enough to be excited about the feast associated with it. Wednesday brings the feast of St. Cecilia. She, of course, is the Patroness of Sacred Music, so everybody in the choir (schola) and everybody who appreciates their ministry can certainly get excited about this feast. She is also traditionally credited with (and more recently ridiculed for) inventing the organ, the only musical instrument devised specifically to give glory to God in the Mass. Other instruments were developed for secular entertainment and subsequently incorporated into sacred usage (some with more readily apparent sacred value than others), while the organ started out specifically for sacred music and only later was occasionally incorporated into secular entertainment. This is what the Vatican II document on Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) said about musical instruments in Mass: “120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.” Pretty clear and pretty much excludes tambourines and rain sticks, doesn’t it? Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the secular world but the Mass honors St. Clement I (4th Pope) and St. Felicitas (mother of seven martyred sons). Friday brings St. John of the Cross (who, along with St. Teresa, founded the Discalced Carmelites) and St. Chrysogonus (the second of this week’s Saints mentioned in the Roman Canon at every Mass even if you know nothing else about him). Finally, Saturday brings us the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria who, at only 18 years old, marched right up to Emperor Maximinus, who was torturing and murdering Catholics, chastised him for his cruelty, and explained that his false gods were, indeed, false gods. These are all pretty exciting Saints!
Were there any Saints mentioned whom you do not know? The TLM daily Masses help us to venerate many great Saints (as if there are any “not-so-great” Saints!) who are generally not too well known except by daily Mass goers. At the 8:00 am Mass I usually give a short(ish) sermon giving some historical background to at least one of the Saints of the day. Need a little excitement in your life which will also bring joy to God? Come to daily Mass! This is a great week for it.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: When Good Priests Are Gone
A number of great articles have been written recently which have addressed topics on which I am questioned fairly regularly. The first deals with fear among the clergy to speak up about the nonsense going on in the Church today. The second deals with going to Mass when, if those above-mentioned fears bear out, the only Masses left are valid but irreverent. What is one to do? (Ask and I will give you the sources.)
1st snippet: [O]ne thing is often overlooked when people discuss “fearful” shepherds — especially when they are quick to call them cowards — is that their first duty — after Loving God above all things and obeying Him no matter the consequences to themselves — is to love their neighbor as themselves, by forming, nourishing, and protecting the spiritual children of their particular flock... There are, consequently, many pastors who may not speak out publicly in such a way that they are openly challenging the problems in the Universal Church, but this does not mean that they are not speaking out in their parishes — from their pulpits, in the confessional, or in the spiritual counsel they give to the members of their flock. They try to nourish and guide the souls entrusted to their care according to the fullness of the Catholic Faith even when their own bishops — or even the pope himself — are not, and they do so as a direct response to what those bishops and the pope are doing and saying. They do this in order to keep their spiritual children safe from spiritual harm. And many of them have a legitimate concern that if they raised their voices in protest outside the parish walls, they might well be removed in retribution. The question that haunts them is, “If such a thing were to happen, who would be sent to replace me?” [My emphasis--Fr. P] They know that the wolves and hirelings far outnumber the faithful shepherds and that if they are removed for speaking the truth to the whole world, those who would likely take their places would be chosen because they will not speak the truth to the parish, let alone to the world.
2nd snippet: Just a little reminder to one and all about liturgy, and bad liturgy. Obviously, I think that living close to reverent liturgy, either the Tridentine Mass or Divine Liturgy, should be an extremely high priority, BUT, to those who say, “Novus Ordo Mass is all there is available to me, and I’M NOT GOING!”, let me hasten to remind you of the following: The most “irreverent” Mass in history was Calvary itself. No one was actually paying attention to the Sacrifice of the Lamb except the small cohort led by The Blessed Virgin, St. John and St. Mary Magdalen. Only they assisted in silence. What else was going on at Calvary? People were walking around, talking, ignoring Our Lord at best, laughing, shouting and heckling Him at worst. One of the major aspects of crucifixion was the fact that the crucified were naked, completely exposed and obviously unable to cover themselves in any way – complete humiliation. Can you imagine the taunts and filth that the Roman soldiers hurled at Our Lord? Don’t kid yourselves, folks. They were probably making sexual taunts at Him that would turn even our jaded stomachs. That is, of course, when they weren’t playing dice. The Jewish priests also came to mock and scorn. And there were probably quite a few people who came just to gawk. They had no idea what they were looking at other than three men being tortured to death. They just gawked at the spectacle, then walked away.
Now consider the Apostles. None except St. John were there. Can you imagine the regret that they all felt for the rest of their lives for not having been there? [My emphasis--Fr. P] It was the most important event in history, in fact, it was the central event in all of history – so central that everything before and everything after is and will be reconciled through the central point of Calvary. And they missed it. They freely chose to stay away, cowering in hiding. It is pretty clear that the days of being able to easily find a valid – never mind licit – Mass are numbered... My advice is the same as what I suspect the Apostles would say: Go to Mass while you still can, even if it is Novus Ordo. Nothing that happens at a Novus Ordo Mass will be as bad as what was going on at Calvary itself. If bad things happen, pray in reparation as the Blessed Virgin did. Pray the Rosary. Remember that it is perfectly fine to NOT receive Holy Communion, and instead make a Spiritual Communion – remember, no one received Holy Communion at Calvary. Christ Himself, the High Priest, was the Priest Celebrant and the Victim, and He immolated Himself, thus consummating the Sacrifice. Don’t find yourself, like the Apostles, filled with regret at NOT going to Calvary. [My emphasis--Fr. P]
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: One-Sided Dialogue
If you have not heard of Father Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap. by the time you read this, you need to get better Catholic information coming into your house. Really. It is that serious. This priest was just fired (sorry, he was forced to resign, not fired) for publicly stating his opinions about the “Hagan Lio!” of Pope Francis’ pontificate. (If you don’t recognize this phrase of the Pope, please look it up.) Pope Francis has encouraged “dialogue” about Church issues on more than one occasion. Yet Pope Francis has then derided and reprimanded and belittled publicly and, on other occasions, completely ignored and snubbed, those who ask for “real dialogue” about Church issues, by which I mean a conversation with people who do more than parrot his own words and ideas back to him. Those who simply ask him to clarify his teachings (and let’s face it, clarifying one’s position is much easier than engaging in dialogue) so as to either affirm constant Catholic theology and morality or to deny it, have been bashed and accused of treason and worse from some of the Pope’s most staunch supporters, with never a word of correction or call for civility from the Pope. Meanwhile, the Pope himself refuses to meet and “dialogue” about the issues which he himself raised and specifically encouraged “dialogue” about! And some of these men asking for clarity are Cardinals of the Church, no less! But more than just name calling, something more sinister is now picking up steam. One after another, those who attempt to “dialogue” about anything dealing with the Pope’s lack of clarity, or who point out the spiritual and moral dangers of a continued lack of clarity, are now being removed from their positions. Fr. Weinandy is not the first (think: Cardinal Burke, Professor Josef Seifert, to name but two), but due to his esteemed position as theologian to the United States Conference of Bishops, his is currently the most noteworthy example in these United States.
One of the things he specifically pointed out in his letter to the Pope was that even bishops are being intimidated into silence. "Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express -- at least publicly; privately is another matter -- the concerns that your pontificate raises. Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse." His firing (oops, his forced resignation) proves the point as to what can happen, as a starting point, mind you, that is “worse”. The audacity of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the current president of the USCCB, to write about his “departure” in a way that falsely accuses him of being uncharitable is despicable. The Cardinal puts on a show (the best way I can think of explaining it in a church bulletin) of desiring dialogue while snuffing it out here and elsewhere, now and in the future. Father Weinandy was fired (errr, resigned) the same day his letter to the Pope (which the Pope has still not answered, though it was sent in July) was made public. How much “dialogue” was there in those few hours? How many of the US Bishops were consulted or engaged in this “dialogue” before the firing? He accuses Fr. Weinandy of making this a “political – conservative vs. liberal, left vs. right, pre-Vatican II vs Vatican II” issue, while he did no such thing. Please don’t just take my word on this: read his letter (read also his explanation of why he was finally convinced that Our Lord wanted him to write the letter in the first place. It is an incredible story). There is so much outrageous disingenuousness in Cardinal DiNardo’s explanation of Father’s “departure” that if it wasn’t posted on the USCCB website, I would think that it was a rather poor hoax or Russian Fake News. I hope that this does not go unanswered by any US Bishop who also wants the Pope to clarify his positions. I hope they rally around Fr. Weinandy instead of silently acquiescing to this travesty of justice, for if they are silent now, it is only a matter of time before they are next on the chopping block. They, too, will be increasingly bullied, intimidated and misrepresented to the people the moment they express any misgivings about the chaos that Pope Francis is causing.
Does the Capuchin priest really need this job? No. It is not like he is a layman losing his sole source of income which he needs to support his family. But it is certainly a warning to each and every US Catholic deacon, priest, and bishop to shut the heck up if they think the Pope needs to be more open and honest and clear about what he really believes and teaches. Will this intimidation tactic work or will it backfire? Only time will tell. The majority of Catholic clergy are already either silent or actively interpreting the Pope in non-Catholic ways. Perhaps this will be a clarion call to us: “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: All Saints Day and All Souls Day
This Wednesday is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (online at newadvent.org), it is a “Solemnity celebrated on the first of November. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year.” We are honoring those who have made it to Heaven. Not just those who have been officially recognized by the Church but rather everyone that, through the merits of Christ, now enjoys the Beatific Vision of God.
The last part of the encyclopedia’s description should wake us up to a very important aspect of this celebration. Those who have been officially declared Saints by Holy Mother Church deserve to be always honored and to receive proper love and respect, especially on their feast day. Again quoting from the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Catholic Church canonizes or beatifies only those whose lives have been marked by the exercise of heroic virtue, and only after this has been proved by common repute for sanctity and by conclusive arguments.” Only a relatively minuscule number of good, holy Catholics are able to meet the strict requirements of proof that they are now in Heaven and that their lives upon this earth are worthy of study and emulation. (It is, as a comparison, much easier for any ball player to be named to the Hall of Fame than for any Catholic to be named a Saint.) Once this has been established, however, they are to be held in great esteem. They are supposed to be our role models and heroes, more-so than even the greatest Hall of Famer.
Even so, we sometimes forget about them, neglect our duties to honor them or only half-heartedly remember them even while attending (or even celebrating) Mass on their feast days. How many people have forgotten who they chose as a Patron Saint on the day of their Confirmation? How many children were named after a particular Saint due to their parents’ devotion to that Saint or on account of their birthday falling on a Saint’s feast day yet they never even ask for that Saint’s intercession, let alone offer up prayers of thanks for assistance given?
All Saints Day gives us the opportunity to make amends for our neglect, our disrespect, or our simple forgetfulness. What a blessing for both us and the Saints! We, the Church Militant, enter into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated in honor of those who have won the battle of good versus evil, the Church Triumphant. We ask for the grace to learn from them, to imitate them, and to love them (and thus, God) more deeply. They, in turn, must be all aglow with pure love and compassion for those of us still struggling through life and gladly pray that we become even more holy than themselves.
Then on Thursday, All Souls Day, we celebrate Mass to pray for the Church Suffering or the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Though not a day of obligatory Mass participation, those who recognize just how difficult it is to have already perfectly atoned for all temporal punishment due to previously forgiven sins at the time of death make every effort to get to Mass that day. Throughout the month, but especially on November 2, we pray for those who died in a state of grace yet perhaps not completely perfect in their love of God and neighbor and we offer our sufferings, our alms, our fastings, and our acts of charity on their behalf. This year I didn’t put out any All Souls envelopes and nobody noticed, nobody asked for one, and, as of this writing, nobody has given me a list of their departed family and friends whom they wish to have remembered at Mass. So it looks like if you wish them to be prayed for by name (I will still pray for them in general), you are going to have to attend Mass and pray for them yourselves! The Church also offers, from November first through the eighth, a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Poor Souls, to those who visit a cemetery and pray for the departed (and complete the other stipulations for plenary indulgences, namely, sacramental confession, Communion, prayers for the holy intentions of the Pope and detachment from sin). Our simple mortification leads to a Poor Soul’s purification, allowing their final glorification. And we grow holier doing it!
Come join in the celebrations! Become a Saint, help others to do so as well, and honor those who have already made it. The Mass schedule for both days will include the normal 6:30 am and 8:00 am Masses and both days will also have an extra 7:00 pm Mass. The evening Mass on All Souls Day will be a Solemn High Mass if everything goes as planned. This is something we hope to be able to do more often in the future, as more and more clergy become interested in assisting at the Traditional Latin Mass. Thank you for your continuing prayers in this regard!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: We have a Confirmation Date!
Instead of holding you in suspense, let me come right out with the news: our next parish celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation has been set by the Diocese for 7:00 pm on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Why so soon? Because the Bishop has a lot of parishes to get to and there simply is no way for him to visit every parish in May or June! Does that mean that Bishop Parkes will be bestowing the sacrament himself? I wish I was able to get a confirmation on him doing the Confirmations. We spoke briefly about the ceremony and what is done (and not done) and he has promised “to see” about it. He genuinely wants to be here for us but is still uncertain about his ability to do it well in the old rite. So we will just go with the flow for now.
If you are preparing for Confirmation yourself or have a child you are preparing for Confirmation, the first thing you need to do is get a copy of your/his/her Baptismal certificate over to the office. An original is not necessary. A hard copy or an electronic copy of the old one you have in a storage box is fine. Please note well: Baptism is the first step in preparing for Confirmation and you must have been baptized before you receive any other sacrament. I know that “nobody” would try to get confirmed who has not been baptized but--and this is a big BUT--in order to properly record the fact that the sacrament was received, we need to know which church to send that information to, and that church needs names and dates from the document in order to find, verify, and update the original record. All sacramental records are held at the church (parish) of Baptism, so although we will record here that young Johnny was confirmed by Bishop Parkes on February 7, 2018, taking the name of St. Romuald and having Mr. Joseph Dingle as his sponsor, we will also send that information to St. Ubaldus Basilica in Wispy Cloud, Maryland (the church listed on Johnny's Baptism certificate) so that they can enter it along with his Baptism and First Holy Communion record. When Johnny later is preparing to become a priest, he will need to contact the secretary at St. Ubaldus, asking for a new copy of his Baptismal certificate with all notations. If there is no notation of Confirmation (for instance, because his parents promised to produce a Baptismal certificate for his Confirmation but never followed through on it) he will have a much more difficult time gaining admittance to the seminary because Confirmation is an essential sacrament to have before receiving Holy Orders. And, since we probably won’t have recorded it here without having ever obtained all of the information found on the forgotten Baptismal certificate, unless we find the old, incomplete file squirreled away in the attic, you won’t be able to find a record of it anywhere. Then you need to find photos and witnesses, produce sworn testimonies, etc., taking so much time that poor Johnny misses the entrance deadline for the seminary and, wrongly thinking that that was a sign from God that he was not to be a priest, he marries the very next girl who smiles at him, not knowing that she is a deranged psycho-killer cyborg from the future and... well, we just lost another man who would have been a good, holy priest and the only one in the diocese who would have celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass when I retire or die. All on account of a Baptismal certificate which never made it to our office. Don’t let that happen to Johnny or to future Epiphany parishioners! Please bring in the certificate ASAP!
After you have produced a Baptismal certificate, we will give you a form to fill out to officially register for Confirmation here. My guess is that the more children or adults we have here who are properly prepared to receive Confirmation, and the sooner we know the size of the Confirmation group, the greater the chances that Bishop Parkes will make the extra effort to learn the prayers and ritual of the traditional rite and Confirm in person.
Because of the short “school year” between now and February, there really is not a lot of time to procrastinate on anything. Please dust off your Baltimore Catechisms (number 2 is great but number 3 gives an even better explanation of the reason for receiving each of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost) or your Seton books or the Faith and Life series or whichever program you are planning on using and get to it right away. If you need assistance in this regard, please don’t hesitate to ask for it. Confirmation prep is not too difficult if the one to be confirmed already has a good foundation from a previous solid First Holy Communion preparation and is a member of a faithful Catholic family which actually believes and practices the one true Faith. Not everyone has been so blessed (believe it or not), so help each other out! Above all, remember that prayer is the most important aspect of readying oneself for reception of this--or any--sacrament, so pray well.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Las Vegas Shooting. Why?
All of the news outlets and initialed government organizations are bewildered about the motive behind the recent unholy shootings in Las Vegas. But what they all are failing to take seriously is that simple word which I used to modify “shootings” in the last sentence, namely, “unholy”. “Demonic” would have worked as well, as would have “devilish”, “diabolical”, “satanic” or any other number of words bringing to the forefront the ultimate cause of such an evil rampage. But nooooo, the secular world is not about to admit that the devil is real and that “we” as a whole have invited him to fill the void left when “we” kicked God out of our lives. ISIS is still claiming responsibility. That does nothing to diminish the preceding statement, for they represent the devil, even if nobody wants to admit that truth.
Those who believe in neither God nor the devil have blamed this latest mass murder and maiming on guns, the President, Republicans, Libertarians, housewives, mailmen, chimney sweeps, and those who eat non-organic food. Everything and everybody gets blamed as long as God and the devil, prayer and the antithesis of prayer are left out of the conversation. This is exactly what “they” don’t want “you” to think about. But thinking about it is a must. In thinking about the “why’s” of the shooting and the “what’s next” for the near and distant future, we must use reason and Faith, and make no mistake, by that I mean we must use Catholic Faith, for all other forms of Faith fall short. That, of course, means that we must use Scripture, Tradition and the Church’s magisterial teachings as we ponder these issues.
Yet that is not to say that it takes a gifted theologian to understand how we got to where we are and how to get out of this moral cesspool. For what Catholic cannot see almost immediately that the devil was at work in the shooter’s life? What Catholic cannot see almost immediately that he needed, yet had rejected, Jesus Christ and His gift of Eternal Life? What Catholic cannot see almost immediately that no “solution” to the problem of preventing the next massacre will be solid and sustainable unless we humble ourselves before God Almighty, beg His forgiveness, beseech His mercy and grace, and truly commit to becoming Saints individually and as a nation?
Look around. The way the United States has developed its infrastructure, economy, transportation, communication, and governance (among other things), we need--really need--either a moral population or a tyrannical government to keep us “safe”. The Las Vegas shooter shot a lot of people. Our free society makes it easy for immoral persons to shoot people, to stab people, to run people over, or to find countless ways to destroy life or a way of life. Humans are social animals. We gather into large groups just about everywhere and for many reasons: for recreation, for education, for employment, for prayer. Our society was built with the expectation that interdependent people would be as safe or safer in those crowds than they would be in independent isolation. Now, though, having been shamelessly taught to reject God, to ridicule Faith, and to despise Truth, an increasingly immoral population is changing the equation. Immoral people can be and will be and have already been emboldened so as to find new ways to kill large numbers of unsuspecting random people. Immoral people can be and will be and already have been emboldened to kill targeted, important society members (and, yes, some jobs are more important in some regards, such as in keeping law and order on the streets, than others), taking advantage of, say, our police being easily identified by their uniforms and being in public places where they should be safe and are basically defenseless (like sitting in their squad car filling out paperwork), which things also make executing them quite effortless for the wicked.
The Las Vegas shooter also took a couple of potshots at large fuel storage tanks which will certainly inspire others to devise ways to successfully blow them up, destroying shipping ports and fuel depots, along with food and goods distribution networks, and causing untold mayhem. Our society was built with the expectation that most people would behave rationally and morally. Those large fuel tanks are out in the open, nuclear plants are unprotected from above, the electric grid is vulnerable, train tracks are unguarded, jets take off and land in populated areas, water supplies are not tamper proof, and the list could go on and on. In a moral society, none of that matters. In an immoral society, there will always be someone (or some group) exploiting such “weaknesses”, trying to make a name for himself by causing more death and destruction than the last guy, or by becoming the first to think of a new way of wreaking havoc, or by simply causing chaos for the sake of chaos.
So how do we stop the next terrorist act? A tyrannical government can do it fairly well and fairly quickly. The fewer freedoms the people have, the less they can “cause trouble”. But an almost infinitely better way (though at this point it will take a lot longer to achieve than the first option) is for everyone to learn, accept, and live the true Catholic Faith. Pray and fast, people. Pray and fast.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Columbus Day
In recent years a lot of ignorant and/or immoral so-called “scholars” have written a lot of anti-Catholic (yes, I believe that is most often the basis of their false “scholarship”) articles bashing Christopher Columbus and his Catholic Faith. Today I want to share with you just a little bit of actual scholarship about him and his journey, found in the Knights of Columbus’ Columbia magazine in October of 2015. Much more “real” Columbus information can be found easily enough on many Catholic websites and books. Don’t be fooled by the secular sources who make up stories or twist old documents to fit their agenda, trading truth for hatred.
When the Knights of Columbus was founded 130 years ago, their namesake, Christopher Columbus, was a symbol of the idea that there is no contradiction in being a Catholic and an American. In recent decades, however, Columbus has become a figure of controversy, leaving conflicting opinions about his legacy.
Carol Delaney, a cultural anthropologist and long-time professor at Stanford University, had little knowledge or interest in Columbus that is, until she was teaching a course called “Millennial Fever” at Stanford in 1999 and came across a reference to the explorer’s apocalyptic beliefs. Delaney was intrigued and set out to research Columbus at Brown University in the summer of 2003. Two years later, she retired from Stanford to devote herself to research, which launched a remarkable journey in the footsteps of the explorer. Columbia spoke to Delaney about the fruits of her research, published in her book titled Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem (Free Press, 2011).
Columbia: You argue that most people misunderstand the purpose of Columbus’ voyage. According to your research, what were his motivations?
Carol Delaney: Everybody knows that Columbus was trying to find gold, but they don’t know what the gold was for: to fund a crusade to take Jerusalem back from the Muslims before the end of the world. A lot of people at the time thought that the apocalypse was coming because of all the signs: the plague, famine, earthquakes and so forth. And it was believed that before the end, Jerusalem had to be back in Christian hands so that Christ could return in judgment. Columbus actually calculated how many years were left before the end of the world. He seemed to think of his whole voyage as a mission, which was part of this apocalyptic scenario.
Columbia: In addition to funding the crusade, did Columbus intend to evangelize the New World?
Carol Delaney: He was very much interested in evangelizing. He wrote against the idea that the natives could just be baptized and automatically become Christian. Rather, they really needed to be instructed about the Christian faith before being converted. He wrote to the pope requesting that good priests be sent to provide this instruction and even left money in his will for it. Believing he was traveling to Asia, Columbus particularly wanted to convince the Grand Khan of China, who had already expressed interest in Christianity, to convert. He thought that the Grand Khan could help with the crusade to take Jerusalem by marching from the east, while the Europeans marched from the west an interesting idea.
Columbia: Why don’t more people recognize and accept your claims about Columbus’ intentions?
Carol Delaney: Scholars have written articles about Columbus’ religious motivations, but they were published in very arcane journals. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, historians wrote about Columbus as the first modern man, who used science and reason as an explorer and discoverer. But I don’t think that was his motivation. He was a medieval man in a very religious context. He was very close to the Franciscans, who were involved in proselytizing before the end of the world.
Columbia: The popular view today is that Columbus is responsible for countless atrocities against the native peoples. In your opinion, is this a fair assessment?
Carol Delaney: No, not at all. The late 20th century brought a lot of critique about him from the perspective of the natives, and Columbus has become a symbol for everything that went wrong. But the more I read of his own writings and that of his contemporaries, my understanding of him totally changed. His relations with the natives tended to be benign. He liked the natives and found them to be very intelligent. He also described them as “natural Christians” because they had no other “sect,” or false faith, and believed that they could easily become Christians if they had instruction.
There is much more but we have no more space here. Read her book. Read real scholarship. Don’t get mislead by the bigots who want to destroy the nation and the Church. Happy Columbus Day!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Priest’s Convocation
This week most of the priests of the diocese will be away from their respective parishes as we gather together at the Bethany Center for our yearly few days of prayer, talks, and camaraderie. Don’t worry, the Mass schedule will not change! Fr. Vincent has graciously agreed to celebrate the 6:30 am Mass before racing back to Jesuit High School to teach so that I will have time to commute back over here for the 8:00 am Mass, Adoration, and confessions. Please don’t expect me to stay and chat afterward or to be available for non-emergencies, for as soon as Benediction is completed, I will have just enough time (I think) to make it back for the start of the mid-morning talk. Some parishes may cancel Masses altogether so if you know of someone who will be without the Holy Sacrifice, be sure to invite them to Epiphany.
These days, Monday afternoon through early afternoon on Thursday, though they include time for prayer and confessions and spiritual talks, are not retreat days. They are days filled more with catching up with fellow priests than with anything else. They are certainly anything but silent! Many priests only see even the priests they are closest to at meetings, funerals for priests and their family members, and this convocation. Of those three, this is the only one which allows for more than a quick “hello” and other perfunctory greetings. At the convocation we see each other for three meals a day (I will have to skip breakfast to make it back for Mass, though, so cry a little for me, ok?) plus Mass and other prayer times, plus the times at and between talks, plus the free time in the schedule, plus evening Irish Holy Hours after everything else is done. I have no doubt that I am able to actually carry on a conversation with more priests for longer periods of time during these few days than I do the rest of the year.
The convocation always falls the first full week of October and the (new) liturgical calendar for the Breviary gives some great readings from St. Augustine shortly before or even during the week we gather together. Although much of his sermon is a chastising of and warning to the priests that they must feed their sheep rather than themselves, there is also a beautiful passage about the priests desiring, even more so than the person himself, the return of the lost sheep to the flock. The purpose of the convocation is to encourage us to do what this great Saint is encouraging us to do, namely, to save souls! Here it is, for your edification:
The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”
So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.
I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: My 10 Year Anniversary
My 10 year anniversary is coming up this week. Ten years of “what” you ask? Ten years of celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass. On September 27, 2007, the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian, I took the plunge. That Thursday evening, after 3 days of trying desperately to learn how to celebrate the Mass in its ancient form, I stood in front of the altar of St. Rita parish, with dozens of people who had my back in more ways than one, and began, “In nomine Patris, ✠ et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei.” I was sweating bullets. 11 years before that date, I celebrated my first Mass after my ordination to the priesthood in the only form of the Mass I ever experienced growing up, the Novus Ordo Missae, or New Order of Mass, as Pope Paul VI had termed it. I was excited but not nervous for that first NO Mass. The Novus Ordo Mass took very little preparation. We never even had to pass a test at the seminary to see if we could celebrate it properly, as the old priests liked to tell us they had to do. It was that easy. But the “new-to-me” old Mass was another matter altogether. [In fact, I once (long before I knew anything about the TLM) was told by an elderly priest how easy we “kids” had it. Back in his day, he proclaimed, it took a real man to be an altar server, let alone a priest. Nowadays, he half-jokingly insisted, a trained monkey could celebrate the Mass (Novus Ordo) and an untrained monkey could serve it! Several years ago I wrote a bulletin column in which I included that quip and mentioned that it took me years to completely understand what he was talking about. It is one of a number of bulletin articles for which I was called down to the bishop’s office for a chewing out, for some anonymous petty fellow priest had whined that I had hurt his feelings by passing on that story. Wah, wah, wah.]
Anyway, my first TLM scared the daylights out of me. As I wrote a few months ago, the permission and duty for pastors to celebrate the TLM if asked to do so by the faithful came out in July of 2007, through the document Summorum Pontificum. In August I finally agreed to celebrate it, once every other priest in the area, each of whom grew up with the TLM, said that they would not. Training for the Mass at that time was just beginning to get organized and would not be available for at least a few more months, so I was in no hurry. But Monday, September 24, I got tipped off that if I was ever going to be “allowed” to celebrate it, I had to do so before Monday, October 1, one week away. That put the giddy-up in my horse. I didn’t want to have a Sunday Mass be the first (worst) time I celebrated it, and the only day I could fit an extra daily Mass into the parish schedule was Thursday evening. I had three days to prepare.
The first thing I discovered was that I couldn’t figure out which Mass to celebrate. Different liturgical calendars! Who knew? I called the FSSP parish in Sarasota and asked for help. Fr. Fryar choked when I told him my plans, but, after hearing the reasons for the quick study, he told me where to find both the Thursday and Sunday Masses and immediately sent me his own Ordo (the book telling priests which Mass to celebrate each day). He was a lifesaver many times after that, too! I already had a package from the SSPX with a training videotape, a booklet explaining the priests postures, gestures and movements, and some simple altar cards to practice with. When something is needed desperately, it often seems to malfunction. I probably don’t have to mention that the video would not play! So I concentrated on the written rubrics. Too many to remember! The priest holds his hands this way, then that way, bends this far then that far, moves here then there while doing this or not doing that, and so on... Plus, though the booklet had those rubrics in English, in the altar Missal they are only in Latin! I had to devise shorthand symbols to insert into the Missal so that I would know what to do and when to do it and how to do it without taking the time during Mass to mentally translate the Latin into English. I practiced with some altar boys (trained men). It was terrible but informative. I found out that St. John Cantius parish in Chicago had instructional videos posted online and watched them over and over on my computer, moving from one side of the desk to the other as if it were the altar as I imitated what was on the screen. I stuck sticky notes everywhere in the Missal. I went over it and over it. Even at night I dreamt about rubrics. September 27 came too quickly for comfort and yet brought the relief of “time to do or die”. It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Ten years later it still doesn’t come easy but it doesn’t frighten me anymore. I am truly blessed.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Irma: Eventful but not Terrible
Hurricane Irma, the Category 5 monstrosity which was poised to wipe all of Florida off the map after causing untold destruction throughout the many small islands to the southeast of us, has come and gone. Thank you all for the many prayers you offered up during the week before the storm, for without them, I am sure that this would have been much, much worse. As I write, electricity is being restored throughout the area and I am getting reports from parishioners about how little damage was done where they live. We only lost electricity at the parish for just under 24 hours. My mom’s house was without it for another day. As I write, many of you don’t have power yet. Hopefully, by the time you read this everything is back to normal. Actually, I hope and pray that everything is better than normal. We all had a chance, due to panic, to determine what we cherish the most, to contact those to whom we are closest or most concerned about, we had time to look at our own mortality and, hopefully, repent of all our sins, beseech forgiveness from both God and man, and make a firm amendment to improve our relationship with God Almighty and His children. “We all” is not “you” personally, though. Did you do it? Did you pray? Did you ask for pardon and peace? Did you give any to those who asked it of you? To quote either Winston Churchill or Rahm Emanuel, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste!” Fr. Dorvil quipped recently, “If the people put the same preparation into their eternal life as they did into preparation for Irma, we would all be Saints!”
Sitting through the hurricane at Epiphany was different than what I have experienced in any other hurricane, in that this one came with a crowded rectory. We hosted more than a dozen people here. MacDill Air Force Base evacuated all of the Americans but forgot about the foreign soldiers stationed there. One of them, a French Colonel, regularly attends the TLM at Epiphany. He approached me with a humble request that his group be put up in the classrooms. Instead, I invited them into the rectory, which would be more comfortable and certainly safer than the classrooms with the large back windows. More than a dozen showed up, along with a French reporter who was on assignment to see how this was affecting the troops. None of them had experienced a hurricane before and all they knew was what the TV was telling them. “Danger! Death! Doom!” The reporter was quite scared and didn’t quite believe my words about not having anything to worry about because we had been praying for it to change course or dissipate. “Then why did it change course from hitting Miami to coming this way?” Because someone asked me to pray that her not-ready-spiritually-for-death son in Miami would be spared until he was ready for what we call a “happy death”, that is, one in the state of grace. “Would God really change a hurricane just for one person?” Yes. Plain and simple. Yes. I am not taking credit for the storm’s path or its relatively weak power, for I am just one priest who got one parish to pray, yet I am certain that our prayers were heard and answered. Do we get full credit? Half credit? 1/1000 of 1% credit? It doesn’t matter. Figuring such things out is beyond my ability. But the storm was averted, the son’s life was spared, and the power when it hit here was nothing like what it was supposed to be.
Fr. Peter had made an open invitation to any members of St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission who needed shelter to come to the parish center. Then, like a magician, he disappeared. A group of his parishioners took him up on his offer and brought their families to camp out in the hall. I went back and forth between the buildings checking up on them occasionally. They were as happy and calm as those in the rectory. The former pastor’s sister was going to sleep in the rectory, but after just a short time here decided that staying in the hall would be more fun, as she doesn’t speak either English or French. Another Vietnamese family showed up very late and didn’t bring sleeping bags, so two of the men came through the driving wind and rain to get some spare bedding from our closets. Share and share alike. There was plenty of food and drink and floor space in both places, plus good people to share it with.
Monday morning everyone was still sleeping so I didn’t celebrate the 6:30 Mass but about a dozen of our refugees were awake and ready for Mass at eight. There was no electricity, but with the help of candles and a “liturgical head lamp” a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated with much rejoicing. Adoration and confession followed as normal and then everyone cleaned up and left, going to either their home or the Base. All in all, it was not a bad way to spend the weekend! I continue to add the Prayers of Thanksgiving at the Masses and I ask that you do something similar, too. We should always thank God as much as we petition Him!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: No Joking About Aunt Irma This Week
This week as I write my column, Hurricane Irma is a powerful storm churning away in the Atlantic and bearing down on Florida. As is my usual response when a hurricane strike is predicted to be imminent, I turned to the back of the Missal to find the Mass to Avert Storms. This is the first time I have celebrated it in the Traditional Latin Mass form because, thanks be to God, it has been many years since we were in danger of a direct hit. (In case you didn’t realize it, I have only been celebrating the TLM almost exclusively for only two years now. Before this latest assignment to make Epiphany “Tampa’s Center for the Traditional Latin Mass” I only celebrated it as a very small part of parish life in my most recent previous two assignments.) All other times I have celebrated the Mass to Avert Storms, it has been in the Novus Ordo old translation form. In the old Sacramentary (what the Missal was called) there was only one prayer that was used for the Mass. In place of the Opening Prayer (called the Collect in the TLM) was this: “Father, all the elements of nature obey your command. Calm the storms that threaten us and turn our fear of your power into praise of your goodness. Grant this through our Lord...”
That’s a pretty simple prayer, asking God to ”calm” rather than “avert” storms, yet it worked. During the twenty-one years I have been a priest, I cannot tell you how many tropical storms or hurricanes were predicted to possibly hit the Diocese of St. Petersburg and, after the Mass to Avert Storms was celebrated, passed us by. Those that did come through were not too bad. (That statement could cause cringing for those who did experience serious damage or hurt, but overall they did relatively little damage.) Every time I prayed that Mass, though, I had parishioners who thought that if the prayers “worked” and the storm changed track, then I was (or God was) responsible for any death and destruction wherever it did hit. It is amazing how wimpy we have become! Just as few today want to pray for their sports team to win (for that means that they are praying for the other team to lose--yet isn’t that an authentic desire and, thus, an honest prayer request?) so also those same people fail to trust even the wisdom of the Mass prayers made available by Holy Mother Church.
Anyway, I am writing this with faith that, even though Irma is a powerful category 5 storm, it will not hit here. Where will it hit? Perhaps in a place where no priest offered the Mass to Avert Storm? Really, it all comes down to God telling us to have faith, to ask for the things we want and that are good for us (as far as we can tell), and to trust Him no matter how He answers. By the time this is printed and you read it, Irma will either have hit us hard, causing much sick, derisive laughter among those who have no faith in what I just wrote, or will have hit somewhere else for whatever reason God allowed, or will have completely and unexpectedly dissipated into thin air to the bewilderment of all the meteorologists. Any way it goes, I have faith that God heard our prayers here this week and is answering in whichever way is best for us. And no, that is not a cop out. I fully expect that we will not experience a direct hit nor have tremendous damage even if affected by its wind and/or rain.
In the TLM, the Mass to Avert Storms has three prayers which together make a humble yet quite bold plea of petition, thankfulness for His blessings, and filial trust in our Loving Father. The Collect is: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, that all wickedness being driven away from Thy house, the fury of the raging tempest may pass away. Through our Lord Jesus Christ...” The Secret is: “We offer Thee, O Lord, our praises and gifts, giving thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us and ever humbly praying that they may be continued towards us. Through our Lord...” And the Post Communion prayer is: “O almighty and everlasting God, who by chastening dost heal us and by forgiving dost preserve us, grant that we Thy suppliants may rejoice in the peace and consolation which we desire, and ever enjoy the gift of Thy mercy. Through our Lord...” Not too bad, huh?
We will also have prayed, after the daily Masses, prayers from the Traditional Rituale Romanum, “A Procession to Avert Storms”. Within these prayers, we explicitly admit that we don’t deserve to avoid the destruction wrought by storms, yet we beg for that gift anyway as we invoke the powerful intercessory prayers of the Saints in Heaven. It ends with the acknowledgment that, should He give us chastisements from the storm, it would bring us healing and salvation, yet our prayer is that we would profit even more by accepting His mercy! When we take these prayers to heart, we certainly come out of this as victors in Christ Jesus.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Buy a Priest a Beer Day
Can you believe that “Buy a Priest a Beer Day” is already here? It doesn’t seem like a full year has passed since we last celebrated this feast, yet there it is on the calendar, Saturday, September 9. Not too many people pay attention to this feast day anymore, though it can be found on the calendars of almost all priests, whether they are young or old, Traditional or Novus Oddo, orthodox or heretical, working or retired. I suppose more people would pay attention to it if they knew more about how it came to be an annual feast. So go pop yourself open a cold one and let me give some of the details of this ancient legend.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a large community of Tappist Monks. They were good, holy men who lived a life of prayer in the solitude of their monastery. They took their vows very seriously and, due to their well deserved reputation for solid Catholicism, they were bursting at the seams as more and more men asked to join the order. Even with a vow of poverty, though, they had to find a way to feed and clothe not only themselves but also those who passed by in need. They also needed funds to build beautiful chapels and hold beautiful liturgies for the glory of God. They needed, in short, to pay the bills. So they had to devise a plan to provide an income. Other religious communities had already discovered, patented, trademarked, and copy-rited their own means of supporting themselves.
The Holy Doublecross Fathers opened universities. They had a competition between the administrators and the professors as to who could bring in the most money. The administrators constantly sought to keep the tuition as high as possible to make it seem like they had a quality product yet low enough that they didn’t have refund too much in the form of scholarships when the token poor kids enrolled. The professors, on the other hand, simply required that their own exceedingly overpriced scrolls, and parchments (and, later, books) be purchased for their own class, and each semester they revised it and mandated that only the “new and improved” version be used. In recent days, football has emerged... no, I had best leave that for another time and, for now, stick to the ancient days.
The Tomdickandharrians simply boasted of their poverty. They put on ragged habits, got bad haircuts, and told everyone how they were simple men of the earth. They really didn’t do much of anything as far as anyone could tell, except boast of their humility and lack of money. But by proclaiming that they could not possibly, under any circumstances at all, with absolutely no exceptions, accept even a penny from anyone at any time, for any reason, amassed a fortune so large that even God could not count it.
The Jezabelwits took yet another approach. They opened retreat centers and preached missions to raise their needed funds. To gain some credibility in this arena, they first forced their men to spend a dozen or so years studying to the point of embracing every ancient heresy before being ordained priests. This had two specifically intended consequences. First, their priests got the reputation of being extremely well educated, since it took so long for them to graduate seminary. Second, and even more importantly, having a Heretical Masters Degree allowed them the opportunity to cater their monetary appeals to not only Catholics who were suckered in by the appearance of scholarship, but also to the Catholic-in-name-only (baptized pagans, as they have recently been labeled) persons who were more than happy to send a lot money to any priest giving them cover for denigrating Church teachings while retaining the promise of Heaven.
The Tappists had to come up with their own schtick. They decided to sell items which they could capture or make themselves. They began by selling furs (they had an “r” in their name at that time), but the terrorist group People Against Anything That Makes Human Life Better (which, in modern English, would translate into either the acronym PETA or USCCB had they not already been taken) raised a stink so they tried other products. Cheese made by Monks appeals to city dwellers, but country folks simply said, “Why buy the cheese when the cow is free?” Fudge appeals mostly to those looking for a good reason to cheat on their diet (“The priests blessed the calories out of it!” or “But it’s for a good cause!” work equally well), but early on hardly anyone was fat. They tried making really good scotch, whisky and wine, but only the aforementioned Religious could afford to buy it. They finally decided to focus on beer, an affordable and enjoyable beverage. “Buy a Priest a Beer Day” was their original marketing slogan so that all Catholics, regardless of which Order they were loyal to, would purchase their product. The Passionless Fathers wish they had thought of it first!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Destruction of Intelligence
Let me get this straight. Democrats (and socialists, communists and the rest of the “liberal left”) are starting to brazenly, yet illegally, destroy very valuable and sometimes beautiful pieces of public and private art, which depict historical Democrat persons (like General Robert E. Lee, who, like the majority of Confederates, was a Democrat and, after the war, was a major figure in striving to unite southerners and northerners), all because they now despise the stands which the Democrats took (the Democrats were the pro-slavery party), and then they have the gall to blame the past and current Republicans (Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was leading the Union side of the war) for their own (Democrat) historic crimes and sins? A sarcastic “thank you” goes out to the “unbiased” media, for not just failing to point out the stupidity of this, but for actually perpetuating the image that Republicans are at fault for Democrat doings. If these simple truths are mentioned in the mainstream media, it is always along with the spin that those Democrats were just “Southern Democrats” and, therefore not really Democrats, because, as everyone who is anyone knows, the Southerners are a bunch of inbred misfits too ignorant to know what a “real” Democrat is. They were all just Republicans in disguise. Well, not really in disguise, for that implies some knowledge of the two party system and “those” people were really too imbecilic to comprehend such things, so, rather, they were Republicans without knowing it. This is the same exact problem with the KKK, which, though you would never know it by media accounts, actually fought against the Republican Party. Too bad the talking heads on TV news cannot operate a computer and find something like this at the History Channel website: “Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for blacks.” This lack of historical reality has gone so far that one of the worst names which someone on the “left” can call someone on the “right” (along with “racist”, “bigot” and “homophobe”) is “Nazi”. Long gone is the desire to even look at facts. Nazis were the members of the National Socialist German Workers Party, often labeled as a “far right” group, yet socialists, can in reality only be considered “far right” if the left/right continuum is a circle instead of a straight line and they have gone so far right that they are now back to the left.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am completely (or almost so) disgusted with most of what the Republican Party does today. Not what they claim to stand for, by and large, but what they actually do, which is basically leftist but not quite so left as the so-called “centrist” leftists in office today. They mostly do nothing but blow steam out of their pie holes and occasionally talk about doing great things. But play fair. Blame the Republicans for Republican crapola and blame Democrats for Democrat evils. There is plenty of blame to go around and each should get the proper credit or blame that is due them.
Anyway, back to the title of this article, the Destruction of Intelligence. A classic view of intelligence having been destroyed en masse was on display as not only did the lefties illegally (note that I am writing specifically about the illegal damaging, not the legal removal of monuments) destroy, or try to destroy, or deface, or demolish Confederate monuments and statues around the country (while vilifying anyone on the right, specifically President Trump on the national level and all Republicans, office holders and ordinary people, on the local level) as bigoted slave masters, Nazis, etc. but they didn’t know which statues and monuments were on the “to be destroyed” list. In Georgia, a monument of an angel holding an olive branch over a Confederate soldier, erected to support the post-war efforts to bring the North and South together in unity was defaced. Are leftists too stupid to desire unity? A bust of Abraham Lincoln was damaged in Illinois. Were the vandals too dense to know that he is supposed to get credit for freeing the slaves? In both Maryland and Texas, statues of Christopher Columbus were attacked. Do the hoodlums responsible lack the knowledge that he is credited with founding America? Or do they, like their puppet masters in power just really hate the United States? A statue of St. Joan of Arc was defaced in New Orleans. Were the vandals too obtuse to know that she was a Catholic hero in France, and wasn’t part of the Confederacy? Or do they simply hate Catholics, who did so much to free the slaves, too? The “asinine destruction” list could go on and on for the intelligence of the mobs has been destroyed.
It is really too bad that the majority of Confederate monuments were put up years ago when art was recognizable for what it was supposed to represent. If only the monuments were crafted by today’s contemporary “artists”, nobody would have a clue why they were erected or whom they commemorated. Talk about the destruction of intelligence...
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Men’s Holy League After One Year
One year ago, on the fourth Thursday of August, 2016, a wild idea was brought to fruition. A Catholic men’s group was formed, with twice monthly meetings broken into three parts: prayer, learning more about the Catholic Faith, and social time. It was a “wild” idea for several reasons. First, our parish, which was dedicated to the celebration of Traditional Latin Mass only one year before, strangely does not have many active parishioners living within its boundaries. Most people have to drive 45 minutes or more (one way) to attend. Getting the men to attend at 6:00 pm on a weekday was an attempt to allow them to get off work and stop by on their way home, perhaps making the distance not so much of a problem. Second, I could see no practical way of feeding them when they arrived, so the main draw for most non-liturgical functions at every church in the world was taken off the table (pun intended). They would each have to make a quick stop at a drive through before coming, which is not a very appealing thought to most adults. Third, this is a truly Catholic group of men, so large families are the norm and two nights a month, while seeming fairly inconsequential to some, would be a major commitment to most. Plus, the wives would also have to sign off on it! Fourth, an hour of prayer can be daunting, and an hour of prayers in Latin, moreso. Fifth, since everyone whom I expected to be interested would most likely be a “solid” Catholic already, I didn’t know if they would see a “Catholic class” as something necessary or of interest. Last of all the many things I could continue to list, is the social time. “Scotch and Cigars and Manly Camaraderie” was a good way of getting everyone’s attention, but would it be an effective advertising gimmick? Most guys, believe it or not, do not smoke cigars. With long drives home, the scotch would, of necessity, be very limited in quantity. And what in the world would guys talk about? All these potential drawbacks made this a very wild idea.
Yet we did it anyway. Why? Basically, because one man came to me with the idea and with the statement, “If you will teach, I will take charge of gathering emails and sending out notices.” That’s what I like to hear. Not, “Father, this is what the parish needs and you or someone else needs to do it” but rather, “Here is something I think we need to do and I am willing to do the work. If you do the priestly things, I will do the laity things.” I am terrible at organizing things. I can lead prayers, though, and I can teach the Faith. And so we gave it a shot.
The men gathered in the church to listen to the chanting of Latin Vespers. Now, I am betting that not more than two (I am being generous here) men understood the Latin chant. A few of the men might pray Vespers themselves at least fairly regularly, but the vast majority had no idea what Vespers even was. Vespers was followed by the Holy Rosary prayed in a combination of Latin and English. While I assume that every man there was familiar with the Rosary and some good portion of them probably prayed it daily, the Latin prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be) were unknown. (They are pretty good at it now, though!) The book I wanted to use was temporarily out of stock, so I switched to the universal Catechism of St. Pope Pius X. What a fortuitous happenstance! This Catechism, which, though not widely known--let alone read and believed--nowadays, makes bold declarations about what the Catholic Church truly teaches and leaves no doubt as to what is expected of the Faithful. In fact, it even outrightly states just who is and who isn’t considered “the Faithful”, something the newer Catechism dances around. (A recent example: Just who belongs to the Communion of Saints and who is excluded from that group? The new Catechism never explicitly says, leaving everyone guessing or making assumptions, many of which, though sounding “nice” and “merciful” and even “ecumenical” are downright wrong. The old Catechism declares the answer with no holds barred. And the men were shocked, for nobody has ever come right out and told them the truth this bluntly before!) To top the night off, out came the drinks and smokes. At least half the men were sure I was pulling their leg and couldn’t believe that I really had Ave Maria cigars and Glenlivet scotch waiting for them.
The “wild” idea caught on. Some men come to every meeting. Some can only make it sporadically. Some never returned. Those who come might each have their own favorite part of the night and a variety of reasons why they attend. But no matter what, they each are growing in the Faith, and the world can use some more good, holy, Catholic men right now. This Thursday is the fourth Thursday of the month. It is the one year anniversary of the men’s club. Whodathunkit? (Anyone want to try translating that Latin word?)
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Good News for Fr. Emmanuel
This week there is some good news regarding Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro. As you know, he came from Tanzania, Africa, four years ago to study Mathematics at St. Leo University and I was blessed to have him stay at the rectory of St. Anthony, where I was then the pastor. After he graduated with honors, I offered to have him here at Epiphany for the summer, to spend a little time before he went to Pensacola, where he will study for a Masters in Mathematics. During the time he has been here, he has been celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass (something he had practiced when we were together in San Antonio but which he never publicly celebrated before I was transferred) and, occasionally, the English Novus Ordo Mass. In many ways, it has been a blessing to have a good friend back with me, not least of which is the week’s vacation I was able to take with him being able to take the reigns for a while. During his time here we have been trying to secure housing in a Catholic rectory for him in Pensacola, a task which was made more difficult due to our St. Petersburg diocese recently “stealing” the bishop from Pensacola, leaving an administration gap of authority up there to take care of oddball things like this.
Many of you have been praying hard for an open bed to be offered (thank you!) and now we finally have a positive response. He will be staying at Nativity parish, which is very close to the University of West Florida campus. The pastor there, Fr. Patrick Foley, has been extremely welcoming and has gone out of his way to make his rectory available. It may be only temporary, as the diocese may ask Father to move to another location later in the school year, but at least everybody is working to make sure he has housing at a parish! There were only two things required of Fr. Emmanuel, things which might seem pretty insignificant to everybody reading this but which are impossible for him to obtain without your assistance:
1. He must have his own transportation. This was not a problem at St. Anthony, as we had two “parish” vehicles which he could use as needed. Nativity doesn’t have one. So he needs a car and the insurance needed to drive it. (Any insurance agents out there?)
2. He must supply his own meals. Does he have a kitchen available? Does he need to eat out every meal? Will the parishioners up there be encouraged to bring him meals? Right now we don’t have an answer to these questions. Perhaps we will by the time this bulletin gets into your hands but most likely he won’t know until he gets there. He is going to see if a meal plan is available on campus for commuter students.
Many of you have expressed interest in helping him in any way necessary. These are the things he needs. How to best assist? With your prayers, money, knowledge, and contacts. If somebody has a vehicle just sitting around because you didn’t know what to do with your aunt Irma’s car when she passed away last month, that would solve part of the first problem. Then donations would be accepted to pay for insurance, maintenance, and gas. (I have been told that donations like this would not be tax deductible.) Otherwise, knowledge of where to find a good, cheap, reliable used car would be helpful. Of course, a donation of a good, expensive, reliable new car would never be turned down, but Fr. Emmanuel would then probably be too nervous to drive it anywhere. As for the food, we are a bit too far away to set up a food chain for him. I think it took him 7 hours to get there last week when a parishioner drove him to meet with the diocesan administrator. So, once again, simple donations toward groceries or a meal plan might be the best option.
One thing that I need to make absolutely clear about all of this: Father Emmanuel is not the one asking for any assistance. He did not come here looking for handouts. He is not begging for--or expecting--donations. He is far too humble and unassuming and in no way would he want to be seen as one of those people who came to these United States or this parish or this diocese just for the personal financial “benefits”. No, this request for assistance is coming from me in response to those of you who, of your own free will, asked how to help him out. On his own, he would have found a way to survive living under a bridge, washing up in the university’s gym locker room, and fasting for forty days and forty nights (or for two school years).
Here you have the latest information. What you do with it is up to you. Please say a few prayers of thanks for Fr. Foley and the good people of Nativity!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Can’t Understand Latin? Hah!
The next time someone tells you that they won’t come to Epiphany because they cannot understand Latin, hand them the following as food for thought. At least with Latin, what you see is what you say! Homographs would seem to be just the thing to make anyone say, with good reason, “I will never attend an English Mass. I just cannot understand it!” I am not the author of the text below. It is just one of many similar anonymous writings I have seen over the years. But I enjoyed it anyway and I hope you will, too.
You think English is easy?
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture..
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
With prayers for your holiness and humor,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: The Founder of the Jesuits
This week (Monday, July 31) we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Although he is a great Saint, usually his feast day passes by this parish without a mention, outside of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that is. He is the founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly called the Jesuits, and, as far as I can tell, there has been no direct Jesuit influence on Epiphany since its founding. The Redemptorists (the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer) Fathers founded the parish in 1961 and diocesan priests have been here since 1988. Bernardine Franciscan Sisters staffed the school. No Jesuits. Yet. The last two weekends we were blessed to have a Jesuit-in-training back with us, Ryan Caesar. Ryan, as you are aware, was a parishioner of ours before entering the seminary last year. The way the Jesuits do things, I think he may be ordained a priest in another dozen or so years. He will not be the parish’s first vocation though. That honor belongs to Father Donald Roth, CssR, who was ordained a Redemptorist priest in 1975!
This makes me wonder just how many other vocations have come from Epiphany. You know that there are several young men and women, boys and girls, who are considering their vocational call right now. You have assisted a couple of them as they went on “Come and See”-type trips and missions. You have prayed for them and for the order or community or diocese in which they will eventually find themselves (or for their future spouse, if that is where their discernment leads them). But I would really like to get a list together of those from Epiphany (and from current Epiphany families) who have either already entered the seminary or religious life formation process (like Ryan [Jesuit] and, next month, Esteban Merkt [Diocese of St. Augustine]) or have been ordained (like Fr. Donald Roth[Redemptorist]) or made a religious profession (Sister Rachel Hernandez [Home of the Mother]).
We have a Vocation poster hanging in our social hall. Just a few weeks ago some visitors were here who pointed to the photo of one young man on the poster and proudly proclaimed, “That’s our son!” What a blessing it was for them to know that you all see his photo on a regular basis and remember (I hope!) to pray for him along with the rest of the diocesan seminarians. But we don’t have a poster like that for those from our parish in Religious vocation formation. We also don’t have a poster like that of those from the parish who are already in Holy Orders or in Community life. I would like to put together something like that. Not only do they all need our prayers but it also is a reminder to others who are trying to figure out what God has in store for them that vocations come from “our” parish and “our” families! I need your assistance in this. If you know of anyone from years past who now has a “Church vocation” please write down whatever information you remember. Name, parents, year of ordination or profession (or even just an approximation), religious order, and anything else that might help out. Scour your old photos, holy cards, mementos and whatever else might have a mention of them, and let me know. I will try to track them down and see where they are today. Perhaps we can get photos of them. Perhaps we will need to celebrate a Mass for them if they are already deceased. Maybe... well, the possibilities are endless, and I am sure some of you are quite imaginative and can think of how we can honor them. So please think hard, call up old friends, check with those who have long since moved away, and see if we can get a list together. If we have a bunch (or is it herd, gaggle, school or flock?) of vocations which have come from this parish and our families, it will be good for everybody to know about it. If Fr. Roth is the only one, it will be good to know that he set the example and that many, many more will be following him soon. I have no doubt that vocations will be coming, and that they will come even from those whom you least expect it.
Now, going back to St. Ignatius of Loyola when he founded his Society. His new Jesuit “Rule” included several unusual mandates which are listed in the online Catholic Encyclopedia. The very first one they list, one which might make you scratch your head and wonder just how that works when you realize who is the most well-recognized Jesuit in the world today: the vow not to accept ecclesiastical dignities! While I have no idea how a Jesuit can break that vow and become anything other than a simple priest, perhaps that explains why, if you will allow me to be a little cheeky, so many Jesuits (and one in particular) seem to make every effort to not bring dignity to their ecclesiastical office!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka