He only shuts up when he is writing!
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