Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Losing a Friend

Fr. Lange at his priesthood ordination (1986)


Dear Parishioners,

I received some bad news yesterday (5/4/15).  One of my close priest-friends from my seminary days died.  Fr. Robert Lange, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, had been suffering with cancer for some time now.  His bladder was removed last year.  The cancer continued to spread and his chemotherapy was eventually discontinued.  Fortunately, I was able to spend some time with him on a few occasions prior to his death.  May he rest in peace.

I met Fr. Lange at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  We were different in so many ways.  He was from Richmond, Virginia with a bit of a southern drawl (“sho nuff, y’all”).  He reminded me on various occasions that the Civil War was more correctly referred to as the war of northern aggression down South.  He entered the seminary later in life, after he left a real estate job.  He admittedly led a wild life in his younger days as explained in a book that he wrote in 2013, Windows into the Life of a Priest (available from Loreto Publications).

There are a few events from my travels with Fr. Lange that will be forever etched in my mind.  The most notable was a time when we both almost drown in the Atlantic Ocean off Sandbridge Beach, Virginia.  I have written and spoken of this experience on numerous occasions.  I really thought that I was going to die.  I probably would have if it were not for some miraculous intervention by what might have truly been my guardian angel. You can find this story on my blog:  www.fr-ed-namiotka.com/2011/04/facing-death.html.

Fr. Lange convinced me to join him on a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) back in the 1980’s.  We met and talked to all the visionaries.  While I respectfully yield to any official decision made by the Catholic Church on the authenticity of the alleged apparitions occurring there, I did witness some great acts of faith, some strange phenomena and numerous powerful conversions in the confessional during my time there.  Fr. Lange was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While we did not visit frequently because of the distance between us, whenever we got together it was like we never missed a beat.  We picked up wherever we left off.  Priests—especially those who were in the seminary together—share a special bond that no one else can quite understand.  We heard this mysterious call from God, answered it, and once ordained, are privileged to minister to God’s people in persona Christi.

I visited Fr. Lange prior to Easter.   I suspected that it may be the last time that I would talk to him or see him alive on this earth.  So did he.  His words to me before I left were simple.  He assured me that he will be there to greet me on the day I die. 

I’m sure he will be.  I look forward to that day. 

Just not right away.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Fr. Lange in Medjugorje

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weekend (Parish) Update



Dear Parishioners,

I write this week to update you on some of the current happenings at St. Joseph Church.

First, during his visit here on Holy Thursday, Bishop Dennis Sullivan officially re-accepted Mr. Anthony Infanti as a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Camden.  Anthony will continue his seminary training at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.  Anthony will remain at our parish until later this summer when he will begin his theology classes.  In the meantime, Anthony has been given permission to give some reflections during daily Mass.  While this is not officially a homily as a priest or deacon gives, these reflections will be part of Anthony’s preparation for the very important task of preaching in the future.  Anthony also represented our parish as he ran in the iRace for Vocations 5K last Sunday in Sewell, NJ.

Next, we are in the midst of some very important sacraments for our young people.  Confirmation of our youth (and one adult) was conferred by Bishop Sullivan on April 18th.  We congratulate our students on completing their sacraments of initiation.  This weekend, as well as last, we are privileged to see our children receive their First Holy Communion (during the 5:30 pm Saturday and 10 & 11:45 am Masses on Sunday).  The large number of children is a very positive sign for the future.  I take this opportunity to remind parents that they are the first and (hopefully) the best teachers of their children in the matters of our Catholic faith.  It is the parents’ responsibility to be sure that their children attend Mass weekly, go to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) on a regular basis, pray in the home, be taught to love God and our neighbor, etc.  There is nothing more important than the imparting of our faith in Jesus Christ to our children.

Our parish business manager, Ellen Hyatt, has decided to lessen her workload and retire from the parish portion of her job.  She will continue to work for the elementary school, as needed.  We are currently accepting applications to fill this part-time position.  Applications can be sent to me via the parish office.  We thank Ellen for her hard work and dedication to our parish over the years.

Fr. Alfred Onyutha, who was assigned to St. Joseph Parish a few years ago, is celebrating his 25th anniversary as a priest this year.  Coming from Uganda, Africa (Catholic Diocese of Nebbi) he has only minimal friends and family here from his home country to help him commemorate this milestone.  Fr. Al will be the main celebrant at the 11:45 am Mass on Sunday, May 24, followed by some light refreshments (courtesy of our Knights of Columbus).  Please come to be a part of Fr. Al’s family away from home as we pray and celebrate with him.

Finally, in case you are wondering about the status of our parish pastoral council, it was unfortunately put on a back burner temporarily.  My hope is that it will be functioning soon.  I will keep the parish informed of any progress.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I continue to seek the Lord’s strength and guidance as your pastor.  In my weakness, sinfulness and sometimes disorganization, God somehow mysteriously uses me and works through me.  Miracles never cease.  I am living proof.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor
Fr. Alfred Onyutha and me


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

“Who Do People Say that I Am?”


Dear Parishioners,

Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mk. 8:27)

At a certain point during his ministry Jesus asked His disciples what people thought about Him.  I’m pretty sure He was not concerned about public opinion in a manner that a politician might question his or her current approval rating.  He, more than likely, wanted to know if people (including his disciples) understood that He was the Christ—the long awaited messiah.  Peter seemed to get it right—“You are the Messiah.” (Mk. 8:29)—but unfortunately was not able to keep to this conviction when the pressure of persecution surrounded him.  Others who may have perceived Jesus as messiah might have had a distorted concept of what the messiah was actually supposed to be.  Certainly, he was not to be a suffering messiah.
 
I am pretty sure Jesus knew who He was and understood His purpose in this life.
 
Unfortunately, people still question, comment on and speculate about Jesus’ identity.  Some see him as a prophet, a wise teacher, a holy man or a philosopher.  Others will proclaim His true divinity like the centurion at the foot of the cross, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:30) or the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28).

We all must question who Jesus is at some point or another.  Christians believe that He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Therefore, what He has to say matters more than any mere philosopher, teacher, or holy person.   Bold statements in Scripture affirm Jesus divine authority:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6) 

“Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”  Then Jesus answered, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (Mk. 14: 61-62)

"They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.  After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?”   Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?   But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”  He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.  They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mk. 2: 3-12)

Bluntly stated, we cannot remain simply indifferent about Jesus and His teaching.  Even worse, we are making serious, potentially deadly mistakes (grave sin) when we knowingly defy His ultimate authority and teaching as the Son of God.  

Jesus’ words and teaching are life-giving.  He came to save us from eternal death.  He died for our sins and our salvation.
  
Jesus is Lord, God and Savior.  

Other lesser designations or descriptions are woefully deficient.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Mercy of God



Dear Parishioners,

Have you ever taken the time to think about the many times we ask for or refer to the mercy of God in our liturgy?
  • May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to eternal life. (Penitential Rite)
  • Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  (Kyrie)
  •  Lord Jesus Christ . . . you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; . . . you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.  (Gloria)
  • To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer I)
  • Remember . . . all who have died in your mercy . . .   Have mercy on us all, we pray . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer II)
  • For you came in mercy to the aid of all . . . Grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance . . .  (Eucharistic Prayer IV)
  • Deliver us, Lord, we pray . . . that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin . . .  (Prayer following the Our Father)
  • Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.  (Agnus Dei)
  •  May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy. (Priest’s Prayer in Preparation for Receiving for Holy Communion)
While mercy in our contemporary thinking may be associated with an act of pardon from punishment, in Catholic theology there is much more to it.
 
“Divine Mercy is God’s Love reaching down to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of His creatures.  . . . Divine Mercy, therefore, is the form that God's eternal love takes when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness.  Whatever the nature of our need or our misery might be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — He is always ready to pour out His merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need. . . . (Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD)

The Sunday in the Octave of Easter is now called Divine Mercy Sunday.  On April 30, 2000 (Divine Mercy Sunday of that year), Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  According to the notebooks of Saint Faustina, Jesus made the following statements about this day:

"On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened.  Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.  My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity." (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)

Devotion to Divine Mercy is also associated with an image painted as Jesus wished, based on descriptions by Saint Faustina.  The words that accompany the image are "Jesus, I trust in Thee" ("Jezu, Ufam Tobie" in the Polish).  The rays coming from Jesus' body represent the Blood and water that poured forth from the wound He suffered when pierced by the lance.  The devotion is practiced by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novenas to the Divine Mercy -- both of which may be prayed at any time, but especially at "The Hour of Great Mercy" -- 3:00 PM, the hour our Lord died, and in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday.  

May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us all.


Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Joy



Dear Parishioners,

As I get older, I increasingly realize a certain void left in my life as a result of the death of relatives and friends.  I am no longer able to pick up the phone to say “hello” or to stop over to visit with them.  I tell myself that someday I hope to see them again, but I don’t have ultimate control over when, where, how—or if.  I have to wait, hope and trust.

Can you imagine what the apostles went through at the death of Jesus?  Did all of their hopes and expectations die with Him on the cross?  They saw their leader, their teacher, their rabbi, mocked cruelly, beaten mercilessly and then put to death.  I suspect they feared for their very lives.  Perhaps they recalled some of the things that he had told them to keep His memory alive.  The events of Good Friday did not present any apparent hope or future possibilities.  Death seemed so callous, cruel and final.  Death seemed triumphant.

Then came Easter.  Everything changed.  He is risen!  Somehow, despite the horrible things that were done to Him, He is still alive—miraculously!

For us as Christians nothing is really as important as Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead.  Easter is about Resurrection.  It is about eternal life.  It is about hope and joy.

Unfortunately, we all will face the Good Fridays of our lives.  Death will come to each of us and to the ones that we love.  It may seem cruel, unfair, and so permanent.  We may not know what we are going to do or where we should turn.  We may even be on the brink of despair.  However, in these darkest of hours, turn to Jesus.  Trust Jesus.

I can only imagine the inexplicable joy that the apostles had when they saw Jesus alive again.  I am sure that it surpassed their greatest expectations and gave them a faith in Christ that they would subsequently take to the ends of the earth.  They would live and die for Christ, trying to spread His message of Good News—the Gospel.  They would speak about resurrection and eternal life.  They had their hope restored and they attempted to give others this hope in Jesus.

This Easter I pray that you experience the joy of the Risen Christ.  May your faith in Him and love for Him increase and radiate from your entire being.
 
He is not dead but very much alive!

I thank all who work so hard and who are so generous in helping to strengthen our Christian faith community here at St. Joseph’s.  Be assured of my daily prayers and Masses for all of you.

May I ask a continued remembrance in your prayers and Masses as well? 

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor