Monday, December 5, 2022

"I am the Immaculate Conception"


Dear Parishioners,

Among some Catholics, there is still a misunderstanding regarding what is meant by the term (or title) Immaculate Conception.  Some people mistakenly think that this title refers to Jesus and His being conceived miraculously in the womb of His Mother Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the following in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
This proclamation was one of two notable times in the history of the Catholic Church when a pope declared an infallible dogma ex cathedra (that is, from the chair of St. Peter’s teaching authority).  The other occasion was the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Our catechism instructs us:  “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses . . . .”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491.  Mary was redeemed by Christ as all humanity is, but her redemption began at her very conception in the womb of her mother by a singular gracehence, the term Immaculate Conception.

Around the same time as the pope, bishops and theologians were wrestling with this theological matter, Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France in 1844.  Saint Bernadette, as she is now known, is remembered for having received eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between February 11 and July 16, 1858.  Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built at a grotto in Massabielle where the apparitions occurred and a miraculous spring of water now flows.  During these apparitions, Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette with the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  St. Bernadette, an illiterate peasant girl with no formal training in theology, had no idea what the phrase Immaculate Conception meant.  She was only fourteen at the time of the visions.  It seems that in these apparitions Our Lady herself confirmed what the Church had formally declared just four years earlier.  The church holds these apparitions as worthy of belief. 

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated annually on December 8th and it is a Holy Day of Obligation. Too often various Holy Days are not observed by Catholics at all, regardless of whether there is an obligation to attend Mass. I must emphasize that just because we may or may not be obliged to attend a particular Holy Day Mass on various years, it doesn’t mean the importance and significance of the occasion should be diminished nor should we get into the habit of doing only the least possible for God (minimum requirement) when it comes to our faith.

Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our country and our diocese.  She should certainly have a special place in our hearts.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

St. Bernadette Soubirous
    

Monday, November 28, 2022

An Advent Weekend with Marriage Encounter

 


Dear Parishioners,

Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas. This weekend, for the Second Sunday of Advent, I am presenting a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend in Ocean City, NJ.  Please pray for its success.  

When I was a newly ordained priest, a couple from my parish asked me to make a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  As you might expect, my reaction was somewhat puzzled. I am obviously not married. What would be the benefit of me attending such a weekend? 

Almost 35 years later, I can honestly say that this experience (and its aftermath) had one of the most profound and lasting effects on me as a person and on my priestly ministry.

This is probably not something that I would have chosen to do on my own.  It would certainly not have been on my bucket list. Yet, what happened as a result can only be described as truly life-changing.  And it was thanks to a couple who simply invited me to try such an experience.

I have been presenting the Marriage Encounter Weekend, usually once or twice a year, for nearly 35 years now.  Together with a team of three couples, we share a series of talks to couples (and sometimes to priests and religious) with the goal of making good marriages better. The Marriage Encounter Weekend is not primarily designed for troubled marriages. (There are experiences such as Retrouvaille for this purpose.) The Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend is meant to open up the lines of communication between husband and wife in what is essentially a private experience between the two.

What it did for me personally was help me to understand married couples (and their families) better, to open up lines of communication, to understand my relationship to the Church—the Body of Christ—and also to identify and communicate my feelings. Feelings, in particular, are not something most men know how to deal with or might not realize the importance of in the first place.

Ladies, have you ever felt that your husband sometimes doesn’t seem to understand you?  Guys, are your wives sometimes still a mystery to you in many ways?  Do you both ever wonder if there is more to marriage and to life than what you are currently experiencing?  Then maybe it’s time to try a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  You can be newly-married or married for fifty years or more.  It does not matter.  The weekend can help to make any marriage better.

If you are married and desire more for your marriage, I invite you to consider attending such a weekend.  For further information, you can check out the South Jersey Worldwide Marriage Encounter website or call the information line at 609-741-8012. 

Many people are afraid of the unknown, afraid of change or may not want to “rock the boat.”  I invite you and ask you to suggest to your spouse the possibility of attending an upcoming Marriage Encounter Weekend.  

I can only tell you from personal experience that it indeed has life-changing possibilities! 

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor






Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent "A" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Thanksgiving and Advent

 


Dear Parishioners,

As I write this bulletin column, I anticipate enjoying the annual Thanksgiving holiday dinner with various family members at my rectory.  I realize, once again, how truly blessed I am.  I have three brothers and a sister, their families and my mother, who mostly live in close proximity.  I am so fortunate to have a considerable number of people gathered together to share this family day and traditional meal.  My mother will also celebrate her 89th birthday at this time with us!  I cook the turkey and a few of the side dishes while the rest of the family bring some particular specialties from their own homes to the table.

Last year we had some unexpected excitement as my youngest brother suffered a kidney stone attack and spent several days in the hospital.  Let's hope this year has much less drama.

As I reflect, I pity those people who used to forgo time spent with family and friends to begin to camp out or stand in line on Black Friday in order to be early enough to get some advertised bargain at the retail stores.  Maybe online sales have somewhat curtailed this practice?  Nevertheless, I worry whenever we start to put material things ahead of familyfriendships and relationshipsPeople should certainly be more important than things, as far as I am concerned.

Advent also begins this weekend.  I ponder once again whether or not this season of preparation for the Birth of Christ will make a difference to most people. Many people skip the intended Advent preparation and begin celebrating Christmas.  Then when Christmas finally arrives, people are ready to move on to something else. 

I wonder why we have to come up with slogans like Keep Christ in Christmas in order to remind us of something that should be so obvious. I advise that we don’t waste precious time by getting caught up in all of the materialism that the world is concerned about and continually sells us. Rather, we should take time for the spiritual life.  After all, we as humans are comprised of body and soul.  We should make the time for Jesus Christ and prepare for Him. Personally, I find that when my spiritual priorities are in order and Christ is forefront in my life, everything else mysteriously seems to fall into place.  I may have to learn this lesson over and over again, but someday I may finally get it right.

I attempt to do my part by keeping any Christmas preparation in proper perspective. My annual Christmas shopping remains almost non-existent.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the economy will be helped by my miniscule number of purchases.  Perhaps, my spiritual life might be deepened instead.

I know that the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child still brings hope to many lives.  For those who truly try to pray, to spiritually prepare (especially with a sacramental confession), and even to fast, the joy that comes from readying our hearts for the coming of Jesus surpasses any temporary, illusory pleasures that the many TV commercials may promise.

Please do your part to ready for Christ's coming during these four weeks of Advent and attempt to forgo turning this preparatory season into a premature Christmas celebration.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor




 

Christ the King




Dear Parishioners,

Here in the United States we are not used to having royalty as part of our system of governance, as are the United Kingdom and various European nations.  We, as Americans, declared our independence from a nation ruled by a king.

In addition, we as an American people go through a seemingly endless and (sometimes brutal) democratic election process in which we "elect" our president and other civic officials.  Democracy appears to be part of the fabric of our nation.

So how do we in our society understand and react to this concept of Christ the King?

First of all, I have continually reminded people that truth is not subject to a democratic vote or to a popularity poll.  For example, if we were to take a vote and popular opinion decided there are now four persons in God and God is not a Trinity, would it make it so?  Absolutely not.  Our opinion of this matter is really insignificant because it can never supplant Divine Revelation.  This is also true with morality and the law. Just because various laws are enacted by our government, it does not mean that these laws are necessarily morally correct or in conformity with God's will.  Laws permitting the unjust taking of innocent human life illustrate this fact clearly.

When we call Christ our King, we acknowledge that He has absolute sovereignty over us as His people and we are subject to what He commands of us.  While we always retain our free-will and can choose to be obedient or not, God is still ultimately in charge.  Jesus the Christ announced to us that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk. 1:15)

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The kingdom of Christ (is) already present in mystery", "on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom."(#669) The Catechism continues:  Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. (#671)

Humanity, as the most integral part of all God's creation, must ultimately conform to the will of God and acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, from the very beginning, we as creatures seemed to think that we knew better and can do better than God, the Creator.  This is the essence of the original sin.  Various ongoing effects of this sin continue to manifest itself over and over again throughout history, right up to this very time:  “Nobody is going to tell me what to do!”—for some, not even God Himself!

Moreover, when various Church leaders today advise that we need to listen to and dialogue with the various peoples of the "world," there must also be an ultimate realization that in the end the entire "world" needs to conform to the sovereignty of Christ the King.  Christ is the standard of all truth.  He is the Son of GodListening to and dialogue with others can never be seen as caving into various worldly demands and succumbing to anything that would be contrary to Divine or natural law.  It is the world that needs conversion to Christ and His teaching.

May this Solemnity of the Church—Christ the King—remind us of the need to be humble, respectful and obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the King.  

It is utter foolishness to do otherwise.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor



Monday, November 7, 2022

Back to the "Spiritual" Desert



Dear Parishioners,

As you read this, I am preparing to leave for a Trappist monastery—the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY—making my annual retreat.  Please be kind to Fr. Norris and Fr. Perreault (my bullpen) while I am away.

The retreat I choose to be on is silent.  I speak with others briefly when necessary.  The first prayers of the day (Vigils) currently begin at 3:30 AM.  The monks chant the psalms each day and rise early to keep watch for the Lord’s return.  The first prayers of the day end with:  Come, Lord Jesus.  The monks work and pray (Ora et Labora) all day long.  The schedule is relatively the same every time I am here.

 While I miss the daily routine and people of the parish, I realize the importance of making a good retreat.  Priests need to be men of prayer and to follow the example of Jesus who frequently distanced himself from the crowds to find time for intimate communication with His Father in prayer.  Jesus went into the desert, up the mountain and to the seashore to pray frequently.  He would spend entire nights in prayer.

What exactly will happen to me during this week?  I am never really sure.  I am simply called to listen for the Lord as He speaks, when he speaks.  It is ironic that the quieter the atmosphere, the louder the Lord seems to speak to the heart.  There is definitely time to read, to pray, to think, to meditate, to rest and to listen.  Sometimes I am inspired to write or compose.

From a worldly perspective, people may not see value in what I am doing.  However, those who experience the touch of the Lord in their lives usually hunger for more . . . and more . . . and more.  At least I do.  Being busy all of the time may seem productive, but life without prayer and intimacy with God frequently becomes shallow or even empty in so many ways.  Prayer puts things in perspective and refreshes, often inspiring and motivating a person to cooperate more fully with God’s will. 

You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses during the week.  As you come to mind each day, I will ask the Lord to be gracious to you and to bless you.  He certainly knows best what each of us needs the most in our lives.

Please pray for me as I journey into the desert.  That is how a monastic retreat is often described—like going into the desert.  However, don’t forget that when Christ went out into the desert, He encountered various temptations from Satan.  Spiritual warfare continues. Your prayers are much needed and certainly appreciated during this time.

When I return back to the parish, I hope to be able to share with you some insights, thoughts and experiences that were the fruit of this monastic endeavor.  I never quite know the outcome.  All I can do is watch and wait like the monks, seeking Jesus with my whole heart. 

 Here we go again!

 Fr. Ed Namiotka

 Pastor



   Main Church at the Abbey of the Genesee

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A Tale of Two Churches

 


Dear Parishioners,

It has become more and more apparent to me that the Catholic Church is at a very serious crossroads.  I have witnessed changes in the Church taking place for years now—almost my entire lifetime. However, some of the things I am currently witnessing are absolutely unprecedented.

Let me begin with something as simple as orientation of the priest at Mass.  For centuries, the position of the priest was ad orientem (towards “liturgical” East).  The priest faced the direction of the rising sun to lead prayer and remind us all of the rising of the Son of God.  While some claimed that he had his back to the people, rather, it was the intention of this position in the Mass to face God.  After all, we are worshipping Him, not the people. The focus, slowly and subtly, became more oriented to the community rather than to God. While people became accustomed to this new liturgical position with time, simultaneously the emphasis at Mass tended more toward meal rather than sacrifice.  The community meal seemed to take precedent over the eternal sacrifice of Jesus to His Father.  Then Holy Communion went from reception on the tongue while kneeling to reception in the hand while standing.  Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are now regularly scheduled (not so extraordinary, if you ask me) and are commonly referred to as Eucharistic “Ministers.”  I could go on and on.  These were just some of the many, many liturgical changes that occurred over time.

What the situation in the Church has now morphed into is an attempt to change Church teaching and the very Church itself.  The blessing of gay unions, “sinless” homosexual acts, reception of Holy Communion by divorced-remarried, women priests, a plurality of acceptable, salvific religions and many other questionable/heretical ideas are seemingly on the table.  Popes in the past have warned against the heresy of modernism where truth becomes fluid and relativistic.  Now it appears that modernism is rearing its ugly head right out in the open with seeming consent by various members of the Church hierarchy.

We see various high-ranking Vatican officials and Church leaders (cardinals, archbishops, bishops, a former papal nuncio, a former prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, etc.) openly criticizing what is now happening within the Catholic Church. Wow!

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen warned of an upcoming, counterfeit Church—an ape of the Church.  Sr. Lucia, one of the three Fatima seers, spoke of a “diabolic disorientation” within the Church and that the final battle between God and Satan would be over marriage and the family.  Pope St. Paul VI spoke of the “smoke of Satan” within the Church.  Our Lady of Good Success, a lesser-known but still approved Marian apparition from Quito, Ecuador, predicted and warned humanity about the sins of modern society and a future struggle within the Church itself.  Pope St. John Paul II admonished us concerning the “culture of death” permeating our society.  There are many others who have given us vital warnings for our time.

I trust God will act in some way to protect the Holy Catholic Church.  I also know that our Blessed Mother will have some vital role in this process as she made it known at Fatima that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The exact details are certainly unknown to me and up to God Himself.

In the meantime, we all should be continually on our knees praying fervently.

May God have mercy on us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor