Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Guess Who’s Coming for (Holy Thursday) Supper?

Dear Parishioners,

I received a call recently from Bishop Dennis Sullivan’s priest-secretary, Fr. Michael Romano, informing me that our bishop desires to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass in our parish.  Naturally, I welcomed the opportunity and invited the bishop (and his entourage) to dinner at the rectory beforehand.

A priest or deacon necessarily works in conjunction with his bishop.  The bishop is the chief shepherd—chief teacher, preacher, administrator—of the diocese.  We pray for him (and the pope) by name at every Mass celebrated in his diocese.  We look to him for guidance and direction as the chief spiritual leader of our local (diocesan) church.  We know all too well that bishops are imperfect sinners like the rest of us, and they need our continual prayers to assist them in the difficult task of shepherding God’s flock.

F. Y. I., Bishop Sullivan is also scheduled to be with us to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday, April 18th at 10 AM and 1 PM.  (Just a reminder: there will be no 8:30 AM Mass that Saturday morning.)

Holy Thursday is a most important day for priests.  We commemorate it as the day the Holy Eucharist was instituted—the first Mass, so to speak.  Also, we realize the intimate connection between the ministerial (ordained) priesthood and the Holy Eucharist:

The intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders clearly emerges from Jesus' own words in the Upper Room: "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19).   On the night before he died, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and at the same time established the priesthood of the New Covenant . . . .   The Church teaches that priestly ordination is the indispensable condition for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.  Indeed, "in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, High Priest of the redemptive sacrifice." Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI
Additionally, we are reminded of our call to Christian charity and service as Jesus’ disciples by the foot-washing ceremony (mandatum).  As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13: 1-20)—something only a Jewish slave would do—we are given a command or mandate to Christian charity and service, in imitation of him.

Finally, we are given time at the conclusion of Mass to keep watch with Christ (see Mt. 26: 36-46), truly present in the Holy Eucharist at a side altar-shrine in the repository.

Please try to join us for this Mass (Thursday, April 2 at 7 PM), as well as the liturgy on Good Friday (April 3 at 3 PM) and for the Easter Vigil (Saturday, April 4 at 8 PM).

Holy Week and its ceremonies are especially beautiful and grace-filled.  Please come!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Bishop Dennis Sullivan

Thursday, March 5, 2015

40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration

Dear Parishioners,

As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19), our parish will observe 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration from Tuesday, March 17 to Thursday, March 19.  Beginning with an evening Mass at 7 PM on March 17, the Blessed Sacrament will remain continually present on the altar for private prayer and adoration, except when a Mass is scheduled.  We will have an evening Mass at 7 PM on March 17, 18 and 19 (in addition to our regular morning Mass at 8:30 AM). 

On Thursday, March 19 there will be three Masses:  8:30 AM (regular morning Mass), 10 AM (school Mass with the Sisters of St. Joseph renewing their vows) and 7:00 PM (closing of the 40 Hours with a procession of the Most Blessed Sacrament).

I truly believe that when we take the time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is a time of tremendous blessing not only for us as individuals but also for our families and for our entire parish family.  I do not ever want us to take for granted the great gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Time spent with Him is a grace-filled time.  We can express our love and adoration for Jesus, thankfulness for our blessings, and contrition for sin (our own and the sins of others).  We can also intercede for one another and petition the Lord for our various needs.  It is an invaluable time to spend with Jesus, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

When we come into the Lord’s presence, Jesus can do something to us.  We may think that we go to pray, to petition and to worship, or even that we are doing God a favor by spending some of our precious time with Him.  Our Lord Jesus, however, can transform us while we spend time with Him.  We do not need to worry about what prayers we should say, what spiritual readings we should be reading or what we should be doing in His Presence.  Just being with the Lord can be transforming.  He can soften our hearts, heal our wounds, inspire us and guide us.  He can give us an inner peace that nothing in this world can match.  Making the commitment to spend time with Him can truly transform us.

What I am once again requesting from you, my parishioners, is that you dedicate one hour sometime during these three days with the Lord in adoration.  (This should be in addition to any time attending Mass, when possible.)  This devotion will continue for two nights—around the clock—and I need your help and cooperation in order to do this.  Could you please think about dedicating an hour in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament?  Why not encourage members of your family to pray as a family for an hour?  Perhaps a group or organization within the parish can make a holy hour together (choir, Knights of Columbus, Rosary Altar Society, Nursing Ministry, lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist, etc.).  I especially need a few insomniacs or night owls to cover the late hours!

Sign-up sheets are available at the doors of the church so that we can be sure that there is always someone keeping watch with our Lord.  Please assist me in making this a special time for our parish as we adore our Eucharistic Lord.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Thursday, February 26, 2015

“God Will Still Be God Tomorrow”

Dear Parishioners,

The ancient Hebrews often saw God as the stable force in their lives.  They referred to Him as my rock, my fortress, my deliverer (Psalm 18:2) and my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold (Psalm 18:3).

I wonder how much we realize our true dependence on God for everything?

In our American society we might think of ourselves as rugged individuals.  We speak of the self-made man or woman.  We might save and plan financially for retirement so that we can be comfortable later in life, free of all worries.  With this mindset, perhaps there is an affinity to songs like My Way (Paul Anka or Frank Sinatra) or My Life (Billy Joel) because they speak of our independence and freedom to do what we want, when we want to do it. 

If it were not for God willing it, however, we would not be in existence at all.  Every breath we take, every thought we think, every action we attempt are all within God’s permissive will.  He allows them to happen.  All good things that we have, things that we might often take for granted, are pure gift from God—His Grace.

Yes, it is also true that God has given us intelligence and free-will.  We are made in His image and likeness and He gives us tools that we are expected to use responsibly.  We might sometimes think that we act independent of Him, especially when we choose to do something on our own, even against His will.  However, it is because He has given us free-will in the first place that we are capable of various diverse acts such as loving, forgiving, hating or sinning at all.

Jesus reminds us not to worry about material things.  He speaks of the importance of relying on God for everything, and not on ourselves:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. (Mt. 6: 25-29)

Jesus continues:

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Mt. 6: 33-34)

Personally, I use an expression with those I know, reminding them in the midst of worry, or during some trial and tribulation that God will still be God tomorrow.”  God is always here—with us—in some mysterious, unseen way.  He remains constant, a rock, a source of refuge for us.  He is here now and will continue to be here for us tomorrow and beyond.

As we take our Lenten journey—often a type of desert experience—perhaps we can reflect on God’s ever-abiding, Divine Providence.  Once we realize that He is with us always, even the greatest of obstacles no longer seems so insurmountable.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How Seriously Will You Take this "Lenten Season?"

Dear Parishioners,

Inevitably, Ash Wednesday will be a very crowded day in our church.  People will no doubt come to “get ashes.”  Despite the fact that the day is not a holy day of obligation in which we are required to attend Mass—psst, please don’t tell anyone!—people will be here throughout the day looking for those ashes.  Sometimes, they will even come to the rectory door at all odd hours because they don’t want to be without those blessed ashes.

If I look at this phenomenon from a positive angle, I hope and pray that people see the need for repentance and a change of life.  I pray that they heed the call to conversion.  I pray also that they truly open their lives to Jesus and want to turn away from sin.

The logical follow-up during the Lenten season would then be a desire to attend Mass more frequently.  There should be an increase in the use of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.  Time for prayer and meditation should grow.  Certainly, we should see more generosity, kindness and compassion in all of us.  In the end, we should be spiritually renewed and prepared for the great events of the Easter Triduum.

This is my sincere hope and prayer.

Unfortunately, there will be those who approach the ashes in a superstitious manner or with a misunderstanding that places more importance on this sacramental than it truly deserves.  I used to tell my students in high school quite bluntly that ashes (burnt palm) on the forehead, in and of themselves, will not get someone into heaven.  They are merely a symbol of repentance and mortality.  Rather, Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the Holy Eucharist is much more than any such symbol.   The Holy Eucharist is, in fact, the real, true presence of Jesus who was offered for us on the cross and who is now offered to us in Holy Communion.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  (John 6: 54-56)

Essentially, it is my duty as one who preaches and teaches to help people to understand and to prioritize what is essential for a Catholic (the Holy Eucharist) and what is merely helpful and a symbolic reminder for us (blessed ashes).  All of the seven sacraments are life-giving—in essence, imparting to us God’s grace—through various outward signs.  They are opportunities to encounter Christ.  We are fed, nourished, healed, forgiven, strengthened, and sanctified by our participation in these sacraments.  Most notably, the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation are the two sacraments that we are able to and should participate in frequently.

Please take Lent seriously.  Heed the call to conversion.  Put into practice acts of prayer, fasting (self-denial) and almsgiving (charity).  

Over everything else, fall in love with Jesus.  I say this not in some superficial, romantic way but as our essential, unconditional response to the Son of God who loved us unto death.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of "Insanity"

Dear Parishioners,

No, I did not read the book.  No, I have no intention of seeing the movie.  Really, I would rather not bring attention to this insanity at all.  However, before viewing another film (The Imitation Game) on a recent guys night out, the trailer for a soon-to-be released—just in time for Valentine’s Day!—movie appeared.  The coming attractions for 50 Shades of Grey, in and of themselves, made me quite nauseous.  This trailer unfortunately led me to investigate things that I would rather not even think about—ever.

I read a synopsis of the book.  I discovered that it was part of a trilogy.  I had to put  together only a few pieces of the puzzle to realize that I was dealing with the glorification of abusive relationships and extreme sexual perversion.  I was encountering things so dark and demeaning, so sexually distorted and offensive that I dare not describe them here.  Ironic, isn’t it, how President Obama and a victim of sexual abuse, Brooke Axtell, recently appeared during this year’s Grammy Awards to denounce violence against women?  Meanwhile, a novel like 50 Shades of Grey sells over 100 million copies worldwide and is translated into 52 languages.  Global insanityYou betcha.

Today’s culture has so many radical distortions of the true beauty and meaning of human sexuality.  Do we remember at all that God is the author of life and of the very manner in which we reproduce?  Sex is part of His plan and it is holy and good in its proper context—marriage

What’s the big fuss about sexuality, FatherThe Church needs to stay out of the bedroom!  After all, you priests are part of the problem!  Clean up you own act first!

Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. (Sin is still sin no matter who commits it.)

The crux of the problem, as I see it, is that the bedroom is far from private these days.  It is literally in our faces.  It is seen explicitly on television, On Demand, in the movies, in books and magazines, on the internet, etc., etc.—in the most graphic and obscene ways.  More and more perversion, deeper and deeper darkness, the glorification of sin and recreational sex, no traditional moral guidelines, further and further down the rabbit hole . . . .  How bad is it going to get?  I thought that we hit rock bottom years ago!  Foolish me.  (And it severely damages the entire culture—including its priests and religious.  We do happen to live in the same world, don’t we?)         
A few years ago, when I talked to a Trappist monk, Fr. John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, the retired Abbot of the Abbey of the Genesee (Piffard, NY) while on retreat, he said something to me that I ponder regularly:  “Our world is gravely sick with perversion.”  He was well aware of this fact even from behind the cloistered monastery walls, living as a hermit!  The cancerous cells of sin have a strange way of attackingseeking to damage and ultimately to kill any and all organs of the body—even within the mystical Body of Christ!  

Ash Wednesday begins another season of Lent.  It is a time of repentance and a call to follow the Gospel.  

Jesus brings sanity and healing to our world.  He brings truth, clarity, and meaning to our lives.

Hopefully, we all will realize it before it’s too late!

Fr. Ed Namiotka, Pastor