Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Giving Thanks




Dear Parishioners,

With Thanksgiving approaching, I think it is always a good practice to take the time to say “thanks” to God for the many gifts and blessings that we have in life.

First of all, I thank God for what He has done in my life.  I thank Him for the gift of life itself, for health, for family, and for the gift of the ministerial priesthood.  I also give special thanks for you, my parishioners, whom I have the privilege of serving in Holy Angels Parish

For more than a decade, my family has joined me for dinner at whatever rectory where I have resided as pastor.  This year will be no exception.  I will cook the two turkeys and some of the sides while my family members will bring some of their specialty dishes.  We usually have over twenty people around the dinner table.  This year we will also celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday while the family is all together. 

I think that there is no better way to give “thanks” to God than by joining together for the Eucharist—the most perfect offering, the most perfect prayer of thanksgiving to God.  What a privilege to receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus our Savior!  We remember Him at every Mass when He took ordinary bread and wine and changed these elements into the inestimable gift of Himself for us!  Please make it a priority to join our parish family each week around the altar to give thanks.  Please join us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day (9 AM) as well!

The 1st Sunday of Advent begins on December 2nd and the new liturgical year commences.  While the Christmas season does not actually begin until Christmas eve, we are unfortunately driven by the consumer mentality that starts selling Christmas items as early as late summer.  By the time Christmas arrives, people are ready to take down decorations when the actual Christmas season is really just beginning.  Incidentally, the Christmas season ends this year on January 13th with the Baptism of the Lord.

I am still looking for a few people from our parish to participate in the Convocation of Catholic Leaders:  The Joy of the Gospel in South Jersey.  According to the diocese, this event (March 25-28, 2019) “will bring together pastors and representatives from every parish in the diocese for an intensive four days that, it is hoped, will have profound effect — both spiritually and practically — on the future of the diocese.”  Our bishop “has instructed every pastor to pick 10 delegates from his parish to attend.  Ideally, the delegates will represent different heritages, backgrounds, ages and viewpoints — and include parishioners who have gifts and talents yet to be tapped.”  If you feel inspired to step up and become more of a servant-leader (missionary disciple) within our parish, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can discern your potential and inform you of all the details of the event.

Finally, thanks to all who have made a commitment to our parish by your gift or pledge to our Catholic Strong campaign.  Remember that 70% of all money collected stays right here in the parish so that we can accomplish what we need to do here, whether it be ministerial programs or a necessary repair or maintenance issue to one of our many buildings.  Please be kind to our volunteers when they call!

On behalf of all our clergy and staff, have a happy, blessed Thanksgiving with your families!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil!”





Dear Parishioners,

In my 4th grade classroom—many, many moons ago—a certain incident occurred where the religious sister in charge tried to get to the bottom of an apparent theft.  As I recall, something was allegedly taken from her desk and no one in the class wanted to own up to it.  Her solution to finding out the culprit was to have each of us look at the crucifix and acknowledge our guilt or innocence before the Lord.  Tell the truth and shame the devil! she exhorted us.  Funny how I still remember this day with its many details and the moral teaching (honesty, truthfulness, integrity) she tried to convey to her young, impressionable students.

I think that this lesson can be applied in various situations today, beginning with ourselves.  We should make an examination of conscience each and every day of our lives.  This might be best suited to (but is not limited to) bedtime.  Looking honestly at our actions of the day, perhaps kneeling before a crucifix, keeps us humble and focused on what I have done and what I have failed to do—words we recite during the Confiteor at Mass.  This daily examen can help us prepare properly for a thorough confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

In addition to frequent confession, I urge people to be brutally honest in confession.  If we were standing (or more appropriately prostrate) before God on Judgment Day, instead of being in the confessional, there will be no rationalization, no justification, no ambiguity.  No one is ever going to make Almighty God the fool.  While the priest is the minister of the sacrament, God is the Ultimate Judge.  Imagine what it is like to see ourselves as God sees us and not as we want to present ourselves to others.  God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.  (1 Sam. 16: 7)  Still, we should be ever confident of God’s abundant mercy, when we are honest with Him and with ourselves.

The home is the first classroom and parents are the first teachers.  Do as I say and not as I do never made any sense to me.  If you want your kids to be honest, then do not lie to them.  If you want your children to do the right things, then you need to set the example.  Children, like sponges, absorb many things.
   
Another situation calling for honesty and integrity is in the daily workplace or school.  Have I become complacent with little white lies, gossip, “borrowing” things from the workplace/school and not returning them, etc.?  Do I hide or compromise my religious beliefs in order to be politically correct?  Can I be trusted?  Ponder these words of wisdom for a few moments:  The true test of character is what I would do even if no one ever found out.  In truth, God sees everything.  Yes, everything.

At this point in history, we need much more honesty and integrity in the Church universal.  When the US bishops meet next week in Baltimore, will there be truth and transparency regarding the never-ending priest sex abuse scandal, or will we see some well-crafted statements prepared by attorneys or media experts?  Will any guilty bishops actually be held accountable?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  We need more thorough answers and not silence in response to all of Archbishop ViganĂ²’s allegations.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  Is any sign of remorse or admission of guilt forthcoming from the disgraced Archbishop McCarrick?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  I could go on and on.

Admitting guilt, taking responsibility, and telling the truth often require courage and adherence to a properly-formed conscience.  While it may be easier to lie so as to protect one’s image and reputation, the truth will come out in the end.  

Better that it occurs now, before eternity is spent in company with the Father of Lies.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You Are Not Alone


Dear Parishioners,

When I first announced to people years ago that I was going to be a priest, many people were very supportive.  Their encouragement and prayers eventually brought me to the altar as a priest.

Occasionally, there were a few who thought I was a little crazy.  (I will concede that there is some truth to their judgment.  To know me is to affirm that insight.)
 
Yet there is one comment that haunts me to this day.  It was from two people whom I thought I knew pretty well.  I was really taken back by what they said:  “You don’t want to do that.  It’s such a lonely life.  You don’t want to be a priest.”

Such a lonely life?  After all these years, were they right?

I think there are moments in all of our lives when we feel somewhat alone.  I think it’s inevitable.  From past experience even married couples I know have told me that they can be in the same house, same room, even the same bed, and still feel very much alone at times.

Didn’t even Jesus experience a feeling of being alone as his apostles slept when He asked them to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Mt. 26: 36-46, Mk. 14: 32-42, or Lk. 22: 39-46) What about Jesus’ cry from the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15: 34b)  These words (apparently quoted from Psalm 22:2) seem to reflect utter isolation and abandonment.  Talk about being alone!

What about me?  Although I sometimes feel alone, I can’t really say that my life is lonely.

My life, most days, is surrounded by people.  There are those I see at Mass every day, the children at school and in religious education, and those in parish organizations, committees, and ministries.

My day is also blessed by an awareness of the presence of God mysteriously working in and through my life.  This has been a gift from my youngest days.

What I truly treasure beyond everything else, however, is a profound sense of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Faith tells me Jesus is here, right here, every day on the altar and in the tabernacle.  I love to spend quiet time in His presence.  The more I spend time with Him, the more I hunger for Him. It’s a special time with the One I love and was ordained to serve.  I was ordained to be an instrument of Jesus’ presence in the world.  I believe that spending time with Him transforms me more and more into a priest in His image.

Am I lonely?

Not really.

As long as I have Jesus with me, I am never really alone or lonely.

Spend some extended time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and see what I mean!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Praying for the Dead



Dear Parishioners,

As we approach the month of November, we should consider the importance of remembering and praying for the dead.  We begin with two notable liturgical celebrations--All Saints and All Souls days.  St. Paul reminds us ". . . Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."  (Phil. 3:20)
 
Saints are destined for heaven.  Once their lives are finished on earth they will spend eternity enjoying the Beatific Vision--the "Face" of God--in God's time and according to God's plan.  Many saints will not be officially canonized and placed on the church calendar.  However, the Solemnity of All Saints reminds us of all those intercessors in heaven closely united with God who pray for us. (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 956)  Where they have gone, we hope to follow someday.  They have been called the Church Triumphant.  Just as we may ask a friend here on earth to say a prayer for us, we can ask the saints in heaven to pray to God for us.  Once they reach heaven, they no longer need our prayers but they can certainly pray and make intercession on our behalf.
 
While we may hope that our deceased relatives and friends are in heaven, we do not have that absolute certainty simply because of our hoping or desiring it to be so.  While our Christian funerals are meant to strengthen our hope in eternal life, they are not meant to be canonizations.  Only God knows the ultimate destiny of any soul as he alone knows the disposition of the person when he or she dies.  Did the person die in the state of grace or not?  We can only hope and pray.  We should pray.

Still, we can take great consolation if a person receives the last rites of the church-- the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  I remind people constantly that the sacraments are for the living and we should not wait until a person dies (if at all possible) to call for the priest.  If the person is homebound, elderly, on hospice, in the hospital, terminally ill, etc. let the priest know so that a pastoral visit can be arranged.  Moreover, we should all try to be living continually in the state of grace and not be conscious of any mortal or serious sin.  The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) is the ordinary means that we have to keep the fullness of God's life (grace) alive in us.  God's mercy will be given if we but ask for it!

All Souls Day reminds us that we should pray for the dead.  Our prayers can help them if they are in a state of purification that we call purgatory.  Remember that if someone is in heaven, they do not need our prayers.  If they die not in the state of grace, being unrepentant, obstinate, and alienated from God--thus being in a state of hell or eternal separation from God--our prayers cannot help them.  Church teaching encourages us to pray and to offer Mass for the dead.  The greatest spiritual gift that we can give to our deceased loved ones is to have a Mass offered for them.  The Catholic Mass is a re-presentation of the offering of Jesus himself on the cross. We have no better intercessor with the Father than Jesus who suffered and died for us.

Souls in purgatory, in a state of cleansing or purification--what I like to refer to as the fringes of heaven--can pray for us as we can assist them on their eventual journey to heaven.  They have been referred to as the Church Suffering, in regard to their temporarily being kept from the fullness of heaven.
 
Finally, members of the Church on earth are saints-in-potential.  As baptized Christians, part of the Body of Christ, while we are alive in Christ Jesus, our ultimate destiny is heaven.  Only our choice to sin gravely, to put ourselves out of the state of God's life, His grace, will keep us from that path.  We are the Church Militant, currently battling sin and evil.  

"So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones [saints] and members of the household of God. . . ." (Eph. 2:19)

May we live up to our calling!
 
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Bible on Beads




Dear Parishioners,

In my previous parish, my predecessor as pastor put out a challenge to the parishioners to read the bible each day.  He even distributed bibles to anyone who asked for one.  Being a priest who majored in Sacred Scripture in the seminary, how could I not be an advocate of such an initiative?

While I still believe in the importance of reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, I also think that our turbulent times necessitate a revival/renewal of an ancient, time-tested practice--praying the daily rosary.  After all, these are days of intense spiritual warfare and in such circumstances we need spiritual weapons to do battle.

The history of the holy rosary reveals its power combating heresy (against the Albigensians) and providing victory in battle (the battle of Lepanto).  It was requested by our Lady herself during various Church approved Marian apparitions (Fatima).  It has tremendous spiritual benefits for those who faithfully pray it.

Simply stated, the rosary traces the highlights of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ and the life of his Mother Mary as found in Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition.  It is, in a sense, the bible on beads.  W can use the rosary to help us spiritually each day as we recall  and reflect on various mysteries of our faith and our salvation.

The repetition of the prayers is meant to help us get into a spiritual rhythm and a reflective mindset.  The meditation on the mysteries helps us to recall and reinforce essential truths of our faith.  The rosary also seeks the intercession of Our Lady who is essential to the plan for our salvation.  She is our spiritual mother guiding us and accompanying us on our journey of life.

If you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of praying the rosary or do not know the various mysteries given for meditation, these can be found very easily online and then printed out for reference.  The rosary has evolved with time even adding elements such as the Fatima prayer and the Luminous Mysteries.

The challenge that I put out to all of you who will read this is to pray the holy rosary daily.  Maybe it has to start with simply praying a decade each day (before going to bed?), but I hope that it will grow into a devotion that will bring much peace and consolation to your soul.  May I suggest that you pray it with the intention of bringing back to the faith someone in your family or among your friends who has left the Catholic faith or no longer practices it.  That intention should keep us all busy for quite some  time.

October is the month traditionally dedicated to the holy rosary.  Take the time to strengthen, renew or begin this devotion in your personal spiritual life and in the life of your family.  Rosaries are usually available in the back of the churches and worship center.  If we run out we will get some more!     

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Our Lady of Fatima and the 3 Visionaries