Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dealing with Sickness and Death

Dear Parishioners,

A question about ministry to the sick and the homebound came up at the last staff meeting.  Consequently, I thought that some clarification for the entire parish would be helpful based on our recent discussion.

We have a number of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (commonly referred to as Eucharistic Ministers) in our parish.  Besides helping to distribute Holy Communion at the Masses, they also serve regularly in two other capacities:  bringing Holy Communion to those in the hospital and bringing Holy Communion to the homebound

First of all, I note that they are intended as extraordinary ministers.  The priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers.  While we have become very accustomed to seeing the extraordinary ministers at Mass, whenever a priest or deacon is present, distributing Holy Communion is their ordinary ministry and the extraordinary ministers should properly defer to them.

If there is someone in your family who is homebound and is unable to come to Mass, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion can be assigned to visit the home weekly to bring Holy Communion.  Please contact the parish office to arrange for this.  The minister is then asked to be the eyes of the priest in this situation.  If the person requests the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) or should receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick because of advanced age or illness, the minister is asked to notify the priest and he will visit the home as soon as possible.

Priests are specifically ordained for ministry of the sacraments and should be called especially for confession or anointing.  The forgiveness of sin is tied to these two sacraments and a priest—rather than an extraordinary minister or even a deacon—is required.

At the time prior to a person’s death, a priest has special authority to do what is necessary for the salvation of the person’s soul.  A priest should be called whenever a person becomes seriously ill because the sacraments are intended for the living.  While a priest can always pray with the family after a person has died, he should be called to be present—if at all possible—before death.

In one of my former assignments, a religious sister told me about how her father prayed every day for the grace of a happy death and that a priest would be present when he died.  On the day of his death, mysteriously there were so many priests who happened to visit the home, to be in the area, that she knew God answered his prayer with His super-abundant mercy.

Yesterday, a scheduled parish appointment was cancelled and I then had the opportunity to go to the home of a long-time friend who had been seriously ill with pancreatic cancer.  When I arrived at the home I could see that he was gravely ill.  He had been given the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and received Holy Communion on almost a daily basis when he was still able to do so.  With the family and the hospice nurse present, I began to pray with him as I held his hand.  I whispered in his ear that it was “okay to go to Jesus.”  Peacefully, he passed.

I believe Jesus was present in that home at that moment working mysterious through my priestly ministry.  Why was my parish appointment cancelled?  Why was I at the home at that particular moment in time?  Was it simply an accident or coincidence, or rather a remarkable act of God’s Providential Grace?

Pray for the grace of a happy death.  Pray and request a priest for family members or yourself when there is any serious illness. 

Time and time again, God is mysteriously present in the sacraments and working through the ministry of His priests.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

God, Are You There?

Dear Parishioners,

Does God ever stop thinking about us? 

I realize that from a human perspective we can sometimes wonder if God actually hears our prayers or if God knows and cares about us individually.  Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  If God is truly God (as Christians understand God to be) then we are—without a doubt—constantly known and unconditionally loved.  God sees and hears everything that we think, say and do.  God never takes His focus off of us—not even for a nanosecond.  It’s impossible.  “Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”  (Mt. 10:30)

Knowing this, does it mean that we no longer have problems and difficulties? Might we not have even more questions, for that matter?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why does it sometimes seem that God does not answer our prayers?

Truly, we do not see as God sees.  We are limited, finite beings.  We are situated in time.  We are not God.

What I have come to realize over many years is that I am called to trust in God, to have faith in Godcompletely.  I do not have all the answers.  I do not know the course of world events.  I cannot see into the future.  In fact, I am totally dependent on the Providence of God.  It is the Grace of God that sustains me in all my endeavors.

Is this a cop-out?  Am I naive or overly simplistic? I don’t think so.  In humility, I must realize all that we have been given (revelation) through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  God became one of us.  In Jesus, God became finite and tangible.  Humans could see, touch and hear Him.  The Almighty also became subject to suffering and death. 

In fact, God the Father revealed essential, life-giving truth to us through His Son.  He also sent His Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us.  From all this we can begin to see and appreciate how much God truly loves us.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)  Jesus’ entire life and ultimate death on the cross was no accident but a divine statement of God’s self-giving love.

As humans, we are called to be mindful of God.  Our limited intellectual capacity unfortunately does not think of God all the time.  We forget quickly.  We get easily distracted.  We struggle with doubt.  Nevertheless, remembering to pray and worship God on a regular basis—to have a routine, structured prayer life—benefits us tremendously in our quest to be faithful to God as God is ever-faithful to us.  Stick with it, even when we do not perceive any tangible results.

I wish that I could give people all the answers that they desire concerning faith and trust in God.  I too get frustrated when God seems to delay in responding to a prayer request.  I do not understand why good people have to suffer. 

Yet, I know that God sees and hears.  I trust that God wants what is best for me, for all of us. "Trust God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!" (Ps. 82:9)  

I simply must continue to trust—completely.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Praying for Our Nation

Dear Parishioners,

I recalled the story of the patriarch Abraham’s pleading and bargaining with God on behalf of the city of Sodom this morning in prayer.  Maybe you remember the passage from Scripture:

Then Abraham drew near [to the LORD] and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.  (Genesis 18: 23-32)
I worry about our nation and our world very much.  Honestly, I am very disheartened with the direction that our presidential race has taken over the past years—in particular with the two proposed candidates for 2016—and I fear that it is only going to get much worse in the future.  I especially think about our young people and the type of world that they are going to inherit.  Yet, I believe that we have many good people who love the Lord and want to do what is right.  I have been requesting that we the people pray fervently and not take a lackadaisical attitude towards what is happening in our nation and in the world around us.  

Will you not join in this effort to pray?

A 54-day Rosary Novena has been proposed prior to our Presidential Election in November beginning on the Solemnity of the Assumption (August 15th) and ending on October 7th (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).  No matter what your position is on the upcoming election, we all need to pray that the will of the Lord be done on behalf of our nation and our world.  Prayer is absolutely essential and the rosary has been a powerful means of intercession in the history of our Church.                                    

The holy rosary is prayed every morning (7:50 AM) prior to daily Mass (8:30 AM) in our parish.  Why not make an effort to come and pray and then stay for daily Mass?  People make similar resolutions and sacrifices, especially during Lent.  I am asking our parishioners and all who read this to consider joining in the effort by saying a rosary every day (regardless of whether you can come to Church to do it) prior to the presidential election.

Too often people seem to react to tragic situations like war, terrorism, natural disasters, and the like.  A cry may go up to God saying: How could you let this happen?  Can intercessory prayer prevent these things from happening in the first place?  Can prayer move hearts and help in the conversion of the world to Christ?  I certainly hope so.  A petition in the Our Fatherdeliver us from evil—is worth contemplating.

On our parish web site (www.stjosephsomerspoint.com) and facebook page I will put some links to help people get more information about the Novena for Our Nation, how to pray the rosary and other useful information.

Please take the time to pray fervently.  I believe prayer can work wonders in ways seen and unseen.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thy Will Be Done

Dear Parishioners,

If we pray regularly, we probably recite the words thy will be done quite a few times daily.  It is one of the central petitions of the Our Father.

Do you ever stop to think about this prayer-petition?  Do we really think that God’s will is not going to be accomplished in the end?  I don’t think so.  After all, God is, well, God.  At God’s command absolutely anything can be achieved before we could even grasp what was happening. 

Do we think that God Almighty actually needs us, needs me, so that He could be more all-powerful, more all-knowing, more all-loving, more all-just, more all-whatever?  On the contrary, God would be quite self-sufficient without any of us.  God created ex nihilo—out of nothing.  There was a time when nothing else but God existed.   So, obviously, God could get along quite well without us.

The fact of the matter is that God created out of love.  He brought into existence that which previously did not exist—the entire universe, our world and us.  His greatest achievement was the creation of the human person, made in His image and likeness.  We were given intelligence and free-will like God.  Amazingly, God chose to become one of us as evidenced by the Incarnation of Jesus.

So when we pray that God’s will be done, we must realize with ultimate humility that in the end we are not in charge.  God will always be in charge.  Always.  His Will is going to be done with or without us.  And we, as humans, must conform to His Will, not the other way around.  God is creator and we are creatures. Period.  End of story.

What is so mind-boggling is that God has invited each of us into a personal relationship with Himself.  We can either accept the invitation or reject it.  We can believe or not.  We can cooperate with His plan or foolishly think that we can do whatever we want without consequences.  The choice will always be ours because God willed it so.

With this in mind, my personal prayer consists of a variation of this petition.  When I come before the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament I simply prayI want what You want.  I sit and give my time over to the Lord.  I submit my will to His.  I realize my place before Almighty God.

Perhaps each of us could ask ourselves a few questions to evaluate where we are before God:  Does God really have control of me and my life?  Do I love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength?  Do I desire to do His Will?  Do I foolishly think that I am in charge?

In the 1960’s Paul Anka wrote the lyrics to a song popularized by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and various others entitled My Way.  I beg to differ with them with a rebuttal composition of my own: 

The Final Exam
“And now the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain”—
But after all life’s tests I’ve had,
Of little or nothing I’m certain!
Yet still, dear Lord, I ask your help
To guide me day to day—
And may the priv'lege be always mine
To say I did it Your Way.
© 1981 Edward F. Namiotka 

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Let the Games Begin

Dear Parishioners,

Let the games begin.  No, I am not talking about the Olympic Games which will begin on August 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Rather, I am referring to our two political conventions (RNC and DNC) I was watching during my recent vacation.  If you view each spectacle independent of the other, you would think that the opposing candidate was either preparing for role as the messiah or the devil incarnate.  Take your pick.  Truth be told, both candidates are flawed (and Jesus already came to earth as messiah).  What then should be the basis of my vote for president?

I have a novel idea.  Let's see what the individual party platform actually says and compare it to where our church teaching is on the most vital of Issues.  The Republican Party has a 54 page party platform which you can obtain from: www.gop.com.  The Democratic Party's platform consists of a 51 page document which you can obtain from:  www.demconvention.com.

  • First of all, the Catholic Church teaches that all human life is to be respected from conception until natural death.  Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia are all grave sins against human life.  What do the political parties say on this issue?

Republican Platform:

The Constitution’s guarantee that no one can “be deprived of life, liberty or property” deliberately echoes the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that “all” are “endowed by their Creator” with the inalienable right to life. Accordingly, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Democratic Platform:

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.

  • Regarding the sanctity of marriage, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman as designed by God for the expression of love and the begetting of children.

Republican Platform:

Foremost among those institutions is the American family. It is the foundation of civil society, and the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman . . . Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society.  For that reason, as explained elsewhere in this platform, we do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.

Democratic Platform:

Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love . . . Democrats will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination law to cover LGBT people. We will also fight for comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding.

Yes, there are more issues to consider--but these two are vitalRespect for human life from conception and the sanctity of marriage are non-negotiable Church teachings.  

I hope that I have sparked your interest regarding policy and urge you to do some research regarding official church teaching on the various issues.

Fr. Ed Namiotka