Saturday, December 9, 2017

Mother of God


Theotokos

Dear Parishioners,

On January 1st the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  While Catholics may use the term Mother of God regularly when praying the Hail Mary, some people may have questions about the meaning of this particular title.  The Council of Ephesus (431) declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Theotokos or God-Bearer (in Greek).  In the Latin Church, we use the term Mater Dei.  Simply stated, our Catholic belief teaches that:

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither.  Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.  Catholic Answers
We should remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary is solely responsible for the genetic material for Jesus’ human body (in cooperation, of course, with the Holy Spirit) as St. Joseph was Jesus’ foster-father.

As we begin the New Year, I customarily entrust and consecrate my parish family (wherever I am pastor) to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary on New Year’s Day.  I give this parish and all of its parishioners over to the loving care of the Mother of God.  I invite you to join me.  I can think of no better way to begin the New Year.

Why not take the time to entrust your individual families to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s maternal care as well?  Parents, you can (and should) pray for your children and families at home daily.  Here’s a prayer of consecration to help:


Oh Mother Most Pure,
We come to You as a family and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.
We come to You as a family and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.

Oh Dearest Mother Mary, 
teach us as a mother teaches her children, for our souls are soiled and our prayers are weak because of our sinful hearts.
Here we are Dearest Mother, ready to respond to You and follow Your way, for Your way leads us to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.
We are ready to be cleansed and purified.

Come then Virgin Most Pure,
and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.
Make our hearts whiter than snow and as pure as a spring of fresh water.
Teach us to pray, so that our prayers may become more beautiful than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.

Dear Mother Mary,
We entrust to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts, 
our family and our entire future.
Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.
Amen. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

My Masses and prayers are continually offered for your spiritual well-being.  Please remember me as well so that I have the graces necessary to live up to my responsibility as your pastor.

God’s blessings in the New Year!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Friday, December 8, 2017

“And the Word was Made Flesh . . .”



Dear Parishioners:

Merry Christmas!

What is it that you like best about Christmas?  Is it the beautiful decorations and the lights on the trees?  Is it the special meals with families and friends?  Is it the Christmas carols or sending and receiving Christmas cards?  Is it the parties with friends, co-workers or business associates?  Is it the exchange of gifts and the kindness and generosity of so many people?  Is it the look on children’s faces on the morning of Christmas as they are unwrapping their presents?

While so many various things may become associated with our Christmas experience, we must consider what Christmas truly represents from a Christian perspective.  Christmas is about the mystery of the Incarnation.  God chose to become a man for us.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  Timelessness entered time.  The almighty and all-powerful God became a helpless, vulnerable infant.  The creator of all life became subject to suffering and death.  The infinite majesty of God became finite.  God walked this very earth.  He could be seen, felt and touched.

While the many activities that we place upon ourselves as part of our Christmas traditions—shopping, decorating, cooking, sending cards, visiting homes, exchanging gifts, etc.—may overshadow or obscure its true meaning, Christmas is meant to remind us of God’s merciful love for us.  Christmas celebrates when Heaven touched Earth.  The Love of God took human form.  Christmas is when a baby—the Son of God and Son of Mary—is born for us in Bethlehem.  Christmas is primarily and definitively about ChristJesus, the Christ.
     
If Christmas is lived out as a once a year go-to-church experience, if it is just a time for the family to get together and share an extravagant meal, if it is merely a nostalgic, sentimental, feel-good holiday in which multiple gifts are exchanged, then we might just have missed the greatest act of love ever offered to us.  When you peer into the manger this Christmas, realize that before your eyes is a glimpse of the love that God has for you and me by sending us His only-begotten Son.

God became one of us telling us how much the human person and human life is sacred and valued.  God became a man ultimately to suffer, die and redeem us.  Jesus is love-incarnate.  His words and actions reveal the hidden mystery of God to us.  He is why Christians celebrate Christmas.    

On behalf of all of the priests, deacons and entire staff who serve our parish, we wish you and your families a happy, holy Christmas and a blessed New Year!  

May the love of God which took human form in the person of Jesus be honored and revered in every human person that we meet.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

(P.S., Be an ambassador for Christ and wish people a Merry Christmas!)

Some Sacred Silence


Dear Parishioners,
An incident happened prior to Mass several years ago that prompted my writing of this particular column.
Someone told me that Pope St. John Paul II would literally spend hours in prayer preparing to celebrate Mass.  It was said that he became oblivious to his surroundings, so deep was his spiritual communication with the Lord.
I dare not compare my self to such a holy man as John Paul II.  However, I do see the value of and the need for the time to prepare spiritually prior to Mass.  Sometimes I may be thinking about the readings from Sacred Scripture.  Other times I may be contemplating exactly what I am going to say in the homily.  Frequently I think about the people that I want to remember to pray for during the Mass.  Perhaps I may be finishing some prayers committed to memory.  At other times I just want to be quiet, clam and reflective.
No matter what I may be doing at the particular moment, the time prior to Mass is really important for me to focus on the sacred mysteries about to be celebrated.
So do not be surprised that I do not seem “talkative” or “conversational” prior to Mass.  Sometimes I walk into the sacristy and the topics of conversation range from politics to sports to the latest gossip.  I do not think that I am wrong in saying that there is a time and a place for everything--and for me prior to Mass is not the place for small talk.
If I want to talk about the Phillies, Flyers or Eagles, it will be after Mass when I am outside shaking hands with the people and not when I am preparing myself to celebrate sacred mysteries.
I also think that the same quiet, reflective time needs to be honored immediately after the reception of Holy Communion.  I deliberately take time after Holy Communion once everything is settled just to be quiet.  Don’t forget about making a proper thanksgiving after the reception of Holy Communion.  We also should try to make a Spiritual Communion, if we are unable to receive Holy Communion for some reason.
Our society is noisy enough.  A little quiet time helps us to tune in better to the spiritual things around us.  Here’s something to think about:

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.  There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kg. 19: 11-13a)
So please don’t think that I am rude, anti-social, or impersonal when I simply just want to be quiet and reflective.  Perhaps someone around you may feel the exact same way.   The Lord is often found in the silence at the depths of the heart.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Being “In the State of Grace”



Dear Parishioners,

Whenever I ask someone “What is Grace?” I have to be prepared to hear some varying answers.  I also need to be ready to give a clear and understandable explanation myself.

Simply stated, Grace is God’s life within us. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church. (#1997)

Because of original sin, we are not naturally born into God’s Grace.  We need to be baptized for this to happen.  Therefore, Christian parents should be ready to baptize their children as soon as possible.  Church (canon) law states the following:

Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it. (Can. 867 §1)

To remain in the state of God’s Grace, a person should not be conscious of having committed any serious (mortal) sin.  All serious (mortal) sin is ordinarily forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession), not merely by recourse to an act of contrition or something similar.  This is not to say that God cannot work in other ways, at His discretion and according to His will.  However, a Catholic Christian who is conscious of having committed a serious sin should ordinarily avail himself or herself of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.  This sacrament restores us—reconciles us—to God’s Grace.

To me, it is essential to strive to remain constantly in God’s Grace.  There should never be a time when I want to be alienated or disconnected from the Source of all life, love, goodness, truth and beauty.  I should endeavor to eliminate all serious sin out of my life—realizing that I need the gift of God (His favor or grace) to do that.  In other words, we are totally dependent on God and His goodness to us for all we have, and we need to cooperate with Him constantly.

With all of the above in mind, I believe too many people in our culture sometimes think that only something as extreme as murder is a serious sin.  Believe me, there are many other grave sins out there!  Serious sin meets the traditional criteria of sufficient reflection (I thought about it and know it is wrong), grave matter (the subject matter is objectively serious) and full consent of the will (I freely choose to do the act even though I know it is seriously wrong).  Actions including theft, calumny, detraction, adultery, fornication, worship of a false god, perjury, euthanasia, abortion, blasphemy and various other sins can ordinarily be considered objectively grave.  If the person knowingly and willing carries them out, they can certainly fall into the category of mortal sin.  Moreover, the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth) can be examined as a root cause of all grave sin.  Then, to add some more food for thought, there are the various sins of omission that Jesus mentions in the Gospel passage of the Final Judgment (See Mt. 25: 31-46)

Our striving to remain in God’s Grace and to avoid all sin—but most especially serious sin—can be difficult, but remains always possible thanks to God’s unconditional love for us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whatever Happened to . . . Advent?



Dear Parishioners,
This time of the year always seems to be so much of a hassle.  What used to be the beginning of the Christmas shopping season with Black Friday, now has moved even earlier and earlier.  Many worry about sending Christmas cards, baking Christmas cookies, decorating, cleaning the house for guests, putting up the Christmas tree, buying gifts, (and wondering how I am going to pay for all those things that are now on my credit card!)
What does any of this really have to do with Christmas—the birth of Christ?
If you are honest, wouldn’t you just love to forget about all of the social pressures that are placed upon us by a consumer-driven society and all of the commercialism that eclipses this sacred season?  I still love A Charlie Brown Christmas because it reminds us all of this very point.
Advent is meant as a time for spiritual preparation for Christmas—four weeks of spiritual preparation!  Most of us are not even aware of this preparatory season let alone take the time to observe it.  The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until Christmas Eve.  Soon after people are already tired of Christmas and begin taking down the decorations and the tree.  The (ever-more secular) Christmas songs disappear from the radio and the Valentine’s Day displays start appearing in the stores (right behind those huge after-Christmas sales!) 
I have a suggestion for you.  Cut back on the materialism.  Don’t buy into the consumer mentality.  Buy a few less gifts. (Who needs those outrageous credit card interest rates anyway?)  Bake fewer cookies. (My bathroom scale has continually reminded me that while they may taste good, I really don’t need their residual effects hanging around my gut for prolonged periods of time!)
Rather, do something spiritual that helps to focus on Christ.  Pray a bit more. Go to confession.  Help someone unfortunate.  Visit an elderly person.  Read the Bible.  Keep Christ in Christmas.
I can’t take away the stress that often comes this time of year.  But by following my advice you may help to reduce it slightly.  (And save a few bucks as well!)
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor