Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Month until Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families!

Dear Parishioners,

In just about a month Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia (September 26-27) for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families (September 22-25).  There is a dedicated web site for this momentous occasion (www.worldmeeting2015.org) if you would like more information.  A link is available from our parish web page.

The last world meeting of this kind was held in Milan, Italy in 2012 and drew over one million people to the Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI

The World Meeting of Families was initially conceived by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1992 to look at strengthening the sacred bonds of the family unit across the globe. The initial meeting took place in Rome in 1994 for the International Year of the Family.

Every three years since 1994, families from all over the world are invited by the Holy Father to attend this global gathering.  According to the WMOF web site: “At the conference, families share their thoughts, dialogue and prayers, working together to grow as individuals and family units.  Families can participate in discussion groups on the Christian family’s role in the church and society, led by many distinguished speakers.”  Some of the speakers include Bishop-elect Robert Barron (Word on Fire), Scott Hahn, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix (Primate of Canada), Cardinal Luis Tagle (Philippines), Cardinal Sean O’Malley (Boston), Cardinal Willem Eijk, Helen Alvare, Janet Smith, Christopher West—just to name but a few of the distinguished guests and speakers.  The occasion will feature some of the best scholars from around the world.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia informs us that “Our theme, ‘Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive’ was inspired by the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who wrote ‘the Glory of God is man fully alive.’ The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves – and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.”

The entire event will culminate with a Papal Mass (Sunday, September 27, 4 PM) celebrated by Pope Francis on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, famous for many notable buildings along its path including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and City Hall.

Please pray for the success of the World Meeting of Families and for Pope Francis. The family is the core building block of society and the Domestic Church. When our families are strong, united and live according to God’s design for them, our society is that much better off.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Sir, Give Us This Bread Always"

Dear Parishioners,

One of the things that I enjoy (in the food category) when I vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten / St. Martin, is the fresh baked bread.  Every morning you will see a number of people heading to a bakery or local grocery store to get a baguette or some type of fresh baked French bread.  The bread is outstanding, in my humble opinion.  Crispy crust, soft inside, great taste . . . .  Smother it in butter with a cup of coffee and I’m perfectly happy for breakfast.

St. Maarten / St. Martin is the smallest land mass (37 square miles) shared by two sovereign nations.  It has no physical borders.  There is a Dutch side and a French Side and people go back and forth freely.  The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus on the feast of St. Martin of Tours (November 11) in 1493.  The island has been arguably referred to as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean and the many great French restaurants found there are supportive of this claim.

Bread is a staple of life for many people throughout history.  In Jesus’ time it was part of the everyday meal as was table wine.  He used both of these common elements in an extraordinary way when He was at table with his disciples before His death—the Last Supper.

Bread also had some spiritual significance throughout history for the Jewish and later Christian peoples.  The Jewish people eat unleavened bread to commemorate their freedom from Egypt when they had to flee before they had time for the bread to rise (Ex. 34:18).  When the Jews were wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, God gave them manna to eat—mysterious “bread from heaven.” (Ex. 16)  The Jews also kept showbread or bread of presence—twelve loaves representing the twelve tribes of Israelbefore God in the sanctuary of the Temple.  Later, Jesus famously multiplied the loaves and fish, to feed the hungry multitudes (Mt. 14:15-21, Mk. 6:34-42, Lk. 9:16-17, Jn. 6:9-13}.  The use of bread comes to a spiritual summit in Jesus’ designation of it as His body at the Last Supper (Mt. 26: 26, Mk. 14:22, Lk. 22:19, 1 Cor 11:23-24). 

In the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, we read what is referred to as Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse.  It is seen as a commentary on the significance and value of the Most Holy Eucharist.  We hear some definitive statements made by Jesus:  I am the bread of life . . . I am the bread that came down from heaven . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. . . My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink . . . .

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist is one of the core teachings of the Catholic faith.  We do not believe in some mere symbolic presence, but take Jesus literally--at his word--in our understanding of this mystery.  Over the centuries, terms like transubstantiationa change in substance (but not in appearance)have been used to explain this essential dogma.

When we approach the Most Holy Eucharist, we approach Jesus—our Lord, God and Savior.  He deserves our love, reverence and respect.  Like the people in the Gospel, our attitude toward the Holy Eucharist should be one of desire, anticipation, thanksgiving and joy:

“Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6: 34)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Life's a Beach!

Dear Parishioners,

By the time you read this message, I should be back from my all-too-brief vacation.

Being raised in Wildwood-by-the-Sea, NJ, I grew up loving the beach and boardwalk.  I still like to soak in the sun when I am able, although I get continual warnings from my skin doctor to “be sure to use your sun-block!”  I spent most of this vacation time on the beach.

While sitting under my umbrella a few days ago, a group of teens camped out behind me.  They were playing with their electronic devices and the “music” was blaring quite loudly.  I couldn’t help but hear the lyrics (or at least some of choice the words)!  Emanating from what appeared to be some type of rap “music”, I heard the notorious N-word at least 25 times or more in the various songs being shouted, as well as a few select 4-letter words interspersed continually.  I would be hard pressed to call any of it music.  It was a gross insult and assault to any person’s sensibilities.

As the day progressed I saw the same group drinking beer and passing around a funny looking cigarette while swimming in the water.  None of them appeared to be over 18 years old.  Oh, how I worry about today’s youth!

When I thought about the various matters troubling today’s young people, I also realized that my generation had its own problems.  With the drinking age at 18 at the time, alcohol was easily accessible (through many of the seniors) at the high school level.  The combination of drinking and teenagers was ultimately bad news.  Drugs were starting to be more prevalent and accessible.  Add to it all the growth of a free-love society, and the path to the future became an even more destructive one!

Today the problems seem to start to be grave at an even younger age.  Blame it on the breakup of the family, the lack of parental supervision, the internet, the availability of drugs and alcohol, the decline of religious practice and morality, etc., and I wonder what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years from now.  They say that the pendulum swings back and forth.  I sure hope, for humanity’s sake, that it will reverse course and soon be headed in the other direction.

When St. Paul came to Corinth, it was a notorious sea port filled with vice.  When he went to Rome, he had to face the immorality and corruption within the Roman Empire.  All the cities he visited had their own particular problems and degrees of sinful behavior.  To the people of Ephesus, he wrote the following:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5: 1-5)

I hope and pray that we all desire to have some inheritance in the Kingdom of God.  This means that we must strive continually to conform our lives to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures.  It is important that this message gets out to everyone, including (and especially) our youth.  

Pray for them.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dealing with Change

Dear Parishioners,

People have asked me at various times why our priests are moved so often.  They say that just when they are getting used to a particular person, then he is transferred to another assignment. 

In the past, some of our diocesan priests spent a long time at one assignment.  Msgr. Joseph Stoerlein, who died this past year and was previously assigned to St. Joseph Church, had been pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Vineland for 32 years.  Chances are we will not see a similar situation again with the policy that is currently in place in the Diocese of Camden.  Pastors can usually expect to spend a term of six years at a particular assignment with the possibility of being renewed for another six years.  While there are sometimes exceptions made, this is now the common expectation.

Regarding parochial vicars (associate pastors) and various special assignments like hospital chaplains or teachers, the duration of assignment can vary widely.  I had been in the education apostolate for 20 years prior to coming here.  Fr. Larry Polansky was with us just about two years as hospital chaplain.

Now our parish faces additional changes.  With the reassignment of Fr. Larry to St. Peter Church in Merchantville, some adjustments had to be made.  Fr. Christopher Onyeneke, who is one of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (M.SS.CC.) from Linwood, will serve part-time as hospital chaplain and part-time as my parochial vicar.  Fr. Christopher is from Nigeria and will officially begin on August 1st.  We welcome him to St. Joseph Church!

Additionally, Fr. Alvaro Diaz who is serving the Hispanic community both in Ocean City and here in Somers Point (as well as assisting with some Masses in English), will no longer be assigned to St. Joseph Church as of August 1st.  The simple truth is that our parish cannot afford the salary/benefits of two part-time priests without depleting the remainder of our meager savings.  Fr. Alvaro will continue to live and minister at St. Damien Parish in Ocean City.

Our seminarian, Mr. Anthony Infante, will leave us in the beginning of August to continue his studies at Seton Hall University.

On behalf of our parish, I extend my thanks to Fr. Alvaro and to Anthony for the time that they spent at St. Joseph Church.  Our prayers and best wishes are with them as they continue doing the Lord’s work.

We must all remember that we are on a pilgrimage through life while here on this earth.  Our true home is intended to be in Heaven with God.  The many changes that we experience in life remind us constantly that we are not meant to be here forever.  Christians should not become too complacent with their situation in this life.  Recall a parable from the Gospel:

Then (Jesus) told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?  Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  (Lk, 12: 16-21)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Making the Same Mistakes . . . or Even Worse

Dear Parishioners,

It was the 20th century philosopher and author George Santayana who is noted for the quote:
 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

All of us who are Christians as well as our spiritual ancestors, the Jewish people, are able to refer to sacred, inspired texts—the Torah or the Holy Bible—reminding us of important lessons from salvation history.  These lessons of Scripture are timeless and must be understood as relevant for every age because God’s truth never becomes insignificant or out-of-date.

At various times in the history of the Jewish people, the covenant with God was broken.  The people worshipped false gods, led immoral lives and failed to heed the warnings of the prophets.  Because of their rebelliousness, they often paid a most severe price.  They were exiled from their land, enslaved or even killed.

In the Second Book of Kings (Chapter 22 f.), we read of the reign of King Josiah (641-609 BC) and how the Book of the Law was rediscovered in the Temple during his time.  Unfortunately, the people had become oblivious to their obligations concerning the covenant with God. “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his garments.” (2 Kg. 22: 11)  The tearing of one’s clothes is an ancient tradition among the Jews, and it is associated with mourning, grief, and loss.  The King realized that he and his people had not been living up to the covenant and he feared the consequences of their infidelity.  He began a series of religious reforms.  He set himself to the task of cleansing the land from idolatry.  He wanted to make it right again before God.

Why do I make reference to this story?

I think that if we forget to draw upon the teachings of the inspired Word of God, we will repeat the mistakes of the past and wind up suffering the consequences of our actions.  We have to remain faithful to our part of the covenant with God.  This covenant with God has to be seen through the Person of Jesus Christ. . . For this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant . . . .  We hear these words of consecration at every Mass.  Jesus established this covenant and sealed it in His own Blood.

Are we faithful to the covenant or have we abandoned it?  Are we committed to worshipping the true God?  Do we seriously keep His commands?  Do we know and live the words of Sacred Scripture?  Do we pray daily?  Do we buy into the ways of the world around us and wind up compromising our Christian values?  Do we seek to do the will of God in our lives?

The call of the prophets was for the people to return to the Lord and to be faithful to the covenant with God.

Be modern-day prophets and get this word out to the people around us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka