Friday, April 3, 2020

Easter: A Time for Renewed Hope



Dear Parishioners,

I can only imagine how desperate the situation must have seemed to His apostles as Jesus was experiencing His brutal passion and death.  To see your spiritual leader, the one whom you believed was the long-awaited messiah, suffer and die like a common criminal had to be devastating.  We know most of them fled and went into hiding.  Peter was so terrified that he denied the Lord three times, as Jesus had predicted.  What do we do now?  Where do we go from here?

Yes, there were a few who remained faithful and by the cross until the bitter end:  Mary Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple John and Jesus’ own Mother Mary.  How great must have been the emotional pain that they felt as they helplessly watched his suffering up close.  Seeing every last breath coming from a beaten, broken body had to be stamped like a branding iron into their memories.  How could this possibly happen?

Salvation and the forgiveness of sin came with a price:  the suffering and death of the Son of God.  Holy Week recalls these events.  The crucifix in our churches (and homes) reminds us of the greatest act of sacrificial love.  But the story does not end here.

Resurrection and new life followed.  Jesus conquered sin and death.  The grave was not His final resting place.  He is alive!

With all of the suffering and death continuing throughout our world, we need to preach this message loud and clear:  Jesus is our salvation.  He brings us hope in every situation, no matter how desperate.

I realize how unusual these times are for all of us.  Closed churches, sacraments being limited, Holy Week and Easter services on TV or through the internet are unprecedented occurrences.  Despite it all, God is still in charge.  He allows this to happen for a reason, which I suspect is an urgent plea for us to return to Him with all our being.  We cannot exist at all without His Divine Assistance. 

What do we do now?  Where do we go from here? Do we seek resurrection and new life for ourselves and our loved ones?  Do we want to find hope in any desperate situation, even during a coronavirus pandemic?  Jesus is our salvation.  There is no other way.

I continue to hope and to pray.  Easter gives renewed hope to all Christians as we realize Christ is alive!  He is Risen!  Death has no more power over Him.  Although it may seem, at times, that the season of Lent continues in our lives and that Good Friday has not yet ended, trust in Jesus.  Stand by Him at the foot of the cross.  Resurrection and new life will come.

On behalf of my brother priests, I assure you of our continued prayers and Masses for your health and well-being.  Please pray for us.  We appreciate all of the kindness and love shown to us. 

I may not have all the answers to what lies ahead but I certainly know Who does:  Jesus, Our Risen Lord!  

Happy Easter!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Palm Sunday and Holy Week 2020


Dear Parishioners,

Wow!  This is certainly different.  Palm Sunday without the usual crowds of people.  Palm Sunday with boxes of unused palm stored in our garage.  Palm Sunday on the TV, computer, tablet or smartphone and not physically in church.  Palm Sunday, nonetheless.

We begin the holiest week of the Church year.  Starting with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem, commemorating the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and the ministerial Priesthood, and finally recalling the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord—but you need to watch it all at home.  These are most unusual times.

Please do not waste any opportunity for spiritual growth and holiness.  As the religious sisters used to instruct us back in Catholic grammar school:  offer it up!  Make any inconvenience, sacrifice, suffering, or hardship an offering to the Lord.  Join your prayers and sacrifices to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered throughout the world.  Yes, you must do it from home.  However, this is what the sick and infirm might have to do continually, week after week.

Since so much of what is going on with the coronavirus pandemic is fluid, please monitor our web page (holyangelsnj.org) regularly.  Fr. Hugh is very diligent about updating messages and information.  Typically, I have referred to the livestream broadcast of the Mass provided by the Diocese of Camden with Bishop Sullivan for people to watch.  Some other sources such as EWTN have been televising the Holy Mass for years.  Last week, after offering Mass myself, I watched the Mass from the Dioceses of Camden and Phoenix, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  I watched the Mass provided from Word on Fire.  I also saw the links to many of my brother priests offering Mass at their local parishes.  Thankfully there are multiple opportunities to participate in Mass from home using the latest technology.

Somehow for me, it is still not quite the same.  The priests and I are fortunate to have our private chapel in the rectory for daily and Sunday Mass, and for prayer time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  We are praying and offering Mass for you and your intentions.  My heart suffers with those who desire but cannot receive Our Lord at this time because of the pandemic.  I am not always happy with, but I am respectful of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities and their decisions concerning this pandemic.  I would not want to be in their position.

Thank you to those who mailed us or dropped off their weekly offerings.  It’s harder to pay the parish bills with diminished income.  Please remember we still have to cover the cost of the utilities and other expenses for our many properties.  Like the annual Christmas collection, we depend on the Easter collection to catch up with many of our bills and expenses.  Thank you for whatever you can do.

Being in quarantine, I have obviously had the time to think, pray and write, so I ask that you take a look at my more-lengthy thoughts on our current situation.  My blog entry is entitled The Divine Adjustment and it is linked to our parish website.

Please know that you are remembered in everything we do this Holy Week.  May Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection give us renewed hope.
  
God is still in charge.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Letter from the Heart




Dear Parishioners,

I hope that you are able to read this message online, since the bulletins you normally receive at church at the end of Mass are not being distributed as usual.  However, my weekly letter to you is found on my blog (fr-ed-namiotka.com), linked to our parish web page (holyangelsnj.org), through my Facebook account and through Twitter.

Be assured that I pray for you and offer Mass daily for you.   Whether it be in the church or in our private chapel in the rectory, Mass continues to be offered.  All requested intentions are being fulfilled.  If this quarantine is prolonged, we will attempt to live stream the Mass and other spiritual exercises, as many other parishes are doing.  We are trying to figure out how best to accomplish this.  I realize it is not the same as when you are physically present.  However, difficult times call for alternate measures.

The primary way we can stay in touch right now is through the internet.   The staff is not coming to the office but working from home.  All of the priests are well.  While we are certainly disheartened that we were told not to offer public Masses and other spiritual exercises gathering a crowd, we still try to open the church periodically for private prayer, hear confessions (from a proper distance) and anoint the sick (taking proper precautions).  We struggle with leaving the church open without supervision, so we are usually in the church whenever the doors are open.  I think that more security cameras for the Church and other buildings are in our immediate future.

Let me give some spiritual guidance since this is still Lent.  These crazy times do not exempt us from intensified prayer.  We should not be “killing” or “passing time” but rather using the time we are given to grow in holiness.  Pray the Rosary daily.  Read the Bible and meditate on a passage (especially the daily Mass readings).  Watch and participate in the Mass on TV (EWTN is available daily) or through various live streams and make a Spiritual Communion often.  If the opportunity becomes available, get to confession.  However, make an act of perfect contrition every day—multiple times per day is encouraged.  Participate in other spiritual exercises such as the Stations of the Cross, novena prayers, praying the Divine Office, etc. at home.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying in the state of grace.  Simply put, we should not be conscious of any grave sin that has not been confessed in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession).  If we find ourselves in such a situation, make that perfect act of contrition (renouncing all sin and professing a complete and total love for Almighty God) with the intention of getting to confession as soon as possible.  Conversion—a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—is what is required of all of us as Christians and disciples of our Lord.

It does not look like we will have any public Masses into the foreseeable future.  This unfortunately includes Holy Week and Easter.  I am really, really distraught by this.  It is such an unprecedented time for the Church and for the world in these modern times.

Pray to our Lord and to our Lady.  At Fatima, she said that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph.  I trust in this promise.  I always have.  I consecrated Holy Angels parish (as I had done at my previous parishes) to her care.  Remember that and be consoled by that!

Please pray for your priests, bishops and the Holy Father.  Pray that God’s Will be accomplished in all things.
 
I love you all!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Uncharted Waters




Dear Parishioners,

If you would have told me over thirty years ago when I was newly ordained I would be instructed that I (and all other Camden diocesan priests) could not offer public Mass for the people, I would think that you were out of your mind.  Never in a million years would this happen!  So I thought. 

Where are we?  In some communist nation persecuting the Catholic Church?  Are we being oppressed by some ruthless dictatorship?  Are we currently living in hiding in some underground Church?  Nope.  Not at all.

It’s all because of a virus.  COVID-19.  A coronavirus. They call the situation a pandemic.

Today (3/16/2020) started out well and rather routine: morning Mass followed by some daily confessions.  I also decided that I would do something spiritual to combat the situation we face with this pandemic.  There are such precedents in the history of the Church.  Pope St. Gregory the Great had a Eucharistic procession in the 6th century to battle the plague.  Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas tweeted out a request for simple Eucharistic processions around churches.  This was my thought:  Why not expose the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Eucharistic adoration, bless the people in the church and then bless the parish/town?  I did just that.

While I heard confessions, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for prayer and adoration.  When I finished with the last penitent, I processed down the aisle and blessed the people with Jesus in the monstrance.  I concluded outside the front doors of the church and blessed our parish and the town in all four directions:  north, south east and west.  Faith can move mountains (see Mt. 17: 20) according to Sacred Scripture.  I prayed that faith can also help combat a virus.

Later in the day the bad news came: no public Masses in the Camden Diocese until further notice.  The memo was initially met with unbelief and confusion.  I knew other American (arch)dioceses had taken similar action: New York, Seattle, and Newark, to name a few.  The Italian bishops have also banned public Masses until April 3rd.
 
However, I also saw how the Polish bishops called for more Masses to be said throughout their country.

The Polish archbishop of PoznaƄ declared that it was “unimaginable” for Polish Catholics not to pray in their churches.  “In the current situation, I wish to remind you that just as hospitals treat diseases of the body, so the Church serves to, among other things, treat illness of the soul; that is why it is unimaginable that we not pray in our churches,” he wrote.
We are definitely in uncharted waters with this coronavirus.  Will it prove to be as deadly as any virus we have ever seen?  I pray not.  Various countries, states and dioceses have seemingly taken the utmost precautions.

Will the decision to suspend or cancel public Masses be the right one in the end?  People with varying degrees of faith and belief will debate this for some time to come. 

I suspect we may have to wait for judgment day (see Mt. 25: 31-46)—when we face God with what we have done and what we have failed to do to—to see who had the correct approach.

In the meantime, what's at stake here?  The salvation of souls.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Lessons from the "Woman at the Well"




Dear Parishioners,

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4: 5-42).  Certainly, there are multiple lessons to be learned from this passage.  I focus here on three.

Living Water.  Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman for a drink.  Their conversation then progresses to Jesus inviting the woman to ask Him for living water instead.  As is typical in St. John’s gospel, there are varying levels of understanding present in the dialogue (see also the conversation with Nicodemus, Jn. 3: 1-21).  The woman is thinking about water to quench thirst while Jesus is offering something more.  Ultimately, Jesus is inviting her to BAPTISM.  Jesus is the source or fountain of living water (grace) through the sacrament of baptism.

It is no secret that I am very frustrated when people do not see an urgency to get baptized themselves or to have their children baptized.  According to the Code of Canon Law:  Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks (canon 867).  Instead they wait years or decide to let the children “choose for themselves” when they get older.  When baptism is delayed, sanctifying grace (God’s life) is not present in a person’s life.  Remember, we are not born in a relationship with God, but rather separated because of original sin.  Baptism washes away original sin (and actual sin, if one has reached the age of reason), makes one an adopted child of God and allows sanctifying grace to enter a person’s life.  Do I not want this for myself and/or my children?  Is there no sense of urgency?

I Do Not Have a Husband.  While the woman denies that she has a husband, Jesus reminds her she has had five.  As one of my seminary professors once put it:  “She was the Elizabeth Taylor of her time.”  This part of the dialogue reminded me about the importance of Catholics rectifying any marriage situation that is not seen as valid in the eyes of the Church.  People in our congregation are sometimes married, divorced and then remarried outside the Catholic Church.  Or they were never married in the Catholic Church in the first place.  Unless the proper permissions were sought out and granted, these marriages may be invalid according to Church law.  The longstanding implication of this is that one should not receive Holy Communion, or be a godparent or sponsor, or be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, etc.  until such a situation is rectified.  An annulment may be needed.  Or a convalidation of the marriage may be necessary.  Or the couple may be required to live in a brother/sister relationship, if nothing else can be done.  It is best to set up an appointment with one of the priests to help discern what may be possible or necessary.

I am He, the One Speaking with You.  As their dialogue continues, Jesus reveals his identity as the long-expected messiah.  It is of utmost importance that we all realize the implications of this reality.  Jesus is the messiah.  He is also God’s only-begotten Son.  Salvation comes through Him and on His terms, not ours.  I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn. 14: 6).  The Samaritan woman believed in Him.  She also witnessed to others about Jesus.  She led others to believe in Jesus.  Similarly, if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior, then we must also bring others to Him.  Go and make disciples (Mt. 28: 19).  Start in your family.  Witness to your friends.  Tell the whole world what God has done for you!

Jesus continually uses unlikely people to be His disciples and his missionaries:  fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritan women, you and me.
 
Let’s not waste any more time getting started.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor