Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Learning Humility


Dear Parishioners,

When I was a seminarian preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, I thought that it might be a good idea to pray for humility.  It seemed, at the time, to be a wise aspiration.

Gradually, things were brought to my attention concerning the topic of humility—now on a somewhat regular basis.  I heard things said to me like:  Be careful of what you pray for, you might get it and The quickest way to humility is through humiliation.

On the day of the senior class graduation from the college seminary, there was a well-planned Baccalaureate Mass.  I happened to be the sacristan of the seminary chapel at the time.  I would be the person leading the reader to his appropriate place at the pulpit during the proclamation of the readings from Sacred Scripture.  The chapel was packed.  Family and friends, the entire faculty and various dignitaries were present for this momentous occasion.  The homily was thoroughly prepared by the priest assigned to preach, based primarily on the first reading, which I later found out had been chosen from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

I led the reader to the pulpit after making the appropriate bows.  As we looked at the Lectionary and the reading set open in front of us, he whispers to me, “This isn’t the right reading.”  In a state of panic I said quickly and without much thought: “Well . . . read it anyway.”  I instructed him to read the incorrect reading in front of everyone.  It was from the Acts of the Apostles.  It had multiple difficult names to pronounce.  The homily, I came to find out, had been based almost entirely on the reading from the Prophet Jeremiah.  I was humiliated.  I guess I began to learn humility.

Fast forward to when I initially became a principal of a diocesan high school.  It was the night of the open house.  I was hurrying around the buildings trying to make sure the bathrooms looked clean and presentable for any guests.  I began to clean things up.  Not really a pleasant job for anyone, I thought.  Then I recalled the brilliant words of advice that I had given to my students at various times:  Stay in school.  Get your degrees so that you don’t wind up cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Who was it now cleaning bathrooms?  Humility? Hmm . . .

At other times humility kicks in as well.  One Sunday the deacon had preached during the Mass that I offered.  We went to the back of church to greet the people as they exited.  “Great homily Father!” One particular gentleman had said that right to my face with all seriousness.  I hadn’t preached at that Mass.  He hadn’t a clue.  Great homily . . .  Oh well!  Humility . . .

Be sure to heed the words from today’s Gospel:

[Jesus and his disciples] came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk. 9: 33-35)

May I also add my own words of caution when praying for something (like humility):  Be very careful; you might actually get what you pray for!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Sunday, September 12, 2021

Reflecting on the Cross


Dear Parishioners,

You will find that I refer to the cross of Jesus quite frequently when I preach.  Maybe I have been profoundly influenced by St. Paul:  I preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified. (See 1 Cor. 2:2 and 1 Cor. 1:23) 

Typically, I will point to the image of the crucified Jesus.  While some churches have an image of the resurrected Jesus in the sanctuary, as did one of my former parishes, I really must confess that I am not quite there yet in my own spiritual life.  I relate better to the crucified Jesus who truly knew suffering and experienced death.  Intellectually, I know that JESUS IS RISEN, and I certainly preach Him as risen from the dead.  However, whether it be in my personal chapel in the rectory, or in the church itself, I look to the crucified Jesus—to the crucifix—more often than not.

Each day I see suffering in the world.  When I turn on the evening news, read the newspaper or find an article on the internet, so many of the stories involve tragedy:  a plane going down, a hurricane, a wild fire, a flood, war, violence, murder, etc.  I see people suffering and dying.  I visit the hospital and I find someone extremely sick with family members surrounding him or her in tears.  I visit the homebound.  I celebrate a funeral Mass.  Get the picture?

Jesus knew suffering.  Meditating on the sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary, making the Stations of the Cross, reading an account of Jesus’ passion in the Sacred Scriptures, looking at a crucifix, all tell me that Christ can relate to the pain and suffering of humanity.

I ponder the image of the Risen Christ and truly hope to be there someday.  I also realize that resurrection and eternal life are still somewhere—with God’s grace and through His forgiveness, mercy and love—in the future for me.

However, I continue look at the crucifix.  Maybe I do not receive immediate answers to all my prayers.  Maybe I still have questions and doubts.  But what I see is a God who loved me enough to suffer and to die for me.  I see Jesus who willingly accepted suffering and experienced it to the depth of his being.  I see a humble, vulnerable God who took upon Himself all of our sins—my sins.  I see Jesus who died for me, for all of us.

At this point in time, you can see where I am in my personal spiritual life.  I see myself at the foot of the cross.  I hope someday for resurrection and eternal life.  But I am, unfortunately, just not there yet.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. (Mark 8: 34b-35) 

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor   

Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka

 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Off to College!




Dear Parishioners,

The end of the summer is the time when college students make their way off to or return back to their respective chosen schools.  I write this week’s column with them particularly in mind.

There was a funny and curious expression that I heard used in the past about this rite of passage or trek away from homeIt’s time to sow some wild oats!  The idiom basically means to indulge in a period of irresponsible behaviorAny parent would be na├»ve not to think that college life holds many temptations and opportunities for sordid experimentation, in addition to the supposed education/learning that should be taking place.

I still believe in the goodness of our young adults.  I hold that the young people today have some very unique challenges that earlier generations never had—accompanied by various special graces—as they live in today’s world.  Kudos to those students who study diligently, participate in sports or other activities, and even may work part-time or full time jobs while at college!

I humbly take this time to give you a few words of advice, with my hope that you ponder what I have to say.  Like any good parent (after all, I am a spiritual father), my words are intended with love and genuine concern for your well-being:

·         Remember who you are and where you come from.  My father used to tell us “never to do anything that would embarrass the family name.”  It was his way of saying that he and my mother tried to instill certain Christian values in their children and they expected us to live by them.    A sign that I read sums it up perfectly:  Character is who you are, even when no one is watching.  (God, in fact, is always watching!)

·         Remember that your faith will be tested.  Even if you attend a Catholic college, there will be times when you will be called to witness to your faith and your faith will, no doubt, be challenged.  Will you make an attempt to attend Mass?  Will you try to pray each day for strength and guidance?  Will you blindly accept criticisms of the faith from other students and various professors?  Will the pressure of your peers lead you to try “forbidden” things or abandon values that you were taught?  When tested, your faith can become stronger.

·         Try to find and to associate with friends having good moral values.  Your choice of friends is just that—your choice.  It is much easier to live a good, happy life when in the company of like-minded people.  Choose wisely!  Moreover, seek out the Newman Center on the college campus and/or become aware of the presence of the Catholic chaplain.  Other students serious about their faith will, hopefully, be doing the same.

·         Remember the intended purpose of higher education.  You should go to college (and beyond) to get an education, to prepare for a career and to develop as a better person.  Don’t let the experience turn into an overly-expensive party with the potential for some pretty serious consequences!

·         Don’t be afraid to turn to your parents (or someone you trust) when necessary.  Even if you do something stupid, realize that your parents are there for you.  Their love for you should be constant.

If you ever need someone (in addition to your parents) in some time of difficulty or necessity, know that your pastor has e-mail, a web-site (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com), a Facebook account, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, (and I am considering some other means of social media) and can be reached by the good old telephone!   

Know, also, that you are remembered in my prayers!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Confusion or Clarity?



Dear Parishioners,

One thing I hopefully learned through my extensive seminary training (in both philosophy and theology) was to be a more critical thinker.  I do not usually take what is told to me as gospel without first dissecting it thoroughly while thinking about it over some extended time.  Don’t be surprised if I tend to pick apart statements and examine word usage.  (Maybe, at times, I analyze some matters too much.)

Over time, I have learned to sift through arguments that were based solely on emotion rather than fact.  I tend more readily to recognize ad hominem attacks on people which have nothing to do their actual stated beliefs.  I look for theological statements to contain genuine substance and for preciseness in doctrine rather than buy into buzz-words and catch-phrases.  I want consistency, clarity and minimal ambiguity.  Maybe this is because I had to stand in front of high school students for a couple of decades trying to articulate the faith as unambiguously as possible.

So, what do I make of some of the confusion that currently exists in the Church?  This situation definitely does not help believers (or even non-believers).  What has infiltrated the Church has been referred to as a “weaponized ambiguity.”  Can divorced and re-married Catholics receive Holy Communion?  Can homosexual unions be sanctioned by the Church?  Is abortion ever justified?  Are Catholics who practice artificial contraception in the state of mortal sin?  It seems to depend with whom you speak.  You can get a different answer to each of the above—sometimes with a wink and a nod—from priests, bishops, theologians, etc.

This vagueness creates havoc with our objective morality and tends to legitimize a moral relativism (situation ethics).  Sin, despite its gravity, becomes a subjective opinion rather than an objective truth.  The danger in all of this uncertainty and confusion is that eternal souls may be lost forever in the process.  It is our obligation in the Catholic Church to lead people to Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and not back to one’s misinformed, erroneous conscience.

As a confessor for over thirty years, people have told me stories about how Father told me that it was not a sin or that Father told me just to follow my conscience.  In actuality, priests like me are not helping anyone by hiding the truth from them and leaving them in the state of sin.  Making a person feel good about himself or herself for a time never truly addresses or remedies any immoral act and its consequences.  If sin is truly bad, people don’t need to be enslaved by it but rather freed from it.  Sin and evil don’t suddenly become something else by our willing it so, our misnaming it or our justifying it.  And in order to follow our conscience, it needs to be rightly-formed.

There are about 2000 years of Catholic Church teaching we are able to reference to find what various saints, councils, pontiffs, etc. have articulated through the years.  While our understanding of Church doctrine may mature with time, no officially defined dogma or traditionally held teaching can be radically changed or suddenly eliminated.  Be a critical thinker and especially take the time to investigate anything that seems strange or contrary to any long-standing doctrine or moral teaching.  It is much better to be safe than eternally sorry.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Reminder of What We Missed Last Sunday . . .



Last week, the normal Sunday readings were interrupted because the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary fell on a Sunday this liturgical year (2021).  Unfortunately, some of the most significant words of Jesus regarding the Holy Eucharist—found in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse (John, chapter 6)—were bypassed as a result.  Let me just quote a few of the most significant lines found there:  

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 . . . .

Bread is indeed 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 Israel—before 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)

However, in the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, as we read what is referred to as Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus makes some very profound and perhaps, disturbing, statements.  Some people found His teaching hard to take and walked away from Him (see Jn. 6:66).  This passage is seen as an essential commentary on the significance and value of the Most Holy Eucharist.  We hear some of the most definitive statements of Jesus regarding the Holy Eucharist.  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament 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 divine mystery.  Over the centuries, the term transubstantiation—a change in substance (but not in appearance)—has 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.  Reverence and awe cannot be overstated or over-emphasized.  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)

Please realize Whom we are privileged to have on our altar and to receive:  Jesus, the Son of God.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor