Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Technology and Social Media

Dear Parishioners,

If you have lived long enough you can surely remember black and white TV’s, rabbit ears, and the three major channels/networks (with their test patterns when they went off the air).  I vividly recall as a child being invited to watch the Saturday morning cartoons in color for the first time at my friend’s home.  What a difference color made!  My family did not have a phone in the tiny house that we rented.  Unthinkable today!  I was trained to type on a manual typewriter in high school.  I remember playing Atari’s Pong on the TV and the green screen of the Apple II computer that I initially used at school.  I’ve been through vinyl records (331/3, 45 and 78 RPM speeds), 8-track tapes, cassette tapes and CD’s before the dawn of digital music downloads.  As time progressed, I even purchased a bag phone for my car—something that slightly resembled the old military phones that you might see in the movies.  I was moving right along with the latest gadgets and trends!

Honestly, I have seen technology progress at such a rapid pace that I can hardly keep up. WindowsGoogle, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, LinkedIn, YouTube and so many other terms have been added to our vocabulary, reflecting the ever-growing pace of technology and social media.  Is the end result of all this good?

Here are some of my observations: 

·   People drive in the car while using the phone all too often.  While we are supposed to be hands-free, frequently we are not.  The multiple signs about texting while driving and distracted driving warn us concerning the sometimes tragic result of this practice.  People have even walked into traffic, into inanimate objects or other people while texting or using their smartphones.

·  Phones now ring in inappropriate places and usually at the wrong time—in church, in classrooms, in the theater, while dining, etc.  Hearing the theme from Rocky, Tubular Bells (from the Exorcist) or Welcome to the Jungle (from Guns N’ Roses) doesn’t particularly appeal to me when I am trying to preach my homily, raise the sacred host at the consecration, or conduct a funeral.

·    Too many people no longer know how to hold an intelligent conversation, look at someone in the eyes when speaking and exhibit proper social etiquette/behavior.  Some of this seems to be the fault of being addicted to the smartphone or other devices.  Can we possibly go into a restaurant and not see a table with multiple people all on their devices at the same time?  Has a notepad or electronic game become a cheap and effective way of keeping the kids busy and quiet?

·    We need firewalls and other protections to keep us from identity theft.  We need filters to keep pornography and graphic violence from reaching our children’s eyes, minds and souls.  We might know of people who have had inappropriate relationships and affairs start online. We probably have seen the TV series focusing on child predators and the internet, not to mention how every type of sexual perversion imaginable can now be found somewhere online.  We hear of terrorists being radicalized on the internet.  We now have the possibility of more widely spread false news stories distorting the truth, ruining reputations and creating confusion in many people’s minds.

I am certainly aware of the various good things that we now have instantly at our fingertips because of technology.  I can access information just about anyone and anything.  I can also disseminate information quickly and to many people.  I can speak to while seeing people around the world. However, the internet is like travelling to places abroad—some destinations are relatively safe while others are not.  In fact, some places are outright dangerous.

We are going to have to learn to deal with a new President who tweets in his sleep.  And the internet is not going away.  In fact, the other morning I received an e-mail from the monastery of the Trappist Monks where I frequently go on retreat.  They occasionally advertise the things that they sell in their bakery by e-mail and on their website.  Knowing that our technology has even invaded the solitude of the Trappist Monks, I put up my white flag.  Gone are the days fantasizing about joining a monastery to escape the world!  

With regards to all of this new technology, for me, at least, the jury is still out.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Who remembers Atari's Pong game?

My 1st portable phone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Eavesdropping on a Dinner-time Conversation

Dear Parishioners,

Tired after a rather busy day in the parish, I decided to go out for dinner (by myself) to a nearby oriental restaurant.  I was seated at a table in very close proximity to a youthful couple.  We might as well have been sitting at the same table; we were so close to each other.  They appeared to be much too young to be married.  They had a bit of that twinkle in the eyes that said that they were quite interested in each other romantically.
There I was, minding my own business.  I could not but hear their entire conversation as I pretended to look at and play with my Smartphone.  They discussed various matters—most of which seemed to me like just-getting-to-know-you small talk.

Then my interest was piqued.  The young fellow informed his date:  “You know there are no U-Hauls in a funeral procession.”  Hey wait a minute!  That’s a line that I have often used!  Where did he hear this?  (I had “borrowed” the phrase from a talk I heard Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR give many years ago.)  Where was this guy going with his conversation?

He continued as I rather nonchalantly listened more intently.  “I guess life means that we try to experience as many good, happy things as we possibly can for as long as we can.  We don’t know when it is all going to end.”  I waited for some additional “wisdom” about an afterlife.  I hoped that there would be some mention of God and of a divine plan for us all.  No such luck.  This was not forthcoming.  I recalled the phrase:  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!  Is life solely about trying to experience as many good, happy things as we can before we die?

The couple came to mind later that night as I could not readily fall to sleep.  With continued restlessness and perhaps a bit of insomnia, I turned on the TV for a brief moment.  I stumbled upon a spoof of the 70’s-80’s band Kansas singing their hit song Dust in the Wind on a late-night show.  “All we are is dust in the wind . . . everything is dust in the wind.”

What was I hearing God say to me today through all of this?  Without a sense of purpose and direction given to us by our Christian faith, the meaning of life remains unknown, or becomes lost or distorted.  As Christians, we should realize that we are not merely dust in the wind but rather divinely created beings in God’s image and likeness.  Life’s main purpose is not simply to experience as many good, happy things as possible, but to try to know, love and serve a God who loved us into existence and wants us to be with Him for all eternity.  The message of the Gospel is good news for a reason.  It is meant to give us hope as we realize meaning, purpose and direction in life.  We are given the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ!

I was tempted to interject my thoughts into the couple’s dinner conversation that evening.  In the end, I resisted.  They didn’t realize that I was listening, that I was a priest and I didn’t want to give them indigestion on their date.

On the other hand, maybe I should have given them some unsolicited food for thought!

Fr. Ed Namiotka



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mother of God


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.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

“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 into 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, sisters, deacons and 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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"How Did We Get Here?"

Dear Parishioners,

I recently began hearing the confessions of the children in school and in the religious education program (PREP) for Advent with my brother priests.  I try to put the children at ease and try to help them realize that God is a forgiving God, if only we request His mercy.  I tell them that there is no sin God can’t forgive, if we are truly sorry.  My emphasis is on how merciful God is to all of us.  I want this sacrament to be one in which children will never be afraid and will continue to keep a positive attitude as they mature into adulthood.

Without going very long I usually begin hearing from the young children how they are “too busy” to go to Sunday Mass, that they “have sports on Sunday,” that their family “usually goes to Mass for Christmas and Easter” but not necessarily each week, and a whole bunch of similar comments.  All this is unfortunately telling me that going to Mass each Sunday is far from a priority in many, many families.  I dare not even mention Holy Days of Obligation—like the recent Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary  (December 8).  Holy Days of Obligation have taken on the attitude of optional at best, similar to the attitude of approximately 75% of Catholics who think in similar manner about Sunday Mass attendance each week.

Do Catholics still have an obligation to attend Mass each week? (Yes)  Hasn’t this requirement changed over the years? (No 

"Sunday . . . is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church." "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass." (2192, CCC)  

[Please refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) under the section on The Ten Commandments for the complete explanation.]  

So what is a pastor to do?  I have an obligation before God for the spiritual well-being of my people.  I care about them.  I love them.  I pray for them each day.  

1) Maybe I can pretend that there is no problem.  Just be silent and not bring up the topic.  I will only alienate people further.  (How much worse can it get?  Three-quarters of the average parish is missing each Sunday already!?)  2) Maybe I can gently urge and try warmly to invite people.  (Realistically, I have been attempting to do this almost every day of my priestly life.  The results, unfortunately, have not been overwhelming.)  3) Should I preach hell, fire and damnation like the good, old days? (While I think that the Fear of the Lord is a much needed virtue for our times, most of society does not want to be told what to do—rarely, if ever.)  4) Should I go on trying to live and lead by exampleWill my striving for personal holiness and my desire for conversion of life became contagious and lead people to Christ?  (I can only hope and pray!)

Growing up as a child in the 60’s and 70’s was, in my humble opinion, a very crazy time.  Free-love, the drug culture, Vietnam, the Cold War, unrest on college campuses, racial tension, etc. all seemed overwhelming to me as a kid.  Yet, somehow God was present to me in the midst of it all.  Despite the many adversities, I mysteriously heard the call to be Jesus’ disciple.  God could truly penetrate even the most difficult of situations—then and now.  Just look at the cross.  Didn’t this, too, seem to be the worst of all situations?  When I ask myself today “How did we get here?” as a culture and as a Church, I know deep down I must trust that God is still in charge and in His plan for salvation good will ultimately triumph.

Please come to Mass each week.   I will never stop asking (begging).  I care about your eternal salvation too much.

Fr. Ed Namiotka