Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More About the Forty Hours Devotion

Dear Parishioners,

Beginning Sunday night (9/29/19) after the 6 PM Mass in St. Patrick Church, we will offer the opportunity for prayer and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, commonly known as the Forty Hours Devotion.  This practice, which can be traced to Milan, Italy around the year 1530, is a formalized period of prayer and adoration centering on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Prior to this period in the Catholic Church’s history, there were times of exposition and benediction, Eucharistic processions and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.  However, both Saints Philip Neri and Ignatius of Loyola instituted the Forty Hours Devotion (with reference to Jesus’ 40 hours in the tomb and recalling other biblical citations in which the symbolic number 40 was specified) in reparation for sin.

Fr. William Saunders, whom I knew from my college seminary days, wrote a rather thorough article, “40 Hours with Jesus Christ,” originally for his diocesan paper (Arlington Catholic Herald) describing this devotion.  I quote from a part of it here:

While the Mass is the central act of worship for us Catholics, an act which participates in the eternal reality of our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection, Vatican Council II upheld and encouraged the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.  Of course such devotion derives from the sacrifice of the Mass and moves the faithful to both sacramental and spiritual communion with our Lord (Eucharisticum Mysterium, #50). . . . Pope John Paul II has repeatedly "highly recommended" public and private devotion of the Blessed Sacrament, including processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi and the 40 Hours Devotion (cf. Dominicae Cenae, #3, and Inaestimabile Donum, #20-22).
It was the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia, St. John Neumann who was a strong promoter of this devotion in his diocese.  The practice would also spread to our area of New Jersey and beyond.

After considering this brief history lesson and the official encouragement by saints, popes and church documents, I really think that the essence of this devotion comes down to our belief—our deep faith—in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.  If Jesus is really there, why wouldn’t we want to spend time with Him in prayer?

I can simply relate to you from my own personal experience that spending time with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist has been for me my most fruitful times of prayer beyond comparison.  I love the Holy Eucharist in all of its dimensions—from offering the Mass to the reception of Holy Communion to adoring and worshiping Jesus’ Real Presence in the tabernacle / monstrance.  Jesus is present throughout—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Those that I know (and have known) who have prayed in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament have overwhelmingly come to appreciate what a most precious gift that we have.  The Mass is so much more meaningful.  The reading of the Sacred Scriptures becomes alive and motivating.  The inspiration and wisdom that comes from sitting at the feet of the Master is beyond price!

I invite you to come to Mass and to spend some time during these days—September 29th to October 1st—with our Eucharistic Lord.  Pleas sign up so that all the time slots are filled!  Our Lord deserves nothing less.  

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Sunday, September 15, 2019

40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration at Holy Angels

Dear Parishioners,

We near the feast day of Holy Angels Parish (September 29) which is normally the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  This year it falls on a Sunday.  Our parish will observe 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration from Sunday, September 29 to Tuesday, October 1.  Following the Sunday evening Mass at 6 PM at St. Patrick Church on September 29, the Blessed Sacrament will remain continually present on the altar for private prayer and adoration, except when a Mass is scheduled.  We will have an extra evening Mass at 7 PM on both September 30 and October 1 (in addition to our regular morning Masses at 6:45 and 9 AM).  The closing Mass on October 1 will also include a Eucharistic procession.

I truly believe that when we take the time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is a time of tremendous blessing not only for us as individuals but also for our families and for our entire parish family.  I do not ever want us to take for granted the great gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Time spent with Him is a grace-filled time.  We can express our love and adoration for Jesus, thankfulness for our blessings, and contrition for sin (our own and the sins of others).  We can also intercede for one another and petition the Lord for our various needs.  It is an invaluable time to spend with Jesus, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

When we come into the Lord’s presence, Jesus can do something to us.  We may think that we go to pray, to petition and to worship, or even that we are doing God a favor by spending some of our precious time with Him.  Our Lord Jesus, however, can transform us while we spend time with Him.  We do not need to worry about what prayers we should say, what spiritual readings we should be reading or what we should be doing in His Presence.  Just being with the Lord can be transforming.  He can soften our hearts, heal our wounds, inspire us and guide us.  He can give us an inner peace that nothing in this world can match.  Making the commitment to spend time with Him can truly transform us.

What I am requesting from you, my parishioners, is that you dedicate at least one hour sometime during these three days with the Lord in adoration.  (This should be in addition to any time attending Mass, when possible.)  This devotion will continue for two nights—around the clock—and I need your help and cooperation in order to do this.  Could you please think about dedicating an hour in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament?  Why not encourage members of your family to pray as a family for an hour?  Perhaps a group or organization within the parish can make a holy hour together (choir, Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc.).  I especially need a few insomniacs or night owls to cover the late hours!  We are arranging to have added security at night.

Sign-up sheets are available at the doors of the churches and the worship center, and online so that we can be sure that there is always someone keeping watch with our Lord.  Please assist me in making this a special time for our parish as we adore our Eucharistic Lord.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Restoring Belief in and Reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist

Dear Parishioners,

A recent headline from the Pew Research Center (August 5, 2019) stated the following:  "Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ." While I was disappointed with the findings, I cannot say that I was completely shocked.  I have seen it coming for years now.

Let me share with you a some facts and incidents that accentuate and corroborate this conclusion in my own mind:

  • We know that only about one-fifth of our registered Catholics attend Mass each week.  Can they really believe in the Real Presence with such sparse attendance?
  • People come to Mass looking like they are ready for the gym or even the beach.  Someone also came forward to distribute the Holy Eucharist (presumably to fill-in for someone who did not show up) dressed in gym shorts, athletic shoes and a t-shirt.  Really?
  • At a Mass for the religious education students, one of students took the Holy Eucharist in one hand and then began to give a high five with the other hand to the students in the first pew as he passed them.  Eventually, he did consume the Sacred Host.  I saw it happen as I was distributing Holy Communion.  Does he understand or even have a clue what (WHO) he had in his hand?
  • On a far too regular basis I have had to follow someone down the aisle (usually at a funeral or wedding) to make sure that they have consumed the Sacred Host after they had taken it in their hands and then walked away.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

What can we do about this disturbing trend?  In my mind, we must move in the opposite direction immediately.  Personally show the proper reverence for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. 

I plan to re-establish the practice of 40 Hours here in the parish. When the time comes, please sign up (individually or as a family) for one hour to give the proper worship and adoration to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to make reparation to Him for the lack of belief.  You could also start attending our Eucharistic Holy Hour on Monday evenings at 7 pm.

Receive the Holy Eucharist with the utmost reverence.  Genuflect or make a Sign of the Cross before receiving Our Lord.  I am truly edified when people kneel for Holy Communion.  While I personally believe that allowing the reception of Holy Communion in the hand was a serious mistake contributing to this lack of belief (and I have no authority to change this practice unilaterally), I can bring it to people's attention and request that they receive Our Lord much more reverently.

When you pass in front of the Tabernacle, please genuflect if you are physically able.  Please do not gather to talk or socialize anywhere in the Sanctuary area.  And most importantly, always approach to receive the Holy Eucharist in the state of grace (not conscious of any grave or mortal sin).  This includes willfully and negligently missing Mass. One should always go to Confession first before receiving Holy Communion, if the person is in grave or mortal sin.

Each of us can show others what we believe by our reverence and actions.  We should never do things just for show or simply to gain the attention of others.  However, how we dress, how we approach the Holy Eucharist, how we receive, etc., can speak volumes in a world of unbelief.  Please do your part.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

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 reminder from today’s GospelFor everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  (Lk. 14:11) 

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

“Lord, Will Only a Few People Be Saved?”

Dear Parishioners,

People do not like to hear doom and gloom all of the time.  To be quite frank, it gets rather depressing.  I know I tend to avoid people who are continually negative and  critical.  I prefer to associate with those who are upbeat, positive and optimistic.
Then I ask myself this question:  Where does one draw the line between being negative and critical and being realistic and honest?  I think that I especially struggle with this dilemma when trying to analyze our contemporary society in the context of Gospel values, Christ’s teaching and long-standing Catholic tradition.  I keep seeing just how far we have allowed ourselves to deviate from Christ as a society and even within the Church itself.

For instance, consider the contemporary attitudes towards divorce and remarriage, birth control (artificial contraception), homosexual unions (“gay” marriage), gender identity, abortion / infanticide, IVF (in-vitro fertilization), assisted suicide, pornography, cohabitation before and outside of marriage, sex outside of marriage (fornication, adultery, masturbation, homosexual acts, etc.) and various other matters.  The list of what has become, at a minimum, tolerated if not outright advocated seems endless.  I genuinely cannot wrap my head around it all.

Then I look within the Catholic Church and see the lack of belief / reverence for the Holy Eucharist, only one-fifth of registered Catholics going to Mass each week, a decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the merging and closing of parishes and churches, scandals in the clergy and the hierarchy, an attitude of indifferentism ( one religion is as good as another), progressive liturgies, etc., and my head is ready to explode.  Where is it all going?

There are those who contend that we live in a time of great apostacy—an abandonment of the faith, a rejection of Christ.  Maybe most people do not outright reject Christ or Catholicism—although an alarming amount do—but far too many live in such a way that the Church and her traditional teaching have little or no influence on the way a person lives his or her life.  Moral teaching becomes relative and subjective.  Truth is fluid.  Confusion is rampant.  I can see it happening among family members and friends.  I can see it in my parish.  I can see it in society and even in the Church.

"Lord, will only a few people be saved?" [Jesus] answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  (Lk. 13: 24)
The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Lk. 13: 22-30) once again speak of the narrow gate.  I see it as a warning not to follow the status quo but to be counter-cultural.  Many today think that God will not or could not condemn vast numbers of people to eternal punishment.  How could so many people be wrong?  Maybe the Church and her teaching need to change!

Rather, I think WE need to change and turn back to the Lord before it is too late!  

Eternity is forever.  The stakes are much too high.

Fr. Ed Namiotka