Tuesday, November 19, 2019

My Definition of an "Uphill Battle"




Dear Parishioners,

I have been ready to put up the white flag of surrender for decades now.  Christmas is upon us already—at least according to the American consumer mentality—and yet Advent didn’t even begin.  Santa was doing his thing in the mall for some time now.  In fact, Thanksgiving wasn’t even here yet.  We just barely got through Halloween (not to mention the Summer).

Advent.  Why bother even to have such a liturgical season?  By the time the Christmas season actually begins—according to the Church anyway—people are ready to take down the tree and the decorations.  Christmas is over psychologically.  We will have been celebrating it for months now.  Christmas parties were held.  Gifts were purchased, then wrapped.  Pollyannas (Secret Santa gifts) were exchanged.  Christmas (holiday) shows and concerts were attended.  Cards were sent and received.  Cookies were baked.  Stockings were stuffed.  Traditional and not-so-traditional songs of the season have been playing on the radio.  Etc., etc., etc. 

Then Christmas actually arrives, and it’s all over by the next day.  Let’s get to the retail stores to see if there are any after-Christmas bargains.  Maybe there are also some end-of-the-season deals online.  And don’t forget we still have to return those unwanted gifts.  

It is obvious who has won this battle.  It wasn’t the Church.  Preparation for the Coming of Christ?  Yes, we may spot a few of those Keep Christ in Christmas signs occasionally popping up on lawns or displayed on the back of cars.  But they really don’t influence the vast majority of people.  Perhaps, they may make some of us think a little, but they probably won’t change the behavior of the typical consumer.  Christ might have gotten an ever-so-slight bit of attention in between Rudolph, Frosty, Santa, the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Scrooge, Ralphie Parker (from the all-day Christmas marathon “A Christmas Story”) and the host of countless others who are “popular” and “new and with whom I am currently too out-of-touch to even name.

Dare I mention, the season of Advent begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent—this year on December 1st –and ends on Christmas eve?  Christmas time begins with the first Mass of Christmas (Christmas eve) and extends to January 12, 2020—the Baptism of the Lord.

Advent originally had a penitential nature, with a  two-fold preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Birth and in anticipation of His Second Coming.  There actually was fasting involved at an earlier point in time.  The modern Advent wreath that many of us are familiar with in churches and in homes is a rather recent development, being attributed to a 19th century German Protestant pastor.
      
Christ’s Incarnation and Birth, next to His Death and Resurrection, is the most significant event in salvation history for all humanity.  God became one of us.  The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a man.  The Creator humbles Himself, empties Himself (see Philippians 2: 6-11), to become a creature, a human.  He allows Himself to suffer and die.  All of this for us.

Jesus’ human beginnings sadly were met with little gratitude—no room in the inn.   A stable was provided.  There was a feeding trough for animals in which the Son of God could sleep.

Sadly, I do not think the level of gratitude for all He has done has changed much over time.  It seems to be greatly overshadowed by the materialism and consumerism that our modern Christmas has become.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Eucharist Means "Thanksgiving"



Dear Parishioners,

As I continue my reflections on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I bring to your attention the meaning of the word Eucharist (eukharistia) from the Greek meaning thanksgiving.

In the Novus Ordo Mass, the second major part (after the Liturgy of the Word) is referred to as the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It includes the Eucharistic Prayer when the unleavened wheat bread and grape wine are consecrated and truly become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This mystery has been explained using the term transubstantiation, meaning the substance of bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus while the accidents (the appearance of bread and wine) remain the same. The Catholic Church teaches that this change is not merely symbolic but actual or real.  Hence, we speak of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist.

We hear words beginning the preface of the Eucharistic prayer urging us: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” We also hear about Jesus taking bread, saying the blessing / giving thanks, breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples. We believe what Jesus declares (“This is My Body / My Blood”) literally happens. It is what occurs at every Mass when the priest stands in for Christ (in persona Christi) so that it is actually Christ who performs the action through the instrument of the priest. That is why the constant teaching of the Catholic Church has been that the priest must be male because the priest stands in place of Christ who was male. We believe this Ministerial Priesthood is Divinely established and is therefore not open to change.  Pope St. John Paul II made this clear in his Apostolic Letter ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS:

“Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. 

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.”

Making a proper thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion is something that also needs continual emphasis and reinforcement. We see people leaving Mass early (sometimes directly after receiving Holy Communion) and it is natural to wonder if there was adequate time given to praise / adore, to thank, to petition, and to ask for forgiveness from (reparation) Our Lord.   After all, we have just received God Himself (Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity) and we have been united with Him in Holy Communion. Doesn’t this deserve a few moments of quiet, intimate reflection and prayer? Sometimes bad habits—like leaving Mass early—are hard to break! I do realize that not everyone is able to receive Holy Communion. Those in this situation should make a Spiritual Communion instead.

Give thanks to the Lord, especially at this time when our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, and attend Mass with your family!  Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How Do We Refer to the Mass?



Dear Parishioners,

Whenever I read an article about the Mass in secular publications, I note the way in which it is referenced and, in particular, how the author describes the priest’s actions.  I have seen such descriptions indicating that the bishop performed the Mass, or the priest held a Mass, the pope delivers Mass, the pope leads Mass, or the priest presided at the Mass.

In times gone by, I have heard people say that they were going to hear Mass.  Similarly, it was the priest who was going to say Mass.  The Mass was also spoken of as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  I still use this last phrase that I learned from my morning offering as a child.

There are various ways that I prefer to speak about the Mass:

Remembering that the priest is offering a sacrifice of bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, I like to say that I am going to offer Mass.  When I begin daily Mass, I usually note that “Today’s Mass is being offered for . . . .”  You might notice the frequent use of the word oblation (offering) found in many of the prayers of the most recent English translation of the Mass.  We are reminded that the priest is indeed offering the most perfect sacrifice of Jesus Himself to God the Father.  Recall the prayer (doxology) at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Through him and with him and in him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” “Amen.”    

Some time ago I heard it said that the priest should be praying the Mass (above and beyond simply going through the motions and not merely reading/saying the words that are written in front of us).  We speak in terms of Eucharistic Prayers, orations, etc. which remind us that we are praying during Mass.  Pope Benedict XVI urged priests with the following:  “. . . We must think of the various forms of the prayer of a priest, first of all daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the center and wellspring from which all the forms receive their ‘lifeblood’. . . . “ (May 3, 2009, Priesthood Ordinations in St. Peter’s Basilica)

It may also be said that a priest celebrates the Mass and I am the celebrant at Mass. When more than one priest offers the Mass together, we refer to them as concelebrants.

The current form of the Mass (frequently referred to as the Novus Ordo or the Mass of Paul VI) is the Mass most people are familiar with, especially if you were born in or after the 1960’s.  What came before was the Traditional Latin Mass (or the Tridentine Mass) which is available in some parishes throughout the Camden Diocese (and is solely offered at Mater Ecclesiae Parish in Berlin, NJ.)  There are many differences/changes that have occurred in the transition from the Traditional Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo including the use of the vernacular, the orientation of the priest, the positioning of the altar, those who are permitted to enter the sanctuary, etc. which I will attempt to address in subsequent columns.
  
How we speak about the Mass usually indicates what we think about it or what we believe happens during it.  There are multiple facets of what the Mass actually is and what happens during it.  I want to continue to emphasize, however, its essential sacrificial nature on an altar (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ) which has often been obscured in more recent times in favor of a meal/table aspect (Last Supper).

If we take the time to understand the mystery before us at the altar, perhaps we can come to the realization that we are truly experiencing a foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy awaiting us someday.  

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Definition of "Insanity"



Dear Parishioners,

One popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  It’s cliché, but I use this concept to begin my thought process regarding the difficulties within the Catholic Church in general, and the Mass, in particular.

I am “all in” when it comes to traditional teaching, longstanding moral values, and everything that has its roots in Jesus Christ and His established Church.  After all, the bedrock of the Church is Sacred Scripture and Tradition.  We are an Apostolic Church.  We have over 2000 years of history which includes the writings of Church Fathers, the instruction of saints, the heroic witness of the martyrs, various teaching from Church councils, and many other contributions helping us to understand and to pass on the deposit of faith.

Where we run into problems is when there is deviation—even if it is ever-so-small—in our fidelity to this deposit of faith.  Being even a little wrong is still being wrong.  When things begin to be built on erroneous ideas or unorthodox teaching, we begin walking the path to heresy and apostasy.  Whether the error occurs by design (intentionally) or actually in good faith, there is never a reason to allow such error to continue or to try to re-label it or disguise it in some other way.  Some small things that we let creep into Church teaching and practice have, in reality, snowballed and turned into an avalanche.  We seem to be buried in it now.

If we deviate from an all-male clergy and allow ordained women deacons/priests, we will be in error.  If we try to accommodate so-called gay marriages, we will be in error.  If we create a new rite within the Church which incorporates pagan or idolatrous elements, we will be in error.  If we allow the divorced and re-married (without rectifying the situation through an annulment, etc.) to receive Holy Communion, we are in error.  If we say one religion is as good as another, that God actively wills a plurality of religions and minimize the importance of the Church that Christ Himself established, then we are in error.  The above list is certainly not all-inclusive.

We are told (and can reasonably verify) that approximately 20% of our faithful attend Mass weekly.  We are also instructed that about only 30% of Catholics believe what the Catholic Church teaches about the Holy Eucharist.  The teaching on the Real Presence has been successfully undermined. People are leaving the faith in droves—especially the poorly-catechized and misinformed.  Ever more claim no formal religious practice or affiliation.  Moreover, the importance of Baptism and Confirmation is de-emphasized.  Church weddings are not occurring.  Many times, people just live together.  We are given more of the same moral and doctrinal ambiguity, the same moral and doctrinal pablum that we have been fed for decades.  Just be nice.  All are welcome.  Don’t judge.  And how exactly is that working out for any of us?  Take another survey please.

I want to spend a few future bulletins emphasizing the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Mass is the heart of the Catholic faith and the soul of the Church that Jesus established.  Beginning with more reverence and silence, we need to re-establish the atmosphere within the Church as a sacred place of prayer and worship, not just some ordinary place of communal social gathering.  We need to understand the importance of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.  How we behave in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament speaks volumes concerning what we actually believe.  Most importantly, we must see the Mass as the greatest sacrifice to God, the Almighty Father, that we, as humans, can be a part of and witness on this earth.  So much has been misunderstood, poorly taught, disregarded or even deliberately distorted.  When we do not realize the essential sacrificial nature of the Holy Mass and its importance as established by Jesus Himself, little by little, everything else begins to crumble as well. 

It was Jesus who commanded us to “Do this in memory of me” regarding the Holy Eucharist. (Lk. 22:19)  My goal is to help us all see more clearly the utmost importance of carrying this out reverently and faithfully by our attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
(Definately worth repeating--reverently, of course.)


 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Out of the Amazon (in Rome?)


Amazon region in South America

Dear Parishioners,

From its inception, the whole thing seemed extremely peculiar to me.  A synod on the Amazon? Its location was not to be in the Amazon region itself but in the Eternal City.  (As a side note, priests of the Diocese of Camden had previously been sent to Brazil as missionaries.  In fact, one of our priests, Fr. Miguel Pedro Mundo, had even become a bishop for the diocese of Jatai, Brazil.)

The pretext of this meeting was ministry to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.  However, its various critics held that it was a means being used to change the Catholic Church radically with a globalist agenda, backed, in large part, by the German bishops.  Some saw Marxist liberation theology rearing its head once again.

The synod began with what appeared to many to be various pagan rituals led by a female shaman.  A figure of pachamamamother earth—was carried around Rome, brought into Catholic Churches including St. Peter’s Basilica, and even bowed down to at the opening ceremony in the Vatican gardens.  Paganism and idolatry penetrating our Catholic Church?  What do we make of this as it occurred even in the very presence of the Holy Father?

 Pope Francis receiving pachamama

The synod had its various moments of intrigue.  Several of the pachamama carvings were removed from the Catholic Church in which they were kept and then thrown into the Tiber river.  The pope subsequently apologized for what happened, even mentioning the pachamama by name.

The outcome of the synod was presented in a document recommending the following to the Holy Father for his final say on the matter:
·         The ordination of married men (viri probati) in the Amazon
·         Further study of the issue of female deaconesses
·         The creation of a special Amazonian Rite of the Church

What this would mean for the Church at large is yet to be seen.  However, critics warn that it could lead to optional celibacy, female deacons and a rite within the Church that espouses various pagan elements.

Ultimately, the Holy Father has the final say on matters of faith and morals.  However, he can never deviate from the deposit of faith that has been given to us by Jesus Christ and handed down to us through apostolic tradition.  To do so would put his own salvation in jeopardy.

We need to pray for the Church, for fidelity to the deposit of faith, for clarity in teaching and for the Holy Father himself.  There are a few voices in the hierarchy speaking up for truth but far too many worldwide remain silent on any potentially controversial matters.  When there is abundant uncertainty or confusion, we certainly need clarity and not silence.

Let’s begin here:  Commandment #1 - I am the Lord, Your God.  You shall not have any false gods . . . .

Seems abundantly clear to me.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina

Vatican garden ceremony