Friday, February 5, 2016

Let the Healing Begin



Dear Parishioners,

Let me get this over with quickly.  Sometimes it’s hard for us all to admit our faults and failings to others. 

However, I admit that at times . . .
. . . I can be stubborn.
. . . I can be selfish.
. . . I can criticize others. 
. . . My sense of humor can, at times, be sarcastic and biting.
. . . I struggle with prayer.
. . . I am not as generous as I probably should be.

Need I go on?  This could develop into a pretty big list if I let it.  Only my confessor knows all the details.

The beginning step in any healing process, I think, is being right with God.  I base this on the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic. (See Mk. 2: 1-12; Mt. 9:1-8; or Lk. 5:17-26)  Before He began any type of physical healing on the paralytic, Jesus first forgave his sins--spiritual healing before the physical healing.  That’s why I continue to sing the praises of regular, integral confession in which sins are forgiven—spiritual healing takes place.

I am no fraudulent faith healer.  You won’t find me peddling any snake oil either.  Do I believe that Jesus can heal?  Absolutely.  I think that He (through His apostolic Church) gave us sacraments of healing like Penance and Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick for a reason.  Sometimes the healing process involves overcoming our own pride and asking for help—admitting humbly that I cannot forgive or heal myself.  Forgiveness of sins is not something that can accurately be portrayed in some self-help book.  We need the personal forgiveness of Christ which is offered to us freely in the sacraments of the Church.  We can receive forgiveness of sins, anointing when we are seriously ill, the Holy Eucharist to fill the depths of our spiritual hungers, all completely free of charge upon asking!

Yet we must continue to do battle with those who will disagree and tell us how we are wrong:
Father, you don’t have to go to a priest.  You can confess directly to God.
Why should I pray?  God doesn’t answer my prayers.
I am too far gone.  There’s no hope for me at this point.
Religion is a bunch of nonsense and fairy tales. I’ll take my chances.

These and arguments like them somehow seem to forget (or may never have known) the personal relationship that Jesus desires for all of us, which continues to be present through His Mystical Body, the Church.  Christ (a Divine Person) became a man, a human being with both a human and divine nature.  God became incarnate and continues to use flesh and blood people like us to further His mission and to carry out His will. 

Do this in memory of me (Lk. 22:19) . . . Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them (Jn. 20:23) . . . Go and baptize them (Mt. 28:19) . . . .  Do these commands of Jesus seem to imply that we should do it entirely by ourselves?  Is it just a situation of “me and God?”  Rather, is Jesus not trying to spread His mission and His message far and wide?  Is He not continually trying to bring healing and forgiveness to a wounded world through His Church?

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.  Multiple opportunities are available for you to let the healing begin.  Put aside the pride, humble yourself, and let Jesus into your heart.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


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 was 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, 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 on an entirely different reading.  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 said that right to my face with all seriousness.  I hadn’t preached.  He hadn’t a clue.  Great homily . . .  Oh well!  Humility . . .

During Lent we are reminded of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  We might decide on certain things for which we might feel inspired to pray.

Just a couple words of caution when praying:  Be Careful!  

You might actually get what you pray for!

Fr. Ed Namiotka,

Pastor



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Catholic School Advantage


Dear Parishioners,

I can’t remember a time in my life when I was not associated with a Catholic school.

I began in kindergarten at St. John Cantius School in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia.  The parish school was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.  When our family moved to Wildwood in the 1960’s, I had as teachers the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, PA at both St. Ann’s Regional School and Wildwood Catholic High School.  I was off to the seminary at age 18, first to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and then to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg MD.

As a deacon, I lived at Transfiguration Parish in W. Collingswood, NJ.  The sisters who staffed the parish school were all from Ireland, belonging to the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  After my ordination to the priesthood, I was assigned to St. Matthew’s Church in National Park, NJ, where the parish school was staffed by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, a Polish congregation.

I was then assigned to teach at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, NJ and remained there for six years.  After moving to Vineland, I became principal of Sacred Heart High School and was assigned there for 14 years.  When I became pastor of Queen of Angels Parish in Buena Borough, we had an elementary school—Notre Dame Regional School.  Now I am here as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Somers Point and we have one of the largest elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden—just shy of 500 students.

As you can see from my personal history, the Catholic school tradition is ingrained into my very being.  I cannot imagine what it would be like without a local Catholic school forming students to know, love and serve Jesus Christ while preparing them mentally, physically and spiritually for the challenges of life.

We begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week and I thank the dedicated faculty, administration and staff of St. Joseph Regional Catholic School for their hard work and dedication.  Our Principal, Mr. Ted Pugliese strives to make the school a beacon of Christ’s light for our community.

Every Catholic parish in the diocese has an obligation to support our Catholic schools which is newly designated as 13% of all parish budgets.  Bishop Sullivan had also inaugurated a special second collection to be taken up this weekend to support all the Catholic schools throughout the diocese.

I personally thank all parents who make the personal sacrifice and choose to send their children to St. Joseph Regional Catholic School.  I ask parents of school-aged children to be open to and to investigate the possibility of sending your child/children to our Catholic school, if you do not already do so.  While I understand that everyone may not be able to afford the full tuition, I know there is some limited financial aid for those who qualify.  Why not investigate the possibility?

While no school is perfect and can always meet the needs of every child, Catholic schools that proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ clearly and encourage families to live it faithfully give students a firm foundation for the challenges of life and offer them hope in an often confusing and troublesome world.


I am a proud product of Catholic schools.  I can truly see the benefits and the advantage that it has given me in so many dimensions of my life.  I believe that my vocation as a priest was fostered first in the home and then cultivated in the many years of a Catholic school environment.  I am grateful for the priests and sisters that had a great influence on my life and thinking.  I hope that I have been able to give back to Catholic education some of what I have received over the years.  

Please join me in promoting St. Joseph Regional Catholic School and all our Catholic schools.
.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor               

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Seeking the Divine Physician


Dear Parishioners,

Next week our Parish Nursing Ministry, assisted by the Knights of Columbus Council 10220, will be sponsoring a “Healing Mass.”  To be more precise, it will be a Mass with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick incorporated within.

Perhaps some still have recollections of the term Extreme Unction (last anointing) when a priest anointed people prior to their death.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church sheds some light on the matter:

The Anointing of the Sick “is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death.  Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.” (#1514)
 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again.  If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated.  It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation.  The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced. (#1515)
Many times I have had to convince people in the hospital or the homebound that they should be anointed, while alleviating the fear that they were not they were not actively dying.  I remind people that the sacraments are for the living and not to wait until the moment of death or until after a person has died to call for a priest.  When a priest is called in advance, he is able to give a gravely ill or elderly person the Last Rites which consist of the Anointing of the Sick, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) and Holy Communion (Viaticum).  Priests cannot hear a person’s confession or give them Holy Communion after they have died.  Additionally, even though someone may conceivably have been anointed after death, this is not the intention of the sacrament.

Also, to prevent an abuse of the sacrament, a person should not be requesting it because he or she has a sore throat or a headache, but there should actually be a “serious illness or the frailty of old age.” (Catechism, #1520)  Moreover, the sacrament should not be confused with those times when some liturgical or paraliturgical ceremony takes place where everyone in church is invited to be anointed with “blessed oil.”  This type of anointing ceremony is not the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and can cause uncertainty and confusion in laity and clergy alike.

Finally, the Catechism (#1532) tells us what the sacrament does for the sick person: 

 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: 
- the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
- the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
- the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
- the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
- the preparation for passing over to eternal life.
Jesus is the Divine Physician and He can heal in mind, body and soul.  The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is meant to help those seriously ill or elderly who are in need of the strength and healing that Jesus can provide through the instrument of the priest.  Please consider joining us to pray for and to support our sick and elderly.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

57,762,169



Dear Parishioners,

They say that we can ask the computer any question.  Whether it’s Siri, Google, Galaxy, Cortana or some other voice recognition device or system, we can now ask, and the answer will be given to us.  Sounds almost biblical, doesn’t it?

So I asked Google: “How many abortions have been performed in the United States since 1973?”  I chose this year since it was the date of the historic United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973) which legalized abortion.  The answer I was given was 57,762,169—referencing a 2015 article from www.LifeNews.com.  The number would actually be greater if we bring the statistics to our current 2016 date.  Sounds like a lottery jackpot.


Just how many people is that?  It is more than the entire population of the following countries:  South Korea, Ukraine, South Africa, Spain, Colombia, Sudan, Argentina, Poland and many others that have a total population of less than 50 million people.  We have literally aborted the population of a fairly large country—just in the United States alone.  Imagine what the worldwide number of abortions is!

This statistic tells me a couple of things.  First, I believe that many people have no Idea how tragic this situation truly is.  As a nation we have become complacent with slogans like: The Right to Choose! or Keep Abortion Safe and Legal! The right to choose what?  Death . . . extermination . . . murder . . . infanticide?  Maybe we should label it differently.  Is abortion ever safe and legal for the unborn child?  Is it not, rather, a death sentence for him or her?  And how about the physical, psychological, and spiritual damage that is done to the woman herself?  One cannot just expect to rip a developing baby from the womb and then anticipate there to be no consequences whatsoever.

Next, it is unbelievably tragic that a moral evil (abortion, the taking of an innocent, human life) can be seen and touted as something good for women, for civilized society, or for humanity itself.   As if we have some moral right to kill innocent human life?  When a society abandons God’s moral law, distorts its meaning to suit its own selfish purposes and/or replaces it with a deception advocating and glorifying the means by which a large portion of humanity is exterminated, we are in grave danger.


 
We, as a nation, have drunk the Kool-Aid.  The Rev.Jim Jones was not the only one leading a mass amount of people astray and to the ultimate consequence of death.  I am continually hearing politicians advocate the choice for an abortion as a right, as something good, as something that must be defended.  And Americans will continue to drink the Kool-Aid.  And babies will continue to die, in numbers too great to even imagine.

Just think of the loss of potential human life.  Did we already abort the one who would cure cancer or Alzheimer’s?  How about the next great composer or inventor?  Has he or she already been poisoned or ripped apart?  Did the next great political or church leader already wind up as medical waste?

 

I know that I have been pretty blunt.  Yet, somehow I don’t think what I say is going to change things dramatically.  I fear that we have become too stiffed-neck (see Dt. 9:13) or hardened of heart (see Heb. 3:15), as those previously condemned in the Bible.

January 22, 2016.

Almost 60 million babies.

Does it matter?

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor