Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing Hope



Dear Parishioners,

“Father, I told my children that I don’t want grandchildren.  This world is currently too scary to bring children into it.”

It was not the first time that I heard a comment similar to this in recent days.  I actually wonder how many people may silently hold the same belief?

How do I respond to this type of thinking?  After all, as a celibate, I have no children or grandchildren of my own.  However, I do have nieces and nephews—currently ten of them—and I worry about each and every child that I see as if it were my own

The above mentality borders on hopelessness and despair.   It is a people without hope that no longer wants to create.  Often they see no future, no opportunity,  no purpose or meaning to life itself.

I recall a familiar and often repeated phrase of Saint John Paul II (the Great) as he quoted words of Sacred Scripture:  Be not afraid!  Do not be afraid!

When he became Pope, these words inaugurated and resonated throughout his pontificate:

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.  Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.  Do not be afraid.  Open wide the doors for Christ.  To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.  Do not be afraid.  Christ knows "what is in man".  He alone knows it.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart.  So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth.  He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.  We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man.  He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.  October 22, 1978, St. Peter’s Square

When a civilization moves further and further away from Jesus Christ and the message of His Gospel, hope is lost.  When prayer is infrequent and the practice of the Christian faith becomes sporadic or minimal, the purpose of life can be severely distorted.

Human civilization has been through some pretty difficult times already.  If the great leaders—especially the holy men and women who were the great saints of their time—threw in the towel, chances are I might not be writing this article today.  It was often a strong faith, a love for Jesus Christ and a determination that comes from God’s inner strength that gave people the courage and resolve to accomplish deeds beyond what the ordinary human can do.  Alone and unaided by God we are bound to fail.

Saint John Paul II was a man of great courage because he was man of deep faith.  He faced an assassin’s bullet, lived through the Nazi terror and World War II and battled Communism in his native Poland, just to mention a few challenges during his lifetime.  I think that he may have known what he was talking about.

Be not afraid!

St. John Paul II, please pray for us!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

    

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some Good Advice



Dear Parishioners,

I wish I had saved the letter.

A Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee sent a letter to me while I was in the college seminary.  It was a time in my life when I was seeking some serious direction and advice.  I was a bit disillusioned with things that were going on in the seminary and with the moral character of some of my fellow seminarians.  I was also disappointed with some professors and their actions.  Needless to say, even in a place where men were preparing to be priests, things were far from perfect.  The seminary situation proved to be a real testing ground for my vocation.  

Unfortunately, I learned from an early time in my training that not everyone played by the rules and did what they were supposed to do.  I knew very well that I was an imperfect sinner as well.  (Regrettably, I still am.)  However, I was trying as best I could—albeit imperfectly—to model my life and behavior after the pattern of Jesus Christ and His teachings. 

Weren’t we all in this together?  Shouldn’t we be helping one another as brothers and strengthening one another rather than bringing others down and even leading others astray?  Shouldn’t some of the professors be better examples to the students in this situation?

The words from the monk are ingrained in my mind and heart:  “If all the world should go astray and everything seems upside down, you go on faithfully serving the Lord.”  He challenged me to live the Gospel and to be a disciple of the Lord while holding nothing back.

Sometimes it may seem that we are fighting an uphill battle.  Perhaps it may appear that we are completely alone in our struggles.  Yet, I truly believe that there are many, many good people out there who want to follow the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him.  We know that even Jesus’ hand-picked followers had their flaws. One of them denied Him and one of them turned on Him in a historic betrayal.  Perfection was lacking, even among His most intimate followers.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians seems to ring true especially today:

. . . Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. . . . Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (Philippians 2: 12b, 14-16)

We can look at the world today and want to throw in the towel.  What can I do with such a mess?

I still want to follow the Lord and be His disciple.  

And I will go on remembering the monk’s words to me.  They have proved invaluable.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Monday, June 8, 2015

The "False Gods" We Create



Dear Parishioners,

Sacred Scripture tells us that we, as humans, are made in the image and likeness of God (see Gn. 1: 26).  We are gifted with intelligence and free will.  We can think and make free choices.  Since Jesus, the Son of God, chose to become one of us—a man like us in all things but sin (see Heb. 4:15)—we are no doubt God’s masterpiece, His finest creation.  He came to earth to die for us and for our salvation (see the Nicene Creed).  We are worth not only creating, but also redeeming.  We are that important and precious to God!

All of this being said, we must always remember that we are NOT God.  We are not more intelligent than God.  (We should be humble about what we think we know.)  We are not more powerful than God.  (We are not the author of creation, but simply its stewards.)  We are not more perfect than God.  (God is absolute perfection and holiness.  We are imperfect sinners.)  We are not unlimited like God.  (We are finite creatures bound by time and space.)  I could go on and on, but we should realize that in a side by side comparison, the scales weigh immeasurably in God’s favor.  We are creatures, pure and simple.

As humans, often because of pride and other defects in our human nature, we create false gods.  We project things on God that we would like to see, but that do not actually reflect the way God is.

The following is a list that I created describing some of these false gods.  There may be many more that can be added.  However, we need to eliminate our distorted concepts of god (our false gods) and attempt to grasp the true image of God revealed to us in the Person of Jesus.

Do you ever worship these false gods instead of the real, true God?

  •  The sports god.  This god is worshipped whenever we prioritize sports above more important matters.  “Father please pray that the Eagles (or Giants or Jets, etc.) win today.”  “I couldn’t get to Mass today because I had a soccer game/practice.”  “Dad finds his god on the golf course, out fishing, etc.”
  • The god of convenienceThis god fits into my schedule only at convenient times.  “I couldn’t get to Mass because I am too busy.”  “We decided to go to church this weekend because we all wanted to go to breakfast together afterward.”   “I go to church only on Christmas and Easter.”
  • The god of crisis.  This god is only called upon or, perhaps, blamed when there is a personal crisis.  “God please help me pass my exam!”  “God how could you let this happen to my child!!!!”  “God if you cure me of my cancer, I promise to . . . ."
  • The sex god (or the pleasure god).  This god gives sex the highest priority in our lives and capitalizes on base human instincts and drives. It thrives on pleasure as a good in and of itself.  Just consider the gamut from Viagra, to internet porn, to sexting, to the promotion of immoral heterosexual/homosexual acts and lifestyle, etc. 
  • The god of addiction.  This god becomes all consuming of my time, energy, financial resources, etc., over anything else.  Am I controlled or consumed by alcohol, drugs (illegal or prescription), gambling, pornography, smoking, the computer, technology, sex, work, wealth, fashion, prestige, etc., to the detriment of other things in my life?
  •  The god of power (I am my own god).  Whenever I deny the existence of God, think I know better than God (or perhaps His Church in its capacity as teacher of faith and morals), or live in such a way that God has no real or practical importance/meaning in my life, then, chances are, I have become my own god.  I am all-powerful, all-knowing and the master of my own destiny.  There is no room for a Savior.

The above list is by no means all-inclusive and is from my own limited perspective.  I admit that I am a finite creature and very much in need of a Savior—Jesus Christ.  He is the only true God and Savior that I desire to worship, imperfect as I am. 
                                                                                            

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor                      

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Losing a Friend

Fr. Lange at his priesthood ordination (1986)


Dear Parishioners,

I received some bad news yesterday (5/4/15).  One of my close priest-friends from my seminary days died.  Fr. Robert Lange, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, had been suffering with cancer for some time now.  His bladder was removed last year.  The cancer continued to spread and his chemotherapy was eventually discontinued.  Fortunately, I was able to spend some time with him on a few occasions prior to his death.  May he rest in peace.

I met Fr. Lange at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  We were different in so many ways.  He was from Richmond, Virginia with a bit of a southern drawl (“sho nuff, y’all”).  He reminded me on various occasions that the Civil War was more correctly referred to as the war of northern aggression down South.  He entered the seminary later in life, after he left a real estate job.  He admittedly led a wild life in his younger days as explained in a book that he wrote in 2013, Windows into the Life of a Priest (available from Loreto Publications).

There are a few events from my travels with Fr. Lange that will be forever etched in my mind.  The most notable was a time when we both almost drown in the Atlantic Ocean off Sandbridge Beach, Virginia.  I have written and spoken of this experience on numerous occasions.  I really thought that I was going to die.  I probably would have if it were not for some miraculous intervention by what might have truly been my guardian angel. You can find this story on my blog:  www.fr-ed-namiotka.com/2011/04/facing-death.html.

Fr. Lange convinced me to join him on a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) back in the 1980’s.  We met and talked to all the visionaries.  While I respectfully yield to any official decision made by the Catholic Church on the authenticity of the alleged apparitions occurring there, I did witness some great acts of faith, some strange phenomena and numerous powerful conversions in the confessional during my time there.  Fr. Lange was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While we did not visit frequently because of the distance between us, whenever we got together it was like we never missed a beat.  We picked up wherever we left off.  Priests—especially those who were in the seminary together—share a special bond that no one else can quite understand.  We heard this mysterious call from God, answered it, and once ordained, are privileged to minister to God’s people in persona Christi.

I visited Fr. Lange prior to Easter.   I suspected that it may be the last time that I would talk to him or see him alive on this earth.  So did he.  His words to me before I left were simple.  He assured me that he will be there to greet me on the day I die. 

I’m sure he will be.  I look forward to that day. 

Just not right away.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Fr. Lange in Medjugorje

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weekend (Parish) Update



Dear Parishioners,

I write this week to update you on some of the current happenings at St. Joseph Church.

First, during his visit here on Holy Thursday, Bishop Dennis Sullivan officially re-accepted Mr. Anthony Infanti as a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Camden.  Anthony will continue his seminary training at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.  Anthony will remain at our parish until later this summer when he will begin his theology classes.  In the meantime, Anthony has been given permission to give some reflections during daily Mass.  While this is not officially a homily as a priest or deacon gives, these reflections will be part of Anthony’s preparation for the very important task of preaching in the future.  Anthony also represented our parish as he ran in the iRace for Vocations 5K last Sunday in Sewell, NJ.

Next, we are in the midst of some very important sacraments for our young people.  Confirmation of our youth (and one adult) was conferred by Bishop Sullivan on April 18th.  We congratulate our students on completing their sacraments of initiation.  This weekend, as well as last, we are privileged to see our children receive their First Holy Communion (during the 5:30 pm Saturday and 10 & 11:45 am Masses on Sunday).  The large number of children is a very positive sign for the future.  I take this opportunity to remind parents that they are the first and (hopefully) the best teachers of their children in the matters of our Catholic faith.  It is the parents’ responsibility to be sure that their children attend Mass weekly, go to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) on a regular basis, pray in the home, be taught to love God and our neighbor, etc.  There is nothing more important than the imparting of our faith in Jesus Christ to our children.

Our parish business manager, Ellen Hyatt, has decided to lessen her workload and retire from the parish portion of her job.  She will continue to work for the elementary school, as needed.  We are currently accepting applications to fill this part-time position.  Applications can be sent to me via the parish office.  We thank Ellen for her hard work and dedication to our parish over the years.

Fr. Alfred Onyutha, who was assigned to St. Joseph Parish a few years ago, is celebrating his 25th anniversary as a priest this year.  Coming from Uganda, Africa (Catholic Diocese of Nebbi) he has only minimal friends and family here from his home country to help him commemorate this milestone.  Fr. Al will be the main celebrant at the 11:45 am Mass on Sunday, May 24, followed by some light refreshments (courtesy of our Knights of Columbus).  Please come to be a part of Fr. Al’s family away from home as we pray and celebrate with him.

Finally, in case you are wondering about the status of our parish pastoral council, it was unfortunately put on a back burner temporarily.  My hope is that it will be functioning soon.  I will keep the parish informed of any progress.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I continue to seek the Lord’s strength and guidance as your pastor.  In my weakness, sinfulness and sometimes disorganization, God somehow mysteriously uses me and works through me.  Miracles never cease.  I am living proof.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor
Fr. Alfred Onyutha and me