Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When Should I Call for the Priest?



Dear Parishioners,

From the days when I was trained to be a priest in the seminary, we were reminded of a rather important consideration:  the sacraments of the Church are intended for the living.

Being in close proximity to a hospital and several facilities for the aging, we receive a significant number of requests to visit people in the hospital and nursing homes.  Some people call asking for the last rites for their loved one.  Others call for a priest to hear their confession or to bring them Holy Communion.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a great variety in the levels of understanding—and even some confusion—regarding when a priest should be called to visit a patient/resident.

As a general rule of thumb, whenever there is an emergency, call for the priest immediately.  Tragedies such as car accidents, heart attacks, strokes and any unforeseen grave situation should prompt an immediate call for a priest.  Please realize, however, that most priests lead a busy daily schedule and are not usually sitting around just waiting for an emergency call.  We try to act promptly, but sometimes we are in a meeting, teaching in the school, hearing a confession, answering an important phone message, etc., and may not be able to drop everything we are doing instantly.  If we hear that it is an emergency situation, we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.

If a patient is terminally ill or in a hospice situation, it is certainly appropriate to call for the priest to administer the last rites.  The last rites of the Church include the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession), Holy Communion (Viaticum), and the Anointing of the Sick (formerly Extreme Unction).  Ideally, these sacraments can be most beneficial when the person is conscious and is able to respond.  Please do not wait until the person is at the point of death or unconscious before calling for the priest, especially if the illness is prolonged.  The sacraments are available to bring spiritual consolation and comfort to the patient.  Remember, the sacraments are intended for the living.

Additionally, there are times when a person should ask for the Anointing of the Sick.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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."
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. (#1514 & 1515)
It is not unusual to find some people unwilling to request this sacrament for themselves or to hesitate to ask for it for their family member because of fear of sending the message that death is imminent.  This sacrament, in conjunction with the reception of Holy Communion and a sacramental confession, may be a great spiritual consolation and a means of healing for the sick or elderly person.  Again, the sacraments are intended for the living.

In those difficult circumstances when the person has already died when the priest arrives, the priest is certainly available to pray for the deceased and to help to comfort the family.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Roe v. Wade


Dear Parishioners,
Could you ever imagine that the death of over 60 million babies has occurred since abortion was legalized in our country?  Certainly, they are not all because of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.  The tragic anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973) is once again upon us.  It is important for us to continue to pray, fast and make sacrifices for the end of abortion (whether legal or illegal) in our nation and throughout the world.
Roe v. Wade was a tragic mistake that legalized abortion in our country in almost every conceivable circumstance.  But remember what may be legal is not necessarily moral.  The late Chief Justice Rhenquist and the late Justice White dissented against the majority decision of the court.  Later Justice Thomas, joined by the late Justice Scalia, wrote a dissent to the decision, saying of Roe v. Wade: "that decision was grievously wrong."
The deliberate and intentional taking of an innocent human life is morally wrong and can never be justified—not even in the case of rape or incest.  Even in the most horrible of circumstances (like rape or incest) in which the conception of a child can take place, killing the child does not and cannot remove or change the circumstances in which the child was conceived.  In fact, it only makes the situation worse because violence is now inflicted on an innocent unborn child.
I thank those who publicly protest Roe v. Wade at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  Always remember that while protesting and an outward display of faith certainly have value, more things are wrought by the power of prayer than we can imagine.  So, keep praying continually!
May God have mercy on those who have mistakenly thought that abortion was a “choice” that they somehow needed to make.  Abortion has many victims including the mother herself.  There needs to be much healing and forgiveness through God’s mercy for those who make a “choice” that can never be undone.
Whenever you hear someone recite the mantra about a “woman’s right to choose,” remind them that we can never choose that which is morally evil—the taking of an innocent human life in the womb.


St. Teresa of Calcutta's words at the National Prayer Breakfast, (Washington, DC on February 3, 1994)—given in front of then President Bill and Hillary Clinton—included the following:

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?  How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion?  As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.  Jesus gave even His life to love us.  So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child.  The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.  By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.  And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world.  That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble.  So abortion just leads to more abortion.  Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.  This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
I hope that you take the time to reflect on the words of this saint.  
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Baptism of the Lord


Dear Parishioners,


If the Lord Jesus was without sin, why would He ever need to be baptized by John the Baptist?

The most direct answer to this question is that Jesus did not need to be baptized.  So then, why did it happen?  Let’s first look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the topic:

Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness."  Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.  The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son."  #1224
One way to think of Jesus’ baptism was that it is an anticipation of what He would do for us later on the cross.  He would take upon Himself our sinfulness.  Just as He did not die on the cross for His own sin, He did not receive the baptism of John to repent for His own sinfulness.  We might rather say that Jesus made holy the waters of baptism by His own baptism.  In addition, His Baptism in the Jordan River, like His Epiphany as a child to the magi, was another divine manifestation of Jesus’ true identity:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Mt. 3:17)

Jesus’ Baptism should make us think about our own baptism.  St. Paul’s words to the Romans are instructive:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6:3-4)
Baptism gives us new life—eternal life.  Baptism forgives our sinfulness—both original sin and any personal sin (once a person has reached the age of reason and is no longer an infant).  With baptism we are adopted by God through Christ as His children.  We become temples of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  God’s own life now dwells in us—the life of sanctifying grace.  We become a member of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and the doorway is now open for us to receive the other sacraments of the Church.  All of these wonderful things and many other blessings (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1262ff.) occur with the simple pouring of water (or an immersion into it) combined with the baptismal formula:  I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Every time you bless yourself with holy water, remember that this sacramental is a reminder of your baptism into Christ Jesus who suffered and died for your salvation.  I remind you to keep some in your homes.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor     



Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh


Dear Parishioners,

To me they always seemed like strange gifts to bring a newborn baby:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Today we would think of things like diapers, toys, blankets, formula, socks, pajamas, etc. to bring to an infant.  Obviously, there is more to the gifts of the magi than meets the eye.

Gold is meant as a tribute to a king.  Gold as a precious, valuable metal was prized by many cultures and worn by kings, present in the worship of gods, and used as currency.  Jesus is indeed a king—the King of the Universe. 

Frankincense is offered to a deity.  When we occasionally burn incense in church (and the parishioners begin to cough automatically) it is meant to be a symbol of our prayers rising up to God.  Psalm 141: 2 states:  Let my prayer be incense before you . . . and the Book of Revelation (5:8) speaks of the elders who held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.  The Hebrews had an altar of incense where a pleasing fragrance burned before the Holy of Holies.  Some other cultures, like the ancient Romans, burned incense before their various statues as a sign of divinity.  Jesus is divine—the Son of God.  He is also the Great High Priest who is mediator between God and man. 

Myrrh has various uses in perfumes, incense and medicine.  The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming of mummies.  When it is presented to Jesus it can be symbolic of his healing ability or an anticipation of his death and burial.  Jesus was offered myrrh mixed with wine on the wood of the cross.  Nicodemus brought myrrh to the tomb for Jesus’ burial.

Gift-giving has become such a part of the Christmas season, often overshadowing the true spiritual meaning of the Incarnation.  What is so astounding is that God became man!  Our Creator became a creature.  God in all His power became a powerless, vulnerable infant who needed his mother and foster-father to feed, clothe and provide for Him.  Timelessness entered into time, the Immortal, Eternal One became subject to death, and the All-Knowing God had to grow in “wisdom, age and favor.” (Lk. 2:52)

When we celebrate the Epiphany (manifestation or showing) of the Lord to the magi (astrologers representative of non-Jews or gentiles) we realize that salvation is open to all peoples and we are directed to Christ as the one and only Messiah and Savior of the World.

Our fitting gift to Jesus should be a humble and contrite heart, as the psalm relates. (See Ps. 51:19) He does not need material “things” to make Him happy.  Instead He desires us and our willingness to do His will.  He desires obedience to His commands.
        
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The statutes of the LORD are true, all of them just;
More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb.
By them your servant is warned; obeying them brings much reward.
(Ps. 19: 8-12)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


A New Year Resolution: Live Like You Were Dying




Dear Parishioners,

There is a tradition in America to make some personal resolutions as we begin the New Year.  From a Christian perspective, this attempt seems to be a  bit misguided as the new “church” year actually began for believers with Advent.  This season—Adventwould have been a more appropriate time for us to make changes to prepare for the Coming of Christ.  I remind all of us of Advent’s two-fold preparation:  celebrating Christ’s First Coming (the Nativity) and awaiting His Second Coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.

While listening to an online presentation recently, one of the speakers mentioned a rather intense and unique spiritual exercise.  Set a pretend date for your own death in a month and then do everything necessary to prepare for that day.  In other words, what would you do if you only had a month to live and you knew you were about to meet God and face judgment—an eternal reward or punishment— in only a month?  What would you do if you knew exactly the date of your own death?

This brought to mind a song released by country singer Tim McGraw in 2004:  Live Like You Were Dying.  The song tries to inspire a person to live life to the fullest in the time remaining on earth.  Activities suggested included skydiving, mountain climbing, bull riding and other bucket-list activities.  I think the song finally reached much more spiritual depth when it spoke about loving deeper and giving forgiveness that long had been denied.  The dying person spoke about becoming the husband that most of the time he wasn’t and becoming a friend that a friend would like to have.  The song goes on to mention reading the good book (presumably the Bible) and ultimately facing eternity.

Well then, let me bring this to a more Catholic perspective.  All of us have limited time.  We have a shelf-life whose expiration date is known only to God.  Even if we are given 100 years or more on earth, what is that brief time compared to e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y?  Eternity is forever.  Remember that.  Church teaching is that we all will inevitably face death, judgment, heaven or hell at the end of our lives (the four last things).

What would you do if that step from eternity were only a month away?  Go ahead.  Set the date.  Pretend that it was only a month away.  What would you do to get your life completely in order?  Would you pray and go to Mass more frequently?  Begin now.  Would you make a good, sacramental confession like never before?  Start preparing now.  Would you forgive that person who has hurt you or ask forgiveness from someone you have hurt?  Make the phone call or write the letter today.  Would you find more time for your children or grandchildren?  Start now.  Would you visit that neglected parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend?  Just do it.  What in your life needs to be done so that when you meet God face to face and have to account for your life here on earth you will be ready—completely ready?

Then [the king] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  (Mt. 25:  41-46)
Why not give it a try?  Just think of how much more spiritually mature and prepared you would be after such a month of intense preparation!  Kinda like spiritual boot camp.  

Happy New Year!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tim McGraw