Monday, September 26, 2011

Sentire Cum Ecclesia

Dear Parishioners,
It was the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who coined the phrase Sentire Cum Ecclesia (To think with the Church).  In one section of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius describes the proper attitude that the believer should have toward the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  I take the time to illustrate a quote from Rules for Thinking with the Church from these Spiritual Exercises:
That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same. (Thirteenth Rule)
I bring this up because I have all too often seen in our Church times where various people have taken a position opposed to an official Church teaching (regarding faith and morals) and justified it by saying that they are following their conscience.  It is absolutely true that we must always follow our conscience, but it is also true that we must do what is in our power to be sure that our consciences are rightly formed.  For Catholics, this includes our awareness of and ascent to the teaching authority (magisterium) of the Catholic Church.
I look at it this way.  The Catholic Church has been around a lot longer than I have been.  Its collective wisdom and teaching from over 2000 years is more than my finite mind and limited intelligence could ever grasp.  
I believe the Church was established by Jesus Christ and that He is still with it to guide it and protect it.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  (Mk. 28:20)  His Holy Spirit remains with and guides the Church. “. . . (Jesus) breathed on (the disciples) and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.’” (Jn. 20:22)
Just because “I” may not grasp something or see the reason for some teaching at some particular point in my life, I humbly bow to the authority of the Church while I continue to pursue a deeper understanding of the matter.  God gave us a mind (and intelligence) to ask questions and to pursue knowledge—and we should use it.  But I am (hopefully) wise enough to know that as a mere individual I may not always be right and I need the guidance of the Church to keep me on the right path.
It is true that individual members of the Church—even including members of the hierarchy—may not always live up to the official teachings of the Church.  This never means, however, that the doctrine or moral guidance of the Church becomes invalid or less necessary for our salvation.
The times we live in are tough enough and there are so many forces that try to trivialize, mock, and undermine the Church and its teaching authority.  I take consolation, however, in knowing that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and that He remains with His Church. 
It is my decision to stay with that Church as well.
Fr. Ed Namiotka

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Look Me in the Eyes

Dear Parishioners,
This past year, a popular movie, The Social Network, told the story of the origin and growth of Facebook.  For those familiar with Facebook no explanation is needed but for the technosaurs among us Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004.  Users create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile.  As of July 2011[update], Facebook had more than 750 million active users worldwide.

Let’s face it, today people communicate in all-too-many and varied ways.  Cell phones and now smart phones are more common than ever before.  Text messaging, various forms of instant messaging (IM), blogging and microblogging (such as Blogger and Twitter) are ever-more-popular ways of rapidly and extensively communicating.  Paperless e-mail has replaced snail mail (i.e., mail delivered by the post office) for many people.  YouTube allows us to put our videos online and to broadcast ourselves worldwide.  As a result, all too much time is spent in front of a computer, television screen or some form of monitor.
And what exactly is the result of all of this communicating via technology?  In my humble opinion, it can be a loss of the personal touch and some basic social and interpersonal skills.
When I was the administrator of a high school, if a student would walk past me in the hallway (as if I didn’t exist) and not say anything to me, I would deliberately stop him or her, say “hello,” look him or her in the eyes and inquire how he or she was.  To me, it was an opportunity to teach an important lesson:  each and every person is important, and deserves our respect and our attention.
I will be the first to admit that I use technology to help me to communicate.  I have a Facebook page, a blog ( and a Twitter account.  I have been able to connect with so many people worldwide that it is truly amazing to me.  
However, I hope that I never lose the personal touch when dealing with people.  I hope that I am not too busy or too preoccupied to extend a greeting or to shake a hand.  I hope that I never forget to smile at someone or to stop and listen to the person who may need a compassionate ear and some of my time.
I even realize that the entire sacramental system in the Catholic Church, based on the teaching of Jesus and His Church, involves an interpersonal experience of Jesus through various rituals and signs.  We encounter Jesus, His grace and His love so many times through the instrument of the priest.  “I absolve you . . . .”  “This is my Body.”  “I baptize you . . . .”  “Through this holy anointing . . . .”
Please use technology for good and noble purposes.  But also realize that nothing can substitute for the personal touch that only a human being can give.
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . .” (John 1:14)  
Fortunately, He didn’t just send us a tweet.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Man’s House is His Castle

Dear Parishioners,
Sir Edward Coke, an English jurist, Member of Parliament, and writer is given credit for the following quotation:   "For a man's house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man's home is his safest refuge]."
Growing up as a child and teenager, I never actually lived in a family “house.”  My parents initially operated a grocery store and butcher shop in Philadelphia, and we lived above the store.  When they purchased a hotel in Wildwood in the early 1960’s, we inhabited two rooms during the summer months that were considered our “living quarters.”  During the various winters, we rented a modest bungalow and/or lived in an apartment building.  When we built our motel in 1977, we again had a small section of the building designated as “living quarters.” 
By eighteen years old, I was off to the seminary and occupied various dormitory rooms for the next eight years.  At one point I was even the top bunk (of two bunk beds) at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary.  As a priest, the usual living arrangements are generally a suite of rooms:  bedroom, sitting room and bathroom.  (When I return home to see my mom, she lives in a two-bedroom condominium.)
So, technically speaking, I have never actually lived in a family “house.”
I guess that’s why I truly attempt to make the rectory where I live my “home,” no matter how long I am going to be there.  So if you see me painting, fixing, remodeling or cleaning the rectory, it’s because I consider it my home, my castle, so-to speak, and I take pride in it.
I do realize, however, that no matter where I live here on this earth it is only temporary and that my true home (and ultimate desire) is supposed to be heaven:
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. “ (2 Cor. 5:1)
This being said, I try to be a good steward of the property entrusted to me and it is my personal philosophy that when I eventually leave a place, it should be in better condition than how I found it.
Having lived in and with various businesses almost all of my life, I am also of the strong opinion that the church offices should not be in the same building in which the priests reside.  To me, it provides for more peace of mind (and mental health) when there is the sanctity of a home (rectory) to return to each day.
Whether by circumstance or by design, I’m glad that this was already in place at St. Joseph's before I arrived.
You are certainly welcome to visit our castle at any time—just be aware of the drawbridge when it is up since the man-eating alligators in the moat are usually hungry!
Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Organized Chaos . . . (or Honk If You Love Jesus!)

Dear Parishioners,
I have observed our church and school parking lot extravaganza for a few weeks now and it certainly has been enlightening.  For some reason it reminded me, in certain instances, of watching an old Keystone Cops movie.
If any parking lines once existed for guidance, they are pretty much faded.  People parked just about wherever they wanted to—two and even three deep at times during the Sunday morning Masses.  Cars were completely blocked in—including mine on more than one occasion.  In front of the school, what looked like a conga line (of cars) was forming.  One, two, three, honk.  (How’s that Sr. Rose?)  People came late.  People left early.  It appeared pretty much to me like sheep without a shepherd—to use a biblical image!
Well it just so happens that I am in the shepherding business.  They don’t call me pastor for nothing.  (I actually think that this vocation is meant for saving souls, but I will try to apply my skills to saving parishioners in cars and parking lots as well.)
My solution:
Step one.  Start a novena to the patron saint of parking lots—whoever that may be.
"Mother Cabrini, Mother Cabrini, please find a spot for my little machiney." 
"Hail Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking space."  (This second chant seems a bit too irreverent for me.  I love the Blessed Mother too much to relegate her to parking duty.) 
Sr. Mary Martha’s blog suggests St. Boniface as the patron saint of parking spaces.

Step two.  Get some of my former students who are now engineers (preferably of the civil variety) to help me evaluate the situation.
Step three.  Paint new lines in bold colors and put up a few new signs for direction.
Step four.  Appoint a minister of the parking lots and get volunteers to help direct traffic.
Step five.  If all else fails seek out St. Jude—the patron saint of hopeless cases!
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters . . . .” (Genesis 1:1-2)
I figure if God can create the entire universe out of chaos, then maybe, just maybe, he can help me with this slightly smaller problem.
Hopefully the sheep will cooperate.
Beep.  Beep.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Frustrated Shepherd