Friday, February 24, 2012

Stay Put

Dear Parishioners,

I have only told this story to a few people over the years.  It concerns my having to make a very important decision that, at the time, could potentially affect my future life as a priest.

Let me take you back to that time.
I was attending Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.  I was more than halfway through my priestly formation, studying to be a priest for the Diocese of Camden, NJ.

An opportunity arose in which I had the possibility to relocate and continue my studies for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  This involved a formal transfer from my home diocese of Camden to Philadelphia (where I was born and attended college seminary).  The transfer would require the consent of the bishops of both localities—and it appeared to be a genuine possibility without any apparent obstacles to this transfer.

In brief, the door opened for me to study for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and I had to make a potentially life-changing decision—should I stay where I was or go there instead?

I took this question to prayer every day.  I wanted to do whatever the Lord wanted me to do.  I prayed for guidance and direction.  I talked it over with some trusted priests.  I prayed from the depths of my being.  I did not want to make a bad decision. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

In prayer, two words kept coming to me over and over again:  “Stay Put.”   

How do I know if this was God speaking to me or whether this was just my imagination?  I prayed.  I prayed some more.  I prayed unlike I had ever prayed.  I prayed for some sign, some confirmation.

Stay put.  That’s what I “heard” time and time again.  Stay put.  Nothing more!

In the meantime, I had scheduled an appointment at the diocesan office in Camden potentially to finalize my transfer.  I left the seminary in Maryland to drive to the meeting in somewhat of a daze.  It was more than a three hour drive.

Was I about to do something that I might regret for the rest of my life?  It certainly seems like the Lord wanted me to stay where I was.  Lord, help me to make the right decision.

I had stopped at a red traffic light.  I was staring into space.  Then I looked closely at the tractor trailer (semi) immediately in front of me.  I could not believe what I saw!  On the mud flaps on both sides of the truck were two words:  STA PUT.  (Yeah, maybe the spelling was not exact but the message was nonetheless loud and clear!  Alright already, Lord!  I get it!)

Nearly thirty years later, I am a priest of the Diocese of Camden, NJ.  I realize now how God was teaching me how to discern important matters. Prayerintense prayer—was the key to finding God’s will.

Prayer and a particular pair of mud flaps, that is!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Look closely at the mud flap on the right!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"How Are Things?"

Dear Parishioners,

In a conversation that one of my priest-friends had with a monk while he was on retreat, he asked the monk, “How are things?”  The monk’s response surprised him a bit.  “Things are fine.  It’s the people that I have a problem with!”

For better or for worse, we will have to deal with people for the rest of our lives.  As the British poet John Donne reminds us: No man is an island.  In my analysis of any situation dealing with people, I return continually to the importance of relationship.

Let’s start first with God.  In the revelation to us of God’s inner make-up, we are shown that God is a Trinity of Persons in relationship—a Father, a Son and the Holy Spirit.  There is perfect unity and harmony in this relationship exemplifying the essence of love.

Moving to the family, which is based on the relationship of husband and wife and the children that are born as the fruit of their love, we can again see the importance of and need for unity and harmony.  The two who become one flesh also must strive for one loving heart and work to provide for, to teach, to protect and, most importantly, to love those innocents whom they bring into this world.

The Church—the Body of Christ—is a community of believers in relationship with each other as well as with Almighty God.  While each and every individual is of utmost importance and value, none of us stands alone within the Church.  Jesus is the Head and we are members of His Mystical Body.  Through the Church’s visible leader, the Pope, in union with the Bishops throughout the world, Christ continues to sanctify, to teach and to preach today.  Again, unity and harmony are ever so necessary for the mission of Christ to continue.  Unfortunately divided Christian communities with varying degrees of dissention (both from within and from those outside of the Church’s embrace), make this goal of unity and harmony a frequently difficult, ongoing challenge.

No matter what the situation that we encounter, we can never forget that concern for the person and the relationship needs to be the most important, underlying principle defining the way that we approach and treat others.  Mutual respect, patience, cooperation, ongoing communication, and forgiveness are qualities and conditions enabling us to achieve this desired unity and harmony in relationships.

Even when dealing with sensitive or volatile topics, if we value the relationship over the issue itself, we may still wind up disagreeing—but we have a better chance of never losing respect for the person or persons holding the differing opinion or position.

Work to build relationships as St. Paul instructs:

I . . . urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:  one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4: 1-6)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, February 6, 2012

Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?

Dear Parishioners,

I have been involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter for close to 25 years.  (To see exactly how a celibate priest fits into this community, you will just have to make a Marriage Encounter weekend!)  The Marriage Encounter community has shaped me as a person and has helped to direct my priesthood and the ministry flowing from it.  I have learned (and am still learning) many valuable lessons to apply to myself and my relationship with others as a result of my many years of participation.

For example, one simple lesson is as follows:  We can sometimes take people for granted.  Those around us everyday—whether they are family, co-workers or friends—can unfortunately get lost in the busyness or shuffle of everyday living.  We can occasionally assume that others know how we feel about them.  We neglect to tell them that we “love” them, that we care for them or that we appreciate them.  As a consequence, people can get hurt—albeit sometimes unintentionally.

What can we do to try to avoid this from happening?  Take the time to tell your husband or wife that you love him or her.  Embrace your children and let them see how much you love them by spending time with them and by telling them that they mean the world to you.  Compliment a co-worker.  Call a friend and tell him or her how much you appreciate his or her friendship.  Don’t take people, especially your spouse, for granted!

We can apply this thinking also to our relationship with God: tell Jesus how much you love Him, His Father and their Holy Spirit.  We should try never to let a day pass where we fail to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives!

On another important note, the second Sunday of February is designated as World Marriage Day (having been established by Worldwide Marriage Encounter).  In 1983, this day was “designated as a day to honor the husband and wife as head of the family, the basic unit of society.  It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life.”

As the traditional definition of marriage is challenged, and there are increasing attempts to redefine it, go back to the teaching of Jesus in the Sacred Scriptures as a point of reference:

Jesus said . . . “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.  (Mt. 19: 4-6)

Marriage is sacred.  It is one of the seven sacraments of our Catholic Church.  As something divinely instituted, it needs to be respected and defended.

Finally, since theologically, I share the same bride as Christ as His priest (i.e., the Church) I want to make sure that I heed my own advice and not neglect my spouse!    I hope that I never forget to tell you this:  I love you, my parishioners, my spouse!  I really do!  I also hope that I never neglect you or take you for granted!

Fr. Ed Namiotka