Thursday, August 30, 2012

“. . . As Long As They Believe in God.”

Dear Parishioners,

On many occasions, I have encountered someone who relates to me a certain frustration about a family member or friend who left the Catholic faith for another religion, who is no longer practicing the Catholic faith in which he or she was baptized and/or who is simply indifferent to any fundamental disparities among religions.  They will inevitably say something to me like:  “I guess it’s okay, Father, as long as they believe in God.

While my intention here in this column is not to debate the essential teachings of each particular faith or denomination—and I do agree that a person should believe in God—the “God” that a person believes in is extremely important because Jesus told us that it is so.

Jesus reaffirmed the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures when He referenced the book of Deuteronomy:

[A Scholar of the Law asked Jesus:] “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22: 36-37)
The broader passage to which Jesus referred speaks boldly of the necessity of believing in the one, true God:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Dt. 6: 4-9)

Our Lord also says something quite important regarding our path to God:

“Jesus said to [Thomas], I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14: 6)
Jesus “fulfilled” (cf. Mt. 5:17) a faith background (Judaism) in which its faithful followers were strict monotheists who believed that there was only one, true GodChristians take this a step further by professing that Jesus was the Incarnate Revelation of God as His Only, Begotten Son.  And so, as Catholic Christians we must believe in God as revealed to us by Jesus Himself.  This is not negotiable.  Any other “god” would be a “false god.”

I am sure that many well-intentioned people are certainly hoping for the best for their friends or relatives—hoping that, at the very minimum, they believe in God in some way, shape or form.  However, God took the time to reveal Himself to us in the Person of Jesus.  Settling for anything less than what Jesus taught once we have the teaching from God Himself is incomplete and, in many circumstances, false.

When we profess our creed at Mass (and at other times), think seriously about its meaning and various implications.  Martyrs through the centuries have given their lives so that our faith—in its fullness—could be passed on to subsequent generations.
I believe in one God . . . .  We say this for a reason.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"¡Viva Cristo Rey!"

The execution of Blessed Miguel Pro, 11/23/27

Dear Parishioners,

·         What sacrifices am I willing to make in order to offer the Mass or to practice my Catholic faith freely?

·         What suffering would I be willing to endure for my Catholic faith?

·         Would I be able to hold fast to my Catholic faith in the face of torture or a threat of death?

·         How much do I value religious freedom?

·         Would I have the courage to proclaim:  “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” like the Cristeros?

The above questions keep haunting me.  I just returned from seeing the film For Greater Glory.
When I saw the sacrifices that the Cristeros made and the tortures that they endured for their Catholic faith, I was speechless with a pain deep in my heart.  During a three year period (1926-1929) in Mexico’s history, approximately 90,000 people died in what was called the Cristero War.  In an interview with Ruben Quezada, the author of For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada, he explains the background to the war:
When Plutarco Calles took over as president of Mexico, he did not want the church to be part of any moral teachings to its citizens.  He did not want God to be a part of anyone’s life.  After the Mexican Revolution the two presidents that followed (Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon) abused their power to wage their personal attacks against the Catholic Church as well.  There were similar persecution incidents and abuses towards the clergy and Catholics alike, and we have a few Mexican Martyrs from those persecutions who were not part of the Cristero War.  When President Calles came into power, he wanted to bring Mexico’s population to belong to a Socialist state.  He would insist that the Church was poisoning the minds of the people and that its teachings were a threat to the Revolutionary mentality which it stood for. Calles wanted to ensure that all citizens were going to be educated under the government’s dictatorship and secular mindset.  He wanted to ensure that only the government would have the freedom to form the minds of its citizens and insisted that the church was poisoning the minds of the people.  In order to enforce this new law it was necessary to expel all clergy, except for a few priests who would oversee the spiritual needs of the people and with the supervision of the state authorities.  This led to various states of Mexico going without a single Mass being celebrated for a long time.

A total of 35 martyrs have been canonized and fifteen were beatified as a result of this persecution.  The motto of the Cristeros was “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”) which so many refused to denounce even when facing torture and death.

Special recognition needs to be given to the Knights of Columbus who helped the Mexican people during this war.  Again, according to Quezada:   

In August 1926, just days after the Calles Law took effect, the U.S. Knights passed a resolution to support the Church in Mexico. They established a fund that raised over a million dollars to offer relief services for those exiled from Mexico, to provide for exiled seminarians to continue their priestly formation, and to educate the American public about the true situation.  The Order printed and distributed five million pamphlets about the Cristiada and two million copies of the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico.  The U.S. Knights also sponsored over 700 free lectures and reached millions by radio.

The film, which only had only a very limited run in our and in most areas, is a story of fidelity to the Catholic faith in the face of torture and persecution.  It is a story of what people are willing to sacrifice to preserve religious freedom

I could never do justice to the situation in a brief column such as this.  When the DVD comes out, maybe you could buy it or rent it.  (Beware of the intense violence at times—the reason it received an “R” rating.) 

It is well worth watching!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sitting Around the Dinner Table (or Whatever Happened to "Family Time?")

Dear Parishioners,

I was having dinner recently with a family that I knew from a previous assignment.  I related to them that I write a column each week for my parish.  They suggested that I develop this week’s topicsitting around the dinner table together (and all of its implications).

There was a time when the family meal in many homes was a sacred time.  It was where and when the family would not only eat together, but also share what was happening in their lives (“What did you do today?” or “What happened in school today?”), learn some basis communication skills, (say “please” and “thank you” and “Wait until your brother/sister is finished speaking before you talk”), pray together (grace before and after meals minimally), and simply spend quality time with each other.  Often, Sunday meals were a time with the extended family and friends.

Things have certainly changed!  Today there are frequently split shifts in the home where a meal is from the microwave oven or the nearby fast-food establishment, children (and even some adults) sit around the table playing their hand-held games, listening to their iPods, talking or texting on their smart phones, the flat screen TV might be on in the background, and there is little or no actual quality conversation taking place.  Social skills and person to person communication now give way to all forms of social networking.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but not when it takes the place of the necessary interactions with the human person.  (We have all had the frustrating experience of the automated telephone response when wanting to speak to an actual human being!)

The bottom line is:  communication skills and the art of conversation have become lost arts!  (Try getting some young persons to look you in the eyes and say “hello.”  It can be a frustrating experience at times.)  Additionally, regular family time around the dinner table has frequently lessened or disappeared in too many homes.  There’s soccer and basketball practice, dance, piano lessons, etc., etc., that all suck up much family time and energy!

I even think our current life-style patterns have eroded the time that we should spend around the Table of the Lord for the most important meal—the Mass—which we should be attending as a family each week!

May I suggest that each family take the time to evaluate their own situation to see if what I have said applies?  If so, then why not take a few concrete steps to prioritize family time around the dinner table?  Turn the TV’s off, put the smart phones away, have a meal together, look at each other and talk to each other!

I feel very sad even having to write what I just did.

Fr. Ed Namiotka