Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holy Family vs. Modern Family

The cast of ABC's Modern Family

Dear Parishioners,

As believing Christians, we are called to look at the Sacred Scriptures for valuable lessons in living our lives.  What do we see in the pages of the Bible when we examine the lives of those comprising the Holy FamilyJesus, Mary and Joseph?

First, we see two particularly faith-filled people more than willing to do God’s Will.  We hear Mary’s often-quoted response to the angel Gabriel:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)  We also see Joseph’s obedient reaction to angel of the Lord telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife into his home:  “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”  (Mt. 1: 24)  Joseph was also obedient in relocating Mary and Jesus to Egypt (Mt. 2:13-14) and in returning them once again to Israel. (Mt. 2: 19-21)

As we look further, we see the many difficulties that this couple had to face: pregnancy outside of wedlock (albeit, a miraculous pregnancy without marital relations) (Lk. 1:26 ff), no dignified place to give birth or to live (Lk. 2:7), a threat to the life of the child (Mt. 2:13 ff), substantial distances to travel (Mt. 2:13 & 2:20), and the scare and worry over a lost child (Mt. 2:41 ff).  Later, Mary was witness to the brutal torture and death of her Son on the cross (John 19: 25-27).  These were not the easiest life experiences to have to face, if you ask me!

Although most details are absent, we can surmise that this family prayed together, went to the synagogue regularly, worked hard and faced the various concerns that go with raising a child in Israel at that particular time.

Contrast this situation with the many bizarre concepts that we are subjected to in TV sit-coms like Modern Family, Family Guy, The Simpsons or All In the Family, to name just a few.  A tagline for Modern Family gives enough information to let us know that we are not dealing with anything resembling a Leave It to Beaver family:  “One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.”  The Simpsons deals with adysfunctional familyheaded by Homer, the “oafish, unhealthy, beer-loving father” and including Bart "the ten year old underachiever (and proud of it)."  One only has to have a brief glimpse of the irreverent humor of creator and comedian Seth MacFarlane, to know that the content of Family Guy is going to be Offensive—with a capital O.  Finally, most people see Archie Bunker (of All In the Family) as an icon for the bigoted, questionably-educated, pseudo-conservative male.  Not the best examples of family life to be found anywhere around here, unfortunately.

I close with words from a man much holier and more intelligent than I will ever be, Blessed (now Saint) John Paul II:

I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life.  It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.  It was unique in the world.  Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine.  It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile.  It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way.  And it will not fail to help Christian families—indeed, all the families in the world—to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

St. Joseph was "a just man," a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care.  May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.

May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of "the Church of the home." Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a "little Church" in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life.  May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God.  May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their families.  (Familiaris Consortio, # 86)
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



The Holy Family

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“We’re Just Too Busy.”



Dear Parishioners,

There was a TV show hosted by Bill Cosby back in the 90’s entitled Kids Say the Darndest Things which was based on an earlier Art Linkletter show.  (Now I’m really beginning to date myself and feel old!)  During these shows, children were asked questions similar to what they are doing today on certain AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” commercials.  The children can be seen giving various spontaneous remarks that would usually get a laugh or raise an eyebrow.

Truth be told, an awful lot of things can be learned from what children tell us.  For example:

A religious education teacher asked her little children as they were on the way to Mass, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"  One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."

She seemed to have such great insight!  And then there was this situation:

After a Mass, a little boy told his pastor, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money. “Well, thank you.” The pastor replied, “But why?” “Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”

Thanks a lot!  Let me go on:

On the first day of school, about mid-morning, the kindergarten teacher said, "If anyone has to go to the bathroom, hold up two fingers." A little voice from the back of the room asked, "How will that help?"

Obviously, the child was an Einstein in the making!

Recently, I tried asking a question or two myself to a few of the young people while they were in or around church during religious education classes.  My question was simply:  Does your family go to church?
   
On more than one occasion the children replied to me with the same answer, although they were not present to hear each other’s responses:  We’re just too busy!”   It’s truly amazing to me how a 6, 7 or 8 year old child could have such a busy, complicated life!  I wonder where that excuse actually originated?!  No, I don’t really have to wonder.  I’m pretty sure I already know.

When a person or family is too busy to worship God, then that person or family is much too busy.  The season of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, calls us to get ourselves ready.  It can be a time to re-prioritize things in our lives.  Shouldn’t the love of Jesus Christ for us be motivation for us to pray and worship God each week?  Is one hour out of the 168 hours of the week asking too much of us to give some time back to God?
       
 Out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems.

  . . . And also some painful truths as well!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Waiting for the Lord


Dear Parishioners,

The season of Advent is a time of anticipation.  We should be waiting for the Lord Jesus to return again.  Our Nicene Creed tells us: . . . He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead . . . .

When will the Lord return?  I don’t know . . . and I refuse to speculate.  It tends to get a person in big trouble.

The fact that our Lord will return should be sufficient for us.

Years ago, my spiritual director in the seminary suggested and encouraged the practice of centering prayer.  He was basically trying to teach me how to wait for the Lord in prayer.

What happens with this type of centering prayer?

Instead of talking, reading or meditating on something, I simply enter into the presence of the Lord and wait.  I personally like to do this before the Real Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I sit quietly trying to empty my mind of thoughts and distractions.  I wait and listen for the Lord to speak to me.  He is in charge.  I submit my will entirely to Him.

What do I hear?  Sometimes nothing.  Sometimes I get distracted and start thinking about or worrying about various matters.  At these times—when I find myself distracted—I simply repeat the name of Jesus slowly and quietly.  This practice helps me to return to a quiet, inner place of peace.

There have been times when unbelievable inspiration has come during this prayer.  Some powerful homilies and insightful writings have developed when simply waiting for the Lord.

More important than looking for any spectacular results, there needs to be a fidelity to the Lord—a finding quality time for Him—as part of my daily prayer routine.  I need to go to prayer even when nothing at all seems to happen.  I need to go to prayer especially at those times when I don’t feel like it or I tell myself that I am too busy to pray right now.  I need to go to prayer simply because prayer is what I need.  The Lord Jesus is who I need.

To many, this waiting for the Lord may seem foolish or even a waste of valuable time.  Many actually waste more valuable time in front of the TV, surfing the web on the computer, playing video games, or by any number of unproductive or unrewarding activities.  I never see spending my time waiting for the Lord as wasted time.  It is valuable time that I spend with the One whom I love and have chosen to serve as a priest.  It is His time.  He can do whatsoever He wills with my time.  I give it to Him.

This Advent, why not try waiting for the Lord in prayer?  You might be quite surprised at what happens.

Come, Lord Jesus!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

   

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Do We Say “Enough is Enough?”



Dear Parishioners,

I started and finished my Christmas shopping yesterday.  I pulled into a Hess station, and purchased this year’s featured toy truck for my two young nephews (who really seem to be into trucks and cars), and it was over.  Christmas shopping completed for another year!  Woo-hoo!!!!

Truth be told, I can’t see all the wasted time, energy and frenzy surrounding events like Black Friday.  Each year for Christmas I choose a religious Christmas card for my other nieces and nephews and place either money or a gift card in them.  My brothers, sister (and their spouses) and I generally have limited or entirely eliminated buying things for each other.  I remember my mom each year by taking her out to dinner and/or planning a trip with her sometime later—something she really enjoys.

What I have to say here has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or supporting our local merchants and has everything to do with resisting the materialism and the consumer mentality that has seemingly swallowed up the true meaning of Christmas.

When I saw certain retail stores advertize pre-Black Friday sales, and encourage shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself, I have to say “Enough is enough!”  Thanksgiving for my siblings and me is a family holiday where we get to spend some quality time with each other.  If people resist buying on such a day, then the stores would see that there is simply no profit in opening at this time and would cease this practice.  No profit would translate into don’t open today.

It is like many other things in our society that indicate we have certain priorities out of whack.  As long as we are willing to pay astronomical ticket prices for athletes and entertainers, as long as we feel the need for status symbols like over-priced luxury cars, extravagant jewelry and the latest electronics, as long as so many unborn children are seen as disposable, as long as the worship of God appears to be on or near the bottom of our priority list, then our Western society will continue to suffer from a disastrous, spiritual poverty.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta had some thoughts on this spiritual poverty:

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.  We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.  There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.  The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality.  There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.   
Filling our narcissistic tendencies with things and more things will only bring more emptiness.  Finding time for God, for our families and to love one another will fill the void in each of us.

We need to say:  “Enough is enough!”


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Indifference


Dear Parishioners,

I find that one of the most difficult attitudes that I have to face as a priest (and as a pastor) is either apathy or indifference.  Our Catholic faith is so important to me.  I believe it and try to live it to the best of my ability.  This does not exempt me from sinning or falling short of the goal.  However, I know that consent of my will (a decision) is necessary—to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and to love my neighbor as myself (see Mk. 12: 30-31)—followed by the daily attempt to put this into practice.

If nothing else, I keep trying.  Every day is a new day.  I can begin again and again.

This leads me to a quote that I read quite a while ago by the late Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:

Since the basic cause of man’s anxiety is the possibility of being either a saint or a sinner, it follows that there are only two alternatives for him.  Man can either mount upward to the peak of eternity or else slip backwards to the chasms of despair and frustration.  Yet there are many who think there is yet another alternative, namely, that of indifference.  They think that, just as bears hibernate for a season in a state of suspended animation, so they, too, can sleep through life without choosing to live for God or against Him.  But hibernation is no escape; winter ends, and one is then forced to make a decision—indeed, the very choice of indifference is itself a decision.  White fences do not remain white fences by having nothing done to them; they soon become black fences.  Since there is a tendency in us that pulls us back to the animal, the mere fact that we do not resist it operates to our own destruction.  Just as life is the sum of forces that resist death, so, too, man’s will must be the sum of the forces that resist frustration.  A man who has taken poison into his system can ignore the antidote, or he can throw it out the window; it makes no difference which he does, for death is already on the march.  St. Paul warns us, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb 2:3).  By the mere fact that we do not go forward, we go backward.  There are no plains in the spiritual life, we are either going uphill or coming down. Furthermore the pose of indifference is only intellectual.  The will must choose.  And even though an “indifferent” soul does not positively reject the infinite, the infinite rejects it.  The talents that are unused are taken away, and the Scriptures tell us that, “But because though art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).” --Peace of Soul:  Timeless Wisdom on Finding Serenity and Joy by the Century’s Acclaimed Catholic Bishop

By choosing to be Catholic, it is essential to live out that faith.  What are some practical suggestions for doing this?

·        Every day attempt to pray.  Don’t just recite prayers.  Pray from the heart. Talk and listen to God.

·       Be faithful in weekly Mass attendance.  Hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached.  Receive the Holy Eucharist.  Respond to Jesus telling us:  “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk. 22:19)

·        Get into the habit of monthly confession.  After a month (if not sooner), I need a sacramental confession to help me stay on the right path.  Confession is my moral compass.

·        Be Christ-like and show charity to those in my family, where I work, or where I go to school.

·       Avoid bad habits (vices) and cultivate good ones (virtues).  Do I spend too much time watching TV or on the computer?  Do I drink or gamble excessively, or use drugs as an escape?  Bad habits will ultimately become destructive and will deteriorate, if not destroy, the spiritual life.

·     Pray for the grace of conversionConversion is a life-long process of turning away from sin and turning toward God.

·       Trust in the LordJesus loves you more than you probably can ever imagine.  He died for you and me.

Look at the crucifix.  How can I be apathetic or indifferent to that?


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

“Did You Ever Think about Becoming a Priest?”


Dear Parishioners,

I can remember that it was my junior year of high school.  I was standing with some of my friends in the cafeteria of Wildwood Catholic High School during a school dance.  I was checking out the girls there in the rather dark setting, trying to get up the courage (because I was so shy) to ask one of them to dance.

Then along comes this priest.  He was new to the school, not ordained for too long, and was assigned to teach my theology class.

“Did you ever think about becoming a priest?”

He asked me that question.  It still resonates in my mind.  What should I say?

Maybe I was unusual, but my prayer life at that time included a prayer for a good wife.  I prayed that God would give me the wife that was best suited for me and that we would be happy together.  It’s funny how I can remember quite clearly how I regularly prayed that particular request.

“Yes, Father, I’ve thought about it but I’m not sure that it’s right for me.”  It seemed to be a good enough response to get him to go away and let me resume what I was doing—at least for the time being.

After over a quarter century of ministry as a diocesan priest, I realize clearly that Christ answered my prayer and gave me the best bride that He possibly could—His own spouse, the Church.  I can honestly say that I am truly grateful that God called me to be His priest and for the gift of the ordained, ministerial Priesthood.

Last weekend Bishop Sullivan asked us to speak about and to encourage vocations to the diocesan priesthood.  Parishioners were given prayer cards and asked to pray specifically for vocations to the diocesan priesthood.  Please take the time to do so every day.

The privilege to offer Mass daily, to bring healing and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, to anoint the sick, to baptize, to teach and preach the Catholic faith, to act in the person of Christ in the sacraments and so many other blessings have humbled me and reminded me of God’s great love and mercy for His people.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Luke 10:2

I don’t believe that God ever stopped calling young men to be His priests.  God remains faithful from age to age.  Pray that those who are called by God can hear and discern “the call” and have the courage to respond to it.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taking the Dirt Nap

The cemetery at the Abbey of the Genesee


Dear Parishioners,

A few weeks ago, when I was walking with my mom near her home, we passed an elderly gentleman working outside.  Politely I asked him, “How you doing?”  “Still above ground,” was his quick-witted response.  Still above ground.

The incident reminded me of a line from a movie I like:  Sleepers.  In it, one of the characters, a gangster figure, refers to death as “taking the dirt nap.”

Death is not a topic any of us likes to bring up in everyday conversation.  Too many of us like to imagine that we have plenty of time left.  However, it is something that we all have to face sooner or later.  The fraternal motto of the Knights of Columbus to which I belong reminds us bluntly:  Tempus fugit,  Momento mori  (Time flies, Remember death).

I had a bit of time to think about death on my recent retreat with the Trappist monks.  I visited their cemetery a couple times, praying for the deceased monks who had given their lives in the service of God and the Church.  Their graves are marked by a simple wooden cross.  This seemed to me a stark reminder of death’s finality for them and for us in this world.


During the month of November, we are asked to pray for the Holy Souls. We begin the month with All Saints Day followed immediately by All Souls Day. Have you considered having a Mass offered for your deceased loved ones? There is no greater prayer and offering that we can make on behalf of our deceased loved ones than to join our prayers for them to the offering of the Mass. We should realize that the Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus’ Last Supper and His Sacrifice on the Cross on our behalf. It is a continual sacrificial offering of God’s only Son, Jesus, made in reparation for our sins to God His Almighty Father. There simply is no more perfect sacrifice that can be offered.

The Church has continually taught that our prayers and especially the offering of the Mass can assist our deceased loved ones in their journey to Heaven.

I think of it this way: I suspect that most of us die imperfect. I hope that we are not so evil that we deserve the eternal punishment of hell. At the same time, we are probably not so perfect that we deserve to see God immediately without some type of purification or purgation first. Following the ancient practice of the faithful praying for the dead (see 2 Mac. 12:46), the Church teaches that there is a period of cleansing that we call purgatory.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030:


All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

When I die someday—when it’s time for me to take the dirt nap—I hope that someone prays for me and has Masses offered for me that my sins will be forgiven. Skip the flowers and the other worldly gestures of sympathy. I know that there’s nothing more beneficial than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for my soul.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor




Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ascending Mount Equinox

Statue of a Carthusian monk  on Mount Equinox


Dear Parishioners,

In one location in all of North America can you find a Carthusian monastery.  After my annual retreat a couple of weeks ago with two of my priest-friends, we happened to chance upon the presence of this unique religious order as we drove through the autumnal mountains of Vermont.

Who are the Carthusians?

The Carthusian order was founded by St. Bruno in 1084.  Throughout the world there are approximately 450 Carthusian monks and nuns who live a solitary life as hermits—strict contemplatives.  They consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and to seeking God in the secret of their hearts.  They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world through a life of solitude, living in a small room or cell.  They talk to each other only once a week for about four hours after they share a midday meal and take their Sunday walk.

While visiting Hildene, the historic home of Robert Lincoln (the son of Abraham Lincoln) in Manchester, Vermont, we realized its close proximity to the Carthusians.  They lived on nearby Mount Equinox.  We decided to try to find out more.  We located the entrance to Mount Equinox Skyline Drive at the foot of the mountain and we were permitted, although reluctantly because of rain and poor visibility, to head up the mountain.  While we were not allowed to enter the monastery because of their strict rule, we ventured to a visitor center (The St. Bruno Scenic Viewing Centeratop the mountain that told the story of the monks.  We ascended the mountain to its summit—an elevation of 3848 feet.

Up winding roads and a various sharp curves in the rain, made even more treacherous because of the slippery falling leaves on parts of the roadway, we climbed slowly toward the top.  When we neared the visitor center the rain and the winds were torrential, gusting in the range of 75 miles per hour!  What did we get ourselves into?

Once in the visitor’s center, we met the caretaker and she began to converse with us and tell us a few stories about the monks.  Soon she received an urgent call on her radio from the foot of the mountain:  “Get the three priests off the mountain!”  We saw clearly the conditions were truly hurricane-like as our building on the summit shook while it was pelted by fierce rain and winds.

Down the mountain ever so slowly, clinging to and praying our rosaries with great supplication for our safety, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain.  Phew!

Afterward, one of the priests with me wrote a spiritual reflection of our experience for his parish.  I share part of it with you: 

The spiritual life can be treacherous.  This world will throw so much at us to try to frighten us, to deter us from reaching our goal and to attempt to hold us from the peace that God alone can give.  Every one of us must ascend the mountain to find God.  Not literally of course, but the mountain that is our heart.  May we all seek the Lord every day and stop giving into the buffeting winds of the world.
I hope to see you at the summit!


Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

The Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center (on a clear day!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Je Me Souviens

Dear Parishioners,

After finishing our Trappist retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee, my two priest-friends and I decided to spend a couple days in Canada.  Our destination was Montreal, Québec. We had been there briefly last year, visiting a few of the religious sights and we wished to return to spend a bit more time in this beautiful city with such a rich Catholic past.

Our first stop was the famous Oratory of St. Joseph at the highest point of the city.  There we prayed at the burial place of St. André BessetteBrother André (as he was better known) of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, was the humble porter responsible for the building of this massive basilica dedicated to the honor of St. Joseph.  Then it was off to the old part of the city where we visited the famous Notre-Dame Basilica and the Notre-Dame-de-Bons-Secours Chapel.  In the chapel, we prayed at the tomb of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s first woman saint, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame.

The next day it was off to the Co-Cathedral of Saint-Antione-de-Padoue (St. Anthony of Padua) in Longueuil, Québec where we found the remains of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher entombed at a side altar.  Blessed Marie-Rose was the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  It just happened to be her feast day (October 6) and we arrived to observe a special celebration with the bishop in this co-cathedral.

All through our travels in this part of French Canada known as Québec, we could not but notice the tremendous Catholic influence on the history of the people.  The streets, buildings and various other locations had Catholic saint names.  The many Catholic churches were a magnificent tribute to the honor and glory of God, filled with the stories of saints and martyrs.

The license plates of the cars of Québec province carry the interesting motto: Je me souviens (I remember).  What exactly does it mean?  On June 24, 1895, Canadian historian Thomas Chapais, during a speech given for the occasion of the unveiling of a statue honoring a military hero, said the following:

My hope and prayer is that they (and we) remember the rich Catholic faith that is such an important part of our tradition.  In this Year of Faith, may we remember the North American martyrs and the many holy saints and founders of religious orders who worked tirelessly to bring and to establish our Catholic faith on this continent.

May their many sacrifices never go in vain.  May we, as Catholics, remember who we are and where we came from, now and forever.



Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil

The Oratory of St. Joseph, Montreal 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back to the Desert



Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, I am back again at a Trappist monastery—the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY—making my annual retreat.

The retreat is silent.  I speak briefly when necessary.  The first prayers today (Vigils) started at 2:25 AM.  The monks chant the psalms each day and rise early to keep watch for the Lord’s return.  The first prayers of the day end with:  Come, Lord Jesus.  The monks work and pray (Ora et Labora) all day long.  The schedule is pretty much the same every time I am here.

While I miss the daily routine and people of the parish, I realize the importance of making a good retreat.  Priests need to be men of prayer and to follow the example of Jesus who frequently distanced himself from the crowds to find time for intimate communication with His Father in prayer.

What exactly will happen to me during this week?  I am never really sure.  I am simply called to listen for the Lord as He speaks, when he speaks.  It is ironic that the quieter the atmosphere, the louder the Lord seems to speak to the heart.  There is definitely time to read, to pray, to think, to meditate, to rest and to listen.

From a worldly perspective, people may not see value in what I am doing.  However, those who experience the touch of the Lord in their lives usually hunger for more . . . and more . . . and more.  At least I do.

You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses during the week.  As you come to mind each day, I will ask the Lord to be gracious to you and to bless you.  He certainly knows best what each of us needs the most in our lives.

Please pray for me as I journey into the desert.  That is how a monastic retreat is often described—like going into the desert.  Don’t forget that when Christ went out into the desert, He encountered temptation from Satan.  Your prayers are much needed and certainly appreciated during this time.

When I return back to the parish, I hope to be able to share with you some insights, thoughts and experiences that were the fruit of this monastic endeavor.  I never quite know the outcome.  All I can do is watch and wait like the monks, seeking Jesus with my whole heart.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor    

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Prejudice Rears Its Ugly Head


Dear Parishioners,

This past Sunday I watched the Miss America Pageant on TV.  I was glad to see it return to its roots in Atlantic City where it began in 1921.  It was exciting to observe the various local points of interest featured during the pageant, including historic Boardwalk Hall.  (Whether or not beauty contests send the proper message to young women is the subject of debate for another day.)
    
The winner this year, Nina Davuluri, is of Indian descent—not the Native-American variety, but from India in South Asia.

Many stories about her victory included the racial slurs and unfavorable comments generated because of her racial background.  Some of the published tweets from Twitter are distasteful, to say the least.

It is sad to see that some Americans still can voice (or text, tweet, etc.) visceral comments against another person because of race.  We, as a nation, have certainly come a long way with an African-American (bi-racial) president in the White House.  Many people, fortunately, have the ability to be color–blind when it comes to a person’s skin and try to see who the person is on the inside.

Then, we have the followers of Archie Bunker still around spewing out racial slurs, derogatory comments and various insults.  (I fall in the meathead category, being of Polish-American descent.)

I remember a song I learned back in Catholic elementary school as a child.  The song asked:  “What color is God’s skin?”  The answer came back:  “. . . It's black, brown, it's yellow, it is red, it is white.  Everyone's the same in the good Lord's sight.”  Yes, it was a little ditty from those Kumbaya days still ingrained in my mind.  Please don’t tell my friends.
    
America is a nation of immigrants.  The diversity of races and cultures has made us a tolerant people and a strong nation in so many ways.  This is not to say that we haven’t faced many, many challenges over the years.  Unfortunately, prejudice still rears its ugly head far too often.

Within our Catholic Church, we need to strive constantly to rise above all forms of prejudice, following the instruction of St. Paul:


For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3: 26-28)

Congratulations Nina on being the first Indian-American Miss America!  My hope and prayers are with you to rise about the many obstacles that still exist when people judge others by their color of skin.  

What’s in the heart is certainly much more important!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

  Miss America 2014:  Nina Davuluri 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Inspiration Comes at Different Times


Dear Parishioners,

Composing a column each week is not an easy task.  Sometimes I feel inspired and a message comes rather quickly.  At other times, I can sit and wait, think and ponder, hope and pray that something relevant and pertinent will come to mind to share with the congregation.

The fact is: inspiration comes at different times.  I can’t always predict where and when.  Most times, I simply have to be open and receptive until something, perhaps unexpectedly, comes to mind.

I have conceived various topics when at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in church.  I have gotten up in the middle of the night and an idea was there dancing in my head.  I have been struck with an idea or two when driving or sitting in my car:

Excuse me for a moment.   Time to get some gas for my car.
Can you fill it up with regular, please?   Thanks.
So sorry about the interruption!  Now, where was I?  Oh—inspiration!

Ideas have crossed my mind while I was walking on the beach.  Sometimes while I’m taking a shower, I am bathed with inspiration.  Often, in the hospital when visiting a patient, thoughts may turn to serious matters like the meaning of suffering, compassion, healing, and God’s mercy.  Then there are those times when I am teaching in a classroom and a student’s question or comment leads to an interesting topic:

“Father, when do you think Jesus is going to come back to earth?”  “Did Joseph and Mary have other children?”  “What is hell like?”  “Do you like being a priest?”

Inspiration—what I like to think of as God’s breathing into us—is not limited to any one place or to a particular time.  What I—what we—need to do is to make ourselves available and receptive so that God can speak to us—so that we can hear His voice within us.  Often, but not exclusively, God speaks in the quiet—in the silence and depths of our hearts.  There are certain places that seem to be more conducive to allowing God to speak.  After all, Jesus was known to go up the mountain, to walk along the seashore, to pray in the garden and even to spend time in the desert—besides going to various synagogues and to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Making ourselves available and receptive involves an act of the will.  We need to set aside the time to pray as we watch and wait for the Lord.  We need to make an effort to go to Mass frequently—never knowing when a passage from Scripture, an insightful homily or the kindness of another parishioner might be a catalyst in our lives.  We should continually call to mind the presence of God in our lives no matter what we are doing, realizing that God is always mindful of us as He carries us in the palm of His hand.  (See Is. 49: 15-16)

Really, you never know where and when inspiration may occur!

Flush!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to the Grind


Dear Parishioners,

As I write this week, our elementary school children are heading back to school—some to our regional Catholic school and others to the various public schools in the area.

First of all, I ask parents with school-aged children to consider the possibility of a Catholic school education for their children.  (I admit that I write with a certain bias towards a Catholic school education having attended Catholic schools for over 21 years and having been a teacher and/or administrator in Catholic schools for 20 years.)  I am well aware that, unfortunately, not every family is able to afford the tuition associated with a Catholic school.

This being said, what does a Catholic school have to offer?  The simple answer is the integration of faith, morals and the love of Jesus Christ as part of the life of the school.  The administration, teachers and staff of St. Joseph Regional Elementary School are working very hard to accomplish this task.  Together with strong parental support the school is truly an extended family.  I have witnessed our school community living out its faith, constantly improving its academic curriculum and developing new programs while it is experiences a strong interest by many families in our area.  I thank Mr. Pugliese and the faculty and staff of our school for their dedication and fine work!

I have told prospective families for years now that our Catholic school students are our best advertisement.  I encourage prospective families to pray about it, make an appointment to visit and see if a Catholic school may be the right fit for your child(ren).  Yes, in a struggling economy the added expense of tuition is difficult.  However, some tuition assistance may be available for needy families.  Isn’t sacrifice usually a necessary part of obtaining something truly valuable?

Whether students attend our Catholic school or participate in our religious education program, my expectation is that they will attend Mass weekly.  It is so important that faith is practiced continually, beginning with prayer and example in the home, aided by religious instruction both in the home and by our various religion teachers, and lived-out by worship at Mass each week.  If students are supported by the example of loving parents who practice their faith, and students try to live out the teachings of their faith as articulated in the home, in their religion classes and from the pulpit, then I think that they will be as well-prepared as anyone to face the challenges, trials and tribulations that life may present.

My thanks to those parents who do their very best as the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.  I pray that you be the best teachers by word and example.  You make many sacrifices for your children and their well-being.  There is certainly no greater responsibility that we have for them than for their eternal salvation.

See you at Mass!  

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learning a New “Vocabulary” Word


Dear Parishioners,

As I checked my Facebook account this past Monday, there was a lot of buzz about Miley Cyrus (the former Hannah Montana star from the Disney Channel) and her twerking during the MTV Video Music Awards.  I had not heard this word before.  Usually I am quite pleased to learn a new word.  Maybe I can use it in Words with Friends or in a crossword puzzle?  Unfortunately, I’m not too happy this time around.

When I was still working in a high school, the students would generally keep me aware of the latest fads in pop culture—whether I liked them or not.  Am I really starting to become “out of it?”  After I thought for a while, I remembered something that I had written as a principal.  This message was directed to the parents of my Sacred Heart High School students back in 2008:
When acting as a chaperone at the school dances recently, I sat back and took clear notice of what I saw. For the most part during some of the songs it looked like an orgy with clothes on. Ladies and gentlemen no longer faced each other but the young men were dancing behind the ladies in acts that could only be described as simulated copulation.  In other instances three or more people combined in a line making some type of layered sandwich of bodies.  I could go on.
What happened to dancing?
I came to the conclusion that the music had to change. If you are doing the electric slide, the twist, the Y.M.C.A. or some type of country line dance, the music does not allow for this type of dancing. However, the acceptable pattern/style of dance for hip-hop or rap seemed to be simulated sexual activity of the basest nature.  I told the D.J. at the last dance to change the music.  Period.
I intend to hold to this in future dances if students do not learn that dancing in high schools should not come close to the lap dancing found in so-called “gentlemen's clubs.”  Only proper face to face dancing or traditionally recognized dances (i.e., the twist, line dances, the electric slide, the Y.M.C.A., etc.) will be permitted at Sacred Heart in the future. Gentlemen should respect the dignity of a woman and women should not throw themselves around in suggestive gyrations. (I think that the students learned a new vocabulary word here when I spoke to them about this.)

I had witnessed this type of obscene gyrating years ago and I was extremely upset by it then.  Now I can only say that I am completely sickened by it.

What happened to the funny, cute girl from the Disney Channel? Something tragically turned her into what I can only describe as someone looking like a cheap tramp leaving little to the imagination and displaying her body in a manner sadly befitting a prostitute or a lap dancer.  She is not the first—and certainly will not be the last—train wreck of pop culture.  Think of Lindsey Lohan, Brittany Spears, Whitney Houston, Charlie Sheen, Michael Jackson, David Hasselhoff, Amy Winehouse, Elvis—just to name a few of the many, many tragic stories surrounding celebrities gone awry.  Money, fortune and fame could not save them.

I am quite certain that Jesus could.
     
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”  (Mt. 16: 26-27)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor