Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Praying vs. Saying Prayers

Dear Parishioners,

I was continuing to interview the religious education students last night in preparation for their upcoming Confirmation.  It is a chance for me to get to know more personally the students before they receive this sacrament.

During the course of our conversation, I inevitably ask the question: “How do you pray?” I can remember my spiritual director asking me that very same question when I first began seeing him in the seminary so long ago.  It is obviously a very personal question.  It’s no surprise that the students’ answers vary, based on their life experience and level of maturity.

This is a question that I ask myself regularly.  How do I pray?

I try to make a distinction between simply saying or reciting prayers and talking to God from the heart.  We learn formal prayers from our youngest days—the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Act of Contrition, etc.  This is a good, important practice.  To this day I pray these prayers daily.

I also am involved with so much ritual during my daily schedule.  The Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), the Rosary, the Act of Contrition and formula of Absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) are all examples of formally constructed and arranged prayers.

It seems to me, the ultimate difference comes in how we pray them.  I can just go through the motions and simply recite these prayers.  When I move my mouth words usually come out.  Or I can make the effort to pray these prayers from the heart.  I consciously think about what I am praying and, most importantly, to Whom I am praying it.

Prayer shouldn’t end there.  Every day I try to make a conscious effort to realize that I live in the presence of God.  God always thinks of me.  Humanly speaking, however, I do not always think of God.  I get distracted.  Life is busy, often complicated.  Sometimes I might even push God out of my mind.  I have to make a conscious effort to remember that God is always with me—through everything that happens!  When I get up, when showering and brushing my teeth, when eating, when sitting in a meeting or appointment, when driving, when on the computer, when shopping, when watching TV, when sleeping, God is there with me!  Always!

I also need to talk to God regularly, in my own words, from my heart.  I need to develop a personal relationship with God.  I need to speak freely and spontaneously.  Sometimes, in fact, there are simply no words.  I just sit, listen and wait in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament realizing that I am with Jesus, the One who loves me, Whom I am trying to love in return.

Prayer can be an experience where we feel consoled and loved by God, or where we can feel so empty and alone.  At times we can be inspired in our prayer, while at other times nothing at all seems to come to mind.  In prayer there can be the widest range of emotions—from joy to sadness, even anger at God.

The more we pray, the more things can definitely happen to us there!

How, in fact, do you pray?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Saturday, January 12, 2013

“The One with the Man on It”

Dear Parishioners,

Someone related to me her experience of attempting to buy a cross/crucifix from a jewelry store recently. As she questioned the salesperson about various crosses/crucifixes that were on display in the store, the salesperson innocently asked, “Do you want one with the man on it or not?”
Hum.  I was left speechless when I heard this story.  Sad, I thought.  Very sad.  Doesn’t everyone know who Jesus is?  Didn’t this person know what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross?
Truth be told, I really don’t know what the person knew, understood or believed.  The experience, however, got me thinking.  Why would someone in this day and age—with all of our technology and resources—not know the Gospel message.  Why would someone not know who Jesus is and what He did for us?  How do we relate to them this Good News?

“Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rm. 10: 17)

We are in a Year of Faith.  This faith is ultimately faith in the Person of Jesus.  We believe He is the Son of God sent to us to reveal to us the love that God has for us.  He suffered and died on the cross for us.  Most importantly, He conquered sin and death—giving us eternal life—by His Resurrection from the dead.

That’s the basic Christian message.  It’s pretty simple.  All people need to hear it somehow.

If a person doesn’t go to church, where the message is routinely proclaimed, then there has to be various other means to get the message out.  Besides preaching, I try by putting something out in the church bulletin and on the internet weekly.  I also try to live out my faith—albeit imperfectly—in the community in which I live.  I certainly need to be a living Gospel message.

In the end, this message of salvation in Jesus Christ has to get out into the world through a united effort—all of us.  It’s not the just the priest’s job.  I (or any other priest) can only reach a limited number of people.  They are mostly those who are already coming to church.

We all have to be what we say that we are—followers of Christ, Christians.  We have to bear witness to others the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Don’t be afraid.  Tell them the Good News:

Yes, my friend, I would like a crucifix with Jesus on it.  He is truly the Man, par excellence.  He suffered and died for me and you on that cross.  And I want the entire world to see it and to know it!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reflections on the Priesthood

Dear Parishioners,

This past weekend I had the opportunity to join some of my priest-classmates and other friends as we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Priestly Ordination of one of my long-time friends, Msgr. Gregory Gordon.  Msgr. Gordon is a priest of the Diocese of Las Vegas, NV.  (As you probably remember, I also celebrated twenty-five years of ministerial Priesthood in May, 2012.)  This jubilee was a special opportunity for us to join together and to spend some time renewing friendships while making some new ones.  Our common bond was the ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ in which we are privileged to share.

While in Las Vegas—affectionately known as Sin City—we participated in a number of rather holy occasions.  Among the various Masses and receptions that we attended, we witnessed the inaugural broadcast of Immaculate Heart Catholic Radio in the city of Las Vegas.  Now the people in this area have 24 hour Catholic broadcasting over the airwaves!
I began reminiscing back to 1987 to St. Ann’s Church in Wildwood, NJ where I was ordained to the Roman Catholic Priesthood by the late Bishop George H. Guilfoyle.  Bishop Guilfoyle had been a former Auxiliary Bishop of New York City before heading our diocese.  My ordination was at the beginning of the Marian Year, called at the time by Blessed Pope John Paul II
Many things have changed in the Church in 25 years.  Parishes have been merged.  Unfortunately, some churches were closed.  Some of my seminary schoolmates are now bishops heading their own dioceses or serving as auxiliaries in various larger archdioceses.  Various people come and go, in and out of our lives.

When I occasionally look at the videos of my Ordination and First Mass—filmed by a couple of my high school classmates—I am reminded of those various people who are no longer with us, including Bishop Guilfoyle, a number of diocesan priests and my own father.
During my priesthood in the Diocese of Camden, I have seen three other bishops serve as its leader—Bishop James McHugh, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, and Bishop Joseph Galante—and this morning I received word that Bishop Dennis Sullivan has been appointed the 8th Bishop of the Diocese of Camden.

Interestingly, Bishop Sullivan begins here after serving as an Auxiliary Bishop of New York City.  He begins as our leader in this Year of Faith, recently called by Pope Benedict XVI.

We welcome Bishop Sullivan to our diocese and we offer him our prayers and support.  May your years in our diocese bring a deepened faith to the people you serve!

Ad Multos Annos!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan
8th Bishop of Camden