Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stop the World . . . I Want to Get Off!






Dear Parishioners,

This past week was one of those weeks.  I should have expected it since Lent is here.  This liturgical season can frequently be a period of intense personal trial and tribulation—my own 40 days in the desert.

Let me go back a number of years to set the scene for you.

When I entered the seminary in 1978, I began a significant period of time in my life (until about 1986) when I rarely watched television.  We weren’t allowed a TV in our college dorm rooms and, quite frankly, I never missed it.  Ask me about a particular TV series or sit-com from those days, and I am probably more clueless than usual.   Whenever I would watch something—usually when I was at home during a break or extended vacation—I was routinely disgusted with how some particular show tried to push the envelope.  Whether it was vulgar language, questionable sexual mores, nudity, etc., I wasn’t desensitized to these things because I wasn’t continually watching them.  As a result, they would tend to upset me quite intenselyHow could this “stuff” be on TV?

Fast forward with me to this past week.
 
A sleepless Saturday night had me peek at Saturday Night Live for just a few minutes.  Why I turned this program on at this time, I‘ll never know.  There was a skit spoofing the movie Django Unchained in which a violent Jesus, wielding swords and guns, goes around seeking bloody revenge on the Romans after His Resurrection.  The narrator informs us:  “He’s risen from the dead . . . and he’s preaching anything but forgiveness.”  “He may be wearing sandals, but he can still kick a**.”  Then, the actor portraying Jesus proceeds to kill people quite violently.  This was blasphemy, plain as day.  I’m still shaking my head.

Later in the week, I turned on the radio in my car.  Another big mistake.  At the time Rihanna was singing a song entitled S & M in which (among other things) she exclaims that “sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.”   The glorification of sexual perversion for all to hear!  How edifying!

Since this column is composed for use in a church bulletin, I’ll spare you the vulgar, even more disgusting details of the many other troubling things that I was subjected to recently.  Let me instead quote you words that a Trappist monk spoke to me while I was on retreat.  These words have been permanently ingrained in my memory:  “Our world is gravely sick with perversion.”  Internet porn, sexting, virtually unrestricted cable TV, vulgar song lyrics accompanied by explicit videos . . . .  Need I go on?  And we are somehow unaffected—individually or as a society?

On top of it all, it seems to be the perfect time for some to continue to attack, mock and disregard the entire Catholic Church and its teachings (a la comedian Bill Maher), usually by referring to and fixating on the grave sins of a few.  It has been in vogue to point out and accentuate every single flaw in the Church as if we are the scapegoat or whipping boy (sorry Rihanna) for a society that demands license to do whatever it pleases without culpability.  Just do it! (no matter what it is!)

As I walked the Stations of the Cross on Friday night, it was never more apparent to me why Jesus suffered and died for our sins.

Lord Jesus crucified, have mercy on us sinners.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Encountering Jesus (During Lent and Throughout the Year)


Dear Parishioners,

When we read the official teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) as well as other Church documents, we find a profound wisdom accumulated over the years.  We can learn so much from this wisdom and reflect on it to help us grow in understanding and holiness.
 
What does the Catechism tell us about Jesus’ presence in particular?


"Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name”, in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister.  But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species." (#1373, CCC)


If we want to know and love Jesus more, we can try to incorporate into our personal Lenten practices and spirituality an appreciation of the presence of Jesus by following what is presented to us in the Catechism.

First, we need to read and reflect on the Word of GodSt. Jerome tells us that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Commentary on Isaiah)  Why not take the time to read a short passage each day?  Using a Scripture commentary or some other guide can be helpful.

Next, Christ is found in prayer—especially the Church’s prayer, when we gather together with fellow believers as part of the mystical Body of Christ—His Church.  Certainly, we can pray alone, at all times, and in secret.  However, we are reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves—the Church, the Body of Christ.  Why not pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, etc. with your fellow parishioners?

Christ is also present in our needy brothers and sisters:  ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:40)  Help a neighbor, visit a sick person or give to the poor.  You will encounter Christ in them.

Remember Christ is found in all the Sacraments.  The two Sacraments that we can usually receive on a regular, ongoing basis are the Holy Eucharist (at Mass) and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession).  Make good use of both of these sacraments as well as the other sacraments at their appropriate times.
   
Finally, note well the emphasis given to the importance of the Eucharistic species, the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist:


The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real'--by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (#1374, CCC)

Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and spend some time there in His Real Presence. Spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is profoundly life-giving and can be truly life-changing. Many saints, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, were led to the Catholic faith, because of their belief in and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

God is always aware of us and never lets us out of His sight. However, as finite, limited creatures we constantly need to direct our thoughts and attention back to God. Remembering Jesus’ presence with us “until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20) in these many ways should help us during life’s journey.


Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcoming a New Shepherd


Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan

Dear Parishioners,

In a few hours I will be leaving to participate in the installation Mass of Bishop Dennis Joseph Sullivan at St. Agnes Church in Blackwood, NJ.  Bishop Sullivan is the eighth bishop, serving the Diocese of Camden as its Ordinary (its leader or head).

I can remember the rector of my seminary telling me a long time ago that I would most likely see at least five different bishops as Ordinary of my diocese during my lifetime.  Well, he was certainly right!

Bishop George H. Guilfoyle was the first bishop that I actually met.  He presided at a ceremony dedicating the new St. Ann’s School in Wildwood, where I attended and served as an altar boy.  I remember the bishop blessing the cornerstone of the school while I stood nearby as an altar boy during the ceremony.  Many years later, Bishop Guilfoyle would be the bishop ordaining me a priest to serve our diocese!  (I have the picture of my ordination facing me right now in my office as I write.)

Although he was not the head of our diocese, I was friendly with Bishop James L. Schad, the only auxiliary bishop that Camden ever had.  I would act as the master of ceremonies for some of the bishop’s Confirmation assignments, often driving him to and from the various churches.  During those drives, we had the opportunity to talk about many things and I am grateful for the many insights that the bishop shared with me.  May he rest in peace!

Bishop James T. McHugh. Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, and Bishop Joseph A. Galante all succeeded Bishop Guilfoyle, making Bishop Sullivan the 5th bishop that I have had as my Ordinary.

Today’s installation comes with anticipation, hope, and enthusiasm and certainly with some important questionsHow will he be received by the priests, religious and laity of the diocese?  What will be his priorities?  What can he do to help build up the diocese after the difficult growing pains of many church and school mergers? Will he be a good and holy shepherd to guide us in the years ahead?

I take this time to thank Bishop Galante for his years of service to the diocese.  It was no easy task that he attempted, trying to prepare our diocese for the future, while experiencing failing health.  (Since you will now be my “full-time” parishioner, I plan to deliver personally your weekly collection envelopes next week.  I can’t wait to see the expression on your face!  I hope you still have a sense of humor!)

Our prayers are with you Bishop Sullivan as you begin your time here with us.  At every Mass, when we pray for Dennis, our bishop, know that you have our prayerful and loving support!  May God grant you good health and the necessary graces to be our spiritual Shepherd.

Surprisingly, for all of us, we will be led by a new pope shortly.  Let us also pray for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor.

The times are certainly changing!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor
Bishop Sullivan and Bishop Galante
    

Friday, February 1, 2013

Using Technology for "Good"



Dear Parishioners,

I must admit that I arrived kicking and screaming into the computer age.  When I first began teaching in a Catholic high school many years ago, I can remember quite forcefully telling the guidance secretary (at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton), “If you think that I’m going to spend most of my time in front of a computer, it ain’t happening!”  We were using an old Apple computer back then for scheduling—the one with the green letters on the black screen.

I still unequivocally advocate the importance of personal relationships and interpersonal communication.  I (albeit, sometimes hypocritically) get annoyed when people pay more attention to their phones than to the person(s) in the room.  However, I am resigned to the fact that our advanced technology is here to stay and we had all become better aware of what our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews already know.  

Can you believe that even our Holy Father now sends out Tweets on Twitter!  Who would have thought!

What does it all mean for this parish?  Our website (www.stjosephsomerspoint.com) has been updated so that various parish information, parish bulletins, forms, schedules, etc., are readily available.  (Incidentally, if you have any compliments, constructive criticisms or suggestions about the site, let me know.)  We also have a Facebook page.  If you “like” us on Facebook, information about St. Joseph’s will come automatically to your Facebook page.  I have a blog (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com) on which I post this column each week.  To date, it has been viewed approximately 40,000 times worldwide!

My Smartphone (an Android) is really an unbelievable mini-computer.  I have downloaded a few free apps which have proved quite helpful.  Catholic Droid is a resource library for the Catholic faith with the Bible, prayers, devotions, an examination of conscience, church teachings, etc. all at your fingertips!  iBrieviary allows me to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) just about anywhere without having to carry the actual book around.  Laudate is a similar app to Catholic Droid and also has numerous Catholic resources.  Then there is ihradio.com (Immaculate Heart Radio) which can be downloaded to the phone (or viewed/listened to on the computer) to provide 24 hour Catholic radio and information.

If you want to view Catholic information on various computer websites, start with the Vatican website (www.vatican.va) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website (www.usccb.org).  Such official sites sponsored by the Church are the most accurate and reliable when it comes to official Church teaching as opposed to some individual’s (sometimes inaccurate) opinion of the matter.  Each diocese usually has a website—including our own (www.camdendiocese.org).   EWTN (The Eternal Word Television Network) has been a pioneer in technology for years now, providing Catholic TV, radio and internet resources (www.ewtn.com) .

I could go on and on about the many places online to find information.  It’s best to bookmark particular places because unfiltered surfing the web or “Googling”—even in search of religious topics—sometimes leads one to unexpected and unwanted sites.

So if you see me in Church and I’m looking at my phone, don’t always assume that I’m answering a call, texting, surfing the web, or playing a game.  I might be, in fact, praying my Liturgy of the Hours, reading a Scripture passage, researching a homily, or sending a tweet back to the Holy Father!

Maybe I can be the first to invent an app to contact God directly!

(Oh, we already have something to do that.  It's called prayer).

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor