Friday, March 29, 2013

Rejoice! Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Dear Parishioners,

 “. . .  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. . . . But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15: 17, 20)

I was brought to tears of joy many times this past Lent.  How could I not be after seeing the powerful, sincere confessions from penitents after ten, twenty, thirty years or more?  Thanks be to God for His mercy and forgiveness!

During our 40 Hours celebration, I observed devout parishioners praying before our Eucharistic Lord around the clock, day into the night.  Fr. James King preached some dynamic and inspiring homilies leaving us with much to ponder.

These past weeks of Lent and Holy Week have given us precious time to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter.  Whether it was at the Soup and Stations on Fridays, at the Communal Penance Service (and many other opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation after the Masses), at Lectio Divina, at the Lifelong Faith Formation event with Carrie Ann Ford or at the services of Holy Week, I witnessed some tremendous occasions of God’s Grace touching lives and penetrating hearts.  If you took the time to participate in these and various other opportunities that were afforded our parish, I hope you were as spiritually rejuvenated as I was.

Now we have reached the culmination and highpoint of our Lenten journey—Easter Sunday.  Rejoice because Christ is Risen from the Dead!  As we celebrate the Easter season, please try to keep the Resurrected Christ at the center of your lives.  This is the central mystery of our faith and needs to be forefront in our thoughts in order to guide our daily actions.

In times of sadness or uncertainty it is the light given us by the Resurrected Christ that should illumine our lives and shine through the darkness!

I thank all who work so hard and who are so generous to this parish and help to strengthen our Christian faith community.

Be assured of my daily prayers and Masses for all members of this parish.  May I ask a continued remembrance in your prayers and Masses as well?
Have a blessed Easter season!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Habemus Papam

Pope Francis

Dear Parishioners,

I remember observing a similar reaction in 1978 when Pope John Paul II was first announced as Pope.  There was a strange silence that came over the crowd waiting and watching in St. Peter’s Square.  People were silenced by an unfamiliar name--a name that they truly had not expected—heralded from the balcony.  “Habemus Papam.” “We have a pope.”  But who was he?  Karol Wojtyla?

After the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, many of the pundits and insiders predicted—sometimes rather authoritatively—that our next pope would be the Cardinal from Milan, Italy or maybe the one from Brazil.  There were certain expectations created in anticipation of the election.

Then, I saw it happen again last Wednesday.  The announcement of a new pope was made.  I observed another occasion in which the huge crowd that gathered in St. Peter’s Square was temporarily silenced.  “Habemus Papam.”  Jorge BergoglioWho?  Where’s he from?

I was happy to see that the Holy Spirit was at work surprising us again, working in and through the Church and its leaders—the College of Cardinals.  They chose a Cardinal from their ranks who was a Jesuit priest, someone from South America, someone who selected a name never before taken by a pope—Francis.  Surprise!  Surprise!  Surprise!

Observing Pope Francis from the balcony that day, I wondered what could be said about our newly-elected Supreme Pontiff.  From the outset he showed himself to be a man of prayer, a man of humility, someone who did not appear intimidated by the huge crowd or the daunting responsibilities that lie in front of him.  He seemed to be a man who stood with and for the people.  He spoke from his heart and was comfortable and genuine in his manner of interaction.  I was immediately impressed and reassured by Pope Francis—our new Shepherd.

I read Pope Francis’ first homily—simple, direct, and spiritual.  I examined his formal interview with the press—clear, articulate, polite and insightful.  What he said was unmistakablyChrist-centered.”  He repeatedly evidences a love for and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This morning (Tuesday, March 19—the Solemnity of St. Joseph), I watched via the Internet as Pope Francis greeted the visiting dignitaries from around the world in St. Peter’s Basilica after the Papal Mass.  His smile and warmth seemed to radiate a certain peace and inner joy.

What lies ahead in the years of Pope Francis’ pontificate and beyond—that which is currently unknown to us—I confidently conclude continues to be directed and sustained by the mysterious Hand of GodMoreover, the Holy Spirit, guiding the Church from its inception, is not subject to or intimidated by any outside force whether worldly or spiritual/demonic.  No pundit, insider, supposedly “enlightened” cleric or layperson, can completely and authoritatively know what God has in store for us all (beyond that which has already been revealed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition).  Only God knows every detail of the things to come.

Back in the 13th Century another Francis—the one from Assisi—heard the voice of God telling him to “rebuild my House (Church) which is in ruins.”  Francis took up the call and the impact was felt worldwide.  I’m pretty sure another Francis has heard a similar call and will do his part—with the Grace of God—to shepherd the Lord’s flock (Jn. 21:16), to feed the Lord’s sheep (Jn. 21:17), and to rebuild His Church.

May our continual prayers assist him in this task.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

St. Francis of Assisi

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Forty Hours Devotion

Dear Parishioners,

Beginning Sunday night (3/17/13) with the 5:30 PM Mass, we will offer the opportunity for prayer and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, commonly known as the Forty Hours Devotion.  This practice, which can be traced to Milan, Italy around the year 1530, is a formalized period of prayer and adoration centering on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Prior to this period in the Catholic Church’s history, there were times of exposition and benediction, Eucharistic processions and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.  However, both Saints Philip Neri and Ignatius of Loyola instituted the Forty Hours Devotion (with reference to Jesus’ 40 hours in the tomb and recalling other biblical citations in which the symbolic number 40 was specified) in reparation for sin.

Fr. William Saunders, whom I knew from my college seminary days, wrote a rather thorough article, “40 Hours with Jesus Christ,” for his diocesan paper (Arlington Catholic Herald) describing this devotion.  I quote from a part of it here:

While the Mass is the central act of worship for us Catholics, an act which participates in the eternal reality of our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection, Vatican Council II upheld and encouraged the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.  Of course such devotion derives from the sacrifice of the Mass and moves the faithful to both sacramental and spiritual communion with our Lord (Eucharisticum Mysterium, #50). . . . Pope John Paul II has repeatedly "highly recommended" public and private devotion of the Blessed Sacrament, including processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi and the 40 Hours Devotion (cf. Dominicae Cenae, #3, and Inaestimabile Donum, #20-22).
It was the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia, St. John Neumann who was a strong promoter of this devotion in his diocese.  The practice would also spread to our area of New Jersey and beyond.

After considering this brief history lesson and the official encouragement by saints, popes and church documents, I really think that the essence of this devotion comes down to our belief—our deep faith—in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.  If Jesus is really there, why wouldn’t we want to spend time with Him in prayer?

I can simply relate to you from my own personal experience that spending time with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist has been for me my most fruitful times of prayer beyond comparison.  I love the Holy Eucharist in all of its dimensions—from offering the Mass to the reception of Holy Communion to adoring and worshiping Jesus’ Real Presence in the tabernacle / monstrance.  Jesus is present throughout—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Those that I know (and have known) who have prayed in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament have overwhelmingly come to appreciate what a most precious gift that we have.  The Mass is so much more meaningful.  The reading of the Sacred Scriptures becomes alive and motivating.  The inspiration and wisdom that comes from sitting at the feet of the Master is beyond price!

I invite you to come to Mass and to spend some time during these days—March 17th to 19th—with our Eucharistic Lord.  Fr. James King, who was here at our parish as a seminarian, will be the homilist for the three evening Masses.
Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Helping the Church in Africa

Dear Parishioners,

Last year Fr. Alfred Onyutha returned to St. Joseph’s Church, where he was previously assigned, to make a financial appeal on behalf of his parish and village in Uganda.  Fr. Alfred is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Nebbi in Uganda.  We were also privileged to host Bishop (Msgr.) Sanctus Wanok, his Ordinary, for one weekend last summer.

Fr. Alfred received a generous amount of donations to make substantial progress on the church that is being constructed in his home village.   Fr. Alfred e-mailed me a letter today which I now share with you: 

Dear Friends and Brother Ed, 

Just to let you know how much you have contributed to building the House of God in this part of the continent of Africa (Uganda) and my home village. From praying in a grass thatched house to under a tree and now to a decent House of Prayer! The Lord will definitely bless your efforts because without you and your assistance this would be impossible. Thanks so much and God bless you all! 

My Bishop, Msgr. Sanctus Wanok, who remembers you fondly, was in my village to see the church. He was so pleased by the contributions of your parishioners. He has agreed to officially commission/open the Church in January of next year (even as people are already praying in it.) Invitations have been extended to you by him and my people to have you there in Uganda for a week or so. You are most welcome and we shall talk about the details later. 

We prayed for you and your intentions as we began the New Year (together with the intentions of the other donors). 

Thanks so much. 

Yours brotherly, 
Alfred Onyutha

It was a very special moment for me to read this letter and to view the attached photos of his church.  (I will post the pictures subsequently on our parish web-site and Facebook page for all to see!)

Although I realize that the Church is really made up of the People of God, it is certainly nice to have a beautiful building—a sacred space—in which to worship the Lord.  I personally thank all who were able to contribute to making this happen for Fr. Alfred and his people.

I am sure that if anyone else still wishes to help Father in the final stages of this church, he would gladly accept further assistance.  Just contact me and I will help make the arrangements!

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving—thanks to all who take that call seriously!

Fr. Ed Namiotka