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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Christ Works through Us, (Sometimes Despite Us)

Dear Parishioners,

I have come to the conclusion that priests are a unique species.  We come in all shapes and sizes.  We can lean to the left or to the right theologically and politically.  We minister with different levels of zeal and enthusiasm.  We have varied gifts and talents:  some can sing, while others should not; some can preach, while others can only be understood with much difficulty; some can teach, while others are more effective than Sominex.

We might be better termed an odd lot—something you could perhaps find available at a Big Lots store.

What do we all have in common?  It’s our vocation—our “calling from God.”  Somehow, somewhere we all sensed an invitation from the Lord to be His priest:  Come follow me! (see Mk. 10:21)

Our Priestly vocations were tested in the seminary and eventually confirmed by the laying on of hands by a bishop.  At that time we begin to act in persona Christi (in the person of Christ).  When a priest baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes.  When a priest forgives sin, it is Christ who forgives sin.  When a priest anoints a sick person, it is Christ who anoints the sick person.  When a priest offers the Mass, it is Christ who is once again made present in the Holy Eucharist through the instrument of the priest.  Christ does the work through the instrument of the priest.

While it is most important that a priest personally strives for holiness of life, the sacraments are not dependant on a particular priest’s holiness.  The simple reason is that it is not the priest (and his own talents or abilities) who is behind the act, but rather Christ.  If we use the theological terminology, we say it this way:  the sacraments occur ex opere operato (from the work itself being worked) and not ex opere operantis (from the person doing it or the work of the worker).  The lack of holiness of a particular priest does not invalidate a sacrament.  The sacraments are efficacious in and of themselves and are not dependent on the on the holiness of the minister.

Additionally, for us to receive the fruits or benefits of a particular sacrament, we should be properly disposed.  We should be in the state of grace:  not aware of any mortal or serious sin.

When we realize how the sacraments “work,” we need also to realize that priests don’t automatically become “saintly” with ordination.  (Probably, most parishioners are quite aware of this already!)  We need continual conversion in our lives—until the day we die.  Think about how Jesus (the Son of God) chose His twelve apostles.  All were called by the Lord.  Yet, Peter denied Him three times and Judas betrayed Him.  They were far from perfect and even scandalous in their actions, even as they had closely accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry.  (Was Jesus trying to prepare us for future priests who may be responsible for scandal in the church?)

I would hope that people come to the Church for the sacraments because through them we encounter Jesus and are filled with His grace.  It’s nice to have inspiring homilies, uplifting music and a sense of community in our churches.  We should strive for that.  Yet, even when these elements are absent, Jesus still works through the sacraments ex opere operato.

Please pray for your pastor and for all priests.  There is much work ahead of us and only so many workers available for the seemingly endless tasks.  When we fail or disappoint—in great things or in small matters—never give up on Christ.  He remains ever present in His Church, continually at work, sometimes despite us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

To Live 100 Years

Dear Parishioners,

This evening I am going to have dinner with a close priest-friend and his family.  Our friendship originated from our college seminary days.  His family is gathering for a special occasion tonight:  the celebration of the 100th birthday of their “mom-mom.”

Msgr. Greg’s grandmother turns 100 today.  Wow!  To live for an entire century!  Interestingly enough, she is not the first person whom I have known personally to reach that milestone.

Time for a brief history lesson:  on March 4, 1913, Woodrow Wilson became the President of the United States.  There have been 16 U.S. presidents subsequently. “Mom-mom” has lived through World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm (Gulf War), Iraq and Afghanistan and now the war against terrorCommunism came into being in her lifetime, as well as the historic fall of the Berlin Wall.

Back in 1913, a pound of bacon was a quarter and a loaf of bread a nickel.  You could buy a gallon of milk for about 35 cents (usually distributed in quart bottles delivered by the milkman).  The Ford Model T sold for $550.00 and gasoline cost about 8 cents a gallon.  Coffee was about 30 cents a pound—the price of K-Cups or anything Starbucks would have seemed insane!
Technology moved at a most unbelievable pace during this century—to the point that most people cannot be without their personal computer, Smartphone or the internet.  We have seen people travel to the moon, and currently have still others living continually in outer space.

Pope St. Pius X headed the Catholic Church in 1913.  We have most recently witnessed popes coming from Poland, Germany and now Argentina.

Through it all . . . Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Heb. 13:8)  And we believe that He remains with His Church always—through everything that happens!  (See Mt. 28:20)

It’s hard to predict exactly what the future will hold in the next century—let alone in the next days, weeks or months.  When we need certainty and a sense of permanence--something to build upon into the future—it is Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life that He offers to us that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our lives.

No matter how long we live—even if it is a hundred years or more—it is barely a blink of an eye when it comes to eternity.  Don’t be foolish and unprepared for eternity.

While every “thing” in the world will come and go, when we reach the end of our earthly existence, Jesus Christ will remain.  He was, is and forever will be.  In the end, He will be all that matters.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  (Lk 12:34)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Greatest Gift!

Dear Parishioners,

With the many advances of technology, what I write here has the ability to reach many more people than those who sit in our pews each weekend.  Necessarily, if a rather significant number of parishioners in an average parish like ours are not part of the Saturday evening/Sunday routine of going to Mass, then this bulletin also has to attempt to reach those who will not be worshipping with us this week.  The bulletin is also available online to those who may be away from home, such as our college students who will be heading off to school shortly.  My hope and prayer is that this message will go out far and wide each week.

St. Paul reminded us last week in the 2nd reading to “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1)  We need to seek out the spiritual things in life.  Life is very materialistic.  We are constantly bombarded in commercials and advertisements that we must buy this particular item, that we are somehow incomplete or missing out on something if we do not own the latest, the best, the most expensive, etc.  We need to buy, buy, and buy!  And it’s all a lie!

What makes us complete?  What really gives us value or significance in life?

The greatest gift that anyone can be given does not have a price tag and cannot be bought.  It is not something that will impress those who see things with a worldly or materialistic set of eyes.  It is rather something of a completely spiritual nature—the gift of faith.

When we are baptized, we receive the gift of faith.  It is a gift—not something we buy, not something that we earn.  It is a gift, pure and simple.  If you have been given this gift, then thank God for it.  If you are a parent, it is the most important gift that you could ever give your child.  It happens by the simple pouring of water in the sacrament of Baptism:  “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

Through Baptism you are now a child of God; adopted by God Himself!  Jesus is God’s only begotten Son from all eternity.  We become His adopted child through baptism.  God is our Father, truly our Father!

I really wonder how much we actually think about our Baptism and the gift of faith that we have received through it?  Whenever we walk into the church and bless ourselves with the water from the holy water font, we should be reminded of the fact of our Baptism.  I have been given the greatest gift!  I am a Child of God!

Faith, being a gift, can be lost or grow cold if it is not fostered.  That is why it is so essential that we practice our faith—that we come together as a faith community at Mass.  We need to worship together as children of the one God as a family.  Hearing the Word of God and receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist regularly will help our faith to grow.

For those who may not be baptized or who have not yet had your children baptized, please think about, pray about and ask for this precious gift though the Sacrament of Baptism.  Adults seeking Baptism should inquire about the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program.

Sometimes the most precious things in life are the things that we cannot buy.  The gift of faith is one such gift.  Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God leads to eternal life!  That is something no amount of money can ever buy!  It is simply a gift—the greatest gift!

Fr. Ed Namiotka