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

  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!


Fr. Ed Namiotka


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