Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taking the Dirt Nap

The cemetery at the Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

A few weeks ago, when I was walking with my mom near her home, we passed an elderly gentleman working outside.  Politely I asked him, “How you doing?”  “Still above ground,” was his quick-witted response.  Still above ground.

The incident reminded me of a line from a movie I like:  Sleepers.  In it, one of the characters, a gangster figure, refers to death as “taking the dirt nap.”

Death is not a topic any of us likes to bring up in everyday conversation.  Too many of us like to imagine that we have plenty of time left.  However, it is something that we all have to face sooner or later.  The fraternal motto of the Knights of Columbus to which I belong reminds us bluntly:  Tempus fugit,  Momento mori  (Time flies, Remember death).

I had a bit of time to think about death on my recent retreat with the Trappist monks.  I visited their cemetery a couple times, praying for the deceased monks who had given their lives in the service of God and the Church.  Their graves are marked by a simple wooden cross.  This seemed to me a stark reminder of death’s finality for them and for us in this world.

During the month of November, we are asked to pray for the Holy Souls. We begin the month with All Saints Day followed immediately by All Souls Day. Have you considered having a Mass offered for your deceased loved ones? There is no greater prayer and offering that we can make on behalf of our deceased loved ones than to join our prayers for them to the offering of the Mass. We should realize that the Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus’ Last Supper and His Sacrifice on the Cross on our behalf. It is a continual sacrificial offering of God’s only Son, Jesus, made in reparation for our sins to God His Almighty Father. There simply is no more perfect sacrifice that can be offered.

The Church has continually taught that our prayers and especially the offering of the Mass can assist our deceased loved ones in their journey to Heaven.

I think of it this way: I suspect that most of us die imperfect. I hope that we are not so evil that we deserve the eternal punishment of hell. At the same time, we are probably not so perfect that we deserve to see God immediately without some type of purification or purgation first. Following the ancient practice of the faithful praying for the dead (see 2 Mac. 12:46), the Church teaches that there is a period of cleansing that we call purgatory.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030:

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

When I die someday—when it’s time for me to take the dirt nap—I hope that someone prays for me and has Masses offered for me that my sins will be forgiven. Skip the flowers and the other worldly gestures of sympathy. I know that there’s nothing more beneficial than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for my soul.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ascending Mount Equinox

Statue of a Carthusian monk  on Mount Equinox

Dear Parishioners,

In one location in all of North America can you find a Carthusian monastery.  After my annual retreat a couple of weeks ago with two of my priest-friends, we happened to chance upon the presence of this unique religious order as we drove through the autumnal mountains of Vermont.

Who are the Carthusians?

The Carthusian order was founded by St. Bruno in 1084.  Throughout the world there are approximately 450 Carthusian monks and nuns who live a solitary life as hermits—strict contemplatives.  They consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and to seeking God in the secret of their hearts.  They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world through a life of solitude, living in a small room or cell.  They talk to each other only once a week for about four hours after they share a midday meal and take their Sunday walk.

While visiting Hildene, the historic home of Robert Lincoln (the son of Abraham Lincoln) in Manchester, Vermont, we realized its close proximity to the Carthusians.  They lived on nearby Mount Equinox.  We decided to try to find out more.  We located the entrance to Mount Equinox Skyline Drive at the foot of the mountain and we were permitted, although reluctantly because of rain and poor visibility, to head up the mountain.  While we were not allowed to enter the monastery because of their strict rule, we ventured to a visitor center (The St. Bruno Scenic Viewing Centeratop the mountain that told the story of the monks.  We ascended the mountain to its summit—an elevation of 3848 feet.

Up winding roads and a various sharp curves in the rain, made even more treacherous because of the slippery falling leaves on parts of the roadway, we climbed slowly toward the top.  When we neared the visitor center the rain and the winds were torrential, gusting in the range of 75 miles per hour!  What did we get ourselves into?

Once in the visitor’s center, we met the caretaker and she began to converse with us and tell us a few stories about the monks.  Soon she received an urgent call on her radio from the foot of the mountain:  “Get the three priests off the mountain!”  We saw clearly the conditions were truly hurricane-like as our building on the summit shook while it was pelted by fierce rain and winds.

Down the mountain ever so slowly, clinging to and praying our rosaries with great supplication for our safety, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain.  Phew!

Afterward, one of the priests with me wrote a spiritual reflection of our experience for his parish.  I share part of it with you: 

The spiritual life can be treacherous.  This world will throw so much at us to try to frighten us, to deter us from reaching our goal and to attempt to hold us from the peace that God alone can give.  Every one of us must ascend the mountain to find God.  Not literally of course, but the mountain that is our heart.  May we all seek the Lord every day and stop giving into the buffeting winds of the world.
I hope to see you at the summit!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


The Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center (on a clear day!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Je Me Souviens

Dear Parishioners,

After finishing our Trappist retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee, my two priest-friends and I decided to spend a couple days in Canada.  Our destination was Montreal, Québec. We had been there briefly last year, visiting a few of the religious sights and we wished to return to spend a bit more time in this beautiful city with such a rich Catholic past.

Our first stop was the famous Oratory of St. Joseph at the highest point of the city.  There we prayed at the burial place of St. André BessetteBrother André (as he was better known) of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, was the humble porter responsible for the building of this massive basilica dedicated to the honor of St. Joseph.  Then it was off to the old part of the city where we visited the famous Notre-Dame Basilica and the Notre-Dame-de-Bons-Secours Chapel.  In the chapel, we prayed at the tomb of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s first woman saint, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame.

The next day it was off to the Co-Cathedral of Saint-Antione-de-Padoue (St. Anthony of Padua) in Longueuil, Québec where we found the remains of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher entombed at a side altar.  Blessed Marie-Rose was the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  It just happened to be her feast day (October 6) and we arrived to observe a special celebration with the bishop in this co-cathedral.

All through our travels in this part of French Canada known as Québec, we could not but notice the tremendous Catholic influence on the history of the people.  The streets, buildings and various other locations had Catholic saint names.  The many Catholic churches were a magnificent tribute to the honor and glory of God, filled with the stories of saints and martyrs.

The license plates of the cars of Québec province carry the interesting motto: Je me souviens (I remember).  What exactly does it mean?  On June 24, 1895, Canadian historian Thomas Chapais, during a speech given for the occasion of the unveiling of a statue honoring a military hero, said the following:

My hope and prayer is that they (and we) remember the rich Catholic faith that is such an important part of our tradition.  In this Year of Faith, may we remember the North American martyrs and the many holy saints and founders of religious orders who worked tirelessly to bring and to establish our Catholic faith on this continent.

May their many sacrifices never go in vain.  May we, as Catholics, remember who we are and where we came from, now and forever.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil

The Oratory of St. Joseph, Montreal 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back to the Desert

Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, I am back again at a Trappist monastery—the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY—making my annual retreat.

The retreat is silent.  I speak briefly when necessary.  The first prayers today (Vigils) started at 2:25 AM.  The monks chant the psalms each day and rise early to keep watch for the Lord’s return.  The first prayers of the day end with:  Come, Lord Jesus.  The monks work and pray (Ora et Labora) all day long.  The schedule is pretty much the same every time I am here.

While I miss the daily routine and people of the parish, I realize the importance of making a good retreat.  Priests need to be men of prayer and to follow the example of Jesus who frequently distanced himself from the crowds to find time for intimate communication with His Father in prayer.

What exactly will happen to me during this week?  I am never really sure.  I am simply called to listen for the Lord as He speaks, when he speaks.  It is ironic that the quieter the atmosphere, the louder the Lord seems to speak to the heart.  There is definitely time to read, to pray, to think, to meditate, to rest and to listen.

From a worldly perspective, people may not see value in what I am doing.  However, those who experience the touch of the Lord in their lives usually hunger for more . . . and more . . . and more.  At least I do.

You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses during the week.  As you come to mind each day, I will ask the Lord to be gracious to you and to bless you.  He certainly knows best what each of us needs the most in our lives.

Please pray for me as I journey into the desert.  That is how a monastic retreat is often described—like going into the desert.  Don’t forget that when Christ went out into the desert, He encountered temptation from Satan.  Your prayers are much needed and certainly appreciated during this time.

When I return back to the parish, I hope to be able to share with you some insights, thoughts and experiences that were the fruit of this monastic endeavor.  I never quite know the outcome.  All I can do is watch and wait like the monks, seeking Jesus with my whole heart.

Fr. Ed Namiotka