Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holy Family vs. Modern Family

The cast of ABC's Modern Family

Dear Parishioners,

As believing Christians, we are called to look at the Sacred Scriptures for valuable lessons in living our lives.  What do we see in the pages of the Bible when we examine the lives of those comprising the Holy FamilyJesus, Mary and Joseph?

First, we see two particularly faith-filled people more than willing to do God’s Will.  We hear Mary’s often-quoted response to the angel Gabriel:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)  We also see Joseph’s obedient reaction to angel of the Lord telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife into his home:  “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”  (Mt. 1: 24)  Joseph was also obedient in relocating Mary and Jesus to Egypt (Mt. 2:13-14) and in returning them once again to Israel. (Mt. 2: 19-21)

As we look further, we see the many difficulties that this couple had to face: pregnancy outside of wedlock (albeit, a miraculous pregnancy without marital relations) (Lk. 1:26 ff), no dignified place to give birth or to live (Lk. 2:7), a threat to the life of the child (Mt. 2:13 ff), substantial distances to travel (Mt. 2:13 & 2:20), and the scare and worry over a lost child (Mt. 2:41 ff).  Later, Mary was witness to the brutal torture and death of her Son on the cross (John 19: 25-27).  These were not the easiest life experiences to have to face, if you ask me!

Although most details are absent, we can surmise that this family prayed together, went to the synagogue regularly, worked hard and faced the various concerns that go with raising a child in Israel at that particular time.

Contrast this situation with the many bizarre concepts that we are subjected to in TV sit-coms like Modern Family, Family Guy, The Simpsons or All In the Family, to name just a few.  A tagline for Modern Family gives enough information to let us know that we are not dealing with anything resembling a Leave It to Beaver family:  “One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.”  The Simpsons deals with adysfunctional familyheaded by Homer, the “oafish, unhealthy, beer-loving father” and including Bart "the ten year old underachiever (and proud of it)."  One only has to have a brief glimpse of the irreverent humor of creator and comedian Seth MacFarlane, to know that the content of Family Guy is going to be Offensive—with a capital O.  Finally, most people see Archie Bunker (of All In the Family) as an icon for the bigoted, questionably-educated, pseudo-conservative male.  Not the best examples of family life to be found anywhere around here, unfortunately.

I close with words from a man much holier and more intelligent than I will ever be, Blessed (now Saint) John Paul II:

I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life.  It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.  It was unique in the world.  Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine.  It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile.  It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way.  And it will not fail to help Christian families—indeed, all the families in the world—to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

St. Joseph was "a just man," a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care.  May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.

May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of "the Church of the home." Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a "little Church" in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life.  May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God.  May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their families.  (Familiaris Consortio, # 86)
Fr. Ed Namiotka

The Holy Family

Saturday, December 21, 2013

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

Dear Parishioners,

Christmas is upon us once again!

The trees get decorated, gifts are purchased and exchanged, various foods are prepared, businesses have their Christmas (or holiday) parties, cards are sent, students return home from college, families get together from far and wide to share good times, etc. etc.

Part of the routine for many is attendance at MassBy the way, did you ever take time to examine the last part of the word Christmas?  The word itself comes from the Old English for Christ’s Mass.
Usually the earliest possible Masses on Christmas Eve (here the 4 PM and 4:15 PM) are the best attended.  They are filled with children, maybe with a re-enactment of the Christmas story in some fashion.

Even if its current chosen date was a Christianizing of the pagan winter solstice, as some contend, Christ was born at a particular point in time.  That is what we celebrate.

Christmas is about Christ.  Although things can get rather complicated and convoluted for some, Christmas is still about Christ.

Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  (Luke 2:  10-11)
God chose to become a man for us.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  Timelessness entered into time.  The almighty and all-powerful God became a helpless, vulnerable infant.  The creator of all life became subject to suffering and death.  The infinite majesty of God became finite.  God walked this very earth.  He could be seen, felt and touched.

When you peer into the manger this Christmas, realize that before you is a glimpse of the tremendous love that God has for you and me, as evidenced through the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son.

On behalf of the priests, deacon, sisters and staff that serve our parish, we wish you and your families a happy, holy Christmas and a blessed New Year!  May the love of God which took human form in the person of Jesus be honored and revered in every human person that we meet.

I thank God that you have made St. Joseph’s your spiritual home!  

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“We’re Just Too Busy.”

Dear Parishioners,

There was a TV show hosted by Bill Cosby back in the 90’s entitled Kids Say the Darndest Things which was based on an earlier Art Linkletter show.  (Now I’m really beginning to date myself and feel old!)  During these shows, children were asked questions similar to what they are doing today on certain AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” commercials.  The children can be seen giving various spontaneous remarks that would usually get a laugh or raise an eyebrow.

Truth be told, an awful lot of things can be learned from what children tell us.  For example:

A religious education teacher asked her little children as they were on the way to Mass, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"  One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."

She seemed to have such great insight!  And then there was this situation:

After a Mass, a little boy told his pastor, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money. “Well, thank you.” The pastor replied, “But why?” “Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”

Thanks a lot!  Let me go on:

On the first day of school, about mid-morning, the kindergarten teacher said, "If anyone has to go to the bathroom, hold up two fingers." A little voice from the back of the room asked, "How will that help?"

Obviously, the child was an Einstein in the making!

Recently, I tried asking a question or two myself to a few of the young people while they were in or around church during religious education classes.  My question was simply:  Does your family go to church?
On more than one occasion the children replied to me with the same answer, although they were not present to hear each other’s responses:  We’re just too busy!”   It’s truly amazing to me how a 6, 7 or 8 year old child could have such a busy, complicated life!  I wonder where that excuse actually originated?!  No, I don’t really have to wonder.  I’m pretty sure I already know.

When a person or family is too busy to worship God, then that person or family is much too busy.  The season of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, calls us to get ourselves ready.  It can be a time to re-prioritize things in our lives.  Shouldn’t the love of Jesus Christ for us be motivation for us to pray and worship God each week?  Is one hour out of the 168 hours of the week asking too much of us to give some time back to God?
 Out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems.

  . . . And also some painful truths as well!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, December 2, 2013

"I am the Immaculate Conception"

Dear Parishioners,

Among some Catholics, there is still a misunderstanding regarding what is meant by the term (or title) Immaculate Conception.  Some people mistakenly think that this title refers to Jesus and His being conceived miraculously in the womb of His Mother Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the following in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
This proclamation was one of two notable times in the history of the Catholic Church when a pope declared an infallible dogma ex cathedra (that is, from the chair of St. Peter’s teaching authority).  The other occasion was the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Our catechism instructs us:  “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses . . . .”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491.  Mary was redeemed by Christ as all humanity is, but her redemption began at her very conception in the womb of her mother by a singular grace--hence, the term Immaculate Conception.

Around the same time as the pope, bishops and theologians were wrestling with this theological matter, Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France in 1844.  Saint Bernadette, as she is now known, is remembered for having received eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between February 11 and July 16, 1858.  Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built at a grotto in Massabielle where the apparitions occurred and a miraculous spring of water now flows.  During these apparitions, Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette with the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  St. Bernadette, an illiterate peasant girl with no formal training in theology, had no idea what the phrase Immaculate Conception meant.  She was only fourteen at the time of the visions.  It seems that in these apparitions Our Lady herself confirmed what the Church had formally declared just four years earlier.  The church holds these apparitions as worthy of belief.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is normally celebrated on December 8th.  I remind people to attend Mass on this day as it is a Holy Day of Obligation.  Just because we may or may not be obliged to attend a particular Holy Day Mass on various years, it doesn’t mean that the importance and significance of the occasion should be diminished nor should we get into the habit of doing only the least possible (minimum requirement) when it comes to our faith.

Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our country and our diocese.  She should certainly have a special place in our hearts.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


(revised 12/14)

St. Bernadette Soubirous