Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Influences the Way You Think?


Dear Parishioners,

A few year ago when I was in the midst of a wedding rehearsal, I began to prepare for the exchange of vows with the couple and the wedding party.  At that point someone questioned me: when do you ask if there are any objections to this marriage?  I explained that this is not actually part of the Catholic wedding ceremony.  “But I saw them do it on TV!” came the quick retort.  They saw it done on TV.  Hmm.

Not too long ago, someone tried to post a “news” story to my facebook page that was a complete and utter lie.  Fortunately, I recognized it immediately and removed it.  Lies, distorted truth, slander, gossip, ignorance, prejudice, and many other “problems” are all far too prevalent in our modern world of instant communication.  And unfortunately, once it’s out on the internet, there’s no taking it back.

I have been interviewed by reporters for a newspaper article or television segment on various occasions.  Most of the time, the reporting was accurate.  However, there have been times when I was slightly misquoted or what I had to say was taken somewhat out of context.  (Can you imagine how difficult it is for any public figure today to avoid saying something that he or she might seriously regret because it may be repeated continually in the media?)

In addition, there have been times when I was present at an event as an eyewitness, and what I saw was not reported the same way in the media.  (Specifically, I witnessed the secular media inordinately focus on a rather small group of pro-choice people—maybe about a dozen—during the March for Life in Washington, DC while underreporting the tens and tens of thousands of people who were present to support human life.  I suspect the reporters were trying to promote a specific pro-choice, pro-abortion agenda.)

Whenever I watch television, go to a movie, listen to the radio, read the newspaper or look at something on the internet, I have learned to approach matters with a serious, critical eye.  Maybe I’m a bit like Thomas in the Gospel (see John 20: 24-25).  I often need to see or experience something for myself and be able to validate it before I give it any credibility.  Accepting everything at face value without some critical thinking or reasonable investigation can be very dangerous.  Not everyone is truthful or is everything written or reported going to be completely accurate.  Everything we see or hear on TV, in the newspapers, on the radio or the internet needs to be evaluated.  Facts are distorted, words are parsed, people lie or exaggerate, sometimes various agendas or causes are promoted, etc.  It can become very, very confusing.  I feel especially sorry for our impressionable young people who may not yet have fine-tuned any critical thinking skills.
 
Just who or what should we believe?  Where do we find truth?

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)  What Jesus says truly matters.  The truth found in the Bible is timeless and for all ages, cultures and peoples.  The official teaching of the Catholic Church has been a continual, counter-cultural voice crying out and offering guidance in world of deafening secular, materialistic values.

If we let television, pop culture, the abyss of the internet, the secular media, etc. influence the way that we think and act, then the path is one of ultimate unhappiness and probable self-destruction.  I can almost guarantee it.
 
Without the supernatural, God-given help that we have received from Jesus Christ and His Church, we will be like sheep without a shepherd (
Mark 6:34) wandering around aimlessly, susceptible to many deadly predators.

Allow Jesus and His Church to guide and influence your every thought and action.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Check it out for yourselves!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being “Connected” to a Parish


Dear Parishioners,

What I have to say here this week is, by no means, official dogma.  These are simply my thoughts on the current situation in our parish and in our diocese as we move forward into the future.  Time will tell if my perspective is accurate or if I am somehow missing the point.

One of things that I have tried to emphasize over my years as a priest is being “connected” to a particular parish.  (My family, being originally from Philadelphia, saw people identifying themselves primarily with their home parish.)  I have usually thought a person or family should be anchored or rooted in a parish that they considered their own in order to be spiritually nourished.

Today, many people will more commonly “shop around” to find a church that will suit their needs for a short term solution rather than for a long haul commitment.  The typical scenario is that a person, couple or family seeks out a church where they can get married or have their child baptized or have a deceased loved one buried or any of a number of occasions where a church and one of its ministers is needed for a specific time and purpose.  If people still go to Mass each week, they may float around to whatever church has a Mass time to suit their current plans or schedule.

The recent re-configuration of parishes throughout the diocese—while seen as critical by its leadership so that the entire diocese does not go “belly up” in the future—has not necessarily helped the situation.  People saw their parishes merged and re-named or, in some cases, closed entirely.  Similarly, schools were reconfigured, renamed or closed as well.  The  parish where parishioners were baptized in, received their first Holy Communion in, got married in, donated a statue to, refurbished the stained-glass window in, etc., etc., was no longer there as they had known it for years.  Any long-term connection was severed and people were told to move on and accept their new situation.

Given the fact that we have also lost quite a few generations of Catholics over the years who no longer practice their faith regularly or may have found another denomination that currently suits their needs,  our parishes continue to struggle for future existence.  Many younger Catholics don’t see a necessary connection to the local parish, don’t practice their faith regularly, don’t support the church financially, and continue drift along without a spiritual compass.  Why are our young people the way they are today?  Consider all of the above factors, combined with the materialistic, hedonistic, egocentric culture in which we live.  Doesn't seem to be a real rosy picture, does it?

Without an intimate connection to a parish by its parishioners, the future of this or any parish is rather tenuous.  Certain individuals or certain families may still retain this strong relationship to their parish.  However, I fear that for the vast majority of Catholics in our area, they will just drift along and wonder "why?" when their churches are no longer there for their families and for their spiritual needs in the future.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Easter!

Dear Parishioners,

Easter Sunday is here once again.  AlleluiaAlleluia! Christ is Risen!

Many secular ideas, traditions, and customs have found their way into our culture at Easter (as well as other sacred times like Christmas).  They are not necessarily bad in and of themselves.  However, they tend to miss the profound Christian spiritual message.

For us as Christians, nothing is really more important than Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead.  Easter is about Resurrection.  It is about eternal life.  It is about hope.
    
Starting a church the way Christ did seems like it should have been a recipe for disaster.  Pick a rag-tag bunch of mostly uneducated disciples—one who denies you when the going gets tough (Peter) and one who betrays you (Judas).  Preach to the general public for only a few years, very mysteriously at times.  Pick an area of the world oppressed by foreign rule.  Pick a time in history without the internet, Twitter, radio, television, newspapers or mass media as we know it today.  Allow yourself to be tortured and then put to death without offering resistance.

Should the Catholic Church still be around over 2000 years later?  Not if it were solely a human endeavor!

When everything seemed like failure, the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples:

While they were still speaking . . . (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  (Luke 24:36-40)
Resurrection made all the difference, then and now.

The Catholic Church still remains despite all obstacles, built on the foundation of Christ—the Risen Christ.  The message of Jesus continues to be proclaimed and offers salvation and hope to those who willingly accept it and let their lives be guided and changed by it.

May the joy of Easter bring meaning and hope to your lives, today and every day!

Happy Easter Sunday!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Microcosm of the Entire World



Dear Parishioners,

The last time that I took my mother on a cruise was almost four years ago when I turned fifty.  We travelled to Alaska together at that time.  It is no secret that I have become my mother’s unofficial social director for many years now since the passing of my father in 1995.  I am the only unmarried child.

When my mom turned eighty this past November, I began to make plans for us to take a cruise once again—this time to the Western Caribbean.  Our recent cruise included the Cayman Islands; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico.  Besides visiting areas of South and Central America that I never even imagined that we would ever see, the weather was simply magnificent—high 70’s or low 80’s each day—compared to the miserable weather that we have experienced in New Jersey this winter.

This is the first time that I went on a cruise as the ship’s chaplain.  Although I have been on a few trips before, it had been simply as a passenger.  I would usually offer Mass each day in the cabin privately with my mom as the congregation.  Not this time, however.  Each day I celebrated Mass for a substantial congregation consisting of the ship’s passengers.  Besides offering Mass for the passengers, I also was asked to celebrate a Mass for the crew on Sunday night.  Most of the crew members sign a contract agreeing to work for over a half of a year at sea at a time, and so the presence of a priest for Mass while at sea was very important to many of them.  There were crew members from the Philippines, from India (Goa), from Mexico and from other areas of South and Central America who were all Catholic.  I was very privileged to be there for them.

While my mom and I were attending one of the evening performances in the ship's theater, an entertainer mentioned that there were people from over fifty countries aboard the ship, including both passengers and crew.  I thought that this was quite amazing.  We were a little world community floating around on the Caribbean Sea—a microcosm of the entire world.  There were various cultures and languages, multiple religions and people of all shapes, sizes and colors.  A person might have a similar experience when visiting one of the major cities of the world—so many people with so much diversity!

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how God can know and love each of us personally.  It is easier to think that somehow I am rather insignificant and am lost, hidden or even forgotten somewhere in the immensity of the great crowd.

One of the readings for Mass during my cruise helped to put this all in perspective for me:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

(Is. 49: 14-15)

Thanks Lord for the many blessings that you bestow upon us continually!

May I never forget your abundant goodness and blessings shown to me (and my mom)!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor