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

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