Sunday, May 25, 2014

Worship is . . .

Dear Parishioners,

When I look out into the congregation each week at Mass, I don’t know what’s going through your minds, what kind of a day you’ve had, if you have just finished working a double shift, if the baby kept you up all night, or if you just had an argument with your husband or wife.  I realize that we all come to Mass from different places with varying backgrounds and multiple levels of understanding.  Hopefully, however, we enter the church building with a singular purpose in mind:  to worship God.

Despite the many other things that we may “experience” in church—from the music, to the preaching, to the fellowship—we are ultimately present to worship God.

Since I was born in 1960, I was not raised with the customs, traditions and rituals present in the Mass before the Second Vatican Council.  I heard stories of grandma praying her rosary while the priest did what he did at the altar with his back to the people.  When I was old enough to begin to understand what was going on in church, the altars were being moved from the walls, the priest now faced the people, the liturgy was in the vernacular, and the congregation was invited to sing, to interact, and to participate more fully.

In either scenario, I believe that we were still there to worship God.

This brings me to my current point.  In order to worship God, it involves an act of the will.  In our contemporary understanding of the liturgy, worship seems to imply some kind of active participation and not just a passive being there.  The religious sister who taught me in eighth grade used to comment that we looked like bumps on a log when we just sat there and did nothing.  (Bumps on a log—never quite forgot that expression.)

In order to give God our all at Mass, I think a few questions are pertinent:  When we come to Mass, do we make a conscious effort to worship God?  How actively do we participate during Mass?  Do we make the responses?  Do we see the Mass as a prayer?  Do we attempt to sing?  Do we put our heart, mind, soul and strength (See Mk. 12:30) into our humble attempt to worship God?

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am very happy whenever you come to Mass.  Each week, however, I subconsciously long for those packed Masses like we see during Christmas and Easter.  I want to see vibrant congregations with active participation.  Above all else, I genuinely desire all of us to fall more passionately in love with Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As a priest, I am acutely aware that I stand in persona Christi at Mass (and in the other sacraments) and all that I have is because of Christ Jesus and what I do is for Christ Jesus.  True worship really has very little to do with me personally and my particular wants and desires.  Worship that is fitting and proper has everything to do with the love and adoration that we give the persons of the Divine Trinity.  True worship expresses our love and gratitude to Jesus who suffered and died on the cross for you and me.

We are privileged as Catholics to worship God freely in our society.  God certainly deserves our very best attempt.
I think that God warrants a much better job than what those bumps on the log can do.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preaching to the Choir

Dear Parishioners,

I have been told at various times as a priest that I am preaching to the choir.  The phrase seems to imply that some person or group—represented as the choir—doesn’t necessarily need to hear a particular message.  They’ve heard it all before! They don’t need to hear it again!  Blah, blah, blah!

This got me thinking!  (Realizing that this could be a dangerous course to navigate), I must conclude that even the most faithful, participating church members—people like those who may join the choir—need to be the regular recipients of the preached Gospel message.  Is anyone really exempt from hearing the Good News?  I don’t think so.

Beginning with myself, every time I preach, I preach to the entire congregation.  Maybe the reason various people get into trouble (priests and bishops included) is that they think that they are somehow above what Jesus has to say.  Conversion is something that we must all desire, pray for continually, and work at constantly—all of us, without exception!

Priests are required by canon law (#276.2, 4) to make an annual retreat, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily (#276.2, 3) and to “pursue holiness” (#276.1).  We priests need to work at our spiritual lives constantly lest we become like Peter (denying Christ), Judas (betraying Christ) or most of the other apostles (fleeing from the cross) even though they were his personally chosen, intimate band of followers.

Therefore, we need to be preaching to the choir, and to the lectors, and to the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and to the altar servers, and to the ushers, and to the sisters, and to the priests and deacons, etc. etc.  We need to preach to those who are here each week and to those who are more sporadic in attendance.  The entire congregation, making up the Body of Christ, needs to be fed and nourished by both the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist.  It is Christ—our Head—who feeds and nourishes us, protects us, encourages us, guides us, heals us, forgives us, etc. etc.

Finally, with reference to the choir, I thank Mrs. Donna McCarthy for accepting the duty of directing our adult choir.  She has been doing a wonderful job with our children’s choir and I have confidence that she will do an equally fine job with the adults.  If you are interesting in joining the choir, please contact her through the parish office.

I am most happy to be able to preach to all of you here at St. Joseph’s!  (Even those of you who choose to read this church bulletin during the homily each week! Gotcha!)

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Dear Parishioners,

This past week, a group from our parish attended a diocesan workshop focusing on “Making Church Matter.”  The workshop was based on the rebuilding experience of the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland.  Their story of renewal and growth is related in the book Rebuilt by Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran.

Some suggestions were made to help all of the parishes in the diocese to grow and to flourish based on Nativity’s successful experience.  I share a few important concepts here.

Since the main experience of church for most people is during the weekend Mass experience, it is important that we place our initial focus on the weekend liturgies.  First, the music during the Masses should be of good quality and lead people to sing and participate.  Second, the message (homily) has to be well prepared and relevant to our parishioners.  Third, our ministries need to be effective.  Most important—beginning with the parking lot—from the first moment someone sets foot in our parish, he or she should feel welcome hereMusic, message and ministry are a very important place to begin.

To begin to apply this process to St. Joseph Church, we all need to be united in purpose—clergy, staff, and parishioners. 

I think that it is helpful at this point to ask ourselves a few questions:

Is the music ministry here helping to lift your mind and heart to God or do we need to make some changes or adjustments? Because singing demands that we all sing together, it is a powerful sign of our Christian unity that is immediately visible to all who join us for the weekend.  What can we do to make our music program and singing better?

Are the homilies by the priests or deacon doing what they are supposed to do?  At various times they should challenge, encourage, clarify, motivate, educate, etc., but always with a well-prepared message.  Are you being “fed” by a good message weekly?

Our ministries are only going to be as effective as the people who volunteer their services.  Have “I” offered my assistance as a reader, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, choir member/music ministry, usher/greeter, altar server, etc.,?  Those who volunteer should be willing to receive the proper training, meet all church requirements and be willing to volunteer, even occasionally during Mass times that may be personally inconvenient.

If you would like to hear more about trying to “rebuild” our parish, we are scheduling a meeting on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 7 PM in the church basement.
Come with an open mind.  Come with a giving spirit.  Come out of curiosity.  Come with the desire to see our parish grow and flourish.

Most importantly, please come.

Fr. Ed Namiotka