Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy New Year! (Well, Sort of)

Dear Parishioners,

As I write, I am making my annual retreat.  It is a time of prayer, reflection, renewal and relaxation.  This year I am at Trinity Retreat in Larchmont NY, a retreat house operated by the Archdiocese of New York.  (This reflection, however, will be seen in the church bulletin on the 1st Sunday of Advent, after I have already returned to the parish.)

Our retreat master during his talks referred to the Advent fast on several occasions.  I kept thinking to myself, most people have lost any sense of relevance that the season of Advent is intended to bring, let alone understand that it is meant as a season of hope, expectation, waiting and—believe it or not—fasting.

Let me begin with the reminder that the liturgical year for the Catholic Church begins with Advent.  Happy New (Liturgical) Year!  The origin of the word Advent is from the Latin, meaning a time of “coming.”  We are preparing to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas, but also to anticipate that He “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  (Nicene Creed)

Four Sundays are given to us to prepare, symbolized by the four candles of the Advent wreath and a change of vestment color.  The purple (violet) color on the candles of the wreath and vestments traditionally represent penance and fasting while the rose candle on Gaudete Sunday symbolizes rejoicing and joy. 

While Lent is considered the great fast, Advent was also considered a time of fasting and penance.  From the 6th century we have evidence in the Church that there was a fast during Advent on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  While the fast was reduced significantly over time, the Advent season is still meant as a spiritual preparation for the great solemnity of Christmas.

What is unfortunate these days is that the commercial Christmas celebration starts much too early—driven by a oppressive consumer mentality—omitting any notion whatsoever of spiritual preparation or penance prior to the Nativity of Jesus Christ.  Advent gets lost in the shuffle, unfortunately.  People quickly grow tired of Christmas and its commercial trappings, and begin removing the decorations almost immediately after Christmas day itself.  Instead of the Church being able to Christianize an ever-more worldly society, our secular culture appears to be winning and has relegated anything spiritual to insignificant, irrelevant and passé.  God help us!

I know that the anticipation of the Christ Child still brings hope to many lives.  For those who truly try to pray, to spiritually prepare with a sacramental confession, and even to fast, the joy that comes from readying our hearts for the coming of Jesus surpasses any temporary, illusory pleasures that the many TV commercials promise.

As a child once expressed it, Christmas is all about the peace that is found in the room when everyone stops opening the presents and just listens.
Come Lord Jesus!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, people are going to the polls to elect various officials throughout the country.  I have no idea what the results will be by the time you read this message in the Sunday bulletin.  However, I have a few comments and observations that I wish to make regarding the current state of politics in America.

First, I wish to state clearly that I have never been affiliated with any one political party for as long as I have been eligible to vote.  While I know that this may prohibit me from voting in certain primary elections, I have found no compelling reason to make an allegiance to any political party as they currently stand.  My allegiance is to Almighty God and to my Catholic faith.  I publicly endorse no candidate.

However, I do vote regularly and I vote based on the issues, on a candidate’s observable moral character and values, on what a candidate or his/her party's platform actually stands for, on a candidate’s record of service and past voting on issues, etc.  This sometimes makes voting very difficult, considering most candidates without a major party affiliation probably do not have the money or political clout necessary to run a campaign that is actually able to win.  Is choosing the lesser of two evils—a position in which we may find ourselves all too often—ever the optimal moral position to be in?

This being said, I raise the following concerns:

  • Enough with the negative campaigning and political mudslinging!  If you are going to run a political ad, tell me what you are going to do, not how bad your opponent is!  I suppose that negative campaigns must produce a greater result, or they would not be used by so many.  But I am truly sick of them!  My hope is that there will be a backlash against those proponents of the negative campaigns and that your efforts will backfire.
  • Stop lying to the people!  Personally, I do not want continually to be told what you are going to do simply to pacify me or to get my vote.  If I do not see results or I see broken promises time and again, you simply will not get my vote again.  Period.  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!
  • If you are elected to public office, do your jobs!  We have a political system that was intended to have a check and balance system.  Deliver me from a plethora of executive orders, from activist judges, from a congress that does not do what it is actually elected to do—continually stuck in political gridlock from partisan loyalties rather than the good of the constituents.  Deliver me from all abuses of political power, in whatever form they may appear!
  • If you do not vote or fail to become informed on the issues, you have no one to blame but yourself!  I hope and pray that when they interview people on various TV shows, the people are not as ignorant about social and political matters as they make them out to be.  If they really are, God help our country!
  • Dear news media: please report the news and not continually slant it to meet your own political objectives!  Is there such a thing as objective journalism anymore?  Does everything have to be seen through a political pundit’s eyes?

I think that I represent the average American citizen.  I did not come from wealth or privilege.  Because of my parents, I was provided an excellent education and raised with a decent work ethic. My parents struggled to raise five children, to put food on the table and to make ends meet each week.  They taught us the value of the dollar and advised us to live within our means.

Like many Americans, I think that I have become highly disillusioned with our current state of politics and don’t know exactly how we are ever going to get out of the mess that we are currently in.  May God help us!

The genuine hope that I hold comes from remembering that no matter who is elected to public office, Jesus is still King!

Fr. Ed Namiotka