Saturday, December 26, 2015

2016


Dear Parishioners,

Coming to the end of a calendar year and the beginning of a New Year makes me reflect on various past events and remembrances that I have.

I can recall reading George Orwell’s 1984 as a student and thinking about what would it be like when we actually reach that time period.  Then there was the song 1999 by Prince.  We were supposed to party it up like there’s no tomorrow.  Then we faced the Y2K potential threat focusing on what will happen when the computers have to change to the next calendar year, 2000.  In the end, it really didn’t live up to the hype.

I wasn’t born yet during major world events like World War I or II, or conflicts like Korea.  The adults I knew sometimes talked about them and I read about these difficult times in the history books.  I was a boy/teen during Viet Nam and remember some news stories from those tumultuous years (that included the sexual revolution, the drug culture, hippies and a regular questioning of all authority).  I later witnessed the collapse of Communism in Europe and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.  Later, the Gulf War was substantially more real to me as we could watch it on TV with reporters embedded with the troops.  I actually was in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina when the Bosnian War (c. 1991-1992) broke out there.  I had to get a number of teens and young adults who were part of a youth pilgrimage to safety in London at that time.  It was pretty scary! 

However, what I think substantially changed things for me/us in America happened in the year 2001—September 11, 2001 to be precise.  I saw the 2nd plane hit the World Trade Center building on TV and later visited the ruins about a month or two afterwards.  Things in America, I fear, will never quite be the same again.

What will 2016 hold?  A presidential election is on the calendar.  We are also in the midst of a Jubilee Year of Mercy in our Catholic Church.  But what else will come?

As we approach the New Year, I customarily entrust and consecrate the parish wherever I am pastor to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary on New Year’s Eve.  I give this parish and all of its parishioners over to the loving care of the Mother of God.  I invite you to join me at the 5 PM Mass (please note the time!) on New Year’s Eve—the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  I can think of no better way to start the New Year right.

Why not take the time to entrust your families to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s maternal care as well?  Even if you cannot make this particular Mass, parents, you can (and should) pray for your children and families at home.

My prayers and Masses are continually offered for your spiritual well-being.  Please remember me as well so that I have the graces necessary to live up to my responsibility as your pastor.

God’s blessings in the New Year!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Friday, December 11, 2015

Peace on Earth



Dear Parishioners,

Perhaps you might receive a Christmas card with the inscription Peace on Earth. When Christ was born, there was period of relative peace known as the Pax Romana throughout the known world.  The power and might of the Roman Empire and its army allowed for a temporary period of peace.  However, where is the great Roman Empire now?  Its eventual collapse came from within as the moral fiber of the society eventually disintegrated.

Our world is in desperate need of peace.  Even our Holy Father said that we are experiencing a "piecemeal third world war" recently after the terrorist attacks in Paris.  How can we achieve a true and lasting peace?

We call Christ the Prince of Peace.  I suggest that His Gospel message needs to take deep root in our hearts.  We have heard much about radicalization in the news lately.  Jesus' message is one of love, forgiveness, mercy and peace.  Christians and all people of good will should know that war, violence, hatred, revenge, terrorism, and the murder of innocents is never the ultimate answer.

While there are those who find little time for prayer or may even mock it, I think prayer is the means by which we will find a solution to our world (as well as individual) problems.  A return to God and a more complete discipleship to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the only way we are going to have true and lasting peace.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that everything that He said and did would come to naught.  Every subsequent generation must heed His Gospel message, be converted, and allow the Gospel to be deeply rooted in the heart.  It is Jesus who will transform hatred into love and offer us true peace now as he did then.

My hope and prayer is for a better world in which we no longer live in fear.  No one likes to be barraged in the news with stories of an unstable world, hatred and violence.  I am not so idealistic or naive to think that we should not remain vigilant and prepared in this sometimes frightening world.  Yet, If we want to see things change for the better and not just let this be a bunch of rhetoric, then we will need Divine assistance and a determined commitment on our part to be faith-filled disciples of Jesus.

I am a firm believer that God's patience and mercy are directed toward our salvation.  God often works slowly and ever so subtlety.  In this Jubilee Year of  Mercy may we have the resolve to embrace the cross of Jesus, to accept His mercy, and to do our part to build up the Kingdom of God.

Then we will have peace.  

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Face of an Ever-Changing Church


Dear Parishioners,

Last month when I celebrated Mass on the memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Memorial: November 13), I read how she was responsible for establishing some sixty-seven Institutions—schools, hospitals and orphanages.  She also founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  When Pope Francis canonized St. Junipero Serra (Memorial: July 1) during his recent visit, he mentioned how Fr. Serra was responsible for the founding of twenty-one missions along the coast of California.  St. Katherine Drexel (Memorial: March 3) established a religious community (Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) and some forty-nine foundations including Xavier University in New Orleans.  Six separate religious congregations trace their beginnings to the Sisters of Charity founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Memorial: January 4).  I could go on with the accomplishments of these and other American saints.

My point in drawing your attention to these formidable accomplishments is to contrast how we live in very different times, especially in our part of the country.  Catholic Churches and schools are closing and merging.  Significantly more baptized Catholics don’t attend weekly Mass than those who actually do. Young people are questioning and abandoning their Catholic faith all too frequently.

As a pastor, I worry about the future.  I am concerned with the spiritual life and eternal salvation of all the parishioners—whether I encounter them or not each week.  From a practical perspective, I also try to figure out how to pay the ever-escalating bills and maintain our facilities by means of a hand to mouth method each week.  How could these past saints manage to do all that they did while I am having a difficult time with one medium-sized parish?  So much was established in the not-too-distant past (cathedrals and churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc.) with the cooperation and meager offerings of the poor immigrants who valued their faith and their Church.  It gets frustrating today, more often than not.

I asked all of you, our parishioners, to help me plan for the future by participation in the feasibility study whose deadline recently passed.  I hope that you took the time to participate.  I will let you know the results of the study once I receive them (more than likely, after I figure out how to pay the bill for the completed study.)

When I was ordained, I envisioned things would be a bit different than I am experiencing now.  Rectories with multiple priests are getting fewer and far between.  I studied philosophy and theology (concentrating in Sacred Scripture) and I wind up running a small business.  I make myself available in the confessional each week with perhaps a half dozen people, at best, seeking the forgiveness and mercy of God regularly.  Weddings and funerals are increasingly occurring with no connection to the Church.  Some people even look at priests with disdain for various reasons.

Surprising to many people, if I had to do it all over again, I would—without a doubt.  I remain interiorly happy and at peace each day as a priest.  I want more people to share this joy and happiness.  I want people to know and love the Lord Jesus.  

What will eventually turn the tide in the other direction?  I am sure God knows.

However, I am currently clueless.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Jubilee Year of Mercy



Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 and ending on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.

While we will be hearing more about this Year of Mercy and the various spiritual events connected to it within the Diocese of Camden and throughout the world subsequently, let me give a brief introduction to some concepts here.

A Jubilee Year has roots in both Jewish and Christian traditions.  According to the Book of Leviticus (see Lev. 25: 8-13), a jubilee year was a time for the Jews when slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.  It would typically occur every fifty years.  In our Catholic tradition, it was in the year 1300 A.D. when we can document that Pope Boniface VIII first declared a holy year.  Since then ordinary jubilees have generally been celebrated every 25 or 50 years.  Extraordinary jubilees also occurred whenever a particular Pope saw a special need.  Many jubilees involve pilgrimages to a Church or sacred site, frequently within the city of Rome.  The forgiveness of sin and God’s mercy are especially emphasized during this holy year.

Allow me to use some thoughts from Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD to elucidate the concept of the Mercy of God.  “Divine Mercy is God's love reaching down to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of His creatures.”  It is much more than an act of pardon or a cancellation of punishment.  Perhaps, it can be seen God’s willingness to experience and share our suffering and to take measures to remedy it.  After all, Jesus and His entire life, including his willingness to suffer and die for us, reveal the “face of the Father’s mercy” as Pope Francis has so beautifully described.
    
We should be familiar with the Greek Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) as part of our liturgy.  This is a request for God’s mercy to be poured out on us “like holy oil from above.”

In the Latin tradition, the principal word for mercy is misericordia, which means, literally "miserable heart." Father George Kosicki, CSB, the great Divine Mercy evangelist, once summed up the meaning of this Latin word as follows:  misericordia means "having a pain in your heart for the pains of others, and taking pains to do something about their pain."
The most comprehensive statement by the Magisterium on the meaning of Divine Mercy can be found in Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy, 1981).  In that encyclical, the Holy Father made two very important statements about mercy.   First, he wrote, "Mercy is love's second name." Secondly, he taught that mercy is "the greatest attribute of God."
I encourage you to read Pope Francis’ Miseracordiae Vultus and Pope Saint John Paul II’s Dives in Misericordia to prepare for the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Submarine Catholic and the "New Evangelization"


Dear Parishioners,

Last month I was at a wedding and someone described herself to me as a submarine Catholic.  Not quite sure of what she meant—probably because of the perplexed look on my face—she continued to explain:  “Yeh, I surface at Christmas and Easter.”

While I had to chuckle at the remark, I later thought to myself:  Is this what our Catholic faith has come down to?

Pope Saint John Paul II called for a type of new evangelization in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio.  He spoke of those situations in the Church “where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel.  In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization.’" (#33)

How common it is for baptized Catholic people today to be only loosely connected to their Church or to be alienated from it entirely.   Mass attendance here on any given Saturday/Sunday is less than 25% of the registered Catholics of the parish.  During weddings and funerals, when we often see Catholics re-surface for the particular occasion, I can usually sense when people haven’t been to Mass in a while.  For example, I frequently hear the former response “And also with you” when I greet the people “The Lord be with you.”  The response changed a number of years ago when the new translation of the liturgy was implemented (Advent, 2011).

We continually see Catholic couples cohabitating before marriage, Catholics not properly married in the Church (usually without any required dispensation), pro-choice Catholics, Catholics supportive of gay marriage, Catholics who practice artificial birth control, sparse confessional lines, and the vast majority of Catholics either unknowingly or shamelessly coming up to receive Holy Communion—especially at Christmas and Easter.  Do we need a "new evangelization?"

In addition, according to the Pew Research Center, the number of those “unaffiliated” with a church or religion in the U.S. is up to about 23 percent.  Catholicism is still the largest denomination in America, but the second largest group of people, above and beyond any other Christian or Protestant denomination, is former or ex-Catholics.

Whenever I offer Mass and I repeat the words of consecration—the words that Jesus spoke when He gave us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist—I am reminded of THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT.  Jesus sealed this covenant in His own blood.  The sacrifice was a total self-giving.  Jesus gave everything for us and took our sins upon Himself.  He unquestionably did His part.

I think He deserves more of a commitment from us than perhaps surfacing once or twice a year.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Must Be Crazy

Newly Renovated Chapel at the Abbey of the Genesee


Dear Parishioners,

I certainly must be crazy getting up at this time of the day.  2 AM!  Everyone, who is still sane, is probably in bed comfortably rolling over.

Yes, It's around 2 AM.  I am getting ready to join the Trappist Monks for their first office of daily prayer--Vigils.  Here at the Abbey of the Genesee the official schedule begins at 2:25 AM. People elsewhere have just gotten into bed or have recently fallen asleep at this hour.  Most of the college students down the road at SUNY Geneseo are probably still frolicking out and about as are many of the nocturnal creatures that lurk throughout various college and university campuses. 

Not the monks, however.  They are just starting their day at the monastery.  Pretty early for most of us?  Absolutely!  Yet, they do this each and every day as a matter of routine--freely chosen routine.

Not only are we encouraged to get up early to pray with the monks, but the retreat I am on is silent.  No frivolous talking or conversations are allowed.  No TV or radio in the retreat house.  Obviously, I brought my laptop so that I could write a few reflections such as this throughout the week.  Finding a Wi-Fi connection to post them to the internet is another story.  Mobile hotspot?

Granted, the monastic life is certainly not for everyone.  However, it can teach us many valuable lessons.  The monks' radical lifestyle is a profound witness to something beyond this world.  They search for God in silence.  Their serious, intense, deliberate prayer reminds me of how little time I actually give to prayer each day.  Material things that I/we may cling to are just not that important here.  A basic white habit with a black scapular and belt on top of some work clothes is pretty much the norm.  No fashion statement.  Prayer, work, reading, study, self-denial, a personal relationship with God, are apparently what matters.  Simplicity to the extreme.  My room has a chair, desk and bed.  No private bath.  Certainly not some luxury hotel or spa.  Pope Francis would be proud. 

I have found that the spiritual life is filled with paradoxes and mysteries.  Why would anyone deny oneself?  Why give up having a family and home?  Why pick up the cross and be a disciple?  Why bother? 

. . . To learn to love deeply, to open the heart for God, to find peace and joy, to answer the call to discipleship, to know and love Jesus . . . .

My past experiences at the monastery have been some of the most profound, life-changing, rejuvenating times throughout my life.  I keep coming back, since I was 19 years old.  The monks are getting older, as am I.  Some faces change.  Much remains the same.  The chapel here was recently renovated and is brighter and more inviting.

What God has in store for me this visit is beyond my limited knowledge or foresight. 

Yet, I keep searching.  I keep getting up at 2 AM.  I keep following that mysterious "call" that has led me here once again to seek the Lord in monastic solitude.  Come. Lord Jesus!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
 Pastor


PS, You are remembered in my thoughts and prayers! 


Room at Bethlehem Retreat House

I Am Spiritual, Not Religious

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano

Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, I am in the midst of our annual Presbyteral Convocation, which is fancy terminology for a meeting or gathering of priests.  We are in Avalon for three days enjoying some priestly fraternity, listening to and absorbing a few talks, sharing some meals and discussions, praying and being encouraged to minister with more dedication and love for you, the People of God.

This year’s guest speaker is Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He is originally from Brooklyn, NY.  His manner of speaking and overall demeanor bespeaks the son of Italian immigrants from Sicily.  He presented the Camden priests with many insights and challenges in his three talks to us.  The standing ovation at the completion of his presentations told me that his observations were right on target.

I had been thinking about one of the points he made to us for some time now.  I take it as a confirmation for me that I should write something briefly about it.  Has anyone ever said to you: “I am spiritual, but not necessarily religious?”  I have heard statements like this on many occasions.  Most likely, the person does not have an active affiliation with a church or with organized religion while still believing in God or sensing the need for a higher power in their lives. 

What has happened that there is this disconnect from organized religion or the church?

For some reason the church is seen as less relevant or insignificant in many people’s lives today.  An average weekly church attendance of about 25% of registered Catholics in our area reveals this to us pretty clearly.  When I use the word church, I mean all that is associated with the community of believers gathered together, with going to Mass to pray and worship, with being a moral compass, guide and teacher in people’s lives, with the theological concept of the Body of Christ, etc.  In a word, it’s not just about me, and what I think and believe, but it is about us, and what we stand for, think and believe.  It’s about community and belonging to something greater that any one person, while still maintaining the inestimable value of each and every individual within the group.

Pope Francis' recent trip to the east coast brought this somewhat to the forefront.  People came from far and wide to be part of something bigger than oneself and to connect with others in the process.  People seem attracted to someone who has the ability to connect with people, to take time for the individual and to show people that they are loved, valued and wanted.

The way that we are going to change the trend in society to be more of a separate individual is for all Christians to have a similar welcoming and accepting spirit as Pope Francis, in conjunction with a clear mission and purpose for believers and non-believers to see.  We, as a church, need to be witnesses in the world, to the world of the importance of Jesus Christ and his cross.  As Bishop Caggiano reminded us, we can never separate the cross from our mission as Christians, since the cross signifies for us the suffering, and death of Jesus, leading us to eternal life.

I will speak more on the cross of Jesus subsequently.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor       

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Difference in Approach



Dear Parishioners,

When giving various homilies or talks over the years, I presented a number of examples of how Pope Saint John Paul II fearlessly preached the gospel “in season and out of season,” (2 Tim. 4:2) to quote St. Paul.  The Pope was the most travelled Pope ever, undertaking more pastoral trips than all of his predecessors combined.

His often bold and direct approach to various situations is a matter of record.  Let me give a few specifics.  In Africa, he preached the value of monogamy to a continent that has various areas and cultures that practiced polygamy. Noteworthy is his homily in Swaziland where he preached about monogamy in the presence of King Mswati III and his four wives.  I am sure that all advisors would have cautioned him about such an approach, but this is what the Pope said:  “Christians find that a monogamous marital union provides the foundation upon which to build a stable family, in accordance with the original plan of God for marriage.”

Then there was the Pope’s 4th trip to Sicily where he condemned the mafia publicly.  He urged the people of Catania to “rise up and cloak yourself in light and justice” against the abuses of the mafia.  To the youth in a soccer stadium, after he referenced the fruits of the Holy Spirit, (see Gal. 5:22) he said “When the new generations bring these fruits, corruption is defeated, violence is defeated, the Mafia is defeated.”  (At that time the mafia dumped a lamb with its throat slit on the doorstep of a Catholic prison chaplain as a warning to the priest.)

We also saw how Pope Saint John Paul II stood up against communism by inspiring and encouraging the Solidarity movement in his native Poland, was an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa, and when in America exhorted us all to “defend life.” I quote him regarding our responsibility toward the sanctity of human life:

Respect for life requires that science and technology should always be at the service of man and his integral development.  Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person's life.

For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person.  The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.

The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves.  If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life!  All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person:
- feeding the poor and welcoming refugees;
- reinforcing the social fabric of this nation;
- promoting the true advancement of women;
- securing the rights of minorities;
- pursuing disarmament, while guaranteeing legitimate defense;
all this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.

Every human person--no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society--is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God.  This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival-yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.

When Pope Francis visited the USA recently, his approach seemed non-confrontational with his emphasis and priorities differing at times from his Polish predecessor.  Still, the message of the Gospel continues to be preached and taught, perhaps in a different manner, with a different approach.  I can sense the love and compassion both men have for the Church and for all humanity.  They show us, as the Vicar of Christ, in their own unique ways, an expression of the human face of Jesus still present in this world.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Something about Our New Deacon



Dear Parishioners,

Recently I was informed by Bishop Sullivan that we will have another permanent deacon assigned to our parish, beginning October 1, 2015.  Deacon Steven Theis and his wife Mary will be a wonderful addition to our St. Joseph family and I feel blessed now to have two deacons on our staff.

I asked Deacon Steve to write something for this bulletin to that I may introduce him and his family to our parish:

Mary and I are married 20 years.  We have 2 boys, Christopher (17) and Nicholas (16).  They attend St. Augustine Prep where Chris is a Senior and Nick is a Junior.

I was ordained on May 21, 2011 by Bishop Galante and assigned to the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit in Mullica Hill, NJ.  In 2012, I took a job in Kansas City, MO and we moved in June.  I was assigned to the largest Parish in the Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese.  St. Therese located in Parkville, MO is a vibrant and exciting Parish with just over 3,400 families.  We returned to Ocean City in June of this year and I work for Public Service Electric & Gas as a health and safety professional specializing in occupational psychology.

I am a two time cancer survivor.  My first battle was Stage IV head and neck cancer and my second diagnosis was less severe as Stage II thyroid cancer.  I understand all too well what it means to be bloodied and beaten at the foot of the Cross, scared and praying for mercy.  Since that time of dealing with the treatments and recovery of cancer, I have been actively involved with many people affected by this disease. I am extremely humbled to walk with those on their journey fighting this horrible disease while they try to save their life.

I look forward to getting acquainted.  Please know that you are in my prayers. Please keep my family and me in yours. God Bless.

Peace,
Deacon Steve

Needless to say, Deacon Steve desires to spend some of the time of his deaconate ministry helping at the local hospital.  He will also be able to preach and assist at Mass (primarily during our weekend Masses), baptize, visit the sick, and perform any of the other tasks that a deacon is able to do within a parish.  I know that you will welcome him as you have already welcomed Deacon Bob Oliver and his wife Shirley.

As the Church continues to face the varied challenges that lie ahead of us, I am glad to have the assistance of another permanent deacon to assist at our parish.  My sincere thanks go to Bishop Sullivan for giving me this opportunity to work with both Deacon Steve and Deacon Bob.

Please pray for all of us that we may continue to bring Christ to all the people that we serve.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Friday, September 18, 2015

Welcome Pope Francis!



Dear Parishioners,

During the course of my life I have had the privilege of personally seeing two popes—St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The year after I entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia for college, we were told that Pope John Paul II was coming to Philadelphia (1979) and would visit the seminary.  I was already so proud that the pope was from Poland, the land of my family’s heritage.  Then I heard that we would receive him in our seminary chapel!  Wow! I could not believe it. I was even interviewed by one of the local Philadelphia television stations regarding my thoughts and feelings concerning the papal visit.

Later, I saw Pope John Paul II again in Miami (1987) after I was ordained.  All of the newly ordained were invited to concelebrate an open-air Mass with the Holy Father at Tamiami Park.  I almost concelebrated Mass with him. Unfortunately, a lightning storm suddenly came upon us and the Mass (which was already in progress) quickly became a Liturgy of the Word service as the crowds were immediately dispersed from the field where we were situated.  Oh well!

In 1993 Pope John Paul II travelled to Denver for World Youth Day.  I drove across the country with another priest making a pilgrimage to Cherry Creek State Park for an outdoor Mass.  Finally I had the opportunity to concelebrate an entire Mass with the pope with the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the distance.  In subsequent years, I again concelebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II at Giants Stadium (1995) in the Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ.  I remember that there was a tremendous rain during that Mass and I was completely drenched by its end.

(For a detailed description of my meeting Pope John Paul II in Rome, click here.)

When Pope Benedict XVI came to Nationals Park in Washington, DC, I was able to concelebrate Mass there with him.  This time the sun shone brightly and I got to encounter him once again.  I had previously  been in attendance with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as he delivered a talk in St. Martin’s Chapel (in the college division) of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary a few years earlier.  Little did I know then that he would eventually become pope.

Now Pope Francis comes to the United States (Washington, New York, Philadelphia) and I, unfortunately, will not be able to see him personally or concelebrate Mass with him.  Sundays involve a number of Masses (5) celebrated here in the parish, besides the time and travel considerations and the security issues required to concelebrate with the pope.  Like many of you, I will be watching the pope on TV and trusting that an optimal view will be provided by the TV cameras.
    
I reminisced how after I had experienced the energetic and enthusiastic seminarians (and faculty/guests) during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the seminary chapel in 1979, I went back to the now deserted chapel.  There I was with the Blessed Sacrament.  I realized that I was completely alone with the Son of God.  Yes, here He was truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, no crowd, no noise, just us.   

While it is nice to have the opportunity to see the Vicar of Christ, to me there is nothing better than spending time with Christ Himself.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Couple Clarifications


Dear Parishioners,

Recently the office staff and I have received various questions about some directives coming recently from Pope Francis.  One area concerned the forgiveness of the sin of abortion and the other concerned annulments.  I will attempt to shed some light on both of these matters.

Bishop Sullivan tried to clarify what a priest is able to do in the confessional by having a letter read at all the Masses a few weeks ago.  The essence of the letter was the following:

A misunderstanding on the part of some was that local priests had not been given [the permission to absolve the sin of abortion] until now.  Thus, some Catholics may wonder whether they were properly absolved in the past.  They were indeed.  There is no need at all to worry about the past.  Sins that have been confessed and absolved are absolved.  In the Diocese of Camden, permission to absolve from the sin of abortion was granted by Bishop McHugh to our priests in 1990.  Pope Francis is now universally extending that permission to priests in other parts of the world who previously did not have it.  This is just one more way that the Holy Father is emphasizing the Lord’s abundant mercy which he has done since the first days of his pontificate.

The sin of abortion is considered a grave sin as it involves the taking of an innocent human life.  All priests now have the permission to absolve this sin in the confessional.  In the past, this sin had been considered a sin reserved to the bishop for absolution because of its seriousness.

Next, an annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.  Bishop Sullivan released a statement on Pope Francis’ instruction on this issue.  Its essence is below:

The Holy Father made it clear that the Church’s law and pastoral life are ordered to the practice of charity and mercy and ultimately the salvation of souls.  In fact, Pope Francis made it clear that he is “not promoting the nullity of marriage, but the quickness of the processes, as well as a correct simplicity” of annulment procedures.  These changes have resulted from the world-wide consultation for last year’s Extraordinary Synod and the recommendations of a commission of canonists impaneled by the Holy Father to review annulment procedures and the Church’s law.

An annulment is not a “Catholic divorce” but rather a declaration that something essential was absent in a marriage that a couple attempted.  Sometimes people may not seek an annulment of an unsuccessful marriage because of the anticipated length of the procedure, the perceived cost, the possible misconception of illegitimacy of any children from that bond and other reasons.  Some do not want to revisit the pain that resulted from an ugly divorce.
 
Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Mercy of God has led him (and us) to find ways to extend this mercy to people who experience these and other difficult life situations.  

Please take the time to investigate more about these matters.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Universality of the Church



St. Andre Bessette
Dear parishioners,

Whenever I travel, I inevitably seek out some of the local Catholic churches and make a brief stop at each.  This was true of my most recent trip to New England and Canada.  Vacationing with my two priest-friends, we visited some magnificent edifices including St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral in Quebec City, and the Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua in Longueuil, (just outside Montreal) Canada.  A highlight for us while in Montreal was a pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory.

What struck me in particular during this recent visit to the Oratory were the many languages, cultures and peoples.  I recognized French, Spanish, Italian and English being spoken by various visitors.  I identified people from India, Africa, Korea and China—some even dressed in native garb.  While there were people at the Oratory who were obviously tourists visiting a beautiful or interesting place, there were also people of faith coming as pilgrims to see this magnificent church and its saint—Brother Andre Bessette.

As reported by the shrine:

Brother André, born Alfred Bessette, surely is one of the most popular Québecois of the 20th century. Even before he was canonized in 2010, his reputation for holiness crossed frontiers and influenced generations of people.  At first assigned to be doorkeeper at Collège Notre-Dame, he was then named caretaker at that house of prayer which he shepherded into existence on Mount Royal. The religious brother welcomed thousands of distressed people or those who were looking for a ray of hope. He listened to them and recommended that they pray to Saint Joseph in whom he had full confidence. Any number of miraculous healings took place there and hearts turned toward God. Today, Saint Brother André continues to be an inspiration and a friend for women and men of any religious practice.

People prayed, attended Mass, lit candles, purchased religious articles and toured the shrine with varying degrees of reverence, respect, understanding and faith.  There were men and women, the elderly, children and infants, the handicapped and the infirm.  The colors of skin included shades of black, white, yellow, red and brown with the many variations capable of rivaling a 120 box of Crayola crayons.  This was a clear picture for me of the universal “Catholic” Church.
   
I also reflected on the priests who have served our parish of St. Joseph—coming from countries like Ireland, India, and Africa.  We shared heritages from Italy, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, to name a few.  Ideally, the common denominator and unifying factor is a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior. 

People may come to an oratory, (or a church or cathedral) for the beauty, out of curiosity, or desperate for answers.  Through the intercession of St. Andre and St. Joseph and the many other saints in heaven, may they leave with a deeper faith and realization of the love that God has for each of us through Jesus Christ.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

St. Mary, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Interior
St. Dunstan, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island


Interior

Notre Dame, Quebec City

Interior
        

Interior
St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil
St. Joseph Oratory, Montreal

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Thinking Out Loud



Dear Parishioners,

Throughout history, politics and religion have started wars.  Therefore, I tend to avoid certain subjects that evoke strong feelings, especially when I am trying to have a peaceful meal, or when I am in mixed company (and I am not sure of one’s religious background or political leanings).  I attempt to keep matters civil and generally have a live and let live attitude toward many issues.

Regarding politics, currently we are preparing for another presidential race and it appears to be heating up quickly.  What I particularly worry about are those who are not informed of the issues (and their various implications) and people who base their decisions on reasons such as a candidate’s likeability or popularity instead of more substantive reasons.  What also intrigues me is those who will vote for a particular candidate solely because of party affiliation.  (I once again state emphatically that I have never sold my soul to any particular political party and I base my vote on the substantive issues, while considering a candidate’s moral character and belief system.)
    
Certain concerns should be important for Catholics (and, in fact, for all people with faith in God as creator).  A person’s honesty and integrity seem paramount.  How one values human life should never be minimized.  Will the candidate’s political positions reflect the biblical values and principles that have guided civilization from its earliest days?  What does the person’s past track record tell us about future decision making?  Is political correctness more important than moral truth?

Regarding religion, I believe that my Catholic faith should guide how I do all things in life.  A properly formed conscience should assist me in my decision making.  This means that my faith needs to guide and inform my vote.

We have seen biblical examples of those who have stood up to kings and rulers on principle—being anything but politically correct—and were not afraid to speak the truth regardless of personal consequence.  Notable is John the Baptist who objected to King Herod’s choice of wife and was ultimately beheaded because of his unwavering stance (see Mk. 6: 14-29).

America’s future is going to be shaped by those we choose to represent us in public office—especially the office of President.  I suggest that we become informed of the issues, learn about the candidates from their own words and current/past actions (and not just what the PC media wants us to hear about them.)

What worries me is that my singular vote, which I intend to take the time to prayerfully and intelligently make, can be nullified by someone else’s uninformed vote or by a vote that is motivated by a less-than-altruistic political or social agenda.

That is democracy as we know it in America.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Month until Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families!



Dear Parishioners,

In just about a month Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia (September 26-27) for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families (September 22-25).  There is a dedicated web site for this momentous occasion (www.worldmeeting2015.org) if you would like more information.  A link is available from our parish web page.

The last world meeting of this kind was held in Milan, Italy in 2012 and drew over one million people to the Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI

The World Meeting of Families was initially conceived by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1992 to look at strengthening the sacred bonds of the family unit across the globe. The initial meeting took place in Rome in 1994 for the International Year of the Family.

Every three years since 1994, families from all over the world are invited by the Holy Father to attend this global gathering.  According to the WMOF web site: “At the conference, families share their thoughts, dialogue and prayers, working together to grow as individuals and family units.  Families can participate in discussion groups on the Christian family’s role in the church and society, led by many distinguished speakers.”  Some of the speakers include Bishop-elect Robert Barron (Word on Fire), Scott Hahn, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix (Primate of Canada), Cardinal Luis Tagle (Philippines), Cardinal Sean O’Malley (Boston), Cardinal Willem Eijk, Helen Alvare, Janet Smith, Christopher West—just to name but a few of the distinguished guests and speakers.  The occasion will feature some of the best scholars from around the world.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia informs us that “Our theme, ‘Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive’ was inspired by the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who wrote ‘the Glory of God is man fully alive.’ The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves – and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.”

The entire event will culminate with a Papal Mass (Sunday, September 27, 4 PM) celebrated by Pope Francis on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, famous for many notable buildings along its path including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and City Hall.

Please pray for the success of the World Meeting of Families and for Pope Francis. The family is the core building block of society and the Domestic Church. When our families are strong, united and live according to God’s design for them, our society is that much better off.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Sir, Give Us This Bread Always"




Dear Parishioners,

One of the things that I enjoy (in the food category) when I vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten / St. Martin, is the fresh baked bread.  Every morning you will see a number of people heading to a bakery or local grocery store to get a baguette or some type of fresh baked French bread.  The bread is outstanding, in my humble opinion.  Crispy crust, soft inside, great taste . . . .  Smother it in butter with a cup of coffee and I’m perfectly happy for breakfast.

St. Maarten / St. Martin is the smallest land mass (37 square miles) shared by two sovereign nations.  It has no physical borders.  There is a Dutch side and a French Side and people go back and forth freely.  The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus on the feast of St. Martin of Tours (November 11) in 1493.  The island has been arguably referred to as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean and the many great French restaurants found there are supportive of this claim.

Bread is a staple of life for many people throughout history.  In Jesus’ time it was part of the everyday meal as was table wine.  He used both of these common elements in an extraordinary way when He was at table with his disciples before His death—the Last Supper.

Bread also had some spiritual significance throughout history for the Jewish and later Christian peoples.  The Jewish people eat unleavened bread to commemorate their freedom from Egypt when they had to flee before they had time for the bread to rise (Ex. 34:18).  When the Jews were wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, God gave them manna to eat—mysterious “bread from heaven.” (Ex. 16)  The Jews also kept showbread or bread of presence—twelve loaves representing the twelve tribes of Israelbefore God in the sanctuary of the Temple.  Later, Jesus famously multiplied the loaves and fish, to feed the hungry multitudes (Mt. 14:15-21, Mk. 6:34-42, Lk. 9:16-17, Jn. 6:9-13}.  The use of bread comes to a spiritual summit in Jesus’ designation of it as His body at the Last Supper (Mt. 26: 26, Mk. 14:22, Lk. 22:19, 1 Cor 11:23-24). 

In the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, we read what is referred to as Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse.  It is seen as a commentary on the significance and value of the Most Holy Eucharist.  We hear some definitive statements made by Jesus:  I am the bread of life . . . I am the bread that came down from heaven . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. . . My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink . . . .

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist is one of the core teachings of the Catholic faith.  We do not believe in some mere symbolic presence, but take Jesus literally--at his word--in our understanding of this mystery.  Over the centuries, terms like transubstantiationa change in substance (but not in appearance)have been used to explain this essential dogma.

When we approach the Most Holy Eucharist, we approach Jesus—our Lord, God and Savior.  He deserves our love, reverence and respect.  Like the people in the Gospel, our attitude toward the Holy Eucharist should be one of desire, anticipation, thanksgiving and joy:

“Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6: 34)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor