Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing Hope

Dear Parishioners,

“Father, I told my children that I don’t want grandchildren.  This world is currently too scary to bring children into it.”

It was not the first time that I heard a comment similar to this in recent days.  I actually wonder how many people may silently hold the same belief?

How do I respond to this type of thinking?  After all, as a celibate, I have no children or grandchildren of my own.  However, I do have nieces and nephews—currently ten of them—and I worry about each and every child that I see as if it were my own

The above mentality borders on hopelessness and despair.   It is a people without hope that no longer wants to create.  Often they see no future, no opportunity,  no purpose or meaning to life itself.

I recall a familiar and often repeated phrase of Saint John Paul II (the Great) as he quoted words of Sacred Scripture:  Be not afraid!  Do not be afraid!

When he became Pope, these words inaugurated and resonated throughout his pontificate:

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.  Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.  Do not be afraid.  Open wide the doors for Christ.  To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.  Do not be afraid.  Christ knows "what is in man".  He alone knows it.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart.  So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth.  He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.  We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man.  He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.  October 22, 1978, St. Peter’s Square

When a civilization moves further and further away from Jesus Christ and the message of His Gospel, hope is lost.  When prayer is infrequent and the practice of the Christian faith becomes sporadic or minimal, the purpose of life can be severely distorted.

Human civilization has been through some pretty difficult times already.  If the great leaders—especially the holy men and women who were the great saints of their time—threw in the towel, chances are I might not be writing this article today.  It was often a strong faith, a love for Jesus Christ and a determination that comes from God’s inner strength that gave people the courage and resolve to accomplish deeds beyond what the ordinary human can do.  Alone and unaided by God we are bound to fail.

Saint John Paul II was a man of great courage because he was man of deep faith.  He faced an assassin’s bullet, lived through the Nazi terror and World War II and battled Communism in his native Poland, just to mention a few challenges during his lifetime.  I think that he may have known what he was talking about.

Be not afraid!

St. John Paul II, please pray for us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some Good Advice

Dear Parishioners,

I wish I had saved the letter.

A Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee sent a letter to me while I was in the college seminary.  It was a time in my life when I was seeking some serious direction and advice.  I was a bit disillusioned with things that were going on in the seminary and with the moral character of some of my fellow seminarians.  I was also disappointed with some professors and their actions.  Needless to say, even in a place where men were preparing to be priests, things were far from perfect.  The seminary situation proved to be a real testing ground for my vocation.  

Unfortunately, I learned from an early time in my training that not everyone played by the rules and did what they were supposed to do.  I knew very well that I was an imperfect sinner as well.  (Regrettably, I still am.)  However, I was trying as best I could—albeit imperfectly—to model my life and behavior after the pattern of Jesus Christ and His teachings. 

Weren’t we all in this together?  Shouldn’t we be helping one another as brothers and strengthening one another rather than bringing others down and even leading others astray?  Shouldn’t some of the professors be better examples to the students in this situation?

The words from the monk are ingrained in my mind and heart:  “If all the world should go astray and everything seems upside down, you go on faithfully serving the Lord.”  He challenged me to live the Gospel and to be a disciple of the Lord while holding nothing back.

Sometimes it may seem that we are fighting an uphill battle.  Perhaps it may appear that we are completely alone in our struggles.  Yet, I truly believe that there are many, many good people out there who want to follow the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him.  We know that even Jesus’ hand-picked followers had their flaws. One of them denied Him and one of them turned on Him in a historic betrayal.  Perfection was lacking, even among His most intimate followers.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians seems to ring true especially today:

. . . Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. . . . Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (Philippians 2: 12b, 14-16)

We can look at the world today and want to throw in the towel.  What can I do with such a mess?

I still want to follow the Lord and be His disciple.  

And I will go on remembering the monk’s words to me.  They have proved invaluable.

Fr. Ed Namiotka