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

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, the term 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