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

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