Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Joy of Love

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis recently released an Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia).  Such a document, by its nature, is not as formal and authoritative as an Encyclical.  It does not attempt to define or redefine church doctrine.  It is meant to express the mindset of the pope on a particular topic.  In this instance, the theme is love within the family and is written as a result of the two Synods of Bishops held in 2014 and 2015 concerning marriage and the family.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:

The pope has given us a love letter to families—a love letter inviting all of us, and especially married couples and families, to never stop growing in love. It is also a love letter calling the Church, the family of God, to realize more and more her mission to live and love as a family.

Pope Francis is calling us to enter more deeply into the beauty of marriage and Christ's teaching. From the opening lines of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, and throughout the Gospels, God speaks eloquently to us about the joys and challenges of marriage and family life.

The Holy Father is giving us an active opportunity to reflect upon how each of us can belong more deeply to Christ. The Joy of Love is inviting us to share the treasure and medicine of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus inspires us to live out God's hope for us, and the mercy of Jesus heals and sustains us when we fall short. Let us remember that no obstacle is too big for Christ to overcome.

I encourage all to read and reflect on how the words of Pope Francis can be applied in our lives, in our families, and in our society. I am grateful once again to our Holy Father for encouraging and leading us in our call to encounter Jesus ever more deeply, especially in the great gift of family life, and to be His missionary disciples in the world.

On our parish website www.stjosephsomerspoint.com I have provided a link to The Joy of Love as well as other writings by the pope.  You can prayerfully read for yourselves and ponder the thoughts and reflections of our Holy Father.  Too often the media may sensationalize various statements by the pope, take them out of context or truly misunderstand that everything that the pope says or does needs to be seen in the light of the magisterium’s (the pope united with his bishops) ongoing, consistent teaching.

Additionally, on our Camden Diocesan website www.camdendiocese.org there is an article by Fr. Phillip Johnson, the pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Cherry Hill, explaining the key points of The Joy of Love.  You may find it helpful in your reading.

As with anyone serious about his or her Catholic faith, it is necessary for us to want to learn more and develop a better understanding of what our Catholic Church teaches.  The pope seems to encourage an intelligent and prayerful discussion of contemporary topics in light of the Gospel.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

'Nova Nation

Dear Parishioners,

I have already told many people that my three brothers, my sister and one of my sisters-in-law all graduated from Villanova University.  Do you want to know what I was doing last Monday night?  I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.  'Nova Nation.

God bless my parents and their support of Catholic education because all of my siblings and I attended Catholic elementary (St. Ann’s, Wildwood), high school (Wildwood Catholic) and college.  (I happened to enter St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania for college, just slightly down Lancaster Pike from Villanova.  This was followed by four years at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland for my graduate studies.)  There was never really an option for us.  We were supposed to attend Catholic school.

Personally, I spent twenty years of my Priesthood formally assigned to Catholic schools.  I was involved with every task from teacher, to chaplain, to guidance counselor, to assistant principal, to principal and school president.  Sadly, I watched as two of my former schools were closed.

Lots have changed regarding Catholic schools, including people’s attitudes toward Catholic education.  Tuition rates are much more expensive.  Gone are the days of multiple religious sisters in every Catholic school.  Combine this with the property taxes in the state of New Jersey and a sluggish economy.  Frequently people find money and household budgets extremely tight.  Choices are made and Catholic school is not always an option for families for various reasons.

With all of this said, was Catholic school the right choice for meI know so, without a doubt.  I credit my vocation to the priesthood, in large part, to my Catholic school background.  I also state definitively that no Catholic school is perfect and meant for everyone.  I had my share of good and bad teachers over the years.  I saw all too many people view Catholic schools as an escape from poor public schools in a particular district.  Disappointingly, not everyone practiced their Catholic faith while attending a Catholic school.  This created a type of dichotomy in the household—Catholic school during the week but no church, no Mass attendance on Sunday.  Mixed message?

Granted, while Catholic schools are, in various ways, imperfect and unfortunately costly, they are still one of the best tools to help carry on the Catholic faith.  Yes, the education is excellent, the discipline superior, and the family atmosphere priceless.  Yet, can we ever put a value on the formation of someone’s eternal soul?  Catholic schools encourage prayer, a relationship with Jesus Christ, a study of the faith, a moral code to live by, service to the community, and seek to form the whole person—body, mind and soul.  Their goal—our goal—is to help develop a well-rounded, Christian lady or gentleman.  We desire to give them the tools that they will need for life and its many difficult decisions.  Catholic schools, needless to say, always need to be true to their identity.

Maybe children do not always appreciate what was given them when they are young.  I am not sure that I always did.  That’s the essence of being an immature child.  Looking back, however, I am grateful for the sacrifices of my parents and others who allowed me to experience a Catholic school as an important part of my faith formation.  I am pretty sure my Priesthood vocation was nurtured there.

Getting back to Villanova for a moment, congratulations on a national men’s basketball championship!  You made us all proud.  (Secretly, you had the Catholic advantage playing the final game on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our LordJust saying!)

Fr. Ed Namiotka