Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Having a Sense of Balance in One's Life

Dear Parishioners,

I consider a true friend a person who tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear.  When I was newly ordained, one such friend indicated to me that I seemed to be changing my behavior in ways that were not necessarily flattering.  This person helped me to put matters in perspective and to realize certain things about myself that I had not identified on my own.  The way of fools is right in their own eyes, but those who listen to advice are the wise (Proverbs 12:15).  In other words, only the fool keeps his own counsel. 

At another time in my life, a good friend handed me a piece of paper with one word on it.  The note simply read balance.  My daily routine was then filled with stress and a multitude of responsibilities.  Things were far from balanced.  I had to re-evaluate the priorities in my life.  Was I praying enough?  Did I get adequate sleep each night?  Was I eating healthy meals?  Did I exercise regularly?  Did I have the insight and humility to seek out and to talk to someone to help me?

I think we all need this sense of balance in our lives.  We have become a society where we are often too busy, running around and constantly doing.  In the midst of all the activity, I find that important spiritual matters tend to get neglected.  Prayer is pushed aside as not that important.  Soccer or baseball games, shopping, or various leisure activities take precedent over going to Mass on Sundays.  People, perhaps, may still go to confession before Christmas and Easter, but not necessarily frequently in order to become more spiritually attentive and open to God.  Things of the world generally outweigh the things of God. We may suffer harmful effects as a result, perhaps without even realizing it.

When we don’t pray regularly—and I don’t mean occasionally throwing a prayer up to God for some particular need or want—we become spiritually lethargic.  God indeed speaks to us in the silence, in the depths of our hearts.  We need to listen to that interior voice of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding us.  We need to be reflective, introspective people.

If we are made of body, mind and soul, is the soul being fed?  The Sacred Scriptures nourish us.  The Holy Eucharist—the Bread of Life—is true soul food.  How much of a priority do these have in my life?

Where did I leave off in my religious education?  Was it in 8th grade or even earlier, after Confirmation and CCD (now referred to as religious education or PREP)?  The sad joke is that for many CCD (the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) actually stood for Communion, Confirmation and Done.

Other matters are also important, such as adequate sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise, etc. in order to keep a balance in life.  From my own personal experience and testimony, however, when my spiritual life is in order, almost everything else becomes more balanced.  A few words of wisdom given by an elderly priest many years ago still resonate with me:  Take care of your spiritual life.  Everything else will fall into place.

So please consider these words some sound advice from a true friend.  Don’t be offended if I ask:  Is your spiritual life in order and your life truly balanced?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Priestly Blessing

Dear Parishioners,

Last Sunday afternoon I concelebrated Mass for the 40th Anniversary of Ordination of a priest-friend.  It was quite an elaborate Mass with a packed church including fifty-nine priests, two transitional deacons, our bishop, numerous altar servers and diocesan seminarians.  Needless to say, there was much pomp and circumstance everywhere from the burning incense emitting from a thurible the size of a small watermelon, to the ruby flowers and decorations filling the church for Pentecost, to some intricate, uplifting musical selections.

During all of the various happenings of the day, one could not but think of the Catholic priesthood and the Catholic Church in all of its majestic glory.  The regrettable events that have tarnished the priesthood and the Church itself in recent years were pushed aside for this moment, so that the sacred mysteries in their rich splendor could shine forth.

When I looked at the calendar on my smart-phone after the Mass, I was reminded that the next day (May 16) was my own anniversary of ordination—twenty-nine years ago. Thank you Jesus!  In fact, many priests will celebrate their anniversaries this time of the year.  For most of us, it is our special day reminding us of when the bishop imposed hands on us and we were mysteriously changed forever.  For all eternity we would be configured to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.

After an ordination, the newly-ordained priest normally would give his first blessing individually to the people present.  I remember in my particular situation I began by blessing Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, the ordaining prelate.  Then my immediate family came up to the sanctuary.  I nervously began to bless those in front of me beginning with my father.  Later, I was told that it is usually the priest’s mother that gets the blessing first.  (Sorry mom, I guess I really didn’t know or I was just too anxious in the moment.)

Funny, how my crazy mind works at times.  Stream of consciousness?  Adult A.D.D.?  My thoughts drift from the importance of that unique moment when people wait in long lines just to receive the newly-ordained priest’s first blessing, to my weekly frustration with how many people rush out of church regularly after Holy Communion before the priest’s blessing is ever given.  What happened? Is that priestly-blessing no longer important?

After the dinner reception which followed the Mass last Sunday, I waited for my car from the valet.  The young driver pulled up, got out of my car, handed me the keys and uttered the following:  “Father, could you give me a quick blessing?  I have a lot of [stuff] going on in my life right now and I could use a blessing.”

I blessed him.  I prayed for him then and again today.  He reminded me, after all was said and done, after all of the great celebration and fanfare that day, of why I was ordained.
A priest gives his blessing.  Christ encounters a person in need.
It was one of those simple Pope Francis moments.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Holding My Nose on the Way to the Ballot Box

Dear Parishioners,

I always preface the situation when I write something concerning politics.  I am neither Democrat nor Republican nor hold any party affiliation for that matter.  I am an independent, conservative.   I try to vote for the best person I see running for office and will cross party lines to do so.  I will not sell my soul to any political party—ever.  Parties and candidates all have their faults and failings—some more than others.  My soul belongs definitively and solely to Jesus Christ.

That being said, what I see happening in the political arena is quite amazing.  If you would have asked me who the frontrunners in the 2016 presidential election would be at this point in time, I might have been one for two (.500).  Do I like what I see?  Nope.

People for years have been saying that we seem to have to choose between the lesser of two evilsWould you prefer to die by firing squad or lethal injection?  Either scenario appears quite dreadful.

What does a person do in such circumstances?  There is often disagreement among Catholics and other Christians and sometimes even among the Church hierarchy.  Do I vote my conscience?  A basic moral principle is that we should always follow our conscience.  This is not as simplistic as it may seem.  We have an obligation to see to it that our conscience is rightly formed.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches the following:

Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened.  A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.  It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.  The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.  (CCC, #1783)
The Catechism continues:

In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.  We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross.  We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.  (CCC, #1785)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has authored a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship intended to assist in the process of voting in an election.  I suggest that Catholics and people of good will read it before stepping into the voting booth.  There will be a link to it on the parish website.  I quote one pertinent paragraph:

The formation of conscience includes several elements.  First, there is a desire to embrace goodness and truth.  For Catholics, this begins with a willingness and openness to seek the truth and what is right by studying Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It is also important to examine the facts and background information about various choices. Finally, prayerful reflection is essential to discern the will of God.  Catholics must also understand that if they fail to form their consciences in the light of the truths of the faith and the moral teachings of the Church they can make erroneous judgments.
Educate yourselves, read Sacred Scripture, pray and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within.  

Try not to breathe in the stench that is sometimes emitted from various political candidates.  It's pretty repulsive.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(PS, More to follow in the months ahead.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Moral Correctness vs. Political Correctness

Dear Parishioners,

We live in a PC world.  The news media often drives it.  We have become so cautious not to offend anyone.  As a result, we may wind up compromising what we truly believe in the name of tolerance. There are rumblings among the populus, however, that ever-more people are becoming fed-up with what is going on.

What if the early Christians acted in the same manner?  Would they have been so cautious not to proclaim Jesus is Lord in the face of torture and death?  As I celebrated the feast of the Apostles Sts. Philip and James at Mass this morning (Tuesday, May 3, 2016), I thought about how the early Apostles were willing to die rather than compromise their beliefs.  How easy it would have been to acknowledge that Caesar was divine (as was demanded at the time), and go on living.  Couldn’t Jesus just be acknowledged as one god among many other gods?  After all, the Greeks and Romans were polytheistic cultures and would more than likely tolerate one more god.  It would be the politically correct thing to do at that time.  Instead, the early Christians bravely faced torture and death in their unwavering proclamation that Jesus is the Risen Son of God.  For them, there was no other option.

Today, we may not say certain things are objectively wrong for fear of offending someone.  Abortion is not killing an innocent human being (dare I say murder?) but a woman’s choiceMarriage (the permanent, exclusive, open-to children union between a man and a woman) is redefined not according to timeless, divine principles but as we enlightened humans currently see fit.  We don’t call co-habitation fornication, but a trial-marriage.  Euthanasia (killing the elderly) is mercy-killingAdulterers are swingers.  The difference between partial-birth abortion and Infanticide is negligible.  Homosexual acts fall into the category of an alternate lifestyle. Artificial contraception is never wrong or sinful in many people’s mind.  There is no longer a proper understanding that we have a moral obligation to God to attend Mass weekly.   Wrong becomes right.  Right is no longer right.  The world is horribly confused.  And this confusion does have serious, eternal consequences.

God in timeless wisdom and with apparently incredible patience looks at us and, I suspect, desires that we would listen and obey.  There is a law written in your hearts.  I sent you the prophetsI even gave you my only Son as my definitive Word.  You have centuries of saints and martyrs witnessing to the truth by their lives.  My gift of the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church.  Please listen.  Don’t delay.

I trust that God is all-merciful.  There is an emphasis on His mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.  I also believe that God is all-just.  God’s justice is tempered by His mercy. (See James 2: 12-13)  Mercy is offered to us so that we admit our sinfulness, desire to change our erring ways and completely conform our lives to the teachings of Christ.  Mercy is not like a get out of jail free card.  We can’t just continue with our sinful ways assuming God to be some pushover—some lenient parent—who will continually let us do whatever we want without consequences.  We are all going to Heaven despite what we do here on earthNot really.  Why would Jesus have suffered and died in such a horrible manner if we all just go to Heaven no matter what we think, say or do?  No, if we refuse mercy, if we refuse to listen, if we fail to change, then God remains all-just.  We will get what we actually deserve.  And it wasn’t because God did not try to get through to us time and time again.

If political correctness blurs our moral correctness then I would suggest that we make the necessary adjustments to our thinking and acting.  We need to realize that the truth—the objective moral teachings given by Jesus Christ and faithfully proclaimed by His Church—are the means given us for our eternal salvation.  

And eternal does mean forever.

Fr. Ed Namiotka