Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Advent Mission and an Upcoming Holy Day of Obligation

Dear Parishioners,

I hope that you were able to participate in our 3 day Advent Mission.  We thank Fr. Jim Greenfield, OSFS for his inspirational talks at the weekend Masses and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings!

Among some Catholics and various others, there is still a misunderstanding regarding what is meant by the term (or title) Immaculate Conception.  Some people mistakenly think that this title refers to Jesus and His being conceived miraculously in the womb of His Mother Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the following in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
This proclamation was one of two notable times in the history of the Catholic Church when a pope declared an infallible dogma ex cathedra (that is, from the chair of St. Peter’s teaching authority).  The other occasion was the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Our catechism instructs us:  “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses . . . .”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491.  Mary was redeemed by Christ as all humanity is, but her redemption began at her very conception in the womb of her mother by a singular grace--hence, the term Immaculate Conception.

Around the same time as the pope, bishops and theologians were wrestling with this theological matter, Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France in 1844.  Saint Bernadette, as she is now known, is remembered for having received eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between February 11 and July 16, 1858.  Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built at a grotto in Massabielle where the apparitions occurred and a miraculous spring of water now flows.  During these apparitions, Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette with the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  St. Bernadette, an illiterate peasant girl with no formal training in theology, had no idea what the phrase Immaculate Conception meant.  She was only fourteen at the time of the visions.  It seems that in these apparitions Our Lady herself confirmed what the Church had formally declared just four years earlier.  The Church holds these apparitions as worthy of belief.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated December 8th and is a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics are supposed to attend Mass this day and our Catholic school children in the Diocese of Camden are given off from school so that they can go to Mass.  The schedule at the parish is 7 PM vigil Mass on Wednesday, December 7, and 8:30 AM, 12 Noon (new!) and 7 PM bilingual (English and Spanish) Masses on Thursday, December 8.

Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our country and our diocese.  She should certainly have a special place in all our hearts.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Has Arrived!

Dear Parishioners,

It’s hard to believe that another liturgical year begins this weekend.  Welcome to the First Sunday of Advent!

Advent is a time of commemoration, anticipation and preparation.  We recall the Birth of Jesus Christ while the Church reminds us that Christ will come againWhen?  This has been an unanswered question for the last two thousand years.

Hopefully, we as Christians have not become too complacent or even indifferent towards this teaching of our faith.  What if Jesus did return in glory to judge the living and the dead tomorrow, next week or next month?

I guess some people would panic:  “When was the last time I was in Church?”  “I haven’t been to confession in years!”  “My life is not really in order right now!”  “I never did forgive my dad!” “I haven’t spoken to my sister in years!”  “I’ve been preoccupied with so many things and never take the time to pray!”  “I really do not know Jesus Christ.”

Jesus warns us: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  (Mark 13:33) We are told by St. Paul that the day of the Lord “will come like a thief at night. “ (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

I do not want people to become fanatical like those who run around with signs claiming that the end of the world is near.  However, as Christians we need to live continually in the presence of the Lord.  Christ is aware of us and is there for us at all times.  Unfortunately, as humans we can not consciously realize this at every moment, nor do we always live appropriately even if we believe it.

Advent is here.  Don’t waste the time by getting caught up in all of the materialism that the world is concerned about and sells us everyday.  Take time for your spiritual life.  After all, we as humans are comprised of body and soul.  Take time for Jesus Christ.

I find that when my spiritual priorities are in order and Christ is forefront in my life, everything else mysteriously seems to fall into place.  I may have to learn this lesson over and over again, but someday I may finally get it right.  One can only hope!

Our three day Advent Mission begins Sunday evening.  Fr. James J. Greenfield, OSFS will be our guest speaker.  Please consider joining us each evening (Sunday 11/27, Monday 11/28, and Tuesday 11/29) at 7PM.  

It would be a great way to start the Advent season.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Fr. James J. Greenfield, OSFS

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Giving Thanks Again

(I wrote the core of this a number of years ago.  I thought maybe it was worth repeating.)

Dear Parishioners,

With Thanksgiving approaching, I ask that you take the time to consider and reflect on the things for which you are thankful.  Most of us will find times when we like to moan, groan and complain about many things.  We may tend to see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full.  However, it is a good practice to take an inventory of the things in our lives that we might take for granted or fail to fully appreciate each day.

A statement that I heard quite some time ago seems to put things into proper perspective for me: I used to complain about the shoes that I wore until I met the person with no feet.

Am I thankful for that fact that I am alive?
            Aborted babies never had that opportunity.

Do I thank God every day for my health?
          The hospitalized and homebound might long for days without pain and the ability to get out of bed.

Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?  Am I truly grateful that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for me?
            God loved us into existence and then sent His Son to show how much He truly loves us.  Have I thanked God daily and tried as best as I can to love Him in return?

Do I take my Christian faith for granted?
            There are still places in the world where people suffer and die for being a Christian.

Do I go to bed each night with a roof over my head and a full stomach?
            The homeless and those in line at a soup kitchen are probably envious.

Do I have a family with whom I can spend the holidays?
            The orphan, widow or widower, soldier in a foreign country, or person in prison might not have such good fortune.

Have I tried to cultivate a thankful heart?
            Complaining, in and of itself, doesn’t accomplish much.

If I can read and understand what this reflection is all about, am I truly grateful?
         The blind, the mentally ill, a person with Alzheimer’s, or simply an illiterate person might not be able to do what you are doing right now.

Need I say any more?

Please give thanks.  

There’s no better way to do this as a Catholic than by participating in the celebration of Mass on Thanksgiving Day.  

Hope to see you there!

Gobble! Gobble!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor (AKA, the main turkey)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

One (Divided) Nation, Under God

Dear Parishioners,

Writing my column this week is particularly challenging.  My message each week has to be sent to the bulletin publisher by Tuesday afternoon.  Today is Election Day in the USA and I will not know its results by the time I send this out.  So what should I say?

When I wake up tomorrow, of this I can be assured:  God will still be God and Jesus Christ is still King of the Universe

However, I have good reason to believe our divided nation will not suddenly come together and unite in a euphoric Kumbaya moment.  We will still have an astronomical national debt.  Laws will exist that the Catholic Church (and I) will continue to oppose (abortion and same-sex marriage being two of the most prominent).  The inner cities as well as suburbia will continue to encounter their many economic and social problems well into the foreseeable future.  As long as there is a market for them, various illegal (and some legal) drugs will indiscriminately infest our nation.  Prejudice will not magically disappear.  Government gridlock will exist. The future funding of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be debated, but probably not fixed.  What about the future of healthcare?  In many instances the can will be kicked down the road for as long as possible.  I could go on and on.

Will life here in the USA radically change after this election? Will the many campaign promises and slogans (Stronger Together or Make America Great Again) effect the change they desire by the mere rhetoric?  Much damage has been done that, in effect, seriously divided rather than united us as a nation.   I am not holding my breath waiting for any immediate solution or quick fix.

From a Church perspective, will the election of a new President become some amazing motivating factor causing more people to attend Mass each week?  Will I see more people turning to God and radical conversion of lives?  I have no delusions that the victor of this year’s election is some national messiah.  Sorry.  Both major candidates are horribly flawed and are among the two most unpopular in recent history.  I am just glad that the campaigning is finally over.

Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus recently proposed six concrete ideas for us as Catholics to lead the way towards unity in our nation.  I present them here for your consideration:

First, he said, is “the renewal of parish life as a true Eucharistic community,” with a greater appreciation for the Eucharist as the source and summit of unity, charity and Christian life. 
Next, a “renewed evangelization of family life” is needed, “centered upon the calling of every Catholic family to be a domestic church which, in solidarity with other families, would be a source of unity, charity and reconciliation.”
In addition, Anderson said, Catholics should grow in their devotion to Mary as the Patroness of the U.S., seeing in her a model of “understanding our responsibilities toward our neighbors and for the common good as citizens.” 
Also necessary is a “deeper understanding of those moral principles and issues that are non-negotiable for us as a faith community,” which leads to a deeper understanding and application of the Church’s Social Doctrine.  
A greater commitment to authentic Catholic education that forms the entire person at every academic level is also important for Catholic identity, he said.
Finally, he concluded, the Church in the U.S. needs “a greater appreciation of the office of bishop as the source of unity for the local church” and deeper communication among clergy, religious and laity.

Please continue to pray fervently for our nation!  We still have turbulent times ahead.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Vocation Awareness

Dear Parishioners,

This week we have Logan Nilsen, a seminarian of the Diocese of Camden speaking at all of the Masses to encourage priestly vocations.

To supplement what Logan has to say, I thought that I would share my own vocation story with you.  My vocation to be a priest started in the family, in the home and in the Catholic schools.  My parents were not overly religious.  We attended Mass faithfully each week and my siblings and I were in contact with priests and sisters primarily through the Catholic schools that we attended.  Priests and sisters were regularly invited to our home for dinner.  My parents never pushed the idea of being a priest on me.  However, being an altar server from about third grade on through high school and being in a Catholic elementary school put me into close and regular association with my parish priests.

I really began to think seriously about being a priest in high school.  I could remember standing in my high school cafeteria during a school dance (checking out the girls there) when a priest who taught me religion came up to all the guys.  He was asking if we ever thought about becoming a priest.  When he came up to me, I told him politely that I had thought about it but I don’t think that it was for me.  Sometime later in my senior year, however, I went back to the same priest and admitted to him that I thought that God was indeed calling me to be a priest.  I wanted some information at that point about entering the seminary.

After going through the necessary application procedures, I entered the college division of St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia at the age of eighteen studying for the Diocese of Camden.  Many people questioned whether I knew what I was doing, some suggested that I experience more of life first, but I knew what I was hearing internally was this mysterious call from God—an invitation from Jesus to be his disciple, his priest.  After four years of college, four years of graduate school theology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary (in Emmitsburg, Maryland), and a pastoral year in a parish, I was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-six.

This May I will be thirty years a priest.  I can distinctly remember praying in high school that God would give me a good wife.  In fact, He answered this prayer in a way that was quite remarkable.  Jesus gave me His own bride—the Church.  It was not quite what I expected, but it was what He had planned for me.  And I am truly grateful beyond words.

I know that today there are many more distractions preventing young people from even considering being a priest.  I genuinely do not think that our faithful God ever stops calling.  Rather, I truly think people stop responding to the “call.”   They stop saying “yes.”  God with His invitation never takes away our free choice.  He offers us as priests a unique privilege to act in persona Christi capitis (in the Person of Christ the Head).

A Catholic priest is called to preach and teach, to govern and to sanctify the People of God.  In the sacraments he is necessary for us to have the Holy Eucharist, to forgive sins in confession and to anoint the sick and dying.

Please pray for our seminarians and priests.  Please encourage young men to think and pray about a priestly vocation.  God will continue to do the calling.  We should do our part to support and promote whatever God intends.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Logan Nilsen     
Diocese of Camden Seminarian