Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Getting Ready for Lent

Dear Parishioners,

I have mentioned it before, but when I was young my family never ate meat on any of the Fridays throughout the year (even after the requirements were loosened), and not just during the Fridays of Lent.  We were instructed that this practice should be undertaken as an act of penance to commemorate the day of the week on which Jesus died.  We had simple meals like fried flounder, grilled cheese, potato pancakes, tomato soup,  pierogi and sometimes pizza. 

Naturally, as a young, curious person I wanted to know why no meat?  That’s where I had to investigate and find an answer that seemed to make sense to me.  I heard that meat was associated with feasting, not fasting.  We heard it stated in the bible that we should go and kill “the fattened calf” when it was time to celebrate (cf. Luke 15: 23, 30).  Okay.  That made sense.  But how was fish supposedly different?

Many of the answers that I found became rather legalistic in the sense that there was some hair splitting about what could and could not be eaten.  It began to seem like old time Pharisaical Judaism to me.  According to some interpretations, we could technically eat things like lobster, shrimp and crab, but we needed to stay away from hot dogs, bologna, chicken nuggets and even Spam!  (To be honest, I’m really not quite sure how much real meat is in these products anyway!)

That’s where I think that Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and their legalism seemed to make a lot of sense.  He would tell them that they insisted on keeping the letter of the law rather than living the spirit of the law in many instances. (cf. Matthew 12 or 15).  Unfortunately, they never really got it!

What then is an appropriate practice for Fridays of Lent?  Why not try vegetable soup, salad and bread?  A grilled cheese sandwich with some tomato or mushroom soup also appears to keep the spirit of penance.  You can always join us for Soup and Stations on Fridays where homemade meatless soups are graciously provided for us before we symbolically walk the Way of the Cross with Christ.

Any practice that we choose for Lent should ultimately help us to grow closer to Christ and to become more Christ-likePrayer, fasting and almsgiving are clearly suggested in Sacred Scripture.   These should inspire and urge us towards specific acts like attending additional weekday Masses, praying a daily rosary, giving up things (making a sacrifice) and using the money we save to give to a charity, going to confession, and carrying out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Lenten season is given to us for spiritual growth, to do penance for sins and offenses against God and our neighbor, and to urge us to pick up our own cross and follow Jesus.

Please use the time well!    

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Greetings from San Antonio!

Tepeyac de San Antonio

Dear Parishioners,

As I write to you today I am in San Antonio, Texas.  I am currently a member of the Continuing Education and Spiritual Formation of Priests (C.E.S.F.) committee for the Diocese of Camden, and Bishop Sullivan asked if I would attend a convention here.  The conferences have the theme:  Making the Time Count:  Forming a Pastor with a Shepherd's Heart.

I am spending the week at the Oblate Renewal Center which is run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I.), a missionary religious congregation.  It feels somewhat like being back in the seminary again, with those lumpy single beds, no television, institutional food and set schedules of prayer and conferences.  I was a bit nervous as a tornado warning was issued for the area when I arrived.  We experienced driving rains, strong winds and even hail!
The convention began on Monday with a concelebrated Mass (shy of about 100 priests) with a newly-elected auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Antonio--Bishop-elect Michael Boulette.  Today (Tuesday) we board a bus and head for the San Fernando Cathedral, a tour of the Mission Conception, and dinner along the famous River Walk.

Obviously, the Spanish-speaking population is quite large in this part of south Texas.  Masses for our conference are bilingual, and today there is even a mariachi band playing the music.  Maybe my "Spanglish" will continue to improve!  One can only hope!

Times like these remind me that my growth as a person and as a priest is never complete.  There is always something to experience, to learn, and to re-evaluate within my priestly ministry.  Just the mere opportunity of talking to priests from throughout the country reminds me of the diversity and universality of the Catholic Church.  Each part of the country has its own unique challenges when trying to spread the Gospel.  No, I am no longer in Somers Point anymore!

There is a rather unusual shrine on the campus where I reside:  Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto & Tepeyac de San Antonio.  On the lower level, there is a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes with St. Bernadette and Our Lady.  Climb the stairs and there is a reproduction of the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac.  Then there is a chapel on the interior with Eucharistic Adoration taking place.  Within this chapel is also a relic (the heart) of the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene de Mazenod.  He was a French priest/bishop canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1995.  Quite a spiritual conglomeration to ponder!

I will be praying for you while I make this brief spiritual pilgrimage.  I hope that I will be able to relate some interesting/inspirational experiences as my week here continues.
In the meantime, remember the Alamo!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Grotto of Lourdes

 Relic of the Heart of St. Eugene

Adoration Chapel