Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Recharging My Battery (Once Again)

Sunset at the beach on vacation

Dear Parishioners,

Some people may find it hard to believe—since I have to do it practically everyday of my life now—but one of the greatest fears in my life was speaking in public.  When I initially contemplated a priestly vocation, I actually thought that it would be great being a priest—just as long as I didn’t have to say anything publicly.  I know that this particular fear exists for many people.  I have worked to overcome my anxiety over the years, with God’s grace.

That being said, I still very much like being quiet and alone at times.  Whether in my room, driving in my car, praying in church, or walking along the beach, I like my quiet time.  Basically, I am an introvert.  This means that usually I get re-energized when I am alone.  It’s not that I don’t like being around people or haven’t been able to develop the necessary interpersonal skills required as a priest.  Extroverts get recharged being around people.  I am just the opposite.

I think that knowing who I am and trying to understand myself, helps me to comprehend some of the decisions that I make. Why do I gravitate towards a silent, monastic retreat?  Why do I find so much solace praying quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament?  Why do I usually vacation in places where I can find quiet and peace of mind?  (Why am I writing this to you from one of those quiet places now?)

I am on a brief vacation right now recharging my battery.  (Although I recently arrived at the parish, my vacation had been arranged well before I would be assigned to Woodbury.)  I like the beach—having grown up at the Jersey shore in Wildwood—and so I frequently spend time near an ocean or shore.  For a brief time, I will be alone (with God, of course!).  I have already met up with a few friends who usually vacation when I do so that I am not completely by myself.  My ultimate goal is to be refreshed and renewed when I return to the parish.  I have time to pray (especially the Mass as I bring my travelling Mass-kit with me), to read, to write, to exercise and just to relax.

Reflecting on Jesus’ life, He too was found at various places—by the sea (Mt. 4:18), in the wilderness (Lk. 5: 16), up the mountain (Mk. 6: 45-46, Lk. 6: 12), in the garden (Lk. 22: 39-46)—where He could pray, reflect and be alone.  I suspect He knew best how to find the necessary quiet time after days of preaching, teaching and active ministry.

I usually find that it does me a world of good to withdraw from the daily routine for some extended time and to find a corner of the world where I can recharge my inner battery.  Besides, the parish staff (wherever I've been) usually agrees that I am much more pleasant and easier to work with after some time away!  Just think of how good this vacation time is for them!

See you in another week!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Getting ready to celebrate a private Mass

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Parables and the Kingdom of Heaven



Dear Parishioners,

Jesus often uses parables to get his message across.  Most times I prefer someone to be clear and direct. Tell me exactly what you mean! Don't give me a song and a dance!  Give it to me straight!  However, Jesus frequently does not do this.  He may answer a question with another question. He may remain silent. He may tell a parable.

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.
One thing that parables should make us do is think.  At times, we may come to different conclusions or even be left confused.  Jesus would explain parables to his disciples privately to help them understand their meaning as he did with the Parable of the Sower last week (Mt. 13: 1-23) or in today's Gospel about the Weeds in the Field (Mt. 13: 24-43).  Just because Jesus may use symbolic, poetic or a type of flowery language--make no mistake--even in the use and explanation of his parables, he could be quite forceful when speaking about certain things (like a fiery furnace and wailing and grinding of teeth!)

Next, there is this concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Living in a nation that does not have a king and even established its unique identity by declaring independence from a king, the idea of kingship may be foreign to many and perhaps, repugnant.  I vote! I pay taxes! No one is going to tell me what to do!

Be careful, however, when we refer to God.  We are creatures; God is Creator.  God is absolutely sovereign.  We were brought into being by God's great love and given intelligence and free-will, noting how we were created in His image and likeness.  Respect for God (fear of the Lord) and all that God is (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-holy, all-merciful, all-loving, transcendent, eternal, etc., etc.) gets lost in a secular society.  We suffer from shortsightedness, a desire for pleasure and immediate gratification and an ever-increasing absence and possible disdain for any matters considered religious, sacred or holy.  Even the absolute sacredness of human life itself has dramatically and horrendously diminished.

When Pope St. John Paul II gave to us the Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for meditation and reflection, I initially thought that the third mystery was somewhat ambiguous.  Why was the Proclamation of the Kingdom (and the Call to Conversion) so important?  With time, I have personally realized a deeper appreciation of this mystery.  Allow me to share this descriptive synopsis of the mystery:

The preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk. 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk. 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn. 20:22-23).

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God and through His Incarnation Heaven and Earth were united.  

May we do our part to build up His Kingdom here on Earth!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Listening to God


Dear Parishioners,
Some years ago, at a Day of Recollection for my high school students, the priest who was speaking held up a portable radio.  He turned it on, tuned it into a channel, and it played some music.  Then he turned it off.  No music played.  Yet, he pointed out that the same sound waves were still passing through the airways.  Even when we were not tuned into them and the radio was off, the sound waves were still out there waiting for us to listen to them.
A good lesson is here for all of us.  God tries to speak to us constantly whether we are listening to Him or not.  He is always out there whether or not we are tuned into Him.
How do we listen to God?
First of all we have to learn to be quiet for at least some time each day.  Turn off the TV, iPod, computer, cell phone, Blackberry, etc.  These may all be useful or entertaining for us but ultimately they distract us when trying to listen to God.  Consider the following passage from Sacred Scripture: 
Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by."  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.   When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Next we have to learn to be patient and to wait for the Lord.  We live in a time of instant everything.  We use microwave ovens, the internet takes us around the world in what seems like nanoseconds, most of us are seen walking around with cell phones connected as an added appendage to our bodies so that we can talk to or text someone whenever we want.  Get the picture?   We don’t like to wait and we have very little patience when we don’t get what we want immediately.
God doesn’t work that way.  He is not at our beck and call and He doesn’t have to react to us just because we have decided to fit Him into our lives at some particular point in time.  People joke about how slow the Church moves and reacts because she thinks in centuries.  What about God who has been around for all eternity?  Time for God is not the same as time for us.  God is not bound by time.  We are.
So find some time each day to stop, be quiet, and listen.  We don’t have to do all the talking.  If we are patient, God will speak to us in our thoughts and imagination.  He will move our hearts.  He’s there waiting for us.
Tune Him in.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Seeing things with a New Set of Eyes (Mine!)



Dear Parishioners,

As a high school administrator for about two decades, I would instruct my fellow administrators to enter the school building each day with a “new set of eyes.”  I would try to do this myself as part of a morning ritual.  I looked around the school and asked myself various questions:  What did I observe today?  Is there anything that I had become so familiar with that I almost overlooked it or took it for granted?  Who was there?  What were they doing?  What was my overall impression?  What did I see?

For the next weeks and perhaps months, I will be going through my observation ritual at the Sunday and daily Masses at Holy Angels Parish.

First, I will certainly formulate some initial impressions at the weekend Masses as I begin looking around:  Do people actively participate?  What are the crowds like?  How is the music and singing?  Are people friendly towards one another?  Do people leave early?  Are there many families and children?  Can the priest and the readers be heard?

Similarly, I am sure that you will be observing me (and the two other new priests assigned to the parish):  How long is the homily?  Is it interesting?  Can he sing?  Is he friendly?  Can I understand him?  Is he reverent?

In between unpacking, becoming familiar with the staff and parishioners, checking out all the buildings and facilities, preparing for the relocation of the elementary school, and many other routine duties, I will certainly need some time to pray.  It is prayer that will sustain me/us.  Personally, I find that when my prayer life is in order, the rest of my life seems to flow more smoothly.  Pressures will inevitably be there, but prayer helps to make things more bearable.

Do you notice how we pray for Pope Francis and Bishop Dennis Sullivan at every Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer?  The many responsibilities that they hold certainly deserve a regular remembrance in our prayers.  Similarly, could you remember to say a prayer or two for your new pastor and the priests/deacons of our parish on a regular basis?  We need and depend on your prayers as well!  Know that you will be remembered in my Masses and when I pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) each day.

As time passes, my hope is that this parish will grow in deeper holiness together with your priests.  This can only happen if we pray for each other, support each other, and be willing to reach out and help each other.

I realize that some of our parishioners may be on vacation during the summer.  I will also be taking some vacation time later this month as has been my custom.  However, when things return to more of a routine in the Fall, I anticipate observing and learning the rhythm and personality of this parish.

In the meantime, know that I will be looking around—continually.  I’ll let you know later what I see!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Nothing like the "deer in the headlights" look!