Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tying Up Loose Ends


Dear Parishioners,

Do you have a “to do” list?  Very often there are things in our lives that we push aside until later, when we have time.  Perhaps, there may be some issues that we just don’t want to face right now.  Putting these matters into a spiritual context, I compiled a list of some questions that we might ask ourselves to see whether or not there are some unresolved concerns in our spiritual lives:

  • Should I be taking more time to pray each day?
  • How often do I open the Bible to read and to reflect on the Sacred Scriptures?
  • Have I been meaning to get to Mass more often and on a regular basis?
  • Has it been too long since I made a sacramental confession?
  • Do I volunteer my service to my church in some capacity or do I wait for someone else to do it?
  • Do I tell the members of my family that I love them often?
  • Do I pray for my spouse and my children (or my parents)?
  • Do I take my spouse (or family) for granted?
  • Am I holding a grudge against anyone?
  • Have I forgiven someone who has hurt me or asked forgiveness from someone whom I have hurt?
  • Have I recently visited that family member or friend who is homebound or institutionalized?
  • Is there someone from my past who I have lost contact with and never taken the time to get in touch with again?
  • Have I made that donation to charity that I had intended to do?
  • If I am struggling with some issue, have I sought out professional help or someone qualified to assist me, or do I choose to go it alone?
  • If I have failed at something, have I prayed for the courage and strength to begin and to try again?

I realize that there are times in all of our lives when we may feel overwhelmed, out of control, down in the dumps or just simply tired.  Personally, I have found that when my spiritual life is in order and I minimize any unresolved spiritual issues, the other matters in my life seem to fall more into place.

Jesus gave us two great commandments:  to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Mt. 22: 36-40).  Let’s try not to complicate matters and work to keep the spiritual things in our lives in proper perspective and in right priority.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Halloween and Praying for the Dead



Dear Parishioners,

November is considered the month of the Holy Souls.  Following the Catholic teaching and practice that it is good to pray for the dead, allow me to make a few suggestions:
  • Visit a cemetery and pray for a deceased loved one
  • Have a Mass offered for a deceased loved one
  • Take an occasion during the day to pray the prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory:

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


Halloween, sometimes with a rather disproportionate fascination with matters dark and even sinister seems to have gained tremendous interest in our society.  Far gone seem to be the days to dress up like a saint (which I did in my Catholic elementary school days) to honor a holy, heroic person and his or her virtues.  From a Christian perspective, it could still be a beautiful preparation for All Saints Day.  But things have certainly changed over time.

Ghosts, witches, vampires, mummies and werewolves were scary enough when I was growing up.  Then came figures on the order of Jason (from the Friday the 13th movies), Freddy Krueger or some other mass murderer.  The theaters have seen their share of zombies, exorcisms, psychopaths and doom's day or end of the world movies to chill and/or terrorize.  Memories of Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) seem almost tame.  A scary thought in more ways than one!

It is the subtle (and not so subtle) desensitization of our youth to the presence of violence, evil, and cruelty that continues to disturb me.  We need to be extolling positive virtues, goodness and holiness to our young.  Yet, too often our young are exposed to just the opposite.  The media lets us know often enough how certain young minds are no longer innocent and pure but can become warped and capable of acts far beyond what was ever thought possible (take Columbine, or Sandy Hook for example).

I can’t begin to list all of the negative factors from gangsta rap, to violent video games, to graphic movies and pornography, to access to just about anything on the Internet and social media that bombards the young constantly.  Put on top of that the lack of knowledge and practice of the Catholic (or any) Judeo-Christian faith, a declining moral code in society and the general absence of God and prayer in many peoples’ lives today.  Makes for a type of perfect storm!  And people wonder why we have problems?

Today's parents definitely have their work cut out for them.  Parents are still the first teachers of their children in all things--especially faith.  Those raising children today certainly have my prayers.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Miracle of the Sun


Dear Parishioners,
October 13th marks the  anniversary of the miracle of Fatima, Portugal.
As you may recall, Our Lady was reported to have appeared to three shepherd children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, once every month beginning on May 13, 1917 and ending on October 13, 1917.
On 13 May 1917, ten year old Lucia dos Santos and her younger cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were tending sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fatima in Portugal.  Lucia described seeing a woman "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun."  Our Lady subsequently exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners.  She also requested that the Holy Rosary be prayed daily--for world and personal peace--and that the Brown Scapular be worn.  She asked that we pray for the conversion of Russia.  (It should be noted that the beginnings of Communism were starting to appear in Russia at the time.)
It was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13th, so that all would believe.  What transpired became known as "Miracle of the Sun."  A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria.  The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes.  Lucia called out to the crowd to look at the sun.  Sometime while Lucia was pointing towards the sun and claiming to have visions of various religious figures in the sky, it is believed that the sun appeared to change colors and to rotate like a fire wheel.  Then it seemed as though the sun would crash down to earth.   For some the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others it seemed to “dance.”
 An atheistic reporter commented on the event at the time:  "One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith.  It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort.  One might have thought an eclipse was taking place.  But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: ‘A miracle! A miracle!’  Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - yes, the sun 'danced'!"

Many of the onlookers were terrified that the sun would crash down upon them.  Then, as the sun returned to normal, each person in the crowd realized that they were completely dry despite being soaked from the rain just minutes before.

While the “Miracle of the Sun” was seen and experienced by so many, the miracle more importantly is certainly meant to draw attention to the message:  prayer (especially the Holy Rosary), penance and conversion.

Perhaps you may want to read one of the many books about Fatima or watch the movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) to become more familiar with the story.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Monday, October 9, 2017

With Sincere Gratitude . . .



Dear Parishioners,

Last week I never got the chance to put my weekly message into the church bulletin.  As I shall explain, there was a very, very good reason for this.
 
On Tuesday morning after I ate some early breakfast, I prepared to concelebrate the 9 AM daily Mass.  However, sometime before Mass I began to experience severe chest pain.  It was as if someone were standing on my chest making it hard to breathe.  The pain shot down my left arm.  I was nauseous.  I sat on my bed at the rectory thinking that I might be having a heart attack.  I had the classic symptoms.  I popped a couple baby aspirin into my mouth and sent a text message downstairs to the parish secretary.  She immediately came upstairs to help me.

To make a long story short, 9-1-1 was called, the ambulance arrived, an EKG was taken and I was quickly on my way to the hospital.  When I arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, I was taken to the heart catherization lab.  There they discovered that two of my arteries were 100% blocked and the doctors proceeded to place three stents strategically in those arteries after they were re-opened.

It all happened so rapidly.  I was in and out of consciousness.  I remember some of the conversations going on, but not everything.

Subsequently, one of the doctors informed me that there was no major heart damage despite the blockages.  Thanks be to God!  I was back to the rectory by Thursday evening and once again concelebrated daily Mass the next day.

I am a very fortunate man.  There is a history of heart problems in my family.  My father died of a heart attack at 64Both his parents died in a similar manner in their early sixties.  One of my younger brothers had a heart attack last year at 52.  Like me, he survived it.  Need I go on?

Incidentally, I have faced my mortality several times in my life.  I almost drowned in the Atlantic Ocean twice.  I could have been killed or seriously injured in a couple of nearly-averted car accidents—one of which saw my car spin out-of-control a full 360 degrees on black ice on a two-lane highway when I was in the seminary.

Believe it or not, I try to be super cautious.  I see my doctors regularly.  I have my blood work done every three months.  My cholesterol and blood sugar are under control.  I had been losing weight, walking and exercising at the gym.  Nobody, including me, saw this coming.  Except God, of course!

I thought of one of Jesus’ parables after all of this happened:

Then [Jesus] told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12: 16-21)
Truth be told, I do not really fear death itself.  What I fear is not being right with God when I die.  How important it is to be in the state of graceWe are given many tools to assist us:  Confession, the Mass and Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Sick, etc.  Take advantage of them before it is too late!  One never knows.

Hopefully, I’ll be around for many years to come.  There is no absolute certainty, however.  All I can do is go on faithfully serving the Lord, while trusting in His merciful love.

Thank you Lord for some more time!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor                                

(PS, thanks for your prayers!)