Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whatever Happened to . . . Advent?



Dear Parishioners,
This time of the year always seems to be so much of a hassle.  What used to be the beginning of the Christmas shopping season with Black Friday, now has moved even earlier and earlier.  Many worry about sending Christmas cards, baking Christmas cookies, decorating, cleaning the house for guests, putting up the Christmas tree, buying gifts, (and wondering how I am going to pay for all those things that are now on my credit card!)
What does any of this really have to do with Christmas—the birth of Christ?
If you are honest, wouldn’t you just love to forget about all of the social pressures that are placed upon us by a consumer-driven society and all of the commercialism that eclipses this sacred season?  I still love A Charlie Brown Christmas because it reminds us all of this very point.
Advent is meant as a time for spiritual preparation for Christmas—four weeks of spiritual preparation!  Most of us are not even aware of this preparatory season let alone take the time to observe it.  The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until Christmas Eve.  Soon after people are already tired of Christmas and begin taking down the decorations and the tree.  The (ever-more secular) Christmas songs disappear from the radio and the Valentine’s Day displays start appearing in the stores (right behind those huge after-Christmas sales!) 
I have a suggestion for you.  Cut back on the materialism.  Don’t buy into the consumer mentality.  Buy a few less gifts. (Who needs those outrageous credit card interest rates anyway?)  Bake fewer cookies. (My bathroom scale has continually reminded me that while they may taste good, I really don’t need their residual effects hanging around my gut for prolonged periods of time!)
Rather, do something spiritual that helps to focus on Christ.  Pray a bit more. Go to confession.  Help someone unfortunate.  Visit an elderly person.  Read the Bible.  Keep Christ in Christmas.
I can’t take away the stress that often comes this time of year.  But by following my advice you may help to reduce it slightly.  (And save a few bucks as well!)
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Being “Spiritual” Without the Catholic Church



Dear Parishioners,

All too present in society, and especially among those referred to as millennials, is an attitude where a person no longer sees the need to be associated with a church or organized religion.  “I am spiritual but not necessarily religious” can sum up the general attitude.  Being spiritual can mean just about anything today from doing yoga, smoking pot, burning incense or wearing a crystal pendant or medallion.

Granted, there have been far too many reasons why people get disillusioned with organized religion including (but not limited to) appalling scandals; an over-emphasis on hell, fire and damnation or requests for money; watered-down or unclear theological content; poor preaching or liturgy; hypocritical leadership; unfriendly or unwelcoming congregations; etc.  Additionally, there are those who have been seriously hurt by insensitive church leaders and/or members of the congregation.

With all of that being said, why should we be part of a church—specifically the Catholic Church?

Let me look at this from the viewpoint of one having lived alone at various times in my life.  While it may not be as difficult for an introvert like me, it can still get old quickly not to have anyone around with whom to share a meal, to pray with, to watch TV or a movie in the evening, or something so simple as to go out for ice cream together.  Human beings need some form of companionship or community.  We are not meant to be always alone. “It is not good for the man to be alone . . . .” Gn. 2:18

It is similar with faith in God.  We are not meant to go it alone.  Jesus Christ established a church founded on Peter and the apostles.  “ . . . You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . . .“ Mt. 16:18  The Catholic Church is an apostolic church.  It is this church—a congregation comprised of disciples of Jesus—that is meant to accompany us on our life’s journey.  It is a people with a rich history of 2000 years of saints and sinners; timeless theological truths; rich moral guidance; distinctive liturgy, art, music and church architecture; notable institutions (schools, hospitals, orphanages) etc., and, most importantly, the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.    

Our coming together weekly centers on a family sacrificial-meal—the Eucharist—where we commemorate what the Lord Jesus has done for us.  Without the church (and her priests), there is really no Eucharist.  Sad to say, participation in the Eucharist seems to be evermore insignificant—even to baptized/confirmed Catholics.  “Do this in memory of me” appears to include when I find it convenient OR perhaps, at a later time OR I’d rather not.  We are losing the sense of what we truly have in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  We are forgetting who we are as a people and the price that was paid on our behalf—the death of Jesus on the cross.  We are a people with an identity-crisis of faith.

To me, life without the Catholic Church would be empty and meaningless.  I know her faults all too well.  Yet, I somehow realize we are an imperfect church comprised of sinners with Jesus as our only perfect leader.  He is Lord, God and Savior;  we are not.  We need conversion, healing, forgiveness and God’s unconditional love.  We do not save ourselves.

Having just celebrated the most sacred events of Holy Week and Easter, I am sad for those who may have missed the beauty and spiritual splendor present in the sacred liturgies.  They may not have been as flashy as a show on Broadway or a movie in 3-D.  They were certainly more personal and uplifting than a tweet, instant message or post on Facebook or Instagram.

What they offer is a foretaste of the eternal Banquet of Heaven where I pray the mercy of God leads me, a poor sinner, someday.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

                         

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Thanksgiving Reflection


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.  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:  “I used to complain about the shoes that I wore until I met the man 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 take my 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 the soup kitchen are probably envious.

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

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 than by participating in the celebration of Mass on Thanksgiving Day.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Observations and Recommendations (So Far)

St. Patrick Church (Woodbury)

Dear Parishioners,

Some time ago, I mentioned in one of my weekly letters that I would be looking at the overall situation here at Holy Angels Parish and then get back to you with my observations.  So, what has become apparent to me in the time since I have arrived here?

First, I realize that I have had to make some personal adjustments to my style of ministry.  I was used to being very present at church each weekend.  I would be at the back of the church after most (if not all) of the Masses in Somers Point.  It was my opportunity to meet and greet the parishioners regularly.  However, I only had a single church building to go to and it was adjacent to the rectory.  Now I have three churches and a worship center being used regularly.  Having failed in any attempts at bi-location in the past, I know I just can’t be everywhere at once.  How can I possibly be at the 9 AM (National Park), 9:30 AM (Woodbury), 10 AM (Woodbury) and 10:30 AM (Westville) Masses, even if it is just to say “hello” to the people.  It’s a physical impossibility.

Then came my health issue (heart attack).  Perhaps, it is God’s subtle hint (or not-so-subtle hammer to the head) telling me to slow down and re-prioritize what I am here to do.  You are not in Kansas anymore Toto.  I can’t be present everywhere.  I need to pick and choose what a priest/pastor needs to do and allow someone else to do the other things.  Easier said than done at times!

Second, there is a need for a continual outreach to the children and young families within the parish.  From my rather high vantage point (6’6”), the backs of too many heads are greying and it is noticeable to me that the young are not present weekly in any healthy and vibrant numbers.  Minimally, the young and their families need to be evangelized or re-evangelized and helped to understand the importance of being at Mass each week.

Third, the physical plant of the parish is simply overwhelming.  With about a dozen buildings and their surrounding grounds to maintain, I am proposing the creation of a Building and Grounds Committee to assist me.  I had such a committee in some of my former parishes comprised of general contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. who volunteered as parishioners to evaluate and make a long-range plan of what needs to be done with the parish facilities.  If you are interested or know someone who may be well-suited for such a task, please contact me at the rectory.  This could conceivably remove a considerable amount of stress from my life.

Next, I propose expanding the Bereavement Committee of the parish.  Three aspects of this ministry seem very important to me when someone dies:  those who can comfort and help plan the funeral liturgy, ministers to be present at the funeral liturgy itself to greet, serve, read, etc. (as needed) and ongoing personal follow-up as time passes.  In my past parishes, some of the most effective and helpful ministers have come from those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and want to help others with their grief and loss.

The above observations and suggestions are just the beginning.  Your input, insights and suggestions are certainly welcome!
        

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor