Saturday, December 22, 2018

Baptism of the Lord


Dear Parishioners,


If the Lord Jesus was without sin, why would He ever need to be baptized by John the Baptist?

The most direct answer to this question is that Jesus did not need to be baptized.  So then, why did it happen?  Let’s first look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the topic:

Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness."  Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.  The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son."  #1224
One way to think of Jesus’ baptism was that it is an anticipation of what He would do for us later on the cross.  He would take upon Himself our sinfulness.  Just as He did not die on the cross for His own sin, He did not receive the baptism of John to repent for His own sinfulness.  We might rather say that Jesus made holy the waters of baptism by His own baptism.  In addition, His Baptism in the Jordan River, like His Epiphany as a child to the magi, was another divine manifestation of Jesus’ true identity:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Mt. 3:17)

Jesus’ Baptism should make us think about our own baptism.  St. Paul’s words to the Romans are instructive:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6:3-4)
Baptism gives us new life—eternal life.  Baptism forgives our sinfulness—both original sin and any personal sin (once a person has reached the age of reason and is no longer an infant).  With baptism we are adopted by God through Christ as His children.  We become temples of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  God’s own life now dwells in us—the life of sanctifying grace.  We become a member of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and the doorway is now open for us to receive the other sacraments of the Church.  All of these wonderful things and many other blessings (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1262ff.) occur with the simple pouring of water (or an immersion into it) combined with the baptismal formula:  I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Every time you bless yourself with holy water, remember that this sacramental is a reminder of your baptism into Christ Jesus who suffered and died for your salvation.  I remind you to keep some in your homes.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor     



Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh


Dear Parishioners,

To me they always seemed like strange gifts to bring a newborn baby:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Today we would think of things like diapers, toys, blankets, formula, socks, pajamas, etc. to bring to an infant.  Obviously, there is more to the gifts of the magi than meets the eye.

Gold is meant as a tribute to a king.  Gold as a precious, valuable metal was prized by many cultures and worn by kings, present in the worship of gods, and used as currency.  Jesus is indeed a king—the King of the Universe. 

Frankincense is offered to a deity.  When we occasionally burn incense in church (and the parishioners begin to cough automatically) it is meant to be a symbol of our prayers rising up to God.  Psalm 141: 2 states:  Let my prayer be incense before you . . . and the Book of Revelation (5:8) speaks of the elders who held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.  The Hebrews had an altar of incense where a pleasing fragrance burned before the Holy of Holies.  Some other cultures, like the ancient Romans, burned incense before their various statues as a sign of divinity.  Jesus is divine—the Son of God.  He is also the Great High Priest who is mediator between God and man. 

Myrrh has various uses in perfumes, incense and medicine.  The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming of mummies.  When it is presented to Jesus it can be symbolic of his healing ability or an anticipation of his death and burial.  Jesus was offered myrrh mixed with wine on the wood of the cross.  Nicodemus brought myrrh to the tomb for Jesus’ burial.

Gift-giving has become such a part of the Christmas season, often overshadowing the true spiritual meaning of the Incarnation.  What is so astounding is that God became man!  Our Creator became a creature.  God in all His power became a powerless, vulnerable infant who needed his mother and foster-father to feed, clothe and provide for Him.  Timelessness entered into time, the Immortal, Eternal One became subject to death, and the All-Knowing God had to grow in “wisdom, age and favor.” (Lk. 2:52)

When we celebrate the Epiphany (manifestation or showing) of the Lord to the magi (astrologers representative of non-Jews or gentiles) we realize that salvation is open to all peoples and we are directed to Christ as the one and only Messiah and Savior of the World.

Our fitting gift to Jesus should be a humble and contrite heart, as the psalm relates. (See Ps. 51:19) He does not need material “things” to make Him happy.  Instead He desires us and our willingness to do His will.  He desires obedience to His commands.
        
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The statutes of the LORD are true, all of them just;
More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey or drippings from the comb.
By them your servant is warned; obeying them brings much reward.
(Ps. 19: 8-12)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


A New Year Resolution: Live Like You Were Dying




Dear Parishioners,

There is a tradition in America to make some personal resolutions as we begin the New Year.  From a Christian perspective, this attempt seems to be a  bit misguided as the new “church” year actually began for believers with Advent.  This season—Adventwould have been a more appropriate time for us to make changes to prepare for the Coming of Christ.  I remind all of us of Advent’s two-fold preparation:  celebrating Christ’s First Coming (the Nativity) and awaiting His Second Coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.

While listening to an online presentation recently, one of the speakers mentioned a rather intense and unique spiritual exercise.  Set a pretend date for your own death in a month and then do everything necessary to prepare for that day.  In other words, what would you do if you only had a month to live and you knew you were about to meet God and face judgment—an eternal reward or punishment— in only a month?  What would you do if you knew exactly the date of your own death?

This brought to mind a song released by country singer Tim McGraw in 2004:  Live Like You Were Dying.  The song tries to inspire a person to live life to the fullest in the time remaining on earth.  Activities suggested included skydiving, mountain climbing, bull riding and other bucket-list activities.  I think the song finally reached much more spiritual depth when it spoke about loving deeper and giving forgiveness that long had been denied.  The dying person spoke about becoming the husband that most of the time he wasn’t and becoming a friend that a friend would like to have.  The song goes on to mention reading the good book (presumably the Bible) and ultimately facing eternity.

Well then, let me bring this to a more Catholic perspective.  All of us have limited time.  We have a shelf-life whose expiration date is known only to God.  Even if we are given 100 years or more on earth, what is that brief time compared to e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y?  Eternity is forever.  Remember that.  Church teaching is that we all will inevitably face death, judgment, heaven or hell at the end of our lives (the four last things).

What would you do if that step from eternity were only a month away?  Go ahead.  Set the date.  Pretend that it was only a month away.  What would you do to get your life completely in order?  Would you pray and go to Mass more frequently?  Begin now.  Would you make a good, sacramental confession like never before?  Start preparing now.  Would you forgive that person who has hurt you or ask forgiveness from someone you have hurt?  Make the phone call or write the letter today.  Would you find more time for your children or grandchildren?  Start now.  Would you visit that neglected parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend?  Just do it.  What in your life needs to be done so that when you meet God face to face and have to account for your life here on earth you will be ready—completely ready?

Then [the king] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  (Mt. 25:  41-46)
Why not give it a try?  Just think of how much more spiritually mature and prepared you would be after such a month of intense preparation!  Kinda like spiritual boot camp.  

Happy New Year!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tim McGraw

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Some Suggested Advent Preparations


Dear Parishioners,

I make three simple suggestions that I think will help you have a better experience of Advent, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

First, I suggest that we find some time each day to be quiet and pray.  Typically, we tend to be noisy and busy at work, at school or with various sports and activities throughout the course of the day.  We run around doing things continually—perhaps multi-tasking.  Can’t we find just 10 minutes to turn off the TV, computer, iPod, radio or other electronic devices?  Can’t we find a secluded spot where we can just sit, think, meditate and pray for a few minutes?  I am amazed that when I take a few moments to be quiet, to settle down and to allow God’s peace to fill the emptiness in my heart, I often become more refreshed and energized.  I am frequently more focused as I become aware of the presence of God at work in my life.

Second, I suggest making an integral, sacramental confessionFr. John A. Hardon, S.J. listed some of the spiritual and psychological benefits of confession as articulated by some of our recent popes:  self knowledge is increased, bad habits are corrected, conscience is purified, the will is strengthened, salutary self-control is attained, we become more sinless, we become more conformed to Jesus Christ, and we become more submissive to the Holy Spirit.  In addition, he points out a psychological value of confession:   “. . . The frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance contributes to the well-being of our mind.  In one declarative sentence, it is a divinely instituted means of giving us peace of soul.”  Many people, I think, could benefit immensely from going to confession frequently.  Even the best of secular therapists cannot forgive in the name of Christ nor impart grace (God’s life) which we find present regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Finally, I suggest that we do something for someone without expecting any return whatsoever.  Christmas is seen by many as a season of giving.  We exchange presents.  We buy things for family, friends and co-workers who will often do the same for us.  Why not do something for someone anonymously?  Why not help someone whom we know is unable to reciprocate?  It is really necessary to expect something in return?  Do we really have to be seen or noticed when we do something good?  I remind everyone that God sees what we do.

Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Mt. 6: 1-4)


Try to make the best of the remaining time that we have this Advent season!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Don’t Abandon the Faith!



Dear Parishioners,

If you feel like me at this point in our Catholic Church’s history, you are probably, at a minimum, confused and frustrated.  What’s going on here?   Where is our spiritual leadership?  Silence and continual delay in taking concrete actions do not help matters.  Clarity is woefully lacking on moral issues and theological teaching.  Help!  I’m falling!

To me, this is indeed a diabolical spiritual crisis of the greatest proportions.  How do we deal with a spiritual crisis of such magnitude?  I recall a story from Jesus’ ministry where the disciples could not cure someone and they looked to Jesus for the reason why they could not perform the miracle:

“I brought [my son] to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”  Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?  How long will I endure you?  Bring him here to me.”  Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured.  Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”  He said to them, “Because of your little faith.  Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Mt. 17: 16-20)
It was the lack of faith that Jesus pointed out as the reason for their inability to act. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8) We seem to be living in a time where supernatural faith is missing-in-action. At a time of spiritual warfare, this is certainly not a good situation. Faith must be nurtured before it is lost entirely.

Our faith tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, continues to remain with the Church He established.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)  He is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist, in the Sacred Scriptures, in all the Sacraments, and in His Mystical Body, the Church.  Undoubtedly, there will continue to be tribulations now as there was from the very moment when Jesus established His Church on St. Peter, the Rockwho had denied Him three times!  Need we also be reminded that eleven of the twelve Apostles were missing from the foot of the cross, and Judas—one of Christ’s hand-picked twelve—turned traitor?

Clearly, supernatural problems require supernatural solutions.  Prayer and fasting are a must.  Praying the Rosary daily has been continually requested by Our Lady:

The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families . . . that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.  Sister Lucia dos Santos (of Fatima)
The Blessed Mother’s intercession is absolutely essential to the solution:

Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother.  Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.  All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.  St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
I believe that the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph in the end.  Getting to that point, however, is definitely not for the faint of heart.  

Keep the faith!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Giving Thanks




Dear Parishioners,

With Thanksgiving approaching, I think it is always a good practice to take the time to say “thanks” to God for the many gifts and blessings that we have in life.

First of all, I thank God for what He has done in my life.  I thank Him for the gift of life itself, for health, for family, and for the gift of the ministerial priesthood.  I also give special thanks for you, my parishioners, whom I have the privilege of serving in Holy Angels Parish

For more than a decade, my family has joined me for dinner at whatever rectory where I have resided as pastor.  This year will be no exception.  I will cook the two turkeys and some of the sides while my family members will bring some of their specialty dishes.  We usually have over twenty people around the dinner table.  This year we will also celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday while the family is all together. 

I think that there is no better way to give “thanks” to God than by joining together for the Eucharist—the most perfect offering, the most perfect prayer of thanksgiving to God.  What a privilege to receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus our Savior!  We remember Him at every Mass when He took ordinary bread and wine and changed these elements into the inestimable gift of Himself for us!  Please make it a priority to join our parish family each week around the altar to give thanks.  Please join us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day (9 AM) as well!

The 1st Sunday of Advent begins on December 2nd and the new liturgical year commences.  While the Christmas season does not actually begin until Christmas eve, we are unfortunately driven by the consumer mentality that starts selling Christmas items as early as late summer.  By the time Christmas arrives, people are ready to take down decorations when the actual Christmas season is really just beginning.  Incidentally, the Christmas season ends this year on January 13th with the Baptism of the Lord.

I am still looking for a few people from our parish to participate in the Convocation of Catholic Leaders:  The Joy of the Gospel in South Jersey.  According to the diocese, this event (March 25-28, 2019) “will bring together pastors and representatives from every parish in the diocese for an intensive four days that, it is hoped, will have profound effect — both spiritually and practically — on the future of the diocese.”  Our bishop “has instructed every pastor to pick 10 delegates from his parish to attend.  Ideally, the delegates will represent different heritages, backgrounds, ages and viewpoints — and include parishioners who have gifts and talents yet to be tapped.”  If you feel inspired to step up and become more of a servant-leader (missionary disciple) within our parish, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can discern your potential and inform you of all the details of the event.

Finally, thanks to all who have made a commitment to our parish by your gift or pledge to our Catholic Strong campaign.  Remember that 70% of all money collected stays right here in the parish so that we can accomplish what we need to do here, whether it be ministerial programs or a necessary repair or maintenance issue to one of our many buildings.  Please be kind to our volunteers when they call!

On behalf of all our clergy and staff, have a happy, blessed Thanksgiving with your families!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil!”





Dear Parishioners,

In my 4th grade classroom—many, many moons ago—a certain incident occurred where the religious sister in charge tried to get to the bottom of an apparent theft.  As I recall, something was allegedly taken from her desk and no one in the class wanted to own up to it.  Her solution to finding out the culprit was to have each of us look at the crucifix and acknowledge our guilt or innocence before the Lord.  Tell the truth and shame the devil! she exhorted us.  Funny how I still remember this day with its many details and the moral teaching (honesty, truthfulness, integrity) she tried to convey to her young, impressionable students.

I think that this lesson can be applied in various situations today, beginning with ourselves.  We should make an examination of conscience each and every day of our lives.  This might be best suited to (but is not limited to) bedtime.  Looking honestly at our actions of the day, perhaps kneeling before a crucifix, keeps us humble and focused on what I have done and what I have failed to do—words we recite during the Confiteor at Mass.  This daily examen can help us prepare properly for a thorough confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

In addition to frequent confession, I urge people to be brutally honest in confession.  If we were standing (or more appropriately prostrate) before God on Judgment Day, instead of being in the confessional, there will be no rationalization, no justification, no ambiguity.  No one is ever going to make Almighty God the fool.  While the priest is the minister of the sacrament, God is the Ultimate Judge.  Imagine what it is like to see ourselves as God sees us and not as we want to present ourselves to others.  God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.  (1 Sam. 16: 7)  Still, we should be ever confident of God’s abundant mercy, when we are honest with Him and with ourselves.

The home is the first classroom and parents are the first teachers.  Do as I say and not as I do never made any sense to me.  If you want your kids to be honest, then do not lie to them.  If you want your children to do the right things, then you need to set the example.  Children, like sponges, absorb many things.
   
Another situation calling for honesty and integrity is in the daily workplace or school.  Have I become complacent with little white lies, gossip, “borrowing” things from the workplace/school and not returning them, etc.?  Do I hide or compromise my religious beliefs in order to be politically correct?  Can I be trusted?  Ponder these words of wisdom for a few moments:  The true test of character is what I would do even if no one ever found out.  In truth, God sees everything.  Yes, everything.

At this point in history, we need much more honesty and integrity in the Church universal.  When the US bishops meet next week in Baltimore, will there be truth and transparency regarding the never-ending priest sex abuse scandal, or will we see some well-crafted statements prepared by attorneys or media experts?  Will any guilty bishops actually be held accountable?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  We need more thorough answers and not silence in response to all of Archbishop ViganĂ²’s allegations.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  Is any sign of remorse or admission of guilt forthcoming from the disgraced Archbishop McCarrick?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  I could go on and on.

Admitting guilt, taking responsibility, and telling the truth often require courage and adherence to a properly-formed conscience.  While it may be easier to lie so as to protect one’s image and reputation, the truth will come out in the end.  

Better that it occurs now, before eternity is spent in company with the Father of Lies.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You Are Not Alone


Dear Parishioners,

When I first announced to people years ago that I was going to be a priest, many people were very supportive.  Their encouragement and prayers eventually brought me to the altar as a priest.

Occasionally, there were a few who thought I was a little crazy.  (I will concede that there is some truth to their judgment.  To know me is to affirm that insight.)
 
Yet there is one comment that haunts me to this day.  It was from two people whom I thought I knew pretty well.  I was really taken back by what they said:  “You don’t want to do that.  It’s such a lonely life.  You don’t want to be a priest.”

Such a lonely life?  After all these years, were they right?

I think there are moments in all of our lives when we feel somewhat alone.  I think it’s inevitable.  From past experience even married couples I know have told me that they can be in the same house, same room, even the same bed, and still feel very much alone at times.

Didn’t even Jesus experience a feeling of being alone as his apostles slept when He asked them to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Mt. 26: 36-46, Mk. 14: 32-42, or Lk. 22: 39-46) What about Jesus’ cry from the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15: 34b)  These words (apparently quoted from Psalm 22:2) seem to reflect utter isolation and abandonment.  Talk about being alone!

What about me?  Although I sometimes feel alone, I can’t really say that my life is lonely.

My life, most days, is surrounded by people.  There are those I see at Mass every day, the children at school and in religious education, and those in parish organizations, committees, and ministries.

My day is also blessed by an awareness of the presence of God mysteriously working in and through my life.  This has been a gift from my youngest days.

What I truly treasure beyond everything else, however, is a profound sense of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Faith tells me Jesus is here, right here, every day on the altar and in the tabernacle.  I love to spend quiet time in His presence.  The more I spend time with Him, the more I hunger for Him. It’s a special time with the One I love and was ordained to serve.  I was ordained to be an instrument of Jesus’ presence in the world.  I believe that spending time with Him transforms me more and more into a priest in His image.

Am I lonely?

Not really.

As long as I have Jesus with me, I am never really alone or lonely.

Spend some extended time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and see what I mean!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Spiritual Considerations from my Trappist Retreat


The chapel at the Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

Having recently returned from my retreat with the Trappist monks, I certainly had much time to think and pray.  My stay at the monastery was a type of desert experience, withdrawing from the world and primarily praying the Liturgy of the Hours and concelebrating daily Mass with the monks.

Coming back to my parish routine, I realize just how noisy our world is.  We seem to be controlled and dominated by the internet, the television, the radio, our cell phones, etc.  These factors make it very difficult to listen to God.  Silence is very necessary to our daily lives if we want to have a serious spiritual life.

What did God say to me in the silence?  Please bear with me as I try briefly to summarize my thoughts here.  I will attempt to elaborate on these reflections on my blog (More Thoughts and Writings) subsequently.

We are in a period of intense spiritual warfare and confusion in the world.  If we just ignore the signs of the time and go on with our routines, at some point—perhaps at a time of sickness or death—we will have a serious spiritual awakening.  We need to pay close attention to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and to the over 2000 years of rich tradition faithfully handed down to us in the Catholic Church.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  (1 Peter 5: 8-9)

Satan is very real.  As God is the essence of love, the devil, in contrast, is pure evil.  He hates humanity.  He tries to destroy it, debase it, confuse it, cause it to abandon the true God and serve false gods.

  • The destruction of humanity.  Think of the destruction of our preborn children by the millions.  Consider the continual violence, war and terrorism throughout the world.         
  • The debasement of humanity.  Pornography reduces the human person to base animal acts rather than life-giving love. Artificial contraception and abortion throw human fertility back in the face of God claiming a type of absolute control of our “reproductive rights.” The rampant addictive behavior (drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, etc.) of so many illustrates a loss of control within human nature.
  • The confusion of humanity.  We are facing many scandals in the Church, the undermining of the moral credibility of the church hierarchy, the questioning of traditional institutions such as marriage and family, etc.
  • The abandonment of the true God.  Consider the outright denial of God, the apostasy in the Church, the lukewarm or abandoned practice of the faith by the majority, etc.
  • Serving false gods.  Materialism, secularism, the “sports” god, hedonism, the “sex” god, etc. have all taken the place of the true God for far too many.

Humanity, as a whole, is not in a good place in its relationship to God.  Yes, there are some (a faithful remnant) who take the message of the Gospel seriously and repent.  However, for far too many there is indifference, apathy, ignorance, or outright opposition to God.

During this month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary, may I recommend that we pick up our rosaries and seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

We no doubt need supernatural help in this battle!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

The chapel from outside

Our Lady of the Genesee

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Thoughts (Worries) from a Trappist Monastery



Dear Parishioners,

As I write this letter to you I am on retreat with the Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY.  Mass has just finished and I grabbed a few pieces of toasted Monks' Bread (the major means of income for this monastery) before I sat down to write.  I will be working in the specialty bakery (where they bake items like biscotti and other specialty items) later today.

There are some practical matters that I must tend to, even while on retreat.  As with all of the other parishes of the Camden Diocese we have recently begun our Catholic Strong campaign.  You might have noticed the banners or signs around some of our buildings and grounds.  Like many of my fellow priests, I enjoy being a priest and taking care of my sacramental duties.  However, the cross that most pastors must face is the everyday administration of the parish.

Let's face it, who would want to take over a parish that currently has 12 buildings [3 churches and a worship site, 3 rectories, 2 school buildings, a ministry center (former convent or carriage house), a  convent, a recently purchased property (81 Cooper St.) intended as a future parish office building] and 2 garages.  The parish also has $2.5 million in current debt. 

To remedy some of this situation, we are under contract to sell the entire campus of the former Most Holy Redeemer Church.  This sale will lessen our total buildings by 4 and help to reduce some of the accumulated debt. 

Next, concerns how our Catholic Strong campaign is vital to the future of this parish.  Many of our building are old and in need of repair.  The roof in St. Patrick Church is leaking near the area where the choir sings.  Heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) are antiquated in various buildings.  For instance, the rectory at 64 Cooper St. is steam heated with a boiler nearing the end of its life.  Various sidewalks and driveways need repair.  Please note the driveway heading into the school property from Green Ave.  The retaining wall around St. Matthew Church is falling down.  The newly purchased building at 81 Cooper St. needs considerable work before we can completely move in (some construction and repair including replacement windows, bathrooms, internet access, security cameras, phone system, furniture, etc.)  This is just some of what we know needs to be done.  What about the unexpected?  Need I go on?

Bishop Sullivan set up the Catholic Strong campaign so that 70% of all money raised stays in the parish for its use.  This is unheard of as diocesan capital campaigns go.  The remaining 30% goes to support diocesan programs intended to directly aid the parishes.  This is not the same as the annual House of Charity appeal which is geared primarily towards various diocesan programs.

Does it seem like a great time to be asking for your financial help?  Are you kidding me?  Of course not.  However, there is far too much to be done at the local parish level that will only get worse if it is continually neglected.  I can only make my case and trust that you will consider what you have to do in your own homes regarding regular maintenance, upkeep and repair.  Now multiply this by about a dozen or so aging or antiquated buildings and you see what the parish is up against.  Moreover, in terms of parish ministry, we want to put some money aside for the evangelization and support of youth and young families.

If I or one of the members of the parish team calls to ask for your help, please take the time to listen and respond.  I hate asking anyone for money.  However, it is on behalf of your parish and our future that we ask your financial help.

Now I need to get back to some serious prayer.  Please pray for me as I will for you.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor                 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Clean-Up or Cover-Up?




Dear Parishioners,

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (also called Confession) is meant to help an individual turn back to God, be forgiven of sin and restores a relationship with God and the Church that was damaged by sin.  The sacrament involves various components:  an examination of conscience, the confession of sin, an act of contrition, a purpose of amendment, and the fulfillment of the assigned penance.  When used properly, it is a supernatural means towards effecting a conversion in one’s life—a turning away from sin and a turning back to God.  The sacrament involves God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy and love.

A simple way of looking at the sacrament is as the cleansing of one’s soul—a spiritual clean-up.  There is a restoration back to the baptismal innocence we once had, if we are honest and do not deliberately conceal or hide sin in the sacrament and we are truly sorry (and not just going through the motions).  The priest is the instrument of God’s forgiveness and grace because Christ does the forgiving.  That is why, despite the personal sinfulness of any individual priest, Christ still forgives.

A Catholic can make the choice not to avail himself or herself of the sacrament for a short time or even a lifetime.  A person can conceal certain sins because of guilt or embarrassment:   I can never tell that sin to the priest!  A person might misunderstand how Christ acts in the sacrament through the priest:  I’m not going to tell my sins to those hypocrites!  They need to get their act together first!  A person may decide to go directly to God forgetting that all the other sacraments of the Church employ the working of us weak, sinful human beings.  Christ set it up this way using the apostles as clear examples of the first weak, sinful human instruments that He personally called.

When one chooses to deny the invitation to grace and forgiveness in the sacrament, it results in a type of cover-up. There may be the outward appearance that things are fine, but inside there is still hidden, unforgiven sin.  This cover-up provides no healing, no forgiveness, no mercy.

I thought about applying these principles of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation to the sinfulness within the Church during the ongoing priest sex-scandal.  Are we trying to clean-up or cover-up the mess?  A spiritual clean-up would involve looking seriously at what was done (an examination of conscience) with complete transparency and honesty.  What was done wrong must be confessed (not lied about, kept silent or deliberately concealed to save face). If moral scandals or crimes were committed they should be acknowledged as such.  True, heartfelt sorrow in word and action (contrition) must be visibly expressed and not just some pious platitudes recited, or legally-constructed public statements made.  There must be a desire that this never happens again (a purpose of amendment) and the example set from the top of the Church (pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, etc.) on down.  Maybe there needs to be some resignations submitted at this point.  Public and private penance (especially by the Church’s clergy) needs to be done for the sanctification of the Church.  A life of prayer and penance, which a priest should already be practicing, needs to be taken seriously.

As I try to navigate through the current tempest and the various storms which lie ahead, I hope and pray for the Lord to calm the situation as He did for the apostles at sea (See Mk. 4: 35-41).  

I plan to pray for all of you next week as I make my annual retreat with the Trappist monks.  Please pray for me.  I depend on it.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Seeking "Truth"




Dear Parishioners,

Democrats or Republicans?  Devin Nunes or Adam Schiff?  CNN or Fox News?  Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford?  Archbishop Vigano or Pope Francis?  Whom should I believe?

There’s a tremendous amount of confusion circulating today.  My head continues to throb daily as I, like many people, question and seek out the truth.  Pilate once questioned Jesus as He stood before him in judgment:  What is truth?  (Jn. 18: 38) It seems we are still looking for the answer to this question.

Going back to my days as a philosophy major in college, truth is defined as the conformity of the mind to reality.  Jesus declared himself to be the way, the truth and the life. (Jn. 14:6) If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God Incarnate, then we had better pay close attention to Him and His teaching.  Contrast this with Satan who is seen as the father of lies and we can begin to see the battle lines being drawn.

Lies and deception can potentially take place in any situation, circumstance and institution—unfortunately, even in the Catholic Church.  That is how we find ourselves in cover-ups and scandals.  The reason why a person traditionally was sworn in (with a hand on the bible) when giving testimony or taking an oath of office is to call God as a witness to what is being said “so help me God.”   When someone lies under oath, this is seen as committing the crime/sin of perjury.

Unfortunately, oaths and vows before God apparently are not taken too seriously anymore by far too many.  Married couples walk away from their marriage vows exchanged with each other before God.  Priests and religious are seen breaking their promises/vows of celibacy or chastity.  While people my not admit to lying under oath, they may have lapses of memory, inadequate recall or parse words or phrases.  “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”  Sound familiar?

When searching for the truth, we need to look to Jesus.  We need to look to the Gospel and its eternal wisdom:
 
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (Jn. 3: 19-21)

When no wrong is done, there is absolutely nothing to hide.  There is no need for continual silence, stalling tactics, deflection, or cover-ups.  This is true in politics, church management, and in a person’s personal life and morality.

To the faithful Catholics in the pews, I predict the days ahead will get even more ugly as hidden things are brought to light with ongoing investigations state by state.  While the Catholic Church is the current focus, the deep secrets of many other institutions will no doubt reveal universal sins/crimes and cover-ups as was the case recently in Australia (see the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse).  Jesus and His Church will endure in the end.  He promised it would. (See Mt. 16: 17-19) However, it can be relatively certain that there will be many battle scars and casualties.  

There already has been.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor