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 23, 2018

Praying for the Dead



Dear Parishioners,

As we approach the month of November, we should consider the importance of remembering and praying for the dead.  We begin with two notable liturgical celebrations--All Saints and All Souls days.  St. Paul reminds us ". . . Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."  (Phil. 3:20)
 
Saints are destined for heaven.  Once their lives are finished on earth they will spend eternity enjoying the Beatific Vision--the "Face" of God--in God's time and according to God's plan.  Many saints will not be officially canonized and placed on the church calendar.  However, the Solemnity of All Saints reminds us of all those intercessors in heaven closely united with God who pray for us. (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 956)  Where they have gone, we hope to follow someday.  They have been called the Church Triumphant.  Just as we may ask a friend here on earth to say a prayer for us, we can ask the saints in heaven to pray to God for us.  Once they reach heaven, they no longer need our prayers but they can certainly pray and make intercession on our behalf.
 
While we may hope that our deceased relatives and friends are in heaven, we do not have that absolute certainty simply because of our hoping or desiring it to be so.  While our Christian funerals are meant to strengthen our hope in eternal life, they are not meant to be canonizations.  Only God knows the ultimate destiny of any soul as he alone knows the disposition of the person when he or she dies.  Did the person die in the state of grace or not?  We can only hope and pray.  We should pray.

Still, we can take great consolation if a person receives the last rites of the church-- the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  I remind people constantly that the sacraments are for the living and we should not wait until a person dies (if at all possible) to call for the priest.  If the person is homebound, elderly, on hospice, in the hospital, terminally ill, etc. let the priest know so that a pastoral visit can be arranged.  Moreover, we should all try to be living continually in the state of grace and not be conscious of any mortal or serious sin.  The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) is the ordinary means that we have to keep the fullness of God's life (grace) alive in us.  God's mercy will be given if we but ask for it!

All Souls Day reminds us that we should pray for the dead.  Our prayers can help them if they are in a state of purification that we call purgatory.  Remember that if someone is in heaven, they do not need our prayers.  If they die not in the state of grace, being unrepentant, obstinate, and alienated from God--thus being in a state of hell or eternal separation from God--our prayers cannot help them.  Church teaching encourages us to pray and to offer Mass for the dead.  The greatest spiritual gift that we can give to our deceased loved ones is to have a Mass offered for them.  The Catholic Mass is a re-presentation of the offering of Jesus himself on the cross. We have no better intercessor with the Father than Jesus who suffered and died for us.

Souls in purgatory, in a state of cleansing or purification--what I like to refer to as the fringes of heaven--can pray for us as we can assist them on their eventual journey to heaven.  They have been referred to as the Church Suffering, in regard to their temporarily being kept from the fullness of heaven.
 
Finally, members of the Church on earth are saints-in-potential.  As baptized Christians, part of the Body of Christ, while we are alive in Christ Jesus, our ultimate destiny is heaven.  Only our choice to sin gravely, to put ourselves out of the state of God's life, His grace, will keep us from that path.  We are the Church Militant, currently battling sin and evil.  

"So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones [saints] and members of the household of God. . . ." (Eph. 2:19)

May we live up to our calling!
 
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Bible on Beads




Dear Parishioners,

In my previous parish, my predecessor as pastor put out a challenge to the parishioners to read the bible each day.  He even distributed bibles to anyone who asked for one.  Being a priest who majored in Sacred Scripture in the seminary, how could I not be an advocate of such an initiative?

While I still believe in the importance of reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, I also think that our turbulent times necessitate a revival/renewal of an ancient, time-tested practice--praying the daily rosary.  After all, these are days of intense spiritual warfare and in such circumstances we need spiritual weapons to do battle.

The history of the holy rosary reveals its power combating heresy (against the Albigensians) and providing victory in battle (the battle of Lepanto).  It was requested by our Lady herself during various Church approved Marian apparitions (Fatima).  It has tremendous spiritual benefits for those who faithfully pray it.

Simply stated, the rosary traces the highlights of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ and the life of his Mother Mary as found in Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition.  It is, in a sense, the bible on beads.  W can use the rosary to help us spiritually each day as we recall  and reflect on various mysteries of our faith and our salvation.

The repetition of the prayers is meant to help us get into a spiritual rhythm and a reflective mindset.  The meditation on the mysteries helps us to recall and reinforce essential truths of our faith.  The rosary also seeks the intercession of Our Lady who is essential to the plan for our salvation.  She is our spiritual mother guiding us and accompanying us on our journey of life.

If you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of praying the rosary or do not know the various mysteries given for meditation, these can be found very easily online and then printed out for reference.  The rosary has evolved with time even adding elements such as the Fatima prayer and the Luminous Mysteries.

The challenge that I put out to all of you who will read this is to pray the holy rosary daily.  Maybe it has to start with simply praying a decade each day (before going to bed?), but I hope that it will grow into a devotion that will bring much peace and consolation to your soul.  May I suggest that you pray it with the intention of bringing back to the faith someone in your family or among your friends who has left the Catholic faith or no longer practices it.  That intention should keep us all busy for quite some  time.

October is the month traditionally dedicated to the holy rosary.  Take the time to strengthen, renew or begin this devotion in your personal spiritual life and in the life of your family.  Rosaries are usually available in the back of the churches and worship center.  If we run out we will get some more!     

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Our Lady of Fatima and the 3 Visionaries

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