Tuesday, June 11, 2019

An Eternal Exchange of Love




Dear Parishioners,

On this Trinity Sunday, I share some reflections on the Holy Trinity—this profound mystery of our faith.
 
First, we should realize that Jesus opened up for us the inner life of God.  He revealed that God was a Trinity of Persons.  Recall, the Jewish people were strict monotheists—Hear O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! (Dt. 6: 4)—and they held on to this belief despite being surrounded, invaded and conquered by various polytheistic cultures (e.g., Rome).  However, Jesus began to teach his disciples God is Father—His Father—and this must have caused significant concern for those around Him.  He equated Himself with God, His Father:  The Father and I are one.  (Jn. 10:30)  What exactly does He mean?  He also promised to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples once He was gone:  But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  (Jn, 16: 7)  There is no natural way that we could figure out on our own that God was a Trinity of Persons without Jesus revealing this mystery to us.

Next, we are told that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8)  Therefore, the experience of love itself seems to indicate that there should be a lover and a beloved.  Within the Trinity, the Father loves the Son from all eternity and the Son loves the Father from all eternity.  The love between the two is also a Person:  The Holy Spirit.  “God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:  God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC # 221)

I contend that things in this world reflect and model for us certain eternal truths (albeit imperfectly) and help us to understand some mysteries of our faith better.  Take the example of a family.  A husband loves his wife and the wife loves her husband.  Their love for each other can be manifest in a child who is the result of their love for each other.  In essence, there is a type of a trinitarian love involved here:  the love between husband, wife and child.  Again, the example is not perfect as God is uncreated, but it does shed some light on an otherwise complicated topic.

Another example from our life experience helps us with our understanding the Trinity.  Take H2O which can appear in nature as water, steam or ice.  All three have the same chemical composition but can appear in different forms depending on temperature.  This helps us to see how something can be three and one at the very same time.  Our belief in the Holy Trinity teaches that there are Three Divine Persons in the One True God.

Every time you make the Sign of the Cross, think about how we acknowledge our belief in the Holy Trinity.  By God’s immense love for us, we are invited to share in the life of the Trinity and to dwell one day within that eternal exchange of love. 

The whole idea can be mind-boggling.
.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Reading Another Pastor's Letter




Dear Parishioners,

The following letter was composed by a priest-friend (who attended college seminary with me) to his parishioners back in 2013.  He is now deceased after battling some serious illness.  I thought that you might like to reflect on the letter as I did.  I will add some personal commentary afterwards.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Over the past several months, I have received numerous letters and concerned comments regarding poor manners at church.  In one sense, we should not be surprised at the lack of proper respect and dress at church, because we live in a very casual world where many people have forgotten manners and discipline.  However, manners, whether at Mass or in other situations, reveal the value we place on each other and God: think about the term “Sunday best.”  With respect to our dress, we live in a society where even corporate America has changed to casual attire. However, some of those companies have or are revisiting this policy because of the psychology of dress: our dress assists us in the ways in which we behave.  More and more, I see casual attire at weddings and funerals, which were always considered “dress-up” events.  Many people have lost all sense of basic politeness, like holding the door open for someone, especially a lady, particularly an expectant mother or an elderly person.  (I was raised to be a gentleman, so call me old fashioned if you like.)  Seldom do the words “please” and “thank you” echo in our ears.

While we may not be surprised at such a state of affairs, we should not condone it or lower ourselves to embrace this standard.  Each of us should strive for better manners, especially “Church Manners.”

Therefore, as a Priest and one who was raised by good, diligent parents, I will present what I consider good Church Manners.

First, let us start at how we prepare for Mass. People should dress appropriately. In our society, we still consider coat and tie for men and dresses or suits for women appropriate attire for weddings, for special parties (even Christmas parties) and certainly for meeting dignitaries, like the Pope or the President.  We should then dress in the same way to meet our Lord, present in the Holy Eucharist.  Granted, perhaps in the summer we could be a little more casual, but we can still be neat, clean, and properly clothed.  Frankly, shorts and beach wear are an inappropriate form of dress for Church.  In deciding what to wear, we should be thinking, “I am dressing to meet my Lord and to participate in the mystery of my salvation.”

Before leaving home, we should make sure we go to the bathroom.  People going in and out of the pews during Mass for the bathroom is distracting. Granted, there are legitimate reasons for having to use the bathroom during Mass.  However, I think that some of us have just gotten into a routine: during the homily, go to the bathroom; during Communion, get the drink of water.  Frankly, when I was growing up, I don’t think our church even had a public bathroom, because we were taught by the Sisters and reinforced by our parents not leave that pew except to receive Holy Communion.

Next, leave home with time to arrive at church before Mass begins, preferably about five or 10 minutes.  Doing so allows everyone to have a few moments for prayer and to be ready to participate in the Mass.  Granted, circumstances arise which will delay a family.  Such a situation is different from the perpetually late.

When entering the church, be sure to make the sign of the cross with the Holy Water; this gesture reminds us of our baptism and does dispel evil.  Before entering the pew, be sure to genuflect, an important act of reverence to the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.  Also, please turn off the cell phones and [other devices], not only to give some undivided attention to God, but also to spare everyone else the distraction of a phone ringing or other electronic devices sounding during Mass.

In worshiping, participate in the songs and prayers, follow the readings and listen attentively to the homily.  In all my Priesthood, I have been surprised at those “pillars” that never open their mouths to sing or pray.  Parents should help their children: last Sunday, I saw a mother following the readings with her finger so her two young children could more easily and attentively read.  In all, everyone should joyfully and reverently participate in the Mass.

Parents need to supervise their children.  Jesus loves and welcomes children, but they do need our help.  If a child is fussy, then the parent should quickly take the child to the Narthex or to the Children’s Chapel to allow the child to calm down before returning.  Children should not be allowed to rattle keys, drop toys, kick the pews or run in the aisles.  These behaviors are enormously distracting.  Parents simply need to be parents, using good judgment and discipline with the little ones.

When receiving Holy Communion, always do so reverently.  Remind ourselves that when we receive the Consecrated Host, we should be very conscious that we are receiving the same Lord who was born for us on Christmas Day; the same Jesus who died for us on Good Friday; the same Jesus who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven!  If receiving on the hand, the hands must be clean and held like a throne for the Lord.  After receiving, one should consume the Sacred Host before turning around to go back to the pew.  Holy Communion must not be reminiscent of a cafeteria line experience, but rather of an encounter with the glorified Lord.

After Communion, each person must give thanks for the precious gift received and allow the grace to fill our souls.  How tragic it is to see people leave Mass right after Communion, not because of an emergency, but because they want to get out of the parking lot first.  I can only think of Judas, who was the first person ever to leave Mass early.  To give the Lord one hour — and usually less — for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is really not much of a sacrifice.  I wonder how these same people would feel if someone left their own home in the middle of a meal without even saying thank you.

Finally, after the Mass is concluded with the blessing, wait until the priest has proceeded down the aisle before leaving the pew.  The congregation should disperse only after the recessional hymn has concluded.  However, before leaving the pew, be sure to put the hymnal back in its holder and pick up used tissues or other items; otherwise, someone else has to attend to them.

While I am sure that this list is not exhaustive, I have witnessed all of these actions as a Priest.  I do not want to seem cynical or condescending, but only teach proper respect for the Mass we love to celebrate.

Saint Joseph, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death!

Blessings,

Fr. Ogden
(Former) Pastor, St, Joseph Church, Mechanicsburg, PA


Personally, I add the following to Fr. Ogden’s observations:

Please do not bring food and drink into the Church and pews.  I have seen people entering Church carrying Wawa coffee cups and other inappropriate items.  While someone may need water for medical reasons, other food and beverages break the Eucharistic fast (generally 1 hour) and are not to be brought into Church.

In a former parish (and recently here), as I was beginning to preach the homily at a Mass, someone actually began clipping fingernails in front of me.  Can you imagine something more rude and distracting than to hear click, click, click, while trying to preach the Word of God?  In Church?  Really?

While I am not against people socializing (fellowship) when they see each other at Mass, please remember that people come to Church to pray and to find quiet time with the Lord.  Please do not become a distraction to those trying to find quiet time and certainly keep the socializing out of the sanctuary area.

Remember that we come to Mass primarily to worship the Lord.  Anything that was mentioned here is only meant to help all of us to remember why we attend Mass and always to do so with reverence and respect.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


1958-2015
Diocese of Harrisburg, PA

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Spiritual "Triple-Header"



Dear Parishioners,

During the next three weeks, the weekend Masses will celebrate some very significant mysteries of our faith:  Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ).

Pentecost Sunday recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Jesus promised that when he left this world He would send His Spirit to strengthen and guide His disciples.  The Holy Spirit continues to direct the Church and to remind us of what Jesus taught. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us (#688) about the Holy Spirit and the Church:
The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:
- in the Scriptures he inspired;
- in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;
- in the Church's Magisterium, which he assists;
- in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ;

- in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;
- in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;
- in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;
- in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation
.

Trinity Sunday focuses on the mystery of the Triune Godhead as revealed to us by Jesus.  Recall that the Jewish people were strict monotheists.  It must have been quite a startling revelation for them that the One True God is a unity of three Divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus made known the mystery of the Trinity for us. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life.  God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (CCC, #261) This teaching is not something that we would be able to figure out for ourselves without God’s revelation.

 

Corpus Christi (which is celebrated in the universal Church on a Thursday—the day of the Last Supper-- but moved to Sunday in the United States) is all about the gift of the Holy Eucharist.  How can the Son of God be truly present under the form of bread and wine?  The Catechism instructs us:
 
It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way.  Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us "to the end," even to the giving of his life.  In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love. (CCC, #1380)
Volumes have been written and countless sermons preached over the centuries on each of these topics.  From a pragmatic point of view, why not take time during the next few weeks to reflect on the wisdom of the Catechism as it tries to enlighten us about our Catholic faith?  We should continually seek greater understanding and clarity as we try to delve more deeply into the precious mysteries of our faith that have been revealed to us.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

" . . . The Father is Greater than I."




Dear Parishioners,

This week’s Gospel contains a phrase that can sometimes be misunderstood or misinterpreted.  Placing it in its proper context in the Gospel of St. John, we have a section from Jesus’ farewell discourse (John, Chapters 14-17).  Jesus speaks to His eleven Apostles after Judas had left the Last Supper to betray Him.  Jesus states in His teaching “. . . The Father is greater than I.  (Jn. 14:2)  In what sense is this meant?  How can it be true?

There was a heresy in the early Church (4th century) called Arianism.  A priest from Alexandria in Egypt, Arius denied the divinity of Jesus, basically holding that Christ was created by God the Father and not equal (consubstantial or of one substance) with the Father.  This heresy was denounced at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), from which we have the creed that we profess every week at Sunday Mass (Nicene Creed).  In this creed we hear that Jesus was consubstantial with the Father.

Moreover, we read in St. John’s Gospel from its first verse:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  (Jn. 1:1)  The Word (Jesus) was God.  

Later in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with the Divine Name for God (YHWH or I AM) rarely uttered by any Jew.  So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’” (Jn. 8: 57-58) They picked up rocks to stone Him because they thought He was guilty of blasphemy—making Himself equal to God.

With all of this background, how then is the Father greater than Jesus?

Let’s read some further Scripture passages:

[Jesus] who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb. 2:8)

[Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2: 6-8)

In His human nature, Jesus was lower than the angels, and now subject to suffering and death.  He submitted His will to that of His Father as seen in the agony in the garden: “My Father,  if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt. 26:39)  From the perspective of Jesus’ humanity, the Father was greater than Jesus.  However, Jesus never ceased to be fully God, fully divine and consubstantial with the Father.

Remember, there is no one exactly like Jesus (the God-Man).  The Church had to find ways to explain the mystery of God becoming man with all of its implications, without teaching something erroneous.

If you think that theology is something easy to grasp and to teach precisely, try spending some time contemplating the various mysteries of our faith such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, Transubstantiation, the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conceptionetc., and then present them to others without veering off into heresy.  

It’s no small task!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Confusion or Clarity?



Dear Parishioners,

One thing I hopefully learned through my extensive seminary training (in both philosophy and theology) was to be a more critical thinker.  I do not usually take what is told to me as gospel without first dissecting it thoroughly while thinking about it over some extended time.  Don’t be surprised if I tend to pick apart statements and examine word usage.  (Maybe, at times, I analyze some matters too much.)

Over time, I have learned to sift through arguments that were based solely on emotion rather than fact.  I tend more readily to recognize ad hominem attacks on people which have nothing to do their actual stated beliefs.  I look for theological statements to contain genuine substance and for preciseness in doctrine rather than buy into buzz-words and catch-phrases.  I want consistency, clarity and minimal ambiguity.  Maybe this is because I had to stand in front of high school students for a couple of decades trying to articulate the faith as unambiguously as possible.

So, what do I make of some of the confusion that currently exists in the Church?  This situation definitely does not help believers (or even non-believers).  What has infiltrated the Church has been referred to as a “weaponized ambiguity.”  Can divorced and re-married Catholics receive Holy Communion?  Can homosexual unions be sanctioned by the Church?  Is abortion ever justified?  Are Catholics who practice artificial contraception in the state of mortal sin?  It seems to depend with whom you speak.  You can get a different answer to each of the above—sometimes with a wink and a nod—from priests, bishops, theologians, etc.

This vagueness creates havoc with our objective morality and tends to legitimize a moral relativism (situation ethics).  Sin, despite its gravity, becomes a subjective opinion rather than an objective truth.  The danger in all of this uncertainty and confusion is that eternal souls may be lost forever in the process.  It is our obligation in the Catholic Church to lead people to Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and not back to one’s misinformed, erroneous conscience.

As a confessor for over thirty years, people have told me stories about how Father told me that it was not a sin or that Father told me just to follow my conscience.  In actuality, priests like me are not helping anyone by hiding the truth from them and leaving them in the state of sin.  Making a person feel good about himself or herself for a time never truly addresses or remedies any immoral act and its consequences.  If sin is truly bad, people don’t need to be enslaved by it but rather freed from it.  Sin and evil don’t suddenly become something else by our willing it so, our misnaming it or our justifying it.  And in order to follow our conscience, it needs to be rightly-formed.

There are about 2000 years of Catholic Church teaching we are able to reference to find what various saints, councils, pontiffs, etc. have articulated through the years.  While our understanding of Church doctrine may mature with time, no officially defined dogma or traditionally held teaching can be radically changed or suddenly eliminated.  Be a critical thinker and especially take the time to investigate anything that seems strange or contrary to any long-standing doctrine or moral teaching.  It is much better to be safe than eternally sorry.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Remembering and Understanding Our Sacred Tradition



Dear Parishioners,

When I finished high school and was accepted for admission to a college seminary to study for the priesthood, I was told at the time that I needed to study both Latin and Greek—two years of each.  I had no familiarity with either language up to then.  Since we belong to the Latin or Roman Rite—we are Roman Catholics—the study of ecclesiastical Latin provided me with some valuable background for what is still our official church language.  (Moreover, Koine or biblical Greek would prove very beneficial for my understanding of Sacred Scripture.)

At times, various people will reference Vatican II (the Second Vatican Council) and not know what the documents from that ecumenical council actually say.  Sacrosanctum Concillium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, actually states the following:  Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites (#36).  It certainly makes no sense to me to disregard approximately two thousand years of our precious history and tradition.

That is why, at various times during the liturgical year, I encourage our musicians to introduce various elements of Latin and Greek into our liturgy—specifically, the Kyrie (Greek) and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Latin) during the seasons of Advent and Lent.  By now, if we regularly attend Mass, we should all know the English translations for the above as the Lord, Have Mercy, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Lamb of God.  This variation also gives us an opportunity to experience Gregorian Chant, another significant tradition from our musical heritage.  I have suggested that we change our routine during Advent and Lent since these liturgical seasons are meant to be different from Ordinary Time.

Interestingly enough, my experience in the classroom has shown me that if it is presented in a positive manner, children are receptive to learning these parts of the Mass in the ancient languages.  (I have received much more resistance from others of slightly older generations who seem to have an aversion or even disgust for anything considered pre-Vatican II).

Someone once disparagingly reminded me how Latin is no longer a spoken or conversational language.  It is used for the liturgy and in church documents and writings.  Interestingly enough, as a result, it allows this ancient language to be unique and set aside for sacred matters, like addressing God in prayer.  Keeping something as special or reserved for God alone seems like quite a novel idea, doesn't it!  Maybe its use would reflect a bit more reverence above and beyond the colloquial language that we use for everyone and everything else.  Just saying!
   
I leave you with the following Latin motto which one of my seminary professors used to inscribe atop his papers and handouts: A.M.D.G.Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.  It is the motto of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, of which Pope Francis is a member.  May all things be done for the greater glory of God!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

 Gregorian Chant

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Formed




Dear Parishioners,

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  Alleluia!

Please realize that we continue to celebrate the glorious Easter event--the bodily Resurrection of Jesus--right through the celebration of Pentecost (June 9, 2019).  The joy of Easter cannot be contained in a single day, but the Church gives us an entire season to contemplate what Jesus' Resurrection means for us.  We have a promise of eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, and a Christian hope that the world cannot give.

Sadly, the joy of Easter was diminished by the tragic events in Sri Lanka.  The terror attacks that very day killing more than 300 innocent people, sadly reflects how evil continues to rear its ugly head in our world.  May our prayers be with the victims and their families.

This Sunday of Divine Mercy focuses all Christians on the Divine Mercy that Jesus offers to us.  According to the notebooks of St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus made the following statements about this day:

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened.  Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.  My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)

Devotion to Divine Mercy is especially associated with an image painted as Jesus wished, based on descriptions by Saint Faustina.  The words that accompany the image are Jesus, I trust in Thee (Jezu, Ufam Tobie in Polish).  The rays coming from Jesus' body represent the Blood and water that poured forth from the wound He suffered when pierced by the lance.

The devotion is practiced by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novena to the Divine Mercy -- both of which may be prayed at any time, but especially at "The Hour of Great Mercy" -- 3:00 PM, the hour our Lord died, and in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday.

If you want to learn more about Divine Mercy, why not sign up for a free Formed account on your smart phone, tablet or computer?  Instructions were distributed after all the Easter masses and are currently available on our parish web site (www.holyangelsnj.org).  Entertaining movies, enlightening study series, inspiring talks and a selection of eBooks are available to you.  There is an entire section on Divine Mercy on this app.

Since we live in a digital age, Formed is one way to reach more parishioners using their smart phones, computers, tablets or devices.  It is a means to learn more about our Catholic faith and to enjoy entertainment geared to religious formation and family values.  Since the account is free to you, please consider signing up and joining our online parish family.  While nothing substitutes for active participation at Mass or the individual connection involved with the reception of the sacraments, there is a need for continuing Catholic education and formation that coincides with people's busy lives.  Here is another way that we are trying to evangelize and to educate using current technology.

Why not give it a try? 

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


St. Faustina with the image of Divine Mercy

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Easter Joy



Dear Parishioners,

As I get older, I increasingly realize a certain void left in my life as a result of the death of relatives and friends.  I am no longer able to pick up the phone to say “hello” or to stop over to visit with them.  I tell myself that someday I hope to see them again, but I don’t have ultimate control over when, where, how—or if.  I have to wait, hope and trust.

Can you imagine what the apostles went through at the death of Jesus?  Did all of their hopes and expectations die with Him on the cross?  They saw their leader, their teacher, their rabbi, mocked cruelly, beaten mercilessly and then put to death.  I suspect they feared for their very lives.  Perhaps they recalled some of the things that he had told them to keep His memory alive.  The events of Good Friday did not present any apparent hope or future possibilities.  Death seemed so callous, cruel and final.  Death seemed triumphant.

Then came Easter.  Everything changed.  He is risen!  Somehow, despite the horrible things that were done to Him, He is still alive—miraculously!

For us Christians nothing is really as important as Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead.  Easter is about Resurrection.  It is about eternal life.  It is about hope and joy.

Unfortunately, we all will face the Good Fridays of our lives.  Death will come to each of us and to the ones that we love.  It may seem cruel, unfair, and so permanent.  We may not know what we are going to do or where we should turn.  We may even be on the brink of despair.  However, in these darkest of hours, turn to Jesus.  Trust Jesus.

I can only imagine the inexplicable joy that the apostles had when they saw Jesus alive again.  I am sure that it surpassed their greatest expectations and gave them a faith in Christ that they would subsequently take to the ends of the earth.  They would live and die for Christ, trying to spread His message of Good News—the Gospel.  They would speak about resurrection and eternal life.  They had their hope restored and they attempted to give others this hope in Jesus.

This Easter I pray that you experience the joy of the Risen Christ.  May your faith in Him and love for Him increase and radiate from your entire being.
 
He is not dead but very much alive!

I thank all who work so hard and who are so generous in helping to strengthen our Christian faith community here at Holy Angels.  Be assured of my daily prayers and Masses for all of you.

May I ask a continued remembrance in your prayers and Masses as well? 

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor             

Holy Week Begins




Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we begin the most sacred week of the year for Christians.  We recall Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  We are reminded of all that God has done for us in sending us His Only Begotten Son.

Palm Sunday recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.  His royal reception sees Him being lauded by the crowd:  Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest (Mt. 21:9)  However, entering Jerusalem meant that Jesus was now ready to begin His bitter passion and to face death on a cross.  The crowd quickly turned on Him as they chanted:  Let him be crucified! . . . Let him be crucified!  (Mt. 27:  22-23)  We can see how quickly any glory and honor that the world may have for any of us can change to ridicule, scorn and even hatred.

On Holy Thursday (7:30 PM Mass, Worship Center) we recall the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Ministerial Priesthood.  Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist are intimately connected:  without the Priesthood, there would be no Holy Eucharist.  Jesus’ actions also remind us of the call to service displayed by the mandatum or washing of the apostles’ feet.  Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.   If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (Jn. 13: 12-15)

This year we will process with the Blessed Sacrament form the Worship Center to St. Patrick Church where time for silent prayer will take place at the repository until 10 PM.  (Adoration will not be held in the Worship Center this year but in St. Patrick Church.)

The liturgy of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday (3 PM, St. Patrick Church) has 3 main components:  a reading of the passion account from St. John’s gospel followed by various intercessions, veneration of the cross and Holy Communion.  Masses are not offered on Good Friday.

The Easter Vigil (8 PM, Worship Center) is not intended as a Mass to be rushed through quickly.  (Please note:  Mass usually lasts minimally about 2 hours.)  There are so many beautiful parts that, if done reverently and properly, should not be hurried or omitted.  We begin with a lighting of the Easter fire and a candlelight ceremony.  Then follows the singing of the Exultet or Easter Proclamation.  Salvation history is traced through a series of readings as the congregation is reminded of how God has continued to work in and through every age.  After the readings comes the time to bring new members into the Catholic Church through Baptism and the reception of other Sacraments of Initiation (Confirmation & Holy Communion).  The Easter water is blessed at this time and sprinkled on the congregation as we renew our baptismal promises.  Finally, Mass continues in normal fashion with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Please consider participation in these liturgies of the Easter Triduum.  We all need to be reminded of what Christ has done for us.  The little time that we might spend in Church pales in comparison to the hours that he suffered for us on the cross.

Also, the last scheduled time for Confession (the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation) before Easter is Wednesday, April 17 at 7 PM in St. Patrick Church.  For all of you procrastinators, please take note of this important opportunity.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Final Appeal



Dear Parishioners,

For the past few months we have been making you aware of the diocesan Catholic Strong campaign.  This program is designed to benefit each diocesan parish with any capital improvements and ministerial programs that need funding.  While each parish has its own particular needs, this diocesan-wide effort gives 70% of all gifts directly to the parish for its planned use.  The remaining 30% is intended for new diocesan initiatives beneficial to the parishes.

Last weekend the priests assigned here tried to spell out the needs of Holy Angels Parish.  Since I was not able to be present physically at all eight weekend Masses, I will try to elaborate on what I said when I spoke at my three Masses:

·  There are some building concerns that need immediate attention--the roofs of St. Patrick and St. Matthew Churches and the rectory in Woodbury all have leaks.  When such matters are left continually unaddressed, there is a risk of things like structural damage, mold, etc.

·  Various driveways and parking lots need resurfacing and repairs.  Take particular note of the driveway from Green Avenue into the school.  It has plenty of potholes.

·   The retaining wall surrounding St. Matthew Church is deteriorating and needs repair/replacement.

·    number of heating and air-conditioning units in various buildings are liable to stop working at any time due to their age.  While they have been regularly maintained, unfortunately, they do not last forever.

·   The hot water heater in the Worship Center has been broken and needs replacement.

·   The recently purchased building at 81 Cooper Street needs things such as windows (many of them were boarded-up), a new roof, electrical and HVAC repairs/replacements, etc. before the other parish offices (receptionist, secretary, bookkeeper, ministry coordinator, priests, and deacons) can be permanently moved into the building.  This building is planned as our future centralized Parish Office Building.

·    Major repairs are also necessary at the former convent (Ministry Center).  The full extent that this building will remain in use has not been determined at this time.

In addition, we hope to apply some funds towards ministry to youth and to families with children.

Our volunteers have been making calls for the past months.  Information and brochures have been mailed to various registered parishioners.  Information has also been published in the church bulletin and on our parish website.  Now we come to the last two weeks of making a formal appeal for your help. Can we count you in for a direct donation or a larger pledge over time (3-5 years)?

(For those who desire 100% of their donation to go directly to the parish, this should be indicated when your gift/pledge is made.  Bishop Sullivan had assured us that all requests of this kind will be honored.)

Finally, I thank those who have already supported us and have been most generous.  No gift is ever too large or too small!

No matter what you are financially able to do, we need your prayerful support of our parish.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor
81 Cooper Street, Woodbury

Ministry Center (former convent)

School driveway (complete with potholes)

Roof leak (St. Matthew Church)


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Away from the Parish for a Little While




Dear Parishioners,

When I first started writing these letters each week over a decade ago for my parish bulletin, my intention was to communicate directly with you my parishioners and to let know you what I was thinking.  I generally enjoy writing, and I saw this as an additional way to communicate my thoughts and sometimes my feelings.  (Go on a Marriage Encounter Weekend to have this distinction--thoughts vs. feelings--clarified more fully!)  The homily each week was not always the means by which I could convey everything that I wanted to say.  Nor was it always the appropriate forum for some of the matters that needed to be addressed.

With time, and a transfer to various parish assignments, I began posting my letters on my blog (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com) for anyone to see.  Hence, my "parishioners" took on an ever greater context.  I now have people who do not physically reside in my parish but look for some spiritual guidance or insight, or just try to see what I am up to these days.  I hope that whoever reads my brief messages somehow benefits spiritually from what I have to say.  I put time, energy, prayer and love into my weekly message with the hope that it can somehow touch souls.  I pray that God use these words in whatever way He sees fit.

I just returned from a Caribbean cruise.  While it may seem a strange thing to do during Lent, sometimes the circumstances of life do not fit into exact categories.  For years, I was able to take my mom (now 85) with me and this was a way that we could be together for a week (or so) and where we could warm up from the chill of the winter.  Unfortunately, for the past two years she has declined to go with me for various reasons (usually health and mobility related).  Nonetheless, I was able to offer Mass and to preach each day for some of the cruise passengers and they seemed very appreciative that I could be there for them.  Daily Mass usually saw approximately 20-30 people while the Sunday Masses were attended by about 125 travelers.

Currently, I am a participant at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in South Jersey being held in Atlantic City.  Bishop Sullivan is the driving force behind this three-and-a-half day event.  He has required each parish to send 10 delegates with their pastor.  The hope is that the approximately 800 attendees will be able to return to their respective parishes filled with Gospel joy and zeal, and to be effective leaders.  We have Mass and pray together each day, attend various conferences and workshops, and find ourselves getting to know the chosen delegates better.  For me it has been something of a Diocesan/Catholic Who's Who, as I have run into so many former parishioners and friends.  When you are a priest for over thirty years, you do get to know quite a few people!

The convocation began on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25).  This day, dedicated to Our Lady and her acceptance of God's will in her life, has been a special day for me for quite some time.  One of my close priest-friends generally sends out Annunciation Day cards rather than Christmas cards.  He does this to remind us all that the Word became flesh--the Incarnation of Jesus the Christ--with Mary's "yes" to the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1: 26-38)The sacredness of the life of every child in the womb is accentuated by the presence of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The words of the Hail Mary and the Angelus should be daily prayer-reminders of the events of this day.

When I return to the parish with my fellow attendees this weekend,  pray that we be filled with the Joy of the Gospel!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor