Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Narrow Gate

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it are few.  

(Mt. 7: 13-14)

Dear Parishioners,

For many years this passage from Sacred Scripture has really troubled me.  What if those who find the road to (eternal) life are actually few?  In this day and age when many (most?) people are canonized at a funeral, when society refuses to be told what to do because of a type of unbridled freedom (actually license), when the moral credibility of the Church has eroded to the point of collapse, and when the most severe sin in our culture has become lack of tolerance, shouldn’t we be a wee bit concerned?

What exactly constitutes the narrow gate?  Bear with me as I do a bit of soul searching.  Traditionally, there have been certain sins that by their nature are considered grave matter—one of the three necessary components of mortal sin.  Such sins include (but are not limited to) murder, rape, incest, adultery, perjury, blasphemy, idolatry, sacrilege, fornication, masturbation, euthanasia, abortion, apostasy, homosexual acts, prostitution, et. al.  Realizing also that there is the necessity of sufficient reflection (knowledge) and full consent of the will, people who commit these acts risk being in a state of mortal sin.  In other words, if they die unrepentant of these sins they risk eternal damnation (the fires of hell).

Now let’s take a step further into other more common occurrences of potential mortal sin.  The Church has traditionally declared that it is a mortal sin to intentionally miss Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.  What of the approximately 80% of Catholics who no longer practice their faith regularly?  The wide gate? 

The Catholic Church teaches that the use of artificial birth control is a mortal sin.  Some contraceptives (types of the “pill”) are actually abortifacient in nature, meaning that a fertilized egg (post-conception) is prevented from embedding itself in the mother’s womb.  Hence, a mini or microscopic abortion may have occurred.  Nonetheless, those who use any artificial birth control risk being in mortal sin.  One headline I googled while writing this article stated boldly:  Most Catholic Women in U.S. Use Birth Control.  Again, the wide gate?

What then do we do with the number of people who use sex recreationally and sleep with each other outside of the context of marriage, or cohabitate outside of marriage, or are in a second marriage “outside” of the Church (divorce and re-marriage without an annulment)?  What about homosexuals who engage in sexual activity, regardless of whether or not they have some “committed” relationship?  What about the rampant use of internet pornography (frequently accompanied with masturbation)?  Sexually active teens?  Sexually active college students?  Friends with benefits?  If all of these people are in grave (mortal) sin, again we seem to have a wide gate here.

I conclude this reflection with the scene of the final judgment in St. Matthew’s gospel (Mt. 25:31-46).  Read it when you get a chance.  In essence, the separation of the sheep from the goats involves a condemnation to eternal punishment for failing to do good to/for others.  There is no mention here of any of the grave sins listed above.  Rather there is damnation for what someone fails to do.  Another wide gate? 

I suggest we all be a little more hesitant before we assume that somehow we all automatically go to heaven. There is a reason that Jesus called for repentance and conversion.  And this message is meant for all of us!

Enter through the narrow gate . . .

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, February 18, 2019

Let Me Tell You About the Priests that I Know

Our priests after Christmas Midnight Mass

Dear Parishioners,

In this age of Catholic Church priest sex scandals, I took a serious look at the priests that surround me in my everyday life.  They say that you really don’t know people until you live with them.  Fortunately, I live with three dedicated priests, while an additional dedicated priest resides at our other rectory in National Park.  We are very blessed to have five priests (including me) residing in our parish.  Two come from other countries: India and Nigeria.  The other two have some connection to Atlantic City (in some ways, a world unto its own!)  I was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Wildwood.

While two of us are assigned here full time to do parish work, the other three priests serve the diocese in various capacities.  Fr. Nick is in charge of priest personnel, Fr. Ernest is chaplain to two hospitals and Fr. Hugh takes care of the deaf ministry and others with disabilities or special needs.

We all have different personalities, but one thing we all seem to share is a sense of humor.  While all five of us are not always together each night for dinner, when we are together, we usually laugh.  We discuss matters of the church and the world.  We learn about differing customs and cultures.  We get to hear about our various family members.  In sum, we seem to get along and enjoy each other’s company.

From what I can observe, each of us enjoys being a priest.   I know that I do.  We have well over 100 combined years of priestly service between us, having experienced many, many situations—some in common and some absolutely unique.  Together we have to face the unpleasant circumstances of scandalous matters for which we were not personally responsible.  Yet, we all share a priestly fraternity—a brotherhood—with the unified purpose of serving the Catholic Church through its people.

The average parishioner doesn’t see Fr. Ernest getting called in the middle of the night, or at dinner time, to anoint a sick or dying person or to comfort a family after a death.  You don’t necessarily see Fr. Hugh practicing American sign language for hours, preparing for each and every occasion in his ministry.  You may not observe Fr. Jose offering Mass at one of our many facilities for the aging or being called to someone’s home to anoint a dying person.  You probably don’t realize Fr. Nick’s concern for all the priests of the diocese, including our retired priests, and what is entailed when various difficult situations come up.  However, I have personally witnessed all of the above taking place in real time.  I have seen men trying to be—albeit imperfectly—Christ to others.

Personally, I have never had any second thoughts or serious doubts about the calling that I heard from the Lord.  My vocation was officially set in motion when I was 18 years old—40 years ago!  Would I do it over again?  Yes, I would.  What many may not understand is I believe that God knows what is best for me and for my eternal salvation.  I firmly believe that He chose this path for me.  It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you . . ..   (Jn. 15: 16)

Please say a prayer for your priests each day.  I know that it might be considered a horrendous time to try to promote priestly vocations.  However, I know that Jesus is still in charge of His Church and that He is ever-working to purify it—including the sacred priesthood.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Cleaning Up the Mess

Dear Parishioners,

The readings from this past Sunday provide a powerful reminder for all of us concerning those who agree to follow and to work for the Lord. 

First, Isaiah, upon seeing the Lord, states:  "Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"  (Is. 6:5)  Isaiah admits his unworthiness and sinfulness.

Next, St. Paul describes himself to the Corinthians:  “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Cor. 9)  He also admits his unworthiness and sinfulness.  

Finally, in the Gospel, St. Peter falls at the knees of Jesus  declaring:  "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." (Lk. 5: 8)  He, too, acknowledges his unworthiness and sinfulness.

All three of the above realized who they were before God.  In fact, we are all sinners in need of redemption. 

This leads me to reflect on the current sate of affairs in the Catholic Church.  I need not reiterate we are once again facing exposure of the horrendous, scandalous behavior of priests that happened over decades.  There have been crimes committed that make me sick and angry to the core of my being.  Yes, we are all sinners.  However, some of these sins are so grave that I can only describe them as nothing less than diabolical.  How could a priest—someone ordained to stand in place of Christ (in persona Christi) in the sacraments—do such things?

However, I refuse to be ashamed to be a Catholic priest.  A crooked cop does not make all cops bad.  An evil lawyer does not condemn all lawyers.  Bad priests obviously did not live up to the Gospel call to repentance and conversion.  Bishops or Cardinals who abused others were guilty of evil choices and behavior that would condemn any of us to hell.

How does this evil behavior actually diminish what Christ did for us?  In fact, it reminds us all the more how we need to abide by Christ and His teaching if we want to have eternal life and not eternal damnation.  Without Christ we are nothing.  We need Him now more than ever.  We need the sacraments He gave us.  And we still need the Church which He established.  However, we need a purification of the Church that will only come through repentance and conversion.

Be assured, our theology holds that the sacraments are still effective and confer grace (ex opere operato), regardless of the personal holiness of the minister (ex opere operantis) .  Simply stated, this is because the saving action of Christ still takes place.  Sacraments are not dependent on the personal worthiness of the minister as long as there is the intention to do what the Church teaches.  The fidelity of God is constant, despite the infidelity of any particular minister.

Please pray for your priests.  The situation may get worse before it gets better.  However, the Church, the Bride of Christ, is worth protecting and defending.  Please don’t abandon Her when She needs you/us the most.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Christ, Our Light

Dear Parishioners,

Anyone with a modicum of supernatural faith, a functioning conscience and some basic intelligence should be able to see the hand of the diabolical behind some recent events.

On February 2nd the Church celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, also known as Candlemas day.  The blessing of candles with a procession is part of the Church’s tradition.  Christ is seen as the Light that now enters the temple.  Simeon, an elderly man praying in the temple, upon seeing the infant Jesus, utters the following:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. (Lk. 2: 29-32)
These verses are recited daily in night prayer of the Church and are known as the Canticle of Simeon or Nunc Dimmitis.  Again, the emphasis is Christ as the Light for all peoples.

Sadly, just about a week prior, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, some other lights were lit throughout the city and state of New York.  Pink lights shone from One World Trade Center, the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge, and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany. These lights were specifically ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo to “celebrate” a horrendous occasion—the passage of the so-called Reproductive Health Act.  I quote him directly:

The Reproductive Health Act is a historic victory for New Yorkers and for our progressive values. In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session – and we got it done. I am directing that New York’s landmarks be lit in pink to celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow (emphasis mine).
What exactly were they celebrating?  The NY law permits abortions up until the time of birth, gives no protections to babies born alive from botched abortions, permits non-doctors to perform abortions, and removes any consideration of a baby in the womb as a human being.  After the passage of the law, the New York state legislature erupted in applause.  Yes, applause at the potential death of children in the womb.  Absolutely diabolical!

The state of Virginia tried to follow a similar path to remove restrictions on abortions with House Bill 2491.  Governor Ralph Northam tried to explain to WTOP radio what would happen to a baby born alive after a failed abortion:

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

A discussion between mother and physicians whether a born “infant” should be permitted to live?  I believe this is clearly infanticide.  Legalized killing of a baby in the womb—right up until the time of birth—and killing a baby outside the womb once born?  Have we completely lost our minds and any moral compass whatsoever?  I still can’t get over how they applauded in New York.

The cries of aborted children—over 60 million of them in the US—continue to be heard by God.  If those responsible for the death of innocent children have any concern for their eternal salvation, I pray they repent now before it is too late.  A realization of the evil that was done to these innocents, compounded by the diabolical laugh of Satan for all eternity in the fires of hell, is not a prospect that I ever want to face.  

Christ be our Light and lead us out of this terrible, terrible darkness.  We most emphatically and humbly implore you.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

One World Trade Center