Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven



Dear Parishioners,

Like all of our lives, the earthly life of the Blessed Virgin Mary had to come to an end.  It makes me think so often about the brevity of life here on earth. It makes me think so often about the brevity of life here on earth.  Even if we were to live a hundred years or more, what is this brief time compared to eternity?  I often say that life here on earth is like a blink of an eye compared to eternal life with God.

Human beings usually have many questions at the time of the death of a relative, friend or loved one.  Is there a God?  What is God like?  Is there such a place as heaven or hell?  Where is he/she now?  Where will I wind up someday?

I take great consolation in the words from Preface I (of the Eucharistic Prayer) for the DeadIndeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended . . . .  We believe life in heaven with God is without sickness, death, pain or suffering.  It is lived in the presence of the Communion of Saints, those people who have gone before us and who were found worthy to enter the presence of God.

Later this month we will celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (August 15).  It is a Holy Day of Obligation and we are required to attend Mass.  The Catholic Church teaches that when her earthly life was complete, Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven.  She is in Heaven with the angels and saints able to pray for us and to intercede for us, her spiritual children.  It makes logical sense that she who was protected from original sin by God from the time of her conception (the Immaculate Conception) and who lived a life of willing acceptance of God’s will— “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) –should now be in Heaven.
 
As a point of clarification, the Blessed Virgin Mary receives special honor/veneration that the church refers to (in Latin) as hyperdulia.  She is the highest of all the saints and angels who also deserve praise and honor that the Church refers to as dulia.  God alone deserves worship or adoration (latria).  If anyone ever questions us as Catholics inquiring why we worship Mary or the saints, the simple truth is that we do not.  As part of the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints, they deserve honor, but not worship which is solely reserved to God.

In addition, sometimes people confuse the Assumption (of Mary) with the Ascension (of Jesus).  We believe that both are in Heaven, but Mary was taken up into Heaven while Jesus, as the all-powerful Son of God, had everything that He needed within His power to return back to Heaven to join His Father and the Holy Spirit when He chose to do so.

Mary and all of the saints in Heaven give us something to which we can all aspire.  I hope that we all want to be with God in Heaven for all eternity.  However, most of us are probably not expecting to go right at this moment—but we should always be prepared.  No one but God alone knows the day or the hour(See Mt. 24: 36)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Life's a Beach!


Dear Parishioners,

By the time you read this message, I should be heading back from my all-too-brief vacation.

Being raised in Wildwood-by-the-Sea, NJ, I grew up loving the beach and boardwalk.  I still like to soak in the sun when I am able, although I get continual warnings from my skin doctor to “be sure to use your sun-block!”  I spent most of this vacation time on the beach.

While sitting under my umbrella some years ago, a group of teens camped out behind me.  They were playing with their electronic devices and the “music” was blaring quite loudly.  I couldn’t help but hear the lyrics (or at least some of choice the words)!  Emanating from what appeared to be some type of rap “music”, I heard the notorious N-word at least 25 times or more in the various songs being shouted, as well as a few select 4-letter words interspersed continually.  I would be hard pressed to call any of it music.  It was a gross insult and assault to any person’s sensibilities.

As the day progressed I saw the same group drinking beer and passing around a funny looking cigarette while swimming in the water.  None of them appeared to be over 18 years old.  Oh, how I worry about today’s youth!

When I thought about the various matters troubling today’s young people, I also realized that my generation had its own problems.  With the drinking age at 18 at the time, alcohol was easily accessible (through many of the seniors) at the high school level.  The combination of drinking and teenagers was ultimately bad news.  Drugs were starting to be more prevalent and accessible.  Add to it all the growth of a free-love society, and the path to the future became an even more destructive one!

Today the problems seem to start to be grave at an even younger age.  Blame it on the breakup of the family, the lack of parental supervision, the internet, the availability of drugs and alcohol, the decline of religious practice and morality, etc., and I wonder what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years from now.  They say that the pendulum swings back and forth.  I sure hope, for humanity’s sake, that it will reverse course and soon be headed in the other direction.

When St. Paul came to Corinth, it was a notorious sea port filled with vice.  When he went to Rome, he had to face the immorality and corruption within the Roman Empire.  All the cities he visited had their own particular problems and degrees of sinful behavior.  To the people of Ephesus, he wrote the following:
   
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5: 1-5)


I hope and pray that we all desire to have some inheritance in the Kingdom of God.  This means that we must strive continually to conform our lives to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures.  It is important that this message gets out to everyone, including (and especially) our youth.  

Pray for them.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor  

Keeping Eternity Before Your Eyes



Dear Parishioners, 

Eschatology: the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.  

We are all going to die. This is an indisputable fact of human existence. Most people seem to avoid thinking about this reality until they are forced to by the death of someone close to them. We delude ourselves by pretending that we all have an infinite amount of time here on earth.

All of our expiration dates are known by God alone. Are we spiritually prepared to face this inevitable day whenever it may come? I contend that we must keep eternity ever before us as we journey through life. There should never be a day in which we fail to think about our eternal destiny. 

I don't want to seem morbid or fixated on death. However, how we view both our existence here on earth and the afterlife will potentially impact everything that we do each and every day. 

If people are atheists or deny any further existence after death, then they probably live guided by some form of a pleasure principle.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!   What else is there? One must get whatever there is out of this life because there is nothing else. Nada. 

However, Christians should think and live differently. We were created ultimately to enjoy an eternity with God. Life on earth is temporary; eternity is forever. We believe our actions will affect our eternal destiny. And we should live accordingly. 

What does the Catholic Church teach? She speaks of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. After death, we will face judgment--first individual and then a general judgment of all humanity. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor. 5:10) 

For those who are not spiritually ready to enter heaven directly (not deserving hell but not yet fully cleansed of all sin in order to see God face to face), the Church holds there is a temporary time of purification before encountering God which is termed purgatory. Our prayers and Masses offered for the souls in purgatory help them on their journey to God. Please do not deny your loved ones any potential prayers by automatically assuming they are already in heaven. (We do not know they are in heaven with absolute certainty unless they are formally canonized by the Church.) 

Either heaven or hell is the final destiny of all human souls.  Jesus teaches about both:  The Kingdom of Heaven is like (see Mt. 13) . . . For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:10) . . . And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mt. 25:46) . . . .    

Eternal life is too significant a matter not to take it seriously or to impose our own contrived reality upon it.  Listen to what Jesus teaches.  Abide by His warnings.  Be prepared.  To do otherwise could have disastrous (eternal) consequences.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Monday, July 8, 2019

Vocations and the Holy Eucharist

Identical Twin Priests:  Fathers Gary and Todd Koenigsknecht


Dear Parishioners,

A few years ago, I read a story from the New York Times regarding priestly vocations flourishing in a particular area of Michigan.  It caught my attention because this is usually not the type of story reported in a secular, national newspaper.  More than likely, the focus in such a newspaper is on some church scandal and/or how the Catholic Church is incorrect in some teaching or another.

At the time of the article (June 2014), Fowler, Michigan had twenty-two priests to its credit as did its neighboring town of Westphalia.  Forty-four priests from two small towns with a combined population of about two thousand people.  

What was their secret?

Reading information from a secular newspaper source is not always the best way of reporting something theological, religious or spiritual.  I did notice that the Times article mentioned “a weekly prayer hour dedicated to religious vocations.”  I went to the web site for the parish of the Most Holy Trinity in Fowler to get more details.  More precisely, I discovered the parish there holds a weekly Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations—a Eucharistic Holy Hour—followed by Mass.

Since my seminary days, I have believed in the importance of Eucharistic adoration and its intimate connection to the Catholic priesthood.  I can remember the great reverence for the Holy Eucharist that the pastor from my childhood parish (St. Ann’s, Wildwood) had.  It was so mystical the way that Msgr. Joseph Conlon gazed at the Eucharist.  As I knelt next to him as an altar boy, it seemed to me that he was somehow other worldly.  I can’t necessarily put it into words but I somehow knew that he and I were kneeling before Jesus, the Son of God.  No doubt about it!

Then I read something printed in the Most Holy Trinity church bulletin:

This is how St. John Vianney taught his faithful to pray: "You do not need many words when you pray. We believe on faith that the good and gracious God is there in the tabernacle; we open our souls to Him; and feel happy that He allows us to come before Him; this is the best way to pray."  He did everything that there was to be done to stir up the reverence and love of the faithful for Christ hidden in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and to bring them to share in the riches of the divine Synaxis; the example of his devotion was ever before them.  "To be convinced of this, witnesses tell us, all that was necessary was to see him carrying out the sacred ceremonies or simply to see him genuflect when he passed the tabernacle."

Unfortunately, this year (2019) the Diocese of Camden did not ordain a single priest.  Years ago, this same diocese ordained large classes of twenty, thirty or more.  Maybe it’s time that we once again get down on our knees and pray to (rather, beg) Jesus in the Holy Eucharist to send us priestly and religious vocations.  Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, while fostering and encouraging priestly and religious vocations, seems to work in Fowler and its surroundings.  (Remember we have a Eucharistic Holy Hour every Monday at 7 PM in St. Patrick Church.)

In the end, what do we have to lose?  (Maybe our faith.  The stakes are really that great.)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor