Tuesday, December 17, 2019

New Year's Resolutions


Dear Parishioners,

Every year many people make one or more New Year’s resolutions which they may or may not keep.

In an attempt to put these resolutions in a spiritual light, I make the following twenty suggestions for your consideration.  I do not think that it is wise to try to tackle too many things at once but rather pick one or two that you might be able to incorporate successfully into your routine.

 Here’s my list:

·         Be faithful in Mass attendance weekly

·         Read a passage from the Bible each day

·         Say a daily Rosary

·         Visit an elderly relative, friend or neighbor on a regular basis (weekly or monthly?)

·         Volunteer to help at a Church activity or with some Church ministry

·         Go to Confession monthly

·       Send a card or make a call to someone who has recently lost a loved one

·         Audition for the Church choir

·      Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays or some other time (Monday evening Eucharistic Adoration)

·         Invite someone to go to Church with you

·       Call the parish priest about something that you need to do to for your spiritual benefit (for example, investigate an annulment, complete any Sacraments that were not received, get some spiritual direction, etc.)

·         Purchase and read a Catholic spiritual book (perhaps a spiritual classic)

·         Stop gossiping

·         Take the time to listen carefully to someone

·      Be a good example to children (take them to Church, teach them to pray, talk to them about God, teach them to share, etc.)

·         Limit time in front of the TV or computer

·         Make an effort to smile more and complain less

·       Make a conscious effort to remind yourself daily that you are living in the presence of God

·         Thank Jesus every day

·         Pray for someone whom you do not like / Reconcile with someone from whom you are alienated 

Happy New Year and good luck!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

The Holy Family




Dear Parishioners,

Family means a great deal to me.  Spending time with my mom, my brothers and sister and their families, especially around the holidays, is a special gift to me.

I realize that no family is perfect.  We all have to deal with particular family issues and circumstances, varying problems and challenges, diverse personalities, etc. Yet, all of this is accompanied by multiple blessings.

Sometimes I think that certain people tend to idealize the Holy Family and forget the many difficulties and hardships that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to endure.  We read in the Sacred Scriptures that Mary was found with child before living with Joseph.  He was initially going to divorce her quietly. (Mt. 1: 18-19)   Then, there was no place for Jesus to be born in the lodgings of Bethlehem after Joseph and Mary (now in the final stage of her pregnancy) had travelled considerable distance. (Lk. 2: 4-7)  As an infant, Jesus’ life was threatened by King Herod and His parents had to flee with Him to Egypt. (Mt. 2: 13-18)  Joseph and Mary seemingly lost—could not immediately find—the boy Jesus during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Lk. 2: 41-51)  Mary later witnessed her only Son tortured and killed in front of her eyes. (Jn. 19: 25)

These were not quite the circumstances of a perfect, ideal life, were they?

Yet, through it all, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had each other and were bound together by mutual love and respect.  They all greatly loved and trusted God, our Heavenly Father, and were obedient to His will as it was revealed and unfolded for them.

Today, problems within the family unit continue to exist—at a somewhat grand scale and pace.  Various people question, with some even wanting to redefine, the traditional understanding of “family.”  Family life as we once knew it in society seems to be eroding.

I contend that we need to look at the Sacred Scriptures to see what they teach us (albeit ever so briefly) about the family life experienced by the Holy Family.  Their obvious trust in God in difficult circumstances, their obedience to His will, and their fidelity to God and to one another are great examples for us all to follow.

Pray to the Holy Family.  Consecrate your families to the care of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pray that our families be blessed and protected from the many threats that try to destroy them.

Pray fervently for the grace to know and to do God’s will.

And pray that our families will one day join the Heavenly Family that awaits us—united with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor  


              

Monday, December 9, 2019

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays


Dear Parishioners,

Christmas is upon us once again!

The trees get decorated, gifts are purchased and exchanged, various foods are prepared, businesses have their Christmas (or holiday) parties, cards are sent, students return home from college, families get together from far and wide to share good times, etc. etc.

Part of the routine for many is attendance at MassBy the way, did you ever take time to examine the last part of the word Christmas?  The word itself comes from the Old English for Christ’s Mass.
 
Usually the earliest possible Masses on Christmas Eve (here the three at 4 PM) are the best attended.  They are usually filled with children.  My personal favorite is still the Mass at midnight.  There is something special about that most holy of nights!

Even if its current chosen date was a Christianizing of the pagan winter solstice, as some contend, Christ was born at a particular point in time.  That is what we celebrate.

Christmas is about Christ.  Although things can get rather complicated and convoluted for some, Christmas is still about Christ.

Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  (Luke 2:  10-11)
God chose to become a man for us.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  Timelessness entered into time.  The almighty and all-powerful God became a helpless, vulnerable infant.  The creator of all life became subject to suffering and death.  The infinite majesty of God became finite.  God walked this very earth.  He could be seen, felt and touched.

When you peer into the manger this Christmas, realize that before you is a glimpse of the tremendous love that God has for you and me, as evidenced through the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son.

On behalf of the priests, deacons and staff that serve our parish, we wish you and your families a happy, holy Christmas and a blessed New Year!  May the love of God which took human form in the person of Jesus be honored and revered in every human person that we meet.

I thank God that you have made Holy Angels Parish your spiritual home!  

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor




Spending "Gaudete" Sunday with Marriage Encounter



Dear Parishioners,

The liturgical season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas.  This, the third Sunday of Advent, is called Gaudete Sunday—from the Latin word “rejoice.”  We rejoice because the Lord is near.  Advent is halfway completed.  Priests have the option of wearing a rose colored vestment and we light the rose candle of the advent wreath.

However, I will be away from the parish this weekend presenting a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend in Wildwood Crest, NJ.  When I was a newly ordained priest, a couple from my parish asked me to make a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  As you might expect, my reaction was somewhat puzzled. I am obviously not married. What would be the benefit of me attending such a weekend? 

Over 30 years later, I can honestly say that this experience (and its aftermath) had one of the most profound and lasting effects on me as a person and on my priestly ministry. This is probably not something that I would have chosen to do on my own.  It would certainly not have been on my bucket list.  Yet, what happened as a result can only be described as truly life-changing.  And it was thanks to a couple who simply invited me to try such an experience.

I have been presenting the Marriage Encounter Weekend, usually once or twice a year, for well over a quarter century now.  Together with a team of three couples, we share a series of talks to couples (and sometimes to priests and religious) with the goal of making good marriages better. The Marriage Encounter Weekend is not primarily designed for troubled marriages.  (There are experiences such as Retrouvaille for this purpose.) The Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend is meant to open up the lines of communication between husband and wife in what is essentially a private experience between the two.

What it did for me personally was help me understand married couples (and their families) better, help me open up lines of communication, help me better understand my relationship to the Church--the Body of Christ--and also to understand my feelings.  Feelings, in particular, are not something most men know how to deal with or might not realize the importance of in the first place.

Ladies, have you ever felt that your husband sometimes doesn’t seem to understand you?  Guys, are your wives sometimes still a mystery to you in many ways?  Do you both ever wonder if there is more to marriage and to life than what you are currently experiencing?  Then maybe it’s time to try a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  You can be newly-married or married for fifty years or more.  It does not matter.  The weekend can help to make any marriage better.

If you are married and desire more for your marriage, I invite you to consider attending such a weekend.  For further information, you can check out the South Jersey Worldwide Marriage Encounter website or call the information line at 609-741-8012.

Many people are afraid of the unknown, afraid of change or may not want to “rock the boat.”  I invite you and ask you to suggest to your spouse the possibility of attending an upcoming Marriage Encounter Weekend. 

I can only tell you from personal experience that it indeed has life-changing possibilities!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"I am the Immaculate Conception"


Dear Parishioners,

Among some Catholics, there is still a misunderstanding regarding what is meant by the term (or title) Immaculate Conception.  Some people mistakenly think that this title refers to Jesus and His being conceived miraculously in the womb of His Mother Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the following in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
This proclamation was one of two notable times in the history of the Catholic Church when a pope declared an infallible dogma ex cathedra (that is, from the chair of St. Peter’s teaching authority).  The other occasion was the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Our catechism instructs us:  “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses . . . .”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491.  Mary was redeemed by Christ as all humanity is, but her redemption began at her very conception in the womb of her mother by a singular grace--hence, the term Immaculate Conception.

Around the same time as the pope, bishops and theologians were wrestling with this theological matter, Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France in 1844.  Saint Bernadette, as she is now known, is remembered for having received eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between February 11 and July 16, 1858.  Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built at a grotto in Massabielle where the apparitions occurred and a miraculous spring of water now flows.  During these apparitions, Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette with the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  St. Bernadette, an illiterate peasant girl with no formal training in theology, had no idea what the phrase Immaculate Conception meant.  She was only fourteen at the time of the visions.  It seems that in these apparitions Our Lady herself confirmed what the Church had formally declared just four years earlier.  The church holds these apparitions as worthy of belief.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is ordinarily celebrated on December 8th.  Under normal circumstances I would remind people to attend Mass on this day since it is usually a Holy Day of Obligation.  However, in 2019 this day is also the Second Sunday of Advent.  So, the celebration of the Immaculate Conception is transferred to December 9th with the obligation to attend Mass being removed.  (Are you confused yet?  I am.)  

I must emphasize that just because we may or may not be obliged to attend a particular Holy Day Mass on various years, it doesn’t mean that the importance and significance of the occasion should be diminished nor should we get into the habit of doing only the least possible (minimum requirement) when it comes to our faith.

Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our country and our diocese.  She should certainly have a special place in our hearts.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

St. Bernadette Soubirous