Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Come Holy Spirit!

Dear Parishioners,
This weekend we prepare to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin MaryPentecost Sunday.  Unfortunately, it will be another important solemnity on the Catholic Church calendar where the doors of our Church will be closed for public Holy Mass.  Please pray that we will soon be permitted to resume public Masses once again.  In the meantime, you are invited to watch our live-stream on Facebook.  
Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord are the traditional seven spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to us.  They are enumerated in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. (11:2-3)  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” (1830)
Here’s a brief summary of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (from Scott P. Richert) that I found helpful:
Through wisdom, we come to value properly those things which we believe through faith.  The truths of Christian belief are more important than the things of this world, and wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving Creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake.
While wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic Faith. Through understanding, we gain a certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond faith.
Through the gift of counsel, we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition.  Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
Fortitude gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel.  Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than to renounce the Christian Faith.
Knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life the way that God seems them.  Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we can determine God's purpose for our lives and live them accordingly.
Piety takes the willingness to worship and to serve God beyond a sense of duty, so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love.
Fear of the Lord gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace that we need in order to keep from offending Him.  Our desire not to offend God is more than simply a sense of duty; like piety, the fear of the Lord arises out of love.
These Gifts of the Holy Spirit “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.  They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  (Catechism, 1831)
By being open and receptive to these gifts of the Holy Spirit you will be pleasantly surprised where the promptings of the Holy Spirit lead you!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Offering Mass "Ad Orientem"

The B.V.M. Altar at St. Patrick Church

Dear Parishioners,

I have been sensing a certain restlessness in the people whom I had the opportunity to speak with during the past couple weeks.  After about two months of quarantine, most people seem ready to get back to a normal routine and not be continually confined to home.  With the warm weather upon us, it's time to get out into some fresh air and sunshine.  We need some vitamin D.  We are used to taking walks, riding bikes, playing and watching outdoor sports, enjoying barbecues and cookouts, going to the beach, etc. and not staring at the four walls of some room.  We are not meant to be continually locked up.

I hope that you feel the same way—restless—about not being able to get to Mass.  The words of St. Augustine seem appropriate at this time:  . . . our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.  Sadly, a significant number of Catholics were not regular in their Mass attendance prior to the coronavirus pandemic.  Now that the situation has proven not as bad as it could have been, I wonder what Mass attendance will look like in the weeks and months ahead?  Will we have a greater hunger for the Bread of Life?

I have been offering a "private" daily Mass, usually at one of the side altars in St. Patrick Church or in our rectory chapel.  All of the announced (and some unannounced) Mass intentions are being fulfilled by our priests.  Mostly, Mass is being offered ad Deum (towards God) or ad orientem (facing liturgical east) and not versus populum (facing the people).  The side altars and the original high altar of St. Patrick Church had been constructed for Mass to be offered facing God.  With people technically absent, it makes no sense to face the people during the Mass.  (We do not live-stream the daily Mass, only on Sunday.)

Truth be told, I have gained a greater appreciation for Mass celebrated with the ancient ad orientem orientation.  Follow my thought process for a moment.  The priest is offering a sacrifice to God (not to the people) so shouldn't the priest be facing in His direction (ad orientem)?  The ancient tradition was to face east towards the rising sun which would bring to mind the rising (Resurrection) of the Son of God and await His Second Coming.  While many churches are not necessarily built facing east, the priest can still face liturgical east when offering Mass.  While some have referenced this orientation as the priest having his back to the people, actually the priest and people are facing a common direction towards God.  It was only about a half-century ago that the priest began facing the people during Mass.  For centuries, this was not the case.

During the past 50 years, so many beautiful high altars in churches were dismantled or destroyed.  They were replaced by less attractive table-like altars, mostly in the name of liturgical reform.  Thankfully, our high altar and our side altars at St. Patrick remain essentially the same as they were when the church was constructed (1909).  Despite my sadness of not having the regular congregation present at Mass, a small blessing was being able to offer Mass at the beautiful high altar during Holy Week and at the similarly beautiful side altars—especially the Blessed Virgin Mary side—during the month of May.

I await the day when you will once again join me at Mass!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What to Believe?

Dear Parishioners,

One thing I took from my college seminary education was to be a critical thinker.  I do not swallow hook, line and sinker everything I am told without first examining and questioning matters on many levels.  While I truly try to see the best in people, I realize not everything you think you observe and what people tell you are always correct.  Unfortunately, people lie and try to manipulate others.  Circumstances are not always what they appear to be.  A person's motivation is not always what we think it is.  It is best to have some degree of skepticism and to employ critical thinking when it comes to the information that is presented to us.
Our ultimate goal should be to get to the truth.  My mindwhat I think—needs to conform to reality.  I have heard it said in some situations: "My truth is not your truth!"  However, there can only be a singular truth.  Something is what it actually is, not what we would like it to be.  Most likely, a person is confusing truth with opinion.  We can have various opinions, but there is only one final truth.

We need to apply critical thinking to our current pandemic.  Ask those probing questions.  Do not automatically believe everything you are told.  There are varying opinions out there—sometimes even directly contradicting each other—and everyone can not be absolutely correct at the same time.

Doctors, scientists and others differ whether continued, prolonged social distancing is really in everyone's best interest.  Maybe for the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and in certain restricted areas, it may be beneficial.  It now seems that the average, healthy person will recover from this virus.  Our immune systems will kick in, like they are supposed to do.  Yes, there may be exceptions, but that is the case with almost every disease known to man.

Are masks for all necessary or harmful?  Arguments are given on both sides of the issue.  I have read them.  Will a vaccination be the solution?  Some think not, while others want to vaccinate the entire world.  Did we need all of those ventilators?  Were the many make-shift field hospitals underused and, perhaps, unnecessary?  Did the known drugs such as hydroxychloroquine actually work when treating this corona virus?  Was the number of people dying from the virus itself (not from a pre-existing, underlying condition) inflated for financial, political or other reasons?  Did political motivation factor into decision making and policy?  Should churches have been closed universally while liquor stores, pot dispensaries and abortion clinics were left in operation?  Are voices of dissenting opinion being silenced because they disagree with those in charge?  These and other questions need to be answered until the truth—stripped of spin or bias—is uncovered.

I want to see you, my parishioners, return to Mass.  It's time.  Might some be hesitant to return?  Certainly.  Should the elderly or the sick be cautious?  Of course.  Some might need to continue to stay home for a while.  Should the average, healthy person be permitted to practice his or her faith?  Emphatically I say Yes!  According to WebMD:  early estimates predict that the overall COVID-19 recovery rate is between 97% and 99.75%.  Most people will survive this pandemic.

With time, I hope the facts do not reveal that our quarantine, social distancing, masks, etc. were a huge overreaction to a unknown virus—perhaps no worse than a really, really bad flu season—fueled by media hype, fear of the unknown and other factors.
The only place where I am assured that truth is found is in Jesus Christ.  

He tells us: I am the way, the truth and the life. (Jn. 14:6)  I believe Him.  Everyone else is currently suspect.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Mother's Day!

Dear Parishioners,

I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers this weekend. 

For most people there is a special bond between mother and child.  Our mothers carry us in their wombs for nine months.  They endure the pangs of birth.  They feed us, bathe us, clean up after us, teach us, comfort us, caress us and, most importantly, love us.

How often they are willing to sacrifice for us!

Thanks moms for your strength, patience and ability to make things better by your calming and reassuring presence.  Whenever we take you for granted or forget what you have done for us over the years, we apologize.  You deserve better from us.

We love you!

Those who have lost their earthly mothers, please remember to pray for them and have Masses offered for them.  Our faith teaches us, whether they are in purgatory or in heaven, they can pray for us!  Let’s aid them in getting to heaven by offering our prayers, Masses and sacrifices for them. 

In addition to our biological (or adoptive) mothers, I think that it is also important to remember to honor our Spiritual Mother as well.  Our Blessed Lady should play an essential role in the lives of Catholics and indeed all Christians.  She was given to us as our mother through St. John at the foot of the cross: 

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.  (John 19: 26-27)

We honor Our Lady as our Queen and Mother.  She continues to intercede for her children here on earth and we place our confident hope and trust in her.

We need to ask her continually to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Pray her rosary and meditate upon the mysteries of our faith.  We desire to share eternity with her and her Son Jesus in His Heavenly reign.

Whether biologicaladoptive or spiritualHappy Mother’s Day to all our mothers!  Thanks for loving us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Parish Update (May 2020)

Dear Parishioners,

First, I miss seeing you and I cannot wait until the "quarantine" is over!  I assure you I remember you in my daily prayers and at the altar when I offer Mass each day.

I hope you attempt to watch Mass on TV (such as EWTN), or by livestream each Sunday.  Here at the parish, we began a livestream broadcast on our Facebook page (Holy Angels Parish) on Easter Sunday.  We intend to continue each Sunday at 10 AM while restrictions on public gatherings still exist.  Please realize that this is a make-shift broadcast occurring via a cell phone, not a professional broadcast from a TV studio or using state-of-the-art equipment.  Sound quality is not perfect and we only have a steady picture when the phone is mounted on a tripod.  In other words, we are currently limited with what we can do.
I have had plenty of time to think and to try to make some sense out of our situation.  Something that I have thought about, time and again, is that any kind of attempt at “remote” or livestream worship is not the manner in which Mass or the sacraments are supposed to take place.  Yes, these means may be beneficial to the sick or homebound.  However, sacraments are meant to be experienced in person.  You cannot receive the Holy Eucharist from the TV or computer.  You can make a Spiritual Communion, but it is not the same.  Confessions cannot be heard over the phone.  A person can only be anointed when the priest is physically present.

We need to get people back to church, back to Mass.  When I see people still buying liquor from the liquor store, I question if the worship of Almighty God is not more essential than that?  While the death of every innocent human being is tragic, how can abortion clinics be seen as essential in some states?  Do not those lives matter as well?  Websites still contend: Abortion is essential health care.  People go to the grocery stores to get food to eat and sustain themselves and even to hoard toilet paper and cleaning supplies.  How urgent do we feel the necessity of receiving the Bread of Life for our spiritual nourishment?   Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. (Jn. 6:53)

There is more than a bit of hypocrisy involved in the decisions of what can and cannot remain open during this pandemic.  Time will tell us whether our current actions/reactions were appropriate or not.  One thing that still concerns me is that people are being deprived of the primary means of grace for Catholics—the sacraments.  I am currently considering ways we can supply the sacraments to the people safely if our situation is unduly prolonged or if it occurs again in the future.  The sacraments are most essential!

Thank you to all who continue to remember the parish financially during these difficult times.  People have been mailing us their weekly envelopes or dropping them off at the rectory.  While our income is down considerably, we still have the regular bills to pay (utilities, maintenance/repairs, some salaries, etc.).  We have furloughed a number of employees since we cannot afford to keep everyone on staff at this time.

Let us continue to pray—especially seeking the intercession of our Blessed Mother—for help now and in the uncertain days ahead.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Look Back at What was Written . . . What If?

Dear Parishioners,

I wrote the following about 4 years ago when I was still pastor in Somers Point.  Looking at it now, it may remind us of a few of the things that we might have taken for granted before the current pandemic.  I invite you to consider the following in light of our “quarantined” situation.  Maybe we will have a greater appreciation for the richness of our Catholic faith.

What if there were no Easter Sunday?  What if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead?

Well, you certainly would not be reading this message from me.  I suspect that I would probably be married with a family, engaged in some other kind of occupation.  I certainly would not be a Catholic priest.  Perhaps, a Jewish rabbi?  Who knows?

There would be no Catholic churches.  No Christian, Orthodox or Protestant churches as well. 

No Mass.  No Eucharist.  No sacramental Confession.  No Christian Baptism.  Any of the other sacraments?  Nope.

Forget the Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals and Catholic orphanages.  No Catholic charities.  No Religious Orders like the Franciscans, Jesuits, Augustinians or Dominicans.

We would never hear those timeless Catholic hymns.  No Gregorian chantTantum Ergo, O Salutaris, Pange Lingua, Stabat Mater . . . unfortunately, they would not exist.  None of the great Christian-themed artwork that fills the rooms and walls of museums either. 

No Communion of Saints.  No need for Christian martyrs.  No Gospels.  No Evangelists.  No Christian apologists.

Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, St. Paul and Santa Cruz, countries like El Salvador and San Marino, islands like St. Thomas, St. John and St. Martin would obviously have other non-Christian names.

No popes.  No bishops.  No organized hierarchy.  No dioceses.

If we were fortunate enough to be Jewish, we would still be awaiting a messiah.  Will God remember His promises to our ancestors?  Will He send someone to save us? 

If we were not Jewish, unfortunately, we might be worshipping some pagan god, not knowing any better.

Jesus of Nazareth would have been seen as some crazy, self-proclaimed messiah like a Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Sun Myung Moon or Marshall Applewhite, instead of Lord, God and Savior.

Would we have hope in eternal life without the Resurrection of Jesus?  Would we have forgiveness of sin?  Would the cross of Christ be just another Roman execution among many others? 

“. . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15: 17)

Fortunately for us, Jesus is Risen!

Our world will never be the same again—ever!  

We have a hope and a promise of immortalityeternal life!  

We have the forgiveness of sin!  

We are given new life through Christ!  

Realize how blessed we truly are.  

Have a Happy Easter (season)!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Jesus, I Trust in Thee!

Dear Parishioners, 

Happy Easter! 

We continue in the octave of Easter. A single day is not enough to celebrate this great solemnity. The Church gives us eight days and then an entire Easter season to rejoice in the Risen Lord. Alleluia! This final day of the octave has been designated Divine Mercy Sunday.

Sister (now Saint) Maria Faustina Kowalska, a young uneducated nun, lived in Poland from 1905 until her death in 1938. Baptized Helena, she was the third of ten children. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy just prior to her 20th birthday. She had only three years of formal education at the time. During her thirteen years in the convent, she worked as a cook, gardener and porter.

At the same time, Sr. Faustina heard an inner voice speaking to her. She wrote down the messages which she said were given to her by Jesus into her notebooks. The compilation of notebooks was eventually published as The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul). The content of these notebooks centered on God’s Divine Mercy. Sr. Faustina described how Jesus gave her the task of “Secretary” of His Divine Mercy.

According to the Divine Mercy website (thedivinemercy.org): 

The years Sr. Faustina spent at the convent were filled with extraordinary gifts, such as revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, participation in the Passion of the Lord, the gift of bilocation, the reading of human souls, the gift of prophecy, and the rare gift of mystical engagement and marriage.

At the time of her canonization in the year 2000 by Pope (now Saint) John Paul II, he also declared the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday for the Universal Church.  Sr. Faustina described Jesus speaking to her about this day in her dairy:

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) 

I realize we are living under some very unusual conditions at this time in history with the coronavirus pandemic. I suggest that we all intend now to make a sacramental confession as soon as possible when we are able to see a priest personally. Sacraments are administered person to person and not remotely by phone, by TV or by the internet. These are only stop-gap solutions. In the meantime, continue to pray the act of contrition as perfectly as possible each day.

There is a very important spiritual lesson for us here: time and opportunity will run out for all of us. We will not live forever. If we want to experience God’s Divine Mercy, we have first to admit our guilt and acknowledge our sins to Him through the instrument of the priest—as Jesus instructed His apostles (see Jn. 20:23).

Place your trust where we can have absolute certainty of God’s Divine Mercy: Jesus, I trust in Thee!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska

Friday, April 3, 2020

Easter: A Time for Renewed Hope

Easter at St. Patrick Church (a few years ago)

Dear Parishioners,

I can only imagine how desperate the situation must have seemed to His apostles as Jesus was experiencing His brutal passion and death.  To see your spiritual leader, the one whom you believed was the long-awaited messiah, suffer and die like a common criminal had to be devastating.  We know most of them fled and went into hiding.  Peter was so terrified that he denied the Lord three times, as Jesus had predicted.  What do we do now?  Where do we go from here?

Yes, there were a few who remained faithful and by the cross until the bitter end:  Mary Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple John and Jesus’ own Mother Mary.  How great must have been the emotional pain that they felt as they helplessly watched His suffering up close.  Seeing every last breath coming from a beaten, broken body had to be stamped like a branding iron into their memories.  How could this possibly happen?

Salvation and the forgiveness of sin came with a price:  the suffering and death of the Son of God.  Holy Week recalls these events.  The crucifix in our churches (and homes) reminds us of the greatest act of sacrificial love.  But the story does not end here.

Resurrection and new life followed.  Jesus conquered sin and death.  The grave was not His final resting place.  He is alive!

With all of the suffering and death continuing throughout our world, we need to preach this message loud and clear:  Jesus is our salvation.  He brings us hope in every situation, no matter how desperate.

I realize how unusual these times are for all of us.  Closed churches, sacraments being limited, Holy Week and Easter services on TV or through the internet are unprecedented occurrences.  Despite it all, God is still in charge.  He allows this to happen for a reason, which I suspect is an urgent plea for us to return to Him with all our being.  We cannot exist at all without His Divine Assistance. 

What do we do now?  Where do we go from here? Do we seek resurrection and new life for ourselves and our loved ones?  Do we want to find hope in any desperate situation, even during a coronavirus pandemic?  Jesus is our salvation.  There is no other way.

I continue to hope and to pray.  Easter gives renewed hope to all Christians as we realize Christ is alive!  He is Risen!  Death has no more power over Him.  Although it may seem, at times, that the season of Lent continues in our lives and that Good Friday has not yet ended, trust in Jesus.  Stand by Him at the foot of the cross.  Resurrection and new life will come.

On behalf of my brother priests, I assure you of our continued prayers and Masses for your health and well-being.  Please pray for us.  We appreciate all of the kindness and love shown to us. 

I may not have all the answers to what lies ahead but I certainly know Who does:  Jesus, Our Risen Lord!  

Happy Easter!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Palm Sunday and Holy Week 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Wow!  This is certainly different.  Palm Sunday without the usual crowds of people.  Palm Sunday with boxes of unused palm stored in our garage.  Palm Sunday on the TV, computer, tablet or smartphone and not physically in church.  Palm Sunday, nonetheless.

We begin the holiest week of the Church year.  Starting with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem, commemorating the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and the ministerial Priesthood, and finally recalling the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord—but you need to watch it all at home.  These are most unusual times.

Please do not waste any opportunity for spiritual growth and holiness.  As the religious sisters used to instruct us back in Catholic grammar school:  offer it up!  Make any inconvenience, sacrifice, suffering, or hardship an offering to the Lord.  Join your prayers and sacrifices to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered throughout the world.  Yes, you must do it from home.  However, this is what the sick and infirm might have to do continually, week after week.

Since so much of what is going on with the coronavirus pandemic is fluid, please monitor our web page (holyangelsnj.org) regularly.  Fr. Hugh is very diligent about updating messages and information.  Typically, I have referred to the livestream broadcast of the Mass provided by the Diocese of Camden with Bishop Sullivan for people to watch.  Some other sources such as EWTN have been televising the Holy Mass for years.  Last week, after offering Mass myself, I watched the Mass from the Dioceses of Camden and Phoenix, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  I watched the Mass provided from Word on Fire.  I also saw the links to many of my brother priests offering Mass at their local parishes.  Thankfully there are multiple opportunities to participate in Mass from home using the latest technology.

Somehow for me, it is still not quite the same.  The priests and I are fortunate to have our private chapel in the rectory for daily and Sunday Mass, and for prayer time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  We are praying and offering Mass for you and your intentions.  My heart suffers with those who desire but cannot receive Our Lord at this time because of the pandemic.  I am not always happy with, but I am respectful of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities and their decisions concerning this pandemic.  I would not want to be in their position.

Thank you to those who mailed us or dropped off their weekly offerings.  It’s harder to pay the parish bills with diminished income.  Please remember we still have to cover the cost of the utilities and other expenses for our many properties.  Like the annual Christmas collection, we depend on the Easter collection to catch up with many of our bills and expenses.  Thank you for whatever you can do.

Being in quarantine, I have obviously had the time to think, pray and write, so I ask that you take a look at my more-lengthy thoughts on our current situation.  My blog entry is entitled The Divine Adjustment and it is linked to our parish website.

Please know that you are remembered in everything we do this Holy Week.  May Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection give us renewed hope.
God is still in charge.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Letter from the Heart

Dear Parishioners,

I hope that you are able to read this message online, since the bulletins you normally receive at church at the end of Mass are not being distributed as usual.  However, my weekly letter to you is found on my blog (fr-ed-namiotka.com), linked to our parish web page (holyangelsnj.org), through my Facebook account and through Twitter.

Be assured that I pray for you and offer Mass daily for you.   Whether it be in the church or in our private chapel in the rectory, Mass continues to be offered.  All requested intentions are being fulfilled.  If this quarantine is prolonged, we will attempt to live stream the Mass and other spiritual exercises, as many other parishes are doing.  We are trying to figure out how best to accomplish this.  I realize it is not the same as when you are physically present.  However, difficult times call for alternate measures.

The primary way we can stay in touch right now is through the internet.   The staff is not coming to the office but working from home.  All of the priests are well.  While we are certainly disheartened that we were told not to offer public Masses and other spiritual exercises gathering a crowd, we still try to open the church periodically for private prayer, hear confessions (from a proper distance) and anoint the sick (taking proper precautions).  We struggle with leaving the church open without supervision, so we are usually in the church whenever the doors are open.  I think that more security cameras for the Church and other buildings are in our immediate future.

Let me give some spiritual guidance since this is still Lent.  These crazy times do not exempt us from intensified prayer.  We should not be “killing” or “passing time” but rather using the time we are given to grow in holiness.  Pray the Rosary daily.  Read the Bible and meditate on a passage (especially the daily Mass readings).  Watch and participate in the Mass on TV (EWTN is available daily) or through various live streams and make a Spiritual Communion often.  If the opportunity becomes available, get to confession.  However, make an act of perfect contrition every day—multiple times per day is encouraged.  Participate in other spiritual exercises such as the Stations of the Cross, novena prayers, praying the Divine Office, etc. at home.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying in the state of grace.  Simply put, we should not be conscious of any grave sin that has not been confessed in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession).  If we find ourselves in such a situation, make that perfect act of contrition (renouncing all sin and professing a complete and total love for Almighty God) with the intention of getting to confession as soon as possible.  Conversion—a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—is what is required of all of us as Christians and disciples of our Lord.

It does not look like we will have any public Masses into the foreseeable future.  This unfortunately includes Holy Week and Easter.  I am really, really distraught by this.  It is such an unprecedented time for the Church and for the world in these modern times.

Pray to our Lord and to our Lady.  At Fatima, she said that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph.  I trust in this promise.  I always have.  I consecrated Holy Angels parish (as I had done at my previous parishes) to her care.  Remember that and be consoled by that!

Please pray for your priests, bishops and the Holy Father.  Pray that God’s Will be accomplished in all things.
I love you all!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Uncharted Waters

Dear Parishioners,

If you would have told me over thirty years ago when I was newly ordained I would be instructed that I (and all other Camden diocesan priests) could not offer public Mass for the people, I would think that you were out of your mind.  Never in a million years would this happen!  So I thought. 

Where are we?  In some communist nation persecuting the Catholic Church?  Are we being oppressed by some ruthless dictatorship?  Are we currently living in hiding in some underground Church?  Nope.  Not at all.

It’s all because of a virus.  COVID-19.  A coronavirus. They call the situation a pandemic.

Today (3/16/2020) started out well and rather routine: morning Mass followed by some daily confessions.  I also decided that I would do something spiritual to combat the situation we face with this pandemic.  There are such precedents in the history of the Church.  Pope St. Gregory the Great had a Eucharistic procession in the 6th century to battle the plague.  Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas tweeted out a request for simple Eucharistic processions around churches.  This was my thought:  Why not expose the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Eucharistic adoration, bless the people in the church and then bless the parish/town?  I did just that.

While I heard confessions, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for prayer and adoration.  When I finished with the last penitent, I processed down the aisle and blessed the people with Jesus in the monstrance.  I concluded outside the front doors of the church and blessed our parish and the town in all four directions:  north, south east and west.  Faith can move mountains (see Mt. 17: 20) according to Sacred Scripture.  I prayed that faith can also help combat a virus.

Later in the day the bad news came: no public Masses in the Camden Diocese until further notice.  The memo was initially met with unbelief and confusion.  I knew other American (arch)dioceses had taken similar action: New York, Seattle, and Newark, to name a few.  The Italian bishops have also banned public Masses until April 3rd.
However, I also saw how the Polish bishops called for more Masses to be said throughout their country.

The Polish archbishop of PoznaƄ declared that it was “unimaginable” for Polish Catholics not to pray in their churches.  “In the current situation, I wish to remind you that just as hospitals treat diseases of the body, so the Church serves to, among other things, treat illness of the soul; that is why it is unimaginable that we not pray in our churches,” he wrote.
We are definitely in uncharted waters with this coronavirus.  Will it prove to be as deadly as any virus we have ever seen?  I pray not.  Various countries, states and dioceses have seemingly taken the utmost precautions.

Will the decision to suspend or cancel public Masses be the right one in the end?  People with varying degrees of faith and belief will debate this for some time to come. 

I suspect we may have to wait for judgment day (see Mt. 25: 31-46)—when we face God with what we have done and what we have failed to do to—to see who had the correct approach.

In the meantime, what's at stake here?  The salvation of souls.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Lessons from the "Woman at the Well"

Dear Parishioners,

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4: 5-42).  Certainly, there are multiple lessons to be learned from this passage.  I focus here on three.

Living Water.  Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman for a drink.  Their conversation then progresses to Jesus inviting the woman to ask Him for living water instead.  As is typical in St. John’s gospel, there are varying levels of understanding present in the dialogue (see also the conversation with Nicodemus, Jn. 3: 1-21).  The woman is thinking about water to quench thirst while Jesus is offering something more.  Ultimately, Jesus is inviting her to BAPTISM.  Jesus is the source or fountain of living water (grace) through the sacrament of baptism.

It is no secret that I am very frustrated when people do not see an urgency to get baptized themselves or to have their children baptized.  According to the Code of Canon Law:  Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks (canon 867).  Instead they wait years or decide to let the children “choose for themselves” when they get older.  When baptism is delayed, sanctifying grace (God’s life) is not present in a person’s life.  Remember, we are not born in a relationship with God, but rather separated because of original sin.  Baptism washes away original sin (and actual sin, if one has reached the age of reason), makes one an adopted child of God and allows sanctifying grace to enter a person’s life.  Do I not want this for myself and/or my children?  Is there no sense of urgency?

I Do Not Have a Husband.  While the woman denies that she has a husband, Jesus reminds her she has had five.  As one of my seminary professors once put it:  “She was the Elizabeth Taylor of her time.”  This part of the dialogue reminded me about the importance of Catholics rectifying any marriage situation that is not seen as valid in the eyes of the Church.  People in our congregation are sometimes married, divorced and then remarried outside the Catholic Church.  Or they were never married in the Catholic Church in the first place.  Unless the proper permissions were sought out and granted, these marriages may be invalid according to Church law.  The longstanding implication of this is that one should not receive Holy Communion, or be a godparent or sponsor, or be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, etc.  until such a situation is rectified.  An annulment may be needed.  Or a convalidation of the marriage may be necessary.  Or the couple may be required to live in a brother/sister relationship, if nothing else can be done.  It is best to set up an appointment with one of the priests to help discern what may be possible or necessary.

I am He, the One Speaking with You.  As their dialogue continues, Jesus reveals his identity as the long-expected messiah.  It is of utmost importance that we all realize the implications of this reality.  Jesus is the messiah.  He is also God’s only-begotten Son.  Salvation comes through Him and on His terms, not ours.  I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn. 14: 6).  The Samaritan woman believed in Him.  She also witnessed to others about Jesus.  She led others to believe in Jesus.  Similarly, if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior, then we must also bring others to Him.  Go and make disciples (Mt. 28: 19).  Start in your family.  Witness to your friends.  Tell the whole world what God has done for you!

Jesus continually uses unlikely people to be His disciples and his missionaries:  fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritan women, you and me.
Let’s not waste any more time getting started.

Fr. Ed Namiotka