Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Facing Our Demons

Dear Parishioners,

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 4: 1-11) we see Jesus tempted by the devil.  I think the example of this series of temptations is a most valuable instruction for anyone desiring to take Lent seriously.  Obviously the Church does as well, since the first Sunday of each Lent begins by recalling these temptations.
First, we see that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the desert?  The desert is an austere place where a person must confront many harsh realities: severe weather, lack of comfortable amenities, silence and danger, as a start.  When we are deprived of creature comforts,  remove noisy distractions, and must face harsh realities, we can and should begin to realize the complete dependence that we have on Almighty God.  We are put in a situation where the desert and its silence can become the place where we hear the voice of God more clearly and powerfully.  And that is where Satan often begins to interfere as well.

Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights.  Not only was he in the desert, but he also took on bodily penance.  He was hungry.  Why deprive ourselves of anything? If we live only for this world, then self-sacrifice, mortification, and penance seem ridiculous.  However, denying oneself (and picking up the cross) was given as a condition for discipleship by Jesus  (See Mt. 16:24).  Discipline and self-sacrifice strengthen a person both physically and spiritually.  A person becomes more prepared to live out the sacrificial love Jesus most perfectly demonstrated by His death on the cross.

Why, then, when we are trying to do something spiritually beneficial, do temptations arise?  Let’s face this harsh reality head on:  Satan and his followers hate anyone trying to serve the Lord and grow closer to Him.  They will put any possible obstacle in our way to prevent this from happening.  We may be tempted to physical, earthly pleasure (food, drink, sex, drugs, and anything that makes us feel good or gives us a temporary “high”) instead of the eternal, spiritual satisfaction that comes from the love of Almighty God.  Basically, it is hedonism to one degree or another.  Command that these stones become loaves of bread.

We can be tempted by our ego.  Whenever we are proud (in the sense of hubris), boastful, unwilling to seek help (when needed), arrogant, or overconfident in our own ability or skills, we can ascend that parapet where we think that we do not need God.  Or worse yet, we think that we are god.  No one can tell me what to do.  I know best.  I will not serve.  This type of thinking (egoism) is represented in Jesus’ second temptation.

Finally, temptation can take the form of wealth or earthly goods.  Material possessions become the reason for my existence.  My home, my car, my vacation(s), my boat, my bank account, my jewelry, etc. become my god.  I think more things will make me happy.  All the kingdoms of the world . . . I shall give you.  At what price?  This was the third temptation in the desert (materialism).

Remember, temptation is not sin.  In his humanity, Jesus resisted these temptations and did not sin.  He faced Satan head on and rejected his false allurements.   Jesus showed us that when we focus and direct our actions completely on the love of God, then we have the ability to do the same.  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.

Go into the desert this Lent.  Face your demons.  It is there where they can be confronted and conquered.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Getting Ready for Lent

Dear Parishioners,

Consider me strange, but I am actually looking forward to the beginning of Lent.  I see it as a special time to be introspective, to think about where I am right now in my relationship with Jesus, and to attempt to make some positive changes that I hope will result in a growth in holiness.

Traditionally, the practices recommended during this season are prayer, fasting and almsgiving (charity).

How can I pray better?  I can begin by finding and keeping a set time each day to pray.  (My own preference is praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.)  I also should be reading and reflecting daily on the Sacred Scriptures, praying the Rosary, making the Stations of the Cross and reading an inspiring Catholic book regularly.  When I am driving in the car, I also like to put on an informative or uplifting Catholic talk or discussion to listen to while driving. It certainly beats the garbage that we often find on the radio.

Fasting includes food but should go beyond simply not eating.  The only two fast days (one simple meal) required by the Church during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence (no meat).  However, we can also fast from things like the TV, the computer/internet, video games, the radio, from smoking or drinking, from superfluous shopping, etc.  In essence, we can do without--make an act of self-denial--and try to incorporate into our lives something more spiritually beneficial.

How charitable am I?  Do I regularly contribute to and support my church?  Do I have some other favorite charity to which I give?  Do I volunteer my time or my skills to help others without seeking compensation or recognition?  Do I visit and help the sick or the elderly?  Do I volunteer at the hospital?  Do I think of others more than myself?

The practices that I observe for Lent can really become an opportunity to change my way of living.  I can incorporate more permanently various ways of behaving that open my heart and my life more completely to God.  I can turn my life over to Jesus and take up my cross daily and follow Him(See Luke 9:23)

I realize that I am a sinner continually in need of the mercy of God.  Like all humans (except Jesus and Mary, of course!), my life has not been without sin.  I am not proud of this.  Therefore, I should seriously consider some acts of penance during Lent in reparation for my sins.  Making a thorough, heartfelt sacramental confession is a good way to start.

We should be spiritually mature enough to realize that the more we keep trying and letting God control our lives, the more we open ourselves to His grace of conversionConversion is a lifelong process of turning away from sin and turning towards the Gospel message.

On Ash Wednesday, when the ashes are placed on our foreheads, do we actually intend to change, or is this just an act of empty show?  Only God knows what’s in our hearts and how much we really do love Him.

Please make this Lent a time of deep, spiritual conversion.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, February 10, 2020

Upcoming Pilgrimage

Deposits are now due!

A Trip to Oberammergau

Dear Parishioners,

Where is Oberammergau and why am I leading a pilgrimage there?

According to the website for the Passion Play, which is held in an open-air theater in the Alps of Bavaria, Germany (about one hour from Munich):

It all began with the pledge by the people of Oberammergau to act out the Passion Play once every ten years.

Pastor Daisenberger writes in his village chronicles: “The first decades of the 17th century went by in peaceful calm for the people of Oberammergau. . . . As early as 1631, infectious diseases spread in Swabia as well as in Bavaria. This village was spared by dutiful vigilance until the church festival in 1632, when a man named Kaspar Schisler brought the plague into the village. Faced with the great distress that the terrible illness inflicted upon the population, the leaders of the community came together and pledged to hold a passion tragedy once every ten years. From this day forward, not a single person perished, even though a great number of them still showed signs of the plague”

This year (2020) will be the 42nd play year for performances. This Passion Play has become world-renowned as the entire village takes a part in the production.

When I was a seminarian, I was made aware of this Passion Play after one of my priest-friends had attended a performance there and brought me back a small statue of Our Lady. This statue currently sits on my nightstand and I prayed and trusted that if I was meant to go to see this Passion Play, it would somehow happen.

Well, things are progressing and the trip is scheduled for September 4 to 14, 2020. The eleven day pilgrimage will also include visits to Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany). We have the convenience of departing from the Philadelphia airport (PHL).

Since I have no idea what will happen in 2030, the next regularly scheduled performances of this Passion Play, I plan to go this year while I am still young enough and healthy enough to travel. Lord, please just keep my heart ticking!

If anyone is interested in joining us for this special pilgrimage, there are still some spaces available. While some may procrastinate thinking that September is still far away, the time will fly and the opportunity may be lost.

A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. We will pray, offer daily Mass and attempt to highlight various religious sights (famous churches and cathedrals, etc.). Currently there are two priests travelling and I am encouraging some of my other priest-friends to join us.

For more information on this trip, contact Holy Angels Rectory and our staff will assist you or direct your questions and concerns to me.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Passion Play Open-Air Theater

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Super Bowl Sunday

Dear Parishioners,
Super Bowl Sunday 
In an ever more secular society, the events of this Sunday seem to surpass in importance other really more important Sundays like Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
In much earlier times, in our Christian cultures the cathedrals (and other churches) of the city were typically the largest and most magnificent buildings in tribute to Almighty God.  What are usually the largest buildings in our cities today?  They are our sports stadiums.  Unfortunately, in our day for many people they have become the new cathedrals.  What are they a tribute to other than ourselves?
Sports figures are often held up as people to emulate and honor.  It seems to me that the martyrs and saints (and I don’t mean those guys from New Orleans!) held this position of esteem at one time.
People will pay insane prices for a ticket to view the Super Bowl live.  Thousands of dollars are spent in Super Bowl weekend packages.  Advertisers are willing to pay millions of dollars for 15 seconds of commercial notoriety.  And that poor old George Washington or Abraham Lincoln bill in our collection baskets is perhaps seen as adequate to support the local church and its activities—if the people go to church and give at all.
We gather together with family and friends to share pizza, wings, sandwiches, sodas and different types and strengths of “joy juice.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the same enthusiasm and participation when it comes to gathering around the table of the Lord to share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation?
I would hate to be seen as a kill-joy, party pooper or spoilsport (no pun intended), but does it not seem that our priorities are out of whack?  We live for today, for the moment.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Did the Epicureans have it right? They propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life.
Whether you rooted for those guys from Kansas City (kudos to Andy Reid!) or the ones from San Francisco (or couldn’t care less since your team was out of it), people throughout the world  are fixated for a few hours on a game
I think that if Christ were to decide to return to earth during this game, some people would ask him to wait at least until the halftime entertainment is over.
What a world we live in!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(updated for 2020)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Sacredness of Every Human Life

Dear Parishioners,

I begin my bulletin with an excerpt of a speech given at the March for Life in Washington DC on January 24, 2020:
"All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life. When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God's creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family. When we watch a child grow, we see the splendor that radiates from each human soul. One life changes the world . . . As the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made . . . To all the moms here today, we celebrate you and we declare that mothers are heroes. Your strength, devotion, and drive is what powers our nation. Because of you, our country has been blessed with amazing souls who have changed the course of human history. We cannot know what our citizens yet unborn will achieve. The dreams they will imagine. The masterpieces they will create. The discoveries they will make. But we know this: every life brings love into this world. Every child brings joy to a family. Every person is worth protecting. And above all, we know that every human soul is divine and every human life, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of Almighty God."

"Which bishop or religious leader is being quoted here?” you may wonder. The speech comes from the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The fact that he is the first President of our country ever to attend the March for Life speaks volumes to me. Other presidents may have made a phone call to the March attendees or sent a proxy.  However, this year the sitting President was present and he spoke the above words. People who have faithfully attended the March year after year have waited decades for this to happen. 
I have stated very clearly on numerous occasions that I am neither a republican nor a democrat. I see flaws in both parties. I consider myself an independent conservative. My only complete allegiance is to Jesus Christ as my Lord, God and Savior. However, looking objectively at what President Trump said and what his appearance at the March meant to all who respect the sanctity of every human life, he deserves our applause.  I also commend Vice-President Mike Pence who is also staunchly pro-life, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (a graduate of St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, NJ where I was assistant principal for a time) for her continual support of the unborn.

I contrast the above with an excerpt from an acceptance speech from Michelle Williams at the recent Golden Globe awards. As she was accepting her Golden Globe award, she spoke the following:

“ . . . And I wouldn't have been able to do this without employing a woman's right to choose . . . To choose when to have my children and with whom, when I felt supported and able to balance our lives as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children. Now I know my choices might look different than yours, but thank God or whoever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principles that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours. So, women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest.  It's what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don't forget we are the largest voting body in this country.  Let's make it look more like us."

All I could think of was the award she was now holding instead of the child that should-have-been. I don’t know her situation and the circumstances surrounding it. What I do know is that she made a “choice” that can never be reversed and because of it she is holding a golden idol instead of a living child.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Michelle Williams at the Golden Globes

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Catholic Schools Week 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Catholic Schools Week this year is from January 26th to February 1st.

We proudly boast of Holy Angels School—the Small School with the Big Heart—as part of our parish.
I truly believe in and have dedicated the majority of my years as a priest  to service in Catholic schools.  This will remain my passion as long as the Catholic school is true to its Catholic mission and identity.  A Catholic school is never supposed to be just a “private school,” some type of “alternative to public education” or a type of “status symbol” that only “elite” families can afford.

What makes a Catholic school special?

We pray together each day.  We teach morals, values, love and forgiveness to the students.  We celebrate the sacraments (especially Mass and Confession) as part of the life of the school.  Our Catholic faith is an important component of the curriculum.  We develop the whole person—body, mind and soul.  We freely preach “Jesus is Lord!” 

These factors to me are simply priceless.

Yes, the public schools may have many more material things available (that your taxes pay for!) but they do not readily proclaim that Jesus, the Son of God, loves me and died for my sins.

This does not hide the fact that Catholic schools certainly have their challenges.  Religious sisters and priests in schools are becoming a rarity.  Tuition costs continue to rise.  Unfortunately, not every Catholic school student (or family) listens to or incorporates the Gospel message into their lives.

Still, I believe in Catholic schools and have known and experienced their influence on so many people’s lives.  In fact, I believe that I am a priest today because of the example of dedicated priests, sisters and lay teachers during my years of Catholic school education.

I take this time to thank Mrs. Patti Paulsen, the Principal of Holy Angels School, for her commitment, dedication and leadership.  She and her faculty and staff are working continually to build up our school and I am proud of their efforts.  They are truly swimming against the tide as our school enrollment grows even as our Catholic Church faces difficult times.

For those who have chosen a Catholic school education for their children, I am grateful for your commitment and support.  I encourage all parents to take the time to consider this option for their children.  It will involve sacrifice to some degree.  But sacrifice is the foundation of our faith—a sacrifice that was made on the cross for you and me.

Try teaching that in a public school.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or “Eucharistic Minister”

Dear Parishioners,

Before Christmas I began writing about various aspects of the current Novus Ordo Mass.  Now that we are back in ordinary time, I continue looking at something that is very commonplace in today’s parishes:  Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMOHC).

While they have become known as “Eucharistic Ministers” in many, if not most, parishes, realize that their proper title includes the word extraordinary.  In fact, it seems almost ridiculous to use this term since they are absolutely commonplace no matter where you go to Mass, except for some notable exceptions (e.g., traditional Latin Mass parishes, etc.).  How and why did this happen? 

I remember when EMOHC’s were first introduced into the parishes years ago, it was stated that any one person could only serve in this capacity for a set term (perhaps 2 or 3 years) so that no one got the impression that this position was an ordinary ministry in the Church.  The ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the priests and deacons.  Gradually, people were never replaced and more and more people were urged to step forward to participate in this “ministry.”  They were no longer considered extraordinary but rather became supplemental.  The lines for Holy Communion would now move quicker and the Most Precious Blood could be offered to people on a regular basis.
It was also seen as a “positive” benefit that the EMOHC could help take Holy Communion to the homebound and to the hospital.  More people could be reached regularly while the priest would be available for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, when needed.

Was there any downside to this overuse of extraordinary ministers?  We now increasingly speak about a lack of belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  Statistics alarmingly show  this happening.  One has to ask honestly if the overuse (misuse?) of EMOHC’s—as well as factors such as Communion in the hand, quicker lines without kneeling, etc.—somehow contributed to this?
Then there are the problems created when people begin to think that becoming an EMOHC is more of a “right” than a unique, extraordinary privilege.  I know of cases where people came forward to serve as “ministers” when they had irregular marriages (divorced and remarried outside the Church) or were living in the state of sin.  They, in fact, should not be receiving Holy Communion, let alone distributing Our Lord.

There are also the situations where people are not properly dressed to attend Mass, let alone distribute the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  I may hear the excuse:  “At least, Father, they’re coming to Church.”  Yes, but think about how our dress should reflect what we believe is happening at Mass.  God Himself is present on our altar and in our tabernacle.  A priest or deacon wears special vestments to accompany the sacred actions taking place.  And then we dress like we are going to the beach or to the gym to distribute Holy Communion?

What I have said is meant to make us all think and to reflect on some factors that may have contributed to possible abuses in today’s Mass and that may have slowly crept in over the years.  We become accustomed to them, may readily accept them now and never question what has occurred over time. 

And when no one is left in the pews, we will undoubtedly wonder why?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Which is it?


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Reflecting on Our Baptism

Dear Parishioners,

There are times when we are reminded that we are baptized Christians.  Whenever we walk into a Catholic Church and bless ourselves with holy water, we should recall that we are baptized.  On Easter Sunday, the priest will ask that we renew our baptismal promises (in place of reciting the Nicene Creed) and will go up and down the church sprinkling us with the newly blessed Easter water.  As an option for the penitential rite at Sunday Mass, the priest may also sprinkle us with the holy water recalling our baptism.  Additionally, the Baptism of the Lord provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our own baptism.

Baptism makes us a Christian.  We are not born in union with God but alienated from Him because of original sin.  While we did not commit this sin, all humanity was wounded or stained by the disobedience of the first humans. (See Romans 5:12-21)  We are not born into Grace (God’s life) but receive this life through our baptism.  By baptism we are cleansed from original sin (and any personal sin if we are old enough to know and commit sin).  We become adopted children of God though Christ.  The Holy Spirit now dwells in us.  We die with Christ in baptism so as to one day share eternal life with Him.  We are welcomed into the Catholic Church and become a member awaiting full initiation (which comes with First Holy Communion and Confirmation).  We need to reflect often on what baptism has done for and to us.

We remain in God’s grace unless we sin mortally.  The concept of serious or mortal sin tells us that a particular sin (a willing, thought-out choice that we make involving a grave or serious matter) can once again alienate us from God’s grace.  Apart from original sin which we inherit, we choose to sin.  Fortunately, it is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) that once again restores our baptismal graces and reconciles us with God and the Church.  I tell people that every confession is a new beginning for us and we become a new creation because of God’s abundant mercy.

The Church still advocates infant baptism.  I recall how it was important for so many in past generations to take seriously the teaching of the Church that infants be baptized in the first weeks following birth.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  “The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.”  (#1250)  The gift of Faith is so precious that I personally cannot understand how someone would knowingly deny or unnecessarily prolong his or her child from receiving baptism.

Baptism is one of those sacraments that is never repeated—once baptized, always baptized.  It imparts a permanent character on us that is not removed—even by sin.  Sin, however, can prevent baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.  Hence, there is a need and an obligation to be reconciled of any post-baptismal sin (especially mortal sin) by means of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

So I ask that you think about your own baptism and all of its implications.  Parents who have not yet presented your children for baptism are reminded to take this obligation very seriously.  If you bring a child into this world, you are responsible for his or her upbringing, physical and material needs, love and emotional needs, as well as his or her eternal salvation.  We are saved only through Christ Jesus.  There is no other way to the Father except through Him. (See Jn. 14:6)  Baptism is the way to eternal life because it is the means by which we allow Christ to be truly Lord of our life.

Fr. Ed Namiotka