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