Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Come Holy Spirit!

Dear Parishioners,
This weekend we 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