Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Being in the "State of Grace”

Dear Parishioners,

Whenever I ask someone “What is Grace?” I have to be prepared to hear some varying answers.  I also need to be ready to give a clear and understandable explanation myself.

Simply stated, Grace is God’s life within us. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church. (#1997)

Because of original sin, we are not naturally born into God’s Grace.  We need to be baptized for this to happen.  Therefore, Christian parents should be ready to baptize their children as soon as possible.  Church (canon) law states the following:

Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it. (Can. 867 §1)

To remain in the state of God’s Grace, a person should not be conscious of having committed any serious (mortal) sin.  All serious (mortal) sin is ordinarily forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession), not merely by recourse to an act of contrition or something similar.  This is not to say that God cannot work in other ways, at His discretion and according to His will.  However, a Catholic Christian who is conscious of having committed a serious sin should ordinarily avail himself or herself of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.  This sacrament restores us—reconciles us—to God’s Grace.

To me, it is essential to strive to remain constantly in God’s Grace.  There should never be a time when I want to be alienated or disconnected from the Source of all life, love, goodness, truth and beauty.  I should endeavor to eliminate all serious sin out of my life—realizing that I need the gift of God (His favor or grace) to do that.  In other words, we are totally dependent on God and His goodness to us for all we have, and we need to cooperate with Him constantly.

With all of the above in mind, I believe too many people in our culture sometimes think that only something as extreme as murder is a serious sin.  Believe me, there are many other grave sins out there!  Serious sin meets the traditional criteria of sufficient reflection (I thought about it and know it is wrong), grave matter (the subject matter is objectively serious) and full consent of the will (I freely choose to do the act even though I know it is seriously wrong).  Actions including theft, calumny, detraction, adultery, fornication, worship of a false god, perjury, euthanasia, abortion, blasphemy and various other sins can ordinarily be considered objectively grave.  If the person knowingly and willing carries them out, they can certainly fall into the category of mortal sin.  Moreover, the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth) can be examined as a root cause of all grave sin.  Then, to add some more food for thought, there are the various sins of omission that Jesus mentions in the Gospel passage of the Final Judgment (See Mt. 25: 31-46)

Our striving to remain in God’s Grace and to avoid all sin—but most especially serious sin—can be difficult, but remains always possible thanks to God’s unconditional love for us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The "Cancel Culture"


Dear Parishioners,

Years ago, I was informed and educated about ad hominem attacks in class during my college seminary days.  In such an attack, the person himself or herself would be ridiculed or demoralized, instead of focusing on the person’s position or argument.  The issue would get pushed aside in favor of trashing the person.

Let me tell you I love a good debate.  I can also become extremely passionate about my point of view.  However, what is happening too often today is a shutting out of opinions (and even sometimes hiding or distorting facts) with which a person or group of people may disagree.  It happens on social media frequently.  Sometimes a person may be defriended or doxed as a result of a controversial or politically unpopular point of view.  A “cancel culture” has resurfaced in our society where, according to the New York Post we find “the phenomenon of promoting the ‘canceling’ of people, brands and even shows and movies due to what some consider to be offensive or problematic remarks or ideologies.”

Unfortunately, people can sometimes be unwilling to listen to each other and to hear each other’s opinions or thoughts.  In general, people deserve a hearing.  Everyone needs some time and attention at some point.  In doing so, however, we should be respectful of appropriate times, places and topics of conversation.  Sadly, I have found some people also may have hidden agendas, ulterior motives or even sinister intentions. 

While I may disagree with another person or persons, I do believe people generally have a right to be heard.  Wanting people to be completely silenced, censored or cancelled is as dangerous as letting free speech go unchecked, go unchallenged or to morph into violence and looting.  In the entire process, there needs to be some checks and balances.  We need both mutual respect and law and order in a civilized society.

Obviously, God gave us two qualities that have us resemble Him:  intelligence and free will.  We can think and reflect or we can rush to judgment.  We can react and confront immediately or we can walk away.  We can choose to listen or can turn someone off.  How we act or react will always be our choice.  No matter the choice, it needs to be done civilly and respectfully.

With the election season upon us once again, sadly I suspect that there will be more polarization within our society.  Ad hominem attacks will come out.  Some people will shout others down.  Protests of some sort will inevitably occur.  Some may stir up civil unrest.  I cannot wait! . . . Not!

May I suggest that we all take a good look at traditional Church teaching, party platforms, a candidate’s past performance (usually a good indicator of future possibilities) and remain civil towards one another.

Here is something else to consider:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  (Mt. 5: 43-45)

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for Us!

 The new Our Lady of Lourdes statue at St. Thomas More Church

Dear Parishioners,

As I began a new calendar year annually, I customarily entrusted and consecrated my parish family (wherever I have been pastor) to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Rather than waiting until the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on New Year’s Day, I have decided to make this consecration on the evening of August 15th (the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).  I give this parish and all of you, its parishioners, over to the loving care of the Mother of God.  I can think of no better way to begin my time as pastor here.

In addition, the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, now in the sanctuary, will be officially blessed.  My sincere thanks to all who made this statue possible.

Why not take the time to entrust your individual families to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s maternal care as well?  Parents, you can (and should) pray for your children and families at home daily.  Here is a prayer of consecration to help:

Prayer of Consecration of the Family
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Oh, Mother Most Pure, we come to You as a family and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.

We come to You as a family and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.

Oh, Dearest Mother Mary, teach us as a mother teaches her children, for our souls are soiled and our prayers are weak because of our sinful hearts.

Here we are Dearest Mother, ready to respond to You and follow Your way, for Your way leads us to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.

We are ready to be cleansed and purified.

Come then Virgin Most Pure, and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.

Make our hearts whiter than snow and as pure as a spring of fresh water.

Teach us to pray, so that our prayers may become more beautiful than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.

Dear Mother Mary, we entrust to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts, our family and our entire future.

Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

My Masses and prayers are continually offered for your spiritual well-being.  Please remember me as well so that I have the graces necessary to live up to my responsibility as your pastor.

 Fr. Ed Namiotka,



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Do Not Be Afraid! (God is Still in Charge)

Dear Parishioners,

I write this letter to you on the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests.  I pray I may have a portion of the love and zeal he had for the salvation of souls.  I also pray, through his intercession, there be a renewed practice of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) in our parish and throughout the Catholic Church.  Incidentally, they tell us he spent eleven hours in the confessional in winter months and sixteen hours there when the weather was warmer.  Oh, that this would be the case today!

Having been in the parish for less than a month, you can only imagine what must be going through my mind.  While administration is not new to me—this is now my fifth parish as pastor, in addition to having been a principal and president of a Catholic high school—each parish has its unique challenges and particular character.  Moreover, entering a new situation during a "pandemic" adds to the number of circumstances to which one needs to adjust.

In my former parish (Holy Angels in Woodbury) we had eight weekend Masses in three locations served by four priests.  Fortunately, I was not aware of anyone getting ill or dying because of the manner in which we celebrated Mass, distributed Holy Communion or conducted ourselves in and around the churches / worship center.  Those whom I was aware of dying with the virus were often situated in long-term care facilities or assisted living centers.  (We had at least six such places in my former parish.)  Often they were quite elderly and had underlying conditions.  I pray for the repose of their souls.

Why I bring this up is because of what appears to me to be a type of paralyzing fear of this coronavirus I have sometimes seen exhibited.  If you are not aware, I have an eighty-six-year-old mother whom I try to go and visit weekly.  I usually spend an overnight with her in her condo to keep her company.  I am privileged to offer Mass in her presence and give her Holy Communion.  I would never want to infect her (or anyone else) or accelerate her demise.  Ever.  I am well aware of the recommended protocols, which have varied in importance, effectiveness, etc. on more than one occasion.  Yet, I also remember we are dealing with a virus—invisible to the naked eye, without a current vaccine or guaranteed  cure, and which may be around for quite some time.  While I try to do what is reasonable, I also will not let fear paralyze me.
At this parish there are more than enough safety precautions in place, probably more so than my last parish.  I have joked that you can probably do surgery in the building, it is so sanitized.   However, when a person leaves this artificially created safe space, he or she still has to face the rest of the world with all of its complexities.  The virus is still out there somewhere.

But so is God.  God is still in control.  He knows everything about everything.  He knows about this and other corona-viruses.  That is why I trust Him completely and I concern myself with the spiritual health and well-being of my parishioners first and foremost.  I am not disregarding the other aspects of a person's life, but I take Jesus' words seriously:

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.  (Mt. 10:28)
Please don't think I am heartless or insensitive.  I am not.  Rather, I consider myself somewhat of a realist  .  .  .  and I place my faith in Almighty God.  

Jesus, I trust in You!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

St. John Vianney