Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Praying for the Dead

Dear Parishioners,

As we approach the month of November, we should consider the importance of remembering and praying for the dead.  We begin with two notable liturgical celebrations--All Saints and All Souls days.  St. Paul reminds us ". . . Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."  (Phil. 3:20)
Saints are destined for heaven.  Once their lives are finished on earth they will spend eternity enjoying the Beatific Vision--the "Face" of God--in God's time and according to God's plan.  Many saints will not be officially canonized and placed on the church calendar.  However, the Solemnity of All Saints reminds us of all those intercessors in heaven closely united with God who pray for us. (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 956)  Where they have gone, we hope to follow someday.  They have been called the Church Triumphant.  Just as we may ask a friend here on earth to say a prayer for us, we can ask the saints in heaven to pray to God for us.  Once they reach heaven, they no longer need our prayers but they can certainly pray and make intercession on our behalf.
While we may hope that our deceased relatives and friends are in heaven, we do not have that absolute certainty simply because of our hoping or desiring it to be so.  While our Christian funerals are meant to strengthen our hope in eternal life, they are not meant to be canonizations.  Only God knows the ultimate destiny of any soul as he alone knows the disposition of the person when he or she dies.  Did the person die in the state of grace or not?  We can only hope and pray.  We should pray.

Still, we can take great consolation if a person receives the last rites of the church-- the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  I remind people constantly that the sacraments are for the living and we should not wait until a person dies (if at all possible) to call for the priest.  If the person is homebound, elderly, on hospice, in the hospital, terminally ill, etc. let the priest know so that a pastoral visit can be arranged.  Moreover, we should all try to be living continually in the state of grace and not be conscious of any mortal or serious sin.  The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) is the ordinary means that we have to keep the fullness of God's life (grace) alive in us.  God's mercy will be given if we but ask for it!

All Souls Day reminds us that we should pray for the dead.  Our prayers can help them if they are in a state of purification that we call purgatory.  Remember that if someone is in heaven, they do not need our prayers.  If they die not in the state of grace, being unrepentant, obstinate, and alienated from God--thus being in a state of hell or eternal separation from God--our prayers cannot help them.  Church teaching encourages us to pray and to offer Mass for the dead.  The greatest spiritual gift that we can give to our deceased loved ones is to have a Mass offered for them.  The Catholic Mass is a re-presentation of the offering of Jesus himself on the cross. We have no better intercessor with the Father than Jesus who suffered and died for us.

Souls in purgatory, in a state of cleansing or purification--what I like to refer to as the fringes of heaven--can pray for us as we can assist them on their eventual journey to heaven.  They have been referred to as the Church Suffering, in regard to their temporarily being kept from the fullness of heaven.
Finally, members of the Church on earth are saints-in-potential.  As baptized Christians, part of the Body of Christ, while we are alive in Christ Jesus, our ultimate destiny is heaven.  Only our choice to sin gravely, to put ourselves out of the state of God's life, His grace, will keep us from that path.  We are the Church Militant, currently battling sin and evil.  

"So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones [saints] and members of the household of God. . . ." (Eph. 2:19)

May we live up to our calling!
Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Thinking Out Loud

Dear Parishioners,

Throughout history, politics and religion have started wars.  Therefore, I generally tend to avoid certain subjects that evoke strong feelings, especially when I am trying to have a peaceful meal, or when I am in mixed company (and I am not sure of one’s religious background or political leanings).  I attempt to keep matters civil and usually have a live and let live attitude toward issues that I see as non-essential or less-important.

Regarding politics, currently we are preparing for another presidential election and I think that many, if not most, people have already made up their minds concerning how they will vote.  What I particularly worry about are those who are not informed of the issues (and their various implications) and people who base their decisions on reasons such as a candidate’s likeability or popularity instead of more substantive reasons.  What also intrigues me is those who will vote for a particular candidate solely because of party affiliation.  (I once again state emphatically that I have never sold my soul to any particular political party and I base my vote on the substantive issues, while considering a candidate’s moral character, belief system, voting record, etc.)

Certain issues should be of utmost importance for Catholics (and, in fact, for all people with faith in God as creator).  Where does a candidate’s party stand on abortion, euthanasia (assisted suicide), traditional marriage, freedom of worship, socialism/Marxism, parent’s rights regarding the education of their children, etc.? How one values every human life from conception onward should never be minimized or made equivalent to some lesser issue. 

A candidate’s honesty and integrity need scrutiny.  Will the candidate’s political positions reflect the biblical values and principles that have guided civilization from its earliest days? What does the person’s past track record tell us about future decision making? Is political correctness more important than moral truth?

Regarding religion, I believe that my Catholic faith should guide how I do all things in life.  A properly formed conscience should assist me in my decision making.  This means that my faith, properly articulated and understood, needs to guide and inform my vote.

We have seen biblical examples of those who have stood up to kings and rulers on principle—being anything but politically correct—and were not afraid to speak the truth regardless of personal consequence.  Notable is St. John the Baptist who objected to King Herod’s choice of wife and was ultimately beheaded because of his unwavering stance (see Mk. 6: 14-29).  Our parish patron, St. Thomas More, was also beheaded for standing up to King Henry VIII on principle.

America’s future is going to be shaped by those we choose to represent us in public office—especially the office of President.  I suggest that we become informed of the issues, learn about the candidates from their own words and current/past actions (and not just what the PC media wants us to hear about them.)  Read the democratic and republican party platforms.  They are very revealing.

What worries me is that my singular vote, which I intend to take the time to make prayerfully and intelligently, can be nullified by someone else’s uninformed vote or by a vote that is motivated by a less-than-altruistic political or social agenda.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Miracle of the Sun

Dear Parishioners,
October 13th once again marks the anniversary of the miracle of Fatima, Portugal.
As I mentioned in this past Sunday's homily, Our Lady was reported to have appeared to three shepherd children, Jacinta (10), Francisco (9) and Lucia (7), once every month beginning on May 13, 1917 and ending on October 13, 1917.
On 13 May 1917, ten year old Lucia dos Santos and her younger cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were tending sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fatima in Portugal.  Lucia described seeing a woman "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun."  Our Lady subsequently exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners.  She also requested that the Holy Rosary be prayed daily--for world and personal peace--and that the Brown Scapular be worn.  She asked that we pray for the conversion of Russia.  (It should be noted that the beginnings of Communism were starting to appear in Russia at the time.)
It was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13th, so that all would believe.  What transpired became known as the "Miracle of the Sun."  A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria.  The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes.  Lucia called out to the crowd to look at the sun.  Sometime while Lucia was pointing towards the sun and claiming to have visions of various religious figures in the sky, it is believed that the sun appeared to change colors and to rotate like a fire wheel.  Then it seemed as though the sun would crash down to earth.   For some the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others it seemed to “dance.”
An atheistic reporter commented on the event at the time:  "One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith.  It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort.  One might have thought an eclipse was taking place.  But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: ‘A miracle! A miracle!’  Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - yes, the sun 'danced'!"

Many of the onlookers were terrified that the sun would crash down upon them.  Then, as the sun returned to normal, each person in the crowd realized that they were completely dry despite being soaked from the rain just minutes before.

While the “Miracle of the Sun” was seen and experienced by so many, the miracle more importantly is certainly meant to draw attention to the message:  prayer (especially the Holy Rosary), penance and conversion.  It seems that Our Lady, as a most-loving spiritual mother of us all, tries to warn us and to lead humanity back to her Son, Jesus.

Perhaps you may want to read one of the many books about Fatima or watch one of the movies The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) or the recent release Fatima (2020) to become more familiar with the entire story.

Fr. Ed Namiotka