Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Learning Humility


Dear Parishioners,

When I was a seminarian preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, I thought that it might be a good idea to pray for humility.  It seemed, at the time, to be a wise aspiration.

Gradually, things were brought to my attention concerning the topic of humility—now on a somewhat regular basis.  I heard things said to me like:  Be careful of what you pray for, you might get it and The quickest way to humility is through humiliation.

On the day of the senior class graduation from the college seminary, there was a well-planned Baccalaureate Mass.  I happened to be the sacristan of the seminary chapel at the time.  I would be the person leading the reader to his appropriate place at the pulpit during the proclamation of the readings from Sacred Scripture.  The chapel was packed.  Family and friends, the entire faculty and various dignitaries were present for this momentous occasion.  The homily was thoroughly prepared by the priest assigned to preach, based primarily on the first reading, which I later found out had been chosen from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

I led the reader to the pulpit after making the appropriate bows.  As we looked at the Lectionary and the reading set open in front of us, he whispers to me, “This isn’t the right reading.”  In a state of panic I said quickly and without much thought: “Well . . . read it anyway.”  I instructed him to read the incorrect reading in front of everyone.  It was from the Acts of the Apostles.  It had multiple difficult names to pronounce.  The homily, I came to find out, had been based almost entirely on the reading from the Prophet Jeremiah.  I was humiliated.  I guess I began to learn humility.

Fast forward to when I initially became a principal of a diocesan high school.  It was the night of the open house.  I was hurrying around the buildings trying to make sure the bathrooms looked clean and presentable for any guests.  I began to clean things up.  Not really a pleasant job for anyone, I thought.  Then I recalled the brilliant words of advice that I had given to my students at various times:  Stay in school.  Get your degrees so that you don’t wind up cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Who was it now cleaning bathrooms?  Humility? Hmm . . .

At other times humility kicks in as well.  One Sunday the deacon had preached during the Mass that I offered.  We went to the back of church to greet the people as they exited.  “Great homily Father!” One particular gentleman had said that right to my face with all seriousness.  I hadn’t preached at that Mass.  He hadn’t a clue.  Great homily . . .  Oh well!  Humility . . .

Be sure to heed the words from today’s Gospel:

[Jesus and his disciples] came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk. 9: 33-35)

May I also add my own words of caution when praying for something (like humility):  Be very careful; you might actually get what you pray for!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Sunday, September 12, 2021

Reflecting on the Cross


Dear Parishioners,

You will find that I refer to the cross of Jesus quite frequently when I preach.  Maybe I have been profoundly influenced by St. Paul:  I preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified. (See 1 Cor. 2:2 and 1 Cor. 1:23) 

Typically, I will point to the image of the crucified Jesus.  While some churches have an image of the resurrected Jesus in the sanctuary, as did one of my former parishes, I really must confess that I am not quite there yet in my own spiritual life.  I relate better to the crucified Jesus who truly knew suffering and experienced death.  Intellectually, I know that JESUS IS RISEN, and I certainly preach Him as risen from the dead.  However, whether it be in my personal chapel in the rectory, or in the church itself, I look to the crucified Jesus—to the crucifix—more often than not.

Each day I see suffering in the world.  When I turn on the evening news, read the newspaper or find an article on the internet, so many of the stories involve tragedy:  a plane going down, a hurricane, a wild fire, a flood, war, violence, murder, etc.  I see people suffering and dying.  I visit the hospital and I find someone extremely sick with family members surrounding him or her in tears.  I visit the homebound.  I celebrate a funeral Mass.  Get the picture?

Jesus knew suffering.  Meditating on the sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary, making the Stations of the Cross, reading an account of Jesus’ passion in the Sacred Scriptures, looking at a crucifix, all tell me that Christ can relate to the pain and suffering of humanity.

I ponder the image of the Risen Christ and truly hope to be there someday.  I also realize that resurrection and eternal life are still somewhere—with God’s grace and through His forgiveness, mercy and love—in the future for me.

However, I continue look at the crucifix.  Maybe I do not receive immediate answers to all my prayers.  Maybe I still have questions and doubts.  But what I see is a God who loved me enough to suffer and to die for me.  I see Jesus who willingly accepted suffering and experienced it to the depth of his being.  I see a humble, vulnerable God who took upon Himself all of our sins—my sins.  I see Jesus who died for me, for all of us.

At this point in time, you can see where I am in my personal spiritual life.  I see myself at the foot of the cross.  I hope someday for resurrection and eternal life.  But I am, unfortunately, just not there yet.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. (Mark 8: 34b-35) 

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor   

Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka

 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Off to College!




Dear Parishioners,

The end of the summer is the time when college students make their way off to or return back to their respective chosen schools.  I write this week’s column with them particularly in mind.

There was a funny and curious expression that I heard used in the past about this rite of passage or trek away from homeIt’s time to sow some wild oats!  The idiom basically means to indulge in a period of irresponsible behaviorAny parent would be na├»ve not to think that college life holds many temptations and opportunities for sordid experimentation, in addition to the supposed education/learning that should be taking place.

I still believe in the goodness of our young adults.  I hold that the young people today have some very unique challenges that earlier generations never had—accompanied by various special graces—as they live in today’s world.  Kudos to those students who study diligently, participate in sports or other activities, and even may work part-time or full time jobs while at college!

I humbly take this time to give you a few words of advice, with my hope that you ponder what I have to say.  Like any good parent (after all, I am a spiritual father), my words are intended with love and genuine concern for your well-being:

·         Remember who you are and where you come from.  My father used to tell us “never to do anything that would embarrass the family name.”  It was his way of saying that he and my mother tried to instill certain Christian values in their children and they expected us to live by them.    A sign that I read sums it up perfectly:  Character is who you are, even when no one is watching.  (God, in fact, is always watching!)

·         Remember that your faith will be tested.  Even if you attend a Catholic college, there will be times when you will be called to witness to your faith and your faith will, no doubt, be challenged.  Will you make an attempt to attend Mass?  Will you try to pray each day for strength and guidance?  Will you blindly accept criticisms of the faith from other students and various professors?  Will the pressure of your peers lead you to try “forbidden” things or abandon values that you were taught?  When tested, your faith can become stronger.

·         Try to find and to associate with friends having good moral values.  Your choice of friends is just that—your choice.  It is much easier to live a good, happy life when in the company of like-minded people.  Choose wisely!  Moreover, seek out the Newman Center on the college campus and/or become aware of the presence of the Catholic chaplain.  Other students serious about their faith will, hopefully, be doing the same.

·         Remember the intended purpose of higher education.  You should go to college (and beyond) to get an education, to prepare for a career and to develop as a better person.  Don’t let the experience turn into an overly-expensive party with the potential for some pretty serious consequences!

·         Don’t be afraid to turn to your parents (or someone you trust) when necessary.  Even if you do something stupid, realize that your parents are there for you.  Their love for you should be constant.

If you ever need someone (in addition to your parents) in some time of difficulty or necessity, know that your pastor has e-mail, a web-site (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com), a Facebook account, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, (and I am considering some other means of social media) and can be reached by the good old telephone!   

Know, also, that you are remembered in my prayers!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Confusion or Clarity?



Dear Parishioners,

One thing I hopefully learned through my extensive seminary training (in both philosophy and theology) was to be a more critical thinker.  I do not usually take what is told to me as gospel without first dissecting it thoroughly while thinking about it over some extended time.  Don’t be surprised if I tend to pick apart statements and examine word usage.  (Maybe, at times, I analyze some matters too much.)

Over time, I have learned to sift through arguments that were based solely on emotion rather than fact.  I tend more readily to recognize ad hominem attacks on people which have nothing to do their actual stated beliefs.  I look for theological statements to contain genuine substance and for preciseness in doctrine rather than buy into buzz-words and catch-phrases.  I want consistency, clarity and minimal ambiguity.  Maybe this is because I had to stand in front of high school students for a couple of decades trying to articulate the faith as unambiguously as possible.

So, what do I make of some of the confusion that currently exists in the Church?  This situation definitely does not help believers (or even non-believers).  What has infiltrated the Church has been referred to as a “weaponized ambiguity.”  Can divorced and re-married Catholics receive Holy Communion?  Can homosexual unions be sanctioned by the Church?  Is abortion ever justified?  Are Catholics who practice artificial contraception in the state of mortal sin?  It seems to depend with whom you speak.  You can get a different answer to each of the above—sometimes with a wink and a nod—from priests, bishops, theologians, etc.

This vagueness creates havoc with our objective morality and tends to legitimize a moral relativism (situation ethics).  Sin, despite its gravity, becomes a subjective opinion rather than an objective truth.  The danger in all of this uncertainty and confusion is that eternal souls may be lost forever in the process.  It is our obligation in the Catholic Church to lead people to Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and not back to one’s misinformed, erroneous conscience.

As a confessor for over thirty years, people have told me stories about how Father told me that it was not a sin or that Father told me just to follow my conscience.  In actuality, priests like me are not helping anyone by hiding the truth from them and leaving them in the state of sin.  Making a person feel good about himself or herself for a time never truly addresses or remedies any immoral act and its consequences.  If sin is truly bad, people don’t need to be enslaved by it but rather freed from it.  Sin and evil don’t suddenly become something else by our willing it so, our misnaming it or our justifying it.  And in order to follow our conscience, it needs to be rightly-formed.

There are about 2000 years of Catholic Church teaching we are able to reference to find what various saints, councils, pontiffs, etc. have articulated through the years.  While our understanding of Church doctrine may mature with time, no officially defined dogma or traditionally held teaching can be radically changed or suddenly eliminated.  Be a critical thinker and especially take the time to investigate anything that seems strange or contrary to any long-standing doctrine or moral teaching.  It is much better to be safe than eternally sorry.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Reminder of What We Missed Last Sunday . . .



Last week, the normal Sunday readings were interrupted because the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary fell on a Sunday this liturgical year (2021).  Unfortunately, some of the most significant words of Jesus regarding the Holy Eucharist—found in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse (John, chapter 6)—were bypassed as a result.  Let me just quote a few of the most significant lines found there:  

I am the bread of life . . . I am the bread that came down from heaven . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day . . . My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink . . . .

Bread is indeed a staple of life for many people throughout history.  In Jesus’ time it was part of the everyday meal as was table wine.  He used both of these common elements in an extraordinary way when He was at table with his disciples before His death—the Last Supper.

Bread also had some spiritual significance throughout history for the Jewish and later Christian peoples.  The Jewish people eat unleavened bread to commemorate their freedom from Egypt when they had to flee before they had time for the bread to rise (Ex. 34:18).  When the Jews were wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, God gave them manna to eat—mysterious “bread from heaven.” (Ex. 16)  The Jews also kept showbread or bread of presence—twelve loaves representing the twelve tribes of Israel—before God in the sanctuary of the Temple.  Later, Jesus famously multiplied the loaves and fish, to feed the hungry multitudes (Mt. 14:15-21, Mk. 6:34-42, Lk. 9:16-17, Jn. 6:9-13).  The use of bread comes to a spiritual summit in Jesus’ designation of it as His body at the Last Supper (Mt. 26: 26, Mk. 14:22, Lk. 22:19, 1 Cor. 11:23-24)

However, in the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, as we read what is referred to as Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus makes some very profound and perhaps, disturbing, statements.  Some people found His teaching hard to take and walked away from Him (see Jn. 6:66).  This passage is seen as an essential commentary on the significance and value of the Most Holy Eucharist.  We hear some of the most definitive statements of Jesus regarding the Holy Eucharist.  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is one of the core teachings of the Catholic faith.  We do not believe in some mere symbolic presence, but take Jesus literally—at His word—in our understanding of this divine mystery.  Over the centuries, the term transubstantiation—a change in substance (but not in appearance)—has been used to explain this essential dogma.

When we approach the Most Holy Eucharist, we approach Jesus—our Lord, God and Savior.  He deserves our love, reverence and respect.  Reverence and awe cannot be overstated or over-emphasized.  Like the people in the Gospel, our attitude toward the Holy Eucharist should be one of desire, anticipation, thanksgiving and joy:  “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6: 34)

Please realize Whom we are privileged to have on our altar and to receive:  Jesus, the Son of God.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Dear Parishioners,

At the time of my ordination I chose St. Maximilian Kolbe as my patron saint.  His feast day is August 14th.  I thought that it might be interesting to tell you something about him.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (January 8, 1894–August 14, 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland.

He was canonized by the Catholic Church as Saint Maximilian Kolbe on October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him the “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.”

On February 17, 1941 he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

In July 1941 a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

During the time in the starvation cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.

Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man St. Maximilian saved from death.  Upon canonization, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr.

Although the canonization of St. Maximilan Kolbe is uncontroversial, his recognition as a martyr is, given that a Christian martyr is one who is killed out of hatred for the faith, and Kolbe wasn’t martyred strictly out of hatred for the Faith.

At the time of my ordination, I was extremely fortunate to be given a first class relic (a few strands of his hair) of St. Maximilian taken from him while he was still alive.

(Biography taken from the Jewish Virtual Library:  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Kolbe.html)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Documentation of the authenticity of the relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Assumption and the Wedding of the Sea

Dear Parishioners,
Growing up in Wildwood, NJ leaves me with many fond memories.  One of these was the celebration of the vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Ann’s Church each August 14th.
When I was young, the Vigil Mass on August 14th was usually packed (standing room only).  St. Ann’s could hold approximately 3000 people and I can recall seeing it year after year wall to wall with people.  Unlike the famous celebration in Atlantic City which took place during the day on August 15th, the Wildwood tradition was a vigil Mass followed by a candlelight procession down Glenwood Avenue to the beach for the Wedding of the Sea ceremony.  In recent years, Bishop Sullivan would preside during this ceremony in both locations.

The Assumption celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary, after her earthly life was complete, being taken up body and soul into Heaven.  At many seashore towns, however, it was somehow tied into the Wedding of the Sea ceremony which had an entirely different history and origin.
Apparently the custom found its way here from a couple of Venetian historical commemorations and a ceremony in which the Doge (chief magistrate) of Venice would "marry" the sea each year, and throw a blessed ring into the lagoon as a sign of eternal fidelity.  (Interestingly, the original Venetian ceremony apparently took place in conjunction with the celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord rather than the Assumption).
The Press of Atlantic City reported a variation of the origin of the custom:
According to tradition, the ceremony commemorates an event in the life of the Bishop of Cervia in Italy, Paul Barbo who later became Pope Paul II.  The Bishop is said to have been returning by ship from Venice on the Feast of the Assumption in 1445 when he was caught in a storm.  The Bishop, it is said, calmed the storm by prayer and throwing his pastoral ring into the sea. (6/16/10)
Throughout history, it was not unusual that Christians would attempt to “Christianize” various secular customs and traditions.  No matter what the exact origin of the Wedding of the Sea is, as we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, it is more important to recall the honored place that Mary, the Mother of God, has in salvation history and that her life on earth was worthy of an eternal reward in Heaven. Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow!  
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Venice

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Remembering and Understanding Our Sacred Tradition



Dear Parishioners,

When I finished high school and was accepted for admission to a college seminary to study for the priesthood, I was told at the time that I needed to study both Latin and Greek—two years of each.  I had no familiarity with either language up to then.  Since we belong to the Latin or Roman Rite—we are Roman Catholics—the study of ecclesiastical Latin provided me with some valuable background for what is still our official church language.  (Moreover, Koine or biblical Greek would prove very beneficial for my understanding of Sacred Scripture.)

At times, various people will reference Vatican II (the Second Vatican Council) and not know what the documents from that ecumenical council actually say.  Sacrosanctum Concillium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, actually states the following:  Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites (#36).  It certainly makes no sense to me to disregard approximately two thousand years of our precious history and tradition.

That is why, at various times during the liturgical year, I encourage our musicians to introduce various elements of Latin and Greek into our liturgy—specifically, the Kyrie (Greek) and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Latin) during the seasons of Advent and Lent.  By now, if we regularly attend Mass, we should all know the English translations for the above as the Lord, Have Mercy, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Lamb of God.  This variation also gives us an opportunity to experience Gregorian Chant, another significant tradition from our musical heritage.  I have suggested that we change our routine during Advent and Lent since these liturgical seasons are meant to be different from Ordinary Time.

Interestingly enough, my experience in the classroom has shown me that if it is presented in a positive manner, children and teens are receptive to learning these parts of the Mass in the ancient languages.  (Sadly, I sometimes have received much more resistance from others of slightly older generations who seem to have an aversion or even disgust for anything considered pre-Vatican II).

Someone once disparagingly reminded me how Latin is no longer a spoken or conversational language.  It is used for the liturgy and in church documents and writings.  Interestingly enough, as a result, it allows this ancient language to be unique and set aside for sacred matters, like addressing God in prayer.  Keeping something as special or reserved for God alone seems like quite a novel idea, doesn't it!  Maybe its use would reflect a bit more reverence above and beyond the colloquial or pedestrian language that we use for everyone and everything else.  Just saying!

[As a side note, another matter referenced in this document was the assumed ad orientem position of the priest (i.e., facing liturgical East with the people).  The priest facing the people (versus populum) is never mentioned in this document!  Yet, high altars were moved or even destroyed in many churches and the priest regularly faces the people during the post-Vatican II liturgy.  This, however, is a topic for another day.]
   
I leave you with the following Latin motto which one of my seminary professors used to inscribe atop his papers and handouts: A.M.D.G.Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.  It is the motto of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, of which Pope Francis is a member.  May all things be done for the greater glory of God!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

 Gregorian Chant

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Our Episcopal "Uber" Driver

 

Bishop Gregory W. Gordon (right) and me


Dear Parishioners,

This past week I had the privilege of attending the episcopal ordination of one of my good friends from my college seminary days.  On July 16, 2021, Bishop Gregory W. Gordon became the first auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada.  We had studied together at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Overbrook) in Philadelphia.

At the Mass were eighteen archbishops/bishops and one cardinal of the Catholic Church together with many priests, deacons, religious and laity of the diocese.  The Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer was the chosen location for the ceremony since it could hold more people than the smaller Guardian Angel Cathedral.

My life and Bishop Gordon’s life have had some interesting parallels over the years.  We were both born in Philadelphia.  We are both one of five children, four boys and a girl.  Our families both had homes in the Wildwoods, NJ.  Both of our fathers sadly died of heart attacks around the same age, in their early sixties.  Both of our mothers are approximately the same age.  He began his priesthood in the former Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas (now the Diocese of Las Vegas)—THE gambling mecca of the country.  Similarly, I am a priest for the Diocese of Camden, which until more recent years, was the only other place with legalized casino gambling (in Atlantic City).

That’s where many of the similarities end.  After college he went on to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, while I studied at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.  He has had various diocesan positions including Vicar General, while I spent a majority of my priesthood involved in Catholic education.  Notably, if you put us side by side you will notice another significant difference:  I stand about a foot taller than him.  Unfortunately, even with his episcopal miter on, he does not reach my height.  Fortunately, we remained friends over the years and I was happy to have been invited to share this joyful occasion with Bishop Gordon and his family.

One thing that struck me and my brother priests whom I was travelling with, was the warmth and hospitality that both Bishop Gordon and his Ordinary, Bishop George Leo Thomas showed us.  In the midst of all that he had to do, Bishop Gordon frequently acted as our chauffer, taking us from location to location in his own car.  I referred to him as our episcopal Uber driver.  Moreover, Bishop Thomas warmly received us as his guests in his diocesan office and took time to talk with us and make us feel at home.  I compliment both of them for their cordiality.

Speaking to Bishop Gordon about a month before his ordination, he called and asked me to pray for him.  I wondered what was wrong.  Was he sick?  “No, I am being made a bishop,” was his reply.  Oh!  Subsequently, I would ask when his execution date was.    

Please pray for Bishop Gordon and all of his brother bishops.  When Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, his Metropolitan Archbishop, made some remarks at the end of the Mass, he began with “Congratulations and condolences.”  Being a bishop in today’s world will have many joys, but will also involve picking up a cross and following the Lord Jesus daily.  St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, used to say that for him every day it felt like he was going to the gallows, as he never really wanted to be a bishop.

Bishop Gordon is now one of the Successors of the Apostles.  Every day I realize more and more the Catholic Church’s rich tradition encapsulated in the phrase from the Nicene Creed: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

God bless our episcopal Uber driver!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Dealing with Sickness and Death


Dear Parishioners,

Some questions about ministry to the sick and the homebound came up recently when talking with staff. Consequently, I thought that some clarification for the entire parish would be helpful based on our discussion.

We have a number of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (commonly referred to as Eucharistic Ministers) in our parish.  Besides helping to distribute Holy Communion at the Masses, they may also serve regularly in two other capacities depending on the parish:  bringing Holy Communion to those in the hospital and bringing Holy Communion to the homebound

First of all, I note that they are intended as extraordinary ministers.  The priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers.  While we have become very accustomed to seeing the extraordinary ministers at Mass, whenever a priest or deacon is present, distributing Holy Communion is their ordinary ministry and the extraordinary ministers should properly defer to them.

If there is someone in your family who is homebound and is unable to come to Mass, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion can be assigned to visit the home weekly to bring Holy Communion.  Please contact the parish office to arrange for this.  The minister is then asked to be the eyes of the priest in this situation.  If the person requests the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) or should receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick because of advanced age or illness, the minister is asked to notify the priest and he will visit the home as soon as possible.

Priests are specifically ordained for ministry of the sacraments and should be called especially for confession or anointing.  The forgiveness of sin is tied to these two sacraments and a priest—rather than an extraordinary minister or even a deacon—is required.

At the time prior to a person’s death, a priest has special authority to do what is necessary for the salvation of the person’s soul.  A priest should be called whenever a person becomes seriously ill because the sacraments are intended for the living.  While a priest can always pray with the family after a person has died, he should be called to be present—if at all possible—before death.

Additionally, most hospitals in the Diocese of Camden have a chaplain assigned to them.  However, the patient or the family needs to make the chaplain's office aware of someone wanting to see a priest or to receive Holy Communion.  Please be aware that privacy restrictions (HIPAA) can sometimes prevent priests from finding out information unless they are specifically informed by the patient or family.  Also, while I am glad to visit a parishioner in the hospital, please do not assume that your parish priest automatically knows that someone is there.  The parish emergency number should be used in this instance, usually after an attempt to contact the hospital chaplain, especially in emergency or serious circumstances. 

In one of my former assignments, a religious sister told me about how her father prayed every day for the grace of a happy death and that a priest would be present when he died.  On the day of his death, mysteriously there were so many priests who happened to visit the home, to be in the area, that she knew God answered his prayer with His super-abundant mercy.

Also in one of my former parishes, a scheduled parish appointment was cancelled and I then had the opportunity to go to the home of a long-time friend who had been seriously ill with pancreatic cancer.  When I arrived at the home I could see that he was gravely ill.  He had been given the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and received Holy Communion on almost a daily basis when he was still able to do so.  With the family and the hospice nurse present, I began to pray with him as I held his hand.  I whispered in his ear that it was “okay to go to Jesus.”  Peacefully, he passed.

I believe Jesus was present in that home at that moment working mysterious through my priestly ministry.  Why was my parish appointment cancelled?  Why was I at the home at that particular moment in time?  Was it simply an accident or coincidence, or rather a remarkable act of God’s Providential Grace?

Pray for the grace of a happy death.  Pray and request a priest for family members or yourself when there is any serious illness. 

Time and time again, God is mysteriously present in the sacraments and working through the ministry of His priests.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

   

Monday, July 5, 2021

Do We Realize What We Have?



Dear Parishioners,

Recently, there has been increased attention on the reception of Holy Communion by prominent public officials who profess to be "Catholic" despite the fact that they publicly support policies directly contrary to Church teaching.  During their last general meeting, U.S. bishops debated whether to draft a document—not directly condemning those who potentially commit such sacrilege against the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord—but, rather, to reinforce the Church's traditional teaching on the Holy Eucharist.  

I am not a bishop and I completely respect their apostolic succession.  However, many of the faithful question whether this particular document will truly have any lasting impact on congregations that have dwindled dramatically over time and who appear to have lost faith in the Real Presence.  Does the bishops' response truly address the problem at hand or somehow attempt diplomatically to skirt around it?  Too often I think we fear offending someone rather than warning them about the potential jeopardy to their eternal salvation.     

During my lifetime,  I have witnessed a dramatic decline in respect and reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist.  When I received my first Holy Communion, we were not permitted to touch the host.  The practice of receiving in the hand, currently acceptable and quite common, was not allowed at that point in time.  Everyone received on the tongue.  I can remember as a child going to many churches where we knelt along the altar rail when receiving Holy Communion.

Reflecting after nearly six decades, I have had significant time to process what this change has meant to our reception of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  In my opinion, kneeling and receiving on the tongue seemed to maintain more of a spirit of reverence when receiving Holy Communion.  Today I have encountered everything from people trying to grab the sacred host, to those who walk away without consuming the sacred host immediately, to those who handle the sacred host with as much respect as eating a potato chip.  I truly do not know what people believe in the deep recesses of their hearts—now or then.  However, it appears to me that there used to be much more reverence in the reception of Holy Communion in days gone by.

Moreover, there is some misguided notion in today’s society that we should simply go up to Holy Communion whether or not we are in the state of grace and sufficiently prepared.  I also remember a point in time when people would go to confession (the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation) pretty much each week before receiving Holy Communion.  While I realize that confession is only necessary if there is mortal or serious sin involved, I, unfortunately, do not see any great lines for confession week after week.  I also have this nagging question as a result of such experience:  Do people no longer confess missing Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation as a sin?  This was a problem well before the pandemic and its related circumstances.  

Christmas and Easter Catholics seem to approach the Sacrament in great numbers.  Have they all made a good sacramental confession beforehand?  How about those who ignore the proper fast (one hour from food and drink beforehand), those in irregular marriages (i.e., not recognized by the Church), those who persist in beliefs contrary to the faith (e.g., pro-abortion or “pro-choice” Catholics or those knowingly, regularly using artificial birth control), etc., etc.?

Worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist includes, but is not limited to, being in the state of grace (not conscious of any serious or mortal sin), a fast of one hour from food and drink beforehand (not including water and, naturally, if in good physical health), reverence and devotion (e.g., not chewing gum, talking or socializing in the line to Holy Communion) and a proper thanksgiving (not walking out the door of the Church while still consuming the sacred host).     

Do we realize what we have here?  We are privileged to receive Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.  

Is anyone really worthy of so great a gift?  Nope.  Still, I desire to see all people grow closer to Jesus—especially those who may not, at this time, be able to receive Holy Communion for some reason or another.  A Spiritual Communion is always a valid option in this instance.  (If such circumstance applies to your life, why not take the time to see if it is possible to correct matters by talking to a priest?)

Those of us who are able to receive should do all that we can to prepare properly, to receive reverently and to give thanks adequately for so great a privilege.  

God Almighty deserves nothing less.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Being "Catholic" and "American"



Dear Parishioners,

As a nation, we celebrate our Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.  I think it is important to consider a few things as Roman Catholic citizens privileged to live in this country.

First, we have the freedom and the right to practice our Catholic faith.  We acknowledge that we are “One Nation, Under God” in our pledge of allegiance.  “In God We Trust” is printed on our currency.  While it is not specified who that God is, our nation has conceded a dependence on a Higher Power greater than all of us.  As Catholic Christians, we see this through the prism of our faith in Jesus Christ.  He revealed to us most fully who God is.  Our Bill of Rights (First Amendment) says clearly that congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.  Every time we walk into a church, go to Mass, attend a baptism, witness a church wedding, etc. we should be thankful for the wisdom of our founding fathers.
          
Second, we have the right to speak freely when we disagree with government policies or laws.  However, this must be done civilly and respectfully.  Inciting violence, spewing hatred, exhibiting bigotry, and being anything other than Christ-like is simply far removed from the teaching and example of Jesus.  Could Jesus be critical of authority?  Absolutely!  Consider how he called out the Pharisees, elders and religious leaders as a brood of vipers (Mt. 12: 34), whitewashed tombs and hypocrites (Mt. 23: 27).  His words could be piercing and could foment resentment and even hatred by his opponents.  His cleansing of the temple (Jn. 2: 14-22) shows how he could be passionate and forceful in what he said and did.  Yet, ultimately, he submitted to civil and religious authority even as it culminated in torture and death on a cross.

Should we, as Catholics, speak up against the atrocity of legalized abortion, condemn racism and discrimination, denounce sexual abuse, and decry all forms of injustice and evil in our society?  Unequivocally, yes and without the fear of reprisal from our government.  Again, the First Amendment protects us here.
         
Third, while we do not live in a theocracy, our Catholic faith can and should have an influence on public policy.  Our First Amendment does not establish any one religion as the acceptable or correct one.  God is not our king.  We have an elected president and elected government officials.  However, as Catholics, we have as much of a right as anyone else to try to influence and shape public opinion and policy.  Are we a Christian nation?  Technically, we are not.  This does not mean that we should not be willing to be that light of the world (Mt. 5: 14) as Christians were within the Roman Empire or within other government systems throughout history.
      
I have said many times that I am not committed to any political party.  This is because I hold that my soul belongs to Jesus Christ alone and not to any political party.  At times, I have disagreed with both major parties on issues.  Most likely, I will continue to do so.

Rather, I strive, imperfectly, for holiness of life.  My goal is eternal life.  As a Roman Catholic, I am very proud to live in this country and to be an American.  

However, I try not to forget this important thought from St. Paul:  Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3: 20)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Upcoming Pilgrimage

Deposits are now due!




St. Thomas More, Martyr

 

St. Thomas More

Dear Parishioners,

On Tuesday, we concluded our 40 Hours Devotion on the feast day of the patron of our parish, St. Thomas More.  I am personally grateful to the many parishioners who participated.  It is edifying to me to come into the church and see people praying at all times of the day and night.  My special thanks to those who kept vigil during the late, late night hours.  May our Eucharistic Devotion be pleasing to the Lord and bring many blessings to our parish family!

I first was made aware of St. Thomas More by watching the 1966 film, A Man for All Seasons.  At that time it won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.  Today in our PC culture, I wonder if it would be recognized at all?  I highly recommend its viewing. 

Thomas More (1478-1535), a lawyer and scholar, was most notably Lord High Chancellor to King Henry VIII.  He staunchly defended his Catholic faith and was unwilling to recognize the king’s divorce and re-marriage and the king’s self-declared leadership over the Church of England.  For this he was convicted of treason and was subsequently beheaded (July 6, 1535).

Many years ago, during a trip to London, I was able to tour the Tower of London where both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were held before their executions.  Little did I know that I would someday be pastor of a parish named for this saintly lawyer.  (Saintly lawyer.  Is that an oxymoron?  Sorry to any honest, dedicated barristers who may read my letter.  However, we do know at least this one made it to heaven.  But I digress . . . .)

St. Thomas More risked everything he had—family, fortune, reputation, etc.,—to stand firm under pressure from the king.  In the end he is reported to have said:  “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”

St. Thomas More shares a feast day (June 22) with St. John Fisher, who was a bishop (cardinal), theologian and Chancellor of Cambridge University.  Like More, Fisher refused to acknowledge King Henry’s divorce and re-marriage and his self-declared supremacy over the Church.  St. John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill on June 22.  He heroically went contrary to all of the other English Catholic bishops of the time and remained faithful to Rome.  My question to all is:  Who in the end was the saint?

Martyrdom is certainly the bravest act that one can demonstrate in defense of one’s Catholic faith.  Living in an age of indifference, apathy and sometimes even hatred for the Catholic Church, our faith can be trivialized, disregarded, and held in contempt.  It can be a continual uphill battle to remain faithful.  Why bother?

Try telling that to the two aforementioned men whose undaunted faith led to their death.  Try telling that to the countless others throughout history who stood firm in the face of torture, persecution, loss of family and fortune, and even death for the sake of Christ and their Catholic faith.

In the end, will we be one of the indifferent ones?  Will we be one of the traitors?  Or will we be one of the Saints forever praising God in Heaven?  

I pray that it is the latter.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


St. John Fisher