Saturday, December 25, 2021

“And the Word was Made Flesh . . .”



Dear Parishioners:

Merry Christmas!

What is it that you like best about Christmas?  Is it the beautiful decorations and the lights on the trees?  Is it the special meals with families and friends?  Is it the Christmas carols or sending and receiving Christmas cards?  Is it the parties with friends, co-workers or business associates?  Is it the exchange of gifts and the kindness and generosity of so many people?  Is it the look on children’s faces on the morning of Christmas as they are unwrapping their presents?

While so many various things may become associated with our Christmas experience, we must consider what Christmas truly represents from a Christian perspective.  Christmas is about the mystery of the Incarnation.  God chose to become a man for us.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  Timelessness entered time.  The almighty and all-powerful God became a helpless, vulnerable infant.  The creator of all life became subject to suffering and death.  The infinite majesty of God became finite.  God walked this very earth.  He could be seen, felt and touched.

While the many activities that we place upon ourselves as part of our Christmas traditions—shopping, decorating, cooking, sending cards, visiting homes, exchanging gifts, etc.—may overshadow or obscure its true meaning, Christmas is meant to remind us of God’s merciful love for us.  Christmas celebrates when Heaven touched Earth.  The Love of God took human form.  Christmas is when a baby—the Son of God and Son of Mary—is born for us in Bethlehem.  Christmas is primarily and definitively about ChristJesus, the Christ.
     
If Christmas is lived out as a once a year go-to-church experience, if it is just a time for the family to get together and share an extravagant meal, if it is merely a nostalgic, sentimental, feel-good holiday in which multiple gifts are exchanged, then we might just have missed the greatest act of love ever offered to us.  When you peer into the manger this Christmas, realize that before your eyes is a glimpse of the love that God has for you and me by sending us His only-begotten Son.

God became one of us telling us how much the human person and human life is sacred and valued.  God became a man ultimately to suffer, die and redeem us.  Jesus is love-incarnate.  His words and actions reveal the hidden mystery of God to us.  He is why Christians celebrate Christmas.    

On behalf of the entire staff who serve our parish, we wish you and your families a happy, holy Christmas and a blessed New Year!  

May the love of God which took human form in the person of Jesus be honored and revered in every human person that we meet.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

(P.S., Please be an ambassador for Christ and wish people a Merry Christmas!)

Christmas Homily 2021 - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Some Suggested Advent Preparations


Dear Parishioners,

I make three simple suggestions that I think will help you have a better experience of Advent, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

First, I suggest that we find some time each day to be quiet and pray.  Typically, we tend to be noisy and busy at work, at school or with various sports and activities throughout the course of the day.  We run around doing things continually—perhaps multi-tasking.  Can’t we find just 10 minutes to turn off the TV, computer, iPod, radio or other electronic devices?  Can’t we find a secluded spot where we can just sit, think, meditate and pray for a few minutes?  I am amazed that when I take a few moments to be quiet, to settle down and to allow God’s peace to fill the emptiness in my heart, I often become more refreshed and energized.  I am frequently more focused as I become aware of the presence of God at work in my life.

Second, I suggest making an integral, sacramental confessionFr. John A. Hardon, S.J. listed some of the spiritual and psychological benefits of confession as articulated by some of our recent popes:  self knowledge is increased, bad habits are corrected, conscience is purified, the will is strengthened, salutary self-control is attained, we become more sinless, we become more conformed to Jesus Christ, and we become more submissive to the Holy Spirit.  In addition, he points out a psychological value of confession:   “. . . The frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance contributes to the well-being of our mind.  In one declarative sentence, it is a divinely instituted means of giving us peace of soul.”  Many people, I think, could benefit immensely from going to confession frequently.  Even the best of secular therapists cannot forgive in the name of Christ nor impart grace (God’s life) which we find present regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Finally, I suggest that we do something for someone without expecting any return whatsoever.  Christmas is seen by many as a season of giving.  We exchange presents.  We buy things for family, friends and co-workers who will often do the same for us.  Why not do something for someone anonymously?  Why not help someone whom we know is unable to reciprocate?  Is it really necessary to expect something in return?  Do we really have to be seen or noticed when we do something good?  I remind everyone that God sees what we do.

Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Mt. 6: 1-4)

Try to make the best of the remaining time that we have this Advent season!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Thursday, November 18, 2021

A "Different" Trappist Experience

 


Dear Parishioners,

I am writing this letter to you while I am on retreat with the Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY.  I have been coming to this monastery, on and off, since I was 19 years old.

This year, however, it was a bit different.

Since many of the monks are elderly, all visitors are required to wear a mask when attending Mass or at times of prayer.  For me, it is uncomfortable attempting to chant the psalms throughout the day while wearing a mask.  Masks limit my breathing (which you know I have had a hard time doing lately) and can lessen my intake of oxygen.  I complied but did not enjoy it.  My usually frequent communal participation lessened, as I found it much easier to pray alone without a mask.

Next, since the retreat house had been closed throughout the pandemic, there is currently no cook for the retreatants.   Each of the houses on the property is responsible for itself.  While it is more inconvenient than anything else, this is a different situation than in past years.

I also had been able to interact with more of the monks in previous years, even having helped in the bakery, but this was not to be the case this year.  Only one day during the retreat was a priest available for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and there were no optional conferences of which I was aware.

Lest anyone think I am complaining, I look at it as par for the course with the many things that have been going on in the world.  Things have certainly changed as we encounter various restrictions on our activities and behavior.  This virus has often caused separation and isolation of peoples, rather than bringing them together.

My two priest friends and I have been able to offer Mass and pray together, but it was more in the guest house than in the monastery with the monks.  Yes, the experience here this year was unlike the decades of retreats I had attended here in the past.

Nevertheless, know that you are remembered in my prayers and Masses, and I am feeling better and growing stronger each day.  I just can’t believe how long is seems to be taking for me to recuperate completely.  I know that I still am not there yet!

The bakery here at the monastery is still open and I plan to bring a few loaves of the Monks’ Bread home with me.  What started primarily with their raisin bread has morphed into many different varieties over time.  Each monastery supports itself in various ways (making vestments, producing honey, making caskets, etc.) and the Abbey of the Genesee has done this with its bakery.

Many years when I have made a retreat here, I have tried to visit the abbey cemetery to pray for the deceased members of the community.  Since it is November—the month of the Holy Souls—this would be most appropriate.  I hope to do this before I leave.

See you when I get back!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Time for the Annual Retreat

 Church at the Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

I was able to say a public Mass in our church yesterday, (Monday, November 8, 2021).  For me, this was an important accomplishment since I had not been able to do so for about a month.  After my hospital discharge, I was gradually able to say Mass in the rectory, mostly sitting down.  Not yesterday.  I was able to say Mass once again in the church.  May God be praised!

As I tell people, I am not 100% yet.  I still get winded at times.  I am still dealing with some unusual fatigue.  I have been told by many people who have had Covid-19 that it may take much more time than I would think or want.

At any rate, I am back in the saddle.

Months ago, before I ever imagined getting sick, I had made arrangements to go on my annual retreat.  Canon law requires priests to make a five day retreat annually.  My tradition has been to join the Trappist Monks for some time of silent prayer.  (To be honest, I have had an over-abundance of silent prayer lately!)

So if you do not see me for a short time, I did not have a relapse.  I am simply away with a few of my brother priests on retreat and then taking a few days together for a brief vacation.  I will be back in time for Thanksgiving.

Fr. John O’Leary, a priest whom I have known since I was in high school, will be staying at the rectory and covering for me while I am away.  He did the same last year, so I could get away.

I will be staying at the Abbey of the Genesee, in Piffard, NY.  I have previously related how the monks bake Monks’ Bread there to help sustain their monastery.  The monks keep a strict prayer regimen in the monastery, praying seven times a day.  I am not sure to what level we are currently able to participate since many of the monks are elderly and there have been restrictions on visitors.

Know that I will be praying for you!  May I ask that you remember me next week, with a special prayer for my physical and spiritual health?

While I am on the topic, retreats can be very beneficial for us all.  I have known various groups of men who are Men of Malvern, annually attending the retreats provided at the Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, PA.  Others attend San Alphonso, a retreat house run by the Redemptorists in Long Branch, NJ.  There are a number of such places in our area and throughout the country.  Maybe one would be good for you!

As I mentioned, I will return in time to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with my family at the rectory.  My brother and I will be cooking!

With my continued prayers,

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Down . . . But Not Out!

 


Dear Parishioners,

Can someone please tell me what happened to October?

When I checked the calendar on my phone today, I saw I last headed to the gym on October 1st.  Since my heart attack a few years ago, I had been regularly trying to strengthen both my heart and lungs and to lose weight.  The closing of the gyms for some time, unfortunately, did interrupt my routine during this pandemic.  However, I eventually got back to doing about 60 minutes of cardio, two to three times a week.  I would work on six various exercises (treadmill, bike, stair master, elliptical, rowing machine, etc.) ten minutes each, in addition to lifting some weights.  60 minutes of cardio!

And for the past 18 to 20 months, I stayed relatively healthy.  However, early in October I started to feel run down.  I developed some symptoms associated with Covid-19, and eventually went to an Urgent Care to be examined.  I was diagnosed with Covid.

While I quarantined for a time and tried to get better at the rectory, I found my breathing to be more difficult and labored.  With encouragement from a doctor-friend from my last parish, I admitted myself to the hospital on October 13th, and they kept me for 11 days.  I was given supplemental oxygen (not a ventilator) at the hospital to help with breathing while being treated in various ways for Covid-19.

For a few weeks it has been difficult praying.  I just could not concentrate.  Sadly, I did not have the ability to say Mass nor did I receive any of the sacraments of the Church in the hospital.  I missed going to Holy Communion.  It was very, very painful for me—both physically and spiritually.

When I was discharged from the hospital and returned to the rectory, I found myself both alone and afraid.  I sat huddled on a recliner chair, wrapped in a blanket, sitting close to the bathroom most nights.

Thank God for one of my priest-friends who came to visit many evenings.  He anointed me with the Sacrament of the Sick, heard my confession, brought me Holy Communion and did many menial (but necessary) tasks for me at the rectory.  He was truly a god-send.

What I have been struggling with most days is a chronic fatigue.  I have had a hard time just standing for any prolonged period of time.  I have been able to say a private Mass in the rectory, but much of the time I have had to sit down during it.  I lost strength in my voice and somewhere between 30 and 40 lbs. overall.

So as I write this letter to you today, I see myself getting stronger day by day.  I am by no means near 100%, nor do I have the ability and strength to return to full-time ministry at this time.  However, I can see progress being made with the help of God’s grace and I trust the worst of this, fortunately, is over for me.

I thank the many priests who have covered the various Masses for me.  I miss saying public Mass, but I know the time is getting nearer when I will be back at the altar—both daily and Sunday.

Thanks for all your prayers, support, generosity and kindness.


Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Keeping Eternity Before Your Eyes



Dear Parishioners, 

Eschatology: the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.  

We are all going to die. This is an indisputable fact of human existence. Most people seem to avoid thinking about this reality until they are forced to by the death of someone close to them. We delude ourselves by pretending that we all have an infinite amount of time here on earth.

All of our expiration dates are known by God alone. Are we spiritually prepared to face this inevitable day whenever it may come? I contend that we must keep eternity ever before us as we journey through life. There should never be a day in which we fail to think about our eternal destiny. 

I don't want to seem morbid or fixated on death. However, how we view both our existence here on earth and the afterlife will potentially impact everything that we do each and every day. 

If people are atheists or deny any further existence after death, then they probably live guided by some form of a pleasure principle.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!   What else is there? One must get whatever there is out of this life because there is nothing else. Nada. 

However, Christians should think and live differently. We were created ultimately to enjoy an eternity with God. Life on earth is temporary; eternity is forever. We believe our actions will affect our eternal destiny. And we should live accordingly. 

What does the Catholic Church teach? She speaks of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. After death, we will face judgment--first individual and then a general judgment of all humanity. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor. 5:10) 

For those who are not spiritually ready to enter heaven directly (not deserving hell but not yet fully cleansed of all sin in order to see God face to face), the Church holds there is a temporary time of purification before encountering God which is termed purgatory. Our prayers and Masses offered for the souls in purgatory help them on their journey to God. Please do not deny your loved ones any potential prayers by automatically assuming they are already in heaven. (We do not know they are in heaven with absolute certainty unless they are formally canonized by the Church.) 

Either heaven or hell is the final destiny of all human souls.  Jesus teaches about both:  The Kingdom of Heaven is like (see Mt. 13) . . . For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:10) . . . And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mt. 25:46) . . . .    

Eternal life is too significant a matter not to take it seriously or to impose our own contrived reality upon it.  Listen to what Jesus teaches.  Abide by His warnings.  Be prepared.  To do otherwise could have disastrous (eternal) consequences.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Holy Rosary and Our Pro-Life Efforts



Dear Parishioners,

As we soon begin the month of October, I am reminded of the important connection we need to make joining devotion to the Holy Rosary with our Respect Life efforts.  It is no coincidence that October is both the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary and also to the respect for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

The history of the Holy Rosary reveals its power combating heresy (against the Albigensians) and providing victory in battle (the battle of Lepanto).  It was requested by our Lady herself during various Church approved Marian apparitions (Fatima).  It has tremendous spiritual benefits for those who faithfully pray it.

Simply stated, the rosary traces the highlights of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ and the life of his Mother Mary as found in Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition.  It is, in a sense, the bible on beads.  We can use the rosary to help us spiritually each day as we recall  and reflect on various mysteries of our faith and our salvation.

The repetition of the prayers is meant to help us get into a spiritual rhythm and a reflective mindset.  The meditation on the mysteries helps us to recall and reinforce essential truths of our faith.  The rosary also seeks the intercession of Our Lady who is essential to the plan for our salvation.  She is our spiritual mother guiding us and accompanying us on our journey of life.

Just think of some of joyful mysteries of the Holy Rosary and their connection to various life issues.  The first joyful mystery, the Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-38), shows us how with Mary’s “yes” to the angel, the Word became flesh in her womb.  God became Incarnate with Jesus’ human life beginning at conception.  After Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, when Mary greeted Elizabeth [the Visitation (Lk. 1: 39-56)], John the Baptist leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  Recall how Elizabeth was in advanced years—a situation that today may be too easy an excuse to have an abortion.  When Jesus is born in a stable in Bethlehem [the Nativity (Lk. 2: 1-7ff.)] with no room for Him anywhere else, I can just imagine someone today saying that “This child is too inconvenient for us at this time!” or “We can’t afford this child!” These are just a few reasons that can be rationalized for terminating an unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy.

I could go on developing this meditation.  However, it is even more important that we take the time to pray the Holy Rosary with the intention of fostering a greater respect for all human life.  Please take the time to pray at least five decades of the Holy Rosary each day. 

There is certainly no more important issue facing our world today than the one concerning the sacredness of all human life.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, chose to become one of us.  This is our fundamental belief and this indicates for us the tremendous value that God placed on humanity itself.  Let no one deceive you with false arguments and/or intellectual rationalizations somehow justifying an abortion, infanticide or euthanasia.

The Author of Life became one of us and this speaks volumes of our need, tirelessly, to protect and to defend all human life.  Prayer is the greatest tool and the Holy Rosary is one of the most powerful weapons in any spiritual battle.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

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