Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Let the Healing Begin

Dear Parishioners,

Let me get this over with quickly.  Sometimes it’s hard for us all to admit our faults and failings to others. 

However, I hereby admit that at times . . .
. . . I can be stubborn.
. . . I can be selfish.
. . . I can criticize others. 
. . . My sense of humor can, at times, be sarcastic and biting.
. . . I struggle with prayer.
. . . I am not as generous as I probably should be.

Need I go on?  This could develop into a pretty big list if I let it.  Only my confessor knows all the details.  Yes, I do go to confession . . . regularly.

The beginning step in any healing process, I think, is being right with God.  I base this on the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic. (See Mk. 2: 1-12; Mt. 9:1-8; or Lk. 5:17-26)  Before He began any type of physical healing on the paralytic, Jesus first forgave him—spiritual healing before the physical healing.  That’s why I continue to sing the praises of regular, integral confession in which sins are forgiven—spiritual healing takes place.

I am no fraudulent faith healer.  You won’t find me peddling any snake oil either.  Do I believe that Jesus can heal?  Absolutely.  I think that He (through His apostolic Church) gave us sacraments of healing like Penance and Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick for a reason.  Sometimes the healing process involves overcoming our own pride and asking for help—admitting humbly that I cannot forgive or heal myself without God's grace.  Forgiveness of sins is not something that can accurately be portrayed in some self-help book.  We need the personal forgiveness of Christ which is offered to us freely in the sacraments of the Church.  We can receive forgiveness of sins, anointing when we are seriously ill, the Holy Eucharist to fill the depths of our spiritual hungers, all completely free of charge upon asking!

Yet we must continue to do battle with those who will disagree and tell us how we are wrong:
Father, you don’t have to go to a priest.  You can confess directly to God.
Why should I pray?  God doesn’t answer my prayers.
I am too far gone.  There’s no hope for me at this point.
Religion is a bunch of nonsense and fairy tales. I’ll take my chances.

These and arguments like them somehow seem to forget (or may never have known) the personal relationship that Jesus desires for all of us, which continues to be present through His Mystical Body, the Church.  Christ (a Divine Person) became a man, a human being, with both a human and divine nature.  God became incarnate and continues to use flesh and blood people like us to further His mission and to carry out His will. 

Do this in memory of me (Lk. 22:19) . . . Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them (Jn. 20:23) . . . Go and baptize them (Mt. 28:19) . . . .  Do these commands of Jesus seem to imply that we should do it entirely by ourselves?  Is it just a situation of “me and God?”  Rather, is Jesus not trying to spread His mission and His message far and wide?  Is He not continually trying to bring healing and forgiveness to a wounded world through His Church?

Please take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.  Multiple opportunities are available for you to let the healing begin.  Put aside the pride, humble yourself, and let Jesus into your heart.  You will not regret it.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

“Lord, Will Only a Few People Be Saved?”

Dear Parishioners,

People do not like to hear doom and gloom all of the time.  To be quite frank, it gets rather depressing.  I know I tend to avoid people who are continually negative and  critical.  I prefer to associate with those who are upbeat, positive and optimistic.
Then I ask myself this question:  Where does one draw the line between being negative and critical and being realistic and honest?  I think that I especially struggle with this dilemma when trying to analyze our contemporary society in the context of Gospel values, Christ’s teaching and long-standing Catholic tradition.  I keep seeing just how far we have allowed ourselves to deviate from Christ as a society and even within the Church itself.

For instance, consider the contemporary attitudes towards divorce and remarriage, birth control (artificial contraception), homosexual unions (“gay” marriage), gender identity, abortion / infanticide, IVF (in-vitro fertilization), assisted suicide, pornography, cohabitation before and outside of marriage, sex outside of marriage (fornication, adultery, masturbation, homosexual acts, etc.) and various other matters.  The list of what has become, at a minimum, tolerated if not outright advocated seems endless.  I genuinely cannot wrap my head around it all.

Then I look within the Catholic Church and see the lack of belief / reverence for the Holy Eucharist, only one-fifth of registered Catholics going to Mass each week (pre-pandemic), a decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the merging and closing of parishes and churches, scandals in the clergy and the hierarchy, an attitude of indifferentism (one religion is as good as another), progressive liturgies, etc., and my head is ready to explode.  Where is it all going?

There are those who contend that we live in a time of great apostasy—an abandonment of the faith, a rejection of Christ.  Maybe most people do not outright reject Christ or Catholicism—although an alarming amount do—but far too many live in such a way that the Church and her traditional teaching have little or no influence on the way a person lives his or her life.  Moral teaching becomes relative and subjective.  Truth is fluid.  Confusion is rampant.  I can see it happening among family members and friends.  I can see it in parish life.  I can see it in society and even in the worldwide Church.

"Lord, will only a few people be saved?" [Jesus] answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  (Lk. 13: 24)
The words of Jesus in the Gospel (Lk. 13: 22-30) speak of the narrow gate.  I see it as a warning not to follow the status quo but to be counter-cultural.  Many today think that God will not or could not condemn vast numbers of people to eternal punishment.  How could so many people be wrong?  Maybe the Church and her teaching need to change!

Rather, I think WE need to change and turn to the Lord with repentant hearts before it is too late!  

Eternity is forever.  The stakes are much too high to gamble with salvation.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

One (Divided) Nation, Under God

Dear Parishioners,

Writing my column this week is particularly challenging.  The elections are over and we await the inauguration of our new president.  I pray for him and for our nation.  We all should do the same.  However, I am not naïve to the fact that our nation is not united in thought, principles, and vision or even in the level of trust and respect that we have for government, the press, social media or even each other.

Yet, every day when I wake up, of this I can be assured:  God will still be God and Jesus Christ is still King of the Universe

I have good reason to believe our divided nation will not suddenly come together and unite in a euphoric Kumbaya moment.  We will still have an astronomical national debt.  Laws will exist that longstanding Catholic Church teaching (and I) will continue to oppose (abortion and same-sex marriage being two of the most prominent).  The inner cities as well as suburbia will continue to encounter their many economic and social problems well into the foreseeable future.  As long as there is a market for them, various illegal (and some legal) drugs will indiscriminately infest our nation.  Prejudice will not magically disappear.  Some form of government gridlock will exist. The future funding of programs such as Social Security and Medicare will once again be debated, but probably not permanently fixed.  What about the future of healthcare?  In many instances the can will be kicked down the road for as long as possible.  Perhaps, we may see some radical and unexpected changes.  Only God knows the entire future and for His help we must continually, emphatically pray.

Will life here in the USA radically change after this election? Will the many campaign promises and slogans [Build Back Better or Make (Keep) America Great Again] really effect the change they desire by the mere rhetoric?  Much damage has been done that, in effect, seriously divided rather than united us as a nation.   I am not holding my breath waiting for any immediate solution or quick fix.

From a Church perspective, will the election of a new “Catholic” President become some amazing motivating factor causing more people to attend Mass each week?  Will the sacredness of every human life be protected and the sanctity of traditional marriage suddenly reappear?  Will I see more people turning to God and a radical conversion of lives?  I have no delusions that the victor of this year’s election is some national messiah.  Sorry.  Both major candidates are unfortunately flawed, sinful men.  I am just glad that the campaigning is finally over.

Four years ago (2016), Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus proposed six concrete ideas for us as Catholics to lead the way towards unity in our nation after the last election.  I once again present them here for your consideration: 

First, he said, is “the renewal of parish life as a true Eucharistic community,” with a greater appreciation for the Eucharist as the source and summit of unity, charity and Christian life. 

Next, a “renewed evangelization of family life” is needed, “centered upon the calling of every Catholic family to be a domestic church which, in solidarity with other families, would be a source of unity, charity and reconciliation.”

In addition, Anderson said, Catholics should grow in their devotion to Mary as the Patroness of the U.S., seeing in her a model of “understanding our responsibilities toward our neighbors and for the common good as citizens.” 

Also necessary is a “deeper understanding of those moral principles and issues that are non-negotiable for us as a faith community,” which leads to a deeper understanding and application of the Church’s Social Doctrine.  

A greater commitment to authentic Catholic education that forms the entire person at every academic level is also important for Catholic identity, he said.

Finally, he concluded, the Church in the U.S. needs “a greater appreciation of the office of bishop as the source of unity for the local church” and deeper communication among clergy, religious and laity.

Please continue to pray fervently for our nation!  We still have turbulent times ahead.  I am willing to say it is sadly inevitable.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Some Thoughts About Baptism

Dear Parishioners,
We celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday (January 10, 2021).  Thankfully, there is an opportunity to preach and to reflect during the Sunday homily not only on Jesus’ Baptism but on our own individual baptism and its importance.

Over the past 30+ years of baptizing infants, children and adults, I have had many occasions to inform parents, godparents, and sometimes even the persons being baptized (if they are old enough) just what Baptism means.  Obviously, the outward sign of pouring of water signifies a cleansing.  By Baptism, we are freed from original sin and (if having reached the age of reason) any personal or actual sin. 
Baptism is our entry into the Catholic Church—we become a Christian.  Baptism is also the doorway to the other sacraments.  Through Baptism we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ as well as an adopted child of God with the privilege of calling God our Father.  We are filled with God’s sanctifying grace and with the Holy Spirit.  We also share in the priesthood of Christ—the priesthood of all believers.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.  Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.” (1272)
So much happens spiritually through the immersion in or the pouring (on the forehead) of water with an invocation of the Most Holy Trinity:  I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

While infant Baptism is part of an ancient tradition dating back to the 2nd century, we still have some parents who, on occasion, tell us that they are going to “let their children decide for themselves (about Baptism) when they get old enough.”  I question the logic in this practice.  Don’t parents usually want the best for their children in so many ways?  They want them to go to the best schools, to eat good healthy foods, to wear nice looking clothes, to associate with polite, well-behaved friends, to be successful in life.  Yet, when it comes to a matter like eternal life through Christ, they somehow do not seem to think that faith in Christ is something worth sharing and giving to their children!  I’m certainly confused here!
Although there are currently restrictions (?) on the use of holy water fonts in many churches, there is nothing prohibiting you from coming to church with a container of water to have the priest bless some water for use in your home.  Holy Water is a sacramental reminding you of your Baptism.   Its use helps us to recall how essential Baptism is for the believing, practicing Christian and allows us to renew our own baptismal commitment to Jesus Christ and rejection of Satan in our lives. 

St. Paul tells us: 

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Romans 6: 3-4)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Friday, January 1, 2021

Mother of God


Dear Parishioners,

On January 1st the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  While Catholics may use the term Mother of God regularly when praying the Hail Mary, some people may have questions about the meaning of this particular title.  The Council of Ephesus (431) declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Theotokos or God-Bearer (in Greek).  In the Latin Church, we use the term Mater Dei.  Simply stated, our Catholic belief teaches that:

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither.  Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.  Catholic Answers
We should remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary is solely responsible for the genetic material for Jesus’ human body (in cooperation, of course, with the Holy Spirit) as St. Joseph was Jesus’ foster-father.

As we begin the New Year, I customarily entrust and consecrate my parish family (wherever I am pastor) to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary on New Year’s Day.  I give this parish and all of its parishioners over to the loving care of the Mother of God.  I invite you to join me.  I can think of no better way to begin the New Year.

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

Oh Mother Most Pure,
We come to You as a family and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.
We come to You as a family and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.

Oh Dearest Mother Mary, 
teach us as a mother teaches her children, for our souls are soiled and our prayers are weak because of our sinful hearts.
Here we are Dearest Mother, ready to respond to You and follow Your way, for Your way leads us to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.
We are ready to be cleansed and purified.

Come then Virgin Most Pure,
and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.
Make our hearts whiter than snow and as pure as a spring of fresh water.
Teach us to pray, so that our prayers may become more beautiful than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.

Dear Mother Mary,
We consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts, 
our family and our entire future.
Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

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

God’s blessings in the New Year!

Fr. Ed Namiotka