Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Palm Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, is one of the days of the liturgical calendar where we would usually see a great Mass attendance.

Palm branches are blessed and distributed to the congregation.  We recall the people of Jerusalem shouting:  Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.(Mt. 21:9)

I often think of how the chant changed by Good Friday: (The crowds) all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ But (Pilate) said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ They only shouted the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!(Mt. 27:22-23)

Drastic change in just a few days, wasn’t it?

Lest we think that we couldn’t turn our backs on Jesus as quickly, look at what was the usual Mass attendance on Palm or Easter Sunday compared with the numbers on a typical weekend Mass—even the next week after Easter.  Usually there was a noticeable decline.  Maybe it’s not as direct of a rejection as the crowds in Jerusalem, but it can be an ever-so-subtle denunciation that takes the shape of indifference or apathy.

Sometimes we might even see as dramatic a change from the pews to the parking lot.

As Lent draws to a close, I invite you to participate in the Holy Week Masses and Liturgies that help us to focus on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Holy Week and Easter should not be business as usual for Christians.  If we believe that Jesus came to die for us and for our salvation, we need to put time aside to pray to and worship Him.  From an eternal life perspective, what else can be more important?  We can most fully appreciate and experience the joy of the Resurrection by participating in and meditating on the Passion and Death of the Lord.

I am edified that so many people usually take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance during the Lenten season.  If you are one of those who waited to the last minute, I hope that you find the time before Easter to spiritually prepare.  Nothing does the soul more good than an honest, genuine sacramental confession.

My hopes and prayers are that the typical large congregations that we used to see on Palm Sunday or Easter will become the ordinary attendance at Mass each and every Sunday of the year.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Various Levels of Introspection


Dear Parishioners,

Lent is meant to be a time of introspection.  I have been practicing this myself and trying to improve my life as the Lord shows me my various faults and failings.  I admit, honestly and sadly, I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy.  I am preparing for that day when I will appear before Almighty God in judgment for what I have done and what I have failed to do.  St. Paul tells us, “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)

Also, as I look at my role as pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, am I doing what I should do for the good of my parishioners? My primary concern is the salvation of every immortal soul. It is inevitable when I authentically preach the Gospel, it will strike a nerve in some people—especially if I point out something that is sinful and unacceptable to God. “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” (Jn. 15: 18-19)

The cancel culture would want me silenced as may those who deem the Gospel irrelevant, outdated or offensive. I remind all that truth will remain truth no matter how unpopular it may be in a particular culture or at a specific time in history. The Gospel does not become irrelevant but remains the means of salvation for those who believe in it and follow it.

While there are things that I observe that may not be considered deliberately sinful, nevertheless there are some areas I can I tell you I observe from my perspective as pastor on which we definitely can begin to improve.

  • Increased participation at Mass and the sacraments. I am fully aware of any previous and current restrictions that may be in effect. However, when it becomes an excuse to avoid Mass attendance for the young, healthy, etc., I fear many will simply not return to regular attendance even after restrictions are completely lifted. We still owe God worship and it is simply not the same watching Mass on TV or on a tablet, phone or computer. We cannot receive Holy Communion through the internet. Moreover, we should take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation frequently. This sacrament needs to take place in person and not remotely.
  • Reverence when receiving the Blessed Sacrament. I am upset with the manner in which Holy Communion may be received. During this time of wearing face masks, I have witnessed too frequently people fumble with their face masks while holding the Sacred Host and then sometimes dropping the Consecrated Host on the floor. This manner of handling the Sacred Host will inevitably lead to particles of the Most Holy Body of Jesus on the floor as well. I personally witness the many crumbs that are always on the paten in front of me on the altar when I purify the sacred vessels. How many particles wind up on the floor from the casual or irreverent manner the Sacred Host is handled? The face mask should be lowered before receiving Holy Communion. That is why the priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is wearing a face mask when distributing Holy Communion.
  • Avoiding distractions when in Church or at Mass. Please silence those cell phones. I realize that some may use them in place of missalettes, so I do not say shut them off at this time. However, they should not be ringing during Holy Mass. Also, unnecessary talking should not take place while people are trying to pray. Please take social conversations outside, when possible. Remember we are in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

While there are other things that may have to be mentioned at a later time, can we begin to look at these areas and discern whether or not they may be applicable to my own actions?  Thank you for your consideration.

My prayers for your continued Lenten journey,

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Monday, March 8, 2021

Laetare Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

The 4th Sunday of Lent is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday.  The day’s theme comes from the entrance antiphon reflecting on Isaiah 66: 10-11: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.  Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”  Laetare means "rejoice" and like its counterpart in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the priest has the option of wearing rose-colored vestments instead of violet.  The change of color is supposed to indicate a sense of hope and joyanticipation of Easter—during the penitential season.  We are now only 21 days away from Easter Sunday!

The Gospel today (Year B) contains a much referred to Bible verse (John 3:16), which I can remember looking up as a teenager after I saw people holding up signs with this verse referenced on them at football games:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16)

I suggest that we take some time to reflect on the power of this single verse from Scripture.  It is the core of the Christian message.  Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus here, a leading Pharisee of the time, who came to question Jesus at night.  I like to call him Nick at Night.  He was most likely afraid to be associating with Jesus openly because of what his fellow Pharisees and others might think.

Billy Graham, the famous evangelical preacher who was honored nationally three years ago at his funeral, often focused on the basic, simple truths of the Bible to let people know how much God loved them.  He was direct, clear and  forceful in his approach to preaching the Gospel:

Make no mistake, though, Graham wrote messages ideal for the masses and for calling people to decision. In other words, to understate the obvious, he really knew how to preach an evangelistic sermon. Graham spoke of life and death, heaven and hell, repentance, society in decay, souls in misery, the love of God, the Cross of Christ. He majored in the gospel in a way simple and clear, relied on Scripture alone for his authority—repeating "the Bible says" without apology—and pursued the listener's heart and will from beginning to end. The title of his ministry's monthly magazine—Decision—testifies to this single-minded aim. His preaching displayed a galvanizing urgency because he asked the listener what they would do with Christ today. (Craig Brian Larson)

I contrast the Pharisee Nicodemus and his reluctance to accept and become a disciple of Jesus, with Billy Graham's sense of urgency and necessity about following Jesus. When we hear the words of Jesus, how do we respond? Do we have a sense of hesitancy and reluctance, or are we willing to respond, follow and change our lives? Each person, each generation has to make this decision.

Yes, God loves us and sent His Son to us! His Son died for us. Being Jesus' disciple is a life-changing opportunity and offers us an eternal future with life and hope! This is indeed Good News! It is a reason to rejoice!

How do I respond to the message?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

No Device Day!

Dear Parishioners,

A few years ago, I was visiting downtown Philadelphia.  I tried to find some peace and solace, for a couple of moments at least, in one of the few Catholic churches that was open daily for Eucharistic adoration.  As I was sitting in the quiet, a cellular phone began to ring.  It made itself known with one of those old-fashioned telephone bell rings:  brrring! brrring!  .  .  .  brrring! brrring!  Its owner quickly silenced it. 

After a few moments, I resumed my prayerful silence.  I was somewhere in the middle of a heartfelt petition to God when another phone went off.  This time a modern ringtone made its owner (and the rest of us) aware of its pending message with a catchy (no, annoying) tune.  A not-too-quiet gentleman-owner proceeded to answer the phone:  “Hello!  Yea!  I’m in church now.  Hold on a sec.”  He continued to talk for another minute or so as he headed for the church door.  Out he went.  Good riddance!

Determined, once again, I resumed my intimate conversation with The Almighty.  I tried to find at least  a moment of much-desired tranquility.  Momentarily, however, the same gentleman was back inside the church walking down the aisle.  That stupid phone started to bellow once again.  It reminded me of an obstinate, spoiled child clamoring  for the attention of its parent.  “Hello!  Yea!  I’m in Church.”  Here we go again!  I was too annoyed (no, angry) to pay attention to the rest of his conversation.

I was resolved at that point, if God would permit it, to become a Tibetan monk.  No cell phones.  No tablets. No electronic devices at all!  Period. (Be careful of what you may ask for or desire!)

When did a mobile phone become an inseparable appendage to the human body?  A tablet now frequently substitutes as a baby-sitter to keep the children amused or quiet.  People are fixated surfing the internet for hours upon hours each day.  Cellular phone zombies would walk into traffic and various inanimate objects and innocent bystanders while texting regularly.  We are sternly warned not to text and drive, yet it unfortunately still goes on.  Vitamins are now advertised to help protect the eyes from computer vision syndrome (CVS).  Let’s face it.  People are addicted to their electronic devices.

I have a unique suggestion for a day in Lent.  Why not try fasting from your electronic devices for a just a day?  

No Device Day.  

I bet you can’t do it!  I dare you!  I have done this occasionally, like on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, when I was with my family.  I leave the phone in its charger in my room for the day.  I really don’t need to use it and I don’t.  Those who are important to me are currently with me.  People mean so much more than some stupid device. 

No Device Day.  

I double dare you!  If it is not necessary to communicate with an isolated or quarantined loved one, try putting your phone or other device away for the day—the entire day.  Find a day when the phone or computer is not necessary for work.  No Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  No text messages.  No annoying calls.  No internet or computer either.  Resurrect the art of conversation!  Play a classic board game or card game with the family.  Read a book.  Pray the Holy Rosary.  Weather permitting, go outside and shoot a basketball or kick a soccer ball.  Get off the couch and get dirty in the yard.  More importantly, put down and put away the device.

It wasn’t until the end of the last century that human beings became addicted to electronics.  For most of human history people did not own any of the devices that so many of us can’t seem to do without today.

No Device Day.  

Maybe it can become a national (no, worldwide) trend. 

I double dog dare you!

Fr. Ed Namiotka