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

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


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


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