Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Epiphany

Dear Parishioners,

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

As far as I can remember, this popular carol, referring to the three kings from the East, has been sung annually during the Christmas season.  The carol itself was written in the 19th century by the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr., an Episcopalian clergyman.  Popular folklore has grown over the years regarding them, although the Sacred Scriptures dedicates only twelve verses to them in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 2: 1-12).

First of all they are called magi in the bible—not kings.  Speculation has it that they were astrologers, although the term itself sometimes refers to a magician or a Zoroastrian priest.  In any case, they were observing a star in their pursuit of the newborn King of the Jews.  There is no mention that there are actually three of them, but the number of gifts seems to lead people to draw that conclusion.

With time the magi have been given names—Caspar (Kaspar), Melchior and Balthazar—although there is no biblical basis for this either.  We are told that they brought three special gifts to the Christ Child—each seemingly with a unique significance: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  While there are varied interpretations of the meaning of these gifts,  gold is usually seen as a royal tribute paid to a king, frankincense as a sign of divinity and myrrh as an embalming oil as a symbol of death or, perhaps, healing.

What is the spiritual significance of this event known as the Epiphany?  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation.  The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.  Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 528)

Marking above the door in the year 2020

In Spain, the Philippines and various other countries throughout the Spanish-speaking world, various traditions have sprung up surrounding the Three Kings with forms of gift-giving attached.  In a European tradition, the initials of the king’s names are marked in chalk above the doors of homes (for example,  C+M+B or K+M+B) as a blessing for the New Year.  Other cultures celebrate the kings with a special ring cake concealing a figure of the baby Jesus inside.

No matter what traditions surround the celebration of the Epiphany, we need to remember always that Jesus Christ is King!

O come let us adore Him!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, December 15, 2022

A New Year Resolution: Live Like You Were Dying

Dear Parishioners,

There is a tradition in America to make some personal resolutions as we begin the New Year.  From a Christian perspective, this attempt seems to be a  bit misguided as the new “church” year actually began for believers with Advent. This season—Adventwould have been a more appropriate time for us to make changes to prepare for the Coming of Christ. I remind all of us of Advent’s two-fold preparation:  celebrating Christ’s First Coming (the Nativity) and awaiting His Second Coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.

While listening to an online presentation some years ago, one of the speakers mentioned a rather intense and unique spiritual exercise.  Set a pretend date for your own death in a month and then do everything necessary to prepare for that day.  In other words, what would you do if you only had a month to live and you knew you were about to meet God and face judgment—an eternal reward or punishment— in only a month?  What would you do if you knew exactly the date of your own death?

This brought to mind a song released by country singer Tim McGraw back in 2004: Live Like You Were Dying.  The song tries to inspire a person to live life to the fullest in the time remaining on earth.  Activities suggested included skydiving, mountain climbing, bull riding and other bucket-list activities.  I think the song finally reached much more spiritual depth when it spoke about loving deeper and giving forgiveness that long had been denied.  The dying person spoke about becoming the husband that most of the time he wasn’t and becoming a friend that a friend would like to have.  The song goes on to mention reading the good book (presumably the Bible) and ultimately facing eternity.

Well then, let me bring this to a more Catholic perspective.  All of us have limited time.  We have a shelf-life whose expiration date is known only to God.  Even if we are given 100 years or more on earth, what is that brief time compared to e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y?  Eternity is forever.  Remember that! Church teaching prepares us with the instruction that we all will inevitably face death, judgment, heaven or hell at the end of our lives (the four last things).

What would you do if that step from eternity were only a month away? Go ahead. Set the date.  Pretend that it was only a month away.  What would you do to get your life completely in order?  Would you pray and go to Mass more frequently?  Begin now.  Would you make a good, sacramental confession like never before?  Start preparing now.  Would you forgive that person who has hurt you or ask forgiveness from someone you have hurt?  Make the phone call or write the letter today.  Would you find more time for your children or grandchildren?  Start now.  Would you visit that neglected parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend?  Just do it.  What in your life needs to be done so that when you meet God face to face and have to account for your life here on earth you will be ready—completely ready?

Then [the king] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  (Mt. 25:  41-46)
Why not give it a try?  Just think of how much more spiritually mature and prepared you would be after such a month of intense preparation!  It could be like a spiritual boot camp.  

Happy New Year!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tim McGraw

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

Dear Parishioners,

Christ is born! Let us rejoice!

The trees are decorated, gifts are purchased and exchanged, various foods are prepared, businesses have their Christmas (or holiday) parties, cards are sent, students return home from college, families get together from far and wide to share good times, etc. etc.

I hope part of the routine for is also attendance at Mass.  By the way, I hope you take time to examine the last part of the word Christmas.  The word itself comes from the Old English for Christ’s Mass.

Usually the earliest possible Masses on Christmas Eve have been the best attended in most parishes to which I have been assigned.  They were usually filled with children.  Perhaps, there was a Christmas concert or pageant beforehand.  There is indeed something special about that most holy of nights, especially when seen through the eyes of a child!

Some have contended that the current chosen date for Christmas was a Christianizing of the pagan winter solstice. (Catholic author Dr. Michael Barber addresses this and other questions about Christmas in his book, The True Meaning of Christmas: The Birth of Jesus and the Origins of the Season.  He contends that there is no conclusive evidence to assert this proposition.) What is essential for Christians is Jesus took human flesh and was born at a particular point in time.  That is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Christmas is about Christ. Although things can get rather complicated and convoluted for some, Christmas is still about Christ and not Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Grinch, etc.  It’s not primarily about gift giving, family dinners or various other secular traditions.

Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  (Luke 2:  10-11)

God chose to become a man for us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  Timelessness entered into 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.

When you peer into the manger this Christmas, realize that before you is a glimpse of the tremendous love that God has for you and me, as evidenced through the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son.

On behalf of the sisters and entire staff that 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.

I thank God that you have made St. Thomas More Parish your spiritual home!  Merry Christmas!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Peace on Earth

Dear Parishioners,

Perhaps you might receive a Christmas card with the inscription Peace on Earth. When Christ was born, there was period of relative peace known as the Pax Romana throughout the known world.  The power and might of the Roman Empire and its army allowed for a temporary period of peace.  However, where is the great Roman Empire now?  Its eventual collapse came from within as the moral fiber of the society eventually disintegrated.

Our world is in desperate need of peace.  We are all too familiar with the continuing war in Ukraine.  However, a simple computer search for a list of current wars/conflicts throughout the world would probably shock you. Most of the time we simply are not informed about various matters around the globe.  Yet they continue.  How then can we achieve a true and lasting peace?

We call Christ the Prince of Peace.  I suggest that His Gospel message needs to take deep root in our hearts.  We have heard much about radicalization in the news.  Jesus' message is one of love, forgiveness, mercy and peace.  Christians and all people of good will should know that war, violence, hatred, revenge, terrorism, and the murder of innocents is never the ultimate answer.

While there are those who find little time for prayer or may even mock it, I think prayer is the means by which we will find a solution to our world (as well as individual) problems.  A return to God and a more complete discipleship to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the only way we are going to have true and lasting peace.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that everything that He said and did would come to naught.  Every subsequent generation must heed His Gospel message, be converted, and allow the Gospel to be deeply rooted in the heart.  It is Jesus who will transform hatred into love and offer us true peace now as he did then.

My hope and prayer is for a better world in which we no longer live in fear.  No one likes to be barraged in the news with stories of an unstable world, hatred and violence.  I am not so idealistic or naïve to think that we should not remain vigilant and prepared in this sometimes frightening world.  Yet, if we want to see things change for the better and not just let this be a bunch of rhetoric, then we will need Divine assistance and a determined commitment on our part to be faith-filled disciples of Jesus.

I am a firm believer that God's patience and mercy are directed toward our salvation. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) God often works slowly and ever so subtly. May we have the resolve to embrace the cross of Jesus, to accept His mercy while we are still able, and to do our part to build up the Kingdom of God.  Then we will experience His true and lasting peace.  

As Advent comes to a close, please use the remaining time to prepare your minds and hearts for the Lord’s birth, for His return in glory and for the coming of His Kingdom.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Monday, December 5, 2022

"I am the Immaculate Conception"

Dear Parishioners,

Among some Catholics, there is still a misunderstanding regarding what is meant by the term (or title) Immaculate Conception.  Some people mistakenly think that this title refers to Jesus and His being conceived miraculously in the womb of His Mother Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the following in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
This proclamation was one of two notable times in the history of the Catholic Church when a pope declared an infallible dogma ex cathedra (that is, from the chair of St. Peter’s teaching authority).  The other occasion was the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Our catechism instructs us:  “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses . . . .”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491.  Mary was redeemed by Christ as all humanity is, but her redemption began at her very conception in the womb of her mother by a singular gracehence, the term Immaculate Conception.

Around the same time as the pope, bishops and theologians were wrestling with this theological matter, Bernadette Soubirous was born in Lourdes, France in 1844.  Saint Bernadette, as she is now known, is remembered for having received eighteen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between February 11 and July 16, 1858.  Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built at a grotto in Massabielle where the apparitions occurred and a miraculous spring of water now flows.  During these apparitions, Our Lady identified herself to St. Bernadette with the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  St. Bernadette, an illiterate peasant girl with no formal training in theology, had no idea what the phrase Immaculate Conception meant.  She was only fourteen at the time of the visions.  It seems that in these apparitions Our Lady herself confirmed what the Church had formally declared just four years earlier.  The church holds these apparitions as worthy of belief. 

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated annually on December 8th and it is a Holy Day of Obligation. Too often various Holy Days are not observed by Catholics at all, regardless of whether there is an obligation to attend Mass. I must emphasize that just because we may or may not be obliged to attend a particular Holy Day Mass on various years, it doesn’t mean the importance and significance of the occasion should be diminished nor should we get into the habit of doing only the least possible for God (minimum requirement) when it comes to our faith.

Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our country and our diocese.  She should certainly have a special place in our hearts.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

St. Bernadette Soubirous

Monday, November 28, 2022

An Advent Weekend with Marriage Encounter


Dear Parishioners,

Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas. This weekend, for the Second Sunday of Advent, I am presenting a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend in Ocean City, NJ.  Please pray for its success.  

When I was a newly ordained priest, a couple from my parish asked me to make a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  As you might expect, my reaction was somewhat puzzled. I am obviously not married. What would be the benefit of me attending such a weekend? 

Almost 35 years later, I can honestly say that this experience (and its aftermath) had one of the most profound and lasting effects on me as a person and on my priestly ministry.

This is probably not something that I would have chosen to do on my own.  It would certainly not have been on my bucket list. Yet, what happened as a result can only be described as truly life-changing.  And it was thanks to a couple who simply invited me to try such an experience.

I have been presenting the Marriage Encounter Weekend, usually once or twice a year, for nearly 35 years now.  Together with a team of three couples, we share a series of talks to couples (and sometimes to priests and religious) with the goal of making good marriages better. The Marriage Encounter Weekend is not primarily designed for troubled marriages. (There are experiences such as Retrouvaille for this purpose.) The Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend is meant to open up the lines of communication between husband and wife in what is essentially a private experience between the two.

What it did for me personally was help me to understand married couples (and their families) better, to open up lines of communication, to understand my relationship to the Church—the Body of Christ—and also to identify and communicate my feelings. Feelings, in particular, are not something most men know how to deal with or might not realize the importance of in the first place.

Ladies, have you ever felt that your husband sometimes doesn’t seem to understand you?  Guys, are your wives sometimes still a mystery to you in many ways?  Do you both ever wonder if there is more to marriage and to life than what you are currently experiencing?  Then maybe it’s time to try a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  You can be newly-married or married for fifty years or more.  It does not matter.  The weekend can help to make any marriage better.

If you are married and desire more for your marriage, I invite you to consider attending such a weekend.  For further information, you can check out the South Jersey Worldwide Marriage Encounter website or call the information line at 609-741-8012. 

Many people are afraid of the unknown, afraid of change or may not want to “rock the boat.”  I invite you and ask you to suggest to your spouse the possibility of attending an upcoming Marriage Encounter Weekend.  

I can only tell you from personal experience that it indeed has life-changing possibilities! 

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent "A" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Thanksgiving and Advent


Dear Parishioners,

As I write this bulletin column, I anticipate enjoying the annual Thanksgiving holiday dinner with various family members at my rectory.  I realize, once again, how truly blessed I am.  I have three brothers and a sister, their families and my mother, who mostly live in close proximity.  I am so fortunate to have a considerable number of people gathered together to share this family day and traditional meal.  My mother will also celebrate her 89th birthday at this time with us!  I cook the turkey and a few of the side dishes while the rest of the family bring some particular specialties from their own homes to the table.

Last year we had some unexpected excitement as my youngest brother suffered a kidney stone attack and spent several days in the hospital.  Let's hope this year has much less drama.

As I reflect, I pity those people who used to forgo time spent with family and friends to begin to camp out or stand in line on Black Friday in order to be early enough to get some advertised bargain at the retail stores.  Maybe online sales have somewhat curtailed this practice?  Nevertheless, I worry whenever we start to put material things ahead of familyfriendships and relationshipsPeople should certainly be more important than things, as far as I am concerned.

Advent also begins this weekend.  I ponder once again whether or not this season of preparation for the Birth of Christ will make a difference to most people. Many people skip the intended Advent preparation and begin celebrating Christmas.  Then when Christmas finally arrives, people are ready to move on to something else. 

I wonder why we have to come up with slogans like Keep Christ in Christmas in order to remind us of something that should be so obvious. I advise that we don’t waste precious time by getting caught up in all of the materialism that the world is concerned about and continually sells us. Rather, we should take time for the spiritual life.  After all, we as humans are comprised of body and soul.  We should make the time for Jesus Christ and prepare for Him. Personally, I find that when my spiritual priorities are in order and Christ is forefront in my life, everything else mysteriously seems to fall into place.  I may have to learn this lesson over and over again, but someday I may finally get it right.

I attempt to do my part by keeping any Christmas preparation in proper perspective. My annual Christmas shopping remains almost non-existent.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the economy will be helped by my miniscule number of purchases.  Perhaps, my spiritual life might be deepened instead.

I know that the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child still brings hope to many lives.  For those who truly try to pray, to spiritually prepare (especially with a sacramental confession), and even to fast, the joy that comes from readying our hearts for the coming of Jesus surpasses any temporary, illusory pleasures that the many TV commercials may promise.

Please do your part to ready for Christ's coming during these four weeks of Advent and attempt to forgo turning this preparatory season into a premature Christmas celebration.

Fr. Ed Namiotka



Monday, November 7, 2022

Back to the "Spiritual" Desert

Dear Parishioners,

As you read this, I am preparing to leave for a Trappist monastery—the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY—making my annual retreat.  Please be kind to Fr. Norris and Fr. Perreault (my bullpen) while I am away.

The retreat I choose to be on is silent.  I speak with others briefly when necessary.  The first prayers of the day (Vigils) currently begin at 3:30 AM.  The monks chant the psalms each day and rise early to keep watch for the Lord’s return.  The first prayers of the day end with:  Come, Lord Jesus.  The monks work and pray (Ora et Labora) all day long.  The schedule is relatively the same every time I am here.

 While I miss the daily routine and people of the parish, I realize the importance of making a good retreat.  Priests need to be men of prayer and to follow the example of Jesus who frequently distanced himself from the crowds to find time for intimate communication with His Father in prayer.  Jesus went into the desert, up the mountain and to the seashore to pray frequently.  He would spend entire nights in prayer.

What exactly will happen to me during this week?  I am never really sure.  I am simply called to listen for the Lord as He speaks, when he speaks.  It is ironic that the quieter the atmosphere, the louder the Lord seems to speak to the heart.  There is definitely time to read, to pray, to think, to meditate, to rest and to listen.  Sometimes I am inspired to write or compose.

From a worldly perspective, people may not see value in what I am doing.  However, those who experience the touch of the Lord in their lives usually hunger for more . . . and more . . . and more.  At least I do.  Being busy all of the time may seem productive, but life without prayer and intimacy with God frequently becomes shallow or even empty in so many ways.  Prayer puts things in perspective and refreshes, often inspiring and motivating a person to cooperate more fully with God’s will. 

You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses during the week.  As you come to mind each day, I will ask the Lord to be gracious to you and to bless you.  He certainly knows best what each of us needs the most in our lives.

Please pray for me as I journey into the desert.  That is how a monastic retreat is often described—like going into the desert.  However, don’t forget that when Christ went out into the desert, He encountered various temptations from Satan.  Spiritual warfare continues. Your prayers are much needed and certainly appreciated during this time.

When I return back to the parish, I hope to be able to share with you some insights, thoughts and experiences that were the fruit of this monastic endeavor.  I never quite know the outcome.  All I can do is watch and wait like the monks, seeking Jesus with my whole heart. 

 Here we go again!

 Fr. Ed Namiotka


   Main Church at the Abbey of the Genesee

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A Tale of Two Churches


Dear Parishioners,

It has become more and more apparent to me that the Catholic Church is at a very serious crossroads.  I have witnessed changes in the Church taking place for years now—almost my entire lifetime. However, some of the things I am currently witnessing are absolutely unprecedented.

Let me begin with something as simple as orientation of the priest at Mass.  For centuries, the position of the priest was ad orientem (towards “liturgical” East).  The priest faced the direction of the rising sun to lead prayer and remind us all of the rising of the Son of God.  While some claimed that he had his back to the people, rather, it was the intention of this position in the Mass to face God.  After all, we are worshipping Him, not the people. The focus, slowly and subtly, became more oriented to the community rather than to God. While people became accustomed to this new liturgical position with time, simultaneously the emphasis at Mass tended more toward meal rather than sacrifice.  The community meal seemed to take precedent over the eternal sacrifice of Jesus to His Father.  Then Holy Communion went from reception on the tongue while kneeling to reception in the hand while standing.  Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are now regularly scheduled (not so extraordinary, if you ask me) and are commonly referred to as Eucharistic “Ministers.”  I could go on and on.  These were just some of the many, many liturgical changes that occurred over time.

What the situation in the Church has now morphed into is an attempt to change Church teaching and the very Church itself.  The blessing of gay unions, “sinless” homosexual acts, reception of Holy Communion by divorced-remarried, women priests, a plurality of acceptable, salvific religions and many other questionable/heretical ideas are seemingly on the table.  Popes in the past have warned against the heresy of modernism where truth becomes fluid and relativistic.  Now it appears that modernism is rearing its ugly head right out in the open with seeming consent by various members of the Church hierarchy.

We see various high-ranking Vatican officials and Church leaders (cardinals, archbishops, bishops, a former papal nuncio, a former prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, etc.) openly criticizing what is now happening within the Catholic Church. Wow!

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen warned of an upcoming, counterfeit Church—an ape of the Church.  Sr. Lucia, one of the three Fatima seers, spoke of a “diabolic disorientation” within the Church and that the final battle between God and Satan would be over marriage and the family.  Pope St. Paul VI spoke of the “smoke of Satan” within the Church.  Our Lady of Good Success, a lesser-known but still approved Marian apparition from Quito, Ecuador, predicted and warned humanity about the sins of modern society and a future struggle within the Church itself.  Pope St. John Paul II admonished us concerning the “culture of death” permeating our society.  There are many others who have given us vital warnings for our time.

I trust God will act in some way to protect the Holy Catholic Church.  I also know that our Blessed Mother will have some vital role in this process as she made it known at Fatima that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The exact details are certainly unknown to me and up to God Himself.

In the meantime, we all should be continually on our knees praying fervently.

May God have mercy on us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Taking the Dirt Nap

The cemetery at the Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

Almost a decade ago, when I was walking with my mom near her home, we passed an elderly gentleman working outside.  Politely I asked him, “How you doing?”  “Still above ground,” was his quick-witted response.  Still above ground.

The incident reminded me of a line from a movie I like:  Sleepers.  In it, one of the characters, a gangster figure, refers to death as “taking the dirt nap.”

Death is not a topic any of us likes to bring up in everyday conversation.  Too many of us like to imagine that we have plenty of time left.  However, it is something that we all have to face sooner or later.  The fraternal motto of the Knights of Columbus to which I belong reminds us bluntly: Tempus fugit, Momento mori  (Time flies, Remember death).

Inevitably, I have a bit of time to think about death when I am on retreat with the Trappist (Cistercian) monks.  I usually visit their cemetery, praying for the deceased monks who had given their lives in the service of God and the Church.  Their graves are marked by a simple wooden cross.  This seems to me a stark reminder of death’s finality for them and for us in this world.

During the month of November, we are asked to pray for the Holy Souls. We begin the month with All Saints Day followed immediately by All Souls Day. Have you considered having a Mass offered for your deceased loved ones? There is no greater prayer and offering that we can make on behalf of our deceased loved ones than to join our prayers for them to the offering of the Mass. We should realize that the Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus’ Last Supper and His Sacrifice on the Cross on our behalf. It is a continual sacrificial offering of God’s only Son, Jesus, made in reparation for our sins to God, His Almighty Father. There simply is no more perfect sacrifice that can be offered.

The Church has continually taught that our prayers and especially the offering of the Mass can assist our deceased loved ones in their journey to Heaven.

I think of it this way: I suspect that most of us die imperfect. I hope that we are not so evil that we deserve the eternal punishment of hell. At the same time, we are probably not so perfect that we deserve to see God immediately without some type of purification or purgation first. Following the ancient practice of the faithful praying for the dead (see 2 Mac. 12:46), the Church teaches that there is a period of cleansing that we call purgatory.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030:
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

When I die someday—when it’s time for me to take the dirt nap—I hope that someone prays for me and has Masses offered for me that my sins will be forgiven. Skip the flowers and the other worldly gestures of sympathy. I know that there’s nothing more beneficial than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for my (or your) soul.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Listening to a Ukrainian Archbishop


Most Rev. Borys Gudziak

Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, I am attending our annual Presbyteral Convocation, which is fancy terminology for a meeting or gathering of priests.  We are in Avalon for three days enjoying some priestly fraternity, listening to and reflecting on a few talks, sharing some meals and discussions, praying together and honoring our priest jubilarians at Mass and being encouraged to minister with more dedication and love for all of you.

This year’s guest speaker is the Most Rev. Borys Gudziak, Archbishop-Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.  Some information from his official biography:

Archbishop Borys Gudziak was born in 1960 in Syracuse, New York, the son of immigrants from Ukraine. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and biology from Syracuse University in 1980 and then studied in Rome, in the circle of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj. He received a STB degree in theology from the Pontifical Urban University in 1983 and then returned to America to pursue a doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine Cultural History at Harvard University, which he successfully defended in 1992. In 1995 he earned a licentiate in Eastern Christian studies from the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

In 1992, Borys Gudziak moved to Lviv where he founded and directed (1992-2002) the Institute of Church History. In 1993, he was appointed Chairman of the Commission for the Renewal of the Lviv Theological Academy. From 1995 until 2000, he served as Vice Rector of the Lviv Theological Academy, then as Rector from 2000 to 2002. In that year, Gudziak became Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University (founded on the basis of the Academy), and in 2013 its President.

Ordained as a priest on November 26, 1998, Gudziak was appointed Bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Switzerland in 2012. The official enthronement ceremony as Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took place on June 4, 2019 in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia. Archbishop Gudziak became the seventh Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Archbishop Gudziak has appeared regularly on leading global TV channels and media providing expert commentary. He has received numerous international awards and distinctions. Having written many articles and books, he travels globally giving lectures and talks on theology, history, spirituality, education, society, and current challenges in Ukraine. He speaks English, Ukrainian, Italian, Polish, French, Russian, and German. He is an honorary citizen of Lviv, Ukraine.

The Archbishop gave the priests two talks based on the words of the Mass describing Jesus' consecration of the Holy Eucharist, and then presented his unique perspective on the war in Ukraine during a third talk.  I am currently digesting his words and insights for use at a later time.

This evening, during the Mass (the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist), we will honor our priest jubilarians celebrating 25, 40, 50 and 60 years of ordained priesthood.  I watch as our diocesan priests grow older with the number fewer.  I see how many foreign-born clergy, fortunately, now supply what the decreasing number of our own native-born clergy are unable to do. 

What will the future hold for the Diocese of Camden? Only the Lord knows for certain.  However, today we celebrate the ministry of those who have answered the call to priesthood and have remained faithful to it.  Ad multos annos!        

 Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

God, Are You There?

Dear Parishioners,

Does God ever stop thinking about us? 

I realize that from a human perspective we can sometimes wonder if God actually hears our prayers or if God knows and cares about us individually.  Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  If God is truly God (as Christians understand God to be) then we are—without a doubt—constantly known and unconditionally loved.  God sees and hears everything that we think, say and do.  God never takes His focus off of us—not even for a nanosecond.  It’s impossible.  “Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”  (Mt. 10:30)

Knowing this, does it mean that we no longer have problems and difficulties? Might we not have even more questions, for that matter?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why does it sometimes seem that God does not answer our prayers?

Truly, we do not see as God sees.  We are limited, finite beings.  We are situated in time.  We are not God.

What I have come to realize over many years is that I am called to trust in God, to have faith in Godcompletely.  I do not have all the answers.  I do not know the course of world events.  I cannot see into the future.  In fact, I am totally dependent on the Providence of God.  It is the Grace of God that sustains me in all my endeavors.

Is this a cop-out?  Am I naïve or overly simplistic? I don’t think so.  In humility, I must realize all that we have been given (revelation) through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  God became one of us.  In Jesus, God became finite and tangible.  Humans could see, touch and hear Him.  The Almighty also became subject to suffering and death. 

In fact, God the Father revealed essential, life-giving truth to us through His Son.  He also sent His Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us.  From all this we can begin to see and appreciate how much God truly loves us.  “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)  Jesus’ entire life and ultimate death on the cross was no accident but a divine statement of God’s self-giving love.

As humans, we are called to be mindful of God.  Our limited intellectual capacity unfortunately does not think of God all the time.  We forget quickly.  We get easily distracted.  We struggle with doubt.  Nevertheless, remembering to pray and worship God on a regular basis—to have a routine, structured prayer life—benefits us tremendously in our quest to be faithful to God as God is ever-faithful to us.  Stick with it, even when we do not perceive any tangible results.

I wish that I could give people all the answers that they desire concerning faith and trust in God.  I too get frustrated when God seems to delay in responding to a prayer request.  I do not understand why good people have to suffer. 

Yet, I know that God sees and hears.  I trust that God wants what is best for me, for all of us. "Trust God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!" (Ps. 82:9)  

I simply must continue to trust—completely.

Fr. Ed Namiotka