Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Pastoral (Parish) Council

Dear Parishioners,

When we examine what canon (church) law requires of every parish, we see that a finance council is mandated.  Canon 537 states: In each parish there is to be a finance council which is governed, in addition to universal law, by norms issued by the diocesan bishop and in which the Christian faithful, selected according to these same norms, are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish . . . .   This council is established and active here at St. Thomas More Parish and meets regularly attempting to keep our parish operating in a fiscally responsible manner.

Canon law also states the following (Canon 536):  1.  If the diocesan bishop judges it opportune after he has heard the presbyteral council, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish, over which the pastor presides and in which the Christian faithful, together with those who share in pastoral care by virtue of their office in the parish, assist in fostering pastoral activity. 2.  A pastoral council possesses a consultative vote only and is governed by the norms established by the diocesan bishop.

Regarding this pastoral council, it has been in a state of limbo here since I arrived and needs to be re-established.  I am looking for a select group of people (9 to 12 are recommended) to help advise me with various matters concerning the future of the parish.

According to our diocesan guidelinesParish Pastoral Councils provide a way for pastors to consult their people. The Parish Pastoral Council is: "to examine and consider all that relates to pastoral work and to offer practical conclusions on these matters, so that the life and activity of the People of God may be brought into greater conformity with the Gospel." In this description, we find three tasks assigned to the pastoral council: to examine, to consider, and to recommend.

  • To examine:  The object of the Parish Pastoral Council's examination, "pastoral work," is left sufficiently un-specified in order to include all that concerns the pastor and his staff in serving the parish. The council identifies issues and studies them either at the request of the pastor or on its own initiative.

  • To consider:  The Parish Pastoral Council prayerfully ponders the data it has collected from its examination by trying to discern in what direction God is inviting the parish to go, what is behind the data.

  • To recommend:  After the Parish Pastoral Council has examined and considered any pastoral work, it makes a recommendation to the pastor and his staff on what should be done for this parish at this time in its history.

I am looking for dedicated, prayerful people willing to help me.  If you are interested or you wish to recommend someone for this task, please let me know in writing or by e-mail by April 30, 2022.  After prayerful consideration, the council will be re-established anew to assist me with the future vision and direction of St. Thomas More Parish.

For those who want more information, the diocesan Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines in English and Spanish can be found on the diocesan website.

Please give my request some prayerful deliberation.  More information should follow in the months ahead.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Spiritual Warfare

Dear Parishioners,

Did you notice how the Scripture readings for the 1st Sunday of Lent emphasized the temptations of Jesus by Satan?  These temptations should help us to understand that there is indeed spiritual warfare taking place for our immortal souls. Jesus was not the only one directly involved in this battle.  Everyone who earnestly desires holiness of life and makes a commitment to follow Jesus will, at one time or another, experience some type of temptation and be urged to sin. Why?

We need to understand and to believe that the devil is very real--a fallen angel. We must also realize that he and the other fallen angels (demons) hate humanity and desire our ultimate destruction, person by person.  In God's permissive will, we are allowed to be tempted by them, presumably to strengthen and perfect our resolve to follow Jesus and His commands. Similar to an athlete who never realizes his/her full potential until he/she engages in rigorous competition, a Christian who never has to defend or struggle with faith may never grow strong in it and may collapse under tribulation, pressure, ridicule, etc.  Mysteriously, God allows Satan or one of the other demons to tempt us. 

In our human weakness, we are unfortunately inclined to sin because of the effects of original sin (concupiscence). We do not see spiritual matters clearly, settle for immediate gratification rather than seek eternal happiness, and even retain a certain pride, erroneously thinking that we know more than or are somehow better than God. We suffer from an often debilitating spiritual weakness of will. Satan can then readily seduce us as he successfully seduced Adam and Eve and as he also attempted, unsuccessfully, to do so with Jesus.

Pursue the spiritual life long enough and you will find that times with a great possibility for holiness will also potentially be times of great spiritual tribulation and temptation.  Ever have a nasty fight with your spouse right before some important family event?  Ever want to kill your kids (figuratively, of course) at a time when there is something holy or spiritual going on?  Ever have a wicked temptation of impurity during Mass or a time of  prayer?  Ever been tempted to pornography when alone or to stray from the marriage vows when away from home on business? When these or similar temptations continue to happen like clockwork, you might begin to wonder if something demonic might be at work.  Trust me, there are evil, spiritual forces always at work.

The gateway to allowing evil into our lives can be subtle or not so subtle.  Most especially, stay away from the occult, from witchcraft and "new-age" religions or spirituality, from pornography, from the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and from sexual promiscuity in any form.  These and similar matters can all be openings which permit Satan to wreak havoc in our lives.  Moreover, with a lifestyle that neglects prayer and the worship that is due to God (going to Mass each week), that becomes too materialistic or worldly, or where one lives as if God does not exist or does not have any real effect/relationship to our lives or actions, Satan can use such circumstances gradually to infiltrate and destroy us as well.

I see the current attack on traditional marriage, on the sacred priesthood and on various longstanding Church teachings just more tactics used by Satan to annihilate the Catholic Church.  He is going to keep trying (unsuccessfully) until the end of time when Jesus Christ will ultimately be victorious accompanied by those who persevere with Him.  Don't give up.  Stay faithful to Christ and to the Church He established.  

But be prepared continually to do battle!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Miracle of the Sun

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta

Dear Parishioners,

With the Consecration of Russia (and Ukraine) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary taking place on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25), I thought that the background to the origin of this event should be highlighted.
Each year October 13th marks the anniversary of the miracle of Fatima, Portugal.

Our Lady was reported to have appeared to three shepherd children, Jacinta (7), Francisco (9) and Lucia (10), once every month beginning on May 13, 1917 and ending on October 13, 1917.

On 13 May 1917, ten year old Lucia dos Santos and her younger cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were tending sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fatima in Portugal. Lucia described seeing a woman "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun." Our Lady subsequently exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. She also requested that the Holy Rosary be prayed daily--for world and personal peace--and that the Brown Scapular be worn. She asked that we pray for the conversion of Russia. (It should be noted that the beginnings of atheistic communism were starting to appear in Russia at the time.)

It was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on October 13th, so that all would believe. What transpired became known as the "Miracle of the Sun." A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes. Lucia called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Sometime while Lucia was pointing towards the sun and claiming to have visions of various religious figures in the sky, it is believed that the sun appeared to change colors and to rotate like a fire wheel. Then it seemed as though the sun would crash down to earth. For some the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others it seemed to “dance.”

An atheistic reporter commented on the event at the time: "One could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. One might have thought an eclipse was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: ‘A miracle! A miracle!’ Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - yes, the sun 'danced'!"

Many of the onlookers were terrified that the sun would crash down upon them. Then, as the sun returned to normal, each person in the crowd realized that they were completely dry despite being soaked from the rain just minutes before.

While the “Miracle of the Sun” was seen and experienced by so many, the miracle more importantly is certainly meant to draw attention to the message: prayer (especially the Holy Rosary), penance and conversion. It seems that Our Lady, as a most-loving spiritual mother of us all, tries to warn us and to lead humanity back to her Son, Jesus.

Perhaps you may want to read one of the many books about Fatima or watch one of the movies The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) or the recent release Fatima (2020) to become more familiar with the entire story.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

How's Your Lent?

Dear Parishioners,

How is the season of Lent going for you?

When we look introspectively, I hope that there is some recognizable difference in our lives during this designated sacred time.  Lent is a call to a change of heart.  It should not be life as usual for us, but rather a time for the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

The essence of prayer is communication with God.  It is necessarily listening to the voice of God as much as it is talking to God.  What is God saying to me today?  Am I paying attention?  God can speak through the Sacred Scriptures, in times of silence, through other people, in and through various life situations, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.  God is constantly trying to communicate with us, inevitably in very subtle ways.

I find that the most important requirement for effective prayer is making the time for it daily.  Too often we can just go through our daily routines and not necessarily be aware of God's presence.  God is constantly aware of each of us or we would cease to be.  However, we do not reciprocate in like manner, given our limitations as finite creatures.  We need to consciously bring our attention to the presence of God directing us and sustaining us.  He is always present whether we realize it or not.

Fasting is a type of mortification or self-denial.  I dare say our self-indulging, frequently hedonistic culture finds this quite unnecessary and probably repulsive.  Maybe we may choose not to eat something if we are on a diet and want to lose some weight.  But to do penance?  To deny oneself?  Forget about it!  Instant gratification has been the false standard for far too many for far too long.  I want it all and I want it now.  Know anybody like this?

It is the requirement of Jesus that His disciples deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow Him. (See Mt. 16:24, Mk, 8:34, Lk. 9:23)  His fast of 40 days and 40 nights in the desert gave us all an example of doing without.  What eventually followed was His passion and sacrificial death on the cross.  His self-denial led to His total self-giving.  Our doing some form of penance can certainly be in reparation for our sins, to strengthen our will and resolve to do good, and to purify our motives.

Prayer and fasting should lead us to be more charitable.  Almsgiving refers to giving to the poor.  No one is exempt from works of charity, which does not necessarily have to be money.  We can give of our time and of our abilities as well.  The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy teach us concrete ways to put into practice our Christian charity.

There is much waste in our society.  Coming from a restaurant background, I recall the tremendous waste that I used to put into the trash after so many unfinished meals.  We have had excess, compared to other parts of the world.  So many things that we own are literally disposable.  With all of this in mind, I hope that we can cultivate a generous spirit towards those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  I am convinced that God can never be outdone in generosity.

As you continue your Lenten journey, do not give up on any attempt to improve, even if things have not been going too well so far.  With patience, perseverance and God's grace, we can reach Holy Week and Easter as a better, holier person!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Caution: Everything is "Not" Always as It Appears


Dear Parishioners,

If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is not to believe immediately everything that I am told I must unquestioningly believe.  Deep down, I am a skeptic and, perhaps, even a cynic when it comes to many things.  Maybe I have been burned too often in the past, trusting those who swore they were telling me the truth, who were claiming to do what was in my best interest or who wielded some position of authority and expected me to follow blindly like some obedient sheeple.  Sorry, it ain’t happening!  Fool me once . . . .

This is especially true regarding two particular groups:  the media and politics.  Let me give you an example or two.  For years I attended the March for Life in Washington, DC.  I would watch the people come out in droves, often braving some bitter weather conditions.  The young people were typically present in large number.  However, when I read about it in the press—when newspapers were still somewhat popular—the matter was inevitably grossly underreported.  The same was true on TV.  Often a small fringe oppositional group, also present but in insignificant numbers, received similar attention to the larger crowd.  This seemed to follow a pattern, dictated by the particular ideology which, I suspect, suited the will of the media overlords.  My recent comments on the truckers in Canada and the manner that situation was reported is another prime example.

Politicians seem to lie by nature, and then stare you in the face and swear they were not.  Did they take a bribe?  Was there insider trading?  Were there some backroom deals made?  Was there covert activity of which the public was deliberately kept in the dark?  Politicians (and their many useful idiots in the media) tell you what they want you to believe, and then gaslight you about the entire situation to make you question your own judgment.  Look closely and you will find multiple examples of lies and cover-ups.  Watergate. Iran-Contra.  Fast and Furious.  Monica.  Epstein.  Hunter.  Nothing to see here.

I (naively) wish that the press would simply do their job, hold government officials accountable, not espouse some particular ideology and not continually carry water for a particular political party.

All this being said, when it comes to our current situation in Ukraine, let me state emphatically that I support, care for and pray for the innocent Ukrainian (and Russian) people caught in the midst of this tragedy.  Regarding government motives, policies, and actions, however, I am completely skeptical.  This conflict is making some pretty unusual bedfellows and I am left wondering about too many things.  And I am not alone in my suspicions.

What are the underlying factors to this conflict we are not being told? Why would we ever consider making deals with terrorist or adversarial regimes to buy oil, when we were energy independent just about a year ago?  Will our government’s actions crash our own economy?  Will this conflict lead to a destabilized dollar?  Are we risking WWIII? 

Pardon me if I do not trust some of the confusion and apparent incompetency I now see in real time.

May I once again advocate praying the rosary for world peace?  Our Lady has asked for this repeatedly.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Encountering Jesus (During Lent and Throughout the Year)

Dear Parishioners,

When we read the official teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and other Church documents, we find a profound wisdom accumulated over the years.  We can learn so much from this wisdom and reflect on it to help us grow in understanding and holiness.

What does the Catechism tell us about Jesus’ presence in particular?

Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name”, in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister.  But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species. (#1373, CCC)

If we want to know and love Jesus more, we can try to incorporate into our personal Lenten practices and spirituality an appreciation of the presence of Jesus by following what is presented to us in the Catechism.

First, we need to read and reflect on the Word of God.  St. Jerome tells us that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (Commentary on Isaiah)  Why not take the time to read a short passage each day?  Using a Scripture commentary or some other guide can be helpful.

Next, Christ is found in prayer—especially the Church’s prayer, when we gather together with fellow believers as part of the mystical Body of Christ—His Church.  Certainly, we can pray aloneat all times, and in secret.  However, we are reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves—the Church, the Body of Christ.  Why not pray the Liturgy of the Hoursthe Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, etc. with your fellow parishioners?

Christ is also present in our needy brothers and sisters:  ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:40)  Help a neighbor, visit a sick person or give to the poor.  You will encounter Christ in them.

Remember Christ is found in all the Sacraments.  The two Sacraments that we can usually receive on a regular, ongoing basis are the Holy Eucharist (at Mass) and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession).  Make good use of both of these sacraments as well as the other sacraments at their appropriate times.

Finally, note well the emphasis given to the importance of the Eucharistic species, the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist:

The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real'--by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (#1374, CCC)

Why not try to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and spend some time there in His Real Presence? Spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is profoundly life-giving and can be truly life-changing. Many saints, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, were led to the Catholic faith, because of their belief in and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist

God is always aware of us and never lets us out of His sight. However, as finite, limited creatures we constantly need to direct our thoughts and attention back to God. Remembering Jesus’ presence with us “until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20) in these many ways should help us during life’s journey.

Fr. Ed Namiotka