Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Some Information on Catholic Funerals

Dear Parishioners,

A few years ago I wrote a column on Catholic Funerals for my previous parish.  Normally, each Catholic parish has a fair number of funerals each year.  The priests and parish staff are acutely aware of our need to comfort families and to provide the necessary spiritual guidance at this most difficult time.

A few trends, however, continue in our society that I think, once again, need to be addressed.
First, the norm for a Catholic funeral is at Mass.  It is important that we focus on the saving action of Christ through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  The Mass itself is the most perfect prayer and sacrifice that can be offered for our loved ones.  Nothing is more efficacious.  It is a re-presentation of Christ’s Salvific Act.  The funeral rite contains such rich symbolism reminding us of our connection to Baptism.  Moreover, we have the opportunity to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus to strengthen us.

Sometimes those who are not familiar with the proper Catholic protocol might encourage simply having a funeral service in the funeral home.  While the service may bring some comfort to the family, theologically it is never the same as having a Mass offered for that person.  Please think of the eternal soul of the deceased and have their funeral rites take place during a Mass.  It is also important to pray and to have Masses offered for the soul of the deceased.  While flowers are a nice gesture, a Mass offered for the deceased is much more beneficial spiritually.
Second, it is specifically stated in the funeral ritual that “there is never to be a eulogy” during the funeral Mass (Order of Christian Funerals, #27).  Over time this practice has found its way into our liturgies and has become a somewhat “acceptable” practice.  However, the funeral liturgy should be more about the saving action of Christ than a tribute to a deceased person.  The proper place for such a eulogy is either at the funeral home, before the Mass begins, graveside (weather permitting) or at the meal that is usually served after the funeral.  The Catholic funeral liturgy is not about “praising” and “canonizing” the deceased no matter how good the person was but about us realizing what Christ has done for us by His death on the cross.

Third, the choice of music should always be religious in nature and appropriate for a church funeral.  Secular music (popular or sentimental) is never appropriate during Mass.

Finally, since there are more cremations taking place these days, I remind those who choose this option what the Catholic funeral rite tells us about the proper placement of the ashes or cremains:

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.  (Order of Christian Funerals, #417)
I mention all of the above to guide families with their decision making at this most difficult time.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Going Beyond the Words

Dear Parishioners,

There are two versions of the Lord's Prayer found in Sacred Scripture.  Our Church uses the version from St. Matthew's Gospel (Mt. 6: 9-13) in its liturgical prayer.  This Sunday's Gospel recalls the other shorter version given by St. Luke (Lk. 11: 2-4).
Too often we can get into a rut when reciting prayers from memory.  We might just say the words without thinking about some of the things that we actually pray.  Additionally, we might not even focus on the actual person (God) who is the recipient of our prayer.

I share with you today a brief reflection on the Our Father coming from my own prayer time.  What might your own thoughts be as you prayerfully reflect on the words and the Person to whom you are praying?  Prayer is very much about a relationship with God and not just about saying words.  Prayer involves a two-way communication:  speaking and listening.  What does God say to you and me as we listen for Him in our minds and in our hearts?

Our—All creation, all living beings and inanimate objects, exist because of God and His creative power.  Absolutely everything!
Father—We are God’s children by adoption, because of our baptism into Christ Jesus, with the privilege of calling God “Father.“   It was Jesus who taught us that God is AbbaFather.
Who art in heaven—What exactly is heaven like?  “. . . Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and [it] has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (1 Cor. 2:9)
Hallowed be Thy name—God is holy.  His name needs to be reverenced and respected.  Hopefully I never use His name in vain or carelessly.
Thy kingdom come—Jesus announced the Kingdom of God is at hand (see Mk. 1:15).  He ushered in the reign of God.  What am I doing to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth?
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven—In the end God’s will is going to be accomplished.  Do I truly turn my will over to the will of God each day?  Do I foolishly think I am in control and not God?
Give us this day our daily bread—I know that I am sustained by God each day and, more importantly, I have the privilege of receiving Jesus, the Bread of Life, at Mass each day.  The Holy Eucharist is our food for eternal life.  “. . . Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you do not have life in you.”(Jn. 6:53)  The Greek word used in both versions of the Lord's Prayer is absolutely unique when describing this breadepiousios.  It literally means super-substantial.  The prayer asks for something much more than ordinary bread.  Do I truly believe in Jesus' Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist?     
Forgive us our trespasses—Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.  Do I realize the power of God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) on a regular basis?  Do I humble myself and admit my sins, admit that I am wrong?
As we forgive those who trespass against us—God has forgiven me so many times.  Do I also extend His mercy and forgiveness to others?
Lead us not into temptation—Lord, there are just so many things in our world that are tempting us to choose them instead of You.  I remember the words of St. Augustine—our hearts are restless until they rest in You.  Let me never give into a temptation by choosing a passing, temporary satisfaction instead of Your unfathomable, unending love.
Deliver us from evil—Every day I am confronted with the evils of the world including war, terrorism, prejudice, poverty, injustice, and too many sins to think about.  Evil exists as does the evil oneSatan.  Lord, save me and keep me and all your beloved children, especially my parishioners, other loved ones and my own family, from all evil.

What might you add to this reflection?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"In the Beginning . . . "


Garden of Eden

Dear Parishioners,

Unless you have been living on a deserted island isolated from all contact with civilization, you must realize there is a lot of chaos going on throughout the world.  The Church, politics, morality, social order, etc., all seem to be crazy (dare I say utterly insane?) at this moment in history.  Good is bad and bad is good.  People no longer talk things out but "cancel" each other.  Lies have become tolerated and accepted, often without much needed critical thinking.  Propaganda is rampant and good people wonder whom they should trust or believe.

Maybe we should return to reading the Sacred Scriptures for the guidance we need.  Eternal biblical truths are available to us and we need to reflect on them and live by them.  I suggest we begin with the book of Genesis.  Remember when reading biblical texts, they are not meant to be scientific manuals, precise documentaries, or strict biographies.  The bible is meant to convey truth concerning what we need to have eternal life.  Sacred Scripture reveals God to us.  The bible is a theological masterpiece.

So what are some of the basic truths found by reflecting on Genesis?

  • God created. ("In the beginning, when God created . . . " Gen. 1:1) Absolutely everything has its origin in God. All creation was created ex nihilo, out of nothing. We are creatures, not God, subject to Divine Authority. We are not responsible for our own existence but are responsible for our eternal destiny by the choices we make.
  • God created human beings in His image and likeness. ("God created mankind in his image . . . " Gen. 1:27) Human beings are endowed with intelligence and free will. We can think and make choices as God can. This elevates us above all other living, bodily creatures.
  • God created them male and female. (". . . Male and female he created them . . ." Gen 1: 27) There are only two sexes by God's design. Human beings who try to determine they are something other than what they were created at conception are deceiving themselves. Cells throughout the entire body tell us scientifically if we are male or female.
  • God told them to be fruitful and multiply. ("God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." Gen. 1:28We are meant to reproduce and create other humans with God's assistance—He infuses us with an eternal soul—by God's design.  There is something unmistakably contrary to God's will with artificial contraception, deliberate sterilization, homosexual acts, masturbation, abortion, etc.
  • Man has the capacity to sin by being disobedient to God. ("Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked . . ." Gen. 3:7) Eating the forbidden fruit is really about disobedience to God's command.  Remember the first humans were given everything in the garden, and they still wanted more.
  • Human beings can be deceived.  (“'The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.' . . . The woman answered, 'The snake tricked me, so I ate it.'" Gen. 3: 12-13The serpent tricked Eve who then convinced Adam of the lie.  The devil hates humanity, tries to bring it down and would destroy us, if he could.  He certainly wants our eternal loss. He lies and uses others to spread these lies.  And we are all vulnerable.
  • We are all going to die. ("But the snake said to the woman: 'You certainly will not die! . . .  you will be like gods . . .'" Gen. 3:4-5) It was the serpent who told Eve that she would not die but be like gods. This was one of his many, many lies. We are all going to die as a result of sin and face God in judgment.  Don't be deceived by thinking otherwise.
  • The earth and all in it was meant for man and woman and not the other way around. ("Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.  God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food . . ." Gen. 1: 28-29Let us not forget to take care of our earthly home but also remember that human life takes priority over everything else.  The earth was given to us but it is not an end in and of itself.  Eventually the earth will cease while we go into eternity.

 I hope this was a helpful refresher to keep us focused on truth and not deception and lies.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Recharging My Battery

Dear Parishioners,

Some people may find it hard to believe—since I have to do it practically every day—but one of the greatest fears in my life was speaking in public.  When I initially contemplated a priestly vocation, I actually thought that it would be great being a priest—as long as I didn’t have to say anything publicly.  I know that this particular fear exists for many people.  I have worked to overcome my anxiety over the years, with God’s grace.

That being said, I still very much like being quiet and alone at times.  Whether in my room, driving in my car, praying in church, or walking along the beach, I like my quiet time.  Basically, I am an introvert.  This means that usually I get re-energized when I am alone.  It’s not that I don’t like being around people or haven’t been able to develop the necessary interpersonal skills required as a priest.  Extroverts get recharged being around people.  I am just the opposite.

I think that knowing who I am and trying to understand myself, helps me to comprehend some of the decisions that I make. Why do I gravitate towards a silent, monastic retreat?  Why do I find so much solace praying quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament?  Why do I usually vacation in places where I can find quiet and peace of mind?  (Why am I writing this to you from one of those quiet places?)

I am on vacation right now recharging my battery.  I like the beach—having grown up at the Jersey shore—and so I frequently spend time near an ocean or shore.  For a few days, I will be alone (with God, of course!).  For other parts of the vacation, a couple of my friends plan to join me.  My ultimate goal is to be refreshed and renewed when I return to the parish.  I have time to pray (especially the Mass as I bring my travelling Mass-kit with me), to read, to write, to exercise and just to relax.

Reflecting on Jesus’ life, He too was found at various places—by the sea (Mt. 4:18), in the wilderness (Lk. 5: 16), up the mountain (Mk. 6: 45-46, Lk. 6: 12), in the garden (Lk. 22: 39-46)—where He could pray, reflect and be alone.  I suspect He knew best how to find the necessary quiet time after days of preaching, teaching and ministry.

I usually find that it does me a world of good to withdraw from the daily routine for some extended time and to find a corner of the world where I can recharge my inner battery.  Besides, the parish staff usually agrees that I am much more pleasant and easier to work with after some time away!  Just think of how good this vacation time is for them!

See you in a couple weeks!  

Fr. Ed Namiotka