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

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Huge Financial Burden on Board

 Dear Parishioners,

Driving down Route 70 yesterday, I stopped for a red light.  The car in front of me had a window decal on it.  I read it carefully.  No, it was not your typical Baby on Board sticker that I had seen many times in the past.  This one, with its silhouette of a baby on it, read:  Huge Financial Burden on Board.  While I initially chuckled—after all, I do have a somewhat quirky sense of humor—I soon realized how sad it was to depict a baby in this manner. We are talking about a person made in the image and likeness of God. Someone who has been given the gift of life through a unique cooperation between parents and Almighty God. This human person was now sadly viewed through the perspective of household economics.

From a Catholic Church perspective, October is set apart as Respect Life month.  The Church continues to teach that every human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death.  Recall that Jesus—the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity—chose to become one of us, His creatures.  Jesus was conceived in His mother Mary’s womb. At a given point in time He was an embryo, a fetus, an infant, a child, an adolescent and an adult human being. Our life has so much dignity and importance that Christ not only became one of us, but He also willingly gave His life to save us from sin and death.    

In addition, October is also the month of the Holy Rosary. Just think of some of the joyful mysteries of the Holy Rosary and their connection to various human life issues. The first joyful mystery, the Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-38), shows us how with Mary’s “yes” to the angel, the Word became flesh in her womb. God became Incarnate with Jesus’ human life beginning at conception.  After Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, when Mary greeted her cousin Elizabeth [the Visitation (Lk. 1: 39-56)], John the Baptist leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  Remember Elizabeth was in advanced years—a situation that today may be too easy an excuse to have an abortion.  When Jesus is born in a stable in Bethlehem [the Nativity (Lk. 2: 1-7ff.)] with no room for Him anywhere else, I can just imagine someone today saying: “This child is a huge financial burden for us! We can’t afford this child!” Sadly, these are just some reasons that can be rationalized for terminating an unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy.

Later in the evening that same day, after dinner with a brother priest, I had the privilege of viewing the new movie about Mother (Saint) Teresa of Calcutta. Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Mother Teresa: No Greater Love combined her life history with the work of her community (Missionaries of Charity) throughout the world today. Her expressed desire was not only to serve the poor, but the poorest of the poor. The film brilliantly shows how she respected the dignity of every human person without counting the cost and regardless of any danger or perceived difficulty.  Unfortunately, the film was only in theaters for two days (October 3 and 4) but I am sure will be made available by other means (streaming, DVD, etc.) in the future. It is well worth your time to watch it!

I find it quite frustrating and tragic today, when so many politicians want to show others how they will support a women’s right to choose, they continue to deny and disregard the value and dignity of the developing child in the womb. If people are honest and have integrity, they will admit how science definitively shows that a new human life begins at conception. This new, innocent person deserves to be given a chance to live in this world.  

Mother Teresa saw that so clearly. 

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Mother Teresa