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