Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Always Let Your (Rightly Formed) Conscience Be Your Guide!

Dear Parishioners,

I hope that you have been taught somewhere along the line that you are supposed to follow your conscience.  This is absolutely true.  However, in the process we have an obligation to be sure that our consciences are rightly formed.

In our society, it appears that we often base things on opinion polls and/or a type of moral relativity—the way that I feel about a particular thing.  In other words, things become pretty subjective.  I may think that something is bad while you think that it is okay.  With this manner of moral decision making, my truth becomes just as valid as your truth.  Who then is right?

Catholic morality is not based on subjective opinions but rather objective truth.  Just because many people may think that something is acceptable in today’s society, it does not mean that it is morally acceptable in God’s judgment.

Let me give you a practical example.  Premarital or extramarital sex has become widely accepted in our culture.  It is displayed and encouraged on the TV, in the movies, in novels, etc.  “Everybody does it!”  “If it feels so good, how can it be wrong?”  Yet, the Church continues to teach that every sexual act or genital expression outside of the context of marriage is morally wrong.  Without getting into the many reasons why this is so, suffice it to say that one of the primary reasons for intercourse is to create new life and to engage in this act outside of marriage leaves open the possibility that children will be created in an environment other than the family unit.

What then is this conscience that we are supposed to follow? Conscience is not a thing or an object but rather a judgmentIt is the last practical judgment concerning the goodness or badness of a human act to be performed here and now. It is our ability to make sound decisions or judgments based on objective moral truth.

In order to properly form our consciences (to make the best possible moral judgments), we have to do some homework.  Initially, we have to be sure that we find out exactly what the Church teaches on certain issues and why it teaches it.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good reference book to use as a starting point.  Judgments on particular moral issues by the Church are prayerfully determined by referring to the Sacred Scriptures, to the writings of the Church Fathers and Saints, to the Magisterium of the Church, etc.  Often moral determinations employ an in-depth investigation of the natural law and both natural and social sciences involved with any issues.

I find too often that numerous Catholics in particular have limited learning about the faith—including various contemporary moral issues—because little or no continuing education takes place.  We should continue to learn until the day we die.  If a CCD education or elementary / high school Catholic education is where we stopped our formal education in the faith, then I guess that we do not always have the best tools to tackle the complexities of today’s moral issues.  We can rely on a blind obedience to the Church but it is always best to try to understand and to incorporate the rationale of the Church’s teaching into our own decision making. 

Simply stated, we need to be sure that our consciences are rightly formed (guided by authentic Church teaching) and then follow them.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Beatitudes


Sermon on the Mount

Dear Parishioners,

Are you truly happy? 

Are you blessed?

Let’s be brutally honest for a few minutes.  The world (secular society) holds up certain things for us and tells us we will be happy if we have them and miserable without them: pleasure, power, wealth and fame.  Preachers of the “prosperity gospel” tell us that we are blessed by God when we are showered with a type of earthly success—primarily money and health.  While wanting to have a good, happy life in this world is not a bad thing in and of itself, whenever we place our desire for things or on self above our love for God, we create a type of false god.  Pleasure, power, wealth and fame can all become false gods in our lives.

What does Jesus teach us in the Sacred Scriptures?  Let’s begin with a very difficult statement about the cross in our lives:   "Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.(Mt. 16: 24-25)

Moreover, the Beatitudes (Mt. 5: 3-12) seem to contradict what the world touts as essential for happiness.  Blessed are the poor is spirit seems to rail against a call to accumulate material wealth.  Blessed are the meek seems to undermine those seeking to obtain power over others.  Blessed are they who mourn seems far removed from those who seek pleasure as their motivation. And blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me doesn’t seem to command the respect and honor craved for by so many.  In fact, Jesus points out that those persons are blessed, when the direct opposite of what the world propagates is practiced and lived.

Why is this?  First, worldly vision is shortsighted.  Eternity and even God are seen as some pie in the sky ideas and we are told that we must live for this world only.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! I remind everyone that heaven and hell are eternal, not this world.  In addition, Jesus demonstrated for us a sacrificial love (picking up the cross) which, unfortunately, requires some degree of pain and suffering.  A cross was a means of public execution and the early Christians needed no reminder of its brutality.  Yet, God freely chose it as a means of our redemption.  Jesus accepted His cross.

The ultimate decision which we all must make is whether we choose to live for this world with its temporary pleasures and sorrows or to live for eternity and to desire union with God.  It requires a modicum of faith to see things with the proper perspective.  It also requires the support of a Church and its sacraments to strengthen our resolve and keep us on the right path. God’s grace is available, if we chose to accept it.

It has always intrigued me how many accounts of the martyrs tell how they sang, prayed and bore final witness even when facing brutal torture and death.  Self-giving, sacrificial love can be contagious when we witness it.  This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.(Jn. 15: 12-13)

I dare say that too few of us have come to such a realization in our lives.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Christ Works through Us, (Sometimes Despite Us)

Dear Parishioners,

I have come to the conclusion that priests are a unique species. We come in all shapes and sizes.  We can lean to the left or to the right theologically and politically.  We minister with different levels of zeal and enthusiasm. We have varied gifts and talents:  some can sing, while others should not; some can preach, while others can only be understood with much difficulty; some can teach, while others are more effective than Sominex.

We might be better termed an odd lot—something you could perhaps find available at a Big Lots store.

What do we all have in common?  It’s our vocation—our “calling from God.”  Somehow, somewhere we all sensed an invitation from the Lord to be His priest:  Come follow me! (see Mk. 10:21)

Our Priestly vocations were tested in the seminary and eventually confirmed by the laying on of hands by a bishop.  At that time we begin to act in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). When a priest baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes.  When a priest forgives sin, it is Christ who forgives sin. When a priest anoints a sick person, it is Christ who anoints the sick person.  When a priest offers the Mass, it is Christ who is once again made present in the Holy Eucharist through the instrument of the priest. Christ does the work through the instrument of the priest.

While it is most important that a priest personally strives for holiness of life, the sacraments are not dependent on a particular priest’s holiness.  The simple reason is that it is not the priest (and his own talents or abilities) who is behind the act, but rather Christ.  If we use the theological terminology, we say it this way:  the sacraments occur ex opere operato (from the work itself being worked) and not ex opere operantis (from the person doing it or the work of the worker).  The lack of holiness of a particular priest does not invalidate a sacrament. The sacraments are efficacious in and of themselves and are not dependent on the on the holiness of the minister.

Additionally, for us to receive the fruits or benefits of a particular sacrament, we should be properly disposed.  We should be in the state of grace:  not aware of any mortal or serious sin.

When we realize how the sacraments “work,” we need also to realize that priests don’t automatically become “saintly” with ordination.  (Probably, most parishioners are quite aware of this already!) We need continual conversion in our lives—until the day we die.  Think about how Jesus (the Son of God) chose His twelve apostles.  All were called by the Lord.  Yet, Peter denied Him three times and Judas betrayed Him. They were far from perfect and even scandalous in their actions, even as they had closely accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry.  (Was Jesus trying to prepare us for future priests who may be responsible for scandal in the church?)

I would hope that people come to the Church for the sacraments because through them we encounter Jesus and are filled with His grace.  It’s nice to have inspiring homilies, uplifting music and a sense of community in our churches.  We should strive for that.  Yet, even when these elements are absent, Jesus still works through the sacraments ex opere operato.

Please pray for your pastor and for all priests.  There is much work ahead of us and only so many workers available for the seemingly endless tasks. When we fail or disappoint—in great things or in small matters—never give up on Christ.  He remains ever present in His Church, continually at work, sometimes despite us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Battle is Far from Over!


Dear Parishioners,

When Roe v. Wade was officially overturned by the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, I stated that the battle for the rights of unborn (or preborn) children would need to continue on the local (i.e., state) level. New Jersey and its current majority of legislators are, sadly, by no means “pro-life.”  Rather, the call for the protection of so-called “abortion rights” unfortunately continues. What about the rights of all the vulnerable children yet to be born?

In actuality, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is clearly stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Our founders recognized that people have a right to live in this world. Logically, if humans create a new human life, then that new person now has a right to exist. (This is abundantly clear even before we intensify matters by bringing any mention of God or morality into the picture.) From a merely human perspective, innocent, vulnerable human life needs protection in similar manner to various legislation enacted to protect the bald eagles' eggs, baby seals, elephants from being hunted for their tusks, dogs from being used in deadly dogfights, etc.

As Christians, we take this situation a step further by realizing that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. We believe that God elevated our human dignity by becoming one of us in the Incarnation of Jesus. We acknowledge that every born or preborn baby has both a developing body and an immortal soul destined for eternity. We hold to timeless precepts such as Thou shalt not kill.  We believe that medicine and technology minimally should do no harm to the patient (human person), and certainly not deliberately destroy him or her in the womb.

The problem now exists where people have become too comfortable in their sin. What might have seemed so obvious in the past—a grave sin or repulsive evil—is now accepted or even glorified.  Sin dulls the conscience and blocks the intellect.  The lies that have been uttered over and over again begin to be believed and then held as “truths” and “rights.” Good becomes bad and bad becomes good.  Our world winds up upside down.

Unfortunately, too many people do not want to upset the status quo. Don’t rock the boat! Keep your mouth shut! Otherwise, you will be cancelled. So much for the right to free speech. That is something also guaranteed in our Constitution—the Bill of Rights, to be precise. Thank you Elon Musk for allowing some truth to shine out of the darkness.

Yes, we have a long way to go before things change for the good. However, left without resistance we see evil advance in (formerly, obviously repulsive) acts like infanticide, euthanasia, the acceptance of pedophilia or ephebophilia, a distortion of marriage, recognition of sodomy (and other acts) as sexual alternatives, dissatisfaction with one’s gender, propagation and use of artificial contraception and various abortifacients, a flourishing pornography industry, etc. etc. This could never happen in an enlightened, civilized society, could it? Just look around you.

While the message of the Gospel is suppressed, minimized, mocked, and seen as outdated and irrelevant, what will it take to bring people to their knees and acknowledge the need for Jesus Christ and His true Church?

I fear to ask this question.

Fr. Ed Namiotka



Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Reparation on Five First Saturdays


Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary

Dear Parishioners,

For some time now I have been prayerfully considering again offering a public morning Mass on the first Saturday of the month. When I was sick and hospitalized more than a year ago, public Saturday morning Masses at our parish ceased allowing me some time to recuperate. With thanksgiving that I am now healthy and more determined than ever to accomplish whatever God desires, I sense some urgency and a necessity to encourage this perhaps unknown, forgotten or ignored devotion. Below is a brief history of the origin of the first Saturday devotion:

In the third of Her six apparitions at Fatima, Portugal in 1917, Our Lady promised to return to make a special request for the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. Eight years later, on December 10th, 1925, the eldest and only surviving visionary, Lucia dos Santos, was an eighteen-year-old postulant in a Dorothean convent in Pontevedra, Spain. Having returned to her cell that evening after supper, she suddenly saw Our Lady standing close by her, in the presence also of the Child Jesus, Who was standing on a little cloud.

At first Our Lady did not say anything. It was as if She could not speak, being overwhelmed with sorrow. She held Her Immaculate Heart in Her hand for Lucia to see, pierced all around by terrible thorns, and She placed Her other hand on Lucia’s shoulder, as if to communicate a most familiar and loving appeal. It seems almost as if, in anguish, She sought to lean for support on Lucy’s shoulder.

The Child Jesus spoke first, imploring: “Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”

Then Our Lady added: “Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, try to console Me, and announce in My name that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months shall [1.] confess, [2.] receive Holy Communion, [3.] recite five decades of the Rosary, and [4.] keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”             (The Fatima Center)

Beginning this month, first Saturday Mass will be offered each subsequent month at 9 AM followed by a recitation of 5 decades of the Holy Rosary. The Sacrament of Penance (Confession), requested as part of the devotion, can be satisfied within 8 days (before or after). I encourage everyone to consider making the five consecutive first Saturday devotion sometime during 2023.

I had mentioned in a previous homily (January 1, 2023), the five first Saturdays correspond to the five kinds of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They are:

a. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception
b. Blasphemies against her virginity
c. Blasphemies against her divine maternity, at the same time the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all men
d. Instilling indifference, scorn and even hatred towards this Immaculate Mother in the hearts of children
e. Direct insults against her sacred images          (The Fatima Center)

I believe it is of utmost importance that we all take seriously the urgent pleading of Our Lady over the centuries, and especially at Fatima, that has called us to repentance and to turn back to Her Divine Son.

Remember the words of of Our Lady: “I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation . . .” all those who fulfill the requirements of this devotion.

Fr. Ed Namiotka