Tuesday, July 25, 2023

God's Children are Not for Sale


Dear Parishioners,

Chances are you may be familiar with the actor Jim Caviezel. He most notably played Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ.

However, you may be less familiar with Tim Ballard. Tim formerly worked as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but then quit his job there to pursue the rescue of children who are being trafficked in the sex trade worldwide. The organization that he formed is called Operation Underground Railroad about which the movie Sound of Freedom was written.

I saw the movie a few weeks ago and I highly recommend it. The plot surrounds an actual rescue of children that took place in Colombia, South America. The movie respectfully handles a most difficult subject and attempts to make people aware of the extent of human trafficking worldwide and, in particular, the sex trafficking of minors.

I have listened extensively to the interviews of both Jim and Tim on many varying platforms. To hear their personal stories and the background information of the film makes one aware of the evil and the dark forces that do not want this film to be successful or their message about human trafficking to get out to the general public. Just shut up!

The film did not get the backing of any of the normal Hollywood channels and was produced independently by Angel Studios, the same studio that has successfully produced the Netflix series, The Chosen. When I began to notice how much the mainstream media and the Hollywood elites continually try to portray the film, the actors, the subject matter, etc. in the most negative of terms, attached to all sorts of conspiracy theories, I suspect that the makers of the film have touched upon a much-hidden and carefully-protected sore spot among societal elites and various potential predators. Does anyone happen to remember Harvey, Cosby, Spacey, the Me Too movement, Ghislaine, Jeffery and his notorious island, etc. etc.? Or are our collective memories that bad?

When the filmmakers contend that America is the number one consumer of child pornography and that the money generated annually by the sex trafficking of minors and adults is a 150 billion dollar industry, does that bother us?

Remember we live in a culture where the destruction of preborn children is routine, where the sexualization of young children and adolescents is ever more commonplace, where the family unit has disintegrated, where sexual perversion and taboos are advocated and glorified, where pornography is rampant and where the moral compass of the godless does not exist. To quote the line from the Louis Armstrong song: What a wonderful world!

I have stated many times that God is in charge and that nothing happens without His knowing it or permitting it.  However, biblical history has shown that things will only spiral out of control for so long without God's intervention.  Remember Noah?  How about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the ten plagues of Egypt?

Then there was the great Roman Empire.  I suspect that no one at the time would have predicted its demise.

I am thankful that there are people in the world who are willing to stand up for what is right and good despite the personal cost. I personally think that Jim Caviezel and Tim Ballard fit into this category. While none of us is perfect and without our own sin, we all need to take some responsibility for the sins of our society.  And we need to stand up for and protect our most vulnerable members including the preborn, children, the handicapped, the infirm and the elderly.

I especially echo the theme of Sound of FreedomGod's Children are Not for sale!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Trying to Take in Some Vitamin D

Dear Parishioners,

By the time you read this message, I will be on vacation at the Jersey shore.

Being raised in Wildwood-by-the-Sea, NJ, I grew up loving the beach and boardwalk. I still like to soak in the sun when I am able, although I get continual warnings from my dermatologist to “be sure to use your sun-block!”  Sometimes, I spend time at the shore with mom. I also like to join friends for dinner and go to the beach with them as my mom no longer is able to do so. So far the weather has cooperated but there is also a prediction of the possibility of intermittent thunderstorms. Oh well!

As a former high school teacher, I told my students hundreds of times that there is no vacation from God—especially during their summer and holiday breaks. Now I find myself on a brief summer vacation while trying to maintain some semblance of a prayer life. I inevitably pack a small “Mass kit” which enables me to offer Mass no matter where I am.  Mass can then be celebrated privately in mom's condo, someone's home or in a hotel room on a daily basis. Thankfully, it is so convenient for my mom (and me) that her son is a priest!  

Maybe I’m strange, but if I were not a priest, Mass would be an important consideration for me as part of my vacation.  I would want to travel where God was not something of an afterthought—just one activity among many. There are various apps that you can download on your phone these days, as well as the web site masstimes.org enabling the traveler to find a Catholic Mass while on vacation. The excuses for not knowing where and when a Mass can be found are becoming more bogus.

Years ago, the summer Mass schedule in Wildwood was unbelievable.  Mass was celebrated almost every hour in St. Ann Church and alternately every half hour in the Wildwood Catholic High School gym and auditorium. There were somewhere around twenty to twenty-five Masses each weekend. If I included the Masses in Wildwood Crest (Assumption Church) the number would be well over thirty each week. The total today in all three locations is less than ten (including one in Spanish).  Do you see any pattern here?  

I walked the boardwalk last night, as I frequently do. The humidity was bad but the ocean breeze helps a little. I love to observe the many people visiting the shore resorts, although I am not always edified by their language or behavior. 

When St. Paul came to Corinth, it was a notorious sea port filled with vice.  When he went to Rome, he had to face the immorality and corruption within the Roman Empire.  All the cities he visited had their own particular problems and degrees of sinful behavior.  To the people of Ephesus, he wrote the following:
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5: 1-5)

I hope and pray that we all desire to have some inheritance in the Kingdom of God. This means that we all must strive continually to conform our lives to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptureseven while on vacation. 

There is never really a vacation from God!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Parables and the Kingdom of Heaven

Dear Parishioners,

Jesus often uses parables to get his message across. Most times I prefer someone to be clear and direct. Tell me exactly what you mean! Don't give me a song and a dance! Give it to me straight! However, Jesus frequently does not do this.  He may answer a question with another question. He may remain silent. He may tell a parable.

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.
One thing that parables should make us do is think. At times, we may come to different conclusions or even be left confused. Jesus would explain parables to his disciples privately to help them understand their meaning as he did today with the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13: 1-23) or in the parable about the Weeds in the Field (Mt. 13: 24-43). Just because Jesus may use symbolic, poetic or a type of flowery language--make no mistake--even in the use and explanation of his parables, he could be quite forceful when speaking about certain things (like a fiery furnace and wailing and grinding of teeth!)

Next, there is this concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. Living in a nation that does not have a king and even established its unique identity by declaring independence from a king, the idea of kingship may be foreign to many and perhaps, repugnant. I vote! I pay taxes! No one is going to tell me what to do!

Be careful, however, when we refer to God. We are creatures; God is Creator. God is absolutely sovereign. We were brought into being by God's great love and given intelligence and free-will, noting how we were created in His image and likeness. Respect for God (fear of the Lord) and all that God is (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-holy, all-merciful, all-loving, transcendent, eternal, etc., etc.) gets lost in a secular society. We suffer from shortsightedness, a desire for pleasure and immediate gratification and an ever-increasing absence and possible disdain for any matters considered religious, sacred or holy. Even the absolute sacredness of human life itself has dramatically and horrendously diminished.

When Pope St. John Paul II gave to us the Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for meditation and reflection, I initially thought that the third mystery was somewhat ambiguous. Why was the Proclamation of the Kingdom (and the Call to Conversion) so important? With time, I have personally realized a deeper appreciation of this mystery. Allow me to share this descriptive synopsis of the mystery:

The preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk. 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk. 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn. 20:22-23).

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God and through His Incarnation Heaven and Earth were united.  

May we do our part to build up His Kingdom here on Earth!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time "A" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


Some Good Advice

Dear Parishioners,

I wish I had saved the letter.

A now-deceased Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee sent a letter to me while I was in the college seminary.  It was a time in my life when I was seeking some serious direction and advice. I was a bit disillusioned with things that were going on in the seminary and with the moral character of some of my fellow seminarians. I was also disappointed with some professors and their actions. Needless to say, even in a place where men were preparing to be priests, things were far from perfect. The seminary situation proved to be a real testing ground for my vocation.  

Unfortunately, I learned from an early time in my training that not everyone played by the rules and did what they were supposed to do. I knew very well that I was an imperfect sinner as well. (Regrettably, I still am.) However, I was trying as best I could—albeit imperfectly—to model my life and behavior after the pattern of Jesus Christ and His teachings. 

Weren’t we all in this together? Shouldn’t we be helping one another as brothers and strengthening one another rather than bringing others down and even leading others astray? Shouldn’t some of the professors be better examples to the students in this situation?

The words from the monk are ingrained in my mind and heart: “If all the world should go astray and everything seems upside down, you go on faithfully serving the Lord.” He challenged me to live the Gospel and to be a disciple of the Lord while holding nothing back.

Sometimes it may seem that we are fighting an uphill battle. Perhaps it may appear that we are completely alone in our struggles. Yet, I truly believe that there are many, many good people out there who want to follow the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him. We know that even Jesus’ hand-picked followers had their flaws. One of them denied Him and one of them turned on Him in historic betrayal. Perfection was lacking, even among His most intimate followers.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians seems to ring true especially today:


. . . Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. . . . Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (Philippians 2: 12b, 14-16)

We can look at the world today and so often want to throw in the towel.

What can I do with such a mess? Do I still want to follow the Lord and be His disciple?  

Thankfully, I will go on remembering the monk’s words to me. They have proved invaluable over time.

Fr. Ed Namiotka