Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Life Beyond the Grave

Dear Parishioners, 

Last night I went to see the film After Death. It was produced by Angel Studios, the same company that gave us Sound of Freedom and The Chosen. This documentary dealt with the near-death experiences (NDE) of people from various cultures and backgrounds. Not only was it thought provoking but it made a strong case for life beyond the grave and the existence of God.

From my high school days I had a serious interest in the afterlife, including aspects of death and dying. This fascination began by reading books for class as a senior by Drs. Raymond A. Moody, Jr. and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Hearing about near-death and out-of-body experiences and the various stages of dying from a medical/clinical perspective sparked my intellectual curiosity and heightened my desire to reconcile my Catholic faith with the reported experiences of science. How did this all fit in with the Church's teaching about the four last thingsdeath, judgment, heaven and hell?

One thing of which I was pretty certain throughout my studies was that the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was something completely unique. The Resurrected Body was not some out-of-body experience or near-death occurrence like those stories I had read. The Glorified Body was encountered by those chosen disciples after Jesus was unmistakably dead by means of torture and crucifixion. This Glorified Body could now pass through matter such as locked doors (Jn. 20: 19-20) (subtlety). Instantaneously, it could be in various places not necessarily in close proximity like Galilee and Jerusalem (agility). It was frequently unrecognizable as on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24: 13-32) or to Mary Magdalene in the garden (Jn. 20: 11-18) (brightness or glory). It had triumphed over all human suffering (impassibility).

I hope that we never take for granted what occurred on that first Easter morning. Most of Jesus' disciples had fled and were presumably in hiding for fear that what just happened to their rabbi-leader might also happen to them. Women went to anoint the crucified Body and found an empty tomb. Jesus then made His presence known and everything changed! He is risen! No matter what they did to Him, He is still alive! The experience of a Resurrected Jesus led the disciples to be fearless in their preaching and to endure torture and martyrdom themselves.

If we get to a point in our lives where this essential teaching of our Christian faiththe Resurrection of Jesus from the deadceases to captivate, to encourage, to foster hope and to motivate, then I suggest that we should probably just stay in bed on Sunday morning. Why bother at all? Life would be pretty empty and meaningless as far as I am concerned. (Unfortunately, I think that far too many Catholics are at this point already.)

However, for Christian believers it is this triumph of Jesus over sin and death that makes all the difference in the world. We hope to share in His Resurrection. We hope to receive a new, glorified body ourselves. We have hope for an eternal life. We believe that Jesus can and does forgive our sins when we repent. We have Christian hope.

During this month of November, please pray for all the Holy Souls and all of your deceased friends and relatives. Continue to have Masses offered for their eternal salvation. We certainly need to trust in the mercy of God, but should never take it for granted. I suspect we will all need a bit of purgatory (spiritual cleansing and purification) prior to seeing God face to face.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Halloween and Praying for the Dead

Dear Parishioners,

November is considered the month of the Holy Souls. Following the Catholic teaching and practice that it is good to pray for the dead, allow me to make a few suggestions:

  • Visit a cemetery and pray for a deceased loved one
  • Have a Mass offered for a deceased loved one
  • Pray a rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
  • Take an occasion during the day to pray the prayer for the Holy Souls:

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Halloween, sometimes with a rather disproportionate fascination with matters dark and even sinister seems to have gained tremendous interest in our society. Far gone seem to be the days to dress up like a saint (which I actually did in my Catholic elementary school days) to honor a holy, heroic person and his or her virtues. From a Christian perspective, it could still be a beautiful preparation for All Saints Day. But things have certainly changed over time. 

Ghosts, witches, vampires, mummies and werewolves were scary enough when I was growing up. Then came figures on the order of Jason (from the Friday the 13th movies), Freddy Krueger or some other mass murderer.  The theaters have seen their share of zombies, exorcisms, psychopaths and doom's day or end of the world movies to chill and/or terrorize.  Memories of Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) seem almost tame. A scary thought in more ways than one!

It is the subtle (and not so subtle) de-sensitization of our youth to the presence of violence, evil, and cruelty that continues to disturb me. We need to be extolling positive virtues, goodness and holiness to our young—the good, the true and the beautiful! Yet, too often our young are exposed to just the opposite. The media lets us know often enough how certain young minds are no longer innocent and pure but can become warped and capable of acts far beyond what was ever thought possible (remember Columbine or Sandy Hook?). 

I can’t begin to list all of the negative factors over the years from gangsta rap, to violent video games, to graphic movies and pornography, to access to just about anything on the Internet and social media that bombards the young constantly.  Put on top of that the lack of knowledge and practice of the Catholic (or any) Judeo-Christian faith, a declining moral code in society and the general absence of God and prayer in many peoples’ lives today.  It makes for a type of perfect storm!  And people wonder why we have problems?

Today's parents definitely have their work cut out for them.  Parents remain the first teachers of their children in all things—especially faith

Those raising children today certainly have my prayers.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Looking for Signs of Christianity and the Sacred (in an Ever-More-Secular World)

Dear Parishioners,

As a priest, I am invited rather frequently to share a meal with a person, couple or family. If the meal takes place in the family home, I have a regular routine: I look around and simply observe. I notice if there are any religious objects in the rooms and on the walls. Statues of saints, sacred pictures and images, a crucifix and various other objects of devotion readily inform me that I am in a Catholic home. Does the family pray grace before the meal? Is there some familiarity with Catholic terminology and a willingness to share something about their faith? I try to find elements of faith practiced in the family and in the home.

I tend to walk the beach a lot in the summer. I certainly see many, many interesting sights along the way. (Just an unspoken thought here: most people look much better with clothes on.) Believe it or not, I actually look to see if anyone is wearing a Miraculous Medal, a cross or crucifix or some other outward sign that the person is a Christian. Unfortunately, these sightings are quite rare. Unfortunately, I see more gold chains, amulets or talisman (e.g., cornicello or corno), and various types of jewelry.

What name is given to a child? Names have meaning and indicate a certain authority. I look for a Christian or biblical name—especially when I baptize. While there are many innovative, unique and creative names given to children these days, I see less and less traditionally Christian and/or biblical names. I sincerely hope that those baptized in more recent days without those traditional Christian names will become the saints of tomorrow and future generations will want to take their names. (First, today's challenge begins with getting them and their parents in Church and going regularly to Mass.)

I admit that I do not always wear my clerical garb in public (especially at the beach or on vacation). I notice, however, when I do people look (and sometimes stare). I—standing six foot, five inches and weighing 250+ pounds—naturally attract notice anyway. Add a roman collar and traditional black clothing and people tend to notice me even more. I will sometimes get the "hello Father" or "hello pastor" greeting. Sometimes people even step back and let me in front of them in line (making me feel rather awkward). Clerical garb or a habit is still an outward sign for people to remind us all of a commitment to Christ made through sacred vows or promises.

As an aside, our churches are also meant to raise our hearts and minds to God and to be places of prayer and worship. When they are constructed "to look more like Pizza Huts(to quote a former professor), when they take on a talkative, auditorium atmosphere, when we forget about or minimize the idea of sacred or holy space or being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, then we run the risk of trivializing that which should be set apart for God. The meaning of holy refers to something set aside for God. Recall what Jesus did in the Jerusalem Temple when He saw that things were completely out of hand. (See Jn. 2: 12-22)

My observations and thoughts are not directed to anyone in particular. However, I think that we all need continual, external, visible reminders of our Christian faith in a world ever more hostile to Christianity and Christians. While people especially need to recognize Christ in our actions, varying outward signs—when properly understood and used—can help us Christianize a secular world. After all, our entire sacramental life employs the use of outward signs (pouring of water, oil, bread and wine, etc.) to indicate a much deeper spiritual reality.

So don't be embarrassed to wear that Miraculous Medal, to display a crucifix in the home, or to say grace in public. Don't forget that there may be others who come to church to pray and spend time with the Blessed Sacrament, and not just shoot the breeze. Please respect their sacred time and space.  Let's try to do our part to accentuate and promote our Catholic faith.  

We all need to be missionary disciples and to evangelize.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Dear Parishioners,

Peace, shalom, mir, pax.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, he offered them peace.  

. . . Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you”. . . (Jn. 20: 19b-21a) 

If anyone could have rightly inflicted vengeance or retaliation on those who harmed Him, Jesus is top of the list. However, He showed us all another way.

Peace is not just an absence of war or conflict. When a Jewish person greets someone or bids farewell, he or she might typically use the word shalom. The word means much more than simply a greeting of peaceShalom may mean completeness, soundness, safety, welfare, health, prosperity, tranquility, contentment, and/or friendship. It comes from the Hebrew verb shalam, which means to be complete, sound or whole.
In the world today we find many people who do not have peace in their lives. Beyond those who live in war-torn countries or areas with great civil unrest like Ukraine or Israel, we find people who are sometimes angry, mean-spirited, hateful, deeply troubled, confused, anxious, chaotic, etc., —anything but peaceful.

People search for peace, happiness and fulfillment in various ways. Sometimes it is wealth, material possessions, physical pleasure, power, authority, various thrills, etc. Worldly things, however, do nothing to fill the deepest desires of the human heart that only God can fill. What was it that St. Augustine said long ago in his ConfessionsYou have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

I am convinced that true and lasting peace comes from a right relationship with the Lord. The world cannot give this kind of peace.  It is simply impossible.  Why could Christian martyrs sing on the way to their deaths?  How can some people bear tremendous crosses in life without really complaining?  How do some people seem so confident and unafraid in the midst of extremely difficult or troubling situations?  I suspect it may have something to do with an interior peace and even a joy that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit working within us. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control. (Gal. 5:  22-23)

The world is a scary place to live in right now. Unfortunately, it will never achieve a true and lasting peace without the realization that Almighty God must be the source of it. Not a false god who seeks retaliation, revenge or utter elimination of one’s enemy, but someone who challenged His followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them (See Mt. 5: 44).  Supernatural grace is needed.

My prayer is that the world and each of you may know the true and lasting peace that the Lord Jesus is offering us!  Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (Jn. 14: 27) 


Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Praying for Our Church, Our Nation and Our World

Dear Parishioners,

I recall the story of the patriarch Abraham’s pleading and bargaining with God on behalf of the city of Sodom.  Perhaps you remember the passage from Scripture:

Then Abraham drew near [to the LORD] and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.  (Genesis 18: 23-32)
I worry about our Church, our nation and our world very much. Honestly, I am very disheartened with the direction that the Church, politics, and contemporary culture has taken over the past years. I fear it is only going to get much worse in the future. In particular, I hold my breath pondering where the current Synod in Rome might take our Catholic Church. Moreover, I have grave concerns when contemplating who the two potential presidential candidates for 2024 might be and how that election will result. I especially think about our young people and the type of world that they are going to inherit. Yet, I believe that we have many good people who love the Lord and want to do what is right. I continually request that we the people pray fervently and not take a lackadaisical attitude towards what is happening in our Church, our nation and in the world around us.  

Will you not join in this effort to pray?

No matter what your position is on various happenings in the Church and the upcoming presidential election, we all need to pray that the will of the Lord be done on behalf of our Church, our nation and our world. Prayer is absolutely essential and the rosary has been a powerful means of intercession in the history of our Church. After all, October is the month of the holy rosary. What a great time to intensify and solidify our efforts!                                    

The holy rosary is prayed every morning (approximately 9:30 AM) after daily Mass in our chapel. If you are free and have the time, why not make an effort to come to Mass and then remain to pray the rosary? People often make various resolutions and sacrifices, especially during Lent. I am asking (begging?) our parishioners and all who read this to consider joining in the effort by saying a rosary every day (regardless of whether you can come to Church to do it).  Pray for our Church, for our country, for our youth, for those who have left the faith, for the end of war, etc. etc.

Too often people seem to react to tragic situations like war, terrorism, natural disasters, and the like. A cry may go up to God saying: How could you let this happen? Can't intercessory prayer prevent these things from happening in the first place? Can't prayer move hearts and help in the conversion of the world to Christ?  I certainly hope so! One of the petitions in the Our Fatherdeliver us from evil—is worth contemplating.

I attached a link to help people get more information about how to pray the rosary.

Please take the time to pray fervently. I believe prayer, and especially the rosary, can work wonders in ways seen and unseen.

Fr. Ed Namiotka