Tuesday, April 16, 2024

God's Grace


Dear Parishioners,

God’s Grace is truly amazing to me. There are many ways of thinking about how God works in our lives. A realization of His life active and present in us is itself a gift.

I regularly see God at work during the ordinary experiences of my priestly ministry. Especially during Lent, on First Fridays and First Saturdays, and on many other occasions during the year, I have witnessed God bring forgiveness and healing to repentant sinners who were contrite and seeking God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance. Christ was present to them. Whenever I go to the hospital or do a home visitation to offer the Anointing of the Sick to someone who is sick or dying, Christ is again present there bringing spiritual comfort, healing and forgiveness. When I go into the chapel and witness numerous parishioners spending time adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament after daily Mass, indeed believing in His true Eucharistic Presence, I see Christ with His people. I could go on and on with such examples.

If you look around, Christ continues to be present and to work among His people. He is true to His promise: . . . “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) He was there at the wedding I witnessed last week. He is at each Mass that I celebrate, whether publicly or in private. He is here as I pray with or for someone who asks for my prayers. He will be here during Sunday’s baptism. He is even there each time I have to face suffering and death.

People will sometimes tell me that they don’t believe in God or that He doesn’t seem real to them. Why does God’s presence seem so real and obvious to me? It’s not that I am some mystic or spiritual guru. I am just an ordinary person, an unworthy sinner like the rest of humanity called by God and graced with the gift of ordination despite my own unworthiness.

As you continue your spiritual journey during this Easter season, why not make a conscious effort to look for and to be attentive to God’s Grace working in your life and in the lives of those around you? He is here with us in the poor, the suffering, the dying, the lonely, the young child, and the elderly. He is present in obvious ways and when we least expect it. He is present in the big events of life and in those quiet moments speaking to the depths of our hearts when we are alone in our inner room.

If you have a hard time perceiving Him, ask Him directly to remove any spiritual blindness from which you appear to be suffering. Fidelity to daily prayer is so essential in forming a relationship with Christ. A thorough sacramental confession can be the quickest and most direct way to experience His presence as healing, forgiveness and mercy enter into your life. And, of course, be aware that Christ is really and truly present (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) in the Holy Eucharist as the priest offers the Mass.

He is here with us—all around us!

Don’t miss Him.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Easter __________.

Dear Parishioners,

Could you please fill in the blank for me?  Easter ____________.

1.  Bunny

2.  Candy

3.  Egg

4.  Bonnet

5.  Parade

6.  Table (Meal)

7.  Basket

8.  Bread

9.  Card

10. Flowers

11.  →Sunday ←

(If you picked #11, then you at least know a hint when you see one!)

Easter Sunday, the Octave of Easter and the Easter season have come. Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is Risen! We now await the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Many secular ideas, traditions, and customs have found their way into our culture. They are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. As Christians, however, nothing else is really as important as Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead. Easter is about Resurrection. It is about eternal life. It is about hope.    

Starting a church the way Christ did seems like it should have been a recipe for disaster:

  • Pick a rag-tag bunch of mostly uneducated disciples—one who denies you when the going gets tough, and one who betrays you.
  • Preach to the general public for only a few years, mysteriously at times.
  • Pick an area of the world oppressed by foreign rule.
  • Pick a time in history without the internet, radio, television, newspapers or mass media as we know it today.
  • Allow yourself to be tortured and then put to death without offering resistance.

Should the Catholic Church still be around over 2000 years later?

When everything seemed like failure, the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples:

While they were still speaking . . . (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  (Luke 24:36-40)

Resurrection made all the difference, then and now. The Church still remains despite all obstacles, build on the foundation of Christ—the Risen Christ. May the joy of Easter bring meaning and hope to your lives, today and every day!

Please continue to celebrate the joy of Easter! (And prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well!)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Homily for Good Friday (2024) - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

Coincidences or Signs from God?

 


Dear Parishioners,

For the past two years I have attended priest conferences given by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. This year I also plan to attend. Priests gather from all parts of the country to listen to talks on the Sacred Scriptures, to pray together, to offer Mass together and to socialize at a resort in Lakeway, Texas (near Austin). We have the privilege of hearing from Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. John Bergsma, Dr. Edward Sri, and others who bring great insight to the Scriptures and Catholic theology. By having attended these annual workshops, my hope is that my preaching and teaching from the pulpit each week has become more informative and inspiring.

Coincidentally, my first full day in Texas is also the day of the total solar eclipse which will be seen in the early afternoon as the path is directly over us! Moreover, the day is also celebrated as the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord (transferred from March 25th because it fell in Holy Week). Let me say that it should be rather interesting to be in Texas during this time.

The Sunday after Easter (this weekend) has been designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

On April 30, 2000 (Divine Mercy Sunday of that year), Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

According to the notebooks of Saint Faustina, Jesus made the following statements about this day:

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)

Devotion to Divine Mercy is also associated with an image painted as Jesus wished, based on descriptions by Saint Faustina. The words that accompany the image are "Jesus, I trust in Thee" ("Jezu, Ufam Tobie" in Polish). The rays coming from Jesus' body represent the Blood and Water that poured forth from the wound He suffered when pierced by the lance.

The devotion is practiced by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novena to the Divine Mercy—both of which may be prayed at any time, but especially at "The Hour of Great Mercy" – 3:00 PM, the hour our Lord died, and in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday. You can find out more about these topics by going to the website for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception (marian.org).

I find it particularly interesting that after working to promote devotion to the Divine Mercy and even writing an encyclical about God’s Mercy — Dives in Misericordia or Rich in Mercy (1980) — Pope St. John Paul II died during the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

Was this just another coincidence or truly an indication of the hand of God continually at work in our world? 

With all that is happening throughout the globe today, we all need to say and believe: Jesus I trust in Thee!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

What If?


Dear Parishioners,

What if there were no Easter Sunday?  What if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead?

Well, you certainly would not be reading this message from me. I suspect that I would probably be married with a family, engaged in some other kind of occupation. I certainly would not be a Catholic priest. Perhaps, a Jewish rabbi? Who knows?

There would be no Catholic churches. No Christian, Orthodox or Protestant churches as well.

No Mass. No Eucharist. No sacramental Confession. No Christian Baptism. Any of the other sacraments? Nope.

Forget the Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals and Catholic orphanages. No Catholic charities. No Religious Orders like the Franciscans, Jesuits, Augustinians or Dominicans.

We would never hear those timeless Catholic hymns. No Gregorian chant. Tantum ErgoO Salutaris, Pange LinguaStabat Mater . . . unfortunately, they would not exist. None of the great Christian-themed artwork that fills the rooms and walls of museums either. 

No Communion of Saints. No need for Christian martyrs. No Gospels. No Evangelists. No Christian apologists.

Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, St. Paul and Santa Cruz, countries like El Salvador and San Marino, islands like St. Thomas, St. John and St. Martin would obviously have other non-Christian names.

No popes. No bishops. No organized hierarchy. No dioceses.

If we were fortunate enough to be Jewish, we would still be awaiting a messiah. Will God remember His promises to our ancestors? Will He send someone to save us? 

If we were not Jewish, unfortunately, we might be worshipping some pagan god, not knowing any better.

Jesus of Nazareth would have been seen as some crazy, self-proclaimed messiah like a Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Sun Myung Moon or Marshall Applewhite, instead of Lord, God and Savior.

Would we have hope in eternal life without the Resurrection of Jesus? Would we have forgiveness of sin? Would the cross of Christ be just another Roman execution among many others? 

“. . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15: 17)

Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ is Risen! Our world will never be the same again—ever! We have hope and a promise of immortality—eternal life! We have the forgiveness of sin! We are given new life through Christ! Realize how blessed we truly are!

Have a Happy Easter!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor



Getting Ready for Holy Week


Dear Parishioners,

Palm and ashes—I never quite understood their attraction and the seeming necessity by some people to "get them" each year. After all, while Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and the day calls us all to repentance and reminds us of our own mortality, this day is not a holy day of obligation. Yet, church attendance is often excellent on this day.  Remember, also, the day never falls on a weekend, but is rather a "work" and/or "school" day for most people. Yet, the people are inevitably present in droves.

Then there is today—Palm Sunday. This is another day usually with significantly high attendance. The palm branches recall Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Yet, palm is certainly not the most important symbol in Christianity.

The most significant days of Holy Week—Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter—are known as the Easter Triduum. Holy Thursday recalls when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist as well as the Ministerial Priesthood. Good Friday commemorates Jesus' passion and death on the cross. The Easter Vigil sees new members welcomed into the faith and magnificently expresses the great joy of Christ risen from the dead! The Masses of Easter all continue to proclaim the joy of Christ's Resurrection. These days should be given our utmost priority and Catholic churches should necessarily be packed for each Mass or service.

Personally, as pastor I am greatly humbled on Holy Thursday to wash the feet of a group of my parishioners just like Jesus did for His disciples. Priesthood involves a mandate of service in imitation of Jesus' life and ministry. "You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet." (Jn. 13: 13-14) Praying and offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a daily privilege for me as a priest, which we solemnly experience during Thursday of the Lord's Supper followed by a procession and a period of silent prayer with the Most Blessed Sacrament.

On Good Friday we venerate the Holy Cross, read the Passion of the Lord according to St. John, pray intercessions and have an opportunity to receive Holy Communion. This day is most solemn and is one of the two remaining days of fast and abstinence required by the Church. Afterward, we give parishioners a final opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) before Easter.

If you are coming to the Easter Vigil, plan to spend at least two hours. There is no way that we can reverently celebrate all that is contained in this Mass by rushing through it just to get it done!  This day happens only once a year and is not meant for those who are looking to get in and out quickly.  We light the Easter fire, spend extensive time listening to Scripture readings which trace the history of salvation, bless the Easter water, and perform the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) and other rituals all within this sacred Mass.

I hope that you will put these days of the Easter Triduum at the top of your list of spiritual priorities!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

A Look at Some Liturgical Practices

 

Dear Parishioners, 

A couple of weeks ago I took the time to write about some Lenten liturgical customs. I want to follow up today with a few other liturgical practices which are part of the Novus Ordo—the current Mass offered in most Roman Catholic parishes throughout the world.

As Roman Catholics, our particular rite is officially known as the Latin Rite. The pope, our spiritual leader, resides in Rome (more precisely, Vatican City). It is there where both St. Peter and St. Paul died for their faith as did many early Christian martyrs. Sadly, with the increased use of the vernacular in our liturgy, too many people seem to forget (or even to have an unhealthy distain for) our Latin heritage. I have heard people erroneously say that the Latin language is no longer in use since Vatican II. However, this is what the document on the liturgy, SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM (S.C.), actually says:

. . . Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (S.C. #54)

Regarding sacred music, the document adds:

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. (S.C. #116)

During Lent and Advent, this parish has the practice of chanting the Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus) and the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) in Latin. Moreover, during the penitential rite, the Lord, Have Mercy (Kyrie) is also chanted in the original Greek. We try to keep our heritage alive in this small way by the use of some hymns in Latin and Gregorian chant.

Next, I was recently asked by someone whether or not we were going to return to the reception of both the Body and Blood of Jesus (at our daily Mass.) I understood what the person meant, wanting to receive also from the chalice. In reality, even if we only receive the consecrated host at Mass, we still receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ without ever partaking from the chalice. This, in fact, was the custom (standard practice) for centuries. Primarily, it was the priest who received from the chalice and not the laity.

Illustrating some further misunderstanding in the language used regarding the Blessed Sacrament, I have found that sometimes people continue to refer to the consecrated Sacred Host and Precious Blood as bread and wine. Please try not to do this. Let your language reflect your belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Yes, I know that St. Paul, occasionally, referred to the Holy Eucharist as bread (see 1 Cor. 11: 26-28). Even some hymns use phrases such as eat this bread. But it is more reverential and proper for us to use terms like (Most) Holy Eucharist, (Most) Blessed Sacrament, (Most) Precious Blood to express clearly and unambiguously the Catholic belief in Jesus’ Real Presence. If we use the term bread, may it be more suitably the Bread of Angels (Panis Angelicus) that we are referencing.

How we worship and the language we use reflects what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Continuing Our Lenten Journey

 


Dear Parishioners,

I can’t tell you how many times I have said to myself (and sometimes to my parish staff): “I should have been a monk!” For years I have been going to a Trappist monastery for my annual retreat. There I can experience some profound solitude and have quality time to pray, read, write, etc. My time in the desert, so to speak, can also be a time to confront the devil and his temptations, just as Jesus did. However, in the end, I must return back to the parish and to my priestly duties and routine. After all, I am not a monk.

The season of Lent is an occasion for all of us to go into that spiritual desert to deepen our relationship with God, to repent of our sins and to confront the evil (the demons) in our lives. This time should not be business as usual, if we want to grow in holiness and the love of God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not just suggestions, but necessary requirements for penance (mortification) and our spiritual growth.

Many of us start out with good intentions at the beginning of Lent, and then weaken our resolutions and grow less zealous as we move through those long forty days. Let me act as a spiritual coach: Don’t give up! Keep going! The Stations of the Cross can certainly be comforting to us, especially when we realize that Jesus fell (at least) three times and still got up and kept going on the road to Calvary. Follow His example.

The 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) is named for its entrance antiphon reflecting on Isaiah 66: 10-11: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” Laetare means "rejoice" and like its counterpart in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the priest has the option of wearing rose-colored vestments instead of violet. The change of color is to indicate a sense of hope and joy—anticipation of Easter—during the penitential season. We are now only 21 days away from Easter Sunday!

I have been encouraged by the good number of people who have taken advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (a.k.a., confession) during this time. If you have not, I implore you to seek out the healing power and mercy of Christ waiting there for the repentant sinner. Too often people carry sins around for months, years or even decades (for various reasons) not realizing that Christ came to reconcile us (see 2 Cor. 5: 18-19) with the Father and not condemn us. Yes, we first need to repent and change our sinful ways. But Christ offers us forgiveness and mercy when we do.

Holy Week and Easter focus on the most profound mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. Please plan to participate in the Masses and services at this sacred time. Holy Thursday emphasizes the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Ministerial Priesthood. Good Friday recalls Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross for our sins.  The celebration of Easter proclaims Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and new life for us all!

If we take Lent seriously, if we take our Catholic faith seriously, we are in the best position to deal with the ever-growing hostilities that are present toward Jesus and His Church. He warned us that if they persecuted Him they will persecute us also (see Jn. 15:20). They mocked, rejected, tortured, and killed Jesus even though He came to save us and lead us to His Heavenly Father. Don’t ever think that the path ahead will be easy and without a cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

An Explanation of Some Lenten Practices

 

Covered Statues for Lent

Dear Parishioners,

Depending on your parish, diocese, country or liturgical rite, there may be certain customs during Lent that do not occur universally. Certainly the blessing and distribution of ashes is universal in the Catholic Church, but what about the covering of statues/crucifixes or the removal of holy water in some parishes?

Catholic author Philip Kosloski gives one helpful explanation regarding the veiling of statues:

It seems strange that during the most sacred time of year we cover everything that is beautiful in our churches, even the crucifix. Shouldn't we be looking at the painful scene at Calvary while we listen to the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday? While it may appear counterintuitive to veil statues and images during the final weeks of Lent, the Church recommends this practice to heighten our senses and build within us a longing for Easter Sunday . . . . 


The rubrics can guide us. In the Roman Missal we find the instruction, "In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from [the fifth] Sunday [of Lent] may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil." This is the current practice of the Church, but veiling from the Fifth Sunday of Lent onward is miniscule compared to what was once practiced. For example, in Germany there was a tradition to veil the altar from view throughout all of Lent . . . . 


The unveiling before the Easter Vigil is a great reminder of our own life on earth.  We live in a "veiled" world, in exile from our true home. But why go through such lengths to cover up images that are designed to raise our hearts and minds toward heaven? 


First of all, we use veils to alert us of the special time that we are in.  When we walk into church and notice everything is covered, we immediately know that something is different. These last two weeks of Lent are meant to be a time of immediate preparation for the Sacred Triduum and these veils are a forceful reminder to get ready. 


Secondly, the veils focus our attention on the words being said at Mass. When we listen to the Passion narrative, our senses are allowed to focus on the striking words from the Gospel and truly enter into the scene. 


Third, the Church uses veils to produce a heightened sense of anticipation for Easter Sunday. This is further actualized when you attend daily Mass and see the veils each day. You don't want them to be there because they are hiding some very beautiful images. And therein lies the whole point: the veils are not meant to be there forever. The images need to be unveiled; it is unnatural for them to be covered. The unveiling before the Easter Vigil is a great reminder of our own life on earth. We live in a "veiled" world, in exile from our true home. It is only through our own death that the veil is lifted and we are finally able to see the beauty of everything in our lives. 

In our parish the statues and crucifixes were covered at the beginning of Lent (rather than the 5th Sunday) for merely practical purposes. When the purple (violet) background drapes were put up in the main church sanctuary for Lent, the statues and crucifix were also covered. Actually, I should have waited a while longer.  Mea culpa.

Regarding those parishes (not ours) that remove holy water from the fonts during Lent, I refer you to the following response from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments (2004): 

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:


1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being 'praeter legem' is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.


2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The 'fast' and 'abstinence' which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church.


The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday). 

I realize that customs sometimes vary in different parishes, so I have tried to explain the reasons why I am incorporating or not incorporating certain practices for Lent in St. Thomas More Parish.

 Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


An Empty Holy Water Font




Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Some Spiritual Guidance While on the Mountian

 


Dear Parishioners,

Have you thought about the many times a mountain is mentioned in Sacred Scripture? Often there is an encounter, in some manner, with God.

Think of Abraham and Isaac in today’s first reading. The sacrifice of Isaac was about to take place on a mountain (Mt. Moriah) before the angel stopped it from happening. Moses received God’s commandments on Mt. Sinai (Mt. Horeb). The prophet Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount on the Mount of Beatitudes and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus’ disciples experience His Transfiguration (today’s Gospel) on Mt. Tabor. He died for us on Mt. Calvary (Golgotha). In these and other situations, the mountain is the location for encountering God.

In the spiritual life, people frequently describe some intense religious event as a mountaintop experience. Perhaps, we might identify the Transfiguration of Jesus as such an experience for the apostles Peter, James and John. They saw Jesus in His glory. While Moses and Elijah—both commanding respect and obedience from the Jews—are seen with Jesus, they disappear. They represented the Law and the Prophets, respectively, to the people.  However, we are told, Jesus is the one to whom we must listen! He is the beloved Son of God! He alone!

As you progress through Lent, realize you may experience many types of situations in the spiritual life.  Perhaps there will be some mountaintop days when the presence of God is powerful, real and apparent. Other times there may be aridity and dryness in your prayer, like being in the desert. There may be occasions when you can seem to be drowning like St. Peter (see Mt. 14: 22-33) and you need Jesus to come to the rescue. Moreover, there can be times when nothing whatsoever seems to be happening. Is God there?

What God seeks is our fidelity to Him at all times. Emotions are fleeting and circumstances can change quickly without warning. Our emotions or feelings are not necessarily the best guides for sanctity or holiness. Many saints have had days of spiritual darkness (a dark night of the soul) or a tremendous cross or suffering in their lives. The Lord may allow this for the increase of grace and holiness in us.

Here's some spiritual advice: work to create and fortify virtues (good habits) in your life. Virtue involves discipline and a regular routine in your spiritual life. Otherwise, we can develop vices (bad habits) when we fail to pray, fail to go to Mass and receive Holy Communion weekly, fail to frequent the Sacrament of Penance, etc.  When we find a fault or weakness in our lives that leads to sin (for example, selfishness), we should attempt to cultivate the opposite virtue (charity, generosity).

As you read the Scriptures, we see Jesus had to teach, guide, reprimand and warn his chosen disciples. They did not necessarily understand Him or comprehend His motives. However, He did perform miracles in their presence and even allowed some of his closest followers to accompany Him up the mountain where they experienced His glory. Nonetheless, He gave them all what they needed to know so that they would find eternal life and salvation in Him. I suspect He will do the same for you and me in whatever way He sees fit. Trust Him and be faithful to Him, no matter what. 

Our spiritual journey may not necessarily involve some fantastic mountaintop experience, but it will be whatever God determines is for our ultimate good.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Monday, February 19, 2024

My Mom's Passing into Eternal Life

Mrs. Catherine Namiotka

My mother Catherine passed early Friday morning (2/16/24) at the age of 90. May she rest in peace.

Funeral Mass will be Friday (2/23/24) at 11 AM at St. Ann Church (Notre Dame de la Mer Parish) in Wildwood.

A viewing will be held from 9:30 AM to 10:45 AM in the church prior to the Mass.

My brothers, sister and I would appreciate your prayers for her.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How Seriously Will You Take this "Lenten Season?"



Dear Parishioners,

Typically, Ash Wednesday is a crowded day in our church.  People annually come to “get ashes.”  Despite the fact that the day is not a holy day of obligation in which we are required to attend Mass—psst, please don’t tell anyone!—people are here throughout the day looking for those ashes. Sometimes, they have even come to the rectory door at all odd hours because they don’t want to be without those blessed ashes.

If I look at this phenomenon from a positive angle, I hope and pray that people see the need for repentance and a change of life. I pray that they heed the call to conversion. I pray also that they truly open their lives to Jesus and want to turn away from sin.

The logical follow-up during the Lenten season would then be a desire to attend Mass more frequently. There should be an increase in the use of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession). Time for prayer and meditation should grow. Certainly, we should see more generosity, kindness and compassion in all of us. In the end, we should be spiritually renewed and prepared for the great events of the Easter Triduum.

This is my sincere hope and prayer.

Unfortunately, there will be those who approach the ashes in a superstitious manner or with a misunderstanding that places more importance on this sacramental than it truly deserves. I used to tell my students in high school quite bluntly that ashes (burnt palm) on the forehead, in and of themselves, will not get someone into heaven. They are merely a symbol of repentance and mortality. Rather, Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the Holy Eucharist is much more than any such symbol.  The Holy Eucharist is, in fact, the real, true presence of Jesus who was offered for us on the cross and who is now offered to us in Holy Communion.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  (John 6: 54-56)

Essentially, it is my duty as one who preaches and teaches to help people to understand and to prioritize what is essential for a Catholic (the Holy Eucharist) and what is merely helpful and a symbolic reminder for us (blessed ashes). All of the seven sacraments are life-giving—in essence, imparting to us God’s grace—through various outward signs. They are opportunities to encounter Christ. We are fed, nourished, healed, forgiven, strengthened, and sanctified by our participation in these sacraments. Most notably, the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation are the two sacraments that we are able to and should participate in frequently.

Please take Lent seriously. Heed the call to conversion. Put into practice acts of prayer, fasting (self-denial) and almsgiving (charity).  

Over everything else, fall in love with Jesus. I say this not in some superficial, romantic way but as our essential, unconditional response to the Son of God who loved us unto death.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

      

Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

A Look Ahead


Dear Parishioners,

While the anticipation of the Super Bowl permeates this weekend in the secular world, Lent begins for Christians on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2024. It is a time for increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This sacred time is meant to be different from the rest of the year in preparation for the events of Holy Week and Easter. I pray you take the season seriously as we preach the call to Repent, and believe in the Gospel! Stations of the Cross will be added every Friday in Lent at 7 PM.

At the end of the month, we will have our annual Parish Mission from Monday, February 26 to Wednesday, February 28 at 7 PM. This year the preacher will be Fr. Allain Caparas. I was fortunate to have Fr. Caparas as my parochial vicar as a newly ordained priest in 2006. Since then he has served at various parishes, as a high school principal, and is now pastor at Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish in Glassboro. Please mark these dates on your calendar as we anticipate the inspiring preaching of Fr. Caparas.

As I had mentioned several months ago, St. Thomas More Parish will now begin the application process to seek a committed, active Catholic to serve as the Coordinator of Catechesis, Lifelong Faith Formation and Evangelization. This position will be responsible for oversight of all catechetical ministry to every age group within the parish. The coordinator initiates, organizes and facilitates various programs and services relating directly to the evangelization and the education of parishioners in the Catholic faith. The coordinator seeks to meet the needs of parishioners in the areas of catechetics, youth and young adult ministry, adult faith formation, and sacramental preparation, including adult Christian initiation. The applicant must be a practicing Catholic in good standing in the Church with an in-depth knowledge of the Catholic faith (BA, or MA preferred). The coordinator must have working knowledge of computers and technology. The applicant must be willing to be involved in the spiritual life of St. Thomas More Parish. Salary and weekly hours are negotiable. This position reports directly to the pastor. Anyone who wishes to apply for this position should submit a résumé to me personally, by regular mail or e-mail (fr.namiotka@gmail.com). The appointment of this position will be made before the end of the fiscal year in June.

Finally, please continue to pray for my mom as she is now on hospice care and has begun her preparation to journey back to God. My mom is 90 years old and has been very close to me since the sudden death of my father in 1995. I know her time is short (days, weeks, months?) and I will certainly miss her as her first-born son. My brothers, sister and I appreciate your continued prayers for her.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Moral Correctness vs. Political Correctness



Dear Parishioners,

Unfortunately, we live in a politically correct world. The legacy news media and advertising often drives it. We have become so cautious not to offend anyone. We do not want to be cancelled. As a result, we may wind up compromising what we truly believe in the name of tolerance. There are rumblings among the populus, however, and ever-more people are becoming fed-up with what is going on.

What if the early Christians acted in the same manner? Would they have been so cautious not to proclaim Jesus is Lord in the face of torture and death? I think about how the early Apostles were willing to die rather than compromise their beliefs. How easy it would have been to acknowledge that Caesar was divine (as was demanded at the time), and go on living. Couldn’t Jesus just be acknowledged as one god among many other gods? After all, the Greeks and Romans were polytheistic cultures and would more than likely tolerate one more god. It would be the politically correct thing to do at that time. Instead, the early Christians bravely faced torture and death in their unwavering proclamation that Jesus is the Risen Son of God. For them, there was no other option.

Today, we may not say certain things are objectively wrong for fear of offending someone: 

  • Abortion is not killing an innocent human being—dare I say murder?—but a woman’s choice.
  • Marriage (the permanentexclusiveopen-to children union between a man and a woman) is redefined not according to timeless, divine principles but as we enlightened humans currently see fit.
  • We don’t call co-habitation fornication, but a trial-marriage.
  • Euthanasia (killing the elderly) is mercy-killing.
  • Adulterers are swingers.
  • The difference between partial-birth abortion and Infanticide is negligible.
  • Homosexual acts fall into the category of an alternate lifestyle.
  • Artificial contraception is never wrong or sinful in many people’s mind.
  • There is no longer a proper understanding that we have a moral obligation to God to attend Mass weekly  

Wrong becomes right. Right is no longer right. The world is horribly confused. And this confusion does have serious, eternal consequences.

God in timeless wisdom and with apparently incredible patience looks at us and, I suspect, desires that we would listen and obey. There is a law written in your hearts. I sent you the prophetsI even gave you my only Son as my definitive Word. You have centuries of saints and martyrs witnessing to the truth by their lives. My gift of the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church. Please listen. Don’t delay.

I trust that God is all-merciful. There is frequently an emphasis on His mercy. I also believe that God is all-just. God’s justice is tempered by His mercy. (See James 2: 12-13) Mercy is offered to us so that we admit our sinfulness, desire to change our erring ways and completely conform our lives to the teachings of Christ. Mercy is not like a get out of jail free card. We can’t just continue with our sinful ways assuming God to be some pushover—some lenient parent—who will continually let us do whatever we want without consequences. We are all going to Heaven despite what we do here on earthNot really. Why would Jesus have suffered and died in such a horrible manner if we all just go to Heaven no matter what we think, say or do? No, if we refuse mercy, if we refuse to listen, if we fail to change, then God remains all-just. We will get what we actually deserve. And it wasn’t because God did not try to get through to us time and time again.

If political correctness blurs our moral correctness then I would suggest that we make the necessary adjustments to our thinking and acting. We need to realize that the truth—the objective moral teachings given by Jesus Christ and faithfully proclaimed by His Church—are the means given us for our eternal salvation.

 And eternal does mean forever.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor






Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


 

When the Entire World is Upside Down


Dear Parishioners,

I know that Jesus would use a type of hyperbolean intentional exaggeration for effect—at various times in the Gospels. Did he really want us literally to tear our eyes out and throw them away (see Mt. 5:29) or to cut our hands off and throw them away (see Mt. 5:30) as stated in the Sacred Scriptures? I don’t think so. He most likely said things in this manner to wake people up and have them pay attention to what he had to say.  He needed people to recognize his legitimate, definitive authority.

Much was the same with Jesus’ miracles. His miracles were often meant to attract people to His message and to show His true authority: “’But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’–he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.’” (Mk. 2:10-11)  I suppose in Jesus’ time, just as in ours, people wondered who to listen to, who is telling the truth and what authority is legitimate. Many people, then and now, have various things to say, but they certainly don’t all carry the same weight. My utmost loyalty and attention goes to the Son of God—hands down!

In today’s conversations we too may say some things emphatically to get a point across: “That weighs a ton!” “I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse!” and “I’ve told you a million times already!”

I guess that there are times when our current culture has become so de-sensitized or may even have become so calloused to current societal issues that we may need to say something in an unusual or extreme manner to get people’s attention once again. Society nowadays is also so careful to be politically correct on almost every matter for fear of offending someone and being cancelled.

So how do we make people realize that the breakup of the traditional family is tragic for society, how [according to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) website] there are 73 million abortions worldwide per year, how co-habitation outside of marriage can have detrimental effects on relationships, how homosexual sexual acts are always sterile and empty acts, and how our addiction-prone society (alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling, shopping, etc.) can destroy moral character and ultimately lead to self-destruction, just to name a few contemporary societal concerns?

What do I say or do to make people pay attention? Perhaps I need to quote Jesus again:

 

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (Mt. 7: 13-14)

 

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Mt. 24: 42-44)

 

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Lk. 18:8)


I often wonder just who is listening to and following Him?

I express my frustration like this: The entire world is upside down!  And, in my humble opinion, this seems to be no exaggeration!

 Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Harvest is Abundant . . .



Dear Parishioners,

In today’s Scripture readings we hear the “call” to ministry/service of Samuel (1 Sam. 3) and of the two fishermen Andrew and Simon Peter (Jn. 1). These readings should remind us to reflect on the call to ministry (particularly as priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers) in our Catholic Church today.

For some time now, more priests die and retire each year than we see ordained for our diocese. Regrettably, for the past two years, the Diocese of Camden had no priesthood ordinations. We were blessed for many years to have a fairly large number of priests to supply the needs of the people. Many rectories had two or more priests living in them. Things, however, have changed regarding the number of active priests. Fortunately, many retired priests in our diocese continue to supply some of our needs—especially Mass on the weekends.

Various Gospels (e.g., Luke 10: 1-12. 17-20 and Mt. 9: 32-38) contain the words of Jesus:  The harvest is abundant, but laborers are few. . . .  He tells us to askto pray—to the master of the harvest for workers. Do we? Everyday? Do we pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our own families?

I have heard it suggested to me on numerous occasions what the church needs is married priests or women priests. I know a married Orthodox priest who once told me, “Don’t let them tell you that married priests is the solution to the vocation crisis. Our priests can marry, and we still have a shortage.” Protestant ministers, who are usually married, tell me much of the same. They still see a decline in clergy (as well as church attendance). By the way, the option of women priests in the Roman Catholic Church was officially closed by St. John Paul II when he wrote the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and stated:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

For me, the crux of the problem is multi-faceted. Our society does not revolve around God or the importance of faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is minimized or seen as irrelevant. Many, if not most, Catholic families do not go to Mass each week, if they indeed go at all. Our cultural values teach the young to be successful and wealthy, but not necessary to do what God wants you to do. Priests, at times, have been ostracized (dare I say demonized?) and are seen as “suspect” by the media and others for the horrible and most-regrettable sins of a few. The moral authority of the Church is undermined, mocked and seen as extraneous to daily life. People are no longer taught or are willing to make sacrifices in life, as evidenced by a lack of those responding to a priestly or religious vocation (and even to the many demands required by married life).

I give tremendous credit to those men and women who answer the “call” today and attempt to follow the Lord’s invitation to be a priest, deacon, religious sister or brother. The world needs them now more than ever to be bold, counter-cultural disciples in a world of confusion, doubt and even hatred towards all things Christian.   

The rest of us must continue to pray most fervently.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor