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