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


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


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


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