Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Summertime, Summertime . . .


Dear Parishioners,

I find it quite disturbing for me to address some of the matters concerning the lack of modesty found in society today. Let me begin by saying that I was not raised in an atmosphere where I lived a sheltered life. I may have been exposed, sadly, to just about everything humanly imaginable as a youth.

I grew up in Wildwood, NJ. My parents owned a hotel, motel, apartments and a restaurant. I frequented the beach and boardwalk. People rented rooms in our establishment with their families, spouses, significant others, mistresses, complete strangers, etc. We lived across the street from a bar notoriously known to have served alcohol to those underage. Drugs were available and used all around the neighborhood. Regrettably, I was far from naive when it came to things of the world. It is a miracle itself that I became a priest.

With all of this past history in mind, I was shocked on my recent Caribbean cruise to see many bathing suits that could have passed for band-aids. Dare I say there was a lack of modesty? I have come to the conclusion that most people look much better with their clothes on. The magic mirror some may have been looking at was not the same as what my eyes were seeing.

Unfortunately, traces of this lack of modesty permeates even our churches (and schools). Short-shorts (we used to call them hotpants in my day), excessive skin exposure (legs or cleavage) are certainly not appropriate for Mass attendance. We should not dress like we are going to the beach or boardwalk. Manner of dress should be befitting the dignity of being in the presence of Almighty God because we are doing just that!

The sexualization of youth worldwide is appalling and our young people should be taught that their bodies are not for display, let alone for perverts to gawk at. Parents need to be parents. No is an option.

Let me conclude by quoting two sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church for your reflection: purity and modesty.

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (#2521)

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (#2522)

I wish that I did not need to bring this topic to anyone's attention. However, I would be negligent as a spiritual father to pretend that certain situations do not exist all around us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Jesus Thirsts


Dear Parishioners,

Recently, I took the time to see the film Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist. It had a short run in the theaters in our area as many independent religious films often do. However, I was truly impressed with the quality and content of the film. Providentially, I viewed it the day before we began our 40 Hours devotion here in St. Thomas More Parish.  It was a wonderful preparation for me as I would begin spending time with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist over the next three days.

I am not in the business of film promotion, but I take the time to recommend this film as a catechetical tool to help understand what Catholics believe about the Holy Eucharist. I find that so many people are woefully ignorant about many important aspects of the faith—even those with impressive degrees in various fields other than theology. Our society’s understanding of the Holy Eucharist has been greatly influenced by the many other Christian denominations and sects that teach something not in agreement with long-standing Catholic thought.

Let me make one point abundantly clear: the Holy Eucharist is not merely a symbol or reminder of Christ. It is Christ Himself. I do not genuflect to a piece of bread, but to the Lord Jesus, whether on the altar or in the tabernacle. Everyone in the pews should not be invited or encouraged to come up to receive the Lord (Who is God) without a proper understanding of what is being done and certainly Who we are receiving. We are not distributing the Holy Eucharist like some object that everyone in the church is entitled to get. We, as sinners, are all unworthy to approach God. However, Jesus is given to us as believers to nourish and sustain us by the direction and command of the Lord Himself. Do this in memory of Me.  

Please remember Catholics should be in the state of grace when receiving Holy Communion (not conscious of any grave or mortal sin unconfessed in the Sacrament of Penance). Far too often I am dismayed by the manner in which the Lord is received, reminding me more of a person taking and putting a snack in the mouth. How many times at funerals or other Masses with many unchurched visitors where I have had to follow the person down the aisle because they took the consecrated host with them down the aisle and did not receive it immediately in my presence. I also witness those who try to grab the Holy Eucharist or do not know what to do when receiving Holy Communion, where I have to ask: Are you Catholic?

Yes, we are in the midst of a time of Eucharistic Revival in our nation. So let this revival begin with you and me. We need to make sure we are adequately prepared to receive the Lord by being in the state of grace and fasting from food and drink for a minimum of an hour beforehand. We should receive reverently and not grab and go. When receiving on the tongue (which has actually been the Church’s preferred option as we were permitted to receive in the hand in this country by an indult) stick your tongue out fully and close your eyes. I will be sure that the host finds its proper place on the tongue.

Make a proper thanksgiving afterwards in silence. The traditional adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication (ACTS) is a good guideline to follow. Also remember the fact that people come to church primarily to pray and worship. Extended conversation should be in the vestibule or outside of the body of the church to allow those who wish to pray in church to do so.

If we all do our part as individuals, maybe our actions will witness to others that we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Jesus Asleep in the Boat

Dear Parishioners,

If you feel like me at this point in our Catholic Church’s history, you are probably, at a minimum, confused and frustrated. What’s going on here? Our spiritual leadership often appears out of sync with well-established tradition and theological history. Silence and seemingly contradictory actions do not help to clarify matters. Preciseness is woefully lacking on various moral issues and theological teaching. Help!  

To me, this is indeed a diabolical spiritual crisis of the greatest proportions. How do we deal with a spiritual crisis of such magnitude? Let me remind you of today’s Gospel passage:

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk. 4: 37-38)

Is Jesus once again sleeping while the ship (the Church) seems to be sinking? Remember how quickly things change at the word of His command:

“Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mk. 4: 39-40)

In addition, I recall a story from Jesus’ ministry where the disciples could not cure someone and they looked to Jesus for the reason why they could not perform the miracle:

“I brought [my son] to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”  Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?  How long will I endure you?  Bring him here to me.”  Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured.  Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”  He said to them, “Because of your little faith.  Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Mt. 17: 16-20)

It was the lack of faith that Jesus pointed out as the reason for their inability to act. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8) We seem to be living in a time where supernatural faith is missing-in-action. At a time of spiritual warfare, this is certainly not a good situation. Faith must be nurtured before it is lost entirely.

Our faith tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, continues to remain with the Church He established. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)  He is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist, in the Sacred Scriptures, in all the Sacraments, and in His Mystical Body, the Church.

Undoubtedly, there will continue to be tribulations now as there was from the very moment when Jesus established His Church on St. Peter, the Rock—who had denied Him three times! Need we also be reminded that eleven of the twelve Apostles were missing from the foot of the cross, and Judas—one of Christ’s hand-picked twelve—turned traitor? Clearly, supernatural problems require supernatural solutions. Prayer and fasting are a must. Praying the Rosary daily has been continually requested by Our Lady:

The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families . . . that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.  Sister Lucia dos Santos (Seer of Fatima)

The Blessed Mother’s intercession is absolutely essential to the solution:

Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.  St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

I believe that the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph in the end.  Getting to that point, however, is definitely not for the faint of heart and for those without a strong faith!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Acts of Kindness in Antigua


St. John's, Antigua

Dear Parishioners,

As I write to you today, I am currently in a cruise ship in port at the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. This island is one of a number of stops on our itinerary which included the Dominican Republic, Antigua, and Puerto Rico. I travel this trip with another priest and a married couple whom I have been friends with for many years.

In case you are curious, priests of our diocese are annually permitted four weeks of vacation, one week for a spiritual retreat and a week for continuing education. Most of the time I enjoy sun, sand and surf, whether it be at the Jersey shore or in some more exotic place.

I relate to you some incidents that happened to Fr. Bradley (my travelling companion) and me yesterday while in Antigua. While off the ship we searched for the nearest Catholic Church after first finding the local historic Episcopalian Cathedral. Since the Island is part of the British Commonwealth, there is a great presence of the Episcopalian church.  Not so much for the Catholic Church which is in the minority.

I stopped an elderly lady to ask her for the location of the nearby Catholic Church. She was kind enough to point out that it was up the hill. I further inquired if it was in walking distance and she said that it was. And so our journey continued up the hill, further and further, with no church in sight. I stopped another lady and asked her similar questions about the church's location. She simply stopped what she was doing and told us to follow her. We continued to walk further up the hill. In the distance she pointed out the church which had a prominent cross on its roof. After thanking her we resumed our journey up the hill.

When we finally reached the church we discovered it was the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family. However, after walking completely around the building and checking every door, the building was locked. We discovered an outdoor shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes and then one to Our Lady of Fatima. We rested on a bench near the second shrine and caught our breath. By the way, did I mention that it was somewhere around 90 degrees?

After some time we found a lady exiting a nearby building which we later discovered was the rectory. We identified ourselves as two priests (we were dressed as tourists) and asked her if someone could call a taxi for us to return to the ship. She agreed to help us. Soon after she left, a car arrived at the rectory and a priest (visibly dressed as such) exited the car. We told him we were priests and he offered not only to take us back to the ship himself but also brought us bottles of water and suggested that he could take us for a tour of the island if we had the time.

Fr. John Paul, a native of Togo in west Africa, gave us the best "Catholic" tour of the island pointing out historic churches, schools, a retreat center and various points of interest. We could not have asked for a better experience if we had paid for it!

I was so impressed with the various acts of kindness to two complete strangers. The people of Antigua whom we met, from the elderly ladies giving direction to the housekeeper at the rectory to the parish priest, all exemplified lessons that the Gospels teach us: whatever you do to the least of my brothers . . . whoever gives a cup of cold water . . . love your neighbor as yourself.

I wonder if I would have done similar to a stranger arriving at my door?

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Homily for the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) "B" - Fr. Edward Namiotka


A Time of Grace for Our Parish

Dear Parishioners,

As you know, our parish is under the patronage of St. Thomas More. The church calendar honors him with St. John Fisher on June 22.

Once again this year, to celebrate our patronal feast day, we will include a celebration of 40 Hours Eucharistic Devotion from June 20 to 22. I will be the celebrant for the 7 PM Mass on Thursday, June 20, after which we will begin solemn Eucharistic Adoration around-the-clock until Saturday morning.

On Friday, June 21 there will be two Masses: 9 AM (regular morning Mass), and 7 PM (part of the 40 Hours celebration).

On Saturday, June 22 there will be a special closing Mass at 10 AM with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament following.

The practice of 40 Hours of Eucharistic devotion can be traced to Milan, Italy around the year 1530. It is a formalized period of prayer and adoration centering on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy EucharistPrior to this period in the Catholic Church’s history, there were times of exposition and benedictionEucharistic processions and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.  However, both Saints Philip Neri and Ignatius of Loyola instituted the Forty Hours Devotion (with reference to Jesus’ 40 hours in the tomb and recalling other biblical citations in which the symbolic number 40 was specified) in reparation for sin. It was St. John Neumann who promoted this devotion in the Philadelphia area as bishop.

I truly believe that when we take the time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is a time of tremendous blessing not only for us as individuals but also for our families and for our parish family. I do not ever want us to take for granted the great gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Time spent with Him is a grace-filled time. We can express our love and adoration for Jesus, thankfulness for our blessings, and contrition for sin (our own and the sins of others). We can also intercede for one another and petition the Lord for our various needs. It is precious time to spend with the One Who loves us beyond our imagining and Whom we should love above and beyond everything else!

What I am requesting from you, my parishioners, is that you dedicate one hour sometime during these three days to spend with the Lord in adoration. (This should ideally be in addition to any time attending Mass.) I intend to continue this devotion both nights—around the clock—but I need your help and cooperation in order to do this. Could you please think about taking an hour to pray? Why not encourage members of your family to pray as a family for just an hour?  Perhaps a group or organization within the parish can make a holy hour together (choir, Knights of Columbus, Faith and Justice Team, Small Christian Communities, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion, religious education teachers, etc.). I especially need a few insomniacs or night owls to cover the late hours!

Sign-up sheets will be available at the doors of the church so that we can be sure that there is always someone keeping watch with our Lord.

Please assist me in making this a special time for our parish as we adore our Eucharistic Lord.

Could you not keep watch for one hour? (Mk. 14:37b) 

The choice is always yours.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

St. Thomas More, Martyr