Fr. Romanus' Letter of December 3rd
Advent Season begins:
A new liturgical calendar begins this weekend with the celebration of the First Sunday of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word advenire (to come to) and adventus (arrival). Hence, Advent has double meaning: first, as a season of preparation for Christmas when we remember and celebrate the first coming of Jesus. In this sense, it is understood as a time of joyous anticipation of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The second meaning of Advent is more eschatological, referring to a season when that remembrance of the birth of the savior moves the hearts and minds of believers to await his second coming at the end of time.
Some church historians trace the origin of Advent back to the fourth canon of the Council of Saragosa in 380. Advent was first observed by the middle of the 6th century after the Synod of Tours established a December fast in the year 567, and the Council of Macon ordered an Advent Fast for the laity in 581. The observance of Advent included forty days of prayer and fasting, just as Lent. Advent initially included the six Sundays leading to Christmas (approximating forty days), but was reduced to four weeks by Pope Gregory the Great, perhaps, to avoid confusing it with Lent. The Greek Orthodox Churches still retain the forty days of prayer and fasting leading to Christmas, almost in the manner of Lent but with lesser rigor.
The symbol of Advent is the circular evergreen with four candles interspersed. The evergreen is an ancient symbol of immortality, life, and growth. For Christians, it symbolizes the everlasting love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The Advent wreath originated in pre-Christian Germany and Scandinavia as people gathered to celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. The circle itself symbolizes God’s eternity as the one who is, who was, and always will be. The four candles symbolize the four Sundays of Advent. A fifth candle (the Christ-candle) is often inserted at the center of the wreath to symbolize Christmas Eve. The ‘light’ of Advent candles represents Christ the light who comes to disperse the darkness of sin and death. As we know, the liturgical color of advent is purple/violet, but rose/pink is permitted on Gaudete Sunday.
For people of faith, Advent is a special time to prepare for God’s gift of his Son to the world. The scripture passages emphasize the importance of readying our hearts and minds to receive the Messiah. This theme of interior preparation is often lost on many in our society as frenzied external preparations for Christmas take hold. Thanksgiving week ushers in the shopping season as people rush in droves to the malls, especially on black Friday, to snatch up enticing deals before they are gone.
As Christmas draws near, anxiety kicks in - there are Christmas presents to wrap, house and yard decorations to finish, Christmas cards to write, parties to plan, more shopping to do, etc. Despite our best efforts we come to realize that all the time in the world would not be enough to accomplish all that needs to be done. Often, the joy and anticipation of Christmas turns into the anxiety of getting everything done and a dreaded realization that they would not get done anyway. However, if Advent is first understood in terms of spiritual preparation, all other preparations will find their proper contexts, leading to lesser anxiety and dread.
Wishing you a prayerful Advent!
Thank you for the beautiful installation celebration:
I agree with many of you who have expressed their appreciation for the beautiful and moving installation Mass. First of all, thank you to Archbishop Listecki for doing such a wonderful job. Thank you to Very Rev. Jim Lobacz, the Archbishop’s Master of Ceremonies, for keeping things flowing and organized. Thank you to Christy Presser, our choir director, and members of the choir for the beautiful music. Thank you to the servers, lectors, communion ministers, ushers, gift bearers and everyone who played a role in the celebration of Mass. Thank you to my uncle, Rev. Bernard Nwaokeleme for representing the family.
The reception following Mass was equally beautiful and heart-warming. Obviously, a lot of work went into preparation and the actual celebration. Thank you to the anonymous donors who made this possible. Thank you to all who helped in so many different ways and all who attended.
Thank you to all who prepared Food, namely: the Nigerian Community, the Senegalese members of our parish, the Cameroonian members of our parish, and Jeff Emmerich Catering. Thank you to our faithful servers of coffee and cake.
Thank you also to the Nigerian Community for the Dancers who entertained. Thank you to the Blessed Savior Staff: John Henry, Eileen Heck, Paul Pagac and Tom Pagac, for behind the scene efforts that made the event possible.
Thank you to the Parish Council’s Ad hoc Committee and volunteers who put this together namely: Joe Ratke, Yolanda Coly, Deb Wuerl, Chilero Agwoeme, Judy Adrian, Phil Kremsreiter, Mike Malloy, Paul Bina, Rusty Tym, Mary Franklin and PattyRose Schroeder. All your efforts are greatly appreciated.
May God bless you all!
Fr. Romanus (Pastor)
Joe Ratke (Parish Council Chair)
Fr. Romanus' Letter of November 26th
The Solemnity of Christ the King:
This Sunday is the solemnity of Christ the King, a celebration of Jesus’ messianic leadership. The celebration is a great way to end the liturgical year and welcome a new liturgical season that begins with the first Sunday of Advent. The solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, in an encyclical entitled Quas Primas. In the encyclical, the Pope attributed the denial of the Kingship of Christ to the rise of secularism.
The institution of the solemnity was influenced by the rise of dictatorship in Europe, coupled with numerous challenges to the Church’s power and influence. It was originally celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time in the revised liturgical calendar.
Many people in our society see kingship as archaic, undemocratic and suspect due to the ever-present danger of tyranny. The absence of the kind of checks and balances inherent in a democratic system makes the concept of kingship uncomfortable for some. When power is concentrated on one individual, there is the danger of dictatorship. Those concerned about the dangers of human kingship should realize that the reign of God is different.
Unlike human royalty that is spiced with honor, prestige, extravagance and pomposity, the kingship of Christ is rooted in simplicity and humility. It is ironic that Jesus was crowned king by the very people who rejected him as king. In the prelude to his crucifixion, he was crowned with a crown not made of gold, diamond and ruby, but one crafted with thorns. Likewise, his staff was made not of precious metals and stones, but of reed. As king, Jesus is the champion of our fight against evil, and the model of Christian leadership. His earthly reign is the reign of love, justice and peace. The fullness of his reign lies beyond human experience.
In today’s gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to contemplate the Day of Judgment when he will be seated as King on his glorious throne to pronounce judgment on all people. The judgment will be based on whether or not one recognized and ministered to him in his many disguises. It reminds me of the television program “Undercover Boss.” The program would normally follow the president of a big company as he/she puts on a disguise and blends in among the company employees to experience how they handle their job and the customers.
Some employees treat the undercover boss with respect and dignity. They also tend to be honest with the problems facing the company, that is, things that would improve the company’s image and performance. Some employees are mean and hostile, the same way they treat customers on a daily basis. When the cover comes off, good employees are rewarded by the boss and the bad ones are scolded or even fired.
Like an undercover boss, Jesus is present to us concealed in the poor and the suffering. How we respond to him in his many disguises will determine our future in his kingdom. Those who ministered to him will have a place in the kingdom, while those who failed to minister to him will be rejected. That explains why Catholic social teaching is an integral part of the Church’s mission.
Note that the solemnity of Christ the King is the feast day of our parish. We could not have chosen a better day. We also celebrate my installation as your pastor. I am excited to be in your midst and look forward to our time together. Thanks to Archbishop Listecki for finding time in his very busy schedule to preside at this installation Mass.
Have a great week!
Fr. Romanus' Letter of November 19th
The third servant in this Sunday’s gospel buried his talent out of fear rather than take the risk of investment like the other two servants. Whereas the first two received commendations from their master, this third servant was reprimanded for being lazy and rude. One talent was worth about 6,000 denarii. The average worker in those days earned about one dinarius per day. Hence, one talent would be the equivalence of 20 years pay for one who works six days a week. Therefore, what the master entrusted to each servant in the parable was of great value.
For our application, we will understand talent as referring to God-given gifts, which are equally of tremendous value. We all received unique gifts from God. These gifts make up our potentials, realized and unrealized. They shape our lives and make us who we are as individuals. The message of the parable centers on accountability. We are accountable for the use of our gifts and talents. Many of us are already utilizing our gifts in various ministries in the Church. By using our gifts, we are like the enterprising servants in the parable who doubled their talents. As their master commended them for their good work, so will God commend all who realize their potentials and put their gifts to good use.
There is little to be commended in those who do not use their gifts. They are like the lazy servant in the gospel who was afraid to take risk. As this servant was reprimanded by his master, so will God reprimand those who fail to utilize their talents in service to God and society.
This Thursday is the annual celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States. Its origin has been a subject of boosterism, with often conflicting claims. Part of the confusion is the mixing of Thanksgiving as a secular holiday with Thanksgiving as a religious service. Majority opinion traces Thanksgiving to the Puritan practice of giving thanks for a good harvest. All thirteen colonies did not celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day until 1777.
George Washington was the first president to declare Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1789. Abraham Lincoln, in a quest to unite the colonies declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November be a day of Thanksgiving. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an effort to extend the Christmas shopping season, changed it in 1939 to the third Thursday in November. This became controversial, but through the timely intervention of Congress in 1941 it was moved back to the fourth Thursday in November where it has remained.
Thanksgiving gives us a special opportunity to express gratitude to God for his many blessings. We thank God for the gift of life, health, family, friends, and resources. In any society where hard work is appreciated and rewarded, there is the tendency for one to take credit for one’s accomplishments. The fact remains that God is the force behind our accomplishments. The spirit of gratitude is expressed in the sharing of our blessings with the less fortunate. For this reason, our parish Thanksgiving Mass collection will go to the St. Vincent de Paul society to support their on-going outreach to the poor and less privileged.
Apart from thanking God, Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to express gratitude to the people who have had positive impact in our lives. Hence, I thank you, dear parishioners, for your acceptance and support of my ministry as your parish priest.
Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving!
Fr. Romanus' Letter of November 12th
The parable of the ten virgins in this Sunday’s gospel is one of the most enigmatic and intriguing in the scripture, and only found in Matthew’s gospel. The five virgins who were prepared were rewarded, while the five unprepared virgins were locked out of the wedding banquet. It is an eschatological parable because it deals with the final judgment.
It is important to note that all ten virgins were running low on oil – their lamps were sputtering and burning out. The big difference between the wise virgins and the foolish ones was that the wise brought along extra oil, while the foolish did not. It is no wonder that the first reading personifies wisdom. Wisdom is inevitable in making good judgment and good decisions about life, especially about our final destiny.
The refusal of the wise virgins to share their remaining oil tends to go against Christian charity, but they did not want to run the risk of being locked out. The extra oil they brought along would be sufficient only for one person. Their failure to share should not be seen as selfish or uncharitable because the kind of oil needed for the light of salvation is not exchangeable. We have a lifetime to procure enough oil to last for us. However, some are too busy to care.
Have you ever run out of gas on the freeway? Besides dead batteries, flat tires, and misplaced keys, running out of gas ranks high on the reason most people call for roadside assistance. This is the case despite gas meters on vehicles, low gas warning lights, signs and messages on the dashboard of most modern vehicles. Reasons for running out of gas include: malfunctioning gas meters or electronics, procrastination, miscalculation and distraction or inattentiveness. Many people have gas cans in their trunk just in case they run out. When people run out of gas, we rarely find other drivers sharing their gas. Those wishing to help might offer a ride to a gas station or lend a gas can.
Those who have rejected the faith and turned their back on God and the Church should not be expected to enter heaven based on the right choices others made. Now is the time to make the right choices and preparations for life with God while there is time. At the end, each person would be accountable for his/her own choices.
In this parable of the ten virgins, the darkness outside depicts the world as unsafe and treacherous. To survive, we need the light of the Holy Spirit. The Church is where we buy the oil/gas that keeps the light of the Holy Spirit burning. Unfortunately, many Catholics do not bother going to Church or living their faith. Sooner or later, their oil/gas would run out, and it might be too late to get a refill. By the same token, going to Church will not be sufficient if one does not fill up at those stops that act as oasis on the journey of life. It would be foolish to be low on gas, pull into a gas station, and then drive off without filling up.
The main point in this Sunday’s gospel is the need for readiness. We have to be always prepared because we do not know when the Son of Man will come. At some time in the future, we would hear the midnight cry. Those prepared would trim their lamps and enter the banquet, and the unprepared would be locked out.
Note that the ten virgins were not criticized for slumbering, since they all feel asleep. The main difference is that the foolish ones paid a big price for not being prepared. In the journey of life, we may find ourselves dosing off once in a while. However, we cannot afford not to be prepared for the arrival of the Son of God.
Have a great week!
Fr. Romanus' Letter of November 5th
Over a month ago, I informed you at Masses that Archbishop Listecki had appointed me your pastor. The appointment is for a term of six years (usually renewal for another term). In the letter of appointment, the Archbishop wrote, “It is with confidence that I appoint you Pastor of Blessed Savior Parish, Milwaukee. I am pleased to entrust the faithful of this parish to your pastoral care beginning on September 15, 2017.”
Regarding mission, the Archbishop goes on to say, “Your mission, like my own, is one of teaching, sanctifying, governance, and service at the parish, in collaboration with the Pastoral and Finance Councils, trustees, school, and parish leadership.”
The letter also underscored the need to be connected to our school as a parish even after it transitions into the Seton system. The Archbishop wrote, “Even though your school is now in the process of being officially managed by Seton Catholic Schools, I do expect that you will continue to provide a pastoral and sacramental presence to the students and faculty. They need to experience the love and concern that a pastor can have for his parish and school.”
I was delighted and encouraged by your enthusiastic applause following the announcement of the appointment at our Masses. I am also excited about this opportunity to serve as your pastor and look forward to our time together in the Lord’s vineyard.
The date of my installation as pastor has been set for Sunday, November 26 at the 9am Mass. Archbishop Listecki will be performing the installation. It will be an honor for us to host the Archbishop. I know you will all be in your best behavior. The installation ceremony involves the presentation of the Pastoral and Finance Councils, the Trustees and the Staff, and the renewal of my ordination vows.
The Parish Council has formed an ad hoc committee to plan the reception. I hope you will give them all the support and cooperation they need to put together a nice reception. I also hope you will plan on attending both the installation Mass and the reception that will follow in the parish hall, even if you attended the Saturday Mass.
For the sake of those who have been asking about the difference between an administrator and a pastor, the main difference is term of office. Whereas an administrator can be moved at any time, the pastor position carries a term of office and provides better sense of stability to a parish community and the priest. Otherwise, an administrator enjoys the same rights as a pastor.
There is also a slight difference between an administrator and a temporary administrator. Whereas an administrator could serve in that position for years, temporary administrator usually involves a short term fill-in for a pastor/administrator. Sometimes, this could be for few months while the pastor is on sabbatical, sick leave, or simply absent for any number of reasons.
Temporary administrator position is also different from a help-out priest who comes to assist with Masses and other sacramental services when a pastor/administrator is on vacation or needs help. This is meant as a summary description of these positions given our limited space. Obviously, more could be said about each position, especially in relation to canon law.
Thanks for welcoming me to Blessed Savior parish and for your support of my ministry in your midst. I will need your continued acceptance and support as we embrace our spiritual journey together for the next six years.
Have a great week!
Fr. Romanus' Letter of October 15th
When was the last time you were invited to a really good banquet? Two of the readings this Sunday introduce us to special banquets. In the first reading, Isaiah speaks of a holy mountain on which the Lord would provide rich food and choice wines for all peoples. The images are enticing; “juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.” For the poor who cannot afford such sumptuous feasts, the images are heavenly. But for the rich, these images are part of daily life and make heaven less appealing.
With this banquet comes the good news that the Lord will destroy death for ever and wipe away tears from every face. God would also remove the reproach of his people from the whole earth. This would be good news especially to the poor who not only missed out on earthly banquets but also see sin and death as main barriers to participating in the eternal banquet. However, it is important to keep in mind that heaven might not be just about eating and drinking. If that were the case, it may have no special appeal to the rich, people on diet, and non-drinkers.
The gospel parable is quite interesting. Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a king who threw a wedding feast for his son and sent out messengers to those invited that the feast was ready. The invited made various excuses; one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized the messengers, maltreated and killed them, thereby inviting the wrath of the king. One could understand the invited guests making flimsy excuses, but killing the messengers? It is reminiscent of last week’s gospel where the tenants killed the messengers and the landowner’s son. These vicious and murderous reactions were intended to shock in order to drive home the message.
Since those first invited proved themselves unworthy, the invitation was extended to strangers, good and bad alike, from the main roads and alleys of the kingdom. In a strange twist, the king spots a man without the proper wedding garment and was beyond himself. He bound him hands and feet and threw him out of the banquet hall, “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” You may wonder why the king was so upset over this man's clothes. In the first place, these were people who did not wake up that day thinking they would be treated to a mouth-watering feast in the king’s palace. The man was possibly a traveler or a vagrant. Why would he be carrying around a wedding garment, waiting for an invitation?
This kind of thinking misses the point of the parable. It is not about wearing clothes, but wearing Christ. The man without the proper garment is representative of one who is a Christian in name only. Wearing Christ is a prerequisite for entering the kingdom and partaking in the heavenly banquet. To enter God’s kingdom, one needs to put on the virtues that lead to the kingdom.
The liturgy of the Eucharist we celebrate is representative of the heavenly banquet. However, there are those who make excuses for not coming to Mass, especially on Sundays and Holy Days. They are like those who excused themselves in this parable. They claim to have better things to do than going to Mass. They have to work, go to baseball or football games, clean the house, work on the yard, attend or plan a party, et cetera. There are also those who come to Mass but do not receive communion because they are not wearing Christ as garment or their garment has been soiled and needs cleaning. The sacrament of reconciliation is our laundromat.
Have a great week!