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Times Change – Christmas 2017

Things Change

This year held the shortest possible Advent season in the church’s calendar, a mere 22 days. Because of its brevity, it may have seemed to have come and gone too quickly. Although it was short, hopefully you were able to acquire one of the principle messages of Advent – the message of Hope.

Underlying the very notion of hope is the lived truth that all things change. Nothing stays as it is forever, which can be scary to many of us. At times, usually during a blissful moment, we may want things to stay as they are and we forget that only in hope can bliss beget bliss. We see this in the scriptures on Mount Tabor and Jesus’ Transfiguration. The Apostles want him to stay there forever, static in a moment of glory, but only by changing could they come to know that Jesus had better things in mind.

Of course at other times in life, we feel may feel dismal and disconnected. When this occurs, the pining for change is ubiquitous and we can’t wait for fortune to turn. In the Bible, this is best illustrated through the despair of the Crucifixion. The Apostles felt their world was shattered.

No matter if we are in joy or sorrow or somewhere in between, the things of this world are always changing and that is a blessing. Parents get older and are no longer able to parent. Children rise up and take their place, becoming parents themselves who then have children of their own. Governments and philosophies and even the stories we tell in the movies and on the street, all change. Constantly, the cycles of life move and bend and reshape the word. Underlying it for people of faith is a sense of hope. There is always hope that the change will bring about something better.

The stories we tell of our ancestors in faith are stories of how they were greatly dissatisfied with the way things were during the times they lived. In the scriptures read at Mass during the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the forgotten shepherded of the field (King David – First Reading, 2 Samuel) rose up to become a new hero ruling Israel with justice. There was change.  The arc of the covenant was left in a tent and in response, King David founded a new temple. There was change. Centuries later, in the Gospel, a woman (Mary –  LK 1:26-38) encountered an angel and a pregnancy welled up within her. There was change.

Whether your life is going well by your own estimation or you are finding yourself in harder times right now, the only thing certain is that things will change. Our prayers for you and those you love during this time of the year are that you will be filled with hope and that in hope, Christmas will come to you as a sign of God’s long and lasting love for you.

May this Christmas bring you peace and joy! Be sure of our prayers for you and as a community, may we live in hope, working together to reveal more fully God’s love in the world and in one another.
In the spirit of Hope,

Saint Andrew Staff

 

 

Fr. Sergio Romo

Deacon Eric Sorensen

Julie Richards

Essie Benavides

Chris O’Malley

Deacon Mark Purdome

David Heimann

Where Do You Place the Comma?

But Wait There, Smore?

While some might try to impress you by engaging you in very principled conversations over the use of the Oxford Comma and proper punctuation, I   find myself a little more arcane in my pedantic small talk. I am more fascinated by the very existence of the comma.

Although a sort of punctuation indicating dramatic pause was used in manuscripts of Greek plays dating back to the 2nd Century B.C., the use of the comma as we know it didn’t start until the 1400s with the printer Aldus Manutius in his Italian print shop. How we view the world since that time has changed because of that literary invention, even if we didn’t previously know about its impact.

A case in point is the use of a comma in today’s Gospel reading. The passage from the Gospel of John 1:23 reads, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”

The challenge of reading this text in 2017 is that the comma used between “desert” and “make” didn’t even exist in any copy of the Bible until the 15th century A.D. Also contributing to the lack of clarity is the fact that the text that John was quoting (in probably the year 90 A.D.) was actually written in 700 B.C.

So we are reading a comma into the text that is 2,700 years old when no such thing existed at the time it was written. Not to overstate the dilemma but if you read the text like this “…the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” It means something different than “…the voice of one crying out, in the desert make straight the way of the Lord.”

The location of the voice and the location of action changes by a simple pen stroke we call a “comma” and while we sort of just accept this willy nilly, it is actually a much-debated topic in theology. Where is the voice coming from? Is it the outsider who is telling us to get our act together in the city? Or is it a voice in the city telling us to fix things up in the badlands so that the Lord can come into town?

I don’t have an answer to the question, but I’d like to leverage the experience of confusion over a comma that we just had in order to help us understand Christmas a little differently. A common pitfall made by us humans is the act of retroactive analysis, seeing past events the way we like to see them rather than as they actually were. We retell the stories of the past to fit our current narrative, seen through our own lens. It isn’t always bad, but at times it can be self-serving, and without careful thought, it can lead us to some maligned conclusions.

Recently, a politician was heard as saying that “Christmas is back, bigger and better than before.”

A wise priest whom I deeply respect replied to the politician, “No. 1) Christmas never left. 2) Christmas is about littleness, God entered the world as a poor, small, helpless infant, the most vulnerable state imaginable. 3) Christmas is about humility. God lowered himself, “emptied himself,” to enter into the human condition.”

It may forever go unknown if the priest’s reply was ever heard by the politician, but we should take note of the advice he gave. In the midst of our Christmas parties, decorations, gifts, and dazzling beautiful trees, most of us (myself included) wouldn’t open the door if two unbathed refugees from the Middle East came to our door asking to have a room so they could give birth to a baby. I’d most probably try to ignore them and carry on with my evening plans.

We tend to retroactively see the beauty of a Silent Night and angels singing as we look back into what happened 2000 years ago, but I wonder if we haven’t added a metaphorical comma somewhere along the way that has adversely changed the meaning. Christ came and is coming again. Make the ways clear for him in the desert and in the city. From the forgotten lands to the familiar, find God in the simple and the sublime. Let us imagine this scene as it truly was and just like the comma instructs us to do, pause. For in that pause, our hearts might be changed.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

Annual Christmas Appeal 2017

Dear Friend of Saint Andrew,

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

Christmas is the season of giving. This is the time of year we think of loved ones, family and friends, and what they mean to us. Grateful for their presence, and the difference they make in our lives, we go to great lengths to either buy or make them a present that in some small way expresses our love for them. This tradition of giving gifts is by its nature a holy act.

When we give a gift, we are acting in a manner like God, who continually loves us and blesses us with all that we are and all that we have. Of all the gifts God gives us, the greatest of these is the gift of His son, Jesus. But, unlike the gifts we give that can never fully express the depth of our love, God’s gift to us is Love itself!

As you reflect on all that God has given you, and how His Love has made a difference in your life, please consider making a generous Christmas donation to Saint Andrew Parish. Your Christmas gift will help Saint Andrew Parish continue to be a gift to many. For 123 years, through its various ministries, Saint Andrew Parish has made manifest the gift of God’s Love in the Lake View neighborhood, our city, our country and beyond. Please help us in this mission by using the envelope provided in this mailing or going online through Give Central at https://tinyurl.com/SaintAndrewGift. Every contribution, both great and small is greatly appreciated.

As we approach these days filled with family and friends, I invite you to join our parish family in our Christmas Masses as we celebrate this season of great joy and love. Please be assured of my appreciation for the gift of your presence, dedication, sacrifice and love in our community. You will be in my thoughts and prayers at Mass this Christmas Season.

Peace in Christ,

Reverend Sergio Romo

Pastor

Illinois State Tax Credit for Schools 2017

How Do You Want Your Money Spent?

or… “Have you heard about the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship?”

A lot has been said in the media over the last few weeks about changes to the Federal Tax Code. Have you been made aware however of the change to the Illinois State Tax Credit program? Passed in August of 2017 during the compromise that helped restore an actual budget to the State of Illinois, for the next five years, it allows you to make a donation to scholarships for students in Illinois through a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) and receive a 75% tax credit on your Illinois State Tax Bill. While legitimate concerns have been raised about how this law effects funding in a state that was already doing a poor job funding education, it is currently the law of the land for five years and there is no benefit to be found in not educating ourselves on how it works and using the tax-credit where appropriate

As an example of how it works, if you typically owe $5,000 in state taxes, a donation of $5,000 to an SGO to be used in accord with the donor’s intention may lower your state tax bill to $1,250 while directly impacting Catholic Education in the State of Illinois. This isn’t a deduction, this is an actual tax credit. There are however restrictions and you will need to act on January 2, 2018 to take advantage of this. More information is on our website at www.saintandrewchicago.com and the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago www.archchicago.org
Amongst some of the restrictions are that the state only allows for $75 million worth of credits to be applied. This means all the use of this credit will likely be filled by all applicants on or nearly after January 2, 2018.

Will Saint Andrew benefit from this? That depends on how you look at it. The use of the funds from SGO scholarships is restricted to those within 300% of the poverty rate. That amounts to a family of four making less than $73,800. A donation to an SGO in the name of Saint Andrew would be restricted and could only be used at our school. We believe there are some families within our parish who will qualify. Another choice for a potential donor is to make a donation that is directed toward our sister schools that we support (Saint Thomas of Canterbury and Saint Mary of the Lake) where numerous families qualify for support.

Another good choice could be a scholarship gift to the Archdiocese of Chicago School System. The Archdiocese of Chicago currently subsidizes the Archdiocesan Schools in excess of $30 million dollars per year. This tax credit initiative has the potential of replacing the Archdiocesan subsidy with $40 million dollars or more in scholarships. That could free up $30 million dollars for the Archdiocese which in turn alleviates stress on the contributions that we pay towards administrative support from both the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Archdiocesan School System. These funds can then be reallocated to the mission of the Archdiocese including Evangelization, building up communities racked by gun violence and poverty, restoring crumbling infrastructure, support for seminarian and lay ministry formation, etc.

Freeing up of funds in the larger administration also ensures that there is the proper human resources from the Archdiocese to support Saint Andrew School. So the impact toward Saint Andrew may not be felt as directly as a donation to our parish or school, but in tandem with your financial stewardship of Saint Andrew, the tax credit serves as a way to maximize the good you can do with the money with which God has blessed you. Please pray and consider how this may impact your charitable giving in the year ahead and read up on this tax credit at www.archchicago.com/tax-credit-scholarships

 

 

How Do You Organize Your Calendar?

How Do You Organize Your Calendar?

This year my calendar has seemed a little odd and it is about to get even more so. It seemed like Thanksgiving came early, December was late, but happened before you knew it, and even though Christmas is always on the 25th of December, it is coming too soon.

I’ve spoken to more than one person who feels this way and it isn’t a surprise. The way our calendar slides back and forth between calendar dates and days of the weeks seems innocuous at first, but this year, when Christmas falls on a Monday (as it does once every seven years or so), things get a bit crazier.

Last year, there were 28 days in Advent. This year there are only 22. Last year we celebrated the Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent and had a full week to prepare for Christmas. This year, we will celebrate the Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent (Sunday, December 24) and only 4 hours later, begin the celebration of Christmas with our Christmas Eve Family Mass at 3pm.

For calendar watchers, this year is like the perfect storm of confusing calendaring quibbles. It only makes sense if you are attentive to the rhythm and meaning behind the use of sacred time.

The phenomenon we face is caused by our simultaneous use of multiple systems to mark time. We determine Thanksgiving based on the last Thursday of a month. We determine Christmas based on a structured date in the Julian Calendar. And we determine Advent based on the sacred cycle of weeks.

Although the last method seems to be the most obscure to us, let’s not forget that the sacred cycle of weeks (with 7 days in a week) is what gives us a five-day work week and weekends. As a society, we tend to enjoy that cycle quite a lot. It is also the primary method of calculating time in the Church. The Church began following the calendar of a seven-day week (one day representing each of the days of creation) before the Julian Calendar was even invented. It is how we mark sacred time.

And because it is our most ancient testament to the passing of time, we choose to fulfill that commitment of time before we move onto specific numerical dates on our calendar. In the case of the year 2017, that means we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent on December 24.

But to make life interesting, another common practice of the Church is to celebrate the “eve” of a sacred day also called the “vigil”. This again goes back to how days were determined by the Church before we had clocks. The tradition was that a new day started at sundown (we hold this in common with our Jewish ancestors of faith). Thus, in the life of the Church, Sunday actually “begins” on Saturday at sundown. This is why attending Mass on Saturday evening fulfills the obligation for Sunday Mass. The intention of the Church is that the Mass held after sun down the night before is the same intention as the day of.

But wait! There’s more! For practical reasons, the church doesn’t require the sun to physically have set. Since the sun sets at a different time every week, we keep it simple by just declaring a specific time for all vigil Masses. For example, in our parish, we keep that time set at 4:00 pm on Saturday all year round and in the case of Christmas, we have been given permission to have our Christmas Eve Vigil Masses start as early as 3:00pm for the sake of families.

So if you are wondering, “Am I really supposed to go to Mass twice in the same day?” That would depend on how you count your days. The obligation we are called to as disciples of Jesus is to fulfill the commitment of sacred time. Yes, to attend the Fourth Sunday of Advent and yes, to attend Christmas Mass.

If fulfilling those obligations all in the same calendar day seems odd to you, we might suggest some alternatives. Come to the Saturday vigil for Sunday Mass (Saturday night December 23 at 4pm) and the Christmas vigil (Sunday December 24 at 3, 5, or 11pm). Another alternative is to come on Sunday for Mass, and celebrate Christmas Mass on Monday – Christmas Day. Either way, you would be fulfilling the invitation of sacred time without spending your whole day at Church.

But all of that depends on how you organize your own calendar.

– David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

 

For another perspective perspective on this topic, check out this article referring to the bishop’s instructions about attending Mass on December 24 and 25… https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/go-to-mass-on-sunday-and-on-christmas-bishops-say-32938

Advent Speaker Series 2017

Come to the Advent Speaker Series starting on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 and on every Wednesday night through Advent as together we “Prepare the Manger.” Break away from the Commercialism of Christmas to focus on the important of the season that we see in the humble manger scene. Every household will receive piece of a creche / manger set that they can keep in their home.  (more…)

Most Wonderful Time of the Year – 2017

Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Just saying the words can cause my mind’s ear to intone the thrilling orchestral sweep of the famous carol currently being played ad infinitem everywhere you go. I think that I had already heard the carol played 15 times before the month of December even started. At this time of the year, Christmas carols are ubiquitous.

Right now however, the constant echo of carols causes in me a rather counter-cultural dissatisfaction that may or not make sense to some of you. The debate started in early November with people saying “Is it too early to play Christmas Music?” Not only was I in the camp that thought it was too early, I still think it’s too early. I’m often in the corner in a chortled tone saying “Christmas carols are for Christmas which starts on December 25!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be a humbug. This is one of those areas where I am quite comfortable being the lone voice in the conversation and I rarely have anyone agree with me but that’s OK. I love this time of the year. It is a great time! But I also recognize that the way I see this time of the year is different than the rest of the world, especially the secular world.

I see the most wonderful time of the year as the season of Advent. When I hear songs like “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas…” I want to shout out “Wait!” Because that is what we are invited to do right now in the life of the Church. We are invited to wait. To immerse ourselves in the practice of patient preparation. We’re invited to enter into the experience of what it is like to joyfully hope for something. That is the power of the season of Advent. We are asked to prepare. Expect. Anticipate. We are not invited to a season of burnout.

Despite my advocacy for Yuletide canticle postponement, I am quite comfortable that carols are played and sung and celebrated with vigor. What I am not comfortable relenting is the invitation to experience Advent. Year after year I have friends who get to the end of the December and decry “Enough already! I can’t handle this cheesy crass commercial travesty of all that is dear to God.” Year after year, I find people who are burned out on Christmas before it has the chance to touch their heart. I am concerned that we get ourselves trapped in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and not its meaning.

Thankfully, I know of a medicine to this ailment. It isn’t to tune out Christmas carols, it is to make room in your heart for the coming of Christmas. This year, Saint Andrew has a rather unique opportunity to do that. To take time out of the week and join us at the Advent Speaker Series on Wednesday nights from 7 to 8pm in the Church. It is a chance for adults and children to take some time to prepare for the coming of Christ by literally preparing a manger set for your home.

We’re going to take each week and look at the figures that are found in the nativity scene, the angels, the shepherds, the kings, and the Holy Family. With these weekly reflections, each family will get a piece of a small crèche set to take home and keep as a reflection on the true meaning of the season. It’s a little way to remind us that this really is the most wonderful time of the year. It isn’t about a white Christmases or brown-paper packages tied up with string, or even the most stunning Christmas tree you can imagine. It is about Jesus. And we get 3 weeks (and a couple hours) to really contemplate that gift, relish in its significance, and then sing out with joy.
I look forward to seeing you at one or more of the speaker series! Have a blessed Advent!

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

What You Do for the Least – Christ The King 2017

What You Do for the Least…

I can think of two contemporary matters in our purview this weekend that directly relate to this weekend’s Gospel (Matthew 25: 31-48). At first, both of these matters may seem like non-sequiturs so allow me to highlight and explain more about 1) the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and 2) the proposed tax legislation before the United States Congress.

Matthew 25 is a Gospel reading in which Jesus describes the last judgment. He presents to us that the standard for judgment will come not from right worship but rather from right action. If you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, etc. you are doing what the Son of Man wants and will enjoy the kingdom intended for you.

What does that have to do with either the CCHD or tax legislation? After all, the Gospel seems rather simplistic doesn’t it? Last week was the food drive. So if you gave to the food drive your all good. Right? Well not exactly. There is more to it than that.

Since May 15, 1891 with the publication of Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII, there have been reflections on today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 25) and other important works of scripture that have given rise to what we know as “Catholic Social Teaching.” This body of work explains to us that indeed scripture hasn’t changed since the time of Jesus but society has experienced profound changes. Social structures are different, the means of production are different, and the capacity for participation in society are different. Hence the response of the Christian toward those living on the margins must be different as well.

It is important to care for the immediate needs of those living on the margins. We call this “charity.” It is also important to correct the reasons human persons have been moved to the margins to begin with. This corrective action is called “justice.” The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an organization set up by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist us in working on matters of justice, rectifying the wrongs that exist in our society that cause unemployment, poverty, homelessness, etc. So last week we were collecting to help the immediate needs (charity) and this week we are collecting to help the structural need (justice).

Now what about tax reform? When you read Matthew 25, or heard it proclaimed to you today, I am willing to be that you missed something that moved very quickly in the text. Here is the “gotcha” question for the week. “In the Gospel passage… who was being judged at the end of the world?”

The surprise answer is that “the nations” were being judged. In other words, the text does not imply that you and I are being judged separately. Rather the last judgment belongs to the nation to which we belong. Does our nation feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, or welcome strangers? As lovely as it is that there are individuals who do this quite regularly, even in our own parish, the harsh reality from the Gospel is that their work alone is not enough to save our nation.

Now I have to move onto some shaky ground because I am writing this on November 17, 2017 for a bulletin to be published on November 26. I have no idea what will happen in the next 9 days before this reaches the pews at Saint Andrew. However as of today, if you have been reading the news from the United States bishops, you may have read that the leaders of the Church do not believe that the proposed tax bill in Congress is reflective of a Christian nation as exemplified in today’s Gospel Reading (Matthew 25). read more…

It is kind of surprising that the bishops who regularly raise voices in support of conservative measures (for example Pro-Life legislation) sound like bleeding heart liberals in regard to this tax legislation. No matter where your political alliances are or what you feel about getting a tax cut, the bishops have a responsibility for reminding us and our nation what the Gospel of Jesus says.

They remind us that we should always aim towards being a more just nation. A nation that can graciously be recognized by the Son of Man in the final judgment. A nation that works for justice for those on the margins and as a nation, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless. I’ll be honest, I don’t know all the ways to get that done in our politics or our tax code, but I do know that it should be a constant effort to try our best to pursue the greater vision. I believe that is what the bishops have done by reminding Congress to do better than the current proposal. Personally, I give thanks that God is constantly reminding us that we can do better and always giving us another chance to do so.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

Giving Tree Christmas 2017

Saint Andrew Parish and School will again be partnering with St. Mary of the Lake and St. Thomas of Canterbury, located in the Uptown neighborhood, with a Christmas service project through a Giving Tree. Last year’s project was incredibly successful and we helped over 550 students ranging from Pre-K – 8th grade stay warm over the cold, winter, Chicago months.

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Biddy Basketball 2017-18

Sign up has started for Biddy Basketball! If you have a child 3 years of older through 3rd grade, you can enroll them in our winter basketball league designed to promote community, team building, and self esteem.  The deadline for sign up is December 22, 2017. The season will begin on Sunday, January 7, 2018 and end on February 18, 2018.   (more…)