Mass of Christian Burial: Homily
Re. Edward J. Roszko, Jr., OSFS
November 12, 2018
Fr. Ed Roszko, OSFS
Hat’s off to you!
On May 8, 2010 Betty White hosted Saturday Night Live. She revealed in her monologue that she was there after a grassroots campaign on Facebook got her the gig. She went on to say that she had never been on Facebook until then and frankly she thought it to be a “colossal waste of time.” I don’t have a Facebook account and tend to agree with her assessment. Should I need to see something, I go on using Jack Kolodziej’s password. If only he had a Netflix account!
Last Friday, I went on Facebook to the Fr. Judge page for it reported the news of Ed Roszko’s death. At a time when the church has almost given up on bishops and priests, this Facebook visit was inspiring, uplifting, humbling and on target. The alumni of Fr. Judge captured this fine man.
• They spoke of his humor with such gems whether original or borrowed as:
o I knew a little Russian, but she left town
o Do the right thing, wait for the ring
o Addressing a student during a test, “Hey son, are you Italian? You’ve got Roman eyes. Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
o He insisted that the Bible was a book about baseball for it starts with the words, In the big inning
• And with each of these you saw a beautiful and genuine smile as if he told it for the first time
• There were numerous entries that spoke of the man he was
o Fr. Roszko was a tremendous example of a Salesian Gentleman.
o A good man
o He was a really, nice guy…to which another alum added “couldn’t agree with you more.”
o Another remarked “one of my favorites.”
o Great guy. Came to every soccer game and gave a pre-game blessing.
o Good Man and role model. Supported ice hockey before it was recognized by the school.
o He loved Judge Basketball.
o I’ll never forget his inspirational prayers that he gave to the football team before we took the field. He then made his way to the booth to be the not-so-impartial stadium announcer. His passion and energy helped carry an average team to the championship my senior year in ’93. God Bless Fr. Roszko!
o Fantastic priest. He did a lot for the Class of 96.
o A true priest.
• Referring to his penchant for showing movies, one alum wrote “reels Roszko, outstanding in his field, and here’s the key point gentlemen, the hat stays on.”
• “The hat stays on.” Ed was known for his energetic pep rallies. At one early pep rally before the rival game with Archbishop Ryan for neighborhood bragging rights, Ed recalled for the students that the year previous Ryan played exceedingly well and took Judge to the cleaners, “hats off to them” he said. “But this year Crusaders” his voice rising to fever pitch, fists pumped to the sky, “the hat stays on, the hat stays on,” and this was repeated with thunderous applause to a raucous crowd at that rally and everyone after.
• Another comment read: The one thing I do remember, he was a principled guy. Ardent pro-life advocate.
Of course, it was easy to find his classroom door or car peppered with pro-life stickers. As Michael Murray wrote for Ed’s obituary, “while he was seen standing on the sidelines for many a football game during his nearly 45 years in secondary school education, he was not content to sit on the sidelines when it came to engaging in dialogue regarding matters of faith and culture of the day.”
In truth, Ed was ardent in all things in life especially his love for God expressed most faithfully in his vocation as an Oblate and priest. Ed loved being an Oblate and took a genuine, deep interest in your living out your vocation as well. Always, he took time to ask how you were doing, your family and maybe wanted your insights on how the Phillies would do this season.
With cassock, rule, office book and fervor, he epitomized “Be who you are and be that well.” No false pretenses, no guile, just a lot of gentleness, simplicity and love.
Our first reading from Wisdom was chosen not because it assures us that Ed, the just man, has his soul resting in the palm of God’s hands as comforting and reassuring as this is. It was selected for the line “as gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself,” and I’m not referring to his many years teaching sophomores.
I vividly remember Ed registering at one of our June convocations only to find out minutes later that he had fallen and was rushed to the hospital. On the lighter side of things, I probably commented that some people will do anything to get out of convocation. But sadly, Ed never seemed to recover. Soon this once vibrant and upbeat man became debilitated and a bit reserved. The change was remarkable and sadden me for some time. But as we often preach about Paul’s exhortation to us of “putting on Christ” and participating in the passion, the suffering of Christ, I began to realize that Ed was teaching another, new and profound lesson.
Still, I wrestled with the why? Why this freak fall? Why to such a good man? As Job asked the “why question,” and we have done so most recently with worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh or college kids dancing at a bar in Thousand Oaks, tragedy, sadness and suffering are a part of life. Some of course need not be, and we must do all we can to stop needless suffering. But it’s Ed’s suffering and acceptance of such that touched me most. It was his willingness to be baptized with Christ and into his death, to be crucified with him.
I did not know Ed, the pep rally master. Those at Judge and later Bp. Ireton knew and embraced this Ed well. I taught with Ed after Ireton, when he came to Salesianum. He still tried to make an appearance at sporting events, but he took on another role, that of faithful and devoted son. Every day after class, Ed went to his ailing father’s house to minister to him and to give some relief to his stepmother. It was another acceptance of God’s will embraced lovingly, willingly, promptly and happily because he was also a son of deSales as well, and these are Francis’ four marks of devotion.
Ed knew and lived the devout life well, passionately well. His dedication to prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and the Eucharist made his devotion genuine and real. We may not all have followed the manner or detail in which he lived the devout life but we recognize it as genuine and holy. And, his fidelity to his dying and willingness to be crucified, will allow him to live with Christ, in the resurrection of the dead. For we recognize that Ed was prepared when his Master came for him this sixth day in this the month of souls.
We all have our stories of Ed, his love for his first alma mater, Notre Dame, and his daily love for “the” Notre Dame and her son, Jesus Christ. You may recall different sayings. For me, the one that hounds me daily “if you are too busy to pray, then you are too busy.” Such stories and memories we will continue to recall fondly. In this day when we need greater fidelity and devotion to our vocation and “who we are,” may we do that with a little more fervor to pick up what we will miss from Ed.
I will always be able to visualize Ed’s smile. I can’t wait to see it when we meet him again in heaven after having seen the God he loved and served so well. For now, I borrow a Facebook comment from a Judge alum recalling the famous pep rally chant and say “hat’s off to you, Ed, good and faithful servant.”
Wisdom 3: 1-9
Romans 6: 3-9
Luke 12: 35-40