Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 17, 2017

A long time ago, when I was in Our Lady of Sorrows Grade School in St. Louis, MO, I tried out for the choir that sang at funerals. This was a way to get out of class, and the choir also had an annual picnic that was reputed to be lots of fun. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the mourners listening to the choir, I did not make the cut. Since then, to get even I have been singing LOUD. I may not sing well, but you will not ignore me!
One of the pieces I particularly relish singing at Mass is the “Behold the Lamb of God…” Not only is this a solo, but it is a great honor and privilege to be able to proclaim this. After all, it is based on the statement of John the Baptist (John 1:29), and according to Jesus “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist;” (MT 11:11). So this is no small thing.
When I stand at the altar, holding up the Body and Blood of Christ, and look out at all the faithful intent on the Blessed Sacrament, the solemnity and the importance of that moment always strikes me. Sometimes more than others, and at times profoundly. To be privileged to proclaim a mystery which is so central to the faith that all of us there are struggling to profess and to interiorize in our own beings, is very powerful. 
I sing this with the microphone off. I like to put myself into it, almost like a cheer at a sporting event, and I sing it out with gusto. “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”  
Indeed, how blest are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb! This is a wonderful privilege, not to be taken lightly. What we see in the outward physical appearance of this Sacrament is such a tiny, miniscule tip of the iceberg of the overwhelming reality in which we are invited to participate. The rather flimsy host, which is only bread by definition that you would never use for a sandwich or any actual meal, and the rather ordinary wine, reveal and hide such enormous and exquisite mysteries. But even if we bought the very best brioche from some fancy artisan bakery, and wine of the best premier cru, it would still be woefully inadequate to capture the dignity and worth of this Sacrament. It is surely part of the great condescension that the Almighty shows us in Jesus to be present to us in such mundane, ordinary and rather unimpressive elements. The danger then is to begin to take them for granted. Focusing on the mystery that these common things reveal helps us to appreciate them.

And also, perhaps, to sing out with gusto like we really mean it.

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 10, 2017

Due to deadlines, I write this column while it is still August, and more importantly while the terrible images of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey are still fresh in my mind. While the rain has finally ceased in Houston, rescues continue, refugees still huddle in makeshift shelters, and the sad work of tolling up the destruction and the cost in lives, trauma and dollars has yet even to begin.
How to react to such an exceptional, unprecedented disaster? First of all, our hearts and prayers go out to all along the Gulf Coast and in the City of Houston and the surrounding areas, who lost so much: loved ones, their homes and pets, their places of business and their schools, their churches, communities, and their livelihoods. We pray that they may not lose hope.
We know that the suffering will continue for some time and that rebuilding will be arduous and long. All of us must help to the extent that we can: by our donations, our expertise, sometimes our labor, and certainly our prayers. This disaster affects us all.
Beyond that, taking a longer view, this disaster confronts us with our own limitations as human beings. While we have phenomenal accomplishments, we are not masters of our environment and our own lives. It is all still gift.
Since I came here to Austin seven years ago, most of the time we have been facing unprecedented drought. For four long, dry years, we have watched the creeks dry up, then the rivers. We saw the fields turn brown and all the landscape wither and burn. We prayed for relief in the form of rain. And finally the rains came and the drought ended.
Now we have Hurricane Harvey and way too much rain. We have either too little or way too much, demonstrating conclusively and unavoidably how little control we actually have. We are totally dependent on, and at the mercy of, the weather.
Out of this experience, I hope we learn a little more humility. We depend on the caprice of the weather for either too little water, or too much water, or just the right amount.
Out of this experience, I hope we learn a little more respect for the environment. Global warming makes the storms we suffer worse. Paving over more and more ground makes the run off of storms more destructive. We must live in harmony with the environment, for we are not in control.
Out of this experience, I hope we will come to a greater sense of solidarity and of how much we really depend on each other. So many of the rescues during the storm were accomplished by strangers. People who put their effort, time and even their lives on the line for people they had never met and did not know. People who responded simply because other people needed them.
Water is one of the most wonderful of creations. We ourselves are largely water. We need water to live. Too little or too much threatens our very lives. And by the waters of Baptism, we are reborn to new life as the children of God.

Let us be grateful to God for the gift of water. Let us pray for the water we need. And let us learn to help those who suffer from too much or too little of this most precious gift.

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 27, 2017

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to our St. Austin Catholic School!!! This is the school community’s 100th Anniversary Year of Celebration. For a century, our school has been turning out not only good scholars, but more importantly, also good citizens and faithful Christians. That is an accomplishment we can all be proud of and that deserves to be celebrated.
The relationship of our parish community and our parish school, like all marriages, has had some difficult times, and also lots of wonderful times. Perhaps even some boring times, but honestly, in the seven years I have been here, boring has been few and far between. 
When the school is in session the campus here comes alive with energy: motion, laughter, lines of children going back and forth to lunch, older kids running between classes, traffic snarls at drop-off and pick-up, lots of activity, commotion. It is seldom dull when school is in session!
Having the next generation of Catholics and Texans almost literally beneath our feet is a wonderful reminder of our duty to pass on the faith to the next generation. Seeing their smiling faces keeps us hopeful about the future. It instills in us a sense of time beyond just the next meeting or deadline. With the children here we see the future all around us. 

So it is most appropriate that we celebrate this milestone of 100 years! We are grateful and give thanks for the many Dominican Sisters, lay teachers, parents and students who have built the proud history and the honored legacy of St. Austin Catholic School. We recommit ourselves to the task of carrying forth this proud tradition for at least another 100 years!