Monday, April 15, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 14, 2019

Blessed Palm/Passion Sunday! We now plunge into Holy Week, liturgically the most significant and meaningful time of the year. Holy Week culminates in the celebration of the Triduum, a memorial and celebration of God’s action in Jesus saving us from sin and death, and conversely saving us for the fullness of life with God.
The drama of the Triduum plays out in three acts. Holy Thursday focuses on service with the washing of feet, and on Jesus’s self-gift in the Eucharist. It is also a special time for focusing on the ministerial priesthood. Some people find this the most moving and beautiful of the three services, especially the washing of feet. The way we do this here at St. Austin welcomes all present to participate, and many are touched by that.
Good Friday service involves the proclamation of the Passion, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion. It is not a Eucharist. It is the only day we do NOT celebrate Mass. Because the themes of this service are very powerful and dramatic, some find this service to be the most affecting and moving. Personally, from a logistical point of view, I find it to be a sort of liturgical train wreck, with the three parts sort of jammed together with little inherent connection.
And then on Holy Saturday night we celebrate the Easter Vigil, with the lighting of candles, blessing of water, a big Gloria and Alleluia, several Bible readings, Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist, and generally pulling out all the stops. This is a long service, but very dramatic and it moves fairly quickly. This is clearly my favorite.
No matter which part of the Triduum is your favorite, I invite and encourage you to join us in this special three-day celebration of the mystery of our salvation. Come join us!

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 7, 2019

This Mon., April 8, at 7 p.m., we will celebrate our Lenten Communal Reconciliation Service. ALL are welcome!
This beautiful sacrament has undergone tremendous change in the long history of the Church. Even in the lifetimes of many alive today, we have seen this sacrament evolve.
When I was a child the sacrament was called “confession” or “penance.” Now we call it “reconciliation.” The change in name is to emphasize who is the important actor in this sacrament. I, the sinner, confess and do the penance; therefore calling it “confession” or “penance” puts the emphasis on what I do. But the most important actor in the sacrament is neither me nor the priest, but God. God is reconciling the world to Godself through Jesus Christ. What God does in the sacrament is much more important that what we do. Our participation in the sacrament is important, but God really does all the heavy lifting and the important work, reconciling us to Godself. So, the name change to “reconciliation” is an attempt to recognize that this is first and foremost God’s work.
Also, when I was a child, the sacrament was performed in a small, dark room often referred to as a “box.” It was rather intimidating and scary. It was not a celebration of God’s reconciling grace but a recognition of my sinfulness. The priest was unseen, just a disembodied voice, and the penitent was also anonymous and unseen. The whole thing was draped in secrecy and anonymity. It was more oppressive than celebratory.
Now at our parish reconciliation service we are encouraged to go face-to-face. This human encounter becomes part of the sacramental expression of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and welcoming us back to God’s embrace. Like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son we heard last Sunday, God is eager and anxious to welcome us, to pardon and to forgive us. This reality is better symbolized and celebrated by the face-to-face encounter in the sacrament that most people will experience in the communal penance service. There will be 6 or 7 confessors and all will have an opportunity to individually confess their sins, and receive individual, personal, absolution and blessing. There is also an opportunity to go behind a screen in the reconciliation chapel for those desiring that.
Soon we will celebrate Holy Week and remember the great gift of salvation Jesus won for us on the cross and His triumphal resurrection on Easter. A very good way to prepare spiritually for this celebration is the sacrament of reconciliation. You are invited and encouraged to join us Mon., April 8, at 7 p.m., right here at St. Austin Church. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 31, 2019

Two weeks ago I gave some thoughts on the process of dying. Last week I looked at Purgatory. This week I want to focus on the Resurrection.
Jesus is RISEN!! That is the center of our faith. He is the only human to have beaten death, and He shares that victory with us. We become members of His Body by Baptism, and since He is risen, so shall we. Death loses. God and life win. That is what Christianity, our religion, is all about. God wins!!!
What will resurrected life be like? We don’t know. But it is not just immortality of the soul. It is resurrection of the body, as we profess in the Creed, so in some form it is bodily life. I take this to mean it will still be ME and it will still be YOU. We will be different, but still be US. This gives me hope that we will be able to recognize each other in heaven. Relatives, friends, co-workers, teachers, coaches, neighbors, people who helped us and were good to us, will be there and be recognizable for who they are. We will not be alone.
We should have LOTS of time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. It won’t be like it is here on Earth, but we will all be in union with the Triune God, and in an intimate union with each other through God. I hope we will meet many relatives who came before us whom we have not even heard of, much less met. And we will meet many descendants who we cannot yet even imagine. It will make for quite a party! Also, I hope that it will be possible to meet some of the saints and some important figures from history and the arts. Can I eavesdrop on a conversation between Thomas Aquinas, Paul of Tarsus and Karl Rahner? It certainly won’t be dull.
St. Paul tells us: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12) I am looking forward to knowing fully. I have a list of questions. Do you? Things like, ‘how come he was always angry with me,’ or ‘why didn’t I get that promotion,’ or ‘what was up with those two,’ and many, many others. I think it will be fascinating!
What will our resurrected bodies be like? We don’t know. St. Paul says it will be a “spiritual” body. When pressed as to what this spiritual body will be like, he has to just assure us that it will be, but now we don’t know. He resorts to an analogy. He says in 1 Cor 15:31 that when you plant a seed, what grows up is not a big seed, but rather a tree or plant of that species. The seed and the plant are not the same but are related. Similarly, a physical body is buried, but a spiritual body is risen. They are not the same, but have an essential relationship. Therefore, whatever is raised on the last day will still be me, Chuck Kullmann, but in a new way of being. Hopefully 25 pounds lighter!
Our belief in the resurrection gives our lives here meaning and value that is infinite. We will go on forever! Thanks be to God who has given us the victory in Jesus Christ. That is what we are preparing to celebrate this Holy Week.