Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy St. Augustine of Canterbury Day!

Poor St. Augustine of Canterbury! First of all, people continually confuse him with the more famous St. Augustine – also a bishop and theologian – of Hippo in North Africa, and many don’t recognize him under the Anglicized form of his name, Austin. Then there is the confusion about the date of his feast. The Anglicans and Episcopalians celebrate on the traditional day of his death, May 26. Roman Catholics, (needing to be      different) celebrate the following day, May 27. However, this year Pentecost falls on May 27, so the  observance of St. Austin/Augustine’s Feast is pushed back a day to Monday, May 28. But now it falls on a civic holiday, Memorial Day, and liturgically the resumption of Ordinary Time. No wonder our parish’s patron feast is mostly lost in the shuffle!

Anyway, I wish you and all the parishioners and friends of our wonderful parish a VERY HAPPY St. Austin’s DAY! May we all be inspired by the example of his missionary zeal and rededicate ourselves to the work of spreading the Gospel.

Happy Feast Day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, May 27

Come Holy Spirit! Happy Pentecost! What do you think of when you image the Holy Spirit?  Usually we think of a dove. That is because the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at His Baptism in the form of a dove. This was obviously an important event to the early Church (and to Jesus!), since it is reported in all four of the Gospels (MT 3:16, MK 1:10, LK 3:22 and JN 1:32)  The dove, a sign of peace and God’s favor from the time of Noah, would be most appropriate for Jesus. How appropriate the Holy Spirit as dove would be for run-of-the-mill sinners such as myself is doubtful.

Fortunately we have in today’s first reading some more active – and hence challenging – images of the Holy Spirit. The first is “a strong driving wind” that came from the sky. Having grown up in the Midwest with tornado drills and annual reports of tornado damage, “a noise like a strong driving wind” is not the most welcome sound. We are subject to tornadoes here in Austin, and we know they are terribly powerful. Perhaps we prefer a Holy Spirit that is more like a tame pigeon than a roaring tornado, and that is perfectly understandable, for the effects of the Holy Spirit can be upsetting! Moving us to forgiveness, to commitment, to generosity, even to heroic virtue, the Holy Spirit can blow apart our cozy, carefully constructed ideas and routines and push us out to DO something challenging, risky and GOOD. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will blow into your life and lead you to volunteer at St. Louise House, get involved at Catholic Worker House, help teach in the Religious Education program, reach out to your unpleasant neighbor, or even go on a mission trip! You never know where it is going to blow.

The other image of the Holy Spirit today is “tongues as of fire.Now fire is another powerful, energetic, often destructive, image. Fire is upsetting and life-changing, as anybody who watched the TV coverage of the Bastrop fires, much less anyone who lived through those fires, knows. Certainly the disciples who experienced that first Pentecost were definitely changed! On fire with the Holy Spirit, they boldly preached the Gospel. This was at considerable risk to themselves, but they courageously proclaimed the truth anyway because they were on fire with the Holy Spirit.

So do you want the “strong driving wind” of the Holy Spirit to blow through your life? Do you want to be “on fire” with the Holy Spirit and boldly live the Gospel? Or would you prefer the Holy Spirit be just a nice, peaceful, white dove, that doesn’t ruffle any feathers or get people upset? I for one am quite comfortable with things being rather staid and dull. However, I also think that we rather badly need more Spirit in our faith.  Many Catholic churches are, frankly, rather boring. Perhaps it would be a good idea to invite in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit came upon the first gathering of the Church on that original Pentecost. I am sure that it was anything but boring!

God bless! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, May 20

This is a time of transitions. This weekend we celebrate graduation at UT. After four (or more) years of work, study, learning and testing the class of 2012 graduates to even bigger responsibilities, challenges and hopefully rewards. CONGRATULATIONS to all university, college, high school and grammar school grads!

This weekend also is a BIG transition for three Paulist seminarians who were ordained to the priesthood at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 19 in St. Paul the Apostle Church (the Mother Church of the Paulists) in New York City. One of those three is Tom Gibbons, CSP, who spent the better part of a year – his pastoral year – here as part of his seminary training. A contingent of our parishioners has gone to New York to participate in his ordination and wish Tom well. He will soon be taking up his first assignment as a Paulist priest at St. Peter’s Parish in Toronto, Ontario. It promises to be cooler than his Austin experience: I speak of course of the temperature, not the cultural setting! Also ordained this weekend is René Constanza, CSP, who will be joining us here on the parish staff of St. Austin in early July. Fr René is originally from the country of Belize in Central America, so I am hoping that he will have an easier time adjusting to the Austin summer heat. We will see.

A somewhat sadder transition is that Mrs. Kathy Airel, our Director of Religious Education (DRE) for the last two years, is retiring at the end of this week. Kathy has done a wonderful job, especially with the Confirmation program. We are truly blest to have had her ministry in our parish for two years and even more blessed in that she will remain as a parishioner and volunteer in our Religious Education Program. However, she will have more time for family and her own interests. THANK YOU KATHY for a great job!

Taking on the job of DRE is Mrs. Marti Salas. She begins this week so that she and Kathy will have a week of overlap. We welcome Marti and are excited about the gifts and experience she brings to the Religious Education program at St. Austin. You can read more about her in her self-introduction below. WELCOME MARTI!

And of course today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, a big day of transition for the Risen Jesus and a big day of transition for the early disciples. Jesus ascends into Heaven, bringing to a close His historical career on earth, and the disciples must now learn to rely on Jesus’ presence in the Holy Spirit rather than in physical and tangible ways. It is a big change but a positive one, preparing for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the rapid expansion of the Church. Happy Ascension Day!

Transitions, because they involve change, are usually difficult, but they also can be signs of growth, such as in graduation, ordination, retirement, a new staff member or even Ascension! We are not yet at our final destination. We still have work to do. We have growth to accomplish. We have miles to go yet. So enjoy the transitions. Enjoy the journey! 

God bless! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

HOMILY Sixth Sunday of Easter Cycle B May 13, 2012

Three words in the English language that are very important are:  I LOVE YOU.  Thousands of songs and poems have been built around those three little words.  To quote Paul McCartney in his 1976 hit, “Silly Love Songs”,  You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.  But I look around me and I see it isn't so.
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs.
And what's wrong with that?   I’d like to know, cause here I go again
I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,…   
            They are powerful, indeed magic, words.  I LOVE YOU.  We all long to hear those words.  When is the last time you heard someone say those words to you with conviction and meaning?   When is the last time you spoke them with meaning and feeling?  It would be very, very difficult to hear or to say those words too much. 
            Well, fortunately, we get to hear them today.  In the Gospel Jesus says to his disciples, that is to you and me, “As the Father loves me, so also I love you.”  Jesus today says to each of us here, “I LOVE YOU.“
            This is a powerful, meaningful statement that calls for a response.  Jesus tells us: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  
            Lovers want to be close to each other.  The way we stay close to Jesus, the way we remain in his love, is to keep His commandments.  This is not so much a mindless subjugation of our will as rather a being with the beloved, of remaining in His love, just as Jesus keeps the Father’s commandments and remains in the Father’s love.  It is about togetherness and union.
            “I have told you this” Jesus declares, “so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”  Joy is something different than, though related to, happiness.  Happiness has an external cause.  Things are going well, we feel healthy and secure, we just finished exams or got a promotion, and we are happy.  Joy rather comes from inside, from a sense of being loved, and knowing that ultimately love and good win.  Joy is not dependant on what goes on in our life.  I have seen some people in very sad circumstances who were none-the-less filled with much joy.  Jesus wants us to have such joy.  He wants your joy to be complete: that is, full and whole and lacking in nothing.  Great Joy! 
            Jesus’ commandment is simple and difficult:  “Love one another as I love you.”  The love Jesus pours out on us must be shared.  Love grows and multiplies by being given away.  The more you love the more love you can hold.  The less you love others, the less you can contain love.  Jesus’ commandment therefore is the road map to the fullness of life.  “Love one another as I love you.”  By following Jesus’ example, we are not impoverished or made less.  Quite the opposite.  By giving ourselves away in love as Jesus does, we enrich our lives and become more. 
            Jesus today not only tells us He loves us, He also calls us “friends”.  This is NOT friends in the sense of social acquaintances.  This is not friends in the sense of Facebook contacts.  This is friend in the deepest, most enduring sense of the word – an intimate friend, a best friend forever.  Jesus is your BFF!
            We are truly fortunate and blessed to be Jesus’ intimates, His friends.  Yet this is what Jesus offers us.  Because He tells us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”  To be chosen, to be selected, to be desired is a wonderful thing.  To be chosen by Jesus is a spectacularly wonderful thing.  And yet, we are!  We are chosen by Jesus to be His friends.  As He tells us at the beginning of today’s Gospel passage:  “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.” 
            No matter what else we will accomplish, or achieve, or attain, or own, we can do no better, for now or for all eternity, than to remain in His love.  God bless!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 13

Today is Mother’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Grandmothers, Step-Mothers and Godmothers! Enjoy your day; God knows you deserve it!

Mothers (and Fathers) have always had a difficult task, but today the demands and expectations for what a parent should be are so high and so all-encompassing as to seem almost impossible to fulfill. Since they are human, no mother is perfect. Every mother has somewhere along the line, in spite of all the love that is in her heart, been too tired, too distracted, too confused, too ill-equipped, too inexperienced, too uneducated to be the perfect Mother at all times. Some mothers have been downright controlling, vindictive or even abusive. Not every woman is fit to be a mother, and those in their charge have suffered.

On this Mother’s Day perhaps the best gift you can give your mother is really a gift to yourself: the gift of forgiveness. By letting go of bitterness, hurts, bruised and damaged feelings, resentments and losses, you not only forgive your Mother but also free yourself. This is a gift much greater than any amount of flowers, candy or sentimental cards. It is a gift you can give not only to the living but also to Mothers and Grandmothers who have died. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift to give on Mother’s Day or any day of the year.

We have not only a physical and biological mother but also a spiritual mother. That mother is the Church, or in the traditional phrase, “Holy Mother the Church.As anyone who has read a newspaper or listened to TV or radio in the last several years well knows, the Church has been far from a perfect mother. Sin is an aspect an all too prominent part of the church on earth. So it has been from the beginning (read the letters of St. Paul), and so it will be till the Lord comes again. The clergy sexual abuse, the financial malfeasance and other scandals should not be unexpected, even though they are disheartening and discouraging. A wise old priest and former president of the Paulist Fathers once told me that when you see the church doing stupid and inhuman things it “is like seeing your mother drunk. It is embarrassing.

What are we to do? No more than we can change the fact that we are our mother’s child can we change the fact of our spiritual bond to the church. Giving in to feelings of hurt, bitterness, resentment, anger and desires for revenge will hurt ourselves as much as anyone else. Working through to forgiveness frees us to grow as spiritually mature people. The Church needs reform. The Church needs to listen. We need to work for the protection of children and all people. We need Bishops who are shepherds, not careerists.

And we have our part to play. We also need, like adult children of alcoholics, to not collude in lies, but to take responsibility for our own actions and especially to open our hearts and souls to forgiveness. Being responsible, adult, loving children of the Church is the best gift we can give our “Holy Mother the Church.

God bless! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


You may have read or heard that there is some controversy over a recent Vatican Doctrinal Assessment of the U.S. Sisters and Nuns, and specifically the organization that represents most Religious Sisters in the U.S., called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (or LCWR for short). It is good to stay informed on these things.

Here are two videos, each about 8 minutes long, each by a different U.S. Catholic Priest, that represent varying approaches to this controversy:

One is by Fr. James Martin, S.J., the editor of America Magazine. You can see him at

The other is by popular Catholic author and spokesman, Fr. Robert Barron, who teaches at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He can be seen at

Watching both of these will give you a broader view of the entire controversy.

God bless! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

I have a more than passing interest in wine, and so also an interest in vines.  Therefore it caught my attention when in today’s Gospel Jesus says: “I am the true vine,”  He claims to be the TRUE vine, or in other translations, the REAL vine.  He is the authentic vine.  There are other vines that promise life, but they are phonies.  They cannot produce the fullness of life, eternal life. Only Jesus is the real thing, the “true vine.”   Only in Him comes the fullness of life.  We may think that wealth, or popularity, or fame, or power, or lots of possessions, or drugs, alcohol and sex, will bring us fullness of life.  And they may satisfy for a time.  But over time, and especially in difficult times, they will fail us.  They do not bring the fullness of life. 
Still, we are attracted by these other ways of getting life.  So we need to be pruned, that is, have the false starts and unhealthy growths cut off.  Jesus tells us that His Father is the vine grower.  Jesus tells us about the Father: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”  
Now pruning hurts.  Let to ourselves we will let all these false starts and dead ends and side attractions grow, sapping our focus and spiritual life.  So the pruning is necessary.  If you go to one of the wineries around here you will see row after row of carefully tended vines.  They all look beautiful.  But they don’t naturally grow like that.  They got that way as the result of a lot of work and care.  They have all been pruned and tended to.  The same is true of you and me.  We will only be productive branches with a lot of work and care and pruning. 
We need to be pruned of talking about other people behind their backs; pruned of laziness and indifference; pruned of prejudice and fear pruned of selfishness, of impatience and brusqueness with other people; pruned of envy and greed and clinging to bitterness.  We need to be pruned of these things, and much more, so that we can become more of what we were created to be, which is to be loving people.
We are able do this because we are branches rooted in the TRUE vine, drawing our life from Jesus.  The result is that we bear fruit.  What kind fruit do we bear?  Certainly not grapes and figs and bananas.  Rather, all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The traditional Fruits of the Holy Spirit as St Paul lists them in his Letter to the Galatians are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-3).  
The first and most important in the list of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit is LOVE.  Love of neighbor, love of all other people, love of ourselves, and even love for our enemies, this is the Fruit of remaining deeply centered in Christ Jesus, and His remaining in us. 
Jesus tells us: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  Only in Jesus can we live in this way, producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  And if we do remain in Jesus, we will produce abundantly.
This is God’s plan for us.  Jesus tells us: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
God the Father is delighted, and rejoices, and is glorified when we bear the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience and all the rest.  It is hard to believe that we can give glory to God, and yet we do.  “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."                  
Jesus offers us this wonderful opportunity to fulfill what we were created to be, to be filled with the fullness of life.   He tells us: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 6

We have been experiencing a tremendous outpouring a Sacramental Graces here at St. Austin since Easter. Consider the following:  At the Easter Vigil we celebrated the Baptism of six adults, the reception into the church of another nine, and the Confirmation and First Communion of them all. On the following weekend, April 14/15, we celebrated three infant Baptisms. On Saturday, April 21 another adult was Baptized, Confirmed and made his First Communion. On Tuesday the 24th we were graced with Bishop Joe Vásquez’s presence when he Confirmed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit 36 of our young people. It was a positive,    uplifting ceremony. On Saturday, April 28, we celebrated the Baptism of two children, the Reception into the Catholic Church of another two, the Confirmation of three and First Holy Communion for four more. In addition, since Easter we have celebrated three weddings, and next weekend, May 12 & 13, 70 of our young parishioners will celebrate their First Holy Communions. That is a lot of Sacramental Graces! Have you been feeling the Holy Spirit blowing around this place?

For me personally, Saturday April 28 represented a new milestone when for the first time ever I celebrated six different sacraments in one day: An Anointing of the Sick at St. David’s Hospital in the morning, a Marriage at 2 p.m., a Reconciliation after that, and the Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist with the older children completing their Sacraments. Wow! If only I was a Bishop then I could have also ordained someone. Fortunately (on a lot of levels) I am not a Bishop. Six Sacraments in one day was enough.

Anyway, if in some places in our country the Catholic Church is contracting and shrinking, it certainly is not doing so here at St. Austin! All of these sacramental celebrations are wonderful signs of vitality and life. We are truly blessed by the Holy Spirit to have so much life in this place. It is a blessing and also a task. We need to continually shine the light engendered here beyond this place into our homes, workplaces, classrooms, markets and places of entertainment, into all of the world.  What happens here at St. Austin is not just for our sake but for the benefit of all the world.

We have been truly blessed, and that means we also have a greater responsibility for truly being a LUMEN GENTIUM, a light to all the people. 

God bless!