Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 29

On Monday, July 16, our good friend and brother, Fr. Bob Scott, CSP, went home to God. There is no doubt in my mind that he went straight to heaven and also that he is greatly missed here on earth. For decades Fr. Bob was a significant part of the Paulist presence in Central Texas: at our parish, at Horseshoe Bay, at the University Catholic Center and more. Fr. Bob got around!

All except the youngest among us know first-hand the sense of loss that follows the death of someone we respected, enjoyed,  valued or loved.  To live means to lose those we care about: parents, spouses, children, good friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors and acquaintances. Everyone we know, including ourselves, is moving inexorably towards death. It is the one thing we can confidently count on.

For those with Faith however, death is not the end of the story. We really don’t know much about what existence after death is like. We do not have the categories nor the vocabulary to be able to describe it. In our present condition we are limited to experiencing time as a constant flow forward. On the other side we probably will experience time – and hence space – differently. Eternity is just something we cannot experience, nor adequately describe, in our present condition. Now we are just too limited. But then we shall be larger and freer and understand much better.

Because we believe in the resurrection of the body – and again, we cannot adequately describe what that will be like – we can confidently say that it will be Fr. Bob Scott who we will meet on the other side of the grave. Not his image or shadow but the reality of him. The resurrection of the body guarantees that Fr. Bob Scott, with his bright smile and infectious chuckle, will be there to meet us. He will not have dissolved into some amorphous flow of energy indistinguishable from any other. The resurrection of the body assures us of the continuing, indeed eternal, existence of the entity we know and love as Fr. Bob Scott. And of course the same is true for all of our loved ones and for us.

Heaven is not so much a place as a way of being. Recently I had a wonderful vacation to Oregon. I enjoyed seeing Paulist buddies in Portland, including Fr. Jim Kolb, with whom I worked in Alaska. We had a great time recounting Alaskan adventures. I then went to Mt. Angel and had a delightful visit with Fr. Bob Michele. He was stationed here at St. Austin for many years, and it was great to see him chipper and doing so well. I then went on to Bend, Oregon, to visit old friends from North Pole, Alaska. We spent hours catching up as I learned about what their kids are doing now. We traveled together to visit Crater Lake, which was truly gorgeous. Then I drove to Eugene to visit a good friend, Bettina, from my time in New York City. And so on. It was great meeting old friends, sharing stories and renewing friendships!

Well, I think my vacation is a little something what heaven will be like: a lot of catching up with family and friends, people we knew and loved, as well as making lots and lots of new friends. In it all God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – will be present. It will be the best vacation of all. As one of the prayers from the funeral liturgy states: “One day we shall joyfully greet Fr. Bob Scott again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.”  

God bless,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 22

Today I resume my occasional series on the windows of our church. We have now come to the last pair of windows on your right as you face the altar. The panel on the left shows a lit lamp, and the one on the right a scroll with Hebrew characters (most Hebrews in the Bible were characters!). I take this to be the window dedicated to the Scriptures, which was donated “In Memory of J.H. and Eula Francis by Mrs. Sallie Trousdale.

Why a lamp? The figure of the lamp figures prominently in the Scriptures: Jesus tells the parable of ten bridesmaids, five who were wise and brought oil for their lamps, and five who were foolish and did not provide oil for their lamps, and subsequently are left out of the wedding feast (see MT 25:1-12). Jesus also uses the analogy of lighting a lamp and placing it on a lamp stand, not under a bushel basket (See MT 5:15). But I take this lamp to be a visual reference to Psalm 119 verse 105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This keeps to the theme of this window depicting the Scriptures, for God’s Word does illumine the darkness of our lives, shows us God’s truth and tender mercy and so lights the way we must go. The Scriptures are a light to guide our feet on the path of life. It is a wonderful blessing of the Second Vatican Council that opened up the study, love and praying of the Scriptures for so many Catholics. God’s Word is a great treasure and today we have such fuller access to it, by the readings at Mass, Bible studies, and adult religious education. I hope that you have a decent modern translation of the Scriptures in your home: not a paraphrase like “The Way,” nor an outdated translation like the King James or the Douay-Rhiems Bible, but a modern scholarly translation like the New American, the New Revised Standard Version, or the Jerusalem Bible. Further, I hope it is not just gathering dust, but is actively used in your home. Of course you can also do this electronically, and get the New American Bible and the readings for each day’s Mass at the Bishop’s web site: Click on “DAILY READINGS” or on “Bible.”

The other window depicts a scroll. Before e-readers and laptops, before even books, there were scrolls. This is what Jesus read.  We read in Luke 4:16-17, “Jesus stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.” Now on the scroll in our window are Hebrew letters. Since my Hebrew is non-existent I went next door to the Hillel Foundation, the Jewish student center. A young man there helpfully translated the words on our window as “God the One, God the Lord.” For Jesus the Scriptures were what we call the “Old Testament.”

There are a couple of windows in the choir loft that you cannot see. Directly behind and blocked by the organ is the Rose Window. It was dedicated “In Memory of John, Emil and Lt. George Pietrucha by the John Pietrucha Family.” These are relatives of Fr. Ed Pietrucha, CSP, who was Pastor here at St. Austin from 1968 to 1974, and now lives in active retirement in Tucson, Arizona. The organ was added later and now blocks the window. You can sometimes see a thin strip of colored light just above the top of the organ, shining through.

Also in the choir area is a pair of windows dedicated by the St. Austin Altar Society. The one on the left (to the East) depicts a harp such as King David might have played while composing the Psalms. The window on the right shows a horn that looks like the vuvuzela that made so much racket during the 2010 World Cup for Soccer hosted in South Africa, and a treble clef and a note ( ). Unfortunately these windows are now blocked by panels to keep out the sun on the choir because it gets quite warm up there during 11:30 mass, and so they are hidden.  Look for them come Winter.  

God bless,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 15

Back on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011, in conjunction with all the English- speaking Catholic Churches in our country, we implemented the New Roman Missal (NRM). At that time in this column I urged you to withhold judgment on the NRM until you had lived with it and prayed it for six months. The initial judgment of it would be affected by the normal clumsiness and awkwardness of introducing a new set of prayers, the upset of routine responses and the effort to learn new prayers, etc. Well, now six months and then some have passed, the prayers of the NRM are not totally new and alien, and we can give a more balanced assessment of the NRM.

So where are we? First of all, I must compliment our congregation, our choir and ensembles, and the work of Dr. John Hoffman, Kathy Airel, Rudy Davenport, Fr. Steven Bell and the rest of the parish staff for the great job in preparing us and then launching us on the new translation of the Mass. THESE EFFORTS PAID OFF! From what anecdotal evidence I have gathered, the transition to the NRM here at St. Austin went much more smoothly than at many other parishes. Our efforts to sing the majority of the responses and to use just a few of the Eucharistic Prayers at first was the right way to go.

Moreover, the two disastrous results I feared were possible did not at all materialize. I was holding my breath to see if either attendance at Mass would drop with the introduction of the NRM or that our collections would drop. Since the Catholic Faithful are not given any say in how the Mass is structured, the two ways parishioners have to vote on these items which are so central to our lived faith are with their feet and with their dollars. I am very grateful that almost all of you decided to stick it out and hang in there, continuing to show up and participate in the Mass and to contribute to support your parish. THANK YOU!

It may be that some of you really love the new Mass translation, with its more formal cadence, the exalted vocabulary, the greater deference and solemnity given to God. I am happy for you if you do. However, I have yet to have anyone express to me how much they like the new translation.

On the other hand, I have only heard two or three parishioners complain about the complicated wording, the confusion, the overly obsequious emphasis of the language and the arcane vocabulary of the NRM.

This lack of either enthusiasm for the NRM or abhorrence of it makes me wonder what people think of it, or if for most of the congregation it is simply no big deal. My observations from up on the altar platform are somewhat mixed. People by and large sing. They pay attention during the readings. When I preach I see good eye contact and people following along and paying attention. People usually even laugh at my jokes. During the Our Father the congregation really participates, sings along, and so on. But during the Eucharistic Prayer I wonder if the majority of the people are really paying attention to what I am saying, or if they are praying to God on their own about their particular agenda, reflecting on what they heard in the readings and homily, thinking about what they have to do later in the day, watching the people around them, etc. One perceptive observer of the US Catholic scene suggests that what most people in the congregation most of the time hear during the prayers said by the priest is in effect, “pious  blah, blah, pious blah, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

Sometimes when I look up from the Missal during the Eucharistic Prayers, especially those prayers that go on for a while after the words of institution (Consecration) with complex sentence structure and unusual vocabulary, I glimpse a fair number of eyes that appear to have glazed over. At least that is the impression that I have. And perhaps – if truth be told – that is not all that different than the situation prior to last Advent! After all the catechesis, education, and hoopla, I wonder how much difference the NRM really has made.

God bless,

Monday, July 9, 2012


FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME    CYCLE “B”                           July 8, 2012

In the Gospel today, Jesus is amazed.  I found that curious, because Jesus doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who amazes easily.   I think of Jesus as pretty wise, who really knows the depths of the human heart, who is really aware of what is really going on, who is not easily surprised or amazed.  And yet in today’s Gospel Jesus is amazed.   What is going on?
            Jesus returns to His native place, to the people He grew up with, to His family and His neighbors, to old friends and acquaintances; to the buddies He played with and studied with, to the people who helped to form and shape Him.  Certainly Jesus was anxious to share with them the Good News that God was now breaking into history, overcoming sickness, sin and death, and providing a new way to the future where God’s Will would be done.  Jesus cared about these people and was eager with expectation to share with them the great gift of the Gospel, the Good News.
            But instead of acceptance, He finds rejection.  Instead of welcome, He encounters resistance.  Instead of faith, He discovers lack of faith.  And He is “amazed.”  
            Have you ever had the experience of picking out a special gift for someone you care about, something you think is really neat, maybe spent more on it than you probably should have, anticipated the person’s reaction when they get this very special gift, only to have them go, “Oh, that’s nice” and then ignore it?  Or worse, they actively dislike it.  How did you feel?  Were you “amazed”?  Well, maybe somewhat, that they did not appreciate what you considered the ideal gift:  but also you felt disappointed, hurt, deflated, even crushed.  And I think the same is true for Jesus.  He was not just amazed, but hurt.  So hurt and upset that He was thrown off His game.  Mark tells us: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying hands on them.”  Jesus was really thrown for a loop. … Amazed. 
            What are we to make of all this?  Well, faith, as wonderful as it is, is not easy.  Faith challenges our assumptions about how the world works: That the peacemakers, not the strong and invincible, are the ones who are blessed; That the meek - not the arrogant and powerful, the movers and shakers and the rich - will inherit the earth; That it is better to give than to receive; That God is in charge and we are not; And that we
must die to ourselves to truly come to life.  The way of Faith is often uncomfortable and difficult.
            And the people of Jesus’ own kin and house are like the rest of us: lazy.        They don’t want to be inconvenienced, much less challenged and stretched.  They have grown comfortable with the way of the world.  They have made their compromises and accommodations with evil and sin.  And they don’t want to be jerked out of their narrow little ruts that they have fallen into.  Because Generosity, Compassion, Forgiveness, Fidelity and Love are all hard work.
            Add to that their jealousy that this Jesus kid, who does not come from any special family, should now think He is something special: the Messiah, huh!    And the natural skepticism that comes from getting knocked down every time you get your hopes up, so that you protect yourself from disappointment and hurt by learning not to expect too much.  Put all that together and it is pretty understandable why the people of Nazareth react the way they do. 
            They said, “Where did this guy get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given him?  Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  Are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him. 
            In the older translation we used to use at Mass, it says “They found him too much for them.”   He was a challenge. 
            The people use the excuse that they know this guy, and He is nothing special, to avoid the challenge of Faith.  They box Jesus in with their so-called knowledge of Him. They constrain and restrict Him with their limited expectations, because they have already made up their minds about who Jesus is, and they will not open their minds and hearts to see something new, something different, something challenging. 
            They so restrict and confine Jesus by their negative attitude that Jesus can’t even work any miracles, “apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
            It can be terrible how our belittlement and stereotyping constrains and restricts others from developing and growing.  And this is what happened to Jesus in His native place and in His own house. 
 The challenge today to us is clear.  We must not be like the people in today’s Gospel.  We must not box in each other with our low expectations and negativity, holding others back from true human flowering.  We must not restrict and confine ourselves by our poor expectation and negativity about ourselves, limiting the power of the Holy Spirit in us to make us into Saints.  Everyone of us here has the potential and the power to be a Saint!   And we must not box in Jesus with limits and small expectations, limiting His power to establish the Kingdom of God in our hearts through faith. 
            Rather, let us amaze Jesus by our openness to His Word in the Gospel and by the strength of our faith.  That is the right way to amaze Jesus.  AMEN.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 8

We have been going through some transitions on the parish staff here at St. Austin. Just two weeks ago we said our good-byes to Fr. Steven Bell. While I was not here, I hear that it was quite a lively and vibrant “good-bye,” appropriate for Fr. Steve.

Last week we had the opportunity to welcome the newest Paulist on the parish staff: Fr. René Constanza, CSP. We are most happy to have Fr. René with us, and I personally look forward to working with him. He brings with him many gifts and a quiet strength, and we are blest he is here.

Well, life is about change, and the transitions and changes continue. It is my great pleasure to announce officially that ANOTHER PAULIST PRIEST is being assigned to St. Austin Parish. Fr. Robert (Bob) Cary, CSP, will be joining our team at the beginning of next month. That will make three full-time priests – and a permanent deacon – on the parish staff, a great luxury in this day and time.

How did this come about? Fr Bob Cary was pastor of St. Augustine’s (the other one, from Hippo, not our Augustine of Canterbury) in Memphis, Tennessee. For several reasons the Paulists have just given back care of that parish to the Diocese of Memphis. This left Fr. Cary without an assignment. Around the middle of June the Paulist President, Fr. Michael McGarry, called me to ask if I was interested in having Fr Cary on the staff here. Of course I said “yes,” thinking it would take a couple of months to work it out. A week later, as I was arriving at St. Louis, Missouri for my Dad’s 91st birthday party, Fr. McGarry called back to tell me Fr. Cary was assigned to St. Austin. This is something of a coup – certainly a surprise – and we are extremely fortunate to have Fr. Cary join us.

Fr. Bob is a few years older than me, but ordained seven years after me. He was a practicing attorney prior to entering the Paulists. We lived together when I was pastor in New York City, and he worked part-time on the parish staff while also serving as Paulist counsel and treasurer. So we have worked together. He also was assigned for a time at University Catholic Center in Austin. He will give us a fuller biography when he arrives. He is a good guy.

I hope that the addition of Fr. Bob to the parish staff will allow us to do at least three things:  1) a more reasonable coverage of the many sacramental duties here. This is an active place.  While Fr. Bob Scott was here and active we relied heavily on his assistance. Since he has been gone Fr. Steve and I were kept hopping. Fr. Bob will certainly lighten that load.  2) The third priest will allow us to have a presence in the school, a hope that Fr. Steve and I just could not make happen.  3) Some ministerial outreach and presence beyond the parish.  Other than attending a monthly luncheon for area pastors and representing the pastors on the Board of Micah 6, I have not had the opportunity to reach out or represent the church beyond our parish concerns. Hopefully that will change and some Paulist ministry beyond our parish bounds can now take place. I am sure that more opportunities will arise now that we have more manpower.

This assignment, however, does not come without challenges: finding another stipend for him, an office (we are short on space), another computer, health insurance coverage, a car for him to get around, telephone, etc., etc. As you can quickly see, having another priest brings with it extra costs. Given the very tight constraints on our parish budget, this will be a real challenge. However, I am hopeful, and beyond that confident, that this parish community will with creativity and generosity overcome the challenge.

Meanwhile, Welcome Fr. Bob Cary!

God bless,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Recommendation:  Recently, in one of columns, I mentioned the trial of Msgr. William Lynn, accused of having moved abusive priests around in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and hence endangering children.  Well, after thirteen days of deliberation the jury found him guilty.  

I have come across a web posting by Fr Liam Murphy, who serves at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in West Grove, PA.  Fr Murphy has some very good comments on the recent conviction of Msgr. William Lynn.  The bottom line - with which I full agree - is our need to LIVE Jesus.  You can read all about it at: 

Peace,  Fr Chuck