Monday, October 29, 2012


            Was Jesus right handed or left handed?   Was he tall or short?  What color were his eyes?  Did He wear His hair long, or was Jesus fashionably bald?   Was He the skinny aesthetic type, or, as I like to think of Him, was He a jolly, rotund, 280 pounder?  What do you think?
            There are so many details that the New Testament never bothers to tell us.   We are never even directly told if Jesus was ever married or not, leaving room for all sorts of speculation.  So when we read a detail in the Gospel like, “he threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus,” we have to wonder if the Gospel writer, in this case St. Mark, doesn’t mean for it to have more significance than a mere detail. 
            Bartimaeus, the blind man, “threw aside his cloak”.  Why?  What is this cloak?  What does it symbolize?  How does Bartimaeus cloak himself, i.e. hide his true self?  It is a cloak of self-pity?  “Oh, poor me, I am blind, I’m a beggar, poor me.”  Did you ever cloak yourself in self-pity?  Hide yourself from truly facing life and the work of relationship by cloaking yourself in self-absorption, self-pity?  I certainly have. 
            Or maybe it is “tough man” cloak Bartimaeus had to throw off: you know, “So I’m blind. So I’m a beggar. I can handle it.  I’m tough.  I don’t need anyone.  It’s fine.”   And so he hides his weakness, his vulnerability, his need, cloaking it with false bravado.  This is a cloak I think we guys like to use.  “I don’t need to see a doctor.  I don’t need any therapy.  I don’t need anyone; I’m just fine.”  Yehh, right.
            Or maybe it was a cloak of anger, or of false humility, or low self-esteem, or some other persona and act that Bartimaeus adopted to cloak his true identity.  He did this to protect himself, like putting on a shell, but in so doing he cut himself off from others, and so cut himself off from Jesus.
            What cloaks do you have?  Any personas or masks you adopt to cloak your true self, and so protect yourself, but only end up cutting yourself off from others?  
            We all have them.  And like Bartimaeus, we need to throw these cloaks aside in order to come to Jesus.  We need to come to Jesus as we truly are, not with our masks, our acts, our cloaks, but throwing all those false selves aside, come to Him with our excess flab and warts and our weaknesses, as we truly are.  For that is the only person Jesus loves.
            Back to the Gospel story:  Jesus asked Bartimaeus a strange question.  "What do you want me to do for you?"  Hey, the guy is blind.  Isn’t it obvious what he needs?  Why does Jesus ask such a silly question?  
            Well, first of all, note this is the exact same question that Jesus, in last Sunday’s Gospel, put to James and John when they came with a request to Jesus.  Jesus wants us to state what it is we want, because Jesus is asking about something deeper than physical needs.  Jesus is pushing the issue at a much deeper, more spiritual sense of blindness than just physical eyesight. 
            Just a few chapters before in St Mark’s Gospel the disciples totally misunderstand Jesus when He warns them to ‘beware the yeast of the Pharisees…’   They mistakenly think it is because they forgot to bring bread.  And Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes, and fail to see?” (Mk 8:17-18)  Jesus is always asking about blindness of the heart, not of the eyes.  And so Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Jesus is asking if Bartimaeus really wants to see, to understand, to comprehend God’s plan for his life.
            And the same is true for us.  Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Do we really want to see?  Not everyone does.  Blindness is often a lot easier, a lot more comfortable.  A dramatic instance of this occurred in World War II when the allies liberated concentration camps, and made the people of the towns where the camps were walk through the camps and see what they had spent years trying to not see. 
            Do you see God’s plan for you, what God wants of you in this life, and that God’s plan is far better for you than your own plan for yourself?   That the most important thing you must do is love?  That love is more important than money, fame, power, sex, anything?  Until you truly see that, you are still blind.
            Do you see the face of Jesus in every other person in this room, in every person you meet?  Until you honestly see Him in every person, you are still blind. 
            Do you want to see that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our race or nationality or language or religion?  Seeing all this and more makes a great difference, and it is not all easy.  But it is true.
            We must come to Jesus, admit our blindness, and tell Him, "Master, I want to see."   I want to see your Goodness.  I want to see your Will for me. 
I want to see that you are God and I am not.  I want to see you in every person I meet. 
"Master, I want to see."
            This is what it means to be a disciple.  When Bartimaeus made this request he received his sight, “and followed Jesus on the way”.  The way means more than the road, it means Jesus’ way of life.  It is to be a follower of Jesus, it is to be a disciple. 
            The Gospel today challenges us to throw aside whatever cloaks we may be hiding under, to stand up, and come to Jesus.  As today’s Gospel tells us: "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 28

On Wednesday, October 17, I had the pleasure of visiting the third grade at St. Austin School. The same day, Fr René Constanza visited the first grade. I had gone there to speak about the Rosary (October being the month of the Rosary) and enjoyed it very much. What surprised me was that when I asked if there were any questions, one young lady in the class asked me why girls cannot become priests.   Surprisingly, on the same day Fr. René received the same question from a girl in the first grade class.

This, in my humble opinion, shows how sharp and intelligent our St. Austin students are. They are interested in the Church and the larger world around them. That is a good thing. They also are willing to ask questions and that is a very good thing.

Now I attempted to answer the third-grader by explaining that Jesus was very open to engaging women, like the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John’s Gospel, Chapter 4, and treated women respectfully (like with Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38ff) and even had women followers. (See MT 27:55-56. The women who looked on at Jesus’ crucifixion had followed Him all the way from Galilee and had been providing for Him.)  Yet, in spite of Jesus’ surprising openness to and acceptance of women, Jesus never called any women to be Apostles. The teaching of the Church interprets this as an indication of Jesus’ intention that only males be ordained priests, making it impossible for the Church to ordain women. Since the Church is usually not reticent to claim powers and privileges for itself, when the Church does claim its inability to do something then I am especially prone to notice. In the case of the ordination of women the Church professes its complete lack of ability to do so. That is worth paying attention to.

Fr. René, more recently from the seminary and much more up-to-date on all things theological than myself, took a different tack in answering the first-grader’s question, arguing that since the priest represents Christ, the priest is a type of icon of Christ the High Priest, and since Jesus was a male, a male priest better represents Christ, and hence all priests are males. No doubt he expressed it much more cogently than I have. Now I know this is an argument often advanced by our Orthodox brothers, who are also opposed to the ordination of women. There are no women Orthodox priests, and the two oldest branches of Christianity are both firm on not ordaining women. Nonetheless, I find the icon argument less than convincing. When a female delivery room nurse baptizes a newborn in danger of death we say that is a real Baptism. We also believe that in all the sacraments that Christ is active. So Christ in that case must act sacramentally through a woman and hence she represents Christ the Priest. Or so it seems to me.

While the teaching of the Church is not in question, and is perfectly clear that only men can be ordained priests (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #1577), what is not clear to many are the arguments supporting this position. Fortunately, we live in a society where gender equality is growing and even assumed. Therefore we need to be able to explain why it is that the practice of not ordaining women is not an arbitrary prohibition, but is more like the case of why a man cannot be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader or why a woman cannot be a Dallas Cowboys linebacker. It is not prejudice, but rather simply they don’t have what it takes. Gender does, in some cases, make a difference. Mary could be the Mother of God (something no man could ever be), but yet could not be a priest.

Since people, even our little children, are asking about this, we owe it to them to find better arguments that are more compelling and satisfying. Pray for theologians and religious educators to frame more accessible answers.  

God bless!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B October 21, 2012

Anyone here ever work as a waiter or waitress?  As a chauffeur or maid or some kind of servant?  Did you love it?   Was it great fun?  Or did you do it only for the money, and as soon as a better job came along you grabbed it?
“Gospel” means “Good News”.  But I have a hard time hearing today’s Gospel as good news.  That is because I am lazy, and I like to be waited on.  I don’t want to serve, but rather to be served.  I like going to a restaurant, have someone else clean the room, someone else cook the food, someone else take my order and bring the food, and then I especially enjoy getting up and leaving someone else to do the dishes.  Now to me, that would be good news.  But that is not at all what today’s Gospel calls us to.
The Gospel is challenging us to go deeper into the issue of service.  You see there is service and then there is service. 
There is service that is rather degrading: that is forced and coerced, that demeans and makes us less.  This is always the case with slavery, with “involuntary servitude” to put a polite name on it.  And that is why, in spite of the teaching of today’s Gospel, slavery and human trafficking are always moral evils.
But there is also another kind of service.  Not one that degrades, but one that ennobles. 
I will tell you a little story.  My Dad Charlie is 91 years old.  He is still active and lives in the same house I grew up in.  He can do this because two of my sisters, Barbara and MaryJane, every Saturday get up early and drive an hour down to where he lives.  They wash the dishes piled in the sink, do the laundry, vacuum the floor, fix little things that break, throw out stuff my Dad has been hoarding, and generally clean up.  Now one of my sisters still works, and they have their own families, so they don’t have a lot of free time.  But they choose to use their Saturday mornings in service of their Father because they want to.  Because they love.  Service like this is nothing more than love in action.  Practical, actual, love serves.  That is what love does.   
This kind of service does not make us less human, but more human.  It is the kind of service we see in the lives of people like Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa, Pope John XXIII, Martin Luther King Jr., Kateri Tekawitha and Mother Marianne Kope who are being canonized today, and all the saints.
In Vatican Council II, this is what the entire church is called to.  The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, begins with these words: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.  Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”
In examining this, American Catholic theologian Paul Lakeland states: “the Church that bears the name of Christ exists not for its own sake but for the sake of the world.”
As Church we are called to serve the world, to be a servant.
Most importantly, this is the way God serves us in Jesus Christ.  Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.  Jesus did not do this out of some coercion, being forced to do it.  Rather it was the compulsion of love for us that lead Jesus to serve.  And in this way He raised loving service of others to the divine.  Loving service of others is not degrading, but is the best of human actions.  Indeed, it is God-like. 
So, as Jesus succinctly tells us: “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Jesus turns all of our assumptions about privilege and rank and status upside down - completely reverses our normal human approach to power and to perks: In the Kingdom of God power is not for self-aggrandizement, not for self-promotion, not even self-preservation.  Power is for service.
Clearly this is the mystery of the Cross - that the way to the fullness of life leads through death: that the way to wholeness and holiness requires letting go of ego and of dying to self. 
Paradoxically, selfishness and ego are traps.  If we live primarily for ourselves, then we live for something really rather small.  And the more the self turns in on itself, the more it shrinks, the smaller it grows, till our soul nearly disappears: no matter how rich, or powerful, or famous we are.
Selfishness is slavery.  Love is freedom.  Therefore, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
Still, that drive to promote myself ahead of others so clearly shown by James and John in today’s Gospel, that desire for glory of the sons of Zebedee, is deep, deep, deep in each of us.  
Even now, as I preach, called to serve you by proclaiming the Gospel, called even more to serve the Gospel by proclaiming it fearlessly and compellingly, I am at least as concerned that I will look good, that you will be favorably impressed, that you will say “Oh, that was a great homily, Father”, that “you really touched my life,’ and ‘you really made the Gospel come alive”; and I will have the glory of looking great - and you will like me and affirm me: all that ego stuff - as much as I want to serve the Gospel and serve you.
Dying to our ego is difficult.  Living a life of service to others, out of love, is not for sissies or the faint-hearted.
So how do we do this?  We can only do it in Christ.  More than our role-model, more than our teacher, more than our coach, He is our Saviour.  He has gone before.  He’s been there, done death, been raised to Life, and now empowers us.  He lives in us, so that we can do it too. 
As we heard in today’s second reading: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace in time of need.”   AMEN.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 21

Our civil liberties must be exercised to stay strong. Just like our muscles, if we never use them, they weaken and atrophy. So I want to strongly encourage you to do your duty as a citizen and VOTE. Also, I encourage you to VOTE EARLY. Early voting begins TOMORROW, October 22. It does not cost any more than waiting till Election Day on November 6, and it will be a lot more convenient for you.
I urge you to vote early because the ballot is LONG, and it will take a while to fill it all out. There will likely be long lines on November 6, and you will do yourself a favor and better fulfill your civic responsibility if you vote early and take the time to do it right.

The ballot in Austin is TWELVE PAGES LONG. There is a lot of stuff in there, and it is all important. In addition to the voting for President, Senators and all the other elective offices, there are a number of propositions, mostly dealing with bond issues. These are important and should not be skipped.
One bond issue I want to recommend to you is Prop 15, dealing with housing. It is supported by iAct, the interfaith organization to which St. Austin Parish belongs, and by Micah 6, the local ecumenical group that runs a food pantry and also a drop-in for street youth on Sundays. St. Austin Parish also belongs to Micah 6 and was one of the founding congregations.

Proposition 15 funds affordable housing and rental units in the city. Six years ago a similar bond issue was passed, and it did a great deal of good. Both of the properties of Saint Louise House, which provides housing for women with children, were purchased with some of those funds, but those monies are now spent and gone. To continue to help people, especially the elderly, repair and remain in their homes, another bond issue is necessary. AISD reported 1,635 homeless students in the schools in 2011.  So affordable housing is also a great need for the young. I understand that this bond measure is “tax neutral,” that is it does not require an increase in taxes. I take this to mean that the taxes imposed six years ago for the previous set of housing bonds would just continue but there would be no increase.  Given the positive track record of the city using housing bonds in the past (you can get more info on the PowerPoint presentation at, given that Federal Funds for housing have dried up, and given the continuing need, this is a worthwhile effort. Our parish is justifiably proud of having served as the incubator for the wonderful work of Saint Louise House in offering affordable housing to homeless women with children. Saint Louise House is under a financial crunch, even more so now than usual. This is one way to assist them. So I offer to your consideration support for Proposition 15: Housing.

In other news, on this very day, October 21, Pope Benedict XVI is canonizing seven new saints, including two Americans!  The new American Saints are: Kateri Tekakwitha, (1656–1680) the first Native American to be canonized, often called “Lilly of the Mohawks,” and Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai (1838–1918) who joined Sisters of St Francis and worked for many years among the lepers in Hawaii. She cared for the dying Fr. Damien, and succeeded him in caring for the outcasts on Molokai for 30 years until her death. St. Kateri and St. Marianne, pray for us!  

God bless! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

HOMILY 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B October 14, 2012

[singing] “Money makes the world go round, the world go round.  Money makes the world go round.  Of this you can be sure, Pzzzt on being poor!  Money, money, money...

            I offer this rendition of a number from the musical “Cabaret” as an example – a rather stark example - of the difference between the view of the world towards wealth and the view of today’s Gospel passage towards wealth.  They are not the same. 
            The Gospel is a challenge – certainly for me and most probably for you.  Because if you got up this morning and rolled out of a bed instead of sleeping on the floor, and flicked a switch and lights immediately came on, and you turned a faucet and clean water suddenly appeared, and your problem at breakfast was not a worry IF there was anything to eat but rather a decision about WHAT to eat: the Honey Nut Cheerios, or the Chocolate CoCo Puffs, or the Grapenuts or some other choice of cereal, or toaster muffins, or whatever: then you are wealthy by the standards of the world.  And Jesus warns:  “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”  OUCH! 
            So what are we to do?  Well, let us first look more closely at today’s Gospel.  A man runs up to Jesus.  We are not told his name.  I think his name is left out because he is supposed to represent every one of us.  But we will call him “Harry”.  Harry asks Jesus a question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”   Notice Harry’s stance:  What must I do to inherit (that is, earn) eternal life?  How do I earn my salvation?   Harry wants to make it on his own, he wants to earn eternal life, he wants to deserve it.   Harry would make a good Texan.  
            Apparently Harry is good at earning things.  He is accomplished.  He is rich.  He is probably an Eagle Scout.  He’s earned a bunch of merit badges, accomplished a lot of tasks, learned a lot of things, and earned his Eagle Scout rank.  That is good in itself.  But now he applies his ability to earn things to eternal life, and that is a problem. 
            Jesus tells him to keep the commandments.  He replies “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  Harry is successful both in economic life (he has a lot of possessions) and Harry is successful in religious life: he has kept all the commandments from his youth.  Harry is a high achiever.  His Jewish mother must have been proud of him!
             Then Jesus lowers the boom.  Jesus, looking at him, loved him [oh oh, when Jesus loves you you better brace yourself] Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,  "You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  
POW!   Harry goes away sad, for he had many possessions.  Actually, the possessions had Harry, and he was not free to accept the wonderful invitation to follow Jesus. 
            Jesus then changes the terms of the discussion.  Notice Jesus does not talk about inheriting eternal life, instead He talks about entering the kingdom of God.   “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 
            Inheriting eternal life and entering the Kingdom of God are similar, but distinct, realities.  Inheriting eternal life is about something in the future, which Harry thinks depends on his accomplishing or earning it.  Then it will be mine.  I’ve earned it.  But that is not true.
            Entering the kingdom of God however is a present reality, something not in the future, but here and now.  “The Kingdom of God is among you” (Lk 17:21) says Jesus, or “The Kingdom of God is within you” in some translations.  The Kingdom is not off in the future, but here and now, very close, extremely intimate. 
            And it consists in recognizing that God is King.  And desiring, longing, and yearning for God to be the ruler and King of my life.  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” in my heart, in my life, as Jesus taught us to pray. 
            For God to be King in my life means that I must recognize that everything I have: the talents and abilities I possess, the country and family and culture I was born into, the education and training and good example I received, all my accomplishments and successes, every breath I take, every thought I think, is all gift.  I did not earn or deserve any of it.  It is all gift.     Not my doing, but God’s gift.
            Ultimately it is NOT about how much I own, or how much I accomplish, or even how much good I do, but rather how much I let God rule my life and let God love me.
The appropriate attitude then is not pride about my accomplishments, and certainly not possessiveness about my possessions, but rather gratitude: the recognition that all is gift. Gratitude is the opening to the Kingdom of God. 
            That is a difficult way to live, with that much openness to God.  It is to live the life of Christ.  We can’t accomplish that on our own, but we don’t need to.  For we have the reassurance of Jesus:  "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God."    AMEN

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 14

Let’s take another look at our church windows. We are now up to the pair of windows above Stations 9 and 10, that represent the “Life of Christ.” The artist, attempting to capture the three-year active ministry of Jesus decided to keep it very simple. In the window on the left as you face it, we see the monogram of Christ, the Chi Rho. It is formed from the first two letters (the chi X and rho P) of the Greek word for Christ, or “ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ. You can see a modified form of this monogram on the sail of the boat across the church in the window next to the one with the crossed keys. In the other window of this pair you see two fish and a loaf of bread. This is a reference to Jesus’ Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (e.g. Mk 6:34ff) when Jesus feeds huge crowds with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish. These miracles in turn are signs or a prefiguring of the Eucharist. 

I am not sure how I would have captured the ministry of Jesus in such a small space, but I probably would have wanted to add more scenes to the window, maybe the jars of wine from the wedding feast at Cana, the coin with Caesar’s image on it, the tomb of Lazarus, the empty litter of the healed man who was paralyzed, the mustard seed and so on. It is probably better that the artist practiced such restraint and kept it minimal. This set of windows was given “In Memory of Mr. and Mrs. Cater Joseph by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Joseph.” 

Next to them (the windows, not the Josephs) as you move closer towards the altar is another pair of windows that represent the Resurrection. I am happy that, in addition to the Passion of Christ depicted in a set of windows on the opposite side of the church, we also have the Resurrection. In some churches I have been to in Central America there is such emphasis on the crucifixion, with bloody and gory renditions of it, that one gets the feeling that it is always Good Friday and never Easter. Perhaps for a population that is oppressed and suffering this aspect of Jesus is much closer to them and easier to identify with; but for us I am happy we have the balance. The Cross and the Resurrection are both necessary for the Christian life.  The Resurrection is depicted by a cross with yellow beams of light radiating from it, a sign of victory over the darkness of the grave and death. In the next window we see the Lamb with a white flag with a red cross on it. The Lamb is a reference to an image in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. It is an image of Jesus as the Lamb that was slain for us. For example, we read in 5:12 “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Later we read: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;” (12:11) and the Lamb appears in several other places. These windows of the Resurrection were donated “In Memory of Mr. S.A. Shia by His Family.”

What makes our windows so striking is the color. Now if someone was obsessed with a sense of order and was able to rearrange the glass in our windows so as to put all the like color pieces together – all the reds in one window, all the yellows in another, all the browns in a third and so on – all the artistic quality of the windows would be lost. The pattern and the beauty all comes from the disorder, or better, diversity of the various colors in each window. So it is also in our church community. It might be a lot easier for us all to get along if we all liked the same kind of music, all wanted the same approach to liturgy, all thought alike; but then any radiance or beauty of this community would be lost. Instead of the sparkling diversity of our parish we would have one rather bland uniform lump.  So, like our windows, we should let our diversity shine! 

God bless!



Monday, October 8, 2012


            Well, I don’t want to talk about divorce today, so I will focus on our first reading from the Book of Genesis.
            Two questions:   first of all, why does God create the woman from the man’s rib bone?  God did this on purpose for a reason.  According to Medieval commentators on the scriptures, probably following earlier Jewish commentators, God did not create the woman from the man’s head bone, because then she would be above him and his superior.   And God did not create the woman from the man’s foot bone, because then she would be below him, and his inferior.  Rather God creates the woman from the man’s rib bone for a special reason: to show that her proper place is at his side.  They are to go through life together as partners, and as equals.  That is God’s original intention.  God is an early supporter of women’s equal rights. 
            Second question:  Why does God create the woman?   Because it is not good for the man to be alone.  First God creates the “various wild animals and various birds of the air,” the aardvarks, and the giraffes, the buffalo and the coyotes, the rabbits and the snakes, … “but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.”    Undeterred, not discouraged, God tries again, this time creating the woman: at last the suitable partner for the man!
            Now notice that God creates the animals, and then the woman, because it is not good for the man to be alone.  Since woman had not yet been created in this story in Genesis, we could really say that it is not good for the human person to be alone.  And we all know that.  Everyone of us, at some time or another has experienced loneliness.  Anyone here NEVER been lonely?   Of course not. 
            Why is loneliness so universal?  It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, man or woman, black or white, extrovert or introvert, short or tall, liberal or conservative, Aggie or Longhorn fan, American or foreigner:  It is still true that it is not good for the human person to be alone.  Loneliness hurts.  People will put up with a lot to avoid it.  I remember in another state working on a marriage case of a woman in the parish, and the woman had nine previous marriages.  She had been in the military and went through marriages one right after another.  Most lasted less than a year.  And she knew, especially after about the third, that they were not going to work
out.  But she still kept marrying.   I asked her, “Why”.  Because, she said, she did not want to be alone.  
            Loneliness hurts.  Why is that????
Well the answer is simple.  It is because we were created in the image and likeness of God.  And God is always about relationship.  That is what “defines” God, the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Since the Trinitarian God is a relationship of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love between them – all one LOVE – and since we are created in God’s image, we naturally yearn and long to be in relationship.  We are not complete in our self.  And that is why it is not good for the man – or woman – to be alone. 
            Physically we need each other, emotionally and psychologically we need each other, and spiritually we need each other.  Sometimes other people are a pain, a bother, a nuisance, a difficulty.   But we still need each other.  As Barbara Streisand sang once upon a time long ago; “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”  We need each other.  We are not complete in ourselves.  We are created in the image of the Most Blessed Trinity. 
            Fortunately, we are all members of the Body of Christ, intimately linked by the Holy Spirit into one Body.  Further, our destiny is to be in relationship with God for all eternity.  We are not alone. 

Today, at St. Austin’s Parish, we have the opportunity to Affirm our Membership.  Membership is all about belonging and Belonging is important.   We do not have to face all alone a culture where the default option for values is consumerism.  We – you and I – are members of a community, a body, with a very different take on values.  We are a community of FAITH, with very different values than those of the world.  I ask you now to affirm that belonging, that membership.
            In your pews are folders with Affirmation of Membership Forms, and the updated Ministries brochure.  I ask each family or person to take out one of each.  At the top, under the banner it reads: “Thankful for God’s countless blessings, striving to be Christ in my world, I affirm my active participation – my discipleship – in the faith community of St. Austin’s Catholic Parish.” 
If you are willing to affirm that, and I hope you are, please sign it.  Sign it right now.   Please fill in the other information in the light blue section at top;  please print clearly, thanks.  And if your information below that has changed, please fill it out.   There is a special section for University Students, and possibility to update further info on the back.  After the Creed and Prayers of the Faithful we will make this affirmation together. 
When you are finished, please put the pen and in folders and return the folders to the pews for the next Mass.  Thank You.
            As we affirm our membership in St Austin’s Parish, we also affirm our relationship to one another as members of the Body of Christ.  We are not alone.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 7

This Thursday, October 11, marks the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (VCII). The Council, set in motion by Blessed Pope John XXIII, was concluded by Pope Paul VI. It was an important and historic event in the life of the Church. It brought over 2,500 bishops together from all over the world, over a period of three years, that resulted in renewed faith and energy in the Church. Why do we celebrate Mass in the vernacular? Why do we no longer have “extreme unction?”  Why does the priest face the congregation during Mass? Why do Catholics read their Bibles and now know the Bible almost as well as many Protestants? Why are there girl altar servers? Why do we now pray with, rather than against, other Christians? Why are there permanent deacons, lectors, lay Eucharistic ministers, etc? All this, and much more, because of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s vision to reach out to the world, to open the windows and let fresh air into the Church. All this because of VCII. So for the next three years we will be observing this wonderful anniversary.

This anniversary is also the occasion for Pope Benedict XVI to proclaim a “Year Of Faith.” Local observance of this begins with a prayer service at St. Mary’s Cathedral on the evening of October 10, and will continue through November 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King. It is a little longer than a calendar year, just for good measure. The Year of Faith, according to our Diocesan website, “will provide Catholics locally and throughout the world a precious opportunity to celebrate.” So the 50th Anniversary of VCII is not just a time for remembering, nostalgia or looking backwards, but a time to recommit ourselves to the vision of VCII, and implement it more deeply, thoroughly and effectively in our own lives; for all Catholics “to celebrate, deepen and share the spiritual richness of their Catholic faith.”

I was in sixth grade at Our Lady of Sorrows School in St. Louis, Missouri, when VCII began. It was all beyond me. As a child I did not pay much attention to the changes in church, but I knew something was going on, as my Dad went to many meetings trying to explain the changes, and I heard the adults talking about it. Later, in high school and then college, as the liturgical changes began taking place, I loved the guitars, bongos, tambourines and the insidious melodies that stuck in your brain for weeks, the clapping, hugging and the enthusiastic signs of peace that went on for ten minutes. There were felt banners everywhere, all with too many words. Recently, cleaning out some stuff from Frs. Bob Scott and Bob Michele in our rectory, I came across some old stoles that were obviously hand-made, tie-dyed, or with yarn peace symbols on them, horribly garish colors, knit and stitched. They brought back memories of those exciting days. It was a fun time to be in the Church. Since then, of course, my priesthood has been profoundly shaped by the results of VCII. I consider myself so blessed and fortunate to be a priest at such an exciting and challenging time.

We will be doing some special things this year here at St. Austin to properly observe this important anniversary, so watch the bulletin and our parish website for info. For more about the Year of Faith, go to the diocesan website, and click on the red and white Year of Faith logo in the bottom right corner of the page. We have come through a great deal since the opening of VCII, and we have pretty much survived and even prospered. So Happy Anniversary Church!  

God bless!