Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 30

Did you miss my column last week? Below is my column, slightly edited, for last week, June 23, which I had written but never sent, as I was on a silent retreat without internet access.
It is Summer time and things slow down here some at St. Austin, but they certainly do not completely stop. This coming Monday, June 24 a book discussion group begins at  7 p.m. … Everyone is welcome to this book group, and there is more information in this bulletin.
Also this Tuesday evening (June 25) the Diocese will again honor a parishioner from each parish with the annual “Lumen Gentium” award. According to a letter from Bishop Joe Vรกsquez dated March 30, 2013, “The Lumen Gentium Award is a way to recognize some of the “unsung heroes” of our parishes who provide good examples to others, invite others into Catholic stewardship and promote the Gospel message in their everyday lives.”
This year St. Austin’s pastoral staff nominated Mr Christopher Kennedy. The citation the parish staff wrote for him states:  Christopher Kennedy became a parishioner at St. Austin Catholic Parish as a University of Texas student in 1982. Over these 31 years, Christopher has been a very active participant in the life of the parish and has brought great energy and innovative approaches to his endeavors. With a servant leader’s heart he has chaired the Parish Pastoral Council, chaired the Planning and Development Committee, served as a Eucharistic minister, and has for many years and most recently chairs the Finance Council as the parish experiences  growth in numbers and in facilities. Christopher’s humble and wise leadership is a wonderful example of discipleship in our world today. His willing service gives great witness to God’s love and is a beacon of light to all.” He will receive his award at a Diocesan-wide gathering in Temple at the Mayborn Civic Center.
Picking a recipient for this honor each year has been a difficult task for our pastoral staff but not because we have so few people who are deserving of such an award. Rather, our difficulty has been quite the opposite. We are truly blessed with MANY wonderful, faithful and dedicated parishioners here. It is really difficult to pick someone among so many deserving and worthy parishioners. We agonize and argue over this for weeks!
Actually, this is a great problem to have. It is truly gratifying to me to see so many parishioners willing to take leadership roles and dive into work here. We are extraordinarily blessed as a community to have such talent and such generosity joined together. I do think we attract a higher caliber of parishioner here at St. Austin. But I may be slightly biased.
So as we honor Mr. Christopher Kennedy, we also remember this is an award for our entire parish community, and I for one want to THANK all who do so much around this place and do it so well. You are all “lights to the nations!” (lumen gentiums).  
And for this week, as we look forward to celebrating INDEPENDENCE DAY, we give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed on our country and re-dedicate ourselves to the preservation and extension of our precious liberties, especially our freedom to worship according to our conscience. Have a safe, relaxing and WONDERFUL Fourth of July!
God bless!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C June 23, 2013

          I want to talk with you this morning about probate, about wills and inheritance.   An inheritance is when someone dies and leaves you something.  Now imagine you have a rich aunt Gertrude.  She never had any children, but she was wise and made a lot of money speculating in commodities futures: oil, sugar, pork bellies, etc.  Because she had no children of her own she left all her money to her nieces and nephews, to be evenly divided among them.  
          As an aside, we all know she should have left a considerable sum to her parish.  Unfortunately she and her pastor had a liturgical parting of the ways over the nature of church music, and she didn’t.  But I digress.
          Now if you are the only niece or nephew, guess what?  You get the whole thing, ALL the money!   But if you are one of 27 nieces and nephews, then you only get one  27th of the pie, a much smaller amount.
          I mention this because in our second reading today St. Paul tells us about our spiritual family.   He is dealing with the question: “Whose your daddy, spiritually?”   St. Paul doesn’t need a paternity test, because he already knows who is our spiritual daddy or better, granddaddy.  It is Abraham, a gentleman who lived about 3,600 or so years ago.  A long time ago.  But in our second reading today St. Paul tells us that we are all – spiritually speaking – descendants of Abraham. 
          That is good, because it means that we are in the Will.  We inherit Abraham’s spiritual blessing.  Or as St. Paul puts it today, “heirs according to the promise.”    What do we inherit?  The promise of salvation in Jesus Christ.  We are saved by being joined to Jesus Christ.  That is the promise of the fullness of life.
          Now unlike the situation of inheriting aunt Gertrude’s money, where the more people there are inheriting then the less each one gets, this is totally different.   Since what we are inheriting is Christ, the more members there are of the Body of Christ, in a sense the bigger the inheritance, the bigger Christ is, and the MORE we receive.  The more people who are joined to the Body of Christ then the more family, the more brothers and sisters, we inherit.  It is totally the opposite of the human situation.  With God, the more He gives the more He has to give.
          And in today’s Second Reading Paul assures us of that.  He tells us:  “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.   For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ.”   
          And even more importantly, this is a real and important change because it makes all other distinctions and divisions unimportant. 
St Paul says There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”   

          It doesn’t matter if you are white or black or Asian, documented or undocumented, Republican or Democrat, gay or straight.   It even doesn’t matter if you are a Longhorn or an Aggie, or even a Sooner!  The only thing that is important, significant and that matters is that you belong to Christ.  Because as St. Paul tells us, if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant,” and then “heirs according to the promise.”  And that is very good news indeed.   AMEN.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 16

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads, Grandfathers, Godfathers and father figures! Your job is vitally important, today more so than ever. We NEED good Dads! Hang in there and keep up the good work. God bless you!

First a few words about trash. Several people have inquired about the large dumpster sitting on the blacktop. I wish I could tell you that it is there because of a major renovation of the grade school, but that is not the case. I wish I could tell you that it is there to facilitate a major purge of the trash and detritus that has accumulated for decades in all the hundreds of stairwells, closets, basements, nooks and crannies on this campus, but alas that is also not the case. However it is there because of the “build out” of the second floor retail space in our garage. The dumpster is too large to fit into the garage, and so it is easier to park it on the blacktop.

This build out is the finishing of empty retail space we had on the second floor of the MLK garage. We have leased it to “Hotel Ella,” formerly known as “The Mansion At Judge’s Hill,” just up the street from the garage. They will be using the new offices for their booking and support staff. We are delighted to have them as our tenant.

Finally I would like to talk about water. In the Gospel Jesus tells us, Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42). Well, we as a parish have taken that to heart and so have provided a fountain on the corner of 21st Street and Guadalupe for any thirsty people and their pets.  There is even a level for people in wheelchairs. 

This all came about because of an appeal (over a year ago!) from some of the outdoor merchants on the 23rd Street Mall to the Board of Directors of Micah 6. Their appeal was for water. More and more restaurants and businesses were denying access to water to street youth and others. There was only one easily available water source in the area, a spigot at the Congregational Church on 23rd Street. Bicycle police, street youth, and others all use that water source, and with the heat around here in the summer, another source of water was greatly needed. 

The Parish Pastoral Council supported the idea of adding a fountain. The Pastoral Staff endorsed the idea. This is putting our faith into action. My hope is that university students, people waiting at the bus stop, people walking down the street, bicycle police, street youth and any thirsty person will stop and get a drink of water. It may not be very cold, but it will be wet. 

Thanks to the generosity of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, we have been able to purchase the fountain. Thanks to the generosity of some parishioners, we have been able to afford installing and hooking up the fountain. We hope to do some sprucing up of the area and hope even to have a painting or mural on the wall behind the fountain. Given the presence across the street of the iconic Austin “Hi, How are you?” frog creature, this area calls out for some artistic response. 

If you have ideas about what should go up there I am open to suggestions. Several parishioners are already working on ideas. Nothing happens here very quickly, so it may take us a while to install. But the main thing is that thirsty people have another source to get a drink of water. I hope you will stop by and try it out yourself. 

God bless!



Monday, June 10, 2013

HOMILY Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C June 09, 2013

          In today’s readings we hear of two resuscitations of widow’s dead sons: one by Elijah, and one by Jesus.  Clearly there are similarities.  But there are also important differences.  Elijah intercedes for God to act.  It is rather dramatic:  Elijah called out to the LORD:  “O LORD, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying
by killing her son?”    Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times
and called out to the LORD:  “O LORD, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”   We are told simply: “The LORD heard the prayer of Elijah;”
          Jesus on the other hand does not call out to God.  Jesus acts on His own authority, as God.  He simply commands and it takes place.  We are told: “He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”      The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”
          In both these cases death is overcome, but only for a while.  These were temporary victories over death.  Both the son of the widow of Zarephath, and the son of the widow of Nain, would die again.  And so will we all.
          But the Lord Jesus is at work in our midst with even greater victories than these.  Jesus raises us from spiritual death, from sin and from leading a pointless, meaningless existence, to living gloriously as a member of His Body, doing His work on earth.  
          As St. Augustine of Hippo wrote long ago: “No Christian should doubt that even today the dead are being raised to life. Yet, while everyone has eyes capable of seeing the dead rise in the way the widow's son rose, as we have just heard in the gospel, the ability to see the spiritually dead arise is possessed only by those who have themselves experienced a spiritual resurrection.” 
          Right now, right here, the Risen Lord offers us greater life by dying to ourselves and coming to live for and in Him.  He frees us from the sin and selfishness that degrades us, and empowers us to live in dignity and glory as members of His Body: in service to others and in love of Him.  Through the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist Jesus raises us up, just as He raised up the son of the widow of Nain, to new life.  LIFE with purpose, with meaning, with dignity, with glory, with joy!  And we can see that happen here.  
 To continue to quote St. Augustine: “When the young man in the gospel was raised, his widowed mother rejoiced; when souls are daily raised from spiritual death, mother Church rejoices.”
          But that is not all.  What Jesus did in resuscitating the widow’s dead son is a pre-figurement, or a foreshadowing, a kind of hint and clue of what Jesus intends for all of us; which is not a mere resuscitation – as miraculous as that is – but something far more wonderful, far more enduring, far more miraculous: namely Resurrection from the dead. 
          Christ conquered death on Easter Sunday morning.  Now He yearns and longs to share that victory with all the members of His Body.  Joined to Him we too will be raised up to eternal LIFE

          Our hope in Jesus is VERY BIG; big as all eternity.  It is for nothing less than eternal life, resurrection life, in Him.  Alleluia!

Funeral homily for Karen Burman June 07, 2013

Homily for the funeral of Karen Burman                      June 07, 2013

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:  When Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.   Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Gospel of the Lord

We gather to remember Karen, bringing so many memories.   We also gather to grieve over the untimely and tragic loss of this woman who was in some ways bigger than life: with her floppy hats, her expressive, out-going personality, her walker that seemed to connect with everything in its vicinity.  And we gather to pray, in thanksgiving for her life, for the privilege of having known her.  And more, we pray that God will be merciful to her and welcome her into the presence of the Savior she so loved and honored, Jesus Christ.

Karen did not have an easy life.   She was beset by demons, voices, feelings and compulsions that troubled her.  But she always sought help.  Whenever we priests saw Karen coming we knew she would have a request.  But what she wanted was just a little of our time, and a hug, and a blessing – either for herself, or for some of her many religious articles, or for some combination of the two.  It was not a big request, but it helped her cope.  And while I was often in a hurry and felt a little inconvenienced, I also could not help but sense that spending a little time listening, and hugging, and blessing, made me better.  Karen had that effect.

In the Gospel for this funeral Mass Jesus teaches us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The poor in spirit are not the materially poor, though many of them are, but rather those who know their need of and dependence on God.  Karen certainly knew that.  She was aware, probably more than many of us, of just how utterly and totally dependant we are upon God’s grace.  In this she was blessed, Jesus tells us.  And now – according to His word - the Kingdom of heaven is hers. 

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” we are taught.  Karen mourned, burdened by her afflictions, beset by her demons.  We pray that now she is truly comforted by the Lord who promised her comfort.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”  Karen could come on strong, and did not let disappointments discourage her.  But she was also meek, in that she was always most accepting of the Lord’s Will for her.  Now she inherits the land.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, - Blessed are the merciful,  
- Blessed are the clean of heart, - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Karen lived these in one way or another.  Now, our faith tells us, she is truly a child of God.  Not by her doing, but by God’s free gift in Jesus Christ.  It is a gift offered to every one of us here.

Still we grieve.  Our hearts go out to her family, to her good friend and companion Stanley, to all who love and miss Karen.  Death remains a mystery we cannot explain away.  But we do come seeking peace.  Peace for Karen, peace for ourselves.  The peace that Jesus promised to give us.  

And we look forward to the day when we will be reunited with Karen, and all our departed loved ones, when there will be no more tears and no more goodbyes. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 9

School is out, Ordinary Time is back and Summer is here. I would like to remind you that while our schedule of activities here at St. Austin calms down somewhat in the Summer, this is still an active and busy place. You can keep up with all the events, activities and news by checking out our bulletin online weekly when you are away. No need to miss any of the exciting developments here at St. Austin, just visit or check us out on Facebook.

Last week I went to St. Louis for four days. While there I visited family. My Dad, who turns 92 later this month, is doing fine, though he finds balancing the competing claims of his three girlfriends something of a challenge. He is now off on a cruise of the Caribbean for a week. I also baptized a new grand-niece, Emily Ann, and that was delightful. I also attended the wedding of the daughter of friends of mine from when I was pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Clemson, SC. I was present at the bride’s First Communion and Confirmation years ago in South       Carolina, so it was nice to be at her wedding as well. It turns out the groom’s family is very prominent in the area, with a lot of political and business connections, so there were 150 or so people at the rehearsal dinner (not the reception, the rehearsal dinner!) which took place at a fancy country club in St. Louis County. We were drinking and eating hors d’oeuvres and    wondering when the buffet would finally open when the staff of the country club announced that a tornado had been sighted in the area and we were under a tornado threat. For our own safety they herded us all into the safest place in the country club, which was the ladies’ locker room. I had the presence of mind to bring my glass of wine with me, and so I sat, sipping wine and chatting with other guests, all in the ladies’ locker room. That was, I am happy to report, a novel experience! After 25 minutes the all clear sounded, and we were able to go back      upstairs to the waiting buffet.

I want to point out that on Tuesday of this week we celebrate the Feast of St. Barnabas. He is a significant saint to the Paulists because it was St. Barnabas who got St. Paul started in the missionary business. When the Apostles were all afraid of Paul because of his reputation for persecuting Christians, it was Barnabas who introduced Paul to the Apostles (9:26-7). Later, Barnabas went to Tarsus, Paul’s home town, and brought him to Antioch, where non-Jews were beginning to convert to the way of Christ. It was Barnabas who acted as guide and mentor to St. Paul when he first started out (see Acts 11:22-26). Paul soon surpassed Barnabas and became the main speaker and head of the mission. But Paul was not always an easy person to get along with, as people driven by a vision can sometimes be. Several missionaries found it difficult to work with Paul and eventually even Barnabas, who was “a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts11:24), could take Paul’s single-mindedness (or stubbornness) no longer and separated from him (Acts 1:36-41). Saints are sometimes not easy to get along with.

Still, Barnabas is an important part of the early missionary effort of the Church and an important part of the story of St. Paul. So I wish you all a happy St. Barnabas Day on Tuesday!

God bless!



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, June 2

Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Happy Feast Day!

Since I came to St. Austin nearly three years ago I have often wondered what could be done to clean and beautify the exterior of the church and rectory, specifically to the dark, mottled patches on the exterior limestone. And many others have asked about or commented on the gray and unappealing nature of the church. In addition, you can see several places where chunks of stone have broken loose and fallen to the ground. Occasionally you can find such pieces of the exterior laying on the ground around the base of the church.

There was concern that attempts to clean the exterior of the church might exacerbate the problem of pieces falling onto the ground and that our new state may be worse than the first.

St. Austin Catholic Church
Photographed by Jean-Gil Gutierrez
After I had written in this column (March 03, 2013) about my desire to make the church more noticeable and attractive at Christmas with some kind of holiday light display, I discussed this idea with some of our parishioners. Eventually the perennial topic of the less-than-attractive-appearance of the exterior came up. One of our parishioners knew an architect who is a specialist in stone and masonry, and he asked her to come and take a look at the church.

She did. And she did not like what she saw. There is indeed a problem with the grey and black discoloration on the church exterior, which she identified as “biological growth”  (consultant speak for mold and mildew). That is why it is worse on the North and East faces of the church than on the South and West sides, which receive more sun and dry out better. But she was more concerned about the cracks and the bits that have been falling out of the exterior for some years. This is not just a cosmetic problem but a serious structural problem. And that of course means money.

Ultimately, she pulled a team together and proposed to us a study to figure out what is really going on and what can be done to repair the damage, prevent further damage, and make the outside clean and attractive.

The week before last, the Parish Property Committee met with the architect, studied the proposal for a study, and ultimately agreed to proceed with it. The study will be done by Kincannon Studios of Austin, with Holly Kincannon, AIA, as the Principal Architect. Kincannon Studios also worked on the exterior    masonry of St. Mary’s Cathedral on Tenth Street. That firm will be assisted by two others, the engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. and the construction firm of Mid-Continental Restoration Co., Inc.

The total cost of this study is $26,706.50. Since this is not just about appearance but about safety, the Property Committee determined that we should go ahead as quickly as possible. From this study we should be able to determine exactly what is happening, what the current condition is (that is, just how bad is it), what options we have to repair the situation and a phased plan for repair, since we may not be able to swallow the whole cost of repair all at once.

So if you see scaffolding around the church or netting hanging on the exterior walls of the church, workmen busy on the exterior walls, or test patches for cleaning, you will know it is part of this study.

This September will mark the 60th year since the dedication of our church building. It is not wearing the years very well I am afraid Your prayers for the Property Committee and myself as we go forward are much appreciated.

God bless!