Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 28

Today, July 28, marks the 32nd anniversary of the murder (many of us would say the martyrdom) of Fr. Stanely Rother. I would like to tell you a little about him.

Born and raised in Okarche, OK (about 30 miles northwest of Oklahoma City), Fr. Rother was ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City on May 25, 1963. During Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII asked U.S. dioceses (which at that time had good numbers of priests) to send priests and sisters to work in South and Central America. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma opened a mission in Guatemala. Fr. Stanley volunteered and was assigned to the church at Santiago, Atitlán. It is a beautiful spot, with a lake at the foot of an imposing volcano; very picturesque. The church is huge and over 400 years old. The native people in the area are of the Tzu’tujil tribe. Fr. Stanely fell in love with the place and even more with the people.

Raised as a farmer, Fr. Stanely was used to hard work. He endeared himself to the people by working with them in the fields. He taught them better farming techniques. He learned their native language. He translated the New Testament into the local Tzu’tujil language and conducted Mass in their language. He was deeply respected by the people, and the local confraternity (a men’s social and religious society) made him an honorary member. Fr. Stanley proudly wore the insignia of the group, a multi-colored short shawl. He founded a hospital and worked to better the lives of his people. He was truly a wonderful pastor.

But this was a time of great trouble and violence in Guatemala. Communist-inspired guerrillas were fighting against the government, which was run by and for wealthy oligarchs. The government used the military (largely supplied and paid for by the U.S. Government) to brutally crush the insurrection. The peasants were caught in the middle, and the army abused and often massacred the peasants. Death squads kidnapped people whose tortured bodies were later found on roads and public squares. It was all designed to control the populace through terror. Any who worked with the poor to better their condition was seen as a revolutionary and an enemy. And eventually that included all Catholic priests, nuns, catechists and any church worker.

By 1974 all the other priests from Oklahoma had left, but Fr. Stanley stayed on. Eventually he learned that he was on the death squad’s hit list. Reluctantly, he left Guatemala to return to his family farm near Okarche, OK, but he was not happy. He knew how his beloved people were suffering, and he longed to be with them. Finally he told his brother (who argued long and hard with him not to return), “the shepherd cannot run.” He returned to Santiago Atitlán, knowing he was signing his own death warrant.

Every night he slept in a different room of the rectory to make it more difficult for the death squad to take him by surprise. On the night of July 28, 1981, five men dressed in black came to the house for him. They forced a seminarian who was staying there to show them where Fr. Stanley was. The seminarian called out, alerting Fr. Rother. A big and brawny Oklahoman, Fr. Rother put up quite a fight. He knew that if he was taken away he would be horribly tortured. He shouted “you will have to kill me here.” Finally his assailants pinned him to the ground and put a bullet through his head. They left his lifeless body there. Later, the bullet that killed Fr. Rother was dug out of the floor. It was a special military type manufactured only in the U.S. Our tax dollars undoubtedly paid for it.

Because he so loved the people of Santiago Atitlán, his family consented to have his heart buried in the church there. The rest of Fr. Rother’s body is buried in his home parish’s cemetery in Okarchee. I have had the great spiritual privilege of visiting the shrine to him at the church in Santiago, Atitlán in January 2012 and just a few weeks ago visiting the beautiful church and cemetery where he is buried in Okarche, OK.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma is promoting Fr. Stanley Rother’s canonization as a martyr. Truly he is.

You can learn more about his story and watch a nice video  interview with his brother and his sister, a nun, at:

Please pray for the canonization of Fr. Stanley Rother.

God bless!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

HOMILY 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C July 21, 2013

          I have learned, the hard way, that today’s Gospel about Martha and Mary is not appreciated by many giving and talented women.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Often I have tried to address that feeling.  But this year I want to address our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  This seems a rather dense piece of Scripture to tackle on a warm July Sunday, but here goes.
          St Paul makes a rather dramatic, indeed shocking, statement: “now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ...”  
          First of all Paul sounds masochistic: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,” And in the second place he sounds heretical: “I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ...”  What could possibly be lacking in the redemptive work of Christ?   Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the once and for all, complete and definitive act of salvation.  
          So, Paul’s statement is bold, to put it mildly.  What was Paul smoking?  Well, I think we are into some rather deep aspects of our incorporation into Christ - our being part of the Body of Christ.
          St Paul was familiar with suffering: especially suffering that came from preaching the Gospel.  In the second letter to the Corinthians Paul gives us a list of some his sufferings: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.  And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  2 Cor 11:24 ff
          How was St. Paul able to bear all this?  Did he just grin and bear it?  Just suck it up and deal with it?  Just get through it as best he could, and hang tough till it was over? 
          I don’t think so.  Paul has a much deeper appreciation of his sufferings.  He even can state: “now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,”   We need to pay attention to the language.  Notice Paul does not say he “enjoys” his sufferings.  That would be sick.  But rather he “rejoices” in them.  Because even though they are painful, and frustrating, and discouraging, and difficult to bear, and they hurt, still St Paul sees great value in his sufferings for the sake of preaching the Gospel.
          St. Paul, in this letter to the Colossians, today’s reading, is not so much doing systematic theology as he is doing spiritual direction.  He is giving the Colossians, and to us, the example of his own life in order to teach us.  Because every one of us, like St. Paul, has to face suffering for the sake of the Gospel.  In the chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus bluntly tells us: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  (Lk 9:25)
          Have you taken up your cross yet today?  Maybe your cross was squelching the cutting word or the racist comment.  Maybe it was forgiving the person who cut you off in traffic.  Maybe it was speaking the unpleasant truth that needed to be said.  Maybe taking up your cross was an act of generosity that grated on your natural selfishness but you did it anyway.  Maybe it was that very difficult sacrifice of moving to the center of the pew so that those lesser Christians, the latecomers, could easily find a seat.  
          The Lord tells us that EVERY DAY we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  And crosses hurt.  They are hard. 
          How do we handle that?  Do we just suck it up and deal with it?  Endure it as best we can?  Or do we - like St Paul - find deep value and meaning in our suffering?
          St. Paul tells us that: “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,”     This is a difficult statement.  Christ has already and fully achieved the redemption of the world.  And yet St. Paul clearly sees that he, and we, are members of the Body of Christ.  What happens to us also happens to Christ in a way.  Therefore we are invited - and are able - to enter into Christ’s redemptive work. 
Jesus has provided a new meaning for suffering by giving it redemptive power.  By His grace we are able to unite our pains and sufferings to Christ’s redemptive passion. 
          This is deep and rather dangerous stuff.  It has been misused many times in the course of history.  It is not that suffering is a good thing that should be sought in itself.  Nor can we ever permit the suffering of others because it would be good for their redemption. 
          These approaches are perversions of this truth.  Suffering always remains an evil that we must battle against.  Jesus went about healing the sick, feeding the hungry and relieving suffering.              
          Rather this teaching of the redemptive quality of suffering is a deep understanding that in this sinful world, to live the Word of God, and to preach the Gospel both by the example of our lives and by our words, will generate opposition, resistance, ridicule: in short, suffering, as well as go against our natural sinful inclinations. 
          But this suffering, and indeed any pain and disappointment, born with the attitude of Christ:    that is, an attitude of not hurting back, of not seeking revenge, of not trying to push it off on someone else by becoming grumpy, irritable and angry, of not giving up in despair, but rather bearing suffering in trust of God’s Love for us;  suffering born this way is HEALING.   Somehow it heals the estrangement between us and our neighbors and God.  It is redemptive
          Every one of us, as a member of the Body of Christ, has the privilege of participating in Christ’s redemptive work.  We bear suffering in Christ and in so doing we bring God’s love closer to the world. 
          To “bear” also means to give birth.  From suffering “born” in this way a new way of life is “born”:  beyond revenge, beyond violence, beyond despair.   And for this Paul rejoices.  “now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,   and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ...”  
          We must do the same.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 21

On Tuesday, July 9, through Friday, July 12, I had the privilege of attending a conference for pastors of Catholic parochial schools. The conference was held at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. It was sponsored by the Alliance for Catholic Education (better known as ACE) and Notre Dame University. The Diocese of Austin invited me to go and offered to pay my way. Although I have been pastor of several parishes in different parts of the country (Clemson, SC; New York City; San Francisco, CA), I have never before been pastor of a parish with a school, so I agreed to go, and I am glad I did.

There were 110 pastors attending representing 47 different dioceses in the country. The only other priest from our diocese was Fr. John Guzaldo, pastor of St. Louis Church in Waco. It was a very nice group of guys.

Notre Dame is a very pretty campus, though I found it confusing to negotiate. I was surprised by how many people were on the campus. ND has a plethora of summer programs: for principals, teachers, school superintendants, athletes, and a “Summer Scholars” program for exceptional high-school students from all across the country. We all ate together and, at one lunch I sat next to a high school student from Singapore. He was at ND for two weeks for the Sumer Scholars program and then going back to high school in Singapore. So there were participants from all over the world.

The program I was attending was well done. We had an opening presentation from Bishop John Barres of Allentown, PA. He is one of the many bishops now who are younger than me, something I still find hard to get used to. He has his MBA in Management from NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. He spoke to us about the Diocese of Allentown marketing plan and their business plan for diocesan schools. He told us “Our mission is Catholic. Our business is education.” He presented some “out-of-the-box” ideas about fund raising and tuition that I will share with our St. Austin School Advisory Board.

Other presentations included the Pastor as Spiritual Leader of the School, the School as a Ministry of the Parish, of course several on financing and tuition, the Pastor-Principal Relationship (presented by a pastor and principal team), and a very interesting presentation on tax credits, vouchers and what is happening nationally. Out of these I got several practical suggestions and some ideas to consider.

Of course there was plenty of time for socials and relaxing. A lot of the benefit was just pastors sharing with each other their successes and failures. On the final evening we had a lovely outdoor Mass at the Grotto, a replica of the cave where Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to Bernadette. The ACE teachers joined us, and those graduating were honored.

It was a worthwhile four days and a good experience. I hope I can do a better job as pastor of a Catholic school.

God bless!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

HOMILY 15th Sunday Cycle C July 13/14, 2013

Our Gospel today is pretty clear.  A lawyer, a scholar of the law, asks Jesus Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”    Jesus puts it back on him.  Being a good Jew he gets it right on the first try: 
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being,
with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
He nailed it on the first try.   He should have stopped while he was ahead.  But being a lawyer he couldn’t let it go.  “Who is my neighbor?”   It is a perfect setup, and Jesus tells him a story and then asks, who was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”   
The lawyer, a little more hesitantly this time perhaps, gets it right again:  “The one who treated him with mercy.”    Then comes the clincher:   “Go and do likewise.”
          GoDo.  These are action words.  You want eternal life?  For Jesus it is not primarily about what you believe, about how you pray, about where you go to church.  For Jesus it is about action.   “Go and do likewise.”
          You see, action is the tough part.  It is (at least sometimes) easy to see what needs to be done.  It is difficult to do it.  But if you want eternal life, if you want to be part of the followers of Jesus, then you have to get off your hindquarters and go and do likewise.
          It is not enough to see the problem and understand the solution, and then stop there.  Thomas Edison said “Inspiration without execution is hallucination.”  St. James in his Epistle said “Faith without works is dead.” (2:26)   Jesus said “Go and do likewise.”
          You have to do it.  You have to feed the hungry.  Maybe that means you volunteer at the Micah 6 Foodbank in our area.  Maybe that means you also donate money to St. Vincent de Paul or other groups that feed the poor.  It certainly means that you exercise your responsibility as a citizen to support programs that feed the poor.  Last week the United States House of Representatives passed a farm bill that totally, completely, entirely eliminated Food Stamps.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called SNAP, (or Food Stamps) was not reduced, was not controlled, was not restricted.  For the first time in 40 years it was eliminated.  The elderly, the sick, children, will go hungry.  We, you and I, have to let our Representatives know that this is unacceptable in this country of plenty.
          “Go and do likewise.”   You have to care for the person in need and welcome the stranger.  Maybe that means you help an elderly neighbor by grocery shopping for him or her.  Maybe you donate to the Thursday outreach program here at St. Austin’s through the monthly Persons in Need collection that will be taken up today.  It certainly means that you work for Justice, especially for those without power:  the poor, the sick, the immigrant. 
          Our country needs – in justice – to enact comprehensive immigration reform that will respect people’s dignity, that will keep families together, that will provide a path to citizenship for those who have been here for years and worked hard to build up our country for years, and that will will protect our borders from criminal and disruptive elements.
          Recently – on July 8 in fact - Pope Francis went to the town of Lampedusa in Sicily.  Near there immigrants fleeing Africa had drowned.  Pope Francis went there to pray.   He said: “When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart. So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated.  Please, let it not be repeated!”   And we all know that immigrants coming into our country often die of thirst and exposure, trying to cross the most inhospitable desert places in our State.
          Later in that same homily last Monday Pope Francis said: Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: "poor soul…!", and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”
          Yet the Gospel today shows us that it is our business.  Jesus commands us, “Go and do likewise.”  It is not complicated.  If you go to you will find the US Catholic Bishops website on immigration.  They make it very easy for you to send an electronic postcard to your Senator and Representatives, calling for comprehensive immigration reform.  Go and do it.
          What must we do to inherit everlasting life?   “Go and do likewise.”

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 14

Last November at St Austin City Lights people very generously donated about $46,000 in the “paddles up” fund-raising effort for the purpose of constructing a shade structure over a portion of the St. Austin blacktop. I want to tell you what has happened since then.

First a committee of school parents sought basic information on shade structures and then solicited bids for our situation. Forming the committee and seeking the bids took some time. Several different companies were contacted and eventually three bids came in. At that point I joined the committee and we selected the one we wanted on May 15. Of course the cost on this thing came back much greater than we had supposed, more than doubled. Building a structure that not only provides shade but will stand up to winds and the sun involves more than we had originally realized. And the one we wanted, which looks the best and would work best with the traffic flow on the blacktop for pick-up and drop-off of students, came in at $102,000, which was well over our budget. Since this shade structure will also be used for St Austin Parish events, I decided – after consultation with the Finance Council – that the cost would be split 50/50 between St Austin Parish and St. Austin School. And so on June 4, I signed the contract. Our hope was that we would have the shade structure constructed and in place by the beginning of the next school year on Monday, August 19.

What I had not realized is that I do not have authority to sign contracts over $50,000. Only the Bishop can do that. So we then submitted the contract to the Diocese for the Bishop’s signature. The Diocese looked at the contract and required that the vendor carry Builder’s Risk insurance up to $1,000,000 and also be bonded. The vendor we were contracting with did not have this level of insurance, nor was the vender bonded, and to add these two components would add another $5,400 to the contract.

We proposed to the Diocese that we drop the requirement for bonding and so save the parish about $3,800, but that proposal went nowhere. But the Bishop did sign the contract. So we sent the amended contract to the vendor for signature. At this point the vendor got hesitant about taking on this risk and liability and insisted instead that we sign the contract with the manufacturer, a much larger business entity who carries this sort of risk, rather than with him, the local vendor. The contract, so amended, went back to the Diocese again to sign, this time with the manufacturer rather than the vendor. At long last and after multiple trips back and forth the final contract has been signed and approved by all parties for a total of $110,801. My compliments to the committee of school parents chaired by Brian Estes, the Parish Properties Committee, and to our indefatigable Business Administrator Rick Gerber, for staying on this and bringing it to completion. Whew!

In addition to the contract cost there will be a few thousand more for adding electrical outlets and power to the shade structure. If you want to get an idea of the type of thing we are talking about, go to the website of the manufacturer and there are some very pretty pictures. We are getting a “sail” type structure. Go to

So it remains to be seen if the shade structure will be finished in time for the opening of the school year or not. In any case, given the effort and the cost, I hope we get a lot of wonderful use out of it! Everything takes longer to get done that it seems it should.

For months I noticed that on the corner of Lavaca and MLK a stairway to the AT&T Executive Conference Center that had been damaged (perhaps by a car not turning on MLK but going straight up Lavaca and plowing into it?) sat forlornly with police barricades and yellow tape around it. This sight made me very happy. For if the AT&T Executive Conference Center, with all its available resources (i.e. money) and all its business acumen (certainly much greater than ours) was taking so long to get the steps repaired (hardly rocket science) then I did not feel so bad about our taking so long to get the shade structure on the blacktop built. Misery loves company!

God bless!


Monday, July 8, 2013

HOMILY 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle “C” July 7, 2013

Today’s Gospel contains one of my favorite Gospel injunctions, or at least one of the few commandments of the Lord I have observed scrupulously: “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you.”  I have no trouble keeping this commandment, unfortunately.
Anyway, today in the Gospel Jesus tells us “Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions...”   Hmmmmm.   Well, we certainly have serpents and scorpions here in Texas.  Usually we try to NOT tread on them.  Sometimes they walk on two legs.  Fortunately we mostly have ants and crickets.   
However, let me assure you that Jesus is not playing the divine Orkin Man here.  This is not about controlling varmints and pests.  Obviously Jesus is using this language in a poetic way to talk about evils, about “demons”.  Two sentences before this reference to serpents and scorpions, the 72 returning missionaries declare, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”  Jesus is talking about power over demons. 
The word “demon” has the connotation of something spooky and weird, something dramatic and fantastic, like the movie “The Exorcist”.  Evil can be dramatic and unusual, but most of the demons we confront are all too common, very ordinary, indeed boringly banal.
But they are still demons: like that inability to keep my mouth shut when I want to speak a cutting, hurtful, put-down word.  Or the envy that seeps into our hearts and spoils the enjoyment of our blessings by continually comparing ourselves with others.     Or the demon of holding on to past hurts and grudges, continually chewing on them over and over again so that our life gets blocked in some unresolved spot that we can’t get passed.    Or the demon of lust that keeps tricking us into viewing pornography on the internet, thinking we are somehow going to find satisfaction and pleasure, when over and over again it just leaves us feeling empty and dirty.   Or the demon that tells us we are no good, that we don’t deserve anything good, and keeps fooling us into acting in self-destructive ways.    Or the demons of pride, or alcoholism, or gambling addiction, or hatred, or racial prejudice, or arrogance, or greed and selfishness, or the coldness of heart that prevents us from feeling compassion and acting in solidarity with those in need.    And there are many, many other such mundane and common demons that we discover - not far away - but deep inside us. 
The Gospel today is a message of great hope: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”  This means that these demons that haunt us and degrade us, and which we are so often too weak to control and stop; these demons are no match for the power of the name of Jesus Christ. 
This is Good News, for we long to be our better selves: to exorcize the bitterness and lies, the carping and the caustic comment, the impatience and the lust, the self-pity and the self-righteousness, the greed and selfishness, and all the other demons that beset us.  When we admit our need, and turn to the Lord, and call upon Him to liberate us and set us free, He responds as in today’s Gospel: “Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions...”    The Lord gives us the power to crush the demons that inhabit our hearts, so as to live freely as the beloved children of God.
And Jesus goes further.  For there are bigger demons that live, not in us as individuals, but in us as a community: demons like war, pollution, systems of abuse and exploitation, class conflict and racial hatreds, all forms of discrimination and injustice.  Even these are subject to the power of Jesus.  He assures us, “Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy    And nothing will harm you.” 
The “full force of the enemy” is indeed very powerful: we’re talking Aushwitz, or Gulags, or slavery, or genocide, or the 9/11 terrorism attacks, or Abu Graib, or abortion or the destruction of the environment.  Even these horrors are ultimately subject to the power of Jesus’ name. 
All the old power of evil is conquered by the power of Jesus Christ.  We are set free to live a new way: of solidarity, of concern and compassion, of service, of love.   We are still hurt, no doubt about it, just as Jesus hurt on the cross.  But ultimately we can live as the children of God, in integrity and in love, and nothing will be able to keep us from our destiny.
We see this conquering power of Christ in today’s second reading.  St. Paul says: “For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.”                                   In the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, the old barrier of circumcision, the mark of the Covenant given by God to Abraham, that separated God’s chosen people the Jews from all other peoples, the Gentiles, even that ancient barrier is broken down and conquered.  That division is removed in Christ.
Further, circumcision, which in the Bible always means male circumcision, that is, the cutting off of the flap of skin at the end of the penis, was also a division between men and women.  Because, obviously, only men could be circumcised.  Only men could participate in the sign of the old covenant.  Women could only enter into the covenant through a man, either as some circumcised man’s daughter or as some circumcised man’s wife. 
But now that does not matter.  The only thing that matters is being a new creation in Christ.  And that is why Paul earlier in this same letter to the Galatians proclaimed: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28).   Those ancient differences – so important still in the secular world - no longer matter in Christ.  They are overcome.
In this week when we as a nation celebrate our political independence and liberty, the Scriptures speak to us about a much deeper and greater liberation - not from foreign monarchy - but from something far more sinister and evil and much closer to us: from the demons that dwell inside our hearts. 
“Behold,” Jesus exclaims.  “I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy, and nothing will harm you.”  In this deeper and more profound sense, every Sunday is Independence Day, a celebration of freedom from sin!   

Happy Independence Day!   AMEN.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 7

It is Summer, and things around the parish slow down. I wish to take this opportunity to again write about the windows in the church. Having examined all the windows on the sides of the church, I now turn to the window in the Mary Chapel, to the left of the main altar as you face the altar from the pews.

As appropriate for the Mary chapel, the window shows the Holy Spirit (again a white dove) and Mary. On my first viewing I thought the window depicted Mary as a young girl with her mother, St. Anne. This would make it a rather touching scene of family life in the story of Mary, implying that from her youngest years she was always open to God’s grace (the Holy Spirit) and directed to doing God’s will.

However, on further viewing and reflection I have begun to wonder if the rather androgynous child figure is not meant to be Mary but rather Jesus as a young boy, and hence the older woman is the Blessed Virgin Mary, not St. Anne. And so it represents domestic life in the history of Jesus. Either interpretation works for the location in the Mary Chapel, and I leave it to your religious imagination to decide which is the more appropriate.

This window was “Given in loving memory of Gregory George Shia, 1964-1973,” so it was donated in memory of a person who died as a child.

Also visible in the small room off of the Sanctuary between the altar and the sacristy, where there are rows of pews, is a window representing a crown and a red cross. I understand that this room was originally constructed to hold the choir, though that seems strange since we also have a functioning choir loft. If any of you know the original intent of this space, I would like to know. A plaque in this area states, “This Prayer Room is given in Memory of Anthony R Ferris and Carmen Kazen    Ferris by their son, Anthony Curly Ferris.”

If you go into the Sacristy there are two more windows, one showing another depiction of the Holy Spirit as a white dove and the other of a chalice and host. These windows refer to the Kingship and the Priesthood of Christ. Between the windows in the sacristy is a rather unusual Crucifix which depicts Jesus in full priestly vestments as the priest wore them prior to Vatican Council II.  He also wears a crown and hence is depicted on the Cross as on His altar and throne, as Priest and King. His expression is impassive; at best serene.

The small cloth hanging from his left arm is known as a “maniple.” It is not entirely clear what is the origin of the maniple, but according to Wikipedia, “the maniple was likely a piece of linen which clerics used to wipe their faces and hands and has been described by some modern commentators as being akin to a handkerchief.” 

Since this cloth had no real purpose it accumulated a great variety of symbolic meanings. According to St. Alphonsus   Ligori, “It is well known that the maniple was for the purpose of wiping away the tears that flowed from the eyes of the priest; for in former times priests wept continually during the celebration of Mass.”

While the devotion of such priests is truly admirable, I am rather happy myself that the custom of the priest bawling during the celebration of the Mass has fallen into disuse. It seems to take away from the sense of the Eucharist as a celebration. In any case, in 1967 the Vatican’s Sacred          Congregation of Rites discontinued the use of the maniple. I have never worn one. 

God bless!

Monday, July 1, 2013

HOMILY 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C June 30, 2013

          Soon we will be celebrating Independence Day, July 4.  In addition to fireworks and patriotic music, we will hear a lot of talk about freedom.  We also hear from St. Paul in our second reading today about freedom.  The United States Bishops have declared this time a second Fortnight of Freedom.  So let’s talk about freedom.
          St Paul’s understanding of freedom, and the freedom that we celebrate on July 4, have much in common but they are not exactly the same.  And it is important to understand the difference.
          The freedom we will celebrate on Independence Day is primarily that: independence from some other controlling power.  Freedom is defined in a negative way as “freedom from”.   In this case freedom from the rule of the British monarch.  Freedom from oppression and constraint is a very good thing, and is something to celebrate.
          But for St. Paul freedom is not so much about freedom from some restraint as it is the freedom to be able to do something important and necessary, that is, the freedom to live as children of God.
          We were created by God in a certain way, according to a certain plan, with a specific goal and purpose.  To not live in this way is to fundamentally frustrate our deepest nature and being.  It is to live falsely.  It is to live in slavery.  Only by living in accord with our fundamental nature can we become who we were created to be, most truly be ourselves, and so truly be free.
          The “freedom” so called to go against who we are called to be, the “freedom” so called to do wrong, the “freedom” so called to sin, and so violate our deepest nature and yearning, is to St Paul no freedom at all.  Rather it is slavery. 
          For example:  In the Gospel today the Apostles James and John want to use their freedom as Apostles to call down fire from heaven to punish those who disagree with them.  James and John would be at home in the current US Congress.  
          But Jesus does not permit it.  It is a misuse of freedom.  Jesus instead rebukes James and John, “and they journeyed to another village.”
        To be truly free means to have the ability to live as we were created to live: as children of God, in peace, joy, patience, and above all in love.  Only living in this way are we truly who we are and so truly free.  St Paul tells us today:  For freedom Christ set us free;   so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
          Sisters and brothers, Christ set us free from the slavery of sin, from the slavery of doing what demeans us, from what harms us and our brothers and sisters, from what takes us away from the source of all life, all good, all beauty, all love, from God. 
          In Christ we are set free and empowered to live lives that are dignified, authentic, worthwhile, that have meaning and purpose, that are loving.  That is to be truly free.  This is Freedom for the fullness of life.  

For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.   AMEN.