Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 27

This week, on Nov. 1 we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. On Saturday, Nov. 2, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls. Friday we ask the saints, both the canonized, “official” saints and all the holy men and women in whom God’s grace has been victorious - which is the great majority of saints!!! - to pray for us. On Saturday we in turn pray for all the faithful departed.

All of us are connected in a great, interlocking network of care and concern, expressed in prayer. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s inner life of love, we are connected to each other as members of the Body of Christ. Since the Holy Spirit is stronger than death, all the cords of care and affection that knit us together in life do not cease with death. Through Christ we are still mystically, though really, connected with all those who have gone before us “marked with the sign of faith.” How this takes place is something we cannot now explain, but we believe that we still have a connection of mutual support that endures even the chasm of death.

The Christian doctrine of the “Communion of Saints” is all about solidarity; solidarity in the struggle for salvation, in the ultimate victory of good over evil, of life over death, of love over hate. We support, encourage, instruct and stand in solidarity with each other. Our celebrations of All Saints and All Souls are concrete examples of that solidarity in Christ. So take a few minutes to think about the saints you have known in your life: maybe a grandparent who had a rich life of faith, a coworker who always had an inner source of joy, or a teacher or coach who was unfailingly kind and fair. Be sure to ask for their help in prayer on All Saints Day. And who do you in particular wish to remember, support, and pray for on All Souls Day? We have a Book of Remembrance at Our Lady’s Altar in which you can inscribe their names. Expressing your prayer and concern for them in prayer will bless both you and them.

May our celebrations this week bring us hope and encouragement.

God bless!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

HOMILY 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C St Austin, Austin, TX 10/20/2013

          In our first reading Moses instructs Josua: “Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."
I happen to have here an in-exact replica of the Staff of God that Moses used, the same staff that Moses held out over the Red Sea in order to part the sea in two and that Moses used to ensure victory in today’s reading.  Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, with Charlton Heston playing Moses. 
          Anyway Josua goes and does as he is told, engaging the horrible and dreaded Amalek in battle.  Moses goes up to the top of the hill, with the staff of God, and raises up his hands, presumably holding out the staff, like at the Red Sea.  (Hold out staff.)
          Now admittedly I am not in very good shape.  None-the-less, this is not easy to do for very long.  If you don’t believe me, try it.   In any case our reading tells us: “Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;”   I bet they did.  But Moses couldn’t let his hands down to rest, because when he did Amalek started winning.  Only when Moses had his hands raised with the staff did Joshua win.  I can picture poor old Moses, standing up there, holding out his hands with the staff, saying to himself, “Oh Josua, come on, get with it, hurry up!”  But the battle was dragging on. (put down staff)
          What was poor old Moses to do?  He could not keep his aching arms up on his own, and he could not put them down to rest lest Josua be defeated and the Israelites be massacred.  So what did he do?   Moses relied on other people.  He did not rely on his own strength, but accepted the help of others.
          The reading states:  “they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
          That was a long time.  Moses could never have done it on his own.  He had to rely on the help of others.  But it did the trick:  “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”   Gory but effective.
          Now hopefully you don’t want to mow down some other tribal leader and his people, or anything as bloody as that.  But if you are human then you do have some things you need and deeply desire:  health and protection for your family,  especially your children.  Wisdom and guidance in some difficult ethical situation.  Strength to tell the truth in the face of opposition and the courage to do what is right.  Assistance to be able to use your talents to better yourself and support your family.  Patience to bear an illness or to deal with difficult people.  Guidance to find a life partner, significant career decisions, or direction in life.  And many other needs and basic desires.  And so we have to pray. 
          Jesus in the Gospel tells us a parable that teaches us to be persistent in prayer.  The Gospel begins: “Jesus told his disciples” – that is you and me – “a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary
          That is hard.  It is difficult to pray always without becoming weary.  Just try it.  Being humans we get tired of asking, we get discouraged, we become impatient, we become disappointed, in short we become weary.  We don’t have to physically hold up that staff, but praying always is still work, it still takes effort, and we still get weary.   We pray and pray and pray and nothing happens.  We get weary and disappointed and then we give up.   Then old Amalek wins.   YUCK!
          What should we do?  I think we should take a leaf from Moses’ playbook.  We need to get other people to help us to pray.  We need to rely on other people.  Like Moses, get someone to put a rock for you to sit on.   This is not a physical rock.  I think this is rather someone’s strong, rocklike faith.  When we are in the presence of someone of strong faith it is a comfort.  We sort of lean against their faith, that allows us to rest, to relax, to find comfort.  Just as the rock was not bothered or harmed by Moses’ resting on it, so their faith supports us without harming or weakening them in any way. 
          I remember in another diocese where I was first pastor we had a Dean – a priest who is the local representative of the Bishop who was far away in another part of the state.  And this Dean was a very unpleasant and difficult man, a regular Amalek.  He was a Monsignor, you see.  Anyway we were celebrating Confirmation at the parish and the Monsignor showed up just before the ceremony and wanted to change everything around.  I was upset and intimidated.  So I went to see my rock, the Director of Religious Education - Sr. Doris Faber who weighed about 90 pounds “dripping wet” as they say. 
          When I informed her what was happening she hustled over to the Monsignor and explained clearly and directly in her most authoritative nun voice how the ceremony was going to go.  And so it did.  She was a rock I could lean on. 
          If you know someone whose faith is strong and secure then lean against that person’s faith to strengthen your faith.  Take them as an example and a support.  Let them be your rock.
          Then Moses had Aaron and Hur hold his arms.  We are told “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”   Who can be an Aaron and Hur for you?   Who can you ask to support you in prayer, so that you do not become discouraged and tired and give up?  Who can you ask to pray with and for you? 
          Better yet, for whom can you be an Aaron or a Hur?  Who can you lift up and support in prayer?  It goes both ways.  The support is mutual.
          You see, when we pray we are not alone.  We are very much in this all together.  We support, encourage, help one another as we pray.  It is one reason while at least once a week we need to gather together as the Christian community to pray and worship and give thanks.  We need the reminder that we do not pray alone.  We are part of a much greater undertaking, and are supported by our fellow Christians on earth, and by all the good people - the saints - that have gone before us, and also by the angelic choirs.  That is a lot of support.  The prayerful support stretches vastly through space and through time.
          When it comes to prayer we are not rugged individualists.  We pray in, and as part of, a community of faith.  And that makes our prayer much more meaningful.  

          Today’s second collection – for world mission Sunday – is another tangible, concrete expression of our inter-connectedness with Christians all throughout the world.  I encourage you to be generous.  You are really helping yourself, for we are all in this together.   God bless!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 20

Recently I was hearing confessions for the students at St. Dominic Savio High School in North Austin. I heard confessions in a hallway outside the gym while the students had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the gym. As I was getting ready the students came in accompanied by their teachers, including a couple of nuns, Dominican     Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. It is a relatively new religious community that came to Austin only in 2008. In the ecclesiastical scheme of things, not that long ago. Two things struck me about the Sisters. First, they were in full habit, with full veils on their heads, flowing white dresses to the floor, and girdled round by a big rosary.  It was a vision very much out of my childhood in the 1950’s. The second thing that struck me is that they were all younger than me.  Usually women religious in this country are not.

Just recently we received the sad news that the Daughters of Charity are leaving Austin. The Daughters have been here in Central Texas a long time, with a most enviable record of service, but they are aging and their numbers are dwindling. Meanwhile, the     Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are growing as a community, indeed exploding. Their primary ministry is     teaching in Catholic schools, a work as traditional as their habit. They came here just five years ago, but already they have acquired a piece of property in Georgetown of over 60 acres. In addition they have already received donations of $13 Million toward their $30 Million goal of building a new Priory (a large convent) for 120 Sisters with a large chapel. 120 is a lot of Sisters in these days, but they are growing community, so as the Daughters of Charity (and the Paulists, I might add) decline the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, increase. I am left wondering what is going on. Where will it all end? What does it all mean?

For the Catholic Church in the modern world is the way forward re-appropriating practices and structures from the past (such as    distinctive religious habits) that mark us as different, set us apart, visibly show our dedication to God? I remain skeptical. I fear that instead of speaking to the modern world in terms it can apprehend and understand it will have the effect of separating and isolating us, making us into less of a “Sacrament of Salvation” for the whole world and more of a cult.

There was a fascinating article by Russ Douthart in the Sunday New York Times of October 6, 2013, entitled The Promise and Peril of Pope Francis. I often disagree with Mr.Douthart, but this time I believe he was right on. He compared Pope Francis’ situation to New York Jews, where there has been growth among the ultra-orthodox who wear distinctive clothes and separate themselves as much as possible from the multi-cultural life of New York around them and a fading away of all other forms of Judaism in New York. Mr. Douthart poses the question: Can an ancient faith (Judaism or Christianity) speak convincingly to the modern world or survive only by withdrawing from interaction with the outside world, withdraw into itself and become a cult? Mr. Douthart wrote:

“And this is where Pope Francis comes in, because so much of the excitement around his pontificate is a response to his obvious desire to reject these alternatives—self-segregation or surrender—in favor of an almost-frantic engagement with the lapsed-Catholic, post-Catholic and non-Catholic world. … Francis’s style and substance are pitched much more aggressively to a world that often tuned out his predecessors. His deliberate demystification of the papacy, his digressive interviews with outlets secular and religious, his calls for experimentation within the church and his softer tone on the issues—abortion, gay marriage—where traditional religion and the culture are in sharpest conflict: these are not doctrinal changes, but they are clear strategic shifts.”

How does Pope Francis think and believe we as a Church should move forward? Not by avoidance but by engagement.

As a Paulist I believe the Church must engage the modern world. That is the command of Christ, to preach to all nations. A church that chooses to be a ghetto is not in any way catholic. We have no choice but to go forward in engagement with the world. It will       certainly be interesting to see how this will all play out. Please pray for the Daughters of Charity, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and the Paulists.

God bless!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 13

Happy Columbus Day Weekend. This month of October is also Respect Life Month. We are called all year long, but especially in this month of October, to pray and work for respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death. Life is ALWAYS a blessing! Life is to be respected, cherished, protected and celebrated. As Christians we give thanks for life!

Last Sunday, along with Bishop Joe Vรกsquez and several of our parishioners, I was able to participate in an event that fostered respect for life. That was the Inter-Faith Conference on comprehensive immigration reform held at St Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on the corner of 15th and Nueces Streets. The speakers were very good, informative and moving. We heard stories of families being separated, of constant fear, of injustice perpetrated by unscrupulous employers who use workers’ immigration problems to exploit the workers, and these stories could not leave you unmoved. But we also heard words of hope and encouragement, specifically from Jeffery Patterson from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, and from Bill Bearadall, an attorney for the Equal Justice Center. Reform of our broken immigration system is possible. It is not perfect reform, it does not solve all the problems, but it is possible to improve the system. But for that to happen ALL OF US have to get involved.

If you are a U.S. citizen you are the beneficiary of many rights. And with these rights comes responsibilities. I urge you to get informed and get involved. An EASY way to do this is to check out the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s website on immigration: Click on the “Take Action” button. You can then quickly send an e-postcard to your Representatives and Senators supporting the Bishops’ stand on immigration.

Better yet, CALL your Representative. The Senate has passed an immigration reform bill, so the action now is in the House of Representatives. All you have to do is dial the number, tell the person that answers that you are a constituent (he or she will want to know where you live, your Zip code), and then tell them what that, “I ask that this year you support immigration reform legislation that keeps immigrant families together, adopts smart and humane enforcement policies, and ensures that immigrants without legal status register with the government and begin a path towards citizenship. Our families and communities cannot wait!” (quoted from the Bishops’ website).

You can find who your US Representative is and his or her phone number simply by going to and entering you Zip code. It is simple, takes only a few minutes to do this, and it is REALLY IMPORTANT. We have the power to make changes for the better. If we fail to use it, we will be held responsible. So do something good for your country and yourself. Get involved!

God bless!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C October 6, 2013

NB:  this homily was given on the parish's "Affirmation of Membership" Sunday, when we urge all parishioners to register and sign up for ministries.

In today’s second reading we hear from St Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Timothy was a Bishop, and apparently very close to Paul.   In his two letters to Timothy, St Paul is continually exhorting, prodding, encouraging, urging, pushing Timothy to be forceful and faithful in preaching the Gospel.  So today we hear: “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.   For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. 

The fact that St Paul finds it necessary to continually prod Timothy has lead some Scripture scholars to speculate that Timothy was not an ideal disciple and assistant.  No one is sure exactly what Timothy’s problem was.   Perhaps Timothy was committed to the Gospel, but lacked ambition.  Maybe he was just a teeny bit lazy.  Maybe he was not a self-starter the way Paul was.  Maybe he was more of a go with the flow kind of guy and not attracted to working hard all the time.  Could be.  If so, then I could identify with Timothy, and perhaps a few of you could too.

Or perhaps Timothy was committed to the Gospel, but rather timid: he did not like upsetting people, did not like rocking the boat and causing upset and consternation, he wanted people to like him, and he did not want to incur people’s hatred and persecution.  So this is why Paul keeps exhorting Timothy to boldness and to action and insists on the cost of proclaiming the Gospel and the need to bear our share of sufferings with Christ.   If this is true about Timothy, then again I could identify with him, and perhaps a few of you could too.

Or perhaps Timothy was committed to the Gospel, but had a hard time setting and keeping his priorities straight, forever distracted by the gnat-like cloud of  many things to do, distractions and demands on his time and energy, forever being taken away by things of lesser account and not focusing his energy and time on what was really important.  So St Paul keeps calling Timothy back to the main task at hand, that is, preaching the Gospel, and not getting bogged down by meetings and fund-raisers and charity breakfasts and filling our forms and thousands of other demands on his time and energy.  If so, then I could identify with Timothy, and perhaps a few of you could too.

In today’s reading St. Paul urges:  I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. “

Like St. Timothy, brothers and sisters, most of us need that reminder, we need to stir into flame the gift of God that we received at our Baptism and Confirmation.  We did not receive a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.

Power: not in the sense the world understands power, as being able to be in control and to push my will onto others, but rather the kind of power Jesus showed us, the power to serve and to give ourselves away in love.

Love:  not in the sense the world understands love, as a feeling, an emotional state you fall into, as something that takes control of us; but rather the kind of love Jesus showed us; the love that is a decision, a commitment, an act of will that does something and produces fruit in service, in care, in compassion, in forgiveness, in truth-telling, in love.

Self-control: not in the sense the world understand self-control as repressing yourself and denial, but rather the kind of self-control Jesus showed us, the self-control that is the discipline to be true to your most authentic and deepest self, to the you God created you to be, to be thoroughly and completely integrated and authentic.

“I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. “

Now here comes the opportunity to put this all into practice.  Please take out from the packets in the pew racks one of the AFFIRMATION OF MEMBERSHIP cards that looks like this (hold up card).  The white sheet is for all families, including singles and grad students.  There is a blue ½ sheet form for undergraduate students.   There is a place for you to commit, to affirm your membership in St. Austin Catholic Parish.  We ask every family to fill one out, and we will get to that in a minute. 

Right now I want to point out the back of the form.  I urge you to become involved in the life of your parish if you are not already doing so.   Stir into flame the gift of God you received at your baptism.  Don’t let laziness, or timidity, or busyness get in the way.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  

Can you commit to being an usher, lector or Eucharistic Minister?  Gentlemen, have you considered joining the Knights of Columbus?  Maybe your spouse belongs to another Christian denomination; then perhaps you as a couple would like to work for healing of the wounds in the body of Christ by participating in the Ecumenical Relations group?   Do you know something about real-estate, or land use, or engineering or maintenance?  We need more people on the parish Properties Committee, especially as we now face some daunting buildings challenges.  That committee is not even listed on here, but you can write it in.  Or perhaps God is calling you to work in charity or social justice ministry, helping others directly in all the various ways you see at the bottom right hand corner of this page.  There are many ways to get involved. 

To help you, there are beautiful brochures in the pews explaining our various ministries. 

Our Gospel today rather bluntly and starkly reminds us of our obligation to participate, to get involved, to be part of the solution. 

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done
[only] what we were obliged to do.'"

So I ask every family to complete the family information in the first section, allowing us to keep our information up to date.

Fill in the rest as appropriate.  If you have NO changes - or if you updated recently online - just check the correct box in the middle of the page.  

On the back affirm your current participation in ministries, and indicate those you would like to explore.  If you would like to review the ministries and pray over it, then feel free to take home the Parish Ministries Guide.  Family members’ names can be entered in the space to the left of each ministry listed.

When you are done please place your complete form in the baskets that will be passed after the offertory collection.  If you want more time you can return the form next week, or drop it off at the church office any time, or mail it to us. 

Thank you for your cooperation.  Please return the pens and folder to the end of the pews.  Thanks. 

Thank you for being part of, and committing to, St Austin’s Parish Community.  God bless!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, October 6

Our new Pope – Francis – has been causing quite a stir.  In addition to his thought provoking homily given at World Youth Day in Rio (which you can read at _celebrazione-xxviii-gmg_en.html), there is of course the long interview Pope Francis gave that appeared in 16 different Jesuit journals world-wide. I hope you have read it. You can find it online at:

True, it is long. It covers a lot of ground. It may require more than one sitting to digest the whole thing. But it is definitely worth the effort.

Many people find Pope Francis’ style refreshing and enlivening. He exudes a joy that indicates he has heard Good News that is really GOOD! Really, really GOOD! His humility, his evident concern for others, his openness, all seem grounded in having heard GOOD news. And many people find that attractive: not only Catholics but many others as well. Several people have told me how non-Catholic neighbors and friends have commented positively on Pope Francis. He is just so genuine and real. Or as one parishioner told me the other day, “It is now much easier to be Catholic.” After all the bad, shameful and depressing news about the Church over the last several years, Pope Francis is a most welcome change.

There is much that could be said about the interview Pope Francis gave. For that reason there will be a two-session discussion this Sunday and next (Oct. 6 & 15) after the 9 a.m. Mass and before the 11:30 a.m. Mass in the Sts. Joan and Raymond Room. If you are wondering where that is (and sometimes so do I) you can find it off of the courtyard where there is an open area under Newman Hall on the Guadalupe Street side. On one side of that open area is Our Lady of Guadalupe Room, and opposite is the Sts. Joan and Raymond room. All are most welcome to the discussion, which will be lead by several parishioners.

Anyway, let me just make one point about the interview and about Pope Francis in general. He is not a politician, and what he says should not be taken as a political agenda. Nor is he a philosopher like Pope John Paul II was. Nor is Pope Francis a theologian as is retired Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor. Therefore his concern is the specific and concrete person before him. So in the interview he states “that he is not used to talking to so many people: ‘I manage to look at individual persons, one at a time, to enter into personal contact with whomever I have in front of me. I’m not used to the masses.’” Pope Francis never sees people in the abstract, but in their concrete historical and personal situation, and so he responds not to some philosophical or theological ideal, but the concrete pastoral case in front of him.

Then, to confuse things more, Pope Francis is a mystic. I think spiritual realities are as concrete, specific and real to him as stones and trees and shoes. It is a different way of relating to reality than what most of us are used to, certainly than to what I am used to. This is good, because it makes me stop and think about what he says.

I believe that Pope Francis is a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the world. I think we need what he says to us. I think we need his example. I think we need the challenge he is to our consumerist world. I think we need his felt appreciation of Good News. I thing we need his joy.  

God bless!