Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 30

This Thursday, September 3, is the Feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great. He was Pope from Sept. 3, 590 till 604, when he died. There are several things about him that stand out and make him significant.

First of all, he was a writer. He wrote more than all the previous popes combined. We have 62 of his homilies, 854 of his letters, and several books he wrote, including a commentary on the book of Job, a handbook for bishops called “The Rule for Pastors,” and a few other works.  

He was a musician or at least appreciated music. “Gregorian” chant is named after him. Historians are not sure just how much goes back directly to Gregory’s day, but he was a major impetus in the use of plainchant in church.

He was a skillful politician and administrator. Before being elected Pope, he was the Vatican’s representative to the Imperial court in Byzantium, an important, indeed crucial, and delicate job. He did well there. We also know from his letters that he was involved in day-to-day administration of the Papacy, giving specific orders to overseers of the papal estates in North Africa as to exactly what was to be done and how.

But the thing that connects Pope Gregory the Great to our parish is that he is the one who sent (and later resent) the monk Augustine to England to convert the pagan English. We know this monk as St. Augustine of Canterbury, or St. Austin. The story goes that Gregory first encountered the English when he saw some fair-skinned English boys in the Roman slave market. They were from a tribe known as the Angels, and Pope Gregory remarked, “Non Angli, sed angeli,” meaning “They are not Angles, but angels!” Apparently Pope Gregory was a punster, but even for that, still a holy man. 

This “vision” of the “angels” stayed with Gregory, and he longed to work for their conversion from their heathen religion to Christianity. And so he appointed the Roman monk Augustine to go and undertake the conversion of heathen England. When Augustine had second thoughts about the adventure when he got to the coast of France and then hightailed back to the civilized comforts of Rome, it was Pope Gregory who reminded Augustine that as a monk he was under holy obedience, and that the Pope’s instructions were not an invitation but rather an order; and when would he be leaving again (soon!) for England? So if it had not been for Pope Gregory the Great, the English would not have been converted, Augustine would not have become a saint, and we would not be St. Austin’s Parish!  

So this Thursday we are celebrating the Saint who had a lot to do with the eventual naming of our parish. And that is a good reason to celebrate. 
God Bless,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 23

The Diocesan newspaper is the CATHOLIC SPIRIT. All registered parishioners should be receiving this paper at your homes in the mail. If for some reason you are not receiving it, please call the parish business office so we can get the paper delivered to you.  After all, we as a parish are paying for it for all registered parishioners.
If you do receive the paper, then I hope you take a few minutes to look it through. Watch especially for articles written by your fellow St. Austin parishioners.  Mary Lou Gibson has an interesting column on “Saints For Our Times.” It is well written and informative. I always learn something from her column. 
Likewise, every issue there is a wonderful column by parishioner Norman Farmer on Faith Through Art. Dr. Farmer, an Emeritus Professor English and Humanities at UT, delves into the symbolism and iconography of a work of Renaissance religious art, making the piece of art come more fully alive as a statement of faith. It is always interesting. It will also be interesting to see if he stays with the renaissance period, or takes works of art from other periods as well.
And there are other interesting and informative pieces in each issue of the CATHOLIC SPIRIT. This is not to say that everything in each issue is worthwhile. One thing that catches my attention each time is a sixth of a page yellow advertisement for Saint Francis Village. Apparently this is a retirement community. But it also proudly proclaims that it is a “gated community.” I just have trouble holding the concept of St. Francis of Assisi and the concept of “gated community” together in my head at the same time. 
Perhaps I tend to view St. Francis through the lens of Pope Francis, who is always going beyond barriers, encouraging priests and faithful to go out, to mingle with the sheep, to get out into world, to be among the people–especially the poor and marginalize –and to even have the “smell of the sheep.” Pope Francis is not keen on gates. It is hard for me, therefore, to picture St. Francis of Assisi as residing in a gated community. It somehow just doesn’t fit.  Gated communities may all be well and good and have a proper place in the selection of communities, but they just don’t come across as Franciscan. The Franciscans I know, like those at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, welcome the homeless and have dozens of people sleeping on the pews of the church during non-Mass hours. The Franciscans there are very open and almost the opposite of a “gated community.”  You can read about what the Franciscans do at St. Boniface Church at and also at 
Given that we have a lot of homeless in our neighborhood here, who are often sleeping in the alley behind us, under our gym, in the stairwells of our garage, etc., it probably is a good thing that our parish is staffed by Paulists and not by Franciscans. Otherwise we may want to open the church during non-Mass hours for the homeless to come in and catch some sleep in our pews. Could you imagine that? A bunch of homeless snoring in our pews! Oh my God!
But as it is, when occasionally someone does come in and nap in the pews, we usually rouse them awake and inform them of no sleeping in the church. But if we wanted to be more like Pope Francis, then obviously we wouldn’t. 
So you never know where reading the CATHOLIC SPIRIT will take you!
God bless,

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 16

Before you know it school will be starting again. St. Austin School starts this Monday, August 17! AISD commences classes a week later on the 24th. And UT begins the new semester on Wednesday, August 26. So over the next couple of weeks all of the students and families will be coming back from late vacation getaways.

This means of course that we will soon be resuming Religious Education and Confirmation Preparation here at St. Austin. However, we have had some staff changes, some anticipated and others not, that somewhat caught me by surprise.With both the Director of Adult Faith Formation, Michael Flahive, retiring and also the Director of Religious Education, Marti Salas, moving to a new position over at the University Catholic Center, it has taken a lot longer to fill these positions than I had anticipated. I apologize for dropping the ball on this.

Mr. Paul Thomas, who has been the Director of Catechesis and Evangelization at the Diocese of Beaumont, TX, has accepted the job of Director of Discipleship Formation here at St. Austin and is in the process of moving to Austin. He will begin in this position very shortly. Together with him, I will hire an associate to work with him on the Religious Education program.

Practically this means that we will most probably begin the Religious Education program a week or two late. But it will happen. Confirmation preparation will likewise begin soon. We have Bishop Danny Garcia coming to celebrate Confirmation on Wed., Dec. 2 and will have the candidates for Confirmation prepared by then.  

Fortunately I am happy to report that the group working on the Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the 9 a.m. Mass is prepared and eager to commence that program.

I am convinced that genuine spiritual formation and religious education of children is done more by the example we give as a Christian community than any teaching done in a classroom situation. The classes are important for acquiring needed information about our faith, but the example we give as adult Catholics is far more important in forming our children and young people in the faith. And that is the work not only of Religious Ed teachers and catechists and parents, but of every one of us in the parish community. Keep up the good work.

God bless,

HOMILY 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C St Austin, Austin TX 08-16-2015

          In the Gospels of the last two weeks Jesus has told us “I am the bread of life.”  This week He proclaims:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” 
          Clearly Jesus is life-giving bread.  Good for Jesus.  What about us?
          Jesus proclaims “whoever eats this bread will live forever;” 
          Who eats this bread?  We do!   We come to the altar/table and receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine. 
          But there is a catch.  Usually when we eat something – a pizza, a hamburger, BBQ, even some funky tofu stuff – it becomes a part of us.  What you are physically is made up of all the food you have eaten.  Whether it is healthy, good-quality, nourishing food, or empty calorie junk-food and beer, that is now you.
          However this food, the Bread of Life that is Jesus, is different.  Instead of the food becoming a part of us, we rather become a part of it.  By eating the Body of Christ and by drinking His Blood we become part of the Body of Christ.  As St Augustine – of Hippo not of Canterbury – said, “Behold what you are, become what you receive.” 
          Jesus declares in today’s Gospel, “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  By consuming this bread we are transformed into His Body, His way of being present and active here and now. 
          So if Jesus is living bread for the life of the world, guess what?  We too are to become living bread for the life of the world.  Jesus assures us “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  Or her.  We become part of the Body of Christ, His way of being present and active in our time and in our neighborhood.
          We “remain” in Jesus.  To “remain” in Jesus does not mean to remain comfortable and cozy and safe in our private rooms, secure in the known communities we are nested in.  To “remain” in Jesus is rather much more active and dynamic.  It is to be sent.
          Jesus declares:  “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”   This life is not just for us.  Not for our own personal holiness and sanctification.   Rather, like Jesus, we are sent.
          We are sent to be bread for the world: to be life-giving, to be healing, to be nourishing, to be enlivening.  This means we must work for justice and we must reach out to help others in need. 
          What does Jesus do?  He expresses and embodies the compassion of God.  Likewise we must express and embody the compassion of God in our relationships, reaching out to those who are hurting. 
          Jesus forgives and heals.  We must forgive and heal, in our own families and communities, and even beyond that in all the hurting places of our world. 
          Jesus speaks the truth.  We must speak the truth both by our actions and also by our words.  Words of comfort and healing to those who hurt and suffer, and words of challenge to those who oppress and are indifferent.
          Jesus teaches and instructs.  We must teach and instruct, not only by our words but primarily by our example and our stance in life. 
          Jesus glorifies and worships the Father.   We must live our lives in such a way that the Father is glorified and worshipped.
          That is what it means to be bread for the life of the world.  It is what you and I receive.  It is what you and I are to become.
          And we do this not as a heavy burden, as a terrible responsibility pressing down on us, not as an obligation hard to bear that has been dumped on us by God.  NO!  Not at all.
          Listen to St. Paul in our second reading today:  “but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” 
          That doesn’t sound very oppressive, or even very somber, to me. 
When is the last time you sang and played to the Lord in your heart??  Do you do that every hour?  Once a day?  Once a week, or month or year? 
St. Paul is calling us at all times to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord, “giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
          That gratitude is very Eucharistic.  Indeed, eucharist comes from the Greek word for giving thanks.  This is the essence of Eucharistic devotion:  giving thanks. 
          To be the living bread we are called to become by the Eucharist, by the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, is not easy.  It goes against our natural selfishness and laziness.  It requires sacrifice and discipline.  But it is not sad and gloomy.  Indeed, it is most joyful. 
          We receive the Living Bread so that we will be transformed into living bread for the hunger of the world, and the sign of that transformation is gratitude.

          “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”  AMEN.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 9

This Saturday, August 15, we celebrate the beautiful feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the fullness of life of heaven. That fullness of life is not just her soul but the fullness of her being, body and soul. Mary now participates fully in Jesus’ triumph over death by enjoying fully the resurrection of her body.
This is also what we hope for: complete, eternal, total life for our full being, body and soul. Christians do not believe solely in an immortal soul, but rather in the resurrection of the body.
Now this is a more difficult belief than merely believing in the immortality of the soul. Because the soul is so amorphous, intangible, even a bit spooky, it is rather easy to imagine that it perdures and continues on after death. That is an easy one.
But that is not what we profess in the Creed. We believe instead in “the resurrection of the body,” as we state each Sunday. Since we all know that bodies decay, belief in the resurrection of the dead is more challenging than mere belief in the immortality of the soul. This difficulty is hardly new. St. Paul dealt with this issue of the resurrection of the dead in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, in response to those who pooh-poohed belief in the resurrection. I recommend you read it.
The analogy St. Paul uses is of planting a seed. What grows is not a giant seed, but a plant somehow intimately connected to that seed. If you plant an acorn, you don’t get a giant acorn but rather an oak. There is an intimate connection, but they are not the same. So our material body dies and disintegrates, and what will be raised is not another material body but rather a spiritual body no longer subject to decay nor infirmity nor death.
What will that be like? After the resurrection will I still be overweight? Bald? Needing glasses? Will you still recognize my resurrected body as me, as the disciples (with some hesitation) recognized the Risen Jesus? Frankly we don’t know. And most probably we cannot know because we do not have the categories or vocabulary to describe this reality. We do know that it will be ME, not some amorphous field of energy, but the fullness of my individual personhood. That is what the resurrection of the body is all about.
Mary – by a special favor of her Son – already enjoys the resurrection of her body. She and Jesus are literally face to face in love. The rest of us will also enjoy the resurrection of our bodies, but we have to wait till the consummation of time to experience that. So in the meantime we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven as a sign and foretaste of what we hope to enjoy for eternity. Please join us to celebrate this Feast at 9 a.m. next Saturday, August 15. While the Assumption is certainly a very holy day, this year, because it falls on a Saturday, it is not a holy day of obligation.
God bless,