Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Jan. 31

We are happy to have with us this weekend Fr. John Hurley, CSP. He is here to preach the Annual Paulist Appeal. And so this weekend we celebrate the Paulist Patronal Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Thank you for your warm welcome to Fr. Hurley. All the Paulists here are most grateful for your support of our mission and community. THANK YOU!!!!
Two weeks ago I began an occasional series on the corporal works of mercy. We are now in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Last time we looked at the first corporal work of mercy, feeding the hungry.
In addition to physical hunger, today we also come across many other hungers in people: for meaning, for purpose, for intimacy, for belonging, for identity. These hungers are every bit as real as physical hunger, and every bit as damaging. However, they are often harder to see and harder to relieve.
I believe we Christians can feed these other hungers by witnessing to joy. We have heard GOOD news. That is what “Gospel” means; good news. All people have deep needs, deep hungers, to have meaning and purpose, to have a sense of belonging, to experience intimacy with others and to know who they are. As the Body of Christ we should have that. And we should want to share that. Pope Francis is a wonderful example of someone who witness to joy.
What do you get out of being an active Catholic?  Not a lot in terms of social standing. Hopefully not a load of guilt. Not any financial advantage. So what is the pay off, the benefit of going to church and striving to live a Christian life?
It is joy. If your religion does not bring you a sense of belonging, of relationship to Jesus, of membership in the Body of Christ, of purpose and meaning and direction in your life, then why bother?  And if you do get this, even if only partially and fleetingly, then you need to show it. You need to show it so you can share it. You need to witness to joy so you can feed the many hungry people around you; people hungry for belonging, for meaning, for purpose, for direction, for hope, for joy.
Today in contemporary society, when so many people give into drugs and consumerism and despair, we need to feed the hungry, but especially the hungers on deeper levels of what it means to be human. And I think the best way to do this is to witness to joy.
God bless!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Jan. 24

Last weekend I preached on the Gospel of the Wedding Feast at Cana, and specifically on the two lines that “the mother of Jesus,” or Mary, had in the Gospel passage, i.e. “They have no wine,” and “Do whatever He tells you.” I don’t often preach on Mary. I contend this paucity is not due to a lack of devotion to Mary on my part (others may be of a different opinion) but rather because there has been so much bad and overly emotional Mariology in the Church that I find it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in proper appreciation for Mary, Mother of the Church. 
In any case, focusing on Mary last weekend reminded me of something that struck me about our church interior when I first got here, namely, its very masculine character. At least in images and visuals our church is top heavy with masculine images. In most Catholic Churches, on the right side of the altar (the left as you look at it) there is usually an image of Mary, with Joseph on the other side. In our church they have been supplanted, if I may use that term, by images of Sts. Peter and Paul. Since this parish is staffed by the Paulist Fathers the prominence of the Apostles and missionaries Peter and Paul seems to me altogether fitting and proper.
As an American community of men we Paulists fit right into the American ethos of the active and “masculine” virtues. The Paulists are missionaries who stress going out, reaching out, action and accomplishment. We are not known particularly for contemplation, reflection, “pondering in our hearts” as Mary had done, and generally what were known in a more benighted age as the “feminine virtues.” This active stance and emphasis on accomplishment fits well into a Texas ethos as well.
But a consequence of this prominence of Sts. Peter and Paul is a sort of displacement of Mary and Joseph. Joseph is off to the side altar by the side entrance. I have always thought that the lighting on his statue, which shines on his feet and casts his face into shadow, is appropriate since we know so little about Joseph, either his life before his marriage to Mary or what became of him after Jesus was discovered in the Temple. In any case St. Joseph is at least partially visible while the statue of St. Mary, effectively hidden back in the little Our Lady’s Chapel, is completely invisible except for those making the effort to visit the chapel. Mary does also appear in the various stations of the cross, but her most prominent position in the church is as the Mother of Perpetual help in the middle shrine on the South side of the church. 
More striking to me than the limited representations of Mary in our church is that she is the ONLY woman presented. There is no representation of St Elizabeth Ann Seton, no image of St. Claire, no icon of St Mary Magdalene, no picture of St. Paul’s co-worker St. Phoebe, no St. Teresa of Avila, not even an image of The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux. In this our church is a little different.
I suppose we are all quite comfortable with the preponderance of male Saints in our church (Sts Paul, Peter, Joseph, Austin and Servant of God Isaac Hecker). But perhaps it would profit us to at least recognize we have a gender imbalance in the representation of holy person in our church, and be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to seek a wider representation of the holy people of God. Just a thought. 
God bless!

Sunday, January 17, 2016


In the Gospel today Mary says to Jesus  They have no wine.”  Let’s look at that a bit.
          True, the wine ran short.  Oh well, big deal.  But I think St John in His Gospel wants us to hear something more.  There is something more going on with the comment.  “They have no wine.”   What does it mean to have no wine? 
          Today running short of wine would be a misfortune but not a life shattering event.   But for people in Jesus’ day wine was very important.  It was often safer to drink than the water.  More importantly, in the grinding monotony of peasant life wine was one of the few sources of stimulation and exhilaration.  To have no wine was not just a mistake in catering, it was a profound emptiness in life.  Mary, in speaking to Jesus, is not just talking about beverages, but about the quality of life.  “They have no wine.”   I think she is saying that these people are bereft of joy, of happiness, of any zest in life.
          Every day we meet people who have no wine:  no joy, no enthusiasm, no zest in their life.  People who plod through life, going through the motions, but no real joy, no happiness, no excitement, no commitment, even little interest.  In a deeper, spiritual and philosophical way, they have no wine.  And it is yucky.
          Sometimes we are like that.  We have no wine in our life.  And unfortunately we know many people at work, or school or in our own neighborhoods, and even our own families, that have no wine.  This is not just a case of running out of something:  more profoundly Mary is telling her Son about the existential condition of the people.  They are without hope, or direction, or purpose, without joy.  They have no wine. 
           It is like the little ditty by Hilaire Belloc, from early last century: 
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!   
           Laughter and good red wine go together in a sunny and optimistic approach to life.  And these people, lamentably, “they have no wine.” 
          Mary is not content with that.  She is not willing to continue this unhappy condition.   She tells her Son, Jesus, “they have no wine” and then leaves it up to Him.  His public mission begins with her intercession.  Well, Mom always has special privileges. 
          Then Mary says to the servants “Do whatever he tells you.”  These are the very last words of Mary recorded in the Bible or anywhere else.  We never hear from her again after this first miracle of Jesus.  But it is a great way to sum up and end.
          “Do whatever he tells you.”  Think about that.  It is WONDERFUL advice, in any situation.  “Do whatever he tells you.”  That is wonderful advice for you and you and me and everyone of us.  “Do whatever he tells you.” 

The source of Joy, the source of Peace, the source of full Life, the source of all we yearn and long for is Jesus.  He transforms six stone jars of water, each holding 20 to 30 gallons, into choice, fine wine!  That’s 120 to 180 gals!
          Let’s split the difference and call it 150 gallons.  Now that comes out to 758 bottles of wine.  More than 60 cases.  
          In other words an abundance, on overflowing, of choice, delicious wine.  Jesus responds not in some small, adequate way, but with great, overflowing abundance.  And that is how Jesus responds to us with the gift of Life.  Not a small, adequate, OK portion, but an overwhelming abundance of LIFE!
          Truly He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. 
Mary intercedes for us just as she did at the wedding in Cana.  She knows as a Mother knows what are our deepest needs and desires.  She cares deeply for each of us.  And she intercedes for us.

          In turn she gives us really good advice today.  “Do whatever He tells you.”  That is the way to the fullness of Life.     God bless!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Jan. 17

We are now in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. While the year is extraordinary, mercy should not be. Perhaps in this world of sin and failed intentions mercy is not nearly as common as it should be. Nonetheless, mercy ought to be a regular and usual part of our Christian life.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1829, mercy – along with joy and peace – is a fruit of charity. This is not charity in the sense of donations to the poor, but charity as love. Charity is the type of love that Christians are called to have, and is the gift of God. Mercy, joy and peace are the hallmarks, the tell-tale signs, the evidence that shows that the love of God is in our hearts. Where there is no mercy, nor joy, nor peace, then the love of God is not there.
Because Church scholars loved making lists in the past, and because they were particularly devoted to the number seven, there are traditional lists of the seven corporal (i.e. bodily) and seven spiritual works of mercy. The lists are: 
Corporal Works of Mercy:                                                Spiritual Works of Mercy:
To feed the hungry                                                              To instruct the ignorant
To give drink to the thirsty                                                 To counsel the doubtful
To clothe the naked                                                            To admonish sinners
To harbour the harbourless                                               To bear wrongs patiently                  
To visit the sick                                                                    To forgive offences willingly
To ransom the captive                                                       To comfort the afflicted
To bury the dead                                                                 To pray for the living and the dead
Over the next several weeks let us look at these works of Mercy, and see how we can better practice them in our daily lives both as individuals and as a Catholic parish. 
Starting with the Corporal Works first, which are easier to get a handle on, we have at the top of the list “to feed the hungry.” Well, that is something we do here in several ways. We feed the hungry through our St. Vincent de Paul chapter. They have a food pantry and bring food to families in need in our area. They back up their merciful actions with an active spirituality, which is so important. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is always ready to welcome new members and also donations of food and of money. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact or call parishioner Mike Murphy at 512-923-3538.
Another way we at St. Austin’s help feed the hungry is by our participation in the MICAH 6 Food Pantry. The University area Christian Churches work together to support an active food pantry. Housed in the basement of the University Presbyterian Church, it is open twice a week and serves hundreds of needy families each week. St. Austin supports the pantry with our annual dues to Micah 6, occasional food drives, and parishioner volunteers. The pantry needs workers on early Thursday morning to help unload a huge truck full of food from the Capital Area Food Bank, and volunteers on Tuesdays and Saturdays when the Micah 6 Pantry distributes food. If you are interested in helping please contact Pat Macy at pmacy@staustin for more information. You can also check out their website at  
Here are two concrete and profitable ways to feed the hungry. Pope Francis is calling on you in this Year of Mercy to get involved.
God bless!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Christmas Mass at Night St Austin’s Church Dec 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!    In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear these ancient and well known words: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” 
          “The people who walked in darkness…”  Who are these people?  What have they experienced?  Well, think of a time that you walked in darkness.  Maybe you were walking to your car in a dicey part of town late one night, all alone, an area you didn’t know, and it was dark.  How did you feel?   Or maybe you were out in the country, when it was quickly getting dark, getting dark far faster than you realized and you still had a way to hike your way back to camp.   We don’t have a lot of experiences walking in the dark these days with electric lights everywhere.  But we know that walking in the dark can be threatening, spooky, full of concern, jumping at every movement and sound in the dark.  
          What is it like to dwell in the land of gloom?  Anyone who has ever been depressed knows that one.  The land of gloom.  Maybe you have looked at your life, your relationships, your job, and instead of rejoicing you feel a sense of defeat, of disappointment, of frustration, of gloom.  Maybe you look around you at all the terrorism, the senseless hate, the never ending violence, the lies, the venality, the sheer stupidity and you feel like you dwell in the land of gloom.  Maybe you look at all the presidential candidates, and realize you will be subjected to nearly of full year more of shouting and accusations and counter-charges, and you dwell in the land of gloom. 
          Guess what folks?  The people who walked in darkness and those who dwelt in the land of gloom are right here with us this evening.  We are those people!
          But, and this is the important point so listen up, we are also those who “have seen a great light” and those upon whom “a light has shown.”  Isaiah, writing centuries and even millennia ago, is writing about us!
          Isaiah sings: “You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,

as people make merry when dividing spoils.”
          Why are we so happy?  Isaiah tells us.  “For a child is born to us, a son is given us;”    Who can repress a smile when they see a new baby?  Who cannot rejoice when they see a little child?  Regardless of the circumstances our hearts leap up at the sight of any new baby, to see all that freshness, that newness of life, all that potential, all that promise, all that wonderful expectation!
          And for this particular child we have all that and much, much more!   “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.”
          “For a child is born to us”  All of us right here.  “A son is given to us”.  And no ordinary child, but the Prince of Peace, our Savior.  Given to us to save us from all our worst inclinations and habits and desires.  To save us to live fully and completely in harmony and love with God.  To fulfill our destiny, to achieve the whole reason we were created and why we exist, to be perfectly in love with God, with all others, and with ourselves. 
          That is a really good reason to celebrate and to rejoice. 
 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.”

Merry Christmas!!!

Baptism of the Lord January 9, 2016 Austin, TX

In the opening of today’s Gospel we hear:  The people were filled with expectation,”         Hmmm.  Expectations.  
          Do you have expectations?   Maybe you have expectations for the up-coming primaries?   Maybe you have expectations for Pope Francis in 2016?  I know I do.  Or perhaps you have expectations for your job, for a promotion, or for your boss to retire, or for a bonus?   Do you have hopes for your child to finally settle down, get married and start a family?   Expectations for an upcoming trip or vacation?   Maybe you are filled with expectation for the NEXT Star Wars movie?????  Will Luke Skywalker come back?   [I’ve said too much already.]
          We, as a Christian community, have expectations.   We have expectations for ourselves individually, for all of us together, and for all creation, all that ever was. 
          And we do not have any small expectations.  We have BIG expectations.
          In the second reading today from St Paul to Timothy, we heard He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, …, [in other words, Baptism] so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
            Heirs … of eternal life.   That is what we expect.   Eternal life is not life that just goes on and on and on and on and oh so boringly on.   No!   Eternal life is full life, complete life.  It is to be more wondrously alive than you have ever been before.  It is more life every instant than you have ever experienced at any time in your life.  It’s FANTASTIC!
          That is our expectation, and it is a great one.  We Christians have had great expectations long before Chuck Dickens ever thought of the phrase.  So therefore we are the people today’s Gospel is speaking of:  The people were filled with expectation,”    That is us folks. 
          Now I want to take the focus off of us for a while and turn the spotlight on Jesus.   Jesus had been baptized and was praying, 
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. 
And a voice came from heaven,  “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
           So how did Jesus feel when He heard this voice?  What do you think?   Did He think he was hearing things?   Man, I should not have had that fifth glass of wine last night.   Or did Jesus get scared?  I mean if I heard a voice from the heavens it would spoke me out.         How did Jesus feel?  What was his reaction?    //
          When you have heard from someone you care about deeply, someone you love even more than you love yourself, when he or she tells you that they love you and are well pleased with you, how do you feel?  
          How would any son or daughter react to being told by a beloved parent or grandparent that the child is beloved, and the parent is well pleased with them? 
          How would you react if your beloved Mother or Father said,  “Good job.  I am so proud of you!” 
          Well, we should know.  Because in our Baptism that is what God the Father says to each of us.  We did not get the special effects of a voice from heaven, but we got the reality of it.  In fact, that is what God said to us, and continues to say to us.
          When you were baptized God the Father said to you, “You are my beloved child.”  God claimed you for God’s own.  Then, by joining you to the body of His Son Jesus, God the Father declared to you and about you, “with you I am well pleased.”  

God the Father delights in having you as His son or daughter.  In you God the Father is well pleased. 
          Our great hope, our great expectation, is based on the great love that God has for you and you and you and each of us.  We become God’s Children by adoption through the fabulous Sacrament of Baptism.  By adoption as God’s own beloved children we also gain an inheritance.  Nothing that will corrode or could be stolen or lost, but an imperishable inheritance of life.  Full, complete, total life.  Eternal life. 

          Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we also reflect on the magnificent treasure we have been given in the Sacrament of our Baptism.  It is altogether fitting that we should do so.  We are God’s beloved children.  In us God is well pleased.   We live in expectation of yet greater and fuller life.   Happy Feast Day!