Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Mar. 27

Happy Easter!  Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!
It is wonderful to have you with us on this most Holy Day!  Thank you for joining in our celebration of Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and over death.
May this celebration of the victory of Christ’s love fill you will Joy and Happiness!  The Resurrection of Jesus has changed all history and given it new and limitless meaning. It is because of the great event that we celebrate today that you and I have a future, indeed an eternal future. A future of LIFE and of LOVE!!! Alleluia!
So don’t be sad, don’t worry, don’t brood over injuries and bad times and misfortunes. Today is a time to REJOICE and be GLAD. Life has purpose and meaning. Life is filled with infinite worth and possibility. Death has been conquered! Sin has been overcome! Any other problem is very small potatoes. We have great reason to rejoice. And your presence today adds to the JOY!
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!
God bless!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Mar. 20

Today is Passion Sunday, also known as Palm Sunday. We are now entering into the celebration of the most solemn and sacred time of the Church year.
Well, it is as good a time as any to talk about money. We have been successful in raising the money for our “Faithful To Our Mission” capital campaign. The purposes of the campaign are to make our campus safe by repairing the façade of our church and rectory, making our appearance more attractive, adding bathrooms and enhancing the space in the front half of the first floor of the rectory for better use, especially for Children’s Liturgy of the Word.
We are still working to make sure that we will be able to do all that we intend to do with this project. This means looking closely at the numbers and making sure that we have the resources to carry this out. Think of the parable that Jesus tells about a man who started to build a tower but was unable to complete it. Luke 14: 20-30Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ We certainly do not want to be that man!
So we are going at this project very carefully, doing all we can to make sure we stay within our budget. Initial numbers have us about $350,000 dollars over budget, but we have been whittling that down. In addition there is over half a million dollars in contingency in that number.
And we are getting creative. While we cannot re-finance the high interest loans with the Diocese of Austin that we already have, we can be creative to accomplish the same thing. We can use the cash we have already received (that is making almost no interest) to pay down our high interest bridge note (for the construction of the parking garage,) and then later borrow the same amount as a construction loan at a lower rate. Basically it is putting our money we have to work and then refinancing. It should save us $80,000 to $100,000, depending on when we would have to draw the loan. This idea has been presented to the Parish Finance Council, and they unanimously approved doing so. Likewise the Parish Pastoral Council reviewed this proposal and gave unanimous approval. And on March 10th a group of parish leaders from the Capital Campaign reviewed and approved this move. So we are doing so.
If you have questions or comments, please contact the Parish Finance Council at
We are still carrying on the campaign to raise funds, and just a couple of weeks ago  received a very generous commitment of $100,000. So we are moving in the right direction.
God bless!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Homily 5th Lent March 13, 2016

          So Jesus is teaching in the Temple area.  Then a crowd of scribes and Pharisees arrives with a woman caught in the very act of adultery.  They demand to know what Jesus says about this case.  Will he side with the Law of Moses and thereby incur the wrath of the occupying Romans who reserved the death penalty to themselves, or will Jesus obey the Roman occupiers and sell out the Law of God?  Pretty dramatic.
          Well first of all we can tell right off that the crowd of Pharisees and scribes is NOT primarily concerned with justice nor with God’s law.  There are two obvious indications of this.  First, they bring only the woman.  Even in Jesus’ day the crime of adultery required two conspirators.  The woman did not commit this crime alone.  So where is the guy?
          The Jewish law, both in the Book of Leviticus chapter 20 verse10 and in the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 22 verse 22 ascribes the death penalty for BOTH parties.  Deuteronomy states:  “If a man is discovered lying with a woman who is married to another, they both shall die, the man who was lying with the woman as well as the woman. Thus shall you purge the evil from Israel.”  The Law calls for evenhanded justice.  However, the crowd before Jesus seem interested only in the woman.
          Even more telling is that they drag this woman to Jesus.  They did not take her to the authorities, to the priests or the judges for proper judgment, but to Jesus.  Jesus is not a civil official.  He has no civic rank or public office.  He is not a judge or magistrate.  But they come to Jesus because they not only want to embarrass and degrade the woman (they “made her stand in the middle”) but they also want to trap and embarrass Jesus as well. Jesus, that bleeding heart liberal who is always welcoming sinners and eating with them.

          What is going on here?  Well, in as much as the crime of rape is more about violence and humiliation than it is about sex, this mob is, in effect, a gang rape.  That is why the guilty male is not of interest to this group.  And to make their crime complete they want to humiliate Jesus as well.  It is all about building up their own sense of power by humiliating and violating others.  They are bullies.
          But Jesus is difficult to trap.  Jesus does not buy into their twisted logic, driven by their twisted hearts and desires.  He pulls back from the whole twisted scene.  Instead He bent down and began to doodle, sketching in the dust.
          Have you ever been in a long, boring class, where the teacher drones on and on and on?  And so you begin to draw little figures and maps and designs in the margins of your notebook?  That is what Jesus does.  He doodles.  He is pulling himself mentally and emotionally out of the exchange with the Pharisees and instead is killing time.  He refuses to be caught in the mentality of the mob.
          Impatient, the scribes and Pharisees press Jesus for an answer.   “He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  
          I don’t think Jesus is talking about their past.  I don’t think Jesus was writing their sins in the dust.  I think Jesus talking about right here and now.  In effect Jesus is saying, “if your motives in wanting to stone this woman are pure, if your concern really is the holiness of God, if you are motivated by a sincere and holy concern for God’s law, if what you are about is pure in the eyes of God, then throw a stone. 
But if you are now motivated by a desire to hurt, to dominate, to show your power over a helpless person, to push your sufferings and your sexual urges on to another, to unleash the beasts of lust and domination that rage in your own hearts onto a helpless scapegoat, then this is sin.  Sin.  It is NOT the Will of God. 
          Jesus forces them to confront the evil of their own motivations.
The passions of the elders cool first, and as they come to their senses, as they realize what they really are involved in, they drop their stones and slink away, one by one. 
          Finally Jesus is left alone with the woman.  Jesus condemns the sin, but not the woman.  “Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”   She replied, “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” 

The lesson for us, I think, is to examine our motivations whenever we condemn or blame another.  Are we truly interested in Justice?  In God’s law?  In respect for God’s Will?  Or are we – subtly or not so subtly - exulting in our own power, our own purity, our own rectitude?  Are we pushing our darkness and sin on to another? 
          This past week on March 9, in our name, the State of Texas executed Coy Wesbrook for the murders of his ex-wife, Gloria Coons, and Antonio Cruz in 1997.
          On March 22 our State of Texas is scheduled to execute Adam Ward  for killing Commerce Code Enforcement Officer Michael “Pee Wee” Walker in 2005.
         On March 30, we, through the State of Texas are scheduled to execute John Battaglia for the 2001 murders of his two daughters, Faith and Liberty, ages 9 and 6.
          And at this time, there are seven additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through July of this year.  They are all taking place on our behalf.

All of these crimes are truly heinous and cry out to heaven.  But what is our motivation in executing these criminals?  Are we truly without sin?  Are we really concerned with Justice and upholding God’s way?  If that is completely true then why are the great majority of those executed poor, minorities, poorly educated? 

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

Jesus does not condemn us.  We should be likewise reluctant to condemn.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Mar. 13

Last week, in my continuing series on the Corporal Works of Mercy, I discussed sheltering the homeless. There is another, older way of talking about this particular work of mercy that I think brings out some other aspects. It is to “Harbor the harborless.” Rather than putting the emphasis on physical shelter, it relates back to what Jesus talks about in His parable of judgment in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25. There Jesus states, “For I was…a stranger and you welcomed me.” Welcoming the stranger is certainly a corporal work of mercy.
Today many people are forced to leave their homeland and go to an alien culture and country either because of persecution, or to flee violence and war, or because of terrorism, or in a desperate search for an opportunity to provide for their family and themselves. There are more refugees in the world now than at any time since World War II. On every continent there are immigrants. People are moving from country to country, often needy and desperate and anxious to find a welcome and a shred of security and sanity.
How we treat refugees and immigrants, how we welcome them and assist them to become productive members of society, is also how we treat Jesus. The Catholic Church in our country has an entire website on this issue and how to get involved. It is We are largely a country of immigrants, and a church of immigrants. It especially behooves us to practice this particular corporal work of mercy.
At the border of our state, just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas. Dramatically he called for treating immigrants not as numbers or as a problem, but as people, people deserving respect and compassion. You can read a translation of his address at the Vatican website:  Click on the English tab, then Pope Francis’ homilies, then find the one from Ciudad Juarez. There is also a video of the homily.
There are many ways to get involved in “harboring the harborless.” From time to time there are trips to the detention centers here in Texas where families and unaccompanied children are held. Members of our parish have joined these trips to learn and to offer support and encouragement.
Closer to home there is Casa Marianella. A number of our parishioners are on their board of directors. Casa Marianella is a volunteer-driven emergency homeless shelter in east Austin, serving recently-arrived immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world. Casa Marianella shelters an average of 500 individuals annually as well as providing assistance and services to the community. They do great work “harboring the harborless.” They also have a fantastic fund raising event each year that is a LOT of fun, with good food. There are many ways to get involved, from donating furniture to helping with English classes to transportation…many different opportunities. You can find out more at You can even sign up for their on-line newsletter.
Jesus doesn’t give us an excuse to NOT welcome and assist refugees and immigrants because of fear. There are legitimate concerns about terrorism in this crazy world, but that does not let us off the hook of Jesus who tells us, “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did to ME.”  
God bless!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Homily, 4th Sunday of Lent "C" March 6, 2016

The name of the parable that we have in this morning’s Gospel is The Prodigal Son.  This younger son certainly is a significant character in the story.  With great brashness and insensitivity he asks for his share of the inheritance before the Father is even sick, much less dead, and then goes off and wastes it all on a “life of dissipation”, or as the Jerusalem Bible more evocatively translates it, “a life of debauchery”.  Debauchery is such a juicier word than dissipation.  In any case this younger son certainly did some stupid, mean, and very destructive things.  He hurt his family, wasted his money, and very easily could have ended up dead.
          We know, in fact, that God has given us a terrible freedom, and does not prevent us from doing horribly wrong things.  We know we are free to do mean, hateful, demeaning things that are destructive to ourselves and to others, things with really serious consequences.  We know this because we read about them in the paper every day.  We know this because we’ve ourselves have done them.  And God does not stop us.  God does not protect us from ourselves.  It would be nice if God would.  Think of all the heartache, embarrassment, painful regret and lasting, gnawing guilt that we could avoid if God would only stop us before we do something mean or vile or stupid.  If you’ve ever awakened some morning and said, ..”Oh God, what did I do?”… you know what I am talking about.  So we can identify, at least to some extent, with the younger son.
          There is also the older son, the “good” son.  Given the way the story works as a story, he is the key.  For at the end of the parable the issue is not with the younger son.  That is resolved.  Nor is the issue with the Father.  He’s O.K.  The critical issue is with the older son.  ¿Will he go into the party and accept his Father’s love and accept his brother as his brother, or will the older son remain caught in his bitterness, pride and self-righteousness, and choose to isolate himself? 
          We are given a clue to the centrality of the older son at the beginning of the Gospel.  You remember that the sinners and tax collectors were all gathering around Jesus to hear him.  This upset the Pharisees and the scribes.  They murmured and grumbled about this.  They didn’t approve. 
          You see, they didn’t think it was fair.  The Pharisees and scribes could tell that Jesus was something special, that he was very much in tune with God.  But here they were, the good people, the people who worked hard at keeping the law, doing what was pleasing to God, keeping the commandments, not sleeping in on Sunday morning but getting up and coming to church, and they end up standing on the outside of the circle around Jesus.  Meanwhile, all these sinners, tax collectors, drug dealers and prostitutes, had elbowed and pushed and squirmed their way up to the front, right in front of Jesus.  And instead of shooing them away and sending them to the back of the crowd, where they belonged, Jesus welcomed them.  And the Pharisees and the scribes did not approve.  They felt slighted.
          And so, Jesus addresses this parable to them.  Not to the disciples.   Not to the sinners and tax collectors, but to the Pharisees and the scribes.
          The Pharisees and scribes have gotten a bum rap.  They weren’t bad people.  In fact, they were the good people, the people who worked at it, who tried to do what was right. They were like us.  But they did have a problem.  They, like so many of us, began to believe that they did it. 
          That is understandable.  It is so easily, almost inevitable it seems, that when we have put a lot of effort and energy into something, worked hard at it, tried our best, stayed with it and succeeded, that we begin to believe that we did it.  But that is not true.  ¿Where did the talent, the energy, the perseverance, the intelligence, even the time and the opportunity come from?                   We are tempted to believe that they all came from ourselves.  But they didn’t.  They came from God.  Everything is a grace.
          And so it is to them Jesus addresses this parable and forces them – and us – to make a choice.  Do we want to stand on our own self-righteousness and remain outside, or are we willing to accept God’s free gift, not just to us, but to those undeserving others, and so embrace them as brothers and sisters?   It is not easy.  And Jesus does not answer the question for us.
           Finally, there is the Father.  When the younger son comes to him with the outrageous request that he receive his share of the inheritance, and in effect telling his Father ‘I wish you were dead,’ the Father, instead of doing what he should do and smacking the younger son up the side of his head, foolishly gives in and divides the property.  ¿ Would it not have been better, for the younger son’s own good, for the Father to not give the son any money, to take away the car keys, and to ground the younger son for a year or more until he got sane again?  I often think this way. 
          But God so badly wants us to be free to give ourselves to Him, that God even allows us to freely hurt one another and our own selves.  And so the Father lets the younger son go.  Freedom is tough.
          The Father is more prodigal in His love than even the younger son was with money.  What an image for God!  Here is a God Who is anxious and eager to forgive.  The Father stands on the hill top, anxiously searching the horizon for the younger son’s return.  As soon as he sees him, still a long way off, the Father doesn’t wait till the son gets back, but unable to restrain himself – with no concern whatsoever over his dignity and how he appeared - the Father runs out to meet him, throws his arms around him, kisses him, won’t let the son finish his little rehearsed speech of apology.  The Father  does not demand an apology.  He does not demand an accounting of where all the money went.  He does not require a listing of all the things the son did wrong.  Quite the opposite.  The Father gives him a new outfit and throws a big party.  This Father is more prodigal with his love and forgiveness than even the younger son was with his inheritance.  The Father is a great lover and a great image of God.  For Jesus knows a God who is always, always, always, eager and anxious to forgive.  God wants badly to reconcile us and heal us and love us. 
          The Father is the key to understanding the parable.  We know about people who do stupid and selfish things like the younger son.  We know about self-righteous and proud and closed in people like the older son.  But the Father who loves and gives and forgives so eagerly, so prodigally, so overwhelmingly, is not common.
          The Father loves.  That is what He does.  He loves the younger son even when he is selfish and stupid.  He loves the older son even when he is self-righteous and up-tight.   It makes no difference.  The Father loves, because that is what the Father does. 
          The correct understanding is given to us today by St. Paul in the second reading: "All this has been done by God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 
           "All this has been done by God,"   God does it.  God chooses us to be His children.  Any choosing we do is almost irrelevant compared to that.  God reconciles us to himself through Christ, and any good that we accomplish is the result of God’s grace, not the prerequisite for earning it. 
          This beautiful parable of the prodigal son is not addressed to the sinners out there on the streets, not addressed to the indifferent people out having coffee at Starbucks this Sunday morning, but to us, the church goers, the good people.  The parable instructs and warns us not to take our goodness as our accomplishment, but as God’s gift to us. 
           "All this has been done by God,"     "All this has been done by God,"

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sun., Mar. 6

Well first of all I would like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Paulist Fathers. It was on the 6th of March, 1858 that the Vatican document was issued that officially separated Fr. Isaac Hecker and his four companions from the Redemptorist Fathers to go off and start a new congregation, namely the Paulist Fathers. The name of this founding document of the Paulists is “Nuper Nonnulli”. It is Latin and doesn’t mean really anything. The literal translation is “some certain”. There is a kind of indefinite openness about that title that I find full of potential, of possibilities, a lack of restriction and constriction, and open horizons that I find quite attractive. But then I am a Paulist.
Some legalists in the Paulists claim that the true birthday of the Paulists is the day the first Paulist Constitution was adopted. This strikes me as insisting on the letter of the law over the spirit of the movement, something our spiritual guide and patron, St. Paul, strove mightily against. I am firmly in the Nuper Nonnulli camp.
You can find portraits of Fr. Isaac Hecker and the other four first Paulists, along with short biographies, on the walls of Hecker Hall. I encourage you to check them out. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus for making them possible. You will also find a bust of Fr. Hecker under the icon of St. Augustine of Canterbury (a/k/a St. Austin) on one of the side altars of our church. Also there are brochures there on the effort to have Fr. Hecker canonized.
So allow me to wish you and yours a most Happy Nuper Nonnulli Day!
Now back to business. Continuing to look at the Corporal Works of Mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we come to “Shelter the Homeless”. Homelessness is something we know about in our neighborhood.
One very good example of sheltering the homeless is the work of St. Louise House. This wonderful effort, born out of one of the Small Christian Communities of St. Austin Parish, St. Louise House was a direct response to the situation of homeless women with dependent children. It now provides shelter for over thirty women and their children. More importantly, it also trains these women and equips them with the basic tools to remain in a home after they leave St. Louise House. It is a wonderful work, and you can learn more about it on their website, 
Another effort to shelter the homeless is the great work of Habitat for Humanity Austin. This organization is the largest provider of homes that are affordable for hardworking families in Central Texas and work hard to fill Austin’s affordable housing crisis. You can learn about volunteering or helping at They even have a “Catholic Build”, where members of various parishes supply much of the labor and even the financing to build a home for a working family.
iACT, or Interfaith Action of Central Texas, does great work here in Austin repairing and upgrading homes of senior citizens who are not able to keep up their houses. This group helps seniors to remain in their homes and to keep up the value of their property. It also has the advantage of bringing together volunteers from many different faith traditions in service to the community.
And Mobile Loaves and Fishes, in addition to feeding the homeless, is also working to help them escape life on the streets. They are working on Community First!, a 27 acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. You can find out about volunteering or donating at www.
Finally, you can help get at the root of homelessness, especially for the working poor, by how you vote. Support candidates who favor increasing the minimum wage to a level that allows a working family to rent or even buy housing. That would be an important step towards a long-term solution. You can see the stand the US Catholic Bishops have taken in support of raising the minimum wage at
So there are many opportunities in our city to shelter the homeless. This Lent, just pick one and assist in this basic and important corporal work of mercy.
God bless!