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, http://www.saintlouisehouse.org/
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 www.austinhabitat.org/volunteer. 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.http://mlf.org/community-first/.
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 http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/minimum-wage-backgrounder.cfm.
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.