Monday, October 24, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, July 17, 2016

We are now into Summer. Mostly hot and humid. Or VERY hot. So it is a good time for us to tidy up the last of the two Spiritual Works of Mercy, thereby completing my overview of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The two works we have not yet looked at are “Comfort the afflicted” and “Pray for the living and the dead.”

Comforting the afflicted is very broad. This can be accomplished just by spending time with someone who is sick or grieving or hurting in some way. Active listening is a wonderful way to comfort people who are hurting. You don’t need to give advice or answers or tell them what to do. In fact, it is better if you do not. Just listen. It is not as easy as it sounds, but it is very powerful, and it is healing. Sometimes a phone call or a note letting someone know you were thinking of them can be a positive work.  Who is afflicted in your family, neighborhood, school or work place? Who is lonely, upset, dejected, or hurting? I don’t think it will take you a long time to find the afflicted. The afflicted are all around us. And if you are one of the afflicted, you can still do this spiritual work of mercy. You don’t have to have your business and your life all together in order to do this. Sometimes the best healers are those who have been wounded themselves and so can empathize and understand more deeply another person’s hurt. Comforting the afflicted is a great spiritual work of mercy and something all of us can do. All we need is patience and acceptance.
The last work of mercy to look at is to pray for the living and the dead. That is because prayer makes a difference. It may not make a difference in the way we want or hope, but it does make a difference. This is because it makes God the Father very happy to see His children express their care and concern for each other. And no matter how rich or poor, no matter how educated or not you are, no matter how eloquent or not, no matter even how holy or not you are, you can pray for the living and for the dead.

Praying for the dead is a particularly Catholic (and Orthodox) thing to do. We know we do not change God’s mind. We know we cannot change the free choices of another. But we also know that we are not individual atoms unconnected to each other. Somehow we are all in this together, and the salvation of one depends on the salvation of all. There is a real bond between us. This is why we ask the saints to pray for us, and while we pray for each other, including our dead. The Holy Spirit connects us together as the one Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is stronger than death. So we pray for our friends, relatives, and even our enemies not only when they are here with us on earth, but even after their death. And we ask them to pray for us, because we are all connected in the grand scheme of the Kingdom of God.

And so we come to the end of our tour of the Works of Mercy. The important thing is not to able to name them or know about them but to DO them. Go and practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, July 24, 2016

This week we have several interesting feast days of Saints. On Monday we celebrate St. James the Apostle. He was the son of Zebedee, and had a brother, John, who was also an Apostle. To make things a bit more confusing, there was another James who was also an Apostle. To distinguish the two, the St. James the Apostle whose feast is this week is referred to as “the Greater,” and the other unfortunate Apostle is referred to as “the Lesser.” I think this distinction was based on their ages."

St. James the Apostle should not be confused with the St. James who was the “brother of the Lord” and the leader of the first Christian community in Jerusalem. Nor should our St. James be confused with the St. James who wrote the Epistle of St. James. Apparently James was a very popular name in First Century Palestine.  St. James, as I said, was the son of Zebedee. We don’t know much about Zebedee other than he was a fisherman, and James and John abandoned him when called by Jesus (Mt 4:21-22). We know a little bit more about their Mother. It seems she was an ambitious woman and was willing to scheme to get preferment for her sons. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 20, we hear how their mother approached Jesus and asked for the best places in the Kingdom of God. Her ploy did not succeed and only served to irritate the other Apostles. James was one of the favored three to witness the Transfiguration, though. It seems that James and his brother were a bit hot-headed. They were nick-named “sons of thunder,” and on one occasion earned a rebuke from Jesus when they wanted Him to call down fire on a Samaritan town that did not welcome Jesus (Luke 9: 54-5). Perhaps it was this hot-headed and reckless nature that caused St. James to be the first of all the Apostles to be martyred.
On Tuesday we have the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. The names of these Saints derive from a popular work of the second century, and who knows if they preserve a historical memory or not. But Jesus obviously did have grandparents, because He was like us in all things but sin. Did they babysit Jesus when He was an infant? Did they tend to spoil Him as many grandparents do with their grandchildren?  We really don’t know and can only speculate. This would be a good day to call your grandparents if they are still alive and wish them well, and if they are deceased, then to say a special prayer for them. Grandparents are important.

On Friday we celebrate St. Martha. She must have been a fabulous hostess, because Jesus seemed to like to go there (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9). We all know that Mary chose the better part, but Martha is easier to identify with, and she was also a woman of great faith (John 11: 21 – 27). She is an appealing person (at least to me) because of her forthright and direct nature.

So this week we have a good opportunity to reflect on the many varied ways that we can become saints: as apostolic workers, as faithful and loving parents and grandparents, and in different roles of service. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, July 31, 2016

Today we make a big change in moving the 9 a.m. Mass 15 minutes earlier to 8:45. This may not sound like a big change, but when you start messing with liturgy, people tend to get upset. So I would like to address another possible liturgical change. You may have heard that earlier this month Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at a liturgical conference in London to start celebrating Masses “ad orientem,” or facing away from the congregation, beginning the first Sunday of Advent this year. Those of us with long memories can remember as children the priest celebrating Mass with his back to the people. This is a call to return to that posture.

Very quickly the Vatican distanced itself from this suggestion, and the appeal for priests to go back to the old way of celebrating Mass rather quickly died. So don’t look for Frs. Dick or Rich or myself to don fiddle-back vestments and turn our backs on you at Advent. Still, some liturgical purists were very happy to hear such an important Roman official make this suggestion. And I have come across an article by one of them (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry) who makes his case for the priest celebrating with his back to the congregation in an article wittily titled, “The vast majority of Catholic priests are facing the wrong way.” If you would like to read it, you can find it online at:

I probably am doing Mr. Gobry an injustice, but to me the crux of his argument for the priest to stand with his back to the congregation comes down to his assertion that the Mass is “not about you.” The Mass is about God. Mr. Gobry states that the priest facing the same way as the people “says, loudly and clearly, ‘This is not about you.’ The Mass is supposed to be about God — an act of worship of God. The priest does not have ‘his back to the people,’ traditionalists say. He faces in the same direction as the rest of the people: toward God, to worship Him.”  In other words, we are all worshipping God together, and so we all face the same way.

I look at it differently. For me the Mass is a dialogue between the Father and the Son. The structure of the Mass is dialogic. This is why the responses of the congregation (priest included) are so important. Joined to Christ, we are entering into this holy dialogue. The priest faces the congregation to facilitate dialogue. We form the Body of Christ. This is why it is more correct to call the priest the “presider” rather than the celebrant, because we ALL are celebrating the Mass. We form the Body of Christ, and that is the objective of the Mass. In Thomistic theology the goal (the res et sacramentum) is for us to form the Body of Christ. As an aside, this is why I never understood the custom of people standing facing the tabernacle till after it was closed following Holy Communion. The objective is not the Sacrament reserved but the Sacrament in us, transforming us into the Body of Christ. At Holy Communion each of us becomes a tabernacle, and the emphasis should be on us forming the Body of Christ by receiving the Body of Christ, not on the Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.

Because we as a community are called to become the Body of Christ and enter into the dialogue of the Father and the Son, I believe this is best facilitated by our gathering around the altar table, not all facing in the same direction.

Mr. Gobry is correct that the Mass is most certainly not about us. But it is about our being formed into the Body of Christ. And dialogue is important to that.

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 7, 2016

We are already in August, and Summer is zipping by. What is going on with the renovation of the exterior of the church and rectory??? For about 8 weeks our plans have been in at the City of Austin Building Dept, awaiting approvals. We received a first set of comments on the plans after a month. The architects told us that on other projects they have in for permitting took two months to get back initial comments, so they were pleased we got ours with less delay. The issues were relatively minor, asking for a plumbing fixture count, information on a fire separation, and concern that the light fixture at the top of the tower may not comply with the City’s dark sky requirement. We can deal easily with each of these. I am hopeful that we will have final approval in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, our contractor has been soliciting prices from various subs on the job. Perhaps we can start demolition next month. Please continue to pray for a successful outcome of our project. The next Property Committee meeting is Aug. 10.

Before you know it school will be starting again: UT, St. Austin School, AISD, etc. And with the end of August our regular programming at the parish also kicks into high gear. We will be having a Ministries Fair on the weekend of Aug. 20-21 and the following week conduct Registration Weekend.  So I urge you to start thinking and praying now about participating more fully in your parish. We need your help. You can do it. If you are unsure about how you can participate more fully in the life of our parish, any of the priests, or any of the parish staff, or any of the Parish Pastoral Council members would be happy to talk with you and explore some possibilities. You can also check out our parish Guide Book & Directory for some great ideas. If you do not get a copy by Aug. 22, call the church office, and we will send you one.

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO for St. Austin Catholic Parish. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 14, 2016

As we plow through the hot days of August, the parish is starting to prepare for the Fall programming onslaught. It is just never dull.

After changing the filters in the church AC system last month, we discovered that the increased airflow blocked the AC vents with an accumulation of what in the HVAC world is technically referred to as “gunk.” The vents have now all been cleaned. You should notice increased airflow in the church AC, and hence better ability to cool the church on these hot August weekends.

Because Microsoft Corporation in its great wisdom has decided that it will no longer support security upgrades for Windows 7, the parish needs to upgrade our office computers to Windows 10. The only problem is our old computers cannot be upgraded to be able to handle Windows 10, so we find ourselves with a need to purchase a minimum of six new computers just to be able to continue doing what we have been doing for years. This represents a sock to our parish budget, but we are working to handle it. Maybe we will have to have an “IT” (information technology) second collection. We will see.

Also, in our continuing efforts to maintain safety at our parish, we are looking to purchase two AED (Defibrillator) machines; one for the church office and one for in the church. This also requires training and certification for several of our staff members, so in the event someone suffers cardiac arrest, the victim can be treated immediately, even before the paramedics arrive. The school already has one in the gym, and several faculty members have been trained in its use. These machines run about $950 each.

Ready or not, St. Austin School opens this Tues., Aug. 16, beginning slowly with just a half day. Meanwhile much progress has been made on the installation of new boys and girls bathrooms at the school, a new art room, a new resource center, and new staff bathrooms. I am very pleased with how it is turning out. Unfortunately it is impossible to complete all of this large undertaking before school resumes. I trust that the Principal, Mr. Fred Valle, and the dedicated faculty of the school, along with all the students and their parents, will recognize the need for these improvements, work around the inconveniences, and take this all in stride. We are used to improvising at St. Austin Parish and School. Watch this bulletin for an announcement of a grand opening and dedication of all this work at the school in early November.

Next weekend (Aug. 20-21) is the Parish Ministries Fair, and there is information about that in this bulletin. We need more help here, so please consider how you can use the talents you have been blessed with to help our parish community.

The following weekend (Aug. 27-28) is Parish Registration weekend, a VERY IMPORTANT event in the life of our parish.  And the following day, Mon., Aug. 29, the 5:20 p.m. weekday Mass resumes on Monday through Thursday.

Where did the Summer go?   

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 4, 2016

This weekend we have a lot of stuff going on, even on a holiday weekend!  First of all, three Paulists are being ordained as transitional deacons in Washington, DC. This is the last step before being ordained as priests next May. Two of the three, Stu Wilson-Smith and Steve Petroff, have been assigned here as part of their seminary training. Matt Berrios, the third candidate, has visited Austin. We wish them all well.  This, of course, reminds me of my own diaconal ordination. It took place a long time ago. At that time deacons in the Paulists were ordained in their Pastoral Year assignment. So I was ordained where I was assigned, which was St. Nicholas Parish in North Pole, Alaska. North Pole, in case you haven’t been there, is located halfway between Fairbanks and Eielson Air Force Base—about 15 miles from each. North Pole serves as a bedroom community for both, and about 40% of our St. Nicholas parishioners were military service members and their families.
The church we had in North Pole at the time was just a block basement under the double-wide trailer that was the rectory, office, and ministry space of the parish. We had greatly outgrown the trailer and its basement and were in the process of constructing a new St. Nicholas Church, a real church with seating, a cry room, a pitched roof and a steeple.  But by the time of my deacon ordination, we were only half way through construction.

Fortunately, however, the Lutherans down the road at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, being Germanic and Nordic types, and therefore much better organized and orderly than we Catholics, were much further along in the construction of their new church. In fact, they were all but done, just needing some finish details. We had a very good relationship with that Lutheran Congregation, conducting our Vacation Bible School together, working on various joint projects, etc. So we asked if we could borrow their church for my deacon ordination, and they said yes. This is how I came to be ordained a deacon in the Lutheran Church.

Well, I only had my Catholic deacon ordination ceremony in their space. But I did have two Catholic Bishops there (just to make sure it took!), and I was fortunate to have an Eskimo permanent deacon there to proclaim the Gospel.  Originally we planned to have him proclaim the Gospel in the native Eskimo language, Yupik. However, his flight was delayed, he did not have his Yupik Gospel book with him, and so he proclaimed the Gospel in English, which probably was better for the congregation’s comprehension. The local Lutheran Pastor did one of the other readings. And to complete the ecumenical nature of the service, St. Herman of Alaska, a Russian Orthodox Saint who tried to found a monastery in Alaska back when it was owned by the Czar, was included in the Litany of the Saints. All in all my deacon ordination was a rather unique and very special celebration for me.
Please keep the Paulists seminarians in your prayers. Please pray for more vocations to the Paulists, the priesthood and religious life. Happy Labor Day!  

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 18, 2016

This past Sunday Fr. Al Moser, CSP went to his heavenly reward. He was less than a month shy of his 93rd birthday.  Some of the long time parishioners may remember Fr. Al from when he was the Director of the “Newman Apostolate” (as the University Catholic Center was then called) from 1972 through 1978.

Also this past week Ms. Edith Mary Balusek went to be with the Lord. She was 94 years old. She had been a faithful and generous parishioner for five decades. She was the St. Austin sacristan, doing all the altar linens, washing and ironing and mending them, and doing many other things to make the church beautiful. She also made the church community beautiful by her positive and sweet and friendly demeanor. She enjoyed helping. She was a fixture here and now will be missed.

 While we have lost two pillars of the ministry here at St. Austin and the University Catholic Center, we have gained advocates for us in heaven. I think the register of St. Austin and UCC members in glory must be getting rather long!

All this speaks of the great debt we owe to the generations of generous and committed Catholics in our parish who have gone before us. They left us not just a physical plant and resources, but a wonderful legacy of faith, service, and generosity.

This is a legacy to be proud of and also a legacy to imitate. By generosity and cheerful service, and striving to live more fully the life of Christ in our own life, we will also faithfully pass on this positive legacy to generations yet unborn.

Every one of us at St. Austin is a thread in a great tapestry that is still being woven, a tapestry that bears the image of Christ in service, in celebration, in faith. The weaver is the Holy Spirit, and we are all spiritually connect to each other in real but unseen ways.  

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 29, 2016

Where’s the renovation?? Well, I am happy to report it is just around the corner.
A large part of the delay has been getting approval and permits from the City of Austin Building Department. It turns out that one of the issues with the City is the lantern at the top of the tower. The City contends it violates the City’s Dark Sky Initiative. Our architects thought differently, but of course the City won. We have agreed to a compromise that we think will still achieve our goal of giving us a greater sense of presence on the Drag, even at night. There were also a few other minor issues, mostly about adding a few extra fire dampers, which we agreed to do. The revised set of drawings, with all that the City of Austin wanted, has been resubmitted about a week ago, and hopefully, when you read this, we will have in hand our approved and stamped plans so that we can go forward. YAY!  
On Wednesday, September 14, the St Austin Building Committee met with our architects from SixthRiver Architects, and our general contractor, Mr. Bob Rizzo of Rizzo Construction, Inc. He presented us with updated construction estimates. It has taken him a while to compile this, because all subcontractors are now very, very, very busy with construction in Austin. As you can tell by just counting the numbers of construction cranes you see all over the city, there is a tremendous amount of building going on. Some subcontractors are not interested in our project, which is rather involved and complicated, and not as big and lucrative as much of the other construction going on in our area. So it was a real chore for our general contractor to get accurate bid numbers.
However, he diligently pursued this and got us numbers in which we could have a reasonable level of confidence.  The number he got was $3,694,129. This number is for construction only. It does not include our costs for fund-raising, for the architects, for permitting and testing and other such expenses. However, it is pretty close to what we were planning on. It is, in fact, about $90,000 over what we had targeted at our Property Committee meeting back in March. The Building Committee, with input from the Finance Council (several members were also at this meeting), agreed we could go forward with this level of cost and gave the go-ahead to Rizzo Construction to begin. I expect that mobilization and scheduling will take four to six weeks and that actual work will begin by the end of October.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that this project will actually start in earnest! I am sure you will all be glad to see it begin as well.

We are fortunate that we have gone over our goal for fundraising. We have also been able to put our money to work for us in this time of planning and permitting. Once actual construction begins, and we can see it happening, we will conduct another mini campaign to invite those who did not join us in the first campaign to now do so (some like to wait and see if this is for real and is actually going to happen), invite parishioners who have come to our parish since the campaign to join us, and welcome anyone who wants to increase their commitment. This mini-campaign will most probably be in the new year.

THANK YOU all for your patience and understanding as we go through this complicated and involved process of renovation. Thank you especially for your prayers. Please keep them coming! 

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 2, 2016

We live in interesting times, times of rapid change. We can either lament the change and stand on the sidelines, or we can enter into the change and try to shape the future for the better.

Our neighborhood is changing. You probably have noticed that many of our neighbors have been developing their property. Several years ago the University Baptist Church undertook a land lease with a developer, and now we have the Calloway House down the street. Soon after that the Lutheran Center (catty-corner from our Parish Center/Gym) also entered into a deal with developers, and now we have University House as a neighbor. The University of Texas has also gotten into the act, buying property around MLK and Guadalupe for their new business school Clearly that work is well underway. Finally, we all learned recently that the McDonald’s site is being redeveloped and will become a multi-story luxury hotel in the Marriott chain. Our neighborhood is changing.
I think that we as a parish, with all the development going on around us, need to ask what are we doing?

Well, we just upgraded our school with new bathrooms, an art room and an enrichment center. We are updating the appearance of our Church on the drag, redoing the first floor of the rectory, and adding a new lobby with new bathrooms. Beyond that, however, what opportunities and possibilities are opening up for us?  How can we best use the potential that our location gives us?

Beginning with some questions from the School Advisory Board, we have begun to seriously ask that question. We have received permission from the Diocese of Austin to meet with developers to explore potential redevelopment opportunities that would leverage our existing properties to the maximum mission and financial benefit to our community. I have formed a small committee (Development Committee) to assist me in this process: Christopher Kennedy, Trish Dolese, Christopher Bell, Ted Smith, Kelly Badu and Jennifer Anderson. We are in the process of selecting a broker to represent the parish’s interests as we solicit offers from developers. This committee will be formulating our “needs” that any development deal will have to address and will be reaching out to relevant parish and school groups, as needed, for assistance.

At the outset of this exploration, I want emphasize that this is an exploration, and I want to allay any concerns you may have about what we are doing. So as to maximize opportunities for developers to think about the totality of our property, we have only placed a few restrictions on the ideas we are willing to entertain:

  • ·         No land will be sold as part of any deal. Rather, a long term lease will likely be negotiated.
  • ·         The church building itself (as our worship home) and the new entrance lobby we are adding      will remain, and no development plan will be entertained that removes these buildings.
  • ·         Any development deal will need to include space for our school on-site.
  • ·         Any development deal will need to include ministry space on-site.

This will be a long undertaking, and there is absolutely no pre-conceived notion about the success of any development deal. We are undertaking this exploration as good stewards of the parish’s resources, attempting to ensure that those resources are being used in the best manner possible to continue the mission of this parish, now and into the future. All the various groups such as the parish staff, the school community, the Diocese of Austin, and certainly St. Austin Parish at large, will be consulted prior to any agreement.
I want to assure you that we will keep you up to date as this process unfolds! I ask for your prayers as we proceed.  THANKS. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 9. 2016

Let’s talk a little about angels. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Archangels on Sept 29, had the St Austin School Angels Mass, in which the First Graders dressed as angels, complete with wings and halos, and sang a lovely song about angels! This was good because the usual Feast of the Guardian Angels was skipped this year because it fell on a Sunday.
So what about angels? If someone tells me they have seen an angel I immediately get very suspicious and begin wondering if they have been taking their medications. Though a vision of angels is possible, it is rare and unusual. However, the founder of the Paulist Fathers, Isaac Hecker, as a young man, confused about his future, did have a vision of an angel that gave him a feeling of “most heavenly pure joy.” Therefore I should not rule out angelic sightings all together.

On the other hand I have often had people tell me, and have had personal experience, of angels providing support and help to people. My most obvious case occurred in Henry Coe State Park in California, back when I was stationed in San Francisco. I went there for a day hike, but got totally lost. I wandered around trying to find my way out of this enormous state park, but only got more lost. I came across a deer carcass which had been killed and eaten by a mountain lion, so I knew they were active in the area. I ended up spending the night, with almost no sleep, in the park. The next morning I trudged on. I was totally spent, tired, thirsty, hungry, and not a little annoyed. I was also worried because later that afternoon I had a wedding rehearsal to lead. I began praying asking my guardian angel for help. And then out of nowhere, down the road, came a while Lexus SUV. Now if that is not an angel straight out of central casting, I don’t know what is. I got a ride back to my car, and after getting rehydrated, all was well.

Cosmologists and their ilk like to tell us that all that we can see and know, billions and billions of galaxies, millions of massive black holes, billions of stars and planets in each of those galaxies, an absolutely mind-boggling amount of stuff spread over a mind-numbing expanse of space, all this counts for ONLY 4% of what is actually there. The other 96% of creation is dark matter and dark energy. It is dark because we don’t have a clue as to what it is. We don’t even have an idea of what it is.

Now if created reality is this mind-blowing and weird, who is to say that there are not spiritual beings like angels? The spiritual world is even more fantastic and spectacular than the physical world. Truly, it would be rather a disappointment and a let-down if angels did not exist.

I often think of angels when celebrating Mass and the sun shines through our beautiful colored windows. The light plays off of the recesses of the windows, and splotches and areas of color shine off the recessed walls. It reminds me that all that space above the head of the congregation is not really empty. When we celebrate the Mass we believe we are somehow in touch with the Liturgy of Heaven. At our celebration of the Eucharist we transport ourselves in a way out of the current space and time and are present, in the effects of what is celebrated, at the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, some 2,000 years ago. The Catechism of the Catholic Church  #1367 states that “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.” And in #1369 states: “The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ.” Saints and Angels are present when we celebrate Eucharist. The shifting splotches of color are – to me at least – a reminder of that. And that is pretty awesome!

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 16, 2016

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the International Catholic Stewardship Council Conference in New Orleans. Even though it was my first time attending, it was the Council’s 54th Annual Conference, so they have been around for a long time.

I assumed that the conference would be primarily about fund-raising. Well, there was plenty about fund-raising, including some very practical and interesting ideas, but primarily the conference was about Baptism. Stewardship, it turns out, flows from our status as Baptized Christians. For when we are Baptized we are entrusted with a mission. And that being entrusted with a mission makes us stewards. And that is what stewardship is really all about. It is not a program or a plan, though those are included.  It is rather a call; a call to be good stewards given to each of us at our Baptism.

One of the interesting ideas expressed by a long-time pastor who has worked at a spirituality of stewardship for a long time was to eliminate the language of “time, talent and treasure” usually associated with stewardship. He made the point that time, talent and treasure are what we HAVE. But that is a static understanding of stewardship. In his parish when it comes to stewardship they emphasize what they DO, not what they have. So they speak about PRAYER (how much time do you spend with God), SERVICE (how you use your talents and gifts and opportunities), and SACRIFICIAL GIVING (giving back to God the first-fruits of your possessions, not the left-overs). It was a thought-provoking presentation.

There were some good presentations on practical steps for gathering input from parishioners in a workshop on strategic planning. And there were lots of other practical ideas and inspirational, motivational presentations.  At the end of the conference I attended a workshop entitled “Partnering for the Mission: Building Positive Relationships Between Pastors and Lay Leadership” by Cande de Leon, the Director of the Office of Mission Advancement of the Archdiocese of Phoenix. That was both revealing and challenging. So there was lots to think about.

As we, as St. Austin Parish, continue to understand our mission better, and face new opportunities and challenges, I think we will be able to use some of the tested ideas and procedures that the Stewardship Council has been working on for years. Hopefully we will be better equipped and more strongly motivated to promote our mission, which ultimately is the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love for each of us in His Son, Jesus Christ.  

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 23, 2016

“The times they are a-changing…”
So wrote Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, and so we can see in our very own neighborhood. The immediate neighborhood of our parish church is changing in front of our very eyes. For better or worse, the neighborhood is going upscale. We are shortly going to be a chichi neighborhood. Instead of the funky and somewhat gritty neighborhood of “The Drag” we have all known and more-or-less loved, we are becoming something upscale. There is no stopping it, and it is not clear if the good is going to outweigh the bad, nor how we, as a parish community, ought to respond.

We have already seen two high-rise upscale student dorms mushroom up on San Antonio Street just on the block north of us. According to University Area Partners there are eight more construction developments in our area already approved and on the books. The Rowling Graduate Business School, now under construction on the corner of MLK and Guadalupe, will have a huge impact on this area. The Marriott has announced it is constructing a 320 room luxury hotel on the property where McDonald’s now sits. That will supposedly begin construction this Spring and take two years. Truly, “The times they are a-changing…”
Some people are anxious to see this change happen. The developers and builders are, of course. But also many in the University of Texas community as well. They find our neighborhood, with its drifters, homeless, pan-handlers and street-youth a dicey-at-best and rather dangerous place. They badly want the area “cleaned up.” This desire has been increased greatly by the fear generated by the murder last spring of the UT student Haruka Weiser, for which Meechaiel Criner, a homeless teenager, has been charged with capital murder. Local area pastors have received more reports than usual from those who work with the street youth that they are getting more attention and pressure from the UT police, who have extended their coverage into the West Campus area, to leave the area. Also, due to APD and UTPD efforts, the use of drugs and instances of crime have decreased in our area since last year, when a wave of crime related to K-2 (synthetic drug) came through.
How should we as a Catholic parish community respond? Should we just sit by and let it happen? Should we increase our efforts to serve the street youth, the homeless and the poor in our area? Should we encourage the efforts to make our area more middle class, even if we realize this will change the character of the neighborhood? Given the forces at work for change, can we even do much of anything significant?

This is an important discussion for our Parish Pastoral Council and for the whole parish. It effects our worship, our school, our possible development of our plant, our relations with our neighbors, a whole lot of significant stuff. I don’t have the answer for this, but I think it important that we not just sit passively by and let it happen. I urge you to take this issue to prayer. If you have a suggestion on how we as a parish can respond to this, let me or someone on the Parish Pastoral Council know. The email address is

Truly, “The times they are a-changing…”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

HOMILY 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C October 16, 2016

          As a Paulist I am, of course, drawn to St Paul, and so would like to look at our second reading today from St Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.   The setting for this reading is that St Paul is now an old man, is in prison, and Paul knows his time in this world is short.  St Timothy is a much younger man, who had been Paul’s companion and understudy.  In many ways Timothy has been Paul’s star pupil, and Paul sees Timothy as his successor to carry on the work of preaching the Good News.  And so Paul gives him some last words of advice. 
          Now as much as I like St Paul, Paul was a brilliant - and I might say even loquacious - man.  Paul has rich and complex thoughts, and so his sentences and paragraphs have a tendency to run on and on and on.  So I have taken a red pencil to our second reading today to distill from it what is the essence of St Paul’s advice to his trusted and beloved co-worker Timothy, and so also to us. 
          This is what is left after my effort to boil our second reading down to its essence.  [Hold up redacted copy.]   You probably can’t read this, but you get the idea.
          The edited version reads:  “Beloved, Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, …..     I charge you ….. proclaim the word.”
          “Remain faithful” and “proclaim the word.”   St Paul is urging, instructing, ordering Timothy to do two things:  Remain faithful, and proclaim the word.
          And that is excellent advice for each of us. 
          Remain faithful.  You have been called by God to be God’s own adopted and beloved child at your Baptism.  It makes no difference if you were baptized as a tiny baby or as an adult.  In Baptism you were configured to Christ Jesus and became a beloved child of God.               You were joined to the Body of Christ, called to a life of grace, mercy, love and holiness.  [At this Mass, Taylor Jill Faulkner will be baptized into this wonderful relationship with God and become a child of God.]
          But this special gift or charism of Baptism has to be lived out each day.  It is not something you received long ago and keep in a box on a shelf.   No, it requires us to be faithful.  Not just on Sundays, not just when convenient, not just when we have done all the other things we have to do in the day, but at all times and in all places.  Remain faithful.
          This means you need to pray every day.  Just as you need to breathe every day, so you need to pray every day.  Remind yourself that God is your Father, and ask for the help to be faithful.   Faithful in your actions, faithful in your words, faithful in your thoughts, faithful in your attitudes, faithful in your emotions, faithful in your whole and entire being.
          You are a child of God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in every place and circumstance you find yourself.  And so you must be faithful all day, every day, true to who you most fundamentally are as a child of God.  Fidelity means knowing who you most truly are, and then living that out.  Remain faithful.
          Secondly, St. Paul tells Timothy, “I charge you … proclaim the word;”  What word?   Why the Gospel, the Good News of the wonderful gift of faith that we have received, that gives meaning and purpose and hope to our lives, that reveals to us the great hope to which we have been called.  The Good News cries out to be shared.   We cannot keep the Good News of the Gospel to ourselves, but must share it. 
          How to do that?   First of all, look like you have heard Good News.  Smile.  People will wonder what you are up to. 
          Grumpy, unhappy, dour, listless, carping, moaning and groaning depressed Christians do NOT proclaim Good News.  Pretty obvious. 
We do not have to be happy and bubbly all the time.  God knows there are plenty of serious, sad, difficult and painful situations we must confront and deal with in life.  But even under all the difficulties and problems and pains, there must still be that rock hard conviction of God’s love for me personally, in Jesus Christ, that gives to my life meaning and purpose and abiding joy.  So to proclaim the Good News, look and act like you have heard good news, not bad news.  The world is full of bad news.  Christians don’t need to bring the world any more bad news.  But there is a great, indeed desperate, need for GOOD News!
          Artists have not helped us with this.  Most Saint’s pictures make them look anemic and as if they have been sucking on lemons.  Most holy card saints look this way.   I think this is the artists’ attempt to portray the saints as other-worldly.   But the most holy people I have personally known have been people of joy.  They are not sour and gloomy and depressed.  Rather they are people who know intimately God’s love for them and so are joyful.  Look at Pope Francis.  He radiates joy.  And that is what we, as Christians, are called to do.
          Secondly, proclaim the Good News by your actions.   Live your faith.  Exercise it.  Work it.  Do it.   Go out of your way to help, to heal, to donate, to serve, to make things better, to forgive, to love.    Show your faith by doing it.  It is like that old question, “If being a Christian were a crime, could any court find enough evidence to convict you?”    Or would the case be dismissed for lack of evidence?   We proclaim our faith by living it.
          Again this is not just a Sunday thing, but a fundamental stance of our whole life.  St Paul tells Timothy in our second reading: “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;”  We have to proclaim the word of the Gospel by our lives when it is convenient, and everyone loves us for it, and also when it is inconvenient: when it messes with our plans, when it generates opposition, when it is hard and difficult and scary and we don’t want to do it.  We still need to proclaim the Word by our lives.  We must take up our cross.
          And finally, we have to proclaim the Word by our words.  Sometimes that may be words of invitation, to come and see what we have found in the household of the faith.  ¿Have you ever invited anyone to join you at Mass, or do discuss faith?
          Sometimes proclaiming the Word may be words of healing, of tenderness, of patience, of challenge, of forgiveness, of mercy, of love.  Sometimes I think the best proclamation of the Word is listening, of paying deep and undivided attention to another person, allowing them to find their own voice and in that to hear the Lord speaking to them in the depths of their heart.  The Holy Spirit is already there, prompting and urging the person long before you ever talk to them.  So sometimes we have to create the respectful space for them to hear the Spirit of Christ speaking to them in the depths of their being.  And that is a very special proclamation of the Word.
          In the Gospel today Jesus ends with a question both provocative and disturbing: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”                   The answer to that question is up to us. 
          St Paul gives Timothy very good advice.  It is good advice for me and for you as well.   It is simple but not at all easy.   Remain faithful.   Proclaim the word.  

          Remain faithful.  Proclaim the word.       God bless!