Thursday, January 26, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 24, 2016

Several important events are occurring this coming week. Sunday evening, Jan. 22, at the 5 p.m. Mass at the University Catholic Center, the local chapter of the Paulist Associates will be renewing their promise for another year. Congratulations to all of them.

Monday evening there will be a Memorial Mass for Mr. Richard Bohan. For many years he was an active member of the choir and a regular cantor here at Masses. The Mass will be at 7 p.m., followed by a reception. All are welcome.

On Wednesday, we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Patronal feast of the Paulist Fathers. We will be hosting the priests of our Deanery here that morning, followed by a festive luncheon. Then all the Paulists are proceeding to St. Paul the Apostle Church in Horseshoe Bay, where Paulist Ruben Patino will provide for us one of his fantastic home-made meals.

And on the weekend of Jan. 27-28, we will conduct here the Annual Paulist Appeal. I hope that you have received a letter from me about the Paulist Appeal, our needs and our request. Your generous response is most appreciated. Joining us that weekend to preach the appeal at all Masses will be Fr. René Constanza, CSP. He was formerly here on the staff and is now the Director of the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, MI. It did not, I must admit, require a lot of persuasion to get him to leave Michigan in January to come here to Austin. Hopefully he will thaw out during his visit here!
On Sat., Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. we will have a Memorial Mass for Fr. David O’Brien, CSP. He was Pastor here in the past, as well as Director of the University Catholic Center. Fr. Larry Rice, who was with Fr O’Brien in Columbus, Ohio, will preach, and Bishop John McCarthy plans to attend and say a few words. One parishioner each from St. Austin and UCC will give short eulogies, and there will be a reception following to facilitate the sharing of memories and stories. All are welcome.

On that same day in Houston, former parishioner and member of our choir, Kevin Zubel, C.Ss.R., will be ordained to the priesthood. We have not had a vocation to the priesthood from our parish for quite a while, so this is very special indeed. He will be here on Sun., Feb. 5 to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving (a.k.a. First Mass) at 11:30 a.m.  Again, all are welcome.

We have an active and busy parish. And that is wonderful!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Ordinary Time cycle A January 22, 2017

First, a word from our sponsor.   In the Gospel we just heard Jesus calling two sets of brothers to follow Him and be Apostles.  First he called Peter and his brother Andrew, and then the brothers James and John.  He said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”  And indeed, Jesus did just that.  These four men became the first Apostles and the backbone of our faith today.
          We believe that Jesus still calls men and women to follow Him.  Many are called to follow Jesus in the married life.  Some are called to follow Jesus as single people.  And some are called to follow Jesus in a way of special service to Christ’s people, the Church.  Some are called to be religious brothers or sisters.  Some as deacons.  And still others as priests.  And a few finally as bishops. 
          There is a great and growing need for this sort of call or “vocation.”  We have enough bishops, there is not a shortage of them.  And fortunately, we are getting more permanent deacons.  But we as the Church have a great and growing need for men and women religious, and especially for priests. 
          I urge you to pray for vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood.  If any young people here have had the thought or desire to explore this way of life, any of the priests here would be happy, indeed anxious, to talk to you.
          All of us are responsible for encouraging vocations to the service of God’s People, the church.  So pray for vocations!

Now let’s look at our second reading today from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.   St Paul states: For it has been reported to me about you,
my brothers and sisters, by Chloe's people, that there are rivalries among you.” 
          What is going on here?  Who is Chloe, and why are her people informing on the Corinthians?  Well, we don’t know for sure who Chloe was.  But from the fact that Paul takes for granted that everyone seems to know this lady, Scripture scholars pretty much agree that she was probably a wealthy woman of Corinth and a Christian.  And that she hosted the Christian community of Corinth in her house.  Early Christians did not have churches and so held their worship in people’s homes.   And usually the homes of the wealthy because they were larger and would accommodate more people.  Another example of this phenomenon is St Lydia who we read about in the Acts of the Apostles, who was a dealer in luxury cloth. 
Any way Chloe’s people, or literally “those of Chloe” could be her employees or slaves, or could be her relatives.  We don’t know.  Scholars speculate that they were employees of Chloe trading in Ephesus, which is where Paul was located, and while they were doing business in Ephesus they went to report to Paul on the factions in the Corinthian community, hence causing this passage in the letter we have today.  Presumably these people reported to Paul on instruction from Chloe, their boss. 
Was Chloe a snitch?  Was she a meddlesome tattletale?  Should she have kept her nose out of other people’s business, OR did she do the right, indeed courageous, thing?  When Paul’s letter got back to Corinth, chastising his community for their factions and splits, it was clear that Chloe was the source of information for Paul.  That would not have made her popular.  So was she a snitch or was she a hero?
As someone who has had letters written about me to the Bishop, on several occasions and in various dioceses, my initial reaction is to think of Chloe as a snitch.  I have also had a Bishop write more than one complaining letter about me to the President of the Paulists, but that is another story. 
People like to complain.  There is so much division and bitterness out there.  People are quick to complain.  Self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy troll the internet looking for something they don’t like so they can vent their spleen.  The anonymity of the internet gives them cover to be vile and vicious.  It is incredible sometimes the depths to which some of these carping critics will stoop.  It is a sad commentary on our society. 
In another diocese I was at, the parish had had, in the past, a custom of inviting one of the neighboring Protestant Ministers to preach on the Sunday during the Octave of Christian Unity, which we are now in.  The custom died out for various reasons, but on the centennial of the Octave I wanted to revive the practice for that year, celebrating the hundredth anniversary.  I contacted the Diocese I was in to inform them of this and then waited for a response.  And waited and waited.  Finally the Auxilliary Bishop called and told me that they had gotten this request from me, and they know we had done it in the past, but they really didn’t know what to do about it now, because, and his words were “now so many people are watching.”  So many people are now looking for some deviation from the rules to holler and scream and complain about.  The Auxilliary Bishop was embarrassed, and we did NOT have a pulpit exchange.  For fear of the critics.
Here in our parish several years ago we had the local Muslim Imam come and talk once to a group of parishioners who were taking a four week
study introduction to our Moslem neighbors from a Catholic publishing house.  Were any of you there?  
As with any outside speaker we had to get clearance from the Diocese.  The Diocese agreed to his speaking to us, but insisted it be in a classroom and not in the church.  We had planned to do this in Hecker Hall, but of course I asked why that would make a difference and the reason given was that so many people are watching on the internet and some would be offended by the Imam speaking in a place where we worship and by using our pulpit.    We still got several nasty emails for daring to have an Imam come speak to us anyway.
So when someone complains about church practice I naturally get a little defensive.  And hence my question, ¿was Chloe a snitch?
Well there are times we do need to speak up.  On public transportation systems and in airports you see the sign, “See something?  Say something!”  In the crazy world we all live in today we need to be vigilant.  And we need to report suspicious activity.  It is crazy but that is where we are.
We teach our children that if they see bullying at school or elsewhere to report it to a responsible adult.  We need to know about that.  Everyone who volunteers here at the parish needs to go through Ethics In Ministry training, or EIM for short.  It is all about recognizing the signs of inappropriate behavior, especially regarding sexual abuse, and knowing how and to whom to report it.  We stress the obligation to report suspicions appropriately.  In several places as pastor I have had concerns and suspicions reported to me that we then investigated and dealt with.  I was VERY grateful to the people who came forward and alerted me.  That is NOT snitching, but responsible behavior.
There are times we are obligated to report what we know or even suspect.  And this is what Chloe is doing. 
Hopefully Chloe first tried to talk to the parties involved locally.  Hopefully she tried first to get the factions to work together harmoniously.  Only when that failed did she resort to calling in St Paul.  Notice that she put her name on this.  It was not anonymous.  Anonymous letters are worse than useless.  I never read them. They go right in the trash.  Unfortunately the Diocese has not adopted this enlightened policy.  But in any cas, you be mature enough to only send signed letters. 
Finally, Chloe went to St. Paul.  The divisions were pulling the community apart and the factions were killing the Christian spirit in Corinth.   I hope that Chloe spent time in fervent prayer, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not only for the courage to report to Paul, but to do so in the right way.  Not out of vengeance or getting even, or of one-upmanship, but out of genuine concern for the members of the factions and the whole Body of Christ. 
Friends, we are in contentious, difficult times.  The temptation to castigate and blame and vilify those who see things differently than we do is growing.  We need to be peacemakers.  And we also need the wisdom and courage of Chloe, and know how and when to appropriately voice our concerns.   So I say, Chloe was not a snitch.  Chloe was a person concerned about and dedicated to the growth of the Christian community.  May we be the same.  


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 15, 2017

We are now in the New Year, and as we look ahead we will have (of course!) many second collections. We are certainly a blessed and prosperous society, and with that comes both the opportunity and the obligation to help. One of the most important ways (but not the only way) is to contribute to worthwhile causes.

I believe it is important to do this in a deliberate and a thoughtful way. You could just throw a $5 bill every time the basket is passed. But it is more responsible, and better involves you, to think ahead and consider how you are going to support the many needs that come asking in our second collections. So following is the list, as we now know it, of our second collections in 2017.

I encourage you to do several things. First of all, look it over. Spend some time in prayer, asking for the grace of generosity. This is charitable giving certainly, but it is also an obligation that our Loving Father gives us to care for our brothers and sisters in need. So ask for the grace of generosity. Ask for the courage to do this cheerfully.

Plan how you will respond to the various collections. Some, for example the Annual Paulist Appeal that Fr. René Constanza will be here to preach the last weekend of this month, may be closer to your heart than others. You may want to support these collections more than others. Some you may judge to not be as great a need as others, and so will support somewhat less. And of course, there will be surprise second collections for the victims of natural disasters and other unforeseen needs. We still need to be open to the demands of the moment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HOMILY Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A January 15, 2017

           I did not know him!    John the Baptist seems surprised.   Perhaps a little disappointed.  Here is the one I have been preaching about, looking for, anticipating, and I didn’t know him.   Finally John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus.  Then John got it.  OOOOHHH, He’s the one.   John comes to insight.
          This failure to recognize Jesus is common in spiritual histories. 
St Martin of Tours, when he was a soldier came across a beggar one dark and stormy night.  The beggar was shivering in the cold.  Martin, then a Roman soldier, took his sword, cut his heavy military cloak in two and gave half to the beggar.  That night in a dream Jesus revealed to Martin that the beggar was himself, Jesus.  However, at the time Martin did not recognize Jesus.
          So if many holy people like John the Baptist and Martin of Tours had difficulty  recognizing Jesus, maybe we could have trouble recognizing Him as well.
          Why is it so hard to recognize Jesus?    Perhaps we have wrong expectations;  looking for someone handsome, coifed, long flowing colorful robes that are well tailored and immaculately clean like the holy pictures,… but maybe He is poor, hungry, worried, sick …..
          Pope Francis for his Birthday a few years ago had breakfast with homeless men.  Maybe Jesus was there?  What do you think?
          John the Baptist saw Jesus with his eyes. But John did not recognize him.  This is not really John’s fault.  Our human ability to recognize what is really going on, who is really before us, is quite limited.   Like John, we need the Holy Spirit in order to recognize what is really going on, to see beyond the surface, beyond the wrapping, to perceive what is real.
In a way, we spend most of our day blind; not recognizing what is really occurring.  First of all we often fail to recognize WHOSE we are.   We like to think of ourselves as independent and free, not beholden to anyone. 
But that leads to profound isolation and pointlessness.   We are God’s beloved children.  That awareness gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  Only when we truly see and recognize WHOSE we are,
that we are created by God to be in a loving relationship with God, can we really know and understand our lives. 
Only then can we truly see who Jesus is; not just a good man, not just an example of how to live, not just a challenge to our behavior, but as something fundamentally much greater, as a Savior, someone powerful enough and engaged and loving enough, to save us from a pointless, meaningless existence.  Powerful enough to save us from our sins. 
All of us need to be healed of blindness.  Not physical blindness, but the blindness of our hearts, to see how we are all children of God, and how we are brothers and sisters.   We need to be healed of the blindness that keeps us from seeing why we are truly here, what the meaning and purpose of our life is all about, how we are brothers and sisters, how what we do or fail to do is important, and how Jesus offers us the fullness of life and happiness. 
          What do you see?   You know, Jesus could be in this church right now.  Would we recognize Him, would we know Him? 
          What if we expected to meet Jesus every day?  What would it be like if every day when you get up you said to yourself: where am I going to find Jesus today?  What is He going to look like?  How am I going to respond? 
          The Holy Spirit had to show John the Baptist who Jesus was.  Coming down in the form of a dove.  Personally I find that kind of cheesy, overly theatrical, but it worked.  The Holy Spirit had to reveal to St. Martin of Tours in a dream who Jesus was. 

          We too need the gift of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to see Jesus.  He’s sitting right next to you.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! Also Happy Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God! Ready or not 2017 is here. What do you hope for this year? What do you look forward to?

For myself, I am looking forward to construction FINALLY start on the outside of our church and rectory. I expect that to occur around March 1, just in time to complicate things for the crowds that come on Ash Wednesday.

I am also looking forward to three of my brother Paulists being ordained as priests in May in New York City. Two of the three (Steve Petroff and Stu Wilson-Smith) have been assigned here for a few months during their formation. All three are great guys.

Is it too much to hope that the Mopac Improvement Project will be completed in 2017??

And I have pretty much stopped hoping for anything from Longhorn football. Let’s hope we are all pleasantly surprised!

New Year’s Day is a time for optimism and hope. What are your hopes for the coming year? There will be plenty of time (364 days to be exact) for disappointment, grumbling, complaining and kvetching. But today, let’s look on the bright side and welcome in 2017 with hope. 

Homily Epiphany St Austin Church January 8, 2017

Happy Epiphany!          In the Gospel today we meet several characters.  We meet Mary and her son, Jesus.  We meet King Herod, and we meet the mysterious characters called Magi. 
          One of these groups we call “wise”.  The Wise Men.  Well good for them, but how about us?  Do you want to be wise?   Is being wise something you value, something you long for, something you want to receive or accomplish? 
          What would it mean to be wise?  Do you know any wise persons, a man or woman of deep wisdom?  Would you like to be like that? 
          It might be easier to think about this by looking at its opposite, a contrast of “not-wise”.  Our Gospel provides us with one in the character of King Herod.  Herod was crafty.  He was devious.  He was sneaky.  But he was not wise.  He was utterly ruthless.  We know historically he killed many of the members of his own family to eliminate any possible threat to his power.  He wanted to kill Jesus for the same reason.  Herod was strong, he was powerful, he was feared, but he was not wise.  Wisdom is a whole different kind of thing.
          Let us turn now and look at the magi, the “Wise Men”.  They were seekers.  They were on a search for the new born King of the Jews.  They seem rather naïve in their choice to go to King Herod and ask him for directions to the “newborn king of the Jews.”  Apparently they were not politically adroit.  Oh well.
          What they were is discontent.  They were not satisfied to simply stay at home and do the usual routine.  They wanted something more, something better, something more fulfilling and satisfying.  So they searched the heavens.  They looked up from their daily routine and wished and dreamed and longed for something more.  Something new. Something more inspiring and fulfilling.
          They followed a star.  Their gaze was on the heavens, not on the practical, day to day grind of the daily routine here below.  They were literally star-struck.
          Well, the star led them to Jesus.  And they worshipped him.  And for this they are forever known as WISE.
          We also call them Kings.  But even though they were men of power and prestige, they were wise enough to kneel and worship.  Our Gospel says that “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”   Here they show their true wisdom.  Unlike Herod, puffed-up and jealous of all his power and prestige, the Wise Men know how to worship.  “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”  In this the Magi show how wise they really were.   As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Pope’s theologian, has written, “We are greatest when we kneel down and pray.”   And I would add that we are wisest when we kneel down and pray. 
On this Feast of the Epiphany the Wise Men give us a lesson in being wise.  True wisdom is to seek Jesus and His way of living.  And when you find Him, whether it be in Scripture, or the celebration of the Sacraments, or in service, or in other people, or the beauty of nature or of art, or in some other way, then to demonstrate true wisdom.  Kneel down and pray.   You will be truly wise.

Happy Epiphany!

Children’s Mass Epiphany January 6, 2017

Today we celebrate a special feast.  Anybody know what it is called??     When Ellie read the Welcome for Mass she said “Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord.”
          What is an EPIPHANY???     Comes from a language called Greek.  Anyone here speak Greek??   What is an Epiphany?   It means something is revealed.  Something hidden has been shown.  It means to see a mystery, especially to see a revelation of God.
          So in the Gospel we hear of “some wise men from the East”.   Where in the East?  We don’t know.  I think it was maybe New Jersey, but someplace in the East.  They come to Jerusalem looking for something.   They were looking for “the child born to be King of the Jews.”  They were looking for Jesus!. 
          These guys were WISE.  They weren’t bozos nor dummies. They were wise enough to recognize in a simple baby the future King of the Jews, and more than that, the Savior of ALL the world.  The Wise Men were not Jews, but they knew Jesus was very important not only for Jews, but for ALL people.  They were wise enough to know this baby was VERY SPECIAL.
          King Herod, on the other hand, was not wise.  He was crafty.  He was devious.  He was sneaky.  But he was not wise.   King Herod told the Wise Men, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child.  As soon as you find him, let me know.  I want to go and worship him too.”    Did King Herod want to worship the Christ child?   No!  He wanted to KILL him.  Herod was greedy and anxious to hold on to his power. 
          King Herod killed a bunch of people in his own family who he thought might possibly be a threat to him.  King Herod thought the Christ Child – destined to be King – was a threat to his own kingship.  He wanted the Wise Men to tell him where the Christ Child was so Herod could go and kill him.  That is why the Wise Men were warned in a dream not to go back to King Herod, but went home by another route.
          Now the question for us is, ¿Are we wise?  How about us?   Are we more like the Wise Men, or more like King Herod???   Obviously, we want to be wise.
We also need to search for and find Jesus, just as those Wise Men from the East did so long ago.  We need to search for our Epiphany, our vision or revelation of Jesus.  Will we find Jesus in Prayer, or in the Sacraments like we are doing now, or in other people?  Probably in all these and in other ways.  We need to open our hearts for the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us.  That is true wisdom.

          When the Wise Men found Jesus what did they do?  The Gospel says “they kneeled down and worshiped him.”   We can learn a lesson from the Wise Men.  We too need to search for Jesus.  And when we find Him, to do what they did, to kneel down and worship Him.    Happy Epiphany!