Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 24, 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS! As we celebrate this wonderful feast of God becoming one of us in the Christ Child, I wish you all Blessings and Joys of this Holy Season!
I especially want to welcome all who join us in this holy and holiday time.  
WELCOME to all our regular and faithful parishioners. We are so blessed by your presence!
WELCOME to any college or university students home visiting family from other institutions of higher learning. We are so happy to see you again!
WELCOME to any relatives or friends visiting family or friends here in Austin. We rejoice that you are with us and we hope your stay in Austin is WONDERFUL (but not so wonderful that you want to move here – just kidding!).
WELCOME to any visitors who were last with us for Easter or last Christmas. We are happy to see you again! Know that you are always welcome, and we are blessed the more that we enjoy your presence. I hope and pray that we will see you more often!
WELCOME to any Christians of another denomination. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and we are happy and honored to have you with us during this festive and holy time of year, or at any time. We’re glad you are with us.
WELCOME to the members of other faiths or of no faith. You honor us by your presence, and we are pleased that you have come to visit us. We all live on this one planet, our Mother Earth, and we are all called by our common humanity to honor and respect each other. Thank you for joining us.
WELCOME to any who have come in just to get out of the cold or out of the night. You are most welcome. We are happy to share with you the music, light, decorations and joy of this very special season. WELCOME.

And to all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!   

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 17, 2017

Oh my God! It is almost Christmas! Where did the time go?  
Anyway, it is time for CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!!! And I am hoping for, and our construction crews are trying to make happen, some presents for our parish family.
With any luck, by Christmas Eve we will have the lighting of the rose window facing Guadalupe Street. Look for it to be lit after dark. It is a pretty window, and I think, when it is lit, it will give us more presence on the Drag and help our building to look more like a church. Merry Christmas!
The metal sconces on the front of the church will be in and lit. They are beautiful! One represents St. Paul the Apostle–patron of the Paulist Fathers–and the other represents St. Augustine of Canterbury–patron of our parish. These beautiful additions to our fa├žade were made by artist Lars Stanley of Stanley Studio here in Austin and are genuine works of art. 
Finally, we will have the new back door, and just in time as the current one is ready to fall apart! This beautiful and noble door proclaims that this is the entrance to a church, not the back door to a warehouse or factory. In fact, this door will now be so attractive that “back” door is no longer suitable name for this entrance. Therefore I ask you to please begin referring to this entrance as the “Deacon’s Door,” since this is where our deacons exit after Mass to greet people leaving Mass. 
Next Sun., Dec. 24, will be hectic. Nonetheless, I plan that after the 5 p.m. Mass on Sat., Dec. 23, and after the 7:30, 8:45, and 11:30 a.m. Masses on Sun., Dec. 24, we will have a formal Blessing of the new door. This is the official Order of Blessing of New Church Doors from the Book of Blessing. It should take about 4 or 5 minutes. So plan to stay for the blessing.

Thanks to all our generous donors and all who have worked so hard to make the renovation of our church building such a success. We look forward to a formal blessing and dedication of the entire renovation project on Sun., May 27, which is the Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury.   

Monday, December 18, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 17, 2017

          For my homily today I would like to look at our second reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians.  What we have is part of the conclusion of that letter.  And so St Paul, as he ends the letter, gives a kind of quick summary and re-cap of his previous themes in the letter.
          Paul states:  Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
          So far, so good. Then St. Paul says:  Do not quench the Spirit.”   That is kind of an odd statement.  What does he mean?  “Do not quench the Spirit.”  
          I presume he means not to stifle the Holy Spirit, not to extinguish or suppress the Holy Spirit.   It is kind of an odd piece of advice.
          “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Why would you do that anyway?  Many times the Holy Spirit comes to us bringing a sense of peace, of consolation, of comfort, of assurance of God’s love and care for us.  Why would you quench something like that?   Would you not rather say, “bring it on!”  We all long and look for those kind of experiences of the Spirit, and certainly would not shun or quench them.
          But there is another way the Holy Spirit comes to us.  Not as a warm comforting fire in midst of the cold indifference of life, but rather as a scorching, burning fire of command.  Not as a cool gentle breeze of comfort and reassurance, but a howling gale, a tempest of great wind pushing us in a direction we do not at all want to go.  Not as a cool draught of clear, refreshing water to slake our thirst for God, but as a burning thirst for holiness, for righteousness, for truth, for intimacy with God.  
          Then the temptation is to turn away from the Holy Spirit, to stifle the impulses to greater generosity when during this season we are overwhelmed by appeals:  to get up off our rear ends and volunteer to tutor, or help build homes for others at Habitat for Humanity;  to participate in the St Vincent de Paul Christmas Basket Project;  to examine our conscience, skip our favorite TV program and attend and participate in the Advent Penance Service on Monday;  to write our elected officials about the church’s stances on welcoming the immigrant and the stranger, and protection of all human life from conception to natural death;  to accept and foster the urge to pray more and pray regularly;  to take time to read and pray over Scripture;  to reach out to the lonely neighbor;  to take the opportunity of Christmas to reach out in forgiveness and healing to estranged family members;  to bury the hatchet and move beyond past hurts;  to truly listen and open yourself to – not your will – but God’s Will for you.  “Do not quench the Spirit.”
          A long time ago when I was in college as an undergraduate, I had a plan for myself and that was to become an attorney, and possibly go into politics.  The Spirit had a different idea.  It took some time - a couple of years, and some struggle -  but eventually the Spirit won, and that is why I am standing here before you today.  And I certainly have had a great time.
          All of us have to struggle when the Holy Spirit wants to lead us some place we don’t want to go.  It happens practically every day.  We are lazy, and contented, and often afraid.  The Holy Spirit will have none of it.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to be other-centered, generous, honest, brave, indeed holy.  That takes work.

          The temptation is to resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings:  To stifle, suppress, extinguish, quench the Holy Spirit in our lives.  But the Holy Spirit is the greatest of all gifts and possessions.
          Do not quench the Holy Spirit.  As the most interesting man in the world is fond of saying on TV, “Stay thirsty my friends.”  Thirsty for the Holy Spirit! 
God Bless! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 10, 2017

In keeping with the observation of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Austin, as well as the centennial of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Bishop Joe Vasquez has decided, upon recommendation of the Priests’ Council, to mark the occasion with the dedication of the Diocese of Austin to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We are doing so this Sunday, December 10.
What is this???? It is certainly not anything I would have thought of doing. It is a type of action more popular in the past, especially prior to Vatican Council II, but not so much in recent times. Indeed, in my nearly 40 years of priesthood have I never run across a dedication of a parish, organization, or diocese to Mary or any other saint. So it seems, at least to me, a bit odd and rather unusual. So what is it?
It is first of all a prayer. A rather long prayer, but still a prayer. This prayer, printed in our worship aid, will be prayed at each Mass this weekend. You are free, and indeed encouraged, to use the prayer for yourself and your family in your home.
It is also a pledge or commitment. By dedication of our Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary we are pledging ourselves to strive to act more in accordance with the Will of God, as Mary did. She becomes our example in how to live. Especially in the section that states: “Assist us to defend the sanctity of marriage and the family. Teach us to preserve and nurture the dignity of every human being as children of God.” We are hereby committing ourselves to act in certain ways, fostering the dignity of every human being.
It is an expression of hope. As we pray “Awaken in each of us a desire to draw ever closer to your beloved Son” we are expressing our desire to live more and more as the brothers and sisters of Jesus, with Mary as our spiritual mother.
Finally, it is a reminder. This dedication is an opportunity to remind us our special relationship to Jesus and to His Mother Mary. It is therefore a reminder that we are called and empowered to be, and to live, as the children of God. 

In these ways, the dedication of our Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary makes sense, but ONLY if we live it out.

Monday, December 11, 2017

HOMILY Second Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 10, 2017

Today in the Gospel we meet the strange and wild character of John the Baptist.  He is dressed funny: wearing a camel’s hair suit and a leather belt.  Some of you may have a camel hair jacket.  I have a leather belt.  John’s culinary tastes are even stranger: he dines on locusts and wild honey”.   
          But what is most intriguing is his location, where John is at.   Mark tells us John the Baptist appeared in the desert.”     The desert?  What desert?   The Negev?  The Sahara?  The Mohave or Sonoran desert?    Mark just tells us “the desert”. 
          John appears proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 
That is the clue to the desert where John appears. 
          It is not a physical desert, not any desert you will find on a globe or on a map, a desert where life struggles because of a lack of water, like we have seen in droughts in Texas.  That kind of desert is bad enough.  But the desert where John appears is far, far worse, and much, much closer to us: in our own hearts.  Because, this is a spiritual desert: a dry, barren waste, where life struggles because of a lack of spirit, of justice, of forgiveness, of love. 
          Wherever there are dry, barren, hard places in our heart, places that are empty of life and love, that is the desert where John the Baptist appears.
It is a desert of hard, barren earth made sterile by bitterness, by envy, by prejudice and pride.  It is a land filled with the scorpions of lust, the prickly cacti of revenge and hate, and snakes full of the venom of greed and hard-heartedness.  It is a barren waste lacking in honesty and integrity,  chastity, and honor; where virtue is all dried up and listless, like dead, dried-up bones on the sand. 
          It is that desert where torture is acceptable as a means of national policy;  where services for the poor, the sick and the elderly are cut while the expenditures on armaments grow and fester;  where cheating is considered normal;  where lying is usual and common;  where other people become objects to be used;  where the stranger and the foreigner are seen as a threat.
          It is the wasteland where gossip is sought and prized; where greed and consumerism are extolled; where indifference and self-centeredness are the order of the day.    Indeed it is a barren, lifeless, onerous place.
          It is into this desert, the desert in our hearts, that John the Baptist appears, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 
          In this Advent, right here and now, John the Baptist appears in your heart.  LISTEN!  Do you hear it?    “A voice of one crying out in the desert:  "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." !!!      .John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   
          Repentance is like a life-giving spring in the middle of the desert, refreshing, soothing, healing, bringing life and joy.  Repentance cracks the hard soil of indifference and fear, and allows life to grow again in integrity, compassion, generosity, service and love.
          That is what we look for:  what our deepest, truest selves yearn for.   St. Peter in our 2nd reading today instructs us:  “But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”    
          No longer a desert, no longer a barren wasteland, our hearts will be “ a new heavens and a new earth,”  blooming and fruitful with righteousness.   St Peter urges us:  
“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
          Repentance and conversion are how we prepare for the coming of the Lord.   Not at some time in distant ages or in some exotic land far away, but here, now, right inside us. 
His coming will be glorious, for the dry, barren places in our hearts will then blossom with righteousness and joy!  

Maranatha!   Come, Lord Jesus!