Monday, August 27, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 26, 2018

THANKS BE TO GOD, after much planning, work, preparation, we will FINALLY bless and dedicate the results of the major renovation project we have been involved with for the last couple of years.
Much work, thought, generosity, and prayer have gone into this project. So many have contributed, have prayed, have planned and prepared, and have worked diligently on our campaign. And the results speak for themselves. From a dingy, motley exterior on Guadalupe Street, our church now is attractive, bold, and appealing. It is SAFE, with pieces of stone no longer falling off the front. We have an especially attractive facade in the evening, with the rose window now lighted, with the beautiful copper sconces of St. Paul and St. Augustine, with the three black metal crosses, and the attractive new entrance to the new lobby.
And we have new BATHROOMS! From the very beginning of thinking about this project, that is what we heard over and over: to add bathrooms. Well, we now have handicapped-accessible bathrooms. We also have an attractive lobby for people to gather, a new meeting area in the Holy Family Room in the front part of the rectory ground floor, and a renewed nursery. These practical additions will pay benefits for some time to come.
But this is not time to rest on our laurels. This successful renovation is really done in order to enhance our mission, of reaching out and inviting people in to discover in the Catholic Church the community, the comfort, the sense of purpose as the family of God, that we are called to share. We need to use this blessing of the renovation to enhance our mission. Otherwise it is just so much nice window dressing.
I am very grateful to all who works on the planning, all who participated and contributed to the FAITHFUL TO OUR MISSION campaign, to the architects and plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, roofers, and all the other trades and workers who made this happen, to all our parishioners and staff who patiently put up with disruption and dust and inconvenience, and a very special thank you to my Paulist brothers who lived through the whole project, and many inconveniences, with patience and good humor.
I hope that you will be a part of this celebration next Sunday, September 2. Following the 8:45 a.m. Mass there will be a few speeches and then a ribbon cutting. Bishop Daniel Garcia, our auxiliary Bishop, and Fr. Eric Andrews CSP, the President of the Paulist Fathers, will celebrate the 11:30 a.m. Mass, along with our wonderful choir and a brass quartet. The Mass will conclude with Bishop Garcia blessing the new addition, and our joining in the Blessing. There will also be refreshments and other events throughout the morning. Please plan to join us.
It will be a great and memorable day for our parish!  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

HOMILY 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle B August 26, 2018

HOMILY   21st Sunday of Ordinary Time  Cycle B   August 26, 2018

"For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father."
          Some are privileged to believe.   To some the Father grants the great privilege of believing in Jesus.  But others, for reasons known only to God, perhaps are not called to believe.   This may seem unfair, but we know God is loving, and that God’s ways are not our ways.
          This does not mean that people who do not believe are bad people.  It does not mean that they are not saved.  It does not mean that God doesn’t love them, or love them less.  But the fact is some people do not believe, and this can be either because they have refused the gift, or they never received it.  At least not yet.   This is a great mystery. 
          In chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the criterion of judgement, and what is required to be saved.  I was hungry and you fed me, or you didn’t.  I was naked and you clothed me, or you didn’t.   I was a stranger and you welcomed me, or you built a wall instead.  I was sick or in prison, and you visited me, or didn’t.  The criteria for judgement are quite simple and clear.  
          The judgement is NOT about what denomination you belonged to.  Nor what religion, or any at all.  Not what prayers you prayed, what worship you participated in, what creed and doctrine you professed, what theology you favored.   It is all about how you treat others.  That – according to Jesus – is the standard for judgement. 
          So those who do not believe in Jesus, but still feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, help those in distress, will be saved.   
Jesus teaches us that.  As St Augustine, the one from Hippo - not our St. Augustin of Canterbury - said long ago, “The church has those that God does not, and God has those that the church does not.” 
          I believe that there will be many surprises on the day of judgement.  Many who did not know Jesus, did not believe in Jesus, but lived lives of compassion, service, integrity and love, will still be saved.
          Nonetheless, to believe in Jesus is a very great privilege.  I repeat, to believe in Jesus is a very great privilege.  We are called to believe by the Father, not because we are such upstanding and wonderful people, and not even primarily for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole world.            The Second Vatican Council teaches us that the Church - the body of those who believe in Jesus - is called to be a Sacrament of the salvation of the whole world.   A sacrament is a sign that effects and makes real the reality it symbolizes.   We are called to symbolize the salvation of the whole world, the salvation won for us by Jesus.  And by symbolizing it, we help to make it happen.  We therefore have a responsibility to symbolize God’s Kingdom on earth and to do it well.
          The grace, the gift, we have received to be able to believe in Jesus, granted to us by the Father, is a truly wonderful privilege.  Again, it is not given to us because we are so holy and good and deserving, but rather because the Father has granted it.  So, Why us?  I don’t know. 
          But the fact remains that we are called to proclaim the love of God shown forth in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in all that we say and do and are.  We are, in fact, to be apostles.  And that is a wonderful privilege.   It is a grace.
               Two comments on this.  First of all, this great gift of faith is not an easy one.  It can be tremendously comforting.  It can sustain us and give us great strength.  But it can also be difficult, and hard to live out.  We can, and likely will, face hostility and persecution. 
          Living a life of faith is a struggle.  We have to accept the gift of faith, interiorize it, make it a core part of ourselves, not just wear it on our sleeves, and that is work.  Many times we are like the anguished parent of the sick child in the Gospel who cries, “I believe.  Help my unbelief”.  We waver between belief and unbelief.  Faith remains a struggle. 
          Many are struggling now with the horrific revelations about clerical sexual abuse in Pennsylvania over the last seven decades.  As bad as the actual crimes of abuse, is the crime of cover up perpetrated by the Bishops.  It is devastating.  It challenges our faith.  Not only in the particular Bishops involved, but the whole hierarchy and the entire structure of the Church, and even the action of God in the world.  It is a painful and difficult reality to square with our faith.  And I don’t have any easy answer.
          Conversely, as the gift of faith is not an easy one, so also the lack of faith in those we love and care about is also a difficult burden.   Especially when parents have struggled to raise their children in the faith, to drag them to church every Sunday, sacrificed to send them to Catholic school and religious education, tried to model for them a religious life, and yet the child grows up to have no interest in religion.  They may be honest, generous, really good people, and have no hostility towards faith, but also have no interest in religion.   It just does nothing for them, and it is a great sorrow for the parents for whom religion and faith, and a relationship with Jesus, have been such central parts of their identity and their satisfaction.

And Jesus said,
"For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”  That remains fully true today.

As a result of this, many of Jesus’ disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.     Many today no longer go to church.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, and now today to us, ”Do you also want to leave?"

May we be open to the Holy Spirit leading us, as the Spirit lead Simon Peter, and who answered Jesus, "Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

An open letter from Fr. Chuck Kullmann, CSP, Pastor

I write to you, my fellow St. Austin parishioners, at a time of agony, specifically the horrific revelation about clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania over the last 60 to 70 years. There are two parts to this tragedy: the actual crimes against children, some of it of the most vile and depraved sort, and the decades long cover-up of those crimes by the Church hierarchy which permitted the abuse to continue and ensnare further victims.

While an intense emotional revulsion is wholly appropriate to both of these horrors, it is not enough to remain only in an emotional reaction. We all need to be much better at recognizing the signs of abuse-sexual, emotional, physical-and know how to respond appropriately and inform the proper authorities.

Our children at St. Austin Catholic School and in our Faith Formation program receive such training. There is also, of course, training for teachers and catechists. Since I am not an expert in this field, I cannot certify the quality of such training, but it is certainly a start.

In the parish bulletin for July 29, I wrote about the importance of the Diocese of Austin Ethics and Integrity in Ministry (EIM) training for all volunteers in the parish, and I again urge all adults in the parish to experience this program. I have found it informative and helpful. Please visit the Diocesan EIM website and our EIM page at for details. If you have questions, you may contact our parish EIM coordinator, Sharon Jones, at or 512-477-9471 ext. 303.

That is good as far as it goes, but we still have to deal with the cover up, which is a more involved and difficult situation. Bishops and pastors have, due to the complexity of modern life, become consumed by issues of administration. In the process, many have ceased being shepherds and in effect become bureaucrats and administrators. I remember one Archbishop in another diocese where I was stationed, whom I had invited to assist at a Lenten Penance Service, telling me that even though he is the chief liturgical officer of the diocese, he seldom had the opportunity to hear confessions (celebrate Reconciliation) because of the press of administrative duties. That is not good.

A good shepherd will protect the sheep. An administrator will protect the institution, which is exactly what Bishops and pastors did in covering up this abuse. It was wrong. We need shepherds who know, love, and protect the sheep, i.e., the people entrusted to their care.

We need to pray for Bishops and pastors that they will be Good Shepherds. But that is not enough. We also need to be noisy sheep who will both make known our needs and support Bishops to be shepherds and not bureaucrats.

Moving forward, I encourage you to plan to attend a parish mission here at St. Austin on October 22-24. It will be conducted by Paulist Father Steven Bell, former associate pastor here. The theme of the mission will focus on healing. I think it will be personally helpful to many.

The St. Austin Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) will discuss the issue of the clergy sexual abuse and coverup and consider how we can most appropriately respond as a parish. We will do this at our Parish Council retreat on Sat., Sept. 8. If you have suggestions or ideas about what we could do as a parish in response to this tragedy, and how we can better support one another through this tragedy, I encourage you to pass those ideas on to me via email at or to one of the PPC members before Sept. 8.

It will not be enough simply to put this horror behind us. We must learn from it to better protect our children, vulnerable adults, elderly and infirm, and indeed ourselves. In doing so we will protect and enhance the Church we love. With the guidance and wisdom and strength provided by the Holy Spirit, we will do it.

God bless!

Fr. Chuck

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 19, 2018

As citizens of this great country, all of us who are eligible to vote are morally bound to do so. This is an important obligation that should not be dismissed lightly.
If you are already registered to vote, good for you! If you are eligible to vote (a US citizen and at least 18) and are NOT registered, NOW is the time to do it. Do not put off any longer registering to vote. GET REGISTERED.  You can do that by contacting your county for registration. If you live in TRAVIS County, go to Or you can call 512-854-9473. You must be registered 30 days prior to the election in order to vote. This means that to vote in the upcoming CRUCIAL election on Nov 6, 2018 you much be registered by October 9. DO IT NOW! Mrs. Pat Macy, our parish director of social justice ministries is also a certified registrar and can register you to vote. 
Then study the issues, pray over it, and GO VOTE. There are several ways to vote. Anyone 65 years or over can register to vote early by mail. Also, if you are incapacitated, or will be out of Travis County during election time, you also can apply for a mail ballot. I strongly encourage EVERYONE who is 65 or older to sign up to vote by mail. That is what I do and urge my mature Paulist brothers to do. Voting by mail is much easier for you, and by doing so you shorten the lines on voting day for everyone else. To sign up to vote by mail simply go to In the middle of the page find where it says: “Where do I get an application?” and click on that.
There is also in Travis County EARLY VOTING. For the upcoming mid-term elections, the first day for in-person early voting is Tuesday, October 22nd, and the last day for in-person early voting is November 2nd. You can find the location of early voting polls at the Travis County website. Or call 512-854-9473. 
If you are not eligible to vote by mail, then I strongly urge you to vote early. Don’t put it off. Avoid the lines on Election Day and the possibility of loosing your right to vote. Vote early!
Our country is going through a dangerous time of stress and confusion. For evil to win all it takes is for good people to do nothing. We are the good people, even if we don’t feel like it. So it is very important that you study the issues and candidates, pray over your choices and then VOTE. NO EXCUSES! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B August 12, 2018

Homily Number 1        When the Gospel opens, the Jews are murmering.   Murmer grumble murmer.  Lets all murmer.   Murmer, grumble, murmer…
          They murmer because they are upset at Jesus.  They think He is puffing himself up and putting on airs, when they know He is nothing special, just the carpenter’s kid.  They ask; “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”   They want to puncture Jesus’ balloon and bring him down to earth.   They even take glee in setting Jesus straight and deflating Jesus’ high-fallutin airs. 
          But Jesus is not doing this in a proud or haughty or boastful way.  Quite the opposite.  He says of himself “I am the bread of life.”   Now bread is ordinary.  Bread is common.  Bread is humble.  It is not something extraordinary and special.  But it is vitally important.
          Jesus could have said he was the standing rib roast of life, or the moist BBQ brisket of life, or the steak and lobster special of life.  But no, rather he says, “I am the bread of life.”  I am what sustains and nourishes you. 
          Jesus states simply but boldly, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”   Jesus gives us Himself, as bread, so that we might have His life, the life of God, in us.

Homily Number 2        Now put that over on the side for a moment and let’s change our focus and look at today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, one of my favorite letters of St. Paul.
          Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.”    Who here has been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption??? 
           Well, if you have been Confirmed, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption.  When a Bishop confirms, or when I confirm on Holy Saturday, we say “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Notice the wording.  Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
          The Sacrament of Confirmation is not something we do or accomplish, but is rather a gift given to us.  All the Sacraments are gifts.  We can not earn nor deserve them.  They are grace, which means “free”.  True, we make the high school confirmation candidates go to a number of classes, learn the gifts of the Holy Spirit, do a certain number of service projects, and generally treat the sacrament as if it were a merit badge that the teens earn by doing all that stuff.  But that is our hang-up, not God’s.  Confirmation is God’s free gift.  We don’t earn it, nor deserve it, nor have a claim on it.  It is gift.  It is grace.
          Anyway, those who are confirmed by God are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.  When Jesus comes in His glory, we will have our confirmation that we are members of His Body.  Just like you need your confirmation number when you reserve a hotel or book a flight, so your Confirmation confirms that you are part of the Body of Christ, a member of God’s people.
          But in the meantime, it calls us to live in a certain way.  A very strange way.  St. Paul tells us: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”  Wow.  How odd!  Because you know what I thought of immediately upon reading   
 that statement as I prepared for this homily?   What do you think it was?   IT was our current situation in this country with politics and the public sector.  All you seem to get today is exactly what we are supposed to get rid of: “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”   How are we going to enter into any political or social discussion and debate without any of that stuff?? 
          And yet, that is what we are called to.  St Paul tells us: “And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”  Oh my!
          If we do this, the likelihood that we will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, deliberately skewed and mocked, is pretty much guaranteed.  Civility and compassion will be misread for weakness, or simple-mindedness, or just plain stupid. 
          And that brings us back to Jesus in the Gospel, being misunderstood, mis-read, totally missed.  That is what Jesus experienced. 
          It is tempting to NOT follow Him.  To not follow such a foolish and difficult path.  ¿Put aside all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling along with all malice?  ¿Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ?   That is a big challenge.
          But it is the way to life.   LIFE.  Jesus is the bread of life.  He tells us:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”    You can’t do better than that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 5, 2018

Recently I enjoyed leading a book discussion of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad.” As the title indicates, and as Pope Francis himself often exhibits, it is an uplifting and positive document. However, there was one section that caused our discussion group to grapple with the Pope’s instruction. In Chapter 5, titled “Spiritual Combat, Vigilance and Discernment,” Pope Francis insists on the reality of the devil, the prince of evil. Pope Francis states: “It is precisely the conviction that this malign power is present in our midst that enables us to understand how evil can at times have so much destructive force.” (Para 160) And in the next paragraph states, “Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea.” (Para 161).
The Devil as an actual being seems a rather quaint idea. But the Pope warns us: “This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice.” (Para 161) 
Truly there is immense evil in the world, so much so that it seems inexplicable: Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Myanmar, Hindus murdering Muslims in India, Muslims attacking and killing Christians in their churches in Pakistan, a virulent resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our own country in towns and cities and on college campuses. Some of this is so awful and horrific as to beg the imagination. Can there be some logical explanation for the brutal beheadings, gruesome murders, and wholesale destruction of priceless cultural artifacts that we have seen in the Middle East perpetrated by the Islamic State and other radical groups? More and more around the world we see democratic structures attacked by and succumb to forces of strong men dictators, from Poland to the Philippines, to Nicaragua, to Turkey, not to mention Russia and China. In our own country we hear terrible stories of child abuse and the most vicious sort of rapes and attacks, that really make no sense. There seems to be some force, a strong force, working for evil, that relishes evil, that desires evil simply for the sake of evil.
And Pope Francis reminds and challenges to take this force for evil seriously. And he names it the Devil. Fortunately, we have the weapons to resist and to conquer this evil. St. Paul, long ago, told us, “Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Eph :13-17
So as St Paul encouraged his disciple Timothy, let us all take to heart St Paul’s words, “Fight the good fight of the faith: take hold of the eternal life, to which we were called and for which you made the good profession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Tim 6:12