Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 28, 2018

I come to you, as your Pastor, again with a heavy heart. I am seeking to do what I can to foster as much transparency, appropriate    response and healing as possible in the St. Austin community. And it is in that spirit, I want to share information related to our parish history.
Fr. Bob Michele, CSP, is a Paulist priest who was in residence here at St. Austin for 20 years, from September 1991 until September 2011, when he moved to a nursing home in Mount Angel, OR. During his time here he worked as a hospital chaplain and spiritual director. He is currently in poor health.
Very recently, I learned that Fr Michele was accused of becoming sexually involved with a teenage girl from 1964 to 1969, while he was stationed in Portland, OR. The reason that I now became aware of this is that a second accusation against Fr Michele, again inappropriate involvement with a teenage girl in Portland, OR, was recently made by a very credible victim.
I know of no accusations or incidents involving Fr. Bob Michele that occurred here in Austin, Texas. But out of concern for any potential victims, I share this with you. I pray that if there are any victims of Fr. Michele’s inappropriate actions in Austin, that they will be motivated to seek help and assistance.
If you have information about any inappropriate contact with Fr. Bob Michele, or about anyone else, or any other area of concern, please contact Ms. Emily Hurlimann at the Diocese of Austin’s Office of Ethics and Integrity in Ministry at 512-949-2447. We publish her number every week in the bulletin. OR you can call Fr. John Behnke, the Vice-President of the Paulist Fathers at 212-757-8072 ext. 229. OR you can call me, Fr. Chuck Kullmann, at 512-477 -9471 ext. 328 or email me at ckullmann@staustin.org.
Let us pray there are no victims of inappropriate or criminal acts by Fr. Bob Michele or by anyone here in Austin. But if there are, let us move quickly to do whatever we can to promote healing and justice. Please keep us all in your prayers.

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 21, 2018

Our neighborhood is changing. In the eight years I have been here, there has always been change, but recently the pace of change seems to be increasing. The McDonald’s south of our school is gone, and the enormous hole in the ground that took its place is now also gone as we see the beginnings of a 15-story building rise out of the ground.
One of the most significant changes in the last couple of years has been the mushrooming of student dorms to the west and north of our church. Hundreds and hundreds of student quarters have been opened in large high-rise buildings in our area. I have heard that 3,000 student beds have been lost on Riverside, as the City of Austin and the University of Texas work to concentrate the students closer to the University. The City of Austin wants to reduce the congestion of commuting by car or bus, and the University believes that students, especially first year students, who live within a mile of the University, do better academically. So there are powerful forces pushing the development of West Campus into student housing. The results are obvious.
What does that mean for us? Well, we are already seeing greatly increased foot traffic on 21st Street and streets to the north of us. Unfortunately, these bright university students somehow seem to lose their intelligence when it comes to safely crossing streets. The flow of students can be constant, going on for some time, and very often students seem blissfully unaware of motorized traffic and traffic signals. And young people on scooters not infrequently seem oblivious to pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile traffic. It is a situation fraught with danger as well as frustration. I am surprised there are not more accidents. Near misses seem common.
It seems to me that it will be necessary to install traffic lights with walk signals at many of the corners in West Campus. Otherwise, there will be increasing frustration and certainly accidents. I just hope something is done before someone is hurt or killed.
Beyond the increased pedestrian traffic, all of these dorms located together will also change the character of the neighborhood and no doubt impact the nature of our ministry here at St. Austin Parish. Will students walk another two and a half blocks past St. Austin Church to attend the University Catholic Center or begin attending St. Austin Church? Programing for undergraduates is located, as it should be, at the Catholic Center. Nevertheless, we are not going to turn anyone away.
How will the immediate presence of thousands of university students affect our neighborhood? Will it be quieter, cleaner, neater, more calm and sedate? I doubt it. We will have to wait and see. I am sure whatever changes are coming, we will rise to address them, and perhaps add a new chapter to the story of St. Austin Catholic Parish.
God bless!

Monday, October 29, 2018

HOMILY Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A Oct 27, 2018

HOMILY Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle A         Oct 27, 2018

I would like to look at today’s Gospel, the story of the healing a blind man in Jericho.  All three of the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke -  have this story.
          But there are some differences.  Matthew has TWO blind men who are healed, so you get two for the price of one.  Luke has basically the same story.
          But Mark has some individualities or peculiarities of his own.  I would like to mention three.
          Only Mark mentions that the blind man is a beggar.  Most blind peole in the ancient Near East were probably beggars, but Mark mentions it.  This is interesting because two weeks ago in the Gospel we heard about a rich man who comes to Jesus looking for something, and now we hear about a beggar.
          Only Mark gives this beggar a name:  Bartimeaus.  The name in Hebrew literally means “Son of Timeaus” but Mark spells it out for his audience, “son of Timaeus”.  Maybe Timaeus was known to Mark’s community?   In any case this is in contrast to the rich man from the Gospel two weeks ago, who did not have a name.  If you remember my homily then I gave him a name:  “WINSTEAD.”  If you missed it you can read my homily on my blog.
          And third, only Mark mentions that the beggar “threw aside his cloak”. 
I think Mark wants us to pay attention to these details.  He doesn’t give us many details, so when he does we should pay attention.
          First, Bartimeaus is a beggar.  He doesn’t have much.  In fact, the cloak may be one of his very few possessions.  But Bartimeaus is  willing to let go of everything to come to Jesus    This is different than Winstead, the rich man in the Gospel two weeks ago.
          Anyone here old enough to remember on Star Trek the Romulan cloaking device that the Klingons got hold of?   Or are you old enough to remember Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility?    Cloak represents hiding, covering up, keeping secret, “cloaking” something.
          What was this Bartimeaus hiding?  His shame at being a beggar?  Was his cloak his “tough man” image, that he did need anyone?  Or was he hiding his sense of hopelessness?  Whatever it is, Bartimeaus can’t come to Jesus till he stips off that cloak.  Winstead the rich man could not let go of his defensive shield, his wealth.  But this beggar, Bartimeaus, can let go of his cloak, probably all he has, and reveal his true self to Jesus.  He strips off his fa├žade, his public display, and stands before the Lord revealed in his true self.  He needs to become spiritually naked and vulnerable to truly be open to Jesus’ healing power.
          Then Jesus asks a very odd question:  “What do you want me to do for you?”  Huh?  Oh I don’t know, make me win the lottery, have the   Longhorns win the Rose Bowl, get me a new car?  I mean, the guy is BLIND, what do you think he wants??
          But Bartimeaus has to say, “I WANT TO SEE”, because the Gospel is not talking solely, or even primarily, about physical sight.  In the Bible seeing is always about coming to FAITH.  This is a miracle about seeing WHO Jesus truly is.  The healing is not primarily physical site but spiritual insight.
          And the result?  Bartimeaus followed Jesus on the way.  THE WAY.  Unlike Winstead the rich man who could not let go his wealth, his defenses, and so was incapable of being free enough to follow Jesus on the way, Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak, and follows Jesus.
          Brothers and sisters, these stories about the young rich man and Bartimaeus the blind beggar are NOT about something long ago and far away.
          They are about US!   You and me.  All of us, spiritually, are blind, or have blind spots.
          We come to the Lord not rich and powerful and full of our own accomplishments like the rich young man in the Gospel two weeks ago, but rather the fact is we are more like Bartimeaus, a beggar.  Blind.  That is who we really are.
          But we also loved.
          However, we cannot let that love in if we hide ourselves behind our cloak of independence, of self-sufficiency, of being really upstanding stalwart Catholics, of being good people, of cloaking our need with our so-called accomplishments and possessions. 
          Bartimaeus is an example for us.  He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” 
          The people around him say, “Oh, that’s not polite.  You’re making a disturbance.  That is not modern and enlightened.  It is not fashionable.  You’re making yourself look stupid.  Get over it.”
          But Bartimeaus pays them no attention.  What does he do?  He cries out all the louder.  “Son of David, have pity on me!”   Bartimaeus teaches persistence.  Hang in there. 
          The result?  He followed Jesus on the way.  THE WAY means not the physical road, but the Way of Christ, that is, Christianity.  The earliest name the Christians used for their movement was “THE WAY”.  Bartimeaus is converted.
          The Gospel today invites you, challenges you, to recognize that you are blind and that you are a beggar.   That you are just like Bartimaeus.  Throw off that old cloak, that mask, that image you use to hide your true self from others, from yourself, and most importantly from the Lord.  Cry out for His mercy.  Jesus will heal you, so that you may truly see: see who you really are, whose you really are, and to see the overwhelming, incredible love God has for you in Jesus Christ. 
          Then you will be able to follow Him joyfully on the way.  AMEN. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 14, 2018

Dear Fellow Parishioners:
I am writing this to summarize and bring you up-to-date on our parish’s response to the horrible clergy sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church. It has been going on now since at least 2002, and there seems to be no end in sight. Some are justly upset and angry over the ongoing revelations, and some are worn out, having lived with this for close to 16 years. It has been a long time and looks to be around a lot longer.
How do we at St. Austin respond to this crisis? Our Parish Pasto-ral Council has discussed this briefly at their retreat on September 8 and more fully at our recent PPC meeting on October 2. While we cannot change the structure of the Catholic Church, we do have ways that we can seek healing and promote justice. To list several of them, I wrote a letter to the parish that appeared online and in the bulletin. You can find it at www.staustin.org under NEWS at the bottom of the page. On the weekend of September 16, I issued a statement of concern about a Paulist priest that was stationed here in the past and personally announced that at each Mass. You can also find the statement on our website under NEWS. And we will continue to strive to be as open and forth-coming as we can be (respecting the rights of others) if we be-come aware of other situations.
We already had scheduled Fr. Steven Bell for a parish mission here on October 22-24. We subsequently asked him to emphasize healing and hope in his mission to help respond to this awful situ-ation. I hope you will be able to join us.
We joined with the University Catholic Center in the Bishop’s call to participate in a Mass of Reparation on Tues., Oct. 9. We thought it better for us to join together in solidarity, rather than duplicate smaller Masses. Some questioned the purpose of this, and many Catholics don’t fully understand the difference between penance (for doing something you did wrong) and reparation (an attempt to heal a wound caused by others). It is a spiritual solu-tion, which is necessary, but does not replace the need to remove from ministry anyone credibly accused of a crime like this, nor other appropriate actions to protect vulnerable adults and chil-dren.
We continue to encourage all parishioners to become EIM (Ethics and Integrity in Ministry) certified, while we REQUIRE all min-isters in the parish, both paid and volunteers, to do so. This pro-gram gives me the most hope for moving forward in a positive way, certainly in the Church, but also in society at large. We all need to know the signs of abuse and know how and to whom we should report our suspicions.
On October 2, at the Priest’s Convocation for the Diocese, we heard a very good presentation by an expert on the topic of sexual abuse. She gave the priests a context and framework to look at this by providing a historical overview and understanding of the developing approach to this problem and some context on its prevalence. We are scheduling the same presentation here for the benefit of our parishioners, after Fr. Steven Bell’s Mission. I will keep you posted on the date and time.
And of course, we continue to pray.

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 7, 2018

This weekend’s readings are about men and women, marriage and divorce. Therefore, it seems appropriate to speak a little about marriage.
While the Catholic Church in this country has had many problems with sex, one of our unsung accomplishments has been marriage preparation programs. Almost every diocese in this country requires couples to go through some form of marriage prep before celebrating the sacrament of marriage. Many years ago when I was a new priest, young couples often were resistant to this requirement. They thought they were going to get lots of boring talks from celibate priests about the Sacrament of Marriage, talking about stuff they knew nothing about first-hand. But in fact these programs brought in many dedicated lay people, especially couples, who researched topics like budgeting, practical advice on dealing with in-laws, and generally were (and still are) pretty good. Soon word got around, and now, instead of being resistant to this requirement of marriage prep, young couples come looking for and asking for marriage prep. They have learned through word-of-mouth that it was actually useful and helpful. People are so busy these days that they appreciate the requirement to take time out of their busy schedules to focus on their relationship rather than work, the reception, bridesmaids’ dresses, or a thousand other details of preparing for a wedding. The wedding takes over, and the marriage gets little attention. These marriage prep programs play an important role and are now anticipated and desired. And that is a great success! But, they are a lot of work and require couples to present them and make them work.
Here at St. Austin and the University Catholic Center, we have a LOT of young people preparing for marriage. That is good. But what we don’t have are enough married couples willing and able to help present the marriage preparation programs. We need people – new couples, middle-aged couples, well-experienced couples, to help in this important and vital ministry.
Volunteers are needed for the biannual marriage prep program at the UCC. It is a weekend program and very good. We hope to get THREE couples to coordinate the event. Plus, we need couples or singles to help cook, set up, or give talks.
We also have a different marriage prep program operating out of St. Austin Church, the Couple-to-Couple program. A married couple meets privately with an engaged couple over a period of time. This usually works better than meeting for an entire Saturday. We need both a couple to serve as Coordinators of this program, as well as married couples to meet with engaged couples.
If you think you might be interested in helping in this important ministry, please contact either Deacon Billy Atkins, Fr. Rich Andre, Pat Lucksinger, or myself at the church office. Many thanks!

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 30, 2018

As we move into October, this coming week has several things going on. From noon on Mon., Oct. 1, through Thurs., Oct. 4, the priests of the Diocese of Austin will gather at the Marriott in Round Rock for the annual Priests’ Convocation. Ostensibly billed as an opportunity for continuing education, it also serves as a much-needed opportunity for the diocesan priests to relax and reconnect with each other. Spread out over the 26 counties that make up the Diocese of Austin, this is an important event for the priests to renew their friendships, and have time to relax with their brother priests. Frankly, I have not found the educational part all that worthwhile. But the Paulists do like to attend these types of events both to show our commitment to the Diocese, and to support our brother diocesan priests. This year the convocation will start early for an open discussion with the Bishop about the impact of the current clergy sexual abuse scandal. A trained and gifted facilitator will be on hand to shape the discussion and encourage open participation. Please keep the priests of the Diocese in your prayers this week, especially on Monday when this discussion about clergy sexual abuse is scheduled.
Tuesday is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. I know I give my guardian angel quite a workout. Guardian angels are an imaginative representation of God’s individual and particular care for each one of us. So be sure to thank your guardian angel on Tuesday.
Thursday is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. I don’t know of any Franciscans in our immediate neighborhood, but if you do come across a Franciscan this week, be sure to wish them a happy St. Francis Day. St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology and concern for creation. It would be a most fitting time to review Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. It is available on the Vatican website at www.vatican.va.
Finally, this past weekend Paulist Fr. Dat Tran was with us to preach at all Masses. He is the Paulist Director of Vocations, and he spoke, of course, on vocations. If we hope that the Paulists will remain at St Austin’s, the University Catholic Center, and St. Paul the Apostle parish in Horseshoe Bay, then we need vocations to Paulist priesthood. If you know of someone who would make a good Paulist priest, I encourage you to pray for that person and then to ask them if they have ever considered priesthood. An invitation from someone who thinks you would make a good priest, and a Paulist to boot, is very powerful. All of us are responsible for fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

HOMILY 28th Sunday in Ord Time Cycle B October 13-14, 2018

HOMILY    28th Sunday in Ord Time Cycle B     October 13-14, 2018

          We just heard in the Gospel:  As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
          Who was this guy?  All three of the Synoptic Gospels tell us this story, but none of them tell us the man’s name.  Matthew does tell us he was a young man.  Luke says he was a ruler.  Mark doesn’t tell us anything.  And none of them bother to give us the guy’s name.  So I have decided to name him.  I call him “Winsted”.  If we have any people in the congregation named ‘Winsted’, I apologize to you.
          I find Winsted’s question interesting.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It is a good question.  Anyone else here interested in knowing what you must do to inherit eternal life?  
          Well, Jesus tells Winsted to keep the commandments.  Winsted is a high achiever and has kept them all since his youth.  Then St Mark tells us “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”   Only Mark comments that Jesus loved him.  So Jesus, in what follows is not trying to brush him off or get rid of him, but Jesus is truly interested in this person and wants to challenge him to something more.
          Jesus tells him, “You are lacking one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  That was a wonderful opportunity and invitation that Jesus gave Winsted.  But of course, it was not to be.  The cost was too much.
          We get a hint of this in Winsted’s opening request.   What must I do to inherit eternal life?   Winsted wants to know what HE must do.  How can HE accomplish this?  How can HE earn eternal life?  Winsted wants to possess eternal life.  He wants to own it.  Eternal life will then be his by right, because he has earned it.
          But there is no way we can ever own, or deserve, eternal life.  It is purely a gift.  It is not a possession we can own, or lay claim to by right.  It is grace, and grace means free.  That is literally what the Latin word gratia translates as: “Free”. 
          As St. Paul tells us in the second chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

We can never earn nor deserve eternal life.  It is a gift.  This is why Jesus tells the disciples, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. 
All things are possible for God."
          Eternal life is not something we earn and posses by right, but is rather a wonderful gift, given to us by God in Jesus Christ. 
          By inviting the rich young man, Winsted, to sell his possessions and give to the poor Jesus was also inviting him to trust – not in his own wealth and his own ability and his own smarts – but to open himself radically to depend totally on God.  And in that openness to God, he would find eternal life, the fullness of life for which he longed.
          It was not only his possessions he needed to let go of, but more importantly, and more difficultly, to let go of his need to have a secure claim on eternal life as something he merited, something due to him, something he had a right to and a claim on.  He had to be open enough to accept it as gift, as grace.
         So also for us.  We all want life, full life, complete life, eternal life.  But no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we know, no matter how rich and important and famous we are, we can never earn life.  Life is a totally free gift. 
          Jesus, in this Gospel, is not talking about Winsted, but about you and me.  Jesus looks at you with love, and invites you to open yourself radically to depend solely on Him, and to accept as pure gift, eternal life. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

HOMILY Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B Sept 30, 2018

HOMILY   Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Cycle B    Sept 30, 2018

[Show Box]   I have here a BOX.  Anyone want to guess what is inside this box?   ???
          It is GOD.  I have God in a box.  Got it special on Amazon Prime.   Just kidding.  Want to see?   Of course you do!    (open the box – empty)    Awww.  It is empty.  Well, of course I don’t have God in a box.
          Everyone knows that you cannot put God in a box.  Except people keep trying to do that.
          In our first reading God decides to give Moses some help, and appoints 70 elders to assist.  68 of them show up at the appointed spot at the appointed time, at the meeting tent, fill out all the requisite forms, give proof of their Jewishness, etc, and the Spirit of God comes down on them. 
          But two of these elders, Eldad and Medad, perhaps with a touch of senility or the beginnings of Altzheimers, forgot to set their alarm clocks, forgot about the meeting, got intrigued in their favorite soap opera, whatever, and failed to show up at the meeting tent. 
          NONETHELESS, Eldad and Medad were on the list, and the Spirit of God came down on them too.  Even though they did not go to the meeting.
          Joshua, hearing of this and jealous of Moses’ prerogatives, tells Moses to stop them.  They haven’t done all the requirements. They haven’t filled out the proper paperwork.  Stop them or this will get totally out of hand.
          But Moses refuses to try to box God in.   God is free to act.  And frankly, God doesn’t need all the paperwork.
          In the Gospel we see something similar.  Some guy, NOT a part of the official disciples of Jesus, is driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But he is not board certified.  He hasn’t completed EIM.  He belongs to some competing denomination.  And John tries to stop him.  He tells Jesus, “we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  It is interesting that John does not say, “because he does not follow YOU,” but rather, he does not follow US.”  John is taking this personally. 
          But Jesus does not get upset, and tells John to chill. 
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”
Both Joshua in the Old Testament and John in the Gospel are trying to put God in a box.  They are trying to restrict how God acts.  But God just doesn’t fit.
          There is a lesson here for us.  When we think we have God figured out, and know what God is going to do and what God is not going to do, we are in trouble.   St. Augustine, of Hippo, not our St. Augustine of Canterbury, a long time ago said, “whatever you think God is, that is NOT God.”  You can not box God in with our categories and concepts. 
          She is way beyond that.  So don’t try to put God in the box labeled “He” or “Male”.  Don’t try to put God in the box of “old” or “White” or “long bearded”.  That is not God.
          God is free to act in ways that we don’t foresee, that we don’t expect, and even that we don’t like.  God’s definitive act in Jesus Christ was not at all what anyone expected in a Messiah.  And how God has acted in my life was certainly a surprise.  I wanted to be a lawyer.  But that would not have been nearly as exciting, nor nearly as much fun, as being a priest has been. 
          It is hard not to put our expectations on God and prescribe how God is supposed to act.  All of us have some of Joshua and John in us, and want God to conform to our expectations.  But that is just setting us up for a fall, for disappointment.  God is always free.  We cannot control God.  We cannot even understand God.  God is always up to something new.
          A much holier and better way to approach God is the way that Mary did.  She did not put her expectations on God, but opened herself to freely and graciously accept God’s Will for her.  She trusted that God would not want for her anything but the very best.  And she was right.
          And so Mary prayed, “Here I am, the maidservant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”  For Mary knew, and understood, that God loved her and wanted only the best for her, even if it sounded crazy and weird and not at all convenient. 
          So for us, God wants only the best; the fullness of everlasting life.  But we cannot control that.  It is God’s free gift.  And God has possibilities we cannot even imagine.  So don’t hamper God.  Don’t restrict God. Don’t try to put God in a box.