Thursday, December 19, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 15, 2019

The Paulist Fathers’ principal founder, Servant of God Isaac Hecker, CSP, is approaching his 200th birthday this Wednesday! Here is a brief biography of him. Please join the Paulists in giving thanks to God for his life and work.
The son of German immigrants, Isaac Thomas Hecker was born in New York City on December 18, 1819, the youngest of five children. Raised as a Methodist by his mother, Isaac never interested himself in the growing flour business begun by his prosperous brothers, embarking instead on a philosophic and religious quest. After an intense religious epiphany in 1842, he took the advice of a family friend, Jacksonian activist and Unitarian preacher Orestes Brownson, and entered the transcendentalist community of Brook Farm near Boston. Although he made friends of Emerson, Thoreau, Ripley, and many of the American literati, he remained spiritually lonely and intellectually curious and he left the Farm in under a year. In search of spiritual discipline, Hecker briefly considered the Episcopal priesthood. After reading John Henry Newman's Tracts for the Times in 1844, he and Brownson entered the Roman Catholic Church. One year later, after months of discussions with Bishop John McCloskey of New York and intense introspection, he joined the Redemptorist priesthood and sailed for Europe.
Hecker's novitiate and seminary years in Holland and Germany were academically rigorous and ascetically grim. Ordained in October 1849, he served briefly on missions outside London before returning to New York in 1851 as an assistant on the Redemptorists' newly organized American mission. Joined by Clarence Walworth and three other Americans - Augustine F. Hewit, George Deshon, and Francis Baker - Hecker and the Redemptorists began Catholic missions across the entire country. Satisfying his urge to convert America and "make Yankeedom the Rome of the modern world," he also wrote two books in the 1850's aimed at reaching educated, mystically-oriented Protestants: Questions of the Soul and Aspirations of Nature. Nationally known as a prominent spokesman of Roman Catholicism, Hecker and his mission band pushed for an English-speaking house in New York from which to base their operations. When the Redemptorist superiors denied the request, Hecker received the support of both Bishop John Hughes of New York and the Vatican in seceding from the Order in 1858 and founding a new community of American priests, the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle.
Wanting to share with his fellow Americans what he had found in the Catholic Church, Hecker took to the lecture circuit, and between 1867 and 1869 he addressed Protestants from secular lecture platforms, dressed in lay clothes, delivering over 56 lecture series from Boston to Missouri. In 1869-70 Hecker attended the First Vatican Council as a theological expert for Bishop James Gibbons of North Carolina. After his return to the U.S. Hecker’s health deteriorated. He spent the winter of 1873-74 aboard a boat on the Nile River in Egypt. He found it worthwhile and invigorating. Nevertheless, on returning to the U.S. his health deteriorated further. He died December 22, 1888 at the Paulist House on 59th Street in New York City.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Homily THIRD ADVENT Cycle A St Austin’s December 14/15, 2019

Homily    THIRD ADVENT Cycle A      St Austin’s       December 14/15, 2019

The title of this homily is “EXPECTATIONS   “When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are YOU the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
“Are YOU the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
          I find that a strange question.  Anyone else find it odd?  I mean John the Baptist’s whole ministry, the whole meaning of his existence, was to be the pre-cursor, the one announcing the coming of the Christ and pointing Him out.  “Make straight the way of the Lord!” and all that.   And yet, John is confused if Jesus is indeed the one??   What’s going on here?
          John is expecting something different than what Jesus turned out to be.  John expected the Messiah to come with great power to SMITE the Romans, and SMACK the sinners and BLAST the faithless people.   John was looking for displays of power that were dramatic and explosive and loud and bodies flying everywhere, just like in many recent Hollywood action films.  Last Sunday’s Gospel tells us John’s message: “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire!”  This is apocalyptic speech.  This is fire and brimstone!  This is dramatic judgement and smiting of sinners.  And that is what John expects.
          But that is not what John is hearing about Jesus.  It confuses him.   John is in prison, so he can’t check it out himself.  So, John calls some disciples, we know it was two disciples from the Gospel of Luke, and John sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
          Jesus gives John’s disciples an unexpected answer: Go and tell John what you hear and see:                  the blind regain their sight,     
the lame walk,    lepers are cleansed,      the deaf hear,   the dead are raised,         and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
The messengers presumably reported their message to John. 
          What did John think?  What did John feel?  Well, at first, probably, John was not at all happy.  He had made his whole career out of proclaiming a day of judgement, with lots of wrath and upheaval. 

John was really into it and anxious and eager for the justice of God to fall from the heavens and smite the unbelievers, the sinners, the persecutors of Israel.  He really wanted to see that.
          Instead Jesus is healing people, and feeding people, and giving them His “Peace.”  //  John was a tough, hard, rugged manly guy; and this caring, compassionate, forgiving Jesus was, frankly, not up to his expectations.  John was … disappointed.
          But John, sitting in his prison cell, prayed.  He reflected more deeply on the prophecies of Isaiah.  John opened his heart to the Holy Spirit.  And shortly before he was beheaded by Herod, John completed the hard work of letting go of his own expectations and opening himself to God’s expectations, that were so strange, and so unexpected, but also so wonderful.                       //
          What are your expectations of Jesus?   Do you expect Him to solve your problems?   To keep you from harm?  To provide what you need?  To smite your enemies?  To watch over your family?   Or do you not expect much at all from Jesus? 
          All of us, like John the Baptist, have skewed and false expectations of Jesus.  We don’t even know what we should be expecting from Jesus.  He doesn’t promise us comfort, nor prosperity, nor good health, nor protection for our family and loved ones, nor world peace, nor ease.  We pray for these things.  Perhaps the Lord will grant them.  But we don’t expect any of that.
          What Jesus does promise us is FREEDOM.   Freedom from sin to live freely as the children of God.  Regardless of what happens, regardless of what we have or what we lose, regardless of what we expect, regardless of any disappointments or injustices in life, Jesus offers us the freedom of the children of God.  We are still, always, the children of God.  And God ultimately will take care of us, not in our ways, not according to our plans and expectations, but according to God’s wonderful and mysterious love for each one of us.
          This is what Jesus offers us.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Him.       AMEN.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 8, 2019

This weekend we welcome two new statues into our St. Austin community of saints. Inspired by the work of the group Women of Faith Unbound, St. Mary of Magdala and St. Phoebe were both sculpted by Phoenix-based artist Mark Carroll, then were finished, stained, and hung in place by parishioner Mark Landers. You will notice that the style of the new statues closely resembles that of the existing figures of Sts. Peter and Paul. This was deliberate. These new sculptures of female saints were designed to appear as if they have always been part of our worship space.
St. Mary of Magdala is positioned on the left side of the sanctuary as you face the altar from the pews, just past the final station of the cross. Turned towards the Crucifix, she holds a vessel in her right hand while gesturing with her left hand towards Jesus. This location symbolizes the significant role that Mary of Magdala played after Jesus’s Resurrection. On the Sunday following the Crucifixion, Mary returned to His tomb to anoint His body with spices, as was the Jewish custom, but found the stone rolled away and His body gone. The risen Christ then appeared to her, instructing her to go and tell the other disciples. For being the first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus and for bringing the news to Peter and the other disciples, Mary of Magdala is called “The Apostle to the Apostles.” This statue of her represents the period during which she alone carried the Good News.
St. Phoebe is located on the right side of the sanctuary, on the same side as the statue of St. Paul. She faces the congregation with her right hand raised, while in her left hand she holds a scroll. Phoebe carries special significance for the Paulist Fathers since she worked closely with Paul to spread the word about Jesus. As part of her ministry she journeyed from Jerusalem to bring the Romans a letter from Paul, which introduced her as “our sister Phoebe, diakonos of the church in Cenchreae.” While translated as “minister” in the USCCB-approved version of the bible, diakonos is the Greek word for deacon. The statue of Phoebe is thus appropriately situated near the Deacon’s Door.
Both of these statues signify women whose faith nurtured and sustained the early church. We wanted the statues to look as if they have always been part of our worship space because these women have always been part of our faith history. We celebrate their presence now.
Welcome, St. Mary of Magdala and St. Phoebe!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

HOMILY for the Second Sunday of Advent St Austin Dec 8, 2019

HOMILY for the Second Sunday of Advent           St Austin            Dec 8, 2019

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
          This prophetic call for repentance, that we hear early in our observance of Advent, is not meant only for the original audience thousands of years ago and thousands of miles from here.   Brothers and sisters it is also addressed to us.  To you and to me and to all of us here.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
          It is straightforward and simple.  It is not complex.  Yet sometimes we have some difficulty understanding exactly what is called for.
          Anyone here ever feel guilty?  Of course.  Guilt is a pretty common experience.  If you have never felt guilty either you are truly a saint, having never done anything to feel guilty for, OR you are a psychopath without human emotions.   The great majority of us, however, have experienced the pangs of guilt.
          Now this is important:  NO WHERE IN THE GOSPELS DOES JESUS EVER TELL US TO FEEL GUILTY!   Guilt is an emotion that keeps us chained to the past and replaying old tapes. 
          What Jesus calls us to, and what John the Baptist also calls us to, is REPENTANCE.  Repentance is a firm resolve to go forward doing better.
          Guilt looks back.  Repentance is about living and moving forward.  Jesus and John the Baptist call for repentance.  Guilt comes on its own.  It is a feeling.  Repentance has to be chosen.  Repentance is an act of will.  Repentance means consciously changing direction and purposely going in a new direction.  Guilt does not help.  Repentance is the way to new life. 
          So, say you do something stupid.  You lie.  You steal.  You cheat.  You tell your friend’s secrets.  You gossip.  You practice bigotry.  You have an affair.  You harbor envy and resentment in your heart.  Whatever, you sin. 
          Later, when you are more rational and objective you recognize what you’ve done.  You feel lousy.  “How could I do such a thing?” you ask. 

“How can I live with myself?  Oh what a terrible person I am.”  And on and on.   We’ve all been there.  
          No amount of beating yourself up is going to help.  Guilt only gets in the way.  The way forward is a firm purpose of amendment, and repentance.  Repentance means being sorry for what you did or failed to do, and working to change that tendency to sin in yourself.   Repentance means admitting your guilt, saying you are sorry, accepting your punishment, and striving to move forward and not do that again. 
          It is easier to just feel guilty, and wallow in guilt.  But that doesn’t help.
Repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  God’s own Spirit leads and guides us to repentance, but only if we are open to it.  If we are lazy, or afraid of repentance, and refuse the promptings of the Spirit in our hearts, the Lord will not force repentance on us.  We must choose to repent.
          But repentance is the way to life.  Repentance is the way to wholeness and holiness.  It is the pre-requisite for opening ourselves to the Kingdom of God in our hearts.  It is the beginning of holiness.
          "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 1, 2019

Welcome to Advent! Happy New Liturgical Year.
Advent is a time of waiting. I hate to wait, I am impatient and to me “wait” is a four-letter word. Perhaps instead of waiting, a better way to look at Advent is “anticipation,” “expectation,” and “longing.” Obviously, we are anticipating Christmas - it will be here before you know it! There is a bigger and deeper dimension to our waiting as we are also looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ. It has been so long, some two thousand years, since Jesus’ first coming among us as a baby in Bethlehem that we have largely lost any sense of expectation, of longing, of anticipating Jesus Christ’s return in glory. It just doesn’t seem very urgent.
Yet every Sunday in the Creed we profess our faith that Jesus, Who has “ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” After all this time, do we expect that the Second Coming will occur in our lifetime? I don’t. There is still so much to be sorted out, so much work for the Church to do on earth, so many issues still to be resolved, that to suddenly have Jesus appear and bring it all to an abrupt end seems like a hokey, deus ex machina, kind of solution.
Perhaps a better model for our Advent anticipation is pregnant Mary, waiting with expectation, and excitement, perhaps some trepidation, for the birth of her miraculous child. We also await the coming of God’s Kingdom with hope and expectation, and perhaps some trepidation, more and more fully into our own lives. As we look forward to celebrating Christmas we should be looking forward to the image of the Christ Child born more and more really and actually in our lives. That Christ may live in us by our actions, our desires, our thoughts, our hopes, our very lives. That is something worth waiting for!

P.S. Thank you to all who helped us celebrate Fr. Jim Wiesner, CSP, on the 10th Anniversary of his passing on Nov. 18! I am sure I am missing a few names but special thanks to Julie & Terry Lyons, Martha Schroeder, Kristyn Rankin and family, Lisa Lucero, Colleen Debner, Barbara Kennedy and family, Jack & Patti Gullahorn, Laurie Mechler, Angela Bauman, Dr. Andrea Pobanz, Danny & Mason Smith, Daniel Soto, the Parish Choir, the Knights of Columbus, Deacon John de la Garza, Fr. Jerry Tully, Fr. Tom Gibbons, Fr. Ed Koharchik, Fr. Larry Rice, Fr. Jimmy Hsu, Fr. John Duffy, Fr. Bruce Nieli, Fr. Rich Andre, and everyone who volunteered to assist with and donate to the mass and the reception!

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 24, 2019

This Thursday, as I am sure you all are aware, is Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful feast and always appropriate because we have much for which to be thankful. Gratitude is always in style!
Among the many things for which I am grateful are our parish and school. We have a long and venerable history, but we do not rest on our laurels. We live in an exciting, dynamic, growing and changing city. Our neighborhood in particular is changing right before our very eyes. What was is no longer. What is coming is only hazily visible in outline. We live in the midst of dramatic change, and the best we can do is hang on for the ride! It is both exhilarating and scary.
Through it all, I see our school and our parish remain focused on mission. More and bigger changes are coming, as the letter last week in the bulletin, from myself and parish/school leaders, indicated. Even this willingness to look forward with creativity, energy, and hope is a great reason to be thankful. The number of people working on the development project from our school and parish community, the depth of talent that has volunteered on this project, and the enormous number of hours spent working on making this happen is a bona fide reason for all in our parish and school to be grateful!
It will be sad to eventually say farewell to buildings and places that hold so many precious memories. There will be tears. Genuine gratitude does not let the fond memories of the past become chains to hold us back but rather sources of inspiration to achieve even greater accomplishments in the future.
I think the best way to spur us onward is to remain focused on mission. Let us be thankful for the mission we as a Catholic parish and school have received. Ultimately, this mission comes not from the Parish Council nor the School Board nor the Diocese nor any such body but directly from the Lord Jesus.
“Go therefore and make disciples all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2019


          Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This has never been my favorite feast.  As a dedicated believer in self-government, a republican with a small “r”, the whole idea of “King” is rather distasteful to me.
          But beyond that, we have the new, correct title of this Feast.  In the liturgical books when I was ordained back in the “good old days”, this Feast was known as “Christ the King.”  Pretty simple.  But about 10 years ago, when the revised Roman Missal came out, the name was changed to the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”   While a bit clunkier, it is that last bit, “King of the Universe” that impresses me.
          The Universe is a very, very BIG, OLD, and STRANGE place.  Our best estimate now is that the universe is 13.772 billion years old, and it is at least 93 billion light years in breadth.  That is OLD.  That is BIG.  It is mentally strenuous to get our heads wrapped around such a humongous concept. 
          And yet we claim, as part of our faith, that the man Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine, is King and Lord, not just of Israel, not just of earth, not just of our solar system, but of the whole bloomin Universe.  That is, self-evidently, outrageous. 
          And yet, that is clearly what St. Paul proclaims to us in the second reading today.  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.”  That is quite a sweeping vision!

          But what does all that have to do with us?  What practical difference does it make to the price of a cell phone, or a gallon of gas, or a Whataburger?  How does that sweeping vision impact us?
          I’ll come back to that in a minute, but first I want to digress.  Four years ago I took a trip to Peru.  While there I visited an archeological site outside of Lima.  It was a pre-Inca site, I think it was the ancient Wari culture that was gone before the Inca even showed up.  Definitely pre-Columbian, long before any idea of Christianity reached that part of the world. 
          And these ancient people did a lot of their construction using mud bricks, which were cheap and pretty well survived the frequent earthquakes of the region.  We saw an area where they made the mud bricks, and in the pit where they worked the mud by stomping on it was a very clearly preserved footprint of one of the brick-makers.  Here was a clearly identified, unique, individual from centuries and centuries ago, who had lived in that city and who made mud bricks.  We don’t know the individual’s name, but we do know their unique footprint.  Here was a connection across centuries with a unique, specific, person.
          How is Jesus Christ the King of that specific brick maker from long ago Peru?  Or the millions of other people in the Americas and Asia and Australia and other places who never even heard of Jesus?  Or, to really get fantastic, to any intelligent, self-reflective creatures who live on some planet in a galaxy millions of light years from here?  
          How is all of this connected, and what part do we play in it?
[I am weird enough to wonder about stuff like this.]

        We, through God’s doing and not our own, know that Jesus is Lord, both of our lives and of the entire universe.  AND we have a special role to play in the drama of salvation.  It is the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, that the church – us – is the universal sacrament of salvation. 
          The UNIVERSAL sacrament of salvation.  We are a sacrament, that is, a sign that effects what it signifies, of universal salvation; of salvation of the universe! That’s a big deal. 
          How we lead our lives, how we treat others, how we pray, how we worship, how we struggle to follow Jesus and live like He did, not only affects ourselves, nor only our neighbors, but somehow, spiritually, affects the salvation of the whole universe!                   //
          How can that be?  Well, it is time to turn to our Gospel.  As we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we don’t see Him depicted on a royal throne, nor on the clouds of heaven, nor seated in glory at the right hand of God, nor in any other way of power and prestige.   Instead we see Him bruised, battered, broken, dying miserably on the Cross.  His throne is an instrument of torture and execution.  His lone subject is a condemned criminal. 
          And yet this abject lowliness is the salvation of the universe.  It is the destruction of the power of death.  It is faithfulness to the end that is the ultimate triumph of God over evil.  It is the entrance to the Resurrection. 
          Truly, God’s ways are not our ways.  How you and I ever ended up being a part of the universal sacrament of salvation is certainly way beyond me to be able to figure out.  But by God’s grace that is in fact what we are.  The universal sacrament of salvation.
           That is both a great honor and a great responsibility.  It gives our lives worth and meaning far beyond what we know, what we can imagine or dream.   All we can do is join in St Paul’s joyous hymn in our second reading today:
          He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
          He is the head of the body, the church.
          He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
          that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
          For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
          and through him to reconcile all things for him,
          making peace by the blood of his cross through him,
          whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

Long live the King! 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 17, 2019

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away! In only ten days, we will have our Thanksgiving Mass here at St Austin Parish on Wed., Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. Hope to see you there!
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, a great time to gather with friends and family, to share food, company, stories. There is also a less welcome side to the holiday gathering. Does anyone have a little bit of dread about discussing current affairs with relatives, extended family and in-laws? Do you try to steer the conversation away from certain topics with some of your relatives and in-laws? Given the bitterly divided politics of our country, and the emotionally fraught issues that can arise at gatherings, perhaps you have a slight bit of trepidation or outright dread about being mixed with family and friends and neighbors who have different opinions on politics, hot-button social issues, matters of religion, certain sports teams, etc. I recommend you go to this website promoted jointly by the U S Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Communities of Salt and Light: It is called “CIVILIZE IT”. As the website succinctly states; “When personal attacks replace honest debate, no one wins.” The CIVILIZE IT website invites you to pledge to do three things:
1. Civility: To recognize the human dignity of those with whom I disagree, treat others with respect, and rise above attacks when directed at me.
2. Clarity: To root my political viewpoints in the Gospel and a well-formed conscience, which involves prayer, conversation, study and listening. I will stand up for my convictions and speak out when I witness language that disparages others' dignity, while also listening and seeking to understand others’ experiences. 
3. Compassion: To encounter others with a tone and posture which affirms that I honor the dignity of others and invites others to do the same. I will presume others’ best intentions and listen to their stories with empathy. I will strive to understand before seeking to be understood. 
You can share this pledge with your family and friends. Pray for a spirit of civility and understanding in your family and community. Open your heart to the working and courage of the Holy Spirit. I have taken this pledge, and will strive to “civilize it” in my discussions and interactions with others. I urge you to do the same. If by example and courage we can help turn down the vitriol and anger in our civic discourse, and listen better to each other, then we really will have something for which to give thanks this Thanksgiving.

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 10, 2019

Tomorrow is VETERANS DAY! Banks will be closed and mail will not be delivered. The Parish offices will be closed, but St. Austin Catholic School will be open and so will AISD schools. So it is a holiday but not totally a holiday.
Who we honor on this day is very important: all the men and women who have served and are serving our country in the armed forces of the United States. My 98-year-old dad served in Patton’s army in the Battle of the Bulge. Several of my high-school buddies served in Vietnam. My younger brother served in the Air Force with some pretty hilarious adventures in Alaska. The closest I ever came to military service was as a contract chaplain saying Mass at Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, Alaska.
It is important that we honor our veterans. They have served us all. We do that not just by taking the day off every year but also by making sure our service men and women and our veterans are treated fairly and well. This means voting for legislators who will untangle the red tape of the Veterans’ Administration, funding it appropriately, and making sure our veterans receive the medical care and the assistance they deserve.
It also means voting for legislators who will make sure that our current service members receive decent lodging and meals and not be shortchanged by granting contracts to private providers who collect large sums from the government but provide sub-standard housing, food, and other services. There has been a large push recently to have more and more services provided to our service women and men by private contractors rather than by the government directly. Sometimes this leads to better efficiency and cost savings, but all too often it leads to grift, corruption and subsequent denigration of the housing, meals, and support for our troops. You can read more about this at:
Veteran’s Day is more than just a day off. It is a day for us to honor and thank those who serve in our military. Pray for our veterans and service men and women. Say “thank you” to someone who serves in the military. Remember the veterans and current service members when you vote.

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 3, 2019

Here it is November already We are now changing our clocks for daylight savings time; an extra hour of sleep! And to celebrate we have a Knights of Columbus Breakfast Taco sale after the 7:30 and 8:45 a.m. Masses today.
Lots of other exciting things coming up. This Friday St Austin School holds its annual gala, an important fund-raiser for the school. It will be something new and different this year as the event is being held at the Pecan Grove Pavilion at Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, TX. This should be a lot of fun and definitely delicious. If you are interested see the school’s website at See you there!
On Mon., Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. we will observe the tenth anniversary of the passing of Fr. James Wiesner, CSP with a special Mass. I believe a few Paulists are coming into town for this, and there will be a reception following. It should be a very moving and meaningful event.
Thanksgiving will be celebrated here on Wed. evening, Nov. 27, with a Mass at 7 p.m. Before that we will hand out bags for you to fill with groceries for the annual Christmas Basket Project. It is always impressive to see the front steps of our sanctuary filled with bags and boxes of groceries. Plan to join us on the evening before Thanksgiving!
Advent, and with it a new Liturgical Year, begins on the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
On the second Saturday of Advent, Dec. 7, at the beginning of Mass, we will celebrate the blessing of two new statues of saints that will reside in our church. St. Mary of Magdala and St. Phoebe, who was mentioned and praised by St. Paul, will be hung in our sanctuary and blessed at the beginning of that Mass.
And that weekend of Dec. 7 – 8 is our annual Holiday Fair!!!
Before you know it, it will be Christmas! Where did the year go? Well, there is lots coming up, so hang on and enjoy the ride.

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 20, 2019

As you may have seen in the bulletin, next Sunday at 10 a.m. we have a special presentation here at St. Austin by two scripture scholars from St. Edward’s University. 
They are both contributors to the new (and highly acclaimed!) Paulist Biblical Commentary. They are also a married couple: Dr. Richard J. Bautch and Dr. Kelley Coblenz Bautch.
There was a conscious effort in compiling the Paulist Biblical Commentary to include more than just priests, but also lay people and especially women.
Dr. Richard contributed the two articles on the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These two books together run only about 20 pages in a Bible. They are not very well known. It would be worth while to read these two books, which take place at the end of the Babylonian Exhile and the return of the people to Jerusalem in keeping with God’s promise, before coming to the lecture.
Dr. Kelley contributed the article in the Paulist Biblical Commentary on the Book of Esther. Esther was a strong-willed woman who became queen and used her influence to prevent the destruction of the Jews. It is also a short book and worth a read. 
We are blessed to have such wonderful resources as St. Edward’s University and the University of Texas so close to our parish.  Please plan on joining us next Sun., Oct. 27, at 10 a.m. in Our Lady of Guadalupe Room.  See you there!  

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 6, 2019

Thank you to every family who has made a commitment to the Encountering Christ campaign here at St. Austin. Because of your generosity, we have received in donations or pledges $1,350,590 from 234 gifts, which is 67% of our $2,030,000 parish goal. This is incredible! 30% of these gifts will come back to St. Austin to assist us with our interior church upgrades, specifically the sound system and lighting renovations we so desperately need, and the commissioning of new statues of Saints Mary Magadalene and Phoebe which you will see soon.
Encountering Christ is not just a campaign; it is a greater mission to invite people to know the love of Christ and be one in community with us. This campaign’s success requires everyone in the parish spending time in prayer to reflect on the gifts they have received and consider how their support of Encountering Christ will impact both mission and ministry.
If you have not yet made a gift, I respectfully ask you to pray and discern what the Lord is calling you to do. You can visit the campaign website at and watch videos that show the impact Encountering Christ will have on local ministry. The Diocese of Austin is growing quickly and adjusting its mission and ministry accordingly. The videos are compelling and poignant.
Over this past spring and summer, the St. Austin community worked diligently to maximize our participation in the Encountering Christ campaign. At the urgent request of Bishop Joe Vásquez, we will conduct an additional Commitment Weekend on October 12 and 13. This final weekend will ensure that every family has the opportunity to make a pledge to the campaign.
Encountering Christ has my full support, and I pray that you consider joining with me, Bishop Joe Vásquez and 12,000 families across the diocese by making a pledged commitment. If you are not able to contribute financially at this time, we ask for your prayers of support through the campaign.
If I can be of any assistance to you in your discernment process, please reach out to me. I am honored to be your pastor, and humbly grateful for the outpouring of support I have seen through this Encountering Christ campaign effort.

HOMILY Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time November 17, 2019

HOMILY     Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time            November 17, 2019

          Anyone here ever give testimony in court?  Anyone ever served as an expert witness?   Or given a deposition under oath?  Was it fun?  Probably not. 
          In the Gospel today we are told that we will have to testify.  Jesus tells us that there will be all sorts of upset and natural disasters and wars and civil unrest.   “There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”  And persecutions to boot!  
          And all this, Jesus tells us “will lead to your giving testimony.” 
          So all of us, according to Jesus, will give testimony.   Not in a court of law.  But rather in our daily life. 
          Each of us is testifying every day to the truth of our life.  And what does our testimony say?  Do our lives testify to the fact that we are Christian?  That we are disciples of Jesus?  Or is it like the old question, “¿if being a Christian was a crime, could any court find sufficient evidence to convict you?
          Christianity grew because early Christians gave witness.  They testified to their faith by how they lived.   In 251 A.D. a great plague struck the Greco-Roman world. Memories were revived of a plague a century earlier in which more than a third of the population had died. Fear was everywhere. Those who could afford it fled to the countryside. Those who could not remained in the cities. When they went to the pagan temples they found them empty, because the pagan priests had fled. The streets were filled with those who had become infected, because their families were left with no option but to push them out the door.

          Christian communities however took an entirely different approach. They saw it as their responsibility to love the sick and dying, so they took them into their homes and nursed them. This action meant that many people recovered who otherwise would have died. Historians suggest that elementary nursing could have reduced the mortality rate by as much as two thirds, but it also cost a number of Christians who cared for the victims their own lives.
          In his book, The Early Church, historian Henry Chadwick comments:
“The practical application of charity was probably the most potent single cause of Christian success. The pagan comment ‘see how these Christians love one another’ (reported by Tertullian) was not irony. Christian charity expressed itself in care for the poor, for widows and orphans, in visits to brethren in prison or condemned to the living death of labour in the mines, and social action in time of calamity like famine, earthquake, pestilence, or war.”
That was the effect of Christians giving testimony to their faith in Jesus. 
          I contend that the same is true today.  Probably you have seen the news that many young people have no religious affiliation. And survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or as Catholic. 
          I do not believe we can get people back to church by condemning modern life.  I think we have to do it the way the early Christians did, by the testimony of our lives. 

Like Fr Bruce Lewandowski, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baltimore, who was featured on National Public Radio recently for his work with immigrant communities.  Or like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development that we will take up next weekend.  Or our annual Christmas Basket program we do here each year.
          This calls for perseverance.  It calls for stepping out of our comfort zones.  It means putting into action what we preach.  It means following Jesus more concretely and deliberately.  It means giving testimony, not by words, but by actions, and acceptance, and charity, and forgiveness. 
          All of us are called, challenged, to be expert witnesses to Christianity.  We have to live it is such a way that a life of following Jesus proves its own worth.  Not because we will be materially rewarded.  Not because we will feel all warm and fuzzy.  Not because we will be self-actuated.  But because we will be living examples of the love of Jesus.  For everyone.  Because Jesus’ love is universal.
          We are called to testify.  AMEN.