Thursday, February 28, 2019

HOMILY Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C February 24, 2019

          In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus tells us, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
          OK.  So how are you going to do that?  How are you practically going to be merciful?   Most of us do not pass judgement on convicted criminals, so we cannot be merciful in that rather strict sense. 
          Rather, for the great majority of us in our daily life, being merciful as our Father in Heaven is merciful, means first of all being patient.  We are all too quick to pass judgement on others.  For us, practically, mercy means being more patient with our spouse, our children, our selves.  It means being less quick to judge harshly the other drivers we encounter, or the person ahead of us in a checkout line who takes FOREVER to get their money out to pay, or that person at work that bothers us. 
          You see, God is not quick to judge.  God has lots of time to make judgements.  So, God is patient.  And that is good for us!  ¿Can we be more patient with those we live with, with those we work and study with, and with those we encounter during our day? 
          We can also practice mercy by trying to put ourselves in the other persons’ shoes and see things from their point of view.  Our political discourse in this country has all too often degenerated into diatribe.  Can we practice the virtue of mercy, taking time to listen to the other, be patient with each other, and instead of quickly condemning, rather try to dialogue with the other?  That is a lot more work, it is less emotionally satisfying than to know that we are in the right and the other side is all in the wrong, BUT it is much closer to the way God mercifully treats us.
          Jesus tells us today in the Gospel:  “Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” 

This statement follows immediately after the command to be merciful, because the avoidance of judging and condemning is very close to being merciful. 
          Ultimately, this patience and trying to see things from the other’s point of view, leads to forgiveness.   Jesus continues in His teaching, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  We need to forgive in order to become who we are destined to be, that is, children of God.  Because God forgives us.
          In our second reading today from St. Paul to the Corinthians, St Paul tells us: “The first man (Adam) was from the earth, earthly; the second man (Jesus), from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.”  ¿So which are we, earthly or heavenly???   St. Paul tells us, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.” 
          This means that we are a work in progress.  We shall also bear the image of the heavenly person.  But we are not fully there yet.  We must all continue to work at it, opening ourselves to the transforming grace of Christ.
          “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” by being patient with others, slowing down the urge to immediately condemn, taking time to dialogue and listen to the other. 
          “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”   God bless! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 24, 2019

Soon we will be into the holy season of Lent. All of our ministries are gearing up for this special time.
Let me bring you up-to-date on several things that are also going on around here. First, as you may have heard, the Diocese of Austin is now in the middle of a major capital campaign with a goal of $80,000,000, to create endowments for the many good works of the Diocese: to train new clergy and care for elderly clergy, to help rural parishes that are struggling and to grow new ones in the areas that are expanding, to support religious education and Catholic schools, and to support ministries and charities. The Encountering Christ Campaign is a positive way to prepare for the future in this growing, active Diocese.
To conduct this campaign well over the entire 24 counties and 120 parishes of the Diocese, the campaign has been broken into three waves. The pilot group and the first wave are now completed. St. Austin is in the second wave, and you will shortly be hearing more about it. Our parish goal is $2,030,000. Of every dollar raised we receive back 30 cents or $609,000 if we reach our goal.
We hope to use our portion to make interior upgrades to the church. We hired an acoustician who does a lot of church work to provide us with a plan to replace, upgrade, and improve our sound system. We have also engaged a lighting consultant so that we can re-lamp our church interior to make it brighter and more welcoming. We would like to add A/C units up in the choir loft so that the choir is not broiling while the pews are freezing. We also would like to add statues of two women saints to complement the statues of Sts. Peter and Paul that we have in the front, and finally, if possible, purchase new hymnals. We will see how much we raise and how much we can do.
In addition, the Development Committee has been meeting with our broker, CBRE, and the developer we have chosen,  Greystar, to see if we can make this project work financially, physically, and in keeping with our parish’s mission. As a reminder, we are exploring whether a portion of our property could be leased for commercial purposes and provide us with a third-party revenue stream from the lease to help us replace some of our aging facilities. Part of this work includes trying to figure out where the activities of our community would go during the two years of construction. We first looked at our own properties and it looks like the retail space on the first and second floor of the garage (Subway) will meet the parish office and short term ministry needs. This  would be both convenient and cheaper than renting commercial properties. The school has some very good leads and has been actively following up on those. No work has been done yet on the rectory replacement, so I am not sure where the priests will go. As Jesus says in Mt 8:20 “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I am sure we will figure that out. In any case, we need to include these transition costs in the financial modeling we are running as we determine if this deal can work for all
By mid May we should know if this opportunity works for our community, and we will continue to communicate to you, the Parish, as we are all making a legacy decision for the future of our mission on the corner of West Campus.
There are many things going on around here right now. Please keep us all in your prayers. This is an exciting time to be part of St Austin Catholic Parish and School community!

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 17, 2019

We are now into the second semester of the school year, and while the beginning of next school year is still far off, I know that parents are beginning to think about enrollment for their children for next year.
With this in mind I would like to remind our parish parents of school age children about our wonderful parish school. 
In some places where the Paulists are located, our schools fill up quickly because the academics are so much better than the surrounding public schools.  Fortunately, we do not have that situation here.  Our public schools are very good at academics. 
But there is more to education than just learning a lot of knowledge. As important as that is, even more important is the education in character.  Recently I read about a Catholic school in India which asserts, “We nourish children in spirituality and faith.  These give the children a moral and ethical compass.” And that is true, I hope, of all Catholic schools. Certainly I find that to be true of our St. Austin School. This approach is well expressed in the school’s motto: “Non scholae, sed vitae,” or“Not school, but life.” Our students are not only well prepared academically but also with Christian Catholic virtues and ideals to assist them for life as well-rounded persons and productive members of society. 
Of course, this sort of education starts and is most fully inculcated at home. Our students in public school receive this training at home, and it is supplemented by the very good faith formation program of our parish.
Still, some parents want to make sure that this education, not only in academics, but in life skills and faith, be reinforced in school.  When I was pastor at Old Saint Mary’s in San Francisco, the enrollment of St. Mary’s Chinese school was only 10% Christian.  Not Catholic, but Christian! 90% were not Christian, but their parents wanted good academics for their children and were also very concerned that the children learn in an atmosphere that stressed and reinforced strong family values. And so they valued Catholic education. And I think so should we.
I invite all the families of our parish to consider St. Austin Catholic School. You can check out our parish school’s website at 

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 3, 2019

First, on behalf of all the Paulists who have served here in the past, who are here now, and who will come and serve here in the future, I sincerely want to thank all of you for your prayerful and financial support of the Paulist Fathers. THANK YOU!!! We Paulists value your collaboration with us in ministry through your gifts, your participation, and your prayers. 
If you missed the Annual Paulist Appeal last weekend, there are still lots of flyers and envelopes in the pews. I encourage EVERYONE to participate, no matter how small or large your gift.  
As you know, St. Austin Parish has a garage. In this garage there are elevators, but for months now the elevators have not been working. They were vandalized around Oct. 20, 2018. Someone forcibly ripped out the control panels and the electronic guts of the elevators. AAARGH!!! Such vandalism is hard to comprehend.
Our elevators are special. They are not standard-sized elevators.  They were built specifically for that space and do not take any standard parts. The elevator company, KONE, technically owns the elevators, and we rent them. Because they are non-standard, any replacement parts cannot be taken off the shelf but must be custom-made. This is both very time consuming and expensive. We the parish have paid for half of the repair already, which was $7,400. When the repairs are complete, if that ever occurs, we will pay the other half. So the vandalism cost approximately $15,000.
In addition, every quarter we pay a MAINTENANCE contract to Kone Elevator of $2,579.00. We have had to pay that even during the time the elevators are not working. Obviously, this is a less than satisfactory situation. Unfortunately, our contract with KONE does not allow us to go to another elevator company to get service, since they own the elevators. 
We have emailed and called them repeatedly, and we still await the repair of our elevators. If we do go ahead with the development of our properties, I can assure you that none of the elevators in the school or parish facilities will be custom-made, and we will look at other elevator companies. 
I am sorry for the great inconvenience that the lack of functioning elevators in our garage is causing, especially for our elderly and handicapped parishioners and guests. If there is any movement from the elevator company, I will be sure to inform you. It is all very FRUSTRATING! If and when the elevators are repaired and operating again, we will look at shutting down the elevators at night in the hopes of reducing the amount of vandalism they receive. Meanwhile, get your exercise climbing the steps at the garage.

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 27, 2019

Dear friends, I want to tell you that on this coming Thurs., Jan. 31, all the Dioceses and Archdioceses of Texas are releasing the names of all the priests who have been credibly accused of clergy sexual misconduct. Expect to see several headlines in the paper and stories on the evening news about this.
Here in the Diocese of Austin, we are expecting 20-25 names. Many of these will be of crimes that occurred several decades ago. You may recognize some of the names, and you may recognize none of the names. In any case, it is a very sad and sobering statement.
I want to reiterate to you that I, and Pope Francis, as well, believe that the root cause of this terrible scourge is not priesthood, is not celibacy, is not gay men in the priesthood, is not the infantilizing effects of religion. The underlying root cause is clericalism, the assumption of special privileges and status for priests and bishops. In a letter to all the faithful this past Aug. 20, Pope Francis wrote, “Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.” 
All of us need to be spiritually mature enough to recognize the special and important service that women religious, priests, bishops, and deacons give to the Body of Christ but also to recognize that they are all sinners, just like all lay people. They are no worse, nor any better, by virtue of ordination. Religious and the ordained have a different role in the Body of Christ from the laity, but they are not, thereby, somehow holier, more special, or closer to God.
We all have to, in a certain sense, grow up and let go of any magical thinking we have about religious life and ordination. We cannot escape our obligation to be the Church and to be holy, especially not by putting someone else on a pedestal and expecting them to be above the struggles and travails of our weak human flesh. For better or worse, we are all in this together. Let us pray for each other.
The revelation of the names of credibly accused priests in the Diocese of Austin and across Texas is also a call for all of us to recognize that we are all responsible for the mission of the Church. Our Baptismal call cannot be transferred to someone else. And the same rules of accountability and reasonable safeguards have to apply to all parts of the church that are human. Again, in the words Pope Francis, “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”  
God bless!

P.S. I recommend to you Pope Francis’ Letter to the People of God on this topic. You can find it at In the upper right-hand corner click on English, then under the Pope’s picture click on Letters. Then click on 2018, and finally Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (Aug. 20, 2018).

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 20, 2019

When is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time not the 3rd Sunday? When you are in a Paulist staffed parish and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25) falls close to the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time!
As I hope you know, the Paulists have served this parish since its beginning in 1908. Our Patron Saint, of course, is St. Paul the Apostle. Every year we “transfer” the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul to the nearest Sunday in order to pray for the Paulist Fathers and to blow our own horn a bit. We also take up the Annual Paulist Appeal on that Sunday, so the second collection next Sunday will be for the Paulists. Just like the Diocese, the Paulists need to train our seminarians, care for our elderly and retired priests, and fund our mission outreach. So every year in January we come to you with the Annual Paulist Appeal.
St. Austin has consistently been very generous to the Paulists. We Paulists deeply appreciate that. We believe that the members of this parish community are partners with us in our mission of evangelization (reaching out), reconciliation (welcoming back), and ecumenism (building bridges to other Christians and also other religions). Together we give life and substance to our Paulist mission.
Next weekend we will celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Deacon Billy Atkins, the first Paulist Deacon Affiliate, will preach the Annual Paulist Appeal. Hopefully this week you will receive a letter and brochure from the Paulists explaining the Appeal and asking for your participation. Our needs are great, but so is the enthusiasm and the support we receive in all our foundations. That is especially true here in Austin.
On behalf of all the Paulists who have ever served here at St. Austin Catholic Parish, I thank you in advance for your generous and prayerful support. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 13, 2019

Almost every Catholic child and adult convert learns to say the “Hail Mary.” This short prayer forms the basis of the rosary, and it is distinctively Catholic. Today I would like to look at this prayer to reflect on what we actually saying.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” is taken directly from the greeting the Angel Gabriel says to Mary in Luke 1:28. If this salutation was good enough for the Archangel Gabriel, we have no qualms about reusing it ourselves. The second section is a direct quote from Luke 1:42, in the story of the Visitation. When Elizabeth first sees Mary, she cries out “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Both statements are compliments to Mary, much like when you butter up the person you’re about to ask for a favor.
We address her again as “Holy Mary.” This is both a recognition of her as highly favored by God, and also another attempt to have her look kindly on our request. Then the title “Mother of God” is added. This ancient title was given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Bishop Nestorius taught that Mary was the Mother of Jesus, but not the Mother of God since God is eternal and could not be born. This caused tremendous concern over our understanding of salvation. Christians understood that for Jesus to SAVE us he had to be God. But for Jesus to save US he had to be human. Also (this is the important part) Jesus had to be fully both God and human at the same time with no division. So you could truly say that Mary is the Mother of not just Jesus, but of God. Some truths are just so true that they defy explanation, and Mary as Mother of God is one of them.
Then we come to the heart of the prayer, our request “pray for us sinners.” Who better to plead your case with Jesus than His own mother? When I pray the Hail Mary by myself, I always include the word “please.” It just seems to me to be good manners. Otherwise it can come across as a command: “PRAY for us!” It helps remind me that this is a request, not an order.
I also think that many of us are subconsciously praying “pray for me” instead of “for us.” This is an important distinction. When we pray the Hail Mary we pray for ALL of us sinners. Not only our friends and neighbors, not only all the people we don’t know, but also for those frustrating drivers on the highway, people in other political parties, crooks, drug-dealers, priests who molest children, etc. We associate them with us in prayer when we ask Mary to pray for us sinners. That is quite bold, and rather humbling.
We are not asking for prayers next week, we desire them NOW. As a person with not much patience, I like this part of the prayer. We are asking for an immediate response to our request. That is really rather bold on our part, and it is the type of boldness that children have with their loving mother. Mary has maternal concern for each of us who are members of her Son’s Body, and so we can presume to be this forward with her.
Finally we ask for Mary’s prayer “at the hour of our death.” Again, we come to Mary not as individuals asking for prayers at the hour of MY death, but as a collective family, requesting prayers for all of us at the hour of OUR death. And then “Amen”, which means, ‘so be it.’ I hope this little review will help you to reflect on the prayer. If so, then please say a Hail Mary for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Homily Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C February 17, 2019

          Let me set the background, the setting, for our Gospel today.  Immediately prior to the passage we have from St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had gone up a mountain to pray.  He spent the whole night in prayer.  In the morning He called to Himself His disciples, His followers, and from them Jesus chose twelve that He named “Apostles”.  Then Jesus came down the mountain with the Twelve to a level space.
          There on the level space were a lot of people forming sort of concentric circles around Jesus.  First there are the Twelve Apostles, then the disciples, then we are told “a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem”.   These would have been Jews.  But that is not all.  Finally, there is a crowd from “the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.”  These coastal people would have been gentiles, pagans, non-Jews.  So this is a mixed group, representing all people, with Jesus in the center.  
          However, Jesus does not address the whole group.  The Gospel states, “And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:”  Jesus addresses His disciples.  That is us.  You and me.   We are disciples. 
          Where are we in this Gospel?  Well we are not Apostles.  Hopefully, we are not pagans.  Nor are we Jews.  We here at St Austin parish are called to be DISCIPLES.  And so Jesus is addressing US. 
          “Blessed are you…”    The word “you” here is Greek is PLURAL.  In English we only have the word “you” for both individuals and for groups.  But this is clearly plural.  It would sort of be as if Jesus said, “Blessed are yous guys…”  He is addressing us a group of disciples. 
          “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”   Jesus is not speaking here of material poverty but rather of poverty of spirit.  That is, Jesus is talking about those who know their need for God.  Those who are wise enough, and perceptive enough, to know that everything they have is gift:  the family they were born into, the opportunities they have been given, their health and energy, their education, the  spiritual formation they have received, indeed even their very life, is all gift.  It is not something they have accomplished, but something they have freely received.  And the result of this recognition is gratitude.  Gratitude. 
          Gratitude and this sense of poverty of spirit are very close.  And so Jesus assures us, “the kingdom of heaven is yours.”
          “Blessed are you who are now hungry,” hungering and thirsting for the Kingdom of God, for God’s Will to be done on earth, hungering for an end to injustice, for an end to environmental degradation; thirsting for justice and for peace.  “You will be satisfied” Jesus promises.
          “Blessed are you who are now weeping” over racism, xenophobia, hatred, anti-Semitism, gay bashing, and all forms of discrimination.  You will laugh with joy over righteousness and justice in the Kingdom of God.
          “Blessed are you when people hate you, and they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”    To suffer persecution and rejection for following Jesus, for doing what is right and what is decent and good, draws you incredibly close and deep into His fullness of life, and is a blessing far, far greater than any passing discomfort or suffering. 
          That is what we as a community, as a parish, are called to.
          “But woe to you who are rich,” and self-satisfied, and don’t need anyone else, and think you can do and get away with whatever you want.
          And “Woe to you who are filled now,” so full of yourselves that you do not think you need anyone else and have no care for anyone else.

          “Woe to you who laugh now” and pay no attention and give no care to children jailed on the border, to families desperately seeking safety and a new life, to the poor, the sick, the oppressed, to protect and care for children yet to be born, but instead fill your days with mindless and ceaseless entertainments, with gadgets and high-tech toys, to avert your attention from the real pain around you. 
          “Woe to you when all speak well of you” because you have conformed yourself so well to the ways of this world, and fit in so seamlessly and unobtrusively with the crowd, the conventional wisdom, and all the ways of this world. 

          Blessings and woes.  Addressed to us.  ¿Where are we as a community, as St Austin Catholic Parish?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C St Austin, Austin TX Feb 10, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time    Cycle C    St Austin, Austin TX     Feb 10, 2019

          As you know I am a member of the Paulist Fathers, and Paulists, not surprisingly, like St. Paul, both for his accomplishments and for his writings.  We have a longer than usual portion of one of St. Paul’s letters as our second reading, and I would like to look at that. 
          Paul tells the Corinthians, and also us, what he handed on to us of first importance.  This is not something he made up, but something he received, and has handed on to us. And he tells us that this is of FIRST IMPORTANCE, and so worthy of paying attention to.  And it is this: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…..”  This is what is of first importance for our faith and our salvation.
          Therefore, I think this is worthwhile our spending some time to flesh it out and understand it better. 
          What do we mean when we say “Christ died for our sins”?   How did Christ die for your sins and my sins?  What is that all about?  
          Various answers have been given over the two thousand years of Christianity, and many of the answers were lame at best, and destructive at worst. 
          Did Christ die to appease an angry God?  That sin offended God’s majesty and God was mollified or appeased by the terrible death of an innocent man, Jesus, to make up for the offense?  NO!  That is a bad understanding of Jesus’ salvific death.
          Did Jesus die to somehow repay a debt to God?  Humanity had offended God, wronged God, and now had to pay a sort of fine to re-establish friendship with God.  Did Jesus repay our debt to God?  NO!
          So how is Jesus’ death on the cross salvific for you and for me?  What does it have to do with us?
           The salvific death of Jesus is a great mystery, which can never be fully explained nor totally comprehended.  Its power and import and beauty are beyond what human words can express.
          Nonetheless, we can still say somethings about the manner of Jesus’ death that are true.  It is not so much that Jesus died.   All people die, and unfortunately plenty of people die tragic, awful, unjust and painful deaths.  It is not that Jesus died, but rather the manner in which Jesus approached, accepted, and endured His death, that was salvific.  That condition of mind and heart with which Jesus accepted and embraced His death is called in the Bible “obedience.”  This Biblical obedience is all about Jesus’ disposition.  This is not like the obedience that a dog learns in obedience school.  It is not like obedience in the military, where it does not matter if the soldier or sailor understands or agrees with the order, but only that the soldier or sailor do it. 
          No, the Biblical concept of obedience is rather about a harmony of will and action.  Jesus remains true to the Father’s Will for him – proclaiming God’s Kingdom, God’s care and love for us, even though doing so would upset the usual way of doing things, and inevitably lead to conflict with the chief priests and the Romans, and ultimately end in death.
         This obedience, this adherence of Jesus to God’s Will, by someone innocent and uncompromised, in a remarkable way heals you and me of our selfish willfulness that leads to disobedience and sin. 
          We are God’s.  We are not totally self-contained units that have no connection to the universe or the power that brought the universe into being, and that sustains it in existence every instant.  We are God’s children.   But we do not live the life we are called to.  We hurt others, ourselves, and creation   We sin.  And we are trapped in sin. 
          But thanks be to God, Jesus, by His perfect obedience to God’s Will for Him, lived fully in harmony with God’s Will, even to the point of death, death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name* that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.    Phil 2: 9-11

This, St. Paul tells us, is of first importance!  Christ has not only shown us the way to truly live as the children of God, but by conquering death, He also enables us to share in His victory, so that we do not need to live in fear, and certainly not in hopelessness.  But by sharing in a life and death like Jesus – that is, in the manner of His love and obedience to God our loving Father, we will also share in Christ’s resurrect life; to live for God forever!  AMEN