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!