Monday, November 30, 2020

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT Cycle B November 29, 2020

 FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT     Cycle B         November 29, 2020

           As we begin this new liturgical year, we have a passage from the beginning of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.  He says something rather interesting.    He proclaims:  “I give thanks to my God always      on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,   that in Him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, …, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”

YOU ARE NOT LACKING IN ANY SPIRITUAL GIFT…

          Hmm.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am lacking plenty in spiritual gifts:  in wisdom to know what to say.  In patience with my brother Paulists.  In hope and endurance in this never-ending pandemic and all the difficulty and hardship and heartache it causes.  In peace, as I get irritated and impatient with our church and bishops, our country, our situation in Covid-19.  I am lacking PLENTY of spiritual gifts.   How about you? 

          So, is St. Paul totally off-base?  Does he not know what he is talking about?   Well, we tend to hear this differently than what St. Paul intended.  There is a failure in translation.  You see, when Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christian community, he is writing to them as a community, a group.  Not as individuals.  When St. Paul says, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift...” he is talking to the Corinthians as a community, or in Paul’s favorite image, as one body with many parts. 

          Therefore, when you hear this passage, don’t think about it addressed to you individually, but hear it addressed to all of us together as one body.  It should be translated, “so that y’all, all of you together, are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”

    We, St Austin parish, or the Diocese of Austin, as a Christian community, are not lacking in any spiritual gift!   We have among us all the gifts and talents we need as a community to follow the Lord fully and faithfully, even in the midst of economic and political turmoil, in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of confusion about going to church or staying home, in the pain of loneliness and isolation, in the face of confusion, doubt, and uncertainty.

          St. Paul assures us: “He will keep you firm to the end.”   We, as a Christian Community, as the Body of Christ, have the staying power to endure all the confusion, the misunderstanding, the opposition, the indifference and laziness, the scorn and opprobrium of the world, even our own faint-heartedness, and not only endure till the end, but to conquer overwhelmingly in Christ. 

          But we do NOT do this alone, by ourself.  We need to rely on each other.  We must each play our part.  Maybe that is volunteering for a ministry in the parish.  Maybe that is joining faithfully in worship virtually while the pandemic rages.  Maybe that is striving to be more patient and more Christian with your family members, your neighbors, your fellow parishioners and others.  Maybe it is to stretch to help with more of the special collections.  Maybe it is to dedicate yourself more fully to prayer.  Maybe it is to work to truly be grateful for what you have, not disappointed and resentful over what you lack. 

          Together, as the Body of Christ, we can rely upon the power of Christ, which is the power that not only created all that is, the entire universe, but also the power that decisively and completely beat death.  You cannot get any more powerful than that.

          So take heart.  Our Christian family has been “enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, …, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”    And that is Good News indeed!   

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Homily Feast of Christ the King November 22, 2020

 Homily   Feast of Christ the King  November 22, 2020

          Did the like the Gospel we just heard?   You know, sometimes the Gospel is obscure, difficult to figure out, or to apply to our daily life.  Sometimes we don’t understand the customs or the figures of speech from the times and society of Jesus.  We read the Gospel and end up scratching our heads.

          But not our Gospel today.  It is clear and definite.  Whatever you do or fail to do for the least of the brothers and sisters of the Lord, you did or failed to do for Him.  Pretty simple.

          So, who are the brothers and sisters of the Lord?  It is EVEYONE. 

I urge you to take this seriously, because this is of the utmost importance.  I told the St. Austin School students on Friday a week ago that this is the Final Final, the ultimate test, the test you want to pass and ace more than any other test or final exam.  Because the results are eternal.

          Jesus makes it very clear.  He tells us precisely the material on which we will be examined at the end of our life.  And it is NOT about what church you belonged to, nor what name you used for God, nor what theology you held, not what prayers you said, not what political party or nation you belonged to.  None of that will be on the test. 

          It is all about how you treated others, especially those most in need.  Did you wear a mask during the pandemic in order to help keep your neighbor healthy, or did you not care about their health because the mask was uncomfortable?  Did you let go of your desire to hug and chat and instead maintain at least six feet distance from others out of concern for their well being and yours? 

          This is about stuff that is practical and concrete.  It is not about lofty sentiments and good feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood.  None of that will count on the final exam of life. It is about concrete actions, actual acts to help another person.   That could be donating to today’s second collection, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  It could be choosing to not pass on the latest funny but nasty and derogatory political tweet.  It could be calling that neighbor or relative or coworker who you know is isolated and lonely.  It could be writing a letter to your elected officials to urge them to protect the environment, to pass just laws, to protect all human life from conception to natural death, to care for the 666 children still separated from their parents at the border.  It could be offering to go grocery shopping for the elderly or sick neighbor.  It could be just listening patiently to your spouse or child or a lonely person. 

          It does not have to be dramatic or heroic or noteworthy.  But is does have to be done.  You have to do it. Not wish it, nor think about it, nor feel it, not study it, not talk about it, but DO it.

          Don’t put this off.  Today and everyday take this Gospel to heart.  It is the best investment you could ever make.  The rewards are eternal.

          And the king will say to those in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”

God bless! 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 15, 2020

 


As I write this the work on the interior renovation is proceeding apace. The scaffolding is coming down even as I write this. The new lighting and the new sound system will make quite a difference I believe, and our newly refurbished worship space will be waiting for us when we can all gather together in prayer and praise.

We have run into one snafu. The new hanging lights, that are LED and dimmable, are not long enough. So new, longer rods that hold the lights to the ceiling are on the way. We are still waiting on news about the length of time for shipping. But so far that has been the biggest obstacle on this construction project. It could be a lot worse.

Looking forward to this coming Wednesday, November 18, which is (in the United States) the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. She was a French nun back in the 18th – 19th Century who as a young girl had a burning desire to come and work among native Americans. She was sent by her Order to St. Charles, MO, just up the Missouri River from St. Louis. She spent most of her life working with the children of pioneers in that area. Finally, in 1841, at the age of 78, she was able to fulfill her life-long dream and went to work among the Potawatomi Indians in Kansas. Unfortunately, she was not able to learn the Indian language, but she spent her time praying for the mission. Her dedication to prayer impressed the Native Americans, and they called her “the lady who prays always.”

She is buried in St. Charles, MO. Last August, when I went to visit my Dad who was in his last days in a nursing home in St. Peter’s, MO (a town next to St. Charles; the early French named their settlements after Saints), I went to visit the shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. I met a docent there (the shrine had just re-opened), and asked her about St. Rose’s relationship with the Native Americans. This was the time when statues of St. Junipero Serra were being toppled in California, and Christopher Columbus was being accused of mistreating and enslaving natives. The docent told me that every Autumn an elderly Potawatomi lady comes from Kansas to visit and pray at the shrine of St. Rose. When the docent had asked this lady why she did this, the lady related a story that had been passed down for generations in her family.

Originally the Potawatomi were not in Kansas, but around Georgia. They were forced out and relocated to Kansas on the Trail of Tears, or the Trail of Death as the Native American lady called it. This lady’s great-great grandmother was a little child, and recalled and retold the story of St. Rose picking her up, setting her on her lap, rocking and comforting her as a child. This story has been passed down from generation to generation in her family, and now this descendant of that little girl comes annually to pray at the grave of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. I found that story very touching, and so I wanted to share it with you. It was such a simple gesture, and yet the impact of that act of kindness continues to reverberate through the generations

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 8, 2020

 This Wednesday we honor all US Veterans as we celebrate Veterans’ Day. This day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars.” In addition to honoring those who have worked and risked for the protection of our country and our liberties, let us pray and recommit ourselves to work for peace between nations and all people. May the day come that we no longer need to honor veterans because peace will have endured for generations.

Next weekend we will host the annual Missionary Appeal. Because of the pandemic it is happening much later than usual, and will happen virtually. This year our Missionary will be Fr. Gary Wiesmann speaking to us about the missions in the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica. We will play a video of his appeal on a screen in the church, and also show it on-line for those participating virtually. We will not pass a basket but you can give online, by Venmo, or send in check. I am sure that St. Austin will again be generous to the missions as we traditionally always have been. This is also an important opportunity for us to learn about and connect to the world-wide mission of the Church.

And of course this weekend is commitment weekend for the annual Catholic Services Appeal of the Diocese. This is a concrete way of showing our participation of the work of the entire Diocese. And of course, your generous support is greatly appreciated.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Homily Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time November 8, 2020

 Homily   Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time      November 8, 2020

           What time is it?  What day is it?   Anyone else feeling kind of discombobulated with the recent election?   Feeling disoriented by the pandemic, the weird election, the absence of anything “normal”?   

          In the Gospel Jesus tells us: “for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  While the Lord’s warning is always appropriate, now it seems especially pertinent.  “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  

          “Stay awake” the Lord tells, no rather commands, us.  This is not about insomnia, but rather about awareness.   Are you aware?  Are you “woke”?   According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “woke” means “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”.   Are you “woke”?

          Stay awake Jesus tells us.  I think that certainly contains the concerns of woke for social justice and racial justice.   In that sense Jesus was way ahead of His time.

          But Jesus’ injunction to us to “stay awake” involves even more.  When Jesus says to stay awake I think He means to be present to all that God is doing in your life.  To not be so caught up in all the activities and busyness and concerns of the present moment as to miss what is really happening:  happening on the interpersonal level, on the interior level deep in yourself, and what is God is doing in your life.

          To stay awake means being aware of other people not as objects but as brothers and sisters: to be aware of the depths of my own heart; and to be aware of what God is doing in my life and the life of my community and world.  Stay awake!

          The great enemies of being awake are busyness and indifference.  To be awake means to actively look for, listen for, seek the subtle signals of transcendence in our lives.  To be awake means being able to disengage from the busyness to stop and listen to another person, giving them attention and respect.   To be awake means attending to concerns that are not just about my situation but that seriously affect other people: like racial justice, just immigration policy, protection of the environment that we all rely on.

          To be awake means to be receptive to the nudges, the thoughts, the feelings, the intuitions that come from God and that lift us up out of the rat-race of constant frenetic activity.

          How do you do this?  How do you stay awake?  Simply put, it is prayer.  Not reciting prayers as rather entering into a prayerful stance.  And in that stance to listen.  To confess.  To praise.  To ask.  But mostly to listen. 

          Being awake is NOT about activity.  It is about awareness.  Especially awareness of God’s love for me, for every other person, for all of creation. 

          Therefore, stay awake!    

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 1, 2020

This weekend we celebrate All Saints’ Day, and on Monday we’ll observe All Souls’ Day. Especially this year, these special days of remembrance seem appropriate and timely. Many of us have lost loved ones. Recently I lost my father, Charlie Kullmann, and just before that, I lost a good friend and Paulist brother to Covid-19, Rich Colgan, CSP. There is more death than usual. It is important, I think, to take this opportunity to stop and reflect on the value and importance of life.

On All Saints’ Day, we recall and celebrate all the saints, both the famous ones and those who names are unfamiliar. But, and this is very important, we recall and celebrate ALL the Saints, not just those declared to be so by the Church. There are many, many more saints, all those who lived good lives and in whom God’s grace was triumphant. Many grandparents, parents, friends, men and women religious, neighbors, fellow parishioners, coworkers, and others are saints. They were not perfect, but God’s grace was at work in them and they drew us all closer to God, and now they enjoy the vision of God forever. That is certainly something to celebrate, and a cause for hope for all of us.

Many were on that path to sainthood, that is, union with God, in their lifetime. But they had not fully reached that destination when they died. We believe that they continue that work of unity with God after their life here is over. And because we are all united and joined together in the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, Who is stronger than death, we are still able to support them by our prayers and good works, and to ask them to continue to pray for us. That is what we celebrate on All Souls’ Day, on Monday.

All Saints and All Souls are wonderful reminders of how we are all intimately, spiritually connected. In this time of disconnectedness, these celebrations are an important reminder of how we are all bound together in real and practical ways in the Body of Christ.

God bless!

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 25, 2020

 Election Day approaches; if you are able to vote, I urge you to do so. It is a great and hard-won privilege. I forward to you an article by Lubna Zeidan, the Program Director for iACT for Refugees. iACT is an interfaith organization in Austin, and St Austin parish is a longtime member.

God bless,

I work and talk daily to newly resettled refugees from all parts of the world who are in turn mystified, amused or surprised at some of what we do.

Recently we discussed the topic of voting since many of our old clients are now citizens. We discovered a number of cultural barriers kept people who have lived under oppressive regimes in other countries from understanding the basic concept of democracy. It is harder than we thought to convince them to vote.

We see refugees who have lived at the mercy of their leaders. They never had a choice of who their oppressor was. One regime may be overthrown for another and seldom does it make a good difference in people’s lives. The results are never good for those who have no power. They may not vote because they believe their vote doesn’t count.

Those who at a moment in time may have been hopeful and worked at voting out a dictator, may have paid the price in imprisonment, torture, death of loved ones and the necessity to flee for their lives. They now think twice about voicing any opinion. They may not vote because they are not sure of the repercussions.

Others were openly encouraged to participate in elections in their countries but somehow the same person kept winning at 95% of the vote. They knew the whole act was a sham. They may not vote because they don’t trust the systems or those who created them.

Our refugee clients have horrible voting experiences that they need to overcome before they trust to participate in American elections. But what is our excuse?

We know one person-each of us- does make a difference. We found our power in petitions, protests, or just writing letters. We are free to participate in every election. We are able to learn about our candidates, to question them and to hold them accountable. And if we don’t like what they do, we can vote them out. Our government can reflect who we are if enough of us participate. Think every day about how lucky we are to live in a democracy. Please vote!

 

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 18, 2020

 

This weekend the Church observes WORLD MISSION SUNDAY. According to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: In 1926 Pope Pius XI instituted Mission Sunday for the whole Church with the first worldwide Mission Sunday collection taking place in October 1927. The Mission Sunday collection is always taken on the next to last Sunday during the month of October. That day is celebrated in all the local Churches as the feast of catholicity and universal solidarity so Christians the world over will recognize their common responsibility with regard to the evangelization of the world.”

There has been a lot to focus us on our own city, state and nation: the pandemic, the hurting economy, racial injustices, climate change, and our national elections. So perhaps it is good that this year we give special attention to this worldwide effort, to stretch our horizons which have tended to narrow these last eight or so months.

We belong to a worldwide Church. No Christian, regardless of nation, is a foreigner to us, but rather kinfolk in the Lord. All Christians are members of the Body of Christ, a bond that is stronger, more real, and lasting than any bond of nation, political party, race, or even family ties.

We have a duty and an obligation to help spread the Good News of God’s saving love for us in Jesus Christ to all the corners of the globe, and to every person alive today. So this Mission Sunday I urge you to consciously broaden the horizons of your concern, beyond our state and nation to the entire world. I invited you to get inspired by visiting our “Mission Page” to learn about Sr. Dorothy Stang. We’ve posted and article and video about this courageous woman of faith.

Pray for all missionaries that they will not become discouraged by disappointing results, but be encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirt to boldly and effectively preach the Gospel. Work to share the faith you have with those around you. You too can be a missionary to your family, your neighborhood, your workplace. And give generously to support the missions all around the globe.

Happy World Mission Sunday! Let us remember we are part of something much bigger and greater than the small circle we see each day. God bless!

 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

HOMILY Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A October 11, 2020

 

HOMILY    Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle A     October 11, 2020 

My homily today is an IKEA homily, that is, it comes in parts.  Some assembly on your part is required.

          Part One:  For today’s homily I am going to pass over our selection from the Gospel of Matthew.  It is, frankly, kind of a mess.  St. Luke, in his Gospel, tells a similar parable, but it is obvious that St. Matthew has re-arranged and probably conflated it with yet another parable, with questionable results.  As Fr John L McKenzie, who is regarded as the premier Catholic Biblical scholar of the mid-twentieth century wrote in the prestigious Jerome Biblical Commentary about this passage, “Because the parable does not exhibit Matthew’s usually fine literary unity and coherence, ….  it is a rare example of substantial rewriting by Matthew; and it shows that he did not re-write skillfully.”    

Ouch!  St. Matthew gets a “D”.  I’m glad I didn’t have John McKenzie as a professor in the seminary!            In any case we will pass over the Gospel this week. 

          Part Two:  “Thin Soup”

A long time ago in the Far East there was a king of a small kingdom, who like most such kings, was a tyrant.  He had two counselors, one who always bent his opinion to what the king wanted to hear, and the other who told the king the truth, whether he wanted to hear it or not.  Soon the counselor who spoke honestly upset the petty tyrant, and was banished from court.         A long time after the more pliable counselor wondered how the honest councilor was getting along.  So he decided to pay him a visit.  He put on one of his most splendid and luxurious robes, saddled his finest horse with the most impressive saddle and tack, and went to visit his former collogue. 

When he arrived at the honest counselor’s dwelling he found a house in disrepair, with holes in the wall, hardly any protection against the elements.  On the porch the honest counselor was having his mid-day meal.  He was dressed in a patched, faded, worn-out robe, sitting on a modest stool, eating a bowl of soup that was so thin it was practically just water.  “My old friend” said the duplicitous counselor, “if only you could learn to bend the truth, to fudge on your judgments, at least to hold your tongue when you disagree, then I am sure the king would welcome you back and you would not have to eat that miserable thin soup.”  The honest counselor looked him in the eye and said, “Ah, if only you could learn to eat this soup, you would not have to lie, dissemble, and compromise yourself.”     //

          Part Three:  In our second reading today from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, St. Paul states:  Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance.”  

The Jerusalem Bible states this more forcefully as, “I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich also.”   

St. Paul in our second reading goes on: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.” 

          I think this is a very good message for all of us right now in the midst of the Covid pandemic, with its isolation, disruption, economic upheaval.  How do we learn to live on the thin soup of pandemic, or of St. Paul’s equanimity in both lean and fat times?        ///   I believe that St. Paul is talking about being fully alive.  He knows how to live in humble circumstances and yet not be put down, not complaining, not be depressed, but rather to be grateful, to be aware of his blessings, to be open and fully alive. 

St. Paul also knows how to live with abundance, without complacency, without falling into self-absorbtion, without being puffed up and forgetting others, still grateful and open.  Paul knows how to be poor without self-pity and to be rich without investing his self-worth in mere things, and still in any case to be authentic, to be his true self. 

          Does that not sound like freedom?  To not have our sense of self be at the whim and caprice of circumstance, of the election results, of the pandemic, of economic gain or loss?  

          St. Paul is FREE because has conquered circumstances.  He boldly states: In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.”    

          St Paul has achieved the freedom to determine himself and not be determined by circumstance.  That is pretty neat.   

          Wouldn’t you like be able to do that?  How did he do that?  What was his secret?   Well he tells us:  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me. “  Let me repeat that.  “I can do all things in him who strengthens me. “

          I want to point out that this is NOT Paul boasting.  I think that rather he is giving us an example and an encouragement.  In effect St. Paul is telling us, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me, “ AND SO CAN YOU!  

          You do not need to be depressed by poverty.  You do not need to be stressed out by social isolation.  You do not need to be stuck up and isolated by wealth.   You do not need to be thrown for a loop by the news.  You can do all things in Him who strengthens you. 

           So, You don’t need to be resentful.  You don’t need to hold onto grudges.  You don’t need to be selfish and inflated with your own importance.  You don’t need to beat yourself up.  You don’t need to be prejudiced and bigoted.  You don’t need to be angry or lustful or greedy or dishonest.   You don’t need to be afraid.

You can be free to be who you truly are.  Because Christ has freed you.  You can do all things in Him who strengthens you, and that is Christ.

          Living free is difficult, like learning to eat thin soup is difficult.  But Christ has freed us.  Like St. Paul, we too can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

          Be free!    

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 11, 2020

 We find ourselves with a three-day weekend, but for what holiday? Are you celebrating Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or are you simply enjoying a day off? Our attempts at being more socially aware, and informed about the realities of history, is a process of fits and starts. Should we celebrate Columbus as a brave ex-plorer and adventurer, or condemn him as a colonial oppressor of native peoples? Was he a hero or a villain?

I remember growing up in St. Louis and participating in the annual Columbus Day parade. My Dad was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, and we marched together in the parade. Italians in this country have long looked on Christopher Columbus as a national hero. And many native peoples of the Americas see Columbus as criminally mistreating the nations he encountered, and bringing disease and domination.

Like ourselves, people of the past were complicated. It is difficult to judge from this day the morals and consciences of persons of the past. We can barely do that for people alive now.

Focus now on the values and issues we want to emphasize. It took guts and conviction to venture out into the unknown, to explore. We applaud those on the frontiers of science, of exploring the unknown deeps of the oceans and the far reaches of our solar sys-tem and our universe. And we also want to recognize and cele-brate the dignity and beauty of all human cultures, and uphold the inherent rights of all peoples to respect and safety. We have so much to learn from each other, as Pope Francis is teaching us. Is exploration worth brutal exploitation?

Know WHY you are celebrating this holiday, whichever you choose. We are not doomed to repeat the history of European in-vasion of Turtle Island. We can move forward to a new stance of mutuality.

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 4, 2020

 You may have heard that in the Diocese of Austin, at the direction of Bishop Joe Vasquez, we will no longer be able to archive recordings of live-streamed Masses, as we have done since the beginning of this pandemic. I would like to explain the reasoning behind this change.

Masses will be livestreamed at their usual times. The 8 a.m. Masses on Monday through Saturday, and the 8:45 a.m. Sunday Mass, will be livestreamed, and you can watch them on Facebook, our website, or Youtube while they are occurring.

You will be able to return later and find the saved recording of the first part of the Mass, with the readings, the homily, the Creed and Prayers of the Faithful (Universal Prayer) and even the exciting announcements. However, the Eucharistic Prayer and Commun-ion will not be saved for later viewing fortheological/liturgical reasons. This is what the Vicar General of Diocese said:

- The sacraments are fundamentally lived experiences of a lived reality in a particular time and place that are celebrated with the person of Jesus Christ in communion with his Body the Church.

- Participation in the Eucharist and maintaining the holiness of Sunday must never be a matter of convenience, but rather, a faithful response to God’s invitation to commune with Him and the assembly together.

- The liturgy experiences a poverty when it becomes an “on-demand” act.

-The liturgy is something we are invited to at a specific place and time rather than something to which we invite ourselves.

The celebration of the Eucharist is never an individual act. It is by its very nature communal. We do this as the Body of Christ to-gether. However, we are unable to gather in this time. To empha-size the essentially communal nature of the Eucharist, we gather not in location (proximity) but in time (temporally). The Eucharist is something we DO TOGETHER. Ideally, we would do that all in one space, and we look forward to when we can again do it side-by-side. In order to emphasize the collective nature of the Eucha-ristic event in the meantime, we need to do it together in time, simultaneously. And we miss being together with you, your pres-ence in time is still valuable to our celebration.

That is my understanding (for what it is worth) of what Bishop Joe is trying to achieve. You may or may not agree with the rea-soning, but Bishop Joe thinks this is what is best for the over-all spiritual health of this diocese.

I sincerely regret if this causes you or your loved ones a sense of loss. If it is simply a matter of inconvenience then I invite you to pray after you watch the archived videos, you will not be alone. We will have the readings, homily, prayers of the faithful saved and archive for you to enjoy.

We are looking at the possibility of live-streaming another Sun-day Mass, either the 11:30 or the 5:30 p.m. We have pushed our recording crew to the limit (he is also doing weddings, funerals, Baptisms, First Communions, etc,) and would probably have to hire another staff person as our videographer. Right now we don’t have the budget for that. But we are looking at ways to make that happen.

Please keep Bishop Joe and the staff at St Austin’s in your prayers as we try to figure out how to respond faithfully and with evan-gelical zeal in this unusual, difficult, and uncomfortable time. God bless!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 27, 2020

 

The pandemic has slowed things down, but activity is still happening here at St. Austin. Our parish school has been in operation for about a month, and as of the writing of this article all has been going smoothly, safely and well. Thanks to all the hard work of the school teachers, administration, parents and students. Keep up the good work!

The interior renovation of the church is now fully underway. Scaffolding will be erected in the church this coming week. There are plenty of holes in the ceiling and things are moving forward on schedule. The major development project of our campus had quieted down at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, but is still moving along and now picking up steam.

Option Agreement Approved: At our May 3 virtual town halls we discussed the need to extend the option agreement with Greystar from June to November to give each of us time to     consider implications from the pandemic. That agreement was extended and Greystar began making their option payments again on Sept. 1.

Diocese Building Committee Approved: On Aug. 10 we presented our design plans to the Diocese Building Committee who gave their unanimous approval on the direction we are headed.

What’s Coming:

· Transition Planning: We are gearing back up our summer 2021 transition plans that include temporary locations for the school, parish offices and rectory. This will include finalizing temporary housing for the Priests, resume our Trash & Treasure committee when it is safe to gather and adjust transition plans based on the pandemic environment.

· Architectural Design: We will continue to make minor edits to the designs the Parish saw on May 3. Greystar will have some work to do as they explore their student housing units that may now include an affordable housing component.

· Project Financing: Our request for proposal on financing last spring provided a number of options and we will be finalizing our financing plans once we get another round of construction pricing. The next round of construction pricing will occur after tuning the architectural drawings.

For now, we need to continue to pray for this project using our Prayer for Our Pilgrimage. If you did not see the May 3 virtual town hall it is available online. And please don’t forget if you have any questions or comments anytime please submit to develop@staustin.org and we will get you a response.

God bless!

 

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 20, 2020

 Creation is remarkable! The little I understand about the current science of the cosmos, the great numbers of galaxies, the expansion of space, the enormity of it all, and at the opposite end of the scale the peculiarities of quantum physics and the extremely small, not to men-tion the intriguing speculations of other dimensions and multi-verses, leaves me stretching my imagination to the limit in order to even begin forming a concept of the nature of reality.

So I was disappointed when I read Carolyn Porco’s statement: “All the atoms of our bodies will be blown into space in the disin-tegration of the Solar System, to live on forever as mass or ener-gy. That’s what we should be teaching our children, not fairy ta-les about angels and seeing grandma in heaven.”

Dr. Porco is no dummy. She is an American planetary scientist who explores the outer solar system. She has worked on the Voy-ager missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in the 1980s. She led the imaging science team on the Cassini mission in orbit around Saturn. She is an accomplished scientist.

Still, I disagree with her. I believe that my personhood, the unique me, is more than a fortuitous combination of matter and energy. There is a “me” that is not reducible to the sum of my matter and energy. Whatever that additional part is called “spirit.” I cannot prove the existence of this “spirit.” But I know that even if I am deluded and there is no such thing as spirit, my life now is still better for me because of my belief in the existence of spirit. Therefore, it makes evident good sense to me to believe this. I am better for it in any case.

I also believe that one day the issue will be resolved, and we will all know if Carolyn Porco is correct (in which case we won’t know since there won’t be anything to know), or if I am correct (in which case we will not so much know as be known). This stance is to take the leap beyond cosmology (which in itself is pretty mind-boggling) to eschatology (which is not science, but faith-based). Eschatology relates all that ever was, or is, or will be, to an end that gives it all, not only existence, but beyond that, meaning and purpose. For us Christians, that organizing principal of eschatology is Jesus Christ Himself. As we reading in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians: 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, wheth-er thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.

I am willing to bet on this by being a person of faith. And some-day we will all know for sure.

God bless,

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 30, 2020

 

This Thursday, September 3, we celebrate the feast of St. Phoebe. Less than a year ago we installed a statue of St. Phoebe above the steps going to the sanctuary, holding a scroll to the right of St. Paul. This is St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, a very important Epistle, sometimes called “St. Paul’s Gospel.” St. Paul entrusted this important letter to Phoebe to bring, and perhaps to read, to the Roman Christians. He was planning to visit Rome, and this was to be an introduction and defense of his teaching. St. Phoebe was advancing the way for the controversial St. Paul.

In the Letter to the Romans 16:1-3 we learn that Phoebe was a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae, the port of Corinth in Greece, whom St. Paul admired. Many have speculated that she was a woman of means who contributed financial support to Paul's apostolate, and likely hosted the house church of Cenchreae, as well as provided shelter and hospitality to Paul himself.

So she is a model and patron of all those who support the Church and help in so many ways, and hence she is a great model and patron for our parish. She also is something of a problem. In the old New American Bible, as above, she is referred to as a “deaconess”, but in the Revised New American Bible she is referred to as a “minister”. There is some ambiguity about the word, and at the time St. Paul wrote, offices in the church were not clearly established and codified. So there is some debate about exactly what Phoebe did and what her role in the Church was.

That debate continues today, as Pope Francis has established a commission to study the possibility and practicality of the women’s diaconate in the church today. Considerable research has revealed written and archaeological evidence (mostly tombstones) of women deacons in the early church. Were they ordained, and what did they do? They certainly assisted at the Baptism of women, since people at that time were baptized naked. All this is now under study.

We value our deacons, Billy and Dan. Would it be beneficial to have women deacons as well, to preach, baptize, witness weddings, care for the poor, and do what men deacons now do? Personally, I think it would be a great advantage and help our evangelization. But the Church, who does not rush into these things, has not yet decided.

In any case, the word “phoebe” is Greek, and means, “bright” or “shining”. How appropriate to have St. Phoebe now shining in our church. God bless!

 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A September 20, 2020

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Cycle A    September 20, 2020

           Do you like this Gospel we just heard?  I hope not.  I hope you found it unsettling and upsetting.  Because this Gospel is not fair. 

          Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God, and God is not fair.  We don’t get what we have earned.  Rather we receive grace and blessing and eternal life way beyond and far above what we have earned, what we have a right to.  

          The Good News is this: God is not fair.  We don’t get what we have earned, nor what we deserve, but rather what we need, and beyond that, what we hope for. 

          Most of us are not the great saints, the martyrs, the truly holy people who lead exemplary lives, struggling and working to bring God’s Kingdom on earth, who were hired early in the day and worked through the burning heat.  Rather, a few of us may be really good people who are workers hired at noon, or we may be pretty nice people hired about three, and many of us like myself, are fairly decent folk who are those hired at five.  Am I right?? 

          But we still receive the full daily wage of eternal life, all that we need of forgiveness and grace for the fullness of life.   God’s Kingdom, so startingly presented in this parable, is not about “justice” and “fairness”, but about “mercy” and “generosity” and “life.”  So, this parable is Good News for us.

          But it is also a challenge.  It is a challenge for us to live NOW, not in the way of the world / of what is earned and owed and of right.  But rather is a challenge for us to live the Kingdom of God now: to put into action and practice God’s Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom that goes beyond rights and what is due, to a Kingdom of mercy, generosity and compassion. 

          This parable calls us to act strangely and do weird thing just like the landowner in the parable:

- to pay attention to the person who is a bother even beyond what is polite:

- to be measured, patient, respectful in political discussion even with the opponent who is a bigot and a jerk:

- to be generous and kind to those hurting from the economic dislocation and turmoil:

- to give generously of our own goods, and of our time and our talents, to those in need:

- to pray sincerely for all people, even those we disagree with, and those who irk us:

- to respond to all with generosity that goes beyond what is fair, or deserved, to what the other person needs:

- in other words, to be generous to others as God has been generous to us in Jesus Christ. 

          This Gospel should upset us.   It should disturb us.   Because it calls us beyond what is fair or just to a way of life not of this world.  It calls us to the marvelous, generous, bounteous Kingdom of God. 

          As we heard God say to us in our first reading today:  “For my thought are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.         As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thought above your thoughts. 

          And that is Good News.

God bless.