Monday, February 24, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 23, 2020

This Wednesday is already Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Please avail yourself of the various Lenten activities here at the parish: the Stations of the Cross and soup suppers, the book discussion group, the weekday Masses, and other activities as we get closer to Holy Week.
This is certainly a busy time of year. I hope in the midst of the busyness you can remember the meaning and purpose of Lent, and take advantage of this holy season to grow in your relationship with the Lord and His people. It will make the celebration of Easter all the more wonderful and special.

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 16, 2020

When starting any new project the first thing to do is pray. When all else fails, the thing to do is to pray. And any other time, it is good to pray.
As we, St. Austin Parish and School, take on a monumental project of demolishing our current facilities (except of course the church!), moving to our garage’s empty retail space and to San Jose parish, and building a new home for our parish and school, we need lots of prayer. This amount of prayer requires organization. We have a new prayer for this major undertaking, which was introduced to the parish a few weeks ago. You will be hearing and praying it frequently over the next few years.
We also have established a Good Shepherd committee to encourage and support our prayer. This committee’s primary purpose is to be attentive to the needs of our community during the various phases of our journey, and to propose events that will help form us on this pilgrimage.
With the demands of many meetings, many decisions, and myriad details to consider in planning such a massive undertaking, it is important that we neglect neither prayer nor the feelings and concerns of our parish/school members. Hopefully the Good Shepherd committee will help us pay attention to all of our members so no one is forgotten.
They also will help encourage us to keep this project in prayer. There is a bulletin board near the St. Joseph altar, where you can take a slip of paper to pray for a particular intention for the coming week. I invite you to please stop by, check out the offerings, and choose one item to pray for during this coming week.
If you think you would like to be a part of this committee, or know of someone who would be good on this committee, please send me an email with your/their name.
Many thanks! God bless!



          As Americans, and especially as Texans, we are doers.  We like to get things done.  We want to achieve and accomplish.
          But, perhaps unfortunately, our readings today are more existential.  They talk about “being” rather than “doing.”   And that makes me at least, and perhaps you, a little uneasy.
          In the first reading we heard, Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
And in the Gospel Jesus instructs us, So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
          Be holy.  Be perfect.  That is a pretty high bar.  Seems to me we are being set up to fail. 
          Why even try?  Well, first of all, we were chosen for this.  This was not our choice, but it was chosen for us to be God’s own children.   Most of us did not choose to be Baptized.  Even if we did, it was in response to a call.  God’s initiative always comes first.
          In any case, we are called to try our best to do this seemingly impossible thing:  be holy.  Be perfect.
          How are we ever going to do that?  It requires being counter-cultural.  The culture teaches us to look out for number one, to grab all we can get, to take advantage of others when we can, to lie, cheat and steal if necessary.
          The Gospel teaches us just the opposite.  “Give to the one who asks of you…”   “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”      That is hardly the way of the world.
          Be holy.   Be perfect.  We can not do this on our own.  We need God’s grace; we need the power of the Holy Spirit to live such a radically different way.
          Fortunately, we have a great role model in Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  Mary, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, opened herself fully to God’s Will for her.  She was holy.  She was perfect.  And she is an inspiration for us.
          In the Hail Mary prayer we ask her to pray for us.  And she does.  She not only gives us an example of openness to God’s Will, she actively encourages us and supports us in opening ourselves more and more to God’s call.
          Maybe that call is to forgive a sibling or neighbor or co-worker.  Maybe that call is to be more generous with time, talent and treasure for the poor, for the work of the church, for the building up of civil society.   Maybe that call is to serve as a priest, or woman religious, or permanent deacon, or a medical professional in a poorer community, or a year as a volunteer, or with St. Vincent de Paul or Thursday Outreach, or tutoring in an after-school program, or helping with children’s religious ed and faith formation.  Maybe it is a call to spend more time in prayer. 
          This call to be holy, to be perfect is very timely.   Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  This is the perfect time to hear this challenge and respond to it whole heartedly.  Be holy.  Be perfect.
          God bless.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


HOMILY   SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME      Cycle A       Feb 16, 2020

In the long Gospel we just heard Jesus makes the following outrageous statement:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.       //
          The fact that we do not have a congregation full of blind amputees is testimony that we recognize that Jesus is using Semitic exaggeration.  He is exaggerating to make a point.  We all know enough to not take Jesus literally.
          However, do we know enough to take Jesus seriously? 
          Because even if we do not obey Jesus’ advice to lop off limbs and gouge out eyes, we do need to respond by cutting out things and tendencies in us that are harmful. 
          For example, old resentments. Old resentments do not help you or  anyone else.  The longer they stew the further they burn themselves into our hearts and souls.  Tearing out an old resentment is every bit as violent and dramatic as cutting off a limb.
          Pulling out habits of laziness, of selfishness, of stubbornness that we have grown accustomed to is very difficult.  Pulling out the weeds of envy and greed and indifference-to-others is harder than pulling out the roots of dandelions.  But we need to weed the garden of our souls to be actual disciples of Jesus.

          And we need to cast out fear.  Fear does so much to block and hinder us from following Jesus more fully, more closely, more freely.  Letting go of fear is every bit as hard as tearing out an eye or lopping off a limb. 

          Jesus is calling for some radical stuff in this Gospel.  He calls us to cut out and let go of whatever hinders us from following Him.  That is tough, but it is worth it.  And we have the Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen and to help us. 
          As St. Paul reminds us today at the conclusion of the second reading: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, (what) God has prepared for those who love him.”
          God bless!  

Monday, February 10, 2020

Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A HOPE Feb 9, 2020

Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time   Cycle A     Feb 9, 2020

          Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth.”    What does Jesus mean?
          Perhaps if you are on a low sodium diet you don’t want to be the salt of the earth.   But that is what Jesus calls us to. 
          You are the salt of the earth.  Salt in the ancient world was important, indeed essential.  It was traded like gold or silver.  It was necessary for life and for preserving food.  The Latin word for salt is “sal”, and we get our English word “salary” from the Latin word for salt, because salt was used to pay soldiers.  And if the soldier did his job then he was “worth his salt.”
          Are we, as Christ’s disciples, worth our salt? 
          Jesus also tells us that we, both individually and as a group, a church, are the light of the world.  How do we light up the world?  Both the world immediately around us, and the world as a whole?
          Well, one very good way that we can be salt of the earth, bring life and flavor and zest to the earth, and be the light of the world, bringing clarity and lifting spirits, is by living out the virtue of HOPE.
          Hope adds zest to life.  Hope lights up the community we inhabit.  But hope is in rather short supply in our world right now.
          All around us, in alcohol addition, in drug addiction, in mindless violence, in despair and anguish and a profound deep sense of dread, we can see a lack of hope.  We can feel the hopelessness of so much of our society that turns to drugs, to violence, to mindless hooking up, to depression and even to despair.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people aged 10 - 34 in this country.
The world needs hope.  That is what Jesus gives as salt and light to a drab, dark, hopeless world.  HOPE. 
          Hope is not the same as optimism.   Optimism is an assessment that things will be getting better.  But I think the arguments in favor of such an assessment, that by themselves things are going to be getting better, is, well, way too optimistic. 
          Hope differs from optimism in that hope is not based on signals that things are getting better, that everything is going to be OK, that it is not as bad as it looks, and so on, but rather HOPE looks beyond all that to an ultimate cause for believing in the triumph of good.
          We Christians call that ultimate reason for believing in the triumph of good, “Easter.”  When Jesus had been falsely accused, unjustly condemned, brutally tortured, horribly executed by a miserable death on a cross, then dumped in the ground and sealed with a huge stone, and all human resources and remedies had come up empty, hope still did not fail.  Because God had solutions we could not even imagine. 
          That is the kind of HOPE we need to be salt of the earth, to be the light of the world.  This hope is not based on any scientific achievement, not on any military victory, not on ask academic breakthrough, not on any financial or material success, not on any personal accomplishment, not on any human success, but rather totally on the fidelity of God.  God is faithful.  And the Risen Lord is the proof of the fidelity of God. //
          St. Paul, in our second reading today states: “my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
          Human wisdom is ultimately powerless in the face of death.  But we are called to be salt for the earth, to be the light of the world.  Because we have faith in a God who is stronger than death, and loves each of us so deeply and tenderly He gave His only Son so that we might be God’s children forever.
          That is a great source of HOPE.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 2, 2020

 As you probably have heard, a couple of weeks ago Bishop Joe Vasquez announced that he has decided that the Campus Ministry at the University of Texas at Austin should be under direct pastoral care of the Diocese of Austin. This means that as of July 1, the University Catholic Center (UCC) at UT will no longer be staffed by the Paulists, but by priests of the Diocese of Austin.
This came as a total surprise and shock to the Paulists. Having founded the campus ministry there, and served for well over a century at the UCC, that ministry has been an integral and important part of our self image. To have it removed so abruptly feels like the loss of a limb.
Certainly this has happened before in Paulist history. We have chosen, usually because we have declining numbers, to leave several foundations that were important to us, including campus ministries. We have also been ejected from campus ministries before (e.g. the University of Minnesota) by a bishop who wanted campus ministry in his diocesan portfolio. And in all these cases, regardless of the reason, a sadness and a kind of hole in the Paulist corporate heart, remains. So it will be for the ministry at the University Catholic Center in Austin.
However, our Patron, St. Paul, was himself thrown out of many places. He also moved on from others when he felt his job was done. In this, St. Paul continued to be an example for the Paulists.
The Paulists have no intention of leaving St. Austin in any foreseeable future. But the time may come in another century or two, when the Paulists will decide that our work here is done, and it will be time for us to move on. This is core to the identity of a missionary community.
I hope that several centuries from now, the Paulists will move on from St. Austin’s to another dynamic parish on some other planet, circling some other star than our Sun, and continue our mission of evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism. I regret that I will not be there to see it.
God bless!

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 26, 2020

If you came to church today all excited and in anticipation of the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, I am afraid you are going to be disappointed as we are not observing that day. Don’t be too disappointed, because instead we are celebrating the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Patron Saint of the Paulist Fathers! In addition, Pope Francis has designated this day as the “Sunday of the Word of God!” This weekend is doubly special.
It seems fitting and appropriate that the day we celebrate St. Paul, and by extension the Paulist Fathers, would also be dedicated to the Word of God. The connection is that Paulists like to, and are generally good at, proclaiming the Word of God. It seems a natural fit. All Christians are commissioned by Our Lord as proclaimers of the Word. But we, members of St Austin Parish and School, as a Paulist Parish, are especially called to proclaim the Word in new forms that are relevant and appropriate to our day and time.
There will, of course, be a special collection for the Paulists. All of us Paulists are most grateful for your generous monetary gifts, for your personal support and friendship, and all that you do in your own life to further the mission of evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism.
While you may miss celebrating the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, I hope that you will enter into the spirit of celebrating the great Apostle, St. Paul. And that you will remember the Paulists in your prayers and in your giving. Many thanks!
God bless!

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 19, 2020

We are at the beginning of a new and very important project for our parish and school, for our ministry and our mission. By the time you read this I am expecting that the Option Agreement between the Diocese of Austin and the developer, Graystar, will be signed and operative. This means the development of our campus to build 700 units of student housing operated by an independent contractor, and for us a new school, gym, rectory and church offices, is now officially our goal. We are on the way!
I hope that you will listen to one of the 20 minute presentations on the project that will be given after every Mass this weekend. Understanding the nuances of the project is integral to our parish community. Not everything, indeed most things, have not yet been definitely decided. But you can be informed of the general thrust and the overall implications of this decision.
This is a BIG project. It has ramifications that will affect our ministry in the parish and in the school for generations. It is exciting and it is scary.
The appropriate response is to pray. Just as we had a very successful prayer for our “Faithful To Our Mission” campaign when we renewed the exterior of our church and added bathrooms, so we now have a special prayer for this endeavor. This project is a journey, a pilgrimage into the future to a new home that will serve us much better as a dynamic parish and school. This is, thanks to Michael Flahive, our “Prayer For Our Pilgrimage”

Amazing Spirit of God
Awaken us again to your enlivening presence,
In parish and school – in classroom and pew.
You have guided and walked with us from our beginning,
with the founding generations to the present moment.
Upon your urging we now are raising up a new home
for the mission you entrust to us:
to be a beacon of hope in the life of our world,
and a touchstone of faith and mercy for generations to come.
Strengthen our commitment step by step.
Clarify our vision and its application so as not to falter.
Keep us grounded.
Keep us truthful.
Bless us with the lightness of your touch in laughter
and in stillness.
Remind us that we build in service of your most amazing mission
to be the expression of God’s love
in this place, for this time.
As we are taught, we dare to pray
in Jesus’ name.

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 12, 2020

Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! In addition to being a wonderful feast day, the Baptism of the Lord is also the official conclusion of the Christmas liturgical season. It is now time to take down your Christmas decor if you are being liturgically correct!
Tomorrow is Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time. Yes, my special time of the year is back, the time of the ordinary, plain, usual, and quotidian. Ordinary time is the longest time in the liturgical year. For many of us “ordinary” is also the longest period of time in our lives. If it was always extraordinary, then the extraordinary would be the usual and ordinary. It is in the “ordinary” that the real business of living takes place. It is in the ordinary circumstances of life that we live, work, play, and love. The same is true with our spiritual lives. It is in the ordinary parts of life that pray, that we seek after the good, that we struggle to do what is right, that we fight the urges and desires to do wrong, that we live our faith, not in an heroic way, but in the ordinary, everyday, usual process of growing towards sainthood. Ordinary time is the time of slow, patient growth, like the plants.
So while we enjoy all the special seasons like Christmas, it is good to take time be plain, old ordinary. To grow and to develop. To mature. To become who we are called to be. Ash Wednesday and Lent will be here before you know it!
God bless!

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 5, 2020

Happy New Year! Today we continue our celebration of Christmas with the Feast of the Epiphany. We celebrate the arrival of the Magi bearing gifts. We also call them Kings, astrologers in some translations, and “Wise Men.”
Wise people usually do bring gifts. Who are the truly wise people you know? Some are wise in the ways of the world, and know how to get things done. Some are wise in the ways of the heart, and understand the hidden motivations that move us. Some (not many I think) are wise in the ways of the Holy Spirit and sense how God is at work in a certain situation. And perhaps there are other kinds of wisdom as well.
Do you know any wise persons? Some have the wisdom of much lived experience. Some are wise beyond their years. In any case wise people are a treasure.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to discern and see wisdom. True wisdom is not flashy, nor especially attractive. Wise people may seem odd. They may see things differently than the majority of people. Their concerns may not match the prevailing fashions.
We are blessed because we have wisdom figures here at St. Austin Parish. Many of our ministries have been successful for a long time, for many years, and those who have stayed the course in them over time have gained experience and also wisdom. They are treasures of our parish community.
Today as we celebrate the Three Wise Men of the Epiphany, let us also give thanks for the wise men and women in our midst. The best compliment we can give to them is to pay attention to them, and listen to what they have to share with us.
Happy Epiphany!

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 29, 2019

Happy New Year! Soon it will be 2020! January 1 is also the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. Here are some thoughts on Mary’s motherhood from a sermon by Saint Augustine: not our St Augustine, but the other one from Hippo.

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her—did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.
Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power, and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, and so she is blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.
The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent—the most eminent—member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine—our head is God.
Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 22, 2019

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent!!! Christmas is almost here! There is lots going on. We think of this time of year, appropriately, as a happy and joyous time of year. But it is always laced with some sadness or even a feeling of emptiness at the absence of loved ones who have died. Perhaps there is an empty chair around your table. We remember and pray for those who have gone before us. They ought not to be forgotten as they are, in spirit, still celebrating with us.
The same is true of our parish family. At St. Austin Parish we have seen many parishioners come and go. We remember them in our Eucharistic celebration as we pray for both the living and the dead.
I am mindful at this happy time of year of two previous pastors of St. Austin Parish, both of whom died at this time of Christmas celebration. Former pastor Fr. Dave O'Brien, CSP, died on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2016. He was Pastor here from 1984-1990, and stationed for some years at the University Catholic Center. Then on Christmas Day is the anniversary of the death of former pastor Fr. Jim McCabe, CSP, who died in 2011. McCabe was Pastor here from 1990-1997. Perhaps some of the “old timers” of our parish still remember them.
As we celebrate the Christmas Feast, we rejoice that Frs. McCabe and O’Brien are with us in spirit, along with all the former parishioners here, and all our beloved dead, and even with all the saints and angels as we celebrate each Eucharist. As we state in each Mass: “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory, as with one voice we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. …” This is a practical result of the salvation Jesus Christ brought to us be being born among us. We have reason to rejoice! Merry Christmas!