Thursday, May 25, 2017



The title of my homily for this Mass on the morning of your graduation from St. Mary’s High School  is, “Salt and Light.”

If Father John Tizio were preaching this morning, he would obviously have in one hand a salt shaker and in the other hand a flash light.

If Father Bob Wojtek were here,  he would have this gospel memorized with ease and read it without looking at the book.

“You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”


“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample it under foot.

“You are the light of the  world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead they  put it on a lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.  In the same way your light must shine before all, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.”


The other night at the Awards ceremony in Marian Hall, Mr. Paul Ahern - one of our teachers - described 2 of you with images. One of you was described as a redwood tree. The other of you was described as a shark.

Both are very powerful images.

What are your powers?

How would you describe yourself?

What image would you use?

Swan?  Bear? Bulldog? Pug? Satellite?  Porsche? Budweiser Clydesdale Horse? Budweiser? Lacrosse stick? iPhone? Guitar? Credit Card? Computer? Bulldozer? Backpack? Book? Suitcase? Medicines? Surgical knife?  Grasshopper?

What would be a good image  - that describes the real you? … the best you?

Today - in this gospel Jesus is calling us to be salt and light.

Salt and light: both make a difference.

Making a difference is the theme our parish and our school have chosen for last year and again this year - with a slight variation of the wording. Whatever words are used, the hope is that you will go forth from St.  Mary’s and make a difference in this world - better that you make a better world.

I was impressed with this year’s distinguished alumni - whom we celebrated, honored and toasted last month. They certainly have made a difference in our world.


Our first reading is from Jeremiah 29: 11-14 - a preacher and prophet - who certainly has made a difference in our world. Our first reading by James Cardillo  began by God saying to Jeremiah I have plans for you.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that,  I ask, “Okay, God,  but how specific are these plans You have for me?”

In the next 5 years you’ll be asked the same question you heard when you were a little kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you want to do with your life?”

And at 100 graduation commencement addresses around our nation, this week, this month, speakers will quote Mary Oliver’s question. I know I did a few years ago when I spoke at this Mass - and then our valedictorian did the same. Mary Oliver in her poem, The Summer Day, asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Let me read her poem. It is autobiographical for you as graduates - except today - this rainy today - is certainly not a summer’s day.


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

In time, in time I hope, you’ll slowly come up with some basic life choices: mom, dad, husband, wife, accountant, lawyer, research assistant, engineer, doctor, teacher, environmental advocate or scientist,  military, diplomats, government employee, etc. etc. etc.  I say, “etc., etc., etc.,” because there are jobs out there that you’ll have that don’t even exist yet.

Obviously we priests - and St. Mary’s being a Catholic School - we hope some of you think of becoming religious leaders.

When Pope Francis spoke to a Joint Session of our U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015, year he mentioned 4 United States leaders who made a difference: Abraham Lincoln, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

If there is anything I keep hearing about Pope Francis, it’s the saying, “He makes me want to go to church.”

He has certainly made a difference.

So what are your plans, your hopes, for our world? How and where are you going to make a difference?

Your parents want you to be happy, do what you want to do, with the talents you have, get your own place when your finish college, and what have you.

God called Jeremiah - as the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah begins - from the womb - to be his speaker, his mouth piece, his prophet, his voice - to speak words of peace - not disaster as today’s first reading puts it.

I challenge all of you to find your voice - find your passion - find your life message - and proclaim it.


Let me be very specific for a short moment - with a very basic suggestion - that you can use for the rest of your life.

I heard someone say the following in a talk a long time ago and I have been aware of it ever since.

Along with the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, this might be the only thing you’ll remember from this homily: where to put your mouth when you are face to face with a microphone.

Could everyone make a fist. Could you hold your fist up?  Now thumbs up? Next move your thumb finger nail to your lips or your mouth. Thank you. Now holding your fist in the same place - about 2 or 3 fingers from your mouth - lower your thumb - but your fist is in the same place.

For the rest of your life - when you come to a pulpit or a podium to read at Mass - at a wedding or a funeral - that’s how close you are to be to the microphone.  When you have to toast your brother or best friend as best man or maid of honor at a wedding and you have a microphone in hand, that’s how close you are to be to the microphone.

For the rest of your life, a lot of people will thank you for letting them here what you are saying.

For the rest of your life, it’s going to bother - like  ugggghhhh! - you at weddings and funerals or wherever, when someone is 15 inches or more from the microphone and nobody hears them. 

Sorry, but now you know how to use a microphone  - use it well.


In today’s second reading - from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 13-19- Rebecca Osborn read Paul saying what we heard in today’s Psalm response - from Psalm 139 - we don’t have to go it alone. We can have God with us - at our side.  We can have good people with us.

As Ginny tells young people on every retreat, hang with good people. Find good people for your life.


I noticed that two of the biggest world leaders pushed plans on the other yesterday. President Trump gave the Pope a first edition set of the works of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. - 5 books.  The Pope gave our President 3 of his books, Amoris Laetitia, Evangeliium Gaudium and Laudato, Si.

Will all these words make a difference?  They are longer than the tweet limit of 140 characters. They can, they could, if the words become flesh - and dwell amongst us.

A person can read one book -  be challenged by it - and make big differences in our world.  Another person can go into a library or Barnes and Noble - take out or buy 5 books - and do nothing as a result - if they don’t read them - and be challenged by them.

So too our education - Words, Advice, Questions, a homily or a talk on a graduation day.  - unless they become us - it’s all water off a ducks back on a rainy day.

So too salt and light - if we don’t use them - we remain tasteless and in the dark. 
May 25, 2017


It’s difficult to see over the wall,
without a ladder - or a gate out of -
from behind  all these stones …
that is, if I want to graduate and
start taking new steps on the other
side of this here and now. I put on
my cap and gown, accept my diploma 
or degree - and say good-bye to 
classmates and friends. I’m ready. 
I’m willing. I’m able. Hey I got a good 
education here. Next… the only way to
see what's on the other side of this wall.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017


1, 2, 3 ….
A, B, C ….
On my knees ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Reading ….
Riting ….
Rithmetic ….
Religion ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Listening ….
Being Challenged ….
What am I going to do with my life?
I want to work to make this a better world ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

My life ….
My family. ….
The life of others ….
The Life of Christ ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Mary ….
Working to be full of Grace ….
Being there when people run out of wine or the necessities of life ….
Being there when people are carrying crosses on their way to their Calvary ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School named after Mary.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23. 2017


If you haven’t heard some music 
lately, say, “Uh oh!”  Maybe your 
soul has become sour - and you’ve 
forgotten what music can do for you.

Walk down city streets, step into 
some local pub or tavern, and by 
chance you might hear enough music - 
to fill your soul and  quench your spirit.

If it’s in a pub, don’t forget to clap - 
even if you don’t know what language 
the song is being sung in. If it’s being 
sung on the street, put a penny or a dollar in.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

In the YouTube video above,
 you'll hear 4 Gaelic Singers. 
The third one - in white - 
is Caitrinona Ni Churraoin - 
[Catherine Curran in English]
my cousin Kathleen's daughter - 
and still some people think 
Costello is an Italian Name.
The Crane Bar/ Pub
is on Sea Road,
Galway, Ireland

a couple of stone
throws from Ballynahown - 
where my mom  and dad are from.



The title of my homily for this 6th Tuesday after Easter  is, “Do No Harm To Yourself.”

In today’s first reading Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and thrown into prison.

The magistrates told the jailer to guard them securely.  Hearing that  - the jailer put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying to God as the other prisoners listened. 

Suddenly there was a severe earthquake and the doors opened and the chains of all were pulled free.

The noise and uproar that came next  woke up the jailer.

Seeing the doors wide open drew his sword to kill himself. He thought everyone escaped.

Paul shouted to him, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”


I look for something practical to preach about - and that phrase “Do no harm to yourself - hit me. It’s just the first half of that text in Acts 16: 28.  “Do no harm to yourself.”

It’s something I need to hear.

When my skin gets raised, I scratch it. Sometimes that means a cut and then a scab and then I pick it.

I have to hear my mind say, “Do no harm to yourself.”

People who drink or smoke - when nervous - or down - when they feel the need to sedate themselves or nicotine themselves a bit - they need to remember the words of Paul, “Do no harm to yourself.”

So too overeating…. So too not exercising …. So too taking too much sugar - at least that’s when I have to hear. “Do no harm to yourself.”


It’s not in the Hippocratic Oath, but it is ancient medical books for educating doctors - down through the years. “Primum non nocere.” First, do no harm.

Doctors have to realize the implications of each and every pill and operation they recommend to people.

People having abortions and those who do them - have to think about  the consequences these actions have - not just killing a human being - but also harming the parents and decisions makers for death.  Do no harm.


Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

Those who tear down people - with their descriptions - better realize the consequences of their comments.

Looking up stuff about this last night, a lot of things hit me.

I noticed an article by Monica Lewinski in today’s New York Times - talking about Roger Ailes after his recent death.

She said he had his TV people hammer her 24/7 - and as a result of her affair the people were calling her words you don’t want anyone to hear.

She said she basically became 1 dimensional and Roger Ailes’ TV station became a the # 1 TV news station making 2.3 Billion Dollars - last year. She survived. She didn’t go to jail as threatened. She didn’t commit suicide.

She doesn’t quote Jesus about stone throwing, but she does tell anyone who wants to read her article her take on what happened to her - the harm that was done to her because of her mistake. She said that there was harm done to the nation because of that whole approach to news that other stations as well had to follow suit. I don’t know what your take on all this would be, but I’m sure your reaction is in the 1009 comments to her article as of this morning.


What we say, what we do, what we watch, how we treat one another, all has consequences: good or bad - depending on whether it is good or bad - harmful or helpful.


Painting on top: St. Paul in Prison.  This is by Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn. This scene is based on Philemon 1:0.  Today's first reading is from Acts 16: 22-34.

Monday, May 22, 2017



The title of my homily for this 6th Monday  after Easter is, "Advocate."

The Holy Spirit is referred to as an "Advocate" in today's gospel.

The Greek word in John 15:26 is PARAKLETOS - and it's translated into English as "Paraclete," or "Comforter," or "Helper" or "Advocate".

Advocate is the word used in our Gospel in English for today. That word literally it means "calling to our side".

That should give us comfort - to know someone is at our side - has our back - will support us.

!n Christian teaching  - that means that  the Holy Spirit  is with us - on our side and at our side.

Did you notice that today’s Gospel mentions all 3 persons in the Trinity.


If we pause and look at our life, who have been the people who stood up for us? Who are the people that had our back? Who have been the people who spoke up for us?

We have all known mothers - usually - who headed up to school - to defend their son or daughter - when unfairness happens.

We all have known fathers who went to coaches and stood up for their son or daughter to get into the game.

When someone needs a good lawyer, we don't use the word "advocate" too often - but that's what we want.

We do know about patient advocates when it comes to hospitals.


Today is the feast of St. Rita of Cascia - 1377-1457.

She could be listed as the Patron Saint of Women Abused by their husbands. She certainly was by him. Her 2 sons died. They had health problems. How did advocates help in her day - both about her kids and her husband?  Her husband was a violent man - abusive to her - as well as unfaithful to her. I don’t know the story -but he was killed as the result of a vendetta.

Rita tried to become a nun - but was rejected at first because she had been married. Eventually, the Augustinian Convent, that rejected her - accepted her - and she becomes a Saint.

I don't know if she had an advocate.

I don't know if someone put in a good word for her.


As priest we are called to be advocates in family fights and all kinds of situations.

I remember a 23 year old gal - whose father wouldn’t let her date. She had to work 7 days a week in their restaurant. I saw her dad. He disagreed with me - but I was a bulldog and he gave in.  Three years later I did her wedding.

I remember an old lady telling me about a baby girl who was kept in a dry bathtub. She was often beaten and yelled at. I went to the apartment - got in - and headed for the bathroom - and sure enough there was a little girl with severe belt marks on her body.

I called social services and a social worker showed up and the baby was eventually taken in by foster parents and then adopted.

As Church we did horrible in the sex abuse stories - and it was only money that saved so many kids from further abuse - that is law suits and compensation.


Life gives us chances to be advocates. Go for it.



When visiting Annapolis, make sure you take a good look at the Marian Garden - sit on one of the benches - look around - praise God - ask Mary that you have some of her grace - pray for someone in your life who needs a prayer - and drop into our church for a prayer of thanksgiving and blessings for your loved ones. Amen.