Saturday, October 29, 2011


Quote for Today  October 29,  2011

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show."

Andrew Wyeth, in Richard Meryman, The Art of Andrew Wyeth, 1973

Painting on top: "A Bridge, Race Gate," by Andrew Wyeth [1917-2009]. It's a view of the upper gates of the millrace at Wyeth's property in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The painting was stolen in 2000 - but found.

Friday, October 28, 2011


October  28,  2011

Quote for Today

"Only the sinner has a right to preach."

Christopher Morley [1890-1957], Tolerance, p. 863

Thursday, October 27, 2011


October  27,  2011

Quote for Today

"The food is cooked in a pot and the plate gets the honor."

Yiddish Proverb


On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how important is it to you who gets the credit for a job done?

Have you ever been furious - when you did most of  the work - and someone else - the boss - or another person gets all the credit?

Can you say the following when you are not recognized: "There are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who get the credit"?

Have you ever done nothing in a work situation and you got all the credit?  What did you do next?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011



The title of my homily for this 30th Wednesday in Ordinary Time is, “Twice have I stood a beggar / Before the door of God.”

That’s a line in Poem # 49 by Emily Dickinson. The poem is dated c. - circa - around 1858. I like to give titles to my homilies - as well as my poems. I find it rather interesting that Emily Dickinson simply numbered her poems - or somebody numbered her poems #1 to #1775 in her collected poems - after various gatherings of her poems were put together. [1]

We know her sister Lavinia - going through her sister’s stuff - after Emily died - found a small box containing about 900 poems “tied together with twine”.

That line from Poem # 49 stops me - with a question: “When have I stood a beggar before the door of God.”


Today’s gospel triggered the memory of that line by Emily Dickinson.

In today’s Gospel, Luke 13: 22-30, Jesus talks about going to Jerusalem. Which gate did he enter? On Palm Sunday he certainly didn’t take the narrow gate - which the gospel talks about. Then Jesus jumps to the image of a door - the locked door. And some people get in and some people are shut out. Some people get stuck outside and grind their teeth in anger, fear and regret and some get into the banquet.

Less than a week from now on All Saints Day people will be singing and praying, “When the Saints come marching in I want to be in their number - when the Saints come marching in.”

What will happen when we die? Will we stand before the Pearly Gates and cry for entrance? Will that door be narrow? We don’t know. We are dying to find out - but not yet. Yet, it seems to me that wondering sits there as a stone statue of a question outside that door all our lives - especially in times of near misses - accidents - and as we get older.

Emily in Poem # 49 seems to be talking about 2 deaths - 2 people buried in the sod. Not everyone agrees with that interpretation.  She begins, “I never lost as much but twice, And that was in the sod.” And then comes the line I entitled this homily with: “Twice have I stood a beggar / Before the door of God.”

Death is a tough slamming of a door. I miss conversations I had with my brother. I regret conversations I didn’t have with my dad - and my mom. My last two family deaths were closed coffins: my mom and my brother. If you saw their skulls, you’d know why. Messy. But I did see the closing of the door of the casket in a few other family deaths. Tough moment. Tough stuff.

And we all know about having the door slammed in our face: losing a job, divorce, people moving, being misunderstood and the other refused to hear our heart.

So we understand Emily Dickinson’s poem - and the little I dabbled in her life - she understood the meaning of being misunderstood. She knew the meaning of being a beggar at the door of God or another.

The second verse of Poem #49 is obviously religious. It’s a no-brainer in that she uses capital letters for God - calling God a Burglar - a Banker - and a Father. Let me recite it. It’s also very short like the first and other verse:

               Angels - twice descending
               Reimbursed my store -
               Burglar! Banker - Father!
               I am poor once more.


The title of my short homily is a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson: “Twice have I stood a beggar / Before the door of God.”

I’m presenting it as an image of prayer - to stand at the door of God and beg - to stand at the door of God - and groan - as prayer is described in today’s first reading from Romans 8: 26-30.

Let me close with this prayer adapted from Emily Dickinson's poem and pray this to God:

               I am poor once more, Lord.
               I am poor once more, Lord.
              Open up your door when I knock.
              Peak out your window
              and see me standing there,
              this poor beggar - and
             open up your door,
             when I bang on it,
             otherwise I’m going to keep on knocking
             till you open up your door for me. Amen


[1] The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, Toronto

October  26,  2011

Quote for Today

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards."

Wernon Sanders Law, "How to Be a Winner," This Week, August 14, 1960

Tuesday, October 25, 2011




The title of my homily for this 30th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “In The Middle of The Mix!”

There are reflective words and images, poetry and prayer, in the middle of the mix of today’s readings.


The first reading - Romans 8: 18-25 - talks about suffering and groaning and the labor pains of life - and in the middle of the mix of sufferings and struggles - there is revelation - and hope - and the first fruits of the Spirit.

Suffering and struggle reveal that we humans hope. Those with nasal and chest congestion and colds and coughs - hope for relief and healing. I know I do. Those who come to church to pray for children and those with cancer and crushing family stuff - hopefully find the Spirit of God in the middle of the mix of it all - as we beg God for better for us and for all. People in church are like people on a train platform looking down the tracks - looking at our watches from time to time - waiting for signals that our train is coming.

Paul here in Romans 8 talks about the earth creaking - and shaking. We had another earthquake in Turkey the other day - so too our bellies and belly aches - and brain and our head aches.

I’m not making this up to be poetic. Listen to Paul again.

          We know that all creation
           is groaning in labor pains even until now;
           and not only that, but we ourselves,
           who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
           we also groan within ourselves
           as we wait for adoption,
           the redemption of our bodies.
           For in hope we were saved.
           Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
           For who hopes for what one sees?
           But if we hope for what we do not see,
           we wait with endurance. [Romans 8:22-25]


Today’s gospel from Luke13: 18-21 continues with two images - male and female images.

The farmer plants mustard seeds in the ground - with the hope, with the image, with the knowing that in time the mustard bush will sprout. Green in brown earth is one of nature’s flag - waving to us a hope. Then the farmer sees that plant grow and rise from the earth - and reach out for the sky. Can you see the smile on the farmer’s face as he sees the birds of the air nesting, singing and enjoying the mustard.

The woman makes bread. She mixes the dough and the yeast. She’s done it a thousand time. The bread is in the oven. She knows how life works - how long it takes to bake bread and make babies in her oven.

We humans know how long life takes. It varies of course. There are life’s horrors and surprises - tragedies and accidents. Yet at least we hope for 70 to 90 - as long as we don’t have too many things creaking and leaking and our brains can still do crossword puzzles, Sudoku’s and we can yell out the answers while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in our own home - and we have a smile on our face when we know the answer ahead of those on the program.


In the middle and the mix of the Mass we pray for these things.

In the middle and mix of this life - we pray, we’re grateful, we groan and gripe, we laugh, because like the mustard seed we’ll be planted in the ground knowing that’s not all there is - just like the mass of flour and dough and yeast know the heat of the oven is just part of the process. There’s bread on the rise; there will be bread on the table each morning.

Quote for Today - October 25,  2011

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul."

Emily Dickinson [1830-1886], Poems, Pt. I, No. 32

Monday, October 24, 2011



The title of my homily for this 30th Monday in Ordinary time is, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

It’s the title and theme of a song by Paul Simon - of Simon and Garfunkel fame.

If you use a computer type into Google, “Slip Slidin’ Away song by Paul Simon - You Tube” - and listen - and listen - and listen - or hit the triangle above and listen and listen and listen.

I noticed a comment under one You Tube version of Paul Simon singing the song - sent in by someone - that went like this: "i lost my mom 3 months ago. and my dad 3 years ago. and im 19 and my brother is 16, we miss them so much. they used to dance together to this song. RIP love ya.”

What a beautiful life scene for two sons to see - their parents dancing together to this song, “Slip Slidin’ Away”.

Life is slip sliding away.

Stop at slip. Sometimes life slips away - as in an “Ooops!” - A sudden drop - a sudden surprise finding out we have a heart problem or there’s cancer or the marriage of a son or daughter is finished. I see slips as quicker and more sudden than slides - not necessarily - but that’s how I see them.

Sliding - seems to happen slower - as in a pencil rolling down a slanted wooden top.

Life is a slip sliding away.

So Paul Simon sings about, “I know a man…. I know a woman…. I know a father ….” and in each case the person mentioned is experiencing life slip sliding away.

Listen to some of the lyrics. I can’t sing - but I can read his lyrics:

          Slip slidin' away
          You know the nearer your destination
          The more you're slip slidin' away

          I know a man

          He came from my home town
          He wore his passion for his woman
          Like a thorny crown
          He said Dolores
          I live in fear
         My love for you's so overpowering
         I'm afraid that I will disappear

         Slip slidin' away

         Slip slidin' away
         You know the nearer your destination
         The more you're slip slidin' away

          I know a woman

          Became a wife
          These are the very words she uses
          To describe her life
          She said a good day
          Ain't got no rain
          She said a bad day's when I lie in bed
          And think of things that might have been

          Slip slidin' away

          Slip slidin' away
          You know the nearer your destination
          The more you're slip slidin' away


In today’s first reading from Romans Paul announces that we have a choice of living in fear or living by the Spirit.

Which is me?

Fear or Spirit? Fear or Freedom? Alive or dead?

I remember discovering that I was praying down deep a prayer without knowing it for I don’t know how long. I would be praying - but really praying this other prayer. It was from Luke: “Lord, teach me how to pray!” It slipped in without my knowing it. Then without knowing it, that prayer switched to, “Lord, teach me how to love.”

When does a person switch from just saying - just reciting - just repeating - the words of “The Our Father” - to coming into the presence of God as “Abba” or “Daddy.” Do they just slip slide into that?

When I read in today’s first reading the word “adoption” I thought of kids whom I met who are adopted. How long does it take that kid to say, “daddy” to their father? Does it just slide into their conversation - without their being aware of it? Did they hear other kids call their dad, “Daddy!” Does a father notice it - like in noticing the first word or first step they see a baby take?

I would assume that a woman would be very aware of the first time she slid into a pants suit - if she always wore a dress - till that moment. I would also assume that a person would be very aware when they slipped into their first tattoo - or high heels - or brand new car.

I would assume that much of life is slip sliding.

In today’s gospel - Luke 13: 10 to 17 - Jesus slips into the synagogue for the first time since Luke 6:6 when he cured the man with the paralyzed hand. I didn’t notice that he slipped out of the synagogue for over 6 chapters till I read that in a commentary this morning - in preparing this homily. I think that’s what triggered the words, “slip slidin away”.

I thought about this woman whose back had been bent over for 18 years. Did that happen gradually? I assume it did. And Jesus healed her and the leader of the synagogue complained that Jesus did this healing on a Sabbath. When did he become so harsh and cold and crippled himself? Was it for 18 years? Jesus healed this woman - but was the leader of the synagogue healed?

Do healings happen suddenly or slowly?

May we all be moving in the best direction slowly or suddenly - slip sliding into the Freedom of the Children of God - that Paul talks about in today’s first reading.


Someone handed me a copy of a Hospice Pamphlet entitled, "Gone From My Sight - The Dying Experience" by Barbara Karnes. The author, Barbara Karnes, says "Death is as unique as the individual who is experiencing it."

Reading the booklet triggered all kinds of memories and moments - especially being with people who were dying - and the people around them who were experiencing the life of a loved one - dare I say it - "slip slidin' away".

I kept wondering if I will be aware of all this when it's one to three months prior to my death - then one to two weeks - then one to two days, to hours prior to my death.

It hit me slowly as well as suddenly - the value of slipping into the synagogue to pray - to be with God Our Father - Abba - Daddy - and see Jesus coming up to us. "Lord, teach me how to die - but first, Lord, teach me how to live. My life is slip slidin' away.

Listen to that song. Get to know yourself. We’re all slip slidin’ away. May we all be slip slidin’ into better and better ways of seeing and doing  and living life.

October  24,  2011

Quote for Today

"Any religion ... is for ever in danger of petrifaction into mere ritual and habit, though ritual and habit be essential to religion."

T. S. Eliot [1888-1965], Selected Essays, 1927

Sunday, October 23, 2011



The title of my homily for this 30 Sunday in Ordinary Time A is just one word: “Treat.”

T R E A T [Spelled out] “Treat”.

You Wheel of Fortune pros will notice that the last 3 letters of that word are “E A T”.

I read today’s readings a few times and I said, “Come Holy Spirit!” a few times - and for some reason, the word, “treat” hit me.


I wondered why that word “treat” hit me - so I re-read today’s readings.

The first reading from the Book of Exodus challenges us with the Golden Rule to treat the stranger - the unknown other - with hospitality and respect - just as we would want to be treated - if we were a stranger or a new person in the area or on the job or in the school or in the parish.

The second reading from 1 Thessalonians has Paul saying that good things happened when we were with you. You treated us well and we treated you well - and we both grateful.

And today’s gospel from Matthew has the Pharisees not treating Jesus well. In today’s gospel, one of the them, a scholar of the law, tests Jesus - trying to trap him. And Jesus says that the whole of reality boils down to love - that we love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and we should love our neighbor as we love oneself.

Get that and you got it all.

All three readings stress the value of having a sense of deep respect of people for people and people with God.


We know that dog owners like to give their “woof woof” a treat. It’s part of the ritual. “Want a cookie!”

We know that human being like to treat themselves now and then to a new pocketbook or toy or ice cream as well as give another a treat.

“Have a cookie.” “Want a treat?”

About 25 Thursday evenings a year for the 8 ½ years before I came to Annapolis I began noticing a very interesting experience happening. Another priest and I worked on the road - mostly in Ohio. However, we also worked in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and various other places. We were giving what is called, “A Parish Mission”.

On the last night of the parish mission there would be coffee, tea, soda and cookies - in a parish hall. It was part of the plan. We recommended it as a way to celebrate being with some people for 5 evenings. We had prayed and heard some preaching. We had celebrated our Christian faith and Catholic heritage together.

We’d arrived in the parish hall and there would be a line of people working their way towards trays of cookies - all kinds of wonderful cookies - on trays or dishes or platters.

At some point in doing this for 8 ½ years I discovered the following.

Each lady - it was always ladies - who made a tray or plateful of cookies - treats - would be standing there watching who took whose cookies. “Make it mine! Make it mine! Make it mine!”

I didn’t have diabetes at the time - thank God - so I would make my choices of 3 or 4 cookies - 3 or 4 treats. It was like election night. It was like a voting booth. There were winners and there were losers.

And I would feel guilt for bypassing someone’s cookies. I could imagine it was a recipe they got from their grandmother or from somewhere and it was always a winner - but not that night - if I didn’t chose someone’s cookie.

It was like a personality test. Some women would say, “Father take mine. You’ll love it.” Others would stand back and say nothing, but as someone took their cookie, out came a neat smile or a “Thank you!”

For some reason that was the main thing I remember from 8 ½ years of preaching parish missions all over the mid-west and elsewhere.

Have a cookie! Want a cookie. Have a treat.

I look back and hope that it was a treat for the people of that parish to have taken 5 nights - and for some 5 mornings as well - to treat the great issues of our faith - in their lives.

I look back and also realize that I also spent 7 years of my life in a retreat house in New Jersey preaching retreats - and 7 years in Pennsylvania in another retreat house preaching retreats.

That’s 22 years of my life dealing with treats!


Was the cookie moment, the cookie lineup, the cookie choice a metaphor for life?

Are we all standing there wanting to be taken - wanting to be chosen - wanting to be loved - wanting others to want what we can uniquely create?

Do we all want to be a treat?

Do we all want to be treated and retreated with respect?

Do we all want to be honored and celebrated - and eaten up?

Do we all want to be the bread and wine of life for others - Eucharist - that when others receive us - they receive Holy Communion - Christ - Christ’s spirit - Christ’s life - and they experience us as delicious?

Does anyone stand on line to receive me?

Isn’t that one of the great moments of life - when kids stand on line to go up to their parents at their 25th - but especially at their 50th Anniversary or 75th Birthday Party and say, “Thank you mom!” or “Thank you dad!” for being you. You were a treat and you treated us so well.

Do we all hate it when we are mistreated - rejected - never chosen?


Why are some people so wonderful? Why are some people a treat to be with? Why are some people as delicious as raison oatmeal cookies or chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter filled brownies?

My dad worked for Nabisco - and sorry to say - broken cookies were not given to the employees to take home to their starving children. Nope, as our dad told us, they were all collected - all those broken Oreo Cookies and fig Newtons, etc. and they thrown into big vats and used for fruit cakes - lots of fruit cakes. Yet at different times during the year my dad would come home with a great treat - a big white box of cookies. It had no writing on it. The box was about 18 inches by 12 inches - and was 2 layers high: fig Newtons, Oreos, Lorna Doone, chocolate chip cookies, etc. It was a great treat and we kids had our eye on that box for days - waiting for a treat!

Why are some people so mean, grumpy, grouchy and edgy at times? Why are some people like razor blade cookies. They cut us - by cutting us off in a conversation or in traffic. They slice us and dice us. They hurt us. They don’t treat us nice. Ugh. Why?

Were they hurt? Did they get lazy? Did they forget where they came from?

Yesterday morning at a baptism a guy says to me, “Thanks for the nice baptism. We were just down in Virginia at a baptism a few weeks back and the priest said, “If any kid comes in sanctuary, I’m going to kick him out.” I winced at that. As priest I hear the horror stories as well as the good stories. But why did that priest become like that - not treating people right. At baptisms I always choose the baptismal reading that is in the baptism book - about Jesus telling his disciples not to shush kids away, but let the kids come to him.” Were Jesus’ disciples being like that priest - if that was something that priest does on a regular basis?

Why do we treat people the way we treat people?

We’ve all heard the jokes or the complaints from husbands and wives: “He treats his car better than he treats me.” “She treats the dog better than she treats me.”

Why do we treat people the way we treat people?

Is it because of a recipe that we picked up from our parents - from others? Was it something that we came up with on our own.

I was standing in the back of a church in Erie, Pennsylvania. It was a Saturday night - 4:55 - and the Saturday night mass started at 5 PM. We were going to preach a Mission in that parish starting on Sunday night - and I was going to invite the folks to make the parish mission. A lady is standing there and says to me. See that young girl up there at the podium. She has a great voice. I’ve been trying to get her for a year now and I finally got her. She’s a senior in high school and will be going off to college next year. Hopefully, she’ll be a great addition to some Newman Club at some college and in years to come a great cantor in some parish. I don’t think the lady said, “She’s a treat!” but she was saying this young lady might be a treat to some parish in the future and she got her start here.

How did that lady get that big picture - that large outlook - that big way of seeing life and church and others?


I don’t know about you, but I hope to proclaim that Jesus treated everyone with great love and respect - and I hope to do likewise.

That’s my creed. We’re supposed to say some words about the Creed today - about some changes in its wording. I assume that will take less than a year to happen - but I think it takes effort and insight to get our hands on a good recipe for life.

Today I’m pushing: Be a treat.

Today I’m not saying all this to get cookies. I’m a diabetic and the good cookies have sugar.

Today I’m not saying this so you say to me, “You’re a treat!”

Nope. I’m saying all this so that all of us be a cookie - a delicious cookie - a treat - to each other - and the place to start is to treat all others with deep love and respect. As Roy Blount puts it bluntly, “Be Sweet.” [1]

Be sweet and you’ll be a treat.


Roy Blount Jr. Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story, 1998
THE  I  AM, 
WHO  I  AM, 

October  23,  2011

Quote for Today

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our science in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."

Pablo Neruda [1904-1973], Toward the Splendid City, upon receiving the Nobel Prize [1971]


Deep within each person is a place called, "The Garden,"  or "The Inner Room," or "The Real Me That is Me."   Check out Genesis 2: 8 to 3: 24 and Matthew 6:6 and  Matthew 12: 43-45 and Matthew 23:25-28.