Thursday, December 29, 2011


December 30, 2011

Quote for The Day

"Life is merely a fraction of a second.
An infinitely small amount of time to fulfill
our desires, our dreams, our passions."

Paul Gauguin [1848-1903]

Painting on top: "The Yellow Christ", "Le Christ jaune", 1889 - by Paul Gauguin, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.

December  29, 2011

Quote for Today

"Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu'on a perdus."

"The true paradises are paradises we have lost."

Marcel Proust [1871-1922], Le temps retouve (Time Regained, 1926, translated 1931 by S. Hudson, chapter 3, p. 215.

Painting on top, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" 1897, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, by Paul Gauguin [1848-1903]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011



The title of my homily for this feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28 - is, “Awareness of the Power of Bad Example.”


Let me begin with by mentioning a very interesting thing that happened on a high school retreat with some of our kids.

There we were having a group discussion on the issue of teen age drinking and drugs. Sitting there listening, it triggered the memory of a meeting for parents that I attended a few years back about teenage issues. A specialist on teenage issues was the main speaker. She worked in Anne Arundel County. St. Mary’s was on average with other high schools in the country regarding teenage drinking. I was hoping we would be lower; I was glad we were not higher. The presenter had done an anonymous survey amongst our kids - and was telling parents what she saw was going on with our kids. I was also thinking about things kids have said in other discussions on this very issue.

That’s how it began - but the interesting thing that hit me didn't happen yet.

The young people first started talking about themselves. They talked about peer pressure - driving after drinking - looking for parties with booze, everybody does it, etc.

Then surprise, they started talking about how some of their parents drink too much - and also offer their kids alcohol at times. I had heard that before as well.

Now the interesting moment …. For the first time, I heard the following: these high school kids talked about how they were giving bad example with their drinking to the younger kids in our school - as well as to their brothers and sisters.


I wanted to yell, “Freeze the moment!” I wanted to yell, “Great insight! Some of you are saying that you are moving from being self-centered to being other-centered.”

I didn’t because I thought the conversation was progressing very well. It was moving into possible further awareness’s they were not seeing till that moment.

I kept listening and noticed that the conversation - was opening up some mouths that were quiet till then. I sat there hoping and praying that more minds would open to deeper and further challenges.

It would be great if those moments in that discussion could be frozen and then thawed out as life moved on for them.

I am personally scared for these kids as they move on to college - where for some kids binge nights are every night.

Each of us needs to pause and examine what is the good example I’m giving - and what are the bad examples I’m giving - especially towards children.

I also hoped that they would move their words from babble to not picking up the bottle.

Example speaks louder than words.


For starters Jesus was off on this topic - not to give bad example - especially towards children.

He said it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and you’re thrown into the sea - than to have given bad example to kids. That’s a strong statement. [Cf. Mark  9:42; Matthew 18:6; Luke 17:2]

Then paradoxically - but really not - Jesus struggled to get people to go within - to walk around listening to their inner thoughts - checking out their actual attitudes - that this was more important than outward example.

He said this because the Pharisees could give good example, but in reality, it was their inside, their motives, that Jesus went after. Yes they gave good example. However, they used their example to try to manipulate people to think these Pharisees were super people.


Someone said, “A good example is worth a thousand sermons.”

If that is true, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the impact of bad example?

If Chinese kids speak Chinese - because that is the language they hear at home - then it’s obvious they speak the language, the tones, the attitudes, the meanings of their parents.

If the message of Christmas is that the word became flesh, then we need to realize that our words become flesh in others, especially children. Children are our words become flesh. We have the accent and the attitudes, the behavior and the being of our parents.

Today’s gospel talks about the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. In how many homes are the words of Jeremiah that we hear in today’s gospel being fulfilled because of the bad example of others - especially because of alcohol - and people are killed because of drunken drivers or alcohol poisoning?  [Cf. Matthew 2: 13 - 18; Jeremiah 31: 15]

                     A voice was heard in Ramah,
                     sobbing and loud lamentation;
                     Rachel weeping for her children,
                     and she would not be consoled,
                     since they were no more.

If the message of today’s first reading is to be aware of sin - as well as our words and impact on others - then we need to grow in awareness of the power of our example. [Cf. 1 John 1:5-2:2]


Today the feast of the Holy Innocents, my message is to be aware of our impact on children. We can kill kids by the impact of our bad example on the innocent.

December  28,  2011

Quote for Today

"Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind."

W.  Somerset Maugham [1874-1965], Of Human Bondage (1915), Chapter39

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



The title of my homily is, “2 Feelings: Complete and Incomplete.”

We know what it is to feel complete and we know what it feels to be incomplete.

We know the difference. We know when something or someone is missing. We know when we finished something - and we feel it went well - for example, experiencing Christmas as a family, putting together a great family meal - vacation - or what have you.


Last night I was watching Monday night football. I wanted to get to bed but I also wanted to see if Drew Brees would break Dan Marino’s single season yards passing record of 5084 from 1984.

The problem was I was alone. Father Joe Krastel would have been there - but he’s up at his brother’s. Then  a priest who was visiting us for 2 days dropped in our common room - where I was watching TV. Well, the game got slow. He wanted to see the record broken - but it wasn’t happening, so he went to bed. He  said he was quite tired. Well, right near the end of the game Drew Brees pulled it off and broke the record with a touchdown pass.

It was neat - but I didn’t feel complete - because I was by myself - and it’s great to see these things with others.

It triggered a memory of the same thing happening years ago. It was the first game of the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers were losing 4-3 in the 9th inning against the Oakland Athletics. Dennis Eckersley their closer was on the mound. Kirk Gibson came out of the locker room for the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda put him in the pinch hit. Gibson said that he was available. One Dodger was on base. Both of Gibson’s legs were injured from the previous games to get to the World Series. He also had a stomach virus. This was to be his only appearance in the World Series. The count was 0 and 2 - then Gibson worked the count to 3 and 2. As in the movie, The Natural, Kirk Gibson’s hits a famous home run. It was great, but I felt incomplete, because I was by myself. The Dodgers went on to win the 1988 World Series 4 games to 1.

I am sure you have had the same experience - the names, the place, the situation would be different - but you know the feeling. It’s the same.

To be human is to want to go through life with others - especially to share the biggest and best moments - with another or others.

This is what makes death and divorce and separations so tough.

This is why Genesis has the words, “It is not good to be alone.”


What’s even deeper and more painful is when another or others are there but they yawn or they look at their watch - or they don’t understand what we’re so excited about - or they don’t care about sports or religion or what have you.


Get that, get this idea about not being connected, or being alone or being out of sync with another or others, you then grasp one of the key themes of John the Evangelist?

He knew about communion. He knew about Christ. He knew what makes for joy: it’s communion.

He grasped the loneliness of Jesus who came amongst us - and people didn’t get him or his words - and walked away. Then John adds, but to those who do receive the Word, they get the fullness - the completeness.

In today’s first reading from 1st John he tells his motive for writing. I write that you too will get what we got: Jesus. And we tell you, so that your joy may be complete. [Cf. 1 John 1: 1-4.]

That’s why in today’s gospel we hear that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb - she was empty without Jesus. That’s why in today’s gospel Peter and John ran to the tomb. That’s why John says of John, “He saw and believed.” Faith is connection. Faith brings completeness. [Cf. John 20: 1a, 2-8.]


Completeness ….

The hunger for completeness ….

That’s what makes the world go round.

That’s why the world is round - so that we roll towards each other.

That’s why the apple and the orange are round…. Want a piece?

That’s why the communion is round …. Take and eat.

December  27, 2011

Quote for Today

"Suppose all the joys, the cares, and the opportunities afforded you in life could be gathered into a bag which you could carry on your shoulders.  And suppose each person in the world brought his burden to one common heap, there to be given the privilege of depositing his bag and selecting any other bag of his or her choice.   Do you know what would happen?  Invariably, each one would be content once again to pick up the bag he had deposited on the heap and go his or her way."

Based on Plutarch, Consolation to Apollonius.  I've heard variations of this metaphor using the image of the cross rather than the bag.

Task: Take a blank piece of paper and make three columns. Put on the top of column 1, "Joys", on the top of column 2, "Cares" and on  the top of column 3, "Opportunities". Then start to list your's under those 3 columns. Use 2, 3, 4, 10 pieces of paper, whatever it takes - or do this on a computer screen.  If you do this with another, you can compare - and start a good conversation. Another trick would have another write your's and you write their's. Then compare.  Very interesting.

Monday, December 26, 2011


December  26,  2011

Quote for Today

"The cut worm forgives the plow."

William Blake [1757-1827]

Sunday, December 25, 2011


[The title for my Christmas Story  for 2011 is, “2 Wise Women, 1 Wise Man.” Every Christmas I write a Christmas story in memory of Father John Duffy who died Christmas Eve 1993 - and who wrote a Christmas story for his niece every Christmas.  I typed out a few of them for him.  Hearing about his death that Christmas Eve while sitting down to write a sermon - I decided on writing a Christmas story - in his memory - instead - and I’ve been doing that every Christmas since. This year’s story # 19 - is entitled, “2 Wise Women, 1 Wise Man.”]

You never know what’s going on behind closed doors - as you drive down any street - any road - any avenue - in any city, town or village - across our world - any day - let alone Christmas Day. You never know what a group at any table at any restaurant around our world are toasting,  if you’re sitting there at another table and they lift their glasses. “You can only imagine” as the song goes. “You can only imagine.”

Once upon a time, there was this couple named Maria and Jose - and they lived in San Antonio, Texas - both born in the good old USA.

Jose’ dad was a shepherd - who had drifted over the border from Mexico a long time ago - finding work as a shepherd on the Edwards Plateau in Texas. I believe this was in the 1920’s. Then when things got tough - he moved to San Antonio and took any job he could get. He married Serena - and they raised 6 kids - the youngest being Jose - who at 25 married a woman named Maria.

Jose and Maria were not blessed with children. They tried and tried - hoped and hoped - but they had no luck in bringing children into this world. This was painful because their many brothers and sisters had many kids - and they knew that the gift of a child - was the gift of a lifetime. Wasn’t that at the heart of the Christmas story? God knows us very well. He came in the birth of a child. So Christmas, especially Christmas, was one tough moment for Jose and Maria.

At the age of 30, they decided on adopting kids. This all takes place back in the early 1950’s. Adoption wasn’t as difficult and as expensive as it is now. They adopted two girls and a boy - each very different from each other. Chad, the boy - was from French Equatorial Africa - now called Congo. Susan, a Navajo girl, was from New Mexico. And Toki, the other girl, was from Japan. As I said, these 3 kids came from very different backgrounds. We’ll leave the story on how they found these 3 kids to another story.

Schools in San Antonio were okay. Actually, with these 3, it didn’t make much difference because these 3 kids were sponges for knowledge. Their parents, Maria and Jose, had the wisdom to let them learn - challenging them with their homework as well as bringing them to the library every Saturday - helping them lug at least 10 books home each week.

These 3 kids grew in wisdom, age and grace, as the Bible puts it.

And you might not believe this, but one went to Princeton, one to Georgetown, one to Notre Dame. None went for sports. All went for knowledge and for the future.

One went to work for the World Bank in Europe. One went to work in the Foreign Service of our country - serving in Korea, Taiwan and Cambodia. The third, Susan, the Navajo from New Mexico, after graduating from Princeton with honors - went and became a nun. This brought great joy to her parents - who were devout Catholics all their lives. She ended up teaching and then doing social work with Native Americans in Washington State, Arizona, New Mexico and then doing advocacy work for Native Americans in Washington D.C.

Time went on. Toki and Chad had wonderful marriages - marrying someone they met in their field. Both had families of 5 kids each - all of whom flourished. Family pictures that came in the mail every Christmas went on refrigerator doors of relatives and friends and stayed for quite a while. Obviously they stayed on mom and dad’s refrigerator door all year long. These grand kids had great facial features - great mixes of DNA. Whatever it takes to form beautiful textures in our looks - these 5 kids from Toki and her husband, these 5 kids from Chad and his wife got them.

Some not so good news…. Living at great distances - scattered all around the world - holding important jobs - being very busy - they were not able - unlike so many families - to get together as a family for Christmas and Thanksgiving with mom and dad - Jose and Maria.

Yet, Maria and Jose would see their 3 kids and Toki and Chad’s kids - but never all together. That was a sword that cut into their hearts at times. Hearing about the work their 3 kids were doing - and what their grand kids were up to - in various places around the world - made up for that at times. However, Christmas could be tough - because they knew what Christmas could be like when all the family were together as they experienced it when their mom and dad were alive.

Their 3 kids of course did get back - in time - for their parents funerals: dad in 1973 and mom in 1979. Toki - was almost late for her mom’s funeral. She had to take 3 different planes to get back home to San Antonio from Cambodia.

Toki and Chad retired in the early 1990’s. Both settled back home in the States. Susan, Sister Susan, was still working in Washington D.C. She jokingly said she had become a Redskins fan - especially in their better years. Toki and Chad’s kids were off and running - college - marriage - interesting jobs - and like their parents, they too were making starting to make a difference in different parts of our world.

Now here is where the story gets wonderful - and why I loved this story as I heard it the first place.

In the year 2000 Toki and Chad - remember both were retired - were talking to each other on the phone - one from New York and the other from St. Paul, Minnesota. They were talking about their mom and dad. “You know, we’ve been busy all our lives - working, working, working - as parents and public servants. You know, we never really sat down and talked to each other as adults about our roots.”

Then one of them said - looking back, they are not sure which one actually said this, “Why don’t we get together and do just that. Let’s call Susan to see if she thinks the same.”

So they called Susan and all 3 decided to meet in San Antonio for their first Christmas together in at least 40 years. They picked Christmas, because Christmas is a get-together day for all of us - especially family. They picked Christmas because down deep they knew this is where it all begins for those of us who are Christians and Catholics. The crib is where we come from as Christians. It begins with a baby.

Then came the question: just us or with our kids as well?

With Toki and Chad’s kids scattered all over the place - with cost and logistics, they decided they wanted to do this upcoming Christmas with just us. So it would be Sister Susan by herself, Toki with her husband from Minnesota and Chad with his wife from New York. It sounded a bit selfish at first, so they told their kids that we’ll get together for Thanksgiving as usual. They added, “We need to get together in San Antonio to do something that was long overdue.”

Toki checked the Internet and found a good hotel in San Antonio and booked it for 3 rooms for Christmas 2000 - 3 days and 3 nights.

“What are we going to do? What are we going to talk about for 3 days?” These were the questions that intrigued them a bit for the next few months before Christmas.

When they got to San Antonio and began their talking, they laughed, because it was no problem. They talked and talked and talked. They went looking for their old homes - two of them. One was still standing. They rang that bell and told the family who lived there, that they lived there way bay. They were welcomed in and stories began flowing. They went to their old church. It was still standing - still going full steam ahead. They also went searching for their old schools. Both grammar and high school were long gone. They rented a big car and took a  four and a half hour drive one day to the Edwards Plateau - where their grandfather who came from Mexico to work as a shepherd in the 1920’s first worked.

All through this, Toki and Chad’s spouses were very quiet - but were enjoying hearing all the stories.

On the way back from Edwards Plateau the light went on for what these 3 people on this planet were going to do for Christmas for the next bunch of years.

Someone said, Hello! We’re adopted.”


Sometimes the obvious brings the most silence.

“What about where we come from?”

Of course they had thought about this many times - but never had time to really check it out. So the plan was to check out their stories and then travel to their roots.

They were going to spend Christmas in Japan where Toki came from. They were going to spend Christmas at a reservation in New Mexico where Sister Susan came from. They were going to spend Christmas in the Congo where Chad came from. They were going to spend time in Mexico where their grandfather came from and Oklahoma City where their grandmother had come from. They were going to spend time in Corpus Christi, Texas where their mom, Maria had originally come from - and on and on and on.

And this they did. They had been too busy all these years to follow their own star - only guiding others to find their stars and their destinations. They finally got the wisdom to sit at the roots of their other trees. Each Christmas from 2000 on till today - they found wonderful Christmas gifts under their different family trees - ready to be unwrapped and shared with each other.

You should see the face book pictures and entries and the e-mail stories they sent their children and grand kids and friends from all these fascinating places - they visited - the places where they came from.

Almost finished this story ….

One small ritual - one small ritual every Christmas night - from these three - Chad, Toki and Susan - whether it was in Japan or Mexico, the Congo or New Mexico - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or Corpus Christi, Texas, they raised their glasses at every meal - at least twice and toasted, “To mom and dad, Jose and Maria, thank you for the gift of life - thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for the gift of family. Amen!”

Painting on top: The Journey of the Magi, c. 1435, by Stefano di Giovanni [Sassetta], Sienese.

This story is total imagination - translation - nothing is true - except the reality of places like Edwards Plateau in Texas - 238 miles from San Antonio.

December  25, 2011

Quote for Christmas Day


Tu scendi dalle stelle
 O Re del Cielo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo.

O Bambino mio Divino
Io ti vedo qui a tremar,
O Dio Beato!
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.

A te che sei del mondo,
Il creatore,
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.

Caro eletto pargoletto,
Quanto questa povertà
Più mi innamora,
Giacchè ti fece amor
Povero ancora.
Giacchè ti fece amor
Povero ancora.

Video on top: Luciano Pavorotti singing "Tu Scende Dalle Stelle" - a famous Italian Christmas song which was written by the founder of the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus de Liguori.