Monday, December 31, 2012


Quote for Today - December 31,  2012

Year: "A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments."

Ambrose Bierce [1842 - c. 1914] The Devil's Dictionary [1906]


We are not sure of the date of Ambrose Bierce's death - because he disappeared into Mexico to seek "the good, kind darkness" in 1913. His The Devil's Dictionary was first published as The Cynic's Word Book - and that's exactly what much of it is.

Looking at your year, looking at your appointments in 2012, what were the wonderful moments - the graces - the gifts - the splendors and what were the disappointments?

Sunday, December 30, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Family: The Sounds of the Heart.”

This Sunday after Christmas - is called, “Holy Family Sunday.”  The Church asks us to look at our family. How are we doing? What’s going on? What does our family look like?  What about the upcoming year?  What needs attention?  Who needs to be noticed? Is there anyone who is lost that needs to be found?

Family…. Evaluation ….  Recommendations…..

Recommendation - suggestion: every once and a while -  grab a newspaper - find a comfortable chair - put the newspaper up to your face. Don’t read it. Close your eyes. Listen carefully to the sounds in your home.

When we get a physical check-up,  the doctor puts a stethoscope to our heart - to our lungs - to our back and front. What does the doctor listen for? What sounds does she hear?  Are there unhealthy sounds? Are there healthy sounds?

If we give our family a check-up, what sounds do we hear? What’s the diagnosis? What’s the prognosis? What’s healthy? What’s unhealthy?  When was the last time we had a family check-up?

The title of my homily is, “Family: The Sounds of the Heart.”


In today’s first reading from 1 Samuel and today’s gospel from Luke we hear about something many families do: they bring their child to the temple - to the Lord - for blessings, in thanksgiving, for celebration.

In  today’s second reading from 1 John 3, all of us are seen as children - children in the family of God - called to believe, called to love, called to have confidence in God. In other words, to see ourselves in the family of God the Father - with Jesus as our brother.

The Psalm for today - Psalm 84 - simply says: “Blessed….”  or - “Happy are those who dwell in the house of the Lord - in his courts.”

Obviously, many people believe Church, religion, faith, helps with family and life. The statistics bear this out. We have to keep reflecting upon the old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.”


Would you add anything else to that formula? 

I would add: The family that plays together, stays together. The family that eats together, stays together. The family that take time for each other, stays together.  When was the last time you as a family found yourself sitting at the family table for an hour at least after the meal was over?  That to me is a barometer. Hint. Hint. Hint.

In preparing for marriage, I always ask a couple what they think are the 3 key things - 3 key ingredients - to put in the mix to make a great salad or meal or cake called marriage.

Answers: communication, honesty, respect, love, time together, fun --and God and faith and forgiveness sometimes sneak onto the list.

What would you list as the 3 key ingredients for a strong family? After listing your 3, score yourself on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest score.

Then as Nike puts it: Just Do It!


I’m sure you have heard Leo Tolstoy’s [1828-1910] comment  about families:  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Those are the opening words of his novel Anna Karenina [1875-1877]. The 5th or 6th if you include a TV series, English version of the book is out as a movie right now - starring Keira Knightly. One reviewer said, “Skip the movie. Read the book.”

We know the stuff that destroys family: cheating, lying, jealously, breaking one’s vows and promises. Tolstoy’s book talks about the unhappy consequences of sin and selfishness. Being a novelist, he’ll present unhappiness in it’s own way. He gives names and situations when people poison themselves and self destruct.

The title of my homily is, “Family: The Sounds of the Heart.” I would hope the movie will challenge viewers to listen to the sounds of their own hearts - listening to their personal happy and unhappy sounds - their own healthy and unhealthy sounds - hearing their own “Oh no!” sounds - as well as their “Oh wow!” inner sounds.

Which would have the greatest impact: seeing the movie or reading the book? Only the reader or viewer can answer that. I noticed that there are at least 9 English translations of the 864 pages in Russian of the book. Rosemary Edwards - translator of the 1954 Penguin English translation said that one of Tolstoy’s major themes is: “No one can build their happiness on another’s pain.”


In looking up stuff on family to come up with this homily, I noticed not only Tolstoy’s quote, but also the word “hint” in the writings of Robert Frost.

I like his poems - and unlike Anna Karenina - I’ve read the big fat book of Frost’s poems - as well as stuff about Frost and his family and his marriage - but I never noticed the word “hint” before.

I noticed it in this quote by Frost  about family, “The greatest thing in family life is to take a hint when a hint is intended - and not to take a hint when a hint isn’t intended.”

What does that mean?

I need to think about that. Hint. Hint. Hint. I’m suggesting you to think about it as well.

Are we a bunch of hinters?  Are we a bunch of not so clear communicators?  Are we all so wrapped up in ourselves and our cell phones and computers and TV sets - that we’re not picking up the hints - the signals - we all give off.

Frost made his comment well before these modern gadgets - so he’s saying that people are hinting or not hinting during his time.  And Tolstoy is saying folks are making these hints, sounds and signals in  the late 19th century, the time of Anna Karenina. And Jesus was well aware of the sounds of the human heart in his time - sounds that became part of the gospels -  the scriptures - the sounds we hear in every relationship and every family.

Does every marriage that broke up - have the people saying, “I was so stupid. I missed the hints that were there all along!”?

Are we giving hints in our marriage and our family  that we need to be heard, listened to, respected, given time to, eat with, play with, pray with, take a walk with, or a drive with, or left alone - and given our space?

We’re slow - if I hear Frost. And if I hear Frost in his poems and his writings - we get nature’s hints easier than each other’s eyes, throats, twists, turns, the sound of our words, etc. etc. etc.

Hint. Hint. Hint.

If I hear Frost’s life - he had lots of family problems - as a child with an alcoholic father - who died when Robert Frost was around 11 - and then his marriage was rather wintery - like New England winters can be - with a cold marriage - a death of he and Elinor’s first son Elliot as a baby. Two daughters had marriages that had nasty divorces - and one son, Carol, committed suicide. Tough stuff.

Family life needs lots of attention and work.

The title of my homily is, “Family: The Sounds of the Heart.”

In this homily I’m hinting that the family sounds are lots of hints - which we’re slow in getting.

Get them before it’s too late.

Robert Frost once made another comment about hints. We’re aware of two people mentioned in this comment - Ben Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton. Frost asked, “How many times it thundered before Franklin took the hint!  How many apples fell on Newton’s head before he took the hint! Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint.”


Of course clear blue communication is better than the hints - but maybe family life would be better if we start with the hints. Why not read or view each other - as if each of us was a book or a movie? Then we can talk to each other about what we’re seeing - what the other is showing - by simply beginning with a question, “Are you trying to give me a hint here?”


“Okay, just wondering….”

Then an hour later we hear, “Well, yes, I was trying to say ….”


Quote for today - December 30, 2012

Family: "The we of me."

Carson McCullers

Saturday, December 29, 2012



The title of my homily is, “What Would It Take For You To Say Or Pray Your Nunc Dimittis?”

As you know the Nunc Dimittis are the first two words in Latin of the prayer of Simeon in the Gospel of Luke 2: 29-32.

“Nunc dimittis
servum tuum,
secundum verbum tuum
in pace.”

           "Now you can dismiss
            your servant,
            according to your word
            in peace."

In the Christian Church it became a traditional night prayer for folks before they went to sleep. It’s part of the Big Three prayers: the Benedictus for Morning Prayer, the Magnificat for Evening Prayer and the Nunc Dimittis for Night Prayer.


The title of my homily is, “What Would It Take For You To Say Or Pray Your Nunc Dimittis?”

Before we get to the end of one’s life - as the prayer was said by Simeon when he met the Messiah in Mary’s arms, why not begin by asking that question of one’s day?

When saying our night prayers, we pause and reflect upon our day. What was it like? Did we do anything to make life sweeter for those around us? We might know mistakes and say we’re sorry, but why not concentrate on the positive things we did that day - the good dids more than the didnots - the positives instead of the dumb things or hurtful things?

What makes a good day for us? I’ve met lots of people who are getting married. Then sometimes tell me they didn’t realize till they met the right person, that they had a check list or what have you. Do we all unconsciously have a check list for what makes a good day?

We could ask that of a movie, a meal, a book, a vacation, a meeting - maybe some people have a check list for a sermon as well.

At the end of a day, can we go to bed in peace, grateful that we made the world better that day because we were there?


Do we all have a list about what it takes to have a good life?

I strongly believe that we do. Moreover, for starters, we go through that check-list without even knowing we’re doing it - for others when we are in the funeral parlor or at a funeral service - concerning the person who has died?

Somewhere in Simeon’s life he came to the realization that he would not see death, till he saw the Messiah.  So every day when he came to the temple, he was watching. It was #1 on his bucket list - before he kicked the bucket.

What’s on our list - that if it happened - we could say and pray our Nunc Dimittis?

For many people it’s that someone in the family comes back to the family. For many it’s that we see our children who have dropped out of church back in church - for real. If I got a dollar for every time someone asked me the question: what happened that my son or daughter or 4 of them have dropped out or gone to another church - and they went to Catholic school? It’s usually a person - a relationship - a relative - that would get us to say Simeon’s prayer.


Sometimes folks see their dream and their prayer come true. A kid comes home. A kid comes back to church.

Some folks realize what Simeon came up with, that it is Jesus who is the Savior and Messiah who helps make this happen - especially when we put it into his hands.

Ooops! And there is often a catch: often, most of the time, this takes a lot of waiting and a long time before it happens - please God - soon!  


Quote for Today - December 29, 2012

"I could give no reply 
except a lazy and drowsy, 
'Yes, Lord, Yes. 
I'll get to it right away; 
just don't bother me 
for a little while.'  
But 'right away' 
didn't happen right away; 
and 'a little while' 
turned out to be 
a very long while."

St. Augustine

Friday, December 28, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Holy And Innocent: It’s Difficult to Be Both.”

As we reach this feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28th - every year - we reflect upon the death of children - innocent children - whether it’s here in the time of Christ as in today’s gospel or whether it’s today in school shootings, or drone attacks, violent ruining, raping, and destroying homes and villages around our world - during which innocent children are killed - as well as the many abortions that happen each day.

Okay - in a way - it’s easy sitting here - to look at all that and make disapproval sounds like, “Tch … tch…tch!”  - because we are so far from Syria and Somalia - and in that way it’s easy to be against the slaughter of the innocents.

We all know it’s easier to rant about abortion and homosexuality - till we discover these stories in our own families - or when friends tell us how they feel when these issues were made paramount in the voting season.


But if we want to be challenged today, here is a challenge: climb high above the territory and look at the killing of innocents that me, myself, and I do, in a multitude of unholy - not-so-innocent  ways.

Where the tire hits the road - at least for me - is the way I abort others by my judgments - by my neglect of others - by my not listening - by my avoiding of others - by the way I kill a tiny bit of the spirit of another - by a put down, a dig, a way I want the other to be other than they are. I can be standing there listening to another - but in reality,  I can’t wait to run back - to escape back to my warm, “liquidy” safe womb - room - inside my mind - to hide in my own quiet personal inner space.

To be holy - Jesus told us to notice - to stop - to help - the hurting and wounded on the road.

To be holy - Jesus showed us that he noticed who touched the hem of his garment - those who were tugging at him for life - for attention - for recognition.

To be holy - Jesus made us aware of who’s really putting their whole self into the basket - their 2 cents - while others are putting in the not of their being, the fluff and foam off the top.

To be holy - Jesus showed us he was aware of life within - the others - reading their hearts and minds.  He certainly knew the kick in the womb - of  the unborn - unheard from - those who were sent packing to leave the community because of leprosy or sin - those who tend to be pelted by rejection rocks.

To be holy - Jesus showed us he was aware of cemeteries - not so much the ones - along our roads - or those on the edge of cities - but he was aware of cemeteries inside people's minds and hearts - or those garbage dumps within - the hell on this side of hell.

That's some of the holy; here are a few ways of the innocent.

To be innocent is to be childlike - to have a sense of play - and not to be the one who is always so, so, so serious.

To be innocent is to be childlike - and to know whether the other is aware of me - or others - not by the color of our skin or the amount of wrinkles we have - or perfume or aftershave on - or the cost and quality and look of our clothes - but because we and others are all are children of God - so we put down our papers or we stop our babbling and give all little ones our love and attention.


So on this Feast of the Holy Innocents, we can picture that scene in the scriptures in Bethlehem when Herod tried to kill all future opposition - by killing all the little baby boys  - or we can look at our everyday encounters, meetings, experiences with each other - and be challenged to give life to one another and not ignoring or cutting off the presence of life just in front of us.  Tough stuff. 


Painting on top - one of the graphic abortion paintings by William Kurelek [1927-1977]


Quote for Today - December 28, 2012

"Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart."

William Butler Yeats  [1865-1939], Michael Roberts and the Dancer [1921], stanza 4


When is it time to take a break?

When is it time to scream?

When is it time for the divorce?

When is it time to disappear?

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Quote for the Day - December 27, 2012 - 
Feast: St. John the Evangelist

"There is, one knows not 
what sweet mystery about this sea, 
whose gently awful stirrings 
seem to speak of 
some hidden soul beneath;  
like those fabled undulations 
of the Ephesian sod 
over the buried Evangelist St. John. 

And meet it is, 
that over these sea pastures, 
wide-rolling watery prairies 
and Potters' Fields of all four continents, 
the waves should rise and fall, 
and ebb and flow unceasingly; 
for here, millions 
of mixed shades and shadows, 
drowned dreams, 
somnambulisms, reveries; 
all that we call lives and souls, 
lie dreaming, dreaming, still; 
tossing like slumberers in their beds; 
the ever-rolling waves 
but made so by their restlessness."

Herman Melville [1819-1891], Moby Dick [1851], Chapter 111


Read this piece from Moby Dick slowly and go underneath the words. Has anyone else called the ocean a pasture or a prairie or a Potter's field? Read the Gospel of John as looking out at the ocean from the deck of a ship - and think about what's underneath the surface of the words. 

The top picture is of the Atlantic Ocean last September and the middle picture is that of St. John's possible grave in Ephesus from 2011.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012



The title of my homily is, “St. Stephen’s Or Forgiveness Day.”

Today can be called just that. I’m assuming that this first day after Christmas, because St. Stephen was the first martyr,  the Church decides to use it for the first  feast after Christmas.


I read somewhere - I wish I remember where - that the really unique message of Christianity is forgiveness. The writer said it’s unique among world religions that this is our primary stress - even more than love.

Love is certainly a central theme in world religions. Every group has the Golden Rule in some form - but forgiveness: no,

For some reason, out of the many things I read, I remembered that - but don’t remember the source.

Question for all of us Christians: is forgiveness central to our way of believing and seeing and being?

Translation: do we practice unconditional forgiveness?


Today’s first reading from The Acts of the Apostles ends at verse 59.  It leaves our verse 60.

Verse 59 reads as we heard, “As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’”

Then verse 60 - which ends the 7th chapter of Acts - goes like this, “Then he fell to his knees and cried in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ and when he said this, he fell asleep.”

The turkeys. They left out that key verse. Ugh. Yet, I forgive them, for whatever reason they were asleep and missed the message.

And Bibles that give cross references - give at verse 60 the cross reference to Jesus on the Cross - who said just before he died, “Father, forgive them they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.


Jesus gave great teachings about how to live life to the full.

Core to many of his teachings is to be aware and care about the impact that our thinking does to our thinking. He tells us to not only put down the rocks - but to unearth and get rid of  those sharp angry rocks that roll around in our memory. If I’ve learned anything about life I’ve learned that people have memories. We remember our hurts and our mistakes - our sins and our disasters.

Learning the message of forgiveness - and unconditionally accepting God’s love for us no matter what we have done or what has been done to us - is very liberating.

Whenever people hear this the but’s butt in. But she knew what she was doing. But he did something horrific. But if you only knew what really happened. But how can I be forgiven on what I have done.


We’re still feeling and reeling from the Newtown, Connecticut story. When I read the comments and commentaries in the newspapers or comments on TV,  I notice whether the speaker or writer says, 26, 27 or 28,

I say 28 died that day. I don’t know why folks leave out the Mom. I can understand leaving out Adam Lanza, but 28 were shot that day. Horrible. Horror. Pain. Craziness.

Father forgive him - them - some blame the mother - for they don’t know what they were doing.

With Jesus on the Cross, with Stephen on the ground, both bleeding to death, I say the words of Luke in both Luke and Acts, “Father forgiven them for they don’t know what they are doing” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”


On the day after the Newtown, Connecticut killings, I was reflecting on all this and I wrote a small poetic piece that I put on my blog. Nobody noticed it, so let me conclude by reading it out loud.

                        HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

            How does it happen when we die?
            Do we all move in a crowd towards God?
            Thomas Merton pictured crowds of people
            like prisoners or displaced people being
            moved from station to station from far
            countries - all those people who died this
            night from all around the world. He
            pictured Hemingway - walking that walk -
            shuffling those steps - after he shot himself.
            How does it happen? What happens next?
            Do all these little kids crowd
            around Adam Lanza and hold him till he
            lets go of whatever it was that killed him
            and them. I don’t know how all this
            horrible stuff happens. Like everyone
            I don’t know how someone could kill a child
            or anyone else, including themselves.
            How does it happen? How, God, how?


Painting on top: The Stoning of St. Stephen [c.1780] by Rembrandt. Notice Rembrandt with stone in hand right above Stephen's raised right hand.


Quote for Today - December 26, 2012

"To us Christians, the first Christmas Day is the solstice or bottleneck of history.  Things got worse till then, ever since we had lost paradise; things are to get better since then, till we reach paradise once more. History is shaped by an X."

Ronald A. Knox [1888-1957]


Do you agree with this statement - in light or in the dark of the Holocaust, the Wars in A.D., abuse,  Newtown, Ct. etc. etc. etc.?

Do you agree with this statement - if you simply apply it to yourself - your history -  if you are a baptized Christian?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


He was in the mall - the big mall - doing his Christmas shopping.

It was early Saturday afternoon - less than a week before Christmas.

He liked to buy small presents - quality presents - the perfect present - for family or friends.

He looked around and around and around and no gift seemed just right. So he headed for the Food Court - for a hamburger, some fries, and a shake. It was 5 to 1 and 5 presents to go - his 5 kids - 3 girls, 2 boys. The Food Court was packed - just like the rest of the mall. Tray in hand,  he got a small  table. A couple was just getting up. He napkin cleaned it off  and sat by himself.

He loved these moments - just watching people - parents with little ones - grandparents with little ones - people together - including people alone like he was. He liked to imagine - as well as to go figure - what each person’s story was.

Jack’s five kids were grown up and gone. But all five would be back together on Christmas Eve for a Christmas Dinner - the first Christmas Dinner all the family would be together for in years. The next day - Christmas day -  they would be with their own families. Jack and his wife, Lois, knew Christmas was always time to be with one’s own little family - once one’s own little family got started.

They knew Thanksgiving was different. Four out of the five usually made it to Thanksgiving Dinner - taking turns in their different homes - but every family has one or two that sort of shift away: distance, differences, or the spouse they married have their own family traditions as well. The key was to enjoy the “Whatever’s” of life.

Differences could cause corner talk - or comments that needn’t be said - because who knows what’s really what’s what with any one of us?

Anyway this Saturday afternoon - just before Christmas - sitting there all alone in the Food Court - in the big mall - at exactly 1 PM - someone started singing a Christmas carol. Interesting. And she was good. “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come.” Then another person - this time a guy - great baritone voice - stood up and repeated those same opening words, “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come.”

Then 25 people - at least 25 people -  stood up and burst out with the rest of that Christmas song, “Joy to the World, The Lord Has Come.”

He had seen these Flash Mob singing scenes on e-mail’s folks had sent to him from time to time. Here he was in the middle of one live and in person.

Then it was another 50 people at least who started to sing - bursting out with sound. Were they an opera company or a church choir?

People from all sections of the Mall headed for the sound - and faces and eyes were filled with surprise and tears and amazement.

Out came the cell phones. His didn’t have a camera on his cell phone - or if he did, he didn’t know how to work it.  Many, many people were photographing the scene. Many had those small digital cameras. Picture. Picture. Picture. Snap. Snap. Snap.

As people lifted kids up on their shoulders or tables or what have you, memories of being at parades with his dad as a kid - or at church at Christmas - came back to him.

He began wondering if there is a difference in different people. Do some people just enjoy the present moment? Do some people miss the present moment by getting pulled into the past by the present moment? Do some people miss the present moment because they have to hold onto the present moment by getting a picture of it for future reference? Do people ever look at all these pictures they took? Why can’t people just enjoy the present in front of them?

He caught himself. He laughed at himself. “Here I am judging others and by doing so, I’m missing the present moment myself. Why do I always do this? Why God, why?” 

He didn’t noticed the “God” word slip into his thoughts.

They sang three songs - just three  Christmas songs - “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come”; “O Come, All Ye Faithful”; and  finished with “Silent Night!"

Everyone clapped. People continued with the pictures. He saw folks reaching for paper napkins from the counters of the food shops that were all along the edge of the big food court - to wipe away tears.

Then the singers headed into the rest of the mall of the parking lot.

Jack finished his hamburger and fries - both of which had become a tiny bit cold. His shake had disintegrated a bit. He sat there wondering about something down deep - but he wasn’t sure just what it was. He walked a lot when Lois died of cancer just 7 months ago. 55 was too young to go. He didn’t blame God - although he knew two of his kids did. They were the church goers. It wasn’t that - but something was stirring in his silent night.

He stood up and cleared off his table for the next person. A mom and dad and their little kid were just there as he had stood up. The father said, “Thanks for cleaning up the table.” Then he added, “That singing was great wasn’t it?” Jack said, “You’re right! I needed that.”

As he headed back into the Mall, he wondered what those words, “I needed that” meant.

He turned a corner and in another section of the Mall he spotted a small silver colored pewter Nativity set in the window of a jewelry store: Mary, Joseph, Jesus in a Manger, an ox and an ass, and two shepherds, one with a sheep in his arms and another with a sheep on his shoulder. It was compact - this 7 piece set. He walked into the store and asked a salesman. “How much does that pewter Nativity set in your store window cost?”

“Let me check,” he said.

Sheepishly he came back and said, “$314 dollars.”

Jack said, “Can I see them?” 

The salesman got a key and opened up the front window  to get at them. He then brought over some of the set to show him. They were small - solid - with neatly etched features. They were quality pieces - the kind of work you would find in a very rich chess set.

Jack asked, “Do you have more than 1 set?”

The salesman said, “Let me check.”

He got down on his knees and once more took out his keys and opened up a cabinet under one of the display cases in the store. He moved some stuff around and yelled up - still on his knees, “We have 4 more sets with this one.”

Jack said, “Perfect! I’ll take all five.”

The salesman was totally surprised - knowing they were in that store window for about 4 weeks now - and maybe underneath for years.

Jack asked, “Could I get them wrapped?”

“No problem.” The guy brought them over to a young high school or college kid and asked if she would gift wrap them.

Jack said, “Thank You” and paid with his credit card. He asked the salesman if he heard the singing.

“Oh that’s what that was all about.”

Jack headed to his car and home. He had his last 5 gifts bought in one swift move. It was a good choice - the kind of gift that will last for years. Kids and grandkids can play with them and they won’t break. Everyone will have their own set! There will be no arguments - like what happened with a few pieces of mom’s jewelry after she died. And years from now people will ask, “Where did you get that great Nativity set?” And he said to himself, “They will say with pride, ‘Oh my dad bought all 5 of us this same  set for Christmas many years ago.’”

Christmas Eve was a wonderful dinner. All the kids came to Jack’s house for the dinner. His 3 daughters came early and cleaned and cooked and arranged for a wonderful Christmas eve dinner and celebration together.

Everyone opened their gifts in their dad’s house after dinner and all 5 kids were pleasantly surprised with the gift of their solid pewter Nativity Set.  “Wow dad. These had to be very expensive.” He answered, “I don’t have to worry about cost anymore with your mom gone - as well as getting hamburgers, shakes and fries.”

The next day Jack went to Mass - Christmas Mass - the first Mass since the funeral Mass for his wife Lois. Why? He didn’t know. The priest said in his homily something like Bethlehem means “House of Bread - and each church is a House of Bread - and the best Christmas present is  to accept Jesus the Bread of Life into our life - starting again this Christmas.”

Jack spotted the Nativity Scene - the crib - up front - in the church. He smiled and said to himself, “The sets I bought are better.” Then he thought about what his daughter said to him the night before - at their Christmas Eve Dinner - in the kitchen - just before she went home, “Dad thanks for the Nativity Set. Beautiful. I got to get back to Church.” 

Then he cried when the whole church sang together including himself, “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come.” and then again when they sang, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and then again when everyone sang after Communion, “Silent Night!” He noticed nobody was taking pictures. He realized they realized Jesus is the Christmas Gift - in the flesh, in our faith. Jesus is in our Past, in our Future, in each Present moment.  

Surprise. On the way out of church that Christmas day he spotted his daughter, Connie, and her family and they spotted him. As she hugged him, he said into her ear, “Connie, we’re both back. Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come.”


Quote for Christmas Day - December 25, 2012

"In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is,
since he was what I am."

Gerard Manley Hopkins [1844-1889]

Monday, December 24, 2012


Quote for Today -  December 24, 2012

"Heap on more wood! - the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,

We'll keep our Christmas merry still."

Sir Walter Scott [1771-1832], in Marmion [1808], VI, Introduction, Stanza 1

Sunday, December 23, 2012


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The title of my homily is, “Other.”

Life is about myself - I live it - I learn it - I figure it out as I live it - but then again - life is about the other.

The other person in the crowd - the old lady looking out the window - the other woman … the other man … the other making the noise … the other person on the road - or in the car - or maybe taking my job… or has a need to go to the bathroom - so he or she sits at the end of the bench instead of moving in …. 

The other….

For some reason that’s the thought,  - “OTHER”  - that popped up as I read today’s readings - as I wondered about what to preach on this 4th Sunday of Advent - with Christmas just two days away.

The other…. This will be about basic stuff. You’re sort of stuck with me this Sunday morning. I’m the other priest and my name was on the list to celebrate this Mass. Another priest would be speaking on some other topic or other theme. Isn’t that the way it often works? I expect this and I get some other something or some other person.


We were all once upon a time another baby - the other - who came as a gift and a hope or a surprise to mom and dad.

We were a me - and if it was a well functioning family  - we got the limelight and the pictures  - that first month or two or three or more. We got the attention. We got the lifting up into safe arms when we were scared. We were heard and then held when we were a scream in the night. We were fed - changed - bathed - put in a safe place for sleep and play.

I once heard a priest give a series of talks during which he referred to a baby as “His majesty the King” or “Her majesty the Queen.”  This other priest seemed to think this was very significant.  I never grasped fully what he was getting at. I think he was saying that he noticed that some people never get over the fact that the king or queen position is not for life - and then all their life they resent having to give up that position - like when a brother or sister arrived or when another person had an idea - or a different way of doing something.

Maybe because I’m the fourth and last kid - I didn’t understand what the guy getting at - unless it was just that. My sister Mary has been fond of saying that our parents had 4 only kids - and we were all close in age. I get that - but sometimes I don’t get that. Sometimes we hear the other - but we’re not sure what the other is saying.

What I do get is that at some point in life we have to learn to deal with each other - especially the other person - that there is more than one of us on the planet. There’s always the other. Like Robinson Crusoe there is the moment we see the other’s footprint on our beach - and it’s not our size. Uh oh! It’s the other….

I know I once visited my niece Jeanne to see her new baby, Sophie - her and husband David’s second kid. Jeanne brought Sophie into the room and placed her on the floor in one of those baby carry cases. I was sitting on the couch - and began looking down at this beautiful tiny baby. Then I started going, “Hi! Hi! Hi!” to this tiny creature - hoping she’ll laugh and smile. While doing this Benjamin the first born comes over and sits on the carrying case blocking out Sophie and says, “Hi Uncle Andy!” I didn’t ask if Sophie did this to her sister Olivia - when she came along.

Do we all do that sometimes in our life: blocking out the other?


I once heard Bernard Basset, the Jesuit, he’s now dead, tell in a talk a story that went something like this. Better this is how I heard and interpreted the story - because that is what we do with other people’s stories. Once upon a time there was this little kid who was born into a horrible family situation and ended up being totally wrapped up in himself - and loaded down with problems. The family fell apart and the kid was put into foster care and given large doses of therapy and love from adults. Then one day he was put in a small play house in a corner of this big room. The play house had toys and windows and a door. The team of therapists were watching everything from behind a two way mirror. A door in the room where this play house was situated opened up and in came about a dozen kids - roughly the same age as the kid in the doll house. They immediately headed for the toy boxes and pulled out their favorite toys and started playing with them on the floor in this big room.  Hearing the voices the little boy in the play house stood up and looked out the window at the other little kids playing about 30 yards away. He watched and watched. Bernard Basset said that a therapist said out loud: if he opened his door and went over and started playing with those kids, there was great hope for him. If not, uh oh!  He opened the door and went over and played with the other kids.

That’s a life time story for me. I’ve seen loners in my life - folks who have never come out of themselves. They are priests and doctors, mothers and fathers, this and thaters. From my experience of priest loners I discovered the horrible principle: “The stranger the ranger, the more the avoidance; the more the avoidance the more strange the ranger  becomes - and on and on and on.”

So parents bring their kids to playgrounds and to cousins. They have slumber parties and Birthday and Halloween parties. Hopefully Pre-K helps. Hopefully every school, every place, every parish, every family is a welcoming place.

Hopefully, there are professionals at all the various levels of life who can spot stuff and talk to parents and staff their about kids. Thankfully there are all those wonderful volunteers in the scouts and Little League and Pop Warner and Dance Groups. Hopefully, little kids are also allowed to integrate and have fun without supervision tons of times  - and their creative juices make this world a magical world for themselves and others.


The title of my homily is, “Other.” Now I can’t picture anyone on the planet writing on their hand in ballpoint pen, “Other!” - but I have seen people writing on their hand with a ballpoint pen: “Judy” or “Mike” or “Penny” or “Patrick”.  We’ve seen names of others as tattoos on the skin of others: mom, Millie, Molly, Maude and Sally. We seen the initials of thousands of people carved into trees or scratched into hardening cement or spray painted onto walls or magic marked onto school books or bags or casts for  broken bones.

The other….

Today - right now - forget about this other preaching up here. Locate a ballpoint pen and write down the significant others in your life.

Use the number 3: who have been your 3 best teachers - 3 best friends - 3 people who changed your life - 3 people you worry about - 3 people you couldn’t figure out - 3 people you could say anything to?

I laugh at the e-mails I get from time to time. I don’t have Facebook or some of these other things but sometimes I receive an e-mail that says that someone I never met or heard of - has befriended me.

I still like the comment that if we have 5 people who are friends with us in this life, we’re lucky. I’m 73. I can list my 5:  and 3 of them have already died. Bummer.

We need the other. The first book of the Bible - Genesis - has God saying, “It’s not good to be alone.”


If I was in that play house and God was out there - and I spotted God - would I open that door and go out and meet God?

Do I even think, see, consider God as Other?

What is this other called God like? The Jewish Scrolls and Scriptures answer that question with lots of answers: Creator, Shepherd, Judge, Law Giver, King, Father, Mother, Someone with a Will, Peace,  to name a few.

Jesus comes along in that tradition and we have a breakthrough on who God is. Jesus is God. Yet Jesus also tells us about the Other - whom he calls “Our Father” - and he also talks about the Spirit. It takes the followers of Jesus a long time and a lot of discussion, but they finally nail down in Creed and Council that Jesus told us God is Trinity - without using that actual word.

God is THE Other - but the Other is not just one Person - the Father. There is this Other Person, the Son. Then there is the Other Person: the Spirit. Amazing.  God is a Trinity of Persons - One God. Go figure.


Merry Christmas. For the Christian we have been gifted with a great teaching - that God can become a reality for us.

Let’s backtrack a tiny bit - and talk about the Second Other - Jesus the Son of God - who comes as a  Baby - who is also one of us - who was born of a virgin - the fruit of her womb - as we heard in today’s gospel.

Christmas is the Advent, the beginning, the coming of the Christ. We know the story - it’s pictured on a million Christmas cards and stamps and cribs. It’s told so well in Luke’s Gospel on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special - the Midnight Mass Gospel - which some priests like to read at all the Christmas Masses. This baby grows - yet he lays low for 30 some years - and then leaves his significant 2 others: Mary and Joseph. He reaches out to others. Some accept him; some reject him. Life.  We know the feeling.


With regards the Other - the title of this homily - Jesus taught us two central messages: first the visible others:  we are to love the other - forgive the other - give to the other when the other is hurting, rejected or down - go the extra mile for the other, give the shirt off one’s back for the other - lay down one’s life for the other; secondly, the Invisible Other: God. The Other is the Father who loves the Son and the Spirit of Love between the Father and the Son - is God. This is the secret of life - loving each other. When we are in communion with each other and with the Other called “God” - we are experiencing heaven here and  this can lead us to heaven hereafter. Amen.