Saturday, March 24, 2012


March  24,  2012

Quote for Today

"I used ... to keep a book in which I would talk to myself.  One of the aphorisms I wrote was,  'The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.'"

Arthur Miller, [1915-2005 ] Playwright, Harper's Magazine, August 1958

Friday, March 23, 2012



The title of my homily for this Fourth Friday in Lent is, “Christ the Stethoscope.”

Jesus stands there and listens to our heart.


In today’s reading - the first from Wisdom 2: 1a, 12 to 22 and the Gospel for John 7: 1-2,10,25-30 - God and Christ are listening to the hearts and minds of folks.

In both readings there is the sounds of violence in the human heart - the wanting to get rid of the Wisdom Figures in our lives.


If Christ put his ear to our heart - an ear like a stethoscope - what would he hear?

As we read the scriptures - we hear the thoughts of the human heart. If we read the gospels we hear that Jesus knew what was in the human heart.

What are our sounds?

Sometimes we can read another’s mind - because we can see their face - we can see their clenched fists.

Ronald Reagan said, “You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.” [New York Times, January 15, 1981]

We get that that because we’ve seen each other eat. We’ve been around each other enough to know what eats us. We know each other’s complaints and whining - and angers.

We will be in Holy Week soon - when we will be following along the long Passion Narratives and we’ll be asked to scream with the crowd that first Good Friday, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

If we put out stethoscope to the gospel readings especially during Lent, we hear the beginnings of that word “Crucify”. We hear “Crrrr!”

If we listen to the angry, we hear them say, “Crrrr!” and “Crud” and “Crap” and “Christ Jesus shut up!”

What are the sounds of our hearts?


Jesus didn’t come to crucify us. Jesus didn’t come to take away the joy of the world inside us. Jesus didn’t come to chain us - but to set us free. His truth can do just that. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain on the cross the take away the sins of our world.

His truths are about what can crucify us: wanting our will and way every day; not forgiving those who hurt us - and we can’t say, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing; not being able to take up the cross - when we’re on it - and suffering has come our way.

Jesus wants to heal, help, and save us - especially from ourselves.


Have Jesus the Stethoscope put his ear to our heart today and let him see where we hurt.

Hear him asking us to open our mouth and say, “Ah!” “Ah Jesus, you are my Lord and Redeemer.”

Look up at the big cross here at St. John Neumann's and say that today.


March  23,  2012

Quote for Today

"I never thought 
I could feel this way
And I've got to say
that I just don't get it."

Gordon Lightfoot in his song, "If you could read my mind ...."

Listen to the song. Who are the people you allow to read your mind? Who are the people who allow you to read their minds?

Thursday, March 22, 2012



The title of my homily for this Fourth Thursday in Lent is, “Acceptance or Rejection.”

Last night I watched for at least the tenth time the movie, The Shawshank Redemption.  Each time I see it, I see something new or something different that hits me. Last night it was the moment when Red - Elllis Redding - played by Morgan Freeman - goes in to see the parole board of 5 people. They ask questions of a prisoner and then decide whether or not he is ready for parole. It’s a dramatic moment when you see the rubber stamp being pushed down on a piece of form - and then lifted. Then you see the word “APPROVED” or “REJECTED” filling the whole screen.[1]


Then I read today’s readings and the theme that hit me was “Acceptance or Rejection”. I was wondering was it the movie that got me to see that theme in today’s readings. I don’t know, but I’d like to reflect upon them for a homily for today.

In today’s First reading from Exodus 32: 7-15 and today’s Psalm 106: 10-23 we hear the sounds of rejection of God and accepting the Golden Calf - a statue of an animal - animals that eat straw - over ME. We hear the sounds of a parent talking - trying to induce guilt. “After all I have done for you.” “I have freed you from Egypt” - and “Did you ever think what the Egyptians will say - now that you have fallen apart as a people?” Today version would be, “What am I chopped liver?”

Today’s Gospel from John 5: 31-47 has Jesus voicing the same feelings of how he feels for being rejected.


We know what it feels like in being rejected.

It happens all our life.

The little kid experiences the disappearance of his or her mom or dad - when the bedroom door is closed in the night - and all is dark - and they are all alone. They experience it at school and in the playground.

Teenagers experience it with teams and romances and not making the play or when they think the teacher favors so and so over them - with attention and marks.

“Get over it!” they are told - but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Then there are adult relationships. Then there are jobs. Then there are family situations. Then there is marriage. She’s up in bed waiting to be held - but he’s downstairs holding onto the remote - clicking away looking for action on the boob tube.

We’ve been there. We know about acceptance - but we know about rejection far more - because the negative often has far more power than the positive.


We know how it irks or hurts to be with someone and we’re telling a great story and they yawn or look at their watch or over our head at something more interesting.

In prayer, there are distractions, but I assume if we work at giving God full attention in prayer and worship, we’ll find ourselves giving that same attention to each other and vice versa.



[1] I thought it said, "Accepted" or "Rejected" till I looked it up on Google - where I found the YouTube scene that I put in the beginning of this Blog piece. Surprise the word in the movie is, "Approved". Then I went looking to see if the word was "REJECTED" in the earlier scenes - and I found the following YouTube piece that puts three scenes together. The texture of the film is not as good as the one on top. Check it out.


March  22,  2012

Quote for Today

"Ask yourself, 'What kind of a church would ours be if everyone was like I am?'"


Wednesday, March 21, 2012



As I read the readings for today - this Fourth Wednesday in Lent - the human cry for freedom is the theme that hit all my buttons.

The first reading from Isaiah talks about prisoners being released. The Gospel talks about the dead being released from the tombs.

I have been stopped by those Eastern Christian Icons of Jesus descending into the realms of death at Easter and releasing the dead. That’s how I read the words of the Apostle’s Creed, “… suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven,….”


When I read today's words from Isaiah 49: 8-15 - about prisoners: “Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves!” I recall the Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio”. The plot is simple - basic - universal - and has appeared in 1000 variations - before and after.

Florestan is imprisoned - unjustly. Lenore,  the woman who loves him, disguises herself as a young man "Fidelio" and gets a job in the prison to try to free him - to get him out of the darkness - and bring him back out into the light - to break his chains.

Beethoven evokes the feelings those who have watched all those plays that portray people who are trapped - stuck - caught in situations where they are crying for freedom. It could be Les Miserables or The Shawshank Redemption - or A Christmas Carol - or The Natural - or Big - or the story of anyone who is trying to lose weight or what have you.


Being a member of the Redemptorist Congregation in the Catholic Church - having Psalm 130 - “Out of the Depths I cry to you O God” as the place where we have our motto and foundational text: “With Christ there is copious redemption” (Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio) - I am moved every time to promote FREEDOM - when I sense someone is in the depths of despair or the pits of problems!

It's the cry of every heart - la voz de la humanidad - that Waltraud Meier as Lenore and Fidelio - sings in the You Tube piece at the top of this reflection. 


We watch the evening news - with the hope of hearing Good News - to find out about an experience about someone who is freed - trapped in a coal mine cave in - or to hear Good News that unemployment has dropped another 2 percent - because we know people who are out of work. We hope for a story about someone who is freed from abuse - or a war ends - or a person who had been in prison wrongfully convicted is released from prison - and on and on and on.

As priest, unfortunately, I hear about darkness. I keep on hearing what we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel - Bad News from John 3 - when Jesus says, “… that the light came into the world, but people prefer darkness to light….” I keep on hearing about people hiding in the dark addicted to porn or alcohol or drugs or stealing or envy - and on and on - and they are crying to be redeemed - to be freed - to get out of those prisons - and the Good News is that like Lenore in Fidelio, Jesus disguised himself as one of us and came into our prison to help us to escape - to remove the chains - to set us free.


Beethoven's Opera, Fidelio, ends with Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

Joy to the World - the Lord has come.

Joy to the World - Christmas and Easter - the Lord Jesus came as a baby and came again an the Risen Lord after death to help us rise to new life - and keeps on coming to those who cry for freedom through and with and in Christ. Amen.


On Top: Waltraud Meier - a mezzo-soprano singing in Valencia, Spain. 

March  21,  2012

Quote for Today

"It is a test of a good religion whether you can joke about it."

G. K. Chesterton [1874-1936]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012



I would like to babble a bit about water this morning - just two pages - drip by drip, drop by drop. Today’s readings for the 4th Tuesday in Lent flow with water.

The first reading from Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12, always triggers images to flow in my imagination. What would it be like to stand there at this temple that has flowing water everywhere. We’ve all seen modern buildings and museums that have water walls. Whenever I see one I stop I to listen to the sound of the water hitting flowing from top to bottom. How do they do this - engineer wise?

And today’s gospel tells of the pool at the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem in the 5th Chapter of John. It’s called “Bethesda” in Hebrew. It’s a healing pool. I’ve wondered if there is any significance in the mention of the man coming there for healing for 38 years. I’m sure with 2000 or so years of pondering these gospel texts, there are various understandings.


What’s are your water stories? What are you experiences, your ponderings, thoughts, wonderings, memories, feelings about water?

Much of my life, I’ve lived near water - and it’s been a blessing - and as I said in a St. Patrick’s Day homily, my parents grew up right at the edge of Galway Bay in Ireland.

I’ve been blessed to have been stationed for 12 years on the Hudson River in upstate New York - and I walked down to it thousands of times. I didn’t have a room with a river view all the time - but you knew the river was there. I lived on the Jersey Shore - on ocean front property - with an ocean view room - for 7 years. I lived on a lake in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin for 1 year. I lived near a stream, a small one at that - in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania for 7 years. And you might know that the word “hanna” is an Native American Tribe’s word for “stream” or “river” as in Susquehanna. For going on 10 years now, I live here at Annapolis - with a window view of Spa Creek.

So I sense water. As kids we’d go down to the New York Harbor, the Narrows, every Sunday with our dad - and Coney Island all summer with our mom.

What about you and water views and ocean, lake, river, experiences?

I love to quote the following from Moby Dick by Herman Melville, “Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever…. Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he not grasps the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and ocean. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”

“Meditation and water are wedded forever….”

What are your meditations and reflections on water?

This past Sunday I got a call to visit someone who is dying. The woman’s son wanted to get his mom to the hospital because he said she was dehydrated. I saw a new born baby in the pediatric emergency section of Anne Arundel Medical Center a few days before that. The diagnosis was that the little guy was dehydrated.

A lady in the parish gave me a copy of a book by Masaru Emoto, The Hidden Messages in Water. I found the book dripping with delicious comments.

For example, this Japanese doctor of alternative medicines says, “We start our life being 99 percent water, as fetuses. When we are born, we are 90 percent water, and by the time we reach adulthood we are down to 70 percent. If we die of old age, we will be about 50 percent water. In other words, throughout our lives we exist mostly as water.” [pp xv]

If that is true, then Masaru Emoto stresses that it be smart if we have good water in our system - not just out there - but also in here - in our bodies. Stagnant water is dead water. Flow. Go. Move. Move it. Make our bodies flow.

Masaru Emoto in this book tells about his work with crystals - frozen water. Lots of people ridiculed and reject his theories and ideas. I found them fascinating. He worked for years freezing water to make crystals. Then he studied the photographs of them. If while freezing them you played Beethoven or Tchaikovsky or heavy rock music, you’d get different, very differently shaped crystals. Classical music had more beautiful crystals. The experiment that really seems weird was the one where he took a piece of paper and wrote words on it and then taped that sign to the water he was freezing. If the word had good vibes, you got beautiful crystals. It the word had negative vibes, you got definitely strange crystals - broken and disturbed. For example a sign with the words “Love and Gratitude” had most beautiful Chrystal formations - and another with the negative comment, “You fool” produced an ugly crystal.

He said, “Water has vibrations.” He added that the whole world has vibrations.


As I pondered that I realize that this is not strange. Everyone of us has a pulse - a beat - a bounce in us. Hook us up to machines in the hospital and our family around the bed hopes those numbers are right.

How about bread, wine, spinach and ginger ale? Do they all have vibes?

How about us? I preached to the kids yesterday at 4 sessions for confessions - one of my favorite questions: “What happens when you walk into a room?” Do you get an “Oh yes” or an “Oh no” vote.

What vibrations did Jesus give off when he walked into a room or at the pool at Bethesda? What does he give us today? Maybe he’s been waiting for us for 38 years? Maybe Christ wants to give us wine made from water. Maybe Christ wants us to go forth and give glasses of cold water to each other. Amen.


Picture in the middle: Tobyhanna Falls, Monroe County, Pennsylvania

Front Cover of Masaru Emoto's book, The Hidden Messages in Water, Beyond Words Publishing Company, 2001


March  20,  2012

Quote for Today

"Here are your waters 
and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again 

beyond confusion."

Robert Frost [1874-1963], Directive, 1947

Monday, March 19, 2012



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Joseph is, “Would anyone name their kid after you?”

I thought of that as a title and a theme for a homily on this the feast of St. Joseph.

I’ve never been in on the naming of a child - yet I have baptized many a child. To me a significant moment happens when the priest or deacon asks the parents, “What name do you give your child?”

I’ve heard stories where priests have erupted a bit when they heard the name the parents were going to give the child and the priest didn’t like the name. Grouch! Grouch! “It’s not a Saint's name!” Or “It has to be the name of a Saint!”

As far as I know the priest or deacon can’t do that.

Moreover, I sense that people today give as much care to the name they want to give a child as they did in the past - maybe even more today - with parents having fewer children than past generations.

That’s been my experience - hearing parents saying they take a lot of care in selecting their child’s first name - as well as their second name - if given.

I’m asking in this homily, “Would anyone name their kid after you?”


In the past some kids were named after a parent - especially a dad? Is there an equivalent for "Junior" for a  daughter who receives the same name as her mom?

In the past some kids were named after a grandparent - with a first name or a second name.

In the past some kids were given the name of a saint - and sometimes if the child is born on a Saint’s day - that name is given the child. Martin Luther was named after Martin of Tours. He was born on the feast of St. Andrew, but was baptized the next day, the feast of St. Martin of Tours. I was born on the feast of St. Andrew Avellino - so I got the name Andrew - and then my father added Jackson - because there was a story told in Ireland that Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States might have been a Catholic, if there were more priests in the United States - as in the United States south.


Since today is the feast of St. Joseph, I think of various  people I’ve known and met who were named Joseph because of St. Joseph. I’ve thought of all the kids who had the power to choose a Confirmation name and how many chose Joseph. They looked at the lives of the saints - in search of a Saint they liked - and chose Joseph because he was a man of courage and strength - a protector. I like the image of Joseph representing all those strong foundation type fathers - dads - who are quiet - but always there. That’s how I see Joseph - and to name a child that - praise God.


The title of my homily is, “Would anyone name their kid after you?”

Wouldn’t that be a great compliment?

I guess the main message for this homily then would be: “So act that people who know you - would name a child after you!”

I’ve only had one kid named after me. It wasn't a  relative. Don't my nieces like me? Don't they think "Andrew" is a great name? Smile. It was a kid named Andrew Fredholm - who was born on June 20, 1965 or that was the day Charlie Fredholm and his wife adopted him. Charlie was the kid next door - when growing up in Brooklyn New York.


March  10,  2012

Quote for the Day

"Fanaticism is ... compensation for doubt."

Robertson Davies, The Manticore, Viking, 1972

Sunday, March 18, 2012



The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B, is, “Remembering and Forgetting.”

These are 2 things we human beings do so well and so often. We forget things and persons; we remember persons and events.

Like the optimist and pessimist saying: some people only remember the mud and some people only remember the stars - and forget all the rest. How about you?

When hurting go outside on a clear night and stop to look at the stars; - if cloudy, drop into St. Mary’s Church and look at the ceiling - and sit and pray.

Remembering and forgetting ….


That’s the reality that hit me when I went through today’s readings to come up with a homily for this Sunday. Three, six, nine, forty five years ago, something else jumped out at me from the readings. As you heard today’s readings, what hit you? What questions popped up? This Sunday for me it was something in the Psalm for today: Psalm 137 - the theme of “Remembering and Forgetting.”.

As a Psalm, Psalm 137  has one of the strongest and most violent images in the Bible. Because of that, it is often skipped - or the violent verse is left out - like it is in today’s liturgy. However, once you hear it, once you hear the last verse, you won’t and don’t forget it. It comes back every time you hear the first verse of the song: “By the streams of Babylon….”

The Psalms are songs. Music plays on the strings of our memory. Someone was in love with someone - in some distant day. This day they are in a store. The music is playing. A certain song comes on. It was their song. Then they were dumped, dropped or divorced - or the loved one has died. This time that song hurts. Tell me where it hurts! Like sandpaper, the song rubs the scars in one’s soul the wrong way.

The movie Casablanca can get us every time. As time goes by …. Play it again Sam. Memories….

Psalm 137 talks about forgetting and remembering. The song writer is sitting by a stream in Babylon - an exile captured and brought north from Jerusalem. His captors taunt and torment him. They ask him to sing of song from back home. So the singer sings about sitting by the streams of Babylon weeping and crying. He sings, “We hung up our harps on the poplar trees there - because who wants to sing?” Yet the singer sings. He sings a lament - a sad song. He sings in the third verse, “May my right hand wither or be forgotten if I forget you Jerusalem.” In the next verse he sings, “May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I remember you not O Jerusalem and make you not the main joy in my life.” Then comes the last verse, which is not mentioned in this Psalm reading in church today. It’s an R rated verse because of it’s violence, The singer sends blessings on the one who takes Babylonian babies and bashes them against a rock. Talk about vengeance and mid-East and human violence. We still hear about the same kind of vengeance and violence till today.


The human brain is amazing. We remember what we want to forget. We forget what we want to remember. Some memories we can’t shake. Some things we can’t remember.

The human brain is amazing. We can recall something our Aunt said to us when we were 12 years old and when we tell our Aunt about just that - she has no clue - no memory of the moment. Good news: that conversation, that compliment we give her then becomes a grateful memory for her - that she might remember for the rest of her life - on a train or a plane - or while sitting waiting in a doctor’s waiting room.

The human brain is amazing. In our lifetime we’ve seen computers go from just a tiny bit of memory to 500 Gigabytes and now Terabytes of memory. We are amazed at times while watching Jeopardy at what we remember and at other times we feel so stupid when doing a crossword puzzle. Our own Random Access Memory is a very interesting part of our territory inside our skull - called our brain or our memory. Sometimes we marvel at it; sometimes we yell at it.


Here is a short questionnaire - just 7 questions. If at some time you want to answer them and you can’t remember what the questions are, I’ll put this on my blog - which you can access from the St. Mary’s, Annapolis, web site.

1) What is your earliest memory - and why do you think you remember that particular moment or incident?

2) What is your best memory of your mom or dad?

3) What was your biggest forget - something you wanted to say to your dad or mom or a friend - some place or event you were supposed to be at - and you totally forgot about it?

4) What is a memory of something you did that you’d love to erase or have it disappear?

5) What is something someone keeps bringing up and you wish they forgot about it?

6) What is something about you that you wish another would remember - but they seem to forget?

7) When you meet God - is there something you hope God remembers about you and is there something you want God to completely ignore and forget? Or if you think God remembers everything, then what is it that you want you and God both to have a great laugh about after you die - because you suspect you’re going to walk through death with the memory of it on your backboard?


Life is history and mystery.

Life is twists and turns.

Life is surprise and stuff around the curve that we didn’t know was there.

Life is lots of reminscing and rehashing and remembering.

Has anyone ever read the complete works of Marcel Proust [1871-1922] - Remembrance of Things Past - who seems to have written down everything that ever happened to him? Why read him when we have our own inner library to intrigue us?

In today’s first reading from the Second Chronicles - part of the historical writings of what happened to the people of Israel - we read about something that happened to them in some 500 years before Christ. It’s something that I wish would happen every other year in our world.[Cf. 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23]

If you know Jewish Biblical History you know that one of greatest moments and memories that was never forgotten and always remembered and re-enacted, was the Exodus. We know the Passover was not passed over every year - but remembered. Surprise a group of people who were enslaved escaped - passed over the waters with the hope of entering a Promised Land - a Land of Milk and Honey. The Passover Feast was celebrated every year in memory of that event - starting in that first year in the desert as we heard about in today’s gospel - with the story of Moses and the serpent in the desert.[Cf John 3: 14-21]

If you know Jewish Biblical History you also know that the Israelites were dragged out of Jerusalem and Israel in 587 BC and brought up to Babylon as heard about in today’s first reading. This was called the Babylonian Captivity and it lasted till 537 BC. Surprise Cyrus - a Persian - now Iran - conquers the Babylonians and sends an edict to send people back home.

Like our personal histories and memories - the histories and memories of the Bible go through a lot of reconstruction in the retellings - but there are rough basic truths in the stories.

I don’t say that flippantly. I say that because that was the way I was taught to understand the riches in our Biblical History - both the Jewish Covenant and the Christian Covenant. I agree with what Ulrich Neisser once said, “Most of our oldest memories are the product of repeated rehearsal and reconstruction.” [Quoted by Sharon Begley, “Memory”, Newsweek, September 29, 1986]

So the Exodus was a surprise. Slavery can end. The end of the Exile was a surprise. It ended by an edict. Isn’t that the dream of history?


I have here a piece of the rock - which I keep on one of my bookshelves in my room. It's a small plastic case with a piece of the Berlin Wall - which was up from 1961 till 1989. It came down. To me it's a symbol of hope - that walls can be removed.

I was totally surprised that the wall of Apartheid in South Africa came down without the bloodshed I expected.

Don’t we all pray and hope that surprises like that would happen in Afghanistan, Korea, Sudan, Iran, and so many other places in our world? Don’t we wish people in our families would forget something that happened 25 years ago - that those personal walls will fall? And on and on and on.


The title of my homily is, “Remembering and Forgetting.”

We come here to Mass to lift up bread and wine in memory of Jesus that we might leave Mass each time and lift up each other in memory of Jesus who lifted up so many people in his lifetime.

We come here to Mass and look at the cross and remember he said from the cross, “Father forgive them because they don’ t know what they are doing.” In other words, “Forget about it. Forget the hurts and the words and the nails that sting - and forgive one another.”

This is the stuff of Lent and the Stations of the Cross and the upcoming Holy Week and Easter celebration.

Don’t forget. Remember these moments.


March  18,  2012

Quote for Today

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it."

Michel de Montaigne [1533-1592]