Saturday, April 14, 2012


April  14,  2012

Quote for Today

"Bach opens a vista 
to the universe.
After experiencing him,

people feel 
there is meaning
to life after all."

Helmut Walcha

Friday, April 13, 2012


He was praying all the way home….
He was scared at what his wife had
just said on the phone about their son….
"Our life is about to change," she said.
Their son's marriage had just fallen apart ….
"Oh, my GOD, there are children involved.
Oh my GOD, what did we do wrong?
Now what? Now what? Now what?"

"Oh my GOD," he realized, “I’m always
praying to YOU without knowing it.
I’m always praying to YOU? I'm scared.
Does everybody do this to YOU too?
Does everybody come running to YOU
when hurting - like a child whose
parents have just broken apart? GOD!
Now what? Now what? Now what?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012

She was wondering ….
At the playground she was wondering,
“Who is that mother over there - the one
with the cell phone?” She wondered
whom was she talking to - for these
ten, twenty, thirty minutes - at least.
Laughing. Lots of laughing.
The whole time she was pushing
her little girl on the park swing -
steady, steady - swinging
her little girl up high into the air -
towards the sky. Yet it seemed she
really was not  here in this tiny park
at the bottom of our street. It seemed
she was not seeing her daughter’s face -
who was tasting, feeling, eating the air -
as she went through space. Talk
about multi-tasking. All the while
her mom was still on the phone.
Then her mom took her to the slide
helped her to the top of the ladder -
picked her up at the bottom a
half dozen times - and let her slide
down again and again and again.
It seemed she was missing seeing
her daughter’s face on every ride
that she took her too. Surprise.
Then she realized that she too
was somewhere else. She was
watching the lady with the phone
and she missed ten, twenty, thirty,
looks and waves from her son on
swings and then the slide and then
in a duel with sticks with two other
little boys - over at the edge of the
tiny park. Then she wondered:
“Are we always somewhere else?
Are we all always wondering
about someone else’s somewhere
or someone else and miss those
swinging or sliding right in front of us?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


She was watching TV ….
She was watching these 5 candidates - 
all running for the same political office.
She began to notice the times they put
their hand to their face. Was it because 
they knew -  that what they were saying -
wasn’t them. It was something they were
told to say - to do better in the polls.
They would rub an ear or take their index finger
and scratch the skin below an eye,
or pat down the back of their head -
or with 2 fingers and their thumb
itch their chin a bit. She said to her husband,
“Did you ever notice how politicians
are always touching their face in a debate
or during a question and answer session?”
Without looking out from behind his paper,
he said, "Lots of times."  And he rubbed
the edge of his nose. Then she added,
“I think that guy who made Pinocchio had it right.
They usually touch their nose.
Who said we need lie detectors?”
And sure enough 1 of the 5 dropped out
of the race 3 days later. Someone checked up
on something he said and found out it was false.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


He was a priest.
He wanted to be one
ever since his second year in college ….
He was ordained at the age of 29 and immediately
was sent to study Church or Canon Law ….
He worked in the Bishop’s office for 22 years ….
He wore the French cuffs….
He always said the right stuff….
His shoes were always shiny black.
He never stepped on toes.
He was made a bishop in his early 50’s ….
He was moved to a bigger diocese at 55 ….
His desk was always neat ….
He never sat in the wrong seat ….
He was moved to Rome at 60 ….
He saw important people every day ….
He was made a Cardinal at 63 ….
He started to cry at 66 ….
He didn’t know what it was or why ….
He thought his empty room was too, too empty….
He thought the Roman ceilings were too, too high….
He picked up a book at an airport once -
Selected Poems by Langston Hughes
and read the following poem,


Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks on it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
When there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down in the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now --
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

He put down the book
and cried all the way back to Rome -
wishing he had a home somewhere ….
He was named Pope the following year ….
He became a father and a mother
for the first time in his life ….
And he slowly knew why he was crying
and why he was climbing - - finally
after all those years  ….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


He loved baking bread -
kneading, rolling, squeezing,
pushing his body into the dough -
and then to hear at supper,
at table, “More bread!
This is delicious! Thank you!”
And he would make extra loaves
of bread for neighbors for free -
and he would hear thanks from them
when they spotted him 
on the street during the week.
All this was brought out
in the eulogy at his funeral.
And his wife and kids saved
that last loaf - well half a loaf -
which is better than none -
as they say - from his last supper
with them - and then came the
heart attack that last night -
that last supper with him.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


She liked to eat - but she ate 
too much. She knew that.
She could feel the weight
on her butt - but that
didn’t stop her. She felt the
pressure on her knees. That
didn’t stop her either.

She began spotting articles
about weight loss and eating
smart - but that brought guilt
and comparisons which
made her eat even more.

If she heard it once, she
heard it twenty times: “It’s
not what you eat; it’s
what’s eating you.” And
every time she laughed
at that one - saying,
“It’s what you eat!” 

Then she met someone
and she took off 38 pounds.
Then she had a t-shirt made
with the words, “It’s not what
you eat, but whom you meet!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


He always wanted to be a coach,
even when he was a player ….
Then when he made it, when
he was hired, he began to feel
the tough of it - the decisions -
to cut players - to bench ego’s -
to field the best - realizing this
meant the wrath of parents -
the nasty chanting of fans -
when the team was going
through a slump - yet he hung
in there - with Harry Truman’s
words on his office desk. “If you
can’t stand the heat, get out of
the kitchen.” That helped, but
what really helped was a poem
his wife read to him from Mary Oliver:


I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.

Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.

I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out

Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn
I have entered

The hen house.

* Mary Oliver, New and  Selected Poems
Volume One, Page  211

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


She was a working mom
all those years - but didn’t
think she was really working -
just raising kids - taking them
to the park - and then driving,
driving them everywhere.
Some shopping was work;
some shopping was fun.
She liked supermarkets
with a baby in the cart
in front of her - that was
always a conversation starter,
but it became a nuisance
once her boys could walk.
They could be wanderers
in the  supermarket aisles.
Cooking - no problem. She
loved to cool. Cleaning - no.
Then when the kids were
in school - it was second career
time. Surprise she flourished.
She liked being an accountant,
the degree she got and never used.
Well, better say it here in this story,
there are no surprise happenings.
Just life. A husband and a wife -
still talking about when they retire.
In the meanwhile, those tuition
bills and college costs pitter
patter on their radar screen.
Ooops! What about weddings?
Life - for some. Then there is
the Sudan - and Afghanistan.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012

He was thinking ….
That was her complaint about him.
He was thinking.
He was a quiet guy.
When she’d ask, “A penny for
your thoughts?” he’d just say,
“Oh just thinking. Just thinking.”
That is what bothered her and she
let him know this on a regular basis.
So he thought about this constant
complaint of her’s, He tried to tell
her what was going on at work
- the power struggles going on there -
but she’d jump in and cut him off
and tell him what he ought to do.
Then he’d think about that and
say to himself, “It ain’t worth it.
It ain’t worth it. She really doesn’t
want to think with me.”
Then he’d think about
why he tended to repeat,
repeat, what he was thinking.
Then he laughed. She gets
mad with my doing too much
thinking?  I even get mad
at too much thinking.
Think about that.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012

He was always smiling…
and laughing as well - and
some people he knew in court
thought this was wrong. Judges
are always supposed to be serious.
You know the old saying,
“As serious as a judge!”
He’d counter - “But sometimes
it’s funny - the things people do.”
And he’d laugh all the way
to beginning of a trial. Then
as he walked into court
he’d put on his serious face.
Then came the horror stories.
And every once and a while,
he make a funny comment.
And he thought it was funny
that people didn’t know that
sometimes there is something
funny even in the midst
of the biggest tragedy.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


She simply walked away ….
It was something she saw her dad do too …
simply walk away. Not a big deal….
When things get testy, just walk away.

Her mom would be criticizing her dad ….
When it became too much, he just 
walked away. So when her mom started
on her … she too simply  - walked away.

Their dog, now alone, seeing dad
and daughter gone -  knew it was
his turn to deal with a screaming mom,
so he started scratching the tile floor and
and then the back door - till she opened it
and he walked and wandered away.

Finally her mom - the yeller - figured
it out. Nobody was left to yell at.
So that day she took off her apron
and her scowl, opened the front door
and she too simply - walked away.

Surprise that night - all were back home -
including their dog.  Mom apologized for how
she was treating them lately. First time dad
or daughter ever heard that. Then mom
began laughing - first time they saw that too.
She told them that after they left she was
standing there with nobody left to yell at
but herself. Not wanting to hear herself yelling,
so she too walked away. Then three streets
away from herself, she saw how ridiculous
she could be so she walked back home to be
her old self again. And all hugged each other
and laughed. Then dad said with a smile,
“Anybody want to go for a walk…?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


April  13,  2012

Quote for Today

"Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he [or she] inhabits."

Fulton J. Sheen [1895-1979]

Thursday, April 12, 2012


April  12, 2012

Quote for Today

"Remember that a man's [or woman's] name is to him [or her] the sweetest and most important sound in the English language."

Dale Carnegie

Questions: Any comments on this statement by Dale Carnegie?

Could reflection upon it lead us to more respect of each other?

Could it get us to ask another, "When calling you, what  name do you prefer?" "Is there any name you don't like?"

What does one do - if one doesn't think one's name is the sweetest and most important sound in the English or any language?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


April  11,  2012

Quote for Today

"Some Christians are like porcupines. They have many fine points but it's hard to get next to them."

Vance Havner

Tuesday, April 10, 2012



The title of my homily for this Easter Tuesday  is, “What Do You Want? Whom Do You Want?”


As you know we get a lot of the Gospel of John at Easter time.

Last Saturday when I was putting together a homily for Easter Sunday I noticed something without looking for it. That happens. I noticed sort of accidentally that the Easter Sunday Gospel from John, Chapter 20: 1-9, has a similar scene in Chapter 1: 35-39 of John - the scene where Andrew - a disciple of John the Baptist has Jesus pointed out to him - and Andrew goes right up to Jesus who says to him, “What do you want?” It’s translated that way and a few other various ways in English from the Greek - but that’s the basic meaning. “What do you want? What are seeking? What are you looking for?”

Last night as I was preparing a homily for this morning I noticed that today’s gospel text is a continuation of Sunday’s gospel - John 20: 11-18. Having more time than last Saturday I did some further research on the text.

My first question was whether the Greek had the same word for “wanting” or “seeking” in both those texts: chapter 1 and chapter 20.

It does: the Greek verb is “ZETEO”.

Then I wondered if the Greek was different for “What” and “Whom”. It is. The difference is, “TI” and “TINA”. In John 1:38 we read, “TI ZETETE” “What do you want?” and in John 20: 15 we read, “TINA ZETEIS” “Whom are you seek?”

I checked commentaries on the Gospel of John. Nobody comments on the nuance I just mentioned. That makes me nervous, because I neither a Greek scholar nor a Biblical scholar.

However, I dabble and babble in both.

I have no clue if anyone of you is interested in these tiny tidbits.

Next I did notice that several commentaries did compare both texts - John 1 and John 20 when in both scenes we spot the word “Rabbi”. However, it’s more intimate or friendlier here in John 20 when Jesus is called “Rabbouni”.

So that was a nice discovery for me. We were taught to read the scriptures and look for parallels. I finally spotted this one after all these years. What else is in the scriptures that I haven’t noticed yet?


So I noticed that Chapter One has the question: “What are you looking for?” - the question of Jesus to Andrew and Chapter 20 has the question Jesus asks Mary, “Whom” are you looking for?”

Now I began wondering if the author of John is making a point here: that some people ask what and some ask whom.

Is it true that some people are searching for a what and some people spend their life searching for a whom - a person?

Is it the “Subject vs. Object” topic or the “It vs. The Thou” question that Martin Buber was off on.?

I don’t know. It’s something that hit me last Saturday and again last night - so I have to keep reflecting upon all this.


The title of my homily is, “What Do You Want? Whom Do You Want?”

In this homily, I’m asking several questions: “Is everyone a wanter? Do some people want a what and do some people want a whom? Do men want a what and women want a whom?

Do men want a religion, a system, a plan, a blueprint and women want a person?

Do some people want a person who will give them a what?

I don’t know. I’m throwing these questions out to you as well. Maybe one of these questions will hook you - which the question mark is crafted into: a hook?

Maybe some of you are thinking these are all “What” questions and “What comments”.

Maybe some of you are thinking about what you are going to do today; maybe some of you are thinking about whom you are going to meet or be with today.

Maybe one of you is thinking: “What is he talking about today?”

Maybe one of you is thinking, “Whom is he talking about today?”


April 10,  2012

Quote for Today

"The quickest way to get a lot of undivided attention is to make a mistake."


Do you spot mistakes more than a flawless presentation or appearance?

Monday, April 9, 2012


April  9,  2012

Quote for Today

"One dog barks at something, and a hundred bark at the sound."

Chinese Proverb


Some questions:

What does this proverb mean to you?

What are you barking about?

What are you repeating that is not you?

What's your most important bark?

Is your bark worse than your bite?

Did you ever find yourself barking up the wrong tree? What was that story? Have you ever told anyone about that one?

If you asked the 3 key people in your life - what they thought you were off on - what your bark is about - what would they tell you?

Have you ever been an incredibly annoying barking dog? What was that about?

Who listens to you - to your barks?

Sunday, April 8, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Faith! It Takes Time!”

Is the Easter message in the gospel we just heard exactly that: Faith! It Takes Time.

Mary of Magdala - on that first day of the week - is the first one - according to The Gospel of John - who goes to the tomb early in the morning - while it was still dark - and sees that the stone has been removed from the tomb. The tomb is empty.

Uh oh! Now what? This is stuff of story. This is the stuff of mystery. What’s next?

As we look at our life - our faith life - what have been the moments just like that - when we expected the obvious - or the regular - and we came around the bend or into a room or into a place and - uh oh, surprise is there. Now what? What’s next?

It might have been an upper or it might have been a downer - a mountain top experience or a desert moment - and agony or an ectasy.

What would it be like to go to cemetery three days after the funeral and the grave is empty? There is a big empty hole in the ground?

Uh oh? Now what? What’s next?

In today’s gospel story - Mary of Magdala runs to the men - to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved - and tells them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb….”

Peter and the other disciple run - and if you listen carefully to all the tiny details in the story - the other disciple gets there first - but lets Peter who gets there second - go into the tomb first - but the other disciple is the one who sees and is the first to believe.

Then today’s gospel ends with the words, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”

Is the message the obvious: “Faith! It Takes Time”?


Next Sunday’s gospel - which for centuries was called, “Doubting Thomas Sunday” - we’ll hear the story about Thomas needing time till he gets it. It being faith.

Next Sunday is now also being called, “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Some people stay back - can’t open the door for the Lord - can’t knock on God’s door - because of mistakes - sins - hurts - disasters - my own or others towards me. Their script is: “I can’t forgive ________.” Fill in the blank with “God”, “another”, or “myself.”

So some doubt that God or that Christ is God - besides being human and rose from the dead. Or some doubt that they can forgive or be forgiven and experience mercy.

Life - love - forgiveness - faith - mercy - learning how to driver a car, picking up the ability to type or text or Skype or Wii or understand each other. All of the above. All take time.

Faith! It Takes Time.

Some get it before others.


My question as priest has always been: what are the hooks?

What would get people to run to this church?

If you come to church every week, what is it that you have discovered? What grabs you? What do you find here? “If you say, ‘I’m hooked”, what hooked you?

I keep hearing that we have about 15,000 plus folks - about 5000 families - registered in this parish - on the books - as they say - but obviously - all don’t come every Sunday - and we have visitors every week, praise God. What have you found? What are you still looking for? What are you running after? What have you caught? Where are your graves? Where do you feel fulfilled? Where are you empty places? What stones have to be rolled back for you? What have you found in your emptiness which is filling you?

I know some of the reasons why people stop coming to church: boredom, laziness, hurt, it doesn’t make sense - or there’s the better. Breakfast with a New York Times, a good bagel, toasted - with strawberry cream chess and two good cups of coffee. They taste better than a letter from Paul to the Corinthians, or a tiny tasteless piece of bread - unleavened - and a sip of wine sometimes.

I know the horror stories. Somebody yelled - or denied - or didn’t listen. I know the priest abuse stories have not helped. Worse: they have solidified some of those who have dropped out so they stay out.

When I was still in my late 20’s - a long time ago - I took course on TV on propaganda - every morning at 6 AM - for about 3 months. What I learned the loudest was this: propaganda is not about getting new converts - as much as it is to solidify those who are already in one’s camp or one’s party.

I assume that those of you who are in politics know this loud and clear. I assume that those of you who are in sales know this loud and clear. Some people buy Chevrolet’s for life. They are satisfied with what they got - and they want it again, and again, and again. I’ve heard people swear by Camry’s - so I wondered when they were having trouble there a few years ago - did some other brand take over for some folks? Why do you buy what you buy?

Why don’t you buy what you don’t buy?

I read Andre Papineau’s book, Sermons for Sermon Haters. I read David Burchett’s book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. I read several times, Juan Arias’ book, The God I Don’t Believe In. I read Patricia Barbernitz’s book, Parish Ministry for Returning Catholics. I read Paul Wilkes book, Excellent Catholic Parishes - The Guide to Best Places and Practices - and obviously I hoped that St. Mary’s Annapolis would be featured. Nope.

Yet we were happy to notice that in the latest issue of U.S. Catholic magazine, St. Mary’s Annapolis is listed as a Megaparish here in the United States. St. Ann Parish in Coppel, Texas is listed as having 8,971 families, 16 Paid Employees, 7 Weekend Masses, and an annual budget of $1.3 million; St. Matthew Parish in Charlotte, North Carolina is listed as having 8,703 families, 8 weekend masses, and an annual budget of $6.1 million; St. Mary’s Parish, Annapolis, Maryland is listed as having 4,735 families, 37 Paid Employees, 13 Weekend Masses, and an annual budget of $14 million.

I didn’t notice if the first 3 had schools. I do know Catholic schools are expensive - and a priest friend of mine told me he was pastor of a parish that had a lively school. He finished up there - the school was closed - and ten years of so later - he got stationed there once again. The parish had gone down big time. His learning: Catholic Schools can help a parish big time. Father Andrew Greeley has been saying that forever.

I liked what I read about St. Matthew’s in Charlotte, North Carolina. The pastor, Monsignor John McSweeney is quoted: “McSweeney says the secret to getting parishioners to overcome the feeling of anonymity is to put the parish’s resources into welcoming new members. ‘There were 25,000 here at Christmas. That can scare some people,’ he says. ‘The size can be intimidating to people when they first come here, but because of our ongoing sense of welcoming and reaching out to each other, it breaks down the barriers real fast.’”

Welcome! I hope all of you feel welcome here at St. Mary’s when you come here. I hope you feel welcome by the priests, ushers, the office, the parishioners - especially at the ends of benches. Surprise. People at ends of benches sometimes have very smart reasons to sit on their ends. I hope our Hispanic brothers and sisters feel welcome. Last night at the Easter Vigil - the group who came into our church were a goodly number of Hispanics - equal to our non-Hispanics. I love the hymn, “All Are Welcome. All are Welcome in this place.” I hope all feel the truth of that - not just in song. I would hope some are singing that in their car on the way home or in the shower.

As one of the priests here, I hope you feel welcome by the Redemptorist priests here. The lists in the U.S. Catholic magazine article don’t list the number of priests in these big parishes - except for us - in a quote from our pastor, Father John Tizio. I assume with the priest shortage, they get priests from nearby seminaries or universities -or retired priests for weekend helping out.

I know the old rule about anyone: 1/3 like you; 1/3 don’t like you; 1/3 really don’t care. Having 8 different priests who say Mass and hear confessions here certainly better help. There’s more than 1 channel on every TV set the last time I looked. And we put who has what Mass and who is hearing confession on line. I hope several click for you.


As I reflected up all this - and often do - today’s gospel hit me loud and clear. On Good Friday evening I mentioned in my homily that I accidently found an article about a conference on preaching and in the article there was the key comment on what the goal of preaching is. I thought it was, "No coughs! Nobody falls asleep! Nobody looks at their watch." Nope. The article said:  “The goal is to get someone in the parish to say, ‘I know myself in that story.’”

“I know myself in that story.”

When you heard today’s gospel story of Mary of Magdala, did you sense down deep, “I know myself in that story.”

If your story is Mary of Magdala story - I would hope when you come into church - you would not experience it as an empty tomb - or an empty tabernacle - or an empty ritual - or empty chalice and empty ciborium - or empty readings with empty words - or and empty pulpit or empty preacher, altar, or parish - but you would experience what happened to this Mary of Magdala.

Today’s gospel ends at verse 9 - Chapter 20 of John: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”

Then John says in verse 10: “The disciples then went home again.”

That’s how today’s gospel ends - kind of empty - but it has a few hints of what is to come.

But the story doesn’t end there. John tells us that the men went home. Then in verse 11, we read that Mary didn’t. She stayed there outside the tomb weeping. Then she hears messages, angels, voices, something, asking her why she is weeping. Then she turns and there is someone there. She thinks the man is a gardener. He asks her the big life question, “Who are you looking for?”

In the beginning of the gospel of John, Chapter 1, Jesus asks Andrew and an unnamed disciple of John the Baptist, “What are you looking for?” Andrew or the other disciple answers, “Where do you live?” Jesus answers, “Come and see!” And they do. They experience this in Chapter 1 of the Gospel of John - the beginnings of Jesus in their lives. Andrew goes to his brother Peter and says the next morning, “We have found the Messiah - which means the Christ”. And Andrew brings his brother to Jesus.

By Chapter 20 - today’s gospel from John - Peter is not there yet - but he’s about to become the Peter we hear in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles - proclaiming Jesus - the Risen Lord - to our world.

Faith. It takes time.


April 8,  2012

Quote for Today - Easter Sunday

"The steps of faith 
fall on the seeming void 
and find rock beneath."

John Greenleaf Whittier [1807-1892]

Helen Reddy singing "I Don't Know How to Love Him" - the Mary Magdalene song from Jesus Christ Superstar.