Saturday, April 28, 2012


April  28,  2012

Quote for Today

"Anytime the future looks gray, I have an attic full of yesterdays."


Yesterday is from the 1965 Beatles Album, "Help".  The song had more than 1,600 cover versions. It was voted the #1 song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stones Magazine. It as performed more than 7 million times in the 20th Century.

What does the song trigger for you?

What yesterday do you return to the most in your life - your # 1 yesterday? Was it a  good day - a good moment - a good memory or a bad hurt, a bad memory, a  bad experience?

If you could relive one yesterday, one moment, what would it be?

Who was the key person in your yesterdays?

Ooops. Do you remember this song?

Friday, April 27, 2012


April  27,   2012

Quote for Today

"It pays to advertise. There are 26 mountains in Colorado that are higher than Pike's Peak."


Or is the message: do something, climb, give, explore, study, research and maybe they'll name a mountain or at least a peak or a  park or a hospital or a vaccine or a street after us.

Second attempts can also fit into the quote.  If I have it correctly, Zebulon Pike Jr. and his soldiers didn't make it to the top on the first attempt.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


April  26,  2012

Quote for Today

"If  you want to enjoy the glory of the sunrise,  
you must live through the dark night."

Something everyone knows

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



The title of my thoughts on this feast of St. Mark - April 25th - is “St. Mark’s Gospel”.


A question I like to ask people is, “What is your favorite Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?”

People, if it's something they thought about, usually say Luke or John. Less people mention Matthew or Mark. At least that's my experience.

So what is your favorite gospel?

Years ago, those who saw Alec McCowen on Broadway do The Gospel According to Mark by memory might choose Mark. Alec McCowen was a nominee for a Tony Award for his performance in 1979. He didn’t win, but those who saw that monologue remember it for life.  A priest friend of mine saw it in 1980 and again in the 1990’s and what intrigued him was the difference in Alec McCowen. Obviously, Alec McCowen had changed. Don’t we all? And as we change, as we grow, as evolve, hopefully the scriptures evolve for us - along with us.

When I was in the seminary, our New Testament professor liked Mark #1 - and didn’t like Matthew. I was surprised at that - but it opened my eyes. So I found that rather interesting at the age of 24 and 25.

I prefer John, but when we are going through Luke and Mark and Matthew, I get very interested in them as well. Aren’t we lucky if we can get to daily Mass - we have a chance to go through all 4 gospels every year?  And on Sundays we go through Mathew, Mark and Luke every 3 years - with John being inserted here and there - and especially in the Easter season. We’re in Year B now - and this is the year of Mark.


Today is the Feast of St. Mark - the patron Saint of Venice, Italy. As an aside, I went to Venice by accident in 1984. I was in the wrong car on the train to Vienna - which split at Mestre - or somewhere. As I was looking out the window,  I started to see water on both sides of the tracks. I knew this wasn’t Vienna. It must be Venice. I got off the train and walked across the platform and took the next train which was right there back to Mestre and then to Vienna.

Last September I got to Venice with a group from the parish and I was too late to get into St. Mark’s Cathedral, but I did see the famous St. Mark’s Square and the pigeons. They missed.


In my blog for today, I put the following quote:

“Canon Leon Vaganay, from Lyons, was a great specialist in textual criticism; he relished it with all the love of a keen amateur just as he practiced it with the skill of a master.  When the war years came [1939-1945]and there was no way to obtain Nestle's New  Testament, he heard his colleagues groaning about it and said to them smiling, 'Oh, that does not bother me; at the beginning of the first class, I dictate to the students a half verse from Mark, and with that we have material for the whole year.'"

It’s from Henri de Lubac’s book, At the Service of the Church: Henri de Lubac Reflects on the Circumstances That Occasioned His Writings.

I love that quote because it gives the Catholic position and attitude on how to read and mine the Scriptures: to dig into them and make them mine.

The documents of Vatican II stressed opening up the treasures of the Scriptures to all the faithful - and that has certainly happened in the last 50 years. [1]

Has it happened to you?

Do you have a Bible that is falling apart from use - duct tape and all?

Better: how has that happened to you? Do you open up a Bible on a regular basis - like 5 minutes a day - keeping a Bible next to a favorite prayer chair or spot?  Have you ever gone through a gospel, say Mark, and selected a favorite text in that gospel? Try it.  Pick 5 texts and then narrow those down to 3 and then pick 1. And then ask why does that text grab you?  What does that tell you about you to yourself? Have you ever read scriptures out loud with another? People walk together, talk together, how about reading a Bible section together? I know a couple in Pennsylvania who told me they read a chapter every night in bed before going to sleep. In fact, they said, that they finished it and started it again going backwards. Interesting.

In my blog quote for today - mentioned above - the teacher said he could spend a year on just a half verse from the Gospel of Mark. Which one was it? At first it sounded like an exaggeration, that is till I remember attending the first lecture of a semester course by Walter Burghardt who on just one verse from Genesis: “God made man in his image, in the divine image he created him; may and female he created them” [Genesis 1: 27].

Enough. Happy Feast of St. Mark.


[1] Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, (Dei Verbum), Vatican II Chapter 4; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), Chapter II

Painting on top: "St. Mark Enthroned" by Titian - around 1510-1511. It can be seen in Santa Maria della Salute Church in Venice Italy. It was commissioned because of the plague that hit Venice. Along with Saint Mark, four saints are pictured as protectors of  the city: St. Roch and St. Sebasian (arrows) on the right and St. Cosmas and St. Damian (doctors) on the left. 


April  25,  2012

Quote for Today - Feast of St. Mark

"Canon Leon Vaganay, 
from Lyons, 
was a great specialist 
in textual criticism; 
he relished it 
with all the love 
of a keen amateur 
just as he practiced it 
with the skill of a master.  
When the war years came [1939-1945]
and there was no way 
to obtain Nestle's New  Testament
he heard his colleagues 
groaning about it 
and said to them smiling, 
'Oh, that does not bother me; 
at the beginning 
of the first class, 
I dictate to the students 
a half verse from Mark, 
and with that 
we have material 
for the whole year.'"

Henri de Lubac, At the Service of the Church: Henri de Lubac Reflects on the Circumstances That Occasioned His Writings  translated by Anne Elizabeth Englund, Communio Books, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993, page 23.  The first time I read this quote and every time I read or remember or think about it, it grabs me. It puts a smile on my face - triggers the Pharisee in my mind unfortunately - when someone tells me or a group with the air of an Infallible Pronouncement or Statement what some Bible text means.

Picture on top: The opening page of the Gospel of Mark in the Book of Kells, Dublin, Ireland.

What's your favorite verse or half a verse or word  in the Gospel of Mark?

Who has taught you how to love the Bible?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



The title of my homily  for this 3rd Tuesday of Easter is, “Appetite - A Universal Wolf.”

Isn’t that an interesting image as well as intriguing words: “Appetite - A Universal Wolf”?

They are Shakespeare’s words in one of his not too familiar plays: Troilus and Cressida.  It’s a tragedy and a rather complex one at that. This mythic play takes place in ancient times - over 1000 years before Christ. It’s the 7th year of the war between the Greeks who have attacked  the city of Troy to rescue Helen who was abducted.  

Ulysses is standing there outside the tent of Agamemnon, the King and Commander-in-Chief of the Greeks. In a speech to the king he states what he sees is going on - not just here in war - but also in life. Commentators point out that Shakespeare in this play uses images and themes that are as modern as the Existential writers of the 20th century.

Ulysses comments about motivation and the drive and will for power. He talks about desire and fire and appetite: what makes people do what they do. The words, “Appetite, an universal wolf” appears in a speech by Ulysses in the first act, scene 3:

“Then everything includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat up himself.”

Shakespeare is at the heart of tragedy here. People are known to destroy themselves - whether they are lone wolves or travel in packs. They can eat themselves to death - when the will to power takes over. Then it can double itself and destroy oneself even deeper. It can be appetite for food, sex, stuff, power, control,  prestige - to look good - or what have you. 

Jesus challenges us to switch our daily prayer from, "My will be done on earth as it is in heaven." to "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

People who think and sometimes says - because it has become their mind set, “I want what I want when I want it” can end up totally destroying themselves because nobody has all the power. I’m not the only person on this planet. Traffic or children don’t always go my way.


I’m sure we have all heard many times the Native American image that we all have  two dogs inside us - the good dog and the bad dog. Then Native American teachers  like to point out that these dogs are fighting at times. And we know if and when asked, “Which dog wins?” the answer is,  “The one we feed.” 


The last words of today’s gospel triggered these thoughts. Jesus talks about hungering and thirsting. And then he says, “Whoever comes to me, whoever eats me, as the Bread of Life, will never hunger and thirst.”  [Cf. John 6:35.]


As I read Jesus I read that he’s saying - especially in John - that he can feed us. He can fulfill our deepest hungers and deepest thirsts.

In looking up the words, hunger, thirst, desire and appetite, I discovered in a thesaurus that phrase from Shakespeare, “And appetite, an universal wolf.” I never heard that before.

Is Shakespeare saying that there is a wolf inside of us - the universal wolf - and it is hungry? It wants. It howls for power over anything that gets in its way. We know that. We’ve all felt the power of our desires, our appetites, our addictions, our hungers and our thirsts.

I can picture that wolf inside of me howling at times. 

Then that picture - that image of the wolf -  triggered Jesus’ words about him being the Good Shepherd. Jesus, unlike the Hired Hand, is a Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for me - his lost or dumb sheep at times. [Cf. John 10: 1-21]

Then -  following the Native American image - I found myself jumping to the image of the 2 dogs inside of me. Maybe - instead of those 2 dogs - I have a sheep - a dumb sheep called me inside me - along with a howling wolf called me inside me.

Then I picture and imagine Jesus the Good Shepherd saving me from myself. Praise God. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Those are a few images to bring to prayer today. Pause every once and hear the “Woof! Woof!” inside ourselves. Better: pause every once and a while and heart the howl and the “Baa bah bah!” inside of me. Then hear Jesus say, “I am with you all days - even to the end of the world.”


[Pictures: On top: The Lone Wolf - found on line. Black and White: 1795 engraving by Luigi Schiavonetti, after a 1789 painting by Angelica Kauffman.]

April  24,  2012

Quote for Today

"The history of the world from the beginning has been the history of the struggle for daily bread."

Jesue de Castro

Monday, April 23, 2012

[Self Test # 7]

[This was a homily or a self test or a reflective questionnaire for our St. Mary's High School Mass today. I noticed in the Lectionary for April 23, one of the options was the gospel for the feast of St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr. It was John 10:11-16 - "A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."]

Who would you rather be: a Good Shepherd or a scared Hired Hand who runs away when he hears the sounds of wild wolves - or wild dogs in the night?

Who would you rather be: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Blake Griffin, Jeremy Lin, or Nelson Mandela?

Who would you rather be: Madonna or Lady Ga Ga or Pat Summit or Brittany Griner or would you rather be Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest for almost 15 years - received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 - and finally was released on November 13, 2010. Her party recently won 43 out of the 45 vacant seats in the lower house of parliament in Myanmar (Burma)?

Who would you rather be: J. K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins or Jennifer Lawrence?

Who would you rather be: George Zimmerman or Treyvon Martin?

Who would you rather be: the bug or the windshield, the Louisville Slugger, the bat, or the ball as the old song, “The Bug” - sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter - goes?

Who would you rather be: the kid graduating from kindergarten this spring or the kid graduating from high school this spring?

Who would you rather be: the cheerleader or the manager of the sports team?

Who would you rather be like: your mom or your dad?

Who would you rather be: the lobster or the clam?

Who would you rather be: the tortoise or the hare?

Who would you rather be: the sheep or the goat?

Who would you rather be" the welcome mat at your front door or the comfort blankie the 3 year older can’t let go of - even though it’s covered with rips and spills and stains of washed out poops or “Ooops!” or who knows what?

Who would you rather be: the famous artist who did the painting on the wall - hanging in the National Art Gallery or the guard in the dark blue uniform who stands there watching 1000 people every day and 10,000 on weekends - go by that painting - telling people what time it is and where the bathrooms are - every time with a smile and a “How do you do”?

Who would you rather be: the kid who goes to the community college, even though her parents wanted her to go to State - but by going to Community, she ended up meeting her husband to be and finally finished her college 21 years later - after their 4th kid got into high school and they love going to Davis’ pub once a month, the beach every summer or would you rather be the kid who went to an Ivy league school - and his or her parents wonder where he or she is now - after dropping out of 3 alcoholic rehab places so far?

Who would you rather be: the Prodigal Son in the story who came home after messing up his life and asked his father’s forgiveness or the older brother who never messed up - but wouldn’t forgive his younger brother when he came home after messing up his life?

Who would you rather be: a plumber who doesn’t mind - well doesn’t mind most of the time - when he’s called up at two o’clock in the morning to come and fix a broken pipe in a bathroom or a philosopher like Benjamin Williams whom a high school senior named Harrison Smith loves to read?

Who would you rather be: a skateboard or a ten speed bike?

Who would you rather be: an Easter Lily that lasts two weeks - and sits there in church singing Alleluia like a horn or would you rather be a desert cactus still surviving, still growing, mostly unnoticed, but celebrates whenever it gets a bit of water, even though it stings or cuts someone every once and a while?

Who would you rather be: a shotgun or a policeman’s bullet proof vest?

Who would you rather be: a priest or a nun celebrating 25 years of service or a married couple celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary?

Who would you rather be: an 87 foot yacht that sleeps 32 people or a tiny sail boat that seats 2, but can be pulled to a dock on a small car trailer?

Who would you rather be in the case found on page 76 in M.S. Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled: “Imagine two generals, each having to decide whether or not to commit a division of ten thousand men to battle. To one the division is but a thing, a unit of personnel, and instrument of strategy and nothing more. To the other it is these things, but he is also aware of each and every one of the ten thousand lives and the lives of the families of each of the ten thousand.”

Who would you rather be: a 17 year old girl in Minnesota who got pregnant - put her baby up for adoption and went on to become a doctor and her baby she finds out 27 years later also became a doctor, surprise, surprise or would you rather be a 17 year old girl in Wilmington who got pregnant and had her baby aborted and she too became a doctor?

Who would you rather be the kid over there in that other bench here in this church or would you rather be the person in your skin, in your clothes, in your seat, with your story so far?


April  23,  2012

Quote for Today

"In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths."

Graham Green [1904-1991], The Heart of the Matter [1948], Part I, Chapter 2, Section iv

Sunday, April 22, 2012



The title of my homily is, “How Jesus Was Made Known In The Breaking of Bread.”

On this Third Sunday of Easter I think the gospel reading wants to get at the theme of recognizing Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread - okay fish is sometimes part of the story.

Listen again to the opening sentence in today’s gospel: “The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

I think one goal for today’s readings is get us to say, “I know him” as today’s second reading puts it - and as today’s first reading puts it - that Jesus is seen as the holy and the right one - that he is seen as the author of life.


On Easter Sunday, the Sunday readings for Years A, B and C are all the same. The theme is that Jesus is not in the tomb. He is Risen.  

On the Second Sunday of Easter - last Sunday - we have the Doubting Thomas story for Years A, B, and C. 

This Sunday - the Third Sunday of Easter, in Years A and B,  the gospel readings are different. Yet they are Part One [Year A] and Part Two [Year B] of the Emmaus Story where the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. 

The gospel for Year C, next year - on this Third Sunday of Easter,  we’ll hear about the disciples fishing all night and catching nothing.  Jesus is on the beach making breakfast for them. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus they don’t recognize Jesus right away. When he yells to them - where to cast their nets, when they get a net full of fish, they know he’s the Risen Lord. They rush to the beach, eat some of the fish they caught, but in the midst of the words we hear about bread which Jesus gives them at that breakfast. That’s significant. 

In this homily, I’d like to reflect on discovering Jesus, in the breaking of the bread.


Do we remember our first communion? Some Catholic adults do - especially if they are converts and they come into the Church as adults.

I remember going through our family photo albums and seeing the pictures of the 4 of us kids in our First Communion outfits. 

I vaguely remember getting a dollar from my godmother - and aunt Nan. For a 7 year old kid in 1947 in Brooklyn, one dollar was a lot of money. 

I loved those 2 cent chocolate candies - unwrapped - behind the glass counter - eye high for a 7 year old kid - in the shape of an ice cube or a tiny casket  - raspberry inside - chocolate outside.

They were to be bought  in a candy story on 5th Avenue - between 60 and 61st Street

One dollar would get you 50 of those - but I had to save money for other stuff like an egg cream. 

The soda parlor was just a walk across the avenue from the candy store - climb with effort to get up on one of those dark red vinyl silver spinning stools - and then put my elbows a bit on the marble counter - and announce and pronounce, “An egg cream please.”

 I realize that people who have not been blessed in life to have come from Brooklyn - might never have tasted the delight of an egg cream - which had neither egg nor cream. It was simply milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer.

I remember those moments - vaguely - but being a 2 cent raspberry chocolate  and an egg cream addict  - the many injects into my mouth with that good stuff - that all runs together - and I might be mixing up older and more conscious moments with earlier memories - like the guy or gal making the egg cream and beating that egg cream together in its glass - with a noisy spoon hitting against the inner sides of the glass. 

Life is a big mix - a big stirring of lots of moments - hopefully lots of sweet tasting moments and memories.

Communion - receiving my first communion - I’m sure I looked forward to it. One of the benefits of going on for many First Communions as a priest  - like going to weddings - or confirmations or funerals - one has triggered inside one’s memory a whole album full of various memories - all mushed and mixed and stirred together.

When I see a little kid 3, 4, 5, 6 years old come with a parent at communion time and reach and want whatever his or her parents are getting, I wonder: “Was that me? Did I too do that - that reaching for the bread?”  

Then the wondering: “What did I think when I received communion for the first time? Were my hands still folded in prayer? Did I have my eyes closed? Did I peek to see what others were doing? Did I have a clue about the Sacred - about Jesus? Did I know what I was doing? 

When did I realize this is Jesus coming into our hearts and minds and soul and being and substance?

Looking back I don’t know when it was the first time I knew Jesus was in the bread. To make and to have that belief is quite a belief - and all of us here this morning have that belief. Amazing. Who would believe what we believe: Jesus, the Risen Lord - our God -  is present in the Tiny Piece of Bread?

Last Sunday I preached that it’s normal to have doubts about that and various other things. That’s normal. 

The Sunday before that - Easter Sunday - I preached on Faith. Faith and doubt - like two hands at the bottom of our arms - hopefully they work together so we can pick things up.

However, any time you have any doubts about Jesus’ presence in the bread,  just grab 10 minutes and read Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. Break that chapter apart like you would break bread and then chew on the words - and digest faith in Jesus' presence that he is "the bread of God" "which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" [John 6;33].

One of the great, great learnings about scripture that changed my thinking big time was this: the gospels are finalized well after the year 60 - the earliest Gospel being Mark - perhaps the last one being John - but maybe not. The gospels  tell  us more about  what was happening in the Early Church than in the life of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John took the words and scenes of Jesus and then textured, placed, wrote up what Jesus did - for a community of folks a good 30 years at least after the life of Jesus. I don’t know if that hits you. The gospels are an archaeological site to dig and discover - and then to know and understand what was happening in the early church and to see how they saw the Life of Christ in their lives.

And since they talk about bread and not immediately recognizing Jesus in the bread - that tells us that this was an Early Church growing and developing moment. People in that Early Church community were struggling with what they were hearing: Jesus is present somehow in the mystery of the bread.

It would take centuries - with fights and struggles - splits and splintering in the Church - before folks came up with words like transubstantiation for how Jesus is present in the bread - and consubstantial that all 3 persons in the Trinity are God.


Faith takes time.

It takes us long after our First Communion to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the Bread - if we started receiving as a cradle Catholic.  

Faith is a process. 

We might have seen our parents bringing us to church. We saw them take the holy water and put some on us - with the sign of the cross. We saw them genuflecting to Christ in the tabernacle. At Communion time in the Mass we might have been carried up with them as they walked up  to receive Holy Communion. We saw them put their tongue or hand out to reach out to receive this Bread. We sensed that something was different here.

Then we made our First Communion and our 1000th Communion and somewhere along the line we began to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the Bread - some days more than others.

Because we’re taking the parish census this week, I want to end here - but first I want to tag that some other time, I want to go off on further wonderings. For example,  I wonder: when did Jesus came up with this idea of being bread? Did he want to be with us at every supper and every breakfast - and every time we go out the door to catch fish and we catch nothing or we get it all?  Did he watch people break bread and share it with others?  Did he go further back and imagine the whole process of bread becoming bread and on and on and on? 

Enough already. 

It’s good to watch the stir and the swirl of images in our memory - like the person behind the counter putting together an egg cream for us - to do all this before they put us in our tiny casket. Then hopefully we'll wake up the next moment or 3 days later or however this works to the real thing - to the eternal banquet - where we’ll be fed the finest bread - hopefully leavened - because there will be not more rush as in life. Amen. 

April  22,  2012

Quote for Today

"God himself dare not appear to a hungry man except in the form of bread."