Saturday, June 23, 2012


June  23,  2012  Quote for Today

"A person is measured 
          by what they do 
                  with power."

Pittacus [650? - 569? B.C.]


If someone asked you to name your 3 key strengths or powers, what would they be?

Have you ever felt someone used their powers to overpower you - or to put you down - or use you to build themselves up?  Was it their looks? Was it their money?  Was it their intelligence?  Was it their age?

What's your take on Philippians 2: 5b-11?

Friday, June 22, 2012


June 22, 2012   Quote for Today

"In the last 4000 years of history,  there have been but  268 years entirely free from war."


Painting on top: "Study for the Rescue of the Colors," 1899 by William T. Trego (1859-1909) - whose work  was on exhibit at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania - from June 4th till October 2, 2011.

Questions: At this time we are not only looking at the War of 1812 [200 years], but we also keeping in mind the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  Have you done any reading or attended any reenactments or presentations on either of these wars that took place on our soil.

Looking at the quote for today, what's your take on it? Is it correct? What was considered a war? Could there have been a power grab and some big time infighting in some place in China or Africa or South America that was never recorded in written history?

What about family wars and fights?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


June  21,  2012   Quote for Today

"Once I tried to explain to a fellow feminist why I liked wearing makeup: she replied by explaining why she does not.  Neither of us understood a word the other said."

Nora Ephron,  "On Never Having Been a Prom Queen,  August 1972, Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women, 1975

Observations: Looking back at yesterday, re-look at a moment, when the above was true for you.  Look in the mirror, looking into your own eyes, say, "Hi in there!" Ask, "How are you today!" Ask, "What's going on?" Ask, "What's happening?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


June 20,  2012   Quote for Today

"The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous."

Shana Alexander, The Feminist Eye: Neglected Kids - The Bright Ones, 1970


Who makes you nervous?  What makes you nervous?  Where were you in your class rankings?  Were they accurate? Were they fair?  When you haven't prepared - and another or others have - what happens to your self perception?  Where do you feel you are excellent?  Where do you feel adequate?  Where and when do you feel inadequate? Does anyone make you feel inadequate? How about God's take on you?  Who says that is accurate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


June  19,  2012 Quote for Today

"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling the field as in writing a poem."

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery

Questions:  Do you have prejudices against particular jobs?

Do you value a job by the salary or the work or how much a person loves her or his job or what have you?

Have you done any farming or gardening or written any poetry lately?

Before you cut an apple, or a tomato or a banana, do you pause to think about how many hands have worked to get this apple, tomoato or banana to you?

Have you read the poems and writings of the farmer Wendell Berry? Here's a listing of 2 that are on my bookshelf:  Collected Poems, 1957-1982, North Point Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, Eleventh Printing, 1999; A Timbered Choir, Counterpoint, Berkeley, 1998



The title of my homily for this 11 Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “Going Against the Grain.”

Today’s readings - especially today’s gospel -  triggered for me the thought: going against the grain.

I’m not a carpenter - but I assume this cliché has to do with cutting wood. It must be easier, if one works with how the actual piece of wood is.


Today’s gospel has Jesus the Carpenter telling us how to deal with our enemies. Love them. Greet them. [Cf. Matthew 5:43-48]

Yesterday Jesus told us to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Tough stuff. Jesus wants to change the prevailing customs and culture. Difficult stuff.  His secret: change oneself and you’ll change half of a difficult relationship. Start with self. Go against the grain. Die to self. Die to the way you want to actually react.

There are opportunities every day to do just that. 

Yesterday on the way into church someone told me about what happened to her the day before just as she was leaving Sunday Mass.  She was stepping off the curb - heading for the church parking lot at St. John Neumann. She paused, hesitated, not knowing whether a car moving along slowly heading for the road out to the exit was going to stop or what? The man in the car signaled that she should walk across in front of him. She did, but then as he went by, he said to her, “Jerk!”

She said it ruined the rest of her day. The natural way to react to that is not to turn the other cheek - but to yell back at the person or point a  finger at such a person. She said she had turned toward him to say, “Thank you” and give him a smile.  

Afterwards I thought to myself, that would have been the perfect response when called a “Jerk!” The best come-back at times is a “Thank you!”


Today’s first reading from First Kings continues the story of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab changes - just a bit - when the prophet Elijah challenges him.  But notice, his motive is not love. It’s fear. Warnings can be like a slap on one cheek - slap in the face. Elijah tells him that he’s going to die in the fields with wild dogs licking his blood and birds will  be pecking on his flesh. Tough stuff. [Cf. 1 Kings 21:17-29.]

As we know fear gets us on the right path more often than goodness or love or the high, high ideals of Jesus.

We might want to scream back at the person who cuts us off or calls us names - but we fear the kids will see us or someone will think less of us. 

Fear works. Fear works more than love.  However,  hopefully, in the long run, we know that love lasts longer than fear.


Going against the grain can be a pain. In fact it is. It’s a dying. It’s the cross once again. Yet, we know that Jesus taught while on the wood of the cross forgiveness comes before resurrection. Saying inwardly or outwardly, “Father forgive him or her, she doesn’t know what she is doing,” can bring an end to that violence. That’s vintage Jesus.

That’s what Gandhi got out of Jesus big time.


As I’m listening to the words of this homily, they sound somewhat to be against the grain. They are a bit jarring and somewhat edgy. So too love. It’s going against the grain to put into play Jesus’ kind of love.

Change can be jarring - because change is a reversal - it's a going in a new and different direction. I think that’s the key message with this cliché about going against the grain.

Virtue is going against the grain.

Anger [the bad kind] - or  violence - or retaliation - don't go against the grain. They are just a sliding along - a reacting the normal way.

We've seen on Discovery Channel or somewhere that salmon have to swim upstream to spawn - to deposit their eggs. They swim against the flow - against the stream. And if they don’t struggle to swim upstream - they will end up floating themselves out of existence.

I suppose - whatever works - has taken hard work.

You see that nice clean waxed - shiny car - it didn’t just happen.

You see those beautiful varnished glistening wooden floors in my house, they too just didn’t happen.

The farmer needs to remember last year’s harvest - as he works the fields for this coming harvest. To get eucharist, you need bread and wine; to get bread and wine, you need wheat and grapes; to get wheat and grapes, you need to do some hard work.

To be a Saint, to be a Christian, means traveling the tiny, narrow, difficult road.

To love one’s enemies is a dying to self. It’s difficult to put a zipper on our mouth so as to stop the flow of angry words. It’s Jesus way to break the cycles of anger and easy hate and bring peace to our peace of land - our brain. That’s the perfect garden - the perfect plot of land - we all want: a cultivated peaceful brain.

Monday, June 18, 2012



The title of my homily for this Eleventh Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “A Diet of Anger Can Cause Emotional Indigestion.”


That’s the thought that hit me when I read today’s 2 readings.

The gospel is from the Sermon on the Mount which offers lots of peace giving messages about how to be at peace in this life.

Questions: Have you ever met someone whom you and others describe as, “He’s an angry person!” or “She’s an angry woman!” and you slowly slip slide away whenever your see him or her if possible. Has anyone ever described me or you as an angry person? If I am and if they think that, I’m sure the comments are made behind our backs.

In the Sermon on the Mount, we’ve already heard about killing and cursing and anger. We've heard about making reconciliation before coming here to offer our gifts at the altar. In today’s gospel Jesus addresses the issue of retaliation. You hit me. You yell at me. You curse at me. I come back at you double fold. Listen to children - but especially adults - in a fight - and you'll notice that Jesus knows what he’s talking about. Jesus today and tomorrow tells us to double our reactions the other way: turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, pray for those we hate or don’t like.

Jesus knows life. Jesus knows people. Jesus knows reactions.


I’m have been convinced many - many - many times - that Jesus figured out somewhere along the line the deep and obvious connection between eating and  anger - eating and relationships - eating and communion. I am convinced we too know this down deep. Our tummies hurt when we’re hurting with another. We can’t eat when we’re very angry - or we over eat. Communion means community.

Jesus is seen in the scriptures often eating. And whom does he eat with? Sinners. He’s in communion with them. 

Now I know people disagree with this: but I don’t get this communion blocking stuff. Jesus says: go out into the highways and byways and bring them in. My banquet must be filled. But some want to block some from eating at the banquet - because of inner anger - theological anger - ideological anger - mysterious anger. 

I catch that they are eating too much anger. I have avoided  MSNBC and FOX News - and I can't wait till November 7th. It's my perception: some of these news programs spread out a table full of spicy words and a diet of diatribe. 

By their fruits - you will know them. By my reactions - I can feel "ugly energies" in my tummy and in my mind. "Quick turn the channel!" "Is there a ball game on or an old Western?"

Saying even this much is a contradiction to my own words - because I'm venting my "spleeny stuff". Enough already!!!!

Jesus is saying today: turn that other cheek. Go that extra mile. So, it's smart to cool the anger. 

Life is supposed to be a banquet. It's a meal. When we get upset with each other - if anger is our steady diet - if we're always chewing on what bugs us about each other - then expect indigestion.

I really got this thought from today’s first reading. Ahab wants what he wants when he wants it - and he can’t get what he wants when he wants it. And today’s reading from 1st Kings says that Naboth doesn’t want to sell or give up his family land and roots - even if the king wants it.

Notice what 1st kings next says about King Ahab, “Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat.”  Then the text has Jezebel entering the story. It says, “His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, ‘Why are you so angry that you will not eat?’”

There it is: anger has caused him emotional indigestion.  It also will cause Naboth his life - and it will also eventually destroy his life and Jezebel’s life.


Once more, Jesus is challenging us today to get in touch with our angers - and see what they can do to us. And he offers wonderful solutions: going the extra mile and turning the other cheek.


Let me offer one more solution.

It’s this: when angry against another, say to self: “Self! You might be wrong!”

I know I have my list of life’s experiences when I was dead wrong - in what I thought was going on.

Let me close with a good strong story on this from today’s New York Times. I love to read Metropolitan Diary every Monday morning and it rarely disappoints me. People simply write into Metropolitan Diary something that happened to them on the streets of New York City.

This story is entitled, “Grabbing a Quick, and Unpleasant, Bite. It’s by a someone named, Winton J. Tolles. It came in on June 13, 2012, at 8:59 AM.

Dear Diary:

I am walking down Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side. I have missed lunch and am late for a meeting when I pass a store handing out free samples. I grab three pieces, say a quick thank you, thrust the nourishment into my mouth and keeping moving.

The cheese tastes awful, but maybe it is an acquired taste. The more I chew, the worse it tastes, and my mouth is now full of a horrible, dreadfully unpleasant concoction. Since I am walking on Lexington Avenue, it is not appropriate to spit up on the sidewalk or the curb, so I have to keep chewing.

I use all my tenacity and swallow this horrid cheese sample.

At this point I am so angry that a store would foist this dish on a consumer that although I am late for a meeting, I reverse course and return to the scene of the sample.

I accost the young lady who is handing out the samples in a very loud voice: “That cheese was horrible. How can you give that out!”

She looks at me, hesitates, and then says uncertainly, “But these are samples of soap.”

I retreat quickly.


June 18,  2012   Quote for Today

"It's all in the ear of the beholder."

Tom Hayden, Boston Globe, September 24, 1979

Sunday, June 17, 2012


[Instead of a homily for this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B, because it is Father's Day, I sat down last night and wrote this story. It began by noticing that in the first reading and the gospel, mention is made of trees. And in the second reading, it has the great mantra: "... we walk by faith, not by sight."  It is totally an imaginary story - but as I listen to it, I'm sure I'll spot some realities. Like yesterday afternoon and into the evening I was at a wedding celebration and I got to sit next to the Father of the Bride.... And I'll sense my father in the story. He was quiet and liked poetry, but he was not an electrician.]


He was a father.

He was also a son - a brother - a husband - an electrician - a poet - yes a poet - and a very quiet sort of a fellow - definitely an introvert. He was well loved - easy going - someone you could call on to do a favor. Any thing. Any time. And when you asked him for help, he would come and do it with a smile and leave you and himself with a great smile.

He was not yet a father - but about to be.

His first child - a baby girl - 6 pounds 6 ounces - named Judy after his grandma - changed his life - as well as his wife’s life - for good. Obviously. 

The changes started shortly and slowly after his wife, Joan, called him at work, “We’re pregnant.” 

A tear came to his eye as he stood there after the call. He said to himself, “I’m going to be a father.”

He was a poet - not published - but he kept a small 9 ½  x 6 inch notebook in a second drawer in his work cabinet in the basement. In this notebook, he would jot down poem possibilities.  He was doing this ever since his sophomore year in high school - when his poem won the high school poetry contest. It was a total surprise: a poem about the wonderful taste of cold milk and three chocolate chip cookies.  After that he would get an idea for a poem during a game or at school and after he graduated from high school, while at work or where have you. So he was doing this from time to time since he was 15 years old.

Sometimes he would finish a poem - usually after 16 to 20 rewrites.  At first his poems had to have rhyme and a beat - but in time he moved away from that stricture and structure. He would borrow books of poems from the library on a regular basis and go through them. Poetry books were usually rather thin books. So it wasn’t that difficult a task  to finish 3 out of the 5 books - before he brought them back.  He studied forms and formats - especially of a poem that he could actually understand. To him, too many poems were too, too complicated. He never talked to anybody about all this. It was simply one of those little human, quiet hobbies or endeavors, that we all have.  They were like electricity in his wiring. He loved the poems of Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop and Emily Dickinson.  

He was becoming a father.

While Judy was growing in her mother’s womb, he tried to write at least 4 poems to try to capture his feelings and the time. None were good enough or finished enough to be transferred to his other book - his final product poems - which he kept in a plastic bag - on the bottom of that second drawer in his work cabinet in the basement. This was a small black vinyl bound book. It had better paper and he wrote in it with better hand writing. On the front - it had the title of his book - printed in ball point pen - on a neat - perfectly cut label which he made from grey metallic duct tape. He entitled his book  -  Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies. It was named after his first poem - the one that won the poetry contest in his sophomore year in high school.

Now that he was going to become a father he was wondering what image would he use to describe himself - as father. Since he was a big man - 6 foot 5, his nicknames in school were “Bear” and “Walrus”. He thought: should I think animal?

No. Nope. Neither made any connections in his mind.

Should he think object? One time there, he was called “Hunk.” Or then when he worked in a  gas station one summer he picked up the nickname “Hubcap!” because he knew a place where you could get hubcaps - any hubcap. Back then people would lose hubcaps way more than today. People would call or come to him - whenever they needed a used hubcap.

He was still waiting for the right image - right metaphor - for fatherhood.

After Judy was born - sitting out in their backyard - just off from the porch - with the new born baby in his arms, he realized that their piece of backyard had no trees. It was empty. He asked different fellows at work, what kind of tree is the best kind of tree to plant around here.

He decided on an oak tree. He found one in a nursery. It was thin. It was tall - about 12 feet tall. And they came the next day with their big truck and the long, tall,  teenage tree. They planted it in a half hour in the empty backyard.  It would take a lot more time to grow - but he was planning on being around for a long time.  He thought, “I can watch it grow - along with my family.”

He grew. His family grew. The tree grew. It grew slowly through the years. He made sure it got plenty of water and fertilizer. When you have only one tree, it’s quite a responsibility.

After Judy came Max - then Audrey - then Patricia. Three girls and a boy.

He was a father.

As the tree got bigger and stronger, he loved sitting under it with one, two, three, four of his kids on the grass next to him. Max - their only son - tried climbing the tree as he grew - but thank God only he - because it could be dangerous.

When Judy, their oldest daughter, got married at 22, she and dad and mom had to have a picture with her in her white gown - before they went to the church. They had started tree pictures ever since first communions and then confirmations and then graduations and now, he thought, marriages too. Praise God.

In fact, in time, on every special occasion, the oak tree had to be in on the picture.

When a kid got in trouble - or when he and Joan had a fight, he’d go out back by himself and sit under that growing, that knowing, tree. He'd sit with the loneliness of failure or fight - and then the beauty of forgiveness. Sometimes when one of the kids did some dumb thing - like being arrested for D.U.I. - if you looked, you could see dad outside from the kitchen window all by himself - under their oak tree.

And sometimes he’d have a note book in hand.

Sometimes he and Joan sat out there by themselves - praying for one of their kids - when that kid really needed prayer. Then again, they would always break into prayer for all four kids - as well as for each other. Family ….

Finally all four kids were gone - married - moved out - and it was just he and Joan. He asked Joan if she wanted to move - to a warmer weather place like Alabama or Georgia or Tennessee or one of the Carolinas. She said in bed that night, “We can’t. You can’t. You’ll miss your tree too much.”

One June afternoon -  when Joan was baby sitting for Judy's two kids - their two grand kids, Kevin and Kyle, he went outside and sat under the tree. He had in hand his note pad and began working on a poem he had dabbled in and worked with many times. It’s title was “Fatherhood”


       Fatherhood - a tree -
       that started as a tiny seed -
       but look at me now -
       rooted down deep
      in the dirt of
      the earth - but reaching high,
      high into the sky?
      Fatherhood - look at me -
      branching - branching out -
      arms outstretched -
      reaching for the east,
      reaching for the west,
      reaching for the best?
      Look at me!
      Look at me - broken at times -
      scared and scarred at times -
      whispering in the wind
      and in the storm -
      silent in summer’s hot days?
      Lean against me?
      Feel me growing and growing
      always reaching for the stars?
      Yet, but, if you stop to sit beneath me,
      you’ll hear my thoughts, my memories.
      The tree - each tree - this tree - 
      dying to become a chair,
      a table, the cross, a wall, a baseball bat,
      a broom, a church bench an altar,
      a part of a house - part of everything.
      Fatherhood. Now I see
      what Jesus learned in the carpenter shop
      with Joseph. No wonder he was always 
      thinking of God, our Father. Oh my God,  
      you are part of everyone and everything.
      Why did I ever become an electrician?
      I should have been a carpenter.

Under that poem was a tiny note,  “Version 14” and then he added another note, “Getting there.”

Seventeen years later - shortly after he died - Joan was down the basement - and you're not going to believe this - she spotted a clothes pin clipped half of a bag of chocolate chip cookies on top of his work bench underneath his work cabinet. Being inquisitive - or was it fate or faith - she just happened to open that second drawer in his cabinet?

Surprise. She saw his note book. She wondered a few times where he kept that - and what was in it.

And then the surprise of her life, the plastic bag - on the bottom of that drawer. She was about to throw it out. 

She looked inside. There it was: his ¾ finished book of poems, Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies

And yes it had about 7 wonderful love poems just to her. 

And yes, she was tempted to go outside to his tree - but that would have taken too much time. She simply sat there in his chair in the basement - and she read all his poems. "Tears and chocolate chip cookies," she thought with a smile. 

Then - after reading it, she went upstairs - found her cell phone and called all 4 kids one by one. “Guess what I found in the basement - a gift from your father?” 

And then she read to each of their four kids - one at a time  - a poem he had written about that kid.


June  17,  2012 - Fathers' Day - Quote for Today

"It's a wonderful feeling when your father becomes not a god but a man to you - when he comes down from the mountain and you see he's this man with weaknesses.  And you love him as this whole being, not as a figurehead."

Robin Williams, Rolling Stone, 1988