Saturday, July 21, 2012


Quote for Today -  July 21,  2012

"Grandma," asked the kid, "were you once a little girl like me?"

"Yes, of course I was."

"Then, " continued the kid, "I suppose you know how it feels to get an ice cream cone when you don't expect it."


Friday, July 20, 2012



The title of my homily for this 15th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Put Your House in Order.”

That’s a comment in today’s first reading.

Listen to it in context:
“When Hezekiah was mortally ill,
the prophet Isaiah,
son of Amoz, came and said to him:
‘Thus says the LORD:
Put your house in order,
for you are about to die;
you shall not recover.’” [Isaiah 38:1b]
That is scary: “Put your house in order….” 

Is that an internal order to all of us? I don’t know about you, but I think of that whenever they knock me out for a colonoscopy or what have you. Will I wake up? I also think of that when I’m going on vacation or on a trip. I look at my room and say, “Oh my God. I gotta clean this mess - because if I die, someone is going to be cursing the dead - me -  when they have to clean this up - all this clutter - all these books - all these papers  - all these magazines.”

Six of us were in a house over on the eastern shore yesterday evening - for crabs. Even though I’m very messy, hammering crabs and breaking them up on a table is too messy for me.  I was offered a burger and took the deal. The owner of the house was neat. Very neat. Very, very, very neat.  Being a slob, I got nervous. Everything in the house and outside the house was neat, perfect, exact and sparse.   

The owner said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

Well, when I read today’s first reading, that message of putting your house in order, made me laugh. I started to wonder, if a very, very, very, very neat person would miss hearing that text in the first place?

Or is it true, that even the neatest person in the world has a closet or a cellar or a bottom drawer that is a mess?

Then there are the inner messes.


When Hezekiah hears the message from Isaiah that he’s about to die, he  turns to the wall. H starts to pray.  He starts to weep bitterly.

I was a funeral of an 17 year old last Monday  - Sarah McMahon - and at the funeral of Lillian Dabney - 94 - this morning and will be at the funeral of Kellie Thompson Shiley - age 31 this coming Monday. So the question of death hits me - not just from these readings - not just when going on trips - but also from funerals - and also from going  by cemeteries or hearing from TV or the paper of a famous person passing away.

When am I going to get my house in order? There are boxes to empty, papers to sort and toss, things to line up.

Surprise, Hezekiah gets 15 more years to live.

Did he fall back into his old patterns of procrastination or what have you - if that was bent? I don’t know.

A Bible text is helpful, if gets me to be specific about my life and my stuff.  That’s always the question.


So today I won' turn to a wall - but to myself - to my laziness - to my lack of lists that work - to my need to toss and sort and clean - to catch up on unanswered letters and Christmas cards or what have you.

Hezekiah’s initial response to pray and to cry are good. However, those are easy, compared to the work of putting things in order. I guess the very simple solution is what Nike keeps advertising: “Just do it!”


Quote for Today  July 20, 2012

"Religion cannot be kept within the bounds of sermons and scriptures. It is a force in itself and it calls for the integration of lands and peoples in harmonious unity. The lands [of the planet] wait for those who can discern their rhythms. The peculiar genius of each continent, each river valley, the rugged mountains, the placid lakes, all call for relief from the constant burden of exploitation."

Vine Victor Deloria, Jr.  God Is Red [1973], chapter 16

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Quote for Today - July 19,  2012

I first fell in love with Bruges when I was nine years old. Walking through the centre of the city, I was held spellbound by the sight of the 90-metre high Belfort-Hallen towering above the Markt. In the course of a single afternoon the city stole my heart.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Quote for Today  - July 18, 2012

"The city is the teacher of the man."

Simonides [c.556-468 B.C.], Fragment 53


What is your favorite city?

Where is the one city that you want to visit - but you haven't gotten there yet?

If you've lived in various towns and cities, what did each teach you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



The title of my homily for this 15 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Are Some Cities Different From Other Cities?”

That’s a question  that popped up for me from today’s readings.

I don’t know the answer to the question.

I don’t even  know if that’s a good question.

Of course some cities are more interesting - have more to offer - than other cities. So I suppose the first answer should be: “It all depends.”

It all depends on what you like or what you’re looking for.  It all depends on whether you visit cities for shows or historic sites or churches or holy places or parks or water or weather - and what time of the year we’re looking at.

When I lived in Lima, Ohio, we used to drive from there to Leipsic, Ohio. On the way there was this tiny, tiny little town or village we’d go through. It was ugly. It looked like every piece of property had all the cars they every owned - but  rusted out on their front, side, back, lawn. It was an ugly place to drive through.

Compared to lots of other places, that town was different than other towns.


In today’s two readings - plus the Psalm - mention is made of many cities: Jerusalem, Damascus and Samaria in the first reading; Jerusalem in the Psalm; and Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon, Capernaum and Sodom in the Gospel. [1]

Isaiah - like many of the prophets - voices warnings against Jerusalem - because of its sins and behaviors. Jesus, follows suit, in lashing out and challenging various towns in Israel.


The obvious message for us here in Annapolis and in our neighborhoods - is that there is respect, justice, kindness, and concern of all for all.

My first impression of Annapolis was that it had a lot of red bricks.

My next big impression of Annapolis was the neighborhoods - lots and lots and lots of specific places: Watergate, Hillsmere, The Downs, Sherwood Forest, Hunt Meadow, Pendennis Mount, St. Margaret’s, Murray Hill, Historic Downtown Annapolis, and on and on and on.

Next came the surprises - besides being lost - of nice things I’ve seen in Annapolis: a party over in Eastport at a swimming club as a fund raiser for someone who needed financial help because of cancer; a house blessing for some folks somewhere in Bay Ridge - their house burnt down - and someone lent their extra house to the family till they recovered; a funeral party in a house with a great porch and big lawn somewhere near the old hospital; and then there was another post funeral celebration in a house just off Bay Ridge Avenue - a right turn after the right turn for Arundel by the Bay.

So for starters hospitality and community support for each other certainly are goals for places where we live and might like to visit.

I went to an outdoor wedding reception in a back yard down on the other side of Riva Road - heading south. The father of the bridegroom contacted every neighbor on the street - telling them what he would like - the music will stop by 8 or 9 PM and there will be lots of cars on the street that Saturday.

Those are obvious - the tougher values would be caring for the poor - the hungry - the stuck.

Tough issues. St. Mary’s certainly does a lot by the donations for the poor that go to Lighthouse Shelter as well as to the many people who come from assistance every Monday night and every Wednesday afternoon. That’s a wonderful sight to see in the city of Annapolis.

I also like the silver pans of water for dogs on Main Street and the Real Estate place just over the Eastport Bridge.


So I guess each of us has to reflect on what we can do to make our town and our neighborhood a nice place to be and a nice place to visit.


[1] Isaiah 7:1-9; Psalm 48: 2-3a, 3b-4, 5-6, 7-8; Matthew 11:20-24


Quote for Today - July 17,  2012

"If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."


Monday, July 16, 2012



The title of my homily for this 15 Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Hear The Orphan’s Plea.”

Right at the end of today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, 1:17, there is a short statement that hit me: “Hear the orphan’s plea.”

Isn’t that the way these readings at Mass work? Various requests, challenges, messages, urgings, pleas are presented. They tug us like a little child tugging at his or her parent’s leg. Then one or two intrigue us - or get us wondering. We inwardly say, “Hmm…. I wonder what that means.”  Or, “Woo. I have to think about that.” Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 10: 34 to 11:1 certainly has several statements by Jesus that gets us to say inwardly, “Wait a minute. What did you just say Jesus?” So today, those 4 words in the English translation of Isaiah 1:17 hit me: “Hear the orphan’s plea.”


Did Isaiah spot a child on the street  begging for help? Or did his sister or brother-in-law die and leave behind 3 kids - who are now without parents? What orphan did he spot who had a plea?

I checked out the Hebrew - “SIPTU  YATOWM RIBU”-  and then the different ways those three Hebrew words are translated into English. It seems that the key idea is rights - the rights of orphans.

I would think in Isaiah’s time moms and dads - as well as kids - died much earlier and much more often than today. It would also seem that relatives and other family members would take in strays - and orphans - more than today. Today families are more scattered around the country.

Today there are less orphanages in this country and less children per capita. Some unwanted kids are aborted  - and people are having fewer children. And there are couples wanting babies to be adopted.

Question: Where does that text from Isaiah 1:17 take us? Better: how does it challenge us?

I had 4 baptisms yesterday afternoon at St. Mary’s at 1:45. Present were grandparents and great grandparents - and lots of other folks - sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and lots of cousins - but from all over the country. So each of us has lots of connections - lots of people we’re related to.

At a baptism, at a wedding, at a graduation, at a birthday party, one person is featured - the one we’re there for.

What about all the other days in our life? What about the kid who feels all alone? Unnoticed, unheard, unconnected?

The text from Isaiah 1:17 certainly challenges us to be aware of all children - connected as well as orphaned.

What about those moving into second childhood. What about the elderly? What about those in nursing homes? What about the person in front of us when we’re on line? What about the person at the next desk at work? What about the lost and the lonely?

Several years ago, while in Denver, I remember coming around the corner one Friday morning - around 11:30 - and there was this big long line of younger men  leading to a hall next to a Catholic Church. I was to be at a wedding practice there that afternoon and a wedding there the next day. I went into the rectory and asked, “Who are those men next door?” The lady said, “Oh, they are here for a lunch. They are drifters and the homeless. We have a lot of them here.”  When I walked around down town Denver that early afternoon, sure enough, there were lots of homeless people.  Most were men.

I began wondering lots of wonderings: Who are they? Do their families know where they are? Do they have children here and there? How about ex-wives? Who is this fellow? Who is that fellow?


Isaiah’s words, Matthew’s words, Jesus’ words can get us thinking and questioning and also lead us to action. Who has a right to my attention and my glasses of cold water? Who needs my ear? In today’s gospel, we heard about family connections - mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws. What about them? What about orphans?  What about me? Am I crying for human touch and love - and welcomes - and signs of peace - and not just at Mass?

Today’s gospel has a stress on putting Jesus first, but if I hear Jesus, he puts the other, the child, the person caught in sin, the sick, the stranger, the hurt, first. Do I hear their pleas?

Painting on top: "Girl in White in The Woods," [1882] by Vincent Van Gogh [1853-1890]. The painting is listed as being in the Kroller-Muller Museum, Netherlands


Quote for Today - July 16, 2012

"The really happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour."


Sunday, July 15, 2012



The title of my homily for this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] is, “Integration More Than Imitation.”

I’m wondering if I can pull off this homily on integration more than imitation.

Let me try. Let me try this way. I’ve deliberately made this a tiny bit shorter - just in case this is too complicated or too confusing.


As you know, we priests here at St. Mary’s and St. John Neumann are Redemptorists - and on the 3rd Sunday of July - every year, we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer.

We’ve been here in Annapolis since 1853. We’ve been in the United States since 1832. We’ve been in existence since 1732. There are about 5,300 of us around the world - in 77 countries. We getting older and fewer here in the United States, Canada and most of our provinces in Europe. We are growing in Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Poland, South America, Africa, Korea, Indonesia, etc.

We started out in the Kingdom of Naples in Italy. Our founder was a lawyer named Alphonsus de Liguori. After a disastrous loss in a law suit - because of a bribery on the other side or a mistake on his part, Alphonsus gives it all up and decides to become a priest. At the age of 30 he is ordained as a diocesan priest in Naples. All this caused much anger in his father, who had big plans for his oldest son.

For the next six years he worked mainly as a preacher. He exhausted himself. To recover, he  went on vacation to the Amalfi Coast - a great place to recover. While there someone tells him that there are goat herders and poor people up there in the hills whom no priest visits or cares about. He checks them out.

He knows  there are lots of priests in the Kingdom of Naples - but very few priests who want to work in the hills and small villages and with the migrant shepherds.

He gets the dream to be the one to do just that. He talks over his vision with some priests and friends. They agree to meet on November 9, 1732 in Scala, Italy - a tiny village just above the city of Amalfi - to start a new group in the Church. It’s the Feast of the Most Holy Savior, Jesus Christ - so that becomes the name of the group.

Most of the original cast of characters drop out, but Alphonsus does not give up his dream. He spends his time gathering a community of priests and brothers while preaching parish missions to the poor. They do this year after year after year - with the dream of getting approval with the local bishops and then with the Pope.

It isn’t till February 25, 1749 that Rome - with Benedict XIV - as pope - that the Congregation of the Holy Savior is approved. However, since there already was a group with that name - those doing the approval in Rome changed our name to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. In Latin that’s Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris - C.Ss.R. for short - like S.J., stands for the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.


In the papers and the rule and the documents that Alphonsus sent to Rome with two of his priests, Rome didn’t get a key idea of Alphonsus: integration with Christ - not imitation of Christ.

To get our rule approved different folks in Rome made changes in the text that Alphonsus had drawn up. They said that, “The aim of the Institute of the Most Holy Redeemer is to bring secular priests together who will live in community and apply themselves to imitating the virtues and example of our Redeemer Jesus Christ especially  through preaching the Word of God to the poor.”

In that statement of purpose, the word imitation is stressed: Redemptorists are to imitate the virtues of Jesus Christ.

In preparing this homily yesterday, I noticed in a book on the life of Alphonsus - entitled, St. Alphonsus Liguori - Tireless Worker  for the Most Abandoned by Theodule Rey-Mermet, a distinction was made between imitation and integration. I do hope you get the distinction - otherwise this sermon flops.

Let me give the whole quote from that book - because that is where I got the theme for this homily: “Concerning the aim of Institutes, the overriding attitude of the time was this: ‘Every institute has two goals: The first is the sanctification of its members, and the second is the sanctification of the people and the good of the Church.’ ‘No,’ Liguori had said, ‘[our goal is] not a “mixed” contemplative-active life, but a Christian life, in the style of Saint Paul: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" [Galatians  2:20]. I live Christ the Redeemer if I am a Redemptorist.’ It was a question of integration and not of imitation. The bureaucratic minds could not comprehend this simple idea formulated by Alphonsus but inspired by the Holy Spirit. So Alphonsus accepted this text backed by the pope’s authority, more than thankful that approval had been granted; but the word imitation is to be found nowhere in the letter he addressed to his sons.” [1] [2]


We know the difference between imitation and integration.

In the beginning we imitate. In time, we integrate.

So in learning the piano or how to play baseball or lacrosse or to dance or to play bridge, we watch another and then we imitate them. We go through the motions.

In time, if we buy what we’re imitating, it becomes us. It becomes second nature. That’s integration.

In 1969 I was assigned to a retreat house to do high school retreats. So I showed up a few days early to watch a priest named Eddie do a high school retreat. Then I took over. It took me a few years to really figure out how to give a high school retreat. I imitated what  this other priest named Eddie did, but in time I was on my own - with another priest.

I would assume that people who enter our R.C.I. A. program come to Mass and the sessions - and then start imitating being a Catholic at first - but in time it becomes them.

I would assume that marriage works the same way. People go through the motions of what people who live together do - imitating their parents - and what they saw others do - but hopefully the relationship deepens and becomes real.


So too with Christ.

We say prayers;  then we pray prayers; then we move into communion with God - and for us Christians - in and through and with Jesus Christ.

We say that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer or what have you. All words - till we get them into our bones and into our being.

If we get this, then we start to get what St. Paul is saying in many of  these second readings at Sunday Mass - much of the year.

We preachers pass over Paul a lot - well I know I do - because he can be heady and difficult - but St. Alphonsus doesn’t. He gets Paul.

For example, in today’s second reading from Ephesians, Paul is telling us that we have been blessed in Christ, chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world. [Cf. Ephesians 1: 3-14]

That’s profound. Every person - every person is known by God. Every person is on God’s radar screen. Every person is known by name by God. Every person has been redeemed  by the Blood of Jesus. Redemptorists want to spread that message to everyone - especially those who are missing out on experiencing this Good News - because no one sees them as valuable folks. 

In the deepest marriages - a couple realize - even though - we are incomplete people - weak at times - strong at times - sick at times - healthy at times - rich at times - poor at times - we strengthen each other - we grow together - we were meant for each other. That’s integration.

If we get these profound realities, if we integrate these blessings, these graces, these riches, then we can rise as redeemed people.


This integration is what Alphonsus called those who followed him to hear, experience, and then bring to other folks, especially those who feel abandoned by God and others, especially those who feel all alone - the poor me’s of the planet. The Redemptorist preaches: "You are  known and loved by Jesus Christ! God can grow you - redeem you - and bring you into the deepest depths of God." 

Ooops. I forgot to mention that our motto is: "Copiosa apud eum redemption." It's from Psalm 130: 7: "With him there is fullness of redemption."


Picture on top: St. Alphonsus de Liguori [1696-1787]

[1] Confer pages 439-440  in Theodule Rey-Memmet, St. Alphonsus Liguori - Tireless Worker for the Most Abandoned, Translated from the Second French Edition by Jehanne-Marie Marchesi, English Edition prepared by the Staff of Liguori Publications, New City Press, 206 Skillman Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211.

[2]  When Alphonsus uses the word "sons" he is not referring to having his own children, he didn't, but to members of his Redemptorist Community.


Quote  for  Today - July 15,  2012

"You can't put your sins behind your back until you face them."



Looking at your life, is there any ongoing destructive behavior that you're not facing?

Looking at the quote above, has that been true for you?