Saturday, August 25, 2012


Quote for Today - August 25,  2012

"I am the voice of today, the herald of tomorrow ....  I am the leaden army that conquers the world - I am TYPE."

Frederic William Goudy [1865-1947]


If it was type in Goudy's days, what was it before type? What is it now?

Would it be sound bites? Cell phones? Computer? E-mail? Text or Twitter?

Friday, August 24, 2012



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Bartholomew - August 24, is, “Come and See!”


"Come and see" is a comment by Philip to Nathaniel in today’s Gospel - after he says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” [John 1: 45-51]

We know that Nathaniel is thought to be the Apostle Bartholomew by some, so that’s why we have this Gospel text from John for St. Bartholomew's feast day.

So Philip says to Nathaniel, “Come and see!” And he brings him to Jesus.

“Come and see.” [John 1: 46]  The Greek is basically the same sentence Jesus uses a few verses earlier in that same first chapter of John to Andrew [John 1: 39].

“Come and see!”


It’s a common experience we’ve all had.

We’re talking with someone and they don’t seem to be getting our explanation - so we say, “Wait a minute. Come and see!”  And we get up and bring the person to the thing we’re trying to explain. We show them what we’re talking about.

Several times I’ve been in St. Mary’s Parking lot and someone asks how to get downtown. I start explaining - then I stop and say, “Come follow me.” Then I bring them through the garden into the rectory - and then to the front door - and then I point to Newman Street across the street and say, “Walk down that street and turn left at the bottom and you’ll see Ego Alley and the Naval Academy and Main Street.”

“Come and see.”

Once upon a time I was out talking my afternoon walk heading for a walk through the Naval Academy. I walked down Newman Street. At the bottom - just across from the playground and basketball court - a lady standing outside her car yelled over, “Sir. Sir!” 

I went over. She wanted to know where a downtown bed and breakfast where she was staying with her husband was. I began explaining. She wasn’t getting what I was pointing towards.  She said she had tried 2 times - and got lost each time and had to go back up to the top of the street and come around again - going down Duke of Gloucester Street both times.

“Oh,” I said, “Okay, is it alright for me to get into your car with you and I’ll get you over there? I’m heading towards the Naval Academy for a walk.”

Then I added, “Relax. I’m a priest.” 

She laughed and said, “That’s okay. My husband is a monsignor.” 

Then as we were driving the 3 minute drive over there to the street behind Storm Brothers Ice-cream, she says, “We’re members of the Old Catholic Church which allows married priests.”  Then she told me that her husband and she were visiting Annapolis. He had a touch of something and she went out to find a drug store and buy Imodium. Then she invited me  into the bed and breakfast to meet her husband the monsignor. We had to wait a minute or two because he was in a special room.

Come and see.


There have been various programs in the Catholic Church entitled, “Come and See!” For  vocation promotion, we Redemptorists have “Come and See” weekends. We can’t become monsignors, but we do promote what we can become - hopefully good priests and brothers.

Hopefully all of us know we can talk about Jesus - but when people come and see us - hopefully they come and see and experience Jesus in more than words.

Walk the walk is better than talking the talk.

Or as the song goes, “Don’t talk about love, show me!”

Come and see in me - the love of Jesus Christ for thee.


PAINTING ON TOP: St. Bartholomew - holding his flayed skin in a Last Judgment scene by Michelangelo


Quote for Today - August 24,  2012

"That shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid."

Thomas Hardy [1840-1928] Tess of the D'Urbervilles [1891] Chapter 14


What's your take on the above quote from Thomas Hardy - who can be dark?

I'm 72 and way back I heard folks with this kind of thinking. I had doubts about Limbo - when we studied its history when studying theology - then there was a document from Rome - finally - moving all those babies who had died without baptism into God's hands.  Then there were attitudinal changes when it comes to the death of people who committed suicide or had serious drinking problems. People heard more and more about the copious redemption of God. People re-read Luke 15 and ba-boom - Thomas Hardy's quote above is challenged. Have you seen these attitudinal changes?

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Lord, embrace her. Embrace him.
Lord embrace us as we try to figure
out just what happened here.
Suicide is often filled with silence
and questions - words and feelings -
sometimes made of razor blades,
sometimes made of rope, bullet or pill.
Sometimes we just don’t know what
happened here. What to do?
Take time, spend more time
with others, step back, embrace each other,
take long walks, step back, help each other
get through this dark night. Go to the waters.
Take long showers. Pray. Write. Talk.
Suicide can be filled with anger, guilt, shame,
the dark unknown- the fish hook of questions.
Bring some good out of his - please.
Lord, in the meanwhile look
from your cross - your tree on Calvary -
see Judas hanging on his tree in the distance
and let him hear before he dies your words,
“Father forgive them because they don’t know
what they are doing.” Amen.  

©  Andy Costello, Prayers 2012

Painting on top Mindy Newman - the Judas Tree


Suicide kills not just the person who kills him or herself.

The person is found. Sometimes there is a note;
sometimes there isn’t. Ugh. Ugly. Horror. Mess.
Help! Scream! Now what? What now?

The blood flows onto the floor: the tile, the wood,
or the rug - then down through the floorboards -
down into the basement where the next generation
lives. Suicide seeps down deep, so down, down, deep.

Blood - dark red blood is its color. After that
suicide is very difficult to explain.  Words are tried.
Words are blurted out with tears - with closed fists -
along with guilt and, “Why didn’t I talk to him - to her?”
“Why didn’t - she - he -  know I would try to understand
or be a shelter - a hiding place - a chair of comfort?

With suicide along come words and feelings: anger,
depression, wanting to disappear - failure, mistakes -
guilt, shame, hurt, hatred. With suicide sometimes
there is just silence. Sometimes we have no words.
We have no idea what happened. It’s hard to form
and sculpt questions made of barbed wire or venom
or what have you. There is so much of the unknown.

Or maybe their mind was mixed up because of drugs
or medicine. Sometimes that warning is on the side
of the bottle. Suicide can be  a side effect - that
nobody picked up on - and the person killed themselves -
with a brain gone confused. Too bad the label wasn’t
on a face - but it’s always too, too late - after the jump
or the rope or the gun or the pills or the poison.

It’s not a relief, but we certainly are more understanding
or sympathetic about suicide than 100 years ago.
Yes, people kill themselves. Yes, people don’t want
to face the future with a sickness or a guilt or an
anger or a hatred stabbing their heart or wrists.

I once saw a man shoot himself in the mouth -
in a cemetery near Covington, Louisiana. This
happened in the same burial place as Walker Percy -
who wrote and thought deeply about suicide -
having had several people in his family kill themselves.
It was just the two of us - in the early morning quiet.
I didn’t know the man. I thought it was good
that he was standing under a stone statue
of the Blessed Mother. As I walked towards him -
now just 30 yards away from me - he put the gun
in his mouth. I was shocked as I heard the shot
and watched him fall to the ground.
I have always wished he saw me instead of
the stone statue above him. I wish he would
have hesitated. I don’t know what his wife
and kids went through before and after
the horror. I don’t know. I still don’t know.

I always hoped the Gospels would have a story
that Judas dropped the rope below the tree
he hung himself on and he came running to Jesus'
tree and fell on the ground before Jesus and
Judas would have heard an eight word from the cross
that would have helped him and people ever since
who have wanted to kill themselves. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012


Painting on top: Suicide by Eduard Manet


Quote for Today - August 23,  2012

"Ever since I could remember I'd wished I'd been lucky enough to be alive at that great time - when something big was going on, like the Crucifixion.  And suddenly I realized I was. Here I was living through another crucifixion. Here was something to paint."

Ben Shahn [1898-1969] on painting, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco [1932]. They were electrocuted this day, August 23, 1927 - accused of murdering 2 men in an armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, back in 1920. The trial, the conviction, the appeals, were controversial. They were anarchists - part of the roaring twenties - with its social upheaval. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Quote for Today  - August 22,  2012

"Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish."

Anne Bradstreet [c. 1612-1672] in Meditations Divine and Moral [1664], 12


Have you ever been in a position of authority? What was your take on how you did or how you are doing?

Do or did you have a feedback process in place?

Have you ever heard someone say to a person who challenges an authority, "You have an authority problem?"

What's your take on St. Thomas Aquinas' words, "In the field of human science, the argument from authority is weakest"?

Do you agree with the saying: "It's not what you are saying, it's how you say it"?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



The title of my homily for this 20th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “He Thinks He’s God Almighty! Three Wonderings.”


Today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel triggers one of those life questions I think about from time to time. Ezekiel blasts the prince or king of Tyre for saying that he is a god. In today’s first reading we hear that over and over again. Ezekiel keeps saying, “You are not a god!” [Cf. Ezekiel 28:1-10]

My life question has always been: “Did this king or any king or emperor really think they were a god - even if others said they were or even if they said they were?” Really think. Actually. They might have acted as if they were a god - but did they down deep in their heart think they were God almighty?

If they were ever tempted to go that way, then did a cold or a fever or a slip on a banana peel get them to hesitate? When things didn’t go their way, did that give them deep pause? What about diarrhea or a rejection by one of their wives - if she was the one he wanted? We know when things don’t go our way, how frustrating that can be. We know we can be boring. What did the prince or king of Tyre do - when he was telling a story - perhaps for the 17th time, and he sees several people yawn or look elsewhere or give a signal across a room to someone else saying with body language, “Oh no not again. It’s the story about how he killed a fox - on a hunting trip 17 years ago.”

So I’ve often wondered if the human mind could ever get itself into a mind set to actually think, "I am a god"?  Could someone really fool themselves that much? So keep yawning and looking at your watches when you see us too "ego-ie" or mighty "mouthy" in the pulpit.

Seriously, the "Who does he think he is, almighty God?" question is something I wonder about when I read about a  king being called a god in the scriptures. I also wonder about this when I see  those movies about ancient Rome - when the Christians are asked to make sacrifices to the emperor as a god - and if they don’t, it’s torture time or time to be thrown to the lions or put in ovens.


I wonder if the real issue that needs to be addressed is power.

I was saying a few Masses at Millersville this Sunday and before Mass a lady was mentioning how wonderful Bishop Newman - a now retired auxiliary bishop of Baltimore - was. She said, “He once told me that once you’re made bishop you never have a bad meal and you never hear the truth again.”

I think of the movie, “History of the World, Part I,” during which the king - played by Mel Brooks -  looks into the camera from time to time and says, “It’s good to be the king.” He says that while wenching and while playing chess - taking more moves than allowed. “It’s good to be the king.”

I think of Lord Acton’s famous comment in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton - April 5, 1881, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

That quote shows up over and over again in articles about bishops and popes and public figures.

It’s not good to be the pope or president - because it can go to one’s head - especially with the power a pope or president can have - and I assume it can lead to laziness in thinking and listening and getting one’s hands on the truth - and losing touch with reality.


So that leads me to a third wondering: what about me myself and I?

It’s easy to say this stuff about others, but what about myself? Do I think or do I act as if I'm god almighty at times or has anyone said that of me?  

Response: "Oh my God! Hope not!"

Yet we do have powers.  Yes at times we can also feel powerless.

We have power to listen - to ask questions - to step back and remind ourselves - we are not God. 

We judge others as if we know their motives. We don’t. We don't know what this other person is thinking or who this other person is and why they do what they are doing.

It’s so easy to forget to say that we don’t know how another person got to where they have gotten. There was an article a few years back that my sister Mary saved for me to read - about a fellow who said he had criticized and made fun of the poor and the homeless - that is, till he lost his job and fell through the cracks.

At the bottom of the pits, we can realize we don’t know what’s going on inside the skull of another person. We are not God. We don’t know what’s it like to be in another’s shoe or skin.

It’s good to be the person we are - and it’s good to be the person the other is. In reality, how can we be but that? So if we treat ourselves and others with deep respect and love - then we might discover what Jesus taught us - our poverty as well as our richness. 

We might discover the power of humility - that we are of the earth and God formed us from the earth - breathing life into us in our mother's womb. [Cf. Genesis 2:7; Psalm 139:13; Job 10:11-12.]

So we begin small. We begin on the bottom. We begin within - like every baby ever born.  Then we begin helpless, a wiggler, a leaker, a crier, a crawler, a learner.

It's everyone's journey.... We're all equal.

I always loved the saying, “Each person is in the best seat.”

With true humility, we’ll be able to  fit thorough the eye of the needle - as Jesus talks about in today's gospel - Matthew 19:23-30.


When we think wonder about all this, we can learn that the call is to reach towards God Almighty - and eventually enter into God - into the Kingdom of God - and eventually become God in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Now that’s power. [1]


[1] Confer Colossians 3: 1-4; Philippians 1: 23-26


Quote for Today   August 21,  2012

"Hate is a prolonged form of suicide."

Johann Christoph Friedrich Von Schiller [1759-1805]

Monday, August 20, 2012



The title of my homily for this 20th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Emotions: To Feel or Not To Feel?”

I was wondering if that’s a good question to ask from time to time?

When something happens to another, as to what they are feeling, is our guess only our projection onto the other? Do we really know what another is feeling? We know what we’re feeling - or would be felling - because of similar circumstances - but what is the other feeling?

The thing we can do is to ask the other - but at the right time - usually one to one - and after the tragedy - if that is what has happened.


This topic and theme comes from today’s first reading.  That’s what triggered my wondering about it today.

Ezekiel the prophet and preacher says that the delight of his life, his wife, is taken.

He describes the scene as God telling him that he is taking away his  wife. Then he has God adding,
“Do not mourn or weep
or shed any tears.
Groan in silence,
make no lament for the dead,
bind on your turban,
put your sandals on your feet,
do not cover your beard,
and do not eat the customary bread.
That evening my wife died,
and the next morning I did
as I had been commanded.”

The title of my homily is, “Emotions: To Feel or Not To Feel?”

I keep hearing that women are more in touch with their feelings than men are. Is that a good generalization or is it an, “It all depends”?

All of us have had our deaths. How have we done with the aftermath?

I remember doing and preaching my mother’s funeral. Our provincial was sitting next to me for the Mass. He said afterwards, “I don’t know how you could have done that - preach at your mother’s funeral.” He had been the guy who called me to his office at a big meeting and told me that my mom had been hit by a car that morning and they have a driver to get me down to Brooklyn to the hospital as soon as possible.

I thought his comment strange. Of course I would do and I want to do my mother’s funeral and homily. And I felt my feelings and sorted them out afterwards as well.

There was a spirituality and a psychology and a philosophy of life that we heard in the seminary and novitiate that stressed dampening and burying one’s feelings. It took us time to realize this is not the way to do life. Some people thought and think that priests and nuns went into the seminary and convent too early. Yes and no. It was a different time in our world and our church as well. Long story.

Hiding one’s feelings I suspect worked better when people died much younger and more oftener than today.

I like the text from Ecclesiastes 3:4: “There is a time for tears and a time for laughter; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Sometimes we want to sit in the corner; sometimes we want to be on the dance floor.


Today is the Feast of the great St. Bernard [1091-1153].

At the age of 16 he left home and went to the monastery ac Citeaux - along with 5 brothers, 2 uncles and then 30 friends followed him into the monastery. [1] He must have been quite a charismatic person.

A dying community came to life. O would that!

He founded 68 monasteries and did a lot of other things.

How well did all these fellows do with their emotional life?

How well did Bernard do with his emotions and affections?

I’d have to do a study, but it seems in his writings and his sermons and his prayers, he’s real and he’s emotional. Just try praying his famous prayer, The Memorare to Mary - without emotions. You can’t do it.

Come to thinking and talking about emotions, today’s gospel ends with the comment that the rich young man walked away sad - because he had many possessions.


The title of this homily is, “Emotions: To Feel or Not to Feel?”

I would stress to feel them - to share them - to be aware of them. They are part of us. They are us. And sometimes they can possess us.


[1] Page 57, “Bernard, Abbot and Doctor,” Saint of the Day, July to December, Volume 2,  edited by Leonard Folely, O.F.M.


Quote for Today -  August 20,  2012

"You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." 

St. Bernard (1091-1153)

Sunday, August 19, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Two Choices: Where Are We Going Out To Eat?”

How many times in our life have we asked that question, “Where are we going out to eat tonight?” It could also be breakfast or lunch.

Where are we going to eat? There are choices. There is a menu. There are options?


Today’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs gives the image of two places to eat: the House of Wisdom or the House of Folly.

The first place - The House of Wisdom - sounds like a Chinese Restaurant,  doesn’t it?

We are given two choices: smart or stupid, wisdom or folly?

As Robert Frosts put it, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,..”  Right or left? “and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Today’s first reading begins, “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table.”

Picture that. Here’s the place to eat. Good wine, good table, good meat, let’s eat. 

Picture the next message. “She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: ‘Let whoever is simple turn in here’; to the one who lacks understanding, she says, ‘Come eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.’”

Our first reading from Proverbs ends there - but the rest of that 9th Chapter spells out the contrast between the two choices: eating at the House of Wisdom or eating at the House of Folly. Then the rest of the Book of Proverbs provides 21 chapters of wisdom proverbs. Most are in Reader’s Digest size quips or quotes.

The title of my homily is: “Two Choices: Where Are We Going To Eat?” Obviously the hope is that we eat at the House of Wisdom.

Today’s second reading continues with that theme of choice between being wise or foolish - being sober or drunk and you know where being drunk can lead us.

Today’s gospel continues with the theme of choosing Jesus as the bread that came down from heaven. If we eat this bread, this flesh, if we drink this blood of Jesus,  we’ll be eating and drinking in Christ who gives life to this world - as well as eternal life.

As we move through these 5 Sundays of the 6th Chapter of John, we keep on hearing there is a choice: choosing to eat Jesus or walk to away from him.

Once more the title of my homily is: “Two Choices: Where Are We Going To Eat?”


The 6th Chapter of John is rich in theology. It’s rich in its message about choosing Jesus as the one who brings us wisdom and nourishment. We have in it the basic structure of our liturgy: words and food, wisdom and nourishment. We have in it the basic structure of any meal: words and food, company and communion.

How many times have we heard in the last 50 years: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist? Eat from both pulpit and table.

How many times have we heard in the past 50 years that the Mass puts us into the Upper Room, the Last Supper - as well as the sacrifice on the cross the next day - on Calvary - as well as the resurrection? There’s the sacred triduum of Holy Week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

This is big picture stuff - so we need Sunday after Sunday, Holy Week after Holy Week, year after year to make this part of our lives.

We become what we eat. We become what we meet.


Today’s first reading has an intriguing comment when talking about the house of wisdom: “she has set up her seven columns.”

To have a house of wisdom - one needs to know how to build a house. The author of Proverbs talks about having 7 columns to hold up that house.  It’s wise to know what our house is made of. We know that Jesus is a carpenter and he said to build our lives on his words. They are a foundation that will help us to stand strong in the storms of life. So here in the Book of Proverbs it would be wise to see what sayings, what words, what ideas, what’s the philosophy and theology we go by.

When hiking, if we’ve ever put up a tent, we know we have to have tent poles.

If we’ve ever been in on building a house, we know we need to have poles, columns, the framework, the foundation - on which the house stands and rises.

At St. Mary’s Parish we have what is called “The 4 Pillars.” They’re listed as Spirituality, Community, Financial and Educational.  It’s a way of dividing up aspects of our parish.

We’ve heard the wisdom saying, “Divide and Conquer.” We’ve heard, “A day at a time.”  “A step at a time.” So the question: How do we see, how do we organize, how do we line up our life, our weeks, our year.

Down through the years we’ve heard people divide up how their life should be organized in various ways: "work and play" or "There’s Monday to Friday and then the weekends" or  "There’s family and friends" or "Spouse and children" or "There's vacation and then the rest of the year".

We’ve heard the great commandment: to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

What is our platform? What is our plan? What are the 7 Columns - of 6 or 4 or how many that hold up our life? What are the foundation stones of our way of seeing?

I picked up a book yesterday that gave the 12 steps on the ladder of humility - which St. Bernard made key to his way of seeing and doing life.(1)   St. John Climacus had 30 steps on his ladder. AA has 12 steps. Guigo the 2nd has 4 steps on his ladder: Scala Paradiso. Classic Christian spirituality has 3 steps: the purgative, the illuminative and then the unitive way of life.  Clean out the house. Buy new furniture. Then sit down in communion with the Lord.

Jesus talked about the Broadway and the narrow way. One way leads to life; the other way is a bummer.(2)

The Jewish and Christian scriptures - as well as the scriptures of our world - often tell to the Two Ways: this way leads to life;  this way of doing life will kill us.(3)

Question: do we have an overall way that helps us to plan our life. When we  step up to the plate - in softball or at the restaurant, do we have a plan or vision in mind?

A big priest that I know - whenever we went to a buffet type restaurant - had a plan. He would say, "You guys get a table, I'm heading for the food."

It’s obvious with you being here today - that you have the Lord Jesus and coming to Sunday Mass as a central column and foundation in your life.


Today’s readings give us a daily choice. Where do we want to eat today: the House of Wisdom or the House of Folly?

We simply have to make that a morning prayer. “Dear Lord, help me to make healthy choices today - the ones that lead me to life and love and good energy and to avoid the drainers and the killers.” And at night, to say, “Lord thank you for this moment to look at my day - and see what decisions, what  steps that brought me life and love today. Also Lord, sorry for the bad decisions, for the bad steps. That moment crushed my spirit. Sorry. Help me to do better tomorrow.”

Today’s readings tell us we’re sitting here in this big house - this big restaurant where we rest and where we dine. We’re dining here today in the House of Wisdom - being fed with words and bread, wisdom and the Body and Blood of Christ. Amen. Thank you, Lord.


(1) St. Bernard, In the Steps of Humility, London, The Saint Anselm Press, 2001

(2)  Cf. Matthew 7: 13-14; John 10: 9-10

(3) Cf. Psalm 1; Deuteronomy 30: 15-20


August 19,  2012

"Guido the plumber and Michelangelo obtained their marble from the same quarry, but what each saw in the marble made the difference between a nobleman's sink and a brilliant sculpture."

Bob Kall