Saturday, October 20, 2012


Quote for Today - October 20, 2012

"Many a person has held close throughout their entire lives, two friends that always remained strange to one another, because one of them attracted by virtue of similarity, the other by difference."

Emil Ludwig


Is this quote true to you?

If you are married, was your spouse attracted to you by similarity or difference? 

When talking with a friend or spouse, ask each other about relationships you both know about: are they married and/or are they friends because of similarity or difference?  

Do you think these questions are good conversational starters?

Do you think this they are dangerous questions?

Friday, October 19, 2012



The title of my homily is, “A Quote I Never Forgot.”

Do you have a quote or a comment that you read somewhere or heard somewhere that you have never forgotten - a quote that impacted your life for life?

I think everyone would answer that question with a “Yes!”


However, I think some quotes or comments have their impact - but we are not aware that they have an impact in our life. Let me repeat that: “I think some quotes or comments have their impact - but we are not that aware that they have an impact.”

Suggestion: dig them up. Do some self research. How? 

A good way: talk to one other person about your life quotes and their life quote.

Next way: do it by yourself - and jot them down.

Hints that help.  Here are a few hints on how to discover these quotes or comments - that impact your life.

Fill in the blank on these statements:

My mom always used to say or always say _______________.

My dad always used to say or always say ________________.

I remember in a sermon a priest once said _____________.

I remember I read in a magazine once ________________.

My favorite Bible text is ____________________________.

A proverb that I go by is ___________________________.

A teacher I once had always said, ___________________.


Whenever I come to a feast like today [October 19, 2012] - that of a missionary - like Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf and companions, I often thinking about something I read a long, long, long time ago. I think it was in an article in The Brooklyn Tablet, the Catholic newspaper for the Diocese of Brooklyn. 

Life quotes don’t have to be exact - how I remember the quote or comment and how it impacts me is what is key.

The writer of an article - perhaps it was on vocations - said, “Throughout the history of the Catholic Church - lots of men and women left home and went to foreign countries and lands - never to heard from again. 200 or 300 years later - these nameless people are the background to Christian churches in places all around the world.”

That’s the sort of quote or comment.

That has impact on me because that is what I wanted to do with my life. At first it was China - because of stories and pictures of the Church in China I noticed in Maryknoll Magazine as a kid. Then it was someday becoming a missionary in Brazil because I heard a Redemptorist who came into our classroom and told us about his work as a missionary in Brazil and he asked us to think about doing that with our life.

I never got to become a foreign missionary - but as I look back on my life at 72 I ask what everyone who makes it to 72 asks:  Was it worth it? Did I make a difference? Did I add to the world’s betterment or did I make it worse?

I’ve gone back to places where I was stationed and walked down its streets and corridors and nobody said hello or noticed me.

I’m sure parents wonder about their kids - especially if their kids’ lives fell apart - or are living a different life style. Was it worth it? Did I make a difference? What is my legacy?

So that quote from that Brooklyn Tablet helps me - because unlike Isaac Jogues and these Jesuit missionaries I won’t have a name - yet I was there and gave it my  best shot - and who knows what happened  because of me.

I look up to Jesus on the cross and realize: sometimes it looks like all death - but then there is the 3rd day, and then there is 300 years later. Who knows, something I did or said or showed up for had an impact on someone who had an impact on someone who had an impact on someone.  I know the thing about not worrying about results, but they are nice. I know the saying, “Don’t count the sheep, feed them.”  But it’s nice to count sheep when trying to sleep. Amen.

Quote for Today - October 19, 2012

"If a Plant's Roots Are Too Tight, Repot."

Gardening headline, The New York Times


Interesting quote: where does it take you?

Does it make you think of your life, a relationship, work, what?

Before repotting, whom would you talk to about what you sense you should change?

Agree or disagree: If the pot don't fit, vote to repot?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Quote for Today - Thursday October 18,  2012

"Genuine laughter is the physical effect produced in the rational being by what suddenly strikes his immortal soul as being damned funny."

Hilaire Belloc


Quote for Today - Wednesday October 17, 2012

"Shared laughter creates a bond of friendship.  When people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, master and pupils, worker and driver. They have become a single group of human beings, enjoying their existence."

W. Grant Lee

Quote for Today - Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012

"Laughter with us is still suspect to this extent at least, that not yet do we without a shock think of God laughing."

Arthur G. Clutton-Brock



The title of my sermon for today's feast of St. Teresa is, “A Few Thoughts on St. Teresa of Avila: Images and Quotes.”

I’m using the readings of the day - the 28th Monday in Ordinary time: Galatians 4: 22-24, 26, 27, 31 - 5:1 and Luke 11: 29-32.


Today’s first reading from Galatians gives us an image of the choice between being like either of two women:  Hagar the slave woman and Sarah the free woman. It also gives us the choice of two covenants and two mountains. Choices are made easier when they are easy to picture: 2 women, 2 covenants, 2  mountains, 2 choices.

St. Teresa also liked to teach and write with images. She used the contrast between being like Martha or Mary - often in her writings.

I like Martha better. Teresa of Avila chose Mary.


In today’s gospel we hear about repentance and growth. St. Teresa of Avila was all about change, conversion and growth. She was an intrepid reformer.

Today’s gospel talks about wisdom - St. Teresa of Avila was one wise woman - who was made a Doctor of the Church. And if you read her, you’ll catch her wisdom, but she’ll say what Jesus says, “One greater than Solomon is here.” Teresa will point us to Jesus.

Yet she is very wise. I love her comment: I prefer intelligent priests to stupid ones. She was a wise woman. Use your brains.

She talked about the spiritual life being like a garden. We have to work to have a good garden. Those who know her writings like the image of watering a garden. She says we can do that 4 ways. Buckets and watering cans. Next, hose or build an aqueduct or channel. Third - use a stream or a river. Fourthly, stand in the rain. Work, but then celebrate God sending down his rain on you.

If you get to Rome make sure you see Bernini's famous statue of St. Teresa in ecstasy. You can see the rain of God coming down on her.

 She liked the image of the castle. The spiritual journey calls for movement - growth - steps - moving from the outside - where the snakes are - to the inside - moving deeper and deeper into the heart of the castle. It would be wise to read a commentary on the Interior Castle while reading The Interior Castle.[1]


Let me close by saying that Teresa of Avila is rather quotable.

Why not find one of her quotes that grabs you and put it on your fridge or on your mirror. You can find many of them if you go on line. Go to Google and just type in: “Teresa of Avila - Quotes.”

Here are my 3 favorites:

“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”  Isn’t there a country western song with that theme?

Here is the famous: St. Teresa bookmark;

“Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing cause you fear
All things pass.
God is unchanging.
Patience obtains all:
Whoever has God
needs nothing else.
God alone suffices.”                                     

And thirdly, here is my favorite, "God save us from sour-faced saints."


[1] Ruth Burrows, Interior Castle Explored: St. Teresa's Teaching on the Life of Deep Union With God [Continuum]


Quote for Today - Feast of St. Teresa of Avila - Oct. 15, 2012

"God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person." 

St. Teresa of Avila

Sunday, October 14, 2012



The title of my homily for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B, is, “Fitting Through The Eye of the Needle.”

People have been thinking of the metaphor or image that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel for almost 2000 years now. What’s your take on what Jesus says: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” [Mark 10: 24-26]

Some commentators say Jesus is referring to a small gate near a main gate in a city through which a camel couldn't fit. Some have said that a few Greek gospel manuscript writers used the word KAMILOS [cable] instead of KAMELOS [camel] Most manuscripts use the Greek word for camel. Whatever. I say that because it's still the same message of how difficult it is to get into the kingdom of God. [1]

Joachim Jeremias - my favorite commentator on The Parables of Jesus - refers to a rabbinical proverb that Jesus might have been familiar with: “You clearly come from Pumbeditha, where an elephant can go through the eye of a needle.” [2]

Either way - Jesus is saying, “It takes an effort to get into the kingdom of God.”

I would add, “Here and hereafter.”

The hope of my homily is that you realize the life choice Jesus is talking about - and how life can be different for us - once we fit through the eye of the needle and experience the Kingdom of God - the Vision of Jesus - the Delight in Life - that Jesus had - along with the cross. Notice how he slid that into today’s gospel. Sneaky. [Cf. Mark 10:30]


I once saw a short film clip of a someone walking down a street with two suitcases and a backpack and some plastic bags in hand as well. The man comes to a narrow doorway and  tries to fit in - stuff still in hand. He doesn’t fit. So he backs out from the little he got in and continues down the street. As the film shows the man walking away, a little kid comes running up the street - past the man - with just himself - and goes right into the house - through that narrow opening.

End of film. End of scene. End of parable.

In the background one could hear the words from today’s gospel about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.


The man in the gospel who runs up to Jesus asks Jesus the big question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  What’s the secret of life - happiness. What’s it all about?

We then find out that he keeps the commandments.

We then find out that Jesus looks at him with love.

We find out that Jesus then says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

We then find out that the man’s face fell - that he walked away sad - because he had many possessions.

It’s then that Jesus says how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.

It’s then that Jesus tells us about the camel finding it difficult to go through the eye of the needle.

It’s then that Jesus tells us about true riches.

It’s being brother and sister to every person on the land.

It’s seeing all land as everyone’s land.

That’s what Jesus says is yours on the other side of the needle - in the here and in the hereafter.

But first you have to dump the suitcases, the bags, and the backpack and be like that little kid - fitting through the Narrow Way that leads to life.


Now a question hits me: as I read the rest of today’s gospel when Jesus calls his disciples to let go of everything and come follow him, how do we apply this to everyone - not just nuns and religious.

That’s my question.

The other day I read a great quote from Thomas Merton and I said, “I’ll have to use that some day in a sermon.”  Surprise! I can use it tonight.

Years ago there was a famous Trappist Monk named Thomas Merton. He left everything and surprised everyone with his choice of entering a very strict monastery - where everything is held in common and where there is hardly any talking - except for prayers and emergencies. There is sort of, “Total Silence” so as to hear God.

Someone I know tried that life but didn’t make it. He said one of the toughest experiences for him was all wash was thrown together and when it dried you just went down and grabbed your next supply.

I don’t know what the toughest part for Merton was - but in the following quote he tells us an other side of the needle experience.

Merton was in the monastery for a few years and he had to go to the doctor or dentist or for something, so he went to local town for the first time. He was overwhelmed with what he saw. He had gone through the eye of the needle.

Merton wrote about that experience - that trip back to the other side of the needle he had gone through.

“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself glorified in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around like the sun … There are no strangers… If only we could see each other as we really are all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … the gate of heaven is everywhere.” [3]

There it is both sides of the eye of the needle.

It would be like walking to downtown  Annapolis and seeing all those people at this week’s boat show, seeing all those weekend people in Annapolis, that we’re all one. It would be like seeing everyone in traffic - in the next car - all those people on TV - all those people at a football game - and realizing I’m one with all of them. They are my brothers and sisters and God is our Father.

To me it’s like walking into a  wedding banquet. The place is packed 100 or 150 or 200 people - more or less. I know for starters only the bride and groom.  Slowly I get to at least say hello to parents and families and friends. Soon I’ve gotten to know a tiny bit about 20 or so of the people as I mingle. As I look around for starters others might know 25 people at the celebration. They branch out and get know 40 to 50 by the end of the night - discovering different people’s connection to the bride or groom. What helps is that everyone is there for the same reason.

Well, once we let go of preconceived ideas that we possess - attitudes about others that weight us down - and prevent us from getting to meet and greet and get to know each other - we are living in a walled world. But once we let go of self and security - which might actually be insecurity - once we go through the eye of the needled and discover that we are all one - young, old, tall, short, Moslem, Atheist, Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, tattooed or wrinkled old lady. We’re all one - on the other side of the needle.

That by the way is what the word “Catholic” means. It’s from the Greek.  “Kata” means “all” - and  “holos” - means whole. On the other side of the needle we are all one people - made in the image and likeness of God - and we’re here to celebrate the Marriage Feast of Life because the Son is with us.

And we’re all related. And we’re all connected.


At this Mass be like the man in today’s gospel. Have Jesus walk up to you or you walk up to Jesus and ask him how to inherit eternal life. See him look into your eye - see him slip through your eye - and enter into deep communion with you - and experience a whole new way of seeing and doing life.

That’s the kind of wisdom that God calls us to - that wisdom we heard about in today’s first reading from the book of wisdom.

That’s what today’s word can do. It’s like a knife as we heard in today’s second reading - it can cut open our soul and we can fit through the eye of the needle. Amen.



[1] C.S. Mann, Mark, The Anchor Bible, Doubleday, New York, 1986, page 402, # 25

[2] Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, Revised Edition, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1963,   page 195, footnote 11.

[3]  Timothy Ratcliffe, OP, What Is The Point of Being a Christian?, Burns and Oates, A Continuum Imprint, New York, N.Y., 2005, page 141.


Penelope loved piggy banks. She had a lot of them. She had one for every day of the week - and she must have had another 15 or 16 piggy banks that were full - and she kept those ones under her bed.

Penelope - sometimes called “Penny” -  was rich - and when her girl friends came to her house for a sleep over she showed them  her 7 piggy banks - one for each day of the week. 

And she would tell her very, very, very close friends, that she also her hidden ones - which she kept under her bed. These were the piggy banks that were filled to the brim - fat little piggies  filled with coins. They were heavy and if you shook them you would hear very little sound - because they were full - and heavy with lots of coins.

Her 11 aunts - her mom and dad both came from big families - her 4 uncles - all loved - ever since Penelope   was a little girl - to give her quarters and dimes and nickels - even some pennies - but she liked silver - and said so. Sometimes relatives would call her "Penny" - as they put loose pennies in one of her banks. That's when she preferred the name Penelope. She loved to watch people put those coins in the coin slot of her piggy banks. They would smile. She would smile. She was smart.

Her grandmothers - whenever they traveled - wherever they spotted an unique piggy bank - would buy it - and bring it back for Penelope.

Nobody had a problem with what to get Penelope for Christmas or her birthday: a piggy bank.

Her mom had collected thimbles - ever since she started sewing with needle and thread when she was 13 years old. Penelope noticed how proud her mom was of her thimble collection. An aunt collected decks of cards. A grandfather collected bottle openers. Another uncle had a baseball card collection. Another uncle saved baseball caps. He must have over a thousand of them - including ones from a team called the Yankees - which nobody in the family liked. Another uncle saved beer cans - never opened beer cans.

So Penelope didn’t seem odd with her piggy bank collection. She kept her Sunday to Saturday collection on top of her bureau - and she tried to put or get at least one coin for that day each day.

As I already mentioned she had her full piggy bank collection under her bed - and her dad had put shelves in her room for piggy banks people gave her. Those were all empty. They were for future fillings.   

When asked what she was going to be when she grew up, Penelope would always say with a great grin: “A banker.” Each teacher she had was surprised when they heard her give that answer. Someone would come into the class room and asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. They heard the regular answers from the girls: veterinarian and oceanographer - and professional football player and NASCAR Guy from the boys.

Her brother called her “Oinky” or to really annoy her, “Oinky, Oinky, Oinky,” because of her piggy bank collection.

Well here is where the story has a dramatic change - an amazing dramatic surprise. One evening Penelope was sitting there reading a book and  she overheard her parents being very, very serious. They thought she was upstairs in her bedroom and her brother was down in the basement with his trucks.

Mom said, “Well, maybe we’ll have to sell this house and move. I know how hard you’re trying. Yet, if you aren't able to get hired soon - we’ll have to do something. It’s 5 months now that you’re out of work. Maybe I should get back to work.”

“No. I know things are tough,” said dad, “but we’ll make it. We’ll just have to keep praying and hoping someone likes my resume.”

Mom said, “We can’t ask our parents. They are already helping Junior and Teresa - and those two families are much worse off than us.”

Penelope became very, very quiet at that. She had heard the priest just yesterday talk about the rich man who couldn’t let go of his stuff and fit through the eye of the needle. The priest had brought a real needle into the pulpit - and a toy plastic camel. And he kept trying to get the camel to fit through that tiny hole for thread - but nope, it just would fit. Camels - even a tiny toy one - couldn’t fit through the eye of a needle.

Penelope had a plan.

That night after everyone had gone to bed - one by one she brought her piggy banks downstairs to the dining room table. It took her over an hour - quietly going up and down the 12 steps from her room to downstairs. Good thing they didn’t creak. Good thing the red rug softened her step. Good thing they had 2 hall lamps on.

She began with her Sunday to Saturday piggies first. Then she took all the full piggy banks from under her bed. There were 16 of them - full. She took each of them one by one - just in case one would drop and would wake up her mom and dad. She didn’t worry about her brother. Nothing woke him up. She never counted how much she had, but she knew she was loaded.

Then she got a piece of paper and a bright green florescent colored magic marker and wrote this note: “Dear Mom and Dad, Here’s some money to help us with our bills - till you get a new job dad. Thanks for all you have given me so far. And I set up 7 new piggy banks on my bureau. I’ll start filling them up tomorrow - but I’m not expecting any money from you - not even pennies.  Thanks for everything. Love and prayers, Penelope.”

Then before she went to bed, she knelt down and said a prayer. “Thank you God for being so good to us - but right now we're going through some tough times. Please help daddy a new job!”


NOTE: This was a story I wrote last night for our Children's Mass for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, with the Gospel from Mark 10: 17-30

Quote for Today - October 14, 2012

"If you want to have a perfect sister or brother you must resign yourself to being an only child."

Italian Proverb