Saturday, December 15, 2012


Quote for Today - December 15,  2012

"To whom can I speak today?
Gentleness has perished
And the violent man has come
down on everyone."

From, The Man Who Was Tired of Life, c. 1990 B.C., translated by R. O. Faulkner

Friday, December 14, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Either Or - Light or Darkness”.

That’s the thought that hit me this morning - when working on a homily for the Feast of St. John of the Cross - today December 14th.


Some people don’t like “Either Or’s”. They like one’s. They like singular answers. Some people like variations. There’s more than one way to skin a fox. There are options.

We have a family story. We were in a restaurant with my mom somewhere along the line and she ordered salad and the waitress asked, “Blue Cheese, Vinaigrette, Russian, or Thousand Island?” And she said, “Yes!”

It didn’t make any difference to her. She would put on her salad whatever dressing she pulled out of the refrigerator at home - or put two or three on - depending on the amount left in the bottle or what have you.


John of the Cross preferred the Apophatic Approach to God - that is the removal of all images. There’s a whole tradition in spirituality about this approach. The opposite is the way of light - the way of images - the way of pictures. It’s called the Kataphatic Approach.

So John of the Cross wrote about the Dark Night of the Senses and the Dark Night of the Soul.

Either Or or Both And can bring us to God.

Sometimes we experience God when looking at a great sunrise or sunset.

Sometimes we experience God in the deep dark of the night. You might have heard the often quoted words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

Sometimes when we can’t sleep, we turn to God.

Sometimes people only experience God or come to a God awareness moment when they lose everything - and they are in the dark about what’s next. A spouse dies. A spouse leaves for a younger partner. Kids go haywire. A home is lost in a storm or fire. Someone is fired.

Sometimes we experience God in the midst of light - and joy - and celebration. I was just sitting there at Thanksgiving in this big, big room that had all kinds of sections. I was off to the side - before the big dinner - and there were about 30 people in that big, big room, laughing, playing cards, playing Boggle, playing Scrabble, - all in different areas. A few were just talking. There  was laughter and joy everywhere. I was  thinking: all these people are here because my brother met and fell in love with Joanne, my sister-in-law. Thank You God. Thank You.

Either - Or - we can meet God.

Good Friday is good - so too Easter - so too Christmas - so too Advent.


In today’s gospel - Matthew 11: 16-19 -  Jesus goes after the Pharisees. They are not happy whatever Jesus does. If he would call for fasting like John the Baptist or if he was having a great meal, either way they would be unhappy. They are like kids in the market place. You sing a sad song, someone complains. You sing a joyful song, someone complains.

Life is morning and night, the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and light bearing mysteries. Someday when I’m made pope, maybe I’ll propose that we have the dark bearing mysteries as well?


Pictures and Paintings

On top: Interior of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain - 2011.

Near Bottom: Drawing by John of the Cross of the Crucifixion and  then the famous Corpus Hypercubus [1954] by Salvador Dali - inspired by the drawing by John of the Cross.


Quote for Today:  December 14,  2012

"It is unseasonable and unwholesome in all months that have not an r in their name to eat an oyster."

William Butler [1535-1618], Dyet's Dry Dinner [1599]

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Quote for Today - December 13, 2012

"Happiness is a great love and much serving."

Olive Schreiner

Questions: Whom do you love and whom do you serve? Are you happy?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012



"Does everyone have lifetime questions?"

That’s one of my lifetime questions.

Somewhere along the line kids start asking questions.

Listen to kids and you’ll be listening to questions: “How come?” or “Why?” or “When?”

Look at the faces of babies. They hear a noise, They turn towards where the sound comes from.  At what point, long before words, does the baby’s face say, “What is that?” or “What was that?” or “Who are you?” Babies squint. Babies make faces - sometimes in the shape of a question mark. Babies seem to be asking questions long before they can talk. “When are we going to eat?” “When are you going to notice me?”  “When are you going to hold me?”

Listen to little kids as they start to grow. You’ll here more specific questions like: “How come she gets to stay up later than me and I got to go to bed?” “How come he gets a bigger piece of the pie than the piece I got?”

Is the most basic question: “How come life is unfair at times?”

Sometimes we get answers to our questions.

Sometimes we continue with the same basic questions all our life?

Sometimes we come up with new questions?

“How come she gets all the attention?”

“How come the rich get richer?”

"How come there is suffering?"

“How come he or she doesn’t see the way I see?”

“How could so and so be a Democrat and so and so be a Republican?”

“After all I did for you, how could you do that to me?”

“Why do people stop listening to what I have to say?

“Why do people walk away from me?

“Is everyone down deep lonely?”

“When am I going to die?”

“Will I ever accomplish anything?”

“Will I ever finish something?”

“What difference does it make?”

“What difference will I make?”

“How much does it cost?”

"Does everyone have lifetime questions?"

"If they do, are they aware of them?"

"Does anyone else ask this question or questions along this line?"

One of my lifetime questions is: “Motive?” 

I’ve been asking that question ever since I was a little kid.


Then I go through my basic list of possible motives on why so and so did so and so or say what they said? Why? Why? Why?

What are the basic motives?

Is this a good list of basic motives: Fear? Shame? Ashamed?  “That’s why I lied. I was ashamed.” Insecurity? Security?  Hunger?  Love?  Attachment? Addiction? Guilt? Selfishness? Me. Myself. And I. I put myself first every time. Greed? Lust? Pride? Laziness?

When I’m watching NCIS or a detective show on TV or the movies, I’m asking what the investigators or the detectives are asking, “Motive?” Once we establish a motive or possible motives, we start looking for people who could have that motive.

"What does it profit a person, if they gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of their soul?” 

Great question by Jesus.

So motive has always been one of my lifetime questions.

So maybe that’s why I loved the moment in a college philosophy class  that I was taking and the professor was talking about Existentialism and he said, “I’m writing on the board the world’s shortest poem. It’s two words and they rhyme: 
I’ve never forgotten that. It’s a life time question. And I used it many times in sermons like this.

And I wrote the world’s second shortest poem. It also rhymes: 

“I / Why” “You / Who” are two lifetime questions - that everyone asks all their life. We want to know who we are. Why do I exist. What am I to do with my life? We also want to know who the other people are in our life: friends, dates, teammates, family?

What are your life time questions?

This question was triggered by another one of my regular lifetime questions.

When you go into a Catholic Church like this one,  you always find at least one statue or picture of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Why? We have the statue of Mary up there above the tabernacle - above the center of the old altar. If you were a Buddhist or Taoist or Confucian and you were never in a Catholic Church before, would you want to know what that statue represents?

Every Catholic Church usually has one image of Mary. We have 2 - the one above the old altar and the one off to the side there - over there - Our Mother of Perpetual Help. What is that all about?

If you went into a Protestant Christian Church - other than Anglican - you most likely wouldn’t find such images of Mary. Why? Why not?

And this church and this parish is called, “St. Mary’s.”  And all the stained glass windows up there show images of this woman. “Why?” “What is that all about?”  “Motive?”  “You / Who?”

I’ve been asking that question for some 65 years now. It started when I was an altar boy as a kid. I’d see people praying at shrines and statues and images of Mary. Why? When I was a kid I used to also be a candle boy at our church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Brooklyn, N.Y. People would come into church, light a candle drop a coin into the box and move on. Why? Motive?

I’ve heard lots of answers. Lighting a candle is a prayer that stays here burning for me after I’m gone. It’s a tiny sacrifice. I put my money in. The candle burns - disappears to itself - giving some light - as it dies.

I particularly thought of this question of Lifetime Questions this morning - because today the Catholic Church - especially in Mexico and the United States, and other countries of the Americas celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why the following? What’s that all about?  Why are there other churches and shrines all around the world dedicated to Mary: Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa, Chartres, Medjujorje, and Guadalupe?

What is that behavior, that energy about?

I’ve been asking that question all my life.

One answer is that God is concerned with women and children - two people who are often treated up till the last century as nothing. Mary and her baby Jesus are often sculpted together - and we come and pray with and for all mothers and all their children.

Another answer is that mothers are central to life. All through our lives they represent security and home - and so we come to church for a feeling of security and home. 

I love the definition of home: “the place where they have to take you in.”

Does Mary represent God - who takes us in?

Do mothers represent God - who takes us in?

Do we all need all our lives - the comforting presence of our Mothers - living and dead - as well as the womb of a church?

Does Mary represent that God welcomes all people - especially the little person - like Juan Diego - as well as all native people? Amen.


[This was a question type homily I preached this morning to St. Mary's High School - December 12, 2012]

Quote for Today - December 12, 2012

"There is no lonelier person than the one who lives with a spouse with whom he or she cannot communicate."

Margaret Mead

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



The title of my homily for this 2nd Tuesday in Advent  is, “Lost Sheep: The Little Ones on the Planet.”


One of the recommendations for Advent is that we do some Advent Spiritual Reading. So we have those blue books in the back of church the past few years and some other Advent pamphlets. People take them and people give feedback saying they appreciate them.

Just at the beginning of Advent, I noticed an Advent Sourcebook - from Liturgy Training publications in Chicago. It gives lots of prayers and some interesting quotes from all over. This week I’m reading the material for the Second Week, entitled, “Wealth of the Poor”.  

Last night I spotted a piece by Eduardo Galeano - a Uruguayan journalist and writer. I had never heard of him - and I know nothing about Uruguay - except that its capital is Montevideo. He’s around my age. I’m born in 1939. He’s born in 1940. He wanted to be a soccer player. He says every boy in Uruguay wanted to be a soccer player. He becomes a journalist and a writer.


I looked up on line last night just who this Eduardo Galeano is. He writes about the poor of the earth - especially the unnoticed - the nobodies of our world. This does not go down well at times with the big guys.

In 1973 there was a military coup in Uruguay and Eduardo Galeano is arrested and his book, Open Veins of Latin America is banned in that country - as well as Chile and Argentina. He escapes and settles in Argentina - till there is a military coup there a short time after he gets there. His name is on the list of those to be killed. So he goes to Spain. He returns to Uruguay and Montevideo in 1985 - when the country has elections and goes the opposite direction.

Here’s the quote and the story that I found in the Advent Book.

The Uruguayan political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing, walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds.

One Sunday, Didsasko Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed “for having ideological ideas,” is visited by his daughter Milay, aged five. She brings him a drawing of birds. The guards destroy it at the entrance of the jail.

On the following Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawings get through. Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored circles scattered in the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: “Are they oranges? What fruit is it?”  The child puts her fingers to her mouth: “Ssssshhh.”

And she whispers in his ear: “Silly. Don’t you see they’re eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that I smuggled in for you.”

That’s the story. Till I read up on the life of Eduardo Galeano I didn’t really get the story - other than it being interesting and puzzling.


Combining it with today’s readings I got this out of it.

Today’s first reading is from Isaiah 40: 1-11. It’s the beginning of Second Isaiah. The Israelites are in exile - in the prison of Babylon - and Second Isaiah draws pictures of hope in words for this people. Right now we’re in a wasteland - but the Lord is going to lead us out by a brand new road - lowering the mountains and filling up the valleys to get us home. It’s a picture of hope. He’s saying, “Enough already. See the way out of this. Open your eyes to a better future.”

Today’s gospel from Matthew 18: 12-14 has Jesus telling us he cares for the little ones. He paints a picture in words of a  lost sheep - and see how he leaves the 99 to find the little one. He doesn’t worry about the 99 who are doing okay.


The message is to open up our eyes and see and then care for the lost ones - for those who feel like they are in exile - for those in prison - for those in nursing homes - for the children - especially the poor who are neglected and hurting. We need to be like that little girl and draw pictures for those who need  eyes to see how to escape from their littleness - and their poverty.

I plan to check out more about Eduardo Galeano - because I picked up on the little research I did on him last night. I see that he’s labeled a “Leftist”. I see that he challenges the First World foreign policies - including the United States - since the 1970’s - and before that. I see that he gets people thinking outside of their boxes - especially if they are narrow. He doesn’t like borders. He sees us as citizens of the earth. Caesar Chavez at a meeting of the countries of the Americas publicly handed Barack Obama Eduardo Galeano’s book, Open Veins of Latin America - which made it a best seller. In his writings about the poor of the planet - the lost sheep - people like the Somali Pirates and those in prison, I picked up that he upset lots of folks - and challenges lots of folks.

I  assume that the writers of the Advent book I picked up think that  is something we need for Advent - as Christians - to understand why Christ came in the first place - and why he drew us the picture of him looking for that 100th sheep that was lost - and let’s hope we do as well - noticing each other - especially when we’re lost.


Quote for Today - December 11, 2012

"My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts."

Many people

Monday, December 10, 2012



The title of my homily for this 2 Monday of Advent is, “Seeing the Desert Bloom.”


The Redemptorists of our Denver Province have a retreat house just outside of Tucson, Arizona - along with a place called, “The Desert House of Prayer.”

A bunch of years ago I was asked to do two weeks of talks out there. My hope each day was that it would rain. I’ve always heard it's one of life’s most beautiful sights: desert rain and then to see what happens to the earth right after it. The desert comes to life big time.

It didn’t rain - so that’s one of life’s disappointments. It's still on my bucket list.


But I did see an empty lot on the Lower East Side of New York City go from being dump  - containing rusting shopping carts, tossed  toilet bowls, thrown away mattresses, etc. etc. etc. - becoming a tiny park - with benches - shade trees - a small community vegetable garden - some cement chess and card tables - and people sitting there enjoying a quiet nook in the middle of a busy neighborhood.

But I have seen family members and priests recover from alcoholism and getting into AA 12 Step Programs for their recovery.

But I have seen a junky, dilapidated house become a beautiful home where a family lives - in both New Orleans and Philadelphia.

But I’ve seen many a road go from one with pot holes and bumps to a brand new road - black topped - new white lines and it flowed.

But I’ve seen people walking well with new knees and new hips.

But I’ve seen people recover from a gambling addiction.

But I repaired and rebuilt a boardwalk by the ocean that was totally destroyed by a Nor’easter.

But I read about Grandma Moses - Anna Mary Robertson - mother of 10 children - 5 of whom died in childbirth -  started painting in her late 70’s and did some 1600 paintings till her death at 101. She sold her first paintings - small ones 2 dollars - large ones 3 dollars. In November of 2006, her 1943 painting, Sugaring Off sold for 1.2 million.

But I’ve seen old folks dancing up a storm at many a wedding.

But I’ve seen people recover from stuttering, Bell’s Palsy, a stroke and what have you.


Recovering, renewal, beginning again, new life, roads finished, safety, flowers blooming, healing, redemption - are all themes in today’s two readings.

In the first reading from Isaiah  35: 1-10, we hear that the desert and the parched land will exult, The earth will bloom with beautiful flowers. Everyone is singing. Sore hands and knees will be strengthened. Hearts that are frightened will stop being afraid. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will leap. Those who can’t speak, will speak out.

In today’s gospel from Luke 5: 17-26, the man who is paralyzed by sickness and sin is forgiven and healed - and stands up praising Jesus - saying, “We have seen incredible things today.”


Today - it’s been raining. It’s kind of dreary. Remember the old saying, "Bloom where you're planted." A question then: What can I do to make life bloom around us today?" Amen.


Painting on top: Blooming Cactus by Amy H. Whitehouse

Quote for Today - December 10,  2012

"Suppose someone is hiding and he stirs, he shows his whereabouts thereby; and God does the same. No one could ever have found God; God gives himself away."

Meister Eckhart [1260-1327], Meister Eckhart

Sunday, December 9, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Landscape: Inner and Outer.”


Today’s readings - for this Second Sunday in Advent - talk about landscape - inner and outer - more outer than inner - however.

The first reading from the prophet Baruch talks about the heights of Jerusalem - where people came to visit on a regular basis - to see the big city - from the east and the west. Then Baruch talks about the leveling of landscape - mountains being lowered and gorges being filled in. He also talks about every kind of tree lending both shade and fragrance for those on the road to the city. Then at the end of today’s first reading Baruch goes within: how God is leading the people of Israel in joy  - by the light of his glory - so that they will travel this life with mercy and justice.

Today’s gospel has Luke’s way of beginning the coming out of Jesus as an adult. He locates Jesus in history. He tells us who was emperor at the time - Tiberius Caesar - who was governor - Pontius Pilate - who was tetrarch of Galilee - Herod - and then he gives a few more names - as well as the names of Annas and Caiaphas - who were high priests at the time.  Next he tells us of John the Baptist who came to proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John quotes the prophet Isaiah. It’s the same message that we heard from Baruch: roads and paths are to be made straight - valleys are to be filled in - with the mountains and hills being lowered - and winding roads are to be made straight and rough ways made smooth. Then the closing message is about changes in our inner landscape - redemption and salvation coming to us from our God.

The title of my homily is: “Landscape: Inner and Outer.”


We’ve all been on the roads of life and we’ve all seen signs indicating, “Highway Construction Ahead.”

I had the front seat of a bus with our high school seniors last Friday coming back from a 4 day retreat at Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania. I had looked at the readings for today just before I left - so as to think about a homily for today on the bus. I saw landscape in the readings. I saw landscape out the front window of the bus. I saw hills - no mountains - but hills and slopes - dips and twists and turns. I saw road construction here and there on the way - especially on 95 north of Baltimore. When is that going to be finished?

Maybe like airports, construction, revamping, always goes on.

I couldn’t help but think a retreat is a good thing for folks to attend from time to time. Retreat houses are usually located where there is beautiful landscape. I suspect the motive is for folks to go within: to check out their inner landscape.

What does it look like inside me - in my invisible side? What am I like? If someone could walk around inside me - what would they see?

Do I have rough roads - that need repair? Where do I need to be inner beautified? Where are my potholes - that bother me and others all the time? Where do I have to plant inner trees and dig for water?

As I sat on the bus thinking about all this - I thought: “That’s one of  the purposes of Advent - to look at our inner landscape - and make our paths to God better - and better for God to travel to us.”

I think of the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph coming south on a donkey - heading for Bethlehem - the place where Jesus is born.


I laugh. I celebrate - after all this talk about beautiful landscape - Jesus is born in a stable with the stink of animals. So he’ll come to us - however we are - but I guess it would be better, if we were better. 

Quote for Today - December 9, 2012

"One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he can't give up a thing without wanting everyone else to give it up. That isn't the Christian way."

C.S. Lewis, Christian Behavior, 1944

Now about that fish on Friday............