Monday, December 30, 2013




I got pocketed behind 7X-3824;

He was making 65, but I can do a little more.
I crowded him on the curves, but I couldn’t get past,
And on the straightways
there was always some truck coming fast.
Then we got to the top of a mile-long incline
And I edged her out to the left, a little over the white line,
And ahead was a long grade
with construction at the bottom,
And I said to the wife, ‘Now by golly I got’m!’
I bet I did 85 going down the long grade,
And I braked her down hard in front of the barricade,
And I swung in ahead of him and landed fine
Behind 9W-7679.

- Morris Bishop

Morris Bishop: ‘Ambition’ from The Best of Bishop; Light Verse from The New Yorker and Elsewhere (Cornell). © 1950, 1978 Alison Kingsbury Bishop. Originally in The New Yorker. Used by permission.

A POEM FOR TODAY - January 1st, 2014


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

© Philip Larkin

Note: For the past few years I've provided a quote for the day. This year, 2014, I'm going to try to provide a poem for the day.



The title of my homily for this homily for January 1st, The Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is, "Happy New Year Face to Face."

Today’s first reading triggers the memory of one of the most ancient and most popular games of all cultures. It’s the game that parents and grandparents play with children called, “Peekaboo!” And if the kid is very small we say, “Peekaboo! I love you.”

Little children long to see the face of their mother and their father. “Peekaboo! I love you.”

In the movie, “The Godfather”, we even see Don Corleone, Marlo Brando, as a grandfather, kidding and playing this came of “Peekaboo” in the backyard with his grandson.

When we were children we climbed up on our father’s lap to pull away his strong fingers to see his face.

We long to see the face of our father.

And when we did wrong, didn’t we hide our face in shame? But didn’t we also have at the same time, a deep longing that our father would come into our darkness and that we would see his shining face? Didn’t we long for his smile, so that we would know that he had come to “forgive us our trespasses?”


In today’s first reading, then, we have these basic human feelings in an ancient and famous blessing called, “The Aaronite or Priestly Blessing.”

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you
and bring you peace.”

This special blessing goes way back into Old Testament history. In fact, for example, in August of 1979 an amulet or charm was found in an archeological dig in Jerusalem’s old city with the blessing on it. However, it took years for anyone to figure it out.

Judith Hadley, a graduate student in archeology from Toledo, Ohio, spotted the amulet and said it looked like a cigarette butt. It was a tiny roll of silver from around 2,600 years ago. The leader of the dig, a Gabriel Barkay of Tel Aviv University, recognized it as an amulet that someone would have worn with a string through it.

For two and a half years the amulet was studied and worked on carefully. Gabriel Barkay knew there must be writing on it. Finally, after figuring out how to unroll the silver without destroying it, writing was discovered. With the help of a microscope, a researcher saw the name Yahweh two times. However, it wasn’t till 1986, when the Israel Museum was putting together an exhibit of the treasures from the dig where the amulet was found, that the name Yahweh was seen for the third time. It was the clue that solved the mystery: the amulet contained the Priestly or Aaronite Blessing.

So just as people today wear charms or amulets around their necks with special words on them, what more beautiful words than the Priestly or Aaronite blessing.

The blessing is simple and basic. It asks that essential needs be taken care of:
- that God keep protective watch over us,
- that God be gracious to us,
- that God not hide his face from us,
- that God bring us his peace -- Shalom.

What more could we want?

This blessing became so special that laws (rules and regulations), were made, so that it could be given only by the priests: the Sons of Aaron.


As we begin a New Year, as we wish blessings on each other, as we pray for peace for ourselves, our family and our world, perhaps we can look at this Aaronite or Priestly Blessing for the secret or the answer on just how to have peace and a Happy New Year.

The key hope and blessing is that we see the face of God. When that happens, then we will have peace. The key then is living in a face to face relationship with God. Transparency. Honesty. Openness. These are the virtues needed for a happy life.

All of us can relate to that. Once more we can go back to the childhood game of longing to see the face of our mother and our father. When they were out of sight, we often cried. We thought they were hiding from us. We thought we did something wrong. But when we saw their smile, then we knew all was right. Peace was being loved. Peace was being held. Peace was being reflected in the center of our parent’s eyes. “Peekaboo! I love you!”

But we don’t have to go back to our childhood only. We know as adults that when we are at odds with God or our family or our neighbor, we hide our faces from each other. We can’t look each other in the eye. We wear masks. Didn’t St. Paul say all that: that we sin in the dark, behind closed doors, our of sight, in secret?

Isn’t that the message behind the eye of God on the dollar bill? God sees all. Put the dollar back. It’s not yours. Don’t steal. And if you do steal, you’ll discover, even if you are never caught, that you stole some peace and happiness from yourself. Is unhappiness worth a dollar? A hundred dollars? Does it have a price?

But happiness isn’t a relationship with God where we think he is always watching us. That would be a relationship built on fear and not on trust and love. To have a Happy New Year and to have the blessing of peace, we need to have a positive relationship with a loving God.

And to start this kind of a relationship, God usually makes the first move. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, what did they do? They hid in shame. They could not face God. Yet, God did not give up and hide his face from them. He went searching for them in the Garden. And when He found them he talked to them face to face.

And isn’t that also the message of Christmas which we just celebrated? That God once more came into the Garden of the world to look at us face to face. Jesus is the face of God shining on us. The word became flesh, became an infant, looking out at us and our world. When we look at the Christmas crib, what do we see? What does the Christmas story say to us?

Did Mary play, “Peekaboo! I love you,” with Jesus?

Obviously, we don’t know the answer to that one. But why not? And why not imagine seeing the faces of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in today’s Gospel looking at the face of Jesus? Painters through the centuries have imagined the scene. Luke is telling us that the shepherds represent us, that we should long to see the face of Jesus.

And Luke is also telling us to be like Mary: to treasure and ponder all these things in our heart. Isn’t that treasuring and pondering the beginning of a deep prayer life with God that will bring happiness and peace to our heart this New Year and every year of our life?

And isn’t that what Paul is calling us to in today’s second reading? “God sent his Son, born of a woman,” so that we can have a relationships with him that is face to face -- intimate. We can have a relationship with God that is as close as a child climbing up on his lap and looking him face to face, eye to eye. We can have a relationship with God that is as intimate and face to face as is his relationship with Mary.

Commenting on today’s second reading from Galatians, John Bligh, S.J., the British scripture scholar, reflects on St. Paul, that “it can hardly have escaped his notice that the `woman’ whom he mentions was taken into an astonishing intimacy with God. When she cried `Abba, Father’, she was addressing the Father of her own Son. To this day, it is impossible to contemplate the relationship of Mary the Mother of Jesus to God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ without wonder and amazement.”

The secret of a Happy New Year then is t have a face to face relationship with God. How? The answer is found in today’s Gospel: to be like Mary, to be like Joseph, to be like the shepherds, to approach Jesus and look into his face.

But it must be stated that Jesus is no longer a baby. Today, this New Year, approach Jesus adult to adult, face to face. Let his face shine on you. Let him be gracious to you. Isn’t that what Jesus was about? He is the Aaronite or the Priestly Blessing in the flesh. He is the face of God walking around blessing people. He walked around looking into people’s faces. Most turned away and walked the other way. The gospels, Sunday after Sunday, however, tell us story after story about people whom Jesus met face to face: Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the Rich Young Man, Zaccheus, and hundreds more. But to as many who received him, he gave them power to become the children of God. Like a little kid, climbing up on his father’s lap, Jesus went up to people and pried their hands away from their faces and looked into their eyes, with the eyes of love.

The Lord’s face shone on them. He was gracious to them. He gave them the possibility of peace. And whenever he looked into someone’s eyes and saw death, he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” He, the Lord of the Resurrection, wanted to see life in people, not death. He wanted to see light, not darkness,. He wanted to be gracious, not grouchy or greedy. He wanted to see peace, not unrest. He wanted to see love, not hate.

It might sound corny, but doesn’t Jesus say to us, “Peekaboo! I love you.” Isn’t that what he calls his followers to have: a love that breaks down walls and allows people to live face to face with God and each other in love? Isn’t that what will put peace into our hearts and our faces? Isn’t that what will bring all of us to a Happy New Year?

NOTE: Picture on top - Gabriel Barkay and the amulet.


The title of my homily is, “Attending the Play Called, ‘The Gospel According to John.’”

We’ve all attended a musical play and the lights start to dim - and there is a medley of music - streams of sounds - themes from each of the songs in the show. And if we’re familiar with the songs, with the music, each tiny piece touches the whole of the musical and its different songs.


Today’s gospel is the Prologue of the Gospel of John. In it we hear a medley of the sights and sounds from the whole gospel of John - and not just the gospel - but the Jewish scriptures starting with the opening words in Genesis, “In the beginning….”

The listeners would know - Jesus is here to start a new creation.

Jesus is the New Beginning. He’s here for a new Genesis.

And as Genesis sings it: And God spoke - God’s word - roamed the darkness - and God sang, “Let there be light - and there was light.”

And in 6 days in Genesis - science now telling us - these days took billions and billions of years - and in fact, God is still creating this great big universe / universes - however big this theater is. We have on stage what we have on stage so far - and we assume there is a lot much more to come.

Let there be light! And there was light.

So in today’s prologue we hear about Word and Light - about beginning and choice - and that Word became flesh and lives among us - and that Light is Christ, the Light of the World.


And as the Play called the Gospel According to John unfolds we see come on stage John the Baptist and then a cast of characters - a woman named Mary who didn’t want to see a marriage feast run out of wine - or a group of people run out of bread - and then were fed the bread of life. We meet Nicodemus - a man who comes to Jesus in the night and a Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at high noon - not knowing whom she has run into. We meet a man paralyzed for 38 years and a man born blind. We hear about a woman caught in adultery and a Jesus walks on water and later washes feet with water. We discover Jesus walks on water - and tells everyone that if you thirsty, you can come to me because rivers of living water flow out of me. We find out Jesus had close friends - a man named Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.

In the Book of Genesis we hear about freedom and choice - and how Adam and Eve - as well as their son Cain - choose evil. In the Gospel of John we hear about Jesus the New Adam choosing freedom and love and how Mary and we are called to continue those choices for life.

In the Book of Genesis we heard don’t eat forbidden fruit - don’t sit under the tree of evil - but find the tree of life. In the Gospel of John we hear about eating the body and drinking the blood called Jesus and that the tree of life is also the tree of death. It’s the cross..


The title of my homily is, “Attending the Play Called, ‘The Gospel According to John.’”

Today we heard the opening song - the Prelude - the Prologue - hints and sounds from the rest of the gospel. And each time we hear this gospel - we pray that these words - and the word becomes flesh in our flesh and dwells among us - grace upon grace.

Picture on top is that of Papyrus 52 - a 2nd century papyrus piece of the Gospel of John. It can be found in the John Rylands Library in England.


"With age, we become responsible for what's in our heads - the character of the memories there, the music we are familiar with, the storehouse of books we have read, the people whom we can call, the scenery we know and love. Our memories become our dreams."

Edward Hoagland, Harper's, January 1991




The title of my homily for this Monday - December 30th - is, “Growth in Wisdom, Age and Grace.”

I like the old translation of the gospel for this day - Luke 2:36-40 - that says Jesus grew “in wisdom, age and grace.”

Let me say a few words about each - knowing it’s easy to measure Age, but difficult to measure Wisdom and Grace.


We can measure age by the birth certificate. That’s easy. It’s also on our driver’s license, our wedding license and what have you.

Yet we age differently. Class reunions can be a great or a horrendous moment. We ask, “Who’s that!” Or we say, “You haven’t changed at all. I’d recognize you from a mile away.” And haven’t we all said, better, haven’t we all whispered, “What the heck happened to her or him?”

So too obituary columns - or funerals - we wonder about the age of the person who died. And sometimes we notice the person is much younger than we are and say, “Uh oh!”

So like the circles of a cut down tree, we can measure age.


Next comes Wisdom.

This is difficult to measure. It’s tricky.

For starters, I have learned that there is a big difference between wisdom and information.

A person can have a Ph.D. as you know - in philosophy or quantum physics - and be a total jerk.

We go to school for education - but mainly it’s in information: reading, writing and arithmetic.

This doesn’t mean kids don’t learn wisdom in school. We can learn from mistakes, fights, to volunteer. We can learn how to interact, how to ask questions, how to deal with rejections, how to deal with perceived unfairness - in making teams, in how we are marked, in whom a teacher likes or dislikes.

I notice that the scriptures - our Bible - often gives wisdom stuff - but it seems it’s mainly for young men - as in today’s first reading from 1 John 12-17. It uses the word children and fathers and then young men - but as in most societies and cultures the mothers raise the girls - and the boys till they start to become young men.

Wisdom: what have I learned about life?

Just last week, I visited my niece Patty and her husband George for Christmas dinner. While in the bathroom on the first floor, just off the kitchen area, I spotted a bathroom book. It was one of three books in a basket. It was for bathroom reading. One book - I just read the cover - I didn’t pick it up or open it - had the title - something like: Life Lessons - What I Learned Is The Most Important Thing In Life. Then it added something like, “from 78 famous people.”

Driving home that night I asked myself, “If I was asked to answer my #1 life lesson, what would it be?”

I gave myself several answers like: Step by step, inch by inch, page by page, moment by moment, life is lived.

I learned that from the time I was putting together a boardwalk - that was ripped up by a Nor’easter Storm - when I lived on the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey. As I rebuilding that boardwalk, as I hammered each board, I found myself saying, “Board by board the boardwalk is built.”

That’s a basic wisdom leaning. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

You take the jigsaw puzzle out of the box, turn all the pieces face up, start sorting out the flat edged pieces for the frame, and then piece by piece the puzzle is put together. So too life.

I jotted down a quote somewhere along the line - without listing who the author was. I make that mistake often. In reality, the quote is more important than the author - but I like to give credit where credit is due. Here’s the quote - which was in my shirt pocket before I put it in the washer. “Only by joy and sorrow does a person know anything about himself and his destiny. They learn what to do and what to avoid.”

What were the experiences in that person’s life for her or him to come up with that wisdom statement?

So to wisdom. That’s how we learn life. I’ve learned that we learn more from suffering than from successes, hurts more than helps, etc. etc. etc. We learn more from dumb moves than smart moves.

What would be your # 1 life learning.


Lastly a few words about grace. I didn’t go into what the Greek word here in Luke is. I simply thought about being graceful.

I think figure skaters are the quintessential image or icon for whom the graceful person is.

We have the Winter Olympics coming up soon. Check out the figure skaters. They are going along beautifully and ooops they fall or slip and all go, “Oooh!” They fall on their behinds, but they get up off their butts - forget what is behind, what just happened, and skate on.

I assume getting up and starting again comes from practice, practice, practice.

Who are the graceful folks in the rooms of our lives? We know who the sandpaper people are. They walk into a room and start to rub people the wrong way.

The graceful person - has learned not to put her foot in her mouth - but to become smooth as silk and satin.

They are those who have learned to make life smooth.


Take some time today to examine ourselves on these three gifts Jesus grows in: wisdom, age and grace. Amen.


Quote for Today - DECEMBER 30, 2013

"Bromidic though it may sound, some questions don't have answers, which is a terribly difficult lesson to learn."

Katherine Graham, in Jane Howard, "The Power That Didn't Corrupt," Ms. October, 1974

Sunday, December 29, 2013



Today is Holy Family Sunday - so I would like to place on the table some family stuff and see if something triggers something. So the title of my homily is, “Family: Ties, Flaws, Feuds.”

There have been movies and TV programs called, “Family Ties” and “Family Feuds.” I don’t know if there have been any entitled, “Family Flaws.” Yet I do know Shakespeare and many movies and novels have gotten into Family Flaws. For example: The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides - both novels by Pat Conroy about dysfunctional family stuff - both becoming movies. Diane Rehm had Pat Conroy on her program this past week - and yes tough family stuff.

Today is Holy Family Sunday - a Sunday at the end of every year and the beginning of a new year - this Sunday after Christmas. Each year this Sunday challenges us and offers us the chance to look backwards at the past year and look forward to the new year - and check out our lives - especially - our family life.

How are we doing? What’s going right? What needs improvement? What we thank God and each other for? What do we ask God and each other forgiveness for?

The title of my homily is, “Family: Ties, Flaws and Feuds.”

Let me take those three issues in my title one by one: Ties, Flaws and Feuds.


Whether we like it or not - we are tied to each other. Whether we agree to it or not - we are tied to each other.

I am at a red light - in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Walking up the street to my left - I see a lady teacher or somebody - with about 15 kids all connected - hooked or leashed together - heading for something or going from something. It was a sight to photograph into my mind and memory.

Were they a kindergarten class going to a museum or a library or back to a classroom? I don’t know.

The light turned green and I began to think - everyone of us walks up and down the streets of where we are - with a whole gaggle of folks all tied to each other heading for somewhere - or going from somewhere.

I’ve seen the same scene with 15 dogs or more - but let’s stick with people.

Family ties ….

It starts with our umbilical cord. We are tied to our mom - more or less. And our dad - more or less. Of course some of us have been adopted or raised by others.

I’ve always heard of the blessing and benefit of having at least one daughter. They will be there for us in our old age.

I like quotes and one that is hanging like a sign on the wall of my mind comes from something Robert C. Byrd, the famous West Virginia senator once said, “One’s family is the most important thing in life. I look at it this way: One of these days I’ll be in a hospital somewhere with four walls around me. And the only people who’ll be with me will be my family.” [New York Times, March 1977]

He died June 28 2010 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia - at 3 AM. I assume his family were around him especially those days he was in the hospital.

I also like to look at Family Photos - especially enjoying this new way of sending Christmas cards with not just the pictures of the kids - but various family members - especially the parents. And at times I’ve heard folks make fun of family Christmas letters. I think they are wonderful - people summing up their year - especially telling about family moments.

So the first area is to just look at those whom I am tied to. We walk down each block and into each situation connected to them.

We sound like them. We speak their language. We have their mannerisms and their genes.

As Gail Lumet Buckley put it: “Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.”


The second area to look at would be family flaws - issues with those we are tied or connected to.

At times, flaws are hard to name and hard to see and even if we knew them face to face, they are hard to admit.

Various ancient Greek playwrights and philosophers challenge us to see ourselves on stage and see our fatal flaws - our Achilles heel.

Questions: What is my main fatal flaw? What kills, drains, messes me up every time?

I’m sure those who see us day in and day out - know our key flaw: laziness, pride, anger, impatience, procrastination, lust, gluttony, one-up-man-ship, can’t lose, gossip, cut people off in the middle of their story - to tell a story their story triggered.

Are our flaws born with us or acquired from our surroundings? How can three kids in the same household be so, so different?

Baptism - into Christ - is a washing - in the presence of others of the Original Sin - which has never been defined. Baptism is an entrance into the church - with the hope that these folks - especially parents and god-parents and family will make an effort to give us good example.

To be humble is to admit I’m not God. Was that Adam and Eve’s sin - like Lucifer’s sin - this wanting to be totally in charge of my life - without God - without the need for others - without acknowledging others - and I can eat up any forbidden fruit - and think that I won’t be poisoned?

Is the original sin - not so original? Is it basically the sin of choosing to go it alone - whether married on single - being and becoming a walled in self. Is it simply the refusal to receive communion not only with God, not only with Christ - but with all others? I’ll get my own food - my own bread and wine - and basically go it alone.

Or do I admit I need others - and Sunday Mass is a group of people coming together - like at an AA meeting - saying we are powerless over some things. We are flawed and we need God and each other.


And lastly there are family feuds.

Some feuds and fights in some families go on for years - well into adulthood - and they show up - at weddings, wakes and funerals.

We walk around tied to and dragging around bad memories of family fights and struggles. We’re like that lady in Meadville, Pennsylvania - walking down the street with all those kids in tow.

Today’s readings from the Wisdom book of Sirach and Paul’s Letter to the people of Colossae, challenge us to be holy, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another, forgiving one another - and on and on and on.

That second reading has the message to wives to be subordinate to their husbands. Some folks just see that message. It hits buttons and they miss the various other stresses in the text.

Of course, Paul is male and grew up in a very patriarchic society. Attitudes and the place of women are still very much part of the cities in the Mediterranean Basin - and that includes Greece, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, the whole Middle East. But read all his words. There are calls for males to treat their wives better - with deeper love. Read all this words and see that he has come a long way.

Every family has feuds - gripes and grievances - and Paul calls all to challenge each other, avoid all bitterness, encourage and not discourage each other.


Today’s gospel ends with Mary and Joseph leaving Egypt and heading back north to Nazareth - not to Bethlehem or Jerusalem in the south.

Today’s gospel ends with the words: “He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.”

I got to Israel once - in January of 2000. When we got off the bus in Nazareth, we went to a Franciscan site - and our tour guide gave a door keeper somewhere there who lead us down under a church to what might have been Jesus’ home in Nazareth. I spotted our guide giving the house guide some cash. He opened up this big door to this place down below and said, “This might well have been Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s home in Nazareth - or at least like this.

It was small and dirty and dark - but we stood there and heard about what it might have been like.

I would assume it would be worth opening up some of our inner closed doors and going down deep inside ourselves and look at our roots, our home, our background - and get in touch with our family ties, family flaws and family feuds.

Best guides: I have found more and more, the best guides and the place to begin is talking with each other. If really bad, get thee to good family therapists.

Just before my sister Peggy died in November, she and my other sister Mary and I, the 3 of us who are left - had a lot of great conversations about our childhood. Good stuff.

In fact, that would be my recommendation for the New Year. Have great family conversations - in person - or e-mail or phone.

Isn’t that a modern need? I hear it on these many high school retreats I’ve been on. Families need to talk to each other.

Aren’t the great meals, those we stay at the table with - long after the last bite.

On Christmas night, at my nieces house, 8 of us did some great talking about years ago. We sat there for about an hour and a half after the Christmas meal. More.


QUOTE FOR TODAY - December 29, 2013 - Sunday

"How many different things a family can be - a nest of tenderness, a jail for the heart, a nursery of souls. Families name us and define us, gives us strength, give us grief. All our lives we struggle to embrace of escape their influence. They are magnets that both hold us close and drive us away."

George Howe Colt, Life, April, 1991

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Quote for Today - December 28, 2013 - Saturday

"The poem ... is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful.  And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life."

Robert Penn Warren, Saturday Review, March 22, 1958

Friday, December 27, 2013



The title of my homily is, “The Invisible Poet.”

Years ago there was a saying to put on refrigerator doors, “Inside every fat person, there is a thin person trying to get out.”

Could we say, “Inside every person, there is a poet trying to get out.”


I remember visiting a nursing home in Pennsylvania. It was part of a parish mission we were giving in a parish there.

I’m talking to this one lady, For some reason, I blurted out, “You’re a poet!” 

She smiled and pointed to a chair on the other side of her room. I headed towards her point [POINT]. Then she signaled to go behind the big cushioned chair.  I spotted a loose leaf filler and picked it up. She signaled with her smile. “Good!”

She then spoke, “Turn to page 16 or so.” 

The binder  was filled with poems. As I was looking at page 16,  she recited the poem from memory.

I said, “These are your poems?”

She said, “Yes!”

Then she recited a few more of her poems.

She was good.


Could we say, “Inside every person, there is a poet trying to get out”?

Does everyone have their loose-leaf binder of poems - or at least one poem somewhere?

I would think that all of us in our lifetime wrote a poem at some time.

Then there are those who try their hand at a poem at a wedding or with a Christmas greeting - or somewhere along the time line of their life.


Today is the feast of St. John the Evangelist - the writer of the 4th Gospel.

If there is one thing, you can say of the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, John captures the poetry of Jesus - the most.

John’s symbol is that of the eagle - high above it all. Soaring way up above the earth with ox and lion below.

Jesus was a poet of sorts.

John was a poet of sorts.

It takes a poet to spot a poet.

A poet spots the invisible in the visible.

A poet lets us fly - make leaps - see poetry on the other side of a broken branch or a flower petal caught on a metal fence or in a loose-leaf binder - behind a chair - on the other side of a room.

John was a poet - and a poet sees the invisible.

John has preserved for us many of the great images of Jesus - images that give us insight into the hand behind the bread - or the mind behind the creation - the who and the why behind whatever we’re seeing: light, doors, water, shepherd,  wine, wind, walls, birth, tomb, stone, eyes, word, healing, night, gates, oil …..

See Jesus walking on the water; see Jesus in every body of water we see.  See rocks in the field; see the hands of rock throwers who have walked away. See Jesus in every piece of bread and cup of wine. Feel Jesus’ spirit shaking in the wind and the washing of feet.  Feel Jesus’ presence with Mary at every wedding. Stand in any cemetery and make acts of faith in resurrection and hope for new life.

I love to say there is a invisible difference between a postcard on a metal rack in the airport gift shop and a postcard in a book - with or without writing on it - and it’s been sitting there as a book mark for 27 years. So too there is a difference between a wedding ring on someone’s hand and that same ring years ago in a jewelry store. The one on the ring finger has mystery and history going around and around the music in its band.

This earth is filled with energies, jumping out of birds, flowers, cemeteries, churches, rings and dates.

For example, on the top of Main and Duke of Gloucester Streets here in 
Annapolis, stands the Maryland Inn. I go by it at least a dozen times a week - and each time I whisper a prayer for my niece Margie and her husband Jerry. That’s where Jerry proposed to her. And every time I’m at St. Andrew by the Bay, I remember doing their wedding there.

I’m asking you the question: what are you seeing, sensing, every day?

Today is December 27, 2013. For many it’s just December 27, 2013.

For others today is an anniversary of a loved one who died on this date or it’s a wedding anniversary. In fact, just this morning I did a marriage renewal of vows for a couple - Jose and Jamie - who were married right here in this church - exactly 10 years ago today. Today they stood with their two little boys. Jamie told me - pointing to her tiny son, “In the car, he asked, ‘Why didn’t you invite me to your wedding?’  ‘In a way,’ she said, ‘I did.’”


The title of my homily is, “The Invisible Poet.”

Inside every person, there is a poet, a Fourth Gospel, waiting to come out.

Don’t forget the last line in today’s gospel: “... the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.”

The invisible…. The poet in us sees all and believes. Amen.


Quote for Today - December 27, 2013

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard."

Ford Madox Ford [1873-1939] - First line in The Good Soldier [1915].

Comment: I spotted this quote when I was looking for a quote for today. Wouldn't that want one to get into the book to find out what that story was?  Then I asked: What's the saddest story I ever heard?  I came up with 5 - and how does one then judge which was the saddest?

Thursday, December 26, 2013


December 26, 2013 - Quote for Today - Thursday

"Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."


Comment: Forgiveness is the message of December 26th, the feast of St. Stephen the Forgiver. Can't find something: pray to St. Anthony or St. Gertrude. Can't forgive: pray to St. Stephen.  [Cf. Acts of the Apostles 7:54-60 and Jesus' words from the cross: Luke 23:34.]

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


May a small piece of straw stick
to your coat as you bring your kids
to the Christmas crib this Christmas.

May the sent of bread and wine
from the Body and Blood of Christ
at the Christ Mass be ever
on your breath and in your words.

And may you be the best Christmas
gift you give to your families and your
friends this Christmas - you being
the Real Presence of Christ - the Way,
the Truth and the Life - to each other.*

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2013

*This is a fifth Irish Blessing which I just  put in my Book of Irish Blessings. It's a book  I’ve been working on for years. The word “sent” is a mistake on purpose. Irish prayers and blessings often have some humor  and some word play in them. This one is based  on the Old Latin command at the end of Mass: “Ite Missa est.” “Go you are sent!” Missa - becomes the English word “Mass” - which means  we come to Mass to be sent into the week with his love and power and grace. Amen.


[For the past 20 Christmases,  I have written a Christmas story of some sort in memory of a priest I was stationed with: Father John Duffy. He was a funny and unique English professor. - whom  had taught us in the seminary. Every year he used to write a new Christmas story and send it to his niece up near Boston.  I got to type out a few of those stories for him - so when he died on Christmas Eve - 1993 -   I thought -  writing a Christmas story  would be a fitting memorial for Duff.   I’ve been doing that  in place of a homily for  each Christmas ever since. So this is Number 20:  a story entitled, “Grandfather Clause.”] 

GrandPop Ralph died 5 years ago.

At family gatherings from time to time - the name of Ralph, Pop, Dad, GrandPop,  Uncle Ralphie, Grandfather Puff - that name came from one grandkid who had trouble pronouncing Ralph - so Ralph  was “Puff “- for him - and it became a cute family nickname always said with a smile. And the jokesters would add,  “Ralphie - you always were a puff over!”

“GrandPop,” that was how his grandson Frank began his thoughts about Ralph while driving along - alone - heading for a business meeting - some 150 miles away - just a week before Christmas.

 He was listening to his car radio and a correspondent was talking about the “Francis Bounce” - the so called Pope Francis effect on so many Catholics who had dropped out of Church years ago - and came to Church at Easter or Christmas or the First Communion of a grandkid or what have you or when have you.

Frank turned off the radio when that report was finished and he began thinking about his grandfather,  Ralph - whom he always called “GrandPop!” - all through the years.

“The ‘Francis Bounce’ - the ‘Pope Francis Effect’” - Frank said out loud in his car. “What about my GrandPop - what about the ‘Ralph Bounce’?  What about the bounce towardsd goodness we’re all supposed to be giving each other?”

“Yeah,” he reiterated to himself, out loud in his car. “What about the ‘Ralph Bounce’ - how my GrandPop had such a great impact on so many people? - way before anyone ever heard of this new fellow on the world stage: Pope Francis?”

He thought about how his GrandPop - after he retired - loved playing Santa Claus all through the Christmas season: in nursing homes, schools, and at the hospital. It was one of his many volunteer jobs - that he loved to do.

“Ho, ho, ho!” He loved giving out gifts to kids of all sorts - old ones in nursing homes - and new ones in kindergartens.  He didn’t have that much of a mid-life belly - so as Santa Claus  he loved to tap his tummy and say to other adults: “It’s a pillow!” - or to a few of the guys: “It’s silicone!”

After he retired - after his hair turned whitish gray - he grew a great, real Santa Claus beard.

As he drove along Frank thought about the half dozen or so folks  who came up to him at his grandfather’s wake - saying, “Your grandfather got me back to my church and I’m not a Catholic. He didn’t nag me with words. He pulled me back by good example. He was extremely generous. Many times,  I saw him with his twenty dollar bills. He’d slip them into the hands or side pockets of guys who were stuck.”

Frank knew it was his GrandPop who got him back to Church - after he dropped out a bit during college and those first years of his marriage. His grandfather never said anything - but once during a summer family reunion at a big rented beach house, he overheard his mom talking and crying and complaining to her dad - his grandfather - as well as God -  on an outside porch - just outside an open window to a room - where he, Frank,  was taking a summer nap. They didn’t know Frank was in there. Or if they did, his Grandfather was quite clever.

His mom was complaining about her kids losing their faith - after all the effort - we put in - getting them religious education - and getting them to Church every Sunday - growing up.

Frank noticed that his GrandPop said little. He just listened and listened and listened some more.

He didn’t join in the pity party with his daughter  - but just said, “Give them time. Give them time. Sometimes people have to arrive at that first station of the cross - before they discover there are at least 13 more. Ha. Ha. Surprise! Surprise! Give them time. Wait till some of their walls come crumbling down. That’s how God gets inside some people’s castles.”

His mom became quite quiet after that. 

Frank remained even quieter in the room he was trying to sneak that summer nap in.

In the car - still driving along -  Frank said a prayer to God our Father and added, “Thanks GrandPop. Thanks Mom and Dad - for giving us the gift of faith - even though we blew it at times. Thanks.”

As he drove along - those highway roads - Frank was very silent - and he realized how often he loved these long quiet trips - these long moments of silence - no noise, no music, no nothing in the car - nothing but good think time.

Then he laughed and said out loud to himself, “And where did I get that attitude  from?”

He answered his own question with his own answer, “Thanks mom. Thanks dad. Thanks grandmas. And especially, thanks GrandPop. Thanks!”

His GrandPop, Ralph, could be the life to the party. He could also be a great ear at a meal together - when he, Frank, needed advice, about whether to take another job or how to deal with a boss who was a disaster.

And then there was the time his GrandPop gave him great advice when he Frank hit a blah boredom uggy lonely stage in his marriage to Judith. His GrandPop  said, “Frank give your grandma and me a weekend and we’ll take your kids for you and you take Judith for a honeymoon and tell her what you’re feeling - and listen, listen to where she’s at - and hear her boredom with you or the kids or what have you.”

Frank smiled at that - remembering how that was the ticket to a new beginning  - to a whole new phase in his marriage with Judith.

He remembered giving that same advice to a buddy - who was in the same boat that he had been in. He told this fellow he worked with how he talked to his GrandPop and what his GrandPop told him.

His buddy said at first, “You talk to your grandfather? And your dad?  I’ve never done that since I was a kid. That stopped when I got into high school.”

Frank heard that - and called his Grandfather up and took him out to Olive Gardens - for another great meal - just the two of them. And he told his grandfather how he gave his buddy the advice that you gave me and it’s also working for him as well.

And he told his GrandPop that  the guy said, “You talk to your grandfather?”

His grandfather said, “Haven’t you ever heard of the Grandfather Clause?”

Frank hesitated when his grandfather threw him that question. He never liked to not be in the know. So he deflected his grandfather’s question with a: “Refresh my memory.”

So his grandfather said, “A grandfather clause simply means - the old rules always continue to apply - whether we know it or not. I got my ideas from my father and he got his ideas from his father and back and back and back - fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, whoever. The big stuff.  The big life stuff.”

“Oh,” said Frank.

Well, once more, he thanked his GrandPop.

And he thought while driving, way before this pope came along, he remembers saying something like this to him: “GrandPop, you know what, you’re my Pope - more than the pope is my pope.”

And he thought his grandfather said - stroking his long white beard, “Ho, Ho, Ho. I rather be your Santa Claus than your pope.”

Well, when Frank arrived at the meeting that week before Christmas - those 150 miles felt like 15 miles. He felt refreshed - ready for the meeting and ready for Christmas this year. And he had a great smile on his face - and he thanked his GrandPop in prayer for being the cause of so much joy in his life and teaching him all about the grandfather clause: There are some old rules in life - that never run out of life. Use them and we’ll all be giving each other a great  bounce effect on how to live life to the full. Amen.