Saturday, January 12, 2013


Quote for Today - January 12, 2013


"Don't confuse fame with success. One is Madonna; the other Helen Keller."

Erma Bombeck, address at Meredith College - Commencement Address - USA Today, May 20, 1991


Do you agree with Erma?  Does Madonna Louise Ciccone put a lot of hard work into her craft - to make it as far as she has made it? Did Erma get a good laugh or an "Aha!" from this comment? Did anyone who heard her Commencement Address say, "I disagree!"?


Helen Keller at her graduation from Radcliffe College in 1904

Madonna on cover of a record jacket.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Quote for Today - January 11, 2013

"To some,
freedom means the opportunity
to do what they want to do.
To most
it means not to do
what they do not want to do."

Eric  Hoffer


Agree or disagree?

What do you love to do?

What do you hate to do?

What disliked tasks come with the hats you wear?

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Quote for Today - January 10, 2013

"The highest point 
we can attain 
is not Knowledge, 
or Virtue, or Goodness, 
or Victory, but 
something even greater, 
more heroic and 
more despairing: 
Sacred Awe."

Nikos Kazantzakis [1883-1957] in Zorba the Greek [1946], chapter 24

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Quote for Today - January 9,  2013

"The trouble with many is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable.  If there is not joy in religion,  you have got a leak in your religion."

William A. (Billy) Sunday [1862-1935] in a sermon in New York in 1914.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013



The title of my homily for this Tuesday after the Epiphany is, “We Become What We Eat!”

Don’t we know that - especially if feel we ate too much during the holidays?

We become what we eat.


The two main ingredients of a good meal are good food and good conversation.

Good food - good words - good moments with good people - become us. Good food and good words sit well in our tummy and our being.

Bad words - hurtful words are hard to digest - and they stick to and can become extra weight in our memory.

When people stop eating and talking with each other - it’s over.

When people start talking to each other and eating with other again - there is hope.

A contradictory paradox for me on all this has been when I see on TV meetings in Palestine and Israel. I notice that they have on the table not just the agenda - but food. Next time I’ll have to look more carefully, but it looks like they have some water and some fruit.  What else?

I see that table and think: why can’t they solve their problems? They’re talking and eating with each other. I assume they are trying to stomach each other.  Maybe they are not serving the elephants in the room. Maybe the under the table stuff is missing - and not on the menu.


The Mass is a meal.

I don’t get it when people don’t get that. The Mass is the Last Supper of Jesus and it’s the First Wedding Banquet of Jesus - his dream of giving everyone a seat at the table - and celebrating with them.

The Mass is a meal - and a good meal is good food and good words. We digest the scriptures and we digest Jesus - the bread of life - and the wine of the wedding - that is in abundance. 

The Mass is  a miracle of abundance - and the cost of the wedding is sacrifice.

We never run out of the Sacred Bread and Wine; we never run out of people sacrificing for others and serving one another.


Today’s gospel - Mark 6: 34-44 - talks about one of the many feedings Jesus hosts to make sure everyone gets something to eat. They were there because they were hungry. We’re here because we’re hungry - hungry for food and hungry for the Word of God - especially in the scriptures.

I love a text in the second and third chapters of Ezekiel where the prophet says said he heard a voice say: “Eat the scroll” - eat the writings - digest them. I sense it was more than a metaphor - as I’m using the words here today. Based on the oddities in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, he ate the scrolls and then preached the Word of God.

As I was writing this homily last night, I noticed on a book shelf about 3 feet away from me this plastic medicine jar. [SHOW

It has Korean words on the label. I have no idea what it says. I once received 5 of these tiny medicine jars in the mail. They came with 10 paperback copies of a book I wrote which a priest in Korea whom I never met  translated it into Korean.  I opened up one of the jars and found inside what looks like pills. Instead  they are tiny paper scrolls - with Korean words on it. They are pink, yellow, lite green in color. Under the Korean words on the only one I opened and unrolled  was the English translation. This one had, “Let us love one another for love comes from God” 1 John 4:7. Surprise it’s from today’s first reading. What are the odds of that?


The title of my homily is, “We Become What We Eat.”

Today for reflection think about how the Mass has become you - not only with the Bread of communion - the Body of Christ - but also the Body of Christ - the Community. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31.]

You know most of the regulars here at this 8 A.M. Tuesday Mass. Aren’t they becoming part of you? We feed each other and off each other.

Next how have each others words and the words of the Bible Texts you hear at Mass - words that you have digested, words that have fed you - how have they fattened up your spirituality and your life? Amen.


Quote for Today - January 8,  2013

"Loneliness is a game of pretense, for the essential loneliness is an escape from an inescapable God."

Walter Farrell, The Looking Glass, 1951

Monday, January 7, 2013



The title of my homily for this Monday after Epiphany is, “A Breath of Fresh Air.”

That’s a theme that hits me from today’s readings.

In today’s first reading from First John, we hear about two different kinds of spirits: the spirit of truth versus the spirit of deceit.

In our English translation of today’s first reading,  the word “spirit” appears 8 times. 2 times it’s capitalized - evidently referring to the Holy Spirit and 6 times to the spirits that roam  within us - and the spirits that come out of us.

In the Biblical World, in the Middle East, in the time of Jesus, spirit means “wind” - “air” - “breath”.

Besides water power and animal and human power - muscle -  people were very aware of wind power. They had sail boats.  They were aware of fresh air, a gentle breeze, a tornado or a hurricane, gusts of air, as well as heavy hot air that can drain the energy out of a person.

If you’ve ever been to Rome when a scirocco - or sirocco - is blowing - you’ve experienced the hot dusty wind from the Sahara desert - sometimes reaching hurricane speeds. Volkswagen named a whole series of their cars after different winds: the Jetta (Jet Stream), the Passat (after the German word for Trade winds), the Golf (Gulf Stream), Polo (Polar Winds), the Bora (Bora Winds) and the “Scirocco” - which is funny because in southern Europe a Scirroco covers all cars and windows with a fine dust  - and it gets into one’s nose and lungs. Ugh.

Gust - as in a gust of wind - is seen in the word “ghost”. Not wanting to call the Holy Ghost a ghost - was one reason we switched our language to Holy Spirit.

In Hebrew it’s RUAH - the word used to describe what God sent over the waters to create the world - as well as the word used for what God breathed into the human being he had made out of the clay of the earth.

In Greek the word used is “PNEUMA” - as in pneumatic tires or pneumonia - when our lungs - our breathing machine is sick and not working right.

In Latin the word used is, “SPIRITUS” - as in the Spirit of God.


A wonderful Christian prayer is, “Come Holy Spirit!” Then we can add prayer phrases like, “breathe into me new life,” “a new spirit.”

People ask us priests - the same question Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Teach us how to pray.” [Luke 11: 1]

Jesus answered that question by teaching his disciples to say the “Our Father” and to keep asking, seeking and knocking on  God’s door.

I would add: Catch your breath. I would add find a time to pray and just sit there and breathe in and out. I would add: become more and more aware of your breathing. I would add: take good walks on good days like today - and become more and more aware of your breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. If you’ve taken any workshops on Eastern and Oriental prayer, you heard the great stress on breathing and praying, praying and breathing.


In today’s first reading from First John he asks us to be aware of whether you’re breathing in a spirit of truth or a spirit of deceit.

First John for today challenges us - commands us - to breathe in the Holy Spirit and breathe out a holy spirit - and First John will stress over and over again, that spirit, is a spirit of love.

In today’s gospel Jesus moves from Nazareth to Capernaum.

A breath of Fresh Air enters Nazareth - a spirit of healing and curing. It’s the Kingdom of God - coming down on people.


The title of my homily is, “A Breath of Fresh Air.”

So here is a prayer I wrote for this theme:


        There are two kinds of people.
        Those who bring a breath of fresh
        air into every room they enter;
        and those who suck the air
        out of every room they’re in.
        Come Holy Spirit,
        help me to be A, not B.


Quote for Today: January 7,  2013

"The tragedy of life is not death 
but in what dies inside a man
while he lives -
the death of genuine feeling,
the death of inspired response,
the death of awareness
      that makes it possible 
      to feel the pain
      or the glory
      of other men in oneself."

Norman Cousins [1915-1990] in Saturday Review, October 2, 1954

Norman Cousins uses the man-men language - which they did a lot more of in 1954 - so I used the image of a woman for this quote.

Sunday, January 6, 2013



The title of my homily for this Feast of the Epiphany is, “The 3 Best Gifts In My Life?”

We know the story in today’s gospel about the Magi presenting 3 gifts to the new born baby: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. From that the tradition has come that there were 3 Magi or Kings or Wise Men.

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah 60:1-6 mentions caravans of camels and 2 gifts: gold and frankincense.

Every year we have these same 3 readings - so it’s interesting to come up with a new sermon. This year I liked the challenge of coming up with the 3 best gifts in my life. What are yours?

Talk to each other and I’m sure each other’s answers would be intriguing and interesting - and surprising - and good conversation.


On first instance I think of the gifts that I have given more than the gifts I have received. That’s not bragging. That’s what hit me on the first instance regarding the question that hit me: “The 3 Best Gifts In My Life?”

I think of a white cup I bought in Kresge’s - one of three 5 and Dime stores near our church on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York - when I was growing up. Kresge’s in time became K-Mart. The cup had one word on it: “MOM” - in plane letters. I don’t remember the color of the lettering - other than 3 letters - one word - on a white coffee cup. What ever happened to it? I don’t know if my mom cherished it. I know she loved a cup of tea every afternoon - later on in her life - but when we were small - I don’t remember the giving, the reception, the wrapping of that cup - but for some reason I remember buying it for MOM.

Why do we remember what we remember? For some reason I remember a poem I read in high school: Four Ducks On A Pond. It was written by William Allingham (1824-1889)  - Donegal Ireland. It goes like this:

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
What a little thing
To remember for years-
To remember with tears!

So on first instance to my question, “The 3 Best Gifts in My Life?” I remember giving rather than receiving.

As an adult I remember watching kids come to the Christmas tree to open their gifts on Christmas morning. Something had changed from the 1940’s till the 1970’s and 80’s and 90’s. We got underwear, socks, sneakers - a jacket or a shirt. These kids got Lincoln Logs,  Lego’s, plastic battery powered monsters - and dolls - some of which spoke, - and I saw one doll that leaked. Why would they make a doll like that. Toys, toys, toys.  Toys R Us.


The bottom line, none of these scenes, none of these memories, were helping me with answers to my 3 best gifts of a lifetime? question.

Aha. There could be one answer: the gift of memory.

To be transparent - I have wonderful memories. My parents gave me great memories of a rich childhood - a neat street to grow up on - good people on our block - a good parish church and school to be members of, OLPH, Brooklyn, New York - a few wonderful parks we used to go to most Sundays of the year - and memories of Coney Island in the summer.

So Jesus in the gospel story got gold, frankincense and myrrh. I got underwear, socks and memories.

As I began thinking about this yesterday afternoon I realized I am satisfied with memories as a gift - a top 3 gift - and they are not just from childhood - but much of my life. I became a priest to go to Brazil - was lead to belief - that’s where I was headed - but it didn’t happen.

I have sat and listened and heard enough stories from people telling me about their life. It’s never what one expected. One can’t write one’s story in advance - only afterwards.

So my first gift is my memoirs - and at 73 I can say that the more one gives - loves - serves - the less one is selfish - whiney - the better the memories.

My dad died in 1970 - a very quiet man. I sat down at our dining room table once with paper and pen and jotted down about 40 pages of story and memory - the year he was dying of emphysema. Often I wish I had taken a lot more time to do just that. He was such a quiet man - an introvert by nature - but he had a great smile.

Speaking of memories, here is one of my favorite memories about my dad.  I was in our living room once as a little kid and I opened up a book that my father loved to read: The Best Loved Poems in the English Language. I came upon a page that had a dried red rose petal - just one petal - in it. My dad was sitting there reading the paper and I went over to him with the book open - like in an offertory procession. I guessed I sensed that there was something sacred here. I said, “Daddy, what’s this?” I showed him the dried rose petal in the book. He looked at it and with a great smile said, “Memories!”


Since I’ve given myself the task of coming up with my 3 best gifts, I feel good I came up with 1. Now what would I list # 2. Let me go with the gift of faith.  Both my parents come from the same tiny village in Ballynahown, County Galway, Ireland, right on the waters of Galway Bay.

I have a memory of my mom telling me once that she could put her big toe out the back door of her cottage and it would be in the waters of Galway Bay.  When I finally got there in 1996 for the first time - the house was gone - but the back step was still there - like a grey granite rectangular welcome mat. Yes, it was right there inches away from the waters and lots of rocks of Galway Bay.

With regards faith I have often thanked whoever the people were who first accepted the Catholic Faith and passed it down to my mom and dad - who passed it on to their 4 kids.

The image of a chain is the image of faith that hits me. I am grateful for those who have been links in the chain of faith that I have received and I feel deeply those who have come after us - who have dropped out of the faith - and broke that chain. May it be repaired. May they reconnect. Broken and repaired rosary beads are a great reminder to me of this reality.


Memories and faith are my # 1 and 2 gifts. As I’m trying to put together the gifts of my life. I would list right now as number 3, that I have been given the gift of imagination.

In school I knew I didn’t have the math gene, but I have been blessed with a good imagination. I was a B and C student - except for A’s in History and English literature.

That’s me. How about you? I’m telling you my 3 three gifts so you’ll do your homework while moving along this new week of life


If you’re under 55, I would assume dreams more than memories might be # 1 for you. Good. The temptation of the old is to get stuck in one’s memories - in one’s past - and as a result one misses new dreams, hopes, plans for the future.

Hopefully, we all have Robert Frost’s words in front of us - words from his poem Stopping By the Woods On A Snowy Evening - the last stanza,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

That’s where faith and imagination come in - to realize yes there is the dark woods of one’s past - but there is also the great future - here and hereafter - and like the Wise Men - we give our gifts and then ride on into our different futures. Amen.


Mrs. Five - Mrs. Thelma Five - was the 3rd Grade Religious Education Teacher on Sunday Morning at the local Catholic Church.

She got the bright idea that for the Feast of the Epiphany -  the 3RD Grade Class -  had to come up with something surprising - enlightening - bright - for the 3 gifts that Jesus was to receive at the stable where he was born in  Bethlehem. She told her 3rd Grade Class, “That’s what the word Epiphany means!”  

She continued, “So instead of the priest preaching a homily at the Mass -  why not have 3 kids play Jesus, Mary and Joseph and 3 kids play the 3 kings or 3 Magi  or 3 Wise Men. These last three could  bring up to the stable in the church gifts different than the traditional gifts the 3 kings brought to Jesus. They would  go up to the microphone show the gift they brought for the new born baby Jesus and then explain to everyone at Mass  why they chose that gift. She asked the Director of Religious Education, Mr. Malcolm Ten, if he thought Father Zero - would go for this.

Mr. Ten - the Religious Education Director - said it would be a great idea and he was sure Father Zach Zero would also think it’s a great idea. Just to be sure, he called Father Zach Zero who said to Mr. Ten to tell Mrs. Five, “Go for it.”

Mrs. Five  had heard the joke in at lest 10 sermons that  the 3 Magi had to be men, because if they were  women, they would have brought diapers and food - and okay, gold. The gold was smart. The gold was wise. But the frankincense and the myrrh - not so smart.

So during the last class before Christmas, Mrs. Five had a discussion with her 3rd Grade Class if they would do this and if they would,  what would be three good gifts to bring the new born baby Jesus and to Mary and Joseph.

One boy - named Byron - said, “Gold, Gold, and more Gold. That’s the 3 gifts I would have the 3 wise men bring to Jesus.”

The teacher asked, “Why Byron?”

He answered, “Well, Joseph and Mary and Jesus were heading for Egypt.  You never can tell what problems they are going to run into - so money, gold, would work anywhere and everywhere. The coins there would be different than the coins they used in Bethlehem - but gold would work everywhere.” He continued, “My father has the gold American Express Card and he says it works everywhere!”

The teacher, Mrs. Thelma Five said, “Good. Good thinking Byron.” Then she asked, “Does anyone else have suggestions - for 3 gifts?”

A girl - named Jacqueline - better known as Jackie - said, “I’d suggest, three coats - or two coats and a good warm blanket for Jesus.”

“Good,” said Mrs. Five.  “Anyone else?”

“How about carpenter tools for Joseph?” said one kid named Tim, “because Joseph is going to need to get work to make a living in Egypt - and he probably left his carpenter tools up there in Nazareth when they came to Bethlehem for the census.”

“Good. Anyone else?”

A girl named Andrea, said, “I was thinking of a map and a compass and some food. They would be the most practical things for a long trip in the winter for Joseph and Mary and the new born baby.”

Richard, another kid, said, “Maps. I don’t know if they had maps back then - and they certainly didn’t have compasses - food good.”

Andrea shot back, “Are you sure they didn’t have maps back then? Are you sure they didn’t have compasses back then? Richard, when were compasses invented?”

Richard said, “Okay, I don’t know if they had maps and compasses back then, but I can’t see the 3 Magi  giving a compass and a map. Food yes.”

A hand went up from the side of the room. It was Theodore. He said, “I have my computer with me and I just looked up some stuff. They did have maps at that time. Compasses - there is evidence that there was a sort of compass like the kind we have today - being used by the Chinese around the year 1040.”

Andrea said, “Well, I was half right” - as she looked glaringly at Richard!” ‘

Theodore continued, “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh’ the 3 gifts the Magi brought Jesus, Mary and Joseph - are not dumb. The gold certainly would be a good gift. And  Yahoo Search says that some types of frankincense were used for trade - or for medicine - or for perfume. Maybe with the donkeys and the sheep and the cows in the stable, maybe incense would be perfect to cut down on the smell.”

Everyone laughed and everyone was listening. Theodore had a way of commanding attention - when he spoke.

Theodore continued, “And Myrrh, it says on Yahoo Search, is also valuable and good for trading. It’s also used for making a salve for skin problems. Certain types are also used for medicines that can be used to cut down on bleeding - and also it has antibacterial stuff in it.”

Silence.  Some kids put on their very intelligent look - because they didn’t know what “antibacterial” meant. They thought they heard it when their parents watched the evening news sometimes - with all those ads for medicines. Evening news must be for old people who need more medicines that us kids.

Mrs. Five - Mrs. Thelma Five - was a good teacher and said, “Great Theodore. Maybe the class can bring up to the crib at the feast of the epiphany a brick painted gold - and one kid can explain that to everyone at Mass - the value of gold for trade and travel. Another kid could bring a box marked ‘Incense’ and explain that. And a third kid could bring a jar marked ‘Myrrh’ and explain its uses.”

So that’s what they agreed on and that’s what the class did for the Feast of the Epiphany - and Father Zach Zero and the parents of the 3rd Grade Class - and Mrs. Thelma Five and Mr. Malcolm Ten thought it was an excellent sermon play done by the 3rd graders. In fact, it was the only sermon the kids said they understood all year.

O O O O O O O 

Painting on top: Epiphany [1475-1480] by Hieronymus Bosch, in Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

The above is a story homily for our Kids Mass at St. Mary's Marian Hall for the feast of the Epiphany.  Check my blog for other Kids Stories.

Quote for Today - January 6, 2013

"I have three treasures.
        Guard and keep them:
       The first is deep love,
       The second is frugality,
       And the third is not to dare
           to be ahead of the world.
Because of deep love, 

       one is courageous.
Because of frugality,
       one is generous.
Because of not daring
       to be ahead of the world,
       one becomes the leader
       of the world."

Lao-tzu [c, 604-c. 531  B.C., The Way of Lao-tzu