Saturday, February 2, 2013



The title of my homily is, “February 2nd - Candlemas Day.”

February 2nd is also the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple - the main name for this day - as we see in today’s readings.

It’s also the feast of the Purification of Mary in the Temple - 40 days after the birth of Christ.

February 2nd is the mid point between the shortest day of the year, December 21st and the first day of Spring - March 20th this year - the Vernal Equinox. Remember last December 21st, the Winter Solstice - when according to some,  the Mayan Calendar indicated that the world was going to end that day. 

We’re still here.

I like the tradition of Candlemas Day - where we bless the candles at a Mass. Notice the last three letters - "MAS" in that word. It's the same as the "MAS" at the end of the word, "Christmas." It’s a reference to the Mass. On this day in this church we bless the candles.

Hopefully we also hear the call to all of us to realize Christ is the light of the World [Gospel of John 9:5 ] - that Mary brought that light into our world - and all Christians are called to be light to our world [Matthew 5:14].

Catholics use candles. 


When I was a kid in OLPH Church in Brooklyn, I landed the great job of Candle Boy. It meant I got paid $2.50 a week. We worked on Saturday afternoon, all Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon  - Wednesday being  the big OLPH novena day. 

Later on I could joke, “Don’t work for the Church. They don’t pay well.”

However, for me it was a great job because I didn’t need working papers - or be 12 years old. That was the age I had to be to get my first paper route working for The Brooklyn Eagle.

As candle boy I noticed people coming into church and lighting a 10 cent candle - which I assumed used to be the penny candle. I'd see them kneel there and say a prayer. 

The idea was you couldn’t stay in church forever, so you lit a candle to take your place and let it burn out before an image of Mary or Jesus.


The key message I assume is the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can’t put it out.

I noticed in some research last night that the idea of a feast of light in the winter goes way back in history and deep into our psyche and soul as well.  We saw all those lights and candles in our windows and on our lawns and in our homes at Christmas time.  How many times do we hear each winter in the afternoon, “Do you notice we’re getting more and more light in the afternoon. It’s not as dark at this time as it was a few weeks ago.”

So today - February 2nd - is called Candlemas Day for a reason. I spotted the information that before electricity, in Scottish schools this is the day kids brought candles to school - to make sure there is more light till spring comes - especially on dark cloudy days.

I noticed a German tradition about the badger - which I assume is the roots of the 4th feast we celebrate this day: Groundhog Day. I assume all those Germans who migrated and landed in Pennsylvania made the back home Badger Day in Germany  - Groundhog Day here in America. As you know Groundhog Day is about shadow and cold - light and darkness - winter and the hope for Spring.

I noticed the following German proverb on several web sites:

“The badger peeps out of his hole 

       on Candlemas Day,
and if he finds snow, he walks about;
but if he sees the sun is out,
he heads back into his hole.”

Notice the connection of Groundhog Day with Candlemas Day!

I loved the movie, “Groundhog Day” because the message is: Sometimes we have to do it over and over and over and over again till we get it right.


So today we hear about Jesus the Light of the World being presented in the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus is bringing light  to his Jewish roots. We also honor  Mary as the Pure One - who brought Jesus into our world - to bring warmth and light - to take away shadow and doubt - to burn away sin and impurities - so we can shine as we bring his fire to our world. 

Quote for Today - February 2,  2013

"It snowed and snowed, 
     the whole world over,
Snow swept the world
     from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;

A candle burned."

Boris Pasternak {1890-1960}, Doctor Zhivago [1958], The Poems of Yurii Zhivago, Winter Night, stanza 1.

Painting: Nocturn Grey and Gold Chelsea Snow,

Friday, February 1, 2013



The title of my homily for this 3rd Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Plant Something!”

I want to get into the issue of growth:  the waiting - the time it takes - the hope it takes - the watering and the work -  and then the surprise of seeing the results or one’s planting and cultivating.

Today’s gospel story about the mustard seed triggered these thoughts.


Imagine going through a whole lifetime without ever planting something.

I have a vague memory of being a little kid and noticing the seeds in a watermelon that my mom bought and brought home for us.

Picture a little kid seeing an enormous watermelon for the first time - the cutting it in half - and then the red slices. Wow! Did anyone look at my face and my eyes seeing the inside of a watermelon for the first time?

I asked my dad or mom or someone in the family - I’m the youngest of 4 - “If I planted these watermelon seeds will I get another watermelon?” Someone said, “Try it!” I planted the seeds in our backyard and all I got was some green sprouts - but I was thrilled when I saw those sprouts. I waited and waited - no watermelon.

I did the same with honeydew melon seeds - and once more I only got green sprouts. I wonder if either of those 2 plantings are still growing in Brooklyn in a backyard on 62 Street - between 3rd and 4th Avenues.

I also remembering spotting flower seeds somewhere along the line - along with grass seed. I planted both and got flowers - as well as grass growing - where there was none before.

What are your stories about planting and seeing the results?

When I got to the Minor Seminary in my hopes of becoming a priest I got in on picking tomatoes as well as picking grapes and strawberries. I also worked on the Lawn Crew for 3 years. I was also on the Lawn Crew in our novitiate year. I was also on the lawn crew in the Major Seminary for 6 years.

All this was good for a city kid. We had a front yard - which wasn’t that big - but we had nice hedges. I loved watching my dad cut those dark green hedges with  those big sharp hedge cutters - the biggest scissors I’ve ever seen.  We also had that small back yard where I had planted the watermelon and honeydew melon seeds. After I went away for the priesthood my father got into planting tomatoes and zucchini. I missed out on that.

In the major seminary I also took care of horses. A team of two guys would be on for a week, every 5th week.  Twice a day we’d go down to the barn. It would be early morning before everything for feeding them and then again in afternoon after class. The afternoon chore was more extensive - not just feeding our 3 horses - but also shoveling horse manure. That would take 20 minutes and the smell demanded a shower afterwards. I noticed that things grew much better with fertilizer.

In the major seminary we also worked lifting rectangular bales of hay from our fields and tossing them onto a flat bed truck. We also picked apples.

So both the minor and major seminaries I went to were good experiences in learning to see how things go and how things grow - and experience nature first hand. It gave me a grasp on growth - and a better understanding of the scriptures.


From the gospels I sense that Jesus liked to escape from the carpenter shop and explore fields of wheat and grape vines. He spotted sheep and goats, weeds and mustard trees - the birds of the air and flowers of the fields.

Jesus learned the lessons of how things grow - if we listen to him in the gospels.


A message from this homily would be to make sure we see the gifts of creation surrounding us - to plant and to harvest - to get a green thumb - and dirt on our hands.

We need to learn that life is a field with wheat and weeds in it - and without both - we do damage to ourselves. A good sin - a good mistake - could be the best teacher in our life. It can also give us the gift of understanding - that we blow it at times.

We need to learn how to plant - and maybe the tree of faith will start to flower and grow a good 30 years from now.

We need to plant something - to learn something.

I’ve heard people arguing about something at night. The next day I would hear them arguing with someone else - but this time they have the opposite opinion from the day before.  Something happened in their sleep - or they replanted their thoughts - while they were sleepless.

I’ve learned there are lots of dormant flowers and fruit and plants inside everyone - and the day comes when the good stuff blossoms. Amen.

Quote for Today - February 1, 2013

"Live so that the preacher can tell the truth at your funeral."

K. Beckstrom

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Quote for Today - January 31,  2013

"Glass, china, and reputation, are easily cracked and never well mended."


Have I ever ruined another's reputation by reporting to the winds what another has done - along with our thoughts on the other's motives?

Has anyone ever ruined our reputation?

Have I ever ruined my own reputation?  

Has it been mended?  

What have I learned from my mistakes - and the consequences coming from them?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Quote for Today - January 30, 2013

"When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves."

Katherine Mansfield [1888-1923]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013



The title of my homily for this 3rd Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Mistakes!”

We all make them. Like steaks, some mistakes are rare; some medium; some well done. Mistakes!

The famous mayor of New York, Fiorello Henry La Guardia [1882-1947] when asked about an appointment he made that was a disaster said, “When I make a mistake it’s a beaut!”

Today’s readings trigger thoughts of that theme - especially the first reading from Hebrews. This section of The Letter to the Hebrews gets deeper into the theme of sacrifice, the human move to wash away sin - please God, somehow, someway, some day from my life. What I did was stupid and sinful, dumb and damaging. As Psalm 51- “The Miserere” says it for all of us: “My sin is always before me!” Ugh. Humans use blood - water - annual sacrifices of bulls and goats - anyway to wash away our sins.

Mistakes stay and stick. We know ours. We have memorized them.

Today’s readings stress that it’s God’s will that we be healed - freed - saved - redeemed from our mistakes.

Today’s readings have the theme of doing God’s will - in all three readings: First Reading, Psalm, and Gospel.

And when we go against God’s will - when we make a mistake - we feel it - sometimes for the rest of our lives. So we go to God - praying, begging, wanting his will to forgive us - wanting our sins to be washed away.


Being educated in becoming a priest, I heard a thousand times that love is the main message of Christianity. Then somewhere along the line I heard loud and clear someone saying that forgiveness is what makes Christianity different  - unique - from the world religions.  All stress love of God and neighbor as central. Christianity does that as well - but I heard that day someone saying that forgiveness is the big one.

I have thought about that. As I get older and listen to people, I discovered that for some forgiveness is central - is key - necessary.

So you hear me preaching that. Just the other day, someone said to me on the street: “You priests here - really stress - forgiveness and mercy.” I said, “Thank you. We’re supposed to. We’re Redemptorists and our motto is from Psalm 130 - the De Profundis Psalm, ‘Copiosa apud eum redemptio.’ ‘With him there is copious, fullness, plentiful redemption.’”


Have we gotten that message yet? I’ve see Macbeth twice. I haven’t understood all that Shakespearean language - or all those lines - but I get the message that this famous Shakespearian play is all about guilt and the lingering horror that clings to us from evil done. It keeps us from sleep - causes us nightmares - and leaves us with lingering fears - and horrors in every dark corner.

Macbeth kills Duncan the king - and his wife is in on it. She moves the bloody daggers  over to the dead king’s body. King Duncan’s sons flee and are blamed for the murder of their father. Macbeth becomes king. Then the play plays on the theme of the ghosts of what they have done. Blood is on both Macbeth’s hands - especially Lady Macbeth’s and nothing will wash it off.


Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world - as we pray and hear at every mass.

In today’s gospel folks have filled the house Jesus is in. His mother and brothers - his followers -  are trying to get into the house to be with him. They send that message to  Jesus. Jesus says anyone who does the will of my Father is brother and sister to me. They are at home with me.

Isn’t that what we pray now at every Mass. Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof - just say the word and my soul will be healed. Jesus can heal us of these horrible memories we have from our past - our sins and our mistakes.

Go to him. Grow with him. Be in communion with him. Be at home - under the same roof with him. Amen.


Quote for Today - January 29,  2013

"Failure is God's own tool for carving some of the finest outlines in the character of his children."

Thomas Hodgkin


The title of my thoughts is, “St. Thomas Aquinas.”

Today the Catholic Church honors St. Thomas Aquinas - so let me make a few comments about him. He died on March 7th, 1274. His feast day was switched to January 28th. I didn’t spot any reason. I assume it’s because his feast gets knocked out at times because it’s usually during Lent. They picked January 28th, because that’s the date of the publication of his Summa.

He is a gift to the world and to our Church.

He had a great love of Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist. I assume we do also  being here for one more weekday Mass.

He bridges philosophy and theology - and I assume there will be revivals of Thomas’ writings on and off through the centuries - because of just that.  He can bridge science and theology - a much needed bridge. He said: authority is the weakest argument. Don’t just argue and tell me. Show me!

Those in authority tried to silence him in his time. This happens from time to time in our Church. I don’t know your take on that - but my take is: don’t just condemn, prove. Theologians are silenced from time to time. Then someone says: “Ooops!”

This happened to Dominicans and other theologians at the time of Vatican II. Rahner and Marin Sola and De Lubac and Congar - were silenced.Then surprise, they ended up being part of the formulations of the Documents of Vatican II. And some still bad name them.

This also happened to scripture scholars in the early part of the last century - till Pius XII came out with an encyclical on Scripture - Divino Afflante Spiritu. It opened up the doors and windows of Cagholic Scripture scholarship years before Vatican II. [1]

Pope Benedict 16 has experienced this as well when he was Joseph Ratzinger - Theologian.

Thomas is very practical. We learn through the senses. Don’t we all. The Catholic Church is very much sense based. The churches have statues and stained glass windows. We use candles and water - and oil and gesture.

I love his use of Aristotle and his 5 arguments for the existence of God. He stresses we know by our senses and then we reflect on what we learn with logic and reason - before faith. We can know a lot by reason - and I think this is the way to talk to young people - hoping and praying the gift of faith kicks in - stress on gift - in God’s good time.  For example, we know God exists by looking at the earth and stars - the Grand Canyon and the Big Dipper. We know that God is a Trinity by faith - and revelation.

As I was reading up about Thomas Aquinas this morning. Different articles about his life mentioned places he had been. I pinched myself because I have been to Cologne [1 hour ] - Paris [one day and a morning] - Naples [one day] - Monte Cassino [a couple of hours] - Rome [two times - once for 6 hours - once for a few weeks].  That hit me for some reason - and then I remembered a moment on a train from Rome to Naples with Father John Ruef. He pointed out the window at a stone tower. That’s the place where Thomas Aquinas was held captive for 2 years.

Interesting Saint. Check him out.  Just type into Google, “Saint Thomas Aquinas.”


[1]  Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990, 72: 20-41.

Picture on top: St. Thomas Aquinas by Fra Bartolomeo

Monday, January 28, 2013


Quote for Today - January 28, 2013

"It's a sad truth that everyone is a bore to someone."

Llewellyn Miller,  The Encyclopedia of Etiquette, Crown, 1968

Questions and Comments:

Have you learned that truth yet?

While preaching one gets used to yawns - folks looking at their watches - reading the bullentin - and holding a conversation with the person next to them. 

Have you ever watched the listeners - in a classroom, at a lecture, in church? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013



The title of my homily for this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C  is, “My Left Foot.”

When I read today’s second reading - St. Paul’s words from his 1st Letter to the Corinthians - about the many parts of the human body - and saying each part is important - and each part needs each part - I remembered the movie, My Left Foot,  from way back.

St. Paul says, “If a foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.”  Then he goes on to say the same of the ear, the eyes, and the rest of the parts of the body. We’re all in this together.

Today’s second reading is a great reading to reflect upon - for a parish, for a family, for our world. We all need each other.

I read somewhere that Paul probably heard that message from Greek public speakers - who used that message to stress the need for everyone to make a city work.

We need people to speak up, people who listen, people who are handy, people who do the foot work, people who are the brains, people who are the eyes of the city and the neighborhoods.


Some movies move us. Some movies entertain us. Some movies are forgotten. Some movies are part of the rest of our life.

I have never forgotten the story of Christy Brown in the 1989 movie, My Left Foot. He has cerebral palsy - one of 13 children of a Dublin, Ireland bricklayer and his wife Bridget. Christy’s father writes his son off as just a lump - a non-person - who lays on the floor - who crawls along on the floor. The only part of his body that is not effected by cerebral palsy is his left foot.

The big moment in the movie is when as a kid he picks up a piece of chalk with his left foot and writes the letter A. His father thinks it’s just a scribble. His brother and sister and mother see an A.

The day comes when he writes the word “MOTHER” in chalk on the floor. At that his father who had no hope in him is shocked and totally surprised. He picks up his 9 year old son, throws him over his shoulder and brings him to the local pub. He walks in and announces to everyone, “This is Christy Brown, my son. Genius.”

The movie is powerful, real, tough, and not easy to take. The language is very rough. Christy becomes adult - and Daniel Day-Lewis - now also of Abraham Lincoln movie fame - plays the part that Hugh O’Conor plays as the kid. Christy Brown becomes a writer and an artist and an alcoholic. Daniel Day-Lewis won the 1990 Academy Award - for best actor and Brenda Flicker won best supporting actress as his mother - in this movie.

The lesson I got out of the movie was the value of every human being - no matter the situation - no matter the handicap. It also got me to stop and wonder when I experience any person: who is this other person. Who is this person that I write off because of what they look like - or how they are dressed - or who I think they are?

Surprise! Every person is a surprise! Every person is a gift to be opened - heard, experienced, loved and appreciated. We are all part of the Body of Christ - member with member.


This year - Year C - in the 3 Year Cycle of Gospel Readings - we have the year of Luke.

Today’s gospel reading is interesting.  It begins with the opening words to the Gospel of Luke and then jumps to Chapter 4. Here is the opening words to Luke - Chapter 1 - verses 1- 4.

Since many have undertaken
to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize
the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

That’s the only gospel that begins that way. It gives motive, purpose and method.

We, the reader, are called, “Theophilus” - a lover of God.

After those 4 verses, Luke presents in his gospel, “The Infancy Narrative” - which we heard at Christmas time.  That leads us to  Chapter 3 where we hear about John the Baptist. He prepares us for the coming of the Lord. Then Jesus goes into the desert and he experiences the 3 temptations. We’ll hear them on the First Sunday of Lent - next month - February 17. Then - today - the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear about Jesus coming out of the desert and going back to Nazareth - his hometown.

It’s a powerful scene. Jesus gives his Inaugural Address.

The scene is similar to today’s first reading when Ezra the scribe stands on a wooden platform - opens a scroll - and reads to the people from daybreak till midday.

Both texts are inaugural addresses - begin again stories.

Jesus’ reading is much, much, shorter than Ezra the Scribe’s reading. Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll that is handed him. It’s unrolled and he finds the passage in Isaiah where it is written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

This year the scroll of Luke will be unrolled for us and we’ll hear Jesus reaching out to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed - and he’ll heal and set them free.

We’ll meet people who are considered worthless and useless like Christy Brown. Jesus will call fishermen and tax collectors. He’ll reach out to the blind and the lame. He’ll ask us to see the widow who lost her only son. He’ll brag about the woman whom everyone saw as the sinner and Jesus saw her love and how she washed his left foot and right foot with her tears and ointment and dried his feet with her hair.

In Luke we’ll hear the great parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, Dives and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in the temple.

In Luke we’ll learn to pray and to invite Jesus into our homes and our hearts.

Luke is known as the Gospel to the Poor.

This year the call from Jesus through Luke is to see the persons in our lives - members of our families - people we work with - neighbors - people we pass by - people in this church - whom we might not be we’re not seeing.


Touch your left hand and then your right hand. Rub them. Perhaps the only time we notice them - the only time we’re aware of our hands - is when we cut a finger - or the cold weather dries out a finger tip - or we have arthritis.

Tap your right foot and then your left foot. Wiggle your toes in both your right and left foot. We notice them perhaps only when we stub a toe or have a corn or a callus or dry skin or someone steps on our toes.

It’s the same with our eyes and ears. We take them for granted - along with our nose and tongue - and the rest of the parts of our body.

I have a very fond memory of going to Tio Pepe’s Restaurant in Baltimore in February of 1986. My brother had lost all sense of taste with his cancer treatments - but his taste buds came back that month - and so it was a great meal together. A short time later - in the next month of March he died. I celebrate that memory and his life. He taught me to taste each bite of food - and enjoy the taste.

May we do that for all people being aware how tasty - how wonderful - how unique we all are - and how blind we can be of each other.

Who is that tiny pinky toe left foot person in our life whom we are not aware of? Who is the Christy Brown whom we’re not noticing? She’s in the nursing home. He’s next door. He’s in our family. He’s playing music on a street corner in Washington D.C. He’s under a bridge in Annapolis and baby it’s cold outside.

We come into this warm church and Jesus walks in and stands up front and says a few words to wake us up to see, to hear, to listen to, to love and to notice each other - especially the unnoticeable lady at the check out counter or the usher at Mass. Amen.


Quote for Today - January 27,  2013

"A child's hand in yours - what tenderness it arouses, what power it conjures.  You are instantly the very touchstone of wisdom and strength."

Marjorie Holmes[ [1910-2002]