Saturday, March 16, 2013


Quote for Today  March 16,  2013

"Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant, It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest."

Georgia O'Keeffe [1976]

Painting The Precisionist Moment [1920] by Georgia O'Keeffe [1887-1996]


Still where were you born; Where have you lived? What did you do where you have been? Make an account of your stewardship!

Friday, March 15, 2013



The title of my homily for this Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent  is, “Rejections!”

Question: How well do we deal with rejections?

They happen.


We find this theme in today’s two readings.

In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 - we hear that those who try to be just and fair and lead a good life - are rejected by those  who don’t want to go that way. Those who don’t cheat - those who try to be good - often make the bad feel guilty - and they want to retaliate.

In today's gospel  from John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-20 - we hear more and more about Jesus experiencing rejections. Folks want to kill him - the ultimate rejection.


If you’ve seen the movie, Shawshank Redemption, you know the ongoing theme of "Red" - Ellis Boyd Redding - played by Morgan Freeman. He keeps on coming up for parole in the Shawshank Prison and every time he is rejected. You see the stamp come down on paper - with the word “REJECTED” stamped on the paper. “Rejected!” and the word seems to fill the entire screen.

When we are rejected we want to scream - to fill the entire scene with our scream.


Yesterday I was walking by that little park at the bottom of the street down from St. Mary’s Church.

There are no kids or parents in the swing and climbing section - but there was a mother and two tiny little kids in the basketball area. The mother throws a soccer ball to the little girl - instead of to the little boy - who then throws a tantrum. Did he feel rejected by his mother? Will he be that way for the rest of his life - screaming when someone else gets chosen ahead of him?  I don’t know. Time will tell.



Rejections are part of life.

A basketball team has 5 players on the floor at a time. A baseball team has 9 players on the field at a time. Lacrosse has 10.  Some players seem to spend their entire time as second stringers and never get into a game. Some kids don’t make the team.

People date and then break up - one is often hurt - feeling rejection.

People get divorced and sometimes their kids feel deep rejection.

“What am I, chopped liver?”

Some 115 cardinals were up for pope - only 1 got elected. It seems he was a surprise pick.  How did the front runners take it? Were they angry?

Not everyone gets into the school play. You can’t have two Dorothy’s or 2 Scare Crows or 2 Tin Men in The Wizard of Oz.  A kid thinks she does a great job in a play,  but nobody is there after the show to give her a dozen roses.  What does that feel like?

For the past 25 years or more I've seen kids get trophies - even though their team didn't win. Is that smart. Is it healthier if only the winning team gets the trophy and there are no trophies for second place?  Which helps people prepare better for the future?

How well do I do with rejections - or experiences which we interpret as rejections?


Today - we Redemptorists celebrate the feast of St. Clement Hofbauer. If he didn’t become a Redemptorist - we wouldn’t be here in Annapolis. It was our place in Vienna, Austria that sent Redemptorists to American in 1832.

Clement Hofbauer and a buddy, Thaddeus Hubl, came down to Rome with the idea of joining a religious order and becoming priests. On one of their visits, one morning they decided to go to the church whose bells rang first.  It was the Redemptorist Church of San Giuliano’s.

They became Redemptorists in Italy and were told to go back and start the Redemptorists on their side of the Alps. They couldn’t get into Austria. They were rejected,  so they went to Warsaw, Poland. They worked there for 21 years - but were rejected and had trouble getting located anywhere.

St. Clement experienced lots of rejections - but never gave up.

It’s life.

Redemptorists all know the story - we've heard it 100 times - about the time he 
went into a bar to beg for money for his orphanage. Some guy laughed at him and spit beer into his face. Clement says, “That’s for me. How about something for my orphans?" He got about 100 silver coins from the people in the bar.

How did those orphans feel having St. Clement and other Redemptorists caring for them.


Suggestion: when you have experienced a rejection find a cross. They are at the end of rosaries - or picture this gigantic cross here at St. John Neumann’s Church - and ask Jesus for help.

Picture stamped over this image of Jesus - in big red letters: REJECTED

Feast Day - March 15

Reflection  by our former Rector Major - 
now Archbishop of Indianapolis.


Quote for Today - March 15, 2013

"People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing."

Will Rogers  [1879-1935]

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Quote for Today - March 14,  2013

"The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings."

Ralph Waldo Emerson [1803-1882]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



The title of my homily for this Wednesday in the 4th Week of Lent is, “Three Images!”

Today’s readings give 3 powerful images for our consideration about our connection and our relationship to God.


The first image is that of being trapped. We’ve all been deeply moved when there is a story of miners trapped deep in the ground – and they are saved.

Or we have been moved deeply when hostages are freed.

Or we’ve been moved with horror on seeing TV documentaries on Auschwitz, Dachau, Buckenald or any of those concentration camps where Jews were gassed and burnt to death. Then we rejoice when we see our soldiers or Russian soldiers getting there and freeing the men and women who survived.

Well, in today’s first reading from Isaiah, he gives the great image of prisoners being freed. Those in darkness, hear, “Come out. Show yourselves.”

In the gospel the same image is found and it’s even deeper. It’s the scream of God over all the graves of the world – the scream of God at every funeral – calling people to new life and resurrection.

Being liberated – being freed – becoming untrapped – rescued is a  very powerful image.

I think of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” – his unique opera on this powerful theme of the freeing of prisoners.  Beethoven was asked to write an opera on this theme. He was given a book that told the story about political prisoners in Spain. The main story line of the opera is “Fidelio” -  the fidelity of a woman with her love for her husband.

A man named Florestan is arrested in Spain because of his opposition to those in power. He is put in prison – and then in chains – he is brought to the deepest part of the prison. His wife, Lenore, poses as a young man and takes job after job, step after step, to work her way into the prison to save her husband.

Florestan’s arch enemy decides to kill Florestan with a knife – and Lenore jumps in front of her husband and holds off Pizzaro with a pistol. She stops the murder of her husband. She exposes Pizzaro for what he is.  She helps the political prisoners to be freed. She takes off her husband’s chains. There is a great trumpet call when the prisoners are set free.

Beethoven was an optimist that stayed an optimist – when Romanticism in Europe went sour and heads rolled.

So the first of the 3 images that I'm mentioning today  is that of being freed. We know that many people come back to God when they are stuck – in prison – caught in a problem – when they experience the death or sickness of a loved one.


The first reading from Isaiah has the second powerful image. It's that of a mother. Isaiah says what every mother feels: even if all forget you, I won’t. We know this. Stand in any place where there are small children and we'll see them children clinging to their moms. When scared we see little kids always running back to their moms at church, in the playground, in the supermarket.

And all our lives our moms remain central.

Well, Isaiah uses that image and says that God loves us with motherly love. In fact, he says, "If a mother forgets her child, I’ll never forget you."

Question: how am I like my mother?


And the third image is that of a father. If you want to understand Jesus and his relationship to his Father, the gospel of John is a good place to start.

Jesus is always talking about his Father. Jesus sees life through the lens of his Father.  As today’s gospel [John 5:17-30] puts it, his fellow Jews want to kill him because of this. They make the leap that he is equalizing himself with his Father.

Today’s gospel - and much of the Gospel of John has Jesus doing just that. We see and hear that everything Jesus does is in light of his Father.

Today’s gospel is very Trinitarian. You can hear in its words the proclamation of John’s church that Jesus is the Son of Man and God is Our Father.

Question: how am I like my father?


The title of my homily is, “Three Images”.

I believe the 3 images that I pulled out of today’s readings: father, mother and being trapped are very powerful.

Question: is every person like a child - feeing trapped and we cry out to God as our Savior, our Mother and our Father.


Quote for Today - March 13, 2013

"If I could tell you what it meant, there would  be no point in dancing it."

Isadora Duncan [1881-1927]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Fourth Week in Lent is, “Two Dreams.”

Have you ever in your life time had a time when you were writing down your dreams? Some spiritual writers and directors ask folks to do just that. Then when you have them written down, you can look at them more clearly.

I have a loose leaf filler leaning against the wall next to my bed. Then when I wake up in a dream -sometimes I write it down. My handwriting is pretty bad - but my dream handwriting is 20 times worse. Then I go back to sleep. If the dream was very vivid, when I read it the next day - some of it comes back to me.


If you decide to write down your dreams, these are some of the rules I was taught.

1) You are the interpreter. You can calmly interpret what you saw means. Don’t let others interpret for you. It can make interesting breakfast talk - but you be the interpreter. There are books that tell you what water or trees or birds or boats in a dream might mean. You can look at them, but from what I’ve picked up, the dreamer of the dream is the best interpreter.  You make the associations. Remember Freud’s famous comment: “Dreams are the royal road into the unconscious.” Dreams can get us in touch with stuff we might not be looking at. If you think this is New Age or esoteric stuff, then think it’s esoteric and New Age. But remember both Josephs in the Scriptures were into figuring out dreams.[1]

2) Catch the predominant mood: fear or fascination - positive or negative energy. Ask what happened to you yesterday  or what you ate yesterday? What’s going on in one’s life, etc. etc. etc. lately.

3) Notice recurring dreams. Many people have a recurring or returning dream. Mine is - the church is filled - and I’m trying to find the right reading or prayer for the day in these big red books and I can’t find it. I remember one dream when I had about 50 of these big red books up here in the pulpit. A priest who taught us Patrology [Early Church Writers] used to tell us that his recurring dream was trying to find a church he was going to that weekend and couldn’t find it.

4) And sometimes dreams tell us exactly what’s happening. When I was living in a retreat house right next to the Atlantic Ocean in West End, New Jersey from 1969 to 1976 - I had a dream that I was being pulled into the ocean. A Nor’easter was raging outside and water had worked its way through a wall - and the leak soaked my floor and the water on the floor worked its way up into my bed - because the blankets were touching the floor and acting like blotters.


Now why did I give that song and dance about dreams?

Well, one way to read the scriptures is to see some of the stories in them as dreams. Today’s two readings - especially today’s first reading from Ezekiel has water - lots of water flowing in the temple. At first it’s ankle deep, then knee deep - then waist deep. Then it  becomes a river - a river with fruit trees on each side - as well as fish. And the trees give fruit and its leaves are medicine.

Now that could be a great dream to have - a healing dream - a dream that tells us God wants to wash us, refresh us,  nourish us - and all is tasty and all is good, so don’t worry.

So too today’s gospel. What would it be like to have the same problem for 38 years. We feel crippled. Each time we crawl for help - everyone else slides by us and we’re not healed. And finally Jesus comes to us and heals us right now.

Today’s readings as dreams are already written down. Bring them to prayer as if they are dreams and they are happening to us.  Then ask Jesus to heal us.


The title of my homily is, “Two Dreams.”  

Coming to church, don’t we want the church - this church - to be a healing place - where we experience God healing and feeding us? Don’t we want to be washed in the Living Water - that our faith in Christ is not just ankle deep, not just knee deep, not just waist deep, but we are river deep in Jesus Christ and in his love? Amen. 


[1] Genesis 37: 5-11; Genesis 37: 19; Genesis 40 and 41; Matthew 1:19-25; Matthew 2: 13-15; Matthew 2: 19-20. 

Quote for Today - March 12, 2013

"I had a dream that I was in purgatory and I ran across Bill Madlock with the ugliest woman I've ever seen.  He explained that this was his penance for all the sins he committed on earth. Then I saw George Steinbrenner with Bo Derek.  I couldn't believe it. George Steinbrenner with Bo Derek?  Until somebody explained to me.  'You don't understand. This is Bo Derek's penance.'"

Tommy Lasorda, New York Daily News, February 7, 1982

Monday, March 11, 2013



The title of my homily for this Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent is, “Faith and Signs.”


Today’s readings - like so many readings in the Bible - bring up the question of “Faith and Signs”.

In the first reading from Isaiah 65: 17-21  we have a great promise - the day is coming when there will be no more crying - no more tears. Babies won’t die and old people will make it to 100 years of age at least. 

Did you smile - did you laugh - when you heard Isaiah say,
“He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.”?

And in today’s gospel - John 4: 43-54  - we have the 2nd of the 7 signs in the Gospel of John about Jesus. # 1 Cana, #2 The Healing of the Royal Official’s Son, # 3 The Healing of the man paralyzed for 38 years at the Pool of Bathsaida, #4 The Feeding of the 5,000, # 5 The Healing of the Blind Man in Jerusalem, # 6, The Raising of Lazarus, and # 7 The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead.

With paradoxical humor today’s second sign - the Healing of the Royal Official’s Son - begins with Jesus saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”


What is our faith built upon - signs and wonders - or faith and wonderings?

Last week I was with 60 some teen agers on a Kairos Retreat.

I noticed from time to time kids as well as the adults brought up signs - personal signs - that helped their faith - helped their belief.

That brought up to me faith and wonderings. If we try to convince people to have faith based on miracles or signs - if they don’t get any, will they then reject faith?

I’ve took a piece of paper and tried to figure out how many times I’ve received communion in my life since my First Communion. My guesstimate is 21,000. Only 2 times in all those receptions of communion - did I get a sign - and they might have been mere coincidence - mere subjectivity - what have you.

The first time was in our seminary and there was this guy I didn’t get along with - and we were the last 2 receiving communion at one Mass and the priest had one host left for 2 guys. So instead of going to the tabernacle for one host, he broke the one he had and gave each of us half. That was a message communion. Be in communion with each other.  Accident. Coincidence. Of course. But then …. afterwards thinking about it - we began to become friends - by being friendlier to each other.

The second time was in upstate New York in a parish mission. I was giving out communion and I began to notice hands: rough powerful hands - maybe a auto mechanic; the wrinkled hands of an old lady with a walker; a teenage girl with a ball point penned name of a boy on the palm of her hand; and a girl who had just the palm of her hands - with tiny, tiny skin beads where fingers should be. It hit me rather strongly that Jesus reaches out to everyone to feed.

I also remember a moment during Eucharistic adoration in our retreat house chapel at Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. I got stuck in the sacristy doing something after the Saturday night Mass. I had put Jesus in the Bread in the Monstrance - and put it on the altar. The practice there for was everyone clear out of the chapel - except one person who knelt in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. They would pray for 22 or 25 or 32 minutes all through the night depending on the number of people on retreat. The lights in the chapel were made very low - mainly from candles on the altar. Well, I finally finished my task in the sacristy and walked out into the sanctuary - to  head towards the door in the back of the out of that chapel. Surprise. I tripped over a body on the floor in the semi-darkness. I was younger and caught myself on a bench. I didn’t know who the person on the floor was, but he did say, “I’m sorry.” I said, “Okay, no problem.” 

The next day a guy said to me, “Sorry, I might have hurt you last night.”  I said, “No problem.”  But I asked him, “What were you doing on the floor.” Len, this enormous guy, a plumber, says to me, “That’s how I pray in front of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, it’s a long story. We were digging this big ditch and my son was down in a hole. We should have used a caisson. My mistake. Well the sides caved in on him. He was buried and everyone was screaming. I said a prayer to Jesus and to save my son. I grabbed a shovel and dug  furiously. Finally the shovel hits his head and I saved my son. Well from every moment after that Jesus has been present to me - especially in the Eucharist. He saved my son! Why wouldn’t I fall down on the ground every chance I get and adore him.”

If we look back on our life, I think we all have those kinds of signs - subjective signs - surprise signs - much more than so called “miracles’.


What is your faith build upon?

If it’s just the signs you want, what do you do if you don’t get them?

If you get surprise signs, take them, but build your faith on faith in Jesus Christ - and start shoveling. 

Quote for Today - March 11, 2013

"Forgiving the unrepentant is like drawing pictures on water."

Japanese Proverb

Question: Agree or disagree?

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Once upon a time there was a father - who cried - who cried an awful lot.

His boys  - his two sons - sometimes they saw him wipe a tear or two or three off his upper cheeks - just below his eyes at times - with his knuckles - with a semi-closed fist -  but they never ask the why - the why of the cry.

If they did, they might find out - that their dad cried because they were so, so different - and so, so difficult. He cried at night - at times - because he was praying that they would get along with each other and talk to each other - but no - they rarely did.

The older one - was always so perfect - so right - never, ever, ever doing anything wrong - and squealed and tattled on his younger brother when they was young - and then a wall of ice formed - block by block between the two brothers in their teen age years.

The younger brother - was always so dumb - so stupid - pigging out - messing up - hanging with the wrong crowd - and the father would hear about it - and have to pay for damages and things he broke.

The father forgave him time after time after time - hoping this would change him - but it never seemed to work and the older brother would tell his dad, “I told you so. I told you so! He’ll never change.”

The older brother stopped hearing his father’s cries in the night. He was too into himself - too isolated to feel compassion for his father - whom he secretly thought was stupid - with the way his brother twisted his father around his finger like a ring.

The younger brother was also self centered - figuring the world - the future would come rushing up to him with all its riches.

It killed the father that day - when his youngest son - asked if he could have his inheritance now - as soon as possible - so he could travel to some far county - some great future - and celebrate life in some great foreign enterprise.

Surprise! His father said, “Yes.” After dividing up the property he gave the younger son half the family wealth.

That morning when his son left -  there was the attempted embrace by the father - but the younger son waved it off as he walked into the future with all his stuff - and his new fancy - rather fat - leather money bag.

The older brother - working in the field didn’t even say good bye - didn’t even wave goodbye. He was furious that his father would let his brother take half the family fortune and walk off into nothingness.

Good riddance - but he didn’t dream of great meals now with just he and his dad - laughing, talking, enjoying a sunset over their home and property - together.

Nope - this older brother was a cold fish - a rock - a stump in the ground - that wasn’t too alive.

The father’s tears flowed that day as he watched the back and body of his younger son grow smaller and smaller - walked further and further up the road away from their home.

The older brother never asked about his younger brother. In fact, he tried to change the subject - whenever his father asked him if he heard anything about his brother when he was with his friends.

Every night after supper the father would walk up the road to the top of a small hill and look down the road on the other side to see if his younger son might be heading home.

There were only tears - there - on the top of that hill - and he rarely saw anyone coming his way on the road heading towards him.

Most nights the father had trouble sleeping - tossing and turning where and what his younger son might be and what was happening to him. Life is not supposed to happen this way. Families are supposed to stick together.

If only mom had not died when the boys were so, so small.

The father felt like a total failure - feeling that he didn’t know how to be a father. He didn’t know how to raise his sons.

The younger brother blew his fortune as if there were holes in his fancy leather money bag. Everyone was his friend in every bar he entered.

But the bag soon became empty - and his stomach became empty - and his life became even more empty. He tried a job on a pig farm. The sight of them eating and stuffing themselves with slop - and vegetable pods - only made things worse.

He was in a nightmare - in a foreign land - in tattered clothes  - in wrinkled skin  - all alone.

Finally he woke up. He talked to himself. He came to his senses. He headed home - practicing - rehearsing - his speech. “Father I blew it - I lost it all. I was stupid. Just hire me as a hired servant - because I’m starving and I’m dumb.

That afternoon the father saw him coming over the top of the hill heading towards the house. “It’s my son.”  He screamed to the hired hands, “It’s my son!” And he ran - ran - towards his son - with tears of joy flowing down his face.

He held his son. He hugged him. He didn’t hear his son’s confession. He didn’t hear the, “Sorries!” 

He yelled to his hired hands, “Quick set up the tables. Kill the fatted lamb. Get the best of bread and wine and food. My son is home.”

He blurted out, “Put a ring on his fingers. Get him a new robe. Wash his feet. Get a pair of sandals for him. Invite all the neighbors.”

And the younger son was stunned. Tears of guilt. Tears of joy flowed down his face.”

Then the celebration began.

Meanwhile the older brother was coming from the other direction - coming towards the house and he hears music and dancing and asks one of the hired hands what was happening.

With tears in his eyes the hired hand said, “Good News! Your brother has come home and your father is throwing a great party for him. He has killed the fattest calf for him.”

At that the older brother turned around in fury. His fists became stones - ready to punch the world.

The hired hand seeing all this went and told the father who came out and pleaded with him to come to the celebration.

Lucky for those celebrating they couldn’t hear the angry words and curses the older brother screamed at his father.

“All these years I have been the good son - the perfect son - always loyal to you. All I did was work, work, work. And this son of yours - gets it all  - and wastes it all on booze and women and disasters - and you welcome him home. Are you crazy? Are you nuts? When will you ever learn?”

Tears flowed from the father. 


A silent scream roared through his being.  

Then he said, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”


To be continued.

o o o o o o o

Drawing on top: Return of the Prodigal Son [1642]  Rembrandt, Tyeless Museum, Haarlem

Middle Painting: Rembrandt and Saskia in the Scene of the Prodigal Son, c. 1635, Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

Last Painting: The Prodigal Son [c. 1661-1669], Rembrandt, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Quote for Today - March 10, 2013

      "All things that are,
Are with more spirit chased than enjoyed.
How like a younker or a prodigal

the scarfed bark puts from her native bay,
Hugged and embraced by the strumpet wind!

How like the prodigal doth she return,
With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails,
Lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind!

William Shakespeare [1564-1616], The Merchant of Venice, Act II, vi, 1