Saturday, May 18, 2013


Quote for Today - May 18,  2013

"Success is putting your 'knows' to the grindstone."



What do you know?

What have you discovered about your "knows" when practiced - or put to the grindstone?

Painting: "El Afilador" - "The Knife Sharpener or Grinder" - c. 1790 by Francisco Goya [1746-1828]

Friday, May 17, 2013



The title of my homily for this 7th Friday after Easter is, “The Details In The Acts of the Apostles.”

After I read today’s first reading from The Acts of the Apostles - which we use every year for these readings after Easter - it struck me that there are some very specific details in this document.

This is a document dated from somewhere between 80 and 90 AD.

I would think discovering specific historical details about our Early Church from that time is very valuable.


Sometimes someone says to me, “I want to start reading the Bible, but where do I begin?”

I find that a great question.

I pause…..

I say it’s a great question because so many people begin with Genesis and don’t get that far. If they make it through Genesis and even start Exodus, many get bogged down once they get to Chapter 20: 23 of Exodus - with all the rules and regulations of the Covenant that follow. Even if they get through Exodus, there is Leviticus and Numbers - which is like trudging through a desert - seeing only sand, rocks, and sometimes pieces of dried out wood. If you’ve never been to the desert, well it can be like being in an Algebra class and you're the type who never, never understood Algebra in any shape or form.

So if someone asks, “Where do I begin reading - if I want to read the Bible?” I always say, “James. Read the Letter of James. It’s only 5 chapters. Then I add, “If you don’t get James, you’re not going to get the Bible.”

If someone asks: “Okay, I read James and liked it - or I get - what next?”

I would then say, “Read The Gospel of Mark” or “Read Genesis - but read it with the idea of the families you'll find there.”

Now I have a new thought: “Read The Acts of the Apostles with details in mind.”


The Acts of the Apostles give us lots of names of people - lots and lots of different people - who's in charge - who is doing what and this and that. It also gives us places - especially where Paul went.

Today’s first reading for example gives us the names, King Agrippa and Bernice - arriving tin Caesarea on a visit to Festus.

Then we hear about a man name Felix. Interesting. Was that his given name or nickname? Was he happy - as the name indicates?

The detail in today’s first reading that gave me the thought for this homily was the information about Roman Law. It states it was not the Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers - and he had the opportunity to defend himself against their charges. [Cf. Acts 25: 13b-21]

I don’t know about you, but that triggered for me a whole string and stream of questions.

·        Was this for women as well?
·        Did the Romans establish this in all the places they took over?
·        Did they come up with this principle?
·        If not, whom did they take it from?
·        Was this the Greek practice?
·        What about English law on this?
·        What about United States law on this?
·        Does anyone at CNBC or Fox News bring this up on a breaking story?
·        What about U.S. law compared to U.S Military Law?
·        What about protection laws in other countries?
·        What about those of us who gossip? Do we ever pause and think about the other person and their rights to a good name?
·        Why did Luke or whoever put this detail in this document, put this detail into this document? I have to study this question - to see if they put it in here to get Paul to Rome.

That’s detail about the accused having the right by Roman Law to face their accusers is just one short detail in The Acts of the Apostles.

What would it be like to read the whole document keeping in mind the historical details sprinkled throughout the document?


So if you are looking to reading the Bible, my first recommendation is to read James - and then a possible next suggestion would be: “Read The Acts of the Apostles with the idea of spotting interesting specific details and see what questions erupt - historical or otherwise."    

Quote for Today - May 17, 2013

"Be the last to cross over a deep river."


Thursday, May 16, 2013


Quote for Today - May 16, 2013

"I am not afraid of tomorrow, 
for I have seen yesterday
and I love today."

William Allen White

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Quote for Today  - May 15,  2013

"He paints the astonishingly complicated loneliness of the limbo hours in a coffee shop, like a glass-hulled boat trapped in the black ice of the city, lit by a slice of yellow light like stale lemon pie, and full of the sadness of a gray fedora, a red dress and a  clean coffee urn."

Newsweek, on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, May 29, 1967

Painting: Nighthawks, 1942

Edward Hopper, 1882-1967

Tuesday, May 14, 2013



The title of my homily for this 7th Tuesday after Easter is, “The Ministry of Memories.”

One of great ministries we can all do - a ministry that’s not in the bulletin or on the bulletin boards - is that of getting people to tell us their memories - to tell us their stories. It’s the ministry of listening.

You don’t need much training to take on this ministry. The only two tools one needs are: first, a piece of imaginary duct tape to put over one’s own mouth; and second, a question mark - like a shepherds hook or crook - to pull lost sheep out of another’s memories.

There are people - especially people who have been around - right next to us in car pools or swimming pools - nursing homes or right next door or at family gatherings - folks who can still tell us their stories - what it was like to be who they are - and what they went through. There are people who will light up - when we listen up and ask them to tell us their stories.


Now that you asked me to tell you one of my favorite stories, let me tell this one. I’m a little boy. My father is in his green vinyl chair in the corner -  reading. My dad loved to read. Imitating him I take down a brown covered book on our one shelf of books desk stand. It’s the book, Best Known Poems in the English Language. I turn to a page.  There is a rose petal - dead - dry - dark faded red.  I’m wondering what is this dead thing doing in this book. I really wasn’t old enough to read the poem. It was my father’s book. I marched over to him with an open book - with the dead rose petal - as if it were a dead moth or something on a plate. I show him the dead rose petal. I ask the question: “What is this?” He looks at it - pauses -  and simply says with an impish smile, “Memories!” I love that story.

I love to ask people I visit in homes or nursing homes, “What is this?” to the stuff I see on their walls or their  tiny tables. 

“What is this?” 

Answer every time - the same answer my father gave me - in their words and with their smiles or their tears: “Memories!”


Today - May 14th - is the feast of St. Mathias.

Last night I took down John L. McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible from one of my book shelves. I looked up, “Matthias”. It simply says he was chosen by lot - quoting today’s first reading - [Acts 1: 23-26] - to take Judas’ place. Then John L. McKenzie says in his succinct style, “He is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, and the traditions about him found in the apocryphal books and in the Fathers are totally worthless.”

Sometimes we know almost nothing about another person.


My dad came from a big family in Ireland and 3 of his sisters became Sisters of Mercy in Portland, Maine. They were much older than he - he being the baby of the family. They came to America when he was still a little kid.  He came later on.

I once went by bus to Portland Maine with my dad. We visited  two of those Sister’s graves - both dying in their 20’s.  I remember standing there at their graves - seeing my dad crying - along with his sister - Sister Mary Patrick  - who lived to serve for over 50 years as a nun cooking at the Mercy motherhouse in Portland Maine.

I don’t know anything about the lives of these 2 young women who died so early. I don’t know what my father and his sister were thinking that day. It’s too late now. All four are now well buried. Their thoughts are buried as well. They are memories - like the memory of that dead rose petal in that old book of poems. What ever happened to that old book?


I can stop there and say, “Well, that’s that” or I can say, “Let other people take their place - people around town or the planet - who are alive. I can go up to them and do what I call “The Ministry of Memories” - and ask them about their memories, and listen to their stories about brothers or sisters - roses or poems they used to love to read. 

Quote for Today - May 14, 2013

"Bulls do not win bull fights;
people do.
People do not win people fights;

lawyers do."

Norman Augustine, "Augustine's 10th Law," Augustine's Laws, 1986

Monday, May 13, 2013



The title of my homily for this 7th Monday after Easter  is, “Here Are Some Crayons! Draw God.”

If we hand kids some paper and some crayons and we ask them to draw God - we might get some very interesting drawings and images.

Then when we ask kids to explain their drawings - it’s even more interesting. They will give us their take on God - how life works - from their perspective, etc.

An important as well as a wonderful book to read is, The Spiritual Life of Children by Robert Coles. As a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard, he has done lots of research on what's going on in the lives of children - and he uses drawings for poignant observations.

If you watch TV, I’m sure you’ve seen the whole series of ATandT commercials about “It’s not complicated.” A guy is sitting at a table and he asks some kids a question and it goes from there.

Then each time it ends with the statement, “It’s not complicated.”

The title of my homily is, “Here Are Some Crayons! Draw God.”


When it comes to understanding God - the best answer seems to be, “God is both complicated and simple.”

The scriptures give us lots of images and pictures of God. 

God is a voice. God is a Creator. God is Someone Who Doesn’t Like to Be Alone, God is a Fortress. God is a Father. God is a Mother. God is a Spouse. God is a Shepherd. God is Thunder - Lightning. God is also a soft whisper of a breeze. God is a King. God is the great I AM.

The authors of these images are not around to explain themselves. I hold that there are people around today who have those same images of God. Listen to them

If we bring in the New Testament, we have Jesus constantly talking about God His Father - Our Father. That’s simple. We know what a good Father - as well as what a Good Shepherd is like.

If we start to listen to Jesus describing Got His Father - as well as the Spirit - it gets complicated.

For some it’s tough enough believing in God - than to accept that Jesus is God. It took the church a couple of hundred years to hammer out formulas - the Creeds - on how to state who God is.

The big heresies of the Early Church tell me that God is complicated.

To say God is 3 persons - but 1 God. To say that are 3 persons are different - but also they are Equal and One God. That’s not simple. That’s complicated.

Then we have the history of the Church - as well as various other religions and their drawings on God.

This can really complicate God big time - as well as statements by some that they claim is God talking - and they know God’s thoughts.


Let me use two technical theological terms  I use from time to time. If I use them enough at these 12:10 Masses you’ll be familiar with them. They are the words: kataphatic and apophatic.

Kataphatic means using images and pictures to describe God - whether with paint or sculpture or crayon.

Apophatic means no images - because any image of God is obviously incomplete - inadequate - and can be subject to idolatry.

I don’t know about you - but I have learned that both ways can be helpful. The Divine Dark approach can help. That’s the Jewish urge at times - as in the practice of not using God’s name. Then there is the  Islamic approach - that you can’t imagine God in picture.

You probably have heard about the Iconoclasts - who destroy images and ikons because they think people use them as magic to try to manipulate God.


So crayons are good - simplicity is good - but at times complexity and becoming quiet is also helpful.

So someone might hand you a box of crayons  and tell you to draw a picture of God. Sometimes it's good to be like a little kid again and draw, draw, draw.

Sometimes an image of God or Christ or the Holy Spirit that you draw can be helpful. 

Sometimes you can hand back an empty canvas - and relax. 

Sometimes silence and nothingness - just being there is as good as a drawing. 

Your move.

[Here's a picture I found on line of an assortment of early Binney and Smith crayon boxes.]

Book Quoted: Robert Coles, The Spiritual Life of Chidren, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1990

Quote for the Day - May 13, 2013

"The universe is made of stories - not atoms."

Muriel Ruykeyser


How about both and a lot more?

Sunday, May 12, 2013


They didn’t think she would walk again - let alone climb the 13 steep steps in their house to the second floor. She did both. It took time, but she did it - with a little help from her friends.

The accident happened two Novembers ago  - after dropping her son Christopher off - a sophomore in high school - their surprise baby -   at a Friday night football game. He hadn’t made the varsity team yet. It wasn’t a drunken driver - but it was a teenager in a rush - trying to do too much -  trying to get somewhere on a Friday evening. She was in a hurry.  The teen age girl didn’t get hurt - but Terri did. Their car was totaled - and her legs were somewhat crushed.

At first they didn’t think she would walk again. She did.

It took a lot of rehab - a lot of courage - stubbornness - surgeries on both legs - a wheel chair - a walker -  time - a cane - lots of time - and lots of sacrifice by her husband Tom and their last son, Christopher.

There two other sons were both married. One was in the military and the other got a great job in San Francisco.

At times Terri felt like a hundred year old woman. She was only 55.

After getting out of the hospital and then the rehab center, Terri finally got home. A big decision had been made: upstairs or downstairs?

Tom told his son, Christopher, “13 steps are a lot steps.”

Christopher said, “I can carry her up and down - she’s not that heavy. She’s my mother.” 

Both smiled at that.

Terri was only 128 pounds.

She liked to tell folks she was never over 130 pounds in her life. She liked to run. She liked to walk. She liked to exercise. Good thing she was athletic.

Terri was not in on this decision of: “Upstairs or downstairs.”

Tom said to Christopher,  “You won’t always be home. We have a bathroom down here - and we could put a bed in the living room. And what happens if my back goes out?” 

“Dad,” said Christopher, “there is no shower or tub down here. Would you want that if this was you?”


“You’re right,” said his dad.

Terri went along with the decision - but she felt guilty at times -  especially when her husband had to carry her up or down those 13 steps to or from the second floor. 

With Christopher it was different. In fact,  she felt great - having her son - her surprise baby - her secret favorite - her football player - carrying her up and down those 13 steps.  

With Tom at times it was the opposite. After a long day - seeing him hold his right hip at times after the climb - and then seeing him wince and give a slight sniff with his left nostril - she wanted to get better - and better fast.  Wives know their husbands body language - especially when it’s frustration. She could hear him thinking: “We should have chosen the first floor.”

Step by step - life moves forward.

They were doing this as a family.

The conversations - between Tom and Terri - on the steps - were always about the steps and the tough of it. 

“I always wanted to know what it would be like to climb Mount Everest.” That was a comment by Tom. 

“And I wanted to climb the rest of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.” That was a comment by Terri. She used to go backpacking while in college in Boston.

“Your mom,” said Terri - “used to say, ‘Once you hit 45 - always buy a house that has only one floor - if possible. You never know what’s going to happen in the future.’ Next house will be one floor.... Right?”

The conversations on the steps between Terri and Christopher were always about  their lives.

Christopher would talk about something that happened in the classroom that day - as well as going to college next year - where he might be going - and all that.

Terri would tell Chris, “I’m dying to get walking and driving again - to get back to work again. I miss teaching. I miss the kids. Thank God we have good medical coverage. Thank God for that. Thank God for you and dad.”

Then the day came. Actually it was just two weeks ago. After lots and lots of one step at a time - as well as lots of physical therapy - the day came -  when Terri was able to climb those 13 steps on her own. Okay - along with a sturdy banister. Tom and Christopher - were behind her all the way. She did it. That day she did it. She climbed those 13 steps on her own. Both of her men in her life were there for the celebration. Both clapped and clapped, “You made it to the top!”

“Phew” all three said at the same time!

It was like the sound a mom and dad and their kid  make when they blow out his second birthday cake - all together.


You should have seen the smile on her face.

After that it was a piece of cake. The walker and wheelchair and the cane were put in the garage off to the side. They will be reminders at times - of what she went through - and then they will just sit there - that stuff that stays in garages forever - till someone has a yard sale - or needs a walker or wheelchair or a cane or they move.

That Mother’s Day her two sons and their wives and kids made it home to be with mom and dad and their brother Christopher.

All went to Mass - Mothers’ Day  - together in two cars.

Nobody but Terri got it when the priest said with a smile, “It’s rare when Ascension Thursday falls on  Mother’s Day - a Sunday -  but this year - that’s the story.”

The priest continued, “And I have no clue on how to connect the two. However, as we learned in the seminary - ‘Whenever it’s Mother’s Day, no matter what the readings are - even if there is no connection - you better say something about Mother’s Day - otherwise you’re toast  - well with at least half the congregation - and probably the whole congregation - because everyone has a mother.”

He then proceeded to talk on and on about something - while Terri made her connection....

Ascension - those were her 13 steps up those stairs.

Ascension - she was thinking about this past Lent - when Tom took Terri to church with the help of her walker - on Friday evenings for the Stations of the Cross. This was the first time either of them had done that since they were kids.

Terri wanted to go every Friday evening in Lent because she told Tom  she was making the connection between her recovery and Jesus stepping those 14 Stations of the Cross - as well as those 13 steps up to the second floor at home.

She added, “If Jesus made it, even though he fell 3 times, I can make it to top of those steps - and to the rest of the Presidential range of mountains in New Hampshire next summer.”

She made that last comment with a wink in her voice….

Then she concluded, “And I hope to rest of my life.”  

Quote for Today - May 12, 2013 - Mother's Day 2013

"Mother's Day is when everybody waits on mother and she pretends she doesn't mind the extra work."



What do you make of this quote? How do you observe it?