Saturday, June 1, 2013


Quote for Today  June 1, 2013

"In America, it is sport that is the opiate of the masses."

Russell  Baker, The New York Times, Oct. 3, 1967

Questions and Comments:

Agree or disagree?

Around 1797 there was a comment that was floating around: "Religion acts merely as an opiate." It appeared in the L'Historie de Juliette by the Marquis de Sade and in Novalis.

Karl Marx said in 1843, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." It appeared in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843)

Charles Kingsley wrote around 1848, "We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order." He was a Canon in the Church of England. 

Madalyn Murray O'Hair said, "Marx was wrong - religion is not the opiate of the masses, baseball is."

Do you consider any thing in your life to be like a drug - something you are addicted to: television, the computer, solitaire?

Friday, May 31, 2013


Quote for Today - May 31, 2013

"I hate quotations, tell me what you know."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, December 20, 1822

Quote for Today - May 30, 2013

"There is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography."

Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Quote for Today - May 29,  2013

"An awful lot of life on this planet is one man's assessment of the other."

Walt W. Rostow, in Hugh Sidey, John F. Kennedy, President: A Reporter's Inside Story, 1963

Tuesday, May 28, 2013



The title of my homily for this 8th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Mass: What’s Going On Here?

From time to time our doors here at St. Mary’s open up and a complete stranger walks in.  I see them at times from up here because I’m looking towards the back. Sometimes it’s a wedding. Sometimes it’s a baptism. Sometimes it’s a funeral.  Sometimes it’s this morning Mass.  I see them standing in the back - sort of with a big question mark - on their face. I hope and pray that those who walk in here will become complete - stranger or a regular.

Are they saying, “What’s Going On Here?

The title of my homily is, “Mass: What’s Going On Here?

I don’t know about you - but I have all kinds of thoughts going on inside my mind during Mass. Years ago I heard a talk from Eugene Kennedy and he freed me from distractions during Mass as a sin. He said something like: to  be human is to have distractions.

A Jesuit Spiritual director added: “Turn your distractions into prayers.” In other words:  if prayer is conversation with God, tell God everything you’re thinking about. Makes sense to me. Sorry if that’s your only sin to confess. Sometimes others say something and they become like the Lamb of God and take away some of the supposed sins of our world - for example distractions.

Now of course, as in any conversation, we need to pay attention - to the person we’re listening to - in this case God - or the readings about God or the Prayers to God.  Of course, we try to worship and praise God - while praying - while celebrating Mass here.


Today’s first reading - Sirach 35: 1-12 - got me thinking about all this. It got me thinking about attitudes and thoughts while worshipping God. So that’s where the title and theme of this homily came from: Mass: What’s Going On Here?”

Of course - Ben Sirach - is talking about Jewish worship - somewhere around the year 180 BC.  Of course we’re continuing that Jewish worship through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I thought this section of Sirach is remarkable because it gives sort of a list of what we could be thinking while we come in here to  St. Mary’s for morning Mass. So I re-read Sirach 35: 1-12 several times and came up with a sevenfold list - because the reading uses the word sevenfold. So here are seven things we can come here for Mass to do or think:

1) Peace Offering: we’re here to make a peace offering to God.  What a nice way to begin one’s day. Peace God. I’m making a sacrifice being here and I want to be in peace - unity - connection - with you.

2) Works of Charity: After Mass and throughout the day I’ll be doing works of charity - so right now I’m offering those moments to you as gift and worship now. Sirach says works of charity are like offering fine flour to God. Yep that’s what today’s first reading says. What a nice connection between one’s day and this Mass. The priest lifts up the bread at least 5 times and that’s a rich gesture of offering up a sacrifice of fine flour, good bread to God, so too doing acts of charity each day to and for each other.  They are interconnected.

3) Avoiding evil during the day pleases God and others. One practical way is with our mouth.

4) Sirach says, “Appear not before the Lord empty-handed.” Well sometimes we feel that way when we come to Mass. Then look up and see the bread - which becomes Christ in our hands as he’s eternally offering himself to God his Father and then put in our hands and our mouth at communion.

5) See ourselves and all those here like incense or sweet smoke rising up to God in this temple.

6) We only have collections on Sundays - and lots of them - well, on Sunday’s put our two cents in - or an Andrew Jackson in the basket or poor box or whatever - with a joyful heart as Sirach puts it.

7) Don’t come here to try to bribe God.


The title of my homily is, “Mass: What’s Going On Here?

My message: Listen to what’s going on in our mind today and make it our prayer.

Quote May 28, 2013

"The world would be poorer without the antics of clergymen."

V. S. Pritchett, The Dean in My Good Books


Why didn't he say, "richer" rather than "poorer"?

What about clergywomen?

What does he mean by antics?

Monday, May 27, 2013


Quote May 27, 2013 - Memorial Day 

"Though lost to sight, 
  to memory dear."

On a tombstone ....

Sunday, May 26, 2013



The title of my homily is, “God? Onion or Golf Ball?

This Sunday - the Sunday after Pentecost - we celebrate the feast of the Trinity.

This feast about God - God as a Holy Trinity of 3 Persons - is a challenge each year -  not just to the preacher - but to all of us to take some time - to unpeel - U N P E E L -  [Spell out] - our notions - our take - our understanding - our relationship with God - especially as the Most Holy Trinity.

That verb “to unpeel” leads me to think of an orange, then an apple, then an onion, then a golf ball - then a person - all of which we can unpeel - all of which we can look underneath - all of which can lead us to mystery - to wonder - to surprise - but also to “uh oh!”


I always liked the quote, “Life is like an onion. You peel off a layer at a time - and sometimes you cry.”

I always -  also - don’t like that quote because - when it comes to an onion -  it’s a bummer - because one discovers nothing in the center - in the inside - yet one cried - yet one tried.

I try to get inside another - or a situation - or a worry - and I find nothing inside. Bummer!

Those moments remind me of those moments when I get  stuck in traffic on an interstate. It’s bumper to bumper to bumper forever. I’m wondering how much longer and what the heck is causing this problem? Finally traffic starts flowing again and I never did find out what caused the backup and the problem in the first place. Bummer.

I like it when I see - along the side of the road - some broken red glass - or tire skid marks or a red flare still burning.  Obviously, I hope nobody was hurt - but at least I knew a crash caused the delay.

I like a peach because it has a pit inside - or an apple with a core - or an orange with some pits. But that onion - you peel off a layer at a time - you cry - and when you get to that last layer, there is nothing in the inside. It doesn’t have a center. It’s the pits when there are no pits - when there is an, “I don’t know! I just don’t know.”

Sometimes that happens to people with God. Jean Paul Sartre, the French Existentialist,  once said, “For several years more, I maintained public relations with the Almighty. But privately, I ceased to associate with him.”

Let me repeat that - because that can be the autobiography of a lot of people when it comes to God - including us priests:  “For several years more,  I maintained public relations with the Almighty. But privately, I ceased to associate with him.”

As priest with some family members - it’s a bummer when someone in the family - has no interest in God - in the inside and in the center of their life.

As priest I preached the Graduation Mass for our High School kids on Thursday. I tried to slip God into the inside of my words - into the inside of our students lives. I tried to trigger that moment in their future - when the whole enterprise falls apart - and they are sitting there in the dark like the people in and around Moore, Oklahoma - where everything has been unpeeled by a twisting tornado. Some 24 people have been killed - including 9  kids - and we wonder, “Where is God in all this?” We want more and there is so much less.

Also when I think of unpeeling - and the underneath - and the unknown inside,  I remember something we used to love to do as kids: to find an old golf ball - on a lawn - with it’s cover starting to uncover. Then  we would peel with great effort that hard outside cover off it.

That was tricky. I remember putting an old golf ball into the heavy metal vise grip thing my father had in our basement at his work bench. I’d twist that iron handle so that the two iron sides with teeth would grab that golf ball - so it wouldn’t and couldn’t escape. Then I would jam the front of a screwdriver under the covering. Then with a hammer I would drive that screwdriver tip into the golf ball - in under the unraveling cover. Once the cover was off I could more easily unpeel it.

I don’t know what golf balls are made of now - but when we were kids they had that fascinating rubber band like stuff just under the cover. It would take forever to get that off. Finally - underneath the rubber bands - after all that unpeeling - there was this neat hard rubber tiny pith ball.

They were great to have - much better than glass marbles. I loved to have one in my pocket in a boring grammar school class room. With my thumb and finger I would flick the ball up my desk to try to get it into the inkwell hole.  The desks no longer had ink bottles in them. When I scored - it would go “blup blup” as it fell onto the shelf underneath the desk top. The nun up front would be startled - owl or eagle like - trying to figure out, “Uh oh! What that was?” On went my fake nonchalant face - knowing that tiny ball was safe - out of sight - in the underneath space of my desk.

That rubber ball bounced fabulously in the play ground - high and hard to figure out where it was going to land. It was a unique toy for the few of us boys who knew how and where to get them.

An old golf ball looked useless - but that center ball always seemed so fresh - so bouncy - that is, if you could unpeel and get to it.


What, who is God to me: onion or golf ball?

Question: Am I still trying to get to know, to love, to discover, to find, God - underneath it all?


I assume that those of us who come to church are the still searchers.

I assume from time to time all of us have come up with our metaphors - our images - our takes - our experiences - our moments - when we met God in the central as well as surprise moments in our lives.

I picture couples standing there - being toasted by their family and friends - as they celebrate a 25th or 50th wedding anniversary.

I picture parents at graduations - feeling - especially feeling - but realizing - it was all worth it.

My grandnephew Sean graduated from the Naval Academy on Friday and the moment for one of my nieces - was when she stood back and saw his grandfather hugging his grandson - after the graduation. Everyone knew how much it meant to Joe. I knew it meant so much for Sean’s parents.

The moment for me - that brought tears to my eyes - even though it was cold and rainy - was when different  group and pockets of people - spread throughout the stands - heard their kids name called and they erupted with cheers and joy.

Life is to spot those moments. Sometimes we cry.

Life is to unpeel those moments - and see what’s inside. 

Life is to feel those moments and discover the bouncing, bouncing life that is inside our life.

Life is to discover that God - Father - Son  - and  - Holy Spirit are here - and there - and everywhere.


Of course the bummer is when we peel and peel and don’t find anything.

It’s a bummer of a marriage when the other has become a couch potato or a lump - or a grouch - or a disaster - and after the unpeeling of the clothes and the unpeeling of the years - someone discovers that there is nothing inside the other - and in the meanwhile there are children - there is family. Now that’s an, “Uh oh!”

It’s a bummer of a life - when you give it all for your children or for your parents and nobody seems to give a rats tail for what you consider important: caring for each other.


There is Good News in the readings for today’s Mass.

The good news is when one unpeels life and discovers the heights and depths of Jesus Christ - sometimes in the tears and the afflictions as today’s second reading from Romans puts it. [Cf. Romans 5: 1-5]

Paul in this reading says that in the midst of afflictions one can discover God - one can discover the Holy Spirit - one can discover endurance - and character  - and proven character - along with proven hope - one can develop a strong cover - like that of the outside of a golf ball - and in my heart, in my center,  I have the love of God which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The Good News is when one unpeels life - one can also discover God in the beauty of creation - in the mountains and the hills, in the fountains and springs of water, in the earth and in the fields, in the heavens in the deep. God can be found in play and delight - in all the joys of life within our sight - seeing God the Craftsman - as today’s first reading from Proverbs  8: 22-31 puts it - in all that God has made - and created.

Are we missing seeing  what we could be seeing outside of us - because are we blind in the center of our inside?

My brother Billy is long dead - but I am very grateful for his teaching us about the value of going to art museums. If we were coming down to see him and his family in Bowie and then Laurel, Maryland, the week before he would skip lunch from his job in Washington, D.C. He would then go to the National Gallery or the Hirshorn Museum and memorize the names of all the paintings he could grasp. Then when we arrived, he would suggest that we and the kids go to DC to see paintings. As we were browsing he would say, “That painting over there looks like a Renoir.” Then he would add, “It’s name is probably….” 

Sure enough he was right every time. His daughters, knowing he loved to do this, would try to move all of us in a different direction to throw him off.

I enjoyed him doing this - plus seeing the paintings, but what I really learned by going to art museums - was what happened to me when we went outside. I realized: everything was art. Everything was works of art and sculpture: people, cars, hot dog wagons, trees, flowers, blades of grass, dogs, the sky.  God the artist was everywhere. We humans, we artists - had also been working everywhere to make this a beautiful world to live in.


Today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

Well, somewhere along the line I heard someone preaching and saying, “We are made in the image and likeness of God and it’s only when we are in wonderful and loving relationships with each other - that we are imaging God the Trinity.”

“Oh,” I said, upon hearing that, “People living and working together are a much better image of the Trinity  than the shamrock - 3 leaves - one plant.  We can be one - in our relationships with one another - whether we are 2, 3, 4, 5, 100. That’s when we mirror God and what it’s all about.”

And sure enough, if we unpeel any person, isn’t it when we are in love - when we are working together as family, as friends, that we feel the presence of God in our center.

It’s then we are bouncing like that bouncing rubber ball in the center of the golf ball  - if they still make them that way - well if they don’t - well that’s still how we are made. Amen. 

Quote for Today - May 26, 2013

"Would to God 
  we might spend 
  a single day 
  really well."

Thomas A Kempis, Imitation of  Christ.