Saturday, June 8, 2013


Quote for Today - June 8, 2013

"We shape clay to make a pot
but without the emptiness inside
what use would it be?

We create doors and windows

to make a room
but only the space inside makes it useful.

Living beings create phenomena

but without emptiness,
they cannot be used."


Friday, June 7, 2013

IN ________.


The title of my homily is, “I Left My Heart In ______. Fill in the blank.”

This morning I noticed at the end of the Sports Section of today’s New York Times an obituary for Claramae Turner - who died at the age of 92. I would not have noticed and then read the obituary - except for one word in the title of the obituary: “Claramae Turner, 92, Singer and Heart of a Song.”

Today being the feast of the Sacred Heart - and because I was going upstairs to come up with a homily - after reading The New York Times - I noticed the word “heart”.

Claramae Turner - never heard of her - has just died. She was in the movie Carousel, but she was an opera singer - singing 100 times in the Metropolitan Opera. 

The New York Times obituary gave the trivial comment that the song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was written for her in the early 1950’s as a recital piece. It was then published in 1954. 

The song was little known till Tony Bennett took it and won 2 Grammy awards for the song in 1962 - winning Best Male Solo Vocal Performance.


Question: why was that song  been so popular?

Answer: I don’t know.

Assumption: However, I would assume it has always been popular because San Francisco - like Paris - in one of those cities that touch emotions, love, memories, stories, vacations, etc.

I would also assume that the idea of being in one place and having one’s heart in another place is something everyone can relate to.

Question: where is your heart?

Question: who has your heart?

Question: where do you go when you go elsewhere?

Question: what do you spend you energy on?


Questions of the heart are very important questions.

Our heart is a box - a safe - a vault - a where we can put precious things - precious feelings - precious memories.

We might have a box in a bottom drawer or a top drawer - where we put precious jewelry - or papers - the sacred stuff.

So too the human heart.

It can contain and consume and be filled with love and hate, joy and sorrow, heaven or hell, gift and hurt.

Want to pray: go into the chapel, the church, the cathedral, the temple of your heart.


Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Most of us here were brought up seeing images of the Sacred Heart.

It’s the image of Jesus - with his heart outside his rib cage and chest.

We get that image - because we know Valentine’s Day - we have called people “sweetheart” - we know what a bumper sticker means that spells the word “love” with a heart - as in “I [HEART] my pug.” Father Tizio has one of those. We’ve seen signs forever that Virginia is for Lovers [HEART].

Today’s readings feature the theme of a shepherd - that loves his sheep so much - he’ll do anything or go anywhere for his sheep - especially when lost.

I was talking to a woman the other day in the hospital who was dying. Her family were around the bed - so this was not confidential - and she said she was scared of dying. I asked her why. She answered immediately: “Because I’m scared that God is going to yell at me.”

Silence. Uh oh!

So I asked her - nervously - why do you say that, “Well that’s what our parish priest in New York said.”

I told her I don’t buy that or preach that. I preach Luke 15 as the heart of the Gospel.  One of the 3 parables in that 15th Chapter is today’s gospel: that of the Lost Sheep.

Now I would say, “I left my heart in Luke 15. It has 3 parables that tell us about God - that he will come looking for us or wait for us: not yell at us. If we are a lost son or daughter, or a lost coin, or a lost sheep, Jesus will come and find us and embrace us and loves us and pull us close to his heart.


Have a heart. Leave it in Jesus.

Quote for Today - June 7, 2013

"The history of every century begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

Willa Cather, O Pioneers, 1913

Comments and Questions:

What would be the name of the book called, "My History"?

What would be the names of 10 or 15 or 20 chapters?

Where have I lived? 

Whom have I met?  Name the 10 most significant experiences of my life?

What have I learned from the key moments of my life?

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Quote for Today - June 6, 2013

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder, 1965

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Quote for Today - June 5, 2013

"Anything that is built must rest on a foundation."



What would be the 3 key foundation stones of your life?

What would be the 4 pillars of your life?

Who has given you the best foundation stones of your life?

Jesus is called the "Cornerstone" - which the builders rejected. If you said to Jesus: "Be my Cornerstone" - what would that actually mean? Would you name particulars? Sayings? Principles? Stories? What?

Jesus talked at the end of his Sermon on the Mount - about building one's house on sand or rock. Describe some particulars for each.


The title of my homily for this 9th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Dealing With The Nagging Nit-Picking In Life.”

One of my favorite scripture texts is Mark 14: 19 and it’s also Matthew 26:22, “Is It I Lord?”

At the Last Supper Jesus says, “One of you is going to betray me!” And the different disciples around the table ask, “Is it I, Lord?”

I think that’s a great way to read the scriptures. We hear a story. We read a parable. We hear a challenge and we ask, “Is it I, Lord.”

And Jesus says that it’s the one who dips his hand  in the dish with me. That’s the one who will betray me.

So we hear a story or a parable and we dip our life into it and we ask, “Is it I, Lord?” Then we ponder if it hits and fits us.

So the title of my homily is, “Dealing With The Nagging Nit-Picking In Life.”

Question: Is it I, Lord?

In the gospels the Pharisees and / or the disciples often ask, “Are you aiming this at me?”

Jesus is more subtle than saying, “Yes” - but I sense that’s what he is doing.


I got this thought when I read today’s first reading from Tobit 2:9-14. He gets his wife Anna’s goat - picking on her - thinking she stole the goat that was given her. He ticks her off, so she starts nitpicking back at him - attacking him for having false piety and charity.

Put the stetascope on marriages or family gatherings or at work or the rectory and you’ll hear the same back and forth nit picking.  Sometimes comments are just in fun; other times they can be nasty.

And in today’s gospel once more the Pharisees and the Herodians are on Jesus’ case - trying to trap and trick him with  questions - this time about paying taxes  - so Jesus pulls a great coin trick on them. He asks for a denarius - a coin and asks, “Whose image is on this coin?” We heard them reply: “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” [Cf. Mark 12: 13-17]


We can’t change the other person’s behavior or patterns, but we can work on our own.

When we’ve been with each other long enough, we know each other’s weaknesses and where and how to nit-pick - where to nag - where to get back at - how to be like a mosquito or a gnat - and then and there or sooner or later when the right moment appears, we shoot back from the hip and from the lip or we do it behind the other’s back - with the dig or the gossip or the complaint - wrapped in sandpaper.

So I think a good lesson for today would be to catch ourselves when we’re about to fire a comeback at someone to their face or behind their back- someone whom we think is getting our goat - to simply zip the lip [GESTURE].

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Quote for Today  - June 4, 2013

"You cannot prevent the bird of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent it from nesting in your hair."

Chinese Proverb

Monday, June 3, 2013



The title of my homily for this 9th Monday in Ordinary Time is,  “Random Acts of Violence.”

We’ve heard of the Random Acts of Kindness movement - where people pay for tolls of the next three or four cars that come through the cash toll booth. Or people just stop a stranger and compliment them for a neat dress or tie or shoes - or what have you.

An offshoot of this - I believe - has been the Flash Mob movement - when people are in a Mall or a train station - and all of a sudden 100 people start singing and dancing a choreographed song or two. Surprise!

I also wonder if the Make a Wish - or Kids Wish - or Twilight Wish - Foundations - are also offshoots of this attitude of Random Acts of Kindness.


As I read today’s two readings I was hit by the violence in the first reading from Tobit. Tobit is about to eat a great meal and he sends out his son, Tobiah,  to find a random poor person and invite that person to share the meal with them. While out searching,  Tobiah discovers that one of their kinsfolk has been murdered, strangled, in the marketplace. Then Tobit goes and gets the body - this was before CSI - and then buries the dead person.  Today’s gospel talks about a man with a vineyard - who rents out his land to tenant farmers - who beat up and / or kill  the owner’s servants when they come for rent. Then they kill his son.


As one pages through the stories in our Bible - one can turn random pages and hear of random acts of violence - especially if one reads the crucifixion accounts. But way before that, the Bible has many stories of violence from Cain killing his brother Abel to the unnamed man who was beaten up and robbed on the road to Jericho. 

Today’s Mass - June 3rd - commemorates Charles Lwanga and the Uganda martyrs - 22 of whom were Catholic - and various others who were Anglican. If you read their story, it’s filled with sexual abuse of minors and then violent murders in Uganda - back in the late 1880’s.

We can have the same experience reading the daily newspaper.

I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law once and they watch the news from 5 to 6 coming out of Philadelphia - and then 6 to 6:30 - basically the same news - and then the network news at 6:30 to 7 - then Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and then the local evening news from 10 to 10:30 or so. Well this time their son, Gerard, says, “Why in the world do you watch the news? The first 3 stories are always 3 murders in Philadelphia and the next 3 stories are 3 fires in Camden, New Jersey. Sure enough the news came on and he was close.


Okay, that’s true. I don’t remember what my sister said next, but they still do that - not randomly - but regularly.

Okay, is there a message in this for us?

One obvious message would be to shut the TV off and talk to each other or play cards or monopoly or do a jigsaw puzzle while talking to each other - or by oneself while reflecting on life and one’s day and one’s circumstances.

Another obvious message would be to join the Random Acts of Kindness movement.

Another message - I don’t know how obvious this would be - but what would it be like to picture ourselves as a News Program - and we’re giving the news 24 -7 - 365? 

It seems to me that violence sells - the negative brings the ratings - and the advertising dollars - and in saying this I’m being negative - but on our broadcasting network to make a deliberate decision - not to be random - but to broadcast good news each day. In general the ABC, NBC, CBS evening news has a feel good story as the last story in their show. Could I on my daily news program change that pattern - and broadcast good news most of the time.

But some would respond: “Well, most of the news out there is bad news!”  I would respond with a question: “Is it?”

I wonder if it is a question of being an optimist or being a pessimist. Which of the two am in the famous quote: “Two people looked out prison bars. One saw mud; the other saw stars.”  Which am I?

Last week, Father Kevin Milton and I saw the movie 42 - the story of Jackie Robinson -  and one of the scenes in the movie that hit me was that of a man scream nasty comments in Cincinnati - where the Dodgers were playing the Reds. Next to the man was his small son - watching his dad screaming horrible things at Jackie Robinson. Then the boy started repeating the nasty comments in imitation of his dad. Then both see Pee Wee Reese from Kentucky - right below Cincinnati - going over and talking to Jackie Robinson - shaking his hand - and putting his arm on his shoulder. Pee Wee Reese had received death threats about playing baseball with a black man.

The camera then focuses on the face of the boy seeing Pee Reese and then looking up to his father’s face. What next?

I don’t know about you - I hear too many people sounding like the TV news stations they listen to - from the Right and from the Left.


My suggestion is twofold: Read Bernard Goldberg’s book called Bias and become a thinker - when it comes to our mind and our mouth. By the way Bernard Goldberg is often on Fox News.

Second: think about the news’ broadcasts that come out of my mouth and choose life - not death - as the great quote in the Deuteronomy puts it:  I place before you life and death …. and then Moses says, “Therefore choose life.”

Choose random acts of kindness - not random acts of violence.

Quote for Today - June 3, 2013

"A genius is a man who has two great ideas."

Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man


Do you have two great ideas - and can you name them?

It says "a man." If that is mankind - ooops - humanity - oops humankind -  better people - okay - but if it  means males - then do women have more than two great ideas - because of their ability - to multi-task and multi-idea any given situation?

Sunday, June 2, 2013



The title of my homily is, “Please, Sir, I Want Some More.”

Most of us know the famous scene in Oliver Twist - the book by Charles Dickens - or we know the movie or musical version - the scene when Oliver walks up to the man in the workhouse who is serving food, and says, “Please, Sir, I Want Some More.”

Oliver is chosen by lot - to be the one - the one who would step up and stand out and go up and ask for more food - "food glorious food" - as the song in Oliver,  the musical,  puts it. The kids in the workhouse - orphanage - are starving.

They get just one ladle of thin gruel - food -  3 times a day - 2 onions per week - and a half a roll of bread on Sunday. That certainly doesn't sound so glorious - but to a hungry stomach - it might just be "Food glorious food!"

Because Oliver stands up and speaks out,  he’s hit. He’s also put in detention. Then a sign is posted outside the house of detention. “Does anyone want to buy a servant?”

And as a result, Oliver is sold into slavery as a servant.

It also ends up being Oliver’s way to freedom - eventually.

The gist of the story - is that Oliver Twist - is everyone of us.

All of us stand there with bowl in hand - and we are starving for more.


Today as you know from the readings is the feast of Corpus Christi.

Today on this Feast of Corpus Christi, all of us with hands in the shape of a bowl - stand here on this planet  begging for more.

We beg for food, for love, for acknowledgement, recognition, a place in the line - a place at the table - a place in the sun - a ticket to freedom - a “Ticket to Ride” as the Beatles sang it.

We are starving for family, for fun, for faith, for hope, for charity, for meaning - and some would say: “Down, down deep we’re hungry for a down deep connection with God.”

That fits in with a statement I once heard on an Alcoholics Anonymous Retreat that I was part of in Michigan, “The alcoholic is looking for God at the bottom of a bottle.”

Someone said, “God himself dare not appear to a hungry man except in the form of bread.”

So, it’s no accident that God comes to us as food - for God too is starving for more - for more Love. God is waiting on line for us to be in communion with Him.

After all, God is Love.

As priest I have heard any number of people who came back to Church saying they came back for one reason: "I missed going to communion."

And I could tell when they said that, they realized, they discovered,  that going to communion is not a me-me moment - but an “I-Thou” moment with God.

Me-me doesn’t work in religion or marriage or life. Communion, connection, we’re in this together does work.

God - as Christians know and are told - is Three Persons - so in love They are One. 

And we know that feeling from time to time in the great moments of life - in marriage and family and team - when two, three, four, many are one.

And when we are in communion with God - morning moments on beaches - or night moments looking into a starry night as we see it or as Vincent Van Gogh pictured it in his painting "The Starry Night" - can move us deeply.

Sometimes beauty brings us to God. 

Sometimes it's the beast that does it as well: suffering, not being heard or appreciated as we hear in Don McLean's song, "Vincent", a song about Van Gogh.

However, it takes time - effort - deliberation - reflection - awareness - pausing when we are experiencing the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and light bearing mysteries of life - for us to realize God is in this experience or happening.

We know those moments. We have experienced them. They are marriage moments with the one, one loves - or graduations - or weddings of kids - or anniversaries - or funerals - or cancer moments - or being there at the finish line for someone in the family who runs a marathon and finishes in 4 hours and 15 minutes or what have you - or the whole extended family is there for a kid who has moved on in a Spelling Bee - and a little sister has flowers for her sister in the contest whether she wins of loses and grandma has her box of tissues.

I love it when parents come up the aisle in church at communion time with kid in hand and the kid seeing mom or dad getting the Bread - receiving Jesus - and the kid wants the bread as well.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a kid reach out and then complain or cry - or whine - because she or he didn’t get the bread.

I love it at First Communion time every spring in every church when kids make their First Communion.

"Body of Christ!" "Amen!"

Food glorious food.

I like it at Thanksgiving when there is no kids’ table - when all are at the same table if possible for food - for Thanksgiving Food - for love.

I was the youngest of four and the last to be in the high chair away from the family table - away from eating with the rest - and I also hated the dish rag - that had every smell in the world in it - and it was used to wash loose food off my face. Uggggg.

It’s tough being a child.

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ.


Last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I  was with 3 bus loads of our St. Mary’s high school junior class on retreat in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

We got there just in time for lunch. It was hamburgers - and chips - cheeseburgers - and the kids must have eaten junk food etc. on the way up on the bus or they weren’t hungry or they were used to Five Guys hamburgers or what have you - and a lot of plates of hamburgers were not eaten.

They didn’t seem to be hungry for hamburgers - or for food - at the moment.

That always gives me a sense of the starving people of China, India, Africa - or wherever our parents thought there were starving kids and we weren’t eating what was in front of us.

I’ve been on lots and lots of high school retreats and the challenge has always been to have kids find out what they are hungry for: notice, not looking stupid, friendships, not feeling alone,  meaning, sense, song, fun, throwing a Frisbee on great green lawns and fields, sunshine on one’s shoulders, laughter, connection - a good time.

I’m always hoping on retreats that glimpses of God come shining through - the desire, a fire, a spark for God - that it’s enkindled.

I am aware that teenagers are in all kinds of places.

I never forget the book, “We Were Never Their Age” - because it stressed listening and not assuming this generation is the same as my generation.

I am also aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: that the needs of the world - the needs of every person - are basically the same.

If any of us were in Oliver’s shoes - being a starving kid - or adult - anywhere in the world - we would want to stand up and say, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

I am always hoping on a teen's retreat - when they are at Mass - or at a talk - or at a serious moment - they will get serious - they will unconsciously remember - if they are Catholics - not all are - what it was like that moment years ago when they reached out their hand and mouth for the Body of Christ - Holy Communion - for the first time.

I’m always hoping at every wedding or funeral that I have - when I know there are lots of people in church - who might not have been in here for the longest time - that a  hunger for God appears -  and is felt.

I hope they whisper at least a whimpering little childlike, “Please, God, I want you more than I have in the last bunch of years.”


At the age of 73 - after being a priest all these years - after thousands and thousands of Masses - the Mass makes more and more sense to me.

I also realize we come to many Masses, but we’re not always here. I know I'm not.

We eat thousands and thousands of meals in a life time - but we’re not always hungry.

We talk thousands and thousands of conversations with each other - but we’re not always listening or in communion with each other.

But when we are - when we’re holding each other - after a long time apart - when we’re having a great meal together - when we are at a Mass and it all makes sense - it’s at that moment - that we know the more of life and we want that more.

It’s then we’re like Oliver and we say to God, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

It’s then we might find ourselves out of slavery and on our way to freedom.

“Please, God, I want some more.” 

Quote for Today - June 2,  2013

“The well-fed person and the hungry one do not see the same thing when they look upon a loaf of bread.”