Saturday, June 15, 2013


Quote for Today - June 15, 2013

"Get your priorities straight.
No one ever said

on his or her deathbed,
"Gee, if I'd only spent
more time at the office."


Friday, June 14, 2013



The title of my homily for this 10 Friday in Ordinary time is, “Earthen Vessels”.

For our first reading these days we’re going through 2 Corinthians - and the theme of Earthen Vessels here in Chapter 4: 7-15  is well know - especially for us Catholics after the St. Louis Jesuits singers put out a whole album entitled, “Earthen Vessels” - which ended up being sung in churches around the world - selling well over a million copies - in English and many of the songs were translated in various other languages.

The Earthen Vessel Album has 12 songs - 8 of which are in our present Breaking Bread Missalette.


These 4 aren’t:


What a gift to our church and world. These songs have made it into Protestant hymnals as well.


The cover of this second album of their songs, “Earthen Vessels” features just that: an earthen vessel.

 The question I ask is: Why is this theme of Earthen Vessels so popular?

Answer: we are earthen vessels. We hear on Ash Wednesday, “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.” [Cf. Genesis 3:19]

That message is taken right from the book of Genesis 2:7 where the author pictures God as a sculptor taking the clay of the earth and forming us out of it - and then breathing life  - the spirit of life into us.

And we know this body of ours is of the earth - being filled and fed with water and wine,  wheat and bread - as well as sheep and lamb - etc. and etc.

And we know as time goes on we crumble - bend over - creak and crack.

So we know at the end our ashes or our bodies - our earthen vessel - will turn to ashes and be buried and placed in the ground - [or sea or a shelf for some for a time].


But the key to the beauty of the message is what’s inside the vessel - us - God. That’s where the treasure is.

We all know about boxes and bottles and containers: it’s what inside that counts.

Paul is telling us here in his message that has been heard billions and billions of times: Christ is within. Then he adds: it’s when we ache and break - when we experience the passion, death, and crucifixion of Christ within us - it’s then that we don’t have to despair - in aging or suffering and dying.

That to me is why that message, that song, is so moving and so worth singing.

Every once and a while I spot the St. Louis Jesuits’ cassettes or records and even though the record may scratch or the tape might get stuck, the songs still sound out great songs - so too us. 

Quote for Today - June 1, 2013

"Cosmic upheaval is not so moving as a little child pondering the death of a sparrow in the corner of a barn."

Thomas Savage, Her Side of It, Little Brown, 1981

Comment and Question: In Matthew 10: 29 we read, "Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge."   If God notices an old sparrow in some wood in West Virginia die on a Tuesday morning in April, is he like a little child pondering the death of a great grandmother - all alone in a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio - dying on a Tuesday morning as well?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Quote for Today - June 13, 2013

"To greet someone,
you must leave 
your own place."

L:i Qu Li

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Put down that book,
talk to me - be with me -
be novel - be non-fiction -
tell me your stories -
tell me who you are - what
you’re feeling, what you’re
thinking - or just listen - listen -
let’s just listen to each other
or else - or else we’re
somewhere else than
being here with each other -
right here, right now. Now.

Put down that cell phone -
turn off that iPod - you’re
smart  enough without
your smart phone - you don’t
have to be always talking
to someone else  - some miles
and miles and miles away from me.
Make me your facelook -
screen me in - don’t screen
me out. I’m here - no wires -
non battery,  non electronic -
just me. Simply me, me, me.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2013

Paintings by Dan Witz

Quote for Today  - June 12, 2013

"The reason was
that I kept trying
to make others
see my worth
instead of seeing it
for myself."

Steve DeMasco, Kung Fu Master

Tuesday, June 11, 2013



The title of my homily for this 10th Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “Phos”.

“Phos”  - P H O S  is  the Greek word for “Light!”

We know its root in the big English words that begin with the prefix, “phos” - as in  phosphorus and  phosphorescence. We can also spot it in all those words  beginning with phot - P H O T  -  as in  photographs - something we see - because there was light.


In today’s gospel Jesus calls us to be salt and light - to make a difference - to be tasty and enlightening. I’m just going to reflect on light - “Phos”. It’s a word right there in today’s gospel from Matthew 5:14 - right after the Beatitudes as we start the Sermon on the Mount.


Years and years ago in a retreat house - during a whole retreat season, we showed a short movie called “Phos” during the Saturday night session of the retreat. So I saw the movie over 35 times. I don’t remember if any words were spoken in the short movie.

As I remember the movie,  it went like this. The screen is all dark. It’s a shot at night looking down at a hill that leads to a village. It’s the night before Easter. It’s on a Greek island. Everything is dark. Night.

Then a small light appears on the upper left hand corner of the screen. It’s a new light. It’s lit on top of a hill. It’s a fire - as in our Easter Vigil - but this is more dramatic.

Then one sees a shadowy figure light a candle or a lamb from that fire and then that person lights the candle  or lamp of the person next to them. The road from the top of the hill to the bottom was lined with people.  The light moves all the way down the mountain on this curving, winding road to  a village. Then you start to see all the houses in the village slowly having a candle or a lamp lit in a window - and the whole town becomes bright - in the night.

I saw that movie over and over again. The story was simple a visible light from a fire on top of a hill - working its way down a road to a village.

It was a parable. It was a message maker. It got everyone talking about how we are called to be a light to our world.


Another way to read the scriptures is to read them in light of that image of “Phos” or light.

Jesus came into the world as the Light of the World.

Jesus often talks about light and darkness - and the gospels - especially John - says that the light will never go out.

We come here to have our oil lamps filled for the day - and the night.

We can be foolish or wise version of the Christian.

The light can go out. We can walk in darkness.

We are like that long line of people on the hill and we pass the Light of Christ to the next person - and it works its way - please God to all the homes of Annapolis and the people we meet this day - and into their homes and their lives.


Today - June 11 - we celebrate the feast of St.  Barnabas - called out of anonymity and he passed the Light of Christ along with Paul to those same Greek islands and the area called, The Mediterranean Basin - and it has come to us.

Yes the light can go out. Yes the light can be rekindled.

Weren’t many of us brought up with the Christopher message from Father Keller, “Better to light one candle than curse the darkness”?

Quote for Today - June 11, 2013

Human beings living
in an underground den ...
Like ourselves ...
they see only their shadows,
or the shadows of one another,
which the fire throws on
the opposite wall of the cave."

Plato [c, 428-348 B.C,] The Republic, VII, 515 - B, Paul Shorey (Loeb Clasical Library)

Monday, June 10, 2013



The title of my homily for this 10th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Impact?”

And it’s in the form of a question mark. Who and what has impacted our lives?  How and what and who has influenced us to be the who we are today?  Impact?

It’s the nurture part of the “Nature vs. Nurture” question.

The first time I really thought about this question was in a preaching seminar.  One of the presenters asked us preachers,  “Who has influenced you?”  “Whom are you imitating?”

I had never thought about that till the question was asked. As time has gone on, I’ve thought about it a lot. I have realized that the first answer is the usual, “I don’t know!” I could relate to George Seferis - the Greek writer and diplomat’s response - to someone who asked him, “Who influenced you?” His answer: “Don’t ask who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.”  Yet he also said he was influenced by Yeats - and especially Eliot whom he translated.

So we can come up with answers - to who and how we have been formed and influenced.

I liked a trick that Father Jack Kingsbury - our last pastor used: to refer to past sermons that he gave - and sometimes he would add that he wanted to develop further something from that sermon.

I don’t use props too often, but I love the way Father John Tizio - our present pastor - uses props - especially with kids. He has them hidden till the moment he brings the prop out of hiding. I see his method having great impact and people remember props.

I’ve also been influenced by how I don’t want to preach and live by watching others in action.

I was at the Navy Academy graduation just two weeks or so ago - during which my grandnephew Sean graduated. I noticed President Obama - who gave the commencement address - saying at a transition point in his talk: “In the time I have left.”  He didn’t say, “In conclusion….”  or “Finally ….” because once you say that, people are expecting an ending - and if you don’t end right about then, you’ve lost them. That’s what they remember. You promised an ending, but you didn’t deliver.

So I expect I’ll be using that trick at some point….


So my question for today is: Impact?  Who has impacted us?

Whom have I learned my life tricks from?  Whom has taught me my attitudes - my style - my ways of thinking and seeing and being and believing?

By coming up with answers to this question of “Impact?”, we can study our background and decide whether we hold that and want to go with that or what have you.


When we come to Mass we have two or three readings that can have an impact on us.

How have they formed us? How have they impacted us?

For starters I always suggest texts - single texts. What is our favorite Bible text? Which are the ones that grab us? When did they hit us? What do they tell us about ourselves?

I learned from Father Benedict Groeschel the statement: tell me your favorite Bible text and you’re telling me a lot about yourself.

Besides single favorite texts, we can ask what is our favorite gospel or book of the Bible? What does that tell you about yourself?

Today’s two readings are beginning readings.

The first reading is the opening verses of 2 Corinthians. We’ll be hearing parts of that letter till Saturday June 22nd. It has a few grabbers - that can impact us - on the resurrection and on reconciliation. Listen the next two weeks.

Today’s  Gospel begins the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5, 6 and 7. We’ll be hearing parts of that till July 2nd this year. Some of those messages of Jesus have impacted Christians for the past 2000 years. Which one’s are yours.


Whenever I hear the words, “Sermon on the Mount” which we begin today, I think of General Omar Bradley - whose Christian roots from his church in Missouri - certainly influenced and impacted his life.

Let me close with a famous comment by General Omar Bradley, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”  Address on Armistice Day [1948]  

Quote for Today - June 10, 2013

"Religion, whatever it is, is a man's total reaction upon life."

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902


Does Sunday effect Monday?

Is Sunday different than the other days of the week?

So if there is something that has a total impact on our life, can we call that our religion: like another or a iPhone or a sport or drugs or alcohol?

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Quote for Today - June 9,  2013

"It is wanting to know the end that makes us believe in God, or witchcraft, believe at least in something."

Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms, 1948


Agree or disagree?


The title of my homily for this 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C,  is, “Up The Down Staircase.”

This is another weekend that we have to make a money push from the Archdiocese of Baltimore which we are part of.

Knowing we all come here to be nourished with both the Bread of the Word [the scriptures and a homily] and the Bread of the Eucharist, I want to obviously preach a homily but ….

But what should come first? I wrestled with that question and decided to do the money campaign push first - and then give a short homily.

The homily will have to be mainly images and story - because of the energy and distraction another money push or promotion could create.

Every year we have the Archbishop’s Appeal - as you know. The envelopes and pencils are in the benches. This year we hoped we could get out of this one - because we had the beginning of the big  5 year Archdiocesan Campaign just a short time ago. This annual appeal is usually in Lent - but  was pushed off to this weekend. Drop one shoe at a time.

Most of you know how to do the envelopes - etc.  I am going to continue talking for a few moments - while I hope you take a Green and White Annual Appeal Envelope which are in the benches - and you start filling it out and then the ushers will collect them - checking or filling in the appropriate boxes - without putting the pencil in the envelope. Then I’ll  give my short homily.

As Catholics - we are part of a local parish church - as well as a diocese - as well as a world wide Church. So all 3 need support. We hope there is wise stewardship in all 3. We are aware of economic struggles at the personal and family levels - and how big a burden taxation can be.

The money pledged and collected from the Archbishop of Baltimore’s Annual Appeal - 2013 - goes to supporting the Archdiocese - as well as its outreach and ministries. These would include amongst others: Catholic Charities, Outreach to Haiti, Hispanic Ministry, Prison Ministry, Tuition Assistance to Catholic Schools, Aids Ministry, Disability Access, Evangelization, Social Justice outreach, Interfaith Housing Alliance of Western Maryland, etc. etc.

The money over our quota goes to 3 other groups: 1/3 goes to our sister parish - Sacred Heart in Baltimore; 1/3 goes to Redemptorists in our nursing home in Stella Maris in Timonium; and 1/3 goes to the tuition angel program for helping kids in our St. Mary’s Schools.

The Archbishop’s letter that we received expresses thanks, gratitude, for the ongoing generosity from our parish and all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Thank you.

Could the ushers please collect the envelopes?  Thank you.


The title of my homily is, “Up The Down Staircase.”

I took my title from the title of the novel  by Bel Kaufman: Up the Down Staircase.  I see it as a metaphor for wanting to avoid confrontation or trouble or the uncomfortable - and so we take the other stair case or the back door.

The novel is about a  teacher, Sylvia Blake - an idealistic young teacher - in a big city public high school. She has to deal with bureaucracy, with interested and uninterested students, as well as other teachers.

I have always pictured it as a metaphor for how to be a priest and a Christian.

Do I embrace others - or do I want to run, escape, avoid, go up the down staircase, take the back staircase or do whatever way it takes to make it easier for me not to face others?

That to me is one of life’s big question.


Once I  began thinking about staircases,  I thought of a scene in the movie, The Untouchables - which features the big staircase in Union Station in Chicago. Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, is waiting above that staircase for some of Al Capone’s mob.

If you remember the movie, you’ll remember that life is the surprises. Life is the interruptions. Life is the unplanned. Just then a lady with 2 suitcases and a baby carriage comes to that staircase. We sense an, “Oh no! Not now!”

The big clock above the staircase keeps moving towards 12 noon - the time for the arrival of the bad guys.

The lady starts the climb up the big flight of stairs - with the baby carriage with her baby in it, with her suitcases - doing them one step at a time.

To help her or not to help her? That is the question.

What to do? Nobody coming up or down those stairs stops to help the lady.  Kevin Costner in frustration and with his shot gun under his coat - goes to help her.

A quarter of the way up the stairs, the bad guys appear and a shoot out happens. Eliot Ness has to let go of the carriage - with baby - which starts rolling down the stairs - and the mother is screaming.

What a great metaphor - what a great parable of life!

I looked up on Google: “The Untouchables - Baby Carriage Scene.”

There it is. I also found out that the movie Naked Gun made fun of the scene. It uses 3 baby carriages - as well as the president and then the pope and then disgruntled postal workers coming through the door and heading for the stairs.

I also noticed that Brian De Palma, the director of the movie, The Untouchables, used that big staircase in Union Station in Chicago as a tribute to a famous staircase scene in a 1925 black and white silent movie, Battleship Potemkin. That staircase is in Odessa. It's much, much bigger. The scene shows the horror when children, young people and countless men and women, are being shot as they run down the stairs away from the Cossacks who are shooting and killing them.

I put clips of both movies on my blog - along with this short sermon.


I think the staircase scene and metaphor in the book, Up the Down Staircase and in the two movies, The Untouchables and Battleship Potemkin, can be the message in today’s readings. Do I stop to help my brother or sister - or do I run or take the other stair case to avoid them?

In the first reading from 1 Kings and the gospel from Luke - we hear the story of two boys or young men who die and Elijah and then Jesus bring each boy back from the dead.

In the second reading from Galatians, we have part of Paul’s story. He stops persecuting people and starts helping people.

It's our daily call - as we go up and down the stairs and steps of our life - to help one another. We can go by men and women, old and young, and baby carriages - and treat them as Untouchable - to be avoided - or we can stop and help.

I believe that is also the central message of the Gospel of Luke - our gospel for this year - Cycle C of the Sunday readings.

We’re all there at the stairs with people coming and going - and some need our help. They are the interruption.

Our move.