Saturday, September 21, 2013


Quote for Today - September 21, 2013

"Action is the antidote to despair."

Joan Baez, Rolling Stone, 1983

Friday, September 20, 2013


Quote for Today - September 20, 2013

"There are two kinds of talents, man-made talent and God-given talent.  With man-made talent you have to work very hard.  With God-given talent you just touch it up once in a while."

Pearl Bailey, Newsweek, December 4, 1967


What's your take on that comment?

Name your # 1 God-given talent?

Name your # 1 you've worked to have talent?

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Quote for Today - September 19, 2013

"Religion is not an opiate, for religion does not help people to forget, but to remember.It does not dull people. It does not say Take, but Give."

Bede Jarrett, The Catholic Mother, 1956

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Quote for Today - September 18, 2013

"I know what these people want; I have seen them pick up my violin and turn it over in their hands. They may not know it themselves, but they want music, not by the ticketful, the purseful, but music as it should be had, music at home, a part of daily life, a thing as necessary, as satisfying, as the midday meal.  They want to play.  And they are kept back by the absurd, the mistaken, the wicked notion that in order to play an instrument one must be possessed by that bogey called Talent."

Catherine Drinker Brown, Friends and Fiddlers, 1934

Tuesday, September 17, 2013



The title of my homily for this 24 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.”

If you saw the 1984 baseball  movie, “The Natural,” starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, you’ll remember the big scene near the end of the movie when Roy Hobbs breaks his bat  in the ninth inning - his favorite and only bat - and says to the batboy, Bobby Savoy, “Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.”  “Pick me out a winner, Bobby!”

And Bobby does.  He hands him his Savoy Special - and Roy Hobbs hits this big time, - big hit - home run -  and they win the pennant and Roy Hobbs saves the team from being gobbled up by the bad guys.

“Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.”


Today’s first reading has this great text from 1st Timothy - on the qualifications necessary for a bishop and a deacon as well as being an outstanding woman in the community. [Cf. 3: 1-13]

I’m sure as you listened to today’s 1st reading - a document from around the year 100 more or less - you had a thought or two about church and bishops - maybe priests - who aren’t mentioned - as well as deacons - who are mentioned.

Paul in this pastoral letter to Timothy gives a great bucket wish list for the ideal bishop or pastor:

              - A bishop must be irreproachable,
                 married only once, temperate, 
                 self-controlled, decent, hospitable,
                 able to teach, not a drunkard, 
                 not aggressive, but gentle
                 not contentious, not a lover 
                 of money.
               - He has to be able to control and
                  manage his own house well.
               - He should not be a recent convert.
               - He must have a good reputation.

The qualifications 1st Timothy lists for deacons are similar:

             - They be dignified, not deceitful,
             - They are not addicted to drink
                [There must have been a lot 
                  of drinking going on ...],
              -They are not greedy for sordid gain,
              - They have faith and a 
                clear conscience,
              - They too should be married 
                only once.

Women in the local community are also given a list of qualifications:

            - They too should be dignified,
            - They should not be slanderers,
            - They too should manage their 
               house and children well.

I assume that the key behind these lists is the hope of picking a winner - choosing a good pastor - choosing a good leader.

When the bat is broken - the athlete looks for a new bat…. When a pope, a bishop, a pastor, a leader dies or steps down or retires or is changed or is broken, the group moves to come up with a new person to put in charge.  I assume  the members of the group, in this case the Church, are crying out: “Pick us a winner, Bobby. Pick us a winner.”

In our lifetime we have seen popes, bishops, pastors, priests, principals, deacons, heads of committees, leaders, officials, come and go. We have a primary election here in Annapolis today - and elections all around the place.

Pick us a winner, Bobby.

When it comes to Church - besides your comments and observations - what are your hopes and qualifications for leaders? We all have them - more or less. 

It’s a good topic for breakfast or a coffee break.

Last night I wrote down the following first draft comments about all this.

Paul has a great list here in 1st Timothy. It tells us that the Church has developed and changed and grown since its beginnings.  The gospels talk about apostles, disciples, prophets and followers. In time we hear about bishops, deacons and priests. There is mention from time to time of women in leadership positions. There is scholarship and articles and books on whether there were women deacons in the church - and what they did. First observation: there is development.

Next there are lists of qualifications down through our 2000 years of history. Evidently - this is the obvious thing to do. What does your list look like?

Besides spoken or written qualifications necessary in a leader, I assume that there are also unwritten qualifications and things going on when it comes to replacements: hidden agendas - pay backs - lobbying - etc. Transparency helps!

An obvious comment to make is this: when it comes to picking a pope or bishop or pastor, the pool is not that big. We have to deal with the people we have - not the non-existent super heroes - that people want and hope for. There are only so many 300 hitters. Some parishes and some dioceses might not get Bishop Supergreat!

Next comment: most of us are not in on the pick. We don’t get a vote. Sometimes we get a voice - or some folks get a voice. Few get a vote - before the white smoke tells us we have a new pope.  Tuesday is the usual day for listings from the Vatican of a new bishop for Venice or Vienna or Venezuela. We only read about it. The Church is not that democratic.

I’ve discovered the 1/3 rule - when it comes to being a priest. 1/3 like you; 1/3 don’t like you; 1/3 really don’t care. Our new pope seems to be saying presence and reaching out to folks with TLC is more important for priests and bishops than academic achievements. St. Teresa if Avila said something to the effect that she likes smart priests much more than stupid holy priests.

And this new pope of ours is certainly different than the last pope and the one before that and one before that and the one before that. Some are comparing him however, to Pope John XXIII.

This pope is talking about the attitudes he’d like to see in bishops: that they don’t want the job, that they smell like sheep, that they are listeners, that they are servants, less pomp, and please find yourself in more circumstances on the margins with the poor and isolated. He certainly is for less words and more action. Take the bus. Visit prisons. Wash feet. Don’t eat alone - eat with the community. Shake hands and mix and be with the crowd. Simplicity. Simplicity. More simplicity.

When people ask me my take on the new pope: I always say, “We’ll see. We’ll see.”  I say that because time will tell - like 100 years after his death - how he did - who he was. Moreover,  who knows, perhaps  500 years from now - when talking about a pope, someone might say, “Well, it was only after her death, we realized ….”

I assume the following: if there is anything we can be sure about it’s this: death and change.

If there is anything we have faith about,  it’s this: Jesus is Lord and he keeps saying to us as he says to the young man in today’s gospel: “Rise! Stop being dead!”

Quote for Today - September 17, 2013

"We can listen to lectures, read books, see films and slides, and talk to travelers, but nothing can compare with actually going there ourselves. Then, we can absorb impressions by all five senses. 

We see the Lake of Galilee and the undulating hills of Samaria with our own eyes. 

We hear the noise of bargaining in the market place and the bleating of a mixed flock of sheep and goats. 

We touch an old gnarled olive tree, or let the waters of the River Jordan trickle through our fingers.  

We taste the juice of the grapes of Israel or the sweetness of a fig or orange or pomegranate. 

We smell the scent of the flowers of the field. 

And the whole Bible comes alive! We have discovered the land for ourselves"

John Scott, Between Two Worlds. Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, 1982, page 79

Monday, September 16, 2013



The title of my homily for this 24 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Seven Lessons On How To Pray.”

When we want to grow in prayer, one of the questions we ask is: “Lord, teach me how to pray.”


Simply say, "Lord, teach me how to pray?" That's a great prayer in itself. We’re going to hear that question specifically in Luke 11:1-4 - a weekday gospel in a few weeks - Wednesday - the 27th Week of the Church Year - October 9th, this year.

In the meanwhile, to help with  this First Lesson in praying,  I suggest using your rosary for saying 59 times on your beads, “Lord, teach me how to pray?” 

It can take roughly 2 minutes to say that short prayer - 59 times - with one's rosary beads - or just say it one time slowly.


In today’s readings we have six more "Lessons In How To Pray,” which is basic message of this homily.


In today's first reading from 1st Timothy 2: 1-8, Paul tells us: "When we pray, offer supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings for everyone."

We understand that. It’s the prayer of the faithful at Mass, etc. We can do that whenever we pray - praying for presidents around our world, governors, leaders, mayors,  bishops, popes, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, grandparents, babies, truck drivers, pilots, those serving one's country, etc.


In today's first reading Paul also tells us that when we pray, we can lift up our hands in gesture - to our one God. This idea of using gestures when praying also appears in our Psalm for today. We can open our arms up like this [full outstretched arms gesture - as if we are Jesus - as if we are on the cross as well.]  Or we can cup our hands in a receiving gesture - as if we were filling our hands with water to drink or the Eucharist to receive Christ. [Gesture - open hands.]


When we pray, turn and face the direction of this church or any church we love and like. That lesson is in today’s Psalm 28.  I notice in walking around downtown Annapolis,  it’s easy to spot the golden cross and tall thin steeple of St. Mary’s Church. I notice in walking around the hospital, there are some upper windows and rooms one can spot where St. John Neumann’s church is.


Today’s Psalm 28 also brings out that we are anointed. We Christians would add that at our baptism we are anointed prophet’s, priests, and kings. As priests we are ordained to be people of prayer. So Christian men and women are anointed  in our baptism to not just be prophets and kings and queens, but also to be priests - a key task of  which is to be one who prays for others.


Today’s Psalm 28 also brings out that God is our strength. God is our shield. God is our refuge (we know what a wild life refuge is or a "man cave" is.) See God as a hiding place - a cave - an inner room - and spend time in one's God Escape.


Today’s gospel - Luke 7: 1-10 - gives us the background story of one of our Mass prayers.  The new translation has brought back the old translation: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  So today and every Mass, picture yourself as having the faith the centurion had and pray that prayer like the centurion did. Amen


The title of my homily is, “Seven Lessons On How To Pray.”

There they are - 6 Lessons from today’s readings and one from the Gospel of Luke. Amen.

Quote for Today - September 16, 2013

"The Beatles are not merely awful ....  They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."

William F. Buckley Jr. News Summaries, September 8, 1964

Sunday, September 15, 2013



[I had a different homily - a story called "Lost Sheep" for this morning. I didn’t sense it had a grab - so I decided to present the 3 Stories in  today’s gospel - Luke 15 - in other words. Let me see if this has a grab. I’ll be watching your faces and trying to get a sense of where you are this evening.]


[This first story I call "The Parable of the Lost Teeth." I present it as a matching story for the Parable of the Lost Sheep - which we heard tonight.]

It was my first assignment as a priest: Most Holy Redeemer Parish - Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The job I found the most interesting as a priest was Bingo: being in charge of Bingo - every Wednesday night. What a cast of characters! What a wealth of stories.

It was Thursday morning and Tessie - one of the lunch ladies over at our school - where the Bingo was played - called over to the rectory and asked, “Father did anyone find a pair of teeth in the kitchen last night at Bingo?”

I answered, “No Tessie.”

“Well,” she said, “I forgot there was Bingo and I never work school lunch with my teeth in. I keep them in a Styrofoam cup in a napkin on a shelf - and I left my teeth there by accident.”

“I’ll be right over,” I said.

I figured one of the Bingo workers in the kitchen simply scooped up the Styrofoam cup and tossed it in the garbage.

I went out the back way - over to Fourth Street where our school was - and said, “Oh no!”

I spotted a garbage truck up the street and they will be at our garbage bags in minutes.

I ran into the school - spotted Tessie in her white kitchen uniform and told her to grab at least 10  big empty plastic garbage bags.

That’s about how many full bags of garbage I saw on the sidewalk - just outside the school.

We began opening them up one by one. You should see the stuff that’s in garbage bags on a Thursday morning after lunch the past 3 days and Bingo the night before.

“Look into every Styrofoam cup!” I said.

Too late the garbage men were there.

“What are looking for Tessie?”

With tears in her eyes - along with a laugh in her toothless mouth - she said, “My teeth. There in here somewhere.”

“We’ll help!”

They turned off the motor and the search continued.

On the fourth bag, one of the garbage men, with work gloves pulled out her teeth - waved them in the air - and screamed to Tessie, “Got em!”

She moved towards him with a big embrace - took the teeth and said, “Come on it boys! Let me get something to eat!”

And we all went in to help her celebrate. She must have washed her teeth, because she came out with her teeth in place and some delicious chocolate sheet cake and sodas or coffee for all.


[This second story I wrote today to match The parable of the Lost Coin.]

It was a 1964 John F. Kennedy silver 50 cent piece.

His dad had given it to him on a Sunday evening - when he was 5 years old - just after they said prayers together - just before he went to bed.

His dad kissed him good-night and said, “I’ll see you when I get back next Friday.”

His dad was leaving early - early the next morning - for a business trip to Montana.

His dad was killed in a car accident in Montana that Tuesday afternoon.

The little boy held that 50 cent silver piece in his hand all through the funeral - and then all through his life - taking it out - holding it tight - when he needed his dad’s strength in tough times. It was his connection to his dad. He never lost it. He simply kept it in his side pocket - but that day  it must have slipped out when he was changing pants.

That day their house caught fire. It was burnt to the ground. Nobody was hurt “Thank God” - but as he stood there in the street surrounded by fire trucks - and his wife - he reached in his pocket for the 50 cent piece. It wasn’t there.

“Ooops,” he thought. "Oh no! It must have fell out this morning."

When things cooled off the search began. Everything was burnt - pictures and keepsakes - everything was burn - and destroyed - but he kept looking and looking and looking - in their bedroom area.

There it was - darkened by the fire and the burn - but there it was - and once more he knew everything would be all right.

“Thanks Dad!”


[This third story is a story poem I wrote years ago. It's in my book, Cries .... But Silent - which has around 160 of these short pieces. This matches the Parable of the Prodigal Son and is called, "The Lost Son".]

Two brothers:
one stayed home,
so the other moved on.
But paths cross,
parents die,
and we all must meet each other
from time to time.

As the younger brother
was standing there
to the right of the casket,
his older brother
came in -- came in
and refused to shake hands
with either his hands
or his eyes.

Then the younger brother
turned to the casket,
turned to his father,
needing another embrace,
crying at the loss
of what might have been,
remembering the time
their father
tried to get them
to eat the fatted calf together.


I wasn’t paying attention. I tend to be that way. Things distract me.

Late morning I was somewhere in the middle of the pack - but as we moved into the heat of the afternoon, I found myself at the tail end of the flock.

Yes, that’s me. This wasn’t the first time I was the last sheep.

To be honest,  I still don’t know how all this happened - how I got lost.

When I looked up from some delicious grass I was chomping on, I saw everyone had disappeared. It was then I saw a path that I thought the others had taken. The further I went down it, the more I realized I guess they didn’t. They must have moved in some other direction - gone some other way.

I found myself on my own - literally in the middle of nowhere.

I turned back - and got even more lost. Now what?

I decided to climb to the top of a ridge. Maybe from up there I’d spot my shepherd and the rest of the sheep. Half way up I got caught - in some brambles and some thickets.

“Oooh!” I said, “These thorns hurt - even getting into and under my skin.”

I could feel blood oozing out of my side - even where I was thick skinned and thick wooled.

If I turned right, “Oooh! Ouch!”  If I turned to my left, “Oooh! Ouch!”

I started screaming, “Baa! Baa! Baa!”

But soon I got tired and I got scared.

Sheep are called stupid. Well I was stupid for lagging behind and getting lost - once again.

But I’m not that stupid to keep baaing - just in case wolves would be prowling around in the hills in the early evening - looking around for a supper like me.

The sun went down!

Now I was really in the dark - very scared - frightened - and all alone.

Back in the sheep pen - the shepherd stood at the gate of the pen - counting his sheep. “96, 97, 98, 99,”

“Ooops,” the shepherd said, “I must have miscounted.”

He tried two more times. Each time he came up with 99. One was missing.

He called together the other shepherds who also had their sheep in this big pen in the desert  and told them he had lost one of his sheep and he was going to go out and look for him - and find him.

They said, “You’re crazy! Wait till morning! Wait till tomorrow and go back the way you came today.”

He said, “Are you crazy! The poor fellow is going to panic in the dark night. I have to go find him.”

He asked a friendlier shepherd to guard his sheep for the meanwhile. He made a torch and he went in search of his lost sheep.

There was an almost full moon  that night - but clouds were coming and going - past the moon - sometimes blocking out the light.

All the while the shepherd kept calling out the missing sheep’s name.

All the while there was silence and the noises of the night.

At times he said to himself, “This is crazy!”

But nope, he wouldn’t give up. He had to find his lost sheep.

He came to a fork in the road - and wondered if his lost sheep had taken the wrong turn, the wrong path here, the wrong way here.

He took the smaller path and keep calling the sheep’s name.

Surprise, he heard a faint “Baa!” - and then a louder one - “Baaah!”

With torch in hand he scampered up the hill and found his lost sleep.

It was difficult to see, but he saw that his lost sheep was pretty cut up - probably from when he was trying to get out of these brambles and these thorns.

The shepherd cut himself as he tried to free his sheep. He too started to bleed.

Finally, his lost sheep was free and the shepherd hugged him and put him up around his shoulders and brought him back to his pen and his friends.

He woke all the sheep as he returned shouting. They were thinking as they saw the 100th sheep on the shepherd's shoulders, “Not him again!”

He also woke all the other shepherds - calling to them, “Celebrate with me! My lost sheep is found.”

He had some bread and some wine - and he shared all he had with his fellow shepherds. And there was music and dancing in that small community in the hills that midnight or maybe it was two in the morning - whenever it was.

Two days later Jesus was in the carpenter shop - and a customer - a shepherd - was telling Joseph about what happened two nights before - how this dumb shepherd left his 99 sheep and went in search for his lost sheep in the night - and he found him - and threw a party for him.

For years Jesus turned that story around in his mind - wondering how he would tell it some day. He cut it and carved it - taking some parts out and then gluing some parts back together again. He didn’t know whether to have the lost sheep have a cut foot - and that’s why he lagged behind - and get people not to judge others. No he left the story sort of as is - because he would hear so many people complaining about others who messed up - and they could never see how they were messed up themselves at times.

“Come to think about it,” Jesus said to himself, “that Lost Sheep story is just like the story I heard about the woman who lost one of her 10 coins - and she too threw a party when she found it.”

And then Jesus thought, “What would have happened if that woman and that shepherd didn’t go searching - and the coin or the sheep turned up anyway. Then what?”

Jesus thought about this, and thought about that, and said, “Okay, that’s where that story I heard about the two brothers and their father can come in. One brother messed up. One brother wouldn’t forgive his brother’s mess up. And one day the father who waited and watched and watched and waited, and waited, for his son to come home. Sure enough he did and his father was so overjoyed - that he threw a big party for his Lost Son who was back home once again. And his older brother - wouldn’t - couldn’t celebrate - couldn’t come into the house - couldn’t come to communion. Oooh!”


Top picture: Doron Art

Quote for Today - September 15, 2013

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people."

Carl Jung in a "Letter to a former student on reassessing religious values outlined to Sigmund Freud a half century earlier, quoted in Gerhard Adler ed Letters, Vol 1 Princeton 73" . Found on page 189 in Webster's II New Riverside Desk Quotations, James B Simpson, Home and Office Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York, London, 1992