Saturday, November 2, 2013


Quote for Today - November 2, 2013 - All Souls Day

"I've always been worried about my damn soul - maybe I worry too much.  But you carry in one hand a bundle of darkness that accumulates each day. And when death finally comes, you say, right away, 'Hey buddy, glad to see ya!'"

Charles Bukowski, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1987

Friday, November 1, 2013



The title of my homily for this feast of All Saints is, “Patron Saints of Secret Saints.”

The message of my homily is the call to all of us to be holy - to be saints - but not the type of saint - everyone knows - the canonized ones - but the ones God only knows - the secret saints.[1]

The message of my homily is the call to be a secret saint - to be a patron saint of secret saints - which is a paradox and a contradiction. It’s sort of  like wanting to be buried as the “unknown soldier”.


Let me begin with a quote by John C. Cort, from his book, The Grail, August 1957. Never heard of him. The quote:  “Only God knows how many married saints there have been. Perhaps when and if we get to heaven we may find that some of the brightest jewels in His crown are obscure husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, that nobody paid any attention to here on earth.”


Did we shoot ourselves in the foot - us Catholics - with our stress on the Saints - Saints with the capital letter “S”?

Did we make a mistake when we put saints on pedestals?

Did we make a mistake when we came up with the canonization process?

Did that sort of stress the impossible in Saints - and we the ordinary Joe or Mary in the benches and trenches - could not possibly be or become a Saint?

In the Early Church holy people were simply proclaimed “Holy” by the crowd. Time told us who some of the holy people were - but what about all the others - those people who were with us - those people as my quote put it - who were, “obscure husband and wives, fathers and mothers, that nobody paid any attention to here on earth.”

I would add that some of those moms and dads, husbands and wives, were known to be wonderful people by their other half as well as their family. We have our family favorites - those who gave us love and understanding, help and hope - because we met them in real life.

I like the canonization process that takes place at the funeral parlor - not in the obituary or the eulogy - but in the funeral parlor - not even on the comments of people - but sometimes yes - but in the minds of those who knew the person who died.

How many people have we heard described as, “another mother teresa in small letters” - because they were always doing for others - or  “Jolly Saint Nick” - a someone who brought us Christmas feelings in July and February - or another “Saint Christopher” - someone who picked the kids up after school and soccer practice - 1,500 times” - and on and on and on.

I think that is somewhat the gist of a song by Danielle Rose called, "The Saint That Is Just Me".


Or does it really matter?

I remember reading somewhere that it’s a practice amongst Sufi’s - sometimes described as the spirituality side of Islam - that the secret of life is to be a secret saint - someone who is in God and nobody but God knows - and perhaps at times - the saint.

Jesus certainly was off on that practice - way before Islam. He told us to pray in our inner room - where nobody sees us. Last Sunday he told us about the mind set of two different people who went up to the temple to pray - and how God honored the person in the back - in the corner - not the show off - up front - the Pharisee.

Tassels, bells, whistles, public posturing - are not something Jesus stressed - but he did stress union with his Father in secret - acts of charity - in which our right hand doesn’t know what our left hand is doing - so the secret in being a saint - is what Jesus stressed.

I like to picture my dad in the basement - alone - cellar door closed  - and I slip down there silently - down the cellar stairs - and I see him sitting there smoking his pipe and saying his rosary - in the evening after work.

I like to picture my mom in the living room - alone - quietly - going through her prayer book - fat with death cards - remembering her connections and her memories.

I like to picture all the meals - all the giving - all the sacrifices - they made for me.

I like to think of all the nuns’ retreats I gave - many of which were at Motherhouse convents - which always had a big grave yard - with all the same stones - and I would walk through those cemeteries - standing on holy ground - nuns who gave their lives - many for children - without children of their own - whom I believe are with God - and their lives was an act of faith in the reality of the resurrection of the dead - in Christ - much more powerful than any creed that states, “And I believe in the resurrection…..”


So on All Saints Day - we celebrate all the Saints - all the Holy People who have gone before us - whom we believe will be waiting for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.


[1] Cf. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 5; Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church the Modern Word, # 1, Opening of Preface and the rest of the document.

Quote for Today - All Saints Day - November 1st, 2013

"A minor saint is capable of loving minor sinners. A great saint loves great sinners."

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov [1700-1760], Judaism


Does that mean all those complainers about all us sinners are clueless - or  maybe just minor leaguers?


Is that what Jesus is getting at in so many Gospel comments?  For example:

"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." [Luke 15:3]

"If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." [John 8:7b]

"Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice." [Matthew 9:13]

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Quote for Today - October 31, 2013

"Every human being has four hungers; the hunger of the loins, the hunger of the belly, the hunger of the mind, the hunger of the soul.  You can get by a long time on the loins and the belly, but there is a good deal of evidence that even the meanest of men eventually crave something for the mind and the soul."

James Webb, in Arthur Goodfriend, What Is American? [1954]


It seems that Pope Francis it trying to once again open up the doors of the Catholic Church to all human beings who have all these human hungers. So let's drop the rocks. Let's get back to business - that of Jesus' vision of bringing about the Kingdom - on earth as it is in heaven. Let's get back to love not law. Let's stop slamming the doors of our churches and our minds and hearts in the face of so many hungry people. Let's be honest: there have been too many unwelcoming gestures and speeches and comments - that have kept people down the other end of the street.

Picture on top: This is a picture I took on August 31, 2009 - a rainy day - in The Vigellandsparken Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway. Check it out on Google. You'll see many of the sculptures of Gustave Vigeland [1869-1943] - which depict human beings with their hungers and their thirsts in the cycle of life.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Quote for Today - October 30, 2013

"In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope."

Charles Revson [1906-1975], in A. Tobias, Fire and Ice [1976], chapter 8

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



The title of my homily for this 30th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “The Great Groaning of Creation.”

I love the combination of today’s two readings - the first from Romans where Paul talks about creation groaning and then in the gospel of Luke, when Jesus makes comments about mustard seeds growing into big bushes and yeast being  mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough is leavened. [Cf. Romans 8: 18-25; Luke 13: 18-21]


There is a comment made by George Eliot or Mary Ann Evans in her book, Middlemarch, that has always interested and intrigued me. “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”


I like to think - imagine - assume - realize -  that God hears everything:  grass growing - babies crying - the earth rumbling and rambling and the moanings of old folks in nursing homes!

I’m sure you’ve seen TV documentaries where scientists place microphones or listening devices into the deepest parts of an ocean and they pick up all kinds of sounds - the play of dolphins, the screams of whales and sharks, the purr of submarines -  the sound of water, water everywhere. I’m sure God hears all that!

I’m sure you’ve seen scientists listening to sounds from outer space - and they magnify the sounds.  I’m sure God hears all that.

Doctors put a silver stethoscope on our rib cage and they listen to the ticking of our hearts. Or they put it on the belly of a pregnant woman and they hear both the mother’s heart beat - along with that of her baby.   I’m sure God hears all that.

I like to picture churches as gigantic crying rooms - where we hear the sounds of children and babies - and then there are the screams and prayers, the tears and the thoughts of people - worries and wonderings -  here in church. I think of this happening at every Mass - and I’m sure God hears all that.

Put a stereoscope on a bible and if you listen in, you’ll hear the cries of the poor - the birds of the sky - and the moo of cows.

What does God hear?

As the weather gets colder I can still picture myself as a little kid down in our basement watching my dad put hard coal into our iron door furnace to get heat for our radiators - and soft coal in a smaller furnace to get heat for our hot water. I can hear the sound of the shovel on the hard cement cellar floor and the clang of the cast iron furnace door opening - and watching and hearing the roar of the fire. 

And that gets me thinking of what's below the surface of our earth. I can still see the pictures and illustrations from those science books we had in school. Somewhere underneath us is molten red lava - that erupts in and out of the earth from time to time. I can hear those sounds and squish - and picture that heat. I assume God knows and hears all that.

I think of all the people I have listened to as priest and person - voicing their joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, victories and failures, sins and suggestions - groans and moans.


The title of my homily is, “The Great Groaning of Creation.”

Paul is telling us in today’s first reading - these are all the sound and stuff of the mix of our inner prayers with  God’s inner prayers. Listen.

Listen to the roar of that inner fire - deep below our surface - but above the core of each of us - as well as in God.

Quote for Today - October 29, 2013

"You see, 
the whole world is praying all the time.
The animals

and even the leaves on the trees
are praying.
The way to receive light from God

is through praying.
The only difference is that 
some people pray unconsciously,
some pray consciously,
some pray superconsciously.
You can walk into a restaurant
and see a person who says,
'I'm so hungry.
I need some soup.'
Deep down
his soul is praying to God,
please give me life,
I'm at the end.'"

Schlomo Carlbach

Monday, October 28, 2013



The title of my homily for this feast of Saints Simon and Jude is, “Impossible!”

This morning -  Monday morning - I knew I had the 12:10 Mass - and the expectation is a short homily - so once more the question: “What to preach on?”

I read the readings - good stuff - good themes to think and pray about - but what to preach on?

Then I noticed Jude’s name - as in the Saints of today: Simon and Jude - and everyone - well not everyone - that would be impossible - but everyone knows Saint Jude is the Patron Saint of the Impossible.

What a great title! What a great task - for a little known about Saint and Apostle to be called: “The Patron Saint of the Impossible.”

So I named my homily, “Impossible” - because I wanted to think about that reality: the impossible.


We all remember the song, “The Impossible Dream” from the 1965 Broadway Musical, Man of La Mancha” - and how many preachers and graduation speakers used it in sermons and speeches.  Father Kevin Milton said he mentioned it just a few days ago in a sermon.

The song touched a cord - the reality of impossible situations.

They happen in family - with kids - with health - with money - with marriages. Sometimes it seems some things - some situations -  seem impossible.

Of course some things are impossible - some dreams, some stars, some possibilities are impossible - unreachable.  Death is always the other bracket of our life. Yet, sometimes there are surprises. Kings and popes can resign - and step down. King Edward VII - of England stepped down in 1936 - saying, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”  And we all saw, Pope Benedict step down as well - for health reasons and the good of  the church. That was something so many said is impossible. So who knows? I remember my brother telling me that Germany would never be reunited - and we were all surprised when the Berlin Wall came down. So one never knows. Yet some things remain impossible. We can’t change yesterday and it’s impossible for God to stop being God.


The yet or the but - are what is crucial.

Yet, but, there is resurrection.

Yet, but, there are healings.

Yet, but there are conversions.

And that’s where the energy of naming Jude the Patron Saint of the Impossible comes in.

Look at the list of characters in today’s gospel - someone who denied Jesus, someone who doubted Jesus - someone who betrayed Jesus.

That Good Friday night - after Jesus was killed on the cross - and all was dark - and despair - the Impossible filled Jerusalem and that Upper Room - but look at  today - Jesus has risen from the dead - the impossible happened - and these 11 who lasted - lasted long enough to bring Christ to our world.

Sometimes the impossible happens. Sometimes people make impossible dreams come true.

Simon and Jude - and all the rest of the Apostles - opened up that door and went for the more.


To make the impossible possible, there are two steps.  The  second step - is the opening of the doors that are shut and we get moving. The first step is the prayer and the decision and the choice - coupled with the Holy Spirit - to get moving again.

Judas dropped out. Judas gave up. Judas decided that Jesus wasn’t his dream - his life - and hung himself. The other Judas - Jude -decided differently in the dark of that upper room and then got moving in the direction of resurrection and new life - the possible.


The title of this homily is, “Impossible!”

The message is: to make the impossible, possible, say a prayer and then go out and do one’s best to make the impossible, possible. Amen.


Quote for Today - Monday October 28, 2013

"It takes two to make a marriage a success and only one a failure."

Lord Samuel (Herbert Louis - first Viscount Samuel) 1870-1963, in A Book of Quotations (1947) page 115

Sunday, October 27, 2013



[I'm preaching this homily or reflection to myself for starters. Next: and if anyone here says to themselves, "I wish so and so heard this, I failed."]

The title of my homily for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, is, “A Bad Report Card.”

When was the last time we got a bad report card - or a bad report?

We weren’t expecting it. It hits us in the gut. We stand there shocked. We don’t want anyone to know we failed - or we were fired.

Bummer! Ugh! Dang it! Disappointment….

Someone asks, “What happened? Is anything wrong?”

We don’t want to answer. We just want to be alone.

Or we can become angry - or numb - or dumb -  or blame - or spit out a denial. “There has to be a mistake.” “It’s not fair.”

Sometimes it all depends what we failed in. It could have been a math test. It could be a  cop coming  towards us about to give us a ticket for speeding or something we did wrong while driving.  It could be a doctor calling to tell us we failed a test - our numbers are bad. Our reactions might be different when it’s an all depends.

We might say the teacher is out to get us. It’s unfair. But maybe down deep - we’re blocking out that we are blocking out the truth. We know  we were lazy and didn’t prepare.

If it’s the cop - we first say, “Crud we weren’t speeding!”  Or “He’s out to get his quota of tickets at the end of the  month - and I’m the victim.” So we’re furious - but we know we have to sit there like a little child - when he asks for our driver’s license and registration.

So it all depends. Sneaky stuff sneaks around inside all of us.

Sometimes it’s hard to face the truth - or some truths - yet in general we don’t like to fail - in anything. We don’t like a bad report card.

We like to be right. 

And sometimes something else happens. It's when someone else fails - someone else gets arrested - caught - gets a bad report card. Ugh. That’s one of those ugly little human secrets that sometimes shows its ugly face. Sometimes we like it when someone else gets a worse report card than we got. It's hard to admit it, but sometimes we like it when there are others who are lower, less than us. We’re happy that there are those who seem to be society’s losers and ongoing failures. Ooops! We don’t like it when those human uglies ooze up and slide or squeeze out of our soul.

Jesus sometimes takes a chance and gets us in touch with these deep, deep sins.


The kind of feeling I feel Jesus wants us to feel when listening to his words this Sunday is numbness - dumbness - silence - so that after our first reaction - of denial or anger or frustration - we decide to face the truth - so that we can be set free.

Of course, we could react and scream, “Crucify him!” or want to block Jesus out of our life - for life - or for a block of time and life.

Today’s Gospel presents two persons. Most of us are like the first person: the Pharisee. I know I am. And hopefully, after being honest with Jesus and myself - I’ll get what Jesus is saying. Then  I/ we switch to becoming the second person - the tax collector - the sinner - the one who just wants to slide into the back bench of the church - behind a pole - and just sit there in the semi-darkness of an afternoon - when nobody is around.

So hopefully, after hearing today’s gospel, we accept Jesus’ report - and in all humility - beg God for mercy - forgiveness - and then we start again.

Today’s gospel ends with a message that we have always given lip service agreement to: “For whoever exalts himself or herself will be humbled, and the one who humbles herself or himself will be exalted.”

We're here in church this Sunday Mass - along with maybe 400, 500, 600 million others. We'll all hear this simple gospel story - this clear parable - about what many of us say to ourselves - every day about others - up here in our temple - inside our skull. The NSA can’t record it all those silent sounds in our brains. It doesn’t have to. We know the sound and the script. Jesus simply Snowdenizes the comments and announces it once more to our world today.

So we know the tapes - the bytes- the words ….

Listen to them ....

“Thank God I’m not like so and so - the driver in the other car - the gal at the other desk doing nothing - the fat person walking slowly down the street - the teenager whose pants are half hanging off - the gal with the face piercings - the guy with the arm full of tattoos - the drunk - the always late for work boss - the lazy road crew - the idiots who can’t get the computers working - the other party - the other channel that rants and raves - the other who is so different, so wrong, so out of touch….”

“I go to church.  I bust my butt for others. I volunteer. My kids aren’t getting into trouble. I keep my house and lawn right. My car - my clothes - my look - my garage - the trunk of my car - they all look right….”

Then I notice whom Jesus tells us he’s addressing this parable to. Oh my God, he has my name on the envelope. Jesus is addressing his words to me today - because it’s addressed to those who are convinced of their own righteousness and despise every one else.

i say to Jesus: "We’ll I think I’m right." I say that because I’m convinced I’m right - so I accept that part of his words. But it’s that second part of Jesus’ words that I don’t accept. I don’t see myself despising everyone else. "Aaagh!" we scream.  So we say to Jesus. “That word ‘despise’ is a pretty strong word.”

Jesus remains silent. 

We get even more nervous and say, “Well not despise, but I do think some people are wrong - or stupid - or what have you.”

We continue talking to  Jesus: “You’re kind of strong here today. Aren’t we supposed to try to be holy - and not be greedy or dishonest or adulterous? Aren’t we supposed to be generous and tithe and donate to the needy?”

Jesus remains silent - letting us get out our inner stream of consciousness that we see ourselves better than so many others in our world - other nations, other religions, other people who are non-religious - others - whom we’re glad we’re not.

Jesus then continues - with his report - about the other person - the tax collector - the one whom people saw as shady - and greedy - and dirty - and sinful. 

Jesus tells us how that person prays - how he’s thinking - and what he’s doing here in this same Sunday Mass as I am. This other person has this same inner temple - a brain - a mind of one's own as I do. 

Jesus is telling us, “This other person can’t look God in the eye - but he does beat his breast and begs God, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”

That sinks in. Jesus is sort of praising him and dissing me. In fact, Jesus gives me a failing mark - a zero for all my efforts - when he says, “I tell you, this second guy goes home justified - but not the first guy.”

Then Jesus hits me with another sledge hammer of a comment: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself for herself - will be exalted.”

Now we become very silent.


Then we say to Jesus, “Okay -  I get it.” Or “I think I'm getting it.”

We start saying, “I guess  I got to start again and again and again. I guess I have to stop putting myself up front  when it comes to thinking who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s a good human being and all that.”

We say, “I guess I got to stop giving out report cards - with failing marks to those I look down on - and simply come to You and say, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”


Quote for Today - Sunday October 27, 2013

"There is nothing final about a mistake, except its being taken as final."

Phyllis Bottome, Strange Fruit, 1928