Saturday, November 23, 2013


Quote for Today - Saturday - November 23, 2013 

"A painting on a canvas of infinite size, worked on eternally, would be without focus, meaning and probably without beauty.  A painting, as life, needs limits.  While I have an almost insatiable craving for knowledge, I believe death to be the final and perhaps greatest teacher - the one who provides the key to the ultimate questions life has never answered.  In my darkest hours I have been consoled by the thought that death at least is a payment for the answer of life's haunting secrets."

Morris B. Abram, in The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 1988

Painting: "Death and the Miser" by Frans Francken II [1581-1642]

QUESTION: Besides the hour glass under the skeleton's right foot, what do you see in this painting?

Friday, November 22, 2013


Quote for Today - Friday - November 22, 2013

"People change and forget to tell each other."

Lillian Hellman, Toys in the Attic, Random House, 1960


What happens if the person who changes doesn't know it herself or himself?

What happens if everyone sees specific changes except the person who has changed?

Are we talking about negative or positive changes here?

Isn't change gradual?

How have I changed in the past year, 2 years, 10, years, in my life? Please explain a change to oneself first? Be specific. Then ask others if they have seen any changes in me. Ask them to be specific. Thank you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Quote for Today - November 21, 2013

"You know what happens to scar tissue. It's the strongest part of your skin."

Michael R. Mantell, San Diego police psychologist, On psychological recovery of disaster victims, New York Daily News, December 14, 1986

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Quote for Today - November 20, 2013

"If the church doesn't listen to the world, then the world will never listen to the church."

Bernard Haring,
 New York Times, June 14, 1964

Tuesday, November 19, 2013



The title of my homily for this 33 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “From A Distance….”

This morning I’d like to make a few comments about the advantage of hindsight - history -  distance - Monday morning quarterbacking….

Hindsight  should help foresight!

Review can bring renew.


We’ve heard these readings many a time - but what do we hear this time - this year - this day.

Last night the theme of “From a Distance” hit me.

The old man - Eleazar -  in the first reading from 2nd  Maccabees 6: 18-31 -  makes his decision not to eat forbidden food - pork - based on the implications and consequences - if he goes against his religious practices.  His decision would mean death - but for the sake of transparency - he has seen a lot and lived a lot - and most of his life is behind him.

In the gospel, Zacchaeus goes on ahead of the crowd - till he found a tree - climbed it  - and saw Jesus and Jesus saw him - from a distance.


And the rest is history and the mystery of history.

What do I see now that I wasn’t seeing 20 years ago?

How many times have we heard and then said ourselves, “If I knew back then, what I know now ….”?

 What do I know now - that I didn’t know back then?

Around 4 PM in the afternoon I like to take a 45 minute walk from St. Mary’s front door - down Newman Street - past the playground at the bottom of  our street with all those little kids playing there - and their moms talking - then move across to Ego Alley and then go through the Naval Academy - see all those young men and women running past me - exercising - practicing football, football, football - lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse - and Frisbee, Frisbee, Frisbee, etc. etc. etc.

I’m looking at everything through fences and off to the side - and from not being in the middle of it all.

At the practice football field they have these big platforms way up in the air - with people up there with cameras - videoing the football team  as they practice, practice, practice. What do they see from way up there that folks are not seeing from the ground?

Zacchaeus climbed the tree and saw Christ and Christ saw him - and the rest is history and mystery.

I would assume coming to church - helps us see our life - from the edge - from the outside - from a platform.

I would assume that age gives wisdom - but like experience - as someone said: We can have 20 years experience or 1 years experience 20 times.

I remember a speaker saying somewhere along the line - a lady named Pat Livingston - keep asking: What’s the lesson here? What’s the learning here?


The title of my homily is, “From A Distance….”

Today some learnings are: Take walks. Step back. See the big picture. Talk with others about one’s experiences. Write your autobiography. Distance yourself from yourself. Let’s go to the videotape. Check things out - and learn the lessons from all around us.

It’s always been my take that Jesus got his wisdom from not just going to the mountain but also from his walking around town - especially listening to people in the marketplace. 

Surprise! Check out today’s gospel again and again. See what Zacchaeus saw when he climbed a tree. Listen to what he says. He saw more. He saw the poor. He saw his life in a new way - its implications and its possibilities.

Surprise! Jesus ended up getting a meal out of the deal. I wonder if he served pork!

Quote for Today - Tuesday - November 19, 2013

"The reverse side also has a reverse side."

Japanese Proverb

Japanese painting by trinifellah

Monday, November 18, 2013



The title of my homily for this 33 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Learning How to Pray: Two Good Questions.”


In various surveys that ask people what they want us to preach about from the pulpit, I’ve noticed people want stuff on spirituality and stuff on how to pray.

This homily will give one more lesson on how to pray.

So the title of my homily is, “Learning How to Pray: Two Good Questions.”


The first question is in today’s gospel: And Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”

The blind man of Jericho wanted to see, so he called out to Jesus to take pity on him. He had heard Jesus was walking by. So Jesus heard him yelling and stopped to ask him, “What can I do for you?”

And the blind man answered the obvious, “I want to see.”

So, if you want one more lesson on how to pray, there it is. Find yourself in your place of prayer - whether its in church or in the Eucharistic chapel, whether it’s in a Lazy Boy chair or at the kitchen table.  Wherever, whenever, you pray, in your good place of prayer, car, church, chapel or chair - after acknowledging God’s presence, hear Jesus asking you, “What can I do for you?”

That’s the first question.

It’s like the salesperson at Nordstrom’s or a waitress or waiter at Macaroni Grill coming up to us and asking, “What can I do for you?” Or “What can I get you?” Or “What do you want?” Or "What are you looking for?"

So picture yourself praying. Picture Jesus asking us, “What can I do for you?”  

What would you answer?

Would it be, “I want more patience.” Or “I want to be more understanding.” Or “I want a better attitude towards my son-in-law.” Or “I want to love more.”  Or, “I want to laugh more.”  Or, “I want to pray better.”


The second question is not in the Scriptures as is, but here it is, Ask God: “What can I do for You?”  and then listen. Then pause. Then be quiet as you sit there in prayer. Then hear what Jesus says to you. It might be words like the following:

“Did you ever thinking of visiting that old lady two doors down. Nobody seems to visit her.”

“Did you ever think of really listening to so and so and not just being silent with her and then running?”

“Did you ever think you might be much happier if you stopped whining and complaining and you started celebrating each day of life as it comes - with a joyful spirit?”

"Did you eve take me serious when I said, ‘Stop  to see the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Okay it’s November. Well see the squirrels and hear the crunch of crisp brown leaves on the ground when kids love to pounce through the leaves or kick them up in the air or fall into them.’?”


So today’s homily provides a lesson plan on how to pray and I gave two good questions;

1) Hearing God or Jesus saying to us, “What can I do for you?”

2) Hearing ourselves asking God, “Hey God, what can I do for you?”


Quote for Today - Monday - November 18, 2013

"Less is more."

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, On restraint in design, New York Herald Tribune, June 28, 1959


To which Robert Venturi said  in 1969, "Less is a bore."  Time Magazine March 3, 1986.

Which would be your comment?

More or less, what's your take on an egg?

Sunday, November 17, 2013



The title of my for this homily - for the 33 Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - is, “You Can’t Do That!”

How many times has that been the bottom line? We experience frustration or hurt or disappointment - and we say of God or others, “Hey you can’t do that to me!” 

We’re moving along and someone does something that we don’t want them to do. We don’t expect them to do what they are doing or have done.  And we scream inwardly or mutter outwardly, “Oh no!” 

Or we think: “Oh no - not again!” Or, “You can’t do that!” Or “Dang it!” Or much worse!


Today’s readings are these end of the year readings and every year when we come to them,  I think inwardly: “Oh no! Not again!”

Give me a parable or a healing story or a good moment about Jesus helping someone.

Nope. Once more - when I spot these readings I hear my moan: “Oh no! More bombastic apocalyptic language!”

Once more we have  these end of the year - these near the end of  gospel - passages - before we get to the Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Easter readings.

We have them every year for about 3 weekends. “Ugh!”

They talk about earthquakes and fires. They talk about wars and upheavals. They talk about pestilence and persecution. They talk about end times. “Oh no! Not again!" And I can’t change the channel.

I inwardly think, “Hurry up Advent!” But then I discover that those Advent readings repeat some of these end of the world themes as well. They use them as we prepare for Christmas the first coming of Christ - to prepare us for the final coming of Jesus Christ.

Today’s first reading from Malachi is vintage apocalyptic language: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts.”

Today’s gospel talks about wars and insurrections, terror and horror. Then Luke talks about the followers of Jesus being arrested and put on trial - being handed over by even one’s own family.  

Sometimes converts to Catholism tell us: “This is what happened in my family when I converted.”

That’s an underlying theme in the New Testament writings. Expect difficulties when you become a follower of Jesus. 

Scholars think Luke was written after the year 70 - because it is talking about Jerusalem being destroyed. And we know from non-biblical sources that there was a destruction of Jerusalem around the year 70 A.D. The historian Josephus says that one million, one hundred thousand people died, in a long siege and 97,000 were carried away as captives.


I’ve been in a few car accidents. I’ve seen some heavy storms, but I’ve never experienced  massive destruction like that mentioned in today’s readings - destruction by violence or fire or earthquake or armies.

I’ve seen on TV a tiny bit of what’s happening now in Syria - and still in Afghanistan - as well as still in Iraq - and in the various troubled places on the planet.   I’m sure folks experiencing horror say, “You can’t do that!”

Yet,  I assume violence, horror, wars and rumors of war, natural and human destruction will continue till the end of time.

And I expect most people utter to God and others in times of disaster those down deep words, “You can’t do that!”


Horror stories are the stuff of the local as well as the evening news.

There was a shooting last night on X street and a fire on Y street and a water main break on Z street.

Horror stories hit our families - as well as our iddy biddy everyday experiences. They make our inner news desk. Daily irritations appear  on our inner monitor.

The person in front of us in the middle lane on Route 50 or 97 switches lanes and didn’t put on their blinker. We’re a blinker putter oner. So we say in the privacy of our car, “Dang it! You can’t do that!”

Someone in the family gets sick - or dies -  or leaves a marriage - or does something harmful - especially something that hits kids - and we say, “You can’t do that!”

In today’s second reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians we hear Paul saying he tried to give good example to the Christian community there. But - but - but…. There are people there who are out of order - people who are not minding their own business - people who are  interfering in the lives of others. Then Paul basically says, “Don’t do that! Work quietly and eat your own food.” In other words: Stay at your own plate!


We all want solutions and happy endings.

We want to control what’s happening in front of us - and behind us.

We want people to do what we expect people to do:  be nice, be good, do no harm.

We want the weather and the world to happen the way we would like it to happen.

We want our kids and our neighbors and our spouse to have our assumptions and ways to do things - and make things happen.


Surprise! They don’t.

So what I get out of these end of the year readings is not what happened 2000 or so years ago - but a question: "How do I deal with today - when things don’t go my way?"

I assume we all have our tricks - our ways - our patterns for doing life - when life doesn’t go our way.

We have our little sayings like: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”  Or, “Hey, you never know.” Or, “Bummer!”  Or, “I guess this is my way of the cross.”

We have our songs like, “The Gambler” - sung by Kenny Rogers. You got to know when to play them - and when to walk away. You got to know when to speak up and when to shut up. 

Or we have that song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Bug". Sometimes we’re the bat and sometimes we’re the ball; sometimes we’re the bug, and sometimes we’re the windshield. 

Sometimes we’re the dog and sometimes we’re the grass. And you know what dogs do on the grass - and sometimes people don’t clean up and we step in it - and we scream to that unknown person, “Hey, you can’t do that.”

We have our philosophies: “KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.” Or “I choose to be an optimist when these things happen.” Or “This brings out the best in people, so I’m not going to let it bring out the worst in me.” The Stoics say: “Be stoical about it!”

We have our religions - which deal with this issue - big time.

The Buddhists say: desire is what kills us every time. So kill desire - wanting our way or scenario. Let it go!

The Christian says: “This is the cross!”  And “Lord, give me the strength to carry it.” Or, “Thy will be done.” Or, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace here!”  Or “God you are the Great Quiet - the Great Powerless One - hanging on a cross, nailed down by others, and you simply said, ‘Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.’" Or we say, "Into your hands O God, I hand over my spirit.”


So we pray. We philosophize. We think. We  walk on. We cry. We say, “Others have it worse.” We trust. We persevere. We try to help others. We try to let it go.

Instead of saying to God, “Hey you can’t do that,” we say, “Lord, help me to do what you do - give it time - and experience. Move me to work towards resurrection on the other side of death and destruction.”

Or we smile and say, “I wonder how many people say of me - when dealing with how I drive, how I handle things, how I do life: ‘Hey! You can’t do that!’”

Quote for Today - Sunday - November 17, 2013

"All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture?  I have found the answer .... art is action against death. It is a denial of death."

Jacques Lipchitz, in Chicago Tribune, June 4, 1967

Sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz