Saturday, January 4, 2014



The title of my homily for today’s - January 4th’s - feast is, “Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton: I Thought I Had Problems Till ….”


That’s one of the ways people who have a suffering or a loss deal with a suffering or a loss.

We’ve all heard people say just that, “I thought I had it bad till I ran into Mrs Smith who lost her husband and her mother in this past year - and her son is prison for stealing from his company.”

The classic example is: I thought I had it bad with my sore toe till I met a man without any feet.”


That’s the thought I had when I went through the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton last night. If anyone is the patron saint of troubles - lots of troubles - it’s Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Born 1774 - she lived till she was 46 - dying of tuberculosis - which took a lot of lives till the 20th century.

She was born in New York and died in Emmetsburg, Maryland.

She married William Magee Seton at the age of 19 and they had 5 children. The first few years of their marriage was sheer happiness. She wrote, “My own home at twenty - the world - that and heaven too - quite impossible.”

Within four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's importing business.

Then her husband’s company - the Seton Maitland Company - went bankrupt. Several of their ships sank. They lost their home in Manhattan and lost lots of their stuff. Then her husband William got sick, so they went to Italy for better weather - with one daughter. He sister-in-law took care of the other 4 kids. In Italy, within a year, her husband died of tuberculosis.

This wasn’t the first death. Elizabeth had lost her own mom when she was three - leaving her dad to raise three daughters. Her dad married again - which added to the size of the family - and the possibilities for more people to take care of

As I read her life - I wondered how did she have the strength to deal with so many deaths - that of her own children - that family members - like her sisters-in-law Harriet and Cecilia Seton. Then there were the 18 sisters she saw die at Emmetsburg.

Those were just some of the deaths.

When she became a Catholic - switching from being Episcopal - various family members cut off possible support. It also didn’t help her with various attempts to make a living as a teacher.

In the stories of Saints who were nuns - one sometimes reads of struggles with the clergy and bishops. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the most part got encouragement, help, and good offers that told her that she was needed.


So the clergy would have been one big way Elizabeth Ann Seton got through the dark nights and valleys she had to travel through.

The literature about Elizabeth adds that the Eucharist, Daily Mass, and the Bible (Especially the Psalms) really helped her - especially Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd!”

In other words she had the gift of faith!


Today we celebrate the feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton - our first born in America saint. I noticed that in 2009 the Episcopal Church added her to their list of saints as well.

She has been named as the patron saint of Catholic Schools - like St. John Neumann - because both promoted Catholic Schools big time.

As I thought about her life - and all its troubles - I’d add she’s the patron saint of anyone who has troubles - and as we heard in today’s gospel - she discovered Jesus was the one she was looking for - he was the one who helped her - because if you look at Jesus on the Cross - how many people have said, “When I thought about Jesus on the cross and what he went through, my large troubles seemed so small”?


January 4, A Poem For Today


Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks on it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
When there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down in the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now --
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes: © 1926 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and renewed 1954 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted from Selected Poems by Langston Hughes, by permission of the publisher.

Friday, January 3, 2014



The title of my homily for today, January 3rd,  is, “Recognition”

Today’s two readings both talk about recognition, so I’d like to talk about the theme as well as the need for recognition.


Today’s first reading from 1 John 2:29-3:6, says, “The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized the Son.” Evidently, the author and the community felt unnoticed, unrecognized. All of us on and off will feel the same way. Does my life as a Christian have an impact on anyone at home or work or neighborhood?

In today’s gospel - John 1:29-34 - John the Baptist states - confesses two times that he did not recognize Jesus. And then he makes the confession that Jesus is the ONE. It was on Jesus that the Spirit descended, like the dove from Noah’s ark. It was Jesus who is “God’s chosen One.”

I would think that every human being is God’s Chosen One. I would hope that the Spirit of God descends on everyone. I would think that’s why God made us and we are called to recognize in everyone, God’s spirit and God’s will and God’s reason for making this human being.


We all know what the word “recognition” means. It means being acknowledged. It means being given attention. It means being noticed.

At times we all want space, to be alone, to hide, get into our man cave or woman’s space. But my thought is that everyone  down deep wants to be recognized. We exist and we want others to know that.

So we all have had the experience of being recognized or not being recognized.

Listen to people. “I raised my hand 6 times and was totally ignored. He refused to recognize me.” “I stood there on line and people were jumping ahead of me and I said, `Hmnn!’ and they finally got the message that I exist.”

We’ve all said a prayer in the Prayer of the Faithful and two prayers later someone says the same prayer. We think: weren’t they listening to my prayer?

We all know the modern phrase: “What am I chopped liver?”


We all have heard the poem or the piece called “Desiderata.” It was written by Max Ehrmann. It gives a wonderful list of things that are desirable for a good life - hence "Desiderata. ” One simple statement that fits in with what I’m saying here is this:  “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”


We all know that as U.S. citizens we have a Bill of Rights - meaning we have certain inalienable rights.

I was trying to find on line a copy of the United Nations Bill of rights. It states that everyone in the world has certain human rights - basic human rights as a member of the human race. I am here. I deserve water and food. I deserve the right to free speech and access to the world’s highways and byways. I have a right to culture as well as the basics.

Please recognize me. Please acknowledge me.


And I think the paradox is this. Jesus spent his life recognizing people, especially rejects, and he ends up being rejected himself. And I would think that the same thing happens to his followers. In the meanwhile, we are called to listen to each other, to respect each other, and to do what Jesus tried to do. 


January 3, 2014 - Poem for Today


“I wish to buy a dog,” she said,
“A dog you’re sure is quite well bred,
In fact, I’d like some guarantee
He’s favored with a pedigree.”

“My charming friend,” the pet man said,
“I have a dog that’s so well bred,
If he could talk, I’ll guarantee
He’d never speak to you or me.”

Edgar Klauber ©

Monday, December 30, 2013




I got pocketed behind 7X-3824;

He was making 65, but I can do a little more.
I crowded him on the curves, but I couldn’t get past,
And on the straightways
there was always some truck coming fast.
Then we got to the top of a mile-long incline
And I edged her out to the left, a little over the white line,
And ahead was a long grade
with construction at the bottom,
And I said to the wife, ‘Now by golly I got’m!’
I bet I did 85 going down the long grade,
And I braked her down hard in front of the barricade,
And I swung in ahead of him and landed fine
Behind 9W-7679.

- Morris Bishop

Morris Bishop: ‘Ambition’ from The Best of Bishop; Light Verse from The New Yorker and Elsewhere (Cornell). © 1950, 1978 Alison Kingsbury Bishop. Originally in The New Yorker. Used by permission.

A POEM FOR TODAY - January 1st, 2014


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

© Philip Larkin

Note: For the past few years I've provided a quote for the day. This year, 2014, I'm going to try to provide a poem for the day.



The title of my homily for this homily for January 1st, The Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God is, "Happy New Year Face to Face."

Today’s first reading triggers the memory of one of the most ancient and most popular games of all cultures. It’s the game that parents and grandparents play with children called, “Peekaboo!” And if the kid is very small we say, “Peekaboo! I love you.”

Little children long to see the face of their mother and their father. “Peekaboo! I love you.”

In the movie, “The Godfather”, we even see Don Corleone, Marlo Brando, as a grandfather, kidding and playing this came of “Peekaboo” in the backyard with his grandson.

When we were children we climbed up on our father’s lap to pull away his strong fingers to see his face.

We long to see the face of our father.

And when we did wrong, didn’t we hide our face in shame? But didn’t we also have at the same time, a deep longing that our father would come into our darkness and that we would see his shining face? Didn’t we long for his smile, so that we would know that he had come to “forgive us our trespasses?”


In today’s first reading, then, we have these basic human feelings in an ancient and famous blessing called, “The Aaronite or Priestly Blessing.”

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you
and bring you peace.”

This special blessing goes way back into Old Testament history. In fact, for example, in August of 1979 an amulet or charm was found in an archeological dig in Jerusalem’s old city with the blessing on it. However, it took years for anyone to figure it out.

Judith Hadley, a graduate student in archeology from Toledo, Ohio, spotted the amulet and said it looked like a cigarette butt. It was a tiny roll of silver from around 2,600 years ago. The leader of the dig, a Gabriel Barkay of Tel Aviv University, recognized it as an amulet that someone would have worn with a string through it.

For two and a half years the amulet was studied and worked on carefully. Gabriel Barkay knew there must be writing on it. Finally, after figuring out how to unroll the silver without destroying it, writing was discovered. With the help of a microscope, a researcher saw the name Yahweh two times. However, it wasn’t till 1986, when the Israel Museum was putting together an exhibit of the treasures from the dig where the amulet was found, that the name Yahweh was seen for the third time. It was the clue that solved the mystery: the amulet contained the Priestly or Aaronite Blessing.

So just as people today wear charms or amulets around their necks with special words on them, what more beautiful words than the Priestly or Aaronite blessing.

The blessing is simple and basic. It asks that essential needs be taken care of:
- that God keep protective watch over us,
- that God be gracious to us,
- that God not hide his face from us,
- that God bring us his peace -- Shalom.

What more could we want?

This blessing became so special that laws (rules and regulations), were made, so that it could be given only by the priests: the Sons of Aaron.


As we begin a New Year, as we wish blessings on each other, as we pray for peace for ourselves, our family and our world, perhaps we can look at this Aaronite or Priestly Blessing for the secret or the answer on just how to have peace and a Happy New Year.

The key hope and blessing is that we see the face of God. When that happens, then we will have peace. The key then is living in a face to face relationship with God. Transparency. Honesty. Openness. These are the virtues needed for a happy life.

All of us can relate to that. Once more we can go back to the childhood game of longing to see the face of our mother and our father. When they were out of sight, we often cried. We thought they were hiding from us. We thought we did something wrong. But when we saw their smile, then we knew all was right. Peace was being loved. Peace was being held. Peace was being reflected in the center of our parent’s eyes. “Peekaboo! I love you!”

But we don’t have to go back to our childhood only. We know as adults that when we are at odds with God or our family or our neighbor, we hide our faces from each other. We can’t look each other in the eye. We wear masks. Didn’t St. Paul say all that: that we sin in the dark, behind closed doors, our of sight, in secret?

Isn’t that the message behind the eye of God on the dollar bill? God sees all. Put the dollar back. It’s not yours. Don’t steal. And if you do steal, you’ll discover, even if you are never caught, that you stole some peace and happiness from yourself. Is unhappiness worth a dollar? A hundred dollars? Does it have a price?

But happiness isn’t a relationship with God where we think he is always watching us. That would be a relationship built on fear and not on trust and love. To have a Happy New Year and to have the blessing of peace, we need to have a positive relationship with a loving God.

And to start this kind of a relationship, God usually makes the first move. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, what did they do? They hid in shame. They could not face God. Yet, God did not give up and hide his face from them. He went searching for them in the Garden. And when He found them he talked to them face to face.

And isn’t that also the message of Christmas which we just celebrated? That God once more came into the Garden of the world to look at us face to face. Jesus is the face of God shining on us. The word became flesh, became an infant, looking out at us and our world. When we look at the Christmas crib, what do we see? What does the Christmas story say to us?

Did Mary play, “Peekaboo! I love you,” with Jesus?

Obviously, we don’t know the answer to that one. But why not? And why not imagine seeing the faces of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in today’s Gospel looking at the face of Jesus? Painters through the centuries have imagined the scene. Luke is telling us that the shepherds represent us, that we should long to see the face of Jesus.

And Luke is also telling us to be like Mary: to treasure and ponder all these things in our heart. Isn’t that treasuring and pondering the beginning of a deep prayer life with God that will bring happiness and peace to our heart this New Year and every year of our life?

And isn’t that what Paul is calling us to in today’s second reading? “God sent his Son, born of a woman,” so that we can have a relationships with him that is face to face -- intimate. We can have a relationship with God that is as close as a child climbing up on his lap and looking him face to face, eye to eye. We can have a relationship with God that is as intimate and face to face as is his relationship with Mary.

Commenting on today’s second reading from Galatians, John Bligh, S.J., the British scripture scholar, reflects on St. Paul, that “it can hardly have escaped his notice that the `woman’ whom he mentions was taken into an astonishing intimacy with God. When she cried `Abba, Father’, she was addressing the Father of her own Son. To this day, it is impossible to contemplate the relationship of Mary the Mother of Jesus to God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ without wonder and amazement.”

The secret of a Happy New Year then is t have a face to face relationship with God. How? The answer is found in today’s Gospel: to be like Mary, to be like Joseph, to be like the shepherds, to approach Jesus and look into his face.

But it must be stated that Jesus is no longer a baby. Today, this New Year, approach Jesus adult to adult, face to face. Let his face shine on you. Let him be gracious to you. Isn’t that what Jesus was about? He is the Aaronite or the Priestly Blessing in the flesh. He is the face of God walking around blessing people. He walked around looking into people’s faces. Most turned away and walked the other way. The gospels, Sunday after Sunday, however, tell us story after story about people whom Jesus met face to face: Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the Rich Young Man, Zaccheus, and hundreds more. But to as many who received him, he gave them power to become the children of God. Like a little kid, climbing up on his father’s lap, Jesus went up to people and pried their hands away from their faces and looked into their eyes, with the eyes of love.

The Lord’s face shone on them. He was gracious to them. He gave them the possibility of peace. And whenever he looked into someone’s eyes and saw death, he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” He, the Lord of the Resurrection, wanted to see life in people, not death. He wanted to see light, not darkness,. He wanted to be gracious, not grouchy or greedy. He wanted to see peace, not unrest. He wanted to see love, not hate.

It might sound corny, but doesn’t Jesus say to us, “Peekaboo! I love you.” Isn’t that what he calls his followers to have: a love that breaks down walls and allows people to live face to face with God and each other in love? Isn’t that what will put peace into our hearts and our faces? Isn’t that what will bring all of us to a Happy New Year?

NOTE: Picture on top - Gabriel Barkay and the amulet.


The title of my homily is, “Attending the Play Called, ‘The Gospel According to John.’”

We’ve all attended a musical play and the lights start to dim - and there is a medley of music - streams of sounds - themes from each of the songs in the show. And if we’re familiar with the songs, with the music, each tiny piece touches the whole of the musical and its different songs.


Today’s gospel is the Prologue of the Gospel of John. In it we hear a medley of the sights and sounds from the whole gospel of John - and not just the gospel - but the Jewish scriptures starting with the opening words in Genesis, “In the beginning….”

The listeners would know - Jesus is here to start a new creation.

Jesus is the New Beginning. He’s here for a new Genesis.

And as Genesis sings it: And God spoke - God’s word - roamed the darkness - and God sang, “Let there be light - and there was light.”

And in 6 days in Genesis - science now telling us - these days took billions and billions of years - and in fact, God is still creating this great big universe / universes - however big this theater is. We have on stage what we have on stage so far - and we assume there is a lot much more to come.

Let there be light! And there was light.

So in today’s prologue we hear about Word and Light - about beginning and choice - and that Word became flesh and lives among us - and that Light is Christ, the Light of the World.


And as the Play called the Gospel According to John unfolds we see come on stage John the Baptist and then a cast of characters - a woman named Mary who didn’t want to see a marriage feast run out of wine - or a group of people run out of bread - and then were fed the bread of life. We meet Nicodemus - a man who comes to Jesus in the night and a Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at high noon - not knowing whom she has run into. We meet a man paralyzed for 38 years and a man born blind. We hear about a woman caught in adultery and a Jesus walks on water and later washes feet with water. We discover Jesus walks on water - and tells everyone that if you thirsty, you can come to me because rivers of living water flow out of me. We find out Jesus had close friends - a man named Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.

In the Book of Genesis we hear about freedom and choice - and how Adam and Eve - as well as their son Cain - choose evil. In the Gospel of John we hear about Jesus the New Adam choosing freedom and love and how Mary and we are called to continue those choices for life.

In the Book of Genesis we heard don’t eat forbidden fruit - don’t sit under the tree of evil - but find the tree of life. In the Gospel of John we hear about eating the body and drinking the blood called Jesus and that the tree of life is also the tree of death. It’s the cross..


The title of my homily is, “Attending the Play Called, ‘The Gospel According to John.’”

Today we heard the opening song - the Prelude - the Prologue - hints and sounds from the rest of the gospel. And each time we hear this gospel - we pray that these words - and the word becomes flesh in our flesh and dwells among us - grace upon grace.

Picture on top is that of Papyrus 52 - a 2nd century papyrus piece of the Gospel of John. It can be found in the John Rylands Library in England.


"With age, we become responsible for what's in our heads - the character of the memories there, the music we are familiar with, the storehouse of books we have read, the people whom we can call, the scenery we know and love. Our memories become our dreams."

Edward Hoagland, Harper's, January 1991




The title of my homily for this Monday - December 30th - is, “Growth in Wisdom, Age and Grace.”

I like the old translation of the gospel for this day - Luke 2:36-40 - that says Jesus grew “in wisdom, age and grace.”

Let me say a few words about each - knowing it’s easy to measure Age, but difficult to measure Wisdom and Grace.


We can measure age by the birth certificate. That’s easy. It’s also on our driver’s license, our wedding license and what have you.

Yet we age differently. Class reunions can be a great or a horrendous moment. We ask, “Who’s that!” Or we say, “You haven’t changed at all. I’d recognize you from a mile away.” And haven’t we all said, better, haven’t we all whispered, “What the heck happened to her or him?”

So too obituary columns - or funerals - we wonder about the age of the person who died. And sometimes we notice the person is much younger than we are and say, “Uh oh!”

So like the circles of a cut down tree, we can measure age.


Next comes Wisdom.

This is difficult to measure. It’s tricky.

For starters, I have learned that there is a big difference between wisdom and information.

A person can have a Ph.D. as you know - in philosophy or quantum physics - and be a total jerk.

We go to school for education - but mainly it’s in information: reading, writing and arithmetic.

This doesn’t mean kids don’t learn wisdom in school. We can learn from mistakes, fights, to volunteer. We can learn how to interact, how to ask questions, how to deal with rejections, how to deal with perceived unfairness - in making teams, in how we are marked, in whom a teacher likes or dislikes.

I notice that the scriptures - our Bible - often gives wisdom stuff - but it seems it’s mainly for young men - as in today’s first reading from 1 John 12-17. It uses the word children and fathers and then young men - but as in most societies and cultures the mothers raise the girls - and the boys till they start to become young men.

Wisdom: what have I learned about life?

Just last week, I visited my niece Patty and her husband George for Christmas dinner. While in the bathroom on the first floor, just off the kitchen area, I spotted a bathroom book. It was one of three books in a basket. It was for bathroom reading. One book - I just read the cover - I didn’t pick it up or open it - had the title - something like: Life Lessons - What I Learned Is The Most Important Thing In Life. Then it added something like, “from 78 famous people.”

Driving home that night I asked myself, “If I was asked to answer my #1 life lesson, what would it be?”

I gave myself several answers like: Step by step, inch by inch, page by page, moment by moment, life is lived.

I learned that from the time I was putting together a boardwalk - that was ripped up by a Nor’easter Storm - when I lived on the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey. As I rebuilding that boardwalk, as I hammered each board, I found myself saying, “Board by board the boardwalk is built.”

That’s a basic wisdom leaning. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

You take the jigsaw puzzle out of the box, turn all the pieces face up, start sorting out the flat edged pieces for the frame, and then piece by piece the puzzle is put together. So too life.

I jotted down a quote somewhere along the line - without listing who the author was. I make that mistake often. In reality, the quote is more important than the author - but I like to give credit where credit is due. Here’s the quote - which was in my shirt pocket before I put it in the washer. “Only by joy and sorrow does a person know anything about himself and his destiny. They learn what to do and what to avoid.”

What were the experiences in that person’s life for her or him to come up with that wisdom statement?

So to wisdom. That’s how we learn life. I’ve learned that we learn more from suffering than from successes, hurts more than helps, etc. etc. etc. We learn more from dumb moves than smart moves.

What would be your # 1 life learning.


Lastly a few words about grace. I didn’t go into what the Greek word here in Luke is. I simply thought about being graceful.

I think figure skaters are the quintessential image or icon for whom the graceful person is.

We have the Winter Olympics coming up soon. Check out the figure skaters. They are going along beautifully and ooops they fall or slip and all go, “Oooh!” They fall on their behinds, but they get up off their butts - forget what is behind, what just happened, and skate on.

I assume getting up and starting again comes from practice, practice, practice.

Who are the graceful folks in the rooms of our lives? We know who the sandpaper people are. They walk into a room and start to rub people the wrong way.

The graceful person - has learned not to put her foot in her mouth - but to become smooth as silk and satin.

They are those who have learned to make life smooth.


Take some time today to examine ourselves on these three gifts Jesus grows in: wisdom, age and grace. Amen.


Quote for Today - DECEMBER 30, 2013

"Bromidic though it may sound, some questions don't have answers, which is a terribly difficult lesson to learn."

Katherine Graham, in Jane Howard, "The Power That Didn't Corrupt," Ms. October, 1974

Sunday, December 29, 2013



Today is Holy Family Sunday - so I would like to place on the table some family stuff and see if something triggers something. So the title of my homily is, “Family: Ties, Flaws, Feuds.”

There have been movies and TV programs called, “Family Ties” and “Family Feuds.” I don’t know if there have been any entitled, “Family Flaws.” Yet I do know Shakespeare and many movies and novels have gotten into Family Flaws. For example: The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides - both novels by Pat Conroy about dysfunctional family stuff - both becoming movies. Diane Rehm had Pat Conroy on her program this past week - and yes tough family stuff.

Today is Holy Family Sunday - a Sunday at the end of every year and the beginning of a new year - this Sunday after Christmas. Each year this Sunday challenges us and offers us the chance to look backwards at the past year and look forward to the new year - and check out our lives - especially - our family life.

How are we doing? What’s going right? What needs improvement? What we thank God and each other for? What do we ask God and each other forgiveness for?

The title of my homily is, “Family: Ties, Flaws and Feuds.”

Let me take those three issues in my title one by one: Ties, Flaws and Feuds.


Whether we like it or not - we are tied to each other. Whether we agree to it or not - we are tied to each other.

I am at a red light - in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Walking up the street to my left - I see a lady teacher or somebody - with about 15 kids all connected - hooked or leashed together - heading for something or going from something. It was a sight to photograph into my mind and memory.

Were they a kindergarten class going to a museum or a library or back to a classroom? I don’t know.

The light turned green and I began to think - everyone of us walks up and down the streets of where we are - with a whole gaggle of folks all tied to each other heading for somewhere - or going from somewhere.

I’ve seen the same scene with 15 dogs or more - but let’s stick with people.

Family ties ….

It starts with our umbilical cord. We are tied to our mom - more or less. And our dad - more or less. Of course some of us have been adopted or raised by others.

I’ve always heard of the blessing and benefit of having at least one daughter. They will be there for us in our old age.

I like quotes and one that is hanging like a sign on the wall of my mind comes from something Robert C. Byrd, the famous West Virginia senator once said, “One’s family is the most important thing in life. I look at it this way: One of these days I’ll be in a hospital somewhere with four walls around me. And the only people who’ll be with me will be my family.” [New York Times, March 1977]

He died June 28 2010 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia - at 3 AM. I assume his family were around him especially those days he was in the hospital.

I also like to look at Family Photos - especially enjoying this new way of sending Christmas cards with not just the pictures of the kids - but various family members - especially the parents. And at times I’ve heard folks make fun of family Christmas letters. I think they are wonderful - people summing up their year - especially telling about family moments.

So the first area is to just look at those whom I am tied to. We walk down each block and into each situation connected to them.

We sound like them. We speak their language. We have their mannerisms and their genes.

As Gail Lumet Buckley put it: “Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.”


The second area to look at would be family flaws - issues with those we are tied or connected to.

At times, flaws are hard to name and hard to see and even if we knew them face to face, they are hard to admit.

Various ancient Greek playwrights and philosophers challenge us to see ourselves on stage and see our fatal flaws - our Achilles heel.

Questions: What is my main fatal flaw? What kills, drains, messes me up every time?

I’m sure those who see us day in and day out - know our key flaw: laziness, pride, anger, impatience, procrastination, lust, gluttony, one-up-man-ship, can’t lose, gossip, cut people off in the middle of their story - to tell a story their story triggered.

Are our flaws born with us or acquired from our surroundings? How can three kids in the same household be so, so different?

Baptism - into Christ - is a washing - in the presence of others of the Original Sin - which has never been defined. Baptism is an entrance into the church - with the hope that these folks - especially parents and god-parents and family will make an effort to give us good example.

To be humble is to admit I’m not God. Was that Adam and Eve’s sin - like Lucifer’s sin - this wanting to be totally in charge of my life - without God - without the need for others - without acknowledging others - and I can eat up any forbidden fruit - and think that I won’t be poisoned?

Is the original sin - not so original? Is it basically the sin of choosing to go it alone - whether married on single - being and becoming a walled in self. Is it simply the refusal to receive communion not only with God, not only with Christ - but with all others? I’ll get my own food - my own bread and wine - and basically go it alone.

Or do I admit I need others - and Sunday Mass is a group of people coming together - like at an AA meeting - saying we are powerless over some things. We are flawed and we need God and each other.


And lastly there are family feuds.

Some feuds and fights in some families go on for years - well into adulthood - and they show up - at weddings, wakes and funerals.

We walk around tied to and dragging around bad memories of family fights and struggles. We’re like that lady in Meadville, Pennsylvania - walking down the street with all those kids in tow.

Today’s readings from the Wisdom book of Sirach and Paul’s Letter to the people of Colossae, challenge us to be holy, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another, forgiving one another - and on and on and on.

That second reading has the message to wives to be subordinate to their husbands. Some folks just see that message. It hits buttons and they miss the various other stresses in the text.

Of course, Paul is male and grew up in a very patriarchic society. Attitudes and the place of women are still very much part of the cities in the Mediterranean Basin - and that includes Greece, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, the whole Middle East. But read all his words. There are calls for males to treat their wives better - with deeper love. Read all this words and see that he has come a long way.

Every family has feuds - gripes and grievances - and Paul calls all to challenge each other, avoid all bitterness, encourage and not discourage each other.


Today’s gospel ends with Mary and Joseph leaving Egypt and heading back north to Nazareth - not to Bethlehem or Jerusalem in the south.

Today’s gospel ends with the words: “He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.”

I got to Israel once - in January of 2000. When we got off the bus in Nazareth, we went to a Franciscan site - and our tour guide gave a door keeper somewhere there who lead us down under a church to what might have been Jesus’ home in Nazareth. I spotted our guide giving the house guide some cash. He opened up this big door to this place down below and said, “This might well have been Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s home in Nazareth - or at least like this.

It was small and dirty and dark - but we stood there and heard about what it might have been like.

I would assume it would be worth opening up some of our inner closed doors and going down deep inside ourselves and look at our roots, our home, our background - and get in touch with our family ties, family flaws and family feuds.

Best guides: I have found more and more, the best guides and the place to begin is talking with each other. If really bad, get thee to good family therapists.

Just before my sister Peggy died in November, she and my other sister Mary and I, the 3 of us who are left - had a lot of great conversations about our childhood. Good stuff.

In fact, that would be my recommendation for the New Year. Have great family conversations - in person - or e-mail or phone.

Isn’t that a modern need? I hear it on these many high school retreats I’ve been on. Families need to talk to each other.

Aren’t the great meals, those we stay at the table with - long after the last bite.

On Christmas night, at my nieces house, 8 of us did some great talking about years ago. We sat there for about an hour and a half after the Christmas meal. More.


QUOTE FOR TODAY - December 29, 2013 - Sunday

"How many different things a family can be - a nest of tenderness, a jail for the heart, a nursery of souls. Families name us and define us, gives us strength, give us grief. All our lives we struggle to embrace of escape their influence. They are magnets that both hold us close and drive us away."

George Howe Colt, Life, April, 1991