Saturday, January 11, 2014


Poem for Today - January 11, 2014


Erected by her sorrowing brothers
In memory of Martha Clay.
Here lies one who lived for others;
Now she has peace. And so have they.

© C. S. Lewis

Friday, January 10, 2014


Poem for Today - January 10, 2014

Work is Love

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love
But only with distaste, it is better
That you should leave your work and
Sit at the gate of the temple and take
Alms from those who work with joy.

                                      - Anon

Thursday, January 9, 2014


A Poem for Today - January 9, 2014 


All my life I lived in a coconut.
It was cramped and dark.
Especially in the morning 
                when I had to shave.

But what pained me most was that 
                      I had no way
to get in touch with the outside world.
If no one out there happened 
                      to find the coconut,
if no one cracked it, then I was doomed
to live all my life in the nut,
and maybe even die there.

I died in the coconut.
A couple of years later 
               they found the coconut,
cracked it, and found me shrunk 
                     and crumbled inside.

“What an accident!”
“If only we had found it earlier.”
“Then maybe we could have saved him.”
“Maybe there are more of them 
               locked in like that …”
“Whom we might be able to save,”
they said, and started knocking to pieces
every coconut within reach.

No use! Meaningless! A waste of time!
A person who chooses to live in a coconut!
Such a nut is one in a million!
But I have a brother-in-law
who lives in an

© Ingemar Gustafson

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


A Poem for Today - January 8, 2014


I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men
          with ugly faces
And the gold cup won by the
          worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.

© John Masefield [1878-1967]

Painting by Graham Isom

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


A fever blister, a paper cut,
a pimple, an itch, a kid didn’t call,
a wrong number at 2:49 AM,
someone left the milk out,
a turning car didn’t use it’s
blinker. These things bother me -
and it’s seems when I’m in
these agita moods - I forget
there are over 7 billion more people
on the planet besides me
and I forget to ask you,
“How are you doing? Anything
itching or bothering you today?”

©  Andy Costello, Reflections 2014


[The following is the second draft of a 2 page homily for this morning. As I was preaching it, I realized I was too heady, too cloudy, too vague, so I hope this second much longer blog reading version articulates some of what I was hungering to preach on for today.]


The title of my homily for this Tuesday after the Epiphany is, “The Great Hunger.”

Today’s readings triggered for me some wonderings and ponderings about hunger - desire - thirst  - want - need - the inner itch - our triggers…. what I’m looking for, what I’m searching for down deep at my motivation levels.

Does that phrase, “The Great Hunger” trigger anything inside you?

If someone asked, “What is your great hunger?” - would you have an answer or a comment?

Does everyone have a great hunger?

Are our desires and hungers mixed company - a complex pull of needs and wants - that we might never have prioritized? 

Does anyone prioritize their needs? Maybe on paper, but in reality, does anyone ever vote on their priorities?

I don't know.

Well, I would think unconsciously "Yes" at times - but it would be an “all depends” at other times.

Wait! Is there a list of hungers?

For example:

·        To have a place and space,
·        To be healthy,
·        To be successful,
·        To be recognized,
·        To be accepted as is,
·        To have a family,
·        To love and be loved,
·        To enjoy each day,
·        To matter,
·        To have meaning,
·        To understand and be understood,
·        To know God’s will,
·        To do God’s will,
·        That my kids do well,
·        To see an end to wars,
·        To spend our money on food not guns,
·        That everyone have daily bread,
·        That everyone be given a chance,
·        That peace is given a chance,
·        To be happy,
·        Liberty and justice for all,
·        To make a difference….

When I looked up the phrase, “The Great Hunger” last night I found out it’s the name of  a 6,081 poem by Patrick Kavanagh - an Irish poet whose dates are 1904-1967. The poem is about The Great Hunger - or “An Gorta Mor” - in Gaelic. In Ireland in the 1840’s they had the great Potato Famine - when so many were starving or were starved to death - or they migrated or immigrated elsewhere. It was a great hunger.

As I read up about some of this last night, I found out that starvation as a weapon has be used as a weapon down through history. 

All this got me thinking again about Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. 

Notice the bottom - the most basic level of human needs. We see there our bodily needs for food and water, etc. 

Next comes our need for safety and security. 

So a message would be: don’t talk about justice and self esteem if I need you to hand me a piece of bread or some fish.

Then teach me how to fish.

Don't we all feel the impact of the message: "If you give me a fish, I eat tonight; if you teach me how to fish, I eat the rest of my life."

But don't tell me that - if right now I'm starving.

Then jobs ... 
 jobs … jobs … plows, shovels, land, seed, support ….

So for starters, The Great Hunger, is for food.

After that, the phrase, “The Great Hunger” can challenge us to look at all human hungers: for peace, for winning, for recognition, for communication,  for whatever triggers the great pulls of our spirit for more - for satisfaction - for solution - for any and every kind of redemption, salvation, forgiveness, meaning, serenity.


As I said, today’s readings triggered that phrase, “The Great Hunger.” 

Today's first reading from 1st John has a lot more grab for me - than yesterdays first reading from that same document - 1 John 3: 22 - 4:6.

In today's first reading - notice that 1st John 4:8 has this challenging and scary statement: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

For starters imagine not being hungry for love?  

Hopefully, we know that central message about life. 

Hopefully, we have had many, many, glimpses and experiences of love.

Hopefully, we know we are hungry for more. 

Hopefully, we know where love begins. It’s with parents - when we were little babies. 

Hopefully, it’s was with all those folks who held us - and  said, “Goo Goo!”  to us - and waved to us - and smiled at us.

Love is necessary - obviously - at the very beginning.

Once more as today's first reading begins: "Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love."

So when we begin to look at the this great issue of The Great Hungers - we need to start with children.  We need to put major resources into children - to give them a lot of head starts - not just with education - but with being wanted, welcomed, saluted, talked to, held, every day. After being fed food - all need to be fed love - in all its forms each day. 

This homily has long left the pulpit .... 

I'm seeing this as a chance to line up in one place a lot of thoughts on some of these basic hungers we all have for a richer life.

If I've lost you by now, you're not reading this. If you're still with me, let keep rolling on.

Speaking of children - let me place here something I learned way back in 1966. 

I first heard this from a psychiatrist at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington D.C. We had just finished our seminary training as priests in upstate New York. Now we were at St. Mary's, Annapolis, Maryland. Part of that program was to attend some lectures at a psychiatric hospital in D.C. I don’t know if I wrote it down on paper, but I wrote it down on the walls of my mind this principle: “The bigger the problem - the earlier the problem.”

I have said that statement to myself hundreds of times ever since - especially as I listened to people talk about their children and their lives.

I remembered saying that statement when I was listening to F. Lee Bailey - the famous attorney -  on a TV talk. He was talking about  some of the horrible experiences that happened to his client Alfred DeSalvo - sometimes called,  “The Boston Strangler.”

For the past 48 years as a priest, I have always felt sympathy for anyone who is in a mess or who messes up - especially as they tell me about the early chapters of their autobiographies.

This includes the abused as well as abusers.

Part two of that statement is not popular today - especially because our chanceries have often failed to protect our children - putting too much concern for priests who committed crimes of abuse without concern for the little ones.

We had forgotten Jesus' message: "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea." [Cf. Matthew 18: 6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2.]

We finally got the message: these are crimes and call 911.

Yet I ask inwardly - as I do of most people - “What are the Great Hungers of perpetrators?”

At one time professionals said they could be healed.  Now they often say: “Some can’t be healed.”

For anyone who is a priest - for anyone who is a Christian - for anyone who knows the Prodigal Son story by heart - not being able to be healed is Bad News - not Good News - not Gospel.

Enough on that - and that I most probably - would not voice from the pulpit.

Back to children ….

I don’t have children - but whenever I have a baptism - I love the moment early on when parents and god-parents - and all can be asked  to thumb a tiny sign of the cross on a child.

I love to then read what I believe is a baptismal text from the Gospel of Mark - 10:13-16 -  when Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” 

I love to say in a short homily after reading that text:  “Pass onto this child or these children - not just the sign of the cross - that act of faith - but all the hopes of our faith - that we give these kids our love and our time - a love which is all about caring and serving - giving and sacrificing - so that  these kids pick up all these acts of kindness and love. Children - all our lives -  hunger for love - and in giving we receive - in dying to self - we are rising to new life.

I love to say that children are our most basic teachers - and those who don’t love children - ain’t going to get to God - “for God is love.” 

Isn't that what the text we heard from 1st John  is saying to us today.

Once more: Here are 1st John’s opening words in today’s first reading: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

This 1st Letter of John is a great place to begin if you have a hunger for scriptures - because down deeper you have a hunger for God.

And John tells us - visible before invisible. Action before talk.

“Love is all you need ….” “Love is what we need….” That’s a bottom line that we hear everyday in the air from the radio and iTunes -  in all those love songs. 

Love is the bottom line. It's the deepest reason why we are working, living. It's for connection and communion - relationships - with real visible others who are in our minds, thoughts, senses - people with names and personalities - family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, associates, etc. etc. those in our space - in our face - everyday.

So I’m saying here what the scriptures are saying, “The Greatest Hunger is for communion with people - community." It starts with the need for food - and then to see visible people - the face - the eyes - the smile - of our mom and dad - and this leads us down deep to the greatest human hunger - to be in and with God.

As Christians our revelation is that this God is not just a word - but a Word who became flesh and told us about Our Father and the Spirit of Love between them - that our God is a Trinity of Persons - who are in unity - in love - with each other. Now that’s mystery big time.

As Christians there are many more revelations and mysteries. For our purposes here - because I've been talking about food - there is the second great revelation from the Word made flesh - from the 2nd Person in this God of ours: God is Bread.

If one thinks about all this - at times it makes so much sense: Bread, Wine, Hunger, Thirst, communion, eating with each other. One family table - things we hunger for - not to go it alone. The Mass - what we’re doing right now.


Today’s Gospel - Mark 6: 33-44 - as I said - also triggered these comments about The Great Hunger. 

Today’s gospel story of the Loaves and the Fishes  tells the story of Jesus seeing this vast crowd starving - and he asked that they be fed till they were satisfied - and he will help in the feeding.

Our call is to feed our own families first. This is a daily task - this working for daily bread.

Then the scream of today’s gospel: there are others who are hungry. We’re all in this together.

Of course there are the hungry in our midst - of course there are starving people in our world - and in places right now - Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, - starvation is being used as a weapon.

We're not there. We're here.

There are things we can do here. We can keep food pantries working. We can  keep St. Vincent de Paul help coming. We can pitch in and help put Lighthouse Shelter meals on the table  as well as sandwiches to hand out.

The message is to see visible hungers first - and they will trigger the reality of invisible hungers.

I like St. Mary’s theme, motto, for this year: “Every Person Matters.”

I think every person down deep has the Great Hunger to matter.

Two challenges from Mother Teresa still sound in our ears:

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody."


If you are still reading this, like you I hunger for a closing - not a conclusion - I made a lot of those already in this blog homily.

Today we might run into a situation where we are able to help someone who is cold and hungry for food and shelter. Just do it - if possible.

Today we certainly will meet people who will say something to us. Whatever it is, let’s listen to each other today.

Listen to that kid - to a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, and say, “Wait a second…. What did you just say? Let me hear that again. I want to get what you're saying. Thanks!”

And they will experiencing someone trying to  listen to them - seeing someone looking them in the eye.

Surprise they will be getting a glimpse that they matter to someone else.

Surprise - they are experiencing communion - receiving  a slice of bread that can bring them into deeper satisfaction with another human being as well as God.

Surprise these tiny daily moments feed our great hunger to be heard, noticed, known, loved. Then in being loved we both experience God in the communion - this God within us - around us - for God is love. Amen.


Picture on top: Potato Famine sculptures in Dublin, Ireland

A Poem for Today - January 7, 2014

Memory of my Father

Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumbled on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.

And I remember the musician
Faltering over his fiddle
In Bayswater, London,
He too set me the riddle.

Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
"I was once your father." 

© Patrick Kavanagh [1904-1967]

Picture: Igor Pereira Fotobrafo -Jan. 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014


Today January 6th - is the feast of another North American Saint: Brother Andre Bessette [1845-1937]

He is known for his welcoming smile as the greeter doorkeeper at St. Joseph’s. So we too smile at his famous line: “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained there for 40 years.”

I have a nice memory of taking a dream trip for my mom and dad  - to see the 3 Famous French Canadian Shrines: Sainte Anne de Beupre, then Cap-de-la-Madeline which was at the meeting spot of the St. Laurence and Saint-Maurice rivers in Quebecand finally St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.

We first went to Sainte Anne de Beupre - pictured right below this: 

Next we we went to Our Lady's shrine at Cap-de-la-Madeline. Here's a picture of the old shrine right below:

It was the late 1960’s. I remember my sister Peggy and I making fun of my mother who had to climb any long series of steps at a shrine on her knees. Just take a look at these steps at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal - which was the 3rd and last stop for us.

That was the first time I heard the name of Brother Andre.

Hearing about his life at this great shrine of St. Joseph impressed me. What grabbed me from moment one was that smile and that look of this Holy Cross Brother.  I was to see it in several Redemptorist brothers in my life time.

As I did yesterday for St. John Neumann, here is a short video I found on line about this neat  person - Brother AndrĂ© Bessette, C.S.C. 



The title of my homily for this Monday after Epiphany is, “Walking and Talking!”

Walking and talking: two simple realities. They can be profound or not so profound or just so so. So it’s an all depends.

Walking and talking: two things people have been doing since the beginning of the human story.

Just walking …. Just talking …. Just moving along somewhere - in some place ….

To understand Jesus is to understand walking and talking - two things that don’t necessarily go together.


Today’s gospel from Matthew 4:12-17 - 23-25 - has Jesus moving in a odd shaped triangle - going from the wilderness area in Judea in the  south - where he was in the desert after he was baptized by John the Baptist  - going back to Nazareth where he  grew up. This would be a trip of about 80 miles. Then Matthew says he left Nazareth and goes to Capernaum by the sea. This would be a trip of about 20 miles.

I’ve been to Israel once. If you’ve been there, pinch yourself, because you hear the scriptures differently. If you get a chance to get there, go for it.

As I read today’s gospel - or any of the gospels, I picture what I saw in Israel in January of 2000 or I start looking up what I can learn about a text. 

Then there are the wonderings - the questions - that pop up:

Did Jesus travel on foot? I assume so. That’s what it sounds like in the gospels to me.

Did he travel alone - like in today’s gospel - after leaving the desert?

What did he see - when he looked out those eyes?

Did he see differently than before he was baptized by John and then go into the desert?

Did the arrest of John trigger the movement in his being to start  walking and talking - teaching and preaching?


I saw Palestine - Israel - the Holy Land - by bus.

I was with 22 priests. We had the benefit of a Scripture Scholar - Stephen Doyle - a Franciscan - as our leader and commentator - the one who could answer our questions.

In a way I saw more by bus. I remember looking out the window and seeing something that looked like a pen - a fenced in stockade - with both sheep and goats together - on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

We landed in Tel Aviv - took the bus to the Lake of Galilee - saw the north - for the first few days. 

Then we took headed from Capernaum to Jerusalem - a journey of 120 miles. We went down the eastern side of the Jordan River - through Jericho - taking a side trip to the Dead Sea - and then back up to the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Stephen Doyle said we would be where the Old Road would have been - provided it didn't rain. It didn't.

I saw first hand from a seat at a bus window - what I would not have seen from the road - how easy it would be from robbers to leap down from a small cliff and rob someone on the road to Jerusalem or from Jericho.

Going slow - sometimes you see and hear more ….

Going low - sometimes you see and hear more….

Going high - sometimes you see more because you’re at a distance …..


One great way to read scriptures is to use the many Biblical Picture books that are around or abound. Another way is to type into a search engine - if you’re a computer user - a name like "Nazareth", or "Judean Desert" or "Capernaum" - and see the pictures and listen to the information that pops us.


The title of my short reflection is “Walking and Talking”.

One great way to grow in the spiritual life is to walk and talk to a friend - and tell each other what you wonder about. That’s a good New Year’s resolution.  

Important as well - is to walk and talk to yourself - and pick up what Jesus thought about and figured out as he walked along the roads of this life as well. Amen


A Poem for Today January 6, 2014


People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when…
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies. 

© Ogden Nash [1902-1971]

Photograph: Kvikken

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Today January 5th, is the Feast of St. John Neumann - a diocesan priest, who became a Redemptorist, who then became the Bishop of Philadelphia. 

He was born March 28, 1811 in Bohemia - now in Czech - and died in Philadelphia today, January 5th, 1860 - 49 years of age.

Check out this short film on St. John Neumann by just scratching his nose!



The title of my homily is, “Epiphany!”

Epiphany: we know the word means “showing” - “manifestation” - “appearance”.

"Epi' - a prefix - from the Greek - meaning - “on” - “upon” - “attached to” - “over” - “besides” - “after” - “outer”.

"Phany"- from the Greek verb “phaneroo” “to show”.

So we’re celebrating the showing of God to the world - and the light shines upon - it attaches itself to one baby - born in Bethlehem.

So we’re celebrating the moment when God shows God to the whole world - as indicated from the Magi or Wise Men - or Kings - from around the world - who come looking for him - and God is discovered to be a new born baby.

This Epiphany is a moment a light. A star appeared in the sky - and leads these magi - from the east - to Jerusalem - and then to Bethlehem.

This is big stage stuff. We’ve all been to plays where the theater is in darkness. Then a spot light casts down a bright light from above and focuses on a star on stage. Then we listen to someone break into song or story!

Or we might have seen these new light pointers. Teachers and lecturers use them to point out a specific statistic on a chart or part of sculpture in a gallery or museum. 



Today’s three readings point out what we need to see.

The first reading from Isaiah 60: 1-6 announces to Jerusalem, “Your light has come!” It says, “See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over your appears his glory.”

I assume that those who chose this reading, chose it because it connects well with the quote from Micah 5:1 - which we hear in today’s gospel from Matthew 2:1-12. The magi went to Jerusalem - and obviously went to the king - who was Herod - and asked, “Where’s the new born king?”

And Herod assembles the chief priests and the scribes and asks them the same question: “Where is the Christ to be born?”

So we have two Jewish scripture passages that back up that a Messiah is to come and he is to be born in Bethlehem. Matthew will continue to do that throughout his gospel.

In today’s second reading from Ephesians,  the key word is “revelation”. The mystery has been revealed - and now has been also been revealed to the Gentiles as coheirs - copartners.

Epiphany - Revelation - Light - Theophany - The Showing - What is Made Clear - What is Divulged - Where the Spotlight Lands - is Christ.

“Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” as we sing.

That’s why we have the light on the baby in the crib - as well as - and I assume - the star on the top of the Christmas tree.

If it’s an angel on top of your Christmas tree - that brings us, I also assume - to the other great Christmas moment - the night when the Shepherds heard the angel singing and pointing them to the Crib in Bethlehem.

Whether we’re king or shepherd - wise or uneducated - Christ the baby beckons us forward - to be met - to be discovered.

Come as you are! Come with hands empty. Come with hands full.

Don’t we get that little “Uh oh! Oh no!” twinge - when we get out of the car and we’re heading into a house for a party - and every one has a crock pot or a plate or a plastic something with them - and we have nothing.

If that happens to you appear at the house as a shepherd and not a king!

Down through the centuries some Catholic cultures stress Christmas as the big feast - the giving of gifts on Christmas - and other cultures the feast of Epiphany is the big feast - Christ coming to the Gentiles - symbolized by the kings.

Check out our crib - the shepherds and Wise men stand or kneel side by side adoring Christ the new born babe in Bethlehem.

The kings have the things. The shepherds bring themselves. The baby doesn’t care - as long as we’re there.


One of my favorite stories is one that happened to me a long time ago,

I was visiting this couple I had married a few years earlier.

In their apartment,  I was sitting on the couch talking across the room to both of them. Their little son was making a racket - climbing up onto the metal radiator that rimmed the room. I noticed that he liked one particular spot where there was a window. It was facing the west - facing the setting sun. With both hands on the window sill and both feet on the radiator - he would let go of one hand and start grasping for something in the air - something coming into the room. I was wondering if it was the breeze.

He’s slip off and then get back on the metal radiator. With shoes on he was making lots of noise. 

It must have been was obvious that I was trying to figure out what he was doing. I must have had a puzzled face - squeezed into a question mark.

His mother said, “You’re wondering what Little Sal is doing - aren’t you?”

I said, “Yeah!”

His mom, Ann said, “He does that all the time. He’s trying to grab the light.”

That happened in the early 1970’s and I have never forgotten that moment. He became a school teacher. I wonder if he’s still trying to grab the light.

That kid is each of us. We spend our lives searching - grasping for the light. We spend our lives hopefully having Epiphany moments.


And obviously - the epiphany moment - the revelation - is the moment we experience meeting Christ the Light of the World. Amen.

And obviously, as we grasp the gospel more and more - as it becomes us more and more - we realize we are called to then to be the Light of the World to others - so that they too discover Christ - in us - and on and on an on.


A Poem for Today - January 5, 2014


It is easy to be young. (Everybody is,
at first.) It is not easy
to be old. It takes time.
Youth is given; age is achieved.
One must work a magic to mix with time
in order to become old.

Youth is given. One must put it away
like a doll in a closet,
take it out and play with it only
on holidays. One must have many dresses
and dress the doll impeccably
(but not to show the doll, to keep it hidden.)

It is necessary to adore the doll,
to remember it in the dark on the ordinary
days, and every day congratulate
one’s ageing face In the mirror.

In time one will be very old.
In time, one’s life will be accomplished.
And in time, in time, the doll --
like new, though ancient -- will be found.

- May Swenson

May Swenson: ‘How To Be Old’ © 1963 by May Swenson