Saturday, January 18, 2014


Poem for Today - January 18, 2014


Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead
Through which the living Homer begged his bread.

Sketch of Homer
the Poet - but nobody
knows what 
he looked like.

Friday, January 17, 2014



The title of my homily for this Friday in the First Week of the Year is, “Paralyzed - As Metaphor.”

How many times in our lives have we said, “I was paralyzed. I was stuck. I found myself unable to do anything. I just froze”?

That’s being “Paralyzed - As Metaphor.”


Here is Jesus  in today's gospel - Mark 2: 1-12 - experiencing a man who was paralyzed.

Jesus is preaching and surprise this man is being lowered down through a hole in the roof - right in front of him.

Mark who is known for details - certainly details a great story for all of us. We can picture the scene. We can picture the faces of the great crowd surrounding Jesus. Everyone's mouth must have been wide open big.

Being up front here in this church or any church - looking out - I can see how many people in church watch people walk  down the aisle during a reading or a sermon or after the Mass starts. I’m used to it - and I realize that the person coming down the aisle probably doesn’t see the crowd watching him or her. 

For example, last Sunday there was a guy - ¾ back in St. Malry's church - center aisle. I could see him standing up and turning around -  during my sermon. Obviously, he was looking for someone in the back. Finally they came in. I could see him getting out into the main aisle and going back to them. Then he marched them down the main aisle like an usher to where he had been sitting - and got them all into that bench. A good many folks in the back of the church were watching all this. I was watching all this as well. 

It didn’t paralyze me. It didn’t make me speechless. I’m used to it. I’ve seen some priests get miffed - and frustrated - at scenes like that. 

Or about two months ago -a guy fainted in a bench on my right. It was during the first reading.  I realized the whole back of the church was watching the doctors and nurses and then the EMT’s getting into that bench to help him. Finally, he was wheeled him out on a gurney. Later on, I jokingly said, “For those in the back who want to hear my sermon, I’ll repeat it after Mass.

Those in front, who didn’t see all this, didn’t know what I was talking about.

Back to today's gospel.... 
Obviously, Jesus was way, way, way, way cleverer and quicker than us preachers. He moved away from whatever he was preaching or talking about to what was taking place right in front of him. He went with the obvious - going from paralysis of the body to paralysis of the spirit.

And then some of  the listeners - who were watching all this - hearing all this - became paralyzed - because they could not accept Jesus’ message about the ability to be forgiven.

As priest, as human, I have met all kinds of people who go through life paralyzed - with a limp in their personality - with a hurt in their memory - with a sore on their soul - that they won’t let heal.

They made a mistake and they can’t let it go. It wears them out. Something they did when they were 17 or 27 or 37 is still weighing them down at 57, 67 or 77.


Then there are those other things that bother us - and then paralyze us. 

What’s on your list of pet peeves? 

One that grabs me is translators of documents. For example today’s gospel for years translated Mark 2:8 this way: “Why do you harbor these thoughts?” Now they have Jesus saying - all this in  English mind you, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts?” I liked the metaphor - the image - of “harbor” - but someone dropped that translation.

Well I harbor the beauty of the use of the word “harbor” in this text. 

So that’s one of my pet peeves. So I can get paralyzed or stuck about - translators. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

So enough. Move on.


The title and theme and thought of my homily for today is: “Paralyzed - As Metaphor.”

I’m asking: where do we get paralyzed, stuck, frozen? Is it sins? Is it the past? Is it others? Is it the iddy biddy?

Where do we hear Jesus saying to us, “Let it go. Let it go. Be forgiven. Give others a chance to be different or what have you. Pick yourself up and get moving. Amen.”


Painting on top: The Palsied Man Let Down Through the Roof [1886-1896] by James Tissot [1839-1902].


Poem for Today - January 17, 2014


Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within,  it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed 
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it 
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all,
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

© Charles Simic [1938- ]
Check out and compare 
this poem with the poem 
for January 9 2014,
 "Locked In".
Thanks to Pat Tyrrell 
who sent me this poem
called, "Stone"..

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Poem For Today - January 16, 2014

Primer Lesson

Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go,
it is not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots;
they walk off proud;
they can’t hear you calling -
Look out how you use proud words.

                             - Carl Sandburg

© Carl Sandburg: ‘Primer Lesson’ 
from Slabs of the Sunburnt West, 1922 

Top caption is based
on e.e. cummings  words, 
"be of love a little more 
careful than anything

Painting: Vincent Van Gogh,
A Pair of Shoes, 1886

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Poem for Today - January 15, 2013


 I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o'er the ground
With his cane.
They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
Through the town.
But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
"They are gone!"
The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.
My grandmamma has said--
Poor old lady, she is dead
Long ago--
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
In the snow;
But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
In his laugh.
I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer!
And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
Where I cling.

© Oliver Wendell Holmes [1809-1894]

Check out the following on NPR program. It's all about leaves. Just hit that http!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014



The title of my homily for this First Tuesday in Ordinary Time comes out of today’s gospel [Mark 1: 21-28] A man - described as having an unclean spirit - is in the synagogue that Jesus entered. He cries out at Jesus, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

I always thought the first part of that moment - the question - is a great morning prayer. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to pause each morning after waking up and asking Jesus, “What have you do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

Then to pause again…. Then to think about what we are going to do this day …. Whom we’re going to see? Then to ask Jesus in prayer: “How can you be with me - with those I’m going to be with today?”

Then to pause again, to think, to listen to Jesus…. Then to receive Jesus in communion…. Then together - with his Spirit - to work together to make today the best day we can make it….

Jesus didn’t come to destroy our fun - our spirits - our smarts - our lives - our daily work load - our daily stuff - our creativity. He came to restore, to renew, to build up daily moments - daily expenditures - daily happenings - daily breaks - chats - chance meetings.

That’s how I see why Jesus came - not just 2000 years ago as a baby, but for today ….


If that question of that guy in the synagogue in Capernaum that day doesn’t grab you as a good morning prayer, then by default go to St. Francis’ Peace prayer as a daily morning prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace today - where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury pardon, where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy - not so much as seeking to be consoled as to console, not to be understood as to understand, not to be loved as to love.

Either way - have a quick morning prayer - each day.


Everyday we don’t learn something new, but wouldn’t that be neat if we did, if that happened?

I love what I call Malcolm Miller Moments. They are learning moments. They are moments when someone says something that gives us a life wisdom - an insight - an, “Aha! Okay! Got it!”

It’s 1996. I’m standing amongst a crowd of about 40 people in Chartres Cathedral in France - listening to a famous expert tour guide, docent. He says the following: “Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came to this cathedral for centuries. This was the Marian Shrine of Europe. And what did they come to see? It was Mary’s cloak…. a relic from her life.”

Then Malcolm Miller said the following: “It didn’t make any difference if it was the cloak of Mary. What made a difference was that everyone beloved it was the cloak of Mary.”

That comment had a great impact on me. I didn’t know it would - when I heard it, but looking back it became what I would call a Malcolm Miller Moment. It’s a moment when someone provides me a great insight - that impacts for life.

I thought of that comment when I was reading William Barclay’s commentary on today’s gospel. He said: in Jesus’ time some people believed that there were seven and a half million demons here on earth. Each person has 10,000 on their right and 10,000 on their left.

Evil spirits were everywhere. Then Barclay said the same thing that I heard Malcom Miller say, “It does not matter whether or not we believe in all this; whether it is true or not is beside the point. The point is that the people in the New Testament times did.”


People today don’t believe there are evil spirits everywhere - but listen carefully, people worry about influences around them - that they don’t like - and don’t want for their kids - or for themselves.

This day they might feel like Hannah in today’s first reading - because they have a bitter spirit. Or they might feel like Eli in today’s first reading and they have a judging others spirit - and they don’t like that they are doing just that - thinking Hannah to be a drunk. [Cf. 1 Samuel 1: 9-20]

So we know what it’s like to have bad spirits pervading us.

So do we believe we can ask Jesus to be in us today - as we deal with influences, attitudes, demons - our ugly spirits - whatever you want to call them and Jesus can help us make today a great day? Amen.

Poem for Today - January 14, 2014


When they call out
          “Man overboard!”
The ocean liner, big as a house
Suddenly stops
And the man
          is fished out with ropes.
But when
          a man’s soul is overboard
When he is drowning
          in horror
          and despair
They enter his own house
Does not stop
          but sails on.”

© Sergei Chudakov, a dissident Russian Poet, on page 2 in Denys Thompson, What To Read in Engish Literature, {Totowa, Jew Jersey, Rowman and Littlefield, 1975, pp. 154

Monday, January 13, 2014



The title of my homily is, “The Digs that Dig Deep Into the Human Heart.”

They can kill us - slowly. They can bury us.

Being hit by a sharp word - can be like being hit in the head by the edge of a steel spade shovel. Now that would hurt.

Other titles could have been: “The Words that Wound!” or “The Comments That Cut or Crush!”

Whatever title chosen - the challenge in this homily is to try to challenge each of us to stop with “The Digs That Dig Deep Into the Human Heart.”


Today’s first reading triggers this homily….

Today’s first reading from the opening words of the First Book of Samuel tells of a nasty habit that happens amongst us humans: put downs! We put each other down.

A man named Elkanah has two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah has sons and daughters by him; Hannah is barren.

It’s a sad story - because even though the text says Elkanah loved Hannah more, when they went to the temple in Shiloh, he gave Peninnah more food from the sacrifice - because she gave him children. The worse words in the story is that Peninnah would taunt Hannah just to annoy her.

Being barren, not having children, caused Hannah great tears and great sadness. Seeing this, sensing this, today’s text ends with her husband saying, “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

The Jewish storyteller of 1 Samuel is obviously echoing the story of Sarah and Hagar in the book of Genesis 16: 1-5. He is also echoing the reality that goes on with people down through the years.

Hey world, look at me, my kids are A Students at The School. Hey world, look at me - look at my skin, my thinness, my car, my house, my gold, my vacations, my dog, my Mass going, my place of birth.

Unspoken message: I’m better than you!

Motive: Perhaps we human beings put each other down - so we can step on the person down below and look taller.


I noticed a drawing in The New York Times Book Review years and years ago. It simply shows a mouth - with a zipper on it - and the zipper is closed.

The obvious message is to zip our lips.

Stop the zingers.

Instead build people up.

It’s my experience, no matter what positive things Hannah’s husband says to her, like you’re worth more to me than ten sons - one zinger weighs 100 times more than the weight of one compliment.

Isn’t that why scenes in the movie As Good As It Gets - jump off the screen - every time Jack Nicholson puts his foot in his mouth and says the wrong thing every time.


We humans do this consciously and unconsciously.

If we zip our lip and slip into our minds - and think about the “Ouch” comments we make, maybe we can get in touch with our unconscious feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.

Innuendos - like arrows have that pointed tip. If we don’t shoot them into the air at others, we can follow the arrow back to its quiver - and see inside ourselves - what’s really going on with us.

What’s true richness? What’s real success? What really matters.

Our gospel is also a beginning - new beginnings for Peter and Andrew, James and John. They leave all to follow Jesus,

My message for today is to leave the dig a hole in the ground and throw the digs in them - bury them and move on and discover the Kingdom of God. Amen.


Poem for Today - January 13, 2014


My father’s friend came once to tea.
He laughed and talked. He spoke to me.
But in another week they said
That friendly pink-faced man was dead.

“How sad …” they said, “the best of men …”
So I said too, “How sad”; but then
Deep in my heart I thought, with pride,
“I know a person who has died.”

© Francis Cornford [1874-1943]

Sunday, January 12, 2014



The title of my homily is “Different!”

As I thought about this feast of the Baptism of the Lord - which we celebrate this Sunday, my mind went through various things.

I read the readings. I thought about what was said. Then I usually say a prayer: “Come Holy Spirit!”  I pause and listen.

If nothing hits me, I read the readings again and once more say, “Come Holy Spirit!”  I pause and listen.

If nothing hits me, I read the readings again and ask: what questions - what thoughts - what wonderings - would someone reading or hearing these readings have?”

In the middle of all that, the word “Different” jumped up at me.

“Different!” So a homily today on something about “Different”.


Some days are different than other days. Some moments everything feels the same - the same old - same old. And I hear the word, “Boring.”

How many times in our life have we thought, “Wait a minute. Isn’t this déjà vu all over again?”

It might be about food or about others or ourselves.  Didn’t we have this for supper last night,  Didn’t you tell me about this before?

What’s this guy babbling about in the pulpit this Mass? It’s sounds like the same old - same old? It doesn’t sound different.

I’ve preached on these readings for this feast of the Baptism of our Lord at least 100 times now - probably a lot more. I’ve baptized hundreds of babies.

I’ve eaten thousands of hamburgers. Is this one any different than that one I had 17 years ago in that place on the water - in Charleston, South Carolina?  Now that was a great hamburger?

We’ve seen well over 1000 football games - and I’m sure there are folks who have never seen even one game.

What’s it like to be a head coach for the first time? Will this coach be different from the last few coaches? Will my team ever make it to the Super Bowl?

We watch TV hoping for the different. But then again, sometimes we love re-runs. My father knew all 39 episodes of The Honeymooners by heart. That last year of his life, he had emphysema pretty badly. He couldn’t move around too much. I have fond memories of sitting with him - watching The Honeymooners and hear him tell me about the next scene to come. He’d say, “Watch this….. Watch this!”  He knew all the lines and all the jokes before they came on.

So I remember  watching together with my dad in Brooklyn a TV series about 4 people in Brooklyn - Alice and Ralph Kramden - Ed and Trixie Norton - The Honeymooners.

Not all the days of our lives are the same. Isn’t that a TV show too - soap opera: “Days of Our Lives”?

There are memories. There are moments. There are different days than the other days.

There are regrets and there are happy memories - as we look back on the Days of Our Lives. No I never watched that program with my mom - but I did hear that she watched the soaps near the end of her life.

Looking at our life? What’s different? What are those things I can do to make this day different - especially  for those around me?


The Mass  - if it’s to have a grab - it has to be seen as a different hour than the other 167 hours of our week.

So too Sunday - Sabbath - these 24 hours ….

The Mass ….

Why do you come here to Mass? 

Why do I come here to Mass? 

We know the classic distinction between "have to" and "want to". We know the change in language about the Mass that's been going on for years now: celebration not obligation. 

So sometimes I’m up here because it’s my job. Yet a long time ago I decided: "I don't want to be here because it's a job. It is work. But I want to be here because I want to be here. I come here for the same reason I eat: to be with others and to be nourished."

This hour is a time for just that? I could also ask, "What was the best meal you were ever at?"  

If you have a clear answer to that - compare your answer to the best Mass you were ever at.

Hear yourself saying, "That meal ... that Mass ... was different because ...."

Notice that word "different".

So this weekend - as I was working on this homily - I was wondering where this word “different” would take me.

It might have been because of watching TV last night. I don’t know.

A few of us were watching the baseball channel last night. Hey football season is over for most of us. A promised upcoming program was to ask different retired baseball players, “What was your most memorable game?”  It looked like they are going to ask Cal Ripken that question one of these nights.

Sitting there we said: “His record breaking game!”

Will that be his answer: “September 6, 1995, Camden Yards, Baltimore, my 2131 straight game?”

Or will it be his 2632 game?

While just sitting there, I asked Father Joe Krastel that question - his most memorable baseball game. His answer: a snore.

So I asked Father Jack Harrison his best game and he said, “The game I caught a guy Lenny Miller. He had 18 strikeouts - against the Irish Christian brothers.”

Now that’s different.

For myself, I couldn’t remember any specific game - other than being part of a triple play once - which won the game for us - or the time I hit a long fly ball deep into some trees in left field - but it was only batting practice. It was probably not that long a hit. I would have been about 155 pounds at the time.

What was the best Mass I was ever at? Answers would be the funerals of family members. Those moments make it really worth while to be a priest - and also other funerals - and weddings - and a Mass one night in Reading Pennsylvania - for all the parishes in that area. They told me there were over 20,000 people there - in a park - but I couldn’t seen any person - because of the lights. That was very different. Was anyone sleeping? I couldn’t see.

What was the best Mass you were at?

Each Sunday Mass…. is there anything you do that makes this hour different than all the other hours of the week?

I love the moment in a baseball or football or basketball game when a player gets a great hit or makes a great play - and pauses and raises his index finger to God - and I hear him or her saying, “Give God the Glory!” Ever since I started to see that - at every Sunday Mass - while we are saying or singing the Gloria - as a group - I sense we’re doing just that: giving God the glory.

I love the moment at Mass when I get to say over the bread and over the wine, “This is my Body…. This is my Blood….” because for the past 7 years or so at Baptisms I ask the parents of a new born baby to put the baby on the altar - just where the bread and wine sit - unless there are 6 babies. They all fit there. I say, “Hold onto that baby - and repeat after me: ‘This is my body…. This is my blood …. we’re giving our life to you.’”

On that altar here - a lot of babies have sat or just lay there - in the past 7 years  - as well as a lot of bread and wine. Recently one little girl - she must have been almost 1 - stood up and started to dance - and everyone clapped and she loved it. A star was born. I think they got it on video.


Better come to a conclusion - of some sorts - and I’ve been studying homilies lately and I realize my endings need a lot of work - so how do I end this baby?

If you’re married …. when was the moment - you looked across a crowded room - and there she was - or there he was - and that other was different - and your parents wondered when they met your other for the first time: “How is this one different from the last one?”

What was the different that got you married?

Has your marriage become same old same old same old - or could you do anything different - better - unique - right now - not waiting till February 14th every year? Is your marriage only 39 episodes - repeated over and over again. If it is, maybe it’s time for a new honeymoon?

If you have kids, have you ever put your hands on your kid’s head and said what God the Father said over Jesus in today’s gospel: “This is my beloved Son [or daughter] with whom I am well pleased.”

Have you ever seen your children - if you’re blessed with them - that they are your body and your blood - and you’ve given your life for them?

Have you ever expressed that thanks to them and to our God? When was the last time we gave them attention, recognition, praise, a good compliment - as opposed to a complaint or a gripe or a correction - or an expressed disappointment?

Hint …. hint …. Atta boys, Atta girls, make a difference.

Hint …. hint …. thinking and praying over this stuff during this hour - called "Mass"  can make the other 167 hours that much more glorious.

Have we ever paused and heard God say that over us? “You are my body…. you are my blood.  You are my beloved daughter…. you are my beloved son.”

Do I realize I’m different?

Do I realize I’m called to make a difference in this world - and that’s why I was created?

Poem For Today - January 12, 2014


If you want to marry me,
here’s what you’ll have to do
You must learn how to make
a perfect chicken dumpling stew
And you must sew my holey socks
and you must soothe my
troubled mind
And develop the knack for scratching my back
And keep by shoes spotlessly shined
And while I rest you must rake the leaves
And when it is hailing and snowing
You must shovel the walk, and
be still when I talk
And – hey where are you going?

© Shel Silverstein