Saturday, February 8, 2014


Poem for February 8, 2014


The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life. 

© Derek Walcott

Friday, February 7, 2014


The first shall be last ....
The pay is the same, no matter
when you enter the vineyard ....
Lost sheep, coins, and sons are found ....
Rocks are dropped ....
Turn the other cheek ….
Go the extra mile….
Give the shirt off your back ....
Forgive till your skin comes off ….
Sometimes there are weeds
that grow along with the wheat!
Get used to them….
Plant mustard seeds ….
Blessed are the poor in spirit ….
The treasure, the pearl, is there,
so keep searching. If you’re wise,
or if you're blessed, you’ll find it ….
God is not what you expected ….
Starting as a baby ….
Ending as if a criminal on a cross ….
In between he walks around as
a king who washes feet and pushes peace ....
He feeds the hungry with bread and fish ….
Serves the best wine last ….
The crazies know who he is ….
Those with their nose in the air don’t….
Reads faces, eyes, minds, hearts ….
Heals the blind, the lame, and the deaf….
Eats with sinners and dines with them….
A carpenter who knows where the fish are ….
Someone who knew what love really is:
giving yourself like you’re bread -
so others can eat you up - and as a
result you can be in communion
with each other…. and surprise,
you better get used to this one:
for wine to be wine,
you’re going to be crushed….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2014



The title of my homily for this 4th Friday in Ordinary Time is a question for all of us, “Is It Good To Be The King?”

Or Queen for that matter?


The topic came up because in today’s 2 readings we have stories that come out of the life of two different kings.

The first reading is from the Book of Sirach. It’s a summary of praises for King David. For these first four weeks of Ordinary Time we’ve had readings from the 1st and 2nd Book of Samuel - all stories that lead up to the Great King David of Israel - who ruled for 40 years.[Cf. Sirach 47:2-11]

Today’s gospel features a story about King Herod the Tetrarch - one of the 4 King Herods in the Scriptures. This is the one who has John the Baptist beheaded.[Cf. Mark 6: 14-29]


In the movie History of the World, Part One, Mel Brooks is the king.  In some of the scenes - I can’t mention innuendos, etc. at Mass - he uses the line, “It’s Good To Be The King.” a few times.

He kisses and cheats and looks to the movie camera and says, “It’s good to be the king.”

We see him as king playing chess on this big tennis court size chess board - and as king he cheats - and takes extra moves - and once more he looks into the camera and says, “It’s good to be the king.”

I’ve heard people use that line down through the years - as a joke line.

The title of my homily is the question: “Is It Good To Be The King?”


Another question: does everyone sometime in their life wish they were someone else?

When we were teenagers did we want to have the other person’s look, clothes, money, car, friends, parents?  Did we wish we were so and so who got all A’s - and it was no effort?  Did we wish we were better athletes, had better skin, no acne?

As we got older, did we wish we were so and so when it came to having the better job? The better life choice? The home, kids, spouse, lawn, car, parties?


The wisdom teachers constantly tell people: “Be yourself!”

To try to be someone else - disaster.

Parents have told their kids that from the beginning of time.

I’ve been hearing these past two years the saying: “It is what it is.”

Does anyone apply that to themselves? I am who I am.

I always liked that as God’s answer to Moses at the Burning Bush. A voice tells Moses that he has to go back and face the Pharaoh and tell him to set the Israelites free - and Moses asks the Voice, “Wait a minute. Who are you?”  And the Voice says, “I Am Who Am.”

That’s basic person:  “I am who I am!”

I love the saying, “Be who you is, because if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.”

I am who I am - wrinkles - sags - and body nags.

I am my story - so far. We can revise our history - even lie to ourselves - but I am who I am.


King David was King David.

When I was stationed in New York City, way back when, I noticed in the paper a talk by a Rabbi - about King David.

What I still remember about the talk was this: the power of the pencil.

David got great reviews - even though he was a disaster as a father and a disaster as a husband.

His fans - revised his history - for centuries.  He was basically a smart guerrilla fighter - who took over most of the Israel territory.

He had 17 sons - who ended up as a cast of some horrible characters - one raping his sister - and many of them fighting each other.

David had Uriah killed - in order to get his wife: Bathsheba. I loved that her name was BathSheba - because he spotted while she was taking a bath - and wanted her. Did he say: “It’s good to be the king?”

No. Because that got him in big time trouble - and everyone knew what he did.

Did anyone want that much power? Probably.

Would we want to have that much power?  Would we want to be king, boss, someone other than ourselves? Maybe.

King Herod the Tetrarch - the Herod in today’s gospel - the one who had John the Baptist beheaded - dumped his first wife - the daughter of King Aretas - because he wanted to marry Herodias the wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. Later on - around 36 AD - his first wife’s father, Aretas wages war against Herod - but lost.

Does anyone want to be king, mayor, governor, president? Yes.  Does anyone want to be them now - and not be themselves? Maybe.

I love it that on the chess board the king is one of the weakest of pieces - compared to bishops and knights - and the Queen!  I think the game has that sense of humor to it.

I love it that checkers - seems to be more an American game - when any pawn can make it to be a king.

Do people who read People magazine want to be like the people in the magazine? Is that why it sells? I don’t know.


The title of my homily is, “Is It Good To Be The King?” 

However, in this homily, I want to ask the basic question: “Am I happy to be me?”

I can only be me. 

I can do life my way.  

I can do my life better ways. 

I can always be a better me - but I can only be me. 

Might as well make peace with reality and go - and grow - and flow from there.

Poem for Today - February 7, 2014


I thought that my voyage had come to its end
at the last limit of my power,-
 that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter 
 in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders. 

© Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Poem for Today - February 6, 2014


The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focused; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst. 

© Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, February 5, 2014



The title of my homily for this 4th Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “The Bible Has Different Literary Forms.”

From time to time I think we need to be reminded of something very obvious: “The Bible Has Different Literary Forms.”

For those of you who come to Mass most every day - you hear all kinds of different readings from the Bible. I have discovered that one of the reasons people end up having problems and head scratching with the Bible at times -  is because they forget that there are different kinds of writing in the Bible. For example, they take something literally - when it would be more helpful -  if they took the same passage figuratively.  For example: do you take Genesis 5: 27 literally or figuratively, "In all, Methuselah lived for nine hundred and sixty-nine years; then he died."


We know the difference between a children’s story - like Jack in the Beanstalk  - and an Obituary. We know the difference between a recipe and the Adam and Eve stories in the Book of Genesis.

And speaking of Adam and Eve,  I assume people love the story of God creating Adam out of the clay of the earth and then breathing the breath of life into him. Then we hear the story of all the animals being brought to Adam and he gives a thumbs down to every one of them as a suitable partner. Well, God then puts Adam into a deep sleep and pulls out one of his ribs and builds a woman with that missing rib. [Cf. Genesis 2] And then we can hear the rabbis down through history telling those who are getting married - you are to be one - you are to embrace each other - rib to rib in love - and to be suitable partners.[1]

I assume that people know that every library has different sections: fiction and non-fiction, a children's section and an adult section - history, poetry, art books and cookbooks, etc. etc. etc.

I assume that people know that the word Bible - comes from the plural of the word - and means books. The Bible is a portable library with all kinds of books and all kinds of literature of a people.


What we might not know is that this idea of various literary forms was not always such an out-loud and agreed upon principle by everyone in the Catholic Church.

These 4 years now, the Catholic Church is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council: 1962-1965.

One of the key documents of the Second Vatican Council was The Constitution on Revelation - Dei Verbum.

The initial document met with big time criticism. 60 % wanted to send it back to be rewritten. 2/3 or 66 + was necessary for this - so John 23 intervened and said, “Recast the text.”

Chapter 3, # 12 of the finished constitution states loudly and clearly what I said above about “literary forms.” Those very words appear in the document.

I would recommend every person who comes to Mass - especially Daily Mass - that they read that document again - slowly and study it. If you have a computer you can find it on line for free - along with study guides etc.


So we heard in today’s first reading one more story about David.

I hoped you noticed that it contained one of the world’s great literary forms: that of the 3 wishes.

I’m sure you heard that  literary form in various jokes and cute stories at different times in your life.  It always starts: “You have 3 wishes….”

Because of his sin of counting all the people - perhaps to line up more soldiers - and then depend less on God, David is given 3 wishes: you can have 3 years of famine, 3 months of being hunted down or 3 days of pestilence. David chooses # 3 and our text says, “The Lord then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning to the time appointed and 70,000 of the people died.”

Well, if we understand literary forms and what the Vatican II document on the Bible - Dei Verbum -   is saying, we wouldn’t get hot and bothered about God doing all this. Plagues and drought happen - and people blame God - just as some religious leaders said September 11 happened because of our sins. How many people still say to little kids or to each other, “God punished you!”


Now today’s gospel has a slightly different type of history than the type of history we are hearing in the Books of Samuel. Yet both have a similar principle. There were basic spoken stories that were told among the community. Then for local situations details were adapted - stressed - or what have you. At some point they are written down - and at times revised. The message is more important than the details. So at times we don't get exactly what Jesus said or did. And that’s the beauty of comparing the 4 gospels. We see this when we hear different preachers come up with different stresses on the text we hear at any specific Mass.


It’s my experience that when people first hear this idea about literary forms - they get nervous. However, it's not as much as 50 years ago.  

It's my experience that it's much easier to be a fundamentalist. If the Bible says it - I believe it.

However, in the long run, once you get literary forms, you can have a much richer appreciation of the stories, parables, psalms or songs, different types of history, wisdom literature, and what have you in the Bible.

Moreover, we can avoid arguments by those who have a scientific bent with those who have a fundamentalist bent in interpreting scriptures.

Let me close with a quick story that happened to me.

In 1967 I got my first assignment.  I’m talking at breakfast with this old Redemptorist priest. He mentioned what he was taught - that the world was created in 4004 B.C..  And I said to him: "Impossible! They have rocks that are scientifically shown to be 4 or 5 billions years old. 

His response to my response:  “God created them old.”  

Surprise! He was taught what a Bishop James Ussher  taught - that the world was created Sunday October 23, 4004 B.C. and Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden on November 10, 4004 B.C.

Sometimes silence is golden. 



[1] Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud and Midrash, Chapter 2, pages 19-22; Bill Moyers, Genesis, A Living Conversation, Chapter 1, "In God's Image," pp. 3-37; "Temptation", pp. 40-69; Naomi Rosenblatt and Joshua Horwitz, What Genesis Teaches Us About Our Spiritual Identity, Sexuality, and Personal Relationships, pp, 23-51.

Poem for Today - February 5, 2014


Some people,
no matter what you give them,
still want the moon.

The bread,
the salt,
white meat and dark,
still hungry.

The marriage bed
and the cradle,
still empty arms.

You give them land,
their own earth under their feet,
still they take to the roads

And water: dig them the deepest well,
still it’s not deep enough
to drink the moon from. 

© Denise Levertov

Tuesday, February 4, 2014



The title of my homily is the famous opening line from Shakespeare - from his play King Richard III, “Now is the winter of our discontent….”[1]

The second part of that quote is often left out, “Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

I’m not sure about this, but I suspect grabbing just the words, “Now is the winter of our discontent” - fulfills a need - to put into words a reality that happens at times: “It’s winter. It’s been miserable at times. And it looks like there’s snow and more messy to come.”

At least that’s what the evening news we were watching last night reported. We don’t wish problems on others - but to be honest - I hope these 3 storms heading east  - head way north of  us.

Being stuck in traffic, in airports, in snow, in cold, or the cost of all this can lead to money problems, or there are family problems - that’s the stuff that can freeze us in a winter of discontent.

Last night these were the thoughts I had while going upstairs to write my homily after watching the evening news on TV. The snow in Chicago, then the weather maps showing  big bands of snow and cold heading east - followed by worse news coming  out of Syria. Children are starving - and over 100,000 people have died in this war going on now for 3 years.


We’ve been going through some horrible stories about David in these readings from 2nd Samuel lately. Combining those readings with the stuff that happens in today’s Middle East tells me: so what else is new?

Discontent - wars, rumors of wars, it’s the history of our world.

Then today’s first reading continues with the story of Absalom - and today the dramatic description of his death. [Cf. 2 Samuel 18: 9-10, 14-b, 24-25a, 30-19:3]

So you think you have family problems? The scriptures hide nothing when it comes to David’s family problems. Absalom - his name - means: “Source of Peace” is creating big time problems - none of which is peaceful. Of all David’s 17 sons by various women, Absalom caused him the most agita - the most pain.

David - from what we read in these stories - was a disaster as a father. Absalom was a disaster as a son. He killed his older half brother Amnon because Amnon had raped his sister Tamar. The consequences of that killing lasted at least 5 years. Absalom was on the run - but became bolder and bolder - taunting and name calling all kinds of things about  his father - that David  was losing it. He got a coalition together and drove his dad out of Jerusalem barefoot  and empty handed. He took David’s harem - an ultimate insult. Vanity consumed Absalom - especially glorying in his great hair. Then today we hear in this reading  - how fleeing from a group of David’s soldiers - his hair got caught in some branches. Great story telling…. And Joab - one of David’s generals - immediately takes 3 pikes and stabs Absalom in the heart and kills him. [2]

Figuratively this drives one more sharp pike of pain into David’s heart - wishing that his army would have spared his son - in spite of all that they had don to protect. It took a lot of persuasive powers for Joab to convince David that he was worried more about Absalom than those who had stayed loyal to him.


Yes life at times can be a long winter - a long season of discontent.

The second part of that line from Shakespeare says: “Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” 

What to do? 

Be patient! Spring and summer will come.

In the meanwhile we can go to Jesus - the Son of Man, the Son of God, and do just what the 2 people in today’s gospel did. Like Jairus we can beg for help, like  the woman with the woman's problems, we can reach out simply to touch the edge of Jesus. 

In other words, let  Jesus  come completely into our  hearts and homes - into the winter of our discontent. Amen.



[1] Richard III begins with Gloucester - as in Duke of Gloucester - saying "Now is the winter of our discontent...."  The Winter of our Discontent is also the name of the last  novel by John Steinbeck [1961]  I don't have time, but someone could write about the issue of discontent in this novel - Ethan Allen Hawley with his son Allen - who can be a liar and a cheat - along with Richard III - as well as David and Absalom.

[2] Hubert J. Richards, ABC of the Bible, “Absalom,” page  3. published by Geoffrey Chapman, London, Dublin, Melbourne, 1967, for the National Catechetical Centre, London; John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, “Absalom,” page 6, MacMillan Publishing Company, New York. 

Poem for Today - February 4, 2014


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

(c) Mary Oliver
from her book, Thirst

Monday, February 3, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Throat!”

Today is the feast of St. Blaise. As you know this feast has the long tradition of the day we can get our throats blessed.

As kids I remember this day very distinctly - remembering the two candles tied together -sometimes with the red bow. Remembering as a kid you could finally get something up here in front of the church - not having received First Holy Communion yet.

As priest I have experienced that this ceremony of the Blessing of Throats has a great pull - and value - and significance.

One reason would be that  it takes place only 1 time a year - although in my life time the Church allows us to do this on the Sunday closest to St. Blaise’s feast day. To me it’s like Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. You’re getting something different.

Now - in my opinion - the Church has done some dumb things at times with regards changes - but it has not dropped this practice. I’m sure some purist would say it’s superstitious - or others would say it’s based on mere or sheer legend.

St. Blaise supposedly blessed a kid who got a fish bone caught in his throat.

I’ve heard stories of one or two people dying because of such a problem.

I’ve never given the Heimlich Maneuver. I thought it was interesting that  Henry Heimlich was born on this day - February 3, 1920. He could also be called the Patron Saint of Choking like St. Blaise. As far as I know, he’s not dead yet.  What’s wrong with giving both their due?

In preparing this homily,  I read that the Heimlich Maneuver has been downplayed a bit in recent years.  Other methods should be tried for chocking and drowned victims - like the 5-5 pushes -  into the back and then in the chest. They should also be tried. And I read that in 2003 a Doctor Edward Patrick said he would like to get co-credit with Doctor Henry Judah Heimlich for this procedure.


I think about the throat - the front part of the neck. It’s an important bottleneck in the human body - connecting our head to our torso. 

It contains our thyroid and part of the thymus - amongst other things.

It’s contains the highway down which food and drink travel - giving nourishment to the whole body.

It contains the wind pipe - through which air comes in and out of our nose and mouth - going to and from  pass our lungs.

It contains our vocal cords - our voice box - which helps us formulate words - which help us communicate with our world.


We like this blessing because we know that in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere - during the winter months - we tend to get sick in the throat. We get the so called, “sore throat”.  We get laryngitis. We lose our voices.

So it’s a blessing that we can have our throats blessed at this time of the feast of St. Blaise.

As the commentaries say, “We know more about the practice of Blessing of Throats in the history of our church - than over knowing that much about Blaise himself.

I would think the blessing should be first of all to pray for healing of the throat - as the words of the blessing put it for starters.

I would think the blessing should be secondly to pray to have words of blessing to come out of our mouth and not cursing.

I like today’s readings.

In the first reading from 2 Samuel 15: 13-14, 30, 16: 5-13, David allows this guy Shimei to curse him up and down.  I love it when today’s reading has the following: “Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king: ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and lop off his head.’ As you know head chopping takes place right there at our neck.

And today’s gospel from Mark 5: 1-20 has this crazy guy yelling out - but he doesn’t curse Jesus. In fact, he’s one of the few who really knows who Jesus really is. I always think that in these early stories in the Gospel of Mark, that Mark is being cute and telling us: the crazies are the ones who know who Jesus really is, and the rest of us don’t. And Jesus heals him.

So a good second blessing is that for sweet words to come out of our throat.

And a third blessing could be that we have courage to speak up and strength when we do speak. I’ve noticed that nervousness shows up right here in our neck. Notice when speakers and readers are nervous they do things like touching their throats - or they go “ahem” or softly or roughly clear their throat. 

I would love to know if there is some research done on all this. Maybe it’s a primitive fear that people have about speaking up in gatherings. I wonder if it’s the basic fear that sometimes people got their heads cut off - literally or figuratively - for speaking up.


Amen. Let me close with the blessing words that go with this feast - words that every priest and everyone who has blessed throats has said thousands and thousands of  times down through the years and probably in their sleep.

“Through the intercession of St. Blaise - Bishop and Martyr - may you be free of any ailments to your throat and any other sickness. Amen.”

Poem for Today - February 3, 2014


Towards not being
anyone else’s center
of gravity.
                A wanting
to love: not
to lean over towards
an other, and fall,
but feel within one
a flexible steel
upright, parallel
to the spine but
longer, from which to stretch;
one’s own
grave springboard;
                the out-flying spirit’s
vertical trampoline.

© Denise Levertov

Sunday, February 2, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Being Present In The Temple.”

This Sunday we’re celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem.


We all know what the word, “Present!” means.

For starters it’s a gift! A present…. Christmas presents, birthday presents, and other presents. For example, the jewelry stores and your wife or your girlfriend - if you’re not married - are hoping you notice the jewelry ads on TV with the Super Bowl this evening - with February 14 in the wings.


Is the purpose of a present that it's saying to the other: “Present”?

That's the usual meaning of, “Present!”

We’ve all been in classrooms when they have taken attendance - as well as meetings - and our name is called out and we say, “Present!”

And we know from a thousand meetings and a thousand sittings in classrooms and church - we’ve all had out of the body experiences.

We’ve said, “Present!” - but wow we were elsewhere.

If the score is 28 to 3 at half time, if the meeting is boring, if the teacher or preacher is babbling - we know how to be elsewhere - in our easy chairs or hard benches.



In today’s gospel we heard about Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill what was written in the law of the Lord.

A man named Simeon had heard an inner voice - a gift from the Holy Spirit - that he would not see death without seeing the Christ of the Lord. “Christos’"  is the Greek - meaning "Anointed". It was the chosen word to translate the  Hebrew word "Masiah" - who was the hope - the king - the one who will come and make everything right.

Simeon comes into the temple just at the right time - and experiences Christ the Anointed one - the hoped for One - the Messiah.

That’s the ancient hope. We hear it voiced in today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi.

And in Simeon’s mouth Luke places an early Christian hymn or source - which becomes entitled in Latin, the Nunc Dimittis.  Simeon prays, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Next appears in the temple - in the story from Luke - is Anna -  who is listed ad 84 years old - and she too experiences that this child is the one - the chosen one - the one we’ve all been waiting for - to appear - to be present in our midst.


We believe that God is everywhere - especially when we are nailed to a problem - a suffering - a stress - a cross - and often we voice what Jesus screamed when he was on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Translation: I can’t hear you God. I can’t hear you saying, “Present!”

Yet with faith - and sometimes with great difficulty - we can make that act of faith.

Isn't that why we have churches - temples - mosques - shrines - dotting our globe?

Here in this town of Annapolis, isn't that the reason why we have the tall steeple - with its cross - high above St. Mary’s  - shining - even on crummy days - to give us a lift. 

I've noticed from certain windows at the Anne Arundel Medical Center - one can see St. John Neumann’s Church as well.

This is also why - as Herman Melville puts it - right there in beginning of the his book, Moby Dick, that everyone goes to the waters. We stand there at the shore - looking out at the ocean - knowing there’s more here than meets the eye. There's the great underneath - the different, danger, vastness, mystery, as well as life - below the surface. No water. No life.

We know this as we look at the moon and Mars and stars. No water. No life.  But maybe …. maybe …. maybe there is. 

We also look up at the vast skies - knowing by the year 3000 - telescopes still won’t see the far outer wall of the universe - whatever there is out there.

So we look up at the night stars - the dark spaces between the stars - and we sometimes pause and say, “God! Where are You? And sometimes - we do hear God saying, “Present!”

Isn’t that why someone or someone’s suggested or decided to put stars on our ceiling here - to remind us to look up?


Once more, isn’t that why we have churches - to remind us of the presence of God here and there and everywhere - especially when we feel God is nowhere to be found?

How many times have we been somewhere else and we see a church we've never been in before. We walk in. We’re alone or with the family. We think the place is empty. Then we hear a bench creak - and we see in the afternoon semi-darkness - someone sitting quietly by herself or himself - behind a pole or off to the corner.

So we sit down - or kneel down. We spot the red light from the tabernacle or light coming through the stained glass windows or the flicker of a dozen vigil lights and we pray for the intention of the persons who lit those candles that are keeping vigil for them in prayer.


Sometimes God says, “Present” and we hear God.

And we walk out of that church and things seem different for a while.


The title of my homily is, “Being Present In the Temple.”

Talk to each other - namely your spouse or your family or your friends about moments in your life - when you were in a church - and you had a God experience - or you had a healing experience - or you had a sacred moment - when it all made sense - when it all came together.

Being priest I’ve heard about lots of these moments from lots of people.

Let me just give you two moments of presence.

A man has 7 kids - 4 of whom were married. That raises the number to 11. He and his wife made it 13. And they have 7 grandkids already. That makes the number in the party 20.  He tells me they were camping - yes camping one summer - as a different kind of a vacation. It’s Sunday morning. The night before they asked around and found out there was a small Catholic chapel 17 miles away - and there was one Sunday Mass there - and it was at 9 AM. They went - and there was hardly any room in what was basically a chapel somewhere in Tennessee. Well, with the priest who did a circuit of Masses on the weekend  - that made the number 21 - and then there were 8 people - parishioners - 4 couples - so that made it  29 people present for that Mass that Sunday.

Well the man who told me this story told me that  it was the most beautiful Mass he ever went to in his life.  He said he felt so Catholic, so one with the whole Catholic Church around the world -  in that small chapel that Sunday morning. Then when camping that week the family talked about how nice the Mass was that Sunday. The parishioners - 4 older couples and a priest - were so happy to see the addition at their church of 20 Catholics - this family who were camping in their area  - that one of the couples invited the 20 for breakfast  along with the priest and the other 3 couples - to their house. And they feasted and had fun and they sat and talked for about 4 hours - and everyone found out who everyone was. Ooops. After a quick bite, the priest had to run after for another Mass in another small chapel at 12 o'clock - some 50 miles away.

The man said that Mass made coming to church ever since then different and more life giving.

Second moment….

I’m working in St. Alphonsus Retreat House in the Poconos. It’s around 1980. On Saturday night - we had all night vigil before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. I finished benediction - and all the retreatants except one - leave the chapel. That one guy has a half hour or 20 minutes of prayer - alone with the Lord. There is a list outside the chapel - for who comes next and next through the night. The lights are turned down - leaving the candles on the altar for the light.  Without thinking I was jotting something down in a note pad in the sacristy. Then - I walked out of the sacristy - which was behind the altar - I walk past the altar - past the guy in the kneeler - praying - but he wasn’t there. It was dark - and I trip over him. He was laying on the floor in front of the altar praying.

“Ooops!,” I say as I tripped. The guy says, “No problem Father. I’m just praying.”

The next day the guy, his name was Leonard - and yes he was Len the Plumber - but not the one from around here. He sees me and I say, “I hope I didn’t hurt you by stepping on you last night.” 

“No, of course not,” he says. The guy was about 6 foot 4 inches - 280 pounds. 

Then I say, “What’s with the prayer on the floor?” 

He says, “That’s my Lord and my God there in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Then he pauses. Then for some reason he tells me the following. “Father two years ago we were digging out this big hole to get to some pipes. Well one of my sons was down deep in the hole. And the hole was deep. We should have used a caisson - but we were stupid. Well the whole thing caved in on him and he was trapped well below ground. I  grabbed a shovel and started digging, digging, digging, praying, praying, praying to the Lord - and suddenly my shovel hit him in the head and I said, ‘Thank You Jesus, thank You.’ I dug right there harder and harder and got to his mouth. I didn’t care if I was cutting him. I had to get him breathing. With God’s help I saved him.”

Then he paused, “So that’s who I’m praying to when I’m praying - the God who saved my son. Why wouldn’t I be laying on the ground thanking him for all he did for us. Praise God.”

I was glad I tripped over Leonard that night in that chapel - because otherwise I wouldn’t have known that story - a story that I have never forgotten - and that was from around 1980.


When we come to church - maybe the best thing to do - is just sit here quietly for a moment - and then hear God call our name - and we say, “Present!”  Or would it be better to just sit here for a moment and listen and hear God say, “Present!”