Saturday, March 1, 2014


Poem for Today - March 1, 2014


Three things there are more beautiful
Than any man could wish to see:
The first, it is a full-rigged ship
Sailing with all her sails set free;
The second, when the wind and sun
Are playing in a field of corn;
The third, a woman, young and fair,
Showing her child before it is born.

© W.H. Davies

Painting on top: 
"The Artist's Wife"
by Laurits Anderson Ring 
- 1897. This is L.A. ring's
portrait of his 22 year old
wife - Sigrid Kahler. 
He was 42 and this
was a year after
their marriage.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Poem for Today - February 28, 2014
Black History Month 

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

  ©   Lucille Clifton     

Poem for Today -  February 27, 2014
Black History Month


Brushes and paints are all I have
To speak the music in my soul—
While silently there laughs at me
A copper jar beside a pale green bowl.

How strange that grass should sing—
Grass is so still a thing ...
And strange the swift surprise of snow
So soft it falls and slow.

© Gwendolyn Bennett

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Poem for Today -  February 26, 2014
Black  History Month Continued

My First Memory
(of Librarians)

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

© Nikki Giovanni

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



The title of my homily for this 7th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Conflict Resolution For Dummies.”


Today’s two readings - the first reading from James - chapter 4:1-10 and today’s gospel -  Mark 9:30-37 - provide - clear  - concise - simple - basic - reasons  - why there is conflict and how to resolve it.

Today’s two readings  - even a dummy can get what they are pointing out.

This talk can be cut into two parts:
Part One:  Conflict  - the why - the reasons why there are conflicts - as found in today’s first reading.
Part Two: Resolution - How the differences can be resolved - as found  in today’s gospel.


We begin today’s first reading with a where question? Where do wars and where do conflicts come from?  Answer: from our passions which make war within us. It’s an inside job.

Then James spells it out even more clearly. We see this happening in every situation where there are kids - as well as adults - when and where there is only a limited amount of different toys.

The circumference of the pie is only so big - and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Some want the biggest piece; some want a fair share; some say, “I’m watching how you’re slicing the pie and I want more than just crumbs.”

“I want what I want when I want it. Then when we want it now - there is conflict, family fights, war.

My will be done on earth and if I get it, then I’ll think I’m in heaven.

Read James carefully. When we don’t  get what we want, our passions erupt. They are at war within us. It’s that simple. We know this. We’re not dummies.

It can be over who has the dial on the car radio or who has the TV clicker. It could be over time or money - politics or religion. Who puts the garbage out; who brings the cans back to the house?

When I sit with couples preparing for marriage, not being married, I say in the mix of my mumblings: “The three biggest problems in marriage are: Money, Sex and In-laws.” I tell them I read that back in 1967 in the Inquiring Photographer section of the New York Daily News. Then I  say: “In time, you’ll find out what your list looks like - especially your top 3.” 

Then I guarantee there will be ups and downs, conflicts and contention - agita and agitation.

I can say that because James says that. I can say that because down through the years I’ve lived in various Redemptorist communities of men - many of whom were a very interesting cast of characters. I say that because I hear my own family stuff and I hear your family stuff - as well as individual stuff.

We envy. We want. We’re jealous. We don’t know how to talk to each other - so eruptions erupt.  We don’t know how to ask. James says that loud and clear. So that’s Part One: There Will Be Conflicts.


Jesus says: Hey dummies, there’s always going to be conflicts. [1] 

And there's always going to be crucifixions if you try to stop conflicts my way - turning the other cheek, etc. However, if you die trying to bring about a solution using my non-violent way - there will be resolution and resurrection. It might happen in 3 days - or it might take forever - but my WAY works. [Cf. Mark 9:31]

Then Jesus tells all: "Here’s how to resolve and how to stop conflicts." Stop trying to be the greatest. Stop always trying to be right. Stop trying to be the first out of the parking lot or the first in life - in family - in a conversation - in an argument.

Jesus says that loud and clear when he asks his disciples what they were fighting about. They must have turned red with shame as they said: We were arguing about  - who was the greatest?

Well, it’s the person who serves the rest.

That’s when Jesus adds to his one lines on how to end the conflict.

Resolve to be a like a little child.  Resolve to be last - not first.

Ooops Jesus - you’re making these little kids perfect. Didn’t you tell us that we can be like little kids in the market place - arguing. Didn’t you ever notice little kids: Sometimes like adults, they can’t adjust, compromise, put the other person in the driver’s set.

Ooops, double ooops  Jesus, maybe that’s where they learned it from in the first place.


The title of my homily is, “Conflict Resolution for Dummies.”

Pinch yourself to see if you’re alive. Today we’re blessed with one more day of life, one more chance to bring peace and not conflict to the situations we'll find ourselves in today.



Painting on top:: Guernica - by Pablo Picasso

[1] “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle ….  If there is no struggle, there is no progress.  Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.  They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”  Frederick Douglas [c. 1817-1895]


Poem for Today - February 25, 2014
Black History Month


is a title,
is a preoccupation,
is a commitment Blacks
are to comprehend—
and in which you are
to perceive your Glory.

The conscious shout
of all that is white is
“It’s Great to be white.”
The conscious shout
of the slack in Black is
'It's Great to be white.'
Thus all that is white
has white strength and yours.

The word Black
has geographic power,
pulls everybody in:
Blacks here—
Blacks there—
Blacks wherever they may be.
And remember, you Blacks, what they told you—
remember your Education:
“one Drop—one Drop
maketh a brand new Black.”
Oh mighty Drop.
______And because they have given us kindly
so many more of our people

stretches over the land.
the Black of it,
the rust-red of it,
the milk and cream of it,
the tan and yellow-tan of it,
the deep-brown middle-brown high-brown of it,
the “olive” and ochre of it—
marches on.

The huge, the pungent object of our prime out-ride
is to Comprehend,
to salute and to Love the fact that we are Black,
which is our “ultimate Reality,”
which is the lone ground
from which our meaningful metamorphosis,
from which our prosperous staccato,
group or individual, can rise.

Self-shriveled Blacks.
Begin with gaunt and marvelous concession:
YOU are our costume and our fundamental bone.

All of you—
you COLORED ones,
you NEGRO ones,
those of you who proudly cry
“I’m half INDian”—
those of you who proudly screech
“I’VE got the blood of George WASHington in MY veins”
ALL of you—
you proper Blacks,
you half-Blacks,
you wish-I-weren’t Blacks,
Niggeroes and Niggerenes.


© Gwendolyn Brooks

Monday, February 24, 2014



The title of my homily for this 7th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “There Are Two Ways To Go.”

Today’s gospel - Mark 9: 14-29 - is fascinating - I’ve preached on it many times - so today I’m only looking at the first reading from James 3: 13-18.

So the title of my homily is, “There Are Two Ways To  Go.”


As you know, sometimes it’s smart to draw two columns and put in one column the ways we want to live or go or do or be - and in the other column to list the ways we don’t want to live or go or do or be.

Black or white, yes or no, A or B…. Columns are a standard way to teach wisdom - down through the centuries. They help us see comparisons that much easier. They are a great way of contrasting opposites.

We find these lists and contrasts not only in the Bible but in the wisdom literature - stories - anecdotes of most cultures. 

We know some of Aesop’s Fables that go back to around 600 years before Christ. We know about the tortoise and the hare, the dove and the ant, the fox and the stork. Contrasts …. Comparisons …..

We know that Jesus loved to teach us with contrasts: we know about the 2 sons, the 2 fig trees, the sheep and the goats, the Broadway and the narrow way, the 9 people with leprosy who didn’t come back and say “Thank you” after being healed and the 1 who did.


So here in James we have 2 lists - 2 ways to do life - 2 types of wisdom: good wisdom and  bad wisdom, wisdom from above and wisdom from below.

The bad wisdom column                The good wisdom column
has the following traits:                  has the following traits:
bitter jealousy,                                  purity,
selfish ambition,                                gentleness,
being unspiritual,                              compliance,
being demonic,                                 mercy,
disorder,                                           constancy,
foul practices.                                   sincerity.


That’s a great list of specific goods and specific bads.

Then James uses the metaphor of planting and harvesting.

He says, cultivate the good stuff. Plant them in the plot of land called me - and then cultivate them.

Spring is coming - people will be out in their gardens soon.

In the last century Pope Paul VI [1963-1978] uses that same metaphor of cultivating. In his speeches and in his 1967 encyclical, Populorum Progressio, he calls development and cultivation a new name for peace.

Peace comes to those who cultivate peace.

It’s a plan. It’s more specific than simply saying, “Peace be with you.” Get your list of peacemaking practices - plant them and cultivate and develop them - and watch the growth that takes place. Praise God. Amen.

Poem for Today - February 24, 2014
Celebrating Black History Month

won’t you celebrate with me

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my one hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

© Lucille Clifton

Sunday, February 23, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Revenge and Grudges Shorten One’s Life.”

And we can add, “If we act out - and lash out at others -  they can also shorten another’s life.”

Stress! Stress! Stress! 

I’m addressing STRESS in this homily - the stress that comes from revenge and grudges.

If you’ve been watching what’s going on in Kiev in the Ukraine, you have to be thinking, there is going to be long term consequences.

Those who have lost loved ones - shot by snipers - those who have been beaten by police - and vice versa - you have to realize - this will not be short term.  There are consequences. 

That’s over there. Over here in our own hearts and minds - the title of my homily is, “Revenge and Grudges Shorter One’s Life.”


I had some time yesterday  to look at the readings for this Sabbath - and this theme of revenge and grudges is being stressed and expressed.

Today’s first reading from Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18 talks about hatred for a brother or a sister. Not good. It continues with being aware of consequences -  if we take time to talk to each other about the ugly stuff. In other words, be careful of the boomerang effect. Hatred is hot stuff and when talking about hurts and hatred - we can get burnt. Sin can singe.

Be aware, beware, of backlash.

Then in Leviticus 19: 18 we have these words we heard a few moments ago: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

I looked up the Hebrew for revenge and grudge - and I discovered there’s word play going on here. TIQQOM is the word for revenge. TITTOR is the word for grudge.

So beware of TIQQOM and TITTOR - and to make a play on words and letters -  they can be TNT - explosive.

And I hope this sounds familiar because in general the First Reading each Sunday is connected to the Gospel for that Sunday. The middle reading usually goes somewhere else. The Gospel is the anchor. We move through a different Gospel in Ordinary Time - every 3 years - Matthew, Mark and Luke. This year we’re doing Matthew.

So today’s gospel from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount talks about hatred and revenge. TIQQOM and TITTOR - in Hebrew - I don’t know what the words are in Aramaic - the original language, the language of Jesus - but I would guess they are close to that.  It talks about retaliation - and how knocking out the other persons eye or tooth because that was done to us - isn’t the way to go.[Cf. Matthew 5:38-46]

Mouth and eyes - knocked out teeth and poked out eyes - only the beginning of the harm revenge and grudges can do to our bodies and our being.

Then Jesus gives his radical way to stop the wars and the fighting. It’s called, “The way of non-violence.”

The history of the world tells us this is not the way of governments - nor most protesters - down through our histories.

Jesus is radical, He tells us to turn the other cheek. Go the extra  mile. If someone wants your Redskins or Ravens or Nationals or Orioles jacket, give them your hat as well.

The only way to stop the hatred and revenge is to stop it in ourselves.

I assume we can’t stop it on the scenes we see on the TV screen, but we can stop the ugly retaliations at work in conversations - or pay back times in marriages and family life and in parking lots and on lines.

I would assume the first step would be awareness - spotting revenged and grudges - and it’s impact on our bodies and our lives.


I looked up this big fat book I once bought for $75.00 - called “The Book of Legends” Sefer Ha - Aggadah - Legends from the Talmud and the Midrash".  Years and years ago a really smart scholar told me: “Let me give you the name of  the  book to buy!” And I went looking for it and found a copy of it in a Jewish Book Store in New York City.

If I have time - and I want to do some extra research - I pull it off my shelf.

For today’s text I got my money’s worth - that $75 dollars worth. I don’t know if you will think that - but I do.  I got the title and thought for this homily from Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah.

He was a rabbi from around 131 CE - we who follow Jesus would say - A.D. - He said the following about Leviticus 19: 18: “A grudging eye, the evil impulse, and hatred of his fellow men shorter a man’s life.”

Then I noticed the following [compare this to what Jesus says in today’s gospel - it’s roughly from 100 years before and 100 years after Christ]:

“We have been taught: What is revenge, and what is bearing a grudge?  Suppose A said to B, ‘Lend me your sickle,’ and B replied, ‘No.”  Then the next day, B said, ‘Lend me your ax,” and A replied, ‘I will not lend you’re the ax, just as you did not lend me your sickle.’ That is taking revenge.  And what is bearing a grudge?  Suppose A said to B, ‘Lend me your ax,’ and B replied, ‘No.’  Then the next day, B said, ‘Lend me your undershirt,’ and A replied, ‘Here it is. I am not like you, who would lend nothing to me.’  That is bearing a grudge.’”

I found that very interesting. I assume then when Jesus uses the world cloak - he would be familiar with these comments in the Talmud and Rabbinic literature.


That’s back then - just as the fighting around the world - is out there.

This Sunday’s readings should bring us into our world - the spaces and places we spend each day - especially daily living with each other.

The title of my homily is, “Revenge and Grudges Shorten One’s Life.”

When you feel revenge and grudges grumbling inside of you - pause. Feel your face - feel your body - feel your hands - especially when they are clinched. Realize similar contractions are happening inside our minds and hearts and insides - causing consequences - which shorten our life - the message of this homily. Amen.


[The following is  a  story for this morning’s Children’s Mass.  The readings were from the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The 1st Graders did the readings and the prayers and brought the gifts up to the altar. The theme chosen for the Mass was: Fill Our World With Love.]

Once upon a time there was this really neat dog - a Chocolate Labrador Retriever - named, “Gigi!”

Now, everybody loved Gigi. Everybody! She was THE perfect dog.

Her owner - believe it or not - was a first grader named Patricia - but nobody called her Patricia.  Everyone called her “Patsy!”

Patsy and Gigi - went everywhere together - except when Patsy had to go to school.

Luckily Patsy’s mom and dad - and Patsy - an only child  - lived just two streets away from Patsy’s school.

Well, sometimes Gigi got bored or lonely - or was really missing Patsy, so she would slip out of the back yard and walk the 2 streets to Patsy’s school.

Gigi  would  then park herself - on the other side of the fence that surrounded the playground that was right next to the school. Gigi would sit down in a nice comfortable spot under her favorite tree. Then she would bark just one bark - one simple solitary bark - to let Patsy know she was there.

At first - during recess - the teachers didn’t like it that a dog was sitting there - just sitting there - all alone on the other side of the fence. The dog was not doing anything - except  making sure Patsy was all right - and letting Patsy know she was there and she was missing her.  

Of course, right away Patsy’s good friend Jeannette, told the teacher not to worry or call the police - about the dog.  Jeannette  simply said, “That’s Gigi. She’s Patsy’s best friend and the sweetest dog in the whole wide world.”

Then Jeannette added, “You gotta love her!”

Now if you knew this dog, it would come as no surprise, that Gigi was soon invited into the playground with the kids and the teachers. Everyone loved to hang around this neat Chocolate Labrador Retriever - named “Gigi”.

This dog was not stupid. The more people who knew her - the more treats she got - and as  anyone who knows Labrador’s, they know Labradors  love to eat - and they can put on weight and become really big dogs.

Of course Gigi wasn’t worried about weight - she was worried about treats and making sure Patsy was okay.

Gigi knew her priorities: Patsy and food, food and Patsy.

Now what none of you know - is the amazing story - history - of this dog and her owner Patsy.

So here’s the rest of the story ….

Gigi wasn’t always called Gigi.

She was called “Dog” - and her owners had two dogs in a rundown part of town - and the other dog they had was also called, “Dog!”

The family kept both dogs in a fenced in yard - in the back of the house - never taking them for walks or giving them treats or what have you.

The family was a mom and a dad and 3 teen age boys. And these three boys were always getting into trouble in school and in the neighborhood.

Whenever their parents or teachers or the police gave these 3 boys a correction or a yelling at, they would often take it out on their 2 dogs - especially the Chocolate Labrador Retriever. They would kick her. They would make fun of “Dog”.

Dog 1 and Dog 2 were tied by  leashes to a tree. It’s then the 3 boys would hit the dogs  with sticks and throw rocks at them.

Well Dog 1 - a mutt - cowered - and became quite quiet. He would just sit there - whenever possible - to avoid the sticks and stones.

Dog 2 - the Chocolate Labrador Retriever reacted differently. She growled. She growled every time the boys were mean to her. As a result, somewhere along the line, they changed her name to just that, “Growl!” - especially because she would go, “Grrrrrr!” to the boys and show her teeth.

Well “Growl” growled so much - especially in the middle of the night - that the neighbors would call the police - who would come - and shine flashlights in the night on “Growl” till she would quiet down.

Well, one night Growl was growling so much that the police woke up the owners and told them they have to quiet down their dog.

At that the father of the 3 teen age boys said to the police, “If you want her, you can have her.”

And the police wrote that down in one of those small spiral pads they keep in their shirt pockets.

The next day the people from the Animal Shelter were there to take the Chocolate Labrador away.  On the way out, they asked the 3 boys, “What’s the dog’s name?”  And all three said together with a grrrrrrr, “Growl.”

Well, that put Growl in her new home - the Animal Shelter.

There - instead of growling - she would sulk and hide in the back of her cage.

One of the attendants said, “I wouldn’t call her “Growl”. I’d call her “Grudge.”  She looks like so  angry with the whole world.

If the attendant at the Animal Shelter  only knew about those three boys and how they treated Growl, he would know say, “No wonder she spends her time in the back of her cage.”

Well, people would come to the Animal Shelter - to look at possible dogs to bring home and care for.

But when visitors saw the face and the look of Chocolate Labrador Retriever - nobody wanted her. She always looked so, so, so sad.

By her own behavior and her own action - she herself changed her name from Dog to Growl and now to Grudge.

Then the day came when Patsy appeared. She came to the shelter with her dad.  Mom and dad kept trying to have kids and they were not coming. They tried to adopt, but they found out that was too expensive. So they decided to get a dog for Patsy.

As soon as Patsy saw the Chocolate Labrador Retriever she fell in love with her at first sight.

The attendant said, “Little Girl, you don’t want this dog. Her name is Grudge. Look at how sad she looks. And we heard her name before that was Growl. So would you want a dog named Growl or Grudge?”

And Patsy said, “Of course I want her - and her new name will be Gigi - a combination of those two G’s - Growl and Grudge.”

Patsy knew big words.

And that’s how Gigi got her name.

Now, how did she become such a neat dog? That’s obvious. Patsy gave her dog a lot of love.

Her grandma - who came every Sunday afternoon for dinner - after her husband, Patsy’s grandfather died, upon seeing Gigi for the first time said, “Patsy…. That’s a Chocolate Labrador Retriever. They are wonderful dogs. Make sure you give her lots of love and she’ll give you lots of love in return.”

Then her grandma paused for a moment - and then said, “Love and niceness always works with dogs, too bad it doesn’t always work with people.”

Then her grandmother paused again.

Then she said, “Well,” as Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Go the extra mile. Turn the other cheek.”

Then looking at Gigi - and hearing where her name came from, Patsy’s grandmother concluded, “Practicing Jesus’ words would surely help people move from growls and grudges to lots of love. Amen.”

Poem for Today - February 23, 2014
Black History Month


Open it.

Go ahead, it won’t bite.
Well … maybe a little.

More a nip, like. A tingle.
It’s pleasurable, really.

You see, it keeps on opening.
You may fall in.

Sure, it’s hard to get started;
remember learning to use

knife and fork?  Dig in:
you’ll never reach bottom.

It’s not like it’s the end of the world -
just the world as you think

you know it.

© Rita Dove

About This Poem:

Rita Dove told Bill Moyers the following about this poem: "I was shocked when I visited some classes at my daughter's school and realized that many kids were afraid of reading, and reading wasn't a joy for them and that  somehow they were afraid they were going to fail at it - they're much more adept with computers and other electronic media - so 'The First Book' is abouit encouraging someone to discover the joy of reading."

Page 119 in Bill Moyer's, The Language of Life, A Festival of Poets.