Saturday, March 29, 2014

poem  FOR TODAY - mARCH 29, 2014


I've never, as some children do,
looked at my folks and thought, I must
have come from someone else—
rich parents who'd misplaced me, but
who would, as in a myth or novel,
return and claim me. Hell, no. I saw
my face in cousins' faces, heard
my voice in their high drawls. And Sundays,
after the dinner plates were cleared,
I lingered, elbow propped on red
oilcloth, and studied great-uncles, aunts,
and cousins new to me. They squirmed.
I stared till I discerned the features
they'd gotten from the family larder:
eyes, nose, lips, hair? I stared until,
uncomfortable, they'd snap, "Hey, boy—
what are you looking at? At me?"
"No, sir," I'd lie. "No, ma'am." I'd count ten
and then continue staring at them.
I never had to ask, What am I?
I stared at my blood-kin, and thought,
So this, dear God, is what I am.

(c) Andrew Huggins

Friday, March 28, 2014



The title of my homily for this Friday in the 3rd Week of Lent is, “10 COMMANDMENTS FOR DUMMIES.”

Every once and a while there is a story in the news about a protest against someone or some group who want to remove a stone monument with the 10 commandments on it. When that happens there is always uproar.

Religion can do that every time.

Recently there was mention in the Annapolis Capital newspaper the following: “Maryland Judge Halts Prayers at County Board’s Meetings: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 4:40 pm WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — A federal judge in Maryland says the Board of County Commissioners for Carroll County has to stop with opening meetings with prayers that reference Jesus Christ or any specific deity.”


Mentioning Jesus is different than mentioning or displaying the Ten Commandments – but both bring us right into the issue of Church and State.

Separation of church and state is a button – in many ways – in the United States and around the world.

If Catholics were a minority, it might be a different story. For example, Christians are being killed or penalized or churches burnt down in various places in our world. There we would want separation of church and state.

As Catholics we know from  U.S. history there were attacks on Catholics and Catholic churches by the Know Nothings etc. etc. etc.

Religion can cause an uproar


The title of my homily is, “10 Commandments for Dummies.”

Back to public displays of the 10 Commandments.... A good case can be made for allowing the 10 Commandments to be made public – because much of our laws have them as a background.

Moreover, many of our courthouses and government have had the Ten Commandments up there on walls or near ceilings for the longest time.  They constitute a precedent. Moreover, we mention God on money and on public buildings, etc.

We might have heard scholars point out that the Ten Commandments were around before Moses – in various forms. [1]  And we know there are variations of the 10 Commandments in the Bible as well. [2]

Do you know the Ten Commandments by heart. If I asked you to take out a piece of paper and write down the Ten Commandments, could you do it. You’d surely get, “Honor your father and your mother!” “Do not steal”, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  But the other 7 you’d come close to naming each specific commandment – not to covet – not to work on the Sabbath – and what have you, but in general it’s my experience, most people can’t name all 10.

John Shea loves to tell the story that he was in a rectory on a Sunday morning and the phone is ringing. He picks it up – to avoid the person getting an answering machine answer for when the Masses are. If I remember the story somewhat correctly, a voice says, “Quick! Can you tell me the 9th Commandment – I’m having a discussion with my daughter about the 10 commandments and she says, “Well tell me the 9th commandment?’ I lied and told her I had to go to the bathroom. What is it?” And Jack Shea paused and said, “Off hand I don’t know.”

Maybe that’s why they put them in stone.


Here in the gospels we have the 10 commandments for dummies.

We just have to know 2 of them.

Jeremiah 31: 31-34 says that the day is coming when there will be a new law – and I will write it in your hearts.

So if anyone asks us for the 9th commandment or all 10 commandments, Jesus made it easier. It’s in Mathew, Mark and Luke, the 10 commandments for dummies.

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Check your heart, those 2 commandments are written there.


Statue in picture on top: 10 Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma State Capital Building.

[1] Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, “Exodus”, page 52-56

[2] Compare Exodus 20: 2-17 with Deuteronomy 5: 6-21



Poem for Today - March 28, 2014


A man ambushed a stone. Caught it. Made it a prisoner.
           Put it in a dark room and stood guard over it
           for the rest of his life.
His mother asked why.
He said, because it's held captive, because it is
           the captured.
Look, the stone is asleep, she said, it does not know
           whether it's in a garden or not. Eternity and
           the stone are mother and daughter,
           it is you who are getting old. The stone
           is only sleeping.
But I caught it, mother, it is mine by conquest, he said.
A stone is nobody's, not even its own. It is you
           who are conquered; you are minding 
           the prisoner, which is yourself, 
           because you are afraid to go out, she said.
Yes, yes, I am afraid, because you never loved me,
           he said.
Which is true, because you have always been to me
           as the stone is to you, she said.

(c) Russell Edson

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Poem for Today - March 27, 2014

You Can Have It

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labors, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time

with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.

In 1948 in the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,

for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors' appointments, bonds,
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.

The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,

and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.

Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.

(c) Philip Levine
Page 284-285
in The Penguin
Anthology of
20th Century
American Poetry

Painting on Top:
The Effects of
Moonlight, by 
Eugene- Louis 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Poem for Today - March 26, 2014


My father screamed whenever the phone rang.

My aunt often screamed when she opened the door.

Out back, the willows caterwauled.*

In the kitchen, the faucet screamed
a drop at a time.

At school, they called screaming "recess"
or sometimes "music."

Our neighbors' daughter had a scream
more melodious than my own.

At first, Col. Parker had to pay girls
to get them to scream for Elvis.

I didn't want to scream when I saw The Beatles,
but I did. After that, I screamed for even
mediocre bands.

Late in his career, John Lennon
got into Primal Scream.

Many people find it relaxing to scream.

Just as crawling precedes walking, so screaming
precedes speech.

The roller coaster is just one of many
scream-inducing devices.

The ambulance tries, in its clumsy way, to emulate
the human scream, which in turn tries to emulate nature.

Wind is often said to shriek, but Sylvia Plath
also speaks of  “the parched scream of the sun."

Jim Morrison wanted to hear the scream of 'the butterfly.

With ultra-sensitive equipment, scientists measure
the screams of plants they've tortured.

It's proven that if you scream at a person
for years, then suddenly stop, he will hear even
the tenderest words of love as violent curses.

And to anyone who speaks above a whisper, 
he will say: "Don't you dare. 
Don't you dare raise your voice to me."

* Caterwaul 14th Century, 
to make a harsh cry,
to quarrel noisily

(c) Elaine Equi [2003]
Painting on top: 
The Scream 
[Skrik in Norwegian]. 
It's one of 4 paintings 
by Edvard Munch 
done by Edvard Munch 
between 1893-1910. 
They were entitled, 
"Der Schrei der Natur"]
The 4th version 
sold at Sotheby 
in 2012 for 
$119,922, 600.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014



The title of my homily for this feast of the Annunciation is, “Signs!”

As we heard it today first reading from Isaiah – when it comes to God – people are often asking for signs. [Cf. Isaiah 7: 10-14; 8:10]

Signs – seeking them, seeing them, announcing them – is something that is often happening in religion.


We are all looking for signs – how another is doing – what’s happening – what the weather will be – is another okay. It keeps TV news programs going – as well getting people to look at their phones or the astrology section of the newspapers.

We like hearing annunciation moments: “I got into the college of my choice.” “I got a job.” “We’re engaged.” “We’re pregnant.”

We like good news – revelations that life is continuing.... and we like signs for those things happening.

But sometimes wanting signs can be an itch.


At times people wanting signs seems to frustrate Jesus. Pharisees and Scribes were always asking for signs and Jesus often responds by saying, “No sign is coming.”  Then sometimes he says mysterious things like, “The only sign you’re going to get is the sign of Jonah.”


In religion if there is anything that happens on a regular basis it’s people announcing revelations. And on a regular basis there are folks who believe in these revelations – and there are folks who are skeptical of these revelations.

And from time to time the Officials in the Church put out the warnings that this is strange stuff – the world is not going to end on such and such a date – and so many people are going to hell or what have you.

Officials in the Church – local and world wide – tend to criticize the odd stuff and the bizarre – like moving and weeping statues – often don’t say anything about places like Medjugorge – even though the local bishop criticizes it.

It seems the Church follows the Gamaliel principal from the Acts of the Apostles. If this is of God, nothing can stop it. If this is not of God, this will disappear in time. [Cf. Acts 5: 34-42]


On this Feast of the Annunciation – when it comes to looking for signs in our need for reassurance of God’s presence – isn’t it enough to say what Isaiah says in today’s first reading and Luke tells us in today’s gospel? The sign is Mary ever Virgin, ever mother, ever bringing Christ into our world. [Cf. today’s gospel Luke 1: 26-38]

I’ve often wondered why God also seems to be all ear and not much mouth.

When people push revelations from some mystic or some person – I want to say: read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If someone claims some document has miraculous information, I’ll say, “What about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?”


If someone wants a sign – if someone wants a miracle in our midst, receive Communion.

If someone wants a sign, get in touch with Mary’s Annunciation Moment – we’re celebrating it today March 25th - and then be there to reflect upon the Nativity – the great Christmas story – 9 months from now - when Mary and Joseph bring Christ into our world. 

And by the way it’s only 278 shopping days till Christmas.


PAINTINGS: On top. The Annunciation, Smithsonian-American-Artist.

Near end: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation - Don't know if Tanner did the top one as well.

Poem for Today - March 25, 2014


Only one voice
but it was singing
and the words danced and as they danced held high
oh with what grace their lustrous bowls of joy.
Even in dark we knew they danced but we

none of us touched the him of what would happen.
Somewhere around a whirl, swirl, a pirouette,

the bowls flew and spilled
and we were drenched, drenched to the dry bone 
in our miserable night.

Only one voice
but morning lay awake in her bed and listened
and then was out and racing over the hills
to hear and see
and water and light and air and the tall trees
and people young and old began to burn
the catchy catchy tune
and everyone danced and everyone everything
even the last roots of the doddering oak
believed in life.

(C) Jessica Powers, 
from Mountain Sparrow



The title of my homily for this Monday in the 3rd Week of Lent  is, “Rejection.”

A question: “How well do I do with rejection?”


We all know people who have been rejected and they take a dive. They get depressed.  “How well do I do with rejections?”

The guy dumps the girl or vice versa. So and so gets fired. A friend is one of the 3 finalists for a job – and they don’t get it. Bummer.

Rejection is part of life – a tough reality at times – and it’s good if we can recover – and recover well.

I assume it would be helpful to jot down a few instances when we were rejected – hurt by another – not understood – “dissed” or what have you – and then to jot down how long we were “under the weather” or “down” as a result. I assume it would be helpful if we jotted down 3 things we did that helped. For example: I talked it out with someone. Or I found myself taking long walks. They really helped. Or I said to myself: “This is part of life!”

In thinking about this, I was thinking that teenage dating and teenage love has the advantage of  not lasting. Kids won’t know this when it happens. However if he or she learns – what it is to be rejected – they might toughen up for future hurtings. Hopefully they come up with tricks and sayings – on what to do on the rebound.

In March Madness only 1 team makes it.

In team sports, not everyone makes the team – and not everyone who makes the team – plays the game. That’s got to be tough at times.

In the major seminary, I was a manager in baseball. Looking back I don’t remember being that sensitive to those on the team who weren’t the starting  9 kids who played the game. I didn’t realize that at the time, but I’ve always resented being on the bench for a whole season while on Bay Ridge Robins. I only got in to play one out for the whole season. Bummer.


The title of my homily is, “Rejected”. It got the thought when I noticed that today’s two readings have a few people who were rejected.

In the first reading - [2nd Kings 5: 1-15] -  we begin with hearing about Naaman the Syrian – who gets leprosy – a sure path to rejection.

He goes down to Israel for a cure at the advice of a little girl – basically a slave captured in Israel – and servant of his wife – and asks the king of Israel to be cured.

Naaman is rejected by the king of Israel.

Elisha the prophet hears about what happened. He sends a message to the king to tell him to tell Naaman to come and see him. Naaman does and Elisha tells him to plunge himself into the Jordan 7 times.

This time Elisha is rejected.

Naaman’s servants plead him – telling him its no big deal. Do it.

He does it and is healed.

In today’s gospel [Luke 4: 24-30]  Jesus is rejected. They want to throw him off a cliff.

But Jesus rejects them and heads elsewhere.


The title of my homily is, “Rejection.”

It’s part of life.

The key is how we deal with rejections.

Today’s readings give two suggestions.

First of all: Dwell on the next, the future, and don’t get stuck in the past.

For example: Next! The person who is cut from a job ought to do all the things one can do to get another job. Write out the resumes. Check the newspapers for when and where job applications are happening. Read the book: Dress for Success. Wear the best for the job interview, etc. etc. etc.

For example: The person who has been dumped from a relationship. Talk to friends – who are very honest. Maybe find out characteristics that aren’t helpful. If one hopes for marriage partner, try good dating  dot coms – and see what one learns about oneself.

Secondly: Run! Sometimes the best advice is pick up the pieces and get away from disastrous situations and relationships – move on. If healthy run – like Forest Gum ran – after he discovered Jenny dumped him. Run Forest run!

For example: We can’t stand or understand someone who rejects us every time we meet them. They never look us in the eye. They are always eying everyone else in the room than us. They ignore us. Go up the down staircase as they say. Ignore those who ignore us. I know this is contrary to going the extra mile that Jesus talks about – but if there is no hope for improvement, run baby run........

Monday, March 24, 2014


Poem for Today - March 24, 2014


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and 
my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down when the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(c) Wendell Berry,
page 69 in Collected
Poems, 1957-1982

Pictures - a 
wood drake
on top - on water 
below that a 
blue heron
picture  from
National Geographic
on Line. Thanks.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


[Instead of a homily for this 3rd Sunday in Lent, Year A, I decided to write a story - coming out of today's gospel - especially - but today's first reading also mentions water.]

It was a most interesting letter from the Pope.

It was clear, simple, short and to the point.

Such a letter had never been sent to the whole church, the whole family of Catholics, around the whole world before.

The pope was asking that every church – every church in the Catholic Church – around the whole world – if possible - to have a water fountain available for anyone and everyone who wanted to have a cold drink of water.

And he gave specific details in his letter: “If  possible have steps – or a lower fountain – so little kids can reach the water fountain – in case they don’t have with them an older brother or sister – mom or dad – grandmother or grandfather -  to lift them up – so that everyone  can have a drink of cold water – especially on a hot day."

He even said, “If possible have bowls of cold water near the fountain for dogs.” And the Pope added: “It’s good to be nice to each other and all of God’s creations and creatures.”

People scratched their heads when they heard about this in the newspapers or on TV. “Strange they thought. Very strange. Why would the pope be bothering with words about water fountains?   Holy Water Fountains – yes – but regular fountains - when there are so many other problems in the world – and in the church – going on.... Why, why, why? Why talk about having water fountains at churches.”

Others said, “Very smart. Before words should come charity and awareness of the basics for everyone.”

Plumbers loved it. It meant more work. Pipe sellers and water fountain sellers loved it – because it meant more business.

But this was not all. The pope also wrote: “The churches should be open as well – so people can come in and sit down for a while – and get out of the sun – if it’s hot outside – after they have had a nice drink of cold water.”

And this is not all. The Pope also gave one more very specific suggestion. He said, “A copy of the 4th Chapter of the Gospel of St. John should be left sitting there – right inside the church – for people to read.”

He said that’s the Gospel Story about the moment – at noontime – when one day Jesus met  the Woman at the Well – in the town of Samaria – in the Holy Land.  It’s the story – the Pope wrote – about how everyone is thirsty for water, for love, and for God – and it takes time for each of us to figure that out – sometimes very slowly.

And that was the letter the pope sent out. Just one page. Just one short letter. Just 202 words.

Well, most letters from popes get forgotten in time – or another letter – some of them 8,202 words long – get placed on top of  an earlier letter – and not too much happens as a result of these letters from a Pope.

But this letter – this 202 word letter – had a great impact – all around the world.

It gave a lot of people – Catholics, Protestants, Jewish, Muslim, non-Church going folks - a chance to get a taste of nice cold water – especially on hot days – and also dogs – Catholic and non Catholic dogs - got a chance to get a nice drink of water – because churches that didn’t have water fountains in the corridors or near the church – had them put in.

And after a nice drink of water people went into church – who hadn’t gone to church for years.

And it also got a whole new group of men and women volunteering at many of the local churches. Some of these groups were called the CWV’s  or the Cold Water Volunteers or the WUG'S – the Weekday Ushers Group - or what have you.

And more and more people started talking to each other outside of churches – but in the shade if possible – and more smiles appeared on faces than were on them before the Pope’s 202 word letter.

And people started sitting in afternoon churches – some snoring – some  relaxing – just for 15 minutes or for a half hour of prayer. 

Some people found out some people couldn’t read – so they couldn’t read that 4th Chapter of John – so some people volunteered to read that chapter for anyone who needed it. So there were volunteers who did that.

And some churches then – it wasn’t in the Pope’s letter – but the Pope’s letter triggered the idea – they made the 6th Chapter of John available as well. That 6th  chapter is a whole chapter on Jesus feeding people with bread – teaching everyone that everyone is hungry for bread, for Spiritual Bread, Eucharist - for Jesus – for the promise that if one eats this bread, one will live forever.

And surprise all around the world that one short 202 word letter got a lot more people back to Church – back to Mass – because they got it – that we’re all hungry and thirsty not just for water and bread, but also for each other, for company and community, and for God who gave promises on how to live forever and forever.

And the Pope – with great smile - said he learned something from his 202 word letter: Short is better.


Poem for Today - March 23, 2014


I was born in a drouth year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemys soul. 
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

(c) Wendell  Berry