Saturday, May 10, 2014


Poem for Today - May 10, 2014


I go there vaguely thinking of a meeting,
Meeting whom I am not sure.

I go there, my heart dry as a hollowed out shell.
Thirst and hunger hang thick in the night.

In the afternoon the sun beats down hard ….
In the afternoon it rains and rains ….

The café is empty. The lamp shadows wait
Through the long nights for someone’s return.

It’s my own fault.
I’ve forgotten the date of the meeting.

Pity for the one returning. Pity for the one who waits
And no one comes.

Life is filled with errors.
Regrets change nothing.

We must grin and bear it.
Make the best of the journey.

In the afternoon the sun beats down hard …
In the afternoon it rains and rains ….

The café is empty, the lamp shadows
Wait a thousand years.

© To Thuy Yen
Translated from
the Vietnamese
by Nguyen Ba Chung

and Kevin Bowen

Friday, May 9, 2014


Poem for Today -May 9, 2014


I don’t want freedom gram by gram, grain by grain.
I have to break this steel chain with my teeth!
I don’t want freedom as a drug, as a medicine.
I want it as the sun, as the earth, as the heavens!
Step, step aside, you invader!
I am the loud voice of this land!
I don’t need a puny spring,
I am a thirsting ocean!

© Khalil Reza Uluturk

Translated from the Azeri by
Aynur H. Imecer
“Author’s Note: This poem
Has also been published with
The title, “The Voice of Africa.”
During the Soviet period, many
Azeri poets used other
Geographical locaions in their
Poems to disguise their feelings
About their own coutry and their
Own situation so that the Soviet
Censors would not suspect
The true meaning and ban their

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Poem for Today - May 8, 2014


Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days,                  some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, 
             and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is                  the everyday we spoke of
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue,                  and the sunlight pours through

The open living room windows because the heats on                 too high in here, and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of                             groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And                     yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my                 coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring
               to come and the winter to pass. 
We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss —                  we want more and more any then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a                          glimpse of myself in the window glass,
Say the window of the corner video store, and I’m                        gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and                                unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living, I remember you.

© Marie Howe (1950 - )

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Poem for Today - May 7, 2014


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am grass.
Let me work.

© Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Painting on top: The Veteran
in a New Field (1865), by 
Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
This painting was finished a
few months after the end of
the Civil War with the  signing 
of the surrender at Appomattox.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014



The title of my homily for today for this 3rd Tuesday after Easter  is, “Body Language.”

I couldn’t help but notice in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles – how much body language is used. [Confer  Acts 7: 51 to 8:1]

The crowd who want  to kill Steven are described as stiff necked – as well as uncircumcised of heart  and ears – a neat  - but nasty - challenge to these men who were circumcised –  men who are grinding their teeth in anger.

The crowd who want to throw stones at Stephen are infuriated, screaming, crying out – and the noise gets so loud they cover their ears with their hands. They take off their cloaks and lay them in a  gesture of communion with a young man named Saul.

Stephen is stoned to death. Now that’s body language. He was heard praying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then falling to his knees he cries out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Luke in this story from Acts then says, “And with that he died.” And he ends, “Saul, for his part, concurred in the act of killing.”

It’s a powerful scene – filled with drama, filled with powerful body language as the body of a human being is killed.

We’ll find out as the story about the Early Church unfolds in the Acts of the Apostles that all this was not lost on Saul – who becomes Paul.


We communicate with each other each day – in many ways.

Sometimes we spot  yawns or someone looking at their watch or cellphone or  over our shoulder and not at our eyes and this tells us a lot more than a person saying, “Hey, I’m listening.”

Spouses sometimes realize something is missing in their marriage when the kiss or hug on the way out the door has slipped out the repertoire of their communication and communion with each other.

Last Saturday-  a guy at a wedding reception was mentioning to me – in those dozen or so conversations that happen with hors d’oeuvres in hand  – that looking back he regrets all those years he was working 75 hours a week – to the neglect of his kids. While telling me this - I noticed his regret the most in his body language:  the shrug of his shoulders, the tightening of his jaw, the biting of his lower lip with his upper teeth.

Body language?  It’s happening all the time. Picture a family eating supper with each other, but also picture 20 minutes earlier -  one person is chopping the celery - while another is getting out the pans – while another  is setting the table, while another  is cutting bread, and all say grace together holding hands.  The family that eats together stays together. The family that prays together is graced together. The family that stops going to supper  together is like a family that stops going to Mass – skipping both tables, both meals – missing both words and bodies together in the same space – missing out on real presence and real communion with each other.


Is it any wonder that Jesus gives us his body and blood – to be in communion with him and with each other? That’s what the words of today’s gospel tell me. [Confer  John 6: 30-35]  This meeting, this Mass together, right now is what  this is all about.

So our bodies being in this church – in these benches – in this sacred space together – are saying with body language – that we’re celebrating a simple pickup meal on a weekday morning – with each other – saying also  prayers and words - taking food – making signs of  peace together – and sensing each other’s presence  coming down the aisle to receive the bread of life – Christ who nourishes us so we can give life to our world.

And then we walk back down the aisle – then we walk out into our world for a new day of life – knowing the truth of Jesus words to us today, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Being here in church over and over again tells me by people’s body language  we’re saying to each other, “This we know. This we believe - together. Amen.”

Poem for May 6, 2014


One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing – for example, “Although it
was a dark rainy day when the Adjective walked by,
I shall remember the pure and sweet expression
on her face until the day I perish from the
green, effective earth.”
Or, “Will you please close the window, Andrew?”
Or, for example, “Thank you, the pink pot of flowers
       on the window sill has changed color recently 
       to a light yellow, due to the heat from the boiler                  factory which exists nearby.”

In the springtime the Sentences and the Nouns lay                      silently on the grass.
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, “And! But!”
But the Adjective did not emerge.

As the adjective is lost in the sentence,
So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat –
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.

© Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)

Monday, May 5, 2014



The title of my homily for this 3rd Monday after Easter is a question from today’s gospel, “Rabbi, When Did You Get Here?”

It’s from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John – when Jesus mysteriously appears on the other side of the lake of Tiberias. The crowds saw the disciples leave in one boat – and Jesus was not in it – so how and when did Jesus get to where he was?


The title of my homily is that question from today’s gospel, “Rabbi, When Did You Get Here?”

I love the question – because it can get us in touch with the presence of Jesus in so many ways – in so many realities of life.

It can get us to hear Jesus' mantra - his last words in the Gospel of Mathew: "I am with you always, until the end of the world." [Matthew 28:20b]

In yesterday’s gospel – we heard the story about the two disciples on their way to Emmaus – Luke 24: 13-35. We heard about  how they experienced Jesus’ presence in the Stranger as well as the breaking of the bread – as well as the scriptures.

We Catholics make it a big thing – this belief we have in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the bread.

Here in this parish – lots of folks sit in prayer – in the Eucharistic Chapel. Their real presence  is a statement in their belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

That’s quite a belief – that Jesus Christ – someone who lived some 2000 years ago – is present in this thin piece of bread.

Proof: none.

Proof: read the 6th chapter of John in the Eucharistic Chapel. Or go into any church – or with any Bible anywhere – and ponder and pray – that chapter along with the other Eucharistic texts in the Sacred Scriptures.


Once more let me repeat the title of my homily. It’s the question from today’s gospel, “Rabbi, When Did You Get Here?”

I can picture someone sitting in prayer and having a faith moment – having a Eureka moment – an Epiphany -  as they realize with faith the Real Presence of Jesus in the Bread – in the Blessed Sacrament. I can grasp them saying to Jesus, “O my God you’ve been here all my life this way for all these years and I didn’t realize your presence till now.”

From that experience, I can then picture someone also realizing Jesus’ Real Presence in the sick, the hurting, the person in prison, the person in the nursing home, the lonely – and hearing Jesus say, “I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you visited me. I was naked and you clothed me.” [Confer Matthew 25: 31-46]

From those experiences I can then picture someone sensing Jesus’ presence when driving, when shopping, when suffering, when on the cross, when helping people carry a cross – or crossing the street - in every parish community.[Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31]

I can then picture someone who realizes Jesus presence in everyone and in the everyday – begin to be move into sensing Jesus’ presence in all of life – in creation - in the universe. Jesus is Lord of all.

So I can sense them getting a glimpse of what Paul experienced about Christ  - as found in what is probably an early Christian hymn – Colossians 1: 15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him
and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body,
the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
[through him], whether those on earth
or those in heaven.”


These kinds of faith experiences and development take time and life to happen.

It’s then someone will  no longer say, "Rabbi when did you get here” in my life? Instead, they will say,  “Oh my God you have always been here and I really wasn’t present to you – on either shore of the lake of my life. Amen.”

Poem for Today - May 5, 2014


Don’t tap your chopsticks against your bowl.
Don’t throw your teacup against the wall in anger.
Don’t suck on your long black braid and weep.
Don’t tarry around the big red sign that says “danger!”

All the tempests will render still; seas will calm,
horses will retreat, voices to surrender.


That you have bloomed this way and not that,
that your skin is yellow, not white, not black,
that your were born not a boychild but a girl,
that this world will be forever puce-pink are just as well.

Remember, the survivor is not the strongest or most clever;
merely, the survivor is almost always the youngest.
And you shall have to relinquish that title before long.

© Marilyn Chin (1955 - )

Sunday, May 4, 2014



The title of my homily for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A, is, “Old Movies, New Takes.”

In many homes there is a shelf or two that holds old movies. There is also Netflix and the TCM – the Turner Classic Movies channel.

I like old movies – old favorites.

Question:  Is that a sign of old age?

Listening to some younger people who love to go to new movies – I think not going to movies is a sign of old age. How many times have we heard old folks say, “The last time I went out to a movie, it was The Sound of Music or The Passion of the Christ or Gone With the Wind.”

And the other person says, “Oh my God, you’re old. You’re out of touch.”

I was visiting my sister Mary at Easter and I spotted a cabinet next to the TV with 4 shelves – 4 shelves of old movies. She doesn’t have cable, so I suggested, “How about watching a movie?” She said, “Good. Pick one.”

So I had my pick of the liter – and there they were lots of old John Wayne westerns –as well as Casablanca – Moonstruck – and The Fugitive.

I said, “Did you ever see The Fugitive with Harrison Ford?”  “Nope,” she said.

So for the 10th time at least, I watched The Fugitive. For the first time she watched The Fugitive.

Father Joe Krastel loves baseball games on TV. If he’s not there and I get the clicker, I love to catch old movies – no commercials – and if he walks in - he often says, “How many times have you seen this movie?”

And I say, “I love to see movies I like, because every time I watch one, I see something new.”

I do.

Question: How about you?


To me the Bible is like that cabinet with its shelves of old movies.

I used to go to a Jesuit priest, Father Frank Miles, for Spiritual Direction in my life.  I made a few directed 8 day silent retreats with him – and  each day we’d meet for a  one to one session of chatting. At the end he’d give me – as well as each person making the directed retreat – a Bible text or story – to ponder – and be with – and pray with. The retreat house he was at - was in Wernersville, Pa. and then he ended up down in the Jesuit Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland - on the Potomoc River. Both have great green grounds to walk on.

I once asked him out of the blue – how many scripture stories – did he own? How many scripture stories or texts – were his own?”

And he paused and thought about my question and then said, “Oh! …. Maybe about 75.”

He didn’t ask me, “How many do you own?”

In time I asked myself that question and my answer today would be, “Oh! …. About 40.”

Question: how many old scripture texts and stories do you own?

By this Bible question, I'm asking, how many scripture texts and stories - do you have written within yourself - you might not go by chapter and verse - but you go by the theme - the message - like you find yourself saying about one of your kids, "Father, forgive her because she doesn't know what she's doing!" Or, "Relax, some people get into the vineyard the last hour."

Question: how many old movies do you own?

By this movie question, I’m asking, how many movies do you know the plot so well - that it’s part of your life? How many movies do you think about from time to time – without watching them on a screen – but they are re-reruns in your mind – and someone says something or something clicks – and on goes the movie or a key scene or line from the movie in your mind.

If you watch NCIS – you know that the character, Anthony DiNozzo,  is doing this over and over and over again. He frames what happens to him and others – with scenes and lines from movies he has seen.

So once more the question: what movies – what scenes from what movies – do you watch over and over and over again in your mind?

I often  think of the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus  - starring Richard Dreyfus – as Glenn Holland. How many of us think – we could be somewhere else – doing the real thing – that we want to be doing – but in the meanwhile here we are right here, right now, doing what we’re doing in the everyday of our life – and sometimes we feel an “uh”- that is, a feeling of the uneasy – when it comes to life’s duties. Surprise, Mr. Holland discovers: "This was my life! My life work was teaching high school music. This was my opus. It was a lowly job compared to being a football coach. It was a job I took in the meanwhile  -  while always hoping to write a great symphony - yet teaching music to all these kids for all these years: that was my life. That is my meaning." 

How many people are like Marlon Brando, playing the part of Terry Malloy, in the movie, On The Waterfront? And we find ourselves saying in our own words, his words to others in our life: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.”  It’s some of the same feelings of Mr. Holland.

How many people get through the day, because like Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “We always have Paris.” And they play that line, that scene over and over again. “Play it. Sam. Play, ‘As Time Goes By.’”

People own Bibles. They are on some shelf in their home. But we have to take it off the shelf – hear the readings at Mass – watch the movie – over and over again.

If you get this, you get what I mean by owning not the whole Bible, but certain stories and texts from the Bible.


Today’s gospel, the story of the disciples, on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus – a seven mile walk – is a movie, a story, that is worth knowing and owning.

It’s the story of every Christian – it’s the story of every person.

We need time – distance – talking to strangers,  talking to each other, talking and walking with ourselves, breaking bread, living lots of life,  so as to figure out from a distance – so as to get in touch with what really happened in the here and now of our life. 

And in that walking, and in that talking, and in that questioning, they  and we can discover Jesus – a stranger – walking, talking and listening to us, someone,  whom we finally realize, “He is the Lord.”

I remember giving a high school retreat once and the kids called one of the nuns in their school, “Sister Mary Emmaus.”  That wasn’t really her name, but she referred to the Emmaus story, so many times, like every other day, that the kids called her that. That nun owned the Emmaus story.  It was her movie.


As priest, I get to a lot of weddings, wakes and funerals.

I like to ask about the deceased, “Did they have a favorite Bible text?”

I like it that families are asked to pick the readings for a funeral – because they try to match scripture texts to a person’s life – or to what they think people will be thinking and praying about at the funeral.

Couples about to be married are asked to do the same thing. For the second reading, they often pick, Paul’s words from First Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not inflated, etc. etc. etc. Love never ends.”  But not always. I’ve noticed changes in these readings.  They answer favorite movie with more ease and answers that favorite Bible text.

At weddings, wakes, funerals, and baptisms, I see people living out the Emmaus Gospel text. Luke’s story is pointing out that it takes distance – to really see.

And so on a wedding day, or a funeral or a baptism, sometimes it’s a very clear day  and people can see forever. At the baptism of a new baby,  it’s the grandparents and great grandparents whom I assume are seeing the most, because they have lived the most. They sit there looking at the whole scene and the whole scene makes sense. They sit there looking at the movie of their life – their parents – and being parents themselves – seeing their life going on in their kids – and it all makes sense.

They sit there and they are feeling the same words we heard in today’s gospel, “Their hearts were burning within” as they were watching the scene in front of them – and the movies of their lives going on within them.

So too the parents and grandparents at every wedding. There is no popcorn in church – but there are tears and tissues – as people watch re-runs of the lives of the couple being married.

So too funerals – at the wake – and at the funeral – with the eulogy - and at the grave – and in the days that follow.

Isn’t that why we have the slide shows now at funerals – along with pictures of the person who died on tables around the room?


The title of my homily is, “Old Movies, New Takes.”

In the Emmaus story, Jesus the stranger shows the two disciples scenes from the whole Bible – and the two disciples begin to see – not only who Jesus really was, but who they really are – and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread – and they have to run back to Jerusalem to share what they experienced with the community they had been with – whom they had walked away from.

A good movie, a good story, has to be experienced over and over and over again – and with each watching – we get new takes and retakes on our life, each other’s lives and the life of Jesus within us. Amen.

Poem For Today - May 4, 2014


For Vanessa Meredith
and Samuel Wolf Gezari

What it must be like to be an angel
or a squirrel, we can imagine sooner.

The last time we go to bed good,
they are there, lying about darkness.

They dandle us once too often,
these friends who become our enemies.

Suddenly one day, their juniors
are as old as we yearn to be.

They get wrinkles where it is better
smooth, odd coughs, and smells.

It is grotesque how they go on
loving us, we go on loving them.

The effrontery, barely imaginable,
of having caused us. And of how.

Their lives: surely
we can do better than that.

This goes on for a long time. Everything
they do is wrong, and the worst thing,

they all do it, is to die
taking with them the last explanation,

how we came out of the wet sea
or wherever they got us from,

taking the last link
of that chain with them.

Father, mother, we cry, wrinkling
to our uncomprehending children and grandchildren.

© William Meredith (1919-2007)
Painting on top: Felix Vallotton,