Saturday, May 17, 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.”

© Elaine Equi, pages 570-571,
In Post Modern American Poetry,
A Norton Anthology, edited by
Paul Hoover, 2nd Edition.

Painting on top:
The Scream, The Shrik,
(The Scream of Nature),
Edvard Munch [1863-1944]
Pastel on Board, Oslo.
This version sold for

Friday, May 16, 2014


May 16, 2014


may the murmur of water falling
fill us,

may the autumn moon
Float on the ripples of the lake,

may life’s unspoken mystery
deepen in our still eyes,

may we, ecstatic, be immersed in the expanse
yet find it in ourselves –

Agyeya, translated by Lucy Rosenstein, from New Poetry in Hindi, Nayi Kavita: An Anthology (London: Anthem Press, 2004 / Permanent Black, 2002) Copyright © by Lucy Rosenstein.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Poem for Today - Thursday May 15, 2014


How many things they say about you –
that you created the expanding universe,
or was it that the world’s people
created you? Whose side do you choose?
The rich – who take more than their due
and toss scraps to the poor, and toss you too?
Or the poor – who hope you’ll soon turn things upside down
and so deliver them? But you never do.
In battle, you sit by the victor.

Nietzsche says, you’re dead.
Pascal says, we can’t know whether or not you exist,
but it’s worse to be fooled disbelieving.

These are weighty and deep philosophical questions. I see
a forest behind me, a desert in front of me,
and man in the middle, in his encampments.
and bullock carts hauling heaps of beef everyday.

© Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay
Translated from the Bengali
by Robert McNamara and
the author.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Poem for Today - May 14, 2014


Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.

© Mary Oliver, page 23,
in A Thousand Mornings.

Painting on top:
The Purification of the Temple,
1479-1481. It's part of  the
St. Wolfgang Alterpiece
by Michael Pacher (c. 1435-1498)
which can be found 
in a monastery at the end of 
Lake Wolfgang in Austria.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014



The title of my homily for this 4th Tuesday after Easter is, “On Being Called a Christian.”

In our lifetime I think we’ve seen people and heard about people being called and seen as a Christian.

I like that last sentence in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “… and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”  That’s Acts 11: 26b to be exact.


As I thought about this last night for  a sermon this morning, I came up with 3 reasons why someone might want to be or would be called a Christian.

First reason would be that a person does Christ like things: turns the other cheek, goes the goes the extra mile, gives the shirt off one’s back, visits the sick, feeds the hungry, loves one another as Jesus loved us. This happens without knowing whether who the person is or what have you. I wonder, I hope, the following also happens in other parts of the world that someone says when someone is charitable to another that someone says, “That was very Moslem like of you.”

Yesterday – in the Metropolitan Diary section of The New York Times – I noticed the following story. Every Monday morning I look for at these incidents and anecdotes about life in New York City.  A man named Kevan Slattery writes, “I had the privilege and the pleasure to usher at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the morning of March17. The members of the 69th Infantry Regiment are the guests of honor at the Mass celebrated before the parade. My assignment is to stand on the front steps, starting at 7:30 a.m.and continuing until the 69th marches through the central doors.  

Today’s gospel has a great 3 word sentence, “It was winter.”

That story in the New York continues, “It was very cold and quite windy early on March 17. Well, in advance of the time the central doors were opened, while the regiment waited in formation on51st Street, a color guard of eight enlisted men and women were posted on the top step. As they flanked the entry with national, state and regimental flags, they stood and waited in place, outside the closed doors, in the biting cold.”

He continues, “The cold was having a particular impact on one young enlisted man. The major noticed the enlisted man’s plight and persuaded him to accept the offer of the Army-issue long undershirt the major word beneath his battle-dress uniform tunic.”

The story teller concludes, “There on the steps of the cathedral, out of view of the public with no diminishment in the hoor or accorde the colors, the major gave the shirt off his back to the enlisted man.”

As I read that I said to myself, that’s probably the only thing Mr. Kevan Slattery will remember from the St. Patrick’s Day parade this year. Then it hit me, it’s the only thing I remember from reading the whole New York Times yesterday. Then I smiled, because it will be the only thing you’ll remember from this sermon – if that.[N.Y. Times, A-13, May 12, 2014]

Second reason would be that a person is baptized a Christian. C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, states loud and clear this viewpoint. Instead of using the word “Christian” as an adjective to describe a giving or loving or caring person he makes Christian a noun. You’re baptized, you’re a Christian. This takes us away from subjectivity – to objectivity.

Third reason would come from today’s gospel. A Christian is a person who is united into the Trinity – into Christ – into the Body of Christ – like a grape on the vine or a hand or foot or a voice in the Body of Christ.  This comes from the last sentence in today’s gospel: “The Father and I are one.”

Being a Christian is all about being one in Christ - having a living relationship with Jesus – entering into God in and through Christ.

This makes me a Christian. We Redemptorists were brought up stressing what St. Alphonsus  discovered: The whole of life – the whole of spiritual life – is to practice the love of Jesus Christ. That makes one a Christian – regardless of the words.  


Let us be loving Christians this day – as we march in the parade of life.


Poem for Today - May 13, 2014


Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separate.

“Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone separated from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from the source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there, mingling
in the laughing and the grieving,

A friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body. We can't conceal
that mixing, but it's not given us

to see the soul." The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be nothing.

Hear the love-tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment

melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want the fabric

torn and drawn away. The reed is
hurt and salve combining.

Intimacy and longing for
intimacy in one song.

A disastrous surrender,
and a fine love, together.

The one who secretly hears this
is senseless.

A tongue has one customer,
the ear.

The power of a cane flute comes
from its making sugar in the reedbed.

Whatever sound it has
is for everyone.

Days full of wanting, let them go by
without worrying that they do,

Stay where you are, inside
such a pure, hollow note.

© Rumi


The title of my homily for today’s St. Mary’s Lawn Mass is, “On Being Interviewed.”


About 15 years ago I was at a Mass for our confirmation class at St. Gerard’s Parish, Lima, Ohio.

Bishop Hoffman, the Bishop of Toledo, was speaking to our young people.

He stood there in front of the Confirmation Class and asked, “Does anyone here want to become a newspaper reporter when you grow up?”

He said he was reading a newspaper the other day and the reporting was poor – terrible – and he thought to himself, “We need some good Christian reporters, some good Catholic newspaper writers.”

So he said that’s why he was asking the question: “Does anyone here want to be to a newspaper reporter when you grow up?”

Nobody raised their hand!

So he said, “Think about it?”

It’s now 15 years later. I’ve often wondered if anyone in that group that day became a newspaper reporter as a result of that question.

I’ve wondered at times if there is any mention here at both St. Mary’s Elementary School or St. Mary’s High School – about becoming a reporter. Does anyone teach kids how to interview people and how to be interviewed.

Two times in the past 12 years kids from our high school called me up and interviewed me for a school project or what have you.

They asked some basic interview questions:

  • ·       “Where are you from?”
  • ·       “Where did you go to school?”
  •          “When did you decide to become a           priest?”
  •          “Why in the world did you become a        priest?”
  • ·       “Where have you been as a priest?”
  • ·       “What’s the most interesting                      experience you’ve had as a priest?”
  • ·       “How do you come up with your                sermon ideas?”

I would like to add that every one of us will be interviewed and we will interview others all through our life.

10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, we will be on a plane, a train, a bus, or in a bar, or at the beach, or at a boring basketball game and we’re sitting next to a stranger. And they will ask us the regular life questions:
·       “Where are you from?”
·       “Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
·       “Where have you lived in your life?”
“Where did you go to school?”
·       “What job do you have?”
“Where did you go to college or trade school or what have you?”
·       “Do you have a family?”
·       “Were you in the military?”
·       “What teams do you go for?”
·       “Have you ever met anyone famous?”
·       “What was your best vacation?”
·       “What was the best moment in your life so far?
·       “Are your mom and dad still living?”

Those are some regular interview questions.

We don’t call them that. We just call them talking with another – usually one to one – at a picnic or a ballgame or on a plane – a bus – or a train.

If we’re interested in life, if we’re nosey, if we’re inquisitive, if we’re alive, if we’re social, we interview and we like to be interviewed.


I have here in my pocket the 3 tools of a reporter. Father Tizio loves to have something to show when he preaches. Show and Tell.

Here is a ballpoint pen. If you want to be a reporter – or catch on paper – some of life’s great stuff, always have a pen handy – in your pocket or purse.

Here is a small spiral pad. I have well over 100 of these tiny notebook pads in my desk. They contain all kinds of information that I picked up from reading – but especially meeting people – going to talks – what have you.

Most of you can’t see the leather protector for my small spiral pad. A gal in a wheelchair – in a church near Rochester, New York – her initials were M.G. handed this to me once as a gift.  All I remember was the smile on her face, the handing me the gift, and the wheelchair.

I have put over 100 of these small 3 inch by 5 inch pads in this homemade leather cover. They stay there till they are filled up. Then in goes a new clean pad. I can pick up anyone of these pads and find interesting stuff from way back – comments, interviews, talks I’ve heard, neat bumper sticker quotes, etc. etc. etc.

This morning I just opened this up and at random spotted this quote: “Babies diapers and politics must be change frequently and both for the same reason.” George Bernard Shaw

I wonder where I spotted that quote.

I also noticed in front about 20 tiny pages of notes from the commencement address of James Patterson that I went to a few years back in New Jersey.  He’s the guy who has the most written books in the United States right now. He said in his talk that he went to Catholic school in Newburgh, New York, was an altar boy, went to Manhattan College in New York, went to Vanderbilt, and somewhere along the line, some teacher reading his writing said, “Mr. Patterson, don’t ever try to make a living as a writer.” So he went into the advertising business and in the meanwhile became a writer.

And the last thing in my pocket is this small tape recorder. It’s one more reporter’s necessary tool. You’ve seen reporters interviewing Buck Showalter after an Oriole game or an athlete after a game – and they have tape recorder in hand – as they interview an athlete or a coach.


The title of my homily is, “On Being Interviewed.”

Here’s a job for you.

Interview your mom and dad. Ask they how they met – what was it like growing up – their favorite dessert – their favorite moment growing up?

If your grandparents are alive still and they are not that far away, interview your grandparents.

Get a tape recorder. Get a ballpoint pen. Get a pad.

Interview. Interview. Interview them.

It’s magic. It makes them feel that their life has been worthwhile, bringing you into the world – and someone is interested in how they spent the time of their life.

Line up your questions – ask them – clarify them – ask follow up questions.

Write their life.

I recently did a funeral – and one of you kids is here today – and your grandpa loved it when you interviewed him.  He told me this just before he died.


Way back in 1969 – for some reason – I sat down with my dad – and at that time I had a big Yellow Legal pad. My dad was very quiet. He didn’t say that much. That evening at the dining room table, I jotted down about 45 pages of notes.

I asked him about what it was like growing up in County Galway, Ireland – in a small town named Ballynahown. I asked him about his mom and dad. I asked him about school. I asked him about coming to America. He told me he  took a boat from Ireland to Boston. He said he had a 5 dollar bill in his pocket. He had a clean set of underwear in a bag. He said he was told to arrive in America with a clean set of underwear. He said the tossed the bag with his dirty underwear off the boat before they landed. He was polluting the Boston Harbor.  He told me about working and looking for work in Boston, Portland, Maine, Philadelphia, and then New York City.  He told me about writing love letters to my mom in Boston for 10 years – till she finally said, “Yes!”  They knew each other as teenagers in Ireland. Those notes are precious writings. My dad died in 1970.

In 1987 – for some reason – I decided one evening to interview my mother. She was very healthy – still working – being a caretaker for a woman who was younger than she was. This time I had a small tape recorder – with this tiny cassette – and I tape recorded my mom’s story – where she was from – just a stone’s throw from where my dad was from – right on the water at the edge of Galway Bay. I asked her about school – there were just 2 rooms in their schoolhouse – one side for boys, the other side for girls. First grade in Row 1, Second Grade in Row 2 and up to Grade 5.  She came to America – to Boston – worked as a maid at the Adam’s House Hotel. She also worked for a lady named Mrs. Brandt – whose daughter was a classmate of Anne Morrow in college – so my mom met Charles Lindbergh – the pilot who made the first solo flight from the United States to France.

After about 45 minutes of being interviewed, my mom said to me, “The moo is out of me.”  Translation: I’m tired. I’ve said enough. Then she said, “The next time you come home, we’ll get the rest of the story.”

Sad to say, two weeks later, my mother was killed crossing the street in a hit and run accident. She was still working at the age of 82.

This little tape is precious to me. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I sat there and listened to some of her story again.

It is a very powerful reminder to me of the importance and the power of interviewing people.


The title of my homily is, “On Being Interviewed.” Go for it.

And we have over 1500 kids right here, right now – in this great big beautiful outdoor Mass.

What would it be like, say 20 or 30 years from now, you’re on a plane or a train or in Pensacola Florida and you’re talking with a stranger. And one of you says to the other, “Hey, where are you from?” And the other answers, “Annapolis, Maryland.” And the other says, “That’s funny. Me too.”

“Well,” the next question is asked, “What school did you go to?” “St. Mary’s” comes the answer. “Well, what years were you there?” And the other says, “Way back around 2014.” And the other person says, “Me too.”

And you both laugh, because you both were at this Mass way back on May 9, 2014 – and you didn’t know it.

And one of you says, “Yeah, remember the ducks. Quack. Quack! They landed right on the lawn next to the altar right in the middle of the Mass and everyone laughed!”

Monday, May 12, 2014



The title of my homily for this 4th Monday after Easter is a question: “What’s It Like to Be the Other?”

Today’s readings trigger that question for me.

After Easter a lot of these first readings during the week are all about these struggles in the Early Church about different groups – becoming Christian and then the struggles with integration – circumcised with uncircumcised, pork eaters and non-pork eaters, Gentiles and Jews.

I’m sure there were various other language struggles and barriers – in all the different areas – around the Mediterranean Basin. I’m sure various cultures and customs brought struggles into the growing Christian community.  In fact, that’s one good way to read and listen to the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles, The Letters of Paul and others, as well as the Gospels.

And today’s gospel - John 10: 11-18 - has Jesus talking about sheep from other flocks – and the urge – the hope for unity and mergers of flocks.


Down through the centuries the Church had to deal with these issues of differences – with nationalities, tribes, cultures, class struggles, etc.

The title of my homily is, “What’s it like to be the other?”

That’s a great opening generic question. It might be helpful to be more specific with the question.

What’s it like to be in a wheelchair?

What’s it like to not be able to hear?

What’s it like to divorced?

What’s it like to have had an abortion?

What’s it like to be widowed?

What’s it like to stutter?

What would it be like to be parachuted into central Africa or central China and be the only person who looks like what we look like?

What’s it like to have a son or daughter on drugs?

What’s it like to have a brother or a sister who is gay and someone is blasting those who are gay?

What’s it like to a first year or first teacher – standing there in front of 28 first grade kids or senior high school kids?


Years and years ago, I remember my mother sitting there in this big hall and a black priest I knew walked into the room. Spotting me he walked up to my mom and started talking to her.  She was shocked. He might have been the first black person she ever met.

I remember my first assignment as a priest. Every guy in the community was an old man. Most were probably around my age right now or younger. It was the late 60’s and they were educated and trained before Vatican II – and so they were quite different from me. The first evening I walked into our common room to watch a ballgame on TV with them. Half were sleeping and half were smoking horrible smelling cigars.

Welcome to a new world.

Welcome to life: isn’t it all about seeing, learning, comparing, adapting, adjusting, compromising – and expansion of discovering others are different.

Hint. Hint. God is different.

Hint. Hint. Others are different.

Imagine Christ – the Son of God – becoming human, born of Mary, a teenage girl. It took time - but as Luke tells us, he grew  in wisdom and age – with people who had no idea who he was.

All this is called life – and Jesus gives lots and lots of one liners on how to deal with life and others. For the sake of being practical, let me just line up guess three secrets we have from Jesus on how to deal with all this:

1)   Try the golden rule. Do unto others.
2)   Expect the Cross

3)   Love the Lord your God with your whole mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

Poem for Today - May 12, 2014


The man who has many answers
is often found
in theaters of information
where he offers, graciously
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

© Mary Oliver, 
page 69 in
A Thousand Mornings.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

JOHN 10:10b


The title of my homily is, “John 10:10b.”

Have you ever wanted to have a Bible text – that you knew by heart – chapter and verse - and loved that text – and it was your’s?

The last sentence in today’s gospel is a possible candidate for that honor.

John 10:10b goes like this:
“I came
so that
they might have life
and have it more abundantly.”

John 10:10b:
“I came
so that
they might have life
and have it more abundantly.”

Could you please repeat those 13 words. It’s like a Psalm Response.
John 10:10b:
“I came
so that
they might have life
and have it more abundantly.”

Once more:
John 10:10b:
“I came
 so that
they might have life
and have it more abundantly.”

It’s your’s.  Bumper sticker it in your memory bank.

The title of my homily is, “John 10:10b.”

John 10:10a – gives the opposite – what takes away life – what stops the abundance of the good stuff of life – the thieves and slaughterers and destroyers of life.

Once more 10:10b - but with 10:10a first, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

The way I memorized that text - John 10:10b- for the past 50 years had the pronoun “you” instead of “they” in it. I’ve always heard Jesus saying to me, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”


Is that the meaning of life? Is that the secret of life?

That we all want abundance of life?

Are we all like that little kid in Oliver who gets up from his table and goes to the head table and says, “Please sir, could I have some more?”

 Is that every person that ever lived?

“Please .... I want some more.”

Today is Mother’s Day. Isn’t the most basic nature of ever mom – to get more food for her child or children?

Isn’t that what mamma bears and mamma sheep, mamma ravens and mamma orioles, mamma alligators and mamma alley cats, and all our moms do and did for us?

They gave us more!

Food glorious food – for starters.

Please mom, could I have some more – especially some more of those cookies.

Want a cookie? Want a treat?

I notice Father Tizio with his dog Wilbur – who can’t speak – but is forever stating in doggy language and gesture, “Please sir, could I have some more?”

We’re born hungry. We die hungry. And we spend our lives hungry for the More.

Is that the meaning of life? More!

Last Monday – May 5th, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 decision – allowed prayer – and specific types of prayer in public places like city council meetings.

Talk about Church and State issues -  listen to the following quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an  Address to the Federal Council of Churches of Christ [December 6,1933],  “If I were asked to state the great objective which Church and State are both demanding for the sake of every man and woman and child in this country, I would say that that great objective is, ‘a more abundant life.’” 

Is that the universal hunger – “a more abundant life” - which includes food – as well as all those rights in our Bill of Rights – as well as in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Is abundance what we all want?

Do we all want the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and in abundance?

Robert Browning  - the British writer and poet – wrote a poem – from way back in 1883 - that touches and triggers some of this. It begins this way:
“Wanting is--what?
Summer redundant,
Blueness abundant,
--Where is the blot?”

I assume we can ask every human being, “What is it that you want? What do you think blots it out?”

Robert Browning’s answers in his poem: I want summer right now – and lots of it redundant and in abundance. He wants an abundance of blue.

I’m sure kids by now want summer. I'm sure we’ve all said we want bright blue skies overhead - after a long streak of cold grey skies - with rain intermingled.  

Robert Browning says in his poem he looked around outside and saw roses and trees. He realizes they too are incomplete – always in process - always growing towards completion – but dang it – there is also death. Those rose petals will fall and die, so too leaves and the blue skies will become fade and fall and winter will appear.

Incompleteness is in the air....

Life…. Death …. Wanting….


Today's gospel brings in the theme of voices.

What are my voices? What are my sounds?


We feel hungry, thirsty, incomplete down deep.

Please mom, please dad, please family, please spouse, please kids, please friends, please neighbors, please relatives – let me tell you down deep – I want more.

If we listen to ourselves, our inner voices – if we listen to each other – what is it that we all want: it’s the more.

More peace, more love, more holding, more appreciation, more “thank you’s”.

Mom’s say today: One day – one weekend – is good for starters.

But what about tomorrow? Monday? Am I still special tomorrow?

Today’s second reading from Saint Peter voices a “be patient.”

We say with our voice, “Okay, for starters, but still I want more.”

Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles says, “Change and forgive and accept.” 

We respond, “Okay, also, but I still want more.”

Today’s gospel has Jesus saying with his voice be careful of letting into your life what can rob and steal from your life. Be careful, because you don’t know at times that you are letting through the gate of your life – strange voices – if you really knew them. 

Then he says, “I am the gate.”  He says that twice. “I am the gate.” He is saying, "Take me into your life. Make me your gatekeeper, more and more and more. 

Jesus is saying,  “Learn to recognize my voice in your life.”


The title of my homily is, “John 10”:10b”.

Haven’t we all picked up the phone and said after a few moments of listening, “Who’s this?” We don’t  recognize the voice.

Haven’t we all picked up the phone and said after a few moments, “I recognize the voice a bit - you sound familiar a bit – but who are you?”

Haven’t we all picked up on - or heard a voice - in the midst of the messes of our life - as well as our Masses - as well as the joys and wonders of life – the voice of Jesus and we said, “Thank you, Jesus. i know your voice.  I know you have come to me with life and given it to me more abundantly.”

And then we add with a smile in our voice, “And I have only one prayer to make, 'More!'”