Saturday, June 7, 2014


Poem for Today - June 7, 2014


Before I was born your love enveloped me.
You turned nothing into substance, and created me.
Who etched out my frame? Who poured
Me into a vessel and moulded me?
Who breathed a spirit into me? Who opened
The womb of Sheol and extracted me?
Who has guided me from youth-time until now?
Taught me knowledge, and cared wondrously for me?
Truly, I am nothing but clay within your hand.
It is you, not I, who have really fashioned me.
I confess my sin to you, and do not say
That a serpent intrigued, and tempted me.
How can I conceal from you, my faults, since
Before I was born your love enveloped me?

© Solomon Ibn Gabirol

(translated by David Goldstein)

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-DAY - JUNE 6, 1944

Poem for Today - June 6, 2014


Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.

This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval.
Such trees we never knew.

The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew.
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.

The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.

Could you have seen us through a glass
You would have said a walk
Of farmers out to turn the grass,
Each with his own hay-fork.

The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.

I must lie down at once, there is
A hammer at my knee.
And call it death or cowardice,
Don't count again on me.

Everything's all right, Mother,
Everyone gets the same
At one time or another.
It's all in the game.

I never strolled, nor ever shall,
Down such a leafy lane.
I never drank in a canal,
Nor ever shall again.

There is a whistling in the leaves
And it is not the wind,
The twigs are falling from the knives
That cut men to the ground.

Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
The way to turn and shoot.
But the Sergeant's silent
That taught me how to do it.

O Captain, show us quickly
Our place upon the map.
But the Captain's sickly
And taking a long nap.

Lieutenant, what's my duty,
My place in the platoon?
He too's a sleeping beauty,
Charmed by that strange tune.

Carentan O Carentan
Before we met with you
We never yet had lost a man
Or known what death could do. 

© Louis Simpson

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Poem for Today - June 5, 2014


For David Freedman
I read somewhere
that if   pedestrians didn’t break traffic laws to cross
Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,
      the whole city
would stop, it would stop.
Cars would back up to Rhode Island,
an epic gridlock not even a cat
could thread through. It’s not law but the sprawl
of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved
the unprecedented gall
of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand
up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.
They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical
as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,
the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black
as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant
it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.
For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,
paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.
And it was my pleasure to witness a not
insignificant miracle: in one instant every black
umbrella in Hell’s Kitchen opened on cue, everyone
still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,
the sails of some vast armada.
And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress
to accompany the piano movers.
each holding what might have once been
lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next
the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled
under the corner awning,
in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles
zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette
around. The city feeds on beauty, starves
for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,
to my deserted block with its famously high
subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure
longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon
opened its mouth to drink from on high ...

©  Mary Karr

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Poem for Today  - June 4, 2014


It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,

For hope must not depend on feeling good
And there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
Of the future, which surely will surprise us,
…And hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
Any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.
Because we have not made our lives to fit
Our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
The streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
Then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
Of what it is that no other place is, and by
Your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
Place that you belong to though it is not yours,
For it was from the beginning and will be to the end
Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
Your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
Who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
And the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
Fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
In the trees in the silence of the fisherman
And the heron, and the trees that keep the land
They stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.
This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power
Or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful
when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy
when they ask for your land and your work.
Answer with knowledge of the others who are here
And how to be here with them. By this knowledge
Make the sense you need to make. By it stand
In the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.
Speak to your fellow humans as your place
Has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
Before they had heard a radio. Speak
Publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.
Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
From the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
By which it speaks for itself and no other.
Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
Underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
Freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
And the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
Which is the light of imagination. By it you see
The likeness of people in other places to yourself
In your place. It lights invariably the need for care
Toward other people, other creatures, in other places
As you would ask them for care toward your place and you.
No place at last is better than the world. The world
Is no better than its places. Its places at last
Are no better than their people while their people
Continue in them. When the people make
Dark the light within them, the world darkens.

© Wendell Berry

Tuesday, June 3, 2014



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


If someone overheard us, what would they hear?

I think that’s a great examination of conscience  as well as consciousness.

I know when I think about my answers to that question, I’m a little bit more careful of what I say about others that day.

There’s are less digs, gossip, and more respect for others – coming out of my mouth.

I’m more aware of the Golden Rule:  would I want someone to be talking about me this way?  No! Of course not.

I’m aware that conversations and comments about other people are  the #1 topic of conversation in life.  Sports and weather pale and fail in comparison.  So much of life is reporting about people – one’s kids, one’s spouse, one’s neighbors,  one’s friends. No problem – till we start to kill one another – with digs and words that hurt another


Every Monday morning I make time to read the Metropolitan Section of  The New York Times.

It presents  4 or 5 moments – vignettes – scenes - of life in New York City. People  send in  things that hit them as they walk the streets and travel the subways of New York.

There was an example from yesterday’s paper that grabbed me. I said to myself. “That would make a strong example  for a homily.”

I don’t know about you, but often stuff written in the paper  or a magazine hit me harder than the scriptures.

A Matthew Baigell  sent this little story in. It’s entitled, “Mind Your Own Business.”

“Dear Diary: Overhearing a visitor, apparently from the South, in Times Square making a disparaging comment to his companion about a same-sex couple holding hands, I also overheard an obviously irate New Yorker telling them: ‘This is New York. We don’t do guns here. EVERYTHING  else is nobody’s business.’”


To me  -  compared to the clarity in that story – today’s gospel  is tricky to unravel.  Sometimes these statements what Jesus said at the Last Supper can be like spaghetti. So I’m saying that  today’s gospel  doesn’t  have the grab of that little story in the New York Times.

Besides the message of minding my own business and not going around complaining,  the Metropolitan Diary story got me thinking and wondering: “Is it true that ‘Everything else is nobody’s business”.”

As I was thinking about  all this,  I read about today’s saints -  St. Charles Lwanga and Companions.  They are the Uganda martyrs who were murdered and massacred back in 1885 to 1887

The King – the head of their section of Uganda  - was a pedophile abusing boys and others. Charles Lwanga and various other leaders in the Christian community – spoke up about all this and all paid with their life.
Were they martyrs because they were Christian – or because they challenged those in power – or because they screamed out about what was wrong – or all of the above.  Christians: Catholics, Anglicans and others were martyred.


Still thinking about all this and not sure just how to conclude, here are 4 short prayers:

   Lord, give me a deep respect for all people.

   Lord help my words make life sweeter in the conversations I find myself in today.

   Lord give me the strength to challenge others in the best possible way when others need to be challenged.

   Lord help me to remember the old saying, “So live that you wouldn’t be scared to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

Poem for Today - June 3, 2014


Mistah Kurtz-he dead
            A penny for the Old Guy


    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats' feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.


    Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
    In death's dream kingdom
    These do not appear:
    There, the eyes are
    Sunlight on a broken column
    There, is a tree swinging
    And voices are
    In the wind's singing
    More distant and more solemn
    Than a fading star.
    Let me be no nearer
    In death's dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer-
    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom


    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man's hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.
    Is it like this
    In death's other kingdom
    Waking alone
    At the hour when we are
    Trembling with tenderness
    Lips that would kiss
    Form prayers to broken stone.


    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death's twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.


    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o'clock in the morning.

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
                                   Life is very long
    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot

Monday, June 2, 2014



The title of my talk is, “What Little Children Can Teach Us.”


Let me begin with a gospel reading from Mark 10:13-16:

“Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that  whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’  Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.”


When we hear the word “teacher” we think of teachers we’ve had in school – a 4th grade teacher – a math teacher – a science teacher – a religion teacher.

When I hear the word “teacher” -  as an old man  – I think not just of school teachers – but also people I  have met along the way – someone who taught us so much.

I noticed in the paper the other day a story about a man who owns his own company. He was asked where he learned what he learned – and what was his most important lesson or learning experience in life

He told about his first job. He saw the boss and asked him what was the greatest thing he learned in working his way up the ladder in the company.

The owner said, “Okay. Look around and pick out someone who is sharp and ask that person to be your mentor.”

The young man said, “Okay, I want you to be my mentor.”

The boss was surprised – smiled – and said, “Okay. Be here in my office first thing Thursday morning.”  And they met first thing every Thursday morning and talked about work and life and what he saw was going on.


Jesus is saying in this gospel story or gospel moment – to learn from little children.

Father Joe Krastel likes to say that the oldest girl in many a family with a few other kids – ends up automatically being a second mother and learns an awful lot about raising kids herself.

Parents in raising a child learn an awful lot about life from raising their  kid.

Up till having a child – a baby – a husband and a wife – can be quite independent. Then with a new born baby – they have to sacrifice – change their plans – change diapers – change their sleep patterns – all because of this new born baby.

Then if their kids go to a Catholic school here in Maryland they have to figure out a way to get them to school. Other states, like Pennsylvania, Catholic school kids can take the yellow school bus.

Then parents have to worry about their kids as teenagers, especially.

It’s not good being a helicopter parent  - hovering over one’s kids.  For kids to grow – parents have to let go.  At the same time they have to keep watch over their kids and serve them.

Then there is the cost of school – learning the price of a good education – doing that for one’s kids – they hope their kids are prepared for life.


Once upon a time – years and years ago - I got a paper cut. It was a tiny cut on my finger. Probably the only time in my life –  I put a band aid on my finger – a tan colored – skin colored – Band-Aid – over the cut. I’m sitting on the couch at my niece’s house and my little grandnephew from the other side of room – gets off his chair and walks across the room and takes my finger and says, “Boo boo – hurts?”

Why do I remember that moment  all these years?

That little kid was teaching me something.

Somehow little children – and sometimes dogs – know when someone is hurting – and nobody else knows.

I remember praying afterwards, “Lord, let me be like my grandnephew Patrick and be able to spot who’s hurting – across the room – across the planet.”

We can learn so much from little kids.

A little kid – Declan Matthew – was baptized in this church yesterday afternoon at 3 PM. He was 1 years old – so he could walk. But all through the baptism ceremony he was watching everything – his head kept turning. And he was constantly pointing at things – the altar – the ceiling – the stained glass windows.

I remembered hearing in a talk once that the first word many little kids says is, “Dat…. Dat!”  It’s a Sanskrit word – the oldest language on earth – and it means, “That – Look at that!”


Jesus saw everything and everyone. He said see the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. He knew when someone was hurting and when someone was angry.

He taught us to see – hear – feel – touch.

That’s why Jesus was called the great teacher. 

The world is a classroom - better a school.

The world is filled with teachers - some who have that title - but many who don't.

If we're willing to learn - we'll see a lot more than those who have closed their eyes and ears and minds a long time ago. 

It's an honor to be alive and to learn.

It's an honor to be known as someone who is a learner.

It's an honor to be with you this afternoon - at this awards ceremony - honoring students here at St. Mary's - who have excelled in so many different ways. Amen. 


The title of my homily is, “Come Holy Spirit! Life Takes Time, Having the Time of Our Life.”

Traditionally, these 9 days before Pentecost, which we celebrate next Sunday, we had the Novena – 9 days of prayers for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Novenas have somewhat fallen out – and with Ascension Thursday being moved to Sunday – yesterday – in this diocese – the stress is lessened even a little bit more.

Yet this week is a good week – as well as next Sunday and next week – to focus on the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit!


In today’s first reading – Acts 19:1-8 – we have this moment in Ephesus – when Paul discovered some disciples. Surprise! So he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”  And they answered, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

Paul then asks, “Well, how were you baptized?”

And they answer, “With the baptism of John.”

It tells me: faith takes time.

It’s a telling scene. It’s telling us that Paul has his work cut out for him – to proclaim not only the Holy Spirit – but also Jesus Christ as Lord – as well as God as Our Father.

It’s telling  us that Christianity comes to folks in bits and pieces.

The Acts of the Apostles is a remarkable document. It gives us glimpses of the Early Church and  the growth and development of these early Christians.

It connects me to all the times I’ve sat with someone who wants to explore the Catholic – Christian Faith – a bit more.

My favorite moment was with a couple in my first assignment on the Lower East Side of New York. It was in the late 1960’s  not too long after I was out of the major seminary.  I was going through the Bible with them and the guy says, “But when do the Vikings come in?”

It connects me with a talk which a Redemptorist Missionary from Thailand gave us. He said his parish was a river. He would go up and down a river – sleeping in a boat – his rectory - all night. He would arriving in a village in the morning. The whole day would be spent catechizing –  baptizing, marrying, hearing confessions, saying Mass – and then getting in the boat – and during the night motoring to the next village . They would get there the next morning – and go through the same thing day after day.  Each place was hit a few times every year. Year by year they learned – and grew as Christians – sort of like these communities we hear about in the Acts of the Apostles.


So too us. We’re all in different places as Christians and Catholics on the river of life.

In the meanwhile – “Come Holy Spirit” is a good daily prayer.


Poem for Today - June 2, 2014


I opened and read
The small read envelope
The mountain crow had brought:
‘On the night of the moon
The hills will blaze
Savage and red.’

I was going to reply,
When my eyes opened.
Ah yes, there it was:
A single red leaf.

© Saijo Yaso

Sunday, June 1, 2014



The title of my homily is, “I Am More Than…”

The feast of the Ascension – celebrated in this diocese this Sabbath – leads me to reflect upon the theme of “more than”.

I am more than .......... Fill in the blank.


Sometimes we get the thought and the feeling –  I am more than I am right now.  We hear ourselves saying, “I am better than this.”

We might say it after yelling at one of our kids – or when we’ve wasted a few hours doing nothing – like late at night – like watching a dumb movie – or playing solitaire game after solitaire game on the computer – or what have you – and it’s late – and we go, “Oh no, not again!” Wasting time, time, time…. And I told myself I’m going to exercise more or get more sleep or do better than this….”

We might say it when we’re at a dead end job – or we have a decent job – but we’re not really working hard – we’re just putting in time – or texting – texting – texting…..

We might be thinking and feeling this feeling of “I’m more than….” when we realize I am more than my job – or my salary – or my house, car, boat, motorcycle – or my sense of humor or math skills or my stories – or my resume of successes – that I like to salt and pepper my conversations with at times – cutting others off in the middle of their stories – not being aware of family or friends or the others in my life.

My successes – my good stuff -  can be nice, great, wonderful – but sometimes we sense there is something more – more – more - and we’re feeling empty or have that itch or ache for a different more – God, spirituality, generosity, giving, listening, letting others shine - making life sweeter for those around me – and I’m in a fog or a funk. “I know,” we say.


Ascension means more than. Ascension means stepping up – as “He ascended up the staircase.” Or “The mountain had a steep ascent – but they made it to the top.”

Today’s first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles – and we hear in the opening words of the book, to whom it’s addressed: Theophilus. That means  a lover of God. Philus – lover - and - Theos – God.

We know that: that we want to be a lover of God. Please God.

We know God is the more – that’s why we’re here in church.

That’s why we want nourishment when we come to church – words – a message that satisfies us from the scriptures or from a homily or from our prayers – or all 3 and more.

But there’s always that ache for more.

I’m aware of it in the homilies I write. Sometimes something I say or come up with hits me – okay, that makes sense, thank You God – but most of the time I’m on the edge of something – I’m on the far edge, the far side of God – and I know it and you know it – and that’s humbling.

But I laugh. I know I’m not God – and I say, “God you do it – feed these folks with your more – because I can’t. I’ll try – but you’re the More. Be it please for them and me too.

You know this, we all know this, our prayers are never – just right – our mind wanders – our laziness sneaks in – our feelings of less, very less – less than even being decent human beings at times go “hmm!” “hmm!”

I don’t know about you, but this is proof enough for me that there is life after death. I don’t know about you, but I need time and eternity to grasp and get God – because I’ve only got glimpses of God so far.

Today’s second reading – from Ephesians – says just that – and far better than I just put it: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”

Ephesians goes on, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.”

Words – words – words – but what do they mean.

But good thing that words are presented – that they are spoken at us – because sometimes somehow a word or two grabs us. Nudges us.  Touches us on the edge of what we want more of….

We want wisdom, more of it.

We want knowledge of God, more of it.

We want the eyes of our heart enlightened – interesting image “eyes in our heart” – from today’s second reading - but we grasp what it means – to see the more in  our heart aches for God.

We want to hear his calls to us.

We know that we need to spend more time with God – to take walks alone in the evening or early morning – or to drop into an afternoon church when nobody is in here – or maybe some church just  5 minutes away from where we work.


Then there are moments when we experience God.

Take a moment and make a short list – like come up with 3 God experiences in our life

That more feels like more – from all those times we’ve experienced God in our lives.

It might have been at a ball game seeing all those people – and the game is a blowout – but God hits us – in a gigantic crowd – with a home run of a moment – God touches down on us – touches the edge of our t-shirt of sports jacket and we’re all alone with 32,000 people or 80,000.

It might have been while taking a good shower, seeing a super sunset – having a little baby’s touching our nose – and looking us in the eye – and laughing – or that time we received Holy Communion 18 years ago – and in an instance – we knew Jesus Christ in his fullness for a minute or two – and “Phew!” we knew.


The title of my homily is, “I Am More Than….”

Jesus is more than we realize. We know that – or we can “No” that.

Spelled: K N O W  or  N O.

God is more than we realize. We know that.

Spelled: K N O W  or  N O.

I am more than I realize. I know that.

Spelled: K N O W  or  NO.

Life is more than we realize. We know that.

Spelled: K N O W  or  N O?

Scratch life and we’ll know – K N O W – we have an itch for the more of life….

Ascension means to keep ascending to that more – and avoiding descending to the pits.

Christianity says we don’t have to do life alone.

Be church, be family, be connected.

And Christ says in today’s gospel, “I am with you always.”

And Christ says more – as we heard  him  saying in today’s gospel –  we have been called to go into this whole world and help others discover Christ – God – the More we are all looking for.

Did you ever meet someone who gives you a sense – a taste – a desire – for the More called God?

Pray to be that someone.

I love Chesterton’s comment about us: “We are the million masks of God.”

In other words, that underneath us – that because of us – someone would sense and discover God.


What would it be like to pray every morning:
“O would that, O God,
O would that O God,
that I be a mask of You

for someone today.”

Poem for Today - June 1, 2014


Eat bread.  Drink wine. Try to sing the song
of Christ.  Live life.  If you can dance, dance.
Everywhere grace awaits. Desire to love to love.

© Maura Eichner
from Out of Cana