Saturday, June 14, 2014


Poem for Today - Saturday  June 14, 2014


A butterfly flew between the cars.
Marie Jose said: it must be Chuang Tzu,
on a tour of  New York.
                 But the butterfly
didn’t know it was a butterfly
dreaming it was Chuang Tzu
                 or Chuang Tzu
dreaming he was a butterfly.
The butterfly never wondered:
                                  It flew.


La mariposa volaba entre los autos.
Marie Jose me dijo: ha der ser Chuang Tzu,
de paso por Nueva York.
Pero la mariposa
no sabia que era una mariposa
que sonaba ser Chuang Tzu
o Chuang Tzu
que sonaba ser una mariposa.
La mariposa no dudaba:

© Octavio Paz,
Page 488-489
In The Collected
Poems of Octavio Paz,

Friday, June 13, 2014


Poem for Today - Friday -  June 13, 2014


To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen winds,
Bats not angels, in  the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

© R. S. Thomas
Painting on top:
Christmas Prayers
by Henry Bacon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Poem for Today - Thursday -   June 12, 2014


In a country without saints or shrines
I knew one who made his pilgrimage
to springs, where in his life’s dry years
his mind held on. Everylasting,
people called them, and gave  them names.
The water broke into sounds and shinings
at the vein mouth, bearing the taste
of the place, the deep rock, sweetness
out of the dark. He bent and drank
in bondage to the ground.

© Wendell Berry,
Page 106 in
Collected Poems,


Poem for Today - Wednesday -  June 11, 2014


Thinking of your vocation, I am filled
With thoughts of my own lack of one. I see
Within myself no wish to breed or build
Or take the three vows ringed by poverty.
And yet I have a sense,
Vague and inchoate, with no symmetry,
Of purpose. Is it merely a pretense,

A kind of scaffolding which I erect –
Half out of fear, half out of laziness?
The fitful poems come but can’t protect

The empty areas of loneliness.
You know what you must do,
So that mere breathing is a way to bless.
Dark nights, perhaps, but no grey days ahead for you.

Your vows enfold you. I must make my own;
Now this, now that, each one empirical.
My poems move from feelings not yet known,
And when the poem is written I can feel
A flash, a moment’s peace.
The curtain will be drawn across the grill.
My silences are always enemies.

Yet with the same convictions that you have
(It is but your vocation that I lack),
I must, like you, believe in perfect love.
It is the dark, the dark that draws me back
Into a chaos where
Vocations, visions fail, the will grows slack
And I am stunned by silence everywhere.

© Elizabeth Jennings,
(For C.)
Painting on top: 
Three Nuns by
Dorothy Mary Braund (1926)
Australian, 1965


The title of my homily for this 10th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Seeing Your Good Deeds, Then Glorifying Your Heavenly Father.”

Today’s gospel ends: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

There’s 2 steps there: seeing and then giving God the Glory.

If I had to put these 2 steps into gesture it would be like this: two fingers pointed to the eyes. That symbolizes seeing. Coaches are telling players to be doing this all the time. See. See. See. Look. Look. Look. Be aware. Be aware. Be aware. Watch. Watch. Watch. Secondly, lifting that one hand – one finger pointed up to God – giving God the glory.

I’ve been noticing in sports these past few years that an athlete makes a great play or makes a great shot or what have you and then that athlete raises his one hand and index finger - signifying:  “Give God the Glory.”


First scene to see. There is mention in this first reading –  1 Kings 17: 7-16 - of seeing a dry brook – without rain – and then picturing that same brook – flowing with rain water after the heavens open up and pours down rain.

This is going to happen in the next chapter – 1 Kings 18: 41-46 – when torrential rain falls when Elijah calls on God for rain – and he succeeds whereas the priests of Baal – are weak – when calling upon their fertility gods for water.

I look out my window every morning and I see Spa Creek. Every day  it is still filled with water. It’s  looking good – all year long. Give God the Glory.

When I drive down Rowe Blvd – with the State House  in front of me - heading back to St. Mary’s – I always spot  the spot - there off to my right - where water is down below – under what is  the first of the two flat  bridges. There always seems to be water down there the whole year – even in August. I always look there and wonder, “Has that creek ever dried up?”

Next scene…. The first reading talks about a widow – this woman with one son – how she gets water for this wandering prophet on the run – and then bread and cake as well. The food doesn’t run out.

I think of all the people on the planet who help feed other people on the planet – people who help fill the food banks in local centers for the poor – as well as churches – etc. etc. etc. As well as countries and big organizations like the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services – helping other countries after national tragedies. See people helping one another. Give God the Glory.

Today’s Psalm response is, “Lord, let your face shine on us.”

See all the people who see God’s smile on the faces of so many other people on the planet – every day. May we be the smile of God. May we be the joy of God. May we be the face of God for another today. Give God the glory. We all remember the comment the little kid made who said, “I want to see a God with skin on.” We are called to be the face of God – the hand of God - the lift of God - the smile of God – for those around us each day.

Today’s gospel – Matthew 5: 13-16 – part of the Sermon on the Mount - tells us that same message with our call to be salt and light to our world.  When we are that – when we are shaking salt, shining light, on others, then we are giving God the glory.  


Why do people give up, why do people dry up, why do people not show up – when it comes to being bread and water, cake, a smile, salt and light, for each other.

The answer ought to be: because they haven’t met us yet. Amen.


Poem for Today -Tuesday -  June 10, 2014


I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind e’re conceived,
Oh, let me not exist! For Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, ‘To Him we shall return.’*

© Jalalu’ddin Rumi
Translated by R.A. Nicholson
*Koran 2:151



The title of my homily for this 10th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Streams of Living Water.”

At the end of today’s first reading from 1st Kings 17, I noticed the words, “he drank from the stream.”

The “he” refers to Elijah, the Prophet. He is thirsty and  on the run and is hiding from Ahab and his soldiers.

Elijah is hungry and thirsty and he hears the Lord telling him where to hide and where there is water – at the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.

A wadi is the bed or valley of a stream in dry regions. In rainy seasons that’s where the rain flows into. It’s a gully – a shallow depression in the earth. It’s from the Arabic word “WADIY” – meaning just that.

I read the readings to come up with an idea for a homily.

I’ve read and heard dozens of sermons on the Beatitudes, so I was looking at this first reading especially.

It hit me: “Ask what are and where are my streams of living water?”


One my best friends was a priest with the nickname of  “Trixie”. He was a fat little Italian guy. I was standing with him once in our old seminary in Upstate New York on a hot day. He says, “Let’s go down to the library and get a drink of cold water at the fountain there.”

I said, “There’s no fountain down there.” 

He says, “Yes there is, Fat People always know where there are cold water fountains.”

I said, “Thanks for the compliment.”

Well, maybe not any more with bottled water.

Where are our fountains, our streams of living water – the one that woman in the Gospel of John asked Jesus about? [Cf. John 4: 15]

A wonderful prayer is to say what that woman said, “Jesus, I want that water – that living water you’re talking about.”


Any of us – who are religious searchers – know what it is to be spiritually thirsty and spiritually dry.

It’s an image that is part of spirituality literature.  It’s part of marriage as well. We have dried up.  And marriage is also a powerful image often found in spiritual literature.

Another image is The Dark Night of the Soul and Senses and Spirit.

Basically they are the same.


So what are our streams of living water?

It is wise to ponder this and see what are our answers to that question.


So we can go to those sources. Any of you who have read The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila – know of her 4 sources of water - so as to water our garden for the Lord - so as to be in union with God.

The first is the bucket. It's more us - the going back and forth to the well, lowering the bucket down into the well, pulling up the rope, and then walking back and forth to the garden from the well.

The second is the windlass. It's a bit easier than lowering and lifting a bucket up and down into a well. I went searching in Google, but I've haven't found a picture of this kind of a "machine" in Spain in the 1500's, so  I find this image the hardest to picture. The wind part of the word and the image is from a rope that winds around a piece of wood. One turns or winds a handle around and around to make it a bit easier to get water in a barrel from a water source.

The third image is the trench or canal one builds to let water flow from a stream into one's garden. Self first and then one sits back and lets the water flow and do its work.

The last image is simple: it rains. God does all the work. Let go, laugh, and let God drench us completely.

Anyone who has seen the famous statue by Bernini of St. Teresa in Ecstasy in Sancta Maria Della Church in Rome knows that image. She’s standing there in an ecstasy – as in a rain fall.

When people are deeply in love – when people are on their honeymoon – it’s like being in rain storm of love. I’m not married, but that’s my romantic image of it.

Any of us who have spent time in prayer – know moments of ecstasy.

So then the question: what are our streams of living water? What are our spiritual sources - that fill our reservoir.


The answer for me is time: taking time to read scriptures, taking time for Mass, taking time for a brief morning and night prayer. It’s taking time to go to Jesus the stream, the source, of living water.

Lovers connect. Lovers of God connect. 


Sitting there on a plane or bus
or church or at a meeting - next to
or directly behind another person -
looking straight ahead at the back
of another person’s head. Interesting….

Who is this person?
What is he like?
What is she like?
Where is he or she right now?
To say “interesting” is not enough…

Where has he been?
What has she faced?
What are her thoughts?
What is his story?
To say, “mystery” is not enough….

Then the man next to me
on the plane said,  “Hi.
Where are you headed?”
And the two of us began to talk.
And the next hour took 17 minutes.

Now there is one less person
on this planet I didn’t talk to.
Now there is one more person
who has a glimpse of my planet.
Interesting …. Mystery …. More….

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2014



To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin-dapple-drawn Falcon,
in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl
and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind My heart is hiding
Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume here
Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blure-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves and gash gold-vermillion.

© Gerard Manley Hopkins


The title of my homily is, "Praying for The Breath of the Spirit."

Today is the feast of Pentecost.

Pentecoste – is the Greek word for 50 days. Today is 50 days after Easter.

It's called the Birthday of the Church – hang onto that word "birth".

It's the day – we believe as Christians - that the Holy Spirit came into our world in a new way.


The title of my homily is, "Praying for the Breath of the Spirit."

We know what breath is like. We're breathing in and out all day long –whether we're aware of it or not. When the weather is cold – we can see breath coming out of people's mouths.

I’ve seen the Grand Canyon and the Grand Cayman Islands, but I’ve never seen the breath taking scene a birth of a new baby is. I’ve heard a dozen times that when a new baby is born, one of the first things to do – is to get that baby breathing.

When a person dies, the breath of life goes out of them.

When a person drowns – or they stop breathing – EMT people – or doctors or nurses – or anyone with training – they try to get the person breathing –giving them artificial respiration.

One of the first teachings in various religions – one of the first steps – in many meditation programs – is to ask people to become aware of their breath.

Breathe in! Breathe out! Breathe in. Breathe out.


The book of Genesis begins very dramatically when it comes to the creation of the first person: Adam — meaning earth.

One story has God from afar — giving commands — and there is light, sky, stars, water, the birds and fish and trees, and all kinds of animals and wild beasts, and then God made us in God’s own image — and all is good.

Then there is a second creation account when God makes — sculpts  - creates the first man from the clay of the earth — and then breathes life into that sculpture.

Then realizing this person is all alone — and it's not good to be alone — God creates woman — out of the first man. God casts the first man into a deep sleep and pulls out his rib and then fleshes out of that — the first woman — Eve — the mother of all the living.

It's very poetic — very dramatic — very visual — and in a certain sense — a very real way of picturing how we came about.

The writers of Genesis didn't know what we know today — about how we evolved — and we still don't know exactly how life — started. We just know it took billions of years — in a slow crawl till we got to the first humans.

When we are young our lungs are great. Breathing is as easy as the A-B-C’s.

When we are older, shortness of breath sometimes stops us in our tracks and we have to stop to lean on a banister, a tree, or a wall.

We need air to live — to breathe — to make this planet work — and everything is interconnected — water, oxygen, lungs, life.


The next big observation about life is that people have good days and bad days.

People lose their spirit.

People run out of gas.

People lose their breath.

People get tired — sometimes tired of living.

Just as someone can see a sail on a sailboat — stop — just sit still —because there is no wind — and the boat won't go anywhere — just drifting on the waters — so too human beings drift — drag — down, down themselves.

Then people see the wind pick up and the boat starts moving — full sail —ahead.

So too we see people who were down come back to life. They get a fresh breath of life — a second wind.

Poets, preachers, teachers noticed these things and pointed this out to people.


People know about breath and wind — invisible — but we can feel our lungs go in and out. We can see — especially here in Annapolis — sails billow out with wind.

Anyone who has played or worked with fire — knows that fire feeds on air and itself.

Watch boy scouts trying to start a fire. Watch someone trying to get a fire place going. Air is a necessity.

Anyone who has watched altar servers blow out the candles after Mass have seen them blow the wind away from the wick — or put one of those candle putter outers over the flame.

Watch fire fighters and see how difficult it is to deal with a fire when wind kicks in and up.


So when it comes to God, we can't see God — except in Jesus — but Jesus liked to tell us about his Father — and also about the third person in God: the And two key images for the Spirit of God is wind and fire — breath and fire.
So Jesus talked about lighting a fire under people. Red — fire — igniting —passion — is something God wants of us — to be passionate about love and service and making life better for others.

So Jesus talked about breathing and sending a new wind — to shake us —to enliven us — to get us moving.

So when it comes to God — especially God the Holy Spirit — the key thing is to pray to the Holy Spirit for life — for courage — forgiveness — peace —passion — strength.

That's the stuff in the readings for this feast.

The disciples — the apostles — the friends of Jesus had lost Jesus. It was like the fire went out, the air was knocked out of them, they were filled with fear and this mighty wind shook the house where they were hiding out —and new life, a new fire came into them —and they burst out of that locked upper room and changed the world.

Their bodies got moving again — as if they were reborn — a new Genesis hit them.

In today's gospel they discovered that when we forgive ourselves and others — when we do that we receive a new Spirit —new life — but if we hold onto the past, the mistakes, we are dead.


This morning I preached a different sort of a sermon.

But let me end the same way.

I like to stress using our rosary – not just for Hail Mary’s.

Today I would suggest taking your rosary beads and simply pray on the 59 beads of one’s rosary, “Come Holy Spirit!”

Close your eyes and slowly try it. It takes about 4 minutes.

Or take your rosary and just say a one word prayer – 59 times.

What one word prayer. Today’s sequence for Pentecost has the famous Vene Sante Spiritus prayer. Notice it contains a whole bunch of one word prayers. Close your eyes and with rosary in hand, pray slowly these same words: Light, Shine, Comfort, Welcome, Solace, Renew, Heal, Forgive…..

Sunday, June 8, 2014



The title of my reflection for  today  is, “Veni Sancte Spiritus.”

This will be an information type sermon.

Relax – I am aiming for 6 minutes – whereas I usually aim for 10 minutes with a Sunday homily.  This will be a bit much – appealing to the mind – more than the heart – and our minds can only take so much. If this is a bomb, it will only be a 6  minute bomb. Relax. I spent  my preparation time doing some research on this Latin hymn, “Veni Sancte Spiritus.”


Veni Sancte Spiritus  is the Latin name for  this  hymn – called a sequence - for Pentecost  found here in the missalette on page 173.

It’s in Latin and English.

It’s the sequence for today’s Feast of Pentecost.

It’s one of the 5 sequences  we find in the liturgy – established with the Roman Missal of 1570 – a new Missal that  was called for by the Council of Trent [1545 to 1563]. 

The 5 sequences are:

1.    Victimae Paschali Laudes ”  It’s for Easter -  (To the Paschal Victim give praise)
2.    Veni Sancte Spiritus” - Come Holy Spirit – the one for today.
3.    Lauda Sion”  - (Praise O Sion) – the one for Corpus Christi.
4.    Stabat Mater” - (Stood the Mother sad and weeping)  for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15.
5.    Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) – for All Souls Day – November 2nd.

It’s my experience that these sequences  are rarely used here at St. Mary’s – with the exception of the Stabat Mater – which Harry Thomson plays every Friday night during Lent  at the Stations of the Cross – and Lauda Sion – which we sing at the 12:30 Corpus Christi Mass and Procession – which is coming up in a two weeks – June 22nd.   You can find that sequence in the Missalette on pages 178-179.

Sequence means “following” – as in the fancy avant-garde word "segue"  [seg way] – a word I’m sure you’ve  heard various people use in the past few years – meaning “what follows without pause” – and the sequence was a hymn that followed the reading before the gospel.

Before Trent  there were many more of these sequences – but with the new Roman Missal following Trent,   it seems the 5 best were picked.

Down thought the centuries  various famous musicians and composers came up with beautiful  renditions of these sequences.

If you like to do Google or computer search,  you can listen to various compositions in Gregorian Chant  and other types of music the Veni Sancte Spiritus as well as the other sequences.

As you know from time to time – big time changes are made in Church prayers and practices and music .  As you know the Council of Trent was the reform council by the Catholic Church – in answer to the Protestant Reformation  of Christianity  that started with Martin Luther and John Calvin and others. 1517 is the usual date given for the start of the Protestant Reformation – when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Saxony, Germany.

Our big council – Vatican II – 1962-65 – after years and years of calls for changes  called for a reform on that same Roman Missal. Then  the new missal was called the Sacramentary. Two years ago a new translation of that came out, called once again, “The Roman Missal.”   

At present there are calls for a reform of this new Roman Missal – because of complaints of a  too literal translation from the Latin. If you hear us priests mixing up words – and getting tongue tied at times – it’s not just creeping dementia and old age.


Okay – having said all that, how to come to a helpful conclusion?.

Besides listening to some religious  music, what else?

Okay let me make once more a plug for a very practical spiritual practice. I love to say, “Rosary beads can be used for more than Hail Mary’s.”

I would assume everyone here has a rosary.

Simply during the next week – it’s called the Octave of Pentecost – take your rosary and pray on the 59 beads the simple prayer, “Come Holy Spirit” or if you love Latin, “Veni  Sancte Spiritus.”

It takes 3 minutes to say, “Come Holy Spirit” or “Veni Sancte Spiritus” – with the 59 beads of the rosary.

Close your eyes in prayer and say that prayer – 59 times - praying that the Holy Spirit come into your life.

Or you can go through the Pentecost Sequence and pick out just  one word  from the sequence and say that word for 59 times on the beads. There are some nice words in this sequence.  For example pray any one of these words 59 times on your beads: comfort, welcome, refresh, renew, strengthen, heal, wash, forgive, enrich, rest, cool, warm, melt, guide, save.

Try that for prayer – and getting lost in prayer – in God – in the Spirit.


Come Holy Spirit. Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Poem for Today - June 8, 2014


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil:
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

© Gerard Manley Hopkins