Saturday, June 28, 2014


Poem for Today - June 28, 2014


One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go. 

Like the winds of the seas are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

© Ella Wheeler Wilcox 

Friday, June 27, 2014


Poem for Today - Friday - June 27, 2014


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me. 

© Maya Angelou

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Poem for Today - June 26, 2014

Inside water a water wheel turns,
The star circulates with the Moon,
We live in a night ocean wondering:
What are these lights?
You have said what you are -
I am what I am.
Your actions in my head,
My head here and my hands
With something circling inside-
I have no name for what circles so perfectly

© Rumi, translation
by Coleman Barks
Published on July 11, 2012

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Poem for Today - June 25, 2014 - Wednesday


Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;"
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

© Edgar A. Guest [1881-1959]

Tuesday, June 24, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Picturing It: The Birth of John the Baptist.”

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. There are only 3 birthday  celebrations in our Church calendar: Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist – December 25th, September 8th and today, June 24th.

What to speak on, what to preach about,  in a short 2 page homily?

I like to pick a topic or a theme – that will teach me something – having preached on this feast day – all these years and try to be helpful.


Last  night I decided to look at paintings of the scene – so I simply typed into Google, “Paintings: Birth of John the Baptist.”

I expected to find some rich wonderful paintings from the 1500’s onwards – and I was not disappointed.

They are those big classical paintings one sees – with great gold colored ornate wooden frames in the famous art museums around the world. Some paintings were commissioned – by the rich and famous – like the de Medici’s; some hung in churches or were part of elaborate altar pieces.

I read today’s gospel and the other 2 readings – a half-dozen times – along with the commentaries on line under the paintings. I noticed many of the paintings were just picturing two verses of today’s gospel: Luke 1:57-58.


The Bible is a rich source for subjects for all kinds of paintings – and John the Baptist is quite prominent in many Christian paintings. That tells me that he is very significant in several ways – connecting us to Jesus and to Mary – at the time of Jesus’ birth – and then the paintings of scenes in the Bible when both Jesus and John are adults and starting out with their preaching and prophetic lives.

The amount of religious paintings tell me that religion was part of the ordinary life of folks of Christians in Europe up to the Enlightenment – based on the subject for paintings before and after that.

Religious paintings are very much the Bible - which is all words – put into pictures – pictures that tell stories.

They also are a valuable look see at what folks were wearing – as well as what beds and pots and pans and chairs at the time of the painting looked like.

Since births were at home, one sees the prominence of women in a birth – especially in this story – especially  because of the age of Elizabeth.

It is a good reminder: when going to the big art museums, make sure to stop to study the classics – because they have stories on the canvas – and see if we can pick out reasons for what’s in the paintings. JacoboTintoretto – in his painting from the 1550’s – has a cat and a chicken – right there on the floor –down front – but I have no clue to the why of their presence in the painting.

Murillo’s Birth of John the Baptist in  - was done  in Seville in the 1660’s. It features  his use of light – very bright light white. We see this strongly in the picture – in the cloths used in washing John the baby. Then there’s a tiny puppy in his painting – and he’s all white. What was Murillo saying? Perhaps the purification rite baptism is being hinted at.

Cute thought: at every baptism – there are while cloths and  candles – but there are also family,  relatives and friends, who take an enormous amount of pictures. So back then without cameras, we have paintings. So there is something in us  - to capture pictures of important events.


Check out your photo albums – and slides – and black and white pictures and find any baby or  baptismal pictures of you – and check out who’s who in the pictures – and what has happened to us and them since. Were everyone at our baptism saying what we heard of John in today’s gospel: “What then will this child be?” 

Well, what did we become? What happened? Did we decrease and Christ increase?

Did we become a chicken or a car or a cute little puppy dog?  Did we bring light – especially the light of Christ to our world?

Poem for Today - Tuesday, June 24, 2014


In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

© Seamus  Heaney

Monday, June 23, 2014



The title of my homily for this 12th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Guess Why I Did It, Because I Don’t Even Know Why I Did It.”

How many times have we said something like that – especially after we did or said the wrong thing – to the wrong person at the wrong time?


In today’s gospel – Matthew 7: 1-5 - Jesus gets into the great topic of  judging others – especially their motivation.

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives us some great stuff on how we see each other

Jesus said to his disciples, “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.”

Then he adds in his own way – what  psychologists  often say: “You’re projecting your motives onto another.”

We spend a lot of energy – on issues of judging motives.

We do a lot of judging. We might not say it out loud – but we say or think inwardly, “I know why you did what you did.”

Jesus says that the verdicts we predict on others  boomerang back on us.

Jesus also says that the measure we measure others by – will be the measure we’ll be measured by.

 In other words, what goes around comes around.

If that’s true, why not judge with mercy – the great theme of  Pope Francis – and we’ll be judged with mercy?

Jesus is saying we spot the specks and the splinters – in others eyes or skin – and miss the planks in our own.

I love it that Pope Francis - in his trip down to Southern Calabria the other day [June 21, 2014]  – had a tiny splinter in his finger  - and someone spotted a doctor in the hospice he was visiting who  removed it. I wonder it that incident will appear in a sermon on today’s gospel.

Jesus is saying here that we spot the spaghetti spot on the other person’s shirt – and miss the rip in the seat of our own  pants.

Jesus is dealing here with Pharisees – who spent their lives going around as life’s police – or judges.

Jesus is saying check yourself out first.

Jesus is saying: retire from the judge’s bench. Take off your judicial robes. It doesn’t pay to be a judge.


The title of my homily is, “Guess Why I Did It, Because I Don’t Even Know Why I Did It.”

It’s so easy checking out  one another – cleavage or klutziness – length of skirt or length of sad face – or what have you – and it’s so easy to avoid our own territory – or look in the mirror.

If we did we’d find out many things.

One: we might realize,  “Hey, I don’t even know why I did that – or said that.”

Two: we might say, “Sorry – at times I don’t like myself – or I don’t want  to visit my motivations, so it’s easier to pick on you.”

Three: We might realize and say, “To be honest – I don’t know how God is – whether he’s tough or tender – God Cop or Bad Cop – Strict or Lenient Judge -  but maybe if I spend some honesty time with Him, I’ll find out God, our Father is as Jesus advertises Him to be: a God of mercy and a God of forgiveness.”


:Poem for Today - Monday, June 23, 2014


—after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619

She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand.
She's the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face. 

© By Natasha Trethewey

Sunday, June 22, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Corpus Christi… Body of Christ …. Amen.”

Today we’re celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi – which – as you know – means – simply and profoundly, “Body of Christ!”



First Question: When you say, “Amen!” – after coming down the aisle  - as  you receive the Body of Christ - at the moment before Holy Communion  – Union with Christ - what do you mean by that, “Amen”?

Second Question: After Mass today – with the Gold Monstrance in hand – with the Bread of Life – Christ – in the center  of that  monstrance – monstrance from the Latin word “monstrare” - to show – as in the word, “demonstration” - we’re going to walk out the front door of this church – walk down Duke of Gloucester Street  – go in through the brown wooden gates – which is along - the long red brick wall of St. Mary’s Gardens - process through the back gardens and lawn – go around the Carroll House – go through some of the parking lot - and around some cars that may be stuck  – depending on the bridge down below – being opened or closed -  and then we’ll march back into the church – well as all this is happening – what are your  thoughts about  Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ? [By the way that’s a  138  word sentence.]

Third Question: If someone who has no religion – or no Catholic background -  saw the procession today – or walked into the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel down below -  which is open almost all the year – and saw the Gold Monstrance with something white inside the center glass – and asked you what  this was all about, what would some of your  answers be?


Today’s gospel from part of the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John – addresses these questions.

Recommendation – from time to time – read over and over and over again the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John.

Read it at home – read it in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel – read it here in this church or any church.

If you’re scared of death, read just the first sentence in today’s gospel – John 6: 51:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven ; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

For me that’s as good as – and I connect it with – the bumper  sticker and poster size John 3:16 – that appears over and over again – especially at sporting events:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

Isn’t this the core reason why we come to Mass?  Isn’t this the core reason why some people come back to church after dropping out? I’ve often heard people say,  “I missed going to communion.” Don't we come here to connect with Christ - the New Moses who will take us across the desert of life - as we heard about in today's first reading from Deuteronomy [8:2-3, 14b-16a] We don't have to do life alone. Don't we want to be in communion and in community with others?


As you know there are controversies when it comes to coming to communion – and to me – the controversies say so much. To me it means people know the sacredness of the Body of Christ. They know it’s not just a piece of bread. They know, “Christ is here!”

On a day like today – and from time to time – I always remember the sermon example I heard a half dozen different Redemptorists tell through the years.

It was a Corpus Christi or Forty Hours  procession in Puerto Rico and a priest was walking down the street with the monstrance – with Christ, the Bread of Life, in the center. A tourist on the sidewalk asked in English, “What’s going on?”

Someone – who knew English -  near him in the crowd - on the sidewalk -answered, “Oh that’s Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, going by.”

And the man, having heard of Jesus Christ, but never having heard of the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, in the Bread, said, “You mean – you believe – that – that is Jesus – who lived 2000 years ago – that he is in that white bread – in that gold thing?”

“Yes,” the local Catholic  said.

At that the tourist  - stunned – surprised – said, “If I believed - that is Jesus Christ – I would fall on my knees – right here on this street - and never get up again.”

Pope Francis – in the past  few days – said out loud – that Mafia folks in Calabria who kill and do atrocious things to others – excommunicate themselves from the Church. Here’s how the news report put it: “Pope Francis journeyed Saturday to the heart of Italy's biggest crime syndicate, met the father of a 3-year-old boy slain in the region's drug war, and declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.”

I hope he has a bullet proof white cassock.

There’s one more take on the issue of who or who shouldn’t be going to communion. 

Whatever your take on this issue is – the fact that people have strong opinions on all this – tells me that we’re dealing with more than ordinary bread here.

I heard another sermon a good 40 years ago – that changed my whole way of looking at life and the Body of Christ. A priest said: “Some people have so much respect for Communion – the Body of Christ – but so little respect for the Body of Christ – all the people around us. Then he quoted Saint Paul’s great speech about all of us being members of the Body of Christ – First Corinthians 12: 12-31.

Ever since then I have sensed the presence of Christ in everyone – that we’re all in the Body of Christ.  Sometimes I forget that; sometimes others forget that. Sometimes I don’t act like that – that is, as a member of his Body; sometimes others don’t.

Does Pope Francis see the Mafia folks as the Body of Christ?

The newspaper accounts of the story I just mentioned said that Pope Francis went to a prison down there in Southern Calabria – to visit the father of the 3 year old boy who was killed. The story gets intriguing when one hears that the boy was in a car with his grandfather and  the grandfather’s girlfriend while the boy's father was in prison for drug trafficking. The boy, the grandfather and the girlfriend were all shot and killed and the car was torched.

I think of Matthew 25:36  – when Jesus said, “I was in prison … and you  visited me.” That's what Pope Francis was doing by going to visit someone in prison - besides challenging those making money off drugs. 

I think of the Church having changed wonderfully when having funeral Masses for those who have committed suicide. If ever a family needed a Mass – to me it’s then.

I think of the Church readdressing at present  the Reception of Communion for so many folks whose lives have been broken by divorce and other disasters.

Let me add a personal twist in all this. 
I go crazy – whenever I come to the part of the consecration of the Mass and the words now are “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

Since the 1970’s – most of my life as a priest – the words were “for all”. I understand the German Catholic Church has blocked that “for many” and kept “for all”.  I know some priests still say, “for all”.

I’ve heard theologians say, “for many” in the Latin – means “for all”.

I’ve never been able to find out who forced these changes on us – and I’m glad I hear more and more voices – asking that we straighten out this new English translation of the Roman Missal. I go with what the book says because I also know there are people who get upset when priests change words that aren't in the book.

But this one little change hits at my gut – because I’m a Redemptorist  and our motto is, “Copiosa apud eum redemption” – which has often been translated from the Latin as, “With Him there is Copious or Fullness of Redemption." And we understand that means "for all.” Our motto comes from Psalm 130.


Ooops. Enough.

I’m here to speak as one member of the Body of Christ.

I’m urging you today to reflect deeply on what your “Amen” means – when you say, “Amen” when you come down the aisle to receive the Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ. Amen.


Poem for Today


Grip of Christ around my heart!
Ah, let nothing rend apart
Flesh and love that interlock
Thick as roots that buckle rock.
Lord, thy links are hard to sever.
Swear then I am saved forever;
Cannot, though I twist and slip,
Free me fully from Thy grip.
Or at least this fair assurance:
 Should I tear the lovely durance,
Rip with sin the massy tackle—
Tender Eucharistic shackle
Love-alive and fiercely sweet
Round my heart's rebellious beat—
Let the last convulsive shreds
Drag, and cut me with their threads,
Score me Touch Not—Dearly Priced,
Brand me X for Jesus Christ.
So, when I am saved from hell,
Come, ye saints, mark it well:
Here's salvation barely gained
This one heart, though black and strained,
Showing crisscross, rudely sliced,
Scars where once clung roots of Christ.

© John Duffy
Page 35
in Under the
Goldwood Tree,
Poems by
John Duffy, C.SS.R.

Exposition Press,
Smithtown, New York