Saturday, July 26, 2014


Poem for Today - July 26, 2014


Years and scars later
I finally learn
All angels travel
Under assumed names.

© George Garrett

Friday, July 25, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Being Named After.”

Today is the feast of St. James – St. James the Great. He and his brother John, also great, were among the first 4 people called by Jesus to follow him.

At times he gets mixed up with James the Less – also one of the 12 apostles. Then there are the author of the Letter of James – a New Testament document – as well as James the Bishop of Jerusalem. These also we’re not sure, who’s who.


From what I read this morning in preparing this homily – we can leave those questions to further research and speculation.

However thinking about names can lead to a simple thought for today: Live a good life – so that people will name a baby after you.

I think that’s a noble theme….

When I do a baptism for  one or two babies – I ask couples why they chose the name they chose for their baby.

Sometimes they say it’s because there was this wonderful aunt or uncle – or grandparent.

Sometimes – it still happens – people are following a family tradition – Jr’s – or a parent’s name or a variation of it – or they add that middle name.

A childhood buddy named his adopted son after me – because he was born the day I was ordained a priest.

Recently the answer to my question about why parents chose a certain name was that the mom was naming her daughter after the nickname of a little girl who had cancer and was also filled with great courage. As nanny she said to herself, “If ever I have a baby girl,  I’ll name her Lula after that courageous little girl.”


The old tradition of naming a baby after a saint has certainly lessened – but because of that tradition – a lot of men have been named after James.

The stories of priests refusing to baptize a baby the name the parents came up with – because it wasn’t a saints’ name – certainly has stopped for the most part – but I still hear horror stories from the past.

Parents have the right to name their child the name they choose for their child. I do hear some horror stories about those choices.


If anyone is interested, having just said what I said, here are 4 thoughts about names for a baby.

First, choose a name that sounds sweet or neat or what have you – especially when combined with the kid’s last name. Sound is important! Someone said, “Go out on the back porch or front steps and scream: “_____ it’s time for supper.”  If the name doesn’t sound or seem right in a scream, think differently.

If it’s a boy, think of teenage boys making fun of a kid’s name. Lessen those possibilities – with the choice of the kids’ name.

Thirdly, don’t give a kid a name where people are going to be asking the person for the rest of their lives, “How do you spell that.” Or “How do you pronounce that?”

Fourth and last: pick a name that has a story – background – a reason –something to be proud of. For example, I’ve heard people say that the name they chose is  the name of a doctor or a nurse – who helped tremendously – or a buddy who died in the war or what have you. Give the kid a story that can be told through the years. Isn’t that one of the reasons why saint’s names came about. I’m proud that I was named Andrew because I was born on the feast of St. Andrew Avellino – and then the church dropped his name off the calendar. Then my father gave me my middle name, “Jackson” because when he was brought up in Ireland, he had heard the vocation plug: the seventh president of the United States might have been a Catholic – if there wasn’t such a shortage of priests.  Now that’s a story. Martin Luther was born the same day I was – but he was name Martin – because that’s whose feast day it was the next day when he was baptized.  Now that’s a story as well.


How about James or Jamie?

In today’s gospel we find out that James was a servant – but he was also someone who aspired to greatness. No wonder there have been so many people named “James”.

Why not live a live a life of great service for others?


Painting on top: St. James the Greater, El Greco

Poem for Today - July 25, 2014


James, we were always friends
from our childhood days.
And we made our plans,
And we had to go our separate ways:
I went on the road,
you pursued an 'education.

James, do you like your life?
Can you find release?
Will you ever change?
Will you ever write your masterpiece?
Are you still in school,
living up to expectations?
James, you were so relied upon;
everybody knows how hard you try.

Hey, look at what a job you've done;
carrying the weight of family pride.
James, you've been well behaved,
you've been working hard,
But will you always stay
someone else's dream of who you are?
Do what's good for you,
or you're not good for anybody, James.

I went on the road,
you pursued an education.
James, how you gonna know for sure;
everything was so well organized.
Hey, now everything is so secure,
and everybody else is satisfied.

James, do you like your life?
Can you find release?
Will you ever change?
When will you write your masterpiece?

Do what's good for you,
or you're not good for anybody, James.

© Billy Joel

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Poem for Today - July 24, 2014


Muhammed spoke to his friends
about a newborn baby, "This child
may cry out in its helplessness,
but it doesn't want to go back
to the darkness of the womb.

And so it is with your soul
when it finally leaves the nest
and flies out into the sky
over the wide plain of a new life.
Your soul would not trade that freedom
for the warmth of where it was.

Let loving lead your soul.
Make it a place to retire to,
a kind of monastery cave, a retreat
for the deepest core of being.

Then build a road
from there to God.

Let every action be in harmony with your soul
and its soul-place, but don't parade
those doings down the street
on the end of a stick!

Keep quiet and secret with soul-work.
Don't worry so much about your body.
God sewed that robe. Leave it as is.

Be more deeply courageous.
Change your soul."

© Fariduddin Attar,
Street Sweeper
Ancient Persian Poet
Page 58, in 

The Hand of Poetry
Coleman Barks

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Poem for Today - July 23, 2014


My full name is Rachel Youngeun Rostad. This can be kind of confusing to people. So my birth name was Youngeun. I used to think my birth mom gave it to me. But she didn’t. It was a necessity given to me by the hospital, the foster home, really just a barcode.
Then my parents adopted me and renamed me Rachel, and turned my birth name into my middle name. Rachel Youngeun Rostad.
Most names mean admirable traits like “strong,” “kind,” “beautiful.” When you name your daughter, it’s a prayer for everything you want her to be.
Starting when I was seven, I spent every summer at a Korean culture camp. There, my name was my Korean name, Youngeun. Now, I am trained to answer to both “Rachel” and “Youngeun.” Kind of like knowing how to use both forks and chopsticks.
I’ve never had a nickname.
According to Google, there are two other Rachel Rostad's. One is a fashion designer in LA. Apparently the other is a Goodhue County Dairy Princess. I’m not sure exactly what this means but there’s a picture of her with a gold medal and a cow. Both of these Rachel Rostads have blonde hair.
When you find, say, an injured baby bird in your backyard, and you wanna to nurse it to health, they tell you not to name it. If you name something, it becomes a someone. It makes it harder to give it up.
When my parents renamed me Rachel, it was a prayer for everything they wanted me to be: American.
Sometimes I’m glad my first name is as apple pie and baseball as Rachel. But also kinda not.
How your ancestors had a different name stepping off of Ellis Island than when they stepped on.
The pros and cons of taking your husband’s last name as your own.
The pros and cons of accepting a diagnosis.
Some say written language is only a bad translation of spoken.
You cannot read a speech and see the speaker.
You cannot read sheet music and hear the song.
When the very first word was written down, something must have been lost.
When my parents renamed me “Rachel,” something must have been lost.
Two years ago, I started the search for my birth mom. She still hasn’t answered my letter. The adoption agency tells me she lived in Seoul. This is the closest to knowing her name I will get.
Let’s imagine I knew her name. If I found her Facebook profile, would this count as a reunion?
Let’s imagine she found my name in a newspaper. Would she picture “Rachel Rostad” as a girl with blonde hair?
The name Youngeun is a barcode. The name Rachel is a Made in America sticker slapped onto a Korean flag.
I have never had a nickname.
Either that, or I’ve only ever had nicknames.
Sometimes I wonder what my birth mom would have named me if I hadn’t been a wild animal she’d would eventually have to release.
She still hasn’t answered my letter. I’m not waiting for a reply. When you name your daughter, it’s a prayer for everything you want her to be. It makes sense, then, that she named me nothing.

© Rachel Youngeun Rostad

Tuesday, July 22, 2014



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Mary Magdalene is, “Whom Are You Looking For?”

That’s a question in today’s gospel  from John 20: 1-2, 11-18 -  where Jesus says to a woman – whose name is Mary Magdalene, “Whom are you looking for?”


The literature and history on Mary Magdalene is fascinating.

Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code – Nikos Kazantzakis in The Last Temptation of Christ – and others make her the lover of Jesus – or maybe even his wife.

In the middle ages houses for prostitutes were called Magdalen Houses.

In recent times there have been movies and books about the Magdalen Sisters – who cared for young women – especially those who had babies outside of marriage.

Scripture scholars state that there is no evidence to picture Mary Magdalene in novels and works of art as she has been pictured down through the years.

Scripture scholars also point out there is no evidence that Mary Magdalen was the woman who was a sinner in Luke 7. She’s the gal who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Perhaps  it’s because Mary in today’s gospel is also weeping. Perhaps too it’s because the woman in Luke 7 anointed Jesus’ feet with an alabaster flask of anointment. This was something people did when someone died. And here in today’s gospel Mary is there at Jesus’ burial place.

In Luke 8 we hear for the first time about Mary Magdalene – with the comment “from whom seven demons had gone out.”

From what I read that is the key text. Then  writers like St. Ephraim jumped on the idea – and the connection that Jesus came to be with, eat with, associate with, sinners.

I’ve noticed that the last few popes before Francis have rehabilitated her – giving her better press than earlier popes – especially like Pope Gregory the First who in 591 connected her with the sinful woman in the city of Nain in Luke 7. 

The title of my homily is, “Whom Are You Looking For?”

I would think preachers and writers are looking for sinners in the scriptures – because they know they are sinners themselves – as well as the people in front of them – sinners who are rescued and redeemed and restored and re-edited by Jesus.

Mary Magdalene seems to fit that description well.

I assume that’s what made St. Peter and St. Paul and St. Augustine so very popular – because we are all sinners.

I assume that is why the Our Father and the Hail Mary are so popular. We pray: “forgive us our trespasses” and “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”


Yes we are sinners, but I think Mary Magdalene should also be looked at for two other reasons.

Mary Magdalene is also called the “Apostle of the Apostles.”

Translation: she brings people to Christ.

Today’s gospel begins with Mary Magdalen - on the first day of the week - going to the tomb early that morning, “while it was still dark”  and finds the stone rolled back. She then runs to Peter and the other apostle and tells them that the tomb is empty. Today’s gospel, because it’s the feast of St. Mary Magdalene – who is being featured – leaves out verses 3-10. That’s  the scene we hear at Easter about Peter and the Beloved Disciple running to the tomb. Peter doesn’t get it yet – but the Beloved Disciple does. “He saw and believed.”

They leave. It’s then we have the great story about Mary Magdalene being the first to experience the Risen Christ. She’s the one who is asked the question, “Whom are you looking for?”

Notice there is no mention that Jesus first appeared to Mary his Mother. It’s to  Mary Magdalene.

Preachers have said, “Of course, he first went to his mother.” 

We don’t know that, but we do know this scene here with Mary Magdalene is loaded with possibilities for deepening our life with Christ.


I see Mary Magdalene modeling two things. They can be described in the old catechetical model called: “Discover and Share.”

First step: Discover….  I think a key message is that Mary Magdalene models for all of us to become searchers for Jesus. The title of my homily for today is, “Whom Are You Looking For?”   So here we are early in the morning – like Mary Magdalene - at this morning Mass each day – looking for Jesus

Second step: Share. The second step is to share. This is the call to be the apostle – to bring, to share Christ with others. Have you noticed folks after Mass coming up here to the tabernacle to get the Eucharist to bring Christ to homes. That’s a model for all of us – to bring Christ to homes, to work, to the places and people we meet today – mostly by example and kindness.

Mary Magdalene is called, “The Apostle to the Apostles.” 

Featuring the first apostle – to be a woman – is not to be P.C. Correct. This this title was given Mary Magdalene for centuries in Eastern Rite Churches – many of which are nowhere near the Roman Rite of the Church – when it comes to how women are treated and recognized. In my opinion – we’ve moved a bit for the better in the Western Church - but we’ve got a long way to go – as we move into the future.

Poem for Today - July 22, 2014


Not with traitorous kiss her Saviour stung,
Not she denied Him with unholy tongue;
She, while apostles shrank, could dangers brave,
Last at the cross and earliest at the grave.

© Eaton Stannard Barrett [1786-1820]

Monday, July 21, 2014



The title of my homily for this 16th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Looking for Signs.”

Part of being a human being is to look for signs.

After I wrote that I said, “Wait a minute. Animals look for signs as well.”

Dogs want treats. Flies fly away when they see someone with a fly swatter – trying to get them. Birds and monkeys parrot human beings.

Let’s stick with humans.


I learned a new word this year -  or was it last year? It’s the word “signage.”

I heard at a few meetings. “We’re working on better signage for St. Mary’s.

At first I didn’t know what it meant. Then I found out it’s simply putting up good signs to help people find their way into the various buildings and offices at St. Mary’s. Next time you go to St. Mary’s check it out – starting in the parking lot.


When we don’t see signs,  we can ask folks, “Do you know where the Naval Academy or St. John’s College or St. John Neumann’s Church is?”

Or we can ask another, “Are you angry at me?”

And then we can ask, “Do you love me?”

In fact, we spend a lot of our energy on trying to pick up signs what another is thinking or feeling.

Words, gestures, facial expressions, are all signs.

And we want signs.

Good, better, best, communicate – let’s use sign language – because we’re all deaf.


We humans want signs from God.

As I wrote that – I thought – that is definitely us – but what about animals. Do they have a sense of/for God. Can we absolutely say that there are no dogs and cats and birds in the hereafter?

Is there a God?

Prove it. Show me signs.

Who is this Jesus – who’s walking around – and saying and doing things?

When we read and listen to the gospels, we see this need for signs happening many times – like in today’s gospel – Matthew 12:38-42.

In today’s gospel, we heard about the Pharisees and the scribes, saying to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”

And Jesus replies, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”

If you remember the story of Jonah the Prophet, if there was ever a person who wanted signs from God, it was Jonah.

Scripture commentators like to say that what Matthew is saying here is this: Just as Jonah disappeared for 3 days in the belly of  the whale and then reappeared on the shore in Nineveh, so too Jesus disappeared for 3 days in the belly of the earth, in the tomb, and then rose from the dead. 

Want a sign – of hope – of life after death? Discover Jesus who died and rose from the death?

Is that enough for you?

Today’s first reading from Micah begins with God telling us to stand before the mountains and cry out our petitions and pleas to God.

Then Micah says to become quiet and listen to God’s pleas and petitions screamed back to us.

God wants signs from us.

Self-centered us – often forget this side of the equation.

Then God tells us through Micah the prophet what kinds of signs He’s looking for from us.

It’s not the sacrificing of burnt lambs or year old calves – or thousands of fat lambs or lots of streams of oil – or even the sacrificing of one’s first born child.

Then Micah tells us the signs that God wants. We have memorized the words. As someone told me just this morning. They are the words of Michah you find on plaques in Gift Shops and are at the end of today’s first reading: “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”


The title of my homily was, “Looking for Signs.”

We come to Mass - to church -  to the Lamb – who challenges us to die to self – and switch to God and to others – and their expectations of me.

So what signs of love are God and others expecting of me each day - today?

Poem for Today - July 21, 2014


My old friend, the owner
of a new boat, stops by
to ask me to fish with him,

and I say I will - both of us
knows that we may never
get around to it, it may be

years before we're both
idle again on the same day.
But we make a plan, anyhow,

in honor of friendship
and the fine spring weather
and the new boat

and our sudden thought
of the water shining
under the morning fog.

© Wendell Berry
page 22 in
Collected Poems

Sunday, July 20, 2014



The title of my homily for this 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)  is, “Expect  Weeds.”

I knew a couple who had a perfect front lawn – not a blade of grass was out of place. It could have been a great green for the 18th Hole at Augusta.

Their house was perfect – inside and out.

Once inside, everything was just right, neat, and always clean. There wasn’t a nick in any piece of furniture – nor a speck of dust on any knickknack.

Then they had children: 4 boys to be exact.

I noticed early on they had one of those folding fences – at the entrance to their living room. That wooden squeezing fence was a reminder to their boys that this room was out of bounds territory.

Then one day that wall was left open. 

Mom and dad had calmed down. 

They had learned to relax about nicks in the furniture as well as footballs and water guns left next to the legs of a chair in a living room. In fact, that room, finally became what it was called to be: "A living room"- a room lived in by all the family.

If you get that story, you get this homily.


Today’s gospel tells the story of the wheat and the weeds.

Do you get this story?

Being a slob – I love this gospel.

Being a priest – and being myself – I know everyone has weeds, mistakes, sins in their story.

Expect weeds.

Let him or her without weeds or dust, cut or mess, cast the first sneer. [Cf. John 8:7]

So as the parable goes: "A man sowed wheat seed in his field.” 

That was during the day.  

Then at night while everyone was sleeping, as Jesus tells the story, an enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat.

I never thought of weeds having seeds.  I just thought weeds happened - sneaking into the picture in the night.

If you can't picture that, can you picture  hackers out there in the middle of the night planting viruses in computers – just for the heck of it – as a game -  just to prove they can do it – or to gain money or information or they are nosy or what have you?  How many people have turned on their computers in the morning and said, “Oh no!” and felt just like the guy in the gospel and said, "An enemy has done this."

Seeing both wheat and weeds growing together in the field his servants ran to tell the farmer to tell him what happened. 

Then they asked him if they should pluck out the weeds.

"Nope," said the farmer – "you might uproot the wheat as well. Let them both grow till harvest time – and then I’ll say to the harvesters, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barns.'” 

As I read that I said to myself, "Easy for him to say that…."

The gospel also talks about leaven and about the mustard plants – but today let me concentrate on the wheat and the weeds.

Last week I preached on the human reality that we are part of all that we have met.  This week I want to continue on that theme – and say that all of us are like a field that has both wheat and weeds.

I’ve heard that even the neatest person there is – always has some bottom drawer, some closet, some spot that is quite messy – a place they don’t want anyone to know about.

I love to say: show me the trunk of your car and I’ll tell you who you are.

Some people are neater than others. Some people have less weeds than others. Some people have more.

You’ve heard this gospel. You know it’s message.


For homework, even though it’s summer time, get out a piece of paper and a box of crayons and draw yourself as a front lawn, or a garden, or a field.

What do you look like? What do you want growing in your garden or field? What does it look like now? Do you admit to any weeds? Do you picture yourself as the perfect garden? Do you have any weeds growing up next to your white picket fence? Are there any weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk leading up to your front door?

Draw a picture of your soul?  What do you see in yourself? Have you ever made a mistake?  What does your inner room look like – that real self Jesus tells us to enter into every once in a while. It’s that place where only you see? Is it ever opened? Is it neat or messy? Is the furniture filled with dust? [Cf. Matthew 6:6]

Wheat or weeds? Which is more me? Or am I both? What are the percentages: 75-25? 50-50? 63-33?

A Servant in Shakespeare’s King Richard the Second, Act 3, Scene 3, line 44, says,
“our sea-walled garden, the whole land
Is full of weeds; her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit-trees all unpruned, her hedges ruin’d,
Her knots disorder’d, and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars.”

Now if you drew that scene with your crayons – would that be the real you?

Ooooooh…. Oooooh. What would it feel like if the garden or field or front lawn of your soul was full of weeds – with unpruned trees, hedges ruined, and crawly, crawly caterpillars crawling and eating away at your best herbs?

Walk around St. Mary’s Gardens – right outside our church – and compare it to yourself – your soul – your inner you.

Pause………. What am I preaching about today?


Three bottom lines: I’m asking myself and all of us three questions today:

First of all: what am I really like? Come on. Be honest. We have at least one weed in our cracks.

Secondly: Do I accept myself as having weeds – along with my wheat?

Thirdly: how much?

Jesus is talking about end times – like the final judgment – like at death.

I’m thinking it’s a good idea to do some doodling on what I’m really like – like today – like this weekend – like right now.

The obvious goal is to be more wheat than weeds – to move towards becoming bread, Eucharist, food for others.

Of course for the Christian - the goal of life to say to the world every day: “This is my body, this is my blood, I’m giving my life to you.”

Take me – eat me up – benefit from me.

However, if I’m honest, I have my weeds. I might have even inhaled it – gone to pot – but please Lord, I’m trying – weeds and all – to be a nice lawn, field, meal for others.


I don't know how to end this homily, so let me turn today’s three readings into three short prayers:

First reading: 
                     Lord, I’m not you. 
                     You are you.
                     You are my Redeemer. 
                     Don’t condemn me. 
                     Forgive me. 
                     Attend to me –
                     so I can do your good deeds today.

Second reading: 
                     Lord, send your Spirit into me. 
                     You search hearts. 
                     You know me. 
                     You know I don’t know 
                     how to put all this into words – 
                     but please understand 
                     and interpret my groanings
                     and my grumblings.
                     Realize these are 
                     my messy attempts at prayer.

Gospel reading: 
                    Lord, to be honest,
                    I’m a field of wheat and weeds. 
                    Help me to grow 
                    more wheat than weeds. 
                    Then, when I am ready,
                    leaven this mass of
                    wheat dough - the better me.
                    Help me to become 
                    a great loaf of bread so
                    I can share myself and be
                    in communion with others.
                    And Lord, please, 
                    don't forget to provide me 
                    with good mustard. 
                    Hot dog! Amen. O Lord. Amen.