Saturday, August 9, 2014

LIFE # 102

Poem for Today - August 9, 2014


Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head. 
© Edwin Arlington Robinson
Song by Simon and Garfunkel

Friday, August 8, 2014

LIFE  #101

Poem for Today - August 8, 2014


On a warm summer's eve
On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler
We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin'
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, he began to speak

He said, "Son, I've made a life
Out of readin' people's faces
Knowin' what the cards were
By the way they held their eyes
So if you don't mind me sayin'
I can see you're out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey
I'll give you some advice"

So I handed him my bottle
And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep"

And when he finished speakin'
He turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette
And faded off to sleep
And somewhere in the darkness
The gambler he broke even
And in his final words
I found an ace that I could keep

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

You've got to know when to hold 'em
(When to hold 'em)
Know when to fold 'em
(When to fold 'em)
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

© Song written 
by Don Schlitz and 
sung by Kenny Rogers

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Poem for Today - August 7, 2014


Well it's a strange old game you learn it slow
One step forward and it's back you go
You're standing on the throttle
You're standing on the brake
In the groove 'til you make a mistake

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

You gotta know happy - you gotta know glad
Because you're gonna know lonely
And you're gonna know sad
When you're rippin' and you're ridin'
And you're coming on strong
You start slippin' and slidin'
And it all goes wrong because

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

One day you got the glory and then you got none
One day you're a diamond and then you're a stone
Everything can change in the blink of an eye
So let the good times roll before we say goodbye because

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love

© Written by Mark Knopfler,
Sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Poem for Today - August 6, 2014


So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place. The painted animals
Assembled there in gentle congregations,
Or sought apart their leafy oratories,
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together,
As if, also for them, the day had come.
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’
And when we went into the town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held for ever! But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here,
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn,
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.

But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.

© Edwin Muir [1887-1959] -
poem, The Transfiguration [1949]

Painting on top:
last major painting
by Raphael,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014



The title of my homily for this 18 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Incurable Wound.”

The thought of an incurable wound jumped out at me from today’s first reading from Jeremiah 30: 1-2, 12-15, 18-22.

Listen to Jeremiah’s words again. They are heavy, heavy duty. They are found right there in the beginning of today’s first reading from Jeremiah:

For thus says the LORD:
Incurable is your wound,
grievous your bruise;
There is none to plead your cause,
no remedy for your running sore,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you,
they do not seek you.
I struck you as an enemy would strike,
punished you cruelly;
Why cry out over your wound?
your pain is without relief.

Question: is that true? Can there be an incurable wound? Is that like there being an unforgivable sin? There is nothing we can do. Wouldn’t that be a horrible thing to hear?

Haven’t we all known someone who has a sore on their leg – from diabetes or what have you – and the wound just won’t heal? Bummer!

Don’t we all know someone who seems to have a bummer of a hurt – somewhere inside them – on some page or pages – of their story - and based on their face – and their presence – and how they walk into rooms – it seems they are carrying it on their back – some days – more than other days?

The image that hits me about all this is from the movie, The Mission – which takes place in South America in the 1750’s.

Rodrigo Mendoza – played by Robert de Niro – is a bad guy. He kidnaps Guarani Indians and sells them as slaves for plantations. 

The scene that grabbed me is when we see him pulling a big net full of stuff. It’s his armor and his sword. To drag the tools of his trade as a mercenary was the penance a Jesuit priest gives him - as well as for killing his half-brother in a duel. In the movie we find out that Rodrigo discovered his half-brother in bed with de Nero’s girlfriend. Looking at his life, Rodrigo goes into a deep depression of mind and heart.

It’s torturous to see him pulling that bundle through the jungles - up and down hills –– till he changes, repents. Some Guarani Indians see him. The enemy has appeared.  One runs at him to perhaps kill him - but then this Guarani with a knife cuts the ropes – and then like in the story of the Prodigal Son - the celebration begins. 

In time Rodrigo becomes a Jesuit. 

It’s a story of hope that help is possible. Wounds can be healed. Redemption can be discovered. Redemption is possible.

Is that true then: hurts can heal? There is no wound that cannot be healed. Is that true?


I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder. I listen to people who seem unable to feel forgiven of the sins of their youth or their marriage or their lifetime.

I hear people talking about  sores of the soul – cuts – deep inner hurts – that chaff and cause grief for a lifetime.

Someone was sexually abused by another. Someone betrayed someone. Someone made a mistake that was just too much – too, too painful. A marriage crashed and crushed a couple. A family has fallen apart.

The words that they hear inside their inner conversations with themselves are coated with barbed wire or sandpaper.

Then to make things worse: Jeremiah is saying God wounded you, Israel, because of your sins – because of your infidelities.

Does God do that?  Can we picture God zapping someone – wounding someone – and then not forgiving them?

That’s one way of understanding God. That theme strings its way all through the scriptures and all through some people’s thinking on how they see God and life.

Then there are other threads of thinking – that these wounds –  inflicted on us by others – or self-inflicted –  can be healed. It’s added that God does not wound. We do. There are many scripture texts that tell us God forgives – but we don’t many times.

So in this homily I’m wallowing a bit in the question of incurable wounds.

As priest in the 1980’s when we started to hear about some priests abusing children and teenagers – we were shocked.  I know I sat there at a workshop that we were all told to attend. It was 3 days of horror stories - and that sorry saga and anger continues.

The only good news was that there was the possibility of healing when the men who did this went for help in one of these centers around the country.

Years later we were told that that this was an incurable wound – that could not be healed. Bummer.

Many of these priests were abused themselves. That's one disaster. Then there is the horror that those they abused were wounded – many for life.

I stand under the cross and pray for those who have hurt young people and try to hear Jesus’ words from Luke: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Cf. Luke 23:34]

And sometimes when waiting to hear that, I hear something different.  I hear Jesus’ words, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” [Cf. Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6-7; Luke 17:2-5.]

I also pray that if this scandal that hit the Catholic priesthood warns parents to be more vigilant when it comes to whom their kids are alone with - teachers, step-fathers, instructors, coaches, guides, etc. - then that's one good thing that comes out of our embarrassment and shame. 


Each of us has to address and admit of our own wounds and hurts – our sins and our mistakes. We need to at least try to understand our story – what happened – what we did wrong or how we were wronged by another or others.

As I thought about all this last night it hit me that it’s easier to state the problem – than to heal the problem – or have the would healed.

Today’s gospel – Matthew 14:22-36 - tells us that Jesus can walk across the waters and we can scream out, “Lord, save me.”  We can say to ourselves, “If only I touch the tassel of his garment I can be healed.”



Back in the 1979 Henri Nouwen came out with his book, The Wounded Healer.

I heard Henri speak a few times and was moved and challenged every time.

He caused me to pause.

I think that was his greatest gift.

Take a moment and think about this comment in his book, The Wounded Healer, “The mystery of one man is too immense and too profound to be explained by another man.”

That one comment could cause all of us to pause in the middle of a gossip session or a coffee break when we stand there explaining someone else – and get us to shut up about each other. We don’t even know ourselves – and our deepest wounds and beauties.

That’s why we need to have that sign on our walls about the moccasins and the skin.

American Indian Proverb: "Never criticize another till you have walked a mile in their moccasins.”

And Atticus Finch’s statement to Scout, “You never really understand things from his point of view … Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” [From Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird.]

After hearing confessions of people for 48 years now as a priest – I know I keep those words of others in mind – and my translation is this: “Just listen and bring Christ and his forgiveness to this person right now – because I don’t know them and I have not walked a mile in their sins.”

“Bless me father for I have sinned….

Hopefully all priests are healers – and I think Henri Nouwen’s book about The Wounded Healer got a lot of us priests to look at our own souls – our own motives – the gut reason why we became priests – in the first place.

One answer: to be healed and to heal.

Last night was I was working on this homily I typed into Google, “Incurable Wound” and found some profound stuff.

I noticed that Carl Jung used that phrase, “Incurable Wound” before Henri Nouwen. I am sure both noticed that Jeremiah used it some 600 years before Christ. I am sure both of them knew it was a theme in literature and life down through the ages.

In preparing these words about incurable wounds I read about a study by Alison Barr who sent an on-line questionnaire to British counselors and psychotherapists asked them psychological wounds was key to why they became counselors and therapists.

Sure enough over 70 percent of them said yes – that they had been wounded – and  that was key to why they got into the field.

I noticed in further reading how therapists are counseled themselves to be aware that other’s wounds and hurts trigger thoughts and memories about their own wounds and hurts. It’s helpful to be aware of that background – but not let it get in the way in being with this particular person.


The title of my homily is, “Incurable Wound.”

How do I end this homily?

Upon reading about wounded healers a question hit me loud and clear: is this why so many people turn to Jesus?

I thought about Jesus rejected, beaten, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross – cursed and spit upon. I thought about all those gory paintings of Jesus beaten and bloody. I’ve often thought about them being too much - including this painting by St. Alphonsus de Liguori:

I thought the same way when I saw the various scenes in the movie, The Passion of Jesus Christ. It all seemed too gory and too much.

But behind it all, is the reason behind all this the need for a wounded healer? Is that the reason behind which so many see Christ and Christianity a key to life?

Is that why so many stand under the cross and look up to Christ for healing?

Poem for Today - August 5, 2014


I share myself
     breaking off a piece here
           a piece there
     specially chosen samples of myself.
Other times
     I am just there,
    with complete abandon,
        not in pieces.

© Kari Hill
Page 34
Alive Now


Monday, August 4, 2014



Today is the feast of St. John Vianney.

John Vianney is the Patron Saint of at least  two areas of Church Life: he can be seen as the patron saint of parish priests and the patron saint of the sacrament of confession.


Priests who work in parishes are challenged down through the years by the example of John Vianney.

I know Pope John Paul II and on most priest retreats, priests are challenged by the example of Saint John Vianney.

I love the scene in the movie, The Natural, when Roy Hobbs says to Iris Gaines, “I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book.”

And Iris [played by Glenn Close] asks, “And then?”

And Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford says, “And then? And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.

I don’t know if priests feel that way about St. John Vianney – but I think he has the impact of what any great in any field does: he sets the bar high. He gives folks a goal on what it’s like to be the best.

Good examples – good models – grab us – and challenge us.

As I thought about this today, I don’t think most of us consciously try to give good example ourselves. I do think we consciously try not to give bad example – especially to the innocent.

Then it hit me: unconsciously – from experience, from reading, from sermons, from life, we do try to give good example. We  imitate – or know it’s important – to imitate the best. I assume that’s why the church talks about Christ – and talks about saints – to give us good examples on how to live life to the full and to our best.

For example, Saint John Vianney – like our pope Francis – looked to St. Francis of Assisi as a model.

That meant – the simple life. That meant being a priest not for the outfits – for the look – for the robes – for the recognition.

That meant to be a church person is to be a person who is concerned about others – especially the poor and the forgotten.

So John Vianney was concerned about the people of Ars. The story is told that he couldn’t find the place when he was sent there in 1829. It was in the middle of nowhere. It was only a tiny village – with a main street, a few houses and a small church with 20 rows of benches – which often were empty. The area was rural France and priests and church were not very significant in people’s lives – especially after the French Revolution. Church attendance was poor when he started. It was startling when he finished there in 1859. 

He visited his parishioners – he found the lost sheep – and brought them home.  That might be the significance of the statue in the town square today: John Vianney is standing there asking a shepherd boy the way to Ars. The shepherd boy told him where the town was and John Vianney  is reported to have said, “You have pointed out to me the road to my parish. I will one day point out to you the road to heaven.”

He got to Ars and it was never the same again.

Across the street from the church he helped start an orphanage – because of the many orphans in the area in need of a home.

I’ve read that he had a strident and annoying voice. However, his sermons were simple – and filled with substance. They were clear and easy to get. For example – he compared private prayer to a single piece of straw whereas public prayer is like a bundle of straw – which can become like a burning torch sending a fiery cry up to God.


He had a gift as a confessor. Year after year his reputation as the priest to go to confession to increased. One year it is reported that 70,000 people came to Ars – from all over Europe - to go to confession to the Cure of Ars.

I love that name for a priest: a cure.

John Vianney certainly brought the cure of Christ – his forgiveness – his love – his curing powers – to people – who felt sick with sin and of sin.

Back to Roy Hobbs in The Natural again. During the movie we hear about his big mistake – and how much it impacted his whole life. Isn’t that the story of so many people? Then when Roy Hobbs finally confesses to Iris what happened – he starts on the road to recovery – and the movie has a happy ending.

Every priest knows the reputation of the Cure of Ars and his dedication to being there for people who want to confess their sins. Hopefully, when we priests get tired or when we complain that the confession line is too long or someone bothers us with the request, “Father can you hear my confession?” we’ll say, “Yes, gladly!”

I’ve always been impressed with the story of the Cure of Ars and confession – because confession is an important stress in ministry by Redemptorists. Saint Alphonsus has a whole book on being a good confessor. We’ve always heard about  one of our Redemptorist saints, St. Clement Hofbauer. Clement spent long hours in the confessional  - sitting there listening to people – especially in Vienna, Austria. I read somewhere he sat there so much that he had big time problems with hemorrhoids. I wonder if the Cure of Ars had the same problem. Interesting question.


So on this feast of St. John Vianney, the cure of Ars, please pray for priests that they be good shepherds and good confessors. Amen. 

Poem for Today - August 4, 2014


(From a Normandy Crucifix of 1632)

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but your turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain you will not obey.

I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay,
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.

I am your counsel, but you do not hear me,
I am the lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.

I am your life, but you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

© Charles Causley

Sunday, August 3, 2014



The title of my homily for this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) is, “Dealing With Death.”

In the old days, before air conditioning, in many Catholic churches there was no sermon at Mass during the summer.  People came for communion and to fulfill the obligation. And sermons were not called homilies yet.

It’s my perception that Catholics of today come to Mass for communion and a homily – not necessarily short – but definitely not long – and they come to Mass much less out of obligation – or worry about mortal sin – but to pray – prayers of asking and prayers of thanks – to be in the state and place of grace for an hour -  to be fed – nourished – challenged – given something to chew on – something to think about.

That’s my perception. That’s my understanding. That’s what I’ve noticed.

The title of my homily is, “Dealing With Death.”

Now that’s a homily or sermon that we might not want summer, spring, winter or fall – especially summer. November or February – maybe.


Today’s gospel triggered the topic and theme for me. It was actually the first sentence that hit me.  Here it is again: “When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”

Question: How have we dealt with the deaths in our lives?

Question: Who has died in your life? Spouse? Mom? Dad? Grandma? Grandpa? Brother? Sister? Child? Friend? Co-worker?

Question: What were the aftereffects – the after quakes – the aftermath?

I thought this might be a good issue to spend a little time on – for a sermon topic – even in the summer. 

Death: it happens to all of us. It happens at us?

Then there is our own death. At some point we better think about that as well – and often other’s deaths trigger thoughts about our own life – and death -  as I’m assuming this homily will.

Stories trigger stories.

My hope is that my stories trigger your stories.

When they do, please stop listening to me and start listening to yourself – about your stories – your life – about your deaths.

To me this idea of stories triggering stories – ideas triggering ideas – images triggering another's imagination – this is at the heart of preaching.


In today’s gospel from Matthew 14:13-21 – we hear a story about  Jesus – how he  wanted some space and some time – to be alone – to go figure – and sure enough he's interrupted.

We know Jesus cried – and cried heavily at the death of his friend Lazarus – which we hear about in the gospel of John – Chapter 11.  Seeing him crying at the grave of Lazarus, people said, “See how he loved him.” [John 11:36]

So Jesus cried. So Jesus wanted to be alone – when someone he knew died.

And then we find out in today’s story – no way – it doesn’t happen. A crowd of people crowd in at him – and he has to feed them. They are hungry and thirsty – just like we heard about in today’s first reading.

Did Jesus stuff his feelings – hide his tears – and then tend and turn to people?


How about us? What do we do when someone we loved has died?

Obviously it all depends on who it is that died.

I think the first thing we do is become quiet. We've been shot or shocked or hit with a hurt. 

Then we watch. We look around. We experiencr the mystery of life – ending – over with - finality. 

Death is lightning - thunder - a storm.

Whether it’s a cat or dog – but especially if it’s a person - someone we know – someone we love – we want to withdraw - to find a quiet place to lick our wounds.

My first death was Jimmy Hennessy – a kid in our grammar school.He was maybe 9 years old. The wake was in the Hennessy house on 64th Street.

I can still see - after all these years -  all us kids walking up the steps into their house – a long line of kids. There was Jimmy laid out in a casket. Dark blue pants. White shirt. Dark blue tie. School uniform. 

I don’t remember anything but the silence on the street, on the steps, in the house, in the living room, where Jimmy was laid out. I don’t remember saying anything to his mom or dad or sister. Maybe I took a look in the eye of his brother. Johnny, who was in our grammar school class. 

So all I remember was just the line – just the silence – just the sadness – just the steps up into the house and back out of the house - and onto the sidewalk once again.

Was that why I always remember that first scene in the 1965 movie, Doctor Zhivago, when the little boy is at the burial of his mother? There is a solemn procession to the grave, then the prayers, then the closing of the casket, then lowering of the body into the ground – then the shovels and the dirt.

My dad died in 1970. That was my next – but maybe first profound death.

Then came a very tough death. It was my 15 year old nephew, Michael – who died suddenly of cancer in 1977. 

I cried while driving home from a retreat I was giving in Pennyslvania – heading back home to Brooklyn – to be with my sister and brother-in-law and their 3 other kids. It was in June – around Father’s Day and Michael’s younger sister Maryna in a quiet, one to one moment, said to me: “Uncle Andy? Do you ever think they’ll ever have a Brother’s Day?”

In time I lost my brother and then my mother and then last year my sister Peggy, who was a nun.

The one death I wonder about is my mom’s in 1987.  She was killed in a hit-and-run accident – while walking to church – and then she’d walk to work. I have not cried yet – and I have often wondered why. I cried at other funerals and deaths and experiences – and scenes in movies like The Natural and Doctor Zhivago.

Last August my brother-in-law died and at the wake I was sitting on a couch – in the funeral parlor - silently watching the whole scene – when my sister Peggy rolled into the funeral parlor. She was in a wheel-chair. That was new. Plus an oxygen tank and those clear plastic tubes into her nose. Woo. This was all new. I went over to her and said, “What the heck happened to you?”

"Ugh!" She was having big time breathing problems - while still working away as a nun up in Scranton, Pennsylvania – running a tutoring service for kids.

Well, after the greetings – and time – and this and that – Peggy and I are alone in this big gathering of family and friends.  I’m back on the corner of that couch – she’s next to me in her wheelchair.

For some reason - while we’re both facing our brother-in-law Jerry’s body in the casket – I said to Peggy, “You know I still haven’t cried over mom’s sudden death" – and that was back in 1987 – and she says to me, putting her hand on my arm, “I haven’t either.”


Then I said to Peggy, “We have to talk about this.”

I’m with her a month or so later and she’s worse – and we’re alone – in her nun’s nursing home room and I’m ready to talk to her about this and that and a few other things.

I finally got time to talk to her alone.

Then we get interrupted – and she has to take a lung treatment – and we never got to talking about mom – and I wanted to hear her take on that.

And then she died in November – and I did cry at that – and ugh and ugh and ugh.

And luckily I have my sister Mary and some good friends to talk to about all this.


As priest I’ve been with many people dying – with family members around them in nursing homes, hospitals, and at home in hospice and this and that. I’ve been to many funeral parlors.

In spite of all kinds of deaths, I am still like all of us here. We all have to deal with our own life and our own death – as well as that of family members.

Sometimes death is a blessing – but most of the times – it’s tough. It’s ugh. It’s a bummer. It’s life. 

Death – our's and other's – is  a reality we all have to deal with.


The title of my homily is, “Dealing With Death.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori – whose feast day was last Friday – wrote a whole book on Preparation for Death.

I prefer his other book, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ in dealing with death – and dealing with life.

Paul says in today’s second reading, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?"  Then Paul gives a long list of things that can get in the way of our relationship with Christ: anguish, distress, death, past things, future things, etc. etc. etc. Paul says none of these things can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Cf. Romans 8:35, 37-39.]

Question: How to deal with death, how to deal with all the mistakes and the missing and missed moments with each other – the time and love and listening we didn’t give each other – how to deal with all that and a lot, lot more?

Answer: to stand or sit here  under this gigantic cross  - here in this church – in this sanctuary – and let Jesus be with us – and hear him say when he was dying on the cross to the Good Thief, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” [Cf. Luke 23:43].

So my plans and my hope is to steal paradise on that promise. My plan is to meet again with not just Jesus Christ, but Jimmy Hennessy, my dad, my mom, my nephew, my brother, my sister, my brother-in-law and all those people whose lives were part of my life - and have gone before me. Amen.


Painting on top: Funeral Procession by Ellis Wilson


Poem for Today - August 3, 2014


is like a way
with words,
or a play
on words,
or a flow
of choice words

silence is all

that is really

©  John Stigall