Saturday, October 18, 2014


Poem for Today - October 18, 2014


Sing God a simple song, Lauda laude
Make it up as you go along, Lauda laude
Sing like you like to sing, God loves all simple things
For God is the simplest of all,
For God is the simplest of all.

I will sing the Lord a new song
To praise Him, to bless Him, to bless the Lord,
I will sing His praises while I live, all of my days.

Blessed is the man who loves the Lord,
Blessed is the man who praises Him,
Lauda, lauda, laude
And walks in His ways.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help
I will lift up my voice to the Lord
Singing Lauda, Laude

For the Lord is my shade
Is the shade upon my right hand
And the sun shall not smite me by day,
Nor the moon by night

Blessed is the man who loves the Lord
Lauda, lauda, laude
And walks in His ways.

Lauda, lauda, laude, 
Lauda Lauda di da di day… 
All of my days.

Music by Leonard Bernstein, Text from the Liturgy of the Roman Mass

Additional Texts by Stephen Schwartz and Leonard Bernstein

Poem for Today - Saturday October 18, 2014


When the thunder rumbles
Now the Age of God is dead
And the dreams we’ve clung to dying to stay young
Have left us parched and old instead….
When my spirit falters on decaying altars
And my illusions fail,

I go on right then.
I go on again.
I go on to say
I will celebrate another day ….
I go on ….

If tomorrow tumbles
And everything I love is gone
I will face regret
All my days, and yet
I will still go on … on …
Lauda, Lauda, Laude,
Lauda, Lauda di da di day …

© Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Schwarz

Friday, October 17, 2014


Poem for Today - Friday October 17, 2014


Having shared our bread,
we know that we are
no longer hungry. It is enough

that you see me for myself.
That I see you for yourself.
That we bless what we see

And do not borrow, do not use
One another. This is how we know
We are no longer hungry … that

the world is full of terror, full of beauty
and we we are not afraid to find solace here.
To be bread for each other. To love.

© Gunila Norris

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Poem for Today - October 16, 2014 - Thursday


I was passionate.
filled with longing,
I searched
far and wide.
But the day
that the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home.

©  Lal Ded, 14th Century, Kashmir

Poem for Today - October. 15, 2014 - Wednesday


Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass.
God does not change.
Patience achieves everything.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

© Teresa of Avila

Picture: Woman Crying by
Pablo Picasso

Poem for Today - October 14, 2014 - Tuesday


I remember this woman who sat for years
In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead
Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing
And leafing at the far end of the lane.

Straight out past the TV in the corner,
The stunted, agitated hawthorne bush,
The same small calves with their backs to wind and rain,
The same acre of ragwort, the same mountain.

She was steadfast as the big window itself,
Her brow as clear as the chrome bits of the chair.
She never lamented once and she never
Carried a spare ounce of emotional weight.

Face to face with her was an education
Of the sort you got across a well-braced gate –
One of those lean, clean, iron roadside ones
Between two whitewashed pillars, where you could see

Deeper into the country than you expected
And discovered that the field behind the hedge
Grew more distinctly strange as you kept standing
Focused and drawn in by what barred the way.

© Seamus Heaney

Monday, October 13, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Hagar and the Horrible.”

As you know there is a comic strip in lots of U.S. newspapers called, “Hagar the Horrible.”

It’s my favorite comic strip. In fact it’s the only one I look at.

Hagar in that story is a Viking and there are lots of funny stories in that comic series – usually Hagar being outfoxed by his wife.

She’s the smart – prudent – practical – realistic one; he’s the fool – the butt of jokes and dumb moves and unawareness.


In the book of Genesis we have the horrible story about Hagar and Sarah.

Abraham has Sarah as his wife – but she’s producing no children, no son. Abraham does have a son by her slave, Hagar, the Egyptian.

And Sarah, seeing how much her husband, Abraham, loves his son Ishmael, becomes jealous and wants both Hagar and her son eliminated – put out into the dry desert to die.

Abraham concedes to Sarah – and Hagar and her son Ishmael are – excommunicated – sent out of camp to die in the desert.

And we know from Genesis that Ishmael and Hagar are saved by an angel and live – and continue as part of the story of Abraham and Israel.


Artists, painters, but especially sculptors, found the desert scene of the dying woman and her son – a powerful subject for a sculpture.

It’s can tell in stone or wood the life story – of a woman – a single woman – struggling to raise a son – or daughter.  It’s a pieta of a mother and a child.

It’s the story of millions of women – and men – around the world – struggling without food, water, place – enslaved by others – caught with Ebola – and war – etc.

We see live sculptures of this scene many times on the evening news.


Islam doesn’t mention Hagar in the Koran – but Ishmael and Ibrahim are part of their history.

One of their ancient legends or stories is that of Ishmael and Ibrahim as the builders of the famous cube building – the Kaaba - in Mecca. That’s one of the central shrines in Muslim religion.


St. Paul uses the story of Hagar and Sarah in  the first reading for today from Galatians 4: 22-24, 256-27, 31 – 5:1. The message is one of Paul’s constants: we have a chance to be a slave or free.

We can follow the law or we can discover freedom in Christ.


Looking at our life – our choices – our time schedule – do feel a sense of joy that we do what we do freely – out of love for each other – or do we feel that our life is all obligation.

I like weekday Mass – because we’re all here out of freedom.

This afternoon, however, we priests are heading to New Jersey – for 3 days of meetings. I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m going out of obligation. Smile.


Poem for Today - October 13, 2014


In the place that is my own place, whose earth
I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that has not harmed it. There is a hollow in it
that is its death, though its living brims whitely
at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.
Over all its scars has come the seamless white
of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history
healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and bending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.
It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.
In all the country there is no other like it.
I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling
the same as itself, and greater, than I would be ruled by.
I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it,
And is fed upon, and is native, and maker.

© Wendell Berry
Page 284-285
in Upholding Mystery,
An Anthology of 
Contemporary Christian

Poetry, edited by
David Impastato,
New York, Oxford,
Oxford University Press,

Sunday, October 12, 2014


?   ?   ?


The title of my homily is, “The 3 Biggest  Questions Found in Every Brain.”

Let me begin with a question: “Does everyone have lifetime questions?”

That question was triggered by today’s readings.

It’s my experience that people come up with questions as they hear or read the Sunday readings at Mass. That sets up a problem – a question: “How come you didn’t preach on the question that hit me from today’s readings?”

That causes an “Uh oh!” in me at times – because I think to myself, “Hey there are a couple of hundred people here – perhaps each with a different question.” 

So, “Uh oh! That’s an, “Uh oh!”

I assume that’s why some preachers start off with an example – to try to get everyone off their wave length and onto the speakers.

I think – but I’m not sure – that’s why I try to get people to come up with questions – more than answers. I want  to get people to get in touch with their questions and start thinking about them during the homily – during the Mass -  and then during the week.

The title of my homily is, “The 3 Biggest  Questions Found in Every Brain.”

I like questions. It's not by accident the question mark is shaped the way it's shaped.  It's a hook - like a fishing hook.


One of my favorite questions is to ask people, “Have you written your memoirs yet?”

And sometimes people say, “Yeah! I’m working on them.”

There was an article in yesterday's New York Times  - exactly on this topic: write your memoirs. [1]

I think people spend the second half of their life – working on figuring out the first half of their life – as well as what’s happening now – as well as what’s going to happen in the future. Questions… wonderings … worries … about kids, marriage, relationships, money, parents, what’s in the wings?

I think people are always, “Figuring!”  They are looking you right in the face – but what’s behind that face – in that mind behind the face – they are somewhere else. I know I am.

So what’s going on in your mind – behind your eyes – behind your face: Where are your energies? What are your questions? What’s going on? What’s important? Is significance your bottom line?

What have been the 3 most significant moments of your life so far?

Who has had the most impact on you?

Who have been your greatest teachers?

Answers to these questions are the stuff of memoirs and memories.

I once ran into an old man named, Clement Jedrzejewski.

I was in my 30’s – and working in a retreat house in New Jersey – right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

I was doing weekend retreats for men’s and women’s groups – and high school retreats during the week.

Clement lived down the road in another retreat house – where we used to say Mass in the morning. Finding out that Clement was a retired teacher – who taught future teachers – I asked him how he’d give a high school retreat. He had worked at St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York.

He asked me my questions and then he asked me some of his questions and then he said, “Give me a week or so to think about your question and we’ll talk again.”

Two weeks later I was taking him shopping and he said, “Okay, here’s a method that I like to use.”

“When the kids get off the bus, let them explore the whole property and the whole place – everywhere. When dogs come into a new place – they like to sniff in every corner.”

“Then,” he said, “After they eat together,  at your first big retreat session, ask them to jot down all the questions they have about life, school, friends, family, future, these three days, whatever.”

“Have them do that by themselves – on their piece of paper. Then tell them to put a circle around their top 3 questions.”

“Then tell them to look around the room and pick out one person – just one person they think they can talk to. If there is an odd number, you talk to that person. Then tell them to put that first piece of paper away – in their pocket. Then the two of you – jot down all your questions – and once more put a circle around your 3 top questions.”

“Then put that  piece of paper away – and pick out 4 or 5 people – whom you are in a clique with or a group with – and jot down all your questions – and put a circle around your top 3 questions.” 

Clement added, “Don’t try to get them to meet with new people. Tell them to hang with those they know. That way it’s more real – and serious conversations might carry over into when they are back home or at school.”

That was different. I was told to break up folks when doing group work.

Then Clement said, “Now have the whole group – yell out their questions – not from the papers in their pockets – but from the floor – then come up with 3 top questions. That’s what you spend the retreat on.”

He concluded: “Keep saying, ‘There are no stupid questions – only stupid answers.’”


The title of my homily is, “The 3 Biggest  Questions Found in Every Brain.”

Today, this week, jot down on paper or computer what you think might be the 3 biggest questions found in every brain. Start by jotting down all the questions you think of – then put a circle around the top 3.

Do this by yourself and then do it with someone else – your spouse – or close friends – then do it with associates.

Relax there is no official list of the 3 biggest questions in every brain.

This week, this time in your life, they might be this, next week, next year, there will be different questions.

For example, today’s readings trigger for me various questions.

What is God like? Is God like the God described in today’s first reading from Isaiah? God is on a mountain and he’s setting up a banquet for all peoples. Notice the all – as in all peoples. He’s preparing a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food, choice wines. Then he’s going to destroy the veil that veils all peoples – the web woven over all nations. Does that mean he’s going to let us all finally see – we are one people – no walls, no veils, no webs. He’s going to destroy death forever and wipe away tears from all faces. He is going to save us – save all of us.

Is that what God is like? Is that God’s dream – that we’ll all see what Isaiah saw – that Martin Luther King Jr. saw – when he said, “I’ve been to the mountain” – that mountain where we’ll be one. Finally!

Or is God like the king in today’s gospel from Matthew who invites folks to a wedding feast for his son – but folks reject the invitation – so he kills all those who reject him? Then when the poor and those found on the back roads – come to the banquet, the king throws out someone who didn’t come with a wedding out fit on. Hey is God like that?

That’s one of my life time questions: What is God like?

Obviously I hope my image and likeness of God is God? I’ve always liked Luke’s Jesus – and Luke’s God – better than the God I find in Matthew. Luke doesn’t have this guy tossed out into the darkness – where he wails and grinds his teeth. Matthew has Jesus destroying the fig tree on first instance – for not producing figs – but Luke has Jesus giving the lazy fig tree – getting another chance. I’m a softie – so I like Luke’s images of Jesus and God – at least the one’s I like.

But who’s right? We’ve all heard preachers and parents – whose image of God – scares us and we say, “That’s not my God?

Well, what is God like?

That’s one of my 3 life time questions in my brain.

Is that question in every brain?

We have to talk to each other to find out.


The title of my homily is, “The 3 Biggest  Questions Found in Every Brain.”

I just said that one of my biggest life time questions is: “What is God like?”

I think that’s in every brain – somewhere.

I also think people ask: “Is there a God?”

I also think people ask, “Is there life after this life?”

I also think people ask, “Does God have a plan, a hope, a will for me – and if “Yes” what is it?

I also think people ask the question found in the world’s shortest poem – two words and it rhymes, “I / Why?” I don’t know who wrote that poem but I first heard it when we were studying Existential Philosophy in our 3rd year of college and I’ve never forgotten it. “I/Why?”

I also think people ask the question found in the world’s next shortest poem – two words and it also rhymes and I wrote it, “You/Who?”

That’s the relationship question.

What are the questions you’re asking – lifetime questions – big questions. That’s your homework for this week. Jot them down and put a circle around the top 3 and compare answers and notes with each other. Amen.



[1] "Appeal of Writing Memoirs Grow, as Do Publishing Options," by Elizabeth Olson, page B4, The New York Times, Business, Saturday, October 11, 2014


Poem for Today - October 12, 2014


From the depths of cosmic, boundless space
From the destitute  places of human misery
From souls torn with yearning
From disabled bodies
From houses locked in bondage
To you – O Incomprehensible
Flows a silent, unutterable supplication.

You know it - O Omniscent Lord
You give ear to it
You understand it, O Eternal Wisdom
You answer the prayer, O Infinite Goodness
With our hearts burning with hope
We await he response of your voice
Lost Mankind has been yearning for it.

We have been failed by a multitude of sages
We have been failed by the applauded prophets
We have been failed by the dictates of leaders
Lost in the blackness of night
We have been failed by the glare of beauty
We are looking for new ways
Show us a new dawn, O Sole Truth

© Clement Jedrzejewski
New York, February 5, 1972
(Authorized translation

from the Polish.)