Saturday, December 6, 2014


Poem for Today - Saturday, December, 2014


there was a little boy
who lived by the shore of the sea.
He watched the ships go sailing by
all wrapped in mystery.

"What do you carry,
where do you go?"
he said as he saw them there.
I hope you bring many good things
to girls and boys everywhere."

was the little boy's name,
in case you'd like to know.
He loved surprising others with gifts
and seeing their faces glow.

Then he would hide
and no one would know
the one who loved them,
who loved them so. 

Once a father
had grown so poor
as to sell his daughters three.
Three nights
to his window Nicholas came
with gold to keep them free.

went to church one day
and all the people stood:
"You have a heart like God's,"
they said,
"A heart that is so good.
Will you be our bishop
And lead us as God would?"

When Nicholas died
God welcomed him
to heaven's great applause:
"Well done, well done,
good Nicholas,
for serving well my cause."

Now every Christmas
Nicholas comes with gifts
for girls and boys.
You know his name as Nicholas,
But it's also Santa Claus. 

O Good St. Nicholas, children's friend,
friend of girls and boys,
through the clouds come again,
and fill your bag with toys.

Give me too a giving heart,
for loving others too,
I want to know how good it is
to give good gifts like you.

© Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Friday, December 5, 2014



The title of my homily for this Friday in the First Week of Advent is, “Do You See What I See?”

I think that’s a song line in a Christmas carol.

"Do you see what I see?"


At times I wonder what is the greatest life lesson one can learn.

If we took a poll at a senior citizens center – asking that question – “The # 1 thing I’ve learned about life is ________” – I’m sure the answers would broadcast great wisdom – as well as similarities as well as differences.

What have I learned about life so far?  What do I see? What’s been my life lessons from my life experiences? What have those experiences been?

I like to ask couples celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary, “What have you learned?”  “What’s the secret?”

I hear comments about communication, communication, communication.

I hear folks says, “Listen, Listen, Listen.”

I hear folks says, “Forgive – Forget – 70 times 7 times.”

I often hear cute – joke – comments like, “Always say,  ‘Yes dear’ or ‘You’re right!’”

The answers differ – and the same folks give different answers on different occasions to the same question. 

When asked about changed comments – folks often say, “It all depends!” 

Is that one of life’s great secrets: The ability to realize - It all depends.

It seems that those 3 words are often in the mix of many a conversation – so maybe that’s are one of life’s lessons.


At times I hear someone say: “We all see differently.” 

And then they add, “In fact everyone sees differently – and the sooner you get that – the happier you’ll be.”

I once heard a speaker say, “The whole of life can be found in the verb, to see.”

I was never that sure just what that meant – but if it means, “We all see differently”– I get it.

Let me give a few examples.

The first is my Forest Gump example.

Years ago I was attending a scripture conference in Chicago with 3 other priests – each of us a Redemptorist. On Wednesday night we had off – so the 4 of us decided to go to a movie. A diocesan priest asked if he could join us. I asked in the car on the way out to the movie theater, “What’s the movie?”

The guy who was organizing the deal said, “Forest Gump.”

I said, “Never heard of it.”

So I went into the movie thinking it was a western and happy to be with 3 guys I knew – as well as a stranger.

The movie is over. We’re standing in the lobby – waiting for the guy who went for the car. I said to the stranger one to one, “How’d you like the movie?”

He said just to me, “I didn’t and I didn’t get it.”

That surprised me. I thought it was a great movie – a great way of doing biography and history and what have you.

In the 10 minute car ride back to the conference center two of the five in the car were talking and laughing and telling all  kinds of things that hit them about the movie. They loved the movie. One even said, “I’m willing to bet it’s going to win an Oscar.”

We get back to the conference center. A friend of the diocesan priest who went with us asked him about the movie. I was the only one who heard him make the following comment. “We saw a movie named Forest Gump. It was really great and worth seeing and I got a lot out of it.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment. It was a life lesson. People change their minds. People start to see differently. Was it because of peer pressure? Was it because he doesn’t see things till someone else points them out?
I don’t know. I don’t know how this guy sees and does life.

The second example I call, “The Pope’s White Robe” story.

I’m at a Jewish wedding of a good family friend in Ann Arbor Michigan. Near the end of the wedding, the father of the bridegroom asks me to drop a friend of his and his wife at the airport in Michigan on their way back to California. Marty knew I’d be driving right by the airport.

We’re in my car and this Jewish guy says to me, “What do you call that white robe the Pope wears?”

I say, “Cassock!”

He then says, “Now don’t take me wrong. Every time I see him wearing that white  garment – I think of a great way to solve any money problems the Catholic Church might have. All they would have to do is put advertisements on that white garment – like a Pepsi Cola or a Coca Cola  image and message.”

I said, “No offense. Great idea – but no – I’m sure they would never do that.”

What I got out of that moment was this: he was seeing a great space for advertising something – I see the pope.

We all see differently.

My sister Mary doesn’t like t-shirts with messages on them. I see t-shirts with messages on them as great conversation starters.

So maybe put a biblical text – like “Love one another as I have loved you.” on the pope’s cassock.”

My sister Mary and I were together for a whole week at Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law and 6 of her 7 daughters and their families in a big rent-a-house in Virginia Beach.  Surprise my grandnieces and nephews and 2 girl friends came out of a room wearing t-shirts with my picture on them – celebrating my 75th Birthday – with the message, “Hi Turkey!” on the shirt. That’s one of my favorite sayings. I’ve discovered that it’s a great ice breaker. It’s a great instant conversation starter with people. I’ll have to ask my sister Mary if she liked those t-shirts with a message on them.

A last example goes like this. A young teenage girl came out of her room and told her daddy she lost a contact lens. She said she searched everywhere in her room and couldn’t find it. “I looked 2 whole hours,” she said. He went in and in 3 minutes came out  with her contact lens. 

She said, “How did you find it so quickly?”

He said, “You were looking for a contact lens. I was looking for $200.”

Obvious message: we all see differently.


I’m saying in this homily that “seeing” is a great life message.

I’m saying in this homily that knowing we often see differently – both of us or all of us looking at the same movie or thing, and then checking it out – can lead to conversations, communication, communion – as well as growth in understanding each other


I’ll start and end my homily this way, “The title of my homily is, ‘Do You See What I See?’”

Say those 6 words 6 times each day to 6 different people, and see what they see.  They might help you see things you never saw before.


"I remember standing on a street corner with the black painter Beauford Delaney down in the Village waiting for the light to change, and he pointed down and said, 'Look.'  I looked and all I saw was water. And he said, 'Look again,' which I did, and I saw oil on the water and the city reflected in the puddle. It was a great revelation to me. I can't explain it. He taught me how to see, and how to trust what I saw. Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you've had that experience, you see differently." James Baldwin

Poem for Today - December 5, 2014 - Friday


He will come like last leaf's fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud's folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

© Rowan Williams

(The Poems of
Rowan Williams,
Perpetua Press 2002) 

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Poem for today, Thursday, December 4, 2014


Too often our answer to the darkness
is not running toward Bethlehem
but running away.
We ought to know by now that we can't see
where we're going in the dark.
Running away is rampant ...
separation is stylish:
separation from mates, from friends, from self.
Run and tranquilize,
don't talk about it
Run away and join the army
of those who have already run away.
When are we going to learn that Christmas Peace
comes only when we turn and face the darkness?
Only then will we be able to see
the Light of the World.

© Ann Weems
Kneeling in Bethlehem

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Poem for Today - December 3, 2014


It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

© Denise  Levertov  (1923–1997)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014



The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the First Week of Advent is, “Gerard Hughes: God Is A God Of Surprises.”


A month ago – in England - November 4, 2014 – Gerard W. Hughes – the Jesuit died.

Back in 1985 he came out with a book entitled God of Surprises. It’s still selling and it’s still having impact on people.

Interestingly – this theme – the God of Surprises is a favorite theme of Pope Francis and various other people – including myself – of course.


 I began thinking about this when I read today’s readings – and then working on this homily.

The first reading  - from Isaiah 11: 1-10 - talks about the surprises of God.

I can see Isaiah spotting a stump in the ground.

It’s dead – how can it give life.

So he talks about qualities a king needs: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. He urges that the king not judge by appearances – nor decide by hearsay. He urges the king to judge the poor with justice – and decide what will help the afflicted. He shall prevent and block the ruthless and the wicked about taking over.

If the king does all this, then the stump of Jesse will blossom.
I’m sure this text was chosen for Advent, because Christians applied this text from Isaiah to Christ.

From the stump of Jesse – from this tribe – which was filled with promises - new life comes – Jesus – who shows up in Mary – who shows up in Nazareth – who shows up in carpenter shop – and then in the synagogues and marketplaces and roads of Israel. He shows up in the person of Jesus – to announce justice and peace.

Buds blossom – buds burst up and flower from the side of the tree stumps.

Buds will blossom from the wood of the cross – dead wood – which becomes the tree of life.

There is always hope. There are always shoots shooting out of chopped down trees.

Hear Isaiah’s poetry: the wolf will be the guest of the lamb. The leopard will lie down with the kid goat. The calf and the young lion will graze together. The cow and the bear will be neighbors. The little kid will be able to play near the cobra’s nest.

Isaiah is painting a picture in words of the Peaceable Kingdom – hopefully the dream of everyone. Hopefully, we want to be surprised by beauty, by peace, not death and the ugly. 

I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures of  The Peaceable Kingdom  by the Pennsylvania Quaker preacher and painter: Edward Hicks. Starting in 1820 he painted 61 versions of that scene and that hope from Isaiah 11.


Gerard Hughes presented hope to lots of people in his books and his talks. He gave hope to our world and to our church – in images – stories – comments - that were quite surprising.

For starters he stressed not being afraid to question. He did. He told listeners and readers that it’s real to have doubts.

In his obituary I read, “His book God of Surprises (1985) sold nearly 250,000 copies and was translated into more than 20 languages. For many readers, the book became a spiritual lifeline that kept them within the church at a time when they were thinking of leaving.”

He described his book, God of Surprises as “a guidebook for the inner journey in which we are all engaged”.

That’s a key message for Quakers – to go within – in search of Inner Light.

Gerry Hughes talked about the inner life of folks – both the dark and the need for light. He would tell listeners on his retreats that he and his father suffered at times from depression. Two of his sisters committed suicide – and he would say he had this worry for himself at times.  

He saw life as a hunger for inner peace – not war within.

He saw life as a search in a field for buried treasure – and that field is in oneself.

At times Church authorities in both England and Scotland tried to silence him. They put him on hold. He would come back – re-instated – and then be squelched again.

He wrote spiritual reading books – while at the same time warning people about spiritual reading books that didn’t challenge people to think – and be introspective.

In his obituary I read that he told someone who was interviewing him in 2014 “that too many spiritual books were ‘destructive’ and ‘an easy way to make money’. ‘There are lots of beautiful words. God is here and Our Lady is there, so all will be well. “Just trust,” they [readers] are told. Trust in what? “Just trust in what I am telling you” is the message. There is very little attempt to encourage people to listen to their own experience, to discover things for themselves.’”

He warned people with Martin Buber’s warning about religion: “Nothing so masks the face of God as religion.”

His mother warned him, after deciding to become a Jesuit, “Don’t become odd like so many of them.”

As I read several obituaries about Gerry Hughes – I couldn’t help but see why Pope Francis – liked the story and the comments and messages of a fellow Jesuit: Gerry Hughes.


Let me end with this comment.

Gerard Hughes taught and worked in both England and Scotland.

At the same time there was another Jesuit – with the same name.

Both were the exact opposite of the other.

One was for war and the other was for peace.

Fellow Jesuits distinguished them by the letter of the middle name. But those who really knew them called one: “Bomber Hughes”; and the other “Peace Hughes.”

I would think that Gerry Hughes is challenging us to go into our homes, work places, circles, bringing peace and not dropping bombs. Amen.


Poem for Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Man invents war.
Man discovers peace.

He invents war from without.
He discovers peace from within.

War man throws.
Peace man sows.

The smile of war is the flood of human blood.
The smile of peace is the love, below, above.  

Peace is the whole truth that wishes to enrapture humanity.
War is the whole falsehood that wants to capture humanity.

Peace begins in the soul and ends in the heart.
War begins in the mind and ends in the body.  

War forgets peace.
Peace forgives war.

War is the death of the life human.
 Peace is the birth of the Life Divine.

Our vital passions want war.
Our psychic emotions desire peace.

War is clear futility in dire spear-stupidity.
Peace is flowing infinity in glowing eternity.  

Man seeks war when he thinks that the world is not his.
Man invites war when he feels that he can conquer the world.

Man proclaims war when he dreams
That the world has already surrendered to him.  

Man seeks peace because his earthly existence desperately needs it.
Man welcomes peace because he feels 
     that in peace alone is his life of achievement and fulfilment.
Man spreads peace because he wants to transcend death.  

The animal in man wars against peace in the outer world,
       in the world of conflicting ideas.
The divine in man wars against ignorance in the inner world,
       in the world of mounting ideals.  

The animal in man wants war for the sake of war,
       war to devour the snoring world.
The divine in man wants peace for the sake of peace,
       peace to feed the hungry world.

© Sri Chinmoy,
an excerpt from
Songs of the Soul

Monday, December 1, 2014



The title of my homily for this Monday in the First Week of Advent is, “Words: Swords Into Plowshares, Spears Into Pruning Hooks.”

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 2:1-5 talks about hammering swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. These words – Isaiah 2:4 – appear on a wall across the street from United Nations headquarters in New York City – but also in our hearts and minds.

How many people down through the centuries – when seeing tanks and canons – roll by in parades -  had the thought, “What a waste of money!”

How many then said, “Why couldn’t we use all this money to feed and educate and house the poor – to rebuild the highways and the bridges – to fill up the potholes – to improve our nursing homes and hospitals?


During the cold war, I had a fantasy – that the United States – had built 100,000 missals – and secretly put the money that would pay for its insides – nuclear explosives and technology – inside the missiles. Then the United States announced to the world  – especially to the Soviet Union – that we had these powerful missiles in place – in missile silos – all around the world. Then when the Soviet Union goes broke trying to match our weapons – we announce to the world that for the sake of peace - we’re dismantling our weapons – but in reality taking the money out of these empty missile  shells.


Wonderful thought… this melting down our weapons – and using the money elsewhere.

But it remains a thought.

Wars and rumors of war will always be us.

When we think those thoughts – it’s always about others – and people out there. After all – most of us are not makers of swords and spear.

But if we apply that thought  to words – to our tongues  - then we can put it into practice every day of our lives.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

If you give that saying lots of thought – we’d have to say, “Words can hurt us – and hurt us big time – and hurt us for a long time.

Which are more powerful a weapon: swords – or swords without the “W” – which is “words”?

I would dare say that people have words from a mother or a father, a spouse or a teacher, from way back – that still hurt us.

People remember a word said to us 27 years ago – a cutting comment – that is still stuck in us. We say things like, “It was like being stabbed in the back by another.”


People also realize the positive power of words – words that build us up – words that also last for years.


So words can be a blessing and a curse.

Words can be a wall or a bridge.

Words can be a welcoming word or a word that shuts us out.

Words can be a compliment – an affirmation – a plow – a pruning hook – that helps us grow – and grow till we become a harvest of rich and juicy fruits – to become strawberry jam –to butter and then juicify the bread of another. Amen.

Poem for Monday, December l, 2014


Even two years later, she still gets correspondence
addressed to him. Correspondence. This like that.

Mostly about his hobby. Coin collector brochures.
Announcements of collector swap meets. His pastime.

A way to spend an afternoon back when an afternoon
needed spending. Before all the silence flooded the house.

He had old currency. Nickels worth ten dollars.
And heavy, the bags. Musical, too.

She needs to sort through them all.
That's what she should do, realize its value.

But what she is thinking of is spending it,
buying gum and soft drinks, maybe a chocolate bar.

Just get face value for mint-condition rarities.
Get them back into circulation. Circulation. The afterlife

where someone else could get them as change
and be joyful at the luck of finding his life's pleasure.

© Michael Chitwood
From Living Wages,
Tupelo, Press, 2014
North Adams, MA

Sunday, November 30, 2014



The title of my homily is, “De Profundis: Psalm 130.”

Today – this First Sunday of Advent – Year B – the year we look at the Gospel of Mark mainly – the themes of watching and waiting - jumped off the page for me.

As I reflected on that – in hopes of coming up with a helpful homily for today – Psalm 130 - also jumped out at me.

It’s not today’s psalm – but as I read today’s three readings and today’s psalm – number 80 -  Psalm 130 arrived at my door - in my mind.

Various surveys of what people want from a homily - list spirituality as # 1 - and mention of money # 1 billion 687 thousand – and 36.

Reading a psalm – just one psalm - say at night – as a family – or with one’s spouse – or with oneself – certainly can help.

There are 150 Psalms in the Bible. It's a song book. Nor every psalm will grab you - buy if you bite into them bit by bit - some will become famous to you.

We priests and religious read the Divine Office each day – and they feature 3 Psalms for each prayer session: Morning, Evening, mid-day prayer, Night and Matins – some prayers for during the night or early morning.

In priest and nun’s retreats,  I often say, “If you’re rushing your prayers – don’t say them all – just say one psalm slowly and peacefully. Take your time. Chew your food. Savor the taste."  

I’d say the same of the rosary. Instead of a mindless babble of words  - say a decade of the rosary slowly or just one Hail Mary – savoring it.

I learned that mainly from Thich Nhat Hnan [pronounced "TIK NYAT HAWN"]. He's the 88 year old Buddhist Monk from Vietham. He's the Buddist monk with the great smile. 

Right now he’s in a hospital in Bordeaux, France in a coma – suffering from a severe brain hemorrhage.

When talking about mindfulness he would say,  “When eating potato chips – don’t swallow the whole bag in one big gulp. Instead savor one potato chip at a time.”


Let me read the psalm first:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.


The Hebrew transliteration of Psalm 130 is as follows:

     Shir hamaalot mima'amakim keraticha adonai /
     Adonai shimah vekoli tiyena oznecha kashuvot lekol            tachanunai /
     Im avonot tishmor ya adonai mi yaamod /
     Ki imcha haslicha lemaan tivare /
     kiviti adonai kivta nafshi velidvaro hochalti /
     Nafshi ladonai mishomrim laboker shomrim laboker /
     Yachel yisrael el adonai ki im adonai hachesed veharbeh      imo fedut /
     Vehu yifdeh et yisrael mikol avonotav.


I have about 10 different translations of the Bible into English.

When I get interested in a psalm or any text in the Bible, I like to read various translations – and fool around at times with the Hebrew or the Greek – the 2 languages the Old and New Testament are written in.

We had 4 years of Greek – but only 1 year of Hebrew – and to this day – K don’t know how I passed that course in Hebrew.

To me this is one way to savor a text – to taste it – to pray with it.


The person screaming Psalm 130 is in the pits.

He feels like he’s lost at sea. He feels like he’s in the pits. He feels like he’s been buried alive. He’s down. He’s depressed.

Ever feel that way.

Ever see the movie Kill Bill 2 – when Beatrix Kiddo is buried alive. She’s been put in a wooden casket. The box is sealed with nails. The banging of the hammer is tough for starters. Then the box is pushed down into a hole – a deep grave in a cemetery – and all becomes dark. The screen becomes dark. Totally dark. After what feels like 2 minutes of that – finally Quentin Tarantino switches to an earlier part of Beatrice’s life – where she learns how to punch her way – fist her way – with bloody, bloody knuckles through wood – and she pushes and climbs through the dirt to the top – to air – to salvation.

It’s the same scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne escapes from prison by going through this long, long pipe – sewer pipe – and you know what’s in and what smells in a sewer pipe – till he finally makes it to the other side – redemption – from Shawshank Prison. He belly flops into clear water on the others side. It’s a baptism. It’s freedom.

Psalm 130 screams all this out – when the song writer screams out to God – for rescue – for redemption – to be saved.

Like a watchman who waits for dawn…. Like anyone who is in the depths of despair – God is on the other end of the dark – God is the one on the other side of the casket and death – God is the one with stedfast love – who will redeem us.


By the way when we say the Apostles Creed – we say – he descended into hell.

That means Christ went down into the earth when he was buried that Good Friday  - and if you’ve been to Greek Churches – they often picture that moment much better than the Western Christian Churches – when Christ went into the depths, into Sheol, into where all those who have died were waiting, sometimes translated “Hell” – waiting for redeemption, salvation, freedom, heaven.


Advent means the vent – the pipeline – the arrival of salvation.

For us it’s Christmas once again – and once again – we go through the cycle, the wheel rolling us forwards to another year.

In Matthew and Luke – redemption and salvation starts with the baby.

A child will lead us to salvation – to the peacable Kingdom – as we see in those Peaceable Kingdom paintings by Benamin Hicks.

In Mark – redemption and salvation starts with the adult Christ – arriving at at doorstep – proclaiming, “The Kingdom of God has arrived. Repent and believe in the Good News.”


The title of my homily is, “De Profundis – Psalm 130.”

Psalm 130 has the great advent theme of watching and waiting and hoping for redemption.

Redemptorists serve here in this parish and our motto and our theme comes from Psalm 130: “Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio” – with him there is plentiful redemption.

Slowly taste, savor those words, as you pray them – and cry them – this Advent, this Christmas – this new church year. Amen.