Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31, 2015


The first step 
in life is the feeling 
of being at home 
at home and here on this planet. 

The steps
that help this to happen
are to be held,
to be noticed,
to be respected,
and these
begin at home.

The further steps
are the experience
of being healed
and forgiven
and learning how
to admit one’s mistakes
at home.

Further steps
are the experience
of enjoying meals
and games
and prayers
and conversations
and once more
these all begin at home.

the next step,
after learning all of the above
is to be at home with oneself –
warts and worries, quirks and gifts,
family and everything up till now.

If one does all these things,
then one will begin
to feel at home with God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015


We see them - during the summer - on
the beaches - in the parks - men - yes
it's almost always men - men who love
gadgets - men with metal detectors - 
men who love to fish - fishing - 
searching for metal.

We see them with head phones – waiting to hear the bing, bing, bing sound that there is metal below - ready to find rings and things – hoping to find coins and bracelets – hiding in the sand – lost in the grass – in and under the dirt…..

One hand holds the metal detector – the old hand holds a light rake or pick on a stick – to dig through the sand or the dirt – for where the metal signal is coming from.

Of course there are big machines and drills - and big metal detectors – with plows and shovels to dig away the ground – and find and dig up precious metals – that have never been discovered before. I’ll stop there with that one, because I know little about mining.

We’re all searchers – dreamers – wanting to find the precious beneath our feet.

We all have our collection of class rings, ear rings, wedding rings, pins and trophies - buried treasure from long ago….

Pause and think about your collection.

Bing, bing, bing, goes the metal detector.

We’ve all had the experience at airports  - going through those telephone booth type metal detectors. They go bing, bing, bing or buzz, buzz, buzz, when they tell us about our metal belt buckles… or what have you.

The title of this reflection is: “Metal Detectors, Memory Detectors.”

Will someone come up with a memory detector? All those rings – all those bracelets, - all those coins  - all those pins  tick off a metal detector. Well, what about the story behind the ring or the bracelet or the coin that are found in the sand at the beach or in the woods?

Who was the person who wore this class ring? What are the memories behind this ring – St. Mary’s High School – Dartmouth – Elon – Loyola? How many places did someone search before they gave up the search? Was there a romantic story in the story? A guy gave this ring to his gal – in 1954. Then the ring was lost. What happened to both of them?

The rings and things we still have – when noticed or discovered trigger stories … memories. They are reminders  - that ring in our memories all our lives – in all our loves…..

Stuff – the stuff of life – there is a lot of it – everywhere – buried in the earth – buried beneath our skull….

Stuff – some mementos – some  trinkets – in our top drawers, bottom draws, in boxes in our basements and our attics – are loaded with the past.

A memory detector?

Is there such a thing as a memory detector?


It’s us.

Stop once and a while and look around.

Look around your rooms and your homes once and a while.

Talk to each other?  Mom – dad – did you have class rings way back when?

Do you still have them?  Can I see one? Tell me what thoughts and memories they trigger. What happened?

Memories: is there such a thing as a memory detector?


Is that why Jesus said, the important thing is not the thing but the person behind the thing – the person wearing the ring.

Treasure the ring, treasure the treasure – but above all, treasure what we take beyond the beyond, eternal life.

[This was a short reflection for St. Mary’s High School Junior Ring Ceremony we had in St. Mary’s yesterday, January 30, 2015]

January 30, 2015


The lights lower.
The concert congregation
becomes quiet.
The pianist walks out
onto the stage.
It’s a liturgy. It’s worship.
It’s sending sound and spirit
Into the hearts and minds
of all those present.
The piano, the altar,
offers us up -
music, mood, melody -
that will linger and loom
in the car ride home -
people speaking in a lower voice,
at least for the rest of the week
and possibly into the rest
of one’s life. Amen. More!

© Andrew Costello, Reflections by the Bay

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015


I’m walking in the city. Wait a minute,
I better add, it’s on the Upper East Side
of New York City. It’s evening. It’s January.
It’s cold. I go by three of four restaurants.
I look in and see young couples encased
in glass - doing inside chatting – she pointing
with a fork – he listening with wine in hand –
both seemingly unaware of any of us,
inches away, passing by on the other side
of the glass. The low lights, the candles,
the bread, the wine, their eyes, their hands,
their knees, their feet touching each other.
I saw all this poetry  all this in one grab
of a glance, and I was all alone,  hungry,
envious and all alone. I wanted to be
on the other side of the glass. Don’t we all –
all of us walking and talking to ourselves on
this cold and empty other side of the glass?
Question:  Were they in there because last year
they were out here walking in the cold all alone?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28, 2015

TAKE   10 

Take 10 minutes each day to pause.
Take 10 minutes each day to calm down.
Take 10 minutes each day to be in a quiet place.
Take 10 minutes each day to sit and simply breathe.
Take 10 minutes each day to not hear inner uproar.
Take 10 minutes each day to meditate.
Take 10 minutes each day to be aware of God.
Take 10 minutes each day to disappear.
Take 10 minutes each day to reappear made whole.
Take 10 minutes each day to come home without fear.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015



The title of my homily is, “Thy Will Be Done.”

The idea of the Will of God appears in today’s first reading, today’s Psalm Response and today’s gospel.

We say that prayer – “Thy will be done” in the Our Father  - sometimes with little thought  – sometimes with deep depth.

The air traffic controller and the greatest theologians in the history of our world have tossed around what they think that phrase means.

I don’t know about you – but I hesitate to say I know for sure what “God’s will be done” means – but of course like everyone – I think I know what’s best for everyone else in the family and in the world.

Oooops! I take some of that back, because I assume God’s will is that we forgive one another, love another and respect and honor and are generous to each other. Okay: timing is everything

I don’t think God has a check list of people who are to die today. I don’t believe that God zaps people. I believe that God cries when babies die and are with loved ones is with their loved ones as loved ones die.

I don’t think God wants some football team to win the Superbowl and some team to lose the Superbowl.

Just before a high school basketball game, I was standing there with our team.  We were praying to win. I just happen to look at the faces  of  the other team. They were also praying. At that moment the insight hit me and this is not the way God works.  So  I say to God – “I don’t think you determine who’s going to win a certain basketball game nor do you have favorites and all that.”  Yet the fans of some teams think that’s what happens with their team every year.


I noticed in the Letter to the Hebrews that we’re dealing with folks  who have struggles with the Law. The main message seems to be – that we struggle to say “Amen” – especially  the Great Amen - to what God seems to want and what God does each day.

I know that when I say to God, “Thy will be done, I am saying, ‘God I have no clue at times how all this works. Help me to let go of my trying to be you and control the universe – as well as other people’s lives – and God “God, what does it mean that you control the universe?”

 I also say many times each day – the words Jesus said from the cross, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

I say that one a lot. You don’t have to live with the priests I live with.

But most of all - that prayer in the Our Father and in today’s 3 readings about God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven triggers for me the best funny prayer of all time: “My will be done.”

That’s the prayer I’m thinking lots of times. It’s underneath all my complaints about others and life and how things go. I wish so and so wouldn’t say that – or drive like that – or get jam in the peanut butter.

It takes a lifetime to laugh at oneself about how I want the world to go round.  If I was the engineer I want God to be, uh oh. I find it difficult to move backwards with the car in Reverse in a parking lot.

I’m sure whoever came up with the line, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I would think it would make a very funny movie if everything people wanted on the spot happened. Some one says, “I wish it wasn’t so cold – and the temperature shoots from 29 to 92 – and then someone says, “It’s too hot. Dang it. It’s always too hot around here and the temperature shoots down to 43.” Then some kid says, “I wish it was just a little bit coldler – and it snowed – so we didn’t have to go to school.”

Chaos would reign as rain switches to snow.


In fact a good time to pray and say and laugh the, “Thy will be done!” prayer is when we’re actually saying, “I want it my way.” Or when we’re thinking and praying, “My will be done.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 27, 2015


Talk to me.
Listen to me.
Forgive me.
Look me in the eye.
Laugh with me.
Sit with me.
Worry about me.
Be fair with me.
Say, “Thank you.”
Say “Please.”

Do these 10 times each day
and watch your gift of awareness grow.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Hand-Me-Down Faith.”

For starters – there’s a great short prayer: “Hand me down faith, O Lord. Hand me down faith, O Lord ”


When it comes to clothes – I’ve heard complaints about hand-me-downs from the younger kids in a family.

However, much of life consists of hand-me-downs.

We speak the same language as our parents…. We all have family proverbs that are part of our family language. We all have knickknacks from way back from earlier generations.

Check out the old furniture. Nobody is complaining about having a small family table from the 1800’s. Grandmother’s Singer Sewing Machine is in a prominent place in some homes. So to piano’s.  I’ve done baptisms and the baby’s white garment is from the 1800’s.

If we take a good look at faith – we’ll have to admit – our faith is not only a gift from God – but it’s also a gift from others.

Faith is a hand-me-down gift.


I hear that message from Paul in today’s first reading from this letter of Paul to Timothy.

Listen again to his words,

I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

I think that’s a wonderful message sandwiched in there in this short – [It’s only 4th Chapters long] -  2nd Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.

If we stop and think about it, who are our Lois’ or our Eunice’s?

Name the people who gave us the gift of faith?

If we dropped out of faith, Church, at some time in our life, was there one person who gave us the example to come back.

Paul names names. Name names.

Would anyone name us?  Would anyone put us on their list?

Names are good. Details in our faith story are good. 

Last year, I had someone call me up after a funeral . Having  heard the eulogy about the person who died, the caller said, “I didn’t know so and so went to church and did all those wonderful things in his life. I want some of that. Can I see you?  I’ve been away from the church since the 1960’s.  I talked to this man and I have seen him in church ever since. Those kind of details make my day.


Today’s gospel talks about people with demons. Today’s gospel tells us that sometimes we can be divided.

Surely people pick up demons and addictions and lack or loss of faith from others. Hand-me-down bad habits or language.

In this homily I’m stressing – picking up faith – as well as that wonderful list of good stuff in today’s first reading: grace, mercy, peace, gratitude, prayer, self-control, and love.


At this Mass thank God for the people who gave us good example and faith – and pray that our faith – which has been handed down to us – often by parents, grandparents, great grandparents – don’t stop with us. Amen.

January 26, 2015




 WH  IN                                                  
    EN          D     T
                   O  B                       

                               A     T
                                B  U         G  D             
                                 O              O

                      T           K
                       A        O      
                         K     O  
                           E  L

A              S
 T            D                                     R
   T        R                             O       I
     H    I                                 F    A
       E B                                   T E
        B                                      H            

Sunday, January 25, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Father Jonah.”

This will be a story I made up yesterday for today’s Mass. It will bounce a thought triggered from today’s first reading.

Sometimes I like to write a story – coming out of the readings – as a change of pace.

First, I better give a brief introduction.

Last week at our province chapter or meetings – which were held in New Jersey, different guys were asked to write a morning prayer to capture the day ahead of us. Since it was around Martin Luther King Jr’s. day,  I wrote a short prayer – entitled, “Envision” - based on the theme of envisioning – as in “I have a dream”.

I had noticed the brand name of the toilet paper used at the retreat house was “Envision.” I assumed that everyone would notice the brand name of the toilet paper they were using – but they didn’t.

My mistake.

So I wrote a prayer with the theme of Envisioning our future. If we don’t, if we don’t clearly flesh out our vision  on paper – we’re in trouble. 

The prayer didn’t float – because very few noticed the brand name of the toilet paper.

A few guys who noticed the connection – said it was a clever prayer.

However, it wasn’t my plan or purpose to be clever. I wanted to write a prayer that would have impact.

I think too many of our sermons and too many of our prayers are repeats – hand-me-down’s – left-overs – rehash jobs.

Afterwards, I thought, maybe I should have had a roll of Envision toilet paper and hold it up as a prop - as I began my prayer at the beginning of that day’s meetings.

I didn’t.

As I thought of writing a story for this Sunday – it hit me: avoid making that same mistake I made last week.

So in writing a story called, “Father Jonah,” I thought to myself: give a short background to the story of Jonah the Prophet – and then tell my story about this imaginary priest: Father Jonah.


There’s a whole book in the Bible called, “The Book of Jonah.”

You know some of the story – especially the part about Jonah in the belly of the whale. You heard some of that book in our first reading.

It too isn’t a true story. It’s a parable. It’s a story with a message.

People who are literalists, when it comes to Bible stories, often don’t get the point of the story – or they throw away the whole Bible – and religion - as being unscientific and all that - because of certain Bible stories.

Literalists get it when someone says, “It was raining cats and dogs” – that it doesn’t mean cats and dogs were falling from the sky – even if  Father Tizio put a pun in the bulletin, “It was raining cats and dogs and I just stepped  in a poodle.” 

But literalists don’t see it as poetry and exaggeration when the Bible in the Book of Joshua 10:13 tells us that the sun stood still – or in 2 Kings 20: 9  that  shadows could go forward or backwards for 10 steps.

All this is the stuff of poetry and  parables and folk tales – in which animals and trees, donkeys and wolves, talk.

We get it in Aesop’s Fables and the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales – but not in the Bible. 

There are many ways to teach wisdom.

Let me now get to the story of Jonah. It goes like this.

Jonah – an Israelite - gets a message from God – to go to the city of Nineveh – and preach to the people there – the Assyrians – enemies of the Israelites – to repent – to change.

Jonah – upon hearing this message - quickly heads for the docks and takes a boat to go in the opposite way. It doesn’t matter that Assyria was far inland.

A big storm at sea hits the boat. Everyone is in a panic. The boat is about to break up. Every sailor takes out a statue of their god – that they carry with them for safety and security. They also lighten the boat by throwing cargo overboard.

Meanwhile Jonah goes below deck and falls asleep. The captain comes to him and asks him to pray to his god for their safety.

Next they picked lots to see whom to blame for the storm. It’s Jonah. He says he’s a Hebrew. He says he worships God. They knew he was escaping his God. He must have told someone what he was doing. They threw Jonah into the sea – made some sacrifices -  and kept praying  to their gods. You know the old saying, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” Well, in this story, there is nobody who doesn’t pray in a storm at sea.

They prayed and prayed. The storm stops. All are saved.

Back to Jonah lost at sea. A huge fish swallows Jonah. He’s inside the big fish for 3 days. Once more – don’t take this literally.

Next, the Book of Jonah gives us the prayer Jonah said while inside the fish. Talk about writing your own prayer. Well, after 3 days the big fish burps Jonah up on a beach near Assyria.

Once more Jonah is told by God to go to Nineveh and tell the people they have 40 days to repent – otherwise they will be  destroyed  - along with the city. Jonah heads into the city of Nineveh – which has so many people – and is so big – that it takes 3 days to walk through the city.  

The people immediately repent. They fast and pray – put on ashes – they put on sackcloth. Notice this is a great reading for Lent: ashes, fasting, praying – and 40 days.

Jonah still is not satisfied with having been called by God to be a preacher.

He escapes into the desert  and is angry with God for saving these heathen. He spots a gourd plant – that sprouts up immediately. It gives him food and liquid. The next day he wakes up but the gourd plant had died – which gets him even more angry with God, Well, God then expresses his anger with Jonah. God says, “Hey you had nothing to do with creating this plant – and I provided it for you. Moreover, I just saved 120,000 people – and you get angry and concerned with a small plant dying and you show little awareness or concern about 120,000 folks being saved.

That’s the basic story. What’s your take on it?

Now here’s my  short story. What’s your take on it?


Father Jonah never wanted to be a priest. He didn’t intend upon becoming a priest – but that’s what he became – rather reluctantly.

When he was in high school – and then in college – about 10 people said, “You’d make a great priest.”

That message bugged and bugged him. In fact, when he finished college he headed right for the marines – to get away from church, people, friends.

In Vietnam – at least 5 people said, “You’d make a great priest.”

And he heard that voice in his head at night – while scared – when he heard bombs bursting.

At times he wished he was killed by a bomb or something.

When he was getting out of the marines, his commanding officer – a Catholic - and his chaplain – both separately said to him, “Did you ever think of becoming a priest?”

That did it – he wanted to get married – and married as soon as possible.

He met a great gal named Judy. Great names for a couple. Judy and Jonah.  They fell in love. He proposed to her.  She reluctantly said, “Yes,”

However, she said to him 4 months before they were to be married, “I can’t do this. I think you’re called to be a priest.”

This broke him apart. He felt like a man lost at sea. He headed to Europe – to Paris – to Berlin. He dated several other girls. None was the right girl for him – like Judy who had a dream, “Let him go. He needs to be a priest.”

Backpacking across Europe for 3 years - nothing satisfied him. Nothing in life made sense to him. He had stopped going to church. He stopped believing in God. His inner belly – his inner mind – felt crazy.

One day In London he stopped into a church – just by accident. The church was there. Why not give it a try? It was a Friday afternoon. He was just sitting there in this church – angry with God.

Surprise – a little old lady – one of those little old afternoon in a church old ladies – came over to him. She said, “I’ve been sitting here in church for the past few hours and I noticed you were crying. And I felt a nudge from God to go over to you and ask you, “Did you ever think of becoming a priest?”

“No! Not again,” he screamed.

He ran out of church – bought a plane ticket back home to the states – and saw his parents and family once again.

He told his old girlfriend – who was married now – about what happened – and she said, “Well, maybe you should try becoming a priest.”

So he went to his old church – asked to see a priest – and the priest there said, “Well, after hearing all that, maybe you should try becoming a priest.”

Surprise. He became a priest. He was a horrible preacher. They almost dropped him from the seminary – listening to his practice homilies or sermons – but various seminary teachers – the ones who make judgments about who was to stay and who was to leave, said, “There’s something about this guy. There’s something about this guy, with the name of Jonah.”

He became a priest and remained a priest for the rest of his life.

Father Jonah remained a horrible preacher – but every time he heard a reading from the short book in the bible, called the Book of Jonah, he knew why God called him. He learned from many experiences with people, that God is the preacher – God is the message – God is the giver of the Spirit – and don’t get in the way of God.

Surprise – the church was packed for his funeral. People who saw the obit in the paper came from all the different parishes he had been stationed.

After Mass different people started talking to each other.

Everyone basically said the same thing.  “Father Jonah could be a cantankerous man. Well, he mellowed a bit in his old age – but there was that one thing about him that hit me.  He would say – and say it often – 'A lot of things happened to get me back to church and into the priesthood.' I don’t know about you, but when I heard that about him, that’s what got me back to church.”

Then they would pause - and then say, “Thank You, God. Thank you, Father Jonah.”
January 25, 2015


a phone call in the night,
“He’s dead!”
The long wait is over.
The long cancer has finally choked
enough of his cells to end it all.
Now the many phone calls.
Now the many arrangements:
travel, places to stay, the undertaker,
the church, the cemetery.
Then the silence, the tears, the hugs,
a widow, their children, unable to sleep
alone in the big bed.
Maybe now is the time
to make the big phone call,
and listen to the big listening moment.
“God ……………………………………….

In memory of Jack Laffey, Sept. 10, 1996

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2014