Saturday, May 2, 2015

May 2, 2015


Looking through the screen door - thousands of tiny photos
then night, then sky, then distant dark.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015


I know I’m on various peoples long list.
They e-mail me once and a while. They
even know my name. Yet it’s those people
who have me on their short list that I am
forced to pay attention to - to make sure
I keep them on my short list as well.
I have never forgotten Jess Lair’s comment that if you have 5 friends in a life time - pinch yourself - you’re lucky - count yourself blessed.
Okay, I have to know those who touch the
tassel on my cloak and energy flows - 
with them I have a connection - a history - memories.
To forget them - too often - I might fall off their short  list and end up on their other list. Now that I don’t want to happen and that tells me who we really are - and who’s who on who’s list? Thank you friends. Thank you God!

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30, 2015


Close those prayer books…. Close your eyes ….
Silent your tongue …. Open your ears ….
Listen carefully to that soothing
morning music playing and praying
in your own back yard - birds chirping,
birds sitting on branches - music birds
musing and watching the sun light move up
the bark of the backyard trees. Listen to
that morning music in the wood - in the woods.
Listen carefully …. Listen very carefully.
Be in on the morning bird chirping music
now sinking into the surrounding woods.
Know that trees remember music and
sweet sounds - music remembered in
that wood - and someday we’ll hear all
that sweet harmony that has been
embedded in this wood. Music that
slips and steps into the wood of
these church benches  - into violins - 
into wooden flutes. So ….
Close those prayer books ….
Close your eyes ….
Take into your being the sound of all
the breezes and all that music
remembered in the woods….

© Andy Costello Reflections 2015


[This is a story based on something someone told me happened to their brother's family recently.  I wrote the story this morning for a high school Mass.]

Sometimes we never know what’s going on inside the mind of the kid in front of us in our home room. We see his skull - the back of his head - but we don’t know what’s going on behind those walls. We see the cover of the book - but we haven’t read the pages of that book.

Sit in that classroom long enough and we know they are bright … smart … a good athlete …. Or what have you. But that’s all we know.

Okay we also know their name - Tina, Tom  or Tony. We know what neighborhood they come from. We know they have two other siblings. And maybe a dozen more tidbits about them - but that’s about it.

This year - just 4 weeks ago - from Holy Thursday, Easter, and then the rest of Easter week this kid sitting in front of us was  in Disneyworld - first time for all the family - but Tom told no one in his class about the trip.

Actually, Tom really didn’t want to go - because it was a long car ride trip from River City to Orlando. It meant he’d be in the back seat - directly behind his father - in their dark red old Camry. Actually Tom liked that seat - because it was the best place, best space to hide out in a tight car.

Tom’s father was a yeller. Tom’s father was an angry man.  Tom’s father could explode in verbal outbursts all the time.

On the road it could be toll collectors.  “They’re too damn slow! There on their cell phones. They don’t give a damn about all us poor slobs trying to get to Florida - to Disneyworld.”

“Beep…. Beep …. Beep…. That driver in that blue SUV is an idiot!”

Tom’s dad could be a rapid roaring river.

At home it was mom who got yelled at the most. At other times it could be Tom. He had a brain, but he just wasn’t an A Student. At other times it was his younger brother. Rarely was it was his younger sister - she got away with everything. Yell…. Yell …. Yell…. So that’s why Tom didn’t want to go on a day and a half on the road - in a tight seated back of a car - with an angry at life dad with an acidic tongue.

To save money at Disneyworld, all 5 were in a small motel room - some 18 minutes from Epcot Center, the rides, the whole experience called Disneyworld.
At least once a day - usually in the morning - it was mom whom dad turned his cannons - his blasts - and fire power towards.

At least once a day - Tom would say to himself, “Why doesn’t she just divorce him.

At night, every weekend, when home, his brother and sister hid under their ear buds - trying as best as possible to block out - their dad’s rants.

All through the years Tom tried to hear his mom’s cries - console her - and keep the family together. Those who said, “The oldest in the family have the most responsibilities might be right.

Dad never said, “Thanks” or “Nice going” or “I’m proud of you son.” His sister might get a positive compliment once and a while.

Hey, one kid is usually, the favorite.

The noise, the rides, the background music, the scenes, the settings at Disneyworld, helped distract dad - a bit more than usual - but at least once every day - everyone got at least one shouting match - well not his sister as much - but his mom, his brother, and himself - they got showers of words and attacks written with red stink and words covered with barbed wire.

Tom’s brother had a good musical ear. He was the first in the family who would often start humming the musical score for “Trouble in River City” when dad would go into a tirade.  Even his sister would turn off her iTunes when started humming that song. And the funny thing was that their dad never knew it was directed at him.

Ooops one more thing…. On the way home they drove to their grandfather’s house. They had never met their father’s father before.

Tom was all eyes - without knowing he had an underlying question about his dad. “How did my dad get like this?”

He got the answer on that side trip back home. His father was a Xerox copy of his father.  Their grandfather was also an angry man. Their grandfather was also a yeller.

Tom wanted to ask his father, what was his grandfather like? Could he be in the path or 3 yellers.

That gave Tom an even deeper silence?  What about me?  What am I going to be like: my dad, my grandfather, my great grandfather - or a saint like my mom.

Time will tell…. Nope. I will tell. I will tell my friends and my family and my world, that I am Tom and I will be Peace. I will be  Peace  --- Peace that will be flowing like a river. Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29, 2015


The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          all the food
          is on one side

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          people have problems
          passing things.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          people have difficulties
          stomaching each other.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          the first are first
          and the last are last.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          people don’t like
          the seating arrangements.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          people seem to want
          separate tables.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          nobody realizes
          the table is round.

The whole world is seated
          at one big table,
          but the trouble is
          the next generation
          is waiting for the leftovers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015



The title of my homily is, “If Asked, Would I Tend To Say, ‘I Am a Catholic’ or Would I Say, ‘I Am A Christian’”?


Before answering that question, here’s a primary question: If asked to describe oneself in 10 statements, would I put on my list. “I am a Catholic,” or “I am a Christian?”  Or would I list other characteristics?

On various high school, college or post college retreats, people are often asked to describe themselves in ten “I Am” statements. I have even seen 20 or 25 I Am questions to describe oneself.

For  example someone might answer:
·       “I am a husband,”
·       “I am a wife.”
·       “I am a father.”
·       “I am a mother.”
·       “I’m an Annapolitan.”
·       “I am a waitress.”
·       “I am an owner of a restaurant.”
·       “I am an engineer.”
·       “I’m a baseball fan.”
·       “I’m lonely.”
·       “I’m shy.”
·       “I am introvert.”
·       “I’m organized.”
·       “I tend to be last minute.”
·       “I’m a procrastinator.”
·       “I’m a reader.”
·       “I’m a person of faith.”
·       “I am frugal when it comes to money.”
·       “I’m considerate?”

And on and on and on.

So my question again, “, “If Asked, Would I Tend To Say, ‘I Am a Catholic’ or Would I Say, ‘I Am A Christian’”?


I would suspect most people would first say, “It all depends.”

It all depends if I would put “I am a Christian” or “I am a Catholic” or all three  on my top 25, “I am” list.

Then it also depends of what one understands by the word “Christian” and the word, “Catholic.”

They both have similar and various meanings.

Some would use the word an adjective - meaning a Christian is someone who is kind and merciful - generous and loving - aware and caring towards  others. One goes he extra mile. One who turns the other cheek. One who is a Good Samaritan. One who visits the sick. Clothes the naked. Visits those in prison.

Then there are people like  C.S. Lewis who would say it’s a noun. If you’re baptized, you’re a Christian. Then add adjectives.  I am a lazy Christian. I am committed Christian. I am a  Christian sometimes.

By Catholic some would think a person who is all of the above as a Christian, but they  see themselves in a parish and they follow the teachings of that church.

Some would say. “I am a Catholic Christian” - different than a Lutheran.

Some would say I fit the description in today’s first reading. “It was in Antioch they were first called Christians.”


If I have it right, people don’t have those little cards for one’s wallet anymore. Remember them. They said, “I am a Catholic, in case of an accident please call a priest.”  Or “I am a very important Catholic, please call a bishop or the pope."
April 28, 2015


Everyone is a box of expectations,
          a box of hopes,
   waiting for e-mail,
          for letters,
          for phone calls,
          for the door bell,
          waiting for love.

Everyone hopes for the raise,
          the promotion ,
          to be shop steward,
          to be next in line
          to be union delegate,
          to get a degree,
          to get a job,
          to get the title,
          to be the doctor,
          to be the nurse,
          to be the boss.

Everyone stands in the batter’s box
          or on the foul line,
          at the corner,
          hoping to score.

Everyone goes to the movies
          hoping to be moved,
          goes to bingo
          hoping to win, 
          the race,
          the lottery ,
          the big car,

Everyone is a shopper,
          for vision,
          for her star,
          for his dream.

And suddenly everyone finds herself
          waiting for the baby,
          the child,
          the family ,
          the reason for living,
          the reason for working

Everyone is expecting,
          pregnant with hopes,

          pregnant with God. 

Monday, April 27, 2015



The title of my homily for this 4th Monday in Easter Time is, “Gatekeepers.”

Here are some thoughts triggered from today’s readings, especially the gospel.

Yesterday and today and tomorrow we’re listening to the 10th chapter of the gospel of John. Yesterday we heard Jesus talking about himself being the Good Shepherd. Tomorrow Jesus will talk about his connection - his communion with those who know his voice. Today Jesus describes himself as the Gatekeeper to the Sheepfold.

Gatekeeper to the sheepfold is a metaphor - or figure of speech - as John uses.  We can all picture a sheepfold or pen - or a corral for horses or a kennel for dogs.

I can still picture very clearly a scene from my 12 days  in Palestine in January 2000. We’re in a bus going up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. I’m looking out the left window - seeing more that way. The roads and driving are the same as in the United States. A good bit of the trip there was a tiny shoulder on the right - and a big wall of earth and rock on the right. About midway I see a sheep pen. It was made of crooked  trees and branches serving as the bars of the pen.  At a makeshift  gate I spot a gatekeeper. In the sheep pen I could see lots of sheep and goats - some black and some white.

I said to myself, “Ah, I’m seeing three or four parables of Jesus here - still relevant - going on almost 2000 years now.


Let me voice a few practical applications  from this metaphor of the gatekeeper.

Sometimes I’m a gatekeeper. There are people I don’t allow into my life.

We hear that in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 11:1-18. Peter and some of the disciples thought some people should not enter into the temple. There are people you should not be eating with. They were pagans. They were profane.

Then Peter has a dream. He sees a large sheet come down from heaven. On that sheet he sees all kinds of animals - clean and unclean  - and basically we hear from this dream and from Peter that nothing God makes is unclean.

Sometimes I inwardly voice a complaint  - a harsh judgment about someone who is in this sheep pen called church.  What is she doing in this church? Do you see him? He’s wearing summer beach shorts in church? Horrible! Or the cleavage? Or he or she are living with so and so? He, he’s going to communion. How dare he do that?  He’s a Democrat and therefore he’s for abortion. When I was working in a retreat house in Tobyhanna Pa. a group of men retreatants went to the priest in charge and said, “How could you allow so and so to make a retreat here? He’s Mafia.  And George said, “Wouldn’t you want him in church? Another group of guys complained about a guy who was making a retreat every year and these guys said this guy came on retreat to be seen and to get votes. And this guy, Frank, told me privately that he came this weekend because on this particular  weekend nobody from his county would be there this weekend. “I just want to make a retreat.”

Another comment would be: I’m grateful Jesus allows me to be in communion with him - and that the chose me - I’m a lost sheep.

Isn’t the Catholic Church fabulous. We are Catholic - which means - everyone - KATA - Greek word for with and Holos - meaning the whole world.  Yes - look around who’s at Mass - the whole world. So I gotta learn how to rub shoulders with those around me and not be scared to talk, bah, baa, bal with everyone in the pen.

April 27, 2015


All of us need sinks
          with faucets
          and soap,
          and water,
          and space,
          to wash away
          the hurts,
          the mistakes
          of everyday

All of us stand there
          in the morning,
          in the evening,
          during the day,
          behind closed doors,
          and every once
          in awhile
          we really look
          into that mirror
          above the sink
          and really look
          at the me
          I am.

All of us need that time
          at our sinks,
          to turn over
          a bar of soap
          in our hands,
          time to turn
          over a remark,
          or a wondering,
          or a relationship,
          in this place backstage,
          to think.

And then we can step back
          from the sink,
          dry off our hands
          and our face,
          and then adjust
          our masks,
          as we open the door
          and head back

          towards the stage. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015


The title of my homily - better reflection - for this 4th Sunday after Easter B, is, “Sometimes Sheep, Sometimes Shepherd.”

Sometimes I feel like a sheep - just one of the flock - just one of the crowd  - a nobody in the midst of a nameless flock.

Ever feel that way?

Sometimes I get lost on purpose - or do something dumb - so as to get some recognition in life - to get a good hug - to be held and told I worth while - or even to get yelled at. Doing that - at least I’m noticed and get some attention - even if this way is negative.

Sometimes I feel like a shepherd. All the responsibilities are up to me. 

Just when all is settled down after a long day on the road - or in the field -  in the sun and dust and the dirt - just when I’m ready to go to sleep for the night - I discover - when I do the pen count - one sheep is missing. I mutter a sad  “Uh oh” or a mad “Oh no!” 

The pen count is 99 - not 100.

One sheep is lost. One sheep is missing.

I think this is what it must be like for parents when their kids are out and they don’t know where they are. Lots of “uh oh’s” - lots of  possible “Oh no’s!” -  lots of “I wonder if.”

This is what it must be like when a wife or a husband is wondering where the other is in the night.

Then as shepherd I start shouting out in the dark - yelling into the dark,  “Where are you? Where are you?”

Then when I find my lost sheep, I  see the blood and cuts from hillside brambles  - along with dry blood - on my lost sheep' light brown wool.

Then when I get back home to the pen, I can hear the whining tones of “Baa, baa, baa" - from the 99 who didn't mess up.”

The Good Shepherd has seen this same thing happen in his own family when a brother or a sister is lost - and everyone is upset till the lost sheep is found  He thinks every family - every flock - must go through these moments of tension. “Oh no, not again.”

We have a niece who dropped out of the family - and we all have felt the pain that comes to a lost family.

If they ever return, the Good Shepherd can see how sheepish a lost sheep can be.

Then there is the hired hand syndrome. People who rent or borrow - can be guilty of this one. A shepherd has a problem. Sometimes something comes up. There is a death, a funeral, or a wedding comes up. This means he has to come up with a hired hand.

The sheep don’t recognize his voice. He’s just not the same as their shepherd.  Things are not as personal.

Ever notice how nervous sheep are with strangers?

Okay, you've never been hired to be a shepherd. Well, you might be familiar with the following situation. You're walking along and you see a little kid standing there or in their carriage. You're a stranger. You stop to say, "Hi." You wave to this little kid. The kid immediately turns to their parents eye or runs to their parents reach for their parents arm or leg for support. They immediately try to connect with their parent. They immediately nudge their way to someone they know much more than a stranger.

Ever notice this?  Did this ever happen to you?

Ever notice how some babysitters are very personal. The kid or kids they are waiting for after school to babysit can’t wait to see their face. This babysitter is so nice that they love it when their parents are going to a wedding - for a weekend. This babysitter plays with them. This babysitter loves her job. She's doing it for money - but she also loves kids.

So kids - like sheep - know whether the hired babysitter or shepherd of substitute parent really cares about them. Little kids and babies know whether granny or grandpa is happy to be with them - or whether they are being used by their parents and resentment is rampant. They feel stuck with the kids AGAIN.

Unconsciously they know motives about teachers, coaches, doctors, nurses, clergy, whoever is caring for them at the moment.

How do we see ourselves and how to we treat those in our care?

Good shepherd or hired hand?

Cute sheep or dumb animal?

Let's add: sheep or wolf? Sheep or goat?

So this comes down to how we see life - what our attitudes are - who we are - how we think?

Sometimes a shepherd is all heart - knowing he's about to sell 100 sheep to a butcher to sell in the marketplace. 

Sometimes a shepherd is a philosopher - seeing all of life in his life. Sacrifice is front and center for the life of a sheep and shepherd. These sheep are here to give wool and these sheep are going to sheared - and nights can be cold in the fields without their wool coats. These sheep are going to give not only the skin off their backs - but their bodies to feed a family.

Sometimes a shepherd is a preacher - and a prophet - knowing the bible texts - about who the good shepherds are - and who the selfish and non-caring are.

The title of my homily is, "Sometimes Sheep,  Sometimes Shepherds."

Hopefully never wolf or hired hand.

Hopefully cornerstone or sometimes one of the stones that build up the home - but that's another metaphor and another sermon - for another day. Amen.

April 26, 2015


He’s pecking away on his laptop.
She’s knitting something blue.
Is one pregnant with a novel?
Is one pregnant with a baby boy?
I’m sitting there with no one - all alone -
on a train from Brussels to Brugge.
We’re sitting here - knitting together -
our story, It’s naughty. It’s nice.
Is there anyone around who wants to read
the novel we’re knitting of our lives?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015