Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015


Fathers and sons need to take long walks,
long talks - down dirt roads - or along the
water - talking about deep things - hopes
for the young - rememberings and regrets
for the old.  They need to do this - and do
this on a regular basis. Did Joseph and Jesus
do this? I don’t know. Did Adam and Cain do
this? I don’t know. All I know is that I regret
I didn’t do this enough with my dad - yet we
went to the park every Sunday afternoon
to give my mom a break. But I did do this
with my older brother - not walks - but long
talks in the front seats of cars - while just
driving along going nowhere - doing this up
to the year he died of cancer at 51 - way too
early - but glad we did. That’s something I
never regretted. Long talks help us get in
touch with what has been and what will be.

(c) Andy Costello, Reflections, Anonymous

Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19, 2015


My life, a 500, 750, 1000,
a 1500 piece puzzle. I need
the box, the picture, to tell
me what I’m doing. Frame
first, then to sort the colors,
then easy sections first: an
orange or a child with a kite,
clouds, and an old man with
a cane. Then frustration - but
in time slowly constructing
and connecting and building
bridges with the interlocking
pieces of my life. Sometimes
I was sure a piece or two
were missing and a few times
there I had the wrong cover -
and the wrong picture and I
had to figure out life without
knowing what it was all about.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015


An itch gets us to scratch our back, 
to move and maneuver our hand - 
to use our finger tips to  bring relief - 
to twist and turn to ease discomfort ....

An itch on the skin of our soul gets 
us to ask, to dig, to move towards
anywhere someone points us towards 
so that we find a possible solution....

An itch triggers more -  to take a risk,
to try something new, and then relax
with an answer or an insight in hand.

An itch - every itch - especially the inner
ones - get us to realize we're closer
to answers at times - but then again
an uneasiness appears with the next 
itch -  till finally - well sometimes - 
as Augustine discovered, the Itch
is called the Son - who brings us
to the Father. Scratch, scratch!
The More is there. The More is near. 
The More is here - and then comes 
a new Itch. God is always beyond 
the next tap on our shoulder, the 
next scratch on our back. Itch. Itch.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015


99% of each day, each life, each moment,

is hidden. So Lord, help me to see the best
of that 1% that I do notice. Help me to see
the work behind my life, work and family.  
Remind me to connect - if but a second at
the toll bridge - to the collector. After all,
isn't that the reason I decided not to use
E-ZPass. And Lord, help me by my 1 % to
make life an E-ZPass to at least one person
whom I'll probably won't notice this day. Amen.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections 2014

Painting on Top: The Good Samaritan
bu William Small, 1899
Found in Leicester Art and Museum Service

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015


Sitting on Table 10, I saw a gal sitting on
Table 8 - cup her left hand over her mouth -
and whisper with a slightly bent body - 
to the gal sitting right next to her.

A lady walking by stopped at Table 9. She
bent over to whisper something to a man 
sitting there all alone as his wife was
on the dance floor with some other man.

Then the first whisperer - the one on 
Table 8 - whispered again to the lady
next to her - this time laughing and 
pointing at the guy on Table 9 who was
just tapped on the shoulder by so and so.

Then the whisperer on Table 8 spotted me 
on Table 10 whispering about her with cupped hand to the person on my right with a slight
point of hand - as I was laughing and telling 
about what I was seeing going on over there.

Moral of the story: Sometimes banquets
have nothing to do with the food.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Painting: Dance at Le Moulin
de la Galette [1876]
Auguste Renoir, 
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

 TO FOCUS ON IS ________?


The title of my homily for this 11th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “When Forgiving, the Key Person to Focus on Is?”

In today’s gospel Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….”


Up till I was 60 or so, I accepted Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, because Jesus said so to do so. Then when I began to listen, really listen, to people who were having family problems - or person problems -  with certain behaviors going on, I began to realize the heart of what Jesus was getting at.

I moved from acting out of experience - and not just authority.

For starters, when it comes to forgiveness, the key person is me.

The key issue is what not forgiving does to me - or to anyone who refuses to believe.

The key issue is what  is happening to me - when I become angry, bitter,  frustrated.

I can become sour.  I can become arthritic of soul.  I can have hurt in my hands and my wrists and then my lower arms, because my fists are often tight - with anger. So too my jaw - and then my face when a smile slips off my face.

Not good stuff.


I think some more realizations came when I thought about Jesus saying while on the cross, “Father forgive him because he doesn’t know what he is doing.”

I wasn’t realizing when I wasn’t forgiving.

Then I realized the non-forgivers  can’t shut up about someone who hurt them  - whom they hate - whom they think is getting away with murder.

Then I realized what Nelson Mandela did - he forgave. For years I figured South Africa was going to go up in flames. Surprise. Mandela got out of prison on Robin Island. And there wasn’t a blood bath in the southern tip of Africa - like a Ritz Cracker dipped into a  bowl of tomato soup. Through the years - perhaps because of the smaller number of whites to blacks - because of the injustice, apartheid, anger, and seeing the running of crowds and police and the pushing for freedom, and all that - I expected more blood.

Then we all saw the black and white  race struggle in our south - and in our cities - in the north and south, east and west. We saw the and the riots and the fire hoses and angry dogs and police with sticks. We heard and read about and experienced the shooting of Martin Luther King

Then I saw the movie: Gandhi. 

Reflecting on all that - seeing all that - I got glimpses of what Jesus meant by turning the other cheek.

Rocks - thrown - in both directions - bring broken windows and bloody faces.


Then I heard someone say that forgiveness is at the core of Christ.

If we forgive others, if we drop the complaints, we lighten our spirit - and we fly better.

And surprise, not only are we helped when we forgive, so too others.

Monday, June 15, 2015



The title of my homily for this 11th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Going The Extra Mile.”

Sometimes we wonder and we ask where a saying comes from.

For example, I’ve often wondered where “Pushing the envelope” came from.


Surprise! Many sayings come from the Bible. Check them out - like Jesus’ comment, “Putting your two cents in.”

We have too well used sayings in today’s gospel: “Turn the other cheek!” and “Go the extra mile.”

I assume that part of the  reason why is because preachers would take a comment from the Bible and use it in a Sunday sermon and folks would repeat them in doing life.


Employers often would tell their workers, “Go the extra mile if you want to grow our business. The extras make the difference.

I love the saying, “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.”


Most agree that going the extra mile comes from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In a way it’s like the saying, “the Whole 9 yards.”

However, when it comes to the saying, “The whole 9 yards”  -  there is no common agreement about its origins.

It could refer to cloth or sails or machine gun bullets.  It could be the same as the saying about the whole ball of the whole enchilada or it could refer to the size of something in yards:  the size of graves,  kilts, or bridal veils.

Whatever, when it comes to serving, loving, giving, hopefully all of us will give the whole 9 yards and then some. That giving the extra comes from Jesus in how we measure pouring out grace and love in forgiving and loving one another.


The part I like in all this is the secret side of love.

That too is from Jesus - that we don’t do to be noticed - but to make the other’s day.

I think that was the secret reason for the secret success of the Random Acts of Kindness Movement from a few years back.

I heard an example in a sermon way, way back when we were in the seminary about doing things in secret.

A Redemptorist - who became our rector major - talked about a Redemptorist brother who was an excellent carpenter.  He was asked to make a telephone booth - and where it was to be put. Nobody would notice the back - or one of the sides so the priest in charge said, “Don’t worry about the back or the left size, nobody will ever see them.”

However, this brother who made the telephone booth made the back and side which nobody would see - the same as the sides that would be seen. Whenever I spotted that phone booth I would remember that story about it. When I got stationed back in that place years later, I noticed that it was moved out from where it was - and now everyone could see that all 3 sides and all 3 sides were well carpentered.


So too our lives - going the extra mile or giving the whole 9 yards makes a difference - especially to ourselves - because it helps our soul grow more generously and that will show up in all our life situations.
June 15, 2015


While walking down the street,
I spotted a mirror in a garbage can.

I walked by it. 

“Wait a minute!”

I walked back and took it in my hand.
I dare not stare at myself on the street -
but maybe when I get home. 

When I got home I looked myself in the mirror.
 I looked myself in the eye.

“Wait a minute! 
I’m not ready for such inside gazing.
Maybe one of these years.”

I walked outside and put it in my garbage can.

It wasn’t there the next morning. I wondered, “Will it work it’s way around town -
or will someone discover themselves today
and hang the mirror on their wall 
and end these personal selfies?"

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015


[If you want to see and hear this homily on vimeo hit:


The title of my homily for is, “This Is Good Enough for Me.”

Some priests ask another priest to preach at their Anniversary Mass.  Sorry!   I wanted to say some things myself - on this occasion. It allows me to avoid a roast or a toast. I wanted to look at my life and thank you and so many others - as well as God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - for so many blessings.

Once more the title of my homily is, “This Is Good Enough for Me.”


I was wondering - if every family has a private joke - a specific saying - that everyone says - at family meals - or what have you - when a specific behavior happens.

Ours is, “This is good enough for me.”

I was telling someone this and they said their family saying was, “NS Sherlock,” when someone says the obvious.

NS! Obviously if you don’t get that, I can’t explain it in church …. But as Father Tizio says - with his Brooklyn Italian accent - especially when someone doesn’t get one of his puns, “Think about it!”

Here’s the story where our family comment comes from. When we were kids, our mom told us a story about when she was a young woman. She was working as a cook - a maid - in Boston for this rich family: the Brandt’s. This one evening they were going to have  a big dinner. My mom made a 7 layer cake. It was off to the side  - on a side board  - the pièce de résistance - the dessert for the end of the dinner.

Before the meal began this guy headed right for the cake - with knife and plate in hand - getting ready to cut himself  a nice slice. My mom spotted the turkey and went over to stop him. She said, “There’s plenty of food over there on that table!” and he says, ‘This is good enough for me.”

We all laughed and without knowing it, in time we found ourselves often saying that saying when about to eat something delicious. With fork in hand - with cake or prime rib on that fork - with a smile on our face, someone would announce - holding up their fork, “This is good enough for me.”


A Golden Jubilee is a good time to look at one’s life - one’s wonderful memories and moments like this and say,  “This is good enough for me.”

In O. L. P. H. grammar school, a Redemptorist priest came into our 5th grade or so classroom and told us about what it was like to be a missionary priest in Brazil. I don’t remember all the details of that moment - whether he had pictures of priests on horses going into the wilderness to say Mass and baptize and marry people. But I do remember that this Redemptorist priest - the priests in our parish - asked us, “Who of you would like to be a priest.”

I raised my hand.

Years later I read in Father Andrew Greeley’s autobiography - Confessions of a Parish Priest - that he raised his hand in a similar situation - but it was in the 4th grade - and he added, “I never took my hand down.”

At times people ask, “When did you decide to become a priest?” and I used to be embarrassed to say, “5th grade.” When asking kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I found out that kids often have an answer at a very early age and some say, “I have no idea. I’m just a kid.”

I’ve visited many classrooms - especially when I did many, many parish missions, I discovered that 79.5% of grammar school girls who have pets want to be veterinarians.  I heard that my grandnephew Sean came to the Naval Academy to see the Blue Angels as a kid. It worked. He graduated from the Naval Academy  in 2013. Right now he’s in Pensacola, Florida - training to work in navy planes - but not the Blue Angels. Wouldn’t that be a great bragging right?

I’ve also been asked, “Why did you  become a priest?”  I’d tell people that I wanted to be a foreign missionary priest since I was a kid - like many Redemptorists in our Baltimore Province wanted to be.

So I went to a minor seminary for high school, then college, our novitiate, finished college, then finished 4 years of theology in our major seminary.

With an eye on Brazil, in December of 1966 after finishing up our final four months of training here in Annapolis, surprise, I found out the night before our first assignments, that I wasn’t going to Brazil like 4 of my classmates did.   I wasn’t going to be able to say: “This is good enough for me.”

Fast forward. Looking back now at all that has happened since then I’m saying today, “This is good enough for me.”


Last year - some moment - like 2:35 in the morning - I’m driving up Bestgate Road to get to the hospital. I was on duty and that means I had the duty phone on a small night table next to my bed.

The phone rang - woke me up. A nurse said that someone was dying and the family wanted a priest. I jotted down the info and got going.

I threw my clothes on and threw water on my face. I’m driving fast to the hospital and thinking, “I wish they called last evening or yesterday - because that would mean Father Flynn or Father Krastel would have seen the person. Those two characters are fabulous to be with because they cover the hospital weekdays and weekends  and into the evening  and it makes it easier - much easier -  for the rest of us. Thank you Joe and Pat.

As I turned left off Bestgate and onto Medical Parkway, an insight hit me. I’m talking to myself, saying, “Wow! Great! Next time when someone asks me why I became a priest, I’ll answer, ‘So that some folks will have  a priest, when they want a priest, at 2:30 in the morning.’” I’ve heard many priests say about being a priest, “The reason I entered is different than the reason I stayed.” I’m sure all of you who are married have said the same thing.

I’ll also add,  if you want a priest at 2:30 in the morning - make sure it’s not early, early, Thursday morning - because I’m on duty 8 AM Wednesday morning till 8 AM Thursday morning. Smile.

As I look back at lots and lots and lots of moments like that in the past 50 years, I’ve said without thinking, “This is good enough for me.”

Like all the priests here at St. Mary’s and all the priests I’ve met and lived and worked with, we know the many, many experiences that we pinch ourselves for being there.

In time, I got over my disappointment in not going to Brazil.

In time, I got to experience many wonderful moments - many of which got me to say, “Now I know why I’m here.”

Ann Marie who works the window and the phone at St. Mary’s said to me recently, “When I die,  I want to ask God about the What if’s?”

I had never heard that comment or wondering before - about what if’s. Then she said, “I think I’m going to then say, “Thank you God, for the What wasers!”

I love a comment by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem, Ulysses, “I am part of all that I have met.”

I am part of my mom and dad - their seed and egg that became me - and my brother and my two sisters. I’ve been often told that I look like my dad and I have his smile - and I’ve noticed in family photographs that my feet point outwards like his did. I have their Catholic faith which they brought from Ireland. I heard their stories. We are family. Stress on we.


I remember a moment when I was a little kid. I was in the sunporch of our house. My dad was sitting on his green vinyl chair in the corner reading the newspaper - and I was simply paging through some of my father’s books - on a bookshelf.  I opened up one of his favorites - a brown covered book, entitled, Best Loved Poems of the English Language.

There on some page in the middle of the book was a rose petal - dried and dead. I had never seen such a thing before. I walked over to my dad carefully - with the book opened and the rose petal - lying like the bread on the gold plate on our altars at  Mass.

“Daddy,” I asked, “what’s this?”

“What’s what?” he said as he put down the paper.

He looked at the rose petal. He picked it up carefully. A great smile came on his face. He said one simple word, “Memories!” That was good enough for him - with his explanation for a moment of his life.


I like poetry - and I don’t know if I got that gift from my dad or what. I do have memories of him reading a poem now and then to us.

Thank you daddy for all you gave us - and also mom and family - and my sister Mary. I’m the youngest of four. Sorry Mary - for possibly giving away your possible age. We’re the last two. And lately we’ve been revisiting our childhood.    Memories.

In time,  I’ve found out that Jesus was a poet and a story teller. So thank you Jesus for all your poetry and all your parables.

As you know - Jesus said the same of the prophets - especially Isaiah, “Thank you for your parables and your poetry.”

We heard poetry and parable in today’s readings in the image of a tree. Each tree has to start small - as a seed or a seedling - before it can become a majestic cedar tree on a high mountain - the image in today’s first reading or the image of a lowly mustard tree in one’s back yard - the image in today’s gospel.


At a 50th Anniversary - one pauses to see what’s growing in one’s garden.

I once gave a talk in Reading, Pennsylvania -  in a park - in a band shell - up on a stage - and they told me there was 15,000 people there that evening. With the lights shining across a pond in front of that stage - I could not see anyone’s face in the dark - people from many parishes in that area - celebrating the Eucharist in memory of St. John Neumann and his work in that part of Pennsylvania in the 1850’s.

As I stand here today - looking out at your faces - I see you. We’re not in the dark. It’s nice to have met you - and gotten to know some of you - and to wonder what’s growing and going on behind your eyes - and in the plot of your brain - called you.

As I stood there with you at times - I hope your felt welcomed - wondered about - and loved. If I seemed cold or distant at times, please forgive me. I’d love your mercy - a theme I’m hearing this pope being off on. I mentioned in a homily just this past week - that this pope said, “No sticks! Stop beating others with your sticks - as well as stop beating on yourself.”  Hopefully, you’re experiencing a forgiving church - and forgiving priests - and forgiving Christians - a forgiving self - rather than a judging one.

As I close my eyes I often see in the dark - many, many, many faces in all the places I’ve been assigned - and I’ve worked in, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, etc. etc. etc.

I hope in the Masses we celebrated and prayed together in and with Christ, we experience the basic Christian meal called the Eucharist

I hope in my homilies you’ve heard more Jesus than me - and I hope in my blog and in my books and poems and magazine articles,  you’ve heard down to earth contact points with God - as real as bread and wine - and once and a while - as elaborate as a 7 layer cake.


And I hope afterwards - you’ve say to yourself  - many times - about your life and your memories, “This is good enough for me.”
June 14, 2015


Whom do you spot,
when you look at people?
Do you spot only large people,
or short people, or thin people?
What do your answers to
these questions say to you
about you?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
Paintin by Botero, "The Nap"
Sculpture, "Piazza" by Alberto