Friday, August 7, 2015



The title of my homily for this 18th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Did You Ever Hear the Voice of God?”


Last night on the second and main Republican “Debate”,  Megan Kelly read a question from someone who sent a face book question that went something like this: “Does anyone of you ever hear the voice of God?”

That was the text question someone sent in. I heard it and wondered about the context.  Question is: we don’t know why and what the questioner had in mind.  Was he trying to trap, trick or whatever each candidate?

It hit me: “This is a loaded question!”

I immediately thought of the old saying. “If we talk to God, it’s called prayer. If we hear God talking to us, it’s called mental sickness.”

Translation: sometimes people with mental problems hear God telling them to do things - like shoot people or kill themselves.

Don’t we hear that in some of the horror stories of suicide bombings or terrorism around our world?


I watched the 2 hour debates last night - and that was one of the main things that stood out.

So I listened carefully to how the candidates answered that question.

Ted Cruz or someone said he reads the Bible every morning - and that gives him  the word of God for that day.

Nobody fell into the possible trap - of saying “Yes I hear God speaking to me every day.” That would appear in columns and if you’re against someone that’s a hand grenade of a statement.

If I remember correctly, others said they pray. Others said the general statement that God is calling all people to goodness and love, etc.

Then I read today’s readings before going to bed and there were the statements about hearing God speaking.

For example: “Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?”

For example: “Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you; on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard him speaking out of the fire.”

This last statement touches on some people’s response to thunder and lightning, hurricane and tornado - earth quakes, volcanoes, forest fires - as God’s way of showing his anger. Didn’t someone say that Hurricane Katrina was God saying, “I don’t like what is happening in New Orleans.”

If one takes that approach, then we might say that some place like Dushore, Pennsylvania or Leipsic, Ohio has everything going right because nothing bad has happened there lately.

In today’s first reading we also have the message that God speaks to us in the experiences of our lives.

Many people bring to prayer their life experiences - especially the experience of looking back. Based on all that has happened to me, I see how blessed I am. Thank you God.   But sometimes this takes time to see a whole pattern in one’s life.

But then, does that mean God zaps people in unhappy marriages or disastrous experiences with their kids or what have you?

Todays’ first reading then moves us into God’s commandments as ways of knowing what God wants.


At times I like to imagine how I would sculpt or paint God when it comes to different scenes of life with God.

At times I’ve thought: if I were to sculpt God, I would leave out his mouth or picture him with finger to lip - saying, “Silence!”


We know our side of communication with God.

For many prayer is saying prayers.

For many prayer is talking to God.

For many prayer is listening to God - but the trouble with this - once more - is that God is so often silent.

Thomas Green, the Jesuit spiritual writer, said, “Say to God, you got 5 minutes. I’m going to sit here for 5 minutes and wait for you to tell me what’s what with us.”

Sometimes that works. We “hear” God say, “I am with you.”  Or “I love you.” Or “You have my support and care.”

But often it’s silent and folks often say, “Boring.”

Then turn to the scriptures - read - and talk to God - about what you’re reading.


Or say a closing prayer and say, “I got work to do.”

Or say to God, “This is a loaded question: What are you saying to me?”
August 7, 2015


When they are all metal - pink painted -
standing on a front lawn - forget it,
they get neither my gasp nor my awe.  

But when they are flesh and blood,
pink winged - dancing through splashing 
wet waves - rising above the surf - then ….

Then I’m seeing God’s grandeur and
finger snapping creativity and laugh
and surprise and scream, “Look! Look!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

August 6, 2015


Mirrors mirrored back to her
the ugly word, “Ugly!” - when
everyone thought her so beautiful.
Well, that's how she pictured herself.
But all changed - when she started
her career as a teacher. She was
transfigured before all. She lit up
the dinner table when she told
stories about so many adventures
in the classroom. Her 4 younger
sisters were picturing their future
in high definition imagination. Her
mom and dad seeing her eyes,
her face, her flashes of passion -
they knew it was all worth it -
all the extra work - at times two jobs
to come up with money to pay 
for their kids education in a good 
Catholic school - and she was 
transfigured in light and slowly saw 
her beauty, her calling and her life.  

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Feast of the Transfiguration.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015


Sometimes the waters are frozen, ice, the solid
stuck of winter - the slow waiting for the thaw....

Sometimes it’s time for spring, the melt, the
breaking of the ice - the starting to move….

Sometimes it’s the cascading flush and flow
of spring - rapids - the run of water to the sea....

Sometimes the waters are slow and silent, just
sitting there - not moving, not deep, summer….

Sometimes it’s the drought - the dry hot season,
just waiting for the fall, the winter, the next …..

© Andy Costello Reflections 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015



The title of my thoughts for this 18th Tuesday  is, “Miriam.”

She’s the main character in today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers [12: 1-13]

“Miriam”: it’s a nice sounding name. In a high school English poetry class, one of our teachers talked about the three most beautiful sounding letters in any language: M, L and R  Our teacher said that his favorite word in the English language was “oleomargarine”  - a word that has sort of disappeared - when shortened to “oleo.”  Looking back that is only thing I remember from that course.

Miriam has an M  - and a R - two of the those three most beautiful sounding letters. It doesn’t have a “L” the other beautiful sounding letter.

But who wants to have the name: Malaria?

“Miriam” - a clear sounding name.

It’s like “Marion”

However, if you name a little baby girl Miriam or Marion - you’re slating them to be older aunts and librarians as the song goes.


Lately, in these readings from Exodus and Numbers that we’ve been using for first readings - on weekdays - we’ve been hearing some early Jewish history and roots stuff.

So today - from Numbers - we hear about Miriam - hence this homily.

Miriam appears only a few times in the scriptures - 13 times to be exact - mainly in Numbers - but Exodus as well and in a few other spots.

She is the sister of Moses and Aaron.

In a story, we hear about the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let me start by mentioning some of the good stuff about Miriam.

She takes part in playing the timbrel and leading the dancing for the famous song in Exodus 15  which celebrates Israel’s escape from Egypt. Notice the mention of this after the song in Exodus 15: 20-21.

She gets associated with water - saving Moses with the basket story - and Pharaoh’s daughter discovers little Moses in the waters. Then the Red Sea escape. Then she is associated with a well in the desert.

In the feminist movement in Judaism, there is in modern times, Miriam’s cup. It’s a painted chalice that contains water. It’s on the table for the Seder meal. I wonder it that gets snickers and scorn from purists in Judaism.

On the bad and ugly side, she and Aaron criticized their brother for marrying a Cushite woman - also labeled an Ethiopian woman.   The other comment on the bad side is that some Jewish commentators say her motive for not liking Moses at times is that she was jealous of his success compared to her life.


These are just a few comments about Miriam.  I’ve been trying in these past few years to speak about stuff in the first reading - because after 50 years - I’ve done a lot of yakking about gospel stuff.

P.S. If you have a sister, give her a call and thank her for her presence in your life. If she has passed away, look at her life with you, and thank the Lord for the good stuff - and if forgiveness is called for, give it.

And if you’re going to have another baby, and it’s a girl, think Miriam!
August 4, 2015


Sat there on the back porch -
in the shade. Thank God
for a slight morning cool.
Eyed the massive grey elm
tree. It wasn’t moving.
It was like some people -
I know - the strong sturdy 
silent types - older of course.
Then my eyes moved
around to see the green
airport of my backyard -
birds taking off and landing
- darting here and there -
to the bird feeder - to the
bird bath - to several small
bushes - shaking their leaves-
like kids in the running -
dashing of their youth.
Ooops. Me? Sometimes
I don’t know where I am -
that is till I sit here with
a cup or morning coffee
and sip some of my life
and some of my day ahead.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015


[The readings these days portray people in a complaint mode. Check  today's first reading from Numbers 11: 4b-15. Hence here's a story I made up this morning. If you don't get it or don't like it, go ahead complain! I've heard lots of complaints about sermons. Smile.]

A Gossip, a Whiner and an Angry Man walked into a bar.

The Whiner says out loud to himself, “I’m having a horrible day and this dang place is so, so crowded. Why does this always happen to me?”

The Gossip saw a neighbor at the end of the bar and sneaks up to him, put’s his hand to cover part of his mouth and whispers to his neighbor, “Do you see the Whiner at the door over there? Every time he walks in here, all he does is complain, complain, complain.”

The Angry Man - a big burly bully of a man - yells at the waitress in a loud voice - as she is who was bringing a tray of beers to a corner table. His complaint:  “I thought you were going to expand and remodel this place so you would have enough room for all your faithful customers.”

Two salesmen who had stopped in for a cold one after a long hot day - seeing and hearing this - quickly downed their drinks, vacated their two seats at the bar, paid their bills, and headed out the front door.

The Gossip and the Angry Man headed for the two empty seats at the bar.

They bumped into each other and the Angry Man yelled at the Gossip “Why don't you watch the way you walk Mister.” 

The Gossip stopped. He then headed back to the far end of the bar. He whispered to the waitress, “Mr. Angry is at it again. I’d hate to be his wife and kids. I bet you a dollar and a salted pretzel that he’s been married a dozen times.”

The waitress kept moving. 

Two customers - close to the Gossip - signaled the bar tender - paid their bill - gave a nice tip - and they too got out of there.

The Whiner thought to himself, “Every time I come in here - people clear out - and never talk to me.”

The Angry Man yelled to the bartender - “Service! Bartender! Come on move it. I want a beer. All you have to do is get a glass and pour me one - like now.”

The Gossip whispered to the man next to him, “Do you hear Mr. Angry down at the other end of the bar. All he does is bark, bark, bark. If he was a dog, he’d be a  Rottweiler.”

At that the man next to him, finished his beer, paid his bill, and headed for the door.

The Gossip whispered to the man on his other side, “Did you ever notice Jack - who’s exiting right now. He never leaves a tip.”

The Whiner hearing that realized how tough times were and started complaining about the President and the Government, “Taxes, taxes, taxes! And my boss hasn’t given any of us a raise in years. Our country is going to the dogs.”

Two people near him - hearing this got up - headed for the cash register - and left.

The Angry Man - now all by himself - at the other end of the bar - yelled at the Whiner, “Hey sad face, come up here and have a drink with me.”

The Whiner paid his bill - gave a tip - and headed for the door.

The Angry Man yelled to the Gossip, “Oh no, not again. You and me. I’m out of here - paid his bill - and left.

All that was left was the Gossip - the waitress and the bartender.

The Gossip finished his drink - paid his bill - forgot a tip - and walked out.

The bar tender and the waitress gave each other a high five - sat down and said, “Finally, peace and quiet.”

And the waitress said, “Can I get you a beer?”


Painting on top: McSorely's Bar, 1912 by John French Sloan

August 3, 2015


Gold glints - able to be seen from all over
Annapolis - the St. Mary’s Cross - on the
tiny top of St. Mary’s Steeple - giving hints
of God to all - pointings to north, south,
East and West Streets - sometimes far out
into the bay: St. Mary’s steeple - tall - up
in the air above Annapolis - giving a gospel
message of hope to all: “I am with you all
days” - especially today. “I am here below in this church waiting for you today.” Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2, 2015


Lord, when it rains,
we thank you.
Lord, when it snows,
we thank you.

Now, here is where
thanks moves to wants.

When it is dry and dusty,
when we have hard dry,
dusty earth, we want rain.
We want water. We want
the opening of the sky
and the downpour of rain.

Rain, rain, pour, pour,
drench our earth with
puddles and puddles
of sweet downpour of
rain, rain, rain, O Lord.

© Andrew Costello, Reflections, 2015


The title of my homily is, “St. Alphonsus Liguori: One Life to Live.”

August 2nd used to be the feast day of St. Alphonsus Liguori - but he died on August 1st - so when the church feasts were rearranged a bit - straightened out a bit - in 1969 - his feast was moved back a day to August 1st.

But most of us old timers - and most of us are old timers - we made our vows on August 2nd.  Mine was today - August 2nd 1960. Getting old.


When we made our novitiate - a whole year - we stopped our seminary studies - and went to special place to learn about being a religious - and a Redemptorist - and not just a priest. It was a year to decide whether we really wanted this life and whether they wanted us.

Our novitiate was in Ilchester, Maryland - which we renamed "Hellchester". It can be hot in August in Maryland. We received our religious habit as a sign of entering into this life. That made it hotter. Today we are more sensible - and more human.

In that year we were all given this big 2 volume life of St. Alphonsus Liguori to read. It was by a guy named Auguste Berthe. We read that along with a few shorter biographies - plus we had lectures - many of them on Alphonsus' thought and spirituality. We also read his writings. He wrote over 100 books.

Another life of St. Alphonsus arrived in our major seminary days. It was by a Spanish Redemptorist named Telleria - but it was a translation - a horrible translation at that - but many of us read it.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s two more lives of St. Alphonus appeared. One was by a French Redemptorist, Theodule Rey-Mermet and the other by Frederic Jones, a British Redemptorist. I read them all.

From 1984 to 1993 I had the job of Novice Master - so I really had to get my hands on the life of this man - who lived from 1696-1787.


At one time in my life I used to write obituaries of Redemptorists who had died. It took a while, but I got my hands on how to do it.  They weren’t like the ones in the newspaper. If I knew the guy who died, I would jot down some of his characteristics - and then ask others their take on the guy. If I didn’t know the guy, I would do more calls and jot down what I was hearing. A few months later I would meet different guys who would say, “Thanks for the story on Joe, you really captured him.”

I discovered here in Annapolis - I had not been a parish priest since the late 1960’s - that the same thing is going on at a funeral. I want to come up with a homily that is personal - and captures the life of this person who died. I hope and pray that people who come to that funeral not only pray for and think about the person who died - but they take the time to look at the time line of their life.

 I have two funerals this week coming up. I like to get to the wake at the funeral parlor and ask, “Who is this person who died?”  I like to look at the pictures - in fact study them - as well as the video if they have one. I like it when someone standing next to me points out stuff in the pictures as well as the stories.

I read a helpful book once, Photoanalysis.  It talks about how to look at pictures. It gives observations and possible wrong assumptions about what we are looking at.

Each of us starts to ask as we get older - and as we attend more and more funerals: “What will they say about me at my funeral? What will be people’s take?”

Each of us asks in the hospital - or nursing homes - when visiting people our loved ones and friends or we are being visited: “What about me? What about my life?”


I love the quote and the question in a poem by Mary Oliver, “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I know we ask little kids when they are little what they are going to do when they grow up.  I know high school and college kids meander around with that question. I know people switch careers.  I hope some of you here today look at your life today - and see its twists and turns - its surprises and its false starts and what have you. I hope you are pleased with what you have done so far with your one wild and precious life - and you bring that into the presence of God.

The Bible says the dream is 3 score and 10 if we’re lucky. That’s 70 years.

We’re all relieved that longevity has lengthened. 

I'm sure we've heard people say at times, “There was a time there I had to reinvent myself.”


Much of life is living, learning, and looking at others.

William Sloan Coffin - a Protestant minister - was once asked, “What’s the best part of being a minister?”

He answered, “Sitting down with people and being invited into the secret garden of their soul.”

Right outside here  at St. Mary's there is a neat garden, with a secret inner place. If you have time, sit not just in church here or in the Eucharistic Chapel, but in the secret garden here at St. Mary’s - or in your secret spots - hide outs - man caves. I've heard husbands complain about the length of time women wander around stores in shopping centers. It's my guess that they are not just shopping for stuff - but they are shopping around inside their soul - away from the stuff and stress of family and work.

What's going on inside your one wild and precious life?

I don’t know about you, but this is why I love biographies and especially autobiographies.


Let me let that bring me back to St. Alphonsus.

In his old age arthritis hit him big time - and he spent his end years in a wheelchair. All Redemptorists who go to Naples and Pagani and Ciorani see his stuff and his wheelchair.  All Redemptorists who have read his life see the pictures and paintings of him in his youth. They also see his old age pictures. Woo! Wow is he bent over and bent out of shape.

In his youth - his parents started arranging for his marriage before he was 10. He was the oldest of 8 - 4 boys, 4 girls. His father was a tyrant - a dictator - and a sea captain. Alphonsus was pushed for success - getting his 2 law degrees - one in civil and one in church law by the time he was 16.

His mother was very religious - raised in a convent school - and was the direct opposite of her husband - when it came to style of family communication.

Alphonsus was a good young lawyer - but in time he got burnt big time - in a law case about a land dispute. In the first books about Alphonsus we were taught he made a mistake - by misreading or not reading a small detail in the case and contracts. In the second set of books about Alphonsus there are indications he was on the wrong side of a bribe.

Having failed, he went into a depression. He finally woke up and decided to become a diocesan priest. This angered and disappointed his dad big time. And his dad could do big drama communication.

Alphonsus gets ordained and becomes well known as a good preacher. While a lawyer he had visited the hospital and prison - to help those folk. As priest he continued - doing many things - till he gets burnt out and quite sick.

Doctors and friends tell him to take a rest down in Amalfi Coast. It has always been from way back a great place for a break and for one’s inner and outer health.

While there he is told that there are goat herders way up on the mountains above Scala whom nobody really cares about - especially Church.

He climbed the steps - Scala - and met them. He also found out there were many tiny villages up in them their hills - whom no priest nor Church visited.

It was that experience that got him to leave fame and work in the city of Naples and the busy areas in the Kingdom of Naples with the decision to help the poorest and most abandoned. He gathered friends in the priesthood - to start a community of priests - to reach out to these folks.

That's how we Redemptorists started and that's why we began back in 1732.

At one point he was made bishop - not his cup of tea. He wasn’t into robes and rituals and the rigmarole of show. He was concerned about people. He retired - old age and arthritis and sickness had set in - and came back home to the Redemptorists and he saw their growth.

That’s the basic vision and reason for the Redemptorists. We came to America in 1832 because of the shortage of priests in America - and we had gone to Vienna and Warsaw - so we had priests who could come here.

We came to Annapolis because there were no settled priests here. The Jesuits had been coming here part time from southern Maryland.

And here we are.


St. Alphonsus lived 87 years and wrote over 100 books - so how much do you want?

We were taught that the key message from Alphonsus was the practice of the love of Jesus Christ.

For starters we get that in prayer - communication with Jesus - connection with Jesus.

We get that in the Eucharist - receiving and sitting with Jesus - and putting that experience into practice.

We get that in the Way of the Cross. He wrote the most popular Stations of the Cross little book - to help people walk the stations of the cross and consider how that’s our life often.

I love a comment I read once about St. Alphonsus - while theologians were arguing all the different theories about how Jesus Christ is present in the bread - the Eucharist - St. Alphonsus said: visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

He is called the Patron Saint of Moral Theology. He revised a classic text that became his whole big two volume classroom book on Moral theology.  It’s middle moral theology - neither too strict - nor too liberal. He himself suffered from big time scrupulosity.  Everything is sin.  In Christ he was freed from that guilt for the whole middle part  of his life till his old age. Folks can relate to him on that one baby.

He was down to earth. He loved and wrote religious songs. He painted. I don’t like his paintings on the suffering Jesus - too much blood - but it was his way of trying to reach people and tell them how much Jesus would go through for them.

He loved to tell people about Mary - and how much she gloried in us - when we lived holy lives like her son.


Part of the reason we are here in this moment of our life today - was because of this man St. Alphonsus.