Saturday, August 15, 2015

August 15, 2015


That there is life after death ….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That I’ll be around for quite a while….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That life is about giving and forgiving….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That my car will start and my tires are good ….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That Mary, the mother of Jesus, had Eve’s choice ….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That Christ is the fruit of that womb and is a choice to take and eat ….
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

That Christ assumed his mother Mary into heaven… and then you, you, you, you and hopefully me....
Try thinking or doing life without that assumption.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Painting on top:
The Death of the Virgin,
by Caravaggio


Many people will be familiar with Caravaggio’s painting, ‘The Death of the Virgin’. When it was first painted for a private chapel in a Carmelite church in Rome, the Carmelites rejected the painting as unsuitable. It shows the Virgin not in the dignified death-bed posture associated with traditional representations of the Dormition, but lying dead on her back, with bare feet and swollen ankles. The apostles look on, and Mary Magdalene sits weeping between the viewer and the corpse. Some of the apostles are also weeping; but there is one who holds his hand up in a gesture that seems to show sudden recognition or realisation of something. For he has seen that, in this sorry state – in the death that comes to all of us – there is hope. This hope is not shown by an image of angels and Christ in human form, but only by a light that crosses the canvas and shines upon the belly of the Mother of God – on the body that bore God incarnate. This body, which is the body of a very ordinary woman, was chosen by God for his dwelling, and this body will not be left to the decay which, from the look of it, has already set in. We cannot properly articulate what the hope is that has been revealed to the apostles, but the viewer is invited to share the revelation. For because he became human from this woman, Christ promises all human beings, and all creation, a share in his glory.

Friday, August 14, 2015


Today - August 14 - we celebrate the life and death of Father Maximilian Kolbe - a Franciscan Conventual Priest - who died in Auschitz. 

3 prisoners had disappeared, so 10 men were picked to be starved to death.

One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, screamed, "My wife! My children!" and Father Max stood in for him and was killed.

His dates 1894-1941.

The painting above was done by a friend, Al Pacitti.

August 14, 2015


It seems unfair to find out it’s only
after we bite into the fruit that we
discover it’s rotten - it’s ugly inside.

There are hints - but not always -
“Knock on the watermelon and if
you hear a good  thump, it’s good.”

But that banana, that apple, sometimes
it’s a disaster inside, so get a knife, cut
the bad and then make apple or banana pie.

So sometimes disasters, divorces, happen.
And maybe come this fall, the Catholic 
Church will bite into all of this and we’ll 
all eat humble pie for the good of all.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August 13, 2015


They don’t get great press,
nor great coverage. They
are not in the fashion section
of The New York Times - being
mentioned for their color or plumage.
They are just there - like the
maintenance man in the school
or park - or your aunt or your
niece - who when asked - 
can baby sit in an emergency.
Necessary - not necessarily
nice or not nice - just a possible
choice or call when stuck. Oops!
Almost forgot ... sometimes
someone sings about them.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12, 2015


She was an echo - repeating whatever
others were saying. I didn’t notice that
at first - but once I did, I began to ask,
“When did I begin to find my own voice?
When did my uniqueness arrive, the reason
I was put on this planet?” I think it was in my
first year of high school when I saw a teacher
having favorites - and I wasn’t one of them.
I guess I’m a slow learner because it wasn’t 
till my thirties that my mind moved from spotting the negatives to the positives. 
I was backpacking with three other guys  
in the White Mountains of New Hampshire 
and I said out loud, “This is one great way
to have a great vacation - talking, laughing,
climbing - discovering the great unknown.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015



One of life’s biggest  questions is death - the ability to deal with the reality of death.

We come now in the today’s first reading from Deuteronomy to the death of Moses - and his being replaced by Joshua.


A priest I know recommended many years ago that I buy a copy of The Book of Legends - Sefer Ha-Aggadah - subtitled, Legends from the Talmud and Midrash. It gives legends from way back - many before Christ - by rabbis and Jewish religious teachers.

So  I went searching for it - and finally found a copy in New York City in a Jewish book store on the upper West Side of Manhattan. It’s a big book. Its price:  $75,00.

I try to use it from time to time to get my money’s worth. So last night I looked up commentaries on this section of the Book of Deuteronomy - The Death of Moses - Chapter 5, # 137.

It begins this way: “And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘Behold thy days approach that thou must die’” (Deut. 31:14).

Moses does not like this message. He doesn’t want to die.

I remember reading Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s book on Death and Dying and how we deny death - of ourselves and others.

This section in The Book of Legends on the Death of Moses presents classic two steps in Kubler Ross’ 5 steps: Denial and Bargaining.

Let me present how this book puts what happened.

God says to Moses, “Behold your days approach that you must die.” 

Moses says, “Who me?”

Moses then draws a circle on the ground and steps into it. He says to God, “Master of the Universe “I will not budge from here till you void that decree.”

Then he says, “I’m putting no sackcloth, ashes and praying to you God that you don’t do this.”

“Sorry Moses, this is the way it works.”

Then Moses says, “After all you’ve done to create this world and after all I’ve done to save Israel, I know you won’t do this.”

God keeps saying, “Moses it’s going to happen.”

Then Moses says, “Let me become like the beasts of the fields - who eat grass and drink water, let me stay and be like them.”


Then Moses says let me become a bird of the air and spend my time flying everywhere.


Then he begs the stars,  then the mountains, then then the angels, to save him from death.”


Then he says, “Okay Joshua is taking over, let me stay in his tent and be his advisor. He needs one.”  He adds, “People are going to envy him. Let me stay to prevent that.”


Finally Moses accepts that he’s to die.


I talked about that section of the Book of Legends because it sounds like everyone’s story.

Here’s 3 quick points to consider.

1)   How am I thinking - when it comes to thoughts about my upcoming death.
2)   Lots of folks are scared of death, because of their sins - well today’s gospel has words from Jesus that God rejoices when a sinner who is like a lost sheep and they are found. They are more important than the 99 sheep who don’t need to repent.
3)   It’s the feast of St. Clare today. It’s a Franciscan tradition to call death, “Brother Death” and embrace him.


Painting on top: D, After the Funeral, original painting by Edity Dora Rey
August 11, 2015


Looking back at life, 
we don't get to choose the moments
we remember. Sorry.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
Painting on top: Alex Colville,
Soldier and Girl at Station, 1953

Monday, August 10, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Happiness? It’s You, Not Me!”


One of life’s ongoing questions is, “What’s the secret of happiness?”

It’s asked in various ways, “What’s the meaning of life?” or  “What have you learned so far?” or "What are you looking for?" or “What’s it all about Alfie?”

In Latin we were given a sentence from St. Thomas Aquinas - coming from his use of Aristotle. It is said to be a life sentence: “Omne agens agit propter finem.  Finem est bonum.” [1]

Translation: everything we do, we do for a purpose - and end in view - and basically every time that end is for a good.

Even when we do something bad, we think there is a good in it. It’s called an apparent good [bonum apparens].

Ooops. I don’t want to gum up my homily with some Latin stuff - that might sound complicated.

So in this homily I’m simply saying that the secret of life is to do everything for others and we will be happy.

Once more the title of my homily is, “Happiness? It’s You, Not Me!”


That’s the message of today’s readings.

The first reading from Second Corinthians 9: 6-10 says God loves a cheerful giver.

It also says that the person who sows sparingty, won’t get that many tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, watermelons or flowers.

The first reading also uses the word “abundant”. That triggers the thought that if we look around this world we’ll see how much abundance God has given.

Say to God, “What’s with all these stars?”  And I’d add, “Why isn’t there life on them all?” 

And God would probably say, “Turkey get on a glass bottom boat and take a look at all the fish in all the oceans of our world? Get a microscope and look at the life that surrounds you.”

I heard something like this on public radio a week ago. “One hair on your head can produce a million stem cells in about 2 weeks.”

“What?” I said, “Let me hear that again?” 

Well the radio doesn’t work like that, so I’ll keep looking for what that was about.  From another angle, it doesn’t matter, because nature offers many examples of incredible numbers once one starts looking into creation.

Today’s gospel repeats this same message about the more or less in giving and not giving.  The wheat seed sitting in a bag in a wharehouse is just a wheat seeds on a shelf. Plant those seeds. Close your eyes. Come back in a while and take a good  look at a field filled with wheat.

Jesus is saying, “If you try to hold onto your life and you don’t give, you’re going to end up hating your life.”

Give and you will live. Serve tables, wash feet, hold doors, listen instead of doing all the talking, give, give and give, and you’ll see happy faces including your own.


Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, the deacon who gave, gave, gave, served served, served - and was killed with that attitude in mind.

The legend is that he said when they were burning him to death, “Turn me over I’m done on this side.”


[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, Ethics of St. Thomas Auinas,  St. Ia IIas, Q. 25, A, 2,  "Omne agens agit propter finem aliquem, ut supra dictum est. Finis autem est bonum desideratum et amatum uncuique."
August 10, 2015


As he shook off his umbrella and then closed the door - which took his shoulder and an effort to close, I asked him,
“What’s the weather like out there?”

“It’s a hard drizzle.”

I had never heard a weather report
like that one before. Interesting!

I stayed with that comment all day.

The two meetings I was at weren’t
that interesting anyway.

“What’s your life been like?”

Would anyone say, “It’s a hard drizzle”
or would someone say, "Blue sky sunshine"?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
Painting, "White Umbrella" by
Andre Kohn

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015


How many times have we stood there
and asked someone, “Hey what can
I do to help around here?” Of course
we say that in some kind of group
setting - like before or after a meeting
when people are setting up tables or
chairs - or what have you. Well, the
secret of happiness is to make a list
of things we can do everyday like:

Listen to someone - like saying, “Wait a
minute, repeat what you just said. I find
that very interesting” and you mean it.

Thank someone - like saying, “I really
appreciate all you do around here -
especially the little things that I can’t do.
For example,...”

Ask people great questions like, “Dad
how do you want to be remembered?”
Or, “What was a movie that really moved
you?” Or a book you couldn’t put down?
Or a song you found yourself singing
when alone?” Or, “Who encouraged you?”

And then do what we can do!

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
August 8, 2015


Getting ready - those kicks while
in the womb - stretching those legs -
wanting out of there - out - up and away -
making our way in life - first crawling -
catching our breath - oooh the pain - oooh
the hurt of trying to stand tall - but falling -
till finally we accept reality - we’re human -
- we need help - then we want to get to
school - middle school - high school -
college graduate  - get a job - get married -
have kids - wanting to be there when they
take their first step - to see them grow,
as we go through the steps of life - retire -
enjoy - then at some point  being unable
to let go of the car keys - that’s a tough step -
then to take those last steps into a nursing
home  - with a cane - with a nurse’s aide -
not wanting a wheel chair - not wanting to die -
then the decision to make the ultimate step -
the big act faith - to crawl - it would be nice if
it was a leap  - but no - to crawl to the Father’s
feet - with the hope of rising to the Eternal Dance. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015