Thursday, September 17, 2015

September 17. 2015

          SOARING ABOVE 
             WHAT'S NEXT

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September 16, 2015


God, so silent sometimes ….
I feel I AM without a Word -
too many times. Speak God,
I’m trying to listen to you, for you….

Shhh! Silence.

God, wait - it’s still so early morning -
before the world wakes us - but God,
“Wake up ! Rise up before all of us!”

Be on the beach - cooking breakfast
for us and tell us where to fish.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Cf. John 21

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



The title of my homily is, “What’s Your Take and Thoughts About Mary?”

I’ve often asked that question about Mary. Feast days of Mary trigger that question.

Today, for example, is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.


As a kid I was a candle boy at O.L.P.H. church in Brooklyn.  Every Wednesday we had a full church of people making the OLPH novena - with 5 services.  

Everyone there - it seemed - lit a candle.

They were the 10 cent type and lasted 2 hours or so. 

Then when these candles died or burnt out, we changed them. 

We candle boys would take  a pick type tool. We would  snap out the tin metal square that held the wick - then putting in a fresh candle.  

They paid us $2.50 a week - to work on Wednesday, Saturday afternoon and all morning long on Sunday.

Moral of the story: never work for the church.

In my lifetime I’ve seen in various churches that OLPH novena go from large crowds - and several services - with a sermon - to just a few prayers after Mass.

What’s with that? Is Mary only popular when people have sorrows?

When I look at paintings of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows - I see ladies with sorrowful faces.  Has life become less sorrowful since post World War II moments in a big Catholic Church in Brooklyn N.Y.?

When I first got here to St. Mary’s Annapolis we had the OLPH novena and then that died.

In the meanwhile every Wednesday in Beclaren - in the Philippines - over 100,000 people go to the O.L.P.H. novena.  Why? What? How?


If you go to the big museums of the big cities of our world, you’ll find in the big rooms for classical paintings, big ornate gold framed paintings of Mary  - so too in the bedrooms of Catholics over 65 years of age you’lll find copies of some of these same masterpieces - like Our Lady of Sorrows by Murillo or the pieta by Michelangelo.

Mary. Mary holding Jesus as a baby. Mary holding Jesus on her lap after he is taken down from the cross.

If you watch the evening news, especially with all these young moms with kids escaping Syria, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, you’ll see mothers holding their children, alive and dead. Our Lady of Sorrows still haunts the streets of our world.

Is that what’s going on with Mary - and her presence in our lives as Catholics. She’s there. She’s always there - especially when the cross is dragged into our lives?


What’s your take on Mary? What are your thoughts on Mary?

That’s the title and the question of my homily this morning - on this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows?

When someone comes up to Our Lady of Perpetual Help picture here at St Mary’s - after or before lighting a candle in prayer - their back is to us. We don’t see their faces. Is their face a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows?  Are they here because their child is the sorrowful Jesus as well.

Is that what images of Mary are all about?

Here in this church - dedicated to Mary - St. Mary’s Church on Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, Maryland - the question I’m asking is: “What is Mary about to you?”

September 15, 2015


Sitting on a hard wooden chair,
just outside his front door, the 
old man could see the whole world 
going by. On the road right there 
he was looking at packed people
with all their belongings moving on
towards a new life. When he saw her 
with her baby, this old man shouted, 
“A sword will pierce your heart….” 
Does every old person think that feeling 
seeing crowds of people fleeing terror, 
violence and war? Does every mother
who brings a child into this world have 
that worry stabbing at her heart as well?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015



The title of my homily is, “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.”

Today’s Feast goes way back to the 4th Century - to the finding of the True Cross in 326 by Saint Helena and then the dedication of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in 335.

It’s always been a big feast in our Church.

For personal reflection, let me present 5 ideas.  


First of all to reflect upon the cross as the central symbol of Christianity - with or without an image of Christ on the cross.

Think about all the crosses on tops of churches, inside churches, and on the walls of our homes. Spot the cross on rosary beads and gold crosses around people’s necks.

Think about all the pictures and paintings of Christ on the cross - in museums and in prayer books etc. etc. etc.


Secondly think about all the times we make the sign of the cross in prayer to begin and to end prayers and services - how it’s used in blessing oneself and others.

I did 6 baptisms this weekend and early on in the baptism the priest asks parents and godparents to make the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead who is about to be baptized. Then I ask the whole baptismal party to do the same thing.

At some baptism some guy said his mom thumbed a little sign of the cross on his forehead every night before going to bed ever since his baptism till he left for college or the military.


Thirdly, think about how we use the word “cross” to label sufferings. We use the word “cross” to describe carrying our cross as in carrying the burdens of life - especially making a sacrifice for another. I love the image of the cross with the gesture that I plan life to go this way today and it goes just the opposite way. Notice it’s a cross.

Crosses are made of more than wood. Think of aluminum canes and walkers. Think of stainless steel wheel chairs. Think of crosses made of cancer or depression or family hurts. Think of marriages that don’t work and kids - and spouses are hurt big time.


Fourthly, I’m sure you heard that there are many so called relics of the Holy Cross - spread throughout the world.

Then when people hear about all the relics of the true cross that are out there - that there is enough wood to make a boat - like Noah’s Ark. Erasmus, and Calvin, and many others made humor of the so many relics of the True Cross.

I heard that enough to force me to go back to research on this question.

I once heard that some guy got a 12 inch by 12 inch by 12 inch square block of wood. He started splitting off small pieces the size of relics of the True Cross. Sure enough, one could have thousands and thousands of tiny relics from that one block of wood.  

I checked on Google if they had anything about that story of that experiment. Didn’t find it, but I did find out about a guy who tracked down all the relics of so called “pieces of the true cross” around the world. His name was that of a French architect - Charles Rohault de Fleury. His dates are, September 22, 1801 - to -  August 11, 1875. He did just that. He figured out how many relics of the True Cross were listed from around the world and then multiplied by 10 - to add more - and then figured out how big the cross would have been and he said the relics around the word are only 1/5 the possible size of the cross.

I see relics of the Holy Cross  being sold on eBay - anywhere from $9.95 to $3600.


Fifth and last, how many times have we said the prayer, … We adore thee O Christ and we bless you because by your Holy Cross you have renewed the world.

That’s the message in various scripture passages - and in various stations of the cross.


Take time to do your homework on the cross. Hopefully, one of these 5 pieces would help all of us to be students of the cross. Amen.

September 14, 2015


She felt double crossed by God.
He left her for a much younger woman.
He left her with three young kids -
screaming - hungry little ones.
He left her without money and
a house which she was about
to lose. “God! God! Where are you?”
Her family was in a far country.
He had promised her the world
if she would come to live with him
in this now God forsaken trap?
She had to make a decision.
She headed home and started
again in her own family. Now
looking back - that was the best
move she ever made. She and
her kids had a double resurrection.
But it took 13 years not 3 days.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

September 13, 2015


On my street, there are all these houses -
all lined up next to each other - in a row.
I see their skin - their roofs, their colors -
their windows - as well as their front doors.
I see their occupants come and go. I wave.
I smile. I acknowledge. In time I get to know
a few of the people on my street. Sometimes
someone moves and I realize I only know a
few folks and their names.  Surprise! Worse!
Sometimes I don’t really know the people
in my own home - in my own family - or even
deeper I don’t even know the person in my skin.
I am a mystery to myself. God do I even know you? Does anyone ever receive communion?

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015



The title of my homily for this 24 Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] is, “A Question: Who Do You Say I Am?”


In today’s gospel Jesus asks that question to his disciples.

Listen again to how today’s gospel reading for us begins, “Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’ And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Christ.’ Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.”

Strange scene. Strange story. Strange comment.

Jesus asks each of us here today that same question. That’s why it’s here. We need to hear that question: “Who do you say that I am?”

It’s Sunday. I suggest as you walk along  - as you drive along - the days of this week, hear Jesus asking you that question: “Who do you say that I am?”


By total coincidence I picked up again the other day the Irish Magazine, Ireland of the Welcomes. I had bought it at Barnes and Noble in June.

One of the articles was about a guy who climbed a mountain to make the Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage. A million people make that climb every year. It’s only 4.3 miles long - but it’s a good day’s climb - up and back.

I remembered a moment - years ago - standing there in Westport - County Mayo, Ireland - and looking up at that mountain - but didn’t climb it. I saw the big hand carved - some well-polished - walking sticks. I know a priest who had made that climb - that pilgrimage - and did it - and told me about the grace of that experience. It’s considered the holiest mountain in Ireland.

We didn’t have time. We had to get back on the bus. We had to hit the road, Jack. We had to keep moving.

I looked out the bus window and felt some kind of longing to climb that mountain. I had climbed a bunch of peaks in New Hampshire - parts of the presidential range. I had climbed a few mountains in the Rockies - so I knew the feeling mountains give off: Climb me.

The writer of the article was by the Irish poet, John F. Deane. Sorry to say I had never heard of him.

He tells his story. In 2011 - age 68 - he bought a stout ash stick and started the climb. It was September. It could be cold. He had good climbing boots, warm clothing, and a plastic mac in case of rain. It rains in Ireland at times.

He had a small backpack with water, biscuits and a bar of chocolate.

He paused at the first station - a big whitewashed statue of St. Patrick - with his hand raised in blessing. John Deane said he stood there and prayed. He said he spoke the name of Jesus “to the soft air of the morning and listened, to the world about me, the distant ocean, the fields, the clouds, the sheep.” Then he wrote, “It was as if the voice of Christ were asking: Who do you say that I am?”

I had read that article just last Sunday - and surprise - that’s the question in today’s gospel - this Sunday.

And I was thinking about John Deane’s words all week - a week I went to a class reunion - of classmates - who were ordained 50 years ago - in 1965.

Who did we say Christ was these past 50 years?

Since John Dean said, “September” and “2011” I was wondering if he had gone to Mass on that morning  - and heard this reading -  and then made his climb. I don’t know - but as I read more about John Deane - I think the answer is no - because this seems to be his lifetime question.

As he climbed - as his article continued - I hear him asking himself that question over and over again. He gets the idea to ask the poets of Ireland to write poems to answer that question. He wonders if he’d be laughed at if he did. He decides that when he gets back he’ll ask the famous Anglican bishop, Rowan Williams, about his idea of his.

The answer to that question is not in the article.

But answers to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” are all through the article.

Then when I started to do some beginning research on John F. Deane I discovered that this poet - who had thought about being a priest - has been asking and answering that question about who Jesus is - all through his life - especially in his poems.

And he is not scared - or hesitant - to write many a poem about Jesus - to an Ireland that has  become for many - Post Catholic - and for some Post Christian.

The priest scandal - and so much more - has not helped - the Catholic faith of the Catholic Ireland.


In a 2010 poem, Shoemaker, that won him first prize in a poetry contest, John Deane writes about a quiet shoemaker who sees the whole world like through the eye of a needle. The shoemaker sees Christ - the walking the roads of Galilee and Ireland - and  the world Christ, who sees everything telling us everything  - the swallows in the skies - the leather of one’s shoes - the wind singing - the scenes of people on the roads  - bread, wine, water, the rains - the windshield wipers, noise music, Christ everywhere.


This week - for homework, for heartwork, for holiness work, work on the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

I think we have to ask that of ourselves - who we are -  and of others - who they are -  but save those questions for other climbs - other pilgrimages -
other mountains - other weeks.

But this week, answer that question from Christ: Who do you say that I am?