Friday, September 25, 2015


[This was a short talk I gave at 2015 COSA - Convocation and Induction of New Officers for the Council of Student Affairs of St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis, Maryland - 8:30 AM September 25, 2015.]


I was asked to speak 5 minutes on leadership.

Someone said, “Leadership is the art of getting others to do something you want done because they want to do it.”

There are 3 types of leaders: elected, appointed, and natural.

Some of you are elected. All of you are called to be leaders in your own way - with your own unique gifts and blessings.

Yesterday, the Pope, told the elected leaders of our country the following: Lead - be humble - work for the common good of all - especially the poor and the powerless - practice the Golden Rule - avoid polarizing.

I have 5 minutes - so I jotted down 13 qualities that a leader needs - and then I picked 5.

So here comes 5 Leadership Skills - in 5 minutes or less - and we have a lifetime to work on them by putting them into practice.


A leader listens.

A leader has to believe every person has a voice and a vote - and he or she has to hear those voices. In other words, “Every person matters!” as was the theme last year in our school and St. Mary’s Parish.

Listen and look for future leaders - by listening to all - and bring them on board the ship called, "Leadership."

A leader has to listen and then give back to a speaker what the leader thinks the speaker is saying. He or she gives back the speaker's comments by saying something like this,  “Is that your point?” or “Let me see if I have it correct what you’re saying.”

If you’re not listening expect dissension and complaints and things not working.

What drives me crazy is to go to a meeting and sense that those who have the voting power already have their minds made up.

A few years back at the Anne Arundel County Council there was a hearing about implementing “Work Force Housing.” Someone in the area asked people in various churches to come to the hearing and voice our opinions - when this proposal came up. We had been at a meeting where Workforce or affordable housing was brought up - especially for nurses, police, teachers, etc. We also went on a bus ride to a few sites in other counties where there was Workforce Housing.  The sites looked great to me. 

I went and stood on the line at the A.A. county meeting when this proposal was discussed. When I had my chance I said into the microphone, “I don’t believe you are really listening to us. I think your vote and your minds have already been made up.” Then I sat down.

By the response of the elected members I knew I got a reaction. I don’t know if it got any of the officials seated up front to change their vote, but they heard my comment.

Too many times have I heard leaders say, “We want your input.”

Too many times in life I have experienced leaders who have not listened.

A leader wants the input of the group. 

Better a leader goes to the different members of the group and asks, “What do you want?”  A leader says things like, “Bob or Brenda, you haven’t said anything. What do you want?”

Listening is not just with the ears. It’s also with the eyes. Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."

So # 1: Listen! This would be my longest and most important message. 


I think a leader needs to have a planning method.

There are many. The one I use is called the Power Cycle.

It has 4 steps: Evaluation, Recommendations, Decision and then Action.

First Step: Evaluation looks backwards up to the present moment. The leader tries to gather information about what is going on - what has been going on - the good, the bad and the ugly. Leaders - elected and natural  have to evaluate what folks are saying and what they want - beefs and hopes.  

Second Step: Recommendations look to the future. The leader listens to not only what has been going on or not going on, but to what the group recommends.

There are tons of them. Listen for the, “Why don’t we’s? Why don’t we? Why don’t we? Recommendations are voiced. Leaders have to spot them.

The next time you see the movie, Remember the Titans, listen to various people making suggestions.

Third Step: Decisions. Notice the word "cision" in decision. Notice - as in scissors, incision. To decide is to cut lots of recommendations that have been suggested because of the evaluation. Pick the best recommendation - either by voting - arguing - deciding.

Fourth and Last Step: Action. Just do it.

Then go through the power cycle over and over again for the good of all on what happened - what worked and what didn't work or what didn't happen.


The third step is to serve - to give - to get it done. Ego’s must go. Service and work is what leadership is all about. The first should be last - leaders are the last to leave - making sure things are put away - garbage is put in garbage bags - and maybe even brought out to the dumpster - lights are turned off - and doors are locked.


Expect mistakes, difficulties. Expect selfishness and stupidity.  Expect the cross.  Expect conflict. Herbert Bayard Swope once said, “I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure —which is, 'Try to please everybody.'”


Say “Thank you” and say it a lot and say it to a lot of people - and mean it - feel it - appreciate it.  Remember - as in football - it’s not me, me, me. It’s “We, we, we” all the way to the goal. Touchdown

Thank you.
September 25, 2015


You ask me,
"What do I think about the pope."

My hopes about this pope are these -
that people will say and people will think:

"He's a leader. I could follow this guy."

"I gotta get back to church, synagogue,
temple or mosque!"

"Oh, that's what church is all about."

"Uh oh! I'm a lost sheep on some of this."

"Baa, baa, baa, please find me!"

"Ooops I'm lost I gotta get found."

(c) Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
Check Luke 15

September 24, 2015


All alone - early morning - the first to put
my footprints on the brand new canvas - of
this brief edge of ocean - walking along
listening to the lapping of the water -
like the tongue of my chocolate lab -
at his silver bowl - walking along - before
the many more footprints of this day -
the sun to my left - out there rising up
from the ocean sky - before the heat -
before the simmering heat - before
the long of this day - and Lord, you give
me this day - this gift - and I’ll walk along
this same silver beach tonight - in the moon
light - thinking about the all of this day -
the first day - and all is good - and all is,
“Thank You God - in the cool of this evening!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015


Potatoes are a hard dry brown crop - needing
to be dug up out of the dirt brown earth. They
are not pretty or attractive and delicious looking
like a plum or cool yellow green grapes or a rich
red apple. Potatoes are like the necessary people.

And look at the hands of the potato diggers.
They are not the pretty people - the types that
make People Magazine. Nope. But they are
the necessary people - the many of the earth.
Did you know potatoes are the fourth largest
crop on the planet - right after maize. wheat
and rice? Did you know that they too immigrated
from western South America and have been
on the move ever since - planted all over the earth?

And like the poor and the unpretty, potatoes are
placed on dinner plates off to the side - never
the main feature. Yet they are as necessary
as the waiter or waitress bringing us the meal  -
or those who dig the potatoes or those who
help transport them all around our world.

Lord teach me to see the potatoes I eat and
that I see the poor of the earth when I walk
this earth - this rich brown ground beneath me.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Painting in middle, The Potato Harvest,
(1855) by Jean-Francois Millet

Painting at bottom, The Potato Eaters
(1855) Vincent van Gogh

Tuesday, September 22, 2015



The title of my homily for this 25th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Go Rebuild My Church.”

I chose this title and theme for two reasons. 

First of all, today’s first reading from Ezra 6: 7-8, 12b, 14-20 is all about the Jews coming back from exile and are rebuilding the temple. They receive help from Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes - Persians -which ironically is present day Iran. The temple had fallen into the need of big time rebuilding.

And in biblical texts - like Ezra -  we find out there was a lot of complaining about how the temple was being repaired.

So for a quick homily for today I’m grabbing that theme of rebuilding.


The second reason for this theme is that Pope Francis seems to have rebuilding in mind. In a church this big we certainly need reform - change - upkeep.

Pope Francis would be very aware of Francis of Assisi hearing the voice, "Go rebuild my church" and how Francis first thought it meant rebuilding San Damiano.

In time he learned it was the call to renew the whole church - and Francis and Franciscans certainly did that.

I’ve been reading that Pope Francis -  Jorge Mario Bergoglio - is a pope who experienced Vatican II  - a rebuilding council - like most of us.

His take on this is that  Vatican II was a rebuilding - reforming - renewing Council. That was 50 years ago.  There were major changes in our church - starting with Pope John 23. The windows of the Vatican were opened and fresh air blew in.

As I read about what happened after Vatican II, I could hear many reads on all this. One strain and strand was that there was recentralization during Pope John Paul II’s years.

Decentralization was dropped. Recentralization was in.

Some people want top down management. 

Some people want grass root bottom up management.

Control can be a big issue for some.

I’m hearing and reading that Pope Francis wants to get back to our roots in the Vatican II decisions and documents about aggiornamento - rebirth - renewal in our Church.

In other words to get back to the restructuring fostered at Vatican II - much of what in my judgment was grassroots up.

At Vatican II things changed in our church - on the floor - at the meetings - coffee breaks - and in the chit chat after the formal meetings.

The documents that were presented at the beginning of Vatican II were much different than the documents promulgated after discussions, arguments, meetings during the years of the council that ended in 1965.


Vatican II decided that the Mass, the Liturgy, should be of the language of the people at the local level.

This happened - but with objection - and foot dragging here and there.

In the English speaking world out came missals that had a translation that worked. However, an even better one - would  be in the works.

The key principal was to come up with a translation that had a “dynamic equivalence with the Latin text.”  

That was 1973 mandate.  In the early 2000's,   other people - in the Holy See changed the principle to have a translation that had a “formal equivalence with the Latin text.” The Holy See said it had to be a translation in the most exact manner.

By 1998 a new English translation of the whole missal - the Sacramentary - was completed. In the meanwhile the official group was replaced. A group of 8 [I’m not sure of the number and the particulars of all this] came up with an alternative translation - that becomes the official translation - the one we now have. It seems to me that the key value was to get it as close to the Latin as possible.

To me - I am stressing me here - this is my opinion -  the reason why we priests stumble and mumble some of the new Mass prayers - is because it’s a clumsy translation.

I didn't mention all this from the pulpit in this sermon - because I don't like the bully pulpit.

And I don't usually go with the blog bully pulpit.

However, I want a church where we are free to give our opinions and to have peers disagree. I believe a blog is a fair place to try to state and then to clarify some of these personal thoughts.

I wait for the day our new Roman Missal will be put on a shelf in the sacristy.

Then, either the old books are brought back, or the new translation is used or an even better translation into English - for our English speaking world is broadcast.

To make a very small point, take the creed.

The Latin word "Credo" means "I believe".  After Vatican II that was switched to “We believe”.

That was a significant change in Church thinking and believing.  We are the Church. It’s not just the Pope or the Bishop or authorities - it’s a WE.

Well, it seems, the Latin purists didn’t like that change in the Creed from I to we - in language and maybe in thought - as well.

I believe - or better I assume - the above - because I believe some of it was done in the back room - from on top - from decree.  I would have wanted the ICEL - the International Commission on English in the Liturgy  - that replaced the ICEL group that was “fired” to have to sit up front at a big table with microphones and be questioned.

My first question - if I could be in this interview session - would be, “What Latin to English dictionary did you use?”

If anyone answered that question, I would say, “Why that dictionary? Are there any other dictionaries you are aware of?”

I would want to know and ask what questions that “Special Secret Committee” on the English language translation from the official Latin text asked.

I would want to know if anyone asked: “Should we bring in writers, language experts, poets, translators, culture experts, etc.?”

I would want to know if anyone on this committee heard of Ernest Hemingway - and his style of writing: short sentences, short words.

This is my beef. This committee stuck on the rest of us this tongue twisting translation. I state once more: "IN MY OPINION."

I want to know if this committee had anyone who said regular mass in an English speaking parish. Did they? Were their test runs? Were there feedback possibilities?

I heard a bishop say that some bishops fought this Second ICEL group. It was no contest. Minds were made up. You couldn’t win. “The boys on top want it this way. Sorry.”

I read Bishop Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania complain, complain, complain about this “horror” as it was happening.


So for one key way to rebuild our church, I would list as # 1 - that we be a listening church.

I look at the Pope’s ears. They are big and they look like they work.

He’s coming to the United States this week and he’ll give lots of speeches and there will be excerpts in our papers and on our television sets.

We'll hear Catholic social doctrine. We'll hear that  we need to be a welcoming church. We have to be a forgiving church. We have to be an understanding church.  We have to be a church of mercy.

I want us to be a LISTENING CHURCH.

I know this pope listens.

I want him to hear my  complaint about the New Translation of our Mass and various other things. I would want him to hear my questions. We have to say Mass every day and every day when I say Mass I say to myself, “Enough already. We can do better than this. We have done better than this.”

I hope he knows that the German Bishops and the German Church have resisted this nonsense translation from the Latin.

We didn’t. Ugh!

I want a pope who hears beefs - especially my beefs.

Don't we all?

People ask me what I think about the pope coming to the States.

I say out loud, “I hope he listens.”

I know he does. In the conclave, when he was elected pope, a friend of his - Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil - came to him and said, “Congratulations!” Then he added, “Don’t forget the poor.”

Pope Francis said he heard that and that’s one of the key reasons why he chose the name Francis.


So in this homily I’m saying: want to rebuild the church, listen to each other.

Husbands, wives, children, families, parish, priests, people, rich, poor, let us listen to each other.

As we heard at the end of today’s gospel, “My mother and my brothers [and sisters] are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
September 22, 2015


Dunes like so many people
silently resting there without
saying anything - mystery -
a rusty red wooden wire fence
blocking others out - simply
saying, “No comments” - yet
the wild grass and wild flowers
sprouting up in the hump of the
dunes keep saying, “I’m here -
hanging on - for dear life.”  

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015





The title of my homily is, “The Calling of St. Matthew.”


Three years ago - there we were on a Mediterranean Cruise. There we were in Rome for one day. There we were in the Piazza Navona in Roma.

We just looked at the  fountain of the 4 rivers in the big plaza. Very elaborate Italian extravaganza - in the big plaza - which goes back to the 1st century. It was the spot Domitian’s stadium was built. The stadium stood there till the 15th century when it was paved over. Once we heard it had been a stadium - then the big oval shape of the piazza made sense.

What next?

Right near there - we spotted this French Church - St. Luigi - or St. Louis. It was a French Church - from the time of the Medici’s.

We went in and to our surprise it was posted that the church had  3 Caravaggio paintings.

They were down front - off to the left in the Contarelli chapel. The center and what I thought was obviously the best of the three paintings, “The Calling of St. Matthew.”  Then facing each other was “The inspiration of St. Matthew  and “The martyrdom of St. Matthew.”

I didn’t think the Martyrdom of St. Matthew was his best. In modern times art specialists have found an earlier  painting.

Those of you who know Caravaggio paintings know of his use of darkness. This - as in some of Rembrandts  - gives him the opportunity to feature light - as on faces.

An interesting thing about these Caravaggio paintings in that side chapel is that you have to put coins in a machine to get some moments of light.

I stood there studying the 3 paintings over and over again - putting coins in as we go.  I also added some prayers.

The two old ladies I was with loved the paintings as well.

[HOLDING UP THIS BOOK SAY] “On the other side of the church - heading towards the door - I spotted this book for sale: The Bible of Caravaggio - Images from the Old and New Testament.”

Of course I bought it. Of course I have read it several times. Of course I have used it for sermons. Of course I have treasured it and kept it in great shape.


A message for us is the ways God has called us - the ways God has called us out of darkness into the light.

In the painting of the Call of Matthew Jesus stands there in the shadows and points towards Matthew. “You. I am calling you.” 

Matthew - in the painting then points to himself as if to say, “Who me?”

I love that Caravaggio has Matthew being called in a tavern.

I love that Matthew in his gospel has Matthew inviting Jesus into his home,

Point to yourself and hear Jesus calling you in the tavern, in your home, in all the places of your life.

If you have some blank pieces of paper and a ball point pen at home, draw moments in your life when Jesus has called you - when Jesus points to you like Caravaggio has Jesus pointing at Matthew.  Be creative.

I hold that one’s primary bible is our own life.

I hold that one has to read that Bible first - in order to understand the big bible.
September 21, 2015


Matthew 9: 9-13

More or less
everyone is a mess,
so give me a break
and I’ll give you a break?
Please! It’s for our good.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015



The title of my homily for this Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time is, “Remembering Moments.”


One of the greatest gifts we have is memory.

A hundred times a day we say, “I remember!”

A thousand times a day our memory is triggered.

Everything reminds us of something.

Going by Rita’s Ice Cream triggers our taste buds - and a summer moment some 11 summers ago.

Words trigger words - moments trigger moments….

And so when we hit 75 we say to ourselves at least 5 times a day, “I’m losing it.”  or “I forget why I came into this room.” Or in the middle of a remembering moment we scratch the side of our forehead - which has our brain inside - and we say to a person we’re telling something, “Where was I going with this?”

And the other person who wasn’t listening thinks inside their brain, “Uh oh! I wasn’t listening. I was listening to my own stuff - that your stuff triggered.”

The title of my homily is, “Remembering Moments.”


Isn’t it fascinating what we remember?

I have a theory that we can’t plan or control what we are going to remember. We remember what we remember. We forget what we forget - but often it's in there - somewhere in the back of a closet in the basement of our mind.

Why do I remember this poem by William Allingham and I forget so many others?

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
What a little thing
To remember for years-
To remember with tears!

As soon as I thought of this theme of remembering along came in my mind and memory that poem I memorized years and years ago. It asks the very point I'm looking at in this homily about “Remembering Moments”.

We have lots of ducks floating on the duck pond of our memory.

Today I’m asking: line up your ducks in a row.

What are your earliest memories? What was your best meal? What was the first movie you remember seeing?  What books, songs, movies - have moved you and why?

Do you have any hurts you can’t unhurt?

Have you ever done anything really dumb - and you can’t forgive yourself for it?

What is your happiest childhood memory - or lifetime memory?

Talk to yourself. Talk to each other. 

Quack! Quack!  -  Quack! Quack!


The Bible is a big book of memories.

And like all memories most were first spoken.

And spoken memories change and get better hopefully as they go around the room.

Brian Williams lost his job because he changed his memories. [1]

Surprise. We all do.

Sometimes memories are written down - as in memoirs or autobiographies.

Then if our brothers and sisters read our stories they say, "Did we grow up with the same parents in the same house?"

Today’s first reading from Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20 was put in here because of today’s gospel Mark  9:30-37- when Jesus tells his disciples about what’s going to happen down the line.

As you know we’re following along each Sunday this year with a gospel reading from Mark. We’re up to Chapter 9 and we’ll make it to Advent - when we begin again the cycle of God memories and Jesus memories for us Christians.

Today’s second reading - it’s from a Letter from James to a Christian community that sometimes we’re being jealous, selfish and out of order. [Cf. James 3:16 to 4:3]

It also tells us where wars come from - in case we forget - and our memory needs to be probed and pushed. Wars start at the local level - deeper - they start in our own passions to possess - to control - to want - and we don’t know how to express our ideas and views - our truth - or supposed truth - to each other - and another refuses to accept us or be with us. Magnify that and we have family fights. Magnify that big time and we have wars.

When Pope Francis says the same thing that the Letter of James told us today in Congress and in the United Nations in the next week or so - all kinds of stuff will be triggered - hopefully for the better.

Hopefully conversations and conversions for love and service to the last and least important amongst us will happen - starting in our memories.

I’m wondering - really wondering what kinds of memories Pope Francis will trigger in his visit to Cuba and to the United States.

He’ll be in New York City. Will he trigger what is written on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor - which is quite close to Ellis Island - that we are a nation of immigrants - legal and illegal - and not to forget our national memory? 

For the sake of transparency and memory, my parents came as young people - and my dad had 5 dollars in his pocket and a clean set of underwear and he dropped the old in the Boston Harbor before he got off the boat.

So I'm wondering what memories the pope will trigger about the Catholic message about caring for the poor and the immigrant.

I’m also wondering especially about what memories Catholic drop outs will remember.

I wonder about dropouts from various religious traditions who are at every wedding and every funeral I’m at. I say, “The Lord be with you.” and there is no answer - and when I hear that muffled silence - I wonder, “Where have you been since the last time you went to church or synagogue or mosque? I wonder what does a church experience - a wedding or a funeral or a baptism - trigger in your memory?

Life is found in the memory.

Today’s gospel from Mark - finally put together around the year 60 - contains a memory when Jesus asked his disciples what were they arguing about?  “They remained silent.”

Mark helps the memory from that experience. They were arguing about who was the greatest?”

It was a memory from when Jesus was moving around before he gets to Jerusalem and is arrested, tortured and killed on the cross.

This big cross is up here in memory of Jesus.

Back up to that day when they were arguing about being the greatest - Jesus says, “If anyone wasn’t to be first, be last and be the servant of everyone else.”  That’s a big Jesus theme.

Then as the community memory put it, Jesus spots a child, places the kid right in the middle and says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Pope Francis has read and heard this stuff - and like every pope hopefully he’ll pick up dozens and dozens of children this coming week and the kids family will remember that moment for the rest of their lives.

So too politicians …. They pick up babies....

I’d add, “Pick up your children and grandkids - and embed that hug in their memory for the rest of their lives.”

I’ve heard enough adults tell me that their dad never hugged them.

This week be a pope - hug your 37 year old son or daughter or call them up in Reading Pennsylvania or Albuquerque, New Mexico and tell them you love them.

Memories - make them good ones.


It seems bad memories burn deeper.

Every priest knows that one negative comment by someone going out of church is the one remembered - more than the 25 “Have a great week” or “Good homily, Father.”

Father Blas was here this weekend for a wedding. As soon as I saw him a memory came back. Father Blas told us that someone said as he started from the back of church - seeing him and hearing him announced - a guy said rather loud, “Oh no!”

I tell that memory because we all give those, “Oh no” votes to various people in life - and it hurts them for life - and we have had the same thing happen to us.

We might not say it with words, but we say it with our face or look.

I say this because we all have the gift of memory.

Take your memories. Sit them like sitting a little child  in your midst today - and reflect upon them.


For homework this week, do some memory work.

Think of your mom and dad, family and friends, isolate memories of each and forgive the hurts - they remain like graffiti on our memory - but still forgive - and remember the good and say thank you to the living and the dead.

And remember we’re at this Mass doing all this in memory of Jesus.


[1] Check out an article by James McWilliams, " The Examined Lie - A Meditation n Memory"  or as it's entitled on the front cover of the magazine, "The Storyteller - Brian Willaims and the pathways of memory". It's in The American Scholar, Summer 2015, pp. 18-30
September 20th, 2015


People are patterns.

Well, that’s not true, but people have their
patterns and when we’re with each other,
we’re trying to figure  each other out -
from the inside out. Is that true for you?

We look for patterns. We look for déjà vu.
We are trying to find out what’s actually
going on inside this other person. Is that
true for you? Do you do that too?

I sense that there’s something in us
that moves us to try to pick up each other’s
patterns - habits - routines - grooves.

I would suspect that one major pattern in life
is ease - simplicity - and to avoid complexity.

I would suspect that another pattern in life
is you come before me. My family, my kids,
my parents, those I work for, come first.

I suspect that for others it’s just the opposite.

I suspect some like life outside my home and
some can’t wait to get home.

Some people are stuck in the past and some
are stuck in the future and some live in and for
the present moment.

Some want it now - some are more relaxed on
lines - in traffic - while sitting there in the restaurant.

Some dream and don’t do - some do and don’t dream.

Some are all heart - some are all cool blue brains.

Some know there is a God and they are grateful
for all God’s gifts. Some don’t accept that there
is a God and keep complaining about God for all
the things that are  going wrong in the world.

Some look you in the eye - some look over your
shoulder to what’s coming or they look at their watch.

Some are optimists. Some are pessimists. Some
don’t even see the glass.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015