Saturday, November 21, 2015

IF  I  WERE  ___________,
WHAT KIND OF __________,


The title of my homily for this Sunday's feast of Christ the King  is, “If I Were __ [Fill in the blank]  What Kind of ____ [Fill in the blank] Would I Be?

Today is the feast of Christ the King, so that’s the question that hit me for this feast.

If I were king, what kind of king would I be?

If I were pope, what kind of pope would I be?

If I were a parent, what kind of a parent would I be?

If I were the boss, what kind of a boss would I be?

If I were the owner, what kind of an owner would I be?

If I were rich, what kind of rich person would I be?

If I was the pastor, what kind of a pastor would I be?

If I was a priest, what kind of a priest would I be?

If I was the coach or the manager, what kind of coach or manager would I be?

If I was a teacher, what kind of a teacher would I be?

If I was the principal of a school, what kind of a principal would I be?

If I were a director, what kind of a director would I be?

If I were a doctor, what kind of a doctor would I be?

If I was the president, what kind of a president would I be?

If I was the chairman or chairwoman of an organization, what kind of a chairperson would I be?

If I was a news anchor, what kind of a news anchor would I be?


If I listen to people, there are often complaints - many complaints - about bosses, leaders, kings, queens, bosses, managers, teachers, principals, those in charge?

If I listen to people, I hear at times about people who become boss: wow did they change. They have become bossy - difficult - self-serving, not listening, a disaster.

If I listen to people, I hear them complaining, complaining, complaining about people above them or about people in charge.

Coaches are unfair. They don’t put my daughter into the game.

Teachers, principals, are unfair. They don’t give my son credit - or give them good marks - or let them get into the National Honor society.


Do we all have a template, model, image, description of an ideal parent, president, coach, leader, boss?

If we scream, “She’s a dictator!” does that mean our image of a good leader is one who is fair, open to suggestions, doesn’t have only their own agenda, but is out for the common good?

Write down the name of the best teacher, boss, coach, captain, or lieutenant, you ever had.  Now list under that name personal traits, tricks, qualities, characteristics, style or what have you about that person and you now have a template of your ideal leader, king or queen.


We’ve all heard, I hope, Pope Francis’ description of a good priest and bishop: one who smells like the sheep.

We’ve all heard Pope Francis’ comments in public to bishops: enough with the garb that glitters.

Where does Francis get his job descriptions and important characteristics of Church leaders?

We know Pope Francis road down the streets of Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York in a Fiat - and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
So for starters, Jesus called us to simplicity.

We know the characterists Pope Francis used come from Jesus - who said he was a Good Shepherd.

We know Jesus said we’re all called to serve rather than be served.

We’ve heard that Jesus was off on listening. He heard people. He let people touch him? He washed feet. He felt people’s hunger and thirsts.

We all know that the heart of Christianity is found right here at Mass. The call is that life is all about saying to family, school, team, church, “This is my body. This is my blood. I’m giving me to you. Take and eat me up - eat up my time and energies - and my me.

Every parent discovers with each baby they have  - the meaning of life is service - giving - dying to self - so that others can survive, thrive, and enjoy the great surprises of being served - loved - hugged and lifted up.

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is only 1 day every year. That’s all folks.  Enjoy that breakfast in bed.

Babies don’t say to parents. I know you want your sleep, so I won’t scream till tomorrow morning - till after you wake up.

Dogs - like babies - don’t know this kind of stuff either. When they bark, they are sending out a message: feed me or I need to get outside - and now. To be a neighbor in a neighborhood is to see all those folks out in the morning in their bathrobes and their dogs and doggie bag in hand.


So a good king, queen, leader is called to have the positive qualities of Jesus’ dream for how to live life to the full.  Notice in today’s gospel  - John 18:33b-37 - that Jesus says his kingdom does not belong to this world.  But is it only in the hereafter? I read  the gospels as saying the kingdom starts now. It has positives like the calls of Pope Francis gleaned from the gospels and it also has negatives to avoid.

One key one is not to belittle people. As I thought about that word, “belittle”  the following hit me. If we belittle people is it because we want to bebig ourselves?  If that is true, I would assume that the leader who belittles others is unconsciously telling us that he or she feels inferior, small, and they want to slay others to stand on them and  say to the world, “Look how tall I am?” 

Bottom line: Besmall yourself and bebig others.

John the Baptist said it best when he said of his relationship to Jesus, “I must decrease; he must increase.”

I would the best leaders should make it their policy and their politics, “I must decrease; they must increase.”


On the feast of Christ the King, the call is to renew our service contract with our constituents.

November 21, 2015


Black and white keys, next to each other
like folks in a choir loft - choirs singing -
blending, balancing, sounding, resounding
voices in key with the organ - the piano -
strings, brass, drums, stops, starts, all
working together - music in church,
in halls, in auditoriums, in minds and hearts -
all interconnecting - the dream of God for
all us making a joyful noise unto the
Lord - the dream of each of us for all
of us on the planet - Glory to God in
the highest and the lowest - as well
as peace to all of us to have good will.


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

November 20, 2015


Religion and Spirituality?

It used to be that Religion came first and
then one found forms of Spirituality in the
structure of that particular religion. That’s
not true anymore for many younger people….

Religions - Judaism, Catholicism, Lutheranism,
have been dropped. Then folks drift for a while -till they realize their need spiritual practices:
walks on the quite side - by the water - meditation, book clubs - running - breathing - Yoga - music - volunteering - therapy - massage - body work....

Religions  - then some try new religions - and
some in doing so discover God - prayer - worship - community - and some come home 
to their handed on religion - which they see 
in a new light - graces and warts and all. 
They have begun to discover  they can’t do 
life alone - without God in the Center 
because as Thomas Merton put it years ago,
“The spiritual life is oriented toward God ….
[which] puts us in the fullest possible contact
with reality - not as we imagine it, but as it
really is. It does so by making us aware of
our own real selves, and place them in
the presence of God.” [Author’s Note: this can be found in No Man is an Island. p. ix - x.]

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 19, 2015



Peace, Fairness, Kindness,
turn these up, up, up ….

Growling, Gripes, Grouchiness,
turn these down, down, down ….

Listening, Listening, Listening,
turn this up, up, up ….

Anger, Screaming, Fighting,
turn these down, down, down ….

Faith, Hope, and Charity,
turn these up, up, up ….

Being Rigid, Stuck, Giving up,
turn these down, down, down ….

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015


I’m sure you heard a dozen times the value
of sacred chants - like “Om” - and to let that
sound resound down through the back of
your mouth - humming it  down deeper into
your body - feeling the om going - ‘Om!”
“Ommmmmmmmm.” “Ommmmmmmmm.”

Each day, pause, sit, be quiet, be calm
after rising or before going to sleep. Relax,
measure your breath and then chant, “Home!”
“Hommmmmmmmmm. Hommmmmmmmm!”
Be at home with yourself - where you are -
and then make your home a sacred place.

And at times - while sitting outdoors look at
the blue dome of sky during the day and the
star studded sky of dark, black night and chant
“Dome! Dommmmmmmm. Dommmmmmmm!”
“Om!” “Home.” Be at home under the dome
above us all, filling us all, resounding us all, God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015



The title of my homily for this  33rd  Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Pig, Pork and Pepperoni.”


In today’s first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees, we have this story about a man named Eleazar being forced to eat pork. If he didn’t take some, it would mean death. And he had the courage to not eat pork, so he’s killed.  
The story and the text gets us in touch with the religious practice of Jews not eating pork. The Moslems pick up the same practice as well as the Seven Day Adventists.

If we read the scriptures with this one practice in mind, we can learn a lot about religious practices of people.

I assumed that pork didn’t store well - so people got quite sick from pig and pork productions - so to save people - religious leaders yelled that God doesn’t want you to each pig and pork. I don’t know when pepperoni hit the world scene.


Last night as I was putting this homily together I was trying to remember the story about the ham in the pan.

A teenage girl is watching her mom working on a ham for Christmas dinner.

At one point her mom cuts off the thin end of the ham.  Her teenage daughter asked her mom why she cut off that small end of the ham.

“Well,” her mom said, “this is the way you cook a ham.”  Then she added, “That’s the way my mother did it.”

Well she sees her grandmother cooking a ham at another time and sure enough that end piece had been cut off. Her granddaughter asked her, “Why she did it that way?”

Her grandmother said, “Well, that’s the way you cook ham. And that’s the way my mom taught me.”

Her great-grandmother was still alive, so the teenage girl asked her - while visiting her in a nursing home. “I noticed,” she said to her great-grandmother, “that your granddaughter my mom, your daughter her mom, cut off the end piece of a ham before cooking it. They told me that you did that. Why?"

“Oh,” said the great grandmother, "I guess the reason was because the pan was too small.”

Question: how many things do we do in life because that’s the way they are always done?

Question: how many things in religion do we do because that’s the way we always did them?


I’d like to read a good article on all this.

The article would have to get into how altar girls took a while to get established as altar girls.

I would assume that women switching to pant suits from dresses would be an interesting point to ponder in that article.

So too the English Mass? 

Look how the world is changing in its attitudes towards gays.

Will there be a switch to women priests one of these years?

Is that the history of the world when it comes to changes?

Someone makes a move. Upset happens. It continues. More upset happens. It’s condemned. Then it continues - continues - continues.

I would hope the article would also get into seeing the mass as a Meal - get into eating at Mass - the bread - and the comments that Jesus is the Lamb of God - and how in the Acts of the Apostles this comes up - with arguments about Christianity moving out of Jewish background into world background.

Then there are Hindu’s refusing to eat beef.


At the Mass the priest washes his hands at the offertory.

I’ve always heard that it was because of all the food folks brought and handed to the priest - and then it was distributed to the poor - and hands got food dirty.

With the outbreaks of the flu virus - in came those pump bottles of hand cleaner - we see in so many churches. I like to joke that it might become part of the Mass in 200 years.

When a deacon serves as deacon  at Mass I noticed that he pours the wine etc. into the chalices - but then washes the priests hands.  I like the water because sometimes the wine is sticky on the cruets and it’s nice to have an opportunity to wash away the stickiness. So it should be the deacon who washes his hands or maybe the priest should wash the deacon’s hands.


So human beings do a lot of stuff out of custom and from earlier generations. I suspect the best approach is the ability to laugh. For starters, we could look at bishops hats and blessings and all that - as well as family customs.

In the meanwhile, this is good stuff to talk about while eating pig, pork or pepperoni - maybe pizza. I’m not a great lover of pork, but I do love a ham and cheese sandwich - and a pizza with  ham, pepperoni and pineapple.

November 17, 2015

Walking on Green Street
I went by a door mat that
announced, “Welcome!”

Three doors away I saw
a very similar door mat
that announced, “Stay!”

Walking on Green Street
I wondered what door mat
would they want for me.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015



The title of my homily for this 33 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Gospel Prayers ….  Some Great One Liners.”

People often ask us priests, the same question one of Jesus’ disciples asked him  in Luke 11:1: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

In Luke 11 Jesus teaches the Our Father in answer to that request.  In this homily I would make the answer even shorter. Want to learn how to pray, pray the great one liner prayers in the Gospels.

For example, “Lord, teach me how to pray.”


In today’s gospel there are two one liner prayers.

The first is, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  That prayer is given two times. In the second instance, it’s simply, “Have pity on me.”

The second prayer is the cry of the blind man when Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

His answer is the second great one liner prayer, “Lord, please let me see.”


Get a yellow high lighter or light green or orange and underline in your bible any one liner prayer that hits you.

There are many. Here are a few more:

“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Father forgive him, because he does not know what he is doing.”

“Lord, help me.”

“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

“My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”

“Don’t be afraid.”

“Don’t fear.”

“Quiet now! Be calm.”

“Peace be with you.”

“Stop arguing.”

“Stay awake.”


There are hundreds of these one liners in the gospels.

I like to suggest using one’s rosary as worry beads. The Hail Mary - and the Glory Be and the Our Father are key prayers - but why not also use our rosary beads as ways to run through great prayer one liners.

It’s as simple as that.

November 16, 2015


I’m taking my walk through the Naval Academy - to get my 10,000 steps 
per day- for my health.

Hundreds and hundreds of midshipmen and women 
run by me - as I keep on walking, walking, walking.

One guy runs by with a T-shirt that says in the back, “Believe.” I immediately start to think: “Believe in what?”

To beat Army, there is a God, human beings are basically good, kindness triumphs over meanness, love one another.

Then another young guy runs past me - and his T-shirt simply says, “Just do it.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015



The title of my homily for this 33 Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] is, “Continuing Education: Learn a Lesson from the Fig Tree.”


“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.”

That’s a message from Jesus from today’s gospel.

“Continuing Education….”

There are two types of people. Those who are still learning and those who have stopped learning.  Those who have open minds and those who have closed minds.  Those who see the whole world as a classroom and those who graduated from learning.

Jesus was a teacher….

If you know people who have given up on religion - especially those with Christian roots - Jesus Christ - God - faith - tell them to at least see Jesus as a great teacher. Check Jesus the Rabbi out as a Wisdom Figure Read his parables and his sayings.

Tell them to grab a Bible - dabble in it. Read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Mark it up with a magic marker.

Continuing education - Learn some lessons from the Bible.


I’m sure you heard the story of the uncle who gave his niece a Bible - a nice bible - in an expensive box - with white tissue wrapping - as a wedding gift.

Every time he saw her,  he’d make a tiny comment, “How’d you like that Bible I gave you.” 

And she’d always say, “Unck, thanks for that nice gift. My husband and I read it all the time.”

And he would always smile.

Years and years later his niece’s daughter was in high school and she’s doing her homework and she comes up to her mom and says, “Do we have a Bible anywhere? I need one to look up some stuff for class tomorrow.”

And her mom says, “Oh year, Uncle Jack gave us a Bible when we were married. I think I know where it is.”

So she goes to a hall closet - gets a chair - stands on it carefully - and fishes it out - a box from the back of the top shelf. “Here it is.”

And her daughter says, “Thanks!”  And she goes back to the dining room table to continue her homework.

A minute later her daughter comes running to her mom - excited - and  says, “Mom there is money in this Bible. Lots of money. All 20 dollar bills.”

Her uncle had but a 20 dollar bill at the beginning of each book of the Bible.

There’s an advantage of the Catholic Bible over the Protestant Bible. The Catholic Bible has 73 books and the Protestant Bible only 66 books.

Continuing Education: Learn a Lesson from your wedding gifts.


I’m sure you also heard the story called, “Appointment with Love” or “The Rose.”

It’s a story written by S.I. Kishor. It appeared in Collier’s Magazine in 1943. I’ve seen it in one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well. I found it on line. Here it is.

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the girl with the rose.

His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding.

Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like. When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting — 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York. "You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."

So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen. A young woman was coming toward him, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. He started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As he moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured. Almost uncontrollably he made one step closer to her, and then he saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.

The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. He felt as though he were being split in two, so keen was he desire to follow the girl, yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own. And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. He did not hesitate. His fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify him to her. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which he had been and must ever be grateful. He squared his shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while he spoke he felt choked by the bitterness of his disappointment. "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"

The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!" 

That’s the story as is....

Continuing Education:  Learn a Lesson from the Writing in the Library Books.


I was living in Lima, Ohio, where I worked out of for 8 ½ years, before I came here to Annapolis. For about 25 weeks a year, Tom, the priest I was working with, and I, would head for a different parish - to spend a week there preaching a parish mission.

It was a wonderful experience learning about mid-America, soybeans, corn, rural life. The big 3 were: family, religion and sports.

Well, one Saturday afternoon Tom and I are traveling from Lima to Leipsic or some other small town in Northwest Ohio. I’m driving and Tom is sitting next to me as we headed for another small town - another small parish. He says, “I’m preaching at the 5 PM Mass and I have 3 stories. Which of these three should I use.”

So he reads out loud the 3 stories. I screamed when he finished: “The second one - obviously.

So at that Mass I heard him tell the story about the chip in the dish a second time.  I thought it was a great story. It goes somewhat like this.

Two women - both farm wives would sit down once a week and have a cup of tea - and share stories about their lives.

This one Thursday afternoon the visitor just happens to look into the dining room and notice that it’s all set up for company.

“Ooops,” the visitor says, “I didn’t know you were going to have company tonight. I’m out of here.”

“No. We’re not having company. Once a month we have a fancy family meal and I pull out all the stops. Come into the dining room and let me show you this great collection of old plates that I have.”

“Why keep them in a cabinet  behind glass?”

And she explained the origins of all kinds of plates - one going back to a great, great, great grandmother.

At the end of the table - where she would sit - was a plain while plate. “And this is my favorite plate of all.”

Her guest seemed puzzled - because the plate was so plain - and it had a chip in it.

“Let me explain my favorite plate. I was 17 at the time and my 3 brothers and my dad were out haying and one of my brothers had a friend with him - a good looking guy - whom I had never met before.”

“Well, all came in for supper and they put him right next to me - knowing I’d get nervous.”

“Then they were giving me the eye - trying to make me blush.”

“They told me once to fill his glass with water - because they were going back out for two more hours of work after supper. So I filled it nervously - not wanting the ice cubes to come flying out and causing a splash.”

“Well, as I was putting the heavy water pitcher back down on the table I banged my plate and caused this chip.”

“I said, ‘Oops!’ hoping nobody noticed that I chipped the plate. I moved the water pitcher right next to the edge of my plate.”

“I thought I got away with it, till the moment the men were about to go back to the fields. One of my brothers said, ‘Aren’t you going to say, “Good bye” to Frank.”  Well as I shook his hand,  he placed in my palm the small chip that had come out of my plate.”

Then she said, “Well, that chip is upstairs right now in my jewelry case. It’s the most precious thing in there. And a year later we were married.”

Continued Education: Learn a lesson for chipped or broken dishes.


My last story hasn’t been written yet. It goes something like this.

I was walking down the side aisle of St. Mary’s Church the other day and I spotted this missalette.

Take a look at it. It’s a disaster - no front of back cover. It’s missing some back pages. And some pages in the back are folded.

I picked it up and said to myself, “There’s a story here. There’s a lesson here.”

It made if from last Advent till today - 2 weeks before Advent. Why is this one so beaten up and others are still perfect?

What are some possible messages? You can’t tell a book by its cover.  Even though it’s all beaten up - some people still saw it’s the same as a perfect one and used it Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Anybody who has kids know that kids mess up furniture - and break things - and I’m sure many a missalette kept many a kid busy for a Mass.  Did someone come to Mass with a dog?  Was it used as a door stop? Did anyone refuse to use it. It has the same insides - except for some heavy duty aging and rips - as the neat dark red rose covered ones?

Does everyone want to be with the beautiful gal in the light green suit?
What do I look like after a life time of use? Am I like this crushed ripped missalette or like those still neat inside plastic almost brand new missalettes?

You can’t tell a book by its cover.

Continuing education.... What’s the lesson of the ripped missalette?


The title of my homily and the theme of my stories for today is: Continuing Education: Learn the Lessons from all that surrounds me in this classroom called the World.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015


I have meditated most while standing
at the railing of a big ship looking down
deep into the grey, blue ocean, below.

Moby Dick, lost big ships, the Titanic,
sharks, giant squid, a million billion tiny
forms of life squirming and swimming below.

Are they right - those who say - we’ve
evolved from out of the sea. Quite possible since
the ocean takes up from than 70% of this planet.

And who was it who said, marriage and the ocean
are the two main metaphors for You our God?
Meditating, I ask, “Which do You prefer my Love?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015