Friday, December 4, 2015




The title of my homily for this 1st Friday of Advent is, “Three Blind Mice.”

I want to preach on the theme of blindness.


Well, because that’s what hit me when I read today’s first reading and noticed the phrase from Isaiah 29:18:  “the eyes of the blind shall see.”  Then I read today’s gospel from Matthew 9: 27-31 about the two blind men who cried out to Jesus as he passed by, “Son of David, have pity on us.”


Because Matthew talks about two blind men, I began wondering about the nursery rhyme, “Two Blind Mice.”

I looked it on Google only to discover that the nursery rhyme is, “Three Blind Mice.”

Uh oh!

I did find mention of a play on Broadway from 1949 - entitled, “Two Blind Mice.”   It was about 2 women who ran a government office - the U.S. Government Office of Medicinal Herbs. It was cut by Congress - but not for these ladies - who kept it going for 4 more years - raising money from renting rooms and parking down below. They simply never answered the phone. It played from March 2, till July 16, 1949. It failed and folded - because as someone said, Samuel Spewack wrote and directed the whole thing. and was blind to any other suggestions.

Then I looked 3 Blind Mice and found that Wikipedia report very interesting.

Let me read - I can’t sing - the Nursery Rhyme, “Three Blind Mice.”

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

Like many of these nursery rhymes, there are various theories about their meaning. Is this one a dig at some king or queen? Is this one all about life?

At times we are like mice - running around - dashing from here to there with great fear?  Are we like the farmer’s wife - who like many folks - are scared of mice - but at times we have to face our fears and cut their tails off.

Is this a parable about Queen Mary who had 3 Bishops who were protesting against the Catholic Church blinded? In reality they were burnt to death. Is this about Protestants being blind? Supposedly this Queen Mary got the name, Bloody Mary - because under her queenship 280 to 300 protesters were killed.

Such theories exist. Queen Elizabeth who followed her had some Catholics killed - but far fewer. Henry VIII had a lot more killed than Queen Mary. During his 37 year reign 57,000 to 72,000 were executed. Some think these numbers are an exaggeration.


I choose this topic because it gets at the issue of blindness.

I choose it because it gets me to the story of the 2 blind men in today’s gospel.

These 2 men have a great prayer; “Son of David, have pity on us.”

It’s important to recognize and to state that we all need to take pity on ourselves and each other - that we are blind.

Listen to people. We’re all off on how blind, how stupid, others can be. They don’t know how to park. Then don’t know how to drive. They don’t use their turn signals. They are selfish, deaf, dumb and blind.

There is help. We can change. We can grow. We can learn to see.  We can say this because we have more than our eyes. We also have our mouth and our ears here on our head. They call all be used to communicate with each other. To ask others, “What are you seeing? What’s your opinion? What’s your take on this?”  Then to listen to each other - to see other’s view points - viewing reasoning.


I also noticed that Matthew when he talks about blind men, he has two scenes in his gospel about blind men calling out. Check out Matthew 9: 27 and Matthew 20:30. There is another scene when Matthew talks about 1 blind man: Matthew 12:22.

In Mark, Luke and John, it’s only 1 blind man.  And they use the pronoun I and me!

Check out Mark 8:22 and 10:46 and Luke 18:35 and John 9.

Matthew is later than Mark, so I wondered if Matthew has an agenda here about community versus individuals. We instead of me.


Let me come with a conclusion.

After admitting I, we are blind - like 3 blind mice - to pray the prayer of the 2 blind men in today’s gospel, “Son of David, have pity on us!”

To take a rosary and say that prayer on each of the 59 beads, “Son of David! Have pity on us.”

Or just the last part, “Have pity on us.”

Or the prayer of Bartimeus - “Lord, that I might see.”

Ooops change it to: “Lord, that we might see.”

December 4, 2015


Water: oceans, lakes, rivers….
Water: 71 % of the earth.
Water: there is a saltwater ecosystem 
and a freshwater ecosystem with varing amounts of salt and nutrients - fish 
and plants in these waters.
Water: glimmer, shake, waves,
but sometimes stillness - able
to hold boats afloat and fish
below. Water: we might be the
only "best bet" water planet,
so we better watch what we do 
with our waters - lest we kill
what is giving us life along with
the air, sun and soil. Human 
beings self destruct - they commit 
suicide - so we better be careful 
on how we use our water. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections on the Bay, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3, 2015


I hadn’t seen her in at least 10 years.

When I saw her I wondered, “What happened?”

Growing up she had such a pretty face - a great
smile, one dimple - no acne - just joy and radiance.

Now a scowl ran the whole scene. Her whole
face was tight and hard. I felt an, “Uh oh!”

I sort of whispered to someone, “What happened to so and so?”

After a pause and a look around the room in
the funeral parlor, I found out what might have
happened. Woo. It was anger.  It was worse
than what a razor blade or tossed acid
could do to what was once a pretty face.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Painting on top by
Stacey Gammon Fine

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2, 2015


I’ve been hearing this word, “backstory”
in the past few years - but I can’t find its
backstory - other than research found its
earliest use in 1984. There had to be
another word or words to describe what we
all want to know - the backstory instead of stabbing people in the back with our stories about what we thought really happened.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

December 1, 2015


The rush month - whether we want it or not….

Sorting things out after Thanksgiving…..

Christmas cards start arriving daily ….

At least a dozen, “Oh no’s!”

Invitations… invitations … invitations….

Traffic, traffic, traffic, traffic, back up’s….

Party …. Party …. Party …. Party ….

Shopping …. Shopping …. Shopping ….

Gifts - searching for the perfect gift for ….

Church services … some nice songs ….

The Salvation Army bell and cash ….

Snow - not yet this year - now that would slow us down ….

Slowly Mary and Joseph arrive by donkey ….

And Christ appears in our world …. ready or not.

And the Mass in the word Christmas - becomes “Oh! Now I get it."


Painting of St. Andrew 
the Apostle,
by Artus Wolffort, 

The title of my homily for this feast of St. Andrew the Apostle is, "What's With Your Name?"

At the beginning of the baptismal ceremony for a baby,  the priest or deacon asks the parents, "What name do you give your child?"

I always like to ask, "Is there a special reason for this name?" "Is there a grandparent with that name or what have you?"  

In other words, "Why this name?" Basically I'm asking, "What's With Your Name?" Hence: the title of this homily.

Sometimes parents just like the sound of the name - like yesterday - I baptized a little baby girl: "Serena."  It was Serena Cassandra. Serena as in serene. Nice.

I once read: when picking the name of a child, go out on the back porch and scream, "Serena ... or Charlie ... get in here."  If it sounds right, go for it.


Today, November 30th, is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. Every year on this day folks say to me, "Happy Feast Day."

I used to say, "I wasn't named after St. Andrew the Apostle, but St. Andrew Avellino - because I was born on his feast day." I just say, "Thank you." 

Lucky for me, I like the name Andrew. I'm glad I didn't get Avellino for a middle name. 

Yet I like St. Andrew Avellino. And I didn't like that he was dumped from the church calendar and replaced by St. Leo - the Great - a pope. So I prefer St. Andrew Avellino over Pope Leo - even though Leo got the added title - "The great."

St. Andrew Avellino was an Italian priest and preacher and writer. His dates were 1521  to 1608. He's the Patron Saint of Naples and Sicily. Our founder of the Redemptorists - St. Alphonsus Liguori was a big Neapolitan Saint. Moreover, Alphonsus like St. Andrew Avellino - was both a canon and civil lawyer. St. Alphonsus started the Redemptorists in 1732 - and in 1731 - the letters of St. Andrew Avellino were published in Naples. If you read St. Alphonsus, you'll notice that he liked  to quote Andrew Avellino. 


Next at my baptism my dad added to that Andrew, the name, "Jackson" - the 7th president of the United States - and the guy on the 20 dollar bill. 

Andrew triggered Jackson....

He told me there was a story that was heard from the pulpits in Ireland while growing up - that the 7th president of the United States - would have been Catholic - if there were more priests from Ireland who would have gone to Southern United States. Not enough went, so many Irish Catholics lost their Catholic faith as a result. I've thought at times, "Maybe I should have asked to work in the south. I had asked to go to Brazil - but didn't get that. Would have I been stationed in our Richmond vice province if I had asked to go there?"


Now, even though I like St. Andrew Avellino, I do like the apostle Andrew. 

But the gospel story I like is from the Gospel of John - not the one I just read from the Gospel of Matthew. 

In Matthew he's with his brother Peter and Jesus walks along the edge of the Lake of Galilee and calls these 2 brothers to come with Jesus to fish for people.  In the Gospel of John, he's the one who meets Jesus first and asks Jesus some questions - hangs with Jesus for a while - and the next day says to his brother Peter, "We have found the messiah. Let me bring you to meet him."

I like to see Andrew as the patron saint of bringing people to Jesus.

I want to do that with my life.

I like to hear in people's conversion story about how someone at work or some stranger - got some person - to come to Jesus. 

That would be enough.


Today on the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle I'm asking you, "What's with your name? Why did those who named you, choose your name?"

I'd also challenge all of us to bring people to Jesus like St. Andrew the Apostle did. Amen.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015


God, sometimes I can’t help it.
I get pulled back to yesterday or
I get pushed ahead into tomorrow.

I’m watching re-runs and re-plays
of comments made yesterday or
I’m into next weeks if only’s.

God of the Present Moment - help me
to see how this t-bag just changed this
cup of hot water into tea today - right now.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015



The title of my homily is, “Trap!”   T  R  A  P

It’s a word and a warning in today’s gospel - for this First Sunday in Advent.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” (Luke 21: 34)


The ideas and images in today’s readings are big time, world ending, catastrophic, scary, written in Apocalypse Now language.  They are readings we hear every year - at the end of every Church year - and at the beginning of a new Church year - every Advent - which starts today.

Back in the Early Church - when these New Testament texts were written - between 50 and 115 A.D. - times were quite dangerous - especially for Christians - this new movement - and new way of doing life. But times were also difficult and dangerous for everyone - especially the little people - the poor and the powerless.

Are there any periods in the history of the world - when crazy, horrible things - were not happening? Are we any different today - than any other period in history - except today we have more people and TV news - 24-7 - and we have to fill in those TV hours with shootings and killings - and comments by one person who wants to trump another person - and gain political power and prestige or what have you?


I rather go small - go personal - when it comes to traps.

This Advent - this Sunday - this moment - to ask and to look at: what are the traps we get ourselves into? What are the traps in our lives that kill us  - drain us - destroy us - drag us down toward the ground?

Food - overeating - poor eating? Drinking too much? Rushing too much?

Relationships?  Other people?  Family?  Saying too much? Saying the wrong thing? Breaking confidences? Lies. Bragging? Embellishments? And our words come back to haunt us and we say, “I should have kept my trap shut.”


In my first assignment as a priest in 1967 - I was asked to say something about marriage - and it hit me loud and clear - that I knew nothing - nothing - absolutely nothing about marriage.

Lucky for me, in The New York Daily News that morning - in the Inquiring Photographer Section - the question was asked, “What are the main problems or traps in marriage?”

4 or 5 people were interviewed. Next to their picture - their answers to the Inquiring Photographer’s question - were given.

One person said, “The 3 biggest problems in marriage are money, sex and in-laws.”

I’ve been repeating that answer for the past 50 years. Are they the 3 biggest traps in marriage? Answer: they are for some and I assume they have been the daily news for many people since Cave Man and Cave Woman times.

Next time you’re in the doctor or dentist’s office,  check the popular magazines sitting there. In Reader’s Digest and O and various women’s magazines [it seems to me that they read more than us men] you’ll find at least one good article about traps.


Pause for a moment and remember a moment when you felt trapped.

What did it feel like?

It was a moment when we were nervous, sweating, felt some panic.

It was a moment when we felt dumb - when we said to ourselves, “Dumb, dumb, dumb!” “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” “Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh!”

Then we add, “I do this every time.”  Then we add, “When will I ever learn?”

“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”  “Dumb, dumb, dumb!”


When trapped, then come the prayers and the curses.

“God help me. God help me!” Or simply, “Help, help, help!”

I think the curse, “God damn it!” at times - is not big time blasphemy - but sometimes a prayer. It’s a prayer when we want God to take away the bad - dam it - block it - and give us the good.

However, it’s not a prayer, but a curse when we are blaming another for the mess we got ourselves into - and we start playing the blame game - instead of working on recovery and redemption for ourselves.

I believe it can become a deep dream for God to come and help us - and it can get us into the center of Christianity.

Did you notice - did you hear - that sentence in today’s gospel, “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Problem - solution!

Advent gets us into this issue of help.

We sing, “O come, Oh come Immanuel!”

Advent leads us to Christmas - when Christ comes to us as a baby!

In some traps - we have to take baby steps for recovery.

I see that loud in clear in 12 Step Programs.

Easy does it. One step at a time. One day at a time.

We have to become humble and like a little baby.  We need a sponsor, a parent figure, counseling  to get us back on our feet again. We need to meet and learn to talk our first sensible words - for years or for life again.

Christ comes as a baby each Christmas.

I’ve seen males - mostly males - change - when they have a child to care for - to raise - and the baby changes them - the sacrifices one has to make to care for a helpless needing to have diapers changed baby.

Matthew and Luke - in their beginning pages - have Jesus appearing as a baby.

Mark has Jesus showing up at the edge of our lake - at the edge of our job - and challenges us. Jobs, work, also change people - especially when they see the values of Christ being or not being at issue in the workplace.

John has Jesus showing up in our words - “And the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

Sorry to say I see a post-Christianity happening - when Christ and Church and Christ’s vision on how to live life - is disappearing.

I notice that my nieces all got married in Church - and I did their marriages - and now I see the next generation after them - getting married in beautiful places of nature - in non-Church settings - and I’m wondering what’s happening.

One niece told me - she’s not here I hope - otherwise I opened my trap again - that her Sunday morning nourishment and life giver is tennis with friends and then a great conversation with coffee afterwards. I don’t want some guy in a pulpit telling me what to do. I said nothing when she said this - but I listened and I think about all these things.

I’m wondering if the numbers are down at Masses here at St. Mary’s and St. John Neumann’s.

I will be watching for research and numbers on all this. In the United States, we’ve certainly seen the Sunday numbers go down on all this. I've read that it's between 38% to 28% of Catholics who attend Sunday Mass. 

I've been noticing that some folks are going 2 or 3 Sundays per month. 

I have been in favor of changing the words, as someone put it, from “Holy Day of Obligation” to “Holy Day of Opportunity or Grace” - and to change “Sunday Obligation” to “Sunday Opportunity”. Of course, various church folks would object to that way of thinking and theologizing. 

I rather see people at Mass because they want to be here as opposed to feel they have to be here. I hear people state the reason they go to Mass - as “under pain of mortal sin” or “I can’t receive communion till I have gone to confession.” 

I'm still thinking about all this - because obligation gets some people to Mass - till they change their attitude and go out of love of God and the Church community.

I rather stress Sunday Mass as a chance to pause - as well as taking walks and taking in great places of nature - to ponder life - and to see how my life is going - and by doing these religious and spiritual practices - I find myself walking with God more - and watching and avoiding the traps of life more - and I’m becoming  a better family person - and a better workplace person.


Advent is here.

Advent means the coming of Christ.

Advent means preparing for the coming of the Lord again, again and again.

Emmanuel means God with us - so each Advent we sing loud and clear, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

And with God with us - Christ - we are getting help avoiding the traps of life.
November 29, 2015


Not the rubber or red ink machine pressed type,
but the ones with the glue on their behind   - the
ones licked or stuck onto an envelope. That kind.

Then they are on their way - to pay a bill, to say
a “Thank you” or a “Happy  Birthday” or “Get well.”
or “You’re invited to …. RSVP” or an  “I’m sorry.”

Then the amusement park type ride on conveyer
belts and scanners - then the truck ride - bumps,
jostling, to an address - to a mail box or P.O. Box.

Finally comes the moment that the stamp is silently
getting paid to do: the arrival in someone’s mail
hand, then the rip, the slit, the opening of the mail.

Good News: “It’s a girl! 7 pounds, 3 ounces” - along
with a picture of the darling. Bad News: “Joe passed
away this past Wednesday, Keep us in your prayers.”


© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015