Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11, 2015


The one who grows up hearing drums
gets it. The one who doesn’t, is often
disturbed by the drum, drum, drum
of drums.  In time - during a dance,
or during a doctor’s exam of one’s
heart - sometimes the one who didn’t
grow up with drums finally gets it.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
December 10, 2015


Don’t forget to listen.
Don’t forget to say, “Thank you.”
Don’t forget to pack without distractions.
Don’t forget to look besides using your rear view mirrors.
Don’t forget to eat smart.
Don’t forget that God is underneath this whole enterprise.
Don’t forget the next generation.
Don’t forget to forgive.
Don’t forget to say, “I love you.”
Don’t forget that there are consequences.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015
December 9, 2015


I have found that “Ugh!” and “Bummer”
are two key words to say at funerals
and disasters - like divorce and when
families give each other the silent
treatment. “Ugh!”, “Bummer!” I’ve been
making those two blurts more than
saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.”
I’ve yet to hear anyone reply “Ugh”
or “Bummer” when I don’t make that
"keeping you in my prayers comment."

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015



The title of my homily for this Feast of the Immaculate Conception is, "Do Not Be Afraid."

It's one of life's big messages. Parents and coaches and teachers tell kids that every day. "Don't be afraid."

Don't be afraid.  I won't be too long. Some of you got to get back to work. I got to pack - do a bunch of things - and catch the bus with some of our kids for a 4 day high school Kairos Retreat.


If there is any message in the Bible - both Old and New Testaments, it's this: Don't be afraid."

Many stories seem to have angels who appear and say to various folks: "Don't be afraid."

It's a great message found in today's gospel from Luke.

In his very first chapter, the angel Gabriel says, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God."

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - the Patronal Feast of the United States for us Catholics.

So Mary hears in today's gospel, "Don't be afraid."


We all have fears.

Lately, if I am hearing folks - they have lots of fears.

Right now it's terrorism. 

Tomorrow it will be something else.

I was thinking, if you think you're afraid of Muslims, think about how afraid they are right now - both here and around the world.

We have a good family friend. His family is from Iraq. After September 11, he dressed in a poncho and he walked around making comments in Spanish. He went to M.I.T. and is an astrophysicist - but he was scared.


Mary had fears.

Joseph had fears.

It seems Jesus had fears in the desert - in the garden - and on the cross.

Jesus was one of us in all things but sins. I feel a tiny fear by saying Jesus had his fears. Could I be turned in by someone for saying such a thing?

Just a tiny fear.

Sometimes fears help - don't go down dangerous streets and alleys in the dark of night. Sometimes fears cripple us - for getting out of our comfort zones and make it to a better way of doing life.

Fears like snakes lurk, slide and slither through the jungle of our unconscious. We feel them in our minds with our headaches - our sweaty palms and foreheads.  When afraid, we put our hand to our heart - and sometimes we scratch the skin above our heart.

Today Pope Francis walked through the front door of St. Peter's - followed by Pope Benedict with cane in hand - perhaps with some fears - but hopefully with plenty of hope, they began a year of mercy.


First ask questions.

Secondly, walk with God. Pray.

December 8, 2015


Who knows where and when and all that
goes into a conception - whether it’s in us
or a little baby girl in a town called Nazareth?
Who knows how God and love and night
and day - dreams and hopes for the future
flow and fly through space and eternity? 
You got to ask questions and trust in God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015



The title of my homily for this Second Monday in Advent is, “There is ugly.”


Hans Christian Andersen [1805-1875] wrote fairy tales - over there in Denmark. The one tale many people remember is the story of the Ugly Duckling - which he dreamed up in 1842. Later on in life he said it was the story of his life.

I spotted this in Wikepedia, “In reviewing Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life by biographer Jens Andersen, British journalist Anne Chisholm writes ‘Andersen himself was a tall, ugly boy with a big nose and big feet, and when he grew up with a beautiful singing voice and a passion for the theater he was cruelly teased and mocked by other children’. The ugly duckling is the child of a swan whose egg accidentally rolled into a duck's nest.”

The little duckking is born and all the other animals in the barn yard called it “Ugly” - so it stayed alone - and tried to stay clear from the bullying in the barnyard.

It escaped and had to deal with winter and aloneness. One day she saw a flock of swans - but she was too small, too young, to fly away with them.

A farmer took the ugly duckling in - but the kids were too noisy and too  rough so the Ugly duckling wandered away again - till she saw a flock of swans.

By now the Ugly Duckling had grown and matured and she’s in a pond and she sees herself in her reflection. She is beautiful.  With that she joins the community of swans.


In today’s readings we have this story in another translation.

In the first reading it’s the earth - which was a desert - which is ugly. That is till it bloomed - till it flowered - till it blossomed. 

In the first reading it’s the desert that is ugly, till its dry river beds start to flow. Pools are filled with water. The dangerous jackals, and lions disappear. Joy and gladness are heard - sorrow and morning flee.  

In the first reading it’s Israel that is ugly - that is till the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap like a stag, the mute sing.

In the gospel we hear the story of the Ugly Duckling in the story of the paralyzed man. His friends carry him to Jesus. They run into a wall of people around the house Jesus is in. So they go up on a roof - remove the tiles - and lower him down by a stretcher right into the middle of the room. There he is on the floor looking up at Jesus.

Despite some bullies who are after Jesus, Jesus heals this paralyzed man and forgives him his sins - and the man goes home celebrating - his new found legs and freedom.

In the meanwhile bullies still exist.


Today’s readings can become us.

The Ugly duckling story can become us.

Our world can change. Our surroundings can change.

The Bad and the Ugly can become the Good.

When I was on the Lower East Side as a young priest, I used to walk by an ugly lot. An apartment used to be there - but it fell in and was removed. Next came garbage, toilet bowls, shopping carts, mattresses and tons of junk. The only thing growing there were weeds.

Well, a group of people decided to clean it up. They got permits and permissions. Then they brought in trucks and they removed the junk. They planted grass and trees and flowers. They put in some benches. They put in a neat garden. It was no longer an ugly eye sore.

Well the obvious message is we can do this with our homes, our lives, our neighborhood, our world.


The title of my homily was, “There Is Ugly.”

I was going to add, “There Is Beautiful Too.”

Then when I was reading about Hans Christian Andersen, I found out that he was going to title his story, “The Young Swans” - but no, he called it, “The Ugly Duckling” - for surprise and for suspense.
December 7, 2015


Yes, they are cold - and the blankets
weren’t working - so I couldn’t sleep
till somehow I warmed these feet. So I
got out of bed, called you up, and said,
“I’m sorry!” Got back to bed. It worked.
What I was scared to do for 3 months
and 3 days, I did and warmed up my
feet in the walking to the phone and
hearing you say, “Thank you!” And  I
woke up this morning with the peace
I hadn’t felt in 3 months and 3 days.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015



The title of my homily for this Second Sunday in Advent - Year C - is, “This Is My Prayer.”

I saw that comment in today’s second reading. Paul says the following in a Letter to the Christian Community in Philippi - which is part of Greece,

“And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more 
in knowledge and every kind of perception, 
to discern what is of value, 
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 
filled with the fruit of righteousness 
that comes through Jesus Christ 
for the glory and praise of God.”

Those words, “And this is my prayer….” triggered for me a series of questions:

·       “Do I have a prayer? A deep inner ongoing prayer?”
·       “If I do, what is it?”
·       “Are their various inner deep prayers that I have?”
·       “If I have an inner prayer, have I changed it through the years?”
·       “What are other people’s prayers, if they have an inner ongoing prayer?”


Let’s take a closer look at St. Paul’s prayer.

I would rewrite it. Greek New Testament sentences tend to be long and have few periods.

Paul prays that those he is writing to have an increase of more and more love in their lives. Good. Don’t we all want more and more love in our lives. That’s a good prayer.

But Paul refines what kind of love he’s talking about:  in how they know life and how they perceive what’s going on around them in their lives.

Next he prays that those he is writing to discern - figure out - understand -  grasp - what is of value - that is, that they are pure and blameless and do what is right till they meet Jesus Christ. And lastly that they do everything for the glory and praise of God. Those of you who went to Jesuit schools know that’s the Jesuit motto: AMDG - “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” - “For the greater Glory of God.”  Isn’t that what athletes are doing when they make a great catch or hit or basket. [Gesture: the point towards the heavens.]

So Paul is giving us a handful - a mindful - of basic prayers there….

Love - knowing and seeing what’s right and of value - and doing all for the glory and praise of God. Good prayer. Good prayers.


I’m going to end my homily this morning by asking all of us: do I have a basic prayer - and if I do, what is it?

I did my homework on this yesterday. I ask you to do your homework on all this today and this week.  Right now my prayer would be for peace in the world. Enough with the shootings. Enough with the wars.  Enough with the bloodshed. Enough with the craziness.

The other day when the San Bernadino killing stuff was coming in and as I was watching the news,  I was hoping [Hoping was the word I was using. Is hoping a prayer?] I was hoping that the killers were not Moslems. They mentioned there were three.  Then I  sensed that some TV commentators were hoping they were Moslems or Isis. I’m not sure of this - but I sensed they were saying that. I said this out loud to a couple of folks and they were hoping the same thing: that they were not Moslems.

Obviously, this is horrible stuff - and we wouldn’t want anyone to be doing this.

What would it be like to be living in Syria or Northern Iraq? I’m sure the majority of folks there - Christians and Moslems - are hoping and praying for peace - security - and an end to violence. What happened here in one day is happening every day in some places in our world.

So is that my answer to my first question which is: Do I have an ongoing deep inner prayer?

As I thought about all this - and these are just first draft thoughts and questions, I realized that I don’t think that’s my inner ongoing prayer. But the other day and recently that was my current inner prayer.

I sense that my ongoing prayer is different.


I’m hearing and reading and noticing that it looks like our Church numbers are down.

I have  also been hearing lately that we have to reach those who have dropped out as well as the unchurched - and we need to come up with programs to do just that.

I heard of one parish in Pennsylvania who were asking for volunteers to stuff letters - letters of invitation - to folks who are not going to church to come back home this Christmas - no questions asked.

I would like to know how many people who have dropped out - got that thought to come back home to Church when Pope Francis was on TV - 24/7 - visiting the United States September 22 to   27, 2015.

That hope triggers for me a sense of what my inner prayer is. It’s for people to have faith - faith in God - that the Lord be with them.

Pope Francis keeps using the word “mercy” - which means “kindness” and “understanding”, “forgiveness”. It means “welcome home” - as in the Prodigal Son story.

I have gone crazy inwardly when priests make digs - sandpaper quips -stupid comments to folks in church on Ash Wednesday - Easter - and Christmas - to once or twice a year Catholics. I want to scream out, “Welcome!”

I began to notice at weddings and funerals that folks would say afterwards: “Now that wasn’t too bad.” Better folks in the back of church after weddings and funerals would say, “I might be coming back to church Father.”

So I have found myself praying for folks at weddings and funerals that God makes sense to them - that faith and hope and trust in God - as part of their life - is triggered.

So this Christmas give your seat to those who look lost - who are looking for room in this Inn.


I’ve been saying and reading and hearing how we have been moving into a period called “post-Christianity” - for many Catholics and Christians.

That means they are not seeing life with the Christian  and Catholic value system that they were given.

As I was working on this homily yesterday, I remember first hearing this about France - when I was in the major seminary in the 1960’s. I was hearing the phrase “France Pagan” - that less than 10 % of the people of France were going to church.

I heard mention of a book entitled, France Pagan - which I saw but never read. I looked it up in preparing this homily. It was entitled, France Pagan: The Mission of Abbe Henri Grodin. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s he was in on Worker - Priest movement. Pope John 23 of all people suppressed this movement. Pope Paul VI started it again. Then it was stopped again.

Abbe Henri Grodin used the phrase “the deChristianization of Europe”.

The message he screamed was to reach out to the French working class. What better way than to get out of the rectory and get into the working places.

I remember my first day in my first assignment as a priest. I put down my suitcase to shake hands with my first pastor and he said within one minute pointing to the floor of the rectory: “Andy, this is not the parish. It’s out there in the streets and homes of this neighborhood.”  I became a priest to go to Brazil - but here I was on the Lower East Side of Manhattan - right in East Village - and along with Haight Asbury in San Francisco - it was the center of the whole thing called, “The Hippie Revolution.”

It was right after Vatican II and that meant nothing to all kinds of folks I bumped into all through those few streets called, “Most Holy Redeemer Parish.”

I noticed as I read about this stuff yesterday mention of another book, Not Cassocks  But Coveralls. It had the same message: be out there with the people.

Last month we had a province meeting - a convocation - and one of the speakers was Bishop Joe Tobin - who was our former Rector Major in Rome. He’s now Archbishop of Indianapolis. Talking about coveralls, he told the story about when he was pastor in our church - Most Holy Redeemer in Detroit - that he was in his coveralls working on a toilet of a poor lady in the parish. Joe can fix anything. Well, he gets it fixed - walks back to the rectory and they tell him, Mother Teresa is down the street in her nun’s place there and she wants to see you. He say, “I got poop all over these coveralls - and I gotta change and take a shower first.” “Nope,” they said, “right now. She wants to see you right now.”  So he meets Mother Teresa, he told us, in his poop and coveralls. I loved the story. I never liked pomp and circumstance. Now I’m going to restate that: I like poop and circumstance. And isn’t that what Pope Francis told bishops and priests?  Be out there with the people. Smell like the sheep.

So I have to think about all this. Do I end up doing what Father Eddie Byrne did when I was working on the Lower East Side. His parish was very poor so he drove a taxi cab at night. The last and probably only job I had in life was working one summer during college delivering Coca Cola. That’s the real thing. Isn’t the call of the gospel to make all this real? Yes, we come to church, but real gospel life is to be lived out there with the people - at work and with their families.


So thinking about all this, my deepest prayer would be: Faith - faith in God - faith in Jesus Christ for us Christians - and Catholics.

What’s your deepest prayer?

These are just first draft thoughts on paper about all this. I sense this is what Paul was about. I sense this is what I hear lots of parents saying about their kids who have dropped out of Church - especially when they say, “I don’t know what my kids will do when the tough stuff of life hits them big time.” Or to say the same thing with a better translation - part of which I can’t say in church: “when the s_ _ _ hits the fan.”

December 6, 2015


Not only is there a Santa Claus,
but Christmas is 365 days a year -
that is if we come down chimneys
or slide through sliding doors and
gift those in our world with our gifts.
And - oops - if we laugh and are
merry and bring Christ’s joy to our
world every day and in every way.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015
December 6 is the feast of
St. Nicholas
December 5, 2015


His hands were gnarled.
His step was slow.
He finally got to the folding chair up front.
He slowly opened his scuffed violin case.
He took out his violin slowly.
He seemed off key as he tried a few sounds.
He twisted a few string pegs.
He began to play and the whole room of
talking people became silent and listened
as tears rolled down as he played on 
their violin shaped hearts.

© Andy Costello Reflections, 2015