Saturday, December 26, 2015


 [This Sunday  the  Church  celebrates  the Family - calling each family to be a Holy Family. Here is a list of 10 blessings - amongst others - that a family ought be giving to each other. If I see at least one of you reaching [GESTURE] for a ballpoint pen to jot one of these down, that would make my day. I’ll  put this on my blog - which you can access from the parish web site. If you check out and reflect upon all 10, that too would make my day, but only if you  would take and make at least one of these 10 blessings a challenge and a call for you to put it into practice in the New Year - because you want to make your family even better - holier. Amen.]

Number One:  A family is a place where one learns one’s first words, first language. “Ma Ma” - “Da Da” - “Look!” -  “Want” -  “Need” - “Help” - “No” - “Yes” - "More" - “Love” - "Please! Please!" and “I’m sorry.”  May the words and language spoken here in our home - be words of love and kindness, gentleness and joy, giving and forgiving.  

Number One: The words we learned and the words we use.

Number Two: A family is a place of memories and stories - history, herstory, moments, incidents, time together, experiencing the twists and turns of life - where one is creating one’s unwritten autobiography - and reading the unwritten biography of those with us on the same shelf - the same house - that we are together in.  As someone once said, “When an old person dies, it’s as if a library burnt down.” 

Number Two: We are history books - in process - becoming who we are page by page. We are talking books - hopefully taking the time to read - to listen to - to talk to each other.

Number Three: A family is a place where not only mom and dad are honored, so too grandparents, visitors, the little ones - teenagers -  and ourselves as well.  

Number Three: A place of honor.

Number Four: A family is a place where people know the difference  between an argument, a disagreement, a spat - compared to an angry tirade that can leave acid spill at the table, the bedroom, the heart - where kids know the difference between a pillow fight and a real fight. 

Number Four: There are fights and there are fights.

Number Five: A family is the starting place where one learns the ability to compromise, readjust, reconsider,  renegotiate, recalculate - because one has seen these attitudes and qualities in the ones above us - instead of experiencing others who are unwilling to adjust or change or recalculate. 

Number Five: Learning to compromise.

Number Six: A family is a place where members learn to laugh and love - love being with one another -  wanting to be with each other - not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas - but 365 days a year for those in the same house - 52 times a year - for those who have moved into new families - new homes - using “techie” stuff well - for communication at a distance - and turned off when up close - like at the dinner table. It’s a place where people eat with other - and eat up each other - seeing the sacredness of the family table - receiving in communion the other - if Christian, seeing each other as the Body of Christ and saying "Amen" to Christ within the other.  

Number Six: Experiencing the Real Presence of each other.

Number Seven: A family is a place where one learns about faith and hope - in God and in one another - knowing the primary church is the home - where mom and dad are priests - and kids are parishioners - and members worship, pray, play with each other - and the classrooms and playgrounds in our homes are always open. 

Number Seven: A home is a church and a school.

Number Eight: A family is a place where the truth will set us free. It’s a place where we can be the real me - the real we.  It’s a place where we can be at home to each other - without masks or titles - walk around in t-shirt and sweat pants - but that doesn’t mean we can be PITA’s to each other. To make a family work, takes work. Go back and check  Number Six.  

Number Eight: A home is a place where we can become truly free - but that takes work.

Number Nine: A family is a place with a door - where people make significant - key - wonderful comments to each other - when another is leaving and when another is coming back home through that door - and those comments sculpt us into better and better persons. 

Number Nine: We’re aware of what is said coming and going in and out the door of our home.
Number Ten and Last: A family is a place where people learn to overlook, forgive, understand, accept differences and peculiarities, as well as sin - but the messy gets cleaned up, people try to speak better, be better, and learn to understand each other. A “Holy Family” does not mean a sculpture or statues of people with hands folded [GESTURE] as in prayer - but hands that clap for each other, hands with a deck of playing cards in hand, forks in hand, hand in hand, hands on shoulders, hands in prayer and support of each other. Amen. 

Number Ten: A family is a place where we are joined by hand and have to hand it to each other - generation after generation after generation.
December 26, 2015


’Twas the Day after Christmas,
when all through the house,
there were remnants of wrapping
and boxes and presents, glasses
and plates and every sort of just this 
and just that - just resting and sitting
there on tables and rugs, and under
the edges of chairs and the couch,
just here, just there, just everywhere.

So the Mrs. of the house, after just
this and just that - put on her coat
and got out of that house - quick
and quiet just like a mouse.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015



December 25, 2015


It is. It’s a wonderful life.
This baby that was born
in Bethlehem said, “I have
come that you might have
life and that you might life
it to the full.” He told us to
see the flowers of the fields
and the birds of the air and
to make sure you forgive
your brother and sister and
give them the shirt off your
back and glasses of cold
water - and to love them
as you love yourself. Do
this and you will live a
wonderful life. Try it.
Try me. Eat me up -
and be in communion
with everyone. Try it:
it’s a wonderful life.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015


[Since 1993  I’ve been writing a story for Christmas in memory of an old priest - a friend,  Father John Duffy - who died Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1993. He wrote a Christmas story every year for his niece - and I have continued that tradition. I had typed a few of them up for him. He was a horrible typist - and never got into computers. So here’s my Christmas story for this year - typed up - nice and neat - for you. It’s based on a few true stories. It has deep sadness in it, but I decided to go with it, because of some tough stuff I’ve heard from some people this year - people who need to hear Happy Endings.  So a story with just that title:  “Happy Ending.”]

When a baby is born, when a baby is baptized, when a little kid slides down the slide in the park -  mom, dad, sometimes slide into the future and wonder what will become of  this little one of ours.

Tom and Gladys didn’t expect what was to happen in their future when they slid into the stretch limo - that afternoon as they left church - after their picture perfect wedding ceremony and Mass.

Tom and Gladys - in time - had two kids - a boy and a girl. Tommy Jr. came first - then came Penny. Gladys didn’t like the name Gladys - never no how - and growing up said, “If I have a girl. She won’t be a Gladys. She went by her nickname “Glad” - even enduring - sometimes hearing - during her high school years, “Here comes Gladbag!” when she walked into class or onto the  soccer field.

Time slid on - as their kids grew up.  Tommy and Penny did well in school and sports - and bringing neat kids - friends - into their house - and into their lives.

Tommy Jr. went to college - but went by the way of R.O.T.C. and ended up in the army and ended up in Afghanistan. Penny went to college with a partial scholarship for soccer.

Tom Senior and Gladys adjusted to all of life’s changes up to then. Most were ups - and the downs were not that down.

Only Gladys or Glad was home when they came to the house to tell her that Thomas Jr. had been killed in Afghanistan. It was December 23rd, just two days before Christmas. An I.E.D., an Improvised Explosive Device killed him and two others in the vehicle  - they were in driving - down some dirty dusty road.

The glad obviously switched to sad.  The funeral was a daze - in that same church where Tom and Gladys were married 27  years earlier.

And then things got worse - much worse….

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are 5 and the Stations of the Cross are 14. Sometimes troubles double and then multiply.  Sometimes life  can be really tough - really rough. Sometimes life contains the stuff we don’t want to talk about - or think about - especially at Christmas time.

And everyone knows Christmas time can very, very merry - and for some - very, very lonely and sad.

Penny had gotten pregnant - but was on the other side of the country - and as a single mother struggled  - but she was stubborn and trying to make it on her own - a day at a time.

Her parents invited her back home over and over again - especially when her brother had been killed.

Penny - like her parents - didn’t take her brother’s death well - obviously. 

Tom and Gladys didn’t know it at the time - but Penny had slipped into heroin abuse. It started with pain killers after blowing out a second knee. The first knee went while playing soccer years and years ago. Being a single mother made things even tougher.

This time Tom - dad - husband - was the one who got the news that Penny was found dead - from an overdose of heroin. They didn’t see it coming.

How could she do it? Couldn’t she think, think, about her baby girl, Judy.

They flew out to where she was living and were able to start the preliminary paper work to acquire Penny’s little girl and bring her back home with them. They had a small, small funeral out there - because back home it would have been too much.

People who had experienced Tom Jr’s death and found it so difficult - when they heard about Penny’s death - were speechless. Yet close friends knew that silence, just standing there with either Tom or Gladys helps very deeply.

Thank God, Tom and Gladys now had a granddaughter, Judy, to raise.

Thank God, Tom and Gladys were still working - and Gladys was able to retire - early.

Thank God, Tom and Gladys had a good marriage. They worked on it.

They held onto each other. They put one foot in front of the other. They often went out for walks with each other. Now they could take their granddaughter with them on walks through the neighborhood and to the local park.  They made it through the night - and then through the days ahead.

In time they loved it when folks in the mall or the supermarket or outside church or at the park would say, “Wow you have such a beautiful daughter.”

They would smile and love to say, “Thank you.”

Judy grew more and more beautiful and kept her grandparents young.

When Judy was in the fifth grade,  Tom and Gladys had another surprise.

Judy became “BF” “best friend” with another fifth grader, Mary, from just up the street.

And these two became best friends for life.  In fact, when Judy got married years and years later, Mary was her maid-of-honor and Judy was her maid- of-honor when she got married - and Tom proudly walked both of them down the aisle as dad - when each got married.

What?  What happened? What happened here? Tom going down the aisle as dad for both Judy and Mary?

 Well, as Mary told me the story years later - here’s what happened.

It too was a very sad story - but it too has a happy ending.

You never know what’s going on inside that front door of the other houses on your street.

Mary’s parents were heavy alcoholics and when she would come down the stairs in the morning to go to school, there would be no breakfast - and often no parents. Sometimes she would spot them both passed out on the family room couch.

Mary would get dressed by herself - put on her back pack with her books and walk up the  street and up the front steps to Judy’s house. The door was always open in the morning for Mary. Gladys made sure of that.

Then - as Mary told me - with an amazing smile of joy on her face: “Mrs. Glad would get me breakfast, comb my hair, clean me up, give me a nice morning kiss on the top of my head - and get me ready for the day.”

Then looking back on all this, Mary told me, that what Mrs. Glad did for me saved my life. And Mr. Glad did too. My dad disappeared along the line. He left us. And so Mr. Glad gladly walked me down the aisle when I got married as well.

She also said the following. It was around Christmas time. She didn’t know she was giving me my Christmas story. Mary said, “One door was closed - like the Inn in the Christmas Story - but another door was open - the house of Mr. and Mrs. Glad - like in the Christmas stable or cave story. Amen.”

December 24, 2015


No comparison….
There is no comparison between
a child’s Christmas - the waking up,
the rubbing of eyes - and then the
realization and the run - that there
are surprises under the Christmas tree
to be unwrapped - ripped open - that
wonderful sound - wrapped surprises -
boxes one has been feeling, shaking,
picking up - for at least 10 days now -
and then the photo shots by one’s 
parents of their kids kneeling at
the Christmas tree on Christmas morning….

No comparison….
There is no comparison between
a 55 and older’s Christmas - with all those
same memories - and so much more -
gifts - Christmas gifts - life time gifts that
one has been feeling, shaking, picking up -
for at least 50 years now - those photos
in one’s memory - sitting there looking at
the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23, 2015


We’re lucky - that is blessed  -
if we live with bells within ear reach.
They could tell us a church is nearby -
announcing when prayers or a Mass or
a marriage or a funeral was happening -
or someone has chimes on their porch
and the wind is passing by. If not, we're
not cursed - but we could buy a grand-father clock with bells or get to church. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015



The title of my homily for today, December 22, is, “Magnificent.”

Since we have Mary’s Magnificat as today’s gospel, the word and the theme of magnificent hit me.

What would it be like to have an ink pad and one of those rubber stamps with the word, “MAGNIFICENT” on it?

What would it be like to go into Office Depot orStaples and ask to have such a rubber stamp made up with that word “MAGNIFICENT” on it.

I wonder if the person at the counter would be surprised. They would have seen and sold standard rubber stamps with words like “FRAGILE,” “SEND,” “APPROVED,” “REJECTED,” and “FYEO - For Your Eyes Only.”

But the word “MAGNIFICENT,” I don’t know if they would have that.


Mary in her Magnificat stamps as magnificent the goodness of the Lord, the realization that the Lord spotted her - a lowly servant up there in the tiny village of Nazareth - that the Almighty has done great things for her, that God has shown mercy on those who fear him in every generation and on and on and on.

She rubber stamps God’s valuing the poor and God’s frustration with the rich and powerful who don’t do for the poor and the weak enough.


Looking at ourselves, looking at our neighbors, our parish and our world, what would we stamp as magnificent? Do this slowly and we might see moments we saw a beautiful sunrise or a forest of rich red Autumn leaves or the volunteers in the St. Vincent de Paul Society helping the poor.

We might stamp as a MAGNIFICENT moment seeing kids coming towards their Christmas presents on Christmas morning.

We might stamp as MAGNIFICENT being at marriages, baptisms, Thanksgiving dinners with a filled house - and anniversaries.

We might stamp as MAGNIFICENT a kid’s choir or an adult’s choir singing Christmas carols - or a mighty chorus singing Handel’s Messiah full blast.

We might stamp as MAGNIFICENT a funeral that was quiet, simple, sweet for a mom or a dad - or a big funeral like the one we had for Bernie Bernsten who was always here for this Tuesday morning 8 AM Mass.

I don’t know about stamping a big chocolate chip cookie in milk as MAGNIFICENT or a juicy pulled pork sandwich at Adam’s Ribs.  I don’t know about a team winning the National Championship, the World Series or the Super bowl or the Stanley Cup.

We have the mouth - we have the mind and the words - the eyes that see - and we could have an imaginary stamp to stamp anything we see as MAGNIFICENT. So it could be a great play - a great song  - a great meal - a great piano recital or violin solo - or a radical moment with God in prayer.

It could also be in French - MAG NI FIQUE - spoken with a hand gesture and with a kiss smack of the lips.


A test - some homework - a questionnaire:

Looking at our life, imagine yourself stamping 5 top moments from one’s life with the word “MAGNIFICENT” on it - especially moments that were full of grace - and the Lord was with us.

Looking at our life, with an imaginary rubber stamp, stamp the word "MAGNIFICENT" on 5 people who have been "MAGNIFICENT" to us and for us.

December 22, 2015


Flute, lute, piano notes, sweet sounds,
float out open windows - go through
walls and skin and into ear drums and
message and massage the human
heart and we scream, “Life must
go on and on and on forever and a day.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015



The title of my homily for December 21st in Advent is, “The Hail Mary! Savor it! Say it Slowly!”

I have a complaint - but I don’t want to make this a complaining homily.

The complaint is the rushing of prayers: like the Hail Mary.

Instead of complaining, I want to suggest a few things about saying the ancient prayer: the Hail Mary.

This is a very easy homily - because we all know and say the Hail Mary all the time.

So a homily entitled, “The Hail Mary! Savor it. Say it Slowly.”


Let’s begin with “Hail.”

It’s a greeting - a message - a connection - we say 100 times a day. It’s simply, “Hi!” or “Hello.”

In German, it’s “Heil!” We’ve heard that before.

So “Hi Mary!” I’ve never heard anyone who tried to modernize the Hail Mary to “Hi Mary!” - but “Hi” or “Hey” or “Hello” is what we’re saying. It’s the call to connect - to greet. It’s the beginning of communion and connection - be it long or short.

Next comes the other’s name. Who are the names of the persons in our communion - connection. Mom, dad, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends.

Name tags are an attempt to help communication.

I read somewhere that the number one word people who are in love say is the name of the person they love. They are saying it inwardly all the time.

I’ve been with many high school groups - and I've noticed that girls write the name of the kid they like, love, are after - 100 times on their note pads or loose leaf fillers. Men sometimes do the tattoo.

Full of grace comes next.  We’ve heard people say, “You’re full of baloney", etc. etc. etc. Mary is filled with grace, which means for starters: gifts - the gifts we need, especially, faith, hope and charity.

We’ve all heard someone begin talking to us - buttering us up - and we wonder what they want - what they want to eat up in us - probably our time.

Does Mary say back to us, “Okay what do you want?”

And in the Hail Mary we express what we want. Help - for us sinners - for our family - for health - for patience - for strength.

We add, “the Lord is with you!”  Translation: Mary, you can do it. You can help. You have the Lord on your side.

All those who think we think Mary is God - tell them we don’t. But we do think “The Lord is with her.”

And because of the Lord we think she is blessed among all women - because  blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus.

I noticed on the Democratic debate on Saturday night each candidate was asked about roles their spouse might take on if elected president. Fun was made of Bill Clinton if Hillary wins. Martin O’Malley our former governor - made a double blessing - that his wife, Katie, doesn’t need me to be delegated any duties - and besides that she gets her skills and gifts from her mother. One commentator said, “Smart move, praising not only his wife, but also his mother-in-law.”

So praise is key to the Hail Mary - not just prayers of petition.

We know the first part of the Hail Mary contains 2 scripture texts from here in the Gospel of Luke. We heard one here in today’s gospel.

We also know that by at least the 13th Century the Hail Mary was being used in the Western Church and had added two words, “Mary” and “Jesus” to make the prayer clearer. We see that in various writings. St. Thomas Aquinas is often mentioned for saying this.

We also know Part Two, the "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" - is first found in print by 1495 in Girolamo Savonarola’s “Esposizione sopra l’Ave Maria.”

We know that the Dutch Jesuit Saint, Peter Canisius - whose feast is today - has that second part of the Hail Mary in his 1555 catechism.

Scholars next say that it made its way into the Catechism of the Council of Trent 11 years late. Here’s the sentence in that Catechism. "we render to God the highest praise and return Him most gracious thanks, because He has bestowed all His heavenly gifts on the most holy Virgin ... the Church of God has wisely added prayers and an invocation addressed to the most holy Mother of God ... we should earnestly implore her help and assistance; for that she possesses exalted merits with God, and that she is most desirous to assist us by her prayers, no one can doubt without impiety and wickedness.”


So when saying the Hail Mary, say it slowly. Savor it. It has a long history.

Say it to Mary - not at Mary.

Didn’t Jesus - the fruit of her womb - say something like that - not babbling our prayers, but praying our prayers.

Let’s close with a Hail Mary.

December 21, 2015


Some worry about what will happen
when they die. Me: I go with two
Jesus stories. I’ll take either for
my entrance into heaven. There
was a wedding feast in Galilee
while down the road the Prodigal
Son was making his way home.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

[Cf. John 2: 1-11 - Luke 15: 12-32.]



The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year C, is, “Doctor Faust and Mary of Nazareth.”

I noticed in today’s gospel that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy when Mary came down from Bethlehem  to Jerusalem to help her cousin. Luke tells us that the baby in Elizabeth leaped for joy two times.

Moms - what is like the first time your baby moved in your womb?

What does that do for a mother to be?

Us men have no clue - at least I don’t - what that must do for a mom’s psyche - her spirits - her life - her spirituality - to feel the moving of a baby in her womb.

It got me thinking about Mary. What was that like when Jesus began to “kick” or “leap” in Mary’s womb? What were her thoughts and wonderings? I’m sure all of you here who have been moms know what those thoughts and wonderings are like.


For a homily I began to do some research. First I wanted to know what the Greek word was for  “leaped”. It is “skirtao”. Here in the gospel of Luke, this is the only place that image and word appears.

The baby kicks Elizabeth - jumps - moves - leaps - inside her womb. What a moving message and great image!

That image appears only once in the Bible. It’s when Rebecca is pregnant with twins.

Next I looked up if anyone else used that image of leaping - in some poem or play or story - somewhere. 

Surprise I found one in Christopher Marlow’s 1604 play, The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus

The leap doesn’t take place in a womb - but in the womb of the mind of Doctor John Faustus.

Next I wondered if using the idea of leaping in the womb of a woman like Elizabeth and Mary - if that leaping of the mind of Doctor Faustus - could be a contrast for some thinking in a homily.

I hesitated because if I do that, I’d be making quite a leap as well. If it doesn’t work - and I don’t pull it off - I’d have a pretty messy sermon - that is far-fetched. You be the judge.

So in Christopher Marlowe’s play on Doctor Faustus, he has Doctor Faustus wanting to leap!

Christopher Marlowe took an old legend about a man named Faust who sold his soul to the devil for 24 years of power over everything. He makes the deal and the rest is a fight between good and evil. The rest is a tragedy of fear - with all kinds of characters in it.

Near the end of the 24 years - when he’s about to die and be thrown into hell he screams out that he would love to “leap up to my God!” He asks, “Who will pull me down?” Then he says these powerful words, “See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament - [the stars]! One drop would save my soul - half a drop: ah my Christ!”

He wants to leap up to taste a drop - or even a half of drop of Christ’s blood.

The title of my homily is, “Doctor Faust and Mary of Nazareth.”

Elizabeth - pregnant with John the Baptist - experiences a visit from her cousin Mary. The baby in her womb leaps with joy towards the beginning of the Christ in Mary’s womb.

Is that what Luke is trying to get us  to imagine? That we leap towards the Christ - like Marlowe has Doctor Faustus wanting to leap towards Christ’s blood and be saved.

Mary of Nazareth is full of grace. What were her thoughts as her blood was forming the Christ - that his blood was mixing with her blood - in her womb. And the baby within her leaped for joy.

Doctor Faust is filled with evil and horror and hurt - and wants to leap up for at least half a drop of Christ’s blood.


Shakespeare’s plays and this play by Marlowe and many medieval plays were put on stage to put big themes before people.

This is not far-fetched. Right now we have Star Wars - Number 7 -The Force Awakens.

It was interesting to read that L’osservatore romano - the Vatican Newspaper - said the villains in Star Wars # 7 - aren’t portrayed as bad or evil or dark enough - nothing like Darth Vader in past Star Wars movies.

Bigger than Star Wars - fighting the force of evil and good - are issues for us to think about and reflect upon - from time to time - and being priest I would obviously say - when we come to church on Sunday.

Heaven and Hell - Good and Evil - are portrayed big time in lots of plays and movies.

Each of us has to face our smaller heavens and hells each day.

In Doctor Faust by Marlow - he has to deal with the Seven Capital Sins and visions of hell all the time - besides his fantasies of power and the miracles he can perform - like conjuring up grapes in winter.

In our lives we want the easy way out at times - and in the meanwhile we have to fight our wars with sin and evil - at home and at work - and in our heart and mind - nothing like San Bernardino and Paris and Star Wars or Doctor Faustus.


in the meanwhile we can pray the rosary or the Hail Mary and ask Mary to visit us like she visited her cousin Elizabeth and hopefully the Christ within us stirred.

Hopefully this Christmas Christ is born again in us. Or we smile because that happened a long time ago. The adult Christ has grown up - and long ago left the stable of our soul - and we have an adult to adult relationship with Christ.


Let me conclude this way: we Redemptorists were asked 150 years ago to push and promote one of the many images of Mary - and Jesus. It’s called Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

I come from a parish in Brooklyn with that name - and during World War I and afterwards  I saw people coming to that church praying for their loved ones at war. I saw all through my years in grammar school years people coming to that church to kneel and pray before that image of Mary and I heard many priests say that in times of trouble - family wars, what have you, Mary is there as Perpetual Help.

Take a look at that picture or icon.

The first thing to look at is the sandal on the foot of Jesus. It’s falling off.

See her son having an image of his future suffering - see the cross and the nails - in the angels hands - and he runs and leaps into her arms - losing his sandal in the process.

And once more she feels the leap of Jesus in her lap.

Be like that - leap like Jesus into his life or his mother’s life - and receive perpetual help without having to sell one’s soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20, 2015


Eating together, eating each other's comments....
It's not good to eat alone; it's not good to be alone.... We need to feed on each other's day - each other's lives - moments - experiences - 
- as well as the fruit of the work of our hands: salary, shopping, putting together a meal, breaking bread, sharing wine, a prayer, then
the sharing of our stories -  what's on the table - what's on our plate - communion with each other - the mass of  things that make up - what we do in memory of each other: our daily Eucharist. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015