Saturday, January 2, 2016

January 2, 2016


Do we ever know the real reason why
we do what we do?  Motive? Can it -
[it being the reason, the motive, the why] -
can it be surgically located in our brain?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we don’t know
why we said what we said, did what we did,
avoided what we avoided, till long afterwards.

Some marriages crumble, some marriages
get better, years after the falling in love -
long after the moment we gave the ring,
long after the moment we vowed the vows.

This is scary stuff for the moralists and
for the other we committed ourselves to.

I guess the only solution is daily communication
with our spouse, with our others, daily renewals
of our motives to each other. But wait a minute!
What about homes, family, money, security,
contracts, others? Wouldn’t society fall apart with
such relativity talk when it comes to reasons?

Yes, yes, yes…. But no, no, no, know, know, know, know, isn’t this one reason why we have the problems and the issues we have: dumping and disappearing from each other, taking drugs and drink to drown our sorrows and felt failures,
people unable to stick to their commitments and
not looking deep into the possible consequences
of our un-thought out - un-prayed on - un-talked out - un-understood - un-reasoned out decisions.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Happy New Year, Open Door Policy.”

It’s 2016. 

It’s a new year.

We said and will say 50 or 100 or 500 times, the message: “Happy New Year” - to those around us last night, today and this week. And they will respond with a "Happy New Year!" in return.

“Happy New Year.”

It works. I took my daily walk yesterday to get my 10,000 daily steps in on my Fitbit - and I said to all kinds of people while walking along downtown and then through the Naval Academy, “Happy New Year.”

Most people said it back, “Happy New Year.”


We’re wishing each other a good year ahead - 2016 - free of sickness and problems, peace and joy.

And most of us - if challenged - could give a few keys to happiness that we have discovered.  

Question: What are your 2 or 3 or 5 or 7 or 10 keys?  Pick a number and pick out what you see as key ingredients, secrets, best practices - for happiness. We used to call these New Year’s Resolutions.

It could be a year of listening, no grudges, no gossip, volunteering, giving, forgiving, respect.  It could be a year of reading one good book per month. It could be a year of spirituality, prayer, church, walking, exercising, cleaning up our clutter or our language. It could be a year of taking one day at a time. It could be a year of  giving our energy, time, expertise, our best at work. It could be a year of more time with the family - more looking in the eye - less looking at TV - eating better, etc. etc. etc.


Here’s a possible 2. There are a lot more.

You can find various suggestions from others in the papers at this time - as well as on line. It’s something we do on New Year’s Day. We make plans resolutions, dreams, for a better New Year of life.


Pope Francis declared this year a Year of Mercy. He used the symbol of the door - that opens and closes at St. Peter’s in the Vatican. He asked dioceses around the world to select different parishes to do likewise. St. Mary's has been chosen - so let's hope our church feels like a welcoming church this year of mercy. 

Better may all of us in this parish take a look at the doors of our lives - those places we enter into and go out of each day.

We’ve all heard people say, “Don’t go there.”  Or “I wouldn’t open that door.”

We’ve all seen scenes in movies of a room or a cellar or cave filled with snakes. "Hiss! Hiss!"

"Oooh!" we say as we steo back or slide and slither in our chair. "Oooh!" 

That scene is worse than the image of opening a can of worms.

We keep some doors shut - because we were in the room with so and so and it was messy. 

Yet Pope Francis opened up some doors and asked the church to do likewise. I’m waiting to see how far he and we are going to open up various doors.

Divorce and remarriage and communion are being looked at - as you probably heard during the synod on the family in Rome last fall. We’ve heard his call for non judgmental comments about people who are gay - or whoever and wherever.

I’m sure all of us have done some thinking about those who are transgender and those who are different from us.

I remember an old priest saying, “I’d give that woman a wide berth.” Meaning: whenever she came into the room or into a circle he was in, he would step back because she would bring a hornet’s nest or a pit bull with her into that room. 

When docking a boat or parking a car, some people need a wide berth.

I have a theory that strange rangers become stranger because people avoid them because they are strange - and this makes them even stranger.

Some circles can be vicious.

Maybe some people are a bull in a china shop because everyone has given them a wide berth and just avoided them.

Hopefully this will be a year of mercy and change - peace and conversion - surprises of grace - and more people will open more doors that were closed.

Maybe if we took a chance with someone who spoke with sandpaper covered words - in time they might began to talk with silk covered words.

I know our Redemptorist Congregation was founded to go to people whom nobody else really wanted to go to.  With that in mind, I know in life, I’ve tried, but sometimes I’ve failed.

I remember being in a church in Kingston New York once. I went there to hear a speaker giving a lecture one evening. I walked down the aisle and saw someone sitting all by herself. My belly said, "Uh oh!" because the church was packed except for this one section. It was like the church had a ball spot. 

So I walked into her pew. Soon, I discovered why nobody was sitting near her. 

I found out afterwards that they called her, “The Cat Lady” because she had a lot of cats and seemed never to have showered or bathed.  

As I sat there I didn’t hear one word the speaker said, but I heard a lot of inner chatter in my brain about this whole issue of opening doors to those who have doors closed on them or slammed on them. 

I did hear later on that some ladies in the parish approached her about bathing, etc. but she didn't listen.

I remember having the Wednesday night talk while giving parish missions out in the Midwest for 8 and a half years before coming here to Annapolis. That talk was about forgiveness - reconciliation - opening the door of the confessional - but also looking at family problems.

After doing that for 3 years I learned to say, “Sometimes it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.”  Sometimes it’s better to keep some doors closed. Sorry to say, “Sometimes people reached out and the situation got worse.”

So - study your doors. See which ones are open and which ones have rattle snakes inside. There are consequences. And sometimes it’s better not to look under the hood.


This year we Redemptorists are relooking at the picture or ikon of Our Mother or our Lady of Perpetual Help.  150 years ago the pope at that time told us to promote this image of Mary. 

So this year, stop and kneel at the ikon of Mary and see what the picture will say to you. 

An ikon is like a window. You open it up.  This year, we’ll say it’s like a door, open it up.

Knock on that door.

I don't know if you heard about Pope Francis' favorite picture of Mary. It's called, "Our Lady of the Knots." 

He has reflected on, "What are the knots in my life that need to opened."

Well, I'm saying here: "Look at the ikon or picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and ask your self, "What are the issues in your life which cause you to scream, 'Help!' What are your lifetime struggles, issues, where you need help?"

Today’s a good day to go there. This year is a good year to go there.

I went to that picture and I had a surprise.

I started looking at the image and heard myself wondering about something new. The angel Gabriel - the angel holding the Greek Cross - is in the picture - along with Michael - also an angel and an archangel. Well, Gabriel is the one who brought the revelation of Jesus to Mary. Surprise - in Islam - it’s Gabriel who brought the revelation called “Islam” to Mohammed.

I need to explore that - and see if I can finally get a grasp on Islam.  I’ve read the Koran and studied Islam. Still don’t get it. But I better.


Happy New Year.

Stand at the door of 2016 and knock on 2 or 3 key doors.
January 1st, 2016


Clean - free of spaghetti sauce finger
prints  - salad oil imprints - ballpoint
pen jottings about a wedding, a meeting,
a lunch. It’s a new calendar - January -
newly hanging there in the kitchen -
waiting for phone calls. Then life will fill
in those little boxes. Life goes on - day
after day after day - just one day at
a time - but it’s that surprise day -
that unexpected day - that day we
didn’t see coming - the one that
causes that, the “Oh no!  Oh no!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 31, 2015


Save that old calendar - that is,
if you use them to ballpoint pen
or magic marker appointments
or reminders in those boxes. Hey,
you might find a few of those past
calendars when you’re moving
from here to there 10 or 20 years
from now and you pause to see
where you were in 2015.
Where were you? What was
the most important moment?
Did you have a Happy Old Year?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015


Did you ever notice the red in pointsettias?
How did they come up with that richness,
that brightness, that special tint of redness?
Kids with red crayons in hand, painters
with tubes of red paint in their boxes,
have to be envious. Okay atheists, loosen
up, hear the scream and the shout, “Artist!”

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2015

St. Mary's Annapolis,
Old altar, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29, 2015


What an interesting word: “still”.

A place to make liquor.
A photograph that is without motion.
A painting of bread and wine and a 
flower on a table....
A silence…. when time stands still ....
A state in which hunters and snipers wait….
A pond of water - frozen without being frozen.
A sitting there at the bedside of a loved one
nearing their last breath....
A waiting for something to happen…. and
there’s more, there is still more to come.

What an interesting word: “still”.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2015


The title of my homily for this December 29th  is, “Walk The Talk.”

I could tackle two themes in today’s gospel: Is there anything we’re waiting for - something or someone we have unfinished business with?; swords that pierce the heart can reveal various thoughts and learnings. [Cf. Luke 2: 22-35]

Instead however, last night I decided to go with the simpler theme: walk the talk. It’s a basic message - a cliché to be honest.

I think that spells out what John is saying in his First Letter 2: 3-11.

Talking the talk is important - especially to oneself - but if it doesn’t flow into action, then we can be labeled, “All talk.”

Or we ourselves  - or others - will say, “Talk is cheap.”


John says, “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar….”

John says that those who say they are in the light, yet hates their brother or sister, is still in the dark….”

In other words, “Walk the Talk.”

In other words, “Action speaks louder than words.”

That’s something we have been hearing all our lives.


But to be honest, I don’t know about you, but I make many self promises in the morning - about what I am going to do that day - but by evening, I have to admit, I never got to them.

So I would assume that a key thing is pause more - realize more - that if we keep on giving our word and then we don’t keep it - we are lying to ourselves, we are kidding ourselves, we are weakening the sacredness of words - those personal decisions we spell and verbalize to ourselves.

That’s words to oneself. Giving our word to others is another issue.

I have not done my homework - that is - I haven’t done enough thinking to make the following statement: “If we keep on breaking our word to ourselves - we’ll be doing that a lot more to our neighbor.
Based on all the sayings, there must be a lot of people who experienced the realithy that some people are all talk.

There is the Chinese proverb: “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”

We’ve all heard the same message in the English proverb,  “Wishes don’t wash dishes.”

Or as Anonymous put it, “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”


But some people do - and we learn a lot more about people from their hands  - their actions - that we learn from their mouth and their words.

Robert Brault, in his poem entitled, “A Poem Missing the Word Woulda” goes like this,

“A nod,
a bow,
and a tip of the lid
to the person
who coulda
and shoulda
and did.”

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015


I didn’t realize I hurt you till after
I hurt you. I was numb, dumb too.
So will my saying,  “I’m sorry” help?
P.S. And by the way now I get
those words Jesus said from the
cross, “Father forgive them,
because they don’t know what
they are doing.” Neither did I?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2015


The title of my homily is, “Murdering, Maiming, and Minimizing the Innocent.

Today - December 28, has the feast of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. It has many possible messages. Bastin, Pinckers and Teheux in their God Day By Day Spiritual Reflections on the Readings of the Day,  Volume Four, write, about this text, Matthew 2:13-18, “Are they symbolic, those children who were massacred in Bethlehem? Or course they are, but we should not forget that symbols are always rooted in human realities, and the reality here is that of human suffering - people dying of hunger, the bitter complaints of exiles and the silence of frightened prisoners.” [Page 84]

With that in mind I put together this reflection for today.

In our lifetime we’ve seen the slaughter of the unborn - the Holy Innocents.

In our lifetime we have seen the slaughter of millions of children, women, men in the Holocaust.

In our lifetime we have seen the murder of all kinds of babies, children because of race and religion issues in Serbia, Macedonia, and the former Yugoslavian countries.

In our lifetime we have seen the same thing happen with the slaughter of so many in Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, in so many other African and Middle East countries.

In our lifetime we seen the Killing Fields in Cambodia and so many other places on the planet.

In our lifetime we have heard about various many priests and bishops who were not protective of young people in the sexual abuse stories in the Catholic Church.

In our lifetime we have heard how kids can get shortchanged in education - which can be a ladder out of poverty.

In our lifetime we have seen some rich get richer because of scams and skim offs and manipulation in the markets.

In our lifetime we have heard lies and “claimed innocence” when it comes to public people - in sports, the arts, politics - who try to explain ways out of living a life of lies, cheating, and misbehaving -  giving bad example to the young.

In our lifetime we’ve seen and heard people whose ethics and truth telling seems to have disappeared and they have walked in the dark and not in the light as we heard in today’s first reading from 1 John 1: 5-2:2.

In our lifetime we have heard people show little concern for the many migrants and their children who are “pitchforked” - as one preacher put it - from one place to the next.

In our lifetime we have heard politicians - and dictators - and elected officials -  concerned more about the polls and their numbers than the number of people who are suffering, starving and homeless.

In our lifetime we have heard people criticize prophets, priests, preachers, writers, world leaders, who have preached the Catholic Church’s Social Justice and Human Charity teachings - or have only been selective when it comes to these issues - with no concern for the hurting and the humbled - but only for their agenda.

In our lifetime we have seen and heard people who claim innocence when it comes to caring for our earth - not being aware of the health of all - for example poor children in West Virginia, Kentucky, China - whose lungs are damaged because of earth dumping and disregard of the reality of carbon emissions.

In our lifetime we have heard people screaming at children - hitting children - hurting children - with no concern for what they see with their eyes and hear with their ears.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015


The place where we know each other’s cough,
step, moods, laugh, idiosyncrasies, stories, hurts, favorite cream flavor, cereal, fears, friends, gripes, TV programs,  buttons, and yes, oh yes, what we hate, broccoli, cauliflower and talking about __________________________.

© Andy Costello Reflections, 2015