Friday, December 30, 2016

December 31, 2016


Books have last pages….
Movies have, “The End….”
Ships set sail. Years end.
And I still haven’t…. Oh no!”
Well, they’ll have to leave
without me. “Oh no!”
"Well, you never know
what's might happen next!"

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
December 30, 2016


The needle of pain - or hurt - or insult -
can numb us - can inoculate us - from
feeling the pain, the hurt, the insults
another has experienced. They can
stop us from saying, “Oh no, Oh God.”

The cross of pain - or hurt - or insult -
can numb us - unless we pause on a
regular basis under a cross or drop
into any Catholic church and sit under
a station and feel the, “Oh no!" from God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
Painting on top: Doubting Thomas,
by Caravaggio

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29, 2016


Her granddaughter - in the eulogy -
described her grandma
as an old frying pan - solid -
definite - with a sizzle - a woman
who filled the kitchen when making
great breakfasts - bacon, sausage,
fries and eggs - necessary - but
not noticed most other times -
just there - presence - one  who
kept us together - solid as a family,
solid as an old frying pan.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016


That I believe in God,
you’ll get over it.
I have.

That I go to church,
you’ll get over it.
I have.

That I try not to gossip,
you’ll get over it.
I  have.

That I connect with the poor,
you'll get over it.
I have.

That I prefer reading to watching TV,
you’ll get over it.
I have.

That you don’t go to church,
you’ll get over it.
I'm working on that one.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 2016


It was hard listening to him
with all those books behind
the words coming out of his
mouth. “I read that!” “Oh, I
enjoyed that book.” “Never
read that one.” “Interesting
title.”  So I closed my eyes
and began to listen to him -
and stop looking at the books
behind his head and sure enough -
hearing what he was saying,
I wondered, “When did he come
up with that conclusion? Was it
something we both had read?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Broken.”

It hit me, here it is, just one day after Christmas, and the church hits us with the horrible feast of St. Stephen.

Couldn’t they have waited another week at least?

But no, here’s the feast of St. Stephen, killed for being a follower of Jesus, and it’s put just the next day after the sweet peace of Christmas day.

We hear in today’s gospel about the horrors of  brother handing over brother - and a father a child - because of Jesus. [Cf. Matthew 10: 17-22.]

And on Wednesday we have the feast of the Holy Innocents…..  baby boys killed because of Christ.

And we turn on the evening news - Christmas eve or Christmas night - and we hear of a shooting on the streets of Washington, Baltimore or many a big city.


The title of my homily is “Broken.”

The nice neat toy - the kid opens up the box and goes, “Oooooh” over it -  on Christmas morning - and then the toy is broken by 4 PM and the kid goes “Aaaagh!”

And we sit there with family on Christmas afternoon  after a great meal and we hear good news - accomplishments - about different members of the family -  but we also hear of a broken marriage or drugs or drinking. And our “Oooh” changes to “Aaagh.”


And the great message from the feast of St. Stephen is forgiveness.

The great message from the life of Stephen is that he got the message of Jesus from the cross and from the life of Jesus. Brokenness happens. Horror happens. “Aaaagh” and dread happens.

There’s a wisdom statement from Jesus that is hitting more and more - the older I get.

He said: what’s so great about being nice to those who are nice to us? Everyone can do that.  It’s when things are going wrong - when we are hurt - and we deal well with those hurts - brokenness  - it’s then we grow. Then we rise. Then we know how to deal with life better.


So a message from Stephen is that things break - people throw stones - people get hurt - and a hope is that we can be like Stephen and stop the cycles of hell hurts - by forgiveness and acceptance - and let the beginning of a better next start with us. Amen.


Painting on top: The Stoning of Stephen by Rembrandt Harmesz van Rijn 1609-1665
December 26, 2016


The person who is hurting
isn’t hearing anyone but
themselves - because they
are hurting. So … if you are
angry that nobody is listening 
to you, maybe you’re hurting too.
I’m listening. How about you?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016


She was the nicest grandmother anyone would ever want.

And all she ever wanted was peace in the family.

Now by the time she was a grandmother, she knew what every grandmother knows: peace in the family is relative - and most of the time it has to do with relatives.

In-laws who can become out-laws … at times or for a time - because of something said that was stupid. Brothers and sisters not talking to each other because one does very well money wise and becomes uppity for a while - hopefully just for a while.

And she knew peace in the family is held together with crazy glue and duct tape - time - lots of forgiveness - patience - presence - as well as absence - depending on the situation - and keeping one’s lips zipped at the right time - and unzipped when someone needs a solid piece of wisdom - rarely wanted - but sometimes it’s asked for - and sometimes it’s needed - but it better be presented with delicacy. Otherwise ….

And she knew listening was 75 % of the deal and speaking was only 5 % of the deal and the other 20 % needs  to be well timed with well placed questions.

That December grandma was asked at least 100 times by her 5 kids and 15 grandkids, “Grandma … Nanny … Na Na … Nonny… what do you want for Christmas?”

Sometimes she would say, “My two front teeth!

Then she would start singing, but not too well,  “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” and then she would grab her front teeth bridge by her thumb and forefinger - semi-take them out her mouth a bit and then smile - and get a great smile from whoever it was who asked her what she wanted for Christmas.

Next she would have her other throw-away comments for what she wanted for Christmas: “You, just you - as my best Christmas gift”  - and the little ones would give her great hugs for that comment.

Or she would slowly repeat the question,  “What do I want for Christmas?” 

She would pause and then say, “Peace in the family and peace on earth - peace in our world!” and that would not register too deep in the soil and the soul of the next generation - but in time - she hoped that word seed would germinate and resonate.

The phone rang….

It was her daughter….

“Mom we need your prayers. Nancy just had her baby - out in Seattle. and it doesn’t look good. Something’s wrong with her heart.”

“Oooh,” silence.

“And,” her daughter continued, “since you’re our designated prayer, and since this is your first great-grandchild, lots of prayers. We need lots of prayers. We’re heading out to Washington State  tomorrow. We suspect we will have Christmas in Seattle as well as be sleepless in Seattle.”

“Okay.” Grandma said. “But wait…. Without interfering make sure you tell Nancy and Steve to check out a teaching hospital there - get second opinions if possible - and depending on what the story is - maybe there are clinical trials.”

“Okay,” said her daughter. “Thank you mom. We can always count on you for good advice as well as prayers and faith. Thanks.”


Grandma then headed for her rocking chair - her prayer chair - and started praying for her new great-granddaughter - the one in Seattle - the one with the heart problem - whatever it is.

And “Ooops!” she thought, “I didn’t even ask what the new baby’s name is.”

She began thinking - she began praying, “God bring these kids of mine back to you - back to church - back to faith - back to prayers. Let this little child - be the one - when they see the little one in the manager in some church for Christmas in Seattle - let this little baby be the one who will open up their Inn for Christ - and make more room for him in their lives.”

And she thought about Nancy - her granddaughter - and Steve her husband, the parents of this new born baby. Their marriage is shaky…. Their nights, I hear, are not silent nights - nor are they calm - nor are they bright… let his baby make them right.

She then began thinking about her life - how Christ was there for them - not only at Christmas - but also especially for their Good Friday - that Friday in August - many years ago - when John her husband had his heart attack and died at work. Wow ……………………That was a tough time - a Bad Friday - but we got through it. I got through it being a single mom at that point with 5 kids to raise.

Thank you God, we did it. College.  Marriages…. Helping with grandkids…. Now this new baby…. Help us God. Help us, God,  to realize these stories in the Bible, not just for way back when - but for now - like right now - here and now. And everyone’s life is messy at times - not a comfortable Inn but a messy stable.

She asked Jesus in prayer, “Is that why you were born the way you were born and where you were born?”

At that, like all grandmothers who pray, she fell asleep in prayer in the Lord. Amen.

She’ll wake up with no solutions - only worries about that baby and she’ll stand up saying her favorite saying, “Life: to be continued….”

 O    O    O    O    O    O    O


by Father Andy Costello, C.Ss.R.

by Andy Costello

1) The Greatest Christmas Gift
2) Mack & Missy
3) Thousands of Christmas Photos
4) The Thinking Sheep
5) The Camel With the Great Smile
6) Roscoe
7) Footsteps In The Snow
8) House Painters
9) Christmas, Lima, Peru
10) His Last Christmas
11) Timmy’s Eight Christmas
12) Little Nell
13) Wise Fool
14) Fake Dog, Real Life
15) The Big Boy
16) Hamburgers For Five
17) Seeing Through The Back of Your Head
18) Recalculating
19) 2 Wise Women, 1 Wise Man
20) Real Christmas Tree or Fake Christmas Tree
21) The Present
22) Happy Ending
23) A Two for One Christmas Tree
24) All I Want For Christmas….


Duff began our breakfast conversation with, “Well, I finished that.”

“Finished what?” I asked.

“My Christmas story.”

“What Christmas story?”

“Oh, every year I write a Christmas story for my niece in Boston. I’ve been doing it for years.”

I asked, “Can I read it?”

“No,” he said, “it’s nothing.”




“Well, okay,” he said.

I got it from him after breakfast.

The typing was bad – but the story was good.

He was BC – Before Computer, so before bringing it back to him, I retyped it on my computer.

Then I walked down the long corridor in the retreat house where we lived and knocked on his door. When he opened his door I said, “Great story, Duff. I just retyped it. If there are any changes you want me to make, just let me know. They are very easy to do with a computer.”

“Thanks,” he said. Looking at the neat copy, he continued, “but you didn’t have to retype it.”

Sure enough, the next day, he knocked on my door. There were several changes he’d like to make. He stood there looking over my shoulder at the computer screen as I made the changes. He was amazed at what a computer could do. I hit “Print” and he had a perfect copy of his Christmas story for his niece in hand.

The following December, just after Thanksgiving, he knocked on my door. This time he had a hand-written document. He asked if I could type this year’s Christmas story for his niece.

I said, “Gladly.”

I sat there at my desk typing his new Christmas story for his niece. At one point I found myself looking out the window to see how deep and how fast the snow was falling.

Surprise: it wasn’t snowing. In fact, it was a cold, but bright sunny day – with no snow on the ground and no snow in the forecast.

But it was snowing in his story.

It was one of those moments of insight. It was the moment I realized the power of story.

The following August I was transferred to another place, so that was the last Christmas story I typed for Duff.

Three years later, on the day before Christmas, there I was at another desk working on a homily for Christmas. I was now stationed at St. Gerard’s Church, in Lima, Ohio. I was wondering what to say for a homily based on the Christmas story as found in the scriptures.

The notice came in that day: Father John Duffy, C.SS.R. died – December 24, 1993.

It hit me, “Why not write a Christmas story for a homily, in memory of Duff?”

I did and I have been doing it every Christmas since. I’m now up to number 24.

These are those stories.

Someday I might give it a shot as a book. They are a bit uneven - and some a tiny bit “preachy” - but maybe.

And maybe I’ll throw in a story or two by Duff. He’s long gone - so he can’t complain.

A Christmas story has to be sentimental and mushy, mystical and magical. It has to have a kick and some substance in it. It has to tell the Christmas story.  I hope these stories come close to these benchmarks. I know they don’t come near the stories Duff wrote.


You can find some of these stories in Christmas Past on my blog - that goes back to June 17, 2007

December 25, 2016


Babies cry, we all know that.
But babies laugh, hope you
also know that. Kings and
shepherds, ox and ass,
Mary and Joseph, hey, they
are all the same - as the
baby looks into their glassy
eyes - and sees the circle
of life - the mirror called “other”
and the baby laughs and laughs.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

December 24, 2016


Tis the night before Christmas ….
Ready or not - here it is….
Tis time to let go and be there -
to be family - audience - to be
the label we are: dad, mom,
grandpa, grandma, kid, husband,
wife, sister, brother, a gift, a tree,
a listener, an eater, a gift giver ....
And to step back and to have room 
in our Inn - in our inner room 
for Jesus Christ, our Lord.
“O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ, Christ the Lord. Amen.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

DECEMBER 23, 2016


An itch or a phone call or a suggestion:
these are how things happen…. Okay -
some things are planned. But most of the
time they are unplanned - unseen - till long
after they happen. One person coughs
in the movie. Soon another person coughs
and on and on and on. One domino hits 
another domino and soon someone else 
is wearing their t-shirt inside out or jeans 
without knees in Rio de Janeiro or Jakarta
or Johannesburg. The old saying  is true 
about there being three types of people: 
those who make things happen, those
who watch things happen and those who
have no clue to how things just happened.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016


Did you ever notice the sea 
turns to gold some mornings 
when looking towards the east 
and that same sea turns to 
silver on a full moon night 
when all is clear and cold - 
and the water is shivering? 

Did you ever notice that 
the little baby who won’t look 
you in eye - who won’t give 
poor little you - a hint of a smile, 
that she lights up and reaches 
out when her baby sitting 
grandmother walks into the room? 

Did you ever notice how much 
you’re not noticing: the salt on pretzels, 
shades of green, the gal adjusting 
her car rear view mirror and then 
putting on her lipstick at the red light, 
the poor, the great unnoticed ones 
tugging at the tassels of your coat?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016


Dark skirts the edge of the earth
this early, early morning -
before coffee and a shower -
before all are awake - except
truck drivers and those who 
have to open the doors to start
the day. Today.... Today - the 
darkest day of the year.... on 
paper - but as everyone knows
the darkest day of the year is
the day when the phone rings 
or the doctor tells us, “There is
not much time left - better say
your ‘Thank you's’ and ‘Good byes.’”
But know the dawn - the light - arrives
earlier and earlier from the east.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The title of my homily for December 20th  is, “On Being the Favorite.”

I don’t know about you, but I love to ask parents who their favorite child is.

Most of the time parents respond  that they don’t have a favorite.

Others nuance their answer by saying, “It all depends. I like this about this one and that about that one. So it all depends.”

And sometimes a parent says they have a favorite.

I never had problems with someone being the favorite, because I had favorite teachers and favorite priests I’ve been stationed with.

And sometimes I add something people don’t like to report: there are some folks who are not my favorites.


I’m bringing this up because this is a way of translating Luke 1: 28 - which is part of today’s gospel. It’s where the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Hail full of grace. The Lord is with you.”

Most translations say, “Greetings, most favored one.” or “Hail , O favored one.” The King James Bible has , “Hail, thou art highly favored. The Lord is with you.”  In Greek: it’s “kecharitomene”  - favored one.

Our Catholic translation goes with the beginning of the Hail Mary,  “full of Grace….”

I’ve run into Protestants and others who don’t get the Catholic thing about Mary.  I like to say, “Walk into any big city art museum and walk around and look at the pictures. You’ll find out she’s the favorite of so many artists.  Then I am tempted to add, “And you think Mary is our favorite. Talk to God and you’ll find out that Mary is God’s favorite as well.”

So when we say the Hail Mary, we’re not only saying what the Angel Gabriel said - but we’re joining with billions of people who have praised God for picking Mary to be his Mother.  God chose Mary  to bring Christ into our world - because she is the Father’s favorite.

Moreover, God gives Mary to us and Christ gave her to us from the cross.  

Hail full of Grace, most faithful one of God.


Then the call to all of us is to be like Mary - to favor those we’re with.

We know people who have  run out of wine  of life. Mary helped the couple at Cana in Galilee when they ran out of wine.  We know people who are hurting along the way of their cross - and those who are dying.  Mary was there for all - on their ways of the cross - and she is under our cross when we’re dying.

We pray for that in every Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

If I hear anything about Jesus it’s he noticed who was stuck - who was touching the tassels on his cloak - those who were under the tree of a cross.

So I assume he learned much from Mary. Hey the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
December 20, 2016


It sits there quietly on my desk
and sometimes in my shirt pocket.
Without knowing it, it has a poem
or an article in it - but I’m guilty
of laziness. That's my form of birth 
control or too many abortions. 

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016



The title of my homily is, “5 Movies.”


Imagine it’s Christmas morning - and it’s the tradition in this family to open Christmas gifts on Christmas morning.

A teenage boy sees a neat pile of gifts under the Christmas tree with his name on them.

He opens one gift - from mom - two nice dress shirts. He says to his mom, “Thanks.”  At least it wasn’t underwear, the gift he got from her every Christmas till 2 years ago. He gets a game he wanted from an older brother. And then there is this small box - the shape of a tissue box. It’s not wrapped as neat as his mom’s gifts to him - but it’s wrapped.

He shakes it and then opens it. It’s from his dad. “Love Dad.”

It’s 5 movies.

“Strange gift - but interesting,” he thinks. Then he says, “Thank you!” to his dad, because they are 5 movies that he knows of. In fact he likes them.

It’s two evenings  later and he’s in the car with his dad and he asks him, “Dad, that was an interesting Christmas gift you gave me: 5 movies.  What was that all about?  You got me wondering.”

His  dad says, “I was wondering what to get you for Christmas - and I spotted some DVD’s near the TV set in the basement that you and your brother always use. So I went into a CD movie place in the mall and checked out the movies.”

“I found one you have mentioned from time to time - then a second - then a third - then I remembered two others - but they didn’t have them - so I got them on line.”

“Wow,” he says. “Thanks!”

But the thanks doesn’t stop there. He begins thinking about all this during the rest of the month - and he gets a glimpse that his dad really is aware of him  - thinks of him from time to time - and is listening.

What that teenage boy doesn’t know is that 20 years from now - he’ll be giving his father’s eulogy - at his funeral - and he’ll make reference to that Christmas 20 years ago when his dad gave him 5 movies as a Christmas gift.

More…. There’s more. He wonders what his dad’s 5 favorite movies are - along with his mom - and along with his two sisters and his brother.

More…. He starts talking more with his dad as well as the family - all because of that gift from his dad that Christmas.

More…. He pushes to make it a practice once a month - to have movie night as a family - and it brings their family together even more.

The title of my homily is, “5 Movies.”


As I thought about all this, I started wondering what my favorite 5 movies are. I jotted down about 10 and then started cutting  out  5.  Difficult.

So here are 5 favorite movies.  The list is not chiseled into stone.

But here are 5 with something I got out of each.


I like the Bourne movies. The first was The Bourne Identity [2002]

Jason Bourne is found floating in the water off Marseille, France by Italian fishermen. He’s rescued by some fishermen - but surprise, he doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know his identity.

He spots a gal with an old car - and she’s his ticket to Paris - so he asks her to drive him for a price. She goes for it.

On the road to Paris, they stop into a road restaurant - like the one’s on Route 95. He says to Marie Kreutz - the gal - “I don’t know who I am, but why do I know where there might be a rifle in here - underneath that counter over there.

He continues and asks why do I know who might be a police officer - that guy over there - and who’s right handed and who’s left handed.

“Why do I know what I know?”

For some reason that’s a great question.

It’s a good idea to pause every once and a while and ask, “Why do I know what I know?”

And hopefully that will lead to great gratitude towards our parents or some teacher or some significant person in our lives - who taught us key life lessons.

Ask why a movie grabs us.  Figure out scenes and situations in favorite movies that impact our lives.


The second movie that grabbed me was Doctor Zhivago [1965].

It taught me how much in life is out of our control.

We have it easy in the good old U.S.A.  Doctor Zhivago has his life all planned out, but in the meanwhile a war, a revolution [the Russian Revolution]  breaks out and he is grabbed and his whole life falls apart.

Weather, divorces, deaths, sickness, loss of a job, new teachers, new principals, coaches,  etc. etc. etc. can change our lives - and we find ourselves out of control.

So Doctor Zhivago puts us in another person’s living room.


The next movie that I would list is Lawrence of Arabia [1962].

He thinks outside the box. He thinks the different. He’s the one who said when the European powers were drawing the lines for mid-east - you don’t know what you are doing. You have to go tribal - not your way. Well, look at what happened? We’re dealing with those mistakes to this day.

In the movie, Lawrence decides to attack Aqaba by going across the desert. All the guns are pointed out to sea - and all the trench works and forts leading to this Red Sea port are there for attacks from the water. There is no protection from the desert - and so that’s how Lawrence moves on Aqaba.

That seeing what nobody else was seeing - that planning from another point of view. Isn’t that what our world needs?

There is another scene that I remember. While crossing the desert to attack      Aqaba a guy falls off his camel and is lost in the desert. Lawrence overhears this and mounts his camel to go in search of the guy. Someone says, “It is written in the book you can’t do that.”

Lawrence basically says, “Watch me!”  He then goes out and rescues this guy.

I hear people all the time who think that God has written the plan, the script of their life and they have to follow that plan.

I like people who laugh at life and hear God laughing at life as that person writes their own script as their life unfolds - and they work to make their life go the best ways they can make it work


I’ll list Groundhog Day [1993] as my fourth movie. Bill Murray plays the part of a TV weatherman, Phil Conners. In the movie he gets to do Groundhog Day over and over again till he gets it right.

There are various messages from this movie, but the basic clear message I get is that every day we get a chance to do it all over again - and to make it a morning prayer to say: “Lord, thank you for one more opportunity to get it right.”

The next message I get is that we do make mistakes - definitely - so a key message is: “Lord, help to learn from my mistakes.” 

Name the mistake. Name the learning from that mistake.

The third message I get from that movie is this.  Sometimes I walk into a room or someone else walks into a room and someone attacks right away with a “wrong word”.  When I hear that - sometimes - not often - but sometimes, because of the movie Groundhog Day, I get up and walk out of the room and then come back again and say, “Now let’s try that entrance once more - but this time with nice!”


And lastly, I better include the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s the wonderful movie  - released on December 25th, 1946.

I’m sure Frank Capra - never thought his movie would be seen every Christmas ever since.

It’s on TV every Christmas season at least 2 dozen times.

It has so many lessons for so many people.

A key message for me is to realize that what I do has consequences - like the domino effect.

A priest walked into a classroom when I was in grammar school  - asked, “Who here would like to be a priest?” so I raised my hand and became a priest.

I wonder: if he didn’t become a priest, would my life be different - because he never would have walked into that classroom? Would I have become a priest? If he didn’t walk into that classroom, would my life have been different?

In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, finds out all that would never have happened if he never existed - especially in Bedford Falls.

My comments this morning have lifetime consequences. You might go home and be nicer to your dad - who then is nicer to your mom - and both of them go out for supper and start talking to the waitress - who was having a bad day - and their words prevented that woman from planning to kill herself or what have you.

Hey, you never know. 

It’s a wonderful life.