Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016


In a garden - I  stopped to touch
the white fabric of a rose - only to
see directly below - sitting there
at the roots of that rose bush -
the rough hard back of a turtle….
Wow the difference between the
top of a turtle and the fabric of
a rose - between the back of the
neck of a  laughing kid on a swing
and the back skin of that old guy I just
saw in the nursing home heading back
to his room in his open backed johnny.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016



The title of my homily for this 13 Friday in Ordinary Time is, “You Gotta Laugh, You Gotta Cry, You Gotta Bend, and Then You Die.”

That’s a wisdom statement. That’s a description of ways to deal with life.


For starters I like to tell a story that I love. It’s about attitude. It’s about how we see life - how we see where we are - and how we think.

A man is walking down a road and comes to a town.

He spots a man raking his lawn and he goes over to the man and says, “I’m on the road and I’m looking for a place to settle. I’m wondering what kind of town this is. What’s it like around here?”

The guy with the rake asks the man, “Where are you coming from?”

The traveler says, “From a town a few hundred miles away from here.”

“Well” says the man with the rake, “what was it like where you come from?”

The traveler says, “Oh it was a horrible place. That’s why I left there. Everyone there was selfish and self-centered. People talked about people behind their back. You had to lock your door all the time. Just not that nice a place to be.”

“Well,” says the man with the rake, “I suppose you’ll find the same sort of folks here.”

“Thank you,” says the man on the road, “Thank you. I guess I’ll just keep traveling around till I find the right place.”

Twenty minutes later another man comes down that same road into that same town and goes over to the same man and asks the same question. “Hey mister, I’m looking around for a place to settle. What’s this town like?”

And the man with the rake asks the same question, “Well what was it like in the place you’re coming from.”

“Oh, it was wonderful,” says the traveler. “I loved the place. Good people there. You never had to lock your door. People would watch out for people. However, the company I was working for downsized, so I had to get moving to try to find a job somewhere.”

“Well,” said the man with the rake, “I suppose you’ll find the same kinds of folks here.”

“Oh, thank you,” said the man on the road. “I walk on in and give it a try.”


That’s a story about attitude. The town is in the mind of the beholder.

In this homily or reflection I want to talk about attitude. Stepping back thoughts about dealing with life.

I like to stress the importance of altitude effecting attitude.

If we stay low - hiding out in corners and watching TV and not getting out  and getting high on the good stuff of life - then we stay low, down, and we can end being a depressive.

Jesus told us to climb mountains - become transfigured - otherwise we get disfigured - disgusted - distrustful about life.

So it’s good to go to the movies, take hikes, see plays, go to concerts, take a good vacation, climb a mountain.

Altitude effects attitude.


I was talking to a Protestant minister recently and he said he was fed up with the struggles within his community - and he was seriously thinking of becoming a Catholic.

So I said to him - without telling the first story - that he’ll find in the Catholic Church - the same struggles he finds in his Protestant Church.

I added that I live with 10 priests - and we are across the board with different takes on different issues.


You gotta laugh, you gotta cry, you gotta bend and then you die.

In today’s gospel Jesus calls Matthew a tax collector - who stands up and follows Jesus - then he throws a great dinner for Jesus to show him off to other tax collectors and sinners and the funny thing is the Pharisees - instead of rejoicing that they are not going to be taxed by Matthew any more - scream, “Your teacher eats with tax collectors and sinners.”

You gotta laugh at that. You gotta cry at that. We have to bend and see ourselves as Pharisees, as Sinners, taxing others with our complaints.

And in today’s first reading from Amos you gotta laugh at the comment where baldness comes from: cheating in the marketplace. You gotta cry that some are ripping off the poor - fixing the scales - adding to the weights.


Today is the feast of Saint Junipera Serra.

You gotta laugh, you gotta cry, you gotta bend when it comes to Saint Junipera Serra.

He and the Franciscans are responsible in big part for a whole series of missions in California and down into Mexico. San Diego, Los Angeles and all those other San Cities that got their names because of these Spanish Missionaries. 

You gotta laugh on how they plowed a great future. You gotta cry that much was at the native people’s expense. You gotta scream at those who complained at Serra’s tactics - rough at times - and if all this was done today, it would be all very different.

You gotta say that much is hindsight!

Just as the Book of Genesis could not be written back then with what we know now - so too the Franciscan Missions.

Once while in Tucson I got in on a trip to Magdalena Mexico with a reporter, a photographer and a priest. We went down to a shrine there of a Jesuit - I think it was Father Kino - but because the Jesuits were repressed sometime back then - the habit on the Jesuit - was switched to that of a Franciscan.

You gotta laugh at that.

I was told to climb the steps up onto this platform that held a statue of the Jesuit priest dressed in a Franciscan habit. Each pilgrim had to move along towards the head of the statue. The legend was that one then had to put their hand to the back of the neck of the statue and if you could not pick it up, you were in mortal sin.

The photographer and the reporter were off to the side ready to take my picture. I could not lift it. I took my other hand and got Father Kino by the neck and lifted him.

Snap. Snap. Picture. Picture. Me with a great smile.


Moral of the story: when it comes to religion, when it comes to life, you have to laugh, you have to cry, you have to bend, and then you die.
July 1, 2016


We get amazed at the latest iPhone,
cellphone, car, restaurant, song, but
fail to see the capabilities of the eye -
that is - until we begin looking into
the eye of another - regularly - until
they become our beloved.  It’s then
we discover the reality of other - and
when we do - we’re on the way out of
seeing it's not all about me, myself and
I - but it's about seeing the human race -
and seeing ourselves in the eye of God
and sometimes it’s the other way around.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 30, 2016

Just trying to be predictable….

Does anyone ever really try
to be just that:  predictable?

Never thought of that….

Thinking about that now….

Yes - getting home on time;
putting the garbage out;
emptying the dishwasher;
a kiss upon leaving and a
kiss upon coming in the door….

How about surprises?
How about unpredictable,
surprises - like going out
for chocolate chocolate
chip ice cream on a
Saturday morning or
rollerblading at 75?

Never thought of that?

Not thinking about that now….

But other stuff yes.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 29, 2016


A form of madness: to sing the national
anthem all alone before 22,000 people.

A form of madness: to learn the names of all the
capitals of the world - like Astana in Kazakhstan. 

A form of madness: to learn to juggle Christmas
ornaments and to be fluent in the sign language.

A doctor making house calls for free 
one day a week - in a poor neighborhood.

A form of madness: to become pregnant
and I’m not going to abort - but to serve.

A form of madness: to work on a Habitat
for Humanity work site for a Spring Break.

A form of madness: to take a vow of celibacy
and to become for all - Sister, Brother, Priest.

A form of madness: to spend 50,000 hours
learning to play the piano, guitar, oboe or drums.

A form of madness: God becoming human so
we humans can become God and we kill Christ.

A form of madness: to be dying and to say,
“I believe in Christ - who means resurrection.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 28, 2016


Fear appears at the edge of the cliff.
“Uh oh! I have nowhere to go!”
Looking down, it’s too far down….
Surprise!  I turn around and see a
whole wide backwards, right there in
front of me. Humiliation … but I’m free.

Fear appears at this side of the door.
I stand there alone and quite afraid.
The corridor is dark - but the light is
on - on the other side of the door.
Humiliation... but I’m free - free to
leave - or to knock on the door?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 13th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Lord, Increase Our Faith.”

In today’s gospel the disciples are terrified in the boat they were sailing along in with Jesus. A violent storm  shakes them up. They need the Lord as savior.  So they wake him up and  beg him to end the storm and save their lives.

Storms, horror stories, fires,  floods trigger all sorts of people to get on their knees and beg God for help.


When things are going well, it might be the better time to work on increasing our faith. 

“Lord, increase my faith.”

It’s one of my favorite prayers. It’s in Mark 9:45. A father of a boy with epilepsy hears Jesus say you have to have faith. So he responds, “I do have faith. Help the little faith I have.” Another English translation puts it this way, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Needing faith is a regular call and a regular message in the 4 gospels.

In this homily I’m stressing that we pray for it. So that’s why the title of my homily is, “Lord, increase my faith.”

It’s the prayer of the apostles in Luke 17: 5.  Jesus had just said that we need to forgive our brother 7 times a day. To0ugh stuff. Then there is a tomorrow. So they realize to forgive is quite a trick. So they pray for the ability to have the faith to do just that.

“Lord, increase our faith.”


Today is the feast of St. Irenaeus - an early Christian saint - preacher, teacher and writer. His dates are from around 130 to 200 when he was killed because he was a  Christian.


So to grow in faith, prayer is the place to start.

I like to push using rosary beads for short prayers besides the Hail Mary and the Our Father.

So on the 59 beads pray, “Lord, increase my faith.”

It takes 2 or 3 minutes.

That’s the first practice.

The second practice would be awareness exercise - contemplation exercise.

St. Irenaeus would begin with creation. He said, “The initial step - if we want to come to knowledge of God - is contemplation of nature.”

Open up our eyes and see all around - and let what’s all around us - get us thinking - wondering - growing - knowing that God is behind everything.

Jesus stressed that approach all the time: Learn a lesson from the wild flowers. Study the birds of the air.

This is what the Prophet Amos is doing in today’s first reading. Did you hear his list of interesting examples?

If two people are walking together, that tells us something about them. They are in agreement about something. 

When the lion roars, it's because he sees an enemy or supper. He would  not roar if nothing was present.

Birds are free - soaring the earth. Therefore, they have avoided traps.

So the first way to increase our faith is to increase our using our eyes, our ears, our sense of smell, what have you - as   well as our minds to grow in awareness of creation.

The third practice would be use our scriptures.

Irenaeus was also big on both the Old and the New Testament for learning.

I love the Eastern Rite command before the readings  at Mass: Wisdom be attentive.

So each morning say about what’s ahead “Wisdom be attentive.”

So too about the bible readings. Wisdom be attentive.

What is Amos, what is Isaiah saying to us today.  What is today’s gospel saying to us today: wisdom be attentive.


That’s my homily.

Practice those 3 steps for growth in faith.

Pray the short prayer, “Lord, increase my faith.”

Check out what’s right in front of us - and see the wisdom that surrounds us.

“Tolle et lege….”  Take and read the scriptures as Augustine did and see what happens - listen to the wisdom on its pages.

Hopefully these 3 exercises will help us when the storms of life hit us as we cross the waters of life. 


Painting on top: Rembrandt, 
Christ  Crossing the Sea of Galilee

Monday, June 27, 2016

Today we Redemptorists celebrate the 150th Anniversary of being asked to promote the image, the ikon, the picture, of Our Mother of Perpetual help.

In May of 1866 Pope Pius IX gave us the charge to do that.

We don’t know how old the ikon is - but we do know it goes back before the 1400's - to the Island of Crete - where people prayed to Mary in front of this picture - for some time. How long? We don’t know for sure.

It was stolen and smuggled on board a ship and went to Rome. It made it. We know that other images of OLPH made it by ship to the United States in the late 1860’s. We also know that images of OLPH sunk to the bottom of the sea on the Andrea Doria.

Back to the earlier story ....

In Rome, it stayed in someone's home for a while - till as the story goes, "... our Blessed mother herself appeared to the little girl of the household and told her that she wished her picture to be placed in a Church. She even designated the place - 'between my beloved Church of St. Mary Major's and that of my beloved son, St. John of Lateran.'" [1]

We have evidence that it was placed in St. Mathew’s Church in Rome on March 27, 1499 - for veneration.

For 3 centuries - that’s longer than the present 150 years - this Church and this picture was one of the places in Rome where people went to pray to Mary for help.

Mary is not God - yet we ask her to ask Jesus for help. Read the story of the wedding feast of Cana in the Gospel of John 2: 1-12. Those who think prayers of petition to Mary was a later invention of the Catholic Church - have to face Mary and Jesus in this story in the gospel of John - from the Johannine Community - dated to around 100. [2]

I’m from Our Lady of Perpetual Church in Brooklyn, so I saw people since I was a little boy - praying at Mary’s Shrine.

The other night at our anniversary O.L.P.H. service,  I said I was a candle boy - dealing with the candles people lit in prayer and petition to Mary. So I saw that. I was also an altar boy. I also became a Redemptorist, so I saw lots of people in prayer before Mary’s shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

 I see people going over to the shrine of Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help here at St. John Neumann as well as St. Mary’s.

So we Redemptorists are quite proud of promoting this image of Mary - which says run, don’t walk, to Mary’s presence and ask for help.

And Jesus ran to Mary - as the picture points out - even if you lose your shoes or sandals.

I have always been interested in the work of Eric Bern who is a founder of transactional analysis.  It’s basic premise is that we have 3 modes - 3 states we can find ourselves in: that of the child, the adult and the parent. [3] 

The child is the emotional side of each of us. When in fear, and trembling, and we don’t know where to run, we want our mom. We bite our nails, we suck our thumb, like every little kid.

I think that is the essential power of this image of Mary.

Run, jump, climb into the arms of Mary - no matter how old or how young we are.

The picture, the painting, is a pieta - and the Jesus in Mary’s arms can be the Christ child at Nazareth - or the dead adult Christ at Calvary.

I am proud to proclaim that story again and again - as the Pope told us to do in 1866.

I remember being stationed with Father Matt Meighan in Most Holy Redeemer, on the lower East side of Manhattan. He spent a good bit of his time promoting - going around and pushing parishes and churches - to have an image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in their churches.

He was happy to say he did this not only all around the USA - but also Ireland.

And I know the Irish Redemptorists promoted this image of Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help in India and the Philippines and on and on and on.

I’ve done a lot of work on the road - and so I’ve been in many, many churches and have seen this image of Mary everywhere.

That tells me that we have done our job.

Once more I’m pushing this image of Mary - Amen.


[1] Novena in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help booklet, "History of the Miraculous Picture," page. 24, published by The Redemptorist Fathers, copyright, 1948 by the Redemptorist Fathers, Perpetual Help Center, 294, East 150 Street, Bronx, New York, 10451

[2] The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Article, "The Gospel According to John, by Pheme Perkins, page 949

[3] Dr. Eric Bern, Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy; Thomas A. Harris, I'm OK - You're OK, Harper and Row, 1967


 The easiest prayer to say and the most difficult prayer to pray consists of just one word: “Help!”

How many times in our life have we been too proud to ask for help?

“Help” is not in our vocabulary when all is going right, when we’re independent, when we’re in control, when we don’t need anyone or anything.

“Help” arrives as a word in our throat when we are stuck, when we are sick, when all goes wrong, when we have to depend on others.

The unknown author of the famous English spiritual book, The Cloud of Unknowing (c. 1370), teaches this message very clearly in Chapter 37. The best prayers have the shortest words. When there is a fire, we cry, “Fire!” When we need God, really need God, we cry, “Help!”

Isn’t “Help” a one word translation of the famous Psalm 130, “Out of Depths”? A man is drowning and he screams out, “Out of the depths I cry to you, oh God.”

Isn’t “Help” the behind the scenes word for John 21:18? “When we are young, we can walk anywhere we want to walk. When we are old ... someone else will put us in a wheelchair and take us where we don’t want to go.” “Help!”: the cry that echoes down every nursing home hall.

Isn’t “Help!” a one word translation of St. Alphonsus’ whole message about grace and prayer of petition? “Pray and you’ll be saved; don’t pray and you’ll be lost.”

Isn’t “Help” a one word translation of the famous picture of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”? Jesus has a nightmare or a vision of the cross and he runs as fast as he can and leaps into his mother’s arms for help?

Isn’t “Help!” a one word translation of the scene in Luke’s gospel, when the disciples come to Jesus and say, “Lord, teach us how to pray?”

“Help!” Want to learn how to pray? Look at the icon of Perpetual Help. Ask Mary, ask Jesus, to teach you how to perpetually ask for “Help!”

© Andrew Costello, CSSR


It’s a story – everybody’s story – a child is scared and runs to his mother and then is scooped up into her arms – almost losing his sandal in the running.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – a mom holding her child – calming him down – and then looking out to see if there is anybody else who needs help.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – hands that are held and hands that are held onto – the need to hold and be held by another – the need to stay close to each other.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – sometimes people have eyes that look right into our soul and sometimes people have eyes that are looking elsewhere.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – that there are angels – messengers who bring us cues and clues about life. In the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help they are named Michael, on the left looking out – and Gabriel, on the right looking out. Who have been the angels in our life?

It’s a story – everybody’s story – that these messengers, these angels, sometimes tell us of the reality of future suffering in our life – showing us the cross of death we’ll have to face when our way of the cross leads to our Calvary – as well as the sharp spears that stab us in the side and the sponges filled with bitter vinegar that we have to taste.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – the beauty and dignity of women and children.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – to be a strong wall of protection and security for all – especially children.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – to become holy, saints, bathed in halos of light, to become light to the world because of Jesus: The Light of the World.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – to read the handwriting on the wall – the handwriting on the pictures of our life, to study them carefully. It may be Greek to us, but in the famous picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the writing tells us: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is Mother of God – and Jesus is the Christ – the Anointed One.

It’s a story – everybody’s story – to have their picture put in a prominent place – to be honored, respected, remembered and loved.

© Andrew Costello, CSSR
June 27, 2016


Perpetual -- as in Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Perpetual -- as in ongoing, everyday, steady, faithful, always able to be counted upon help.

Perpetual -- as in God’s loving calls to the Church -- to be perpetual in prayer, serving, giving, forgiving, loving one another, always helping in the ongoing creation of the world, the ongoing bringing of Christ to the world.

Perpetual -- as in parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, police, fire fighters, priests, military, all those serving us, all through the years.

Perpetual -- as in a married couple always trying to keep their vows by listening, loving, helping, forgiving, being there for each other, through their 10th, 20th, 25th, 35th, 40th, 50th anniversary -- all through the years.

Perpetual -- as in a nun, always trying to serve God and to pray for and to help others, through her 10th, 20th, 25th, 35th, 40th, 50th anniversary -- all through the years.

Perpetual -- as in Mary at the Annunciation, saying “Yes” to God’s word -- perpetually saying, “Be it done to me according to your word.”

Perpetual -- as in Mary at the Visitation, rushing to help her cousin, Elizabeth, in her moments of need.

Perpetual -- as in Mary at Bethlehem, bringing forth Jesus, the Father’s gift to the world.

Perpetual -- as in Mary at Nazareth, helping her son to grow in wisdom, age and grace.

Perpetual -- as in Mary at Cana, becoming aware of a couple in need, and asking her son to help.

Perpetual -- as in Mary, a face in the crowd, especially on the way to Calvary, always trying to support her son with glances of love.

Perpetual -- as in Mary under the cross, being there with enduring love.

Perpetual -- as in Mary in the Early Church, helping all to do whatever Jesus has told us to do.

Perpetual -- as in Mary in the unfolding story of the Church, helping people at all her shrines, with their rosaries beads, in their prayers, in their needs.


© Rev. Andrew  Costello, C.SS.R.


Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to say, “Be it done to me
according to your word.”

But, Mary, like you,
remind me to first ask questions,
so I can discover and ponder
what God is really asking.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to notice those in need, so I
can move quickly to visit and help them.

Mother, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to see when others have
run out of the wine of life and help them
to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to help others who are
carrying their cross or about to die.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to be one of those people
who are life’s foundation stones,
holding family and community together.

© Andy Costello 2016


Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to make
someone’s day today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
tell me what how the Carpenter,
wants me to build my house
on rock today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to be a source of courage
for someone today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to really listen
to someone today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to lighten the cross
for someone today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to stop gossip
about someone today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to be show forgiveness
to someone today.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help,
help me to go the extra mile

for someone today. 

© Andy Costello 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Each street a shelf….
Each house a book….
Each person a chapter?

No, no, no, no, no, no….

Each person a biography,
an autobiography, memoirs,
a novel, waiting to be read.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016