Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 23, 2016


The neat - the newspaper police - you have
to toss out yesterday's papers by 7 A.M. the
next morning ….  But "Shh!" - they don’t get
them all - no matter how hard they try.
There's a Saturday, November 23, 1963 copy
of the New York Daily News in the bottom
drawer of my work bench in the basement.
And there's a razor sliced obit sitting in my
Bible - facing Psalm 23. And they don't know
it, but pages  B5-6-11-12 line the bottom
of a musty steamer trunk in our attic -
dated September 14, 1926. For the sake
of transparency - I am a hoarder and
a saver of newspapers. I hate to toss out
any newspaper - so I love it when I find
in the places and spaces of the newspaper
police - any old anything from any old
newspaper. And except for the names, the
old news is always new news for me to read.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 22, 2016

[Self Test number 23]

What do you want to be?

Circle three.


© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Note: This is Self Test # 23 on this blog. Can you find the other 22 on my blog?



The title of my homily for this July 22nd Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene is, “Mary Magdalene: Pi - Politically Incorrect.”

If I have it correct, when it comes to mentioning stories, incidents and interactions of Jesus with women, the gospel is revolutionary.


In the last 100 years or so,  things have improved for women in the world. We see this in wages, being allowed to vote, getting elected to political offices, etc. etc. etc. The so called “glass ceiling” takes hits with rocks from time to time.

There is still a long way to go in the middle east - and various other places in the world. Many are still often treated as second class citizens. It’s an attitude that is passed down from generation to generation.

I was visiting a woman from the parish up in Shepherd Pratt recently. The accommodations for visitors were not visitor friendly. I was in a smallish room with other visitors.  Right next to us was a Jewish family.  I assumed that because the patient’s father was  wearing a yamaka.  I found out he was a rabbi. They were - sort of - right next to us. Two or three times we connected in some comments.  When the clock hit 8 PM, we had to leave. I was saying good bye to the lady I visited - plus some the others.  I shook  the hand of the rabbi - saying, “Safe travels home.” I then reached my hand out to  his wife and he pushed my hand away big time. I said, “Ooops, I’m sorry.”

I was clueless to that point.

I should have been quicker - because of past experiences - with people from cultures I was not privy to. I had also read the book, The Bookseller of Kabul. That  was an eye opener for me about daily life amongst Muslim men and women in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. I assumed it was a lot tougher for women in rural areas.


I also remember a moment when I was with a group of men and women in a private house in Hazleton, Pa. around 1980. The men were all captains of our retreat house groups.  Lunch was served and I was completely surprised that there were only men around the table. Without thinking, I asked, “But where are the women?” And some guy said, “They are in the kitchen.” Then he added,  “They like it that way.”

So women’s roles and situations vary - all over the world - and expectations vary.


As Robert Frost puts it: we build walls - walling people in and walling people out.

There’s something in us that doesn’t like a wall - and there is something in us that gets us to try to be in a better situation than others.

We the United States don’t have the caste system that one still finds in India - but we need to step back and look at walls and ceilings.

Take the example of gay people.

We have seen dramatic changes in this country in the last 5 years or so on how people treat gay and lesbian people. Commentators were surprised with the events last night at the Republican National Convention along these lines. There are changes - at least in language.


In fact seeing how people reacted to gay people in the past, we can get an inkling into what people felt when Jesus interacted with women.

Men did not talk to women in public. There were different sections for the men in the synagogue. 

I don’t know if we catch this when we read the scriptures - because we sit together - at least in the body of the church.

So there was Mary Magdalene and other women hobnobbing with Jesus.

I think the position of Mary in Catholic Church and in the scriptures is a big loud comment for all of us to hear.

We know the story of Jesus saving a woman from being stoned to death.

We know the story of the woman who came into a house and cried onto Jesus feet and dried her tears on his feet with her hair. Then she  anointed his feet with oil.

And Mary Magdalene was a prostitute in one tradition. And as we heard in today’s gospel, she goes to the tomb that early Easter Morning and is key to announcing that Jesus rose from the dead. Then after Peter and John leave, Mary meets Jesus. At first she thinks he’s gardener. Then realizing he’s Jesus, she  ends up holding and hugging Jesus.

There is heavy significance in this story - and still more to be discovered.


I think this reality should be stressed when people go bananas when hearing some of St. Paul’s comments about women’s place in the community in some of his letters.

In the meanwhile,  we should look at whom we exclude - whom we try to wall in and wall out.

Let me close with Edwin Markham’s famous 4 line poem. It’s called, “Outwitted.”


He drew a circled that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in.” 


Mary Magdalene painting on top by Pietro Perugino - c. 1500.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21, 2016


Sometimes it's not the right time to
talk: the food, the crowd, the noise,
the whole table gets in the way. 

Sometimes it's not the right time to
listen: the conversation becomes like a plate of sea food - too, too complicated. 

Sometimes it's the right time to just
enjoy: not to wonder whether so and
so is a clam, a lobster or a hot potato.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20, 2016


Every time I come to Mass,
I’m accepting You, Jesus, as my Savior.

Every time we say the “Glory to God
in the highest prayer” at Mass,
I’m accepting You, Jesus,  as my Savior.

Every time I read or hear the gospels
and I say “Glory to You, O Lord”
at the beginning of Your Gospel and
“Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ”
at the end of the listening,
I’m accepting You, Jesus, as my Savior.

Every time I’m praying the Creed,
Apostles’ or Nicene,
I’m accepting You,  Jesus as my Savior.

Every time I receive Communion,
Your Body and Blood of Jesus Christ,
I’m accepting You, Jesus, as my Savior.

Every time I walk with You
in Your the Stations of the Cross, 
I’m accepting You, Jesus,  as my Savior.

Every time I visit You Jesus Christ
in the Blessed Sacrament
I’m accepting You, Jesus as my Savior.

Every time I visit the sick and feed the
hungry and help the poor and the hurting
in Your Body of Christ,
I’m accepting You, Jesus, as my Savior.

Every time I begin or end anything
by making the sign of the Cross,
I’m accepting You, Jesus as my Savior.

Every time I’m reciting this litany,
I’m accepting  You,  Jesus as my Savior.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016



The title of my homily for this 16th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Shepherd’s Stink.”

As soon as I heard the first word from today’s first reading, “Shepherd”,  I immediately thought about Pope Francis’ comment to priests - bishops - cardinals, 1,600 of them - at the Holy Thursday service in Rome in  2013.

He looked up from his prepared script and ad-libbed the following comment, “Be shepherds and live with the smell of the sheep.”

We usually don’t remember sermons - or stuff that popes say - but we priests heard that call from our pope. I’ve heard different priests joke about it.


I remember - I celebrate - I have always been grateful  - for the first sentence my first pastor said to me the day I arrived at my first assignment:  Most Holy Redeemer - 173 East 3rd Street, New York City - February 1st, 1967.  “Andrew,” he said, pointing to the floor of the rectory, “this is not the parish.” And then pointing out the window he said, “It’s out there.”

I had joined the Redemptorists to go to Brazil - but got the Lower East Side of Manhattan instead. Bummer. But I soon discovered the reality of life in the sweat and the stink of life in the inner city.

It was right at the moment of the Hippie Revolution - Flower Children Time - in both the East Village - New York City and Haight Ashbury, San Francisco.

I found myself in many a tenement apartment with many mattresses on the floors - lots of flies on half eaten food on all the tables and floors - and in my hand a piece of paper from a phone call from a parent in the Kansas or Nebraska or Ohio - looking for their runaway kid. The places stunk.

On East 4th Street - The Rat - was published. It was an underground newspaper - featuring all things hippie, drugs, radical and revolutionary. I remembered it had instructions and maps on how to disrupt and protest at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.  I remember seeing posters and meeting Louis Abolafia - who was running for president on "The I Got Nothing To Hide Party."  His posters had him standing there naked holding a derby in a key place. I remember the nuns in our school asking me to go into The Rat and asking them to take that poster down from their front window - because of the kids going up the street.

Who said, "May you live in exciting times."

I found myself down in the high rise apartments near Avenue D and the East River - visiting parishioners. If they lived on the upper floors I had to go up in urine smelling elevators.

I’m sure the places were nothing like the 20 or so barrios with their villas of misery that Bergoglio - now Pope Francis - visited when he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires in Argentina.  Yet maybe - some places were close to that.

It was an eye opener - as well as a wonderful exciting time in my life.


When I was in the Major Seminary - I had a volunteer job for 6 years - of taking care of our horses for one week every month. Right next to the 4 horse stalls was a barn for about 20 cows. It was a chance for me - a city boy to learn the difference between the smells of horses versus cows.  Their poop was very different as well.

They weren’t sheep, but I understood what the pope is asking of the priests of our church.

Get out of the rectory - or as Pope Francis puts it - get out of the sacristy.


When I read what Bergoglio - now Pope Francis the First - said about getting with the poor - I feel guilty. Rarely have I gotten into any houses on Clay Street - or any hidden poor places of Annapolis. I read that Pope Francis likes to slip out of the Vatican in the evening and visit the poor of Rome.

I know that there are times I hide out - I’m tired or lazy - but I hear the pope’s call to get on my horse and get out there and find the lost sheep  - and get stinky in the process.

I know that there are folks who think their life stinks and they need to sit and thrash that out with a priest or anyone. I do that - but I still feel guilt when it comes to time with the poor.

I even feel guilty in living in this beautiful place on the water- wondering how we too might downsize our reality like the Pope did when it comes to his housing in the Vatican.
Last night they had a goodly bunch of poor folks in the rectory corridor asking for help with their lives and the Saint Vincent de Paul folks are there to listen to them and to help them. I was waiting there for a couple at 7 PM who were coming in for marriage preparation stuff - and this little girl was going back and forth - with a good load in her pampers - and I realized her mother has a much tougher time that me - and here I am with a sleek young couple and here are the St. Vincent de Paul folks being with people whose lives are stinky in all sorts of ways. Bummer.

Francis is calling our church to get closer to each other and to the people.


The title of my homily is, "Shepherd’s Stink".

The first word in the first reading from Micah is Shepherd - God’s call to shepherd his people Israel. [Cf. Micah 7:14-15, 18-20]

And today’s gospel from Matthew tells us that we are all mother and father and brother and sister to each other. Amen. [Cf. Matthew12: 46-50]
July 19, 2016


Rain drops glistened
in the morning light -
like glass lady bugs - resting
there one by one -
on the long green stems
pointing to me as I headed
through our garden
for the parking lot.

When I came back
from shopping
they were all gone.
They disappeared,
like all the faces I saw today -
walking by them in the Mall.
Better say “Hello” and “Hi”
before we all evaporate.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016


The water keeps flowing….
The wind keeps blowing ….
The mind keeps talking ….

My pail grabs some water….
My sails catch some wind ….
My mind is flowing and blowing too fast ....

Stop the water, the wind, 
the mind. I need to hear just
one word, one hope, one at a time....

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “St. Camillus de Lellis: Patron Saint of ____ Your Choice.”

St. Camillus de Lellis - great name - sounds poetic. Words with “L” and “M” in them are supposed to be key to good musical or poetic sounding words

Some folks don’t get the Catholic thing about saints. There is the standard comment that we make them God. One hears this most when talking about our take on Mary. And Catholics respond: we don’t see them as God - we’re simply asking them for help, inspiration, and to talk to God for us. We also see them as models - heroes - and good examples on how to be a good Christian.

One of the priests here always talks about “Saints” as having friends in high places.  

Camillus de Lellis’ dates are 1550 to his death in Rome on July 14, 1614.

So St. Camillus de Lellis’ feast day is July 14 - but because of the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha - he was bounced from that day here in North America - to this day - July 18t.. Why he was kept in public - with another day - might say something about this very interesting saint.

That’s intriguing - but the more I got to know St. Camillus de Lellis I could see why.

When I was a kid, I remember being at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan, New York City, and some folks from St. Camillus de Lellis Parish - in Long Island or somewhere went marching by. Seeing their banner I remember saying, “Who the heck was St. Camillus de Lellis?”
So I read his life and various takes on him through the years.


When I read his life when I was 20 years old, I found out why he was such a fascinating character.

I also know from being a Catholic that to become really famous as a Saint, it helps to be named  the Patron Saint of some need.

For example St. Jude is the Patron Saint of hopeless cases and St. Anthony is the saint to pray to when we have lost something. Recently I’ve heard people say, “St. Gertrude is better than St. Anthony.” How’s that for being P.C. correct and give women their due.

So what can we make St. Camillus de Lellis the Patron Saint of?

Here is my list:

Patron Saint of Nurses
Patron Saint of Hospital Workers
Patron Saint of Gamblers
Patron Saint of Soldiers
Patron Saint of Those with cuts that won’t heal
Patron Saint of a Happy Death
Patron Saint of those with Absentee Dads
Patron Saint of those who lose their moms when they are young
Patron Saint of the Rejected
Patron Saint of the Clumsy
Patron Saint of those with Violent Tempers
Patron Saint of those who don’t like to study


Now to be a bit more specific, but I don’t have that much time.

Patron Saint of the Rejected: He was kicked out of hospitals, several religious orders, the army, etc. etc. etc.

Patron Saint of those with a Gambling Addiction: He had a long time gambling problem - with cards - like his dad. He would recover over and over again and then recover again and again - causing problems every time.

Patron Saint for Those Whose Dad Is Absent: All through his childhood up to his 20’s his dad was absent. His dad was a soldier - always off fighting some war somewhere far away. This was all that Camillus knew. He disliked books and studies of any kind. Being a big guy he was able to get employed as a soldier - fighting for several armies - even the Turks.

Patron Saint of the Clumsy:  once he was making a sick call and as he leaded over to bless a guy who was dying, Camillus knocked the bed post off the bed and it hit the dying man on the head and caused bleeding.  Once he was in church preaching and he stepped on the edge of his Alb, tripped and fell into some people sitting in the front benches of the church.

Patron Saint for a Happy Death: all his life he can be found caring for the sick and the dying. He started a religious order called the Brothers of a Happy Death. So he worked a lot with the dying in helping them to receive the sacraments especially during various plagues.

Patron Saint for Cuts on One’s Legs or Feet: He had horrible feet - and sores - all through the years - that didn’t heal. He had to crawl along floors to get to the sick.

Patron Saint of Nurses: He was a nurse. They were mostly male in his time. He also swept the corridors and the rooms. He changed bandages. He stayed with those who were sick.  


So that’s a few comments and thoughts about St. Camillus de Lellis. I’m sure each of us can make him a Patron Saint of  at least one of our needs. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

June 17, 2016


Somewhere along the line it hit me
during some Western movie:  "Did the
Native Americans ever use wheels?"

I’d be watching a Western and I’d
see folks moving across the screen
dragging their stuff on long tent poles.

It seemed clumsy and cumbersome.
Wheels would have made the
migration all the more easier.

Just one of those ongoing life questions
like: I saw other kids skating or on a bike
and I must have said, "I want wheels." 

Wheels... just to make life easier. Ooops!
In my second childhood will I see someone
in a wheelchair and I'll say, "I want wheels."

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 16 Sunday in Ordinary Time is, “Boo Boo.”


A good 25 years ago or so I’m sitting there on a couch at some family get together. This little kid named Patrick - my niece Patty’s kid - walks across a crowded room and comes up to me - points at a Band-Aid on my finger and says, “Boo Boo!”

He had spotted the Band-Aid on a cut on my right hand from some 25 feet away - walked through the crowd - pointed at my hurt and said, “Boo Boo.”

We forget most moments. Why have I remembered that simple moment?

It has become a lifetime parable - story - example - message for me.

I could walk through this church and stop at every person in this crowded room - point at your heart or your mind and say, “Boo Boo?”

Better and clearer: “Where does it hurt?”

Pause …. Hopefully, that question could make you pause as you think of places and experiences in your life where you were hurt and got a boo boo.


I don’t have good skin - and it’s getting worse in my old age. I tend to pick my cuts. So my doctor told me, “Everyone picks their skin - more or less.”

People seeing me picking a scab - from a cut - often say, “Stop. Stop picking.”

I thought my doctor gave the best comment. She said, “Work on it.”

Yet, she was right about, “Everyone picks on their cuts - more or less.”

Have you ever been cut?  Have you ever been dropped?  Have you ever been burnt? Make your list. Fill in the blanks. Name your boo boos. Do you pick your cuts? 

Where have you been hurt?

It could be something we did - some big mistake - something we cannot forget and find hard to forgive ourselves for.

It could be something someone did to us. Abuse. Alcoholism. Addiction. Absenteeism. An accident. And those are just “Boo Boo’s” that begin with the letter A.

Which letter in the alphabet would help us make the best list? How about R’s: regrets, remarks, resentments, rejections, rape, someone read us the wrong way - and we have remembered, maybe even regurgitated that hurt all our life?


We Redemptorists - the priests and religious who staff this parish - celebrate our patron feast this Sunday - every year on the Second Sunday of July - as the feast of our Most Holy Redeemer.

We were founded back in 1732 in Scala above the Amalfi Coast in Italy  by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. He spotted places and people - that other priests and church did not want to go to.

Our goal was to work with those who were abandoned or neglected or not acceptable.

When we came to Annapolis in 1853 - there was no parish here.

Jesuits came here from down in the St. Mary’s County area of Maryland - to say Mass in private house chapels - like at the Charles Carroll House.

Backtracking, we came from Vienna, Austria in 1832 - because of the shortage of priests for the German immigrants over here. So we started churches in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Baltimore.

From Baltimore, we came to Annapolis.

Backtracking even more, we came to Vienna and Warsaw from the Naples area of Italy where we tried to reach out to serve Catholics in those areas.

We then went from established places to new places where there was a shortage of clergy: South America, Africa, Asia.  Right now our most growing places are Vietnam, India, Africa, the Philippines and other places in Southeast Asia.

And our message is in our motto - from Psalm 130, “With Him there is fullness of Redemption.” In Latin, as it appears on our coat of arms: that is, “Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio.”

In our Latin motto, I like to move the “eum” and put it after the word “redemption.” Then the first letter of each word spells out the English word “CARE”.

Redemption means caring.

Redemption means healing.

Redemption means helping.

Redemption means recognizing.

Redemption means being a Good Samaritan.

Redemption means saving.

Redemption means being freedom - as in the movie Shawshank Redemption.

Redemption also means salvation. They have nuances and similarities.

Salvation: now that’s a big word - as in Saving Private Ryan or saving our soul.

In 1749 - when we were trying to get our approval to become a Religious Congregation in the church - we were to be the Congregation of the Most Holy Savior - only to find out in Rome - another group already had that name. So we became the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer - the Redemptorists.

Right now we have  around 5,500 members in 77 countries around the world.

Our job is to bring Jesus to folks - to redeem folks - to bring mercy and forgiveness -  to people.

Our job is to be there where people hurt - where there are boo boos.

I like it that St. Alphonsus made it a great stress that we Redemptorists help people with their conscience - especially when it comes to moral decisions. He developed a Moral Theology called equiprobalism - which calls for balance - neither being too strict or too lax.
Bernard Haring, CSSR

I like it that another great Redemptorist, Father Bernard Haring,  developed a Moral Theology which he called The Law of Christ. It was very personal. It was very freeing. It was very helpful. I think that is where I discovered my favorite Bible Text. It's from Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you are fulfilling the Law of Christ.”

Both St. Alphonsus and Bernard Haring were attacked in their times for being too liberal.  At another time St. Alphonsus was attacked for being too conservative.

In theology - in church stuff - as in politics and in life - expect people to have different opinions - different takes - different viewpoints.

In a way, I like it that in the past few years, two of our priests in Ireland, are in trouble with some people in Rome because they were calling our Church to be more open and to reach out to people we weren’t. They have been more open to preaching the mercy of Jesus - too much - for people in some marriage cases and people situations - forgiveness etc. etc. etc. They were addressing some issues that Pope Francis and our recent synods were beginning to address.

I like it and don’t like it that some people are complaining about Pope Francis that he’s not tough enough - and they don’t like his “liberal positions” - and they will wait him out. It tells me that he is addressing issues that call for complaints to kill messenger - the stuff Jesus got into.

I like it that this year is a year of mercy. If you come through these doors, please experience mercy, healing, forgiveness, acceptance and welcome.

Please hear the song: “All are welcome. All are welcome. All are welcome in this place.”

I like it that this parish is very, very generous with helping people in the St. Vincent de Paul Society - folks who come here every Monday night and Wednesday afternoon for help. Thank you for your money in the poor box. It goes to the poor.

I like it that our high school classrooms are used for the ESL - the English as a Second Language program.

I like it that our Hispanic parishioners are well over 1000 - and I’m sure some are illegal.

I like it that America was discovered and then America discovered the richness of immigrants. Of course,  we did a horror story on the natives in place.

I like it that the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island is still proclaiming Emma Lazarus’ poem:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning 

to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed 

to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

For the sake of transparency,  I am first generation. My mother and father were immigrants - coming here from poverty.  

For the sake of transparency my father took us every Sunday down to the Narrows - just 4 blocks away - from where we lived - that water that leads into the New York Harbor and Ellis Island within view of the Statue of Liberty.

For the sake of transparency I am a Redemptorist. All our priests and brothers who came here were immigrants - who spoke a different language.

For the sake of transparency I am a Christian - and I believe Jesus the Redeemer - was all about removing walls - barriers - blocks between people. If in doubt read Ephesians 2:13-14: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has  broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Hey, when Jesus healed people - on the Sabbath - when he reached out to sinners - and ate with them - when he rubbed hands and eyes with folks that you should not associate with - he triggered anger. At those moments he told people to drop the rocks of rejection. They dropped them - walked away one by one - but soon began plotting on a way to kill him.


In today’s reading we hear about hospitality.

In today’s readings we hear about welcoming.

Where are you hungry?

Where are you thirsty?

Where are you in need?

In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham and Sarah help 3 strangers who are going by. They bathe their feet, tell them to rest under their tree, and here’s something to eat.

In today’s second reading from Colossians Paul tells his brothers and sisters - those he meets - that Christ and his church is all about helping folks with their sufferings - their boo boos.

In today’s gospel from Luke - our Gospel Reading for this year - we hear about Martha and Mary - that hospitality is about feeding - but especially listening - being attentive - being one to one with each other.

Sometimes those who serve - don’t look in the eye -  the eye of the person they are serving - just doing, doing, doing, without being, being, being with the other. The Martha in them has taken over and the Mary has been neglected.

Augustine said: both Martha and Mary is each of us.

I know I can be so impersonal at time - mechanical at times - just a functionary at times - and not being with the ones I’m with.


I have to keep in mind my little grandnephew Patrick who spotted my boo boo in a crowded room.

Isn’t that the call for all of us - to be like little children - as Jesus put it - and to see where others hurt.

To know others hurt. To know others need redemption. To know others need personal contact and love.

To look across the crowded rooms we find ourselves in and to ask, “Is there any person across this crowded room who could use a visit from our very best?”