Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 10, 2016


Some times we  fall upon "Hard Times". 

Like an orphan child they are laid at our door. 

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Listen to a song - a song like "Hard Times."

Listen carefully to the words - to another's soul.

Everyone has sung it. Everyone has felt it: 

Dolly Parton, Emilylou Harris, Bob Dylan,
Mary Black, Johnny Cash, Mavis Staples,
Bruce Springsteen and so many others
on the other side of our door. Then pray
each time you hear the old words, 
"Hard Times, Come Again No More." 
Hard times, come again no more to my door. 

© Andy Costello Reflections 2016


Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh hard times come again no more.

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.


Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.



Hard Times Come Again No More

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cover of the sheet music, 1854
New York: Firth, Pond & Co. (1854)
Strophic with chorus

"Hard Times Come Again No More," (sometimes, "Hard Times") is an American parlor song written by Stephen Foster. It was published in New York by Firth, Pond & Co. in 1854 as Foster's Melodies No. 28. Well-known and popular in its day,[1] both in America and Europe,[2][3] the song asks the fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate and ends with one of Foster's favorite images: "a pale drooping maiden".
The first audio recording was a wax cylinder by the Edison Manufacturing Company (Edison Gold Moulded 9120) in 1905. It has been recorded and performed numerous times since. The song isRoud Folk Song Index #2659.
A satirical version about soldier's food was popular in the American Civil WarHard Tack Come Again No More.

Original sheet music
Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh! Hard times come again no more.


There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh! Hard times come again no more.

'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh! Hard times come again no more.


In media

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made "Hard Times" a focal piece of their 2009 Working on a Dream Tour.

"Hard Times Come Again No More" has been included in the following:

Dolly Parton opens her 1980 song "Hush-A-Bye Hard Times" with an a cappella verse from the song.

Recorded by Irish singer Mary Black on her 1984 album Collected.

On Syd Straw's 1989 debut album Surprise, Straw and X frontman and solo artist John Doe recorded a version of the song.

By Kate & Anna McGarrigle on the 1991 Songs of the Civil War collection.

By Emmylou Harris in her 1992 live album At the Ryman.

By Bob Dylan for his 1992 album Good as I Been to You.
As the penultimate track on the 1992 debut album from The Lost DogsScenic Routes.

In Series One (1995) of the "Transatlantic Sessions", Hard Times Come Again No More was performed by an ensemble composed of Kate and Anna McGarrigleRufus WainwrightEmmylou HarrisMary BlackKaren Matheson and Rod Paterson.

The 1995 movie Georgia with Mare Winningham and Jennifer Jason Leigh sung by Mare Winningham and band.

The 1995 movie The Neon Bible performed by Thomas Hampson.

Ambassadors of Harmony perform an a cappella male chorus barbershop arrangement on their 2000 album Sing Sing Sing![4]

The 2000 Appalachian Journey, for voice & piano with Edgar Meyer (bass), James Taylor (vocals) Mark O'Connor (violin or fiddle) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello).

Johnny Cash on the Redemption Songs disc of the 2003 Unearthed box set of out-takes and alternate versions from his American Recordingsseries.

Mavis Staples recorded it for the Grammy award-winning album Beautiful Dreamer (2004).

In 2005, the song was included in the soundtrack Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, performed by Eastmountainsouth.
The 2005 film My Brother's War by Whitney Hamilton.

Matthew Perryman Jones included it on his 2006 album Throwing Punches in the Dark.

Andru Bemis recorded it on his 2006 album Rail to Reel.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's 2009 Working on a Dream Tour and captured on their 2010-released London Calling: Live in Hyde Park concert video.

In the Season 2 finale of Parenthood by the same name, the song was contributed to the soundtrack by Brett Dennen.

The 2012 Voice of Ages by The Chieftains, with Paolo Nutini.

The 2012 Eesti Kullafond collection of Estonian folk-pop group Folkmill.[5]

An Iron & Wine performance featured in commercials promoting the 2012 Copper television series on BBC America.

Black 47, on the 2014 album Last Call.

The 2014 9/11 Memorial commemoration (bagpipes adaption).
Kristin Chenoweth performed the song on her 2014 live album Coming Home.

Katy Treharne sings it on the Tearfund with 'West End has Faith' 2015 album Speechless.[6]

Annie Moses Band performed the song on their 2015 album American Rhapsody.

Friday, September 9, 2016

September 9, 2016


Ten times a day we look at the clock....

Eleven times a day we look at our watch....
Twelve times a day we look at our day....
morning, noon and night ....
Once a week we wonder where we are....

Once a month we wonder where the years
have gone....
At one moment we're in our childhood ....
At another moment we're serious adults ....
On the porch or with our walker we're
retracing our walk through the years of 
our life....
At one moment we remember when we were kids.... on slides in the playground - then running across the fields of our high school years....
At the next moment we're grateful for our kids....
At another moment we're cursing, "Where are they?"
At this moment, I close my eyes and cry,
"Thank You God! It's been good."
"Thank You God! I want many more 
mornings just to live, just to give, just to remember that I have lived .... Amen."

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016


What scenes move you to pause, to tears,
to a smile, to say, "Thank You, Oh my God"?

A father and his baby daughter in his arms
dancing on a wooden floor at a wedding?

A couple standing tight together at a fence
on a windy evening looking out at the ocean?

A woman in a yard on her knees
planting flowers into the Spring earth?

A large weeping willow tree with a tiny
weeping willow tree swaying together?

A young man - backpack on back, walking
through a stony gate - coming home - maybe?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September 7, 2016

Self-Test # 24

It’s just a simple test. It's good if you
take it with another person - especially
someone who really knows you. It's better
if you take this test with four others. But
you really have to listen to their takes on you.
Listen! Really listen to why they picked
the object they picked that describes you.
Best: you can't argue or defend yourself.

Here’s a list of objects on a piece of
paper.  Put a circle around the one that
best describes you to you - and then pick one
object for each of the others in the test.

Apple, orange, onion, egg, roller skates,
ice skates, tire, steering wheel, door knob,
key, book, cellphone, envelope, shovel,
rose, thorn, cross, backpack, duct tape,
ballpoint pen, ice cube, ice cream cone,
ocean, lake, pond, kite, hula hoop, jeans,
t-shirt, watch, ring, donut, t-bag, sofa,
chocolates, rosary beads, paper clip,
violin, guitar, piano, table, dust rag, sail,
golf ball, vase, tennis net, bird feeder,
deck of cards, needle, thread, knife, fork,
spoon, chopsticks, sign, faucet, sink, cup,
trophy, fireplace, flashlight, other _______.

Note: this is self-test # 24 on my blog. Can you find the other 23?

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
September 6, 2016


The Insurance Man said,
“It’s rock solid. Guaranteed ….”
Then her husband died.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections 2016


How many times in life have we heard someone say, "What a difference!"

How many times in life have we heard someone say to us, "You've changed! You're different. In fact, what a difference!"

And for days afterwards we wondered,  "What were they talking about? What did they mean?"

Was it the new glasses?

Was it the new hairdo?

Every year our parish - along with our schools and our religious education programs - has a theme for the year - coinciding with the school year. 

This year our theme is, "Go Make A Difference!"

Obviously, it's not about looks or glasses - but about attitudes and values, service and loving our brothers and sisters.

Change is slow....

Change is invisible - sort of.... well while changing.

Wrinkles have a slow crawl - so too beards - and so too tires on our cars - wearing out - slowly.

When we get new tires - better - when we get a new car, "What a difference."

A son or a daughter falls in love.... and their face, their way of being with us .... changes. What a difference!

A younger sister is always in her older sister's shadow - then the older sister goes off to college - at a distance - and the younger sister comes out of her hole - out of her room - it's Groundhog's day and she is no longer in her sister's shadow. Grandma says to son - her dad - about her, "Wow, she's changed. What a difference!"

A couple are fighting - fighting - fighting - till their 3 kids one night are all alone - and mom and dad are both out somewhere - but not together - and all 3 talk about their parents. Surprise, both parents come home almost at the same time and the oldest daughter says in a commanding voice, "Mom ... Dad ... sit!"

Then she says, "We were just talking about you. Enough is enough. Either break up or go for counseling. The status quo stinks. The 3 of us are sick and tired of hearing both of you, bickering, bickering, bickering."


And mom and dad are shocked, surprised, stunned, and they go for counseling. 

And a few years later, while at the microphone for their 25th anniversary, they tell their  kids and family and friends, "We wouldn't be here today - except for our kids. What a difference they made in our life! Thank you!"


A class bully moved to the west coast - and the following year - the kids in that class on the east coast said in a dozen different ways, "When he was gone. What a difference in our class!"

The shy kid gets in the band.... The lazy kid gets on the football team.... The grandmother in the nursing home discovers BINGO ... The widower discovers bridge .... A woman's group decides to get Fitbits - and besides their reading group - they become a walking group - 2 days a week. 

What a difference.

Jesus heals a blind person - a guy with a withered hand - and saves a woman who was about to be stoned to death.

What a difference.

Someone reads his and changes for the better.... and someone seeing them, experiencing them says, "What a difference!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016



The title of my homily for this 23 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Lawsuits.”

That’s the specific issue that shows up in today’s first reading from 1st Corinthians 6: 1-11.

Last night I read the readings for today to see if I could come up with an interesting and a helpful theme or topic for a short homily.

Lawsuits was a key issue in the beginning of today’s first reading - and then a bunch of sexual issues at the end of the reading. The gospel has the theme of Jesus praying before deciding.  That’s a very smart move.

Wanting to know more about lawsuits in the city of Corinth around the year of 50’s - grabbed me.

So I grabbed a few  commentaries on First Corinthians to see what they say about lawsuits and the first part of today’s first reading. [1]

It was interesting on what William Barclay said. He usually gives details I don’t know about - or have forgotten. I often wonder where he had the time and the energy to pull together all the information he has gathered.


So a few comments from commentaries on lawsuits.

Paul has a Jewish background - but he was also from Tarsus - a Greek town in Cilicia  - but it was also a Roman town - which made him a Roman Citizen - so he would have various scenarios in his mindset.

For starters, Paul would know what the Jewish communities did when there was a disagreement about money, property and personal injury.  Often you would try to settle the situation by talking to each other. If that didn’t work, you’d go to the village rabbi - and try to settle it that way.

Well, here in Corinth, Paul found out that the Greeks were really off on lawsuits - a lot more than his Jewish counterparts.

Barclay doesn’t have enough ancient writings about what precisely was going on in Corinth, but he found literature on lawsuits in Athens at the same time, so he bases his commentary on that.

Instead of going to the elders, the Greeks ended up going to court a lot more.

First step with the Greeks when it came to a possible lawsuit. Go to private arbitrators. Each side would get an arbitrator and a third was chosen - whom both sides would accept. Then both sides with their arbitrators would appear before a judge.

If that didn’t work in a Greek lawsuit, you would go to a court called the Forty. Then they referred the matter to a public arbitrator.  These arbitrators would be all local citizens in their 60th year - at least this is what they did in Athens. I’m sure human nature and people being people - some would and could get out of this civic duty. 

If this didn’t work, then big cases had to be settled by juries - that might consist of 1000 to 6000 citizens - all of whom had to be 30 years or over.

That’s what Barclay said was done in Athens. Sounds rare and too complicated for me.

Moreover I began wondering what they would do in small towns - but what  I just mentioned from Barclay was very interesting.

There were no TV’s - and therefore no Judge Judy - so big cases must have been the talk of the town.

We know that Paul took his case to Rome - when he was charged for being a rabble rouser and a Christian.

Reading this stuff was helpful, because now that is one more issue - lawsuits - or how folks settle money or property or physical hurt issues in ancient times - and I’ll wonder about from all times down through the ages.


Stepping back, I said to myself, “Of course there were court cases in the time of Jesus.”

In the gospel we hear about brothers coming to Jesus to have him settle a money dispute. Jesus said settle your problems yourselves before going to court over something and you cost yourself a fortune. Jesus at times talked about Judges. Jesus was arrested and put on trial and the crowd made the decision, “Crucify him!”

So it struck me: expect this in every human situation. There are always going to be money or property fights.


Of course…. Right before us is a statue of St. Alphonsus who was a lawyer - back in the early 1700’s - who lost a law suit over a property deal. We were taught he made a mistake in reading a key detail. Now some of our historians say that he lost the case because of a well-placed bribe - and not from his side.

What to do, get a good lawyer.What to do, talk to others.

What to do, pray. In today’s gospel Jesus went into the mountains to pray before making his big decision on whom to call by name. 



[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, Revised Edition, pp. 48-51; The Navarre Bible, Corinthians, pp. 77-79;

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 5, 2016


Sitting in church after Mass -
watching the altar server
putting out the candles….

No air …. Smothered….
The candle goes out ….

She felt that way in
her marriage at times ….

Then she spotted light
coming through the
stained glass windows.
She made the sign of the cross -
got up - walked outside - feeling
free - breathing in the fresh air.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “Something Beautiful for God.”

Today we celebrate Mother Teresa as a Saint - September 5th. She died this day - September 5, 1997.

Pope Francis said yesterday - at her canonization - that she’ll always be known as Mother Teresa. I find myself thinking of her with that name - and not as St. Teresa of Kolkatta.  In fact, I am not sure how to spell Calcutta - with a K and an A.  I also can’t pronounce or spell her original name: AnjezĂ« Gonxhe Bojaxhiu.

Besides that we have those other two great Saint Theresa’s - Avila and Lisieux.

I was asking myself: “When did I first hear about Mother Teresa?”

I think it was when I heard about and watched Malcolm Muggeridge’s in the 1969 TV movie and documentary “Something Beautiful for God.”  It then came out as a book in 1971.

Here was someone doing something beautiful for God.  I assume we all added, “Something beautiful for the many people she helped: the poor, the dying, those with HIV/AIDS, the sick, the hungry,  the children, the homeless, the drug addicts, the alcoholics.”

I assume Malcom Muggeridge was one of the first publicists to put her into the public view - and once that happened - all of us felt urges to do something beautiful for those who were in non-beautiful situations.


What’s your take on Mother Teresa?

The first thing was simply and dramatically to know about her and what she did with her life. The theme for our schools and parish this year is, “Go make a difference.”  Mother Teresa certainly did.

Next she founded the Missionaries of Charity - some 4,500 strong - working in a 133 different countries in the world. Her nuns are in Italy, India and Iceland. How about that? When I heard Iceland - I thought, “Surprise!”

I once heard someone say that religious orders in the Catholic Church make it if the founder of a new order is strong. Better if she or he is a dictator. No meetings - no discussion - just give orders and get going with what you’re being called to do. That’s a theory - that I never checked out - or read much about - but I assume is true -  at least as far as Mother Teresa is mentioned.  You get a lot of things done - and done fast - if everyone follows your orders.

I heard that she wanted every one of her sister’s convents to be the same. I heard that in one of her places - someone put in couches for the sisters and out they went into the street.

Next, the complaints…. and the criticisms.  She was a human being. We heard that her original order - the Sisters of Loreto where she started - some were glad to see the back of her.

If you don’t like someone, you’ll things you don’t like and vice versa.

She was a great fund raiser. Some complained about who gave her money and others complained about where the money went. Some was used to build new convents for her nuns. Of course …. Hello!

Some complained that she could have come up with better ways of keeping people alive - instead of having houses for the dying.

Some complained that they could have had better needles and cleaner places.

She received the Nobel Peace Prize and many, many awards.

One last comment would be the following.  I’ve heard nuns frustrated with priests and others who raved about Mother Teresa and didn’t give enough affirmation to nuns who were working their tails off.  The Catholic Church in the United States would not be what it is today - without all the work nuns did here and around the world. I could hear them saying, “What are we chopped liver - giving our lives in classrooms, hospitals, visiting the sick, etc.?

There was a nun in my sister’s order  of nuns, the IHM’s of Scranton, Sister Adrian Barrett [1929-2015] I never talked to her, but I spotted her a few times. She was short like Mother Teresa. She had a smile that was better than Mother Teresa’s smile. She did lots and lots and lots of service to lots and lots of poor folks and there was a TV Public Television documentary on her entitled, Sister Adrian, the Mother Teresa of Scranton. It was narrated by Martin Sheen.  I don’t know - but I wonder if she  and her sisters would prefer she be simply called, Sister Adrian a Great Servant of the Poor.


So that’s a few comments about Mother Teresa on her first feast day as a saint. In time what will be her title: Patron saint of the dying, those with AIDS, India, wrinkles, or what have you. Smile.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September 4, 2016


We know the radiance of the sun -
dancing on the tops of the morning
ocean waves - running in towards
the shore - or the blinding light of the
sun glancing off an afternoon window -
or on a full moon - in a cloudless sky -
at midnight. We know that radiance.

But we also see the radiance of an
engagement ring on the girl nobody
expected would ever marry or the
sight of that first born great granddaughter
brought to see great granny at the nursing
home - or a son or a daughter coming back
home to God and church this morning.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016