Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016


While waiting for my dog to do
his doing - next to an old bathtub -
I stood there leash in hand  - at
the edge of an empty lot with a lot
of stuff  dumped into me. It was the
eyesore  of our street.  Broken toys
and broken boom boxes - an old
abandoned - no seats left - Volkswagen
Bug - and a lot of other stuff - magazines -
a mattress - plastic bags - garbage -
but then I focused on a stone - a
clean faced - no acne on it - just
sitting there - a solid one piece stone -
laughing at me. And I heard it saying,
“I last! Keep your eye on what lasts.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016



The title of my homily for this 31 Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Prepare a Full Account of Your Stewardship.”

That’s a statement in today’s gospel, in the parable of the dishonest - but wise and prudent  - steward.

The Greek is translated into English in various ways: put it in writing, turn in an account, show me the books, make a list of money coming in and money going out….”

Modern translation: transparency!


When else do we have this experience of having to be transparent - put all on the table - let’s see what’s going on here?

In the next two weeks I have to see my regular doctor and a heart doctor. That sounds like a conversation that might take place in Heritage Harbor.

People empty out their pockets before stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office.

I have to take my blood sugar numbers every morning - with my Diabetes #2.  So I am careful for the few days before seeing my doctor - but she has this test that does a month before. Can’t cheat!

Make an account of your blood - your life - your health - your time.

As we get older, Erik Erikson, says the last stage of life is the 8th Stage - when we look at our life and say one or two things: not bad or disaster and “Uh oh!”

It’s good to make an account of one’s life - one’s stewardship.

As priest I know this more than a lot of other people.

There is an act of contrition that I’ve heard people using and loving - that says “I’m sorry for sins I committed that are long forgotten.”  The person who wrote that prayer has to be over 65!


In December I’ll be going on my 33rd Kairos Retreat with our high school seniors.

On the opening night an adult gets up and gives a talk called, “Autobiography” or “LifeGraph.”  She or he tells the story of their life up to that moment. I’ve given that talk 2 times. I prefer others to give it - so as to hear others give an account of their stewardship. Hearing another tell the story of their life - triggers stories in our lives.

At the end of the talk, someone gets up and says draw a line on a blank piece of paper - on the top put all the positives - on the bottom put all the negatives. I’ve done that exercise 32 times now.

Then in a small group each person tells their history to the other members of their small group. 

At 17 or 18 years of age, kids have a long way to go - compared to someone 76 years old.

To me that’s a great exercise - getting me in touch with my history and mystery.

If you have pen and pencil - or computer - jot down your life.

Do a time line.


I love to read biographies - but especially autobiographies.

I urge you to read other people’s memories, published diaries and autobiographies.

I urge you to write your life - your memories.

I was in a hospital room on Wednesday - and a guy - 96 years of age was unconscious - and probably dying. He was on a boat that was hit in the water at Pearl Harbor - and lived.

His daughter in law - reached into her pocket book or bag and took out some papers. They were notes she took of his life - while he was conscious.  She also had some papers that he wrote down about his life.

He was born in Oklahoma - was a cowboy - a rancher - and part Indian. He was also in the Navy!

In time he got married and had kids and had the story of a life.

In this homily I’m saying, “Write your life.” In this homily I’m saying, “Make and account of your stewardship.”

I remember sitting down with my dad before he died and got a nice listing of where he had been and what happened in the time of his life. Years later I sat with a tape recorder and got some of the details of my life.

My niece Kathy volunteers down in New Orleans to sit with someone as they tell the story of their life - on tape. I don’t know the whole process, but I think they get a copy of their life and a copy goes into the archives of the United States or something like that.


When it was the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition I did the Montana part of that expedition by car with 2 classmates. We had about two weeks together.

It was a neat chance to catch up after we finished our studies. Clem went to Brazil. Tom went to Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo and I stayed in the states.
We talked to each other and made an account of our stewardship.


What’s key in doing this is the aftermath.

Like the guy in the gospel who had to make an account of his stewardship, it’s what happened afterwards that was key.

I know that I’ve thought a lot about my life by hearing and reading about others’ lives. Isn’t that the purpose of why Jesus told us this story. Amen.

Painting on top: Al Capone With His Mafia Accountant


Sometimes the itch of anger
escapes out from under the
edges of me - “Oooh!  Oh no!”
Then there is the ooze of wanting
to snap at someone for being selfish
or not seeing what I’m seeing.
It’s then that I have to step back
or step out of  me - out of there -
and take a walk around the block
and  hopefully come back home
to normal, I hope, please God.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 3, 2016


Not all my moments are lucid ….

Yet, sometimes I’m stopped
by the rough texture of bark on trees -
and the veins in soft transparent leaves -
and the turned on water coming out
of the tap seems so lucid - so clear ….

And there are times when I
see you - knowing so much
about you - we’ve talked -  but
there is still so much of the unknown
and too much is not transparent ….

Not all my moments are lucid….

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016



"Sometimes I Wonder!"

That's the title of my homily for today, All Souls Day.


Once in a while I remember and then think about people I have met - people in church, people in nursing homes, homebound as well as classrooms - as well as folks I've talked to on planes, trains and buses.

So I've met lots of people and heard lots of stories that I think about and pray over.

Isn’t it surprising what we remember? I like to take time to be alone and think about all that I remember. I think one of the best places for remembering is the car - alone - without the radio on.

This morning - on this feast of All Souls - I remembered a little girl from a classroom I visited while giving a Parish Mission in some parish in Pennsylvania - somewhere - way back when.

She was sitting in the first seat in the second row. I asked the kids, “Any questions?”

This little girl raised her hand and asked, “Is there life after death?” I wasn’t expecting such a question. I wasn’t expecting such a question from a kid in the second or third grade.

Luckily I asked back, “Why? Why do you ask the question?”

She answered, “Because sometimes I wonder.”

I don’t know what I said next. I probably said, “Well, sometimes I wonder too.”

Isn’t that interesting?  I remembered a little tiny kid I met in classroom filled with kids - and I remember her simple question.

“Sometimes I wonder.”

So I wonder why I remember what I remember and what I wonder about.


I think that little girl stands for all of us. Don’t we all wonder at times if there is life after death? Don’t we all wonder if this is all that there is?

Sometimes I wonder.

Today we are celebrating “All Soul’s Day”. Isn’t that interesting? 

Yesterday we celebrated “All Saint’s Day” - “All Soul’s Day” - back to back feast days to get us thinking about all kinds of saints and all kinds of people whom we have met - who have gone before us?

We remember our dead especially at this celebration of the Eucharist. But don’t we all remember our dead, especially on cold November days when it’s raining? Don’t we remember our dead when we see their photo’s on our bureaus? We remember our dead when we are stopped in traffic for a funeral procession. We remember our dead when we go by a cemetery.

But don’t we all wonder at times, if this is all there is?

Sometimes I wonder.


I remember way back in the 1967 when various changes in the church were beginning to happen. I remember a new catechism appeared on the scene.  It was called, “The Dutch Catechism”. Conservatives panned it and wanted it banned. Liberals welcomed it - saying things like, "Finally a catechism that had a breath of fresh air in it."

I don’t remember anything in that book now - other than it not having a question and answer format as well as  a little story that it opened with.

“In A. D. 627 the monk Paulinus visited King Edwin in northern England to persuade him to accept Christianity. He hesitated and decided to summon his advisers. At the meeting one of them stood up and said: ‘Your majesty, when you sit at table with your lords and vassals, in the winter when the fire burns warm and bright on the hearth and the storm is howling outside, bringing the snow and the rain, it happens of a sudden that a little bird flies into the hall. It comes in one at one door and flies out through the other. For the few moments that it is inside the hall, it does not feel the cold, but as soon as it leaves your sight, it returns to the dark of winter. It seems to me that the life of man is much the same. We do not know what went before and we do not know what follows. If the new doctrine can speak to us surely of these things, it is well for us to follow it.” (p. 3)


Jesus is the one who helps us get beyond the wondering to faith.

Jesus rose from the dead. That’s our creed and that’s our faith.


Yet, don’t we still wonder about whether there is life after death?

I think about the 7 or 8 million Jews as well as Christians, homosexuals, gypsies and handicapped people who were killed by the Nazis. They have no graves. Doesn’t justice scream for resurrection?

I think about the million and more Africans who died after being kidnapped for slavery and brought to the Caribbean and then to South and North America? They have no graves. Doesn’t justice scream for resurrection?

I remember reading  a book on the Irish potato famine and how over a million people were Holocausted by the British. Most have no graves. Then well over a million more fled to Canada, America and Australia, many of whom died and were cast into the sea. They have no graves. Doesn’t justice scream for resurrection?

I think of the millions of babies aborted, most of whom have no graves. Doesn’t their reality  scream for resurrection?

I think of a woman I saw the other day. Her husband had a great job, was on TV, was making good money, and stopped all when his wife got cancer and she was down to 80 pounds and he is caring for her 24 hours a day, while on the next street a woman is also in bed, has two teen age kids, has MS, and her husband took off.  He couldn't handle the situation. Doesn’t justice scream for resurrection and new life for all - especially those who don’t have a full life or were gypped or walked out on?

I think of another book that I just finished. It was written by Immaculee Ilibagiza - with Steve Irwin. The title is, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidsdt the Rwandan Holocaust.  Close to a million Tutsis were killed in 91 days.


Resurrection seems to have to be.

Yet, like that little girl, sometimes we wonder.

If that wonder doesn’t lead to faith, but heads in the direction of doubt, we need to listen to Saint Paul, who said that if Jesus didn’t’ rise from the dead, then we are stupid. We’re fools, we’re jerks. We are kidding ourselves. We’re here in this church, because of Jesus. We go through life the way we do life, with love, serving, committed, helping one another, all because Jesus told us this is the way to do life.


Yet that little girl, with her chin in her hands, speaks for all of us, “Sometimes we wonder.”
November 2, 2106 - All Souls Day


Those who have gone before us
have left us many reminders from
when they walked with us. Dust settles.

Yes - there are many cemeteries.
Yes - there are many photographs.
Yes - there are many reminders.

A restaurant, a church, a park,
a vacation spot, a chair, a movie,
a song we loved, memories ….

But our memory is not a manicured
cemetery.  Bald patches of grass touch
stones leaning against broken stones,

But we are alive - and before dementia
clogs the blood flow of our memory, All
Souls Day, is a good day to remember our dead.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016


Seeing all as sacred,
the sun, the moon and the stars,
the tiny baby’s fingers, the old lady’s
wrinkles, proof of her years.

Seeing all with respect,
the homeless and the homebound,
the other’s regular parking place, making
space so the little kid can see the parade.

Seeing the stations of the cross
in church and in people’s lives,
helping them carry their cross and
being with them when they are dying.

Seeing Easter, resurrection,
every day of the week… and being
there to greet the Risen Christ at
breakfast, lunch and supper. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily is, “All Holy Men and Women, Pray for Us.”

In the Rite of Baptism there is a short litany, that goes like this,
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us.”

Then the final petition is, “All holy men and women, pray for us.”

That’s where I got the title of this homily.


Today we celebrate all the saints and we ask all of them to pray for us.

And we also look to their lives and imitate their good example.

If you come to the Easter Vigil or if you’ve been at an ordination you know that the sung litany there is much longer and includes a lot more saints by name.

Today we’re simply celebrating - praying to - and asking all the saints - known and unknown - to pray for us.


We know a lot of saints by name and we have our favorites: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Theresa of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta - just to name three.

Today, on all Saints Day, we can look into our lives and name and celebrate holy people - not just saints in prayers, altars, holy cards, but also saints we know - saints who have been part of our lives - a grandparent, a wonderful lady on our street when we were growing up and old nun.

I remember someone telling me about a discovery she had. A lady next door to her mom dropped in every day to bring her mom soup, some oatmeal raisin cookies - her mom’s favorite, and 5 minutes of chat and a Hail Mary, an Our Father and a Glory Be together. Her mom lived in Wisconsin, and this other  lady just happened to drop in to see her mom while on a business trip. After this lady who just stopped in left, this daughter asked her mom, “Who’s that?” Her mom said she was a nice lady from next door. She asked her mom, “How long has she been doing that?” “About 2 1/2 years now,” her mom said. Then her daughter said, “ Two comments ‘Nice! And great oatmeal raisin cookies.”

There are a lot of saints like that in our world.

You can meet them as check-out counter ladies, doctors, nurses, lawn men, mechanics, physical therapists, book club members or what have you, in the St. Vincent de Paul Society.”

“All holy men and women, pray for us.”


I remember hearing in a talk years ago that a very spiritual branch of Islam is Sufism. And one of the key teachings is to be a saint, but keep it quiet, and to become an unknown saint.

I think Christianity has that same branch on its tree.

All one has to do to be a saint is to simply love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

All one has to do is to live out the Beatitudes - that we heard in today’s gospel.

Saints come in all kinds of sizes, shapes and situations.

They are not thinking about waltzing into heaven in bright white garments. They are concerned about people in all kinds of outfits all around them.

Saints are sinners in a new edition.

I remember a talk a neat saintly priest once gave. He said something like this, “Sin is a stain on our souls. We know what it it’s like to spill and drop our food on our clothes and they cause stains.”

Then he said, “Sin is a stain….”

He paused and looked into his open hand and said, “I have 5 letters in my hand. An S, a T, an A, an I and a T.  “They can spell out the word “stain”. Then he added, I can throw these 5 letters up in the air to God and then he spinned around and said, “I can catch these 5 letters as they come back down to earth. But look,” he said, “This time they spell out the word, ‘S A I N T.’”


The title of my homily is, “All Holy Men and Women, Pray for Us.” 

Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016


On the table, knives, forks, spoons,
glasses, big plates, small plates,
a big salad bowl, salad dressings,
bread, butter, roast beef, gravy,
mashed potatoes, peas, a pie,
cloth napkins, cups and saucers,
sugar. salt, Old Bay, honey,  pepper,
tabasco Sauce, two candles….

At the table 6 people - on 6 chairs -
with 6 cell phones - texting and
talking - with 6 people maybe at
other tables in far cities and towns -
all in communication with each other -
telling each other what they are
having for dinner with each other
and what’s happening around the table.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 31st Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Me Too, O Lord.”

For years when I heard today’s gospel - Luke 14: 12-14 - when it talks about inviting into our lives the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, I have felt guilty - because I have not done this - that is, inviting the poor  inside the rectories I have lived in.

And from time to time I have read about people and places doing this - and I have not been able to say, “Me too, O Lord.”

In my first assignment, living and working on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City  - East 3rd Street - Most Holy Redeemer Church and Rectory - we didn’t do this - but 2 blocks and less than a mile away - the Catholic Worker place did - with Dorothy Day.

We do it a tiny bit here in the winter for a week. If any of you do that, great and thank you. And the St. Vincent de Paul Society does a lot for the poor - and various parishioners volunteer at the Lighthouse Shelter, and this parish is very, very generous in helping the poor.

Still I feel guilty…. for not doing this - not hobnobbing with the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind - as Jesus tells us to do in today’s gospel and especially in the Gospel of Luke.


Then one day it struck me - living with other priests - we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind - and we live together - and are working at living with one another.

Then another day - some time after that first realization - I realized that I am poor, crippled, lame and blind.

Then I realized that could be a cop out from being with the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

Then I realized each of us and all of us Christians have to deal with this reality - this challenge - coming from the words of Jesus.

And I’m very aware in all the primaries and in the presidential debates, I don’t remember hearing a sentence or very little about the poor.

And I have heard enough people say the following: “With all the people in the United States, we couldn’t come up with better candidates in the primaries and the presidential debates.”  Notice  how I word that comment. I have problems with politics and the pulpit.

Of course - but we need to say, “Me too, O Lord.”

So that brings me back to my comment: I am poor, crippled, lame and blind.

Hence the title of my homily.


I have lived with enough priests in the past 50 years to say we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

Look at the priest - kids abuse problem in our church. I’ve heard numbers from 2% to 6%. I’ve heard that the numbers are higher when it comes to sexual abuse in families, etc.,  etc.,  etc.  So there are crippled people in our midst - in all structures of life and society.

I have never forgotten the comment I once heard that came from a little old lady in Jersey City, New Jersey, “The 5 marks of the Catholic Church are. It’s one, holy, Catholic, apostolic and it survives its clergy.”

Being a priest I know about people’s complaints about us priests.

I know the comment about priests, “1/3 like you, 1/3 don’t like you, and 1/3 don’t give a dang about you.”

I’m sure that comment can be made of everyone - every family - every situation.”


The first step is to know that each of us is poor, crippled, lame and blind in our own way.

That first step can then lead us into this place, into this banquet, into this meal with Jesus - and to have the great feeling of being at home with Jesus the host - at Mass.

The second step is that like Jesus we then treat other poor, crippled, lame and blind others as he has treated us. In other words we take have begun to take on these wonderful qualities we heard about in today’s first reading: compassion, mercy, joy, love, unity humility, regarding and more interest in others as more important than ourselves. [Cf. Philippians 2:1-4.]


Today Halloween is a great feast day. We have in us ghoulishness, monsters, trick or treating others as okay if they sweeten us up - as well as having tomorrow’s qualities - our call to all of us being and becoming saints.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30th, 2016


“Interesting ears….”

“Smug today are we? I hear you, 'But your team keeps winning.'”

“Tough skull, tough hair, you’re tough to make happy.”

“Lonely in there, hah?”

“Great smile! What’s causing that today?”

“Dropped God? Start searching. God will find you!”

“This new one…. She’ll be better.”

“Wow! You're silent today. You don’t know it yet, but you haven’t hit bottom yet.”

“You’re one of God's good people! You’ll accept that one of these years.”

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016



The title of my homily for this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time [c] is, “Having the Wisdom of God.”

If you want something to pray for -  this week - it’s that: to have the wisdom of God.

Big prayer!  To have the wisdom of God….


Let me spell that out. Let me spin that out. Let me make that more specific - namely and mainly - to have the kind of attitude God has for us - to have that kind of attitude towards each other.

Did we hear what today’s first reading said to us?

The reading is from the Book of Wisdom - 11:22 to 12:2.  The first reading began this way: “Before the Lord - the whole universe - is as a grain from a balance - or a drop of morning dew - come down upon the earth.”

Picture that.  A scale has on one side some sand to measure what’s going on the other side. The writer of the Book of Wisdom says in God’s eye, in God’s mind, the whole universe is as a grain of sand or of dust as one translation puts it -  that tips a balance scale.

Tonight - stand on the grass or sidewalk - outside of where you live. Look up into the sky - into the universe. The writer of Wisdom - which dates to the last half of the first century B.C. would not know what we today know of the vastness of the universe - and we have no clue to what they will know in the year 3016 or 30,016. But standing there the author could see the vastness of the dark night and the multitude of stars up there - but without planes heading for the Cairo or Alexandria airport. Not there yet.

Or in the morning look at a drop of morning dew on your shoe or on a plant when walking the dog or on your windshield and say to God. “You’re aware of all this. Wow!  If that’s true, you must be aware of all of us little old me’s as well. Thank You, God. Thank You.”

Then this document called, “The Book of Wisdom” says, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.”

Catch that. We’re listening to Pope Francis say that same message - loud and clear - all this year - this year of mercy.

Wow. Addison Wright, a Biblical Scholar, says in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary that someone wrote what I just quoted - but in Greek - for Jews - probably in Egypt - “probably Alexandria, the great intellectual and scientific center of the Mediterranean world and one of the largest centers of the Jewish Diaspora.”

Next, catch God’s wisdom.

By forgiving us - by not jumping all over us - by showing us mercy - God’s wisdom - is that people are more apt to change by forgiveness and mercy that by scream, anger, punishment or threat.

Is the opposite true?

Do we change more by a pat on the back or a kick in the butt?

Do we respond to fear - as in fear of God - fear of hell - fear of punishment - more than by love of God and hopes for eternal life with God - and with those who went before us?

St, Alphonsus who started the Redemptorists said, “Fear works!”  Then he adds, “But in the long run - fear fades. Love doesn’t. It takes more time, but love and mercy is the secret.”

I am very much aware of this message - because my dad - I lucked out - was a piece of cake - had a fantastic smile - and only once corrected me  while growing up - sending me to bed without supper - because I wouldn’t eat stew on a Saturday night - all that stuff mixed together - oooh - especially ugly green soggy string beans. OOOOOOhhhh!

This happened before the Holy Communion fast was changed - so we had to fast from midnight on. I was an altar boy the next morning - and hadn’t had food the night before - so as altar boy - I fainted up at the altar - causing a minor commotion - they tell me - and they had to carry me into the sacristy - and for the rest of my growing up - it was cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly forever and ever Amen.


As you know the first reading and the gospel are often connected. [Cf. Luke 19:1-10.]

We heard about Zacchaeus - a chief tax collector and a wealthy man - being spotted in a tree by Jesus.

This short shifty sneaky sinner - in a sycamore tree - was called out and down out of that tree by Jesus and Jesus invites himself into the tax collectors house for a meal.

Notice this causes grumble. Nobody liked tax collectors who overtaxed everyone to get money for the Romans and then for himself.

Notice too that Jesus eats with him - has communion with him - before his repentance - before his conversion - before his change of attitude and behavior.  Notice that. Notice that - in your conscience struggles - and in your communion with Jesus our Lord.

Notice Zacchaeus says, “Behold half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”

Notice - niceness works. Mercy works. Acceptance works. Love works.

This gospel story is one more forgiveness and mercy story - Luke being the gospel of mercy - the gospel for this year.

I don’t know the mind of Matthew - Mark - Luke and John.

So I say with hesitation that Luke doesn’t give us the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats - found in Matthew 25 - Matthew - a former tax collector. Okay he has the story of Rich Man and Lazarus - the rich man never noticing the poor man - Lazarus at his door - and the Rich Man goes to Hell for being so self-centered.



The person who can tell us - what works best - fear of hell or hope of heaven - is us.