Friday, December 30, 2016

December 31, 2016


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016
December 30, 2016


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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29, 2016


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 2016


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016



The title of my homily is, “Broken.”

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

Couldn’t they have waited another week at least?

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

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

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

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


The title of my homily is “Broken.”

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016


She was the nicest grandmother anyone would ever want.

And all she ever wanted was peace in the family.

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes she would say, “My two front teeth!

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

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

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

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

The phone rang….

It was her daughter….

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

“Oooh,” silence.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 O    O    O    O    O    O    O


by Father Andy Costello, C.Ss.R.

by Andy Costello

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


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

“Finished what?” I asked.

“My Christmas story.”

“What Christmas story?”

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

I asked, “Can I read it?”

“No,” he said, “it’s nothing.”




“Well, okay,” he said.

I got it from him after breakfast.

The typing was bad – but the story was good.

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “Gladly.”

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

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

But it was snowing in his story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are those stories.

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

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

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


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

December 25, 2016


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016

December 24, 2016


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

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2016