Sunday, December 31, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Family Conversations.”

Today we’re celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family.

I assume the call is to look at our family life and have a conversation on the question: “How are we doing?”  And then plan and work to make things better - if better is called for and agreed upon.


I got the idea for this homily  from something a couple mentioned to me in a conversation we had yesterday at a wedding reception.

We were just standing there talking - at the tiny food time - hors d'oeuvres  - before the sit down dinner. It's the part of the wedding reception that I like the most. It's because it’s before the blast of the music. It’s when people can talk to each other. “How are you doing? What’s new? What’s happening? Haven't seen you in 100 years.”

Yesterday, this couple was telling me  that they used to do marriage preparation. This was years ago - up in New York - out on Long Island.

They said that 4 couples - who were to be married - would come to their house for 4 sessions - on 4 different nights. Their two sons loved it because around 5 PM they would say, “What are the goodies for tonight mom?”

This couple said, “Looking back we learned the most from doing this - more than the couples heading for marriage.”

How many times have we heard, the teacher learns the most - the preacher as well - hopefully.

Another couple who used to do this in Chicago had told me what they learned from helping with marriage preparation. It was this: the most important moment for most couples was when they asked a couple to say their vows - in a practice session - out loud to each other.

After hearing that, when I meet with couples, I’ve do that with every couple. I learned.

Well this couple yesterday said, “Couples told us that the most important thing they learned in their marriage preparation sessions with us was the drive home after  the evening sessions. They said they would be talking about stuff from that evening - stuff they had never talked about before.

If you’re married here's a question for you today: when was the last best conversation you and your spouse?"  What triggered it? What were the questions that came up? How did the conversation go? Any follow up?


In thinking about this - last night - while putting together this homily  - I asked: “What are the key topics for conversation in marriage and family life?”

Obviously, the first question is the January government question: “The state of the union address - the state of the state address - or what have you.”

It’s the “How are we doing question?”

It's a good, "New Year's question."

My first week - in my first  assignment - Most Holy Redeemer Parish - on the Lower East Side of New York - a couple were coming in to talk about their upcoming marriage. I had just got out of the seminary and I had no clue about marriage. I was to find out I had no clue about anything.  That afternoon I just happened to pick up the New York Daily News and the Inquiring Photographer was a regular feature in that paper. A question was asked and 4 people would answer it. It was underneath  their photograph. Well, that day the question was about marriage and someone said, “The top three problems in marriage are: money, sex and in-laws.” Well, I told that couple that comment that night and they paused and said, “Wow! You’re right.” That was 1967.  Is that still right?

There’s a specific question for a couple to begin a conversation with: “What are our three top questions.”

When I am on Kairos' Retreats with our high school kids - St. Mary’s Kids - I’ve been on 34 of them so far - and a lot more retreats - with a lot more people before coming here - one of my first questions I ask kids in any small group I get: “What do meals look like in your family?”

I think every family needs to reflect on that question.

My second question would be “expectations”.

What do we expect around here?

Then after getting expectations - I like to ask people to add adjectives.

Key adjectives would be: unrealistic, unknown [as in I didn’t know that - or you never brought that up before].  Other adjectives would be: fair, unfair, changed….

The third question would be a fishing expedition. Okay, what else do we need to address. This could  bring up topics like time together, vacations, the Sabbath, anger, aging parents, money, costs, cleaning and chores, etc. etc. etc.


It might seem crazy, impractical - but I think families and/or couples should meet once a month - go for an hour or less - never going over 1 hour - having one person by name in charge as monitor - and having one other  member - as secretary with a spiral note pad - and hopefully at a second meeting - the notes from that earlier meeting will be read out for starters.

Let's be honest, we don't follow up.


The title of my homily is, “Family Conversations.” 

Have you ever said in frustration: this place is a zoo. We have elephants in our living room, alligators in our basement, pit bulls roaming the house and as a result we have stuff that needs to be cleaned up - and there is no plastic bag big enough for the clean up.

As a family, why not talk about having that conversation - about having Family Conversations?
December 31, 2017


I turned the door knob.
It was locked.
I rang the bell.
No luck.
I knocked on the door.
Nobody answered.
I looked under the mat.
There was no key there.
I looked in the window.
It seemed nobody was inside.
I went around the back.
Nothing was open.

Well, there is always next year.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017



The title of my homily for this Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas  is, “Please Write.”

Last night I got that thought after reading today’s first reading from the First Letter of John 2: 12-17

We heard in today’s first reading 6 times “I am writing” or “I write to you.”

So an obvious message for a short reflection this morning is, “Please write.”


On Thursday night I caught a Book TV program in which Charles Gibson, the old Television guy, interviews David McCullough.

They began talking about how the writing of diaries - memoirs - journals has sort of disappeared.

McCullough asked: “Do you want to last forever?  Do you want to be historic? Keep a journal and when you finish, get it into an archives and people will be reading you for ages to come because you’ll be it - the only thing written.

Then McCullough - in talking about his research when  writing his historic books on John Adams and Harry Truman and others - how wonderful it was to read countless diaries and memoirs and journals and letters, about the times and places and situations people  found themselves in.

Each diary takes one into a different era and a different place.

What would it be like to be living in a small house in Ohio or Indiana in 1790? If we read diary entries about that period, we’ll read about what was going on in people’s lives and minds.


Well, thank God people wrote down the sayings and stories of Jesus - like today’s gospel from Luke about Anna the Prophetess - telling everyone in the temple in Jerusalem who were awaiting redemption - here he is - our redeemer.

And we noticed in Matthew the other day that the holy family headed for Egypt - and Luke has them going back to Nazareth - and because of that written discrepancy we know what kind of writing Luke and Matthew were giving - especially that Jesus was seen as the New Moses - and had to get him to Egypt - to connect Jesus with those writings.

And thank God we have all these letters from the Early Church that tell us what was going on then.


Get a good ball point pen and a good spiral pad and write your life - whom you met - what you saw.

David McCulllough the other night said that John Adams or someone in that time wrote, “I went into this room yesterday to think.”

He then implied in his writings we don’t do enough of that ourselves.

I think we do - but we don’t write down what we think - or we do on twitter and facebook - and it’s stuff we really don’t think out.

And to contradict myself, I keep reading that everything on the internet lasts - but there is no access  - unless Robert Mueller  and his team will be investigating us.

December 30, 2017


Forgiveness is the get to get.
Forget everything else as Hafiz
the Persian poet from way back
in the 1300’s put it. “Forgiveness
is the cash you need” “to craft
your falcon wings / and return
to your true realm, our true realm
of divine freedom.”* Jesus got
this - along with Hafiz - along
with anyone who wants true
freedom and to live with empty 
hands without rocks.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

*Cf. A Year With Hafiz, released by Daniel Ladinsky 
into English and entited Daily Contemplations 
[Penguin Books, 2010] page 354, November 18.

Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29, 2017


To pause is good - before we throw words
or  rocks or respond or react to another.

To pause is good - when we think we know
why another said or did what they did.

To pause is good - when we are going to
buy a new car or house or horse or idea.

To pause is good - before we stop listening to
another because something they said, triggers 
a similar story in us which we want to tell.

To pause is good - when we are going to
pray - and so we say to God, “Before I start, 
is there anything you want to say to me?”

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017



Today - on this feast of the Holy Innocents - I would like to reflect upon the basic themes of light and darkness.

They are big themes in all religions.

Another way of wording it could be, “dreams and nightmares”.

Each of us and all of us in both our own private world - as well as in our public world - experience both light and darkness - dreams and nightmares - good and evil - right and wrong - grace and sin - ying and yang.


In today’s first reading John tells us this message very clearly. If we don’t admit that we make mistakes, that we sin, we’re liars. We’re in darkness and we don’t know it.

But in God, he tells us, there is no darkness.

Carl Jung, fools around with the thought of darkness in God, because of the themes and reality of sin and evil in the world as part of reality.

Other religions propose a God of evil and a God of good; a God of darkness and a God of Light.

John tells us that in God there is no darkness.

John of the Cross and Dionysius the Areopagite tell of the divine dark. I suspect that an evil dark doesn’t exist in God - but it does exist in us. So  I don’t know about this divine dark. Of course, when it comes to God, we are in the dark. And when it comes to us, we are often walking in darkness - especially when we sin.


So the theme of dreams and nightmares, light and darkness is in each of us.


In the gospel for today we have Joseph and Herod. Joseph’s dream is to go to Bethlehem with Mary, to register and then to come back home to Nazareth. The trip began with a nightmare. There was no room in the inn for them. The trip ended with a nightmare: Herod’s plan is to kill all the males. In a dream, Joseph is given the light. Go to Egypt. All this stuff in Matthew are ways that Matthew brings in his theology - especially using OT stuff.

We’re all called to redemption  - to get out of slavery - Egypt - to go through the waters of Baptism - the Red Sea or Reed Sea - and to head for the Promised Land.

But let’s develop the darkness and light, nightmare and dream theme a bit more.


If we reflect  upon all this we have to admit that we do have dreams and nightmares. We often wake up in the morning in a dream, or just after a dream, and often we say at breakfast, “Wow did I have a weird dream last night.” And sometimes we wake up during the night in the middle of a nightmare.


Analogously, we have to admit that sometimes we have dream days and nightmare experiences, when we are awake.

So dreams and this unconscious life are going on 24 hours.


A plane ride is sometimes seen as a dream.  We look ahead to a warm place in the middle of a cold winter. We’re going to have a dream trip - a dream vacation.


Then - sometimes there is a nightmare. It’s snowing big time in Erie or Chicago and our flight from BWI or wherever - is cancelled because of flight delays - because of the weather.


A relationship looks beautiful. Sometimes it becomes a nightmare.


I remember reading an article about Glen Close the actress in U.S.A. once. She said she was  the good girl in the movie, The Natural, and The World According to Garp, and some other movies. She said she wanted to play the part of someone who is evil. So that’s what she got when she played the evil Alex in the movie, Fatal Attraction. Then there is her movie, Dangerous Liaisons - which is all about Good and Evil.


A guy I know - Joe Leddy once said, “A professor at Manhattan used to say that all of us could become Francis of Assisi or Joseph Stalin."

All people, all trips, all plans, all days, can become a dream or a nightmare.


Alfred Hitchcock thrived on all this, loving to point out, the possibility of danger in a quiet country motel or on the symbol of security, Mount Rushmore.


Surprise. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.


Does one become a pessimist or remain an optimist?

I would suggest being a realist.

Trust but verify.


As regards self, to admit that I could be like Herod and become filled with bitter jealousy, fear, bitterness, lack of trust, those feelings taking over, and I end up destroying innocent life.  Or I can become like Joseph: a rescuer.


The title and theme of this homily for this feast of the Holy Innocents has been, Light and Darkness,  Dreams and Nightmares.

Often we are in the dark. So we need Christ the light of the world.

Look at the history of the world and see what happened when Christ came into our world. Amen.

Here's an E-Christmas Card - Christmas in a Child's Gaze
from the Redemptorists 
in Australia.

December 28, 2017


Who is holy and who is innocent?
Does the child who whines and
wants her way - is she breaking
her innate goodness? Is she
being selfish - at its early stages?

How about the boy who knocks
over the other kid’s sand castle
at the beach - when strangers stop to say
to the builder, “Nice job. Nice job!” and
all the breaker made was a mud puddle?

How about the other end of life?
Who is holy and who is innocent?
Is it the old guy or gal at the end
of the nursing home corridor who
spreads smiles and joys to all?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017



Today, on the feast of St. John, I would like to preach on the calling of each Christian to be a saint by mirroring and practicing a specific feature of Christ.


Chesterton once remarked that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, “It has not been tried.”


Gandhi, when asked about his thoughts on Christianity said, “It sounds like a good religion. I’m still waiting to see someone live it.”


A Chinese person after listening to some Christians said, “Christianity: it’s a very talky religion.”


To counter these objections, Christianity has often pushed its saints. Here are some of the people who lived it. These are some of the people who did it.

Just as Jesus is the word of the Father, so the saint is the word of the Father and / or the word of the Son or both or add the Spirit for all Three.

It's an exaggeration, but we could say that Jesus is all the colors of the rainbow - while the saints are pictured as one specific color.


For example, St. Stephen’s feast day was yesterday. He is presented as enfleshed forgiveness. He is the word “forgiveness” personified.


St. Augustine has various appeals. To many he is the saint who put things off - like practicing chastity.  He would say, "Not yet." Then one day he changes. We all put things off, especially our conversion, especially habits that we know we ought to change. Someday maybe we too will change.


St. Andrew in the gospel of John is featured as the one who brings his brother to Jesus.

In the other gospels, he is featured as the one who sort of silently steps in when needed.

I see him as the patron saint of background stories - always there, but rarely noticed - only when needed.


St. Peter appeals to us as the saint who puts his foot in his mouth, who makes promises,  who brags,then climbs into his mouth with both feet. Don’t we all make promises that we don’t keep?


And St. Thomas the Apostle gives glimmers of hope to all those who have lots of doubts, who want to see before they will believe. “Proof: I want to see proof. Show me.”


These saints show us that we still have a choice based on our personality.

We can put our foot in our mouth, and take it out again. We can recover. We can make up for our mistakes.  We can have doubts. We can put off our conversion, but hopefully, someday we will change. Someday we will become our best self. Someday we will become saints. Someday we will be one of the colors of the rainbow called, “Christ.”

Maybe we’ll be an example of forgiveness like Stephen. Maybe we’ll be an example of poverty like St. Francis. Maybe we’ll be an example of prayer like St. Therese of Lisieux.


Since today is the feast of  St. John the Evangelist, what does he  represent?

What color of the rainbow is he?

I see St. John as a poet - a bringer of Good News - by using everyday images: bread, wine, water, perfume, light, wind.

He is the one who tells others, about Jesus.

He has the need to tell, to brag about Jesus.

He tells us he had stuff to give away to follow Jesus. He left all to follow Jesus.

He tells us that his mom once pushed to have him and his brother be seated at the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom.

Jesus said, “That’s not mine to give.” But there he is at the last supper next to Jesus. And when the others took off scared, he stayed. And there he is under the cross next to Jesus.

He tells us that he could run faster than Peter, but yet he respected Peter as the head. Peter saw and believed -but John believed first.

In all this I think John is doing what we all do. We want to share with others directly and indirectly what we’ve done and where we are.


And why did John share? He gives us the reason in today’s first reading. So that the joy he feels, we’ll feel. He wants to share in our joy as well, otherwise he won’t be complete.


So that’s a bit about St. John and some saints.

In the past, Saints tended  to be put on pedestals - statues with eyes raised to heaven - maybe with hands folded in prayer.

Today we’re back to the older way of presenting saints. They are presented as being on our level and featured with a specific agenda - in everyday life. We look at them, see their specific feature, and then we ask if we can see ourselves being called to that feature, which then fills out all the colors of the rainbow, called, Christ - for our world to experience.

O  O  O  O  O  O  O

Painting of St. John the Evangelist 
by David de Haen

December 27. 2017


In the beginning - page one of this scroll -
the choice is proclaimed: "Will I accept 
these words - as well as the Word - to
become flesh and dwell within us?"

Water, wind, bread, wine, light, night,
helping me the reader to soar,
to see with eagle eye from on high,
what I’m not seeing here down below ….

Wheat becoming bread becoming body,
water becoming wine becoming blood,
healing at pools, eyes beginning to see,
lakes filled with fish, Lazarus returning ….

To meet Jesus at noon at the well,
to thirst for and then to taste living water;
to meet Jesus in the night - in the dark -
to be Nicodemus and not Judas.

To drop rocks, to have supper with him, 
to have feet washed, to hear the new
commandment, to remain in his love, to die,
and then to rise to have breakfast with him.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
Feast of Saint John the Gospel Writer
December 27

Tuesday, December 26, 2017



The title of my homily is, “Forgive  and  Forget.”

How many times in our life have we heard someone give us the advice, “Forgive and Forget”?

Both can be difficult to pull off.


It’s interesting what we remember and it’s also interesting what we forget.

We see someone and without knowing it, they look like a high school classmate who used to pick on us - bully us - bother us - many years ago - but we don’t know why the appearance of this person is bothering us.

We go by a cemetery on a road we never were on before - and we feel the sacred - or we feel scared - as we drive by.  It’s a different feeling when a mile further ahead we drive by a high school - on the other side of that road.

Buildings, churches, fences, barking German shepherd dogs,  an old lady with a cane or an old man on a bicycle trigger past experiences. 

Sometimes we can recover and remember the source of that feeling upstream or downstream in our mind. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we see so and so - and we go, “Oooouuuuuuh!” and we know exactly why we feel that way towards this person.  We can’t forget  what she said about us behind our back 17 years ago. 

There are things we cannot forget.

When I go by the Maryland Inn - and the Treaty of Paris Restaurant -  on the top of Duke of Gloucester Street - I remember and say a prayer every time. That’s where my niece Margie was proposed to by her husband Jerry. He dropped into Annapolis years ago and told me his story as we were taking a walk on the red bricks of Annapolis.

When I drive past Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn - I feel  the memory coming out of the bricks, “This is where my dad died.”

I have been told by lots of folks who drop into Annapolis - and into St. Mary’s Church, “This is where we got married.”

Years ago - I didn’t know I did this - but we were going by Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn. My nephew Michael was in the car with us. Well, I went, “Shuuuuuuuuuuu!” as we went up a particular street and past a particular building.  He or maybe his brother or sisters asked, “Why the “Shussh!?” And I answered, “This is where I was born. In this hospital here.”  A year or two later, Michael got hit by a car and was knocked out and  they took him to another hospital to be checked. He woke up - looks around - and says to the nurse, “Is this where my Uncle Andy was born?” My sister Mary told me that story.

Imagine all the memories and sentences and comments and scenes we have in our RAM - our Random Access Memory - in our brain?

Remembering is who we are - and advertisers want to know all about memory triggers.

Forgetting - as in forgive and forget - is tricky business - as well.


Forgiving is also tricky - but it’s a lot more part of the will. It’s more of a choice - compared to forgetting and remembering.

I can forgive someone - even though I can’t forget what they did to me.

The gospels don’t tell us we have to forget.  They do tell us to forgive.

Jesus tells us to forgive 70 times 7 times.

In fact at times before forgiving, Jesus tells us to remember - as in, “Let him or her without sin cast the first stone.”  Jesus is telling us: "Don’t forget you too have made mistakes."


Today - the first day after Christmas - is the feast day of St. Stephen. He is  considered by some to be the first martyr who died because he was a follower of Jesus Christ .

Stephen remembers what Jesus said on the cross when he was dying on Calvary, “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”  So Stephen says when he is being killed, “Father don’t lay this sin on their doorstep.”

Notice in that prayer - that shout to God - that Stephen says to God, “Forget about it.”  He’s saying to forgive and forget about this - what they are doing to me.


Forgetting is sometimes part of amnesia and aging.

Forgiving is hopefully always  part of being a Christian.


Picture on top: The Stoning of St. Stephen by Rembrandt
December 26, 2017


Today is “Boxing Day” - no, not fighting.
In fact, December 26th, is just the
opposite. It’s the feast of St. Stephen -
the patron saint of forgiveness.

Today is Boxing Day - when Christmas is
stretched - so we can enjoy the leftovers,
to think more of the poor and anyone
else we might have missed on Christmas.

Today is “Boxing Day” - but not in the
United States - but it is in many places
around the world, when people give
each other boxes with gifts inside.

Today - in the good old USA - empty boxes
line the curb - waiting for a garbage truck.
Their contents were: toys, shirts, sweaters,  shoes, and socks that grace and embrace us.

Today people are still outside their boxes,
Today - Boxing Day - we can still hear
“Merry Christmas” everywhere - all
over the USA and all around the world.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, December 25, 2017


He was sort of a quiet man - not always - but sometimes.

Nobody’s all that quiet - all the time.

Sometimes Mike’s teenage kids just ignored him - because they thought he was ignoring them. 

Sometimes …. Sort of….  Not too sure about all this…. He probably really didn’t know -  that’s what he was doing - if that’s what he was doing.  

Nor did they know what they were doing - if that’s what they were doing.  

Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt. 

Isn’t that what Jesus said on the cross - when he said, "Forgive them. They don’t really know what they are doing?"

Who does?

Sometimes families are like that and they don’t grasp this till 50 years later when they are adults - sitting on porches in summer vacation rented places - and they are figuring out - how they all got - to where they got.  Sort of ….

So Mike was sort of a quiet man - not always - but sometimes.

That is - till his boss called him into his office on the Wednesday before Christmas. His boss  asked him, “I need you to play Santa Claus at the company’s Christmas Party -  today.”

He said, “No no no!” instead of saying what his boss hoped,  he would say, “Ho ho ho. Yes. Gladly.”

“But no -  oh no!” was his immediate reaction - and response. “No. No. No. No way. Me Santa Claus?   No. I don’t do Santa Claus.”

His boss could see and hear that “No, no, no!” on Mike’s face and in his stiffened body - as it oozed out of his mouth. Slowly ….

His boss then said, “Well, as you know, Jim plays Santa every year. But he just got a call last night that his mom in Syracuse was rushed to the hospital. He    had to get a flight right away to Syracuse. It doesn’t look good for his mom and as you know, we only have one mother.”

“So Mike” - his boss said, as he pointed to the Santa Clause outfit - on his desk. “You and Jim are the only two guys around here about the same height and the same weight,  I need you to do this.  The kids of our employees will be here in about 1 hour for the Christmas party - for lunch, for presents, and to see Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas.

“All you have to do is to say to each kid, ‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ Then say to each kid, ‘You have not been naughty. You have only been nice.’ Then ask them, ‘What do you want for Christmas this year?’

“That’s all you have to say to every kid.

“Then point them over to the big table. It will be loaded with gifts  and they can have their pick.”

“Ugh,” said Mike. "Triple, Ugh, Ugh, Ugh.”

“Look,” his boss said, “I’m 6 foot 5, 300 pounds. And I’m perfect  to play Santa Claus - and I always wanted to be a Santa Claus - but this suit would never fit me. We bought it for Jim and he  plays a great Santa Claus every Christmas Party.”

Pause. Silence. Big time silence. Pause.  

Would Mike do it?

“Okay,” Mike said to his boss, “I’ll do it - but you owe me big time.”

He took the Santa Clause suit - went to the bathroom. He suited up and it fit perfectly.

Next, he took the fake beard and whiskers and long white hair and put each on.

He looked in the mirror. “Not bad, he thought. Not bad.”

Then he said to himself in the mirror. “This is itchy - and this is nervous stuff -  but I’ll give it a try.”

Out he walked and headed back to the boss’ office.

“Perfect Mike. Perfect!”

The boss adjusted Mike’s beard and hair and mustache a bit.

Then he gave him a big bag filled with candy and lots and lots of Piggies and Bears.

Piggies and Bears?

Yes, that’s where Mike and Jim and the boss worked: It was a factory with a  big sign outside, “Home of The Piggy Bears!”

The factory  made leather Piggies and leather Bears.

The factory employed about 30 women - most of whom worked there for years - and 5 men: Mike, Jim, the Boss and two other guys.

The factory made a pink leather pig - about the size of football - and the factory was loaded with industrial size sewing machines and the women sewed up the pigs underneath bellies and also sewed onto the pink leather pigs - their 4 legs, ears, black two holed noses and red pig lips, and bead like eyes.

The factory also made a brown leather bear - also the size of a football - also soft  leather like the pigs - but brown leather for the bears. The 30 or so women sewed on their paws and arms and legs, and eyes and ears and noses, as well.  

The leather bears and pigs  looked sort of like the leather seats in an expensive leather seated car.

Inside the pigs and the bears for stuffing were  rags - old rags - but clean and well washed  rags.

And surprise - only the boss knew this - and one woman supervisor:   into every 100 pigs and 100 bears - inside their bellies - a sewn silk purse was placed - that had inside it a $100 bill.

It’s been 10 years now since the Piggy Bear Company has been making Pigs and Bears - and as far as the boss knows, nobody has yet to find a  sewn silk purse with a $100 dollar bill in some pig or bear.

It might be because the quality of the leather Pigs and Bears is so good and these Pigs and Bears last.  It might also be because the secret has been well kept for so long.

Wait, too much information. Back to Mike as Santa Claus.

At noontime - the lunch room was filled with about 100 kids - including Mike’s 3 teenagers - two boys and the youngest - a girl. Like teenagers they were sort of hiding and kidding around in the background - especially because as teenagers sometimes they didn’t want to be lumped together with little kids.

His kids were too busy to  recognize their dad as Santa Claus.

There was nice Christmas music in the background.  There were sliders and tiny ham and cheese and liverwurst  sandwiches for the adults. There were tons of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese for the kids.

Santa Claus sat on a big strong chair up front in the center of the lunch room.

The 30 ladies who worked there wore red Christmas Santa Claus hats and the 5 men who worked there - including the boss wore blue Christmas Santa Claus hats.  Everyone was wearing a smile.

Mike’s kids were still wondering in their background noise where their dad was.

They figured  - when or if they wondered - that he was often off to the side. He was a really quiet guy.

There was an announcement for all the kids to line up to see Santa Claus. At that the teenagers backed back - and the little kids lined up front front enthusiastically

By the 20th kid, Mike, Santa Mike, was crying.

3 kids wanted their fathers for Christmas. One was in the army in Afghanistan. One was in the hospital sick - and dying of cancer. One was in jail.

Kids wanted their moms to get nice presents for Christmas.

1 little girl wished her mom and dad would take her to church like her girl friends’ parents  brought her to church.

1 girl wanted her mom and dad to stop fighting.

Then the big moment happened.    Mike’s youngest daughter came up to see Santa. She was doing it on a dare - because the other teenage girls thought they were too old to see Santa. She came up and leaned onto her dad’s leg - only to scream out - really loud, “It’s my dad. My dad is Santa Claus. Oh my God. My dad is Santa Claus.”

And she hugged and hugged him and everyone in the room stood up and clapped for Mike - the guy who was always known as “the Quiet Man.”

He handed her two boxes of candy and a pink Piggy and a brown Bear.

O   O   O   O   O   O   O

Fifty five years later at her father’s funeral, this daughter gave her dad’s eulogy.

She told the crowd in church - which included her mom who was still living - and all her kids and all her nieces and nephews - and grandnieces and grandnephews - and Mike’s friends - how that Santa Claus moment changed her dad’s life and his personality.

He became a real Santa Claus to them - as well as a squeezable Piggy and a squeezable Bear.

No she didn’t find a $100 dollar bill in the Bear she got that day 50 years earlier - but her granddaughter - 10 years after that funeral day -  found a $100 in the silk purse in the Piggy her grandma got that day - 60 years earlier.

That story hit the papers and sure enough anyone who had an old brown leather bear or an old pink leather piggy from the Piggy Bear Company - from way, way back - carefully opened it up. Well, 11 people discovered a $100 bill in their collector’s item.

The other bears and pigs - some with $100 dollar bills are out there, in attics, in cellars, in garbage dumps, and there is one in a small child’s casket - a child who died too early - but she loved her Bear - and hugged it to her end.