Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20, 2017


Some deny there is a hell;
some deny heaven as well.
Some say I’ll find out when I die,
so why worry about it - here and now.

Some deny consequences;
some deny reckonings;
some refuse to see what’s always
sitting there - just 10 yards away.
Some deny there is an aftertaste -
after every bite we take -
from the tree of good or evil -
from the tree of life or death.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

MAY 19, 2017

A delicious red apple
juicy, perfect, sweet
was just handed to me.

Bite, bite, bite, bite,
bite, bite, bite, bite,
bite, bite, bite, bite.

Glad I took it, because later
on that day I saw its twin
laying on the ground, decaying.

My life: I want my life
to be,  Apple A, and
not its twin, Apple B.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



The title of my homily for this 5th Thursday in Easter is, “Remain.”

I noticed in today’s gospel that the word, “remain” is used three times.

Jesus tells his disciples 3 times to “remain in my love.”


You are all just around 17  years of age - juniors in high school - just at the edge of your last year at St. Mary’s.

Most of you will be married in the next 10 years - most closer to 27 years of age - if the current trend of when people get married happens.

Most of you will take it for granted you’ll remain in love for the rest of your lives.

Some of you will; some of you won’t.

And one of the toughest experiences in life - is broken love.

And some of you will experience broken love.

One of you will break it off.  Sometimes the gal does it; sometimes the guy does it.

One is usually more crushed than the other - torn,  hurt - and then there are the others in your lives - those who love you - and how they deal with what has happened to both of you.


So when Jesus tells his disciples to remain in his love - he’s talking about heavy stuff here.

And Jesus gives his motive for his message, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy may be complete.”


Years ago I flew out to Denver to do a wedding.

I went to the downtown church where the wedding was to take place.

It was around noon - lunch time - on a Friday when I came to the church.

I noticed this line of about 200 men - all men - heading for a door to what looked like a school building next to the church.

They looked scrubby - homeless - burnt out.

I went into the rectory to introduce myself  - and say I’m here for the wedding tomorrow, Saturday, and the rehearsal, later on that Friday at 5 PM.  Then I asked the receptionist at the church, who were the men on line outside.

She said, “Oh, they are here for lunch at noon. We get about 200 men every day.”

“Wooooh!” that hit me.

I thought about them - 200 husbands, sons, fathers, broken men - with families all over the United States.

I imagined the 1800’s. These would be the cowboys, drifters, miners heading for the Gold Rush, outlaws - all those men I have seen in 200 Westerns.

I imagined there were families in Boston, Chicago, Chattanooga, wondering where their dad or husband or father was.

I didn’t know anything about any one of these men - but I pictured them as broken men - in whose lives - love did not remain.


Here’s my suitcase story. I can tell it now. My mom is long dead.

I’m 30 years of age. I’m visiting my mom at her house in Brooklyn with a classmate.  My sister Mary is sitting there on the couch with my mother.

Something triggers stories about when we were kids.

My sister starts to  kid my mother about her suitcase trick.

When the four of us kids were fighting - and my dad was at work - my mom would get up and head for the closet and take her coat off a hanger - put it on - and grab a suitcase and tell us she’s leaving us - because we were fighting.  I was the youngest so I would grab my mother by her leg to stop her at the door.

“Well,” she would say, “Okay. I’m not leaving you - but next time you are fighting - I’m leaving.”

Any my mother and my sister on the couch were laughing.

At that moment - at 30 - I found out that was play acting. I thought it was real back then - and it remained in my sub-conscience that way.

Being a tiny kid, I thought  it was real - that I was about to lose my mommy.

As I thought about that - I realized I was every little kid I have ever  seen - clinging to his mother or father - when they see a dog or a stranger.

I was every kid screaming, “Remain with me!”

I was every kid screaming, “Don’t leave me.”

That was a life moment at 30 and a life moments when I was a tiny kid.

I’m sure if my mother realized one of us might be taking this for real - she wouldn’t have done it.  It was a mistake - and looking back I obviously forgave her.

Jesus said, “Unless you be like little children, you won’t see the Kingdom of God.”

When it comes to feelings - deepest feelings - we're touching childhood experiences - revisited. 

Revisit the work of Eric Bern and Thomas Harris - in Transactional Analysis. They did work in describing the theory of the 3 human states we can find ourselves in: parent, adult and child. 

And the child state is when we are into deep emotions and feelings.

Every human being needs people to cling to - hold onto - to scream to others, “Remain with me.”

Every couple is relying on the other remaining in love with them.


There is a new word that has come out in the past 25 years.  It’s “cremains.”

It’s the cremated remains of someone who has died.

For a funeral, the cremains are often in a beautiful box or urn made of wood or ceramic or marble or metal.

The Catholic Church stresses that people be buried in sacred places.

I’ve seen people bringing the cremains home.

I’ve heard of people putting a tiny bit of the cremains of a loved one in a locket  and they wear it around their neck.

I’ve heard of people waiting a while before they bury the cremains of a loved one.

Thinking about this, I see that  one advantage of a casket - and not cremating a love one - keeping the whole body of the deceased for burial  - gets people to bury the dead. It would be very odd to keep a casket with a loved one.

Jesus was touching on human behavior when he said, “Let the dead bury the dead - and move on.”

It’s tough enough dealing with death.

We need grieving time and slowly letting go time - and people do what they have to do - sometimes odd or different - sometimes doing something that they learn from in time. I realize the church has practises about all this - but I’m into the school of hiding, that is, letting people figure out and work out how they are going to deal with death. However, if asked - I advise people to cry, walk, and bury their dead - and give themselves time to mourn - from a distance. 


I love to tell the story of a rose petal.

I was in our living room as a kid and my dad was in his favorite chair reading the paper.

I opened up one of my dad’s favorite books, The Best Loved Poems of the English Language. I discovered a dried up delicate red rose petal on one of the pages.

I’ve told this story several times.

I brought the book over to my dad - wide open - like an offertory procession - with the red rose petal right there on an open page.

I asked my dad, “What’s this?”

He looked at it and said with his rich smile all over his face, “Memories.”

What remains?

For starters memories.

For starters stories.

For starters all the things our parents did for us.

My dad would take the 4 of us down to  Bliss Park in  Brooklyn when we were kids or to the football games down along the shore or to the Staten Island Ferry.

He was giving my mother a break for a few hours every Sunday after we came home from Mass and after breakfast.

I noticed my brother did the same thing: taking his kids to Washington D.C. to see the museums - to give his wife Joanne a break.

What remains - how our parents raised us.


Father Matt Allman is with us today. He has the job of trying to invite young men to join the Redemptorists.

I have become a Redemptorist and remain one - because we need priests to preach good values and Good News to people.

A priest came into our classroom in grammar school. He was a Redemptorist working in Brazil and he told us what he did and he invited us to think about becoming a priest.

I heard his message and  it remained with me.

I invite you to become priests.

Father Matt knows a priest friend of mine, Tom Barrett. We worked together for 8 ½ years before I came to St. Mary’s. I remember Tom telling folks his vocation story.

He saw a Redemptorist priest preaching and praying the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Novena in our parish with that name in Brooklyn.  Praying there he said to himself, “I could do that.”  Then in time he said, “I would like to do that.”  Then in time he said, “I choose to do that.”

That experience - that dream - remained with him for his whole life.

I ask you on this retreat to get in touch with what’s remaining with you - your dreams, your hopes, your visions, your family values. Amen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 18,  2017


Tight, up tight, tense,
what happens when
I walk into a room?

If I smile, wave, loosen
my fist, I can release
ease into the room.

Better: Christ, you come
through locked doors and
heavy  walls and you bring peace.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017
May 17, 2017


We sometimes stand outside
and admire the house or the
lawns or the plants or gardens,
but at some point we need to
pause, to realize - down deep -
we want inside that house and be
in communion with all those within.

It’s then we have to ask, to seek,
to knock - till someone opens up
that door and lets us in. It’s then
we can sit down with each other,
break bread, sip good wine, share
good news - and then go out and be
in communion with all those without.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017



The title of my homily is, “On The Road Again.”

When I read today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 14: 19-28, I couldn’t help but think of Willie Nelson singing one of his signature songs, “On the Road Again.”


Here’s Paul in this section of the Acts traveling, traveling, traveling. We hear mention today of places like Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch. Pisidia, Pamphylia and Attalia. That’s 7 places in one short reading. 

“All aboard!”

I’ve always noticed in the back pages of New Testaments - maps of the Mediterranean Basin with lines indicating the 3 missionary journeys of Paul.

Check them out.

Paul did a lot of traveling - but he might have also sang, “On the sea again….”

The history of Christianity is journeys to new places to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

That’s how the word “Catholic” came about.  We reached out to the whole catalogue of people around the world.

If you read Robert Warden’s book about St. Mary’s you’ll find a list of 32 Jesuits who served the Annapolis Mission from 1704-1853.  Most came from White Marsh in Prince George’s County - but there were a few from St. Mary’s City - down in Southern Maryland - and 2 other priests who were not Jesuits.  As I was reading that I wondered how they traveled: horse, carriage, stage coach, train, what?

You’ll also  read about Redemptorists going out from St. Mary’s and starting churches in lots of different places - within striking distance of St. Mary’s: Severna Park, Edgewater, Odenton, Our Lady of Sorrows, etc.

I suggested to Robert Warden to put in one of those corridor glass display cases a poster of some sort of all the places that originated out of here.

I have heard stories about Redemptorists down in Georgia and North Carolina and South Carolina - spending a good bit of their Sundays in a car heading here there and everywhere for Masses.

St. Alphonsus our founder and St. Clement Hofbauer were always on the road - here, there and everywhere.

I was in 2 retreat houses - for 14 years of my life - people came to us - but it was the 9 ½ years that I was on the road - that have the most interesting memories.

“On the road again….


That’s the Gospel story. Jesus  is forever on the roads of Palestine - visiting all the towns and villages proclaiming Good News.

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to do the same.

That’s a good way to hear the Gospels - listening to Jesus traveling by foot everywhere. If you ever get to Israel, as you travel down lots of roads and see so many scenes, you’ll picture Jesus everywhere - even though a lot of it will be through a bus window.

He told his parables. He healed the blind and the sick and the disabled.

He preached peace as we heard in today’s gospel from John.

He challenged the Pharisees and anyone who was stuck in the law as opposed to new life in the Spirit.


We have chances everyday - to be Christian in many ways to each other. Go for it.

Whether it’s 100 miles or 100 steps there are all kinds of people we can reach out as followers of the Road Man - Jesus Christ - who even described himself as the road or the path, “I am the way!” And we can add, “the high way”.
May 16, 2017


Jesus said it while hanging in hurt
on a cross: “Father forgive them for
they don’t know what they are doing.”

Father forgive me because too often
I have no clue about what I am doing -
the motives I think I have; they are other.

Father forgive me for the words I choose,
the reasons I give. I guess honesty only
comes when nailed - caught on a cross.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, May 15, 2017



The title of my homily for this 5th Monday in Easter Time  is, "Ye Gads."

I was wondering if that phrase, that blurt, that exclamation, that expression, comes out of today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 14: 5-18 - when Paul and Barnabas heal a cripple, lame from birth. Then those who witnessed this scene thought Paul and Barnabas were gods!


"Ye Gads ...."

Have you ever heard someone use that phrase?

I looked it up on the internet and I read that it’s from  the 17th century and it might be a polite way of avoiding saying, "Oh my God". 

I read that some people add "and little fishes" or "and little cats."

Do you have your own variation on this blurt "ye gads" - for bringing God into a tough or an emotional situation?

I know I say, "Holy cow" or I simply say, "Oh my God" or I love to jokingly say, "Oh my God I am partly sorry."

Remember that scene from the evening news about a month ago  when a Vietnamese Doctor Dao was dragged from off a plane. Out came cell phones and people caught the scene on camera.  You could hear folks blurting out the phrase, "Oh my god!"


Here are two possible calls on all this: 

First of all to avoid horror stories. Avoid the negative. Avoid catastrophes. Avoid that scene from the airplane when folks will say in horror, “Oh my God.”

Secondly to accentuate the positive. 

We are made in the image and likeness of God - so when we see each other we ought to use our talents to be the best doctor, nurse, mechanic and student.  Isn’t it great to hear, “You’re a god-send.”

I think it was Chesterton who said, “Men are the million masks of God.” It’s from, The Wild Knight and Other Poems, 1900.

But now a great thing in the street 
Seems any human nod, 
Where shift in strange democracy 
The million masks of God.

                                          — GOLD LEAVES

The First Letter of John says loud and clear, “We can’t see God - but we can see each other.”  So it says,  “How can someone say, “I love God whom they can’t see and they don’t love their neighbor whom they can see.” [Cf. 1 John 4: 20-21.]


So the folks in Lystra - when they saw Paul and Barnabas - heal a man - the crowd didn’t say, “Ye Gads,” but they did think they were God.

So we show people who God is when we are like God. Amen. 

May 15, 2017

Conversations get cut off because
we trigger each other’s stories. For
example, I  mention rum raisin ice
cream and that reminds you of
a summer moment  - when you
were 15 - and your twin brother
got the last 2 scoops of rum raisin
ice cream at Rita's Ice Cream - and
you had to choose different flavors.
Then, nice, he gave you his cone - 
but after 4 licks - and a smile and 
you gave him your cone - 2 scoops 
of butter almond - no bites - no
overlapping or licking from you,
and he drowned 3 weeks later and
you mentioned this in your eulogy
at his funeral and how much your
lives had overlapped till then. Then
life has not been the same since.
Life became too much silence and too
much sorrow licking at your sures.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017



The title of my homily for this 5th Sunday After Easter [A]  is, “What Is God Like?”

What is God like to you?  How would you describe God?

Pause! Breathe! Close your eyes! Open your mind! Feel! Open your ears! Hear the musical heartbeat of God in all of creation. The universe - the stars - the oceans - inner and outer space - is an orchestra violining - oboeing - trumpeting an Ode to Joy to and with God.


What is God like?  

We ask that question from time to time - especially when things go wrong.

We also ask that question when things go right - like when we're seeing a great sunset - like standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon - or the edge of the Atlantic at Ocean City at sunrise - all alone with God -  like realizing how great our mom is and not just on Mother’s Day - or we’re at the graduation of a kid we never figured would  graduate and she graduates with a 3.5 average - and each parent says, “It's my genes.”

The title of my homily is, “What Is God Like?”


When a son or a daughter announces they met someone they really like - someone they are very interested in, parents, brothers - but especially sisters, friends back home, ask, “Well, what is he like?” or “What is she like?”

When we get a new boss, a new neighbor, a new pastor, a new president, a new FBI director, people ask, “Well, what is she like?” - “What are they like?” - “What is he like?”

When I have a funeral and I don’t know anything about the person who died, I go “Uh oh!” 

Then I try to find out something about the person who died.  I look at the pictures in the funeral parlor. I ask those showing up for the wake, “What was so and so like?”

So when I’m at a funeral, I want to know more about the person who died.  I don’t like the impersonal. I want to hear a good eulogy. I want to preach a sermon that brings in the person who died.  I don’t like to preach with a one sermon fits all persons' sermon.

What am I like? That’s what I’m like. That’s what I like to do.

What are you like? What do you want people to think and say about you at your funeral?

So when I’m doing a funeral,  I ask at the funeral parlor or over the phone to a family member: Introvert? Extrovert? Quiet? Orchestra leader or stage hand?  Where did they work? Fun to be with? Favorite pie?  Favorite ice cream flavor? Where were they born? I want obituaries.  Sometimes there is no wake or no obituary. Bummer.

And it’s nice to get a thumbs up - after a funeral - that I captured in words and comments - the person who died.

Since this is Mother’s Day, let me add: I was honored to celebrate my mom’s funeral - and preach the homily. I loved telling the story how we caught her two times cheating in cards - and she was good at cards. I loved telling the story that my sister Peggy suggested to my mother to get a volunteer job - and she said, “Are you crazy? There’s no money in that.” Then I added that she loved making money to give away money - especially to her grand kids.

The title of my homily is, “What Is God Like?”

In the flow of this homily I want to be moving from the “What is another like?”  question to the “What is God like?” question.


First story. I’m driving home with the funeral director from the cemetery - after a  funeral. 

This happened years before I came to Annapolis - so this was not here. We priests or deacons have to be very careful with that one.  

The funeral director says to me: You know why his wife asked you to do his funeral?  

I said, “No!”  

“Well,” the funeral director said, “his wife knew you didn’t know him and he was a blankety, blank, blank, blank. And she knew you’d say something nice about him.”

In other words - at that funeral - I described someone who wasn’t the someone he really was.

Second story.  I’m in Lima, Ohio, at St. Gerard’s Church - the place I was stationed before I came here. 

My job there was to be on the road most of the weeks of the year preaching - with a guy named Tom. It was a great job. In 8 1/2 years doing that, we got to know Ohio.

Well, this one day, we were home.  A call came in from St. Rose’s Church about 8 blocks away from our church. It was 9:30 AM  and the pastor at St. Rose  got suddenly sick and they needed someone for a 10 AM funeral. Our secretary called and I drove down there fast.

I get into the sacristy. It’s now 10 to 10. I ask a lady in the sacristy. “Who died?  Man or woman?”  

She was a woman.  

"What was her name?” I asked, 

“Did you know her?” 

The sacristan said, “No clue.” 

So I shoot out into the church and ask folks off to the side, “Does anyone here know the lady who died?” 

I didn’t want to go to family waiting in the back with the casket. I would have done that at the funeral parlor.

So someone said, “That lady over there might know something about her.”

So I asked that lady, “What was so and so like?”

She told me that the lady worked in Kresge’s which later became K-Mart.  She worked in the hat department. She was non-descript there. But, when the lady in the candy section retired, this lady got that job. Well, all the kids loved her because she was generous and she really knew kids.”

I ran back to the sacristy, got the Bible story about the man in the marketplace who was super generous to everyone - packing on more and more wheat or flour in every  purchase. [Cf. Luke 6:36-38]

Well, after the funeral mass someone in the family said, “Thank you. Wow! You really knew my mother!”

The luck of the Irish. I kissed the Blarney Stone.


The title of my homily is, “What is God like?”

The theologians say, “God is perfect. God is all knowing.  God is all powerful. God is the Creator. God is without boundaries - without limits. God is eternal.”

They are  some of the so called, “Attributes of God.”

They don’t grab me. That’s like saying, “My grandmother is perfect.”

I’d add one of life’s most important questions, “For example?”

"For example why do you say your grandmother is perfect?"


So when it comes to answering, “What is God or another like like?” I like to ask questions.

For example, “Does the sky ever end?  I like to stand outside at night and look into the sky and ask God, ‘Does this ever end?’ Or, 'How far out does all this go?'”

For example, I like to ask, “God, why did you make mosquitoes and hippos and sharks?”

For example, I asked God at the funeral of a 3 day old baby two Saturday’s ago, “Why did she die when she died - after just 3 days?”  And then I add, “God what’s your take on all these horror stories that are on your evening news from all over the world today?”

I've think of God answering, "Me too, I wonder about all this." Or "I cry!" Or, "I'm powerless over people pulling triggers."


Today’s gospel is from John 14: 1-12 - and that’s what triggered the why of this homily.

In the gospels - especially John - I love the message, “Want to see the Father, want to know the Father, know me.”

So Jesus is the answer for me what God is like.

When I read the gospels, I listen to the gospel with that in  mind.

So Jesus was an observer. He took the time to see the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. So God takes the time to smell the roses. Does God look at the petals of a red rose and say, “Nice job?” or does he say, “Nice job - Mother Earth.” [Cf. Matthew 6: 26-34.]

I picture Jesus spending his 20’s - not just working in the carpenter shop, but when he was working on fixing up a  house, he was listening to what was going on inside a house. So Jesus knew that in every family there are people who were not talking to people.  And I see that is one reason he told the story of  the Prodigal Son - in which the older brother won't speak to his younger brother.  So God knows about family fights and what have you. [Cf. Luke 15: 11-32.]

Jesus liked to spend time with two sisters, Martha and Mary - and their brother Lazarus. So he knew sisters can sometimes he catty and itchy towards each other. He knew that in every house people complain that they get stuck emptying the dish washer and cooking the meals - while the other loves just sitting there watching the soaps. I assume that’s a why of the Martha Mary Story. [Cf. Luke 10:38-42; John 11: 1-2.]

Jesus knew that sometimes people run out of food and money.  The wine runs short at weddings - so Jesus helps when people are stuck. So too we are inwardly urged as uncles or aunts or older brothers or sisters to slip a $20 to a kid - who is going Six Flags or where have you. [John 2: 1-12; Matthew 14: 13-21.]

Jesus knew losing an only son is horrible, so he reached out to a widow who lost her only son. [Cf. Luke 7:11-17.]

Once more, in today’s gospel, Philip says to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

And Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been with for so long a time and you still do not know me?” “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

So too he urges us to do that and when we do that, we’re show people what God is like - because that’s how Jesus is.


The title of my homily is, "What Is God Like?"

First answer: See how Jesus is.

Second answer. See how we are when we are like Jesus. Amen.