Friday, May 26, 2017

May 29, 2017

Things have to be quite grim, when
the only sounds coming out of our
mouths are all “GRRRR!” sounds.

Grumble, gripe, grotesque ….
Grudge, grouchy, grumpy ….
Growl, grouse, groan….Uggh!

Things have improved when we
sound and seem serene, more
peaceful, and relaxed …. At ease!

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



The title of my homily for this feast of the Ascension - celebrated on Sunday here in this Archdiocese of Baltimore is, "Christ Ever Greater."


“Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”

Once upon a time there was a small boy who was fascinated with iron: pieces of iron. With awe and amazement he would stare at an iron lock-pin that was used on a plow, or a hexagonal head of a metal bolt that was raised up a bit from his bedroom floor, or pieces of shells from bullets that he collected from a nearby firing range. All these pieces of iron fascinated him, that is, till the sad day came when he noticed that iron could be scratched or pitted or turn to rust.

That experience led him to look for something harder than iron, something more, something to take the place of scratched or pitted or rusty iron. What about the blue flame flickering over the logs in the fireplace? What about transparent or beautifully colored stones that he found in the field or somebody brought back from the shore? Whatever it would be, it had to be dense and it had to be harder than iron. This search, this groping, kept moving him through gateway after gateway, through the vast structures of our planet, till nothing would satisfy him but God.

The man’s name was Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955): Jesuit priest, scientist, geologist, writer, poet, and mystic. Looking back over the 20th century, he certainly will be one of people who had a great influence on the Church, on Vatican II, and on the Church’s movement to look at not just the hereafter, but the here and now.

Henri de Lubac, in his book,  Teilhard de Chardin: The Man and his Meaning, tells us that the feast of the Ascension was a special feast for Teilhard. Easter, Christmas, the Epiphany, the Transfiguration were big feasts of the Church year for Teilhard, but it was especially the feast of the Ascension that he loved.

And the reason for his deep feelings for this feast of Christ’s Ascension is obvious. Teilhard’s lifetime prayer was, “Christ ever Greater”. What more basic meaning for the feast of the Ascension is there, than the prayer, “Christ ever greater”?


In the three readings for today’s feast that theme and that prayer, “Christ ever greater” stands out.

In today’s first reading from Acts 1: 1-11, we and any Lover of God are told that the Christ, who suffered and died, also showed himself in many convincing ways that he was alive after his death. The Resurrection: “Christ ever greater.” And after the resurrection the disciples saw Jesus ascend to the Father. The Ascension: “Christ ever greater.” And then today’s first reading ends with the promise that Christ will return again “as you saw him go into the heavens.” The Second Coming: “Christ ever greater.”

“Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” I hope we haven't forgotten that prayer.

In today’s second reading from Ephesians 1: 17-23, Paul prays for us: that the spirit of God, the scope of his power, his wealth, his energy, the heritage of God, that all these gifts will be given us. “Christ ever greater.” Today’s second reading ends with a  powerful statement that puts into words what Teilhard de Chardin began to discover as a child: “The fullness of him (Christ) fills the universe in all its parts.” “Christ ever greater.”   

In today’s gospel from Matthew 28: 16-20, we are told make disciples of all nations,  baptizing them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” - teaching them to carry out everything that Christ commands. And today’s gospel ends with the promise from Christ that He will be “with us always, until the end of the age.” 

“Christ ever greater.”


Now to be practical, let’s look at three ways to make this prayer, “Christ ever greater,” and this wish of Teilhard de Chardin real for us in our day.

1) Contemplate Christ In Prayer: Make Christ your top priority. Make that prayer, “Christ, ever greater,” your prayer. Be fascinated with Christ like a little child looking at a piece of iron or a new toy or visiting Disneyland or Disneyworld.

“Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Unless you become like little children, you will not have the gift of fascination.

Prayer and contemplation mean taking time out of busy schedules or movement away from the television set. Make time for prayer to Christ. Put Christ’s name in your appointment book. Prayer and contemplation mean taking time to let Christ become flesh within you. 

Teilhard would turn pieces of iron over and over again in his hand. Well, like Mary, turn Jesus’ words over and over again in your mind, till they become you, your flesh, till you become fascinated with Christ, till you become his witness.

Let his words burn within you like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Schedule 15 minutes every day to read the Gospel of Luke as today’s first reading tells us. Turn over your mind and heart to Christ’s parables there. Make them your own. Own them. Chew on them as you chew on Eucharist.

Today is the feast of the Ascension of Christ. For most people their goal in life is “ascension” - to be number one, to be top dog, top banana. Christ’s life was a life of “descension”, a going down, a giving up of power, a letting go of being God, becoming a baby, becoming our servant, becoming a foot washer and a healer. Then Christ made the ultimate descension, the ultimate hitting bottom, the ultimate letting go: dying on a cross as a common criminal. He who was first became last and least, because he  gave up all his power. And as a result of his descension, the Father lifted him up, raised him up: Ascension. And the Father will raise us up, if we take on that same pattern. Descension leads to Ascension.

2) Contemplate Christ In Your Neighbor: Catholics come up the aisle in Churches each Sunday to receive Christ in communion. The bread is Christ. They walk back to their bench transcended for a moment, - quiet, - contemplating Christ within them. This moment is a sacred moment, often so different from all the other moments of the week, so different from moments in traffic or at work or rushing home to make supper or getting to meetings or finishing reports.

Catholics also have been realizing more and more the gospel message that our neighbor also is Christ. “This is my body.... This is my blood.” “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” In our time, people like Mother Teresa and others, have been stressing over and over again this connection between the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the presence of Christ in our neighbor. For those who hear this word, this message, and put it into practice, the result is experiencing  family, neighbors, strangers like toll collectors or checkout people in the supermarket as being more personal, more sacred, more transcendent.

Recently, while picketing during a strike, a single woman went for a coffee break with 5 other people. When it came time to pay for the coffee and donuts, she noticed that one of the men had only one dollar in his wallet. It hit her that she still had some money in the bank, while he had a wife and 8 kids at home. Behind his back she went to union officials and other people on strike and she was able to round up $250 in cash and lots of groceries. Anonymously they put it all on his front porch. “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” “I was stuck and you came to the rescue.”

3) Contemplate Christ In Creation: We Catholics believe that Christ is present in the bread and in the wine and in our neighbor in some mysterious way. If Mother Teresa was famous for her stress in her time of connecting Christ’s presence in the Eucharist with his presence in our neighbor, Teilhard de Chardin is famous in our time for his connecting Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and his presence in all creation.

As a child he was fascinated by iron and fire and quartz and somehow these material things led him to God. As a priest there is the famous moment when he was on an expedition in the desert and couldn’t say Mass,  so he said his famous “Mass on the World”, lifting the rising sun up over the world, asking  the radiating energy of Christ to fill all people and all creation that day - blessing mothers, fathers, children, workers everywhere.

Was Teilhard over optimistic? Yes, mystics often are. Yet, he gives us the dream of God, that all of creation be seen as good and treated as good. Teilhard gives us glimpses of what St. Paul seemed to see, the risen Christ in all people and in all things.

Such a revelation - such an enlightement - (Cf. today’s Second Reading) could lead us to work towards making this world the beautiful place God created it to be - all of us working towards making this world a garden, allowing each person to have his or her own tree to sit under in the cool of the evening and be visited by God, that each bush be a burning bush, that each child be allowed to be a child of the universe, breathing fresh air and living to see his or her’s children to the third and fourth generation.

Obviously, much needs to be done in this area of helping make Christ’s dream for the world to come true. We get glimpses of it now and then in the midst of so much pollution and dumping on our earth. Wouldn’t it be great if the reverence we had for the Eucharist was the reverence we had for the world?


As today’s second reading from Ephesians ends, “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way." Let’s pray to Christ that we too can ascend to that vision. “Christ ever greater!” 
May 28, 2017


Leaving locked upper rooms,
we can’t spend our life in fear.
Returning to Galilee,
we need to know our roots.
Climbing mountains,
we see those in need.
Praising the Father,
we rejoice in knowing the Son.

Going into the whole world,
we spread the Good News.
Knowing “I am with your always”,
we have confidence in what we do.
Reaching out,
we are baptized in the waters of service.
we bring others to Christ.                 

May 27, 2017


When we practice, we’re often alone….
But when we’re on stage, when the
curtain opens, wouldn’t it be horrible -
if there was nobody there - no audience;
nobody  to hear us - when we sing -
nobody to watch us - when we play?

So God, for this we pray! 
Watch and cheer for us -
as we play. Watch and
hear us, as we pray.
And help us as we watch and
pray for all those in this play. Amen.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

May 26, 2017


If God is anything,
God is so, so silent.
So God, why are You
so, so silent with us?

Is it because the first time You spoke,
You created for us, Adams and Eves,
so, so much, but we didn’t say, “Thank You!”
All we said, was, “We want more.”

Is it because the second time You spoke,
when Your word became flesh and dwelt
with us - we rejected You. We didn’t listen
to You. We hung You on a cross - to die.

If God is anything,
God is so, so silent.
So God, is that why You are
so, so silent with us?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017



The title of my homily for this Mass on the morning of your graduation from St. Mary’s High School  is, “Salt and Light.”

If Father John Tizio were preaching this morning, he would obviously have in one hand a salt shaker and in the other hand a flash light.

If Father Bob Wojtek were here,  he would have this gospel memorized with ease and read it without looking at the book.

“You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”


“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample it under foot.

“You are the light of the  world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead they  put it on a lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.  In the same way your light must shine before all, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.”


The other night at the Awards ceremony in Marian Hall, Mr. Paul Ahern - one of our teachers - described 2 of you with images. One of you was described as a redwood tree. The other of you was described as a shark.

Both are very powerful images.

What are your powers?

How would you describe yourself?

What image would you use?

Swan?  Bear? Bulldog? Pug? Satellite?  Porsche? Budweiser Clydesdale Horse? Budweiser? Lacrosse stick? iPhone? Guitar? Credit Card? Computer? Bulldozer? Backpack? Book? Suitcase? Medicines? Surgical knife?  Grasshopper?

What would be a good image  - that describes the real you? … the best you?

Today - in this gospel Jesus is calling us to be salt and light.

Salt and light: both make a difference.

Making a difference is the theme our parish and our school have chosen for last year and again this year - with a slight variation of the wording. Whatever words are used, the hope is that you will go forth from St.  Mary’s and make a difference in this world - better that you make a better world.

I was impressed with this year’s distinguished alumni - whom we celebrated, honored and toasted last month. They certainly have made a difference in our world.


Our first reading is from Jeremiah 29: 11-14 - a preacher and prophet - who certainly has made a difference in our world. Our first reading by James Cardillo  began by God saying to Jeremiah I have plans for you.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that,  I ask, “Okay, God,  but how specific are these plans You have for me?”

In the next 5 years you’ll be asked the same question you heard when you were a little kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you want to do with your life?”

And at 100 graduation commencement addresses around our nation, this week, this month, speakers will quote Mary Oliver’s question. I know I did a few years ago when I spoke at this Mass - and then our valedictorian did the same. Mary Oliver in her poem, The Summer Day, asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Let me read her poem. It is autobiographical for you as graduates - except today - this rainy today - is certainly not a summer’s day.


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

In time, in time I hope, you’ll slowly come up with some basic life choices: mom, dad, husband, wife, accountant, lawyer, research assistant, engineer, doctor, teacher, environmental advocate or scientist,  military, diplomats, government employee, etc. etc. etc.  I say, “etc., etc., etc.,” because there are jobs out there that you’ll have that don’t even exist yet.

Obviously we priests - and St. Mary’s being a Catholic School - we hope some of you think of becoming religious leaders.

When Pope Francis spoke to a Joint Session of our U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015, year he mentioned 4 United States leaders who made a difference: Abraham Lincoln, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

If there is anything I keep hearing about Pope Francis, it’s the saying, “He makes me want to go to church.”

He has certainly made a difference.

So what are your plans, your hopes, for our world? How and where are you going to make a difference?

Your parents want you to be happy, do what you want to do, with the talents you have, get your own place when your finish college, and what have you.

God called Jeremiah - as the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah begins - from the womb - to be his speaker, his mouth piece, his prophet, his voice - to speak words of peace - not disaster as today’s first reading puts it.

I challenge all of you to find your voice - find your passion - find your life message - and proclaim it.


Let me be very specific for a short moment - with a very basic suggestion - that you can use for the rest of your life.

I heard someone say the following in a talk a long time ago and I have been aware of it ever since.

Along with the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, this might be the only thing you’ll remember from this homily: where to put your mouth when you are face to face with a microphone.

Could everyone make a fist. Could you hold your fist up?  Now thumbs up? Next move your thumb finger nail to your lips or your mouth. Thank you. Now holding your fist in the same place - about 2 or 3 fingers from your mouth - lower your thumb - but your fist is in the same place.

For the rest of your life - when you come to a pulpit or a podium to read at Mass - at a wedding or a funeral - that’s how close you are to be to the microphone.  When you have to toast your brother or best friend as best man or maid of honor at a wedding and you have a microphone in hand, that’s how close you are to be to the microphone.

For the rest of your life, a lot of people will thank you for letting them here what you are saying.

For the rest of your life, it’s going to bother - like  ugggghhhh! - you at weddings and funerals or wherever, when someone is 15 inches or more from the microphone and nobody hears them. 

Sorry, but now you know how to use a microphone  - use it well.


In today’s second reading - from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 13-19- Rebecca Osborn read Paul saying what we heard in today’s Psalm response - from Psalm 139 - we don’t have to go it alone. We can have God with us - at our side.  We can have good people with us.

As Ginny tells young people on every retreat, hang with good people. Find good people for your life.


I noticed that two of the biggest world leaders pushed plans on the other yesterday. President Trump gave the Pope a first edition set of the works of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. - 5 books.  The Pope gave our President 3 of his books, Amoris Laetitia, Evangeliium Gaudium and Laudato, Si.

Will all these words make a difference?  They are longer than the tweet limit of 140 characters. They can, they could, if the words become flesh - and dwell amongst us.

A person can read one book -  be challenged by it - and make big differences in our world.  Another person can go into a library or Barnes and Noble - take out or buy 5 books - and do nothing as a result - if they don’t read them - and be challenged by them.

So too our education - Words, Advice, Questions, a homily or a talk on a graduation day.  - unless they become us - it’s all water off a ducks back on a rainy day.

So too salt and light - if we don’t use them - we remain tasteless and in the dark. 
May 25, 2017


It’s difficult to see over the wall,
without a ladder - or a gate out of -
from behind  all these stones …
that is, if I want to graduate and
start taking new steps on the other
side of this here and now. I put on
my cap and gown, accept my diploma 
or degree - and say good-bye to 
classmates and friends. I’m ready. 
I’m willing. I’m able. Hey I got a good 
education here. Next… the only way to
see what's on the other side of this wall.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017


1, 2, 3 ….
A, B, C ….
On my knees ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Reading ….
Riting ….
Rithmetic ….
Religion ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Listening ….
Being Challenged ….
What am I going to do with my life?
I want to work to make this a better world ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

My life ….
My family. ….
The life of others ….
The Life of Christ ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School.

Mary ….
Working to be full of Grace ….
Being there when people run out of wine or the necessities of life ….
Being there when people are carrying crosses on their way to their Calvary ….
Hey, it’s a Catholic School named after Mary.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23. 2017


If you haven’t heard some music 
lately, say, “Uh oh!”  Maybe your 
soul has become sour - and you’ve 
forgotten what music can do for you.

Walk down city streets, step into 
some local pub or tavern, and by 
chance you might hear enough music - 
to fill your soul and  quench your spirit.

If it’s in a pub, don’t forget to clap - 
even if you don’t know what language 
the song is being sung in. If it’s being 
sung on the street, put a penny or a dollar in.

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

In the YouTube video above,
 you'll hear 4 Gaelic Singers. 
The third one - in white - 
is Caitrinona Ni Churraoin - 
[Catherine Curran in English]
my cousin Kathleen's daughter - 
and still some people think 
Costello is an Italian Name.
The Crane Bar/ Pub
is on Sea Road,
Galway, Ireland

a couple of stone
throws from Ballynahown - 
where my mom  and dad are from.



The title of my homily for this 6th Tuesday after Easter  is, “Do No Harm To Yourself.”

In today’s first reading Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and thrown into prison.

The magistrates told the jailer to guard them securely.  Hearing that  - the jailer put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying to God as the other prisoners listened. 

Suddenly there was a severe earthquake and the doors opened and the chains of all were pulled free.

The noise and uproar that came next  woke up the jailer.

Seeing the doors wide open drew his sword to kill himself. He thought everyone escaped.

Paul shouted to him, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”


I look for something practical to preach about - and that phrase “Do no harm to yourself - hit me. It’s just the first half of that text in Acts 16: 28.  “Do no harm to yourself.”

It’s something I need to hear.

When my skin gets raised, I scratch it. Sometimes that means a cut and then a scab and then I pick it.

I have to hear my mind say, “Do no harm to yourself.”

People who drink or smoke - when nervous - or down - when they feel the need to sedate themselves or nicotine themselves a bit - they need to remember the words of Paul, “Do no harm to yourself.”

So too overeating…. So too not exercising …. So too taking too much sugar - at least that’s when I have to hear. “Do no harm to yourself.”


It’s not in the Hippocratic Oath, but it is ancient medical books for educating doctors - down through the years. “Primum non nocere.” First, do no harm.

Doctors have to realize the implications of each and every pill and operation they recommend to people.

People having abortions and those who do them - have to think about  the consequences these actions have - not just killing a human being - but also harming the parents and decisions makers for death.  Do no harm.


Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

Those who tear down people - with their descriptions - better realize the consequences of their comments.

Looking up stuff about this last night, a lot of things hit me.

I noticed an article by Monica Lewinski in today’s New York Times - talking about Roger Ailes after his recent death.

She said he had his TV people hammer her 24/7 - and as a result of her affair the people were calling her words you don’t want anyone to hear.

She said she basically became 1 dimensional and Roger Ailes’ TV station became a the # 1 TV news station making 2.3 Billion Dollars - last year. She survived. She didn’t go to jail as threatened. She didn’t commit suicide.

She doesn’t quote Jesus about stone throwing, but she does tell anyone who wants to read her article her take on what happened to her - the harm that was done to her because of her mistake. She said that there was harm done to the nation because of that whole approach to news that other stations as well had to follow suit. I don’t know what your take on all this would be, but I’m sure your reaction is in the 1009 comments to her article as of this morning.


What we say, what we do, what we watch, how we treat one another, all has consequences: good or bad - depending on whether it is good or bad - harmful or helpful.


Painting on top: St. Paul in Prison.  This is by Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn. This scene is based on Philemon 1:0.  Today's first reading is from Acts 16: 22-34.

Monday, May 22, 2017



The title of my homily for this 6th Monday  after Easter is, "Advocate."

The Holy Spirit is referred to as an "Advocate" in today's gospel.

The Greek word in John 15:26 is PARAKLETOS - and it's translated into English as "Paraclete," or "Comforter," or "Helper" or "Advocate".

Advocate is the word used in our Gospel in English for today. That word literally it means "calling to our side".

That should give us comfort - to know someone is at our side - has our back - will support us.

!n Christian teaching  - that means that  the Holy Spirit  is with us - on our side and at our side.

Did you notice that today’s Gospel mentions all 3 persons in the Trinity.


If we pause and look at our life, who have been the people who stood up for us? Who are the people that had our back? Who have been the people who spoke up for us?

We have all known mothers - usually - who headed up to school - to defend their son or daughter - when unfairness happens.

We all have known fathers who went to coaches and stood up for their son or daughter to get into the game.

When someone needs a good lawyer, we don't use the word "advocate" too often - but that's what we want.

We do know about patient advocates when it comes to hospitals.


Today is the feast of St. Rita of Cascia - [1377-1457.]

She could be listed as the Patron Saint of Women Abused by their husbands. She certainly was by him. Her 2 sons died. They had health problems. How did advocates help in her day - both about her kids and her husband?  Her husband was a violent man - abusive to her - as well as unfaithful to her. I don’t know the story -but he was killed as the result of a vendetta.

Rita tried to become a nun - but was rejected at first because she had been married. Eventually, the Augustinian Convent, that rejected her - accepted her - and she becomes a Saint.

I don't know if she had an advocate.

I don't know if someone put in a good word for her.


As priest we are called to be advocates in family fights and all kinds of situations.

I remember a 23 year old gal - whose father wouldn’t let her date. She had to work 7 days a week in their restaurant. I saw her dad. He disagreed with me - but I was a bulldog and he gave in.  Three years later I did her wedding.

I remember an old lady telling me about a baby girl who was kept in a dry bathtub. She was often beaten and yelled at. I went to the apartment - got in - and headed for the bathroom - and sure enough there was a little girl with severe belt marks on her body.

I called social services and a social worker showed up and the baby was eventually taken in by foster parents and then adopted.

As Church we did horrible in the sex abuse stories - and it was only money that saved so many kids from further abuse - that is law suits and compensation.


Life gives us chances to be advocates. Go for it.



When visiting Annapolis, make sure you take a good look at the Marian Garden - sit on one of the benches - look around - praise God - ask Mary that you have some of her grace - pray for someone in your life who needs a prayer - and drop into our church for a prayer of thanksgiving and blessings for your loved ones. Amen.