Saturday, July 1, 2017

July 1, 2017

CHURCHES

Sometimes I need crowded churches.
Sometimes I need empty churches.
It all depends. God what do you need
from us individuals and crowds - in these
many churches sticking up on the sky line.

It’s nice when there is a crowd - singing -
smiling - celebrating, “Give God the Glory!”
Brides coming down the aisle - babies
being baptized, folks praying together -
and sometimes crying at a family funeral.

It’s also nice to just sit there in an empty
church - in the silence - hearing creaking
benches - praying with tiny red candles and their
shadows on stations of the cross along with
embedded prayers on afternoon church walls.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30, 2017


SISTERS  OBVIOUSLY


But what about sisters?
Obviously,
like brothers, like children,
like parents, sisters are part of
life’s blessings. Obviously ….
Obviously, people
are more important than things.
Obviously, it’s in relationships
where life struggles happen.
Unfortunately, these are those
key things we only deeply know
when another dies before we die.
Bummer! Obviously ….

 © Andy Costello, Reflections  2017




Peggy (in middle) - died November 5, 2013.
She went by the name of Sister St. Monica, IHM
and is buried in Moscow - which is
near Scranton, Pennsylvania.
My older brother died March 21, 1986
and is buried near Washington D.C.
Mary and I are the only two left.
Thank God for sisters.


Thursday, June 29, 2017



BLOG 
10th 
ANNIVERSARY 


I just realized this is the 10th Anniversary of this Blog: Reflections by the Bay.

For about 3 years I thought it would be a good idea to have some reflections on our parish web-site, but it wasn’t happening.

Then - it was 10 years ago - Norm Constantine suggested I put a homily on our web site or something like that.  Norm then jumped to the idea of my having a blog and he would set it up.

He did.

Thank you, Norm.

It started June 17th, 2007. Is that 10 years?  I’m not good in math.

In this blog you’ll find lots of homilies, lots of short reflections, many of which could be labeled “poems” - as well as some quotes and poems by others.  For 4 years [2010-2013] I did a “Quote for the Day” and for another year a “Poem for the Day.” Other than those variations, most of my stuff is original stuff - so they don’t have to pass an editor - who can accept or reject something I have written.

As to published stuff I have 5 books out there - all out of print - and lots of magazine articles and this and that.  Those are the products of many re-writes.  My blog pieces are mostly in need of rewriting. Sorry.  However, this blog has gotten me in the practice of trying to get at least one thing written per day.

As of today there are 4879 blog entries. 

I get about 100 hits or reads per day - more or less.  So far there have been 226,545 hits. The blog tells me that without my having to count. Thank you to those who tell me at times, “I read your blog.”  

My blog gets readers from all over the world. The blog tells me that as well. 

People can make comments, but most don’t. Comments are made. Some are spam - which I dump [I hate that word] and most I publish. It’s a bit of a bother to put in a comment - but there are some 643 comments as of today. You can find them at the bottom of a piece - so comments, agreements or disagreements are welcome.

I consider myself “liberal” if I was to check off a Liberal or Conservative box.  However,  I try to avoid politics and pushing my agenda when it comes to putting a piece on my blog.

I also avoid “Hot Button” topics - because one can find my blog on the St. Mary’s Annapolis web site - and I have to be aware of my being part of the clergy, the parish, the diocese and the Catholic Church.

Catholic is a big net or basket - with all kinds of different fish. I don’t like sharks and piranhas - and when I write that I recall the words of Scripture, “Is it I Lord?”  [Matthew 26:22] 

However, I do hope when you read a piece on this blog, you’ll say at times, “It is I, Lord. This is me! He’s writing about me.”

O-O-O-O-O-O-O


P.S. # 1 Push my blog - if it helps you. It might help someone else.

P.S. # 2  I'm thinking of putting on my blog on Thursdays the three readings for the following Sunday - along with some questions to trigger reflections.  The hope would be that individuals as well as couples and/or families could read the three readings - give some answers and comments on the questions - and when they go to church on Sunday - they will have done a bit of reflection on the Sunday readings.
June 29, 2017



BROTHERS

There are always others,
but as Birthday Cards
for brothers like to put it:
“You’re lucky to be blessed,
if you’re blessed with a brother
like you brother. Thank you!”



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017






SEEING,  SENSING 
THE  INVISIBLE 

Why this wedding ring is different
from this other wedding ring, even 
though they are identical - is story, history, mystery....

So too a row house, so too an, “I love you!” Same words, same house, 
same ring, but so, so different. 
You know all this, right?



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


OUR  MOTHER  
OF  PERPETUAL HELP 


INTRODUCTION

As you know this year we Redemptorists are celebrating the 150th anniversary of our promoting the image - the ikon - of Mary under the title of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

So here are a few thoughts about this picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

HISTORY

Scholars say the image can be traced back to the island of Crete - before 1500. It was stolen from there and brought to Rome. A plaque indicated that it was venerated at a St. Mathew's Church in Rome in 1499.

It remained there till 1798 when it was taken down from a wall - because the French were in the city fighting. In fact, St. Matthew’s [San Mateo's] Church was demolished.

Augustinians - who were in charge of that church -  placed the ikon in the church of St. Eusebius. Then it was take to Santa Maria in Posterula Church.

There are a lot of churches in Rome - all of which have an image of Mary -  and this was just one  image of Mary.

Fast forward to 1855 when the Redemptorsts bought some property on Via Merulana - including the land where Saint Mathew’s was. They built their headquarters there along with a church dedicated to St. Alphonsus their founder.

A pope and others pushed to have the icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help put in that spot once again - where St. Mathew’s had been.

Then in 1866 Pope Pius IX asked Redemptorists to “make her known” throughout the world. We have certainly done that. People have become quite aware of this image of Mary.

So this past year  we have been celebrating 150 years since that happened.

The image here at St. Mary’s in Annapolis is one of the first copies brought to the United States - 1868.

A THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: 4 PRAYERS - 4 HUMAN MESSAGES

I like to say there are 4 human communications we all make on a regular basis: Sorry, Thanks, Help and Wow.

We say those 4 words and make those sentiments to each other - and we also say these 4 sentiments in prayer.

I like to say that they go together. We can’t pray these thoughts - if we can’t make these thoughts to each other.

Take the word “Sorry!” for starters.

We all say things like, “Sorry I hurt you.” “Sorry I scratched your car.”  “Sorry I forgot to call.”  “Sorry I was late.”

Take the word, “Help!”

The movie, My Cousin Vinny was on TV the other night. I’ve seen it at least 10 times now.  Every time I see it, I notice how the movie is very connected. Things that happen in the beginning - will show up near the end.

For example:  In an early scene in the movie, Mona Lisa da Vito and Vinny are in a motel room. The sink is leaking and Vinny complains that she was the last to use it. She should have made sure it wasn’t dripping. Well, we find out that Mona Lisa knows all about sinks  and wrenches - and that this sink is broken. It leaks. That’s telling us she is quite mechanical.

Another example: she keeps asking Vinny, “Can I help?”

And he finds it very difficult as a man to ask for or to accept help.  That’s a key plot in this movie.

Take the theme of thanks. Vinny also finds it very difficult to say “Thanks!”

And lastly take the theme of being able to say, “Wow!” I’m not sure just what word to use here for this sentiment. It’s the fourth of these human skills - being able to go, “Wow!” It’s the ability to be amazed - to see the greatness of another.

These are 4 prayers as well: Sorry, Help, Thanks, and Wow.

In this homily l want to stress the “Help!” message. It’s one of the 4 basic human sentiments for daily communication with God as well.

In the title of of OLPH, we have one of those 4 sentiments: Help.

Why do people pray? Why do people go to Mary? 

One key answer us we all need to ask for “Help!” 

Hopefully we have the other 3 as well.

In the classic spiritual book, The Cloud of Unknowing, the author says that we all know the “Help” prayer.  When the building is on fire we scream out the window  just one word, “Help!”

We don’t give speeches. We say one word: “Help!”

I grew up in OLPH church in Brooklyn. I was not only an altar boy but I was also a candle boy. I noticed thousands and thousands of people asking Mary for help in prayer and in lighting a candle. Help

CONCLUSION

So we celebrate 150 years of telling people the “help” message.

Notice it’s Part 2  of the Hail Mary.

Part 1 is buttering up the other - praising the other - then comes the request for help.
June 27, 2017


DUCT TAPED

It seems at times that God is duct
taped to a chair - and it’s killing God
that He can't do anything to help.

God  knows the feeling of being
nailed down - unable to say -
anything but, “I thirst.”

I thirst for understanding God as I hear
Him say, “Father forgive them because
they don’t know what they are doing?”


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017


Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26, 2017


TENTH  SENSE

Having a sense of the situation I'm
in - as it is happening - is the sense
I want to have. I want to keep my 
eye on that one, to be in touch with, 
to hear what’s really happening,
to
taste and smell what’s cooking.

Those first five senses are important - 
but I want more. I also want a sense
of fairness, a sense of guilt, a sense
of outrage, a sense of humor. That's
nine. More! What I really want is a 
10th sense: a sense of knowing what’s 
really going  on at the moment. That’s 
what I want, but most of the time I'm somewhere else and don't know what 
happened till next week and then some. 



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

ALTAR

 INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 12 Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Altar.”

When I spotted the scene in today’s first reading from Genesis 12:1-9 - where Abraham builds an altar at Shechem and then another altar at Bethel - I began thinking about altars.

What are your thoughts about altars?  

What are my thoughts about altars?

What’s  the anthropology  about altars? Who has written the best stuff about altars?  I assume it would be in the various books I have by  Mircea Eliade. Maybe Rudolf Otto would have good stuff as well - in his studies about the non-rational - the holy. Then there's Clifford Howell's classic book: On Sacraments and Sacrifice.

Altars?  What does that word trigger?

As an altar boy and then as  priest I have been standing at altars all my life - so I should have some thoughts about altars.

RELIGIONS

Do all religions have altars?

I don’t know.

I do know that ancient religions - Judaism and Christianity - have altars.

They are places of sacrifice.

They are places where we go to - to connect with God.

They are places where we say to God, “I need you.”

They are places where we offer up a good to get a better situation.

They are sacred places.

JUDAISM

We can mine the Bible and pick up different scenes and situations where altars are central.

First of all there were altars where offerings were burned. They are called “burnt offerings” or “holocausts”.  The victim was completely burned - destroyed - no return. Is it any wonder that became the name of what happened to the Jews and others at Auschwitz, etc. etc. etc.?

Next there were altars where peace offerings were placed. It would be food. God got some, the priests got some, the offerors got some. It was a moment of communion. I assume if we get an understanding  of that, we will have a better understanding of the Mass as a peace offering. We want peace.

There were also guilt or sin offerings placed on altars. It was a way of trying to make amends to God.

A variation of some of these ceremonies were cereal offerings. Related to this was the Showbread ceremony. This included the offering of bread and the sharing of bread. One thought was that bread shows us the face of God.  Bread brings comfort and peace and connection with God and each other.

So that’s a short list of the use of altars in the Jewish Bible. Of course these ceremonies changed and developed in time.

THE MASS - THE ALTAR

Today’s gospel puts us into the New Testament.  Mention of altars is not in today’s gospel, but in the New Testament - in books like Hebrew’s especially, we have New Testament ideas about altars.

Ceremonies with altars continue with our Mass.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

These are just quick glances to look at - in an effort to understand the meaning of an altar.
I will have to do more homework on all this.

I know I have to make connections between altars and tables.

Jesus was at a table I presume at his Last Supper.

The altar is called a table at times.

The Mass is a meal

I think of the sacredness of the family table. I look back at our childhood and our kitchen table. It was where we ate,  where we prayed, where we played cards, where we did our homework, etc.

I have to do a lot more homework on all this.

I know -  that after baptisms - I like to have the parents of a baby come up to the altar and stand where the priest stands. I say to the couple that I am trying to make the connection between the Mass and Baptism. So I tell the parents to put their hand on their baby and repeat along with me, “This is my body. This is my blood. We’re giving our life to you.” 

Then I conclude by saying: "This is the sacrifice of the Mass - your life for your son or daughter. It’s all connected."







Welcome!



[I didn't mention this from the pulpit - yesterday Sunday June 24, 2017 - so I'm putting it here on my blog.]


The Catholic bishops of Maryland issued the following statement addressing immigration in Maryland on May 30, 2017

The issue of immigration continues to raise controversy at both the national and state level, often spurring passionate debate that offers little hope for reconciliation and resolution. This situation urgently calls for the Catholic Church and all people of faith and good will to come together in a spirit of compassion, prudence, and cooperation to address the challenges faced by immigrants, elected officials, law enforcement and our communities as a whole. The complexity of federal immigration enforcement policies and their effect at local levels is of particular concern. In Maryland, this is especially the case in light of the unsuccessful efforts to pass state legislation aimed at identifying uniform state parameters for cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. As more and more local governments in our state take up this issue moving forward, we, the Catholic bishops of Maryland, urge all Marylanders to consider the following principles as a basis for engaging in dialogue as we work toward the common good.

Let us be guided by the words of Pope Francis, who in his historic address to the U.S. Congress reminded us: “[I]f we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us give opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

We urge state and local elected officials and lawmakers at the executive, legislative and judicial levels to enact and uphold immigration policies that:
  • Respect the spirit of our country’s Fourth Amendment protection against apprehension and searches of persons or homes without probable cause, and against detention beyond normal criminal procedures, while at the same time respecting the necessary role of law enforcement to uphold laws and policies that keep our communities safe.
  • Give priority to ensuring the integrity of families and the ability of working parents to support and care for their children.
  • Build trust with our immigrant communities by establishing a clear division of duties between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents so that immigrants feel safe reporting crimes and cooperating in police investigations.
  • Create safe environments by enforcing clearly established consequences for criminal violations of the law.
  • Reduce fear among our immigrant communities by protecting their ability to congregate and move freely at their churches, schools and other community gathering places.
We urge Maryland’s Catholics, other faith communities and all people of good will to:
  • Respect differences of opinion on this issue in a spirit of listening and understanding rather than accusation and name-calling.
  • Engage in the political process and communicate your opinions to your elected officials. We encourage you neither to shy away from the political arena, nor to allow partisan and hyperbolic factions to dominate the political debate on immigration.
  • Seek to learn more about the root causes of immigration and the challenges immigrants face in navigating our country’s complex immigration system.
  • Develop personal relationships with immigrants in your communities and learn firsthand about their hopes and dreams, fears and sorrows.
In closing, we offer a word of hope to our immigrant brothers and sisters who have come to Maryland in search of a better life:


We pray that you will find in the Catholic Church and many other communities in our state places of welcome, fellowship and support. We pledge through our parishes and institutions to minister to you as you learn a new language; as you seek employment, shelter, food, clothing and healthcare; and as you celebrate your faith in a loving God. We thank you for your inspiring example of fortitude, industriousness, and strong family values, and for your contribution to the qualities of life that truly define the greatness of America. May the grace of God bless you and bless our work together to build communities of peace, prosperity and friendship.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


HURT

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] is, “Hurt.”

H    U    R    T:  hurt.

Today’s readings triggered that thought - that theme - hurt.

We go to the doctor and she or he asks us, “Where does it hurt?”

I was at the dentist last Monday and he gave me the needle.

Then he took off his rubber gloves and took off  for a while. We know the feelings and the procedures that happen once we’re in a dentist chair.

Then he  came back -  put on a new pair of rubber gloves - and  asked if I was numb. 

I said, “Yes” - but when I jumped a tiny bit as he drilled - he said, “I guess you’re not completely numb….”

My mouth now had tubes and cotton in it, so I couldn’t speak or only go, “Gugg - gugg!”  I was trying to toughen it out.  So I gave a signal with my hand - flat - palms down - signaling “I’m so so -  but basically okay”. Keep drilling.

Where does it hurt? When does it hurt? 

Life has its hurts. It’s not good to be numb or dumb or anesthetized.

Hurts can help us. Hurts can tell us a lot.

We could ask  every human being, “Where does it hurt?”

Is that the background question behind the basic human greeting questions, “How are you?” “How are you doing?”  “Everything okay?”

We see little kids.  They seem to have three moods, three modes, three states they can be in: smiling, crying, and so so. [HAND GESTURE]  How about us?

Remember the psychology of Eric Bern and Thomas Harris of I’m Okay-You’re Okay fame. They simplified life into 3 general states of being for everyone. We’re either in the Parent Mode. That’s the should or should not mode. Or we’re in the Adult Mode. That’s the calm, cool, thinking mode. Or we’re in  the Child mode. The child state or mode is where we are emotional, feeling up or down, okay or not okay. The child state is the one that deals with hurt - I’m crying within - I’m screaming within. I’m not okay today. I’ve been hurt today. 

Where does it hurt?  What happened?  How did you get that boo boo?

Using hand gestures:

- the Parent Mode [Finger pointing and finger shaking]
- the Adult Mode [hand indicating calm - okay - waving with palm down]
- the Child Mode [tightened fists - or nail biting - nails scratching blackboard]

TODAY’S FIRST READING

Today’s first reading is from Jeremiah  20: 10-13.

In today’s reading he’s in a hurting mode. People are whispering against him. People are watching - just watching - till he trips or falls - or traps himself.

Like every little kid he screams to  his mommy or daddy - GOD -  to be there for him - to rescue him.

Whenever we make a mistake or whenever we sense people don’t like what we’re doing - and we see them looking at us - then using their hand as a wall to whisper something to another - we get it - and we don’t like it. To quote Robert Frost in his poem, Mending Wall, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,...”  They can make us feel unwanted, like little children sent to the corner or to  our bedroom - isolated - hurt.

TODAY’S SECOND READING

In today’s second reading from Romans 5: 12-15.  Paul tells us that the hurt of sin - has entered our world because of another. Sin keeps pounding our beach - wave after wave - breaking apart our sand castles - destroying our projects - taking our beach away from us.

We all know we all hurt because of  sins - the mistakes - the problems of others. We’re like every little kid who says, “It’s not fair.”

And we hear the adult inside of us say, “Who said life is fair.”

Those long lines at the airport - having to get there earlier - the cost of security - is the fault of others.

Or someone doesn’t get tires changed or tune ups and their car breaks down and we get stuck in long lines in traffic because of their neglect. Or someone was texting while driving and causes an accident….and we’re late for our very important dates and on and on and on.

But that second reading also says: the goodness and graciousness of others causes the opposite to happen. Life has its good moments - but we tend at times to not notice them.

I love the comment by Jacques Maritain, “People bring up the problem of evil all the time - and blame God for all the disasters - storms, earthquakes, etc. etc. etc. that hit our world - but they forget to bring up the Problem of Good.  Why is there so many good things happening every day around the world.”

That’s the child in us complaining when we don’t get the candy every time we go by that section of the store - and we don’t notice when out comes a neat apple pie with Breyer’s vanilla ice cream.

A full person sees the good things in life happening  - the wonderful moments at the beach seeing ourselves enjoying the neat waves of fun / water roll into our beach.

Everything effects everything. There are consequences.

TODAY’S GOSPEL

And today’s gospel gets us thinking about hurts as well.

Did you stop to hear Jesus talk about the birds that he often did?

Did you hear Jesus in today’s section of the gospel  - Matthew 10: 26 to 33 - tell us that there is darkness - yes -  but there is also light?

Did you hear him tell us, that there is death yes, but there is also life.

Or take birds, they are easier to spot. Jesus in other sections of the gospel of Matthew [6:26 - 8:20 -13: 4 and 13: 32] talks about  birds. Take  the beauty of birds in flight. We’re driving down the road past a corn field. We’ve seen that at times - a whole flock of  birds - doing tricks the Blue Angel planes  can’t do. We see hundreds and hundreds of sparrows doing there tricks together. Well, here in today’s gospel we have a sad scene we’ve all see from time to time. We’re walking along and we see a dead sparrow on the ground. Ooooh! That scene hits us and causes us a primordial hurt.

Oooh! Woo. What happened?

I remember driving along in the night - somewhere, sometime. It was on some street in Ohio and I hit a dog and I heard “thump!” and I saw something head off into the bushes. Woo. That hurt. I stopped and parked and went back - but didn’t see or hear anything or anyone where their dog was.

From time to time I thought about that moment.

Hurt!

OTHERS

So today’s three readings trigger for me the theme of hurt.

What do they trigger for you?  Hopefully, some of these words and images trigger some things inside the sky of your mind to ponder - otherwise my homily is a flop - a dead bird.

That would hurt.

I wonder how many people I have hurt like I might have hurt that dog or whatever it was in the night.

I wonder how many people I whispered about behind their back and I put graffiti on their reputation.

I wonder how many people were given bad example - by my laziness.  I hope my hard work at other times helped people.

I wonder about how many people didn’t get a challenge or a prophesy from God or the prophets because I wimped out.  Maybe I only whispered God’s name in a conversation - whereas I could have screamed his name and his love and his mercy from the rooftops or pulpit microphone.

Today’s readings trigger these thoughts.

CONCLUSION

How about you?

Where do you hurt?

Those of you who are married - when was the last time you had a good together about the state of your union?

What helps? What hurts?

When was the last time you had a great conversation together?



When was the last time you went to Holy Communion to each other?
June 25, 2017

STUCK

Sometime there in his 40’s he got stuck.
Till then he took staircases when it came to
understanding and figuring out the more of life.

Then he was hit by an invisible paralysis.
Now it was escalators.  He could move -
outwardly. Inwardly he was  stuck.

He remained in that mind set for about
15 years - same job, same car pool, and
same chatter on the way to and from work.

Then - around 60 - he became all eyes.
He  climbed on inner elevators - silently -
gradually seeing all - God, others, life, himself.



© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017