Saturday, August 5, 2017

August 5, 2017


Like an iron - that looks like
an old phone - one piece -
solid iron - from the 1800’s -
in a small town museum -
or a barbell - 100 pounds -
on my basement floor.

Well, sometimes I feel
that solid and that secure.

Then there are days when
all plans go south or sour.
The unexpected happens.
I feel like a dropped - half eaten -
ice cream pop - on the sidewalk -
covered with 1,000 crawling ants.

Relax! Today is not that kind of
a day, so please give me a call.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Friday, August 4, 2017





The title of my thoughts is, “St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, Some Conversation Points.”

Today, August 4 is the feast of St. John Vianney. By now I hope you have heard of this saint - and know a few things about him - so as to think about him and talk a few conversations about him.

Okay, so that’s the goal of my words right now. To provide some conversational topics.


The first topic would be saintly priests.

St. John Vianney’s dates are 1786 to 1859.

He died this day at the age of 73.

He was a parish priest in a little town names Ars for some 40 years.

In his day, someone said, “There is a holy man in Ars. Go and see him.”

More than one person must have said that, because at some point 300 people would come to Ars per day. The town was small - 40 homes, 4 taverns, and about 1000 people at the most.

My first conversation question would be: “Do you know any holy priests? Have you ever met one? When? Where? Tell me about him.”

I think of Father George Wichland - a saint who died in 1992 - who made sure lots and lots and lots of people in Baltimore got food.  I think of a classmate - who is definitely a saint. I think of Brother Raymond O’Brien - another saint, a Redemptorist - who died in 1988 - who had a sense of whenever a Mass was being said, he would just know it. His message to me was his sense of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in whatever house he was in.

Question: Who have been the priests you have met that were definitely holy people?

Who have been people you know who were holy?  Why? Tell me what they did that led you to that conclusion?

So that’s my first conversation piece: who have been saints that you have met - someone whom others would have said what was said of St. John Vianney, “There is a Holy Man in Ars; go and see him.”


St. John Vianney is known as the Patron Saint of Confession.

After getting this reputation, he ended up hearing confessions 12 hours a day during the winter - and 17 hours a day during the warmer weather.

For the sake of conversation, think and talk about that.

How long were the lines? Did people talk to each other on line? Did people try to sneak ahead? Did people allow people to sneak off the line to go to the bathroom?  How about eating?  How about hotels or sleeping places? Where would I get answers to these questions?

I remember reading Francis Trochu’s book on St. John Vianney, but I don’t remember any of his answers to those questions.

What about John Vianney getting out of the confessional? When did he eat, say Mass, go to the bathroom, sleep?

Could he read hearts as some said he could?

I remember hearing that the Redemptorist Saint, St. Clement Hofbauer heard confessions  for long, long hours and got hemorrhoid problems.

St. John Vianney lived till 73 - got 2 hours sleep per night - ate mostly potatoes and was quite thin. How about his health?

I did read that 4 times he wanted to run away from Ars to be a contemplative.
What’s your take on him as a confessor?  Did you ever go to a priest who was a great confessor?

I know that St. John Vianney’s role as a big time confession listener - is sitting there - every time after Mass - but at “the wrong time” - when someone says, “Father could you give me 5 minutes? I want to go to confession.” I don’t know about other priests, but I’ll hear that person’s confession.


A third and final conversational topic would be qualifications for a priest
We’re always heard that John Vianney didn’t have enough education. He had to work - farming - so the family could survive.

When someone asked a bishop can we ordain him, the bishop didn’t ask if he had high marks, but he asked if he was holy.

So he was allowed to be ordained a priest, but he had to walk to Austria to get a bishop to ordain him.

There was a shortage of priests at the time, because 300 priests were killed during the French Revolution - religion was banned - and times were changing.
They were going to put John Vianney in a situation where he didn’t have to hear confessions, because he didn’t have enough education in this area.

They put him in Ars - which was considered “A punishment parish”.  It was a tiny place - and didn’t have much going for it.

In time he turned the place around.


So I hope those 3 points are food for thought - enough to start a conversation: what is planted in our garden.
August 4, 2017


You have to take bread,
you have to get bread,
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to break bread,
you have to share bread,
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to eat with each other,
you have to digest each other,
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to be grateful,
really mean your "Thank you's",
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to experience a Mass of
words and everyday sacrifices,
before you experience Holy Communion.

You have to marry one another,
you have to become one with each other,
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to break up with another,
you have to excommunicate another,
before you understand Holy Communion.

You have to leave your gift at the altar,
go and forgive each other,
before you get Holy Communion.

You have to give yourself to each other,
in Holy Communion with each other,
before you become the Body of Christ,


© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Sometimes mountains,
sometimes deserts,
sometimes oceans,
sometimes walls,
sometimes swamps,
sometimes others,
sometimes ourselves.

What are we to face today?  
August 3, 2017


August doesn’t carry much glitter
or glamour. It’s a so, so month.
For kids there’s the suspicion - the
sense - that it’s back to school soon -
with moms buying school supplies
and clothes for the upcoming school year.
It’s hot and humid. Lawns are dry - hard -
and dust flies when they are mowed.
Latino laborers are in the fields -
digging and picking up potatoes.
Then there’s the evenings - beer
and wine - and voices can be heard
from invisible people on porches
or lawns or stoops or steps.
They don’t have enough of
those cool breezes that could
make moments on dark porches
or comfortable coves or inlets,
much more memorable. April and
October, November and December,
now they have the possibility of a
lot more pizzazz and a lot more push.

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August 2, 2017


Differences, distinctions,
comparisons, contrasts,
red, green, blue, orange,
black, white, yellow,
seeing differences help us
to see what we’re seeing….
female, male, young, old,
but sometimes we forget
those are only labels on the
package. Remove the
packaging and find out,
"Who and what’s inside?"

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

"Look at the birds of the air...."  Matthew 6:26

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Father Jack Kingsbury
- former pastor of St. Mary's Annapolis, Maryland
put together this video on Redemptorists in North America.



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Alphonsus is 5 Significant Moments in My Life.

If I handed you a pen and paper and asked you to jot down 5 significant moments in your life, what moments, what experiences, would you come up with?

Would it be - becoming a parent, the changes that happen in the womb of the mind when there is a  pregnancy, birth, seeing your baby for the first time, raising him or her, putting her or him through school, seeing a kid go off to college, then marriage, then the experience of a grandchild?

Would it be falling in love, marriage, changing, the struggles of marriage, even a divorce, and remarriage, what have you?  Only you know your experiences and how they made you, broke you, helped you recover or what have you?

Would it be a death or a parent, a child or a spouse?  Death can be a powerful teacher. So too sickness, being cared for or caring for another. Then there is aging….

Would it a job, becoming what you did/do in life? Or a job change, or a loss of a job, or retiring?

Would it be moving, a dramatic out of state move, going off to college, the military, moving to Tennessee, or Utah, or Arizona, or where have you.

So that’s my homily thought and question for you today?


It’s August 1st, the feast of St. Alphonsus.  As I sat there last night working on these thoughts,  I asked my mind and my memory, “What were the 5 most important moments in the life of Alphonsus Liguori?

First would be his father. His father was strict. Boy do I have plans for you. He had started arrangements for Alphonsus to get married when he was a kid. It was to be a moving upwards. His father was often on his case. Nothing was good enough. His father would be the type to challenge his kid to do better, to have more, etc. etc. etc. His father was angry when his son quit being a lawyer to became a priest. Then one day his father was walking by a church. He heard a familiar voice coming out the window. He walked in, sat down, listened to his son and said, “Not bad!” Then “Good!”

A key moment was the loss of a law case.  We heard that he missed a minor detail and that was why he lost.  Then we heard it might have been a bribe from the other side in a land case - and he was on the wrong side. He hit bottom with that. Depression and locked doors resulted - till he came out of his room and became a priest.

He became well known as a preacher in the Naples area - but he broke down - health wise. His friends told him he need to take a vacation. They sent him own to the Amalfi Coast to rest. Great choice. Then someone -hearing there was a priest there - asked him to go up into the hills - and reach out to the goat herders - whom nobody cared about. Then he found lots of neglected people - up there in those small towns - far from the big city, Naples.  Then he founded  a Religious Community to serve the neglected.  We came to the United States for that reason.  We came to Annapolis for that reason. I became a Redemptorist to go to Brazil. Didn’t luck out.

Then there was his move from being strict  and severe - to becoming compassionate and kind.  Growing up he was scrupulous - and strict on himself, till he discovered that his perception and understanding of who and what God was like changed. His met  Jesus Christ - the Good Shepard.  He later said, “In 61 years of hearing confessions, I never refused anyone absolution.” Of course not….

He began to write - writing around 111 published books - and the Jesus one meets there is Jesus the Jesus of the gospels.  I believe Pope Francis discovered all this as well. Alphonsus discovered that Jesus was warm, a lover, a friend, a Redeemer. His key book, I was always told, was The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ.  Get into a warm relationship with Christ.  Meet him in the stable, a baby, then grow in your relationship with him, meet him in the bread, the Blessed Sacrament, and sit under the cross and let his blood drip on your head.  Crib, Cross, Sacrament as we always heard. 


Enough already….

Those are 5 significant moments in the life of St. Alphonsus.  I hope you met him here in the Redemptorists at St. Mary’s.  What are your 5?
August 1, 2017


At 2 or 3 we make them rather openly,
At 66 we make them rather sneakily.
At 86 we’re back to wearing a bib and
banging our fists and forks and the
spaghetti and the meat balls slide to the
floor  - as we tell all in the nursing home:
“I want what I want when I want it.”

How about God? Does God want
his will to be done on earth as it
is in heaven? Are earthquakes and
tornados and tropical storms and
forest fires God’s tantrums? Or
is God’s will - really our will - to be
done on earth and it is in heaven?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Monday, July 31, 2017



The title of my homily for this July 31, Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola,  is, “Remembering What We Read.”

It could also be “What We Heard.”

Answer, “Very little.”

Answer, “But we don’t know what we’re going to remember - till long afterwards.  And that's the catch....”


Have you ever read something that you find yourself thinking about 3 days later, but you don’t know where you read it, so you can’t go back to find it - and reread it?

I read parts of  two newspapers -  most days - The New York Times and the Washington Post.

I don’t read every section. I never read the cartoons in the Washington Post or any paper. I never read the obituaries - except for an upcoming funeral. I never read the business or real estate stuff. But I do read the sports section and the op ed pages.

How about you?  

Do your read papers or magazines or books and then find yourself thinking about something a week later.


Like last week, I read an interesting article in The New York Times.  It was in the Sports Section.  It began, I think, about how pro football coaches work hard on their opening practice day speech. Then it mentioned that the New York Giants football coach, Ben McAdoo read a poem and a story for his speech - on this the beginning of his second year as a head coach.

He recited a poem by Rudyard Kipling, “If”.  I remember hearing it quoted but not lately - about being honest with yourself and being able to look oneself in the mirror. Things to ask oneself, “If I’m doing  this, this, this,”  then I’m doing well.  

Next, he read the story about an old lion who was in a Mexican Zoo.  He was basically finished - but the zoo sold him to a zoo in California.   The lion got there and basically was retired - finished - but the zoo staff fed him a lot of vitamins and shots. Surprise, the Lady Lions didn’t like the other male lions - but loved this lion and had some 33 cubs by him in 16 months. The story went something like that.

The players loved it: the poem was for the young guys and the old lion was a story for the old guys. Hopefully they have a  lot more game in them.

I’ve been thinking about that method of public speaking. Maybe instead of homilies, tell a poem and tell a story.


Last night I was reading an excerpt from Give Us This Day missalette. It’s an alternative to the Magnificat.  And in one page commentary on St. Ignatius of Loyola,  I read the following sentence and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, “Within fifteen years the order increased from ten members to a thousand.”


Wow that would solve the need for priests in the Catholic Church big time and big fast - if that could happen around the world.

I guess we need more priests who are saints.


I once took a mini-course in Jesuit Spiritually, One of the presenters said, “This course can be summed up this way. If you want to understand Jesuit Spirituality and Discernment, here it is in one short principle: “If it’s good, more; if it’s bad, less.” 

I’ve been thinking about that for 25 years now.

Think about that. Exercise, prayer, forgiveness, eating right, reading good stuff, listening, well, have more of those practices; the bad stuff, gossip, talking behind people’s back, getting back, not forgiving, eating too much sugar, couch potatoing, eating small bags of potato chips in one gulp - with all that salt, junk  TV, etc. etc. etc. make sure one does less.


The title of this homily is, "Remembering What We Read"  or heard - as well forgetting where we read it.

It’s the same with preaching. I had a job of novice master for 9 years and at the end of every year, I’d ask the novices, “Did you remember any homily from this year.”

I preached to them over 300 homilies each year and it was rare when anyone remembered even one. Bummer.

But I keep reading and I keep preaching hoping something sinks in. Hey you never know.

I sense it's like going to a concert. You have to hear all the songs, because you don't know which song is going to stick with you, long after the show.

I heard our last governor - O'Malley's Marching Band do his concert at Rams Head three times and I didn't know his song, "Yes, Sister, No Sister," would stick with me from then on. Maybe because it's catchy, maybe because my sister Peggy was a nun - as well as my dad's three sisters. I don't know ....





July 31, 2017


Do penguins ever have an identity crisis?
Do birds envy planes or vice versa?
Do old fish ever feel washed up?
Do guppies group?
Do monkeys say, “Hey, I think that’s my uncle?”
Do butterflies look down on caterpillars?
Do horseflies think they’re the elephant in the room?
Do cows jump when they see the moon?
Do giraffes ever stick their neck out?
Do fat zebras wish their stripes went the other way?
Do thin cats make comments about fat cats?
Do redwood trees have problems aging?
Do apples and oranges appreciate compliments?
Do pigs get angry when people call people pigs?
Do wolves wolf down their food?
Do some horses wish they were a different color?
Do some frogs ever hear, “You’re a prince”?

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017




The title of my homily for this 17 Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] is, “What’s The Greatest Treasure That You Own?”

That’s your homework for this week: What’s the Greatest Treasure That You Own?”

Here are two tricks to figure out your greatest treasure.

First suggestion: jot down on paper - or computer - or what have you - a list of 10 or 20 treasures that you have - then narrow them down to 3 and then down to 1.

Second suggestion: share your answers and if the treasure is something you can see and  touch, show it to spouse, family and / or friends.

It’s a great exercise. On our high school Kairos retreats, I’ve been on over 30 of them now, Ginny has an exercise, “If your house was on fire and you could grab 3 things - other than pets or people, what would you take out of your house?”

The answers vary - and usually there is one or two great treasures: journals, photographs, an afghan made by a grandmother, a lock of hair from a mom when she got cancer and lost all her hair - before it came back.

What is the greatest treasure that you own?


Today’s first reading from the First Book of Kings has this great folklore story that God asked Solomon in a dream at night, “Ask something of me and I’ll give it to you?”

What would you ask God for - if you had such a dream?

Well Solomon asks for the gift of an understanding heart.

He tells God he has this job of king, with so many different people, with so many different challenges - in his struggle to govern this vast people.

And God was pleased with his request and tells him, “You could have asked for a long life, for riches, for the death of your enemies, but because you asked for understanding, I’ll give you a heart so wise and understanding - that there has never been anyone like you - up till now, and after you - there will come no one - to equal you.”

I don’t have that treasure - there are a lot of people I just don’t understand - but I’d like to have that treasure - to be more understanding.

In today’s second reading from Romans - Paul talks about predestination and justification. Wouldn’t that be nice to have - to know that it’s automatic. When you die, you know you're automatically going to God. 

Predestination is a tricky theological issue that is very complicated to say the least.

I think, I sense, that the Catholic position is that salvation - redemption, being saved - is a two way street. It’s not all God. It’s not all us. It’s a we situation - a we deal - we work with God. It takes grace and effort. We’re not robots.  But we need help.  There’s freedom - there has to be that - otherwise why live and love - and interact with God and each other? Cooperation, communication, struggle, has to be in the mix. We know this from marriage and family for starters.  The other doesn’t have to love me. I don’t have to love the other - but when we do - and it works - then we experience heaven. It we don’t then it’s hell.

Yet, I am very grateful for the treasure of faith - and hope - and the gift of belief in Jesus Christ. I hope I’ll have that faith and hope till I  die and then wake up in the embrace of God after I die.

In today’s gospel we have these three specifics: the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, and the net that collects the good and the bad.

Every once and a while people discover treasures - stuff hidden - or put in a safe place and something happens on the way to the forum and their treasure remains in a cellar closet or buried in bottom drawer or attic trunk ….

The Dead Sea Scrolls were in some caves - hidden there for some 2000 years. They were found in 1947.  The Nag Hammadi texts were found in Egypt in 1945 - from some offshoot Christian group in Upper Egypt.  What else is out there?  Scripture scholars hope - hope - that there is a text of Matthew in Aramaic - somewhere - if such a text exists.

So people have treasures - jewelry, or pearls, or what have you - that they treasure.  Sometimes in cleaning a house or disposing of stuff - people net some great treasures - in garage sales, antique road shows or what have you.

What treasures do you have? Go figure and go talk to each other.


I’ve told this story before, but let me talk a tiny bit about my greatest treasure. 

Around 1970 - when my dad was dying of emphysema - I sat down with him and wrote out about 50 pages of  notes - about his childhood in Ireland, his family, his coming to America, to Boston, Portland Maine, Philadelphia, New York City. I got it all and those are precious scriptures. I gave them to my youngest niece, Maryna, and they are in a box in storage someplace in New Jersey.

In 1987 I got the idea to tape my mom - on a small tape recorder. It was just the two of us. So I asked her all the same kinds of questions - her childhood in Ireland, her coming to America, Boston, the name of the boat, her jobs before she came down to Brooklyn to get married to my dad, and all that.

After 45 minutes she said, “The moo is out of me!” Translation: enough I tired of all this thinking and talking. Then she said: next time we’ll get the rest of the story.

Sorry to say she was killed in a hit and run accident two weeks later on the way to church and then work at the age of 82.

Well that tape is precious. I would get that if St. Mary’s went on fire.

I’ve listened to that tape about 10 times and I listened to it with my sister Mary for the first time for her lately. She didn’t want to listen to it till then.

We both laughed and cried - and loved the stories.

My sister said, “I didn’t know mom had an accent.”

Well when I asked myself - in homework - last night - what my greatest treasure is - I said, “That tape.”

I would not go bonkers if I lost it. It will probably be dumped when I die - unless I pass it off to one of my nieces.  It’s a thing - but what makes it a treasure is that it’s someone telling their story.


What is your greatest treasure?

Hopefully, we realize it’s each other. It’s another - because we know their story.

We’ve gone to Holy Communion with that person many times. We’ve gone down the aisle to receive them to eat them up - and as we received who they are,  we said, “Amen!”

July 30, 2017

Next time I’ll ask….
Next time I’ll laugh….
Next time I’ll try harder….
Next time I’ll hesitate ….
Next time I’ll say, “No!”
Next time I’ll say, “Yes!”
Next time I’ll read the directions….
Next time I’ll leave a message….
Next time I’ll take a wall seat ….
Next time I’ll turn the TV off….
Next time I’ll get more sleep ….
Next time I’ll ask if I have a vote ….
Next time I’ll find out, “Who’s who?”
Next time I’ll walk….
Next time I’ll pick up the bill….
Next time I’ll ask if there is a next time….

© Andy Costello, Reflections  2017