Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Visitor

This Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 1: 39-56 ) tells the beautiful story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin’s house in the hills near Jerusalem.

“ Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
‘ Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ “
This is indeed a precious, sacred event. Mary goes on to “ prophesy “ with her song-like, much-beloved Magnificat, a prayer that always seems new every time I pray it.
Nearly six years ago I was blessed to visit the wooded valley of Ein Karem, one of the most beautiful places in Israel. It seems almost miraculous how, with only one turn in the road, one leaves behind the barren Judean desert and enters this lovely area full of greenery and life. Up on one of the surrounding hills we visited the place that is commemorated as the site of the Visitation. The view from up there is magnificent. A delicate, elegant church stands there, decorated with symbols of fertility, life, and womanhood. A high wall against the hillside is covered with large stone-carved versions of the Magnificat in many different languages. Joyful song seems to exude from these stones, and from the rich greenery all around. Upon reading the prayer in English and Spanish I was caught up in that joyful feeling, as if, like John, Elizabeth, and Mary, I was also “ filled with the Holy Spirit “ of the Child Jesus. That joy stayed with me for the rest of the day back in Jerusalem. I felt like if I had undergone a powerful supernatural experience, like the one described in the Gospel.
That happy memory is still so vivid in my mind. I have been a Catholic for only a few of my 67 years. Incredibly, most of the time I am still in a sort of “ honeymoon “ with my Lord Jesus, who personally came and opened my eyes to the infinite love of God. So it has taken me a while to come to appreciate and venerate the bountiful power and grace that He has given His Blessed Mother in Heaven.
Her mission seems to me to have mysterious angelic dimensions . She is not only His Messenger, whether in Tepeyac, or Lourdes, or Fatima, but every time we call her she brings her Son, in the most generous way, as she did on the Visitation. All I have to do is invoke her name and she and her Son “ visit me “.

The simple prayer of the Hail Mary tells the story. She has come to me in quiet haste in some of my most sorrowful moments. At her greeting I answer: “ Ave Maria “. The fulness of her grace pacifies my soul, and excites it too, because the Lord is indeed with her as she shares that blessing with me. The child-prophet in me can even leap for joy. The greatest blessing seems to be that of God-given faith, to actually believe that what has been spoken to my soul by my Lord will be fulfilled. She teaches me to pray and trust. She brings me hope, and most of all the boundless love of the “ fruit of her womb “, the living, present, Jesus.
And then she prays for all of us sinners. A perfect prayer is her Magnificat. There is unfettered praise, wonderment, and gratitude at God’s great love. Once again most of all there is trust : trust in the mercy, the strength , the justice, and generosity of our God for all of us, for in one way or another, we are the lowly, the poor, the hungry.
Thank you, Blessed Mother, shining example for all saints, bringer of solace, sister, friend.

Orlando Hernández

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The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Visitation
Faith gives life and sends us on a mission. That what it did to Mary, Luke’s gospel says.

Mary believes the angel who announces in Nazareth the coming of Jesus, and she’s empowered by the message. So,  she sets out “in haste” for the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who also was with child. It’s not an ordinary visit. She goes “in haste” because she’s filled with a sense of mission. She hurries to Judea to announce good news to her relatives serving in the temple of God.

Faith is not a burden; it empowers us.

 “Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

“You too, my people, are blessed,” comments St. Ambrose, “ you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes his works.

“Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ, but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us.”

As with Mary so with us, faith gives life and sends us on a mission..

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Lamp for a Dark Place

Spring Lake even

The sky over the boardwalk at Spring Lake, New Jersey, is sometimes swept with colors before nightfall. Then, a lamp is the only light till dawn.

The sun will rise again and the great Sun will also rise again, Augustine says. Then  “lamps will no longer be needed. When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself. Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.”

Darkness is temporary; we are meant for light.

“I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers. What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

“Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed. Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

“I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.”

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The Voice of the Faithful

The mention of Apollos in Saturday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that Peter and Paul and the other apostles were not the only teachers in the early church. Others brought the message of Christ to the cities and towns of the Roman Empire. Apollos was one of them.

He’s described as an eloquent, learned teacher who came to Ephesus from Alexandria, one of the great centers of Jewish and Christian learning, and drew a following by preaching about Jesus.

But Apollos doesn’t know everything, so an ordinary Jewish couple, Priscilla and Acquila, “took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.”

They were disciples of Paul who supported  him by giving him some work in their tent business. They traveled with Paul and certainly listened to his teaching, but I don’t think they were ever considered teachers as he and Apollos were. They were considered “hearers of the word,” more likely. Well informed, for sure, but still among those we would call today “the faithful.”

Yet, let’s not forget what important teachers “the faithful” are, as Priscilla and Aquila remind us.

I remember a story a priest I knew, a brilliant teacher, told me long ago about a baptism he was conducting for an infant born to a member of his family. His father was the baby’s sponsor and according to the rite then was expected to recite the Creed.

“Can you say the Creed, Dad?” the priest said to his father.

“Who do you think taught it to you?,” the father sharply replied.

Faith can’t survive in this world without the ordinary Priscillas and Aquilas explaining it and  passing it on.

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7th Sunday of Easter

For today’s homily, please watch the video below:

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St. Philip Neri, (1515-1595)

St.-Philip-2

Philip Neri, whose feast is celebrated today, is an interesting saint. Some rank him with Peter and Paul, founders of the church of Rome, because Philip  helped restore the  Roman church then reeling from the Protestant reformation.

Philip came to Rome as a young man and fell in love with the city’s history and holy places. He spent long hours in its ancient churches as a priest and roamed the catacombs of St. Sebastian where early Christians were buried. He became a regular guide for pilgrims searching for their spiritual roots. A familiar figure on Roman streets, he engaged ordinary people, especially the young, who warmed to his cheerfulness and found hope in his simple words. He listened to them.

Uncovering  forgotten lessons in the art and monuments of the city, Philip became a guide and inspiration to saints like Ignatius Loyola, Charles Borromeo and Pius V. He made new friends by sharing the beauty of the holy city, especially  the great churches of St.Peter’s, St.Paul outside the Walls, St. Lawrence, St. Sebastian, Holy Cross, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major, still the major pilgrim churches of the city today.

Protestants at the time were turning from theology to history to back up their claims against the Catholic Church, and Philip encouraged Catholic historians like Caesar Baronius to research the history of the church with fairness and accuracy. Baronius once said of him: “I love the man especially because he wants the truth and doesn’t permit falsehood of any kind.” He also supported Galileo: “The bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”

Philip thought that church reform could come about best by  seeking the beauty of faith in its art, music and tradition. He promoted study of church history at a time when the Catholic Church needed to examine its traditions and roots. He brought gentleness, cheerfulness and friendship to Christian reform at a time when fierce controversy between Protestants and Catholics was the norm.   He was unassuming. A biographer said “ his aim was to do much without appearing to do anything.”

He died in Rome on May 26, 1595, at eighty years of age.

The great scholar John Henry Newman was attracted to Philip Neri and entered the religious society he founded, the Oratorians.

Here’s one of his prayers I like: ” Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow.”

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The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven

Homily

 

 

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