Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Temple of God

This week’s Mass readings from the 1st Book of Maccabees and the Gospel of Luke bring us to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Three years after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes, about the year 167 BC, the Jews under Judas Maccabeus re-conquered Jerusalem and restored the temple, which was at the heart of their religion. The first reading this Friday describes the rededication of the temple to its former glory. The Jews continue to celebrate it in the feast of Hannukah. (1 Maccabees 4,36-61}

The New Testament writers were certainly aware of this historic event when they wrote about Jesus cleansing the temple. Entering Jerusalem after his journey from Galilee, “ Jesus went into the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” Then, “every day he was teaching in the temple area” until he was arrested and put to death. (Luke 19,45-48)

It was a symbolic act. Jesus himself is the presence of God, the Word made flesh, the new temple of God. Luke says he taught in the temple “every day.” He teaches us every day; he is our high priest brining us to his Father and our Father, “every day.”

He is the temple that cannot be destroyed. At his trial before he died, witnesses gave testimony that was half right when they said he spoke of destroying the temple. When Jesus spoke about the destruction of the temple, he was speaking of the temple of his own body. Death seemed to destroy him, but he would be raised up on the third day.

We share in this mystery as “members of his body.” We’re a sacramental people; we need places to come together, to pray and to meet God who “dwells among us.” We need churches and holy places. We instinctively revolt when we see them go.

Dedication of the Churches of Sts. Peter and Paul


We honor the two great apostles, Peter and Paul, in the ancient churches where they were buried: the Basilica of St. Paul and the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, both built in the fourth century. The two apostles are founders and protectors of the Roman church.

Rome’s Christians marked the places where the apostles were martyred with special care. Peter, early sources say, was crucified on the Vatican Hill in 64 near the obelisk not far from the circus of the emperors Caligula and Nero and was buried in a cemetery nearby. The Emperor Constantine erected a basilica over the burial site in 326, while Sylvester was pope. Later in 1626 the present basilica replaced it. Recent excavations have uncovered Peter’s burial place under the papal altar of this church.

Paul, according to tradition, was beheaded on the Ostian Way, outside the ancient city walls, in 67. Constantine built a large church over his grave in 386. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1823 according to its original measurements. The apostle’s grave lies before the main altar of the church.

We build churches honoring the apostles and saints, often enshrining their relics in them, because we believe they watch over us even now. “The company of the apostles praises you…From their place in heaven they guide us still.”

Defend your Church, O Lord,

by the protection of the holy Apostles,

that, as she received from them

the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine,

so through them she may receive,

even to the end of the world,

an increase in heavenly grace.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen   (Collect for the feast)

Walled Garden

by Howard Hain

Saint Francis and Saint Clare from the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, (Franco Zeffirelli) (1972)

A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed!

—Song of Songs 4:12


From memory it is not easy to recall. I do have a clear image, but if it is accurate that remains to be seen. Here we go.

It was downhill. A sloping path. As I approached the stone church, a few people wandered around out front. There was somewhat of a courtyard, well not a courtyard, more like a little wall hugging into existence a welcoming space. This wall was about bench height, made also of stone, and extended outward from the building. It created what I would normally call an out-front patio space, but in Italian terms, perhaps it would be called a terrazza, or maybe even be considered a piazza, or perhaps most accurately, a piazzetta. Then again, maybe it is just a patio to Italians too.

Well, sitting on this low wall was a friar. And running around the open area was a small brown dog with a shaggy little beige beard.

I entered the church. It was small, almost cave like. A curved ceiling. Dark. Old. There was the cross, a crucifix. Not the actual one that spoke to Saint Francis—no, that one was moved up into the Basilica of Saint Clare located in the central part of the still small but no-longer medieval town of Assisi.

The reproduction spoke to me.

I’m an early companion of Francis.


I remained in the chapel for a while. I’m not sure if I was praying or not. I’m pretty sure I got on my knees. But from that day’s perspective, prayer was not known to me. So from that perspective, I wasn’t praying. But from today’s perspective, I most certainly was. For I was there. I was in Italy, in Assisi, in the Church of San Damiano. I was there intentionally. I was lost but I was found. I was looking, and I was obeying. Obeying what I didn’t know. I had no idea why, but I wanted to be there. And I felt something. It was heavy, literally. I remember feeling bent over. I remember thinking about all the prayer that must have taken place in that small space over the past thousand years. I remember thinking that all that collective belief must have an effect. It did. It does. It will. I was certain that I felt it. It bowed me down. It bent me over. And I remember liking it.

Faith is common.

I was a pilgrim and didn’t know it.


I don’t remember much about the convent itself. I do remember walking from room to room, the communal rooms where Saint Clare and her companions, her biological mother and two sisters among them, ate and prayed and cared for their sick. I remember the small warm inner garden, with it’s old well. And the spot marked as the place where Clare liked best to sit. I’ve always loved internal courtyards. The thought of being outdoors and yet enclosed. Architecturally, it best represents the beauty of true solitude. Open. Yet safe. Free. Yet sheltered. Alone. Yet surrounded by those who believe the same.

In that sense, solitude—when it’s truly interior, truly spiritual—is like love: you can never get enough of it, and once you have it, once you truly live within it, you’re never again alone.

Solitude is love. And love is never solitary.


Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

—Isaiah 7:14


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

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by Orlando Hernandez

Five years ago I attended my first Catholic Charismatic prayer meeting. I was very much excited by all that music, praising, and shouting. I felt as if the Holy Spirit was right there “in my face.” A very fiery lay preacher spoke to us. She asked people from the audience to come up and thank God in front of everybody. There was silence. Nobody was coming up. Suddenly, I was there on the floor (with my bad knees!) yelling thanks to God for so many things, my wife, my grandchildren, my health, my faith, His sacrifice on the cross, the beauty of the world…and I don’t remember what else. The place remained quiet, and the preacher turned to the audience (I guess trying to shame them a little), and said, “This man here is the tenth leper!” Me, a leper? Gee, thanks! I had only a faint memory of that passage in the Bible. It has haunted me ever since.

In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 17:11-19), Jesus is approached by ten lepers outside a village (they are not allowed there, of course). From a distance they cried to Him for mercy. The Lord “saw them” and instructed them to go show themselves to the priest. They walked away.

We are left to ponder what was going through their minds. Were they disappointed, and discouraged (go all the way to Jerusalem to fulfill the taxing requirements of Leviticus Chapter 14:1-20)? Or were they touched by His words of power and left with faith and hope? After all, they must have heard of so many healing done by Jesus already. Perhaps, even as they took two or three steps the miracle was already beginning to take place:

“As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then He said to him, ‘ Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.’” (Lk 17: 14b-19)

It turns out that Charismatic preacher was giving me a very kind compliment. Ever since my conversion, I have always related to all those paralytic, bleeding, blind, foreign, and “unclean” characters in the Gospel. That was the condition of my soul before my Lord manifested Himself to me and I thank Him with all my heart just about every day.

But do I thank Him enough? Am I not also like the other nine lepers who never came back? Every day is filled with countless miracles from God. Just waking up every morning, to breathe in the life-giving air, to feel the light of the sun, to know that God loves me so much and will never let me go, to feel love in my heart…..I usually forget to thank Him for these gifts, along with so much that, for His own reasons, He has chosen to give me in my life. I just go about my day without any thanksgiving, and even begin to fuss and complain about all my petty problems, and trudge along the way, until He gently nudges me, and reminds me of His loving Presence.

Perhaps those nine healed lepers felt great gratitude towards Jesus and gave thanks to God in their own way, but they were thinking about going back to their families, even getting a job after all this time of isolation. Where would they get the money to buy the birds, the lambs, the yarn, the hyssop, the bran flour, the oil and other things for their rituals of purification by the priests, and so on? I truly believe that in spite of all this, the Lord was also with them. Last week, a reader of this blog (cenaclemary12) wrote :
“People have so many activities and responsibilities to fit in each day. Make the most of each moment as a gift of God.”
This is one of my goals as a Christian. This is my daily prayer:

Thank You, thank You, thank You, Beloved, King of Peace!

Orlando Hernández



Everyday this week, the 32nd week of the year, we’re reading from the Book of Wisdom. The wisdom literature–Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach– is not primarily about spiritual wisdom or high level human wisdom, the kind we expect from graduate school. The wisdom literature is about earthy wisdom, the kind we get in the school of everyday.

Consider, as an example, Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins from Matthew’s gospel, a wisdom parable, read last Sunday. (Matthew 24, 1-13) Why didn’t the foolish virgins bring along a flask of oil to the wedding like the wise virgins did? They should have known there wouldn’t be enough oil to last that time in their small lamps. And if they didn’t, why didn’t they ask others for advice and followed it? They’re foolish because they didn’t learn ordinary wisdom.

The wisdom tradition, which Jesus uses in this parable, insists we are learners who must look for wisdom through life experience and listen to others as we learn ourselves. It’s up to us to gain wisdom. Yes, God’s help and promises are there, but it’s up to us to find the path of life to follow.

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom;

whatever else you get, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4,7)

Getting understanding never stops, from childhood to old age it’s imperative. The search goes on as we go about our affairs in relative comfort or in times of darkness and suffering. (Job)

The wisdom literature recognizes obstacles in the search for wisdom. We get fixated on things like success, careers, money, pleasure, health, politics, but the school of life is bigger than any of these.

The wisdom literature recognizes too that we’re drawn to a greater reality. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We’re made to stand in wonder before what is greater than we are. We’re not satisfied with small things. “Our hearts are restless, till they rest in you.”


“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,

and she is readily perceived by those who love her,

and found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her;

one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.” (Wisdom 6, 12-14)




Arriving in Hope

by Howard Hain



Camille Pissarro, “Entrée du village de Voisins”, 1872 (Musée d’Orsay)


Waiting and waiting, for exactly what I’m not sure.

The sun to rise.

The day to end.

The water to boil.

Mass to begin.

The cock to crow.

Christ to return.


A new day is here.


Father, thank You.

Jesus, I love You.

Holy Spirit, have Your way.


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.