Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Mary Garden


On the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, May 31, we began our Mary Garden at Immaculate Conception Monastery in Jamaica, New York.

Mary Gardens, dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared in 14th century Europe following the Black Death, a pandemic that caused millions to die in that part of the world. The gardens, usually found in monasteries and religious shrines, brought hope to people who feared the earth was bringing them death.

God gave Adam and Eve a garden, the Book of Genesis says. (Genesis 2, 8-28) Rising from the dead, Jesus proclaimed eternal life in a garden. (John 20,11-18) For early and medieval Christians, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was like a garden enclosed, flowers, plants and trees surrounded her, “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” As the “Mother of the living” she brought the promise of life to our world, Jesus, her Son.

Can a Mary Garden bring hope today to our world that faces climate change and environmental degradation? Mary reminds us creation is a gift of God’s love. A Mary Garden teaches reverence for creation, for the soil, for plants that feed and bring us healing, for flowers that nourish our sense of beauty.

Yes, science and technology play their part in an environmental crisis, but faith has a part to play. We’re planting a Mary Garden!

A Reading from the Book of Genesis
This is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens there were no plants on the earth, no grass on the fields, for the LORD God had sent no rain and there were no human beings to till the ground, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and watering all the surface of the ground and the LORD God formed a human being out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and he came to life.
The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,* and placed there the one whom he had formed… to cultivate and care for it. (Gen 2, 4-15)

Let us Pray

Praise the Lord who is good,
Sing to our God who is loving,
To the Lord our praise is due.

Who covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares the rain for the earth.
And makes mountains sprout with grain
and plants to serve our needs

You know the number of the stars
and call each one by name.
Bless the earth we break open today
O Lord,
to be a garden in praise of your name,
where we honor Mary, the mother of your Son.

We remember your blessings here
which you never cease to send
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Other People Breathing

Contemplative Philosophy

The beautiful sound of other people breathing.


The bedroom: His wife. His child.

The chapel: The old man. The widowed woman.

The bus: Tired husbands. Lonely brides.

The playground: Pants. Screams. Screeches. Cries.

The everywhere: Fear.

Suffering has a sound.

Heard like a rattle.

Beads dropping one by one.

A xylophone. A harpsichord. A tambourine.

A one-man-band.

In union a sweet ave.

Isolated a crashing cymbal.

—Howard Hain


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At The Waterfall

By Orlando Hernandez

A good Passionist priest once told me not to be suspicious of the images that come to my mind’s eye during special moments of prayer. He said that God gives us those “pictures” to help us understand the power and mystery of His love. The fragment from verse 5 of the 5th Chapter of
St. Paul’s letter to the Romans has always had such an influence on my imagination (or vision?) : “ The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

At my son’s Parish in Florida which has a large, powerful, Pentecostal-style choir, I often find myself in the middle of Mass feeling as if a glorious waterfall is raining over all of us in that church, especially on my beloved grandchildren, who see me crying and try to “console” me! During many prayer meetings at the Passionist Monastery in NY, as we sing, praise, and pray over people, I have “seen” this unbearably bright, milk-like substance fall upon us and splash all over the chapel. At times of great peace I can actually feel the grace of God falling upon the world like mist from a waterfall.

Last month, Fr. Chris Cleary CP, spoke to us on a Day of Reflection at Bishop Molloy Retreat House in Queens, NY. He was talking about the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives, how the Spirit leads us to see God in everyone around us. It was a very moving presentation. It truly spoke to me, sometimes I tend to ignore those around me. And then, at the end, he invited us to close our eyes and let him lead us through a meditation. He took us through green pastures, hills, and forests until we got to a lovely waterfall. He invited us to sit on a rock and within that “holy space” imagine Jesus coming and sitting with each one of us. I enjoy these meditations. They can be interesting or even entertaining, but that day, oh boy, I was TAKEN by it. I really met my Lord at the waterfall. It was so overwhelming and mysterious that I do not have the images or words to describe what I saw, heard and felt. I guess the Lord decided to hit me hard that day, and He did !

The waterfall in the vision was an actual place that I love, The Upper Falls of Kaaterskill Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York state. My wife Berta loves the place too, so the next week we drove the three-plus hours to the place. I wanted to “meet” Jesus there to re-live the meditation experience. The one-mile hike is not that hard, but I still had to use my cane. My wife and I held each other as we negotiated the slippery rocks on the trail. We finally got there and it was awesome. Because of the recent rains the water was roaring over the edge of the 100 feet-high cliff that was looming over us. Cool midst would fog up my glasses within seconds, but we found a fairly dry, comfortable rock near the edge of the cliff behind us, where the creek poured over the Lower Falls into the vast mountain ravine.

We sat there looking at the ghostly patterns formed by the falling water before us, and “waiting” for Jesus. Well, it wasn’t at all like my experience during the meditation. The place was full of people! There were various young persons hopping from rock to rock, climbing up the grotto behind the waterfall. There were dogs of all sizes and colors carefully held in leashes by their owners. And many children- the older ones trying to skip to the other side of the creek, getting their feet soaked, the little ones vey carefully watched and chased by their parents. People came and went. We had a nice lunch at our rock and watched and watched the falling water and the people until it was time to scramble back up the trail to our car.

Oh well, no intimate communion with Jesus, no precious mystical moment, no deep prayer. Such gifts, as we all have to accept, come in God’s own time. But now, in retrospect, I remember that day with such gladness. Of course our Lord was there. He was there in His people, His lovely children. They actually did not bother me at all. They were nice to look at! We were all sharing in the miracle of God’s creative power. Even if we did not realize it we were sharing a blessed moment. We were in a “holy space”. I just did not appreciate it at that time.

Today I remember the original intent of Fr. Chris’ talk. We can find God in the most ordinary moments. The Holy Spirit is present in all the people that crowd our spaces. And I thank God that I now re-live the happiness that I felt there, so close to my wife and even to those around us as the love of God was being poured unto us.

By Orlando Hernandez

Passionist Saints

 The Passionists, are a small and relatively new community in the Roman Catholic Church, but we have a good number of canonized saints and members proposed for canonization. Beginning with our founder, St. Paul of the Cross, who died in 1774, each generation of Passionists has produced men and women recognized for their holiness.

We’re hoping Father Theodore Foley who died in 1974 may join the ranks of Passionist saints such as Paul of the Cross, Vincent Strambi, Gabriel Possenti, Dominic Barberi, Gemma Galgani,  Charles Houben, Isidore DeLoor and Eugene Bossilkov.

Saints are God’s answer to the poison of their times, and it’s important to see them as they oppose it. Saints are firm believers and examples of heroic virtue. They’re signs of God’s power in a sinful world and God marks them out as saints through miracles performed through their intercession.

For example, St. Paul of the Cross was an antidote to the forgetfulness of the passion of Jesus which followed the Enlightenment, a 17th century movement that denied or minimized the role of faith and religion in human life. We’re still feeling the effects of the Enlightenment today.

St. Vincent Strambi opposed the Enlightenment as it was expressed in the political schemes of Napolean Bonaparte, who tried to subordinate religion to his own dreams of European domination. Vincent was a brave Italian bishop who resisted the emperor and suffered for it.  Like him, the Bulgarian Bishop Eugene Bossilkov suffered and died under an oppressive Communist government in Bulgaria in the 20th century.

Gabriel Possenti resisted the lure of the Enlightenment in the 19th century. As a young man, he chose religious life rather than the inflated promises of success that tempted so many of his contemporaries.

Saints like Gemma, Isidore de Loor, Charles Houben seem to be people who fit St. Paul’s description of those called by God. They were not wise by human standards, they don’t have a lot of human power, they’re not of noble birth. They’re “the weak of the world God chooses to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1, 23-28)

Our Passionist saints tend to be ordinary people, of no special note, easily unnoticed and misunderstood, subject to the sufferings, disappointments and failures that come in life. God chooses them to be signs that he does not abandon his people and, in fact, can do great things through them. Charles Houben was a healer. Gemma bore the signs of Jesus’ passion in her body.

It takes awhile to know saints like these. That may be because we often don’t understand our own times and the poison afflicting it.

8th Week of the Year


Graphic Pentecost

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40/Rom 8:14-17/Mt 28:16-20 (165)

28 Mon Weekday (Eighth Week in Ordinary Time)
1 Pt 1:3-9/Mk 10:17-27 (347)

29 Tue Weekday
1 Pt 1:10-16/Mk 10:28-31 (348)

30 Wed Weekday
1 Pt 1:18-25/Mk 10:32-45 (349)

31 Thu The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16/Lk 1:39-56 (572)

June 1 Fri Saint Justin, Martyr
1 Pt 4:7-13/Mk 11:11-26 (351)

2 Sat Weekday
[Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs; BVM]
Jude 17, 20b-25/Mk 11:27-33 (352)

The First Letter of Peter, read this week, was written from Rome by Peter, the apostle, to Christians threatened by persecution, ancient tradition says. Some modern scholars question if Peter himself wrote it and suggest a later author wrote using his name. You can hear in the readings early baptismal teaching which the author uses to remind his listeners who they are.

In chapters 10 and 11 of Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem, a journey many do not understand and, like the rich young man, they decide not to join him. James and John also thought his journey would bring power and prestige, but it was not to be. We hear in these readings lessons for the Roman church of the 70s, but the lessons are also meant for us..

A feast of Mary occurs every month in the calendar. This month it’s the Visitation (May 31), placed in the calendar between the Feast of the Annunciation (March 15) and the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) We’re reminded of Mary’s role as a bearer of good news to her older cousin Elizabeth, who will give birth to John. Mary always brings her Son to us too.

St. Philip Neri, (1515-1595)


Philip Neri, whose feast is celebrated today, helped to rejuvenate the Catholic church in the city of Rome following the Protestant reformation in the 16th century. He’s an important example of the way reform can take place in the church.

Philip came to Rome as a young man, became a priest, and fell in love with the city’s history, its churches and holy places. He roamed the catacombs of St. Sebastian where early Christians were buried and was a regular guide for pilgrims searching for their roots. He promoted pilgrimages to 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, which are still the major pilgrim churches of the city.

Philip was also a familiar figure on the Roman streets where he engaged ordinary people, especially the young, with cheerfulness and simple conversation. People listened to him and he listened to them. He made people aware of the beauty and joy of an ancient faith.

Philip inspired saints like Ignatius Loyola, Charles Borromeo and Pius V.

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

In promoting an honest study of church history and archeology Philip was influential in helping the Catholic Church then to examine its traditions and roots. At a time when fierce controversy between Protestants and Catholics was the norm, Philip brought gentleness, cheerfulness and friendship and a search for truth to Christian reform. He believed reform would best come about by showing the beauty of faith in art, music and tradition.  He was an unassuming man. 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 Christian scholar John Henry Newman, attracted to Philip Neri,  entered the religious society he founded, the Oratorians.

Here’s one of his prayers I like: ” Let me get through today, and I won’t worry about tomorrow.”