Category Archives: spirituality

Divine Flute Player

by Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 7;31-35) Jesus tells the crowds :

“To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sand a dirge, but you did not weep.’ “.

In the previous verses our Lord had been reflecting on the person of John the Baptist. Jesus now speaks with regard to the way so many people rejected John’s stark message of repentance and asceticism (the “dirge”). He is also saddened by the way His message of forgiveness, inclusion, gladness, and salvation is also rejected as perhaps too lenient, too loose, too much like party music.

In our generation, what will satisfy us? My Lord offers me the joy of an eternity in His Glory, and I often find myself looking the other way, at the pleasures and ideas of this world. Why do I do this? Why am I blind and deaf? I suffer frustration and depression when I look at the news and see the sad condition of our planet. My Lord invites me to go into this heart of darkness with Him and do something about it. But nooo, it’s too hard for me. Let me vegetate in front of the TV.

But He returns, inviting again and again until He becomes irresistible. Like the Pied Piper, He arrives with His flute, playing the most delightful melody, a love song, a dance that can make us “rejoice, and leap for joy”. So we follow Him up the mountain. There are crosses waiting at the top. The poverty, the hunger, the mourning, the intolerance of this world are always there waiting for us. He bears them on His body. He carries us. The tune becomes a song of mourning. We’re invited to die with Him.

But resurrection follows, my faith tells me so. Love is stronger than death. The jovial music returns. There is a purpose to life. The Beloved One embraces us into His glorified body. We’re lost in an endless sea of Goodness. “Dissolved and brought to a deep, conscious, felt knowledge of the Divinity”, Paul of the Cross writes. Nothing can be better than that. We are strengthened and inspired by His Grace to love and help our neighbor.

Lord, open my eyes to see the marvelous treasures that You offer to all of us.! Open my ears to hear Your Song of Life.

Orlando Hernandez


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United Nations: World Leaders Meet

“ Our Sister Earth cries out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.

The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. Any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”

Pope Francis, Laudato SI 54-55

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Feasts are for Reflection

Ryrson cross
Feasts are times to reflect. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15th, is an important feast for my community, the Passionists. Mary is the first disciple of Jesus and a model for anyone who wishes to follow him.

The gospel reading for the feast from St. John says simply that Mary stood by the cross of Jesus. She’s a brave woman, not afraid to come close to the fearful place where Jesus was put to death. The Book of Judith, ordinarily the 1st reading for the feast, praises Judith, the brave and wise Jewish woman who’s not afraid to stand with her people at a dangerous moment in their history. Two women of courage face suffering and the challenge it brings.

The prayers, traditions and art of this feast take up the theme of Mary standing by the cross. She’s remembered  in poetry, music and art. “Stabat Mater” Here’s an example in Gregorian Chant and Pergolesi’s magnificent baroque setting.

At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful mother keeping
Close to Jesus to the last.

Blessed Dominic Barberi, in his reflections on Mary’s sorrows, emphasizes that Mary is a mother, the new Eve and a follower of Abraham, who hopes even as his son faces death. Dominic places particular emphasis on Mary’s ties to Jesus as his mother, ties of flesh and blood.

Her motherhood provides another strong tradition that  appears in early medieval art – the Pieta– the Mother holding her dead Son in her arms on Calvary. Where did this come from? Some say it comes, not from the gospels which make no mention of it, but from the writings of mystics like St. Bridgid of Sweden, a mother who saw the life of Jesus, particularly his passion, through a mother’s eyes.

The women mystics, many of them pilgrims to the Holy Land, could not imagine Mary not taking the body of her dead Son into her arms when taken down from the cross.

The 13th century icon above, from the Ryerson collection from the Art Institute of Chicago once belonged to a European pilgrim to the Holy Land who brought it back as a reminder of a pilgrimage. It probably reflects the two traditions. Mary, a mother, holds her Son at birth and she stands at his cross at death.

An alternate gospel for the feast recalls Mary’s loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. Mary’s sorrows were not limited to Calvary; they were lifelong.

A study of the Pieta in art in early medieval France explores the diversity of this scene before Michaelangelo’s Pieta became an overpowering icon. “Often she is viewed as caught up in the horror of the moment, but she is also shown praying or even gazing into the distance, as if contemplating comforting memories or the reunion to come. Her demeanor ranges from youthful innocence—the Purity that Time cannot age—to careworn maturity—Our Lady of Sorrows.”

Sorrow has a range of faces.


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24th Sunday: Forgiveness, Seventy-seven Times?


For this week’s homily, please play the video file below:

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Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15



There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.”  That’s how Mark’s gospel describes some onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion. (Mark 15,40-41)

John’s gospel brings some of the women closer. He places Mary, the Mother of Jesus, standing at the cross itself. “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

She stands, close by,  not at a distance, not afraid to see, not absorbed in her own suffering, not disengaged from him or his sufferings. She enters into the mystery of the cross through compassion, which doesn’t experience his suffering exactly, but enters it to break the isolation suffering causes and helps someone bear their burden.  The sword, the spear, pierces both hearts, but in a different way.

Compassion is a necessary part of the mystery of the cross.

The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which we celebrate in the Roman calendar  on September 15th, was placed after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (September 14) only recently, in the 20th century by Pope Pius X.  He took the feast,  formerly the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and placed it on this date which is the octave of Mary’s birth (September 7).

The prayer for today’s feast says that when her Son “was lifted high on the Cross” his mother stood by and shared his suffering, but as yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Cross makes clear, Jesus  lifted high draws all to himself to share in his resurrection.

Compassion leads to a share in Jesus’ resurrection.

For a commentary on John’s Gospel see here.

For a study on Mary on Calvary see here.

For readings for the feast and the Stabat Mater see here.


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The Triumph of the Cross: September 14


Holy sepul

Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

This ancient ecumenical feast,  celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. There, a great church was built by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated September 13, 325 AD, It was called the Anastasis (Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and became one of Christianity’s holiest places.

Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.

Holy Sepulcher - 28

Tomb of Jesus



Pilgrims to the church today in Jerusalem’s Old City can visit the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters, and also the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church of Constantine’s time, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders, and the present building still bears the scars of time.

Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen in it. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities in the place. One hears in this church the difficult challenge Jesus offered when he prayed that ” All may be one.”

Holy Sepulcher - 04

Egyptian Coptic Christians

Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars  expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots have been proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.

For more on the history of this place, see here.

And a video here.

Readings for the Triumph of the Cross



Via Dolorosa - 17

“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We can’t forget Jesus Christ. Like those before us, we seek and inquire after God again and again; we remember God our rock, the Most High God, our redeemer. Don’t forget Jesus Christ who “emptied himself.” His cross lifts us up.


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Morning Thoughts: Other People

by Howard Hain


Other people. That’s when things get complicated.

Being patient, forgiving, meek, honest, prudent, wise…when it comes to our own wellbeing is hard enough…but when it comes to dealing with the world’s offenses against those we love—especially those put into our care—things can really get out of hand.

For living a life of integrity and peace, of “turning the other cheek”, seems somewhat possible when it’s my cheek, but to ask me to act the same when it comes to witnessing an injustice against my mother, my wife, or my daughter, then it’s a whole other ballgame.

The lamb becomes a lion. I want justice. Now. A roaring lion. Game on. And it is no longer about defense. No, a full-frontal offensive attack is launched. Crush the opponent. Leave no opportunity for the “hyena” to not fully understand: “Not on my watch, you vile creature—you don’t stand a chance—and now you’ll pay tenfold.”

This is all figure of speech, of course. But internally, this hypothetical dialogue is somewhat close.

But then there comes the question of action itself.

What do we actually do?

What should we actually do?

Each situation of course has its own set of circumstances.

But Truth and Wisdom apply to every situation and circumstance.

And that hits upon what is perhaps the biggest affront the world inflicts upon those placed in our care: The lie that Truth, Morality, Virtue, Justice, and Goodness are relevant to time and place, to culture and historical period.

Truth is Truth. Moral Virtue is Moral Virtue. Justice is Justice. And offenses against Eternal Truths are offenses against Eternal Truths, whether you live in Poland, the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe.

And yes, I am fully aware that the above statement makes the assumption that there are Eternal Truths. There are. Period. God’s Love and His demand for Human Dignity are real. God’s reality insists upon it.

Perhaps then this is the best first step in truly defending our families: To know the Truth. To stand in the Truth. To anchor ourselves in and to the Truth.

Day by day. Hour by hour. One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

Here then is such a nugget* that might help us navigate the turbulent waters of this new day:

“The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.”

—Habakkuk 2:4


* nug·get
a small lump of gold or other precious metal found ready-formed in the earth.



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