Monthly Archives: April 2017

In Gratitude for His Love

In today’s Gospel (Jn 3: 16-21 ) Jesus has just finished telling Nicodemus about His coming Passion : ” And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. ” ( v.v., 14-15 ) . Then Jesus goes on to say :

” For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him
might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to
condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. ” ( v.v., 16-17 )

This is one of the great statements  in the Gospels which clearly indicates that the Passion and death of our Lord up on that cross was, more than anything, an act of Divine love, love for us, sinful humanity, so undeserving of His mercy.
I walk in this world, seeing all the evil and darkness that cause so much suffering and death, and wonder why God has kept us from extinction for so long. I walk in the world, knowing that I have done various things that hurt others and myself, and although I am so grateful for all the wonderful things that God has given me in my life, I see that I did not deserve them. Frankly, if my life were to end in oblivion and darkness, I would not think it unfair.
Yet I realize that I am so loved, with an immense love that is beyond my understanding. Why do you cherish us like this, my God? Creation already is so magnificent. Human life can feel so wonderful, even the simple act of breathing. And You, dear Lord, offer us an entranceway, a gate into yet another unexpected realm of existence beyond our comprehension : eternal life….. with You !
This entrance, this gateway is the bloodstained cross of Jesus, our beloved savior, friend, human being, God all-powerful. I am not going to start, like I often do, questioning : Why this terrible Passion of our Lord? Why this mercy for us? Why do so many reject it? Are they hopelessly condemned?… and so on. Today I just want to go on my knees and simply thank you again and again, Great One. You have suffered and died for me. You have saved me. You have turned my stubborn head around and made me one of those who believe in You. You have enabled me to see You as the truth, and to experience the joy of living in You, and living for You! Lord, have mercy on those that don’t know You. Help me be strong, to be an instrument of Your salvation and preach by example :

” Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” ( v.21 )

Orlando Hernandez

Jesus, the Teacher


This evening at our mission at St. Theresa’s Parish in Staten Island, NY, I spoke about Jesus, the Teacher. I like Rembrandt’s drawing of Jesus preaching to a crowd. For one thing, the crowd around him seems to represent all ages, shapes and sizes of ordinary humanity. Jesus’ disciples, like Peter, James and John may be there, but they don’t seem to stand out. Maybe some of his enemies are there, but they don’t stand out either. They’re all there listening, except maybe the little child on the ground playing with something he’s found. And Jesus teaches them.

Did Rembrandt find these faces in the people of his neighborhood, ordinary people? If that’s so, this crowd could be us.

Luke’s gospel seems a lot like this painting to me. In much of Luke’s gospel Jesus makes his way from Galilee to Jerusalem, and as he goes his way he calls everybody to follow him. Some women from Galilee follow him. He calls Zachaeus, the tax collector, down from a tree to join him. Follow me, he says to a blind man begging in the same place for years. He called people in every shape and form, sinners, tax-collectors, everyone.

It was not just to see him die that he calls them to follow him, but to go with him onto glory. “Come with me this day to paradise, “ Jesus says to the thief on the cross. Our creed says he descends into hell, which means he goes to those who have been waiting for centuries for the redemption he brings. He calls to all, to them and to us, to follow him.

What does following Jesus mean? I spoke of two things. Jesus said to follow him we must take up our cross each day. He also said we must become like little children. He taught us about spiritual childhood.





St. Theresa, Staten Island

The Archdiocese of New York has a renewal program called Revive taking place in its parishes this year. The program comprises a reading from scripture, a sermon on the purpose of life, a witness talk, prayers and hymns.

This week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 6 PM, I’m taking part in the Revive program at St. Theresa Church in Staten Island. I’m giving the sermon and will be offering some of the prayers.

Here’s the way I opened our mission this evening:

Thoughts Upon The Cross: The Fiddlehead

by Howard Hain


“Oh Thou, before whom all words recoil…”

—Shankara, 8th century Hindu philosopher and theologian



Truth is Truth is Truth.

Find it where it’s planted. Find it where it grows. Find it where it bears fruit.

Find it in the soil. Find it in the stem. Find it in the apple.

Throw it in the air

Launch it toward the sky

Watch it turn back

See it return to earth

Up, up, and away…

When the cat’s away the mice can play…

It’s a bird…

It’s truth…

It’s not to be held by any man.


“Holy, Holy, Holy…”

“Heaven and Earth are Full of Your Glory…”

“Hosanna in the Highest!”


Try, try, and try again…

We adore

We praise

We acclaim

We toss up

We watch rain

Back upon us

Our own words fall

Down, down, down…

“Oh Thou, before whom all words recoil.”


The strongest heart

The loudest cry

The hardest throw

All fall short

Thus Beauty smiles

For even in failure

Praise and Grace

Go hand in hand

With growth and motion

And a music man

For what goes up

Must come down

To leave a wake

A delightful shape

No man may make

Nor no violin display.


A fiddlehead

A fern

A plant

A plan

A play

Upon which

All Truth

All Beauty

All Joy

On full display.


“Oh Thou, before Whom all words recoil…”

“…hallowed is Thy name…”



Thoughts Upon The Cross: Black Ashes, Red-Hot Coals

by Howard Hain


marc-chagall-the sacrifice-of-isaac-1966 detail

Marc Chagall, “The Sacrifice of Isaac”, (1966), detail


When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord.

—John 21:4,9-10,12


When is it that we break-fast?

Perhaps it is at morning Mass, when the long night of daily winter is slowly burned away by “the dawn from on high”.

Perhaps it is there, at the altar of our Lord, at the breakfast table of our one united body, that we come to see the Crucified Christ truly risen and waiting for us, “standing on the shore”.

We take so much for granted, so much we just assume is already prepared, without giving much thought to just how much goes into each meal. But we are in good company, Peter and the rest of the apostles, like us, come to a meal already in progress.

And just as Jesus called the apostles to a new morning meal, He calls each one of us each new day to a meal prepared ahead of time—in fact it was ordained a long, long time ago—for even upon those hot coals which the apostles approached two millennia ago, fish were already waiting.

It is to this ongoing meal that He asks all apostles to bring their fish, their most recent catch—to add to the fire—to the feast ever being prepared for those still yet to come.

The Fisher of Men, who calls others to become fishers as well, asks His disciples to contribute not only their earthly catch but the eternal offering of themselves.

But who is it that we find already lying upon the charcoal fire, upon the table of the Lord, waiting for us each morning as we approach the altar with our daily catch?

Is it not all those who have walked in faith before us? Is it not the communion of saints, the cloud of witnesses, the community of believers?  Is it not those who pray in silence this very day for the conversion of sinners, the salvation of souls, the release of those in purgatory, the return to a unified Church?

Is it not those who suffer each and every day for the sake of Christ?

We will never really know exactly who, at least not while we walk within these “earthen vessels” we call bodies—not while we continue our pilgrimage through this valley of tears and wage our military-like mission against the powers of darkness.

We will never know while here on earth just how many fish are laid upon the fiery altar each new day, just how many join Jesus in His one perfect offering, just how many “share in his glory” because they “share in his suffering”.

But God does know, and he orchestrates it all. He knows exactly how many, and who. He misses not a tear, not a moan, not the slightest prick of a pin. He knows each and every one of His silent, unknown martyrs—those whose suffering “completes” what is “lacking in Christ’s afflictions”.

The Mystery. The Love. The Wisdom of the Cross. The Grandeur of God’s Salvific Plan. Praise be to God. Praise be to Christ Crucified and Risen. Praise be to the Holy Spirit: “O font of life! O fire of love!”

Let us then join the breakfast feast.

And let us not only eat but add to the meal.

Let us offer up all our “prayers, works and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world…”

And let us dare to wonder with true childlike joy and adoration. Let us wonder who it is that is already laid upon those ancient coals as the apostles approach that gloriously simple meal on the shining shore of a most placid sea.

Is the fish already in place Jesus Himself? Jesus who is priest and sacrifice and altar?

Yes. Of course it is Him.

But perhaps it is someone else too.

Perhaps among that first batch of fish is also the first follower of Christ: the first to surrender all “possessions”, the first to pick up the cross daily, the first to follow Jesus through the completion of His Passion.

Yes, perhaps it is Mary, His mother, His first disciple…our mother and the queen of all apostles. And perhaps it is also that “upright” man whom Jesus Himself saw as a father, the “righteous” Joseph who suffered so much in the name of Jesus. Perhaps that first batch contains all three: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that most blessed of families—The Holy Trinity “made flesh”—The One Triune God dwelling in a humble hut in a little town named Nazareth.

In that sense, perhaps that first batch of fish is also you and me, your family and mine—and perhaps then “our” little “sacrifice” is already being offered up, right here in each of our “humble” homes and within the boundary lines of our own “Nazareths”.

Perhaps that first batch is waiting to be joined to all other offerings, to be joined together with all the other individuals and families that are called to be a “living sacrifice”.

Perhaps that first batch is within each one of us and is longing to be united to the one true sacrifice—the sacrifice of God’s crucified love, eternally offered upon the white-hot coals of God’s infinite charity.


Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth…

—Revelation 8:3-5


It’s the Lord!

sinful man
John 21, 1-18

I think I know where this gospel took place– Tabgha, a quiet, wooded area on the Lake of Galilee just south of the ancient town of Capernaum. Easy walking distance from the town that was the center of Jesus’ ministry.

The name Tabgha comes from the seven springs of water flowing into the lake there. When I visited some years ago, flocks of birds were singing in the trees and drinking from the streams of water.

For centuries fishermen must have pulled for fresh water from the springs, and perhaps fry some fish over a fire on the beach. It’s a likely place where Jesus would come to pray. Tradition– two centuries-old churches are on the site–says he met his disciples here after his resurrection.


John’s gospel says that Peter and other disciples of Jesus came to Galilee after the Lord’s death and resurrection and went fishing. Through the night they caught nothing, but at dawn they heard a call from the shore to cast their nets out again.
“… Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”

They caught of large catch of 153 fish. Jesus then called from the shore to come eat some fish at a fire he had started and he gave them bread and some fish to eat and revealed himself to them.

Peter has a leading role in this story. He jumped into the water to get to the shore. Then after they have eaten, Jesus takes him aside and three times asks the disciple who denied him three times, “Do you love me?” A beautiful statue  (above) marks that moment.

Three times the apostle who cursed and swore in the courtyard of the High Priest that he did not even know Jesus answers “Yes, I do. I love you.” And Jesus tells him “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

A great example of forgiveness . No scolding words or recriminations. No “I told you so.” No warning, “You do that again and …” No demotion, no putting on parole. Rather, Jesus gives Peter new responsibility. “Feed my lambs” as I do. A beautiful picture of God’s mercy.

Instead of punishing him, God calls Peter to new things. The mercy of God always calls us to something new, some new life.

Tabgha, along the Lake of Galilee where Jesus met his disciples, is a wonderful place to visit. I wonder if Jesus prayed here during his days in Capernaum and called his disciples to rest awhile. Here he communed with God his Father; here he prayed and forgave. His memory lingers at this lovely place besides the Sea of Galilee.

Prayer and forgiveness go together Jesus taught. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Today’s gospel tells us to pray and forgive. Maybe  someone  has hurt us, maybe there’s some situation we’re facing now. A job we don’t like, a home situation we’re angry about, something in society that upsets us.

Pray and forgive.

Walking With The Lord

In Wednesday’s Gospel(Lk 24: 13-35) we experience the beautiful story of the Easter apparition of the resurrected Jesus to the two downcast disciples, probably fleeing Jerusalem, on the road to Emmaus. They share with the mysterious stranger ( our Lord ) their disappointment with the Passion and death of their Master. Jesus teaches them about the Scriptures in order to make them see why it was ” necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory.”
They urge Him to stay with them and have dinner with them. Here our Lord performs yet another Eucharistic celebration:

” And it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their side. Then they said to each other, ‘ Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? ‘ ”

The story of the Road to Emmaus has a powerful, special meaning to me. In the winter of 2012 I went to my first Emmaus retreat, a phenomenon  similar to Cursillo, but with a special focus on this Gospel of Luke.
In the previous year I had seen my wife Berta fall in love with God, during Fr. Vincent Youngberg’s mission in Florida. We finished our RCIA program in Bayside, N. Y. and were able to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist with God’s whole blessing. That same summer we celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony after being civilly married for 25 years. That fall we visited the Holy Land, and we were overwhelmed by the anointing experience. We also went to our first retreats at the Passionist Spiritual Center in Jamaica, NY.
I was so full of love for God that my heart felt like a furnace . When I went to Florida to spend the winter I thought there was nothing else left to bring me closer to Jesus.
Then, at St. Matthew’s Church in Hallandale, FL, a smiling man gave me a brochure advertising the ” Emmaus Retreat Experience” coming up in a week. I had no idea what it was about . I knew about the story of Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke, but I did not have a particularly strong feeling towards it. Nevertheless I got this crazy urge to go, and my wife actually said “Yes”.
It was during this weekend retreat that I became a disciple of the Lord, a servant of God.
We were only 20 retreatants, but there must have been about 70 lay people and some priests serving us as cooks, waiters, cleaners, organizers, table companions, musicians, prayer guides, and presenters. They called themselves “Emmaus Brothers”. I could not believe the joy and love that I was seeing all around . These were disciples of Christ, like the ones in the Bible! During the fantastic meals as many as three or four of them would eat with us and share their lives with us. Jesus was sitting there at the table as we would bless the bread and share it in fellowship. The presentations were Scripture-based, and courageous in their sincerity, as they shared their painful redemptive stories with us. There was so much more. The main them was how much God loves us, no matter what we have done in our pasts.
The last night, after a presentation on faith and confidence in God, they blindfolded us and turned out the lights. Carrying flashlights one Brother after another would pick up one of us from our seats and take us on a ” trust walk” to our next culminating experience.
I was freezing in that chair as I waited to be picked up. The air conditioning was just too high. They would take one retreatant after another except me. I felt as if I was being left behind. Perhaps I was not worthy. God had forgotten about me. I was perturbed and afraid.
Then suddenly I heard a young man’s voice saying, ” Have confidence in your Emmaus Brother. Don’t be afraid.” and he held me by the elbow and guided me through the darkness, turning corners, and going down hallways and steps until we were outside. I felt the warm night breeze. There were whispers all around and even fireworks somewhere in the city. Suddenly I felt this great peace. I was sure that Jesus Himself was holding me by the other arm. I felt His closeness. I felt His love. I just knew that He would never leave me.
Many more wonderful, holy things happened which I cannot talk about. All I know is that when the retreat ended our hearts were surely burning. We had all cried and laughed together that weekend. We had become like family, the family of Jesus. Like the two disciples in the Gospel we ran back into our lives to announce to the world that Christ lives ! I knew that I would always serve Him, even unto exhaustion. I joined the Brotherhood under the auspices of St. Joseph’s Parish in North Miami Beach, and served on ten retreats over the next four years in various capacities.
Back in NY, along with my wife Berta, I looked for every opportunity to serve the Kingdom of God. Some wonderful Passionist priests have advised me to slow down a little and ” take it easier “.  I’m not that young.
I keep in touch with my Emmaus Brothers in FL and surely miss them. By the way, when we meet each other somewhere, our greeting and our motto is


Orlando Hernandez

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter

“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Earlier this week, in Jewish homes throughout the world, that question was asked four times by the youngest person present. The question interrupted a meal called a Seder which inaugurated the celebration of Passover. Each time the question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” was asked, the host told a portion of the story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt.

As Christians, we might well ask that same question tonight –“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Tonight inaugurates The Triduum – the three days at the center of the Christian Calendar – three days set aside as Sacred Time.

Three days offer us moments of instruction and memory and celebration of God’s love – moments that interrupt the normal flow of our days.

Tonight, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper – Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist – which took place at a Passover meal. We will celebrate after sundown – there being no celebration of Eucharist during today’s daylight hours – and after tonight, it will not be celebrated again until the Easter Vigil.

Tonight we will interrupt the Lord’s Supper to call to mind in a very poignant way Jesus’ interruption of that long-ago Passover meal – when He washed his disciples’ feet symbolizing the humble service which is to be one of the hallmarks of Christian living.

Tonight, the altar will be stripped and all superfluous decoration eliminated.

Indeed, tonight will be different from all other nights as we begin to celebrate the final movement of our redemption –our deliverance from darkness into light –from the bondage of sin into the freedom of a child of God – tonight we begin to celebrate in a focused, special way the Paschal Mystery – The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate each year Passover and make present the events of long ago –as they tell the story once again of their salvation –we recall in a special way through liturgical action, prayer and meditation OUR Passover – we tell our story again.

In our first reading from the Book of Exodus at Tenebrae, we call to mind God’s leading the Israelites in crossing the Red Sea to safety from the Egyptians and in our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we call to mind Jesus, the leader in our salvation, being made perfect through suffering for us all.

Tonight, we will remember with special emphasis the origin of Eucharist and Jesus’ instruction to eat the bread and drink the cup, and so proclaim his death until he comes in glory.

Tonight, we remember Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and his instruction to them and us his followers, to do likewise for one another—to get down on our knees.

Tonight, the Church through its liturgy presents us with the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate being given the gift of Eucharist and to reflect on the great commission – mandatum – the mandate to do as Jesus did – to take on the role of loving servants to one another.

Yes, tonight will be different from all other nights.

Today, marks the end of Lent – a time wherein we were asked to look at what might need to be turned around in our lives, and hopefully our Lenten practices, whatever they may have been, have prepared us to enter into the mystery of this sacred time more fully.

It is good to call to mind in a focused way the circumstances surrounding the institution of Eucharist – the poignancy of Jesus sharing a final meal just prior to his death so as to reflect upon Jesus’ love in giving us his Body and Blood.

It is good to have the visual example of humble, loving service shown in the washing of feet.

It is good to feel the void and coldness in this room when the Blessed Sacrament is not present.

And it is good that we begin these three holy days by asking pardon of one another for any scandal or bad example we may have given and to beg for prayer that each of us will make a worthy Easter Communion.

Let us pray that at the end of these three days, when we celebrate The Easter Vigil –the night when men and women all over the world will be received into the Church and so enter the life of Christ by being washed clean in Baptism –marked chosen by being anointed with perfumed oil – and led for the first time into the candle-lit banquet of Eucharist – that we, having pondered the Paschal Mystery over these days might indeed join hands with them around the Table of the Lord.

The Hebrew people were different after The Passover Experience –they came to an understanding of themselves as a people special to God – and they were never the same again.

The Disciples of Jesus were also different after his Passion, Death and Resurrection – they had been witnesses to a singular event – and they would never be the same again.

Why will this night be different from all other nights? Because tonight is the beginning of the one liturgy – spread over three days where in we enter into the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus –the source of our salvation.

Through the celebration of these three days may we be graced –so as to never be the same again.

Brother August Parlavechio,CP

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Building Strength

by Howard Hain


Jacopo Tintoretto The Ascent to Calvary (1566-67)(detail)

Jacopo Tintoretto, “The Ascent to Calvary”, 1566-67 (detail)


In spiritual matters, weight training principles often apply:

Without sufficient resistance, strength won’t increase.

Resistance is then not only something to be tolerated, it’s to be seen as necessary, as something desirable:

Without proper resistance, real growth won’t take place.

In fact, the more resistance the better, as long as we maintain good positioning and form, eat and drink properly, and get enough off-time and rest.

In spiritual terms, these conditions easily translate:  1) Stay close to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a grateful heart; 2) Remain in the Word of God and actively do the will of the Father; 3) Live a life of mental prayer—residing continually in “your inner room”—where we encounter the Divine Presence and lovingly adore the One True Source of all existence.

Let us then not be fools and seek shortcuts. Let us put aside all fads and worldly ways. Let us instead properly train, keeping in sight, and practice, the very basics:

To build strength, we need resistance.

Accept resistance then in every form—obstacles, roadblocks, annoyances, ridicule, mockery, difficulties, delays…

Accept it all as if directly delivered to you from the personal-training hand of God.

Accept it willingly, thankfully, even joyfully, as if weight added to the bar—as part of perfectly planned resistance—individually and specifically designed to increase moral strength and spiritual stature.



Thoughts Upon The Cross: Obscure Contemplation

by Howard Hain


Don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow.

Don’t not expect anything to happen tomorrow.

Live in God’s promise.

Don’t wonder about tomorrow.

Don’t not wonder about tomorrow.

Live in God’s promise.

Don’t think about tomorrow.

Don’t not think about tomorrow.

Live in God’s promise.

Don’t live in or for tomorrow.

Don’t not live in or for tomorrow.

Live in God’s promise.

Live in conversion—that leads to salvation— “believe in the one he sent.”

Jesus is The Promise.

The One God sent.

God’s promise.

He is conversion.

He is salvation.

He is “the resurrection and the life.”

Live in Jesus.


—Howard Hain