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.

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

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.

Ordinary Time is Our Time

We’re in ordinary time in the church year. Ordinary time is more than “day by day” time. It’s the time after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit prepares the world for the final coming of Jesus Christ. In ordinary time the gospel goes out to all peoples and nations. It’s the time of the church; it’s our time.

We’ve left the easter season when Jesus, risen from the dead, revealed the saving plan of God to his disciples who go out into the world with his message. We read the resurrection narratives, especially from the Gospel of John in which the Risen Jesus instructs his disciples, and the Acts of the Apostles, which describe the years the apostles began their mission after Pentecost up to the time when Paul and Peter reached Rome.

Now, ordinary time takes us to the next stage of God’s plan, the next stage in the church’s growth. In this first week of ordinary time, the readings from the Epistle of James and the Gospel of Mark look at the church of the 70s, after the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, as the mission of the apostles ends and another era begins. Commentators say these readings were written and are directed especially to Christians facing difficult, unexpected calamities brought about by persecutions and the destruction of Jerusalem and its holy places.

Ordinary time looks to all the eras the church lives through. We read the scriptures ever day in ordinary time, because the mystery of Jesus remains with us every day, year by year.

The saints play an important part in ordinary time. They show how Christians respond to the times they live in, and they pass their wisdom on to us. For example, we have two saints this week, Venerable Bede, the 8th century English monk, and St. Philip Neri, the 16th century priest who led a reform of the church of Rome.

Bede never left his monastery, but his commentaries on the scriptures and his history of the English people still give us insight into the mystery of God and how life unfolds.

Philip Neri is usually remembered as a joyful man with a great sense of humor who worked effectively with the young people of his day. But he was more than that.

In his day Protestants were turning to history to back up their claims against the Catholic Church, so Philip encouraged Catholic scholars and historians to look into the history of their own church, but 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.”

Philip helped the church look into its own traditions and roots. He lived in an era of fierce controversy, but he encouraged gentleness, cheerfulness and friendship as a way to Christian reform. He wanted people to see the beauty of faith. A biographer said “ his aim was to do much without appearing to do anything.

An example for us today?

Ordinary time is our school, we learn as we go through the church year. It’s the most important book we read, filled with wisdom and God’s grace.

The Year 70



Keep in mind the year 70 when reading the Gospel of Mark and the letters of James and Peter in this first week of ordinary time. The year 70 was when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and brought its treasures and many Jews as slaves in triumph to Rome. By the year 81 the Emperor Domitian built the Arch of Titus at the entrance to the Roman Forum to honor Titus, his brother, the general who crushed the Jewish revolt. Scenes on the arch of Titus’ army returning with the treasures and Jewish slaves–still visible on the arch today– remind everyone of Roman might.


Arch of Titus, Roman Forum, Rome

A few years before the year 70, Peter and Paul, leading figures of Christian expansion in the empire, were put to death; Christians faced unexpected persecution in Rome under Nero. The years of Christian expansion described in the Acts of the Apostles– our readings during easter time– seem to be over. Surely, Jewish and Gentile Christians feared and questioned before this massive testament of Roman might?

The Gospel of Mark and the letters of James and Peter are written for them as they face perilous times.

Mark’s gospel recalls Jesus telling his disciples says that
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him“ (Mark 9)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, expected places in a kingdom, not times of fear and suffering. They would not be the only ones to think like that. Keep the year 70 in mind when reading the scriptures this week. We never know.

The Wisdom of Ordinary Time

The readings in today’s Mass point to the wisdom of ordinary time. “Whoever is not against us is for us,” Jesus says to his disciples who complain there are others “who do not follow us” driving out demons. (Mark 9,38-40) Wisdom is not just in our tradition; it’s there everywhere in ordinary time.

I like the hand in the picture above of Bernini’s famous window in St.Peter’s. Who’s hand is it, anyway? A believer’s hand. Yes, for sure. But also the hand of all who walk this earth searching for truth.

“Wisdom breathes life into her children” (Sirach 4,11 ) Like much of the wisdom literature in the bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Psalms) the Book of Sirach, one of the readings at the beginning of ordinary time, draws much of its content from the culture of the middle east which influenced the Jews at home and in their exile in other lands.

As the gift of God breathed into ordinary time, the Holy Spirit “renews the face of the earth.” The Spirit’s wisdom is everywhere.

Song at Daybreak



Does ordinary time, the days after Pentecost, mean that every day is the same? They’re not. Graces, challenges,  joys and sorrows,  hints of things, “our daily bread” are all there. We have to notice them. The Carmelite nun, Jessica Powers, ends one of her poems calling the day  “my beautiful unknown.” We just need eyes to see and ears to hear


This morning on the way

that yawns with light across the eastern sky

and lifts its bright arms high –

It may bring hours disconsolate or gay,

I do not know, but this much I can say:

It will be unlike any other day.


God lives in his surprise and variation.

No leaf is matched, no star is shaped to star.

No soul is like my soul in all creation

though I may search afar.

There is something -anquish or elation-

that is peculiar to this day alone.

I rise from sleep and say: Hail to the morning!

Come down to me, my beautiful unknown.


Jessica Powers



Acts 2:1-11/1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25/Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15 (63)

21 Mon The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (Seventh Week in Ordinary Time)
Gn 3:9-15, 20 or Acts 1:12-14/Jn 19:25-34 (572A)

22 Tue Weekday
[Saint Rita of Cascia, Religious]
Jas 4:1-10/Mk 9:30-37 (342)

23 Wed Weekday
Jas 4:13-17/Mk 9:38-40 (343)

24 Thu Weekday
Jas 5:1-6/Mk 9:41-50 (344)

25 Fri Weekday
[Saint Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church;
Saint Gregory VII, Pope; Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin]
Jas 5:9-12/Mk 10:1-12 (345)

26 Sat Saint Philip Neri, Priest
Jas 5:13-20/Mk 10:13-16 (346)

Ordinary Time

The Easter season ends with the Feast of Pentecost and we begin ordinary time in the church year. Unlike other feasts, Pentecost has no octave; ordinary time is its octave. Most of the church year is ordinary time; most of life is ordinary too, but the Spirit’s there just the same.

“Their message goes out to all the earth.” In the Easter season Peter, Paul and the others venture from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and to Rome, empowered by strong winds and tongues of fire. Now it’s our turn. The Spirit can bring us to the ends of the earth, but the Spirit’s in the few steps we take every day, though we’re hardly aware.

We tend to minimize ordinary life. Ordinary, nothing’s happening, we think. Yet, day by day in ordinary time the Risen Lord breathes his peace on us and shows us his wounds. Every day he breathes the Spirit on us. No day goes by without the Spirit’s quiet blessing.

This year we begin ordinary time remembering Mary, the Mother of the Church. “The Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:2-5), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit…

“Christ in turn in the beloved disciple chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection. As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).  In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles… 

 This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed ,the Virgin who makes her offering to God.’’  (Congregation of Divine Worship, 2018)

We begin ordinary time on Monday with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the Church.