"We can make a ladder of our vices if we tread them underfoot." --St. Augustine

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fr. José Herrero Hijosa, OSA

You speak of civil war
that spread its infamy
among monastic pre-teeners.
You were then a child
who lost his toys forever,
doomed to spend winter
without heater, to wake up
too early and too soon,
shivering under the aegis
of stentorian pharisaism,
gothic and frightening
as in a horror story.
Then you made your vows to God
only to have your life mangled
by dysfunctional mortals whose parents
you never had the chance to know.
Your religious martyrdom took shape
in Colombia, in Venezuela,
at that parish in the Big Apple
where one winter, for a couple of weeks,
you were delirious with fever
when the boiler broke down.
You must have to suffer your fate alone
because the one supposed to wield authority
was elsewhere basking in the sun.
At eighty, you look weary
but as sober as truth. You say it's your duty
To die. You chaff at pious predicates
who reshuffle the lives of their subjects
like a deck of cards. In the name of God,
in the name of God. In the name of God.
It's all in the name of dominion.
Their gilded cages are empty.
There are no birds for them to prey on.
No boy soprano is ever willing
to knock on their door and ask to live with them
like the way you did one summer
when you strayed from your parents' house
and walked in and never returned.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Late at Night, When I Burn

Late at night, when I burn
the midnight oil
and read on and on until my eyes
pop out, time takes its toll
and sounds and shadows
yield to dazzling grace.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Your Unfinished Dream

Your unfinished dream tells you
you've not landed in Purgatory;
your trip to Heaven is still ongoing.
so you're never in Hell.
From where you sit you can see
someone staring from inside
the pupil of your eye,
so you pinch yourself to reality.
There's no doubt about it.
Your unfinished dream
happens to be you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poem for Fr. Basilio Alava, OSA

Let infinity rule
in wisdom and in grace.
Let eternity resound
until the last penny
is spent on God's kingdom.
The house of God must be rebuilt,
it's been left in ruins for so long.
For that they need a friend:
a friend who can share with them
life's suprising twists and turns;
a friend who can demonstrate to them
the Creator's loving providence and care;
a friend who can tenderly yet firmly
lead them to the City of God.
God's people need you.
Please stay.


Crisis of indifference,
this church remains open.
Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd,
is the Pastor here.
This is God's house.
He is our loving Father.
This house is yours and mine,
God has made it to be ours.
His love has gathered us
together. His love
has made us His children.
Leave your cares behind.

When You See Angels

When you see angels
dancing their way to heaven
through the eye of a needle,
reality becomes a playground
of your childhood dreams.

Monday, November 21, 2005

This Is Not a Birthday Poem

Today is your birthday,
the twenty-first of November,
two thousand and five,
in the year of our Lord,
the feast of the Presentation of Mary,
a day after Christ the King.
This is not a birthday poem
to be recited in a party
when strangers can masquerade as friends
and real friends are nowhere to be found
because distances are keeping them busy
with their crowded lives.
Rather it is a hymn of praise
to our living God,
also a thank-you gesture to our parents.

His Absence Leaves a Trail...

I remember Father Nicanor Lana, OSA:
the wunderkind.
He worked like a horse
and labored with dignity.
The silent walls of Holy Rosary Church
give voice to his heroism.
He struggled alone
to combat hubris,
lost the battle
but ended up winning the war
by leaving behind a much better world
than when he found it.
Eloquent is this man.
His life can speak.
I'll always remember Father Nicanor.
His absence leaves a trail...

In the Vineyard of the Lord

They're all here,
these three seekers of truth
who've found ahead of me
the highest form
of chivalry
in the vineyard of the Lord
this part of East Harlem:
Padre Angel, the impresario of veladas
back in our university days
when wasted manpower
was as alien as terror attacks
and the faithful made
the sign of the cross
in honor of the Blessed Trinity
every time they met three friars
walking together
in white habit;
he's the superior,
the pastor of the Holy Rosary Parish,
the soft-spoken angel
who speaks the best Spanish
this part of East Harlem;
Padre Pepe,
whose sephardic lineage
radiates in the way he prepares
our weekend meals
when Yolanda the cook
takes her weekend break;
the friar who puts work
the main ingredient of his life
this part of East Harlem;
Padre Abel the philosopher,
whose hospital ministry
enriches our community life
with his cleanliness and godliness
this part of East Harlem.
More than missionaries these three--
unrecognized, unheralded, unsung--
labor tirelessly, unceasingly, joyfully
in the vineyard of the Lord
this part of East Harlem.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

In the Most Holy Name of Jesus

In East Harlem
Spanish is the only language
people care to speak.
When I hear them talk
I remember
the first Augustinians
who evangelized my homeland
and taught our people
the most holy name of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, it's great to be here
working in your most holy name.

When Friends Call

When friends call
or email me their joyful acceptance
of my being where I am now
as part of God's most holy will,
I tell them that not even Zeus
can prevent Destiny
from bringing what must come to pass
to its irreversible conclusion.
But, of course, this is no time
for lores and mythologies,
so I'm back to Christ's parable
of the mustard seed
and urge them to help me pray
that whatever I sow here
at East Harlem
may indeed be according to God's plan
in the economy of salvation
so it will grow and bear fruit
and yield a rich harvest
in the fullness of God's time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thank You, Lord!

Today I receive a letter
which turns out to be
an official order
issued by my Father Provincial
attaching me
to the circumscription of Spain
and assigning me
to the house of the Holy Rosary Parish
at Manhattan.
Thank you, Lord!

God Is My Boss

God is my boss.
He has made me a free man
by dying for my sins.

Lord, I offer you my nothingness.
I know that out of nothing
You can, if you
will it so, create.
I'm nothing, Lord.
Without you I'm a broken vessel.
Let your Spirit breathe unto me
so I can be made whole again.

By the East River

By the East River,
here I sit down but never weep
over the misfortunes
suffered by the discarded and unloved.
Why should I not rejoice, Lord,
when Zion is just a breath away?
Let me sing your praises, Lord.
You're my boss. You do know
how to take good care of me.

Status Quo

So you want to know how I'm doing?
Nothing doing.
Solutions are sealed in the lips
of so-called friends, brethren,
colleagues, comrades at arms,
first among equals, or whatever.
I'm in a state
of suspended animation.

Lord, Are You That Far?

Lord, are you that far?
Lord, are you that unreachable?
Lord, must you remain forever silent?
Lord, must you hide your face away from us forever?
Lord, why are those ordained
to mediate between you and their fellowmen
garble your gospel of truth and love
with their pharisaical utterings?
Lord, why do some of your servants behave
like a conquering horde of puny gods, unaccountable
to no one?