NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Saturday, January 7, 2017

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 1/7/2017

It felt nice to be back in our Day Chapel today praying the Holy Rosary as a group; our first First Saturday Rosary for Peace in 2017.  There's always something very comforting about starting off an important endeavor with prayer; having God bless it... and this year could be very important, indeed, for all of us, especially with a new [and often controversial] American President being inaugurated soon and the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady's apocalyptic appearances in Fatima looming just around the corner in May. Continued prayer and blessing for the world was definitely in order.

So today we did just that - offered a heartfelt prayer for the world... and there was a big turn-out in parishioners, which is always a welcomed sight. As with all our monthly rosaries here at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, our gathered participants prayed in spiritual union with Our Lady and a "Saint of the Month".  This month our featured Saint was St. Charles of Sezze, whose relic was also present with us in the chapel (read about him here).  Being that he was a profoundly Eucharistic Saint, in a particularly unique manner, the lesson I emphasized to the audience had to do with the true and miraculous presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

You see - St. Charles of Sezze had once prayed fervently to God for the grace to experience Divine Love on a much deeper level and, significantly, the Lord chose to answer the saint's prayer during a Mass; when the priest elevated the Eucharist during the consecration, a blazing beam of light shot forth from the Host into the saint's chest.  The experience not only opened a stigmatic wound on St. Charles' torso but it also left him delightfully filled with an overwhelming sense of God's love for him, as well as inflamed with love towards our Savior.  Surely, from this remarkable event from our saint's life, we are reminded that the Lord communicates his Divine Love to the rest of us, too, in just as real a manner through the Blessed Sacrament.  There shouldn't be any doubt about it.

So with the Lord's grace and permission we hope to continue praying every month of this year, as we head towards our 7th year prayer anniversary in October.  In the meantime, all are welcome to pray with us - the next Rosary for Peace will be offered on Saturday, February 4th, beginning at 4:25pm.

Happy New Year to all and may God grant us a peaceful and prosperous 2017!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - January 2017: St. Charles of Sezze

Saint Charles of Sezze
The Angelic Lay Brother ~ Feast: January 6th

Generally not well-known outside of his home country of Italy, I am very pleased to feature this lofty mystic of a man as my first Saint of the Month for this new year of 2017.  Born in the town of Sezze on October 19, 1613, his secular name was Giancarlo Marchioni and his parents were deeply pious farmers. According to several biographies, Giancarlo was a sickly child; so much so, that his chronic ill health interfered with his elementary education. In his early youth, he was employed as a shepherd and assisted his parents in farm work. At seventeen he made a private vow of perpetual chastity in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and inspired by the faith-examples of two holy Franciscans - St. Salvator Horta (d. 1567) and St. Paschal Baylon (d. 1592) - he joined the Order of Friars Minor in Rome in May 1635. His parents had wished for him to enter the priesthood, but in his humility, Giancarlo remained firm in his decision to become a simple lay brother "for the love of God".  From thence he was known as "Bro. Charles".

Bro. Charles was professed a year after his entrance into the monastery. During his lifetime, he was stationed at several houses of his Order - Nazzano, Ponticelli, Palestrina, Carpineto Romano, etc. - where he served at various menial positions such as cook, porter, gardener, and alms collector. He eventually ended up back in Rome in the friary of San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa where he spent the rest of his life.

The Saint's simple room in his friary in Rome
As a friar, Bro. Charles became noted for his remarkable spirit of obedience, piety, love and charity towards neighbor... and, of course, his deep humility. When faced with adversity and misunderstanding he modeled the example of Christ Crucified, quietly and calmly resigning himself to whatever trials God sent his way. What was not obvious to others was the great spiritual battle that was being waged behind closed doors, deep within the young man's soul. Shortly after joining the Franciscans, he was assailed by severe temptations to vainglory and impurity... and, as if those weren't enough, he also began experiencing diabolic attacks during the night in the form of hideous visions and physical harassment, which caused him fatigue during the day.

To combat the devil's influence, Bro. Charles intensified his prayer and practiced mortifications to bring his corporal passions into submission - he abstained from meat and fish; slept on a thin straw mat laid out on wooden planks; and he scourged himself daily. Eventually, he managed to overcome the temptations that plagued him and, towards 1640, God began granting his faithful servant many extraordinary favors, which included Ecstasies and Divine Visions; the Reading of Hearts; Prophecy; and the gift of working Miracles.

Fabric stained in blood from
the heart-wound of St. Charles
Perhaps, of the many mystical graces received by our Saint from the Lord, the two most sublime were Infused Knowledge and the Sacred Stigmata.  Through the miraculous knowledge and understanding of the truths of Science and Faith that he acquired from God, he became a prolific writer of several volumes expounding on the mystical life.  As for the Stigmata, it was impressed on his body as a single wound on his chest, which appeared after a ray of light from the Eucharist struck him during a Mass he attended in October 1648.  The wound was reportedly so deep, it reached into his very heart and remained open and bleeding for three years before it mysteriously vanished; reopening shortly before the Saint's death. It was witnessed by the other friars when his body was prepared for burial and thoroughly examined by a medical commission that declared it inexplicable. Incidentally, the miracle of the stigmatic heart was one of two miracles cited for Bro. Charles' beatification, which took place in 1882.  

With the passing of time Bro. Charles' spiritual charisms did not go unnoticed.  In particular, his Infused Knowledge and gifts of Prophecy and Spiritual Discernment attracted many to his Roman monastery.  High-level Church authorities were among those who sought his inspired counsel and, amazingly, he accurately predicted the election of several Cardinals to the Papal Throne: Fabio Chigi (Alexander VII), Giulio Rospigliosi (Clement IX), Emilio Altieri (Clement X) and Gianfrancesco Albani (Clement XI).  At least one of these Popes - Clement IX - summoned Bro. Charles to his deathbed to receive the comfort of his prayer and blessing.  On another occasion, he was ordered to the town of Montefalco to discern a certain nun who was causing a stir there because of her alleged mysticism; the friar correctly unmasked her as a fraud.

The reliquary of St. Charles of Sezze, enclosing his skeleton in a simulated figure of the Saint.

Bro. Charles' exercised his ministry of charity and spiritual guidance in Rome until his death on January 6, 1670; he was 56-years-old when he passed into his eternal reward.  Pope John XXIII proclaimed the humble lay brother a Saint on April 12, 1959, and today his hallowed remains (enclosed in a representative wax figure) are venerated in the church attached to his monastery of San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa.  May St. Charles of Sezze intercede for our personal needs and the needs of the Church throughout the world.

A Reflection:
"The prayer of the sick person is his patience and his acceptance of the sickness for the love of Jesus Christ."
~ Words of St. Charles of Sezze

A Short Prayer:
Lord, help me to patiently carry my cross of illness in union with your Passion; transform my suffering into a fruitful prayer of atonement for the good of my soul and for others.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hawaii's visit from Fr. Aniello Salicone...

Have you ever heard of Fr. Aniello Salicone? I hadn’t until just a couple of weeks ago. An acquaintance of mine invited me to her parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City, Oahu, where Fr. Aniello was presiding over a healing Mass this past December 13th. Yes - apparently this Italian-born Xaverian Missionary priest now residing in Wisconsin, USA, is a reported healer. In addition, he allegedly receives frequent locutions (audible messages) from Jesus Christ. Very extraordinary claims... but please note that this blog in no way anticipates the judgement of the Church about Fr. Aniello should it ever come to that.  Rather, my intent here is to merely share my experience and readers may form their own opinion about this purported mystic-priest.

Fr. Aniello Salicone of Wisconsin
According to information I researched about Fr. Aniello on the internet, his personal encounters with the Lord actually began when he was just a boy in Campania, Italy, but the messages he received dramatically escalated into a healing ministry beginning in 1995. Since then he has traveled extensively conducting healing Masses and spreading the message of God’s love to all who’d listen… and now here he was in Hawaii.

Before launching into my takeaways concerning Fr. Aniello’s message, let me just preface by sharing what happened at the event. I’ll start by stating that I’m very glad I went. I was actually tired from a long day’s work and was cringing about having to forge through the heavy evening traffic going out to the Central Oahu church where the service was being held… so I planned on just going home instead. BUT... as I was walking to the parking lot, I felt strongly “urged” to go to the event by a nagging “feeling”. The inner feeling was so persistent it was like a voice, in itself, encouraging me to make the drive; to receive Jesus in Holy Communion; and to listen to what the priest had to say.  So off I went to Pearl City.

When I got to the church, it wasn’t at all crowded as I had expected it to be. In fact, the church wasn’t even full to its capacity, which I was somewhat happy about. The Mass had just started and there was Fr. Aniello sitting in a chair near the altar. He was a portly man with a paternal aura about him, who spoke with a slight accent that hinted of his Italian background. His voice was deep and had somewhat of a booming quality about it, but not in an unpleasant way. His homily consisted of various short stories about his extraordinary experiences with our Lord that collectively testified to God’s immeasurable love for us. Other than the stories he shared, there was nothing about his appearance or demeanor that hinted of the alleged wonders that surrounded him. Rather, he gave me the impression that he was just a normal priest with a jolly sense of humor, who was trying his best to fulfill what he believed the Lord had asked him to do.

After the Mass ended, a short presentation followed and then the healing session began. People were invited to line up in front of the altar where Fr. Aniello softly prayed over each person, individually. Almost everyone who went up for a blessing safely fell backwards into the waiting arms of volunteers as they “rested in the Spirit”, including myself. For those who’ve never experienced resting (or being “slain”) in the Spirit, it’s a spiritual phenomenon during which an individual is overwhelmed by the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit to the point where he/she falls to the ground for a period of time in a state of heightened well-being and bliss; physical, emotional, and/or spiritual healing often occurs while an individual is in this state; or gifts of the Spirit may also be granted. For me, I recall my eyes being closed as a lay on the church floor but I had the distinct sensation of being in the presence of a brilliant light that emanated a strong heat over me, especially on my face; I likened it to sitting outside on a warm day while the sun beams down its light and warmth all over you. Definitely unusual, given the time of day and the demographics of the church… but it felt comforting and peaceful as I lay temporarily oblivious of my surroundings.

Fr. Aniello, at center, praying healing blessings over parishioners and their guests at
Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City (Oahu), Hawaii.

And now for the takeaways. The entire event was a very intense spiritual experience for me, to say the least, and there were several points in Fr. Aniello’s talk that really made an impression on me. He said things that we should already know as Catholic-Christians, but the often-humorous manner he presented them, made them seem new somehow.  Below I summarize just a few key points from his overall presentation that I’d like to share with readers:

+ GOD'S LOVE IS LIMITLESS:  Fr. Aniello shared how Jesus told him several times in the past that He - God - loved him as His “Number One”; a personal revelation that brought him immense joy. Later, Jesus also made the same statement to the priest concerning the rest of us in this world, which then caused the priest to wonder how it was that each person could be “number one” to Jesus. In response, the Lord explained to the priest that His love was without limit, and uniquely personal between Him and each soul. As such, it was possible for every individual on the planet to be acknowledged and loved by God as His “Number One”.

+ PRAY WITH FAITH:  Fr. Aniello relayed the fact that sick people don’t have to be present at his services for a healing to take place. He emphasized that when he, or we, pray for someone’s healing (or any other intention) we should pray with the firm belief that Jesus is standing right beside us listening to every word we say. And just as He is standing with us, He is also beside the person(s) we are praying for because God is present everywhere. Furthermore, in response to our prayers, God will do one of two things – He will either grant us our request… or give us something “better for Eternity”, as Fr. Aniello put it. God will never fail in doing this so we shouldn’t be disheartened if it seems our prayers are ignored by God – we need to have faith that He has something better waiting for us in the next life!

FORGIVE IN ORDER TO BE HEALED:  Fr. Aniello emphasized this strongly and related a story of a woman with crutches who Christ gave a personal message for during one of his healing services. Jesus, through Fr. Aniello, asked the lady to forgive her “ex-boyfriend” (people in the church giggled at this). When the priest relayed the message to her, the woman initially objected but then asked Fr. Aniello to help her do so. The priest directed her to pray with him a short, improvised prayer asking God to convert the man in question and to help him stop hurting other people, including the lady. In short, through their prayer together, Fr. Aniello helped the woman to make a start at forgiveness by channeling her strong resentment towards her Ex into something positive - an act of charity. He asked the woman to pray the words three times, each time with more sincerity, and when she was done, she walked away - healed - leaving behind her crutches.

Interestingly, Fr. Aniello also encouraged us to forgive the people who hurt us even if they’re already deceased, in case these individuals happen to be undergoing Purgatory. He shared that although we may not realize it, the Poor Souls are sorry for the hurt they’ve caused others while in this world - they feel contrition keenly but just can't express their apology… and sometimes the only thing these souls need to complete their expiation in order to enter Heaven is our forgiveness.  Very insightful.

+ SEE JESUS IN OTHERS:  In yet another story, Fr. Aniello relayed how he was up late one night browsing through several pictures of Jesus. He was trying to pick the image that he imagined best represented the Lord. Jesus suddenly came to him and spoke the following words, “Son, don’t waste your time. Look for my face in the faces of the people you meet every day.”  No clarification necessary - a short message that goes a long, long way!

A well-known portrait of St. Padre Pio, the stigmatic priest-healer... and the round stained-
glass window of Our Lady of Good Counsel on the wall behind the church's altar.

Lastly, besides being impressed by the message I heard, there were a few other unusual things I experienced at the event - apart from being rested in the Spirit - that left me receptive and open-minded about Fr. Aniello. First off, during his homily, there was a brief moment where it seemed to me that his face mysteriously morphed into the face of St. Padre Pio (his personal Patron Saint, perhaps?). The change was so distinct, I recall thinking to myself, “Hey – that looks like Padre Pio!” (exactly like the photo above), before the priest’s face returned to normalcy with glasses and tufts of long gray hair on his head. Secondly, there was a manifestation of escarchas on both my palms during Father’s Consecration of the Eucharist… and finally, while I was waiting in line in the center aisle of the church for my turn to approach Fr. Aniello, I glanced up at the stained-glass window of the Madonna and Child high above the back wall and saw a large formation of light in the center of it shaped like the head of a lamb. There’s normally no discernible lamb-image in the window but there it was – a pure white lamb amidst the darkened glass. It was so recognizable I couldn’t help but immediately connect it to Jesus, the “Lamb of God”, who takes away our sins and heals our souls.

I don’t know if these things I witnessed were just figments of my imagination or optical illusions, but at the time, it all seemed very real to me. So much so that I’m still somewhat in awe, as I recall and record the events of that night in this particular blog. As already mentioned, I’m glad I made the drive to Pearl City that night and I thank God for not letting my laziness get the best of me in the parking lot!

Fr. Aniello has since left our island but he’ll be returning next year to be a guest speaker at a planned Sts. Damien & Marianne Conference in Honolulu in October 2017. I’m looking forward to being there and hearing more of his stories and the insightful little tidbits from our Lord they contain. Until then, may God continue to use him to spread Love and Healing wherever he goes; the joyful message that proclaims we’re all number one in God's eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me as your Number
One.  Help me to love you and to love others the way
you love us.  Amen.

~ Fr. Aniello's Prayer