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

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Monday, August 1, 2022

Saint of the Month - August 2022: Maria von Morl

The Servant of God
Maria von Morl
The Ecstatica of Caldaro

During the 19th century, for some mysterious reason a profusion of mystical phenomena cropped up in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy.  In particular, they were associated with several women-stigmatics providentially living at the same time in the area, amongst whom was this month's featured Saint - the Servant of God, Maria von Morl (or Moerl).  This is her amazing story.

Maria was born in the picturesque hamlet of Caldaro (then called Kaltern) on October 16, 1812.  She was the second child (of eleven) to grace a moderately wealthy family descended from a line of Tyrolean aristocracy.  She was an attractive girl but delicate in health.  When her mother died after giving birth to her last child, Maria who was then 15-year-old, assisted her father, Joseph, in caring for her younger siblings and doing the housework.

Joseph, on his part, was a poor father to his family.  He was as an outdoorsman and alcoholic who sometimes physically abused his children.  In particular, Maria was the frequent target of his violent outbursts whenever he returned home drunk after a night at the tavern.  Thus, the poor child was accustomed early on to suffering, which she would patiently endure in one form or another until the end of her life.

A fabric relic from Maria's clothing
in this ministry's custody

Biographers of Maria are consistent in describing her as a pious girl, imbued with a childlike innocence that she retained all her life.  Despite the cruelty she endured at the hands of her father, she loved him; never complaining about his bad behavior.  Instead, she was kind, obedient, prayerful, and self-sacrificing; placing herself under the mentorship of a confessor - Fr. Johannes Kapsitran Soyer - beginning at age 17.  Thus, Fr. Johannes became privy to the secrets of Maria's soul and wisely monitored her spiritual exercises, which included the use of a flagrum (a penitential scourging instrument).  Thanks to this priest and the documentation he kept we know many key details about this Servant of God's life.

As stated earlier, Maria was sickly from her early childhood and, perhaps due to the extreme stress of her day-to-day existence... or maybe due to the intensity of her penitential practices... or more likely a combination of both, her health collapsed to the point of her becoming almost completely bedridden.  It was then her mundane life took a remarkable turn.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1832, Maria was suddenly raised in ecstatic levitation above her bed, as the procession with the Blessed Sacrament approached the narrow street in front of the Morl home.  Being that her open bedroom window faced the street, her body suspended in midair, in the form of a cross, was seen by everyone in the street and caused a sensation.  The event quickly thrust the young mystic into the limelight, making her a local celebrity.

Following that initial ecstasy, Maria started experiencing daily ecstatic raptures with her posture always being the same - she knelt silent and motionless near the foot of the bed; her hands often joined in prayer; her torso leaning forward (without her ever falling); her head and gaze looking upwards; and her countenance lovely and serene, as she was enamored by heavenly visions that only she could see.

Remarkably, the ecstatic maintained her immobile position for hours at a time without any sign of fatigue or discomfort, and while insensible to external stimuli.  Only Fr. Johannes could wake her from this trance-like state simply by commanding her through holy obedience, usually when he brought her Holy Communion and/or when he needed to speak with her.  Maria would immediately "return" to herself and lay back on the bed without any fanfare... only to slide back into ecstasy and rise to her usual upright position once her communications with the priest concluded.

Two prints of Maria, depicting her in
her usual state of ecstatic contemplation

Not surprisingly, news of the miracle maiden's ecstasies attracted crowds to the Morl home; devout pilgrims and curiosity-seekers, alike, who wanted to gaze on the "Ecstatica of Caldaro", as she came to be known.  At the peak of her fame and, when access to her room was unrestricted, over 40,000 visitors were counted in a single year. Among them were prelates from all over Europe and members of the Italian and Austrian royal families.  The famous German poet and writer, Clemens Brentano, who was the confidante of another mystic, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), was among Maria's visitors and admirers.

On February 4, 1834, Maria's life took another dramatic turn.  That morning Fr. Johannes came upon her in an agitated and confused state, wiping her hands vigorously with cloth.  When asked what she was doing, the mystic replied that she had somehow cut herself without knowing exactly how.  The priest then ordered her to show him her hands, upon which he discovered bleeding wounds on both the backs of them and in the palms.  Open lesions were also present on her feet.  It was obvious to him that Maria had been stigmatized although the maiden, in her naivete, had no clue as to the tremendous significance of what was occuring to her; that she was carrying the actual wounds of Christ on her limbs.  Later, another wound opened on her chest, which was attested to by the women in her family who cared for her.

In addition to the reparational suffering of the stigmata that Maria regularly underwent (they bled weekly between Thursday evening and Friday), another trial was added to her - diabolic harassment.  These episodes of attack were sometimes so severe, they verged on total possession with the demons causing her to vomit foreign objects such as hair and needles, or they would throw her off the bed (once nearly out the window!).  Her confessor resorted to exorcism to assist her when the spiritual battles between Maria and the dark forces were especially violent.  The mystic, on her part, maintained an otherworldly peace and patience, as she offered all her sufferings on behalf of sinners.  The ecstasies and consoling visions that were still ongoing provided her with much-needed relief in between these painful trials.

Other charisms Maria received from God were prophecy and discernment, which she used with discretion in service of pilgrims and bishops who sought her counsel.

Bishop Francis Xavier Luschin, who had jurisdiction over Caldaro, had a special investigation conducted on his unique parishioner to ascertain the truth of her experiences.  The result was favorable, but the bishop wisely concluded that it would be in Maria's best interest to limit access to her to keep her humble and unaffected.  Henceforth, the number of pilgrims coming to Caldaro were significantly decreased since special permission was now required to see her.

An actual photo of Maria von Morl in death
(note the smile that graced her features)

When her father died in 1841, Maria, who was already a Third Order Franciscan, applied for admission with a local community of Teritiary Franciscans.  The group welcomed her amongst them and, to her joy, she lived in relative obscurity - unbothered by most pilgrims - until her blessed death on January 11, 1868.  She was 56-years-old at her passing and her last recorded words were: "Oh, how beautiful!"  Hundreds again descended on Caldaro to attend her funeral.

Apparently, the ecstasies and the weekly stigmatic bleedings had continued inside the convent walls.  Maria prayed many times that her visible wounds would disappear (not the pain) but they only started to do so three days prior to her death.  No trace of the stigmatic lesions were observed on her limbs as she lay in state in her coffin.

Maria von Morl, the Ecstatica of Caldaro, is today a Servant of God in the Church.  Her memory is still very much alive in South Tyrol and her Cause for Canonization has been opened.  Her supporters are eagerly awaiting the identification and verification of two miracles required by the Church for her to be declared a Saint.  Let us pray for the speedy and successful conclusion of Maria's Cause.

Maria von Morl, pray for us!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

BEWARE - This Association is NOT Catholic

For a couple years now, this author has been tracking a quasi-religious group from South America, which calls itself the Association Mary, Mother of the Divine Conception (referred to as "AM" going forward).  Since its start in 2012, the group has quickly grown and evolved into a "religious order" - the Grace Mercy Order - as well as, other satellite organizations.  Normally, I wouldn't care much but the AM has three members - a male and two females - who claim to be "Divine Messengers"; alleged visionaries who receive messages from such personages as Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph.  In addition, members of their order dress like Catholic monks and nuns (the women's garments are similar to Mother Teresa's nuns)... and they openly incorporate traditional and familiar Catholic devotions and imagery in their practices and messages (e.g. the Rosary, the Divine Mercy, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, etc.).  So what's the problem then?

Simple - the group is NOT Catholic.  The AM admits this fact in its website by stating they are "a religious association without ties to any established religion".  Despite this clear description of what their association is all about many people - Catholics and non-Catholics - are mistaking them for Catholic because of how the AM outwardly portrays itself.  I know this because at least two church-friends of mine excitedly texted YouTube videos to me of the AM messengers receiving "apparitions".  It was their text messages, along with a strong impulse from the Holy Spirit, which prompted me to post this blog to make people aware.

One of the AM messengers during an
alleged apparition.

The AM's movement of "spiritual evolution" has substantially expanded in recent years and has spread to other parts of the globe, including the USA.  More people are being exposed to their messages and teachings, largely in part due to their various online and social media presentations, which are very well-organized and professionally produced.  However, when one carefully reads their messages, their teachings closely allign with New Age and pagan eastern philosophies rather than orthodox Catholic/Christian doctrine.  Below is just a snippit from a lengthy message, from among many others, that the AM visionaries claim to have received from Mary:

  "Beloved children, who in these last eleven years spoke and shared with you the Love of God, comes from a peculiar Source that was created by the Ultraterrestrial Universe before the Material Universe existed.  In that Source, the Divine Essence, of Who later would be Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was gestated, conditioned and lovingly prepared to carry forward the great mission in the humanity.  This Ultraterrestrial Source of the Spiritual Universe, was characterized by its highest level of purity, of love and for its immaculate essence.

  The Father, after the fall of the Project of His first children, Adam and Eve, He thought to create a way and a sufficiently pure, immaculate and humble Consciousness, which with Her invincible Love could embrace all human error and convert it through forgiveness and the sublime Maternity. It was thus that the Creator Fathers, the Archangels, received the request of God and, in the elevated Celestial Universes, each Archangel began to contribute with the best of Themselves, so that the Feminine Essence, which would emerge from the Creative Source, would come to Earth to begin as soul and divinity with Her special mission. The Sacred Source of the Feminine Energy was translucent by means of the Principle of Maternity."

Did you notice the odd words included in the message?  If one is solidly grounded in the Faith, it's easy to spot the questionable terms - "Ultraterrestrial Source of the Spiritual Universe", "Creater Fathers", the "Divine Essence, of Who later would be Mary", "Consciousness", "Feminine Essence", "Creative Source", etc. - mixed in with the familiar Christian ones.  Having researched New Age philosophies and practices in the past, I immediately recognized these terms as common verbiage used in such non-Christian philosophies.  Therefore, in my personal opinion, it's a major red flag; a strong indication that these messages are not from heavenly sources.

The group's depiction of "Mary, the Mother
of the Divine Conception of the Trinity"(???),
a bizarre title allegedly revealed by Mary
to one of the AM messengers.

Going back to the friends who texted me links to the AM videos, one is a very devout woman - a daily communicant - who's been to the Church-approved Marian shrines of Lourdes and Fatima, as well as the unapproved site of Medjugorje.  Her situation tells me that if a person like her could easily be confused by the AM and their messages, there are many, many other Catholics out there who could be misled too.  It's a cause for great concern.

And what is further disturbing to me is one of the so-called visionaries has recently been touring various Catholic shrines in Europe - the Divine Mercy in Krakow, Fatima, Garabandal, La Salette, Lourdes, Medjugorje, etc. - and receiving "apparitions" and "messages" at such places.  It appears to be a calculated effort to legitimize and/or associate the AM messengers/messages/movement with the more well-known apparitional shrines frequented by pilgrims.

Members of the AM conducting their version
of the Mass (note the familiar Divine Mercy
image in the background).

In closing, Catholics beware of this association!  It all goes to show that not all purported apparitions - past and present - are authentic and divine.  The truth is - there are reported apparitions occuring today that are outright hoaxes (e.g. the exposed false visionary of Argyle, Texas) or diabolic counterfeits; the devil's way of "aping" genuine revelations of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints in order to sow confusion and draw people away from the one true Church founded by Jesus.  Holy Scriptures warn us:

Beware of false prophets, which come
to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly
they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall
know them by their fruits.

~ Matthew 7:15-16


Satan disguises himself as an
angel of light.”

~ 2 Corinthians 11:14

Given the above biblical passages, it's imperative that we know our Church Teachings better; carefully discern; and closely adhere to the guidance of the Church.  Yes, this author does personally believe in a few unapproved Marian apparitions such as Tre FontaneMontichiari-Fontanelle, and Medjugorje... but the messages given at these places are sound in doctrine and their respective shrines enjoy tacit approval from Church authorities: Tre Fontane and Montichiari-Fontanelle have Church-sanctioned chapels onsite where the Sacraments are allowed by their local bishops; in Medjugorje, the Archbishop Henryk Hoser - a special Papal Envoy to the shrine - officially stated in 2017: “The devotion to Medjugorje is allowed.  It’s not prohibited and need not be done in secret.”

I commend the people involved in the AM for their various charitable and humanitarian endeavors, but earnestly pray for them to the Holy Spirit and to Our Lady to be enlightened about the sublime truths of the Catholic Faith... as well as the dangers of New Age and occult practices.

With the above being said, here's one more passage from the Bible to seriously consider:

But though we, or an angel from Heaven,
preach any other gospel unto you than that
which we have preached unto you, let him
be accursed.

~ Galatians 1:8