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

Sunday, March 11, 2018

In the Footsteps of Mary & the Saints Presentation: St. Anthony of Padua Church, 3/11/2018

We held yet another event at St. Anthony of Padua Church for the parents and children of our religious education classes, and my ministry was asked to participate by presenting about Mary, the Saints, and bringing relics for the parishioners to see.  I've done these events before and it's always a big personal challenge to get 100+ youngsters engaged and their parents interested, too... and I was running empty on creative ideas.  Feeling uneasy, I again turned to the Holy Spirit for much-needed inspiration... and what He came up with, this time around, exceeded our expectations!

With just about a week left before the scheduled presentation, I was talking to a friend about my lack of a concrete program when during the course of our conversation the plan for this presentation quickly evolved; literally in just under 5 minutes!  It was one of those occasions when the other person mentions something and I respond back... then the other person says something else and I respond again... and before you know it things escalated and a light bulb suddenly went on in my head; I knew exactly what I needed to do.  I tell you - it's the Holy Spirit doing His thing and it's amazing!

So today we started off the family event with a short talk and accompanying slideshow about our Saints, emphasizing their roles as heroes in our Catholic Faith.  I then spoke about Our Lady as the Queen of All Saints due to her unique role in salvation history as the Mother of Jesus Christ; how she continually leads us to God, via what's written about her in Scripture, and even through her approved apparitions. And lastly, how she has inspired many individuals throughout history to eventually become Saints, too.

For examples I highlighted the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, which produced St. Juan Diego; the miracle of Lourdes in France from where St. Bernadette Soubirous began her journey to sanctity; the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima which inspired Sts. Francisco & Jacinta Marto; and finally I spoke about Bl. Solanus Casey who was guided by Mary's voice to join the Franciscan Capuchins in Detroit, Michigan, USA. I stressed that all these individuals are now considered saintly souls not because of their supernatural graces, but rather, they are honored by the Church because each of them put into practice the message Our Lady gave them... and, as such, we can become Saints, too, by doing the same thing.

The four tables, which were decorated to represent Countries/Shrines.  On each table, relics of
St. Bernadette (Lourdes, France); Our Lady's veil (Guadalupe, Mexico); Sts. Francisco & Jacinta Marto
(Fatima, Portugal); and Bl. Solanus Casey (Detroit, MI, USA) were displayed for
parishioners to view and venerate.

After the talk finished, we gave the families a small challenge - to go on pilgrimage to all the holy shrines/persons I spoke about... in our parish hall.  Earlier, our team of catechists had set up and decorated tables in the hall to represent the four countries/shrines the parishioners would visit in order to complete specific "missions".  To make the activity more engaging for the children, we provided them with their own "Pilgrim Passports" on which the missions were indicated for each country/shrine (e.g. the Portugal Table = Visit to the Fatima Shrine and Sts. Francisco & Jacinta clothing relics; Mission: Offer a prayer for world peace).  As a child fulfilled a mission, a "tour guide" (catechist at the table) would stamp the child's passport and, once all four stamps were acquired, the child could then take his/her passport to the Pilgrim Center Table to receive a souvenir Activity Booklet and a goodie bag filled with candies and various sacramentals (e.g. Miraculous Medals and holy cards). The kids went crazy and couldn't wait to get started.

At the end of it all the event was a success on so many levels - the children were so enthusiastic as they traveled from one table to another to collect their stamps and it was highly satisfying to see many of them praying very earnestly in front of the displayed relics... and, as for their parents, most were involved, as well; several took the time to express to me how they enjoyed the talk, while also learning something new along with the youngsters.  Faith-seeds were planted in these families today.

Parishioners making their mini-pilgrimages to various shrines and relics in our
parish hall to gain stamps in their Pilgrim Passports.

As with all special events we manage to pull off at this parish - presentations, processions, monthly rosaries - I give thanks and credit to God for all it.  In particular, the Holy Spirit deserves extra attention for providing the inspiration for this morning's event; it wouldn't have turned out the way it did without His creative guidance.  May He continue to grace us... and may our Kailua parish continue to thrive!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Saint of the Month - March 2018: Saint Angela of the Cross

St. Angela of the Cross
Mother of the Poor ~ Feast: March 2

Our Saint for this month is named Angela of the Cross and she was born on January 30, 1846, in Seville (Spain), and baptized just three days later with the name of Maria de los Ángeles Guerrero y Gonzalez but she was affectionately called Angelita (little angel).  Her pious family was of modest means with the father, Francisco Guerrero, being a wool carder by profession; the mother, Josefa González, was a seamstress. The couple had fourteen children, although only six reached adulthood; the other eight died during childhood, which was then a common circumstance.  Francisco, who was also a cook for a local monastery of Trinitarian friars, died when Angelita was still young, but her mother who was a laundress and seamstress for the same monastery lived into old age.

St. Angela in the early years after
founding her congregation.
Angelita received scant school instruction, as was usual at that time among girls in her social class; by the age of 12 she went to work in a shoe-making workshop to contribute to the family income.  She was employed there almost uninterrupted until the age of 29, under the fortunate care of a highly devout businesswoman who encouraged Angelita and the other workers to pray the rosary together and to read the lives of the Saints. 

At 16, Angelita's employer put her into contact with a Fr. José Torres Padilla, a priest born in the Canary Islands and based in Seville with a reputation for holiness, who would have a driving influence on her religious vocation; the priest became her spiritual director.  At the age of 19 she requested entry into a convent of Discalced Carmelites but was not admitted due to her weak health; four years later she tried religious life again by joining the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in which, during her novitiate, she was sent first to serve in a local hospital, and later in Cuenca and Valencia.  At this time, however, the young woman's health worsened and she was plagued with chronic vomiting, which eventually forced her to leave the Vincentians.  Curiously, after her departure, the vomiting ceased as mysteriously as it had started, leaving no lasting effects.  She returned to her former job in the shoe shop.

Sometime in 1873, Angelita had a decisive mystical vision in which she saw an empty cross in front of another cross on which Jesus was crucified.  She instinctively understood that Christ was inviting her to sacrifice herself on the empty cross - to be "poor with the poor in order to bring them to Christ", as she once wrote - and she pronounced private vows of perpetual consecration to God.  She also conceived the idea of founding a new charitable ministry, which she referred to as the "Company of the Cross".

On January 17, 1875, with very few resources and three like-minded companions, Angelita began her life's work.  Using money provided by Josefa Peña, one of the founding members of the fledgling community, they rented their first "convent" - a room in a house on San Luis Street in Seville - from where they originated their brand of charitable service towards the poor.  The women would go out into the community in twos to visit with the sick and the needy; one would attend to the patient at bedside, while the second carried out any domestic work that needed to be done before both returned to their little room. As the work took shape, the four aspirants took on religious names with Angelita calling herself Sr. Angela de la Cruz, in homage to her earlier vision; the others referred to her simply as Mother Angela.

In 1876, Seville was hit by an epidemic of smallpox and this intensified the efforts made by the Sisters of the Cross to help those afflicted and other less fortunate, bringing their work even greater admiration throughout the city and an influx of members.  In this same year, Mother Angela received the formal permission and blessing of her new congregation by the Archbishop of the diocese, Cardinal Spínola. From then on the work spread rapidly, with the foundress beginning numerous convents located mainly in western Andalusia and the south of Extremadura.  These houses continued Mother Angela's vision of material and spiritual assistance to the poor; the ill and the dying; the homeless; as well as expanding the congregation's outreach to provide care for orphaned children. 

Seeking further security for her congregation, Mother Angela traveled to Rome in 1894, where she personally met Pope Leo XIII, who granted the initial decree for the approval of the company, later signed by Pope Pius X in 1904.

The tomb-shrine of St. Angela of the Cross, as venerated in the city of Seville, Spain.

After an exemplary life of prayer and outstanding service to the needy, Mother Angela died on March 2, 1932, as a result of a stroke; she was 86-years-old.  People of all social classes mourned her passing and paid her their respect before she was buried in the crypt of her congregation's mother house in Seville.  St. Pope John Paul II declared her a Saint on May 4, 2003, and her precious body is reportedly incorrupt.

Novena to St. Angela of the Cross

God of all goodness, who illuminated the virgin, St. Angela,
with the wisdom of the cross to recognize your son, Jesus Christ,
in the poor and forsaken sick; to serve them as a humble slave.
Condescend to grant us the grace we ask through her intercession. 

[mention your prayer intention]

Inspire in us the desire to follow St. Angela's example in
embracing our own daily cross in union with Christ Crucified,
and serving our brethren with love. We ask you this through
Jesus Christ, your son and our Lord.  Amen.

[Pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be in honor of St. Angela]

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Speaking Presentation & Holy Relics Presentation: Sacred Heart Church, 2/27/2018

This is the 4th time I've spoken at this particular parish... and the welcome me and the Saints/Relics received tonight was as warm and enthusiastic as the first time I spoke here back in September 2016.  My audience was comprised of unfamiliar people who had recently started their faith-journey into the Catholic Church and their respective sponsors, but there were also individuals well known to me - people I readily recognized because they've attended my last three presentations at this church.

So tonight's talk was no different than the others.  I follow the same outline and format for each presentation I conduct but what I do change, from one talk to another, is the line-up of Blesseds/Saints whose lives I feature, and whose relics I display for public veneration.  I think a small group at this church had figured that out and that's what keeps them coming back to my presentations - like me, they have fallen under the blessed charm of our spiritual heroes and are very open to the positive, inspirational faith-message that each individual Blessed/Saint has to offer.

The display altar at tonight's presentation - 13 relics were present for the edification of the audience
at the Sacred Heart Church in Waianae.

With the above being stated, the Blesseds/Saints whose sacred relics I brought, and whose intercession we called upon tonight were, as follows: St. Anthony of Padua (bone); St. Bernadette of Lourdes (bone relic); St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai (coffin wood relic); Bl. Elena Guerra (flesh); St. John Paul II (clothing); St. Margaret of Cortona (clothing relic); St. Maximilian Kolbe (hair & clothing relics); the Martyrs of Chimbote, Peru - Bl. Michal Tomaszek & Bl. Zbigniew Strzalkowski (clothing relics); St. Padre Pio (stigmata bandage relic); Bl. Savina Petrilli (bone)... and rare relics of St. Joseph (cloak relic) and Our Lady (veil relic).

Based on several hugs and feedback I received after I was done speaking, this evening's presentation was again well-received.  What gives me a sense of satisfaction after each talk is seeing how most who attend for the first time gain a certain "look" during the course of a presentation - a look that tells me the person had an "aha moment" and I saw it again tonight on many faces.  For those who happen to be returnees, in addition to that aha look, a few have a newly acquired "aura" to them; a noticeable brightness that's indicative, in my opinion, of spiritual growth since I last saw the person... and I saw that beaming expression on some of the returnees, especially a couple of young people who I remember from my last talk here in August 2017.  It's simply awesome to see and I know that it's a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of these individuals - His Light shining through.  I'm sure the prayers and intercession of the Blessed Mother and the Saints/Blesseds have been a factor too.  

Several audience members around the display altar, paying their respect to the Blesseds & Saints. 

Again, thank you Lord... thank you and praise you for all the blessings being rained down on this small community of Waianae Faithful.  May the Lord, his Holy Mother, and the all Saints continue to bless and guide them!  Come Holy Spirit, come!