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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Voice... a Cloud... and another Holy Image?

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions in Portugal, another moment of "spiritual serendipity" with Mother Mary again manifesting her presence up in the Hawaiian sky.  

In this latest scenario, me and a dear sister-in-Christ - Dre (the leader of our Mililani Fatima Prayer Group) - had just finished a rather heavy discussion about certain spiritual topics when, not long afterwards, I mysteriously heard a deep male voice say to me, "Take a picture... my mother is in that cloud."

I looked up at the blue afternoon sky and did see a large, wispy cloud in my field of vision that didn't impress me as anything unusual... but I snapped a couple of pictures, anyway, using my cellphone. It was only after I looked at the resulting photos that I recognized an image of our Blessed Mother and the Christ Child, formed in the cloud (see below). Dre immediately discerned the images, too, after I showed it to her.  Needless to say, we were both amazed.

I also have to add that with this visible sign of the Madonna and Child, the Lord had actually answered a specific question that Dre had posed during the course of our discussion.  I won't go into detail about it... but we definitely received a concrete response, via this event and the image in the photo.

In the past week I've shown the photo to a few other friends and all of us agree on what we see - we discern Mother Mary cradling the Holy Child, who seems to be leaning his head close to his mother's chest. The Virgin's clothing is blowing in the wind and there may even be a crown on her head. Furthermore, a few people have told me that there's a long rosary dangling from Our Lady's arm, but I can't say that I see it.

I'm sure there will be viewers reading this post who'll say there's nothing in the photo but just a few random clouds; an opinion that I completely understand and appreciate... but I took the liberty of outlining the holy figures, as I clearly see them, in a copy of the picture seen below.

In lieu of the circumstances, I have faith that the image is meant to remind us of the Virgin Mary's Heavenly Queenship and her Spiritual Maternity of all humanity... with our Lord Jesus Christ, as King and Brother to us. And what timing, too - right before the centennial celebration in Fatima!  Not a coincidence.

... and, as for the voice, I'm honestly still trying to wrap my head around it.  I surmise it was the Lord and his voice had power and authority behind it when it announced Mary's presence up above: "Take a picture... my mother is in that cloud."  I couldn't help but obey the directive... and I'm grateful and beyond awed with the resulting signal grace - thank you, Jesus, for sending us your mother to be our own!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 5/6/2017

Photos of Holy Relics of Bl. Rolando Rivi (hair, left) and the Fatima visionaries (coffin wood, right)
flanked my pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Day Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua.
(my little notebook of prayer petitions lies under the relic of the Fatima children)

Holy children were in the spotlight today at our parish's First Saturday Rosary. For the veneration of the people who attended, I brought with me my ministry's 2nd Class Relics of the Fatima Seers - Bl. Francisco & Bl. Jacinta Marto - and a 1st Class Relic of the child-martyr, Bl. Rolando Rivi. Being that May 2017 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first of Our Lady's six apparitions in Fatima, I thought that having the relics of the child-seers in our Day Chapel, along with my Fatima pilgrim statue, would be meaningful. Plus I wanted to celebrate the canonization of the two visionaries, which is scheduled for Sunday, May 13th - it's about time!

As for Bl. Rolando Rivi, his Memorial is commemorated on May 29th. I felt inspired to share about him because of the overall message his life presented, which I believe is timely for ALL today's Christians. He was a young seminarian who was martyred by anti-clerical Communists because he wore his cassock as a symbol of his personal commitment to Christ. By living the way he did, he provoked the enemies of the Church but inspired others to a stronger faith in Christ (read about Bl. Rolando here).

After narrating the life of our young Martyr, I encouraged our parishioners to imitate his brave example. Taking a cue from him, we should take pride in our wonderful faith and not be afraid or embarrassed to profess it through our words, our deeds... and even through what we wear. Of course we probably don't dress in cassocks, but we do have our crucifix pendants and devotional medals; our scapulars; and our rosaries to express ourselves. Anti-religious sentiments are just as rampant today, if not worse than, Bl. Rolando's time and place. By imitating him, we show the world who exactly we belong to (God!)... and, at the same time, may just inspire someone to live a better life.

The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace will be offered on Saturday, June 3rd, beginning at 4:25pm. All are welcome to find grace and inspiration through the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - May 2017: Bl. Rolando Rivi

Blessed Rolando Rivi, Martyr
He belonged to God ~ Memorial: May 29th

This Blessed only lived to be 14-years-old; still a mere child when he gave up his life in witness to Jesus Christ. But despite his young age, he managed to make a profound and lasting impression on his family; on his fellow townspeople; and on the entire world, as a matter of fact. His courageous legacy and memory endures to this day and will likely continue indefinitely.

Born on January 7, 1931, in the town of San Valentino (Reggio Emilia, Italy), Rolando Rivi's parents were deeply pious farmers.  His father, Roberto, in particular, attended Mass daily and was also a member of the local church choir. The young Rolando took after his father and, after he celebrated his First Communion on June 16, 1938, he became a daily communicant, himself, and also sang in the choir. In addition to availing himself of the grace found in the Eucharist, he was reported to frequent Confession, and after his Confirmation in 1940, he resolved to become "a perfect Christian and a soldier for Jesus Christ."  

Besides being known for his unusually mature spirituality, Rolando's other traits were his natural leadership abilities and his athleticism. It wasn't uncommon to see him playing with his friends at one moment, then leading them to the local church for Mass and prayer time. He taught his peers about God, as well as the Rosary and other basic prayers. Furthermore, Rolando was also generous to the less fortunate and was usually the first to greet any beggars who came to the family's door, bringing them bread and other provisions.

In 1942, at the age of 11, Rolando made known his intention to enter the priesthood so as to become a missionary, and his parents readily gave their blessing. He traveled to neighboring Marola to enter the seminary there and studied with other aspiring priests until the seminary was forced to close in June 1944 due to the occupation of German troops. Rolando returned home to San Valentino where he did his best to live the routine of prayer and study that he followed in Marola, even continuing to wear his cassock. It was a conscious choice that would eventually lead to tragedy.

“Someday, with the help of the Lord, we will be priests.  I will be a missionary.
I will go make Jesus known to those who do not know him yet.  Our duty as priests is to pray
a lot 
and to save many souls and to bring them to paradise.”

~ Words of Bl. Rolando

To understand a bit more about what led up to this young man's martyrdom, it's necessary to learn some of the history of his time and place. At the time Rolando was a seminarian, the end of World War II was right around the corner.  In Italy, the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who was allied with the Nazis, had just been removed from power by Allied Forces in 1943, which then triggered the Germans to seize control of certain areas of the country.  In turn, Italian militant resistance groups called "partisans" were formed, which included many Communists, who hoped to fill the governmental vacuum left by Mussolini and the Nazis once the civil unrest was over.

Communism is widely known for its notorious hatred for religion and the partisans who followed the ideology were no exception - in addition to targeting the Germans and any residual Fascists, they were intent on wiping out the influence of the Church. In fact, in the Reggio Emilia region where Rolando lived, four priests had been assassinated by partisans... and in San Valentino, the Blessed's hometown, the parish priest was badly beaten and forced to flee. It was in this climate of anti-Catholic sentiments and persecution that Rolando chose to take a stand by openly expressing his faith in Christ by wearing his cassock.

“My whole life is for you, O Jesus, to love you and to become love.”

~ Words of Bl. Rolando

Dressed in the distinct, long black garb, Rolando became somewhat of a visible symbol of resistance against the Communists for his fellow Catholics, especially among the youth. His family repeatedly urged him to stop wearing his cassock because of the danger it posed to him, but his response to them was, "I am not hurting anyone.  I don't see why I should take off my cassock, which is the sign of my consecration to Jesus." or he would often repeat"I belong to Jesus."  In these brief statements, Rolando Rivi revealed the depth of his personal commitment to God - he had, indeed, fully given himself over to Jesus in his desire to become a priest, and was not afraid to witness to it.

Image result for ROlando Rivi
The shrine-memorial erected at the site
of Rolando's martyrdom.
On April 10, 1945, during Easter Week of that year, Rolando was abducted by partisans while studying in the woods near his home.  When he failed to return home for lunch, his father Roberto and his mother went to fetch him but found his schoolbooks scattered on the ground with a note that read, “Don’t look for him. He is spending some time with us. - The partisans.”  What followed in the next two days was an extremely painful trial for the seminarian. 

Rolando was taken to a secluded farm house in Piane di Mochio where he was stripped of his cassock, thrown in a pigpen, and beaten with his own belt. He was accused of being a Nazi spy as well as other falsehoods but he denied all charges against him. The farm owner overheard many of the things that went on and later testified to Rolando's steadfastness and faith. On the third day of his captivity - April 13th at 3:00 PM - the captive was lead out into the woods where he saw a shallow grave prepared. Understanding what his final fate would be, he asked his captors for one favor: "Allow me the time to say a prayer for my father and mother."  He knelt and prayed before he was fatally shot in the head and in the heart. Two days later, his father and the parish priest, who were frantically searching for him, were tipped off as to his whereabouts and they discovered his buried remains.

Rolando's body was at first interred in a neighboring cemetery, but when it was transferred to San Valentino on May 25, 1945, a large crowd converged to welcome their young seminarian home. Among them, hundreds of Catholic youth who had known the deceased in life. He was hailed a martyr and a spontaneous devotion sprung up around his memory, with a shrine being built at the site of his execution.

As for his murderers - a Giuseppe Corghi and Delciso Rioli - both were eventually brought to trial and convicted. However, six years later, a Communist Justice granted them amnesty and both were released from prison. The trial records confirmed that the reason they went after Rolando was due to him being "very young and of a pious and irreprehensible conduct."

“Rolando Rivi is the St. Aloysius Gonzaga of the third millennium.”

~ Archbishop Luigi Negri

After careful study was made by the Church of his life, virtues, and death, Rolando Rivi was officially recognized a Martyr who died "in odium fidei" (in hatred for the Faith). He was Beatified on October 5th, 2013, and his relics are now housed and venerated in the parish church of San Valentino. In the face of growing indifference and, even open hostility towards Christianity in our own times, may this Blessed's faith-example encourage all of us to also be courageous in expressing our belief in Jesus Christ!  Bl. Rolando Rivi, pray for us...

Prayer to Invoke the Intercession of Bl. Rolando Rivi

Image result for ROlando Rivi prayer