NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, 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

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Saint of the Month - January 2019: Saint Vincent Pallotti

St. Vincent Pallotti
Rome's Super Priest ~ Feast: January 22nd

Happy, Blessed New Year!  I am pleased to begin my 2019 lineup of featured monthly Saints with the life of St. Vincent Pallotti, who was an exceptional holy man – a rare treasure of a priest, whose example and intercession is much needed for today’s clergy. In fact, he was so good one of his childhood confessors was convinced that he never committed a sin; not even a venial one - WOW!

bodily relic from St. Vincent
in this ministry's custody.
St. Vincent was born on April 21, 1795, to a devout couple of noble lineage. He showed signs of piety even as a toddler, as exampled in an incident recorded of him at aged 4 – his mother once saw him kneel before a statue of Mary and innocently say to her, “Dear Mother, make me a good boy.”, which Our Lady must have been happy to grant. As years passed, Vincent grew in virtue and was affectionately nicknamed the “Santerello (little Saint)” by those who knew him. His charity was particularly evident to all as he had a habit of giving away food, and his own shoes and clothing, to those less fortunate. In addition, he possessed a mature spirit of self-mortification, which he exercised from his adolescence by sleeping on the floor with a large stone for a pillow, and also through the regular use of a scourging instrument. All this he did under the guidance of his spiritual director – a Fr. Fazzini – who wisely tempered his zeal and testified that Vincent was indeed “a saint from childhood.

Not surprisingly, at 16, Vincent decided to pursue a religious vocation. Initially, he had his heart set on joining the Capuchin Order, but his confessor recommended he become a secular priest, instead, because of his frail health. The young man obliged and took up his studies in a Roman seminary where he distinguished himself by his intelligence, solid orthodoxy… and, again, by his upright conduct. He was ordained in the Lateran Basilica on May 16, 1818.

After his ordination, the next 31 years of Fr. Vincent’s earthly life was a blur of pastoral care, social ministry, the practice of heroic virtue, and the reception of profound mystical graces.  In short, he was a super priest and for the sake of making a long story short, here’s a brief summary of his prolific ministry and accomplishments:

  He became reknowned as a preacher; speaking not only from the pulpit, he was a familiar sight and voice in the city's public squares... plus had a way of converting the most hardened sinners through his persistence and wit.

   Taught as a seminary professor and was the spiritual director to Roman seminarians for an extended period of time.

  +  Established charitable homes to take in abandoned infants and orphaned girls, and a school for the children of laborers and farmers.

  +  Authored prayer books and other devotional materials for the use and edification of the Faithful.

  +  Was a much sought after exorcist in his diocese.

  +  Was a trusted counselor and friend to people of all social classes, including other holy individuals and Saints of Rome such as the lay-mystics Bl. Anna Maria Taigi and Bl. Elisabetta Sanna; Ven. Bernardo Clausi, a member of the Minims (who predicted to the Saint the day of his untimely death); St. Gaspar Del Bafalo, founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (who Fr. Vincent saw rise to heaven like a “radiant star” upon his death); Ven. Maria Luisa Maurizi, a Servite nun; Ven. Pauline Jaricot, the French lay-foundress of the Society of the Propagation of Faith; St. Vincent Maria Strambi, a Passionist; and Pope Pius IX (to whom St. Vincent predicted his future reign as Pope).

  +  Founded the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (aka, the “Pallottines”) in 1835 with its aim being the propagation and reawakening of the Faith throughout the world; and laid down the foundation of the Pallottine Sisters in 1838 to educate and train abandoned young girls in domestic skills.

If the above weren’t enough, from about his 12th year of ministry, our Saint’s reputation for being a wonder-worker also began circulating among the locals.  His reported miraculous abilities are listed below:

  *  Bilocation (one example of this occurred while Fr. Vincent was in a church hearing confessions, but was also witnessed at the very same time ministering at the bedside of a dying woman of ill-repute, who in her contrition, had urgently asked for a priest to hear her confession.)

  *  Healing (he was credited with healing dozens of seriously sick or dying individuals through his prayer or priestly blessing… or through the application of his “little Madonna”.)

  *  Prophecy (he sometimes “knew” what transpired in distant places and accurately predicted future events, including the election of two certain Cardinals to the office of Pope. He also had a mysterious way of anticipating the urgent needs of others and would be guided to show up at the right place, at the right time, to offer his priestly assistance.)

The Saint and his "little Madonna"
All of Rome was witness and beneficiary to Vincent's untiring enthusiasm for saving souls “for the infinite glory of God”, which was his personal motto. Yet, despite his miracles and good works, he was not above controversy. He suffered calumny from a few detractors and, sadly, they were mostly other members of the clergy; jealousy over his successes, popularity, and rumored charismatic gifts was the likely motive, but he always repaid malice with good.

Apart from the critics, the Saint was generally highly esteemed, which pained him worse than being maltreated. Out of sincere humility, he referred to himself as being “nothing” or a “sinner”, and he did whatever he could to deflect the admiration shown him. One example of his aversion to being reverenced is cited in the amusing anecdote of how he carried a small silver icon of the Blessed Virgin – his “little Madonna” - that was fastened to his wrist with a chain. Whenever people took his hand to kiss it, he would quickly substitute the icon to be kissed in place of his hand. Thus, in this clever manner, he redirected attention away from himself and encouraged veneration of Our Lady, to whom he had a lifelong filial devotion.

Fr. Vincent’s blessed death occurred on January 22, 1850; he was only 54-years-old at the time of his passing. The cause of his death was attributed to complications from pleurisy (a form of lung infection), which he contracted after giving his cape away to a beggar on a cold winter’s night. As he lay on his deathbed, his brethren encouraged him to pray for a healing, but the Saint replied, “Please, please, let me go… to wherever God wills!” and he peacefully expired soon after. Upon hearing the news, his spiritual daughter, Bl. Elisabetta Sanna, was overcome with tears but was consoled soon after by a vision of St. Vincent with our Lord. Rays of light were streaming from the wounds of Christ unto the priest, bathing him in radiance; a joyful confirmation to the Beata that her mentor was enjoying glory in Heaven.

A wax mask cast of St. Vincent Pallotti's face and hands immediately after he died in 1850.  
It captures his true features and shows the serenity with which he met his death.

Although he was considered a Saint in his lifetime, it wasn’t until January 1963 that the Church officially confirmed Fr. Vincent Pallotti’s sanctity through canonization. His body, which was exhumed and discovered incorrupt in 1906, now rests in the Church of San Salvatore, Rome, for all to visit and venerate in a glass-sided urn. Let us all invoke this Saint’s much-needed prayer and intercession for today’s priests… that they, too, may be holy, zealous, and fruitful in their own respective ministries.

St. Vincent Pallotti, pray for us;
pray for our priests!

The shrine of St. Vincent Pallotti with his incorrupt body, as venerated in the
Pallotine Church in Rome, Italy.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Saints & Relics Speaking Presentation, 12/30/2018: St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua

Looking back, it's been an exceptionally busy year for this ministry; exhausting at times, but I'm still glad.  It means I had the opportunity to introduce more people to the lives of our various Saints & Blesseds - our awesome Faith Heroes - and, hopefully, inspired some to a deeper appreciation of our faith the way the Saints have done for me. So I was glad to do today's presentation for my Kailua parish's RCIA group; an opportunity to squeeze in one last talk and closeout my 2018 on a high note, as far as my spiritual life goes.

The relic display altar setup for this morning's presentation.

The audience I spoke to, from my understanding, was comprised of individuals new to Catholicism and right from the start I sensed enthusiasm; a sincere thirst to learn more about the different aspects of our Faith.  Being able to educate them about one important aspect - our rich tradition of honoring Mary and the Saints - was a privilege.

Another view of the relic display.
As I always do for all my Saints & Relics Presentations, I began with a summary of the Canonization Process before narrating the lives of several holy individuals who are currently going through the process.  For an example of a Servant of God, I featured Julia Greeley (d. 1918), a former slave who died in Colorado; for a Venerable, it was Carlo Acutis (d. 2006), a teenaged computer wiz from Italy; for a Blessed I spoke about Fr. Solanus Casey (d. 1957), the miracle-working Capuchin from Detroit. I ended the talk with the lives of three Canonized persons, all members of the same family - St. Louis and Zelie Martin, and their ever-popular daughter, St. Therese the Little Flower.

My ministry's trademark relic display was also part of the talk.  The lineup of relics included not just Bl. Solanus and the sainted Martin Family, but there were also relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes and the Holy Family, in keeping with the Christmas Season.

We closed this morning's RCIA session by praying the Our Father together.  Not sure about everyone else, but for me, it seemed it wasn't just our group praying, but I also felt the supportive presence of the saintly individuals I spoke about - praying with us and for us; drawing down grace from above. We were in good company... and as I stated earlier, it's a good way to end the year on a high note.  

Happy, Blessed New Year to us all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Saintly Encounters with the Christ Child

Merry, Blessed Christmas!

With today being the day that it is, I was particularly inspired to contemplate the Christ Child earlier this morning.  In fact, I have a beautiful, 10" Spanish-made image of the Holy Infant that I display every Advent and Christmas in front of my home-shrine, along with a relic of the Holy Manger (above photo)... and I was again charmed by its affable expression and its exquisite detail (it even has tiny white teeth in its small, open mouth!).  Gazing at the figure, I couldn't help but wonder what the actual Baby Jesus must have looked like.  My thoughts then strayed to the ever-popular St. Anthony of Padua (d. 1231), who was privileged to see and hold the real deal, which further prompted me to remember that he wasn't the only Saint I've read about who was granted this unique grace.  So off the top of my head I started mentally listing the other holy persons I could recall who also encountered the Divine Child in one way or another.  The result of all my musing is this special Christmas blog...

+ Mystic souls who saw and/or held the Christ Child

Many of us are familiar with the statues of St. Anthony carrying Baby Jesus (they're almost a standard in Catholic churches!)... and, although not widely circulated like St. Anthony's story, there were several other privileged souls who envisioned and even touched the Christ Child, too.  In this select group of mystics we can count Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824)St. Agnes of Montepulciano (d. 1317)St. Catherine of Bologna (d. 1463); St. Christopher Martyr (d. circa 251), the Patron Saint of Travelers who famously carried the apparitional boy Jesus across a river; St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938)St. John of God (d. 1550);  St. Lydwina of Scheidam (d. 1433)Madre Marianna of Jesus Torres (d. 1635) of the Our Lady of Good Success apparitions; Mother Marie Adele Garnier (d. 1924); Melanie Calvat (d. 1904) of the Marian apparitions of La Salette; Bl. Miriam Thresia Chiramel (d. 1926), a stigmatized Indian founder of a congregation; St. Padre Pio (d. 1968); St. Rose of Lima (d. 1617)St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582); and St. Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727).

St. Agnes of Montepulciano once received the Holy Child from the hands of the Madonna.

What's more is in the lives of two stigmatics - the Florentine Ven. Domenica del Paradiso (d. 1553) and the French Canadian immigrant to the USA, Marie Rose Ferron (a.k.a. "Little Rose", d. 1936), their experiences with the Divine Infant stand out for me.  In Ven. Domenica's biography, there was an incident related in her childhood in which she welcomed a mysterious beggar woman and child to her family's home.  Domenica observed there were injuries to the toddler's hands and feet and, moved by compassion, she naively asked the woman, "Who has hurt your little boy?" to which the woman only replied, "It is because he loves very much."  The stranger then went on to inquire about a devotional statue of the Madonna and Child in the home, which was crowned with flowers.  When Domenica affirmed that it was she who had decorated the image, the lovely woman smiled and predicted, "Someday they will also crown you with a beautiful crown in Heaven."  Of course the visitors were none other than Jesus and the Blessed Mother, who had come to test the charity of their young protegee and prepare her for the abundant heavenly favors in store for her.

In the case of Little Rose, her first ever apparition involved a visit from Jesus when she was only about 6 or 7-years-old.  She saw the Lord as a boy about the same age as herself, carrying a cross that was tailored to his height. His expression was one of sadness that impressed the girl deeply, and it appears this apparition was a foreshadowing of Little Rose's future vocation as a victim-soul; later evidenced by the illnesses she suffered along with the manifestation of Stigmata.

Sr. Lucia of Fatima's encounter with
Our Lady and her Divine Son.
Next I relate the encounter reported in the life of St. Junipero Serra (d. 1784) of California.  While crossing the desert on one of his extensive missionary travels through Mexico, he and a companion came across a small hut near three large trees where they were warmly welcomed by a native couple and their child - a beautiful little boy.  The chance meeting was timely as the travelers were weary and hungry from their journey, and their hosts generously provided them with food and water, and a warm comfortable place to sleep for the evening.  The following morning the missionaries awoke to find the house empty so they continued onto their final destination where they relayed to the other friars the providential meeting with the friendly trio.  To the Saint's bewilderment, the other friars, who were familiar with the region, only confirmed the presence of the three trees but disagreed about the hut.  In a later trip past the same locale, St. Junipero saw for himself the truth of what was told him - the trees were there but there was no hut; no family - anywhere near!  He immediately gave thanks to God when it dawned on him that it was the Holy Family who hosted him and his companion during that one fateful evening.

And lastly, in this segment, we can also add the Servant of God Teresa Palminota (d. 1934) to whom the Christ Child appeared, emerging from her parish church's tabernacle; Mother Angelica of EWTN fame (d. 2016 and who I presume will one day be considered for sainthood) was whispered by her close associates to have had several apparitions of the Holy Child in her Alabama convent; Sr. Lucia of Fatima (d. 2005) who saw the young Jesus on at least two occasions, one of which was when she received the revelation of the First Five Saturdays of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Indeed, there are probably many more such stories in the lives of our Church's mystic-souls, but for now these are all I am aware of or can remember.

+ Visions of the Birth of Jesus

Another type of encounter with the Baby Jesus involves witnessing his miraculous birth and hidden details of his infancy and childhood through sensory visions.  In this type of heavenly encounter, the mystic may not have had direct physical contact with the Christ Child, but rather, the visionary seems to have played the role of a spectator, watching the scene of Jesus's birth unfold while in a state of ecstasy.

Among those granted this experience, I list St. Elisabeth of Schonau (d. 1164), a German Benedictine nun; St. Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373) who experienced a vision of the Nativity while on pilgrimage in Bethlehem; Ven. Maria of Agreda (d. 1665)Maria Valtorta (d. 1961) of the "Poem of the Man God" fame; the Bavarian Servant of God, Therese Neumann (d. 1962); and there is again the Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, who not only played with the boy Jesus as a youngster, but she also saw his entire life in a series of epic visions.

Therese Neumann, photographed while experiencing one of her many visions.

Remarkably, these individual visionary experiences had many points in common when it came to interesting details about the very first Christmas:

**  The stable was actually a cave or grotto rather than a stand-alone structure, as commonly depicted in traditional Nativity Creches.

**  Mary was alone in a part of the stable/cave while in deep ecstasy - surrounded by heavenly light - during the birth of Jesus... and the Holy Babe's delivery was by no means normal - he passed effortlessly through the tissues of her womb and abdomen as a brilliant, luminous figure rather than being born in the natural manner.

**  Our Lady felt no discomfort or pain, whatsoever, while giving birth (because of her unique exemption from original sin)... and there was no issue of blood or other bodily fluids that would've necessitated cleansing of any type for both mother and child.  All was perfectly clean and dignified.

+ Miraculous Images of the Holy Infant

In this final segment, I narrate a few cases in which statues of the Divine Child closely connected to certain holy persons were seen to become animated or transfigured into the actual living Jesus... or weep.

A statue of the Holy Infant once came to life in the arms of St. Francis of Assisi
during Christmas festivities he presided over in Greccio, Italy.

What is probably the earliest example of this phenomena involves St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), who is credited with having created the very first Nativity Scene in the Italian town of Greccio during the Christmas of 1224.  According to written accounts, the statue of the Bambino laid in the manger was seen to come alive by many witnesses while St. Francis venerated the image in an enraptured state.

Still, other holy persons included in this group were Ven. Edvige Carboni (d. 1852), an Italian stigmatic who owned one such miraculous image.  In her specific case she once sewed a gown for her much-loved Gesu Bambino statue and, when she couldn't dress the statue due to the positioning of its arms, she asked Jesus to help her and the figure adjusted its arms so that Edvige could then easily slip the gown onto it.  A later mystic, Teresa Palminota (already mentioned above) had similar experiences with her own Baby Jesus statue that exhibited mysterious movements in her home.

Another Italian mystic-soul, Teresa Musco (d. 1976), owned several statues in her home that wept watery tears, as well as blood.  Among them was an Infant Jesus figure that often shed tears in apparent protest to abortion.  On more than one occasion the tears were blood, which speaks volumes to the pain felt by the Lord over the death of innocent babies.

The stigmatic, Teresa Musco, with her weeping Bambino statue (left) and the miraculous,
healing image of the Infant Jesus of Prague (right).

Finally, this last segment wouldn't be complete without mention of the miraculous Holy Infant of Prague statue that was promoted by the holy Carmelite, Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God, and is today celebrated the world over.  In this case, Fr. Cyril did not see an apparition of Christ or miraculous movements in the statue, but what he did experience was hearing the voice of Jesus emanate from the image, asking for the replacement of its missing hands and for public veneration.  In return, benedictions were promised to devotees of the Divine Child; it's been a channel of healing ever since.

So with that last account of the wonder-working Prague statue, that's all, folks - I'm out of Baby Jesus encounter-stories.  I hope the various tales I posted above were enjoyed by the reader and, perhaps, contributed just a bit more wonder and awe to today's celebration of the awesome mystery of God becoming man.  Again, Merry Christmas to all!