Disclaimer

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


Monday, April 15, 2024

Saints and Relics in Waimanalo!


Praise the Lord!  Oahu has another new public Reliquary-Shrine, where locals and visitors can come to pray and personally encounter Saints through their precious, sacred relics.  This one is located in St. George Church in Waimanalo.

Some of the backstory: last year, during the St. George Parish's annual September Feast Day Celebration for St. Lorenzo Ruiz, I happened to have a talk with the resident priest, Fr. Raymund ("Fr. Ray").  When he expressed his personal interest in relics, I suggested he make use of their relic of St. George the Martyr.  The priest replied, "What relic?" ... so I proceeded to tell him about the 1st Class (bone) Relic that was embedded at the base of a large icon of their Saint hanging at the back of his church (see below).  Fr. Ray was surprised; in the 5 years he's been at that parish, he was well-aware of the icon but totally ignorant of the spiritual treasure that was there all along (as far as I can recall, the relic was in the same spot in that church for 40+ years).


For those not familiar with St. George, he was a secret Christian from Cappadocia (now in Turkey), who was a Roman soldier in the region of Lydda during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.  When the emperor launched his persecution of Christians in 303 A.D., he first ordered all his officials - including his vast army - to make offerings to Rome's pagan deities.  At that point, St. George bravely professed his faith in Jesus Christ and flatly refused to worship heathen gods.  He was consequently apprehended, but stood firm in his beliefs, despite cruel torture; miracles were said to have been worked by St. George during his public trial and, along with his active ministry while in prison, he drew many converts to Christ.  In the end, the Saint was beheaded for his faith in our one true God, thus earning the glorious palm of martyrdom.

Devotion to the Martyr flourished after his heroic death and was at an all-time high during the Middle Ages.  He was counted among the popular group of Patron Saints known as the "14 Holy Helpers". This group included such Saints as St. Barbara, St. Blaise, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Christopher, St. Margaret of Antioch, and other Martyrs and Saints from the early period of the Church.  The "Helpers" were renowned for their effective intercession and St George, in particular, was invoked against skin diseases.  Furthermore, his veneration is something we share with our Eastern/Orthodox brethren who grandly refer to him as either the "Holy Great-Martyr St. George" or "St. George the Wonder Worker".

So, going back to Fr. Raymund - after our conversation, he went into the church and was excited to discover the relic for himself - he later called me and asked for advice on how to better honor it.  Having grown up in Waimanalo and being a former parishioner, I was familiar with the church layout and suggested he establish a prayer space near the front of the church.  I also provided him with a sketch of what I envisioned for a suitable shrine that would blend in with the existing church interior.

Fast-forward to now - this ministry is happy to report that Fr. Raymund acted on my suggested design and had the Reliquary Shrine constructed with the assistance of a carpenter-parishioner; it turned out beautifully!

Last night, St. George Parish began its annual 9-day Novena leading up to the Feast of St. George on April 23rd.  In conjuction with the start of the novena, this ministry was invited to conduct a Saints & Relics Presentation, as part of a blessing ceremony to inaugurate the shrine and install - not just the relic of St. George - but also a hair-relic of St. Damien of Molokai and a "memorial stone" of St. Lorenzo Ruiz (from the site of his martyrdom in Japan)!


ABOVE:  This author's original design concept.

BELOW:  The finished shrine, which was
intended to mimic the look of the abstract 
crucifix behind the main altar.

       

It goes without saying that the event was meaningful and edifying, thanks mostly to Fr. Ray's enthusiasm and pride over the new shrine ... and those of us present responded, likewise.


The relics being processed to their new shrine
where Fr. Ray blessed and incensed them.


I left the church very hopeful that, going forward, "St. George the Wonder Worker" will be blessing his parishioners in a special way, along with Sts. Damien and Lorenzo.  I sense this shrine will bear much good fruit for all the Waimanalo community.


ABOVE:  Parishioners venerating the relics 
after
the night's novena prayers.

BELOW:  Me - with Fr. Ray - in front of the end-result
of our succesful collaboration.


If you're a Waimanalo resident, or just happen to be in Windward Oahu, make a "mini-pilgrimage" to St. George Church for Mass and veneration; take advantage of the special presence of the Saints through their rare bodily relics!  As this ministry can readily testify, time and time again, God works through his Saints and their relics ... and miracles and graces are often just a prayer away!

St. George, Soldier and Martyr,
pray for us!

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Another war...


It seems like it's one after another - news of violence ... bloodshed ... and WAR.  Just yesterday, Iran launched a missile attack against Israel, the repercussions of which could mean a new war that would likely involve other key countries.  It can all be overwhelming for many people.


Reflecting on these current events, I couldn't help but think how we could've, perhaps, avoided stuff like this.  Sadly, Heaven has been warning us for decades now of the coming disastrous results of our sinful actions, and we were also given direction on how to amend our ways and even prevent calamities.

The following are just a sample of words spoken by the Virgin Mary during modern-day Church-approved apparitions ...

+ FATIMA, Portugal
  "... continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war for she alone can help."

  "... If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace."

+ AKITA, Japan
(Excerpt from a message given to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa on 10/13/1973)
  "As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity.  It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one never seen before.   Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful.  The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.   The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son.  Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary.  With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests."

Our Lady of Cuapa

+ CUAPA, Nicaragua
(Excerpt from a message given to Bernardo Martinez on May 8, 1980)
  "Pray, pray, my son, the Rosary for all the world.  Tell believers and non-believers that the world is threatened by grave dangers.  I ask the Lord to appease His justice, but, if you don't change, you will hasten the arrival of the Third World War.  I want the Rosary to be prayed every day.  I want it to be prayed permanently, within the family ... including the children old enough to understand and to be prayed at a set hour … in the home."

Did we pay attention to our Holy Mother and change?  Judging by the current state of our world, we most likely, in general, ignored these messages despite the urgency of her words.  In particular, look at the Cuapa message.

Closer to home for me, and on a less grander scale ... and perhaps directly related to what just happened between Iran and Israel, is something that's been ongoing in our Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace since October 2023.  I blogged about it last year (see here), but as a recap - there are uncanny images resembling the Madonna and Christ Child ... and the suffering face of Jesus ... visible on a pillar near the Sanctuary.  This author first spotted them on 10/2/2023 (coincidentally, 5 days prior to the Hamas attack on Israel).  I, nor any of the regular parishioners, recall the figures being there before.

Back then, after the Hamas attack took place, I personally interpreted the image as a visible message from Our Lady of Peace (the cathedral's namesake), asking for prayers for peace, so I've been doing so routinely, and encouraged others who also discern the holy figures to pray, too.

        
Left:  A recent photo of the pillar image
taken in April 2024.  Right: Two visiting
priests from the Philippines gaze with
joyful awe at the holy figures.

With this latest development in the Middle East, I am more convinced that the remarkable images in our Cathedral are not just random blotches, but they are indeed a prophetic sign.  Concerning Israel/Iran, we could be seeing something BIG unfolding in real-time, right before our very eyes; something requiring careful attention and serious prayer.

In her many appearances throughout the centuries, our Blessed Mother's guidance has been consistent in how to respond to dire events looming before us - Conversion, Prayer, and Penance.  With the world spiraling more and more out of control, isn't it about time we start paying attention and making positive changes in our lives?  Let us begin with a prayer ...

Lord Jesus, King of Peace,
have mercy on us.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace,
pray for us!
We ask for a speedy and
peaceful end to the
war in the Middle East ...
as well as, all other wars
raging in the world
today.  Amen.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Saint of the Month - April 2024: Saint Gemma Galgani

 

St. Gemma Galgani
The Passion Flower of Lucca
Feast: April 11th

This biography is long overdue, and this writer is embarrassed to admit it since St. Gemma is one of my Patron Saints - a personal favorite - along with St. Anthony of Padua (d. 1231).  She has not only obtained many signal graces for me, but her example of victimhood spirituality continually inspires me!  Consequently, I am especially happy to pay tribute to this Saint by blogging about her incredible life.  Please allow her to inspire you, as well ...

Gemma Umberta Maria Galgani was born on March 12, 1878, in the small Italian town of Camigliano, Italy, but her father - a successful pharmacist – relocated the family to a larger home in nearby Lucca shortly after her birth.  Soon, however, the Galganis were hit with a string of misfortunes, starting with the mother – the pious Aurelia Galgani – contracting tuberculosis when Gemma was only 2-years-old.  The dreaded disease claimed not only the mother five years later, but it also took two of the Saint’s brothers (one was a seminarian), along with one of Gemma’s little sisters.

Despite these early tragedies, and likely influenced by Aurelia's example, Gemma developed piety from a tender age.  Her budding faith was also nurtured by Bl. Elena Guerra (d. 1914) and her teaching congregation - the Sisters of St. Zita in Lucca - to whom Gemma was sent to be educated; she was well-liked by her teachers and peers for her intelligence, devotion, and her kindness, but eventually had to drop out of the school due to chronic illness.

At 16, our Saint developed Spinal Meningitis, which left her bedridden and in dire condition.  She spent the time at home in spiritual reading and prayer, and was graced with a series of mystical encounters with St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, who Gemma admired after reading his biography (he was only ranked a Servant of the God at the time).  Gabriel directed the sick girl to pray a novena to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the visionary nun of the Sacred Heart Revelations (she was only Beatified at the time) … and he returned daily, for the duration of the novena, to pray with Gemma.  She was completely healed at the end of the prayers!

The miracle of Gemma’s cure seemed to open the door to other mystical charisms in her life, among which were reported the following:

  • Ecstasies, which came upon her during periods of prayer and spiritual contemplation – gradually or sometimes suddenly – which left her oblivious to the external world.
  • Apparitions of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin from whom she received direction.
  • Familiar contact with her personal Guardian Angel, who further mentored and assisted the Saint, and who she saw visibly with uncommon frequency.

These various supernatural manifestations caused friction between Gemma and her family, as they misunderstood her … and she was often ridiculed by her siblings.  To make matters worse, her father died when she was 19, and the task of caring for her younger siblings fell upon her shoulders.  Poverty then followed for the Galganis, which was somewhat alleviated when Gemma was taken-in by an aunt.  Things did not fare better for her, though, as the Saint was still subjected to scrutiny and suspicion because of the ongoing phenomena that continued to surrounded her.  Furthermore, her relatives were extremely annoyed by Gemma’s resistance to their efforts to marry her off.

Her situation escalated in June 1899, when the Lord marked the young maiden with His Sacred Stigmata, which bled every week, via wounds that opened in her hands, feet, side, and around her head, beginning on Thursday nights and ending Friday afternoons with no trace of injury.  To the suffering of the Stigmata can be added occasional attacks from demons who, enraged by her holiness and sacrifices, sought to intimidate and frighten her, via frightful apparitions and physical harrasment, but to no avail.


Providentially, God  provided Gemma with a holy spiritual director – a Passionist priest named FrGermano Ruoppolo (now a Venerable in the Sainthood Process) – who expertly guided the Saint by requiring her strict obedience; ordering her to keep a diary; and by downplaying her mystical gifts in order to keep her humble.  She complied with everything Fr. Germano asked, and his priestly blessing also served to protect her from diabolic attacks … and knowing the difficulties she endured in her family home, the priest was instrumental in having Gemma moved in with an exceptionally devout family in Lucca, named the Gianninis.  In this new home, the Saint was afforded the freedom (and privacy) to practice her faith and experience her ongoing divine encounters with the dignity she deserved; she was treated as a daughter by the Giannini family and remained with them until her death.

Under the direction of Fr. Germano and the maternal care of Aunt Cecilia Giannini, Gemma’s sanctity reached its pinnacle - she was a model of humility, obedience, modesty, chastity, devotion, and generous self-sacrifice.  Furthermore, the Giannini household became privy to added charisms manifested in the Saint's life:

  • Prophetic foresight
  • Levitation (Gemma was witnessed lifted several feet above the ground to the figure of Christ on a large crucifix in the Giannini home)
  • Transverberation (the piercing of the heart with the “Wound of Divine Love”)
  • Incendium Amoris (being on fire with Divine Love) (Gemma once complained to our Lord that her heart was too small to adequately love Him, after which it immediately swelled-up to approximately 5 times its normal size, displacing two ribs without causing any pain to the Saint; a tangible, elevated heat emanated from her, as well as, a luminous glow being seen from her chest on many occasions, especially during her ecstasies).

Towards the end of her life, Gemma had often expressed to her confessor her desire to become a Passionist nun, but her goal was never realized because of her precarious health and the mystical sufferings she endured.  She did, however, correctly predict that after her death, a monastery of Passionist Nuns would be founded in Lucca and she would eventually be with them then.  All happened as she said.

This hidden mystic’s life ended on April 11, 1903 – a Holy Saturday – after she succumbed to the same disease that claimed many of her family members (Tuberculosis); Gemma was only 25-years-old.  Almost immediately, a spontaneous devotion sprung up in Lucca around the memory of the “Passion Flower" of Lucca.  Her cause was taken up by the Passionist Congregation, who considered her one of their own, and successfully concluded in her Canonization on May 2, 1940.

St. Gemma's tomb in Lucca, Italy

Today, Gemma’s tomb and relics are enshrined under the main altar of the sanctuary dedicated to her in Lucca … and which are lovingly cared for by nuns from the adjoining Passionist Monastery!

Dear St. Gemma, as you opened your
heart in total surrender to the Love of God,
help us open our hearts to Him!