Disclaimer

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


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 12/29/2012


At the Gruber Residence with (from left to right) Anna, Eloise, & Dre', our host.

WOW - what a day this turned out to be!  From the extraordinary blessings received this morning to the blessings received tonight - it was quite overwhelming, but in a good sort of way.  I already had a sense that tonight's prayer meeting at the Gruber's was going to be extra-special and the Lord and our Blessed Mother did not disappoint.  Even before the opening prayer was said, there were a couple of gleaming Escarchas that were already manifested in our midst... and as the meeting progressed, the unseen presence of Christ and Our Lady became so tangible that almost all of us were deeply moved, even to tears. Furthermore, the atmosphere in the home was simply electrifying as God's love and peace overshadowed us.
 
Our Saint this month was Bl. Charles de Foucauld - whose idea of being a "universal brother"
to all the needy and to those searching for God's love, filled us with inspiration.
 
After the prayers were over, we shared our customary potluck meal and fellowshipped with lighthearted conversation over dessert and a few sips of wine.  On the way home, the group that rode in my car discussed the highlights of tonight's meeting, which included the mysterious sense of having the Lord and our Holy Mother invisibly with us... plus the faith-sharing of our Saint of the Month - Bl. Charles de Foucauld - whose "Prayer of Abandonment" (see below) left us all feeling very inspired; the warmth of his saintly presence was also felt during our prayers.
 
 
Dinner time after the prayers... and the Colotario Family catching up with our host, Dre'. 
 
In conclusion, the prayer meeting was a great way to close out yet another year of benediction and spiritual growth... and our little group is looking forward to 2013 and all the new graces Jesus and Mary have in store for us.  Ad Jesum per Mariam!
 
The Prayer of Abandonment
(by Bl. Charles de Foucauld)
 
Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Amen.
 

A morning filled with God's blessings...

 
Every day is a blessing from God... but today started off with exceptional blessings through the generosity of our dear Lord, Jesus Christ.  First, and foremost, I attended Mass this morning at St. John Vianney Church in neighboring Enchanted Lakes (left photo) and received Jesus through the Holy Eucharist.  It was wonderful.
 
Secondly, I ran into a dear friend of mine in the church after the Mass - a Sister-in-Christ named Eloise from my old, weekly prayer meetings - who I rarely see now.  We sat in a pew and spent some time catching-up and faith-sharing about what we've been up to for the past several months.  The time we spent together was also a joy and a blessing from God as we both recognized in each other the continued presence and love of the Lord in our lives and in our families.
 
Lastly, as Eloise and I sat talking about spiritual matters, I happened to glance out the large glass windows of the church and noticed an odd, but remarkable, light/shadow formation taking shape on a wall across a narrow stream that bordered the parish property - to my surprise, the formation began to resemble an image of the Holy Face of Christ Crucified.
 
 
I briefly interrupted our conversation and rushed to take a couple of cellphone photos of the wall and the image before pointing out the face to my friend; she immediately recognized it, too.  So we both joyfully gave thanks to God for this additional grace, and discussed the relevant appearance of the blessed image since the topic of our discussion at that same instance happened to be about... letting go of any darkness from the past so as to live in God's light
 
I'm not trying to persuade anyone that the uncanny image was truly a little sign from Jesus... but I can definitely testify that the Lord's timing is always impeccable!  God is good.
 
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.  The Lord show His Face to thee, and have mercy on thee.
The Lord turn His Countenance to thee, and give thee peace."

Numbers 6:24-26
 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 12/7/2012


The beautiful interior of St. Anthony's Church in Kailua, Hawaii

This evening, my Pilgrim Statue of the Blessed Mother was invited to be a part of the Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s always special to see an image of Our Lady, up front and center, when we celebrate a Marian Feast in our parish church because one feels as though the Virgin’s presence is much more tangible when a statue or painting representing her is displayed during the service. At least, that’s how I feel about it. Plus, it was especially meaningful to me knowing that it was my ministry’s statue that was being utilized to help people make a connection with our sweet Heavenly Mother.

At tonight’s festivities, our priest allowed us to pray the Holy Rosary before the Mass started as a way of further honoring Our Lady. Many parishioners showed up early to participate, which was really great. The service was beautiful, as usual, and Fr. Clarence did a great job in extolling the many virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary during his homily before  we sang several Marian hymns. For some special reason, people were really involved with the service tonight and it was truly inspiring; even Father commented after about how he was almost moved to tears by the congregation’s participation. 

Parishioners gathered around Our Lady's pilgrim statue and Sacred Relic after the Vigil Mass ended.

After Mass several parishioners approached the statue to venerate Our Lady and her veil-relic, as well as to take photos with their smartphones.  It never fails that people always seem attracted to the pilgrim statue whenever it’s publicly displayed... and I could sense the sincere love and devotion that was being expressed as prayers were offered before the image of our Heavenly Mother.  I have no doubt that Our Lady’s spirit was with us this evening, blessing us abundantly... and for that, I was also very grateful.
 
* * * * * * The Hour of Grace * * * * * * 

Lastly, since tomorrow is December 8th, the actual Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind or inform readers about the “Hour of Grace” that Our Lady spoke about in her Rosa Mystica revelations made to the Italian seeress, Pierina Gilli, in 1947. Our Lady referred to it at least twice during two separate apparitions to the visionary:

+ November 22, 1947:
 
“… On the 8th December, at noon, I shall appear again here in the Basilica (of Montichiari).
It will be the Hour of Grace. This Hour of Grace will produce great and numerous conversions.
Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble (the church floor) will be touched by Divine
Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love.”
 
+ December 8, 1947:
 
“I am the Immaculate Conception...
It is my wish that every year, on 8th December, at Noon, the Hour of Grace for the world be
celebrated.   Many divine and bodily graces will be received through this devotion. Our Lord, my Divine Son
Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brother.
 
One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that
the Hour of Grace for the world be made known and spread throughout the world.   If anyone is unable
to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me.”


Please consider observing the Hour of Grace at Noon tomorrow.  The recommended prayers to be prayed during the hour are the Holy Rosary and the Miserere (Psalm 51), as well as prayers for the conversion of sinners.  God bless you and may the Rosa Mystica - the Immaculate Conception - intercede for you.

Click here for more information about the Rosa Mystica devotion.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Hawaii's New Shrine to St. Anthony of Padua

 
The votive Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua in the Church of St. Anthony in Kailua, Oahu (HI).
The case to the right of the statue encloses a certified 1st Class (bone) Relic of the Saint.

Today, our Kailua parish had the joy of dedicating our newly redesigned reliquary to St. Anthony of Padua - the only shrine in Hawaii, as far as I'm aware, that has a rare bodily relic of the illustrious Saint of Miracles!  The shrine was formerly situated at the other end of the church, under the main crucifix... but our priest - Fr. Clarence Zamora - felt that it belonged in a much worthier and accessible setting.
 
          
Fr. Clarence blessing our parish's new shrine to our patron, St. Anthony of Padua.  The students from
the parochial school assisted in the ceremony by bringing up lit candles for the recently donated candle stand.
(Click on the photos to view larger images)
 
So with the generous help of a few parishioners, Fr. Clarence ordered a votive candle stand for the devotional use of the Faithful and set about making arrangements to move the relic to its current resting place.  The redesigned shrine utilized a niche and a marble statue of the Saint that was already in place within the church... and once the candle stand arrived, plans moved quickly and smoothly, culminating in a simple devotional space that fits in well with our unique church interior - it's beautiful!
 
I am now looking forward to seeing rows of lit candles offered by our parishioners and guests in observance of a time-honored and highly symbolic Christian tradition.  My sincere prayer is that from this hallowed place, St. Anthony will shed his blessings on all who have recourse to his powerful and effective intercession.
 
The original sketch I did for our priest of the redesigned shrine to St. Anthony of Padua (left)
and the first location of the reliquary when it was under the church's familiar crucifix.
 
If you happen to live on the island of Oahu (Hawaii), or just visiting our islands, feel free to stop by our Kailua church.  All are welcomed to seek St. Anthony's intercession before his Sacred Relic and to light a candle as an expression of our faith in him... and in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World!
 
For directions to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua, click here.
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony's Church, 12/1/2012

 
Mary, the Mystical Rose, awaits the prayers of her
children in St. Anthony's Parish Day Chapel
 
'nothing really new to report about this month's First Saturday Rosary other than the fact that we happily welcomed three newbies to the prayer meeting... and welcomed back a semi-regular participant who recently had heart surgery; it was a comfort to learn that he is recovering well.
 
Holy Relics of the True Cross of Jesus Christ (left), Our Lady (center),
& Bl. Eugenia Ravasco (right)
 
As with past meetings, it was simply very special... and it was just today that it dawned on me that the bond among the regular participants has deeply grown over this past year; we've become a spiritual family under the Blessed Mother's maternal care and it's a genuine blessing.  For the thirty minutes that we're all praying the Holy Rosary together in the Day Chapel, it feels like time stops and all of our cares and worries are set aside as we're engulfed in a "bubble" of peace and a sense of the Divine.  Even a lady who joined us for the first time, today, testified that she appreciated the calm that came over her while she prayed the rosary, especially since she's been going through some difficult times recently.  She left looking much lighter than when she first walked in.
 
 
A new participant seeking Our Lady's blessings and venerating the Holy Relics
on the display altar, including a 1st Class Relic of Bl. Eugenia Ravasco (right) 
 
Our featured holy person was Bl. Eugenia Ravasco (d. 1900), the Italian founder of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary... and it is always encouraging for me to see the expression on the participants' faces whenever I share about a little-known Saint or Blessed with them - I can clearly tell that most of the audience are genuinely interested and/or inspired in some way when they learn about the heroes of our Catholic Faith.  So tonight we had Bl. Eugenia's relic present on the display altar along with Our Lady's veil-relic... plus my relic of the True Cross, which was especially requested by one of the regular participants.
 
The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace will be prayed "next year" on January 5th.  All are invited to join us in welcoming 2013 with prayers for PEACE, for ourselves, our families... and for our troubled world.  Until then...
 
Merry, Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!
 

Saint of the Month: December 2012


Saint Charbel Makhlouf
Man of Silence & Virtue ~ Feast: December 24th
 
Joseph Makhlouf was born on May 8, 1928, to a poor Lebanese family. Being a pious boy, he entertained thoughts of one day becoming a religious but his family opposed his plans and put obstacles along his vocational path. At age 23, Joseph secretly left his home and entered the Monastery of Saint Maron at Annaya, where he became a monk and a hermit for the rest of his long life. He chose for his religious name, “Charbel”, after an early Christian Martyr who lived and died in the area.
 
Charbel distinguished himself through his fervent practice of the faith, his habitual silence, and his immense devotion to the Holy Eucharist. His reputation for holiness spread beyond the walls of the monastery and many sought him out for guidance and blessings. His clients were hardly disappointed, as many came away from his presence physically and/or spiritually healed of their ailments… or a recipient of some other miracle that Charbel had performed on their behalf.
 
The holy monk continued to practice strict self-discipline and mortifications until his death in December 1898. After his burial, the monks and the townspeople witnessed a brilliant light which emanated for several days above his grave. The excitement caused by the luminous display, along with the reported healings that were happening at the tomb, prompted the monks to exhume Charbel’s body to transfer it to a worthier tomb – to their amazement, the body was found completely incorrupt and as flexible as a living person. The body also began "sweating" a mysterious liquid (manna) that occasioned healings for those who invoked the dead monk’s intercession.
 
Charbel was elevated to the ranks of the Saints in October, 1977, and the Monastery of Annaya continues to attract pilgrims from all over the world, Christian and non-Christian alike.  Although his body is no longer preserved, and the manna has since ceased to flow, miracles are still reported at St. Charbel's tomb.  May he pray for our personal needs and the needs of the entire Church.
 
A Reflection:
Saints are the special friends of God... and if you befriend the Saints, you also befriend God.
 
A Short Prayer:
Dear St. Charbel, help us to practice holy silence that we may listen more clearly to the word of God.  Amen.
 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 11/24/2012

Tonight's prayer meeting at the Gruber home felt like Christmas!  When we arrived, our host and prayer-leader - Dre' - surprised us by generously gifting each of us with a Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin (bottom-left).  It was beautiful, yet sad at the same time, with all it lovely pictures depicting Our Lady's sorrows!
 
... so to change things up a bit, instead of praying the traditional Rosary this month, Dre' lead us in praying our new rosaries to console the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which had been pierced so painfully by seven sorrowful events that were reflective of the cruelty of mankind towards her Divine Son.  A couple of us were moved to tears during the prayer.  Even the statue of the Rosa Mystica on the home shrine appeared to take on a deeply saddened expression while the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows was in progress.  It only resumed it's normal expression - with its faint smile - once all our prayers were over.  As confirmation, another person also reported seeing the same changes in the statue's features.
 
What others also found very touching tonight was the life of the Spanish founder, Bl. Maria Carmen of the Child Jesus, who was this month's featured Saint (and relic) at the meeting.  She was a valiant woman who, through the grace of God, patiently endured an abusive husband for twenty years before he was converted through her devout example.  After his death, Maria Carmen founded the congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for orphans and the poor in her community; she died in 1899 with a solid reputation for sanctity and was beatified in May 2007.  We prayed for the Blessed's intercession for all our prayer intentions and asked the Lord for her speedy Canonization.
 
We again closed the evening with a delicous meal and a bottle of wine shared among us... and topped things off with lively conversation and some heartfelt faith-sharing about our personal experiences of God.  I left the Gruber home filled with a deep sense of the Lord's peace and also very grateful  to Him and our dear Blessed Mother for another great night spent with the both of them... with Bl. Maria Carmen... and with my wonderful spiritual family in Christ.
 
A couple of prayer group members smiling brightly after a night
of intense prayer and a wonderful meal of soup and salad.
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Blessed Mother, why do you weep?


"The thought of the loss of so many souls is the
cause of my sadness."

~ Words of Our Lady at Akita, Japan (1973)

An acquaintance from Canada recently emailed me with a question: Why does Mary cry tears?  Why does she cry tears of blood? [referring to weeping Marian statues]  At first thought the answer seemed simple enough - Mary is very sad and the statues are being used by God as instruments to reflect the Blessed Mother's sentiments.  But as I pondered more about it, I realized that there's much more to the phenomenon than meets the eye - there are actually layers of prophetic messages that are often related to specific circumstances surrounding a weeping image... the type of tears the image sheds (regular tears, blood, or oil)... or even the type of statue that is weeping.

To give an example...  a credible report of a weeping statue occurred in 1972, with the world-famous International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima (left) that was witnessed by large crowds to weep human tears in Louisiana.  A few years later in 1978, the same statue again wept... but in the second occurrence, it did so in Las Vegas, Nevada.  How significant that this statue - a tangible representative of the Fatima Message of Conversion, Prayer, and Sacrifice - has traveled the entire United States only to weep so copiously in two areas in our country that are well-known for unrestrained hedonism.  New Orleans and its notorious Mardi Gras is in Louisiana, and we all know that Las Vegas capitalizes on the fact that it's popularly nicknamed the "Sin City".  The locations in these two separate cases involving this miraculous statue were definitely prophetic factors as to why Our Lady shed tears.

In regards to the type of tears, the sight of a statue weeping normal, watery tears must be impressive enough and effectively conveys a sense of sadness, and perhaps even frustration... but to see bright red blood streaming from a statue's eyes must be downright upsetting and probably a little frightening.  Surely, bloody tears bear a much greater weight compared to normal tears... and I believe they express something much more serious - a terrible pain in Our Lady's Immaculate Heart caused by the fact that she knows what self-imposed chastisements are headed our way, but hardly anyone is paying her messages - or more importantly, her Divine Son - any serious attention.  This brings to mind what was shared with me over a decade ago by an elderly lady-friend from the island of Maui (now deceased) who was a reputed mystic/visionary.  Her name was "Christina" and we became quite close friends, and  I personally believed she was the real deal.

I visited with Christina at her home four times, and during my last visit with her in 1998, she confided to me and my friends that the Blessed Mother had recently appeared to her in a manner that was personally distressing to the seer. Our Lady was weeping quietly, which up to that time my visionary-friend had never seen her do... so she asked her the reason behind the tears and Mary responded, "Christina, you need to pray... and tell others to pray more." Immediately, Christina was given a vision of a great disaster that would one day hit the United States and which would also end up affecting  the Hawaiian islands. At that same moment, the Holy Mother's tears became blood, that streamed down her cheeks and fell upon her white dress causing dark red stains.  The seer admitted that when she saw the Virgin's regular tears, her heart was filled with sorrow and compassion... but when she saw them transformed into blood, she was terrified and the impression it made on her was heartbreaking and indelible; Christina knew it was a dire warning that Our Lady was communicating and emphasizing to her, and she was deeply troubled by the experience.

To this day I have never forgotten the somber expression that was reflected on Christina's face as she mentally relived her vision all over again while sharing it with our small group; the look of anguish was evident... but there was also a glimmer of hope as she encouraged us to keep praying the Holy Rosary.  Clearly, the Virgin's tears of blood mean something much, much more serious. I drew the image of the weeping Madonna that's seen above, based on my personal recollection of Christina's description of Our Lady's sorrowful appearance to her. I find my own drawing somewhat disturbing so I can just imagine what Christina felt when she saw the scene in person.

In contrast, while tears of water and blood express sorrow and pain, effusions of fragrant oil (in my humble opinion) are a blessed gift from God especially meant for the healing and spiritual encouragement of the Faithful.  In Sacred Scriptures, the use of blessed oil was a method of consecrating something for a holy purpose, as well as being used as a healing agent:

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church,
and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

~ James 5:14

There are dozens of statues and other images throughout the world today that are exuding oil with healing properties.  Two credible examples are the many weeping images associated with the late-mystic - Audrey Marie Santo (aka "Little Audrey") and the ongoing weeping icon of Our Lady of Soufeniah in Syria, owned by the visionary, Myrna Nazour.  Incidentally, both women were Stigmatized with the marks of Christ's wounds.

The oil-weeping icon of Our Lady of Soufanieh in Syria. Countless cures
have been attributed to the oil from this Church-approved miracle.

Even the type of statue is highly significant when it comes to the weeping statue phenomenon; again, I refer to the message of Fatima.  Our Lady's appearances in Fatima are arguably the most important of all approved Marian Apparitions, given the global scope of the messages, the miracle of the "dancing sun" witnessed by thousands, and the prophecies that have since been accurately fulfilled. During my years of research, many of the statues that have wept were representations of Our Lady of Fatima.  Undoubtedly, the Lord and his Holy Mother are making an important statement - heed the messages that were given at Fatima ... but in the past 30 years, there has been another type of Marian statue that has been gaining ground in the area of inexplicable tears and mystical phenomena - the Rosa Mystica!

Statues of Our Lady of Fatima that have wept in different parts of the world.

The sheer number of Rosa Mystica statues reportedly weeping around the globe cannot be ignored.  To date, in my estimation, there have been 130+ such images that have wept or are currently shedding tears of water and/or blood (plus manifesting Escarchas!) in churches and in private homes around the world.  Truly, the Lord is also trying to draw peoples' hearts to the messages that his holy mother delivered at Montichiari/Fontanelle; messages that expanded on the Fatima theme and lamented fallen away clergy and religious, while also calling for prayers for holy vocations.  Only now are we realizing the full prophetic impact of Our Lady's words in the Rosa Mystica revelations - the Church and the world are in urgent need of good priests and nuns... and vocations to the consecrated life have drastically decreased in the last few decades.


Weeping Rosa Mystica statues from around the globe.  They are the most
prolific weeping images reported in the world today.

In conclusion, when dealing with alleged mystical phenomena, I cannot emphasize enough the need for much prayer and discernment.  As seen in the many photos in this blog, the phenomenon of weeping images is real and it has increased in recent years... but this blog isn't intended to endorse all purported weeping images as genuine, as obviously, there have been hoaxes perpetrated in this regard.  The Church is always the best guide in weeding out true miracles from false ones...  and there have actually been a handful of weeping statues in modern times that were granted full approval by local Bishops after careful discernment and investigation.

The few cases that were officially recognized as authentic miracles are enough to merit our attention to Our Lady's unceasing call for Conversion, Prayer, and Penance... and also Peace and Reconcilation among all peoples.  For us to disregard these obvious signs would simply be irresponsible, as well as ungrateful towards God and our Blessed  Mother for their extraordinary expression of concern for us.  We are now living in precarious times and the manner in which we respond will be critical to our future.  Please just think about it. 

Three Church-approved weeping images (left to right): Our Lady of Civitavecchia, (Italy, 1995),
Our Lady of Akita (Japan, 1973), and Our Lady of Syracuse (Italy, 1953).

 * * * * * * * * * * * *

  "I tell you," he replied, "if they [his followers] keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

~ Words of Our Lord, Luke 19:40

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony's Church, 11/3/2012

 
    
A fellow parishioner venerating Our Lady's statue and the Sacred Relics on the altar.
(click on all the photos on this blog to view larger images)
 
This month's First Saturday Rosary for Peace was just beautiful!  Our prayer was totally dedicated to the dearly departed, as we invoked the Divine Mercy of God and the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints on their behalf.  Among our extended spiritual family of regular participants, there were also many new people in the pews; most of them from neighboring parishes who I'd like to think had come on a "mini-pilgrimage" to pray and venerate the Sacred Relics that were present with us in the Day Chapel.
 
A few parishioners and visitors awaiting the start of the
First Saturday Rosary in St. Anthony's Day Chapel.
 
Our Saint of the Month was Bl. Miguel Pro - a Priest-Martyr - whose Memorial is celebrated by the Jesuits and the country of Mexico on November 23rd.  I shared about his courageous ministry in the face of government persecution, his heroic death, and presented a 2nd Class Relic of a wood fragment from his original coffin.  One of the newbies - a young Hispanic woman who was present with her two little daughters - seemed particularly touched by the entire prayer meeting and she informed me that she'd be returning next month.  What a blessing!
 
The Saint of the Month - Bl. Miguel Pro - was represented by his
relic (left), and the Blessed Mother, by her relic (right)
 
After the Rosary ended we all disbursed to attend the vigil Mass in the main church where even more tangible graces awaited.  A friend of mine drew my attention to a sweet, but subtle, fragrance of flowers that seemed to come and go... and which filled our nostrils with a refreshingly cool sensation in the midst of the warm, muggy weather. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed the scent, but because we both experienced it before in various religious settings, we recognized it as a confirmation of Our Lady's presence among us. 
 
The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace will be prayed on December  1st, beginning at 4:25pm with the sharing of the December Saint of the Month and his/her respective relic.  All are welcomed to participate.  
   

Friday, November 2, 2012

Praying for Our Dearly Departed...


It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,
that they may be loosed from sins.”
 
~ 2 Maccabees, 12:46

Today, November 2nd, Holy Mother Church celebrates ALL the blessed souls who have passed on to Eternity.  One of my favorite personal devotions concerns the “Poor (or Holy) Souls”; souls who’ve died in God’s grace but must await their entrance into Heaven because of the spiritual effects of un-atoned sins.  The Poor Souls are purified in the fire of God’s Divine Love and languish in a spiritual state known as “Purgatory”.  As they can no longer help themselves through prayer, penance, and good works, the Church encourages us to assist them by offering prayers and sacrifices on their behalf to lessen their time of purification.

It has been speculated, and even confirmed by many Catholic mystics, that the Poor Souls are very aware of their spiritual benefactors and gratefully intercede for those who assisted with their release from Purgatory.  They can be powerful advocates particularly at the hour of death, as there have been many reports of how these purified souls have appeared to their benefactors in the final moments of life both to comfort them during the death process, and to afterwards escort them into Paradise.  One such example was related in the life of Bl. Ana of the Angels (d. 1686), a Dominican nun from Peru, who had a profound devotion to the Poor Souls... and who in her final illness, was gifted by God with a joyous vision of the thousands of souls awaiting her arrival in Paradise; souls who through her fervent prayers, were released from Purgatory. 

A prayer book with a handprint of a Poor Soul from Purgatory singed
into its pages (preserved in the "Purgatory Museum", Rome).

Furthermore, the lives and stories of many other Saints and Blesseds abound with accounts of their personal encounters with the Poor Souls.  One such Saint - St. Lydwina of Schiedam (d. 1433) - was often conducted by her guardian angel into the depths of Purgatory where she saw suffering souls immersed in fire, who begged her for prayers.  The Saint also witnessed the Blessed Virgin frequently visiting the Poor Souls on special Feast Days, accompanied by many angels, to comfort them and to free those who were ready for Heaven. Other Saints who had similar contact with the Poor Souls, or have visited Purgatory, have included St. Catherine of Genoa (d. 1510), St. Catherine de Ricci (d. 1590), St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938), St. Juan Macias (d. 1645), St. Lutgardis (d. 1246), St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690), St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi (d. 1607), St. Nicholas of Tolentino (d. 1305), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and St. Therese Couderc (d. 1885), just to name a few.

For details on the Church’s ancient teachings on Purgatory, check out the online Catholic Encyclopedia and other resources readily available on the internet. Interestingly, if you google "Purgatory and Judaism", you'll also find that the concept of purification in the afterlife goes way beyond Catholicism... it was even a belief by the original chosen people of God - the Jews - since Biblical times!

How to Best Help the Poor Souls

Listed below are just a few ways that the average layperson can assist in alleviating the sufferings of the Poor Souls:
 
   1.  First, and foremost, attend Masses on their behalf and/or have Masses offered for their relief/release.
 
   2.  Pray for them using traditional Prayers for the Dead (see below), the Holy Rosary, or offer the
        Stations of the Cross... and sprinkle Holy Water frequently with the intent of granting the Poor Souls relief.
 
   3.  Perform charitable works on their behalf (e.g. visit a sick person, give to charity, or perform volunteer
        work).
 
   4.  Offer sacrifices or voluntary penances, big or small, on their behalf (fasting is especially effective).
 
   5.  Last, but certainly not the least, encourage others to pray for them.

Maria Simma, a Modern Mystic & Helper of the Poor Souls

Maria Simma (left photo, d. 2004) was an Austrian lay-mystic who had a God-given mission to aid the Poor Souls through her prayers and self-sacrifice. She had frequent contact with the souls in Purgatory, who came to her unexpectedly, and only through the Lord’s permission (not through occult means, like seances).  Maria was also allowed to visit Purgatory and described it as having three levels; the bottom was close to Hell and filled with fire, while the upper-most level was a place of gloom where souls awaited the end of their purification and their imminent entrance into Heaven.  As disconcerting as her description of Purgatory may seem to some, Maria once made this enlightening comment during an interview:

“No soul would want to come back from Purgatory to the earth. They have knowledge which is infinitely beyond ours. They just could not decide to return to the darkness of the earth. Here we see the difference from the suffering that we know on earth. In Purgatory, even if the pain of the soul is just terrible, there is the certitude of living forever with God. It’s an unshakeable certitude. The joy is greater than the pain. There is nothing on earth which could make them want to live here again, where one is never sure of anything.”

My Mom’s Personal Experience

Before ending this post, please allow me  to share a true story that happened to my mother concerning my father (right photo) who died from cancer in October, 2008.  My mother was missing him terribly after he passed away (they were married for 59 years!) and in early 2009 she called me (from California) to share about an experience she had one morning.  My mom relayed that she awoke to see my father standing near her bed surrounded by a soft glow of light.  She told me that she recognized him, but added that he looked much younger as though he was still in his prime years... and he was smiling lovingly at her.  My mom asked him if he was OK, to which my dad replied:

“Yes... you don't have to worry about me.  Peter (me) sent in the paper and I am doing good.”  [my best English translation from the Filipino Tagalog dialect]

My mom said that my father then held up a small piece of paper that he had in his hand, but she didn’t understand what it meant nor could she see clearly what the writing on it said.  Soon afterwards, he faded from view, leaving my mom with a deep sense of peace and closure in regards to his death.

What made this story all the more remarkable for me was the fact that my dad had told my mother about a certain piece of paper.  The fact is... after my father passed away, I enrolled his name in a Perpetual Mass program with the Daughters of St. Paul in Honolulu, and had filled-out a slip of paper for the nuns to process the enrollment with their motherhouse in Rome; I offered the Masses for the repose of my dad’s soul but I never told my mother about it so that’s how I knew she wasn’t just dreaming about the whole thing.  Needless to say, I too felt a sense of relief and gratitude knowing that the Masses had benefited my dad’s soul... and the Lord had generously allowed him to visit my mother to reassure us that he was enjoying peace in the afterlife.  Thanks be to God!  [For those interested in reading another personal experience involving the Poor Souls, click here.]

Powerful Prayers

After reading this blog, my hope is that viewers will take just a few moments to recite the prayers below for the benefit of our faithful departed.  Pray not only for family members who have passed on... but also kindly offer the prayers for those who have no one to pray for them.  God will surely be pleased.  We may not see the effects of our prayers now... but who knows?  Perhaps when our own time comes, we too, will have a special welcoming party made up of family and new friends waiting for us in Paradise.

+ A Traditional Prayer for the Deceased
Grant unto them, O Lord, eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen.

+ Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great (as revealed to her by Jesus)
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with all the Masses being prayed throughout the world today for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home, and within my family.  Amen.

“If only you knew with what great longing these holy souls yearn for relief
from their suffering.  Ingratitude has never entered Heaven.”
 
~ Words of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque