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


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Reflection on Lent...


Please allow me to share a seemingly insignificant event that later turned out to be something very meaningful for me… about two weeks ago, I made a morning stop at a 7-11 store to pick-up my daily cup of coffee. As I was unlocking the door to get back into my car, I casually glanced down and noticed a single flower staring up at me in a patch of gravel. I turned back to my car, and out of nowhere, a sentence suddenly popped into to my head, which caused me to do a quick turnaround. The words of the thought were simple and direct - “God made that flower...” - and they impressed me enough to make me stop and take another look at the little blossom.

The second time around, I paid closer attention to it, and the more I did, the more I appreciated its stunning beauty – its yellow color contrasted brightly against the dark bluish-gray hues of the rocks beneath it and its triple layer of three petals somehow reminded me of the Holy Trinity… so much so that I was moved to offer a short prayer of praise to the Lord for this one humble flower that I was enjoying in a parking lot, of all places!

Afterwards, I reached down to pick the flower off its stem so I could bring it home for my personal altar, but a sense of guilt overcame me when I realized that I would be depriving the next person who came along of the joy and blessing of seeing it, too. So I took out my cell-phone and contented myself with taking a photo instead (above). I didn’t know what the name of the plant was, but in my mind I referred to its lovely bloom as the “Trinity Flower”.***

Later when I viewed the picture at home, I meditated on the entire scenario and a series of thoughts flooded into my mind, which when taken as a whole, made for a really good reflection that’s worth sharing… In essence, I saw the meaning and purpose of Lent in the photo. That this holy season in the Church is truly a special opportunity for all of us to discern the areas in our lives that have become dry, and perhaps, even dead… and to open these areas to the Lord’s mercy and grace so he can make them fertile again. I recalled that when I was looking at the flower in the parking lot, I wondered at how the plant managed to grow in such dismal conditions; that there must be just enough good soil under the rocks (and the cigarette butts) for God to use so it could somehow thrive and produce this spectacular specimen of a flower… but isn’t that how God is with our souls, too?

I further recognized in the rocky patch of ground the imagery of a parched soul, thirsting for revival and healing… while the lovely flower with its petals represented our Triune God: the Heavenly Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How if a soul just gave God a little soil to work with in the midst of its personal barrenness, He can make something good and beautiful grow out of it… something that will not only transform the landscape of the soul, but also bring it immense joy.
 
Lent is that time of the year during which the Universal Church unites as one to experience this powerful healing transformation together. As we spiritually walk the Passion with Jesus during Lent, our sincere reflections, prayers, and penances become fertile ground for God to plant seeds in… He doesn’t need much soil as one can see in the photo, but just enough, unearthed from under all the gravel in our lives. God’s grace does the rest and creates in us something amazingly beautiful and vibrant!  May it be so for all of us during this Lenten Season.


*** NOTE: After conducting a search on the internet, I later learned that the plant is called a "Fortnight Lily", and it's a member of certain Iris-blooming grass-like plants.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hawaii's Visit from Vassula Ryden: February 16, 2012


On Thursday evening, 2/16, I attended a talk given by the alleged mystic, Vassula Ryden, at a Waikiki hotel. I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about attending the presentation due to the fact that I received an email from a concerned friend warning me not to attend and citing Vassula’s purported negative status in the Greek Orthodox Church. I’m sure the email was sent to me with the best intentions in mind, but the fact is… if you research Vassula on the web, you’ll find dozens of articles arguing against her and just about the same number of articles defending her; it’s hard to discern the truth. So I decided to go to the presentation, anyway, because I wanted to hear the message myself - from Vassula’s own lips - and not from people who may not even have met her personally. What follows below is my personal experience of what transpired at the event…

Vassula Ryden sharing
her personal testimony
at the Waikiki Beach
Marriott Hotel
The presentation was scheduled to start at 7:00pm but Vassula actually began her talk at around 7:15pm, after a brief introductory DVD was played for the audience. Her demeanor was candid but not arrogant, and her manner of speaking was simple and often tinged with humor. When she spoke about her interaction with Jesus and the Heavenly Father, there was a tone in her voice that gave you a sense of the tenderness and love that she experienced during the mystical communications… and at times when she spoke of the “Apostasy” and the “Chastisements” coming upon the world, Vassula’s tone changed to one of seriousness and urgency… and even a little hint of frustration; all the while, Vassula displayed sincere passion when speaking, which to me, indicated that she really believes in the experiences that she claims are happening to her; not for one moment did I sense that she was trying to deceive the audience in any way.

As far as the message goes, what Vassula relayed to us was not much different from what I’ve been reading about in the past 25 years from Catholic mystics (e.g. Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, Bl. Elena Aiello, Gabrielle Bossis, etc.) and in messages from several approved and unapproved Marian apparitions (e.g. Akita, Garabandal, Kibeho, and Medjugorje). In fact, I found the concepts in Vassula’s messages strikingly similar, just spoken about in different terms. Below are the main points of what she discussed:

+ Jesus loves us immeasurably and desires to have with each of us a deep, personal relationship.

+ Christians have become “lethargic” (sluggish) in the practice of the Faith causing society as a whole to become “fastidious” (difficult to please) and rebellious towards God. Thus, we are in urgent need of Repentance, Conversion, Prayer, and Reparation.

+ Mankind is living in a limited time-period of God’s Grace and Mercy, which in due time will end and be followed by God’s judgment and a chastisement of fire (again, similar to the messages received from various Marian apparitions around the world).

+ Mankind will soon be “tested” through a significant event by which God will allow each of us to see ourselves through His eyes (similar to the “Warning” prophesied in Garabandal and Medjugorje, and by many Catholic mystics). It will be a terrible experience of self-realization for many people when they see their souls stained by the dirtiness of sin.

A statue of Our Lady
of Fatima that was present
in the ballroom
One other major theme - and arguably the most controversial, which has resulted in many of the criticisms and objections towards Vassula - are her messages calling for “unity” among the Christian churches: the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and even the Protestant churches. Vassula - who professes the Greek Orthodox faith - claims that Jesus wants us all to be “one flock” united under the Pope… and for many people of these various Christian denominations this is a hard pill to swallow, but personally, I think it’s something that is quite accomplishable. Please allow me to explain why I believe it so…

I have a dear friend and co-worker named, Marsha, who I’ve known for about 13 years now. Marsha is a Fundamentalist Christian who is sincerely faithful and very active with her church in Windward Oahu. In the years that I’ve known her, we’ve had many in-depth sharing about our faith-experiences, and although we don’t completely agree on certain doctrinal matters such as the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin, the filial love and friendship that we share has allowed us to respect each other’s religious beliefs without any judgment… and to also recognize the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the ministries that we are involved in within our respective churches. To put it simply, in our relationship the denominational barriers have ceased to exist and I see Jesus working in her… and she recognizes Him doing the same in me. The bottom line is - although we are two people from differing Christian backgrounds, we are truly united by our desire to love and serve God in the manner in which He has called us to do so. So with that said, I really don’t think that Vassula’s call to Christian Unity is farfetched at all, but rather, I tend to agree that it’s a concept that Jesus would really want all Christians to practice towards one another: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Vassula signing a
print of a painting that
a friend purchased for
me at the event
One last detail that I noted from Vassula’s presentation… before and after her talk, she didn’t conduct herself with any fanfare, whatsoever – she quietly walked into the ballroom at around 7:10pm, waited until she was introduced, then went up to the podium to immediately begin her talk. When she was done speaking, she patiently met with people who wanted her to sign their books/pictures and prayed with those who were hoping for some sort of healing. After all was said and done, Vassula walked out of the ballroom as quietly as she walked in and headed to the hotel elevators with just the lady who introduced her; no big entourage followed her. There was nothing in her appearance, or her actions, that indicated a person who wanted to be the center of attention. If I wasn’t paying such close attention to her, I think I would have missed the fact that she was leaving the event. It was all so humble and discreet.

Finally, without in anyway trying to sway anyone’s personal opinion about Vassula, I can honestly say that I left her presentation with a deeper appreciation for my Catholic-Christian Faith… the fact that Vassula expressed a profound respect for the Papacy affirmed my loyalty to the Pope… and the fact that she emphasized the Eucharist and Our Lady as key factors in her messages has made me even more committed to frequently attending Holy Mass and to continue spreading devotion to our Blessed Mother through my personal ministry. I have a renewed heartfelt desire to reach out in love to all people in this world, especially to those who haven’t found God yet... and although it's been a couple of days since the presentation, I still feel that conviction burning in my heart. Two Catholic friends of mine who attended the presentation with me shared the exact same sentiments.

… and remember my non-Catholic/Christian friend, Marsha? Well, she also came along with me to the presentation and was deeply touched by what she heard from Vassula. In her own words, Marsha said that the message “... confirms what I read about in the Word of God (the Bible)”. So if the devil is behind Vassula’s work and messages, as some people claim, then I have to say that his methods that evening somehow backfired - rather than gaining people to his cause, at the very least, he made four life-long enemies in me and my three friends... and for that we give thanks and praises to God Almighty.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony's Church, 2/4/2012



A visitor from Mililani
paying her respects to
Mary & the Relics
St. Anthony's Parish monthly Rosary for Peace was again well-attended yesterday afternoon. New friends who participated with us in January all the way from distant Kapolei, returned this month to pray with us again, and it was a joy to fellowship with them... as well as our own familiar parishioners who we hadn't seen in a while. As the popular saying goes, "The more, the merrier", so I hope that the increased number of people joining us in this special rosary has brought a measure of joy to our Blessed Mother's maternal heart.

This year, prior to praying the Rosary, I've made it a point to regularly share about the life and the relic of a Saint (or Blessed) of the month, and the people appear to be very receptive about it.  So this month, I had the privilege of briefly sharing the lives of the 7 Holy Founders of the Servite Order and 1st Class Relics from their bones. In 1233, these holy men from Florence (Italy) experienced a vision of Mary (see below) that lead them to come together as hermits on a nearby mountain where they eventually became the founders of the Servants of Mary (a.k.a. the "Servite Order"). Their lives are a great example for all Christians on how saying "yes" to Our Lady's invitation to live with devotion and prayer can bring about abundant blessings in one's life.

The 7 Servite Founders receiving their habit
from the hands of the Blessed Virgin (click to view
a larger image)

The next Rosary for Peace will be celebrated next month on March 3rd in St. Anthony's Day Chapel at 4:30pm. Since Lenten observances will be in full swing, rather than displaying the usual relic of the Blessed Mother's Dress during our prayer time, I will be bringing a rare, authenticated relic of the Lord's Passion - a small fragment of stone from the Scourging Pillar - to be a fitting focal point for our meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  All are welcome to pray with us!

Ad Jesum, per Mariam (To Jesus, through Mary)!



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saint of the Month: February 2012

St. Walburga
Dispenser of Heavenly Manna - Feast: February 25th

Walburga was born to a devoted ruling-class family in Devonshire, England, around the year 710. She was educated at Wimborne Monastery in Dorset, and later became a nun in the same monastery. Not much is known about this period of her life, but history reports that in 748, Walburga crossed the ocean to Germany to assist St. Boniface in evangelizing the local populace.

For two years she worked tirelessly in spreading the Gospel message amongst the people, after which she joined her brother, St. Winebald, in the Benedictine double-monastery - housing monks and nuns - that he founded in Heidenheim. At his death, Walburga was appointed Abbess of the monastery by her other brother, St. Willibald, who was a Bishop; she held the office of superior until her own death, which occurred on February 25th, 779. Written records still in existence indicate that Walburga was a capable leader, very well-loved by the other religious for her fervent example of faith and charity.

Also on record are stories of miracles that surrounded Walburga during her lifetime. For example, one account states that while walking through a dark hall on her way to the chapel for evening prayers, a heavenly brilliance was often seen to envelope her, which lit her path in the darkness. The Saint was also said to have frequently cured the sick, and after her death, several religious were privileged to see her soul gloriously rising to Heaven to claim its eternal reward.

Perhaps the most famous miracle associated with Walburga has to do with a mysterious fluid that has seeped from her bones for over 1000 years. The liquid was first noticed in 870 after the Saint’s remains where exhumed during the relocation of the monastery to Eichstatt, Germany. At that time, Walburga’s bones were found coated with a clear oily substance - later referred to as “manna” - which has occasioned countless healings throughout the centuries.

Curiously, the manna does not drip continuously from the Saint’s relics but only between October 12th (the anniversary of the translation of her remains) and February 25th (her Feast Day/Anniversary of her death); otherwise, the bones remain free of moisture during other times - "bone-dry", you might say! :)  The Benedictine nuns of Eichstatt bottle the manna in small glass ampules (left) and freely distribute them to sick pilgrims. The manna is said to be so blessed, at times people have been cured by just holding the ampules. The nuns have archived reports from around the world, testifying to the effectiveness of St. Walburga’s intercession, and the healing power of the enigmatic manna.
 
A Reflection:
God desires our healing - first, and foremost, the healing of spirit then of the body.
 
A Short Prayer:
Dear St. Walburga, pray for us to receive God’s healing power within our souls; to cure us of spiritual illnesses that keep us from growing in His grace.  Amen.