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


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Holy Relics Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 7/27/2013

We were pleasantly surprised by a great grace tonight.  Someone we had been praying for to attend our monthly prayer meeting finally showed up... unexpectedly... after having been very resistant to the Rosary for almost a year.  She was our host's sister, who also brought her young daughter to pray with us and, as it turned out, they both had a wonderful evening with the group.  They seemed genuinely moved by the heartfelt prayers and also enjoyed the company of the regular monthly participants.  Thanks be to God.

So tonight we venerated the memory and holy relic of St. Maria Goretti (d. 1902), and it was providentially appropriate given there were children present, as well as the recent focus on the World Youth Day events in Brazil.  Our prayer participants were especially impressed by the powerful message of FORGIVENESS exemplified in the young life of St. Maria, including her courageous witness of faith in defending her purity with her life.  I emphasized to the group how this young Martyr should serve as an inspiration and encouragement to all of us in our spiritual journey; how we, too, could aspire to some measure of sanctity if even a child (St. Maria) could somehow manage to become such an iconic Saint.

After the prayers ended we eagerly proceeded to our customary meal that always followed... and being our theme was "Italian" tonight for our potluck dinner, we enjoyed a buffet spread of three types of pasta dishes, along with fresh salad and garlic bread.  There was also a tasty Filipino veggie and coconut milk dish present, which added variety to the meal.  Dre's "Pistachio Delight" dessert and the lively conversation that we laughingly shared afterwards were also a welcomed treat.

Again, it was another powerful prayer meeting highlighted by answered prayers, loving Christian fellowship, and delicious food!  Something that we rightfully gave glory and praise to God for.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: July 2013



Our Lady’s Monthly Message on July 25th:
   "Dear children! With joy in my heart I call all of you to live your faith and to witness it with your heart and by your example in every way. Decide, little children, to be far from sin and temptation and may there be joy and love for holiness in your hearts. I love you, little children, and accompany you with my intercession before the Most High. Thank you for having responded to my call."
 
Our Lady’s Special Message to Mirjana on July 2nd:
   "Dear children, In this restless time, anew I am calling you to set out after my Son - to follow Him. I know of the pain, suffering and difficulties, but in my Son you will find rest; in Him you will find peace and salvation. My children, do not forget that my Son redeemed you by His Cross and enabled you, anew, to be children of God; to be able to, anew, call the Heavenly Father: "Father". To be worthy of the Father, love and forgive, because your Father is love and forgiveness. Pray and fast, because that is the way to your purification, it is the way of coming to know and becoming cognizant of the Heavenly Father. When you become cognizant of the Father, you will comprehend that He is all you need. I, as a mother, desire my children to be in a community of one single people where the Word of God is listened to and carried out.* Therefore, my children, set out after my Son. Be one with Him. Be God's children. Love your shepherds as my Son loved them when He called them to serve you. Thank you."
 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Brown Scapular: A Sign of Consecrated Life


“Just as men take pride in having others wear their livery, so the most Holy Mary
is pleased when her servants wear her scapular as a mark that they have dedicated themselves
to her service, and are members of the Family of the Mother of God.”

~ St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori

Today, July 16th, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a most beautiful and ancient title of the Blessed Virgin Mary... and together with it, we commemorate the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel (or simply the “Brown Scapular”), which ranks among  the most popular sacramentals in the history of our Faith.   Yet, at the same time, it’s also one of the most easily misunderstood one, as well.  My hope is that all people who read this blog will gain a better comprehension of what it means to wear this special garment.  You see... the Brown Scapular is not just meant to be worn, but it really needs to be “lived” - a sign of our active and personal dedication to Jesus Christ, through Mary, his Holy Mother.

What exactly is a “Scapular”?
In order to understand the significance of the Brown Scapular, one must first understand what a scapular is - it’s basically an over-sized apron that was worn in ancient and medieval times by servants and by the working-class people.  It consisted of two large fabric panels that were meant to hang over the shoulder blades (the scapula) to cover the front and back of a person.  It was connected at both shoulders with cords or by straps of additional fabric and people wore them to protect their clothing while they worked in the fields or during other servile work, and to also protect themselves from the elements.

In the context of Catholic Tradition, the scapular is sometimes incorporated into the habits of many Religious Congregations and Monastic Orders, both ancient and new.  Not only does it serve a practical purpose for its wearer, but the scapular is also a visible sign of a consecrated soul’s servitude to the Lord and his/her willingness to actively serve God and neighbor.  Depending on the Congregation/Order, scapulars come in various colors – black, blue, brown, red, etc. - and may even be decorated with symbols (eg. crosses, hearts, monograms, etc.) representing the charism of their respective religious institutions.  Below is an example of a scapular worn by a religious Congregation/Order as a part of its official habit…


A group of nuns dressed in grey habits with blue scapulars.

In past centuries, a few of the older and more established Religious Orders such as the Carmelites, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans created modified “Rules” (similar to bylaws, in secular term) for lay-persons who lived in the world, but wanted to participate and share more directly in the spiritual life of a particular Congregation/Order.  As part of their membership into these lay-orders, they sometimes wore habits that were modified, which could be a full garment (robe) or sometimes a smaller version of the religious group’s scapular.  Hence, the familiar Brown Scapular often seen today is basically a Carmelite religious habit that has been drastically reduced in size for a layperson to wear discreetly and for practical reasons in a secular world.

The origin of the Brown Scapular
As already mentioned, there are many variations of the religious scapular, but the one that is arguably the richest in tradition and Church approbations is the Brown Scapular (right).  Although this post is specifically dedicated to this particular sacramental, I would encourage readers to also research the other devotional scapulars available to us, as many of them have very interesting histories and represent diverse spiritual charisms that may serve to inspire and deepen the faith of a particular person.  Other scapulars that may be of interest include the Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception (affiliated with the Theatine Congregation); the Black Scapular (affiliated with the Servite Order); the White Scapular (affiliated with the Trinitarian Order); and finally the Red or Green Scapulars, which were both the direct results of approved private revelations of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to two different members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

       
The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception, as revealed to Ven. Orsola Benincasa (d. 1618)
... and the Red Scapular of the Passion, as revealed by Jesus to Sr. Apolline Andriveau in 1846.

So going back to the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel… this celebrated sacramental is a fundamental part of the Carmelite Order and its spirituality, which traces its roots back to the Biblical Prophet, Elijah, who lived on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.  The prophet’s male disciples and followers organized themselves into a community of hermits who followed an austere, penitential manner of living as a way of advancing their spiritual union with God.  As centuries passed, and the dominance of the Saracens grew in Palestine, the hermits were eventually forced to leave Mount Carmel and spread outside of the Middle East to Europe where they developed a structured mode of religious life patterned after Western Monasticism.

In the mid-13th Century, intense persecution from several factions within and outside of the Church almost brought about the extinction of the Carmelites had not one of its exceptionally holy members implored God’s help in saving the Order.  The man was St. Simon Stock (d. 1265), who in 1247 was elected Prior General of the Carmelites (devotees of the Brown Scapular have a special place in their heart for this humble instrument of the Blessed Mother).  While in distress over the state of his Order he earnestly prayed to God, and in response, received a vision of Our Lady who carried a large brown scapular in her hands.  St. Simon's encounter with the Blessed Virgin was reportedly on July 16, 1251, and the following promise was communicated to him:

“This shall be the privilege for you and for all Carmelites,
that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

~ Words of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Prior General immediately set about propagating the Brown Scapular among his brethren, and as evidenced up to the present day, his Order flourished.  News of the Scapular Promise reached beyond the Carmelite community to the Laity, who also wanted to share in the promise of Our Lady’s special assistance.  The Carmelites obliged their clients by passing on modified versions of their scapular.  Thus, the Brown Scapular spread outside the Order and the rest is history.

Devotion vs. Superstition
Being especially devoted to the Madonna, I’ve heard my fair share of other Marian devotees, who in their enthusiasm for Our Lady, speak about the Brown Scapular in glowing terms that make it seem almost magical; charm-like pieces of fabric that “save” people from falling into Hell… and it's a big pet peeve for me when I hear it described as such because it takes the sacramental outside the realm of healthy devotion and puts it into the same category as superstition.


I hope that after reading all of the above, it’s clear the Brown Scapular is simply a religious habit.  I often tell people they can liken it to a uniform and what the particular uniform is meant to represent.  A good example would be a Police Officer's uniform, which was purposely designed to convey to its wearer and to the general public - by it’s fit, color, and badge - a visible sign of authority, civil service, law, and order; the vocation of a law enforcement worker (I have cop-friends).

In the same manner, a person who wears the Brown Scapular (or any other religious habit) should also convey by his/her manner of living and conduct the special Marian consecration/charism that the habit signifies.  Thus, the power of the Brown Scapular lies in the grace the flows from living the consecration and NOT the garment, which of itself, can do nothing for the wearer if there is no measure of faith involved.

Why wear the Brown Scapular today?
Although many may view the Scapular Devotion as an outdated remnant from the past. Wearing the Scapular today, I personally feel, is more relevant than ever.  In fact, in her 6th and final apparition at Fatima, Portugal, on October 13, 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to the child-seers in a separate vision as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, bearing both the Christ Child in one arm and in the other she held aloft the Brown Scapular.  Our Holy Mother was, without a doubt, trying to draw the world’s attention to the value of her sacramental.

Especially now in our current times, when there is open hostility towards the Church and Christianity, it wouldn’t be outrageous to say that there’s a moral and spiritual war being waged against the followers of Jesus Christ. The Scapular may now serve as a [military] uniform for all God’s children with the Word of God and the Holy Rosary as our weapons of defense.  I would encourage everyone to wear the Brown Scapular - as a sign of whose side of the battle you're on - and to live the consecration that it entails.  If we do so diligently, we witness to God and profess our willingness to be led by Our Lady to Jesus; consequently, we have our Blessed Mother’s promise to look forward to - we shall be saved.

“Our Lady of Fatima requested that we consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart.
The Scapular will be for all the sign of our consecration.”

~ Pope Pius XII

Sunday, July 7, 2013

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony's Church, 7/6/2013


"Courage under fire..." was the message I tried to pass along at yesterday's First Saturday Rosary for Peace at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua.  Our featured "Saint of the Month" was actually a group of 26 Spanish Martyrs who were members of the Passionist Congregation in Daimiel, Spain.  These men were intimidated, then killed in July 1936, for simply being faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ, all the while showing grace, courage, and forgiveness in the face of  a threatening and hostile mob.
 
As I spoke about their sacrifice, I likened it to our current times during which there is blatant, open hostility towards all things related to our faith in the Lord.  I encouraged the people present to find strength and inspiration in the example of the Passionist Martyrs of Daimiel and to stand up for our Church and for Jesus.  Again, courage under fire. 
 
The rest of the prayer meeting went successfully well... there were actually three new faces in the pews, which is always a blessing to see.  Two of the new participants - young women who had recently come to our parish - later asked about our monthly rosary meeting, and expressed interest in returning next month.  Again, a blessing!
 
Please keep in mind that Our Lady promises signal graces to all who faithfully pray the Rosary so I encourage everyone to consider praying the Rosary daily.  Praying it in a group makes it all the more powerful, it's true!  The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace at St. Anthony of Padua Church will be prayed on Saturday, August 3rd, beginning at 4:30pm.  All are welcomed to participate.
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Saint of the Month: July 2013

 
Saint Clelia Barbieri
A beautiful voice from Heaven ~ Feast: July 13th
 
Here’s another hidden gem of a Saint for your monthly consideration.  St. Clelia Barbieri is one of those unfamiliar Saints who can easily slip through the cracks when it comes to popular devotion, but her life, when compared to other much more well-known Saints like St. Rita, St. Bernadette, or St. Therese the Little Flower, is no less inspiring.  Born of a peasant couple in Le Budrie (Bologna), Italy, on February 13, 1847… her early life was influenced by the everyday difficulties of the humble working class.  Her father died when she was just a small girl, leaving her and a younger sister to assist their mother in domestic work and spinning hemp so they could make ends meet.  Life was hard, but fortunately, deep faith reigned in the Barbieri home and it bought a measure of strength, peace, and consolation to the impoverished family.

Living in the near-vicinity of the parish church, Clelia spent much of her spare time there in personal prayer or actively volunteering with many of the parish activities.  By the time she was 14-years-old, her exceptional conduct, maturity, and knowledge of Church teachings led to her appointment as a catechist, especially charged with training young women in the precepts of the Christian Faith.  Consequently, Clelia was ridiculed by a few who viewed her as overly pious... but more so, was deeply respected and admired by the majority in her small town for her sincere example of virtue and dedication to God.

Now, as one can see from the photos of Clelia, she was indeed a very attractive girl… so it wasn’t surprising that marriage proposals were forthcoming to her mother.  However, Clelia from early on had already discerned a call from Jesus to enter into consecrated life… and she politely declined all the marriage offers she received.  Instead, she opted to continue her services to the parish and focused on other charitable activities such as visiting the sick and assisting the poor for whom she had a special affinity, given the personal hardships she went through while growing up.  Added to these were self-mortifications, which included a “cilicia” - a spiked-belt - that she discretely wore on her body with the discerning approval of her confessor.
 
In time, Clelia gathered a small group of woman about her who shared her spiritual and service-oriented ideals, and together, they became the core members of the Suore Minime dell’ Addolorata (“Little Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows”), a congregation of women that Clelia founded in May, 1868.  Just imagine - Clelia was a foundress of a thriving religious community by the youthful age of 21; the youngest founder in the history of the Catholic Church!
 
As her congregation slowly grew, so did reports of the extraordinary graces granted to the young foundress.  It was mainly through the reliable testimony of her community members that we’ve come to learn of Clelia’s interior spiritual life and her mystical charisms, among which were prophecy; ecstasies and accompanying levitations; apparent visits from our Lord; and other signal favors she received in answer to her prayers.  For example, it was once related how the convent’s pantry had gone bare except for a small amount of olive oil left in a bottle.  When Clelia was informed, she calmly instructed one of the nuns to use the remaining oil to light as fuel for a lamp that was kept before a painting of St. Francis of Paola, the congregation’s Patron Saint.  The sister hesitated, but eventually did as she was told.  Within a few hours, an unexpected knock came from door, which as it turned out was a man who was “inspired” to gift the convent with a large basket of flour, bread, wine, and other basic cooking staples!  When the same sister happily reported the donation to Clelia, the foundress smiled and teased, “Next time learn to obey quickly.

On another occasion, the mother of one of the nuns brought Clelia a basket of apples.  Clelia divided the apples into three separate piles, stating that the nuns could keep two of the piles because they were either picked from the woman’s own tree or gathered after falling on her property, but she declined the third pile with a frank statement that the apples had been acquired dishonestly.  The donor, contrite and undoubtedly embarrassed by Clelia’s uncanny insight, later acknowledged that the apples had been taken from a neighbor's property without permission.  Again, this incident gives us a significant glimpse into the moral character and spiritual gifts of the foundress... and her conscientious desire to always live in goodness and truth.
 
A laminated card in my custody, enclosing a 2nd Class fabric-relic
from clothing worn by St. Clelia Barbieri.
 
Now it couldn’t be expected that a rare heavenly treasure like Clelia would be parted from the Divine Master for a lengthy period of time, and so it was that she experienced her earthly passing on July 13, 1870; she died of tuberculosis at only 23-years-old and was deeply mourned in Le Budrie.  The Suore Minime had only been founded two years prior, but before her final illness struck, Clelia had received a revelation about the future expansion of the fledgling congregation throughout Italy and beyond.  Her daughters now carry on the legacy of their foundress not just in Italy, but also in other countries such as Africa, Brazil, and India.

In addition, Clelia had consoled her spiritual daughters with a promise that she would never abandon the congregation and would always be among them.  Amazingly, the latter words were fulfilled when, a year after her death, Clelia’s voice was mysteriously heard singing and praying with her nuns!  The unique voice-phenomenon reportedly continues up to this day in ALL the houses of the Suore Minime, audibly praying not just with the resident nuns, but also with visitors.  Amazing!
 
Clelia Barbieri was Beatified by the Catholic Church in 1968, and officially recognized as a Saint on April 9, 1989.  May her holy example inspire us to share the love of God with all who are in need of it.

A Reflection:
“Mother, how can I become a saint?”  ~ Words of St. Clelia to her mother
 
A Short Prayer:
Lord, fill us with a desire to become holy in your sight... and reveal to us your plan on how we, too, may become Saints like your servant, Clelia.  Amen.