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, December 25, 2013

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


Merry, Blessed Christmas!
 

Our Lady’s Monthly Message on December 25th:
   "Dear children! I am carrying to you the King of Peace that He may give you His peace. You, little children, pray, pray, pray.  The fruit of prayer will be seen on the faces of the people who have decided for God and His Kingdom.  I, with my Son Jesus, bless you all with a blessing of peace.  Thank you for having responded to my call."
 
Our Lady’s Special Message on December 25th (given during Jacov's annual apparition)
   "Little children, today in a special way, Jesus desires to come to dwell in each of your hearts and to share with you your every joy and pain.  Therefore, little children, today in a special way, peer into your hearts and ask yourselves if the peace and joy of the birth of Jesus have truly taken hold of your hearts.  Little children, do not live in darkness, aspire towards the light and towards God’s salvation.  Children, decide for Jesus and give Him your life and your hearts, because only in this way will the Most High be able to work in you and through you."
 
Our Lady’s Special Message to Mirjana on December 2nd:
   "Dear children, with a motherly love and a motherly patience I am looking at your ceaseless wandering and how lost you are.  That is why I am with you. I  desire to help you to first find and come to know yourself, so that, then, you would be able to recognize and to admit everything that does not permit you to get to know the love of the Heavenly Father, honestly and wholeheartedly.  My children, the Father comes to be known through the cross.  Therefore, do not reject the cross.  Strive to comprehend and accept it with my help. When you will be able to accept the cross you will also understand the love of the Heavenly Father; you will walk with my Son and with me; you will differ from those who have not come to know the love of the Heavenly Father, those who listen to Him but do not understand Him, those who do not walk with Him - who have not come to know Him.  I desire for you to come to know the truth of my Son and to be my apostles; that, as children of God, you may rise above the human way of thinking and always, and in everything, seek God's way of thinking, anew.  My children, pray and fast that you may be able to recognize all of this which I am seeking of you. Pray for your shepherds and long to come to know the love of your Heavenly Father, in union with them.  Thank you."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Infant of Prague, our little King

 
"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God
will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob
forever, and His kingdom will have no end."
 
~ Luke 1:32-33, (from the Salutation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary)

 
The miraculous statue of the Holy Infant Jesus, as venerated
in the city of Prague, Czech Republic
 
 
A few days ago, a coworker unexpectedly gifted me with a small porcelain representation of the "Infant Jesus of Prague".  A relative of hers acquired it while on a visit to the actual Czech shrine where the original "miraculous" image is enshrined and venerated.  The figurine I received (left photo) only stands about 5" tall and is dressed in red fabric robes; I am completely charmed by it.  I showed it to a few other Catholic coworkers and was somewhat surprised when they expressed ignorance about the background story of the statue.  I took it for granted they already knew about this particular devotion because it's arguably the most iconic depiction of Christ, as a child, honored throughout the world... and all my life growing up, my Filipino family and relatives had replicas of the Prague statue - we called it the “Santo Nino" ("Holy Child" in English) - prominently displayed in our homes.

Being that Christmas is literally right around the corner, I thought it would be an opportune time to share about the devotion connected to the famous Prague statue, especially with those who may not be familiar with it... 
 
THE HISTORY OF THE INFANT OF PRAGUE DEVOTION
 
The image known as the "Infant Jesus of Prague" is a small wax figure of the Christ Child that was originally molded in Spain in the mid-1500s.  Apparently a royal heirloom, it ended up with a deeply pious Bohemian Princess named, Polyxena von Lobkowicz, who inherited the statue from her Spanish mother.  Princess Polyxena was a patroness of the Carmelite Friary of Prague, and in turn, she was inspired to donate the image to the monks with the following prophetic words:
 
Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession.  Honor this image and you shall never want.”
 
The Carmelites enshrined the image in a small chapel within the Church of Our Lady of Victory and it was affectionately honored with special prayers and devotions.  During a time of civil unrest in 1630, the friars hastily fled to Munich and devotion to the statue waned, then ceased altogether, after the chapel was plundered by Swede Lutherans in 1631.  Sadly, the Protestants desecrated the statue by breaking off its hands before throwing it onto a pile of rubble behind the altar.  There, the image lay forgotten until 1637 when the Carmelites returned to Prague.
 
A closer view of the original statue's face.
 
Providentially, a holy Carmelite priest - the venerable Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God - recovered the damaged statue and lovingly cleaned it, as best he could. He reinstalled the statue in the chapel, and one day, as he was praying for help before it, Fr. Cyril heard a voice emanating from the image:
 
“Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you.  Give me my hands, and I will
give you peace.  The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”

Fr. Cyril promptly obeyed the request and had the statue cleaned and restored... and of course, new hands were crafted to replace the missing ones.  He also restarted the special prayers and devotions to the Infant Jesus of Prague, and soon news of healing and other favors received were being reported in direct connection with the image.  It was evident that the Lord was not only keeping his word with Fr. Cyril, but he was also extending his promise of special grace to others who honored this representation of his childhood.***

*** NOTE:  There are other reported miraculous images of the Christ Child (e.g. the Santo Nino de Atocha, Spain & the Santo Nino of Cebu, Philippines), but as far as I am aware, none of these other images came with a private revelation/message from our Lord that specifically promised his blessings.

In time the Holy Infant of Prague became so highly regarded, it was renowned throughout all Europe, and eventually all over the world.  Today, the statue appears majestically crowned with gold and dressed in seasonal decorative robes, donated by its many devotees from around the globe.  Although it appears larger in photos, the wax figure only stands a little over 18” tall.  Replicas of the Prague image are common in churches and in private homes, where blessings also grace those who honor and celebrate the divine infancy of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
 
  
The magnificent shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague... and what the statue
looks like underneath all its fancy robes and ornaments  

As I stated earlier, growing up it wasn't uncommon to see replicas of the Infant of Prague in our family home (my mother had a statue) and also in the homes of many of my relatives.  I didn't quite appreciate the devotion back then... but now that I understand its history and significance, I have a deep respect for it.  So whenever I reflect on any image of the Baby Jesus it never fails to amaze me how God, in all his immeasurable omnipotence, managed to make himself "small" so as to pour himself into the body of a tiny child.  Just imagine the entire ocean fitting into a tea cup because that's kind of what happened; it's the awesome Mystery of the Incarnation!

And finally, devotion to the Holy Child also serves to remind us of an easily overlooked attribute of God: Humility.  Yes, our Lord is a humble God; he humbled himself when he became man... and I think a big part of honoring his Incarnation and Divine Infancy is to follow suit in the virtue of humility, as well as, to practice a childlike faith and confidence in our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father.  In return, we have the assurance of the Christ Child's promise: "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."
 
So with that said, may the Infant Jesus - our little King - reign in our hearts, teaching us LOVE and HUMILITY... and bringing us PEACE and blessings of PROSPERITY in the coming new year.
 
A PRAYER TO THE INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE (may be recited for 9 consecutive days as a novena):

   O Infant of Prague, who said, “The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you”, give us the strength to bear the burdens of daily life in this sinful world. Give us a firm purpose of amendment and a resolve to lead a better life. Help us endure our afflictions and sorrows with patience and courage.  Finally, O beloved Infant King, if it be Your will, grant my petition... [mention here], but whatever You choose, give me the strength to submit to Your will in all things.  Amen.
 
(Say an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be in honor of the Holy Infant of Prague)


*  *  *  *  *  UPDATE:  1/6/2014  *  *  *  *  *

A friend of this ministry from Canada recently emailed me a link to download a free e-booklet called, "Miracles Still Happen: Devotion to the Infant of Prague in the 21st Century", written by John Cyprich.  The 23-page book includes information and prayers concerning the Holy Infant of Prague, which some may find useful.  Click here to access the website to download the booklet.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

St. Anthony of Padua Church - Rosary for Peace Procession, 12/7/2013


“So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
 
~ Matthew 5:16

Parishioners and guests process around St. Anthony of Padua Church and School, in Kailua,
while holding candles symbolizing the light of our Faith.

Last night was an awesome evening of First Saturday Marian Devotions at my parish of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua, Hawaii.  We celebrated the vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with Mass, a candlelight rosary procession, and a potluck celebration.  Since it was the first time ever that we had planned something like this for our faith community, I was a little apprehensive about how the parishioners would respond to it... but my concerns turned out to be unfounded as the turn-out for the event far exceeded my expectations.  The weather was perfect - Thank you, Lord! - and I estimate over 150 parishioners, plus visitors from other parishes, were on hand to participate in the procession.  Many of them were entire families - parents with their children - which was beautiful and heartwarming to see.
 
The procession began shortly after the vigil Mass ended.  We first sang the hymn, "Gentle Woman", while lighting our candles, then the procession got on its way with the start of the Holy Rosary.  Our route took us around the perimeter of the church and adjoining school campus while we followed a magnificently decorated platform with a statue of the Blessed Mother and the Holy Child.
        
 
Above & Below:  Additional photos as we walked around the church and adjoining school campus.
Note the large balls of light - "orbs" - inadvertently captured in the photos, that mysteriously hovered above the crowd near the statue.  I interpreted them as tangible signs of Our Lady's spiritual presence.
(Click on each photo on this page to view larger images)

 
In keeping with the Advent Theme, we reflected and prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary while also singing "Aves" to Our Lady... but what undoubtedly made our procession even more special was how we incorporated "Living Mystery Stations" along our procession route.  We paused at these stations while our youth and students from St. Anthony of Padua School - dressed in biblical-style costumes - treated all of us to visual representations of each Joyful Mystery that we were contemplating.  Many people were very impressed and inspired by the children's efforts... and a few were even moved to tears.
 
 
 
Above:  Our youngsters, posing in the "Living Stations" of the Joyful Mysteries (from top-row, left to right):
The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, and The Finding of Jesus.
Below:  Participants viewing and reflecting on the 3rd and 5th Joyful Mysteries at the designated stations.
 
 
In the end, our procession again found itself in the front of our church where we contemplated the last Joyful Mystery before finishing with the closing prayers of the Rosary.  We then processed into our gathering hall, while singing "Immaculate Mary", and celebrated the rest of the evening with a tasty potluck dinner and some lively entertainment from our priests and parishioners, including karaoke.
 
  
 
Above:  A few photos from our post-procession celebration, which included food and entertainment.
Below:  Photos with my family, with our Assistant Pastor (Fr. Exsequel), and dear Friends.
 
  
 
All in all, I really feel this month's First Saturday Rosary for Peace was the best yet, thanks to the added component of the procession.  Judging by the many positive feedback I heard from some of the people who participated, including people from other parishes, it appears the event was not only a big success on many levels... but also a true blessing for the participants.  There's already talk of making this an annual tradition for our Kailua Parish... so December 2014 here we come!
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Saint of the Month: December 2013


Blessed Maria Angela Astorch
Mystic of the Breviary ~ Memorial: December 2nd

Born in Barcelona, Spain, on September 1, 1592, Jeronima Maria Agnes Astorch's early years were marked with both tragedy and remarkable heavenly favors.  She was orphaned at age 6, then at 7-years-old experienced an adverse reaction to eating raw almonds that actually killed her.  During her wake, her grieving family summoned a renowned mystic - Madre Angela Serafina Prat, the foundress of the city's Franciscan Capuchin monastery - who fervently prayed over her lifeless body and effected a resurrection!  This defining moment in Jeronima Maria’s life cemented her desire to become a Capuchin nun herself, and at the age of 11, she obtained permission to board among them in their monastery.  She lived with the sisters for six years before they finally admitted her to the novitiate in September 1608; a year later in 1609, she professed her vows.  As a newly consecrated religious, she chose the name "Sr. Maria Angela", more than likely after the nun who miraculously saved her life.

Bl. Maria Angela Astorch,
a handmaid of the Eucharist
By all accounts, Sr. Maria Angela was reported to be exceedingly pious and possessing a penitential spirit. She was deeply devoted to the Passion of Christ and had a profound love for the Blessed Sacrament. In 1614, she along with five other nuns, were chosen to start a new Capuchin monastery in Saragossa where she served as the community’s Novice Mistress before eventually becoming the Abbess in 1627; Sr. Maria Angela proved to be a hands-on superior who led her nuns by example so it wasn't uncommon to see her joyfully working among her charges in the kitchen, laundry, or in the infirmary. Despite a busy schedule of prayer and manual labor, she also lived a hidden life of extraordinary union with God since she received the sublime grace of the Mystical Marriage in 1626.

In 1645, Sr. Maria Angela founded another Capuchin monastery in Murcia where she also served as the Abbess until her 70th year.  During this period of her life she studied Scriptures; wrote extensively; practiced contemplative prayer to a high degree; and experienced many other extraordinary charisms (visions, visits from her Guardian Angel, etc.) that she obediently recorded in a journal, per orders from her confessor.  Her reputation for learning was so widespread in Spain, a church commission was formed to study the orthodoxy of her writings.  Needless to say, she passed the inquisition with flying colors and one official even said of her, "Too bad she is a woman and cannot be ordained.  What a preacher she would have made!"

This mystic's final years were spent in continued writing and counseling the many souls who came to her for guidance.  She founded a confraternity of prayer in Murcia for the spiritual benefit of its members, as well as the entire city.  Her incredible life of virtue and voluntary penances ended on December 2nd, 1665; she was 73-years-old.  It was only after her death that a deep, mysterious wound in her chest - the Stigmata of the heart - was discovered by the sisters who were preparing her body for burial.

The incorrupt body of Bl. Maria Angela, as venerated in Murcia, Spain.

Bl. Maria Angela Astorch was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23rd, 1982; the Pontiff referred to her as the "Mystic of the Breviary".  This Blessed's incorrupt remains are reverently enshrined in a simple glass-sided coffin in the Capuchin monastery where she died.  Let us pray for her speedy Canonization.

A Reflection:
“Sola con il solo (Alone with Him [God] alone).” ~ Bl. Maria Angela's Motto

A Short Prayer:
Lord, in the deep silence of our hearts, allow us to continually contemplate You even amidst the noise of this world.  Amen.