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, March 30, 2014

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 3/29/2014


An old print of St. Colette
What a hectic day yesterday was! It started early with Mass; followed by a medical appointment; and then two funeral services, one after another; before finally concluding with our monthly Rosary Prayer Meeting at the Gruber home! I was tired... but as exhausting as it was, I can't think of a better way to start and end a day than with the Eucharist and the Holy Rosary.

Our prayer meeting was actually small this month; most of our regular members were occupied with personal matters, too... and the mood of the meeting was somewhat somber since we recently lost one of our members, "Auntie Lita". We missed her presence with us very much (God rest her soul)... but our faith gave us the hope and the joy that she was in the presence of Jesus and Our Lady, and that we'll see her again one day.

So given that we're currently in "Lenten Mode", I picked a Saint to share and venerate who was a Saint of the Passion - St. Colette of Corbie (d. 1447) - a French stigmatic and the reformer of the Poor Clares.  I like to think of her as the "Franciscan version" of St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), who in her lifetime launched a reform of the Carmelite Order.

A bone relic of St. Colette
we venerated
Interestingly, early in her life, St. Colette was a hermit before being commissioned through a vision of St. Francis of Assisi and the Lord to reform the Franciscans; to bring the Order back to the observance of the Franciscan Rule, as it was originally meant to be lived. At first the Saint bluntly refused the mission entrusted to her because she didn't think she was the right person for the job, but she eventually relented after the Lord struck her blind for three days, followed by deafness for another three days.  Talk about effective persuasion tactics!

After sharing the life of St. Colette, I emphasized to our group that each of us are also called by the Lord to do His will and evangelize, but we sometimes resist because, like our Saint of the Month, we feel inadequate.  The life of this illustrious holy woman served to remind us that sometimes God sees something worthwhile in us that we may not recognize ourselves; more often than not, all He needs is a willing heart and that's enough for Him to make use of us to bring a measure of light and goodness into the world.  What a beautiful thought.

Anyhow, after our prayers finished we had our customary dinner. Last night's menu included Popeye's Fried Chicken, Chow Fun Noodles, and Stuffed Eggplant - YUM!  Needless to say, I knocked out soon after I got home and had a very contented sleep.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: March 2014


My dear children...

Monthly Message to the World on March 25th:
   "Dear children! I am calling you anew: begin the battle against sin as in the first days, go to confession and decide for holiness. The love of God will begin to flow through you into the world, peace will begin to rule in your hearts and God's blessing will fill you. I am with you and intercede for all of you before my Son Jesus. Thank you for having responded to my call."
 
Our Lady’s Message during Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo’s Annual Apparition on March 18th:
   "Dear children! As a mother, I desire to be of help to you. With my motherly love, I desire to help you to open your heart and to put my Son in the first place in it. Through your love for my Son and through your prayer, I desire for God’s light to illuminate you and God’s mercy to fill you. In this way, I desire for the darkness, and the shadow of death which wants to encompass and mislead you, to be driven away. I desire for you to feel the joy of the blessing of God’s promise. You, children of man, you are God’s children - you are my children. Therefore, my children, set out on the ways on which my love leads you, teaches you humility and wisdom, and finds the way to the Heavenly Father. Pray with me for those who do not accept me and do not follow me - those who, because of hardness of their hearts, cannot feel the joy of humility, devotion, peace and love – the joy of my Son. Pray that your shepherds, with their blessed hands, may always give you the joy of God’s blessing.  Thank you."
 
Our Lady’s Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 2nd:
   "Dear children, I am coming to you as a mother and I desire that in me, as in a mother, you may find your abode, consolation and rest. Therefore, my children, apostles of my love, pray. Pray with humble devotion, obedience and complete trust in the Heavenly Father. Trust as I have trusted when it was said to me that I will bring the blessing of the promise. May out of your hearts, from your lips, always come forth 'May your will be done!' Therefore, trust and pray so that I can intercede for you before the Lord, for him to give you the Heavenly Blessing and fill you with the Holy Spirit. Then he will be able to help all those who do not know the Lord – you, apostles of my love, will help them to call him 'Father' with complete trust. Pray for your shepherds and place your trust in their blessed hands.  Thank you."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Saints & Holy Relics Presentation/Visitation: Taize Prayer Service at St. Stephen Church, 3/20/2014


"Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing!"
~ Psalm 100:1-2

A drawing I made to illustrate my planned reflections (left); the inside of St. Stephen Church, readied for
Taize Prayer (center); and the beautiful carved, wooden crucifix in the church (right).
 (Click on each photo to view larger images)

Last night, March 20th, I was again invited by the parish of St. Stephen Catholic Church to participate and speak at a Lenten prayer service, which they patterned after the Taize praise/worship format.  I was asked to share a few reflections on the message of the Cross, which I did by simplifying my take on the message to four key words... and by also employing the lives and Holy Relics of four Saints: St. Francis of Assisi (LOVE), St. Catherine of Genoa (MERCY), St. Maria Goretti (FORGIVENESS), and St. Peregrine Laziosi (HEALING).  My aim was to remind the audience that Jesus generously offers us these "gifts" when we come to the Cross with open, humble hearts... but at the same time, as Christians, we're also expected to share them with others, as the Saints effectively exemplified by their holy lives. 

A fellowship dinner with members of St. Stephen Church prior to the service.  Their guests
included people from other parishes and even a few brethren from other denominations. 

I had never experienced a Taize worship service before, but I found it quite refreshing and uplifting; the dimmed lights with dozens of candles created a special ambiance… and the music, especially, was soothing and appropriate. I would speak about each Saint and the corresponding reflection, and the song that followed somehow complemented that particular Saint’s life/message. All came together amazingly, like the pieces of a puzzle, despite the fact that there was practically no planning interaction between me and the parish’s Taize Team when it came to song choices. But that’s the Holy Spirit for you - when you put Him in charge, everything comes together harmoniously at the end.

The Sacred Relics of the True Cross and four Saints that I brought with me to the prayer service;
many parishioners lovingly venerated the relics at the end of our singing and prayers.

And speaking of the Holy Spirit, one could really feel His spiritual presence moving through the church, touching and healing hearts... and you could see its effects, as several people quietly wept during the reflections and when we later venerated a large wooden cross in the sanctuary. In addition, it was personally touching to see many people patiently lined-up to pay their respects to the relics on the display altar. Some placed their hands on the display case, while others touched pieces of cloth to it; others were just content to kneel near the cross and the relic altar and silently pray. I saw lively hope and faith in the peoples' actions and it was inspiring.

All in all, the Saints received the veneration they justly deserved, and based on feedback I received, I believe the majority of the attendees left the church grateful and feeling blessed by the entire experience.  It made the many hours I spent preparing for the event well-worth it.

So a big MAHALO from the bottom of my heart to the parish of St. Stephen Church in Nu’uanu… for allowing me to be a part of their beautiful Spirit-filled Taize service.  And of course, my thanks and praises always go out to Jesus, Our Lady, and the Saints for the abundant heavenly graces that I know we all received last night.  Amen.

"I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."
~ Psalm 13:6

Friday, March 7, 2014

Saints & Holy Relics Presentation/Visitation: Sts. Peter & Paul Church, 3/6/2014


The display altar, upon which the relics of eight Saints/Blesseds
were displayed during my ministry's speaking presentation.

This past Sunday, 3/2, I was contacted by a friend and invited to conduct my Saints & Holy Relics Presentation in the Parish of Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Honolulu. The presentation happened last night - Thursday, 3/6 - as part of the parish's recurring "Thematic Thursday" education program. Because it was the start of the 2014 Lenten Season, it was specifically requested that I feature Saints/Blesseds who were gifted with the Mystical Stigmata, which I agreed to.

So last night, after my day job, I rushed over to the little church of Sts. Peter & Paul (right) to conduct my presentation with the Sacred Relics of eight holy individuals in tow; the relics were representative of Ven. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, Bl. Charles de Foucauld, Bl. Maria Pilar Izquierdo Albero, Bl. Peter To Rot, St. Bernadette SoubirousSt. Gemma Galgani, St. John of God, and St. Padre Pio.  Five were Stigmatics, while the rest were a mix of three consecrated religious and a martyred Tongan layman. Regardless whether they were Stigmatics, or not, all were highly virtuous souls and worthy of being honored as role-models for the Faithful to emulate. 

The audience I spoke to was made up of a mix of young adults and seniors. Based on the valuable feedback I received after from most of the people who attended, it appeared the presentation was well-received by them.  I was especially touched by the enthusiasm shown by an elderly gentleman, named George, who spontaneously gave me a very warm embrace immediately after my talk.  He later asked me where he could buy books about Saints so he could learn more about them and make new friends in Heaven. Just that comment alone was enough to greatly reassure me that I had successfully accomplished what my personal ministry has always aimed to do - which is to promote and encourage a healthy devotion to our spiritual heroes.

    
A closer view of the 1st and 2nd Class Relics present on the altar (left), plus a photo of participants venerating
the relics (right) and helping themselves to devotional materials/relics that I brought to share (center).
(click on each photo to view larger images)

My warmest ALOHA goes out to the parishioners of Sts. Peter & Paul Church for their welcome and I pray for them to be continually blessed through the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 3/1/2014


   
A couple of participants greeting each other after the prayer meeting, while others venerated
Our Lady's statue and the holy relic of St. John of God (right) on the display altar.

Despite the heavy rains earlier in the day, which was the forecast for the entire weekend, the weather surprisingly cleared to a beautiful sunny afternoon... and our First Saturday Rosary ended up being well-attended by our "regulars".

St. John of God
This month, the Saint I chose to speak about before the Rosary Prayer was St. John of God - an ex-soldier/penitent who founded hospitals - who also happens to be this blog's featured Saint of the Month.  In narrating his life, I emphasized to the group gathered the immense power of God's Love and Mercy to transform people into new creations, and encouraged them to carry the thought forward as a reflection for this upcoming Lenten Season.  The audience seemed to enjoy the story of St. John and were amused by the little anecdotes I shared about him.

We then prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for World Peace and to get into Lent-mode, before heading over to the main church for the Saturday evening Vigil Mass.


My parish's next First Saturday Rosary will be prayed on Saturday, April 5th.  In celebration of the Lenten Season, my ministry's True Cross Relic will be displayed in the Day Chapel during the prayer.  All are welcomed to participate.

"If we look forward to receiving God's mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we
have the strength.  For if we share with the poor out of love for God, whatever he has given to us,
we shall receive according to his promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness."

~ St. John of God (d. 1550)

Saint of the Month: March 2014


Saint John of God
The Embodiment of God's Welcome ~ Feast: March 8th

For those who love books or reading, here's a wonderful Saint for you… born to highly devout parents in 1495, in the Portuguese hamlet of Montemor Novo, St. John of God reportedly left his hometown at the age of nine to travel with a wandering missionary preacher.  Nobody really knows why he left home, or why the priest even allowed him to do so, but he eventually ended up in Oropeza, Spain, working as a shepherd on a farm.  At the age of 27, John again abruptly left to join the Spanish army and began a military career that took him up and down Europe, as well as into Africa. While in the company of wayward soldiers, all traces of the faith that was instilled in him by his parents was quickly forgotten and he was reported to have lived a life of excess and all manner of vice.

An old portrait of the Saint
After leaving the army in his late-thirties, John lived temporarily in Gibraltar before finally settling in Granada, Spain, where he opened a little bookstore that provided him with a decent income.  It was during this period of his life that he experienced a spiritual reawakening after hearing a fiery sermon preached by St. John of Avila (d. 1569).  His remorse for past sins was so profound, he distributed his worldly goods to the poor and went about Granada beating his chest while loudly invoking the mercy of God.  John's public displays of repentance became so bizarre his neighbors believed that he had gone insane and they had him committed to a mental asylum until he was released through the intervention of St. John of Avila.  The Saint took the penitent under his wing and wisely guided him in channeling his energy and good intentions into charitable work.

Finding peace and a sense of purpose in his life, John rented a small cottage where he welcomed the poor, the sick, and the dying.  He went about Granada begging for food, clothing and other household supplies that he used in his daily ministry.  A vision of the Christ-Child bestowed on him the name - "John of God" - by which he became popularly known.  Initially ridiculed, his personal ministry eventually earned him the respect of the townspeople and his work spread to nearby cities with the support of his bishop, wealthy patrons, and a team of nursing volunteers. Further adding to his saintly reputation were numerous miracles that John reportedly worked for the benefit of his patients.  One such occurrence involved a burning hospital - while rescuing patients trapped by the fire, the Saint repeatedly walked through the raging flames without suffering any burns to himself or the people that he saved.

Curiously, John's iconography - paintings and statues - sometimes depicts him wearing a crown of thorns.  I wondered about it and after some diligent research, I was surprised to learn that the Saint may have been a Stigmatist, who wore an invisible crown of thorns.  It was related that on one occasion, John was granted a vision in which he saw our Lord and the Blessed Virgin.  Our Lady approached him and placed the crown upon his head, while saying,"John, it is by thorns and sufferings that you must win the crown my Son has waiting for you in Heaven."  The Saint felt the pain penetrating deep into his head but replied most admirably, "From your hand, my Lady, thorns and sufferings are welcome; they are my flowers and my roses."

Toward the end of his life, John became seriously ill with pneumonia after he selflessly jumped into a river to save a drowning child.  While praying on his knees in his humble cell, he quietly died unattended, on March 8th, 1550 (his 55th birthday).  Reports state that his brethren were alerted to his passing by the miraculous tolling of the city's bells and a powerful heavenly fragrance that emanated from John's corpse.  His body was discovered in its upright position and maintained its reverent posture up to the day of his funeral. Although in his lifetime John never intended to found a religious congregation, his principles of welcoming, charitable service inspired the establishment of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God, which claims the Saint as its founder.

The room in which St. John of God died, now a museum and a chapel
housing a few relics of the Saint's personal belongings.

The Church canonized St. John of God in October 1660 and his body is still said to be mysteriously preserved in its shrine in Granada, Spain.  He is considered the Patron Saint of booksellers, caregivers & hospital workers, and the mentally ill.

A Short Reflection:
“Labor without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the time.”
~ Words of St. John of God

A Short Prayer: 
Dear St. John of God, inspire us to spend our remaining time on earth helping others.  Amen.