NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

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

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