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 29, 2015

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 3/28/2015


Our participants at the March meeting of Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group.

I believe family is important... and last night a girl-cousin of mine joined us in prayer for the the first time, along with her fiance' and a mother with her young son.  It was personally significant for me because I pray frequently for the spiritual conversion of my entire family... so having a close relative of mine suddenly want to reconnect with God and, pray the Holy Rosary with me in intercession for the rest of our "ohana" (Hawaiian for "family"), is powerful.  We have a large, loving and decent family... but like every other families out there, we have relatives who are still far from the light of God.  Rather than criticizing them, we can only love them; pray for them; and do our best to lead them back to the Faith by being an example.

So tonight the prayer meeting was different for me, but in a good way.  Not just due to our four guests, but I could sense the "presence" of the Holy Spirit in a tangible way, even before our prayers began.  It was a little overwhelming... but I knew in my heart He was with us to bring special healing and consolation to our new Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.

Bl. Margaret of Castello, pray for us.
Our Saint of the Month for this meeting was Bl. Margaret of Castello (d. 1320), the wonder-working Dominican Tertiary who suffered from a list of physical deformities: blindness, dwarfism, lameness, and a hunched-back.  I shared a 1st Class Relic (left photo) and a short bio of the Blessed with the group, and all were deeply impressed by her story.  Among the numerous lessons we gained through Bl. Margaret was the reminder that all life is precious to God even the most marginalized people; those who general society considers unimportant or "throwaways" - unwanted unborn babies, the homeless, the handicapped and mentally ill, etc. - through God's grace, are very capable of contributing goodness to the world.  Bl. Margaret is a perfect example of this.

The prayers progressed smoothly after our introductions and preliminaries, and the Pizza Party that followed was delicious and awesome.  Who doesn't enjoy pizza with lots of cheese and pepperoni?

When it was time to leave, the Holy Spirit had done His work... all were lightened, especially our newcomers.  The look on their faces said it all - there was a "glow" and a peace in their expressions that wasn't there when they first arrived.  Faith-seeds were planted and hopefully we'll see them back.  All thanks and praises be to God!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: March 2015


Our Lady, Queen of Peace,
pray for us...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on March 25th:
   "Dear children!  Also today the Most High permits me to be with you and to lead you on the way of conversion.  Many hearts have shut themselves to grace and have become deaf to my call.  You, little children, pray and fight against temptation and all the evil plans which the devil offers you through modernism.  Be strong in prayer and with the cross in your hands pray that evil may not use you and may not conquer in you.  I am with you and pray for you.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo during her Annual Apparition on March 18th:
  "Dear children!  With a full heart I am asking you, I am imploring you children: cleanse your hearts of sin and lift them up to God and to eternal life.  I am imploring you: be vigilant and open for truth.  Do not permit for all that is of this earth to distance you from the true cognition of the contentment in the communion with my Son.  I am leading you on the way of true wisdom, because only with true wisdom can you come to know true peace and the true good.  Do not waste time asking for signs of the Heavenly Father, because He has already given you the greatest sign, which is my Son.  Therefore, my children, pray so that the Holy Spirit can lead you into truth, can help you to come to know it, and through that knowledge of the truth that you may be one with the Heavenly Father and with my Son.  That is the cognition which gives happiness on earth and opens the door of eternal life and infinite love.  Thank you."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 2nd:
  "Dear children!  You are my strength.  You, my apostles, who with your love, humility and silence of prayer are making it possible for one to come to know my Son.  You live in me.  You carry me in your heart.  You know that you have a mother who loves you and who has come to bring love.  I am looking at you in the Heavenly Father – your thoughts, your pains, your sufferings – and I offer them to my Son.  Do not be afraid and do not lose hope, because my Son listens to his mother.  Since He was born He loves and I desire for all of my children to come to know that love.  I desire that all those who left Him because of their pain and misunderstanding may return to Him and that all those who have never known Him may come to know Him.  That is why you are here, my apostles, and I as a mother am with you.  Pray for the firmness of faith, because love and mercy come from firm faith.  Through love and mercy you will help all those who are not aware that they are choosing darkness instead of light.  Pray for your shepherds because they are the strength of the Church which my Son left to you.  Through my Son, they are the shepherds of souls.  Thank you."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Those Mysterious Blood-Relics...


"Because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement
with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul."

~ Leviticus 17:11

In the past few days, there has been quite a bit of news coverage involving the enigmatic blood-relics of St. Januarius, or "San Gennaro" [left photo], as he is called in Italy, where his relics are enshrined in Naples.  The relics are big news throughout that country because the blood of the Saint is known for a recurring miracle that occurs three times a year on September 19th (the Saint's Feast); December 16th (anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 1631); and the first Sunday in May, which celebrates the translation of the relics into Naples where they reside in the Cathedral.  On these days, in the presence of a large anticipating crowd, the normally dark, crusted blood mysteriously "melts" and becomes fluid.  If the miracle does not occur, terrible events are said to be forthcoming so the general population bursts into exuberant rejoicing when the blood turns to liquid.

This past Saturday, 3/21/2015, the blood-relics of St. Januarius again made international headlines because the miracle recurred outside of the normally scheduled dates, which is rare; they liquefied in the presence of Pope Francis during his recent visit to the Neapolitan Cathedral.  It was a historic and highly significant event given that the last time the blood liquefied in the presence of a Pontiff was in 1848 with Pope Pius IX; it did not even liquefy in the presence of the late Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1990, and when Pope Benedict XVI was there in 2007.  The photo and the news article shown below were taken from the Catholic Herald website out in the UK, and they detail the Pope's encounter with the Sacred Relics of St. Januarius:


The reliquary holding the Saint's skull.
For those who are not familiar with the life of St. Januarius and/or his relics, according to Sacred Tradition he was a Bishop of Benevento, Naples, who was martyred during the great Christian persecution instigated by the Roman Emperor, Diocletian.  After he was apprehended and beheaded in the town of Pozzuoli, circa 305, a small amount of his blood was collected in two small glass vials by a pious woman named, Eusebia**.  The bodily remains of the Martyr (the skull and bones), along with the small ampules of his blood, eventually made their way back to Naples in 1497, where they've been enshrined ever since.  The miracle of the liquefying blood, however, actually dated back to 1389 when it was first documented... and it apparently continues up to the present time.  Science has yet to find an adequate explanation for the mystery.

** NOTE:  The practice of collecting the blood of Martyrs was a pious custom in the early Church. Being a persecuted minority, the Christians of that time found courage and inspiration in the lives and heroic sacrifices of Martyrs, and they treasured their holy remains as precious relics; often meeting at the tombs of Martyrs to pray for help and to celebrate the Mass.

Although the miraculous properties of the blood-relics of St. Januarius are the most well-known and scientifically studied, they are not unique in the annals of the Church.  There are actually at least 5 other blood-relics that reportedly liquefy in coincidence with special Feast Days.  One of the intents of this particular blog is to share about these other little-known blood miracles, which are none-the-less, just as remarkable:

The Blood of St. John the Baptist


Yes, according to Sacred Tradition, there is a small amount of blood-relic from this significant New Testament figure that is still in existence.  The Church of San Gregorio Armeno, also in Naples, reportedly possesses a small vial of blood from St. John the Baptist, that liquefies on certain occasions, particularly on June 24th (St. John's Feast) or August 29th (Feast of the Beheading of St. John) when the relic is exposed for public veneration.

The Blood of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr (d. 258)

     
The miraculous blood-relic of St. Lawrence of Rome, Martyr of the Faith

In the Abbey of St. Mary, in the Italian city of Amaseno, there is a phial of blood that is reported to be from this famous Martyr who was murdered by being slowly grilled to death in Rome.  The blood was said to have been saved by a sympathetic soldier who collected it during the Saint's torture.  Since the year 1600, the blood of St. Lawrence reportedly liquefies between August 9th and 10th, with the latter date being the commemoration of the martyrdom of the Saint.

The Blood of St. Pantaleone, Martyr (d. circa 305)

     
An icon of St. Pantaleone and the reliquary containing his liquefied blood.

This heroic Martyr of the early Church was killed the same year as St. Januarius; also a victim of the persecution launched by Diocletian.  Pantaleone was the son of a pagan and a Christian mother from Nicomedia (now in present day Turkey), and was a successful doctor by trade.  He fell away from Christ for a while, but was converted through the help of a devout Christian friend, and practiced his faith with renewed fervor.  He was apprehended and tortured for his beliefs before being beheaded. 

St. Pantaleone's blood was secretly collected in a small flask by the Christians who witnessed his death, and they eventually made their way to Ravella, Italy, in the early 12th Century where they were venerated and exhibited the liquefaction phenomenon.  The wonder continues today with the miracle occurring each year on, or around, the Saint's Feast on July 27th.

The Blood of St. Patrizia, Virgin (d. 655)

     
A nun holding the reliquary of the fluid blood of St. Patrizia for
pilgrims to venerate and a traditional depiction of the Saint.

Unlike the men described in the post, this particular Saint was not a Martyr of the early Church.  Rather, she was a woman of royal blood - a descendant of the Roman Emperor, Constantine, and his mother, St. Helena - who fled from Constantinople to Rome where she professed consecrated virginity directly to the Pope in order to avoid an arranged marriage imposed by her father.  When she returned to her country after her father's death, Patrizia renounced her royal titles and gave her belongings away to the poor.  On her way back to Italy, a storm shipwrecked her in Naples where she lived out the rest of her life in the practice of virtue and became highly revered by the local populace.  She died at age 21.

About a century after her death, an over-zealous devotee - a knight who received a favor from the Saint - obtained permission to spend the night in St. Patrizia's shrine where he wrenched a tooth from her skull to preserve it as a relic.  The sacrilegious act caused abundant blood to mysteriously flow from the empty socket left by the stolen tooth, which was then gathered into two glass ampules on the following morning by church officials.  It is this blood that reportedly liquefies every Tuesday, as well as on the Saint's Feast Day: August 25th.  

Today the miraculous blood-relics are enshrined in the Neapolitan Church of San Gregorio Armeno, where the blood of St. John the Baptist are also guarded.  St. Patrizia is the co-patron of Naples, along with the illustrious St. Januarius.

The Blood of the Servant of God, Madre Passitea Crogi (d. 1615)

A portrait of Madre Passitea Crogi, that is said
to be a true likeness of her features.

This mystic soul was celebrated in her lifetime throughout Italy for her sanctity and mystical gifts, which included the Sacred Stigmata.  She was inspired to found several foundations of Poor Clare convents throughout Italy before dying in Siena.  During her ecstatic-sufferings of the Passion of Christ, blood flowed freely from her stigmatic wounds, which her spiritual daughters collected into small vials.  It has been reported in several of her convents that some of Madre Passitea's blood has liquefied throughout the centuries.

Conclusion

For certain I know some who read this post will wonder why this particular phenomena happens at all.  The truth is... I don't have an answer for that question.  I don't think anybody does.  What I do know for certain is that blood has always been significant in many cultures, as being deeply connected to LIFE... and in the Christian Tradition it also denotes EXPIATION and SACRIFICE, which were common threads in the lives of the individuals featured above; their self-sacrifice of blood - their very lives - united them vicariously to Christ's Passion... and to the eventual glory of His Resurrection.

Perhaps the sign of the blood transforming from dry, dead matter into vibrant living blood is meant to remind us of two things:  A) We don't die once this earthly life is over; eternal life with God is a very real possibility... and the inhabitants in Heaven are still very much alive although their bodies died, and... B) These holy people - along with all the other Saints - continue to pray and intercede for every one of us before the throne of God... for our personal needs, but more importantly, for the grace to one day join them.  This premise may not be 100% correct, but it's my personal take on it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 7th & 8th; A Weekend Filled with the Inspiration of the Saints


For the most part, it was a gloomy weekend; a little overcast and unusually chilly for Hawaii weather standards at this time of the year. But despite the adverse weather conditions, it was a very busy weekend for my little ministry. St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Kailua had its monthly First Saturday Rosary for Peace yesterday and I also conducted another Saints and Holy Relics Presentation this afternoon. I'd like to think that, at least for us who participated in these events, the lives of our Saints and Blesseds brought us a measure of warmth and the light of heavenly inspiration in the cold and cloudiness.

MARCH 7th:  First Saturday Rosary for Peace at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua

This month's First Saturday Rosary for Peace definitely had that Lenten "vibe" going on; the mood in the Day Chapel before we started our prayer was somewhat somber with the cold, darkened weather and my black-draped Rosa Mystica statue adding to the experience of it all. The statue looked imposing from its display, near the altar, and even its face appeared unusually serious and sad; a change from its normal amicable expression.

   
My Rosa Mystica statue, veiled in black, was again the visual focal point of the meeting.
After the Rosary Prayer, several participants venerated the relics on the altar.

The mood lifted a bit when I shared about the life of St. Catherine of Bologna, our Saint of the Month. This Saint's goodness and practicality inspired admiration from the prayer participants... and amusement and awe when I spoke of a few of the numerous miracles that occurred through her intercession. I hoped my narrative of her incredible life encouraged the people to not hold back when it came to their personal spirituality, and to strive to live the same level of faith that leads to miracles. After all, we shouldn't forget that God is still working wonders even in our times.  You can read about St. Catherine of Bologna here.

But when the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary were prayed, things again became intense, at least for me. Our monthly parish rosary is always offered for World Peace and I couldn't help but think of recent events in the war-torn Middle East. My heart went out especially to the innocent people - Christians and Non-Christians - who are being brutally victimized and killed in the terror campaigns waged in that part of the world, especially in Iraq and Syria... and I wept. I felt wounded for the people and sad for our Lord, who is being re-crucified through the unjust persecution of His innocent children. It all just goes to show that now, more than ever, the world urgently needs prayers for PEACE, which is why I am happy and grateful we continue to gather for this special parish devotion, rain or shine.

So with that shared, the next First Saturday Rosary for Peace will be prayed on April 4th - Holy Saturday - beginning at 4:25pm.  All are welcomed to participate in our worthy Cause for Peace.

March 8th:  Holy Relics Visitation & Presentation

This afternoon I was re-invited to the Finan Residence in Hawaii Kai to conduct a second presentation. This time around, the BCC Cell Group that gathers weekly at the home requested a Saints and Holy Relics Presentation, which I gladly did for them.

My hosts - the Hawaii Kai BCC Cell Group in the Finan Residence.

The Saints and Blessed who I chose to speak about, and whose holy remains were present, represented a diverse blend of vocations and spirituality. They included St. Bernadette Soubirous; St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred HeartPope St. John Paul IILouis & Zelie Martin and their daughter, St. Therese of Lisieux;  Bl. Marguerite Bays; Bl. Mariam Baouardy; and St. Padre Pio. Only after I had planned the line-up did I realize that I had inadvertently included three Stigmatics in this presentation, which however, made for a good Lenten reflection on the Passion of Our Lord... and Jesus' call from Luke 9:23: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

After the presentation: participants venerating the relics I brought to the Finan Home and
reading more about the Saints & Blesseds I shared about, via my Bio-Notes Booklets.

As with the prior presentation, the feedback was positive and encouraging... but it was the beautiful, personal faith-experience stories that were shared with me by some of the group members that I will not forget. There was even an impressive first-time manifestation of escarchas that occurred in the Finan home on the evening of February 22nd, long after I finished my Rosa Mystica Presentation for the group and left. Significantly, the multi-colored flakes appeared in the vicinity of a large framed print of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was hanging nearby (see a video of the escarchas here). I have no doubt the sign of escarchas was the Blessed Mother's way of expressing her maternal presence with this special group of people.  God continue to bless them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - March 2015: St. Nicholas of Flue

Saint Nicholas of Flue
A Herald of God's Peace ~ Feast: March 21st

St. Nicholas was born on March 21, 1417, to pious peasants from the mountain hamlet of Flue in Sachseln, Switzerland. He was a farmer and soldier in his youth, before marrying a local girl named Dorothea at age 25. Together, the couple had five sons and five daughters, and was respected in their community for their exemplary Christian conduct.  Nicholas, more so, was so highly esteemed, he was elected a local judge - an office he fulfilled worthily for many years. 

Despite his successes in life, Nicholas was not completely happy.  In his heart he felt a call from the Lord which became stronger as years went by.  Finally in 1467, he confided to his wife and children that he felt called by the Lord to live a solitary life in the wilderness - a divine call he could no longer resist.  Dorothea was naturally devastated, at first, but her deep faith in God gave her the courage to let her husband go.  So with their reluctant approval, Nicholas left his family behind and set up a makeshift hermitage in a nearby valley.

A view of the inside of St. Nicholas' austere hermitage
in Flue, Switzerland.
For the next 20 years Nicholas lived alone communing with God and nature.  His neighbors initially thought him insane but eventually understood that Nicholas was indeed living a unique mission from God… especially when it came to light that he had started to live without need of earthly food and water but survived miraculously on Holy Communion alone!  Official confirmation of the hermit’s perpetual fast came after a month-long investigation conducted by local authorities during which he was closely observed and his activities scrutinized.  In the end, the investigators came away convinced of a miracle and impressed by the holy man’s virtues.
     
"Brother Klaus", as he was affectionately called, became the spiritual focal point for Switzerland.  Volunteers built a chapel, attached to his little shack, and crowds flocked to the site to request prayers and advice from him.  The hermit preached Faith, Prayer, Peace and Brotherly Love to all who visited him… and in 1481 his inspired counsel averted a major civil war in the country after he was consulted by rival political factions.

Brother Klaus died of natural causes in 1487, revered by both Catholic and Swiss Protestants, alike.  His reputation for exceptional holiness was confirmed by the Church during his Beatification in 1649 and his subsequent Canonization in 1947.  Today, devotion to Brother Klaus continues to thrive in his home country.  Not surprisingly, he was named the Patron Saint of Switzerland and also of separated couples.

A Reflection:
“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all of his possessions cannot be my disciple.”  ~ Words of Our Lord, Luke 14:33

A Short Prayer:
Dear St. Nicholas, help us to detach ourselves from vain and material desires.  Rather, like you, help us to fulfill the Will of God in our lives and to desire only that which pleases Him.  Amen.