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


Friday, September 25, 2015

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



Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on September 25th:
   "Dear children!  Also today I am praying to the Holy Spirit to fill your hearts with a strong faith.  Prayer and faith will fill your heart with love and joy and you will be a sign for those who are far from God.  Little children, encourage each other to prayer with the heart, so that prayer may fulfill your life; and each day, you, little children, will be, above all, witnesses of serving God in adoration and of your neighbor in need.  I am with you and intercede for all of you.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on September 2nd:
   "Dear children!  My dear apostles of love, my carriers of truth, again I am calling you and gathering you around me to help me, to help all of my children who thirst for love and truth - who thirst for my Son.  I am a grace from the Heavenly Father, sent to help you to live the word of my Son.  Love one another.  I lived your earthly life.  I know that it is not always easy, but if you will love each other, you will pray with the heart, you will reach spiritual heights and the way to heaven will be opened for you.  I, your mother, am waiting for you there because I am there.  Be faithful to my Son and teach others faithfulness.  I am with you.  I will help you.  I will teach you faith that you may know how to transmit it to others in the right way.  I will teach you truth that you may know how to discern.  I will teach you love that you may come to know what real love is.  My children, my Son will make it so as to speak through your words and your actions.  Thank you."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 9/19/2015


After a break of a few months, our prayer group at the Gruber-Lee Residence finally started up again last month. Our host and prayer leader, Dre, had a baby this past May - a boy; her first one - so the monthly meetings were on hiatus as she adjusted to the demanding schedule of having a newborn.  Now that she's used to the routine and baby is sleeping through the night, the prayer meetings are back on schedule and it feels great to be able to come together with our spiritual family for prayer and fellowship.

Our prayer meeting in the garage of the Gruber-Lee Home.

So this month our meeting was well-attended.  Along with our core-group of regulars, we welcomed new guests - a cousin of mine and her little boy; a friend who returned after attending last month's meeting; and a long-time member, who we hadn't seen in months, also made a comeback with her two children, which was a joy for our core-group... and especially my cousin's son, who had new playmates to keep him company while the adults prayed.

Me and my future god-son,
our host's newborn son.
Tonight we offered the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and our Saint of the Month, who I shared about at the start of the meeting, helped to set the mood for the prayers; she was Bl. Maria Pierina de Micheli (d. 1945), the "Apostle of the Holy Face".  Her life and private revelations from Jesus and the Blessed Mother encourage all of us to look upon the imagery of the wounded face of Christ as a visible sign of God's immeasurable love for all mankind, as well as a need to make reparation for our sin and those of the entire world.  Most of my listeners must have found Bl. Maria Pierina's message inspirational because several asked for Holy Face Medals after. Fortunately, I had a small supply with me in my car.  I refer to them as my "spiritual seeds".  You can read more about the Holy Face devotion here and here.  

The rest of the meeting focused on praying with special emphasis for the conversion of sinners... for the healing and restoration of families... for the safety and protection of Pope Francis... and for all our personal needs.  As usual, the presence of the Holy Spirit was powerfully felt in our midst; easing the burdens in our hearts and filling us with that special peace that only God can give.  Afterwards, the food that we enjoyed during our potluck dinner was delicious - Pork Guisantes, Pancit Noodles, Fried Chicken, and Banana Cream Pie!!!  We all left the Gruber-Lee Home content; nourished in both soul and body.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A really bad dream...


In the early morning hours of Wednesday, 9/16, I had a terrible dream that was accompanied by an even stranger occurrence.  Even now, as I write this post, I can still clearly remember the details of it... and it has me worried because the Pope featured prominently in it.

In my dream, I saw a person's left forearm - definitely a male arm, but with no other physical features (face, torso, etc.) - and in his hand he held a photograph of a Pope.  The photo looked soiled and a little crumpled, as though it had been trampled on or exposed to the elements for a while.  At the same time, the surreal surroundings appeared very dark and gloomy, and the wind was blowing hard; I could tell because there was small debris flying by in the background.  It seemed as though the person holding the photo was in the middle of a brewing storm.

An illustrated representation of what I saw in my dream.
I looked at the photo in the man's hand, and although I recognized that it was a Pope, the picture was so worn it appeared a little blurred, which made it somewhat hard to determine whether it was Pope Francis, or the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, in the photograph.  But the impression I received was that it was the current Pontiff, Pope Francis.

As I continued watching the scene, I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming sense of dread.  So much so that my heart began racing and it escalated to an anxiety attack within the dream.  It was then that I heard a loud crashing noise and immediately awoke; I was still in a state of panic.  Right away I reached for a small crucifix that I kept on a end-table next to my bed and blessed myself several times with it; praying to our Lord to take away my fear... and to protect me from any spiritual harm.  I listened for more noise but everything was quiet and still in my room.  My anxiety eventually subsided and I managed to fall back asleep, but it was just a few hours later, after my alarm clock  went off, that I realized something weird had also happened in my home.

After I woke again and started getting ready for work, I saw that a large painting had fallen off my living room wall, which was probably the crashing sound I had heard in my dream.  I have to admit that I was more than a bit unnerved when I saw the painting laying on the floor because it had been securely fastened to the wall.  It was just too coincidental and strange; as though the blustery wind in my dream had somehow blown through my home!

I pondered this entire experience all throughout yesterday and today, and I am still not 100% certain as to what it all means...  but based on the dark imagery in the dream, I am convinced that it signified something bad.  Now I am wondering if it could be a possible forewarning of something dangerous that may be in store for the Pope (or even the Pope Emeritus) in the near future.  I wouldn't have thought so if not for the painting falling off my wall; the exclamation point (!) to the events of that early morning.

Our dear Holy Father, Pope Francis.  God bless
him and protect him.
... but let me make it clear that I am not trying to make myself out to be some sort of prophet of doom by sharing this story.  The truth is - I have had a few dreams come true in the past, which is why I felt strongly compelled to share about this one because of its serious implications.  I love our Holy Father and my hope is that those who read this blog will be moved to offer a few prayers for his safety and protection, perhaps an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be... and more so now since he'll be coming to the United States in a few days and I'm sure there are many in this country who are not particularly fond of Pope Francis.  Someone who is fanatical and bold enough, may try to harm him, which has me deeply worried... but I hope this experience proves to be nothing more than what it was - just a really bad dream.

Whatever the case, may God, through the intercession of Our Lady and the prayers of the Faithful, surround the Pope with Divine Protection.  Please keep Pope Frances in your daily prayer.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

St. Damien of Molokai's New Shrine in Kailua


The dual shrine-reliquaries in the Lanikai wing of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua, Oahu.  
To the left is the shrine of St. Damien of Molokai, while to the right is the shrine to our Patron, St. Anthony.

I am happy to announce that there is now another special, public shrine to St. Damien of Molokai on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Besides the large reliquary situated within the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, a new shrine to the world-famous Saint of Lepers has been inaugurated and blessed today - September 12th, 2015 - in my home-parish of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua.

Our Fr. Nick blessing the
new St. Damien Shrine.
Earlier this year, a package arrived from Belgium for our parish priest, Fr. Exsequel, from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts.  In the package was a long-awaited relic of Hawaii's own, St. Damien de Veuster (d. 1889) - a 2nd Class Relic of large wood fragments from the original koa wood coffin that once held the mortal remains of the Saint.  It was gifted by the Belgian congregation to our community after one of our parishioners, in collaboration with our priest, sent a letter of request to the congregation.  The request was apparently approved because the relic eventually arrived, much to our pleasant surprise.

So with the installation of this new shrine, our parish is now privileged to guard and venerate within it's church walls two authentic Sacred Relics - one of our Patron Saint, St. Anthony of Padua (1st Class)... and now this 2nd Class Relic of St. Damien.  What a great blessing for us!

My drawing of St. Damien.
As with the reliquary of St. Anthony, I had the honor of preparing St. Damien's shrine for his relic, as well as actively participated in the installation of it during our Saturday evening Vigil Mass.  Within the wooden case is not just the relic, itself, but I also placed a copy of its Certification of Authenticity and an original watercolor rendering of St. Damien that I did just for the shrine (right photo). Silk flowers and leis were included as decoration, and it all came together nicely as a worthy resting place for the Holy Relic.

And how fitting that this weekend would be the one that was chosen for the inauguration of the reliquary.  The Gospel Reading for tonight's Mass from the Book of Mark was a perfect summary of the admirable life of St. Damien, who generously sacrificed himself for the benefit of the exiled leprosy patients on Molokai island in the late 1900s:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

~ Words of Jesus Christ, Mark 8:34-35

If you're ever on the windward side of Oahu, please stop by at St. Anthony of Padua Church for Mass and/or to petition and venerate our two resident Saints... or to light a votive candle in the comforting presence of their hallowed remains.  E Komo Mai ("come right in")...  All are welcomed!

A closer view of the inside of St. Damien of Molokai's Shrine enclosing fragments of wood from the
Saint's original coffin (bottom-center) and a framed copy of the certification of authenticity.

“My greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord in his poor
children rejected by other people.”

~ Words of St. Damien de Veuster

Saturday, September 5, 2015

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 9/5/2015


"God is good... all the time!  And all the time... God is good!"  Those phrases - familiar to many Christians, regardless of denomination - are our Fr. Exsequel's catch phrases; it's how he always begins his homilies.  Each time he offers Mass, I expect to hear it; I enjoy hearing it; I feel encouraged after hearing it... and at today's First Saturday Rosary, the consoling message of God's goodness was our central focus and "lesson", courtesy of the meeting's featured Saint of the Month.

A photo of St. Therese Couderc
Before beginning the Holy Rosary, I shared the life and a relic of St. Therese Couderc (d. 1880) with the parishioners who were present.  St. Therese was a simple French woman who founded the Sisters of the Cenacle to evangelize and educate people by conducting spiritual retreats. This founder also happened to be a mystic-soul who had a profound experience that left an indelible mark on her soul: she once had a vision in which she saw everything that God created - living and inanimate - each stamped with the word "GOODNESS" in letters of gold.  Through this vision, St. Therese saw, in a mysterious way, the innate goodness present in all creation and how everything the Lord makes is a source of tremendous blessing.

So for St. Therese Couderc, the phrase "God is good..." would not just be a simple statement of truth, but she took it up a notch by striving to embody goodness; God, Himself... as well as by endeavoring to recognize that same goodness in everything around her, especially in people in whom goodness was not so apparent (there were many such people in her life).  This was St. Therese's guiding principle to sanctity and we are challenged to do the same.

Our prayer meeting proceeded and ended, in the usual manner - very uplifting - after which most of us took a short walk over to the main church for the Saturday evening Vigil Mass.  And who just happened to be the presiding priest tonight?  Fr. Exsequel, of course.  The Holy Spirit would not have arranged things any other way... and I found myself smiling broadly after Father mounted the pulpit and began proclaiming his usual catch phrases.  Yes, indeed.  "God is good... all the time!  And all the time... God is good!"

   
My Rosa Mystica pilgrim statue flanked by relics of the Blessed Mother's
veil and a bodily-relic of St. Therese Couderc.  A new participants sits in quiet
reflection while waiting for the start of the First Saturday Rosary Prayer.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

St. Rose of Lima - She Really Was Beautiful!


A stylized portrait of St. Rose of Lima,
as depicted on an old holy card.

St. Rose of Lima.  Just saying the name evokes images in my mind of a woman whose beauty was perhaps comparable to that of her namesake - the Rose - which is, without dispute, one of the loveliest of all flowers, if not the most beautiful.  For readers out there who are not familiar with her incredible life, Isabel [Rose] Flores y de Oliva was a laywoman and mystic from Peru; the daughter of a Spanish soldier and a mixed-race native woman.  She was a stigmatic who lived and died in the city of Lima, where she became well-known for her charitable service towards the sick and the poor; her ascetic lifestyle; and the many miracles she performed.  Rose died on August 24, 1617, being only 31-years-old, and was canonized a Saint in April 1671; the first canonized person of the Americas.

I've read several biographies about St. Rose, and besides commonly mentioning the loftiness of her personal sanctity and the quirky things about her voluntary penances (self-flagellation, extreme fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.) there was another thing that was often written about her - she was described as having been an exceptionally beautiful woman.

Of course, back in St. Rose's time, there was no such thing as a camera... and the painting style in old Peru seems to have been somewhat rustic; nice... but not doing true justice to the painted subjects. The fact is St. Rose never sat for an artist during her lifetime; she was adamant about not making any fuss over her looks.  The lone portrait in existence (left), that is reported to preserve her true features, was painted by an artist who was summoned to her deathbed shortly after the Saint passed away. Her eyes did not completely close after she died and the artist captured this on his canvas. Again, it's a nice portrait - decent - but I'm sure the rustic style of it doesn't fully capture the loveliness that was said to grace St. Rose's features.  Now fast-forward to 2015...

Once again, modern science and technology, working with religion, have harmoniously come together to bring us something remarkable!  Using the sacred relic of St. Rose's skull, preserved and venerated in the Basilica of Lima, a team of South American forensic experts were able to reconstruct the probable features of the Saint, which was recently unveiled for the entire world to see... and guess what?  St. Rose was indeed beautiful; stunning, in fact.  So the Saint's biographers had it right all along with no exaggeration on their part.  The computer-generated portrait of St. Rose of Lima is shown below so readers can judge for themselves as to what they think of it.  Whatever the reader's opinion, it's definitely a big improvement to the holy card image seen above and the 1617 portrait.


To view forensic reconstructions of the features of other famous Saints, click here and here.  I personally think, we Catholics, owe the respective scientists who made these facial reconstructions possible, a debt of gratitude for allowing us to see the unique "faces of holiness" of our spiritual heroes, as they truly were - human and totally relatable... but exceptional temples of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God.

The skull of St. Rose of Lima, as venerated in the Basilica of Lima.
It was used by forensic experts to reconstruct the probable features of the
Peruvian Saint who is so loved throughout the world.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - September, 2015: Blessed Maria (Lopez y Rivas) of Jesus


Blessed Maria (Lopez y Rivas) of Jesus
Strength in Meekness ~ Memorial: September 13th

Born in Tartanedo (Guadalajara), Spain, this Blessed first saw the light of day on Aug. 18, 1560. When still a young child, Maria Lopez y Rivas lost both parents and was raised by her paternal grandparents. She was recorded as being highly intelligent and devout, even from her childhood, and was fortunate to have a wise confessor who expertly guided her on her quest for personal holiness.

At age 17, despite frail health, Maria applied with the Discalced Carmelites, via the illustrious founder of the Order - St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582).  Apparently, St. Teresa sensed something uniquely special about the young maiden, since she immediately accepted her for the monastery of Toledo, where she entered as "Sr. Maria of Jesus" in August, 1577.  It wasn't a smooth transition, though.

Seeing the delicate constitution of the new novice, a debate arose within the convent as to whether or not Sr. Maria should remain with them.  The controversy escalated to the point where St. Teresa, herself, had to intervene by writing a letter that read, "Think well about what you are doing, because if you do not admit Sr. Maria of Jesus to profession, I shall have her come to Avila; and the monastery that will have her will be the most fortunate of all. On my part, I would like to have her always with me in my monastery, even if she had to stay in bed all her life."  After being so strongly supported by their very own founder, how could they turn the young novice away?  Sr. Maria of Jesus was professed with the Discalced Carmelites on September 8, 1578, and thus began her long and fruitful spiritual career as a nun.

An artistic rendering of St. Teresa (seated)
conferring with Bl. Maria of Jesus.
St. Teresa's letter proved to be highly prophetic... from age 23, Sr. Maria of Jesus successively held various important posts during her lifetime - Mistress of Novices, Sub-Prioress, and eventually Prioress; offices that she fulfilled admirably despite her poor health and the fact that she was often caught up in deep mystical raptures. She had a profound love for the Blessed Sacrament, and for the crucified image of Our Lord. During one of her sublime ecstasies, Sr. Maria begged Jesus to allow her a taste of His bitter Passion and He saw fit to bestow on her the Sacred Stigmata, along with an invisible crown of thorns, the pain of which she felt for the rest of her life.

Sr. Maria's fame of sanctity spread beyond the convent walls and many came to her for prayers and advice, including St. Teresa of Avila, who continued to remain one of her closest friends and supporter.  In fact, St. Teresa trusted her so much, she asked her to proofread her manuscript for the spiritual classic, "The Interior Castle".  The Saint referred to Sr. Maria of Jesus as her "little scholar"... and she once stated, "Mary of Jesus not only will be a saint, but she is one already."  Such was the high regard St. Teresa of Avila held towards her protege.

Sr. Maria of Jesus, on her part, did not disappoint St. Teresa; she modeled her leadership of the Toledo monastery after the excellent example and lessons she learned from the holy founder.  She, herself, was a capable Prioress and a worthy role-model for her sisters in Carmel.

"If you have to go on living, it is because you have to live for others.
As for taking rest, eternity awaits you."

~ Words of Bl. Maria of Jesus

Despite the admiration she received from many in her 63 years as a nun, Sr. Maria's life was not without trials.  Her virtues were especially tested during a long, dark period in her life when she was slandered by another nun and deposed as the Prioress in the year 1600.  Furthermore, she was treated with suspicion by the other nuns and by the Provincial of the Discalced Carmelites.  It was a painful trial that lasted nearly 20 years, but her unwavering faith and humility, and her emulation of Christ Crucified, gave her the strength and the peace to bear her moral and physical sufferings with a patience that was truly remarkable.  In the end, Sr. Maria of Jesus persevered and was vindicated; holding no resentment towards those who wronged her.

The tomb-shrine of Bl. Maria of Jesus in the chapel of the Discalced Carmelite
Monastery of Toledo, Spain.  The Blessed's incorrupt body is seen within.

Sr. Maria’s life ended peacefully on September 13, 1640; she was 80-years-old.  Her sanctity was further confirmed by a supernatural fragrance of flowers that surrounded her virginal body in death, and which was again detected when her corpse was exhumed and discovered mysteriously incorrupt and flexible years later.  The Church Beatified this valiant holy woman in 1976, raising her up as one of the many shining stars that now brightens the Carmelite Order.  May she be for us an inspirational model of perseverance in our own personal trials.

A Reflection:
In the face of trials and obstacles, let us follow the example of the Saints - have Faith, be Prayerful, and maintain Silence.  All shall be well.

A Short Prayer:
Lord, fill us with Patience and Humility in our moments of trial and darkness.  Like Bl. Maria of Jesus, may we also exercise the Faith and Fortitude necessary to peacefully see our challenges through.  Amen.


"... it is a great crime not to have trust in God.  He is omnipotent!"

~ Words of Bl. Maria of Jesus