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


Thursday, November 26, 2015

On the value of Spiritual Communions...


Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Today is an appropriate day to share this latest blog - it's about making a Spiritual [Holy] Communion.  The thought of writing a little about this topic had actually been rolling around in my head for a few months now... and since "Eucharist", the word we also use for Holy Communion, means "Thanksgiving" in Greek, I thought why not do it today... on Thanksgiving Day?  So I said a short prayer and started typing away on my laptop...

"Embraced" by Jesus Through Spiritual Communion

So what exactly is a "Spiritual Communion"?  In short, it's a prayerful and conscious act of inviting the divine presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Sanctifying Grace into our souls when we are not able to receive Him, sacramentally, in the Consecrated Host (the Eucharist). The great St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) described a Spiritual Communion as, "...an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embrace Him."; the illustrious St. John Marie Vianney (d. 1859) once said, "... [Spiritual] Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again." ... and the wonderful thing about a Spiritual Communion is that we can make it any time during the day and, as many times during the day, as we feel inspired to do so.  This pious exercise is particularly powerful, though, during Eucharistic Adoration.


For me, I make Spiritual Communions whenever I need a spiritual and moral "boost": whenever I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work (I pray it right at my desk); whenever my spiritual "reservoir" is running low or feeling dry; or whenever I pop into any Catholic Church to make a visit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  I make it shortly before I leave the church so that I leave with presence of the Lord within me.  It never fails to bring me a measure of peace and refreshment; even a sense of empowerment, at times.

St. Catherine's Vision

St. Catherine of Siena,
a mystic & 
stigmatic
I was first introduced to this pious practice many years ago after reading about a personal experience St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) had with Jesus. The Saint reportedly made frequent Spiritual Communions and once experienced doubts as to whether they were of any value to her soul in comparison to her Eucharistic Communions.  Our Lord immediately appeared to her holding a beautiful chalice in each of his hands - one was made of gold, the other of silver.  Jesus went on to explain to St. Catherine that he saved all her Sacramental Communions in the gold chalice, while the silver chalice held the Spiritual Communions that she had made; BOTH chalices, Christ reassured her, were pleasing to him.

The anecdote above impressed me so much that I never forgot it all these years; hence, Spiritual Communions are now a regular part of my own spiritual regimen, thanks to St. Catherine of Siena.

Other Saintly Souls on Spiritual Communion

Besides, the testimonies included above from St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Vianney, and St. Catherine of Siena, there were other holy individuals who esteemed the value of Spiritual Communions... or received private revelations from our Lord about the efficacy of the practice.  Among them were the following:

+  St. Teresa of Jesus [of Avila] (d. 1582) once wrote:
   "When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you."

+  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690) once heard Jesus say to her from the Tabernacle:
   "I love so much a soul's desire to receive Me, that I hasten to it each time it summons Me by its yearnings."

+  St. Leonard of Port Maurice (d. 1751) once remarked:
   "If you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed."

+  Sr. Benigna Consolota (d. 1916), a mystic-nun, once heard Jesus say to her:
   "Make as many Spiritual Communions as possible, to supply for the many Sacramental Communions which are not made. One every quarter of an hour is not enough. Make them shorter, but more numerous."

+  St. Josemaria Escriva (d. 1975) once advised:
   "What a source of grace there is in spiritual Communion! Practise it frequently and you'll have more presence of God and closer union with him in your life."

Other Saints who exercised the practice of Spiritual Communion and/or promoted it were St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), St. Padre Pio (d. 1968), and St. Pope John Paul II (d. 2005).  All good company.

Spiritual Communion Prayer

Now that we've [hopefully] established the immeasurable value of a Spiritual Communion, how do we make one?  There are many formal prayers available on the internet (just google "Spiritual Communion Prayer")... but, personally, I firmly believe the best prayers are the ones that come straight from the heart so why not simply invite the Lord to enter within your soul by saying it in your very own, heartfelt words.

My own Spiritual Communion Prayer goes something like this whenever I make one:

  "My Jesus, I believe you are truly present in the Eucharist.  As I cannot receive you, at this time, in your Eucharistic form, come to me in Spiritual Communion.  Fill me with your grace; cleanse me of my sin; bring me healing in soul and body; transform me into yourself.  I love you, Jesus, and I thank you.  Amen."

... and may I add that the Church has attached a Partial Indulgence of 300 days (remittance of temporal punishment due to sin) with every act of Spiritual Communion?  More spiritual value for our souls.... so why not get your hug from Jesus today?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 11/21/2015


"...Do not waste time thinking about whether you are worthy to be my apostles..."

~ from Our Lady's Medjugorje Message, February 2, 2015


Bone Relics from St. Theophane
The line above, from the Medjugorje Message we read at the start of tonight's prayer meeting, for some reason, really struck a chord with our group members.  I think we are all, sometimes, our very own worst enemies when it comes to our personal relationships with Christ; often believing that we our unworthy of doing something good for God because of our personal faults and weaknesses; wanting to leave God's work to living "saints", who we deem to be the only ones fit to labor in the Lord's vineyard.  So yes, it's true we are far from being perfect (ALL people are!)... but our hesitation and doubt more often, than not, just renders our spiritual lives stagnant and fruitless... and as Our Lady stated in her message to us, it leads to a sad waste of the time and talents we have in this life.

Further complementing the Medjugorje Message was the life of the Saint we venerated this month - St. John Theophane Venard, a true modern apostle of the Church. This priest-martyr dedicated his life to God and to his ministry in Vietnam, and courageously died in witness of his immense faith in Christ... with such PEACE and JOY, I might add (you can read more about St. John Theophane here).  Again, more inspiration in regards to being modern apostles.

Lastly, we meditated on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary this month... and all the reflections that our prayer leader read to us from a little prayer book - coincidentally, but not surprisingly - spoke of the eternal reward and the glory that awaits those who faithfully serve God. It was one of those nights where all the different components of our prayer program ended up perfectly complementing each other despite no prior planning; a sign of the Holy Spirit at work... and the message for our group from Him was crystal clear: be apostles that this world stands so much in need of today; be proactive participants in God's plan of salvation not just bystanders.

 
Some of our group members clowning around with the "Photo with the Pope" cellphone app
... and preparing for our early Thanksgiving Feast after our prayers.

And another common theme that emerged tonight as we prayed our personal intentions out loud after the Rosary was GRATITUDE; thanking God for his many blessings. In fact, we dubbed our usual potluck our prayer family's early Thanksgiving Dinner since the Thanksgiving Holiday is just a few days away. We didn't have a turkey but we enjoyed delectable dishes and desserts, just the same, along with a few glasses of wine... and lots of lighthearted conversation and laughter during our time around the table. We all went home with full tummies and full spirits.

Thank you, Jesus and Blessed Mother!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 11/7/2015


My Rosa Mystica statue with relics of Our
Lady's veil & St. Martin de Porres at its base.
The Saint we honored at our First Saturday Rosary was St. Martin de Porres, the illegitimate son of a fair-skinned, Spanish father, and a Black mother (a freed slave) who died in the 17th Century; his father was relatively wealthy, while his mother was poor. So Martin's life, being bi-racial, straddled two cultures; two social statuses... and he was made fun of by both the Spanish and the slave-class (black and native indians) because they didn't see him as being completely one of their own.

How difficult and painful it must have been for St. Martin to be in "social limbo"; not feeling like he belonged anywhere... yet, through God's grace, he forgave the ridicule, over and over, and just strove to see Christ in each person; serving Christ, via ministry to his neighbor, regardless of skin color and social background.

After he joined the Dominicans in the city of Lima, St. Martin's reputation for exceptional sanctity (and remarkable miracles, too) became so widespread in Peru, he attracted everyone to himself... and in his love-filled presence, racial and social status lines were blurred, and the people united as a peaceful family in God.  Our featured Saint, today, posed a challenge for all of us in attendance, which was... to be a person who healed division in the different areas of our lives - at home; at work; and out on the streets -  rather than be the cause.  St. Martin de Porres, pray for us.

After our Saint-Lesson, we proceeded with our Rosary, keeping our Saint's life-example in mind.  It was a reflective prayer, given that our spiritual goal is to pray for Peace every month.  And people must have been touched by my narrative on St. Martin, because afterwards, several of them went up to the display altar to venerate his relic - a 1st Class [Flesh] Relic - that I brought to our Day Chapel for today's meeting.  It's always a joy for me when I see the people venerating the Saints with sincere enthusiasm.  The Saints deserve to be remembered and honored, and the power of their intercession should never be overlooked.

Prayer participants venerating the holy relics on the display altar...
and discussing the life and miracles of St. Martin de Porres.

Our next First Saturday Rosary will be prayed on December 5th, beginning at 4:25pm with the sharing of next month's yet-to-be-determined Saint.  All are invited to pray and be inspired... and to venerate genuine relics of the Blessed Mother's veil and a featured Saint.  We hope to see you there.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - November, 2015: Saint Martin de Porres

Saint Martin de Porres
A Saint for ALL People ~ Feast: November 3rd

This month's featured Saint is beloved by people of all racial backgrounds - Hispanics, Blacks, and Caucasians - and it's because he embodies the best of all of us.  Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579; the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed Panamanian slave of mixed African/Native American heritage.  The boy's father actually abandoned him and his mother and a young sister when he was but a child, leaving the trio to live in grinding poverty.  Martin's father later experienced a measure of remorse and arranged for his son to be trained as a Barber, which back in the Saint's time, also meant being somewhat of a medic; performing blood-letting and minor surgical procedures, when needed.

Among St. Martin's many spiritual gifts
was the ability to levitate.
The youthful Martin trained in his profession with great skill, but deep in his heart, he knew it wasn't what he truly wanted to do.  He was deeply pious and longed for the religious life, despite the fact natives and colored people were restricted by law from full profession with religious orders. The 15-year-old Martin found a way around it by offering himself as a servant to the Dominican Monastery of the Holy Rosary in Lima.  There, he was allowed to wear the habit, but was assigned the most difficult chores that no one else wanted to do.  In addition to the menial work, he was looked down upon by some of the friars for being bi-racial.  

Martin was grateful to be among the Dominicans and persevered despite the prejudice and other challenges. His background as a barber/medic made him indispensable to the monastery. His humility, charity, and piety also came to be well-respected by the friars and he was eventually accepted as a lay-brother in 1603 when Martin was 24-years-old. He was later assigned to run the infirmary, which he did admirably for 36 years.

A facial reconstruction of St. Martin's features,
created by a team of forensic scientists.
God confirmed Bro. Martin's sanctity with multiple spiritual gifts, among which were the gifts of Bilocation, Healing, and Prophecy. Often, the patients in the infirmary would just need to mentally formulate a request to Martin and, through the power of God, he would mysteriously appear to fulfill the request... sometimes even walking through locked doors or the walls.  The nature-loving friar also had a special affinity with animals.  One of his most famous miracles was the ridding of the monastery of an infestation of mice by simply calling on the rodents and leading them out to the barn where he fed them on scraps.  The friars had intended to poison the mice, but gentle Martin, in his love for all God's creation, interceded on behalf of the poor mice. 

Bro. Martin's wonders became so commonplace among his brethren, the other friars could have easily taken his miraculous feats for granted.  But his spiritual gifts in no way distracted him from his duties, but rather, the humble friar lived his vocation of charitable service, effectively, for many years - performing his routine chores and ministering to the sick-poor during the day; spending his nights in deep ecstatic prayer in the monastery chapel... sometimes raised several feet above the ground and surrounded by a luminous glow!

Needless to say, the humble mulatto came to be highly revered in his lifetime.  He was a confidante of St. Rose of Lima and a friend of St. Juan Macias, who was also a friar in the same monastery.  Bro. Martin fell seriously ill in the beginning of 1639 and passed away at aged 60 on November 3, 1639, deeply mourned by all of Lima.  In his lifetime he had managed to bring about a measure of peaceful unity among the various races - rich and poor - through his example of charity and unconditional love.

St. Martin de Porres was canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962, and for obvious reasons, he is considered the Patron Saint of Barbers, Surgeons, and of Social Justice.  May St. Martin pray for our personal needs and the needs of the Universal Church.

A Reflection:
Sanctity comes in a variety of colors!

A Short Prayer:
Lord, help us to see beyond the color of a person's skin; to clearly recognize your innate presence and beauty within each soul.  Amen.

Speaking Presentation & Holy Relics Exhibit: St. Anthony of Padua Church, 11/1/2015


It was all about the Saints today at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua.  Fitting, given the entire Church was celebrating a special day - the Feast of All Saints.

The floor plan on our Relic Exhibit Guide that was distributed to the audience, and which
showed the names of Saints/Blesseds whose relics were on display for veneration.

In honor of this hallowed day, my ministry was invited to speak to our parishioners about Saints and to bring multiple relics for public veneration.  In response, me and a team of volunteers organized an exhibit of Holy Relics, consisting of thirty-three 1st and 2nd Class Relics from various Saints and Blesseds.

  
Parishioners gathered for the Saints and Holy Relics Presentation/Exhibit in our Parish Hall.

The event started with a short talk, during which I emphasized the role of Saints as our spiritual heroes and intercessors; role models for all Catholics to look up to and emulate. After the presentation, parishioners - consisting of adults and many children - were invited to walk around 5 tables on which were displayed the Relics of Saints and Blesseds.  Among those present were genuine relics from many popular Saints:  St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Christopher, St. Gerard Majella, St. John Paul II, St. Philomena, St. Padre Pio. St. Rita of Cascia, St. Therese the Little Flower, etc.


 
Some of the many relics that were displayed at our parish's exhibit.  Also included were relics
of the True Cross of Jesus and clothing-relics of Our Lady and St. Joseph.
[click on each photo to view larger images]

It was a joy to see entire families, standing in front of the relics discussing the Saints whose relics were represented.  Square pieces of fabric were also handed out to each family, to be touched to the relics of the Saint(s) who had inspired them the most during my talk.  Many made use of their cloth, moving from table to table, prayerfully touching the reliquaries.  I could see from peoples' facial expression that most were considerably impressed by their personal contact with the Saints and several wept with emotion.  It was definitely a memorable event for our participating parishioners, as well as my ministry; my first ever large-scale exhibit.


 
Parishioners making their way to the various display tables of our Relic Exhibit.

After the event ended, our team celebrated with a fellowship luncheon of spaghetti, sweet bread rolls, softdrinks, and dessert.  Our conversation was fun, lively, and meaningful.  It was a perfect ending for our Saints Day Celebration and I couldn't help but think that this is how this feast should be observed each year.  With that stated, God willing, I'm aiming for another exhibit in 2016... bigger and better!

Thank you, Lord, for the gift and blessing of your Saints!