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


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Jubilee Year of Mercy & Hawaii's Holy Door!


"No one can be excluded from God's Mercy..."

~ Pope Francis

Excitement was in the air as Pope Francis proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on December 8th, 2015 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), and ending on November 20th, 2016 (Solemnity of Christ the King).  In conjunction with his proclamation, the Pontiff opened the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica, as a symbolic gesture of opening wide the doors of the Church to invite all mankind to come to the saving Mercy of Jesus Christ.  

The opening of the Holy Door in the Vatican.

Jubilees or "Holy Years" are biblical in origin - see Leviticus 25: 10-14 - and mark a special period of time in the Church, emphasizing the forgiveness of sin and the remission of the resulting punishment incurred.  Beginning in 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII announced the very first Holy Year, the Church has since promulgated it every 25 to 50 years.  In the distant past, multitudes of pilgrims made difficult foot journeys to Rome as penance for their sins... and to gain a rare Plenary Indulgence - the complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin - associated with each Holy Year (learn more about Indulgences here).

As for the Holy Door, the tradition started in 1500 and the door was meant to represent Jesus Christ, who referred to himself, as such, in Sacred Scripture:

"Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen I say to you, I am the door of the sheep."

~ John 10:7

The Holy Door is normally bricked up in the interior of St. Peter's Basilica but during special Jubilee Years, the Pope would ceremoniously unseal and open the door so pilgrims could prayerfully walk through it.  The ritual of passing through the Holy Door was a highly symbolic act; denoting one's willingness to walk away from sinfulness and into a life of grace through Jesus Christ.

          
Hawaii's own Holy Door in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu.
A Divine Mercy image and portraits of Hawaii's two Saints flank the door.

With his announcement of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has gone even further - he extended the Plenary Indulgence attached to the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica to dioceses throughout the world by authorizing Bishops to designate Holy Doors in their own local Cathedrals!  Here, in Hawaii, our Bishop Larry Silva recently inaugurated a Holy Door in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

All Catholics - locals and visitors to Hawaii - are invited to take advantage of this year-long celebration of Divine Mercy by walking through Hawaii's Holy Door.  An immense spiritual gift awaits all who do.  One must keep in mind, however, that to gain the Plenary Indulgence, one must meet the following requirements:


"Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life.  All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.  The Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love."

~ Excerpt from the Papal Bull of Pope Francis


Year of Mercy Prayer
composed by Pope Francis

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that
you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind. 
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2015

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


My Dear Children...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on December 25th:
   "Dear children! Also today I am carrying my Son Jesus to you and from this embrace I am giving you His peace and a longing for Heaven. I am praying with you for peace and am calling you to be peace. I am blessing all of you with my motherly blessing of peace.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on December 2nd:
   "Dear children, I am always with you because my Son entrusted you to me. And you, my children, you need me, you are seeking me, you are coming to me and you are bringing joy to my motherly heart. I have, and always will have, love for you; for you who suffer and who offer your pains and sufferings to my Son and to me. My love seeks the love of all of my children, and my children seek my love. Through love, Jesus seeks unity between Heaven and earth; between the Heavenly Father and you, my children - His Church. Therefore, it is necessary to pray much, to pray and love the Church to which you belong. Now, the Church is suffering and needs apostles who by loving unity, by witnessing and giving, show the ways of God. The Church needs apostles who by living the Eucharist with the heart do great works; it needs you, my apostles of love. My children, from the very beginning the Church was persecuted and betrayed, but day by day it grew. It is indestructible because my Son gave it a heart - the Eucharist, and the light of His resurrection shone and will continue to shine upon it. Therefore, do not be afraid. Pray for your shepherds that they may have the strength and the love to be bridges of salvation.  Thank you."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How God reminded me about the true meaning of Christmas...


Christmas came a little early for me this year.  I'm actually writing this latest blog from Chula Vista, California, where I am visiting with my sister and other family members for the Holiday Season. 

Today, Wednesday (12/23), I went for a quick workout in the gym at my sister's townhouse complex.  While I was doing some weights, I glanced out the window and noticed a strange, but familiar figure, on a palm tree outside.  For me, I could see a clear representation of the Blessed Virgin kneeling in prayer; covered with a veil; a dove hovering over her head.  It was the scene recalling the moments after the Annunciation when Mary conceived Jesus within her holy womb.

Photos I took of the image on Our Lady on a palm tree in Chula Vista, California.
Click on the image to view a larger size.

I stood near the gym equipment excited by what I was seeing and I couldn't help but think to myself, "How fitting for this time of the year."  I recognized that, despite my unworthiness, I was being blessed and reminded in a special way about what the meaning and celebration of Christmas was truly all about - the sublime Mystery of the Incarnation and Birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ... and I actually needed this reminder because December has been exceptionally stressful for me due to work, travel plans, and the distractions caused by the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping; I sensed immediately that God was telling me to press the [Pause] button in my life so I could refocus on what was truly important - JESUS.  So I did stop what I was doing for several long moments to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God right there in the gym.

I then grabbed my cellphone and snapped several photos of the image on the tree; a couple of which are shown above.  I resumed exercising, but continued to offer short prayers in between workouts, while glancing out the window at the Virgin Mary figure.  I left the gym in a calm, reflective mood.

A popular traditional representation of the Annunciation,
depicting the Holy Spirit descending to the Blessed Virgin.

Later, I pondered what transpired and it also dawned on me that our salvation really started on the day Mary pronounced the words, "I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word..." to the Archangel Gabriel, and then the Holy Spirit overshadowed her with his Divine Power, making her pregnant with the Son of God; that Mary's cooperative role was integral to God's master plan for the redemption of mankind.  It was deep... very deep... and I felt a renewed and greater sense of appreciation towards our dear Blessed Mother.

So what a very productive, healthy day it has been... not just for my body, but also for my spirit, which stood in need of exercise, too, of which God reminded me about.  Have you had your spiritual workout today?  We should strive to remember that despite the frenzy of activity that often surrounds us during the Holiday Season, we can always find peace through God; that Jesus is indeed the reason for the season.

Merry Blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 12/5/2015


A panoramic view of our Day Chapel at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua.

Today's First Saturday Rosary prayer meeting at my parish was the last one for 2015.  We've been doing this for the past five years and I always get a little nostalgic whenever the December meeting comes around.  I recall the blessings and signal graces witnessed and/or received - answered prayers, appearance of escarchas, the tangible spiritual presence of the Blessed Mother, and new friends made - during the past year and I am full of heartfelt gratitude.  I also get excited, looking forward to the upcoming prayer meeting in January and all the hope and anticipation of continued blessings that the new year suggests.

Praying for God's Divine Peace to descend within our hearts,
homes, our country... and upon the world.

I'm happy to say today's meeting was well-attended despite the hustle and bustle of the busy Holiday Season.  Many of the faithful regulars showed up, along with several first-timers of which many had just come straight from the confessional; grace-filled souls ready to intercede - powerful!  In fact, one of our most recent regular participants - an 84-year-old woman - had just lost her sister this morning... yet she came to the meeting, anyway, so she could pray the Holy Rosary with our group for the repose of her sister's soul.  What deep faith.  I was moved.

So being that we're in Advent Season, we appropriately reflected on the Joyful Mysteries this month... offering the merits of each Mystery to our Heavenly Father for the intention of Peace in our troubled World.  I also displayed my ministry's relic of St. Lucy on the display altar.  Her name, meaning "light", was a message in itself to us on so many levels.  You can read about St. Lucy's life by clicking here.

A 2nd Class Relic of St. Lucy on display at this month's prayer meeting and a
parishioner venerating the relics of Our Lady and St. Lucy after the meeting.

After the meeting ended, we wished each other a Merry, Blessed Christmas before dispersing back into the world outside our Day Chapel.  I extend my Christmas Greeting to all who are reading this blog.  May your Advent be filled with blessings of every sort and your Christmas joyous and CHRIST-filled.  God bless us all.

The next First Saturday Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua will be prayed on January 2nd, 2016.  All are welcome to participate.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe: December 4th - 12th


Am I not here, who is your Mother?

~ Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, 1531


It's that time of the year again... Saturday, December 12th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, my personal ministry's patroness and namesake.  In preparation for the feast, and in gratitude to Our Lady for 20+ years of blessings, I am praying the prayer below as a novena, beginning tomorrow and ending on the Feast (9 days from now).

I cordially invite friends of my Guadalupe House ministry and, whoever else happens to come across this post, to participate with me in the novena; to spiritually join me in invoking our Heavenly Mother for the conversion of the USA back to its Christian roots... and whatever our personal prayer intentions may be (feel free to post them below, in the Comments Section, and I will also pray for them along with my own prayer requests).  My hope is that on December 12th, many will have a deeper devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and perhaps an answered prayer request, too.

Memorare to Our Lady of Guadalupe

  Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, that in thy celestial apparitions on the mount of Tepeyac, thou didst promise to show thy compassion and pity towards all who, loving and trusting thee, seek thy help and call upon thee in their necessities and afflictions.

  Thou didst promise to hearken to our supplications, to dry our tears and to give us consolation and relief. Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, either for the common welfare, or in personal anxieties, was left unaided.

  Inspired with this confidence, we fly unto thee, O Mary, ever Virgin Mother of the True God! Though grieving under the weight of our sins, we come to prostrate ourselves in thy august presence, certain that thou wilt deign to fulfill thy merciful promises. We are full of hope that, standing beneath thy shadow and protection, nothing will trouble or afflict us, nor need we fear illness, or misfortune, or any other sorrow.

  Thou hast decided to remain with us through thy admirable image, thou who art our Mother, our health and our life. Placing ourselves beneath thy maternal gaze and having recourse to thee in all our necessities we need do nothing more.  O Holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us.  Amen.

  [Mention and reflect on your prayer petition(s) here]

(Offer an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe)


*** To learn more about the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her miraculous image, click here. ***

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - December, 2015: Saint Lucy of Syracuse

St. Lucy of Syracuse
A Bearer of God's Light ~ Feast: December 13th 

This female Martyr's name - Lucy (or Lucia) - has its origin in the Latin word, "Lux", which means something tremendously uplifting and hope-filled - LIGHT.  In this valiant woman's case, it was also highly prophetic that she carried the name, considering the times that she lived in - a world ruled by pagan Rome, which was at the height of its worldly glory... but at the very depths of its moral darkness (seems familiar?).  The persecution of Christians was also at its fiercest during her lifetime and Lucy's faith-example was like a lamp that lead others to Jesus Christ.

Some readers may find it of interest that the body of St. Lucy, which remains intact up to this present day, is one of the earliest cases of incorruptibility in the Church; a phenomenon that continues to attract believers to the major relic-shrines of mysteriously preserved Saints and Blesseds, mainly concentrated in Europe.

According to scant historical facts, combined with pious tradition, this youthful Saint was born in Syracuse, Italy, around the year 283 and died there in witness of the Faith in 304. The account of her life runs similar to other famous Virgin-Martyrs such as St. Agatha of Catania (d. 251) and St. Agnes of Rome (d. 304), in that she was reportedly a young woman who was betrothed to a pagan against her will.  She rejected him for Christ and ultimately paid for it with her life.

The preserved body of St. Lucy of Syracuse, with the skull masked in
silver, as enshrined and venerated in the city of Venice, Italy.

So as the story goes... Lucy was secretly a follower of Christianity and reportedly very, very pious; so much so that she consecrated her virginity to God, unbeknownst to her mother, a noble widow named Eutychia.  At an opportune time, Eutychia - following the social custom and practices of her time - arranged for Lucy's hand in marriage to a suitor from a wealthy pagan family.  But sometime before the wedding contract could be finalized, Eutychia was struck by a mysterious illness after which her daughter suggested they make a pilgrimage to the neighboring city of Catania, to pray at the tomb of St. Agatha, a Martyr venerated by Christians in Sicily. There, Eutychia was apparently healed through the Martyr's intercession and Lucy was also granted a vision of Agatha, who prophesied to her: "You will be the glory of Syracuse... as I am of Catania."

Taking advantage of the situation, Lucy confided to her mother the vow of virginity that she had made to our Lord and begged Eutychia's permission to remain unmarried. Her mother, deeply impressed by her own miracle, consented but it left Lucy's ex-fiance both embarrassed and furious at being set aside.  To add fuel to his fire, Lucy had also began openly distributing her family's large wealth among the poor of Syracuse, which brought her under heated suspicion as a Christian.  Her former suitor denounced her as such to the Roman Governor of Syracuse to whom she bravely confessed her faith in Jesus Christ.  She was ordered to make a sacrifice before an idol of their deified Emperor, Diocletian, but she steadfastly refused to do so.  Instead, she loudly reproached the pagans for their false beliefs and extolled her faith in the one true God.

Wanting to make an example of her to the gathered spectators, what followed next was a series of brutal tortures to make Lucy recant her profession of faith, e.g. beatings and a failed attempt at burning her alive; she never waivered... and this post wouldn't be complete without the mention of her reportedly beautiful eyes being blinded by her captors... then being miraculously restored by a vision of the Lord, himself.  Hence, the reason why St. Lucy is popularly invoked as the Patron Saint of Eye Issues.

Lucy eventually gained the Crown of Martyrdom by being beheaded. Her torture and death had the opposite effect the governor wanted.  Rather than discouraging Christians in Syracuse, it rallied them, and inspired the conversion of many pagans; Lucy became another hero for the young Church.  Hence, she earned the glory foretold her by St. Agatha in Catania. The Saint's bodily relic remained incorrupt throughout the centuries and eventually found its way to the Church of St. Geremia in Venice, where it lies enshrined in a glass urn for the veneration of the Faithful (left photo).

A Reflection:
   "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." 

~ Words of Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16

A Short Prayer:
   Lord, as you did with St. Lucy, enkindle within us the flame of Faith and Truth.  May its light shine brightly and lead others to also glorify our Heavenly Father.  Amen.