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 28, 2016

Hawaii's visit from Fr. Aniello Salicone


Have you ever heard of Fr. Aniello Salicone? I hadn’t until just a couple of weeks ago. An acquaintance of mine invited me to her parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City, Oahu, where Fr. Aniello was presiding over a healing Mass this past December 13th. Yes - apparently this Italian-born Xaverian Missionary priest now residing in Wisconsin, USA, is a reported healer. In addition, he allegedly receives frequent locutions (audible messages) from Jesus Christ. Very extraordinary claims... but please note that this blog in no way anticipates the judgement of the Church about Fr. Aniello.  Rather, my intent here is to merely share my experience and readers may form their own opinion about this purported mystic-priest.

Fr. Aniello Salicone of Wisconsin
According to information I researched about Fr. Aniello on the internet, his personal encounters with the Lord actually began when he was just a boy in Campania, Italy, but the messages he received dramatically escalated into a healing ministry beginning in 1995. Since then he has traveled extensively conducting healing Masses and spreading the message of God’s love to all who’d listen… and now here he was in Hawaii.

Before launching into my takeaways concerning Fr. Aniello’s message, let me just preface by sharing what happened at the event. I’ll start by stating that I’m very glad I went. I was actually tired from a long day’s work and was cringing about having to forge through the heavy evening traffic going out to the Central Oahu church where the service was being held… so I planned on just going home instead. BUT... as I was walking to the parking lot, I felt strongly “urged” to go to the event by a nagging “feeling”. The inner feeling was so persistent it was like a voice, in itself, encouraging me to make the drive; to receive Jesus in Holy Communion; and to listen to what the priest had to say.  So off I went to Pearl City.

When I got to the church, it wasn’t at all crowded as I had expected it to be. In fact, the church wasn’t even full to its capacity, which I was somewhat happy about. The Mass had just started and there was Fr. Aniello sitting in a chair near the altar. He was a portly man with a paternal aura about him, who spoke with a slight accent that hinted of his Italian background. His voice was deep and had somewhat of a booming quality about it, but not in an unpleasant way. His homily consisted of various short stories about his experiences with our Lord that collectively testified to God’s immeasurable love for us. Other than the stories he shared, there was nothing about his appearance or demeanor that hinted of the alleged wonders that surrounded him. Rather, he gave me the impression that he was just a normal priest with a jolly sense of humor, who was trying his best to fulfill what he believed the Lord had asked him to do.

After the Mass ended, a short presentation followed and then the healing session began. People were invited to line up in front of the altar where Fr. Aniello softly prayed over each person, individually. Almost everyone who went up for a blessing safely fell backwards into the waiting arms of volunteers as they “rested in the Spirit”, including myself. For those who’ve never experienced resting (or being “slain”) in the Spirit, it’s a spiritual phenomenon during which an individual is overwhelmed by the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit to the point where he/she falls to the ground for a period of time in a state of heightened well-being and bliss; physical, emotional, and/or spiritual healing often occurs while an individual is in this state; or gifts of the Spirit may also be granted. For me, I recall my eyes being closed as a lay on the church floor but I had the distinct sensation of being in the presence of a brilliant light that emanated a strong heat over me, especially on my face; I likened it to sitting outside on a warm day while the sun beams down its light and warmth all over you. Definitely unusual, given the time of day and the demographics of the church… but it felt comforting and peaceful as I lay temporarily oblivious of my surroundings.

Fr. Aniello, at center, praying healing blessings over parishioners and their guests at
Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City (Oahu), Hawaii.

And now for the takeaways. The entire event was a very intense spiritual experience for me, to say the least, and there were several points in Fr. Aniello’s talk that really made an impression on me. He said things that we should already know as Catholic-Christians, but the often-humorous manner he presented them, made them seem new somehow.  Below I summarize just a few key points from his overall presentation that I’d like to share with readers:

+ GOD'S LOVE IS LIMITLESS:  Fr. Aniello shared how Jesus told him several times in the past that He - God - loved him as His “Number One”; a revelation that brought him immense joy. Later, Jesus also made the same statement to the priest concerning the rest of us in this world, which then caused the priest to wonder how it was that each person could be “number one” to Jesus. In response, the Lord explained to the priest that His love was without limit, and uniquely personal between Him and each soul. As such, it was possible for every individual on the planet to be acknowledged and loved by God as His “Number One”.

+ PRAY WITH FAITH:  Fr. Aniello relayed the fact that sick people don’t have to be present at his services for a healing to take place. He emphasized that when he, or we, pray for someone’s healing (or any other intention) we should pray with the firm belief that Jesus is standing right beside us listening to every word we say. And just as He is standing with us, He is also beside the person(s) we are praying for because God is present everywhere. Furthermore, in response to our prayers, God will do one of two things – He will either grant us our request… or give us something “better for Eternity”, as Fr. Aniello put it. God will never fail in doing this so we shouldn’t be disheartened if it seems our prayers are ignored by God – we need to have faith that He has something better in store for us!

FORGIVE IN ORDER TO BE HEALED:  Fr. Aniello emphasized this strongly and related a story of a woman with crutches who Christ gave a personal message for during one of his healing services. Jesus, through Fr. Aniello, asked the lady to forgive her “ex-boyfriend” (people in the church giggled at this). When the priest relayed the message to her, the woman initially objected but then asked Fr. Aniello to help her do so. The priest directed her to pray with him a short, improvised prayer asking God to convert the man in question and to help him stop hurting other people, including the lady. In short, through their prayer together, Fr. Aniello helped the woman to make a start at forgiveness by channeling her strong resentment towards her Ex into something positive - an act of charity. He asked the woman to pray the words three times, each time with more sincerity, and when she was done, she walked away - healed - leaving behind her crutches.

Interestingly, Fr. Aniello also encouraged us to forgive the people who hurt us even if they’re already deceased, in case these individuals happen to be undergoing Purgatory. He shared that although we may not realize it, the Poor Souls are sorry for the hurt they’ve caused others while in this world - they feel contrition keenly but just can't express their apology… and sometimes the only thing these souls need to complete their expiation in order to enter Heaven is our forgiveness.  Very insightful.

+ SEE JESUS IN OTHERS:  In yet another story, Fr. Aniello relayed how he was up late one night browsing through several pictures of Jesus. He was trying to pick the image that he imagined best represented the Lord. Jesus suddenly came to him and spoke the following words, “Son, don’t waste your time. Look for my face in the faces of the people you meet every day.”  No clarification necessary - a short message that goes a long, long way!

   
A well-known portrait of St. Padre Pio, the stigmatic priest-healer... and the round stained-
glass window of Our Lady of Good Counsel on the wall behind the church's altar.

Lastly, besides being impressed by the message I heard, there were a few other unusual things I experienced at the event - apart from being rested in the Spirit - that left me receptive and open-minded about Fr. Aniello. First off, during his homily, there was a brief moment where it seemed to me that his face mysteriously morphed into the face of St. Padre Pio (his Patron Saint, perhaps?). The change was so distinct, I recall thinking to myself, “Hey – that looks like Padre Pio!” (exactly like the photo above), before the priest’s face returned to normalcy with glasses and tufts of long gray hair on his head. Secondly, there was a manifestation of escarchas on both my palms during Father’s Consecration of the Eucharist… and finally, while I was waiting in line in the center aisle of the church for my turn to approach Fr. Aniello, I glanced up at the stained-glass window of the Madonna and Child high above the back wall and saw a large formation of light in the center of it shaped like the head of a lamb. There’s normally no discernible lamb-image in the window but there it was – a pure white lamb amidst the darkened glass. It was so recognizable I couldn’t help but immediately connect it to Jesus, the “Lamb of God”, who takes away our sins and heals our souls.

I don’t know if these things I witnessed were just figments of my imagination or optical illusions, but at the time, it all seemed very real to me. So much so that I’m still somewhat in awe, as I recall and record the events of that night in this particular blog. As already mentioned, I’m glad I made the drive to Pearl City that night and I thank God for not letting my laziness get the best of me in the parking lot!

Fr. Aniello has since left our island but he’ll be returning next year to be a guest speaker at a planned Sts. Damien & Marianne Conference in Honolulu in October 2017 (learn more here).  I’m looking forward to being there and hearing more of his stories and the insightful little tidbits from our Lord they contain.  Until then, may God continue to use him to spread Love and Healing wherever he goes; the joyful message that proclaims we’re all number one in God's eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me as your Number
One.  Help me to love you and to love others the way
you love us.  Amen.

~ Fr. Aniello's Prayer

Monday, December 26, 2016

Faces of Holiness... again!


If you can't tell by now - I have a keen interest in forensic facial reconstruction, especially when the subject is a Saint or Blessed who lived before the advent of photography.  It's simply fascinating for me to see what their actual facial features may have looked like in comparison to pretty holy cards that may be in circulation of the holy person. Fortunately, within the past few years, there seems to be a growing interest in reconstructing the faces of famous religious figures.  As an enthusiastic fan of our Saints, I welcome the trend.

With the above being stated, last year a team of scientists from South America reconstructed and unveiled the faces of three revered Peruvians - Sts. Juan Macias, Martin de Porres, and Rose of Limausing sacred relics of their skulls.  At the beginning of 2016, the same scientific team unveiled the face of yet another holy personage from Peru; this time around it was the likeness of a little-known Dominican mystic who was exemplary for her deep devotion to the Poor Souls...


Bl. Ana [Monteagudo] of the Angels

This holy woman was born in 1602 in the town of Arequipa, Peru, where she became a nun and was honored as a living Saint in her lifetime.  According to her biographers, Bl. Ana was from a distinguished family but she gave up her inheritance to enter the local Dominican Monastery of St. Catherine after being prompted to do so by a vision of the monastery's namesake, St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380). There, our heroine was famed for her high degree of sanctity, as well as her apparent mystical gifts, which included bilocation, miracles, prophecy, and visions.

The reconstructed face of Bl. Ana of the Angels (center) flanked by a fairly modern
rendition of her (left) and an old painting of her from her monastery (right).  The older
portrait appears to be a fair likeness of the Blessed.

During one particular vision, ten years before her death, Bl. Ana reportedly saw Our Lady and St. Nicholas of Tolentino (d. 1305), who commended to her fervent prayer the plight of the Poor Souls in Purgatory.  The humble nun accepted the mission entrusted to her and willingly suffered progressive blindness and paralysis as a victim-soul for those undergoing spiritual cleansing in the afterlife. She died in 1686 with a solid reputation of holiness and continues to be much loved in Peru along with its three other Saints.


St. Mary Magdalen

This facial reconstruction project was actually conducted back in early 2015 by the same Brazilian 3D designer who worked on the faces of the four Peruvian Saints, and that of St. Anthony of Padua in 2014... but it only just came to my attention recently. With St. Mary Magdalen being one of the most revered and inspiring figures since the birth of Christianity, I was quite excited when I accidentally came across the story while researching the one of Bl. Ana of the Angels.  Some may be wondering - where'd the skull come from for this forensic reconstruction?  Read on below...

Is this the face of St. Mary Magdalen?  Reconstructed using her alleged skull
enshrined in a basilica in southern France.

According to Sacred Tradition, after the ascension of Christ, St. Mary Magdalen escaped persecution in the Holy Land, along with St. Lazarus (who Christ resurrected), St. Martha, and other disciples of Jesus by sailing in a small ship that landed near Marseilles in southern France. There, Lazarus was installed as Bishop and the group of Christian exiles preached the Gospel, successfully converting many in the region.

Mary eventually retired as a hermitess in a large mountain cave in what is now Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume where she lived an austere life.  After her death, she was lovingly buried by the early Christians. Her original tomb was venerated until her skeleton was hidden for safekeeping and lost in the early 700's during a period of Saracen invasions.

In 1279 St. Mary's tomb and remains were rediscovered amidst signs and wonders, and documented confirmation, and her bones and skull are now enshrined in the Basilica of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. After the reconstructed face of St. Anthony of Padua was unveiled in June 2014, the basilica commissioned the reconstruction of Mary Magdalen's face using the alleged relic of her skull; the startling result, as seen above, was unveiled to the world on July 19, 2015, in conjunction with her Feast Day celebrations that year.

The reconstructed features reveal St. Mary Magdalen to be a strong and beautiful woman, as many have imagined her to be; as many visionary-mystics such as Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824) have described her to be.  So thanks to science and technology we have the wonderful opportunity to look upon the enigmatic face that was the first to bask in the glory of the risen Lord!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: December 2016


Dear Children...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on December 25th:
   "Dear children! With great joy, today I am carrying my Son Jesus to you, for Him to give you His peace. Open your hearts, little children, and be joyful that you can receive it. Heaven is with you and is fighting for peace in your hearts, in the families and in the world; and you, little children, help with your prayers for it to be so. I bless you with my Son Jesus and call you not to lose hope; and for your gaze and heart to always be directed towards Heaven and eternity. In this way, you will be open to God and to His plans. Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on December 2nd:
   "Dear children, my motherly heart is crying as I am looking at what my children are doing. Sins are multiplying, the purity of soul is all the less important; my Son is being forgotten - honored all the less; and my children are being persecuted. That is why, you my children, apostles of my love, with soul and heart invoke the name of my Son. He will have the words of light for you. He manifests Himself to you, He breaks the bread with you and gives you the words of love so that you may transform them into merciful acts and, thus, be witnesses of truth. That is why, my children, do not be afraid. Permit my Son to be in you. He will make use of you to care for the wounded and to convert lost souls. Therefore, my children, return to the prayer of the Rosary. Pray it with feelings of goodness, sacrifice and mercy. Pray, not only with words, but with merciful acts. Pray with love for all people. My Son, by His sacrifice, exalted love. Therefore, live with Him so that you may have strength and hope; that you may have the love which is life and which leads to eternal life. Through God's love, I am also with you, and will lead you with motherly love.  Thank you."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 12/3/2016


The line to our parish's confessional was exceptionally long again this First Saturday. So long, in fact, a few people left when they realized how long the wait would be. Normally, confessions are heard at St. Anthony of Padua Church between 4:00 and 4:30pm every Saturday... but from what I saw today, the confessions lasted until 5:00pm, just when our Rosary Prayer was wrapping up.  Awesome.

Not sure if the influx in penitents was due to the Advent Season, but I'd also like to think the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully in Kailua and converting more hearts for Jesus.  And speaking of spiritual conversion, the Blessed I featured this month at the rosary meeting was a great example of a lost soul who was converted by the patient love of God and found the fulfillment he was longing for - Bl. Charles de Foucauld (a.k.a. "Little Bro. Charles of Jesus" - you can read about him here).

Bl. Charles of Jesus
But besides highlighting Bl. Charles' conversion experience to our prayer participants, I more so wanted to emphasize what he did with himself after he finally returned to the Lord's embrace - he committed himself to serving others in a loving and charitable manner that would inspire others to want to know Christ, too.  This Blessed never preached a word to the people he ministered to, but rather, his actions did all the preaching for him.  This was the beautiful lesson that I was led by the Holy Spirit to pass on; a reminder for each of us that our faith needs to keep progressing after our initial conversion, not just remain at a dead standstill; that all of us are capable of becoming a "Brother or Sister so-and-so of Jesus" within our homes; our neighborhoods; the world.  If Bl. Charles - a former playboy - could do it, it means we can too.

The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace will be prayed next month on January 7th, 2017, beginning at 4:25pm. As always, the door to the Day Chapel (and the confessional) will be open to all who are interested in participating. Until then, a Merry Blessed Christmas to all... and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - December, 2016: Blessed Charles de Foucald


Blessed Charles de Foucauld
A Universal Brother ~ Memorial: December 1st


Looking at photographs of this holy man, I can sense the immense depth of his faith just by looking at his eyes.  Photos of several other modern Saints and Blesseds have that same "look" in their eyes, too.  It's like they know something... or more like they found something - something so awesome and valuable that it made them completely happy and contented.  Faith tells us what that "something" is - it's God... and Bl. Charles de Foucauld was full of God.

Born on September 15, 1858, in Strasbourg, France.  Sadly, at the tender age of 6, he was orphaned along with his sister and both children were sent to live with their grandparents who were well-to-do. Soon after moving in with them the grandmother died of a heart attack, leaving the grandfather to raise the children alone.  Perhaps due to the trauma of the tragedies he endured from an early age, Charles lost his faith at age 15 and professed agnosticism.

After his schooling was completed Charles joined the French army during which his grandfather passed away, leaving him with a large inheritance.  The carefree soldier was sent to Algeria, in northern Africa, where he reportedly spent his inheritance living a hedonistic lifestyle; enjoying fine food and drink, and the company of several mistresses, which lead to his discharge from the military.  Charles then took to exploring neighboring Morocco in the early 1880s before returning to France. 

Influenced by the deep faith of Jews and Muslims he encountered in his travels, Charles began to question his own agnostic views and the careless manner in which he lived.  Through the counsel and prayers of a devout female cousin and a priest close to his family, he eventually regained his belief in God and was reconciled with the Catholic Church in 1886.  Charles' conversion was so profound he wrote of the experience in the following manner: "The moment I realized that God existed, I knew I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone." He spent the rest of his years making good on those words.

Charles, the young soldier
First off, Charles joined the Trappists in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to the congregation's foundation in Syria.  In 1897, he left the monastery and ended up in Jerusalem where he worked as a handyman and sacristan for a Poor Clare convent.  The Mother Superior there, sensing something special in Charles, advised him to become a priest so he traveled to Rome to enter seminary.  He was ordained in 1901 at the age of 43.

After his ordination, Charles returned to Algeria to pursue a life of austerity in the arid deserts and with high hopes of founding a new religious congregation.  However, his ideas and strict ascetic manner of living failed to attract followers so the would-be hermit, instead, focused on practicing a radical form of charity and love for neighbor.  He settled in Tamanrasset among the Tuareg people, a fierce but poor tribe of nomadic Muslims, who were at first wary of him.  Charles once wrote: 

  "Let us concern ourselves with those who lack everything... those to whom no one gives a thought.  Let us be the friends of those who have no friends, their brother.  The love of God, the love of men, that is my whole life, that will be my whole life, I hope."

Bro. Charles' austere hermitage 
Brother Charles of Jesus, as he came to be known, so impressed the Tuaregs with his evident goodness and sincerity, that he lived among them in harmony and mutual respect.  He made no effort to preach and covert his Muslim brethren, but rather he preferred to simply "shout the Gospel with his life" and live as a "universal brother" to all.  Of course, he also did a lot of praying, which he offered before the Blessed Sacrament - our Eucharistic Lord - that he was permitted to conserve in his primitive hermitage. He ministered and served his adopted people in this manner for the next 15 years, until his untimely death. 

  "Sacred Heart of Jesus, thank you for this, the first tabernacle in the lands of the Tuareg!  May it be the first of many, and proclaim salvation to many souls!  Radiate out from this tabernacle on all those round about, people who surround you yet do not know you." ~ Words of Bro. Charles of Jesus

In 1916, anti-French sentiments erupted in Algeria in the wake of World War I.  On the evening of December 1st of that year, Bro. Charles' hermitage was raided by marauders from a neighboring tribe who intended to take him as a hostage for ransom.  According to a witness to the event, the frail priest was dragged from his cell and physically assaulted, but in the face of the violence directed at him, he remained at peace.  His attackers also attempted to force him to betray Christ but he calmly refused.  Finally, when Bro. Charles shouted a warning of the looming danger to approaching passerbys, he was shot dead by his panicked guard; a mere boy with a gun.  Thus, the final action performed by the holy hermit was a heroic deed motivated by charity.  He was only 58.

Little Brother Charles of Jesus, a man who radiated
love for God and love for neighbor.

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Bro. Charles of Jesus a Blessed Martyr on November, 13, 2005. As further confirmation of the fruitfulness of his sanctity, this humble brother who failed in his effort to found a congregation in his lifetime, has been recognized as the posthumous founder of at least 5 modern congregations that were inspired into being by his faith-example and writings.  As Jesus once said: "By their fruits we will know them."


Prayer of Abandonment
(composed by Bl. Charles de Foucauld)

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord. 
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: November 2016


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


Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on November 25th:
   "Dear children! Also today, I am calling you to return to prayer. In this time of grace, God has permitted me to lead you towards holiness and a simple life - that in little things you discover God the Creator; that you fall in love with Him; and that your life be a thanksgiving to the Most High for everything He is giving you. Little children, in love, may your life be a gift for others and God will bless you; but you, witness without interest - out of love for God.  I am with you and intercede before my Son for all of you.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on November 2nd:
   "Dear children, to come to you and to make myself known to you is a great joy for my motherly heart. It is a gift from my Son for you and for others who are coming. As a mother I am calling you: love my Son above everything. In order to love Him with all your heart, you need to come to know Him. You will come to know Him through prayer. Pray with the heart and with your feelings. To pray means to think of His love and sacrifice. To pray means to love, to give, to suffer and to offer. I am calling you, my children, to be apostles of prayer and love. My children, it is a time of vigilance. In this vigil I am calling you to prayer, love and trust. As my Son will be looking in your hearts, my motherly heart desires for Him to see unconditional trust and love in them. The united love of my apostles will live, will conquer and will expose evil. My children, I was a chalice of the God-man; I was God’s instrument. That is why I am calling you, my apostles, to be a chalice of the true and pure love of my Son. I am calling you to be an instrument through which all those who have not come to know the love of God—who have never loved—may comprehend, accept and be saved.  Thank you, my children."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saturday, 11/19/2016: A full day for Mary...


Yesterday was a very busy day and I - am - tired. I spent the majority of my Saturday driving around and doing things for our dear mother - the Blessed Mother, that is - so I was fine with it all. Besides, what Our Lady gives back in return, far outweighs any effort we put into whatever we do on her behalf; trust me - she never fails us when it's our turn to ask her for something.

+ Speaking Presentation & Holy Relics Visitation: Mary, Star of the Sea Church

Saturday morning I had the privilege of speaking to 25+ members of the Third Order of Mary based in Kahala. I spoke to them in 2014 about the Saints, but this time around, their leader asked me to share about Marian apparitions with them. So the talk I put together for the group consisted of an overview of the Church's view on private revelations; examples of approved Marian apparitions around the world; and a synthesis of the Blessed Virgin's overall messages through her seers.

Being that this ministry is also known for sharing relics, I couldn't not include Saints and Relics in my presentation... so a segment on the lives of beatified/canonized Marian visionaries, whose relics are in my custody, was incorporated into my talk. Being that my audience was comprised of people who have made a personal commitment to Our Lady, I though it important to emphasize certain spiritual traits from each Saint/Blessed that we could imitate in our own faith journeys (e.g. child-like confidence in Mary).  After the presentation, the audience was given the opportunity to venerate the relics.

In the end, it appeared to have been a very successful presentation, despite a rocky start (my laptop repeatedly malfunctioned under strange circumstances). Based on the feedback and comments I received, I was satisfied that many of the people had found the presentation interesting and informative. I especially enjoy it when individuals introduce themselves and share their own personal stories of how Our Lady or a certain Saint had blessed or touched them. The stories are always intriguing and provide me with inspiration for my ministry. It wasn't any different yesterday and I left Mary, Star of the Sea Church feeling uplifted and having made several new friends.

     
The relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Padre Pio, St. Mother Teresa of
Calcutta and all three Fatima Seers were present during today's presentation.


+ Holy Relics Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group

Our Lady's statue with our group's
newly acquired image of St. Joseph
& the Christ Child.
After my presentation on Saturday morning, I rushed home to put the relics and my equipment away and took a short break before I had to head out to Mililani for my monthly meeting with Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group. We, as a spiritual family, celebrated Thanksgiving early. Although we thank God each time we pray, giving special thanks to Jesus and Mary ended up being our main theme tonight.

In the past few months, Heaven has granted us what seems to be an escalation of extraordinary graces and confirmations of our Blessed Mother's presence, such as the unusual movements we've witnessed in our group's Rosa Mystica statue. We thanked God for all of it, but more importantly, we thanked Him for blessing us with each other; the genuine Christian fellowship, support, and love we've shared during the past four years are the biggest gifts we've received from Christ through the hands of Mary, our Heavenly Mother.  We consider ourselves very fortunate.

A few other highlights of the evening included hope-filled prayers for the good of our country and the veneration of St. Leopoldo Mandic. With the Year of Mercy closing today, this Saint's life was a reminder that God's mercy does not end with the Holy Year - it continues to be extended to us, especially in the confessional.  Then, of course, we feasted on an awesome potluck meal.

Our group's early Thanksgiving dinner was an untraditional menu that included diverse delicacies such as Chicken Curry, Chili with Hot Dogs, Lumpia, Macaroni Salad, Pork Adobo, & Pumpkin Crunch for dessert.  God is good, people - Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

ELECTION DAY: PRAY FOR AMERICA!


Our Lady of Guadalupe,
pray for us!


Regardless who wins the Presidential Election today, the United States of America and its newly elected leader will need a lot of prayer.  Running a country is a tough job!  So let us invoke the powerful help of our Heavenly Mother and patroness - Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Keep in mind - immediately after her apparitions on a hilltop outside of Mexico City, in December 1531, Mary's intercession brought nearly 9 million(!) unbelievers to her Divine Son; harmoniously united two diverse cultures under a Faith founded on the precepts of Love and Peace; and, almost immediately, put an end to the gruesome practice of human sacrifice (often children and the youth).  The same issues from 16th century pre-Christian Mexico have resurfaced today disguised under different names and forms... leading our country down a slippery slope of self-destruction. 


We - our country - urgently need Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession again.  What Jesus Christ sent his mother to do almost 500 years ago, she can do again.  We just need to pray, pray, pray!


   “O Virgin of Guadalupe, your appearance in Mexico changed the course of human history.  Human sacrifice ceased and millions were converted to Jesus Christ.  Pray for our nation now.  Guide our elections through your gracious intercession.  Change hearts and minds to uphold the dignity of all human life.  Stem the tide of moral degeneration and defend the sanctity of marriage.  Protect our nation from terrorism, war and natural disaster.  May goodness triumph over evil.  May candidates committed to God’s truth be elected and re-elected and may our nation prosper, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 11/5/2016


Our Lady, Queen of All
Saints, pray for us!
We prayed for the deceased today. We had to - the Poor Souls need our prayers... and November gives us the special opportunity to practice this worthy, pious exercise in an exceptionally powerful way. Since the Church traditionally dedicates this month to remembering and praying for our dearly departed, countless Catholics around the world are spiritually focused to this end... and there's definitely a lot of power in that.

With that thought in mind, I introduced the prayer participants to Bl. Elizabeth Achler of Reute (d. 1420) - or "Good Betha", as her contemporaries affectionately called her - who was a German stigmatic and a dedicated benefactor of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

As her story goes, Good Betha, participated in the Passion of Christ, via wounds from a mystical crown of thorns and nail marks in her hands and feet. She was also highly devoted to the Eucharist and was said to survive on just the Blessed Sacrament, alone, for the final twelve years of her life. Some biographies have made mention of Good Betha's direct contact with the Poor Souls whom she aided through voluntary penances; the suffering of the stigmata; and her frequent attendance at Mass, which entailed Holy Communion.

I emphasized with our group that, aside from the extraordinary graces and sufferings experienced by Bl. Elizabeth Achler, we too can help the Poor Souls, among other ways, by simply attending Mass on their behalf like how she did. In return, the gratitude and loyalty of these souls towards their benefactors run deep. Once completely sanctified and in Heaven, these souls intercede diligently for those who assisted them in getting there; praying that their helpers will one day join them in eternal bliss.

So let us follow the excellent faith-example of Good Betha and keep the Holy Souls in mind whenever we attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. Our dearly departed need our prayers.

The next First Saturday Rosary for Peace at St. Anthony of Padua Church will be prayed on Saturday, December 3rd. All are welcome.

The Holy Relics that were present at today's First Saturday Rosary - on the left, a relic of
Bl. Elizabeth Achler's ("Good Betha") clothing and, on the right, Our Lady's veil relic.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - November, 2016: Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti


Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti
A Saint of Monotony ~ Memorial: November 20th

For some reason, this particular Beata gives me a cozy feeling whenever I reflect on her life... or look at a picture of her. I don't exactly know what it is about her that does it for me. Perhaps it's her appearance, which seems oddly familiar like a favorite aunt or a grandmother... or maybe it was her gentle nature, which attracted not just people to her, but also wild birds that fearlessly alighted on her hands at her bidding (I'm an animal lover, too).

Born Anna Felice Viti on February 10, 1827, in Veroli, Italy, she was the third eldest out of nine children. Sadly, when she was just 14-years-old, Anna's pious mother died, leaving her and her siblings to be cared for by their father, Luigi; a poor example of a man. Luigi was a compulsive gambler, as well as an alcoholic, who irresponsibly squandered his income on his vices rather than properly providing for his children. 

The Benedictine Convent of Veroli, Italy
Given their unfortunate circumstances, Anna stepped up to the plate by foregoing her elementary education (she remained illiterate all her life) to raise her younger siblings, and working as a domestic servant to make ends meet for her large household. During this same time, she also felt strongly drawn to religious life but postponed applying to a convent because of her loyalty and commitment to her family. It wasn't until ten years later, when Anna was 24, that she was finally able to pursue her desire of giving herself completely over to God. The Benedictine nuns in her hometown welcomed her as their sister and she happily remained with them for a little over 70 years, until her death at the ripe old age of 95.   

Sr. Maria Fortunata, as she was renamed in the convent, soon became notable for her strict observance of the Rule and her outstanding practice of obedience, humility, and prayer. Because of her simple nature, she was assigned the duties of spinning, sewing, and laundry for the convent, which she uncomplainingly fulfilled for the rest of her long life. But when she wasn't occupied with her chores, she could be found in the chapel rapt in deep prayer before our Eucharistic Lord, or lending a kind ear or hand to a nun in need or to visitors.  Needless to say, she endeared herself to many. 

In addition to being remembered for her goodness and piety, Sr. Maria Fortunata's life was also enriched with many spiritual gifts. Biographers report that she had the God-given ability to prophecy and, on one occasion, predicted that a certain priest would abandon his vocation, repent, and resume his priestly ministry with renewed vigor; everything happened as she said. Then there were the mysterious swoons that sometimes overtook her in the chapel, after which her arms and legs would be found covered with bleeding lash marks - the effects, apparently, of the Stigmata of the Scourging. And lastly, as already mentioned, she had a wonderful influence on animals, especially birds, which showed no fear in her presence but freely came to her and nestled in her hands whenever she called to them.

On the other hand, when a venomous snake once found its way into the convent's garden and threatened the safety of her fellow nuns, Sr. Maria Fortunata miraculously disposed of it by making the sign of the cross in the snake's direction after it slithered out of the shrub towards her.  It immediately writhed about before rolling over dead!  

Another painted likeness...
In her final years, Sr. Maria Fortunata patiently endured severe arthritis, which eventually left her bedridden... and then the trial of blindness followed. Unable to fulfill her physical duties, she resigned herself to God's will and simply prayed all the more, until she peacefully flew to Heaven on November 20, 1922. In the eyes of the world, her life would generally be considered mundane and monotonous, but through the eyes of faith, her life was made truly heroic and fruitful through constant prayer and the faithful acceptance of whatever God made her days to be.

After her passing, the memory of this hidden gem of a nun, at first appeared destined for obscurity, but then multiple reports of cures and favors occurring at her grave fueled her reputation for sanctity. The Church took notice and investigated, and the humble Benedictine sister was eventually beatified on October 8, 1967. One more authenticated miracle, worked through her intercession, is needed for Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti to be called a Saint.  Let us pray for that second miracle to soon be realized.

A Reflection:
"Short is the suffering, eternal the joy!" ~ Words of encouragement often spoken by Bl. Maria Fortunata to those who came to her burdened by life's difficulties.

A Short Prayer:

Lord, like your servant Bl. Maria Fortunata, help us to focus on the eternal reward awaiting us in your kingdom, rather than on the temporary trials that we face in this life.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Speaking Presentation & Holy Relics Exhibit: St. Anthony of Padua Church, 10/30/2016


The 2016 Patron Saints Celebration & Relic Exhibit at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua

With the Feast of All Saints being just two days away on November 1st, my parish of St. Anthony of Padua Church again enlisted my saints and relics ministry to assist in planning something special for a Family Sunday event to especially honor our spiritual heroes - the Saints. This is something that I particularly enjoy about this parish - the fact that it's very open and enthusiastic about promoting devotion to Our Lady, the Holy Rosary, and the Saints. So although I now live in Honolulu, I continue to come to this Kailua parish regularly and volunteer my services in the planning of devotional events for our parishioners.

Over 200 parishioners gathered in our parish hall to learn about various Saints
& Blesseds during our Patron Saints Celebration & Relic Exhibit.

So this year, we decided on another relic exhibit for today's religious education event. With the success of last year's exhibit, and the feast coming up, it was a no brainer; we had to do it again. But this year, I put a twist in the presentation we conducted prior to the exhibit - rather than going over the Sainthood Process that I normally cover, the majority of my talk was instead focused on simply telling short stories and showing slide images of how certain Saints/Blesseds became designated "Patron Saints" of certain vocations and/or situations. I wanted the people to learn the reasons behind the patronage of popular Saints such as our very own St. Anthony of Padua (Patron of Lost Items); St. Christopher (Patron of Travelers); St. Francis of Assisi (Patron of Animals/Nature Lovers); St. Gerard Majella (Patron of Expectant Mothers)... and 25 other Saints/Blesseds. It turned out to be a true celebration, indeed, of Patron Saints in Kailua!

Interest was high with 200+ parishioners - parents and their children - coming to listen to the 45 minute talk. Immediately after, the relic exhibit was opened to them, allowing everyone the opportunity to walk around three long display tables on which the sacred remains of the Saints/Blesseds I discussed were displayed for veneration. Many people stayed and small, square pieces of blessed fabric were freely handed out to interested parishioners so they could make their own personalized 3rd Class Relics by touching the cloth to the reliquaries of the Saints/Blesseds who impressed them the most.

              
Parishioners - young & old - of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua venerating
the holy remains of 29 Saints & Blesseds, plus a True Cross Relic, at three different
relic display stations during our Relic Exhibit.

Judging by the many positive feedback I received, the majority of the people who came had deemed the presentation edifying and/or highly interesting. What was particularly rewarding for me was to see many, many parents and children standing patiently in line with their pieces of fabric, while the kids did most of the asking as to where they could find certain relics to touch. It showed me just how much the kids actually pay close attention when you tell them amusing stories of the Saints.

One little girl, whom I recall clearly, asked me where she could find St. Peregrine because she wanted to touch her cloth to his relic then give it to an aunt who was suffering from cancer. How awesome is that? It's moments like these that make my sometimes-challenging, one-man ministry well-worth the effort that goes into putting on a big presentation like today's one.

       
Some of the Sacred Relics that were on public display during today's exhibit.
Among the 30 relics were those from St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Germaine Cousin,
St. Martin de Porres, St. Catherine of Bologna, & St. Rose of Lima.

With this year's Patron Saints Celebration & Relic Exhibit being successfully concluded, I now face a new challenge - how do we top this event next year?

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 10/29/2016


Our prayer group's mysterious
Rosa Mystica statue.
Yesterday was another extraordinary meeting for Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group (and I literally mean extraordinary).

It was rainy and cold, but most of our regular members made it to the Gruber home, anyway, and the meeting was on. Now the rosary and other prayers offered are always the central focus to our monthly meetings and are accompanied by a sense of the Holy Spirit... but when out-of-the-ordinary things also happen, the Holy Spirit "vibe" during the meeting always gets turned up way high. That's what happened last night... and again, it involved our group's Rosa Mystica statue.

When we pray the rosary together, different members of our group randomly lead a decade of the five Rosary Mysteries. Everything was progressing normally until the 5th Luminous Mystery - Christ institutes the Eucharist - at which point, one of our female members ("BM") was leading the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers. I happened to look up at the statue when I immediately noticed that its face had again "transfigured", taking on the life-like, dewy appearance that our members have sometimes noticed during our prayer... but this time around, I thought I saw both eyes on the image actually blink a few times before the pupils shifted to the right to gaze directly at BM. At the same time, the statue's expression appeared sweet and serene, and like a mother who seemed very pleased about something (how fortunate for BM!).

While intently observing the statue's face, I was startled when felt a few taps on my left forearm and I turned to see our prayer-leader, Dre, motioning to me to look at the statue's face. I knew then that she was also seeing an unusual transformation in the Rosa Mystica. We both kept quiet about the matter, but I did take out my cellphone and snapped a couple of photos of the statue before resuming to pray. The statue soon returned to its usual appearance, at least from my perspective. 

After the last prayer ended and most of the members had gone into the kitchen for our potluck dinner, Dre and I pulled BM aside to inquire if anything significant - good or bad - had happened to her recently. BM replied that she had actually gone to confession that morning after having been away from the confessional for a long period of time, and she was feeling great about her experience. BM then asked about our concern after which we both shared with her the unusual movements we saw in the statue. Another group member who was sitting close by overheard our conversation and let out a loud gasp before disclosing that she had seen the statue turn its head slightly towards BM while she was leading the decade... but she opted to not say anything because she wasn't sure if she was just imagining things. We were all blown away by how the three of us were able to corroborate each other's experiences, and how it all made sense that Our Lady would gaze at BM with a look of approval after she taken the initiative to cleanse her soul in the confessional.

The left photo shows a picture of our Rosa Mystica statue, taken over two years
ago, as it normally appears... while the other photo was taken last night when the pupils
were witnessed to have shifted to the far right.  Not only do the eyes appear different, but
its face and chin also look rounder than the statue's normal appearance.
And what about the shape of the hairline?

So what happened with the photos I took of the statue? Well, when I finally had a chance to review them today, both appear to show the pupils of the statue shifted to the far right of both eyes - towards the direction where BM was sitting at the table. Not only did the eyes look to be different, but the shape of the statue's face appeared fuller and rounder than usual; its eye brows were slightly thicker and a different shape; and the hairline was higher and missing the drooping scallop-shape on both sides of the forehead. Everyone involved agreed that there were noticeable differences in the two photos and the statue appeared life-like in the picture taken last night, which testified to our entire group's occasional experiences of seeing the statue come to life during our meetings. 

Needless to say, we are all in awe over this latest development with the Rosa Mystica statue. Just when we thought we'd seen it all, Our Lady surprises us with a new manifestation; another tangible sign that just leads us to respect and appreciate, even more, her maternal role and special guidance in our prayer group's faith-life. Thank you, Blessed Mother!