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


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Holy Relic Visitation: Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Group, 2/27/2016


Sometimes we can take blessings for granted without even realizing it.  One good example is the presence of God in nature.  Here in Hawaii, the abundance of beautiful, natural scenery is a daily sight for us... and because of it, God's blessings in nature can easily be taken for granted.  I admit that I do often enough.

Tonight, at our prayer meeting, a small incident that I shared from the life of our featured Saint - St. Catherine de' Ricci (read about her here) - inadvertently turned out to be the stimulus for one of our bigger takeaways this evening; an important reminder that we sometimes need to stop and smell the roses in life... so as to, perhaps, discover the rich, living presence of God in the beauty of his creation all around us.

Enjoying my time with
my two godsons.
So what was the story about St. Catherine that occasioned such lofty sentiments?  I read from a booklet about the Saint's life that she one day went for a stroll in the monastery garden with some of the other nuns when spotted a small, lone flower blooming on the ground.  The Saint was so captivated by what she saw that she pointed to the blossom and excitedly blurted to her companions, "My spouse [Jesus] created that flower.", as though God had caused the plant to bloom specifically for her enjoyment; a personal gift to her. Almost immediately, St. Catherine was caught up in an ecstasy that left her immobile for several hours(!) while she happily contemplated the goodness and wonder of God, via the flower.  It was a story that gave us a lot of food for thought.

Just think - St. Catherine spent hours in silent appreciation and mystic union with God over a simple plant, which was probably just a pesky weed... but how many of us pause for even a moment to consciously thank God for a brilliant rainbow in the sky or for a breathtaking sunset (common sights in our islands)?  We were humbled and several expressed their amazement and appreciation over St. Catherine's story... and how, moving forward, we'd all make an effort to recognize God's presence and gifts in nature.

Fellowship and potluck after our prayer time.

Lastly, a personal highlight for me from this meeting was having two of my godsons present in one place, at the same time, which never happened before.  A friend finally decided to attend our prayer meeting after several invitations, and she bought her son - my godson - and her disabled mother with her.  They all seemed to enjoy the fellowship and the potluck dinner, and were deeply touched by the Holy Spirit, judging by the tears they shed during prayer time.  We enjoyed their company, as well.  Again, blessings upon blessings, not to be taken for granted.

Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

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


Dear Children...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on February 25th:
   "Dear children! In this time of grace, I am calling all of you to conversion. Little children, you love little and pray even less. You are lost and do not know what your goal is. Take the cross, look at Jesus and follow Him. He gives Himself to you to the death on the cross, because He loves you. Little children, I am calling you: return to prayer with the heart so as to find hope and the meaning of your existence, in prayer. I am with you and am praying for you.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on February 2nd:
   "Dear children, I have called you and am calling you anew to come to know my Son, to come to know the truth. I am with you and am praying for you to succeed. My children, you must pray much in order to have all the more love and patience; to know how to endure sacrifice and to be poor in spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, my Son is always with you. His Church is born in every heart that comes to know Him. Pray that you can come to know my Son; pray that your soul may be one with Him. That is the prayer and the love which draws others and makes you my apostles. I am looking at you with love, with a motherly love. I know you; I know your pain and sorrows, because I also suffered in silence. My faith gave me love and hope. I repeat, the Resurrection of my Son and my Assumption into Heaven is hope and love for you. Therefore, my children, pray to come to know the truth; to have firm faith which will lead your heart and which will transform your pain and sufferings into love and hope.  Thank you."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 2/6/2016


My Rosa Mystica pilgrim statue on
display in the parish's Day Chapel.
My Rosa Mystica pilgrim statue did it again.  By that, I mean that once again, while we were praying, its face became soft and dewy, taking on a beautiful life-like appearance. Me and the other regular participants usually notice this remarkable transformation (if it occurs at all) beginning sometime during the prayers of the 3rd Mystery. We take it as a special confirmation that Our Lady is present with us through the statue; a promise she made to her devotees, via a series of alleged private revelations to the Marian visionary, Pierina Gilli (read about the Rosa Mystica Devotion here).

Anyhow, this month's First Saturday Rosary for Peace was a preparation for Lent, which is right around the corner, beginning on Wednesday, February 10th.  The Saint I shared about was St. Catherine de' Ricci, who was also the featured Saint of the Month on my blog.  I thought narrating her life to our participants would be relevant at this time because she was an individual who lived and "prayed" the sufferings of Christ in a powerful manner, resulting in a richer, deeper personal relationship with our Lord; something that we could all strive for during every season of Lent.  We then prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, which is always very moving.  Again, appropriate preparations.

After the Rosary Prayer ended, a couple of parishioners stayed behind to request special prayers for health issues they were going through. So a small group of us regulars prayed over them, while each held a 2nd Class [veil] Relic of St. Catherine de' Ricci that I had brought to today's meeting for public veneration (right photo). The second lady, who had nerve and muscle pain in her head, stated that she felt immediate relief after we prayed - what a blessing!  Our Saints are so helpful to us, via their power of intercession, and I only wish more Catholics today were truly cognizant of that fact... and prayed more to the Saints.

The next First Saturday Rosary at St. Anthony of Padua Church will be prayed on Saturday, March 5th, beginning at 4:25pm.  All are welcomed to join us in the Day Chapel to help intercede for World Peace and to seek the special help of Our Lady and the Saints, via the Holy Rosary and the Sacred Relics that are always present each month.  Come, and be blessed...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - February, 2016: Saint Catherine de' Ricci


Saint Catherine de' Ricci
Mystic of the Passion ~ Feast: February 4th

The featured February Saint is notable not just for her personal sanctity, but also for the incredible spiritual phenomena that surrounded her life with uncommon frequency. St. Catherine de' Ricci worked miracles and experienced Ecstasies; Visions; Bilocation; the Stigmata of Christ... and after her death, her body defied the laws of nature by remaining incorrupt.

A marble bust that captures
the true features of the Saint.
Born in the city of Florence, Italy, on April 23, 1522, her secular name was Alessandra Lucrezia Ricci.  The Ricci Family was made up of wealthy bankers and merchants so our Saint grew up in a home that was both comfortable and socially prominent.  When she was still a little child, Alessandra's mother died and her father was remarried to an aristocrat named, Fiammetta Diacceto.  Fortunately for the girl, her new mother was a woman of deep faith, who sensing in Alessandra an early attraction to spirituality, wisely guided and encouraged the youngster in pious pursuits.  By the time she was in her early teens Alessandra had already resolved to become a nun and she set her eyes on the Convent of San Vincenzo Ferrer in nearby Prato, where its members strictly observed the Rule of the Dominican Order.  Her paternal uncle, Timoteo Ricci, also happened to be a priest and the chaplain for the nuns of San Vincenzo.  He offered to arrange her entry into the Dominican convent. 

At first, Alessandra's father was resistant to his daughter's plan to become a religious, but when the girl fell dangerously ill, he relented and consented to her desire.  Soon after, Alessandra was miraculously healed and happily departed for Prato.  Inspired by the life of the famous Dominican, St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), she changed her name to Sr. Catherine upon entering the convent; she was only 13-years-old at the time she abandoned secular life.

St. Catherine, in ecstasy, often
spoke with Jesus Christ.
The first five years were rough for the young novice.  During that time frame, Sr. Catherine suffered severe temptations to quit religious life coupled by health issues. Furthermore, she began experiencing episodes of ecstasy that left her senseless and completely absorbed in the contemplation of the Divine, and which caused her much embarrassment.  For example, she was assigned to the convent's kitchen and would sometimes drop dishes and food when an ecstasy unexpectedly came upon her. The other nuns, at first, misunderstood the situation and attributed Sr. Catherine's behavior to ineptitude.  Then, as the ecstatic phenomena escalated, they looked upon her with distrust; either she was seeking attention for personal gain or simply crazy.  It was only through the influence of her uncle, Fr. Timoteo, that she managed to avoid being dismissed from the convent by her superiors.  But, eventually, through her consistent practice of humility and obedience, Sr. Catherine overcame all suspicion while earning the respect of her community.

The mystical phenomena in her life came to a culmination in February 1542, when Sr. Catherine was 20-years-old. She received the Sacred Stigmata and experienced her very first "Ecstasy of the Passion", which recurred weekly. During these special ecstasies, which lasted from noon on Thursdays until 4:00pm Fridays, our Saint reenacted scenes from the Passion of Christ while her Stigmata bled profusely; her bodily postures involuntarily mimicked those of Christ's sufferings that she saw in a series of visions.  News of this wonder soon spread outside the convent walls and crowds flocked to the convent to witness the ecstasies; some even climbed atop the outer walls in the hope of catching a view of the miracle.  A papal envoy sent to investigate the events also deemed them genuine.  In the meantime, Sr. Catherine and the other nuns were unhappy with the weekly intrusions and prayed fervently for the ecstasies to cease.  God finally answered them, but only after twelve straight years of recurring ecstasies.
  
The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine de' Ricci to Jesus during which he
gifted her with a ring of gold mounted with a brilliant diamond.

Other miraculous occurrences recorded of Sr. Catherine included her bilocations to Rome, where she conferred with St. Philip Neri (d. 1595), who openly attested to the mystical visits and spoke highly of her character.  In the same manner, she miraculously visited with St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi (d. 1607) in her Carmelite Monastery in Florence.  There was also the ring of Mystic Espousal - a gold band with a single diamond - that she received from Christ in April 1542, shortly after she was stigmatized.  Although the ring could only be seen by her, a visible red mark surrounded her finger where the ring had its place... but on special feast days the other nuns were able to catch glimpses of the actual gold ring, itself.  And finally, there was Sr. Catherine's sufferings on behalf of the Poor Souls in Purgatory.  She experienced frequent visits from the Holy Souls and her compassion towards them moved her to offer prayers, fasts, and other voluntary penances to alleviate their painful spiritual purification. During one notable episode, she generously volunteered to our Lord to suffer for the soul of Francesco de' Medici, a Grandduke, who was a financial benefactor of her convent. Jesus agreed and, for forty days, Sr. Catherine suffered the fiery purgation intended for Francesco - her body became so hot, her skin broke out with blisters and the other nuns could not enter her room due to the intense heat mysteriously emanating from her. The pain must have been terrible, but the Saint endured the trial in complete peace, having been assured by divine revelation that the Grandduke's soul had entered into eternal rest.  These accounts are just a few samplings of the prodigious mystical life of St. Catherine de' Ricci. Her biography is filled with many similar accounts.

It should be emphasized that, apart from the marvels that she experienced, Sr. Catherine was a worthy nun who lived the Christian virtues, exceptionally; her life should not be defined only by the unusual events reported of her. When her community of nuns finally recognized her innate sanctity, she was elected to successive leadership positions until she became prioress in perpetuity at aged 30... and she served her convent admirably.  During her rule, one account states that her convent's membership grew to close to 160 nuns!  A testimony to the immense, positive spiritual influence she had in the region.  In addition, she was the unofficial spiritual adviser to many prominent families in Florence, as well as to other holy individuals of her time, as already mentioned above.

The miraculously preserved body of St. Catherine de' Ricci, venerated in Prato, Italy.

Sr. Catherine died at age 67 on February 2, 1590, surrounded by the mysterious scent of flowers - the odor of sanctity - that often emanated from her person during her ecstasies.  Her body was later discovered incorrupt during the ritual exhumation that was part of the Canonization Process.  She was declared a Saint in 1746 amidst rejoicing in both Prato and Florence.  Her perfectly preserved remains are venerated in the Basilica of San Vincenzo e Santa Caterina de' Ricci, attached to the Saint's original convent.  According to feedback I personally received from the Dominican nuns of San Vincenzo Convent, St. Catherine de' Ricci's memory is still very much alive in Prato despite the passage of over four centuries.  May this Saint intercede for our personal needs and the needs of the Universal Church.

A Reflection:
"Look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, on this Thy family for which Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to be delivered into the hands of the wicked, and suffer the torments of the Cross."  ~ A prayer composed by St. Catherine de' Ricci

A Short Prayer:
Lord, in the same burning spirit of love that St. Catherine had for your Church, we also pray your divine guidance and protection upon it; upon the Pope; the Clergy; consecrated men and women; upon the laity.  Amen.