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.