Disclaimer

NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Our Lady, Reconciler of People with God



As I'm writing this post, I'm still in a bit of a spiritual daze... but I feel strongly that I need to share this experience.  There could be an important and/or timely message for a reader out there.  Please let me explain.

It all started at Noon today, I attended Mass at the Honolulu Cathedral and, after it was done, I started on my usual lunchtime walk to get some exercise.  I normally pray the Divine Mercy chaplet while walking, but this time around, I prayed the "Jesus Prayer" using my Chotki (a knotted chord chaplet).

As I walked along, praying and enjoying the warmth of the sun, I started reflecting on our Blessed Mother and a few of her apparitions allegedly taking place in different parts of the world.  In particular, the Medjugorje events kept popping into mind, which I personally believe in.  It was then I heard a female "voice" say to me:

"I come to reconcile people with God."

The voice sounded not in my ear, but I "heard" it clearly within my very being, which is the best way I can explain it.  It was unexpected and so lucid, I paused midstep to look up at the sky to see if, by God's grace, I'd somehow catch a glimpse of something heavenly to affirm the message I just heard... but there was nothing unusual up in the blue sky and among the clouds so I dismissed the matter as a figment of my imagination and continued on.

Later, towards the evening, as I drove home from work, I started the Divine Mercy Chaplet, offering the prayer for the conversion of sinners. Towards the middle of the chaplet something bright caught my sight from the corner of my left eye - when I looked out the driver's side window I was amazed to see it was the figure of Our Lady of Fatima in her long trademark veil and standing on a wispy cloud.  The form was so distinct it seemed like a white paper cutout against the darkening sky and I could even make out faint details of her face and arms.

At first I tried to dismiss the unusual formation, but when it continued to hold its shape, I realized I wasn't looking at an ordinary cloud - it was much more... and I sensed it was connected to what I heard earlier in the day: "I come to reconcile people with God."  Mary was actually there - hovering above me - joining in on my prayer; interceding for souls to convert and reconcile with her Divine Son.

I finally grabbed my cellphone and managed to snap a few photos... and still, Our Lady remained!  She did so for about a minute more, before her image finally dissipated.  I was left excited and deeply humbled, and I think my heart might have been racing too.

The photos below are the remarkable images I captured of the Holy Virgin in the sky.  They do not do justice to what I saw in person.


Our Lady is seen at the bottom-right of the above
photo and in the middle of the photos below.

   

I make no claims at being a visionary or a seer, or someone who is spiritually advanced... but I know I experienced something remarkable today and I'm still in awe about it.  It started with a voice and ended with a spectacular apparition in the sky.  No coincidences.

At this writing, I'm still trying to discern all that's happened, but my immediate take on all this is simple and straightforward - Our Lady truly comes down to us at certain hallowed places such as Medjugorje (incidentally, today - the 25th of the month - is the day she gives a monthly message in that town) and I am convinced the Madonna comes to help us make our peace with God, if we aren't good with Him.  She's a mediator and reconciler - hence, the title of this blog.

So if we only give the Blessed Mother a chance, she will help transform our lives for the better and guide us to the one person who can fulfill us with all the love and contentment we could ever desire: JESUS.  

As Our Lady so often repeats in her messages given at Medjugorje, we can begin the transformative healing process of conversion by simply making the decision to turn our lives over to God... confessing our sins... then we pray from the heart with trust in the Lord's infinite mercy.  It could all start here.

Our Lady, Reconciler of People with God,
pray for us.

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: April 2019


Our Lady of Medjugorje, pray for us...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on April 25th:
   "Dear children! This is a time of grace, a time of mercy for each of you. Little children, do not permit that the wind of hatred and peacelessness rule in you and around you. You, little children, are called to be love and prayer. The devil wants peacelessness and disorder, but you, little children, be the joy of the risen Jesus who died and resurrected for each of you. He conquered death to give you life, eternal life. Therefore, little children, witness and be proud that you have resurrected in Him.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on April 2nd:
   "Dear children, as a mother who knows her children, I know that you are crying out for my Son. I know that you are crying out for truth, for peace, for that which is pure and not deceptive. That is why I, as a mother, through the love of God, am addressing you and calling you that, by prayer and a pure and open heart within yourselves, you may come to know my Son - His love, His merciful heart. My Son saw beauty in all things. He seeks the good in all souls - even that which is little and hidden - so as to forgive evil. Therefore, my children, apostles of my love, I am calling you to adore Him, to ceaselessly give Him thanks, and to be worthy. Because He has spoken to you divine words, the words of God, the words which are for all and forever. Therefore, my children, live joy, radiance, unity and mutual love. This is what you need in today's world. In this way you will be apostles of my love.  In this way you will witness my Son in the right way.  Thank you."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A visit to St. Sharbel Church in Las Vegas, Nevada - did Our Lady show herself?


I just returned from Las Vegas where I attended a family reunion over the past weekend.  While there, I visited a small chapel that I read about in the Visions of Jesus Christ website.  According to the story posted in the site, the city's Maronite Catholic Church of St. Sharbel experienced a remarkable event in 2013 when a large statue of their Patron Saint mysteriously oozed oil (myrrh) from its head, eyes, hands, and chest - see the photos below.

  
Actual photos of the Las Vegas St. Sharbel statue, taken
in 2013 when the image allegedly seeped an oily fluid.
(photos used courtesy of visionsofjesuschrist.com)

I googled the parish's address and drove to see the statue for myself on Friday morning, March 29th.  When I got to the site, I was surprised by how small and quiet the place was; there was no fanfare, which would have made me extra-cautious. I immediately introduced myself to a couple of women parishioners outside of the chapel, who graciously walked me over to the parish office to meet a third lady who could answer the questions I had about the statue.

The third woman (Joan or Joanne?) was very friendly and personable, and provided me with background information about the events that occurred in her parish.  According to this parishioner, the statue of St. Sharbel had only oozed myrrh during a single episode in 2013 and the phenomena has not recurred to this present time; the reason for the phenomenon remains a mystery but the priest and parishioners consider it a great blessing.  She then directed me to the little church where the statue was kept in a glass-side case, and also encouraged me to visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where perpetual adoration is observed.

    
The beautiful interior of the St. Sharbel Church in Las Vegas.  At left is
the side chapel of St. Sharbel and right is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
(click on each photo to view larger images)

Inside the church I was positively impressed by its unique, rustic design and its peaceful other-worldly vibe.  I venerated the statue in question, prayed to St. Sharbel, and took a few photos before settling down in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  There, I prayed the rosary then simply sat quietly, soaking in the presence of the Eucharistic Christ exposed in a monstrance. Again, there was a tremendous sense of peace that engulfed me.

After spending about an hour in prayer and reflection, I bid farewell to our Lord, lit a few candles, then drove off to meet with family.  As far as I know, the local church has never investigated the weeping St. Sharbel statue but I was personally inclined to believe it was genuine because of what I observed concerning the unpretentious church surroundings, and the humble demeanor of the people I met - no one tried to convince me it was true; no one asked for a donation; no one tried to sell anything.  All the people did was tell me the story of what was witnessed there and answer my questions in a straightforward manner.

 
Me, in front of the glass-encased "miracle" statue of
St. Sharbel in this Las Vegas mission church.

Later that same day, something else happened that made me more inclined to believe in this St. Sharbel "miracle".  I was reviewing the photos I took in the church when something unusual caught my eye in the one photo I took of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  There, in the framed print of Christ above the monstrance, on the bottom-right, was an image of Our Lady!

I recognized the Holy Virgin's veiled upper torso with her head looking down as though lovingly gazing at her Divine Son in the Host - it was so clear to me that it even resembled the famous "Tijaljina-Queen of Peace" statue that's closely associated with Medjugorje... but no such statue was present in the chapel; nor was the image there to begin with.  The photo-collage below compares Our Lady's image in my photo (left & upper-right) with a familiar Tijaljina-style statue (bottom-right) - the resemblance is simply uncanny!

A sign of Mary's special presence?
An image of Mary, the Queen of Peace, can be seen
within the bottom-right of the framed image of Jesus.
It closely resembles the Marian statue shown above.
   
I can only assume the image of our Blessed Mother was some sort of affirmation that she was in the chapel praying, too.  I don't know what else to make of it... but if you're ever in Las Vegas, this little church is worth visiting.  'can't say you'll see oil on the statue or catch a glimpse of Our Lady... but for sure you'll encounter Jesus in their Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which is the bigger grace to be had.

To learn more about St. Sharbel,
the holy Lebanese hermit, click here.

Saint of the Month - April 2019: Saint Pedro Calungsod


St. Pedro Calungsod
Youthful Catechist & Martyr - Feast: April 2nd

Today the Church is celebrating the heroic life of a young lay-martyr - St. Pedro Calungsod - who hails from my homeland of the Philippines.  Usually, I blog about Saints and Blesseds whose relics are in my ministry's custody - to promote devotion to them - but there are no relics of this particular Saint.  However, being Filipino, myself, I have to admit I'm being a bit partial in selecting St. Pedro for my featured Saint of the Month.  This is his story of faith... and unfailing loyalty to God and friendship.

Our protagonist was born in one of the Visayas region of the Philippines on July 21, 1654.  According to biographies, Pedro was educated by Spanish Jesuit missionaries who taught the boy to read and write, not just in his native Visayan dialect, but also in their language.  He also learned to speak Chamorro and, because he was so intelligent and proficient in the other languages, the Jesuits further trained him as a lay-catechist and brought him with them to evangelize the Chamorros of Guam (then called the Mariana Islands) in 1668.  Pedro was just 14-years-old at the time he left the Philippines never to return.

Despite the danger and uncertainty that was involved in missionary fieldwork among the native populations, Pedro proved himself to be enthusiastic and loyal to his friends and spiritual mentors, in particular to the zealous Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores.

The missionary party was at first welcomed on Guam where they made many converts among the Chamorros, including the ruling class.  In early 1669, Fr. Diego Luis was able to build the first Catholic church in Guam, on land in the village of Hagatna, donated by a local chief; four other churches in other hamlets were soon constructed within a few years.  Without a doubt, Pedro was an instrumental participant in the establishment of the Catholic Faith on the small island, where his ability to speak the native tongue was put to good use, along with his skills in carpentry and artwork.

Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores, missionary to Guam.

The success of the missionaries was soon followed by strife instigated by a group of jealous and resentful non-Christians, among whom were the proud warrior class and village shamans.  Their influence and meddling caused a growing strain between the foreigners and the locals, due mainly to conflicts between Christian teachings and the long-standing pagan practices and traditions of the Chamorro natives. Furthermore, an exiled criminal from the Philippines named Choco had spread a damaging rumor that the missionaries were killing children using poisoned baptismal water.

Things came to a head on April 2, 1672.  On that fateful day, Pedro accompanied Fr. Diego Luis to the village of Tumon where the priest baptised the newborn daughter of the local chieftain, Mata'pang. The chief was a lapsed believer who objected to the baptism, but his consort was a faithful convert who wanted the sacrament administered to her child.  Upon learning the baptism was performed while he was briefly away, Chief Mata'pang flew into a rage and attacked the two missionaries.

The chief first hurled a spear at Pedro but the agile youth dodged the weapon; he could have easily fled, at that point, but instead chose to remain with his priest in an effort to defend him.  A second spear hit the valiant teen in the chest and he fell mortally wounded at the side of Fr. Diego Luis, who hurriedly absolved him before falling to a spear, himself.  Pedro was only 17-years-old at the time of his death.

The bodies of the murdered missionaries were weighted with stones then cast into the shark-filled ocean where they were never recovered; hence, no relics.  Both men were eventually raised to the glory of the altar, as Martyrs - Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores reached Beatification in October 1985, while Pedro successfully reached Canonization on October 21, 2012.

Filipinos have a special pride and love for their young Saint... and rightfully so.

The miracle recognized for the Canonization of St. Pedro was reported to have been the 2003 healing of a dying comatose woman who was oxygen-deprived for an extended period of time.  It was actually the patient's doctor who said a short prayer to Pedro before the unconscious woman unexpectedly revived within a few hours with no brain damage whatsoever - astounding!  May St. Pedro Calungsod pray for our individual needs, as well as, the needs of the entire Church.

Prayer to Obtain St. Pedro Calungsod's Help
   
   Saint Pedro Calungsod, young migrant, student, catechist, missionary, faithful friend, and martyr, you inspire us by your fidelity in time of trial and adversity; by your courage in teaching the Faith in the midst of hostility; by your love in shedding your blood for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus.

   We beg you, make our cares and troubles your own [here mention the special intention you are asking him to bring to the Lord] and intercede for us before the throne of Mercy and Grace, so that as we experience the help of Heaven, we may be encouraged and strengthened to proclaim and live the Gospel here on earth.  Amen.


* * * UPDATE: MAY 14th, 2019 * * *

Praise the Lord!  Through the help of a friend in Guam - Josephine - I was blessed to acquire a few stones gathered from the site of the martyrdom of both St. Pedro Calungsod and Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores.  A gated, fence-enclosed chapel now stands at the exact location where the two holy individuals met their deaths near the Tumon beach... but my friend was able to gain entry into the locked complex after providentially running into a cooperative security guard who let her in.

The shrine-chapel constructed at the site of St. Pedro's death... and the decorated frame (r)
I created in which I mounted a stone souvenir taken from the site.

Josephine took several photos to share with me before hand-picking the souvenir stones from within the shrine grounds.  In anticipation of their arrival I purchased a wooden shadow box with a stand, and decorated it with red velvet and a drawing I made of St. Pedro. I mounted one of the stones in the frame upon receiving the package from Guam.  It's not a relic... but it's the closest I'm gonna get to one since this Saint's corpse was disposed of in the ocean.  Still, it's amazing how one small stone can make me feel so closely connected to the Saint.

The stone will be shared with the Filipino group at my parish who I hope will begin yearly novenas to St. Pedro Calungsod as they currently do for St. Lorenzo Ruiz during his September Feast Day.