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, Ministry & Blog Administrator

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Wonders of the Theotokos of Iveron

Rejoice, inexhaustible wellspring of grace;
Rejoice, thou who in boundless purity didst
serve the Infinite One!

This ministry has already posted a few times concerning its positive impressions of the "Hawaiian" myrrh-streaming icon of the "Theotokos" ("God-bearer") of Iveron... but then it recently dawned on this author that I didn't really know the entire backstory of the original icon.  I only knew the streaming icon here is a copy of a streaming icon from Montreal, Canada, which in turn, was a contemporary rendition of an ancient icon of the Holy Virgin and Christ Child currently kept in an Orthodox Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece.  I decided to do research and what a spiritual treasure trove I discovered!

According to online accounts, the original Iveron Icon was said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, like a number of highly venerated miracle-working icons of the Madonna and Child (e.g. Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Czestochowa).  Because of its sacred provenance, this icon, too, was considered miraculous in nature.  Somehow, in the mid-800s, it ended up in the home-chapel of a devout widow who lived in Nicaea.  At the time the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus launched an iconoclasm (war against images) - a purge of religious images, including icons in the Eastern Church - because of a misguided belief that all were "graven".

The original wonder-working
Theotokos of Iveron Icon.

As a result of the emperor's edict, soldiers showed up at the widow's home to confiscate her icon.  One brazen soldier actually slashed at the Virgin's chin with a sword after which, to the horror of all present, blood dripped from the gash inflicted.  The soldiers immediately repented and left the home without destroying the image.

The widow then offered heartfelt prayers of reparation before her treasured icon and received a divine revelation to set it adrift in the nearby ocean to save it from further desecration.  The following morning the woman and her son obediently did as commanded and laid the wooden image upon the waves of the sea, where it set itself upright and began to mysteriously sail towards the West.

The Theotokos Icon is commended to the sea
by the pious widow of Nicaea.

Some time later, the monks of Mt. Athos in eastern Greece, were struck by the sight of a pillar of fire, approaching from the horizon, that rose from the sea into the sky.  The fiery column eventually reached the Grecian shoreline where the awaiting monks discovered the floating painting at the base of the luminary phenomenon.  Their attempts to retrieve the icon failed, though, as it drifted out of reach whenever it was approached.

In the meantime, a humble and holy monk named, Gabriel (St. Gabriel of Iveron in the Orthodox Tradition), from the Georgian Monastery of Iveron (one of several Eastern Orthodox monasteries on Mt. Athos) experienced an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who directed him to fetch her sacred image from the sea.  Gabriel, without hesitation, went down to the shore and, walking upon the waves, as though on land, easily retrieved the painting.

The Montreal streaming Iveron
Icon with its custodian, the late
Bro. Jose Munoz.

The image was initially installed in a chapel within the Iveron Monastery but it disappeared only to be found hanging near the monastery's gate.  Repeated tries to move the icon only resulted in it inexplicably returning to the gate.  Our Lady reappeared to Gabriel and spoke the following words to him:

“Announce to the brothers that from this day
they should not carry me away.  For what I desire
is not to be protected by you; rather I will
overshadow you, both in this life and in the age
to come.  As long as you see my icon in the
monastery, the grace and mercy of my Son
shall never be lacking!”

As a result of this revelation, a new chapel was constructed at the gate where the icon was successfully enshrined, and where it remains to this very day.  Since then, the wonder-working image was affectionately nicknamed the "Portaitissa" (the "Portress"), as well as called the Theotokos of Iveron, after the monastery in which it's kept and venerated.

The monk, Gabriel of Iveron, miraculously
retrieved the icon from the sea by walking
on its surface.

Throughout the centuries copies have been painted of the original icon, which are amongst the most popular Orthodox representations of the Holy Mother and Child.  The rustic images show the Virgin as both the Theotokos and as the "Hodegetria" ("She who points the way") since she gestures with her right hand towards her Divine Son sitting beside her. 

Contemporary renditions of the Iveron Icon are more stylized, compared to the original, and show the Holy Mother in red robes, which are traditional in Eastern iconography.  The color denotes her sanctity and sorrows as the Mother of our Savior; the child Jesus perched on her left arm holds a scroll, which from this writer's understanding symbolizes wisdom and prophecy.

Hawaii's Iveron Icon, a 
slightly smaller
version of the Montreal icon, which went
missing in 1997 after the mysterious death
in Greece of Bro. Jose Munoz.

In closing, this ministry was pleasantly surprised to learn Hawaii's streaming icon is just one of several links in a chain of miracles started centuries ago by Our Lady; a blessing not just for her Orthodox children, but also a unifying bridge between the Eastern and Western (Catholic) Churches whose members all call her "Mother"; a hypothesis supported by the many graces and healings reportedly effected by the Iveron Icon and its fragrant myrrh that have transcended denominations.

For more information about the Hawaiian myrrh-streaming icon, and/or to support its worldwide healing mission, please click here.

Rejoice, thou who sheddest tears over us
from thine icons; Rejoice, thou who givest
us tears of repentance!  Rejoice, thou who
 healest us with the medicine of
bitter sorrow...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Saint of the Month - October 2021: Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska

Bl. Josaphata Hordashevska
She served "where the need was greatest"

Born in Lviv, Ukraine, on November 20, 1869, this foundress of a congregation was baptized Michaelina Hordashevska.  Fortunately for her she had a devout family - members of the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Catholic Church - and their faith rubbed off on her.  From a young age she displayed a level of piety uncommon in children - she was inclined to pray in solitude and even practiced mortifications that included regularly eating bitter plants.

At the age of 18 while participating in a retreat, Michaelina had a powerful spiritual illumination that prompted her to consecrate herself completely to the Lord through a private vow of virginity.  She also resolved to become a religious, which in her time and place, was only possible through the cloistered Basilian Sisters.  Her spiritual director, however - a Basilian priest named, Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytskyj - had, for a long time, been discerning the need for an active congregation that would serve the temporal and spiritual needs of the people of Ukraine.  He believed Michaelina was an answer to his prayer.

In 1892, after much prayer and discernment, Michaelina heroically agreed to partner with Fr. Jeremiah in realizing a new congregation, regardless what challenges it entailed.  The priest sent her to nearby Zhovkva where she stayed in a convent of Polish Felician Nuns to learn the norms of religious life from them.

After two months of training with the Felicians, Michaelina was dressed in the blue habit she designed and professed vows as the very first member of her new congregation.  She then traveled to the village of Zhuzhelyany where Fr. Jeremiah had 7 postulants excitedly waiting to also consecrate themselves in active service to God.  Thus, on August 27th, 1892, the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was officially born - their motto: Serve the people where the need is greatest.

An actual photo of Bl. Josaphata Hordashevska

From the start, Mother Josaphata (Michaelina's name in religion) began earnestly forming her new sisters in the charism of serving Christ in others.  They initially implemented their mission by simply visiting their community to care-give the sick in their own homes, and babysit children who would otherwise be alone while their parents worked.  As more people began seeking their help, and support poured in, the Sisters Servants opened daycare centers where they not only watched over children, but also taught them reading and writing; they established clinics to provide basic medical care for the sick-poor; they taught catechism to both children and adults; volunteered in local parishes to upkeep churches and fulfill various ministries.  It goes without saying, their work prospered and grew.  In fact, by 1902 the congregation had 26 convents with 128 members throughout Ukraine.

Although she was the co-founder and the first nominated superior of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, sometime during the early years of her religious career, Mother Josaphata was deposed by order of the Archbishop of Lviv, and her influence suppressed, as a result of dissension that arose in the congregation; she humbly complied and never complained when she was appointed the most difficult tasks.  In May 1909 she was vindicated and reinstated to a post of authority as the Vicaress General.

Through her ups and downs in religious life, Mother Josaphata was a consistent role model of charitable service for her spiritual daughters; once described as having "loved God concretely in His needy ones".  A particular incident related of her gives us excellent example - neighbors once reported to the Sisters Servants about a dying woman abandoned in a barn.  The founder immediately set about looking for her and when she located the poor lady, she carried her to one of their clinics.  Upon discovering there were no open beds for the patient, she took the woman into her room where she laid her in her own bed, despite the patient being covered with grime and ulcers.  Mother Josaphata tenderly washed and treated the woman - sleeping on the floor beside the bed - until the patient peacefully expired under her loving care.

Mother Josaphata's own death occurred on April 7th, 1919, from tuberculosis of the bone; she was only 49-years-old.  It was an extremely painful trial, but the founder endured it with patience and faith, and even accurately predicted the exact date she would pass into Eternity!  She was initially interred in the village cemetery of Krystynopil, where local devotion sprung up around her tomb, but her remains were later transferred to her congregation's Generalate in Rome in 1982.  It was during this exhumation that her body was found to be mysteriously incorrupt.

After reports continued to pour into the Generalate of favors granted through the intercession of Mother Josaphata, her Cause for Canonization was officially opened in 1992.  So far she has been Beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on June 27th, 2001; another confirmed miracle is needed to raise her to Sainthood.  Let us pray for her speedy Canonization.

Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska,
pray for us!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Saints & Relics Presentation, 10/3/2021: St. John Vianney Church, Kailua

God works in mysterious ways, I tell you... and He did so again in this particular situation.  Allow me to explain...

About two months ago a brother-in-Christ had major surgery on his shoulder and needed a ride for a follow-up doctor appointment in a neighboring town because he couldn't drive.  He asked me for help so I took him.  At the same time, he had found a woman online who was selling hand-crafted wooden walking sticks and arranged to have her meet him in the parking lot of the doctor's building so he could buy one (she apparently lived in the area).

As I got to talking to the woman - her name is Joan - I learned she was a devout Catholic who taught catechism at St. John Vianney Church in Kailua where I happen to regularly attend Mass on Saturday mornings.  Our lively conversation eventually shifted to the topic of Saints so I told her about this ministry and the Saints & Relics Presentation I conduct.  Joan got excited because her CCD Team was actually looking for something new to teach their students about Saints in preparation for the upcoming Feast of All Saints... and now here we are today.

I conducted a Saints & Relics Presentation, especially featuring "young faces of holiness" such as Ven. Anne de Guigne, Bl. Carlo Acutis, the Fatima Seers, and St. Germaine Cousin for the CCD kids.  For their parents, I discussed Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, and their ever-popular daughter - St. Therese the Little Flower.  I also brought St. Peregrine's relic because of the what seems to be an unusual prevalence of cancer cases in these times.

In between my talk I wove in short games to help entertain the kids, which always helps to keep them engaged... and no Guadalupe House presentation would be complete without Holy Relics so I brought several to expose the children to the concept of relics and relic veneration.


TOP: Relics of the Fatima Seers & St. Germaine Cousin 
BOTTOM: Relics of Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin, St. Therese,
& St. Peregrine


Of course the ongoing pandemic is still a concern, but the CCD Team at St. John Vianney's is diligent in practicing safety precautions - requiring masks, social distancing and temperature checks for everyone who attended, including myself.  Regardless, I personally feel it's all worthwhile for the sake of the children.  These youngsters are the future of the Church and they - and perhaps their parents, too - urgently need positive role models to guide their impressionable minds... and who better than our Saints?

Children and adults view and venerate the relics present,
which were spaced 6-feet apart.

Based on feedback received after the talk, the presentation was very well-received by both the kids and the adults... so I know the Lord had a hand in arranging this event through that providential meeting with Joan.  Again, God works in mysterious ways.  Amen.

+ + + + +

To read an article about this presentation
from the Hawaii Catholic Herald, click here.