NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, 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 Administrator

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Dangers of the Occult

“Let no one be found among you
who sacrifices their son or daughter
in the fire, who practices divination
or sorcery, interprets omens, engages
in witchcraft, or casts spells, or
who is a medium or spiritist or
who consults the dead.

~ Deuteronomy 18:10-11 

Fr. Jose Fortea, Priest & Exorcist,
speaking at St. Joseph Church in Waipahu
(click on photo to view a larger image)
In the early part of this month, a local religious association sponsored a visit to Hawaii from the Spanish author and exorcist, Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea. He spoke at two churches, of which I attended the first presentation that was held at St. Joseph Church in Waipahu. Rather than really being a presentation, the event was more of a question and answer session, with Fr. Fortea inviting the audience to ask questions related to his unique line of work.

Interestingly, the majority of the questions had to do with the occult - witchcraft, spiritualism, curses, etc. - and its negative effect on the spiritual life. Unfortunately Fr. Fortea’s responses were so drawn out and generalized, I felt his answers never truly addressed the audiences’ questions and concerns… and oddly enough, some of his remarks also seemed to contradict the opinions of another high-profile exorcist - Fr. Gabriele Amorth of Rome - who in his best-selling book, An Exorcists Tells His Story, was very clear about the direct connection between various occult practices and demonic influences. On the otherhand, when he was asked about the same subject, Fr. Fortea emphatically stated that he didn’t believe occult rituals such as witchcraft or divination was a major factor that could lead to demonic oppression or possession; I was admittedly baffled by his response and respectfully disagree with his opinion. Rather, I believe Fr. Amorth got it right with his conclusions, and as you continue to read on, I think you will understand why.

Based on my personal observation at Fr. Fortea’s presentation, I am speculating that there are many people out there who are genuinely interested in learning more about the connection between the occult and the presence of evil spirits. It prompted me to share the following personal experience as a testimony and a warning about the dark spiritual forces at work through seemingly harmless occult paraphernalia such as Tarot Cards and Ouija Boards. The story that follows is completely true and I hope readers will take it to heart…

In my early 20s, I briefly dabbled in the practice of divination (fortune telling/psychic readings)… it’s not something that I’m proud of, but it happened. Before narrating further, let me just say that at the time, I did believe in God, but in hindsight I now know I lacked the level of maturity and personal commitment to Jesus Christ that I later developed in my faith-life. There was a part of me that was still searching and I wanted to explore other methods of spiritual connection... and after having been ill-advised by a “professional psychic”, I purchased a few decks of fortune telling cards, including the infamous Tarot Cards. I, myself, in just a few weeks, became so proficient at using them that the “readings” and predictions that resulted were uncannily accurate... and I revelled at the thought that I might just be gifted with some sort of supernatural power. My use of these cards lasted several months, and probably would have continued for a longer period of time, had not the Lord mercifully intervened in a terrifying way.

One night, I awoke from sleep to find myself “floating” above my bed and looking down on my physical body. I saw myself so clearly and the sensation of being weightless was so tangible, I knew it wasn’t just a dream. After the initial surprise wore off, I realized I wasn’t alone in my bedroom - around me appeared several ominous shadow-like figures that were darker than the darkness of the night. I don’t recall how many there were, but if you saw the Patrick Swayze movie, “Ghost”, the evil shadow-entities depicted in the movie are a close comparison to what I saw - I immediately sensed they were evil and full of overwhelming hatred, and they began beating me and throwing me amongst themselves as easily as though I was an inflatable beach ball. I was filled with complete fear and instinctively called on the holy name of Jesus for help, and recited the Our Father and the Hail Mary prayers over and over.

A drawing I made of my terrifying
encounter with evil spirits

I can’t remember how many times I repeated the prayers but after what seemed like hours I felt the sensation of being “sucked” down into my body. Once I was back within my physical shell, I immediately jumped off my bed and turned the light on. For the rest of the night I stayed awake, praying and pondering over the traumatic experience I had just gone through. My mind was filled with the solid realization that the entities were actually demons and they were directly connected with the fortune telling cards that I used during my readings.  The entire episode pointed to the fact that the supernatural power that I was tapping into wasn’t from God at all, but really from the depths of Hell, itself. Horrified, I begged Jesus for forgiveness, while also thanking him for allowing me to see the truth… and from that moment on, I renounced all forms of occult practices and divination, and burned all the fortune telling cards that I owned when morning came.

To this day I abhor all forms of divination and superstitious practices and will never get involved with them again… I continue to regret my delving into the occult, but at the same time, I value my experience as a powerful life-lesson from God. As humbling as it is for me to publicly share this story, I believe that Jesus allowed me to go through this ordeal for good reason, which is to testify to the truth of the occult... and I hope readers of this blog will seriously consider my testimony and avoid all forms of such practices: fortune telling, magical talismans, seances, witchcraft, etc. These practices are simply DANGEROUS and they open peoples’ lives to the negative influence of the devil and diabolic forces.  Believe me - I’ve seen the demons and experienced their attack, firsthand. If you open the door even just a bit to them, you’ll be in way over your head and it’s just not worth the risk of putting one’s soul in jeopardy.

So rather than putting your faith in the works of lying spirits, put your faith in the truth - Jesus Christ; seek your knowledge from Holy Scriptures, in the Church’s sacred teachings, and in the writings of the Saints... and get your spiritual connection to God through the Eucharist and by sincerely praying to Him from the heart. One thing Fr. Fortea and Fr. Amorth both stated in common, was that God is greater than all evil… and that we, who put our faith in the Lord, have nothing to fear from the devil and his minions. Through Jesus Christ, and with the help of Our Lady, the Holy Angels, and the Saints, we are assured ultimate victory over the forces of darkness.  Thanks and praises be to God Almighty!

(Please read the Comments Section for another true story of how occult paraphernalia directly attracted the presence of unclean spirits)

UPDATE, 1/1/2020: For those interested in learning more about spiritual warfare, I highly recommend viewing talks given by Fr. Chad Ripperger available on YouTube (very enlightening!). Fr. Ripperger is an experienced exorcist and an expert speaker on this topic.  Click here to view one of his talks.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The "Epiphany Moon"

 "Who is this arising like
the dawn, fair as the moon,
resplendent as the sun?"

~ The Song of Solomon, 6:10

Tonight, something really special happened.  At around 8:30pm, a close friend of mine - Dre' - from Mililani Town called me on my cellphone with an odd request.  She asked me to go outside to look at the full moon because "Our Lady's face is in the moon and she's smiling down on us."  At the time, I was in the middle of exercising but I immediately stopped and went outside to see the sight for myself.  When I first looked up at the moon, I didn't see any special images on it other than the dark patches that are normally visible on its surface... but my friend kept insisting that there were religious images appearing in the moon - one of Our Lady with the Baby Jesus and another of just Our Lady's face.

In the meantime, three of my family members overheard me talking on the phone, and one by one, they came outdoors to join me. I told them about what Dre' was seeing in the moon and all of them immediately exclaimed that they could see Our Lady holding Baby Jesus!  I continued looking up but I still couldn't see the images that were being described to me by Dre' and my family.  Talk about disappointment - I admit I was totally deflated!

My drawings of what I saw in the moon
(click to enlarge the images)
Frustrated, I said a heartfelt prayer to our Blessed Mother and asked her to let me see what the others were seeing.  I also added several Hail Marys followed by the Memorare, and it was then that I saw the shadowy figure of a woman cradling a child coming into focus within the moon (Left - Drawing #1).  It started off looking hazy at first, but the figures slowly became distinct.  With joy, I told everyone that I, too, could now see the holy images.  

After several minutes, Dre' stated that Our Lady's face was now appearing in the moon and, sure enough, the two figures were replaced by a gentle, smiling face of a woman (Drawing #2) - it was amazing!  I attempted to photograph the image but with no success so I went back into the house to quickly draw the apparition so we could all compare what we were seeing.  I texted my sketch to my friend and she confirmed that it was exactly what she and her mother were seeing from Mililani.  A relative also sketched what he saw and both our drawings ended up corresponding very closely (see below).  We stayed outside for a long while afterwards, praying and enjoying the wonderful vision until large clouds finally obscured the moon.

What a relative saw in the moon
(click to enlarge the drawing)
Afterward, when I pondered tonight's events, I thought it was highly significant that the Feast of the Epiphany was celebrated by the Church today. The word "Epiphany" means "a manifestation" and tonight, we all definitely experienced a special manifestation.  Also of great relevance is the fact that the moon is associated with Our Lady (refer to Revelations 12), as the sun is representative of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.  The sun is the source of all light, warmth, and the energy necessary for life on earth, and we simply can't live without it (as we also can't live without God)... and while the moon (Our Lady) also has its gentle brilliance, it's a brilliance that's reflected from the sun (Jesus).

Dre' later encouraged me to post about our shared experience.  Our hope and prayer is that the next time you happen to look up at a full moon, you will fondly think of our Blessed Mother... and, perhaps, see her lovingly smiling down at you, too. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Saturday Parish Rosary at St. Anthony's Church, 1/7/2012

A Sacred Relic of St. Andre's Blood
What a wonderful evening of prayer and blessings this night turned out to be!  The First Saturday Rosary was wonderful, as usual... prior to beginning the prayer, I shared about the life of St. Andre Bessette of Montreal, whose Feast Day it was yesterday, and also shared a 1st Class Relic of the Saint in my custody with the people who attended. So as we again prayed for Peace in this world, we also invoked the intercession of St. Andre for our personal health issues and also for the physical well-being of the people we carry in our hearts.
My pilgrim statue with the relics
of the Holy Virgin & St. Andre

After the Rosary, the Mass prayed in the main church was also quite meaningful, as we celebrated the vigil of the Feast of the Epiphany.  After the Mass, our parochial vicar - Fr. Exsequel Tuyor - blessed all the parish calendars for general distribution, plus our watches and other timepieces, which I later learned was customary on this feast day.

The priest invoked the Lord's blessings for the 2012 year and for the precious time, which we are all granted during our lives. I left the church feeling blessed in so many different ways. Thanks and praises be to God! The next Parish Rosary for Peace will be held on Saturday, February 4th, at 4:30pm. All are invited to participate.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Hawaii Man's Quest to Find the Lost Ark...

The hauntingly mysterious Mt.
Ararat, located in Turkey

I recently read a fascinating article in “Midweek”, a newspaper-type of publication in Hawaii... the article was about a devout Catholic man named, Daniel McGivern, who lives in Hawaii Kai, a town that’s about 20 minutes away from where I live in Kailua (Oahu). Not very exciting, one might think, at first… until one learns that Mr. McGivern claims to be 98% certain that he knows where the remnants of Noah’s Ark can be found. Yes, that’s right… the actual Ark from the ancient Biblical account of the epic flood that once nearly destroyed all of mankind.

According to the Midweek article, McGivern, since 2003, has spent over half a million of his own personal funds researching the location of the Ark and funding a 2004 expedition to Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where he believes the remains of the enormous boat still exist. Unfortunately, during the expedition, his group’s efforts to scale the mountain were thwarted by Turkish government officials, who wouldn’t allow them access to the Ark’s reported resting site on a high slope of the mountain.

Mr. Daniel McGivern speaking
at a press conference
Despite the disappointing setback, McGivern hasn’t given up on his personal goal of finding the elusive Biblical relic… he is still conducting his search, but using a different, very modern method: he has since employed satellite companies to utilize their high-tech photo-taking capabilities to try and capture satellite still-images of the Ark on Mt. Ararat. He claims to have captured several compelling photos, but none were included in the newspaper article that I read in Midweek.

Personally, I too, am a believer in the Ark/Ararat stories… and I commend Mr. McGivern for all his efforts. The fact is… the idea that the Ark is on Mt. Ararat is nothing new - the Bible states in the Book of Genesis, 8:4, that the Ark really did land there after the waters of the flood subsided:  “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.”

Throughout the centuries locals living in the vicinity of Mt. Ararat have significantly referred to the area as the “Mountain of Noah”. Many villagers - including a group of monks - have testified to having caught glimpses of a massive rectangular structure protruding from a glacier on the eastern slope of the mountain. A few village elders and shepherds have even claimed to have visited the site as recently as a few decades ago, and to have seen the Ark up close and touched its wooden walls… but according to McGivern, the exact location of the Ark was bombed in recent times by order of an atheistic Turkish military official and the structure was buried under boulders and rubble, which has made the search even more difficult.

An artist's rendition of Noah's Ark,
as described by witnesses who claim
to have seen the massive rectangular
structure for themselves.

Being 72-years-old and having a heart condition, Daniel McGivern knows that it's highly unlikely that he'll ever be able to climb Mt. Ararat, much less attempt a return trip to Turkey… but with the technology that he’s using today, he continues to be hopeful that he’ll somehow find definite proof of the Ark’s existence; proof that he admirably believes with a sincere and living faith, will help atheists to “convert to a belief in God”. So let us wish him our very best… and may the good Lord bless him and his efforts to uncover the truth about Noah’s lost Ark.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saint of the Month - January 2012: Saint Eustochia Calafato

St. Eustochia Calafato
Spouse of the Crucified
Feast: January 20th

Born in a humble stable in Messina, Italy - on a Good Friday in 1434 - this remarkable woman seems to have been one of those rare souls, who from their earliest years was predestined by Our Lord to live a life of intimate union with him.  Baptized “Smeralda” by her noble parents, her devout mother raised her in a pious atmosphere that contributed to her rapid growth in virtue and grace.  She was so good even, as a child, the devil had a sense of her sanctity and tried to kill her by throwing her off a high balcony!  Smeralda’s mother witnessed the harrowing event and spontaneously cried out to God for help, after which a mysterious woman suddenly appeared; caught the child in mid-air; then restored her to the balcony before vanishing.

Not surprisingly, Smeralda developed a strong desire to consecrate her life completely to God, but her father and brothers would not hear of it, as they had plans to marry her off to another wealthy family.  The pious maiden fled to the local Poor Clare monastery, but her brothers pursued her when they learned what she had done.  Breaking into the monastery, they tried to take her by force but relented when they saw that their efforts were futile against her firm resolve to become a bride of Christ.

Smeralda rejoined the Poor Clares and took the name, “Sr. Eustochia”, in honor of a local Saint.  She quickly distinguished herself by her exceptional practice of virtue, self-imposed penances, and the mystical gifts that the Lord began to grant her.  She soon came to realize that the monastery wasn’t properly following the strict religious Rule, as written by St. Clare of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Poor Clares.  As it sometimes happens, the monastery had become laxed over the years, so Eustochia proposed a reform but was greatly opposed by many of the sisters.

Seeing her concerns cast aside by the Abbess and others, the Saint was inspired to start another house that would practice the Rule in its original integrity; those around her were suspicious of Eustochia and she was closely watched. She, nonetheless, proceeded to enlist the help of her wealthy and influential relatives in her initiative.  After 11 years of residency, Eustochia had to literally flee from her community in order to establish a new foundation in Messina.  A few like-minded nuns joined her.

St. Eustochia's monastery in
Montevergine, Messina 

In the beginning, life was very difficult for Sr. Eustochia and her companions because they were also treated with suspicion by both civil and religious authorities.  The Lord, however, sustained them, sometimes through miracles worked by the young foundress.  For example, during times when food was scarce, Eustochia’s prayer would mysteriously stretch the monastery’s meager supply, or bring about the timely arrival of a stranger bearing a much needed gift of bread and other food staples (an angel?).

As news of the holy nun's supernatural gifts spread outside the monastery, the people slowly came to support the virtuous occupants of the new foundation; vocations increased and the monastery had to be relocated and expanded to accommodate the growing number of nuns.  As the elected Abbess, Eustochia proved herself to be an excellent administrator and a role-model for her spiritual daughters.

Towards the end of her life, Eustochia had a vision of a woman of great beauty.  It was revealed to her that the woman represented her upcoming death, and she understood that death was beautiful for those who followed the Lord.  Exhausted by extreme penances and totally consumed by her burning love for God, the Saint died in 1491.  Her body was radiant with heavenly beauty, and the Stigmata, which had wounded her hands and feet for many years, emitted a delightful fragrance.  The entire city of Messina mourned and celebrated the nun whom they had considered their special protector even while alive.

The body of the Saint, as venerated in her sanctuary in Messina, Italy

Today, Eustochia's incorrupt body is magnificently enshrined in a sanctuary adjoining her monastery in Messina, where it is venerated with annual festivities.  St. Eustochia Calafato was Canonized in 1988.

A Reflection
God lovingly protects and cares for his faithful servants.

A Short Prayer
Lord, protect us from the snares of the devil as we strive to do your will.  Amen.