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, Ministry & Blog Administrator


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: April 2018



Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on April 25th:
   "Dear children! Today I am calling you to live your new life with Jesus. May the Risen One give you strength to always be strong in the trials of life and to be faithful and persevering in prayer; because Jesus saved you by His wounds and by His Resurrection gave you new life. Pray, little children, and do not lose hope. May joy and peace be in your hearts and witness the joy that you are mine. I am with you and love you all with my motherly love. Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on April 2nd:
   "Dear children, through the great love of the Heavenly Father I am beside you as your mother and you are beside me as my children, as apostles of my love whom I ceaselessly gather around me. My children, you are those who, along with prayer, need to completely surrender to my Son so that you may no longer live but my Son may live in you - so that all those who do not know my Son may see Him in you and come to desire to know Him. Pray that in you they may see resolute humility and goodness, a readiness to serve others; that in you they may see that you live your vocation in the world with the heart, in communion with my Son; that in you they may see meekness, tenderness and love for my Son as well as for all brothers and sisters. Apostles of my love, you must pray much and cleanse your hearts so that you may be the first to walk on the way of my Son, that you may be the just who are united with the justice of my Son. My children, as apostles of my love, you must be united in the communion which emanates from my Son, so that my children who do not know my Son may recognize the communion of love and may come to desire to walk on the way of life, the way of unity with my Son.  Thank you."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Marian Apparitions & Saints Speaking Presentation, 4/15/2018: St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua


This morning I had the privilege of sharing all the devotions I am highly passionate about - Mary, Marian Apparitions, Saints, and Relics - in one of my presentations that pretty much combines it all.  This time around, the presentation was conducted for the RCIA team and participants at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Kailua.

I spoke to the group giving them an overview of public versus private revelations; informed them about several approved Marian apparitions; provided a summary of their respective messages; narrated the bios of several canonized Marian visionaries (e.g. St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes) and Marian devotees (e.g. St. Padre Pio); and displayed relics of the saints I spoke about.

Some of the RCIA team and participants at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua waiting
for the presentation to begin.

At the end of the talk several who sat in took the time to approach me to say thank you for the information that was relayed to them, as well as, to share their own experiences about the Blessed Mother.  Although I'm always very grateful and touched by the show of appreciation, it's the personal stories I enjoy most.

For example, one of the RCIA Team leaders - Dennis Muth - had been to Medjugorje twice and his experiences inspired him so deeply that he wrote a book called, "Mother Mary Comes to Me, Words of Wisdom from Medjugorje" (click here for more information).  We were able to faith-share a bit about our personal take on the alleged Medjugorje events and the big impact they've had on our lives.  I could easily relate to everything Dennis shared and listening to his backstory was like hearing my own faith-journey from someone else's lips.  I sensed that he understood the ministry-work I was doing, too.

Another conversation that stood out was with a woman who recently converted to Catholicism.  She approached me with her husband to inquire if the reliquary of St. Catherine Laboure (of the Miraculous Medal fame) that I had on the makeshift altar was "magnetic".  Somewhat puzzled by her question, I replied that it wasn't, which made her give me a puzzled look of her own... and which caused her husband to exclaim, "I told you it's not magnetic - it's the energy of the saint!" to which the wife incredulously responded, "No, it has to be!  It has to be magnetic!"

Relics of Marian Saints on display at today's presentation (left to right):  St. Catherine Laboure,
St. Padre Pio, Sts. Francisco & Jacinta of Fatima, St. Teresa of Calcutta, & St. Bernadette of Lourdes.

Curious about the back and forth dialogue between the couple, I asked them what happened.  The lady then pulled out from under her blouse a large Miraculous Medal that she was wearing on a long chain necklace around her neck.  The woman went on to explain that she had touched the medal to St. Catherine's reliquary but when she moved to pull it away, she found that it was somehow "stuck" to the reliquary!  After giving the chain a little tug, the medal detached itself, which is why she had the impression that the reliquary was magnetized.  I smiled and reassured the woman that the reliquary wasn't magnetized (it really isn't) and suggested that perhaps St. Catherine Laboure had taken hold of her medal to give it a special blessing just for her.  She looked a little freaked-out when I said what I said, but the husband wholeheartedly agreed with me.  When they both finally left, the lady kept looking back at the altar with the confused expression still on her face.

In the past eight years that I've been giving talks with relics, I've heard a lot of testimonies from participants concerning unusual things they've noticed during or after the presentation; stuff that ranged from the scent of roses to manifestations of escarchas... but a medal getting mysteriously stuck to a reliquary?  I haven't heard that one before!

And so ended another Guadalupe House presentation; one that I'll recall with a sense of amusement.  Thank you, Blessed Mother... and thank you to all the Saints who were present through their relics!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pilgrimage, April 5, 2018: Shrine of St. Junipero Serra, California


As of this writing, I am currently in California, where I attended a family reunion in Daly City near San Francisco.  Taking advantage of the long road trip route from Chula Vista to Daly, I made it a point to stop at the Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where the tomb-shrine and remains of St. Junipero Serra are located... and it was definitely one of the highlights of this trip thus far!  Before I share my impressions of the shrine, here's a bit about the life and works of this great Servant of God.

The facade of the Mission Church of Carmel with some of the signs displayed nearby.
(Click on any of the photos in this blog to see larger images)

For those not familiar with him, St. Junipero, he is acclaimed as the Apostle of California.  Born on the island of Majorca, Spain, on November 24, 1713, he began training for the priesthood at aged 15.  He was eventually accepted into the Franciscan Order and ordained sometime between 1737 and 1739.  The padre became a renowned preacher in Spain and also taught as a university professor.  In 1749 he bade farewell to his homeland for a tedious voyage to Mexico where he felt compelled to do missionary work.

St. Junipero worked in Mexico until 1769 when, being in his mid-50s, he began a difficult journey northward through what is now California State, where he systematically founded one mission after another - nine in all - as listed below:

  • Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, July 1769 (now in present-day San Diego)
  • Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, June 1770 (now in present-day Carmel-by-the-Sea)
  • Mission San Antonio de Padua, July 1771
  • Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, September 1771 (now in present-day San Gabriel)
  • Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, September 1772 (now in present-day San Luis Obispo)
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano, November 1776 (now in present-day San Juan Capistrano)
  • Mission San Francisco de Asís, June 1776 (now in present-day San Francisco)
  • Mission Santa Clara de Asís, January 1777 (now in present-day Santa Clara)
  • Mission San Buenaventura, March 1782 (now in present-day Ventura)

Me, in the Mission courtyard.
By most accounts the Saint was a zealous missionary, eager to promote the Faith in the New World; a deeply penitential spirit; an effective preacher of God's Word (he baptized an estimated 6,000 Native American converts); and a protector of his indigenous flock from the exploitation and abuse of their Spanish conquerors.  Padre Serra died on August 28, 1784 at the age of 70 and was recognized a Saint by the Catholic Church on September 23, 2015.

Going back to Mission San Carlos Borromeo, I found the place enchanting.  First off, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint and charming seaside city built on lush rolling hills overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean.  It's a lovely area that evokes a very cozy vibe due to the heavily wooded scenery and many small, stylized wooden homes that dot the area.  It kinda reminded me of a Hobbit town.

The Mission, itself, is situated in the middle of residential neighborhoods a bit farther away from the beach.  One could easily drive past the place if one wasn't aware of it, but we came to Carmel specifically to pay our respect to St. Junipero so we found it easily using GPS.

At the shrine, the restored mission church where the tomb of the Saint is found is definitely the center of the whole mission complex. One would enter through the Tourist Center/Gift Shop, pay a reasonable admission fee (necessary for the upkeep and maintenance of the shrine), then proceed to the garden courtyard in front of the church.  The place had a serene vibe about it that one always gets when in a place of prayer that's been especially sanctified by a holy person or divine event.  In this case, it was the favorite home and final resting place of an official Saint.

The main courtyard and surrounding grounds were spacious and there were large devotional statues located all about, as well as fountains and places to sit, reflect, and pray.  Looking towards the front of the church a small hut-looking structure was to the right of the courtyard where a short video of St. Junipero's life was continually played; a small museum was to the left where many relics and artifacts - mass vestments worn by St. Junipero, chalices, and other devotional items - from the early years of the mission were displayed.

Beautiful shrines and side-altars found within the restored mission church.  During his 1987 visit to the USA,
Pope St. John Paul II prayed to the Madonna and Child at the altar shown on the left. 

Inside the main church, I felt transported to old-time California by the rich southwest-style architecture/decor.  The sanctuary was breathtaking and, as one made his/her way towards it, small side chapels and altars on either side of the church revealed beautiful shrines to our Lord, Our Lady, and various hispanic-origin Saints such as Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Rose of Lima (d. 1617). One of these shrine-altars even enclosed a striking life-sized statue of Mary and Child in front of which St. Pope John Paul II offered prayer during his 1987 tour of the U.S..  It was all a feast for my eyes as well as my spirit!

Up at the sanctuary area, the tomb of St. Junipero could be seen to the front and left of the main altar.  A portrait of the Saint and a burning candle marked the hallowed spot and there was a long kneeler and a short gate in the front of it all that prevented direct access to the tomb.  To the right of the sanctuary was a very large wood and glass reliquary in which wooden planks from the original coffin of St. Junipero could be viewed. Next to this reliquary was a silver cruciform reliquary that encased a small bone-fragment taken from the Saint's body.

Views of the stunning church sanctuary and the tomb of St. Junipero Serra located at the foot of the altar.

All in all, my impression of the shrine was highly positive.  The atmosphere was charged with holiness, which made it quite conducive to prayer and meditation.  I personally felt the presence of the divine in that sacred space and felt spiritually refreshed by the time we left Mission San Carlos Borromeo to continue on to Daly City.

Me, praying and meditating before the tomb of St. Junipero in the Mission Church of Carmel.

As an added treat from the Lord and St. Junipero, I left the mission with a special 3rd Class Relic of the Saint.  On my way out, I struck up a friendly conversation with one of the gift shop workers as I purchased a small statue of the Saint as a souvenir.  When the worker learned that I came all the way from Hawaii to visit them, he unexpectedly offered to take the statue back into the church with me so he could lay it on the tomb of St. Junipero. Of course I took him up on his offer and was moved at seeing him reverently place the statue on the tomb, while we both prayed for several minutes.  I recognized the moment as both a signal grace and the icing on the cake during this mini-pilgrimage.  Thank you, Lord.

A large reliquary containing wood planks from the original coffin of St. Junipero,
and a silver crucifix to the left that enclosed a small bone fragment from his body. 

If you're ever up in northern California, I highly recommend making a stop at the Shrine of St. Junipero Serra in Carmel-by-the-Sea - it's worth it.  Lots of fascinating history to see and lots of inspiration and blessings to be gained!

"Always forward, never back!"

~ St. Junipero Serra's motto

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Saint of the Month - April 2018: Saint Benedict Joseph Labre


St. Benedict Joseph Labre
A Blessed Fool for Christ ~ Feast: April 16


An oil portrait of St. Benedict Joseph Labre,
reportedly painted from life while he was rapt
in ecstasy before an image of the Virgin Mary.
If you've ever encountered a homeless person up close and, through no deliberate fault of your own, was repelled by his/her appearance and smell, then you have a pretty good idea of what it would have been like to have met this Saint in person.  For you see - Benedict Joseph Labre was homeless for a great part of his life - a voluntary vagabond for Christ - and although his outer appearance generally evoked aversion, those who came to know him were later drawn to the immense radiance of his beautiful spirit.

Benedict Joseph hailed from the village of Amettes, France, where he was born on March 25, 1748; the oldest child of 15 children born to a successful shopkeeper.  As a child he was taken in by a priest-uncle who saw to his education in the hopes that he would aspire to the priesthood, himself.  Plans were somewhat derailed when at the age of 18 an epidemic broke out in the region, which claimed his uncle who ministered to the afflicted.

What followed next for our protagonist was, in summary, a series of attempts to enter into religious life.  He was at first admitted by the Trappists but then discharged as unsuited for their rigorous lifestyle; then the Carthusian Order was tried and, when that didn't work out, the Cistercians were applied to twice. In all cases he was judged too frail; lacking in education; not suited for communal life; and even became seriously ill at the last monastery he was at due to his excessive self-mortification.  At this point, I can easily imagine the young Benedict Joseph being morally deflated by all the rejection he went through, if not for some sort of personal epiphany he had, which filled him with the unusual desire to "abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion."

Starting in circa 1773, after first becoming a Third Order Franciscan, Benedict Joseph set off from France to Rome on pilgrimage.  If I recall correctly, he travelled on foot wearing just a long coat and the one set of clothes and pair of sandles he was wearing; a crucifix and two rosaries; and a travel bag with a Bible and prayer books.  He took no money with him and slept out in the open fields or wherever he managed to find shelter from the elements.  Furthermore, he consciously spoke very little and it appears he never actively begged, but accepted whatever alms - money and/or food - that was placed in his hands that would suffice him for a day; anything more that was given him was promptly shared with others in the same predicament or even less fortunate than he was.

A life-sized sculpture of the Saint in peaceful repose, as found in the room of the home where
he died (now a chapel) behind the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti in Rome, Italy.

After his initial visit to Rome, Benedict Joseph's journeys did not end there - he continued on to other famous holy sites in various European countries: Italy (Assisi, Bari, Loreto, Naples, Rome, etc.), Spain (Santiago de Compostela), Germany, and Switzerland (Einsielden), among many other shrines.  He traveled in the same manner; practicing the same spirit of self-denial and basically being homeless for the rest of his life.  It didn't take long for him to take on his characteristic appearance of being disheveled; dressed in tattered clothes; afflicted with skin lesions and lice; and smelling rather repugnant (one of his last confessors wrote about the atrocious body odor he emitted).

Benedict Joseph eventually settled in Rome where he lived in the streets under the shadow of the famed Colosseum.  He spent his days routinely frequenting the holy basilicas, as well as the smaller churches where the Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament were being held.  The local populace quickly became familiar with the sight of him and, after initially viewing him with ridicule and disdain, they slowly came to recognize his innate sanctity and revered him; affectionately referring to Benedict Joseph as the "Beggar of Rome" or the "Saint of the Forty Hours" because of his profound devotion to the Eucharist.

The wax death mask of the Saint, made
shortly after he died that captures his very
fine facial features.
Not surprisingly, remarkable signs were also manifested that gave clear indication to the Romans as to the greatness of the soul living humbly in their midst.  Among Benedict Joseph's reported mystical charisms were the gifts of Ecstasy, Levitation, Healing, and BilocationAlmost always, during Eucharistic Adoration or after receiving Holy Communion, he would fall into ecstasy for hours at a time. Sometimes his sublime ecstasies were accompanied by levitation and transfiguration, and it became common for the priests and laity to see him immobile, elevated several feet in the air while surrounded by a brilliant light after Mass. On other occasions, although chronically ill, himself, he cured many sick-poor through his prayer and blessing on their behalf.  Still, at other times, bread mysteriously multiplied in his hands so as to be able to feed other homeless people and the poor, along with himself.

The holy beggar died on April 16, 1783, at the young age of 35.  After praying in the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti, he collapsed outside in the street and was taken to a nearby house despite his weak protests.  He peacefully died soon after, worn out by the effects of his extreme privation and was honorably buried in the same church.  The crowd that gathered at his funeral was so big, police and soldiers were employed to keep the order, as people surged forward in their attempts to get close to his body, which showed no signs of death or rigor mortis.  

Within 3 months of his untimely death, over 130 miraculous cures attributed to Benedict Joseph Labre's direct intercession were recorded by his regular confessor.  His fame of sanctity eventually spread outside of Rome, prompting Church authorities to open his Cause for Sainthood - he was canonized in December 1881 and is now honored with a feast on April 16th, the anniversary of his death.  May he pray for, and especially assist, those souls undergoing the trial of homelessness in our world today... as well as, help us, who are better off, to view their plight through more compassionate eyes.

A Prayer to St. Joseph Benedict Labre

St. Benedict Joseph, beloved of God, 
lead us, poor travelers on this earth, 
along thy pilgrim way to God; 
shield us from all occasions of lust and pride, 
that we may wear the garment of humility 
in the sight of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, 
and that we may be received into
His everlasting kingdom. 

Merciful Jesus, Who didst, 
by the life of Thy servant Benedict Joseph, 
show Thy love for the very least of this world, 
grant to us, we beseech Thee, 
the requests by which the Holy Mendicant 
asks in our behalf 
knowing that he deserves to obtain for us 
only those things that would lead us to Thee, 
through Thy Holy Poverty on earth 
and Thy Divine Labours.
Amen.