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


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Saints & Relics Speaking Presentation, 12/30/2018: St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua


Looking back, it's been an exceptionally busy year for this ministry; exhausting at times, but I'm still happy and thankful.  It means I had the opportunity to introduce more people to the lives of our various Saints & Blesseds - our awesome Faith Heroes - and, hopefully, inspired some to a deeper appreciation of our faith the way the Saints have done for me. So I was glad to do today's presentation for my Kailua parish's RCIA group; an opportunity to squeeze in one last talk and closeout my 2018 on a high note, as far as my spiritual life goes.

The relic display altar setup for this morning's presentation.

The audience I spoke to, from my understanding, was comprised of individuals new to Catholicism and right from the start I sensed enthusiasm; a sincere thirst to learn more about the different aspects of our Faith.  Being able to educate them about one important aspect - our rich tradition of honoring Mary and the Saints - was a privilege.

Another view of the relic display.
As I always do for all my Saints & Relics Presentations, I began with a summary of the Canonization Process before narrating the lives of several holy individuals who are currently going through the process.  For an example of a Servant of God, I featured Julia Greeley (d. 1918), a former slave who died in Colorado; for a Venerable, it was Carlo Acutis (d. 2006), a teenaged computer wiz from Italy; for a Blessed I spoke about Fr. Solanus Casey (d. 1957), the miracle-working Capuchin from Detroit. I ended the talk with the lives of three Canonized persons, all members of the same family - St. Louis and Zelie Martin, and their ever-popular daughter, St. Therese the Little Flower.

My ministry's trademark relic display was also part of the talk.  The lineup of relics included not just Bl. Solanus and the sainted Martin Family, but there were also relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes and the Holy Family, in keeping with the Christmas Season.

We closed this morning's RCIA session by praying the Our Father together.  Not sure about everyone else, but for me, it seemed it wasn't just our group praying, but I also felt the supportive presence of the saintly individuals I spoke about - praying with us and for us; drawing down grace from above. We were in good company... and as I stated earlier, it's a good way to end the year on a high note.  

Happy, Blessed New Year to us all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Saintly Encounters with the Christ Child


Merry, Blessed Christmas!

With today being the day that it is, I was particularly inspired to contemplate the Christ Child earlier this morning.  In fact, I have a beautiful, 10" Spanish-made image of the Holy Infant that I display every Advent and Christmas in front of my home-shrine, along with a relic of the Holy Manger (above photo)... and I was again charmed by its affable expression and its exquisite detail (it even has tiny white teeth in its small, open mouth!).  Gazing at the figure, I couldn't help but wonder what the actual Baby Jesus must have looked like.  My thoughts then strayed to the ever-popular St. Anthony of Padua (d. 1231), who was privileged to see and hold the real deal, which further prompted me to remember that he wasn't the only Saint I've read about who was granted this unique grace.  So off the top of my head I started mentally listing the other holy persons I could recall who also encountered the Divine Child in one way or another.  The result of all my musing is this special Christmas blog...

+ Mystic souls who saw and/or held the Christ Child

Many of us are familiar with the statues of St. Anthony carrying Baby Jesus (they're almost a standard in Catholic churches!)... and, although not widely circulated like St. Anthony's story, there were several other privileged souls who envisioned and even touched the Christ Child, too.  In this select group of mystics we can count Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824)St. Agnes of Montepulciano (d. 1317)St. Catherine of Bologna (d. 1463); St. Christopher Martyr (d. circa 251), the Patron Saint of Travelers who famously carried the apparitional boy Jesus across a river; St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938)St. John of God (d. 1550);  St. Lydwina of Scheidam (d. 1433)Madre Marianna of Jesus Torres (d. 1635) of the Our Lady of Good Success apparitions; Mother Marie Adele Garnier (d. 1924); Melanie Calvat (d. 1904) of the Marian apparitions of La Salette; Bl. Miriam Thresia Chiramel (d. 1926), a stigmatized Indian founder of a congregation; St. Padre Pio (d. 1968); St. Rose of Lima (d. 1617)St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582); and St. Veronica Giuliani (d. 1727).

St. Agnes of Montepulciano once received the Holy Child from the hands of the Madonna.

What's more is in the lives of two stigmatics - the Florentine Ven. Domenica del Paradiso (d. 1553) and the French Canadian immigrant to the USA, Marie Rose Ferron (a.k.a. "Little Rose", d. 1936), their experiences with the Divine Infant stand out for me.  In Ven. Domenica's biography, there was an incident related in her childhood in which she welcomed a mysterious beggar woman and child to her family's home.  Domenica observed there were injuries to the toddler's hands and feet and, moved by compassion, she naively asked the woman, "Who has hurt your little boy?" to which the woman only replied, "It is because he loves very much."  The stranger then went on to inquire about a devotional statue of the Madonna and Child in the home, which was crowned with flowers.  When Domenica affirmed that it was she who had decorated the image, the lovely woman smiled and predicted, "Someday they will also crown you with a beautiful crown in Heaven."  Of course the visitors were none other than Jesus and the Blessed Mother, who had come to test the charity of their young protegee and prepare her for the abundant heavenly favors in store for her.

In the case of Little Rose, her first ever apparition involved a visit from Jesus when she was only about 6 or 7-years-old.  She saw the Lord as a boy about the same age as herself, carrying a cross that was tailored to his height. His expression was one of sadness that impressed the girl deeply, and it appears this apparition was a foreshadowing of Little Rose's future vocation as a victim-soul; later evidenced by the illnesses she suffered along with the manifestation of Stigmata.

Sr. Lucia of Fatima's encounter with
Our Lady and her Divine Son.
Next I relate the encounter reported in the life of St. Junipero Serra (d. 1784) of California.  While crossing the desert on one of his extensive missionary travels through Mexico, he and a companion came across a small hut near three large trees where they were warmly welcomed by a native couple and their child - a beautiful little boy.  The chance meeting was timely as the travelers were weary and hungry from their journey, and their hosts generously provided them with food and water, and a warm comfortable place to sleep for the evening.  The following morning the missionaries awoke to find the house empty so they continued onto their final destination where they relayed to the other friars the providential meeting with the friendly trio.  To the Saint's bewilderment, the other friars, who were familiar with the region, only confirmed the presence of the three trees but disagreed about the hut.  In a later trip past the same locale, St. Junipero saw for himself the truth of what was told him - the trees were there but there was no hut; no family - anywhere near!  He immediately gave thanks to God when it dawned on him that it was the Holy Family who hosted him and his companion during that one fateful evening.

And lastly, in this segment, we can also add the Servant of God Teresa Palminota (d. 1934) to whom the Christ Child appeared, emerging from her parish church's tabernacle; Mother Angelica of EWTN fame (d. 2016 and who I presume will one day be considered for sainthood) was whispered by her close associates to have had several apparitions of the Holy Child in her Alabama convent; Sr. Lucia of Fatima (d. 2005) who saw the young Jesus on at least two occasions, one of which was when she received the revelation of the First Five Saturdays of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Indeed, there are probably many more such stories in the lives of our Church's mystic-souls, but for now these are all I am aware of or can remember.

+ Visions of the Birth of Jesus

Another type of encounter with the Baby Jesus involves witnessing his miraculous birth and hidden details of his infancy and childhood through sensory visions.  In this type of heavenly encounter, the mystic may not have had direct physical contact with the Christ Child, but rather, the visionary seems to have played the role of a spectator, watching the scene of Jesus's birth unfold while in a state of ecstasy.

Among those granted this experience, I list St. Elisabeth of Schonau (d. 1164), a German Benedictine nun; St. Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373) who experienced a vision of the Nativity while on pilgrimage in Bethlehem; Ven. Maria of Agreda (d. 1665)Maria Valtorta (d. 1961) of the "Poem of the Man God" fame; the Bavarian Servant of God, Therese Neumann (d. 1962); and there is again the Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, who not only played with the boy Jesus as a youngster, but she also saw his entire life in a series of epic visions.

Therese Neumann, photographed while experiencing one of her many visions.

Remarkably, these individual visionary experiences had many points in common when it came to interesting details about the very first Christmas:

**  The stable was actually a cave or grotto rather than a stand-alone structure, as commonly depicted in traditional Nativity Creches.

**  Mary was alone in a part of the stable/cave while in deep ecstasy - surrounded by heavenly light - during the birth of Jesus... and the Holy Babe's delivery was by no means normal - he passed effortlessly through the tissues of her womb and abdomen as a brilliant, luminous figure rather than being born in the natural manner.

**  Our Lady felt no discomfort or pain, whatsoever, while giving birth (because of her unique exemption from original sin)... and there was no issue of blood or other bodily fluids that would've necessitated cleansing of any type for both mother and child.  All was perfectly clean and dignified.

+ Miraculous Images of the Holy Infant

In this final segment, I narrate a few cases in which statues of the Divine Child closely connected to certain holy persons were seen to become animated or transfigured into the actual living Jesus... or weep.

A statue of the Holy Infant once came to life in the arms of St. Francis of Assisi
during Christmas festivities he presided over in Greccio, Italy.

What is probably the earliest example of this phenomena involves St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), who is credited with having created the very first Nativity Scene in the Italian town of Greccio during the Christmas of 1224.  According to written accounts, the statue of the Bambino laid in the manger was seen to come alive by many witnesses while St. Francis venerated the image in an enraptured state.

Still, other holy persons included in this group were Ven. Edvige Carboni (d. 1852), an Italian stigmatic who owned one such miraculous image.  In her specific case she once sewed a gown for her much-loved Gesu Bambino statue and, when she couldn't dress the statue due to the positioning of its arms, she asked Jesus to help her and the figure adjusted its arms so that Edvige could then easily slip the gown onto it.  A later mystic, Teresa Palminota (already mentioned above) had similar experiences with her own Baby Jesus statue that exhibited mysterious movements in her home.

Another Italian mystic-soul, Teresa Musco (d. 1976), owned several statues in her home that wept watery tears, as well as blood.  Among them was an Infant Jesus figure that often shed tears in apparent protest to abortion.  On more than one occasion the tears were blood, which speaks volumes to the pain felt by the Lord over the death of innocent babies.

   
The stigmatic, Teresa Musco, with her weeping Bambino statue (left) and the miraculous,
healing image of the Infant Jesus of Prague (right).

Finally, this last segment wouldn't be complete without mention of the miraculous Holy Infant of Prague statue that was promoted by the holy Carmelite, Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God, and is today celebrated the world over.  In this case, Fr. Cyril did not see an apparition of Christ or miraculous movements in the statue, but what he did experience was hearing the voice of Jesus emanate from the image, asking for the replacement of its missing hands and for public veneration.  In return, benedictions were promised to devotees of the Divine Child; it's been a channel of healing ever since.

So with that last account of the wonder-working Prague statue, that's all, folks - I'm out of Baby Jesus encounter-stories.  I hope the various tales I posted above were enjoyed by the reader and, perhaps, contributed just a bit more wonder and awe to today's celebration of the awesome mystery of God becoming man.  Again, Merry Christmas to all!

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


Dear Children...

Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on December 25th:
   "Dear children! I am carrying to you my Son Jesus who is the King of Peace. He gives you peace and may it not be only for you but, little children, carry it to others in joy and humility. I am with you and am praying for you in this time of grace which God desires to give you. My presence is a sign of love here while I am with you to protect you and lead you towards eternity.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on December 2nd:
   "Dear children, when you come to me, as to a mother, with a pure and open heart, know that I am listening to you, encouraging you, consoling you, and above all, interceding for you with my Son. I know that you desire to have a strong faith and to express it in the right way. What my Son asks of you is to have a sincere, strong and deep faith - then every way in which you express it is proper. Faith is a most wonderful mystery which is kept in the heart. It is between the Heavenly Father and all of His children; it is recognized by the fruits and by the love which one has towards all of God's creatures. Apostles of my love, my children, have trust in my Son. Help all of my children to come to know His love. You are my hope - you who strive to sincerely love my Son. In the name of love, for your salvation, according to the will of the Heavenly Father and through my Son, I am here among you. Apostles of my love, along with prayer and sacrifice, may your hearts be illuminated with the love and the light of my Son. May that light and love illuminate all those whom you meet and bring them back to my Son. I am with you. In a special way, I am alongside your shepherds. With my motherly love I illuminate and encourage them, that with the hands blessed by my Son, they may bless the entire world.  Thank you."

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saints & Relics Speaking Presentation, 12/1/2018: Nakamura Residence, Kailua


It happened again.  I conducted another presentation and something strange occurred - not a good kind of strange, but it was more so a bad kind of strange.  Allow me to explain.

This afternoon I was invited to a friend's house in Kailua to conduct my usual presentation about Saints and Relics for a group of people from different parts of the island.  Prior to the talk I was excited because another friend of mine had just donated a projector to my ministry - a used one that still worked and it was much, much brighter compared to the projector I've been using all these past years.  I couldn't wait to break it in at this presentation.

The makeshift display-altar set up for the presentation in the Nakamura home.
16 relics from Jesus, Mary, and various Saints/Blesseds were present.

So I arrived at the house before the appointed time to set up the display-altar of relics and my equipment... and this is where the weird comes in - the projector wouldn't work, despite the fact that it worked just fine when I tested it a couple of nights before.  I did everything I could to troubleshoot the potential issues but nothing I did could make the projector work.  A participant even tried to help me but with no success so I finally resorted to my old projector, which I had on standby.  That projector worked, although my slideshow was not as bright and as sharp as I had wanted it to be for my audience.  I was a little disappointed but at least we had something to look at.  

We ended up starting late because of the setback but the presentation proceeded smoothly once I had the equipment set to go.  The 20 or so people attending were extremely receptive to the message I shared... and, based on feedback I received after, most enjoyed the presentation and learned new things about the sainthood process; the lives of various modern Saints/Blesseds I featured; and about devotion to relics.  I could also see by their reactions at the altar that there were "connections" happening between certain individuals and the Saints/Blesseds whose relics were displayed.  Souls were being touched in a profound manner - perhaps even spiritually healed or fortified - which is the main reason why I do these talks.  It turned out to be a successful presentation despite the rocky start.

Some of the attendees lined up to view and venerate the relics on display.

Through today's presentation, I was able to acquaint a good number of people - youth and adults - with 16 authentic 1st and 2nd Class Relics from Servant of God Anne Louise LateauSt. Annibale di Francia, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, St, Faustina KowalskaSt. Louis & Zelie Martin, St. Maria Katharina Kasper, Bl. Marie Deluil-MartinySt. Peregrine Laziosi, St. Philomena, St. Padre Pio, Bl. Rolando Rivi, St. Therese the Little Flower, and my ministry's veil-relic of the Blessed Virgin and a piece of the True Cross of Jesus Christ.

After all the visitors left and I started to pack up, on a whim I decided to try the new projector again and guess what happened?  It started right up and was in perfect working order!  I could hardly believe it.  Strange, I tell you... very, very strange.

I later told the person who donated the projector about what happened and all he had to say were four words spoken with conviction: It was the devil.  These temporary equipment malfunctions have happened a few times before during past presentations so I'm inclined to agree with my friend.  I can imagine how much Satan loathes the Saints and the good they accomplish from Heaven so it makes sense to me that the devil would do whatever it takes to prevent people from getting to know these dear friends of God better... but, thankfully, things always work-out, some way or some how - like it did today - which just goes to show that God always wins at the end.  Amen.

Saint of the Month - December 2018: Blessed Maria [Fontanella] of the Angels


Bl. Maria [Fontanella] of the Angels
Fragrant Rose of Turin ~ Memorial: December 16th

This month's featured holy woman once admitted she wasn't born saintly.  Rather, as a little girl, she had a tendency to love all sorts of finery and enjoyed the fact that she excelled at dancing. In short - she was worldly and had a streak of vanity.  Not sure how much of that is true or how much has to do with her exceptonal humility, but it's what she reportedly recorded in an autobiography.  It wasn't until Christ, himself, directly intervened that she began to ascend the steep, difficult path up the mountain of holiness... to become the great mystic and "prayer warrior" our Lord wanted her to be.

An old portrait of Bl. Maria of the Angels,
a Carmelite mystic and stigmatic.
Marianna Fontanella came into the world on January 7, 1661. She was the youngest of 11 children born to Count Giovanni of Turin and his wife, Lady Maria Tana.  The mother had among her ancestors, the mother of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (d. 1591), a youthful aristocrat who renounced a life of privilege to become a holy Jesuit.  The fact that there was an official Saint counted among her kin was undoubtedly a source of pride for the family, but it wasn't enough to impress Marianna to want to become one too.  In several bios I've read of her, it was related that this Blessed initially lived her early years in a manner typical of her high social status - she was well-educated; pampered; and exposed to all sorts of social events... and she enjoyed it all, especially the fancy outfits and the dances.

However, on one particular day, while still a young child, she sat in front of a mirror admiring herself when her own reflection vanished to be replaced by a vision - Christ appeared in the mirror, sadly staring back at her; battered and crowned with thorns.  The experience so shocked Marianna that it had the immediate effect of a lasting conversion.  From that moment on she shunned her elaborate wardrobe and jewelry, and began exercising a devout mode of living despite her tender age.

At 12-years-old, Marianna accompanied one of her sisters to the Cistercian Monastery in Saluzzo where the latter was entering into religious life.  Somehow, Marianna was able to persuade her parents to allow her to board with the nuns, and she remained with them for over a year until her mother recalled her home due to the unexpected death of her father.  Back at the family villa our Beata resisted her family's efforts to marry her off and she practiced a regimen of prayer and self-mortification.  Apparently, while with the Cistercians, an earlier resolve she made to become a nun had strengthened, but she was undecided as to which order to join.

After providentially meeting and speaking with a venerable Carmelite priest during one of the rare public exhibitions of the Holy Shroud of Turin, Marianna applied with the local Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Santa Cristina.  Lady Maria reluctantly consented when it became clear that her daughter could not be dissuaded so Marianna made her entrance into Carmel in November 1675; she was 14-years-old and took the name Maria of the Angels.

The first year in the monastery was not easy for the aspiring nun.  The sweetness of spirit and the divine favors she had started to enjoy before quitting the world evaporated, leaving Sr. Maria with a terrible dryness in her soul.  She clung desperately to her faith and, guided by a meticulous novice mistress, she managed to reach profession in December 1676... but the sense of separation from God - the "dark night of the soul" - continued to torment her for the next 15 years.  The devil aggravated the situation, via severe temptations and diabolic assaults.

The beautiful Basilica of the Superga in Turin, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin,
and constructed under the prompting of Bl. Maria of the Angels.

Fortunately, the beleagured nun weathered her personal storm through the consistent practice of virtue, especially humility and obedience towards her superiors.  As it turned out, all that she went through served to purify her spirit, as Jesus was leading her on a singular path of extraordinary mystical union with himself, as was proven later on.

By 1691 Sr. Maria was finally free of the darkness and began experiencing supernatural lights with greater intensity.  Sublime visions of Christ and heavenly inhabitants resumed, along with other mystical gifts such as Prophecy, the Stigmata, and the Fragrance of Sanctity.  It was reported that the beautiful scent that constantly surrounded her was so obvious the other nuns could track her whereabouts by following the aroma she left in her wake.  The Blessed, on her part, took to carrying small bundles of flowers and spices to try to disguise the heavenly scent but to no avail - it increased on feast days and during times when she was ill and unable to take precautions to disguise the fragrance.  Even things she handled were imbued with the delightful scent!

Noting her many virtues and fine example of Carmelite spirituality, the community elected Sr. Maria to the post of novice mistress in 1691 then prioress in 1694, a position she maintained through multiple terms.  Word soon spread outside of the monastery about the extraordinary prioress and people began seeking her counsel and prayers, including the reigning king of the region, Vittorio Amadeo II of the royal house of Savoy, and other members of the nobility.  Vocations to the Carmel of St. Cristina increased, which necessitated the founding of another monastery in nearby Moncalieri in 1703.  Sr. Maria had hoped to transfer there to be away from the center of the limelight but the king explicitly forbade her to ever leave Turin due to his dependence on her advice and his devotion to her.

A depiction of Bl. Maria of the Angels interceding with Christ to spare
Turin from a chastisement of the dreaded plague.

Public esteem for the prioress reached a pinnacle in 1696 when the city was besieged by an invading army.  She publicly announced that the city would be saved if people turned to St. Joseph - the foster father of Jesus - for help, which they did.  Turin was liberated and, in gratitude, St. Joseph was proclaimed the Patron Saint of the city by the king.  Similarly, in 1706 when the French besieged the city, the citizens and royals turned to the intercession of their resident mystic - the nun invoked the Holy Virgin's protection and the city's army was again victorious.  At Sr. Mary's urging, a church - the great Basilica of the "Superga" - was built to commemorate the victory and to honor Our Lady.

Sr. Maria of the Angels died peacefully in her monastery on December 16, 1717, after living a productive life of prayer, self-sacrifice, and service to her beloved people.  She was 56-years-old at the time of her death and all of Turin mourned the passing of she who had saved them from wars and even a plague in 1714.  

At the instigation of King Vittorio, the holy nun's Cause for Canonization was started just a few years after the death of Sr. Maria.  Pope Pius IX declared her a Blessed on April 25, 1865, but a second miracle has yet to be officially recognized for the prioress to reach sainthood.  Let us pray for her speedy canonization.

The urn-shrine of Bl. Maria of the Angels in the Carmel of Moncalieri (Turin).
It encloses a simulated figure of the Beata along with her earthly remains.


Words of Wisdom from Bl. Maria of the Angels:

"When you commit some infidelity, do not be anxious, but with humility and confidence immediately turn to the Lord: do not flee from the Offended, but embrace Him as a lover and ask for forgiveness."