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


Monday, March 25, 2019

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



Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on March 25th:
  "Dear children! This is a time of grace. As nature renews itself for a new life, you also are called to conversion. Decide for God. Little children, you are empty and do not have joy, because you do not have God. Therefore pray until prayer becomes your life. In nature seek God who created you, because nature speaks and fights for life and not for death. Wars are reigning in hearts and nations, because you do not have peace and you do not see, little children, a brother in your neighbor.  Therefore return to God and to prayer.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Annual Apparition to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 18th:
   "My children, as a mother, as the Queen of Peace, I am calling you to accept my Son so that He can grant you peace of soul - that He can grant you that which is just, which is good for you. My children, my Son knows you. He lived the life of man, and at the same time of God: a wondrous life-human flesh, divine Spirit. Therefore, my children, while my Son is looking at you with His eyes of God, He penetrates into your hearts. His tender, warm eyes are looking for Himself in your heart. My children, can He find Himself [there]? Accept Him, and then the moments of pain and suffering will become moments of tenderness. Accept Him, and you will have peace in [your] soul - you will spread it to all those around you - and this is what you now need the most. Heed me, my children. Pray for the shepherds, for those whose hands my Son has blessed.  Thank you."

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 2nd:
   "Dear children, I call you 'apostles of my love'. I am showing you my Son who is the true peace and the true love. As a mother, through the mercy of God, I desire to lead you to Him. My children, this is why I am calling you to reflect on yourselves, starting out from my Son, that you look to Him with the heart and that you may see with the heart where you are and where your life is going. My children, I am calling you to comprehend that it is, thanks to my Son, that you live - through His love and sacrifice. You are asking of my Son to be merciful to you and I am calling you to mercy. You are asking of Him to be good to you and to forgive you, and for how long am I imploring you, my children, to forgive and to love all the people whom you meet? When you comprehend my words with the heart, you will comprehend and come to know the true love and you will be able to be apostles of that love, my apostles, my dear children.  Thank you."

Monday, March 4, 2019

What do you see?


I'll keep this post short and will just let the viewer make up his/her mind about the photo shown below.  I know what familiar figure I discern and I think it's simply beautiful; actually, it was magnificent in person!


I took this photo early this afternoon, March 4th, just minutes after I walked out of the Honolulu Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace after attending the Noon Mass.  I was headed out to do my lunch time walk to exercise and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and this was the spiritually serendipitous view of the sky that greeted me after I made the sign of the cross.  Timely indeed.

"Your unfailing love, O Lord, extends to the
heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds."

Psalm 36:5 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Saint of the Month - March 2019: Saint Rafqa Ar-Rayes


St. Rafqa Ar-Rayes
The Lily of Lebanon - Feast: March 23rd

For March 2019, I feature a Saint whose life is an enigma for many - she asked the Lord for suffering and he granted her prayer.  A lot of people may not be able to wrap their head around why she would do such a thing... but it's simple - St. Rafqa wanted to be as close to Christ as possible; comprehending and appreciating every aspect of his life on earth so as to deepen her mystical union with him... even if it also meant embracing and experiencing the mystery of the Cross in all its painful fullness.  In this sense, her life was quite courageous and her example teaches us that there is immense spiritual value in the acceptance and carrying of one's own cross. 

Born and named Boutrossieh (romanized as "Petra", which I will use in this blog) on June 29, 1832, she was the only child of a peasant couple from Himlaya, Lebanon, who were members of the Maronite branch of the Catholic Church. According to her biography, her parents were pious, especially the mother, named Rafqa, who passed on her deep love of God to Petra before her untimely passing when her little girl was just 7-years-old.

In a few years, the once-happy household was reduced to near-poverty and Petra's father was forced to send her to work as a domestic in the house of a well-to-do acquaintance in Damascus, Syria.  Four years later, the daughter returned home only to be surprised by a new stepmother who was somewhat overbearing. The woman began planning a marriage for Petra to her own brother (step-uncle), while a maternal aunt argued to have the maiden marry her son (Petra's first cousin).  The heated conflict over her personal future was too much for the young woman since, for some time, she had growing aspirations to give herself completely to Jesus Christ.

One of the few surviving photos of St. Rafqa.
Her biographies describe her as attractive.

Before matters could progress any further, Petra abruptly left home to enter the recently founded congregation of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the "Mariamettes", in BikfayaWhen her parents learned of her whereabouts, they went to the convent to fetch her home, but Petra convinced her superiors to send her parents away without giving them the opportunity to speak with her; she never saw them again.  The time frame this all took place was in the end of 1852, beginning of 1853.

For the next 19 years, Petra, now Sr. Annisa ("Agnes"), lived the life of an exemplary religious - devout, humble, obedient, and ever-joyful - while fulfilling several duties as kitchen worker, catechist and teaching nun in different convents of her congregation.  However, in 1871, the Mariamettes merged with another congregation and the sisters were given the choice to become members of the new congregation, return home, or join another congregation; Petra opted for the latter and discerned the call to enter a contemplative institution.  She prayed and God answered...

Petra had a dream in which she was visited by three venerable men who later turned out to be St. Anthony the Abbot, St. George the Soldier-Martyr, and the last was assumed to be a Baladita monk-Saint because of the words spoken to her by St. Anthony: "Become a nun in the Baladita Order".  Petra left for the Baladita convent of St. Simon in Al-Qarn, where the nuns warmly welcomed her.  She took the religious name of Rafqa ("Rebecca") in honor of her dearly departed mother. 

For the next 14 years, Sr. Rafqa again impressed her peers with her evident piety and virtue, and lived in a relatively good state of health until 1885.  Sometime during that fateful year, while praying in a chapel on behalf of other sisters, she complained to the Lord with the following words: "Why, O my God, have you distanced yourself from me and have abandoned me? You have never visited me with sickness! Have you perhaps abandoned me?" That very night Rafqa was attacked by a mysterious and terrible pain in her head that slowly spread down to her eyes, which in due time became inflamed and discharged blood and pus. The right eye, in particular, began to swell until medical experts finally advised its removal, which was done by an American doctor without any anesthesia per Rafqa's request.   Her only response to the excruciating pain she endured was her habitual exclamation in times of extreme pain: "In communion with Christ's Passion."

Another rare photo of St. Rafqa.  This one shows the Saint (laying down) at the peak of her sufferings with her Mother Superior.

Rafqa's health only continued to worsen in the coming years until she was eventually blind in her left eye and confined to bed as a permanent invalid; bleeding from her eyes and nose were frequent.  Furthermore, her hip bone became dislocated and her frame withered to practically skin and bones as she lay on her right side, immobile in a fetal position... and, as if things couldn't get any worse, she developed a wound on her shoulder that she referred to as the Lord's shoulder wound caused by the carrying of his cross.  The poor nun was able to move her hands so to keep herself useful, she spun wool and knitted... and, of course, she prayed constantly.  Despite the unfortunate predicament she was in, Rafqa was never heard to utter a word of complaint... rather, she manifested deep resignation to the will of God and an unearthly joy that edified all who came into contact with her.***

It should be noted that for all the suffering Sr. Rafqa experienced, the Lord consoled her with divine favors.  Two instances stand out - in the first, she regained sight in her remaining eye for an hour.  The grace was received in direct response to a wish she made to look upon the face of her mother superior, who had shown her so much maternal kindness in her sufferings.  Shortly after, the second incident occurred, which was a visit to Heaven where she was mystically transported for a couple of hours during an ecstasy, and participated in a joyous feast with the Saints.  Upon awakening from the experience, she was offered food by her superior but declined saying that she had just tasted the most delicious lamb ever at the heavenly banquet.

Rafqa died peacefully on March 23, 1914 - she was 81-years-old.  After she was buried a brilliant light emanated over her tomb for three consecutive evenings, attracting many to the site.  Remarkable cures were soon reported through the intercession of the humble Maronite nun, escalating Rafqa's fame of sanctity among the locals then beyond.  The Church declared her a Saint on June 10, 2001.

May St. Rafqa intercede in Heaven for peace in war-torn regions of the Middle East... and may she watch over our persecuted Christian brethren there, protecting them and instilling in them hope in God's Divine Love.

"I am not afraid of death which I have waited for for a long time.
God will let me live through my death.”

- Words of St. Rafqa

A 1st Class Relic from the bones of St. Rafqa,
displayed for veneration at the First Saturday Rosary
at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua,
on March 2, 2019.


A PRAYER TO ST. RAFQA

We ask you, Saint Rafqa, to spread true joy in our world, which is suffering; to comfort sad people and make them happy and caring; to teach us to pray with faith in Jesus Christ and to live our life peacefully.

Medicine was incapable of curing you, so you cured sick people by enduring pain and sharing with Jesus Christ the Mystery of Redemption. 

We ask you to wipe away tears; to cure sick people; to fill people’s hearts with joy and love; to help us follow your steps and virtues in order to glorify, with you, the Virgin Mary, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit forever.  Amen.


*** NOTE:  In this author's personal opinion, based on the nature of her sufferings and the circumstances surrounding them, St. Rafqa may have suffered the invisible stigmata of the crown of thorns although her biographies do not specifically mention this.