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


Thursday, March 26, 2020

No Sacraments? Make use of Devotions & Sacramentals!



Like most people here in Hawaii, I'm hunkered down at home waiting out this terrible Coronavirus Pandemic that has quickly spread around the world.  I'm doing fine but I'm missing something big time - the Mass. I'm craving the sense of profound "connection" with the Divine that I experience when receiving the Holy Eucharist, as well as, the fellowship of other worshippers... and the inner peace and strength that flood my soul from the very heart of Christ, himself.  Blessings we could all use at this present time.

What allows me a measure of consolation, however, is the fact that the Catholic Church is a veritable treasury of traditions, spiritual exercises, and religious articles that help us to still make a deep and tangible connection with God in this dark period of Mass suspensions... and they bring us grace, too!  We call them "popular devotions" and "sacramentals"... and now is a better time than ever to put them to good use.  I sure am.


In case you're not aware, there are many pious practices and spiritual objects, which, in addition to gracing us through the benediction of the Church, have special signal blessings attached to them, per approved private revelations. Often, physical protection from harm is included in these promised graces, which is an added "bonus"!

Below are just a few devotions and sacramentals I'd like to recommend, especially during the ongoing pandemic...

D E V O T I O N S :

+ Eucharistic Adoration & Spiritual Communion
With the temporary suspension of public worship and the Sacraments that's now commonplace, these devotions have taken on a greater relevance.  Spiritual Communion may be performed any time, anywhere - click here for more information about the practice... and fortunately, through modern technology, we can now adore Jesus through various chapels that offer livestreaming, 24/7 - click here to view one such chapel... and here is access to another one in the United Kingdom.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

+ The Sacred Heart of Jesus
In 1675, Jesus appeared in the Visitation Monastery of Paray-le-Monial to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690). His message was simple - he affirmed his immeasurable love for all mankind and wanted his Sacred Heart to be especially honored as a visible representation of Divine Love. The devotion is a popular staple amongst Catholics and, from the writings of St. Margaret Mary, are compiled a list of 12 promises made by the Lord to those who will practice and promote this devotion - the promises may be read here.

+ Our Lady & the Rosary
Devotion to the Holy Mother of Christ is another powerful one to practice, as most believers already know. The Blessed Virgin is the premier advocate before her Divine Son, and the Rosary is the primary expression of devotion to her. Mary, herself, once said to St. Dominic Guzman (d. 1221), "One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world."  The Holy Mother further went on to dictate 15 promises to the Saint and Bl. Alan de la Roche (d. 1475) for people who will practice this time-honored devotion - read them here.

+ The Stations of the Cross
I believe it's not coincidental the Coronavirus hit pandemic status during Lent. It's as though God willed that the entire world should do penance in conjunction with his Church; to make reparation for its countless sins. An effective way to do that is to meditate on the Passion of Christ; to unite ourselves with our Crucified Lord, in the spirit of supplication and atonement.  The Stations of the Cross is a perfect way to do this.  For more info about this beautiful devotion, click here


+ The Divine Mercy Chaplet
Compared to the three devotions already described above, this one is fairly recent, having been introduced to the world in the 20th Century through St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938).  Yet, it is no less popular.  Jesus once said to the Saint, "It pleases me to grant everything souls ask of me by saying the chaplet." Empowering and timely, given the world's present circumstances - many have likened the viral outbreak to a divine chastisement. If this be the case, praying this chaplet frequently is a must for one's spiritual routine.  It's another way to atone for sin, while drawing down mercy from Heaven.

Holy Angels of God, guide and protect us!

+ The Angels
Having recourse to the Holy Angels is another worthwhile devotion. Start with your own guardian angel, who loves you beyond what you could ever comprehend in this life.  Only in the next life will we see just how many dangers and evils have been prevented through our angels' unwavering care and protection.  So love... appreciate... and pray to your personal angel each and every day.

And of course, there are the three Archangels - Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  St. Michael shields us with God's protection; St. Gabriel reveals God's Word; St. Raphael dispenses God's healing.  All these are much needed blessings right now so invoke these Holy Archangels frequently - together!

To read more about the marvelous intercession of angels in the lives of our Saints, click here.

+ The Saints
I cannot say enough of our spiritual heroes. In the 35+ years that I've been learning from, praying to, and cultivating devotion to various Saints, I've personally experienced their help in extraordinary ways - healing, protection, financial assistance, and other favors. Throughout history, countless people have too... and sometimes entire towns and cities!  To cite one notable example, I remember reading a story that when the bubonic plague broke out in northern and central Italy in the 1630s, the town of Cascia had recourse to their Patron Saint, St. Rita (d. 1457). The citizens processed the ornate casket enshrining her incorrupt body around the town, which had the effect of miraculously sparing Cascia from the outbreak, while neighboring towns and cities were devastated by the pestilence.

Holy Saints of God, pray for us!

So if you haven't done so yet, why not pick a Saint (or Blessed) to be your personal Patron - any Saint; doesn't have to be a "plague Saint" (all of them can intercede in any circumstance).  Read about his or her life while you're self-isolated to start a personal friendship with that particular Saint/Blessed. A good way to then cultivate your new bond is to exercise frequent novenas to the Saint/Blessed or to simply have spiritual conversations, via informal prayer.  You may just be surprised by how well they listen; how willing they are to help us get closer to God; and to even help us with our daily needs. Click here to start reading the interesting and inspirational lives of many Saints/Blessed already featured on this blog.   

S A C R A M E N T A L S :

Concerning sacramentals, they are external signs of certain devotions. They primarily differ from the Sacraments (e.g. Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, etc.) in that the Sacraments were instituted by Christ to give us sanctifying grace, while sacramentals are given to us by the Catholic Church to inspire us to live better lives so as to gain graces. Used properly - not superstitiously - sacramentals dispose us to receive favors in soul and body through the authoritative power of the blessing and prayer of the Church. Among the most common sacramentals the Faithful may avail themselves of during these urgent times are...

Cover us with your Precious Blood, Lord Jesus!

+ The Crucifix

This is a no-brainer. For me crucifixes are on a level all their own compared to other sacred images, and should be automatic in a Catholic home.  If you don't already have one, get one and display it in a prominent place in your house!  Use it regularly to meditate on the Passion and invoke the saving power of the Precious Blood.

+ Holy Water
This is "Sacramentals 101". Water universally symbolizes cleansing so Holy Water is commonly used to spiritually purify everything it's prayerfully sprinkled on - persons, objects, and places.  The great St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) once wrote, "From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight." Get into the habit of blessing yourself daily with it and sprinkle it weekly within one's home.

+ Sacred Images / Statues
Having statues, icons, and pictures of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints in a home is not only comforting since images effectively convey a sense of presence of the holy persons represented... and they can also channel signal graces.  This has been witnessed and documented time and time again throughout history. One tremendous example occurred in Rome, circa 590 - the black plague was decimating the city and the reigning Pontiff, Pope Gregory I, was inspired to have an ancient icon of the Madonna and Child (reportedly painted by St. Luke on a wooden tabletop) carried in procession through the Roman streets. During the procession, Our Lady appeared above Hadrian's Tomb - now called Castel Sant'Angelo - along with a crowd of angels, including St. Michael. The archangel sheathed his sword, which signaled the abrupt end to the pestilence.

The procession of a miraculous icon of the Blessed
Virgin in Rome that ended a deadly plague.

Not surprisingly, the miracle icon used in the procession inspired a popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Salus Populi Romani" (Salvation of the Roman People).  It's now enshrined in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and this is the very same Marian image Pope Francis will pray before whenever he leaves for a trip and returns.  If I recall correctly, he visited the icon recently to again invoke Mary's intercession against the current pandemic.

Consider carrying a blessed statue or icon of Jesus and/or Mary around your property in a mini-procession with members of your household... then "enthrone" it in a central place in your home. I especially recommend the Sacred Heart, the Divine Mercy image and/or Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Sprinkle holy water along the way while you're at it.

+ Medals
There are devotional medals of all sorts, intended for varying spiritual purposes. Among the approved and widely acclaimed are the St. Benedict Medal (especially potent against evil); the Miraculous Medal (revealed to St. Catherine Laboure and particularly effective for healing); the Holy Face Medal (revealed to Bl. Maria Pierina de Micheli along with promises from Jesus for spiritual and physical protection).  Incidentally, many exorcists recommend the practice of burying blessed medals at the four corners of one's yard as a way of warding off all forms of evil.  Another thing to consider.

+ Scapulars
Like medals, scapulars come in many forms; each intended to be an external indication of a particular devotion to Jesus, Mary, or a Saint (e.g. St. Michael). By wearing a scapular, one places oneself under the protection of the holy person to whom the scapular is dedicated. Arguably the most popular scapular is the Brown Scapular of Carmel.  To read more about this particular sacramental, click here.


Another scapular worth mentioning for these times and that's grown in popularity in recent years is the Scapular of Benediction and Protection (sometimes called the "Purple Scapular" - shown above).  It's a large scapular, compared to most, and pricier due to it's more intricate design. This sacramental has its origin in a private revelation from the Virgin to the French stigmaticMarie-Julie Jahenny (d. 1941) and directly connected to it are several heavenly promises, including the following: "All those who will wear it will be protected from thunder, sudden death, and accidents. During the chastisements they will be protected." The Purple Scapular does not have to be worn, but can simply be blessed then displayed in a prominent place in one's home in order to benefit from its grace.**

**NOTE: It's important to point out that the effectiveness of any sacramental is dependent on the user's faith in the blessing imparted by the Catholic Church through its priests, as well as the level of fervent use of the sacramental for its intended purpose. There is no power in the religious article, itself.  Faith in God and in his power to work through the blessing are the essential factors. 

In closing, I'm hoping that by sharing this information, readers will be encouraged to practice one or more of the popular devotions I described, as part of a daily routine; an alternative way to sanctify one's day in the absence of the Mass... and please don't stop when Mass is reinstated - one can never have enough grace!

A biblical scene from the Book of Exodus - the Jews
protecting themselves from a coming plague.

As for sacramentals, take advantage of these spiritual gifts; the divine promises attached to several of them - we, Catholics, are fortunate to have them! And if you have any doubts, just remember the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt - God instructed them, through Moses, to smear the blood of sacrificed lambs on their door posts as a visible signal to the angel of death to "pass over" their homes (see Exodus 12).  We can do the same with this modern plague, minus the blood, of course - instead, use sacramentals. Wear them on your persons; fasten them on your doors to signal Heaven that we, too, are people of God who are looking to be spared.

So have faith in the infinite power of Christ and confidence in the blessings of the Catholic Church, which Jesus, himself, founded... and pray, pray, pray!


All shall be well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Monthly Messages from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: March 2020



Our Lady's Monthly Message to the World on March 25th (given through Marija):
  "Dear children! I am with you all these years to lead you to the way of salvation. Return to my Son; return to prayer and fasting. Little children, permit God to speak to your heart, because Satan is reigning and wants to destroy your lives and the earth on which you walk. Be courageous and decide for holiness. You will see conversion in your hearts and families; prayer will be heard; God will hear your cries and give you peace. I am with you and am blessing you all with my motherly blessing.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Our Lady's Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 18th (annual apparition): **
  "Dear children, my Son, as God, always looked above time. I, as His mother, through Him, see in time. I see beautiful and sad things. But I see that there is still love, and that it needs doing for it to be known. My children, you cannot be happy if you do not love each other, if you do not have love in every situation and at every moment of your life. Also, I, as a mother, am coming to you through love - to help you to come to know true love, to come to know my Son. This is why I am calling you, always anew to thirst all the more for love, faith, and hope. The only spring from which you can drink is trust in God, my Son. My children, in moments of peacelessness and renunciation you just seek the face of my Son. You just live His words and do not be afraid. Pray and love with sincere feelings, with good works; and help so that the world may change and that my heart may win. Like my Son, I am also saying to you: love each other because without love there is no salvation. Thank you my children."

** Note: In a highly significant development, Our Lady informed Mirjana during this annual appearance that there will no longer be any further apparitions on the 2nd of each month.

Our Lady's Special Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 2nd:
  "Dear children, your pure and sincere love draws my motherly heart. Your faith and trust in the Heavenly Father are fragrant roses which you offer to me - the most beautiful bouquets of roses which consist of your prayers, acts of mercy and of love. Apostles of my love, you who sincerely and with a pure heart strive to follow my Son, you who sincerely love Him, you help; you be an example to those who have not yet come to know the love of my Son - but, my children, not only with words but also with acts and pure feelings through which you glorify the Heavenly Father. Apostles of my love, it is a time of vigilance, and of you I am asking for love, that you not judge - anyone. Because the Heavenly Father will judge everyone. I am asking that you love, that you convey the truth; because truth is old, it is not new, it is eternal, it is truth. It testifies to God's eternity. Bring the light of my Son and keep breaking the darkness which all the more wants to seize you. Do not be afraid. Through the grace and the love of my Son, I am with you.  Thank you."

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Saint of the Month - March 2020: Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus


St. Teresa Margaret
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
She fell in love with LOVE

Anna Maria Redi entered this world on July 15, 1747.  Her parents were nobility from the Italian city of Arezzo and they produced thirteen children of which only eight survived past childhood.  Anna Maria was the second oldest and she was described as beautiful, having bright blue eyes and golden tresses.  The family was a happy one and, apparently, the Redis were an exceptionally devout couple because all their grown children consecrated themselves to God as priests and religious - WOW!!!

Out of all the Redi siblings, Anna Maria was the clear standout. Biographies mention her as being conspicuously devout from an early age, but with a high-spirited temperament - she once confided to her spiritual director that from her childhood she "never longed for anything other than to become a saint."  The girl was also gifted with a precocious understanding of matters of faith, which her father, Ignazio, noticed early on and took it upon himself to nurture with his own mature piety.  He introduced her to the Sacred Heart Devotion and, on her part, Anna Maria responded by beginning an elementary regimen of prayer and spiritual reading, sometimes bribing her younger siblings so they would leave her alone during her personal devotions.

“Lord, I shall be yours, whatever the cost, despite all repugnance.”

~ Words of St. Teresa Margaret

At aged 9, Anna Maria was sent to a boarding school run by Benedictine nuns in nearby Florence.  With these good sisters, she received her First Holy Communion at 10, after which her faith and virtues were further developed under their influence.  For a while our saint seriously considered joining them, but she changed her mind and decided on the Discalced Carmelites after being impressed by a friend who was leaving for Carmel.  A mystical visit from the great St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) solidified her decision - the founder reportedly said to her, "I am Teresa of Jesus and I want you among my daughters."

On September 1, 1764, Anna Maria entered the Florentine Carmel with her parent's blessing.  Despite a break in her postulancy due to surgery on an infected knee abcess, she was professed on March 12, 1766.  She was 17-years-old at the time and she changed her name to Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Ignazio, who was her first spiritual mentor, was reportedly overcome with sorrow at her profession ceremony, but was also resigned through a premonition that God had great things in store for his daughter.


In Carmel, Teresa Margaret continued her steady progress in sanctity - she was obedient and humble but it was the path of Love she walked that really distinguished her.  Prior to entering the monastery she had heard a phrase during a sermon - "GOD IS LOVE" (from 1 John 4:8) - and it hit her like a ton of bricks!  I can only speculate she completely surrendered herself to the sublime implications of those words... and, through a singular grace from the Holy Spirit, it brought her to an instantaneous and profound realization of God's unconditional love; also igniting the flame of Divine Love within her soul.  The joy and fulfillment Teresa Margaret experienced motivated her to respond to God by sharing the gift of Love she received with others through the active expression of it to all who she came into contact with.

... and after being appointed the community's assistant infirmarian, our saint had lots of opportunities to share God's love.  She lavished affection on the sick and never complained despite the often-difficult tasks assigned to her.  Her desire was to pass unnoticed among her companions in her personal faith-journey, but the other nuns caught glimpses - external signs - of the supernatural love burning within Teresa Margaret.  For example, once there was a deaf elderly nun who was dying in the infirmary and she grew very fond of the saint.  Whenever this nun expressed a need for her beloved nurse, Sr. Teresa Margaret inexplicably knew she was being summoned regardless where she was in the monastery... and would promptly arrive to render assistance.  Furthermore, the two could easily converse since the elderly nun was somehow able to hear her friend's voice despite her lack of hearing!  This phenomenon was only observed when Sr. Teresa Margaret spoke to the patient.

"I propose to have no other purpose in all my activities, either
interior or ex­terior, than the motive of love alone..."

~ Words of St. Teresa Margaret

Still, at other times, Teresa Margaret was observed in prayer, unconscious of her surroundings; her complexion glowing with an unusual shade of purplish-red, as though she was illuminated from within by fire.  After a while she would then appear a pale shade of grey before regaining her normal skin tone and awakening.  These raptures happened frequently enough that the other nuns documented their occurrences in their archives.

Apparently, Sr. Teresa Margaret was not destined long for this world.  She died suddenly on March 7, 1770, at the tender age of 23.  Her death was from peritonitis caused by a strangulated hernia, which was likely due to her lifting patients in the infirmary.  Because of the manner of her death, her body quickly began deteriorating - her abdomen swelled and her stiffening corpse took on an unsightly, blackish color.  However, within two days, the decomposition was mysteriously reversed - the skin resumed the color of life; the limbs regained flexibility; the swelling in the abdomen went away; and an exquisite floral scent began emanating from the nun's corpse.

The incorruptible body of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart.

The beauty of Teresa Margaret's lifelike body so impressed the nuns they notified Church officials to come witness the miracle.  A painter was also hired to preserve her features for posterity - hence, the image at the top of this blog - but it actually wasn't necessary since the body remained incorrupt after its transformation.

What's more is the report that Teresa Margaret's various personal belongings in the monastery and in her family home also began exuding the same fragrance as her body, which brought a measure of comfort to Ignazio when he learned of her passing.

The Church declared Sr. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a Saint on March 19, 1934.  Her perfectly preserved body is venerated today in the chapel of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Florence, Italy.

"Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love."

~ 1 John 4:8