Friday, May 20, 2011

WEBSTER'S ENTRY 10



Daughter of Light

St Philomena was a teenager who devoted her life to serving God.  She risked her life to stay true to her pledge of virginity, even though she angered the Roman Emperor.  She stood strong in her love for Jesus at the cost of her life.

St Philomena's parents were prince and princesses who ruled a small kingdom in Greece.  They were originally pagans, until the palace doctor, Publius, a devout Christian, taught them about Jesus' incomparable love and mercy.  They listened with awe and amazement.  They were soon baptized and became part of the Church.  Shortly after, God blessed them with a baby girl.  They called her Filumena (meaning daughter of light) because she was born to them with the light of faith.

When Filumena was 8, she promised her soul and virginity to Jesus.  However, when she was 13, she and her parents went to Rome.   The Roman Emperor was going to declare war on their little kingdom, so Filumena's father wanted to plead for peace.  The prince spoke so well to the Roman Emperor and Filumena was very proud of her father.  The Emperor, who already had a spouse, said that both kingdoms would be at peace if Filumena would be his wife.  She refused.  The Emperor tried so many things to win her such as promising her riches and power, and even being cruel and threatening her.  Although she was tortured, she did not give in.

The first torment Filumena went through was that she was lashed and whipped so cruelly, then imprisoned.  This reminded her that Jesus was thrown into prison after being scourged, and that St Peter was imprisoned for his love for Jesus.  This comforted her.  She did not stop praying to Jesus for strength, courage and faith.  Inside her cell, angels appeared and poured balm over her wounds and healed her.  And the Queen of Heaven appeared to Filumena and entrusted her to St Gabriel's care.

Next, Filumena was thrown into a river while tied to a heavy anchor.  She was seen by all being lifted out of the water by angels onto dry land.

After this unsuccessful attempt, Filumena was shot at with arrows. The first time she was shot, she fell into a deep sleep, as a gift from God.  When she woke up, the soldiers brought her to the Emperor who accused her of being a magician; and ordered her death with sharper-pointed arrows.  When the archers shot at Filumena, the arrows did not fly.  Then the Emperor ordered more arrows to be heated red-hot and aimed at Filumena's heart.  This time the arrows flew.  However halfway to Filumena, they sharply turned back to the archers and killed them, except for a few who later converted to Christianity.

Finally, out of frustration and rage, the Emperor grabbed a lance and pierced Filumena's neck.  This act killed her, she died at 14.  And her soul ascended straight to Heaven to meet Jesus, her spouse!

What a great model is Filumena in living our lives according to God's will, even it if costs us our life.  She resisted the temptation to sin and offend God by breaking her vow of virginity.  She serves as a good example of self-sacrifice because she gave up her life in order to save her purity. 

Filumena's life story was not a popular one because she lived in the 3rd Century and her grave was discovered by accident.  She is believed to have appeared to 3 individuals who spread her life story and inspired devotions to the young martyr.  After this, so many people reported that their prayers were answered with her intercession.  Even St John Marie Vianney reported to have witnessed a miracle which happened with Filumena's intercession, and built a shrine dedicated to her in his parish church at Ars.  This is why Filumena came to be known as the "Wonderworker of the 19th Century."  Later on, the name Filumena was changed to "Philomena" because of the prayers she lovingly answered.  ("Philo" means loving.)

St Philomena was canonized in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI, and she is the first saint in the history of the Church who was canonized only on the basis of her powerful intercession.  The Church celebrates her feastday on August 11.

St Philomena, spouse of Jesus, pray for us!

(Creative Writing,
Grade 5,
2011, Term 2, Week 3)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May for Mary



FATIMA DAY

May 13 marks the date of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima to the 3 shepherd children:  Lucia, Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta.  For us, observance of this special occasion mainly consisted in attending evening Holy Mass at the beautiful church up the hill, Our Lady of Victories, followed by the Rosary candlelit procession.  It was certainly a chilly night; nevertheless, we all felt very priviledged to be part of the grace-filled celebration.




MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS SHRINE

For our Learning Centre I constructed a little mountable shrine featuring Our Lady Help of Christians using laminated pictures, recycled polystyrene squares, cotton wool balls and a shoe box.  The reason why I made it myself was because the children were scheduled to have this activity at their next meeting in their Catholic kids club (a suggestion very kindly accommodated by their facilitators); and there, they each constructed their own shrines with the kits containing the abovementioned materials.

(Apart from the 2 angels bearing Our Lady's crown atop our little shrine, the image is one of a painting by Thomas Lorenzone as commissioned by St John Bosco based on his vision of Our Lady Help of Christians which took 3 years to complete and now appears above the main altar at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Italy.  Of the image (AS SEEN BELOW), St Don Bosco gives this description:  "Our Lady stands out in the center bathed in light and majesty. She is surrounded by ranks of Angels, who are doing her honor as their Queen. In her right hand she holds a scepter, the symbol of her power, and on her left arm she carries the Child with His arms outstretched as a sign of the graces and mercy He offers to all who have recourse to His royal Mother. At each side and underneath are the Holy Apostles and Evangelists, exalted in ecstasy as though exclaiming: "Queen of Apostles, pray for us" while gazing in wonder at the Holy Virgin. At the lower part of the painting is shown a portion of the City of Turin, with the Sanctuary of Valdocco in the foreground and the Sanctuary of Superga in the rear. )




Kids working on their projects

with welcome assistance from facilitators

Now with their finished shrines!
(L to R:  Jet, Chad, Therese, Celine, Alainn, Lianna, Maurice and RJ)


(BELOW:  Singing a hymn to Our Lady and crowning her at the end)

video

Closing prayer

In honour of Mary Help of Christians whose feastday actually falls on May 24, we are looking forward to joining a group pilgrimage to Our Lady's Shrine at Canungra on the 21st of this month.  It should be another fun and faith-filled day!

LEADING THEM TO MARY

Because May is Our Lady's month, it is always good to have school and/or family activities centred on her.  Besides, she IS the best example for us who want to live according to God's holy will.  

This is, then, the perfect time to bring out great reading materials on our Blessed Mother, and one of these is an excellent book based on St Louis de Montfort's work:  Leading the Little Ones to Mary.  School hours, for us, are usually packed with activities, so nighttime before bed provides the best time for reading it out loud to the kiddies.  After all, how special it is for them to have thoughts of Our Lady filling their little minds just before they close their eyes!!


We are halfway through May already, so before the month finally draws to a close, I am hoping to fit in a few more devotional activities to enrich not only the children's Marian spirituality, but also ours as a family. 


Don Bosco's Prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
How can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions
many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.


Maria, Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis!


Monday, May 16, 2011

WEBSTER'S ENTRY 9


Blessed Miguel Pro
"Viva Christo Rey"

Jesus lived His life according to the will of God.  He loved us with infinite love.  He did His ministry with obedience to the Father and love toward others.  He was so selfless that He even died for us.  Many saints have been inspired by His example and followed in His footsteps.

Father Miguel Pro was a priest who risked his life for God and for others.  When he was about 9 years old, he felt the call to join the priesthood.  However as a child, he was known to be a jokester.  Even in the seminary, he liked to joke around.  Once he joked about cheering up any sad saint by doing a Mexican hat dance! 

When Fr Miguel was about to enter the seminary, he was known among staff and students there as one who liked to joke around.  Because of this, they doubted his sincerity in wanting to become a priest, so his vocation was tested.  In the rector's office, he heard the seminarians yelling about what an awful place the seminary was.  However he stayed calm, and this helped him pass the test.  So he was admitted and he eventually became a priest.

Fr Miguel risked his life ministering the scraments to the people because at that time, it was forbidden to be a Catholic.  Catholic priests were outlawed.  People would be thrown into prison just for going to Mass, and a person could be killed just for receiving communion!  So Fr Miguel had to be really careful.  He travelled on bicycles just to outrun the police.  He wore disguises so that he would not get caught.  Some days he would dress as a mechanic, a peasant, a farmer, a traveller and a beggar. 

Once, when he was being chased by the police, he was dressed in shabby clothes.  He tried to blend into the crowd, but he was carefully eyed, until he spotted a young woman.  He ran up to her, linked his arms with hers, and whispered in her ear:  "Help me.  I am a priest."  The young woman realized what was happening and went along with Fr Pro and pretended to be his girlfriend.  So he was never caught.

Fr Miguel was finally caught and arrested in 1927 when a bomb was thrown from a car which was previously owned by Fr Miguel's brother.  Although Fr Miguel had no involvement in the bombing, General Calles (who was the target of the bomb) ordered the arrest of Fr Miguel and his brother.  There was no trial, so they were never given the chance to prove their innocence.  General Calles soon ordered their execution.

On the day of their execution, Fr Miguel prayed with his brother and the other prisoners and helped them be calm and prepare for death.  He heard their confessions.  The policeman who arrested Fr Miguel asked to be forgiven and the priest gently forgave him, as well as the members of the firing squad for what they were about to do.  Although it was difficult not to be angry at them for being so cruel and unjust, Fr Miguel remembered that Jesus forgave His enemies on the Cross.

At the moment of his execution, Fr Miguel stretched out his arms in the form of a cross and shouted, "Viva Christo Rey!"  (This means "Long live Christ the King!")  These were his last words.

General Calles prohibited anyone from attending the funeral of Fr Miguel and the others, but he could not keep the crowds of people away.  Silently and respectfully they filed past his coffin.  One blind woman who touched Fr Miguel's body was instantly healed.

Fr Miguel died on November 23, 1927.  He was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in September 1988.

All Catholic priests are referred to as Alter Christus (meaning, another Christ), but Blessed Miguel Pro was one priest who truly lived as another Christ.  Just as Jesus sacrificed His life for the human race, Blessed Miguel lived his life for others.  He devoted his life for the church, just like our Lord.  Jesus forgave His enemies, and in imitation of this, Blessed Miguel forgave his.  Even the way Blessed Miguel Pro died, with arms outstretched as in a cross, was very much like how Jesus Christ died on the Cross!

Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!


(Creative writing,
Grade 5,
2011, Term 2, Week 2)

Monday, May 9, 2011

WEBSTER'S ENTRY 8



FR DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI


Father of the Lepers


Father Damien was a priest who worked amongst the lepers in Molokai. He travelled there so he could administer the sacraments to them. Because he was strong he was able to do a lot. He celebrated Mass, heard confessions and baptized people. He became their pastor.

Fr Damien was sent to Molokai a few years after he was ordained a priest, so he was only a young priest when he started his ministry. When he got there, he felt sorry for all of the lepers because they were in a terrible state. They lived in filthy houses and they were not cared for physically. However, he was filled with joy when he saw the island chapel called "The Church of St Philomena," but when he went inside he found it was very dirty. He immediately set to work to clean and repair it. After he finished cleaning it, he said his first Mass. He got together a group of boys and trained them as altar servers.

Fr Damien's motto was, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." He put this into practice by caring for all of his people in Molokai. In all his dealings with them, there was one thing he never forgot about the lepers: that each one had a soul and each one was important to God. So he treated everyone with kindness.

Fr Damien of Molokai was very selfless. He dressed the lepers' wounds himself and even did some surgery on some of the people's boils! In caring for the lepers, he never hesitated or worried about getting the disease.  He did woodworking and made coffins for the dead; and dug proper graves for them. He also built tables, chairs, window sils and other useful items.

Fr Damien is a very good example of charity, loving others selflessly and risking one's life for others. This is just like Jesus did: He died for us!  To follow Fr Damien's example, we can offer ourselves by spending time and comforting the sick, sharing our blessings with the poor, praying for the needy and using our talents to help others.  Fr Damien of Molokai, pray for us!


(Creative Writing,
Grade 5,
Term 2, Week 1)

Fr Damien died with leprosy at 49 years old.  Saint Damien of Molokai was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1995 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. His feastday is celebrated on May 10.






Sunday, May 8, 2011

What is a Mother?


Mom and I, Feb 1998


Today I pay tribute to my Mom - whom I owe everything to and who who is always around to dry the tears and make everything okay.  She is there to make sense of things when they seem crazy and unmanageable.  She is  disposed to help when things turn rough and matters require a mother's perspective.  She is ready to sacrifice her own wants and needs in favour of her children.  Even when everything seems grim, she is quick to point out the good in the situation.  She is not, by any means, perfect; but she is certainly the perfect Mom for me.  I thank God every single day for her.

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.  (Proverbs 29:15)