“Good Father Gus”–a Little Known Member of the Catholic Hall of Fame

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

From the Catholic Hall of Fame:  Meet Servant of God; Father John Augustus Tolton.  (I consider Catholic saints and those being considered for sainthood as members of the Catholic Hall of Fame. That is strictly my designation because they are the best of the best and we Catholics honor them and try to follow their example.)
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On April 1, 1854, Peter Tolton paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to their son and named him Augustus. Augustus (named after his uncle) was baptized in St. Peter's Catholic Church in Brush Creek, Missouri.  Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augusta's godmother.  This was a situation a bit out of the norm, especially for this time in history.  Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot who happened to be the "owners" of  Augustus' dad and mom.  The Tolton family were slaves and their three children, Charley, Augustus and Anne, were born into slavery...slave owners and their slaves, all Catholic. It was a unique situation especially in the mostly Protestant south.

There are varied debates about how the Toltons gained their freedom. The most common story has it that Peter Tolton ran away and joined the Union Army.  Then,  when the Civil War began, Stephen Elliot gave Martha and her children their freedom.  They headed north and, with the help of Union soldiers, crossed the Mississippi River and entered  Illinois which was a 'free' state.  They all got jobs at the Herris Tobacco Company which made cigars.  Then Charley died and along came Father Peter McGirr, an Irish American priest and pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Quincy, Ill.  Augustus Tolton's life was about to change.

Father McGirr had noticed a shabbily dressed African-American boy standing across the street from the church. After three days he went and spoke to the boy. He asked him if he would like to attend school. Augustus answered "YES!" This decision by Father McGirr was quite controversial as most parishioners did not want a black student being taught along with their kids.  Father McGirr held firm and insisted that Augustus study there.  The young man even began studying with some priests.

Father McGirr had seen  something in young Augustus that others did not see. Within a month the boy had advanced to 'second reader' and Father asked him if he would like to receive his first Holy Communion. By summer Augustus was the altar boy for the 5 a.m. Mass.  Then Father McGirr asked the young man if he would like to become a priest. He told him it would take about 12 years of hard study and dedication. Augustus said, "Let us go to the church and pray for my success."

After graduating and with the unwavering support of Father McGirr, Augustus attempted to get into a seminary. He was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied. Undaunted, Father McGirr helped young Tolton gain admission to St. Francis Solanus College (now Quincy College) in Quincy, Ill. Upon graduating he was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. Founded by Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century, this was a training ground for missionaries. Here Augustus Tolton became fluent in Italian as well as studying Greek and Latin. In 1886, at the age of 32, Augustus Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome. He was the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

Newspapers across the country told the story of the former slave now ordained as a catholic priest.  When Father Tolton arrived back in Quincy he was greeted as a hero. Thousands greeted him and a brass band played and negro spirituals were sung.  People, black and white, lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the new priest dressed in black cassock and wearing the biretta. When Father Tolton arrived at St. Boniface Church hundreds were waiting inside wanting to receive his blessing. His first blessing went to Father McGirr who was by his side. The next day father offered his first Mass and the church was packed while literally thousands of people stood outside. For the moment prejudices were replaced with  love of God.

Servant of God; Father Augustus Tolton

 Father Tolton remained at St. Boniface's for five years.  He met with stiff resistance from white Catholics and Protestant blacks when he tried to start a black parish.   When he managed to start St. Joseph Parish in Quincy the new "dean" of the parish demanded that he turn all white worshipers away. Father Tolton refused and prayed and persevered,  never losing faith.

Father Tolton was transferred to Chicago in 1892 and headed a mission group that met in the basement of St. Mary's Church. This led to him developing the Negro National Parish of St. Monica's Catholic Church. He was such a kind, caring man that he came to be known as "Good Father Gus".The church grew quickly and soon had over 600 parishioners.  Father Tolton was looking forward to having construction at St. Monica's completed so it would be a source of pride for its parishioners.  He would not live to see it. On a steaming July day in 1897, with the temperature at 105 degrees, Father Tolton was returning from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train he collapsed.  He died in the hospital a few hours later from sunstroke. He was 43 years old.  Apparently he had been ill for sometime and had never said anything to anyone.  The heat wave did him in. His community was shocked and stunned. They had lost a dear friend. Father Tolton is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery near Quincy, Ill.

On March 2, 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago, announced that he was beginning the cause for canonization for Father Tolton. On February 24, 2011, the Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood. Father Augustus Tolton is now designated  officially as Servant of God.  We might ask Father Tolton's intercession to help us with our own individual prejudices.

     

The Perversion of “Love & Kindness”; Belgium OKs Euthanasia for Children;

by Larry Peterson

Three months ago  the civilized, highly sophisticated nation of Belgium looked on as  the collective wisdom of the upscale Belgium Social Justice Committee coagulated into making a recommendation to Parliament that they should approve a bill which would legalize euthanasia for children.  Well now, what do you know?   Belgium's lawmakers heeded the advice and OVERWHELMINGLY voted to extend the country's euthanasia law to children under 18 (they have had the law in place for adults since 2002) .  They passed this bill on February 13th. The nation awoke on the morning of Valentine's Day ready and willing to enjoy the holiday sharing love with each other. But this Valentine's Day came with a new twist.  They found out that once King Phillippe signed the bill just passed kids can willingly, surrounded by a LOVING support group which will include parents, doctor and shrink, "happily and mercifully" kill themselves.

How loving, how compassionate, how civilized so many people have become.  There is wide public support from the Belgian people (unbelievably predominantly catholic) for this bill  which passed  by a 2 to 1 majority. Socialist, Hans Bonte, said, "all Belgians, including MINORS, deserved the right to bid farewell to life in humane circumstances without  having to fear they were breaking the law".  Heaven forbid, can you imagine a seriously ill child dealing with the added burden of fearing they might also break a  law?  Are you kidding me?  One independent House member, Laurent Louis, stood up and said that the majority of his colleagues were violating the natural order.  "A child is to be nurtured and protected, all the way to the end, whatever happens. You do not kill it."  He was mocked.

The Catholic Church and the Belgian clergy are vehemently opposed and have been right along. But they  are  those "old, out of touch, church leaders telling people what they should and should not do.  Well , God bless them.  Those "old fools" are standing tall in the face of an evil that has embraced a once beautiful country which has now turned ugly wrapped in a shroud of secularism.   Belgian law now allows for the killing of sick children .  How have so many  been able to advance into the meistic, secular world of the 21st century where deciding who should live and die  is the preferred  virtue of goodness. When did the folks who are "stuck"  in the conscience driven world  of God first, followed by family and country and who defend ALL life, get relegated to the ranks of the "ungood"?

The Catholic Church is not in a popularity contest with the secular world.  It is also not in a popularity contest with those who proclaim to be Catholic yet defy the church's teachings.  The Church is the way to the Truth and it is defending and protecting the faith it was created to defend.  It defends the right to life of all,  from the unborn to the sick, disabled, deformed, mentally challenged, elderly and those simply unwanted. It is standing tall in Belgium and saying, "NO!" to this abomination.  At what point in time did secular mankind decide that it could "kill" as an act of love?  Is it because "love" is all about kindness and virtue and they were the ones who embraced it? How sanitized yet preposterous is that? No, the "love" of the secular world is about self-love before all else. People know best and those in power are omniscient.

How sad this all is that  folks who respect the very dignity,  beauty and miraculous creation of each life have suddenly been "flipped" into the category of "heartless and cruel" by a secular world that defiles all those who might dare disagree with it?  Tear down the crosses, ban the name of God, ridicule the churches and their priests and nuns. This hypocrisy is not "love" but rather, "anti-love".  Don't these people understand the dark underbelly of this entire concept?  Apparently, they do not.  But they have chosen to take the road of personal gratification deifying their own selves. And that is what happens when God is removed from the equation of life...you come to believe you have the right to kill children. How did we ever become so civilized?

     

On Valentine’s Day a War on LOVE is Raging

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

 Valentine's Day is here.  It is supposed to be all about Love. Yet beyond the heart covered Valentine cards, the flower bouquets and candy and all of that, we must, as unpleasant as it may be, recognize what we truly have going on this Valentine's Day of 2014.  Yes, make no mistake, Love is under attack this Valentine's Day and the war is brutal and bloody.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA/EWTN Newsreported today that Christians are the most persecuted people on earth.  Why is that?  Why is there such hatred by so many toward something that is all about goodness and love?  The word "CHRISTIAN" comes from the name of Christ, Jesus Christ.  Okay, is that a BAD thing? I don't think so.

All Christians  (including 1.2 billion Catholics and 800 million Protestants  of varied denominations) follow Jesus Christ. That is 2 billion people or two thousand million people who follow His teachings and His promise of Eternal Life. What is the crux of His teachings? Well now, the bottom line is this, LOVE your NEIGHBOR & FORGIVENESS. Yeah, yeah, I know that many who proclaim to follow Jesus  do not even make an attempt to Love their Neighbor or Forgive anyone for anything. They let that old, deadly sin of pride rule their roost. Oh well, it is part of God's gift of free-will allowing each and every one of us to make choices. However, the vast majority of Catholic/Christians do their feeble best  to follow His message.  For those that do it is a life-long work in progress and this was true even for the saints.

So, why the hatred? Why the persecution?  Why were more than 100,000 followers of Christ murdered in the past year alone?   The problem is the aforementioned  deadly sin of pride.  Why?  Because pride has filled the hearts of many and these are the people who now HATE. What they hate most is one word which is made up of  only two letters. That  word is NO. They want no-one dare telling them what to do or how to behave. They have embraced secularism (defined as: a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship). Christianity establishes boundaries.  Christianity tells us what God wants us to do and what NOT to do...why, the NERVE of Him!  So, many Secularists (not all) take it to another level in their personal, selfish requests to abolish the influence of institutions that have the temerity to say NO to certain behaviors. They even reject "natural law" for their own personal agendas.

They rant against Christmas which is all about "giving". They rail on about using the name of God in schools and at sports events. They want Crosses at cemeteries taken down from the graves of fallen soldiers. In many cases those who hate Christians kill them. Men, women and children die every day in different parts of the world simply because they are followers of Jesus. How can  Love & Forgiveness be things to hate?

Well, nothing has changed since Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago.  He preached Love & Forgiveness so they beat  Him, tortured Him and killed Him.  The loving crowds who screamed "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday turned fickle and screamed "Crucify Him" the following Friday.  The list of  people murdered for following Jesus over the centuries (including his own apostles) is countless. Being a Catholic and Christian was never supposed to be easy.  Jesus Christ did nothing but Love us, each and every one of us. Look what happened to Him.

So, on this Valentine's Day, the question to be considered might be this. What is Love? The answer can be found in the Bible in the First Letter of John; Ch 4: 16-17.  "We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. God IS Love, and whoever remains in Love remains in God and God in Him. 
Sadly today, February 14, 2014, the war on Love increases in intensity.

     

Meet Blessed Maria Restituta; Holocaust Victim: Executed for Hanging A Crucifix in a Hospital Room

by Larry Peterson

May 1, 1894,  was  a happy day for Anton and Marie Kafka.  Marie had just given birth  to her sixth child, a girl, and mom and her daughter were both doing fine. The proud parents named their new baby, Helena.  Devout Catholics, Anton and Marie had  Helena  baptized into the faith thirteen days after her birth in their parish church, The Church of the Assumption, in the town of Husovice located in Austria.  Before Helena reached her second birthday and due to financial circumstances, the family had to move and settled in the city of Vienna.  This is where Helena and her siblings would remain and grow up.

Helena was a good student and worked hard. She received her First Holy Communion in May of 1905 in St. Brigitta Church and was confirmed in the same church a year later. After eight years of school she spent another year in housekeeping school and by the age of 15 was working as a servant, a cook and learning nursing. She became an assistant nurse at Lainz City Hospital in 1913. This was Helena's first contact with the Franciscan Sisters of  Christian Charity and she was immediately moved to become a Sister herself.  On April 25, 1914, Helena Kafka  joined the Franciscan sisters and on October 23, 1915, became Sister Maria Restituta. She made her final vows one year later and began working solely as a nurse.

When World War I ended Sister Maria was the lead surgical nurse at Modling Hospital in Vienna.  She and all other Austrians had never heard of Adolf Hitler and could never have imagined  that one day their beloved nation would  be annexed into the German Republic because of this man.  After a successful coup d'etat by the Austrian Nazi Party on  March 12, 1938, these unforeseen  and unimagined things came to pass. The Nazis, under Hitler, now controlled the once proud Austrian nation.

Sister Restituta was very outspoken in her opposition to the Nazi regime. When a new wing to the hospital was built she hung a Crucifix in each of the new bedrooms. The Nazis demanded that they be removed telling Sister Restituta that she would be dismissed if she did not comply. She refused and the crucifixes remained  hanging on the walls   One of the doctors on staff, a fanatical Nazi, would have none of it. He denounced her to the Nazi Party and on Ash Wednesday, 1942, she was arrested by the Gestapo after coming out of the operating room. The "charges" against her included  "hanging crucifixes and writing a poem that mocked Hitler".

Sister Maria Restituta, the former Helena Kafka, loved her catholic faith and filled with the Spirit, wanted to do nothing more than serve the sick. The Nazis promptly sentenced her to death by the guillotine for "favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason".  The Nazis offered her freedom if she would abandon the Franciscans she loved so much.  She adamantly refused.  An appeal for clemency went as far as the desk of Martin Bormann, Hitler's personal secretary and Nazi Party Chancellor. His response was that her execution "would provide effective intimidation for others who might want to resist the Nazis".  Sister Maria Restituta spent her final days in prison caring for the sick. Because of her love for the Crucifix and the Person who was nailed to it and died on it, she was beheaded on March 30, 1943.  She was 48 years old.                                                      

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Blessed Maria Restituta

 Pope John Paul II visited Vienna on June 21,1998.  That was the day  Helena Kafka, the girl who originally went to housekeeping school to learn how to be a servant, was beatified by the Pope and declared Blessed Maria Restituta.  She had learned how to serve extremely well  always serving others before herself.

Blessed Marie Restituta, please pray for us.