Saint Anna Schaffer—Bedridden and in Constant Pain from being Burned, She Gave it all to Jesus

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson        

 The number of saints in the Catholic Church numbers in the thousands.  In fact, the exact number is open to question.  Among these are many saints most of us have never heard of. These saints  are the obscure spiritual gems whose stories can take your breath away. Say "hello" to  Anna Schaffer.
 Anna Schaffer was born into a simple, hardworking family in Mindelstetten in Bavaria on February 18, 1882. The third of six children, Anna was a fine student who studied hard and received good grades. When she was a small child she had felt a deep calling to the religious life but circumstances sometimes hurl themselves into your path changing your destination.
 Anna made her First Holy Communion  on April 12, 1893. At that time she had a profound encounter with Jesus. She had not spoken to anyone about it but she wrote a letter to Our Lord telling Him to "do with me as you want...I want to atone and become a sacrifice to atone for all dishonor and offenses against you." She was 11 years old and was giving herself over to Christ.
 Anna's dad passed away at the age of 40. The year was 1896.  Anna, now 14, had already been working part time for a household in Regensburg but now her family was thrust into poverty. She had dreamed of one day entering a religious order but circumstances now forced her to give up thoughts of any more schooling and find full time work to help support the household. She acquired several positions and finally landed a job in a pub called the  Gameskeeper's Cottage in nearby Stammham. Part of her job description included doing the laundry.
 The Victorian era washing machines they were using were designed to have a fire underneath and the rising heat would boil the water in the tub above. These "machines" had galvanized metal smoke stacks to vent the smoke outside the building. The stack on the machine Anna was using came loose from the wall. She was sure she could fix it.
 Anna climbed up on the edge of the tub to force the pipe back into the hole. As she stretched up to reattach the pipe she slipped and fell into the boiling, sudsy water. In a flash she was up to her knees in the bubbling cauldron having her legs boiled. The date was February 4, 1901. Anna was 19 years old and her life had been changed forever.
 Anna was rushed over to the nearby hospital. Everything they tried to do for her failed to help. They operated over thirty times and every time the pain was excruciating as they had to scrape dead skin away and re-bandage the poor girl's legs. She was given up as a “lost cause” and the experts assumed she would die from infection. Skin grafts would not take and Anna became immobilized. However, for some unexplainable reason, Anna stabilized and three months later was sent home.
The local doctors, unable to help Anna, several times sent her to the University Clinic of Erlangen for treatment. But this brought her nothing but anguish as the "experts" experimented with various "new" treatments in their quest to help her. They even forcibly broke the joints in her feet several times to free them up from their immobility. The pain she endured must have been horrific. Her mother became her caregiver and would care for her daughter until the end of her life.
 In 1898 Anna had seen a vision where Jesus appeared to her as the Good Shepherd and told her the suffering that was going to be hers before the age of 20. Jesus’ prediction had now come to pass and there was nothing anyone could do to help her.  Anna embarked on a journey of having to endure unimaginable pain every day as her legs would never heal. Open, festering wounds would always be present. But Jesus was in her life coupled with her deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. Anna Schaffer was about to inspire many more than just those in her local community.
 Anna admitted in a letter that it took her two years to recognize God's will in her life as she had offered it to Him on her First Communion Day. She embraced God’s will fully and Jesus appeared to her saying, "I accepted you in atonement for my Holy Sacrament. And in the future when you receive Holy Communion you will feel the pains of My passion with which I have redeemed you."
 On October 4, 1910, Anna received the stigmata. From that day forward Jesus would feel Anna’s pain as Anna felt His.  She wrote that she had the intense pain of the passion which increased on Thursday, Fridays, Sundays and on Feast days. She became a beloved person in the town and people began coming from everywhere to hear the gentle and comforting words she spoke. Every day she drew closer and closer to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin as Jesus united her suffering with His own.
 In 1925 Anna developed colon cancer and, at the time, there was nothing anyone could do for that. On October 5, 1925, Anna was given Holy Communion. She opened her eyes wide and said, "Jesus, I live for you." Then she closed her eyes and journeyed home with her Lord.
 Since 1929, Over 15.000 miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Anna Schaffer. In 1998 alone 551 miracles were recorded through her intercession (many of these have not yet been validated by the Church). Anna was beatified by St. John Paul II in1999 and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict in 2011.
Saint Anna Schaffer, please pray for us.
                                                             ©Larry Peterson 2017 All Right Reserved
     

He was a Catholic Priest–He was Martyred Because of it–He was only 22 years old–*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The damnable and malevolent Cristero War was officially considered ended in 1929. But that did not signal the end of the torture, murder and martyrdom of Catholic religious and lay-persons in Mexico.  The following happened in July of 1931 but first a bit of background.

Dario Acosta Zurita was born on December 13, 1908 in the town of Naolinco in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz. He was one of four boys and had one sister. His dad was a butcher and the family, like most other families in the area, struggled to make ends meet. Dario, like his siblings, was baptized in the local church of St. Matthew and it was his mom who was his catechist as he grew up.

Dario was well behaved, did what he was supposed to and was a relatively quiet boy. When his dad died the family fell into extreme poverty. Dario was forced to find work to help support the family. In his young heart he he had been hearing  the calling to the priesthood but he thought he would never be able to answer it. However, God must have had Dario on His radar screen.

Blessed Dario Acosta Zurita

 Not long after his father's passing Bishop Rafael Guizar y Valencia, ( an entire story unto himself--coming soon) visited Vera Cruz. He was looking for potential seminarians and Dario expressed his desire to become a priest. The bishop (who at one time had to disguise himself as a junkman because there was an order in place for him to be shot on site) told Dario that his responsibility to his mom and siblings superseded his personal wants. In addition, Dario was too young. The bishop told him to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for help and guidance.

Dario's mom knew of this and traveled to Xalapa to see the bishop. She pleaded with Bishop Guizar y Valencia to reconsider. Our Lady must have been in the room that day because the bishop relented and gave permission for Dario to enter the seminary. The young man won his superiors and class mates over with his kindness, charitable persona and his devotion to his faith. In addition, Dario was an excellent athlete and became captain of the seminary football team.

Dario Acosta Zurita became Father Angel Dario Acosta Zurita on April 25, 1931. The new priest was only 22 years old. He celebrated his first Mass in Vera Cruz on May 24 and began serving as a parochial vicar at the Parish of the Assumption in Vera Cruz. Father Dario was very dedicated to teaching the children catechism (adults too) and he loved being able to hear confessions.

At the same time, the Governor of Vera Cruz, Adalberto Tejeda, decided that he was "sick of the religious fanaticism of the people". He issued a decree called the "Tejeda  Law" which basically banned all priests from administering to their parishioners. Mass was banned, catechism classes were  halted and confessions were forbidden.  All priests in the diocese were notified by numbered letter advising them they MUST obey the "Tejeda Law".

However, the priests in the area had gotten together on July 21st and agreed that their responsibility was not to the government but to their priesthood and their faith. The decided that they would not obey the satanic inspired "Tejeda Law".

The law took effect on Saturday, July 25, 1931. It was sometime after 5 p.m. that afternoon the children began arriving for catechism classes at Assumption Parish while people began getting in line for confession. Three priests were in the church. Father Landa, Father Rosas and Father Dario who was in the baptistry. Suddenly, a little after 6 p.m., the three church doors to the church burst open and soldiers charged into the church.

These  men opened fire on the priests. Father Landa was gravely wounded. Father Rosas survived by hiding behind the pulpit. Father Dario, upon hearing the gunfire, rushed from the baptistry. His body was riddled  with bullets. He fell into the sanctuary as all the children and adults watched in horror. Father's last word before he died was , "JESUS!"

Father Dario Acosta Zurita was only 22 years old when he was martyred. He had been a priest for exactly three months.

Father Zurita was beatified and declared "Blessed" on November 20, 2005. The ceremony took place in front of thousands of the faithful at Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins presided under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI.

Blessed Angel Dario Acosta Zurita--Please pray for us all

See edited version in Aleteia Jan 25, 2017

                                   ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

     

“Ad Orientem”—the Symbolism is Truly Beautiful

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Long ago, in a Church somewhat different, I was an altar boy (it was pre Vatican II and we never used the term altar server). It was a time when the Mass was said in Latin and the priest always faced “ad orientem”. (This actually means “toward the east” but, since so many churches do not have their altars facing east, it also refers to the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice with his back to the people.

Ad Orientem (Solemn High Latin Mass)  http://southernorderspage
The reason for this symbolism is profound and beautiful.  The sun rises in the east and we are coming out of the darkness to see the sun. The priest, who will stand in the shoes of Christ during the Consecration, is facing the newly risen sun, ergo, God. At that moment, the priest, upon elevating the consecrated host toward the EAST, is actually Jesus saying to God, “This is MY body which will be given for you. Then the consecrated wine is also elevated to the Father.”

When offering Mass “ad orientem” the priest has no distractions that are facing him. The congregation behind him is, in effect, present at the Last Supper. The altar boy would ring the bells to bring attention to this miraculous moment taking place before our very eyes. The people have just witnessed the most profound mystery of our faith and it all took place in only a few minutes.

And there we kneel, the faithful, some watching and adoring the Body and Blood of Christ while many others are looking around, fidgeting, checking their watches, yawning, skimming through the church bulletin they should have read when they got home, not having a clue as to what is going on at the Mass they are attending. But that’s okay because at least they made it to Mass and are not home “sleeping in”. What has just happened is beyond description and the very answer to life itself. Yet it all presents to many as a grand paradox.

A friend of mine, his name is Jeff, was injured in an accident years ago. He has a pronounced limp and uses a cane. Every week he comes to Sunday Mass and sits in the exact same seat. Every Sunday, without fail, he gets up at the beginning of the Consecration and slowly limps off to the bathroom. He always comes back after the wine is consecrated. He receives Holy Communion and, at a slightly accelerated pace, leaves Church before communion is even finished being distributed.  There are several others who, without fail, come every Sunday and miss the Consecration. They must not have a clue as to what is going on yet there they are, week after week.

Of course we all just had are influx of the C & E Catholics for Christmas. Although not “packed”, my church was definitely crowded. Interestingly, most every person at Mass received Holy Communion. Am I getting paradoxical yet? Is this why we have the phrase, “cafeteria Catholics” in our 21st century Catholic jargon?

Back in 1966, when Pope Benedict XVI was still Joseph Ratzinger, he said, “Is it actually that important to see the priest in the face or is it not truly healing to think that he is also another Christian like all the others and that he is turning with them towards God and to say with everyone ‘Our Father’?”

Pope Benedict XVI showed his love of ‘ad orientem’ 50 years ago. On October 12, 2016, (while meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, he reiterated his preferences in a reflection letterpublished in L'osservatore Romano: In the liturgy’s orientation to the East, we see that Christians, together with the Lord, want to progress toward the salvation of creation in its entirety. Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, is at the same time also the “sun” that illumines the world. Faith is also always directed toward the totality of creation. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew fulfills an essential aspect of his priestly mission precisely with his commitment to creation.”

                                      ©Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson

     

Executed for Refusing to Say “Yes”*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson


The pages of Catholic/Christian history are filled with countless names of those who came from virtual anonymity and proceeded to leave an indelible mark in our lives. St. Teresa of Calcutta is a prime example. Many have also reached the eternal heights of spiritual greatness but are not so well known. Meet Franz Jagerstatter.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter    wikipedia commons

Franz was born in Austria in 1907. His father was killed in World War I and when Franz was around eight years old, his mom married Heinrich Jagerstatter who adopted young Franz, giving him his name. 


Franz received a basic education in the local schools and excelled in reading and writing. He learned religion from his maternal grandmother and would read the Bible and other religious works. He managed to develop a faith which nestled itself securely into his soul. As Franz grew older and wiser his faith grew right along with him.

In 1933, Franz, inherited his adopted father’s farm. He then met Franziska Schwaninger, a deeply religious Catholic woman, and they fell in love. They were married Holy Thursday, 1936, and after the ceremony proceeded on a pilgrimage to Rome. This is also when Franz’s spiritual life became his primary focus in all things.

Now possessing a deeply imbedded faith and love of Jesus, he soon was serving as a sexton at his local parish. He and Franziska would have three daughters and he began to live his life true to his faith and to Jesus Christ. He would no longer deviate from things that were “not right”. Some perceived him as “overly pious”.

He stopped going to taverns because, as a defender of truth, he was always getting into arguments about Nazism and wanted to avoid that. He stopped accepting donations he received as the church sexton and gave the money to the needy even though he and his growing family were poor too. Even though some folks mocked him, he was determined to do “what was right”.

In 1938, German soldiers began moving into Austria. Immediately, they began implementing the Nazification of the once peaceful nation. The "Anschluss", which was the creation of a German-Austrian State, was put to a vote in Franz’s village and he was the only one in his town to vote “no”. The authorities rejected his vote and claimed the vote was unanimous. However, Franz was now under watch by the Nazis.

It did not matter to Franz. He knew he must do the right thing and remained openly anti-Nazi. He joined the Third Order of St. Francis and began serving as a sacristan at the local parish. He managed to get several exemptions from military service. Time was not to be Franz’s friend.

In 1940, when he was 33, Franz was conscripted into the German army. He finished basic training but managed to stay out of the active service because he qualified for an exemption given to farmers. Back home he began to evaluate the morality of war and even discussed the subject with his bishop. His bishop did not encourage Franz.

And so it was that on February 23, 1943, Franz Jagerstatter was called to active duty. He and Franziska now had three daughters, the oldest only six. Franz stood strong and refused to fight for the godless, Third Reich. He declared himself a “conscientious objector” and offered to serve as a paramedic. He was ignored. A priest from his town came to talk him into serving but he refused. He was immediately put in prison.

Against all advice to stop resisting, Franz persisted in his opposition to the Nazis. He was told by his spiritual advisors that he had an obligation to his family to protect his life. He was told that he was required morally to obey the “legitimate” authorities. A friend told him, “Just say yes. You don’t even have to shoot straight. But take the oath.” Franz rejected all arguments. Atheistic Nazism could not be supported. He was determined to do the “right thing”.

Franz wrote, “Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.”

Franz Jagerstatter held fast to his principles. On July 6, 1943, he was tried and sentenced to death. On August 9, 1943, he was executed by guillotine at Brandenburg-Gorden prison. He was 36 years old.
Franz Jagerstatter led an obscure life and his death was no different. But a priest by the name of Father Jochmann spoke to Franz right before his execution. He said later that Franz was the only saint he had ever met.

In 1964 the American sociologist, Gordon Zahn, wrote a book about Franz Jagerstatter  titled, In Solitary Witness.  That was followed by the renowned Trappist,Thomas Merton, writing a chapter about Franz in one his books, Faith & Violence.

Eventually, Franz story weaved its way to the Vatican and came before Pope Benedict XVI. In June of 2007, the Holy Father issued an apostolic exhortation declaring Franz a martyr. On October 27, 2007, Franz Jagerstatter was beatified by Cardinal Jose Martins in Linz, Austria.

 Franz believed that Jesus wanted him to do the “right thing”.  He even gave his life to do it. He is known as the patron of “conscientious objectors”.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, please pray for us.
*This article appeared in Aleteia on October 19, 2016
                                        ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights reserved
     

Meet the “Madman” of the Sacred Heart*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on June 3, 2016

Every year, exactly 19 days after Pentecost, the Catholic Church  celebrates the Devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus . It is a worldwide devotion and is always on a Friday. This year it will be celebrated on June 3. Stressing the profound relevance of this feast, Pope Benedict XVI said on June 5, 2007;

 "In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God's love for humanity, His will for universal salvation, His infinite mercy. Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life."


I have mentioned that this is a worldwide Catholic feast day our Pope Emeritus, has spoken to its importance. This caused me to wonder why so many Catholics around the world (including  those in the United States) have never heard about the man from Mexico whose name was Jose Maria Robles Hurtado .

St. Jose Robles Hurtado; "Madman of the Sacred Heart"

Jose Robles Hurtado was 25 years old when he was ordained to the priesthood. The year was 1913. He loved his priestly calling and, being a gifted writer, immediately began writing essays and lessons to teach and propagate the faith. He had such love of  Christ in the Eucharist that within two years of his ordination he founded an order of religious called the  Congregation of the Victims of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. But his love for his Lord was also being noticed by the authorities. Father Hurtado was already going against the new laws being enacted in Mexico.

The young priest was so devoted to the Sacred Heart that his fervor for this devotion became known far and wide. He even became known as the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. But that was in Mexico. It was also during the intense anti-religious era of Catholic/Christian persecution that was beginning to rear its demonic head in the country. Evil finally became the rule of law when in 1917 the anti-religious Constitution of Mexico was enacted.

The new constitution prohibited public professions of faith, public processions and most devotional practices "outside" of church. (Have we heard this narrative advanced in our country?) Father Hurtado promptly proposed a project where a huge cross would be placed somewhere in the center of Mexico to honor Christ as the true King of Mexico. He was now in direct violation of the law.

The plans for the project began  to come together as Father Hurtado led the  movement to erect the giant cross. Signs were distributed throughout Mexico declaring Christ as the King of Mexico. These signs also proclaimed the nation's devotion to the Sacred Heart. Word spread quickly throughout the country and a public ceremony was scheduled for the laying of the project's cornerstone.  Government leaders were furious.

In 1923 over 40, 000 Roman catholics headed to a spot in central Mexico called "La Loma" (the hill). The groundbreaking took place and the government decided it was time to intensify the "law". Persecution of Catholics intensified and Father Robles Hurtado was singled out for intense scrutiny to make sure he stopped his "anti-government" practices.

Father Hurtado, despite demands by the government that he leave the country, continued his ministry, offering Mass, hearing confessions for hours at a time, visiting the poor and the sick, performing baptisms, anointing the dying  and teaching the children.the faith. Then came 1924 and a new president. His name was Plutarco Elias Calles and he held a fierce hatred of Roman Catholics.

Presidente Calles was determined to stop all religious practices within Mexico. He ordered the Constitution of 1917 to be strictly enforced and the result was one of the bloodiest episodes in Mexican history. From 1927 through 1929 the Cristero War ravaged Mexico and Father Jose Robles Hurtado was destined to be one of its victims.

As has been proven throughout history, when certain people gain power that power can become an evil aphrodisiac. Hiding behind "laws" enacted to help them attain their goals of domination, they can kill with a reckless, oftentime vicious, abandon. The evil at work in Mexico was not about to ignore the young priest.

On June 25, 1927, while leading a family in prayer at their home, soldiers broke into the house and arrested Father Hurtado for "violating the law". He was immediately found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. In this world there would be no appeals.

The next morning, before dawn, Father Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, age 39, was led out to a nearby oak tree. The priest, facing his immediate death, offered an understanding and compassion for his executioners. He  forgave them and insisted that he be allowed to place the noose around his own neck. This way none of the men there would have to feel guilty about what was happening. He was handed the noose, kissed it, and slid it over his head. Then he went to meet his beloved Sacred Heart.
Several of the executioners openly wept.

Father Jose Robles Hurtado, the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II on May 21, 2000.

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

     

Meet Asia Bibi; A Catholic/Christian Mom Sentenced to Death for Being a “Blasphemer”

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

                                                               
by Larry Peterson
We are so blessed to be living in the Unites States of America. The freedoms we have enjoyed are beyond compare. Yet there are those Americans who will fight to have these very freedoms we enjoy stripped away to satisfy their own ideologies. How sad this is and what fools they are. Especially those who try to strip away religious freedom from those who disagree with them.

They call Christians  "intolerant" because Christianity stands against their preferred mantra of  hedonistic, secular "virtue". I wish that some of these people would try to imagine what it is like for so many people who live in countries without these freedoms.  I wish they could get out of their own comfort zones, remove their shoes or sneakers, and try on the shoes worn by Asia Bibi.

When you slip into Asia's shoes you realize that you are now a poor farm worker, the mother of five children and you worked in the fields harvesting berries. You are 44 years old and your husband is a brick laborer, a man who mixes the mortar and hauls it to the brick layer. You both work very hard and put in long hours to care for your children. You are also Roman Catholic. Your full name is Aasiya Noreen but you are better known as Asia Bibi. The country you live in is Pakistan.
You remember that hot, sunny day in June of 2009. You remember being out in the field working alongside the other women. They told you to go and fetch them water from the nearby well. (They are Muslim and you are a Christian. You are "beneath" their level and must do the menial tasks required). So you dutifully went to the well and pulled up the water. There was an old tin cup nearby and you picked it up, filled it with water and took a drink. You knew you were not allowed to drink from the same cup as the others lest you "defile" it and you made sure you did not. But by taking that simple sip of water the die had been cast.

Alas, using the dirty, rusted cup to drink from mattered not. A field hand angrily tells you that you are forbidden to drink the same water as a Muslim. You are already considered "unclean" because you are Christian. The other workers hurriedly gathered around you and started cursing you and your religion. Your faith must have been exploding in you because you defended it immediately. You summoned your resolve and remember saying, "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind." WOW!

Later that day some of the workers reported to the local cleric that you had "insulted" Mohammed. A  mob came to your home, beat you and your family and you had to be rescued by the police. The police investigated your remarks and arrested you for the crime of "blasphemy". Under the country's Sharia Law you are not equal to a Muslim so what you had to say was only considered "half" as important as what they had to say.

Trying to defend yourself was an effort in futility. They hold you in a local jail for one year and then you are found guilty of Blasphemy. Your sentence is death by hanging. You are shocked and horrified and helpless. Your husband is sickened and your children lost inside themselves. You can do nothing. You are sent to prison and placed on death row.

It is now 2014. After a hearing that lasted a few hours, the Pakistani High Court upheld the verdict handed down in 2010. Your impending execution by hanging is affirmed. People and organizations around the world have been clamoring for your release. So far it is to no avail.

If you have had the guts to "try on Asia'a shoes" can you get a sense of what life might be like for Christians and others who have no religious freedom. Can you imagine what this Christian woman, the mother of five, must be feeling? She has been living in a dank, stinking hole for almost five years. The only visitor she can receive is her husband and a doctor. How disgusting and inhumane to do this to someone just because they have a different belief than you do. How reprehensible to vilify a wife and mom simply because she took a sip of water from an old tin cup. Is this what you want someday?

Asia Bibi is a human being just like all of us. She has family she loves. She has children she wants to hug and feed and nurture and tuck in at night and tend to their scrapes and runny noses. She is hard working, kind, and generous to her neighbors. She is not different than most other people. No different except for one thing. She is a Catholic in a Muslim world. Therefore, because of her "beliefs", she is hated and despised.  In the highly "civilized" world of 2014 we are seeing more vicious and brutal murders of people who follow Christ than at any time in history.

Over 400,000 signatures have been collected on petitions asking for Asia's release. Pope Benedict XVI called for the charges against her to be dismissed. These pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, a Christian minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti and a Pakistani official, Salmann Taseer, were both murdered for defending Asia. Her family has gone into hiding because of all the death threats they have received. Finally, the word "on the street" is that if Asia is released she will be killed anyway.
Are you tired of walking in Asia's shoes yet?

I will never understand Americans who "fight" to get rid of religious freedoms. If you do not like religion you do not have to participate in any of it. You are living in a country which accepts and promotes this kind of  freedom. The United States of America was NOT founded so people like you can destroy people who disagree with you. When you do that you are no different than those that want to hang Asia Bibi.  The only difference is you do not use a rope and a gallows as a weapon of choice. The weapon you use to destroy your fellow American "enemy" the U.S. Constitution. You have managed to turn it against itself to defile religious freedom. How clever you all are.

Many people around the world are praying for the safe release of Asia Bibi. Americans trying to destroy religious freedom in America might take pause and think of her also.  She has been imprisoned  for five years and is set to hang because she was a Catholic who took a drink of  "Muslim" water from an old tin cup. This could never happen in America. Or could it?





     

Book Review: AMERICAN SAINT; The Life of Elizabeth Seton by Joan Barthel

Book Review

17934383

by Larry Peterson

AMERICAN SAINT
The Life of Elizabeth Seton

by Joan Barthel

Published by;
Thomas Dunne Books
 St. Martin's Press; New York

Copyright 2014;  Joan Barthel

www.thomasdunnebooks.com
www.stmartins.com
www.joanbarthel.com

First Edition: March, 2014
_______________________________________

Wow! Reading this book was quite the experience.

At first I was a bit put off by the introduction because it was immediately referencing an out-of-context quote from "Father" Joseph Ratzinger from almost 50 years ago during the Second Vatican Council.  It was how he suggested obeying conscience before ecclesiastical authority.  Then it  jumped to a Pope Benedict XVI (the former Joseph Ratzinger) cracking down on American nuns who were obeying their consciences.  We get to all of 100 words and we are reading about the Vatican accusing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of "promoting radical feminism".  Wait a minute--this is supposed to be about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, not feminism and women's rights.  My antennae were extended. I took a deep breath and plodded on.

Whew--thank God I did because when you read this book you quickly learn that Elizabeth's agenda was always God-centered.  Her personal relationship with Him defined her.  He was the source of her strength and courage as she lived her amazing life.  If she succeeded in making women proud it was because she strived to make God proud first. This is very important for all to remember when thinking of this woman.

Joan Barthel manages to take us on a fabulous journey  through the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born Catholic saint.  She manages to do this by pouring over more than three thousand pages of Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings and filling her narrative with the words of St. Elizabeth herself. There are excerpts from letters to her husband, her children, her siblings, her spiritual advisors and others. The ten-year effort Ms. Barthel has put forth is truly remarkable and the result is worth the time spent reading to the end. This was not a "quick" read for me but the time spent with St. Elizabeth and her words, written in the English language of two hundred years ago, was worth every second.

The meandering journey through this book begins as Elizabeth wakes to the ringing of church bells. She is in a Lazaretto in Leghorn, Italy, having just arrived from America after a seven week journey. The year is 1803. Due to an outbreak of yellow fever Elizabeth, her husband, Will, and their daughter, Anna, had been quarantined and would not get out of the cold, dank room for weeks.  The irony was that Elizabeth had brought Will to Italy to help his tuberculosis, not make it worse.  From this point we skip back in time to New York City in 1767, meet Elizabeth's parents, Dr. Richard Bayley and his wife Catherine.  We read that Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born on Aug 28, 1774.  The family connections become very pronounced and complex as we move forward but suffice it to say it was a large, extended family and I had a bit of a time keeping track of all the members in it.  Onward to the life of this amazing woman.

Elizabeth  felt a closeness to God from when she was a child although she did not understand it.  At the age of 19 she married William Seton, a successful importer.  Socially prominent, she was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church and came under the influence of Reverend Henry Hobart, a no-nonsense Calvinist who despised Catholicism.  Hobart had a profound effect on Elizabeth and when she announced to him her decision to become a Catholic he was horrified.  He told her that she was jeopardizing her very chance of salvation.   "When I see a person whose sincere and ardent piety I have always thought worthy of imitation in danger of connecting with a communion which my sober judgment tells me is a corrupt and sinful communion, I cannot be otherwise than deeply affected."  (Nowadays someone would simply say, "I'm very disappointed in you.")

Elizabeth waivered. She was at a crossroads. Hobart was her mentor, spiritual director and a dear friend. She trusted him enough that she had asked him to take her sons if something ever happened to her. Protestant Episcopal or Catholicism, what should she do?  I leave it to you, the reader, to filter through the turmoil and doubt that filled Elizabeth Seton as she pondered her conversion.  It is a magnificent journey that took a little over three years from when she first entered a Catholic Church in Italy to when she received her First Holy Communion.  Her conversion brought her rejection by her family and friends and left her in a state of  poverty.  But her new found faith  filled her with a steely resolve.  Her love for Christ in the Eucharist and being able to attend Mass every day, receiving Him within her very self,  filled her with  a love of God that few people ever attain.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton died at the age of 46.  She had been a Protestant and a convert to Catholicism. She had been rich, she had been poor, she was among the socially prominent, she was an outcast, a wife, a mother (who worked and saw three of her five children die).  She was a widow, a teacher, a social worker, a nurse, the founder of the first active order of women religious in the United States known as the Sisters of Charity, and she started the first free Catholic school in America.  Quite a journey for a girl that danced at George Washington's 65th birthday party and ultimately was canonized in Rome by Pope Paul VI as the first American-born saint.

From the pen of St. Elizabeth Seton written on a fragment of paper; "Eternity---in what light shall we view it? What shall we think of the trials and cares, pains and sorrows we once had upon earth?  Oh! When a mere nothing!  Let then they who weep be as though they wept not; thought who obtain as though they possess not.  The world passes away.  ETERNITY!  That voice to be everywhere understood.  ETERNITY!"  (I had to read this a few times before the beauty of it impacted me)

St. Elizabeth Seton; a mother, a wife, a Catholic saint and an American woman who should be honored and respected by all. Do yourself a favor--Get this book, take your time and let her words draw you in.
Nicely done. Joan Barthel, nicely done.