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
     

A Tailor’s Inspiration Brought the World a Pope *

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The influence of St. John of the Cross, the great poet and mystic of the 16th century, reached across the centuries and inspired a simple tailor in Nazi occupied Poland to aspire to sainthood. In turn, this simple man became the catalyst for another man who was not even considering becoming a priest. Yet, this aspiring actor would one day become Pope. The man’s name was Jan Tyranowski. The man who would one day be pope was Karol Wojtyla.

Born in Krakow in 1900, Jan Tyranowski was the son of a tailor. His dad had bigger plans for his boy and Jan became an accountant. Jan was a bit of a loner and enjoyed being by himself allowing his abundantly curious mind to fill his spare time.

He loved science, studying foreign languages, gardening and even the new science of psychology. He especially loved photography. Even though he kept his mind filled with the wonders around him he knew something was missing. There was an emptiness, an unexplained void, which he could not fill.
Jan took ill in 1930 with a chronic stomach ailment which rendered him constantly sick. So he left accounting and took up tailoring with his father. Amazingly, with his stress levels reduced in his new job, Jan became a much happier man. His faith also began to increase and he became more and more active in his parish.
Jan Tyranowski--Courtesy Salesianity Blogs
Then came Jan’s “enlighteneing”. It happened at a Sunday Mass sometime in 1935. He was at Mass and the Salesian priest saying the Mass made a statement during his homily that changed Jan’s life forever. The priest simply said, “It is not difficult to be a saint.”

To Jan this was unprecedented. He thought sainthood was only for priests and religious. There was no room in the saintly world for lay people---or was there? The priest went on to say that lay people could also live saintly lives by going to frequent Mass, saying their prayers and doing good works.

Jan Tyranowski listened and realized the spirituality he thought he was not permitted to have was available to him too. All he would have to do would was embrace the work needed to attain it. When he he left the church that Sunday, he was a changed man.

He began growing in spirituality praying and meditating every morning for up to four hours and then devoting other parts of his day to prayer and reflection. Jan asked a parish priest for advice on some quality reading material and the priest gave him a prayer manual he had used in the seminary. Jan poured through the manual and expanded his reading eventually coming across the works of St. John of the Cross. The writings of this saint became his constant companion for the rest of his life.

By 1940 more than half the priestly population of Krakow had been deported. One of the parish priests asked Jan if he would become more involved with the youth ministry in the parish. Jan became the youth leader at St. Stanislaus Parish which also happened to be the university parish attended by a young man by the name of Karol Wojtyla. Karol aspired to be an actor.

Jan had an innate ability to inspire spirituality in others. His apostolate to the young quickly grew and among those who were part of it were the future pope. At first, Karol was turned off by Jan Tyranowki’s seemingly overbearing and strict manner of dealing with prayer and meditation. But when Jan formed a “Living Rosary”, Karol began to soften.

Karol Wojtyla’s dad died in 1941. The young man had no immediate family and before long he became an eager recipient of Jan’s guidance. When Jan introduced the works of St. John of the Cross to young Karol it changed his life. The 16th century mystic became one of the future pope’s lifelong inspirations. Jan Tyranowski more or less became a father-figure to Karol. They became great friends and often walked together talking about the things of God.

Karol Wojytla was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946. Jan Tyranowski died on March 15, 1947. He had lived to see his favorite student attain the priesthood. Father Wojytla would become Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978. He would be canonized a saint on April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis. Pope St. John Paul II credited Jan Tyranowski with his recognizing his vocation and rejecting an acting career. St. John Paul II wrote of Tyranowski:

“He was one of those unknown saints, hidden amid the others like a marvelous light at the bottom of life, at a depth where night usually reigns. He disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know. I saw the beauty of a soul opened up by grace.”

The Salesians of Don Bosco have put forward Jan for beatification and he has been declared a Servant of God.  We ask Jan Tyranowski to pray for us all.

*This article appeared in Aleteia on Jan 7,2017

                                   ©Copyright 2016 Larry Peterson
     

Remembering the “Prison Angel”; Mother Antonia Brenner*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Can a Catholic woman get married and divorce twice, give birth to eight children with two different men, become a nun and eventually found a new religious order? The answer is Yes! In fact, this same woman would, on Mother’s Day in 1990, walk the stairs alone to present the gifts to Pope John Paul II for the Mass he was offering during his visit to Mexico and, in return, receive his blessing.  After all, with God, all things are possible.
This is about Mother Antonia Brenner who came to be known as the “Prison Angel” of La Mesa Prison.  Mother Antonia died three years ago on October 17, 2013. As we think of her life I just thought I should write a few words about this amazing woman. I believe history will show that this woman was one of the greatest among Catholic women of the late 20th  and early 21st century.
Mary Clarke was born in Beverly Hills on December 1, 1926. Her dad, Joe Clarke, was a successful businessman and Mary and her two siblings grew up surrounded with affluence and the glitz of the movie world. Their neighbors included luminaries such as William Powell, Hedy Lamarr and John Barrymore.
Joe Clarke had a deep love for all people. No matter how good life was for his family he made sure his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. That desire to help others, nurtured by her father, would blossom in Mary and was destined to explode. However, before the "explosion" Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.
Mary married at 18 and had three children, the first dying shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce. As a divorcee, Mary now felt distanced from her Catholic upbringing.  She married again, this time in a civil service in Las Vegas. It was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. No matter, God “writes straight with crooked lines” and apparently the Holy Spirit had his eye on Mary Clarke Brenner her entire life. He was about to shower His grace all over His daughter.
Mary became more and more involved in charity work. In 1965 she met a priest by the name of Father Henry Vetter. He took her along on a delivery of food, medicine and clothing to the prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa (considered among the worst in Mexico) impacted her greatly and as time went by her growing compassion and love of neighbor would become focused on these people. They would become her specialty, her ministry, her purpose in life.    

Mother Antonia Brenner in cell comforting inmate
Mary Brenner spent the next ten years traveling back and forth to La Mesa Prison bringing needed supplies but mostly her love and mercy. Her presence became well known and the prisoners, both men and women, began looking forward to her visits. They began calling her “La Mama”. The warden even gave her accommodations so she could sleep over.
Mary took the name of Antonia (after her mentor, Monsignor Anthony Bowers) and became Mother Antonia Brenner. She sewed together a nun’s habit, put it on, and went to see Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego. She got down on her knees and told him her story. He had heard all about her and gave her his blessing, validating her ministry. She would even start a new order, Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour  an order for women 45 and older who wanted to serve the less fortunate. In addition to the blessing from Bishop Maher she also received the blessing of Bishop Juan Jesus Posadas of Tijuana. She had church authorization for her ministry from bishops in two separate countries.
After her kids were grown, Mary gave away her belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa Prison. She had received permission to live there. Her new home was to be a 10' by 10' cell in the women’s section of the prison. She would live as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell and having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall, a Bible, Spanish dictionary and a hard, prison bed. In the morning, she lined up with the other prisoners for roll call. This was to be her home for the next thirty-two years.
"La Mama" also became known as "The Prison Angel",  She moved freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists and others, touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of both men and women. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them, dried their tears and held their heads between her hands as they were dying. She even single handedly stopped prison riots.
Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with and extended mercy and love to them all. Why else would hardened criminals, some who had never loved or been loved, call the diminutive woman who hailed from Beverly Hills, "La Mama"? They loved her in return.
I believe that one day Mother Antonia Brenner will be canonized a saint. She was an example for each and every one of us showing us how to selflessly "love our neighbor" no matter who that  might be. Her life also shows all of us that no matter who or what we are or where we have been or what we have done, God is always calling us.
Mother Antonia, please pray for us, especially during this Year of Mercy
                               
                                         Copyright ©Larry Peterson 2016
This article appeared in Aleteia.org on October 17,2016
     

Meet the “Doorkeeper”; The Man Who Shed his Ego *

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME


By Larry Peterson
* An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on May 3, 2016

Worn down by the egotistical blustering of all the presidential candidates I decided to begin a search for someone sans EGO. I was sure it would be almost next to impossible. Then a bulb went off in my frazzled brain. 

I began a search of  the Official Catholic Directory of Saints. The search was easy. It is chock full of the “Egoless”. (N.B. Being egoless is not a birth defect). The saints managed to discover the secret to attaining a diminished to non-ego persona. They learned how to love God with all their minds, hearts and souls (something most of us fail miserably at doing).  They mastered the technique of diminished ego and advanced in their spirituality to the point where it led them to love others more than themselves. They reached a point where their own self was no longer a concern to them. Others came first.
These are the people gone before us who loved God unconditionally. Many times, like most of us, they failed miserably before they got it right. They just never quit trying to love God MORE every day. These folks ultimately emptied themselves for others before they died, many times giving their lives in doing so. This Directory of Saints is a treasure trove of Christian example for all of us, especially the young.
The “Doorkeeper” is an example of this. He was an uncomplicated man who never aspired to be anything more than a simple priest. His name was Bernard Francis Casey and his family and friends called him Barney. Barney, like so many other Catholic saints, shed his ego.

The "Doorkeeper", Father Solanus Casey
Barney was born in Oak Grove, Wisconsin back in 1870. He was the sixth of 16 kids of Irish immigrants. When Barney was a boy he contracted Diptheria and it left him with a permanently raspy sounding voice. (This would inhibit his speaking ability for the rest of his life). Young Barney felt the call to the priesthood but, at the age of 16, he hit a detour. He had to go to work to help the family.
Barney Casey always did whatever job he had (he worked as a lumberjack, a prison guard , a streetcar operator and even a hospital orderly) to the best of his ability wanting to serve his God in all things. When he was 21 he was finally able to enter St. Francis High School seminary in Milwaukee. He spent five years there before being able to move on and join the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Upon his acceptance he took the name of Solanus after St. Francis Solanus, a 17th century missionary.
Solanus Casey  was finally ordained a priest at the age of 33. He had to study extremely hard to reach that goal and when he was finally ordained he was given the title "Sacerdos Simplex" which means "simple priest". This meant he was not permitted to preach or to hear confessions. He never complained and took joy in having the honor and privilege of being able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Father Casey lived in Detroit and his main job at the monastery was that of the doorkeeper. Father Casey, wanting to do the absolute best at whatever God chose for him, became the finest doorkeeper that ever lived. He did this for well over 20 years.  Unexpectedly, he also became known for his service to the sick and for the advice and consultations he would have with visitors. People began attributing cures and other blessings to his interaction with them or others. He quickly became known as “The Doorekeeper”.
Father Casey was a man who opened and closed doors for people. He was a man who disregarded ego and was happy to serve God in the simplest of ways. He was a man who, because miracles have been attributed to his intercession, was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1995. This is the first step toward canonization as a saint. Father Solanus Casey died in 1957.
Father Solanus Casey is on the road to full sainthood. And all he did to begin his journey down that road was to humbly and happily open doors for people and talk to them if they wanted. A shining example of the beauty of humility and how powerful that quiet virtue can prove to be.
Solanus (Barney) Casey has re-charged me. It might be nice if all of today’s bloviating pundits could hear or read his story. It would also be a fine thing if all the young people across the entire country were also introduced to this God loving, humble man who managed to become famous by simply opening doors better than anyone else.
                                ©LarryPeterson 2016 All Rights Reserved
     

Meet the Only Nun Sentenced to Death by a Nazi Court: Her Crime? “Hanging” Crucifixes*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on April 12, 2016.

Just imagine being arrested on Ash Wednesday for the crime of “hanging Crucifixes”. I cannot imagine how I would handle it. Maybe I would have taken the Crucifixes down. Honestly, I do not know. Helena Kafka, who became known as Sister Maria Restituta, refused. She was sentenced to death. The following year, on Tuesday of Holy Week, she was executed .
May 1, 1894, was  a happy day for Anton and Marie Kafka.  Marie had just given birth to her sixth child and mom and her daughter were both doing fine. The proud parents named their new baby girl, Helena.  Devout Catholics, Anton and Marie had Helena baptized into the faith only thirteen days after her birth.
The ceremony took place in The Church of the Assumption, in the town of Husovice, located in Austria.  Before Helena reached her second birthday, 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 St. Brigitta Church during May of 1905 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 being trained as a nurse.
In 1913, she became an assistant nurse at Lainz City Hospital. 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, because of this man, their beloved nation would be annexed into the German Republic.
Blessed Maria Restituta
On  March 12, 1938, the Austrian Nazi Party pulled off a successful coup d'etat taking control of the government. These unforeseen and unimagined things had come 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. Sister Restituta was told 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. She would be the only Catholic nun ever sentenced to death by the Nazis.
An appeal for clemency went as far as the desk of Hitler's personal secretary and Nazi Party Chancellor, Martin Bormann. 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 which also happened to be Tuesday of Holy Week. She was 48 years old.
                                                   
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. But the one she served best of all was her Savior. She gave Him her life.
Blessed Marie Restituta, please pray for us.
    
          ©LarryPeterson  2016
     

Evil Infects All of History: James Foley was Murdered because He Represented Goodness

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

The brutal murder of journalist, James Foley, had nothing to do with James Foley.  It had to do with the fact that the man represented Goodness.  Satan, in complete charge of his conquered souls, has had them inflicting horror and terror and barbaric acts of murder and cruelty on, not only men, but on women and children as well.  This evil has been with us since time immemorial.  Let us travel back a mere 71 years and meet a sweet and kindly lady by the name of Sister Maria Restituta.

May 1, 1894, was a happy day for Anton and Marie Kafka.  Marie had just given birth to her sixth child and mom and her daughter were doing fine.  The proud parents named their new baby, Helena.  Devout Catholics, Anton and Marie had Helena baptized  into the faith thirteen days later at the parish of The Church of the Assumption, in the town oh Husovice in Austria.   Due to financial circumstances, Anton was forced to move his family to the big city of Vienna.  Helena was barely two and she and her siblings would remain in Vienna where they would all 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 one 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 to be a nurse.  She became an assistant nurse at Lainz City Hospital in 1913.  This was when Helena  first had contact with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.  She immediately felt the call to become a Sister herself.  On April 25, 1914, Helena Kafka, joined the Franciscan Sisters and on October 23, 1915, she became Sister Maria Restituta.  One year later she made her final vows and began working solely as a nurse.

SisterRestituta.jpg
Blessed Maria Restituta

When World War I  ended, Sister Maria  was 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.  On March 12, 1938, a successful coup d'etat by the Austrian Nazi party took place and the Nazis, under the now feared, Adolf Hitler, took control of the once proud Austrian nation.  Things would never be the same.

Sister Restituta was very outspoken in her opposition to the Nazi regime. When a new wing to the hospital was built Sister hung a Crucifix in each of the new bedrooms.  The Nazis demanded that they be removed telling Sister Maria that she would be dismissed if she did not comply.  She adamantly refused and the Crucifixes remained on the walls.  One of the doctors on staff, himself 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 as she exited 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 Holy Spirit, wanted to do nothing more than to serve the sick.  The Nazis promptly sentenced her to death by 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 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 of the Crucifix and for the Person who was nailed to it and died hanging on it,  Sister Maria was sent to the guillotine and was beheaded on March 30, 1943.  She was 48 years old.

Pope John Paul II visited Vienna on June 21, 1998.  That was the day that Helena Kafka, the girl who started off in housekeeping school and became a servant and then went on to be a nurse in the Franciscan Sisters of Charity, was beatified by the Pope and became Blessed Maria Restituta. She had learned how to serve extremely well, always serving others before herself.

Let us ask Blessed Maria that she pray for the repose of the soul of James Foley who was murdered by the forces of evil because he, too, represented Goodness.  We ask her to remember his family and friends as they deal with this terrible abomination done to their loved one.  We also ask Blessed Maria and all the saints to pray for us all.
                                                                                                             

     

The HOLOCAUST–We All Must Remember and We Must Teach Our Children

by Larry Peterson

January 27 marked the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most prolific and deadly of all the Nazi death camps.  The day is called International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Interestingly, or might I say, unbelievably, this day was not officially "remembered" until November, 2005,  60 years after the Russian army liberated the camp.  This anniversary marks the beginning of the end of the reign of terror that had engulfed Europe and ultimately the entire world  under the demonic leadership of Adolf Hitler and his evil minions of Nazi followers.

There were over six million Jews and close to six million others who perished during this dark time.  It is hard to fathom the scope of this depravity and how it could have even happened.  But--it did.  Okay, to the point.

The word  "Holocaust" has a number of synonyms:  annihilation, extermination, carnage, genocide, and slaughter, might be a few.  But the word does not bring you to the very core of what it actually represents--- the victims of human evil.  They were just  people who became victims simply because they were perceived as being "different" and therefore unacceptable to the rest of society. Who decided such a thing?  The people in power, that's who.  They took that power to a level of unheralded arrogance deciding who should live and who should die.  We tend to think of the "millions' who perished but we rarely think of them as individuals unless some story grabs our attention like "The Diary of Anne Frank",  "The Devil's Arithmetic" and, of course, "Schindler's List".

Each and every one of the people who had their very God given existence taken away from them were like all of us.  They had their hopes and dreams.  They had mothers and fathers and wives and husbands and children and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and, of course, friends.  They loved, they worked, they played, they enjoyed holidays and walks in the park on a Sunday afternoon where the kids might feed the ducks or the squirrels.  They quietly embraced the dignity of their own selves, just as we all try to do. They were proud of their families and their jobs and professions.  And then they came. The other people. The ones in power. The ones who had the law on their side and the people following them willing to carry it out, no matter how heinous; even willing to commit torture and murder under the "rule of law".

Can you imagine having your very self  stripped away with such indifferent, arrogant disdain?  Can you imagine having your own children bludgeoned to death right in front of you as you are forced to watch, helpless to do a thing about it.  This treatment of human beings by other human beings went on for over 12 years.  And through all of the Godless depravity that filled the very hearts and souls of those carrying out this abhorrent treatment of their fellow human beings there were  many stories of the love and kindness and respect for life that had been embraced by the victims themselves.  Many who offered this Godly assistance to others were tortured and murdered for it. Let me tell you about one of them.

His name was Otto Neururer. He was from Austria and was a Catholic priest. Father Neururer was the very first priest to die in a Nazi concentration camp. What was his "crime"?  Well, he was a parish priest when a young woman came to him for advice about whether or not she should marry a divorced man.  The man had a shady past and Father Neururer advised her against the marriage.  The man reported the priest to his friend, who was a party leader in the area.  Father Neururer was promptly arrested and charged with "slander to the detriment of German marriage".  He was sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis. From there he was sent to Buchenwald which was under the command of Martin Sommer aka "The Hangman of Buchenwald".

Father Neururer performed a "forbidden" baptism while at Buchenwald and was sent to the punishment block.  Martin Sommer had the priest hanged upside down and left him that way until he died on May 30, 1940---all for performing a baptism.  He was 58-years old.  Father Otto Neururer was beatified and declared Blessed Otto Neururer by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

Blessed Otto Neururer, thank you.  Please pray for us  asking God to hear our prayers and give us the resolve to teach our children  so that future generations may always be prepared to fight such evil before it rears its demonic head.

     

Saints Jeanie, Fred, Vinnie — Our Catholic Christian Families Must All Stand Together

by Larry Peterson

When Jeanie Jugon began working in the hospital in Saint-Servan she was 25 years old. She hated poverty and all it wrought and she wanted desperately to fight back against it. One bitterly cold winter night in 1839, Jeanie looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and  somehow managed to carry the freezing woman into her own home and place her in her own bed. The woman was blind, paralyzed and quite old. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor.

Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanie. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Forty years later there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. 1879 was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. That  was the same year Jeanie Jugon died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Jeanne Jugon never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young man hundreds of miles away in Paris was unknowingly doing something quite similar. Fred Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris and, challenged by his "enlightened" college peers, embraced their taunts "to practice what you preach".  So he went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Then he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. That was in May of 1833.  The society was  named after St.Vinnie because he was known for his work with the poor.

 Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantel of helping the poor all over the world. Fred Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared 'Blessed' by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Fred would never know that the organization he  had founded  would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor. Saint Jeanie could never have known that from the moment she carried her first old, sick woman into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the  elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world. Blessed Fred would never have imagined that his St.Vincent de Paul Society would become a worldwide organization with 3/4 of a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.

The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God's grace. Jeanie took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vinnie worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughter's of Charity. The two things they all had in common was a) they welcomed God's grace and followed His call and b) they asked for NOTHING for themselves and embraced poverty. Remarkably, their thousands and thousands of followers, separated by centuries, work together to this day. This is a beautiful thing.

 Using the names of saints as I have done here bothers some folks. I really do not care about that.  My brother's name is Daniel but I call him Danny. As far as Jeanie, Fred and Vinnie go, they are my family too.  You see, I love all of these people and using their names like that makes me feel closer to them. They set examples for us that we supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore  members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.

We must remember to pray hard for The Little Sisters of the Poor as they stand their ground against the HHS mandate that threatens their very existence. The forces of secularism are hard at work to remove religion from our lives. All our family members, including Vinnie, Jeanie and Fred, need  to stand together defending each other against this enemy.

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugon and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please pray for us.

     

On the anniversary of his martyrdom we remember St. Maximilian Kolbe

 On this date in 1941, Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest and a prisoner of the Nazi's incarcerated at the Auschwitz death camp, traded his life to save the life a man who had a family. They starved him for ten days and then finished him off with an injection of carbolic acid. He was 47 years old. He was canonized a saint on Oct 10, 1982 by JPII and is the patron of drug addicts and the imprisoned. The man he saved was reunited with his family after the war and was present at St. Maximilian's canonization. St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

St. Maximilian Kolbe
                                                       Fr.Maximilian Kolbe 1939.jpg