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
     

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
     

St. Marianne Cope–She Opened Up her Heart and Soul to the Most Avoided in Society–The “Lepers”*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Maria Anna Barbara Koob was born on January 23, 1838 in Germany. The year after her birth her mom and dad emigrated to America settling in Utica, N.Y.  Devout Catholics, they joined St. Joseph's Parish near their new home. They also changed their name to Cope to become more "American". The years moved by and Maria's mom gave birth to nine more children. Life was never dull in the Cope household.

Maria felt a call to the religious life when she was very young. However, as the oldest of ten children, loyalty to family would take precedence over any personal ambitions she might have had. When her dad took ill and became an invalid, the eighth grader was forced to go to work in a textile factory to help support the family. Maria continued working in the textile mill for almost ten years.

St. Marianne Cope  courtesy  catholic.org

Maria's dad passed on in 1862 but by then some of her younger siblings were helping with the family's daily life, including finances. Maria, at 25 years-old, was finally able to pursue her dream. She entered  the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y.  On November 19, 1862 she received the habit and became Sister Marianne.

Sister Marianne had wanted to be a teacher but for some reason began doing administrative work. She quickly found herself appointed to the governing boards of  her religious community and helped establish the first two hospitals in central New York State. This was followed by becoming the nurse-administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse N.Y.

Sister Marianne had outstanding organizational and leadership skills but she also possessed a deep and almost natural affinity for those considered marginalized and treated as "outcasts". She was even criticized for her special devotion to those who needed help the most. It was also obvious to others that the Holy Spirit moved within her.

By 1883 she was the Provincial Mother in Syracuse and known as Mother Marianne Cope. One day she received an unexpected letter from a Catholic priest in Hawaii. He was asking for help in  managing schools and hospitals in the Hawaiian Islands. The letter was also clear that the main focus of the work would be with leprosy patients. Mother Marianne's life purpose had just been laid before her.

Filled instantly with an overwhelming desire to help those who were not only seriously ill but also marginalized and rejected, she wrote back, "I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders.... I am not afraid of any disease, hence, it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers." *

Today leprosy (real name, Hansen's Disease) is readily curable. In 1980 there were over 5 million cases worldwide. In 2012 that number was down to 189,000. In the past 20 years, 16 million people have been cured of this disease and only 200 cases are reported in the United States each year. But in 1883, when Mother Marianne and her followers arrived in Hawaii, that was not the case. Leprosy was widespread and dreaded as extremely contagious. 
People with Hansen's Disease were avoided and prohibited from many public places. When Mother Marianne and her six companion nuns arrived in Honolulu, they were directed to the Kaka'ako Branch Hospital in Oahu. This served as a receiving station for leprosy patients from all over the islands.
 Within a year they had founded the Kapi'olani Home for the purpose of caring for the homeless children of Hansen Disease patients. The most severe cases were sent to the island of Moloka'i and placed in the settlement known as Kalaupapa. This is where Father Damien was working. Sister Marianne met the renowned priest in 1884. He was still in good health.
Father Damien (now St. Damien of Moloka'i) was diagnosed with Hansen's Disease in 1886. When Mother Marianne heard that Father Damien's presence was unwelcome in so many places she began to tend to him herself.
Things fell into place when a new government came into power in 1887. They asked Mother to PLEASE open a home for women and girls at Kalaupapa on Molokai.  She joyfully embraced the request knowing that her prayers had once again been answered. In addition, she could now be closer to the withering, Father Damien, who she cared for until his death in April of 1889. 
Mother Marianne and her assistants, Sister Leopoldina Burns and Sister Vincentia McCormick opened Bishop House for women and girls and promised Father Damien they would run his Boy's Home for him after he was gone. They did just that. She also taught her Sisters that their primary duty was "to make life as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for those of our fellow creatures whom God has chosen to afflict with this terrible disease...".** 
Mother Marianne passed away on August 9, 1918. She was canonized a saint on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
St. Marianne Cope, please pray for us all.

*This article also appeared in Aleteia magazine on 10/09/2016

**Both quotes were taken from the Official Vatican website: Biography; Marianne Cope

                                                    Copyright©Larry Peterson All Rights reserved 2016

     

Sara Salkahazi…Another Holocaust Victim Who Will Always Be a Shining Star*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Embedded among the thousands of shining stars who have been elevated to the rank of Canonized Saint in the Catholic Church are those I call, "hidden gems". These are the  chosen folks more or less unknown to most Catholics. For me, when I decide to start looking for them, it is sort of like stopping at a yard sale. You never know what you may find. Well, I just stopped at a "cyber yard-sale". I do not remember the address and it cost me nothing but some time to look around. Lo and behold, I found another "hidden gem". Her name is Blessed Sara Salkahazi.

Image result for sara salkahazi
Blessed Sara Salkahazi   courtesy Aleteia .org

Sara was born in Hungary in 1899 and, from a young age, was a fiercely independent and strong willed girl.. Her brother described her as a "tomboy" who wanted to do things her way. The first thing she did as a young woman was to become a teacher.  She also began to write articles about the poor.

However, she did not like it that women were treated differently than men in society. She wanted to know why so she left teaching and took a job as a bookbinder's apprentice being relegated to doing the dirtiest and hardest work. She thought that if she did a man's job she might understand them better. She also continued writing about the disenfranchised.

Sara then went to work in a millinery shop selling and making women's hats. From there her life slowly morphed into one of a journalist and soon she was an editor for the newspaper put out by the Christian Socialist Party which focused mostly on women's issues. At this point in Sara's life she was not religious at all. In fact, she was mostly agnostic bordering on atheism.

But then Sara came into contact with  the Sisters of Social Service. She felt a strong calling to be part of their group and asked how she could join. The Sisters of Social Service was a fairly new order dedicated to charitable, social and women's issues. Sara, a fast talking, chain-smoking bastion of unbridled energy, was rejected as a possible candidate. She would not be deterred.

Sara kept trying to join the Sisters. She even quit her smoking habit which was more of a challenge for her than she ever imagined. Her perseverance paid off and in 1929, at the age of 30, Sara was admitted to the Sisters of Social Service. Her motto was from the Prophet Isaiah: "Here I am! Send me!" (Is 6:8b). Sara Salkahazi's agnosticism had completely disappeared in her own rear-view mirror.

 Sister Sara, a bundle of energy,  began organizing work for Catholic Charities, editing and publishing a women's journal, managing a religious bookstore, teaching and supervising a shelter for the poor. Sara was then asked by the Bishops of Slovakia to organize the National Girls' Movement. Her life was now busier than she could have ever imagined. More responsibilities were on their way. Some of the sisters in the order thought she was "showing off".

In one year Sara received 15 different assignments, from teaching at the Social Training Centre to cooking for the needy. She became exhausted, not only physically but spiritually. Sara's greatest challenge was dealing with the fact that the order deemed her "unworthy" to renew her temporary vows. Sara was heartbroken. She prayed and prayed and decided to "stay the course" for the ONE who had called her. About a year later, her prayers were answered and  she renewed her vows.

Nazi ideology was sweeping Hungary and the Hungarian Nazi Party was gaining strength. They began to persecute the Jews. The Sisters of Social Service began to provide safe havens for Jewish people. Sister Sara opened the Working Girls' Home to help those being displaced. In March of 1944, German troops began their occupation of Hungary.

Sister Sara, realizing the extreme danger now confronting all Hungarians, offered herself as a victim-soul for her fellow Sisters of Social Service. Permission was needed to do this and she asked her superiors for it. It was granted and, at the time, they alone knew about her self-offering.

In 1943 Sister Sara began smuggling Jewish refugees out Slovakia. During the final months of World War II, she helped shelter hundreds of Jewish people in buildings belonging to  the Sisters of Social Service. As director of the Hungarian Catholic Working Women's Movement, she smuggled over one hundred to safety all by herself. Unfortunately, time was not on her side.

On the morning of December 27, 1944, Sister Sara and another sister were returning from a visit to another Girls' Home. Little did they know that a woman who worked in the house had betrayed them. They could see the Nazis standing in front of their house. They could have snuck away but Sister Sara, as the director, would not do so. They went into the house and were immediately arrested.

That night, Sister Sara and her friend, four Jewish women and one Christian worker,  were loaded onto vehicles and driven to the edge of the Danube. They were stripped and shot to death, their naked bodies being tossed into the freezing river. Miraculously, Sister sara's sacrifice must have been accepted by the Lord. None of the other Sisters of her community were ever harmed.

Sister Sara Salkahazi was declared "Righteous Among Nations" by Yad Vashem in 1969. On September 17, 2006,  Peter Cardinal Erdo, the Archbishop of Budapest, read a proclamation from Pope Benedict XVI  beatifying Sister Sara as "Blessed", the last step before Sainthood. The proclamation said, "She was willing to assume risks for the persecuted...in days of great fear. Her matryrdom is still topical... and presents the foundations for our humanity."

Blessed Sara Salkahazi, please pray for us.

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

                                                   ©Larry Peterson 2106 All Rights Reserved

     

Reconnecting with an “Old Friend”..St. Therese, the “Little Flower”

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I have a small bedroom I converted into an office. Against the wall next to the closet is a narrow bookcase. It is about seven feet tall and one foot wide and has seven shelves. It is a great dust collector. Anyway, I had this sudden urge to “straighten up” the mess of papers and supplies I had so “neatly” placed on those shelves over the past few years.  I reached for the stack of old Writer’s Digest and Writer magazines on the third shelf. I placed one hand on top and tried to get my other underneath the stack. As if working together in synchronized dance, they all slid out and landed in a pile on the floor. I shook my head and chuckled. “Idiot,” .
We Catholics have included in our  extended Catholic family, the saints. Regarding the saints, there are many of these family members I have never even heard of. But, I do know that if I ever hear about one of them and seek them out, they somehow heed my call. For example, recently I “met” St. John of God for the first time and I had never heard of him. After reading about him, suffice it to say that this saint is no longer extended family for me. No sirree, he is now close family. I give him a ‘shout-out’ every day. (You can Google his name and a wealth of info comes up).
But what about an old family member who you were very close to and then, for some inexplicable reason, you more or less ignored them for many years? How do you finally get back together with them? I’ll tell you one way it can happen. They might hit you upside your head with a clear and unmistakable message. The cascading magazines were the start of a message. Guess who my message sender was?

It was St. Therese, the “Little Flower.” Many of you know what I am talking about. There is no subtlety when she is communicating with you. You can do like me though. You might begin to take her for granted and then begin to ignore her. SIGH–I did that, I admit it. Not anymore. She quickly got my attention.

St. Therese of Lisieux, "The Little Flower"
I should explain that my family and I have had some profound experiences courtesy of this great saint. In fact, I could write an entire short story right now about each of several miraculous things that have happened in our lives courtesy of St. Therese’s intercession. (I actually started to do that so I just deleted more than 400 words of “stuff” that was turning this into a novella.) “C’mon Larry, get to the point.” (That’s me talking to me.)
I bend down to begin picking up the magazines which are spread evenly across the floor. The mastheads are all showing as if they were put on display. In the middle of the pile I see a thin box. It does not belong. It is an interloper. I pick it up and see it is an old Xerox box, 8.5 X 11 by about one half-inch thick that held something called transparency paper. I did not even know what that was and then the end of this box popped open and a bunch of photos slid out. Guess whose 8 X 10 photo is on top looking right at me with this satisfied smile that made my knees get weak? Yup–you got it, St. Therese.
Two hours later that photo of my sweet, little friend (and your friend too), was in a very nice 12 X 15 bordered frame hanging on the wall a few feet away. Now I get to see her every day and she still is smiling gently. Since we have reconnected I have seen more ROSES than I can count. I found the booklet, “Mary Day by Day” in the garage (don’t ask me how it got there) which was Blessed Mother Teresa’s favorite book.

I did not end there. I received an e-mail from someone named Therese Martin (St. Therese’s real name) and, thanks to the encouragement of Elizabeth Schmeidler, my book is coming out in print in a few weeks. I also am reading Connie Rossini’s book, “Trusting God with St. Therese.” How timely is that? I might add that our stillborn daughter’s name is Theresa Mary and my granddaughter’s name is Theresa Marie.

I shall end this now by simply asking St. Therese to please pray for all of us and by promising her that she can stay smiling at me from up on that wall for the rest of my life.

                                      Copyright © Larry Peterson 2016

     

This College Kid Can Teach All of Us a Lesson*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Most Catholics know of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society has been helping people in need for over 180 years. What most Catholics do not know is that St. Vincent de Paul is not the founder of the society. It is simply named after him because of his lifelong example of Christian charity. So, if it was not founded by St. Vincent de Paul where did it come from? How did it begin? What does St. Vincent de Paul have to do with it?

This is the very first paragraph from the Mission Statement of the St. Vincent de Paul Society

Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.”

As you finish that paragraph you will notice the name of Frederick Ozanam. Please, take a moment to meet him here. He happens to be the founder of the oldest Catholic charity in the United States of America, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Bl. Frederick Ozanam (as young man) courtesy slideshare.net

Frederick Ozanam was born in Milan, Italy in 1813. He was the fifth of fourteen children of Jean and Marie Ozanam and only one of three who lived into adulthood. The family moved to Lyons, France and this was where Frederick grew up. As a teenager the young man was strongly influenced by the elitists of the day and his Catholic faith began to waiver. Frederick fought his doubts and overcame them. Vowing to consecrate himself to the defense of his faith he moved to Paris. He was 18 years old.


Frederick entered the University of Paris and took up journalism. He made friends with some other young Catholic men and soon he and a few of his new friends were involved in vigorous debates among secular students who challenged their preaching for lack of action.

The secularists told them that maybe ‘long ago’ the Catholic Church was a benefactor of humanity but those days were over. They were then asked what they were doing for people now? Frederick and his pals had no answer. They were laughed at and told they were hypocrites and basically did nothing but talk.

Frederick’s friend, Augustus Le Tailandier, asked Frederick if they might be able to put together a small group of Catholics to bring to action the Gospel message of “doing” instead of just ”talking”. Thus was born the “Conference of Charity”. This small group of Catholic/Christian young men who would not only devote themselves to helping the needy but would also advance Christian friendship.

Frederick had been submitting copy to Joseph Emmanuel Bailly who published the Tribune Catholique. He asked Mr. Bailly what he thought of their idea. He liked it so much that he joined Frederick and together they and four other young men held their very first meeting on April 23, 1833. Frederick Ozanam was 20 years old.

At that first meeting Emmanuel Bailly sent Frederick to see Sister Rosalie Rendu, a “Daughter of Charity”. Sister Rosalie became Frederick’s mentor and set him and his fledgling organization on its course by focusing them on doing “home visits” to those in need. This method of interaction was to become the primary way members would interact with those seeking their help. It remains that way to this day.

 In the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of her order, she also taught Frederick and his followers the techniques of helping the poor and the sick by being compassionate and always treating people with their God given dignity. They invoked St. Vincent de Paul as their patron and named the group, in his honor, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Frederick Ozanam and his friends could never have dreamed of the way the Society would grow. Within 12 years from its inception it had spread to Italy, England, Belgium, Scotland and the United States. The society chose St. Louis, Missouri as its headquarters in America and to this day the National Council of The St. Vincent de Paul Society USA is located there.

Today in the United States there are more than 160,000 trained volunteers who provide almost 12 million hours of volunteer service helping those in need. There are close to 750,000 members doing volunteer work all around the world. And all of it was started by a 20 year old kid responding to the graces showered down upon him and inspiring those around him to join in his quest to stop “talking and start doing”.
Frederick Ozanam was beatified on August 22, 1997 by Pope John Paul II. His mentor, Sister Rosalie, was beatified on November 9, 2003. We ask them both for their continued prayers for all of us, especially those in need.

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on August 15, 2016

                                 ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved
     

A “Gangbanger”s Journey from Hoodlum to Saint*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The following is true. And even though it may have happened 700 years ago, in many ways people then were like people now. When it comes to our wants,  needs and emotions nothing has changed. And when it comes to family love; especially when it comes to family love coupled with prayer, that often makes for an unbreakable bond for all eternity.


Arnold Armengol was a member of the Spanish hierarchy. His son, Peter, in spite of being given the finest education and upbringing, rejected all of that and left home. He quickly fell into the secular trap of self-centeredness, self-gratification, and outright depravity. He even joined a band of criminals that preyed on people traveling up into the mountains. Peter was so good at this work he eventually became the gang leader.

Two years after Peter left home, his dad  was asked by King Jaime of Aragon to lead him on a journey to Montpellier so he might meet with the King of France. King Jaime had heard of the brigands that preyed on mountain travelers and knew that Arnold would be the one who would keep them safe.

As Arnold Armengol led the King’s entourage through the mountain passes they were attacked by a band of highwayman. As the robbers charged toward them. Armengol led his men in a counter attack. With his sword drawn he headed directly for the leader of the pack. They were about to engage each other when the brigand fell to his knees. He had recognized his father and with tears streaming down his face, prostrated himself at his feet . Surrendering his sword, he begged his father for forgiveness. The constant praying of Peter’s father for his boy were about to be answered in an amazing way.

Peter Armengol, repentant and seeking mercy, was filled with shame.  He appealed to King James I for a second chance. Standing before the King with his dad at his side the King granted young Peter a pardon. Shortly thereafter, heeding the graces offered to him by God, he entered a Mercedarian Monastery in Barcelona. Soon after, Peter Armengol became known as Friar Peter.

St. Peter Armengol by Vincent Carducho  (17 century)

The mission of the Mercedarians, (The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy) founded by St. Peter Nolasco, was to ransom Catholics taken hostage. Peter excelled at this task and, over a period of eight years, managed to negotiate the freedom of many hostages from the Saracens. . (The Mercedarians take a fourth vow. Besides poverty, chastity and obedience they also vow to always be ready to exchange their own lives to free a hostage).   


Friar Peter then headed to Africa with Friar William Florentino. His goal was to  ransom Christians from the Moors. On arrival in a place called Bugia, he heard about 18 Christian children being held hostage. They were under the threat of death if they did not renounce Christianity. Friar Peter offered himself in exchange for the hostages. The captors agreed but warned Peter that if the ransom was not paid on time he would suffer brutal torture and death.

The arrival of the agreed ransom and Friar Peter’s release were scheduled for a certain day. The ransom never arrived. Peter was immediately put to torture and endured this for days on end. The Moors, tired of Friar Peter being alive, accused him of blaspheming Mohammad. He was sentenced to be hanged.

Friar Peter was hanged from a tree. His body was left there for the birds of prey to feed on. Six days later Friar William arrived with the ransom. The Moors refused it and told Friar William that Peter was already dead for six days and his rotted corpse was still hanging from the tree. Distraught, William went to recover his brother Mercedarian’s body.

William left and headed to the execution site. As he approached he noticed that Peter’s body seemed to be intact. In fact, there was a fragrance of flowers in the air. William slowly approached the body of Peter. The man who was supposedly dead for six days began to speak. He explained how the Blessed Virgin had come to him and was holding  him up with her precious hands so his body would not hang on the rope.

Peter Armengol, when recalling the miracle of his hanging, told his Mercedarian brothers that the happiest days of his life were those six days that he hung from the gallows supported by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter’s neck, broken from the hanging, remained in a twisted position for the rest of his life and he always had a sickly complexion. Seven documented miracles were attributed to him while he was still alive.

Peter Armengol was canonized a saint on April 8, 1687 by Pope Innocent XI. On this Father's Day we might also remember how his dad, Arnold Armengol, prayed unceasingly for the safe return of his son. His prayers were surely answered,  a lesson for us all.

*An edited version of this article also appeared in Aleteia on June 16, 2016

                             ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

     

The “Protector” Saint of the Mexican Border*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Sometime during the early summer of 1973, Jesus Gaytan and two friends began making their way north to the United States. They were planning to ‘”sneak” across the border and find work as farmhands. They did not care where, they just wanted to work.

At the border their plans quickly unraveled. They were spotted by the Border Patrol and, frightened, ran back toward Mexico. Jesus became separated from his friends and began wandering around the desert. He had no idea where he was. After several days of walking and wandering and without any food or water left, Jesus was sure he would die.

As he stared across the bleak landscape peering through the undulating heat waves rising from the ground, he saw a pickup truck coming his way. Not knowing who was approaching, he became instantly afraid and yet also relieved. The truck pulled up and a young man with light skin and blue eyes stepped out. He smiled and gave Jesus food and water. Then he directed him to a nearby farm where they needed workers. He also gave Jesus a few dollars to keep in his pocket. Jesus thanked him profusely and asked him where he could return the money to him.

Speaking perfect Spanish the man said to him, “When you finally get a job and money, look for me in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco. Ask for Toribio Romo.”

And so the story goes that years later Jesus Gaytan did make that trip to Santa Ana de Gaudalupe. When he arrived he asked how he could find Toribio Romo. He was directed to the small church nearby. Hanging on the outside of the chapel was a large picture. Jesus stared wide-eyed looking up at the picture. It was the man from the desert, Toribio Romo.

Jesus had arrived at Toribio’s shrine where his remains were kept. He was shocked to learn that the man who had helped him in the desert 20 years before had been beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. He was doubly shocked that his rescuer had been murdered in 1928 during the Cristero War.  Jesus Gaytan realized he had been saved by a man sent from heaven.

Luciano Lopez tells of being on his way to Colorado to find work when he got lost in the encapsulating heat of the Arizona desert. Luciano tells of seeing a “shadowy” figure standing next to what appeared to be an ocean. Luciano told how the person waved him to him and how he began walking. He was led right to a rest-stop with food and water and he was saved. When he told his wife back in Mexico she said, “It was St. Toribio, the migrant-smuggling saint, leading you to safety. I have been praying to him for your well-being.”

Toribio Romo was born on April 16, 1900 in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco, Mexico. He was, with permission from the bishop, ordained a priest at the young age of 22. His age did not matter to the authorities. The anti-religious Constitution of Mexico had been enacted in 1917. Toribio may have been only 22 but he was immediately placed under watch by the government. Then along came the fateful year of 1927. That was the year that the Catholic hating president of Mexico, Plutarco Ellas Cartes, ordered his soldiers to strictly enforce the anti-religious Constitution of 1917.

Besides saying Mass “under the radar” and making sick calls and hearing confessions, Father Toribio had also been teaching catechism to both children and adults. Now he was told to confine himself to his residence and to not say the Rosary in public or offer Mass. The young priest took up refuge in an old factory near a town called Agua Caliente. Here he defied the secular authority and celebrated Mass and tended to his ministry the best he could.

On February 22, 1928,  Father Toribio, began organizing his parish registry. He finished doing that on February 24. Father Toribio knew the danger he was in and he was afraid. He prayed daily for God’s grace and strength but would not let his fears stop him from doing his work. It was 4: 00 am on February 25 when the young priest climbed into his bed to get some sleep.

An hour later government troops stormed the place and broke into the priest’s bedroom. One soldier shouted, “I have found the priest. Kill him!”

Father Toribio said, “Here I am but you do not have to kill me.”

The soldiers did not care. One soldier fired and the wounded priest stood up and began to walk toward the soldiers. After a few steps they opened fire and Father Toribio Romo fell dead. The story of the young priest’s martyrdom spread quickly and his popularity soared. Many Mexicans who have headed north tell inspiring stories about how their lives were saved through the intervention of Father Toribio.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Father Toribio and 24 other martyrs murdered for their faith during the Cristero War. Today, Santo Toribio Romo, is honored as the Patron Saint of Mexican migrants and “border crossers”. He is a saint who all Mexican and American Catholics should pray to for help with the border crisis confronting us today.

Saint Toribio Romo, pray for us.

*This article appeared in Aleteia in June of 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

     

3 Saints Who Never Knew the Impact They Would Have on Others –

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

This article appeared in Aleteia on May 18, 2016
St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frederick Ozanam, St. Jeanne Jugan

Saint-Servan, France,1839:  On a bitterly cold winter night,  Jeanne Jugan , 47, looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and somehow managed to carry the shivering woman into her own home and place her in her own bed.

The woman's name was Anne Chauvin and she was blind, paralyzed and quite old. She was also close to freezing to death. 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 Jeanne. 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
By 1879, there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. That year was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. Ironically, it was also the same year Jeanne Jugan died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Saint Jeanne Jugan never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young countryman of hers in Paris was responding to God’s flowing graces. Frederick Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris. Challenged by his "enlightened" college peers, he embraced their taunts "to practice what you preach".  
Accepting the challenge, Frederick went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Shortly thereafter,  he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society . That was in May of 1833.  They named the society after St.Vincent 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 mantle of helping the poor all over the world. Frederick Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared 'Blessed' by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Frederick  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.
 St. Jeanne Jugan could never have known that from the moment she carried Anne Chauvin 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 Frederick would never have imagined that his Society of St. Vincent de Paul would become a worldwide organization with close to 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. Jeanne took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vincent worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughters of Charity.
These three unpretentious, God loving people had two things in common.  First, they embraced God's grace and followed His call. Secondly, they asked for NOTHING for themselves and welcomed whatever came their way, including poverty. Their legacies live on in the thousands upon thousands of their followers and in all those millions who have been helped by their simple acts of faith. This is a beautiful thing.
 As a Catholic I love these people and I am proud to consider myself part of their extended family. They set examples for us that we are 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.
 St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugan and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please keep praying for all of us. And ---THANK YOU.

                            ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

     

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
     

May 1: Honoring Good St. Joseph; Patron Saint of all Workers

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson
St. Joseph, teaching his Son, Jesus, carpentry
from the painting by Georges da La Tour, 1640sn

Just a 'shout-out' from me to St. Joseph, my favorite saint, on the feast of "St. Joseph the Worker".  He is an inspiration and magnificent role model , not just for husbands and dads but for all men.  I love this man. 

Today the Catholic world honors all workers, those from yesterday, from today and those not yet here. Fittingly, the man who heads the list is none other than St. Joseph,  foster dad to Jesus Christ and husband to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The day is called the "Feast of St. Joseph the Worker" and honors the quiet carpenter holding him up high as an example for all workers and their families.

Saint Pope John Paul II on St. Joseph: 

“Let us imitate our model St. Joseph in all
our endeavours especially the raising and upbringing of our families.  St. Joseph did Great Things in the ordinary things of life.  In loving His wife, in loving His Son, and especially loving God and every person who ever lived.  Let us start always in our family to love our neighbor."   

 "The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.  Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families."

The Catholic Church deeply venerates this Family and proposes it as the model for all families.  The family of today can learn so much from this family.  Why is this so?  Because it was headed by the greatest earthly husband and dad ever, St. Joseph. 

Oh, Saint Joseph, we never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; we dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in our name and kiss his fine head for us and ask him to return the Kiss when we draw our dying breath.
Saint Joseph, Patron of departed souls – pray for us. Amen.
     

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
     

Remembering the “Prison Angel”, Mother Antonia Brenner: On the 2nd Anniversary of Her Passing

(Except for some minor minor edits and photo additions, this is the same blog post from last year written on the first anniversary of Mother Antonia's passing. It is still as timely today. She was and still is a shining example for all of us as to what it means to take up one's cross and follow Christ.) 

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

This is a love story. No, it is not about romantic love. Rather, it is about the love of Christ exploding in the soul of a woman who ran with her God given gift and did her best to shower it upon some of the meanest and worst criminals in Mexico.

This is about Mother Antonia Brenner, who was born in Beverly Hills, CA, married and divorced twice, had seven children and ultimately became known as the "Prison Angel" of La Mesa Prison, the worst and most dangerous prison in all of Mexico.  Mother Antonia died two years ago on October 17. On the anniversary of her passing I just thought I would remember her with a few words.

Mother Antonia praying with the convicts
 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. One thing was certain about Papa Joe. No matter how good life was for his family he made sure his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. The desire to help others would blossom in Mary and was one day, destined to explode. However, before the "explosion" Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.

Mary married at 18 and had three children. The first died shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce and then Mary married again. The wedding took place in Las Vegas and it was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. Mary had somehow distanced herself from her strict Catholic upbringing. No matter, it seems that the Holy Spirit had his eye on Mary Clarke her entire life. It was time for Him to shower His grace on His daughter.

Mary became more and more involved in charity work and has her seven children got older she began to visit La Mesa Penitentiary to deliver donations such as  food, medicine and clothing to the prisoners. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa began to impact 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.

In 1977, after her kids were grown and her second divorce was final, Mary gave away her expensive belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa. She had received permission to move there. Her new home was to be a 10' by 10' cell. 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 and Spanish dictionary nearby 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 years.

The story of how this twice divorced woman and mother of seven kids from two marriages was accepted by the Catholic Church as a Sister and founder of a new order can be found at the links provided. Suffice it to say that as time went by Sister Antonia became "La Mama" (Mother Antonia) aka 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 men. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them and held their heads between her hands as they were dying.

Mother Antonia comforting an inmate

Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with. She loved 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 they 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. Like Mother Antonia, all we have to do is listen to His call.

Mother Antonia, please pray for us.     Please remember her followers, The Eudists Servants of the Eleventh Hour  and consider donating to their prison ministry.

                               ©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights reserved

     

Honoring The “Shadow Saint”; Joseph of Nazareth

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

March 19 is the day we honor St. Joseph.  I think we should give him the whole month of March.  I love this man.   I will run this (and nothing else) starting today  March 16, through Friday, March 21.

I call Joseph of Nazareth the “Shadow Saint” because, even though he was responsible for being foster-father to the God-man and husband to the God-man’s mom, the Blessed Virgin, his own life was so quiet and unknown.  He had to shelter them, protect them, feed them, provide for them.  He married Mary (who was a teenager) while the cloud of “adultery” (a sin punishable by death) hung over her head.

Imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been for him, a “righteous Jew” who followed the law and found himself betrothed to a pregnant woman who was not carrying his child.  He must have loved Mary so much and had such great faith.

Then he managed to take her to Bethlehem for the census when she was almost full term.  If that were I,  I would have been sick to my stomach the whole way, wondering if my wife could make it and if the child would survive.  This was an 80-mile trip over rocky and dusty roads and Mary had to ride a donkey.

Then, after the baby is born in a dingy stable with smelly animals, he had to hide his wife and Son and run from the maniacal Herod, who wanted the child dead and had ordered his soldiers to find Him so they could kill Him. Imagine the fear and anxiety as you try to avoid detection.  Feel your heart pounding faster and faster at the sound of every hoofbeat or snapping branch.  I cannot imagine.  Joseph must have had incredible courage.

Back in Nazareth he raised his Boy as any loving and caring father would.  He aided the Boy when he took his first steps, held Him on his lap when he scraped his knee causing it to bleed, showed Him how to eat, taught Him how to pray, read the scriptures to Him and tucked Him into bed at night.  No-one ever in the history of the world has ever been entrusted with such incredible responsibility.  No one in the history of the world could tell Jesus, the God-man, when to go to bed or when to wash His hands for supper or “not to interrupt” if mom or dad was speaking.

Yet, we know so little about this just and holy man.  What we do know is he saved the Son of God who, in turn, lived long enough to save us all.  Oh yeah, he also was married to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He loved her with all of his heart, took care of her, and protected her against all dangers.  There is a love story for you.

There are no writings left behind by Joseph.  There are no words that were spoken by him that were ever recorded.  We have no idea as to what he might have even looked like.  None of that matters, because we do know he was there when God needed him to be there.  Last year Pope Francis picked St. Joseph’s Feast Day day to be installed as Pope.  This was no coincidence I am sure.

Joseph is considered the Protector of the Universal Church.  He is also the patron saint of fathers and families.  Next to his wife, he is the greatest of all other saints.  Just remember that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, called him, and only him, “dad”. And maybe (I like to think this) the Blessed Mother called him “sweetie” or “hon”.

Hey guys, imagine this. You get up in the morning and your wife says to you, “Good morning sweetie, want some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast?”  You turn and look and the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing there in a housecoat holding two eggs in her hand.  That would have happened to only one man in all of history and his name was Joseph.  No one, anywhere, ever, was afforded such an honor. No one.
HAPPY FEAST DAY ST.JOSEPH.  Thanks for being there for your Boy, your wife, and for all of us.
     

“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.

     

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.

     

Frank Bernardone (aka St. Francis of Assisi) Would They ‘Baker Act” Him in 2013?

by Larry Peterson

On October 4th, we Catholics celebrated the feast day of the great St. Francis of Assisi.  Pope Francis, during his homily at the Mass, encapsulated his namesake with this one brief sentence; "In all of Francis' life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of a coin." 

The  Catholic Church has a rich and fabulous history of people who have been elevated to the rank of Canonized Saint.It is a four  stage process to sainthood.  Reaching the first stage a person is then called "Servant of God". The second stage is called "Venerable". Beatification is the third stage and then a person is called Blessed. Last but not least is the actual canonization. That is when a person is declared a saint.

All of  these people belong in our Catholic 'Hall of Fame' and among them are some who are so well known that  their names are recognizable by most people even after  two thousand years. St. Francis of Assisi is one of those 'Hall of Famers' and he lived about 850 years ago.

I am a cradle Catholic  and I went to Catholic school from grades one through twelve. I learned about many saints and martyrs and it always seemed to me that what we were taught placed these folks in a heavenly world more so than in a real, earthly world. As a kid, I never understood how the martyrs were willingly and happily dying for Jesus. Weren't they scared? Did some of them possibly cry? Were they so filled with the Spirit that they were always stoic and reserved accepting their horrible fate with  joy while thanking God for the honor of a martyr's death?

Fear is a normal emotion. Courage is when you stare it down and confront it regardless of the consequences even unto giving up your life.  Filled with a faith that was unshakable they loved God and their fellow man so much  that their courage knew no bounds even as they faced death. These were people of valor filled with grace, honor, fortitude and foremost, love.

My namesake and one of my favorite saints is St. Lawrence. Legend has it that he  was roasted alive by the Emperor Valerian in August of 258 A.D. The story is that Lawrence, having been tortured for a period of time over hot coals said to his executioners,"I believe I am done on this side, please turn me over." 

I do not believe that really happened but it goes to my point of being taught about the saints being "happy"  even as they endured the most horrible tortures. Anyway, I try to take my supernal heroes and bring them  into my world of the 21st century. Then I imagine them doing their thing in the zero tolerant, politically correct, secularist world that we living, wannabe saints exist in. How do you think St. Francis of Assisi would have fared in the year 21st century?

Peter Bernardone, a wealthy silk merchant from Assisi, and his wife Pica, also from a wealthy family, gave birth to a son in 1181. They named him Johnny but later his father changed his name to Francis because he loved France, a country where he had made a lot of money (maybe dad had his own issues). Anyway, Frank grew up as a wealthy kid and had everything money could buy. He was handsome, courteous and dashing.

In 1204 frank went off to war and had a dream directing him to go back to Assisi. He did return and for some reason lost all desire for the worldly life. He joined a pilgrimage to Rome and joined with the poor who would beg in St. Peter's Square. The experience moved him to want a life of poverty. Back home in  Assisi he began preaching in the streets and soon he had a following.

St. Francis of Assisi dedicated his own life to the poor and to Christ in poverty. He founded the Franciscan Order and the Order of Poor Clares. In 1224 he received the Stigmata, which are the wounds that Christ received when He was crucified. This is not folklore or rumor or an "old wives tale". The Stigmata has been documented and St. Francis did have it. In addition, the man was known for his love of animals, and many of the statues erected in his honor have a bird sitting on his extended finger and maybe a squirrel at his feet. 
So how would Frank Bernardone have fared in modern day  America? What would have happened if he decided to throw off his expensive clothing and don some old clothes he got from a thrift store? What if he wore those clothes to Main Street and started preaching on the corner? What if he had tried to preach that way in front of  a church? What if he went and knocked on the door of the nearest Catholic rectory and asked for some food?

More than likely the priest probably would have given him a number to the parish 'outreach' or maybe St. Vincent de Paul Conference, wished him well and closed the door. Then Frank would have had to find a phone to use and maybe he would have found one and maybe not. Sooner or later he would definitely have been spotted by the cops who would want to see ID and find out what he was doing and where he lived. They probably would have called his father. 

Eight hundred years ago in Assisi, Frank's dad was so infuriated at his son's behavior that when Frank came home from Rome, his dad beat him and locked him in the basement for a year. Today,  Frank's father could not legally  beat his son and lock him in the basement. So he might have asked the cops to 'Baker Act" his grown son. If you do not know what  "Baker Act" means, it is simple. In Florida there is a law that allows the police or family or most anyone to have someone who is acting "irrational', and could be a danger to themselves or others, to be taken into custody and placed in lock down for 72 hours so they can be evaluated. The person has no say in the matter. Then it is up to the courts. If Frank told a modern day judge that he would rather live with the poor and beg for food even though he did not have to that judge may have put him in the 'booby-hatch' for a lot longer than 72 hours. 
Let me, as they say, "cut to the chase'".  Francis of Assisi was a spiritual man who loved Christ and loved the poor. He gave up everything worldly to serve the poor. He asked for nothing and eventually thousands followed him as Franciscan priests, friars, brothers and missionaries. The Order of Poor Clares came into existence because of Francis. Francis of Assisi changed the world through the love of the poor and the love of Christ in poverty. 
I cannot imagine how a man like Francis would do his thing today.  But, all things are possible with God, even in the pompous, secularist, meistic world of the 21st century. Just take a look at who suddenly became our Pope. A simple Argentinian named Jorge Bergoglio  was elected and he took the name of Francis, a simple man from Assisi.

                                                  copyright ©Larry Peterson 2013             

     

New Year’s Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

A little about Catholics (myself included)  and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We Catholics have adorned our Blessed Mother with many titles (47 different ones I believe) and she is the greatest of all saints. We believe that she has been spared from original sin and was taken into heaven body and soul never having to die in this world. But, before she left here she lived here, as a woman, a mom and a housewife.  I think we do not pay enough attention to the earthly life of our spiritual Mom. January 1st of each year we Catholics honor her  with a day we call the Solemnity of Mary; the Mother of God. In the catholic world today is a Holy day of Obligation and, just like on Sundays, going to mass is required. This woman is worthy of and deserves this special day of honor..
Remember that Mary  had already survived the possibility of execution by stoning  because she was pregnant prior to her marriage. You can’t tell me that she did not think about the potential consequences of her pregnancy. (Even her Son, the God Man, broke into a sweat in the Garden of Eden thinking about what was coming. Why wouldn't  Mary be worried?) She knew she was pregnant, she knew this was an extreme violation of Jewish law and she knew the penalty.  Her life was out of her hands and her fate thrust into  the hands of another, a man named Joseph, her betrothed. Fortunately, he was the best fiancé ever, married her, took her in and accepted her child as his.
Then, at full term in her pregnancy,  she has to travel with her husband over 80 miles on a donkey to be counted in a census.  She survives the four or five day journey (no rest-rooms between Nazareth and Bethlehem)and the countless contractions she must have had along the way to discover that her frantic husband cannot find a place for them to stay.  She winds up giving  birth in a stable with smelly animals,  lots of straw, no running water and who knows how clean those swaddling clothes were. She was probably all of 14 years old.
Let’s not forget that after  awhile word comes to them that Herod wants to kill their baby. Hey, all you moms and dads, how would you like to know the head of the government has authorized your child’s execution? Can you imagine? So, this poor young mom  is forced to make a 300+ mile journey to Egypt, hiding her child as best she can, while  all the time hoping her carpenter husband can elude the soldiers searching for them. Talk about  anxiety. Talk about fear. Talk about having Faith and praying like you never prayed before.
It probably was a year or two before the family made it back to Nazareth. Here they probably lived in a  typical baked clay and straw brick house. Each day Mary would have to sweep the beaten clay floor, go to the cistern for water, travel outside the town walls for daily necessities such as spices and grain which she would have to grind  into flour to bake fresh bread (no preservatives in those days) . Of course, there was the laundry.  Trust me, there were no laundromats and there were no detergents. There were also no diapers or Pampers or band-aids or cough syrups or baby powder or microwave chicken nuggets or McDonald's either.  Her husband would be in his shop doing his carpentry chores and her boy, Jesus, would be with His dad or maybe helping His mom. And life would go on, day after day after day. The years go by and  she is witness to  his horrendous execution. No mom should ever have to witness her child being butchered. She was there for His first breath and His very last.

In conclusion, He came here for us and she gave birth to Him for us. She wiped His runny nose, changed His dirty diaper and watched Him grow up and be killed for us. That is why we call her MOM too. We believe that she is still watching out for us, her other kids. Ultimately, this  transposes into the Greatest Story Ever Told. Jesus was the leading Man and Mary, the leading woman . You have to LOVE this story and its two main characters, from Beginning to Never-Ending.
                                                 copyright © 2013 Larry Peterson
     

“A Guy Named Barney” Just a Doorkeeper

The election season has fried my brain.  The pundits, the commentators, the campaign officials, the editorial writers and, of course the candidates. My God, MASSIVE EGOS--everywhere. They are all experts in everything you can think of and they villify each other, name call, besmirch each other and even attack their opponent's families. It had finally gotten to me. And then you hear this Machiavellian disclaimer, "Hey, that's politics". You know what, I have a different word for all of it, "DISGUSTING". To the Point-----

As a Catholic I decided to check the Catholic Hall of Fame for someone "egoless". You know them as saints but to me, they are the Catholic Hall of Famers. The best of the best, the creme de le creme. Let me tell you about one of them, a simple 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. There are many guys like Barney in our Catholic Hall of Fame and they, like Barney, probably never even knew what the word "ego"meant.

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. Barney would never have qualified for American Idol. Barney felt the call to the priesthood but his goal was detoured by jobs in Minnesota and Wisconsin as a lumberjack, a prison guard, a street car operator and a hospital orderly. Barney Casey always did whatever job he had to the best of his ability wanting to serve his God in all things. At the age of 21 he was able to enter St. Francis High School seminary in Milwaukee and 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"and he was not permitted to preach or to hear confessions. He never complained and took joy in being a "simple priest". Father Solanus Casey's main job at the monastery where he lived in Detroit was that of "doorkeeper". Father Casey was probably  the finest doorkeeper that ever lived. He did this for well over 20 years and also became known for his service to the sick and the advice and consultations he would have with visitors. People began attributing cures and other blessings to his interaction with them or others.

So there it is. A man who opened and closed doors for people. A man who had no ego and was happy to serve God in the simplest of ways. He died in 1957. 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. He is the first man born in the USA to be on the road to full sainthood. And all he did was humbly and happily open doors for people and talk to them if they wanted. A Catholic Hall of Famer for sure and quite the contrast to the gaggle of egotists that bombard us daily with their "I think" wisdom. Solanus (Barney) Casey has re-charged me.