Were we supposed to learn a specific lesson from Irma and Harvey?*


By Larry Peterson

CIEGO DE AVILA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 11: A woman covers herself with a towel in front of damaged buildings in Punta Alegre, northern coast of Ciego de Avila province of Cuba after Hurricane Irma passed through the area on September 11, 2017.
(Photo by Yander Zamora/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

“Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears — of everything that concerns you.” — St. Alphonsus Liguori

Officially, the annual hurricane season begins June 1 and ends on November 30, and every year we Floridians receive our annual Hurricane Preparedness Newsletter

The fact is, most of us who live here are usually prepared and ready for these storms. We know the drill.

By the morning of September 10, Hurricane Irma’s journey was predicted to go from the Florida Keys up to the Florida Panhandle and points north. People the world over had been informed that Irma was the biggest, fiercest, mightiest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic Ocean.

I’d like to say millions of Floridians simply boarded up their houses and waited with elan, but truthfully, most everyone was afraid this time. I know I was. There is not one thing you can do about these storms except get into a secure facility or evacuate; otherwise you do NOT stand a chance. All the “models” suggested our area would take a direct hit from a Category 4 storm with sustained winds from 130 -156 mph, and that the flooding would be catastrophic.

Amid all the dire predictions, however, there is one thing print and broadcast media fail to mention, that Catholic media does: the powerful and important weapon of prayer that so many of us bring to these storms. For the millions of Americans who have faith, no matter their religious preference, prayer was a key weapon against Irma.

Here’s what happened in my parish located in Pinellas Park, adjacent to the City of St. Petersburg. Bishop Gregory L. Parkes canceled all Masses for September 10, which was a Sunday. The only Mass available before the storm was projected to move in was the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturday. With the winds already starting up, the church was packed.

The Mass was quite beautiful. There was a sense of anxiety that filled the church prior to Mass, but once the liturgy began, you could feel it begin to evaporate. Father Anthony’s homily confronted the impending danger we all were facing and calmed us by inviting us to embrace the fact that Christ was, and always is, with us.

At the Mass’s end, he blessed boxes filled with tea candles, and each household took one. There was a sense of comfort and solidarity in the know that while sitting before the lit candle in your own home and praying, you were connected to all those other folks who also had the blessed tea candles in their homes. During the early morning hours of Monday, 9/11, Hurricane Irma became a Category 1 Hurricane and began moving away from Pinellas County. Aside from power outages, the damage was minimal.

I cannot explain nor do I understand why our area was spared. Much damage and destruction and death have occurred in other places — some communities have been upended — yet I know people were praying everywhere, not just in our parish. The Florida Keys, Miami, Jacksonville, Houston and many other places will be weeks and months putting themselves to rights, and in the Caribbean, entire islands must rebuild. It is a mystery and a humbling one. To paraphrase St. Paul, “Who can know the mind of God; who can tell him what to do?” (Romans 11:34).

All we can do is pray for strength, and then reach out to give aid where needed.

Maybe God lets us see and feel his presence in ways we sometimes do not understand. Maybe these storms are permitted to teach us something about how his handiwork requires our hands. Perhaps the brutality of some storms are meant as a relief from the vitriol, contempt, nastiness, and hatred that has consumed our society recently, and are meant to remind us who we are.

Read more: “Now you are his arms”: Our forgotten role in a ‘godforsaken’ world

We’re only halfway through the hurricane season. Is it possible that these storms, Irma and Harvey (and perhaps others down the line), are being permitted to make refugees of some of us, in order to instruct us about the reality of suffering and loss that refugees encounter, everywhere?

Could it be possible? “Who has known the mind of God…”

Perhaps we are meant to remember the lessons of Job, who said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Is it possible we actually needed these storms? Is it possible that one day people will believe that these storms were actually God’s gift to us? Has the Holy Spirit been helping us to see beyond all the divisive daily ranting — to see each other again as simply people, loved sinners all, who need to help one another?

I guess that is for each of us to decide for ourselves. I have decided.

*An edited version of this  article also appeared in Aleteia on Septemeber 19, 2017


St. Mary of Cervellon: with Hurricane Irma fast approaching we should ask St. Mary of Cervellon for her Help and Protection



By Larry Peterson


She was born sometime in 1230, some think around December 1, and was baptized on December 8* in Santa Maria del Mar parish in Barcelona. Her name was Mary de Cervellon, and she was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, William de Cervellon.


As a young woman, Mary, began working in Saint Eulalia Hospital tending to the sick, the poor and also those who were prisoners. One day she heard a sermon given by Bernard de Corbarie, who was the superior of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Ransom, also known as Mercedarians. 


She was so moved by what she heard she vowed right then and there to do all she could to help alleviate the suffering and misery experienced by those who were prisoners of the Muslim Turks. Working at the hospital, Mary was able to come in contact with the great leaders of the Mercedarian order, including the order's founder, St. Peter Nolasco. Inspired by these pious people Mary, in the year, 1265,  joined a small group of women who lived near the monastery. These ladies spent their lives in constant prayer and doing good works for those in need.


In due time the women asked for and received permission to form the Third Order of Our Lady of Ransom. In addition to the normal three vows of poverty,  chastity, and obedience they also vowed to pray for all Christian slaves. They were all given permission to wear the white habit of the Mercedarians and Sister Mary de Cervellon was elected their first Mother Superior.


Sister Mary had such an empathy and devotion to the poor and needy that soon she began to be called Maria de Socros  (Mary of Help).  Mary de Cervellon passed away on Septemeber 19, 1290. During Mary's life and after her death, there were people who swore that they saw Mary literally on the "wings of the wind",  reaching down and saving floundering ships from rough seas so they might stay their course and continue on their journey to free Christian prisoners from the Muslims.


A great devotion grew in her honor and it was given approval by Pope Innocent XII in 1692. Paintings of Mary show her with a ship cradled in her arms as she saves it from the roaring seas around it.  Mary de Cervellon's body lies incorrupt to this very day in the Mercedarian Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.


At this very moment in time, a massive hurricane named, Irma, is talking dead aim at our homes in Florida and the Caribbean. The seas beneath Irma have turned into monstrous, walls of pounding destruction. Since St. Mary de Cervellon,  is the patroness of sailors and invoked especially against shipwreck, she is generally represented with a ship in her hand. We might invoke her name and ask her to help quell the pounding seas or maybe help divert Hurricane Irma in a diiferent direction. We could really use her help.


St. Mary de Cervellon, please pray for us all.


*the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not proclaimed until  Pope Pius IX did so in 1854.


Antonia Mesina—Martyred “In Defensum Castitatis” (In Defense of Purity) at the age of 15



By Larry Peterson


Pierina Morosini and Antonia Mesina were two women from Italy. Born a generation apart they led strikingly similar lives. Pierina was the oldest of eight children and had to work and help her mother with her younger siblings. Antonia was the second born of ten children and was also required to help her mother with the younger children.


Both young women were exemplary Catholics and were determined to live chaste lives.  Both were martyred "in defensum castitatis" (in defense of purity), Antonia in 1935 and Pierina in 1957. They were both  declared Blessed on October 4, 1987 by Pope St. John Paul II. Even though their stories are similar they are also separate and unique. As a writer, I felt they each deserved individual space. This is about Antonia. (Pierina's story is in another article).


Antonia was born on June 21, 1919, in Orgosolo, a town high up in the mountains of Sardinia. She was the second of ten children. Her dad was a corporal in the cavalry who helped guard the town perimeter and her mom did her best to teach her children the Catholic faith. As was the custom at the time Antonia was baptized at the age of nine days and confirmed the following year.


Antonia was admired by her teachers and liked by all her classmates. She was kind and studied hard and was very respectful of others. When she was in fourth grade her mom developed a serious heart condition. The doctors ordered her to bed and Antonia was forced to leave school and take over her mother's duties. The young girl had to do the cooking, the cleaning, the baking, the laundry and go to the market. Her mom called her ,"the flower of my life". Antonia never complained and always seemed to manage a smile.


Every week Antonia had to bake the bread for the family. This was not a simple process. It included gathering the firewood and grinding the grain into flour. This was, indeed, making something from "scratch". On May 17, 1935, Antonia asked her friend, Annedda, if she would go with her to help her gather wood from the forest. Annedda agreed and off they went.


As they walked along, Antonia, who had joined Catholic Action a few years earlier, was trying to convince Annedda, that she should join too. Antonia was very enthusiastic about the spiritual benefits received and about all the good works that Catholic Action brought to members. She told her how they even were taught catechism at their meetings.


When they had gathered up enough wood they began their return walk home. Annedda noticed a young man in the woods nearby. She recognized him from school and knew it was Ignazio. When she looked again he was gone. A few minutes later Antonia screamed. The young man had snuck up behind Antonia and wrestled her to the ground. He was determined to have his way with the 15 year-old but she fought him furiously.


Twice Antonia managed to break free while Annedda ran screaming through the woods for someone to help them. The third time Ignazio managed to subdue her. She was fighting against his advances so hard that he went into a rage. He grabbed a nearby rock and began beating Antonia in the head with it. Over and over he pounded the innocent teenager until she stopped moving. It was discovered later that he had hit her 74 times. It was also found that she had never been violated.



Ignazio tried to deny his involvement but Annedda was able to identify him. In addition, his bloody clothes, which he tried to hide, were found near his home. The 19 year-old was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on August 5, 1937.



Antonia Mesina's beatification process began under Pope John Paul I in September of 1978 and she was declared a "Servant of God". She was declared Venerable Antonia Mesina in 1986 and Pope St. John Paul II declared she had died "in defensum castitatis' in May of 1987. She and Pierina Morosini were beatified together, two young women who gave their lives for Jesus rather than submit to being forcibly assaulted.


Blessed Antonia Mesina and Blessed Pierina Morosini, please pray for us.



I am the winner of the 2013 Frankie Award!

Official Announcement
Thank you to all our Frankie Award nominees, all those who promoted the contest on their blogs or through Facebook or Twitter, and to everyone who voted. The voting post had over 2100 hits, with 440 total votes. Larry Peterson's post garnered a third of those. Go, Larry!
If you did not win this year, I hope the contest did bring lots of extra traffic to your blog. And think of all those people learning more about the spiritual life, because they read what the Lord is teaching you! Now it's time to start planning for next year's posts. If you have any suggestions on how to improve our contest, please add a comment or send me an email to cspirituality@gmail.com. And some of you should consider becoming members of Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network. Check out our Welcome page for details.
The winning post is re-posted in full below. Larry, please use this badge on your blog with a link to CSBN to announce your win. I will send you your gift certificate to Mystic Monk Coffee shortly.
Please join me in congratulating Larry.
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  a while 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.

I’d appreciate your vote!

Lo and Behold I won this on December 3rd

Vote for the year's best Catholic spirituality post for the 2013 Frankie Award!

Please vote for my post:
New Year's Day and the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Larry Peterson of It Makes Sense to Me

Voting ends on December 3 at Midnight PST.

Click here to vote:


The Legend of the Jack-O-Lantern—-(one version)

by Larry Peterson
Long ago in Ireland, the land of shamrocks, leprechauns, soft winds and smiles, there lived a man named Jack. Jack was quite lazy and did not like to work. But he had the gift of "blarney" and could talk the peat off the moss. He would tell wondrous tales about his adventures as a world traveler and the people in his village would be held spellbound by his golden tongue; however, Jack outsmarted himself when he  stole money from the townsfolk. He thought that they were not very smart and would never find out. But they did find out and began chasing him down the streets of the village.

As Jack ran down the road as fast as he could he rounded a bend and ran smack into the devil. The devil smiled at Jack and told him it was time for him to die and that he was there to take his soul. Jack quickly convinced the devil that if he would let him go and promise to never take his soul he would give him all the souls of the folks who were chasing him. "And how do you plan to do that, Jack?" the devil asked.

"Well now, all ye have ta do is turn ye-self into a pot of gold coins. Then I will give the coins to the people and you will be in all of their pockets. They will be yours."

Since many souls were better than only one, the devil readily agreed and turned himself into a pot of gold coins. Jack gave the coins to all the people and they went away smiling never realizing that they had given themselves to the devil in return for money.

So Jack lived on, grew old and, like all mortal men, finally died. His life had been so sinful on earth that he could not get into heaven and since the devil could not take his soul, he could not get into hell. He had nowhere to go. He asked the devil how he was supposed to see because he was in complete darkness. The devil laughed and tossed Jack a burning ember from the fires of hell, an ember that would never burn out.

Jack, using the ember to guide his way, found a pumpkin patch (some say it was turnips) and carved out a pumpkin. He put the ember inside and began carrying it around so he could see where he was going. To this day he wanders the earth seeking a resting place. And that is why he is known as "Jack-O'-Lantern" or "Jack of the Lantern".

"HAPPY HALLOWEEN"     posted in 2011 and 2012


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