St. John Berchmans; A Remarkable Role Model for our Youth. He is the Patron Saint of Altar Servers

By Larry Peterson

St. John Berchman's; Patron St. of Altar Servers...
en.wikipedia.org

This is about a young man who became a saint. He did not found any religious orders or have any miracles attributed to him. He did not commit ant great acts of heroism or adhere to a life of poverty. Rather, John Berchmans became a saint by being kind, courteous and incredibly loyal to the faith.

John was born on March 13, 1599, in a town called Diest,  located in the northeast part of Belgium. His father was shoemaker and John was one of five children. John became an altar boy at the age of seven and his parish priest, Father Emmerick, noticed his genuine piety and even commented to others that the Lord would work wonders in the boy's soul.

When John was nine, his mom took ill and he spent hours at her side doing his best to comfort and care for her. She passed on when he was about thirteen and Father Emmerick allowed John to move in with him and some others boys he had living there.

He became fast friends with the others at the priest's home and never failed to take on the most menial of tasks and complete them to the best of his ability. He was always kind and never would stray from doing what his conscience told him was right. His kindness and intelligence were a great example to the other students and the young man proved to be a profound influence on them.

John then read the biography of  St. Aloysius Gonzaga and decided he wanted to be a Jesuit. At the age of 17, he was able to enroll as a Jesuit novitiate at the Jesuit College at Malines, Belgium. He worked hard at his studies and, inspired by the life of St. Aloysius, had developed a desire to teach all the multi-lingual migrants that were in Europe. In 1618 he was sent to Rome for more education.

John Berchmans was very poor. His journey to Rome was not easy. He had to walk to Rome, a distance of 300 "leagues" or a distance of 900 miles. Carrying all his worldly goods in a  sack hung across his back, he made it to Rome. How long the journey took is unknown. He did arrive and began his studies.

In addition to studying rhetoric and philosophy, he managed to study different languages with his ultimate goal being to become a missionary in China. In his third year at the Roman College, John was selected to take part in a philosophy debate at the Greek College run by the Dominicans. John was brilliant in his arguments and carried the day. However, on the way home, he became very ill.

John Berchmans illness turned into a quick downward spiral. He seemed to have a cold which turned into other unknown maladies and he died within a week of becoming ill. The thought today is that it was dysentery that caused his death. The young man was only twenty-two-years-old and had not lived long enough to be ordained.

John Berchmans was known for his extreme piety and for being diligent in all matters, even involving the most trivial of tasks. When he died he was holding onto his rosary, a crucifix and the rules of his order. As he was dying he said: "These are my three treasures; with these, I shall gladly die."


There were many miracles attributed to John's after his death and, as a result, the famous "altar boy" developed a huge following, especially in Belgium. In fact, over 24,000 portraits of him were given out within a few years of his death. He is known for his devotion the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady, to whom he composed a Chaplet in honor of the Immaculate Conception.

John Berchmans died on August 13, 1621. He was canonized a saint on January 15, 1888. He is the patron saint of altar servers and students. He is also a true role model for all youth of today.

St. John Berchmans, please pray for us all.

     

The First Apparition of the Blessed Mother took place while she was still Alive. The year was 40 A.D.

By Larry Peterson

Only seven years after Jesus death and Resurrection, on October 12, 40 A.D., an incredible event took place. That was the day the very first Marian apparition ever recorded took place. And yes, Our Lady was still alive at the time. This apparition occurred in Spain and it was Jesus' apostle, St. James the Great, brother of St. John, who the Blessed Virgin appeared to. This apparition is known as Our Lady of Pillar.

 

During the very early days of Christianity, James had traveled to a pagan land called Zaragoza, in the Roman province of Hispania which today is better known as Spain or Espana. Zaragoza was a foreboding place and James was having a very difficult time evangelizing the people in the area. They just did not seem to care and they did not even like this strange man from a different country.

 

Legend has it that James, despondent and dejected had fallen into (what we call today), a terrible "funk". No matter how much he tried he could not seem to lift his own spirits. One night, James was praying by the banks of the Ebro River. Suddenly a great light engulfed him. James knelt, staring into the light, and what he saw was beyond description. In the light was the Virgin Mary and she was surrounded by thousands of angels.

 

She told James that he should persevere because, ultimately, his work for Jesus would have great results and many would turn to the Faith. She asked that a church be built on the place where she appeared and left behind a pillar of "Jasper" to mark the spot where she had been.  The Virgin Mary also left a small statue of herself holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The statue was sitting atop the Jasper pillar. Since the Blessed Virgin was still alive and living in Jerusalem, her appearance is considered an act of bilocation.

 

James immediately gathered some of his new followers and began work on a chapel on the designated site. The chapel is the first church ever dedicated to Mary and today, after many renovations, is known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is located in the exact place Our Lady appeared 2000 years ago.

 

James participated in the dedication of the small church and returned to Jerusalem. Ironically, he was the first apostle to die for the faith. In 44 A.D., Herod Agrippa, had James beheaded. The disciples of James took his body back to Spain for final burial. The statue and pillar were taken under the protection of the people of Zorogaza.

 

The many miracles surrounding the relic can attest to its heavenly origin. For example, it has been almost 2000 years and the statue has never needed dusting. In 1936, the Catholic-hating "Reds" bombed the shrine but the bombs that hit the church never exploded. No one is allowed to touch the statue except for the four priests assigned to its care and newborn infants can be lifted up to touch the image of their heavenly Mom.

 

Popes from the earliest times have attested to the authenticity of Our lady's appearance at the shrine. Pope Calixtus III issued a Papal bull in 1456 encouraging people to make pilgrimages to Our Lady of Pillar. The miracle of the shrine's foundation was even acknowledged.

 

The most prominent miracle occurred in the 17th century. A    beggar named Miguel Pellicer from the town of Calanda, could not work due to having an amputated leg. He was constantly praying at the shrine for the Blessed Mother's help. She answered his prayers for sure because his leg was restored. When word of this spread, pilgrimages greatly increased to the shrine and it has been so ever since.

 

Over the centuries many controversial stories arose concerning the authenticity of this shrine. Pope Innocent III, answering an appeal from Spain, had twelve cardinals investigate all the data available. On August 7, 1723, the Sacred Congregation of Rites, affirmed the original. In 1730, Pope Clement XII, allowed the feat of Our Lady of Pillar to be celebrated throughout the Spanish empire. Eventually she was declared Patroness of the Hispanic World. Our Lady of Pillar's feast day is October 12.

 

One final thought. As a young seminarian, St. Josemaria Escriva, made daily visits to the shrine of Our Lady of Pillar. He always prayed for guidance and eventually founded Opus Dei. The members honor her feast day each year.

 

Our Lady of Pillar, please pray for us.

Photo courtesy: commons wikimedia.org

     

I Watched in Awe as the Priest Stepped into the Sandals of Christ

By Larry Peterson

What follows is about a priest in a crowd, a famous poem, and a moment in time. The moment was like seeing a tiny flower growing out of a crack in a concrete sidewalk. That tiny flower is another example of God's creative beauty that surrounds us yet is barely noticed by anyone. The fate of that tiny flower is ominous. Even though no person anywhere at any time could ever create that fragile, work of living beauty, it more than likely will be ignored, stepped upon or sprayed with weed killer to get rid of it. Ah well, we "smarties" have no time for such trivialities and petty annoyances.

 

The poem I refer to is, "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer. Written in 1913, it has a timely message. There is a line in the poem that reads, "A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray: the tiny flower in the concrete is a smaller version, is it not? So what about the priest in the crowd?

 

I was at a parish event the other evening which featured as speakers our Bishop, an author, a radio station personality, and our pastor. The Knights of Columbus (which included me) were the ones who prepared and served the free dinner to over 300 guests. The parish center was packed and when the final speaker had finished we began to serve the dessert.  I sensed something special was going on nearby. I do not know if anyone else but me was paying attention but I was about to witness one of those special moments in time.

 

There were a number of local parish priests in attendance and one of them was the chaplain at the local VA hospital. I was working in the kitchen assisting getting the cake plates on trays and handing the trays to those serving the guests. Outside the kitchen and to my left against the wall was the drink table where coffee, tea, cold drinks etc were available. At any given time there were at least ten people standing in line. Five feet away from the drink table was the first row of dinner tables. Father was sitting at the end of the first table talking to a woman.

 

At this point, the chatter was quite loud and people were up and moving about visiting other tables saying "HI" to other folks they knew. I noticed Father looking at the young lady very intently and purposefully. I knew this priest had put his Jesus' sandals on.

 

I kept working and watching the two of them. They were at least twenty feet away from me and, with all the activity and noise and people milling about and all around them, they had managed to be alone. The priest listened and listened and listened some more.  I watched as best I could because this was so awe-inspiring. I was witnessing Christ do His thing through His priest. This happens every time we attend Mass but how many of us think about what actually IS happening? We hear of this happening in other places but how often do we get to watch it happen? Hardly ever.

 

After a while, Father leaned his head to the right a bit and rested his chin on his upraised fist. He was not looking directly at the woman he was now sort of looking downward. He inconspicuously blessed her and, I assume, she was being given absolution. I was not positive because  I had heard nothing and never even saw her face. But it did not matter. Whatever was happening between them was spiritual and beautiful.

 

Like the tiny flower popping its little lavender petal through a crack in concrete or Kilmer's magnificent tree looking at God all day lifting its "leafy arms to pray" this moment was those moments. Few people notice the stunning Oak tree standing majestically alongside a roadway or a blade of grass pushing its way through a hairline crack in a slab of cement. Sadly, more and more people are losing sight of Christ in our midst and the hand of the Creator smiling down on His creations. I was blessed. I caught a glimpse the other night.

 

Joyce Kilmer's poem finishes up with the poignant words: "Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree."  We need to remember that.

Artwork from SimpleMassingPriest.com

 

     

A Mother’s Prayers are answered giving us Two Great Saints and a new Marian Feast Day

By Larry Peterson

Most of us know the story of St. Augustine. He was born in North Africa in the year 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan landowner and his mother, Monica, a Christian. Monica prayed fervently for her wayward boy to become a Christian too. Eventually, her prayers were answered and her boy did embrace Christianity becoming a great Doctor of the Church.

 

However, many of us do not know of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in this transformation. It is because of the conversion of St. Augustine that one of the many titles she is venerated under is Our Lady of Consolation. And this never would have happened without his mom faithfully praying for her boy, a woman who would one day be known as St. Monica.

 

Monica is honored for her unyielding Christian virtues which included; dealing with the pain and suffering brought on by her husband's chronic acts of adultery and her own son's immoral ways. It was said she cried herself to sleep virtually every night. But she did not despair. Rather, she turned her heartache over to the Blessed Virgin asking for her help. And help she received. Our Lady appeared to Monica and gave her the sash she was wearing. The Virgin assured Monica that whoever wore the sash would receive her special consolation and protection.  It was given to her son and ultimately became part of the Augustinian habit.

 

Eventually, the Augustinian monks founded the Confraternity of the Holy Cincture (belt) of Our Lady of Consolation. The statues of Mary as Our Lady of Consolation depict her and the Christ child dressed in elaborate vestments. Mary's halo has twelve, small stars and her tunic is held in place by a black cincture.  The three patrons of the Augustinians are St. Augustine, St. Monica and Our Lady of Consolation. In addition, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation inspired what is known as the "Augustinian Rosary" which is sometimes called the "Corona of Our Mother of Consolation."

 

During the early 1700s, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation was introduced to Malta. It was here that people began asking for a special blessing invoking Our Lady of Consolation for the dying. It became such a popular custom that monks could leave the monastery without asking permission to confer this blessing.  Eventually, devotion to Our Lady of Consolation spread all over the world.

 

In the United States, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation are located in Carey, Ohio. The church was first built in 1868 and named St. Edward. When Father Joseph Growden was given the responsibility of caring for the church he asked the faithful in Carey to pray to Mary, Our Lady of Consolation for her help in getting a new church built. He promised to name the church "Our Lady of Consolation".

 

On May 24, 1875, a statue of Our Lady of Consolation, having been procured by Father Joseph from the Cathedral of Luxembourg, was carried from St. Nicholas church to the new church in Carey. News reports tell of the tremendous rains that fell that day and, during the seven-mile procession, not a drop fell on the statue or the people bringing the statue to its new home. Upon arriving in the new church the rain fell once again---everywhere.

 

Today devotion* to Our Lady of Consolation is of great importance in such places as Luxembourg, England, France, Japan, Manila, Turin, Malta, Australia, Venezuela and other places. Pope St. John Paul II visited the shrine in Germany. Our Lady of Consolation has certainly made herself available in many places so her children can quickly come to her if need be. The Blessed Mother is certainly a protective Mom, isn’t she? You just have to love being Catholic.

 

St. Augustine, pray for us; St. Monica, pray for us; and

Our Lady of Consolation, please pray for us all.

 

*Feast Days for Our Lady of Consolation are varied. The Augustinians celebrate it on September 4; the Benedictines on July 7. In the USA it is usually on October 22 or the last Sunday in October.

Image of Our Lady of Consolation            courtesy  en.wikipedia.org

Copyrght©Larry Peterson 2017

     

The Magnificent Dogma of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary- —

By Larry Peterson

from catholicism.org

 

The Third Ecumenical Council held by the Catholic Church took place in Ephesus in 431. The Council was called to refute the teaching being put forth by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. He held that the Virgin Mary may only be called the Christotokos (Birth Giver of Christ) and not Theotokos (Mother of God).

 

This teaching was condemned and the Council confirmed that indeed, since it was God who was the Father, Mary was truly the Mother of God. This settled for all time the central mystery of the Catholic faith which is the Incarnation; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures; one divine and one human. This is a mystery we embrace and believe but will never fully understand.

 

Pope Pius XI, who had a profound devotion to the Blessed Virgin, honored her by creating a new feast day in her honor. In 1931, 1500 years after the Council of Ephesus had proclaimed that Our Blessed Lady was truly the Mother of  God; Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast Day of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This action not only reaffirmed the Council's dogmatic proclamation that Mary is Theotokos, it also set October 11 into the Roman calendar as the day the feast was to be celebrated.

 

Since Vatican II's changes were put in place the Feast Day of Divine Maternity has become somewhat overshadowed by the dogma of Mary's "Perpetual Virginity". But make no mistake, these two dogmatic pronouncements are eternally joined together and they are inseparable. October 11 is still an active feast in the 1962 Roman Missal which is used during the extraordinary celebration of the Mass.

 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 495: Mary's Divine Motherhood;

Called in the Gospels, 'the mother of Jesus,' Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, "as the mother of my Lord." In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly the 'Mother of God' (Theotokos).

 

From the Catechism 496: Mary's Virginity:

From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed". The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own...

 

Our Blessed Mother was a young, innocent woman of about 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced to her what God wanted from her. What could have gone through her young mind as this was asked of her? She must have been so afraid. How could she have had any possible idea that she would be the New Eve who would give birth to the New Adam who, in turn, would save us all?

 

This mystery of faith is so profound. This young woman, in effect, was chosen by God Himself to be his spouse. Their child would be both God and Man. He would change the world forever.

Mary's virginal motherhood sealed in perpetuity the truth of the Incarnation. She gave Christ the body He possessed. She gave Him the humanity that was part of Him. And all the time he was God...and she was His Mom. WOW!

 

     

Rhoda Wise—Wife, Mom, Convert, Stigmatic and Mentor to Mother Angelica

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

From 1942: Rhoda Wise; second from right: Rita Rizzo, age 19 (Mother Angelica) on right                                                         mysticsofthechurch.com

By Larry Peterson

The year was 1904 and Rhoda Wise was terrified. The sixteen year old girl was experiencing searing pain which was exploding in her lower abdomen. She was taken to Wheeling Hospital in Wheeling, West Virginia where she was about to have surgery to remove her ruptured appendix. She had no idea she was about to experience a turning point in her young life.

While she was recovering from her operation a Catholic Sister came to visit her. The nun gave Rhoda a St. Benedict medal. Rhoda told the nun that her parents, who literally despised Catholics, would never allow her to keep the medal. In fact, Rhoda was sure they would be furious that it had been given to her.

Sister put the small medal inside a locket that Rhoda had. The sixteen-year-old was so moved by the kind gesture that she kept that medal for the rest of her life. It also started her thinking about Catholicism.

Rhoda was born in Cadiz, Ohio on February 22, 1888. She was the sixth of eight children. Her dad, Eli Greer, was a bricklayer and her mom, Anna, was an active member in helping Civil War veterans. They were staunch Protestants and Rhoda grew up confronted by an unyielding Catholic bias. Most of Rhoda’s friends harbored anti-Catholic sentiments but she did manage to have a few Catholic friends.

Rhoda married Ernest Wissmar in 1915. Ernest was a widower from Canton, Ohio, and Rhoda moved there with her husband. Six months after their marriage, Ernest, a plasterer, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on a job site and passed away. Rhoda, soon after being widowed, met George Wise, himself a widower, and they were married in January 1917.

Rhoda loved George very much but he was a drinker and Rhoda would spend many married years confronting ongoing financial troubles, embarrassments and the many challenges that accompany the disease of alcoholism. Among these challenges was having to move seven times as George’s drinking caused him to have to frequently find new jobs.  Through it, all, Rhoda, did her best to remain upbeat.

In 1931, Rhoda developed a huge, 39-pound ovarian cyst. This cyst was so large there was no doctor in Canton who would attempt to remove it. A doctor in Wheeling agreed to do it.  The downside was Rhoda was told she might not survive the operation. Rhoda agreed to the surgery anyway.

She survived the operation but her gallbladder was affected and had to be removed. Soon after the gallbladder surgery, she developed a painful bowel obstruction which had to be surgically repaired. Rhoda was never the same after this and then, in 1936, she stepped into a sewer drain severely damaging her right leg.

Her foot turned inward and, combined with a recurring infection, kept Rhoda Wise in and out of hospitals from that point on. Every few months it was now back to the hospital for new casting or additional surgery on her leg in attempts to straighten her foot. Besides the now chronic pain, she had to endure, Rhoda’s immediate future saw her being confined to bed most of the time.

Rhoda’s first of many visions occurred while hospitalized and with George and Anna Mae, their adopted daughter, present. Rhoda saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd standing by the window. She told George and Anna Mae but they saw nothing. George thought she was hallucinating.

One of the nuns at Mercy Hospital, Sister Clement, a Sister of Charity, befriended Rhoda. Sister had a great devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux and gave Rhoda a small shrine of the “Little Flower” to put by her bed. Rhoda then asked Sister if she could hold her Rosary. When Sister handed it to her the Crucifix was very warm and Rhoda immediately asked Sister Clement to teach her about the beads. Graces were beginning to explode within her.

Rhoda fell in love with the Rosary and prayed it several times a day. She then asked Sister if she could make a novena to St. Therese. She had developed a brutally painful stomach cancer which was considered incurable. Jesus appeared to Rhoda on May 28, 1939, and told her He would come back with St. Therese on June 28.

Jesus returned as promised and, with St. Therese standing by His side, Rhoda’s incurable, open wounded stomach cancer vanished without a trace. On August 15, 1939, St. Therese visited Rhoda again and her cast broke apart and fell from her twisted foot. The foot was perfectly normal.

For lack of space here I shall finish this by mentioning a young woman by the name of Rita Rizzo. Rita was nineteen and suffered from what they called a “dropped stomach”. Her belly appeared discolored and deformed and the pain was excruciating. She went to see Rhoda who gave her a novena to St. Therese and told her to say it for nine days.

During the early morning hours on the ninth day pain exploded in Rita’s abdomen and then stopped. In the morning when she looked at her belly it appeared normal. The discoloration and deformity were gone and so was the pain. She had been cured and the pain never returned again. Rita Rizzo became Mother Angelica and founded EWTN. Rhoda Wise was the moving force in Mother Angelica’s becoming a nun.

On Good Friday, April 3, 1942, Rhoda Wise was given the Stigmata of the Crown of Thorns. Every Friday after,  until her death on July 7, 1948, her forehead would bleed from noon until 3:00 pm.

14,000 people showed up for her funeral. Countless cures were attributed to Rhoda and countless souls returned to Christ because of her. Ironically, Rhoda always felt the greatest miracle she witnessed was the day George stopped drinking and never had another drink as long as he lived.

Rhoda Wise has been declared a Servant of God and her cause for sainthood has begun.

We the Servant of God; Rhoda Wise, to pray for us all.

There is much to the story of Rhoda Wise. To learn more please visit the link  http://rhodawise.com/