Three Catholic Saints who Managed to Live to the age of 100 and Beyond

 

Nheyob | CC BY SA 4.0 | Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

Recently I came across the names of eight saints who were centenarians. Incredibly they had made it up to and past the one-hundred-year mark without having the advantages of modern medicine and all the blessings we have available to us. No, they just lived their lives until God called them. Here is a brief account of three of them:

St. Simon Stock

Simon Stock was born in England in 1165 AD. Legend has it that at the age of twelve he began living as a hermit in the hollow trunk (“stock” means trunk) of a large, oak tree. In the early 13th  century Simon went to the Holy Land where he joined the newly formed Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their origins were in Palestine and when they moved to Europe, Simon went with them. He became one of the early leaders of the order which became known as the Carmelites.

On July 26, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon holding the Brown Scapular in one hand. She said to Simon,  “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

Simon Stock became the prior general of the Carmelites and under his leadership, the order spread across Europe and throughout England. Today the Brown Scapular is known and venerated the world over. (The word scapular comes from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade” That is why the brown cloth covers the chest and the upper back).

Interestingly, St. Simon Stock was never formally canonized yet he is venerated in the Catholic Church, his feast day is May 16, and the Carmelites have honored him since 1564, which also has the approval of the Vatican.

Lastly, St. Simon Stock died in the year 1265. He was 100 years old.

St. Patrick

We all know that St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but the dates of his life are murky at best. He was probably born in the early 5th century and, at the age of sixteen,  was captured by pirates. He was taken from his home in Britain to Ireland where he was held in captivity for six years before escaping back to his family.

He became a cleric and returned to Ireland working tirelessly to convert the pagan Celts. He became the first bishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland. His became a saint during the pre-congregation era.

All available documents suggest that St. Patrick died when he was 106 years old.

Raymond of Penyafort (Pennyforth)

Raymond was a lawyer, a preacher, and a priest who left a profound influence on the history of Spain and the Church. He was instrumental in re-Christianizing Spain after the Moors were defeated and his consolidation of papal decrees was the primary source of canon law for over 700 years.

Raymond was approached by Peter Nolasco, the Founder of the Mercedarians, and asked if he could help him get approval in founding his order. Raymond helped greatly, assisting his friend in getting the consent of King James I of Aragon and so were born the Mercedarians.

Already an accomplished lawyer and scholar, Raymond joined the Dominicans in  Barcelona in 1222. He was 47 years-old. Raymond was a gifted preacher and was very successful at evangelizing Moors and Jews.

In 1230, Pope Gregory IX, made Raymond his confessor. During this time Raymond sorted and put in order all the decrees of popes and councils since 1150. Canonists relied on Raymond’s succinctly arranged writings until the new codification in 1917.

Raymond Penyaforth died in 1275 at the age of 100. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. He is the patron saint of lawyers, including canon lawyers.

St. Raymond Penyaforth, pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Christoph Probst: He was a Husband and Father, and at the age of 23 the Nazis made him a Martyr

Christoph Probst & Sophie Scholl                                     fair.use

By Larry Peterson

Christoph Probst was born on November 6, 1919, in Bavaria, Germany. His dad, Herman Probst, was a scholar who specialized in Asian culture, Eastern religions, and the language, Sanscrit. Hermann maintained an intellectual environment at home and Christoph thrived within it.

However, inside the Probst home all was not peaceful and content. Christoph’s parents divorced when he was still a young boy, and  His father remarried Elise Jaffee, who was Jewish. Shortly after his second marriage, Hermann Probst committed suicide. How this affected Christoph is unknown, but his contempt for Nazi ideology grew stronger.

There was some money available, and Christoph was admitted to a boarding school at Landheim Schondorf, a school mostly devoted to the fine arts. The school was not an institution that supported Nazi ideas.  It was here that Christoph met a young man named Alexander Schmorell.

Alexander had been born in the Ural Mountains of Russia and had come to Germany with his father when his mother died. Christoph and Alexander had much in common; both young men had lost parents. Upon graduating high school, the two close friends were required to enter the National Labor Service.

Upon leaving the Labor Service, Christoph met and married Herta Dohm. Herta would have  three children, Michael, Vincent, and Katherina. Christoph then entered the University of Munich to study medicine. It was during this time that he and his best friend, Alexander,  met up with Hans Scholl, the founder of the White Rose. They all thought alike. They despised Adolf Hitler and hated Nazism.

The name, White Rose, signified non-violence and peaceful protest. It was a group that simply wanted to exert intellectual resistance to the Third Reich. In March of 1942, the White Rose began their clandestine assault against the Nazi regime. Their weapons of attack were leaflets. They began mailing the leaflets to random names they picked from the phone book. They tried to find doctors, lawyers, musicians, and scholars.

Then they began leaving them around the different college campuses such as the University of Hamburg and their school, the University of Munich. The leaflets begged the German citizens to fight back against the tyrannical Nazis.

Christoph joined the group after they had started distributing the leaflets. The group tried their best to keep Christoph in a low-profile position. He did not even write leaflets. He was the only one of the group married with two children and they all wanted to do their best to protect his family. So did he.

Christoph had never been born into a specific religion but he always was drawn to religion and the existence of God. His friends were Catholic and their faith influenced him greatly. Soon, he would embrace it fully.

The White Rose group had produced and distributed five different leaflets. The distribution of the leaflets had spread from Munich and to other cities. Over 15, 000 leaflets were used to attack Nazi crimes, oppression, and the mass murder of the Jews. The White Rose quickly climbed to a top spot on the Nazi wanted list.

Christoph finally lent his hand to the leaflets production by designing the layout for the sixth one. This is the one that Hans Scholl had in his pocket when he was arrested. It would prove to be the only evidence of Christoph’s involvement with the White Rose.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were distributing the leaflets on campus when a caretaker spotted them doing so. The man, being a “good Nazi,” quickly reported them to the authorities. The Gestapo took them into custody. Hans and Sophie were searched and they found the leaflet. Handwriting samples taken led them to Christoph.

Hans, his sister, Sophie, and Christoph were interrogated relentlessly by the Gestapo and then taken to the People’s Court. The date was February 21, 1943. They were accused of treason and sentenced to death. German law stated that they should have a ninety-day wait before execution. It made no difference in the “People’s Court.”  They would die that very day.

Christoph, born into no religion, asked if a Catholic priest could visit him. He requested to be baptized and was received into the faith. Sometime during the following hour, he and his two friends, Hans and Sophie, were guillotined.

On November 3, 1999, Christoph Probst was included in the Martyrology of the Catholic Church.

Blessed Christoph Probst, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Saint Barbara; raised a Pagan, her Reasoning led her to Discover her Creator

St. Barbara; Martyr:   One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

St. Barbara was born sometime in the middle of the 3rd century in a place called Heliopolis, a city which today would be located somewhere in Lebanon. Barbara’s pagan father was a rich and influential man, and his name was Dioscorus.

As Barbara grew, she became more and more beautiful. When her mother passed away, her father became fixated on Barbara and began devoting himself to her in an ever-increasing and overbearing manner. He decided to hide her from anyone who did not know her.

Dioscorus built a tower for his daughter, and only her pagan teachers and servants were allowed to see her. Barbara did have a view of the surrounding woodlands and would stare at the flowers in the meadows and the running streams. She began to wonder where they came from. Her reasoning helped her to realize that there must be a First Cause for such order and beauty.

It followed that Barbara’s reasoning would take her to realize that the idols her father and the pagans worshipped were soulless and possessed no power. She knew these ‘things’ could not have created the world she could see. A desire swelled within her to know the real Creator of the world. She decided to spend her life in a state of virginity and to find this Creator.

Word of the beautiful young woman spread throughout the city, and many came to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father wanted her to marry someone he chose. She begged him to let her live her own life and told him that his persistence would drive them apart.

Dioscorus did not listen. But he did decide that his keeping her locked in a tower may have caused her to reject a different lifestyle. He proceeded to give her permission to leave the tower giving her freedom to choose her friends. Barbara headed into the city and met some young maidens. These ladies taught her about God and creation and the Blessed Trinity.

Soon after (and, many believe it was God’s grace) a priest from Alexandria, disguised as a merchant, arrived in Heliopolis. He spent time with Barbara instructing her in the Christian faith. Soon she was baptized, and after that, the priest returned to his own country.

Dioscorus wanted his daughter back home, so he decided to build her a beautiful house of her own with a huge bathhouse within.  He ordered the bathhouse to have two windows, but Barbara asked the workers to put in three. She wanted them to represent the Blessed Trinity. She also carved a cross into the marble wall near the windows.

Her father was angry at the window being added, and when Barbara explained why she had done it and how she had become a Christian believing in the Triune God, Dioscorus was enraged. He grabbed his sword and was about to strike her with it, but she managed to run away.

He chased after her but she managed to reach a hill that had a small cave in the side of it, and she hid inside. Her father, unrelenting, tracked her down, found her,  and dragged her from the cave. He handed her over to Matrianus, who was the head of the local authorities. Barbara was beaten again and again and during her torment prayed continually for courage and strength.

Finally, after being beaten and tortured and still refusing to give in to her father’s demands, Dioscorus took his daughter out to a field, and with his sword, beheaded his own child. On the way back to the compound he was struck by a bolt of lightning, and his body was devoured by flames.

St. Barbara died in the late third century. Much of what we know about her comes from the book called the Golden  Legend (Legenda Sanctorum) written and compiled by Jacobus de Varagine. His work was the primary source for acquiring information about many saints and was used up until the Protestant Reformation when the “new learning” took hold in theology.

St. Barbara is among those who are called the Fourteen Holy Helpers  (Aleteia; July 2017) and her protection is sought against lightning, fire, and explosions.  Her feast day, shared with others, (including St, Peter Chrysologus and St. John Damascene)  is December 4th.

St. Barbara, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

 

In 2018, Advent and Hanukkah begin on the same day, December 2. Here are some facts about Hanukkah you may not know.

Advent & Hanukkah              Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

This year, Sunday,  December 2nd,  hosts two great religious events. One is the beginning of the 2018 Advent Season. The other is the beginning of the great Jewish holiday, Hanukkah,  which begins at sundown on the same day.  Since it is important for us Catholic/Christians to be aware of our Jewish heritage, (ie; the entire Holy Family was Jewish as were their relatives and friends) here are some facts about Hanukkah.

In our Catholic Bible the Old Testament, 1 Maccabees 4:59,  reads; “Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days from the 25th day of  the month of Chislev.”

The connection to the New Testament is in John 10: 22-35. This begins with the Feast of Dedication aka the Festival of Lights which is Hanukkah and Jesus is celebrating it by saying, “…and scripture cannot be set aside…”

Interestingly, Hanukkah, which took place in 165 BC, is the only Jewish holiday not included in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). There are several theories as to why this is. Two of them are;  since it was put together in the first century it was too close to the actual occurrence to write about it; or, they did not want to cause any grief with their Roman rulers. Ironically, the story appears only in the Catholic Bible as Maccabees is not in the King James version.

Here are some other Hanukkah facts:

  • Oily foods are a tradition: Potato pancakes and jelly donuts are important because they represent the oil that burned for eight days

 

  • Cheese is a lesser-known Hanukkah tradition. This is about the story from the Book of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who seduces the Assyrian general, fills him with cheeses and wine, and waits until he passes out. Then she beheads him empowering the Jewish army to conquer the Assyrians, saving

 

  • Hanukkah does fall on the same date every year; that is if you use the Hebrew calendar. It falls on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (Chislev). Unfortunately, the Hebrew calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from late November to late December. Last year it began on December 12. In 2013 it began on Thanksgiving day.

 

  • Hanukkah can be spelled several different ways; Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanuka, and Chanucah.

 

  • Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday because of Christmas. Up until the last part of the nineteenth century, Hanukkah was a minor holiday. It was nothing on the scale of Passover or Rosh Hashanah. There were two reasons it grew in popularity, and those reasons came from the incredibly popular Christmas season. One reason was to deflect attention away from the Christmas spirit, and the other was so the Jewish children had something to celebrate so they would not become jealous of their Christian friends.

 

  • Giving children coins during Hanukkah is an old tradition. It originally was the only gift children would receive. The custom came from Eastern Europe where teachers were given a bit of money as a “Thank you” for their hard work. In the 1920s it evolved in America into the chocolate :gelt.” Lofts Candy Corp began producing the chocolate gold coins and their popularity quickly grew. They were called “gelt” by the Jewish people and that custom is still very popular.

 

  • Latkes are a popular Eastern European food which is a staple of the Jewish Holiday. The interesting thing about Latkes is that they are not popular in Israel. In Israel, you will find plenty of jelly-donuts. Latkes (similar to potato pancakes) are cooked in animal fat, which was never in abundance in Israel. But in Eastern Europe it is used all of the time

 

  • Lastly, this year Hanukkah will end at sundown on December 10. Advent ends on Christmas Eve.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Prayer to St. Gertrude the Great for the Souls in Purgatory

St. Gertrude the Great           public domain

Posted by Larry @ Cradlingcatholic.com

Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great 

Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal church,
those in my own home and within my family.

Our Lord dictated this prayer to St. Gertrude the Great and told her this would release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said

On All Soul’s Day (and every day) we must remember that God’s Mercy has no Bounds

 

Babe Ruth                       en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

All Soul’s Day is more than just a day to remember and pray for our departed loved ones. It is a day we should embrace fully because the faith we carry within us is validated.  That validation is there for all of us because we can see the Mercy and Love of God and how it is available to every person, everywhere—if they so choose…every day of the year.

An example of how this Love and Mercy shows no bounds can be found in the following two people who long ago left this life. They are an unlikely duo, and I am sure that while they were alive, they never met. They are Rudolf Hoess, the Nazi War Criminal (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), and  Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived;

  • Rudolf Hoess (sometimes spelled Hoss)

Rudolf Hoess is considered history’s greatest mass murderer. He was the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz who got up every morning, had a nice breakfast with his wife and five children, and then went to work where he supervised the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children.

Hoess was a happily married Catholic man and would come home after “work” and have dinner with his family. He had a nice view from his dining room window. He could see the giant chimney stacks from the crematoria. He had an affair with an Auschwitz prisoner and to hide the evidence sent her to the gas chamber. He even wrote poetry about the “beauty” of Auschwitz.

Arrested as a war criminal Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging. Before his execution he asked for a priest. On April 10, 1947, he received the Sacrament of Penance. The next day he received Holy Communion which was also his Viaticum. He was hanged on April 16, 1947.

  • George Herman “Babe” Ruth

 

Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895. He was (according to his folks) an incorrigible child and at the age of seven they placed him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe remained there for the next twelve years. He was a baptized Catholic and had received his First Holy Communion.

Babe’s affinity for baseball became obvious quickly. Brother Mathias, who had become a father figure for Ruth, saw this and asked Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Orioles, to take a look at the boy. Dunn liked what he saw, took Ruth under his wing and became his legal guardian. The rest is history. Babe Ruth was and still is, inarguably, the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.

But Babe’s life off the field was a bit different. Living the “good life” he had forgotten one thing; his faith. He was a ball player by day, and a “party animal”  by night. He had fame and fortune and never looked back until—1946. That is when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He was scheduled for surgery and the night before his friend, Paul Casey, said to him, “Hey Babe,  don’t you think it’s time to put your house in order?”

Babe knew exactly what Paul was talking about and asked for a priest. That very night Babe Ruth made a full confession and the following morning received Holy Communion. Just a shell of the man he had once been the “Babe” lived two more years. He passed away on August 16, 1948.

That is a profile of two men: one who committed the most heinous crimes imaginable,  murdering callously and ruthlessly God’s creations every day. The other is about a happy, go-lucky, talented baseball player who forgot about God and enjoyed life, as he saw it, to the fullest.

Rudolf Hoess turned back to his faith when his own death was imminent. He asked for God’s mercy. If our Faith is what we are taught it is—he received it. Did he deserve it? As someone said a few years ago, “Who are we to judge?” The same applies to Babe Ruth and every other person God has created who seeks His mercy and forgiveness.

All Soul’s Day is a day to rejoice; a day to rejoice in knowing that our loved ones and friends who have gone before us were given every possible chance to attain their heavenly reward. God’s Love and Mercy has brought many of his fallen children home.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

Jacques de Jesus; a little-known Hero from the Holocaust

Father Jacques de Jesus—–public domain

By Larry Peterson

He was born in Normandy, France in 1900 and he was named Lucien Bunel. His dad, who was a deeply humble man and dedicated himself as much as could to helping others, was an inspiration to his son and young Lucien felt the call to the priesthood.

Ordained a priest in 1925, Father Lucien worked in the Diocese of Rouen and became a noted speaker and teacher. He also maintained a deep interior prayer life. But he yearned for more.

Growing up Lucien believed he was being called to join the Trappists. However, he wanted something that included the prayer life combined with helping others. He was introduced to the Discalced Carmelites and discovered a tradition that fulfilled his needs.  In 1930 he joined the  Carmelites in Lille, France and took the name he would henceforth be known by; Jacques de Jesus.

Pere (Father) Jacques de Jesus was asked if he would consider opening a school for boys. He had not yet taken his final vows but he readily agreed. He managed to open Petit College Sainte-Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon in 1933. He took his final vows in 1934 and immediately became the headmaster at the school.

As Nazi persecution continually grew, Pere Jacques became more and more upset and disgusted with the action of the Third Reich. He decided that he would make his school a haven for young men seeking to avoid service in the German army and also to harbor Jewish boys. He also became part of the French Resistance.

In 1943 Pere Jacques, using false names, enrolled three Jewish boys;  Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser.  He also hid a  fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, by saying he was just a worker at the school. He went a step further and hired the noted botanist, Lucien Weil, as a teacher.

Pere Jacques was informed upon by nearby neighbors who greatly feared the Nazis and did not want to get in trouble for not saying anything. Consequently, Pere Jacques and his three Jewish students were arrested on January 15, 1944. Lucien Weil, his wife and his mother were also arrested at their home on the same day.

The German SS deported the three boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz on February 3, 1944. All of them died there.  Pere Jaques was imprisoned in various concentration camps until finally being placed in the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. He quietly went about doing his priestly best to raise the morale of the prisoners.

When all of the priests at the camp were moved to Dachau, Jacques hid his priestly identity and was left behind. He was the only Catholic priest for the 20, 000 prisoners still at Mauthausen-Gusen.

The camp population included many Polish citizens and Pere Jacques learned enough Polish to be able to minister to the mostly Catholic prisoners. They called him Pere Zak and grew to love the humble priest. When learning that he was also part of the French Resistance, he gained the respect of all the prisoners.

Sick with tuberculosis, Pere Jacques was getting weaker and weaker. In May of 1945, American troops liberated Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. Pere Jacques was down to 75 pounds and died in an Austrian hospital a few weeks later.

In 1985 Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Center, honored pere Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to hide Jewish students from the Nazis.

Pere Jacques de Jesus’ cause for sainthood has been started. This is the prayer for his canonization:

Prayer of canonization

 Father infinitely good, You gave to Father Jacques de Jésus

The desire to love you and to love all men, From a heart without sharing.

You have showered him with gifts for the education of the young,

You chose him as a priest,  You called him in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

In the inhuman distress of the deportation camps,  You made him a burning witness of faith and love,

Until the total gift of his life.

Give us the graces we ask you,  By his intercession and, if that is your will,

Glorify him in your church,  By your Son Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

                         ©Larry Peterson 2018