Alzheimer’s Disease—The Ultimate Enemy of the Lifelong Love Story

By Larry Peterson

If you and your spouse have lived within a marriage that has been filled with an unconditional, unselfish, love for each other, then you have been truly blessed. Giving of oneself to another “no matter what,” creates a connection that can never be broken, and it leaves behind a journey that has been sheathed with laughter, joy, comfort, and compassion powered by that love.

This was God’s plan, and many have embraced it and lived it and reaped the rewards of truly being ONE. Loving someone more than yourself can be a hard thing to do and many have tried but failed. But far more have tried and succeeded by emptying themselves for each other.

I have two dear friends, better yet I shall call them the BEST friends anyone could ever have. Their names are Mike and Roberta, and we met 35 years ago when our sons were playing youth baseball. Their friendship was unconditional, unquestioned, and given freely, without reservation. They were unhesitatingly there for my family and later, after my wife, Loretta had passed, for me.

As is the way of things time never waits for anyone and keeps moving forward.  Now Roberta looks at the dying person in the bed before her and realizes that part of herself is lying there too. Suddenly their lives together scroll before her. The courtship, the wedding, the birth of their child, the laughter, the good times and the bad, the crying, and so forth. This is when having God in your life is crucial. Hope springs eternal and therein lies the truth of the power of faith.

My friend, Mike, was raised in an orphanage in Philadelphia. Long ago, his mother dropped him off in front of the place on a snowy, Christmas Eve. She left him standing there with a note pinned to his jacket. He was four years old. When he turned eighteen, he was dismissed from the orphanage, given a few bucks, and offered “best wishes and God’s blessings.”

He walked away from that place and immediately joined the United States Marine Corp. From that day forward, Mike, who was a trucker, has walked, talked and looked like a Marine. Most of all he has loved his family and his country as completely as he could.

Roberta, who was a florist, was one of three sisters and was also from Philadelphia. Her life looks like different chapters in a novel whose genre could be considered “urban legend melodrama.” She was one of three sisters and was abused as a child. She lost her first husband to diabetes when she was thirty-one years old. Her father, an alcoholic, was burned over 75% of his body and she cared for him until he recovered and could somewhat function on his own.

Then she turned to alcohol which ultimately led her to Alcoholics Anonymous. Mike was also attending AA, and that is where they met. He became her sponsor, and he was relentless in his quest to get her to stop drinking. She eventually did, and they got married. (Neither of them has had a drink in over 50 years).

A half-century of climbing and struggling down into the valleys and over the mountains of the journey called “life” has passed. They never wavered, stood tall, and together stared down and conquered all obstacles in their path. They raised a son who grew up to be the chief pilot for a well-known airline. Mike and Roberta are a living definition of the word, marriage.

One more challenge stands before them. The only problem is, this time only one of them can confront the challenge. And, upon completing that challenge, that person will be alone.

Mike has been attacked by the cruel demon known as Alzheimer’s disease.  It began erasing his memory some years ago, and it has relentlessly worked its evil 24/7. Today Mike is in a “memory care unit” inside a nursing home. He remembers nothing yet his face lights up and he smiles ear to ear when his dear Roberta walks into the room. He thinks she is his “mommy.” Except she is not.  He also has lost the ability to swallow and can no longer eat or drink.

His lover and best friend is now faced with the task of watching him leave her forever. She has asked Hospice to keep him pain-free and as comfortable as possible. The journey of the long goodbye has reached the last turn before arriving at the station. All that Roberta can do is embrace what was and know that his spirit will always be with her. Then she can take comfort in knowing that one day, holding hands, they will stand together again.

May God bless and have mercy on all Alzheimer’s victims and their families.

 

 

 

The Miracle of the Chest Lost at Sea—The Story of Our Lady of Bonaria

Our Lady of Bonaria & the Chest Lost at Sea
public domain

By Larry Peterson

There are numerous miracles that have taken place within the 800-year-old Mercedarian Order including that of St. Peter Armengol who gave himself over to the Muslims to save another. He was hanged from a tree only to be found alive six days later.  He told everyone that the Blessed Mother had held him up the entire time. When they took him down, he smelled like roses. Another was St. Raymond Nonnatus, the saint who was never born. (Click on his name for the fascinating story).

The other morning, I attended Mass which was offered by a friend of mine; he is a Mercedarian priest, and his name is Fr. Daniel Bowen.  After Mass, he, I and several others had breakfast together. During breakfast, Father Daniel began to tell a story. It was about Our Lady of Bonaria who became the Patroness of Sardinia. It was a story I had never heard.

Tradition says that on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1370, a ship sailing from Spain to Italy, was caught up in a terrible storm off the coast of Sardinia. The sailors were sure the boat was going to sink, so they began throwing cargo over the sides to lighten the load.

The last crate was unbelievably heavy, and the sailors could barely lift it. As soon as they managed to get it over the side and it hit the water, the storm stopped, the winds subsided, and the sea turned calm. They tried desperately to retrieve the crate, but it disappeared. Days later, and unknown to the sailors, the crate washed up on the shore of Sardinia at the foot of a hill called Bonaria.

There was a large crowd of people on the beach when the big wooden box floated onto the shore. They all hurried to see what it might be. Try as they may they could not open nor move it; it was too heavy. A child in the crowd cried out, “Call the Mercedarians. They will be able to open it.”

The nearby church and monastery had been under the care of the Mercedarians since 1335. The people hurried to the church and asked the friars to come with them to see the mysterious crate. When the friars arrived at the beach, they were able to lift the box without hardly any effort.

They then carried it to the church and in front of a large crowd of curious people opened it up without a bit of trouble. What they found inside the box amazed everyone there. It was a statue of Our Blessed Mother holding the Christ Child. In the Virgin’s left hand was a candle. The candle was lit.

Unknown to those present they had just witnessed the fulfillment of a prophecy. When the church was built in 1330, Father Carlo Catalan was the ambassador to the Argonese Court. During the dedication, he told the monks, “A Great Lady will come to live in this place. After her coming, the malaria infecting this area will disappear, and her image will be called the Virgin of Bonaria.”

The friars, recalling the words of the priest, named the statue “Our Lady of Good Air.” They named it this because of the winds that had blown the statue across the sea to them. Due to the miracle word spread quickly among the people.

To this day sailors invoke the Blessed Virgin as their protectress, and the devotion is practiced in many places around the world. The founder of Argentina, Pedro de Mendoza, named the capital of the country after Our Lady of Bonaria calling it Buenos Aires (Holy Mary of the Fair Winds).

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, visited the shrine and gave a canonical coronation to the famous statue. He also bestowed the  Golden Rose on the Shrine.

Pope Francis made a repeat Apostolic visit to Sardinia in September 2013.

Finally, it should be noted, the Mercedarians have staffed and continually cared for the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria for over 680 years.

Our Lady of Bonaria, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

Motherhood—One of God’s greatest gifts is the Instinctive Love of a Mother for her Child…no Matter what their Age

 

even a grown man can be mommy’s “little boy”

public domain

By Larry Peterson

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Abraham Lincoln

What follows took place over a period of a few minutes.

The man presented an imposing figure. He was dressed in his Air Force uniform which had a crowd of ribbons on the left breast which covered his heart. He stood, paused and then stepped from his pew. Walking purposefully, he moved and strode up the four steps into the sanctuary. He walked over to the ambo, turned and looked out at the people now before him. He grabbed each side of the ambo, and each of his hands squeezed it tightly.

He turned his head left and peered downward. In the center aisle at the foot of the altar were the remains of his dad. The middle-aged man, a disciplined officer in the United States Air Force, shook his head, pursed his lips, and looked out at those before him and tried to speak. He did not succeed. Instead, what came from within him were soft, quiet sobs.

There was a woman sitting in the first row. Stepping from the pew she calmly walked up the sanctuary steps and over to the sobbing man. She sidled up to him and leaned into his side. Then ever so softly, she leaned her head against his shoulder. He turned and looked down at her. She turned and looked up at him. She extended her arm in back of him and rubbed his back. After several moments, she smiled at him and headed back to her pew.

It had been a spontaneous moment in time as the natural love of a mom for her child compelled her to rescue him. There was no thought about it. No, it was instinctive, a God-given trait that is instilled in mothers. It is a powerful love that only exists between a mother and her child. How powerful that love is that it can quickly calm a professional military officer who had lost his composure because of the death of his dad.

He had once again become a little boy. Mommy, ignoring the pain of her own personal heartache, instinctively knew it and went to him, embraced him and comforted him and made it “all better.” And therein lies the magnificence of one of God’s greatest gifts, the love of a mom for her child, no matter what their age. It is a beautiful thing.

 

The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a Mother.

-St. Therese of Lisieux

Copyright Larry Peterson 2018

A Saintly Journey—The Road to Sainthood is a Fascinating Journey into Human Holiness

How-to-become-a-Saint—-quinn-dombrowski-cc-by-sa-2-0

By Larry Peterson

On May 12, 2013, the Catholic Church canonized 802 saints. Blessed Antonio Primaldo and the other 799 soon-to-be  saints were living in the town of Otranto in the south of Italy. The year was 1480.

The Ottoman Turks had taken over the city and demanded these “infidels” convert to Islam. They refused and were all murdered. In addition to those 800 being elevated to sainthood, Blessed Maria Garcia Zavala of Mexico and Blessed Laura Montoya of Columbia were also canonized  on that same day.

The 802 newly canonized saints joined the roles of more than 10,000 saints who are venerated in the Catholic Church. How did over 10,000 people manage to be canonized? It may have to do with the fact that in the early years of Christianity many different communities honored or venerated hundreds of people whose stories were not backed by solid fact.

Some stories were made up. For example, St. George the Dragon Slayer, is from the third century. He is honored by both Muslims and Christians. Is the story fact or legend? In the French countryside St. Guinefort is venerated as the protector of babies. It seems that Guinefort saved a baby from a snakebite. The only problem was, Guinefort was a dog.

Interestingly, 52 of the first 55 popes became saints during Catholicism’s first 500 years. During the last one thousand years, only seven popes have attained sainthood, and that includes Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII.

The first saint formally canonized was St. Ulrich of Augsburg. He was canonized by Pope John XV in 993. During the 12th century, the church, realizing they needed an  orderly system, began to put a process in place.  Then, in 1243, Pope Gregory IX, proclaimed that only a pope had the authority to declare someone a saint. That process still exists to this day.

So, what is the actual process on the road to sainthood? We know this for sure, sainthood is not an easy honor to attain. There are five steps in the journey. The first step begins right in the neighborhood where the proposed saint lived and was known.

After a person has been dead for five years (this time frame may be waived by the Pope), friends and neighbors may get together and document all they can about that particular person. They would then present their evidence to the local bishop requesting he begin an investigation into the person’s holy and exemplary life.

If the bishop feels the evidence is worthy of the cause moving forward, he may appoint a “postulator” to represent the cause. If, after further investigation, they  feel the cause is worthy, they forward it to Rome.  Now the evidence  goes before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. At this point in the process, the person receives the title, “Servant of God.”

The Congregation for the Causes consists of nine theologians who thoroughly review all the documentation that has been presented to them. The person’s writings are examined, and all aspects of their life are picked apart. Nothing can go against the teachings of the Church.

The Congregation even has a “devil’s advocate” who raises questions and objections about the candidate. The Congregation must be sure before moving forward. If they decide the candidate has been a person of “heroic virtue,” they are declared “Venerable,” and their cause moves on towards the next step; Beatification.

Except in the cases of martyrdom, Beatification requires one miracle. The candidate’s character and holiness have already been established, but having a miracle attributed to someone can take centuries. If a person has been killed for their faith, they have been martyred “In Odium Fidei” which means, “In hatred of the faith.”

This death is honored with Beatification and the title Blessed is bestowed on the person. Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered while saying Mass in France in 2016, is an example of someone experiencing this type of death.

Another death is called, in defensum castitatis” meaning, in defense of purity.” This too warrants Beatification and the person is given the title of Blessed. Two young Catholic heroines who died in this manner are St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Pierina Morosini.

Pope Francis recently introduced a new road to sainthood. It honors those who sacrificed their lives for others. (The Mercedarians are known for this). This is called “Maiorem hac delectionem (nemo habet)” which means; “Greater love than this (no man hath).”

Lastly, there is Canonization. At this point, we are waiting for one more miracle. Upon that happening it is given to the Pope who makes the final decision. It is then a person is declared a saint.

To all you saints (and those in the queue) above, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

St. Vincent de Paul; His Feast Day is Sept. 27—Some facts about his life you may not know

St. Vincent de Paul                 Wikipedia commons

Larry Peterson

I have been a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for twenty-five years. At present I am not active but being part of this organization has allowed me to interact and work with the least and most marginalized of God’s people. My affiliation with the society has allowed me to experience some of the most uplifting moments of my life.

Those who reached out to us were always in dire straits. They had no food, had been evicted, could not pay for life-saving medication, had no water, had no gas or electricity among other necessities of life. There were even those who had no shoes.  Somehow, we always managed to help anyone who came to us. If we did not have the capabilities, we were able to forward them to a place that could.

I mention those things because it all goes back to the example and inspiration displayed by one man; St. Vincent de Paul. On his feast day of September 27, here are a few things you may not have known about this great saint.

  • The first one is; St. Vincent did NOT found the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was named in his honor by Frederick Ozanam, the 20-year-old student who modeled the society after St. Vincent’s works and teachings. The highlighted link will give you Frederick’s story.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Desperate for money Vincent was notified of an inheritance he had received from an elderly woman who knew him. He had made the journey to Bourdeaux to claim the estate. Disappointed that the inheritance was mostly needed to satisfy a debt, Vincent headed back to Toulouse. The ship he had taken was attacked by pirates and most of the crew was killed or wounded, including the captain. Vincent and the other passengers were taken into chains and sold into slavery and taken to Tunis. Vincent remained a slave for two years before escaping with another and making it back to France.

 

  • Vincent could have been a “community organizer.”  Upon returning to France he was working in a church in the country. The area was so poor many people actually died from starvation. Vincent was horrified and began contacting old friends, many of whom were wealthy, asking for help. He formed groups and they went from house to house seeking clothing, food, and furniture. They were so successful that word spread and other parishes asked to be taught how to organize such efforts. Vincent’s organizational skills began being emulated all over France.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was the founder of a religious order called The Vincentians. Under Vincent’s rule, those who entered ministry pledged to devote their lives to the spiritual and material needs of the poor. Later on Vincent, along with Louise de Marillac, founded the Sisters of Charity. The work started by Vincent de Paul expanded to opening hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the mentally ill. His work also included serving prisoners and slaves.

 

Vincent de Paul died on September 27, 1660. He was canonized a saint on August 13, 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor. I belong to God and to the poor.” –St. Vincent de Paul”

St. Vincent de Paul, please pray for us.

 

                              copyright Larry Peterson2018

Catholics and America; “Joined at the Hip” We must be; look at all the American cities named after a Catholic saint

Christianity & America–inseparable
Istockphoto

By Larry Peterson

One of our greatest Americans, George Washington, said of the United States Constitution: “The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of Providence as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it.”

The United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787,

and on  December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights went into effect after Virginia ratified it. The First Amendment assured us of these fundamental freedoms: Religion, Speech and Press, and the Right to peaceably assemble and petition grievances. Note how the very first freedom guaranteed we citizens is that of Religion.

In the United States, we are free to practice any religion we want, but there is one religion among the many that stands out across this great land. From our northern to the southern borders and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, these are cities named after Catholic saints. They say, loud and clear, Catholic!

The last I heard Catholicism is the only religion which honors so many people who have gone before us and have given them the title of Saint. This title, after exhaustive research and study into the person’s life,  is only bestowed on the “best of the best.” which means those who have sacrificed everything, sometimes including their lives, for the love of God.

Remarkably, many of these Catholics have been called upon to represent an American city when their prayerful intercession is invoked by folks settling a certain area. For example, San Francisco is named after St. Francis of Assisi. This city was founded in 1776 as the Mission of San Francisco de Asis. The monks and the people called on St. Francis to protect them and their new home.

California alone has many towns and cities named after saints. Many of these started as Spanish missions. San Bernardino is named after St. Bernard of Siena. San Clemente is named after St. Clement who was the fourth Pope. Then there is San Diego, a major U.S. city; San Juan Capistrano, founded by St. Junipero Serra and named in honor of St. John Capistrano. We must mention Sacramento, California. This city is named after Christ present in the Most Holy Eucharist. We cannot get more Catholic than that.

There are many across this land such as St. Anthony, Idaho named after St. Anthony of Padua; St. Paul, Oregon named after the apostle Paul; St. Mary’s, West Virginia named after Our Lady; St. Florian, Alabama, named after a Roman soldier who died for the faith; St. Joseph, Oregon; St. Edward, Nebraska; Santa Rosa, New Mexico named after St. Rose of Lima; and St. Ignatius, Montana. Let’s not forget, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are so many more.

It may not have always been so, but today our nation is visibly and profoundly linked to the Catholic faith. We, as Catholics, are bound to our nation through the principles set in place by our non-Catholic Founders. Freedom of religion has allowed for streets, buildings, organizations, sports teams, rivers, lakes, and cities to be able to bear the name of Catholic saints.

There is not a shred of doubt that Catholicism and America are forever linked. Freedom of religion is the greatest freedom guaranteed to a people. We can love and worship God as we see fit and can do it on a daily basis.

Virtually every state in the union has a city or town named after a Catholic saint, people who are shining examples of all that is GOOD. The secular world can try as they may, but their quest to remove God from our lives will never succeed. How can it? We have an army of saints and the Rosary. Secularism may cause some grief but, in the end, it does not have a prayer.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

Meet Joseph Calasanctius—More or less unheard of yet he is the Patron Saint of Catholic Schools

St. Joseph Calasanz–Patron of Catholic Schools pd

By Larry Peterson

What follows is about a man who was ordained a priest and established the first free school for children in Europe, something unheard of at the time. His name is Joseph Calasantius. He went on the become the patron saint of Catholic Schools.

Joseph Calasantius (also known as Joseph Calasanz) was born in the Kingdom of Aragon (today called Spain). At the age of fourteen, he was already feeling a strong calling to the religious life. His dad wanted him to get married to carry on the family name, but  Joseph had different feelings about this. He ultimately decided to pursue his calling from God.

He was ordained a priest on December 17, 1583. He quickly advanced to secretary and confessor to the bishop.  He was tasked with establishing order and discipline among the clergy and this he did.

He became Vicar-general of Trempe, Spain and it was during this period of his life that both his bishop and his father died. It was in the midst of this grief period that Joesph had a vision. “Go to Rome,” he was told. In his dream, he saw many children surrounded by angels. He gave away his inheritance, renounced his worldly possessions and headed to Rome.

Upon arriving in Rome, he was deeply moved by seeing so many poor, uneducated children. His credentials helped land him a position in the residence of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna with the job of being his theological advisor and tutor to the cardinal’s nephew. It was here when he became part of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

Once part of the Confraternity, he quickly learned how many poor, uneducated children were in need of his help. Many were orphans and many were simply homeless. He tried to get them into school but the teachers refused, demanding much more money to teach “vagabonds.” But God was waiting for the right moment.

Joseph asked a priest friend, Father Brendani, if he could help him. Amazingly,  Father Brendani offered him two small rooms at his parish. Two other priests, believing in the mission of Father Joseph, agreed to work with him. In November 1597, only five years after arriving in Rome and having to also learn the language, Father Joseph opened the first, free school for poor children.

Other priests began stepping forward to help, and soon they needed to expand. In 1602, they managed to find larger quarters. Pope Clement VIII (1592-1603) and Pope Paul V (1605-21) contributed to their efforts. Soon, Joseph was in charge of a half-dozen teachers and hundreds of students.  Then Joseph began to organize his teaching priests into a religious community.

The work of Joseph Calasanctious was spreading. By the end of the summer of 1616, they had opened a free school in Frascati, a town outside of Rome. Then on March 6, 1617, Pope Paul V approved a new order which was called (this is long) the Pauline Congregation of the Poor Clerks of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools. The order became known as the Piarists.

Joseph Calasanctious and his fourteen priest followers received their new habits on March 25. They became the very first priests whose primary mission was to teach elementary school kids…no matter who they were or what their circumstances.

However, many of the ruling class feared to educate the poor. They predicted it would lead to social unrest and war between the classes. Other priests and religious feared that they would be absorbed by the Piarists. As Joseph’s order grew and more schools opened, some of his own order began to turn against him. They even managed to convince the Pope that something was wrong within the order.

Joseph Calasanctious, a man who loved his priesthood and fought for the education of poor kids, was arrested and forced to stand trial before the Holy Office aka The Inquisition. The work of his order was shut down and his members absorbed by the regular diocese. Joseph did not lose hope but died on August 25, 1648. Twenty years later, Pope Clement IX, completely restored the order and vindicated Joseph Calasanctious.

St. Joseph Calasanctious (Calasanz) was canonized a saint by Pope Clement XIII on July 16, 1767. He is the Patron Saint of Catholic Schools. His feast day pre-Vatican II, is still on August 27. After 1969 it was moved to August 25.

St. Joseph Calasanctious, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018