By Larry Peterson
On April 14, 2018, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He presented the cardinal with the names of eight Catholics who have attained the designation of Servants of God. This designation is awarded to those who have attained the first pedestal on their road to canonization. Among those named was Servant of God, Father Varghese Payyapilly Palakkappilly (yes, that is a definite tongue-twister so we will keep it at Father Varghese).
Cardinal Amato was authorized by the Holy Father to place those named worthy of receiving a promulgation of “the Heroic Virtues.” Pope Benedict XIV, 1740 to 1758, who is considered the defining authority on these virtues, wrote five volumes about them. They are still used in determining if a Servant of God meets the criteria of demonstrating ‘heroic virtue.’
A simple way to think of ‘heroic virtue’ might be as a virtue that has become a second nature. It becomes a habit of good behavior that can only be attained through the love of God and a closeness to Him, a closeness that most of us never reach. Heroic Virtue must be a part of those who would be advanced to the level of Venerable from Servant of God.
Father Varghese was born in India, in the province of Kerala, on August 8, 1876. He attended St. Albert’s School in Ernakulam which is on the southeast coast of India. From St. Albert’s he moved onto the Central Seminary in Sri Lank (formerly Ceylon) an island off the coast of India. From there he attended the Papal Seminary, also in Sri Lanka, where he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1907.
Father Verghase was assigned as a parish priest and served as such in various parishes from 1909 thru 1922. While serving at the parish in Arakuzha, he began St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School. His presence and efforts at the school and church helped reunite many estranged families and succeeded in making the church self-sufficient through land purchases.
Father Verghase also managed to acquire land for the construction of St. Joseph’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He remained there until 1929. It was reported that during Father Varghese’s tenure there, vocations to the priesthood exploded.
Father Verghases’s reputation as a kind and loving priest continued to grow. He became a member of the Diocesan Council and the Director of Apostolic Union as well as the Priests’ Provident Fund. People from all over came to him because they wanted his counsel to help them with their problems. He managed to bring many families back together using the wisdom he received from the Holy Spirit.
The simple priest was held in high esteem both by church officials and government officers. His empathy for the poor and suffering and his reputation spread far and wide after he helped many victims of the great flood of 1924. He even turned St. Mary’sHigh School into a shelter and delivered food himself by boat.
On March 19, 1927, Father Verghese founded the Sisters of the Destitute. His intention was to continue what he saw as Christ’s saving message among the poor. He found abandoned people, brought them to the shelter of the Home for the Aged and nursed them.
Today the Sisters of the Destitute, have over 1500 nuns and also include among its ranks doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers. They are located in Asia, Europe, Africa and across the United States. The operate such institutions as homes for the sick and needy, health centers, libraries, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and cancer centers.
Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathnar (that is Father Verghese’s full name) died from typhoid fever on October 5, 1929. He was buried at St. St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church in Kornthurthy, India. On August 25, 2009, Father Verghese was declared a Servant of God by the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar CatholicChurch.
When Pope Francis authorized Father Verghese as worthy of having “the heroic virtue” he (aswell as the seven others) were elevated to the rank of Venerable. A miracle attributed to Father Verghase is under review for Father Verghese and if validated, Venerable Verghase Payyappilly may become beatified.
Venerable Verghase Payyappilly, please pray for us.
By Larry Peterson
Marcel Van was born in 1928 in a small village in Northern Vietnam. It was a predominantly Catholic village, and Marcel’s mom was not only an extremely faithful woman she was also well versed in the tenets of the faith. When Marcel was barely three years old, his growing faith was already obvious. He began to tell his mom that he wanted to become a saint and she made sure that she taught him all that she could.
Marcel loved to pray and practice his religion. He quickly developed a love for the Rosary and a growing attachment to the Blessed Mother. The boy’s love of Jesus filled him with the desire to make his First Holy Communion. His mom asked the pastor about this, and the priest agreed to let him begin studying for it. When he was six years old, he made his First Communion.
There was a developing desire within Marcel to join the religious life. His pastor and his mom saw to it that Marcel was sent to Huu-Bang to become part of the small monastery there. Father Joseph Nha admitted Marcel into the pre-junior seminary. He became one of the “aspirants” to the priesthood. These boys received their instruction from the older youths at the monastery who were called catechists.
In the beginning, Marcel was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new life. He was preparing to become a priest, and what could be more wonderful. But the evil demon, Jealousy, was rearing its ugly head and was about to attack young Marcel.
Marcel was a good student, worked hard, performed all his duties, and was kind and generous. The parish priest was constantly holding him up as an example for the other boys to follow. Young Marcel’s good behavior started to expose the lax and disrespectful and even bawdy behavior of the older boys. The student catechists did not like it and became intensely jealous of Marcel.
One of the catechists, Master Vinh, was the ringleader. He began demanding that Marcel allow him to beat him before he could receive Communion. He deprived him of his food, took away his Rosary and committed all sorts of diabolical attacks upon the saintly youngster. Van actually ran away several times seeking a better environment. Master Vinh was found out and expelled from the monastery. Marcel Van left during Christmas season, 1941.
Complicating Van’s life were two cyclones that destroyed his family’s village and brought them to poverty. His father, in a state of despair, took to drinking and gambling. Then his older brother, Liet, became blind. Van’s family turned against him for leaving the monastery. His sister even blamed the family’s misfortune on Vans’ “failure.” Marcel Van left his home and for a time was homeless, actually begging for his food. He returned home, and his mom made him go back to the monastery. He returned but left after two months.
Things changed around for Marcel in 1942. A friend helped him get admitted to a seminary in Lang-Son. Six months later the seminary closed down, and Van was accepted into the parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyen. It was run by two Dominican priests.
And so it was that one day Marcel Van was next to a table covered with books. He asked God to help him find a suitable book to read. Closing his eyes, he reached into the pile and pulled out a copy of “Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese. He had never heard of her, but his life was about to change forever.
Marcel Nguyen Tan Van began to read the “Story of Soul.” He began to cry. The simplicity of Therese’s love for Jesus overwhelmed him, and his devotion to St. Therese became intense. The “Little Flower” appeared to Marcel many times. She became his teacher, constant companion, and even called him “little brother.” She told him that he would never be a priest but that he was to become a “hidden apostle of Love” which was a key source of spiritual support for missionary priests. He would become the “heart of priests.”
After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu, Brother Marcel Van volunteered to go to now communist, North Vietnam. He was arrested on July 7, 1955, and died in prison on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old and rest assured his “Big Sister,” Therese, was waiting for him with open arms. He was declared a Servant of God in 1997, and his beatification process continues.
Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van, please pray for us.
By Larry Peterson
Maria Cacilia Autsch was born in Rollecken, Germany, on March 26,1900. She was the fifth of seven children and her dad, August, worked very hard as a machinist to keep his family fed. He and his wife, Amalia, were devout and knowledgeable Catholics and worked diligently to pass the faith on to their children.
The family had little money, so when Maria was fifteen, she went to work as a nanny. Her mom died in 1921 and Maria had to keep on working to help the family. Maria had always known she was being called to religious service and harbored her disappointment at not being able to do so. Her family came first, and she turned her future over to Jesus.
Finally, on September 27, 1933, she was able to enter the convent of the Trinitarian Order in Austria. It was the Spanish branch, and the Spanish had been the first women religious to come to Austria. The purpose of the sisters was to help in securing the release of captive prisoners and also working as nurses, teachers, and helping the poor and those in need.
On July 4, 1934, Maria Cacilia Autsch received a new name. She received her habit and along with it the name of Angela Maria of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On August 20 she took her first vow. Her duties were running the nursery school, teaching embroidery, caring for the sick and even helping with the fieldwork. At last, on September 28, 1938, she made her final vows.
By that time the Nazis had taken over Austria, and they wanted to seize the monastery where the sisters lived. Sister Angela defended their home and argued that it was legally Spanish property and the Nazis had no right to it. She even contacted the Spanish consul in Vienna and the Nazis, in an attempt to keep their activities quiet, relented. However, Sister Angela Maria was now on their radar.
It was August 10, 1940, when the most innocent of moments changed Sister Angela’s life forever. She had gone to buy some milk and bumped into a few women she knew. They began to converse, and Sister told them she had heard that the Allies had sunk a German ship and many Germans had died in the disaster. She finished by saying that she thought “Hitler was a calamity for Europe.”
One of the Austrian women was a Nazi sympathizer and reported her to the Gestapo. Her file was found, and she was arrested soon after. The charges were for “insulting the leader” and “sedition of the population.” All attempts by her co-sisters to obtain her release were simply ignored, and Mother Superior pleaded for her release with the head of the Gestapo several times but to no avail. Even the Spanish consul could not save her.
Sister Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus spent seventeen days at the brutal police detention center in Innsbruck. She was then assigned prisoner # 4651. With her name now a number and without trial, she was transported to the women’s camp at Ravensbruck.
True to her calling as a Trinitarian Sister, Angela Maria, in the most horrendous place imaginable, went right to work representing Jesus. Many reported of her unceasing efforts to maintain human dignity. She is frequently beaten by the guards but, as one inmate reported, “her smile and courage was a ray of sunshine in deepest hell.”
On August 16, 1942, she was transferred to the death camp at Auschwitz and assigned to the medical department. Because of her continued good spirit, self-sacrificing helpfulness and her efforts to alleviate as much misery as she could, she became known as the “Angel of Auschwitz.” Many of the other prisoners had no idea she was a Catholic nun.
In October 1942, Sister Angela came down with Typhus. She never fully recovered from this disease and was placed in the SS hospital as a nurse. On December 23, 1943, a bombing raid began, and Sister Angela was killed when she was struck in the chest with shrapnel that pierced her lungs.
On May 21, 2018, Pope Francis recognized the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God, Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus. She now has the title of “Venerable” before her name, and the next step in her journey to canonization will be beatification.
We ask Venerable Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus, to pray for us all.
Copyright Larry Peterson 2018
By Larry Peterson
Growing up and going to Catholic school, we had religion class every day. One thing we all learned about was the “Real Presence.” There was no doubt in our minds that inside the church, Jesus was truly present “body and blood, soul and divinity. He was inside the tabernacle, and He was waiting for us to “visit” Him. The phrase, “I’m going to pay a visit,” needed no explanation. So when did “visiting Jesus” start and where did Adoration and Benediction come from?
Adoration is a centuries-old practice that evolved from the earliest Christian days when the faithful, upon leaving Mass, brought the leftover consecrated bread home so it could be distributed to the sick and those who were unable to get to Mass (as an EMHC I do something similar today, but I do not take it home).
However, there were times when some of the consecrated bread was saved to distribute to the faithful during the week. This was a time when there were no daily Masses. This leftover consecrated bread had to be kept somewhere worthy of the Son of God. The people would make special places in their homes to keep the consecrated host in repose.
It appears that after Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of the Christians in 313 A.D., construction of churches began in earnest. It was during this time that the Holy Eucharist began being kept in the churches for distribution to the sick. The sacristy was the usual place for repose.
Over the next several centuries, the Eucharist was relocated to the sanctuary near or above the altar. An unexpected result of this was that the faithful were drawn to Christ present and began praying to Him privately.
The Middle Ages is when actual Adoration began to take hold. People were receiving Holy Communion less frequently so the church decreed that people only had to receive Holy Communion once a year. The changing customs and attitudes also saw a separation take place between the altars and the congregation. It seemed that the churches were trying to separate the priest from the people.
Being distanced from the actions on the altar during Mass and combining that with the infrequent reception of Holy Communion gave rise to a new phenomenon; the people began staring and/or gazing at the vessel holding the Blessed Sacrament. Since the people could not receive communion as frequently as they wanted to, they began what became known as “Adoration.” Seeing Christ in the elevated Host oftentimes replaced receiving Holy Communion.
People even started coming to Mass extra early so they could get a good spot to watch the elevation of the Host. This was also when the ringing of the bells at the consecration took hold to alert the people to what was happening. People even timed services so they could go from one church to another to witness the elevation again. It was during his time that the idea of the monstrance began to take hold.
In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of Corpus Christi be enacted throughout the universal church. Pope Urban passed away before it was implemented, so it was not until 1317 that Pope John XXII, added it to the church calendar. Since the laity was still not receiving frequent communion, this added to the practice of Adoration. Corpus Christi processions followed.
Soon the Holy Eucharist, contained in a monstrance, was being carried by the priest in procession. The procession began led by the clergy and followed by the laity. It ended with a Benediction. By the 1600s, detailed instructions for holding Benediction were put in place by the church. Eucharistic Adoration can now be traced to the 16th century. Guidelines were put in place in 1973.
In his 1980 Holy Thursday letter to priests, Dominicae cenae, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament…”
By Larry Peterson
The bloody Algerian Civil War erupted in 1993 and among the victims of this persecution were 19 monks and nuns. They were assassinated between 1994 and 1996. The “positio” (the report documenting all information about the cause for beatification) has been completed, and the elevation of these courageous, selfless, Catholics into the ranks the Beatified, could happen by the end of January, 2018.
Among the 19 murdered was a group of seven, known as the Monks of Tibhirine. These men were members of the Cistercian Order (aka Trappists). On March 27, 1996, these holy men were kidnapped from their home at Tibhirine, taken away and executed. They died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) as did the other twelve martyrs. What follows is a short peek into the life of one of these people. His name was Christian de Cherge, and he was the priest representing the others in the fruitless negotiations with the terrorists.
Christian was born in Colmar, France, on January 17, 1937. Christian’s dad was a military man, and the boy spent part of his youth in French Algeria where his dad was the commander of the 67th Artillery Regiment of Africa. Upon the families return to France, they settled in Paris.
Christian was enrolled in a school run by the Society of Mary, better known as the Marists (these men were my teachers when I was in high school and, trust me, they were “all business”). Christian de Cherge did have a secret; by the time he was eight-years-old, he knew he was called to the religious life. He said nothing, but as time passed by, he would be undeterred from that calling.
One event had a profound impact on the life of Christian de Cherge. In 1959, during the Algerian War, a Muslim by the name of Mohamed, selflessly saved Christian’s life during an attack. Christian did not know how to thank the man so he told him he would pray for him. Mohammad responded telling Christian “not to bother because Christians do not know how to pray.”
The next day Mohammed was found brutally murdered. Christian never forgot how this Muslim man, knowing the consequences of saving a Christian, did so anyway. Later in his life Christian said, “: “In the blood of this friend, I knew that my calling to follow Christ meant to live, sooner or later, in the country where it was given to me the greatest gift of love.”
Christian de Cherge went on to study the Arab language and Arab culture at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Rome. He finished studying there in 1974 and in 1984 became the Prior of the Abbey at Tibhirine.
Approximately 1 a.m on March 26, 1996, masked terrorists belonging to the AIG (Armed Islamic Group) surrounded the monastery at Tibhirine. Father Christian, knowing that his life and those of his compatriots were now perched on a tenuous rim, walked stoically out to the blood-thirsty, Jesus haters. He stood in front of the armed and masked gunmen and said, “This is a house of peace. No one has ever come in here carrying weapons. If you want to come in and talk to us, you must leave your weapons here.”
It was a very brave move, but the frightened priest did his best to look calm and collected. The invaders demanded that the monastery support the rebels with money; that the Trappist doctor goes and tend to their wounded men; and that the monks should give them all the medicine they had.
Father Christian agreed to supply all that he could. Then he reminded the terrorists that it was Christmas Eve and a very important Holy Day for Christians. Amazingly, the leader of the terrorist group, Emir Syat-Attya, apologized. They agreed to leave but said they would be back.
Father Christian went back inside and gathered together all the supplies and medications that he could. The monks knew that they would no longer need them. He handed them over to the terrorists. He went back inside and the seven had their “Last Supper” together.
On March 27, the AIG returned and took the seven monks hostage. They were all beheaded on May 22, 1996. Father Christian left these parting words in letter form:
“If I were one day to become a victim of terrorism, I would like my community, my church, and my family to remember that my life was given to God and Algeria.”
This following link will connect to the 19Martys of Algeria . Each and every one of them was a true “lover” of Jesus Christ, so much so that they emptied their blood for Him.
We ask them all to pray for us so that we too, may have the courage to stand tall for our faith.
By Larry Peterson
The story begins in 1061, more than a thousand years after the birth of Our Lord. It was during the reign of Edward the Confessor that a woman of noble heritage, Richeldis de Faverches, had been praying for guidance to fulfill her need to honor the Blessed Mother. Her prayers were answered, and Our Lady appeared to Richeldis and promptly took her spirit on a trip to Nazareth.
When they arrived there, Our Lady showed Richeldis the house where not only the Annunciation took place, but also where the Holy Family lived. Our Blessed Mother told Richeldis that she wanted a replica of this house built in the village of Walsingham, England. Richeldis was promised that “Whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed.”
Richeldis, who had been given the dimensions of the house, did not know where to put it. The ground was wet and unsuitable for building upon. She prayed for help, and the next morning discovered two areas of dry ground that were the exact dimensions needed for the house.
She picked a site near a well, but the workers could not get the walls to fit properly. Once again she prayed and the next morning awoke to find the house miraculously moved to the other site more than two hundred feet away.
Richeldis’ house quickly became a focal point for people from far and wide. They came to offer special devotion to our Blessed Mother. It became known as the “Holy House.” Not long after, the house was encased in stone to protect it from the elements. Devotion at the site continued to increase, and soon it was known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Walsingham became the premier shrine in all of medieval Christendom. Many royal visitors came to this place including Henry III, in 1226, Edward the I, who came eleven different times, Edward II, in 1361, all the way to King Henry VIII in 1511 when he came to give thanks for the birth of his son, Prince Henry (Prince Henry died in infancy when he was only 52 days old).
Numerous miracles were reported at Walsingham, and it became so revered that a place called the “Slipper Chapel” was built in 1340. The chapel was exactly one mile from the Shrine and pilgrims would stop here to remove their shoes. Once they had removed their shoes, they would journey the last mile, called the “Holy Mile” to the Shrine barefoot.
The Slipper Chapel was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of pilgrims. The chapel was put in place so that on St. Catherine’s feast day of November 25th, the sun would rise directly behind the altar. There is also a chapel of St. Catherine located in Nazareth, and it is maintained by the Knight’s of St. Catherine.
During the height of the medieval pilgrimages, the Franciscans were given permission by the Pope and the King to build a friary at Walsingham. The year was now 1347, and the religious atmosphere of the city dominated the area.
King Henry VIII, at war with the church over not receiving the divorce he wanted, ordered the dissolution of monasteries in 1538. The priory at Walsingham was closed and the “Holy House” burned to the ground. The statue of Our Lady was taken to London to be destroyed. King Henry was determined to rid his country of all sense of Catholic devotion. Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation (1829) when public expressions of faith were once again allowed.
Interestingly, Richeldis de Faverches, who Our Lady escorted to Nazareth, was a very wealthy widow. Almost 900 years later, on February 6, 1897, a wealthy single woman by the name of Charlotte Boyd, purchased the Slipper Chapel and began restoration. She had a new statue of the Mother and Child carved based on the design of the original which was found on the medieval seal of the Walsingham Priory. This seal is in the British Museum.
The first Mass since the Reformation was offered in the Slipper Chapel on 15th August 1934, and a few days later Cardinal Francis Bourne led a pilgrimage of 10,000 people to the Chapel and declared it to be the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady.
The importance of Our Lady of Walsingham is shown through Pontifical approbation (recognition) which has been given to it by four popes: Pope Leo XIII, in 1897; Pope Pius XII, in 1954; Pope St. John Paul II, in 1982; and Pope Francis, in 2015.
Today, Walsingham is once again the official Shrine of Our Lady in England.