IT WAS 1956 AND A DIFFERENT TIME IN AMERICA
A BLESSED AND HAPPY EASTER TO ALL
IT WAS 1956 AND A DIFFERENT TIME IN AMERICA
A BLESSED AND HAPPY EASTER TO ALL
By Larry Peterson
His name was Mariano Mullerat I Soldevila, and he was born on March 24, 1897, in Tarragona, Spain. He was the sixth of seven children and his parents, Ramon Mullerat and his wife, Bonaventura, were devout Catholics. Mariano, was baptized on March 30, one week after his birth.
Mariano showed great promise at the elementary level and in 1910 was sent to St. Peter the Apostle School in the town of Reus, not far from his home. In 1914 he entered the University of Barcelona and began the study of medicine. He was awarded his medical degree in 1921.
In 1922 the young doctor married a girl he had met in school, Dolors Sans I Bove. They were married in the town of Arbeca and this is where they settled. Dr. Mullerat opened his practice here and began traveling to nearby towns giving medical care to the poor for free. Those that were homebound and seriously ill he would encourage to receive the sacraments as often as possible. He would also make sure that these folks had the necessities such as food and basic medicines.
During the ensuing years, Mariano and Dolors had five daughters with their first child having died shortly after birth in January 1923. It was also in 1923 that Mariano founded the newspaper, L’Ecut, which was printed in the Catalan language. His Catholic faith was strong and uncompromising, and he used the publication to defend the faith against the surge in secularism sweeping across Spain. Besides commentary, the paper also published poetry, promoted local cultural events, and articles of social interest. The paper ceased to be published in 1926.
In 1924 Dr. Mullerat was elected mayor of Arbeca and stayed in office until 1930. While he was mayor, a transformation took place in Arbeca. Blasphemy and profanity were frowned upon and could bring a fine, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was given a place of honor at city hall, and the clergy and the church were defended by the mayor’s administration at all times.
During this time he never ceased giving care and assistance and whatever other help he could to the poor and marginalized. His spirit of faith provided by the Holy Spirit was always evident in the doctor’s actions, words, and behavior and he set a fine example for all who came in contact with him.
The Second Spanish Republic came into power in 1931 and revolution spread across Spain. In 1934 the violence reached Arturia, a province near Tarragona. Dr. Mullerat knew in his heart that the violence would soon be at the doorstep of Arbeca. Within two years churches and other religious places were being burned and destroyed in Barcelona. By July of 1936, priests, religious, and lay faithful were being killed in Tarragona and Lieda. The government soldiers arrived in Arbeca in early August.
There were those close to Dr. Mullerat who suggested he try to leave Spain. He refused. He was even offered a way to escape to Zaragoza where he would be safe but he rejected the idea. He believed that he was meant ot carry on his medical mission for the needy. Filled with a powerful faith and staring down the face of danger, he said he was needed where he was.
On Thursday morning, August 13, 1936, militiamen, came to Dr. Mullerat’s home. He was dragged away and tossed like a pile of old rags into the back of a truck. There were five other “criminal” Catholics who had already been thrown in. They began the three-mile drive to the last place on earth they would ever go.
As the truck bounced over the rough road a woman suddenly ran out and had them stop. She told the driver that her son was ill and aked if the doctor could help him. They stopped and brought the child to dr. Mullerat. He examined the child and prescribed some medication. He assured the woman her boy would be okay. Then, noticing a wound on one of the militiamen, asked if he could look at it. The soldier showed him a deep cut in his leg and the doctor bandaged it and told him how to treat it. His medical career ended by him helping one of his executioners. How poignant is that.
At Blessed Mariano’s beatification ceremony on March 23, 2019, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said, “The top of holiness is reached through the path of love, there is no other way. And Mariano has ascended this summit and has reached the destiny of the righteous and the elect, of whom the book of Wisdom speaks. Live with the Lord because he remained faithful to him in love.”
A witness told Mariano’s wife that his last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Lastly, and this might take your breath away, the beatification ceremony was attended by his three daughters and two grandchildren. Imagine that.
Blessed Mariano Mullerat I Soldevila, pray for us
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019
By Larry Peterson
The Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church has thousands of names on its pages.
However, that huge book may need to find space for the very first American who was martyred on American soil for being Catholic and daring to defend her honor. Her name is Jamie Schmidt and she gave her life for Jesus in St. Louis, Missouri.
Most of us have heard of St. Maria Goretti, the eleven-year-old who died “In Defensum Castitatis” (In Defense of Purity). Maria was trying to fight off the advances of a twenty-year-old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli. He became so enraged at her that he stabbed her fourteen times. Before Maria died, she forgave her attacker. He spent 30 years in prison and, touched by the grace of God, was present at the canonization of the young girl he had murdered.
Jamie Schmidt was an average, 53-year-old, Catholic woman who lived in High Ridge, Missouri a town about 25 miles outside St. Louis. She was married to her high-school sweetheart, and they had three children. The Schmidt family belonged to St. Anthony of Padua Church and Jamie sang in the choir. She was also a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, worked organizing and holding women’s retreats, and was always ready to help anyone in need. She even made and distributed rosaries. Ironically, it was her Rosary ministry that brought her face to face with evil.
It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when Jamie stopped into the Church Supply Warehouse in St. Louis for needed rosary supplies. There were two other women in the store. Jamie was no sooner inside when a man came in and began looking around. He said to the woman at the counter that he had forgotten his credit card and had to go out to the car to get it. He was actually casing the place.
Jamie went over to the section where the supplies she needed were located. It was then that the man returned. This time he was brandishing a gun. He told the three women to get to the back of the store and that “they had better do as they were told.”
He lined them up against the wall and proceeded to molest the first woman who, frightened for her life, gave in to the man’s advances. He did the same to the second woman who also just submitted, terrified for her life. Then he turned to Jamie. He demanded that she take off her clothes.
Jamie had been witness to the depraved acts this disgusting man had inflicted on the two other women. She was surely terrified too, but the Holy Spirit must have been with her. (The two women gave this account to police); She stared at the man and, standing tall, said in a firm voice, “In the name of God, I will not take my clothes off.”
Buoyed by her Catholic faith and refusing to submit to an immoral, sexual assault, she had invoked the name of her God and said categorically to her assailant, “NO!” He shot her in the head at point blank range. Jamie Schmidt crumpled to the floor. The man ran from the store while one of the women quickly called 911.
Jamie did not die instantly. As she lay mortally wounded, the two women could hear her saying ever so softly the “Our Father.” She knew her life was slipping away, but she was thinking of her God and invoking His name. It was reported that even during the ride in the ambulance Jamie, barely audible, kept praying. She was still praying when her last breath left her body.
A short time later a man by the name of Thomas Bruce, was captured by police. He was the perpetrator and was arrested for murder, sodomy, and other charges. He now awaits trial for the crimes with which he has been charged.
St. Maria Goretti, age 12, refused a similar assault and was stabbed to death in 1902. Blessed Pierina Morosini, age 26, refused a similar assault and was beaten to death with a rock in 1957. Jamie Schmidt, age 53, refused and was shot to death in 2018. These three women, their lives spread over a century apart, share an unexpected sisterhood.
Having died “In Defensum Castitatis” Jamie’s cause for beatification should move along quickly. What happened to her and St. Maria and Blessed Pierina can happen to any of us at any time. If suddenly we were asked to defend our faith with our lives hanging in the balance, what would we do?
Let us never forget Mrs. Jamie Schmidt, a Catholic wife, mother, and friend to many who will forever remain a shining example for us all.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019
By Larry Peterson
Florentina Nicol y Goni was born on March 14, 1868, in the town of Tafalla, in Navarre province, located in northern Spain near the French border. Her dad, Juan Nicol y Zalduendo, was as shopkeeper specializing in selling and repairing farming equipment. The families life changed dramatically when the lady of the house, Agueda, passed away in 1872.
Dad did his best but was having a hard time managing the home and family. When Florentina was ten, her dad’s cousin, a cloistered Carmelite nun, offered to take the two middle girls to educate them at the monastery’s boarding school. Juan was relieved to have such help and readily agreed. The girls would later go on to become Carmelite sisters. Since the oldest daughter had already married this left Florentina the only child still at home. The housekeeping was left to her.
In December of 1881, Florentina’s dad enrolled her in a boarding school called the Convent of Santa Rosa. Located in Huesca, it was a cloistered community of The Third Order of St. Dominic. The school had a fine reputation and it quickly transformed the thinking of Florentina about the direction her life should take.
Her father had remarried and in 1883 he and Florentina’s new stepmother removed her from the school feeling she had received enough education for a woman. However, Florentina’s vocation had erupted. She knew for sure what she was called to do with her life. She was fifteen years old. Once back home she began praying intently that she might be able to answer the call.
Her father knew his youngest child had her mind made up and in October of 1884, he allowed Florentina to enter the Dominican Convent back in Huesca. In 1886 Florentina Nicol y Goni took the religious name of Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart. She became a teacher at the school she had attended herself and remained in that position for the next 27 years. But change was on the horizon.
In 1913, secularism had reared its ugly head, and anti-clerical laws were being enacted in Spain. Consequently, the Spanish government seized the school and expelled the sisters. The sisters were faced with some hard choices. Stay in Spain and be deprived of being able to minister to the children or enter the world of the missionary. They had learned from different publications about different missionary congregations and wrote to the authorities of several ecclesiastical groups asking for permission to do so. One response came back.
Father Ramon Zubleta had just been appointed by the Holy See as the new Apostolic Vicar of a new Vicariate. The location was in the Peruvian forest near the Amazon. Before leaving for Rome, he stopped in Huesca. He asked the sisters if they would consider coming with him to Peru. Among those that did volunteer, five were chosen. Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart was chosen as their leader.
Bishop Zubleta, accompanied by three friars and the five sisters, arrived in Peru on December 13, 1913. They were given housing at the Shrine of Our Lady of Patronage and would spend two years of training to get accustomed to the culture and superstitions of the natives in the jungles.
In 1915, Mother Ascension and two of the sisters left for the mountain forests. Two stayed behind to care for the Shrine which had been left in their care. It took them 24 days to cross the Andes and reach Puerto Maldonado. This place was situated at the end of two rivers accommodating communications and acting as a supply depot. No one there had ever seen a white woman before. Folks were also quite shocked that the women had made it across the mountains.
Following the leadership of Mother Ascension, the nuns founded a girl’s school and took care of the sick. The master general of the Dominicans’ asked Sister Ascension if she could start a new congregation. Along with the local bishop, she created the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary. Today it has 785 Sisters serving 21 nations on five continents. Four of the Order’s sister are considered martyrs having died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) in the Congo in 1964. Their crime was for refusing to leave patients alone in a hospital.
Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart died on February 24, 1940. With the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, she was beatified by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins on May 15, 2005. The ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square.
Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019
By Larry Peterson
The origins of wearing vestments at liturgical ceremonies date back to the Old Testament. The Old Testament practice of wearing special garb for religious events did influence the church. However, Christian vestments were not adaptions of the Old testament clothing but were more or less copied from the dress of the Roman-Graeco world.
History tells us that in the early Christian church, priests and other clergy wore the same type of clothing as everyone else. When celebrating Mass or conducting other liturgical ceremonies, they were required to make sure their clothes were pure and clean.
The 4th century saw the beginning development of the vestments we see today. By the beginning of the ninth century rules for vesting were more or less set in place. Finally, by the 13th century, the Catholic Church had set in place the vesting process which, except for minor changes, has lasted more or less up to the present time.
If you were an altar server or sacristan it would be your job to lay out the vestments the priest would be wearing for that day’s Mass. You would have to know what they were and how to present them. This is the order for the vesting process. It follows the rubrics (rules) of the Church:
The Amice is used to cover the collar of streetwear. Today it is mostly used by priests celebrating the Latin Rite (Tridentine Mass). There are those priests who do wear it when celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass. The Alb can be used to cover the collar instead of wearing the Amice. Originally used as ahead covering the Biblical reference is from Ephesians 6:17: “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is God.”
The Alb is the long white garment that covers the priest from the neck down to his feet. It is white to symbolize freedom from sin and purity in life. From the Book of Revelation 7:14: we have; “ “These are the ones who have survived the great period of trial; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The Cincture is the long cord with tassels on the end that the priest ties around his waist to hold the alb in place. Unlike the Stole this can be white or the color of the vestments. This reminds the priest of the quote from 1 Peter 1:13: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The next item you layout is the Stole which is laid on the Chasuble. This is the long cloth that drapes around the neck and hangs down beyond the waist. This may be crisscrossed across the chest which symbolizes the Cross. The Stole is the same color as the Chasuble. It reminds the priest to preach the word of God with courage and conviction. Biblical reference is in Hebrew 4:12: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating between even soul and spirit, joint and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
The Chasuble. This is the outermost garment that only a priest or bishop may wear. It is only worn when Mass is being offered. It covers and embraces all underneath it. Biblical reference is in Colossians, 3:14: “And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
There is one more and it is called the Maniple. This is similar to a large handkerchief that hangs over the left forearm. It is the same color as the other vestments. It stopped being used after 1969. However, it is still required use for those priests who offer the Latin Mass (Tridentine Mass).
There are many more vestments used in liturgical services such as Benediction, Adoration, and processions. Several common ones are the Cope, the Humeral Veil, the Surplus, and the Dalmatic which is worn by Deacons. These may be presented at another time.
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2018
By Larry Peterson
I am the oldest of five, and my mom died when I was fifteen. My brothers were eleven, six, and two. My sister was twelve. Grandma lived with us and decided that dad had killed her daughter. Mom, who had just turned forty, had died of leukemia; so grandma was wrong. But dad believed that we kids were better off with Grandma looking after us than him doing it. He was wrong too
Since there was no reasoning with her, dad became a constant patron of the local saloons. (We lived in the south Bronx, and there were plenty of “watering holes” for him to choose from). The truth of it was—he could not live with her as she berated him mercilessly every chance she had, including calling him a no-good murderer. Yup, in keeping away from her got to know a lot of people, and everyone loved him.
Two years after mom passed on, Grandma had a massive stroke. Some events are emblazoned into your memory forever as if they just happened and this was one of them. Dad was home, and he yelled to me, “Something’s wrong with your grandmother. She needs your help. I’m calling the priest.”
I heard the word “priest” and hurried into the kitchen. Grandma was standing with her head arched into her shoulder and her hands were clamped like vise-grips onto the cupboard door. I had to pry her fingers up one at a time, so I could drag her to her bed. My little brothers and sister were staring at this spectacle taking place. It was surely a surreal moment.
I managed to drag her convulsing and contorted body to her bed. Dad was home and called the rectory. She was squeezing my hands so tight I thought they might break. She was conscious and looking me in the eyes as I looked into hers. “Grandma, pray with me. Okay grandma, C’mon, pray with me.”
Together we prayed the “Our Father.” Barely able to speak, she made an Act of Contrition. She sort of relaxed a bit and her eyes closed. Father Quirk hurried in and gave her the Last Rites. She died soon after as I held her in my arms. The ambulance was too late.
Dad was like a lost pup. Monsignor Martin gave him some work at the church, and he drove a cab a few days a week. He was not living as much as he was existing. He drank too much and two years later he died of an acute attack of Pancreatitis. That was the moment we officially became orphans. I was old enough to work so things worked (pun intended) out—as best they could.
My brother Bobby passed away unexpectedly ten years ago, from a heart attack. He was 53. The baby of the family, Johnny, sad to say, took his own life when he was 55. He had alcohol and other drug issues during his life and any deep-seated issues he may have had were never resolved. He had just turned two when Mom died and (according to several medical health professionals) his suicide was the final result of the losses he suffered during his formative years.
My high-school sweetheart, Loretta, stuck by my side (I had three brothers I was taking care of) , and her family was not too happy about her and I being together. In hindsight, I understand why. But her loyalty and love for me was unshakable and we tied the knot several years later. We were married thirty-five wonderful years.
In 1978, she was expecting our fourth child and was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the baby was still-born. We named her Theresa Mary, and she is buried with my parents. Loretta became ill in 1991, was sick for a long time, and passed away from melanoma in 2003.
Four years later I married again. Her name was Marty (Martha), and we were both members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In March of 2017, Marty passed away after fighting lymphoma and Alzheimer’s disease for six years. We had made it to our tenth anniversary.
So there you have it; our lives will all end in death. Many have reached out to God and embraced the faith He has gifted us. Many have rejected it. That is called a “choice.” For those who have embraced the God given gift of Faith they know that death is a NEW beginning. Having that gift to live with can help make living gratifying, no matter what the circumstances.
Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019
By Larry Peterson
Mary Elfrieda Scruggs was born on May 8, 1910, in Atlanta, Georgia. When she was a toddler the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and this is where Mary grew up. She was the second of eleven children, but unlike her siblings, Mary was a “gifted’ child. She had perfect pitch and a superb musical memory and was picking out tunes on the piano at the age of two.
Her mother, a classically trained pianist, recognized the talent and began teaching Mary how to play when she was three years old. By the age of ten, Mary was known as the “Little Piano Girl” and was performing for audiences all over Pittsburgh.
She was only seventeen when she met saxophonist, John Williams. They married, and he and his new wife moved to Oklahoma to join the popular band, Andy Kirk and the Twelve Clouds of Joy. This was when Mary Lou began to be recognized as an outstanding piano player and musical arranger. By the late 1930s, Mary Lou Williams was arranging for renowned musicians such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Louis Armstrong.
In 1942, Mary moved to New York City. Duke Ellington recorded her arrangement of “Trumpet No End,” and her reputation became known all over the country. She began meeting with younger musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker. They would meet in her apartment and discuss and write music together. She made the transition to bebop and wrote songs such as “Waltz Boogie,” “Knowledge,” and “Lonely Moments.” But her life was soon to take a dramatic change.
Mary Lou had always possessed a deep need to develop her spirituality, and she knew something was missing from her life. In 1955, she began her journey in Harlem at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. She even tried preaching in the streets. Ironically, it was Dizzy Gillespie, who was the link that connected her to Catholicism.
Dizzy introduced Mary Lou to Father John Crowley, a priest he had met in South America. Father Crowley also happened to be a jazz lover. The priest persuaded her to “offer her playing up (to God). Mary Lou embraced Father Crowley’s advice and began doing just that.
Mary then went over to Our Lady of Lourdes parish on 142nd St. in Harlem. She knocked on the door, and Father Anthony Woods answered the door. He invited her in, they became friends, and he soon became Mary Lou’s mentor. She began receiving instruction in the Catholic faith and was baptized on May 7, 1957. She received her Confirmation one month later.
Mary had refrained from performing because she realized that jazz did not fill her spiritual needs. However, once a Catholic she was buoyed by her new faith. Finding the comfort she had sought, she resumed her musical career appearing with Dizzy Gillespie at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957.
She founded her own label, Mary Records, which was the first recording company started by a woman. She also started Cecilia Music Publishing Company. Influenced by post-Vatican II reforms and by the civil rights movement, Mary now wanted to write sacred pieces. Looking for some guidance, she asked Father Woods to help.
He assisted her with the lyrics for her first sacred work. The result was a piece called Black Christ of the Andes (1962). This honored St. Martin de Porres, the lay Dominican from Lima, Peru, who was the patron saint of black and mixed-race people.
Mary Lou was the guiding spirit behind a February 1967 concert at Carnegie Hall, entitled Praise the Lord in Many Voices. She wrote Mass for the Lenten Season (1968), and Music for Peace (1970) which came to be known as Mary Lou’s Mass.
In 1975, Mary Lou’s Mass became the first jazz arrangement to be performed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. She became an artist-in-residence at Duke University and taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She also received an honorary degree from Fordham University.
Mary Lou Williams died on May 28, 1981, from bladder cancer. She was seventy-one. She is known as the “first lady of the jazz keyboard,” but it was her Catholic faith that ultimately defined her musical legacy.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019