Part II: Martyred Priests and Laypersons of the Cristero War: Canonized on May 21, 2000, by Pope St. John Paul II

Cristero War Priest executed                            

By Larry Peterson

On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 saints and martyrs who died in the  Cristero War in Mexico. Most of the newly canonized were Catholic priests. Six of the priests were members of the Knights of Columbus.

This is Part II which profiles some of these heroes and defenders of the faith who invariably shouted, “Vivo Cristo Rey,” (long live Christ the King) as the executioner’s bullets tore into them or the hangman’s noose crushed their throats.

  • Saint Jenaro Sanchez Delgadillo:   On September 19, 1886, Julia Delgadillo gave birth to a baby boy, She and her husband, Cristobal Sanchez, were humble people and faithful Catholics and they were thrilled with the arrival of their new son.  They named him Jenaro.


Jenaro Sanchez was a fine student. After finishing his primary grades, he received a scholarship to the Archdiocesan Seminary at Guadalhara. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 20, 1911, and immediately began his priestly ministry. His primary focus quickly turned to care for the sick in his parish and teaching catechism to the children.

In 1923, with the bishop in exile in Texas, Father Sanchez became the vicar of the town of Tamazulita, He had been jailed once and released several days later for reading a letter from the archbishop which attacked the government for its anti-Catholic policies. However, Plutarco Calles had become president in 1924 and had taken an extremely hard stand against everything Catholic. The fact was, Calles hated the Catholic Church and all its members.

Public worship had been prohibited and strictly enforced under Calles. Father Sanchez and other priests had found places where they could celebrate Mass in secret. A family had given him and his mom and dad shelter in their home located outside the parish boundaries. He had no idea the authorities had been told of his whereabouts.

On January 17, 1927, he and five friends were arrested by the soldiers. When his friends saw the soldiers coming they told him to run and hide.  He refused. The soldiers let the others go but they had other plans for Father Jenaro Sanchez. They tied his hands behind him and dragged him to a nearby mango tree. Then, as they taunted and mocked him, they hung Father Sanchez murdering the man of God.

Saint Janero Sanchez Delgadillo, please pray for us.


The Priest and the Laymen: These following four Cristeros went to their deaths together: Father Luis Batiz Sainz; Senor Manuel Morales; Senor David Roldan; and Senor Salvador Lara.

Saint Luiz Batiz Sainz: He was born in 1870, entered a minor seminary at the age of 12, and was ordained a priest in 1894. He devoted most of his time to catechesis, had a deep devotion for Eucharistic Adoration, and was a member of the Knights of Columbus; council 2367.

Saint Manuel Morales: He was born in 1898 in a small town called Mesillas. He entered the seminary but had to drop out to go to work to help support his poor family. He became a baker, married, and had three children. He was a member of the local Catholic Workers Union.

Saint David Roldan Lara: He was born on March 2, 1907. His dad, Pedro Roldan, died when David was just one year old. He entered a seminary but, like Manuel Morales, had to drop out to help support his struggling mom. He was an outspoken critic of the Calles government and was the vice- president of National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty. He was only 19.

Saint Salvador Lara Puente: He was born in 1905, and was tall and strong and a fine athlete. He became a miner to help support his widowed mother and was an outspoken critic of the secular government.

The four men listed above were jailed together. Father Luiz was older, and he became not only their spiritual father but also their temporal “father” providing the young men comfort as they all knew what was about to happen to them.

On August 15, 1926, all four were loaded into two cars and driven out to the nearby mountains. They took the prisoners out of the cars and told them they were guilty of conspiracy against the government.

They were directed to a spot where they were to be executed. Together they prayed and then began to walk toward the designated location. As they walked, they all cried out together, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”  Then they all were shot to death by firing squad.

We ask these martyred saints to pray for us all.

(Part III to follow)

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

This Pennsylvania native became the first American quadriplegic priest

Servant of God Bill Atkinson                                             Augustinian Order

By Larry Peterson

William Edward Atkinson was born on January 4, 1946,  in the suburban Philadelphia town of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, He came from a devout Catholic family, and as he grew, he was obviously someone who had focus and direction. Strong in faith, he studied hard and received excellent grades. He was blessed with outstanding athletic skills and proved to be a very talented baseball player. He also volunteered at a nearby home for children with disabilities. He was the kind of son any parent would be proud of.

Bill had spent his high school years attending Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. It was during his senior year that he announced his wishes to become an Augustinian friar. He had been taught by them and admired them greatly. After graduating high school in 1963, he entered the Augustinian Academy on Staten Island, N.Y. as a postulant. He remained there a year and then, on September 9, 1964, he moved to the Good Counsel Novitiate located in New Hamburg, N.Y.

The young novice was doing fine until fate stepped in and dealt him a heavy blow. It was February 22, 1965, when Bill and other novices were tobogganing down the snow-covered hills surrounding their campus. Bill’s toboggan careened out of control and smashed into a tree. The young man’s spine was shattered. In an instant, the strong, athletic, nineteen-year-old was paralyzed from the neck down, save some slight movement of his head, neck, shoulder, and arms.

During the time immediately after the accident, things for Bill Atkinson became quite tenuous. His novice master came to him and asked if he wished to profess vows; this was allowed when death was imminent, even for a novice. He accepted the offer.  Over the next several days, he stopped breathing several times, developed pneumonia, and had a high fever. Throughout this crucial time, Bill’s parents never left his side.

The other novices began a novena to Blessed John Neumann (today he is St. John Neumann) for Brother Bill’s recovery.  Incredibly, on the last day of the novena, his condition stabilized. Doctors were baffled. They never thought Bill would make it.

Bill then began a regimen of intense rehabilitation which lasted for more than a year. His treatments and physical therapy would continue but he now had developed a renewed sense of purpose. He was determined to remain an Augustinian and continue his studies. He pleaded with them to allow him to stay on his spiritual journey.

His Order accommodated the determined Bill Atkinson and he was sent to St. Mary’s Hall, Villanova University, which was the Province’s Collegiate House of Formation.  Here he restarted his novitiate and, on July 20, 1970, he professed simple vows. Bill managed to get through his period of formation because of a group of his fellow Augustinians. These young men continually looked out for him and helped him along the way. He even learned how to use a motorized wheelchair and on July 20, 1973, he was able to profess his solemn vows.

Bill was not finished with his journey. His next goal was the Catholic priesthood. John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia knew of Bill and said that he would be honored to ordain him when Bill and the Province together, thought he was ready.

Folks from the Theology Department at Villanova University and friars who were on the staff of the Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC, worked with Bill to help him complete his studies. With a special dispensation from Pope Paul VI, Bill Atkinson was ordained by Cardinal Krol to the priesthood on February 2, 1974. The ceremony took place in his hometown parish of St. Alice’s. in Upper Darby, PA. It was almost nine years after his accident. He celebrated his first Mass at the Fieldhouse at Villanova University.

Father Bill was sent back to Monsignor Bonner High School as primarily, a theology teacher. He remained there for almost 30 years. Besides teaching, he was the assistant school chaplain, football team moderator, senior class retreat coordinator, and the director of the after-school and Saturday detention program which was known as JUG, meaning Justice Under God.  Most importantly, he became a beloved priest, teacher, coach, chaplain, understanding confessor, and friend to many. He also was known for his great sense of humor.

God called his faithful servant, Father Bill Atkinson, on Septemeber 15, 2006. He was 60 years old. On November 17, 2015, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia presented the Cause for Canonization of Father Bill to the USCCB. The cause was unanimously approved and sent to Rome.

Someone once asked Father Bill, ‘How do you do it?” He said, “Day after day, help of others along the way, valued friends, sisters, brothers, I simply borrowed – the strength of others.”

Servant of God, Bill Atkinson; please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

This kid from Iowa grew up to be a Bishop in Uganda, served in all four sessions of Second Vatican Council, and his cause for sainthood has been sent to Rome.

Servant of God Vincent McCauley              Congregation of Holy Cross

By Larry Peterson

Vincent Joseph McCauley was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 8, 1906. His dad, Charles, worked as an installer for AT&T and his mom stayed home taking care of the six kids of whom Vincent was the oldest.  Vincent’s parents were active and devout Catholics; dad was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and mom was active in the Rosary Altar Guild and parish prayer groups. The McCauley children grew up knowing what it meant to be Catholic.

During the fall of 1924, during his first semester at Creighton College, members of the Congregation of Holy Cross came to St. Francis Xavier Church to conduct a parish mission. Vincent, who was 18 at the time, had a life-changing experience. The mission sparked within him a call to the priesthood.

His family was stunned. He had never expressed an interest in a religious life. But he wrote to the vocation director that a calling to the priesthood “has been the aim of my life for many years. Trusting that God will it, my only desire now is a favorable reply from you.”

Vincent McCauley did, in fact, receive a “favorable reply” and on July 1, 1925, entered the novitiate. He professed his first vows one year later and took his perpetual vows on July 2, 1929. He then was sent off to Foreign Missionary training in Washington D.C. After completing his training there, he had one more stop to make. The date was  June 24, 1934; he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John Noll at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Great Depression of the 1930s left its boot-heel on many a person in America. It even affected missionaries. Father Vincent was trained in missionary work, but the depression had left the Holy Cross Order short on funds. Instead of going overseas, Father Vincent was assigned to the faculty at the congregation’s seminary in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He would remain here for the next two years.

In 1936 Father Vincent was sent to East Bengal to be the rector of a minor seminary. During his time there he learned much about indigenous people.  In 1944, because of poor health, he had to return to the United States. He would spend the next fourteen years working in Washington D.C. It was during this time that he began treatments at the Mayo Clinic for skin cancer, an affliction he had been battling most of his adult life.  But his experiences in Bengal had prepared him for the mission work that would come his way; serving in East Africa.

In early 1958, Father McCauley and Father Arnold Fell were sent to Uganda to check on establishing a community mission under the Holy Cross umbrella. Bishop Jean Ortiz of Mbarra, wanted the “White Fathers”  to establish a new diocese in West Uganda. McCauley wrote, “Unless something changes our impression, this is a great opportunity for Holy Cross.”

They submitted a very favorable report. The job was entrusted to Father McCauley. He arrived back in Uganda on November 4, 1958. It took only three years for Father McCauley to establish schools and churches in the region. The Holy Cross Order, under the guidance of the priest from Iowa, was about to open a new Catholic Diocese in Fort Portal, Uganda.

Having been the effective and inspiring guiding force in establishing the new Diocese of Fort Portal, Father Vincent was consecrated the first bishop of Fort Portal on May 18, 1961. Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston was the presider.

Bishop McCauley immediately set out to organize and promote the Catholic Church in East Africa, He was so successful at his work that he was invited to represent at the Second Vatican Council. His opinions on missionary work in Africa regarding finances, and forming catechesis and how to overcome conflict among different tribes in the area was highly regarded by the council. It was a challenge for sure because there were many cultures and nationalities mixed together.

The baseball playing priest from Iowa did all these things while having to endure over fifty surgeries for his chronic skin cancer. In 1976 he had open heart surgery, having a plastic aorta placed into his heart. Then in 1982, suffering from lung cancer, he agreed to another surgery. He died during the operation. The date was November 1, 1982; the Feast of All Saints. He would become a part of their team.

In 2006 Bishop Vincent J. McCauley was declared a Servant of God and his cause is now before the Congregation of Saints in Rome.

We ask Servant of God, Vincent J. McCauley to pray for us.

copyrigh©Larry Peterson 2019

Priests Martyred during the Cristero War who were Members of the Knights of Columbus

Cristero War Priest executed                                 

By Larry Peterson

The Cristero War in Mexico is counted among the darkest times in the history of that nation. More than 90,000 Mexicans lost their lives; almost 57,000 died under government authority and more than 30,000 Cristeros, including the thousands that supported them.

On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 saints and martyrs who died in that war. Most of them were Catholic priests including six who were members of the Knights of Columbus. Among the Cristeros, there were more than 70 members of the Knights of Columbus who died fighting for their faith and freedom during the Cristero War.  What follows is a short history of three of the priests.

Saint Jose Maria Robles Hurtado; He was born in 1888, entered the seminary at the age of twelve, and was ordained a priest in 1913. He was also a member of the Knights of  Columbus; Council #1979 (council inactive).

St. Jose loved being a priest and used his exceptional writing skills to create pamphlets and lesson books about Jesus and His Sacred Heart. He had such devotion to the Sacred Heart that some referred to him as the “Madman of the Sacred Heart.”

In 1923, Father Robles Hurtado organized thousands of Catholics and had them come to central Mexico to erect a giant cross in honor of Jesus. The cornerstone was placed, but the government stopped any further action. When President Calles came to power in 1924, he already knew of the “Madman—” and was not about to have any of his “anti-government” influence affecting the people.

Father Hurtado was leading a family in prayer at their home when soldiers kicked down the door and arrested him for ‘violating the law.” The date was June 25, 1927.  He was immediately sentenced to be hanged. The next morning, standing under an oak tree, Father Jose Robles Hurtado graciously placed the rope around his own neck so no one else would feel responsible. He forgave his executioners, and then he was hanged. Most of the soldiers wept as he died.


Saint Mateo Correa Magallanes: Father Correa Magallanes was born in Tepechitian, Mexico on July 23, 1866. He attended seminary at Zacatecas and was ordained a priest in 1893. He was a member of Knights of Columbus Council #2140 in Zacatecas.

In 1927, Father Correa was arrested by soldiers as he was bringing Holy Viaticum to an invalid woman. When he saw the soldiers coming, he immediately consumed the consecrated Host to avoid it being desecrated. He was taken to a nearby jail.

Several days had passed when an officer, General Eulogio Ortiz, gave the priest permission to hear the confessions of the prisoners. Father Correa gladly did this. When he was finished, he was taken into a room, and the general demanded that he tell them what the prisoners had told him or die. Father Correa adamantly refused. He said, “You may do so, but you ignore the fact, General, that a priest must keep the secret of confession. I am ready to die.”

The next morning he was taken to a nearby cemetery and shot to death.


Saint Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman: Father Rodrigo was born in Sayaulo, Jalisco, on February 13, 1875. He studied for the priesthood at the Seminary of Zapotlan el Grande and was ordained a priest on January 4, 1903. He was a member of Knights of Columbus Council #2330 in Guzman, Mexico.

On October 27, 1927, a large contingent of soldiers arrived in the town of Ejutla. They were led by the feared general, Juan Izaguirre. Word of their arrival had given the seminarians time to flee. Father Rodrigo stayed behind to burn all seminarian records so the soldiers would not find them. He was captured by the soldiers. When asked who he was, he said forcefully and without hesitation, “I am a priest.”

General Izaguiree wanted to make an example of Father Rodrigo, so he ordered him hanged in the central square of Ejutla  He was led to a large mango tree, but Father Rodrigo took charge. He blessed the rope that would be used to hang him. Then he pardoned his executioners and the other soldiers. One of them  asked him to answer the question, “Long live who?”

They wanted him to say, “Long live the Supreme Government.” This would save his life. He did not hesitate with his response. He quickly said, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe.” They pulled him up and lowered him asking him again. He gave the same answer. The third time, now barely able to speak, he gave the same answer. This time he was left hanging and died.

These saints are a shining example for all of us, and we pray that we might display the same courage they did if ever faced with injury or death because of our precious faith.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Guilty by Bloodline; Blessed Margaret Pole’s life displays Courage to all Christians no matter the challenge.

Margaret  Pole

By Larry Peterson

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was born on August 14, 1473, in Somerset, England.  She was the last daughter of George Plantagenet (Plantagenet Dynasty), the Duke of Clarence. King Henry VII officiated at her marriage to Sir Richard Pole whose mother-in-law, Edith St. John, was a half-sister of the king’s mother, Margaret Beaufort. The family bloodline was quite complex.

When Henry VIII, took the throne in 1509, he married Catherine of Aragon. Margaret was named as one of her ladies-in-waiting. In 1512, the King saw to it that some of her lands were restored to her. These lands had been confiscated by Henry VII. After this, King Henry VIII, who described Margaret as the “most saintly woman in England”, elevated her to the position of Countess of Salisbury, a title that brought prestige and a bit of power.

In due time she was made the governess to Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter. But in 1521, due to infighting and subterfuge that was continually going on in the King’s court, Margaret and her sons fell into disfavor with the King. She was permitted to remain at court but her sons were no longer welcome there. Then, in 1525, she went sent with Princess Mary to live in Wales.

Margaret’s son, Reginald Pole, was a voice against King Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Reginald even wrote to the king expressing his feelings. His mother was horrified. Knowing how vindictive the king could be, she pleaded with Reginald to retract what he had put in writing. He refused. In her heart she knew her boy was right. They had no idea that King Henry VIII confided to the French ambassador that he planned to destroy Reginald’s entire family, including Margaret, the “most saintly woman in England.”

The family purge began in the autumn of 1536 when Margaret’s sons, Geoffrey and Lord Montague, were arrested. A spy who had been placed in Margaret’s household testified before Cromwell that he was witness to secret meetings and clandestine messages being delivered back and forth among the king’s enemies.

Martha Pole, The Countess of Salisbury, was truly a woman of faith. It did not matter. She was questioned from noon into and through the entire night until the next morning. She knew nothing of what they asked, but it did not matter. The seized all her furniture and goods and transported her to jail at Cowdry. Here she remained isolated for the next few years.

An Act of Attainder was passed by the Parliament in early 1539 against Margaret Pole and her entire family. Her two sons had already been executed when the bill was passed. In it, she was accused of treason. The now elderly woman was dragged off to the Tower of London. She had been placed under a sentence o death, and the sentence could be carried out anytime the King felt so compelled to order it. She would remain there for the next two years.

On May 27, 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was informed that she would be put to death that very day. She asked why since no crime had ever been committed. She was ignored. Her body was racked with pain from the harsh, cold, stone cell she had been forced to stay in for the previous few years. But she stood tall and walked to her place of execution.

There were no crowds or witnesses present and no scaffold. It was a chopping block in the corner of the room on the floor. Margaret asked everyone to pray with her. They bowed heads and she forgave everyone, commended her soul to God,  and asked for prayers for the King and Queen.

Margaret was subjected to one final and horrendous indignity. The executioner was a novice and missed his target several times. The poor woman’s shoulder, head, and back were hit by the flailing ax before it hit its mark, ending her life. It is hard to imagine having to endure that.

Many called Margaret Pole a martyr. She was a victim of being part of a family that was hated by a ruthless king. For that, she suffered a brutal death.  Pope Leo XIII agreed and beatified Margaret Pole on December 29, 1886.

Blessed Margaret Pole; please pray for us.

copyright©2019Larry Peterson

Lucien Botovosoa’s devotion to Christ and Family made him a Martyr—- Today he is counted among the Patrons of Married Couples and Fathers

Blessed Lucien Botovasova                                                      public domain

By Larry Peterson

Madagascar is a vast island nation located off the east-central coast of Africa. It was here that Lucien Botovasoa was born in the year 1908,  the exact day is unknown. He was the oldest of nine brothers and sisters.  Besides that, not much more is known about his early childhood.

Lucien began his schooling at the local public school when he was ten years old. Four years later, he was baptized and received his First Holy Communion. Soon after he was able to transfer to the newly opened “Priests School” at the Jesuit College of St. Joseph. He remained here until 1928 when he completed his schooling. He was awarded a teaching certification and became an instructor.

One of Lucien’s favorite things to do was read about the lives of different saints. He would always be willing to stay after class and read about these saints to any students who wanted to hear the stories. Many did stay, and great discussions about the faith and the saints took place with Lucien guiding the students along.

Lucien had a natural gift for teaching and became highly admired by his peers. On October 30, 1930, he married Suzanna Soazana. Soon after his marriage, a nun asked him if he had regretted getting married since he would have made a wonderful priest. Lucien never flinched and immediately told her that he did “not have the slightest regret at all.”

He went on to explain that he was serving God through his vocation as a married man through the example he set as a husband while living among the people. Lucien and Suzanna would eventually have five children together.

Lucien became a member of the Crusaders of the Heart of Jesus in August of 1935. He learned to speak Chinese, German, and French and was a musician who had a great singing voice. He also directed the parish choir. In 1940 he joined the Secular Franciscans. He had found his spiritual home and immediately went about spreading devotion to St. Francis of Assisi.

He avoided wearing the traditional black slacks that teachers and religious wore.  He dressed in the khaki colored clothes that Third Order Lay Seculars wore. He was proud of being part of the Secular Franciscans and wanted everyone to know he was a layperson. His devotion to his family, his students, and most of all, his beloved Catholic faith was visible to all who knew him.

Political unrest began to explode in 1946. The protests and violence that spread soon became known as the Malagasy Uprising. The Malagasy people were native to Madagascar, and their local rulers began to lead their people in revolt against French colonial rule. Quickly, Catholics became viewed as French loyalists, and officials throughout the country began turning against them. Their immediate targets were those who were among the religious.

By 1947, Lucien was keenly aware of the political situation and its impending dangers. He told his wife and children, “Whatever happens, do not EVER separate yourself from God. I am not afraid of death. and I will find bliss in heaven.”

By Easter, no nuns or priests could be found in the city. The authorities had rounded them all up and taken them away, executing them all. Then Lucien got word that the anti-Christian forces would be coming for him. The date was April 14, 1947. Lucien refused to hide and spent the day with his family.

At 9 P.M four militia men came for him.. He was brought before the local chieftain for trial and judgment. He asked the chief if they could talk before he pronounced sentence. They spoke for more than a half hour. Then Lucien was led off to be executed.

Lucien Botovasoa was taken to the nearby river bank. Ironically,  his executioners were all his former students. Lucien forgave them all and then was beheaded. They tossed his remains into the rushing river. Incredibly, not long after the man who had judged him and passed sentence on him converted to Christianity.

Pope Francis declared that Lucien had died “in odium fidei” and he was beatified by Cardinal Maurice Piat on April 15, 2018, in the town of Vohipeno, Madagascar. Blessed Lucien is counted among the patrons of married couples, fathers, and teachers.

Blessed Lucien Botovasova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Meet the “Apostle of the Abandoned”; St. John Baptist de Rossi

St. John Baptist de Rossi

By Larry Peterson

John Baptist de Rossi was born on February 22, 1698, in Genoa. His mother and father were quite poor in material goods but were rich in virtue and love of their neighbor(s). John was the youngest of four children, and even during his formative years not only exhibited obvious compassion and love for people but also had an above average intelligence. When he was ten years old, his parents allowed him to leave home with close friends of the family to pursue his education

Three years later, John’s father died. His older cousin, Lorenzo de Rossi, allowed John to come to live with him in Rome. Lorenzo was the canon at St. Mary’s in Cosmedin and was able to get his nephew admitted to the Collegium Romanum under the guidance of the Jesuits. John quickly became a model student studying diligently and performing his required duties. At the same time, he was always pious and humble.

The young man also began studying philosophy and theology at the Dominican College of St. Thomas. It was during this time that, while at Mass, John passed out. It was discovered that he had an epileptic seizure. The illness caused him to miss many classes, and sometimes, the fatigue was so pronounced he could barely move. For the rest of his life, dealing with this affliction would be a constant challenge for him.

Even so, while in school, he became a member of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin and led the members in the readings and organized visits to the sick in hospitals, feeding the poor and the homeless, and performing other works of mercy. This was what  John Rossi loved most of all; helping the poor, homeless,  and downtrodden.

John Baptist de Rossi desperately wanted to become a priest, but his epilepsy was a constant enemy trying to stop him. Ordination to the priesthood was rarely granted to someone in John’s condition. Afterall, the life of a priest was incredibly demanding and time-consuming  But he worked so hard and studied so diligently that he was given a dispensation. On March 8, 1721, John Baptist de Rossi, was ordained a priest.

As a priest, he worked in Rome, caring for the homeless who wandered the streets of the city. He tended to the needs of the sick and assisted in helping find a hospice for homeless women. He aided prisoners, helped workers, and literally touched thousands of needy people—the sick, the homeless, prostitutes, transient cattle drivers who came to market in Rome, and other rough sorts.  By day he devoted himself to the sick poor in Rome’s hospitals. By night he ministered to street people at a refuge. He did this for over forty years.

In 1738, Father John became very sick with an unknown illness. He was sent to a place called Civita Castellana, a days journey from Rome. The bishop there insisted that he hear confessions. John had done his best to avoid hearing confessions. He had a deep-seated fear that he might have a seizure and wanted to avoid that happening while in a confessional. The bishop, knowing of his knowledge and morality, insisted. In fact, the bishop gave him permission to hear confession in any church in Rome.

Father John Rossi began hearing confessions every day, mostly from the poor in the hospitals and on the streets. Before long he was preaching in churches, chapels, convents, hospitals, barracks, and prisons. He became known as the Apostle of the Abandoned and was called the second St. Philip Neri.

Sometime in 1763, paralysis began to slowly attack Father John. Finally, all his hard labor while fighting epilepsy caught up to him. He died on May 23, 1764.

Father John was buried at the Church of Trinita de Pellegrini under the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Miracles followed his passing, but because of political upheaval in Europe, beatification was put on hold. Finally, on May 13, 1860, Pope Pius IX, beatified Father John. On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Leo XIII canonized Father John Baptist de Rossini, a saint

One final note:  Caregivers can look to John Baptist as a model. Before he would speak to a dying person about salvation, he did all he could to relieve their suffering. No service for the sick, no matter how deadly or repulsive their condition was, deterred him from offering assistance and consolation to them.

Saint John Baptist de Rossi, please pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Antoninus of Florence (statue)

St. John Baptist de Rossi

St. Antoninus of Florence—This brilliant Theologian also was known as The Father of the Poor

Antoninus of Florence (statue)                                 

By Larry Peterson

Antonio Pierozzi was born on March 1, 1389, in Florence which, at that time, was an independent republic. His father, Nicollo, was a notary which was considered an upstanding position in the community. His mom died when he was five years old, and his dad remarried the very same year. His “new” mom helped raise him, but her influence in his life seems minimal.

Antonio came from a very religious family. He had a sister who became a nun, an aunt who was a nun, and a brother who entered the religious life. His other sister married and became a Third Order Dominican. As for Antonio, from early on he was an extremely pious child and he spent one hour a day in prayer in front of the Crucifix in the garden at the nearby church. Many people noticed his piety and his reputation as being holy began to grow. Also, Antonio was very smart and was quickly recognized as being a brilliant student.

Antonio had heard a sermon by Blessed Giovanni Dominici and was instantly drawn to this man. Dominici was the leading preacher of his day and had received his authority from Blessed Raymond Capua who was the first follower of St. Catherine of Siena. Antonio’s future was now a brightly lit path for him to follow. He asked John Dominici to receive him into the Dominicans.

Antonio was only fifteen years old at the time, and John Dominici thought he was still too young. He even thought he might be too small and too weak to live such a life. So he challenged Antonio. He told him to memorize the Decretum of Gratian, a complex work of Canon Law.

His motive was to overwhelm the young man while not hurting his feelings. He was sure Antonio could never fulfill such a request. He was wrong. One year later Antonino came back to John Dominici and recited the entire work. He even answered hard questions after doing so proving he understood the nuances and meanings as set down. At that time he was received into the Dominican Order.

A new priory had opened in Fiesole, and Antonio received his habit from John Domenici. The first years of Antonio’s life as a Dominican are vague, but it is recorded that he kept growing in sanctity, spent hours in prayer, fasted constantly, and studied as much as possible. Then he moved to Cortone and met Lorenzo di Ripafratta. Lorenzo was a prominent force in the reform of the Dominicans which had, in many areas, turned from the principles the order had been founded upon.

His age mattered not because he was made an administrator and put in charge of communities in Rome, Naples, Cortona, and  Florence. All of these places now fell under the reorganized Dominican Congregation of Tuscany which had been created to get the Order back to its founding principles.

From 1433 to 1446 Antonio served as Vicar of the Congregation. He followed the rule as set in place by Blessed John Dominici and believed that he should care for his novices as Christ cared for His apostles.  He was determined to do his best to instill in them the spirit of the Beatitudes which would sum up the Order’s Rule. He was also very strict on poverty. All that was necessary to the operation of a household would be sold and given to the poor.

It was during this time that Antonio founded an organization called: Buonomini de San Martino. This was something like the St. Vincent de Paul Society except it was designed to help poor people of high social status who were living in shame because they had become poor. This organization became a huge success. Much money was collected and many of the “hidden” poor were helped. The people began calling him Antoninus the “Father of the Poor,” a name that is still used.

Antoninus became Archbishop of Florence. His writings were deeply theological and he was the papal theologian at the Council of Florence.  His writings were a major development in the field of moral theology and stand to this day.

Archbishop Antoninus died on May 2, 1459.  He was canonized a saint by Pope Adrian VI on May 31, 1523. His feast day is May 10.

The last words of St. Antoninus of Florence were: “Servire Deo regnare est”, “to serve God is to reign.”