The Innocence of the Blessed Virgin Mary–was there such a thing?

Knowing the possible consequences, she embraced God’s request and never looked back

L’innocence Wm Bouguereau                                      dailymail.co.uk

By Larry Peterson

A dear friend gave me a gift on Christmas that I never expected or imagined.  It was a print of a painting which is among the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus and a lamb.  The title is L’innocence, painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the most renowned artists of the 19th century. The baby Jesus and the lamb signify “innocence.”; hence the title L’innocence.  What did it mean? What did it represent?

In less than a week, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. But we must journey back to the Third Ecumenical Council which took place in Ephesus (in today’s Turkey) in 431. This was the Council that affirmed, in perpetuity, that it was God who was the Father and that Mary was, the Mother of Jesus Christ. This is known as the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This settled for all time the central mystery of the Catholic faith which is the Incarnation; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures; one divine and one human. This is a mystery we embrace and believe but will never fully understand.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 495: Mary’s Divine MotherhoodCalled in the Gospels, ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, “as the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly the ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).

It seems to me that we may be prone to think of Mary as an innocent fourteen-year-old, who just wanted to do what God had asked of her. Well, she most certainly wanted to serve God but she was also fully aware of the situation that was putting her very life in danger. She knew what she was doing and any suggestions to the contrary are foolish. She was, after all, filled with a love of God that knew no bounds. She was also filled with the grace and love that filled her with courage. Let us consider her behavior after the Annunciation.

Our Blessed Mother was a young, innocent woman of about 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced to her what God wanted from her. What could have gone through her young mind as this was asked of her? She must have been so afraid. How could she have had any possible idea that she would be the new Eve who would give birth to the new Adam who, in turn, would save us all? And what of her “innocence?”

When she knew she was pregnant, she told her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. She knew how they would react, and she never tried to hide it from them or delay in telling them. Then she went off to her cousin Elizabeth’s home and told her and her husband, Zachariah, who was a Jewish priest. Jewish law said she could be stoned to death. She knew this and could not have known what to expect when she saw them.  But she went to them and told them and today we know this as the “Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin, St. Elizabeth.”

Lastly, let us not forget her betrothed, Joseph. This young, devout Jewish man, is told by his betrothed, that she is pregnant.  He must have felt so betrayed by the woman he loved. He must have been heartsick. It must have been something for the two of them to go through- especially in such a strict Jewish world. But we know the angel came to Joseph and this decent, kindly, and loving man embraced his betrothed and the rest is history.

This mystery of faith is so profound. This young woman, in effect, was chosen by God Himself to be his spouse. Their child would be both God and Man. He would change the world forever.  Mary’s virginal motherhood sealed in perpetuity the truth of the Incarnation. She gave Christ the body He possessed. She gave Him the humanity that was part of Him. And all the time he was God…and she was His Mom. All the DNA that runs through Jesus Christ comes from Mary and only Mary. Pondering the Divine Motherhood takes your breath away.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

 


This Filipina nun’s legacy continues through the order of nuns she established

ROSARIO ARROYO

Mother Rosario Arroyo                                                   facebook fair use

Mother Rosario Arroyo is much loved and often invoked. Some say her intercession has already brought miracles.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 

 

 



The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—imagine how St. Joseph felt as he escorted his full-term wife to Bethlehem

Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem                                            stjosephnewpalz.org

First posted during Christmas season; 2018

By Larry Peterson

Within the season of Advent is the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast is celebrated on December 18. It is a profound commemoration of what Our Lady and St. Joseph went through during the week preceding the first Christmas. (At this time it is only celebrated in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Poland, and among some religious groups).

In the year 431, the Council of Ephesus declared that the Divine Maternity was indeed a dogmatic truth and that the Blessed Virgin Mary was truly “Theotokos,” meaning the Mother of God.  Without the Divine Maternity what follows would never have happened.

Have we ever thought about Joseph and Mary during this time? Have we ever tried to imagine how it was for them? Let’s pause for a moment and envision how it might have been for this teenage girl who was at full-term in her pregnancy and her young, carpenter husband.

They were about to embark on an eighty-mile journey to go to Bethlehem. There were no paved roads, cars, trains, planes, nor were their rest-stops along the way. They would travel along rocky, dirt roads and Mary’s mode of transport would be a donkey.  Her husband would walk,  guiding their “vehicle.”

I am sure most dads remember the birth of their first child. I know I do. I was twenty-five years old, and Loretta’s water broke on a Sunday afternoon. The journey by car over paved roads, across the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan took twenty minutes.

When we arrived, she was immediately taken to maternity and I was relegated to the waiting room. At the time, I was just filled with massive relief knowing that my wife and soon to be born baby were in capable hands. I was not thinking about St. Joseph.

I will let you moms ponder how it must have been for the Savior’s mom. Although filled with grace and protected by God Himself, she was still human with all the emotions and fears any normal woman would have. Those feelings were real. (I hope you women realize how special you are the because you are the ones who God specifically created to continue His creation).

Being a man, I cannot imagine having to face the responsibility of taking my pregnant wife who was about to give birth, on an eighty-mile trek to get to a place I had never been without having any idea where we were to stay. The entire concept is, as we would say today, CRAZY! But for the chosen parents of the Messiah, that was their reality. They had no choice.

The journey would have taken Joseph and Mary at least four days (today we can drive eighty miles in less than two hours).  Imagine all the stops along the way especially with our Blessed Mother having a full-term baby leaning on her bladder. Yes, she was human.

They would have had to rest; but where? On the side of the road? They had to eat; did they start a fire and try to cook something? They had no Igloo Coolers so what did they use to preserve their food (whatever it was) and how much water were they able to carry? How many changes of clothing did they bring along? Where did they wash up? Where did they change their clothes?

When they reached Bethlehem, Joseph had to leave his worn out and pregnant wife, alone, in a strange place, and try to find shelter. We folks today just look for the first motel we see, pull in, sign in, and have a nice clean room with a warm bed waiting for us. It was not the same for the Holy Family, not even close. They wound up in a cave that sheltered animals. This was Mary’s maternity center and her birthing room was a pile of hay. It is SO hard to imagine.

We owe our Blessed Mother so much. She accepted God’s incredible gift of the Divine Maternity and all that followed; from seeing Joseph react to the initial horror at learning of her pregnancy, from the Bethlehem journey to the First Christmas in a cave, and onward through His passion and death.. everything Mary did was a selfless act that came straight from the all-consuming Love that is in her Immaculate Heart.

As for St. Joseph—he is the PERFECT role model for all of us men. He loves his God and his family and will do all in his power to care for and protect them, no matter what. That is what a real man does.

We followers of Christ are truly blessed.  Why is it so many do not see that?

©Larry Peterson 2018

 


I am a Grandpa and YES! Just like Francis P. Church, I Believe in Santa, too

Santa  loves  everyone                                               commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Most folks do not know much about a man by the name of Francis Pharcellus Church. Heck, most people have never even heard of him. However, to me, he is one of the most excellent newspaper editors of all time. That is because he took on a skeptical world and dared try to prove the existence of Santa Claus.

Francis Church was born in Rochester, New York, on February 22, 1839. At the age of 21, he graduated from Columbia College (now Columbia University). Francis had considered a career in law but opted instead for a life in journalism.

During the Civil War, he worked as a war correspondent. Together with his brother, William, he worked on the Army and Navy Journal.  In 1869 Francis and William launched a literary publication called Galaxy Magazine. Contributors to Galaxy included Mark Twain and Henry James. But it was his position at the  NewYork Sun that would propel him to fame. And all he had to do was reach into his heart and write what he was feeling and believing.

A letter had arrived at the editorial office of the New York Sun. The letter read: Dear Editor—I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it is so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon  115 W. 95th St.

Francis P. Church just happened to be the lead editorial writer for the paper. He had a reputation as a cynical man who was an agnostic, and for the most part, more or less a grouch. Ironically, he was given the task to answer.

What follows is the exact letter written by Francis Pharcellus Church and printed in The New York Sun on Septemeber 21, 1897. It was directed to Virginia O’Hanlon. What follows is only parts of the letter. To see the entire letter, just click on the link above.

Dear Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible to their little minds…

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished…

Not believe in Santa Claus! Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world….

Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding…

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives! And he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten-time ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 Francis Pharcellus Church, a cynic, and grouch, latched onto a hidden faith and gave Virginia and all those children from 1897 and after,  the joy of believing in Santa Claus. I think that Santa is God’s Christmas angel, and HE allows him to do his thing every Christmas Eve. Go ahead; I dare you—prove me wrong.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

 


Is Christmas a Time for Miracles? The Answer is YES, and we can prove it.

We thought Mom was dead, but she opened her eyes and said, “Come here and give me a hug.” 

Believe in Miracles                                                                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

During the Christmas season, I believe God’s loving hand sweeps down and touches many of us with a little extra something when we might need it most. Haven’t you ever, after having something unexpected and beautiful happens, blurted out, “I can’t believe it, it’s a miracle!”

Sometimes what happens to you or someone close to you is inexplicable, mystifying, and mysterious and you just know in your heart that God had His hand in the mix. The following is true, and it happened to my family during the Christmas season of 1960. I can remember it as if it happened today. There is no logical explanation save God intervened and gave us an unexpected Christmas gift.

Our Mom had just turned forty and suddenly was going back and forth to the hospital for two or three days at a time. I had just turned 16 and was more or less oblivious to most everything except Barbara McMahon, who lived around the corner. Every time Mom came home, she looked worse. My sister, Carolyn, 13, told me the black and blue marks on Mom’s arms were from IV needles. I figured she knew what was up especially since she wanted to be a nurse.

Dad just kept telling us it was the “grippe” (today we call it the flu). “Don’t worry,” he’d say, “It’s just a really bad grippe.” Grandma, who lived with us, embraced that concept without question. Today, the psyche experts call that Denial. Grandma proved to be really good at it.

Mom was home for Thanksgiving, but Grandma was doing most of the work using my poor sister as her trainee. I know that it was sometime after Thanksgiving that Mom went back into the hospital. Then came December 18. That was the day Dad, Grandma, Carolyn and myself, took the subway down to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for a simple Sunday visit with the woman who was the wife, mother and daughter in our lives. Christmas was one week away and that visit turned out to be anything but simple.

Mom was on the third floor, and when we got to her room,  several doctors and nurses were standing around her bed. Mom was on the bed, her head on the pillow and turned to one side. Her eyes were closed. I remember how still she was. I was instantly frightened. Carolyn and I looked at each other and she too was filled with fear. It is incredible how fast fear can embrace you.

Grandma placed her hand over her mouth and started to cry. One of the doctors pulled our dad to the side and quietly talked to him. I watched him shake his head ever so slightly. Then he came over to me and (this is a direct quote from him on that day), “Please take your sister and Grandma to the chapel and say a rosary together. Your Mom needs all the prayers she can get right now.”

Trying to grow into a man in a matter of seconds, I put my arm around Grandma’s shoulder and said, “C’mon Grandma, let’s do what Dad asked.” She was so distraught she simply complied and followed my lead. As we headed to the inter-denominational chapel, a priest hurried towards Mom’s room.

I have no idea how long we were in that little chapel, but I do know we had prayed two rosaries when a nurse came in and asked us to go back to the room. We were a bit shocked because the nurse was smiling. Grandma, with her worn-out arthritic knees, jumped up and broke into the funkiest sprint I have ever seen. She had erased thirty years just like that.

When we walked into that room, we were confronted with a sight to behold. Mom was sitting up in bed, smiling. Dad was next to her with his arm around her shoulder. He was sporting a grin that spread across his entire face and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Standing on the other side of the bed was the priest we had seen in the hallway. He was standing there with his hands clasped together with a look on his face I cannot describe. For me, it was a moment etched indelibly in my mind and I can see it as clearly as I did back then.

Our Mom, who we thought was dead, extended her arms and said, “Well, don’t I get a hug from you two? C’mon, get over here.”

Mom was not only better, but she was also ALL better. Her arms were clear, her face had color and her eyes were bright and cheerful. Several doctors were outside huddled together in disbelief. They had no explanation for her sudden recovery. We finally learned that Mom had Leukemia, and in 1960, your chances with that disease were virtually non-existent. We also learned that Dad had asked us to go to the chapel because the doctor had told him she only had moments left. He did not want us to see her pass on.

My father and the priest believed they had witnessed a miracle. Grandma, Carolyn, and I saw the results of that miracle. Mom came home the next afternoon.

Christmas of 1960 was spiritual and fabulous. What had happened filled us all with an awe-inspiring sense of what Christmas means…New Life.  As for Mom, she was fine until the end of January. She enjoyed Johnny’s second birthday and Danny’s eleventh birthday. In early February, she was back in the hospital. She died on February 18, 1961. God gave her back to us for one last Christmas and it was the best Christmas ever.

So please, trust me when I tell you it is okay to believe, Christmas really is a time for miracles.

Wishing God’s blessings and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

Copyright©Larry Peterson2019 (first posted in 2015)

 


It is Christmas and, even if you do not believe, Jesus wants to hug you too.

Why not give Jesus  a chance.

Jesus Hug                                                                        pineterest.com

by Larry Peterson

I love Christmas and the entire season that surrounds it. Christmas is about faith and love, and goodness. It encapsulates sharing and giving and all of those things that fill the hearts of millions of people around the world with a renewed spirit that can shine through even the darkest moments we may have experienced during the preceding year. Yes, I love Christmas.

Christmas is so much more than a ‘certain day’ each year. It is an actual state of mind. It becomes part of whom many of us still are…Children at heart. And we become children again through our own children and even our grandchildren. We can love the anxiety and pressure and the cookies and candy and putting up the tree and neighborhood decorations the same as the little ones.

I anxiously looked forward to Santa’s arrival when I was a child. Then I grew up and became Santa. I dressed up in a Santa suit and crept into my own house at midnight on Christmas Eve. My still innocent children, awakened by jingling bells, were hiding in the hallway with their mom who was trying her best to hold their enthusiasm in check. I think I was more excited about the whole thing than they were. Yes, I love Christmas.

Most importantly, Christmas is about Salvation. The story is so beautiful and profound. A simple carpenter, obeying the law, must take his full-term, pregnant teenage wife, on an 80-mile journey to the town of his ancestry for the census. Riding on the back of a mule, she somehow manages to make the trip, and God only knows (and HE does) how this could be possible. Not knowing anyone, they cannot find a place to stay, and the baby is about to be born. Effectively homeless and in a strange town, they wind up in a stable, and mom gives birth to her child surrounded by smelly animals and old straw. Can you imagine?

This helpless infant is the Son of God, sent by His Father, and His birth among the lowest of the low shows us all the greatest act of humility ever enacted by anyone, before, then, or ever after. This baby will grow up, and they will torture and kill Him. Why? Because He preached forgiveness and kindness and that we should “love our neighbor” and “turn the other cheek.” Today, 2000 years later, over 2.6 billion people are following Him. I guess killing Jesus did not bring the desired results.

Today we still have those who want desperately to eradicate Jesus. From the maniacal Jihadists around the world who are doing their best to physically murder Christians wherever they can find them, to the atheists, agnostics, pagans, heathens, Satanists, and their ilk who HATE everything about Christianity and the beauty of the Christmas that delivered it. There is never a shortage of hatred floating around as Satan prowls about the world doing “his thing.”

To all of you who want to ruin this day, I ask, “Why? Don’t you realize that you are also removing the love and goodness that is associated with it?” ( I guess that is rhetorical because I know they do not care.)  So, shame on you. You are the real “grinches” in the world. You are an embarrassment to all the tender hearts filled with kindness and generosity during this time of the year. You are ‘empty”, and it is sad because you do not have to be empty, you choose it. Jesus loves you too and wants desperately to hug you. You might swallow some useless pride and give Him a chance. You might like it…like it a lot.

I wish to say to all you “grinches” that I will say a prayer for all of you this Christmas. I will pray that you might catch a glimpse of that star that shines so bright. Maybe a droplet of its light will find a way into your heart. If you happen to catch a glimpse of this light please, do not turn away. You will have chosen to ignore a beautiful Christmas moment. This moment could be the greatest gift you ever receive. What do you have to lose?

So keep your eyes and hearts open because Someone is on His way and he may not be wearing a red suit. But He would still like a hug.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all and may God bless us, ALL of us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

 


A Journey to Sainthood…meet Venerable Giuseppe Ambrosili

Venerable Giuseppe Ambrosoli                                                     comboni.org

By Larry Peterson

The woman was only twenty years old and was dying of Septicemia (blood poisoning). It was October 25, 2008, and on that day, her baby had already been lost, and Lucia Lomokol, seemed destined to follow her child in death. All means known to the doctors to reverse Lucia’s condition had failed, and there was no hope to save her.

Doctor Eric Dominic, a physician from Turin, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small prayer card. It was the holy card of Servant of God, Father Giuseppe Ambrosili. Doctor Dominic placed the holy card on Lucia’s pillow and asked the young woman’s relatives and all else who were present to pray to Father Guiseppe for Lucia’s recovery. They all did as requested, and the next morning, Lucia Lomokol was alive, well,  and her infection was gone.  No one thought such a thing was possible.

Giuseppe Ambrosili was born on July 25, 1923, in Ronago, Italy, a small town in northern Italy five miles from the Swiss border. He was the seventh son of Giovanni Ambrosili and Palmira Valli. Guiseppe did well in grade school and went to high school in nearby Como, Italy. In 1942, after finishing high school, he moved on and attended the College of Milan, but World War II disrupted his studies.

He became part of the Italian underground, and in 1943 he pledged to help save as many Jewish people.  Giuseppe and others worked clandestinely to hide them and get them safe passage to the Swiss border. The alternative for them was the concentration camp. If Giuseppe or his cohorts had been caught it would have meant their immediate execution.

Giuseppe did survive the war.  His ultimate calling had always been to the priesthood, but in 1946, he returned to the College of Milan. On July 28, 1949, he was awarded a degree as a Doctor of Medicine. Giuseppe then headed home to the seminary located in Venegona (also in northern Italy) to study to receive Holy Orders. He was ordained a priest on December 17, 1955. The Archbishop of Milan presiding over his ordination was Archbishop Giovanni Montini, who would become Pope St. Paul VI.

He was now a priest who had also been schooled in medicine and surgery. He then moved on to get a Tropical Medicine Diploma with the goal of eventually tending to the poor and deprived in Africa. Upon completion of his training, he announced to his mother and the rest of his family that his ultimate calling was to be a missionary. He told them, “God is love, they are suffering neighbors, and I am their servant.”

He became part of the Congregation of the Comboni Missionaries, and in 1956 he left for Africa. He was sent to a  small village in a town called Kalongo. This was located in northern Uganda, and he was put in charge of the medical dispensary at the outpost. He would remain at this place for the next 32 years.

During Father Giuseppe’s tenure at the dispensary, he transformed it into the Kalongo Hospital. Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) was quite prevalent at the time, and the lepers were kept isolated in a place called the “leprosarium.” Care at these places was of poor quality, so Father Giuseppe began the “St. Mary’s School of Midwifery” training Ugandans to be the caregivers of the lepers.

Father Giuseppe transformed the methods for leprosy care. The first thing he did was acknowledge those with leprosy were, foremost,  people with an illness. These people deserved the same dignity and treatment as all others. Then he incorporated the ‘leprosarium” into being part of the hospital. The lepers became patients like all the other patients, and Father made sure they were treated as such.

In February of 1987 an insurrection erupted in Uganda, and Father Giuseppe and his hospital had to be evacuated. The hospital was burned to the ground by the insurrectionists. The humble priest, who only wanted “to be His servant for people suffering,” died March 27, 1987, at the Camboni Mission in Lira. The cause of death was kidney failure. (A little bit of “heartbreak” probably was also involved).

Today the Kalongo Hospital is called the Dr. Ambrosili Memorial Hospital. It has 350 beds and treats more than 60,000 people a year. He is remembered in Uganda as the “Doctor of Charity.”

Giuseppe Ambrosoli was elevated to the rank of Venerable on December 17, 2015, by Pope Francis. On November 28,2019, the Holy Father attributed the recovery of Lucia Lomokol, to the intervention of  Giuseppe Ambrosoli. He will be beatified sometime in 2020 to the rank of the “Blessed.”

Venerable Giuseppe Ambrosoli, please pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


The Last Christmas Tree (a short story)

 

Christmas Tree                               commons.wikimedia.org    

                                     The Last Christmas Tree

                                              A Short Story

                                        by Larry Peterson 

                               Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Inspired by a true story:

It was 6:00 A.M., and she was exhausted. She stood there, unblinking, looking into the mirror at the person staring back at her. Running her hands through her tousled, just-got-out-of-bed hair, she sighed deeply. She leaned forward, stared some more, and said to herself, “Oh my God, Sharon, you look just awful.”

She had to leave by 6:30, so she hurriedly washed her face, brushed her teeth, and tried to create some order with her hair. She had worked twenty-two days straight since Thanksgiving, and today would be the last day before the holiday. It was Christmas Eve, and there was still much to do, including getting a Christmas tree.

As Sharon, a meter reader and installer for the local utility company, pulled on her work shoes, a soft voice came from behind. It was her youngest, five-year-old Joey.  She turned, and he said, “Mommy, Santa can’t come here tonight.”

She was somewhat stunned by the unexpected comment. “Joey, why would you think that. Of course, he can come here.”

“But we have no Christmas tree. Can’t you stay home from work and get us a tree?”

They had kept asking, and she had kept promising, and it was always “later” or “tomorrow,” and now, just like that, time was up. She turned and held out her arms to her boy. “Come over here, “ she said.

He ran over, and she hugged him. She looked into his nervous eyes and said, “Don’t worry Joey, I only have to work a little while today, and then I will get the tree. I will have it when I get home from work. Then we will all decorate it, and Santa will have a tree to put the toys under. Don’t worry.”

Oozing innocence, he simply looked at her and believed it would be so. “Okay, mommy.”

She stood up and said, “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s get you back in bed. I will tell April you are awake.”

“No need, mom. I’m up. C’mon with me, Joey. We can watch some TV.”

It was her twelve-year-old son, Alvin. She turned and smiled at him. “Thanks, hon. They promised us we would be home early. Say a prayer it actually happens.”

“Mom, what about a tree?”

“Alvin, I know,  I know. I promised Joey, and I promise you, we will have a tree. Don’t worry. These last 20 days just seem to have run together, and—don’t worry, we will have a tree.”

It was about 6:50 when she pulled into the loading dock area to pick up her assignments and needed materials. The parking lot was already empty of the work trucks as all the crews had left for their assigned destinations. Sitting in her vehicle, she took out her Rosary and held it tightly. A “single” mom and devout Catholic, prayers had brought her through some, lonely, harsh and scary days after her husband had walked away from her and the children. She blessed herself and began to pray.

She was quietly asking the Blessed Virgin to allow Christmas Eve to go smoothly and for her to be able to get a tree when a tap on her window startled her. She turned to see her field supervisor, Herb Guerin, standing there. She rolled down the window, “Hi Herb, what do you have for me today?”

“Here you go, Sharon.” As he handed her the work orders he said,  “I’m sorry, but I have to dump two more on you. They just came in but they are right next to each other, so it should go quick.”

“Please, Herb, I still have to get a Christmas tree. Can’t you get someone else? My five-year-old is thinking that Santa won’t come to our house. I have to get a tree.”

“Look, I understand. But this is about five minutes away from where you are going. A transformer blew up, and 1400 homes are without power. That could be more than 4000 people. It is Christmas Eve, and they need their power. The line crew is on-site but there are two new meters we need installed. You should be able to squeeze that in, don’t you think? Those people are counting on us to get their power on.”

“Okay, Herb, okay. What are the addresses?” He handed her the add-ons, and they wished each other Merry Christmas. She drove away, fingering her rosary beads. That proved more soothing for her than a cup of morning coffee.

Sharon had finished her regular assignments by noon and it should have been the end of her workday. But, as is the way of things, the transformer was not delivered until 2:00 .P.M and she could not install the new meters until after the transformer was replaced. It was 4:00  P.M.when she finally started for home.

Heading home, she kept looking for Christmas trees for sale. Even the seasonal tree lots that sold trees every year were empty. She had been confident that she would find a tree quickly. Now her confidence was being shattered. There were no trees anywhere. She thought a moment and then prayed, St. Anthony, please help me find a tree for my kids?”

Sharon did not plan to go home until she had found a tree. But she had not eaten, she felt sick to her stomach and needed to stop by the house which was only five minutes away. She thought she could just run inside, use the bathroom and simply “chill” for a few minutes. She looked at the clock; it read 5:35. A shiver ran down her spine.

She stepped from her van as Joey came running out of the house, “Hi Mommy, did you get our tree? Did you?  Where is the tree? Where is the tree? You got the tree, right?”

Sharon took a deep breath and knew she should have found a tree before coming home. Looking upwards, she quickly and quietly prayed, “Dear God, I need Your help. Please.”

Just like that, April, who was 14, Alvin, 12, and Austin, eight,  were standing in front of her. Joey was in front of them. All she could see were four sets of insecure and nervous eyes looking  at her. A sudden blanket of fear seemed to come out of nowhere and grab hold of her. Oh my God, I do not know if I can do this. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I need your help. Tears came to her eyes.

April quickly went to her mom and gave her a hug. She said, “Mom, it’s okay. Don’t worry.”

Then Alvin was standing next to her, and Austin and then Joey was hugging her leg and she felt the love of her children and blurted out, “Okay, listen to me. I did not get the tree yet. I just needed to get a drink and use the bathroom. Then I will go get it. Alvin, can you come with me to help?

“Why should Alvin get to go?” Austin asked. “Why can’t we all go?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” said April, “All of us should go. It will be all of us finding our family Christmas Tree.”

Sharon looked at the four of them and was suddenly buoyed with a sense of “Christmas.” Everything was feeling right. She had been slowly buying and hiding things since July. Toys and other gifts were in the back of her work truck, and more were stashed in the shed in the back yard. (The kids never let on that they knew). “Okay,” she said.  “Let’s get in the car and go find a tree.”

They piled into their fourteen-year-old 1988 Chevy Corsica, and Sharon headed toward Washington Ave. Her children had no idea how tired and worn out their mom was. Well, why would they; their Mom was not like other people; she was MOM. Being up since 6:00 A.M., not eating all day except for some stale chocolate chip cookies and two containers of coffee, was not something that could stop their Mom. That possibility was never considered.  They did not grasp that it was she who was hungry, tired, and feeling a bit weak. She said, “I hope we can find a tree quickly. You kids must be starving.” Things were never about her.

They were all focused on a tree, not food.  Alvin said, “ We can eat later, mom. Let’s check Walmart first; they have tons of trees.”

Sharon sighed and made a quick left onto Highway 19 N. They pulled into Walmart’s parking lot five minutes later. The store was just closing. They drove over to the nursery and found out there were no trees left. Al tried to run into the store to look for an artificial tree, but the doors were already locked.

Sharon said, “There is a Christmas tree lot over on Belcher Rd. They might have something.”

That lot was empty, and the search continued, from supermarket to supermarket, to home-improvement centers and to discount outlets, to nurseries, and even looking outside convenient stores. Sharon was now driving and not thinking. They had searched for a tree for over two hours, finding more than a dozen places that sold trees but now had none. It was now almost eight o’clock.

She was feeling a sense of despair. It was dark, and most stores had already closed. April suddenly blurted out, “Hey Mom, there is the Burger Barn. Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”

They all chimed in, “yeah, mom—c’mon Mom—we’re starving, Mom!”  Sharon knew that sitting in the car with the four kids eating cheeseburgers, fries, and holding drinks would be a disaster. “Okay, stop yelling; I can hear you. But there is no way we eat in the car. Lets park and go inside. We need a break anyway.”

As they walked toward the entrance, Austin said, “Mom, we just better face it. We ain’t gonna find a tree. It’s too late. They’re all gone.”

“Stop it, Austin, have some faith. As soon as we sit down, we will all say a Hail Mary together and ask our Mother Mary to help us find one. And you watch, she WILL help us find one.”

They walked inside, found an empty table, and sat down. Sharon’s faith had helped her through incredibly difficult times, and she was about to call on it again. She reached out her hands, and they all followed her lead holding each other’s hands. Bowing their heads, they prayed a Hail Mary together. When they finished, Sharon and Alvin headed to the counter to get their food.

The impromptu Burger Barn  “dinner” went reasonably well. The order came out quickly, nothing was dropped or spilled, and, to top it off, everyone was quiet as they devoured their food. After spending a calm and pleasant fifteen minutes, it was time to find their tree.

As they stood up to leave, an old man, disheveled and dirty, approached them. Nervously, the man said, “Excuse me, ma’am. I think I can help you.”

Sharon had watched as he approached and haltingly said, ‘Huh…help me? What do you mean? We are fine. We do not need any help. Please, we have to go.”  She turned to her nervous children and said, “Okay kids, it’s time to leave. Let’s go.”

“Ma’am, please, don’t be afraid. I watched you and your children praying and it was a beautiful thing. And— I heard your boy say you needed a tree. I can help you.”

“How can you help us? I suppose you know where a tree is?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, I do,” said the man. “But you have to trust me and follow me. I will take you to it.”

“Follow you? We don’t even know you. Why should we follow a complete stranger to an unknown place? I have my children with me. Look sir, I’m sure you are a very nice man, but I’m not following you anywhere.”

The man quietly said, “I’m sorry to have bothered you and your family. You all have a merry Christmas.”

They were all watching him as he walked toward the exit. As he disappeared from sight, one of the workers came by and smilingly said, “I hope that man didn’t frighten you. He is harmless. He’s just a kind old man who  stops in here every so often for some coffee.”

Sharon, hearing this, quickly huddled her kids around and said quietly, “Look, we just prayed to the Blessed Virgin for help, and this old man comes out of nowhere and offers us a tree. It seems a bit crazy, but it is Christmas Eve. They know him here, so he must be harmless. We have to trust that Jesus and His Mom are helping us. As foolish as it sounds, I say we follow him. What do you kids think?”

“Why not, mom.,” April said. “Jesus will protect us.”

They all agreed, and Sharon said, “Okay, let’s see if we can find him.”

They hurried outside, and the old man was just standing there. As Sharon approached him, he smiled and said, “I thought I would wait to see if you changed your mind. I’m glad you did.”

Across the road from Burger Barn was a golf course. The man told Sharon, “There is a gravel service road at the end of the golf course parking lot. Drive down that road for about a half-mile, and you will find your tree. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

The surrounding golf course was unlit and pitch black. The headlights from the car cast an eerie glow as they slowly drove forward. Sharon had them all praying together as they ventured into the unknown. The mother of four was driving using faith for fuel. She was afraid. So were her children. The only sound that could be heard was the gravel crunching beneath the tires.

And then, as they turned around the bend in the road, there it was. A Christmas tree, not just any Christmas tree but the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. It was fully decorated and all lit up. In fact, it was as if a light was shining down upon it. The entire area was lit up. As they got out of the car, an elderly woman stepped out from behind the bushes. Sharon and her kids just stared at her, not knowing where she came from, who she was, or how all this was happening. The woman asked, “Do you like the tree?”

Sharon said, “Who are you? What is going on? Are we all dreaming?”

“No, Sharon, you are not dreaming. Do you like the tree? What do you kids think? Do you like it?”

Austin said, “It is the most beautiful tree I ever, seen, ever.”

“Does everyone agree with Austin?”

They all agreed, and the woman said,  “Well then, Sharon, you just take your family home. When you arrive, the tree will be waiting for you. And, Joey, don’t worry, Santa will be coming to your house tonight.”

Sharon asked, “What do you mean, just go home. What about the tree?”

“Don’t worry about the tree. It is yours. Trust me. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

“I don’t understand. How will the tree….?”

The lady smiled and said, “Have faith, sweetie. It got you here, didn’t it?”

Sharon and her kids got into the car and began their ride home. As they passed the Burger Barn, they looked for the old man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Alvin said, “How did she know all of our names?” No one said anything.

While driving, Sharon had them all praying for homeless people, and, for the most part, all of them were trying to understand what had actually happened.

When they pulled up to their house, all they could see was the Christmas tree that had been at the golf course only a short time before. It was standing in their living room in front of the window. They got out of the car and just stood there, in shock, not understanding, but seeing what they thought impossible. When they went inside, the house smelled like fresh carnations mixed with a hint of pine. Underneath the tree was a creche with figures carved from ivory. It was beautiful.

It was almost midnight when all the kids were finally in bed. Sharon got the gifts from her truck and the shed out back and placed them around the tree. Then she sat down, took out her rosary and began crying and praying simultaneously.

Christmas morning came, and Sharon made sure everyone was up, dressed, and ready to go to 8 A.M., Mass.  After Mass she told the kids that they were going back to the golf course to find the man and woman who helped them. She wanted to thank them and invite them for Christmas dinner. The kids readily agreed.

The course was crowded with golfers, many out to show off their new clothes and golfing equipment. The gravel road was blocked off, so they got out of their car and began to walk. When they reached the bend in the road they stopped. Nothing was there except a golfer looking for his shanked golf shot.

Sharon said to the man, “Excuse me, sir, did you see an elderly man and woman anywhere around here?”

“Sorry lady, the only thing I’m hoping to see is my missing golf ball.”

As they slowly walked back to the car a white dove flew down from a tree and landed facing them. The bird seemed to be looking up at them They all stopped and marveled at this snow-white bird.

The bird stayed looking at them for about ten seconds then slowly fluttered its wings, flew up and landed on Sharon’s shoulder. She remained still. Turning her head ever so slowly, she looked at the dove. The bird looked back at her and their eyes connected. The bird leaned in and rubbed its face against Sharon’s cheek. Then it flew away.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 


This Man viewed Religion with Contempt—This Woman was arrested as a Revolutionary

Together they Founded a Religious Order that would spread around the World

One of the Acts of Mercy—Feeding the Poor            commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On December 6, 1752, Florence Chasseloup presented her husband, Pierre Fournet, with their only son who they named Andre-Hubert. Andre had one sister. The infant Andre was baptized the very next day by his uncle, Father Antoine Fournet, in the local parish, located in Vienne, France.

Twenty-one years later, in Le Blanc, France, on July 5, 1773, a baby girl was born into the aristocratic, Bichier des Ages family. They named her Joan Elizabeth Lucy, and she was baptized the same day she was born. From then on, most people knew her as Elizabeth Bichier.

No one ever would have considered that these two unlikely people would connect in 1797, during the height of the French Revolution. Nor would anyone have imagined that they would join forces to found and inspire religious orders that would eventually serve people on four continents and in thirteen different nations.

As a boy, Andre-Hubert was what one might consider a pompous little brat. He acted self-contained and even harbored a disdain for religion. His mother fostered these feelings because she kept telling him she wanted him to become a priest. He resented her prodding because a priest was the last thing he ever intended to be. In fact, he was so determined to show his mom that he meant it, he ran away from home determined to join the military.

His mother found him and made him come home before he could enlist. She sought out the aid of her brother-in-law, who was a priest in a rural farming community. His name was Jean Fournet, and he had a profound influence on his nephew. So much so that Andrew was ordained to the priesthood in 1776. At his ordination, his mother wept with joy.

Three years earlier, about 60 kilometers away (37 miles),  a baby girl had been born into the aristocratic Bichier family. She was named Joan Elizabeth and baptized the same day. Her mom, Madame Bichier, was committed to teaching her children the tenets of the Catholic faith.  Even as a small child Elizabeth felt herself being drawn to a life of prayer.

The  French Revolution began on July 14, 1789, and French Catholics immediately fell victim to persecution. The Bichier estate was now under threat of seizure and Elizabeth and her mom moved to a tiny house in the local village. However, they were still harassed daily by the Revolutionary Surveillance Committee. They were continually being prodded to sign a new oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution. They stood firm and refused—over and over. They were imprisoned, but their brother, who had sided with the revolutionaries, managed to have them freed. Elizabeth’s life was about to change.

Elizabeth, unable to receive the Holy Eucharist because of the new government’s anti-religious policy, felt terribly deprived. Toward the end of 1796, a former servant came to her and told her of a secret Mass being offered at a farm ten miles away. Elizabeth rode a donkey for more than three hours to reach the farm. After Mass, the priest, Father Andrew Fournet, began to hear confessions. Elizabeth was last in a very long line. Confessions lasted all night long, and when Elizabeth’s turn came to confess, the sun was rising.

She and Father Andrew had an immediate connection. Their spiritualities combined and the priest became Elizabeth’s spiritual director. He asked her to consider devoting her life to the sick, poor, aged and to also establish schools for children in the rural areas of their diocese. Even as a child, Elizabeth had consecrated herself to the Virgin Mary, and she immediately responded to Father Fournet’s ideas.

Father Fournet put Elizabeth in charge of a group of women who also were dedicated to Catholic education and the care of the poor and sick. Elizabeth then founded the order known as Daughter’s of the Holy Cross, Sisters of St. Andrew. The year was 1807. When she died in 1838, there were over 100 communities with hundreds of sisters working to help those in need. By the turn of the 20th century there were over 3100 sisters serving around the world. Today, the Daughter’s of the Holy Cross still has more than 600 sisters working on four continents in fourteen different countries helping others.

Father Andrew Fournet was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI on June 4, 1933. Sister Joan Elizabeth Bichier des Ages was canonized a saint of June 6. 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

We ask both of these saints to pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019