The Deadliest Fire in American History was No Match for the Blessed Virgin Mary

We hear of the raging forest fires on the west coast but here is the true story of the worst firestorm in United States history (originally posted in 2017) It happened outside Green Bay, Wisconsin. in 1871. It is also the site of a documented miracle.

Forest Fire raging                                                                                         public domain

By Larry Peterson

On October 8, 1871, in or around a place called Peshtigo, Wisconsin, several men were busy setting small fires in the woods. This was a common practice in clearing land for expanding railroads or for developing farmland. Except on this particular day, something unexpected happened. A cold front moved into the area, creating winds that were close to hurricane force. The winds fanned the flames and the resulting Peshtigo Firestorm still can claim the ignominious title as the “deadliest wildfire” in American History.

To this day, no wildfire in the U.S. has ever caused more deaths. Close to 2500 people perished in the raging 2,000-degree inferno. But there is an incredible side-bar to this story. Miraculously, there was a small group who were not harmed at all, and they were right in the middle of the hellacious blaze. This small group of people were with Adele Brise.

Adele Brise was 24 years old when she came to Wisconsin with her parents. The year was 1855, and the family had just arrived from Belgium.  Devout Catholics, Adele had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed to her daily. They found a Catholic church nearby and would walk there every Sunday morning regardless of the weather.

On Sunday, October 2, 1859, Adele was walking home through the woods when she saw a woman, clothed in white, standing between a hemlock and a maple tree. The woman was encased in bright light and had a yellow sash around her waist.  A crown of stars was above her long, blond hair. Adele, filled with fear, began praying, and the vision disappeared. She told her mom and dad about it, and they said to her that maybe it was a soul in need of prayers.

The following Sunday, Adele, was on her way to Mass with her sister and another woman when she saw the apparition a second time. But her sister and friend, who were walking a bit ahead of her, did not see anything. Returning from Mass, the Lady appeared to Adele for the third time. Adele, who had confided in her parish priest about the mysterious Lady, did as he told her. She asked the Lady the question, “In the Name of God, who are you, and what do you wish of me?”

The Lady answered, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

Adele was afraid. She knew little about her faith. She asked how she was supposed to do this with so little knowledge. The Blessed Virgin told her, “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the Sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”

Adele took the Blessed Virgin’s words to heart. She began her new, lifelong ministry of teaching children the Catholic faith by traveling by foot from house to house to instruct children in their homes. Adele’s dad, Lambert Brise, built a small wooden structure at the sight of the apparition. A few years later, after Isabella Doyen donated five acres around the site, Adele, started a small school. Also, a  bigger wooden church was built, and it was named Our Lady of Good Help.

In the meantime, the magnificent woodlands of Wisconsin were being harvested for their fine lumber. Mounds of sawdust and dried branches were being littered about with no sense of cleanup or conservation ever considered. Then came the evening of October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo Fire quickly exploded and began to devour the entire area with its rushing flames and 2000 degree heat. The firestorm started to head for Our Lady of Good Help.

People nearby the chapel began heading to it. There was never an accurate count, but many people came, some even bringing their livestock. Sister Adele organized them together, and they all prayed the rosary. Outside the chapel, they walked in procession, holding high a statue of Mary pleading for her protection. The fire kept coming, and the people moved inside the chapel and continued praying. Soon the fire raged all around the compound, and the flames even arched over it. But the fire never touched the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help or the people there.

Over one million acres were destroyed in the Peshtigo Firestorm. As far as the eye could see was total devastation. Yet, in the middle of it all, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help and the fenced property surrounding it was untouched. The property had been spared, and no one had been hurt, including the animals. The five acres sat amid the charred landscape like an oasis in the desert. People who came and saw this incredible sight knew the Hand of God was at work that night. The faithful did not doubt that the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Good Help, stood outside the chapel, deflecting the raging inferno away from her children inside.

The story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Good Help was always well known within the local culture and to the faithful, but many considered it “urban legend”. That was because there was never an “official ecclesiastical judgment” rendered. Then, in 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay launched an official investigation. On December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a special Mass was offered on the site by Bishop David Ricken. At the Mass, the bishop declared that the Marian apparitions witnessed by Adele Brise were “worthy of belief.”

The site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help is only one of 15 worldwide recognized for Marian apparitions.  It is the only one in the United States. Since its ecclesiastical recognition and approval, The  Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is rapidly growing as a site for pilgrims from around the world. The “cause” for the canonization of Sister Adele Brise will continue. It is a beautiful thing.

 

copyright ©Larry Peterson 2017


No Quarantining for this Priest. He walked straight into the deadly Pandemic to minister to his people. It cost him his life.

Fr. Patrick J. Ryan      public domain

By Larry Peterson

Patrick Ryan had been born in 1845, and he was never aware of the hard times his mom and dad endured during his first few years. It was during the time of Ireland’s  Great Potato Famine when his family was evicted from their farm. After selling whatever they could, they managed to make their way to New York City. It was here young Patrick would grow up and eventually answer God’s call to serve.

Patrick was an average student and had to study hard to make acceptable grades. When he was 21, he was able to enroll in St. Vincent’s College in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Patrick was ordained in 1869 at the Cathedral in Nashville by Bishop P. A. Feehan. Ironically, the Feehan and Ryan families were close neighbors in Ireland, and this may be the reason Patrick joined the Nashville Diocese.

Father Patrick took charge of the Chattanooga area on July 10, 1872. He had to take care of not only the city but also of the southeastern part of the state. The baptismal register included towns such as Tracy City, Winchester, Cleveland, and others as places where Father Patrick had traveled to perform baptisms and administer the other sacraments. Father also was keenly aware that the need for a Catholic school was a prime requirement for the growing population.

The parish had always maintained a school for children. It operated under the supervision of the priest in charge, but all the grades were either taught by one man or one woman in the basement of the church. Father Patrick had different ideas. He was bound and determined to have a first-class school in his parish and the area. He also wanted nuns to be in charge. He headed to Nashville and pleaded with the Dominican Sisters of the St. Cecilia Congregation to establish new roots in Chattanooga. The Sisters had been in Nashville for sixteen years, and the timing was right for them to expand.

On January 6, 1876, four Dominican Sisters arrived in  Chattanooga and began the establishment of the Catholic faith in the area. The first thing they did was open the Notre Dame de Lourdes Academy. This school was located in the former rectory, which would also house the sisters. The regular school remained in the basement until a better facilty could be constructed. But the school had a “new life” about it. This was brought in by the nuns who immediately gave the school a level of excellence unseen until that they took charge.

The future of the parish seemed to be filled with hope and unbounded possibilities. Father Patrick was a happy man. But as is the way of things, sometimes things do not follow the way we think they will. A series of disastrous fires had consumed the business district. Then a cholera epidemic threatened the entire population. In 1875 a massive flood had struck. And now, unexpectedly, a little more than two years later, the school had to be converted into a hospital and an orphanage. The flooding created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and Yellow Fever spread like wildfire.

The people of Chattanooga had escaped other plagues and considered themselves protected by the nearby mountains. It offered its hospitality to those in neighboring towns as a haven. But people coming into Chattanooga brought the disease with them.  Within a few days, the disease was declared an “epidemic,” and 80% of the population fled. One person who did not flee was Father Patrick Ryan. This was his home and these were his people. He would never leave them.

Witnesses said  Father Ryan was going from home to home in the worst infected sections of the city. His duty was to help the sick and dying and he was going to do that until he dropped. He came down with Yellow Fever on September 26. He was much sicker on the morning of the 27th and his newly ordained younger brother, Michael, administered Extreme Unction to his big brother. Father Patrick died on the morning of July  28, 1878. He was 33 years old.

Father Patrick Ryan was fully aware of the danger of yellow fever but chose to tend to his parishioners. He died, giving his life for others. On November 16, 2016,  the U. S. Bishops, at their General Assembly meeting in Baltimore, declared that Father Patrick Ryan is a Servant of God and his cause for sainthood has been forwarded to Rome.

We ask Servant of God Patrick Ryan to pray for us all, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Anti-Semitism / Anti-Christianism: Equal Partners in Hate

fire, hate

By Larry Peterson

Too often throughout history man has allowed hate to control his actions.  Anti-Semitism is a hate that has been around for far too long.

My empathy for the Jewish people began when I was a twelve-year-old, but the journey wasn’t completed until about five years ago. I now I harbor a sense of “passion” about anti-Semitism.  It is an evil bound at the hip with anti-Christianism.

Growing up in the Bronx

I was born and raised Catholic. The Jews were always ‘those other people.’ Yes, I know, Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the apostles, et al, were all Jewish. But as a youngster, I never cared about that or even really thought about it.

I grew up in the South Bronx, in a mostly Catholic-Irish/German/Polish neighborhood. But there were some Jewish families in the neighborhood, too.  The Catholic kids went to Catholic school and Mass while the Jewish kids went to public school and synagogue.  Our social lives at school and church and synagogue were quite different and this caused an invisible separation among us. That was just the way it was.  But there was no hate present.  We were not anti-Semitic.  We bore them no ill-will and to the best of my knowledge they felt the same way toward us.

As such, the first real experience I had with our Jewish neighbors impacted me significantly.  It occurred when I was about twelve years old. I remember very well that Friday night so long ago. It was September, and the screaming started at about midnight. The windows were still open because it was hot, but the wailing seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up, and my seven-year-old brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz

“Down there” was the apartment of Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. We got up and followed him. Dad walked down the flight of stairs and up to Leo’s apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened.

Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who, crying unashamedly, buried his head in Dad’s chest. My brother and I were stunned.  Leo was our landlord and everyone in the building seemed to be afraid of him. Not Dad. Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo and did not leave for several hours.

When Dad came back up to our apartment, Danny and I were waiting for him. We wanted to know what happened. Dad took a deep breath and began to explain.  As he did, ‘those people’ in the neighborhood morphed into real people.  Two of them were named Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.

Sophie Rabinowitz had been having nightmares that were created years before. Dad took us back to 1943, and a city called Krakow  The Nazis occupied Krakow.

Sophie’s continuing nightmares were of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis.  Leo and Sophie had been forced to watch as their children were horrendously murdered.  Leo and Sophie begged their captors to kill them and spare their children, but the Nazis tortured the parents further by allowing them to live.

Try as I may, I cannot imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their children as godless people clubbed them to death simply because they were Jewish. Such evil can only come into people from the very bowels of Hell itself.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

My father has been dead for many years, but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? Through the gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12 – The Sermon on the Mount. This is when Jesus, a Jewish man, gave the world The Beatitudes. The one that always grabs me is #2, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” That is what my father did on that night so long ago. The lesson stayed with me and it proved to be profound many years later.

I love my faith and use it frequently as my steadfast companion. I am always ready to lean on it, and I often do. Today I find myself sickened by the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping our nation and other parts of the world. My first thoughts go back to Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. My own people are being defiled by those consumed by hatred towards people they do not know.

Note that I just called them “my own people.” That is because they are my people. Let me explain.

Genealogy

Our maternal Grandmother was an immigrant from Austria who arrived here as a teenager in 1908. We kids grew up with Grandma living with us, and we took her for granted. We gave no thought as to where she came from, or what her life had been like.  She was just always there. There was never a man in her life.  We never even thought to ask “what happened to Grandpa?”

Grandma died and Mom and dad passed on too, and we never had a chance to ask them about Grandpa.  There had never been any mention of him at all.  The questions only came after we grew up.  I wrote a book about it a few years ago. (If you are interested in reading the story, the book is The Priest and the Peaches, available from Amazon, HERE.)

Our feeble search for Grandpa became virtually non-existent.  Years went by with no information.  But you never know how things will turn out.

About five years ago, I received a message out of the blue on Facebook.  It was from my long lost cousin, Vicki (that reconnect is a story for another time). She had been on a “quest” and managed to locate me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, after almost 40 years, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected.

Vickie had tenaciousness that none of her siblings or cousins possessed. She had plunged into the murky waters of genealogy and found our long, lost grandfather. His name was Isidore Schul.  He was a Hebrew man from Krakow, the very same city Leo and Sophie were from.  Mom’s dad, our Grandpa, was Jewish.  The immigration and naturalization papers all confirmed it. He made it to America in 1907. Just like that, I felt connected to Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.

Jesus was a Jew

I have written a number of times about how the very first Catholic/Christians were Jewish. Jesus was a Jewish man.  His mom, our sweet Blessed Mother, was Jewish. His step-dad, St. Joseph was Jewish, his apostles were Jewish, and many of His first followers were Jewish. Many of  these Jewish/Christians died for following and proclaiming Jesus Christ. They were martyrs for their new faith.

Understanding my heritage caused a transformation of sorts. I now embrace in my own heart the concept of my Jewish connection. My maternal grandfather was a Hebrew man from Krakow, the same place Leo and Sophie’s children were butchered.  He was the only one on his side of OUR family who made it to America.  What we have discovered is that the rest of OUR relatives from his side died in the Holocaust.

We have no way of knowing the fate of our great grandparents, Simon and Regina Schul. Either they died before the death camps began or died in one of them. Now, when I read or see programs about the Holocaust, it has a whole different meaning for me. Members of my family were killed there. It is almost impossible for me to describe.

During the Holocaust, supposedly civilized people, both men, and women, willingly went about participating in the systematic destruction of close to 12 million people, including six million Jews. Their leaders wanted to eliminate Judaism from the face of the earth. And the ‘”good” non-Jewish, Aryan citizens did as the authorities ordered. They “followed orders” and they almost succeeded in their quest.

A Spiritual DNA

I have never understood such hate but I know, too, that anti-Semitism will likely continue unabated. Today, its ‘blood’ relative is a monster known as anti-Christianism.  It’s now rivaling anti-Semitism for world dominance.

When you think about it, it was inevitable that Judaism and Christianity would be defiled and denigrated together.  The worldwide hatred of Jews and Christians will continue, and we are now joined together in this hatred.  Thomas Merton once said, “If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.”

We Catholics read and hear during Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass from the Roman Canon the following words said by the priest before the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles . . .” 

Were not all of those mentioned Jewish? Yes, they were. There is no denying this fact. And they are all canonized saints.  Their Judaism was always part of who they were, and it all extrapolated into who we Catholic/Christians are today. A kind of Spiritual DNA joins Jews and Christians together forever.

Satan is Hate

Satan rules hell. He put himself there, and his followers plunged right in with him.  When I bring Holy Communion to someone, the first prayer I say is, “We come to know and believe that God is Love. And he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”

Satan is the opposite of love. He is hate. And those who choose to embrace “hate” embrace Satan, with Satan heartily embracing them back. This war between Good and Evil will continue until the God of Love decides to end it.  We, as believers, must fight for the God of Love, no matter what the cost, up to and including our lives.

It is 2020, and both Judaism and Christianity are under severe attack in the United States of America. It is in our face. We here, in the USA, have had the absolute luxury of practicing our religions and worshiping as we so choose for as long as we all can remember. I think it is the greatest freedom the Founding Fathers gave us.

Still, even that freedom is under assault as the pandemic gives the secularists in power the authority to order churches closed while allowing casinos and race-tracks to remain open. However, we have a most potent weapon against secularism. It is the Rosary. We should pray our Rosary every day for our nation. It is a weapon that Satan cannot overcome.

SHALOM and PEACE BE WITH YOU!


He is the Patron Saint of African-Americans, and his Body lies Incorrupt to this Day

Benedict the Moor                Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

No one knows what their real names were. That was because they were Negroes kidnapped from Africa and transported to San Fratello, Italy, in the early 16th century. San Fratello was a small town near Messina in Sicily, and this is where the newly arrived “dark people” would spend their lives. Once settled in by their “owners,” they were assigned Italian names. They became Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri.

As the years passed by, Cristoforo and Diana converted to Christianity and led exemplary lives. In 1526, Diana gave birth to a son, and they named him Benedict. Benedict’s mom and dad had fulfilled their duties as faithfully and thoroughly as they possibly could.  Their owner, a devout Catholic and a kind man, rewarded them by granting freedom to their son on his eighteenth birthday. Benedict, who had never attended school because he was a slave, was illiterate.

Benedict continued his work as a day laborer and a shepherd. His meager wages he shared with the poor, and in his spare time, cared for the sick. Because of his lowly status, Benedict the Moor was often the object of ridicule. He stood tall in the face of the name-calling and mockery, and cheerfully told others that he was known as “The Holy Black.”

One day, when Benedict was about 21 years old, he was see being publicly ridiculed by some people because of his color. A  group of hermits from nearby Mount Pellegrino and their leader, James Lanze, noticed him. Lanze was a nobleman who had left the world to live under the Rule of St. Francis. James Lanze spoke to Benedict, and Benedict sold his few possessions and joined the monastic group. It was not long after that he moved with them to Palermo.

His Catholic faith deeply rooted within him, Benedict, a lay brother, happily worked in the kitchen at the Friary od St. Mary of Jesus. But God had other plans for Benedict. When the director of the friary passed away, Benedict was chosen as the Guardian of the friary. He still could neither read nor write. After one year as Guardian, he was selected as Novice Master. Many wondered how he could effectively hold such a position.

As was part of his job, many people sought his counsel. From those that were novices to professed religious,  people of all classes came to him for advice. Benedict, an uneducated black man, possessed an extraordinary gift of prayer and seemingly had full knowledge of the scriptures and an instinctive ability to understand deep theological truths. Learned men were astounded, and word of Benedict’s spirituality spread. Soon the monastery was flooded with visitors. The poor were there asking for alms, the sick were searching for a cure, and others just wanted advice or prayers.

Many said that St. Benedict’s face was seen shining as with a celestial light whenever he was praying in the chapel. While working as a cook, others said that angels were seen helping him in the kitchen and that more often than not, food seemed to miraculously increase as Benedict placed it on the tables.

Benedict would have preferred to live a hidden life, unknown to the world. As he aged, he asked to be relieved of his duties and be allowed to return to the kitchen. This request was granted, and Benedict predicted the day and hour he would die.  He fell ill and, after a short time, passed to his eternal reward. The date was April 4, 1589. It was the day he had foretold.

Benedict’s death saw a huge cult develop, and his veneration spread throughout Spain, Italy, and Latin America. Three years after Benedict’s death, his body was exhumed and found perfectly preserved. In 1611, King Philip III of Spain authorized the adding on to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary of Jesus, a shrine dedicated to St. Benedict the Moor. His incorrupt body is on display to this very day for all to see.

St Benedict the Moor was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1743 and was canonized by Pope Pius VII in 1807. He is the Patron Saint of African Missions and, along with St. Martin de Porres, is the Patron Saint of African-Americans.

In today’s charged political environment, this great saint stands out as a model of patience and understanding when it comes to being confronted with racial prejudice. The following are historically black Roman Catholic Churches located in the United States which bear  Benedict’s name; Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago (2), Pittsburgh, PA, North Omaha, Nebraska, Dayton, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Grambling, Louisiana, and, Savannah, Georgia ( the oldest Catholic church for African-Americans in the entire Southeast.

Saint Benedict the Moor, please pray for us.

 

 

 


This Lebanese shrine to Mary is where she waited for Jesus on his visit to Tyre and Sidon

Our Lady of Waiting is remembered with an icon donated by St. Helena, mother of Constantine.

Our Lady of Waiting                p elie korkanz

By Larry Peterson

Lebanon has always had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So much so that she is known as Our Lady of Lebanon and is the Patron Saint of Lebanon.   The reasons for this devotion can be found in the fact that while she was living, Our Lady visited Lebanon with Jesus. In the village of Magdousheh is located a special sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin of Mantara. This is the place Our Lady stayed awaiting (known as Our Lady of Waiting) the return of Jesus, who had gone to Tyre and Sidon.

Three hundred years later, St. Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Constantine, donated an icon to the sanctuary which remains there to this day. This place is now called the Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara (Our Lady of Waiting).  Melkite Catholics live in the village to care for the Shrine.

The history of Christianity in Lebanon can be traced back to Peter and Paul evangelizing the Phoenicians. However, the spread of Christianity in Lebanon was slow but steady. Paganism existed, especially in the mountainous regions of Mount Lebanon. A study from 2015 shows that more than 2500 of today’s Lebanese Christians have Muslim ancestry. This study confirms that finding but cannot change the fact that the majority of Lebanese Christians are direct descendants of the original early Christians.

The primary focus of Our Lady of Lebanon is at the Shrine located at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon. The Basilica is located in Harissa, a mountain village north of the capital of Beirut. The Shrine belongs to the Maronite Patriarchate, who, in 1904, turned over administration of the site to the Congregation of the Maronite Missionaries.

Work finished on May 3, 1908.  During the inaugural Mass at the site of the Shrine, the Maronite Patriarch declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary would bear the title, Queen of Lebanon. To this day, the Anniversary of Our Lady of Lebanon is celebrated on the first Sunday of May at the Harissa Shrine, which is also called the Notre Dame du Liban.

The Shrine has drawn millions of faithful, both Christian and Muslims (Muslims have a deep devotion to Mary). In 1954 Pope Pius XII sent Cardinal Angelo Roncalli to the Shrine on the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Roncalli would become Pope John XXIII. The Shrine was also visited by Pope St. John Paul II on May 10, 1997, in his efforts to support eastern Eastern Catholicism and evangelize the youth.

The Harissa Shrine is considered as one of the most significant shrines in the world that honors Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The focal point is a giant, 15-ton bronze statue, which is 8.5 meters high (approximately 27 feet) with a diameter of five meters (about 16 feet) in diameter. The Virgin Mary extends her hands towards the capital city of Beirut. The statue weighs thirteen tons and is on top of a hill 650 meters (almost 2000 feet) above sea level.

There are stories of miracles that take place at the Shrine. Here is just one: A lady was leaning back over a railing to take a picture of the magnificent statue of Our Lady looming above her. As she was about to slip back over the rail, a young man reached behind her and pulled her forward, saving her from impending disaster. They began to talk.

The young man said his name was Faidi and that he and his mom were very devoted to Our Lady of Lebanon. Faidi’s mom said that she was unable to have children but four days after praying to Our Lady, she found out she was pregnant. She and her son have visited the site on Faidi’s birthday every year since.

Our Lady of Lebanon pray for us.

copyright© Larry Peterson 2020

 


Our Lady of Cuapa; could these Apparitions be a replay of Fatima?

Our Lady of Cuapa (Nicaragua)              public domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

Bernardo Martinez was experiencing a sense of despair about his life. He lived in Cuapa, Nicaragua, and was quite poor.  Bernardo was a sickly young man and could not find work. He lived in a small room in the back of the church, where he did his best to maintain the grounds and a small chapel. He also acted as a sacristan.

On two separate nights in April of 1980, Bernardo had discovered the lights turned on. He blamed some of the women for leaving them on, but they denied that they had.  Again, on April 15, 1980, Bernardo had noticed the glow of light coming from the sacristy.  Annoyed and mumbling under his breath, he hurried to the chapel to turn the lights off. But the lights were not on. The glow was from something else.

As Bernardo entered the chapel, he noticed the glow had focused itself around the statue of the Blessed Virgin. As he slowly approached the strange light, he realized that the sculpture was illuminated. Excited at seeing such a sight, Bernardo hurried to tell some of his friends. He asked them to please not tell anyone. But they did tell others. The result was that most of the townsfolk began to ridicule and make fun of Bernardo. Even the priest did not believe him.

On May 8, 1980, Bernardo had a chance to go fishing. After about two hours, he left to go home. While walking back, he saw two lightning flashes. After the second flash, he saw a woman standing where the flash had occurred. Bernardo was naturally frightened and, after doing his best to compose himself, walked over and asked the Lady who she was. She replied that she was the Mother of Jesus.

Bernardo fell to his knees and stared at her. Then he asked her what she wanted? She told him that she desired the Rosary to be prayed every day. Bernardo told her he was going to meet the people to pray the Rosary in the chapel.

Our Lady knew that they were praying the Rosary because it was the month of May, but she told him again that she wanted it said every day of the year. Bernardo said she told him, “the Lord does not like prayers we make in a rush or mechanically.”  She continued,  “you should pray the Rosary and also read Bible passages so you can put into practice the Word of God.”

The Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernardo five more times, and another time an angel appeared. Bernardo, afraid of being ridiculed, kept these visions to himself. He even began to avoid the area where the visions had occurred. But he could not stay silent for long. On May 16, 1980, only a few days after the last vision, Bernardo once again saw two flashes of lightning. Then Mary appeared before him. He wept and told her he was sorry for being so frightened. She smiled at him and told him he could tell the people.

Bernardo went to the priest and told him what had happened. He told him to gather the townsfolk together and he did. With the priest by his side, Bernardo told everyone about the visions. Some of the people believed Bernardo but most were still skeptical. The priest told Bernardo that if he had any more experiences to tell no one but him.

During the evening of June 8, 1980, Our Lady again appeared to Bernardo. He said the visions he saw were like watching separate movies in the sky. The first was of the first Christians all dressed in white marching to heaven. The second was the Dominicans all carrying large, luminous Rosaries. One of them brought a large book, and they all meditated on the words. Then everyone said one Our Father and ten Hail Marys.

There were apparitions on July 8, 1980;  September 8, (Our Lady’s birthday)1980: and on October 13 (the last vision of Fatima) 1980. During the final apparition, the Blessed Virgin said, Nicaragua has suffered a great deal since the earthquake, and will continue to suffer if all of you don’t change. If you don’t change, you will hasten the coming of the Third World War.”

In 1995, Bernardo Martinez, at the age of 65,  was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Leon in Nicaragua. He died in 2000. In 1982 the Bishop of Managua authorized the investigation into the apparitions. In 1994, Bishop Robelo stated that the apparitions were “worthy of belief.”

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


The French Revolution stifled Elizabeth Bichier; Then she met Father Andrew Fournet and everything changed—She founded the Sisters of the Cross

Joan Elizabeth Bichier des Ages                public domain

By Larry Peterson

Elizabeth Bichier (full name; Jeanne-Elisabeth-Lucie Bichier des Agnes) was born on July 5,  1773, in the Chateau des Ages, in the village of Le Blanc, which was located in the Central Loire Valley in the center of France. Elizabeth was one of four children, and she was baptized the same day she was born at the Church of Saint-Genitour du Blanc. Elizabeth’s mom, a devout Catholic, taught all of her children how to pray and ensured that they knew the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. Elizabeth, a willing student, was drawn to a life of prayer even as a child.

The French Revolution erupted in 1789. A predominantly Catholic country, the French Catholics were shocked at the restrictions placed upon the practice of their faith. As the Revolution progressed, more and more uprisings took place.  The War in the Vendee is probably the best known because government forces eventually massacred thousands upon thousands of Catholics.

To avoid the high chance of being killed, Elizabeth’s older brother, Laurent, fled France and settled in England. Shortly after, on January 16, 1792, their father died. Elizabeth and her mom were left to deal with the ever-changing “laws” put in place by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the National Constituent Assembly.

These agencies had decreed that church property, which included that owned by Catholics such as Laurent, was subject to confiscation. Elizabeth and her mother moved to a small house in the village. Once there, they were harassed every day by the Revolutionary Surveillance Committee. After a short time, authorities discovered an old gun owned by Elizabeth’s dead father, and she and her mother were put in prison. Fortunately, Elizabeth’s other brother, who had joined the forces of the Revolution, had the influence and connections to obtain their release.

In 1796, Elizabeth and her mother were able to move to the family’s country home in Bethines. It was lonely here, and Elizabeth began to feel the loss of the Holy Eucharist deeply. That was because the local church was served by a government-approved “priest,” The masses being said were not valid and were rejected by most people. As a child, Elizabeth had consecrated herself to the Blessed Mother.  Filled with love of Our Lady, she began to gather people to pray together for the return of their religious freedom.

Elizabeth’s grief was lifted when, 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, needy, aged and to establish schools for children in the rural areas of their diocese. Devoted to the Virgin Mary, 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 The Sisters of the Cross, The 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, over 3100 sisters were serving around the world. Today, the Sister’s of the 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 2020

 


Hearing that he might be elected Pope, he hid in a cave until the election was over; meet St. Philip Benizi

Saint Philip Benizi                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Philip Benizi was born in Florence on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1233. (The Feast of the Assumption was declared a dogma of faith by Pope Pius XII in 1950. However, celebrating the day has been traced back to as early as the third century). That same day the Order of Servites was founded by the Mother of God. Even as a small child, this was the Order that Philip wanted to join. His father was against this and insisted to Philip that he was not worthy of such a calling. Philip succumbed to his father’s influence and began to study medicine. He studied for several years in Padua and Paris, earning doctorates in medicine and philosophy.

He began to work as a physician but never stopped thinking about his vocation. It was the Thursday after Easter when Philip went into the Chapel of the Servites located on the outskirts of Florence to attend Mass. During the reading of the Epistle, the words, “Draw near and join thyself to the chariot.”  Philip, hearing these words, went into ecstasy and found himself out in a wild and dangerous wilderness. He looked for a way to get out and save himself. He looked around but saw no escape. Then he looked up and saw the Blessed Virgin, above him in a chariot. She held in her hand the habit of the Servites. Philip immediately knew what he had to do and headed to the dwelling of the Seven Founders and asked to be accepted as a lay-brother.

Philip was readily accepted and began to work as diligently and as faithfully as he could. His knowledge and holiness were so evident that those who knew him convinced him to become a priest. He tried to oppose them but finally accepted their advice. He was ordained at Siena in 1258. Once ordained, he became zealous in his love of the priesthood and his quest to serve the Blessed Virgin.

Philip became the Superior to several houses and, in 1267, was elected Prior General of the Servite Order. As Prior General, he ordered his Servite members to travel about and preach the Gospel and spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin. From city to city and town to town, the Servites went, spreading the Word and encouraging devotion and honor to Our Lady.

Philip was humble and highly intelligent, with his humility always staying in charge. This character trait obtained for him the highest regard from both clergy and laity. Philip did not realize what kind of effect he had on those around him. When the Cardinals assembled in Viterbo to elect a new pope, they could not agree on whom to choose. Eventually, after lengthy discussions, they unanimously chose Philip.

When Philip heard of this, he fled into the mountains. He found a cave to hide in and stayed there until a new Pope was elected. He could not understand why these lofty churchmen would consider choosing him. The year was 1271, and the man elected to the papacy became Pope St. Gregory X.

During the thirteenth century, Italy was ravaged by civil wars. Father Philip Benizi’s preaching was one of the prime reasons peace was restored. At the Council of Lyons, he spoke to the many prelates and did so using the “gift of tongues.” Known for performing miracles, he met a leper on the road and gave the man his cloak. When the leper put it on, his leprosy vanished.

Philip’s body was getting weaker, and he went to the convent at Todi to finish his earthly journey. On the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, he preached his last sermon. It was so eloquent and persuasive people in the congregation wept. When he had finished, he was overcome with fever, which he regarded as a sign of impending death. He asked his helpers to carry him to his apartment. He would spend the last days of his life in prayer, repenting of his sins, and asking if he might be admitted into heaven.

After receiving the Sacraments, he asked all those present to pray the litany of the saints. He had been born on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, and he died on August 22, 1285. That was within the Octave of Assumption. He was 52 years old. He was canonized by Pope Clement X on April 12, 1671.

Saint Philip Benizi, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Loneliness in America—A Growing and Deadly Epidemic spurred on by the Covid-19 Pandemic; where is God in all of this?

LONELINESS                                                                                                                        cs.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

I have learned that loneliness has no boundaries. It stretches out its tentacles and wraps them around those who may have lost a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, or even a dear friend. I have been widowed twice and know full well how loneliness can create a desolate place in the widowed equation.

Loneliness holds no prejudice. It randomly chooses those it has decided to torment, and once it does, it attacks mercilessly. Its victims include people from every conceivable walk of life,  especially the unsuspecting. Many times the dull ring of the phone or a knock at the door is all it takes to hurl someone into the pit of loneliness. It can attack anyone at any time, and it has become a social condition of almost epidemic proportions.

Incredibly, during early March of 2020, loneliness was gifted with a new victim to feast on: it extended its ravenous appetite into the pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus.  Loneliness and the pandemic joined forces with “experts” and began to ravage thousands upon thousands of people with loneliness, especially senior citizens.  One way was to take away their chairs and sofas. Let me explain.

I have been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound on Sundays for over twenty years. It may be the most uplifting thing I do, and I know I have been spiritually rewarded many times over. It was early March when I confronted a new wrinkle among my visits. I have one lady, Virginia (she is 98), who resides in an apartment which is part of a  single person, independent living facility. It is a reasonably long walk from the parking lot to the building entrance. Once there, you use a keypad to gain access. I scroll to Virginia’s name and get her on the speaker. She buzzes me in.

As the sliding doors open, I stop short. No one is there. Every Sunday, there are four or five, maybe six, people in the lobby sitting around chatting and just visiting with each other. They know my name, and I always get a friendly welcome from them.  We exchange a few pleasantries (I usually joke about something), and then I go on my way.

But this Sunday, the lobby was empty. I just stood there because it took me a few seconds to realize that the furniture was gone. There was no sofa, or chairs, or coffee table. Management had decided that “protecting” the residents against COVID-19 was of prime concern. So they had the furniture removed. That simple decision changed the lives of the half dozen people I knew in ways management could not have imagined. It also changed the lives of many others, of whom I was not aware. Management’s action was successful; with no place to sit, the tenants remained in their small apartments—ALONE.

The situation impacted me deeply. I have been visiting the sick and homebound for a long time, and they do not ask for much. However, in their low profile,  quiet world, they look forward to sitting together (if possible) and just talking about whatever it is they talk about. My visit is a big deal for them. I see each of my folks from maybe ten minutes up to thirty minutes, depending upon how much “chatting” is needed. I may be the only visitor they see all week. Yet my visit buoys them up for my next visit, which is a week away.  The folks that gather in the lobby every week are non-Catholic and do not receive Communion. But I do get to say a short prayer with them, and they like my doing it. So do I.

But on this Sunday morning in March of the year 2020, things changed in a way no one could have ever imagined.  The powers that be decided we should be isolated from each other.  They want us to avoid each other, not touch each other, and become individual entities. But we are social beings and like it or not; we need each other. We need to touch and hold and shake hands and hug, especially among family and friends. Mandated loneliness could prove to be, in some cases, more deadly than the actual virus.

The headline for this piece used the word epidemic in referring to loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the loneliness factor, not just in America, but around the world. Cigna referenced a ‘Loneliness Index,” which shows how loneliness is an actual epidemic in the United States. This worldwide health service company used the UCLA Loneliness Scale (yes, there is a loneliness scale) in a questionnaire used to determine a person’s social isolation and their subjective feelings. What follows is from their report of May 1, 2018.  

  • 47 percent of Americans sometimes or always feel alone
  • 27 percent of Americans feel no one understands them
  • 40 percent think that their relationships have no meaning and feel isolated
  • 20 percent feel they feel close to no one and have no one to talk to
  • AMAZINGLY—the Generation Z people (18 to 22) are the loneliest generation. How scary is that?
  • Social Media users have a 43.5 percent loneliness factor which was comparable to the 41.7 percent for those who do not use social media.

If we think about the actual numbers, these percentages refer to it is mind-boggling. In a nation of almost 330,000,000 people, 20 percent is 66.000,000 of us. When we say 47 percent, we are almost at 150,000,000 people. How can close to half the population of the United States of America, feel alone? How can 66,000,000 people feel close to no one or have no one to talk to? And all of this is prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and its forced isolation.

Over the past 25 years, there is a 58 percent drop in attendance at club meetings, a 43 percent drop in family dinners, and a 35% drop in having friends over. Children have regulated play-time while deprived of social development. We reach in our pockets and pull out electronic devices that allow us to instantly reach each other day or night anywhere in the world, but how many of us are talking to each other. This behavior is fertilizing the seeds of future loneliness.

Is our primary mode of communication now email? How many young people can even write a letter or address an envelope? Job applicants interview over the phone or skype, couples break up via text message. Families are also having birthday parties for a loved one on ZOOM. Is this a GOOD thing?  Where is the hugging, the handshaking, the cheek kissing, the eye contact? We need that—it is who we are. Are we teaching the younger generation how to be lonely? How many families are holding hands as they thank God for the food they are about to eat, together, as a family?

Loneliness is brought upon us by things we have no control over, such as death, injury, accidents, and natural disasters. This, we understand, because this makes sense. Why are so many, especially among the young, feeling so alone with no one to turn to? This must count as one of the saddest commentaries of our era. This does NOT make sense.

The remedy may be right in our face, but the secular world will never factor it in. You see, nowhere is the name of God mentioned in these findings. In fact, nowhere is the importance of the  God-based, family even considered.

Regarding our faith, often called the One, True Faith, we have this incredible gift of The Holy Eucharist. Our core teaching is that Transubstantiation occurs when the priest says the words of consecration over the bread and wine during the celebration of Holy Mass. The bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. It is NOT symbolic. Yet 70% of professed Catholics reject this dogmatic teaching. This leads back to the loneliness factor.

We have this beautiful tradition of having Eucharistic Adoration.  Christ, truly present in the consecrated Host, is placed in a monstrance and put on the altar. We believers can come and visit with Him, sit with Him, talk to Him, even simply just look at Him. On First Fridays, we have all night Adoration at my parish, which ends with  8 am. Mass on Saturday morning.

During the night, there will be those of us who will come and sit with the Christ present in the Eucharist, and just “hang out” with Him. For you lonely Catholics who do not believe, you are missing so much. You do not need to be alone. Jesus is there for you—and for all of us—all the time. If you are feeling lonely, why not call your local parish and ask them when they have Adoration. Then go over and sit with Jesus. You will not be alone.

Getting back to God and family would be akin to putting the lynchpin back into the hub of life. Then, people, kids included, might be taught that they can turn to Jesus and think of His words from Matthew 28:20   And behold, I am with you always, until the end of this age.

Interestingly, the first three words of the Bible are; “In the beginning—” Could the Bible or an app for the Bible be the beginning for someone to believe that they are NEVER alone?

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted
is the most terrible poverty.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta

Copyright©LarryPeterson 2020

 


Blessed Titus Brandsma—The Miracle to advance him to Sainthood may have Occurred in Florida

Blessed Titus Brandsma    en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Anno Sjoerd Brandsma was born in the Province of Friesland, located in the Netherlands in 1881. His father, Titus Brandsma, and his mom, Tjisje Postma, ran a small dairy farm and were devout Catholics, part of the minority in the strongly Calvinist region. They had six children; four daughters and two sons.

Titus and his wife worked very hard at encouraging their children to love the Lord and to honor their faith.  Their dedication paid off. All, except one of the daughters, entered religious life. Three sisters became nuns, and Anno and his brother became priests.

The Brandsma brothers both wanted to become Franciscans. Anno’s brother entered the Franciscan minor seminary first. This is where boys, feeling the call to the priesthood, could begin their priestly journey. Those heeding that call were admitted here if they were between the ages of eleven to seventeen..

When Anno, nicknamed ‘Shorty,” developed intestinal health problems, his condition prevented him from becoming a Franciscan. Undeterred, he joined the Carmelite Order at Boxmeer, Netherlands, taking the name of Titus in honor of his father. He made his first vows in 1899 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1905.

Father Titus was a gifted academic. After his ordination, he was sent to Rome. Although suffering through several bouts of illness, he managed to earn his Doctorate in Divinity from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The year was 1909, and he was 28 years old. Also, Father Tituss learned and spoke Italian, Frisian, Dutch,  and English. He could also read Spanish. He translated the works of St Teresa of Avila from Spanish to Dutch and had them published.

Father Titus moved on and taught at the Carmelite Seminary at Oss, Netherlands. He became the editor of a local daily newspaper in 1919,  and was easily recognizable as the “short priest with the cigar in his mouth.” He became a widely traveled orator, journalist, and author. In 1932 he was named Rector Magnificus of Catholic University in the Netherlands. To top it all off and even though occupied with so many responsibilities, he still managed to become one of the most popular confessors on campus. He also conducted a speaking tour throughout the United States in 1935.

Something else happened in 1935.  Father Titus Brandsma came to the attention of the Nazis. He had started his anti-Nazi actions by writing against the anti-Jewish laws. He wrote that no Catholic publication could publish Nazi propaganda and still call itself Catholic. The attention paid to him by the Nazis dramatically increased.

The Gestapo was now following Father Titus continually. Wherever he went or whatever he did, the always aware Gestapo made their presence known. One day, Father “Shorty,” his ever-present cigar stuck between his teeth, was on a mission to deliver a letter from the Conference of Catholic Bishops to the editors of Catholic newspapers. The letter ordered these publications not to print official Nazi documents. (a new “law” passed by the Nazis demanded they do this) and Father Titus had delivered the letter to fourteen editors when the Gestapo arrested him. The date was January 19, 1942, at the Boxmeer monastery.

Father Titus was moved from prison to prison until finally, on June 19, 1942, he was imprisoned in Dachau. This was the Nazi’s first concentration camp, and it became known as the “priests barracks.”  The reason for that was because over 2500 priests and religious were confined there.

Father’s health quickly deteriorated at Dachau. The lack of food, daily beatings, harsh, unimaginable, living conditions combined to break a person quickly. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he was so sick that he was transferred to the camp “hospital.”  On July 26, 1942, a camp nurse was ordered to give him an injection of carbolic acid. Father Titus handed the woman his Rosary. He said to her, “What an unfortunate girl you are. I shall pray for you.”

The nurse did her “work,” and Father Titus Brandsma died a martyr for the faith. Forty-three years later, the same nurse was at Venerable Titus Brandsma’s beatification ceremony. She testified to this happening. She also said that his actions brought her back to the faith. Father Titus Brandsma was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on November 3, 1985.

We should all note well that Blessed Titus is still busy working in the 21st century. His brother Carmelite, Father Michael Driscoll, has a special connection to Blessed Titus. In 2004 Father Driscoll was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma*. He invoked Blessed Titus asking for his intercession The story of Father Driscoll’s miraculous recovery is at the following link.

https://aleteia.org/blogs/the-anchoress/priest-cured-of-melanoma-credits-miracle-by-bl-titus-brandsma-murdered-by-nazis/

Blessed Titus Brandsma, please pray for us all.

 

*(I know how deadly this cancer can be. My wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma in April of 2002. She passed away on April 4, 2003).

copyright©L:arry Peterson 2020