All posts by Larry Peterson

About Larry Peterson

Basically I am a “blue-collar guy”. It is the world I come from, a world of hard working, hard drinking construction workers, cops, long-shoremen, firemen, railroad workers, bus drivers, truckers, sanitation workers, etc. who were, for the most part, family men who loved their God, their families and their country—unconditionally. Consequently, if you would ask me to describe my work as a writer I would call it “blue-collar” meaning that I believe my work is simple fair, easily readable, no-nonsense, minimally superlative, and flows quickly. There is lots of dialogue and my tendency to be omniscient is obvious. I think that is because the characters and I are part of each other and I know what they are thinking.

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

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

 

Christmas–Is it Really a Time for Miracles?–I Believe It Is.

Miracles Do Happen                         huffingtonpost.uk.com

By Larry Peterson

During  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 wonderful happen, 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 amazing 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 come 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 witnessed 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, Christmas is really a time for miracles.

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016

Three Catholic Saints who Managed to Live to the age of 100 and Beyond

 

Nheyob | CC BY SA 4.0 | Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

Recently I came across the names of eight saints who were centenarians. Incredibly they had made it up to and past the one-hundred-year mark without having the advantages of modern medicine and all the blessings we have available to us. No, they just lived their lives until God called them. Here is a brief account of three of them:

St. Simon Stock

Simon Stock was born in England in 1165 AD. Legend has it that at the age of twelve he began living as a hermit in the hollow trunk (“stock” means trunk) of a large, oak tree. In the early 13th  century Simon went to the Holy Land where he joined the newly formed Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their origins were in Palestine and when they moved to Europe, Simon went with them. He became one of the early leaders of the order which became known as the Carmelites.

On July 26, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon holding the Brown Scapular in one hand. She said to Simon,  “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

Simon Stock became the prior general of the Carmelites and under his leadership, the order spread across Europe and throughout England. Today the Brown Scapular is known and venerated the world over. (The word scapular comes from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade” That is why the brown cloth covers the chest and the upper back).

Interestingly, St. Simon Stock was never formally canonized yet he is venerated in the Catholic Church, his feast day is May 16, and the Carmelites have honored him since 1564, which also has the approval of the Vatican.

Lastly, St. Simon Stock died in the year 1265. He was 100 years old.

St. Patrick

We all know that St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but the dates of his life are murky at best. He was probably born in the early 5th century and, at the age of sixteen,  was captured by pirates. He was taken from his home in Britain to Ireland where he was held in captivity for six years before escaping back to his family.

He became a cleric and returned to Ireland working tirelessly to convert the pagan Celts. He became the first bishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland. His became a saint during the pre-congregation era.

All available documents suggest that St. Patrick died when he was 106 years old.

Raymond of Penyafort (Pennyforth)

Raymond was a lawyer, a preacher, and a priest who left a profound influence on the history of Spain and the Church. He was instrumental in re-Christianizing Spain after the Moors were defeated and his consolidation of papal decrees was the primary source of canon law for over 700 years.

Raymond was approached by Peter Nolasco, the Founder of the Mercedarians, and asked if he could help him get approval in founding his order. Raymond helped greatly, assisting his friend in getting the consent of King James I of Aragon and so were born the Mercedarians.

Already an accomplished lawyer and scholar, Raymond joined the Dominicans in  Barcelona in 1222. He was 47 years-old. Raymond was a gifted preacher and was very successful at evangelizing Moors and Jews.

In 1230, Pope Gregory IX, made Raymond his confessor. During this time Raymond sorted and put in order all the decrees of popes and councils since 1150. Canonists relied on Raymond’s succinctly arranged writings until the new codification in 1917.

Raymond Penyaforth died in 1275 at the age of 100. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. He is the patron saint of lawyers, including canon lawyers.

St. Raymond Penyaforth, pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Christoph Probst: He was a Husband and Father, and at the age of 23 the Nazis made him a Martyr

Christoph Probst & Sophie Scholl                                     fair.use

By Larry Peterson

Christoph Probst was born on November 6, 1919, in Bavaria, Germany. His dad, Herman Probst, was a scholar who specialized in Asian culture, Eastern religions, and the language, Sanscrit. Hermann maintained an intellectual environment at home and Christoph thrived within it.

However, inside the Probst home all was not peaceful and content. Christoph’s parents divorced when he was still a young boy, and  His father remarried Elise Jaffee, who was Jewish. Shortly after his second marriage, Hermann Probst committed suicide. How this affected Christoph is unknown, but his contempt for Nazi ideology grew stronger.

There was some money available, and Christoph was admitted to a boarding school at Landheim Schondorf, a school mostly devoted to the fine arts. The school was not an institution that supported Nazi ideas.  It was here that Christoph met a young man named Alexander Schmorell.

Alexander had been born in the Ural Mountains of Russia and had come to Germany with his father when his mother died. Christoph and Alexander had much in common; both young men had lost parents. Upon graduating high school, the two close friends were required to enter the National Labor Service.

Upon leaving the Labor Service, Christoph met and married Herta Dohm. Herta would have  three children, Michael, Vincent, and Katherina. Christoph then entered the University of Munich to study medicine. It was during this time that he and his best friend, Alexander,  met up with Hans Scholl, the founder of the White Rose. They all thought alike. They despised Adolf Hitler and hated Nazism.

The name, White Rose, signified non-violence and peaceful protest. It was a group that simply wanted to exert intellectual resistance to the Third Reich. In March of 1942, the White Rose began their clandestine assault against the Nazi regime. Their weapons of attack were leaflets. They began mailing the leaflets to random names they picked from the phone book. They tried to find doctors, lawyers, musicians, and scholars.

Then they began leaving them around the different college campuses such as the University of Hamburg and their school, the University of Munich. The leaflets begged the German citizens to fight back against the tyrannical Nazis.

Christoph joined the group after they had started distributing the leaflets. The group tried their best to keep Christoph in a low-profile position. He did not even write leaflets. He was the only one of the group married with two children and they all wanted to do their best to protect his family. So did he.

Christoph had never been born into a specific religion but he always was drawn to religion and the existence of God. His friends were Catholic and their faith influenced him greatly. Soon, he would embrace it fully.

The White Rose group had produced and distributed five different leaflets. The distribution of the leaflets had spread from Munich and to other cities. Over 15, 000 leaflets were used to attack Nazi crimes, oppression, and the mass murder of the Jews. The White Rose quickly climbed to a top spot on the Nazi wanted list.

Christoph finally lent his hand to the leaflets production by designing the layout for the sixth one. This is the one that Hans Scholl had in his pocket when he was arrested. It would prove to be the only evidence of Christoph’s involvement with the White Rose.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were distributing the leaflets on campus when a caretaker spotted them doing so. The man, being a “good Nazi,” quickly reported them to the authorities. The Gestapo took them into custody. Hans and Sophie were searched and they found the leaflet. Handwriting samples taken led them to Christoph.

Hans, his sister, Sophie, and Christoph were interrogated relentlessly by the Gestapo and then taken to the People’s Court. The date was February 21, 1943. They were accused of treason and sentenced to death. German law stated that they should have a ninety-day wait before execution. It made no difference in the “People’s Court.”  They would die that very day.

Christoph, born into no religion, asked if a Catholic priest could visit him. He requested to be baptized and was received into the faith. Sometime during the following hour, he and his two friends, Hans and Sophie, were guillotined.

On November 3, 1999, Christoph Probst was included in the Martyrology of the Catholic Church.

Blessed Christoph Probst, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Saint Barbara; raised a Pagan, her Reasoning led her to Discover her Creator

St. Barbara; Martyr:   One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

St. Barbara was born sometime in the middle of the 3rd century in a place called Heliopolis, a city which today would be located somewhere in Lebanon. Barbara’s pagan father was a rich and influential man, and his name was Dioscorus.

As Barbara grew, she became more and more beautiful. When her mother passed away, her father became fixated on Barbara and began devoting himself to her in an ever-increasing and overbearing manner. He decided to hide her from anyone who did not know her.

Dioscorus built a tower for his daughter, and only her pagan teachers and servants were allowed to see her. Barbara did have a view of the surrounding woodlands and would stare at the flowers in the meadows and the running streams. She began to wonder where they came from. Her reasoning helped her to realize that there must be a First Cause for such order and beauty.

It followed that Barbara’s reasoning would take her to realize that the idols her father and the pagans worshipped were soulless and possessed no power. She knew these ‘things’ could not have created the world she could see. A desire swelled within her to know the real Creator of the world. She decided to spend her life in a state of virginity and to find this Creator.

Word of the beautiful young woman spread throughout the city, and many came to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father wanted her to marry someone he chose. She begged him to let her live her own life and told him that his persistence would drive them apart.

Dioscorus did not listen. But he did decide that his keeping her locked in a tower may have caused her to reject a different lifestyle. He proceeded to give her permission to leave the tower giving her freedom to choose her friends. Barbara headed into the city and met some young maidens. These ladies taught her about God and creation and the Blessed Trinity.

Soon after (and, many believe it was God’s grace) a priest from Alexandria, disguised as a merchant, arrived in Heliopolis. He spent time with Barbara instructing her in the Christian faith. Soon she was baptized, and after that, the priest returned to his own country.

Dioscorus wanted his daughter back home, so he decided to build her a beautiful house of her own with a huge bathhouse within.  He ordered the bathhouse to have two windows, but Barbara asked the workers to put in three. She wanted them to represent the Blessed Trinity. She also carved a cross into the marble wall near the windows.

Her father was angry at the window being added, and when Barbara explained why she had done it and how she had become a Christian believing in the Triune God, Dioscorus was enraged. He grabbed his sword and was about to strike her with it, but she managed to run away.

He chased after her but she managed to reach a hill that had a small cave in the side of it, and she hid inside. Her father, unrelenting, tracked her down, found her,  and dragged her from the cave. He handed her over to Matrianus, who was the head of the local authorities. Barbara was beaten again and again and during her torment prayed continually for courage and strength.

Finally, after being beaten and tortured and still refusing to give in to her father’s demands, Dioscorus took his daughter out to a field, and with his sword, beheaded his own child. On the way back to the compound he was struck by a bolt of lightning, and his body was devoured by flames.

St. Barbara died in the late third century. Much of what we know about her comes from the book called the Golden  Legend (Legenda Sanctorum) written and compiled by Jacobus de Varagine. His work was the primary source for acquiring information about many saints and was used up until the Protestant Reformation when the “new learning” took hold in theology.

St. Barbara is among those who are called the Fourteen Holy Helpers  (Aleteia; July 2017) and her protection is sought against lightning, fire, and explosions.  Her feast day, shared with others, (including St, Peter Chrysologus and St. John Damascene)  is December 4th.

St. Barbara, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

 

In 2018, Advent and Hanukkah begin on the same day, December 2. Here are some facts about Hanukkah you may not know.

Advent & Hanukkah              Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

This year, Sunday,  December 2nd,  hosts two great religious events. One is the beginning of the 2018 Advent Season. The other is the beginning of the great Jewish holiday, Hanukkah,  which begins at sundown on the same day.  Since it is important for us Catholic/Christians to be aware of our Jewish heritage, (ie; the entire Holy Family was Jewish as were their relatives and friends) here are some facts about Hanukkah.

In our Catholic Bible the Old Testament, 1 Maccabees 4:59,  reads; “Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days from the 25th day of  the month of Chislev.”

The connection to the New Testament is in John 10: 22-35. This begins with the Feast of Dedication aka the Festival of Lights which is Hanukkah and Jesus is celebrating it by saying, “…and scripture cannot be set aside…”

Interestingly, Hanukkah, which took place in 165 BC, is the only Jewish holiday not included in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). There are several theories as to why this is. Two of them are;  since it was put together in the first century it was too close to the actual occurrence to write about it; or, they did not want to cause any grief with their Roman rulers. Ironically, the story appears only in the Catholic Bible as Maccabees is not in the King James version.

Here are some other Hanukkah facts:

  • Oily foods are a tradition: Potato pancakes and jelly donuts are important because they represent the oil that burned for eight days

 

  • Cheese is a lesser-known Hanukkah tradition. This is about the story from the Book of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who seduces the Assyrian general, fills him with cheeses and wine, and waits until he passes out. Then she beheads him empowering the Jewish army to conquer the Assyrians, saving

 

  • Hanukkah does fall on the same date every year; that is if you use the Hebrew calendar. It falls on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (Chislev). Unfortunately, the Hebrew calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from late November to late December. Last year it began on December 12. In 2013 it began on Thanksgiving day.

 

  • Hanukkah can be spelled several different ways; Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanuka, and Chanucah.

 

  • Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday because of Christmas. Up until the last part of the nineteenth century, Hanukkah was a minor holiday. It was nothing on the scale of Passover or Rosh Hashanah. There were two reasons it grew in popularity, and those reasons came from the incredibly popular Christmas season. One reason was to deflect attention away from the Christmas spirit, and the other was so the Jewish children had something to celebrate so they would not become jealous of their Christian friends.

 

  • Giving children coins during Hanukkah is an old tradition. It originally was the only gift children would receive. The custom came from Eastern Europe where teachers were given a bit of money as a “Thank you” for their hard work. In the 1920s it evolved in America into the chocolate :gelt.” Lofts Candy Corp began producing the chocolate gold coins and their popularity quickly grew. They were called “gelt” by the Jewish people and that custom is still very popular.

 

  • Latkes are a popular Eastern European food which is a staple of the Jewish Holiday. The interesting thing about Latkes is that they are not popular in Israel. In Israel, you will find plenty of jelly-donuts. Latkes (similar to potato pancakes) are cooked in animal fat, which was never in abundance in Israel. But in Eastern Europe it is used all of the time

 

  • Lastly, this year Hanukkah will end at sundown on December 10. Advent ends on Christmas Eve.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Prayer to St. Gertrude the Great for the Souls in Purgatory

St. Gertrude the Great           public domain

Posted by Larry @ Cradlingcatholic.com

Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great 

Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal church,
those in my own home and within my family.

Our Lord dictated this prayer to St. Gertrude the Great and told her this would release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said