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.

St. Hyacinth of Poland; This “Apostle of the North” saved the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin from destruction by walking them across a river

St. Hyacinth http://www.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Saint Hyacinth of Poland was born in Silesia, Poland, in the year 1185. His father was Eustachius Konski, and he was of the noble family of Ordowacz. Hyacinth’s parents were devout Catholics, and Hyacinth grew up in a home surrounded by love and kindness.

His well-formed disposition and strong faith, combined with a brilliant mind, allowed him to move quickly through schooling in Krakow, then Prague, and finally to Bologna in Italy. This is where he was awarded the title of Doctor of Law and Divinity.  He returned to Poland and was given an administrative position at a medieval-style administrative center in southeast Poland.

The Bishop of Krakow, Ivo Konski, was Hyacinth’s uncle. He had been planning a trip to Rome, and he took his nephew with him. It was at this time in his life when he met Dominic de Guzman (who would later be known as St. Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers; more commonly known as the Dominicans). Hyacinth, along with his cousin, Ceslaus, were among the very first to receive the religious habit of the Dominican Order. The year was 1220.

Hyacinth had developed a deep sense of prayer and was zealous in his desire to bring souls to salvation. Recognizing this quality, his superiors sent him back to Poland to preach and lay the groundwork for developing the Dominican order in his native land. A gifted preacher, Hyacinth’s sermons were received with great enthusiasm and before long he had established communities in Sandomir, Krakow, and in Moravia.

He traveled into Prussia, Pomerania, and into Lithuania leaving the presence of the growing Dominican order everywhere he went. He crossed the Baltic Sea and preached in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Before long, he was known as the “Apostle of the North.”

St. Hyacinth is known for performing a number of miracles.  There is one miracle that stands out among all the rest; that would be the Miracle of Kiev. The Tartars had laid siege to the City of Kiev. Hyacinth was saying Mass and was unaware that the enemy was almost at the church doors. As he ended the Mass, he realized what was going on and that the attacking forces were about to enter and ransack the church.

Hyacinth did not hesitate. Determined to protect the consecrated Host and still fully vested, he took hold of the ciborium and began to run from the church. As he ran he passed by a statue of Mary. He heard a voice say, “Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind?  Take me with thee and leave me not to my enemies.”

The statue was made of alabaster and was very heavy. Hyacinth stopped, turned, and seeing the figure of Our Lady, hurried over and wrapped his arms around it. Somehow he managed to lift the life-size figure and escape from the church undetected saving the Holy Eucharist and the statue of the Blessed Virgin. This is the miraculous moment in which St. Hyacinth is most often depicted. But it did not end there.

The wondrous story goes on to say that Hyacinth and the surrounding community while fleeing the invading Tartar forces, came upon the Dneiper River.  Hyacinth implored the people to follow him across the river. The river was very deep, and the people were filled with fear. But Hyacinth began to walk across the river and the people, trusting his faith, followed.

Polish historians all seem to agree that this is fact. In addition, it is said that Hyacinth’s footprints remained on the water after he had crossed and that, for centuries after, when the waters were calm, they could again be seen.

There is another legend that was inspired by Hyacinth. It seems there was a violent hailstorm that swept through the area and destroyed all of the crops, leaving the people staring at the possibility of poverty and famine. Hyacinth told them all to pray and they all prayed together. The next morning the crops had regrown and the people made pierogi in gratitude. To this day an old-time Polish saying is used when facing seemingly hopeless circumstances: “Święty Jacku z pierogami!” (St. Hyacinth with pierogi!) pray for us.

Hyacinth fell ill on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8,  1257. He warned of his impending death. On the Feast of the Assumption, he attended morning Mass. He was anointed at the altar and died that very day, August 15, 1257.

He was canonized in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII. His feast day is celebrated on August 17.

St. Hyacinth, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Pope St. Pius X: His motto was “Restore all things in Christ” and he did his best to do just that.

Pope St. Pius X               commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

The two most beloved Popes of the twentieth century lived during the beginning and at the end of that century. We all know of Pope St. John Paul II who guided the Church from 1978 into the new millennium. However, not as many people know about the man who became pope during the beginning of the century. His name was Pope St. Pius X who was elected in 1903.  He went on to be known as the Great Reformer who called the modernism of the day, “the synthesis of all heresies.”

He only reigned as pope for eleven years, but during his pontificate, he initiated reforms in sacred music, biblical studies, seminary life, Canon Law, and the Holy Eucharist making it available for all starting at the age of seven. Before that, the minimum age was twelve.

Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto was the oldest of eight surviving children of Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita Sanson. He was born June 2, 1835, in the Lombardy-Venetian area of Italy. The family had little because Giovanni supported them by working for the government as the local postman. The pay was steady, but it was barely enough to live on.

While still a pre-teen, Giuseppe studied Latin with his village priest. In time he received his Confirmation and Communion (at the time First Communion could not be received until the age of 12). The priest recognized the keen mind Giuseppe had been blessed with, and before long, the boy was in the upscale secondary school known as Castelfranco Veneto.

Throughout his four years at the school, he always held the number one rank in his class. He developed a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin, and when he announced he was considering becoming a priest, no one was surprised.

The Sarto family were in no position to finance their son’s seminary studies when the hand of providence reached in, and Giuseppe found himself with a scholarship to the Seminary of Padua, considered among the best in all of Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood on September 18, 1858, by the Bishop of Treviso, Monsignor Zinelli.

His priestly career began as a parish priest, then he became a pastor, then a canon, moved on to be the spiritual director at the seminary, then diocesan chancellor.  Pope Leo XIII appointed him Bishop of Mantua on November 6, 1884. Lastly, on June 12, 1893, Bishop Sarto was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Leo. All the positions he had held leading up to this point had prepared him well for a future he never could have imagined.

Pope Leo XIII, after serving as Pontiff for 25 years, passed away on July 20, 1903. He had issued eleven papal encyclicals on the Rosary and earned the title, The Rosary Pope. He also wrote the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and the famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum (Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor). His successor would have a tough act to follow. On August 4, 1903,  Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto was elected to the Papacy. He became Pope Pius X.

Pope Pius X was deeply concerned at the cultural Modernism infecting the church and society. He decided it was essential to focus on apostolic problems and to defend the Catholic Church against all attacks which had become many. There was much backlash from the Modernists, the intellectual elites who were trying to reinterpret Catholic teaching. However, Pope Pius was determined to withstand the onslaught.

Modernism was ambiguous because it had no particular definition. People had begun to reject the doctrinal and moral teachings of the church and embrace what felt good for themselves. In 1907, the Holy Father issued the encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Feeding the Lord’s Flock).

He wrote this because he recognized how Modernism rejected the morals and doctrines of the church. He wanted Catholics the world over to know that doctrine is unchanging and does not evolve and not to be fooled by the ever-changing culture. He wrote:

“It is an error to believe that Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and to all men, but rather that He inaugurated a religious movement adapted, or to be adapted, to different times and different places.”

Pope Pius had a deep love for the Holy Eucharist and wanted it to have a daily impact on Catholics everywhere. At the time people only received about three or four times a year. He wrote a decree, Sacra Tridentina Synodus in 1905 which promoted Holy Communion on a daily basis. He said Communion was not a reward for good behavior but, as the Council of Trent noted, “it is“the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins.”   

This was followed by Quam Singulari in 1910. Inspired by a three-year-old girl named Nellie Organ aka “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he lowered the age for receiving First Holy Communion to seven. That is still the way it is today.

Of course, we have the miracles that were attributed to this holy man. There were the miracles reported after Pope Pius’ passing but let us just focus on ones that occurred while he was still alive:

  • During a papal audience, Pius X was holding a paralyzed child. Suddenly the child started squirming and wiggling and then broke free from the Pontiff’s arms and began running around. The child was cured, and it was spontaneous and inexplicable.
  • Another time the Holy father received a letter from a couple, he knew from when he was Bishop of Mantua. Their two-year-old child was dying from meningitis, and they asked the pope to pray for him. Two days later, the child was cured.

Much more can be written about Pope St. Pius X. His holiness and contributions to the welfare of the Church entrusted to him is everlasting. When his body was exhumed in 1944, it was perfectly intact. As per his request, it had never been embalmed.

Pope St. Pius X, we ask for your prayers and protection as we travel forward through the 21st century.

 copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Prior to Mary’s Assumption, did she actually die? What is the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary                           www.wikiart.org

By Larry Peterson

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, writing and speaking ex-cathedra, solemnly defined in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, the dogma that  “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of  her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” We know this as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.

The sidebar to this solemn definition is the fact that it does not address the question of whether or not Mary physically died before being assumed. All the document says is, “having completed the course of her earthly life.”

Interestingly,  we are not bound to a definitive answer. However, the  Feast of The Dormition (Sleep)  of the Mother of God is a major feast in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Armenian Apostolic Church. They celebrate the feast on August 15. So, did Mary actually die first before being assumed? Did she simply fall asleep?  Is it possible that she was buried?

We Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept or reject the Dormition of the Mother of God?  Two of our greatest popes accept it. Venerable Pope Pius XII refers to Mary’s death at least five times while Pope St. John Paul II stated  Mary experienced natural death before her Assumption into Heaven. Lastly, let us go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 966) which gives us these words from the Byzantine Liturgy:

“In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition, you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.”

What follows is this beautiful testimony from the early Church. This example is from the sixth century and gives us insight into what Christians believed in the ancient church about Mary’s Dormition and Assumption:

“The course of this life having been completed by Blessed Mary, when now she would be called from the world, all the Apostles came together from their various regions to her house. And when they had heard that she was about to be taken from the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His angels, and taking her soul, He gave it over to angel Michael and withdrew.

At daybreak, however, the Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, he commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones, and is the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end.” (Saint Gregory of Tours, Bishop; A. D.595-A.D. 594); Eight Books of Miracles; A.D. 575-593;

We must remember that the Ascension of Jesus was accomplished through Jesus’ own power as God. The Assumption of The Blessed Mother was done for her by the Power of God, not under her own power. It is also said that Mary’s death lasted forty hours, the same as her Son’s and that during that time her soul visited the souls in Purgatory to release some and comfort others.

No matter what actually transpired so long ago we know that Our Blessed Mother was taken into heaven body and soul after passing from this life. Once more, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 967):

By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” of the Church.

As people of Faith, the recognition of the splendor and importance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary can take your breath away.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Saint Paschal of Baylon…Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the Seraph (Angel) of the Eucharist

St. Paschal of Baylon   wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On May 16,1540, a baby boy was born to Martin and Elizabeth Baylon in the Kingdom of Aragon, located in Spain. This day also happened to be the Feast of Pentecost. Since the people in Spain refer to the Feast of Pentecost as the Pasch (Passover) of the Holy Ghost., his parents named their new son, Paschal.

Paschal’s parents were poor tenant farmers and, while only a young boy, Paschal began working in the fields and tending to the sheep. His regimen of work was seemingly never-ending, and he rarely took part in the activities of other kids his age. However, he possessed an obvious spirituality that was noticeable to others, and the other boys would come to him for advice and requests for him to settle their quarrels. Paschal had innate wisdom that was marveled at by all who came to know him.

The boy was unable to go to school, so he carried a notebook with him when he was working. He would ask other kids and even strangers going by to show him different letters and how to use them. He took his tidbits of information to heart and literally taught himself how to read. Soon his favorite books were those about his Lord.

When Paschal was working in the fields, he always fell to his knees when he heard the bells ringing during the Consecration. He was not only rich in piety and virtue, but he was also quite humble. It was just the way he was and people who knew him could not help but notice.

Paschal had always harbored a deep desire to enter religious life. Now and then he even wondered if that might ever happen. He had been offered spots in several richly endowed monasteries, and some prodded him to enter the priesthood. He had said, “, “I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.”

His quest for simplicity came to fruition when, in 1564, he was able to enter the Franciscan Monastery of the Friars Minor at Monteforte. It was located in Orito, Spain and those who were there lived a no-frills, austere existence. It was what Paschal had hoped and prayed.for. The young man professed his vows at the monastery on February 2, 1565.

St. Paschal was frequently found before the tabernacle, at times even prostate with his arms outstretched. The humble brother, who had taught himself to read and had no known education possessed a deep knowledge and insight into the mysteries and teachings of the faith. Learned men marveled at him, and most figured he was guided by the Holy Spirit. He was so knowledgeable that during the height of the Calvinist heresies he was chosen to travel to France to defend the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence.

Once God even demonstrated the high esteem he had for Paschal by using the Blessed Sacrament. Paschal was out in the field tending his flock. When he heard the bells ringing, signaling the Consecration was taking place, he immediately knelt down. As he did the Blessed Sacrament appeared before him in the monstrance. Incredibly, it was held aloft by angels hovering above. Others saw this and were in awe. Word spread quickly about the miraculous Brother Paschal and his visions, which became more frequent.

Brother Paschal Baylon passed away on May 17, 1592. The custom of the time was for the deceased to be placed on an open stretcher in the church. This was done, and when the Consecrated Host was elevated at his requiem Mass, Paschal’s body sat up, and bowed to the Sacred Host. It remained like that and repeated the bow as the chalice with the Precious Blood was elevated. Then Paschal’s body lay back down. Witnesses to this miraculous event also testified that his eyes were open watching the priest during the entire Consecration.

Paschal Baylon was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1618, and he was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690. He is the patron of all Eucharistic Congresses and Eucharistic Associations. Paintings of St. Paschal usually are shown with him in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which was the greatest love in his life.

Saint Paschal Baylon, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

He died at the age of 40, yet he is known as the “Father of the Poor” and founded an Order of Nuns. Meet Blessed Paul Joseph Nardini

Bl. Pauil Joseph Nardini        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Germersheim is a small town that is next to the Rhine River in Bavaria. On July 25, 1821, an unwed woman by the name of Margareta Lichtenberger gave birth to a baby boy and named him Paul Joseph Lichtenberger. The boy’s father remained unknown. Margareta tried her best, but being a single parent, the odds were stacked against her. She ultimately turned baby Paul over to her Aunt Maria Barbara.

Margareta was blessed.  Her Aunt Maria Barbara was married to an Italian man by the name of Anton Nardini. Anton embraced the child as his own. He and Marie adopted Paul and raised him as they if he was their natural-born child. Paul’s formative years were filled with a loving homelife where religion and family meant everything. The boy was also receiving the best education possible. Incredibly, the Nardini’s never let Paul lose contact with his birth mom, Margareta.

By the time Paul finished grammar school, he had no doubt that he was called to the priesthood. Several of his teachers recommended Paul to Bishop Johannes von Geissel as a young man who might become a good priest.  Bishop von Giessel had the young man admitted to the seminary in Speyer, where he studied philosophy. From there, Paul moved on to the University of Munich. While at the university he obtained a Degree in Theology; Summa cum Laude.

On August 22, 1848, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Speyer. His “higher-ups” wanted him to teach at the university, but Father Paul wanted to do parish work. They acceded to his wishes and his first few years as a priest were spent as a chaplain in Frankenthal, an administrator of a parish in Trebur, and then as a prefect of a diocesan boarding school.

But in 1851 Father Paul Joseph Nardini was appointed as a parish priest at one of the poorest parishes in France, St. Joseph Parish at Pirmasens, a parish with many poor, neglected adults and children.  Unknown to anyone at the time, including Father Paul, this would be the parish where he would spend the rest of his life. His adopted parents had taught him well. Upon taking up residence at the parish one of the first things he did was to have his birth mother, Margareta Lichtenberger, take up residence with him.

Father Paul immediately demonstrated the qualities that so many had seen in him as a boy. He loved his Catholic faith deeply and the example he set for those around him was inspiring. He showed an uncommon human and moral piety, a devout reverence toward the Mass and the Sacraments, and was always denying himself for the poor around him and using actions more than words to evangelize the many protestants that lived within his area. It was not long before the people in his parish and in the surrounding area were calling him the “Father of the Poor.”

The need for help was overwhelming so  Father Paul he reached out to the Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer of Niederborn. He asked if they could help him, especially in educating the poor kids of the parish. He also asked for their help in caring for the sick and for those who were poverty-stricken and also spiritually lost. Three Sisters were assigned to help but the work was too great for such a small number and after two years they were recalled.

Father Nardini never lost hope. He reached out to four young ladies of the Third Order of St. Francis. These four women would become the first members of the order known today as the Poor Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family.  The date was March 2, 1855. Father personally supervised the care and formation of the Sisters, secured their food and lodging, and even gave up his evening meals to make sure they had what they needed. The bishop approved the order on March 10, 1857.

As the number of women joining the order increased Father Paul’s home visits to the sick and dying increased dramatically. Holy Viaticum was his highest priority on his agenda. It was a freezing cold night when the selfless priest brought Viaticum to a person dying of pulmonary typhus. Father caught the illness. He died from its effects on January 27, 1862. He was 40 years old.

At the time of Father Paul’s death, the order was only seven years old but already had over 220 ladies working in 35 locations. They were all heartbroken over the loss of their founder whose remains are today venerated in the Chapel at Pirmasens.

Father Paul Joseph Nardini was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on June 26, 2006. His feast day is on January 27. We ask Blessed Paul Joseph Nardini to pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer snowstorm resulted in the First Church ever built in honor of the Blessed Mother

Basilica of St. Mary Major                                                         wikipediaorg

By Larry Peterson

This is about the first church ever built for Our Lady. Today it is called the Basilica of St. Mary Major (LatinBasilica Sanctae Mariae Maioris). It did not start out that way.

I have a pre-Vatican II, St. Joseph Daily Missal which I use for reference.  Its Liturgical Calendar lists  August 5, as the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. If you look in the current 2019  Missalette, you will note that August 5 has the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The name change occurred in 1969 when the General Roman Calendar was revised. It is actually the same feast with a different name.

Historically, (part of which is considered legend) the story goes like this:

There was a patrician man named John, and he and his wife were a devout Christian couple but had not been blessed with children. They did, however, possess a large tract of land. They went to see the Pope, whose name was Liberius. He was the 29th successor to St. Peter and had just been elevated to the Papacy. They told the Pope that they had decided to donate their worldly goods to the Mother of God. They asked him what he thought about that idea. The Holy Father told them to pray and ask the Blessed Mother for a sign to help them decide.

The couple did as the Pope suggested and during the night of August 4th and into the morning of August 5th, 352 A.D., snow fell on the largest of the Seven Hills of Rome; the one known as the Esquiline Hill. This is where John’s land was located. Even though it was during the stifling heat of summer, the snow did not melt.

The snow landed, making an outline on the ground. The same night Our Lady appeared to John and his wife and also to Pope Liberius. She told them she wanted a church built in her honor on the property. The church would be built on the outline laid out by the snow. The land was owned by John.  He and his wife happily donated the land to be used for the church as requested by the Mother of God. The Holy Father joyfully accepted.

It is a rare occurrence for snow to fall in Rome in winter, no less in mid-summer. The Pope, along with John and his wife, explained to the gathering crowds what had happened. The news spread like wildfire, and soon the people were chanting, over and over, “Our Lady of the Snows!”  “Our Lady of the Snows!”

Pope Liberius ordered that a church be built in Mary’s honor on the site. Work began but was not completed until a century later, under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). Its dedication coincided with the ending of the Council of Ephesus of  431 when Mary was officially declared to be the Mother of God. The finished church was called the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It was also called the Church of St. Mary of the Crib because it was said that pieces from the crib Our Lord was placed in when he was born were kept in the church.

History tells us that Pope Gregory the Great led the first procession carrying an image of Our Lady from the Church of Our Lady of the Snows to the Church of St. Peter in the year 597 to ask for prayers for the people of Rome who were being decimated by the Black Plague. It is written that St. Michael the Archangel appeared and the plague ended. Over the centuries many other miracles have been attributed to interactions with the church.

It was Pope St. Pius V who inserted the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Snows into the General Roman Calendar in 1568. It remained there until 1969 when, because of ambiguities in the 4th-century historical accounts of the “summer snowfall,” the feast day was officially changed to the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Over the centuries many churches have been dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. There are over 152 in Italy alone. There is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois and other places in the United States and around the world.

Lastly, on August 5 of each year, upon the conclusion of the Solemn Mass celebrated at the Basilica in Rome, the people commemorate the miraculous snowfall of  352.A.D. by having a shower of white rose petals dropped from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady. It must be a beautiful sight to behold.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

St. Margaret of Antioch: She is known as the Great Martyr, the Vanquisher of Demons, and is counted among the Fourteen Holy Helpers

St. Margaret of Antioch                                                          gettyimages

By Larry Peterson

She was only fifteen years of age when she died, and many stories have been attributed to her short life. What is factual is this: St. Margaret of Antioch is a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and is listed in the Roman Martyrology. Her feast day is on July 20. She is also honored in the Eastern Orthodox Rite, where she is referred to as St. Marina, the Great Martyr. She is the patroness of pregnant women and those in childbirth. So who was this teenage saint, and what parts of her life are fact and what are fiction?

According to writings in the Golden Legend  (a text of over 1000 manuscripts about different saints that was published in the 13th century) Margaret was born at the beginning of the fourth century in Antioch. She was the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius, and her mom died shortly after Margaret was born. Her father allowed a Christian woman who lived nearby to nurse her and care for her. When Margaret was old enough, she converted to Christianity and took a vow of virginity. Her father disowned her, and her mistress adopted her.

When Margaret was around fifteen years old, she was out in the fields watching the flocks that belonged to her mistress. A Roman prefect by the name of Olybrius had been watching her. He was attracted to her and filled with lustful thoughts. He began a quest to make her his wife. He tried to charm her, cajole her, and then began to threaten her in an effort to win her over. She adamantly refused.

As the Golden Legend states, what follows should be considered apocryphal (of doubtful authenticity and not to be taken seriously). Olybrius had Margaret taken prisoner and demanded she denounce her Christian faith and adore his pagan gods. She refused and was made to stand trial in public.  Threatened with death, she still refused.  They tried to burn her, but the flames did not harm her. Then she was thrown into a cauldron of boiling water, but as she prayed, the boiling water did not harm her at all. When this happened, many of the people watching this spectacle immediately converted to Christianity.

The story continues that Margaret was put in prison, and while waiting for her sentence to be announced, she prayed to Jesus for strength. This infuriated Satan who appeared in the form of a dragon and he swallowed her. But she was wearing a cross, and it proved to be an antidote to the evil one. The cross burned the insides of the dragon, and he spit her out. She appeared before the prefect unharmed, unscathed, and still as defiant as ever. Olybrius gave up and had her beheaded.

As with many of the pre-congregation saints who lived during the early years of the church Margaret was real and was a devout Christian. As with many of the early saints there is apocryphal legend associated with their stories. However, we should remember that in Margaret’s case, she gained great popularity in England during the 13th century. Today there are more than 250 churches in England that are dedicated to her including St. Margaret’s Westminister, the parish church of the British Houses of Parliament.

Margaret of Antioch is also among those counted in the group of saints known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers. This group of saints is venerated together because their intercession is very effective against different diseases. St. Margaret is the patroness of those in childbirth, those who are pregnant, and those with kidney disease. The childbirth patronage is because of Margaret’s encounter with  Satan appearing as the dragon to her.

How can we not love the rich and yes, even apocryphal history, of our Catholic Church. No matter what direction these stories may take, they invariably always lead to GOODNESS.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019