Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

The Deadliest Forest Fire in U.S. History was No Match for The Blessed Virgin Mary*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

On October 8, 1871, in or around a place called Peshtigo, Wisconsin, several men were setting small fires in the woods. This was a common practice in clearing land for expanding railroads or for expanding farm land. 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.

                                               Skeeze – CC

To this day, no wildfire in the U.S. has ever caused more deaths. It is estimated 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 blaze. This small group of people were with Adele Brise.

Adele Brise was 24 years old when she arrived in Wisconsin with her parents from Belgium in 1855. A devout Catholic, Adele had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed daily. 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 a 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 told 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 and a few years later, after Isabella Doyen donated five acres around the site, Adele, started a small school.
In addition, 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 began to head for Our Lady of Good Help.

People nearby the chapel began heading there.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  processed,  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 that were 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 it was the Hand of God at work that night. The faithful all had no 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 seen there 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. It is a beautiful thing.

*An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 28,2016
*On August 15, 2016, the site was declared a National Shrine:  
http://www.thecompassnews.org/2016/08/olgh-shrine-receives-national-shrine-recognition/


                               ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

My Mother's Day Paradox: I Cannot Wait for it to End

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson      
           
 Mother’s Day is here again and, I have to tell you, it is not my favorite day. Please do not misunderstand,  I certainly have nothing against Moms. Heck, my wife was a mom, my sister is a mom, my daughter is a mom and I have nieces who are moms and so on.  I know thousands of Moms and, for the most part, I love and respect them all. After all, Motherhood is the very linchpin of the family and the family is the linchpin of a society.  (That is a topic for another time)

But, here is my dilemma.  I have only the most obscure memories of my Mom. That is because she died 54 years ago. (She had leukemia and if you had leukemia 54 years ago you were “toast”.)  Anyway, for the first time in my life I am  admitting that  her death left me empty, very empty and that emptiness explodes inside me during the Mother’s Day celebration.
                               
 We were kids when she died and  I was the oldest of the five.  For some reason, I have just fleeting memories of her. My sister remembers her and my brothers remember her, not much mind you, but a lot more than I do. They even remember little things, those special nuances that made her unique to each of them. Well, maybe not Johnny, he was only two years old,  but the others for sure.

I have been told that I was traumatized by her death and involuntarily blocked her out of my mind. Could that be true? Could that still be going on inside me?  Could I have been so stunned that my brain, in an attempt to protect me, covered up the memories with a thick, opaque veil? I do not know. What I do know is what is NOT there. “Mom memories” are missing from inside my head. That veil has never lifted in over 54 years.

I have some pictures of her and I also have her high school yearbook. I have no recordings of her voice or moving pictures of her or anything like that.  It is strange to me but I try my best NOT to think of her.  But the slightest thing triggers “mommy” thoughts in me, especially when I see a child (small or grown) being hugged by their mom. I always think how wonderful that must feel. I can’t even imagine it. How pathetic is that. I guess I am just a senior citizen stuck at age 15 when it comes to my mother.  (Damn–I cannot believe I am even writing this stuff.)

Okay now, all year long I manage to stuff this “mom” stuff deep inside myself. But then, right after Easter, the Mother’s Day cards hit the stores.  Avoidance of the big day becomes next to impossible. The attacks on my sub-conscious increase unmercifully as the weeks go by and then the onslaught ensues. The two weeks before Mother’s Day are brutal. The print ads came out, television commercials pound the “Mom” message, cut flowers appear everywhere, the cakes are advertised and the restaurants offer deals that will only cost about a week’s salary to sit and enjoy.  It  wears me out.  I want it to be over.

Sunday morning at Mass the priest will probably give a homily on motherhood. He will probably use the Blessed Virgin Mary as a focal point. Then he will ask all of the women who are moms to please stand or raise their hands.  Most women in the church will do so.  He will bestow a blessing on them remembering all the deceased moms too. Everyone will applaud the moms, living and dead. I will applaud also and my best wishes and prayers will go out to all Moms everywhere. I just won’t remember anything about my own mom. For me, the one day of the year we honor Moms is nothing but a paradox. Before the happy day even starts I cannot wait for it  to end.

For those who might be able to relate to this, on Mother’s Day I will be praying for all of you and your Moms. Maybe you can do the same for me. And, may God bless all moms, living and deceased.

    ©2015 Larry Peterson All Rights Reserved

St. Joseph, "Shadow Saint": His Example is the Answer to the Fatherhood Crisis in Society

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Every March 19, The Catholic Church honors and celebrates a man who, next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the greatest of all saints. His name is  Joseph. He was Mary’s husband and the foster father of  Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Included among his honors he is venerated as the patron of fathers, workers, and unborn children.

I call Joseph the “Shadow Saint” because so little is known about him. There is not one spoken word he ever said that was recorded. What is known and what the facts bear out are: Being a Jewish man of great faith he trusted God and took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant at the time;  He cared for and protected his wife and “foster” Son from the moment God asked him to; and He loved them unconditionally and without reservation. Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, was a real MAN.

We need St. Joseph more so today than ever before. Marriage and fatherhood are in crisis. In fact, America is becoming a nation of absentee fathers. The influence of fathers in families has been in steady decline for decades.  A ‘fatherless America’ helps breed a poverty rate for the fatherless at 4X the national average. In addition, it spawns increased drug abuse, physical and emotional health issues, lack in educational achievement, and a sharp increase in crime. Finally, it promulgates an irresponsible teen pregnancy rate that sees newborn children being  born into hopeless situations. Much of this hopelessness is attributed to the absence of fathers.

Let’s face it, in our secular and contemporary society men are portrayed in a negative way. The press and media marginalize, demonize and portray men  as oversexed objects who can only think of having sex and drinking beer. Comedy shows (sit-coms) direct children to perceive them as idiots and “snicker” along with their moms  about dad’s behavior. Compare the character Jim Anderson in the 60’s sitcom, “Father Knows Best” to Homer Simpson in the animated, 20 year long hit, “The Simpsons”. Anderson is a hard working, God fearing man who loves and respects his family and takes care of them. His wife and kids respect him and they all love each other. (How corny, right?) Homer Simpson is basically a buffoon who swills beer and is lazy and irresponsible. His wife and daughter are the voices of reason and keep order in the family. Homer Simpson is the stereotypical TV “dad” of the last 20 years. How illuminating and uplifting for the kids who have grown up watching this.

Our saints are the creme de la creme of our Catholic world. They represent the very best of the best. They are what I call our Catholic Hall of Fame. And St. Joseph stands at the top of the list. No one in history was ever given such a responsibility as he was. The man was charged with taking care of the expectant Mother of God and the Baby who was to grow up to be the Messiah, the Chosen One. Imagine that. A simple carpenter being asked to raise and protect the baby that would grow to be the Man that changed the world forever.

Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His faith, courage, integrity and love of God  resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. WE should LISTEN TO HIM ! We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities.

St. Joseph, a hard working carpenter was the perfect dad. Two thousand years after his death he is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us. HAPPY FEAST DAY

                                    Copyright ©2015 Larry Peterson

Honoring The "Shadow Saint"; Joseph of Nazareth

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

March 19 is the day we honor St. Joseph.  I think we should give him the whole month of March.  I love this man.   I will run this (and nothing else) starting today  March 16, through Friday, March 21.

I call Joseph of Nazareth the “Shadow Saint” because, even though he was responsible for being foster-father to the God-man and husband to the God-man’s mom, the Blessed Virgin, his own life was so quiet and unknown.  He had to shelter them, protect them, feed them, provide for them.  He married Mary (who was a teenager) while the cloud of “adultery” (a sin punishable by death) hung over her head.

Imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been for him, a “righteous Jew” who followed the law and found himself betrothed to a pregnant woman who was not carrying his child.  He must have loved Mary so much and had such great faith.

Then he managed to take her to Bethlehem for the census when she was almost full term.  If that were I,  I would have been sick to my stomach the whole way, wondering if my wife could make it and if the child would survive.  This was an 80-mile trip over rocky and dusty roads and Mary had to ride a donkey.

Then, after the baby is born in a dingy stable with smelly animals, he had to hide his wife and Son and run from the maniacal Herod, who wanted the child dead and had ordered his soldiers to find Him so they could kill Him. Imagine the fear and anxiety as you try to avoid detection.  Feel your heart pounding faster and faster at the sound of every hoofbeat or snapping branch.  I cannot imagine.  Joseph must have had incredible courage.

Back in Nazareth he raised his Boy as any loving and caring father would.  He aided the Boy when he took his first steps, held Him on his lap when he scraped his knee causing it to bleed, showed Him how to eat, taught Him how to pray, read the scriptures to Him and tucked Him into bed at night.  No-one ever in the history of the world has ever been entrusted with such incredible responsibility.  No one in the history of the world could tell Jesus, the God-man, when to go to bed or when to wash His hands for supper or “not to interrupt” if mom or dad was speaking.

Yet, we know so little about this just and holy man.  What we do know is he saved the Son of God who, in turn, lived long enough to save us all.  Oh yeah, he also was married to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He loved her with all of his heart, took care of her, and protected her against all dangers.  There is a love story for you.

There are no writings left behind by Joseph.  There are no words that were spoken by him that were ever recorded.  We have no idea as to what he might have even looked like.  None of that matters, because we do know he was there when God needed him to be there.  Last year Pope Francis picked St. Joseph’s Feast Day day to be installed as Pope.  This was no coincidence I am sure.

Joseph is considered the Protector of the Universal Church.  He is also the patron saint of fathers and families.  Next to his wife, he is the greatest of all other saints.  Just remember that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, called him, and only him, “dad”. And maybe (I like to think this) the Blessed Mother called him “sweetie” or “hon”.

Hey guys, imagine this. You get up in the morning and your wife says to you, “Good morning sweetie, want some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast?”  You turn and look and the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing there in a housecoat holding two eggs in her hand.  That would have happened to only one man in all of history and his name was Joseph.  No one, anywhere, ever, was afforded such an honor. No one.
HAPPY FEAST DAY ST.JOSEPH.  Thanks for being there for your Boy, your wife, and for all of us.

Repost: New Year's Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

by Larry Peterson

This is a redux of last years New Year’s blog  that won the “Frankie” Award  ( named after St. Francis de Sales) as the best catholic spirituality blog of  2013.

JANUARY 1, 2013  (and 2014)

New Year’s Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

A little about Catholics (myself included)  and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We Catholics have adorned our Blessed Mother with many titles (47 different ones I believe) and she is the greatest of all saints. We believe that she has been spared from original sin and was taken into heaven body and soul never having to die in this world. But, before she left here she lived here, as a woman, a mom and a housewife.  I think we do not pay enough attention to the earthly life of our spiritual Mom. January 1st of each year we Catholics honor her  with a day we call the Solemnity of Mary; the Mother of God. In the catholic world today is a Holy day of Obligation and, just like on Sundays, going to mass is required. This woman is worthy of and deserves this special day of honor..
Remember that Mary  had already survived the possibility of execution by stoning  because she was pregnant prior to her marriage. You can’t tell me that she did not think about the potential consequences of her pregnancy. (Even her Son, the God Man, broke into a sweat in the Garden of Eden thinking about what was coming. Why wouldn’t  Mary be worried?) She knew she was pregnant, she knew this was an extreme violation of Jewish law and she knew the penalty.  Her life was out of her hands and her fate thrust into  the hands of another, a man named Joseph, her betrothed. Fortunately, he was the best fiancé ever, married her, took her in and accepted her child as his.
Then, at full term in her pregnancy,  she has to travel with her husband over 80 miles on a donkey to be counted in a census.  She survives the four or five day journey (no rest-rooms between Nazareth and Bethlehem)and the countless contractions she must have had along the way to discover that her frantic husband cannot find a place for them to stay.  She winds up giving  birth in a stable with smelly animals,  lots of straw, no running water and who knows how clean those swaddling clothes were. She was probably all of 14 years old.
Let’s not forget that after  awhile word comes to them that Herod wants to kill their baby. Hey, all you moms and dads, how would you like to know the head of the government has authorized your child’s execution? Can you imagine? So, this poor young mom  is forced to make a 300+ mile journey to Egypt, hiding her child as best she can, while  all the time hoping her carpenter husband can elude the soldiers searching for them. Talk about  anxiety. Talk about fear. Talk about having Faith and praying like you never prayed before.
It probably was a year or two before the family made it back to Nazareth. Here they probably lived in a  typical baked clay and straw brick house. Each day Mary would have to sweep the beaten clay floor, go to the cistern for water, travel outside the town walls for daily necessities such as spices and grain which she would have to grind  into flour to bake fresh bread (no preservatives in those days) . Of course, there was the laundry.  Trust me, there were no laundromats and there were no detergents. There were also no diapers or Pampers or band-aids or cough syrups or baby powder or microwave chicken nuggets or McDonald
‘s either.  Her husband would be in his shop doing his carpentry chores and her boy, Jesus, would be with His dad or maybe helping His mom. And life would go on, day after day after day. The years go by and  she is witness to  his horrendous execution. No mom should ever have to witness her child being butchered. She was there for His first breath and His very last.


In conclusion, He came here for us and she gave birth to Him for us. She wiped His runny nose, changed His dirty diaper and watched Him grow up and be killed for us. That is why we call her MOM too. We believe that she is still watching out for us, her other kids. Ultimately, this  transposes into the Greatest Story Ever Told. Jesus was the leading Man and Mary, the leading woman . You have to LOVE this story and its two main characters, from Beginning to Never-Ending.

Honoring the "Shadow Saint" His Name is Joseph

I call Joseph of Nazareth, the “Shadow Saint” because, even though  his life is so quiet and unknown,  he was responsible for being foster-father to the God-man and husband to the God-man’s mom, Mary. He had to shelter them, protect them, feed them, provide for them. He married Mary while the cloud of “adultery” ( a sin punishable by death) hung over her head. He managed to take her to Bethlehem for the census when she was almost full term. Then he had to hide his wife and Son and run from the maniacal Herod who wanted the child dead and had his soldiers out looking for them.

 

Back in Nazareth he raised his Boy as any loving and caring father would. He aided the Boy when he took his first steps, held Him on his knee when he fell and scraped it and it was bleeding, showed Him how to eat, taught Him how to pray, read the scriptures to Him and tucked Him into bed at night. No one ever in the history of the world has ever been entrusted with such incredible responsibility. No one in the history of the world could tell Jesus, the God-man, when to go to bed or when to wash His hands for supper or “not to interrupt” if mom or dad was speaking. Yet, we know so little about this just and holy man. What we do know is he saved the Son of God who in turn lived long enough to save us all.
 There are no writings left behind by Joseph. There are no words that were spoken by him that were ever recorded. We have no idea as to what he might have even looked like. None of that matters because we do know he was there when God needed him to be there.Today, the day Pope Francis is installed, is also St. Joseph’s feast day. The Holy father picking this day is no coincidence I am sure. Joseph is considered the Protector of the Universal Church. He is also the Patron saint of fathers and families. Next to his wife, The Blessed Virgin Mary, he is the greatest of all other saints. Just remember that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, called him ‘dad’. No one, anywhere, ever, was afforded that particular honor.
HAPPY FEAST DAY  ST.JOSEPH        Thanks for being there for Him and for all of us