Category Archives: family

There is a Crisis of “Fatherless” Children in America; We Should Turn to St. Joseph for Help

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

September 8 was the birthday of our heavenly mom, Mary. On her birthday I also always think of Mother Mary’s husband, St. Joseph.  Without him there would be no birthdays to celebrate, either on September 8 or December 25. When God chose Joseph of Nazareth to be the foster-father of His only Son, He certainly knew what He was doing.

I call St. Joseph the “Shadow Saint”. That is because so little is known about him. He never spoke a word that was recorded. He never wrote anything that was saved on parchment.  It does not matter. This young man, a “righteous Jew” true to the law, was confronted with being engaged to a woman pregnant with someone else’s child. The reality was a terrible thing for him to bear.

But Joseph, who was only about 19, was a man of faith and God was with him. The penalty for his betrothed could have been death by stoning. Joseph would have none of that. His Mary would not be harmed. He loved her. So he took her in and married her. The child she carried would be his.

St. Joseph’s example of selflessness is something that needs to be talked about with admiration, respect and pride. It might be used as a guide for so many who have, in this secular driven world, fathered children and then abandoned them. 

There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized” the downward spiral of respect for life followed.


There is a “father factor”  involved in virtually all aspects of American life today. Yes, many homes still have fathers but many children live in homes with absentee fathers and the societal effects are felt all across the spectrum of American life.

Statistics show that in fatherless homes poverty is 4X  higher than average, teen pregnancy increases by a multiple of seven (7), abuse and neglect are much more widespread and drug use is more 

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prevalent. The list goes on and on.


St. Joseph could be used as a shining example for all men to emulate. He was poor, he was chaste and he respected women, especially his teenaged bride.  He was a man of faith and stayed true to the laws of God and man. Foremost in his life was his faith in God. This was his strength. This is what fortified him. This is what is missing in so many lives today.

Joseph of Nazareth is an example of how one should respect the law. We could explain to young people how he had to put his teenaged and pregnant wife on the back of a donkey and then walk over rocky, dusty roads for over 80 miles, a journey that probably took three days. And why did he do this? He did this because he was required to go to Bethlehem for the census. It was the law.

The story of young Joseph, taking his teenaged wife and baby boy, and escaping Bethlehem because King Herod wanted to kill his son, Jesus, would make any young person’s pulse amp up. The poor guy’s child was being hunted by Herod’s soldiers. His wife was recovering from child birth. He had to make it to Egypt. And he did…for his family. This is what a REAL man would do, or at least try to.

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 sacrifice and efforts for his wife and son allowed them to survive so that the salvific narrative would be fulfilled. We owe him so much.

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 need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities. We should cherish his devotion to family.

I realize the possibility of teaching about this quiet hero in public schools might be a ‘pipe dream’ but  I would hope Catholic schools would use him as an example for students to look up to and respect as a role model for what a husband and dad should try to be like.
St. Joseph, two thousand years after his death, is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Reconnecting with an "Old Friend"..St. Therese, the "Little Flower"

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I have a small bedroom I converted into an office. Against the wall next to the closet is a narrow bookcase. It is about seven feet tall and one foot wide and has seven shelves. It is a great dust collector. Anyway, I had this sudden urge to “straighten up” the mess of papers and supplies I had so “neatly” placed on those shelves over the past few years.  I reached for the stack of old Writer’s Digest and Writer magazines on the third shelf. I placed one hand on top and tried to get my other underneath the stack. As if working together in synchronized dance, they all slid out and landed in a pile on the floor. I shook my head and chuckled. “Idiot,” .
We Catholics have included in our  extended Catholic family, the saints. Regarding the saints, there are many of these family members I have never even heard of. But, I do know that if I ever hear about one of them and seek them out, they somehow heed my call. For example, recently I “met” St. John of God for the first time and I had never heard of him. After reading about him, suffice it to say that this saint is no longer extended family for me. No sirree, he is now close family. I give him a ‘shout-out’ every day. (You can Google his name and a wealth of info comes up).
But what about an old family member who you were very close to and then, for some inexplicable reason, you more or less ignored them for many years? How do you finally get back together with them? I’ll tell you one way it can happen. They might hit you upside your head with a clear and unmistakable message. The cascading magazines were the start of a message. Guess who my message sender was?

It was St. Therese, the “Little Flower.” Many of you know what I am talking about. There is no subtlety when she is communicating with you. You can do like me though. You might begin to take her for granted and then begin to ignore her. SIGH–I did that, I admit it. Not anymore. She quickly got my attention.

St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower”
I should explain that my family and I have had some profound experiences courtesy of this great saint. In fact, I could write an entire short story right now about each of several miraculous things that have happened in our lives courtesy of St. Therese’s intercession. (I actually started to do that so I just deleted more than 400 words of “stuff” that was turning this into a novella.) “C’mon Larry, get to the point.” (That’s me talking to me.)
I bend down to begin picking up the magazines which are spread evenly across the floor. The mastheads are all showing as if they were put on display. In the middle of the pile I see a thin box. It does not belong. It is an interloper. I pick it up and see it is an old Xerox box, 8.5 X 11 by about one half-inch thick that held something called transparency paper. I did not even know what that was and then the end of this box popped open and a bunch of photos slid out. Guess whose 8 X 10 photo is on top looking right at me with this satisfied smile that made my knees get weak? Yup–you got it, St. Therese.
Two hours later that photo of my sweet, little friend (and your friend too), was in a very nice 12 X 15 bordered frame hanging on the wall a few feet away. Now I get to see her every day and she still is smiling gently. Since we have reconnected I have seen more ROSES than I can count. I found the booklet, “Mary Day by Day” in the garage (don’t ask me how it got there) which was Blessed Mother Teresa’s favorite book.

I did not end there. I received an e-mail from someone named Therese Martin (St. Therese’s real name) and, thanks to the encouragement of Elizabeth Schmeidler, my book is coming out in print in a few weeks. I also am reading Connie Rossini’s book, “Trusting God with St. Therese.” How timely is that? I might add that our stillborn daughter’s name is Theresa Mary and my granddaughter’s name is Theresa Marie.

I shall end this now by simply asking St. Therese to please pray for all of us and by promising her that she can stay smiling at me from up on that wall for the rest of my life.

                                      Copyright © Larry Peterson 2016

Two Teenagers, A Child and Christmas–a Perfect Mix

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME


By Larry Peterson
If it were two thousand years ago and you lived in Nazareth you might notice a young man packing items on a donkey in preparation for a trip. Early the next morning you see this fellow, with his pregnant teenage wife sitting on the back of the burro, heading down the road. They are in compliance with the law of the day. They are embarking on a three or four day journey to Bethlehem, the town of their ancestors’ birth, for the census.
We know so little about the lives of Joseph and Mary, yet they are THE integral part of the Salvation story.  Mary’s acceptance of a pregnancy that might have resulted in her being stoned to death as an adulteress was an act of monumental humility. Joseph, a good man and a faithful Jew true to the law, accepted a pregnant woman as his wife, another act of extreme humility.
To complete this humble family was none other than God Himself. The Creator of all  there is became like one of His creations. He could have come in a majestic way, surrounded by armies and servants and glitter and pomp. He chose to come to us in the womb of his mom, just like all of us. He allowed Himself to be born among the animals in a cave. As He began His earthly life His body was wrapped in cloth and then placed on straw. 


Why would He do this? He did it to show us Goodness, show us Love and show us how to do it.  Finally He did it to save us, save us from ourselves and Satan’s favorite tool, Pride, which had brought down Adam and Eve. The Holy Family was and still is, the complete and perfect embodiment of Humility. It remains so to this very day. Of course, the antidote to Pride is Humility. 
Isn’t God amazing in the way He does things? This is the story of our Salvation and the rebirth of Hope. This Salvation became available to all people for all time and its success was entrusted to a couple of have-not teens whose humility and love of God enabled them to conquer the seemingly impossible. They married against incredible odds and traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was full term. Joseph walked guiding the donkey, protecting his young wife the entire time. Mary gave birth in a cave surrounded by smelly animals and filth and then they managed to escape the soldiers of King Herod who were trying to kill their newborn Son. Lest we forget, they somehow made it to Egypt, about three hundred miles away. We know the rest of the story.
We must never forget that within that family it was the husband and father who protected his wife and Son from the evils of the world. The Son humbled Himself and gave his life for us all.  And the Mom, our Mom too, the most humble woman ever created, stands ever vigilant ready to crush the head of the evil serpent who might harm any of her children. In so doing she is protecting all of her “children” (which includes you and I) for all eternity. She is our protection against all wickedness. Humility conquers pride. Just look to the Holy Family.

If you take a moment to truly ponder all that happened and how it happened and why it happened, it might leave you breathless. And then we remember it was all done for all of us. There was nothing done for themselves, not one thing. We need to get back to “Family” and the Holy Family is the model to build on. 
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday following Christmas. If you are among the millions of folks who never pay an iota of attention to this family, maybe you should. Why? Because this is the family that “set the bar” for all families. Comprised of two teenagers, Mary and Joseph and their boy, Jesus, their unconditional love for God and each other cannot be surpassed.  The Salvation story comprises the greatest acts of combined Love and Humility ever.
                                 ©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights Reserved

I LOVE Christmas—No Matter What

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson
Turkey Day is over and  now the 2015 Christmas odyssey is underway. My personal pilgrimage began  Sunday at 5 AM, as I prepared my wife’s medications for the week. There are fourteen different pills she takes at different times during the day for varied reasons and I do this every week. So, I pour a cup of coffee and spread the pill bottles in a row in front of my still-squinty eyes. I have a pill box with four rows of sevens so I can prepare meds for the entire week. The morning row gets five pills in each box, the noon row gets four, etc. When I am finished there are 112 pills sorted out for the week. I am proud of my system…most of the time.
I finish placing the the last pills in place and reach over to get the coffee. Ah yes, life is always an adventure. That’s right;  I knocked over the coffee.  As I did, I leaned onto the bottom of the pill box and it flipped, ever so gracefully, end over end into the air spraying its newly received contents everywhere. Okay–you get the picture. Pills on the floor, pills on the table floating in coffee (too bad they were not donuts) and me staring, mouth hung open, in disbelief.

 Fortunately, God has blessed me with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I took a breath and began to laugh. Then I created some dialogue for the moment. I raised my hands, looked out across my random pill and coffee display, and announced to no one, “You are such an idiot!” Then I laughed some more and began Round Two of the weekly pill dissemination. That time I succeeded.

No matter, Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the ‘reason for the season’ which is the Baby Jesus. I love the awe in the faces of so many children and the extra smiles that come from the wonder and mystery surrounding Santa’s impending visit. I love the cookies and candy and cake and even some of the anxiety and pressure and insanity that mixes in as we move forward. I even love eggnog, fruitcake and pfeffernuesse. I am a hopeless Chrismatist
More than anything, I love thinking about the Holy Family. Have you ever really thought about the Blessed Mother when she was  a young girl about 14 or 15 years old?   She was almost full-term in her pregnancy and was forced  to travel on the back of a donkey for over 80 miles to fulfill the census law. We have  to marvel at  her husband, Joseph,  who must have just loved her so much that he was willing to accept her Baby as his own. He led her and the unborn Child on this journey, protected them with his life and made sure that the Savior of all mankind lived to complete His mission. This was, after all, a very different time culturally. Mary’s alternative could have been death by stoning. Thank you, St. Joseph. Thank you, Mother Mary. Thank you, Jesus.
I will finish this up by telling you I made it to eight o’clock Mass with the wife at my side. What better way to continue the day, especially after the pill and coffee fiasco.  Yes, the Season of Advent is upon us. I have no idea how the rest of this day or the days following will play out. No matter what, it will be OK.  We are on our way to Christmas. For all of you willing to embrace the season, it is a beautiful, wondrous time for family, friends, love, joy and miracles.

In closing, as we continue on this unpredictable and happy odyssey into  Christmas wonderment, I would like to wish you all a beautiful, blessed,  healthy and joy-filled Christmas.  (If I don’t electrocute myself putting up my Christmas lights you may hear from me again before Christmas arrives.) 

“Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.” 
St. Paul of the Cross   (Catholicquotes.org)
                     ©LarryPeterson 2015                                    Photo courtesy  davidthig.org.uk

Time to Pause, Take a Break and Give THANKS to GOD

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.  ~ Psalms 50:14-15

The simplicity of the Thanksgiving Holiday captured my spirit decades ago. This is the one day of the year where we, as Americans, just stop everything and take a breath from the year gone by to say THANK YOU to God for all that we have. We gather with family or friends or maybe even with strangers in a food center who become our new friends, and share the bounty He has so graciously bestowed upon us. All we have to do is “show up”. You do not even  have to bring gifts. Just bring a thankful heart and a smile on your face. It doesn’t get any better than that. It is a beautiful thing.

So I would like to wish anyone who might read this a God filled and beautiful Thanksgiving Day. I am posting two Thanksgiving prayers that fit the occasion.
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PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
by  Walter Rauschenbusch
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
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 From Living God’s Justice: Reflections and Prayers, compiled by The Roundtable Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors:
IN GRATITUDE
Thank you, Father, for having created us and given us to each other in the human family. Thank you for being with us in all our joys and sorrows, for your comfort in our sadness, your companionship in our loneliness. Thank you for yesterday, today, tomorrow and for the whole of our lives. Thank you for friends, for health and for grace. May we live this and every day conscious of all that has been given to us.

                                  ©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights Reserved

Goodbye "Little Bro"–You and Your Watermelon are Forever in Our Hearts

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The picture to the right was taken at my daughter’s wedding and it was a happy day. Facing the picture, the young fellow on the left is my “baby” brother, Johnny. The one to his left in the back is my brother, Bobby. I am to the far right, my sister, Carolyn, is in front of me and my brother, Danny, is to her left in front of Bobby. The young man with the silly grin on his face is my son, Larry Jr. who was really having a “good” time. The little guy is my grandson, Darren. He is now in college.

I posted this photo because there are very few photos of the five of us together.  There has been a lot of death in our family over the years. Bobby died in 2007 from cardiac failure. He was 53. Carolyn’s husband, Bob, died back in 1993. He had a brain-stem tumor. He was almost 53. My wife, Loretta, died (melanoma) in 2003. She was 58. Danny’s wife, Annie, died (emphysema) last April. She was 64. Our mom died at 40 from leukemia. Our dad died at 53 from Pancreatitis. We had a stillborn daughter, Theresa. Her life span ended while entering the world.  And then, the other day, our brother Johnny, (I also called him “Little Bro” and he called me, “Big Bro”) died. He was 56. Unlike the others, Johnny’s death was self-inflicted. This I do not understand. Therefore, I have turned  it over to God….totally.

It  is a beautiful thing when you do have an abiding faith in the God above to help you climb over the rubble of life. And yes, this left a serious pile of rubble for sure. I will not analyze or try to figure out “what happened”.  I just ask anyone who might read this to say a prayer for “Little Bro” and for his wife and family. We have the peace of knowing that Johnny is now with his most loving and merciful Father and is in “GOOD HANDS”.

Also, maybe say a prayer for me. I am unable to attend Johnny’s funeral today and I am quite “in the dumps” about it. I should be with the rest of my family. However, being a caregiver to an Alzheimer patient (my wife) can sometimes leave you unable to act on unexpected life situations. I will go to 8 a.m. Mass in my parish and I will be OK.

Anyway, today we say GOOD-BYE to the “baby” of the family. It is a hard day for all of us but God and His Son and our Brother, Jesus, do have our backs.  WE will feel their comfort and the loving hand of Mother Mary will guide us along.  Love you “Little Bro”.
                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PART II

Our dear cousin, Vicki Nelson, had a wonderful memory of Johnny back when he was seven years old. She wrote an essay about it and it came straight from her heart and I am posting it now–in honor of “Little Bro”.  Thank you Vicki.

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The Watermelon Story
  by Vicki Nelson
To look at him that summer morning, no one would ever guess he had a care in the world. And in that moment, I suppose he didn’t. Still, it must have been confusing for him. Here he was ‐ a seven‐year old kid from the Bronx suddenly transplanted with his eleven year old brother for the summer in his uncle’s new house in the New Jersey suburbs. The brothers were recently orphaned after a short span of time where first their mom, then their grandma, and finally their dad died. The two boys had three older siblings, one of whom was a bonafied teenager and the oldest two were barely old enough to be considered real grown‐ups. How it was going to work out, no one really knew. Uncle Larry had four kids of his own, plus a wife and mother‐in‐law to support. He had just bought a larger house to accommodate his growing family and they barely had two nickels to rub together in those days. He was a one man show with his nuts and bolts business that was touch and go lately. Still he did what he could for his sister’s kids. He was their beloved Uncle Larry even if he did live in Jersey.
And in Jersey, everyone had lawns. Having a lawn and then complaining about cutting the grass was the main reason people moved across the Hudson River. Uncle Larry had not put in the backyard lawn yet. Hundreds of weeds needed pulling and rocks needed removing. The earth was soft, however, and Aunt Gloria promised to pay each working kid a penny a weed ‐ easy work for a bountiful harvest that awaited. Brother Bobby got the bright idea to remove some of the leaves from each weed thereby maximizing his profit for each weed. Aunt Gloria, originally a city kid from New York herself, quickly wised up to the shenanigans and so we all picked weeds for free from then on. I don’t really remember how the next part came about ‐ maybe we just finally had enough land to do it. Or maybe it was just that we were already outside so much anyway, digging in the dirt and pulling weeds. Somebody got the idea to plant our own vegetable garden so we picked a nice flat spot way out back and sowed seeds from little packets. We planted the usual ‐ tomatoes and zucchini and bell pepper plants and ‐ Johnny’s special request ‐ watermelons.
New Jersey is the Garden State and our plants just grew like crazy. The watermelon plants grew hundreds of leaves that spread out all over the place. Johnny would jump out of bed first thing every morning and run to the garden patch in hopes of spotting his first watermelon. The tomatoes eventually turned red, the bell peppers and zucchini grew in abundance too.  Meanwhile, Aunt Gloria was beginning to suspect that the watermelons were not going to produce much more than green leaves. So she planned a little surprise for Johnny.
The next morning, like clockwork, Johnny ran out the back door to check on his watermelon patch. In a few minutes we could all hear his ‘hootin’ and ‘hollerin.’ “I got one! I got one! I got my very own watermelon! Everybody ‐ come look!!!” 

We could see him from the window. He jumped up and down, hopping from one foot to the other with that blond curly hair bouncing and his blue eyes shining.

We all went running out the back door to meet him as he continued jumping with that toothless seven year old grin, as he proudly displayed the roundest most beautiful little Sugar Baby watermelon any of us had ever seen in our entire lives. Of course we older kids were in on it but congratulated Johnny heartily on his superior gardening skills and his prize watermelon. He just beamed from ear to ear. Aunt Gloria put it in the fridge so it would be a nice cold dessert on that hot, summer night.
I will never forget his little face or for a moment, the sheer happiness and delight that one watermelon could bring to one small boy. He never forgot it, either. Many years later, when we reconnected over the telephone after going our separate ways for a long time the way adults just do, we spoke with delight of the watermelon story again.
And just for that moment, remembering, we were those two kids again. Rest in Peace, Johnny. You and your watermelon are forever in my heart.
Love from your cousin,
  Vicki

Just Trying to Promote My Novel, The Priest and The Peaches. Now in Print and eBook Format (For sale, too)

THE PRIEST AND THE PEACHES    
a Novel by Larry Peterson  

 A Father’s Legacy to His Children Was NOT What It Seemed                                         
 Yimey knew the secret to life. He made sure his family and friends did too. Even when his beloved wife, Elizabeth, died, he kept the faith. But the booze dulled the pain and he used too much. Then he died and left his five children to fend for themselves. They did not understand why people were calling their dad a “great man”. How could that be? Alcohol had killed him and he had left them alone. Who was this man they called “Pops” but everyone else called “Yimey”?
Awarded the CATHOLIC WRITER’S GUILD Seal of Approval 

 This book celebrates family and honors the Catholic priesthood. It deals with alcoholism, abandonment, pride, forgiveness and death. Yet, you will smile in between. It also honors, in a no-nonsense,”blue collar” way, the Golden Rule. This is a unique book and an easy read. When you finish this book you will be smiling and saying,
“L-Y-N”  “L-Y-N”
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Links:
Larry Peterson 
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 Rainy Day Reviews: I highly recommend this book. You won’t be sorry, Larry is a gifted writer who creates a smart, witty, loving and believable characters and story line. I am so happy I got the opportunity to read this book.”

A Pocket Full of Books:  “I was hooked on this one from the beginning . The writing is very unique and really stands out. The voices are just very distinctive and they’re all so easy to relate to.”
Reviews by Molly:   “This is a book that grips you from beginning to end. It’s filled with real-life events  and children that you just want to wrap your arms around, pray for them, and hug them ’til they smile forever. “
Lissette E. Manning:  “We’re able to watch a family grow within a period of seven days while faced with an adversity that, at times, seems to want to topple the family altogether. The fact that they’re able to bounce back and find strength and meaning within the very world they live in goes to show us that anything is possible only if you believe
My Two Blessings: “The story is well written with 3 dimensional characters and the Peach kids will steal your heart as you experience all the ups and downs with them. Highly recommend it.”
The Paperback Pursuer:  “When I started reading I knew that I would not be able to put it down ; most of the characters are so lively and well-written that they could be alive in the next room.”
See all 48 reviews at   The Priest and The Peaches
“A father’s ultimate legacy to his children is not the amount of material things h
e leaves them. It is found in the lessons of love and forgiveness he instilled in their hearts.”     

By Author
   petersonlarry6@gmail.com
 copyright©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights Reserved