Category Archives: Jesus

Saint Anna Schaffer—Bedridden and in Constant Pain from being Burned, She Gave it all to Jesus

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson        

 The number of saints in the Catholic Church numbers in the thousands.  In fact, the exact number is open to question.  Among these are many saints most of us have never heard of. These saints  are the obscure spiritual gems whose stories can take your breath away. Say “hello” to  Anna Schaffer.
 Anna Schaffer was born into a simple, hardworking family in Mindelstetten in Bavaria on February 18, 1882. The third of six children, Anna was a fine student who studied hard and received good grades. When she was a small child she had felt a deep calling to the religious life but circumstances sometimes hurl themselves into your path changing your destination.
 Anna made her First Holy Communion  on April 12, 1893. At that time she had a profound encounter with Jesus. She had not spoken to anyone about it but she wrote a letter to Our Lord telling Him to “do with me as you want…I want to atone and become a sacrifice to atone for all dishonor and offenses against you.” She was 11 years old and was giving herself over to Christ.
 Anna’s dad passed away at the age of 40. The year was 1896.  Anna, now 14, had already been working part time for a household in Regensburg but now her family was thrust into poverty. She had dreamed of one day entering a religious order but circumstances now forced her to give up thoughts of any more schooling and find full time work to help support the household. She acquired several positions and finally landed a job in a pub called the  Gameskeeper’s Cottage in nearby Stammham. Part of her job description included doing the laundry.
 The Victorian era washing machines they were using were designed to have a fire underneath and the rising heat would boil the water in the tub above. These “machines” had galvanized metal smoke stacks to vent the smoke outside the building. The stack on the machine Anna was using came loose from the wall. She was sure she could fix it.
 Anna climbed up on the edge of the tub to force the pipe back into the hole. As she stretched up to reattach the pipe she slipped and fell into the boiling, sudsy water. In a flash she was up to her knees in the bubbling cauldron having her legs boiled. The date was February 4, 1901. Anna was 19 years old and her life had been changed forever.
 Anna was rushed over to the nearby hospital. Everything they tried to do for her failed to help. They operated over thirty times and every time the pain was excruciating as they had to scrape dead skin away and re-bandage the poor girl’s legs. She was given up as a “lost cause” and the experts assumed she would die from infection. Skin grafts would not take and Anna became immobilized. However, for some unexplainable reason, Anna stabilized and three months later was sent home.
The local doctors, unable to help Anna, several times sent her to the University Clinic of Erlangen for treatment. But this brought her nothing but anguish as the “experts” experimented with various “new” treatments in their quest to help her. They even forcibly broke the joints in her feet several times to free them up from their immobility. The pain she endured must have been horrific. Her mother became her caregiver and would care for her daughter until the end of her life.
 In 1898 Anna had seen a vision where Jesus appeared to her as the Good Shepherd and told her the suffering that was going to be hers before the age of 20. Jesus’ prediction had now come to pass and there was nothing anyone could do to help her.  Anna embarked on a journey of having to endure unimaginable pain every day as her legs would never heal. Open, festering wounds would always be present. But Jesus was in her life coupled with her deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. Anna Schaffer was about to inspire many more than just those in her local community.
 Anna admitted in a letter that it took her two years to recognize God’s will in her life as she had offered it to Him on her First Communion Day. She embraced God’s will fully and Jesus appeared to her saying, “I accepted you in atonement for my Holy Sacrament. And in the future when you receive Holy Communion you will feel the pains of My passion with which I have redeemed you.”
 On October 4, 1910, Anna received the stigmata. From that day forward Jesus would feel Anna’s pain as Anna felt His.  She wrote that she had the intense pain of the passion which increased on Thursday, Fridays, Sundays and on Feast days. She became a beloved person in the town and people began coming from everywhere to hear the gentle and comforting words she spoke. Every day she drew closer and closer to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin as Jesus united her suffering with His own.
 In 1925 Anna developed colon cancer and, at the time, there was nothing anyone could do for that. On October 5, 1925, Anna was given Holy Communion. She opened her eyes wide and said, “Jesus, I live for you.” Then she closed her eyes and journeyed home with her Lord.
 Since 1929, Over 15.000 miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Anna Schaffer. In 1998 alone 551 miracles were recorded through her intercession (many of these have not yet been validated by the Church). Anna was beatified by St. John Paul II in1999 and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict in 2011.
Saint Anna Schaffer, please pray for us.
                                                             ©Larry Peterson 2017 All Right Reserved

Five Things to Think of from St Joseph’s Perspective

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Within the Christmas narrative I am always drawn to how Good St. Joseph must have felt with the responsibility of  caring for and protecting his immediate family, the Blessed Virgin and The Son of God.  As a man, I try to imagine having to confront what Joseph confronted as a  husband and new father. It makes me a bit sick to my stomach imagining myself in his sandals. 
Here are five moments I like to consider: 

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

Our Greatest Christmas Gift: God’s Earthly Trinity; A Young Man, His Teenage Wife and a Newborn Baby—

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 on their way to Bethlehem, the town of their ancestor’s 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. (Imagine how much he must have loved this young woman)

Holy Family  & First Christmas  from Pineterest

To complete this humble family was none other than God Himself. The Creator of all that isbecame 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 it this way?

He did it to show us…show us Goodness, show us Love and show us how to give those things from within ourselves.  Foremost, 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 young people whose humility and love of God enabled them to conquer the seemingly impossible.
Guided by the Holy Spirit they united in marriage. Then, absorbed by each other’s love they took on the world. They traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was full term, a three to five day journey on the back of a donkey. Joseph walked guiding the donkey. Mary gave birth in a cave surrounded by smelly animals and filth and they watched and marveled as poor shepherds and rich kings worshipped their child side by side.
They managed to escape the soldiers of King Herod, who were trying to kill their newborn Son.  Imagine the fear in Joseph as he wondered how he could protect his little family from the forces of evil. And, lest we forget, he also got them safely to Egypt, about three hundred miles away. He must have been something. We know the rest of the story.
If you take a moment to ponder all that happened and how it happened and why it happened, it will 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 what “Family” is and the Holy Family is the model to build on.
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 of all women ever, stands ever vigilant and  ready to crush the head of the evil serpent who might harm any of her children. In so doing she is protecting all of us for all eternity. She is our protection against all wickedness. When we ask for her protection we cover ourselves with an impenetrable shield.
Fittingly, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday following Christmas. There are millions of folks who never pay an iota of attention to this family. Maybe it is time that they should for this is the family that “set the bar” for all families for all time.
The Salvation story comprises the greatest acts of human Love, Goodness and Humility ever. Mary, Joseph and their boy, Jesus, encompassed by an unconditional love for God and each other, offers that love to all of us.  God’s earthly Trinity has shown us the way.
How can anyone NOT Love Christmas?  

                                       ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Executed for Refusing to Say “Yes”*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson


The pages of Catholic/Christian history are filled with countless names of those who came from virtual anonymity and proceeded to leave an indelible mark in our lives. St. Teresa of Calcutta is a prime example. Many have also reached the eternal heights of spiritual greatness but are not so well known. Meet Franz Jagerstatter.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter    wikipedia commons

Franz was born in Austria in 1907. His father was killed in World War I and when Franz was around eight years old, his mom married Heinrich Jagerstatter who adopted young Franz, giving him his name. 


Franz received a basic education in the local schools and excelled in reading and writing. He learned religion from his maternal grandmother and would read the Bible and other religious works. He managed to develop a faith which nestled itself securely into his soul. As Franz grew older and wiser his faith grew right along with him.

In 1933, Franz, inherited his adopted father’s farm. He then met Franziska Schwaninger, a deeply religious Catholic woman, and they fell in love. They were married Holy Thursday, 1936, and after the ceremony proceeded on a pilgrimage to Rome. This is also when Franz’s spiritual life became his primary focus in all things.

Now possessing a deeply imbedded faith and love of Jesus, he soon was serving as a sexton at his local parish. He and Franziska would have three daughters and he began to live his life true to his faith and to Jesus Christ. He would no longer deviate from things that were “not right”. Some perceived him as “overly pious”.

He stopped going to taverns because, as a defender of truth, he was always getting into arguments about Nazism and wanted to avoid that. He stopped accepting donations he received as the church sexton and gave the money to the needy even though he and his growing family were poor too. Even though some folks mocked him, he was determined to do “what was right”.

In 1938, German soldiers began moving into Austria. Immediately, they began implementing the Nazification of the once peaceful nation. The “Anschluss”, which was the creation of a German-Austrian State, was put to a vote in Franz’s village and he was the only one in his town to vote “no”. The authorities rejected his vote and claimed the vote was unanimous. However, Franz was now under watch by the Nazis.

It did not matter to Franz. He knew he must do the right thing and remained openly anti-Nazi. He joined the Third Order of St. Francis and began serving as a sacristan at the local parish. He managed to get several exemptions from military service. Time was not to be Franz’s friend.

In 1940, when he was 33, Franz was conscripted into the German army. He finished basic training but managed to stay out of the active service because he qualified for an exemption given to farmers. Back home he began to evaluate the morality of war and even discussed the subject with his bishop. His bishop did not encourage Franz.

And so it was that on February 23, 1943, Franz Jagerstatter was called to active duty. He and Franziska now had three daughters, the oldest only six. Franz stood strong and refused to fight for the godless, Third Reich. He declared himself a “conscientious objector” and offered to serve as a paramedic. He was ignored. A priest from his town came to talk him into serving but he refused. He was immediately put in prison.

Against all advice to stop resisting, Franz persisted in his opposition to the Nazis. He was told by his spiritual advisors that he had an obligation to his family to protect his life. He was told that he was required morally to obey the “legitimate” authorities. A friend told him, “Just say yes. You don’t even have to shoot straight. But take the oath.” Franz rejected all arguments. Atheistic Nazism could not be supported. He was determined to do the “right thing”.

Franz wrote, “Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.”

Franz Jagerstatter held fast to his principles. On July 6, 1943, he was tried and sentenced to death. On August 9, 1943, he was executed by guillotine at Brandenburg-Gorden prison. He was 36 years old.
Franz Jagerstatter led an obscure life and his death was no different. But a priest by the name of Father Jochmann spoke to Franz right before his execution. He said later that Franz was the only saint he had ever met.

In 1964 the American sociologist, Gordon Zahn, wrote a book about Franz Jagerstatter  titled, In Solitary Witness.  That was followed by the renowned Trappist,Thomas Merton, writing a chapter about Franz in one his books, Faith & Violence.

Eventually, Franz story weaved its way to the Vatican and came before Pope Benedict XVI. In June of 2007, the Holy Father issued an apostolic exhortation declaring Franz a martyr. On October 27, 2007, Franz Jagerstatter was beatified by Cardinal Jose Martins in Linz, Austria.

 Franz believed that Jesus wanted him to do the “right thing”.  He even gave his life to do it. He is known as the patron of “conscientious objectors”.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, please pray for us.
*This article appeared in Aleteia on October 19, 2016

                                        ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights reserved

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 

You tube.com

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

Krakow: The Pope and the Holocaust; I Am Proudly & Humbly Connected to Both*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Mom died from leukemia way back in 1961. She had just turned 40 and, at the time, there were no cures, no chemo and no bone-marrow transplants. She was dead within six months of diagnosis.

We lived in the Bronx in a five floor walk-up. Grandma lived up on the fifth floor and we were down on the third.  Grandma gave up her apartment and moved in with us downstairs. I guess it was to help take care of the “little ones”; I was 15, Carolyn was 13, Danny was 11, Bobby was six and Johnny was two). But, it was not a good thing. Grandma hated dad because, for some bizarre reason, she decided he had killed her daughter and let him know it every chance she had.
I have no explanation for this nor will I ever. None of us do. Hey, we were kids, what did we know. Grandma’s grief was so intense that Dad could not handle it. It was just the way it was. Dad solved the problem by avoiding Grandma as much as possible. He just began hanging out in the local saloons which actually gave Grandma a real reason to yell at him.

On March 8, 1963, Grandma had a massive stroke. I saw her standing seemingly twisted in a body spasm and managed to drag her to the bed. I held her in my arms as she summoned the strength to say an Act of Contrition.  Looking me dead in the eye, she slowly slurred each word. Then we said an “Our Father” together. I was crying like a baby and so were my sister and brother, Danny. Dad was in the other room with Bobby and Johnny, waiting for the priest to show up. He was not crying.

When we finished praying she closed her eyes and became comatose. Father Quirk arrived and administered Last Rites. She died a few hours later in the hospital. That moment is etched forever in my brain’s “like it just happened” memory section.

What does Krakow and World Youth day have to do with all of that? Well, the first question that must be asked is, who was Grandma’s husband, our Grandpa? We were kids and had never asked. We never thought about it. That’s what kids do—take things for granted.

But then Mom was gone and Grandma was gone and Dad was drinking heavily. He died two years later. We had never gotten to the point of asking, “Hey, where is Grandpa?” Just like that it was too late. As adults we never found out—until four years ago. And now, with the Pope going to Krakow, Grandpa is in the forefront of my mind.  Krakow was Grandpa’s hometown.

Forced deportation from the Krakow ghetto, 1942   wikipediacommons
Our Mom had a brother, my namesake, Uncle Larry. He had been in the 8th Army Air-Force during World War II and his plane had been shot down on a bombing mission. He survived the war as a POW in the infamous Stalag 17. One time I asked him about his dad. He told me, “He died.” He never said another word.  That was that. Then we grew up, our folks were gone, and we lost contact as we began our own individual lives.

About four years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) by none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki, Uncle Larry’s oldest. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

What follows may seem implausible but it is true and we have the documentation to confirm it. Vicki had been wondering about the missing Grandpa too. Her dad told her the same thing he had told me. Now he was gone. But she never stopped wondering and began a journey into the world of genealogy.  Lo and behold, she unraveled the mystery of the missing Grandpa.

Our grandma was an immigrant from Austria. A devout Catholic who never missed Mass, she married a man by the name of Isidore Schul. This was our grandfather. He was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Shocker of shockers, the immigration papers and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1907.

We cannot understa
nd how these two unlikely people connected, got married and had two children, one of them our own mother. But it was so and that mystery will never be unraveled. We dubbed our long, lost, mysterious grandfather, Grandpa Irv. He and grandma split up when Mom and Uncle Larry were young children. Grandpa Irv died in the Bronx in 1965. We will never know more than I revealed here.

But here is the thing. Cradle Catholics, we are also 25% Jewish. Grandpa Irv was the only one of his family to get to America. His parent’s names were Simon and Regina Schul. Simon and Regina are our great-grandparents. We do not know if they died in the Holocaust or before it began but apparently, from what Vicki discovered, Grandpa Irv’s siblings did. Probably in Ravensbruck but it might have been Auschwitz.

For me, personally, I am humbled by this connection. Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, their  relatives, St. Ann, St. Joachim, and the apostles etc. were all Jewish. They were also the first Catholics. And today, as I write this, Pope Francis is in Krakow, Grandpa Irv’s hometown. I feel connected to it all and the Holocaust has a whole new meaning for me. It is all part of my heritage. My “own people” were killed there.  SHALOM

*This article also appeared in Aleteia. org on July 28,2016

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Missing From the 2016 Presidential Campaign—any Mention of God & Religion

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

There is an old cliche which says, “One thing you should never argue or discuss is politics or religion.”

One thing is for sure, when it comes to politics and politicians no one is mentioning anything about religion. They leave the ‘religion’ out and argue ‘politics’. They not only argue with each other they debase, defame, denigrate, disparage and verbally abuse each other relentlessly and with a no-holds, reckless abandon that is disgraceful but apparently acceptable because, “that’s politics”. On the other hand, they will rarely, if ever, mention God or religion.

 According to all of the latest polls, the items  of prime importance to the American voter in 2016 are: a)  the economy; b)  jobs; c) immigration and d)  terrorism. Unbelievably (to me) there is little mention about the incessant attacks and rulings against our religious freedom(s). How can this be?

I am fascinated by these polling results not so much for what they say and/or predict but for what they avoid. They completely seem to ignore the religious backdrop of the American story. Religious freedom is the cornerstone of our success. W must stop making believe it is insignificant.

These religious freedoms are the foundation for an ever expanding and vibrant economy. These freedoms are the fertilizer that helps grow jobs.These freedoms are so envied that people from all over the world continually want to come here. Yes, the fact is, Freedom of Religion is the very lynchpin that has held us together throughout our 240 year history.

                                                                                                     

But now I am afraid. I am afraid because the insidious, intentional eroding of the foundation of our nation is being completely ignored. We are witnessing the weight of a secular self-centeredness that is not only methodically erasing  God’s presence in our country but, along with God, the religious tenets (also called Natural Law) used as building blocks by our Founding Fathers.

  When people have the freedom to worship God unencumbered and without reservation, it frees up their spirit. They embrace this great gift and it results in personal growth and fulfillment. The United States of America proved to be the greatest nation in history because of an individual’s freedom to be who they would be.

 Over the course of our American history there have been numerous Freedom of Religion cases that have impacted our nation. However, over the last  decade, the anti-religion, anti-God rhetoric has seemingly taken a secure foothold in the battle against the”Creator who has endowed us ALL with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. And yes, in the very first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence the name of GOD is actually used. He is NOT anathema to the United States of America.

It seems to me that we must stand up and fight back in defense of God and religion. Being a “none” is NOT a religion. being an atheist is NOT a religion and being a Satanist is NOT a religion. Religion is the means we use to worship God and we are free to do so. Religion does NOT define NOT worshiping God.

There is even an organization called the Freedom from Religion Foundation FFRF. Can someone explain to me how, in a country that proclaims Freedom of Religion as a fundamental right, a group can be legalized and can sue folks for expressing that freedom?   The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the antithesis of our primary, fundamental Constitutional right. It is even a functioning and approved non-profit 501(c)3 active in all 50 states. Does this make any sense at all? How can an entity whose primary purpose is to attack our First Amendment be legally sanctioned to do so?

Not worshiping or believing in God is our choice as Americans. Those of you who have chosen that route  have been blessed with this privilege. Many have died to secure this Freedom for you. Why, if you can non-worship the way you so choose, do you want to prevent others from worshipping as they choose? Why would the name of Jesus Christ, a simple carpenter who preached love and forgiveness, be offensive to anyone? Whatever is your self-absorbed, hateful motivation to attack the very freedom(s) that protect you? What are you so afraid of?

                                ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved