Category Archives: Lent

Meet the Only Nun Sentenced to Death by a Nazi Court: Her Crime? "Hanging" Crucifixes*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on April 12, 2016.

Just imagine being arrested on Ash Wednesday for the crime of “hanging Crucifixes”. I cannot imagine how I would handle it. Maybe I would have taken the Crucifixes down. Honestly, I do not know. Helena Kafka, who became known as Sister Maria Restituta, refused. She was sentenced to death. The following year, on Tuesday of Holy Week, she was executed .
May 1, 1894, was  a happy day for Anton and Marie Kafka.  Marie had just given birth to her sixth child and mom and her daughter were both doing fine. The proud parents named their new baby girl, Helena.  Devout Catholics, Anton and Marie had Helena baptized into the faith only thirteen days after her birth.
The ceremony took place in The Church of the Assumption, in the town of Husovice, located in Austria.  Before Helena reached her second birthday, the family had to move and settled in the city of Vienna.  This is where Helena and her siblings would remain and grow up.
Helena was a good student and worked hard. She received her First Holy Communion in St. Brigitta Church during May of 1905 and was confirmed in the same church a year later. After eight years of school she spent another year in housekeeping school and, by the age of 15, was working as a servant, a cook and being trained as a nurse.
In 1913, she became an assistant nurse at Lainz City Hospital. This was Helena’s first contact with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and she was immediately moved to become a Sister herself.  On April 25, 1914, Helena Kafka  joined the Franciscan sisters and on October 23, 1915, became Sister Maria Restituta. She made her final vows one year later and began working solely as a nurse.

When World War I ended Sister Maria was the lead surgical nurse at Modling Hospital in Vienna.  She and all other Austrians had never heard of Adolf Hitler and could never have imagined that one day, because of this man, their beloved nation would be annexed into the German Republic.
Blessed Maria Restituta

On  March 12, 1938, the Austrian Nazi Party pulled off a successful coup d’etat taking control of the government. These unforeseen and unimagined things had come to pass. The Nazis, under Hitler, now controlled the once proud Austrian nation.
Sister Restituta was very outspoken in her opposition to the Nazi regime. When a new wing to the hospital was built she hung a Crucifix in each of the new bedrooms. The Nazis demanded that they be removed. Sister Restituta was told she would be dismissed if she did not comply. She refused and the crucifixes remained hanging on the walls. 
One of the doctors on staff, a fanatical Nazi, would have none of it. He denounced her to the Nazi Party and on Ash Wednesday, 1942, she was arrested by the Gestapo after coming out of the operating room. The “charges” against her included, “hanging crucifixes and writing a poem that mocked Hitler”.
Sister Maria Restituta, the former Helena Kafka, loved her Catholic faith and, filled with the Spirit, wanted to do nothing more than serve the sick. The Nazis promptly sentenced her to death by the guillotine for “favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason”.  The Nazis offered her freedom if she would abandon the Franciscans she loved so much.  She adamantly refused. She would be the only Catholic nun ever sentenced to death by the Nazis.
An appeal for clemency went as far as the desk of Hitler’s personal secretary and Nazi Party Chancellor, Martin Bormann. His response was that her execution “would provide effective intimidation for others who might want to resist the Nazis”.  Sister Maria Restituta spent her final days in prison caring for the sick. Because of her love for the Crucifix and the Person who was nailed to it and died on it, she was beheaded on March 30, 1943 which also happened to be Tuesday of Holy Week. She was 48 years old.
                                                   
Pope John Paul II visited Vienna on June 21,1998.  That was the day Helena Kafka, the girl who originally went to housekeeping school to learn how to be a servant, was beatified by the Pope and declared Blessed Maria Restituta.  She had learned how to serve extremely well. But the one she served best of all was her Savior. She gave Him her life.
Blessed Marie Restituta, please pray for us.
    

          ©LarryPeterson  2016

During the Lenten Season Forgiveness Rules. Look at "Dutch" Schultz

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

We are now into the third week of Lent and the road to redemption has been halfway traveled. Throughout the world Catechumens have almost reached their goal of full inclusion into the Catholic Church which takes place during the Easter Vigil. It is a beautiful thing. In addition, this past December 8, Pope Francis started us on our journey into the Holy Year of Mercy. Forgiveness is everywhere.

REDEEMER

To give an example of how God’s mercy is ALWAYS available to those who seek it I would like to briefly mention a man by the name of Arthur Flegenheimer. Arthur was born in New York City in 1901. A German-Jew, by the time he was 27 he was known as Dutch Schultz and was quickly becoming one of the most feared mob bosses in New York. The “Dutchman” was a bootlegger (running illegal whiskey), a number’s boss operating in Harlem and a “shakedown artist” within the NYC restaurant industry offering protection while using the restaurant unions as cover.

His main enforcer was the infamous, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, a brutal killer who did Schultz’s bidding without hesitation. Eventually the “Dutchman” got tired of Coll’s wanting more money. As “Mad Dog” sat in a telephone booth talking on the phone he was machine-gunned to death by Schult’s henchmen. Dutch actually provedto be a more brutal killer than “Mad Dog” Coll. So how does my brain combine Dutch Schultz,  The Holy Year of Mercy and Forgiveness together? Actually, it is not that hard to do, is it? This is the phenomenal redemption available to all through the Church and her Sacraments.

Dutch Schultz:  REDEEMED

Dutch Schultz wanted to kill U. S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey (Later to be Governor of NY and the Presidential Candidate losing to Harry Truman in the 1948 election). The Mafia Commission told Schultz,  “NO, it would cause us too much trouble.” Schultz refused to listen and decided to  kill Dewey anyway. The mob, under Lucky Luciano, sent “Murder Inc.” after Schultz. On October 23, 1935, they gunned him down in a restaurant in Newark, N.J. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness. Enter Mercy.

When Dutch Schultz was acquitted  on tax-evasion charges he converted to Catholicism. He believed that Jesus had saved him.  When he was shot he did not die right away. He was taken to the hospital for surgery and he immediately asked for a priest. He was 34 years  old  and his last thought while he was dying was to  ask Jesus for forgiveness and mercy.  The “Dutchman” went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church by a priest. Then he died.  Did Dutch Schultz go right to heaven? Did he get to the “pearly gates” and have St. Peter say, “Sorry Dutch, that priest made a mistake. What you did was uunforgivable. You are not welcome here.” I think not.

In a few weeks it will be Good Friday. Catholic/Christian people all over the world will mourn and honor the bloodied, tortured and crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the God -man who embraced forgiveness for all people and extended love to everyone. This is also what He wanted us to do. This is why he suffered and died for us. He offered Himself to His Father for us. Then we celebrate His Father’s gift back to us, the Risen Christ. We all have been saved and we all  can get to share eternal life with the Blessed Trinity. All we need to do is seek forgiveness. Because of God’s Mercy even Dutch Schultz can join in the celebration. It is a beauty beyond description.

                                       ©Larry Peterson2016  All Rights Reserved

A Question for the Lenten Season: Is Forgiveness for Anyone Who Asks? Apparently Not.

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Lent is here. I  sit in front of this keyboard with the current memory of ashes smeared across my forehead. The season of Repentance and Forgiveness followed by  Redemption is once again upon us. The ashes remind us of our mortality. We all know in our hearts that we will  surely die one day. Just like the adulterous woman in the Gospel reading (John 8: 2-11) we want to be FORGIVEN for all the bad things we have done in our lifetimes. When we do make that final journey we desperately want our final destination to be heaven.

That is why God became man, isn’t it? So all of us would have the chance to reach that final destination.  That is why he came and lived among us and taught us how to live. That is why He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured and finally killed by being nailed to a cross. This is Lent–and, once again, we prepare. But what about that key to redemption called the “Golden Rule“? Does it not apply to everyone? It seems to me it is supposed to. Do I have this all wrong? Has the sex scandal that rocked our beloved Church turned it into a Bi-forgiveness institution? Do we forgive and not-forgive depending upon the sin?

I live in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. I have been an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) for over 20 years. Bringing Holy Communion to the sick and home bound is a great joy. Five years ago I (and all those who serve in this ministry) were  required to attend “Safe Environment  Training” and undergo a Level II background check. This included having your fingerprints run through the FBI database. Now all of us who went through that are “required” to do it again. Why? Who knows. I assumed fingerprints lasted longer than five years. Just run them again, right?  I wish it were that simple.

So, I am going through my certification and paperwork from five years ago and I come across the “47 List”  (I call it the “47 List”, just me). This is a list of different offenses as described under Florida Statutes that the Diocese of St. Petersburg uses to determine eligibility for employment or volunteer positions. If a person who is applying for a position that would place them near minors or vulnerable adults happens to fit the profile of one of the 47 sections, they enter the ranks of the “Unforgiven”. They are the people that become “Persona non grata”, permanently, aka Zero Tolerance

Many of these laws have to do with sexual abuse and many do not. Many have to do with charges that can be ambiguous. Here is an example: Section 843.01; relating to resisting arrest with violence.  If a police officer tries to arrest you and you take a swing at him you can be charged with violating this statute. Makes sense, right? When  Zero Tolerance is plugged into the equation nothing else matters. It is over. ZERO means ZERO–NOTHING. This is my dilemma. I hate Zero Tolerance.

Every person is different and every action is different. If someone walks up to me and shoots me in the head I can be killed. If I walk across the street against the light and get hit by a car I can be killed. In both cases my being dead is the same. But the reasons were  different. The shooter who killed me can get the death penalty or life in prison. The driver of the car was not responsible for my behavior and goes on about his/her life. Zero Tolerance would put the driver in the same category as the shooter.

Case in point: A young man I know for many years by the name of  Eddie (not his real name) has a learning disability. When he was 19, Eddie and a few friends had to much to drink. Eddie passed out and his friends propped him in a sitting position against the back wall of a local restaurant. They took magic markers and, being goofy, drew all over his face and arms etc. Then they left him there and headed home (Nice friends). Patrons leaving the restaurant saw him and reported him to the manager who promptly called the police.

The police arrived and saw this large, (he is a big guy) young man sleeping against the back of the building. Shining their flashlights on him they saw the magic marker scribbled all over him. They shook him to wake him and he did not respond. Then they shook him harder and yelled for him to wake up. The touch of the firm hand on his shoulder startled Eddie. He woke up and swung at the officer hitting him in the shoulder. He was promptly “subdued”, handcuffed and arrested for violation of section 843.01: resisting arrest with violence. Off to the county jail he went.

The police were only doing their job. If I were they I would have been super cautious too. Eddie had been a foolish 19 year old. The fact is, he was just frightened and instinctively lashed out to protect himself. Having only a vague recollection of what had happened he pleaded “guilty” to the charges. He was given probation and some community service. To this day it is the only time in his life Eddie has been in any trouble.

We move ahead almost 15 years. A local catholic high school has an opening for a cafeteria worker. Eddie, who had a hard time finding work because of his disability, gets the job and is thrilled. He  actually starts work before his background check is complete. A few days in and his supervisor is called to the school office and told that Eddie has to leave immediately. He failed the background check and cannot be anywhere on school grounds. Eddie is stunned and leaves the school crying. That was four years ago and he still has not found a new job. He is on anti-depressants and lives with his parents. In Eddie’s case Zero Tolerance became his abuser.

Five years ago when I was attending the Safe Environment class the facilitator, in her opening remarks, told everyone a story about  a man who had been a volunteer bus driver for the school for several years. She went on to say how “fortunate and blessed” the school was to have been able to find out through the Safe Environment background check, that the man had been guilty of having a DUI 20 years earlier. He was immediately dismissed from his “volunteer job” and she was quite pleased even though the guy had been clean and sober ever since his DUI.

I was appalled and let them know it. Everyone thought I was trying to hide some personal demon in my own life. The facilitator even came over to me and, bending down close to me, said,  “We can talk later if you have some personal issues”. No one seemed to understand that I just thought it was UN-Christian to not forgive this man. I told her that she and folks like her were my issue. She did not understand nor get my point.

Look, I deplore sexual deviants and anyone who sexually harms kids and /or adults is a reprobate.   We have to protect our children and vulnerable seniors and our moms and wives and everyone from people who might harm them physically, emotionally and sexually. But is Zero Tolerance the way to go? After all, it eliminates all mitigating factors.  As a parent you might be accused of negligence for allowing your children to walk  to the park by themselves. That has happened. Should that mom be prevented from getting a job 20 years later because her name
pops up in a data bank as being charged with child neglect? Did a Zero Tolerance policy save someone from Eddie or just help destroy him?

So I guess it comes down to answering the question, Do we as followers of Christ extend  forgiveness to all people? The answer is, we should but we don’t.  Is this hypocritical? Does Zero Tolerance trump Forgiveness? If we are truly all of God’s children do not all of us deserve Forgiveness and second chances? What would happen if we replaced the words, Zero Tolerance with Golden Rule? Imagine the possibilities or am I  just a “Pollyanna”.

                                             Copyright © 2015 Larry Peterson

Computers Do NOT Apologize

by Larry Peterson

Bear with me please, it has been a whacky week and this post might seem to be a bit disconnected at times. It is definitely too long.  That simply reflects my state of mind since last Friday.  I was sitting in front of that all familiar “liquidy” screen,  you know, the thing that looks like glass but it is soft and almost mushy and  ripples when you touch it.  I don’t know about you but when I clean it I have this insane fear that the thing is about to suck me right inside of it just like the TV did to little Carole Ann in the movie, Poltergeist.  Sorry, to the point.  I decided to click on the link to my book located in the sidebar of my blogsite.  Anyway, a cyber window pops up and says “this book is no longer available.”  I say to the screen,  “Duh, it is SO available.”  The screen does not answer. As does the person who keeps pushing the elevator button that has already been pushed,  I keep clicking the cyber button with my mouse.  The screen has no sense of humor and keeps giving me the same answer, word for word, over and over.  I did not yell or throw anything or use one four letter expletive.  I just sighed and surrendered.  A moment passed and I breathed in deeply and began to investigate.

I have two books that have been published.  To show you how well they have sold I quickly found out that my publisher is going out of business.  Ah yes,  logic had poked its head  into the day and let me know there was a valid reason for the books being unavailable.  I looked  at the clock and it was now 5 p.m.  As we do every year during Lent, a group of us meet, go to the fish fry and then to Stations of the Cross (a Catholic devotion held  during Lent in most Catholic parishes) at 6:30 p.m.  Saturday would come soon enough and I could begin to figure out what to do about the books.  I powered down my personal cyber world.  It probably needed some downtime anyway.

Saturday morning arrived as expected and I hit the button to awaken cyber world. A few lights began to blink (these things have trouble waking up too) and then the rippling screen sang a brief tune and lit up.  Icons flashed into place and my cyber world was ready for its master to give it orders. I obliged and clicked my Microsoft Outlook icon to open my email.  Ta-dah—it opened and a little window popped up saying ERROR!  It even had a lock and key in the corner.  I did not flinch.  I exited and reentered.  ERROR!  Uh,oh, repeat —ERROR!   Something is awry.

My email address was with Verizon.  Let me call them and—no, wait a minute, I can call Live-Technician.  I have them available if I have a problem.  They are great.  If your computer goes haywire they can fix it even if they are in India, Canada, Mexico or on the Moon itself.  I call and just like that I have a real, live person I am talking to.  When does that happen anymore?   His name is “Harry” and Harry takes charge (with my permission) of my computer.  I sit and watch the cursor fly all over the screen this way and that , hither and yon, and then it stops.  Harry says, “I must contact Verizon.”  I watch and on the screen a live-chat begins to take place between Harry in India and Rose in China.  I am in Florida, USA.  Why worry about world peace when right before my eyes worldwide cooperation is happening.  I momentarily felt uplifted.  Okay now, it is time for the summation to this  gentle diatribe (wow,  an unintended oxymoron).

It took Harry and some of his buddies, David and Emmanuel, to finally find out from Rose and her friends in varied locations that Verizon, had in fact, terminated my email account.  I have had the same Verizon address for 13 years.  I had cancelled it in January of 2013 and was told I could keep using the address. Okay, I am an idiot. I believed them.  It was fine for almost 15 months and then the “computer” disconnected it.  No one, anywhere in the whole world, could do a thing about it.  After six hours of my life being hijacked,  I was compensated by receiving  apologies from almost every corner of planet Earth.  WOW!!  A world-wide apology to little old insignificant me. It does not get much better than that.  (The computer offered NO apology).

It is now seven days later.  My books have been resurrected and new options await.  I have a new gmail address that is working fine. I did lose a bunch of addresses but–they will eventually come back one way or another.   April is almost here and I am starting to smell the roses.

My Message to MY Pope, "LOVE YA MAN–It is ALL GOOD"

Pope Benedict XVI, this quiet, unpretentious, holy man with the brilliant mind will vacate the Papacy effective February 28, 2013. He is 85 years old and has accepted the fact that his frail body cannot  adequately perform the duties required of the awesome position to which he was entrusted. It is “ALL GOOD”. We Catholics believe that the church is the “bride of Christ” and that the Holy Spirit is always there to guide it. Personally, I am in awe as I watch this beautiful process unfold. I have not an iota of concern about the future of the Church or about the next Pope. This institution has been around for 2000 years, no problem.

Over the next several weeks the print and broadcast media will bombard us with their insight and the gaggle of expert pundits will tell us what is going on within the church. They know nothing of course and have probably (most of them anyway) been trashing and criticizing the church for years on church teaching (birth control, abortion, women priests, celibacy etc). Now suddenly they will be theologians and will share with an uneducated public their babble. I do not care. It is “ALL GOOD”. What I might advise all these newly ordained experts to do is to maybe make a visit to a nearby Catholic church and sit in front of the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle (I do not have to explain any of this to experts) and sit and LISTEN. Just sit there quietly and LISTEN. No talking, just LISTENING, to your heart. Maybe you might learn something useful to pass onto the folks.

Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. It is a forty day journey that leads us to new-life, a rebirth, the Resurrection. It is a time for prayer, penance, alms-giving and self-denial. Millions of Catholic/Christians observe these traditions every year. It does not make the news. Countless people who have found  Christ will be welcomed into the church during the Easter Vigil when they are baptized and receive the sacraments and become Catholic. This will not make the news. It does not matter. It is “ALL GOOD”.

From a blue-collar catholic guy to my Pope, Benedict XVI…—“LOVE YA MAN”