Category Archives: The Contented Catholic

Book Review: A Man Born Again—A Novel Based on the Life of St. Thomas More

Book Review:
Hans Holbein, the Younger - Sir Thomas More - Google Art Project.jpgby Larry Peterson

A Man Born Again—-
A Novel Based on the Life of St. Thomas More

by John E. Beahn

Originally published in 1954 by Bruce Publishing Co.
Re-published in 2013 by TAN Books for the TAN Legends Series

            TAN Books
Charlotte, North Carolina

This book is absolutely mesmerizing. Author, John E. Beahn (1910-1990),  has managed to somehow crawl into the mind of the great Lord Chancellor of England and, writing in the first person, chaperons him right into your presence.  You meet Sir Thomas in the Tower of London where the author of “Utopia” awaits an unannounced yet obvious fate at the hands of his King, Henry VIII.  Thomas, looking down from behind his prison window, has you look with him and survey the city of London below.

Just like that you are walking with Sir Thomas down Milk Street and he shows you where he was born.  You pass by St. Anthony’s on Threadneedle St. and he shows you where he first went to school.  Suddenly you are walking across a bridge and John More, Sir Thomas’ father, is walking with you.  Thomas explains that he is being taken by his dad to Lambert Place to meet the Lord Chancellor of England, Archbishop Morton.  You watch as the Archbishop accepts 12-year old Thomas as a page.  Why not?   Thomas is already versed in Latin and English and rhetoric and mathematics. You do notice though, that the young Thomas More is quite taken with the things of the world more so than those esteemed by God.

Filled with a false pride at his superb intelligence and  against his father’s wishes, Thomas agrees with Archbishop Morton that he should go to Oxford.  His father objects and wants him  to study law at New Inn.  The Lord Chancellor has his way and Thomas  begins preparations to leave for Oxford.  His father becomes distanced from him but Thomas does not seem to care.  He is being treated as a young man of “importance” by his acquaintances and other students and even people in the street. He relishes the popularity.  His climb up the ladder of success has begun and it is moving quickly.  He tells you  at Charterhouse that he is “determined to be a saint just like all the Carthusians.”   You, as the reader, already know better but are anxious to see how his sudden “call to sanctity” develops.

You now follow along with Sir Thomas and observe as he becomes a fine lawyer and a  sought after lecturer. He rejects the idea of the priesthood and marries  Jane Colt, has four children, becomes widowed when Jane dies from illness, marries Alice Middleton and pursues his dream of being a writer.  He does gain notoriety with his book, Utopia, and is suddenly under the watchful  eye of Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII.

Suffice it to say that once again the primary of the seven deadly sins, Pride, reared its ugly head and consumed the King of England.  Infatuated with Anne Boleyn he wanted to divorce Catherine and marry Anne.  He also wanted Pope Leo to annul his marriage to Catherine.  This the Pope refused to do.  Known as King Henry’s “Great Matter”, the King was not about to defer to the Pope.  He took over the church in England and demanded oaths of fidelity to the realm.  You now travel with a humble Thomas More who confides in  you that “God permitted me to sink into that blackness of spirit and to the darkness about myself. And when I could endure no more, He returned to me.”  Thomas More refused to reject his faith and his church and his God. He was canonized a martyred saint on May 19, 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

One final thing, treat yourself and read this book. You might find a new friend albeit someone a bit older than you. His name is Saint Thomas More.

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.

The Sophisticated Barbarism of Euthanasia for Children

by Larry Peterson

I love the Christmas season and throughout my life I have never allowed grinches, grumps, gripers, and all of their grouchy, surly kind to diminish for me what the true meaning of Christmas is and the happiness it brings to so many. Then  along came Christmas season, 2013. A week after Thanksgiving  I was clobbered and knocked senseless by a story I read. Just like that my Christmas smile evaporated.  What wiped the smile off my face is what is going on in Belgium. Yeah–that’s right, Belgium. A civilized European nation of over ten million refined, well educated people. Well now, these culturally advanced and  sophisticated folks are about to pass a law that allows euthanasia for children. BOOM!  It was like a right cross to my jaw and I was staggered . I have regained my balance but I am still shaking my head.  Alas, I should not have been shocked. Belgium has allowed euthanasia since 2002.  But this—this is about children.

This twisted, “civilized” plan goes like this. First of all a “terminally-ill minor”, has to be judged capable of deciding for him or herself  that the pain is “unbearable and cannot be alleviated”. This decision is based on advice from a medical team. Parental approval is then required. Then the child can say “Okay Doc, pull the plug. I’m outta here.” To me, a simple, blue-collar Catholic man  here are a few oxymorons for you. I say this is nothing more than enlightened depravity bordering on humane barbarism. Who do you people think you are that you can decide the fate of children based on your perverted sense of virtue?

Belgium is a predominantly Catholic country of  about ten and a half million people. That number also presents a microcosm of the ‘civilized’ world that we are part of.   Amazingly, three quarters of the population is in favor of euthanasia for children. The bishops and other religious leaders in the country have warned such measures risk “destroying the functioning of society”. Nirj Deva, a founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, told Zenit News that ‘all Belgians ought to be terrified by the implications of this proposed law.”  You think?

Let’s imagine a 12-year old girl named “Chrissy”. She has cerebral palsy. Her illness has not affected her cognitive function and she thinks clearly and is quite intelligent. She does have difficulty swallowing and has frequent hip subluxation (dislocation). In addition, the child suffers from epilepsy. Chrissy has lived with serious pain her entire life. The years have taken a toll on her parents because they cannot stand to see their child suffer as she does. So, one afternoon, Chrissy’s primary, Dr. Egoman, suggests to the parents that Chrissy does not have to suffer this way and does not have to have a substandard life. And he reminds them that they will grow old and asks what will happen to their daughter. He suggests that they might discuss this with Chrissy and ask her what she “thinks”. After all, it is HER LIFE. Just think about it. How easy it would be to convince Chrissy that she could have a wonderful life with the angels, never have pain again and all she would have to do is go to “sleep”. And of course, it is mommy and daddy  telling her it is a wonderful thing. They love her and will be with her when she goes to “sleep”. Tell me that will be that child’s OWN life decision.  Chrissy “decides” to say good-bye and goes to sleep–permanently. This example is not far-fetched.

This is messed up folks, very messed up. For crying out loud, it has been proven in Belgium that most requests for adult euthanasia have nothing to do with pain but, rather, it is requested because people are lonely, depressed or even just tired of living. It does not matter. The draft of the bill allowing child euthanisia has cleared the Belgium Social Justice Committee(don’t you love that–whose justice?) and now goes to parliament where it will soon be voted on. It is expected to pass. There is widespread public indifference and the media, as in America, is silent. Maybe the indifference has to do with people not knowing about it.

Christmas will be here soon. The child Jesus was instantly hated by a King named Herod. This man wanted to kill a baby because he feared losing his throne. So, ruled by jealousy and hate, Herod committed the barbaric act of killing hundreds if not thousands of children.  Fast forward two thousand plus years. Child euthanasia becomes the “humane” act of using “love” to convince children to kill themselves. Which is truly the barbaric?

                  copyright©Larry Peterson 2013 All Rights Reserved

Being Anti-Christmas Equals Permanent Denial


I admit it. I get pretty ticked off at some of the anti-Christmas stuff that is dumped on us Christmas lovers this time of the year.  If you do not like Christmas, if you do not believe in Christmas, if you are anti-Christian, an atheist, agnostic, or even a Vulcan,  why do you give a ‘flying reindeer’  what we Christmas lovers love?  Why can’t you let us enjoy our creches with the innocent baby and Christmas trees and  wide-eyed children filled with the awe of an impending  visit by Santa on Christmas Eve? How in the name of candy canes and snowflakes can these things bother you? Hey man, I don’t care if you don’t roast chestnuts on an open fire or do not drink eggnog. Why do you care if I and the millions like me, do?  But a heavy weight has finally been lifted from my shoulders. I have finally  accepted the fact that you anti-Christmas people have been around for centuries (ever hear of King Herod) and are never going to stop your ranting and raving. Yes, this Christmas I am at peace with you.
Christmas is so much more than a ‘certain day’ each year. It is about faith and love and goodness and giving and sharing and the twinkle in the eyes of children and songs about  peace and joy and angels and poor people (shepherds) and rich people (the wise men) and the star, the brightest and  most wonderful star ever seen.  For over two thousand years this  star has lit the way for all  blood-lines as they traveled across the centuries. It is about  Salvation–the Salvation available to each and every one of us who has ever lived. So, whatever  is the problem with all of you  anti-Christmas, anti-God, anti-Jesus people who are somehow “offended” by KINDNESS and GOODNESS and LOVE? Why do you want to ruin it for the vast majority of people who LOVE Christmas and all it stands for? How can you be so  self-centered and self-absorbed that you are willing to snatch  joy and happiness right from the hearts of millions of children? What is wrong with you supposedly tolerant, caring, people?  I don’t get it. How can you hate Christmas?  Well, I have decided that you cannot hate Christmas. If you say that you do–you are living in a state of permanent denial.
So, for this Catholic man who believes that the reason for Christmas is the Virgin birth of Christ the Savior  this  is the Christmas that I have come to peace with  you  anti-Christmas folks, all of you. Filled with the “Bah-Humbug” spirit you have tried to bludgeon all of us  Christmas lovers  into submission. And you and your kind have been doing it for centuries, even before Dickens had Scrooge mouth “bah-humbug” back in 1843. It is old news folks, very old news.
Please know that this Christmas this believer will  say a prayer for all of you who do not believe. I will pray that  you catch a glimpse of that star that shines so bright.  Maybe a droplet of its light will find its way into  your heart.  If you do happen to catch a glimpse of it don’t turn away. You will have ignored a beautiful Christmas moment. You will have chosen the proverbial “hunk of coal” over a “sweet candy cane”. I swear, it is true. So keep your eyes and hearts open and Merry Christmas to EVERYONE.  For me, this Christmas is truly Peace on Earth no matter what anyone says or does.

We Catholics Have an Undeniably Jewish DNA

by Larry Peterson

When I was growing up in the Bronx we lived on the third floor  in a five story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four room apartment. In the apartment below lived  Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.  Quite often, in the middle of the night,  blood-curdling screams filled the back alley  and our apartment and the hallways outside. The screams were coming from the Rabinowitz’s. It was Sophie. She was having recurring nightmares. But Leo was the landlord and no one dared complain about the eery  howls that constantly reached the ears of so many. There was one man,  however,  who could not leave this alone. That man was my father.
I remember that Friday night long ago very well. The screaming started about midnight. It was September and the windows  were still open because it was hot and the screaming seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up and my brother whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”  We got up and followed him and, without hesitating, Dad walked up to Leo’s  apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened. Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who had buried his head in Dad’s chest  crying unashamedly. My brother and I, crouched down and peeking from the landing above,  were stunned.  Then Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo Rabinowitz and did not leave for several hours. Sophie was having nightmares all right, recurring nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis as they made her and Leo watch. Try as I may, I cannot  imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their very own children as godless people clubbed them to death. The Nazis tortured the parents  further by allowing them to live.
My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? The gospel reading for All Saints Day is from Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes. When the priest read #7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”,  I remembered that Friday night long ago. I remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbor and how they became friends. I also remember that because of that friendship Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz became friends with the other folks in the building. My father was the ‘peacemaker’ who initiated the peacemaking process. He did ‘GOOD’.
We Catholics have just celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. During the reading of the Roman Canon at Mass, (First Eucharistic Prayer) the following words are read prior to the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, —–and all your saints.”  Were not all of them Jewish? Yeah..I think they were. There is no denying this fact. They are all canonized saints and their Judaism was always part of who they were.
Finally, let me mention our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  The Pope is very good friends with one of the primary Jewish leaders in Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  In October of 2012, he presented to Rabbi Skorka an honorary doctorate degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. It was the first time such an honor had been bestowed on any Jewish man in all of Latin America. Upon presenting the award to Rabbi Skorka, the Pope (then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio) said, “You cannot imagine how long I have waited for this moment.”

God and Freedom of Religion–Nothing but an Oxymoron

by Larry Peterson

Florida has this peculiar demon called the ‘sandspur’. It is a barbed, pointy thing that is attached to a certain type of grass that sticks to your socks, shoes, shoelaces, and, if you happen to be barefoot, your feet. When they do become impaled in your feet they hurt–a LOT. When you try to pull them from your feet or pick them from your socks and/or shoelaces,  they get stuck in your fingertips. (The trick is to always wet your fingers first.) Here’s the thing. I never intentionally invaded their territory. It was an accident. They were here before I was. Therefore, I do my best to avoid them. I have made no attempt to eradicate them because that would be impossible. They are here to stay–end of story.

It seems that several months ago the  Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit in U.S. District Court in NY to have the name of God removed from United States currency where it is imprinted with “In God We Trust”. These people are atheists who call themselves “nontheists”  because the word ‘atheist’ is too offensive to most folks. Anyway, they say that using the motto “In God We Trust” is “problematic” because it violates the  First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I maintain that they do not know what they are talking about and neither do all the judges, school administrators, parents, and whoever else complains about using the name of GOD because it violates the Constitution. That is absolute hogwash and I can explain why very simply. God has nothing to do with Freedom of Religion. Nothing at all. It just seems that all of us “Theists” (we are the people who believe in God and number in the countless millions), have become the sandspurs in the heads of the ‘nontheists’ and they cannot stand the pain and, try as they may, cannot seem to weed us no less eradicate us. For crying out loud, why do they even want to get rid of what we believe if they do not believe it to begin with?

This is the First amendment, word for word:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  I ask you, what is religion? Is it not the manner in which we choose to worship God? God is NOT religion. The Founding Fathers accepted the existence of God as a ‘matter of fact’. They just wanted to make sure all the citizens of the new nation would have the CHOICE of worshiping Him anyway they chose. Remember, many folks came here from Europe to escape religious persecution, ie; the Pilgrims, the Puritans, Quakers, French Huguenots and Mennonites (Anabaptists) to name a few. If someone claimed to be a “nontheist” back in the 17th or 18th century and tried to get the name of God eradicated they would have either been burned at the stake or hanged.

Here is a quote from George Washington, the Father of our Country, from a speech he gave to the Constitutional Convention delegates prior to ratifying the constitution:  “If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards, defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of GOD.”

There you have it. Before the Founders even started their work the First President told them that ,”the event is in the hand of God.” They knew there was a God. They accepted that as fact. They also knew that people had many different ways of honoring and worshiping Him. That is the right they wanted to protect. They NEVER considered for a moment that the name of GOD would violate the First Amendment. To me the entire concept is an oxymoron. Without God you can have no Freedom of Religion. Why would you need it?

So, to all you ‘nontheists’ (aka atheists) out there who cannot seem to get we Theistic, God believing sandspurs out of your heads, too bad. You invaded our world. Why don’t you relax and enjoy the rights afforded you. Why do you even care if we choose to believe in God? What is it to you?  You don’t believe he even exists and yet you fight to get rid of Him. You have a problem.

Remembering Angelo Roncalli aka Pope John XXIII

by Larry Peterson

When Angelo Roncalli entered the Sistine Chapel with the other Cardinals in 1958 the last thing he ever expected was to leave that place as the new pope.  He was 77 years old. He was not well known, avoided the llimelight as much as possible and, even though a cardinal, was more famous for being “ordinary” than anything else. When  he was elected on the eleventh ballot he knew that his brother Cardinals were basically looking for a Papal ‘caretaker’ for several years. Taking the name John, after his dad, Pope John XXIII surprised not only them but the entire world.

The new Pope had a quick sense of humor, an affable smile and his chubby presence was a beautiful thing. The world came to love him quickly and he was so respected by world leaders that he was deeply involved in the efforts to resolve the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. No one on the planet considered Pope John XXIII   ‘ordinary’ any more.
Pope John is best known of course for calling the historic, Second Vatican Council together. On October 11, 1962,  all the bishops from around the world convened and Vatican II was underway. The Pope set the tone for the council when, in his opening speech, he said, “The Church has always opposed…errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”
The “old man” recognized that mercy had to be an intricate part of the reformed Catholic equation. The world was shrinking with advanced communications, commercial jet travel and televisions in millions of homes. Naturally, there were members of the council who thought that the Church was abdicating its sanctity by allowing certain changes. Foremost was  replacing the Tridentine Mass of Pope St. Pius V with the Novus Ordo Mass where the language went from Latin to the vernacular. Suddenly allowing lay persons to distribute Holy Communion horrified many but was also welcomed by many. The early church allowed receiving Communion in the hand and this was now once again allowed. Others thought the church needed to be more progressive  and ordain women as priests and allow priests to marry. The simple man from Lombardy held their feet to the fire. None of the changes implemented were  “uncatholic”. They simply allowed the people, especially women,  to be able to participate more fully in the life of the Church.
Pope John XXIII was  a stretcher bearer in the Italian Army during World War I. During World war II, when he was still Archbishop Roncalli, he helped save over 24,000 Jewish people. He wrote the great encyclical, ‘Pacem in Terris’, which means, ‘Peace on Earth’. In this encyclical he wrote, “That every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life…”

Today is Blessed John XXIII’s feast day. He will be canonized along with Blessed John Paul II in April of 2014. I was blessed to have lived during the papacy of each of these great men.  
Pope John XXIII