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
  http://www.TANBooks.com

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

 by 

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.  
JohnXXIII.jpg
Pope John XXIII 
                                                                                       

Frank Bernardone (aka St. Francis of Assisi) Would They 'Baker Act" Him in 2013?

by Larry Peterson

On October 4th, we Catholics celebrated the feast day of the great St. Francis of Assisi.  Pope Francis, during his homily at the Mass, encapsulated his namesake with this one brief sentence; “In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of a coin.” 

The  Catholic Church has a rich and fabulous history of people who have been elevated to the rank of Canonized Saint.It is a four  stage process to sainthood.  Reaching the first stage a person is then called “Servant of God”. The second stage is called “Venerable”. Beatification is the third stage and then a person is called Blessed. Last but not least is the actual canonization. That is when a person is declared a saint.

All of  these people belong in our Catholic ‘Hall of Fame’ and among them are some who are so well known that  their names are recognizable by most people even after  two thousand years. St. Francis of Assisi is one of those ‘Hall of Famers’ and he lived about 850 years ago.

I am a cradle Catholic  and I went to Catholic school from grades one through twelve. I learned about many saints and martyrs and it always seemed to me that what we were taught placed these folks in a heavenly world more so than in a real, earthly world. As a kid, I never understood how the martyrs were willingly and happily dying for Jesus. Weren’t they scared? Did some of them possibly cry? Were they so filled with the Spirit that they were always stoic and reserved accepting their horrible fate with  joy while thanking God for the honor of a martyr’s death?

Fear is a normal emotion. Courage is when you stare it down and confront it regardless of the consequences even unto giving up your life.  Filled with a faith that was unshakable they loved God and their fellow man so much  that their courage knew no bounds even as they faced death. These were people of valor filled with grace, honor, fortitude and foremost, love.

My namesake and one of my favorite saints is St. Lawrence. Legend has it that he  was roasted alive by the Emperor Valerian in August of 258 A.D. The story is that Lawrence, having been tortured for a period of time over hot coals said to his executioners,“I believe I am done on this side, please turn me over.” 

I do not believe that really happened but it goes to my point of being taught about the saints being “happy”  even as they endured the most horrible tortures. Anyway, I try to take my supernal heroes and bring them  into my world of the 21st century. Then I imagine them doing their thing in the zero tolerant, politically correct, secularist world that we living, wannabe saints exist in. How do you think St. Francis of Assisi would have fared in the year 21st century?

Peter Bernardone, a wealthy silk merchant from Assisi, and his wife Pica, also from a wealthy family, gave birth to a son in 1181. They named him Johnny but later his father changed his name to Francis because he loved France, a country where he had made a lot of money (maybe dad had his own issues). Anyway, Frank grew up as a wealthy kid and had everything money could buy. He was handsome, courteous and dashing.

In 1204 frank went off to war and had a dream directing him to go back to Assisi. He did return and for some reason lost all desire for the worldly life. He joined a pilgrimage to Rome and joined with the poor who would beg in St. Peter’s Square. The experience moved him to want a life of poverty. Back home in  Assisi he began preaching in the streets and soon he had a following.

St. Francis of Assisi dedicated his own life to the poor and to Christ in poverty. He founded the Franciscan Order and the Order of Poor Clares. In 1224 he received the Stigmata, which are the wounds that Christ received when He was crucified. This is not folklore or rumor or an “old wives tale”. The Stigmata has been documented and St. Francis did have it. In addition, the man was known for his love of animals, and many of the statues erected in his honor have a bird sitting on his extended finger and maybe a squirrel at his feet. 
So how would Frank Bernardone have fared in modern day  America? What would have happened if he decided to throw off his expensive clothing and don some old clothes he got from a thrift store? What if he wore those clothes to Main Street and started preaching on the corner? What if he had tried to preach that way in front of  a church? What if he went and knocked on the door of the nearest Catholic rectory and asked for some food?

More than likely the priest probably would have given him a number to the parish ‘outreach’ or maybe St. Vincent de Paul Conference, wished him well and closed the door. Then Frank would have had to find a phone to use and maybe he would have found one and maybe not. Sooner or later he would definitely have been spotted by the cops who would want to see ID and find out what he was doing and where he lived. They probably would have called his father. 

Eight hundred years ago in Assisi, Frank’s dad was so infuriated at his son’s behavior that when Frank came home from Rome, his dad beat him and locked him in the basement for a year. Today,  Frank’s father could not legally  beat his son and lock him in the basement. So he might have asked the cops to ‘Baker Act” his grown son. If you do not know what  “Baker Act” means, it is simple. In Florida there is a law that allows the police or family or most anyone to have someone who is acting “irrational’, and could be a danger to themselves or others, to be taken into custody and placed in lock down for 72 hours so they can be evaluated. The person has no say in the matter. Then it is up to the courts. If Frank told a modern day judge that he would rather live with the poor and beg for food even though he did not have to that judge may have put him in the ‘booby-hatch’ for a lot longer than 72 hours. 
Let me, as they say, “cut to the chase'”.  Francis of Assisi was a spiritual man who loved Christ and loved the poor. He gave up everything worldly to serve the poor. He asked for nothing and eventually thousands followed him as Franciscan priests, friars, brothers and missionaries. The Order of Poor Clares came into existence because of Francis. Francis of Assisi changed the world through the love of the poor and the love of Christ in poverty. 
I cannot imagine how a man like Francis would do his thing today.  But, all things are possible with God, even in the pompous, secularist, meistic world of the 21st century. Just take a look at who suddenly became our Pope. A simple Argentinian named Jorge Bergoglio  was elected and he took the name of Francis, a simple man from Assisi.

                                                  copyright ©Larry Peterson 2013             

Saints Jeanie, Fred, Vinnie — Our Catholic Christian Families Must All Stand Together

by Larry Peterson

When Jeanie Jugon began working in the hospital in Saint-Servan she was 25 years old. She hated poverty and all it wrought and she wanted desperately to fight back against it. One bitterly cold winter night in 1839, Jeanie looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and  somehow managed to carry the freezing woman into her own home and place her in her own bed. The woman was blind, paralyzed and quite old. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor.

Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanie. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Forty years later there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. 1879 was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. That  was the same year Jeanie Jugon died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Jeanne Jugon never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young man hundreds of miles away in Paris was unknowingly doing something quite similar. Fred Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris and, challenged by his “enlightened” college peers, embraced their taunts “to practice what you preach”.  So he went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Then he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. That was in May of 1833.  The society was  named after St.Vinnie because he was known for his work with the poor.

 Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantel of helping the poor all over the world. Fred Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Fred would never know that the organization he  had founded  would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor. Saint Jeanie could never have known that from the moment she carried her first old, sick woman into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the  elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world. Blessed Fred would never have imagined that his St.Vincent de Paul Society would become a worldwide organization with 3/4 of a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.

The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God’s grace. Jeanie took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vinnie worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughter’s of Charity. The two things they all had in common was a) they welcomed God’s grace and followed His call and b) they asked for NOTHING for themselves and embraced poverty. Remarkably, their thousands and thousands of followers, separated by centuries, work together to this day. This is a beautiful thing.

 Using the names of saints as I have done here bothers some folks. I really do not care about that.  My brother’s name is Daniel but I call him Danny. As far as Jeanie, Fred and Vinnie go, they are my family too.  You see, I love all of these people and using their names like that makes me feel closer to them. They set examples for us that we supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore  members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.

We must remember to pray hard for The Little Sisters of the Poor as they stand their ground against the HHS mandate that threatens their very existence. The forces of secularism are hard at work to remove religion from our lives. All our family members, including Vinnie, Jeanie and Fred, need  to stand together defending each other against this enemy.

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugon and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please pray for us.

As Satan Laughs, What Price Freedom? by Larry Peterson

by Larry Peterson

Twelve years ago on this very day, Sept 10, America was doing its thing and being American. It was a Monday and a new week had begun and people were scurrying about going to work and getting the kids ready for the new school year. The NFL season had begun, the baseball season was winding down and the summer was almost over. We were Americans, living in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

So Monday came and went, just another Monday. Then  along came Tuesday. As an unsuspecting and somewhat naive populace headed into the second day of the work week, Satan watched and salivated.  He knew that his hate-filled messengers were about  to do his bidding and  within a few scant moments would change “One Nation Under God” forever.

As the planes were hijacked he started to laugh, a deep disgusting guttural laugh that can only be imagined. Then Tower #1 was hit and the sound of the explosion did not just come from the disintegrating, fuel filled jetliner. No, mixed into the sound of exploding fuel and metal and rubber and glass and vaporized people was  also the sound of Satan’s gleeful version of a High C blasting from the bell of a Selmer trumpet. Satan rejoiced and screamed with devilish glee. “One Nation Under God” was now under attack. When the attack was over almost 3000 innocent men, women and children were dead and millions of lives had been changed forever.

We can never go back to Monday, September 10, 2001. We can never go back to not having a Department of Homeland Security or needing one. We cannot turn back to a day when we are not violated  by scanners and “pat downs” by strangers at airports and at stadiums and theaters and varied other places. We can never go back to being as free as we were on September 10, 2001. Under the guise of safety and protection we have willingly submitted  to allowing our freedoms to be diminished.

The War on Terror has captured us and in many cases we are now its prisoners.   The next time you have to remove your shoes at the airport think back to September 10, 2001. Listen and  hear the roar of Satan’s shrill laughter mixed among the crumbling steel and concrete of the majestic Twin Towers as it falls into history. Then ask yourself, “what price freedom”? Maybe the time has come to keep our shoes on.