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Did you know that the first ordained, African-American Priest was born a Slave?

Meet Venerable Father Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton                                                    public domain

By Larry Peterson

This is about a man who was born a slave in Missouri and became the first African-American ordained a Catholic priest in the United States. I wish that not only the people of Missouri but folks all across America would learn about him. He was a man whose goodness shined like a brilliant star inspiring others by his gentle and caring example. Say “Hello” to Augustus Tolton.

On April 1, 1854, Peter Tolton paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to her second son. They named him Augustus (after his uncle), and the baby was baptized soon after in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Brush Creek, Missouri.  Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augustus’ godmother.

It was a situation a bit out of the ordinary at the time.  That was because Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot, who happened to be the “owner” of Augustus’ mom and dad.  The Tolton family was slaves, and their three children, Charley, Augustus, and Anne, were born into slavery.  Slave owners and their slaves, all Catholic. It was quite uncommon, especially in the mostly Protestant south.

Augustus was seven years old when the Civil War began.  Stephen Elliot permitted Peter Tolton to head north, and he supposedly was able to join the Union Army.  A bit later, Elliot gave Martha and her children their freedom too.  They headed north, and with the help of Union Soldiers crossed the Mississippi River and entered Illinois, which was a “free” state.  They settled in the town of Quincy.

Martha and her oldest boy, Charley, were able to get jobs at the Harris Tobacco Company, which made cigars.  Augustus looked after his little sister, Anne.  He also began spending a lot of time standing across the street from St. Peter’s Church, which was not far from the rooms where they lived.  Augustus Tolton’s life was about to change.

The pastor of St. Peter’s was an Irish American priest, Father Peter McGirr.  Father McGirr had noticed a shabbily dressed African-American boy spending an excessive amount of time near the church.  After several days had gone by, Father walked across the street and introduced himself to the boy. After a brief conversation, Father asked him, ” Well, now lad, do you go to school?”

“No, sir.”

“Would you like to go to school?”

Augustus jumped into the air and yelled, “YES Sir, YES!”

Father McGirr and Augustus headed to St. Peter’s.  The priest’s move was very controversial, and most of the white parishioners did not want a black student studying along with their children.  Father McGirr held firm and insisted that Augustus study at St. Peter’s.  He got permission from Augustus’ mom, who was shocked that this had happened to her son.  Augustus Tolton’s life had been placed on the road to his destiny.

The Holy Spirit may have moved Father McGirr because he saw something in Augustus that others did not.  Within one month, the boy had moved on to the ” second reader.”  Father approached Augustus and asked him if he would like to receive his First Holy Communion.  He did, and by the summer Augustus was the altar boy for the 5 a.m. Mass.

After several years Father McGirr asked Augustus if he would like to become a priest.  He told him it would take about 12 years of hard study and dedication.  Augustus said, “Let us go to the church and pray for my success.”

After graduation and with the unwavering support of Father McGirr, Augustus attempted to get into a seminary.  It was the 1870’s, and prejudice was almost taken for granted.  Augustus was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied.  But the young man did not despair, lose hope, or begin to get bitter.  On the contrary, he continued to pray, and his prayers, combined with the fearless determination of Father McGirr, enabled him to gain admission to St. Francis Solanus College (now Quincy College) in Quincy, Ill.

Augustus proved to be a brilliant student and, upon graduation, was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.  Founded by Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century, this was a training ground for missionaries.  It was here that Augustus became fluent in Italian as well as studying Greek and Latin.  In 1886, at the age of 32, Augustus Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome.  He was the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

Newspapers from across the country told the story of the former slave now ordained as a Catholic priest.  When Father Tolton arrived back in Quincy, he was greeted as a hero.  A brass band played, and Negro spirituals were sung as thousands of people, both white and black, sang together, lined the streets together, and held hands together as they waited to catch a glimpse of the former slave boy who had grown up to be a Catholic priest.

Father Tolton walked down the avenue dressed in his cassock and wearing the biretta.  When he arrived at St. Boniface Church, hundreds were crowded inside, wanting to receive his blessing.  His very first blessing went to Father McGirr, who was still by his side. The next day Father Tolton said his first Mass at the packed church, while thousands of others stood outside. For these few days, prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent.  They had been replaced by love of God instead.

Father Tolton remained at St. Boniface’s for five years.  He did meet with stiff resistance as prejudice once again reared its ugly head.  But Father persevered and managed to start St. Joseph’s Parish in Quincy.  In 1892  he was transferred to Chicago and headed a mission group that met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church.  The work at St. Mary’s led him to develop the Negro National Parish of St. Monica’s Catholic Church.

He was such a kind, caring man that he came to be known as “Good Father Gus.”  The church grew quickly and soon had over 600 parishioners.  His next plan was to oversee new construction at St. Monica’s, which had begun to accommodate the swelling numbers of parishioners.  He would not live to see it.

Father Tolton had been ill for quite some time and had never told anyone.  On a hot July day in 1897, with the temperature at 105 degrees, Father Tolton was returning from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train, he collapsed.  Taken to the hospital, he died a few hours later from sunstroke. Father Gus was only 43 years old when he died.  The community was shocked at the loss of their dear friend.  Father Tolton was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.

In March 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago announced that he was beginning the cause for canonization for Father Tolton.  On February 24, 2011, the Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood. Father Augustus Tolton was then formally designated as “Servant of God.”

Good Father Gus was declared a man of “heroic virtue” by Pope Francis on June 12, 2019. He is now known as Venerable Augustus Tolton. He is currently under consideration for Beatification.

Venerable Augustus Tolton, please pray for us all.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020 (updated from original of 2016)

 

 

COVID-19 and Euthanasia; potential allies in this Pandemic? Where is God in all of this?

Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)

By Larry Peterson

Portugal is a step closer to approving euthanasia and assisted suicide, and in Spain, the leftist government is completing their approval of legalizing life-ending procedures. Medical gurus in Italy, that very Catholic nation, home to Catholicism and the Pope, are telling their doctors that they should just let the elderly patients die. Why not,  if they have no insurance, they will cost the government $73,000.00 anyway. In our secularized world, it makes sense; the monetary cost outweighs the “value of the life.”

Remember the sad saga of little Alfie Evans, from the spring of 2018? Alfie was the disabled 23-month-old boy whose parents wanted to keep him and take care of him and love him until God took him. Ah yes, the wondrous doctors and legal scholars of Mother England decided that was not in the best interests of Alfie. No, they decided he was better off dead. One judge even got angry when they called Alfie a “human being.

I mention Alfie because I have experienced circumstances similar to Alfie’s parents. My wife was on life-support, but unlike Tom and Kate Evans, I had the task of allowing the machines to be turned off.  It was not a judge or a doctor or the courts or anything like that. It was ME,  the woman’s husband. The result was different. Alfie’s parents were stripped of their parental right to protect their child. I had secured the right to defend my wife.

Except for two overriding factors, Alfie’s death was unnecessary. First, the assumed necessity of his death is embedded within the secular practicality of  21st-century culture. Secondly, among many medical practitioners who lean on their omniscient ability, it was in Alfie’s “best interests” to die. They decided there was no hope for him to live on his own, and it followed that his life was mercifully disposable.

Although my wife was a middle-aged adult, and Alfie was a baby, the parallels in each case were quite similar. Alfie, at the age of seven months, developed seizures, and they caused him to go into a “semi-vegetative state.” Alfie did have brain function, but most doctors agreed that his condition (which they were not sure of) was incurable. Most importantly, his parent’s rights to try to save him were stripped from them by the courts.

Six doctors told us it was “no-use.” The consensus was, without doubt, that she would never survive without the ventilator.  My grown children took turns going to their mom’s bedside to say their “good-byes.” One at a time, they came from that room sobbing like babies. I was last and sat by her side, looking at her, holding her hand and saying whatever it was I was saying. Those words I do not remember. I do remember one word I heard; I was called a “murderer” by someone in Loretta’s family.

Unlike Alfie’s parents, I had control over the machine that was doing her breathing (she had been on life-support for three weeks). That was because Loretta had a “living will,” which gave me the right as her husband to sign what is called a DNR order. DNR means Do Not Resuscitate, and it allowed me, as the husband, to decide when to “pull the plug.”

Three of her doctors were there and the hospital chief-of-staff. I asked them to pray with us, and they all did. The machine was switched off, and the intubation tubes were removed. A minute passed by, and she kept breathing. Then two minutes passed by and then five and ten and then one hour. The cardiologist said, “Don’t be fooled; she is not going to  make it.”

Well, they were wrong. She did make it. Three days later, she was up in a room, and three weeks later, she came home. She had earned the title of “The Miracle Woman of Northside.” Her recovery was not only baffling; it was unexplainable. Ironically, cancer killed her exactly one year later.

In Alfie’s case, his parents had no choice. They were invoking God, along with countless others around the world, including the Pope, who had secured Italian citizenship for Alfie. The Italians were ready to transport Alfie to Italy for care and treatment. Unfortunately ,virtually every court in the U.K. ruled against the parent’s rights. The government and their “experts” knew best; Alfie must DIE. I cannot imagine standing by as my child’s life was taken from him and his family by court order. It is incomprehensible to me.

So the state took away the parent’s right to protect their child. They subjugated Natural Law and trampled upon the very nucleus of any thriving civilization, the family.  They removed Alfie’s tube, and the little boy lived for five days breathing on his own. Was that a message from above that those in charge should have tried harder? If they had waited one more day, might he have breathed on his own for six days and so on? Would recovery have been in Alfie’s future if he had lived another six months? I guess no one will ever know.

The point is,  the possibility exists for many families to be confronted with a life-death situation in the immediate future.  Many patients may not have a “living will.” If not, the hospital administrators will be in charge. If thousands of people become seriously ill with COVID-19, who is to decide what an average allowable time to live or die should be? We are all different, and some of us will pass on, and others will survive. Who will determine the acceptable “time frame” for the life and death struggle?

If you think it cannot happen in the USA, you are wrong.  The respect for God-given life is under assault all over the world. The Catholic governor of NewYork cheered the passing of the “infanticide bill” in January. His state has the most prolific number of COVID-19 deaths in the entire country. If the numbers increase, will he agree to an acceptable age limit to allow the “elderly NOT to be cared for?

The unpredictability, combined with the deadly consequences of COVID-19, leaves us all in a tenuous position. Who among us will be left to determine who lives and who dies and when and where? If you do not have a Living Will find one on line—preferably faith-based. Yes, get God into the equation. We need Him more than ever.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

 

A Mother’s Prayers are answered giving us Two Great Saints and a new Marian Feast Day

Honoring the Holy Name of Mary                                            wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Most of us know the story of St. Augustine. He was born in North Africa in the year 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan landowner and his mother, Monica, a Christian. Monica prayed fervently for her wayward boy to become a Christian too. Eventually, her prayers were answered and her boy did embrace Christianity becoming a great Doctor of the Church.

However, many of us do not know of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in this transformation. It is because of the conversion of St. Augustine that one of the many titles she is venerated under is Our Lady of Consolation. And this never would have happened without his mom faithfully praying for her boy, a woman who would one day be known as St. Monica.

Monica is honored for her unyielding Christian virtues which included; dealing with the pain and suffering brought on by her husband’s chronic acts of adultery and her own son’s immoral ways. It was said she cried herself to sleep virtually every night. But she did not despair. Rather, she turned her heartache over to the Blessed Virgin asking for her help. And help she received. Our Lady appeared to Monica and gave her the sash she was wearing. The Virgin assured Monica that whoever wore the sash would receive her special consolation and protection.  It was given to her son and ultimately became part of the Augustinian habit.

Eventually, the Augustinian monks founded the Confraternity of the Holy Cincture (belt) of Our Lady of Consolation. The statues of Mary as Our Lady of Consolation depict her and the Christ child dressed in elaborate vestments. Mary’s halo has twelve, small stars and her tunic is held in place by a black cincture.  The three patrons of the Augustinians are St. Augustine, St. Monica and Our Lady of Consolation. In addition, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation inspired what is known as the “Augustinian Rosary” which is sometimes called the “Corona of Our Mother of Consolation.”

During the early 1700s, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation was introduced to Malta. It was here that people began asking for a special blessing invoking Our Lady of Consolation for the dying. It became such a popular custom that monks could leave the monastery without asking permission to confer this blessing.  Eventually, devotion to Our Lady of Consolation spread all over the world.

In the United States, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation are located in Carey, Ohio. The church was first built in 1868 and named St. Edward. When Father Joseph Growden was given the responsibility of caring for the church he asked the faithful in Carey to pray to Mary, Our Lady of Consolation for her help in getting a new church built. He promised to name the church “Our Lady of Consolation”.

On May 24, 1875, a statue of Our Lady of Consolation, having been procured by Father Joseph from the Cathedral of Luxembourg, was carried from St. Nicholas church to the new church in Carey. News reports tell of the tremendous rains that fell that day and, during the seven-mile procession, not a drop fell on the statue or the people bringing the statue to its new home. Upon arriving in the new church the rain fell once again—everywhere.

Today devotion* to Our Lady of Consolation is of great importance in such places as Luxembourg, England, France, Japan, Manila, Turin, Malta, Australia, Venezuela and other places. Pope St. John Paul II visited the shrine in Germany. Our Lady of Consolation has certainly made herself available in many places so her children can quickly come to her if need be. The Blessed Mother is certainly a protective Mom, isn’t she? You just have to love being Catholic.

St. Augustine, pray for us; St. Monica, pray for us; and

Our Lady of Consolation, please pray for us all.

*Feast Days for Our Lady of Consolation are varied. The Augustinians celebrate it on September 4; the Benedictines on July 7. In the USA it is usually on October 22 or the last Sunday in October.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017

The First Woman Saint from Brazil was a Lifelong Diabetic

St. Paulne  of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus                            vatican.news

By Larry Peterson

She was born on December 16, 1865, in the town of Vigolo Vattaro, which was in northern Italy. At the time, this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her father, Antonio Visintainer, and her mom, Anna Pianezzer, named her Amabile Lucia. Like most of the people in the area, Amabile’s parents, despite being quite poor, were also. devout Catholics.

When Amabile was ten years old, her family joined with some other families, and a total of about one hundred people emigrated to the State of Santa Catarina (Saint Catherine) located in Brazil. They settled in an area naming it Vigolo, the same name as the town they had left. Their new life was about to begin.

Even as a young child, Amabile displayed a pious and charitable nature that made people notice. She often spoke of serving God, and after receiving her First Holy Communion at the age of twelve, she became part of her parish by attending catechism class, visiting the sick, and cleaning the chapel. Amabile was never given the opportunity for an upper-level education. Still, her love of her faith and the poor and homeless fully compensated for the book learning she had not received.

On July 12, 1890, things took a dramatic change for Amabile. She and her dear friend, Virginia Rosa Nicolodi, began caring for a woman suffering from cancer. Their spiritual director, a Jesuit priest by the name of Luigi Rossi, asked them if they wanted to commit their lives to religious service, dedicating their lives to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. It was also about this time in Amabile’s life that the frequent thirst and increased urination became an interference in her daily life. Diabetes had reared its ugly head.

Father Rossi, through donations,  helped them acquire a small house, and they moved the woman in. The cared for her until her passing, and then another woman, Teresa Anna Maule, joined them as the third member of their tiny group. It was at this point that they founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.  With the blessing and approval of Most Reverend Jose de Camargo Barros, Bishop of Curitiba, they began their work.

During this time, the symptoms of diabetes became more frequent in Sister Pauline. The frequent trips to urinate, the ever-present thirst, and unexpected weight loss, were all evidence of an illness few knew anything about. (Insulin would not be discovered until 1921. The first insulin injection was given to a 14-year-old boy in Canada, on January 11, 1922).

The history of diabetes is scattered with ideas and treatments that more or less had one thing in common. There was ‘too much sugar” in the urine. The Egyptians had discovered diabetic symptoms thousands of years ago but did not know how to treat it. In India, they placed ants near a persons’ urine, and if they ants hurried to it, they knew it was because it had sugar in it. During the middle ages “water testers” were folks who tasted urine. If the urine tasted “sweet,” the person was diagnosed with diabetes. But, as far as treatments  for the disease, there were none save “dieting.”    Diabetes, prior to insulin, was basically a death sentence.

In December of that year, Amabile and her two friends, Virginia and Teresa, professed religious vows. Amabile took the name  Sister Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. Her title became Mother Pauline after she was named Superior General of the Order.

The holiness of life and apostolic zeal of Mother Pauline and her Sister companions attracted many vocations despite the poverty and the difficulties in which they lived. In 1903, Mother Pauline was elected Superior General “for life.” She left Nova Trento to take care of the orphans, the children of former slaves, and the old and abandoned slaves in the district of Ipiranga of Saõ Paulo. 

On May 19, 1933, Mother Pauline was granted the title of  Venerable Mother Foundress and received a Decree of Praise from the Holy See. Her health was continually evaporating, and by 1940, she had lost her middle finger and then her right arm. She spent the last year of her life blind and died on July 9, 1942. Her last words were, “God’s will be done.”

Mother Pauline was canonized a saint by Pope St., John Paul II in Vatican City on May 19, 2002. Because of her only being canonized in 2002, she is considered  the “unoffical” patroness of Diabetics. Her official status as patroness is coming soon.

St. Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, please pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Family and Death—The common denominator that helps many move forward is FAITH.

Life after Death                                                                 slideshare.net

By Larry Peterson

I am the oldest of five, and my mom died when I was sixteen. My brothers were eleven, six, and two. My sister was thirteen. Grandma lived with us and decided that dad had killed her daughter. Mom, who had just turned forty, had died of leukemia; so grandma was wrong. But dad believed that we kids were better off with Grandma looking after us than him doing it. He was wrong too

Since there was no reasoning with her, dad became a constant patron of the local saloons. (We lived in the south Bronx, and there were plenty of “watering holes” for him to choose from). The truth of it was—he could not live with her as she berated him mercilessly every chance she had, including calling him a no-good murderer. Yup, in keeping away from her got to know a lot of people, and everyone loved him.

Two years after mom passed on, Grandma had a massive stroke. Some events are emblazoned into your memory forever as if they just happened and this was one of them. Dad was home, and he yelled to me, “Something’s wrong with your grandmother. She needs your help. I’m calling the priest.”

I heard the word “priest” and hurried into the kitchen. Grandma was standing with her head arched into her shoulder and her hands were clamped like vise-grips onto the cupboard door. I had to pry her fingers up one at a time, so I could drag her to her bed. My little brothers and sister were staring at this spectacle taking place. It was surely a surreal moment.

I managed to drag her convulsing and contorted body to her bed. Dad was home and called the rectory. She was squeezing my hands so tight I thought they might break. She was conscious and looking me in the eyes as I looked into hers. “Grandma, pray with me. Okay grandma, C’mon, pray with me.”

Together we prayed the “Our Father.”  Barely able to speak, she made an Act of Contrition. She sort of relaxed a bit and her eyes closed. Father Quirk hurried in and gave her the Last Rites. She died soon after as I held her in my arms. The ambulance was too late.

Dad was like a lost pup. Monsignor Martin gave him some work at the church, and he drove a cab a few days a week. He was not living as much as he was existing. He drank too much and two years later he died of an acute attack of Pancreatitis. That was the moment we officially became orphans. I was old enough to work so things worked (pun intended) out—as best they could.

My brother Bobby passed away unexpectedly ten years ago, from a heart attack. He was 53.  The baby of the family, Johnny, sad to say, took his own life when he was 55. He had alcohol and other drug issues during his life and any deep-seated issues he may have had were never resolved. He had just turned two when Mom died and (according to several medical health professionals) his suicide was the final result of the losses he suffered during his formative years.

My high-school sweetheart, Loretta, stuck by my side (I had three brothers I was taking care of), and her family was not too happy about her and I being together. In hindsight, I understand why. But her loyalty and love for me was unshakable and we tied the knot several years later. We were married thirty-five wonderful years.

In 1978, she was expecting our fourth child and was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the baby was still-born. We named her Theresa Mary, and she is buried with my parents. Loretta became ill in 1991, was sick for a long time, and passed away from melanoma in 2003.

Four years later I married again. Her name was Marty (Martha), and we were both members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In March of 2017, Marty passed away after fighting lymphoma and Alzheimer’s disease for six years. We had made it to our tenth anniversary.

So there you have it; our lives will all end in death. Many have reached out to God and embraced the faith He has gifted us. Many have rejected it. That is called a “choice.” For those who have embraced the God given gift of Faith they know that death is a NEW beginning. Having that gift to live with can help make living gratifying, no matter what the circumstances.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

Satan tried to give us The Darkest Sunday Ever —Once again He Failed Miserably

St. Joseph Calasanz–Patron of Catholic Schools                 public domain

By Larry Peterson

It is Sunday morning, March 22, 2020. What follows is simply this man pondering a  morning that he never in a million years could have imagined happening. It is a Sunday morning without Mass. Yes, the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is nowhere to be found. Nowhere in my town, my county, my state, or my country is Mass being offered. Or is this just more “fake news?”

This unimagined directive was ordered by each of the Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinals, who oversee the 177 dioceses that occupy the entire United States of America. They did it to save us from a virus, known as COVID-19.  They were worried about us getting sick and were trying to protect us.

So today, Sunday, March 22, 2020, as the secular world rejoices, its best friend and biggest cheerleader, Satan, does not. He outsmarted himself. The Master of Darkness simply used the smallest weapon in his arsenal to halt the thing he hates more than anything else on this planet,  Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.  He used a virus; tiny, invisible, yet deadlier than the dreaded AK-47. But he failed because hate gets you nothing but more hate, and that is what Satan once again achieved, stuffing more hatred into his blackened spirit.

You see, Satan, shrouded in his hate-consumed black spirituality, forgot one thing; he forgot about the Catholic Priesthood. He may have been influential in having the churches close down, but he was unable to stop the celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ’s thousands of ordained priests will still be celebrating Mass in the churches.

Along with a few attendees to assist, the Most Holy Sacrifice will go on in individual parishes all over the United States and throughout the world. The faithful Catholics that attend Sunday Mass will not be present. They may be watching the Mass live-streamed or on TV. It will not be the same for them. They will be unable to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Maybe it is good for the laity to be deprived of this great gift anyway. A few weeks being told “NO” may help many of us appreciate a bit more what a great gift this is.

We must remember that the primary purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to continue offering  Himself to His Father, in heaven, for all of us here who are sinners. Calvary lives on in perpetuity through the power of the Holy Priesthood and the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  The priest stands in the shoes of Christ and changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Himself. Upon completion of the consecration, God’s angels escort the precious Gifts to God the Father Who, after accepting them, asks the Holy Spirit to give the now Risen Christ back to all of us  as His great gift of Salvation. We  are then able to receive HIM within our very selves, sharing in the life of God.     (See Eucharistic Prayer #1 The Roman Canon).

We should not worry because, on this day, March 22, 2020, there are still Masses being offered all around the world. We also might remember that a Mass being offered by a missionary alone in a cave in some faraway place has the same intrinsic value as the Holy Father offering a Mass St. Peter’s Basilica on Easter Sunday. Satan tried again and once more, failed to stifle the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He will never quit trying. He will always fail. But we all must always be vigilant because Satan and his minions never rest.

From the Roman Canon:

With deep reverence we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be carried by the hands of your holy angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty. And for all who will receive the most holy body and blood of your Son in this communion at the altar, let them be filled with all the blessings and gifts of heaven. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen.)

copyright ©Larry Peterson 2020

The Strange Paradox of COVID-19. Saving the Lonely by making them Lonelier

Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)

By Larry Peterson

I have learned that loneliness has no boundaries. It reaches out for everyone and captures many of the unsuspecting, including the seemingly happy, satisfied, and successful. Yes, loneliness is capable of dragging the lonely into a world of hidden misery and often depression. It can attack anyone at any time, and it has become a social condition of almost epidemic proportions.

I have been widowed twice and know full well how loneliness can occupy a unique place in the widowed equation. Loneliness also reaches out and captures those who may have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, or even a dear friend. I carry the loneliness package from all of those

Suddenly, loneliness has been gifted with a new victim to feast on: it can now extend its ravenous appetite into the pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus.  Loneliness is about to ravage the senior citizen in ways never imagined.  One way will be to take away their chairs and sofas.

I have been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound on Sundays for over twenty years. It may be the most uplifting thing I do and I know I have been spiritually rewarded many times over. This past Sunday, I confronted a new wrinkle among my visits. I have one lady, Virginia (she is 98), who resides in an independent living apartment. It is a reasonably long walk from the parking lot to the building entrance. Once there, you use a keypad to gain access. I scroll to Virginia’s name and get her on the speaker. She buzzes me in.

As the sliding doors open, I stop short. No one is there. Every Sunday, there are four or five, maybe six, people in the lobby sitting around chatting and just visiting with each other. They know my name, and I always get a friendly welcome from them.  We exchange a few pleasantries (I usually joke about something), and then I go on my way.

But this Sunday no one is there. I just stood there because it took me a few seconds to realize that no one was there because the furniture was gone. The lobby was empty. There was no sofa, or chairs, or coffee table. They had been removed, and there was no place to sit and talk. This was done courtesy of the management “protecting” the residents against COVID-19 or coronavirus. We must keep the elderly SAFE. No problem; just keep them in their rooms—ALONE.

The situation impacted me deeply. I have been visiting the sick and homebound for a long time, and they do not ask for much. However, in their low profile quiet world, they look forward to sitting together (if possible) and just talking about whatever it is they talk about. My visit is a big deal for them. I see each of my folks for about ten minutes each, sometimes a bit longer.

I may be the only visitor they see all week. Yet my visit buoys them up for my next visit which is a week away.  The folks that gather in the lobby every week are non-catholic and do not receive. But I do get to say a short prayer with them, and they like my doing it. So do I.

But now, on this Sunday morning in March of the year 2020, it seems things have changed in a way no one could have ever imagined.  The powers that be want us to be alone. They want us to avoid each other, not touch each other, and become individual entities. But we are social beings and like it or not; we need each other. We need to touch and hold and shake hands and hug, especially among family and friends.

Nursing homes all over the country have been placed on “lockdown.” Patients in these places will be relegated to their beds. Family and friends will not be allowed to visit them. Independent living apartments will have empty lobbies and courtyards. There will be no place for the tenants to sit and congregate.

Will our country and maybe the world soon have billions of separate individuals with no one to talk to or visit with.  It is such a strange paradox; saving the lonely by making them lonlier than they already are.

We had all better pray like we never prayed before that this coronavirus is vanquished quickly.  We cannot live this way for very long.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020