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Mother’s Day—Making Peace with my most UN-favorite Holiday

 Hug them and kiss them–Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

Our Mom, Lillian      age 39;  1959        Passed in 1960

By Larry Peterson

Mother’s Day is here, and I will tell you immediately that it has never been my favorite holiday. Truth be known, it has been my most dreaded holiday. I know that is pathetic. So please bear with me as I share my journey to finally finding some inner peace with this beautiful holiday.

My mother died 59 years ago. She had just turned 40. (She had Leukemia, and if you had Leukemia 59 years ago, you were “toast.”)  For some reason, I have only a few faded memories of her. And, for me, that is an emptiness that has always exploded inside me during the Mother’s Day celebration.

We were kids when she died. There were five of us, and at fifteen, I was the oldest. My sister and brothers (the two youngest have now passed away) remembered details about her, such as the softness of her hair, her laugh, how she loved cherry vanilla ice-cream or pulling the shopping cart to the A&P. As for me, memories were almost all gone. Fortunately, I had the second-hand information my younger siblings shared.

Death visited us often when we were young. Grandma (she lived with us) died two years after Mom. Dad died two years after her. We were officially orphans (that became a novel, The Priest and The Peaches), and we hung together and survived and did okay. But ‘death” kept lurking, and over the years, my sister was widowed, my brother was widowed, and I was widowed—twice. The two youngest, Bobby and Johnny, also have passed. but it all began with Mom.

I always managed, fortified by my Catholic faith, to move through the grief process and learn to accept what happened. It was sort of like making peace with someone you wish you never met. But with my Mom, that process never completed itself until recently. (I never realized until years later how she was always teaching us a lesson as she lay there either holding her blue Rosary or having it next to her. It was like it was a part of her).

I finally came to understand why I have been “stuck in the mud” with my Mom’s sudden passing, albeit so long ago. I was selfish. I never thought about what must have been going through her mind as she lay dying at the age of 39. It was always about me and how MY Mom died. That was the reason for my decades’ old problem. Therein was the cause of my emptiness. It was never about her. I felt sorry for myself when she died and kept feeling sorry for myself, year after year after year.

I needed help, and finally, it came.  Out of the clear blue, my daughter, Mary, called me and, during the conversation, said, “Hey dad, do you realize I’m going to be 40 on my next birthday?”

Talk about being hit by lightning. My own daughter was going to be the same age as my own mother was when she was slowly being killed by an insidious, no holds barred, and merciless disease. I had never thought of my Mom as a 40-year-old woman with five kids. I thought of her as my Mom, who died on ME. How pathetic was that?

Mary, who also happens to look a lot like the grandma she never knew, had only asked me a simple question. She could not have known the power that was in it. She had no idea that at that moment, it removed the veil from my clouded “Mom world” and set me on my journey to discover the woman and person who was also my mother.

It had taken decades but I finally began to reflect and ponder about this woman I had called “mommy.”  Her name was Lillian, and she carried me in her womb. She fed me, bathed me, held me and hugged me, nursed my siblings and me through illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox (all of which I have no memory). This woman cleaned our house, washed and ironed our clothes, cooked, shopped, and even worked part-time. I cannot imagine how she must have felt as she prepared to leave her family knowing  death was getting  closer and closer.  How awful and terrifying that must have been for her?

How did she hold her not yet two-year-old son on her lap and look at him without going hysterical,? How did she handle thinking about her six-year old son, missing his front teeth, who she would never give a sweet hug to again?  She had a ten-year-old who was in fourth grade and always needed his Mom to help him with his homework. Would his dad help him? I never considered such a thing.

And of course, there was my sister, Mommie’s “little” girl. But she was 13 already, and she was growing up. She would need her Mom, to talk to about woman things.  How did she bare holding onto the knowledge that her children would soon be motherless? What did she say to our Dad, her husband, and lover, as they lay together in bed, in the dark of night waiting for the inevitable as their five kids slept?

The following part in italics pertains to my Dad. It fits into this short narrative

I have harbored one regret over the years, and it pertained to my Dad.  Four years after Mom passed, Dad had an acute attack of pancreatitis. He was in the hospital, and it was 11 P.M. I was standing by the door to his room looking in. He had IV lines and tubes coming out of him from who knows where. A big bottle of ‘gunk” was on the floor that these tubes were draining into. I thought I would be sick. He was looking at me, and I could see the fear in his face. Guess what I did? Nothing, yes, I did nothing.  I did not go over to him and hold his hand.  I never hugged him. I just said, “See ya tomorrow.”

I gave him a cursory wave, and then I left. He died three hours later. Yeah, I know, I was young and blah-[blah-blah. No matter—that is a REGRET. I left my own  Dad alone to die by himself. It has been 55 years, and the pain of my actions still has not subsided.

 It took a very long time but I have forgiven myself for being an insensitive kid. I am long past feeling sorry for “me.”  Those thoughts about my Mom have brought me to a better place. However, that refreshed mindset has unveiled a new regret. Now I have one for Dad and one for Mom. I guess I deserve them both. I earned them for sure.

Mom had been close to death several days before Christmas, 1960. But she made a miraculous recovery and came home. (See story here)  During the first part of February, she took ill again. I have this vivid memory of her lying in bed with Bobby, age six, and Johnny, who just had his second birthday, each nestled into the crook of her arms, one on the left and one on the right. Her best friend Adeline was standing there talking to her about something, and she was looking at me. I said, “Okay, I have to go to work.” (I worked for the local grocer delivering groceries) and I left. No hug, no kiss, I never even said good-bye.

When I got home, she was not there. She was back in the hospital. We were supposed to see her Saturday morning but she died before we got there. I will always regret that I never HUGGED or KISSED my Mom one last time that one damn day. Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

On this Mother’s Day, I will also thank God for that phone call from Mary. I will then thank Him for my Mom. Then I will go home, and, fortified by a different mindset, will sit by myself and cry…just maybe not as much.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Little Nellie of Holy God the Toddler who inspired a Pope.

 

Little Nellie of Holy God wikipedia.jpg

LITTLE NELLIE of HOLY GOD

By Larry Peterson

Brief intro: 

What follows is the miraculous and wondrous story about a little girl who was known as “Little Nellie of Holy God.” Her real name was Ellen Organ, but everyone called her Nellie. By the time “Little Nellie” was only two years old, she already knew what the Holy Eucharist was.

___________________________________________________________________________Ellen Organ was born in Ireland on August 24, 1903. Shortly after Ellen’s birth, she was baptized into the Catholic faith at the Church of the Trinity in the town of Waterford. No one knows why, but from that point on, Ellen Organ was called “Nellie.”

By the age of two, Nellie displayed a deep holiness rarely seen in a child, especially one so young. While walking into Mass, holding her dad’s hand, she would regularly talk about seeing “Holy God.” It was something she began saying without having heard such an expression. Her mom and dad had no idea why she said that. Even the priest could not figure it out.

Little Nellie had two brothers and one sister; she was the youngest child. In 1906, a great sadness entered their lives. Their mom, Mary Organ, became very ill with tuberculosis. Nellie stayed by her mom’s side day after day, but after a short time, her mom died. Nellie, who was only three, was hugging her when she passed on.

Nellie’s dad, since he was in the army, could not provide proper care for his children. He turned to his parish priest for help. The priest helped get her brothers located with the Irish Christian Brothers. Nellie and her sister, Mary, were taken in by the Good Shepherd Sisters. The nuns treated the girls kindly, and Nellie was happy to call all of the sisters, “Mother.”

Nellie had a young girl assigned to sleep in her room with her. Her name was Mary Long, and at night she would hear Nellie crying and coughing in her sleep. She told the sisters about it, and Nellie was transferred to the infirmary, which was like a small hospital at the school.

When the doctor examined Nellie, it was discovered that she had a crooked spine. They learned that when she was only a baby, someone had dropped her, permanently damaging her spine. Even sitting up was very painful for Nellie, but she never complained. The doctor was amazed that a child of three would attempt to hide such pain. But try as she may, Nellie could not “fake” being well.  You could see the pain on her face because she kept trying to smile, but it was too hard to do. All the sisters could do was keep Nellie as comfortable as possible.

Nellie astonished the nuns with her insight and knowledge of the Catholic faith. The sisters and others that cared for her did not doubt that the child was not only humble but also saintly. These were qualities rarely seen in a three-year-old.

Nellie loved to visit the chapel, which she called “the House of Holy God.” The child fully understood the Stations of the Cross. Upon being carried to each station, she would burst into tears seeing how Holy God suffered for us. She also developed a clear understanding of the Blessed Sacrament.

Living on a military base, Nellie remembered how the jail was called a “lock-down.” She, therefore, referred to Jesus in the tabernacle as “Holy God’s lockdown.”

One day Nellie was given a box of beads and some string. Being a three year old she put some in her mouth and inadvertently swallowed them. People saw her gagging and choking and rushed her into the infirmary. The doctor present was able to remove the beads from Nellie’s throat.

They were all amazed how brave the little girl remained as the doctor probed into her throat, removing the objects. She never made a sound. At this time, it was discovered that, just like her mom, she had advanced tuberculosis. The doctor told the sisters there was no hope for recovery and gave Nellie only a few months to live.

Nellie loved the Holy Eucharist deeply. She desperately wanted to receive her First Communion. But she was only three years old and way too young. So she would ask the sisters to kiss her when they were coming back from Communion so she could share their Holy Communion. She told them she knew Jesus was in their mouth and that she could sense His presence.

When a priest, Father Bury, asked her, “What is Holy Communion?” she answered, “It is Holy God.” Then he asked her what would happen if she were allowed to receive Holy Communion. She answered, “Jesus will rest on my tongue and then go down into my heart.” Little

Nellie Organ knew exactly what Holy Communion was.

Nellie told of the visions she was having of “Holy God” as a child and the Blessed Mother standing nearby. Her faith was so pronounced that the Bishop agreed (since she was close to death) to confirm her. She received her Confirmation on October 8, 1907.

Then, on December 6, 1907, after considering all the facts, the local Bishop, in consultation with the priests, allowed Nellie Organ to receive her First Holy Communion. Nellie Organ died on February 2, 1908. She was three years and nine months old.

Nellie Organ’s story spread throughout Europe and reached the Vatican. It was presented to Pope Pius X.  It was perfect timing because the Holy Father had been looking for a reason to lower the age of receiving First Communion from the age of twelve to the age of seven. However, he was not sure about doing it.

When Pope Pius X read the documents about “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he immediately took this as a sign to lower the age. The Pope immediately issued a Papal Decree called Quam Singulari, changing the age of receiving First Holy Communion from 12 years old to age seven.

Pope St. Pius X commons.wikimedia.org

After issuing Quam Singulari, Pope Pius X, took up his pen and wrote, “May God enrich with every blessing —all those who recommend frequent Communion to little boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model.”

Pope Pius X. June 4th, 1912.”

 Pope Pius X was canonized a Saint and became Pope St. Pius X on May 24, 1954

 

 

Copyright © Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

cradlingcatholic.com

For the Caregiver– Dementia and Medication Distribution–a Daily Challenge

By Larry Peterson

This is an updated version of an article from 2016.

In America, one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease. (There are also other types of Dementia, such as Vascular Dementia or Lewy Body Dementia). Since I was the caregiver for my wife, Marty, who had this insidious illness (she passed away in March of 2017), I thought I would share some of my experience in dealing with the medication factor. It was a challenge, to say the least because the meds were being adjusted continuously and frequently changed to something different.

Medicine distribution by the caregiver could be the most critical factor in a person’s quality of life. Medications are powerful and, if used as directed, can not only prolong the patient’s life but can also help maintain a better quality of life for a more extended period of time. Please note: There is no “magic pill” that cures Alzheimer’s Disease.

My first tip is, and I believe this may be the best tip I can give anyone: You called a plumber when you had a broken water pipe, or you have taken your car to an auto mechanic if it keeps on stalling. Naturally,  you have called a doctor for a damaged loved one. You need their expertise, and you should expect crisp, clear answers to any questions you may have. Whether or not the patient is your spouse, child, parent, grandparent, or old Aunt Lucille, first and foremost, never be afraid to ask questions, any question.

Alzheimer’s Disease presents in three general stages; early-stage (mild), middle-stage (moderate), and late-stage (severe). During the early stages, the patient will still be able to interact with you about the medications they are receiving. However, as time goes by, invariably, these meds will change and increase in dosages. Besides, the patient will start to lose the ability to understand what is going on. That is when your responsibility begins moving into high gear, especially when it comes to med distribution.

Marty suffered from several illnesses. Besides Alzheimer’s Disease, she was recovering from cancer (Lymphoma), had A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation is a leading cause of strokes), hypertension, and a severely broken ankle. This required the involvement of not only her primary care doctor but also an oncologist, a cardiologist, and an orthopedist. They had all prescribed different meds.

What follows seems very simple and straightforward, but some folks are seriously intimidated by being a caregiver. Cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning the house, or making doctors’ appointments requires organizational skills and patience. When you are presented with a bag of various medications, it can be an intimidating experience.

You look in the bag and see a bunch of vials and a packet of paperwork. The paperwork includes individual explanations and descriptions of each of the meds in the bag. Take a breath, stand each vial on the table or counter, and match each one to its corresponding paperwork. The next thing you MUST do for yourself is to purchase a pill box organizer. These are (in my opinion–indispensable). Since I had to distribute meds 4X a day, I bought an organizer that had four rows of seven-day pockets with snap-lock lids. I also had an organizer that had two rows of seven pockets, which I used for vitamin supplements.

The next step is to make a list of every one of the meds. Check the dosage of each, and how many times a day it is supposed to be given. (FYI–the letter X denotes times per day, so a 3X means three times a day). I entered my list into a word.doc format and stored it in my computer. This way, it was easy to update as the prescriptions were often being updated. I also printed copies out and always had one with me when visiting one of the doctors or making a visit to the hospital. They always asked for the kinds of medications the patient was taking as they compared it to their list.

Once a week, usually on a Saturday evening, I would clear the table and spread the medicine vials out. After several weeks I began to know exactly where everything was supposed to go. For example, Furosemide (a water pill, aka Lasix) could only be given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Coumadin (a blood thinner, was given in doses of  6mg  4X a week and 7.5 mg 3X a week). The pillbox organizer made it quite simple to separate these meds properly into their designated days.

Once the pillbox organizer was filled, I was ready for the week ahead. When Sunday morning came the routine started all over. I just had to open the Sunday morning box and take out those pills and give them to my patient. Trust me, organizing medications for the week ahead is crucial to keeping them in order, dispensing them, and keeping track of what meds were given.

Final suggestion; Pray and never lose faith. For the caregiver, that is the best medicine of all.

copyright ©Larry Peterson 2020

From Attorney to Priest and Martyr; meet Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen.

Saint Fidelis is the Patron Saint of lawyers and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

St. Fidelis von Sigmaringen        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

During the early part of the 16th century, the zealousness of the Protestants in Zurich, Switzerland, was quite pronounced. On January 5, 1527, a young fellow by the name of Felix Mantz, discovered just how zealous these people were. And he was one of them, save one idea.

Felix held the opinion that only adults should be baptized. He suggested that it was wrong to baptize children. The Protestants of Zurich, while rejecting almost all Catholic beliefs, did believe in infant baptism. Felix was accused of “heresy” and seized by the local authorities. They tied Felix’s hands and feet to a pole and placed him in a boat. As people cheered, he was rowed out to the middle of the river, and thrown overboard. He was drowned for his belief.

The Protestant Reformation had begun, and Felix was the first Protestant killed by other Protestants for heresy.  Heretics killing other heretics for not agreeing with each other point up some of the madness that existed during the 16th  and 17th centuries. Fifty years after Felix was murdered, things had not changed. No dissenting was tolerated, and, if you were Catholic, you had better be careful. Fidelis Sigmaringen walked right into the middle of what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

He was born as Mark Roy in 1577, in the town of Sigmaringen in Prussia, in Northern  Germany. His dad’s name was John Roy, and he raised his son in the Catholic faith. Mark was exceptionally bright and attended the University of Freiburg, where he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1603, followed by degrees in civil and canon law.

In 1604, Mark acting as a mentor to three young men from Swabia (a northern part of Germany) began traveling through the principal places of Europe. During this time, he attended Mass as frequently as possible and would make it a point to visit hospitals and orphanages. He would if necessary, actually give the needy the clothes off his back. He would also make it a point to spend several hours a day in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

When Mark returned home, he began to practice law as a counselor or advocate becoming known as the “poor man’s lawyer.”  But he quickly became disillusioned with it. He hated having to tear people down with the use of invectives and such other types of distractions. A devout Catholic, he left his law practice and decided to join his brother, George, in the Capuchin Order.

When mark entered the Capuchin Order and took the name Fidelis (Latin for Faithful). It referred to the Book of Revelation, which promises a crown of life to him who shall continue faithful to the end. He finished his novitiate and studies for the priesthood and was ordained on October 4, 1612. He celebrated his First Mass at the Capuchin Friary in Fribourg. It was also the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi., Father Fidelis was intelligent, highly disciplined, and lived as ascetically as he could. Fully committed to his priesthood, he quickly rose to positions of leadership within the Order.

He was appointed by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome to preach, teach, and write in present-day Switzerland.  His goal was to encourage people to come back home to the Church of their birth. It would be no easy task. The majority of people in Switzerland were hard-core Calvinists. Father Fidelis quickly became their official enemy.

On e day, when father Fidelis was traveling between two towns where he was preaching and saying Mass, he was stopped by Calvinist soldiers who were led by a minister. The priest had recently caused an uproar in a town nearby and had barely escaped with his life. The soldiers knew who stood before them. The demanded the Father Fidelis abandon his faith. Father said, “I was sent to rebuke you, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I do not fear death.”

Father Fidelis was then hit in the head with the butt of a sword. His skull cracked wide open. The soldiers then began stabbing him all over his body. He died quickly.  They finished their vicious attack by hacking off his left leg in retribution for all the many journeys he had made into Protestant territory. The date was April 24, 1622. Father Fidelis was forty-five years old.

Fidelis of Sigmaringen was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIV on June 29,1746. His feast day is April 24.

copyright©Larry Peterson  2020

When Jesus Rose from the Dead where was the Blessed Mother? Ask Pope St. John Paul II

Jesus and His Mom                                            wikipedia.commons.org

By Larry Peterson

When Easter morning arrived, someone was missing. That someone is the very lynchpin of the Salvation story. That someone is the Blessed Virgin, Mary. She is nowhere to be seen or heard. Where was she?

We will hear from the gospel of John 20:1-9 how —“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples He loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.”

So where was Our Lady when Jesus rose from the dead?  She was His mother. She was nearby throughout the passion and watched Him carry His cross. She watched as they drove the nails through His hands and his feet.  She stood agonizingly and helplessly by as He was raised on the cross. For three hours she stood there watching every drop of blood leave her boy’s body. She was at the foot of the cross when He died.

The following week, on the Second Sunday of Easter ( Divine Mercy Sunday), the gospel is once again from John, this time 20: 19-31. This is when, with the doors locked,  Jesus appears to all of them (except “doubting”  Thomas). Once again, the Mother of our Savior is never mentioned.  Why is that?

No Mom should ever have to witness such cruelty heaped upon her own child. Who could have loved him more than she? Doesn’t it seem absolutely unquestionable that the first person who Jesus appeared to after He rose was His Mother? Yet there is not a single mention of the Blessed Virgin in the Resurrection narratives.

In the year 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This explains to us that the greatness and majesty that was bestowed on Our Lady was wrapped into a bundle of pure Love from God.  He was the Father of her child. She was the Mom. Every drop of Jesus’s DNA comes from His Mom. The Father and Son are God. Jesus Christ is truly Human and Divine, separate yet one. Yet she is not mentioned in the Resurrection gospel readings.

From the CCC 496: Mary’s Virginity:

From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed.” The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own…

Back to the question; Where was our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Risen Christ, Her only Child, on Easter Sunday? We can turn this question over to none other than Pope St. John Paul the Great. The Holy Father, speaking from Vatican City on May 21, 1997, said:

“The unique and special nature of the presence of the Virgin at Calvary, and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross, seem to postulate a very particular participation on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection.”

“The Blessed Virgin, who was present at Calvary and at the Cenacle, “was probably also a privileged witness to the Resurrection of Christ, in this way completing her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Embracing the risen Jesus, Mary is, in addition, a sign and anticipation of humanity, which hopes to reach its fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead.”

If Pope St. John Paul II says she was there; She was there—AMEN.

Copyright©2019 Larry Peterson

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY—WE OWE HIM EVERYTHING. It is all about LOVE

IT IS ALL ABOUT LOVE

Never forget HIS Mom, who watched Her own Son go through the most horrendous torture and suffering before dying right before Her eyes. We also OWE Her. 

The Resurrection                                                                     public domain

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