Pope recites special prayer for end to war in Ukraine

By Larry Peterson

The prayer was composed by the Archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia. Pope Francis  read the prayer and pleaded with God to forgive all of humanity for the horrors of war. Pope Francis invited Christians to “ask God for forgiveness and to grant peace” in Ukraine.

The Pope pleads with God to forgive all of humanity for the brutality of war, which he said turns our hands—created to care and tend the earth—into instruments of death.

Before reciting the prayer, Pope Francis invited Christians to “ask God for forgiveness and to grant peace” amid the pain of the war in Ukraine.

Here below is an unofficial translation of the Pope’s prayer:

Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!
Lord Jesus, born in the shadows of bombs falling on Kyiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who died in a mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, a 20-year-old sent to the frontlines, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who still behold armed hands in the shadow of your Cross, have mercy on us!

Forgive us, O Lord.

Forgive us, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we crucified Your hands, as we continue to slate our thirst with the blood of those mauled by weapons.
Forgive us, if these hands which You created to tend have been transformed into instruments of death.
Forgive us, O Lord, if we continue to kill our brother;

Forgive us, if we continue like Cain to pick up the stones of our fields to kill Abel.
Forgive us, if we continue to justify our cruelty with our labors, if we legitimize the brutality of our actions with our pain.
Forgive us for war, O Lord. Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we implore You! Hold fast the hand of Cain!
Illumine our consciences;
May our will not be done;
Abandon us not to our own actions!

Stop us, O Lord, stop us!
And when you have held back the hand of Cain, care also for him. He is our brother.
O Lord, put a halt to the violence!
Stop us, O Lord!
Amen.

We might all post this prayer and say it every day that peace comes to Ukraine


A Caregiver Remembers; Living with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease                                                                                          en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

What follows is some insight for those who have never been a primary caregiver. This is more like “a day in the life” of someone living and caring for an Alzheimer’s patient who is usually a spouse or a son or daughter.  Many folks have seen people with Alzheimer’s or have relatives or friends with the disease and think they “get it.”  Still, unless you, as a caregiver, live it, day after day after day, year after year, up until the end, you do not “get it.” You just can’t.

Simple memories triggered

My thoughts and I were sitting together reflecting the other night, just floating back to days long gone. The trigger for the thoughts was my wife, Marty, who passed away from cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease five years earlier on March 27. The thoughts kept bouncing around, and the “little things” that used to happen frequently began to dominate the memory flow. Anyway, I would like to share some of those simple memories. This is from an evening I remembered well. It was when I promised I would call her in sick for work.

It began like this. After dinner (I had turned into a pretty good cook), Marty asked me, “What time is my show on?”

Sundowning

Reflexively I would ask her, “Which one?” I knew she had no favorite show. I also knew she had stepped into what is known in Alzheimer’s disease as “sundowning.” I called it, ‘Uh-oh time.’ I called it this because these were the moments when she would unexpectedly become frustrated and agitated.

I could see her tensing. Then she would look at me and, raising her voice a decibel or two, would say, “You know what show. Just tell me what time it comes on.”

I had become a guilt-free liar

As a Catholic who loves his faith, I do not lie. However, the fact was, in my caregiver world, I had become a guilt-free, therapeutic liar. It was about survival, mine and hers. My justification was that without me, she was alone, and she was no longer able to survive on her own. “Sorry, sweetie, your show is not on tonight. There is a special about sharks on, and sharks scare you, right?”

“You know I don’t like sharks. I am scared of sharks. But that’s okay. I can watch the news, right?’

“Absolutely.” I had lied to my wife, Marty. I felt no guilt. It was a necessary tool for me to use in my role as her caregiver.

She headed to the sofa, sat down, and picked up her puzzle book. She always was good at doing the anachrostics (I find them incredibly difficult). Still, she would sit and look at the page, holding the pencil on it, which never moved. Then she said, “Do I have to go to work tomorrow? I’m so tired. I really could use a day off.”

Liar’s Hat on

Two years earlier, I might have tried to explain that she did not have a job and had not worked in seven or eight years. She still may have understood. Those days were gone. So, with my “Liar’s Hat” still in place, I answered, “You’re right. You do look tired. I think you need a day off too. Don’t worry. I’ll call in for you and tell them you’re sick.”

“You would do that for me?

“Of course, I would do that for you.”

That’s’ so nice. I’m so glad I don’t have to get up and go in. Is today Sunday?”

Whew, a relief question. I could  tell the truth. “No, it’s Wednesday.”

“Wednesday, are you sure?”

“Yes, it’s Wednesday.”

Things were quiet for a while It was about 9 p.m. when I walked back to the bathroom. Suddenly I hear smashing and banging coming from the utility room off the kitchen. I head in there, and in a matter of minutes, Marty had pulled out of the wall cabinet all of the plastic containers, glasses and cups, and other things inside and stacked them all on the washer and dryer below. “Hey hon, what are you doing?”

We have to get rid of the junk

She looks at me, and I can tell she is agitated. “We have all this junk. We have to get rid of it. Why do we have all this junk? We have to throw it out.”

Immediately, I switch back to my ‘Liar’s Hat’. “Okay, when should we throw it all out?”

“I don’t know, maybe right now?”

“Well, it is kind of late. Maybe we can do it in the morning.”

“I don’t feel like putting it all back tonight.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll do it.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m too tired

There was one final comment. She looks at me and asks, “We are married, right?”

“Yes Marty, we are married.” (That was not a lie)

She got into bed about 9:30 and was asleep in about two minutes. I was mentally worn out but I looked at her and realized that an innocence had come from an unknown place and  embraced her. I also knew that when she awoke in the morning, she would not remember anything of what had happened.

I was blessed

Since I do not “punch a clock” I have the joy of being able to attend daily Mass at 8 a.m.. Marty will wake up at about 7 a.m. and always ask me, “Are you going to church?”

I answer, “Yup.”

She will ask, “Will you take me with you?”

“Of course.”

From 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

As a caregiver to a child of God, I was blessed.

Copyright©LarryPeterson 2022


From Slave to Priest—The Journey of Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton            public domain

By Larry Peterson

Something for Black History Month

This is about a man, born into slavery in Missouri, who became the first African American from the United States ordained a Catholic priest. I wish folks 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. This is when his history becomes a bit confusing. There are various accounts of his journey to freedom. You will find an account in Wikipedia of Stephen Elliot permitting Peter Tolton to head north, and 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, a “free” state.  They settled in the town of Quincy.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica reports Augustus’ dad, escaped his bondage and fled north joining the Union army where he was killed in battle. His mom managed to escape with her three children, Charley, Augustus, and their sister, Anne, and get to Illinois, where they settled in Quincy. From this point on  most accounts agree about Augustus journey, beginning with his being discovered by Father Peter McGirr.

Father Peter McGirr

The pastor of St. Peter’s parish in Quincy 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. Most 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.

Was the Holy Spirit at work?

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 difficult 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 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.

A brilliant student

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 and studied 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, American priest of African descent 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 white and black people 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.

Love of God replaced Prejudices

Father Tolton walked down the avenue dressed in his cassock and wearing the biretta.  When he arrived at St. Boniface Church, hundreds had crowded inside, wanting to receive his blessing.  His 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 stood outside. For these few days, prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent.  They had been replaced by the love of God instead.

Father Tolton remained at St. Boniface’s for five years.  He met with stiff resistance as prejudice 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.

“Good Father Gus”

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 had just returned from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train, he collapsed.  Taken to the hospital, Father Gus died a few hours later from sunstroke. He was 43 years old.  The community was shocked at the loss of their dear friend.  Father Tolton was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.

The Road to Sainthood

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©LarryPeterson 2022


Ironically, the Patron Saint of the Unborn is a Young Man

St. Gerard Majella                                                           aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Annual March for Life  will occur in Washington D.C. on Friday, January 21. Tens upon tens of thousands will march in defense of the unborn. Many expectant women, scared and unsure of their situation, most likely will avoid it. If you are one of them, you might turn to a young man for intercession. He is the Patron Saint of Unborn Children and Expectant Mothers. Many a miracle has been attributed to this man’s intervention. His name is Gerard Majella.

Gerard was the youngest child born to Domenico and Benedetta Majella. They had three daughters, and Gerard was their only son. The date was April 6, 1726. The Majellas were a hard-working Italian family. Benedetta brought her children to Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces as often as she could. Gerard, only three, loved the “pretty lady with the baby.”

Mama, mama, see what I got from the little boy.”

When Gerard got a bit older, he would run off to the shrine by himself. The first time he came home, he yelled out, “Mama, mama, see what I got from the little boy.” In his hand, he held a small roll of bread. No one paid much attention, but after several days of coming home with bread, his mom followed him to see where he was getting the bread.

Mom was stunned by what she saw

What she saw stunned her because the statue of Our Lady of Graces came to life and the child she was holding scampered down to play with Gerard. She quickly left and, sure enough, when Gerard came home, he had another small loaf of bread with him. Benedetta kept this to herself.

Gerard’s dad died when the boy was twelve, and the family was left in poverty. Gerard’s father had been a tailor, so his mom sent him to her brother so Gerard could learn the trade. However, after a four-year apprenticeship, Gerard was offered the job as a servant for the local Bishop of Lacedonia. Needing the money, he took the position.

He would bring the poor leftovers from the bishop’s table

The Bishop kept hearing stories about Gerard and his kindness. He would always stop and visit the poor in the clinic, how he always helped others, and how he even brought the poor leftovers from the bishop’s table. The young man was gaining a reputation just by being himself.

“I want to be a saint.”

Gerard returned to his trade as a tailor when the Bishop passed away. He divided his earnings among his mother, the poor, and with offerings for the souls in purgatory. By the time he was 21 years-old, he had established a steady business. His mom was quite worried about her son. He looked thin and frail because he was always fasting and doing penance. She begged him to eat, and he told her, “Mama, God will provide. As for me, I want to be a saint.”

Gerard tried to join the Capuchins, but they thought him too sickly to endure the demands of the order. Finally, after much pleading and nagging, he was accepted as a lay brother into the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, aka the Redemptorists.

As a lay brother, he would never be a priest, say Mass, or hear confessions. He would live under the same roof, wear the same habit, and share the prayers. He also would take the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. He would be a caretaker to the monastery. He embraced this role and served them well, acting as a gardener, sacristan, porter, cook, carpenter, and, of course, the tailor.

The children always flocked to hear his amazing stories

But there was always the children. They flocked to Gerard to hear his amazing stories and learn how to pray. Once, when a large group was sitting around listening to him, a little boy fell off a cliff. When they reached the child, they thought he was dead. Gerard said to the boy’s father, “It is nothing.” Then he traced a cross on the boy’s forehead, and he awoke. It was just one of Gerard’s many miracles that people witnessed.

Gerard had tuberculosis and died on October 16, 1755. He was 29 years old. Many miracles were attributed to his intercession. One stands out as the reason he has come to be known as the patron of mothers. A few months before his death, he was visiting a family. He dropped his handkerchief, and one of the girls picked it up to return it to him. He told her to keep it because  one day, she would need it.

The handkerchief

Years later, as a married woman, she was about to give birth and the doctor was sure the child would not survive. She remembered the handkerchief and asked for it. When she held it to her womb, the pain disappeared, and she gave birth to a healthy baby. There was no explanation.

In 1893 Pope Leo XIII beatified Gerard. And on December 11, 1904, Pope St. Pius X canonized him in Rome. He was now St. Gerard Majella.

St. Gerard is the patron saint of unborn children, expectant mothers, and motherhood.

St. Gerard; please pray for all those pre-born children in danger of losing their lives and for expectant moms everywhere.

Copyright©larry Peterson 2022

 


St. Catherine Laboure—The beautiful story of a girl, Our Lady, and the Miraculous Medal

St. Catherine Laboure                                         public domain

 

By Larry Peterson

Her feast day is New Year’s Eve and she is the Patroness of Senior citizens

The most famous and well-known of all medals in Catholicism is the Miraculous Medal. This medal was given to us by the Blessed Mother through her chosen daughter, Catherine Laboure.

Catherine was born on May 2, 1806, in the Burgundy region of France. Her parents were Pierre and Madeleine Laboure, and Catherine was their ninth of eleven children. In 1815, when Catherine was nine years old, her mom died. After the funeral, when Catherine was home, she picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin and, holding it close to her face, said, “Now you will be my mother.”

Catherine’s dad, within a year, gave Catherine the responsibility of caring for the household. Catherine dutifully and lovingly did as asked. She was ten years old.

Soon after, Catherine had a dream in which an old priest motioned her to a room filled with sick people. He told her, “—it is a good deed to look after the sick. God has designs on you. Do not forget it.”

Some years later, upon visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity, she saw a picture of the same priest on the wall. She asked who that might be, and she was told that it was their founder, St. Vincent de Paul. She immediately knew she must become a member of St. Vincent’s order.

In January of 1830, Catherine Laboure entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity. Three months later, she left for Paris and entered the order’s Mother House. After hearing a sermon about St. Vincent de Paul, she prayed to him to ask Our Lady if she might see her. That very night a bright light woke her. She heard a child’s voice tell her to go to the chapel as the Blessed Mother was waiting for her. The date was July 19, 1830.

As Catherine neared the chapel door, it swung open, and the inside was awash in brilliant light. Catherine went up and knelt at the communion rail. Then she heard the rustle of a silk dress. She turned, and the Blessed Mother was sitting in the celebrant’s chair. Again she heard a child’s voice, “The Blessed Mother wishes to speak to you.”

Catherine slowly approached the Blessed Mother and knelt beside her. She folded her hands and placed them in Our Lady’s lap. The Blessed Virgin told her that she was being given a mission and that she would have all the graces necessary to complete it. Our Lady said, “You will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent. I always will have my eyes upon you. There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground, and blood will flow.”  Then the Virgin faded away.

Four months later, Catherine and the other sisters were headed to the chapel for evening prayers. Catherine heard the “swishing” sound of silk and immediately recognized it as a signal from the Blessed Mother. Catherine looked to the main altar and saw Our Lady standing on a globe inside an oval frame. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

She told Catherine: “Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck.”  She also told Catherine to bring her instructions to Father Jean Marie Aladel, telling her, “He is my servant.”

Catherine did as instructed and brought her message to the priest. At first, he did not believe her. Finally, after two years, he presented her story to the Archbishop. The Archbishop ordered two thousand medals to be struck. A share of these was given to Catherine, who said, “Now it must be propagated.”

Catherin Laboure sought no attention and, for the next forty years, quietly went about the business of caring for the elderly, infirm, and disabled. That is why she is known as the Patroness of Seniors. On New Years’ Eve, 1876, Sister Catherine passed to her heavenly reward. Only a few people knew that she had been the one who had received the Miraculous Medal from the Blessed Virgin Mary. After her passing, word of whom she was got out and spread like wildfire.

Catherine Laboure’s body was exhumed in 1933. It was miraculously as fresh as the day she was buried. After living 70 years and being buried for 57 years, her eyes were a sparkly blue, and her arms and legs were no different than if she was asleep.

Catherine Laboure was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII on July 27, 1947. She was, besides being a remarkable and humble woman, a personal confidant of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That is a wonderful and unimaginable legacy to leave behind. Her feast day is December 31.

St. Catherine Laboure, Pray for us.

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

copyright Larry Peterson 2022


The Last Christmas Tree (Inspired by a True Story)

The Last Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree  commons.wikimedia.org

A Short Story by

Larry Peterson

Inspired by a true story:

It was 6:00 A.M., and she was exhausted. She stood there, unblinking, looking into the mirror at the person staring back at her. Running her hands through her tousled, just-got-out-of-bed hair, she sighed deeply. She leaned forward, stared some more, and said to herself, “Oh my God, Sharon, you look just awful.”

She had to leave by 6:30, so she hurriedly washed her face, brushed her teeth, and tried to create some order with her hair. She had worked twenty-two days straight since Thanksgiving, and today would be the last day before the holiday. It was Christmas Eve, and there was still much to do, including getting a Christmas tree.

As Sharon, a meter reader and installer for the local utility company, pulled on her work shoes; a soft voice came from behind. It was her youngest, six-year-old Joey.  She turned, and he said, “Mommy, Santa can’t come here tonight.”

She was somewhat stunned by the unexpected comment. “Joey, why would you think that. Of course, he can come here.”

“But we have no Christmas tree. Can’t you stay home from work and get us a tree?”

They had kept asking, and she had kept promising, and it was always “later” or “tomorrow,” and now, just like that, time was up. She turned and held out her arms to her boy. “Come over here, “ she said.

He ran over, and she hugged him. She looked into his nervous eyes and said, “Don’t worry Joey, I only have to work a little while today, and then I will get the tree. I will have it when I get home from work. Then we will all decorate it, and Santa will have a tree to put the toys under. Don’t worry.”

Oozing innocence, he simply looked at her and believed it would be so. “Okay, mommy.”

She stood up and said, “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s get you back in bed. I will tell April you are awake.”

“No need, mom. I’m up. C’mon with me, Joey. We can watch some TV.”

It was her twelve-year-old son, Alvin. She turned and smiled at him. “Thanks, hon. They promised us we would be home early. Say a prayer it actually happens.”

“Mom, what about a tree?”

“Alvin, I know,  I know. I promised Joey, and I promise you, we will have a tree. Don’t worry. These last 20 days just seem to have run together, and—don’t worry, we will have a tree.”

It was about 6:50 when she pulled into the loading dock area to pick up her assignments and needed materials. The parking lot was already empty of the work trucks as all the crews had left for their assigned destinations. Sitting in her vehicle, she took out her Rosary and held it tightly. A “single” mom and devout Catholic, prayers had brought her through some, lonely, harsh and scary days after her husband had walked away from her and the children. She blessed herself and began to pray.

She was quietly asking the Blessed Virgin to allow Christmas Eve to go smoothly and for her to be able to get a tree when a tap on her window startled her. She turned to see her field supervisor, Herb Guerin, standing there. She rolled down the window, “Hi Herb, what do you have for me today?”

“Here you go, Sharon.” As he handed her the work orders he said,  “I’m sorry, but I have to dump two more on you. They just came in but they are right next to each other, so it should go quick.”

“Please, Herb, I still have to get a Christmas tree. Can’t you get someone else? My six-year-old is thinking that Santa won’t come to our house. I have to get a tree.”

“Look, I understand. But this is about five minutes away from where you are going. A transformer blew up, and 1400 homes are without power. That could be more than 4000 people. It is Christmas Eve, and they need their power. The line crew is on-site but there are two new meters we need installed. You should be able to squeeze that in, don’t you think? Those people are counting on us to get their power on.”

“Okay, Herb, okay. What are the addresses?” He handed her the add-ons, and they wished each other Merry Christmas. She drove away, fingering her rosary beads. That proved more soothing for her than a cup of morning coffee.

Sharon had finished her regular assignments by noon and it should have been the end of her workday. But, as is the way of things, the transformer was not delivered until 2:00 .P.M and she could not install the new meters until after the transformer was replaced. It was 4:00  P.M.when she finally started for home.

Heading home, she kept looking for Christmas trees for sale. Even the seasonal tree lots that sold trees every year were empty. She had been confident that she would find a tree quickly. Now her confidence was being shattered. There were no trees anywhere. She thought a moment and then prayed, St. Anthony, please help me find a tree for my kids?”

Sharon did not plan to go home until she had found a tree. But she had not eaten, she felt sick to her stomach and needed to stop by the house which was only five minutes away. She thought she could just run inside, use the bathroom and simply “chill” for a few minutes. She looked at the clock; it read 5:35. A shiver ran down her spine.

She stepped from her van as Joey came running out of the house, “Hi Mommy, did you get our tree? Did you?  Where is the tree? Where is the tree? You got the tree, right?”

Sharon took a deep breath and knew she should have found a tree before coming home. Looking upwards, she quickly and quietly prayed, “Dear God, I need Your help. Please.”

Just like that, April, who was fourteen, Alvin, eleven, and Austin, eight,  were standing in front of her. Joey was in front of them. All she could see were four sets of insecure and nervous eyes looking  at her. A sudden blanket of fear seemed to come out of nowhere and grab hold of her. Oh my God, I do not know if I can do this. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I need your help. Tears came to her eyes.

April quickly went to her mom and gave her a hug. She said, “Mom, it’s okay. Don’t worry.”

Then Alvin was standing next to her, and Austin and then Joey was hugging her leg and she felt the love of her children and blurted out, “Okay, listen to me. I did not get the tree yet. I just needed to get a drink and use the bathroom. Then I will get it. Alvin, can you come with me to help?

“Why should Alvin get to go?” Austin asked. “Why can’t we all go?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” said April, “All of us should go. It will be all of us finding our family Christmas Tree.”

Sharon looked at the four of them and was suddenly buoyed with a sense of “Christmas.” Everything was feeling right. She had been slowly buying and hiding things since July. Toys and other gifts were in the back of her work truck, and more were stashed in the shed in the back yard. (The kids never let on that they knew). “Okay,” she said.  “Let’s get in the car and go find a tree.”

They piled into their fourteen-year-old 1988 Chevy Corsica, and Sharon headed toward Washington Ave. Her children had no idea how tired and worn out their mom was. Well, why would they; their Mom was not like other people; she was MOM. Being up since 6:00 A.M., not eating all day except for some stale chocolate chip cookies and two containers of coffee, was not something that could stop their Mom. That possibility was never considered.  They did not grasp that it was she who was hungry, tired, and feeling a bit weak. She said, “I hope we can find a tree quickly. You kids must be starving.” Things were never about her.

They were all focused on a tree, not food.  Alvin said, “ We can eat later, mom. Let’s check Walmart first; they have tons of trees.”

Sharon sighed and made a quick left onto Highway 19 N. They pulled into Walmart’s parking lot five minutes later. The store was just closing. They drove over to the nursery and found out there were no trees left. Al tried to run into the store to look for an artificial tree, but the doors were already locked.

Sharon said, “There is a Christmas tree lot over on Belcher Rd. They might have something.”

That lot was empty, and the search continued, from supermarket to supermarket, to home-improvement centers and discount outlets, to nurseries, and even looking outside convenience stores. Sharon was now driving and not thinking. They had searched for a tree for over two hours, finding more than a dozen places that sold trees but now had none. It was now almost eight o’clock.

She was feeling a sense of despair. It was dark, and most stores had already closed. April suddenly blurted out, “Hey Mom; there is the Burger Barn. Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”

They all chimed in, “yeah, mom—c’mon Mom—we’re starving, Mom!”  Sharon knew that sitting in the car with the four kids eating cheeseburgers, fries, and holding drinks would be a disaster. “Okay, stop yelling; I can hear you. But there is no way we eat in the car. Lets park and go inside. We need a break anyway.”

As they walked toward the entrance, Austin said, “Mom, we just better face it. We aren’t going to find a tree. It’s too late. They’re all gone.”

“Stop it, Austin, have some faith. As soon as we sit down, we will all say a Hail Mary together and ask our Mother Mary to help us find one. And you watch, she WILL help us find one.”

They walked inside, found an empty table, and sat down. Sharon’s faith had helped her through incredibly difficult times, and she was about to call on it again. She reached out her hands, and they all followed her lead, holding each other’s hands. Bowing their heads, they prayed a Hail Mary together. When they finished, Sharon and Alvin headed to the counter to get their food.

The impromptu Burger Barn  “dinner” went reasonably well. The order came out quickly. Nothing was dropped or spilled, and, to top it off, everyone was quiet as they devoured their food. After spending a calm and pleasant fifteen minutes, it was time to find their tree.

As they stood up to leave, an old man, disheveled and dirty, approached them. Nervously, the man said, “Excuse me, ma’am. I think I can help you.”

Sharon had watched as he approached and haltingly said, ‘Huh…help me? What do you mean? We are fine. We do not need any help. Please, we have to go.”  She turned to her nervous children and said, “Okay kids, it’s time to leave. Let’s go.”

“Ma’am, please, don’t be afraid. I watched you and your children praying and it was a beautiful thing. And— I heard your boy say you needed a tree. I can help you.”

“How can you help us? I suppose you know where a tree is?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, I do,” said the man. “But you have to trust me and follow me. I will take you to it.”

“Follow you? We don’t even know you. Why should we follow a complete stranger to an unknown place? I have my children with me. Look, sir, I’m sure you are a very nice man, but I’m not following you anywhere.”

The man quietly said, “I’m sorry to have bothered you and your family. You all have a merry Christmas.”

They were all watching him as he walked toward the exit. As he disappeared, one of the workers came by and smilingly said, “I hope that man didn’t frighten you. He is harmless. He’s just a kind old man who  stops in here every so often for some coffee.”

Sharon, hearing this, quickly huddled her kids around and said quietly, “Look, we just prayed to the Blessed Virgin for help, and this old man comes out of nowhere and offers us a tree. It seems a bit crazy, but it is Christmas Eve. They know him here, so he must be harmless. We have to trust that Jesus and His Mom are helping us. As foolish as it sounds, I say we follow him. What do you kids think?”

“Why not, mom.,” April said. “Jesus will protect us.”

They all agreed, and Sharon said, “Okay, let’s see if we can find him.”

They hurried outside, and the old man was just standing there. As Sharon approached him, he smiled and said, “I thought I would wait to see if you changed your mind. I’m glad you did.”

Across the road from Burger Barn was a golf course. The man told Sharon, “There is a gravel service road at the end of the golf course parking lot. Drive down that road for about a half-mile, and you will find your tree. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

The surrounding golf course was unlit and pitch black. The headlights from the car cast an eerie glow as they slowly drove forward. Sharon had them all praying together as they ventured into the unknown. The mother of four was driving using faith for fuel. She was afraid. So were her children. The only sound that could be heard was the gravel crunching beneath the tires.

And then, as they turned around the bend in the road, there it was. A Christmas tree, not just any Christmas tree but the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. It was fully decorated, and all lit up. It was as if a light was shining down upon it. The entire area was lit up. As they got out of the car, an older woman stepped out from behind the bushes. Sharon and her kids just stared at her, not knowing where she came from, who she was, or how all this was happening. The woman asked, “Do you like the tree?”

Sharon said, “Who are you? What is going on? Are we all dreaming?”

“No, Sharon, you are not dreaming. Do you like the tree? What do you kids think? Do you like it?”

Austin said, “It is the most beautiful tree I ever, seen, ever.”

“Does everyone agree with Austin?”

They all agreed, and the woman said,  “Well then, Sharon, you just take your family home. When you arrive, the tree will be waiting for you. And, Joey, don’t worry, Santa will be coming to your house tonight.”

Sharon asked, “What do you mean, just go home. What about the tree?”

“Don’t worry about the tree. It is yours. Trust me. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

“I don’t understand. How will the tree….?”

The lady smiled and said, “Have faith, sweetie. It got you here, didn’t it?”

Sharon and her kids got into the car and began their ride home. As they passed the Burger Barn, they looked for the old man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Alvin said, “How did she know all of our names?” No one said anything.

While driving, Sharon had them all praying for homeless people, and, for the most part, all of them were trying to understand what had happened.

When they pulled up to their house, all they could see was the Christmas tree that had been at the golf course only a short time before. It was standing in their living room in front of the window. They got out of the car and just stood there, in shock, not understanding, but seeing what they thought impossible. When they went inside, the house smelled like fresh carnations mixed with a hint of pine. Underneath the tree was a creche with figures carved from ivory. It was beautiful.

It was almost midnight when all the kids were finally in bed. Sharon got the gifts from her truck and the shed out back and placed them around the tree. Then she sat down, took out her Rosary, and began crying and praying simultaneously.

Christmas morning came, and Sharon made sure everyone was up, dressed, and ready to go to 8 A.M., Mass.  After Mass, she told the kids that they were going back to the golf course to find the man and woman who helped them. She wanted to thank them and invite them for Christmas dinner. The kids readily agreed.

The course was crowded with golfers, many out to show off their new clothes and golfing equipment. The gravel road was blocked off, so they got out of their car and began to walk. When they reached the bend in the road, they stopped. Nothing was there except a golfer looking for his shanked golf shot.

Sharon said to the man, “Excuse me, sir, did you see an elderly man and woman anywhere around here?”

“Sorry, lady, the only thing I’m hoping to see is my missing golf ball.”

As they slowly walked back to the car a white dove flew down from a tree and landed facing them. The bird seemed to be looking up at them. They all stopped and marveled at this snow-white bird.

The bird stayed looking at them for about ten seconds, then slowly fluttered its wings, flew up and landed on Sharon’s shoulder. She remained still. Turning her head ever so slowly, she looked at the dove. The bird looked back at her, and their eyes connected. The bird leaned in and rubbed its face against Sharon’s cheek. Then it flew away.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019 updated 2021

 


I am a Grandpa and YES! Just like Francis P. Church, I Believe in Santa, too

A Trip back in Time to when Fairies and Elves and Innocence were embraced by most people both young and old

By Larry Peterson

Most folks do not know much about a man by the name of Francis Pharcellus Church. Heck, most people have never even heard of him. However, to me, he is one of the greatest newspaper editors of all time. That is because he took on a skeptical world and dared try to prove the existence of Santa Claus.

Francis Church was born in Rochester, New York, on February 22, 1839. At the age of 21, he graduated from Columbia College (now Columbia University). Francis had considered a career in law but opted instead for a life in journalism.

During the Civil War, he worked as a war correspondent. Together, with his brother, William, he worked on The Army and Navy Journal.  In 1869 Francis and William launched a literary publication called Galaxy Magazine. Contributors to Galaxy included Mark Twain and Henry James. But it was his position at the  New York Sun that would propel him to fame. And all he had to do was reach into his heart and write what he was feeling and believing.

A letter had arrived at the editorial office of the New York Sun. The letter read: Dear Editor—I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it is so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon  115 W. 95th St.

Francis P. Church just happened to be the lead editorial writer for the paper. He had a reputation as a man who was cynical, was an agnostic, and overall, more or less a grouch. Ironically, he was given the task to answer.

What follows is the exact letter written by Francis Pharcellus Church and printed in The New York Sun on September 21, 1897. It was directed to Virginia O’Hanlon. What follows is only parts of the letter. To see the entire letter just click on the link above.

Dear Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible to their little minds….

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished…

Not believe in Santa Claus! Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world….

Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding…

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives! And he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten time ten thousand years from now , he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 Francis Pharcellus Church, a cynic, and grouch, latched onto a hidden faith and gave Virginia and all those children from 1897 and after, the joy of believing in Santa Claus. I think that Santa is God’s Christmas angel and HE allows him to do his thing every Christmas Eve. Go ahead; I dare you—prove me wrong.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 


You cannot claim to be Catholic if you do not believe in the Mass and Holy Eucharist

Catholic Mass                                                                                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

What follows are quotes about the Catholic Mass. It would be best if you remembered that only within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can the Holy Eucharist become present. That happens by the actions of ONLY an ordained Catholic priest. It is he who stands in the shoes of Christ (in persona Christi) and says the words of consecration over the bread and wine, giving us Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.

 

                   A FEW WORDS FROM SOME GREAT SAINTS ABOUT HOLY MASS

The following quotes are from some of the greatest Catholic Saints who ever lived. These quotes are about the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist becomes the REAL PRESENCE.

When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.”  St. John Chrysostom 347-407 A.D.

“If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.” –  St. John Vianney 1786-1859

The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” – St.Augustine of Hippo 354-430 A.D.

It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Padre Pio 1887-1968

“The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” – St. Gregory the Great 540-604 A.D.

“How happy is that guardian angel who accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!” – St. John Vianney 1786-1859

“I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass, as of this moment, the world would be in the abyss.” St. Leonard of Port Maurice  1676-1751

And from Pope St. John Paul II  1920-2005

From this moment on, live the Eucharist fully; be persons for whom the Holy Mass, Communion, and Eucharistic adoration are the center and summit of your whole life.”  

Let us thank God daily for the Holy Mass and the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist!

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2021

 


The Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Hot Chocolate Miracle

Thanksgiving Prayer                               public domain

By Larry Peterson

During the early morning hours of November 24, 1906, a ship quietly slid against the ebb-tide waters of the Narrows and entered New York harbor. Onboard were almost 2000 people, mostly immigrating Europeans. Through the emerging light of the new dawn, the Statue of Liberty came into view. The appearance of the great icon had them mesmerized. They had arrived at their new home, America.

Among the people on board was a little girl from Hungaria. Her name was Julia, and she was four years old. She held a small rag doll tightly in her arms. At that moment in time, it was the only link she had to security and happiness.

Eight days earlier, Julia had hugged her poppa goodbye. She remembered his stubbly beard tickling her face and how he had reached into the pocket of his big wool overcoat and pulled out a surprise. It was a doll. He smiled and said, “For you, Shkutabella (my little pretty).  Her name is Rachel, and I made her for you. As long as you have her, I will always be with you even if I am not there. Do you understand?”

Julia nodded her head up and down, and her mom said, “Please, Bollassar, please come with us. I do not like going without you.”

“Viola, it is all right. I will be over in a year. My brother George will take care of you. It is all right. Our love will keep us close to each other.”

A week had passed, and as Viola and Julia stood on the deck, a lifeboat broke free from its support cable. It fell and hit Viola, killing her instantly. Julia’s mom had been standing next to her, and then suddenly, she was lying lifeless on the deck. The child’s young mind could not understand why her mom did not move. She screamed at her to wake up.  That would never happen. As the ship docked at the pier, all Julia could feel was fear and loneliness.

At Ellis Island, a bizarre series of events saw Julia shuffled from one official to another. When a lady smiled at her, the official nearby assumed they were together and made Julia go with the lady. The woman took Julia as far as Broome and Varick Streets in lower Manhattan. She told the child to stay there and walked away.  The little girl did as told, and just like that, Julia had become another abandoned child on the crowded and dangerous streets of lower Manhattan.

Little Julia, holding Rachel, had been standing in the same spot for more than an hour. She was cold, hungry, and frightened. Wiping her tears had left gray smudges across her puffy cheeks. Then her guardian angel stepped in. Turning the corner was the beat cop, Paddy Dolan. He was instantly smitten with the dark-haired, blue-eyed child and asked her her name. Hesitatingly she said, “Julia.”

The policeman knelt in front of Julia and placed his hands on her tiny shoulders. He smiled at her, and for the first time since she saw her mom’s lifeless body lying next to her on the ship’s deck, she felt a sense of peace grab at her. Officer Dolan brought her with him to the station-house

After reporting in and signing out and checking as much as anyone could in 1906, Julia was declared an orphan. But this orphan was not going to an orphanage. Paddy Dolan brought her home.

Paddy’s wife, Aileen, a wee wisp of a gal from County Galway in Ireland, could not have children. Paddy and Aileen adopted Julia, and she became Julie Dolan. She grew up to be a teacher, married a man named Tommy O’Rourke, (also a policeman), and they had three children, two boys and a girl. The girl was named Viola.

On Thanksgiving day, 1951, Julia, her daughter Viola, and Viola’s four-year-old daughter, Karen, went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They stood in the crowd at 63rd Street and Central Park West, and, as Santa passed by, Viola suggested that they go to the Squire’s Restaurant a few blocks away and get some hot chocolate.

Karen was holding Rachel, Julia’s doll. Karen loved the doll and, in a moment of weakness, grandma Julia had allowed her to take the doll with her to the parade. Rachel had not been out of the house in over forty years.

They sat in a booth, sipping their hot chocolate, and Karen placed Rachel on the table. Julia reached over and fingered the doll lovingly.  Suddenly a man stood by their table. He was old and weathered and quite nervous. Julia turned her head and looked up at him. Instantly, a chill ran down her spine. The man pointed to the doll and nervously said, “Excuse me…is..is that doll’s name, Rachel?”

Not seeing her mother turning pale, Viola looked at him and answered, “Why yes, how could you know such a thing?”

As tears fell from the old man’s eyes, he looked at Julia and softly said, “Is it really you, Shkutabella?”

Julia jumped from her seat and threw her arms around the old man. “Oh Poppa,  Poppa, Poppa.  I can’t believe it. Yes, it is. It is. It is ME.”

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Copyright©Larry Peterson2021


A President, a Kid from the Bronx, and a moment in Time

John F. Kennedy                                   en-wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

 “The president is dead.”  For those of us who heard those words from more than 50 years ago, they were unforgettable. They seared into our brains like letters sand-blasted into a granite headstone forever: clear, concise, and unmistakable in meaning. How could this be? Things like this did not happen, especially in the America of 1963. But then, a few days later, John-John, wearing his little topcoat and short pants, saluted as the flag-covered caisson went by, holding his dad’s body. It was a moment that would never be forgotten.

I had a personal connection to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Just like when I heard of his death, those moment(s) are also seared into my brain, and their memories are as clear and vivid as if they happened ten minutes ago. The only difference is these are MY moments with JFK. No one else ever had these moments. They were unplanned and spontaneous, just the 35th President of the United States and me; at the time, age 15. And I do not care if you believe me or not. I just felt that I should share. Let us go back to November 5, 1960.

The most famous hotel in the Bronx was the Concourse Plaza Hotel located on 161st Street and the Grand Concourse. Opened in 1922, it was an elegant 12-story hotel three blocks from Yankee Stadium. Many of the Yankees had stayed there, including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and others. The hotel had a grand ballroom and fancy dining rooms. On Saturday, November 5, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy delivered a campaign speech at the hotel. His fateful election to the presidency was now only four days away.

I had an after-school job delivering groceries and stocking shelves for Harry “the Grocer”. I worked for Harry every day after school until 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. One of my frequent delivery stops was the Concourse Plaza Hotel. Several elderly tenants lived there year round, and they always called Harry when they needed anything from bread to fruit to bologna to beer to Band-Aids or whatever else a customer might want. I would bag up the items, load them into a cart, and push it up the two hills to the hotel. I would go there at least twice a week, sometimes more.

I had made a delivery to a customer on the eighth floor on Friday, and she told me that Senator Kennedy was coming in the morning to give a speech. She was very excited about it and told me she would make sure she was down in the ballroom when he arrived. She said she thought he was going to be there at 10 o’clock. I had to start work at 10 o’clock, and I was quite disappointed that I might miss my chance to see the Senator. Then things changed.

That Friday night, I saw my friend ‘Sticks’ (real name Tommy) and told him about JFK coming to the hotel in the morning. He said we should go up there about 9 a.m. and see what happens. It made sense to me, so that is what we did. I do not remember why but we did not get up to the hotel until about 9:30. We came up to the hotel through the rear loading dock, which was off 162nd Street. That was where I always came in to make deliveries. I knew my way around the back and basement of the hotel like the back of my hand. It was a bit strange because there were no cars or trucks, or anything or anyone for that matter, at the rear of the hotel. The overhead doors for truck deliveries were closed, and the only way in was through a door up some stairs at the end of the loading dock.

‘Sticks’ hurried ahead of me and went through the door. I was not as quick, so it took me about an extra half minute to reach the door. By the time I did, ‘Sticks’ had disappeared. I hurriedly walked down a short corridor and made a left. I can remember that it was quite dark. I made the turn and bumped into someone. I froze dead in my tracks. Then I stepped back a bit.

The man I had walked into, who was now looking me in the eye, was Senator Kennedy. We were less than a foot apart. He had finished his speech and was leaving via the rear entrance. There was another man with him. That was it. No one else was there. Just me, John F. Kennedy, and some other guy. The other man stepped near me and said, “Excuse us, son.”  I said nothing and stepped back some more. Senator Kennedy smiled at me and said, “Good to see you. Did you hear my speech?”

“Uh…uh…no, we just thought we might get to see you.”

The next President of the United States laughed a little and said, “Well, I think you were successful. Here I am, and now I have to leave. Nice seeing you.”  Then he and his friend exited the door that led to 162nd Street.

The rear stairwell was right in front of me, so I ran up a half flight to a platform and opened the big window. I looked out, and below me and maybe 30 feet away, the next President of the United States was standing next to a limo, just talking to the man he had left the hotel with. There were no police, no guards in the street, no one else.

There I was, alone, staring out the window at John F. Kennedy. He was wearing a dark blue topcoat that had to be very expensive, and his face had a perfect tan, something you do not see in New York City in November. His thick, sandy hair was blowing slightly, and he ran his right hand up and across it. Then it happened. He looked up at me, smiled (I can still see his teeth) and held up his hand. He did not wave it. Instead,  he just held it up with his fingers spread apart. He probably held it up for about two or three seconds.

He was saying goodbye to ME, a kid from the South Bronx who just happened to be there at that moment. I held up my right hand to him, and I guess I smiled. I don’t remember. Then he got into his limo and was gone. I watched as my new friend’s car turned onto the Grand Concourse. Talk about a “moment in time”.

“Hey, what are you doing?”  I turned and ‘Sticks’ was at the bottom of the stairs. “I didn’t see him,” he said. “Did you?”

“Yes, I did.”