The Innocence of the Blessed Virgin Mary–was there such a thing?

Knowing the possible consequences, she embraced God’s request and never looked back

L’innocence Wm Bouguereau                                      dailymail.co.uk

By Larry Peterson

A dear friend gave me a gift on Christmas that I never expected or imagined.  It was a print of a painting which is among the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus and a lamb.  The title is L’innocence, painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the most renowned artists of the 19th century. The baby Jesus and the lamb signify “innocence.”; hence the title L’innocence.  What did it mean? What did it represent?

In less than a week, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. But we must journey back to the Third Ecumenical Council which took place in Ephesus (in today’s Turkey) in 431. This was the Council that affirmed, in perpetuity, that it was God who was the Father and that Mary was, the Mother of Jesus Christ. This is known as the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This settled for all time the central mystery of the Catholic faith which is the Incarnation; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures; one divine and one human. This is a mystery we embrace and believe but will never fully understand.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 495: Mary’s Divine MotherhoodCalled in the Gospels, ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, “as the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly the ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).

It seems to me that we may be prone to think of Mary as an innocent fourteen-year-old, who just wanted to do what God had asked of her. Well, she most certainly wanted to serve God but she was also fully aware of the situation that was putting her very life in danger. She knew what she was doing and any suggestions to the contrary are foolish. She was, after all, filled with a love of God that knew no bounds. She was also filled with the grace and love that filled her with courage. Let us consider her behavior after the Annunciation.

Our Blessed Mother was a young, innocent woman of about 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced to her what God wanted from her. What could have gone through her young mind as this was asked of her? She must have been so afraid. How could she have had any possible idea that she would be the new Eve who would give birth to the new Adam who, in turn, would save us all? And what of her “innocence?”

When she knew she was pregnant, she told her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. She knew how they would react, and she never tried to hide it from them or delay in telling them. Then she went off to her cousin Elizabeth’s home and told her and her husband, Zachariah, who was a Jewish priest. Jewish law said she could be stoned to death. She knew this and could not have known what to expect when she saw them.  But she went to them and told them and today we know this as the “Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin, St. Elizabeth.”

Lastly, let us not forget her betrothed, Joseph. This young, devout Jewish man, is told by his betrothed, that she is pregnant.  He must have felt so betrayed by the woman he loved. He must have been heartsick. It must have been something for the two of them to go through- especially in such a strict Jewish world. But we know the angel came to Joseph and this decent, kindly, and loving man embraced his betrothed and the rest is history.

This mystery of faith is so profound. This young woman, in effect, was chosen by God Himself to be his spouse. Their child would be both God and Man. He would change the world forever.  Mary’s virginal motherhood sealed in perpetuity the truth of the Incarnation. She gave Christ the body He possessed. She gave Him the humanity that was part of Him. And all the time he was God…and she was His Mom. All the DNA that runs through Jesus Christ comes from Mary and only Mary. Pondering the Divine Motherhood takes your breath away.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

 

This Filipina nun’s legacy continues through the order of nuns she established

ROSARIO ARROYO
Mother Rosario Arroyo                                                   facebook fair use

Mother Rosario Arroyo is much loved and often invoked. Some say her intercession has already brought miracles.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 

 

 

The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—imagine how St. Joseph felt as he escorted his full-term wife to Bethlehem

Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem                                            stjosephnewpalz.org

First posted during Christmas season; 2018

By Larry Peterson

Within the season of Advent is the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast is celebrated on December 18. It is a profound commemoration of what Our Lady and St. Joseph went through during the week preceding the first Christmas. (At this time it is only celebrated in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Poland, and among some religious groups).

In the year 431, the Council of Ephesus declared that the Divine Maternity was indeed a dogmatic truth and that the Blessed Virgin Mary was truly “Theotokos,” meaning the Mother of God.  Without the Divine Maternity what follows would never have happened.

Have we ever thought about Joseph and Mary during this time? Have we ever tried to imagine how it was for them? Let’s pause for a moment and envision how it might have been for this teenage girl who was at full-term in her pregnancy and her young, carpenter husband.

They were about to embark on an eighty-mile journey to go to Bethlehem. There were no paved roads, cars, trains, planes, nor were their rest-stops along the way. They would travel along rocky, dirt roads and Mary’s mode of transport would be a donkey.  Her husband would walk,  guiding their “vehicle.”

I am sure most dads remember the birth of their first child. I know I do. I was twenty-five years old, and Loretta’s water broke on a Sunday afternoon. The journey by car over paved roads, across the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan took twenty minutes.

When we arrived, she was immediately taken to maternity and I was relegated to the waiting room. At the time, I was just filled with massive relief knowing that my wife and soon to be born baby were in capable hands. I was not thinking about St. Joseph.

I will let you moms ponder how it must have been for the Savior’s mom. Although filled with grace and protected by God Himself, she was still human with all the emotions and fears any normal woman would have. Those feelings were real. (I hope you women realize how special you are the because you are the ones who God specifically created to continue His creation).

Being a man, I cannot imagine having to face the responsibility of taking my pregnant wife who was about to give birth, on an eighty-mile trek to get to a place I had never been without having any idea where we were to stay. The entire concept is, as we would say today, CRAZY! But for the chosen parents of the Messiah, that was their reality. They had no choice.

The journey would have taken Joseph and Mary at least four days (today we can drive eighty miles in less than two hours).  Imagine all the stops along the way especially with our Blessed Mother having a full-term baby leaning on her bladder. Yes, she was human.

They would have had to rest; but where? On the side of the road? They had to eat; did they start a fire and try to cook something? They had no Igloo Coolers so what did they use to preserve their food (whatever it was) and how much water were they able to carry? How many changes of clothing did they bring along? Where did they wash up? Where did they change their clothes?

When they reached Bethlehem, Joseph had to leave his worn out and pregnant wife, alone, in a strange place, and try to find shelter. We folks today just look for the first motel we see, pull in, sign in, and have a nice clean room with a warm bed waiting for us. It was not the same for the Holy Family, not even close. They wound up in a cave that sheltered animals. This was Mary’s maternity center and her birthing room was a pile of hay. It is SO hard to imagine.

We owe our Blessed Mother so much. She accepted God’s incredible gift of the Divine Maternity and all that followed; from seeing Joseph react to the initial horror at learning of her pregnancy, from the Bethlehem journey to the First Christmas in a cave, and onward through His passion and death.. everything Mary did was a selfless act that came straight from the all-consuming Love that is in her Immaculate Heart.

As for St. Joseph—he is the PERFECT role model for all of us men. He loves his God and his family and will do all in his power to care for and protect them, no matter what. That is what a real man does.

We followers of Christ are truly blessed.  Why is it so many do not see that?

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

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

Santa  loves  everyone                                               commons.wikimedia.org

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 most excellent 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  NewYork 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 cynical man who was an agnostic, and for the most part, 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 Septemeber 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

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

 

Is Christmas a Time for Miracles? The Answer is YES, and we can prove it.

We thought Mom was dead, but she opened her eyes and said, “Come here and give me a hug.” 

Believe in Miracles                                                                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

During the Christmas season, I believe God’s loving hand sweeps down and touches many of us with a little extra something when we might need it most. Haven’t you ever, after having something unexpected and beautiful happens, blurted out, “I can’t believe it, it’s a miracle!”

Sometimes what happens to you or someone close to you is inexplicable, mystifying, and mysterious and you just know in your heart that God had His hand in the mix. The following is true, and it happened to my family during the Christmas season of 1960. I can remember it as if it happened today. There is no logical explanation save God intervened and gave us an unexpected Christmas gift.

Our Mom had just turned forty and suddenly was going back and forth to the hospital for two or three days at a time. I had just turned 16 and was more or less oblivious to most everything except Barbara McMahon, who lived around the corner. Every time Mom came home, she looked worse. My sister, Carolyn, 13, told me the black and blue marks on Mom’s arms were from IV needles. I figured she knew what was up especially since she wanted to be a nurse.

Dad just kept telling us it was the “grippe” (today we call it the flu). “Don’t worry,” he’d say, “It’s just a really bad grippe.” Grandma, who lived with us, embraced that concept without question. Today, the psyche experts call that Denial. Grandma proved to be really good at it.

Mom was home for Thanksgiving, but Grandma was doing most of the work using my poor sister as her trainee. I know that it was sometime after Thanksgiving that Mom went back into the hospital. Then came December 18. That was the day Dad, Grandma, Carolyn and myself, took the subway down to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for a simple Sunday visit with the woman who was the wife, mother and daughter in our lives. Christmas was one week away and that visit turned out to be anything but simple.

Mom was on the third floor, and when we got to her room,  several doctors and nurses were standing around her bed. Mom was on the bed, her head on the pillow and turned to one side. Her eyes were closed. I remember how still she was. I was instantly frightened. Carolyn and I looked at each other and she too was filled with fear. It is incredible how fast fear can embrace you.

Grandma placed her hand over her mouth and started to cry. One of the doctors pulled our dad to the side and quietly talked to him. I watched him shake his head ever so slightly. Then he came over to me and (this is a direct quote from him on that day), “Please take your sister and Grandma to the chapel and say a rosary together. Your Mom needs all the prayers she can get right now.”

Trying to grow into a man in a matter of seconds, I put my arm around Grandma’s shoulder and said, “C’mon Grandma, let’s do what Dad asked.” She was so distraught she simply complied and followed my lead. As we headed to the inter-denominational chapel, a priest hurried towards Mom’s room.

I have no idea how long we were in that little chapel, but I do know we had prayed two rosaries when a nurse came in and asked us to go back to the room. We were a bit shocked because the nurse was smiling. Grandma, with her worn-out arthritic knees, jumped up and broke into the funkiest sprint I have ever seen. She had erased thirty years just like that.

When we walked into that room, we were confronted with a sight to behold. Mom was sitting up in bed, smiling. Dad was next to her with his arm around her shoulder. He was sporting a grin that spread across his entire face and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Standing on the other side of the bed was the priest we had seen in the hallway. He was standing there with his hands clasped together with a look on his face I cannot describe. For me, it was a moment etched indelibly in my mind and I can see it as clearly as I did back then.

Our Mom, who we thought was dead, extended her arms and said, “Well, don’t I get a hug from you two? C’mon, get over here.”

Mom was not only better, but she was also ALL better. Her arms were clear, her face had color and her eyes were bright and cheerful. Several doctors were outside huddled together in disbelief. They had no explanation for her sudden recovery. We finally learned that Mom had Leukemia, and in 1960, your chances with that disease were virtually non-existent. We also learned that Dad had asked us to go to the chapel because the doctor had told him she only had moments left. He did not want us to see her pass on.

My father and the priest believed they had witnessed a miracle. Grandma, Carolyn, and I saw the results of that miracle. Mom came home the next afternoon.

Christmas of 1960 was spiritual and fabulous. What had happened filled us all with an awe-inspiring sense of what Christmas means…New Life.  As for Mom, she was fine until the end of January. She enjoyed Johnny’s second birthday and Danny’s eleventh birthday. In early February, she was back in the hospital. She died on February 18, 1961. God gave her back to us for one last Christmas and it was the best Christmas ever.

So please, trust me when I tell you it is okay to believe, Christmas really is a time for miracles.

Wishing God’s blessings and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

Copyright©Larry Peterson2019 (first posted in 2015)

 

It is Christmas and, even if you do not believe, Jesus wants to hug you too.

Why not give Jesus  a chance.

Jesus Hug                                                                        pineterest.com

by Larry Peterson

I love Christmas and the entire season that surrounds it. Christmas is about faith and love, and goodness. It encapsulates sharing and giving and all of those things that fill the hearts of millions of people around the world with a renewed spirit that can shine through even the darkest moments we may have experienced during the preceding year. Yes, I love Christmas.

Christmas is so much more than a ‘certain day’ each year. It is an actual state of mind. It becomes part of whom many of us still are…Children at heart. And we become children again through our own children and even our grandchildren. We can love the anxiety and pressure and the cookies and candy and putting up the tree and neighborhood decorations the same as the little ones.

I anxiously looked forward to Santa’s arrival when I was a child. Then I grew up and became Santa. I dressed up in a Santa suit and crept into my own house at midnight on Christmas Eve. My still innocent children, awakened by jingling bells, were hiding in the hallway with their mom who was trying her best to hold their enthusiasm in check. I think I was more excited about the whole thing than they were. Yes, I love Christmas.

Most importantly, Christmas is about Salvation. The story is so beautiful and profound. A simple carpenter, obeying the law, must take his full-term, pregnant teenage wife, on an 80-mile journey to the town of his ancestry for the census. Riding on the back of a mule, she somehow manages to make the trip, and God only knows (and HE does) how this could be possible. Not knowing anyone, they cannot find a place to stay, and the baby is about to be born. Effectively homeless and in a strange town, they wind up in a stable, and mom gives birth to her child surrounded by smelly animals and old straw. Can you imagine?

This helpless infant is the Son of God, sent by His Father, and His birth among the lowest of the low shows us all the greatest act of humility ever enacted by anyone, before, then, or ever after. This baby will grow up, and they will torture and kill Him. Why? Because He preached forgiveness and kindness and that we should “love our neighbor” and “turn the other cheek.” Today, 2000 years later, over 2.6 billion people are following Him. I guess killing Jesus did not bring the desired results.

Today we still have those who want desperately to eradicate Jesus. From the maniacal Jihadists around the world who are doing their best to physically murder Christians wherever they can find them, to the atheists, agnostics, pagans, heathens, Satanists, and their ilk who HATE everything about Christianity and the beauty of the Christmas that delivered it. There is never a shortage of hatred floating around as Satan prowls about the world doing “his thing.”

To all of you who want to ruin this day, I ask, “Why? Don’t you realize that you are also removing the love and goodness that is associated with it?” ( I guess that is rhetorical because I know they do not care.)  So, shame on you. You are the real “grinches” in the world. You are an embarrassment to all the tender hearts filled with kindness and generosity during this time of the year. You are ‘empty”, and it is sad because you do not have to be empty, you choose it. Jesus loves you too and wants desperately to hug you. You might swallow some useless pride and give Him a chance. You might like it…like it a lot.

I wish to say to all you “grinches” that I will say a prayer for all of you this Christmas. I will pray that you might catch a glimpse of that star that shines so bright. Maybe a droplet of its light will find a way into your heart. If you happen to catch a glimpse of this light please, do not turn away. You will have chosen to ignore a beautiful Christmas moment. This moment could be the greatest gift you ever receive. What do you have to lose?

So keep your eyes and hearts open because Someone is on His way and he may not be wearing a red suit. But He would still like a hug.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all and may God bless us, ALL of us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019