St. Conrad of Parzham: He served Our Lady for over 40 years as a porter: His permanent “pension” was Sainthood

St. Conrad of Pharzham                                                        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

He was born on a farm in a town called Parzham in the Kingdom of Bavaria. The date was December 22, 1818. His parents, George and Gertrude Birndorfer, were devout Catholics, and they named their new baby Johann Evangelist. Johann was the second youngest of twelve children, five of whom had died in infancy.

As a child young Johann demonstrated a love of prayer and solitude that indicated where his future might lead. He became filled with a great love for our Blessed Mother,  learned how to pray the Rosary, and recited it every day.

By the time he was eleven or twelve, Johann had a particular routine he followed on Our Lady’s special feast days. He would journey on foot to different shrines dedicated to Her. They were always a good distance away. He would attend Mass there, fast and pray all day, and not get home until it was dark. He was so filled with a spiritual love that even inclement weather or bitter cold would not keep him away.

Johann’s mom died when he was 14 years old. He remained on the farm helping his father.  He attended Mass as often as possible and made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The young man was always embedded deeply in prayer and personal solitude, even while working in the fields.  He remained on the farm until his father passed away in 1838.

Johann received a substantial inheritance from his father’s estate. Having no desire for material things, he disposed of the inheritance and left the secular world. He joined the  Capuchin Franciscans and became a lay brother. When he entered the novitiate, he was given the name, Conrad,  in honor of Conrad of  Piacenza. He would be known as Conrad forever after.

Soon after his profession of vows, Conrad was sent to the Friary of St. Ann in the city of Altotting. This was the location for the Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting which was the National Shrine of Bavaria. (Today this place is also called the Lourdes of Germany). Conrad was given the job of porter at the shrine. From the doorway, he could see the tabernacle. He could not have been happier. He needed nothing else.

The shrine was located in a bustling and busy city. The porter’s job was not an easy one as people came to him all day long asking questions, wanting directions, looking for a priest, asking for advice, and those just wanting someone to talk to. Conrad filled his designated role perfectly. He also could see into the hearts of those who came to him. His wisdom, kindness, and holiness always seemed to be able to help satisfy the needs of the people who came in contact with him.

Conrad loved silence. He used it to be in touch with God. When he managed to get a spare moment, he would stand in the nook by the front door so he could see the Blessed Sacrament. At night he often deprived himself of sleep so he could step into the brother’s oratory or the church to pray. Many believed that he hardly ever rested but that he continually occupied himself with work or prayer.

Brother Conrad was on the job every day for 41 years. After an extremely busy day during April of 1894, Conrad felt his strength leaving him. It was so pronounced that he told his superior. He was ordered to bed for rest. The children in the neighborhood loved Conrad and noticed him missing. They asked where he was and were told that he was sick.

The word quickly spread and soon children form all over had surrounded the friary and began praying the Rosary for Brother Conrad. Their prayerful voices would be the last thing he would hear. How beautiful was that?

Conrad died on April 21, 1894. He had been given the gift of prophecy, could read the hearts of people he met and was known for his wisdom, kindness, and holiness. Numerous miracles were also attributed to him. He was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

Saint Conrad of Parzham, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Blessed Wladyslaw Findysz—He died “In Odium Fidei”; the first person martyred under Communist rule in Poland

Bl. Wladyslaw Findysz  wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Wladyslaw Findysz was born on December 13, 1907,  in Krosno, which is located in southwestern Poland. His mom and dad, devout Catholics, followed the tradition and had their new baby boy baptized the very next day at their parish church, Holy Trinity.

Wladyslaw was sent to an elementary school run by the Cistercian Sisters (CSSF) in the town of Kroscienko Nizne. After finishing grade school, he went on to a state-run school but his years with the sisters had instilled in him an attraction to the priesthood. In 1927, Wladyslaw entered the seminary in a nearby town called Przemysil. He was very fortunate for the rector of the seminary was Father John Balicki, who would be beatified in 2002. He completed his studies satisfactorily and was ordained a priest June 19, 1932.

Father Findysz was moved around quite a bit in his first ten years as a priest. Finally, in 1941, he was appointed the parochial vicar at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Nowy Zmigrod.  On October 3, 1944, the Nazis expelled Father Findysz and many others from the city. He lived in exile for a while but did return to his church in January 1945.

He immediately began a rebuilding and reorganizing project.  When the Nazis finally surrendered in May of 1945, the communists took charge. Promoting atheism was one of their primary objectives.  Moreover, they were not only good at doing it they were also quite insistent about people embracing it.

Father  Findysz focused his pastoral work on a moral and religious renewal within his parish. He worked tirelessly at keeping the faith in focus, especially among the young people. He also did his best to help the people of his parish who had lost so much during the war and the Nazi occupation. From food, medicine, clothing, and whatever else he could gather to help those in need, he did.

Greek Catholics from Lemki were especially singled out by the communist party, and these people were often evicted from their homes without cause or reason with no chance of reprieve. The kindly priest did work tirelessly trying to help those people and the priest’s activities quickly made the communists wary of his actions.

By 1946 he was under constant surveillance by the secret police. In 1952 people in charge of academics prohibited him from teaching catechism in the parish secondary school. The authorities went so far as to rescind his permission to live within the border of the school even though it was where his parish was located.

The church authorities viewed Father Findysz as a devout and zealous priest and they honored him as an honorary canon in 1946. In 1957 he was accorded the privilege of wearing the rochet and mantelletta and was also appointed the vice-dean of Nowy Zmigrod where he was elevated to Dean in 1962.

In 1963 Father Findysz, started the “Conciliar Works of Charity.” He sent letters of exhortation to parishioners who were known to have leaned toward a secular lifestyle encouraging them to reorder their Christian lives.  The communists reacted harshly toward Father’s actions. He was accused of trying to make the faithful be part of religious rites and practices.

On November 25, 1963, he was interrogated, arrested, and imprisoned in Rzeszow castle. His trial took place in December. He was accused of violating the “Protection of the Freedom of Conscience and Denomination Act of 1949. He did this by sending newsletters to his parishioners. He was sentenced to two years and six months in Central Prison

Just before his imprisonment Father Wladyslaw had surgery to have his thyroid removed. He entered prison ill, and the authorities knew it. He also developed esophageal cancer and had to remain in the prison hospital where the care was extremely limited and substandard. He was under constant interrogation and surgery was required for his cancer. The authorities postponed the surgery sentencing Father Wladyslaw to a slow and painful death.  He died on August 21, 1964.

O June 19, 2005, Father Wladyslaw Findysz was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Blessed Wladyslaw was deemed to have died “In Odium Fidei” (In Hatred of the Faith)  He was the first martyr of the Communist Regime in Poland.

Blessed Wladyslaw, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

“Do not worry. All they can do is kill us, nothing more”

shutterstock                                                                            Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

It was April 14, 1905, when Angela Ginard Marti knelt at the altar rail. Dressed all in white with hands palm to palm, she raised her head and extended her tongue to receive her First Holy Communion. It was a transformational moment for the youngster. As she brought Jesus into her heart, she knew that God was calling her to the religious life.

Angela was born on April 3, 1894, in Majorca, Spain. Even as a toddler, Angela, exhibited a spiritual quality.  Her desire to the religious life was fueled not just by her devout, Catholic parents, but also by her frequent visits with her mom to visit her aunts who were both nuns.

Angela attended Mass as often as possible and made frequent visits to pray before Jesus present in the tabernacle. The example set by her aunts had a growing effect on Angela. She even began teaching her younger sisters and brothers how to pray, taught them their catechism and told them stories about the different saints.

Family responsibilities kept her at home until November 26, 1921. That was when Angela entered the convent of the Congregation of the Zealous Sisters of Eucharistic Adoration. She took the name of Maria de los Angeles and adapted quickly to the communal lifestyle. She became an example to the other Sisters of goodness, piety, and obedience. There was a subtle, supernatural way about Sister Maria that all of them recognized.

Angela received her habit in May 1922, and in 1923 she made her initial profession of vows. She was moved to Madrid where she renewed them in 1926 and made her final vows in Barcelona in 1929. She became the chief embroiderer for altar linens and was in charge of preparing the unleavened bread used to make hosts. She was in love with her simple, holy life.

Sister Mary of the Angels, the lover of simplicity and a shining example of humility, was quite surprised when she was named Mother Superior of the convent in Madrid.  She was there in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War erupted, and religious persecution began its ever winding, merciless assault on all things religious, especially clergy.

Sister Mary Angela, quite unsettled by the events and not knowing what to do, immediately began spending as much time as she could before the Blessed Sacrament. She turned her fears and anxiety over to God and offered Him her life as a martyr if it were His will.

On July 20, 1936, she and the other Sisters, using disguises, fled the convent and went into hiding. The Sisters were very concerned about their future. Before leaving, Sister Mary of the Angels said to them all, “Please do not worry. All they can do is kill us, nothing more.” Amazingly, these words brought comfort to the others with her.

Sister Mary was allowed to hide in the apartment of a family who lived near the convent. From the window, she could see the soldiers destroying the church, the convent, and other religious objects, including all the statues. The intentional destruction of all that was dear to her sickened her. For Sister, it was worse than being killed.

During the evening of Tuesday, August 25, 1936,  there came pounding on the door and loud voices.  A woman opened the door. It was the landlord’s sister. She was immediately arrested.

Sister Mary of the Angels came from the other room and said sternly to the soldiers, “The woman you have taken hold of is NOT a Religious. I am the only Religious here.”  They released the landlord’s daughter and bound the hands of Sister Mary. She was taken to a nearby holding cell.  Her future to become a martyr had been sealed. A soldier said to her, “Tomorrow you take the ‘little walk.” Everyone knew what that meant.

The next morning, as the sun was just peeking over the horizon, Sister Mary of the Angels was forced to take the “little walk” to Dehesa de la Villa. She stood erect facing the firing squad and was praying as the bullets ripped into her body ending her earthly life. Later, her body was recovered and today it rests in the chapel of the convent in Madrid.

Sister Mary of the Angels was declared killed “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) and beatified on October 29, 2005

Sister Maria de los Angeles, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Celebrating Easter in New York City 1956 How Times have changed

IT WAS 1956 AND A DIFFERENT TIME IN AMERICA

Celebrating Easter in NYC                                                              1956

A BLESSED AND HAPPY EASTER TO ALL

Blessed Mariano—Before dying, He tended to the wounds of one of his executioners and helped a sick child.

         martyrdom                                                                        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

His name was Mariano Mullerat I Soldevila, and he was born on March 24, 1897, in Tarragona, Spain. He was the sixth of seven children and his parents, Ramon Mullerat and his wife, Bonaventura, were devout Catholics. Mariano, was baptized on March 30, one week after his birth.

Mariano showed great promise at the elementary level and in 1910 was sent to St. Peter the Apostle School in the town of Reus, not far from his home. In 1914 he entered the University of Barcelona and began the study of medicine. He was awarded his medical degree in 1921.

In 1922 the young doctor married a girl he had met in school, Dolors Sans I Bove. They were married in the town of Arbeca and this is where they settled. Dr. Mullerat opened his practice here and began traveling to nearby towns giving medical care to the poor for free. Those that were homebound and seriously ill he would encourage to receive the sacraments as often as possible. He would also make sure that these folks had the necessities such as food and basic medicines.

During the ensuing years, Mariano and Dolors had five daughters with their first child having died shortly after birth in January 1923. It was also in 1923 that Mariano founded the newspaper, L’Ecut, which was printed in the Catalan language.  His Catholic faith was strong and uncompromising, and he used the publication to defend the faith against the surge in secularism sweeping across Spain. Besides commentary, the paper also published poetry, promoted local cultural events, and articles of social interest. The paper ceased to be published in 1926.

In 1924 Dr. Mullerat was elected mayor of Arbeca and stayed in office until 1930. While he was mayor, a transformation took place in Arbeca. Blasphemy and profanity were frowned upon and could bring a fine, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was given a place of honor at city hall, and the clergy and the church were defended by the mayor’s administration at all times.

During this time he never ceased giving care and assistance and whatever other help he could to the poor and marginalized. His spirit of faith provided by the Holy Spirit was always evident in the doctor’s actions, words, and behavior and he set a fine example for all who came in contact with him.

The Second Spanish Republic came into power in 1931 and revolution spread across Spain. In 1934 the violence reached Arturia, a province near Tarragona. Dr. Mullerat knew in his heart that the violence would soon be at the doorstep of  Arbeca. Within two years churches and other religious places were being burned and destroyed in Barcelona. By July of 1936, priests, religious, and lay faithful were being killed in Tarragona and Lieda. The government soldiers arrived in Arbeca in early August.

There were those close to Dr. Mullerat who suggested he try to leave Spain. He refused. He was even offered a way to escape to Zaragoza where he would be safe but he rejected the idea. He believed that he was meant ot carry on his medical mission for the needy. Filled with a powerful faith and staring down the face of danger, he said he was needed where he was.

On Thursday morning, August 13, 1936, militiamen, came to Dr. Mullerat’s home. He was dragged away and tossed like a pile of old rags into the back of a truck. There were five other “criminal” Catholics who had already been thrown in. They began the three-mile drive to the last place on earth they would ever go.

As the truck bounced over the rough road a woman suddenly ran out and had them stop. She told the driver that her son was ill and aked if the doctor could help him. They stopped and brought the child to dr. Mullerat. He examined the child and prescribed some medication. He assured the woman her boy would be okay. Then, noticing a wound on one of the militiamen, asked if he could look at it. The soldier showed him a deep cut in his leg and the doctor bandaged it and told him how to treat it. His medical career ended by him helping one of his executioners. How poignant is that.

At Blessed Mariano’s beatification ceremony on March 23, 2019, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said, “The top of holiness is reached through the path of love, there is no other way. And Mariano has ascended this summit and has reached the destiny of the righteous and the elect, of whom the book of Wisdom speaks. Live with the Lord because he remained faithful to him in love.”

A witness told Mariano’s wife that his last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Lastly, and this might take your breath away, the beatification ceremony was attended  by his three daughters and two grandchildren. Imagine that.

Blessed Mariano Mullerat I Soldevila, pray for us

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Mrs. Jamie Schmidt; Catholic Wife and Mom; Martyred “In Defensum Castitatis” in St. Louis, Missouri on November 19, 2018.

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

The Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church has thousands of names on its pages.

However, that huge book may need to find space for the very first American who was martyred on American soil for being Catholic and daring to defend her honor. Her name is Jamie Schmidt and she gave her life for Jesus in St. Louis, Missouri.

Most of us have heard of  St. Maria Goretti, the eleven-year-old who died “In Defensum Castitatis” (In Defense of Purity). Maria was trying to fight off the advances of a twenty-year-old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli. He became so enraged at her that he stabbed her fourteen times. Before Maria died, she forgave her attacker. He spent 30 years in prison and, touched by the grace of God, was present at the canonization of the young girl he had murdered.

Jamie Schmidt was an average, 53-year-old, Catholic woman who lived in High Ridge, Missouri a town about 25 miles outside St. Louis. She was married to her high-school sweetheart, and they had three children. The Schmidt family belonged to St. Anthony of Padua Church and Jamie sang in the choir. She was also a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, worked organizing and holding women’s retreats, and was always ready to help anyone in need. She even made and distributed rosaries. Ironically, it was her Rosary ministry that brought her face to face with evil.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when Jamie stopped into the Church Supply Warehouse in St. Louis for needed rosary supplies. There were two other women in the store. Jamie was no sooner inside when a man came in and began looking around. He said to the woman at the counter that he had forgotten his credit card and had to go out to the car to get it. He was actually casing the place.

Jamie went over to the section where the supplies she needed were located. It was then that the man returned. This time he was brandishing a gun. He told the three women to get to the back of the store and that “they had better do as they were told.”

He lined them up against the wall and proceeded to molest the first woman who, frightened for her life, gave in to the man’s advances. He did the same to the second woman who also just submitted, terrified for her life. Then he turned to Jamie. He demanded that she take off her clothes.

Jamie had been witness to the depraved acts this disgusting man had inflicted on the two other women. She was surely terrified too, but the Holy Spirit must have been with her. (The two women gave this account to police);  She stared at the man  and, standing tall, said in a firm voice, “In the name of God, I will not take my clothes off.”

Buoyed by her Catholic faith and refusing to submit to an immoral, sexual assault, she had invoked the name of her God and said categorically to her assailant, “NO!”  He shot her in the head at point blank range. Jamie Schmidt crumpled to the floor. The man ran from the store while one of the women quickly called 911.

Jamie did not die instantly. As she lay mortally wounded, the two women could  hear her saying ever so softly the “Our Father.” She knew her life was slipping away, but she was thinking of her God and invoking His name. It was reported that even during the ride in the ambulance Jamie, barely audible, kept praying.  She was still praying when her last breath left her body.

A short time later a man by the name of Thomas Bruce, was captured by police. He was the perpetrator and was arrested for murder, sodomy, and other charges. He now awaits trial for the crimes with which he has been charged.

St. Maria Goretti, age 12,  refused a similar assault and was stabbed to death in 1902. Blessed Pierina Morosini, age 26, refused a similar assault and was beaten to death with a rock in 1957. Jamie Schmidt, age 53, refused and was shot to death in 2018. These three women, their lives spread over a century apart, share an unexpected sisterhood.

Having died “In Defensum Castitatis” Jamie’s cause for beatification should move along quickly.  What happened to her and St. Maria and Blessed Pierina can happen to any of us at any time. If suddenly we were asked to defend our faith with our lives hanging in the balance, what would we do?

Let us never forget Mrs. Jamie Schmidt, a Catholic wife, mother, and friend to many who will forever remain a shining example for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

How a child-housekeeper named Florentina, became Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Florentina Nicol y Goni was born on March 14, 1868, in the town of Tafalla, in Navarre province, located in northern Spain near the French border. Her dad, Juan Nicol y Zalduendo, was as shopkeeper specializing in selling and repairing farming equipment.  The families life changed dramatically when the lady of the house, Agueda, passed away in 1872.

Dad did his best but was having a hard time managing the home and family. When Florentina was ten, her dad’s cousin, a cloistered Carmelite nun, offered to take the two middle girls to educate them at the monastery’s boarding school. Juan was relieved to have such help and readily agreed. The girls would later go on to become Carmelite sisters. Since the oldest daughter had already married this left Florentina the only child still at home. The housekeeping was left to her.

In December of 1881, Florentina’s dad enrolled her in a boarding school called the Convent of Santa Rosa. Located in Huesca, it was a cloistered community of The Third Order of St. Dominic. The school had a fine reputation and it quickly transformed the thinking of Florentina about the direction her life should take.

Her father had remarried and in 1883 he and Florentina’s new stepmother removed her from the school feeling she had received enough education for a woman. However, Florentina’s vocation had erupted. She knew for sure what she was called to do with her life. She was fifteen years old. Once back home she began praying intently that she might be able to answer the call.

Her father knew his youngest child had her mind made up and in October of 1884, he allowed Florentina to enter the Dominican Convent back in Huesca. In 1886 Florentina Nicol y Goni took the religious name of Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart. She became a teacher at the school she had attended herself and remained in that position for the next 27 years. But change was on the horizon.

In 1913, secularism had reared its ugly head, and anti-clerical laws were being enacted in Spain. Consequently, the Spanish government seized the school and expelled the sisters. The sisters were faced with some hard choices. Stay in Spain and be deprived of being able to minister to the children or enter the world of the missionary. They had learned from different publications about different missionary congregations and wrote to the authorities of several ecclesiastical groups asking for permission to do so. One response came back.

Father Ramon Zubleta had just been appointed by the Holy See as the new Apostolic Vicar of a new Vicariate. The location was in the Peruvian forest near the Amazon. Before leaving for Rome, he stopped in Huesca. He asked the sisters if they would consider coming with him to Peru. Among those that did volunteer, five were chosen. Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart was chosen as their leader.

Bishop Zubleta, accompanied by three friars and the five sisters,  arrived in Peru on December 13, 1913. They were given housing at the Shrine of Our Lady of Patronage and would spend two years of training to get accustomed to the culture and superstitions of the natives in the jungles.

In 1915, Mother Ascension and two of the sisters left for the mountain forests. Two stayed behind to care for the Shrine which had been left in their care. It took them 24 days to cross the Andes and reach Puerto Maldonado. This place was situated at the end of two rivers accommodating communications and acting as a supply depot. No one there had ever seen a white woman before. Folks were also quite shocked that the women had made it across the mountains.

Following the leadership of Mother Ascension, the nuns founded a girl’s school and took care of the sick. The master general of the Dominicans’ asked Sister Ascension if she could start a new congregation. Along with the local bishop, she created the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary. Today it has 785 Sisters serving 21 nations on five continents. Four of the Order’s sister are considered martyrs having died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) in the Congo in 1964. Their crime was for refusing to leave patients alone in a hospital.

Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart died on February 24, 1940. With the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, she was beatified by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins on May 15, 2005. The ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square.

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019