Born paralyzed, this future Saint became a Media Celebrity at the age of 57. Meet Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo
public domain

By Larry Peterson

Gaetana Tolomeo was born in Catanzaro, in Italy’s Calabria region, on Good Friday, April 10, 1936. Father Teodoro Diaco baptized her on July 12, 1936, in the local Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. This was quite providential since baby Gaetana would devote her life to prayer and hold a Rosary in her hand for her entire life. As time passed by, she became known to everyone as “Nuccia.”

Nuccia suffered from a progressive and deforming paralysis that attacked her when she was just a small child. It stunted her growth, leaving her disabled. Her parents took her to local doctors, but they were unable to help the youngster. They also had a sickly son, Giuliano, who was born on October 30, 1940. He would die sometime in 1944, but between Nuccia and Giuliano, they had been through a  heartwrenching and challenging time. Now it was just eight-year-old Nuccia, but circumstances seemed no better.

With no local help available, they sent Nuccia to an aunt in Cuneo for medical assistance. However, doctors in Cuneo were unable to help, and after a short time, she returned home. As time passed, Nuccia’s condition worsened, and she became confined to either her bed or a chair.

The Holy Spirit was indeed working within her because Nuccia never felt sorry for herself. Instead, she embraced her illness and the suffering that came with it as a way to reach the hearts of those that were living sinful lives. It was not long before she began to draw pilgrims who were coming to her for advice. These included priests, nuns, and laypeople. And they were coming for words of wisdom from a disabled woman with a fourth-grade education. They, too, must have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when they approached her.

Nuccia saw in her illness a way to participate in the Passion of Jesus. She even alluded to this in her spiritual writings. The people that came to see Nuccia noticed that Nuccia always clasped a rosary in her hands. She also attended Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. And she managed to become a part of CatholicAction, formed in the 19th century to counter anti-Catholicism.

In 1994, Nuccia began to be a guest on the local radio station, Radio Maria. Her primary objective was to spread the Gospel message to the suffering with whom she could identify. Those that were drug addicts, prostitutes, and the needy, especially families, going through financial struggles. Her program became very popular. She began to be heard on “Il Fratello,” a program where folks called in with problems, and Nuccia would answer their questions. The host, Federico Quaglini, would ask her spiritual questions. Nuccia, a great devotee of a St. Pio of Pietrelcina, would answer them.

Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo suffered a pulmonary embolism and was admitted to the hospital. She was given blood transfusions, but her health continued to decline. She passed away on January 24, 1997, at the age of sixty. The following morning Radio Maria announced her death to thousands of listeners. Sadness at her loss and Joy in her life was the theme of the day.

This is the Easter message given by Nuccia in 1995: “… In his infinite mercy and wisdom, the Lord has prepared a weak body for me, for the triumph of his power of love … I praise and bless the Lord for the cross, of which he adorned me, because by crucifying my flesh, he also crucified my thoughts, my affections, my desires, and even my will, to make me his welcome abode, his satisfaction, his living tabernacle. Thanks to the cross of Christ, today, I can affirm with the apostle Paul ‘It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives and works in me.’ 

Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo was declared a woman of “heroic virtue” on April 6, 2019. She now wears the title of Venerable, and a miracle attributed to her has been approved. A date for her beatification will soon be announced.

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo, please pray for us.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2020


Saint Paschal of Baylon…Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the Seraph (Angel) of the Eucharist

St. Paschal of Baylon   wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On May 16,1540, a baby boy was born to Martin and Elizabeth Baylon in the Kingdom of Aragon, located in Spain. This day also happened to be the Feast of Pentecost. Since the people in Spain refer to the Feast of Pentecost as the Pasch (Passover) of the Holy Ghost., his parents named their new son, Paschal.

Paschal’s parents were poor tenant farmers and, while only a young boy, Paschal began working in the fields and tending to the sheep. His regimen of work was seemingly never-ending, and he rarely took part in the activities of other kids his age. However, he possessed an obvious spirituality that was noticeable to others, and the other boys would come to him for advice and requests for him to settle their quarrels. Paschal had innate wisdom that was marveled at by all who came to know him.

The boy was unable to go to school, so he carried a notebook with him when he was working. He would ask other kids and even strangers going by to show him different letters and how to use them. He took his tidbits of information to heart and literally taught himself how to read. Soon his favorite books were those about his Lord.

When Paschal was working in the fields, he always fell to his knees when he heard the bells ringing during the Consecration. He was not only rich in piety and virtue, but he was also quite humble. It was just the way he was and people who knew him could not help but notice.

Paschal had always harbored a deep desire to enter religious life. Now and then he even wondered if that might ever happen. He had been offered spots in several richly endowed monasteries, and some prodded him to enter the priesthood. He had said, “, “I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.”

His quest for simplicity came to fruition when, in 1564, he was able to enter the Franciscan Monastery of the Friars Minor at Monteforte. It was located in Orito, Spain and those who were there lived a no-frills, austere existence. It was what Paschal had hoped and prayed.for. The young man professed his vows at the monastery on February 2, 1565.

St. Paschal was frequently found before the tabernacle, at times even prostate with his arms outstretched. The humble brother, who had taught himself to read and had no known education possessed a deep knowledge and insight into the mysteries and teachings of the faith. Learned men marveled at him, and most figured he was guided by the Holy Spirit. He was so knowledgeable that during the height of the Calvinist heresies he was chosen to travel to France to defend the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence.

Once God even demonstrated the high esteem he had for Paschal by using the Blessed Sacrament. Paschal was out in the field tending his flock. When he heard the bells ringing, signaling the Consecration was taking place, he immediately knelt down. As he did the Blessed Sacrament appeared before him in the monstrance. Incredibly, it was held aloft by angels hovering above. Others saw this and were in awe. Word spread quickly about the miraculous Brother Paschal and his visions, which became more frequent.

Brother Paschal Baylon passed away on May 17, 1592. The custom of the time was for the deceased to be placed on an open stretcher in the church. This was done, and when the Consecrated Host was elevated at his requiem Mass, Paschal’s body sat up, and bowed to the Sacred Host. It remained like that and repeated the bow as the chalice with the Precious Blood was elevated. Then Paschal’s body lay back down. Witnesses to this miraculous event also testified that his eyes were open watching the priest during the entire Consecration.

Paschal Baylon was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1618, and he was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690. He is the patron of all Eucharistic Congresses and Eucharistic Associations. Paintings of St. Paschal usually are shown with him in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which was the greatest love in his life.

Saint Paschal Baylon, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


How did “Visiting” Jesus become a Great Catholic tradition with Adoration and Benediction?

By Larry Peterson

Growing up and going to Catholic school, we had religion class every day. One thing we all learned about was the “Real Presence.”  There was no doubt in our minds that inside the church, Jesus was truly present “body and blood, soul and divinity. He was inside the tabernacle, and He was waiting for us to “visit” Him. The phrase, “I’m going to pay a visit,” needed no explanation. So when did “visiting Jesus” start and where did Adoration and Benediction come from?

Adoration is a centuries-old practice that evolved from the earliest Christian days when the faithful, upon leaving Mass, brought the leftover consecrated bread home so it could be distributed to the sick and those who were unable to get to Mass (as an EMHC I do something similar today, but I do not take it home).

However, there were times when some of the consecrated bread was saved to distribute to the faithful during the week. This was a time when there were no daily Masses. This leftover consecrated bread had to be kept somewhere worthy of the Son of God. The people would make special places in their homes to keep the consecrated host in repose.

It appears that after Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of the Christians in 313 A.D., construction of churches began in earnest. It was during this time that the Holy Eucharist began being kept in the churches for distribution to the sick. The sacristy was the usual place for repose.

Over the next several centuries, the Eucharist was relocated to the sanctuary near or above the altar. An unexpected result of this was that the faithful were drawn to Christ present and began praying to Him privately.

The Middle Ages is when actual Adoration began to take hold. People were receiving Holy Communion less frequently so the church decreed that people only had to receive Holy Communion once a year. The changing customs and attitudes also saw a separation take place between the altars and the congregation. It seemed that the churches were trying to separate the priest from the people.

Being distanced from the actions on the altar during Mass and combining that with the infrequent reception of Holy Communion gave rise to a new phenomenon; the people began staring and/or gazing at the vessel holding the Blessed Sacrament. Since the people could not receive communion as frequently as they wanted to, they began what became known as “Adoration.” Seeing Christ in the elevated Host oftentimes replaced receiving Holy Communion.

People even started coming to Mass extra early so they could get a good spot to watch the elevation of the Host. This was also when the ringing of the bells at the consecration took hold to alert the people to what was happening. People even timed services so they could go from one church to another to witness the elevation again. It was during his time that the idea of the monstrance began to take hold.

In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of Corpus Christi be enacted throughout the universal church. Pope Urban passed away before it was implemented, so it was not until 1317 that Pope John XXII, added it to the church calendar. Since the laity was still not receiving frequent communion, this added to the practice of Adoration. Corpus Christi processions followed.

Soon the Holy Eucharist, contained in a monstrance, was being carried by the priest in procession. The procession began led by the clergy and followed by the laity. It  ended with a Benediction. By the 1600s, detailed instructions for holding Benediction were put in place by the church. Eucharistic Adoration can now be traced to the 16th century.  Guidelines were put in place in 1973.

In his 1980 Holy Thursday letter to priests, Dominicae cenae, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship.  And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament…”