Tag Archives: catholic

This Archbishop sold his bed and used the money to help orphans; meet Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of the Poor”

St. Thomas de Villanova                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Tomas Garcia y Martinez (Thomas Garcia) was born in 1488, and he might be a prime example of how a father and mother can influence their son. They not only taught him the Faith, but they also showed him how to be charitable. His dad, Alphonsus, was a miller and along with his wife, Lucia, distributed food and supplies to the poor on a regular basis.

Having spent his formative years watching and helping his parents help others, this trait became ingrained in Thomas. He would grow up and spend his life doing the same thing. In spite of his family’s wealth, Thomas often was dressed in a minimal amount of clothing. That was because he kept giving his own clothes to the poor.

Thomas was not only a devout and generous young man, he was also intellectually gifted. By the age of 16, he was able to enter the prestigious University of Alcala located close to Madrid. He became a teacher of arts, logic, and philosophy and within ten years he had become a full Professor of Philosophy. However, after his father died, Thomas decided to leave academia and accept his calling to a religious life.

Thomas took his inheritance and gave it to the poor. In 1516, he moved on to Salamanca and joined the Augustinian friars taking the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Two years later he was ordained to the priesthood.  He then began teaching theology to his peers and quickly gained a reputation as an eloquent and compelling preacher. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, heard Thomas preach and blurted out, “This monsignor’s words can even move stones.”  Thomas was appointed as one of the councilors of states and a court preacher.

He condemned his fellow priests and bishops for their loose morals and secularized ways. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and did his best to promote devotion to her and the Holy Rosary. During these years he served as a Prior of a monastery, a Visitor General representing the Superior General, and became one of the first Augustinian friars to arrive in Mexico in the New World.  He was offered the post of Archbishop of Granada but adamantly refused. However, in the year 1544, he was ordered by his superior to accept the appointment as Archbishop of Valencia in Spain. Reluctantly, he did as he was told.

The appointment of Friar Thomas as the archbishop did not affect his humble presence in any way. He arrived for his installation as the archbishop wearing the same shoddy monastic habit he had worn for years. He even dis his own sewing and mending to keep it wearable. He was given a donation to refurbish his residence but gave it to a hospital in need of equipment and repairs. Immediately after his installation, he began visiting local prisons ordering changes to be made to alleviate the inhumane conditions.

Archbishop Villanova became known as the “Father of the Poor.” He never ceased in his charitable efforts helping orphans, poor women who had no dowry, and the sick. He tried to come up with solutions to help the poor like giving them work. He would say, “Charity is not just giving, it is removing the need of those who receive charity, liberating them when possible.”

Scores of needy people would come every day to his door for help. All would receive a meal, a cup of wine, and a coin. While continuing his life of monastic austerity, he managed to improve the spiritual lives and the living conditions of his faithful servants. While doing these things he also continually worked to promote education, of restore religious orthodoxy, and reform the lifestyles of clergy and laity.

Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, died from heart disease on September 8, 1555, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Alexander VII canonized him on November 1, 1658.

His legacy includes being the namesake of Villanova University near Philadelphia, St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, and Villanova College in Brisbane, Australia.

St. Thomas of Villanova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

On September 14 we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross— Question: Why do we honor the Cross that Jesus died upon?

Celebrating Easter in NYC 1956                                                 public domain

By Larry Peterson

The wooden cross was used as an instrument of torture for the vilest of criminals, fastening them to it and allowing them to hang there until they died. So why do we honor and revere the Cross that Jesus died on?  Because Jesus Himself said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23) The cross for us is an instrument not only our own self-sacrifice but honoring it unites us to Christ on His Cross. We cannot get to the Resurrection without going first to the Cross.

Historically, (and according to Tradition) we know that after the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Jewish and Roman authorities did all that they could to hide Jesus’ tomb. The tomb and Calvary were very close to each other, and the Romans buried the sites under mounds of dirt so no one could find them. Underneath the tons of earth was also the True Cross. Over the next two centuries, pagan temples were built on the spot, and the site was more or less hidden and ignored.

Things changed dramatically in the year 306 A.D. That was when Constantine the Great became Emperor of Rome. In 313 A.D. he issued the Edict of Milan. This document approved of religious tolerance for Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, dreamed that she must go to Jerusalem to find the True Cross. She followed this inspiration, and in 326 she made a pilgrimage to the city to visit the Holy Sepulchre and to locate the True Cross.

History tells us that a Jewish man by the name of Judas, aware of the tradition of the “Hidden Cross” knew where to find it. It was quite close to the spot Helena, and the workers were excavating to uncover the Holy Sepulchre.  He approached Helena and her workers to tell them he knew where it was. Helena, believing God had sent this man to her, gladly followed him.

The ruins, rubble, and dirt that had been accumulated on the spot over the years were painstakingly removed. In due time, three crosses were found on the site.  Tradition says that the sign with the inscription “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”) was still attached to the True Cross. (The more common tradition says that the sign was not there but was found close by). So what did they do to determine which was the True Cross?

Saint Helena and the Bishop of Jerusalem, Saint Macarius, decided to take a piece from each cross and take it to a dying woman. They assumed the wood from the True Cross would cure her. They were right, and the piece from the one cross did heal her. Then they brought the body of a dead man to the site and laid it on each of the crosses. The same cross that had cured the dying woman restored life to the dead man. Helena then knew in her heart that she had found the True Cross.

She journeyed back to Rome to inform her son, Constantine. He ordered two churches built; one at the site of the Holy Sepulchre and one at the site of Mount Calvary. The churches were dedicated on September 13 and 14 in the year 335.  The feast began to take root and spread out from Jerusalem to other provinces and by the year 720 A.D. the celebration was universal.

Today the Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated all through Christendom. Most Catholic Rites such as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, commemorate the day on September 14. The Syriac Church of the East celebrates it on September 13 while the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Catholics celebrate it on August 1. It does not really matter because all the various Catholic rites celebrate and honor the True Cross as founded by St. Helena in 326 A.D.

The Entrance Antiphon for the Mass on the Feast of the Exaltation (September 14) of the Holy Cross reads as follows:

“We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

In Whom is our salvation,  life, and Resurrection

Through Whom we are saved and delivered.”

Never forget that every time we make the Sign of the Cross we honor it and the Man-God that died on it.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

The Feast Day of the Holy Name of Mary is September 12: Why do we honor Her name?

Honoring the Holy Name of Mary                                                wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Why do we honor the name of Our Lady and hold it in such high esteem? Why not just honor her as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Why did Pope Innocent XI, in 1683, proclaim that September 12 is the Feast day of the Most Holy Name of Mary?  ( In 1970, with the revised Roman Missal, the feast day was removed from the calendar. However, Pope St. John Paul II, reinstituted the feast in 2003 as an “optional memorial.” Check your missalettes; it is there).

The name, Mary,  has its origins in ancient languages such as; Aramaic Maryam; Old Testament Greek Mariam; Hebrew, Myriam, and from the New Testament Latin, Maria.

Some background about Our Lady and her name is as follows: It begins with why she was named, Mary. Her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, inspired by God, gave her the name of Mary. The name means a number of things; it means, ‘Lady,”  “The Enlightened One,” “The Light Giver,” “Star of the Sea,” “Myrrh of the Sea,” with  “Stella Maris,” being the favorite. Most importantly, just by saying  her holy name is saying a prayer. It pleases God and has power over Satan. Its significance is so profound.

The feast day o\f the Most Holy Name of Mary originated in 1513 in Cuenca, Spain. At the time it was a local celebration and was held on September 15. In 1587, Pope Sixtus V moved the feast day to September 17.  In 1622, Pope Gregory XV expanded the feast to the Archdiocese of Toledo, and in 1671, the entire kingdom of Spain was included.

But in the year of 1683, this feast day was inserted into the Roman Calendar. That was when Pope Innocent XI, made it a feast everywhere in the Catholic world. The feast was designated to be celebrated on September 12, four days after the birthday of Our Lady. Why did this happen?

The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571 resulting in a great victory by the Holy League organized by Pope St. Pius V.  The naval forces of the Holy League conquered the overwhelming power of the invading Muslims. The date was October 7 and this day is celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  It was on this day that Catholics all through Europe prayed the Rosary for the Holy League Navy. Their victory saved Christianity in Europe.

In 1683, a huge Muslim army of over 300,000 had marched through Hungary destroying everything in its path. The army was now on Austria’s border preparing to vanquish Vienna. The papal nuncio and King Leopold of Austria pleaded with King Jan Sobieski of Poland, to help them stop the invading Muslims. King Sobieski immediately agreed to help. He had beaten back the invading Muslims a few years before, and although the army he commanded was small, he was undeterred.

On his march to Austria, King Sobieski and his army passed by the Shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, The King  pleaded with the Blessed Mother by invoking her name. He asked for her blessing and intercession. King Sobieski, allied with German warriors, tricked the Muslims into thinking they were retreating. As Sobieski’s forces feigned retreat the Germans attacked from the rear. The Muslims became confused and fled Vienna and Christian Europe. King Sobieski presented the Muslim standard, which read “Death to the Infidel”, to Pope Innocent XI. The Holy Father proclaimed the Polish King as the savior of Christendom.

King Sobieski triumphantly entered Vienna on September 12. He attended Mass and praised the Blessed Virgin as the cause and reason for their great victory. Pope Innocent XI thereupon declared September 12, as a date to honor the Most Holy Name of Mary, whose motherly intervention had saved Christendom.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux says:

“O most holy Virgin Mary, your name is so sweet and admirable that one cannot say it without becoming inflamed with love toward God and You.”

Blessed Raymond Jordano says:

“that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced that heart will be wonderfully softened.”

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

On Her Birthday, September 8: Why we Love Mother Mary (from a letter)

Blessed Mother and and Her Son                                   attribution unknown

Why we Love Mary (from a letter)

To my Son, Jesus—From your Mom,

If all in Heaven want to praise what they see in Me, it is because they see that I have no value which is not received from You. Yes, I am Your Mother, but You are infinitely more to Me, because You, My most beloved Jesus, are the Almighty, who demonstrates in Me how far reaching your Omnipotence can be.

My adored Son, for all that You have done for Me, I, with the power that You give Me, now gather souls in order to give them to You. For all the attention which You have lavished on Me, I now go around the world in order to light up the fire of charity [love] for You, My heavenly Son, the joy of My eyes, beauty without equal. I shall never be able to equal You in love, but, nonetheless, You have given Me so much that many in the world treat Me with immense love.

Love,

Mom

(author unknown)

His crime…He Baptized another Prisoner—His “Reward”—He was hanged upside down. Meet Otto Neururer; the first priest executed in a Nazi concentration camp

Blessed Otto Neururer                                             commons.wikipediia.org

By Larry Peterson

The word  “Holocaust” has a number of synonyms:  annihilation, extermination, carnage, genocide, and slaughter, might be a few.   We tend to think of the “millions’ who perished but we rarely think of them as individuals unless some story grabs our attention such as; “The Diary of Anne Frank”,  “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, or bios about St. Maximilian Kolbe,, or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). What follows is the story of a simple, humble priest who simply loved his God, his Faith, and his fellow man. His name was Father Otto Neururer.

Each and every one of the people who had their very God-given existence taken away from them was like all of us.  They had their hopes and dreams.  They had families and friends. They loved, they worked, they played, they enjoyed holidays and walks in the park on a Sunday afternoon where the kids might feed the ducks or the squirrels.  They quietly embraced the dignity of their own selves, just as we all try to do. They were proud of their families and their jobs and professions.  They were living their God-given life.

And then they came. The other people. The ones in power. The ones who held the power of life and death in their hands.The ones who had the “law” on their side and the people following them willing to carry it out, no matter how heinous; even ready to commit torture and murder under the “rule of law.”

Yet through all of the Godless depravity that filled the very hearts and souls of those carrying out this abhorrent treatment of their fellow human beings there always rises an unquenchable love,  and respect for life from some of the victims. They try to help others who are suffering. Many who offer this Godly assistance are tortured and murdered for doing so.

Otto Neururer was born in Tyrol, Austria on March 25, 1881. He was the twelfth and youngest child of a peasant farmer, Alois Neururer and his wife, Hildegard. When Otto was eight, his dad died. His mom,  a devout Catholic, began suffering bouts of depression. Otto was a bit frail and also timid and, like his mom, also began experiencing bouts of depression. However, he did have a brilliant mind and recognized his vocation to the priesthood.  He followed his calling and was able to enter the seminary when he was 21 years old.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1907 and celebrated his first Mass in his hometown. He wanted to join the Jesuits and do missionary work, but his frail health prevented that. He served as a  parish priest, teacher, and was finally assigned as pastor to  St. Peter and Paul Parish in Innsbruck.

In 1938, while he was still pastor, a young woman came to him for advice. She wanted his opinion on whether or not she should marry a divorced man. Father Neururer knew of this man and that he was a philanderer and a con-artist. He advised the woman against marrying him. She told her “fiancé” that she could not marry him and why. He was good friends with the Nazi party leader in the area and reported Father Otto to him. On December 15,1938, Father Otto was promptly arrested and charged with, “slander to the detriment of German marriage.”

On March 3, 1939, he was sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis,  also known as the “priest’s barracks.” Here he was routinely tortured, but this would not be his last stop. On September 26, 1939, he was sent to Buchenwald, which was under the command of Martin Sommer, aka “the Hangman of Buchenwald.” This would be Father’s last stop.

A prisoner came to Father Otto and asked him to baptize him. The kindly priest could not decline and did as asked. The priest realized he was being ‘set-up” but would not refuse in case he was mistaken. He was not wrong, and Martin Bormann decided to make an example of the priest. He ordered him taken to the “punishment block” and hung upside down.

The chaplain who witnessed Father Otto’s torturous death said he never complained. The priest lived for 34 hours, and even towards the end, he could be heard mumbling his prayers. He died on May 30, 1940. He was fifty-eight years old. He was the first of more than 2600 Catholic priests killed during the Holocaust.

Father Otto Neururer died “in odium fidei” and was beatified at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 24, 1996, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Blessed Otto Neururer, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Virgen de los Desparamados ( Virgin of the Abandoned) St.Teresa de Jesus Jornet

Virgin of the Abandoned Elderly                                            en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Teresa Jornet Ibars was born into a family of farmers on January 9, 1843. Her dad’s name was Francisco Jornet, and her mom was Antonieta Ibars.  Teresa had two older sisters, Maria and Josefa, and an older brother, Juan who was married and had three daughters. The farm was in Lleida, located in Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain.  She was baptized the day after her birth and received her Confirmation in 1849.  (In the 19th century a child could not receive First Communion until the minimum age of 12).

As a child, Teresa displayed a deep concern for the conditions of the poor, and she often would bring someone to the home of her Aunt Rosa for something to eat,  medical aid, and other necessities they might need. Aunt Rosa always did her best to help those Teresa brought to her home, and her example reinforced Teresa’s natural desire to help the poverty-stricken. After some time, Teresa moved to a different area of Llieida to live with another aunt, and while there she began studying to be a teacher.

When Teresa was nineteen, she began teaching in Barcelona. She also felt a strong calling to the monastic life. In 1868, she sought admission to the Poor Clares but anti-clerical laws of the day prevented that from happening. In 1870, she did become a Secular Carmelite to help develop her spirituality.

Toward the end of 1870, her father died, and she came down with tuberculosis. That kept her homebound for about six months. Fortunately, she did have a spiritual advisor. He was Father Saturnino Lopez, who greatly aided her recovery by encouraging her to begin caring for the many elderly people in the area. Most of these people were living alone and suffering from severe poverty. Her eyes opened wide at this concept, and she immediately accepted the challenge.

In 1872, Teresa Jornet Ibars opened her fist house in Barbastro, located in north-central Spain. Along with some followers and her sister Maria, the group took the habit and became a religious congregation. Teresa, who was already a  Lay Carmelite, took the name of one of the great Carmelites, St. Teresa of Avila. Her name became Teresa of Jesus Jornet. The official founding of the new order was January 27, 1873. The name the order was given was The Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly  (Not the Little Sisters of the Poor founded by St Jeanne Jugan in 1839)

Teresa of Jesus Jornet was unanimously elected the first Mother Superior of the new community. Their new ministry was totally dedicated to the care and well being of the aged. Mother Teresa of Jesus taught her Sisters to sacrifice whatever they had to help the men and women that were in their care. She explained that these people were God’s gifts to them and that they were serving Him as they cared for them.

Amazingly, even though Mother Teresa of Jesus had suffered from a debilitating illness, she was noted for the powerful sense of peace she always exuded. This inner peace drew many young women to join with her.

The mother house opened in Valencia on May 8,1873. Mother Teresa was confirmed as the superior in 1875. On December 8, 1877, Mother made her perpetual profession and was named Superior General for the entire order. Pope Pius IX issued the papal decree of praise for her order on June 14, 1876. This was followed by Pope Leo XIII giving the formal papal approval on August 24, 1887. When the General Chapter of the Order opened in Valencia on April 23, 1896, Mother Superior begged her Sisters to not re-elect her. But they did. They could not imagine anyone else as their leader.

In 1897 an outbreak of cholera hit Spain. Mother Teresa of Jesus joined her Sisters to help care for the victims of this dread disease. By the time it was over, 24 Sisters and seventy patients had died from the disease. Mother Teresa was exhausted and ill and was taken to the order’s house in Liria. She stayed here and met her spiritual guide, Father Saturnino, for the last time. The date was July 15, 1897.

Mother Teresa of Jesus Jornet died on August 26, 1897. She was 56 years old. When she died her congregation had 50 houses. She had gone from being ill and rejected to leaving a legacy that will live forever. Today there are over 2600 religious serving the elderly in 210 facilities in different parts of the world, including such places as Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and Mozambique in Africa.

She was canonized by Pope Paul VI on January 27, 1974

St. Teresa of Jesus Jornet, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Maria de Mattias—Her mirror was her best friend until one day she saw a beautiful Lady looking back at her …The Lady told her, “Come with me.”

St. Maria De Mattias                                                                wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Maria de Mattias was born and baptized on February 4, 1805, in the small town of Vallecorsa, about 50 miles south of Rome. Her father, Giovanni de Mattias, came from a prominent family in the area and was well-to-do. Maria was the second of four children. Her sister Vincenza was eleven years older than her, so they did not have much in common socially. Her two brothers, Antonio and Michele, were both several years younger.

During this time, political turmoil was a way of life in Vallecorsa.  There were political factions that were always fighting each other. Many of the young local men were gang members, and they were continually raiding and intimidating the villagers. Gang leaders planned kidnappings because children from families with money often brought handsome ransoms.  Maria, being from a family with money, was a prime candidate for abduction.  She did not leave her home unless accompanied by her father.

Maria was quite vain and spent inordinate amounts of time looking at herself in the mirror while brushing her long blond hair. However, that all changed as she approached her sixteenth birthday. One day, as she was preening herself, she saw a Lady looking back at her from inside the mirror. Maria did not know what to make of this, and then the Lady said, “Come with me.”

Maria began to converse with the Lady and asked for her help. She wanted to learn how to read. Her father did not believe that girls needed to know how to read or write, so Maria had never learned. The Lady told her not to worry and that she would help her. Soon Maria was able to take letters and put them into words, and before long, the young woman was reading. With the heavenly help of an extraordinary Lady, she had taught herself to read.

She kept at it and soon was reading spiritual books that the family had at home. The Lady told her she was the Blessed Mother, and during several more conversations, Maria realized that she was to dedicate her life to God. The only thing left for her to do was figure out how.

During the Lenten season of 1822, Gaspar del Bufalo, (the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood) came to town with his mission team to preach. The mission went on for three weeks, and the topics covered were death, judgment, punishment, and hell versus God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Maria heard Gaspar ask his listeners to imitate Jesus by giving their lives for their brothers and sisters who needed it. When the mission was over, Maria de Mattias was filled with love for her neighbor and was determined to bring about conversion and salvation to those whom Christ loved.

Gaspar del Bufalo had a right-hand man by the name of John Merlini. In 1824, he sent Merlini to Vallecorsa to preach the mission. Merlini and his followers had been busy putting together associations for girls, women, boys, men, and priests. Maria felt drawn to this man but was afraid to approach him.

Finally, she did, and they became good friends. Merlini put her in charge of the Daughters of Mary, the girl’s association. Maria took charge, and more and more girls began coming to her house for talks, study, and prayer. Before long, older women were coming to the house. The De Mattias house had turned into a school for young and old alike.

On March 4, 1834, when she was 29 years old, and under the guidance and help of John Merlini, Maria founded the Sister Adorers of the Blood of Christ. The order was established primarily to be a teaching order.  Maria made a public vow of chastity, and John Merlini gave her a small gold heart imprinted with three drops of blood. This became the symbol of the order, and to this day a silver heart with three red dots is worn by the sisters all over the world. Pope Pius IX gave papal approval to the Order in 1855, and John Merlini became Maria’s spiritual director.

Today more than 2000 sisters continue the work of their foundress in countries all around the world including Brazil, Viet Nam, South Korea, the United States, Bolivia, Guatemala, and even Liberia where five of the sisters were martyred in 1992.

St. Maria De Mattias was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2003. We ask her to pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019