Evangelizing—What is it, and how can we, as individuals, Evangelize?

Holy Spirit, Pentecost, Evangelize

By Larry Peterson

What is Evangelization?

We Catholic/Christians are asked to ‘evangelize.” But for me, the word, Evangelize, has always been intimidating. And what does that word actually mean?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that the word, evangelize, is a verb that means “to preach the gospel to” or “to convert to Christianity.” St. Pope Paul VI said, “Evangelizing means to bring the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.”

Are we called to Evangelize?

Does the Bible call on us to Evangelize? It sure does, and here are two short examples. Matthew 4:19 says, He said to them, come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Another is in John 20:21, it says, Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Evangelli Gaudium—the new evangelization summons us all

Lastly, I will call upon Pope Francis and his Evangelii Gaudium. In his apostolic exhortation,  published in 2013, the Holy Father “reaffirmed that the new evangelization is a summons  to all the faithful, and is to be carried out in three principal settings.” The three settings are 1) ordinary pastoral ministry (to inflame the hearts of the faithful), 2) outreach to “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism” and 3) “evangelization to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him.

First of all, when I think of Evangelizers, I envision people such as Billy Graham speaking to a stadium filled with thousands of people or Venerable Fulton Sheen teaching class on television so many years ago. I have even thought of Burt Lancaster playing the character of Elmer Gantry, reigning down words of “fire and brimstone” inside a tent filled with a captive audience. To this very day, we have street preachers praising Jesus and doing their best to convert the unbelievers. As for me, I have never been able to do that.

Do not get me wrong. I have never backed away from a discussion about my faith. If I was in a group or among friends and my Catholic faith was challenged or ridiculed, I would not be quiet. On the contrary, I would defend it the best I could. But I was never one to initiate a conversation. I can still remember my dad telling me, “Never get into a discussion about religion or politics. You can never win.” Well, my dad was wrong. I finally found a way to evangelize.  And, I want to share it with you, the reader.

Evangelizing is not complicated—You just have to be ready for the moment

The first thing I have come to understand is that the ‘evangelizing” business  can simply begin as a “one on one” interaction.  Since we are all called to evangelize, we have to be ready for the “moment. “Okay, what does that mean?

First of all, the “moment” to evangelize is hard to plan. The fact is, the moment can spring up at the most unexpected times or in the strangest of places. You just have to be ready. Here is an example. The following happened to me while in line at a supermarket.

There was a young lady in front of me, and she had a child sitting in her cart. The cashier was shaking her head and returning the woman’s debit card to her. The lady slid it back into the scanner. Again it was rejected. A tear ran down the woman’s face. Her child, sensing her mom’s distress, also began to cry. Can you seize this unexpected moment and “evangelize?” Why not?

The first thing you have to do to be an effective evangelist is smile at people you do not know. Since you are an evangelizer, you have already smiled at both the woman and her child. Okay, she did not want to make new friends but trust me, she saw your smile. You have also noticed that her grocery cart has about thirty dollars worth of groceries in it. Your moment to begin evangelizing has arrived.

You take your debit card and ask the cashier to put the woman’s charge on your card (I do not do this very often). What do you think might happen? Here are a few examples from personal experience; a) The lady tells you, “Please mind your own business.” b) The lady tells you, “No, thank you,” She lifts the child from the cart and leaves the store.  c) The lady gives you a dirty look and says, “That’s not necessary  I have the cash right here.” d) The lady says, “Thank you,” and accepts your offer. e) You might have a few expletives thrown your way. You never know.

Paying it Forward

In this case, I am dealing with the d). You help her save face by saying, “Look, I’m paying it forward.” One of these days, you do something for someone else. That’s all there is to it.”

The lady gives you a final “thank you” and begins to leave. I call after her, “Maam, can you wait one second. I have something for you.”

She stops and waits while you check out.. My moment has arrived. I walk over to her and say, “I was wondering. Do you have Jesus in your life?”

I have thrown it out there, and now I wait. She sighs and looks at me. I sense her nervousness, so I quickly say, “No problem, it’s okay. I just wanted to give you this.”

Evangelizers must choose a primary tool

I have discovered that evangelists need a primary tool in their evangelizing kit. Most evangelists seem to have a Bible in their hand. Not me. I have a cross, a small cross. You cannot see it because it is in my pocket. It is 1.5 X 2.5 inches in size. It is made of  Olive Wood from the Holy Land and is blessed by a priest. I did not invent this idea, I found these crosses online. They are called Comfort Crosses or Caring Crosses. They have turned me into a quiet evangelizer. I love them. (If you want, you can find them online too).

I reach into my pocket, and I pull out the Comfort Cross. I hold it up between my thumb and forefinger and begin to explain to her what it is. She is just looking at me, but I cannot get a feel for what is going on inside her. I tell her, “Jesus loves you, and this Cross will keep you close to Him.”

She is pursing her lips, and I know it is time to finish what I started. I say to her, “Carry it with you in your pocket or purse. Take it to bed with you. Just always keep it close to you. Squeeze it and tell Jesus you love Him. Trust me, you will feel His love returning to you.”

This turned out to be a GOOD moment. A tear rolls down her cheek, and she blurts out, “You have no idea what this means to me. Thank you, thank you.”

The lady takes the Cross and, through her tears, smiles. She leaves the store, and I never expect to see her again.

I certainly am no Billy Graham or Venerable Fulton Sheen. But the moments for me to be a one on one evangelizer pop up in the strangest places. Supermarkets, gas stations, convenient stores,  auto repair shops, doctor’s offices, hospital lobbies, McDonald’s, and Walmart. I have handed out my comfort crosses in all of those places. And, of course, many of my attempts are not appreciated. It is okay. At least I gave it a shot. I figure they threw rocks at Jesus and look what He did for me; the least I  can do is try.

I will finish by mentioning the woman I profiled. Almost a year later, I was in the same supermarket. A lady comes up to me and says, “Oh my God, it’s you. I can’t believe it. Remember me?”

I was almost sure I did, but I was not positive. She says, I’m the person you gave the Comfort Cross to, and you “paid it forward for me. Remember?”

I sure did remember. “Yes, of course. How are you?”

She says, “I have been back to this store four or five times hoping to see you. And finally, here you are. I cannot believe I found you.”

I’m thinking, what does she want? I say, “Wow, I can’t believe it either. So why were you looking for me?”

“Well, I loved the Cross you gave me and carried it everywhere. And then I lost it, and I miss it so much.  I wanted to find you to see if I could get another one.”

Suddenly I teared up. I reached in my pocket and pulled out two crosses. “Here you go. You now have a spare.”

She gave me the biggest hug I could imagine and thanked me again. It was an evangelizing bonus. You never know what to expect when you evangelize.

One final thought. If you want to evangelize you have to be willing to talk to strangers. Once in a grocery store or a doctor’s office, or a lab for bloodwork, or wherever you may be, the opportunity is usually there. Take a chance—say “Hi” to someone nearby, talk about the weather, or even mention the cold pizza delivered to you. You never know if an “evengelizing moment” is coming your way.

Copyright Larry Peterson 2021


He Loved God, family, and Country. He became a priest, went to war, and laid down his life for his friends

Joseph Verbis LaFleur: The Priest Who Laid Down His Life For His Friends

By Larry Peterson

Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born in Villa Platte, Louisiana, on January 24, 1912.  He was the fourth child born to Agatha Dupre and Valentine Lafleur.  When Joe was a young boy, he began telling his mom that he would grow up and be a priest. He was so sure of his calling that he became an altar boy at the age of seven.

“I want to be a priest. Can you help me?”

During the early 1920s, the family came upon hard times and were forced to move to Opelousas, about 20 miles from Ville Platte. Their new parish would be St. Landry Catholic Church. The pastor was Father A. B. Colliard. The priest quickly sensed something special about young Joe and paid close attention to him. When Joe was 14, he nervously approached Father Colliard and said to him, “Father, I want to become a priest. Can you help me?”

Father Colliard happily agreed to help young Joseph. First, he met with Joe and his mom. After receiving her approval, the priest made arrangements for her son to enter St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary in St. Benedict. From there, Joe moved on to attend Notre Dame Major Seminary in New Orleans.

Joseph Lafleur never doubted for a moment his calling to serve as a priest. He received the Sacrament of Holy Orders from Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans. On April 5,1938, Father Lafleur celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at St. Landry’s, his home parish.  He was then assigned to St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Abbeville as an assistant pastor.

Joines the Army Air Corp as a Chaplain

While still an assistant pastor at St. Mary Magdalene church, he joined the Army Air Corps. The year was 1941, and the United States was months away from the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In July of 1941, Father Lafleur was sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico. His unit was the 19th Bombardment Group. Four months later, the 19th arrived at Clark Field in the Philippines. This was about 60 miles from Manila. Father Joe had told his mom before leaving that he “volunteered because all those other men being drafted had no choice.”

Just as it was at St. Mary Magdalene’s parish, Father Joe went about trying to organize the men on base into different activities. He would organize baseball games for the men who wanted to play baseball. He wanted to start a Holy Name Society for the men. He organized discussion groups so the guys could share their feelings of loneliness being away from home and family. His mind was always focused on helping the men, mentally and spiritually. He wrote his sister, Edna, that “once I get back to Louisiana, I will never leave again. But I am not sorry I came here.”

Last Letter Home

That was the last letter the family ever received from him. On December 7, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Clark Field in the Philippines was struck shortly after. Life was forever changed for Father Joseph Lafleur and many others on December 8, 1941. In May of 1942,  the Japanese conquered Mindanao, and the last of the American soldiers on the island were taken, prisoner. Among them was Father Joseph Lafleur.

POW

From May of 1942 until September of 1944, Father Joe never ceased ministering to his fellow POWs. He contracted Malaria several times and refused medicine because he believed others needed it more than him. He sold his watch and eyeglasses to the locals to procure more food for his brother prisoners. He even managed to build a small chapel called—St. Peter in Chains, where Catholic and non-Catholics alike could attend daily Mass. The ongoing, upbeat love and care he showed others, influenced many.

A POW named Bill Lowe had abandoned his Baptist faith. He watched how Father Joe never gave in and never despaired. He was always upbeat, loving Jesus, and doing his best to spread the Good News. When Lowe returned home, he became Catholic, and his son grew up to become a Catholic priest and Air Force Chaplain. Lowe reported that many became Catholic because of Father Joe’s example.

Gives his own life to save 83 men

On September 7, 1944, while being transported on a Japanese ship to Japan with 750 other Americans, the ship was struck by torpedoes fired by an American submarine. The sub’s captain and crew had no idea Americans were on board. Father Joe could have gotten off but refused until as many were saved as possible. He was credited with saving at least 83 men by helping them get out and swim to shore.

Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur leaves behind an unbridled legacy of love and compassion for others, including the Catholic faith he loved so much. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (twice), The Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.

On September 5, 2020, he was declared a Servant of God when Bishop John Douglas Deshotel opened his cause for Beatification in the Diocese of Louisiana.

copyright©Larry Peterson2021


Did You Know that a Founder of Modern Europe might be Canonized?

SCHUMAN

Europeana Collections (CC BY-SA 4.0)

He was the Prime Minister of France and a Founding Father of Modern Europe. He is now climbing the ladder to Sainthood

By Larry Peterson

Robert Schuman was born on June 29, 1886, in Luxembourg. His father, Jean-Pierre Schuman, was a native of Lorraine. When his country was annexed by Germany in 1871, he was made a German citizen. Always French, his father left for Luxembourg, and his German citizenship was inherited by Robert. Robert’s mom, Evange Duren, also came from Luxembourg.

Robert’s secondary schooling took place from 1896 until 1903 at Athenee de Luxembourg. From there, he would move on to study law, economics, theology, philosophy, politics, and statistics at the University of Berlin. He received a law degree with the highest honors from Strasbourg University.

Begins Law practice

In 1912, Robert set up a law practice in Metz. When war broke out in 1914, he was called up by the German army but was excused from service because of poor health. From 1915 to 1918, he served in an administrative capacity for the German government. After the war ended, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, and in 1919, Robert became a French citizen.

Robert Schuman quickly became involved in politics. In 1919 he was elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies. He was instrumental in drafting the reintroduction of French Civil and Commercial codes in Alsace-Lorraine, formerly under German control. Schuman also began investigations into the corrupt steel and railroads industries.

At the beginning of World War II, Robert, who possessed keen insight into the methods of the Germans, was asked to become a member of the French government as the man in charge of the refugees. The Nazis took control of France in May of 1940. As a member of French National Assembly since 1919, Schuman was immediately high up on their radar.

Arrested by the Gestapo

Robert was arrested by the Gestapo on September 14, 1940. The charges were “resistance and protest against Nazi methods.”  He was about to be shipped to Dachau when a German lawyer, who knew him well, intervened. His efforts kept Robert in prison in France. Robert managed to escape in 1942 and immediately joined the resistance. He worked with them until France was liberated in 1944.

After the war, Robert Schuman was a busy man. He was a founder of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP).  He served as Minister of Finance in 1946, Premier (Prime Minister) from November 1947-July 1948, and Foreign Minister from July 1948 to December 1952. In 1950, while Foreign Minister, he developed the Schuman Plan. This plan led to economic and military unity between Germany and France.

In 1958, the initiatives put in place by Schuman would eventually lead to the European Economic Community, better known as the European Common Market. Robert would serve as President of the Common Assembly (the consulting arm of the Common Market) until 1960.  He also served as Minister of Justice from 1955 to 1956.

“Father of Europe”

Besides participating in all of the aforementioned capacities, Robert Schuman was instrumental as one of the founders of the European Union and NATO. From 1958 to 1960, he was the first President of the European Parliament. At the end of his term, they awarded him the title of “Father of Europe.” In addition, the 1964-1965 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honor.

Bible scholar and devout Catholic

Robert Schuman was a devout Catholic and a Bible scholar. His role in trying to break the seemingly never-ending cycle of wars in Europe has been praised by several popes. He was a proponent of the writings of Pope Pius XII, who despised fascism and communism. He was made a Knight of the Order of Pius IX. He was an expert in medieval philosophy, specializing in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. His quest for peace among people and nations was always rooted in his Catholic faith.

On Saturday, June 19, 2021, Pope Francis placed Robert Schuman on the road to sainthood by recognizing him as a man of “heroic virtue.” This means that Robert Schuman now holds the title of Venerable Robert Schuman.

Venerable Robert Schuman, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2021


These Three Nurses accepted Martyrdom rather than Deny their Catholic Faith

By Larry Peterson

This is about three young women. They were all Red Cross nurses but had been mistaken for Catholic nuns. The year was 1936, and the Civil War in Spain was raging. The Catholic clergy was a prime target for the government militia. The three nurses were taken prisoner by the rebel soldiers.

The innocent women, who were Catholic,  had come to help and treat the sick and dying no matter what side they were on. It was all about taking care of those in need. Inspired by their love for Jesus, they were simply following His way, demonstrating love and kindness the way Jesus taught. Even though they were not nuns, they loved their faith deeply and were not about to denounce it.

The three ladies were beaten, tortured, and treated in the most degrading and heinous ways imaginable. This cruel treatment continued all through the night and then, for the grand finale, they were shot to death. Their names were Maria Pilar Gullon Yturriaga, age 25;  Octavia, Iglesias Blanco, age 42; and Olga Perez-Monteserin Nunez, age 23.  

After inflicting their degrading and painful acts upon the women, their torturers demanded that they renounce their Catholic faith. Exhibiting unbelievable courage and saying over and over, “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long live Christ the King”), they died “in odium Fidei” (“in hatred of the Faith”).

  • Nurse Maria Pilar Gullon was born on May 29, 1911, in Madrid, Spain. Her mom and dad were devout Catholics, and Maria became a member of Catholic Action and the Daughters of Mary in Astorga, Spain.  She taught catechism and worked with the poor and the sick. But her calling was to nursing, and she became a Red Cross Nurse and wound up at the front during the Spanish Civil War. She was captured by the militia and (as mentioned) died a martyr’s death on October 28, 1936.
  • Nurse Octavia Iglesias Blanco was born on November 30, 1894, in Astorga, Leon, Spain. At age 42, she was the oldest of the three women and tried her best to be the “big sister” as they were beaten and violated. They apparently all stuck together as best they could because they all died the same way, “in odium fidei” never giving  up to the evil being showered upon them.
  • Nurse Olga Perez-Monteserin Nunez was born on March 16, 1913, in Paris, France. At the age of seven, she moved to  Astorga, Spain with her parents. At the age of 23, she was the “baby” of the group but just as determined and dedicated to helping the sick, wounded, and dying as her older nursing sisters. When she reported for duty at the Red Cross headquarters she was assigned to the front, the same as Nurse Maria and Nurse Octavia.

Prior to their Beatification Ceremony on May 29, 2021, Bishop Jesus Fernandez Gonzalez of Astorga said, “These martyrs were not linked to either side—the Red Cross went wherever it was summoned, regardless of who was in control. Nor did they carry weapons or even use words to attack anyone. They were simply moved by human compassion and Christian charity, knowing the risks and dangers when signing up as volunteers.”

Bishop Fernando Gonzalez also said that the three women had clung to their crosses and forgiven their executioners, offering a “model of the Christian lay vocation.”

The Bishop continued by saying, “Although they were given the opportunity to apostatize, they did not do so. They were people with their whole lives ahead—only a great hope could have enabled them to renounce it, and only a great love could have sustained such hope. The testimony of martyrs offers a lifeline, keeping us afloat in the truth that liberates,”

The Beatification ceremony took place on Saturday, May 29, 2021, at Santa Maria  Cathedral in Astorga.  The celebrant representing Pope Francis was Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saint’s Causes. The newly Beatified women were originally buried in a mass grave at their execution site. They were re-interred at the Cathedral in Astorga in 1948.


Don Ruggero M. Caputo –Apostle of the Eucharist–Recognized for “Heroic Virtue

Adoration Monstarnce no Flash                                                public domain

By Larry Peterson

He now bears the title of Venerable

Ruggero (Roger) Maria Caputo was born on May 1, 1907, in Barletta, Italy, located in the Italian peninsula’s southeastern section. He was born into a humble family with strong moral and religious principles. During his childhood and into his adolescence, he was fortunate to come under the guidance of Don Angelo Dimiccoli, a priest who loved his faith deeply.  Don Angelo had the ability to instill in his young students a strong desire to follow Jesus.. (Father Angelo would become Servant of God Archbishop Angelo Dimiccoli).

Father Angelo’s influence on Ruggero was quite powerful. When Ruggero was nineteen, he felt the call to the priesthood pulling at him. But he had left school in third grade to work in the fields. He now wanted to enter the seminary, but his education was almost non-existent. So he left his work behind him and found himself attending school sitting among third graders. He was determined to do what was necessary to become a priest. He wanted nothing less than to serve his Lord.

He studied hard to qualify for the Pontifical Regional Seminary so he could receive his high school education and move on to his theological studies. He worked intently and even had to squeeze in a year of military service for the province of Chieti. Ruggero never wavered in his quest, and on July 25, 1937, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Barletta.

He was a simple and humble man content with being a shepherd

Don (Father) Caputo began his ministry serving an ongoing role as assistant pastor at many parishes. He was a simple and humble man and never aspired to high office. He was content with doing his work as a shepherd spreading devotion and love for God, and continually working to save souls.

During Don Ruggero’s lifetime, his deep love for God spread out to inspire at least a dozen vocations to the priesthood and over 150 women religious vocations. At the same time, he organized several lay apostolates for teens and young adults. His influence and success in fostering vocations came from his daily devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Next to his love for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he loved Eucharistic Adoration. He spent as much time as he could in front of Jesus.

“He was a soul in love with the Blessed Sacrament.”

One of the women inspired by Don Ruggero to become a nun was quoted as saying, “Don Ruggero was a soul in love with the Blessed sacrament. We girls, if we needed his help, went to church to find him behind the column on his knees, on the ground, in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, absorbed in deep, silent, and mystical Eucharistic conversation. Here was the strength, the energy that he gave to us. This is what he put in our veins; to be all for Jesus.”

On July 1,1951, Don Ruggero Caputo was transferred as an assistant pastor to the Holy Spirit parish. This was the beginning of his moving from parish to parish because his superiors were alarmed at the notoriety Don Ruggero was receiving. The youth loved him and flocked to him, and his success with conversions had lit a fire of jealousy among the higher-ups. They were hoping to quiet the unexpected phenomenon.

“He forgave and consoled more than your own father—”

However, the more he was seen and the more women that heard him speak, the more his following increased. Sister Maria  Antonina said, “as soon as you approached him, you realized that he really loved Jesus and you.” Sister Antonia Distaso said, “He forgave and consoled more than your own father, even when he encountered opposition.”

Towards the end of his life, he was hospitalized with a painful illness that kept him bedridden. One of the nuns who was caring for him quoted Don Ruggero as saying, “Now I have to do my part. As St. Paul says, “I complete in my flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, in favor of His body which is the Church.”

Before dying, he said, “You will bury me underground among the people. Because even after I die, I want to stay a priest to the people.” Don Ruggero Caputo passed away on June 15, 1980.

On January 21, 2021, Pope Francis confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God Ruggero Maria Caputo. He now bears the title of Venerable, and his cause for beatification is moving forward.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2021


For Valentine’s day: A Love Story Embraced by the Love of God

By Larry Peterson

It was the spring of 2014. Ed and Cathy Carmello had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year, I think, but we had become good friends. They had met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40. They fell in love and, never having been married, happily “tied the knot.”  They had just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary and were simply enjoying retired life together.

There was a problem. Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly. Cathy had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. She told me about that when she had ‘maybe’ six months to live.   Since I was a prostate cancer survivor and my first wife had died of melanoma, they felt comfortable discussing their cancers with me. They knew I understood.

My daily routine usually starts at around 5:30 a.m. with a two-mile walk. For some reason, on this particular day, I decided to take another walk.  It was on a Thursday afternoon around 4 .p.m. I actually tried to talk myself out of taking this walk but finally “talked” myself into it.  

 Out the door I went and headed down the street.  Cathy and Ed’s house is three down from mine. Ed had a Ford pickup with a cap on the bed. As I passed the truck, I saw Cathy standing on her front lawn supported by her walker.  I could see she was fighting to hold herself up. A bit anxious, I hurried over and said, “Hey, Cathy, what are you doing?  Is everything all right?”

“I was waiting for you, Larry.  I need to talk to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day and you say you were waiting for me?”

“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”

There are times when things happen that cannot be explained. This was one of them. I had a chill run down my back. I really did.  I leaned against the pickup as she leaned heavily on her walker. “You know Ed is dying, right?”

“Yes, Cathy, I know.  We talked about it.  What about your prognosis? Any change?”

She smiled and looked me right in the eye and said, “They told me I only have a few weeks left.”

I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “What can I do?”

They knew that I was Catholic and an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  She told me that they had been non-practicing Catholics and had not been to church in years. Then she asked me if I could bring a priest over. It was time for them to “make things right with God”.  I said, “I will put a call into Father as soon as I get back to the house.”

“Thank you so much.  That is why I was out there waiting for you.”

I simply nodded. She smiled and thanked me, and asked me to come in and see Ed.  We slowly walked back to her house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  Then she mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.

I went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him, allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  I took in a deep breath. (You know, when God is present, sometimes it is hard to breathe).

I called our newly ordained priest, Father Scott. He came over the next day and spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though the two of them were separated by more than 50 years, it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.  

Father heard their confessions, anointed both of them, and gave them Holy Communion. He told them he would come back the first chance he could.  Sunday was Palm Sunday. It was the beginning of Holy Week, and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye. On Palm Sunday, I had the honor of bringing them Holy Communion.

Easter Sunday, I was again privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”  

He turned and looked at his wife, who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet, happy eyes. They stared into each other’s eyes, and I thought they were maybe looking into each other’s souls. It was a moment that was filled with a shared spirituality I had never witnessed before. I could actually feel it. I have no doubt that at that moment Jesus was there with them holding their hands in His.

Ed died the week after Easter.  A week after his funeral Mass, Cathy moved into Hospice House. Her nephew, home on leave from the Air Force for his uncle’s funeral, accompanied her. She lived another two weeks.  

As for me, I thank God for their friendship and for being a part of their final journey.  The love they shared together, and the peace and joy in their hearts as they knowingly approached the end of their lives on earth was so beautiful to watch. I was blessed to have been witness to it. Having faith is truly a beautiful thing.

Wishing all couples  a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY and to those who have lost their spouse (me included) hope you have a heart filled with peace all day long.


Known as the “Boy Judge,” he was assassinated by the Mafia for upholding his Christian faith

Rosario Livatino soon to be Beatified

By Larry Peterson

Rosario Livatino was born in Sicily on October 3, 1952. He was the only child born to Vincenzo Livatino and Rosalia Corbo. Growing up, Rosario was a quiet boy, stayed out of trouble, and was an excellent student. He had a kind heart and never refused to help other students who were having difficulty with their studies. Most importantly, Rosario was devoted to his Catholic faith and loved it deeply.

After finishing high school, he attended the University of Palermo and in 1975 graduated magna cum laude. Three years later, he moved to Caltanissetta (located in central Sicily), where he began his career as a magistrate. After a few years, he became a public prosecutor in Agrigento, and in 1989 he was appointed a judge.

He helped the poor of his town as much as possible

He tried to keep his Christian life quiet and low-key. He helped the poor of his town as much as possible and always wanted to keep it secret. When he attended  Mass, he sat in the back pews trying to remain unnoticed. He kept a Crucifix on his desk and a Bible next to it. The Bible had many pages with verses underlined. Ironically, his church pastor in Agrigento only found out that he was a judge after his death.

Much of what is known about Livatino’s life comes from his diaries, which he began keeping in 1978. During that year, he wrote, “Today I took the oath, and I am a magistrate. May God assist me and help me respect this oath and to behave as demanded by the education I received by my parents.” Rosario took his work very seriously.

Rosario Livatino had to face the realities that were part of Sicily. The most intense reality was the presence of the mafia. The dreaded organization  was strongly connected to most of the local and national politics. Rosario knew he would have to stand for law and order or compromise his character to protect his own safety. As was his way, he turned to Jesus and Mary for their help.

The most intense reality was the presence of the mafia

Judge Livatino knew the identities of the mafia families and did his best to avoid granting them the smallest of favors. He also avoided contact with them as best he could. It was no easy task as he was always being invited to club meetings or even church gatherings. It was at these meetings that members of La Cosa Nostra were frequently in attendance. It was a thin wire he walked, and every day was a challenge.

When he sat on the bench, there was no “thin wire.”  He was a good man filled with God’s grace and determined to fulfill his duties. However, many of the defendants who appeared before him had mafia affiliations.  A just man could not avoid making enemies. As time went by and Judge Livatino meted out sentences prescribed by law, he became hated more and more. The local “bosses” had their form of justice. Many times it was an assassination.

In his diaries, Judge Livatino wrote that issuing judgments is one of the most challenging tasks that men are required to perform. He wrote, “The duty of the magistrate is to decide; however, to decide is also to choose. . . . that the judge who believes may find a relationship with God. It is a direct relationship because to administer justice is to realize oneself, to pray, to dedicate oneself to God.”

Rosario Livatino harbored many doubts and fears. He wanted desperately to meet a woman and get married, but it never happened. He began resigning himself to being alone, realizing it was better he had no family. Two years before his death, he received the sacrament of Confirmation. He knew he needed the strength of a Christian soldier. It was during this time that he rejected having a bodyguard.

The “Boy Judge” said goodbye to his parents and left for work—

On the last day of his young life, the man called the “Boy Judge” said goodbye to his parents and left for work in Agrigento. As he drove his car, he was rammed from behind and forced to stop. A motorcycle pulled up on the other side, and men from inside the vehicle and from the motorcycle opened fire, shooting through the windows. Rosario managed to get out and tried to run, but he fell. He rolled over on his back and watched as the assassins quickly surrounded him, pointed their guns down, and opened fire. The date was September 21, 1990.

A Martyr of Justice

Pope St. John Paul II said that Rosario Livatino was a “Martyr of Justice” and in an indirect way, of the Christian faith.”

Pope Francis has approved his decree of martyrdom and his beatification will take place during the spring of 2021.


Unable to teach the “Undesirables” in India, this Bishop moved to Africa and died serving the poor during a Yellow-fever epidemic

Melchior de Marian Bressilac wikipediia.commons

By Larry Peterson

His full name was Melchior de Marion Bresillac. He was born in a town called Castelnaudary, located in southern France, on December 2, 1813, and was the oldest of five children.

Melchior’s father wanted his boy to pursue a military career. Melchior felt a special calling to the religious life and when he was 19, informed his father of his wishes to become a priest. His dad accepted his son’s wishes, and, in 1832,  Melchior entered the minor seminary at Carcassone to pursue his vocation. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 22, 1838, and assigned as an associate pastor to his hometown parish, the  Church of St. Michael, in Castelnaudry.  

Father Bresillac had a keen mind and prepared and delivered excellent sermons. He reached out to the sick and marginalized, taught catechism to the children, and had immense patience and understanding for others, especially the youth. However,  there was one thing nagging at Father Bresillac. He harbored a strong desire to serve in the missions.

In 1840, Melchior made a retreat with the Jesuits at Avignon. It was at this retreat that he made up his mind to follow his missionary calling. The young priest expressed his desires to his parents and his Bishop about becoming a missionary. They were strongly opposed, but Melchior knew that his calling to this ministry was from God and that he had to pursue it.

Melchior had to summon his courage to resist the heartbreak his mother was feeling. His father was unyielding in his objections. The Bishop refused to give his permission. The young priest never wavered and continued praying and trusting in the Lord. Eventually, both his parents relented. His father wrote him a letter which read, “Go, my dear son. Go where heaven is calling you. Now, I recognize the voice that summons you. May he protect you. Be happy. I submit!”

Melchior now wrote to his Bishop for final approval. The Bishop refused to give his permission. Melchior wrote again and was denied again. The third time was a charm because the Bishop gave Father Meklchior the permission he sought. In 1841, Father Melchior Bressilac left St. Michael’s Church and entered “Missions Etrngeres de Paris” (MEP), aka the Paris Foreign Mission Society. After nine months of missionary training, Father Melchior Bressilac was assigned to Pondicherry, India. He arrived there on July 24, 1842.

Father Melchior spent a few months learning about the culture and studying the Tamil language. The priest quickly realized that there was disagreement among the European missionaries about how to deal with the national customs. The Indian Christians did not like being told how to behave by foreigners. Consequently, the missionaries were resented for wanting to impose European ways on the natives of the country. And the caste system, where the people were divided into different levels of acceptance, hindered evangelization greatly. Contact among the castes was forbidden, and it went against all things regarding the teaching of “love your neighbor.” Creating Christian communities was a daunting task.

Father Melchior spent twelve years in India. He was elevated to Bishop of Prusa, and he was determined to make priests out of the indigenous people. He wanted the native people to have their own clergy, with the Europeans acting as assistants. Their resistance to his objectives was fierce. The people were classified as “desirables” and “undesirables.” Bishop Bressilac was disgusted that so many of his fellow priests agreed with the caste system. He resigned his post and returned home to France

Bishop Bressilac wrote to the Congregation for the Missions in Rome. He asked if he could begin a mission in Africa in order “to go to the most abandoned.” His request was granted, and on February 29, 1856, Rome gave him their permission to start a society. He founded the Society of African Missions and spent the next two years recruiting and training new missionaries. In 1858 the first SMA (Societas Missionum ad Afros).[4]missionaries set forth for the new Vicariate Apostolic of Sierra Leone in western Africa.

A total of six missionary priests (inluding Bishop Bressilac) were in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on May 14, 1859, when a yellow fever epidemic broke out. Undaunted, the priests and Bishop stayed to treat the ill. They all died with Bishop Bressilac passing on June 25, 1859,  six weeks after their arrival.  Father Augustine Planque and some seminarians back in France were the only members of the new order left. Father Planque determinedly continued forward with Bishop Bressilac’s missionary work.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


To Her Husband, the Only Thing that mattered was the Arrival of the Priest

Light after Death

By Larry Peterson

Lee and Shirley Mae had moved from Pittsburgh, PA., to Pinellas Park, FL, back in 1984. Lee, a World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific during the war, and Shirley Mae had met at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport years before. Lee, a widower, worked for United Airlines. Shirley, who had never been married, was a waitress at the airport restaurant. They fell in love and got married. A few years after Lee retired from United, they headed south, settling on the Florida west coast near St. Petersburg.  

They purchased a two-bedroom home in a 55+ community called Mainlands of Tamarac. They immediately joined the local Catholic parish called Sacred Heart Church. It was perfect for the happy couple, and they quickly became involved in church ministry. They both volunteered as ushers, and Lee became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. They also worked together every year during the annual Fall Festival, coordinating all the food court workers.

It was sometime in January of 2020 that Shirley began feeling “not right.” She was having a bit of trouble breathing, had a slight cough, and was experiencing fatigue. Lee and Shirley knew it was time to see the doctor, and they did. Doctors told her she had lung cancer.

Treatments with oral medications began in February. The pandemic resulted in a change of lifestyle, and Lee and Shirley adapted the best they could. They did not dare venture outside their home, and food and supplies were delivered and placed near the front door. Days turned to months, and Shirley’s health kept slipping downward.

Lee, who is a vibrant 96-year-old, could no longer care for his wife by himself. Sometime in early September, Hospice arrived on the scene.  Towards the end of September, a hospital bed was placed in the family room. Shirley was no longer able to sit up or eat by herself. Hospice workers were now coming in several times a day.

Hospice wanted to move Shirley to the Hospice center. Lee was horrified at the prospect. He told the nurse in charge, “My wife and I promised each other we would never let any one take either of us to any kind of home. She must stay here with me. Please, please, do that for me?”  Hospice, realizing Shirley’s time was not far away, agreed.

Lee and Shirley are devout Catholics who attended Mass every day. They are also neighbors and close friends of mine. .I became personally involved in helping them early in summer. My most important function was that of being a Minister of Holy Communion. Nothing was more important to them than my bringing Jesus in the Eucharist, especially on Sunday.

The end of September and the beginning of October seemed to blend together. It was about 5 P.M. on October 8th when my phone rang. Brenda, a close friend of Lee and Shirley’s, was calling to say that Shirley had passed a few minutes earlier. I had promised Lee that no matter what time of day or night it was, a priest would come to pray over Shirley when she passed. I immediately called the church.

The church has a phone menu, and if you press #8, you got the emergency line to the priest. I left a message, and I headed over to Lee’s house. Shirley was lying halfway on her side. Her head was bowed down a bit, and her eyes were half-open. She had a simple smile on her face. I was transfixed at how peacefully beautiful she appeared. I called the church again. Then I gathered those willing around Shirley’s bed, and we said a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for her.

Upon finishing the Chaplet, I called the church a third time. As I hung up the phone, it rang. It was Father Kevin, our pastor. He was out in Tampa at a convocation with priests and the bishop. Father Vijay, our other priest, was with him. They were was almost an hour away. The problem was the funeral home van was on the way to pick up Shirley. I was told they could not wait for the priest.

It is interesting how things can work out. Nothing was more important to Lee at that moment than the priest being there to pray over Shirley. Father Kevin said he could leave right away and, if traffic was light, he could make it in 45 minutes. I said, “Okay, father. Thanks, .” 

Fifteen minutes later, the funeral van pulled up. Father Kevin was at least a half-hour away. One of the hospice nurses came over to me and told me that they had another stop to make and could not wait. It was time to get bold.

I walked over to the van driver and told him the situation. The guy told me he was sorry, but he could not wait for more than fifteen minutes. I told him very nicely that “the only way anyone gets near that woman  before the priest does is over my dead body.” The guy smiled and said, “Okay, okay, I get it. I understand.”

Father Kevin arrived within the 45 minute time frame. We all gathered around, and calmness filled the room as Father prayed over Shirley and blessed her. Lee stood next to him, holding his wife’s lifeless hand, tears coming from his eyes. As Shirley was removed from the house, Lee stopped by the gurney and held her hand one last time.  Sobbing softly, he bent down and kissed her goodbye. She was still smiling.

Her funeral is scheduled for October 31st, Halloween. Ironically, wearing masks will be appropriate.

copyright©Larry Peterson2020

 


Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias—Time to Accept the Science and Reject the unknowing Pundits

By Larry Peterson

I was married to a woman who had Alzheimer’s Disease. Her diagnosis was determined not merely by her behavior, but by careful medical diagnosis. Today, there are those who occupy a public forum and use it to disseminate medical analysis based on their own dislikes and prejudices held against those they do not like.   They influence many viewers and listeners who may believe their “expertise” and begin doing their evaluations on whom these pundits reference. Publicly accusing folks of having Alzheimer’s Disease based on personal observation is disgusting. They all need an injection of “humility.” (I wish the CDC could come up with that).

Husband and Wife(s)

I have been widowed twice. My first wife, Loretta, passed away seventeen years ago after being attacked by Stage 4 Melanoma. We had met in grade school, connected in high school, and were married 35 years. Yes—we were together until death parted us. Being a man of faith, I am sure I will see her again.

I met Marty at church a few years later. I was president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and she was interested in joining. Her husband had died four years earlier, and we had something in common. In need of a secretary, she volunteered. We were in frequent contact because of our positions, and about six months later, we went out to dinner. Two years later, we were married. It was something I had never considered. I believe God helped us meet.

Loretta suffered from Lupus, Chronic Pancreatitis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Liver disease. The Melanoma came last. I had become her caregiver and even learned how to administer her IVs and give her injections. I became pretty good at it. However, she never fell victim to the demon known as Alzheimer’s Disease. That was a world that I had only heard of but never experienced “up close and personal.”  I may have been a caregiver to Loretta, but I was not expecting what lay ahead, nor was I prepared for it.

“Newlyweds” and Cancer

You never know what life might throw your way, and we hit our first real “bump in the road” during the winter of 2007 when I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. However, it proved to be less of a challenge than what we had anticipated.  In May, I had a radical prostatectomy. I was blessed because they told me my Gleason Score was an “8” and I would have been dead in two years if I had not taken care of it. My recovery took several months but it has been thirteen years since the surgery, and I am still cancer free.  Praise the Lord; I can still talk about it. 

But it was not long before a different situation unexpectedly reared its ugly head. It all began when Marty walked up to me, raised her right arm, and ponted to her armpit. She asked me, “Feel this lump. It keeps getting bigger. What do you think it is?”

Marty had never been sick a day in her life. She had noticed the “lump” but had never said anything, expecting it to go away. But it did not go away. Instead, it got bigger; so did the one in her groin. I convinced her to to see our primary care doctor who, upon examining the “lumps”,  referred us to a surgeon. The “lumps” were surgically removed, biopsied, and the diagnosis was; Large Grade B-Cell Lymphoma. Chemotherapy was to be her next challenge. Amazingly, she was not concerned at all. She told me, “This is nothing. I’ll be fine.”

After the diagnosis, we again met with a surgeon. This time it was to discuss having a mediport implanted in her chest.  A mediport is an access point for IV treatments. It replaces the need to always access an IV line by using a person’s veins. The patient can avoid all that by having their port accessed with a Huber needle, designed especially for that purpose. After the infusion is complete, the Huber needle is removed, and a  band-aid is placed over the site where the needle was inserted. The patient never has to be stuck and, in my opinion, it is a wonderful thing. Marty had the surgery in January of 2011  She began chemotherapy treatments in March of that year. 

Time for Chemo

Marty’s cancer was found in her lungs, her liver, spleen, and various other places. A year and a half later the cancer was 50% less than originally seen by the PET Scan. (The full name for   PET Scan is Positron Emission Tomography. It is an imaging test that can show how your tissues and organs are functioning.  A radioactive dye called a tracer is used to show the activity).By 2014 her cancer seemed to be in remission. During this time I did notice a change in Marty’s cognitive state. She seemed to be forgetting things, not much but enough that raise some red flags. For example, she was redundant, constantly asking the same question over and over;  “are we having dinner tonight?”  “are we having dinner tonight?”

The one that always tore me up was when she would look at me with a frightened look and ask, “Are you going away now?’….Are you going away now?” While she was in the hospital, it was always her fear that I would not come back. It was awful to see her fear-filled face. I simply began taking her with me when I had to go out for something.

She had always baked “made from scratch” chocolate chip cookies, and truthfully, they were fabulous. So one day, I am watching as she goes about the kitchen getting out the necessary ingredients to make some. Acting as normal  as can be, she takes out flour, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, butter, and other things (I do not know all the ingredients she used to make these cookies) and places them on the counter. She has done this same thing hundreds of times.

I continued to watch from the TV room, and it was as if everything was perfectly normal. I can remember thinking that maybe she was OK and that they had made a terrible mistake. Then she stopped and stood there looking at all the ingredients and the big stainless steel mixing bowl in front of her. She kept looking, and then she began to cry. I got up and slowly walked over to her. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

She was sobbing now, and I did not understand. Then she blurted out, “What is all of this stuff doing here? What is it doing here? Am I supposed to do something with it?”

I hugged her, and I told her that I would put the stuff away. She smiled, I kissed her on her cheek, and then she went in and sat down on the sofa. I was not sure if she remembered what she was even doing a few minutes earlier. That moment in time was a reality check for me. Unexpectedly, Marty’s cancer went into remission as the Alzheimer’s exacerbated.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia; the difference

It is important to remember that Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are two different things. Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia, while Dementia is a syndrome or a symptom of a cognitive disorder. There are many other causes of dementia besides Alzheimer’s Disease such as Vascular Dementia, Huntington’s Disease, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, to name a few.

A football player may develop dementia from years of head trauma received while participating in his sport. A retired fighter may be deemed as being “punch drunk” because dementia has taken hold of his brain after thousands of punches to the head. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease requires a special evaluation by doctors and trained psychologists in the field before the Alzheimer’s label is officially given to the patient.

My wife first exhibited “forgetfulness’ during her chemo treatments in 2011. I had heard of “chemo-brain” and asked her oncologist about her chemo treatments being the cause. He could not answer and said we would have to wait and see. It was not until the summer of 2014 when medical professionals gave an official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. That was after an MRI, evaluation by a neurologist, and having her and the family interviewed by two psychologists who specialized in the field.

She lived three years after diagnosis. Some Alzheimer’s patients live up to fifteen years, especially those diagnosed in their early fifties. The course of the illness is unpredictable, but the results are very predictable. Alzheimer’s Disease cannot be slowed or stopped. It just keeps at it until its mission is accomplished.  Here are a few facts:

  • Today, 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease
  • It is the 6th leading cause of death in the USA
  • One in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or another form of Dementia

Lastly, from a man who has lived with  Alzheimer’s  and watched it erase his wife’s memory and kill her:  

I wish to say to all those uneducated “experts” who proudly use their “bully pulpit” to place labels of Alzheimer’s disease and other Dementias upon those they do NOT like; you are making a mockery of the profession you are practicing. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

And please, never forget to ask the Patroness of those with dementia and mental illness for her intercession. Her name is St. Dymphna  Click on her name and say “HI.”

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020