The Catholic Church—Saying “NO” to a World Screaming “YES”

St. Peter’s Balcony; Vatican pixabay

By Larry Peterson

How did the precepts of ethics and morality, based on the Ten Commandments and the “Golden Rule”, become a pariah to so many? How did these principles ever become inverted?  Why have they seemingly been tossed by many into the dumpster of the outdated and irrelevant?

There is one critical aspect that drives this onslaught, and I think we do not pay close enough attention to it. Those that are flailing away at our religious heritage and freedoms are not committing these attacks on their own. They have a brilliant, diabolical, hate-consumed leader inspiring them onward. Their leader’s name is Satan, and he is the lover of evil and the master of deceit and deception.

I believe we do not pay enough attention to God’s first creation, the angels. These were the spirit beings that God created, endowing them with knowledge, abounding love, and happiness. They lacked nothing and were to spend eternity in the presence of their Creator, the Triune God.  But God, as he did to His human creations, had given the angels free will.

Unlike humankind, the angels had one choice to make. They could return the love given to them back to God or refuse. Some, led by Lucifer, the greatest of angels, turned on God believing Lucifer’s prideful boast that they could become like God.  This choice caused the creation of Hell, and the newly “fallen angels” became Hell’s permanent residents.

This takes us to knowing and believing that which comes from 1 John 4:16,  “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is Love, and whoever remains in Love remains in God and God in Him.” Satan and his followers are consumed with anti-love, commonly called hate. And their biggest and most hated enemy after Jesus Christ is the church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church.

Satan’s hatred for the true Church of Christ is unimaginable. It fills him and his minions with an inconceivable rage, a force so powerful if we could hear the sound it makes we would turn instantly deaf as our ear drums start exploding.  But, no matter how fierce and intense the onslaught, Holy Mother Church still spits in his evil eye and says NO!

Over the centuries, the Church has withstood Satan’s evil attacks even when they came from within. It also rejects today’s “liberation theology,” the perverse philosophy that suggests, “Jesus wants you to be happy, so just enjoy yourself.” The fact is, Jesus wants us to be happy with him in heaven. God’s creation, Mother Earth, is the testing grounds where we can earn the “right’ to join Him there. While we live out our lives on earth, we do not get to decide what that right might be. We have the commandments, the Magisterium, and the Tradition of the Church to guide us on our life’s journey. As did the fallen angels, we get the right to choose whether to follow or not

The Church has teachings that have been in place for two thousand years. But secularists maintain that the Church has “nerve and audacity” to use the words, SIN, and MORALITY. In today’s self-indulged, secular world, it seems anyone who might suggest that a particular behavior is “immoral” or “sinful” is branded and vilified as intolerant, hateful, racist and even uncaring. How pompous and pride filled this is. Only the new age secularists would have the audacity to suggest that their reversed “virtue” is GOOD and the concept of self-denial is SINFUL.

My favorite comic book character was, Superman. Occasionally, Superman would get stuck in an alternative universe called “Bizarro World”. It was a place where everything was backwards. Up was down, hello meant good-bye and yes meant no. Even the planet, Htrae, (Earth backwards), was shaped like a cube. It is the same with the folly of reversed secular virtue. I call this world “Novis,” which is Latin for the word “reverse.”

On Novis, killing is “Good” and if you stand against it you are evil. For instance, take abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and partial-birth abortion. The Church says NO! On Novis, the Church is now bad. Fornication and people “hooking up” for one-night stands is heralded as “Good”. The Church says NO!  On Novis the Church is told to mind its own business. Divorced and remarried Catholics want to receive the Holy Eucharist. The Church, as it always has done, says NO!  On Novis, the Church is called intolerant. On Novis, if it makes you “happy”, ENJOY!

In this new world, the Church is deemed intolerant and insensitive and is out of touch with the “times” and needs to get into the 21st century. Homosexuals demand to be married in the Church. The Church says NO!  Marriage is between a man and a woman ONLY. Satan screams from his evil world to his followers, Say “YES! YES! YES!” Holy Mother Church says “NO!” In the alternative universe, the Catholic Church is evil.

On Novis the Novitians unwittingly listen to Satan’s message and pound on the dogmatic doors of the Catholic Church. They demand that they be opened to personal wants and desires. Unlike Bizarro World, where things are just ‘crazy’ on Novis, things are mean and vindictive. Novis is ruled by hate. Satan is Hate.

There are other Christian denominations that have succumbed to outside pressures and reworked their “teachings” to accommodate the demands from the people of Novis. They have been praised as “progressive” and “in touch” with the needs of the citizens of Novis. The reality is, they have failed their followers. But the Catholic Church has not caved into the demands and pressures and it never will. We all know that there re those within the church who would dare to destroy it. They have cast their lot with the unholy one who hates anything Catholic in unimaginable ways.

The Catholic Church still teaches that there are Seven Deadly Sins. They are pride, greed,  lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth aka laziness. Note the key word in describing these sins is the word “deadly”. The Church teaches that these sins can destroy the soul of anyone who might indulge these human appetites. The Church also offers forgiveness for falling prey to these sins. This forgiveness is available 24/7.

On the reverse world of Novis, the Church is mocked and laughed at for suggesting these actions offend God. These acts are acceptable because an individual committing one of these sins is just being human and God made us that way and wants us to be “happy”. So–sin away. Just remember, if you subscribe to that concept the victory in the fight for your soul goes to Satan.

Both the clergy and the laity need to be more protective of the faith we love. Many worry about being “PC” and not offending anyone.  We might start by going to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Chapter 6: 16-17.

In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,

To quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit,

which is the word of God.

copyright© Larry Peterson 2020


The Unfailing Way to get out of Purgatory—Turn to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Pope St. John Paul II said, “Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel                                                                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

There is a place near where e prophet Elija lived, and it is one of the most biblical places on earth. It is 1,742 feet above sea level and hovers high over the coast of the Mediterranean. It was here where Elija prayed to God, asking Him to save Israel from the onslaught of an ongoing drought.

He prayed and prayed and would ask his servant to go up the mountain and look for signs of rain. On the seventh try, Elijah’s servant returned, exclaiming, “Behold, a little cloud that looked like a man’s foot rose from the sea.” Soon after, torrential rains fell upon the parched land. The crops grew, the animals thrived,  and the people were saved. The place was called Mount Carmel.

Elijah saw the cloud as the symbol mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the Virgin shall be with Child, and bear a Son and name Him Emanuel.”

Many hermits lived on Mount Carmel, and following Elijah’s example would continually pray for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. The very beginnings of the Carmelite Order can be traced back to Elijah and the hermits of Mount Carmel. Many consider these hermits as the first Carmelites.

These hermits lived on Mount Carmel during the 12th and 13th centuries. In the midst of their hermitages, they built a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, whom they called the Lady of the Place. In the 13th century, Simon Stock was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He had been elected as the 6th superior-general of the Carmelites.

He joined a group of hermits on Mount Carmel. On Sunday, July 16, 1251, Simon Stock was kneeling in prayer when Our Lady appeared to him. The Blessed Mother said to Simon, “Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hochabitu moriens salvabitur.” (This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in the habit shall be saved.”

It is said that the Blessed Mother gave the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also known as the Brown Scapular) to Simon Stock. Six months later, on January 13, 1252, the order received a letter of protection from Pope Innocent IV, defending them from any harassment or denial of this event.

Most of us know of the Sabbatine Privilege. This is attached to the wearing of the Brown Scapular. The name, Sabbatine Privilege, comes from a papal bull issued by Pope John XXII on March 3, 1322. According to the Holy Father, the Blessed Virgin gave him the following message in a vision which was directed to all those who wear the Brown Scapular. “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday (Sabbath) after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”

Based on Church tradition, three conditions must be fulfilled to obtain the benfeits of this Privilege and the Scapular:  1) wear the Brown Scapular; 2) Observe chastity according to one’s state in life; 3) pray the Rosary. Also, to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally be enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a layperson who has been given the authority to do so. Once enrolled, no other scapular needs to be blessed before wearing. The blessing and imposition are attached to the enrolled person for life.

The feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is July 16, the same day she appeared to Simon  Stock. Interestingly, Simon Stock was never officially canonized. He has been venerated by the Carmeilites since 1564. And with Vatican approval, he has been given the feasr day of May 16. He is also called Saint Simon Stock and churches and schools have been named after him,

On the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Brown Scapular, Pope St. John Paul II said, “Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church.”

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Elizabeth of Portugal was called the Peacemaker. Her foremost love was for the poor.

Elizabeth of Portugal                                 wikipedia. commons

By Larry Peterson

Elizabeth was born in 1271 into the royal house of Aragon. St. Elizabeth of Hungary was her great-aunt, and baby Elizabeth was named after her. Her father was King Pedro III of Aragon, and his wife’s name was Constantia.

From a very early age, Elizabeth displayed a pronounced devotion to God. Her fasting, regular prayer, and a sense of strong will and determination were evident to all who knew her. At a young age, she was saying the complete Divine Office daily, fasted frequently, did varied types of penance, and attended Mass twice a day.

When Elizabeth was twelve years old, her parents betrothed her to King Denis of Portugal. The actual wedding did not take place until King Denis was twenty-six years old, and Elizabeth was seventeen. The union would put her faith, tolerance, and humility to the test. She became quickly aware of his infidelity, which was so rampant that it became scandalous in the kingdom. Denis and Elizabeth had two children together but, so reckless was his immorality, that he also fathered seven illegitimate children.

Elizabeth kept leaning on her faith by attending daily Mass, assisting the poor, the sick, strangers, and simply helping all those who came her way. Her husband demanded that she stop feeding the poor because he felt embarrassed by it. He once caught her carrying bread in her large apron and demanded she show him what was in it. When she opened the apron, dozens of red roses fell to the ground. To this day, Elizabeth of Portugal is still known as “Elizabeth of the miraculous roses.”

Elizabeth persevered and remained devoted to her philandering husband. She never lost faith and continued praying for his salvation. Her prayers and sacrifice were rewarded when, at last, King Denis gave up his life of sin. Denis also proved to be an actual conservationist for his time. He became known as the Farmer King because he planted a vast pine forest near the city of Leiria to prevent the relentless soil erosion that threatened the entire region.

Elizabeth’s commitment to the Gospel was always visible. Not only was she was devoted to the poor and sick, she insisted that the ladies who served her at court care for them as well. The queen was so committed that her bishop testified that Elizabeth had a personal ministry of secretly inviting lepers into her quarter. Once inside, she would bathe them and give them fresh clothing—even though the law of the land barred lepers from coming anywhere near the castle.

Elizabeth also took an active part in the politics of the day. In 1297, she became the peacemaker between her husband, King Denis, and Fernando IV of Castile. Her skills at negotiations helped secure the Treaty of Alcatrices, which established fixed borders between the two countries.

She found herself becoming the intermediary between her husband and her son, Alfonso. Prince Alfonso was one of their two children and had become jealous of the way his father was favoring his illegitimate children over him. The Prince gathered an army and was going to go to war against his father. As the two armies gathered together on the field of battle, Elizabeth suddenly came riding onto the battlefield, sitting on the back of a donkey. She placed herself between her husband and her son and calmly and logically had them mend their differences. The illegitimate son was sent into exile, and the Prince renewed his loyalty to his father, the King. Through the efforts of Elizabeth, peace returned to the land.

When King Denis died in 1325, Elizabeth returned to the monastery she had founded in 1314.. Inhabited by the Poor Clare Nuns, she joined the Third Order of St. Francis vowing to devote the rest of her life to the poor and sick. From that point on, that is precisely what she did.

In  1336, Elizabeth traveled a great distance to negotiate a peace between Alonso IV and King Alfonso of Castile. She was successful in her mission but the journey and efforts she made had taken their toll. She made it back home but immediately became bedridden. She died on July 4, 1336.

Elizabeth of Portugal earned the title of Peacemaker. Many testified to miracles accomplished through her intercession. She was canonized a saint on May 25, 1625 by Pope Urban VIII. Her feast day is July 4.

Ironically, King Denis, after repenting of his past sins, wrote this poem for his wife: It was the ultimate tribute he could give.

God made you without peer
In goodness of heart and speech
As your equal does not exist,
My love, my lady, I thus sing:
Had God so wished,
You’d made a great king.

Copyright© Larry Peterson2020


Sister Maria Laura Mainetti; murdered in a ritual act of satanism, will be Beatified.

They all (her killers) said she kept saying, “Lord, forgive them.”

Sister Maria Laura Mainetti                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Teresina Elsa Mainetti was born in Colico, Italy, on August 20, 1939. She felt the calling to dedicate her life to helping others from when she was in grade school. Staying true to herself, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Cross, in Rome, Italy, on August 22, 1957. Teresina had just turned 18 years old. She took the name, Sister Maria Laura.

Sister Maria studied hard and dedicated her life to children, young people, and families in the towns surrounding Vasto, Rome, and Parma. She moved to Chiavenna in 1984. Once there, she quickly became known for her love and commitment to the homeless youth and poor people of the area. Her ministry to children as a catechist and spiritual leader added to her reputation.

On the evening of June 3, 2000, Sister Maria Laura Mainetti was at home in her convent when she received a phone call from one of her former catechism students. Sister Maria was the Mother Superior of the convent, which specialized in helping teenagers in trouble. The girl was calling, asking Sister for help. She said she had been raped and was pregnant. Frightened and alone, she said, was considering having an abortion. She asked Sister if she could meet with her to talk. Sister agreed, and the girl told her she would call her back with a time and place.

The girl called back on June 6 and told Sister Maria she had run away from home and would she please come to see her. She wanted to meet Sister in Marmitte dei Giganti Park at 10 p.m. Sister agreed. It was not unusual for her to go out at night like this as she was always available to assist young people in trouble.

The girl who met her was Milena De Giambattista. The two walked together over to the park where Milena’s two friends, Ambra Gianasso, and Veronica Pietrobelli, joined them. All four walked into the park and headed to a secluded area. When they arrived there, they immediately made Sister Maria kneel on the ground. They then began screaming and cursing at her and smacking her head.  De Giambattista began beating Sister Maria with a brick while Gianasso started smashing sister’s head into a wall next to where they had stopped.

They had only just begun. Then they took turns stabbing Sister Maria with a kitchen knife. Their intention was to each stab Sister six times for a total of eighteen stab wounds, which would be three sixes, or 666, the number of the beast. But they stabbed her nineteen times, one too many, which “ruined” their ritual.

The next morning someone out for an early morning walk discovered Sister Maria’s brutalized body. In her hands were clumps of one of her attacker’s hair. As the police began their investigation, a witness stepped forward and said that he had seen the three girls and Sister Maria together on the night of June 6.

The police monitored the girl’s phones, and in one of the calls, two of the girls began discussing the murder. Three weeks after the crime had been committed, the three girls were arrested. Two of the girls were seventeen, and one was sixteen. None of them had any prior history of violent behavior or of being in any trouble. They all came from upstanding, middle-class families.

At first, they said that killing Sister was “a game.” They finally admitted it was a satanic sacrifice. After searches in the young peoples’ homes, the police were able to discover the existence of a satanic subculture.  These three young women, all teenagers, had aligned themselves with Satan and his evil demonic forces. Their initial target was the parish priest, but they realized he was much too big and powerful for them to bring down.

They then targeted little Sister Maria, the kind nun who had taught them catechism when they were in grade school. Sister was willing to do anything to help her former pupil, who had been violently impregnated. It was like leading the lamb to the slaughter. In fact, in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI praised Sister Maria, who said, “with total giving of self, sacrificed her life while praying for those who were attacking her.”

The killers of Sister Maria admitted that she was praying for them as she lay dying. They all said she kept saying, “Lord, forgive them.”  Pope Francis declared on June 21, that Sister Maria Laura Mainetti had died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) and was a martyr. She will be beatified at a date to be announced.

(The murderers of Sister Maria were juveniles and served their sentences, being paroled (on the average) after about five years. Today they are all living lives far away from their crime.)

copyright©Larry Peterson2020


Some advice on Father’s Day: No matter the Past—Tell him you Love him and if you see him–Give him a hug; You do not always get a second chance

Father’s day                                                                               public domain

By Larry Peterson

My Dad died suddenly during Christmas Season of 1965. Yes, a long time ago, December 30, to be exact. Due to that, I have carried a “regret” inside me for my entire life. I still want a “do-over,” but it can never happen. Sometimes you do not get a second chance. And then you live with, “if only—.” I have been doing that “if only” thing for a long time.

Our Mom had passed on a few years earlier. She had just turned forty when leukemia killed her.  Dad was crushed and began drinking, It took a few years, but his body rebelled, and he had an acute attack of pancreatitis.

I was the oldest of the five kids and, at the age of twenty, thought I was a lot smarter than I was. I had to put college on hold and had been working in construction since high school. We needed the money. I had gotten home from work about six o’clock to find out he had been taken to the hospital that morning.

My sister, Carolyn, who was home with our younger brothers during Christmas break, had been there. She and a neighbor had taken him. When I walked into our apartment, Johnny, who was the youngest at six, started crying and blurted out, “When is daddy coming home?”  I told them all to take care of each other, and I would be back very soon.

My father was on the third floor in room 317. I was stunned at what I saw.  He had a tube coming from his nose that went down into a large bottle on the floor. Brownish red gunk was draining from inside of him into that bottle. It was disgusting. My gag reflex kicked in. I could not walk over to the bed.

A doctor came up behind me and introduced himself. He was taking care of Dad, and he gave me a quick rundown. I was hardly listening. He knew I was nervous, so he said, “Walk in with me.”

I did, and I have no idea what I said to my Dad. The doctor began feeling Dad’s belly and looking at his eyes. My father had sky blue eyes, and they were fixed hard on his oldest child.  He must have been wondering why his son was standing about five feet away from the bed. I could not speak because I was trying to be grown-up and not puke.

The doctor left, and he just kept looking at me. He was scared, and I could see it in his eyes. But I had to get out of there.  I said, “Okay, Pops, I gotta go. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Walking down Arthur Ave. to the bus stop, I turned and looked up at his window. I began to cry. I realized I had never hugged him or said, “I love you’ or anything. I had just left. The doctor said he would be home in a day or two; everything would be okay. I could have gone back, but I did not. I could have stayed and sat with him. I could have at least gave him a damn hug and said some encouraging words. I could have told him, I love you, Pops.” He died at 3 a.m, scared and alone.

There it is; therein lies my regret;  never having said, “I love you.” one last time and leaving my father to die scared and alone in a strange place with strange people.  Is that pathetic or what?  He had just celebrated his 53rd birthday.

Once again, it is Father’s Day, and I have some advice to all of you who still have your father’s living. Forget the past; make sure you tell them you love them. If nearby, make sure you hug them. If far away, make sure you call them;  no texting and no emailing. The day will come when you have no more second chances. You do not want to live with an “if only…”

There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized,”, the downward spiral of respect for life followed.

For more info about our journey as ‘orphans”, Click on the book cover of The Priest and The Peaches  located in the right column

copyright©Larry Peterson2020

 


When World War II ended the nightmare for others began: Meet the Thirty-Eight Martyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 Matyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 martyrs of Albania    public domain

By Larry Peterson

When the Nazis fled Albania at the end of WW II, the communists took control of the small country. From 1945 through 1974, they ruled Albania with an iron hand banning religion, especially Catholicism. Many Catholics were brutally tortured and murdered during this period. What follows is about the 38 Martyrs of Albania who were beatified on November 5, 2016.

Father Ernest Simoni had just finished saying Christmas Mass in 1963. Suddenly and unexpectedly he was surrounded by police and arrested. He was shackled and charged with the crime of  “saying Masses for John F. Kennedy,” the American president who had been assassinated the previous month in Dallas, Texas. His next stop would be in prison, where he would endure torture and forced labor for the next 18 years.

We move ahead to April of 2016. Pope Francis was holding a ceremony recognizing 38 people who had died in the dark, dank, and disgusting prisons of Albania. The group included mostly Albanians, some Italians, and one German.  Included among them were two bishops, 21 diocesan priests, three Jesuits, seven Friars Minor, a Franciscan novice-nun, three Catholic laymen, and one seminarian. Most of them died between 1945 and 1950.

The only woman among them, Maria Tucci, was arrested on August 10, 1949.  She refused to answer her captor’s questions and was tortured over and over until August 1950. She had been so brutalized over the previous year that she required hospitalization. She died from her injuries on October 24, 1950. She was 22 years old.

Not included among them was Father Simoni. He was standing before the Holy Father. He was  88 years old and holding a box which contained the bones of ten of his countrymen. They, too, had been imprisoned in Albania. Unlike Father Simoni, they had all been executed.

Pope Francis, was honoring  Father Simoni’s faithfulness to Jesus and the faith by elevating him to the rank of Cardinal. The Pope wept as he hugged the new Cardinal saying, “Today I touched martyrs.”

Those who were present that day heard how the Albanian martyrs were tortured to death and then executed or just tortured over and over and sent to forced labor camps. The one constant among all these holy martyrs was that they were always praying to God and asking Him to forgive their killers.

Here are brief bios of the three Jesuits who were among the martyred:

  • Giovanni Fausti: He was the oldest of twelve children born in Brescia, Italy, on October 19, 1899. He began his religious studies at the age of ten and was a classmate of Giovanni Montini, the future Pope St. Paul VI. After studying at the Pontifical Lombard College in Rome, he was ordained a priest on July 9, 1922. He entered the Society of Jesus on October 30, 1924. After serving in the Italian army, he entered the Pontifical Gregorian University and became a philosophy professor. He had been in Albania twice and was sent back in 1942. He was arrested by the communists on December 31, 1945. After being held for two months and tortured almost every day, he was shot dead on March 4, 1946.

 

  • Daniel Dajani: Daniel was born in 1906, and, by the time he was twelve, he felt the calling to the priesthood. He studied hard and began his novitiate with the Jesuits on July 8, 1926. He received his teaching credentials and made his solemn profession of vows on February 2, 1942. Similar to Father Fausti, Father Daniel was arrested on December 31, 1945. He also was held for two months having to endure constant torture. And, just like Father Fausti, Father Dajani was executed on March 4, 1946.

 

 

  • Gjon Pantalia: Gjon was born in Serbia in 1887 and was related to St. Teresa of Calcutta. He did not want to be a priest, so he joined the Jesuits as a Brother. He became a teacher specializing in chorus, theater, and socio-cultural activities. He also was a writer, composer, and a spiritual director to many of his students. He was called “Brother Cornerstone” of the College of Shkodra. He was arrested in 1946 and brutally tortured. He tried to escape from prison but broke his legs jumping from a window. He was captured and thrown back in his cell. Lack of treatment and constant, unbearable pain, took its toll. He died on October 31, 1947.

 

We ask all the Martyrs of Albania to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


This Hairdresser Slave is on the Way to Sainthood*

Pierre Toussaint                                        en wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

There have been many great Black Americans who have stood tall to help make America the proud nation it is today. Rev.Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and the list goes on.

Included, among those are also Black Catholic Americans *(Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is Catholic).  The names of these  people are not so recognizable as the aforementioned.  Such people as Father Augustus Tolton, born a slave he was the first African American to be ordained a priest in the United States.

Others include: Henriette Delille, the founder of The Sisters of the Holy Family; Mother Mathilda Beasley who became known as “The Idol of the Poor”; Daniel Rudd, a black Catholic journalist who founded the National Black Catholic Congress and  Elizabeth Mary Lang. Born a slave she became the co-foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Another person who is part of the legacy that Black Catholic Americans left for all of us is Venerable Pierre Touissant.

Pierre was born a slave in Haiti in 1766. He was fortunate because his owner, Monsieur Berard, wealthy from raising and selling sugar, baptized Pierre into the Catholic faith and also educated him. He trained the boy as a house slave saving him from all the hard labor expended by those working out in the sugarcane fields.

Tensions were rising among the slave population in Haiti and the senior Berard returned to France. He left his son, Jean Berard, with the plantation. However, the pressure was building among the slaves over conditions and Jean decided it was time to leave. In 1787, he and his wife took five of his slaves with him including Pierre and his sister, Rosalie, and moved to New York City.

Jean Berard’s decision to leave Haiti proved to be a good one. In 1793, the slaves in Haiti revolted and Monsieur Berard heard that his plantation had been burned to the ground. He was so distraught that he passed away, probably from heart failure. Madame Berard was left without anything or anyone to help her, except, of course, Pierre.

When they arrived in New York several years earlier, Jean Berard had managed to get Pierre into an apprenticeship hairdresser program. The young man turned out to be an artist at hair styling. It was during  a time when the wealthy women had their hair stacked high with layers of curls and ribbons flowing down. Hair styling was time consuming and demanding and soon Pierre had more business than he could handle.

Pierre supported Madame Berard and was working almost 16 hours a day.  She eventually married a man named Monsieur Nicolas, also from Haiti. She made him promise that if anything happened to her he would make sure that Pierre was given his freedom. She passed away and Pierre was given his freedom. He had earned enough money to pay for the freedom of his fiancee, Juliette, and marry her. He also earned enough money to pay for Rosalie’s freedom. By this time Pierre was almost 45.

Pierre constantly spoke of the love of God and the beauty of the Catholic faith. He loved being Catholic and had no qualms about talking about it with his many customers. It did not matter to him that most were not Catholic and, for the most part, did not even like Catholics. He just wanted others to experience the joy he had in knowing his Catholic faith helped fill him with God’s love and they could have the same by embracing that same faith..

Pierre Toussaint was dedicated to the theological virtue of Charity (aka) Love. He cared for the sick and even brought them into his home nursing them back to health. He visited areas infected with disease and plague bringing food and clothing to the suffering. He even went to those who had been abandoned by their own families. He helped Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton (who had  an orphanage in the city) by raising money from his rich customers and giving the future saint his own money.

This was a Black Catholic man living during a time when being Catholic was even dangerous for white folks.  He attended daily Mass every day for 66 years. He sheltered orphans, provided foster care for children, helped them get into school and even helped some of them get their first jobs. During a cholera epidemic he crossed over the quarantine lines to help the sick without regard for his own well being.

Pierre Toussaint’s crowning achievement may have been his helping the Catholic Church raise the funds to build the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry St. He also provided and raised funding for the First Catholic School for Black children at St. Vincent de Paul in lower Manhattan.

Pierre Toussaint died on June 30, 1857. He was 87 years old. In 1991, based on documents and investigations into his life, Pierre was declared a Servant of God. In 1996 he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II reaching the second step on the journey to canonization. In addition, he was the first layman honored by having his remains moved to  the present St. Patrick’s  Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint we thank you for your Love and ask for your continued prayers.

*This article first appeared in Aleteia on February 10, 2017

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017   (©reprinted and updated  Larry Peterson 2020)

 


Madonna della Strada or Our Lady of the Way was an unknown Fresca that inspired St. Ignatius Loyola to help found the Society of Jesus

Our Lady of the Way                                             public domain

By Larry Peterson

The title “Our Lady of the Way” (Madonna della Strada) comes from a beautiful shrine kept in Rome, where a fresco (painted on wet plaster) during the 13th or 14th century was venerated. The fresco was a small painting of the Madonna and Child. For the previous 425 years, this painting had hung in the corner of Rome’s church of St. Mary of the Way (Santa Maria dell Strada). St. Ignatius Loyola had come across this painting on his first trip to the Eternal City in 1540. He preached day after day on an adjacent street corner and fell in love with the artwork.

Shortly after, Pope Paul III approved Loyola’s small band of “reformed” priests, and so was born the Society of Jesus. The Holy Father gave them Santa Maria della Strada as their home base and pastoral home. Ignatius effectively became the caretaker of the fresco.

In 1568, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese erected the Chiesa del Gesu (Church of Jesus) as the Mother Church of the Jesuits. The fresco was moved there in 1575 and placed in the chapel where the Jesuits took their vows.

Before he died, Ignatius left instructions for the Jesuits on how to preserve the image so it could eventually be enshrined in the new church, a church he would not live to see. It ultimately was transferred to its permanent place of honor above the ornately decorated chapel to the left of the high altar. It remained there until the present time.

The Chiesa del Gesu was not completed until 1584. By then, many people had come to venerate the painting, especially after Ignatius of Loyola had agreed it demonstrated healing powers. He also gave to the Blessed Virgin credit for saving his life during a battle in 1521. It was not until the 19th century that the image was transferred to canvas and affixed to a slate panel.

In the year 2006, the Madonna della Strada was long overdue for a “cleaning.”  The project quickly escalated into a much more complex task than anticipated. For starters, the image proved to be more than 200 years older than previously thought. And the quality of the artwork was much more intricate than believed.

The biggest and most profound revelations came from the Madonna and the infant Jesus. Working in a makeshift studio above the church’s lateral chapels, conservators slowly dissolved centuries worth of grime, mineral deposits, varnish, and overpainting from the image’s surface.  Brilliant colors began to poke their way through the cloudy old residue. After weeks of slowly but surely working a tiny piece at a time, a new Madonna della Strada appeared.

Faces once frozen tight under layers of dirt and resin reappeared fresh and lively. A rosy-cheeked baby Jesus with His little right hand raised in blessing was crystal clear. It was incredibly three dimensional as He sat in his Mother’s arm. The Virgin, wearing a stenciled crown, has a healthy complexion, a gentle face, and, as does the baby Jesus, looks at the viewer as if she is LOOKING at the viewer. Experts were the overseers of the project and agreed the work was most likely from the 13 or the 14th century. It is a rare example of late-medieval Roman wall painting.

Today, freed from its 19th century “protective coatings,” the Madonna della Strada aka Our Lady of the Way, is once again alive. Many more people now visit and venerate it. The icon is located between two altars, the first dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, the second, the main altar of the church, dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.

Pilgrims visit the shrine every day, and many stories circulate of favors they receive from the Mother of God after praying before it. The feast day of Our Lady of the Way /Madonna della Strada is May 24.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Matteo Farina; his Catholic faith was his strength as he fought brain cancer throughout his teenage years.

Venerable Matteo Farina                     catholicnewsagency.com

By Larry Peterson

Matteo Farina was born in Avellino, Italy, on September 19, 1990. It was apparent early in his life that Matteo possessed a deeply spiritual side. He would recite the Rosary every day, read the Gospel, and he developed a devotion to St. Padre Pio and St. Francis of Assisi.

This all happened before he was nine years old.  He made his first confession when he was eight and, on June 4, 2000, received his First Holy Communion. He would go to confession once a week and attend Eucharistic Adoration as often as he could.

On May 10, 2003, the Archbishop of Brindisi, Ostuni Settimo, confirmed Matteo. His sister, Erika, acting as his sponsor, stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder. Matteo had a dream several years earlier in which St. Pio came to him and revealed the secret of Christian happiness. Padre Pio asked Matteo to spread the message to others. The announcement was, “You must understand that who is without sin is happy, then you have to teach it to the others so that we can go all together happily in the heavenly paradise.”

This dream led Matteo to realize that his vocation was to evangelize, and he wrote, “I hope to succeed as an “infiltrator” among the young people, telling them what God wants. I look around me, and I want to enter in young people’s lives quietly like a virus, infecting them with an incurable illness called love.”

Matteo’s cancer first surfaced when he was 13 years old. Severe headaches and problems with his vision began to occur. His parents and his Uncle Rosario traveled with Matteo for health checks in Avellino and Verona, and those visits were followed by a journey to Hanover for a brain biopsy. It was discovered his brain was filled with malignant cells.

His strong faith and love of life never fades. He smiles at everyone, and even when recovering from surgeries, he tries to cheer up other patients. He would say, “It is useless to despond. We have to be happy and transmit happiness. The more happiness we give people, the more people are happy. The more they are happy, the more we are happy.”

In January 2005, he goes to Germany for a craniotomy operation to remove a third-degree brain tumor. He spends over a month in Milan receiving chemotherapy treatments and returns home on April 2, 2005. This was the date that Pope John Paul II died. Doctors believed the cancer was in remission, but at the end of 2007, his condition grew worse. By October 2008, his mom insisted he receive Anointing of the Sick.

It was during these teen years that he met a girl named Serena. They fell in love and always strived to have a chaste relationship. Serena remained at Matteo’s side until the end. He said of Serena that “she was the most beautiful gift the Lord could give.”

He underwent another operation, but by February 2009, his arm and leg were paralyzed, and he needed a wheelchair to get around. In late March 2009, he developed a high fever and was admitted to the hospital.  Archbishop Talucci visited him and gave him an Easter blessing.

However, doctors could do no more. Matteo received his last Holy Communion on April 13, 2009, and died one week later, on April 24. He was 19 years old.

Matteo Farina’s mission may be summed up in his own words, “My God, I have two hands, let one of them to be always clasped to You in order to hold You closer in every trial. And let the other hands fall throughout the world if this is Your will…as I know You by others, so let others know You through me. I want to be a mirror, the clearest possible, and if this is Your will, I want to reflect Your light in the heart of every man. Thanks for Life. Thanks for Faith. Thanks for Love. I’m Yours.

Matteo’s reputation for personal holiness had been witnessed by many. He was declared a   Servant of God on April 11, 2016. On May 5, 2020, Pope Francis declared him a person of “heroic virtue” and gave him the title of Venerable Matteo Farina.

Venerable Matteo Farina, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Mother’s Day—Making Peace with my most UN-favorite Holiday

 Hug them and kiss them–Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

Our Mom, Lillian      age 39;  1959        Passed in 1960

By Larry Peterson

Mother’s Day is here, and I will tell you immediately that it has never been my favorite holiday. Truth be known, it has been my most dreaded holiday. I know that is pathetic. So please bear with me as I share my journey to finally finding some inner peace with this beautiful holiday.

My mother died 59 years ago. She had just turned 40. (She had Leukemia, and if you had Leukemia 59 years ago, you were “toast.”)  For some reason, I have only a few faded memories of her. And, for me, that is an emptiness that has always exploded inside me during the Mother’s Day celebration.

We were kids when she died. There were five of us, and at fifteen, I was the oldest. My sister and brothers (the two youngest have now passed away) remembered details about her, such as the softness of her hair, her laugh, how she loved cherry vanilla ice-cream or pulling the shopping cart to the A&P. As for me, memories were almost all gone. Fortunately, I had the second-hand information my younger siblings shared.

Death visited us often when we were young. Grandma (she lived with us) died two years after Mom. Dad died two years after her. We were officially orphans (that became a novel, The Priest and The Peaches), and we hung together and survived and did okay. But ‘death” kept lurking, and over the years, my sister was widowed, my brother was widowed, and I was widowed—twice. The two youngest, Bobby and Johnny, also have passed. but it all began with Mom.

I always managed, fortified by my Catholic faith, to move through the grief process and learn to accept what happened. It was sort of like making peace with someone you wish you never met. But with my Mom, that process never completed itself until recently. (I never realized until years later how she was always teaching us a lesson as she lay there either holding her blue Rosary or having it next to her. It was like it was a part of her).

I finally came to understand why I have been “stuck in the mud” with my Mom’s sudden passing, albeit so long ago. I was selfish. I never thought about what must have been going through her mind as she lay dying at the age of 39. It was always about me and how MY Mom died. That was the reason for my decades’ old problem. Therein was the cause of my emptiness. It was never about her. I felt sorry for myself when she died and kept feeling sorry for myself, year after year after year.

I needed help, and finally, it came.  Out of the clear blue, my daughter, Mary, called me and, during the conversation, said, “Hey dad, do you realize I’m going to be 40 on my next birthday?”

Talk about being hit by lightning. My own daughter was going to be the same age as my own mother was when she was slowly being killed by an insidious, no holds barred, and merciless disease. I had never thought of my Mom as a 40-year-old woman with five kids. I thought of her as my Mom, who died on ME. How pathetic was that?

Mary, who also happens to look a lot like the grandma she never knew, had only asked me a simple question. She could not have known the power that was in it. She had no idea that at that moment, it removed the veil from my clouded “Mom world” and set me on my journey to discover the woman and person who was also my mother.

It had taken decades but I finally began to reflect and ponder about this woman I had called “mommy.”  Her name was Lillian, and she carried me in her womb. She fed me, bathed me, held me and hugged me, nursed my siblings and me through illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox (all of which I have no memory). This woman cleaned our house, washed and ironed our clothes, cooked, shopped, and even worked part-time. I cannot imagine how she must have felt as she prepared to leave her family knowing  death was getting  closer and closer.  How awful and terrifying that must have been for her?

How did she hold her not yet two-year-old son on her lap and look at him without going hysterical,? How did she handle thinking about her six-year old son, missing his front teeth, who she would never give a sweet hug to again?  She had a ten-year-old who was in fourth grade and always needed his Mom to help him with his homework. Would his dad help him? I never considered such a thing.

And of course, there was my sister, Mommie’s “little” girl. But she was 13 already, and she was growing up. She would need her Mom, to talk to about woman things.  How did she bare holding onto the knowledge that her children would soon be motherless? What did she say to our Dad, her husband, and lover, as they lay together in bed, in the dark of night waiting for the inevitable as their five kids slept?

The following part in italics pertains to my Dad. It fits into this short narrative

I have harbored one regret over the years, and it pertained to my Dad.  Four years after Mom passed, Dad had an acute attack of pancreatitis. He was in the hospital, and it was 11 P.M. I was standing by the door to his room looking in. He had IV lines and tubes coming out of him from who knows where. A big bottle of ‘gunk” was on the floor that these tubes were draining into. I thought I would be sick. He was looking at me, and I could see the fear in his face. Guess what I did? Nothing, yes, I did nothing.  I did not go over to him and hold his hand.  I never hugged him. I just said, “See ya tomorrow.”

I gave him a cursory wave, and then I left. He died three hours later. Yeah, I know, I was young and blah-[blah-blah. No matter—that is a REGRET. I left my own  Dad alone to die by himself. It has been 55 years, and the pain of my actions still has not subsided.

 It took a very long time but I have forgiven myself for being an insensitive kid. I am long past feeling sorry for “me.”  Those thoughts about my Mom have brought me to a better place. However, that refreshed mindset has unveiled a new regret. Now I have one for Dad and one for Mom. I guess I deserve them both. I earned them for sure.

Mom had been close to death several days before Christmas, 1960. But she made a miraculous recovery and came home. (See story here)  During the first part of February, she took ill again. I have this vivid memory of her lying in bed with Bobby, age six, and Johnny, who just had his second birthday, each nestled into the crook of her arms, one on the left and one on the right. Her best friend Adeline was standing there talking to her about something, and she was looking at me. I said, “Okay, I have to go to work.” (I worked for the local grocer delivering groceries) and I left. No hug, no kiss, I never even said good-bye.

When I got home, she was not there. She was back in the hospital. We were supposed to see her Saturday morning but she died before we got there. I will always regret that I never HUGGED or KISSED my Mom one last time that one damn day. Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

On this Mother’s Day, I will also thank God for that phone call from Mary. I will then thank Him for my Mom. Then I will go home, and, fortified by a different mindset, will sit by myself and cry…just maybe not as much.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020