Tag Archives: catholic

Christmas–Is it Really a Time for Miracles?–I Believe It Is.

Miracles Do Happen                         huffingtonpost.uk.com

By Larry Peterson

During  Christmas season I  believe God’s loving hand sweeps down and touches many of us with a little extra something when we might need it most. Haven’t you ever, after having something unexpected and wonderful happen, blurted out, “I can’t believe it, it’s a miracle!”

Sometimes what happens to you or someone close to you is inexplicable, mystifying and mysterious and you just know in your heart that God had His hand in the mix. The following is true and it happened to my family during the Christmas season of 1960. I can remember it as if it happened today. There is no logical explanation save God intervened and gave us an unexpected Christmas gift.

Our Mom had just turned forty and suddenly was going back and forth to the hospital for two or three days at a time. I had just turned 16 and was more or less oblivious to most everything except Barbara McMahon, who lived around the corner. Every time Mom came home she looked worse. My sister, Carolyn, 13, told me the black and blue marks on Mom’s arms were from IV needles. I figured she knew what was up especially since she wanted to be a nurse.

Dad just kept telling us it was the “grippe” (today we call it the flu). “Don’t worry,” he’d say, “It’s just a really bad grippe.” Grandma, who lived with us, embraced that concept without question. Today, the psyche experts call that Denial. Grandma proved to be really good at it.

Mom was home for Thanksgiving but Grandma was doing most of the work using my poor sister as her trainee. I know that it was sometime after Thanksgiving that Mom went back into the hospital. Then came December 18. That was the day Dad, Grandma, Carolyn and myself, took the subway down to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for a simple Sunday visit with the woman who was the wife, mother, and daughter in our lives. Christmas was one week away and that visit turned out to be anything but simple.

Mom was on the third floor and when we got to her room several doctors and nurses were standing around her bed. Mom was on the bed, her head on the pillow and turned to one side. Her eyes were closed. I remember how still she was. I was instantly frightened. Carolyn and I looked at each other and she too was filled with fear. It is amazing how fast fear can embrace you.

Grandma placed her hand over her mouth and started to cry. One of the doctors pulled our dad to the side and quietly talked to him. I watched him shake his head ever so slightly. Then he came over to me and (this is a direct quote from him on that day), “Please take your sister and Grandma to the chapel and say a rosary together. Your Mom needs all the prayers she can get right now.”

Trying to grow into a man in a matter of seconds I put my arm around Grandma’s shoulder and said, “C’mon Grandma, let’s do what Dad asked.” She was so distraught she simply complied and followed my lead. As we headed to the inter-denominational chapel a priest hurried towards Mom’s room.

I have no idea how long we were in that little chapel but I do know we had prayed two rosaries when a nurse came in and asked us to come back to the room. We were a bit shocked because the nurse was smiling. Grandma, with her worn out arthritic knees, jumped up and broke into the funkiest sprint I have ever seen. She had erased thirty years just like that.

When we walked into that room we were confronted with a sight to behold. Mom was sitting up in bed, smiling. Dad was next to her with his arm around her shoulder. He was sporting a grin that spread across his entire face and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Standing on the other side of the bed was the priest we had seen in the hallway. He was standing there with his hands clasped together with a look on his face I cannot describe. For me, it was a moment etched indelibly in my mind and I can see it as clearly as I did back then.

Our Mom, who we thought was dead, extended her arms and said, “Well, don’t I get a hug from you two? C’mon, get over here.”

Mom was not only better, but she was also ALL better. Her arms were clear, her face had color and her eyes were bright and cheerful. Several doctors were outside huddled together in disbelief. They had no explanation for her sudden recovery. We finally learned that Mom had Leukemia and, in 1960, your chances with that disease were virtually non-existent. We also learned that Dad had asked us to go to the chapel because the doctor had told him she only had moments left. He did not want us to see her pass on.

My father and the priest believed they had witnessed a miracle. Grandma, Carolyn and I witnessed the results of that miracle. Mom came home the next afternoon.

Christmas of 1960 was spiritual and fabulous. What had happened filled us all with an awe-inspiring sense of what Christmas means….New Life.  As for Mom, she was fine until the end of January. She enjoyed Johnny’s second birthday and Danny’s eleventh birthday. In early February she was back in the hospital. She died on February 18, 1961. God gave her back to us for one last Christmas and it was the best Christmas ever.

So please, trust me when I tell you, Christmas is really a time for miracles.

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016

Three Catholic Saints who Managed to Live to the age of 100 and Beyond

 

Nheyob | CC BY SA 4.0 | Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

Recently I came across the names of eight saints who were centenarians. Incredibly they had made it up to and past the one-hundred-year mark without having the advantages of modern medicine and all the blessings we have available to us. No, they just lived their lives until God called them. Here is a brief account of three of them:

St. Simon Stock

Simon Stock was born in England in 1165 AD. Legend has it that at the age of twelve he began living as a hermit in the hollow trunk (“stock” means trunk) of a large, oak tree. In the early 13th  century Simon went to the Holy Land where he joined the newly formed Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their origins were in Palestine and when they moved to Europe, Simon went with them. He became one of the early leaders of the order which became known as the Carmelites.

On July 26, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon holding the Brown Scapular in one hand. She said to Simon,  “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

Simon Stock became the prior general of the Carmelites and under his leadership, the order spread across Europe and throughout England. Today the Brown Scapular is known and venerated the world over. (The word scapular comes from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade” That is why the brown cloth covers the chest and the upper back).

Interestingly, St. Simon Stock was never formally canonized yet he is venerated in the Catholic Church, his feast day is May 16, and the Carmelites have honored him since 1564, which also has the approval of the Vatican.

Lastly, St. Simon Stock died in the year 1265. He was 100 years old.

St. Patrick

We all know that St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but the dates of his life are murky at best. He was probably born in the early 5th century and, at the age of sixteen,  was captured by pirates. He was taken from his home in Britain to Ireland where he was held in captivity for six years before escaping back to his family.

He became a cleric and returned to Ireland working tirelessly to convert the pagan Celts. He became the first bishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland. His became a saint during the pre-congregation era.

All available documents suggest that St. Patrick died when he was 106 years old.

Raymond of Penyafort (Pennyforth)

Raymond was a lawyer, a preacher, and a priest who left a profound influence on the history of Spain and the Church. He was instrumental in re-Christianizing Spain after the Moors were defeated and his consolidation of papal decrees was the primary source of canon law for over 700 years.

Raymond was approached by Peter Nolasco, the Founder of the Mercedarians, and asked if he could help him get approval in founding his order. Raymond helped greatly, assisting his friend in getting the consent of King James I of Aragon and so were born the Mercedarians.

Already an accomplished lawyer and scholar, Raymond joined the Dominicans in  Barcelona in 1222. He was 47 years-old. Raymond was a gifted preacher and was very successful at evangelizing Moors and Jews.

In 1230, Pope Gregory IX, made Raymond his confessor. During this time Raymond sorted and put in order all the decrees of popes and councils since 1150. Canonists relied on Raymond’s succinctly arranged writings until the new codification in 1917.

Raymond Penyaforth died in 1275 at the age of 100. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. He is the patron saint of lawyers, including canon lawyers.

St. Raymond Penyaforth, pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Saint Barbara; raised a Pagan, her Reasoning led her to Discover her Creator

St. Barbara; Martyr:   One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

St. Barbara was born sometime in the middle of the 3rd century in a place called Heliopolis, a city which today would be located somewhere in Lebanon. Barbara’s pagan father was a rich and influential man, and his name was Dioscorus.

As Barbara grew, she became more and more beautiful. When her mother passed away, her father became fixated on Barbara and began devoting himself to her in an ever-increasing and overbearing manner. He decided to hide her from anyone who did not know her.

Dioscorus built a tower for his daughter, and only her pagan teachers and servants were allowed to see her. Barbara did have a view of the surrounding woodlands and would stare at the flowers in the meadows and the running streams. She began to wonder where they came from. Her reasoning helped her to realize that there must be a First Cause for such order and beauty.

It followed that Barbara’s reasoning would take her to realize that the idols her father and the pagans worshipped were soulless and possessed no power. She knew these ‘things’ could not have created the world she could see. A desire swelled within her to know the real Creator of the world. She decided to spend her life in a state of virginity and to find this Creator.

Word of the beautiful young woman spread throughout the city, and many came to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father wanted her to marry someone he chose. She begged him to let her live her own life and told him that his persistence would drive them apart.

Dioscorus did not listen. But he did decide that his keeping her locked in a tower may have caused her to reject a different lifestyle. He proceeded to give her permission to leave the tower giving her freedom to choose her friends. Barbara headed into the city and met some young maidens. These ladies taught her about God and creation and the Blessed Trinity.

Soon after (and, many believe it was God’s grace) a priest from Alexandria, disguised as a merchant, arrived in Heliopolis. He spent time with Barbara instructing her in the Christian faith. Soon she was baptized, and after that, the priest returned to his own country.

Dioscorus wanted his daughter back home, so he decided to build her a beautiful house of her own with a huge bathhouse within.  He ordered the bathhouse to have two windows, but Barbara asked the workers to put in three. She wanted them to represent the Blessed Trinity. She also carved a cross into the marble wall near the windows.

Her father was angry at the window being added, and when Barbara explained why she had done it and how she had become a Christian believing in the Triune God, Dioscorus was enraged. He grabbed his sword and was about to strike her with it, but she managed to run away.

He chased after her but she managed to reach a hill that had a small cave in the side of it, and she hid inside. Her father, unrelenting, tracked her down, found her,  and dragged her from the cave. He handed her over to Matrianus, who was the head of the local authorities. Barbara was beaten again and again and during her torment prayed continually for courage and strength.

Finally, after being beaten and tortured and still refusing to give in to her father’s demands, Dioscorus took his daughter out to a field, and with his sword, beheaded his own child. On the way back to the compound he was struck by a bolt of lightning, and his body was devoured by flames.

St. Barbara died in the late third century. Much of what we know about her comes from the book called the Golden  Legend (Legenda Sanctorum) written and compiled by Jacobus de Varagine. His work was the primary source for acquiring information about many saints and was used up until the Protestant Reformation when the “new learning” took hold in theology.

St. Barbara is among those who are called the Fourteen Holy Helpers  (Aleteia; July 2017) and her protection is sought against lightning, fire, and explosions.  Her feast day, shared with others, (including St, Peter Chrysologus and St. John Damascene)  is December 4th.

St. Barbara, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

 

Humility—What is it? Where is it? Who has it? How do we attain it? Let’s ask St. Benedict

Pride & Humility               cslewisinstitute..org

By Larry Peterson

What is Humility? The dictionary defines it as;  noun“modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

The opposite of humility is pride. Pride is defined as;  noun high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

Apparently, in this modern, self-absorbed world the Pride factor has taken over. There used to be a slogan that said, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.” It seems that slogan has been thrown into the dustbin of antiquity. The new slogan seems to be, “That was offensive. I demand an apology.” (or something like that).

It seems that more than half of the human race smothers itself to death with self-absorption. This condition may warrant a journey back in time to visit one of the greatest of Catholic saints; his name is St. Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s work was so important in the evangelization of most of Europe that in 1964, Pope St. Paul VI, proclaimed St. Benedict the Patron Saint of Europe.

Benedict authored the Benedictine Rule. Included in these rules are the Twelve Steps of Humility. Let us see what this saint has to say about humility. Since Benedict wrote in detail about each step, what follows will be a brief synopsis of each one.

Benedict introduced his Twelve Steps with this preface;  Luke 14:11 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

How to be Humble:

  • Step one: The Fear of God  Man must keep the fear of God always before his eyes, and never forget His commandments. The fear of God means reverence for God, and by offending God, we offend ourselves.
  • Step 2: Not My Will, but Yours o Lord: from John 6:38. This means to be humble we must avoid taking pleasure in our own wants and desires but always strive to do God’s will before all else.
  • Step 3: He was obedient even unto death: Philippians 2:8. Humility requires us to be obedient to authority which includes our parents, our priest, lawful authority, etc.
  • Step 4: Embrace Suffering Patiently and ObedientlyFor he that will save his life shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
  • Step 5: Confess our sins and faults This means we should regularly confess our sins to a priest through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Step 6: Be content with lowliness We should accept that we are sinful and frail and when left to our selves we are not much but to God we are of precious value so much so that he suffered and died for us.
  • Step 7: Understand our Interior Mediocrity It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn Your commandments” (Psalm 119:71, 73)
  • Step 8: To Keep the Rule This is to remind the Benedictines to keep the Rule of their Order. It reminds us to keep the rules of Holy Mother Church.
  • Step 9: Silence and Solitude We should always avoid speaking ill of others and try to embrace silence and solitude whenever God provides it for us.
  • Step 10: Keep Your Peace in Times of Laughter This pertains to us laughing and making fun of others, something we should never do.
  • Step 11: Speak Calmly and Modestly We should train our tongue so that the words we speak are foremost, pleasing to God and never
  • Step 12: Everlasting Humility and Meekness We should strive to live our lives, day and night, by bearing whatever problems or adversities we are experiencing thereby allowing God’s kindness and gentleness to shine through us.

Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val was Secretary of State to Pope St. Pius X. He wrote the famous Litany of Humility which can be found at this link.  We might pray that more people embrace the gift of humility. We certainly need more of it.

 

 

Pope Pius XII and His Confidant; Father Giovanni Ferrofino; Together, they Quietly Managed the Rescue of Thousands of Jews during World War II

POPE PIUS XII – UNDATED – (AP-PHOTO)

By Larry Peterson

There is still controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and his perceived indifference to the crimes the Nazis were committing during World War II. The Pope was constantly bombarded with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews but, as head of the Vatican state, had to feign neutrality. However, his apparent lack of action was a ruse, and the Holy Father was more than willing to take the abuse that came with it.

In 1940 the papal secretary of state was asked to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. A similar request was made for Jews in Lithuania. Even the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The Vatican claimed “neutrality” suggesting that Catholics in German-held lands might be affected. The papacy did nothing, or so it seemed.

Behind the scenes, Pope Pius XII sheltered a small number of Jews and asked select friends to see if they might find ways to help the Jews.  Of course, there was his low-profile, secret weapon, Father Giovanni Ferrofino.

Father Giovanni’s mission came directly from Pope Pius XII. He had orders that sent him first to the Portuguese president asking him to grant visas for Jews seeking refuge in his country. Then he was sent to the Dominican Republic where twice a year he asked for 800 visas for Jews to travel from Portugal to the island nation.

They communicated via double-encrypted messages which Father Giovanni would have to decode. Then he would travel for two days with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Maurilio Silvani, so the request could be delivered by hand directly to the Dominican leader, General Raphael Trujillo.

Most of these refugees would eventually travel from the Dominican Republic to other countries finding final refuge in the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico.

These clandestine operations took place from 1939 thru 1945. During that time over 10,000 Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII was the mastermind behind the operation. However, the mission could never have been accomplished without Giovanni Ferrofino.

On November 28, 1961, Giovanni Ferrofino was consecrated as the Titular Archbishop of Zenopolis (an ancient Roman city) and then appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador, a position he resigned from in 1970.

In 2010, The Yad Vashem  Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem honored Archbishop Ferrofino for his help in saving so many Jews during the Holocaust. He was declared “Righteous Among Nations.”

Archbishop Ferrofino died on December 20, 2010. He was 98 years old. He is counted among the many unsung heroes of World War II.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

Brother Fix-It gave his life in Guatemala: Another American Martyr to be Beatified

Blessed James Miller—    Christian Brothers of the Midwest

By Larry Peterson

They called him Brother “Fix-it” and his religious name was Brother Leo. He loved the poor and joined the order of the De La Salle Christian Brothers so that he could mentor, help, comfort, teach, and protect the poorest of God’s children. In 1982, while serving the downtrodden in Guatemala, he was gunned down by three masked men. Pope Francis has issued a decree of martyrdom for Brother James Miller, and henceforth he will be called Blessed.

James Miller was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1944. It was a premature birth, and baby James weighed in at under four pounds. James defied the medical science of the 1940s. He survived and grew into a six-foot-two-inch, 220-pound man.

James attended Pacelli High School in Stevens Point which was run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Impressed with his teachers he graduated and entered St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. St. Mary’s was also run by the De La Salle Brothers and in 1962 he entered the order as a postulant (candidate). Upon finishing his novitiate (training period) he donned the habit and took the name of Leo William.  In due time, he did as many religious were doing and went back to using his baptismal name; he became Brother James Miller.

Brother James began his career as a teacher in Cretin High School where he taught Spanish and English plus religion. He was also the football coach and was so adept at maintaining and repairing equipment, including plumbing and electrical problems, that he became known as “Brother Fix-It.”

In 1969 Brother James was sent to Nicaragua to take charge of a run-down school with about 300 students. Under his guidance and determination, the student enrollment quickly grew and within a few years was at 800.  He was then put in charge of the construction of ten new schools located in rural areas of Nicaragua.

When the Sandinista Revolution began in 1979, he was ordered to leave Nicaragua. His superiors knew that Brother James had cooperated with the  Somoza Government and would now be targeted by the Sandinistas. Brother James had kept lines of communication open with the government because he needed their cooperation so he could open new schools. He resisted leaving, but he and his superiors soon discovered that his name was on the Sandinista “death list.”

Brother James returned to the United Staes and went back to teaching at Cretin High Scool. He had promised the people in Nicaragua that he would return to them. It did not happen. Instead, in 1981, he was sent to Guatemala. He began teaching in Huehuetenango, a city in the Guatemalan highlands, which had a large population of suffering Guatemalan Indians.

Brother James had been going about his work providing job skills and schooling to the oppressed natives in the area. But he was a marked man because it was discovered that the pro-government,  Guatemalan armed forces, who had a death squad known as G-2,  had Brother James on their hit list.

On February 13, 1982. Brother James was working up on a ladder repairing a section of wall on the school. It was early morning and he never saw his assassins sneaking up behind him. As he wielded his hammer to complete repairs the three masked men opened fire on brother James. Children watched from the school windows as their beloved teacher fell from his ladder. He had died before he hit the ground. No one was ever charged for the murder.

Brother James Albert Miller had died “In Odium Fidei” (In Hatred of the Faith). In 2009, Brother James has declared a man of “heroic Virtue” and pronounced as Venerable.  Pope Francis has issued the decree of Martyrdom for Brother James, and sometime during the year of 2019, he will be officially Beatified becoming Blessed James Miller.

Blessed James Miller, please pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incense—What is the reason for using it in Worship

Using incense at Mass                                          pascal-deloche-godong.jpeg

By Larry Peterson

For me, there is something about the smell of freshly burned incense filling the church that is spiritually uplifting. But where did it come from and why do we use it?

The use of incense in religious worship started more than two thousand years before Christianity even began. Recordings of the use of incense in China is documented before 2000 BC aka BCE. The trading of incense and spices was a major economic factor in the trade between east and west when caravans traveled the Middle Eastern Incense Route from Yemen through Saudi Arabia. The route ended in Israel and it was here that it was introduced to the Roman Empire.

Religions in the western world have long used incense in their ceremonies. Incense is noted in the Talmud and is mentioned 170 times in the Bible. (e.g., Exodus 30: 1)

“For burning incense you shall make an altar of acacia wood —“

The use of incense in Jewish worship continued long after the beginning of Christianity and was a definite influence in the Catholic Church’s use of it in liturgical celebrations. The church sees the burning of incense as an image of the prayers of the faithful rising to heaven.  The symbolism is mentioned in Psalm 141:2:

“Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening offering.”

There is no specific time frame recorded to let us know when incense was introduced into the religious services of the Church. No evidence is available to show its use during the first four centuries of the Church. But there are references to it being used in the New Testament. Luke, in the beginning of his gospel about the birth of John the Baptist writes: 1:10-12:

“Then, when the whole assembly of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw and fear came upon him.”

Incense is a sacramental used to sanctify, bless, and venerate. The smoke from the incense is symbolic of the mystery of God Himself. As it rises upward the imagery and smell convey the sweetness of Our Lord’s presence and it reinforces how the Mass is linked to Heaven and Earth ending in the very presence of God. The smoke also symbolizes the intense faith that should fill us all and the fragrance is representative of Christian virtue.

The GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) permits the use of incense at several times during the Mass: The senior altar server who carries the Thurible (the metal container that holds the burning incense) is called the Thurifer. The Thurifer is assisted by a server called the “Boat.” He or she holds the small metal container that holds the incense supply.

At the proper time, they go over to the celebrant and he uses a small spoon to deposit incense onto the burning charcoal inside the Thurible. Then he blesses it without saying anything. (Please note that when something is incensed the thurible is swung three times which represents the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

There are different times during the Mass that incense may be used.

  • During the entrance procession
  • At the beginning of Mass to incense the altar and the cross
  • Before the Gospel reading
  • After the bread and the chalice are placed on the altar to incense the offerings, the cross, the altar, the priest, and finally the people.

In addition, incense is used at funerals both in the church at the casket and at the cemetery. It is used on Holy Thursday as the Blessed Sacrament is put in repose. And during the Easter Vigil, five grains of incense are placed into the Paschal Candle.

Finally, let us go to the Book of Revelation 8:3-4

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer (thurible). He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones on the gold altar which was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”

Yes, there can be no doubt;  the use of incense is deeply rooted in our Catholic heritage.

              copyright©Larry Peterson 2018