Did you know that the first ordained, African-American Priest was born a Slave?

Meet Venerable Father Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton                                                    public domain

By Larry Peterson

This is about a man who was born a slave in Missouri and became the first African-American ordained a Catholic priest in the United States. I wish that not only the people of Missouri but folks all across America would learn about him. He was a man whose goodness shined like a brilliant star inspiring others by his gentle and caring example. Say “Hello” to Augustus Tolton.

On April 1, 1854, Peter Tolton paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to her second son. They named him Augustus (after his uncle), and the baby was baptized soon after in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Brush Creek, Missouri.  Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augustus’ godmother.

It was a situation a bit out of the ordinary at the time.  That was because Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot, who happened to be the “owner” of Augustus’ mom and dad.  The Tolton family was slaves, and their three children, Charley, Augustus, and Anne, were born into slavery.  Slave owners and their slaves, all Catholic. It was quite uncommon, especially in the mostly Protestant south.

Augustus was seven years old when the Civil War began.  Stephen Elliot permitted Peter Tolton to head north, and he supposedly was able to join the Union Army.  A bit later, Elliot gave Martha and her children their freedom too.  They headed north, and with the help of Union Soldiers crossed the Mississippi River and entered Illinois, which was a “free” state.  They settled in the town of Quincy.

Martha and her oldest boy, Charley, were able to get jobs at the Harris Tobacco Company, which made cigars.  Augustus looked after his little sister, Anne.  He also began spending a lot of time standing across the street from St. Peter’s Church, which was not far from the rooms where they lived.  Augustus Tolton’s life was about to change.

The pastor of St. Peter’s was an Irish American priest, Father Peter McGirr.  Father McGirr had noticed a shabbily dressed African-American boy spending an excessive amount of time near the church.  After several days had gone by, Father walked across the street and introduced himself to the boy. After a brief conversation, Father asked him, ” Well, now lad, do you go to school?”

“No, sir.”

“Would you like to go to school?”

Augustus jumped into the air and yelled, “YES Sir, YES!”

Father McGirr and Augustus headed to St. Peter’s.  The priest’s move was very controversial, and most of the white parishioners did not want a black student studying along with their children.  Father McGirr held firm and insisted that Augustus study at St. Peter’s.  He got permission from Augustus’ mom, who was shocked that this had happened to her son.  Augustus Tolton’s life had been placed on the road to his destiny.

The Holy Spirit may have moved Father McGirr because he saw something in Augustus that others did not.  Within one month, the boy had moved on to the ” second reader.”  Father approached Augustus and asked him if he would like to receive his First Holy Communion.  He did, and by the summer Augustus was the altar boy for the 5 a.m. Mass.

After several years Father McGirr asked Augustus if he would like to become a priest.  He told him it would take about 12 years of hard study and dedication.  Augustus said, “Let us go to the church and pray for my success.”

After graduation and with the unwavering support of Father McGirr, Augustus attempted to get into a seminary.  It was the 1870’s, and prejudice was almost taken for granted.  Augustus was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied.  But the young man did not despair, lose hope, or begin to get bitter.  On the contrary, he continued to pray, and his prayers, combined with the fearless determination of Father McGirr, enabled him to gain admission to St. Francis Solanus College (now Quincy College) in Quincy, Ill.

Augustus proved to be a brilliant student and, upon graduation, was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.  Founded by Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century, this was a training ground for missionaries.  It was here that Augustus became fluent in Italian as well as studying Greek and Latin.  In 1886, at the age of 32, Augustus Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome.  He was the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

Newspapers from across the country told the story of the former slave now ordained as a Catholic priest.  When Father Tolton arrived back in Quincy, he was greeted as a hero.  A brass band played, and Negro spirituals were sung as thousands of people, both white and black, sang together, lined the streets together, and held hands together as they waited to catch a glimpse of the former slave boy who had grown up to be a Catholic priest.

Father Tolton walked down the avenue dressed in his cassock and wearing the biretta.  When he arrived at St. Boniface Church, hundreds were crowded inside, wanting to receive his blessing.  His very first blessing went to Father McGirr, who was still by his side. The next day Father Tolton said his first Mass at the packed church, while thousands of others stood outside. For these few days, prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent.  They had been replaced by love of God instead.

Father Tolton remained at St. Boniface’s for five years.  He did meet with stiff resistance as prejudice once again reared its ugly head.  But Father persevered and managed to start St. Joseph’s Parish in Quincy.  In 1892  he was transferred to Chicago and headed a mission group that met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church.  The work at St. Mary’s led him to develop the Negro National Parish of St. Monica’s Catholic Church.

He was such a kind, caring man that he came to be known as “Good Father Gus.”  The church grew quickly and soon had over 600 parishioners.  His next plan was to oversee new construction at St. Monica’s, which had begun to accommodate the swelling numbers of parishioners.  He would not live to see it.

Father Tolton had been ill for quite some time and had never told anyone.  On a hot July day in 1897, with the temperature at 105 degrees, Father Tolton was returning from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train, he collapsed.  Taken to the hospital, he died a few hours later from sunstroke. Father Gus was only 43 years old when he died.  The community was shocked at the loss of their dear friend.  Father Tolton was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.

In March 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago announced that he was beginning the cause for canonization for Father Tolton.  On February 24, 2011, the Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood. Father Augustus Tolton was then formally designated as “Servant of God.”

Good Father Gus was declared a man of “heroic virtue” by Pope Francis on June 12, 2019. He is now known as Venerable Augustus Tolton. He is currently under consideration for Beatification.

Venerable Augustus Tolton, please pray for us all.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020 (updated from original of 2016)

 

 


COVID-19 and Euthanasia; potential allies in this Pandemic? Where is God in all of this?

Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)

By Larry Peterson

Portugal is a step closer to approving euthanasia and assisted suicide, and in Spain, the leftist government is completing their approval of legalizing life-ending procedures. Medical gurus in Italy, that very Catholic nation, home to Catholicism and the Pope, are telling their doctors that they should just let the elderly patients die. Why not,  if they have no insurance, they will cost the government $73,000.00 anyway. In our secularized world, it makes sense; the monetary cost outweighs the “value of the life.”

Remember the sad saga of little Alfie Evans, from the spring of 2018? Alfie was the disabled 23-month-old boy whose parents wanted to keep him and take care of him and love him until God took him. Ah yes, the wondrous doctors and legal scholars of Mother England decided that was not in the best interests of Alfie. No, they decided he was better off dead. One judge even got angry when they called Alfie a “human being.

I mention Alfie because I have experienced circumstances similar to Alfie’s parents. My wife was on life-support, but unlike Tom and Kate Evans, I had the task of allowing the machines to be turned off.  It was not a judge or a doctor or the courts or anything like that. It was ME,  the woman’s husband. The result was different. Alfie’s parents were stripped of their parental right to protect their child. I had secured the right to defend my wife.

Except for two overriding factors, Alfie’s death was unnecessary. First, the assumed necessity of his death is embedded within the secular practicality of  21st-century culture. Secondly, among many medical practitioners who lean on their omniscient ability, it was in Alfie’s “best interests” to die. They decided there was no hope for him to live on his own, and it followed that his life was mercifully disposable.

Although my wife was a middle-aged adult, and Alfie was a baby, the parallels in each case were quite similar. Alfie, at the age of seven months, developed seizures, and they caused him to go into a “semi-vegetative state.” Alfie did have brain function, but most doctors agreed that his condition (which they were not sure of) was incurable. Most importantly, his parent’s rights to try to save him were stripped from them by the courts.

Six doctors told us it was “no-use.” The consensus was, without doubt, that she would never survive without the ventilator.  My grown children took turns going to their mom’s bedside to say their “good-byes.” One at a time, they came from that room sobbing like babies. I was last and sat by her side, looking at her, holding her hand and saying whatever it was I was saying. Those words I do not remember. I do remember one word I heard; I was called a “murderer” by someone in Loretta’s family.

Unlike Alfie’s parents, I had control over the machine that was doing her breathing (she had been on life-support for three weeks). That was because Loretta had a “living will,” which gave me the right as her husband to sign what is called a DNR order. DNR means Do Not Resuscitate, and it allowed me, as the husband, to decide when to “pull the plug.”

Three of her doctors were there and the hospital chief-of-staff. I asked them to pray with us, and they all did. The machine was switched off, and the intubation tubes were removed. A minute passed by, and she kept breathing. Then two minutes passed by and then five and ten and then one hour. The cardiologist said, “Don’t be fooled; she is not going to  make it.”

Well, they were wrong. She did make it. Three days later, she was up in a room, and three weeks later, she came home. She had earned the title of “The Miracle Woman of Northside.” Her recovery was not only baffling; it was unexplainable. Ironically, cancer killed her exactly one year later.

In Alfie’s case, his parents had no choice. They were invoking God, along with countless others around the world, including the Pope, who had secured Italian citizenship for Alfie. The Italians were ready to transport Alfie to Italy for care and treatment. Unfortunately ,virtually every court in the U.K. ruled against the parent’s rights. The government and their “experts” knew best; Alfie must DIE. I cannot imagine standing by as my child’s life was taken from him and his family by court order. It is incomprehensible to me.

So the state took away the parent’s right to protect their child. They subjugated Natural Law and trampled upon the very nucleus of any thriving civilization, the family.  They removed Alfie’s tube, and the little boy lived for five days breathing on his own. Was that a message from above that those in charge should have tried harder? If they had waited one more day, might he have breathed on his own for six days and so on? Would recovery have been in Alfie’s future if he had lived another six months? I guess no one will ever know.

The point is,  the possibility exists for many families to be confronted with a life-death situation in the immediate future.  Many patients may not have a “living will.” If not, the hospital administrators will be in charge. If thousands of people become seriously ill with COVID-19, who is to decide what an average allowable time to live or die should be? We are all different, and some of us will pass on, and others will survive. Who will determine the acceptable “time frame” for the life and death struggle?

If you think it cannot happen in the USA, you are wrong.  The respect for God-given life is under assault all over the world. The Catholic governor of NewYork cheered the passing of the “infanticide bill” in January. His state has the most prolific number of COVID-19 deaths in the entire country. If the numbers increase, will he agree to an acceptable age limit to allow the “elderly NOT to be cared for?

The unpredictability, combined with the deadly consequences of COVID-19, leaves us all in a tenuous position. Who among us will be left to determine who lives and who dies and when and where? If you do not have a Living Will find one on line—preferably faith-based. Yes, get God into the equation. We need Him more than ever.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

 


A Mother’s Prayers are answered giving us Two Great Saints and a new Marian Feast Day

Honoring the Holy Name of Mary                                            wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Most of us know the story of St. Augustine. He was born in North Africa in the year 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan landowner and his mother, Monica, a Christian. Monica prayed fervently for her wayward boy to become a Christian too. Eventually, her prayers were answered and her boy did embrace Christianity becoming a great Doctor of the Church.

However, many of us do not know of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in this transformation. It is because of the conversion of St. Augustine that one of the many titles she is venerated under is Our Lady of Consolation. And this never would have happened without his mom faithfully praying for her boy, a woman who would one day be known as St. Monica.

Monica is honored for her unyielding Christian virtues which included; dealing with the pain and suffering brought on by her husband’s chronic acts of adultery and her own son’s immoral ways. It was said she cried herself to sleep virtually every night. But she did not despair. Rather, she turned her heartache over to the Blessed Virgin asking for her help. And help she received. Our Lady appeared to Monica and gave her the sash she was wearing. The Virgin assured Monica that whoever wore the sash would receive her special consolation and protection.  It was given to her son and ultimately became part of the Augustinian habit.

Eventually, the Augustinian monks founded the Confraternity of the Holy Cincture (belt) of Our Lady of Consolation. The statues of Mary as Our Lady of Consolation depict her and the Christ child dressed in elaborate vestments. Mary’s halo has twelve, small stars and her tunic is held in place by a black cincture.  The three patrons of the Augustinians are St. Augustine, St. Monica and Our Lady of Consolation. In addition, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation inspired what is known as the “Augustinian Rosary” which is sometimes called the “Corona of Our Mother of Consolation.”

During the early 1700s, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation was introduced to Malta. It was here that people began asking for a special blessing invoking Our Lady of Consolation for the dying. It became such a popular custom that monks could leave the monastery without asking permission to confer this blessing.  Eventually, devotion to Our Lady of Consolation spread all over the world.

In the United States, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation are located in Carey, Ohio. The church was first built in 1868 and named St. Edward. When Father Joseph Growden was given the responsibility of caring for the church he asked the faithful in Carey to pray to Mary, Our Lady of Consolation for her help in getting a new church built. He promised to name the church “Our Lady of Consolation”.

On May 24, 1875, a statue of Our Lady of Consolation, having been procured by Father Joseph from the Cathedral of Luxembourg, was carried from St. Nicholas church to the new church in Carey. News reports tell of the tremendous rains that fell that day and, during the seven-mile procession, not a drop fell on the statue or the people bringing the statue to its new home. Upon arriving in the new church the rain fell once again—everywhere.

Today devotion* to Our Lady of Consolation is of great importance in such places as Luxembourg, England, France, Japan, Manila, Turin, Malta, Australia, Venezuela and other places. Pope St. John Paul II visited the shrine in Germany. Our Lady of Consolation has certainly made herself available in many places so her children can quickly come to her if need be. The Blessed Mother is certainly a protective Mom, isn’t she? You just have to love being Catholic.

St. Augustine, pray for us; St. Monica, pray for us; and

Our Lady of Consolation, please pray for us all.

*Feast Days for Our Lady of Consolation are varied. The Augustinians celebrate it on September 4; the Benedictines on July 7. In the USA it is usually on October 22 or the last Sunday in October.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017


Family and Death—The common denominator that helps many move forward is FAITH.

Life after Death                                                                 slideshare.net

By Larry Peterson

I am the oldest of five, and my mom died when I was sixteen. My brothers were eleven, six, and two. My sister was thirteen. Grandma lived with us and decided that dad had killed her daughter. Mom, who had just turned forty, had died of leukemia; so grandma was wrong. But dad believed that we kids were better off with Grandma looking after us than him doing it. He was wrong too

Since there was no reasoning with her, dad became a constant patron of the local saloons. (We lived in the south Bronx, and there were plenty of “watering holes” for him to choose from). The truth of it was—he could not live with her as she berated him mercilessly every chance she had, including calling him a no-good murderer. Yup, in keeping away from her got to know a lot of people, and everyone loved him.

Two years after mom passed on, Grandma had a massive stroke. Some events are emblazoned into your memory forever as if they just happened and this was one of them. Dad was home, and he yelled to me, “Something’s wrong with your grandmother. She needs your help. I’m calling the priest.”

I heard the word “priest” and hurried into the kitchen. Grandma was standing with her head arched into her shoulder and her hands were clamped like vise-grips onto the cupboard door. I had to pry her fingers up one at a time, so I could drag her to her bed. My little brothers and sister were staring at this spectacle taking place. It was surely a surreal moment.

I managed to drag her convulsing and contorted body to her bed. Dad was home and called the rectory. She was squeezing my hands so tight I thought they might break. She was conscious and looking me in the eyes as I looked into hers. “Grandma, pray with me. Okay grandma, C’mon, pray with me.”

Together we prayed the “Our Father.”  Barely able to speak, she made an Act of Contrition. She sort of relaxed a bit and her eyes closed. Father Quirk hurried in and gave her the Last Rites. She died soon after as I held her in my arms. The ambulance was too late.

Dad was like a lost pup. Monsignor Martin gave him some work at the church, and he drove a cab a few days a week. He was not living as much as he was existing. He drank too much and two years later he died of an acute attack of Pancreatitis. That was the moment we officially became orphans. I was old enough to work so things worked (pun intended) out—as best they could.

My brother Bobby passed away unexpectedly ten years ago, from a heart attack. He was 53.  The baby of the family, Johnny, sad to say, took his own life when he was 55. He had alcohol and other drug issues during his life and any deep-seated issues he may have had were never resolved. He had just turned two when Mom died and (according to several medical health professionals) his suicide was the final result of the losses he suffered during his formative years.

My high-school sweetheart, Loretta, stuck by my side (I had three brothers I was taking care of), and her family was not too happy about her and I being together. In hindsight, I understand why. But her loyalty and love for me was unshakable and we tied the knot several years later. We were married thirty-five wonderful years.

In 1978, she was expecting our fourth child and was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the baby was still-born. We named her Theresa Mary, and she is buried with my parents. Loretta became ill in 1991, was sick for a long time, and passed away from melanoma in 2003.

Four years later I married again. Her name was Marty (Martha), and we were both members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In March of 2017, Marty passed away after fighting lymphoma and Alzheimer’s disease for six years. We had made it to our tenth anniversary.

So there you have it; our lives will all end in death. Many have reached out to God and embraced the faith He has gifted us. Many have rejected it. That is called a “choice.” For those who have embraced the God given gift of Faith they know that death is a NEW beginning. Having that gift to live with can help make living gratifying, no matter what the circumstances.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019


The Strange Paradox of COVID-19. Saving the Lonely by making them Lonelier

Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)

By Larry Peterson

I have learned that loneliness has no boundaries. It reaches out for everyone and captures many of the unsuspecting, including the seemingly happy, satisfied, and successful. Yes, loneliness is capable of dragging the lonely into a world of hidden misery and often depression. It can attack anyone at any time, and it has become a social condition of almost epidemic proportions.

I have been widowed twice and know full well how loneliness can occupy a unique place in the widowed equation. Loneliness also reaches out and captures those who may have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, or even a dear friend. I carry the loneliness package from all of those

Suddenly, loneliness has been gifted with a new victim to feast on: it can now extend its ravenous appetite into the pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus.  Loneliness is about to ravage the senior citizen in ways never imagined.  One way will be to take away their chairs and sofas.

I have been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound on Sundays for over twenty years. It may be the most uplifting thing I do and I know I have been spiritually rewarded many times over. This past Sunday, I confronted a new wrinkle among my visits. I have one lady, Virginia (she is 98), who resides in an independent living apartment. It is a reasonably long walk from the parking lot to the building entrance. Once there, you use a keypad to gain access. I scroll to Virginia’s name and get her on the speaker. She buzzes me in.

As the sliding doors open, I stop short. No one is there. Every Sunday, there are four or five, maybe six, people in the lobby sitting around chatting and just visiting with each other. They know my name, and I always get a friendly welcome from them.  We exchange a few pleasantries (I usually joke about something), and then I go on my way.

But this Sunday no one is there. I just stood there because it took me a few seconds to realize that no one was there because the furniture was gone. The lobby was empty. There was no sofa, or chairs, or coffee table. They had been removed, and there was no place to sit and talk. This was done courtesy of the management “protecting” the residents against COVID-19 or coronavirus. We must keep the elderly SAFE. No problem; just keep them in their rooms—ALONE.

The situation impacted me deeply. I have been visiting the sick and homebound for a long time, and they do not ask for much. However, in their low profile quiet world, they look forward to sitting together (if possible) and just talking about whatever it is they talk about. My visit is a big deal for them. I see each of my folks for about ten minutes each, sometimes a bit longer.

I may be the only visitor they see all week. Yet my visit buoys them up for my next visit which is a week away.  The folks that gather in the lobby every week are non-catholic and do not receive. But I do get to say a short prayer with them, and they like my doing it. So do I.

But now, on this Sunday morning in March of the year 2020, it seems things have changed in a way no one could have ever imagined.  The powers that be want us to be alone. They want us to avoid each other, not touch each other, and become individual entities. But we are social beings and like it or not; we need each other. We need to touch and hold and shake hands and hug, especially among family and friends.

Nursing homes all over the country have been placed on “lockdown.” Patients in these places will be relegated to their beds. Family and friends will not be allowed to visit them. Independent living apartments will have empty lobbies and courtyards. There will be no place for the tenants to sit and congregate.

Will our country and maybe the world soon have billions of separate individuals with no one to talk to or visit with.  It is such a strange paradox; saving the lonely by making them lonlier than they already are.

We had all better pray like we never prayed before that this coronavirus is vanquished quickly.  We cannot live this way for very long.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Meet The Pandemic Saints—The Church’s alternative to the CDC

Saints to call on in a Pandemic

aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Catholic Church has patron saints for many causes. There are so many they even had to be alphabetized.  Under the letter  A, there are  23 named saints such as  St. Agatha, the Patroness of bakers and nurses, .and the great Augustine of Hippo,  the patron saint of printers and brewmasters. Under G, there is St. George, who is responsible for fifteen patronages, including butchers, shepherds, and Boy Scouts.

You get the idea; we Catholics have a lot of patron saints, and almost every facet of life experience seems to be covered. If it looks impossible, we can always turn to St.Jude, the Patron of Impossible. We even have some saints that protect us against pandemics. Since Coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, here are a few saints we can strike up a conversation with if we might need some help with coping with Coronavirus.

Let us start with the Four Holy Marshalls. Of the four, we are only including two; St. Quirinus of Neuss, the patron saint. for fighting  Smallpox and St. Anthony the Great, the patron saint for combatting the Plague.

  • Quirinus of Neuss –Patron Saint of Bubonic Plague and Smallpox

Quirinus was born in the first century and died in the year 116 A.D.  Legend has it that he was a Roman tribune and was ordered to execute Alexander, Eventius, and Theodolus. These men had been arrested on orders of the emperor. Their crime: being Christian. But Quirinus witnessed miracles performed by the three men and was baptized into the faith along with his daughter, Balbina. He and Balbina were decapitated for being Christian and buried in the catacomb on the Via Appia.

We move ahead 1500 years and documents from Cologne, dated 1485, say Quirius’s body was donated in 1050 by Pope Leo IX to his sister, the abbess of Neuss. Soon after, Charles the Bold of Burgundy laid siege to Neuss with his army spreading from western Germany, the Netherlands, and as far south as Italy. The citizens of Neuss invoked Quirinus for help, and the siege ended. Wellsprings popped up and were dedicated to him. He was then called on to fight against Bubonic Plague and Smallpox.

This saying by farmers is associated with Quirinus’s feast day of March 30. It reads, “As St. Quirinus Day goes, so will the summer.” 

 

  • Anthony the GreatPatron of Infectious Diseases

One of the greatest saints of the early Church.  Anthony was one of the first monks and is considered the founder and father of organized Christian Monasticism.  He organized disciples into a community and these communities eventually spread throughout Egypt. Anthony is known as Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony of the Desert, and Anthony of Thebes.  He is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on January 17.

St. Anthony the Great is also the Patron to fight infectious diseases. We might all call on him now since Coronavirus is just that, an infectious disease.

  • Edwin the Martyr ( St. Edmund)—Patron of Pandemics

 Edmund is the acknowledged Patron St. of Pandemics. Much is written about this saint from the 9th century who died in 869. Interestingly, hardly anything is known about him. Yet. there are churches all over England dedicated to him. Edmund cannot be placed within any ruling dynasty yet the Danes murdered him when they conquered his army in 869. Edmund the Martyr, in addition to being the patron saint of pandemics is also the patron of torture victims and protection from the plague.

We might mention a few more saints who are patrons of familiar illnesses and afflictions:

  • Damien of Molokai—Patron Saint of those with Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)
  • Dymphna—The 15 year old Irish girl whi is patroness of emotiona disorders.
  • The Fourteen Holy Helpers—epidemics, Bubonic Plague aka the Black Death
  • St. Matthias Patron saint of alcoholics and those with smallpox
  • Tryphon Patron to aid us in fighting off bed bugs, rodents, and locusts.

The list seems endless so if you ever need a patron saint for anything, here is a link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_patron_saints_by_occupation_and_activity

There most likely is some saint waiting just for your call.

copyright


His name was Devasahayam, and he was the First Indian Martyr. His Canonization has been approved. Date TBA

Bl. Devasahayam                                                             youtube.com

By Larry Peterson

He was born as Nilikandan Pillai* in 1712 in the southern part of the Indian sub-continent. He grew up serving in the palace of King Marthanda Varma, the ruler of Travancore in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Nilikandan was a good man and a hard worker who always tried his best to do the right thing. The King liked him, but Nilikindan lost much of his possessions after several poor harvests. He was very depressed and feared losing the respect of the King and the people.

Nilikandan explained his problems to a devout Catholic man, a Dutch official by the name of Benedictus Eustachio de Lannoy. Benedictus explained to Nilikandan the meaning of suffering. He told him how Catholics had to put their trust in God for all things. Nilikandan came to believe and,  after nine months of preparation, was baptized by Father Giovanni Butarri, a Jesuit missionary. The year was 1745, and he took the name Devasahayam which is the Tamil translation of the biblical name, Lazarus, which means “God has helped.”

On his Baptism day, Devasahayam dedicated himself solemnly to Christ. He prayed, ““No one forced me to come; I came by my own free will. I know my heart: He is my God. I have decided to follow Him and will do so my whole life.” His life was no longer the same; Devasahayam dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel for four years.

The leaders of the local religions were quite upset with Devasahayam’s conversion to Christianity. He began being threatened and soon after beaten. Before long, he was imprisoned and tortured. This went on for three years. Despite the brutal treatment, Devasahayam remained steadfast in his faith. His wife, Bhargavi Ammal, also became Catholic. She took the name Gnanapoo which means Theresa.  The combined conversion of both the husband and wife seriously offended the upper-caste Hindus, and the King commanded Devasahayam to reconvert to Hinduism. He refused.

Devasahayam was setting an example that many people began to follow.  The king was furious and ordered his arrest. The year was 1749 and Devasahayam was charged with treason and espionage. He was dragged into prison,m tortured and then banished to the Aralaimozhy Forest, in a remote section of the country. Documents attest to the fact that on the journey to the forest  Devasahayam was beaten regularly, had pepper rubbed in his wounds and into his nostrils, was exposed to the brutal sun, and given contaminated water to drink.

Crying, he prayed to God and fell, smashing his elbow on a rock. Water poured from the rock, and it was drinkable water. This rock continues to pour forth water to this day and people visit the fountain in large numbers. Many have received miraculous cures from drinking the water. It is called  Muttidichanparai  meaning the rock from which water gushed forth.

In 1752, he was taken into  Pandya country near the edge of the forest. He was in deep meditation when people from the nearby village began visiting the holy man. The Hindus decided it was time to get rid of  Devasahayam. A soldier went up to where  Devasahayam was praying and attempted to shoot Devasahayam, but his gun would not fire. Devasahayam took the gun in his hand and blessed it. Then he gave it back to the soldier, and the soldier aimed and fired five times, killing Devasahayam. His body was cast over a cliff near the foothills of Kattadimala. The date was January 14, 1752.

Local Christians retrieved the body and buried Devasahayam in front of the altar of St. Francis Xavier Church, which today is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Kottar. He was declared Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on December 2, 2012.  He has been known as Blessed Devasahayam Pailli.*

Since a new miracle has been credited to Blessed  Devasahayam and he will now be declared a saint, the caste name of Pailli will be dropped. He is, until canonization,  Blessed  Devasahayam. He will become Saint Devasahayam.

*Pillai is a Hindu caste name. Apparently it was never used when he was baptized. People from that caste did not want the Pillai name included with a Catholic saint’s name. The Vatican issued a decree approving this request on February 25, 2020.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Rejected by two Religious Orders, she started her own. She became known as the “Mother of the Poor.”

St. Angela of the Cross                                      en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

She was born in Seville, Spain, on January 30, 1846. Three days later, she was baptized at the Church of Santa Lucia and given the name Maria de Los Angeles, which means Mary of the Angels. But they called her Angela. The child received her First Holy Communion when she was eight years old and her Confirmation at the age of nine.

Angela came from a simple family of very modest means. Her dad was trained as a woodcarver, but after moving to Serville took a job as the cook at a Trinitarian monastery. His wife, Josefa, took the job as a seamstress and house cleaner. Together they had thirteen children, of which only six survived. Angela’s schooling was limited as it was for most girls of her social class. When she was twelve years old, she went to work in a shoe factory to help the family with more income. She would work there virtually full time for the next 17 years.

The supervisor at the shoe factory was a devout Catholic woman by the name of Antonia Maldonado. She always encouraged the employees to pray together, to recite the Rosary, and to learn about the many saints in the church. It was through Antonia that Angela, at the age of sixteen,  would meet Father Jose Torres y Padilla, a priest from the Canary Islands. Father Jose would become Angela’s confessor and a powerful influence in her life;.

Angela had felt a calling to religious life, and when she turned nineteen, she decided it was time to answer that call. She applied to the Discalced Carmelites in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, she was turned away because of poor health. She turned to Father Padilla, who advised her to keep praying and to begin working with the poor, especially those suffering from Cholera, which was quite prevalent at the time. Angela followed this advice and started her service to the poor.

In 1868 Angela again attempted to gain acceptance to convent life. This time she applied to the Daughters of Charity of Seville. Despite her frail health, she was accepted. The Sisters tried to nurse Angela back to full health but were unable to. They sent her to Cuenca and then to Valencia, but neither place helped. She had to leave the order and returned home, going back to work in the shoe factory.

Angela continued working in the shoe factory and held on to her dream to become a religious. She worked and served the poor. She prayed and prayed, and in1873, she received a vision. In it, she was shown that her calling was to help the poorest of the poor. She began her mission that very day and also started a journal recording what she believed was God’s message to her.

Quickly other women were drawn to her, but it was on August 2, 1875, that she chose three ladies who were to begin a new order with her. They were Josefa de la Pena, who was quite wealthy, and Juana Maria Castro and Jauna Magadan. They were both poor, just like Angela.

The order they founded was called the Congregation of the Cross. Its mission would be to work with the sick, the poor, orphans, and the homeless. They would provide food, medicine, clothing, housing, and whatever else they could to help those in their care. The money Josefa had was used to rent a small room and a working kitchen. Other funds were strictly from alms and donations. They opened a 24-hour support service for the poor, and, in 1877, a new site was opened in another Seville province.

The Archbishop of Seville, Luis de la Lastra y Cuesta, gave his official approval to the new order on April 5, 1876. Father Torres died in 1877 and was succeeded by his protege, Jose Maria Delgado. Angela was installed as the Mother Superior of the Congregation of the Cross and became known as Mother Angela of the Cross. She was lovingly known to the people as the “Mother of the Poor.” She died on March 2, 1932, in Seville. She was 86 years old.

At the time of her passing 23 convents had already opened. By the year 2008, there were over 1000 sisters in the order serving the poor all over the world.

Pope St. John Paul II  canonized Mother Angela on May 4, 2003. Her feast day is March 2.

St. Angela of the Cross, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


St. Margaret of Cortona— From Sinner to Saint; her patronages include; the homeless, single moms, orphans, midwives, reformed prostitutes, the insane and more (link at end).

Jesus asked her what her wish was. She answered, ““I neither seek nor wish for anything but You, my Lord Jesus.”

St. Margaret of Cortona                                       en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Margaret was born in Laviano, near Cortona, in the province of Tuscany in the year 1247. Her parents were farmers. Sadly, when Margaret was only seven, her mom died. Not long after, her father remarried.  Her father assumed that Margaret needed a woman to step in as her “replacement mom.”

He could not have guessed that Margaret’s new stepmom would have an actual aversion to his young daughter and that young Margaret would quickly come to develop a pronounced hostility for her new “mom.” As she grew, Margaret’s behavior became reckless and uncontrollable. A reputation was attached to her conduct, and soon, she was known. as a ‘bad” girl.

When Margaret was 17, she was introduced to the son of the Lord of Valiano, Guglielmo di Pecora. The young fellow was a dashing cavalier, and Margaret saw her salvation with him. He was someone who might love her, something she had missed since she was seven.

One night she ran away and met with her lover (his name is never mentioned in any of her writings) and moved into the castle at Montepulciano with him. She lived with him in the castle for nine years. They had a son together and he kept promising her that they would get married. She pleaded with him that they could not live sinfully. It did not matter, he refused to give in.  (In her writings, Margaret confesses that she consented to her lover’s demands).

Who could ever imagine that a dog returning home could be the start of the rebirth of spiritual life? It happened to Margaret when her lover’s dog came back to the castle by himself. He went over to Margaret and began tugging on her dress trying to get her to go with him. She finally followed and the dog led her to his master’s body. Her lover who had been murdered.

Margaret blamed herself for her lover’s sinful ways and began to hate her own beauty which had so captivated him. She returned all the jewels, property, and anything else he may have given her to his relatives. Then she left the castle with her son and headed home to her father’s house. Her father would have taken her in but his wife, Margaret’s hateful stepmom, refused to have her. Her husband went along with his wife’s wishes.

Satan is always lying in wait for our weakest moments and he pounced on Margaret. Her first thoughts were to use her beauty to earn some money. Horrified by such sinful thinking she began praying. A voice told her to go to the Franciscan Friars at Cortona and to put herself under their spiritual guidance. When she arrived in Cortona, she was frightened and alone and without money. Two ladies noticed her standing on a corner with her son. She seemed so lost. They knew of the Franciscans and took her to the church of San Francesco to meet them.

Margaret and her son were brought into the Franciscans on a probationary trial period. After three years of probation, Margaret was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis. (As soon as her son was of age he, too, became a Franciscan). From that point on, she begged her bread, lived on alms, did daily penance, and helped freely those in need. In 1277, while praying, she heard the words, “What is thy wish, Poverella?” (Little poor one).  She answered,   “I neither seek nor wish for anything but You, my Lord Jesus.”

While living such an austere existence, she managed to establish a hospital for the sick, homeless, and poverty-stricken, To develop a nursing staff for the hospital, she recruited select Tertiary Sisters into a group which became known as ‘le poverrele” (the little poor ones”). She also established a confraternity known as Our Lady of Mercy, whose members vowed to support the hospital and to help the poor and needy wherever they might be found.

In 1286,  Margaret was granted a charter allowing her to work with the underprivileged permanently. She preached against vice and many returned to the sacraments. She developed a deep love for the Eucharist and the Passion of Our Lord. She was divinely warned of the day and hour of her death and it came as foretold; she died on February 22, 1297.

She was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII on May 16, 1728. Her body lies incorrupt in a silver casket inside The Basilica of St. Margaret of Cortona.

St. Margaret’s patronage is quite extensive. Use the link here to see the many patronages she had been given. She is undoubtedly one busy saint.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Saint Turibius Alphonso de Mogrovejo—He fiercely objected to being appointed a Bishop especially when he was not even an ordained priest—

This Archbishop is the Patron Saint of Latin American Bishops and native people’s “rights.”

St. Turubius de Mongovejo                     en. wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Turibius Alfonso de Mongovejo was born in the Vallodolid province in Hapsburg, Spain, on November 16, 1538. His parents were nobles, Luis Alfonso de Mogrovejo and Ana de Robles Moran. Turibius had a sister who was named Grimanese.

Even as a pre-schooler, Turibius demonstrated pronounced piety. As he grew older, his devotion to the Blessed Mother increased, and before long, he was fasting once a week in her honor while also praying the Rosary daily. Since he had been born into nobility, he was able to enter the college at Vallodolid. He did this at the age of twelve, and he immediately began studying the Humanities.

After finishing his studies, Turibius was given a position as a professor of law at the upscale College in Salamanca. His uncle, Juan de Mogovejo, was a professor at the college and highly regarded. Soon after, King Juan III asked Turibius’s uncle to teach at the College of Coimbra. Uncle Juan accepted and took his nephew with him, where Turibius simultaneously continued his studies while also teaching. Not long after, Uncle Juan died suddenly. The ordered life of Turibius of Mogrovejo was about to change dramatically.

King Philip II of Spain had been monitoring the abilities and character of Turibius. He decided to appoint the young man as the Grand Inquisitor on the Inquisition Court, which was stationed in Grenada. The year was 1571 and Turibius was only 33 years old. Many complained and raised concerns about the young man’s experience, but King Philip would not change his mind. He wanted Turibius.

Lima, Peru, was the second most important city in Spain’s Latin American empire. The most important was Mexico City. When the Archbishop of Lima died, the King immediately looked at his replacement options. He wanted someone he could count on. At the time, the arrangement had been that the King could appoint a bishop, and the Pope would give his approval. King Philip appointed Turibius to replace him.

There was one problem; Turibius was not an ordained priest. He was a layperson and was shocked to hear that he had been appointed. He argued fiercely to be taken from consideration. The King refused to change his mind.

Turibius argued canon law explaining that  the King did not having the power to name a bishop. His points were valid but the pope overruled him. In 1578, they fast-tracked his ordination and, after four weeks of intense study, he received Holy Orders. He said his first Mass when he was 41 years old. On May 16, 1579, Pope Gregory XIII named him Archbishop of Lima. He received his episcopal consecration in August 1580 and, along with his sister and her husband, arrived in Lima in May of 1581.

King Philip II had chosen well. Archbishop Turibius was extraordinarily dedicated and plunged into his mission filled with zeal and enthusiasm. He literally exhausted himself on year-long missions within the vast territory visiting the priests and people in his care. He standardized sacramental, pastoral and liturgical practices using synods he convened just for that purpose. He even produced a trilingual catechism in Spanish and native dialects and actually learned to preach and speak in these different tongues allowing him to hear confessions and converse with the natives.

Saint Turibius became ill on the way home from one of his extended journeys. He died far from home at the age of 67. Ironically, he had predicted the exact date and hour he would die and, indeed, that came to pass. He died on March 23, 1606. It was Holy Thursday, and the time, as predicted, was 3:30 p.m.

In his twenty-four years as archbishop, he baptized and confirmed half a million people. Among them were Martin de Porres, Francisco Solano, and, of course, Isabel Flores de Oliva, who all became saints. Isabel is more commonly known as Saint Rose of Lima.

The archbishop had traveled thousands of miles through the most challenging jungle wilderness.  He never missed offering Mass and he never accepted any gifts. He was canonized in 1726 and named the Patron Saint of Latin American Bishops by Pope St. John Paul II in 1983. He is also Patron to Lima, Peru and to “native rights.”

He was what some might call a “late bloomer” but when he did finally bloom, he was a thing of beauty. He is compared to the great Italian, St. Charles Borromeo.

St. Turibius de Mogovejo, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020