Tag Archives: commentary

Meet Saint Emil and Saint Lillian—-Strangers No More

Emil and Lillian Peterson long gone but never forgotten

By Larry Peterson

My parents would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on September 19, 2018.  They had made it to their 17th anniversary when Mom died. Dad lasted four years and then he was gone. For some unknown reason, their anniversary played inside my head…over and over.

I have Masses offered for both of them and other family members during the year. But it occurred to me I had never had a mass offered for my mother and father as a husband and wife. Let’s face it; as a kid you do not think of your parents as regular “people.” Rather, they are just mom and dad.  So, in honor of their Diamond Jubilee Anniversary, a Mass was offered just for them.

When I opened the Sunday church bulletin and saw their names, Emil & Lillian Peterson,  together as a couple, I could not believe how I reacted; I was standing in the church narthex with some friends and tears started flowing down my face. Shocked at my own reaction, I hurried outside hoping no one had noticed. I took a few deep breaths and regrouped. Whew!

There was one more thing I needed to do. I have written about many, many saints; some known and many unknown. But I had never tried to find St. Lillian or St. Emil. It was time to see if they even existed. What follows is a result of my quest.

There was a Saint Lillian. She lived in the ninth century in Muslim controlled Spain. It was a time when Catholics lived in constant fear of the Moors. They had no problem torturing and killing “infidels,” and Catholics were definitely “infidels.” Lillian was a Catholic layperson and had to practice her faith in secret.

History tells us the during the reign of the Caliph Abdurrahaman II, a great persecution took place. Lillian, her husband, Felix, and a man named Aurelius, were exposed as Catholics. Lillian and Felix along with Aurelius stepped forward and publicly admitted that they were, indeed, Catholic. They knew full well that death would come with their admission.

The Moors gave them four days to renounce their Christianity and to embrace Islam. After four days they all refused, remaining steadfast in their beliefs. They were all sentenced to death.  Saint Lillian, Saint Felix, and Saint Aurelius, died in Cordova, Spain circa 892. A.D. They were all named saints during the pre-congregation era.

Saint Lillian’s  feast day is on July 27th. She is the patroness of women named Lillian, Lily (my Mom’ nickname) and Elizabeth. We are supposed to pray to Saint Lillian to help strengthen our faith and to help us spread unconditional love to our neighbors. Ironically, in my novel, the Priest and The Peaches, the character of Elizabeth was fashioned after my mother, Lillian. That was never planned.

There also was a Saint Emil aka Emilian. Emil was a shepherd living in North Africa sometime around the year 250 A.D. He became a hermit and after a while was ordained a priest. He was a natural organizer and was able to develop a large group of followers. He became their Abbott and is called the first Spanish Benedictine.

During the latter part of the third century, the Roman Emperor, Decius, began a relentless persecution of the Christians. Emil was arrested and, after being weakened by constant torture, was released. He regained some strength and returned to preaching again. He was brought before the same judge that had ordered him tortured.  This time he was sentenced to death.

Before being executed by fire, Emil was once again subjected to various, inhumane tortures. When his captors realized Emil would never renounce his faith, he was burned alive.

Saint Emil & Saint Lillian, please pray for us.

copyright ©Larry Peterson 2018

On the Fifth Anniversary of her Passing: Remembering a future saint: Mother Antonia Brenner aka The “Prison Angel”

By Larry Peterson

Mother Antonia Brenner Praying with Prisoners in La Mesa prison

Mother Antonia Brenner Praying with Prisoners in La Mesa prison

This is a love story. No, it is not about romantic love. Rather, it is about the love of

Christ exploding in the soul of a woman who ran with her God-given gift and did her best to shower it upon some of the meanest and worst criminals in Mexico.

This is about Mother Antonia Brenner, who was born in Beverly Hills, CA, was married and divorced twice, had seven children and ultimately became known as the “Prison Angel” of La Mesa Prison, the worst and most dangerous prison in all of Mexico.  Mother Antonia died five years ago on October 17. On the anniversary of her passing, I just thought I would remember her with a few words.

Mary Clarke was born in Beverly Hills, Calif.on December 1, 1926. Her dad, Joe Clarke, was a successful businessman and Mary and her two siblings grew up surrounded with affluence and the glitz of the movie world. One thing was certain about Papa Joe. No matter how good life was for his family he made sure his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. The desire to help others would blossom in Mary and was one day destined to explode. However, before the “explosion” Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.

Mary married at 18 and had three children. The first died shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce and then Mary married again. The wedding took place in Las Vegas and it was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. Mary had somehow distanced herself from her strict Catholic upbringing. No matter, it seems that the Holy Spirit had his eye on Mary Clarke her entire life. It was time for Him to shower His grace on His daughter.

Mary became more and more involved in charity work and has her seven children got older she began to visit La Mesa Penitentiary to deliver donations such as food, medicine, and clothing to the prisoners. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa began to impact her greatly and as time went by her growing compassion and love of neighbor would become focused on these people. They would become her specialty, her ministry, her purpose in life.

In 1977, after her kids were grown and her second divorce was final, Mary gave away her expensive belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa. She had received permission to move there. Her new home was to be a 10′ by 10′ cell. She would live as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell and having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall, a Bible and Spanish dictionary nearby and a hard, prison bed. In the morning she lined up with the other prisoners for roll call. This was to be her home for the next thirty years.

The story of how this twice divorced woman and mother of seven kids from two marriages was accepted by the Catholic Church as a Sister and founder of a new order can be found at the links provided. Suffice it to say that as time went by Sister Antonia became “La Mama” (Mother Antonia) aka The Prison Angel,

“La Mama”. The Prison Angel

Mother Antoni© Brenner praying with prisoners.. courtesy eudistssisters.org

She walked freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists, and others touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of men. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them and held their heads between her hands as they were dying.

Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with. She loved them all. Why else would hardened criminals, some who had never loved or been loved,  call the diminutive woman who hailed from Beverly Hills, “La Mama”? They loved her in return.

I believe that one day Mother Antonia Brenner will be canonized a saint and inducted into the “Catholic Hall of Fame”. She was an example for each and every one of us showing us how to selflessly “love our neighbor” no matter who they might be.

N.B. Mother Antonia founded the order known as The Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour. The word, Eudist, is taken from St. John Eudes, a 17th-century priest, and founder of the Eudists Order and the Order of Our Lady of Charity. The 11th Hour indicates that the Eudists sisters accept women in life having a second calling. They must be at least 45 years-old to enter the order.

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2018

 

A Saintly Journey—The Road to Sainthood is a Fascinating Journey into Human Holiness

How-to-become-a-Saint—-quinn-dombrowski-cc-by-sa-2-0

By Larry Peterson

On May 12, 2013, the Catholic Church canonized 802 saints. Blessed Antonio Primaldo and the other 799 soon-to-be  saints were living in the town of Otranto in the south of Italy. The year was 1480.

The Ottoman Turks had taken over the city and demanded these “infidels” convert to Islam. They refused and were all murdered. In addition to those 800 being elevated to sainthood, Blessed Maria Garcia Zavala of Mexico and Blessed Laura Montoya of Columbia were also canonized  on that same day.

The 802 newly canonized saints joined the roles of more than 10,000 saints who are venerated in the Catholic Church. How did over 10,000 people manage to be canonized? It may have to do with the fact that in the early years of Christianity many different communities honored or venerated hundreds of people whose stories were not backed by solid fact.

Some stories were made up. For example, St. George the Dragon Slayer, is from the third century. He is honored by both Muslims and Christians. Is the story fact or legend? In the French countryside St. Guinefort is venerated as the protector of babies. It seems that Guinefort saved a baby from a snakebite. The only problem was, Guinefort was a dog.

Interestingly, 52 of the first 55 popes became saints during Catholicism’s first 500 years. During the last one thousand years, only seven popes have attained sainthood, and that includes Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII.

The first saint formally canonized was St. Ulrich of Augsburg. He was canonized by Pope John XV in 993. During the 12th century, the church, realizing they needed an  orderly system, began to put a process in place.  Then, in 1243, Pope Gregory IX, proclaimed that only a pope had the authority to declare someone a saint. That process still exists to this day.

So, what is the actual process on the road to sainthood? We know this for sure, sainthood is not an easy honor to attain. There are five steps in the journey. The first step begins right in the neighborhood where the proposed saint lived and was known.

After a person has been dead for five years (this time frame may be waived by the Pope), friends and neighbors may get together and document all they can about that particular person. They would then present their evidence to the local bishop requesting he begin an investigation into the person’s holy and exemplary life.

If the bishop feels the evidence is worthy of the cause moving forward, he may appoint a “postulator” to represent the cause. If, after further investigation, they  feel the cause is worthy, they forward it to Rome.  Now the evidence  goes before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. At this point in the process, the person receives the title, “Servant of God.”

The Congregation for the Causes consists of nine theologians who thoroughly review all the documentation that has been presented to them. The person’s writings are examined, and all aspects of their life are picked apart. Nothing can go against the teachings of the Church.

The Congregation even has a “devil’s advocate” who raises questions and objections about the candidate. The Congregation must be sure before moving forward. If they decide the candidate has been a person of “heroic virtue,” they are declared “Venerable,” and their cause moves on towards the next step; Beatification.

Except in the cases of martyrdom, Beatification requires one miracle. The candidate’s character and holiness have already been established, but having a miracle attributed to someone can take centuries. If a person has been killed for their faith, they have been martyred “In Odium Fidei” which means, “In hatred of the faith.”

This death is honored with Beatification and the title Blessed is bestowed on the person. Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered while saying Mass in France in 2016, is an example of someone experiencing this type of death.

Another death is called, in defensum castitatis” meaning, in defense of purity.” This too warrants Beatification and the person is given the title of Blessed. Two young Catholic heroines who died in this manner are St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Pierina Morosini.

Pope Francis recently introduced a new road to sainthood. It honors those who sacrificed their lives for others. (The Mercedarians are known for this). This is called “Maiorem hac delectionem (nemo habet)” which means; “Greater love than this (no man hath).”

Lastly, there is Canonization. At this point, we are waiting for one more miracle. Upon that happening it is given to the Pope who makes the final decision. It is then a person is declared a saint.

To all you saints (and those in the queue) above, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

St. Vincent de Paul; His Feast Day is Sept. 27—Some facts about his life you may not know

St. Vincent de Paul                 Wikipedia commons

Larry Peterson

I have been a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for twenty-five years. At present I am not active but being part of this organization has allowed me to interact and work with the least and most marginalized of God’s people. My affiliation with the society has allowed me to experience some of the most uplifting moments of my life.

Those who reached out to us were always in dire straits. They had no food, had been evicted, could not pay for life-saving medication, had no water, had no gas or electricity among other necessities of life. There were even those who had no shoes.  Somehow, we always managed to help anyone who came to us. If we did not have the capabilities, we were able to forward them to a place that could.

I mention those things because it all goes back to the example and inspiration displayed by one man; St. Vincent de Paul. On his feast day of September 27, here are a few things you may not have known about this great saint.

  • The first one is; St. Vincent did NOT found the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was named in his honor by Frederick Ozanam, the 20-year-old student who modeled the society after St. Vincent’s works and teachings. The highlighted link will give you Frederick’s story.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Desperate for money Vincent was notified of an inheritance he had received from an elderly woman who knew him. He had made the journey to Bourdeaux to claim the estate. Disappointed that the inheritance was mostly needed to satisfy a debt, Vincent headed back to Toulouse. The ship he had taken was attacked by pirates and most of the crew was killed or wounded, including the captain. Vincent and the other passengers were taken into chains and sold into slavery and taken to Tunis. Vincent remained a slave for two years before escaping with another and making it back to France.

 

  • Vincent could have been a “community organizer.”  Upon returning to France he was working in a church in the country. The area was so poor many people actually died from starvation. Vincent was horrified and began contacting old friends, many of whom were wealthy, asking for help. He formed groups and they went from house to house seeking clothing, food, and furniture. They were so successful that word spread and other parishes asked to be taught how to organize such efforts. Vincent’s organizational skills began being emulated all over France.

 

  • Vincent de Paul was the founder of a religious order called The Vincentians. Under Vincent’s rule, those who entered ministry pledged to devote their lives to the spiritual and material needs of the poor. Later on Vincent, along with Louise de Marillac, founded the Sisters of Charity. The work started by Vincent de Paul expanded to opening hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the mentally ill. His work also included serving prisoners and slaves.

 

Vincent de Paul died on September 27, 1660. He was canonized a saint on August 13, 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor. I belong to God and to the poor.” –St. Vincent de Paul”

St. Vincent de Paul, please pray for us.

 

                              copyright Larry Peterson2018

Catholics and America; “Joined at the Hip” We must be; look at all the American cities named after a Catholic saint

Christianity & America–inseparable
Istockphoto

By Larry Peterson

One of our greatest Americans, George Washington, said of the United States Constitution: “The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of Providence as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it.”

The United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787,

and on  December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights went into effect after Virginia ratified it. The First Amendment assured us of these fundamental freedoms: Religion, Speech and Press, and the Right to peaceably assemble and petition grievances. Note how the very first freedom guaranteed we citizens is that of Religion.

In the United States, we are free to practice any religion we want, but there is one religion among the many that stands out across this great land. From our northern to the southern borders and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, these are cities named after Catholic saints. They say, loud and clear, Catholic!

The last I heard Catholicism is the only religion which honors so many people who have gone before us and have given them the title of Saint. This title, after exhaustive research and study into the person’s life,  is only bestowed on the “best of the best.” which means those who have sacrificed everything, sometimes including their lives, for the love of God.

Remarkably, many of these Catholics have been called upon to represent an American city when their prayerful intercession is invoked by folks settling a certain area. For example, San Francisco is named after St. Francis of Assisi. This city was founded in 1776 as the Mission of San Francisco de Asis. The monks and the people called on St. Francis to protect them and their new home.

California alone has many towns and cities named after saints. Many of these started as Spanish missions. San Bernardino is named after St. Bernard of Siena. San Clemente is named after St. Clement who was the fourth Pope. Then there is San Diego, a major U.S. city; San Juan Capistrano, founded by St. Junipero Serra and named in honor of St. John Capistrano. We must mention Sacramento, California. This city is named after Christ present in the Most Holy Eucharist. We cannot get more Catholic than that.

There are many across this land such as St. Anthony, Idaho named after St. Anthony of Padua; St. Paul, Oregon named after the apostle Paul; St. Mary’s, West Virginia named after Our Lady; St. Florian, Alabama, named after a Roman soldier who died for the faith; St. Joseph, Oregon; St. Edward, Nebraska; Santa Rosa, New Mexico named after St. Rose of Lima; and St. Ignatius, Montana. Let’s not forget, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are so many more.

It may not have always been so, but today our nation is visibly and profoundly linked to the Catholic faith. We, as Catholics, are bound to our nation through the principles set in place by our non-Catholic Founders. Freedom of religion has allowed for streets, buildings, organizations, sports teams, rivers, lakes, and cities to be able to bear the name of Catholic saints.

There is not a shred of doubt that Catholicism and America are forever linked. Freedom of religion is the greatest freedom guaranteed to a people. We can love and worship God as we see fit and can do it on a daily basis.

Virtually every state in the union has a city or town named after a Catholic saint, people who are shining examples of all that is GOOD. The secular world can try as they may, but their quest to remove God from our lives will never succeed. How can it? We have an army of saints and the Rosary. Secularism may cause some grief but, in the end, it does not have a prayer.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

Meet Joseph Calasanctius—More or less unheard of yet he is the Patron Saint of Catholic Schools

St. Joseph Calasanz–Patron of Catholic Schools pd

By Larry Peterson

What follows is about a man who was ordained a priest and established the first free school for children in Europe, something unheard of at the time. His name is Joseph Calasantius. He went on the become the patron saint of Catholic Schools.

Joseph Calasantius (also known as Joseph Calasanz) was born in the Kingdom of Aragon (today called Spain). At the age of fourteen, he was already feeling a strong calling to the religious life. His dad wanted him to get married to carry on the family name, but  Joseph had different feelings about this. He ultimately decided to pursue his calling from God.

He was ordained a priest on December 17, 1583. He quickly advanced to secretary and confessor to the bishop.  He was tasked with establishing order and discipline among the clergy and this he did.

He became Vicar-general of Trempe, Spain and it was during this period of his life that both his bishop and his father died. It was in the midst of this grief period that Joesph had a vision. “Go to Rome,” he was told. In his dream, he saw many children surrounded by angels. He gave away his inheritance, renounced his worldly possessions and headed to Rome.

Upon arriving in Rome, he was deeply moved by seeing so many poor, uneducated children. His credentials helped land him a position in the residence of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna with the job of being his theological advisor and tutor to the cardinal’s nephew. It was here when he became part of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

Once part of the Confraternity, he quickly learned how many poor, uneducated children were in need of his help. Many were orphans and many were simply homeless. He tried to get them into school but the teachers refused, demanding much more money to teach “vagabonds.” But God was waiting for the right moment.

Joseph asked a priest friend, Father Brendani, if he could help him. Amazingly,  Father Brendani offered him two small rooms at his parish. Two other priests, believing in the mission of Father Joseph, agreed to work with him. In November 1597, only five years after arriving in Rome and having to also learn the language, Father Joseph opened the first, free school for poor children.

Other priests began stepping forward to help, and soon they needed to expand. In 1602, they managed to find larger quarters. Pope Clement VIII (1592-1603) and Pope Paul V (1605-21) contributed to their efforts. Soon, Joseph was in charge of a half-dozen teachers and hundreds of students.  Then Joseph began to organize his teaching priests into a religious community.

The work of Joseph Calasanctious was spreading. By the end of the summer of 1616, they had opened a free school in Frascati, a town outside of Rome. Then on March 6, 1617, Pope Paul V approved a new order which was called (this is long) the Pauline Congregation of the Poor Clerks of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools. The order became known as the Piarists.

Joseph Calasanctious and his fourteen priest followers received their new habits on March 25. They became the very first priests whose primary mission was to teach elementary school kids…no matter who they were or what their circumstances.

However, many of the ruling class feared to educate the poor. They predicted it would lead to social unrest and war between the classes. Other priests and religious feared that they would be absorbed by the Piarists. As Joseph’s order grew and more schools opened, some of his own order began to turn against him. They even managed to convince the Pope that something was wrong within the order.

Joseph Calasanctious, a man who loved his priesthood and fought for the education of poor kids, was arrested and forced to stand trial before the Holy Office aka The Inquisition. The work of his order was shut down and his members absorbed by the regular diocese. Joseph did not lose hope but died on August 25, 1648. Twenty years later, Pope Clement IX, completely restored the order and vindicated Joseph Calasanctious.

St. Joseph Calasanctious (Calasanz) was canonized a saint by Pope Clement XIII on July 16, 1767. He is the Patron Saint of Catholic Schools. His feast day pre-Vatican II, is still on August 27. After 1969 it was moved to August 25.

St. Joseph Calasanctious, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

A Beautiful Devotion—The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Rosary for the Holy Souls
—catholic.org

By Larry Peterson

The Souls in Purgatory hold a place of high esteem within the Catholic faith. These are our relatives and friends and fellow Catholics who have gone before us and prior to entering heaven must spend a period of purification in a place called Purgatory

What follows will help us learn how to help our family and friends and fellow Catholics gain release from Purgatory.

There is a prayer that St. Gertrude received from Our Lord. We are taught that every time we say it, 1000 souls are released from Purgatory. St. Gertrude’s Prayer is below:

“Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, 
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and in my family. Amen.”

Besides St. Gertrude’s Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory there are two other distinct methods of reaching out to help the Faithful Departed. The first is the Chaplet of the Holy Souls as profiled in Aleteia last year. The other is the Rosary for the Holy Souls  which is a bit more detailed and offers prayers that everyone from our parents, grandparents, children, down to those who suffered heart attacks, died suddenly in car accidents and even those who died without receiving the Last Rites of the Church. It even mentions every one of us when we face our particular judgment day.

How to Pray the Rosary for the Holy Souls:

 We Begin:

Let us pray:
May the prayer of Your suppliant people, we beseech You, O Lord, benefit the souls of Your departed servants and handmaids, that You both deliver them from all their sins and make them partakers of Your redemption. Amen.

Sign of the Cross +

  1. O Lord, open my lips.
  2. And I shall praise your name.
    V. O God, come to my aid.
    R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
    V. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
    R. As it was in the beginning…

Now We Pray for Specific Souls in Purgatory:

O Jesus, You suffered and died that all mankind might be saved and brought to eternal happiness. Hear our pleas for further mercy on the souls of:

Choose all those you wish to pray for:  parents, grandparents and spouse, brothers and sisters and other near relatives, teachers, priests, convicts, cancer patients, and on and on, including those who have wronged you and those that were your enemies.

Response to each special intention: Jesus, have mercy!

Using your Rosary, Begin with the Crucifix and then Pray on each Bead as Noted

 Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty…

For the intentions of our Holy Father, the Pope:
Our Father, Hail Mary (x 3), Glory be..

Pray the Decades As Follows:

  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary…(x 10)
  • Glory be…
  • Fatima Prayer…(Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins etc.)

Use the Sorrowful Mysteries:

  • The Agony in the Garden
  • The Scourging at the Pillar
  •  The Crowning with Thorns
  • The Carrying of the Cross
  • The Crucifixion

After the fifth decade we pray:
Lord, Jesus Christ, through Your five Holy Wounds and through all of Your Sacred Blood that You shed, we ask You to have mercy on the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and in particular on our parents, spouses, relatives, spiritual guides and benefactors. Complete the healing of their purification and let them enjoy and participate fully in Your Salvation. Amen.

Hail Holy Queen…etc.

  • Let us pray
    O God, Whose only begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries in the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • The Memorare…Remember oh most compassionate Virgin Mary etc…
  • St Michael Archangel, defend us in battle…etc.

Finish:

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them with your Saints forever more because You are gracious.

May the divine assistance remain always with us.  And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.