The ninth pope in the line of succession and the person who succeeded Telesphorus was a man named Hyginus. According to the Liber Pontificalis (this is the widely referenced history of the Popes from St. Peter up until the 15th century) Hyginus, a contemporary of St. Justin Martyr, was a Greek from Athens who had been a philosopher and a Christian apologist. He attained the Chair of Peter during a time when the Gnostic heresies were taking hold with the church.
Valentinus was a candidate to be Bishop of Rome but when that did not happen, he began his own school of thought. This became known as Gnosticism which basically teaches that the primary way to learn about God is through your own reason and not from revelation or tradition. This concept was against all that was part of Catholic teaching.
Hyginus fought vigourously against the Gnostic heresy and managed to overcome it. Many of the followers of Valentinus rejected his teachings and returned to the church. Some did not.
In addition to confronting and defeating the Gnostics, Hyginus also defined the various levels of the hierarchy and the responsibilities attached to the different positions.
Hyginus, although only pope for a short time, established the practice of including godparents to assist the newly born, not only at the Baptism but throughout their Christian life. He also decreed that all churches must be consecrated before Masses could be offered in them.
It is said that Pope Hyginus died a martyr. However, this has not been fully documented. When he died, he was buried on the Vatican Hill, close to St. Peter’s tomb. His feast day is January 11.
Prayer to Pope St. Hyginus:
O eternal Shepherd, watch over the peace of the flock, and through Blessed Hyginus, Thy martyr and sovereign pontiff, whom thou didst appoint shepherd over the whole church, keep her under Thy constant protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Honoring Black History Month; 2019 By Larry Peterson
In July of 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month. To be truthful, up until that time, I had never even heard of the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus or any other black Catholic organizations. I was truly pleased to find they existed.
Then a few years ago, I discovered a man named Augustus Tolton. Born a slave in Missouri, Augustus became the first ordained, African-American Catholic priest in America. Declared a “Servant of God”, Father “Gus” may well become the first African-American to be canonized a saint. Time will tell.
Discovering Father Tolton led me to other Catholic people of color, people that were ridiculed and persecuted because of their African-American heritage, people who stood tall in the face of adversity and, most of all, people who embraced their Catholic faith and became shining stars on the road to sainthood.
People like Venerable Henriette Delille (profiled in Aleteia) who not only opened schools and homes for the sick and elderly but also founded a religious order, The Sisters of the Holy Family. “Servant of God”; Mother Mary Lange, is another great Catholic woman who led a remarkable life and also has been placed on the path to canonization.
There is a bit of confusion about where Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born. It probably was Haiti somewhere around 1790. That is not an absolute but it is known that she did grow up in Santiago de Cuba and that is considered her birthplace. Elizabeth grew up in the French-speaking area of the city and became well educated. The “oral” history of the time stated she came from a family with an elevated “social standing”.
Beyond that not much more is known of her early years except for the fact she did leave Cuba to seek peace and security in the United States. She eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland where many French-speaking Catholic refugees from Haiti had settled. Elizabeth quickly recognized that the children of the many Caribbean immigrants needed education. A loving, courageous and deeply spiritual woman, Elizabeth was not only an independent thinker, but she was also a woman of action.
Somewhere around 1818, Elizabeth and her friend, Marie Magdelaine Balas, began offering free education to children of the migrants. They opened their home in the Fells Point area of Baltimore City and began teaching. They were black women in a slave state and the Emancipation Proclamation was still 50 years in the future. Elizabeth used her own money for supplies and charged nothing for her services. Since free public schools would not be available for children of color until 1866, the poor children in the area had become recipients of a miraculous opportunity.
Sometime around 1828 the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Whitfield, asked Father James Joubert, S.S. if he would ask Elizabeth Lange if she would consider starting a school for “girls of colour”. For Elizabeth, this was an answer to her prayers. She confided in father Joubert that she had been waiting for God’s call for more than ten years. She asked if she could start a religious order and father Joubert thought it was a fine idea. He agreed to provide guidance, solicit funds and encourage other “women of colour” if they would consider joining the first congregation of women of African heritage. Elizabeth was overjoyed.
There was one significant problem with their plans. Black men and women were not allowed to part of or even aspire to a religious calling. Once again, the hand of God would be needed to grace those involved, mainly Archbishop Whitfield. Amazingly, standing against the culture of the day, the Archbishop agreed to allow Elizabeth and three other women to take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity. They were to pledge obedience to the Archbishop. Thus began the order that is called the Oblate Sisters of Providence. From that point on Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was know as Mother Mary Lange.
Mother Mary worked tirelessly helping and teaching those who so desperately needed her and her followers. She was the Superior General of the order during the 1830s. She assisted night and day during two separate Cholera Epidemics, one in the early 1830s and another in the 1840s. She worked as a domestic and as the novice mistress as her newly founded order began to grow.
Being a black woman and a nun Mother Mary had to fight off hatred, poverty and racial injustice. She never tired of fighting for those in need and lived to see the fiftieth anniversary of her order. Mother Mary Lange, feeble and almost blind, was relieved of her duties in 1876. She lived another 16 years and passed away on February 3, 1882. She was 92 years old, give or take a year or two.
In 1991, William Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, received permission from Rome to officially open a formal investigation into the life of Mother Mary Lange’s life and works. Since the cause for her beatification was started she has been honored as a “Servant of God”, the first step in the canonization process.
Servant of God , Mother Mary Lange, please pray for us.
Each and every one of us is an individual work of art, crafted by God for Himself. Why would He do that? He does it because He is Love and wants to share Himself with us. We all are truly special in His eyes. He loves us all, individually and without reservation.
He will forgive each and every one of us for anything we might do to offend Him. All we have to do is admit it and ask Him for his forgiveness. However, that great interloper called “Pride”, oftentimes places for many, immovable roadblocks to humility, everyone’s needed ally on their path to Love.
What follows is an “American” story about a Catholic priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is about love and hatred in America. This is not about the present day. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1921.
Father James Edwin Coyle had been born and raised in Ireland and, at the age of 23, was ordained a priest in Rome. The year was 1896. That same year he was dispatched to the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama to begin his ministry. Father Coyle served eight years in Mobile. While there he also became a charter member of Mobile Council 666 of the Knights of Columbus.
Birmingham was rapidly growing and was turning into one of the primary steel-making centers in America. Thousands were flooding into the area and Bishop Patrick Allen assigned Father Coyle to be pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. This was in 1904.
In 1915, inspired by the silent film, “Birth of a Nation” , the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan rose up (the link can explain the first and third generations). These folks were not only anti-black they also hated Roman Catholics, Jews, organized labor and foreigners. They started the use of the “burning cross” as their symbol. By the mid-1920s, there were over 4 million klansmen nationwide.
Father Coyle was a passionate priest who loved his faith deeply and this love was infectious. He taught and inspired his parishioners about the beauty and importance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist and he held a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
The parish grew as Catholics gravitated to the Irish shepherd in their midst. He became the chaplain for the Birmingham Council 635 of the Knights of Columbus and his presence there brought in more members from the growing Catholic community.
As the Catholic population in Alabama grew, virtual hysteria on the part of the Ku Klux Klan began to permeate daily life. The Klan was spreading rumors and innuendo about Catholics kidnapping protestant women and children and keeping them imprisoned in convents, monasteries and Catholic hospitals. The Klan even spread the narrative that the Knights of Columbus was the military arm of the Pope and that they were stockpiling weapons for the upcoming insurrection.
One of the leading Catholic-haters of the day was a klansman by the name of Edwin Stephenson. Stephenson lived about a block or two away from St. Paul’s Church. His daughter, Ruth, at about the age of 12, had become fascinated by the comings and goings of the Catholics at St. Paul’s every day. One day she walked down to the church and Father Coyle was outside. They began to talk. Her father saw talking to the priest and, screaming at his child, demanded she go home immediately. Then he had a few choice words to say to Father Coyle. He then went home and beat his daughter.
Young Ruth was undeterred and over the next several years even managed to secretly take instruction from the nuns at the Convent of Mercy. She was baptized a Catholic on April 10,1921. She was 18 years old. When her parents found out their wedding gift to her was the worst beating she had ever received.
On August 11, 1921, Ruth Stephenson, of legal age, was seeking full emancipation from her parents. She did this by marrying Pedro Gussman, a former handyman who had worked at the Stephenson house several years earlier. The priest that performed the wedding was a reluctant Father James Coyle.
Later that afternoon, Mr. Stephenson loaded up his rifle and began walking to St. Paul’s Church. He had just found out that it was Father Coyle who had performed the wedding. His heart was not filled with love. Rather, with hatred spilling from his eyes, he walked up onto the porch of St. Paul’s where Father Coyle was sitting down reading and shot the priest three times. The final bullet went right through Father Coyle’s head. He died in less than an hour.
Stephenson turned himself in and was charged with Father Coyle’s murder. The KKK paid for the defense, the judge was a Klansman and the lawyer who defended Stephenson was Hugo Black, the future U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Although not a Klan member at the time of trial, Black did become a member afterward. The verdict took only a few hours to come in. It was “Not Guilty”.
Father James Edwin Coyle was a Catholic priest who loved his God, his Faith, and his Church. He was hated and murdered because of it. May he forever rest in peace.
I’m sure most of us have heard of the people known as French Creoles. The Creoles are simply descendants of the settlers of Louisiana who were of French descent. The term also became applied to African descended slaves who were born in Louisiana. One of those descendants was a woman by the name of Henriette Delille.
Henriette was born in 1813 in New Orleans. Her father had been born in France and her mom was a “free woman of color”. Theirs was a common-law marriage which was quite typical at the time in New Orleans. The people practiced the placage, a recognized “legal” system whereby European men, although legally married, entered into relationships with non-European women of African, Native American or mixed-race descent. As a Creole, Henriette was a qualified ‘candidate’ for a placage common-law marriage and her mom was resolved to see that it happened. Her daughter was not so determined.
Henriette’s mother, on a quest to see that her daughter became a common-law wife to a wealthy white man, trained Henriette in the fine arts of dance, literature, and music. She made sure that Henriette attended as many “quadroon balls” as possible. There was one problem; Henriette was not interested. Her mind, heart, and soul were pointing in a different direction.
Henriette had developed a deep faith in Catholicism and its teachings. She wanted no part of the life her mother was planning for her. Rather, she became an outspoken adversary of the placage system because it violated the Church’s teachings on the Sacrament of Matrimony. Henriette’s objections to her mom’s wishes began causing serious discord between mother and daughter.
When Henriette was 22 years old, her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was declared by the courts as “incompetent”. Henriette was granted control of her mom’s assets and immediately made arrangements for her to be provided for. After ensuring her mom would was well taken care of and in good hands, she sold all the other assets. She took the remaining proceeds and founded a small, unrecognized order of nuns. They called themselves the Sisters of the Presentation. The order consisted of seven young Creole women and a young French woman.
Henriette and her little group began their fledgling ministry by taking in some elderly women who had no place to go or help take care of them. In effect, Henriette Delille had opened America’s first Catholic home for the elderly. To this day this is one of their primary charitable works. (Ironically, during the same year of 1836, a woman named Jeanne Jugan was in France acquiring a small cottage and beginning a new order. She brought a blind, crippled elderly woman into her home and so began the Little Sisters of the Poor. She had two followers with her.)
Henriette Delille had officially devoted her life to God. In 1836 she wrote, “I wish to live and die for God.” She and her group began caring for the sick, helping the poor, teaching both free and enslaved men, women and children. Henriette became a frequent sponsor for mixed-race babies at Baptisms in nearby St. Louis Cathedral and in St. Augustine Church. She also became very active in St. Claude School, founded for young women of color.
In 1837 Henriette’s new order received recognition from the Holy See. In 1842 the congregation changed its name to the Sisters of the Holy Family. Today the Sisters of the Holy Family have over 200 members continuing to serve the poor by operating free schools for children, retirement homes and nursing homes in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California and Belize.
Henriette Delille died in 1862. She was 49 years old. On March 27, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI, declared that Henriette Delille had led a life of “heroic virtue” and declared the Creole woman from New Orleans, “Venerable”. When the sisters in her order heard the news they quickly gathered together, headed to their chapel and sang the Te Deum, praising God for the great blessing.
I believe that Venerable Henriette may well become the first African-American woman to be canonized a saint. (This article appeared in Aleteia on Nov 4, 2016)
Father Augustus Tolton is the first African American ordained a priest in America. Born a slave, his story is also in Aleteia. He has been declared a “Servant of God” and is on the road to sainthood..
April 1, 1854, Brush Creek, Missouri: Peter Tolton, paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to their second son. They named him Augustus (after his uncle) and, before the month was out, the baby was baptized in nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augustus’ godmother.
The baptism of Augustus was a bit unusual. That was because Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot, who happened to be the “owner” of Augustus’ mom and dad. Mr. and Mrs. Tolton were slaves and their three children, Charley, Augustus, and Anne, were born into slavery. The slave master made sure his slaves were baptized and his family and his slaves were all Catholic.
After the Civil War began, the Toltons, seeking freedom, ‘ran away’. Peter joined the Union army and the rest of the family headed north. With the help of Union soldiers, Martha Jane and her children arrived in Illinois, a “free” state. Martha Jane and the children settled in Quincy, Illinois. Young Augustus Tolton, aged eight or nine, was soon to meet Father Peter McGirr.
Martha Jane and her oldest boy, Charley, were hired by a local tobacco company to make cigars while Augustus, charged with taking care of his little sister, began spending a lot of time across the street from St. Peter’s Church. The pastor was Father McGirr.
Father McGirr, had noticed Augustus and his sister and, after a while, approached the boy. He introduced himself and asked a frightened Augustus if he would like to go to school. Augustus was thrilled with the prospect and said, “YES!”
Most of the white parishioners did not want a black student being taught along with their white children. Father McGirr held fast and firm and insisted the boy study at St. Peter’s. Martha Jane was shocked that her boy had been offered such an opportunity and agreed for him to go. Augustus Tolton’s life journey had been set before him even though he did not know it.
Father McGirr may have been moved by the Holy Spirit because he saw something in Augustus that others did not. The boy received his First Holy Communion, became an altar boy and proved to be a brilliant student. By the 1870s, when prejudice was basically taken for granted, Father McGirr was attempting to enroll Augustus in a seminary so he might study for the priesthood. The young black man was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied. But a tenacious and determined Father McGirr never gave up.
They both continued praying and trying and finally, Father McGirr secured admission for Augustus to St. Francis Solanus College located right there in Quincy. Upon graduation, Augustus was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. 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 been ordained 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 church which was once again packed inside while thousands of others stood outside. For these few days prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent. The Golden Rule—Ruled.
Father Tolton had been ill for quite some time and had never told anyone. On a steaming 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. He was only 43 years old. His community was shocked. They had lost a dear friend. “Good Father Gus”, as he was lovingly called by his parishioners, was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.
If 130 years ago white people and black people could join hands in song to honor a black Catholic priest, why could something like this not happen again? Maybe instead of a Ferguson, Missouri we could have a replay of a Quincy, Illinois, circa 1889. With God, anything is possible. We should pray to Good Father Gus for this. Who knows, maybe a new Augustus Tolton will one day step from the shadows to help us once again achieve such a moment.
On January 22, 2019, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the Reproductive Health Act. This was also the anniversary of Roe v.Wade.
When the governor finished signing this bill, a suffocating wind exploded from the halls of the capitol caused by the cheers and screams of those upstanding “lawmakers” who had voted to legalize infanticide. Indeed, the wind has moved like a tsunami across our land leaving behind a foul and repugnant odor.
There is an inexplicable paradox that engulfs humanity. I believe there are a far greater number of women and men who are willing to lay down their very lives for their child, even if it is still unborn. And then there are those people who rejoice in the death and destruction of the most innocent and helpless of all God’s creations. I have no answers for this human phenomena.
The signing of this bill and the cheering that followed brought me back to a day 40 years earlier. The date was September 6, 1978. For my young family that was also a day about the life and death of a baby. Mostly, it is about how one woman would go to any lengths to save her unborn child.
Loretta had entered her sixth month of pregnancy, and in the days preceding September 6, there had been little movement from the baby. On September 5, the doctor had appeared concerned but had only said that the heartbeat “could be a bit stronger.” He wanted her to return in a week.
The rest of that day there was no movement. We had gone to bed and fallen asleep. I was on my right side, and Loretta was lying against my back. Suddenly something jabbed me in the back. It was hard enough to wake me. I sat up and said, “The baby just kicked me.”
She said softly, “Yes, I know.”
It was 2 a.m., and all was dark and peaceful, but we did not fall back asleep. We just laid quietly, side by side, holding hands and waiting. A second kick never came.
The next morning, after I had gone to work, Loretta began to hemorrhage. Her mom had been staying with us for a few days and thank God she was there. She called 911 and then called and left a message for me at work. My first stop was only ten minutes from the hospital, and I arrived there before the ambulance.
When they pulled the gurney out, I was stunned at what I saw. My wife had lost so much blood that her hair was smeared with it. Her eyes were closed and she was not moving. I stood by helplessly as they rushed her into the ER.
For those who reject and scoff at the wonder of God’s human creations here is an example of how one woman did not. As I was standing there not knowing what to do or where to go, a priest came in and asked me if I was Larry Peterson. I just nodded, and he told me that my mother-in-law had called his parish. As Loretta was being wheeled out of the house, she made her mother promise to have a priest waiting to baptize her child. Her mom kept her promise.
There was a hospital ten minutes from our house. I was told that the paramedics wanted to go there but that Loretta demanded they take her to the Catholic hospital a half hour away. They told her it was way too risky because of the amount of blood she was losing. She would not relent, and they did as she asked. She was determined to have her child baptized. She had knowingly and willingly put her life on the line for her baby.
Loretta survived and the baby did not. She was baptized. A few days later, the remains of Theresa Mary Peterson left the funeral home in a tiny white casket. The casket was placed on the front seat of a limousine. We followed it to Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. She was buried with my parents, and her name is on the tombstone. She did exist and will always be remembered.
As the great Pope, St. John Paul II said, “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”
Lest evil prevails, we must pray like never before that our nation overcomes this onslaught against the very image of God Himself.
His name was quite unusual; it was Yvo. He was born in the year 1040 near Chartres, France, which is why he is called Yvo of Chartres. Not much is known about his family background and his adolescent life. The documented history of his life seems to begin when Yvo became a student in Paris and began studying at the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, a Benedictine Monastery.
It was at the Abbey of Bec that Yvo studied alongside Anselm of Canterbury, a man who would become a saint and a doctor of the church. Anselm and Yvo became good friends, and both men learned from each other. Yvo was still an unknown quantity but that began to change when he was ordained a priest.
His reputation as an outstanding teacher spread and his firm stand against religious abuse of power quickly became noticed. In 1080, at the request of the bishop, Yvo was sent to Beauvais to teach Canon Law at the Abbey of San Quentin. During his years at the Abbey, he established himself as one of the best teachers in France. Under his guidance, the Abbey of San Quentin came to be recognized as the preeminent school of sound theology.
While here he established himself as a staunch opponent of the practice of simony ( making a profit by selling church goods and services), which at the time, was being used by many of those within the religious ranks. In the year 1090, Yvo was appointed Bishop of Chartres. This appointment came because of his high standards, sound judgments, and humility.
His episcopal directives and rules were spread over a period of twenty-five years. During this time, his writings became well known and admired. He was always faithful to his duties, respectful of all people, loyal to the papacy and his country. At the same time, he never failed to disapprove of what he considered sinful and/or against church dogma.
Yvo was the ‘go-to guy” on matters about theology, liturgy, and political issues. But what he was most sought out for was his opinions and decisions relating to canonical matters. For example, during the period in the church, there was a situation that was causing a great division among the ruling class and the church hierarchy. It was called “Investiture.” This differences became so intense that it developed into an actual struggle for supremacy between the monarchy(s) and the church.
Investiture was the practice of allowing the rulers to have the choice of whom to invest as bishops and abbots. They would choose them and install them into office presenting them with their symbols of that office. When the church leaders objected to this practice there was a huge controversy that developed between the laity and the ecclesiastics. The ruling class believed this was their right. The papacy disagreed. It was Yvo of Chartres who wrote the opinions that were finally accepted by all parties at the Concordat of Worms in 1122. Thus was the end of the practice of “Investiture.” His work stands to this day.
Yvo of Chartres left behind volumes of writings mostly covering three categories; canonical writings, sermons, and letters. The letters alone number 288. These letters all dealt with canonical and dogmatic questions and were predominantly based on the virtue of Caritas (charity). His canonical works were called the Collections of Ancient Canons and included twenty-five volumes dealing with the topic.
Yvo wrote most of his existing works while he was Bishop of Chartres. He became known as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval era and became a famous religious figure. He died on December 23, 1115, at the age of seventy-five.
Yvo of Chartres was beatified by Pope St. Pius V on December 18, 1570. His exact date of canonization is not known but he considered a canonized saint. He is the Patron Saint of Canonists. His feast day was December 23 (his date of death) but it has been moved to May 23.