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

Stained Glass honoring 38 Matyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 martyrs of Albania    public domain

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


When Jesus Rose from the Dead where was the Blessed Mother? Ask Pope St. John Paul II

Jesus and His Mom                                            wikipedia.commons.org

By Larry Peterson

When Easter morning arrived, someone was missing. That someone is the very lynchpin of the Salvation story. That someone is the Blessed Virgin, Mary. She is nowhere to be seen or heard. Where was she?

We will hear from the gospel of John 20:1-9 how —“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples He loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.”

So where was Our Lady when Jesus rose from the dead?  She was His mother. She was nearby throughout the passion and watched Him carry His cross. She watched as they drove the nails through His hands and his feet.  She stood agonizingly and helplessly by as He was raised on the cross. For three hours she stood there watching every drop of blood leave her boy’s body. She was at the foot of the cross when He died.

The following week, on the Second Sunday of Easter ( Divine Mercy Sunday), the gospel is once again from John, this time 20: 19-31. This is when, with the doors locked,  Jesus appears to all of them (except “doubting”  Thomas). Once again, the Mother of our Savior is never mentioned.  Why is that?

No Mom should ever have to witness such cruelty heaped upon her own child. Who could have loved him more than she? Doesn’t it seem absolutely unquestionable that the first person who Jesus appeared to after He rose was His Mother? Yet there is not a single mention of the Blessed Virgin in the Resurrection narratives.

In the year 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This explains to us that the greatness and majesty that was bestowed on Our Lady was wrapped into a bundle of pure Love from God.  He was the Father of her child. She was the Mom. Every drop of Jesus’s DNA comes from His Mom. The Father and Son are God. Jesus Christ is truly Human and Divine, separate yet one. Yet she is not mentioned in the Resurrection gospel readings.

From the CCC 496: Mary’s Virginity:

From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed.” The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own…

Back to the question; Where was our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Risen Christ, Her only Child, on Easter Sunday? We can turn this question over to none other than Pope St. John Paul the Great. The Holy Father, speaking from Vatican City on May 21, 1997, said:

“The unique and special nature of the presence of the Virgin at Calvary, and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross, seem to postulate a very particular participation on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection.”

“The Blessed Virgin, who was present at Calvary and at the Cenacle, “was probably also a privileged witness to the Resurrection of Christ, in this way completing her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Embracing the risen Jesus, Mary is, in addition, a sign and anticipation of humanity, which hopes to reach its fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead.”

If Pope St. John Paul II says she was there; She was there—AMEN.

Copyright©2019 Larry Peterson


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

 


The First Woman Saint from Brazil was a Lifelong Diabetic

St. Paulne  of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus                            vatican.news

By Larry Peterson

She was born on December 16, 1865, in the town of Vigolo Vattaro, which was in northern Italy. At the time, this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her father, Antonio Visintainer, and her mom, Anna Pianezzer, named her Amabile Lucia. Like most of the people in the area, Amabile’s parents, despite being quite poor, were also. devout Catholics.

When Amabile was ten years old, her family joined with some other families, and a total of about one hundred people emigrated to the State of Santa Catarina (Saint Catherine) located in Brazil. They settled in an area naming it Vigolo, the same name as the town they had left. Their new life was about to begin.

Even as a young child, Amabile displayed a pious and charitable nature that made people notice. She often spoke of serving God, and after receiving her First Holy Communion at the age of twelve, she became part of her parish by attending catechism class, visiting the sick, and cleaning the chapel. Amabile was never given the opportunity for an upper-level education. Still, her love of her faith and the poor and homeless fully compensated for the book learning she had not received.

On July 12, 1890, things took a dramatic change for Amabile. She and her dear friend, Virginia Rosa Nicolodi, began caring for a woman suffering from cancer. Their spiritual director, a Jesuit priest by the name of Luigi Rossi, asked them if they wanted to commit their lives to religious service, dedicating their lives to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. It was also about this time in Amabile’s life that the frequent thirst and increased urination became an interference in her daily life. Diabetes had reared its ugly head.

Father Rossi, through donations,  helped them acquire a small house, and they moved the woman in. The cared for her until her passing, and then another woman, Teresa Anna Maule, joined them as the third member of their tiny group. It was at this point that they founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.  With the blessing and approval of Most Reverend Jose de Camargo Barros, Bishop of Curitiba, they began their work.

During this time, the symptoms of diabetes became more frequent in Sister Pauline. The frequent trips to urinate, the ever-present thirst, and unexpected weight loss, were all evidence of an illness few knew anything about. (Insulin would not be discovered until 1921. The first insulin injection was given to a 14-year-old boy in Canada, on January 11, 1922).

The history of diabetes is scattered with ideas and treatments that more or less had one thing in common. There was ‘too much sugar” in the urine. The Egyptians had discovered diabetic symptoms thousands of years ago but did not know how to treat it. In India, they placed ants near a persons’ urine, and if they ants hurried to it, they knew it was because it had sugar in it. During the middle ages “water testers” were folks who tasted urine. If the urine tasted “sweet,” the person was diagnosed with diabetes. But, as far as treatments  for the disease, there were none save “dieting.”    Diabetes, prior to insulin, was basically a death sentence.

In December of that year, Amabile and her two friends, Virginia and Teresa, professed religious vows. Amabile took the name  Sister Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. Her title became Mother Pauline after she was named Superior General of the Order.

The holiness of life and apostolic zeal of Mother Pauline and her Sister companions attracted many vocations despite the poverty and the difficulties in which they lived. In 1903, Mother Pauline was elected Superior General “for life.” She left Nova Trento to take care of the orphans, the children of former slaves, and the old and abandoned slaves in the district of Ipiranga of Saõ Paulo. 

On May 19, 1933, Mother Pauline was granted the title of  Venerable Mother Foundress and received a Decree of Praise from the Holy See. Her health was continually evaporating, and by 1940, she had lost her middle finger and then her right arm. She spent the last year of her life blind and died on July 9, 1942. Her last words were, “God’s will be done.”

Mother Pauline was canonized a saint by Pope St., John Paul II in Vatican City on May 19, 2002. Because of her only being canonized in 2002, she is considered  the “unoffical” patroness of Diabetics. Her official status as patroness is coming soon.

St. Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, please pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


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


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


Honoring the Tongue of St. Anthony of Padua. His Tongue, known as the “Hammer of Heretics,” has its own Feast day.

“The Life of the Body is the Soul; The Life of the Soul is God”  St. Anthony of Padua

By Larry Peterson

He was born as Fernando Martins de Bulhoes in Lisbon, Portugal, on August 15, 1195. His family was wealthy, and this enabled Fernando to enter the upscale Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (at that time the capital of Portugal) when he was only 15. Fernando had a brilliant mind and quickly learned theology and Latin.

After Fernando was ordained a priest, he was named the hospitality director of his abbey. Shortly after that, Franciscan friars established a small hermitage outside the city. Dedicated to St. Anthony of Egypt,  Fernando developed a deep desire to become one of these friars. He sought permission to join them and it was granted. Upon entering his new order, he took the name of Anthony.

Anthony had a great speaking voice, a keen mind, and a great memory. As time passed by, he used his tongue so effectively at dispelling heresies and false rumors he became known as the Hammer of Heretics. He was the first theologian of the Franciscan Order and, besides being one of the greatest preachers to ever speak, he also possessed the spirit of prophecy and an extraordinary gift of miracles.

Anthony traveled to Morocco to preach but became very sick. He was returned to Portugal to recover but the voyage blew off course, and the ship landed in Sicily. From there, they went to Tuscany. The local friars had his health evaluated and assigned him to the hermitage of San Paolo.  Anthony spent most of his time recovering by praying and studying. However, he died at the age of 35.

Anthony of Padua was canonized a saint less than a year after his death by Pope Gregory IX. It was and still is one of the quickest canonizations in the history of the church.  In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church. We also know him as the patron saint of lost things. His feast day is June 13. However, we also have the feast day honoring The Holy Tongue of St. Anthony. That is on February 15, and here is how that came about.

St. Anthony died on June 13, 1231. He was buried in the little Franciscan church of St. Mary, in Padua. Thirty-two years later, in 1263, the new basilica on the site was far enough along where they could transfer his body. The plan was to bury the saint under the high altar. When they opened the coffin, Anthony’s body had decayed into ashes and bone. Incredibly, his tongue was pink and moist and totally incorrupt. It was felt that his teachings were so incorrupt that his tongue remained the same way.

St. Bonaventure was present and what he said at that moment was, “O blessed tongue, which has always blessed God and caused others to bless Him, now it appears evident how great were your merits before God!”

Bonaventure picked up the tongue ever so reverently and placed it in a suitable vessel until a proper reliquary could be made for it. In 1310, when the basilica was almost complete, St. Anthony’s remains were moved there.

St. Bonaventure had found the tongue incorrupt but, incredibly, this was validated in 1981. Being carefully examined it was discovered that other parts of the Saint’s body connected to his vocal cords had been preserved from corruption. This newly discovered miracle of incorruption added            extra proof and validation to the story of the “Hammer of  Heretics.”

The Holy Tongue of St. Anthony is in a special reliquary in a separate chapel on the epistle side of the basilica. It has its own special day of honor which is February 15. .People visit The Tongue of St. Anthony to this very day. In fact, five million pilgrims visit the Basilica of St. Anthony every year.

St. Anthony of Padua, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020