By Larry Peterson
On April 14, 2018, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He presented the cardinal with the names of eight Catholics who have attained the designation of Servants of God. This designation is awarded to those who have attained the first pedestal on their road to canonization. Among those named was Servant of God, Father Varghese Payyapilly Palakkappilly (yes, that is a definite tongue-twister so we will keep it at Father Varghese).
Cardinal Amato was authorized by the Holy Father to place those named worthy of receiving a promulgation of “the Heroic Virtues.” Pope Benedict XIV, 1740 to 1758, who is considered the defining authority on these virtues, wrote five volumes about them. They are still used in determining if a Servant of God meets the criteria of demonstrating ‘heroic virtue.’
A simple way to think of ‘heroic virtue’ might be as a virtue that has become a second nature. It becomes a habit of good behavior that can only be attained through the love of God and a closeness to Him, a closeness that most of us never reach. Heroic Virtue must be a part of those who would be advanced to the level of Venerable from Servant of God.
Father Varghese was born in India, in the province of Kerala, on August 8, 1876. He attended St. Albert’s School in Ernakulam which is on the southeast coast of India. From St. Albert’s he moved onto the Central Seminary in Sri Lank (formerly Ceylon) an island off the coast of India. From there he attended the Papal Seminary, also in Sri Lanka, where he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1907.
Father Verghase was assigned as a parish priest and served as such in various parishes from 1909 thru 1922. While serving at the parish in Arakuzha, he began St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School. His presence and efforts at the school and church helped reunite many estranged families and succeeded in making the church self-sufficient through land purchases.
Father Verghase also managed to acquire land for the construction of St. Joseph’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He remained there until 1929. It was reported that during Father Varghese’s tenure there, vocations to the priesthood exploded.
Father Verghases’s reputation as a kind and loving priest continued to grow. He became a member of the Diocesan Council and the Director of Apostolic Union as well as the Priests’ Provident Fund. People from all over came to him because they wanted his counsel to help them with their problems. He managed to bring many families back together using the wisdom he received from the Holy Spirit.
The simple priest was held in high esteem both by church officials and government officers. His empathy for the poor and suffering and his reputation spread far and wide after he helped many victims of the great flood of 1924. He even turned St. Mary’sHigh School into a shelter and delivered food himself by boat.
On March 19, 1927, Father Verghese founded the Sisters of the Destitute. His intention was to continue what he saw as Christ’s saving message among the poor. He found abandoned people, brought them to the shelter of the Home for the Aged and nursed them.
Today the Sisters of the Destitute, have over 1500 nuns and also include among its ranks doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers. They are located in Asia, Europe, Africa and across the United States. The operate such institutions as homes for the sick and needy, health centers, libraries, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and cancer centers.
Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathnar (that is Father Verghese’s full name) died from typhoid fever on October 5, 1929. He was buried at St. St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church in Kornthurthy, India. On August 25, 2009, Father Verghese was declared a Servant of God by the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar CatholicChurch.
When Pope Francis authorized Father Verghese as worthy of having “the heroic virtue” he (aswell as the seven others) were elevated to the rank of Venerable. A miracle attributed to Father Verghase is under review for Father Verghese and if validated, Venerable Verghase Payyappilly may become beatified.
Venerable Verghase Payyappilly, please pray for us.
By Larry Peterson
Growing up and going to Catholic school, we had religion class every day. One thing we all learned about was the “Real Presence.” There was no doubt in our minds that inside the church, Jesus was truly present “body and blood, soul and divinity. He was inside the tabernacle, and He was waiting for us to “visit” Him. The phrase, “I’m going to pay a visit,” needed no explanation. So when did “visiting Jesus” start and where did Adoration and Benediction come from?
Adoration is a centuries-old practice that evolved from the earliest Christian days when the faithful, upon leaving Mass, brought the leftover consecrated bread home so it could be distributed to the sick and those who were unable to get to Mass (as an EMHC I do something similar today, but I do not take it home).
However, there were times when some of the consecrated bread was saved to distribute to the faithful during the week. This was a time when there were no daily Masses. This leftover consecrated bread had to be kept somewhere worthy of the Son of God. The people would make special places in their homes to keep the consecrated host in repose.
It appears that after Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of the Christians in 313 A.D., construction of churches began in earnest. It was during this time that the Holy Eucharist began being kept in the churches for distribution to the sick. The sacristy was the usual place for repose.
Over the next several centuries, the Eucharist was relocated to the sanctuary near or above the altar. An unexpected result of this was that the faithful were drawn to Christ present and began praying to Him privately.
The Middle Ages is when actual Adoration began to take hold. People were receiving Holy Communion less frequently so the church decreed that people only had to receive Holy Communion once a year. The changing customs and attitudes also saw a separation take place between the altars and the congregation. It seemed that the churches were trying to separate the priest from the people.
Being distanced from the actions on the altar during Mass and combining that with the infrequent reception of Holy Communion gave rise to a new phenomenon; the people began staring and/or gazing at the vessel holding the Blessed Sacrament. Since the people could not receive communion as frequently as they wanted to, they began what became known as “Adoration.” Seeing Christ in the elevated Host oftentimes replaced receiving Holy Communion.
People even started coming to Mass extra early so they could get a good spot to watch the elevation of the Host. This was also when the ringing of the bells at the consecration took hold to alert the people to what was happening. People even timed services so they could go from one church to another to witness the elevation again. It was during his time that the idea of the monstrance began to take hold.
In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of Corpus Christi be enacted throughout the universal church. Pope Urban passed away before it was implemented, so it was not until 1317 that Pope John XXII, added it to the church calendar. Since the laity was still not receiving frequent communion, this added to the practice of Adoration. Corpus Christi processions followed.
Soon the Holy Eucharist, contained in a monstrance, was being carried by the priest in procession. The procession began led by the clergy and followed by the laity. It ended with a Benediction. By the 1600s, detailed instructions for holding Benediction were put in place by the church. Eucharistic Adoration can now be traced to the 16th century. Guidelines were put in place in 1973.
In his 1980 Holy Thursday letter to priests, Dominicae cenae, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament…”
By Larry Peterson
The story begins in 1061, more than a thousand years after the birth of Our Lord. It was during the reign of Edward the Confessor that a woman of noble heritage, Richeldis de Faverches, had been praying for guidance to fulfill her need to honor the Blessed Mother. Her prayers were answered, and Our Lady appeared to Richeldis and promptly took her spirit on a trip to Nazareth.
When they arrived there, Our Lady showed Richeldis the house where not only the Annunciation took place, but also where the Holy Family lived. Our Blessed Mother told Richeldis that she wanted a replica of this house built in the village of Walsingham, England. Richeldis was promised that “Whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed.”
Richeldis, who had been given the dimensions of the house, did not know where to put it. The ground was wet and unsuitable for building upon. She prayed for help, and the next morning discovered two areas of dry ground that were the exact dimensions needed for the house.
She picked a site near a well, but the workers could not get the walls to fit properly. Once again she prayed and the next morning awoke to find the house miraculously moved to the other site more than two hundred feet away.
Richeldis’ house quickly became a focal point for people from far and wide. They came to offer special devotion to our Blessed Mother. It became known as the “Holy House.” Not long after, the house was encased in stone to protect it from the elements. Devotion at the site continued to increase, and soon it was known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Walsingham became the premier shrine in all of medieval Christendom. Many royal visitors came to this place including Henry III, in 1226, Edward the I, who came eleven different times, Edward II, in 1361, all the way to King Henry VIII in 1511 when he came to give thanks for the birth of his son, Prince Henry (Prince Henry died in infancy when he was only 52 days old).
Numerous miracles were reported at Walsingham, and it became so revered that a place called the “Slipper Chapel” was built in 1340. The chapel was exactly one mile from the Shrine and pilgrims would stop here to remove their shoes. Once they had removed their shoes, they would journey the last mile, called the “Holy Mile” to the Shrine barefoot.
The Slipper Chapel was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of pilgrims. The chapel was put in place so that on St. Catherine’s feast day of November 25th, the sun would rise directly behind the altar. There is also a chapel of St. Catherine located in Nazareth, and it is maintained by the Knight’s of St. Catherine.
During the height of the medieval pilgrimages, the Franciscans were given permission by the Pope and the King to build a friary at Walsingham. The year was now 1347, and the religious atmosphere of the city dominated the area.
King Henry VIII, at war with the church over not receiving the divorce he wanted, ordered the dissolution of monasteries in 1538. The priory at Walsingham was closed and the “Holy House” burned to the ground. The statue of Our Lady was taken to London to be destroyed. King Henry was determined to rid his country of all sense of Catholic devotion. Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation (1829) when public expressions of faith were once again allowed.
Interestingly, Richeldis de Faverches, who Our Lady escorted to Nazareth, was a very wealthy widow. Almost 900 years later, on February 6, 1897, a wealthy single woman by the name of Charlotte Boyd, purchased the Slipper Chapel and began restoration. She had a new statue of the Mother and Child carved based on the design of the original which was found on the medieval seal of the Walsingham Priory. This seal is in the British Museum.
The first Mass since the Reformation was offered in the Slipper Chapel on 15th August 1934, and a few days later Cardinal Francis Bourne led a pilgrimage of 10,000 people to the Chapel and declared it to be the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady.
The importance of Our Lady of Walsingham is shown through Pontifical approbation (recognition) which has been given to it by four popes: Pope Leo XIII, in 1897; Pope Pius XII, in 1954; Pope St. John Paul II, in 1982; and Pope Francis, in 2015.
Today, Walsingham is once again the official Shrine of Our Lady in England.
By Larry Peterson
I found myself writing this for Mother’s Day because the legal definition of “gender” has become controversial. I begin with a quote from Cardinal Giovanni Ravasi; President of the Pontifical Council of Culture: “The love of man and woman, capable of generating life, is a sign that points to God.”
The following comes from personal experience. My youngest brother, Johnny, had just turned two when Mom died. The previous six months she had been, for the most part, in the hospital. Johnny grew up without ever knowing his mom and her hugs or her voice or her caress. His ‘shrink,’ told him his “problems” with relationships were due to the fact he had lost his Mom as a baby. Johnny took his own life three years ago.
Bobby was six years old when Mom died. He always had an anger in him that could expose itself to perceived provocations. He passed away suddenly, eleven years ago. His killer was congestive heart failure. I still think his heart had been irreparably broken at age six and it just took another forty years to give out.
Danny was ten. He is still fine, and we are in frequent contact. I was the oldest, and my sister was second. Dad died a few years after Mom, and we tried to be a mom and a dad to our three brothers. We did our best, but we were in water way over our heads. We did survive as a family but, as you can see, having no Mom had profound consequences (the dad part I will leave for another day).
I move ahead 16 years to the birth of my daughter. Times were changing, and when Mary came along, I was present, and all decked out in my scrubs and sterile gloves (Prior to that time, Dads were not allowed into the delivery room).
I was sitting at the end of the delivery room table with my right hand holding the top of my wife’s head. I was looking up into a mirror watching the birth take place. And then, Doctor Butler began to lift his arms and in his hands was a baby. Our baby—a girl.
It seemed that almost instantly the nurse was next to me handing me, my daughter. Her face was still gooey, and her eyes were wide open. She was not crying but rather, she kept staring at me. Her eyes were as blue as the sky and as big as saucers. That was my moment, etched within my mind forever. A more profound moment was on the way.
Within moments baby Mary was being lifted from my hands and taken to her waiting Mom. Still lying on the delivery table, Loretta reached out for her baby. That was the moment I understood the power and intrinsic importance of a mom. A mother and her child are forever bound by an unbreakable bond that can only be felt between them. I also believe that dynamic is similar to every child that a mom gives birth too.
There are many moms who have, because of whatever circumstance and oftentimes out of love and humility, given their child up for adoption. In my heart of hearts, I do not believe any woman “happily” gives away her own child. Interestingly, the adoptive parents will generally love that child as if she or he was their very own and the children would assuredly love them back.
But, at some point in time, the children have a need arise within themselves to ‘find” their Birth Mom and/or Birth Dad. That is because an unbreakable bond is always there. No one can remove it or take it away or replace it. It is what it is.
For some, Gender Neutrality may be the “feel good” movement for the present moment. But it is a premise built on quicksand and defies all of the Natural Law. Pope St. John Paul II summed it up best: “God has assigned a duty to every man, the dignity of every woman.”
Within those words are the inspiration for both men and women to defend what God has created.
Wishing all Moms, both living and passed on, a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY
And please say a prayer for all those folks who cannot remember what having a Mom was like.
By Larry Peterson
Peter Nolasco was known for having as his most pronounced virtue that of ‘love of neighbor.’ It was said that people already knew of this when he was only a baby. The story was that while in his cradle, a swarm of bees landed on him, and formed a honey-comb on his right hand. He was never harmed. This may be true or simply “urban-legend” but, no matter what, Peter Nolasco’s prime, interior virtue was obvious to people even when he was just a baby.
Peter Nolasco was born in Castelnaudary ( located in southern France) in 1189. His well to do parents died when he was very young. They left Peter a substantial inheritance, and since this was the time in history when the Albigensian heresy was exploding throughout France, Peter took his money and headed to Barcelona to be as far away from the Albigensians as possible.
He was a teenager when he arrived in Barcelona and joined the army that was fighting the Albigensians in the Iberian Peninsula. This area included most of Spain and Portugal. The army was led by Simon de Monfort.
When King Peter II of Aragon was defeated, in the Battle of Muret, his six-year-old son, James I, was captured and Peter was appointed the child’s tutor. This gave Peter standing, and after making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montserrat, he began to display his charitable virtue.
His concern for captive Christians began to build, and he decided to establish a religious order dedicated to helping these victims of the Moors who were capturing and enslaving Christians by the thousands. He was often heard saying that he would gladly offer himself as ransom if he could.
Peter Nolasco began ransoming Christian captives in 1203. In 1218, Raymond of Penafort started a lay organization for the purpose of ransoming slaves. Peter, who was an advocate for this, decided to start an organization with rules and guidelines made up of religious members under the patronage of Mary.
In 1218 Peter also formed a congregation of religious men which today, 800 years later, is known as The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. The title is summed up in one word, Mercedarians. Besides the standard vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, the Mercedarians also take a fourth vow; they agree to exchange themselves to free captive Christians. In the First Constitutions of the Order, the Amerian Constitutions (1272): “… all the brothers of the Order must always be gladly disposed to give up their lives, if it is necessary, as Jesus Christ gave up his for us…”
St. Peter Nolasco never lost sight of the fact that he would join with the Blessed Virgin to advance his ministry. He knew that saving the captives could never be accomplished without help from the Mother of Jesus. Mary is linked to the program of liberation. She is the model for all redemptive work. He knew that Our Lady was what reinforced and guaranteed all of the apostolic works that would be undertaken.
St. Peter Nolasco discovered that Mary was the foundation of freedom and mercy. She is the sustenance and point of the liberation movement. So much so that the order founded by him is called The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
From that point forward all Friars, Sisters, and the Third Order always considered Mary as the Mother of Freedom. She is the one who sustains and encourages the order with her ever continued and ongoing presence. The Blessed Mother came to Peter Nolasco and helped him realize that the mystery of God’s redemption is visible in the captivity and heartache of those held against their will. To this very day, they will offer themselves by trading their very selves for your freedom.
From the Mercedarian website: orderofmercy.org
“Today, friars of the Order of Mercy continue to rescue others from modern types of captivity, such as social, political, and psychological forms. They work in jails, marginal neighborhoods, among addicts, and in hospitals. In the United States, the Order of Mercy gives special emphasis to educational and parish work.”
Pope Gregory IX gave the church’s official seal of approval to the Mercedarian order in 1230.
Peter Nolasco died on May 6, 1256. He was canonized a saint in 1628 by Pope Urban VIII.
St. Peter Nolasco, please pray for us all
Please see other articles on members of The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy
By Larry Peterson
She was born sometime in 1230, some think around December 1, and was baptized on December 8* in Santa Maria del Mar parish in Barcelona. Her name was Mary de Cervellon, and she was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, William de Cervellon.
As a young woman, Mary began working in Saint Eulalia Hospital tending to the sick, the poor and also those who were prisoners. One day she heard a sermon given by Bernard de Corbarie, who was the superior of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Ransom, also known as Mercedarians.
She was so moved by what she heard she vowed right then and there to do all she could to help alleviate the suffering and misery experienced by those who were prisoners of the Muslim Turks. Working at the hospital, Mary was able to come in contact with the great leaders of the Mercedarian order, including the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco.
Inspired by these pious people Mary, in the year, 1265, joined a small group of women who lived near the monastery. These ladies spent their lives in constant prayer and doing good works for those in need.
In due time the women asked for and received permission to form the Third Order of Our Lady of Ransom. In addition to the normal three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience they also vowed to pray for all Christian slaves. They were all given permission to wear the white habit of the Mercedarians and Sister Mary de Cervellon was elected their first Mother Superior. Sister Mary had such an empathy and devotion to the poor and needy that soon she began to be called Maria de Socros (Mary of Help).
Mary de Cervellon passed away on Septemeber 19, 1290. During Mary’s life and after her death, there were people who swore that they saw Mary literally on the “wings of the wind”, reaching down and saving floundering ships from rough seas so they might stay their course and continue on their journey to free Christian prisoners from the Muslims.
A great devotion grew in her honor and it was given approval by Pope Innocent XII in 1692. She is the Patroness of those shipwrecked and paintings of Mary show her with a ship cradled in her arms as she saves it from the roaring seas around it.
Mary de Cervellon’s body lies incorrupt to this very day in the Mercedarian Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.
St. Mary de Cervellon, please pray for us all.