Tag Archives: commentary

Rooted in the Incarnation of the Lord, the Confraternity de la Virgen de la Cinta has become a powerful weapon protecting the unborn

Blessed Virgin and Child                                                   en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On April 12, 2019, Pope Francis welcomed a group to the Vatican known as the Archconfraternity of the Virgen de la Cinta (Ribbon). The group, led by Bishop Enrique Benavent Vidal of Tortosa, Spain, was celebrating their founding 400 years earlier, during the 17th century.

Honoring the Virgin of the Ribbon (the term girdle or belt is sometimes used) is rooted in the Annunciation of Our Lady which is also the Incarnation of Jesus. (The two individual occurrences did happen at the same time). So why did the celebration of the Virgin of the Ribbon only begin four-hundred years ago?

Contained in the archives of the Diocese of Tortosa were records of a spiritual event that took place on the night of March 24 thru the 25th in the year 1178. This was the Feast of the Annunciation. It is said that a priest who was about to begin Matins (early morning prayer) in the Cathedral.

As he began his prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to him and said, “Since you have built this Church in honor of my Son and me, and because I love the people of Tortosa, I place this girdle of mine on the altar and I give it to you so that you may keep it as a sign of my love.” 

The “girdle” (belt or ribbon)  was wrapped around Her mantle (a gown or tunic). It was probably something that the women of Mary’s day wore when they were expecting a child.  She placed it on the altar. Then Our Lady was gone.

Bishop Benavent Vidal explained to the Holy Father, and others present how over the centuries women honored the Virgen de la Cinta, and many claimed how it was because of praying to her that their child was born healthy or saved from danger or illness. Groups began to form to honor the Virgen de la Cinta and then, during the 17th century, the Confraternity was founded to honor her.

Sometime around 1615 to 1617, Pope Paul V gave his blessing to the Confraternity of the Virgin of the Ribbon, and it has since been a steady and ever-growing force. The bishop went on to say, “during my years here I have heard the testimony of pregnant mothers in difficulty, who have protected the lives of their children entrusted to the Virgin, and who have experienced his protection over his unborn children.

Here are a few of the comments made by Pope Francis (full text here)  at the ceremony. “Looking to the example of Mary, you are called to take that fraternity to every corner of our society. You are present in different ecclesial realities in your diocese: in this way you collaborate so that the Church is first of all a home, a family, a place of welcome and love, in which everyone, especially the poor and marginalized, can feel a part, and never feel that they are excluded or rejected. Lived in this way, fraternity becomes a mission, which challenges us and does not leave us indifferent, because the mutual love that reaches out and is directed towards others is our letter of presentation. Thus, even those who do not believe can repeat that eulogy of Tertullian: “See how they love one another!”

Bishop Benavent Vidal also shared the following words, “thanks to this, devotion to the Virgen de la Cinta has been maintained and has grown. “It is a dedication that, from its origin (the feast of the Incarnation of the Lord)  leads to the protection and care for the life of the unborn human being.”

See the complete Vatican transcript here.

 copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

The “Angel of Dachau” stared into the faces of the dying every day and never turned away—

Bl. Engelmar  Unzietig                                          http://www.novinky.cz

By Larry Peterson

The first concentration camp to be opened by the Nazis was known as Dachau. It opened in 1933 under the direction of Hitler’s primary henchman, Heinrich Himmler. The initial idea was for Dachau to house political prisoners, but it quickly evolved into a death camp primarily for Jews.

Dachau also became known as the ‘priest’s barracks.” It earned that label because over 2720 clergy were imprisoned there, 95% of them being Catholic. The rest included Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and a few others. Among the Catholic priests was the man who came to be known as the “Angel of Dachau.”  His name was Father Engelmar Unzeitig.

Father Engelmar was born on March 1, 1911, in Austria-Hungary and was named Hubert by his parents. Not much is known of his parents, but he did have a younger sister. When Hubert was 18, he was accepted into the novitiate of the Marianhill Missionaries in Reimlingen. He had intended to be a part of the missions but became a student studying theology and philosophy. He made his final profession of vows in 1938 and was given the name of Engelmar.

Engelmar was ordained to the priesthood on August 6, 1939, and offered his first Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. From there, he was assigned as a parish priest to a church in Glokelberg, Austria. Father Engelmar had no problem defending the victims of Nazi persecution.

His sermons often defended the Jews, and he quickly became a bright blip on the radar of the Gestapo. Two years after he was ordained, he was arrested for preaching against the Third Reich and their treatment of the Jews. Without trial or fanfare of any kind whatsoever, he was sent to Dachau, a place that, besides being called the “priest’s barracks,”  became sarcastically known  as the “largest monastery in the world.”

Father Engelmar was 30 years old when he was arrested on April 21, 1941. When he arrived at Dachau he immediately set out to do his best to give all the help he could to his fellow prisoners. Many of them were older than Engelmar and were frequently in poor physical condition, unable to do what was demanded of them by their captors.

The conditions in the camp were inhumane and, for many incarcerated there, unbearable. Suicide was frequent, starvation was rampant, and sickness and death were everywhere. Father Engelmar, kept smiling and kept trying to cheer the despairing. Since there were so many Eastern European prisoners in the camp he secretly learned how to speak Russian so he could tend to the Russian prisoners.

Engelmar would try to move among his fellow inmates in such a way as not to be noticed. It was always a daunting challenge, and often he was punished for helping others. However, no matter what happened to him, he also had no intention of stopping his pastoral work, regardless of the consequences.  He worked tirelessly day after day, night after night, tending to and comforting his fellow prisoners. The began referring to the young man as the “Angel of Dachau.”

Conditions in Dachau were so filthy it was a perfect environment for disease to develop. Body lice, chiggers, and fleas, spread disease and these were running uncontrolled at Dachau. It was not long before Typhus became part of the conditions as it erupted in the camp, spreading like wildfire through the camp.

Father Engelmar, without hesitation, volunteered to work with the typhoid patients. The Nazi guards had tried to separate those infected from the others to keep the disease in check. It was an effort in futility. Father Engelamar was placed with the Typhus population towards the end of summer, 1944.

He immediately went to work to comfort and assist the infected the best he could. The disease found its way into the priest, probably during February of 1945. It was during the beginning of February when he noticed a nagging headache developing and a slight rash visible on his right arm and on his side. Typhus attacked the kindly priest and Father Engelmar Unzeitig died on March 2, 1945. Ironically, April 29, 1945, Dachau was liberated. For many thousands, including Father Engelmar, it was too late.

On September 5,1988, during the reign of Pope St. John Paul II, Father Engelmar was declared a Servant of God   Pope Benedict XVI declared the priest Venerable on July 3, 2009. On January 21, 2016, Pope Francis declared that Father Engelmar Unzeitig had died “in odium fidei” and was a martyr. The priest who gave his life at Dachau was beatified on Septemeber 24, 2016.

Blessed Engelmar  Unzeitig, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

A holy time-saver: This saint recruited his donkey to help him multiply his hours and energy

St. John Macias                                                                           public domain

By Larry Peterson

Juan de Arcas y Sanchez was born on March 2, 1585, in the Palencia Diocese located in the northwest part of Spain. His mom and dad were poor peasant farmers who worked hard to take care of their children. Sadly, both of them died when Juan and his sister were both very young. The two of them were taken in by their uncle whose last name was “Macias.” The children took the name as their own. Juan’s uncle trained him as a shepherd, and the youngster would spend many of the long, tedious hours praying the Rosary.

When Juan was a teenager, he attended Mass in a nearby village. The Mass was offered by a Dominican, and his preaching touched young Juan deeply. He started to think about joining the Order and began praying hard for the wisdom to understand and accept God’s will for his life. He wrote that he was visited often by the Blessed Virgin and his patron, St. John the Evangelist. In one of these visions, he reportedly was commanded to travel to Peru.

At the age of 25, Juan began working for a man who had business interests in South America. Some years later, he was asked if he would like to go there. Remembering his vision, Juan immediately accepted the offer. It was 1619 when he set out for the Americas. He was 34 years old.

Juan traveled with soldiers, missionaries, merchants, adventurers, and those in poverty, hoping to find a second chance. Among those on board, he was considered among those in poverty. The ship sailed for several months before finally stopping in the place of his vision; Lima, Peru. He would remain in here for the rest of his life.

Never losing his desire to be a Dominican, Juan entered the Dominican convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Lima in the year 1622. He began as lay-brother who would not preach but would do the necessary manual labor required in the monastery. He became the doorkeeper, and one of his primary duties was to take care of the poor and needy who came to the door seeking material or spiritual assistance.

It is documented that Juan would greet over two hundred people a day. He was always cheerful and upbeat and tried to encourage all who came. His ability to help so many every day came to be recognized as miraculous. One reason was that he had a donkey that he would send out to collect food. He hung a sign on the donkey, and the animal knew what route to take.

Every day the donkey would walk through the neighboring town collecting food for Friar Juan to give to the poor. In fact, the donkey knew what homes to “Hee-Haw” in front of so the people would know he was there. He always came back with his carry-bags filled, and all the people who had come for food were able to be helped.

While in the monastery, Juan’s life was filled with fervent prayer, frequent penance, and charity. Like St. Dominic, he learned his theology not from books but by continually devoting himself to studying what is known as the “Book of Charity,” the Cross. He prayed the Rosary constantly and it is said that his prayers freed over a million souls from Purgatory.

He became best friends with another great Dominican, St. Martin de Porres. The two men would often meet as they made their daily rounds of Lima and were a steady and constant source of encouragement for each other. They were both beatified on the same day in a single ceremony by Pope GregoryXVI in 1837.

We shall finish with one last miracle from the life of Juan Macias. A little girl was the last one on line. When she reached Friar Juan, he asked what she needed, and she told him a new dress. Juan had nothing like that to give, but he asked the child to walk with him so they might check the storeroom. The entire way there, Juan prayed for a miracle. When they got to the storeroom on the bench near the door was a package neatly wrapped. Juan opened it and inside was a brand new dress in the exact color and size the girl had hoped for.

John (Juan) Macias was canonized a saint by Pope St. Paul VI in 1975.

St John Macias, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

He was born in Venice and became the Apostle of Hungary: Meet St. Gerard Sagredo; Bishop and Martyr

Apostle of Hungary; St. Gerard Sagredo                              en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Gerard Sagredo was born In Venice sometime near the end of the tenth century. Even though the exact year is not known, the date was confirmed as April 23, the feast day of St George. His father, who was named Gerard, and his mom, Catherine, had waited a long time for the birth of their child. So, in honor of the saint, they had their boy baptized giving him the name George. Several years later, when the boy’s dad died while on a pilgrimage, his mom changed her son’s name to Gerard, in honor of his father and her husband.

Gerard was a teenager when he entered the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. He learned to read, write, and become knowledgeable in the rules of arithmetic. The young man observed the monastic life down to wearing course clothing for self-mortification. He also studied the words of the prophets and scripture.

When the Abbot of the monastery, John Morosini, died in 1012, Gerard was appointed Prior.  He was supposed to manage the monastery until a new abbot was appointed. Gerard had a desire to travel to Jerusalem but was willing to wait until a new abbot was named. To his surprise, he was appointed the Abbot to replace Friar Morosini. The year was 1015. After a short time, he asked to be excused from his duties as Abbot and managed to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

He planned to follow the example of St. Jerome and live a life of asceticism and penance. But on his way a storm swept his ship off course, and it finally made port in Istria located across the Adriatic Sea close to northern Italy. Here he met a man named Rasina who was the abbot of the nearby St. Martin Monastery. Rasina convinced Gerard to accompany him to Hungary. He told him,  “nowhere else in the world could one find today a more suitable place to win souls for the Lord.”

On January 1, 1000, the first King of Hungary was crowned. His name was Stephen I. This was when the deliberate and purposeful establishment of the Catholic Church in Hungary began in a systematic fashion. Rasina took Gerard to meet the Bishop of Pecs. Rasina was hoping for Geared to remain in Hungary and hoped the bishop would help to convince him. When the two clerics heard Gerard preach they were astounded at his eloquence. The bishop told him, “you are master of the word.” They then convinced Gerard to let them introduce him to King Stephen.

King Stephen was pleased with Gerard, so much so that he appointed him his son, Emeric’s, tutor. Gerard was elevated to Bishop, and besides teaching Emeric, he went on to found a monastery, a cathedral, and a seminary for future priests. He converted many Hungarians, and during this time he wrote the Deliberatio supra hymnum trium puerorum (Meditation on the Hymn of the Three Young men). This is the oldest surviving work of Hungarian Theological Literature.

In 1031, Emeric was killed in a hunting accident. King Stephen appointed his nephew, Peter Orseolo, as Emeric’s successor.  But when Stephen died in 1038, anarchy took hold, and a vicious fight ensued over whom would get the crown. Peter had claimed the crown but was dethroned by a man named Samuel Aba, in 1041.

Then, in 1044, the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III, invaded Hungary and removed Aba. Henry restored Peter to power. He was not popular with the people, and another uprising began in 1046. It was known as the Vata pagan uprising, and it was a war on the Christians. On September 24, 1046, the rampaging pagans took aim at clerics and many priests and bishops were slaughtered.

It was during this time that Bishop Gerard Sagredo was martyred. The date was  September 24, 1046. There are several reports of what happened, but the most common is that Gerard was taken to Blocksberg Cliff, stoned, pierced with a lance, and then thrown from the cliff into the Danube.

Gerard Sagredo ( Bishop of Csanad) was canonized in 1083 by Pope Gregory VII. Also canonized with him was St. Stephen of Hungary and St. Emeric. St Gerard is one of the patron saints of Hungary and is known as the Apostle of Hungary.

We ask all three of them to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

My Wife and The Little Flower joined forces and gave me a Miracle

St. Therese,The Little Flower                                              franciscansite-oct1

By Larry Peterson

For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary,

For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.

                                                                                                            St. Thomas Aquinas

Loretta was my high school sweetheart and we began “dating” when we were about 15. Several years later, after both my parents had passed, and even though I now had three younger brothers to care for, she stood by me.  Her family, especially her mom,  was somewhat horrified at the thought of her daughter getting involved with a young guy with all the “extras” and tried her best to stop her from marrying me.

However,  she stood by my side, we got married, and came home from our honeymoon with only two of my brothers waiting for us. The youngest, Johnny, had moved in with my sister and her new husband, Bob.  Everything, although not traditional, was okay. We had stayed together as a family, and we had a home.

I had been sponsored into the Lather’s and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, one of the best building trades unions in New York City. By the time I was 22 I had finished my apprenticeship and was earning journeyman wages. Loretta and I got married when we were both 23 and moved to New Jersey from the Bronx. My brothers were both in high school, one a senior and the other a freshman, and besides feeling totally out of place at parent’s/teacher’s conferences, all was okay.

A few years passed by and I started to stumble a bit and lose my balance. Sometimes I appeared to have been drinking. Then I experienced what is known as a ‘foot drop.” My left foot was flopping around as I walked. It was like it was not mine. I remember it so well; as I walked the foot would go “splat-splat splat” with every step I made. It was like it belonged somewhere else, not at the end of my leg.

I was admitted to the Neurological Insitute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. After five days undergoing various neurological tests including a myelogram, it was determined that I “probably” had Multiple Sclerosis. My doctor informed me that it would gradually get worse but  was very unpredictable and it could go into remission. At that time, it was impossible to give a precise course for the illness.

I could no longer work in the construction industry but was still getting around okay. Physical therapy had helped me to get some of my foot function back and I could walk with a limp and drag the foot instead of having it go “splat-splat.” So I bought a used van and started a small package delivery service.

I managed to make ends meet for a while and then the illness reared its ugly head and the exacerbation was quick.  I could barely stand and before I knew it I was using Canadian Quad canes for support to get around. My doctor recommended we move to Florida. The rationale was simple; no ice, no snow, and it would be much easier to walk around with crutches.

Loretta’s maid of honor and best friend, Angie, had moved to Florida several years earlier. She was encouraging us to move there. My brothers were young men and now on their own. Danny, had gotten married and Bobby was working as a trucker. It was just Loretta and I and the kids. We sold our small house and headed south.

Angie updated us about the area and the schools and helped us find a place. I actually managed to start making some money writing resumes, but I was getting worse and my new neurologist told us I would be blind, incontinent, and in a wheelchair within a year or two.

It was Christmas of 1980,  we had three small kids, no money, and things were looking bleak. I had received medical assistance from County Social Services, food stamps, and prescriptions (Billy, age seven, was asthmatic and needed inhalers and a few other things which I cannot remember. Loretta was diabetic and needed some meds to help her keep her blood sugar at acceptable levels. The insulin would come a few years later. And that is how it was. Enter The Little Flower.

Thursday, January 8, 1981,  was Loretta’s birthday. I had taken the boys to school and on the way home picked up Egg McMufins at McDonald’s. Loretta loved those, and it was her birthday. Mary was only three, and I know I got her something; what, it was, I can’t remember.

When I walked back into our apartment my dear wife was standing there next to the dining room table. She had her arms outstretched and was smiling ear to ear. I was quickly trying to process whatever was happening. “Well,” she says, “What do you think?”

I said nothing but on the table were all these birthday cards, all opened and standing next to each other forming a semi-circle. She pointed to the cards and said, (I remember the words as if it was yesterday:“Today is my birthday, and I got the only present I wanted.

“Please,  tell me what is going on? What am I missing here?”

She raises her voice and says, “Look at the cards, look at the cards. Every single one is covered with roses. I prayed a novena to St. Therese that you would get better and just look. I don’t even know half the people who sent these. But every card has roses on it. You are going to be fine. St. Therese just told us. You will be fine.”

There was no instant cure but that very day I tossed my Canadian Quads and began using a regular cane. I started going to Easter Seals for rehab and after three months I was doing a lot better than expected. In due time I tossed the cane too. If you saw me today you would never know I had MS. My urologist who treated my prostate cancer and is a great doctor tells me, “I think they made a mistake. I don’t believe you had MS. Most of my friends have no clue either, just some old ones from way back when.

Our fourth child was stillborn during Loretta’s sixth month. She was a girl and we named here Therese. I am so glad we did.  Happy Feast day Little Flower, I love you. Thanks again.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Stabbed repeatedly, she kept saying over and over, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Then she breathed her last.

Blessed Rani Maria Vittalil                              wikipediacommon.org

By Larry Peterson

She was born in a place called Kerala, a state on the southwest coast of India. The date was January 29, 1954, and she would be the second of seven children born to Paily and Eliswa Vattalil. They named her Mariam after the Blessed Mother, and she was baptized one week later in the Church of St.Thomas. Mariam received both her First Holy Communion and Confirmation on April 30, 1966, and never missed a catechism class. Deep inside her was a call to serve God, and the only person she told that too was her cousin, Cicily, who also felt a calling.

When Mariam finished high school, she joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in nearby Kidangoor. She took the religious name of Rani Maria. Her cousin Cicily joined also and chose the name, Soni Maria. They both began their aspirancy (initiation) period on July 3, 1971, and completed it on October 3, 1972. The cousins made their first profession of vows on May 1, 1974. After a year and a half, Rani was sent to St. Mary’s Convent in Bijnor, arriving Christmas Eve, 1975.

Sister Rani Maria took her final vows on May 22, 1980, and continued teaching school. In July of 1983, she was transferred to St. Hormis Church in Ankamaly, Kerala as the new coordinator for social activities. It was during this time that she earned her degree in sociology from Rewa University.

Soon after getting her degree, Sister Rani began working with the poor and deprived. She was extremely caring and had deep compassion for poor people. She started to make enemies of the landlords and money-lenders. They had the people under their control taking advantage of them daily, and they did not want anyone, no matter whom, to disrupts their operations.

Sister Rani began organizing the locals who were exploited by the loan sharks. She developed self-help groups and taught the poor to work together to overcome the obstacles to their daily lives. She also explained to the uneducated poor how to get available government services that were available to them and which they did not know about. The poor people of the area began calling her “Rani of Indore—the Queen of Indore.” But the money lenders and others who preyed on the downtrodden decided Sister had to be eliminated.

As was her routine, Sister Rani woke up early on February 25, 1995, to go to daily Mass. She and another sister hurried down the street to the bus stop. After Mass, Sister Rani got on the bus which was heading to the county offices to pick up and drop off some various paperwork. She then planned to get another bus to go see her parents.

The sister who had accompanied Sister Rani to Mass left her and headed back to the convent. At the next stop three men boarded the bus. They sat close to Rani and started taunting her yelling profanities at her. She sat quietly, frightened and not daring to say anything. The taunting and name-calling continued for a short time. Then, one of the men, whose name was Samundar Singh, stood up and asked the driver to stop the bus. The driver did as Singh was told.

Singh got off the bus and broke a coconut against a rock. He then got back on the bus and began giving the pieces to the passengers. When he got to Sister Rani he mocked her by dangling a bit of coconut in front of her. Then the man pulled a long knife from his cloak and began stabbing Sister Rani. First he plunged the knife into her stomach and then over and over into her helpless body. The people heard saying over and over as she was being stabbed “Jesus,” “Jesus,” “Jesus.”

When Singh was finished killing her he had stabbed her 54 times. He dragged Sister Rani’s bloody corpse into the street and left it there. As the attack went on the passengers were so terrified they never moved. Once it was over they fled in terror.

The police contacted the nuns, who retrieved the butchered body of Sister Rani Maria. They took her back to the convent and cleaned her and prepared her to lie in state. Thousands of people came to Sister Rani’s funeral in the cathedral at Indore. Many bishops and hundreds of clergy were present at the Mass. They all had loved the little nun who had worked so long and hard to help the poor. A day of mourning was put in effect for the entire country.

The hired killer, Samundar Singh, was sentenced to life in prison. Abandoned and alone, he was bitter and forsaken.  But Father Michael Poraltukara, (who the people called Swami Sadhananda) kept visiting him. One day Father asked him if he would be willing to meet Sister Selmy Paul, the true blood sister of Sister Rani Maria. It took a few visits, but finally Singh agreed to meet his victim’s sister.

On August 31, 2002, Sister Selmy Paul, accompanied by Father Michael, visited the prison to see her sister’s murderer. Singh, a Hindu, was shocked when Sister Selmy offered him her forgiveness. He was overwhelmed by the nun and began pleading with her to forgive him for his crime. Incredibly, through the grace of God, the following year Sister Rani Maria’s mother visited Singh.

Demonstrating the power of  God’s unbridled love, she kissed both of Singh’s hands in forgiveness. Then the entire family came and offered him their forgiveness. They also asked the court to pardon him. Samundar Singh was released in 2006. Their Christian actions changed       Singh’s life. He asked to be baptized and embraced Christianity. The Vittalil family not only forgave Singh they welcomed him to his family as one of their own.

On November 4, 2017, Samundar Singh was present as Sister Rani Maria, with the approval of Pope St. John Paul II,  was beatified by Cardinal Angelo Amato in Indore, India. Singh stood and wept during the entire ceremony.

Blessed  Regina Mariam of Vattalil, pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

This Archbishop sold his bed and used the money to help orphans; meet Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of the Poor”

St. Thomas de Villanova                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Tomas Garcia y Martinez (Thomas Garcia) was born in 1488, and he might be a prime example of how a father and mother can influence their son. They not only taught him the Faith, but they also showed him how to be charitable. His dad, Alphonsus, was a miller and along with his wife, Lucia, distributed food and supplies to the poor on a regular basis.

Having spent his formative years watching and helping his parents help others, this trait became ingrained in Thomas. He would grow up and spend his life doing the same thing. In spite of his family’s wealth, Thomas often was dressed in a minimal amount of clothing. That was because he kept giving his own clothes to the poor.

Thomas was not only a devout and generous young man, he was also intellectually gifted. By the age of 16, he was able to enter the prestigious University of Alcala located close to Madrid. He became a teacher of arts, logic, and philosophy and within ten years he had become a full Professor of Philosophy. However, after his father died, Thomas decided to leave academia and accept his calling to a religious life.

Thomas took his inheritance and gave it to the poor. In 1516, he moved on to Salamanca and joined the Augustinian friars taking the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Two years later he was ordained to the priesthood.  He then began teaching theology to his peers and quickly gained a reputation as an eloquent and compelling preacher. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, heard Thomas preach and blurted out, “This monsignor’s words can even move stones.”  Thomas was appointed as one of the councilors of states and a court preacher.

He condemned his fellow priests and bishops for their loose morals and secularized ways. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and did his best to promote devotion to her and the Holy Rosary. During these years he served as a Prior of a monastery, a Visitor General representing the Superior General, and became one of the first Augustinian friars to arrive in Mexico in the New World.  He was offered the post of Archbishop of Granada but adamantly refused. However, in the year 1544, he was ordered by his superior to accept the appointment as Archbishop of Valencia in Spain. Reluctantly, he did as he was told.

The appointment of Friar Thomas as the archbishop did not affect his humble presence in any way. He arrived for his installation as the archbishop wearing the same shoddy monastic habit he had worn for years. He even dis his own sewing and mending to keep it wearable. He was given a donation to refurbish his residence but gave it to a hospital in need of equipment and repairs. Immediately after his installation, he began visiting local prisons ordering changes to be made to alleviate the inhumane conditions.

Archbishop Villanova became known as the “Father of the Poor.” He never ceased in his charitable efforts helping orphans, poor women who had no dowry, and the sick. He tried to come up with solutions to help the poor like giving them work. He would say, “Charity is not just giving, it is removing the need of those who receive charity, liberating them when possible.”

Scores of needy people would come every day to his door for help. All would receive a meal, a cup of wine, and a coin. While continuing his life of monastic austerity, he managed to improve the spiritual lives and the living conditions of his faithful servants. While doing these things he also continually worked to promote education, of restore religious orthodoxy, and reform the lifestyles of clergy and laity.

Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, died from heart disease on September 8, 1555, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Alexander VII canonized him on November 1, 1658.

His legacy includes being the namesake of Villanova University near Philadelphia, St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, and Villanova College in Brisbane, Australia.

St. Thomas of Villanova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019