Can a Toddler who Inspired a Sainted Pope Inspire Catholic politicians?

The Real Presence         Holy Eucharist

By Larry Peterson 

On June 18, 2021, the Government Media Center issued a press release signed by 60 Catholic Democrats who are all members of the House of Representatives.  The release was called a “Statement of Principles.” It can be found all over the internet.

But the press release is not the primary subject here. The Holy Eucharist is.  It is the “source and summit” of our Catholic faith.  People are free to accept church teaching on the Eucharist or not. But you cannot twist it to justify your actions or serve your own purpose. This applies to all of us.

Catholic Teaching

The Holy Eucharist is also known as the Real Presence. The respect and honor due this most sacred gift God has given to us Catholics is no small matter. To demonstrate the importance of the Holy Eucharist within the Catholic faith, we can reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1373 Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us, is present in many ways to His church: in His word, in His Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which He is the author, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “He is present most especially in the Eucharistic species.”

We also know that taking and/or destroying life is against the Fifth Commandment. “You shall not kill.”

As the Catechism also says:

2258 Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.

Science

During the pandemic, we often heard that we should “go to the science.”  Therefore, let us go to the science and ask the question, When does Life begin? Princeton University says, “Life Begins at Fertilization.”

If a person has the power and authority to pass laws that allow for the destruction of human life, and they do that very thing, there will be a point in time where that will be on them. There is no escaping it.

Psalm 139:13 says “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”  We are all God’s individual creations and none of us have the right to end another’s life whether directly or indirectly.

The Democrats who signed the press release do not seem to understand the extent of their hypocrisy.  They might do well to become familiar with the story of one little girl who loved the Holy Eucharist with all of her heart. The honor and devotion she gave to “Holy God” was so profound that it caused Pope St. Pius X to lower the age for children to receive Holy Communion from 12 to 7. Hopefully, some folks might reconsider the heavenly wonder of this great gift we know as the Holy Eucharist after reading this. It should NEVER be politicized.

Meet Little Nellie Organ

a child wearing a white first communion dress

On August 24, 1903, Ellen Organ was born in what was known as the “married quarters” of the Royal Infantry Barracks in Waterford, Ireland. Her father, William, was a soldier in the British army. Shortly after Ellen’s birth, she was baptized into the faith at the Church of the Trinity. No one knows why, but from that point on, Ellen Organ was called “Nellie.”

By the age of two, Nellie displayed a deep holiness rarely seen in a child, especially one so young. While walking to Mass holding her father’s hand, she would constantly talk about seeing “Holy God.” This was something she began saying without ever having heard such an expression. Even years later, her dad still admitted he had no idea why his daughter started saying “Holy God.”

Nellie was hugging her mom when she passed

Little Nellie had two brothers and one sister; she was the youngest.  In 1906, a great sadness entered their lives. Their mother, Mary Organ, became very ill with tuberculosis. Nellie stayed by her mom’s side day after day, but her mom died after a short time. Nellie, who was only three, was hugging her mom when she passed on.

Since he was in the army, Nellie’s dad could not provide proper care for his children. Consequently, he turned to his parish priest for help. Thomas, the oldest at age nine, was sent to the Christian Brothers while David was sent to the Sisters of Mercy. Mary and Nellie were taken in by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Cork City. They arrived there on May 11, 1907. The sisters treated them kindly and were very good to the girls. Nellie was happy to call all of the sisters “Mother.”

Nellie was three years and nine months old when she arrived at the Good Shepherd Sisters’ home. A young girl named Mary Long slept next to Nellie. Nellie never complained, but Mary heard her crying and coughing during the night. She told the sisters, and Nellie was moved to the school infirmary.

Upon examination, it was discovered that Nellie had a crooked spine (the result of a severe fall) that required special care.  Sitting up was very painful for the child, and sitting still for any length of time caused her great pain. Her hip and her back were out of joint. She was only three, yet she tried to hide her pain. But she could not “fake” feeling well. All the sisters could do was make the child as comfortable as possible.

“Holy God’s Lockdown”

Nellie astonished the nuns with her insight and knowledge of the Catholic faith. The sisters and others that cared for Nellie Organ believed without reservation that the child was spiritually gifted. Nellie loved to visit the chapel, which she called “the House of Holy God.” She referred to the tabernacle as “Holy God’s lockdown.”  And she embraced the Stations of the Cross. Upon being carried to each station, she would burst into tears seeing how Holy God suffered for us. She also developed an acute perception of the Blessed Sacrament.

Nellie loved the Holy Eucharist so deeply that she would ask the sisters to kiss her when they were coming back from Communion so she could share their Holy Communion. She desperately wanted to receive her First Communion. But the rule of the Church was a minimum age of 12. Nellie was only three.

One day Nellie was given a box of beads and some string. Being a three-year-old, she put some in her mouth and inadvertently swallowed them. People saw her gagging and choking and rushed her into the infirmary. The doctor present was able to remove the beads from Nellie’s throat.

They were all amazed how brave the little girl remained as the doctor probed into her throat, removing the objects. She never made a sound. At this time, it was discovered that, just like her mom, she had advanced tuberculosis. The doctor told the sisters there was no hope for recovery and gave Nellie only a few months to live.

The Child loved the Holy Eucharist deeply

Nellie told of visions she was having of “Holy God” as a child and the Blessed Mother standing nearby. Her faith was so pronounced that the Bishop agreed (since she was close to death) to confirm her. She received her Confirmation on October 8, 1907. Then, on December 6, 1907, after considering all the facts, the local bishop, in consultation with the priests, allowed Nellie Organ to receive her First Holy Communion. Nellie Organ died on February 2, 1908.

Nellie Organ’s story spread throughout Europe and reached the Vatican. It was presented to Pope Pius X by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry del Val. It was providential because the Holy Father had been looking for a reason to lower the age of receiving First Communion to the age of seven but was not sure about doing it.

When Pius X read the documents about “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he immediately took this as a sign to lower the age. On August 8, 1910 The Pope issued Quam Singulari changing the age of receiving First Holy Communion from 12 years old to age 7.

A couple years later, Pope Pius X, who would become St. Pius X, took up his pen and wrote, “May God enrich with every blessing . . . all those who recommend frequent Communion to little boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model.” — Pope Pius X, June 4, 1912

Maybe it is time for many of us Catholics to reevaluate our relationship with Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist. It is REAL and our greatest GIFT. If a three-year-old can understand it, why can’t we.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2021


Don Ruggero M. Caputo –Apostle of the Eucharist–Recognized for “Heroic Virtue

Adoration Monstarnce no Flash                                                public domain

By Larry Peterson

He now bears the title of Venerable

Ruggero (Roger) Maria Caputo was born on May 1, 1907, in Barletta, Italy, located in the Italian peninsula’s southeastern section. He was born into a humble family with strong moral and religious principles. During his childhood and into his adolescence, he was fortunate to come under the guidance of Don Angelo Dimiccoli, a priest who loved his faith deeply.  Don Angelo had the ability to instill in his young students a strong desire to follow Jesus.. (Father Angelo would become Servant of God Archbishop Angelo Dimiccoli).

Father Angelo’s influence on Ruggero was quite powerful. When Ruggero was nineteen, he felt the call to the priesthood pulling at him. But he had left school in third grade to work in the fields. He now wanted to enter the seminary, but his education was almost non-existent. So he left his work behind him and found himself attending school sitting among third graders. He was determined to do what was necessary to become a priest. He wanted nothing less than to serve his Lord.

He studied hard to qualify for the Pontifical Regional Seminary so he could receive his high school education and move on to his theological studies. He worked intently and even had to squeeze in a year of military service for the province of Chieti. Ruggero never wavered in his quest, and on July 25, 1937, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Barletta.

He was a simple and humble man content with being a shepherd

Don (Father) Caputo began his ministry serving an ongoing role as assistant pastor at many parishes. He was a simple and humble man and never aspired to high office. He was content with doing his work as a shepherd spreading devotion and love for God, and continually working to save souls.

During Don Ruggero’s lifetime, his deep love for God spread out to inspire at least a dozen vocations to the priesthood and over 150 women religious vocations. At the same time, he organized several lay apostolates for teens and young adults. His influence and success in fostering vocations came from his daily devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Next to his love for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he loved Eucharistic Adoration. He spent as much time as he could in front of Jesus.

“He was a soul in love with the Blessed Sacrament.”

One of the women inspired by Don Ruggero to become a nun was quoted as saying, “Don Ruggero was a soul in love with the Blessed sacrament. We girls, if we needed his help, went to church to find him behind the column on his knees, on the ground, in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, absorbed in deep, silent, and mystical Eucharistic conversation. Here was the strength, the energy that he gave to us. This is what he put in our veins; to be all for Jesus.”

On July 1,1951, Don Ruggero Caputo was transferred as an assistant pastor to the Holy Spirit parish. This was the beginning of his moving from parish to parish because his superiors were alarmed at the notoriety Don Ruggero was receiving. The youth loved him and flocked to him, and his success with conversions had lit a fire of jealousy among the higher-ups. They were hoping to quiet the unexpected phenomenon.

“He forgave and consoled more than your own father—”

However, the more he was seen and the more women that heard him speak, the more his following increased. Sister Maria  Antonina said, “as soon as you approached him, you realized that he really loved Jesus and you.” Sister Antonia Distaso said, “He forgave and consoled more than your own father, even when he encountered opposition.”

Towards the end of his life, he was hospitalized with a painful illness that kept him bedridden. One of the nuns who was caring for him quoted Don Ruggero as saying, “Now I have to do my part. As St. Paul says, “I complete in my flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, in favor of His body which is the Church.”

Before dying, he said, “You will bury me underground among the people. Because even after I die, I want to stay a priest to the people.” Don Ruggero Caputo passed away on June 15, 1980.

On January 21, 2021, Pope Francis confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God Ruggero Maria Caputo. He now bears the title of Venerable, and his cause for beatification is moving forward.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2021


Known as the “Boy Judge,” he was assassinated by the Mafia for upholding his Christian faith

Rosario Livatino soon to be Beatified

By Larry Peterson

Rosario Livatino was born in Sicily on October 3, 1952. He was the only child born to Vincenzo Livatino and Rosalia Corbo. Growing up, Rosario was a quiet boy, stayed out of trouble, and was an excellent student. He had a kind heart and never refused to help other students who were having difficulty with their studies. Most importantly, Rosario was devoted to his Catholic faith and loved it deeply.

After finishing high school, he attended the University of Palermo and in 1975 graduated magna cum laude. Three years later, he moved to Caltanissetta (located in central Sicily), where he began his career as a magistrate. After a few years, he became a public prosecutor in Agrigento, and in 1989 he was appointed a judge.

He helped the poor of his town as much as possible

He tried to keep his Christian life quiet and low-key. He helped the poor of his town as much as possible and always wanted to keep it secret. When he attended  Mass, he sat in the back pews trying to remain unnoticed. He kept a Crucifix on his desk and a Bible next to it. The Bible had many pages with verses underlined. Ironically, his church pastor in Agrigento only found out that he was a judge after his death.

Much of what is known about Livatino’s life comes from his diaries, which he began keeping in 1978. During that year, he wrote, “Today I took the oath, and I am a magistrate. May God assist me and help me respect this oath and to behave as demanded by the education I received by my parents.” Rosario took his work very seriously.

Rosario Livatino had to face the realities that were part of Sicily. The most intense reality was the presence of the mafia. The dreaded organization  was strongly connected to most of the local and national politics. Rosario knew he would have to stand for law and order or compromise his character to protect his own safety. As was his way, he turned to Jesus and Mary for their help.

The most intense reality was the presence of the mafia

Judge Livatino knew the identities of the mafia families and did his best to avoid granting them the smallest of favors. He also avoided contact with them as best he could. It was no easy task as he was always being invited to club meetings or even church gatherings. It was at these meetings that members of La Cosa Nostra were frequently in attendance. It was a thin wire he walked, and every day was a challenge.

When he sat on the bench, there was no “thin wire.”  He was a good man filled with God’s grace and determined to fulfill his duties. However, many of the defendants who appeared before him had mafia affiliations.  A just man could not avoid making enemies. As time went by and Judge Livatino meted out sentences prescribed by law, he became hated more and more. The local “bosses” had their form of justice. Many times it was an assassination.

In his diaries, Judge Livatino wrote that issuing judgments is one of the most challenging tasks that men are required to perform. He wrote, “The duty of the magistrate is to decide; however, to decide is also to choose. . . . that the judge who believes may find a relationship with God. It is a direct relationship because to administer justice is to realize oneself, to pray, to dedicate oneself to God.”

Rosario Livatino harbored many doubts and fears. He wanted desperately to meet a woman and get married, but it never happened. He began resigning himself to being alone, realizing it was better he had no family. Two years before his death, he received the sacrament of Confirmation. He knew he needed the strength of a Christian soldier. It was during this time that he rejected having a bodyguard.

The “Boy Judge” said goodbye to his parents and left for work—

On the last day of his young life, the man called the “Boy Judge” said goodbye to his parents and left for work in Agrigento. As he drove his car, he was rammed from behind and forced to stop. A motorcycle pulled up on the other side, and men from inside the vehicle and from the motorcycle opened fire, shooting through the windows. Rosario managed to get out and tried to run, but he fell. He rolled over on his back and watched as the assassins quickly surrounded him, pointed their guns down, and opened fire. The date was September 21, 1990.

A Martyr of Justice

Pope St. John Paul II said that Rosario Livatino was a “Martyr of Justice” and in an indirect way, of the Christian faith.”

Pope Francis has approved his decree of martyrdom and his beatification will take place during the spring of 2021.


Our Lady of Cuapa; could these Apparitions be a replay of Fatima?

Our Lady of Cuapa (Nicaragua)              public domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

Bernardo Martinez was experiencing a sense of despair about his life. He lived in Cuapa, Nicaragua, and was quite poor.  Bernardo was a sickly young man and could not find work. He lived in a small room in the back of the church, where he did his best to maintain the grounds and a small chapel. He also acted as a sacristan.

On two separate nights in April of 1980, Bernardo had discovered the lights turned on. He blamed some of the women for leaving them on, but they denied that they had.  Again, on April 15, 1980, Bernardo had noticed the glow of light coming from the sacristy.  Annoyed and mumbling under his breath, he hurried to the chapel to turn the lights off. But the lights were not on. The glow was from something else.

As Bernardo entered the chapel, he noticed the glow had focused itself around the statue of the Blessed Virgin. As he slowly approached the strange light, he realized that the sculpture was illuminated. Excited at seeing such a sight, Bernardo hurried to tell some of his friends. He asked them to please not tell anyone. But they did tell others. The result was that most of the townsfolk began to ridicule and make fun of Bernardo. Even the priest did not believe him.

On May 8, 1980, Bernardo had a chance to go fishing. After about two hours, he left to go home. While walking back, he saw two lightning flashes. After the second flash, he saw a woman standing where the flash had occurred. Bernardo was naturally frightened and, after doing his best to compose himself, walked over and asked the Lady who she was. She replied that she was the Mother of Jesus.

Bernardo fell to his knees and stared at her. Then he asked her what she wanted? She told him that she desired the Rosary to be prayed every day. Bernardo told her he was going to meet the people to pray the Rosary in the chapel.

Our Lady knew that they were praying the Rosary because it was the month of May, but she told him again that she wanted it said every day of the year. Bernardo said she told him, “the Lord does not like prayers we make in a rush or mechanically.”  She continued,  “you should pray the Rosary and also read Bible passages so you can put into practice the Word of God.”

The Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernardo five more times, and another time an angel appeared. Bernardo, afraid of being ridiculed, kept these visions to himself. He even began to avoid the area where the visions had occurred. But he could not stay silent for long. On May 16, 1980, only a few days after the last vision, Bernardo once again saw two flashes of lightning. Then Mary appeared before him. He wept and told her he was sorry for being so frightened. She smiled at him and told him he could tell the people.

Bernardo went to the priest and told him what had happened. He told him to gather the townsfolk together and he did. With the priest by his side, Bernardo told everyone about the visions. Some of the people believed Bernardo but most were still skeptical. The priest told Bernardo that if he had any more experiences to tell no one but him.

During the evening of June 8, 1980, Our Lady again appeared to Bernardo. He said the visions he saw were like watching separate movies in the sky. The first was of the first Christians all dressed in white marching to heaven. The second was the Dominicans all carrying large, luminous Rosaries. One of them brought a large book, and they all meditated on the words. Then everyone said one Our Father and ten Hail Marys.

There were apparitions on July 8, 1980;  September 8, (Our Lady’s birthday)1980: and on October 13 (the last vision of Fatima) 1980. During the final apparition, the Blessed Virgin said, Nicaragua has suffered a great deal since the earthquake, and will continue to suffer if all of you don’t change. If you don’t change, you will hasten the coming of the Third World War.”

In 1995, Bernardo Martinez, at the age of 65,  was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Leon in Nicaragua. He died in 2000. In 1982 the Bishop of Managua authorized the investigation into the apparitions. In 1994, Bishop Robelo stated that the apparitions were “worthy of belief.”

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Matteo Farina; his Catholic faith was his strength as he fought brain cancer throughout his teenage years.

Venerable Matteo Farina                     catholicnewsagency.com

By Larry Peterson

Matteo Farina was born in Avellino, Italy, on September 19, 1990. It was apparent early in his life that Matteo possessed a deeply spiritual side. He would recite the Rosary every day, read the Gospel, and he developed a devotion to St. Padre Pio and St. Francis of Assisi.

This all happened before he was nine years old.  He made his first confession when he was eight and, on June 4, 2000, received his First Holy Communion. He would go to confession once a week and attend Eucharistic Adoration as often as he could.

On May 10, 2003, the Archbishop of Brindisi, Ostuni Settimo, confirmed Matteo. His sister, Erika, acting as his sponsor, stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder. Matteo had a dream several years earlier in which St. Pio came to him and revealed the secret of Christian happiness. Padre Pio asked Matteo to spread the message to others. The announcement was, “You must understand that who is without sin is happy, then you have to teach it to the others so that we can go all together happily in the heavenly paradise.”

This dream led Matteo to realize that his vocation was to evangelize, and he wrote, “I hope to succeed as an “infiltrator” among the young people, telling them what God wants. I look around me, and I want to enter in young people’s lives quietly like a virus, infecting them with an incurable illness called love.”

Matteo’s cancer first surfaced when he was 13 years old. Severe headaches and problems with his vision began to occur. His parents and his Uncle Rosario traveled with Matteo for health checks in Avellino and Verona, and those visits were followed by a journey to Hanover for a brain biopsy. It was discovered his brain was filled with malignant cells.

His strong faith and love of life never fades. He smiles at everyone, and even when recovering from surgeries, he tries to cheer up other patients. He would say, “It is useless to despond. We have to be happy and transmit happiness. The more happiness we give people, the more people are happy. The more they are happy, the more we are happy.”

In January 2005, he goes to Germany for a craniotomy operation to remove a third-degree brain tumor. He spends over a month in Milan receiving chemotherapy treatments and returns home on April 2, 2005. This was the date that Pope John Paul II died. Doctors believed the cancer was in remission, but at the end of 2007, his condition grew worse. By October 2008, his mom insisted he receive Anointing of the Sick.

It was during these teen years that he met a girl named Serena. They fell in love and always strived to have a chaste relationship. Serena remained at Matteo’s side until the end. He said of Serena that “she was the most beautiful gift the Lord could give.”

He underwent another operation, but by February 2009, his arm and leg were paralyzed, and he needed a wheelchair to get around. In late March 2009, he developed a high fever and was admitted to the hospital.  Archbishop Talucci visited him and gave him an Easter blessing.

However, doctors could do no more. Matteo received his last Holy Communion on April 13, 2009, and died one week later, on April 24. He was 19 years old.

Matteo Farina’s mission may be summed up in his own words, “My God, I have two hands, let one of them to be always clasped to You in order to hold You closer in every trial. And let the other hands fall throughout the world if this is Your will…as I know You by others, so let others know You through me. I want to be a mirror, the clearest possible, and if this is Your will, I want to reflect Your light in the heart of every man. Thanks for Life. Thanks for Faith. Thanks for Love. I’m Yours.

Matteo’s reputation for personal holiness had been witnessed by many. He was declared a   Servant of God on April 11, 2016. On May 5, 2020, Pope Francis declared him a person of “heroic virtue” and gave him the title of Venerable Matteo Farina.

Venerable Matteo Farina, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Family and Death—The common denominator that helps many move forward is FAITH.

Life after Death                                                                 slideshare.net

By Larry Peterson

I am the oldest of five, and my mom died when I was sixteen. My brothers were eleven, six, and two. My sister was thirteen. Grandma lived with us and decided that dad had killed her daughter. Mom, who had just turned forty, had died of leukemia; so grandma was wrong. But dad believed that we kids were better off with Grandma looking after us than him doing it. He was wrong too

Since there was no reasoning with her, dad became a constant patron of the local saloons. (We lived in the south Bronx, and there were plenty of “watering holes” for him to choose from). The truth of it was—he could not live with her as she berated him mercilessly every chance she had, including calling him a no-good murderer. Yup, in keeping away from her got to know a lot of people, and everyone loved him.

Two years after mom passed on, Grandma had a massive stroke. Some events are emblazoned into your memory forever as if they just happened and this was one of them. Dad was home, and he yelled to me, “Something’s wrong with your grandmother. She needs your help. I’m calling the priest.”

I heard the word “priest” and hurried into the kitchen. Grandma was standing with her head arched into her shoulder and her hands were clamped like vise-grips onto the cupboard door. I had to pry her fingers up one at a time, so I could drag her to her bed. My little brothers and sister were staring at this spectacle taking place. It was surely a surreal moment.

I managed to drag her convulsing and contorted body to her bed. Dad was home and called the rectory. She was squeezing my hands so tight I thought they might break. She was conscious and looking me in the eyes as I looked into hers. “Grandma, pray with me. Okay grandma, C’mon, pray with me.”

Together we prayed the “Our Father.”  Barely able to speak, she made an Act of Contrition. She sort of relaxed a bit and her eyes closed. Father Quirk hurried in and gave her the Last Rites. She died soon after as I held her in my arms. The ambulance was too late.

Dad was like a lost pup. Monsignor Martin gave him some work at the church, and he drove a cab a few days a week. He was not living as much as he was existing. He drank too much and two years later he died of an acute attack of Pancreatitis. That was the moment we officially became orphans. I was old enough to work so things worked (pun intended) out—as best they could.

My brother Bobby passed away unexpectedly ten years ago, from a heart attack. He was 53.  The baby of the family, Johnny, sad to say, took his own life when he was 55. He had alcohol and other drug issues during his life and any deep-seated issues he may have had were never resolved. He had just turned two when Mom died and (according to several medical health professionals) his suicide was the final result of the losses he suffered during his formative years.

My high-school sweetheart, Loretta, stuck by my side (I had three brothers I was taking care of), and her family was not too happy about her and I being together. In hindsight, I understand why. But her loyalty and love for me was unshakable and we tied the knot several years later. We were married thirty-five wonderful years.

In 1978, she was expecting our fourth child and was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the baby was still-born. We named her Theresa Mary, and she is buried with my parents. Loretta became ill in 1991, was sick for a long time, and passed away from melanoma in 2003.

Four years later I married again. Her name was Marty (Martha), and we were both members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In March of 2017, Marty passed away after fighting lymphoma and Alzheimer’s disease for six years. We had made it to our tenth anniversary.

So there you have it; our lives will all end in death. Many have reached out to God and embraced the faith He has gifted us. Many have rejected it. That is called a “choice.” For those who have embraced the God given gift of Faith they know that death is a NEW beginning. Having that gift to live with can help make living gratifying, no matter what the circumstances.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019


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


The Last Christmas Tree (a short story)

 

Christmas Tree                               commons.wikimedia.org    

                                     The Last Christmas Tree

                                              A Short Story

                                        by Larry Peterson 

                               Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Inspired by a true story:

It was 6:00 A.M., and she was exhausted. She stood there, unblinking, looking into the mirror at the person staring back at her. Running her hands through her tousled, just-got-out-of-bed hair, she sighed deeply. She leaned forward, stared some more, and said to herself, “Oh my God, Sharon, you look just awful.”

She had to leave by 6:30, so she hurriedly washed her face, brushed her teeth, and tried to create some order with her hair. She had worked twenty-two days straight since Thanksgiving, and today would be the last day before the holiday. It was Christmas Eve, and there was still much to do, including getting a Christmas tree.

As Sharon, a meter reader and installer for the local utility company, pulled on her work shoes, a soft voice came from behind. It was her youngest, five-year-old Joey.  She turned, and he said, “Mommy, Santa can’t come here tonight.”

She was somewhat stunned by the unexpected comment. “Joey, why would you think that. Of course, he can come here.”

“But we have no Christmas tree. Can’t you stay home from work and get us a tree?”

They had kept asking, and she had kept promising, and it was always “later” or “tomorrow,” and now, just like that, time was up. She turned and held out her arms to her boy. “Come over here, “ she said.

He ran over, and she hugged him. She looked into his nervous eyes and said, “Don’t worry Joey, I only have to work a little while today, and then I will get the tree. I will have it when I get home from work. Then we will all decorate it, and Santa will have a tree to put the toys under. Don’t worry.”

Oozing innocence, he simply looked at her and believed it would be so. “Okay, mommy.”

She stood up and said, “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s get you back in bed. I will tell April you are awake.”

“No need, mom. I’m up. C’mon with me, Joey. We can watch some TV.”

It was her twelve-year-old son, Alvin. She turned and smiled at him. “Thanks, hon. They promised us we would be home early. Say a prayer it actually happens.”

“Mom, what about a tree?”

“Alvin, I know,  I know. I promised Joey, and I promise you, we will have a tree. Don’t worry. These last 20 days just seem to have run together, and—don’t worry, we will have a tree.”

It was about 6:50 when she pulled into the loading dock area to pick up her assignments and needed materials. The parking lot was already empty of the work trucks as all the crews had left for their assigned destinations. Sitting in her vehicle, she took out her Rosary and held it tightly. A “single” mom and devout Catholic, prayers had brought her through some, lonely, harsh and scary days after her husband had walked away from her and the children. She blessed herself and began to pray.

She was quietly asking the Blessed Virgin to allow Christmas Eve to go smoothly and for her to be able to get a tree when a tap on her window startled her. She turned to see her field supervisor, Herb Guerin, standing there. She rolled down the window, “Hi Herb, what do you have for me today?”

“Here you go, Sharon.” As he handed her the work orders he said,  “I’m sorry, but I have to dump two more on you. They just came in but they are right next to each other, so it should go quick.”

“Please, Herb, I still have to get a Christmas tree. Can’t you get someone else? My five-year-old is thinking that Santa won’t come to our house. I have to get a tree.”

“Look, I understand. But this is about five minutes away from where you are going. A transformer blew up, and 1400 homes are without power. That could be more than 4000 people. It is Christmas Eve, and they need their power. The line crew is on-site but there are two new meters we need installed. You should be able to squeeze that in, don’t you think? Those people are counting on us to get their power on.”

“Okay, Herb, okay. What are the addresses?” He handed her the add-ons, and they wished each other Merry Christmas. She drove away, fingering her rosary beads. That proved more soothing for her than a cup of morning coffee.

Sharon had finished her regular assignments by noon and it should have been the end of her workday. But, as is the way of things, the transformer was not delivered until 2:00 .P.M and she could not install the new meters until after the transformer was replaced. It was 4:00  P.M.when she finally started for home.

Heading home, she kept looking for Christmas trees for sale. Even the seasonal tree lots that sold trees every year were empty. She had been confident that she would find a tree quickly. Now her confidence was being shattered. There were no trees anywhere. She thought a moment and then prayed, St. Anthony, please help me find a tree for my kids?”

Sharon did not plan to go home until she had found a tree. But she had not eaten, she felt sick to her stomach and needed to stop by the house which was only five minutes away. She thought she could just run inside, use the bathroom and simply “chill” for a few minutes. She looked at the clock; it read 5:35. A shiver ran down her spine.

She stepped from her van as Joey came running out of the house, “Hi Mommy, did you get our tree? Did you?  Where is the tree? Where is the tree? You got the tree, right?”

Sharon took a deep breath and knew she should have found a tree before coming home. Looking upwards, she quickly and quietly prayed, “Dear God, I need Your help. Please.”

Just like that, April, who was 14, Alvin, 12, and Austin, eight,  were standing in front of her. Joey was in front of them. All she could see were four sets of insecure and nervous eyes looking  at her. A sudden blanket of fear seemed to come out of nowhere and grab hold of her. Oh my God, I do not know if I can do this. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I need your help. Tears came to her eyes.

April quickly went to her mom and gave her a hug. She said, “Mom, it’s okay. Don’t worry.”

Then Alvin was standing next to her, and Austin and then Joey was hugging her leg and she felt the love of her children and blurted out, “Okay, listen to me. I did not get the tree yet. I just needed to get a drink and use the bathroom. Then I will go get it. Alvin, can you come with me to help?

“Why should Alvin get to go?” Austin asked. “Why can’t we all go?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” said April, “All of us should go. It will be all of us finding our family Christmas Tree.”

Sharon looked at the four of them and was suddenly buoyed with a sense of “Christmas.” Everything was feeling right. She had been slowly buying and hiding things since July. Toys and other gifts were in the back of her work truck, and more were stashed in the shed in the back yard. (The kids never let on that they knew). “Okay,” she said.  “Let’s get in the car and go find a tree.”

They piled into their fourteen-year-old 1988 Chevy Corsica, and Sharon headed toward Washington Ave. Her children had no idea how tired and worn out their mom was. Well, why would they; their Mom was not like other people; she was MOM. Being up since 6:00 A.M., not eating all day except for some stale chocolate chip cookies and two containers of coffee, was not something that could stop their Mom. That possibility was never considered.  They did not grasp that it was she who was hungry, tired, and feeling a bit weak. She said, “I hope we can find a tree quickly. You kids must be starving.” Things were never about her.

They were all focused on a tree, not food.  Alvin said, “ We can eat later, mom. Let’s check Walmart first; they have tons of trees.”

Sharon sighed and made a quick left onto Highway 19 N. They pulled into Walmart’s parking lot five minutes later. The store was just closing. They drove over to the nursery and found out there were no trees left. Al tried to run into the store to look for an artificial tree, but the doors were already locked.

Sharon said, “There is a Christmas tree lot over on Belcher Rd. They might have something.”

That lot was empty, and the search continued, from supermarket to supermarket, to home-improvement centers and to discount outlets, to nurseries, and even looking outside convenient stores. Sharon was now driving and not thinking. They had searched for a tree for over two hours, finding more than a dozen places that sold trees but now had none. It was now almost eight o’clock.

She was feeling a sense of despair. It was dark, and most stores had already closed. April suddenly blurted out, “Hey Mom, there is the Burger Barn. Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”

They all chimed in, “yeah, mom—c’mon Mom—we’re starving, Mom!”  Sharon knew that sitting in the car with the four kids eating cheeseburgers, fries, and holding drinks would be a disaster. “Okay, stop yelling; I can hear you. But there is no way we eat in the car. Lets park and go inside. We need a break anyway.”

As they walked toward the entrance, Austin said, “Mom, we just better face it. We ain’t gonna find a tree. It’s too late. They’re all gone.”

“Stop it, Austin, have some faith. As soon as we sit down, we will all say a Hail Mary together and ask our Mother Mary to help us find one. And you watch, she WILL help us find one.”

They walked inside, found an empty table, and sat down. Sharon’s faith had helped her through incredibly difficult times, and she was about to call on it again. She reached out her hands, and they all followed her lead holding each other’s hands. Bowing their heads, they prayed a Hail Mary together. When they finished, Sharon and Alvin headed to the counter to get their food.

The impromptu Burger Barn  “dinner” went reasonably well. The order came out quickly, nothing was dropped or spilled, and, to top it off, everyone was quiet as they devoured their food. After spending a calm and pleasant fifteen minutes, it was time to find their tree.

As they stood up to leave, an old man, disheveled and dirty, approached them. Nervously, the man said, “Excuse me, ma’am. I think I can help you.”

Sharon had watched as he approached and haltingly said, ‘Huh…help me? What do you mean? We are fine. We do not need any help. Please, we have to go.”  She turned to her nervous children and said, “Okay kids, it’s time to leave. Let’s go.”

“Ma’am, please, don’t be afraid. I watched you and your children praying and it was a beautiful thing. And— I heard your boy say you needed a tree. I can help you.”

“How can you help us? I suppose you know where a tree is?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, I do,” said the man. “But you have to trust me and follow me. I will take you to it.”

“Follow you? We don’t even know you. Why should we follow a complete stranger to an unknown place? I have my children with me. Look sir, I’m sure you are a very nice man, but I’m not following you anywhere.”

The man quietly said, “I’m sorry to have bothered you and your family. You all have a merry Christmas.”

They were all watching him as he walked toward the exit. As he disappeared from sight, one of the workers came by and smilingly said, “I hope that man didn’t frighten you. He is harmless. He’s just a kind old man who  stops in here every so often for some coffee.”

Sharon, hearing this, quickly huddled her kids around and said quietly, “Look, we just prayed to the Blessed Virgin for help, and this old man comes out of nowhere and offers us a tree. It seems a bit crazy, but it is Christmas Eve. They know him here, so he must be harmless. We have to trust that Jesus and His Mom are helping us. As foolish as it sounds, I say we follow him. What do you kids think?”

“Why not, mom.,” April said. “Jesus will protect us.”

They all agreed, and Sharon said, “Okay, let’s see if we can find him.”

They hurried outside, and the old man was just standing there. As Sharon approached him, he smiled and said, “I thought I would wait to see if you changed your mind. I’m glad you did.”

Across the road from Burger Barn was a golf course. The man told Sharon, “There is a gravel service road at the end of the golf course parking lot. Drive down that road for about a half-mile, and you will find your tree. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

The surrounding golf course was unlit and pitch black. The headlights from the car cast an eerie glow as they slowly drove forward. Sharon had them all praying together as they ventured into the unknown. The mother of four was driving using faith for fuel. She was afraid. So were her children. The only sound that could be heard was the gravel crunching beneath the tires.

And then, as they turned around the bend in the road, there it was. A Christmas tree, not just any Christmas tree but the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. It was fully decorated and all lit up. In fact, it was as if a light was shining down upon it. The entire area was lit up. As they got out of the car, an elderly woman stepped out from behind the bushes. Sharon and her kids just stared at her, not knowing where she came from, who she was, or how all this was happening. The woman asked, “Do you like the tree?”

Sharon said, “Who are you? What is going on? Are we all dreaming?”

“No, Sharon, you are not dreaming. Do you like the tree? What do you kids think? Do you like it?”

Austin said, “It is the most beautiful tree I ever, seen, ever.”

“Does everyone agree with Austin?”

They all agreed, and the woman said,  “Well then, Sharon, you just take your family home. When you arrive, the tree will be waiting for you. And, Joey, don’t worry, Santa will be coming to your house tonight.”

Sharon asked, “What do you mean, just go home. What about the tree?”

“Don’t worry about the tree. It is yours. Trust me. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

“I don’t understand. How will the tree….?”

The lady smiled and said, “Have faith, sweetie. It got you here, didn’t it?”

Sharon and her kids got into the car and began their ride home. As they passed the Burger Barn, they looked for the old man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Alvin said, “How did she know all of our names?” No one said anything.

While driving, Sharon had them all praying for homeless people, and, for the most part, all of them were trying to understand what had actually happened.

When they pulled up to their house, all they could see was the Christmas tree that had been at the golf course only a short time before. It was standing in their living room in front of the window. They got out of the car and just stood there, in shock, not understanding, but seeing what they thought impossible. When they went inside, the house smelled like fresh carnations mixed with a hint of pine. Underneath the tree was a creche with figures carved from ivory. It was beautiful.

It was almost midnight when all the kids were finally in bed. Sharon got the gifts from her truck and the shed out back and placed them around the tree. Then she sat down, took out her rosary and began crying and praying simultaneously.

Christmas morning came, and Sharon made sure everyone was up, dressed, and ready to go to 8 A.M., Mass.  After Mass she told the kids that they were going back to the golf course to find the man and woman who helped them. She wanted to thank them and invite them for Christmas dinner. The kids readily agreed.

The course was crowded with golfers, many out to show off their new clothes and golfing equipment. The gravel road was blocked off, so they got out of their car and began to walk. When they reached the bend in the road they stopped. Nothing was there except a golfer looking for his shanked golf shot.

Sharon said to the man, “Excuse me, sir, did you see an elderly man and woman anywhere around here?”

“Sorry lady, the only thing I’m hoping to see is my missing golf ball.”

As they slowly walked back to the car a white dove flew down from a tree and landed facing them. The bird seemed to be looking up at them They all stopped and marveled at this snow-white bird.

The bird stayed looking at them for about ten seconds then slowly fluttered its wings, flew up and landed on Sharon’s shoulder. She remained still. Turning her head ever so slowly, she looked at the dove. The bird looked back at her and their eyes connected. The bird leaned in and rubbed its face against Sharon’s cheek. Then it flew away.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 


On Her Birthday, September 8: Why we Love Mother Mary (from a letter)

Blessed Mother and and Her Son                                   attribution unknown

Why we Love Mary (from a letter)

To my Son, Jesus—From your Mom,

If all in Heaven want to praise what they see in Me, it is because they see that I have no value which is not received from You. Yes, I am Your Mother, but You are infinitely more to Me, because You, My most beloved Jesus, are the Almighty, who demonstrates in Me how far reaching your Omnipotence can be.

My adored Son, for all that You have done for Me, I, with the power that You give Me, now gather souls in order to give them to You. For all the attention which You have lavished on Me, I now go around the world in order to light up the fire of charity [love] for You, My heavenly Son, the joy of My eyes, beauty without equal. I shall never be able to equal You in love, but, nonetheless, You have given Me so much that many in the world treat Me with immense love.

Love,

Mom

(author unknown)


This 21 year old never stopped smiling as cancer destroyed his body…meet Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio—

Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio                                                         facebook-fair use

By Larry Peterson

Nicola D’Onofrio was born in Villamagna, Italy, on March 24,1943. His father, Giovanni, and his mom, Virginia, had their son baptized three days later in the parish church of St. Mary’s. Nicola’s dad was a successful farmer, but more importantly, he was a man of integrity, honesty, and wisdom, virtues fueled by a deep and abiding Catholic faith. His mom was known for her piety and kindness. Their character traits would be passed on to their son.

As Nicola began to grow the distinct qualities of kindness and peacefulness seemed to be part of whom he was. He made his First Holy Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi in June of 1950.  Three years later, in October of 1953, he received his Confirmation. His teachers and even his classmates invariably spoke or wrote of Nicola’s hard work ethic, his kindness, and his availability to anyone who needed help. No matter the season, he never missed serving at Mass in the morning even though it was a   two-mile walk to the church.

When Nicola was about 10 years old, a priest who belonged to the Order of St. Camillus aka Camillian invited him to consider entering the Camillian Studentate in Rome. Nicola immediately accepted the offer, but his parents felt he was not ready.  His father wanted him to stay at home and take over the family farm, when he grew up. His two unmarried aunts tried to convince him that he was their only heir. However, Nicola, even at his young age, wanted desperately to become a priest.

During the following year, Nicola prayed and studied hard, and by the end of the year, his family gave him permission to enter the Camillian school. The school was for pre-teens to see if they truly displayed signs of having a real vocation. The date he entered the school was October 3, 1955. He was twelve years old, and it was the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The Little Flower would later become his spiritual guide.,

During the next six years, Nicola’s character continually manifested a person who was humble, friendly, helpful, and above all, always smiling. He was constantly ready to help others, render words of comfort or understanding, and simply be there when and if needed.

Interestingly, Nicola learned after several years at school that his father had wanted to bring him back home. Nicola wrote him saying he was determined to become a priest in the Camillian Order no matter the cost. His dad humbly relented.

Nicola worked hard and applied himself to his studies, gaining the respect and admiration of his teachers. He wanted to be a worthy priest, and his work ethic evidenced that. On October 7, 1961, and after a period of intense training, Nicola took the vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Charity towards the sick, especially those with contagious diseases. These vows were binding for three years. At the end of that period, he would take his final vows as a professed Castillian religious.

It was toward the end of 1962 that first symptoms of cancer that would kill him reared its ugly head. He did not understand the pain he was having, nor why he felt weak. Testing ensued, and following the advice of his superiors and the doctors, he was operated on at the urology department at St. Camillo Hospital in Rome.  The diagnosis came back as positive for Tera-tosarcoma, better known as genital cancer, and it had already begun to metastasize. The date was July 30, 1963.

The pain and suffering increased dramatically over the next year. Weakend and in constant pain young Nicola never stopped praying  and smiling. His Rosary was his constant companion. He  had one desire; he wanted desperately to be able to take his final vows.

A request was sent to Pope Paul VI, and he granted Nicola a special dispensation allowing him to receive these vows. On May 28, 1964, Nicola D’Onofrio consecrated himself to God for life. It was his final act of love. On June 5, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Nicola, fully conscious and completely aware that he was dying, smilingly received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

Nicola passed away on June 12, 1964. He was twenty-one years old, and he was surrounded by his family and Camillian brothers. A close family friend who had assisted Nicola throughout his illness remembered his last moments and said, “He seemed to me like Jesus Christ on the Cross, so calm and confident, with prayers on his lips, calling Our Lady ‘Mom.’

Pope Francis declared Nicola D’Onofrio a man of ‘heroic virtue’ and worhty of the title, Venerable,on July 5, 2013.

Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019