Tag Archives: forgiveness

ALL SOUL’S DAY—-It is NEVER too late to seek forgiveness

During November let’s never forget that God’s Mercy knows no Bounds; It can travel from War Criminal to Baseball Hero and to all points beyond.

All Soul’s Day                                                                        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

All Soul’s Day is more than just a day to remember and pray for our departed loved ones. It is a day we should embrace fully because the faith we carry within us is validated.  That validation is there for all of us because we can see the Mercy and Love of God and how it is available to every person, everywhere—if they so choose.

An example of how this Love and Mercy shows no bounds can be found in the following two people who long ago left this life. They are an unlikely duo, and I am sure that while they were alive, they never met. They are Rudolf Hoess, the Nazi War Criminal (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), and  Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived;

  • Rudolf Hoess (sometimes spelled Hoss)

Rudolf Hoess is considered history’s greatest mass murderer. He was the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz who got up every morning, had a nice breakfast with his wife and five children, and then went to work where he supervised the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children.

Hoess was a happily married Catholic man and would come home after “work” and have dinner with his family. He had a nice view from his dining room window. He could see the giant chimney stacks from the crematoria. He had an affair with an Auschwitz prisoner and to hide the evidence sent her to the gas chamber. He even wrote poetry about the “beauty” of Auschwitz.

Arrested as a war criminal Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging. Before his execution he asked for a priest. On April 10, 1947, he received the Sacrament of Penance. The next day he received Holy Communion which was also his Viaticum. He was hanged on April 16, 1947.

  • George Herman “Babe” Ruth

Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895. He was (according to his folks) an incorrigible child and at the age of seven they placed him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe remained there for the next twelve years. He was a baptized Catholic and had received his First Holy Communion.

Babe’s affinity for baseball became obvious quickly. Brother Mathias, who had become a father figure for Ruth, saw this and asked Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Orioles, to take a look at the boy. Dunn liked what he saw, took Ruth under his wing and became his legal guardian. The rest is history. Babe Ruth was and still is, inarguably, the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.

But Babe’s life off the field was a bit different. Living the “good life” he had forgotten one thing; his faith. He was a ball player by day, and a “party animal”  by night. He had fame and fortune and never looked back until—1946. That is when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He was scheduled for surgery and the night before his friend, Paul Casey, said to him, “Hey Babe,  don’t you think it’s time to put your house in order?”

Babe knew exactly what Paul was talking about and asked for a priest. That very night Babe Ruth made a full confession and the following morning received Holy Communion. Just a shell of the man he had once been the “Babe” lived two more years. He passed away on August 16, 1948.

That is a profile of two men: one who committed the most heinous crimes imaginable,  murdering callously and ruthlessly God’s creations every day. The other is about a happy, go-lucky, talented baseball player who forgot about God and enjoyed life, as he saw it, to the fullest.

Rudolf Hoess turned back to his faith when his own death was imminent. He asked for God’s mercy. If our Faith is what we are taught it is—he received it. Did he deserve it? As someone said a few years ago, “Who are we to judge?” The same applies to Babe Ruth and every other person God has created who seeks His mercy and forgiveness.

All Soul’s Day is a day to rejoice; a day to rejoice in knowing that our loved ones and friends who have gone before us were given every possible chance to attain their heavenly reward. God’s Love and Mercy has brought many of his fallen children home.

©Larry Peterson 2018

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

The Miracle at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from “back when”                         Aleteia

By Larry Peterson

During the early morning hours of November 24, 1906, a ship quietly slid against the ebb-tide waters of the Narrows and entered New York harbor. On board were almost 2000 people, mostly immigrating Europeans. Through the emerging light of the new dawn, the Statue of Liberty came into view. The appearance of the great icon had them mesmerized. They had arrived at their new home, America.

Among the people on board was a little girl from Hungaria. Her name was Julia, and she was four years old. She held a small rag doll tightly in her arms. At that moment in time, it was the only link she had to security and happiness.

Eight days earlier, Julia had hugged her poppa good-bye. She remembered his stubbly beard tickling her face and how he had reached into the pocket of his big wool overcoat and pulled out a surprise. It was a doll. He smiled and said, “For you, Shkutabella (my little pretty).  Her name is Rachel, and I made her for you. As long as you have her, I will always be with you even if I am not there. Do you understand?”

Julia nodded her head up and down, and her mom said, “Please Bollassar, please come with us. I do not like going without you.”

“Viola, it is all right. I will be over in a year. My brother George will take care of you. It is all right.”

A week had passed, and as Viola and Julia stood on the deck, a life-boat broke free from its support cable. It fell and hit Viola, killing her instantly. Julia’s mom had been standing next to her and then she was lying lifeless on the deck. The child’s  young mind could not understand why her mom did not move. She screamed at her to wake up.  That would never happen. As the ship docked at the pier all Julia knew was fear and loneliness.

At Ellis Island, a bizarre series of events saw Julia shuffled from one official to another and when a lady smiled at her, the official nearby assumed they were together and made Julia go with the lady. The woman took Julia as far as Broome and Varick Streets in lower Manhattan. She told the child to stay there and walked away.  Just like that Julia had become another abandoned child on the streets of the city.

Little Julia, holding Rachel, had been standing in the same spot for more than an hour. She was cold, hungry, and frightened beyond belief when the beat cop, Paddy Dolan, approached her. He was instantly smitten with the dark-haired, blue-eyed child and asked her her name. Hesitatingly she said, “Julia.”

Officer Dolan brought her with him to the station-house, and after checking as much as anyone could in 1906, she was declared an orphan. But this orphan was not going to an orphanage. Paddy Dolan brought her home.

Paddy’s wife, Aileen, a wee wisp of a gal from County Galway in Ireland, could not have children. Paddy and Aileen adopted Julia, and she became Julie Dolan. She grew up to be a teacher, married a man named Tommy O’Rourke, (also a policeman), and they had three children, two boys, and a girl. The girl was named Viola.

On Thanksgiving day, 1951, Julia, her daughter Viola, and Viola’s four-year-old daughter, Karen, went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They stood in the crowd at 63rd Street and Central Park West and, as Santa passed by, Viola suggested that they go to the Squire’s Restaurant a few blocks away.

Karen was holding Rachel, Julia’s doll. Karen loved the doll and, in a moment of weakness, grandma Julia had allowed her to take the doll with her to the parade. Rachel had not been out of the house in over forty years.

They sat in a booth and Karen placed Rachel on the table. Julia reached over and fingered the doll lovingly.  Suddenly a man stood by their table. He was old and weathered and quite nervous. A chill ran down Julia’s spine. The man pointed to the doll and nervously said, “Excuse me…is..is that doll named Rachel?”

Viola, not seeing her mother turning pale, answered, “Why yes, how could you know such a thing?”

As tears fell from the old man’s eyes, he looked at Julia and softly said, “Is it really you, Shkutabella?”

Julia jumped from her seat and threw her arms around the old man. “Oh Poppa,  Poppa, Poppa.  I can’t believe it. Yes,  it is. It is. It is ME.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

©Larry Peterson 2018

On the Fifth Anniversary of her Passing: Remembering a future saint: Mother Antonia Brenner aka The “Prison Angel”

By Larry Peterson

Mother Antonia Brenner Praying with Prisoners in La Mesa prison

Mother Antonia Brenner Praying with Prisoners in La Mesa prison

This is a love story. No, it is not about romantic love. Rather, it is about the love of

Christ exploding in the soul of a woman who ran with her God-given gift and did her best to shower it upon some of the meanest and worst criminals in Mexico.

This is about Mother Antonia Brenner, who was born in Beverly Hills, CA, was married and divorced twice, had seven children and ultimately became known as the “Prison Angel” of La Mesa Prison, the worst and most dangerous prison in all of Mexico.  Mother Antonia died five years ago on October 17. On the anniversary of her passing, I just thought I would remember her with a few words.

Mary Clarke was born in Beverly Hills, Calif.on December 1, 1926. Her dad, Joe Clarke, was a successful businessman and Mary and her two siblings grew up surrounded with affluence and the glitz of the movie world. One thing was certain about Papa Joe. No matter how good life was for his family he made sure his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. The desire to help others would blossom in Mary and was one day destined to explode. However, before the “explosion” Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.

Mary married at 18 and had three children. The first died shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce and then Mary married again. The wedding took place in Las Vegas and it was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. Mary had somehow distanced herself from her strict Catholic upbringing. No matter, it seems that the Holy Spirit had his eye on Mary Clarke her entire life. It was time for Him to shower His grace on His daughter.

Mary became more and more involved in charity work and has her seven children got older she began to visit La Mesa Penitentiary to deliver donations such as food, medicine, and clothing to the prisoners. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa began to impact her greatly and as time went by her growing compassion and love of neighbor would become focused on these people. They would become her specialty, her ministry, her purpose in life.

In 1977, after her kids were grown and her second divorce was final, Mary gave away her expensive belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa. She had received permission to move there. Her new home was to be a 10′ by 10′ cell. She would live as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell and having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall, a Bible and Spanish dictionary nearby and a hard, prison bed. In the morning she lined up with the other prisoners for roll call. This was to be her home for the next thirty years.

The story of how this twice divorced woman and mother of seven kids from two marriages was accepted by the Catholic Church as a Sister and founder of a new order can be found at the links provided. Suffice it to say that as time went by Sister Antonia became “La Mama” (Mother Antonia) aka The Prison Angel,

“La Mama”. The Prison Angel

Mother Antoni© Brenner praying with prisoners.. courtesy eudistssisters.org

She walked freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists, and others touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of men. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them and held their heads between her hands as they were dying.

Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with. She loved them all. Why else would hardened criminals, some who had never loved or been loved,  call the diminutive woman who hailed from Beverly Hills, “La Mama”? They loved her in return.

I believe that one day Mother Antonia Brenner will be canonized a saint and inducted into the “Catholic Hall of Fame”. She was an example for each and every one of us showing us how to selflessly “love our neighbor” no matter who they might be.

N.B. Mother Antonia founded the order known as The Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour. The word, Eudist, is taken from St. John Eudes, a 17th-century priest, and founder of the Eudists Order and the Order of Our Lady of Charity. The 11th Hour indicates that the Eudists sisters accept women in life having a second calling. They must be at least 45 years-old to enter the order.

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2018