St. John Joseph of the Cross*— this humble Saint fasted regularly, slept only three hours per night-and led a life without any earthly comforts.

He was and still is  great Lenten Role Model

John Joseph of the Cross                                                    en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

*St. John Joseph of the Cross should not be confused with St. John of the Cross

His name was Carlo Gaetano Calosirto, and he was born on August 15, 1654, off the coast of Naples on the island of Ischia. From his earliest childhood, he demonstrated great virtue and self-denial. When he was fifteen, he joined the Order of Friars Minor, and when he was sixteen years old, he became the first Italian to join the reform movement of  Peter Alcantara, a movement that re-dedicated the Franciscans to a stricter and more austere way of life.

By the time he was twenty years old, he was charged with founding a monastery for the Order. He was sent to establish one in the Piedmont region. Filled with humility, he participated in the actual construction doing masonry work. His holiness and unyielding commitment to order impressed everyone, and his superiors insisted that he accept ordination to the priesthood. He refused insisting he was not worthy, but clearer heads prevailed, and he was ordained a priest.

He continued in his priestly ministry while still insisting on doing the lowest of tasks. He refused to eat red meat or drink red wine and slept only three hours a night. When awake, if not working, the rest of his time was spent in prayer. When the monastery in Piedmont was finished, he established strict rules of silence and contemplative prayer.

In 1702, John Joseph was appointed Vicar Provincial of Alcantarine Reform in Italy. The Franciscans were determined to have Peter Alcantara’s austerity measures implemented throughout the entire Order. Even though in charge of such important duties, John Joseph still insisted on helping with the lowliest of tasks such as scrubbing the floors or washing the dishes. In fact, as the Superior, he ordered that no beggar should ever be turned away without some form of assistance. If it was necessary, he would take the monastery provisions and give them to those in need.

John Joseph lived the life of a true Franciscan. His personal life was ruled by denial and by serving others. Blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, many people came to him just to be close to him,  to get his blessing, or have him pray for them. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was unmatched among his peers, and he did his best to spread devotion to Our Lady anywhere he could.

When his tenure as Provincial was nearing its end, he spent much of his time hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Those who came to him for confession said that he could “read their hearts.”He would not rest even if sick. If someone he had laid hands on or prayed over had recovered, he would insist that they take some form of medication so he would not be given credit for the cure. Many tried to tear pieces from his clothes to keep as holy relics

John Joseph of the Cross had an all-encompassing love and faith in the Lord. He wrote that “whoever walks always in God’s presence, will never commit sin, but will preserve his innocence and become a great saint.”

He told his fellow Franciscans,  “Let us hope in God, and doubtless, we shall be comforted,” and “God is a tender Father, who loves and succors all.”

St. John Joseph of the Cross lived by the words, “Doubt not. Trust in God. He will provide.”

John Joseph died in Naples on March 5, 1734. He was beatified by Pope Pius VI on May 24, 1789, and was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI. His Feast Day is March 5.

Saint John Joseph of the Cross, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


This Portuguese Jesuit was a poet, dramatist, and scholar. He also converted more than one million native Brazilians

Joseph de Anchieta is considered the Apostle of Brazil and the father of Brazilian Literature.

St. Joseph of Anchieta                       en.wikipedia.org

Larry Peterson

Joseph de Anchieta was born on March 19, 1534, in San Cristobal de La Laguna in a city called Tenerife which was in the Canary Islands. Joseph’s dad was a wealthy landowner who had escaped to Tenerife after participating in a plot to overthrow King Charles V.

The rebellion had failed but his dad, Juan Lopez de Anchieta , managed to hold on to his wealth and the family was still well off. His mom, Mancia Diaz de Clavijo y Llarena, came from a Jewish family. She was the daughter of Sebastian de Llarena, a Jewish man, who had converted to Christianity and was related to Ignatius Loyola.

Joseph went off to study in Portugal when he was 14 years old. He was accepted into the Royal College of Arts in Coimbra. When he turned 17, he applied to the Jesuit College of the University of Coimbra as a novice. Joseph was an intensely religious young man and while he was a novice, he almost destroyed his health by his excessive sacrifice to please Our Lord.  To make matters worse, he became very ill with a spinal condition that would torment him throughout his life. Even so, besides his regular studies, he managed to learn two new languages, Portuguese and Latin.

At the age of 19, Joseph traveled to Brazil as a missionary. He was among the third group of Jesuits sent to the New World. The journey was fraught with mishaps and even a shipwreck but finally, they arrived in Sao Vicente. This was the first village founded in Brazil 20 years earlier and it was now 1554. They were led by the second governor-general nominated by the Portuguese crown, Duarte da Costa. It was here that Joseph and his companions had their first contact with the native Tapula Indians.

Later in the year, Joseph and twelve of his Jesuits companions were sent to s plateau in the Serra do Mar, where they established a small mission. Joseph and his friends immediately went to work teaching, converting, baptizing, and evangelizing the pagan natives. Joseph began teaching Latin to the natives while simultaneously learning their own language.

He began compiling a dictionary and a grammar book, a custom the Jesuits always maintained after making contact with the locals. Soon the mission was being called the Jesuit College Sao Paulo of Piratininga. The mission was growing faster than expected. It was also beginning to prosper.

However, the Portuguese colonialists were causing considerable trouble. They were killing the natives and destroying the villages of the local tribes. Joseph de Anchieta was wholly opposed to the actions supported by Duarte and started peace negotiations. His knowledge of the language was crucial and he managed to gain the native’s confidence and peace was established. It was a fragile peace and it was broken a number of times before a final peace was established with victory over the French in 1567.

With the permanent peace established, a Jesuit college was founded in Rio De Janeiro and put under the direction of Joseph’s best friend, Manuel da Nobrega. He died in 1570 and Joseph took charge of the college. Besides administering the school, Joseph de Anchieta, in poor health, traveled by foot and by boat for the next ten years from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia and other cities continuing to extend the influence of the Jesuits and the Catholic faith.

Joseph de Anchieta is honored as the founder of Brazilian literature and he and his friend, Manuel da Nobrega, are called the Apostles of Brazil. Many places in Brazil are named after Joseph including roads, hospitals, institutions, and schools. He is the first playwright, the first grammarian, and the first poet to be born in the Canary Islands. He is also a writer of music, a dramatist, and a poet. He is the Brazilian patron of literature and music and, to top it off, was an excellent physician and surgeon. WHEW!

Joseph de Anchieta passed away on June 9, 1597. He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II  on June 22, 1980. He was canonized by Pope Francis on April 3, 2014.

There are many stories that are attributed to St. Joseph de Anchieta. One tells how he was about to be attacked in the jungle by a snarling panther. Joseph looked at the panther and began to preach. The panther relaxed and walked away. To this day, a popular devotion is to pray to St. Joseph de Anchieta for protection against animal attacks.

St. Joseph de Anchieta, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


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

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

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


This great preacher initiated the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and is known as the Saint of the Stations of the Cross

Leonard of Port Maurice                                               www.youtube.com

By Larry Peterson

Domenico Casanova was a ship captain, and he and his wife, Anna Maria Benza, lived in Port Maurice, a seaport near Genoa. On December 20, 1676, Anna gave birth to a son, and they named him Paul Jerome Casanova. Paul’s father was a devout Catholic and took the responsibility of teaching his four children the faith to heart,  using kindly diligence to teach them. Eventually, three of his sons entered the Franciscan Order, and his daughter became a nun.

When Paul was thirteen years old, he was sent to live with his uncle, Agostino, in Rome. This was done so Paul could study at the Jesuit Roman College located there. He was a very bright student and began the study of medicine. However, one day he visited the church connected to the Franciscan monastery of St. Bonaventure in Rome. He heard the choir singing, “Converte nos Deus, salutaris noster!” (convert us, O God, our salvation)!”

These words moved Paul, and he believed they were a call from heaven above to serve God. He decided against medicine and told his uncle his intentions. His uncle would not hear of this and sent him away. Paul was undeterred, and in 1697 he managed to join the Friars Minors. On October 2, 1697,  he received the habit and took the name, Brother Leonard. He went on to complete his studies at St. Bonaventure’s and was ordained a priest.

Leonard desperately wanted to go to China as a missionary and convert “pagans.” But he had health issues which included a delicate constitution and a  bleeding ulcer. He was sent to the monastery of the Franciscan Observants where he remained for four years until his health returned. There was a point where they all thought Leonard would die. But it is said that the Blessed Virgin interceded, and Leonard suddenly recovered.

He returned to ministry as a local preacher in the surrounding parishes. Leonard had such burning love of Jesus and Mary, combined with deep humility,  frequent acts of penance, and an unending charity to his neighbor that it came forth in his preaching, and soon, he had a reputation as one of the great preachers of the day.

Friar Leonard immersed himself in his new work as a parish missionary. He would soon be traveling all throughout Italy and Corsica preaching to the parishioners in different places. Italy was known for its lawlessness and danger, but Leonard was committed and, although often fearful of impending danger, looked it straight in the eye and moved from town to town.

Leonard’s austere life, his practice of continually doing penance and his constant prayer and innate humility, was apparent in his preaching. It was so powerful and forthright that he converted countless sinners bringing many back to and into the faith. He developed a following of missionary preachers and even had a retreat house built for them outside Florence. This was a haven for spiritual renewal, and here they could go and refresh and prepare themselves for the assignments ahead.

Back in Rome, Father Leonard founded several confraternities, including the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart. Everywhere he went, he taught people to say, “My Jesus, Mercy.” He mainly preached on Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the importance and power of the Stations of the Cross. For forty-three years he set up the Stations at 571 locations, including the Roman Colosseum. He had such love for the stations that today he is known as the Saint of the Stations of the Cross.

His most significant work might be considered his writings and preaching about the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. He continually fostered devotion to the Immaculate Conception and insisted it should be proclaimed a dogma of faith. He attributed all his health and longevity to the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin. When Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of faith in 1854, much of his decision was based upon the work and words of Leonard of Port Maurice.

Pope Benedict XIV held Father Leonard in high regard and begged him to not die in any other city but Rome. This Leonard did on November 26, 1751. He was 74 years old. St. Alphonsus Ligouri called Leonard the “great missionary of the eighteenth century.”

Numerous miracles followed his passing, and Pope Pius VI, who had known him, beatified him in 1796. Pope Pius IX canonized Leonard on June 29, 1867. Pope Pius XI named St. Leonard of Port Maurice as the patron saint of all parish missionaries.

St. Leonard of Port Maurice, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Peter of Alcantara—This little know Franciscan mentored none other than St. Teresa of Avila

Peter of Alcantara                            en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Peter of Alcantara was born in 1499 in the Province of Caceres in Extremadura, Spain. He was named after his father, Peter Gravita, who was the governor of Alacantara. His mom was from a noble family who came from Sanabia. Already as a child, Peter displayed an exceptional gift of prayer, and at times he was so absorbed it was if he was in a trance.  During those times, neither his parents nor their servants would be able to get the boy to respond to them.

When Peter was sixteen, he had already decided to be a Franciscan. It was during this time that his father sent him off to the University in Salamanca. Peter, deeply devout and pious even as a teenager, was seriously tempted during his early days at the university. The opportunity to lead a life of comfort and pleasure was in front of him.

He had to choose which it would be; humility, prayer, and penance or the things of the world. His answer was given to him as he was on his way to the monastery at Monjaresz. Peter came to a stream that had been swollen with floodwaters from the heavy rains. He had no way to cross to the other side, so he knelt down and asked God for help.

With his eyes closed in prayer, Peter prayed and prayed. When he opened his eyes he was on the other side of the rushing river. Peter knew that he had been given a sign that he must follow his vocation. The young man was thrilled because this event erased any doubt he may have had about what God wanted him to do. He distributed whatever inheritance he had to the poor and became a Franciscan friar. He was twenty-two years old.

Once he became part of the order, he gave himself up completely to God. He began to develop a life of daily mortification, penance, and frequent fasting. In fact, he monitored his natural senses and desires so carefully that when asked what the inside of his church looked like, he did not know. Peter was sent to found a new community at Badajoz.

He was ordained a priest in 1524, and the following year was appointed a Guardian at St. Mary of the Angels in Old Castile. The self-sacrifice and mortification he was practicing were intense. He wore an iron belt with sharp points that pierced his flesh. He refused to sleep more than an hour and a half a day and would do this while sitting on the floor.

On April 14, 1562, Peter wrote a letter to Teresa of Avila. He knew in his heart that God had chosen her for great things and he advised her to found her first monastery at Avila. Theresa responded to Peter and the monastery was established on August 24, 1562. Much of what is known about Peter of Alcantara has been taken from the writings of Teresa of Avila. She even confirmed that Peter would only eat once every three days. She wrote that he sometimes would go a week without eating. His regimen of offering himself to God was extraordinary, to say the least.

Teresa and Peter became close friends, and the priest became her mentor and counsel. She knew that he was also of God, and she wrote that the gift of miracles and prophecy he possessed were heaven-sent.  She credits Peter with her success in the reformation of the Carmelite Order. Peter also had another gift; he was a great preacher. He loved to preach to the poor, and they loved to listen because he had a unique way of expressing compassion and understanding to the lives they were enduring. None other than St. Francis Borgia wrote to him, “You remarkable success (as a Preacher) is a special comfort to me.”

Peter of Alcantara, in his efforts to please and imitate his Savior, lived a life of intense poverty and austerity. He traveled throughout Spain preaching the Gospel while eating and drinking a bare minimum to stay functioning. He wrote a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation which is considered a masterpiece by both St. Teresa of Avila and  St. Francis de Sales. He was often seen levitating and in ecstasy while in prayer.

Lastly, Peter of Alcantara is the Patron Saint of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On his deathbed, he was asked if he wanted some water. He responded, “Even my Lord Jesus Christ thirsted on the Cross.”

On October 18, 1562, he died while praying. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement IX on April 18,1622.

Saint Peter of Alcantara, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


St. Agnes of Montepulciano—St. Catherine of Siena called her, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes

St. Agnes of Montepulciano                                                   aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Dominican Order has five women who are canonized saints. The two best known are St. Catherine of Siena, the stigmatist and a Doctor of the Church, and St. Rose of Lima, the first woman canonized a saint from the Americas. The other three are St. Margaret of Hungary who became Empress of the Byzantine Empire, St. Catherine de Ricci, the stigmatist, and lastly, St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

St. Agnes, who may be the least known of the five, could be the most important among them. What tells us that is, it was St. Catherine of Siena, who knelt by Agnes’ incorrupt body and said, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes.” As Catherine bent forward to kiss the foot of Agnes, it raised up so Catherine could easily reach it. St. Agnes had died almost 300 years before that moment.

On January 28, 1268, a baby girl was born into the wealthy De Segni family, in Montepulciano, located in the Papal States (central Italy). The child was named Agnes, and from an early age, she displayed an outward and obvious devotion to God.

By the time Agnes was six years old she was asking her parents to please allow her to enter the convent. When they told her she was much too young, she pleaded with them to move closer to the convent so she could be near to it. On one occasion Agnes was traveling to Montepulciano with her mom and some of the household.  The group passed by a house that was up on a hill and was known as a place of ill repute. Suddenly, a flock of screaming crows soared down from above and attacked little Agnes.

With claws outstretched and beaks flailing away they scratched and clawed at the seven-year-old, causing her to bleed from her head and arms which she was using to cover herself. The women in the group had to fight the shrieking birds off by waving their shawls and yelling at them. The ladies knew that the evil in the nearby house did not want Agnes anywhere near it. It had been a demonic attack. Years later, Agnes would build a convent on that very site.

By the time this child was nine years old she had convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent. She was so young this was against church law but, Pope John XXI gave Agnes permission to enter the Franciscan monastery. The nuns who lived there were known as the “Sisters of the Sack” because the garments they wore were so coarse. Nine-year-old Agnes happily wore it every day.

When Agnes was fifteen, she found herself in need of another special dispensation. This time it was so she could become the abbess of a new convent in Proceno. She desired to be in a contemplative state where she could simply pray and commune with those above. But she did not complain and humbly followed the path that always seemed to appear before her. On her day of consecration as abbess, showers of tiny white crosses floated down inside the chapel on the people below. Being a fifteen-year-old abbess was unheard of, and everyone took this as a sign of heaven’s pleasure with Agnes.

Agnes was graced with many visions. Probably the most legendary and the one for which she is best known is was when Our Lady appeared to her holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. Our Lady allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Another time the Blessed Mother gave Agnes three stones and told her to keep them in honor of the Blessed Trinity. She told Agnes that one day she would need them.

Agnes had another vision which told her that she was to leave the Franciscans and join the Dominicans. In 1306 she was asked to return to Montepulciano to build a new convent. She had no money, but she did have the three stones the Blessed Virgin had given to her. Using the three stones as a “cornerstone,” she raised money and built the convent. The sisters embraced the Rule of St. Augustine and joined the Dominican Order.

Sister Agnes died on April 20, 1317. It is said that the children of the city woke up the next morning and sadly cried out, “Holy Sister Agnes is dead.”

Agnes was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The Dominicans celebrate her feast day on April 20.

St. Agnes of Montepulciano, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019