Tag Archives: history

St. Malachy’s Church; Home to The “Actor’s Chapel” an Oasis of Catholicism in the Heart of the Broadway Theater District

St. Malachy’s Church (Actor’s Chapel) NYC                          wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

I was in New York City recently (my hometown), and I was blessed by being able to attend 9 A.M. Sunday Mass at St. Malachy’s Church. Located on W 49th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue, this is the very heart of the Broadway theater district. This area of midtown Manhattan is just a few blocks from Times Square and is known around the world.

This church opened in 1902 and stepping into it is like a step back in time. The church is small in comparison to many others, but the gothic architecture is magnificent, and the white marble altar crowns the sanctuary with a pronounced transcendental presence. It is stunning to look at.

When the church opened, it was an average parish church tending to the needs of the local Catholics and their growing families. But shortly before 1920 things began to change. The section of Manhattan began to transform into the area known for theater. Soon it became known as the “theater district.”

The priests and the active parishioners of the day realized that they would have to adapt to the changing parish population. The area was becoming filled with actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, stagehands, craftsmen, and all the other personnel that were required to make entertainment possible. Masses were rescheduled and rearranged to accommodate the theater and nightclub workers. Scheduling a Mass at 4 A.M., required permission from the Vatican because church law did not allow Masses at that hour.

Toward the end of 1920, the “Actor’s Chapel” was completed below the main church. St. Malachy’s quickly became known as the center of worship for the entertainment industry. Celebrities who attended Mass at the church included George M. Cohan (who donated the altar rail for the chapel), Perry Como, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Cagney, Bob Hope, and Rudolph Valentino, to name a few. Some of the actors who served Mass were Pat O’Brien, Jimmy Durante, and Don Ameche.

Someone not mentioned so far but who needs mentioning is the patron of the parish, the man the church is named after, St.Malachy. Who was he and where did he come from? Let’s find out.

We must travel back to Ireland in the year 1094. A baby was born and was baptized with the name Mael Maedoc which translated into Malchus in Latin and finally Malachy in English. His surname was Ua Morgair  making his full name, Mael Maedoc Ua Morgair.  That translates into the simple Irish name of Malachy O’More.

Malachy was the son of a teacher, and after his parents passed away, he entered the religious life. He was ordained a priest in 1119 by Bishop Cellach, who would become St. Cellach. Much of what we know about Malachy comes from the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote a biography of Malachy and was with him when he died. He wrote of Malachy’s great preaching ability and his determination to reform abuses in the Irish church, including strict rules on celibacy.

Malachy was promoted to the position of Abbott, and a few years later, at the age of 30, was consecrated as the Bishop of Connor. He became a staunch supporter of Pope Gregory VII instituting the reforms that the Holy Father had initiated. This included introducing the Roman Liturgy into Ireland. He became a well-known miracle worker and healer where he reportedly cured people just by laying hands on them.

It is reported that Malachy was gifted with the gift of prophecy. While he was in Rome, in 1139, he had a vision of all the Popes from that day until the end of time. He wrote descriptions and poems about each of the future popes and eventually presented the manuscript to Pope Innocent II. It was apparently put to the side and did not resurface until the year 1590, a period of over 450 years. Ever since that time heated debates have arisen over its authenticity. The manuscript ends with the last pope being the one after Pope Benedict XVI.

For the most part these prophecies have been debunked. Accurate up until 1590 they get quite vague and inaccurate from that point on. Today, most scholars consider them a hoax. Thomas J. Reese S. J., of Georgetown University said, “St. Malachy’s prophecy is nonsense.” We can leave it there. But Malachy’s church leadership, reforms, and the many miracles attributed to him are unquestioned.

Malachy O/More died on November 2, 1148. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement III in 1190.

St. Malachy, please pray for us.

P.S. If you ever have the chance go to the Sunday, 11 A.M. Solemn High Mass. The choir consists of professional singers from the Broadway stage. There is NO Charge

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

His business failed, his wife died, he lost three children in succession, managed to become a Jesuit Lay Brother, and ultimately was canonized a saint. Meet St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez                                              wikipedia commons

By Larry Peterson

The friar pulled open the big, oak door, and before him stood a disheveled looking man staring at him. The year was 1571, and the down and out fellow was a thirty-seven-year-old cloth merchant seeking admission to the order. The weary, hunched man was not seeking to be a priest but, instead, he just wanted to be admitted as a lay brother. The friar shook his head and was about to dismiss the man when the man said, “Peter Faber was my friend.”

Peter Faber was probably St. Ignatius of Loyola’s best friend. He is considered by many as the co-founder of the Jesuits. He had passed away in 1545 at the age of thirty-nine but for the man to have said “he was his friend” made the friar pause and hold the door open. Staring at the wretched-looking fellow the friar asked, “And how do you dare claim to be friends with Peter Faber?”

The man introduced himself as Alphonsus Rodriguez. He explained that when he was a boy of about ten, Peter Faber had stayed with his family while he was preaching a mission in Segovia. Alphonsus also told him that Friar Peter had prepared him for his First Holy Communion. The man was allowed to come in, and the friar called another of the brothers over to hear the man’s story.

Alphonsus went on to explain that he had to quit school at the age of twelve. That was when his dad died unexpectedly, and he had to leave school because he had nine brothers and sisters, and his mother needed his help. Alphonsus eventually married a woman named Maria Suarez when he was twenty-six. They had three children together, and two died before the age of five.  Then Maria suddenly passed away, and Alphonsus was a widower with one child to raise. His last child also suddenly passed.

Alphonsus was now thirty-seven years old, worn out, and frail-looking. He explained he had no desire to re-marry and only wished to spend the rest of his life serving God. Fortunately, people who were having a tough time of it were always welcomed by the Jesuits. Having been instructed by Peter Faber himself, the resident Jesuits were quite willing to accept Alphonsus.

Alphonsus had minimal education, so he had to take courses at the College of Barcelona. His health was poor, and he only managed a year of studies. But he was then accepted into the Jesuit novitiate on January 31, 1571. It was said that the provincial joked that if Alphonsus could not qualify for the priesthood or become a brother maybe he could stay and become a saint. He was sent to the town of Palma where he did odd jobs at the Jesuit College of Montesino. He made his perpetual vows on April 5, 1573, when he was 41 years old.

In 1579 Brother Alphonsus became the porter at the college. He did odd jobs, answered the door welcoming travelers and guests, and did almost every type of different job that needed to be done. His position at Jesuit College was his first, last, and only assignment as a member of the Jesuits.

Brother Alphonsus experienced great heartache in his life. He had lost his young wife to disease, his three children, one after the other, and he also had lost his business as a wool merchant. He had become a lay Jesuit Brother and spent the rest of his life doing the most humble work imaginable.

Unknown to most, Alphonsus had developed a deep relationship with God and was given the gift of the spirit that enabled him to deeply affect anyone who spoke with him. He managed to bring countless people to peace within themselves, and his reputation spread far and wide.

Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez died on October 31, 1617. He was eighty-four years old.  He was canonized a saint by Pope Leo XIII in September of 1888.

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, 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

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

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

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed Engelmar  Unzeitig, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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

St. John Macias                                                                           public domain

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St John Macias, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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

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

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ask all three of them to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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

St. Thomas de Villanova                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Thomas of Villanova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

His crime…He Baptized another Prisoner—His “Reward”—He was hanged upside down. Meet Otto Neururer; the first priest executed in a Nazi concentration camp

Blessed Otto Neururer                                             commons.wikipediia.org

By Larry Peterson

The word  “Holocaust” has a number of synonyms:  annihilation, extermination, carnage, genocide, and slaughter, might be a few.   We tend to think of the “millions’ who perished but we rarely think of them as individuals unless some story grabs our attention such as; “The Diary of Anne Frank”,  “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, or bios about St. Maximilian Kolbe,, or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). What follows is the story of a simple, humble priest who simply loved his God, his Faith, and his fellow man. His name was Father Otto Neururer.

Each and every one of the people who had their very God-given existence taken away from them was like all of us.  They had their hopes and dreams.  They had families and friends. They loved, they worked, they played, they enjoyed holidays and walks in the park on a Sunday afternoon where the kids might feed the ducks or the squirrels.  They quietly embraced the dignity of their own selves, just as we all try to do. They were proud of their families and their jobs and professions.  They were living their God-given life.

And then they came. The other people. The ones in power. The ones who held the power of life and death in their hands.The ones who had the “law” on their side and the people following them willing to carry it out, no matter how heinous; even ready to commit torture and murder under the “rule of law.”

Yet through all of the Godless depravity that filled the very hearts and souls of those carrying out this abhorrent treatment of their fellow human beings there always rises an unquenchable love,  and respect for life from some of the victims. They try to help others who are suffering. Many who offer this Godly assistance are tortured and murdered for doing so.

Otto Neururer was born in Tyrol, Austria on March 25, 1881. He was the twelfth and youngest child of a peasant farmer, Alois Neururer and his wife, Hildegard. When Otto was eight, his dad died. His mom,  a devout Catholic, began suffering bouts of depression. Otto was a bit frail and also timid and, like his mom, also began experiencing bouts of depression. However, he did have a brilliant mind and recognized his vocation to the priesthood.  He followed his calling and was able to enter the seminary when he was 21 years old.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1907 and celebrated his first Mass in his hometown. He wanted to join the Jesuits and do missionary work, but his frail health prevented that. He served as a  parish priest, teacher, and was finally assigned as pastor to  St. Peter and Paul Parish in Innsbruck.

In 1938, while he was still pastor, a young woman came to him for advice. She wanted his opinion on whether or not she should marry a divorced man. Father Neururer knew of this man and that he was a philanderer and a con-artist. He advised the woman against marrying him. She told her “fiancé” that she could not marry him and why. He was good friends with the Nazi party leader in the area and reported Father Otto to him. On December 15,1938, Father Otto was promptly arrested and charged with, “slander to the detriment of German marriage.”

On March 3, 1939, he was sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis,  also known as the “priest’s barracks.” Here he was routinely tortured, but this would not be his last stop. On September 26, 1939, he was sent to Buchenwald, which was under the command of Martin Sommer, aka “the Hangman of Buchenwald.” This would be Father’s last stop.

A prisoner came to Father Otto and asked him to baptize him. The kindly priest could not decline and did as asked. The priest realized he was being ‘set-up” but would not refuse in case he was mistaken. He was not wrong, and Martin Bormann decided to make an example of the priest. He ordered him taken to the “punishment block” and hung upside down.

The chaplain who witnessed Father Otto’s torturous death said he never complained. The priest lived for 34 hours, and even towards the end, he could be heard mumbling his prayers. He died on May 30, 1940. He was fifty-eight years old. He was the first of more than 2600 Catholic priests killed during the Holocaust.

Father Otto Neururer died “in odium fidei” and was beatified at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 24, 1996, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Blessed Otto Neururer, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Virgen de los Desparamados ( Virgin of the Abandoned) St.Teresa de Jesus Jornet

Virgin of the Abandoned Elderly                                            en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Teresa Jornet Ibars was born into a family of farmers on January 9, 1843. Her dad’s name was Francisco Jornet, and her mom was Antonieta Ibars.  Teresa had two older sisters, Maria and Josefa, and an older brother, Juan who was married and had three daughters. The farm was in Lleida, located in Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain.  She was baptized the day after her birth and received her Confirmation in 1849.  (In the 19th century a child could not receive First Communion until the minimum age of 12).

As a child, Teresa displayed a deep concern for the conditions of the poor, and she often would bring someone to the home of her Aunt Rosa for something to eat,  medical aid, and other necessities they might need. Aunt Rosa always did her best to help those Teresa brought to her home, and her example reinforced Teresa’s natural desire to help the poverty-stricken. After some time, Teresa moved to a different area of Llieida to live with another aunt, and while there she began studying to be a teacher.

When Teresa was nineteen, she began teaching in Barcelona. She also felt a strong calling to the monastic life. In 1868, she sought admission to the Poor Clares but anti-clerical laws of the day prevented that from happening. In 1870, she did become a Secular Carmelite to help develop her spirituality.

Toward the end of 1870, her father died, and she came down with tuberculosis. That kept her homebound for about six months. Fortunately, she did have a spiritual advisor. He was Father Saturnino Lopez, who greatly aided her recovery by encouraging her to begin caring for the many elderly people in the area. Most of these people were living alone and suffering from severe poverty. Her eyes opened wide at this concept, and she immediately accepted the challenge.

In 1872, Teresa Jornet Ibars opened her fist house in Barbastro, located in north-central Spain. Along with some followers and her sister Maria, the group took the habit and became a religious congregation. Teresa, who was already a  Lay Carmelite, took the name of one of the great Carmelites, St. Teresa of Avila. Her name became Teresa of Jesus Jornet. The official founding of the new order was January 27, 1873. The name the order was given was The Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly  (Not the Little Sisters of the Poor founded by St Jeanne Jugan in 1839)

Teresa of Jesus Jornet was unanimously elected the first Mother Superior of the new community. Their new ministry was totally dedicated to the care and well being of the aged. Mother Teresa of Jesus taught her Sisters to sacrifice whatever they had to help the men and women that were in their care. She explained that these people were God’s gifts to them and that they were serving Him as they cared for them.

Amazingly, even though Mother Teresa of Jesus had suffered from a debilitating illness, she was noted for the powerful sense of peace she always exuded. This inner peace drew many young women to join with her.

The mother house opened in Valencia on May 8,1873. Mother Teresa was confirmed as the superior in 1875. On December 8, 1877, Mother made her perpetual profession and was named Superior General for the entire order. Pope Pius IX issued the papal decree of praise for her order on June 14, 1876. This was followed by Pope Leo XIII giving the formal papal approval on August 24, 1887. When the General Chapter of the Order opened in Valencia on April 23, 1896, Mother Superior begged her Sisters to not re-elect her. But they did. They could not imagine anyone else as their leader.

In 1897 an outbreak of cholera hit Spain. Mother Teresa of Jesus joined her Sisters to help care for the victims of this dread disease. By the time it was over, 24 Sisters and seventy patients had died from the disease. Mother Teresa was exhausted and ill and was taken to the order’s house in Liria. She stayed here and met her spiritual guide, Father Saturnino, for the last time. The date was July 15, 1897.

Mother Teresa of Jesus Jornet died on August 26, 1897. She was 56 years old. When she died her congregation had 50 houses. She had gone from being ill and rejected to leaving a legacy that will live forever. Today there are over 2600 religious serving the elderly in 210 facilities in different parts of the world, including such places as Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and Mozambique in Africa.

She was canonized by Pope Paul VI on January 27, 1974

St. Teresa of Jesus Jornet, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Maria de Mattias—Her mirror was her best friend until one day she saw a beautiful Lady looking back at her …The Lady told her, “Come with me.”

St. Maria De Mattias                                                                wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Maria de Mattias was born and baptized on February 4, 1805, in the small town of Vallecorsa, about 50 miles south of Rome. Her father, Giovanni de Mattias, came from a prominent family in the area and was well-to-do. Maria was the second of four children. Her sister Vincenza was eleven years older than her, so they did not have much in common socially. Her two brothers, Antonio and Michele, were both several years younger.

During this time, political turmoil was a way of life in Vallecorsa.  There were political factions that were always fighting each other. Many of the young local men were gang members, and they were continually raiding and intimidating the villagers. Gang leaders planned kidnappings because children from families with money often brought handsome ransoms.  Maria, being from a family with money, was a prime candidate for abduction.  She did not leave her home unless accompanied by her father.

Maria was quite vain and spent inordinate amounts of time looking at herself in the mirror while brushing her long blond hair. However, that all changed as she approached her sixteenth birthday. One day, as she was preening herself, she saw a Lady looking back at her from inside the mirror. Maria did not know what to make of this, and then the Lady said, “Come with me.”

Maria began to converse with the Lady and asked for her help. She wanted to learn how to read. Her father did not believe that girls needed to know how to read or write, so Maria had never learned. The Lady told her not to worry and that she would help her. Soon Maria was able to take letters and put them into words, and before long, the young woman was reading. With the heavenly help of an extraordinary Lady, she had taught herself to read.

She kept at it and soon was reading spiritual books that the family had at home. The Lady told her she was the Blessed Mother, and during several more conversations, Maria realized that she was to dedicate her life to God. The only thing left for her to do was figure out how.

During the Lenten season of 1822, Gaspar del Bufalo, (the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood) came to town with his mission team to preach. The mission went on for three weeks, and the topics covered were death, judgment, punishment, and hell versus God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Maria heard Gaspar ask his listeners to imitate Jesus by giving their lives for their brothers and sisters who needed it. When the mission was over, Maria de Mattias was filled with love for her neighbor and was determined to bring about conversion and salvation to those whom Christ loved.

Gaspar del Bufalo had a right-hand man by the name of John Merlini. In 1824, he sent Merlini to Vallecorsa to preach the mission. Merlini and his followers had been busy putting together associations for girls, women, boys, men, and priests. Maria felt drawn to this man but was afraid to approach him.

Finally, she did, and they became good friends. Merlini put her in charge of the Daughters of Mary, the girl’s association. Maria took charge, and more and more girls began coming to her house for talks, study, and prayer. Before long, older women were coming to the house. The De Mattias house had turned into a school for young and old alike.

On March 4, 1834, when she was 29 years old, and under the guidance and help of John Merlini, Maria founded the Sister Adorers of the Blood of Christ. The order was established primarily to be a teaching order.  Maria made a public vow of chastity, and John Merlini gave her a small gold heart imprinted with three drops of blood. This became the symbol of the order, and to this day a silver heart with three red dots is worn by the sisters all over the world. Pope Pius IX gave papal approval to the Order in 1855, and John Merlini became Maria’s spiritual director.

Today more than 2000 sisters continue the work of their foundress in countries all around the world including Brazil, Viet Nam, South Korea, the United States, Bolivia, Guatemala, and even Liberia where five of the sisters were martyred in 1992.

St. Maria De Mattias was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2003. We ask her to pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019