Tag Archives: jewish

In 2018, Advent and Hanukkah begin on the same day, December 2. Here are some facts about Hanukkah you may not know.

Advent & Hanukkah              Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

This year, Sunday,  December 2nd,  hosts two great religious events. One is the beginning of the 2018 Advent Season. The other is the beginning of the great Jewish holiday, Hanukkah,  which begins at sundown on the same day.  Since it is important for us Catholic/Christians to be aware of our Jewish heritage, (ie; the entire Holy Family was Jewish as were their relatives and friends) here are some facts about Hanukkah.

In our Catholic Bible the Old Testament, 1 Maccabees 4:59,  reads; “Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days from the 25th day of  the month of Chislev.”

The connection to the New Testament is in John 10: 22-35. This begins with the Feast of Dedication aka the Festival of Lights which is Hanukkah and Jesus is celebrating it by saying, “…and scripture cannot be set aside…”

Interestingly, Hanukkah, which took place in 165 BC, is the only Jewish holiday not included in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). There are several theories as to why this is. Two of them are;  since it was put together in the first century it was too close to the actual occurrence to write about it; or, they did not want to cause any grief with their Roman rulers. Ironically, the story appears only in the Catholic Bible as Maccabees is not in the King James version.

Here are some other Hanukkah facts:

  • Oily foods are a tradition: Potato pancakes and jelly donuts are important because they represent the oil that burned for eight days

 

  • Cheese is a lesser-known Hanukkah tradition. This is about the story from the Book of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who seduces the Assyrian general, fills him with cheeses and wine, and waits until he passes out. Then she beheads him empowering the Jewish army to conquer the Assyrians, saving

 

  • Hanukkah does fall on the same date every year; that is if you use the Hebrew calendar. It falls on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (Chislev). Unfortunately, the Hebrew calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from late November to late December. Last year it began on December 12. In 2013 it began on Thanksgiving day.

 

  • Hanukkah can be spelled several different ways; Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanuka, and Chanucah.

 

  • Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday because of Christmas. Up until the last part of the nineteenth century, Hanukkah was a minor holiday. It was nothing on the scale of Passover or Rosh Hashanah. There were two reasons it grew in popularity, and those reasons came from the incredibly popular Christmas season. One reason was to deflect attention away from the Christmas spirit, and the other was so the Jewish children had something to celebrate so they would not become jealous of their Christian friends.

 

  • Giving children coins during Hanukkah is an old tradition. It originally was the only gift children would receive. The custom came from Eastern Europe where teachers were given a bit of money as a “Thank you” for their hard work. In the 1920s it evolved in America into the chocolate :gelt.” Lofts Candy Corp began producing the chocolate gold coins and their popularity quickly grew. They were called “gelt” by the Jewish people and that custom is still very popular.

 

  • Latkes are a popular Eastern European food which is a staple of the Jewish Holiday. The interesting thing about Latkes is that they are not popular in Israel. In Israel, you will find plenty of jelly-donuts. Latkes (similar to potato pancakes) are cooked in animal fat, which was never in abundance in Israel. But in Eastern Europe it is used all of the time

 

  • Lastly, this year Hanukkah will end at sundown on December 10. Advent ends on Christmas Eve.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Jacques de Jesus; a little-known Hero from the Holocaust

Father Jacques de Jesus—–public domain

By Larry Peterson

He was born in Normandy, France in 1900 and he was named Lucien Bunel. His dad, who was a deeply humble man and dedicated himself as much as could to helping others, was an inspiration to his son and young Lucien felt the call to the priesthood.

Ordained a priest in 1925, Father Lucien worked in the Diocese of Rouen and became a noted speaker and teacher. He also maintained a deep interior prayer life. But he yearned for more.

Growing up Lucien believed he was being called to join the Trappists. However, he wanted something that included the prayer life combined with helping others. He was introduced to the Discalced Carmelites and discovered a tradition that fulfilled his needs.  In 1930 he joined the  Carmelites in Lille, France and took the name he would henceforth be known by; Jacques de Jesus.

Pere (Father) Jacques de Jesus was asked if he would consider opening a school for boys. He had not yet taken his final vows but he readily agreed. He managed to open Petit College Sainte-Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon in 1933. He took his final vows in 1934 and immediately became the headmaster at the school.

As Nazi persecution continually grew, Pere Jacques became more and more upset and disgusted with the action of the Third Reich. He decided that he would make his school a haven for young men seeking to avoid service in the German army and also to harbor Jewish boys. He also became part of the French Resistance.

In 1943 Pere Jacques, using false names, enrolled three Jewish boys;  Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser.  He also hid a  fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, by saying he was just a worker at the school. He went a step further and hired the noted botanist, Lucien Weil, as a teacher.

Pere Jacques was informed upon by nearby neighbors who greatly feared the Nazis and did not want to get in trouble for not saying anything. Consequently, Pere Jacques and his three Jewish students were arrested on January 15, 1944. Lucien Weil, his wife and his mother were also arrested at their home on the same day.

The German SS deported the three boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz on February 3, 1944. All of them died there.  Pere Jaques was imprisoned in various concentration camps until finally being placed in the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. He quietly went about doing his priestly best to raise the morale of the prisoners.

When all of the priests at the camp were moved to Dachau, Jacques hid his priestly identity and was left behind. He was the only Catholic priest for the 20, 000 prisoners still at Mauthausen-Gusen.

The camp population included many Polish citizens and Pere Jacques learned enough Polish to be able to minister to the mostly Catholic prisoners. They called him Pere Zak and grew to love the humble priest. When learning that he was also part of the French Resistance, he gained the respect of all the prisoners.

Sick with tuberculosis, Pere Jacques was getting weaker and weaker. In May of 1945, American troops liberated Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. Pere Jacques was down to 75 pounds and died in an Austrian hospital a few weeks later.

In 1985 Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Center, honored pere Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to hide Jewish students from the Nazis.

Pere Jacques de Jesus’ cause for sainthood has been started. This is the prayer for his canonization:

Prayer of canonization

 Father infinitely good, You gave to Father Jacques de Jésus

The desire to love you and to love all men, From a heart without sharing.

You have showered him with gifts for the education of the young,

You chose him as a priest,  You called him in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

In the inhuman distress of the deportation camps,  You made him a burning witness of faith and love,

Until the total gift of his life.

Give us the graces we ask you,  By his intercession and, if that is your will,

Glorify him in your church,  By your Son Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

                         ©Larry Peterson 2018

All Saint’s Day: Never Forget that Our Christian Roots are Embedded in Judaism

All Saint’s Day                                         achristianpilgrim.com

by Larry Peterson

My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me how to be  Catholic. He is doing this by living in my mind via memories of his personal Christianity in action.  The Feast of All Saint’s Day flips a switch that turns on one of these memories. That is also when I began to embrace the fact that the vast majority of the first Catholics were born and raised Jewish .

I remember that Friday night long ago. We lived in the south Bronx in a five-story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four-room apartment and we never even considered that it was small and cramped. The neighborhood was the same for all families except for those living up on the upscale Grand Concourse. That’s where the “money” people lived in buildings with courtyards and sometimes the courtyards even had fish ponds in the middle.

It was still September and summer had not yet left. Back then no-one had air-conditioning and everyone kept their windows open praying for a breeze. The screaming started a little past midnight. It filled the back alleyway and floated unmercifully upward and into the open windows. Our apartment was directly above the window from where the screams were coming and on this night they seemed exceptionally close and  blood-curdling. Pop got up and my brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

We watched as Pop left our apartment and headed down the stairs. We followed and quietly sat on the upper landing stretching our necks so our heads would make a right-angle turn to see down and around the landing below. We watched our father, who without hesitation, walked over to the apartment door and began banging on it with his fist.

This was the apartment of Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. Leo was the landlord and he owned the building. No one dared complain to the landlord about noise coming from his apartment even if it was about midnight screams that curled the hairs on your neck. But Pop was not going down to complain. He was going to see if he could help. He had this way about him and sometimes he was uncommonly instinctive.

The door opened and Leo poked his head out. Pop started talking to him and, incredibly, Leo just stood there listening. The man was short, maybe 5’2″, he had a droopy mustache that needed tending and his sagging shoulders said he was obviously worn out. He held a pipe off to the side of his head and his face seemed to be saying, “Please help me.”

Pop continued talking for a minute or so and suddenly Leo Rabinowitz, the “feared” Jewish landlord, buried his head in my father’s chest and began crying unashamedly. Danny and I were stunned. Then Pop, his arm around Leo’s shoulder, disappeared into Leo’s apartment.

We both went back into our apartment and lay there conjecturing away at all the possibilities that may have caused this unexpected union between a landlord and tenant, a Jewish man and a Catholic man, between two people who were neighbors but were not really except for location and who had nothing in common.

Within fifteen minutes Bobby, Johnny, and Carolyn had joined Danny and I in the conversation and by the time our five imaginations extrapolated each other’s ideas, we “knew”  that Leo Rabinowitz was a communist spy and he had somehow killed our father and disposed of his dismembered body in the coal furnace down in the basement.

As we plotted our course of action Pop came back into our apartment. It had been a few hours, or at least it seemed that way. Pop just walked through our bedroom and headed to the back room moving ever so slowly. When he paused by his workbench he sat on the stool, lowered his head into his upraised fingers, took in a deep breath and sighed. Then, ever so quietly, he pulled his beads from his pocket and started praying the rosary. None of us interrupted and I think we all just fell asleep.

We found out about those screams the next morning. Sophie was having nightmares all right, nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death with rifle butts by the Nazis, who also insisted that the boy’s mom and dad watch as they killed their sons. To this day I cannot imagine what those moments in their lives were like.

They were loving parents and were rendered helpless as godless people murdered their children, enjoying inflicting their heinous butchery on innocents. The ultimate torture distributed by the Nazis was allowing Leo and Sophie to watch. Sophie’s screams told that story night after night, year after year after year. How ghastly and cruel those memories had to be.

All Saint’s Day is celebrated on November 1. The gospel reading for the day is from Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes. When the priest reads them the switch will flip and I will go back to that Friday once again. It always happens. I hear #2,  “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted”; then #5, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”; and #7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Pop lived all three of those Beatitudes that Friday night long ago. He mourned with his Jewish neighbors, he was merciful to them and he brought a sense of peace into their lives. My gift was being able to remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbors and how they became friends. I also remember that because of that friendship Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz became friends with other folks in the building and in the neighborhood.

My final lesson in all of this was when Pop told me to get out my missal and read the Roman Canon. I did and began reading., silently. “Out loud”, he said. I paused for a moment and looked at him. He said, “Just do it.”

I did until I got to the part that read, “whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary—, and blessed Joseph, her spouse—“, etc. “Okay, stop,” he said. “Tell me about all those people.”

“What about them?” I don’t understand.”

“Never ever forget that almost all of them were Jewish, including Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Our roots are deeply embedded in Judaism. We Catholic/Christians and Jews are joined at the spiritual hip “in perpetuity”. Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz are our brother and sister too. Never forget that.”

I never did.

Forever Connected                                          http://www.cafepress.com

 

copyright©Larry Peterson 2014

Our Lady of Sion—aka The Queen of the Jews–The Unbreakable Bridge between Catholicism and Judaism

courtesy (fair deal)
Our Lady of Sion & the Jewish man, Alphonse Ratisboone     (his brother, Theodore was not present)

By Larry Peterson

The roots of Our Lady of Sion go back to the fourth or fifth century. Sion (or Zion) is a place in the Diocese of Toul in France where Christianity in the future nation took root. Writings from a Christian named Nicetius were found there, and it is recorded that a church dedicated to Our Lady was the center of a very large Catholic community. The Basilica of Our Lady of Sion is built over the ruins of a temple that had been dedicated to an unknown Roman goddess.

But we must leap forward to the 19th century to grab hold of what this all means today. The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion was actually two Catholic religious congregations founded in Paris. Two brothers, Theodore Ratisboone and Alphonse Ratisboone (some spell it Regensburg) founded the order for Religious Sisters in 1843 and the order for Catholic Priests and Brothers in 1852.

What intrigued me so much was their mission statement—“to witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people and to hasten the fulfillment of the promises concerning the Jews and the Gentiles.” (Constitution, article 2).

 I must admit that as a cradle Catholic who is the maternal grandson of a Hebrew man, and a descendant of  family members killed in the Holocaust, I was stunned to learn of The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion. Imagine, a Catholic organization dedicated to Jewish people. I had no idea.

God sure “writes straight with crooked lines” doesn’t he? The Ratisboone brothers and founders of the order, were Jews.  They were continually being drawn to the faith but Theodore converted first. Seeing some of his friends embrace Catholicism and after studying and reading about the faith, he was baptized in 1826. He was not done with his conversion. He was ordained a priest in 1830.

Alphonse was much more reluctant to embrace and believe in Jesus Christ. But on January 20, 1842, while on a trip to Rome before getting married, he happened to visit the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. It was here that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him. He hurriedly contacted Theodore and told him. Both brothers believed that God was calling them especially since Alphonse had been personally converted by none other than Our Lady. They both strongly felt that they had been called to bring their fellow Jews to Christianity.

Alphonse was baptized and entered the Society of Jesus where he spent several years. In 1843 Theodore founded a small community of women who wanted to join him in his ministry of teaching the faith to Jewish children.  In 1850, Alphonse, with permission from  Pope Pius IX  and the Superior General of the Jesuit Order, left the Jesuits and joined with his brother to work together. Side by side, in 1852, they founded the Congregation of the Fathers of Our Lady of Sion.

Eventually, Theodore Ratisboone wanted to continue his work of converting fellow Jews to Christianity. In 1842 while visiting Rome, Pope Gregory XVI, blessed Theodore’s ministry. He immediately formed a school for Jewish children in a Christian setting. As God will provide, two Jewish sisters came to him for spiritual advice. They converted to Christianity and became the starting point for the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, found in 1847.

Alphonse moved to the Holy Land and in 1858 and, on the sight of the ruins of an old church, built and orphanage and vocational school which the Sisters ran. These schools were open to all children regardless of creed. In 1874, Alphonse began construction on the Ratisboone Monastery on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  It was a school for boys and today is a branch of the Salesian Pontifical University.

Today the Congregations of Our Lady of Sion are spread around the world from Australia to England, to Istanbul, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro and even Kansas City, Missouri.

Not bad for a couple of Jewish converts. Not bad at all.

At this time there is no cause pending for either of the Ratisboone brothers to have their causes for sainthood begun. But there are those who are diligently trying to get the process started.

Hanukkah—We Catholic/Christians might give this sacred Jewish Holiday more respect.

By Larry Peterson

 

The great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th.  In 2017 there is also another great religious holiday that commences on that same day. We Catholic/Christians hardly ever notice this day even though it is the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday in the United States. I refer to Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah). Hanukkah ends at sundown on Wednesday, December 20.

 

Virtually all of our faith is rooted in Judaism. Jesus was called “rabbi” and taught in the temple. St. Joseph was a “righteous Jew” who practiced his faith diligently abiding by the rules as best he could.  Our dear Blessed Mother was a Jewish girl given over to the temple hierarchy at the age of three. When the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer #1) is used by the priest offering Mass, “Abraham, our father in faith” is mentioned right after the consecration. Yes, our Catholic faith is most definitely descended from Judaism (no need to mention the Apostles).

 

 

What follows is about Hanukkah and some of the history and customs behind it. It is also meant to question why so many of us Catholic/Christians do not appreciate the profound connection between Judaism and Catholicism. Let us begin with the Bible and John 10: 22-35. This begins with the Feast of the Dedication. This is known today as the Festival of Lights aka Hanukkah. The last verse has Jesus saying, “—and scripture cannot be set aside—.”  By saying this He ties the Old Testament to Himself.

 

In our Catholic Bible the Old Testament, 1 Maccabees 4:59,  reads; “Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days from the 25th day of  the month of Chislev.” This is today’s Hanukkah. And John has Jesus referring to it in his gospel. Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah. It follows that if Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, we Catholic/Christians should honor it even if it is simply done in our own quiet way.

 

Here is some basic information about Hanukkah:

 

.Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights”. This holiday celebrates the rededication of the Temple after Judah Maccabee and his brothers liberated Judea from pagan domination.

 

.The Menorah is a candelabra with a new candle lit each day of the celebration. The Catholic connection to Hanukkah lies in the fact that this Holiday comes from 1 and 2 Maccabees. These books are not in the Hebrew Bible or the Protestant (King James) Bible. But they are in the Catholic and Orthodox Bible.

 

.“Gelt” is Yiddish for coins. Gelt  has been part of Hanukkah observances for centuries. Today, chocolate is often substituted for gold coins. There are those who say that chocolate gelt is similar to the European tradition of exchanging gold-covered chocolate coins in honor of the miracles of St. Nicholas. (Christmas and Hanukkah have been tied together).

 

.In 2013, the holidays of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah joined together on the same day, November 28. It was so unusual for this to happen they even had turkey-shaped menorahs in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. For many of today’s millennials, they may still be around when this clash of Holidays happens again. That will happen on November 27, 2070. As for me, I probably will miss that parade.

 

The following two (or three) blessings are said each night before the menorah is lit. Note the parallels to our Offertory prayers said over the bread and wine.

 

1) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

 

2) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.

 

3) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

 

HAPPY HANUKKAH and MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017

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