My Father Died Long Ago—but His Example Lives On

By Larry Peterson

Sometimes things happen that you never forget

I remember that Friday night long ago very well. The screaming started about midnight. It was September, and the windows were still open because it was hot, and the screaming seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up, and my brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

“Down there” was the apartment of Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. We got up and followed him. We watched as, without hesitating, Dad walked up to Leo’s apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened. Leo poked his head out, and just like that, my father was embracing this little Jewish man who, crying unashamedly, had buried his head in Dad’s chest.

My brother and I had crouched down, and peeking from the landing above, were stunned. Leo was the landlord, and everyone seemed to be afraid of him. Not Dad. He disappeared into that apartment with Leo Rabinowitz and did not leave for several hours.

Nightmares created years before

Sophie Rabinowitz was a tormented woman who suffered from horrible nightmares. These nightmares were created years before, when her two boys, ages 12 and 9, were clubbed to death by the Nazis. As her children were brutally beaten, their killers made Sophie and Leo watch. They had begged their captors to kill them and spare their children, but the Nazis tortured the helpless parents further by laughing and allowing them to live.

Try as I may, I cannot imagine what those moments were like for them. Sophie and Leo  were loving parents, and soldiers were forcing them to stand there, defenseless and powerless, as they clubbed their children to death. And why did they do this?  Simply because they were Jewish. Such evil can only come into people and be accepted by them if Satan has successfully won them over.

My father has been dead for many years, but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? Through the gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12—aka The Sermon on the Mount. This is when Jesus, a Jewish man, gave the world The Beatitudes. The one that always grabs me is #2, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

They had never mourned their boys

As my memory travels back in time I remember how a Catholic man had gone to his Jewish neighbor and how they became friends. My father became their ‘comforter’ by reaching out with an impromptu embrace and initiating the grieving process for Leo and Sophie. They had never mourned their boys and tried to go on living. It was an effort in futility. But this proved to be the moment when they began confronting what had happened to them. Ironically, reliving the sadness and horror also released a sense of beauty that shone through it, for it united them in a renewed marital bond that had been missing for nearly twenty years. They now became each other’s strength.

We Catholics read and hear during the Mass from the Roman Canon (aka First Eucharistic Prayer). the following words said by the priest before the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, —–and all your saints—” 

I ask you, were not all of those mentioned Jewish? Yes, they were. There is no denying this fact. They are all canonized saints, and their Judaism was always part of who they were. It all extrapolated into who we Catholics/Christians are today. We Jews and Christians are joined forever by Spiritual DNA.

It is now 2022, and Judaism and Christianity are under attack all over the world, including in the United States of America. It is in our face. We here, in the USA,  have had the absolute luxury of practicing our religions and worshiping as we so chose for as long as most of us can remember. It is, in my opinion, the greatest freedom given us by the Founding Fathers. We must fight to protect this freedom no matter what the cost.

Of course, there have always been those who have hated someone for being either Jewish or Catholic/Christian. I just wish those folks could have met my dad.

HAPPY FATHER”S DAY  Pops;   Love you

 


What are the origins of Adoration and Benediction ?

Adoration awash in bright lite   no flash used

By Larry Peterson

Growing up and going to Catholic school, we had religion class every day. One thing we all learned about was the “Real Presence.”  There was no doubt in our minds that inside the church, Jesus was truly present “body and blood, soul and divinity. He was inside the tabernacle, and He was waiting for us to “visit” Him. The phrase, “I’m going to pay a visit,” needed no explanation. So when did “visiting Jesus” start and where did Adoration and Benediction come from?

Adoration is a centuries-old practice that evolved from the earliest Christian days when the faithful, upon leaving Mass, brought the leftover consecrated bread home so it could be distributed to the sick and those who were unable to get to Mass (as an EMHC I do something similar today, but I do not take it home).

However, there were times when some of the consecrated bread was saved to distribute to the faithful during the week. This was a time when there were no daily Masses. This leftover consecrated bread had to be kept somewhere worthy of the Son of God. The people would make special places in their homes to keep the consecrated host in repose.

It appears that after Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of the Christians in 313 A.D., construction of churches began in earnest. It was during this time that the Holy Eucharist began being kept in the churches for distribution to the sick. The sacristy was the usual place for repose.

Over the next several centuries, the Eucharist was relocated to the sanctuary near or above the altar. An unexpected result of this was that the faithful were drawn to Christ present and began praying to Him privately.

The Middle Ages is when actual Adoration began to take hold. People were receiving Holy Communion less frequently so the church decreed that people only had to receive Holy Communion once a year. The changing customs and attitudes also saw a separation take place between the altars and the congregation. It seemed that the churches were trying to separate the priest from the people.

Being distanced from the actions on the altar during Mass and combining that with the infrequent reception of Holy Communion gave rise to a new phenomenon; the people began staring and/or gazing at the vessel holding the Blessed Sacrament. Since the people could not receive communion as frequently as they wanted to, they began what became known as “Adoration.” Seeing Christ in the elevated Host oftentimes replaced receiving Holy Communion.

People even started coming to Mass extra early so they could get a good spot to watch the elevation of the Host. This was also when the ringing of the bells at the consecration took hold to alert the people to what was happening. People even timed services so they could go from one church to another to witness the elevation again. It was during his time that the idea of the monstrance began to take hold.

In 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of Corpus Christi be enacted throughout the universal church. Pope Urban passed away before it was implemented, so it was not until 1317 that Pope John XXII, added it to the church calendar. Since the laity was still not receiving frequent communion, this added to the practice of Adoration. Corpus Christi processions followed.

Soon the Holy Eucharist, contained in a monstrance, was being carried by the priest in procession. The procession began led by the clergy and followed by the laity. It  ended with a Benediction. By the 1600s, detailed instructions for holding Benediction were put in place by the church. Eucharistic Adoration can now be traced to the 16th century.  Guidelines were put in place in 1973.

In his 1980 Holy Thursday letter to priests, Dominicae cenae, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship.  And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament…”

 


I am a Grandpa and YES! Just like Francis P. Church, I Believe in Santa, too

A Trip back in Time to when Fairies and Elves and Innocence were embraced by most people both young and old

By Larry Peterson

Most folks do not know much about a man by the name of Francis Pharcellus Church. Heck, most people have never even heard of him. However, to me, he is one of the greatest newspaper editors of all time. That is because he took on a skeptical world and dared try to prove the existence of Santa Claus.

Francis Church was born in Rochester, New York, on February 22, 1839. At the age of 21, he graduated from Columbia College (now Columbia University). Francis had considered a career in law but opted instead for a life in journalism.

During the Civil War, he worked as a war correspondent. Together, with his brother, William, he worked on The Army and Navy Journal.  In 1869 Francis and William launched a literary publication called Galaxy Magazine. Contributors to Galaxy included Mark Twain and Henry James. But it was his position at the  New York Sun that would propel him to fame. And all he had to do was reach into his heart and write what he was feeling and believing.

A letter had arrived at the editorial office of the New York Sun. The letter read: Dear Editor—I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it is so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon  115 W. 95th St.

Francis P. Church just happened to be the lead editorial writer for the paper. He had a reputation as a man who was cynical, was an agnostic, and overall, more or less a grouch. Ironically, he was given the task to answer.

What follows is the exact letter written by Francis Pharcellus Church and printed in The New York Sun on September 21, 1897. It was directed to Virginia O’Hanlon. What follows is only parts of the letter. To see the entire letter just click on the link above.

Dear Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible to their little minds….

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished…

Not believe in Santa Claus! Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world….

Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding…

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives! And he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten time ten thousand years from now , he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 Francis Pharcellus Church, a cynic, and grouch, latched onto a hidden faith and gave Virginia and all those children from 1897 and after, the joy of believing in Santa Claus. I think that Santa is God’s Christmas angel and HE allows him to do his thing every Christmas Eve. Go ahead; I dare you—prove me wrong.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 


They desired to help the poor and their lives connected across the ages–Today they are all saints

   St. Vincent de Paul; Bl. Frederick Ozanam; St. Jeanne Jugan                      public domain

By Larry Peterson

Saint-Servan, France,1839:  On a bitterly cold winter night,  Jeanne Jugan, 47, looked out from her bedroom window and saw a person huddled outside. She went out and somehow managed to carry the shivering woman into her own home and place her in her own bed.

The woman’s name was Anne Chauvin and she was blind, paralyzed and quite old. She was also close to freezing to death. And so it began, for on that very night Jeanne Jugan turned her life to serving God by caring for the elderly poor.

Word spread quickly throughout the small town and before long more elderly sick and poor were being brought to Jeanne. Other women, younger and healthier, were coming to her also. But they were coming to join her in her work. The small group of women grew and became known as The Little Sisters of the Poor.

Forty years, in 1879, there were over 2400 Little Sisters of the Poor in nine countries. That year was also the year that Pope Leo XIII approved the by-laws of the order. Ironically, it was also the same year Jeanne Jugan died at the age of 86. She was canonized a saint on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Jeanne Jugan never knew that when she was founding the Little Sisters of the Poor a young countryman of hers in Paris was responding to God’s flowing graces. Frederick Ozanam was a 20 year old student at the University of Paris. Challenged by his “enlightened” college peers, he embraced their taunts “to practice what you preach”.  So he went out and gave his coat to a beggar.  Then he and his four pals founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. That was in May of 1833.  They named the  society after St.Vincent because he was known for his work with the poor.

Vincent de Paul never knew that 170 years after his death an organization named after him would take up the mantle of helping the poor all over the world. Fred Ozanam died at the age of 40 and was beatified and declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Fred would never know that the organization he had founded would one day work side by side with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their mission of charity toward the elderly poor.

St. Jeanne Jugan could never have known that from the moment she carried Anne Chauvin into her home she would change the world for thousands upon thousands of the sick and disabled elderly. She could never have imagined that in the 21st century her order would be serving the poorest of the elderly in cities all over the United States and in 31 countries around the world.

Blessed Fred would never have imagined that his Society of St. Vincent de Paul would become a worldwide organization with close to a million members helping the needy all over the world. The grand irony is that over the course of several centuries the paths of these three saints have been interwoven dramatically as their followers help the poor, homeless and downtrodden no matter where they may be.

The three saints mentioned here never knew what their simple acts of kindness would lead to. The difference with them was that, unlike most folks, they responded to God’s grace. Jeanne took care of that sickly woman and Fred gave away his coat. Vincent worked with poor tenant farmers and founded the Daughters of Charity.

These three unpretentious, God loving people had two things in common.  First, they embraced God’s grace and followed His call. Secondly, they asked for NOTHING for themselves and welcomed whatever came their way, including poverty. Their legacies live on in the thousands upon thousands of their followers and in all those millions who have been helped by their simple acts of faith. This is a beautiful thing.

As a Catholic I love all of these people and I am proud to consider myself part of their extended family. They set examples for us that we are supposed to emulate. They are our Catholic heroes and therefore members of our Catholic Hall of Fame. They asked for nothing and gave everything. I love being able to talk to them. What I love best is when they talk back. And they do, sooner or later and one way or another.

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne Jugan and Blessed Frederick Ozanam, please keep praying for all of us. And —THANK YOU.

copyright© Larry Peterson 2021


She was executed for loving too much: Meet Sr. Aguchita

Sister Aguchita–                                               she loved too much

By Larry Peterson

Maria Agustina Rivas Lopez was born on June 13, 1920, in Coracora, Peru. She was the oldest of eleven children born to Modesta Lopez de Rivera and Damaso Rivas. They gave their daughter the name of Antonia Luzmilla. Antonia and her siblings had loving and caring parents who taught their children the Catholic faith and its virtues.

Antonia developed a deep love for the poor and, as she grew older, always did her best to help and protect them. She loved harvest time because she could give the poor much more than usual. The country atmosphere was well suited to Antonia as she loved nature with its abundance of plants and farm animals. She also liked helping her mom taking care of the house; no simple task with thirteen people living under one roof.

Antonia’s mom did her best to take her children to Mass every day. It was not always possible, but she sure tried. Her children attended Catechism class in the Parish. Her brother, Caesar, answered the call to become a priest, eventually being ordained a Redemptorist.

In 1938 Antonia was in Lima, visiting her brother, and was already feeling the call to service in the Church. It was during this time she had her first encounter with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Antonia began a vocational discernment with them, which ultimately led her to enter the Congregation  Antonia received her habit and, with it, a new name. From then on, she was known as Maria Agustina, but the sisters would call her Aguchita.

While she was still in her novitiate, her father passed away. Deeply saddened, she continued to move forward with her calling and, on February 8, 1945, professed her first vows. She prayed that she could always work with the poorest of the poor. She was steadfast in her commitment to serve Jesus by serving the poor, and in 1949, she made her Perpetual Profession of Vows. Aguchita had a dream and in it she was in the jungle working with the peasants in the “emergency zone” She was not sure what that meant, but it was real for her.

Aguchita lived for many years in Barrios Altos in Lima. During this time, her mom died. Aguchita worked in many different places, which included learning various jobs. This diversity put her organizational skills on display. leading to varied leadership levels within the Community. This included working with the poor and putting Aguchita in constant contact with young women who needed help.

Aguchita happily lived the charism of Mercy in her community life, always displaying her love and consideration for her Superiors. She always seemed to step in when a sister was ill or on vacation, tend to the sick whenever extra help was needed, assist in setting up meetings and assist wherever else help might be required. She truly loved being Sister Aguchita.

In 1987 Sister Aguchita remembered her dream of being sent to the “emergency zone” in La Florida. The Sisters had been working in the area for eleven years. La Florida had been among the most violent in Peru, and it was home to the poorest of the poor. This area saw constant skirmishes and bloodshed between the Peruvian Armed forces and the guerilla organization known as Shining Light, a Maoist group that hated Christians.

The Sisters knew the risks. They had a saying, “Leave the town or give your life for it.” After prayer and reflection, they choose to “give life” and stay there. Sister Aguchita had, from the moment she arrived in La Florida, devoted herself to the natives extending to them the same love she would give to anyone. She had written, “I was never a respecter of persons,  I loved everyone. To love the poor is to love life. Is to love the God of Life.

Sister Aguchita worked with the Ashaninka tribe, a people who had been almost wiped out in the early twentieth century. Rubber exporters destroyed the forests and brought disease to the natives. .Sister Aguchita spent most of her time working with the young women of the tribe.

On September 27, 1990, members of the guerilla band, Shining Path entered the village. Sister Aguchita was taken outside and stood in front of the villagers. Six of the local natives were also taken out to make examples of. A 17-year-old girl executed Sister by firing seven shots into her with a rifle. Sister Aguchita died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith).

On May 21, 2021, Pope Francis confirmed the martyrdom of Sister Maria Agustina Rivas Lopez, fondly known as “Aguchita” and a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. The date for her Beatification has not been determined.


These six Nuns willingly gave their lives during the Ebola Outbreak of 1995*

Nun Praying                                                                                                public domain

By Larry Peterson

* Pope Francis issued declarations of “Heroic Virtue” for three of the sisters on February 20 and another on March 21. This essay is in two parts: A & B. All of the sisters belonged to the Sisters of the Poor

Sisters of the Poor.” should not be confused with the Little Sisters of the Poor” founded by St. Jeanne Jugan in 1839).

Part A:

The Sisters of the Poor, Palazzolo Institute, was founded in Bergamo, Italy, in 1869, by Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo. Pontifical recognition was given to the order in 1912. Members of the Order take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.  They dedicate their lives in service to the poor and orphaned children. Most are experienced nurses. The sisters serve in some of the world’s most deprived areas, such as Congo, Ivory Coast, and Kenya.

The Sisters of the Poor began their service outside of Italy after World War II. Their first country to go to was China, but that was put on hold after the Communist revolution. They then turned their attention to Africa and, in 1951, went to what was then the Belgian Congo (since then, it has been known as Zaire, and today it is the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

The sisters managed to build a hospital in Kikwit. By 1995 it had grown to have a main building with eleven pavilions. They treated all types of diseases and had 450 beds. The demand was so great most of the time, patients had to sleep two, sometimes three, to a bed. The Sisters from Italy, numbered 58 and 14, were located in Kikwit before the epidemic striking. More than 400 workers and eight doctors made up the staff.

Sister Floralba Rondi was the chief nurse in the operating room at the main hospital. She had been in the country since 1952, a period of more than 43 years.. She was born in Pedrengo, Italy, on December 10, 1924. She had professed her final vows many years earlier.

Sister Floralba had returned to Kikwit in 1994 after working in Kinshasha for six years treating leprosy patients. As the Ebola virus took hold of her, she thought she was coming down with typhoid. She planned to return to Mosang to get back to work with the leprosy patients. Then the vomiting and bloody stools took hold. She died on April 28, 1995. She was 71.

Alessandra Ghilardi, another member of the Sisters of the Poor, was born in Bergamo, Italy, on April 21, 1931. On September 8, 1952, the birthday of the Blessed Mother, she accepted her religious habit and took the name, Sister Clarangela. She was sent to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Trained in obstetrics, she worked her entire ministry in Kikwit, Mossango, and the Tumikia Missions. Sister had spent the last 30 years of her life in Zaire (the Democratic Republic of the Congo). On April 29, 1995, she fell ill. They thought she had a hemorrhagic fever. She died on May 6. Two days later, they discovered it was from Ebola.

Dinarosa Belleri; Born as Teresina, she entered the Sisters of the Poor of the Palazzolo Institute when she was 21 years old. Her first assignment was at a marine hospital in Cagliari. For the next seventeen years, she served in the Mosango Hospital Center. In 1983, she was transferred to Kikwit, where she cared for lepers, tuberculosis victims, and every other illness or injury imaginable. As the Ebola virus took hold of her,  Sister Dinarosa remained in her post. She was determined that she was supposed to be there, just as Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo had taught. She worked until it was impossible to stand. She died from Ebola on May 14, 1995.

Today the Sister of the Poor, Palazzolo Institute, has houses in Peru, Switzerland, Brazil, Italy, the Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Malawi, and Kenya. The Mother House is in Bergamo, Italy, and close to one thousand sisters serve in 103 communities.

We ask Venrable(s) Floralba Rondi; Clarangela Ghilardi, and Dinarosa Belleri, to pray for us all.

 

Part B:

On March 21, 2021, Pope Francis declared three more Sisters of the Poor as women of “Heroic Virtue.” They also were present in the Congo during the Ebola epidemic and died while assisting the sick. They are now also worthy of the title of Venerable:

 

Celeste Ossoli knew from an early age that she wanted to serve God. She had confided to her mother about her vocation.  Her Mom helped her keep the ‘secret.’ They both knew that Celeste’s father would disapprove. When Celeste turned seventeen, she told her father she wanted to become a nun. Her father got angry and slapped her so hard that her tooth was knocked out, and she fell to the ground. After a time, he relented and gave his daughter his permission. She joined the Sisters of the Poor on October 5,1953. From then on, she was known as Sister Annalvira.

Sister Annalvira took her vows at the age of twenty and was sent to the Belgian Congo on November 1, 1961. Sister suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. She fought hard to recover and managed to get into obstetrics school in Rome. She finished and returned to Africa. She worked in the Congo and delivered thirty to forty babies a day. She was honored with a nickname. They called her the “woman of life.”

Sister Annalvira became the Provincial Superior of Africa. The position required her to travel many places to visit the missionary communities. When Ebola struck,  her dear friend, Sister Floralba , was stricken. Sister Annalvira immediately traveled by jeep over 500 km to be with her. Sister Floralba died on April 28, 1995. Sister Annalvira, unable to escape the clutches of Ebola, died on May 23, 1995.

 

Maria Rosa Zorza was born in Palosco, Italy, on October 9, 1943. She was the youngest of seven children, and her mom died when she was only two. She was raised by her maternal grandmother. Maria felt called by God at an early age and entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor on September 1, 1966. She took the name of Sister Vitarosa. She was sent to Milan, where she studied to be a nurse specializing in geriatrics. However,  her deepest wishes were to help take care of the poor children in Africa. -She never stopped trying, and finally, on October 20, 1982, she was sent to Kikwit to work in the civil hospital.

When the Ebola hit, Sister Vitarosa did not seem sick like the others. She was hurrying about doing her best to help the suffering. Asked if she was afraid, she amswered, “Afraid of what?” Then she would sing a song in the language of Kinshasa, “If in the church Jesus Christ calls you, accept to serve Him with all your heart.”     

Sister Vitarosa Zorsa fought the good fight but died from Ebola on May 28, 1995.

 

Anna Sorti was born on June 15, 1947, in Bergamo, Italy. She was the youngest of thirteen children, of whom only seven survived. Her mom and dad died a year apart in 1956 and 1957. The losses caused her much grief, and she fell away from the faith. She began to get in trouble as a teenager, but then she took charge of her life due to the influence of the Sisters of the Poor.   

At the age of nineteen, Anna entered the convent. She took the name of Sister Danielangela and took her temporary vows on September 29, 1968. She professed her perpetual vows in 1974. She was then sent to Milan to study nursing. 

Sister Danielangela Sorti often thought that she might have a short life.  In a letter she wrote on March 23, 1995, she said, “Time passes quickly for everyone, and we must be prepared because we do not know the hour o the day when the Lord can call us.” She finished by writing, “Stay in joy because love asks for love.”

Sister was working in Tumikia but volunteered to go to Mosango the help with the sick there. She contracted Ebola her first night and  was transferred to Kikwit. She died there on May 11, 1995. She was one month shy of her 48th birthday.

We ask Venerable(s) Annalvira Ossoli, Vitaros Zorsa, and Danielangela Sorti, to pray for us all.

 


For Valentine’s day: A Love Story Embraced by the Love of God

By Larry Peterson

It was the spring of 2014. Ed and Cathy Carmello had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year, I think, but we had become good friends. They had met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40. They fell in love and, never having been married, happily “tied the knot.”  They had just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary and were simply enjoying retired life together.

There was a problem. Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly. Cathy had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. She told me about that when she had ‘maybe’ six months to live.   Since I was a prostate cancer survivor and my first wife had died of melanoma, they felt comfortable discussing their cancers with me. They knew I understood.

My daily routine usually starts at around 5:30 a.m. with a two-mile walk. For some reason, on this particular day, I decided to take another walk.  It was on a Thursday afternoon around 4 .p.m. I actually tried to talk myself out of taking this walk but finally “talked” myself into it.  

 Out the door I went and headed down the street.  Cathy and Ed’s house is three down from mine. Ed had a Ford pickup with a cap on the bed. As I passed the truck, I saw Cathy standing on her front lawn supported by her walker.  I could see she was fighting to hold herself up. A bit anxious, I hurried over and said, “Hey, Cathy, what are you doing?  Is everything all right?”

“I was waiting for you, Larry.  I need to talk to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day and you say you were waiting for me?”

“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”

There are times when things happen that cannot be explained. This was one of them. I had a chill run down my back. I really did.  I leaned against the pickup as she leaned heavily on her walker. “You know Ed is dying, right?”

“Yes, Cathy, I know.  We talked about it.  What about your prognosis? Any change?”

She smiled and looked me right in the eye and said, “They told me I only have a few weeks left.”

I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “What can I do?”

They knew that I was Catholic and an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  She told me that they had been non-practicing Catholics and had not been to church in years. Then she asked me if I could bring a priest over. It was time for them to “make things right with God”.  I said, “I will put a call into Father as soon as I get back to the house.”

“Thank you so much.  That is why I was out there waiting for you.”

I simply nodded. She smiled and thanked me, and asked me to come in and see Ed.  We slowly walked back to her house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  Then she mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.

I went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him, allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  I took in a deep breath. (You know, when God is present, sometimes it is hard to breathe).

I called our newly ordained priest, Father Scott. He came over the next day and spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though the two of them were separated by more than 50 years, it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.  

Father heard their confessions, anointed both of them, and gave them Holy Communion. He told them he would come back the first chance he could.  Sunday was Palm Sunday. It was the beginning of Holy Week, and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye. On Palm Sunday, I had the honor of bringing them Holy Communion.

Easter Sunday, I was again privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”  

He turned and looked at his wife, who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet, happy eyes. They stared into each other’s eyes, and I thought they were maybe looking into each other’s souls. It was a moment that was filled with a shared spirituality I had never witnessed before. I could actually feel it. I have no doubt that at that moment Jesus was there with them holding their hands in His.

Ed died the week after Easter.  A week after his funeral Mass, Cathy moved into Hospice House. Her nephew, home on leave from the Air Force for his uncle’s funeral, accompanied her. She lived another two weeks.  

As for me, I thank God for their friendship and for being a part of their final journey.  The love they shared together, and the peace and joy in their hearts as they knowingly approached the end of their lives on earth was so beautiful to watch. I was blessed to have been witness to it. Having faith is truly a beautiful thing.

Wishing all couples  a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY and to those who have lost their spouse (me included) hope you have a heart filled with peace all day long.


A Rare Occurrence—Remembering and Embracing a Homily

Bible and Crucifix               Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

Many love the Mass, and I count myself among them. What transpires during this splendid celebration of life, death, resurrection, and redemption is what we call the Mystery of Faith. We honor the life of Christ; we journey with Him as He is tortured and killed, and we rejoice in His Resurrection, which heralds our salvation. United, we all say in one voice, “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”

As often as possible, I attend daily Mass and have been doing so for many years. I have heard many sermons at these Masses. However, I have something to admit, something I am not proud of; I rarely remember homilies. I do not know why that is. I did some research, and according to the Pew Research Center, the average length of a Catholic homily is 14 minutes. (Mainline Protestants are at 25 minutes; Evangelicals at 39 minutes).

One-third of Catholics say they are “very satisfied” with homilies, while fifty-two percent say they are ‘somewhat satisfied.  Fifteen percent say they are ‘not at all satisfied.” Statistics on those who “did not remember” sermons eluded me. Therefore,  I assume that there are others out there that are in the non-remembering category like me.

Then came Wednesday, September 13, 2020. HALLELUJAH—-a homily that STUCK. And it was about LOVE—and what is the Mass about?  It encompasses the Greatest LOVE. And the purity of it all was simply splendid. It all was because of 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 13:1-13.

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is read in its entirety during this Mass. I will only focus on verses 4 thru 7. This is where Father Kevin (our pastor) tied together these verses that made them (at least for me) most memorable. He presented it in such a way that I now  believe this part of the reading should  be made available to all Catholics, including children, as a tool to teach us what love truly means. I’m a senior citizen and I have heard this reading many times. My wife and I even chose it for a reading at our Nuptial Mass. And the wonder of these words never clicked in for me until Father Kevin gave us this easy technique to use. It was a simple case of adding and subtracting. Let me explain.

The reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 is as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous,  it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Now, here comes the adding and subtracting with the subtracting coming first. What we simply do is take the word LOVE and references to LOVE i.e.: “It is” or “it does not” out of the reading. and replace each removal with our own name. See the sample below. My name, LARRY, will replace the word LOVE.  See what happens.

“LARRY is patient, LARRY is kind. LARRY is not jealous, LARRY is not pompous,  LARRY is not inflated, LARRY is not rude, LARRY does not seek HIS own interest, LARRY is not quick-tempered, LARRY  does not brood over injury, LARRY does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. LARRY  bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The short reading about LOVE becomes a personal self-help tool. Having your name replace the abstract word, LOVE, might help us refocus, get our bearings, check our emotions, and remind us how God wants us to be. He wants us to be like Him, and God is LOVE. Imagine having this for not only yourself but also your children. A printed card posted on the fridge with little Jack’s name or his sister Sally’s name written in place of the word LOVE could be a reference point. “Okay, kids, enough! Go read the cards. See who you really are.”

This could be our personal reality check about Jesus and LOVE. After a while, it would stick inside all our heads. We adults might have business-size cards in our pockets or wallets with this printed on it. If you are having a trying moment, reach for your card, and read it.

Interestingly, the Responsorial Psalm for the day was Psalm 33. “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.”  Yes, that is us and being counted among the chosen requires all the self-help tools we can have. One final thought, I timed it , and it only took me fifteen seconds to read it.

Semper meminisse, est amor Dei   (Always remember, God is Love)

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Anti-Semitism / Anti-Christianism: Equal Partners in Hate

fire, hate

By Larry Peterson

Too often throughout history man has allowed hate to control his actions.  Anti-Semitism is a hate that has been around for far too long.

My empathy for the Jewish people began when I was a twelve-year-old, but the journey wasn’t completed until about five years ago. I now I harbor a sense of “passion” about anti-Semitism.  It is an evil bound at the hip with anti-Christianism.

Growing up in the Bronx

I was born and raised Catholic. The Jews were always ‘those other people.’ Yes, I know, Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the apostles, et al, were all Jewish. But as a youngster, I never cared about that or even really thought about it.

I grew up in the South Bronx, in a mostly Catholic-Irish/German/Polish neighborhood. But there were some Jewish families in the neighborhood, too.  The Catholic kids went to Catholic school and Mass while the Jewish kids went to public school and synagogue.  Our social lives at school and church and synagogue were quite different and this caused an invisible separation among us. That was just the way it was.  But there was no hate present.  We were not anti-Semitic.  We bore them no ill-will and to the best of my knowledge they felt the same way toward us.

As such, the first real experience I had with our Jewish neighbors impacted me significantly.  It occurred when I was about twelve years old. I remember very well that Friday night so long ago. It was September, and the screaming started at about midnight. The windows were still open because it was hot, but the wailing seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up, and my seven-year-old brother, Danny, whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”

Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz

“Down there” was the apartment of Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. We got up and followed him. Dad walked down the flight of stairs and up to Leo’s apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened.

Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who, crying unashamedly, buried his head in Dad’s chest. My brother and I were stunned.  Leo was our landlord and everyone in the building seemed to be afraid of him. Not Dad. Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo and did not leave for several hours.

When Dad came back up to our apartment, Danny and I were waiting for him. We wanted to know what happened. Dad took a deep breath and began to explain.  As he did, ‘those people’ in the neighborhood morphed into real people.  Two of them were named Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.

Sophie Rabinowitz had been having nightmares that were created years before. Dad took us back to 1943, and a city called Krakow  The Nazis occupied Krakow.

Sophie’s continuing nightmares were of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis.  Leo and Sophie had been forced to watch as their children were horrendously murdered.  Leo and Sophie begged their captors to kill them and spare their children, but the Nazis tortured the parents further by allowing them to live.

Try as I may, I cannot imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their children as godless people clubbed them to death simply because they were Jewish. Such evil can only come into people from the very bowels of Hell itself.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

My father has been dead for many years, but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? Through the gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12 – The Sermon on the Mount. This is when Jesus, a Jewish man, gave the world The Beatitudes. The one that always grabs me is #2, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” That is what my father did on that night so long ago. The lesson stayed with me and it proved to be profound many years later.

I love my faith and use it frequently as my steadfast companion. I am always ready to lean on it, and I often do. Today I find myself sickened by the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping our nation and other parts of the world. My first thoughts go back to Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz. My own people are being defiled by those consumed by hatred towards people they do not know.

Note that I just called them “my own people.” That is because they are my people. Let me explain.

Genealogy

Our maternal Grandmother was an immigrant from Austria who arrived here as a teenager in 1908. We kids grew up with Grandma living with us, and we took her for granted. We gave no thought as to where she came from, or what her life had been like.  She was just always there. There was never a man in her life.  We never even thought to ask “what happened to Grandpa?”

Grandma died and Mom and dad passed on too, and we never had a chance to ask them about Grandpa.  There had never been any mention of him at all.  The questions only came after we grew up.  I wrote a book about it a few years ago. (If you are interested in reading the story, the book is The Priest and the Peaches, available from Amazon, HERE.)

Our feeble search for Grandpa became virtually non-existent.  Years went by with no information.  But you never know how things will turn out.

About five years ago, I received a message out of the blue on Facebook.  It was from my long lost cousin, Vicki (that reconnect is a story for another time). She had been on a “quest” and managed to locate me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, after almost 40 years, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected.

Vickie had tenaciousness that none of her siblings or cousins possessed. She had plunged into the murky waters of genealogy and found our long, lost grandfather. His name was Isidore Schul.  He was a Hebrew man from Krakow, the very same city Leo and Sophie were from.  Mom’s dad, our Grandpa, was Jewish.  The immigration and naturalization papers all confirmed it. He made it to America in 1907. Just like that, I felt connected to Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.

Jesus was a Jew

I have written a number of times about how the very first Catholic/Christians were Jewish. Jesus was a Jewish man.  His mom, our sweet Blessed Mother, was Jewish. His step-dad, St. Joseph was Jewish, his apostles were Jewish, and many of His first followers were Jewish. Many of  these Jewish/Christians died for following and proclaiming Jesus Christ. They were martyrs for their new faith.

Understanding my heritage caused a transformation of sorts. I now embrace in my own heart the concept of my Jewish connection. My maternal grandfather was a Hebrew man from Krakow, the same place Leo and Sophie’s children were butchered.  He was the only one on his side of OUR family who made it to America.  What we have discovered is that the rest of OUR relatives from his side died in the Holocaust.

We have no way of knowing the fate of our great grandparents, Simon and Regina Schul. Either they died before the death camps began or died in one of them. Now, when I read or see programs about the Holocaust, it has a whole different meaning for me. Members of my family were killed there. It is almost impossible for me to describe.

During the Holocaust, supposedly civilized people, both men, and women, willingly went about participating in the systematic destruction of close to 12 million people, including six million Jews. Their leaders wanted to eliminate Judaism from the face of the earth. And the ‘”good” non-Jewish, Aryan citizens did as the authorities ordered. They “followed orders” and they almost succeeded in their quest.

A Spiritual DNA

I have never understood such hate but I know, too, that anti-Semitism will likely continue unabated. Today, its ‘blood’ relative is a monster known as anti-Christianism.  It’s now rivaling anti-Semitism for world dominance.

When you think about it, it was inevitable that Judaism and Christianity would be defiled and denigrated together.  The worldwide hatred of Jews and Christians will continue, and we are now joined together in this hatred.  Thomas Merton once said, “If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.”

We Catholics read and hear during Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass from the Roman Canon the following words said by the priest before the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles . . .” 

Were not all of those mentioned Jewish? Yes, they were. There is no denying this fact. And they are all canonized saints.  Their Judaism was always part of who they were, and it all extrapolated into who we Catholic/Christians are today. A kind of Spiritual DNA joins Jews and Christians together forever.

Satan is Hate

Satan rules hell. He put himself there, and his followers plunged right in with him.  When I bring Holy Communion to someone, the first prayer I say is, “We come to know and believe that God is Love. And he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”

Satan is the opposite of love. He is hate. And those who choose to embrace “hate” embrace Satan, with Satan heartily embracing them back. This war between Good and Evil will continue until the God of Love decides to end it.  We, as believers, must fight for the God of Love, no matter what the cost, up to and including our lives.

It is 2020, and both Judaism and Christianity are under severe attack in the United States of America. It is in our face. We here, in the USA, have had the absolute luxury of practicing our religions and worshiping as we so choose for as long as we all can remember. I think it is the greatest freedom the Founding Fathers gave us.

Still, even that freedom is under assault as the pandemic gives the secularists in power the authority to order churches closed while allowing casinos and race-tracks to remain open. However, we have a most potent weapon against secularism. It is the Rosary. We should pray our Rosary every day for our nation. It is a weapon that Satan cannot overcome.

SHALOM and PEACE BE WITH YOU!


Blessed Titus Brandsma—The Miracle to advance him to Sainthood may have Occurred in Florida

Blessed Titus Brandsma    en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Anno Sjoerd Brandsma was born in the Province of Friesland, located in the Netherlands in 1881. His father, Titus Brandsma, and his mom, Tjisje Postma, ran a small dairy farm and were devout Catholics, part of the minority in the strongly Calvinist region. They had six children; four daughters and two sons.

Titus and his wife worked very hard at encouraging their children to love the Lord and to honor their faith.  Their dedication paid off. All, except one of the daughters, entered religious life. Three sisters became nuns, and Anno and his brother became priests.

The Brandsma brothers both wanted to become Franciscans. Anno’s brother entered the Franciscan minor seminary first. This is where boys, feeling the call to the priesthood, could begin their priestly journey. Those heeding that call were admitted here if they were between the ages of eleven to seventeen..

When Anno, nicknamed ‘Shorty,” developed intestinal health problems, his condition prevented him from becoming a Franciscan. Undeterred, he joined the Carmelite Order at Boxmeer, Netherlands, taking the name of Titus in honor of his father. He made his first vows in 1899 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1905.

Father Titus was a gifted academic. After his ordination, he was sent to Rome. Although suffering through several bouts of illness, he managed to earn his Doctorate in Divinity from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The year was 1909, and he was 28 years old. Also, Father Tituss learned and spoke Italian, Frisian, Dutch,  and English. He could also read Spanish. He translated the works of St Teresa of Avila from Spanish to Dutch and had them published.

Father Titus moved on and taught at the Carmelite Seminary at Oss, Netherlands. He became the editor of a local daily newspaper in 1919,  and was easily recognizable as the “short priest with the cigar in his mouth.” He became a widely traveled orator, journalist, and author. In 1932 he was named Rector Magnificus of Catholic University in the Netherlands. To top it all off and even though occupied with so many responsibilities, he still managed to become one of the most popular confessors on campus. He also conducted a speaking tour throughout the United States in 1935.

Something else happened in 1935.  Father Titus Brandsma came to the attention of the Nazis. He had started his anti-Nazi actions by writing against the anti-Jewish laws. He wrote that no Catholic publication could publish Nazi propaganda and still call itself Catholic. The attention paid to him by the Nazis dramatically increased.

The Gestapo was now following Father Titus continually. Wherever he went or whatever he did, the always aware Gestapo made their presence known. One day, Father “Shorty,” his ever-present cigar stuck between his teeth, was on a mission to deliver a letter from the Conference of Catholic Bishops to the editors of Catholic newspapers. The letter ordered these publications not to print official Nazi documents. (a new “law” passed by the Nazis demanded they do this) and Father Titus had delivered the letter to fourteen editors when the Gestapo arrested him. The date was January 19, 1942, at the Boxmeer monastery.

Father Titus was moved from prison to prison until finally, on June 19, 1942, he was imprisoned in Dachau. This was the Nazi’s first concentration camp, and it became known as the “priests barracks.”  The reason for that was because over 2500 priests and religious were confined there.

Father’s health quickly deteriorated at Dachau. The lack of food, daily beatings, harsh, unimaginable, living conditions combined to break a person quickly. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he was so sick that he was transferred to the camp “hospital.”  On July 26, 1942, a camp nurse was ordered to give him an injection of carbolic acid. Father Titus handed the woman his Rosary. He said to her, “What an unfortunate girl you are. I shall pray for you.”

The nurse did her “work,” and Father Titus Brandsma died a martyr for the faith. Forty-three years later, the same nurse was at Venerable Titus Brandsma’s beatification ceremony. She testified to this happening. She also said that his actions brought her back to the faith. Father Titus Brandsma was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on November 3, 1985.

We should all note well that Blessed Titus is still busy working in the 21st century. His brother Carmelite, Father Michael Driscoll, has a special connection to Blessed Titus. In 2004 Father Driscoll was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma*. He invoked Blessed Titus asking for his intercession The story of Father Driscoll’s miraculous recovery is at the following link.

https://aleteia.org/blogs/the-anchoress/priest-cured-of-melanoma-credits-miracle-by-bl-titus-brandsma-murdered-by-nazis/

Blessed Titus Brandsma, please pray for us all.

 

*(I know how deadly this cancer can be. My wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma in April of 2002. She passed away on April 4, 2003).

copyright©L:arry Peterson 2020