These Three Nurses accepted Martyrdom rather than Deny their Catholic Faith

By Larry Peterson

This is about three young women. They were all Red Cross nurses but had been mistaken for Catholic nuns. The year was 1936, and the Civil War in Spain was raging. The Catholic clergy was a prime target for the government militia. The three nurses were taken prisoner by the rebel soldiers.

The innocent women, who were Catholic,  had come to help and treat the sick and dying no matter what side they were on. It was all about taking care of those in need. Inspired by their love for Jesus, they were simply following His way, demonstrating love and kindness the way Jesus taught. Even though they were not nuns, they loved their faith deeply and were not about to denounce it.

The three ladies were beaten, tortured, and treated in the most degrading and heinous ways imaginable. This cruel treatment continued all through the night and then, for the grand finale, they were shot to death. Their names were Maria Pilar Gullon Yturriaga, age 25;  Octavia, Iglesias Blanco, age 42; and Olga Perez-Monteserin Nunez, age 23.  

After inflicting their degrading and painful acts upon the women, their torturers demanded that they renounce their Catholic faith. Exhibiting unbelievable courage and saying over and over, “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long live Christ the King”), they died “in odium Fidei” (“in hatred of the Faith”).

  • Nurse Maria Pilar Gullon was born on May 29, 1911, in Madrid, Spain. Her mom and dad were devout Catholics, and Maria became a member of Catholic Action and the Daughters of Mary in Astorga, Spain.  She taught catechism and worked with the poor and the sick. But her calling was to nursing, and she became a Red Cross Nurse and wound up at the front during the Spanish Civil War. She was captured by the militia and (as mentioned) died a martyr’s death on October 28, 1936.
  • Nurse Octavia Iglesias Blanco was born on November 30, 1894, in Astorga, Leon, Spain. At age 42, she was the oldest of the three women and tried her best to be the “big sister” as they were beaten and violated. They apparently all stuck together as best they could because they all died the same way, “in odium fidei” never giving  up to the evil being showered upon them.
  • Nurse Olga Perez-Monteserin Nunez was born on March 16, 1913, in Paris, France. At the age of seven, she moved to  Astorga, Spain with her parents. At the age of 23, she was the “baby” of the group but just as determined and dedicated to helping the sick, wounded, and dying as her older nursing sisters. When she reported for duty at the Red Cross headquarters she was assigned to the front, the same as Nurse Maria and Nurse Octavia.

Prior to their Beatification Ceremony on May 29, 2021, Bishop Jesus Fernandez Gonzalez of Astorga said, “These martyrs were not linked to either side—the Red Cross went wherever it was summoned, regardless of who was in control. Nor did they carry weapons or even use words to attack anyone. They were simply moved by human compassion and Christian charity, knowing the risks and dangers when signing up as volunteers.”

Bishop Fernando Gonzalez also said that the three women had clung to their crosses and forgiven their executioners, offering a “model of the Christian lay vocation.”

The Bishop continued by saying, “Although they were given the opportunity to apostatize, they did not do so. They were people with their whole lives ahead—only a great hope could have enabled them to renounce it, and only a great love could have sustained such hope. The testimony of martyrs offers a lifeline, keeping us afloat in the truth that liberates,”

The Beatification ceremony took place on Saturday, May 29, 2021, at Santa Maria  Cathedral in Astorga.  The celebrant representing Pope Francis was Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saint’s Causes. The newly Beatified women were originally buried in a mass grave at their execution site. They were re-interred at the Cathedral in Astorga in 1948.


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.


Sister Maria Laura Mainetti; murdered in a ritual act of satanism, will be Beatified.

They all (her killers) said she kept saying, “Lord, forgive them.”

Sister Maria Laura Mainetti                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Teresina Elsa Mainetti was born in Colico, Italy, on August 20, 1939. She felt the calling to dedicate her life to helping others from when she was in grade school. Staying true to herself, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Cross, in Rome, Italy, on August 22, 1957. Teresina had just turned 18 years old. She took the name, Sister Maria Laura.

Sister Maria studied hard and dedicated her life to children, young people, and families in the towns surrounding Vasto, Rome, and Parma. She moved to Chiavenna in 1984. Once there, she quickly became known for her love and commitment to the homeless youth and poor people of the area. Her ministry to children as a catechist and spiritual leader added to her reputation.

On the evening of June 3, 2000, Sister Maria Laura Mainetti was at home in her convent when she received a phone call from one of her former catechism students. Sister Maria was the Mother Superior of the convent, which specialized in helping teenagers in trouble. The girl was calling, asking Sister for help. She said she had been raped and was pregnant. Frightened and alone, she said, was considering having an abortion. She asked Sister if she could meet with her to talk. Sister agreed, and the girl told her she would call her back with a time and place.

The girl called back on June 6 and told Sister Maria she had run away from home and would she please come to see her. She wanted to meet Sister in Marmitte dei Giganti Park at 10 p.m. Sister agreed. It was not unusual for her to go out at night like this as she was always available to assist young people in trouble.

The girl who met her was Milena De Giambattista. The two walked together over to the park where Milena’s two friends, Ambra Gianasso, and Veronica Pietrobelli, joined them. All four walked into the park and headed to a secluded area. When they arrived there, they immediately made Sister Maria kneel on the ground. They then began screaming and cursing at her and smacking her head.  De Giambattista began beating Sister Maria with a brick while Gianasso started smashing sister’s head into a wall next to where they had stopped.

They had only just begun. Then they took turns stabbing Sister Maria with a kitchen knife. Their intention was to each stab Sister six times for a total of eighteen stab wounds, which would be three sixes, or 666, the number of the beast. But they stabbed her nineteen times, one too many, which “ruined” their ritual.

The next morning someone out for an early morning walk discovered Sister Maria’s brutalized body. In her hands were clumps of one of her attacker’s hair. As the police began their investigation, a witness stepped forward and said that he had seen the three girls and Sister Maria together on the night of June 6.

The police monitored the girl’s phones, and in one of the calls, two of the girls began discussing the murder. Three weeks after the crime had been committed, the three girls were arrested. Two of the girls were seventeen, and one was sixteen. None of them had any prior history of violent behavior or of being in any trouble. They all came from upstanding, middle-class families.

At first, they said that killing Sister was “a game.” They finally admitted it was a satanic sacrifice. After searches in the young peoples’ homes, the police were able to discover the existence of a satanic subculture.  These three young women, all teenagers, had aligned themselves with Satan and his evil demonic forces. Their initial target was the parish priest, but they realized he was much too big and powerful for them to bring down.

They then targeted little Sister Maria, the kind nun who had taught them catechism when they were in grade school. Sister was willing to do anything to help her former pupil, who had been violently impregnated. It was like leading the lamb to the slaughter. In fact, in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI praised Sister Maria, who said, “with total giving of self, sacrificed her life while praying for those who were attacking her.”

The killers of Sister Maria admitted that she was praying for them as she lay dying. They all said she kept saying, “Lord, forgive them.”  Pope Francis declared on June 21, that Sister Maria Laura Mainetti had died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) and was a martyr. She will be beatified at a date to be announced.

(The murderers of Sister Maria were juveniles and served their sentences, being paroled (on the average) after about five years. Today they are all living lives far away from their crime.)

copyright©Larry Peterson2020


When World War II ended the nightmare for others began: Meet the Thirty-Eight Martyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 Matyrs of Albania

Stained Glass honoring 38 martyrs of Albania    public domain

By Larry Peterson

When the Nazis fled Albania at the end of WW II, the communists took control of the small country. From 1945 through 1974, they ruled Albania with an iron hand banning religion, especially Catholicism. Many Catholics were brutally tortured and murdered during this period. What follows is about the 38 Martyrs of Albania who were beatified on November 5, 2016.

Father Ernest Simoni had just finished saying Christmas Mass in 1963. Suddenly and unexpectedly he was surrounded by police and arrested. He was shackled and charged with the crime of  “saying Masses for John F. Kennedy,” the American president who had been assassinated the previous month in Dallas, Texas. His next stop would be in prison, where he would endure torture and forced labor for the next 18 years.

We move ahead to April of 2016. Pope Francis was holding a ceremony recognizing 38 people who had died in the dark, dank, and disgusting prisons of Albania. The group included mostly Albanians, some Italians, and one German.  Included among them were two bishops, 21 diocesan priests, three Jesuits, seven Friars Minor, a Franciscan novice-nun, three Catholic laymen, and one seminarian. Most of them died between 1945 and 1950.

The only woman among them, Maria Tucci, was arrested on August 10, 1949.  She refused to answer her captor’s questions and was tortured over and over until August 1950. She had been so brutalized over the previous year that she required hospitalization. She died from her injuries on October 24, 1950. She was 22 years old.

Not included among them was Father Simoni. He was standing before the Holy Father. He was  88 years old and holding a box which contained the bones of ten of his countrymen. They, too, had been imprisoned in Albania. Unlike Father Simoni, they had all been executed.

Pope Francis, was honoring  Father Simoni’s faithfulness to Jesus and the faith by elevating him to the rank of Cardinal. The Pope wept as he hugged the new Cardinal saying, “Today I touched martyrs.”

Those who were present that day heard how the Albanian martyrs were tortured to death and then executed or just tortured over and over and sent to forced labor camps. The one constant among all these holy martyrs was that they were always praying to God and asking Him to forgive their killers.

Here are brief bios of the three Jesuits who were among the martyred:

  • Giovanni Fausti: He was the oldest of twelve children born in Brescia, Italy, on October 19, 1899. He began his religious studies at the age of ten and was a classmate of Giovanni Montini, the future Pope St. Paul VI. After studying at the Pontifical Lombard College in Rome, he was ordained a priest on July 9, 1922. He entered the Society of Jesus on October 30, 1924. After serving in the Italian army, he entered the Pontifical Gregorian University and became a philosophy professor. He had been in Albania twice and was sent back in 1942. He was arrested by the communists on December 31, 1945. After being held for two months and tortured almost every day, he was shot dead on March 4, 1946.

 

  • Daniel Dajani: Daniel was born in 1906, and, by the time he was twelve, he felt the calling to the priesthood. He studied hard and began his novitiate with the Jesuits on July 8, 1926. He received his teaching credentials and made his solemn profession of vows on February 2, 1942. Similar to Father Fausti, Father Daniel was arrested on December 31, 1945. He also was held for two months having to endure constant torture. And, just like Father Fausti, Father Dajani was executed on March 4, 1946.

 

 

  • Gjon Pantalia: Gjon was born in Serbia in 1887 and was related to St. Teresa of Calcutta. He did not want to be a priest, so he joined the Jesuits as a Brother. He became a teacher specializing in chorus, theater, and socio-cultural activities. He also was a writer, composer, and a spiritual director to many of his students. He was called “Brother Cornerstone” of the College of Shkodra. He was arrested in 1946 and brutally tortured. He tried to escape from prison but broke his legs jumping from a window. He was captured and thrown back in his cell. Lack of treatment and constant, unbearable pain, took its toll. He died on October 31, 1947.

 

We ask all the Martyrs of Albania to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


This Teenage Christian was Martyred for praying for another Christian being Martyred. Meet St. Victor and St. Corona*

St. Corona                                                                             Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

*Right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic is the city of Anzu, Italy. There is a basilica in Anzu where the relics of St. Victor and St. Corona have been preserved since the ninth century. The name Corona is Latin for crown. The name, coronavirus, is given to the disease because it shows “crown-like” projections on their surfaces. There are other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS. Ironically, St. Corona is considered as one of the patron saints of pandemics

For people who have faith in God, prayer is the most potent weapon they use to fight adversity. Since the onset of the coronavirus (real name COVID-19), many Catholics have been turning to a little known saint from the 2nd century by the name of Saint Corona. They are praying to her for her intercession with God to help us overcome this insidious and deadly worldwide pandemic.

Little is known about St. Corona, but she and the man she prayed for, St. Victor, are listed in the Roman martyrology and the Hagiography of the Church. There is ambiguity surrounding the dates and locations of  St. Victor’s and St. Corona’s martyrdom. Most sources say it was in Syria, which was under Roman rule. Some say Damascus others, Antioch.  Most agree they were put to death in the year 170 A.D. Most historians agree they died during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and that they were put to death by order of a Roman judge named Sebastian.

The story (legend) tells the tale of a Roman soldier named Victor. The Romans discovered that Victor was a Christian. The soldiers brought Victor before a judge, named Sebastian, who despised Christians. He decided to make an example out of Victor. He was bound to a pillar and summarily whipped until his skin was hanging from his body, and then Sebastian had his eyes gouged out. (I cannot imagine). Through it all, Victor never denied Christ.

Nearby wasa 16-year-old girl name Corona. She was the wife of one of the soldiers, and she was also a Christian. (Corona’s husband did not know his wife was a Christian).  As Victor was being brutalized, Corona decided she needed to help the slowly dying man. She chose to announce her Christianity to all present and hurried over to where they were torturing Victor. She knelt and began to pray for him, letting him know she was there for him. It did not take very long for the soldiers to bring her before Sebastian.

Sebastian was livid that this young woman had so disrespected his authority. He immediately had her put in the prison and tortured. Then, he ordered her tied to the tops of two palm trees, which had been pulled down to the ground. At his signal, the ropes holding the trees down were cut. The trees sprang back away from each other to an upright position. The force was so great that Corona’s body was ripped apart. Then Sebastian ordered Victor beheaded.

The remains in the basilica have been there since the ninth century. In 1943 and again in 1981, they were examined, and the bones are from both a male and female. In the 1981 examination, they discovered cedar pollen, which was a typical plant from the Mediterranean basin during the time in question. Archaeologists confirm that this adheres to ancient Syria and Cyprus.

Saint Victor and Saint Corona are pre-congregation saints meaning that they were chosen as saints prior to Church canonization being standardized. The first saint canonized by a pope was Ulrich, the bishop of Augsburg, who died in 973. He was canonized by Pope John XV at the Lateran Council of 993. Canonization became the general law of the church under Pope Gregory IX (1227-41).

Saint Corona’s feast day, along with Saint Victor’s, is May 14th. We ask both of them to pray for us all that this pandemic subsides.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Sister Mary Rosina was teaching impoverished children about Jesus when she was attacked from behind and martyred

“Right from the time she could think for herself, she wanted to be a nun,”  Evelyn McNally; Sister Mary Rosina’s sister.

martyrodm                                                                        en,wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Constance Gladman was born in Koroit, Victoria, a small rural town in southwestern Australia. The date was December 23, 1922, and Constance would be the first of seven children born to her parents, Victor and Grace Gladman.  Connie (as she was called) always had felt a calling to religious life.

Connie attended school in Warrnambool in Victoria Province and from there went on to Teacher’s College in Melbourne. She wanted to go into the convent but her dad would not let her. He felt that his oldest daughter needed to be exposed to the world as it was before making such a decision. Heeding her dad’s wishes, upon graduating, Connie taught in regular schools, but her desire to teach the poor and impoverished never left her.

When she was in her mid-twenties, her father, seeing how his daughter had never lost her desire to become a teaching nun, relented and gave her his blessing. Connie then joined the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Founded in 1874 by Servant of God, Jules Chevalier, the order’s primary focus is on missionary work.

Connie took the religious name of Sister Mary Rosina, and, from that point on,  missionary work is precisely what the focus of Sister Mary’s ministry would be. She was sent to Papua, New Guinea to teach.

Sister Mary Rosina was initially stationed at the order’s convent in Rabaul. The sisters there remembered how she could not wait to get to the outposts and begin working with the children. Soon she was sent to the Vunapope Mission near Rabaul, and then she was sent to Turuk.

Sister Mary became highly respected and was elevated to the post of  Teacher’s Supervisor. The government held her in high regard and, needing qualified people to help train the locals, she agreed to assist them. Training others to teach was something she came to truly love.

On November 30, 1964, after working for 15 years as a missionary teacher in New Britain, (part of New Guinea), Sister Mary Rosina was working with a novice teacher showing her how to grade papers. The children in the class were working on an assignment. A mentally ill man quietly snuck up behind sister and wielding a machete, slammed it into the back of her neck. Two quick blows severed her spinal cord and she slumped over, dead. The murderer ran away.

The children ran screaming from the room. Sister Mary’s still body lay there, her severed head on the desk and her pencil remaining in her hand. She was 41 years old. It is hard to imagine anyone, especially a child, being exposed to such a sight.

Sister Mary’s family began the process for their sister to be considered for sainthood by sending the bishop of New Britain (part of New Guinea)  and official request to do so. The letter was delivered by Sister Rosina’s great-nephew, Father John Corrigan. Sister Mary was murdered “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) and her rode to beatification should make for a smooth journey. She has been declared a Servant of God, and her cause is now before the Congregation for the Causes for Saints.

We ask the Servant of God, Sister Mary Rosina, to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


All Saint’s Day—- The Road to Sainthood is a Fascinating Journey into Human Holiness

All Saint’s Day                                                   achristianpilgrim.com

By Larry Peterson

November 1, we celebrate the Feast of All Saint’s Day. Interestingly, more than 10,000 saints are venerated in the Catholic Church. How did over 10,000 people manage to be canonized? For starters, it is probably safe to say that since the church has been around for 2000 years that only works out to five saints a year. So, as far as the numbers go, that seems irrelevant. What is relevant is the actual process of attaining sainthood. The procedure is exceptionally stringent since no mistakes as to a candidate’s eligibility can go uncovered.

It should be noted that prior to the tenth century there was no set procedure for canonization. Frequently, different communities honored or venerated people whose stories were not backed by solid fact. Some stories were made up. For example, St. George the Dragon Slayer, is from the third century. He is honored by both Muslims and Christians. Is the story fact or legend? In the French countryside St. Guinefort is venerated as the protector of babies. It seems that Guinefort saved a baby from a snakebite. The only problem was, Guinefort was a dog.

Interestingly, 52 of the first 55 popes became saints during Catholicism’s first 500 years. During the last one thousand years, only seven popes have attained sainthood, and that includes Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII.

The first saint formally canonized was St. Ulrich of Augsburg. He was canonized by Pope John XV in 993. During the 12th century, the church, realizing they needed an orderly system, began to put a process in place.  Then, in 1243, Pope Gregory IX proclaimed that only a pope had the authority to declare someone a saint. That process still exists to this day.

So, what is the actual process on the road to sainthood? We know this for sure, sainthood is not an easy honor to attain. There are five steps in the journey. The first step begins right in the neighborhood where the proposed saint lived and was known.

After a person has been dead for five years (this time frame may be waived by the Pope), friends and neighbors may get together and document all they can about that particular person. They would then present their evidence to the local bishop requesting he begin an investigation into the person’s holy and exemplary life.

If the bishop feels the evidence is worthy of the cause moving forward, he may appoint a “postulator” to represent the cause. If, after further investigation, they feel the cause is worthy, they forward it to Rome.  Now the evidence goes before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  At this point in the process, the person receives the title, “Servant of God.”

The Congregation for the Causes consists of nine theologians who thoroughly review all the documentation that has been presented to them. The person’s writings are examined, and all aspects of their life are picked apart. Nothing can go against the teachings of the Church.

The Congregation even has a “devil’s advocate” who raises questions and objections about the candidate. The Congregation must be sure before moving forward. If they decide the candidate has been a person of “heroic virtue,” they are declared “Venerable,” and their cause moves on towards the next step; Beatification.

Except in the cases of martyrdom, Beatification requires one miracle. The candidate’s character and holiness have already been established, but having a miracle attributed to someone can take centuries. If a person has been killed for their faith, they have been martyred “In Odium Fidei,” which means “In hatred of the faith.”

This death is honored with Beatification and the title Blessed is bestowed on the person. Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered while saying Mass in France in 2016, is an example of someone experiencing this type of death.

Another death is called in defensum castitatis” meaning, in defense of purity.” This too warrants Beatification, and the person is given the title of Blessed. Two young Catholic heroines who died in this manner are St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Pierina Morosini.

Pope Francis recently introduced a new road to sainthood. It honors those who sacrificed their lives for others. (The Mercedarians are known for this). This is called “Maiorem hac delectionem (nemo habet)” which means; “Greater love than this (no man hath).”

Lastly, there is Canonization. At this point, we are waiting for one more miracle. Upon that happening it is given to the Pope who makes the final decision. It is then a person is declared a saint.

To all you saints (and those in the queue) above, please pray for us all.

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


Give us Silence or Give us Death: A Priest will accept death rather than violate this vow

Priests and Confession                                                                              aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

On July 1, 2019, The Vatican issued the Note of the Apostolic Penitentiary about the inviolability of the Sacramental Seal aka the Seal of Confession.

A Sacrament is of God—not man. “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason.”  CCC 2490

Part 4 in the Series; Give us Silence or Give us Death;  Blessed Felipe Ciscar Puig & Blessed Andres Ivars

The Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936 thru 1939, is often called the “dress rehearsal” for World War II. This terrible civil war saw many thousands of lives lost before it ended. Among those murdered were almost 7,000 priests and religious who fell victim to the “red terror.” Unfortunately, mentioning large numbers of victims shadows the fact the victimized are all individuals with their own personal stories.

What follows is about Blessed Felipe Ciscar Puig, a parish priest and his hearing the confession of another priest. This priest was a Franciscan, and his name was Andres Ivars. It was Father Ivars who inadvertently made Father Puig’s story possible.

 

Father Andres Ivars was born in Spain in 1885. He became a Valencian Franciscan and was ordained a priest in 1909. Possessed with above standard learning skills he was sent to the Pontifical University of Rome where he studied Church History and Diplomatics. In 1914 he was sent to the Franciscan province of Valencia where he began to do historical research at the Cardinal Cisneros College. An excellent historian, he would eventually publish several books. In 1919 he became vice-director of the school and in 1928, director.

The Spanish Civil War had just begun when, on July 20, 1936, Republican militia came to Cisneros College and set fire to it. Director  Ivars, was not there at the time. He was at the “Villa Luz” clinic where he was the chaplain. Hearing of what happened he moved in with some friends and finally decided to move in with some family members in Benissa. On his way there he was recognized and arrested.

Father Felipe Ciscar Puig was a parish priest who studied at the Seminary of Valencia and was ordained a priest in 1888. He served as a pastor in various parishes and was serving as the chaplain for the Augustinian Sisters of Denia when the Spanish Civil War began.

Father Puig began doing his best to fulfill his priestly duties as discreetly as possible. He was ministering to the sick, saying Mass in people’s homes, baptizing babies, hearing confessions, and bringing Viaticum to the dying. But an informant had told the Republican militia about his clandestine efforts. Upon hearing this, the authorities wanted desperately to find him and end his hidden ministry. They finally captured him leaving a friend’s house and took him to prison. It was the day before they arrested Father Ivars.

When Father Ivars was arrested, he immediately knew what his impending future was and asked if he could go to confession. The prison commander was happy to oblige. But he also had a “hidden agenda..” He was sure he could get Father Ivar’s confessor to reveal what had been told to him. Father Ivars was brought to Father Puig for his last confession.

After the confession was finished, the prison commander tried to get Father Puig to reveal what Father Ivars had confessed to him. An archdiocesan statement by a witness to the event said the militiamen threatened to kill him if he did not tell them what they wanted to know. The priest replied, “Do what you want, but I will not reveal the confession, I would rather die before that.”

He adamantly refused. The soldiers and the commandant then held a mock trial where he was ordered to tell them Father Ivar’s ‘secrets.’ Father Puig remained steadfast in his refusal to tell them anything. The militiamen and their commandant condemned him to death.

Fathers Felipe Císcar and Andrés Ivars were taken together by car to a location outside a nearby cemetery. They were both summarily shot to death.  Father Puig was 71 and Father Ivars was 51. The date they were martyred was September 8, 1936, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin.

They both died martyrs with Father Puig’s primary “crime” being his defense of the Seal of Confession.

Father Puig and Father Ivars were both beatified as Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Guilty by Bloodline; Blessed Margaret Pole’s life displays Courage to all Christians no matter the challenge.

Margaret  Pole commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was born on August 14, 1473, in Somerset, England.  She was the last daughter of George Plantagenet (Plantagenet Dynasty), the Duke of Clarence. King Henry VII officiated at her marriage to Sir Richard Pole whose mother-in-law, Edith St. John, was a half-sister of the king’s mother, Margaret Beaufort. The family bloodline was quite complex.

When Henry VIII, took the throne in 1509, he married Catherine of Aragon. Margaret was named as one of her ladies-in-waiting. In 1512, the King saw to it that some of her lands were restored to her. These lands had been confiscated by Henry VII. After this, King Henry VIII, who described Margaret as the “most saintly woman in England”, elevated her to the position of Countess of Salisbury, a title that brought prestige and a bit of power.

In due time she was made the governess to Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter. But in 1521, due to infighting and subterfuge that was continually going on in the King’s court, Margaret and her sons fell into disfavor with the King. She was permitted to remain at court but her sons were no longer welcome there. Then, in 1525, she went sent with Princess Mary to live in Wales.

Margaret’s son, Reginald Pole, was a voice against King Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Reginald even wrote to the king expressing his feelings. His mother was horrified. Knowing how vindictive the king could be, she pleaded with Reginald to retract what he had put in writing. He refused. In her heart she knew her boy was right. They had no idea that King Henry VIII confided to the French ambassador that he planned to destroy Reginald’s entire family, including Margaret, the “most saintly woman in England.”

The family purge began in the autumn of 1536 when Margaret’s sons, Geoffrey and Lord Montague, were arrested. A spy who had been placed in Margaret’s household testified before Cromwell that he was witness to secret meetings and clandestine messages being delivered back and forth among the king’s enemies.

Martha Pole, The Countess of Salisbury, was truly a woman of faith. It did not matter. She was questioned from noon into and through the entire night until the next morning. She knew nothing of what they asked, but it did not matter. The seized all her furniture and goods and transported her to jail at Cowdry. Here she remained isolated for the next few years.

An Act of Attainder was passed by the Parliament in early 1539 against Margaret Pole and her entire family. Her two sons had already been executed when the bill was passed. In it, she was accused of treason. The now elderly woman was dragged off to the Tower of London. She had been placed under a sentence o death, and the sentence could be carried out anytime the King felt so compelled to order it. She would remain there for the next two years.

On May 27, 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was informed that she would be put to death that very day. She asked why since no crime had ever been committed. She was ignored. Her body was racked with pain from the harsh, cold, stone cell she had been forced to stay in for the previous few years. But she stood tall and walked to her place of execution.

There were no crowds or witnesses present and no scaffold. It was a chopping block in the corner of the room on the floor. Margaret asked everyone to pray with her. They bowed heads and she forgave everyone, commended her soul to God,  and asked for prayers for the King and Queen.

Margaret was subjected to one final and horrendous indignity. The executioner was a novice and missed his target several times. The poor woman’s shoulder, head, and back were hit by the flailing ax before it hit its mark, ending her life. It is hard to imagine having to endure that.

Many called Margaret Pole a martyr. She was a victim of being part of a family that was hated by a ruthless king. For that, she suffered a brutal death.  Pope Leo XIII agreed and beatified Margaret Pole on December 29, 1886.

Blessed Margaret Pole; please pray for us.

copyright©2019Larry Peterson