Tag Archives: martyrdom

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

Lucien Botovosoa’s devotion to Christ and Family made him a Martyr—- Today he is counted among the Patrons of Married Couples and Fathers

Blessed Lucien Botovasova                                                      public domain

By Larry Peterson

Madagascar is a vast island nation located off the east-central coast of Africa. It was here that Lucien Botovasoa was born in the year 1908,  the exact day is unknown. He was the oldest of nine brothers and sisters.  Besides that, not much more is known about his early childhood.

Lucien began his schooling at the local public school when he was ten years old. Four years later, he was baptized and received his First Holy Communion. Soon after he was able to transfer to the newly opened “Priests School” at the Jesuit College of St. Joseph. He remained here until 1928 when he completed his schooling. He was awarded a teaching certification and became an instructor.

One of Lucien’s favorite things to do was read about the lives of different saints. He would always be willing to stay after class and read about these saints to any students who wanted to hear the stories. Many did stay, and great discussions about the faith and the saints took place with Lucien guiding the students along.

Lucien had a natural gift for teaching and became highly admired by his peers. On October 30, 1930, he married Suzanna Soazana. Soon after his marriage, a nun asked him if he had regretted getting married since he would have made a wonderful priest. Lucien never flinched and immediately told her that he did “not have the slightest regret at all.”

He went on to explain that he was serving God through his vocation as a married man through the example he set as a husband while living among the people. Lucien and Suzanna would eventually have five children together.

Lucien became a member of the Crusaders of the Heart of Jesus in August of 1935. He learned to speak Chinese, German, and French and was a musician who had a great singing voice. He also directed the parish choir. In 1940 he joined the Secular Franciscans. He had found his spiritual home and immediately went about spreading devotion to St. Francis of Assisi.

He avoided wearing the traditional black slacks that teachers and religious wore.  He dressed in the khaki colored clothes that Third Order Lay Seculars wore. He was proud of being part of the Secular Franciscans and wanted everyone to know he was a layperson. His devotion to his family, his students, and most of all, his beloved Catholic faith was visible to all who knew him.

Political unrest began to explode in 1946. The protests and violence that spread soon became known as the Malagasy Uprising. The Malagasy people were native to Madagascar, and their local rulers began to lead their people in revolt against French colonial rule. Quickly, Catholics became viewed as French loyalists, and officials throughout the country began turning against them. Their immediate targets were those who were among the religious.

By 1947, Lucien was keenly aware of the political situation and its impending dangers. He told his wife and children, “Whatever happens, do not EVER separate yourself from God. I am not afraid of death. and I will find bliss in heaven.”

By Easter, no nuns or priests could be found in the city. The authorities had rounded them all up and taken them away, executing them all. Then Lucien got word that the anti-Christian forces would be coming for him. The date was April 14, 1947. Lucien refused to hide and spent the day with his family.

At 9 P.M four militia men came for him.. He was brought before the local chieftain for trial and judgment. He asked the chief if they could talk before he pronounced sentence. They spoke for more than a half hour. Then Lucien was led off to be executed.

Lucien Botovasoa was taken to the nearby river bank. Ironically,  his executioners were all his former students. Lucien forgave them all and then was beheaded. They tossed his remains into the rushing river. Incredibly, not long after the man who had judged him and passed sentence on him converted to Christianity.

Pope Francis declared that Lucien had died “in odium fidei” and he was beatified by Cardinal Maurice Piat on April 15, 2018, in the town of Vohipeno, Madagascar. Blessed Lucien is counted among the patrons of married couples, fathers, and teachers.

Blessed Lucien Botovasova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019