Tag Archives: martyrdom

Christoph Probst: He was a Husband and Father, and at the age of 23 the Nazis made him a Martyr

Christoph Probst & Sophie Scholl                                     fair.use

By Larry Peterson

Christoph Probst was born on November 6, 1919, in Bavaria, Germany. His dad, Herman Probst, was a scholar who specialized in Asian culture, Eastern religions, and the language, Sanscrit. Hermann maintained an intellectual environment at home and Christoph thrived within it.

However, inside the Probst home all was not peaceful and content. Christoph’s parents divorced when he was still a young boy, and  His father remarried Elise Jaffee, who was Jewish. Shortly after his second marriage, Hermann Probst committed suicide. How this affected Christoph is unknown, but his contempt for Nazi ideology grew stronger.

There was some money available, and Christoph was admitted to a boarding school at Landheim Schondorf, a school mostly devoted to the fine arts. The school was not an institution that supported Nazi ideas.  It was here that Christoph met a young man named Alexander Schmorell.

Alexander had been born in the Ural Mountains of Russia and had come to Germany with his father when his mother died. Christoph and Alexander had much in common; both young men had lost parents. Upon graduating high school, the two close friends were required to enter the National Labor Service.

Upon leaving the Labor Service, Christoph met and married Herta Dohm. Herta would have  three children, Michael, Vincent, and Katherina. Christoph then entered the University of Munich to study medicine. It was during this time that he and his best friend, Alexander,  met up with Hans Scholl, the founder of the White Rose. They all thought alike. They despised Adolf Hitler and hated Nazism.

The name, White Rose, signified non-violence and peaceful protest. It was a group that simply wanted to exert intellectual resistance to the Third Reich. In March of 1942, the White Rose began their clandestine assault against the Nazi regime. Their weapons of attack were leaflets. They began mailing the leaflets to random names they picked from the phone book. They tried to find doctors, lawyers, musicians, and scholars.

Then they began leaving them around the different college campuses such as the University of Hamburg and their school, the University of Munich. The leaflets begged the German citizens to fight back against the tyrannical Nazis.

Christoph joined the group after they had started distributing the leaflets. The group tried their best to keep Christoph in a low-profile position. He did not even write leaflets. He was the only one of the group married with two children and they all wanted to do their best to protect his family. So did he.

Christoph had never been born into a specific religion but he always was drawn to religion and the existence of God. His friends were Catholic and their faith influenced him greatly. Soon, he would embrace it fully.

The White Rose group had produced and distributed five different leaflets. The distribution of the leaflets had spread from Munich and to other cities. Over 15, 000 leaflets were used to attack Nazi crimes, oppression, and the mass murder of the Jews. The White Rose quickly climbed to a top spot on the Nazi wanted list.

Christoph finally lent his hand to the leaflets production by designing the layout for the sixth one. This is the one that Hans Scholl had in his pocket when he was arrested. It would prove to be the only evidence of Christoph’s involvement with the White Rose.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were distributing the leaflets on campus when a caretaker spotted them doing so. The man, being a “good Nazi,” quickly reported them to the authorities. The Gestapo took them into custody. Hans and Sophie were searched and they found the leaflet. Handwriting samples taken led them to Christoph.

Hans, his sister, Sophie, and Christoph were interrogated relentlessly by the Gestapo and then taken to the People’s Court. The date was February 21, 1943. They were accused of treason and sentenced to death. German law stated that they should have a ninety-day wait before execution. It made no difference in the “People’s Court.”  They would die that very day.

Christoph, born into no religion, asked if a Catholic priest could visit him. He requested to be baptized and was received into the faith. Sometime during the following hour, he and his two friends, Hans and Sophie, were guillotined.

On November 3, 1999, Christoph Probst was included in the Martyrology of the Catholic Church.

Blessed Christoph Probst, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Brother Fix-It gave his life in Guatemala: Another American Martyr to be Beatified

Blessed James Miller—    Christian Brothers of the Midwest

By Larry Peterson

They called him Brother “Fix-it” and his religious name was Brother Leo. He loved the poor and joined the order of the De La Salle Christian Brothers so that he could mentor, help, comfort, teach, and protect the poorest of God’s children. In 1982, while serving the downtrodden in Guatemala, he was gunned down by three masked men. Pope Francis has issued a decree of martyrdom for Brother James Miller, and henceforth he will be called Blessed.

James Miller was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1944. It was a premature birth, and baby James weighed in at under four pounds. James defied the medical science of the 1940s. He survived and grew into a six-foot-two-inch, 220-pound man.

James attended Pacelli High School in Stevens Point which was run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Impressed with his teachers he graduated and entered St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. St. Mary’s was also run by the De La Salle Brothers and in 1962 he entered the order as a postulant (candidate). Upon finishing his novitiate (training period) he donned the habit and took the name of Leo William.  In due time, he did as many religious were doing and went back to using his baptismal name; he became Brother James Miller.

Brother James began his career as a teacher in Cretin High School where he taught Spanish and English plus religion. He was also the football coach and was so adept at maintaining and repairing equipment, including plumbing and electrical problems, that he became known as “Brother Fix-It.”

In 1969 Brother James was sent to Nicaragua to take charge of a run-down school with about 300 students. Under his guidance and determination, the student enrollment quickly grew and within a few years was at 800.  He was then put in charge of the construction of ten new schools located in rural areas of Nicaragua.

When the Sandinista Revolution began in 1979, he was ordered to leave Nicaragua. His superiors knew that Brother James had cooperated with the  Somoza Government and would now be targeted by the Sandinistas. Brother James had kept lines of communication open with the government because he needed their cooperation so he could open new schools. He resisted leaving, but he and his superiors soon discovered that his name was on the Sandinista “death list.”

Brother James returned to the United Staes and went back to teaching at Cretin High Scool. He had promised the people in Nicaragua that he would return to them. It did not happen. Instead, in 1981, he was sent to Guatemala. He began teaching in Huehuetenango, a city in the Guatemalan highlands, which had a large population of suffering Guatemalan Indians.

Brother James had been going about his work providing job skills and schooling to the oppressed natives in the area. But he was a marked man because it was discovered that the pro-government,  Guatemalan armed forces, who had a death squad known as G-2,  had Brother James on their hit list.

On February 13, 1982. Brother James was working up on a ladder repairing a section of wall on the school. It was early morning and he never saw his assassins sneaking up behind him. As he wielded his hammer to complete repairs the three masked men opened fire on brother James. Children watched from the school windows as their beloved teacher fell from his ladder. He had died before he hit the ground. No one was ever charged for the murder.

Brother James Albert Miller had died “In Odium Fidei” (In Hatred of the Faith). In 2009, Brother James has declared a man of “heroic Virtue” and pronounced as Venerable.  Pope Francis has issued the decree of Martyrdom for Brother James, and sometime during the year of 2019, he will be officially Beatified becoming Blessed James Miller.

Blessed James Miller, please pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life for Your Freedom—The Mercedarians Practice What They Preach: One of Them is St. Serapion of Algiers

St. Serapion of Algiers—en.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Several years ago a newly ordained Mercedarian priest was assigned to our parish. Father Scott Brentwood was 31 years old and showed up wearing the traditional habit of his order. The habit was all white and, as Father walked toward his new parish, watching him approach was like taking a peek into the middle ages. It was an awesome sight to behold!

Father Scott has since moved on, and we had another newly ordained Mercedarian replace him, Father Daniel Bowen. Before continuing, I will just say this; as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the 50s and 60s if these two priests are representative of the future of our Church, that future is as brilliant as an ascending morning sun.

The Mercedarians were founded by St. Peter Nolasco in the year 1218. Moved by direct inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, his purpose in founding the new order was to free or redeem Christian captives from Muslim captors. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Mercedarians take a fourth vow; they promise to  give themselves up for someone in danger of losing their faith, up to and including sacrificing their own lives. One of these courageous priests was St. Serapion of Algiers.

Serapion was born in 1179 in either England or Ireland. When he was a boy, his father took him along on the Crusades led by King Richard the Lion-Heart. When he was 12 years old, he participated in the Battle of Acre in 1191.   Then he met Peter Nolasco, who preached the mercy of God and did so by freeing Christian slaves from their Moorish captors. Serapion realized that his life was meant to save lives, not to take them.

In 1222, Serapion became a full member of the Mercedarian order. He made several missions of mercy in northern Africa before being sent to England to recruit new members. During the journey, his ship was attacked by pirates, and he was left for dead. However, he survived and eventually made it to England. He began preaching against the theft of church property and was ordered to leave the country.

In 1240, Serapion had gone to Algiers to secure the release of 87 Christian captives. The ransom he had brought with him suddenly was not enough. The captors demanded more than Serapion had. When some of the prisoners heard this, they began to consider rejecting their Christian faith to save themselves. Serapion would not allow this to happen. He offered himself to the Moors in exchange for the prisoner’s freedom. This was agreed upon, and Serapion watched as the prisoners were freed. He then knew it was time for him to begin preaching the love of God to his new captors.

Serapion had turned his very life over to his captors. Undaunted by his natural fear he preached the love of God and the gospel message to the Muslims. Many began to respond to his message. However, as his brother Mercedarians hurried throughout Europe in the hope of gathering the extra ransom demanded, Serapion, was making some hard-hearted enemies. The Muslim leaders who realized this Catholic/Christian man was starting to convert his listeners, turned against him.

Since the ransom had yet to arrive Serapion was ordered put to death. The man who simply wanted to preach the message of the God of Love was crucified on an X shaped cross. While still alive he was dismembered. The pain he endured must have been beyond description. Serapion died the proto-martyr of Algiers. Like his brother Mercedarians, St. Raymond Nonnatus and St. Peter Armengol, Serapion gave all he had, including his life, for the love of God.

Serapion was beatified in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1728.  We ask St. Serapion of Algiers and all his brother Mercedarian saints, to pray for us all.

Today, the Mercedarians aka Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, are a worldwide organization and they still are rescuing people from attacks on their faith. They are located in 17 countries, and their student house is in Philadelphia. They can be found working in deprived neighborhoods, in hospitals among drug addicts and with families through parish work. The Mercedarians are a shining example to all Catholic/Christians the world over.

This link  Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy aka Mercedarians will direct you to the Mercedarian website. Please take a look.

St. Serapion of Algiers, please pray for us ALL.

Antonia Mesina—Martyred "In Defensum Castitatis" (In Defense of Purity) at the age of 15

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Pierina Morosini and Antonia Mesina were two women from Italy. Born a generation apart they led strikingly similar lives. Pierina was the oldest of eight children and had to work and help her mother with her younger siblings. Antonia was the second born of ten children and was also required to help her mother with the younger children.

Both young women were exemplary Catholics and were determined to live chaste lives.  Both were martyred “in defensum castitatis” (in defense of purity), Antonia in 1935 and Pierina in 1957. They were both  declared Blessed on October 4, 1987 by Pope St. John Paul II. Even though their stories are similar they are also separate and unique. As a writer, I felt they each deserved individual space. This is about Antonia. (Pierina’s story is in another article).

Antonia was born on June 21, 1919, in Orgosolo, a town high up in the mountains of Sardinia. She was the second of ten children. Her dad was a corporal in the cavalry who helped guard the town perimeter and her mom did her best to teach her children the Catholic faith. As was the custom at the time Antonia was baptized at the age of nine days and confirmed the following year.

Antonia was admired by her teachers and liked by all her classmates. She was kind and studied hard and was very respectful of others. When she was in fourth grade her mom developed a serious heart condition. The doctors ordered her to bed and Antonia was forced to leave school and take over her mother’s duties. The young girl had to do the cooking, the cleaning, the baking, the laundry and go to the market. Her mom called her ,”the flower of my life”. Antonia never complained and always seemed to manage a smile.

Every week Antonia had to bake the bread for the family. This was not a simple process. It included gathering the firewood and grinding the grain into flour. This was, indeed, making something from “scratch”. On May 17, 1935, Antonia asked her friend, Annedda, if she would go with her to help her gather wood from the forest. Annedda agreed and off they went.

As they walked along, Antonia, who had joined Catholic Action a few years earlier, was trying to convince Annedda, that she should join too. Antonia was very enthusiastic about the spiritual benefits received and about all the good works that Catholic Action brought to members. She told her how they even were taught catechism at their meetings.

When they had gathered up enough wood they began their return walk home. Annedda noticed a young man in the woods nearby. She recognized him from school and knew it was Ignazio. When she looked again he was gone. A few minutes later Antonia screamed. The young man had snuck up behind Antonia and wrestled her to the ground. He was determined to have his way with the 15 year-old but she fought him furiously.

Twice Antonia managed to break free while Annedda ran screaming through the woods for someone to help them. The third time Ignazio managed to subdue her. She was fighting against his advances so hard that he went into a rage. He grabbed a nearby rock and began beating Antonia in the head with it. Over and over he pounded the innocent teenager until she stopped moving. It was discovered later that he had hit her 74 times. It was also found that she had never been violated.

Ignazio tried to deny his involvement but Annedda was able to identify him. In addition, his bloody clothes, which he tried to hide, were found near his home. The 19 year-old was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on August 5, 1937.

Antonia Mesina’s beatification process began under Pope John Paul I in September of 1978 and she was declared a “Servant of God”. She was declared Venerable Antonia Mesina in 1986 and Pope St. John Paul II declared she had died “in defensum castitatis’ in May of 1987. She and Pierina Morosini were beatified together, two young women who gave their lives for Jesus rather than submit to being forcibly assaulted.

Blessed Antonia Mesina and Blessed Pierina Morosini, please pray for us.