The Deadliest Fire in American History was No Match for the Blessed Virgin Mary

We hear of the raging forest fires on the west coast but here is the true story of the worst firestorm in United States history (originally posted in 2017) It happened outside Green Bay, Wisconsin. in 1871. It is also the site of a documented miracle.

Forest Fire raging                                                                                         public domain

By Larry Peterson

On October 8, 1871, in or around a place called Peshtigo, Wisconsin, several men were busy setting small fires in the woods. This was a common practice in clearing land for expanding railroads or for developing farmland. Except on this particular day, something unexpected happened. A cold front moved into the area, creating winds that were close to hurricane force. The winds fanned the flames and the resulting Peshtigo Firestorm still can claim the ignominious title as the “deadliest wildfire” in American History.

To this day, no wildfire in the U.S. has ever caused more deaths. Close to 2500 people perished in the raging 2,000-degree inferno. But there is an incredible side-bar to this story. Miraculously, there was a small group who were not harmed at all, and they were right in the middle of the hellacious blaze. This small group of people were with Adele Brise.

Adele Brise was 24 years old when she came to Wisconsin with her parents. The year was 1855, and the family had just arrived from Belgium.  Devout Catholics, Adele had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed to her daily. They found a Catholic church nearby and would walk there every Sunday morning regardless of the weather.

On Sunday, October 2, 1859, Adele was walking home through the woods when she saw a woman, clothed in white, standing between a hemlock and a maple tree. The woman was encased in bright light and had a yellow sash around her waist.  A crown of stars was above her long, blond hair. Adele, filled with fear, began praying, and the vision disappeared. She told her mom and dad about it, and they said to her that maybe it was a soul in need of prayers.

The following Sunday, Adele, was on her way to Mass with her sister and another woman when she saw the apparition a second time. But her sister and friend, who were walking a bit ahead of her, did not see anything. Returning from Mass, the Lady appeared to Adele for the third time. Adele, who had confided in her parish priest about the mysterious Lady, did as he told her. She asked the Lady the question, “In the Name of God, who are you, and what do you wish of me?”

The Lady answered, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

Adele was afraid. She knew little about her faith. She asked how she was supposed to do this with so little knowledge. The Blessed Virgin told her, “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the Sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”

Adele took the Blessed Virgin’s words to heart. She began her new, lifelong ministry of teaching children the Catholic faith by traveling by foot from house to house to instruct children in their homes. Adele’s dad, Lambert Brise, built a small wooden structure at the sight of the apparition. A few years later, after Isabella Doyen donated five acres around the site, Adele, started a small school. Also, a  bigger wooden church was built, and it was named Our Lady of Good Help.

In the meantime, the magnificent woodlands of Wisconsin were being harvested for their fine lumber. Mounds of sawdust and dried branches were being littered about with no sense of cleanup or conservation ever considered. Then came the evening of October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo Fire quickly exploded and began to devour the entire area with its rushing flames and 2000 degree heat. The firestorm started to head for Our Lady of Good Help.

People nearby the chapel began heading to it. There was never an accurate count, but many people came, some even bringing their livestock. Sister Adele organized them together, and they all prayed the rosary. Outside the chapel, they walked in procession, holding high a statue of Mary pleading for her protection. The fire kept coming, and the people moved inside the chapel and continued praying. Soon the fire raged all around the compound, and the flames even arched over it. But the fire never touched the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help or the people there.

Over one million acres were destroyed in the Peshtigo Firestorm. As far as the eye could see was total devastation. Yet, in the middle of it all, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help and the fenced property surrounding it was untouched. The property had been spared, and no one had been hurt, including the animals. The five acres sat amid the charred landscape like an oasis in the desert. People who came and saw this incredible sight knew the Hand of God was at work that night. The faithful did not doubt that the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Good Help, stood outside the chapel, deflecting the raging inferno away from her children inside.

The story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Good Help was always well known within the local culture and to the faithful, but many considered it “urban legend”. That was because there was never an “official ecclesiastical judgment” rendered. Then, in 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay launched an official investigation. On December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a special Mass was offered on the site by Bishop David Ricken. At the Mass, the bishop declared that the Marian apparitions witnessed by Adele Brise were “worthy of belief.”

The site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help is only one of 15 worldwide recognized for Marian apparitions.  It is the only one in the United States. Since its ecclesiastical recognition and approval, The  Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is rapidly growing as a site for pilgrims from around the world. The “cause” for the canonization of Sister Adele Brise will continue. It is a beautiful thing.

 

copyright ©Larry Peterson 2017


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


St. John Joseph of the Cross*— this humble Saint fasted regularly, slept only three hours per night-and led a life without any earthly comforts.

He was and still is  great Lenten Role Model

John Joseph of the Cross                                                    en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

*St. John Joseph of the Cross should not be confused with St. John of the Cross

His name was Carlo Gaetano Calosirto, and he was born on August 15, 1654, off the coast of Naples on the island of Ischia. From his earliest childhood, he demonstrated great virtue and self-denial. When he was fifteen, he joined the Order of Friars Minor, and when he was sixteen years old, he became the first Italian to join the reform movement of  Peter Alcantara, a movement that re-dedicated the Franciscans to a stricter and more austere way of life.

By the time he was twenty years old, he was charged with founding a monastery for the Order. He was sent to establish one in the Piedmont region. Filled with humility, he participated in the actual construction doing masonry work. His holiness and unyielding commitment to order impressed everyone, and his superiors insisted that he accept ordination to the priesthood. He refused insisting he was not worthy, but clearer heads prevailed, and he was ordained a priest.

He continued in his priestly ministry while still insisting on doing the lowest of tasks. He refused to eat red meat or drink red wine and slept only three hours a night. When awake, if not working, the rest of his time was spent in prayer. When the monastery in Piedmont was finished, he established strict rules of silence and contemplative prayer.

In 1702, John Joseph was appointed Vicar Provincial of Alcantarine Reform in Italy. The Franciscans were determined to have Peter Alcantara’s austerity measures implemented throughout the entire Order. Even though in charge of such important duties, John Joseph still insisted on helping with the lowliest of tasks such as scrubbing the floors or washing the dishes. In fact, as the Superior, he ordered that no beggar should ever be turned away without some form of assistance. If it was necessary, he would take the monastery provisions and give them to those in need.

John Joseph lived the life of a true Franciscan. His personal life was ruled by denial and by serving others. Blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, many people came to him just to be close to him,  to get his blessing, or have him pray for them. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was unmatched among his peers, and he did his best to spread devotion to Our Lady anywhere he could.

When his tenure as Provincial was nearing its end, he spent much of his time hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Those who came to him for confession said that he could “read their hearts.”He would not rest even if sick. If someone he had laid hands on or prayed over had recovered, he would insist that they take some form of medication so he would not be given credit for the cure. Many tried to tear pieces from his clothes to keep as holy relics

John Joseph of the Cross had an all-encompassing love and faith in the Lord. He wrote that “whoever walks always in God’s presence, will never commit sin, but will preserve his innocence and become a great saint.”

He told his fellow Franciscans,  “Let us hope in God, and doubtless, we shall be comforted,” and “God is a tender Father, who loves and succors all.”

St. John Joseph of the Cross lived by the words, “Doubt not. Trust in God. He will provide.”

John Joseph died in Naples on March 5, 1734. He was beatified by Pope Pius VI on May 24, 1789, and was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI. His Feast Day is March 5.

Saint John Joseph of the Cross, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


The Miraculous Image of Our Lady with the Bowed head

Our Lady of the Bowed Head

Our Lady of the Bowed Head                             pineterest.com

By Larry Peterson

“The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.” St. John Damascene

Pictures and statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been carved, chiseled, painted, or made in some way by many people from all over the world since the beginnings of the Catholic church. The numbers are too many to count.  One of these is a picture of the Blessed Mother that was originally found in a pile of trash. It is called Our Lady of the Bowed Head.

The story of the picture begins in Sicily in 1610. A Carmelite monk, by the name of Dominic of Jesus and Mary, was charged with inspecting an old, broken-down house to see if it might be suitable to convert into a monastery. As he walked around the grounds, he passed a pile of trash. Giving the debris a cursory look, Friar Dominic kept on walking. Suddenly he stopped. Something or someone was telling him to go back and look closer at the trash.

He heeded the prompt and returned to the garbage pile. He grabbed a broken stick and began separating the mounds of junk. When he saw the edge of a picture frame, he paused. He carefully pushed away the debris that surrounded what he now realized was a painting. Rescuing the artwork from its impending fate, he pulled it out and discovered it was an old oil painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He could not believe someone had thrown such a beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother in the garbage. Friar Dominic wrote that the first thing he did was to apologize to Mary. He said, “I am sorry, dear Mother, that someone has treated thy image in such a terrible manner. I will take it back to the monastery with me and fix it up, and I will give thee the homage which thou so rightly deserve.”

Dominic did indeed, take it back to the monastery, and restore it as best he could. He hung the picture in his cell and every day gave Mary the attention, reverence, and devotion that was due her. He prayed to Our Lady with an increased exuberance asking her for the graces to please Jesus in all things.

One day when Dominic was cleaning his cell, the sunlight happened to land on the picture. Dominic thought there was dust on the painting and went over to clean it. The humble friar felt that he had been remiss in his duties and, raising his eyes to heaven,  apologized profusely to Our Lady for having neglected her painting. He even apologized for using the old rag he had.

As he proceeded to dust the picture, Our Lady’s face began to move, and she smiled at the priest. Dominic was not sure what was happening and then Our Lady spoke to him saying, “Fear not, my son, for your request is granted! Your prayer will be answered and will be part of the reward, which you will receive for the love that you have for my Son Jesus and myself.”

She proceeded to tell him that she would grant him any favor he wanted. He asked for Her to help his friend be released from Purgatory. She told him,  Dominic, my son, I will deliver this soul from Purgatory if you will make many sacrifices and will have many Masses offered for this soul.” Then the apparition of Mary faded away.

The apparition of Our Lady vanished, and Friar Dominic remembered the words of the Holy Virgin when she promised to answer the prayers of all who would honor and pray to her before the miraculous image. He knew he had to share it with everyone and the painting was placed in the Oratory of St. Charles located next to the Church of Santa Maria de la Scale.

The painting remained in the Church of Santa Maria de la Scale until Dominic’s death in 1630. Then it was loaned to the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian. Later it was loaned to Emperor Ferdinand II and then returned to the Carmelite Fathers after Ferdinand’s death in 1655. In 1901 a new church was built in Vienna and the image was given a place of honor there.

Today it is in the monastery Church of Vienna Dobling. September 27, 1931, it was solemnly crowned by Pope Pius XI – the 300th anniversary of its arrival in Vienna.

Fr. Dominic was declared Venerable by St. Pius X in 1907.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


This Filipina nun’s legacy continues through the order of nuns she established

ROSARIO ARROYO

Mother Rosario Arroyo                                                   facebook fair use

Mother Rosario Arroyo is much loved and often invoked. Some say her intercession has already brought miracles.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 

 

 


Is Christmas a Time for Miracles? The Answer is YES, and we can prove it.

We thought Mom was dead, but she opened her eyes and said, “Come here and give me a hug.” 

Believe in Miracles                                                                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

During the Christmas season, I believe God’s loving hand sweeps down and touches many of us with a little extra something when we might need it most. Haven’t you ever, after having something unexpected and beautiful happens, blurted out, “I can’t believe it, it’s a miracle!”

Sometimes what happens to you or someone close to you is inexplicable, mystifying, and mysterious and you just know in your heart that God had His hand in the mix. The following is true, and it happened to my family during the Christmas season of 1960. I can remember it as if it happened today. There is no logical explanation save God intervened and gave us an unexpected Christmas gift.

Our Mom had just turned forty and suddenly was going back and forth to the hospital for two or three days at a time. I had just turned 16 and was more or less oblivious to most everything except Barbara McMahon, who lived around the corner. Every time Mom came home, she looked worse. My sister, Carolyn, 13, told me the black and blue marks on Mom’s arms were from IV needles. I figured she knew what was up especially since she wanted to be a nurse.

Dad just kept telling us it was the “grippe” (today we call it the flu). “Don’t worry,” he’d say, “It’s just a really bad grippe.” Grandma, who lived with us, embraced that concept without question. Today, the psyche experts call that Denial. Grandma proved to be really good at it.

Mom was home for Thanksgiving, but Grandma was doing most of the work using my poor sister as her trainee. I know that it was sometime after Thanksgiving that Mom went back into the hospital. Then came December 18. That was the day Dad, Grandma, Carolyn and myself, took the subway down to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for a simple Sunday visit with the woman who was the wife, mother and daughter in our lives. Christmas was one week away and that visit turned out to be anything but simple.

Mom was on the third floor, and when we got to her room,  several doctors and nurses were standing around her bed. Mom was on the bed, her head on the pillow and turned to one side. Her eyes were closed. I remember how still she was. I was instantly frightened. Carolyn and I looked at each other and she too was filled with fear. It is incredible how fast fear can embrace you.

Grandma placed her hand over her mouth and started to cry. One of the doctors pulled our dad to the side and quietly talked to him. I watched him shake his head ever so slightly. Then he came over to me and (this is a direct quote from him on that day), “Please take your sister and Grandma to the chapel and say a rosary together. Your Mom needs all the prayers she can get right now.”

Trying to grow into a man in a matter of seconds, I put my arm around Grandma’s shoulder and said, “C’mon Grandma, let’s do what Dad asked.” She was so distraught she simply complied and followed my lead. As we headed to the inter-denominational chapel, a priest hurried towards Mom’s room.

I have no idea how long we were in that little chapel, but I do know we had prayed two rosaries when a nurse came in and asked us to go back to the room. We were a bit shocked because the nurse was smiling. Grandma, with her worn-out arthritic knees, jumped up and broke into the funkiest sprint I have ever seen. She had erased thirty years just like that.

When we walked into that room, we were confronted with a sight to behold. Mom was sitting up in bed, smiling. Dad was next to her with his arm around her shoulder. He was sporting a grin that spread across his entire face and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Standing on the other side of the bed was the priest we had seen in the hallway. He was standing there with his hands clasped together with a look on his face I cannot describe. For me, it was a moment etched indelibly in my mind and I can see it as clearly as I did back then.

Our Mom, who we thought was dead, extended her arms and said, “Well, don’t I get a hug from you two? C’mon, get over here.”

Mom was not only better, but she was also ALL better. Her arms were clear, her face had color and her eyes were bright and cheerful. Several doctors were outside huddled together in disbelief. They had no explanation for her sudden recovery. We finally learned that Mom had Leukemia, and in 1960, your chances with that disease were virtually non-existent. We also learned that Dad had asked us to go to the chapel because the doctor had told him she only had moments left. He did not want us to see her pass on.

My father and the priest believed they had witnessed a miracle. Grandma, Carolyn, and I saw the results of that miracle. Mom came home the next afternoon.

Christmas of 1960 was spiritual and fabulous. What had happened filled us all with an awe-inspiring sense of what Christmas means…New Life.  As for Mom, she was fine until the end of January. She enjoyed Johnny’s second birthday and Danny’s eleventh birthday. In early February, she was back in the hospital. She died on February 18, 1961. God gave her back to us for one last Christmas and it was the best Christmas ever.

So please, trust me when I tell you it is okay to believe, Christmas really is a time for miracles.

Wishing God’s blessings and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

Copyright©Larry Peterson2019 (first posted in 2015)

 


‘Virgen de Los Desamparados’ aka Our Lady of the Forsaken

Our Lady of the Abandoned           en.wilkipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On Friday, February 24, 1409, Father Juan Gilberto-Jofre, a Mercedarian priest,  was on his way to the Cathedral to say Mass. He heard a commotion in the street and saw a man on the ground covering his head with his arms as a gang of young people were taunting and mocking and hitting him.

Father Jofre hurried over to the small crowd and demanded they stop hurting one of God’s children. Father Jofre rescued the man and brought him to the Mercedarian monastery where he was given shelter and had his wounds tended to. The following Sunday at Mass, he preached his first homily about the mentally ill.

In the homily, he included a plea for funds to start a place to care for and shelter these people. He was so forceful in his speech that the merchants, craftsmen, and businessmen at the Mass, gave generously.  The money became available, and before long a home and hospital were opened dedicated to the Blessed Mother under the title of “Our Lady of Innocents.”

On August 29. 1414, a Brotherhood was founded dedicated to caring for the mentally ill. It was called the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Insane and the Forsaken Innocents. That name was soon changed.  A famine had struck the land, and many children had been orphaned. The Brotherhood quickly extended its care to not only the mentally ill but to the many orphaned children wandering the streets of Valencia. They refined the title, and the new dedication was to Our Lady of the Forsaken.

Father Jofre and his brother friars realized the hospital was lacking a prayer room. They built an oratory and when they were finished knew it was missing something; that something was a statue of Our Lady of the Forsaken. Since there was no such statue, they entered into prayer for help in acquiring one.

Legend has it that soon after three handsome young men knocked on the door seeking refuge. Thye offered to carve the needed statue as payment for allowing them to stay. They only asked to be left alone to work for at least three days. The friars accepted the offer.

As the three days went by the three young men remained in locked inside the room.  The Friars would listen by the door, but no sound was ever heard. At the end of the third day, they again knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Finally, they forced open the door only to find the three men gone. Who were these handsome men? Their identity was never discovered but most folks quickly came to believe they were angels sent by God.

What they found in the center of the room was a magnificent statue that the men had created. Miracles began to happen,  starting with the wife of a member of the Brotherhood. Paralyzed and blind, she was completely cured. Thus began the legend called, “Elferen els angels,” aka “Made by the Angels.”

The statue exhibited a demeanor that was called “majestic and protective.” The people took this to mean that it signified goodness, mercy, and assistance that comes from someone majestic. In 1885 the statue was named the Virgen de los Desamparados or Our Lady of the Forsaken and declared the Patroness of Valencia.

Today there is a Basilica of Our Lady of the Forsaken in Valencia, where the statue is on display. Every year on the second Sunday of May a huge festival is held in honor of Our Lady of the Forsaken Ones. It is said that Saint Bonaventure is connected to Our Lady of the Forsaken because of a quote attributed to him:

“When all human help fails, it is imperative that we not despair. For normally in this extreme situation, the divine help of Mary comes.”

‘Virgen de Los Desamparados’   (Our Lady of the Forsaken), please pray for us

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


La Naval de Manila—Honoring the Great Lady of the Philippines; this devotion began in 1646

Our Lady of Naval de Manila                                       en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Catholics in the Philippines are profoundly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, honoring her is at the very essence of their faith.  Every year, on the second Sunday of October, a grand celebration is held to honor Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila. The first celebration of this feast occurred 373 years ago, on October 8, 1646.  So, how did this annual, time-honored celebration come about? Well, it started with a statue.

In 1593,  Don Luis Perez Dasmarinas was appointed the Spanish governor in the Philippines. Soon after his appointment, his father passed away, and he asked his trusted assistant, Captain Hernando Coronel, to have a sculpture made in his honor. Captain Coronel commissioned an immigrant Chinese artist to do the job. The man was also a convert to Christianity and had a sincere love for the Blessed Virgin.

The sculptor (name unknown) carved the statue out of hardwood. It was four feet and eight inches tall. He crafted the face and hands of the Blessed Virgin and the entire Child Jesus from solid ivory. The features of Our Lady’s face and the Child Jesus’s face are decidedly Asian due to the sculptor’s ethnicity. No matter, Governor Dasmarinas loved the statue and dedicated it to his late father. The statue was called Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. Not long after, it was given to the Dominicans, and it was placed in the Church at Santo Domingo.

Some years later, the Dutch Republic wanted to establish a quicker trade route to Asia. The most direct route would be through the Philippines. As is the way of things, they decided that they needed to conquer the country. This would require forming a formidable naval fleet which they did. The Dutch began their attacks in 1646.

The Philippine forces had two galleons to go against the enormous Dutch fleet. They prayed before the statue of the Blessed Virgin and requested she intercede for them in their impending battle. Having placed themselves under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary they began to pray the rosary over and over. They promised that if they were victorious they would march barefoot towards her shrine in Santo Domingo Church in Manila.

Five major naval battles ensued, and the tiny Philippine naval force, a combination of Spanish and Philippino sailors,  turned the Dutch forces back each time. Only fifteen members of the Spanish navy were lost. When the Dutch finally surrendered, the remaining Philippine and Spanish sailors, fulfilling the vow they had made, walked barefoot in gratitude to the Shrine of Our Lady in Manila. The Blessed Mother was given the name of La Naval and from then on was known as Or Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval of Manila.

On October 6, 1646, the first celebration to honor the great victory was held in Manila. On April 9, 1662,  the Bishop in the Archdiocese of Manila declared the naval victory a miracle that was owed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Included in the declaration was the directive to celebrate, preach about, and hold festivities in remembrance of the miracles brought by “Our Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Holy Rosary.”

Five Popes have honored the statue and the miracles it brought forth:

  • Pope Leo XIII in 1903
  • Pope St. Pius X, bestowed a canonical crown on the statue in 1906.
  • Pope Pius XIIalso sent an Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the tricentenary of the Battle of La Naval de Manila on 31 July 1946.
  • Pope St. Paul VI declared her Patroness of Quezon City in 1973
  • Pope St. John Paul II dedicated the entire Asian continent to her in 1981.

Today the Santo Domingo Church is known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila. Prior to the statue’s Canonical Coronation more than 310, 000 people donated jewels, gems, gold, and silver to adorn the statue.It is considered the oldest ivory carving in the Philippines. The church is the largest in Manila and one of the largest in all of Asia.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 


My Wife and The Little Flower joined forces and gave me a Miracle

St. Therese,The Little Flower                                              franciscansite-oct1

By Larry Peterson

For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary,

For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.

                                                                                                            St. Thomas Aquinas

Loretta was my high school sweetheart and we began “dating” when we were about 15. Several years later, after both my parents had passed, and even though I now had three younger brothers to care for, she stood by me.  Her family, especially her mom,  was somewhat horrified at the thought of her daughter getting involved with a young guy with all the “extras” and tried her best to stop her from marrying me.

However,  she stood by my side, we got married, and came home from our honeymoon with only two of my brothers waiting for us. The youngest, Johnny, had moved in with my sister and her new husband, Bob.  Everything, although not traditional, was okay. We had stayed together as a family, and we had a home.

I had been sponsored into the Lather’s and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, one of the best building trades unions in New York City. By the time I was 22 I had finished my apprenticeship and was earning journeyman wages. Loretta and I got married when we were both 23 and moved to New Jersey from the Bronx. My brothers were both in high school, one a senior and the other a freshman, and besides feeling totally out of place at parent’s/teacher’s conferences, all was okay.

A few years passed by and I started to stumble a bit and lose my balance. Sometimes I appeared to have been drinking. Then I experienced what is known as a ‘foot drop.” My left foot was flopping around as I walked. It was like it was not mine. I remember it so well; as I walked the foot would go “splat-splat splat” with every step I made. It was like it belonged somewhere else, not at the end of my leg.

I was admitted to the Neurological Insitute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. After five days undergoing various neurological tests including a myelogram, it was determined that I “probably” had Multiple Sclerosis. My doctor informed me that it would gradually get worse but  was very unpredictable and it could go into remission. At that time, it was impossible to give a precise course for the illness.

I could no longer work in the construction industry but was still getting around okay. Physical therapy had helped me to get some of my foot function back and I could walk with a limp and drag the foot instead of having it go “splat-splat.” So I bought a used van and started a small package delivery service.

I managed to make ends meet for a while and then the illness reared its ugly head and the exacerbation was quick.  I could barely stand and before I knew it I was using Canadian Quad canes for support to get around. My doctor recommended we move to Florida. The rationale was simple; no ice, no snow, and it would be much easier to walk around with crutches.

Loretta’s maid of honor and best friend, Angie, had moved to Florida several years earlier. She was encouraging us to move there. My brothers were young men and now on their own. Danny, had gotten married and Bobby was working as a trucker. It was just Loretta and I and the kids. We sold our small house and headed south.

Angie updated us about the area and the schools and helped us find a place. I actually managed to start making some money writing resumes, but I was getting worse and my new neurologist told us I would be blind, incontinent, and in a wheelchair within a year or two.

It was Christmas of 1980,  we had three small kids, no money, and things were looking bleak. I had received medical assistance from County Social Services, food stamps, and prescriptions (Billy, age seven, was asthmatic and needed inhalers and a few other things which I cannot remember. Loretta was diabetic and needed some meds to help her keep her blood sugar at acceptable levels. The insulin would come a few years later. And that is how it was. Enter The Little Flower.

Thursday, January 8, 1981,  was Loretta’s birthday. I had taken the boys to school and on the way home picked up Egg McMufins at McDonald’s. Loretta loved those, and it was her birthday. Mary was only three, and I know I got her something; what, it was, I can’t remember.

When I walked back into our apartment my dear wife was standing there next to the dining room table. She had her arms outstretched and was smiling ear to ear. I was quickly trying to process whatever was happening. “Well,” she says, “What do you think?”

I said nothing but on the table were all these birthday cards, all opened and standing next to each other forming a semi-circle. She pointed to the cards and said, (I remember the words as if it was yesterday:“Today is my birthday, and I got the only present I wanted.

“Please,  tell me what is going on? What am I missing here?”

She raises her voice and says, “Look at the cards, look at the cards. Every single one is covered with roses. I prayed a novena to St. Therese that you would get better and just look. I don’t even know half the people who sent these. But every card has roses on it. You are going to be fine. St. Therese just told us. You will be fine.”

There was no instant cure but that very day I tossed my Canadian Quads and began using a regular cane. I started going to Easter Seals for rehab and after three months I was doing a lot better than expected. In due time I tossed the cane too. If you saw me today you would never know I had MS. My urologist who treated my prostate cancer and is a great doctor tells me, “I think they made a mistake. I don’t believe you had MS. Most of my friends have no clue either, just some old ones from way back when.

Our fourth child was stillborn during Loretta’s sixth month. She was a girl and we named here Therese. I am so glad we did.  Happy Feast day Little Flower, I love you. Thanks again.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


St. Hyacinth of Poland; This “Apostle of the North” saved the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin from destruction by walking them across a river

By Larry Peterson

Saint Hyacinth of Poland was born in Silesia, Poland, in the year 1185. His father was Eustachius Konski, and he was of the noble family of Ordowacz. Hyacinth’s parents were devout Catholics, and Hyacinth grew up in a home surrounded by love and kindness.

His well-formed disposition and strong faith, combined with a brilliant mind, allowed him to move quickly through schooling in Krakow, then Prague, and finally to Bologna in Italy. This is where he was awarded the title of Doctor of Law and Divinity.  He returned to Poland and was given an administrative position at a medieval-style administrative center in southeast Poland.

The Bishop of Krakow, Ivo Konski, was Hyacinth’s uncle. He had been planning a trip to Rome, and he took his nephew with him. It was at this time in his life when he met Dominic de Guzman (who would later be known as St. Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Preachers; more commonly known as the Dominicans). Hyacinth, along with his cousin, Ceslaus, were among the very first to receive the religious habit of the Dominican Order. The year was 1220.

Hyacinth had developed a deep sense of prayer and was zealous in his desire to bring souls to salvation. Recognizing this quality, his superiors sent him back to Poland to preach and lay the groundwork for developing the Dominican order in his native land. A gifted preacher, Hyacinth’s sermons were received with great enthusiasm and before long he had established communities in Sandomir, Krakow, and in Moravia.

He traveled into Prussia, Pomerania, and into Lithuania leaving the presence of the growing Dominican order everywhere he went. He crossed the Baltic Sea and preached in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Before long, he was known as the “Apostle of the North.”

St. Hyacinth is known for performing a number of miracles.  There is one miracle that stands out among all the rest; that would be the Miracle of Kiev. The Tartars had laid siege to the City of Kiev. Hyacinth was saying Mass and was unaware that the enemy was almost at the church doors. As he ended the Mass, he realized what was going on and that the attacking forces were about to enter and ransack the church.

Hyacinth did not hesitate. Determined to protect the consecrated Host and still fully vested, he took hold of the ciborium and began to run from the church. As he ran he passed by a statue of Mary. He heard a voice say, “Hyacinth, my son, why dost thou leave me behind?  Take me with thee and leave me not to my enemies.”

The statue was made of alabaster and was very heavy. Hyacinth stopped, turned, and seeing the figure of Our Lady, hurried over and wrapped his arms around it. Somehow he managed to lift the life-size figure and escape from the church undetected saving the Holy Eucharist and the statue of the Blessed Virgin. This is the miraculous moment in which St. Hyacinth is most often depicted. But it did not end there.

The wondrous story goes on to say that Hyacinth and the surrounding community while fleeing the invading Tartar forces, came upon the Dneiper River.  Hyacinth implored the people to follow him across the river. The river was very deep, and the people were filled with fear. But Hyacinth began to walk across the river and the people, trusting his faith, followed.

Polish historians all seem to agree that this is fact. In addition, it is said that Hyacinth’s footprints remained on the water after he had crossed and that, for centuries after, when the waters were calm, they could again be seen.

There is another legend that was inspired by Hyacinth. It seems there was a violent hailstorm that swept through the area and destroyed all of the crops, leaving the people staring at the possibility of poverty and famine. Hyacinth told them all to pray and they all prayed together. The next morning the crops had regrown and the people made pierogi in gratitude. To this day an old-time Polish saying is used when facing seemingly hopeless circumstances: “Święty Jacku z pierogami!” (St. Hyacinth with pierogi!) pray for us.

Hyacinth fell ill on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8,  1257. He warned of his impending death. On the Feast of the Assumption, he attended morning Mass. He was anointed at the altar and died that very day, August 15, 1257.

He was canonized in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII. His feast day is celebrated on August 17.

St. Hyacinth, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019