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


St. Malachy’s Church; Home to The “Actor’s Chapel” an Oasis of Catholicism in the Heart of the Broadway Theater District

St. Malachy’s Church (Actor’s Chapel) NYC                          wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

I was in New York City recently (my hometown), and I was blessed by being able to attend 9 A.M. Sunday Mass at St. Malachy’s Church. Located on W 49th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue, this is the very heart of the Broadway theater district. This area of midtown Manhattan is just a few blocks from Times Square and is known around the world.

This church opened in 1902 and stepping into it is like a step back in time. The church is small in comparison to many others, but the gothic architecture is magnificent, and the white marble altar crowns the sanctuary with a pronounced transcendental presence. It is stunning to look at.

When the church opened, it was an average parish church tending to the needs of the local Catholics and their growing families. But shortly before 1920 things began to change. The section of Manhattan began to transform into the area known for theater. Soon it became known as the “theater district.”

The priests and the active parishioners of the day realized that they would have to adapt to the changing parish population. The area was becoming filled with actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, stagehands, craftsmen, and all the other personnel that were required to make entertainment possible. Masses were rescheduled and rearranged to accommodate the theater and nightclub workers. Scheduling a Mass at 4 A.M., required permission from the Vatican because church law did not allow Masses at that hour.

Toward the end of 1920, the “Actor’s Chapel” was completed below the main church. St. Malachy’s quickly became known as the center of worship for the entertainment industry. Celebrities who attended Mass at the church included George M. Cohan (who donated the altar rail for the chapel), Perry Como, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Cagney, Bob Hope, and Rudolph Valentino, to name a few. Some of the actors who served Mass were Pat O’Brien, Jimmy Durante, and Don Ameche.

Someone not mentioned so far but who needs mentioning is the patron of the parish, the man the church is named after, St.Malachy. Who was he and where did he come from? Let’s find out.

We must travel back to Ireland in the year 1094. A baby was born and was baptized with the name Mael Maedoc which translated into Malchus in Latin and finally Malachy in English. His surname was Ua Morgair  making his full name, Mael Maedoc Ua Morgair.  That translates into the simple Irish name of Malachy O’More.

Malachy was the son of a teacher, and after his parents passed away, he entered the religious life. He was ordained a priest in 1119 by Bishop Cellach, who would become St. Cellach. Much of what we know about Malachy comes from the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote a biography of Malachy and was with him when he died. He wrote of Malachy’s great preaching ability and his determination to reform abuses in the Irish church, including strict rules on celibacy.

Malachy was promoted to the position of Abbott, and a few years later, at the age of 30, was consecrated as the Bishop of Connor. He became a staunch supporter of Pope Gregory VII instituting the reforms that the Holy Father had initiated. This included introducing the Roman Liturgy into Ireland. He became a well-known miracle worker and healer where he reportedly cured people just by laying hands on them.

It is reported that Malachy was gifted with the gift of prophecy. While he was in Rome, in 1139, he had a vision of all the Popes from that day until the end of time. He wrote descriptions and poems about each of the future popes and eventually presented the manuscript to Pope Innocent II. It was apparently put to the side and did not resurface until the year 1590, a period of over 450 years. Ever since that time heated debates have arisen over its authenticity. The manuscript ends with the last pope being the one after Pope Benedict XVI.

For the most part these prophecies have been debunked. Accurate up until 1590 they get quite vague and inaccurate from that point on. Today, most scholars consider them a hoax. Thomas J. Reese S. J., of Georgetown University said, “St. Malachy’s prophecy is nonsense.” We can leave it there. But Malachy’s church leadership, reforms, and the many miracles attributed to him are unquestioned.

Malachy O/More died on November 2, 1148. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement III in 1190.

St. Malachy, please pray for us.

P.S. If you ever have the chance go to the Sunday, 11 A.M. Solemn High Mass. The choir consists of professional singers from the Broadway stage. There is NO Charge

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019