Pope St. Pius V saved Christianity—he is known as the Pope of the Holy Rosary

The Pope of the Holy Rosary; Pius V

By Larry Peterson

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. During the month we might also acknowledge the person known as the Pope of the Rosary, Pope St. Pius V.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, posted his 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Within the Catholic world, a great theological revolt ensued. This revolt spread throughout Europe and it was focused on many of the practices taking place within the church at the time, such as the selling of indulgences, papal authority, and Transubstantiation. This “revolt” is more commonly known as the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church did not begin to confront the Reformation seriously until Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in the year 1545.   This was to be a mammoth undertaking as virtually all church doctrines had been challenged by the Reformation including the Real Presence and the validity of the sacraments.

The Council did not adjourn until 1563, eighteen years after its inception. A period of 46 years had elapsed since the 95-Theses were first posted. But the final pronouncements of the Council had yet to be enacted and sealed as doctrinal law. Three years after the Council adjourned Michael Cardinal Ghislieri was elected to the papacy. He took the name of Pope Pius V.

Pope Pius V was a devout priest who found his strength in Christ crucified. He also held a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His first acts as pontiff were to give approval to the changes instituted by the Council of Trent and immediately implement the reforms set forth.

Pope Pius V codified the Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) as the primary Mass for the Roman Church, He authorized a revised breviary and a new Roman Catechism and Missal. He approved the Council’s teachings that Christ is present in both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine. The Mass was defined as a TRUE sacrifice and he approved doctrinal statements on the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony. He also affirmed church teachings on Purgatory and indulgences. He would quickly have much more to do. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire were determined to conquer Europe and Rome.

Deeply devoted to our Lady, Pope Pius V, issued a document in 1569 called a Papal Bull . This document was called, Consueverunt Romani Pontifices (On the Rosary) and it set in place the permanent format for the Rosary, the same which is used today. This is the same Rosary that our Lady presented to St. Dominic in 1214.

The greatest challenge at the time to the papacy of Pius V and to the Catholic Church was the Ottoman Empire. Pius V understood the intense desire of the Muslim Turks to conquer the entire Mediterranean area. Just as it is today, jihad, had been declared by the Muslim imams and Pope Pius V knew full well this was spiritual war about to be waged.

Pope Pius called together the Christian nations of Europe and formed them into what became known as the Holy League. Both Protestants and Catholics from different nations came together under the guidance of Pope Pius V to fight back against the Ottoman Turks. Pope Pius asked all Catholics to pray the Rosary asking for our Lady’s intercession when the battle ensued.

And so it was that on October 7, 1571, the Battle of Lepanto, took place.  As the Pope and thousands of his followers prayed the Rosary the Battle of Lepanto began. Under the military leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the Christian fleet won a resounding victory over the more powerful Ottoman Turks. This battle literally saved Christendom and western civilization. Pope Pius V declared that from that day on, the day would be called The Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory. Today it is called The Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The papacy of Pope Pius V lasted a mere six years. During his reign, he led the forces of “good against the forces of “evil” literally saving Christianity throughout Europe. He gave all credit to our Blessed Mother and today she bears the title of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Pope Pius V also set in place the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was unchanged for over 400 years (until Vatican II), established the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence, restored discipline in seminaries, and republished the Roman Breviary and the Roman Missal. He was canonized a saint on May 22, 1712 by Pope Clement XI.  How honored he must be to be called the Pope of the Holy Rosary.

Pope St. Pius V please pray for us.

copyright Larry Peterson (2017) 2022


The Last Christmas Tree (Inspired by a True Story)

The Last Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree  commons.wikimedia.org

A Short Story by

Larry Peterson

Inspired by a true story:

It was 6:00 A.M., and she was exhausted. She stood there, unblinking, looking into the mirror at the person staring back at her. Running her hands through her tousled, just-got-out-of-bed hair, she sighed deeply. She leaned forward, stared some more, and said to herself, “Oh my God, Sharon, you look just awful.”

She had to leave by 6:30, so she hurriedly washed her face, brushed her teeth, and tried to create some order with her hair. She had worked twenty-two days straight since Thanksgiving, and today would be the last day before the holiday. It was Christmas Eve, and there was still much to do, including getting a Christmas tree.

As Sharon, a meter reader and installer for the local utility company, pulled on her work shoes; a soft voice came from behind. It was her youngest, six-year-old Joey.  She turned, and he said, “Mommy, Santa can’t come here tonight.”

She was somewhat stunned by the unexpected comment. “Joey, why would you think that. Of course, he can come here.”

“But we have no Christmas tree. Can’t you stay home from work and get us a tree?”

They had kept asking, and she had kept promising, and it was always “later” or “tomorrow,” and now, just like that, time was up. She turned and held out her arms to her boy. “Come over here, “ she said.

He ran over, and she hugged him. She looked into his nervous eyes and said, “Don’t worry Joey, I only have to work a little while today, and then I will get the tree. I will have it when I get home from work. Then we will all decorate it, and Santa will have a tree to put the toys under. Don’t worry.”

Oozing innocence, he simply looked at her and believed it would be so. “Okay, mommy.”

She stood up and said, “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s get you back in bed. I will tell April you are awake.”

“No need, mom. I’m up. C’mon with me, Joey. We can watch some TV.”

It was her twelve-year-old son, Alvin. She turned and smiled at him. “Thanks, hon. They promised us we would be home early. Say a prayer it actually happens.”

“Mom, what about a tree?”

“Alvin, I know,  I know. I promised Joey, and I promise you, we will have a tree. Don’t worry. These last 20 days just seem to have run together, and—don’t worry, we will have a tree.”

It was about 6:50 when she pulled into the loading dock area to pick up her assignments and needed materials. The parking lot was already empty of the work trucks as all the crews had left for their assigned destinations. Sitting in her vehicle, she took out her Rosary and held it tightly. A “single” mom and devout Catholic, prayers had brought her through some, lonely, harsh and scary days after her husband had walked away from her and the children. She blessed herself and began to pray.

She was quietly asking the Blessed Virgin to allow Christmas Eve to go smoothly and for her to be able to get a tree when a tap on her window startled her. She turned to see her field supervisor, Herb Guerin, standing there. She rolled down the window, “Hi Herb, what do you have for me today?”

“Here you go, Sharon.” As he handed her the work orders he said,  “I’m sorry, but I have to dump two more on you. They just came in but they are right next to each other, so it should go quick.”

“Please, Herb, I still have to get a Christmas tree. Can’t you get someone else? My six-year-old is thinking that Santa won’t come to our house. I have to get a tree.”

“Look, I understand. But this is about five minutes away from where you are going. A transformer blew up, and 1400 homes are without power. That could be more than 4000 people. It is Christmas Eve, and they need their power. The line crew is on-site but there are two new meters we need installed. You should be able to squeeze that in, don’t you think? Those people are counting on us to get their power on.”

“Okay, Herb, okay. What are the addresses?” He handed her the add-ons, and they wished each other Merry Christmas. She drove away, fingering her rosary beads. That proved more soothing for her than a cup of morning coffee.

Sharon had finished her regular assignments by noon and it should have been the end of her workday. But, as is the way of things, the transformer was not delivered until 2:00 .P.M and she could not install the new meters until after the transformer was replaced. It was 4:00  P.M.when she finally started for home.

Heading home, she kept looking for Christmas trees for sale. Even the seasonal tree lots that sold trees every year were empty. She had been confident that she would find a tree quickly. Now her confidence was being shattered. There were no trees anywhere. She thought a moment and then prayed, St. Anthony, please help me find a tree for my kids?”

Sharon did not plan to go home until she had found a tree. But she had not eaten, she felt sick to her stomach and needed to stop by the house which was only five minutes away. She thought she could just run inside, use the bathroom and simply “chill” for a few minutes. She looked at the clock; it read 5:35. A shiver ran down her spine.

She stepped from her van as Joey came running out of the house, “Hi Mommy, did you get our tree? Did you?  Where is the tree? Where is the tree? You got the tree, right?”

Sharon took a deep breath and knew she should have found a tree before coming home. Looking upwards, she quickly and quietly prayed, “Dear God, I need Your help. Please.”

Just like that, April, who was fourteen, Alvin, eleven, and Austin, eight,  were standing in front of her. Joey was in front of them. All she could see were four sets of insecure and nervous eyes looking  at her. A sudden blanket of fear seemed to come out of nowhere and grab hold of her. Oh my God, I do not know if I can do this. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I need your help. Tears came to her eyes.

April quickly went to her mom and gave her a hug. She said, “Mom, it’s okay. Don’t worry.”

Then Alvin was standing next to her, and Austin and then Joey was hugging her leg and she felt the love of her children and blurted out, “Okay, listen to me. I did not get the tree yet. I just needed to get a drink and use the bathroom. Then I will get it. Alvin, can you come with me to help?

“Why should Alvin get to go?” Austin asked. “Why can’t we all go?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” said April, “All of us should go. It will be all of us finding our family Christmas Tree.”

Sharon looked at the four of them and was suddenly buoyed with a sense of “Christmas.” Everything was feeling right. She had been slowly buying and hiding things since July. Toys and other gifts were in the back of her work truck, and more were stashed in the shed in the back yard. (The kids never let on that they knew). “Okay,” she said.  “Let’s get in the car and go find a tree.”

They piled into their fourteen-year-old 1988 Chevy Corsica, and Sharon headed toward Washington Ave. Her children had no idea how tired and worn out their mom was. Well, why would they; their Mom was not like other people; she was MOM. Being up since 6:00 A.M., not eating all day except for some stale chocolate chip cookies and two containers of coffee, was not something that could stop their Mom. That possibility was never considered.  They did not grasp that it was she who was hungry, tired, and feeling a bit weak. She said, “I hope we can find a tree quickly. You kids must be starving.” Things were never about her.

They were all focused on a tree, not food.  Alvin said, “ We can eat later, mom. Let’s check Walmart first; they have tons of trees.”

Sharon sighed and made a quick left onto Highway 19 N. They pulled into Walmart’s parking lot five minutes later. The store was just closing. They drove over to the nursery and found out there were no trees left. Al tried to run into the store to look for an artificial tree, but the doors were already locked.

Sharon said, “There is a Christmas tree lot over on Belcher Rd. They might have something.”

That lot was empty, and the search continued, from supermarket to supermarket, to home-improvement centers and discount outlets, to nurseries, and even looking outside convenience stores. Sharon was now driving and not thinking. They had searched for a tree for over two hours, finding more than a dozen places that sold trees but now had none. It was now almost eight o’clock.

She was feeling a sense of despair. It was dark, and most stores had already closed. April suddenly blurted out, “Hey Mom; there is the Burger Barn. Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”

They all chimed in, “yeah, mom—c’mon Mom—we’re starving, Mom!”  Sharon knew that sitting in the car with the four kids eating cheeseburgers, fries, and holding drinks would be a disaster. “Okay, stop yelling; I can hear you. But there is no way we eat in the car. Lets park and go inside. We need a break anyway.”

As they walked toward the entrance, Austin said, “Mom, we just better face it. We aren’t going to find a tree. It’s too late. They’re all gone.”

“Stop it, Austin, have some faith. As soon as we sit down, we will all say a Hail Mary together and ask our Mother Mary to help us find one. And you watch, she WILL help us find one.”

They walked inside, found an empty table, and sat down. Sharon’s faith had helped her through incredibly difficult times, and she was about to call on it again. She reached out her hands, and they all followed her lead, holding each other’s hands. Bowing their heads, they prayed a Hail Mary together. When they finished, Sharon and Alvin headed to the counter to get their food.

The impromptu Burger Barn  “dinner” went reasonably well. The order came out quickly. Nothing was dropped or spilled, and, to top it off, everyone was quiet as they devoured their food. After spending a calm and pleasant fifteen minutes, it was time to find their tree.

As they stood up to leave, an old man, disheveled and dirty, approached them. Nervously, the man said, “Excuse me, ma’am. I think I can help you.”

Sharon had watched as he approached and haltingly said, ‘Huh…help me? What do you mean? We are fine. We do not need any help. Please, we have to go.”  She turned to her nervous children and said, “Okay kids, it’s time to leave. Let’s go.”

“Ma’am, please, don’t be afraid. I watched you and your children praying and it was a beautiful thing. And— I heard your boy say you needed a tree. I can help you.”

“How can you help us? I suppose you know where a tree is?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, I do,” said the man. “But you have to trust me and follow me. I will take you to it.”

“Follow you? We don’t even know you. Why should we follow a complete stranger to an unknown place? I have my children with me. Look, sir, I’m sure you are a very nice man, but I’m not following you anywhere.”

The man quietly said, “I’m sorry to have bothered you and your family. You all have a merry Christmas.”

They were all watching him as he walked toward the exit. As he disappeared, one of the workers came by and smilingly said, “I hope that man didn’t frighten you. He is harmless. He’s just a kind old man who  stops in here every so often for some coffee.”

Sharon, hearing this, quickly huddled her kids around and said quietly, “Look, we just prayed to the Blessed Virgin for help, and this old man comes out of nowhere and offers us a tree. It seems a bit crazy, but it is Christmas Eve. They know him here, so he must be harmless. We have to trust that Jesus and His Mom are helping us. As foolish as it sounds, I say we follow him. What do you kids think?”

“Why not, mom.,” April said. “Jesus will protect us.”

They all agreed, and Sharon said, “Okay, let’s see if we can find him.”

They hurried outside, and the old man was just standing there. As Sharon approached him, he smiled and said, “I thought I would wait to see if you changed your mind. I’m glad you did.”

Across the road from Burger Barn was a golf course. The man told Sharon, “There is a gravel service road at the end of the golf course parking lot. Drive down that road for about a half-mile, and you will find your tree. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

The surrounding golf course was unlit and pitch black. The headlights from the car cast an eerie glow as they slowly drove forward. Sharon had them all praying together as they ventured into the unknown. The mother of four was driving using faith for fuel. She was afraid. So were her children. The only sound that could be heard was the gravel crunching beneath the tires.

And then, as they turned around the bend in the road, there it was. A Christmas tree, not just any Christmas tree but the most beautiful tree they had ever seen. It was fully decorated, and all lit up. It was as if a light was shining down upon it. The entire area was lit up. As they got out of the car, an older woman stepped out from behind the bushes. Sharon and her kids just stared at her, not knowing where she came from, who she was, or how all this was happening. The woman asked, “Do you like the tree?”

Sharon said, “Who are you? What is going on? Are we all dreaming?”

“No, Sharon, you are not dreaming. Do you like the tree? What do you kids think? Do you like it?”

Austin said, “It is the most beautiful tree I ever, seen, ever.”

“Does everyone agree with Austin?”

They all agreed, and the woman said,  “Well then, Sharon, you just take your family home. When you arrive, the tree will be waiting for you. And, Joey, don’t worry, Santa will be coming to your house tonight.”

Sharon asked, “What do you mean, just go home. What about the tree?”

“Don’t worry about the tree. It is yours. Trust me. All I ask is that you say a prayer for all of those folks who have no home to go to on this cold, Christmas Eve.”

“I don’t understand. How will the tree….?”

The lady smiled and said, “Have faith, sweetie. It got you here, didn’t it?”

Sharon and her kids got into the car and began their ride home. As they passed the Burger Barn, they looked for the old man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Alvin said, “How did she know all of our names?” No one said anything.

While driving, Sharon had them all praying for homeless people, and, for the most part, all of them were trying to understand what had happened.

When they pulled up to their house, all they could see was the Christmas tree that had been at the golf course only a short time before. It was standing in their living room in front of the window. They got out of the car and just stood there, in shock, not understanding, but seeing what they thought impossible. When they went inside, the house smelled like fresh carnations mixed with a hint of pine. Underneath the tree was a creche with figures carved from ivory. It was beautiful.

It was almost midnight when all the kids were finally in bed. Sharon got the gifts from her truck and the shed out back and placed them around the tree. Then she sat down, took out her Rosary, and began crying and praying simultaneously.

Christmas morning came, and Sharon made sure everyone was up, dressed, and ready to go to 8 A.M., Mass.  After Mass, she told the kids that they were going back to the golf course to find the man and woman who helped them. She wanted to thank them and invite them for Christmas dinner. The kids readily agreed.

The course was crowded with golfers, many out to show off their new clothes and golfing equipment. The gravel road was blocked off, so they got out of their car and began to walk. When they reached the bend in the road, they stopped. Nothing was there except a golfer looking for his shanked golf shot.

Sharon said to the man, “Excuse me, sir, did you see an elderly man and woman anywhere around here?”

“Sorry, lady, the only thing I’m hoping to see is my missing golf ball.”

As they slowly walked back to the car a white dove flew down from a tree and landed facing them. The bird seemed to be looking up at them. They all stopped and marveled at this snow-white bird.

The bird stayed looking at them for about ten seconds, then slowly fluttered its wings, flew up and landed on Sharon’s shoulder. She remained still. Turning her head ever so slowly, she looked at the dove. The bird looked back at her, and their eyes connected. The bird leaned in and rubbed its face against Sharon’s cheek. Then it flew away.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019 updated 2021

 


Born paralyzed, this future Saint became a Media Celebrity at the age of 57. Meet Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo
public domain

By Larry Peterson

Gaetana Tolomeo was born in Catanzaro, in Italy’s Calabria region, on Good Friday, April 10, 1936. Father Teodoro Diaco baptized her on July 12, 1936, in the local Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. This was quite providential since baby Gaetana would devote her life to prayer and hold a Rosary in her hand for her entire life. As time passed by, she became known to everyone as “Nuccia.”

Nuccia suffered from a progressive and deforming paralysis that attacked her when she was just a small child. It stunted her growth, leaving her disabled. Her parents took her to local doctors, but they were unable to help the youngster. They also had a sickly son, Giuliano, who was born on October 30, 1940. He would die sometime in 1944, but between Nuccia and Giuliano, they had been through a  heartwrenching and challenging time. Now it was just eight-year-old Nuccia, but circumstances seemed no better.

With no local help available, they sent Nuccia to an aunt in Cuneo for medical assistance. However, doctors in Cuneo were unable to help, and after a short time, she returned home. As time passed, Nuccia’s condition worsened, and she became confined to either her bed or a chair.

The Holy Spirit was indeed working within her because Nuccia never felt sorry for herself. Instead, she embraced her illness and the suffering that came with it as a way to reach the hearts of those that were living sinful lives. It was not long before she began to draw pilgrims who were coming to her for advice. These included priests, nuns, and laypeople. And they were coming for words of wisdom from a disabled woman with a fourth-grade education. They, too, must have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when they approached her.

Nuccia saw in her illness a way to participate in the Passion of Jesus. She even alluded to this in her spiritual writings. The people that came to see Nuccia noticed that Nuccia always clasped a rosary in her hands. She also attended Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. And she managed to become a part of CatholicAction, formed in the 19th century to counter anti-Catholicism.

In 1994, Nuccia began to be a guest on the local radio station, Radio Maria. Her primary objective was to spread the Gospel message to the suffering with whom she could identify. Those that were drug addicts, prostitutes, and the needy, especially families, going through financial struggles. Her program became very popular. She began to be heard on “Il Fratello,” a program where folks called in with problems, and Nuccia would answer their questions. The host, Federico Quaglini, would ask her spiritual questions. Nuccia, a great devotee of a St. Pio of Pietrelcina, would answer them.

Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo suffered a pulmonary embolism and was admitted to the hospital. She was given blood transfusions, but her health continued to decline. She passed away on January 24, 1997, at the age of sixty. The following morning Radio Maria announced her death to thousands of listeners. Sadness at her loss and Joy in her life was the theme of the day.

This is the Easter message given by Nuccia in 1995: “… In his infinite mercy and wisdom, the Lord has prepared a weak body for me, for the triumph of his power of love … I praise and bless the Lord for the cross, of which he adorned me, because by crucifying my flesh, he also crucified my thoughts, my affections, my desires, and even my will, to make me his welcome abode, his satisfaction, his living tabernacle. Thanks to the cross of Christ, today, I can affirm with the apostle Paul ‘It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives and works in me.’ 

Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo was declared a woman of “heroic virtue” on April 6, 2019. She now wears the title of Venerable, and a miracle attributed to her has been approved. A date for her beatification will soon be announced.

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo, please pray for us.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2020


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)

 


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

 

 

 


Meet “Brother Ave”—the one armed Blacksmith

Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk                                                  fsspx.com

By Larry Peterson

Anthony Kowalcyzk was born in Dzierzanow, Poland, on June 4, 1866. He was the sixth child in a family of twelve, and his mom and dad were devout Catholics. They had Anthony baptized at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Lutogniew, Poland and it was here that young Anthony developed a great devotion to the Blessed Mother that would inspire him his entire life.

Anthony entered the local school at the age of seven.  Upon finishing his elementary education, his parents took him out of school so he could help them work their small farm. Anthony did that for three years, and then his parents allowed him to accept a position as an apprentice blacksmith.

At the age of twenty and having completed his training, he was classified as a “journeyman
blacksmith.” He then left for Hamburg, Germany to find a job. He found work in a factory, but to his dismay,  when his co-workers and “friends” discovered he was Catholic, they begin to mock and abuse him. He was continually made fun of and provoked. The constant abuse actually made him ill.

Praying hard for guidance, he left for Cologne.  His prayers were answered as a Catholic family took him in. They treated him as their own and introduced him to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was then that Anthony heard the call to service through religious life.  He said good-bye to his friends in Cologne and traveled to Holland.  Here he was accepted into the Oblate novitiate.

He spent the next three years praying and learning and on October 2 1892, he made his vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. Two years later he renewed his vows for one year and was sent to the mission of St. Albert in what is today, Alberta, Canada. From there he traveled to Edmonton and then north to Lac la Biche to work among the Cree and Metis Indian tribes.

Brother Anthony worked hard and spent many hours in prayer while in Lac la Biche. He was an excellent mechanic and handyman and kept all the machinery running smoothly and the stationery equipment in perfect condition.  But he was soon to be faced with a tremendous challenge.

The friars were busy working in the lumber mill when the power belt turning the giant saw blade snapped. It sounded as if dynamite had exploded and the belt hit Brother Anthony in the right forearm mangling his hand and arm. When they helped him up, he said, “It is God’s will.”

It took four days for them to get Anthony to the hospital in Edmonton. When they finally reached the hospital, gangrene had already set in, and the arm and hand had to be amputated. They had no anesthesia, so Anthony asked for his Crucifix and held it tightly as they removed his lower arm. They say he never made a sound.

Recovery was hard, but Anthony worked every day to improve himself. In 1897, he was sent to the mission of St. Paul de Metis. He and two other Oblate brothers set up a sawmill and flour mill.  On January 17, 1899, Brother Anthony knelt before Bishop Legal and took his final vows accepting his role as an Oblate Brother for the rest of his life.

Brother Anthony was eventually sent to St. John’s College in Edmonton and would remain there for thirty-six years. In 1912, he was fitted for an arm prosthesis with a hook on the end.  He became so proficient with his “new hand” that he became the resident blacksmith, gardener, bell-ringer, sacristan, and even took care of the animals. He also repaired the hockey sticks and sharpened the blades of the student’s ice skates.

Most importantly, he was always there for the young people for words of advice, encouragement, and prayer. They called him “Brother Ave” because he had such devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary. Plus, he always asked those who requested his prayers to pray an extra AVE (Hail Mary).

On July 10, 1947,  after a brief illness, Brother Anthony Kowalcysk died.  He was 81 years old. He had been the first Polish Oblate to come to Canada.

On March 28, 2013, Pope Francis declared  Brother Anthony Kowlcyzk a man of “Heroic Virtue” and therefore worthy of the title of Venerable Anthony Kowalcyzk.

Venerable Anthony Kowlcyzk, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


This Archbishop sold his bed and used the money to help orphans; meet Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of the Poor”

St. Thomas de Villanova                                                       public domain

By Larry Peterson

Tomas Garcia y Martinez (Thomas Garcia) was born in 1488, and he might be a prime example of how a father and mother can influence their son. They not only taught him the Faith, but they also showed him how to be charitable. His dad, Alphonsus, was a miller and along with his wife, Lucia, distributed food and supplies to the poor on a regular basis.

Having spent his formative years watching and helping his parents help others, this trait became ingrained in Thomas. He would grow up and spend his life doing the same thing. In spite of his family’s wealth, Thomas often was dressed in a minimal amount of clothing. That was because he kept giving his own clothes to the poor.

Thomas was not only a devout and generous young man, he was also intellectually gifted. By the age of 16, he was able to enter the prestigious University of Alcala located close to Madrid. He became a teacher of arts, logic, and philosophy and within ten years he had become a full Professor of Philosophy. However, after his father died, Thomas decided to leave academia and accept his calling to a religious life.

Thomas took his inheritance and gave it to the poor. In 1516, he moved on to Salamanca and joined the Augustinian friars taking the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Two years later he was ordained to the priesthood.  He then began teaching theology to his peers and quickly gained a reputation as an eloquent and compelling preacher. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, heard Thomas preach and blurted out, “This monsignor’s words can even move stones.”  Thomas was appointed as one of the councilors of states and a court preacher.

He condemned his fellow priests and bishops for their loose morals and secularized ways. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and did his best to promote devotion to her and the Holy Rosary. During these years he served as a Prior of a monastery, a Visitor General representing the Superior General, and became one of the first Augustinian friars to arrive in Mexico in the New World.  He was offered the post of Archbishop of Granada but adamantly refused. However, in the year 1544, he was ordered by his superior to accept the appointment as Archbishop of Valencia in Spain. Reluctantly, he did as he was told.

The appointment of Friar Thomas as the archbishop did not affect his humble presence in any way. He arrived for his installation as the archbishop wearing the same shoddy monastic habit he had worn for years. He even dis his own sewing and mending to keep it wearable. He was given a donation to refurbish his residence but gave it to a hospital in need of equipment and repairs. Immediately after his installation, he began visiting local prisons ordering changes to be made to alleviate the inhumane conditions.

Archbishop Villanova became known as the “Father of the Poor.” He never ceased in his charitable efforts helping orphans, poor women who had no dowry, and the sick. He tried to come up with solutions to help the poor like giving them work. He would say, “Charity is not just giving, it is removing the need of those who receive charity, liberating them when possible.”

Scores of needy people would come every day to his door for help. All would receive a meal, a cup of wine, and a coin. While continuing his life of monastic austerity, he managed to improve the spiritual lives and the living conditions of his faithful servants. While doing these things he also continually worked to promote education, of restore religious orthodoxy, and reform the lifestyles of clergy and laity.

Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, died from heart disease on September 8, 1555, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Alexander VII canonized him on November 1, 1658.

His legacy includes being the namesake of Villanova University near Philadelphia, St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, and Villanova College in Brisbane, Australia.

St. Thomas of Villanova, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


St. Conrad of Parzham: He served Our Lady for over 40 years as a porter: His permanent “pension” was Sainthood

St. Conrad of Pharzham                                                        en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

He was born on a farm in a town called Parzham in the Kingdom of Bavaria. The date was December 22, 1818. His parents, George and Gertrude Birndorfer, were devout Catholics, and they named their new baby Johann Evangelist. Johann was the second youngest of twelve children, five of whom had died in infancy.

As a child young Johann demonstrated a love of prayer and solitude that indicated where his future might lead. He became filled with a great love for our Blessed Mother,  learned how to pray the Rosary, and recited it every day.

By the time he was eleven or twelve, Johann had a particular routine he followed on Our Lady’s special feast days. He would journey on foot to different shrines dedicated to Her. They were always a good distance away. He would attend Mass there, fast and pray all day, and not get home until it was dark. He was so filled with a spiritual love that even inclement weather or bitter cold would not keep him away.

Johann’s mom died when he was 14 years old. He remained on the farm helping his father.  He attended Mass as often as possible and made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The young man was always embedded deeply in prayer and personal solitude, even while working in the fields.  He remained on the farm until his father passed away in 1838.

Johann received a substantial inheritance from his father’s estate. Having no desire for material things, he disposed of the inheritance and left the secular world. He joined the  Capuchin Franciscans and became a lay brother. When he entered the novitiate, he was given the name, Conrad,  in honor of Conrad of  Piacenza. He would be known as Conrad forever after.

Soon after his profession of vows, Conrad was sent to the Friary of St. Ann in the city of Altotting. This was the location for the Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting which was the National Shrine of Bavaria. (Today this place is also called the Lourdes of Germany). Conrad was given the job of porter at the shrine. From the doorway, he could see the tabernacle. He could not have been happier. He needed nothing else.

The shrine was located in a bustling and busy city. The porter’s job was not an easy one as people came to him all day long asking questions, wanting directions, looking for a priest, asking for advice, and those just wanting someone to talk to. Conrad filled his designated role perfectly. He also could see into the hearts of those who came to him. His wisdom, kindness, and holiness always seemed to be able to help satisfy the needs of the people who came in contact with him.

Conrad loved silence. He used it to be in touch with God. When he managed to get a spare moment, he would stand in the nook by the front door so he could see the Blessed Sacrament. At night he often deprived himself of sleep so he could step into the brother’s oratory or the church to pray. Many believed that he hardly ever rested but that he continually occupied himself with work or prayer.

Brother Conrad was on the job every day for 41 years. After an extremely busy day during April of 1894, Conrad felt his strength leaving him. It was so pronounced that he told his superior. He was ordered to bed for rest. The children in the neighborhood loved Conrad and noticed him missing. They asked where he was and were told that he was sick.

The word quickly spread and soon children form all over had surrounded the friary and began praying the Rosary for Brother Conrad. Their prayerful voices would be the last thing he would hear. How beautiful was that?

Conrad died on April 21, 1894. He had been given the gift of prophecy, could read the hearts of people he met and was known for his wisdom, kindness, and holiness. Numerous miracles were also attributed to him. He was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

Saint Conrad of Parzham, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Mrs. Jamie Schmidt; Catholic Wife and Mom; Martyred “In Defensum Castitatis” in St. Louis, Missouri on November 19, 2018.

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

The Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church has thousands of names on its pages.

However, that huge book may need to find space for the very first American who was martyred on American soil for being Catholic and daring to defend her honor. Her name is Jamie Schmidt and she gave her life for Jesus in St. Louis, Missouri.

Most of us have heard of  St. Maria Goretti, the eleven-year-old who died “In Defensum Castitatis” (In Defense of Purity). Maria was trying to fight off the advances of a twenty-year-old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli. He became so enraged at her that he stabbed her fourteen times. Before Maria died, she forgave her attacker. He spent 30 years in prison and, touched by the grace of God, was present at the canonization of the young girl he had murdered.

Jamie Schmidt was an average, 53-year-old, Catholic woman who lived in High Ridge, Missouri a town about 25 miles outside St. Louis. She was married to her high-school sweetheart, and they had three children. The Schmidt family belonged to St. Anthony of Padua Church and Jamie sang in the choir. She was also a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, worked organizing and holding women’s retreats, and was always ready to help anyone in need. She even made and distributed rosaries. Ironically, it was her Rosary ministry that brought her face to face with evil.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when Jamie stopped into the Church Supply Warehouse in St. Louis for needed rosary supplies. There were two other women in the store. Jamie was no sooner inside when a man came in and began looking around. He said to the woman at the counter that he had forgotten his credit card and had to go out to the car to get it. He was actually casing the place.

Jamie went over to the section where the supplies she needed were located. It was then that the man returned. This time he was brandishing a gun. He told the three women to get to the back of the store and that “they had better do as they were told.”

He lined them up against the wall and proceeded to molest the first woman who, frightened for her life, gave in to the man’s advances. He did the same to the second woman who also just submitted, terrified for her life. Then he turned to Jamie. He demanded that she take off her clothes.

Jamie had been witness to the depraved acts this disgusting man had inflicted on the two other women. She was surely terrified too, but the Holy Spirit must have been with her. (The two women gave this account to police);  She stared at the man  and, standing tall, said in a firm voice, “In the name of God, I will not take my clothes off.”

Buoyed by her Catholic faith and refusing to submit to an immoral, sexual assault, she had invoked the name of her God and said categorically to her assailant, “NO!”  He shot her in the head at point blank range. Jamie Schmidt crumpled to the floor. The man ran from the store while one of the women quickly called 911.

Jamie did not die instantly. As she lay mortally wounded, the two women could  hear her saying ever so softly the “Our Father.” She knew her life was slipping away, but she was thinking of her God and invoking His name. It was reported that even during the ride in the ambulance Jamie, barely audible, kept praying.  She was still praying when her last breath left her body.

A short time later a man by the name of Thomas Bruce, was captured by police. He was the perpetrator and was arrested for murder, sodomy, and other charges. He now awaits trial for the crimes with which he has been charged.

St. Maria Goretti, age 12,  refused a similar assault and was stabbed to death in 1902. Blessed Pierina Morosini, age 26, refused a similar assault and was beaten to death with a rock in 1957. Jamie Schmidt, age 53, refused and was shot to death in 2018. These three women, their lives spread over a century apart, share an unexpected sisterhood.

Having died “In Defensum Castitatis” Jamie’s cause for beatification should move along quickly.  What happened to her and St. Maria and Blessed Pierina can happen to any of us at any time. If suddenly we were asked to defend our faith with our lives hanging in the balance, what would we do?

Let us never forget Mrs. Jamie Schmidt, a Catholic wife, mother, and friend to many who will forever remain a shining example for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


How a child-housekeeper named Florentina, became Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Florentina Nicol y Goni was born on March 14, 1868, in the town of Tafalla, in Navarre province, located in northern Spain near the French border. Her dad, Juan Nicol y Zalduendo, was as shopkeeper specializing in selling and repairing farming equipment.  The families life changed dramatically when the lady of the house, Agueda, passed away in 1872.

Dad did his best but was having a hard time managing the home and family. When Florentina was ten, her dad’s cousin, a cloistered Carmelite nun, offered to take the two middle girls to educate them at the monastery’s boarding school. Juan was relieved to have such help and readily agreed. The girls would later go on to become Carmelite sisters. Since the oldest daughter had already married this left Florentina the only child still at home. The housekeeping was left to her.

In December of 1881, Florentina’s dad enrolled her in a boarding school called the Convent of Santa Rosa. Located in Huesca, it was a cloistered community of The Third Order of St. Dominic. The school had a fine reputation and it quickly transformed the thinking of Florentina about the direction her life should take.

Her father had remarried and in 1883 he and Florentina’s new stepmother removed her from the school feeling she had received enough education for a woman. However, Florentina’s vocation had erupted. She knew for sure what she was called to do with her life. She was fifteen years old. Once back home she began praying intently that she might be able to answer the call.

Her father knew his youngest child had her mind made up and in October of 1884, he allowed Florentina to enter the Dominican Convent back in Huesca. In 1886 Florentina Nicol y Goni took the religious name of Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart. She became a teacher at the school she had attended herself and remained in that position for the next 27 years. But change was on the horizon.

In 1913, secularism had reared its ugly head, and anti-clerical laws were being enacted in Spain. Consequently, the Spanish government seized the school and expelled the sisters. The sisters were faced with some hard choices. Stay in Spain and be deprived of being able to minister to the children or enter the world of the missionary. They had learned from different publications about different missionary congregations and wrote to the authorities of several ecclesiastical groups asking for permission to do so. One response came back.

Father Ramon Zubleta had just been appointed by the Holy See as the new Apostolic Vicar of a new Vicariate. The location was in the Peruvian forest near the Amazon. Before leaving for Rome, he stopped in Huesca. He asked the sisters if they would consider coming with him to Peru. Among those that did volunteer, five were chosen. Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart was chosen as their leader.

Bishop Zubleta, accompanied by three friars and the five sisters,  arrived in Peru on December 13, 1913. They were given housing at the Shrine of Our Lady of Patronage and would spend two years of training to get accustomed to the culture and superstitions of the natives in the jungles.

In 1915, Mother Ascension and two of the sisters left for the mountain forests. Two stayed behind to care for the Shrine which had been left in their care. It took them 24 days to cross the Andes and reach Puerto Maldonado. This place was situated at the end of two rivers accommodating communications and acting as a supply depot. No one there had ever seen a white woman before. Folks were also quite shocked that the women had made it across the mountains.

Following the leadership of Mother Ascension, the nuns founded a girl’s school and took care of the sick. The master general of the Dominicans’ asked Sister Ascension if she could start a new congregation. Along with the local bishop, she created the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary. Today it has 785 Sisters serving 21 nations on five continents. Four of the Order’s sister are considered martyrs having died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) in the Congo in 1964. Their crime was for refusing to leave patients alone in a hospital.

Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart died on February 24, 1940. With the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, she was beatified by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins on May 15, 2005. The ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square.

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019