Tag Archives: sacrifice

Saint Abel the Just; His was the first recorded death in Human History; Feast Day, January 3

Ivory-Cain and Abel Louvre                                                       commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

The holy people from the Old Testament are not usually called saints. We do not say, “St. Abraham”, or “St. Moses” as we do for St. Joseph or St John. But the church does allow for them to be called saints one day during the year. That day is their acknowledged feast day. There are forty-two different Old Testament saints that have designated feast days. The first one during the year belongs to St. Abel. His feast day is January 3.

The very first human to die was none other than Adam and Eve’s son, Abel. Ironically, since a natural cause of death had not yet occurred, the first recorded death in all of human history was the result of a murder. And the man who was murdered is also a saint. The evil that precipitated and was involved in the killing is referred to in the New Testament by Christ Himself.

Abel is considered part of the Six Ages by St. Augustine; First Age of the World  (this is also covered in the CCC; 282-284). This age is considered the time from the beginning of the human race up until Noah. The Ages reflect the seven days of creation and the last day is the day of rest which we call the Sabbath.

We rarely talk of or ask for intercession from Saint Abel. But Abel is mentioned in the Roman Canon when, after the Consecration, we tell God how pleased we are with His accepting “the gifts of Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of the high priest, Melchizedek.”

The story of Cain and Abel is pretty straightforward. Cain was the first born of Adam and Eve. Abel was their second son and Cain’s true brother. Cain tilled the soil while Abel tended to the flocks. When Cain’s crops had been harvested, he brought some of them as an offering to the Lord. Abel brought the best of his flock to the Lord as an offering. Genesis Ch 4: 4-5 “—the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.”

This is where pride comes into play. Adam and Eve succumbed to pride when Satan convinced them that they could be “like” God if they ate from the Tree in the Garden of Eden.  Cain’s pride was hurt, and he became jealous of his brother. Genesis Ch 4: 8  Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

The offerings of Cain and Abel are an important part of the Bible narrative because they lead us to the New Testament and to the ongoing battle between Good and Evil. St. John gives us the real reason why God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s. In 1 John 3:11-12  For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother. Why did he slaughter him? Because his own works were evil and those of his brother righteous.

The importance of Abel in our Catholic/Christian world is shown in the Gospel of Matthew. In Chapter 23, Jesus was speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees and, for the most part, denouncing them as hypocrites. Then we come to Ch 23: 34-35  Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel—-”

This is none other than Jesus Christ, invoking the name of Abel as one who was righteous. The church Fathers include Abel among the martyrs and St. John Chrysostom associates Abel’s death comparable with St. John the Baptist’s. Abel is considered the first in a long line of martyrs who were killed not so much for the words they spoke, but for the example they set.

St. Abel’s feast day is January 3 and he is invoked in the prayers for the dying.

St. Abel, pray for us

©Larry Peterson 2019

The Martyrs of La Rioja; They died “In Odium Fidei” Two died on July 18; one was born on July 18.

 

The Martyrs of La Rioja; They died "In Odium Fidei" Two died on July 18; one was born on July 18.

 

By Larry Peterson

It is estimated that in Argentina during the years 1976 thru 1983, between 10,000 and 30,000 people died by torture and execution. They called it The Dirty War, and it was one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history.

Enrique Angelelli was born in Cordoba, Argentina on July 18, 1923. His parents were Italian immigrants and devout Catholics. Their influence certainly contributed to Enrique’s entrance into the Seminary of Our Lady of Loreto when he was only 15 years of age. He studied hard, was sent to Rome to finish his studies and was ordained to the priesthood in 1949.

Father Enrique Angelelli was a “man of the people.”  He was very devoted to the poor and needy and would visit the slums frequently, mixing with his “poor friends.”  He even founded youth movements among the street kids. On December 12, 1960, Pope St. John XXIII, appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Cordoba. He and his close friend, Father Jorge Bergoglio, (who would one day become Pope Francis), were very much alike. The future Pope also loved the poor and marginalized and tried to help the workers.

Carlos de Dios Murias was born in Cordoba in 1945. His father was a wealthy real-estate man and also a well known radical politician in Cordoba. He wanted his son to be a military man, but Carlos had different desires. He had met Bishop Angelelli and the man’s spirituality and love of the poor inspired Carlos. He felt a religious calling and, in 1965, he became part of the Orders of Friars Minor. He made his “simple profession.” in 1966. On December 17, 1972, he was ordained to the priesthood. The Bishop who ordained him was Enrique Angelelli. Carlos de Dios Murias had specifically asked if he might ordain him.

Gabriel Longueville was born on March 18, 1931, in Ardeche, France. He was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Viviers, Alfred Couderc, on June 29, 1957. He had asked to be assigned to areas where he could work with the poor.  In 1969 Father Longueville was transferred to Argentina by Bishop Jean Hermil.  He was assigned to La Rioja Diocese along with Carlos de Dios Murias. They were both under the authority of Bishop Enrique Angelelli.

Bishop Angelilli, Father Carlos Murias, and Father Gabriel Longueville could never have imagined how they and one other man, a layperson by the name of Wenceslao Pedernera, would soon be linked together in heavenly perpetuity. The evil politics of the day was rapidly turning into what seemed to be an unstoppable force.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Angelelli bishop of the Diocese of La Rioja. He quickly became involved with labor union disputes, encouraged domestic workers to form unions, and tried to form cooperatives for the people that manufactured bricks, clocks, bread, and knitted products. It did not take long for him to be arrested. He was an activist bishop, but he was doing what he thought best for his church and his people.

By 1969 Bishop Angelelli had been campaigning by both the printed word and radio broadcast about the plight of the farmers and the workers. He denounced the drugs, gambling, and prostitution that was supported by the wealthy.  He condemned human rights abuses by the governors and pushed for unionization of the workers.  Conservative Catholic organizations turned against him, and his radio programs were banned.

In 1973, political unrest saw the expulsion of nuns and priests from the town of Annilaco and the people began calling the Church of La Rioja, “communist.” In 1974 Bishop Angelelli visited Rome and was advised to stay there because of the danger to him back in Argentina. He was being threatened by the “Three A Group” made up of police officers and the Anti-Communist Alliance of Argentina. The bishop did not heed the warnings and returned home.

On July 18, 1976, Father Carlos de Dios Murias, 33,  and Father Gabriel Longueville, 44, were having dinner together when two men with federal police identification entered there home and questioned them for about ten minutes. Then they were told they had to go to La Rioja to identify some prisoners. The next day their bodies were found near some railroad tracks. The two priests had been tortured and shot to death.

One week later, on July 25, two hooded men went to look for the parish priest of Sanogasta, but because he had been warned by Bishop Angelelli, he had already fled the area. The men went to a nearby house to ask where the priest might be. Wenceslao Pedernera, a layperson, was there with his three young daughters. Terrified at the men wearing hoods, the girls cowered next to their father.  When Senor Pedernara told the men the priest was not there, they promptly shot him multiple times. His girls fell to the ground holding their dad’s body. They were physically unharmed. What psychological damage was done to them, we can only imagine.

Bishop Angelelli knew he was targeted and had told a close friend, “It’s my turn next.” On August 4, 1976, he was driving a truck with a priest friend, Father Arturo Pinto. He was on his way back from offering a memorial Mass for Father Gabriel and Father Carlos. Father Pinto said that a car was following them and at the right moments forced them off the road. The truck flipped over and when Father Pinto regained consciousness, he found Bishop Angelilli dead in the road. The back of his head had been smashed in with a blunt instrument. He had been beaten to death.

These four men were murdered “In Odium Fidei”; (In hatred of the faith). On June 8, 2018, Pope Francis approved the decree that Bishop Angelelli, Carlos  de Dios Murias, Gabriel Longueville, and Wenceslao Pedernara, will be beatified sometime in 2018. No date has been set.

We ask these four martyrs to please pray for us all.