December 6, 2016

Our Greatest Christmas Gift: God’s Earthly Trinity; A Young Man, His Teenage Wife and a Newborn Baby—

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

If it were two thousand years ago and you lived in Nazareth you might notice a young man packing items on a donkey in preparation for a trip. Early the next morning you see this fellow, with his pregnant teenage wife sitting on the back of the burro, heading down the road. They are in compliance with the law of the day. They are on their way to Bethlehem, the town of their ancestor’s birth, for the census.

We know so little about the lives of Joseph and Mary, yet they are THE integral part of the Salvation story.  Mary's acceptance of a pregnancy that might have resulted in her being stoned to death as an adulteress was an act of monumental humility. Joseph, a good man and a faithful Jew true to the law, accepted a pregnant woman as his wife, another act of extreme humility. (Imagine how much he must have loved this young woman)

Holy Family  & First Christmas  from Pineterest
To complete this humble family was none other than God Himself. The Creator of all that is became like one of His creations. He could have come in a majestic way, surrounded by armies and servants and glitter and pomp. He chose to come to us in the womb of his mom, just like all of us. He allowed Himself to be born among the animals in a cave. As He began His earthly life His body was wrapped in cloth and then placed on straw. Why would He do it this way?

He did it to show us…show us Goodness, show us Love and show us how to give those things from within ourselves.  Foremost, He did it to save us, save us from ourselves and Satan’s favorite tool, Pride, which had brought down Adam and Eve. The Holy Family was, and still is, the complete and perfect embodiment of Humility. It remains so to this very day. Of course, the antidote to Pride is Humility. 

Isn't God amazing in the way He does things? This is the story of our Salvation and the rebirth of Hope. This Salvation became available to all people for all time and its success was entrusted to a couple of have-not young people whose humility and love of God enabled them to conquer the seemingly impossible.

Guided by the Holy Spirit they united in marriage. Then, absorbed by each other’s love they took on the world. They traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was full term, a three to five day journey on the back of a donkey. Joseph walked guiding the donkey. Mary gave birth in a cave surrounded by smelly animals and filth and they watched and marveled as poor shepherds and rich kings worshipped their child side by side.

They managed to escape the soldiers of King Herod, who were trying to kill their newborn Son.  Imagine the fear in Joseph as he wondered how he could protect his little family from the forces of evil. And, lest we forget, he also got them safely to Egypt, about three hundred miles away. He must have been something. We know the rest of the story.

If you take a moment to ponder all that happened and how it happened and why it happened, it will leave you breathless. And then we remember it was all done for all of us. There was nothing done for themselves, not one thing. We need to get back to what "Family" is and the Holy Family is the model to build on.

We must never forget that within that family it was the husband and father who protected his wife and Son from the evils of the world. The Son humbled Himself and gave his life for us all.  And the Mom, our Mom too, the most humble of all women ever, stands ever vigilant and  ready to crush the head of the evil serpent who might harm any of her children. In so doing she is protecting all of us for all eternity. She is our protection against all wickedness. When we ask for her protection we cover ourselves with an impenetrable shield.

Fittingly, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday following Christmas. There are millions of folks who never pay an iota of attention to this family. Maybe it is time that they should for this is the family that "set the bar" for all families for all time.

The Salvation story comprises the greatest acts of human Love, Goodness and Humility ever. Mary, Joseph and their boy, Jesus, encompassed by an unconditional love for God and each other, offers that love to all of us.  God’s earthly Trinity has shown us the way.

How can anyone NOT Love Christmas?  


                                       ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

November 19, 2016

The Grand Finale to the Jubilee Year of Mercy is Upon Us---Thanksgiving*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015, and Pope Francis gave us a quote to coincide with the Holy Year; “It is a favorable time to heal wounds, a time to offer everyone the way of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.”

On November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, The Holy Year will officially end. We will have focused on mercy and forgiveness for a year and received the graces that came along with it. It seems so fitting that the beauty and meaning of this entire Holy Year can now be encapsulated by the impending holiday season. The Holy Father wanted us to direct our actions and attention “on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's actions in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective".

Four days after the Holy Year ends we celebrate our great American holiday, Thanksgiving, and this year the holiday presents us with an extraordinary opportunity. What better time to show mercy and love, on a nationwide scale, from sea to shining sea, than Thanksgiving. It can be our grand finale to this grace filled year.

Thanksgiving is the one day of the year where we pause and simply give “Thanks” for all that we have, even if it is just a “little”; a job, good health, a cancer in remission, the subsiding of a three day old migraine headache, connecting with a long lost relative, the birth of a child, surviving a natural disaster...there are so many things that we can be thankful for. Most importantly, there is that great intangible that spreads across our nation on this day and it ties right into the culmination of the Holy Year of Mercy. That intangible is the abundance of mercy, forgiveness and love that explodes within the hearts of so many millions of people.


No-one in America needs to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day. On this day people all across the country and from every economic situation can have a turkey dinner. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens and prisons serve turkey. Folks who have little or no money are able to receive turkey baskets from various charitable organizations so they can have a turkey dinner at home with their families. You do not need to purchase gifts. All you have to do is show up, hang out, eat and enjoy the uplifted spirit of family and friends that are with you, even if they are strangers turned friends you just met in a soup kitchen.

In my parish alone, we manage to supply complete Thanksgiving baskets to about 250 families, feeding about 1000 people for the holiday. All of the food is donated by parishioners. Some folks donate money and that is used to purchase the frozen turkeys. In effect, virtually all the parishioners participate in the Giveaway. (I am sure many of you have similar programs in or near your own parishes.)

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving we distribute the turkeys and all the trimmings to people of all denominations in our area to take home for “turkey day”. Everything has come from the hearts of parishioners and is joyfully given to strangers so they might enjoy the day. How cool is that? And doesn’t it also speak to the Holy Father’s call to evangelize?

All across the United States, Catholic parishes, churches of other denominations, soup-kitchens and shelters, etc. show Christ’s mercy and love to strangers on Thanksgiving. It is a wondrous thing and such a beautiful way to finish up the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Unexpectedly, in the year 2016, the end of Holy Year of Mercy collided with our Thanksgiving holiday. If we listen we may even hear the “Drumsticks” smashing cymbals of mercy which resonate nationwide with sounds of love.

As we cross the finish line of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy we thank God for having allowed us to be part of such a grace-filled year. We also should thank Him for Thanksgiving. We can consider it the Grand Finale to the Holy Year just completed. It is a beautiful thing.


                       *This article appeared in Aleteia on November 18, 2016   

                                     ©Copyright Larry peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved.

November 10, 2016

For Alzheimer's & Dementia Patients, November is National Family Caregiver Month*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

My wife, Marty (Martha) has Alzheimer's Disease and I am her primary caregiver. Since November, 2016, is National Family Caregiver's Month sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, I thought I would share a slice of an average day she and I experience together. At the same time I can also leave some links to information about dementia (there are many kinds--Alzheimer's is just one) and give a "shout-out" to all the millions of Americans across the country who are caregivers.

Until Marty actually became an unpredictable, uncertain and sometimes obsessive Alzheimer's victim, I did not understand Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought I did but I did not. Meeting folks at the Alzheimer’s Caregiver meetings allowed me to learn that what I write here is not unique to me. It is more or less part of the norm within an Alzheimer home and I am just one of a vast multitude of caregivers living alongside this illness.

Alzheimer Patient--Wikipedia commons
I never imagined the confusion and fear that slowly and relentlessly fills the vanishing mind of the person under attack by the Alzheimer demon. I never knew until I shared her physical world. I wish I did not have to know. What follows is a brief conversation that Marty and I had last evening. She was sitting on the sofa and it was about 6:30. I had just walked in from the other room. The conversation went like this:

"Oh, I'm so glad your back home. Are you going to stay here?"
Not having been anywhere, I was caught a bit off guard. I answered, "Uh--um--Of course I'm staying."
"Do you have any of your things here?"
I reply, "Why don’t you walk back to the bedroom and check the closet."
She sighs and smiles. She is faking because, even though she has lived in the same house for many years, she has no idea where the bedroom is located.  She tries to “play it off’ because she doesn't want me to know that she doesn’t know. But I do know and she knows I do.
So I nonchalantly point and say, "Back that way, where the big bed is."
She shakes her head and says, "Oh, of course, sometimes I don't know where my head is."
I simply say, "That's okay. No problem."
"Well, are you going to sleep here tonight or go to the other place?"
There is no other place and I have no clue where her mind has taken her. I just go along.

And then it is temporarily over and the evening continues. More is on the way such as telling me she really wished she did not have to work tomorrow even though she has not worked for almost ten years. You get the idea.

For the caregiver it is a two-edged sword. You are watching someone you love, mentally evaporate while at the same time trying your best to be as patient and as kind as you can be to that person. As the caregiver it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Redundancy can push your patience levels to extreme borders. As Marty's caregiver I can say, unequivocally, that my greatest strength comes via my Catholic faith. I lean on it like a man with two broken legs needing crutches. Without them--well, I would fall hard and often.

There are many types of dementia but Alzheimer' is the primary cause.  Vascular dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease, Mixed Dementia and others are a few conditions on a long list of illnesses that cause dementia. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and it continues to worsen as time goes by. There is no remission or leveling off. Eventually the patient will lose the ability to even carry on a simple conversation, or even remember to use the toilet. The end result is always death. It is truly a dreadful illness.

I could go on and on but I have provided several links within this article that will take you to more detailed information about Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. As people live longer the illness is seen more and more. More resources have been allocated for Alzheimer's research. Prayerfully we will find a cure. 

Here is a sidebar to the above: The patron saint of Alzheimer's patients is St. Dymphna. Ironically, St. Dymphna has had a profound involvement in my family's life. My daughter's middle name is Dymphna. (See  Aleteia for more). When I discovered that St. Dymphna, the patron saint of nervous and emotional disorders, was also the patron saint of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, I could only smile. I love St. Dymphna.

Please remember to keep all Alzheimer's and dementia patients and their caregivers in your thoughts and prayers, not just during the month of November, but all year long. 

St. Dymphna, please pray for them and for all of us.

*This article also appeared in Aleteia on Nov 8, 2016

                                 ©Copyright Larry Peterson  2016

November 7, 2016

3 BOOK GIVEAWAY---The Demons of Abadon; Grave Obsessions; Roots & Wings at Loonstone Lake

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson
________________________________________________________________________

THREE BOOK GIVEAWAY;  NOVEMBER 7, 2016 THRU NOVEMBER 11, 2016

"The Demons of Abadon" Vol 1; Shadows & Light  
by Larry Peterson

Joey insisted he kept seeing and talking to his dad. He had told his brothers and sister and they thought he just did not understand Pops’ passing. But then Beeker and Joey went to stay with Charlie and Eleanor Winters for the summer. They lived on an old farm in the Abadon Forest . But so did the “Darkened”. They did not want Joey anywhere near the Abadon. Why? They feared his innocence.

@slipperywillie #YAParanoral #YASuspense #YAThriller "The Demons of Abadon-V1-Shadows and Light" FREE 11/7 until 11/11 on #Amazon! Grab it while you can!



Helping Hands Press and Larry Peterson hope that you enjoy the story.

Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Larry Peterson's "The Demons of Abadon - Volume 1 - Shadows and Light" will be FREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!

If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance! 

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about: https://www.amazon.com/Demons-Abadon-Shadows-Light-ebook/dp/B0146QWGB4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1478184028&sr=8-3&keywords=larry+peterson+the+demons+of+abadon

(link to complete novel)

"Grave Obsessions" Vol 1; Chiseled head" 
by Patti J. Smith

He noticed a strong odor as he moved the curtains to look inside. A vile liquid surged up his throat and spilled out on the grass. He grabbed his cell phone and called 911.
Thus begins the case that unnerves the most seasoned veterans on the force. A witness interview leads Detective Dallas Keegan and her partner to evidence that puts the investigation into overdrive. HE IS NOT DONE. Her personal life unravels as she hunts down this demon while fighting her own.


Helping Hands Press and Patti J. Smith hope that you enjoy the story.

@gridirongranny5 FREE! FREE! FREE on #Amazon 11/7 until 11/11 Patti J. Smith's #Crime #Thriller "Grave Obsessions-V1-Chiseled Heart"!

Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Patti J. Smith's "Grave Obsessions - Volume 1 - Chiseled Heart" will be FREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!

If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance! 

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about:https://www.amazon.com/Grave-Obsessions-1-Chiseled-Heart-ebook/dp/B00K39BRS2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478183492&sr=8-2&keywords=patti+j.+smith+grave+obsessions 








"Roots & Wings at Loonstone Lake--Vol 1; Call of the Loons"
by Sue Badeau

Louanne and Frank Hubert are two school teachers and almost empty-nesters getting ready to enjoy summer when an unexpected call from their past rocks their world. Will re-opening a long-neglected campground provide opportunities to realize new dreams? Or will mysteries from the campground’s past scuttle their plans before they can begin? A budding romance for the Hubert’s daughter provides help and hope for moving forward.



Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Sue Badeau's "Roots and Wings at "Loonstone Lake" - Volume 1 - Call of The Loons" will beFREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!

Helping Hands Press and Sue Badeau hope that you enjoy the story.


If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance!

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about:https://www.amazon.com/Roots-Wings-Loonstone-Lake-Loons-ebook/dp/B00LFWP1NS/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1478182517&sr=8-8&keywords=sue+badeau 





October 24, 2016

Election 2016---There May Still be Hope

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Pope St. John Paul II said, “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”

Hillary Clinton’s decades of political experience have allowed her to master the art of parsing the English language to suit the moment. To be fair, she is just one of many skilled politicians who has this uncanny ability to say certain things to please a certain audience and then deny having said those same things to please a different audience. Amazingly, the world seems to excuse it all because, as they say, “That’s politics.”

There is one issue, however, that Mrs. Clinton speaks to where political language is non-existent. That is abortion. Mrs. Clinton is perfectly clear about her position; she not only is in favor of abortion, she believes it is perfectly all right for a woman to have an abortion up to and including the moments right before full term birth. It seems to me that St. JP II’s opinion and Mrs. Clinton’s opinion on the matter are on opposite ends of the Sanctity of Life spectrum.

Secularism’s success is contingent on eliminating God our Creator from the life equation. God has rules; God’s rules say “NO”. A society filled with, foremost, a sense of self-indulgence, cannot have that. This secular society believes that every person should be able to do what they want—“Hey, I’m not bothering you, am I?” 

Secularism’s mantra of self-gratification has been the catalyst that has driven people the world over to reject the sanctity of life, fomenting many folks to embrace the false notion that each of us can decide who lives or dies. Why are there so many people determined to bring St. John Paul II’s words to fruition?  I think the answer is simple enough; “I” and “me” have replaced “you” and “them”. However, I do believe there is still hope.

There are many people who proclaim their catholicity and intend to vote for the Party of Non-Life (those who approve of abortion and euthanasia---Euthanasia is legal in five states, parts of New Mexico and is up for referendum in Colorado ). How folks can be part of a religion and reject what it basically stands for is beyond my understanding. I leave their spirituality up to them. Bottom line---that still leaves a goodly percentage of Catholic/Chrsitians that still embrace the sanctity of God’s individual creations, whatever their age may be including the pre-born.
Psalm 139:13-16 speaks to each one of us as God’s individual creations. "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."
Pope St. John Paul II and Child  APPhoto
The unexpected candidate for the presidency, Mr. Donald Trump, has proven to be an enigma to the election process. Honestly, I never knew anything about this man except that he was a very wealthy and successful international builder and entrepreneur. He also hosted a #1 rated TV show called the “Apprentice” which was on for 12 years (I actually never watched it). I had never heard anything “bad” about him and I never had an opinion of him one way or another. Then he ran for President of the United States. 

According to all the political elite and main stream media and many in his own party he is almost akin to a new “Hitler”. He is “evil” personified. Yet,  through that all, he stands before the world and says he will defend life and is pro-life and promises to appoint Supreme Court Justices that will be pro-life. That seems to me to be quite "UnHitlerish".

As a Catholic man who believes in the Sanctity of Life and honors the fact that his Church defends life I must cast a vote for the person that will also defend that life and also has the power to do something about it. I do not care if that person is obnoxious. I do not care about what they did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. The color of their hair matters not and if they happen to be the lousiest politician who ever lived, so be it. I, and millions like me, are sickened by the callous disregard for human life especially when this callousness is being disguised as compassionate. It is NOT compassionate. It is bloody, it is destructive and it is fatal.

If we truly believe that we are all God’s individual creations and that Jesus died for all of us, including the elderly and the pre-born, then we have our moral duty before us. Finally, from page seven (7) of the old St. Joseph First Communion Catechism,1963: “God made me out of nothing. He made me because He loves me. -----I belong to God because He made me.”

                                      ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016


October 22, 2016

Executed for Refusing to Say “Yes”*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

The pages of Catholic/Christian history are filled with countless names of those who came from virtual anonymity and proceeded to leave an indelible mark in our lives. St. Teresa of Calcutta is a prime example. Many have also reached the eternal heights of spiritual greatness but are not so well known. Meet Franz Jagerstatter.


Blessed Franz Jagerstatter    wikipedia commons
Franz was born in Austria in 1907. His father was killed in World War I and when Franz was around eight years old, his mom married Heinrich Jagerstatter who adopted young Franz, giving him his name. 

Franz received a basic education in the local schools and excelled in reading and writing. He learned religion from his maternal grandmother and would read the Bible and other religious works. He managed to develop a faith which nestled itself securely into his soul. As Franz grew older and wiser his faith grew right along with him.

In 1933, Franz, inherited his adopted father’s farm. He then met Franziska Schwaninger, a deeply religious Catholic woman, and they fell in love. They were married Holy Thursday, 1936, and after the ceremony proceeded on a pilgrimage to Rome. This is also when Franz’s spiritual life became his primary focus in all things.

Now possessing a deeply imbedded faith and love of Jesus, he soon was serving as a sexton at his local parish. He and Franziska would have three daughters and he began to live his life true to his faith and to Jesus Christ. He would no longer deviate from things that were “not right”. Some perceived him as “overly pious”.

He stopped going to taverns because, as a defender of truth, he was always getting into arguments about Nazism and wanted to avoid that. He stopped accepting donations he received as the church sexton and gave the money to the needy even though he and his growing family were poor too. Even though some folks mocked him, he was determined to do “what was right”.

In 1938, German soldiers began moving into Austria. Immediately, they began implementing the Nazification of the once peaceful nation. The "Anschluss", which was the creation of a German-Austrian State, was put to a vote in Franz’s village and he was the only one in his town to vote “no”. The authorities rejected his vote and claimed the vote was unanimous. However, Franz was now under watch by the Nazis.

It did not matter to Franz. He knew he must do the right thing and remained openly anti-Nazi. He joined the Third Order of St. Francis and began serving as a sacristan at the local parish. He managed to get several exemptions from military service. Time was not to be Franz’s friend.

In 1940, when he was 33, Franz was conscripted into the German army. He finished basic training but managed to stay out of the active service because he qualified for an exemption given to farmers. Back home he began to evaluate the morality of war and even discussed the subject with his bishop. His bishop did not encourage Franz.

And so it was that on February 23, 1943, Franz Jagerstatter was called to active duty. He and Franziska now had three daughters, the oldest only six. Franz stood strong and refused to fight for the godless, Third Reich. He declared himself a “conscientious objector” and offered to serve as a paramedic. He was ignored. A priest from his town came to talk him into serving but he refused. He was immediately put in prison.

Against all advice to stop resisting, Franz persisted in his opposition to the Nazis. He was told by his spiritual advisors that he had an obligation to his family to protect his life. He was told that he was required morally to obey the “legitimate” authorities. A friend told him, “Just say yes. You don’t even have to shoot straight. But take the oath.” Franz rejected all arguments. Atheistic Nazism could not be supported. He was determined to do the “right thing”.

Franz wrote, “Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.”

Franz Jagerstatter held fast to his principles. On July 6, 1943, he was tried and sentenced to death. On August 9, 1943, he was executed by guillotine at Brandenburg-Gorden prison. He was 36 years old.
Franz Jagerstatter led an obscure life and his death was no different. But a priest by the name of Father Jochmann spoke to Franz right before his execution. He said later that Franz was the only saint he had ever met.

In 1964 the American sociologist, Gordon Zahn, wrote a book about Franz Jagerstatter  titled, In Solitary Witness.  That was followed by the renowned Trappist,Thomas Merton, writing a chapter about Franz in one his books, Faith & Violence.

Eventually, Franz story weaved its way to the Vatican and came before Pope Benedict XVI. In June of 2007, the Holy Father issued an apostolic exhortation declaring Franz a martyr. On October 27, 2007, Franz Jagerstatter was beatified by Cardinal Jose Martins in Linz, Austria.

 Franz believed that Jesus wanted him to do the “right thing”.  He even gave his life to do it. He is known as the patron of “conscientious objectors”.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, please pray for us.

*This article appeared in Aleteia on October 19, 2016

                                        ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights reserved

October 18, 2016

Remembering the "Prison Angel"; Mother Antonia Brenner*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Can a Catholic woman get married and divorce twice, give birth to eight children with two different men, become a nun and eventually found a new religious order? The answer is Yes! In fact, this same woman would, on Mother’s Day in 1990, walk the stairs alone to present the gifts to Pope John Paul II for the Mass he was offering during his visit to Mexico and, in return, receive his blessing.  After all, with God, all things are possible.

This is about Mother Antonia Brenner who came to be known as the “Prison Angel” of La Mesa Prison.  Mother Antonia died three years ago on October 17, 2013. As we think of her life I just thought I should write a few words about this amazing woman. I believe history will show that this woman was one of the greatest among Catholic women of the late 20th  and early 21st century.

Mary Clarke was born in Beverly Hills on December 1, 1926. Her dad, Joe Clarke, was a successful businessman and Mary and her two siblings grew up surrounded with affluence and the glitz of the movie world. Their neighbors included luminaries such as William Powell, Hedy Lamarr and John Barrymore.

Joe Clarke had a deep love for all people. No matter how good life was for his family he made sure his kids were always taught to help the less fortunate. That desire to help others, nurtured by her father, would blossom in Mary and was destined to explode. However, before the "explosion" Mary embarked on a circuitous life journey.

Mary married at 18 and had three children, the first dying shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce. As a divorcee, Mary now felt distanced from her Catholic upbringing.  She married again, this time in a civil service in Las Vegas. It was to a man named Carl Brenner. She and Carl had five children together but ultimately, that marriage also ended in divorce. No matter, God “writes straight with crooked lines” and apparently the Holy Spirit had his eye on Mary Clarke Brenner her entire life. He was about to shower His grace all over His daughter.

Mary became more and more involved in charity work. In 1965 she met a priest by the name of Father Henry Vetter. He took her along on a delivery of food, medicine and clothing to the prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. The plight of the prisoners at La Mesa (considered among the worst in Mexico) impacted her greatly and as time went by her growing compassion and love of neighbor would become focused on these people. They would become her specialty, her ministry, her purpose in life.    


Mother Antonia Brenner in cell comforting inmate
Mary Brenner spent the next ten years traveling back and forth to La Mesa Prison bringing needed supplies but mostly her love and mercy. Her presence became well known and the prisoners, both men and women, began looking forward to her visits. They began calling her “La Mama”. The warden even gave her accommodations so she could sleep over.

Mary took the name of Antonia (after her mentor, Monsignor Anthony Bowers) and became Mother Antonia Brenner. She sewed together a nun’s habit, put it on, and went to see Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego. She got down on her knees and told him her story. He had heard all about her and gave her his blessing, validating her ministry. She would even start a new order, Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour  an order for women 45 and older who wanted to serve the less fortunate. In addition to the blessing from Bishop Maher she also received the blessing of Bishop Juan Jesus Posadas of Tijuana. She had church authorization for her ministry from bishops in two separate countries.

After her kids were grown, Mary gave away her belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa Prison. She had received permission to live there. Her new home was to be a 10' by 10' cell in the women’s section of the prison. She would live as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell and having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall, a Bible, Spanish dictionary and a hard, prison bed. In the morning, she lined up with the other prisoners for roll call. This was to be her home for the next thirty-two years.

"La Mama" also became known as "The Prison Angel",  She moved freely among the drug traffickers, thieves, murderers, rapists and others, touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many of these people were among the most violent and desperate of both men and women. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them, dried their tears and held their heads between her hands as they were dying. She even single handedly stopped prison riots.

Mother Antonia Brenner truly saw the face of Christ in each and every prisoner she came in contact with and extended mercy and love to them all. Why else would hardened criminals, some who had never loved or been loved, call the diminutive woman who hailed from Beverly Hills, "La Mama"? They loved her in return.

I believe that one day Mother Antonia Brenner will be canonized a saint. She was an example for each and every one of us showing us how to selflessly "love our neighbor" no matter who that  might be. Her life also shows all of us that no matter who or what we are or where we have been or what we have done, God is always calling us.

Mother Antonia, please pray for us, especially during this Year of Mercy
                               
                                         Copyright ©Larry Peterson 2016

This article appeared in Aleteia.org on October 17,2016

October 12, 2016

Asia Bibi--Wife & Mom; Catholic/Christian and "Blasphemer"; Sentenced to Death for Loving Jesus

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

 Asia Bibi is a Catholic wife,  mother of five and our sister in faith. She will stand before the Supreme Court of Pakistan during the month of October, 2016, and hear the final verdict as to whether or not she should be executed by hanging. You see, Asia has been convicted  of being a "blasphemer". She has been in prison for the past seven years.

Imagine being this woman. You have been living amidst the filth and squalor of a Pakistani prison. You wonder about your children You miss them so much. You need to hug them, touch them, feel their hair or just squeeze their hands(s). Then a distant memory floats to the forefront of your worn out mind. You remember that day in 2009...was it June..no, maybe August.  You remember being out in the field picking berries. There are other women working alongside you but...there is a difference. They are Muslim and, to them, you are "unclean". They despise you. You are a Catholic.

Asia Bibi & Children  courtesy gatestoneinstitute.org
These other women demanded you fetch them water from a nearby well. You were not their "equals" and did what you were told. You went to the well, filled a jug for the women and brought it back to them. But you made a mistake. You knew you could not drink from the same jug so you found an old tin can and poured water into it for yourself. You remember the momentary relief as the water slid down your throat..

Alas, using the dirty, rusted cup to drink from mattered not. A field hand angrily tells you that you are forbidden to drink the SAME water as a Muslim. You are already considered "unclean" because you are a Catholic/Christian. The other workers hurriedly gathered around you and started cursing you and your religion. Your faith must have been exploding in you because you defended it immediately. You summoned your resolve and remember saying, "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"

The other women exploded with rage. You were beaten and arrested. Under the country's Sharia Law you are not equal to a Muslim so what you had to say was only considered "half" as important as what they had to say. Trying to defend yourself was an effort in futility. They hold you in a local jail for one year and then you are found guilty of blasphemy. Your sentence is death by hanging. You are shocked and horrified and helpless. Your husband is sickened and your children lost inside themselves. You can do nothing.

You are sent to prison and placed on death row. Five years later the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld the verdict. That was appealed and the hanging was put on hold. It has been announced that sometime during the middle of October, 2016, the High Court of Pakistan will render a FINAL verdict. Asia Bibi, Catholic "blasphemer ", lover and defender of Jesus Christ, will hear whether or not she lives or dies.

I cannot help but feel a deep affinity for Asia Bibi and all those who live under such incredibly hateful conditions.. After all, we are all part of the same spiritual family. They are people just like you and I. They love their spouses and children and their moms and dads. They get the flu and upset stomachs. They get rashes and toothaches and they have wants and desires. They want a nice home that is safe and secure. They would like to have a church they can go to without a fear of being killed or maimed for doing so. They just want to worship the God they love and have some peace in their lives. Yet, they are hated and despised. Why--because they are just like us. They are Catholic/Christian and believe in Jesus Christ.

This morning, I was able to drive over to my church and attend morning Mass. No fuss, no muss, no anxiety existed. No one mocked me. No one cursed me. On the contrary, going to Mass in America is a beautiful experience that is filled with peace and love. After all, we are free Americans allowed to practice our religion unencumbered (so far).

Asia Bibi is just one of thousands of our brothers and sisters in faith whose lives are in jeopardy at this very moment. Just like us, they love Jesus Christ. There is a glaring difference. We Americans  can pour another cup of coffee and say another prayer. Our brothers and sisters in faith, living in the lands of the persecuted,  can be brutally killed for doing the exact same thing.

The winds of secularism are growing stronger and stronger, blowing  against the doors and walls of America's churches. Behind those doors and walls our religious freedoms are still secure. Venturing outside those walls we find that across America those freedoms are being eroded right before our eyes. We had better be careful. As St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) said, The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.”  

We must fight to stay who we are, inside and out.

 Please pray for our sister, Asia Bibi. She faces a horrible death because she loves Jesus. A different place or a different time, that could be any one of us.

                               Copyright ©Larry Peterson 2016

October 11, 2016

St. Marianne Cope--She Opened Up her Heart and Soul to the Most Avoided in Society--The "Lepers"*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Maria Anna Barbara Koob was born on January 23, 1838 in Germany. The year after her birth her mom and dad emigrated to America settling in Utica, N.Y.  Devout Catholics, they joined St. Joseph's Parish near their new home. They also changed their name to Cope to become more "American". The years moved by and Maria's mom gave birth to nine more children. Life was never dull in the Cope household.

Maria felt a call to the religious life when she was very young. However, as the oldest of ten children, loyalty to family would take precedence over any personal ambitions she might have had. When her dad took ill and became an invalid, the eighth grader was forced to go to work in a textile factory to help support the family. Maria continued working in the textile mill for almost ten years.

St. Marianne Cope  courtesy  catholic.org
Maria's dad passed on in 1862 but by then some of her younger siblings were helping with the family's daily life, including finances. Maria, at 25 years-old, was finally able to pursue her dream. She entered  the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y.  On November 19, 1862 she received the habit and became Sister Marianne.

Sister Marianne had wanted to be a teacher but for some reason began doing administrative work. She quickly found herself appointed to the governing boards of  her religious community and helped establish the first two hospitals in central New York State. This was followed by becoming the nurse-administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse N.Y.

Sister Marianne had outstanding organizational and leadership skills but she also possessed a deep and almost natural affinity for those considered marginalized and treated as "outcasts". She was even criticized for her special devotion to those who needed help the most. It was also obvious to others that the Holy Spirit moved within her.

By 1883 she was the Provincial Mother in Syracuse and known as Mother Marianne Cope. One day she received an unexpected letter from a Catholic priest in Hawaii. He was asking for help in  managing schools and hospitals in the Hawaiian Islands. The letter was also clear that the main focus of the work would be with leprosy patients. Mother Marianne's life purpose had just been laid before her.

Filled instantly with an overwhelming desire to help those who were not only seriously ill but also marginalized and rejected, she wrote back, "I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders.... I am not afraid of any disease, hence, it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers." *

Today leprosy (real name, Hansen's Disease) is readily curable. In 1980 there were over 5 million cases worldwide. In 2012 that number was down to 189,000. In the past 20 years, 16 million people have been cured of this disease and only 200 cases are reported in the United States each year. But in 1883, when Mother Marianne and her followers arrived in Hawaii, that was not the case. Leprosy was widespread and dreaded as extremely contagious. 

People with Hansen's Disease were avoided and prohibited from many public places. When Mother Marianne and her six companion nuns arrived in Honolulu, they were directed to the Kaka'ako Branch Hospital in Oahu. This served as a receiving station for leprosy patients from all over the islands.

 Within a year they had founded the Kapi'olani Home for the purpose of caring for the homeless children of Hansen Disease patients. The most severe cases were sent to the island of Moloka'i and placed in the settlement known as Kalaupapa. This is where Father Damien was working. Sister Marianne met the renowned priest in 1884. He was still in good health.

Father Damien (now St. Damien of Moloka'i) was diagnosed with Hansen's Disease in 1886. When Mother Marianne heard that Father Damien's presence was unwelcome in so many places she began to tend to him herself.

Things fell into place when a new government came into power in 1887. They asked Mother to PLEASE open a home for women and girls at Kalaupapa on Molokai.  She joyfully embraced the request knowing that her prayers had once again been answered. In addition, she could now be closer to the withering, Father Damien, who she cared for until his death in April of 1889. 

Mother Marianne and her assistants, Sister Leopoldina Burns and Sister Vincentia McCormick opened Bishop House for women and girls and promised Father Damien they would run his Boy's Home for him after he was gone. They did just that. She also taught her Sisters that their primary duty was "to make life as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for those of our fellow creatures whom God has chosen to afflict with this terrible disease...".** 

Mother Marianne passed away on August 9, 1918. She was canonized a saint on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

St. Marianne Cope, please pray for us all.

*This article also appeared in Aleteia magazine on 10/09/2016

**Both quotes were taken from the Official Vatican website: Biography; Marianne Cope


                                                    Copyright©Larry Peterson All Rights reserved 2016

September 29, 2016

Sara Salkahazi...Another Holocaust Victim Who Will Always Be a Shining Star*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Embedded among the thousands of shining stars who have been elevated to the rank of Canonized Saint in the Catholic Church are those I call, "hidden gems". These are the  chosen folks more or less unknown to most Catholics. For me, when I decide to start looking for them, it is sort of like stopping at a yard sale. You never know what you may find. Well, I just stopped at a "cyber yard-sale". I do not remember the address and it cost me nothing but some time to look around. Lo and behold, I found another "hidden gem". Her name is Blessed Sara Salkahazi.

Image result for sara salkahazi
Blessed Sara Salkahazi   courtesy Aleteia .org
Sara was born in Hungary in 1899 and, from a young age, was a fiercely independent and strong willed girl.. Her brother described her as a "tomboy" who wanted to do things her way. The first thing she did as a young woman was to become a teacher.  She also began to write articles about the poor.

However, she did not like it that women were treated differently than men in society. She wanted to know why so she left teaching and took a job as a bookbinder's apprentice being relegated to doing the dirtiest and hardest work. She thought that if she did a man's job she might understand them better. She also continued writing about the disenfranchised.

Sara then went to work in a millinery shop selling and making women's hats. From there her life slowly morphed into one of a journalist and soon she was an editor for the newspaper put out by the Christian Socialist Party which focused mostly on women's issues. At this point in Sara's life she was not religious at all. In fact, she was mostly agnostic bordering on atheism.

But then Sara came into contact with  the Sisters of Social Service. She felt a strong calling to be part of their group and asked how she could join. The Sisters of Social Service was a fairly new order dedicated to charitable, social and women's issues. Sara, a fast talking, chain-smoking bastion of unbridled energy, was rejected as a possible candidate. She would not be deterred.

Sara kept trying to join the Sisters. She even quit her smoking habit which was more of a challenge for her than she ever imagined. Her perseverance paid off and in 1929, at the age of 30, Sara was admitted to the Sisters of Social Service. Her motto was from the Prophet Isaiah: "Here I am! Send me!" (Is 6:8b). Sara Salkahazi's agnosticism had completely disappeared in her own rear-view mirror.

 Sister Sara, a bundle of energy,  began organizing work for Catholic Charities, editing and publishing a women's journal, managing a religious bookstore, teaching and supervising a shelter for the poor. Sara was then asked by the Bishops of Slovakia to organize the National Girls' Movement. Her life was now busier than she could have ever imagined. More responsibilities were on their way. Some of the sisters in the order thought she was "showing off".

In one year Sara received 15 different assignments, from teaching at the Social Training Centre to cooking for the needy. She became exhausted, not only physically but spiritually. Sara's greatest challenge was dealing with the fact that the order deemed her "unworthy" to renew her temporary vows. Sara was heartbroken. She prayed and prayed and decided to "stay the course" for the ONE who had called her. About a year later, her prayers were answered and  she renewed her vows.

Nazi ideology was sweeping Hungary and the Hungarian Nazi Party was gaining strength. They began to persecute the Jews. The Sisters of Social Service began to provide safe havens for Jewish people. Sister Sara opened the Working Girls' Home to help those being displaced. In March of 1944, German troops began their occupation of Hungary.

Sister Sara, realizing the extreme danger now confronting all Hungarians, offered herself as a victim-soul for her fellow Sisters of Social Service. Permission was needed to do this and she asked her superiors for it. It was granted and, at the time, they alone knew about her self-offering.

In 1943 Sister Sara began smuggling Jewish refugees out Slovakia. During the final months of World War II, she helped shelter hundreds of Jewish people in buildings belonging to  the Sisters of Social Service. As director of the Hungarian Catholic Working Women's Movement, she smuggled over one hundred to safety all by herself. Unfortunately, time was not on her side.

On the morning of December 27, 1944, Sister Sara and another sister were returning from a visit to another Girls' Home. Little did they know that a woman who worked in the house had betrayed them. They could see the Nazis standing in front of their house. They could have snuck away but Sister Sara, as the director, would not do so. They went into the house and were immediately arrested.

That night, Sister Sara and her friend, four Jewish women and one Christian worker,  were loaded onto vehicles and driven to the edge of the Danube. They were stripped and shot to death, their naked bodies being tossed into the freezing river. Miraculously, Sister sara's sacrifice must have been accepted by the Lord. None of the other Sisters of her community were ever harmed.

Sister Sara Salkahazi was declared "Righteous Among Nations" by Yad Vashem in 1969. On September 17, 2006,  Peter Cardinal Erdo, the Archbishop of Budapest, read a proclamation from Pope Benedict XVI  beatifying Sister Sara as "Blessed", the last step before Sainthood. The proclamation said, "She was willing to assume risks for the persecuted...in days of great fear. Her matryrdom is still topical... and presents the foundations for our humanity."

Blessed Sara Salkahazi, please pray for us.

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on Sept 12, 2016

                                                   ©Larry Peterson 2106 All Rights Reserved