November 29, 2013

"Is There A Santa Claus? You Better Believe it"

by Larry Peterson

I just though that I would make a suggestion to those highly sophisticated,  elitist, and pontificating editorialists and pundits (both print & broadcast) around the country who have been apparently blessed with much more insight and wisdom than a shmoe like me will ever have. If some seven or eight year old kid writes you a letter asking about whether or not Santa Claus is TRUE please take a moment before answering to review the answer one of your colleagues, Francis Pharcellus Church penned to eight year old, Virginia O'Hanlon, 116 years ago. It answers this very question. This editorial has become a timeless classic and is the most reprinted editorial in newspaper history. I love it and believe it. (That's right, I BELIEVE IT, so what.  Hey, what did you expect. I did not go to Harvard.)
So, without further adieu:


Is There A Santa Claus?
From the editorial page of The New York Sun
September 21, 1897
_______________________________________________
Dear Editor---I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN, it’s so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 W. 95th St.
_______________________________________________
Dear Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes Virginia, there isa Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and  picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives! And he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten time ten thousand years from now , he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

November 25, 2013

Be Thankful for Thanksgiving--It is a Beautiful Thing

by Larry Peterson

Right now, a few days before "Turkey Day", there are many people with very little money and the anxiety levels within them are rapidly increasing. They see the ads for 'Black Friday' all over the TV screen. They know Santa will be firing up the eight reindeer in less than a month. If they have children they desperately want him to visit their homes on Christmas Eve.  Let's face it, kids are kids and Santa is Santa; to them the world of political correctness sans Christmas has no place in their little, anxious hearts. The kids KNOW it is Christmas time and no anti-Christmas hyperbole can change that fact. The stress this can cause for a mommy and daddy who might be struggling just to make rent can sometimes be overwhelming. And what about the single parents with only one small income? Providing a Christmas for their kids can be one of the most stress filled times of the entire year. But first comes Thanksgiving. This is a GOOD thing. In fact, this may be the BEST Day of the year for everyone, even those with kids and no money in their pockets. 

Why do I LOVE Thanksgiving? Why do I think it is the best day of the year?  Because it is the one day of the year when 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, 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. People from every economic situation can have a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens and prisons serve turkey. Folks who have little money are able to receive turkey baskets from various charitable organizations so they can have a turkey dinner at home with their families. No-one in America needs to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day. 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 in a soup kitchen. This year even the victims of the recent tornadoes in Illinois and Indiana  will have a turkey dinner available to them no matter what their situation. It will be something to be thankful for on that day and will generate a spark of hope in otherwise despondent hearts. We should all be Thankful for Thanksgiving. It is a beautiful thing. And it is an American thing. May God bless America and each and every one of us (legal & illegal alike) on this Thanksgiving day.

"If the only prayer you said in your WHOLE LIFE was,"THANK YOU", that would suffice."
Meister Eckhart 1260-1327, Theologian and Philosopher

November 21, 2013

I'd appreciate your vote!

Lo and Behold I won this on December 3rd




Vote for the year's best Catholic spirituality post for the 2013 Frankie Award!

Please vote for my post:
New Year's Day and the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Larry Peterson of It Makes Sense to Me

Voting ends on December 3 at Midnight PST.

Click here to vote:
http://catholicspiritualityblogs.blogspot.com/2013/11/frankie-award-vote-for-years-best.html

November 19, 2013

John F Kennedy, a Kid from the Bronx and a Moment in Time

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

"The president is dead."  For those of us who can remember those words from 50 years ago they were seared into our brains like letters sand-blasted into a granite headstone forever; clear, succinct and unmistakable in meaning. How could this be? Things like this did not happen, especially in the America of 1963.  But then a few days later, John-John, in his little top coat and short pants, saluted as the caisson went by holding his dad's  body covered by our flag. It was real all right, no doubt about it.

I had a personal connection to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Just like the moment when I heard of his death these moment(s) are also seared into my brain and the memories of them are as clear and vivid as if they happened ten minutes ago. The only difference is these are MY moments with JFK. No one else ever had these moments just me and the 35th President of the United States. And I do not care if you believe me or not. I just felt that I should share. Let us go back to November 5, 1960.

The most famous hotel in the Bronx was the Concourse Plaza Hotel on the corner of 161st Street and the Grand Concourse. Built in 1922 it was an elegant 12 story hotel three blocks from Yankee Stadium. Many of the Yankees had stayed there including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and others. The hotel had a grand ballroom and fancy dining rooms. On Saturday, November 5, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy was to deliver a campaign speech at the hotel. His fateful election to the presidency was now only four days away. 

I had an after school job delivering groceries and stocking shelves for Harry "the Grocer" Greenhouse. I worked for Harry every day after school until 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. One of my frequent delivery stops was the Concourse Plaza Hotel. There were a number of elderly tenants that lived there year round and they always called Harry when they needed anything from bread to fruit to bologna to beer to band-aids or whatever. I would bag up the stuff, load it into a cart and push it up the two hills to the hotel. I would go there at least twice a week sometimes more. I had made a delivery to a  customer on the eighth floor on Friday and she told me that Senator Kennedy was coming in the morning to give a speech. She was very excited about it and told me she was going to make sure she was down in the ballroom when he arrived. She said she thought he was going to be there at 10 o'clock. I had to start work at 10 o'clock and  I was quite disappointed that I might miss my chance to see the Senator. Then things changed.

That Friday night I saw my friend 'Sticks' (real name Tommy) and told him about JFK coming to the hotel in the morning. He said we should just go up there about 9 a.m. and see what happens. It made sense to me so that is what we did. I do not remember why but  we did not get up to the hotel until about 9:30. We came up to the hotel through the rear loading dock which was off 162nd Street. That is where I always came in to make deliveries and I knew my way around the back and basement of the hotel like the back of my hand. It was a bit strange because there were no cars or trucks or anything or anyone for that matter at the rear of the hotel. The overhead doors for truck deliveries were closed and the only way in was through a door up some stairs at the end of the loading dock. 'Sticks' hurried ahead of me and went through the door. I was not as quick so it took me about an extra half minute to reach the door. By the time I did 'Sticks' had disappeared. I hurriedly walked down a short corridor and made a left. I can remember that it was quite dark. (Whew! Right now, as I write this so many years years later, the memories have become crystal clear.)

I made the turn and froze dead in my tracks.  Someone else had also stopped short. The man I had almost walked into and who was now looking me in the eye was Senator Kennedy. We were less than a foot apart. He had finished his speech and was leaving via the rear entrance. He was with another man. That was it. No one else was there. Just me, John F. Kennedy and some other guy. The other man simply stepped near me and said, "Excuse us son."  I said nothing and stepped back. Senator Kennedy smiled at me and said, "Good to see you." Then he and his friend walked down some stairs and exited the door that led to 162nd Street.

The rear stairwell was right in front of me so I ran up a half flight to a platform and opened the big window. I looked out and below me and maybe 50 feet away the next President of the United States was standing next to a limo just talking to the man he had left the hotel with. There were no police, no guards in the street, no one else. I was staring out the window at John F. Kennedy. He was wearing a dark blue topcoat that had to be very expensive and his face had a perfect tan, something you do not see in New York City in November. His thick,sandy hair was blowing a bit and he ran his right hand up and across it. Then it happened. He looked up at me, smiled ( I can still see his teeth) and held up his hand. He did not wave it, he just held it up. He probably held it up for about two seconds. He was saying good-bye to ME, a kid from the south Bronx who just happened to be there at that moment. I held up my right hand to him and I guess I smiled. I don't remember. Then he got into his limo and was gone. I watched as my new friend's car turned onto the Grand Concourse. Talk about a "moment in time".

 "Hey, what are you doing?"  I turned and 'Sticks' was at the bottom of the stairs. "I didn't see him,"  he said. "Did you?"

"Yes, I did."

November 14, 2013

When it comes to Religion, we Americans are Spoiled Rotten

by Larry Peterson

When it comes to religion we here in the United States of America are spoiled rotten. We can worship unencumbered anytime we choose and we do not even give it a second thought. "C'mon, let's go. We don't want to be late for church."  How many millions of times has that been said in America on a Sunday morning? And why not? We have had a powerful friend protecting us and it is called the Constitution. It reads in simple language: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. But now, the winds of change are in the air.

It seems that our days of simply taking this cherished freedom for granted are being legally 'amputated' by secularists, atheists and agnostics who, armed with cooperating attorneys, seem to attack not only all things Judeo-Christian but anything that even mentions or uses the name of God. Two examples are The Pledge of Allegiance or our motto, "In God We Trust". Don't they realize that we ALL have the right to worship or NOT worship if we choose? Don't they realize how precious a gift this is to ALL Americans, believers and non-believers alike? Do they have any idea where their self-absorbed arrogance might take them if they succeed in their selfish quest to dismiss God from our lives? Have they ever once opened a history book?

 In other parts of the world these 'amputations' have become bloody and deadly as thousands of believers in Jesus Christ are being tortured and murdered because they are Christians. It is hard to believe that people in the "civilized and sophisticated" world of 2013 are being murdered because they believe in a Man who taught people to "love their neighbor". This is reprehensible yet it is nothing new. For crying out loud, in Maccabees (Old testament--7:1-2, 9-14)  a mom and her seven sons were arrested and tortured because they would not eat pork. Then they killed all of them. That was a few thousand years ago. The landscape of history is strewn with the mutilated corpses of millions of people who have been slaughtered because of religious beliefs. The 20th century alone has seen the Islamic Fundamentalists kill over two million Armenians in Turkey from 1915 to 1918. Hitler, during the 1930s and through 1945 vanquished over six million Jews in his twisted quest to accomplish the "Final Solution".  Many millions more were exterminated under his sick "watch". In Bosnia, Orthodox Christians slaughtered over 100,000 Bosnian & Croatian Muslims from 1992 to 1995. Today, as I peck away at this keyboard, Coptic Christians in the middle-east, especially in Egypt and Syria, are being killed and persecuted because of their faith. From the Book of Maccabees and earlier nothing  has changed except the efficiency of killing and the plethora of cameras and recording devices capturing it all for our viewing "pleasure". It is all in our collective faces. Where is the outcry, especially from the main-stream American media?  I don't think they even care. The anti-God people in America and around the world obviously do not care. What is wrong with the God believers? Where is their voice? What fools we can be.

Seventy-five years ago on November 9 & 10, 1938, the nation of Germany,  under the rule of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen, initiated the infamous two day reign of terror on the German Jewish people which came to be known as Kristallnacht or "Night of the Broken Glass". This pogrom (a series of government sanctioned coordinated attacks against the Jews in Germany) had been ready to go and those in charge had been waiting for a catalyst to justify it. It came at the hands of a 17-year old German-born Polish Jew who lived in Paris. Herschel Grynszpan, seeking revenge for the treatment given his parents in Germany, assassinated a German diplomat by the name of Ernst vom Rath. Upon hearing this the German propaganda machine, under Josef Goebbels, elevated vom Rath to "German martyr" status and Hitler himself attended  the funeral. The final piece was now in place to foment the "Final Solution". The German people, having been primed with Jewish hatred  over the previous five to ten years, were ready to turn their backs on the Holocaust.

Somewhere around 10:30 p.m on November 9, sanctioned 'mobs" began ransacking Jewish  homes, temples, schools, and hospitals throughout Germany and parts of Austria. Within two days at least 91 Jews were killed and over 30, 000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. German authorities turned their backs as  over 1000 synogogues were burned and over 7000 Jewish businesses were trashed. The name "Kristallnacht" developed because of the the thousands upon thousands of windows that were smashed and broken throughout Germany. The world was outraged at the reports of the vicious assaults on innocent people. It did not matter. The German press simply ignored it. The "Final Solution" and the impending Holocaust were now unstoppable.

The hatred and violence being expended today seems to be directed mostly at the Christian and the Jew. The Muslims hate Israel and want the Israeli nation with its Israeli people to disappear from the face of the earth. The Islamic Fundamentalists hate the Coptic Christians who have been in Egypt and the middle-east for almost 2000 years. The first Christians in Egypt were mainly Jews and the gospel, writer, St. Luke, mentions them in his gospel introduction. Even a part of St. John's gospel was found to be written in Coptic. It follows that Egypt and the Coptic Christians are part of the cradle of Christianity itself. Why are we Catholics and other Christian denominations not screaming our heads off at the violent and debasing way they are being treated in the present time? Maybe because we can sit around and watch "The Kardashians" or "American Idol"  free from such unspeakable, upsetting circumstances. Maybe we have, like the German people of 75 years ago, been conditioned to shrug off  the blood being spilled by those of our brothers and sisters who are being killed and tortured because they love their Savior, Jesus Christ?

Could this hateful bloodletting based on one's religious beliefs ever move onto the shores of the United States of America?  I fear that we have become so spoiled rotten in our comfortable "do what you want" free nation it may be possible. Maybe we have become Pinocchios, taken in by Stromboli's promises and enjoying life with the Lampwicks at Pleasure Island. But never forget that Pleasure Island was a fraud and they all turned into Jackasses. Maybe we are primed for our own Kristallnacht to set it all in motion. Fortunately for Pinocchio, the Good Blue Fairy from above came down and saved him. Fortunately, we still have the First Amendment. We all need to start lifting  our eyes more. We need the ONE from above to come down and save us too.

November 5, 2013

We Catholics Have an Undeniably Jewish DNA

by Larry Peterson

When I was growing up in the Bronx we lived on the third floor  in a five story walk-up on Sherman Ave. There were eight of us in a four room apartment. In the apartment below lived  Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz.  Quite often, in the middle of the night,  blood-curdling screams filled the back alley  and our apartment and the hallways outside. The screams were coming from the Rabinowitz’s. It was Sophie. She was having recurring nightmares. But Leo was the landlord and no one dared complain about the eery  howls that constantly reached the ears of so many. There was one man,  however,  who could not leave this alone. That man was my father.
I remember that Friday night long ago very well. The screaming started about midnight. It was September and the windows  were still open because it was hot and the screaming seemed exceptionally chilling. Dad got up and my brother whispered from his bed, “I think he’s going down there.”  We got up and followed him and, without hesitating, Dad walked up to Leo’s  apartment door and began banging on it with his fist. We watched from the stairs as the door slowly opened. Leo poked his head out and just like that my father was embracing this little Jewish man who had buried his head in Dad’s chest  crying unashamedly. My brother and I, crouched down and peeking from the landing above,  were stunned.  Then Dad disappeared into that apartment with Leo Rabinowitz and did not leave for several hours. Sophie was having nightmares all right, recurring nightmares of her two boys, ages 12 and 9, being clubbed to death by the Nazis as they made her and Leo watch. Try as I may, I cannot  imagine what those moments in their lives were like. They were loving parents and were helpless, unable to save their very own children as godless people clubbed them to death. The Nazis tortured the parents  further by allowing them to live.
My father has been dead for many years but he is still teaching me about being Catholic today. How? The gospel reading for All Saints Day is from Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes. When the priest read #7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”,  I remembered that Friday night long ago. I remember how a Catholic man reached out to his Jewish neighbor and how they became friends. I also remember that because of that friendship Leo and Sophie Rabinowitz became friends with the other folks in the building. My father was the ‘peacemaker’ who initiated the peacemaking process. He did ‘GOOD’.
We Catholics have just celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. During the reading of the Roman Canon at Mass, (First Eucharistic Prayer) the following words are read prior to the words of consecration: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, —–and all your saints.”  Were not all of them Jewish? Yeah..I think they were. There is no denying this fact. They are all canonized saints and their Judaism was always part of who they were.
Finally, let me mention our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  The Pope is very good friends with one of the primary Jewish leaders in Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  In October of 2012, he presented to Rabbi Skorka an honorary doctorate degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. It was the first time such an honor had been bestowed on any Jewish man in all of Latin America. Upon presenting the award to Rabbi Skorka, the Pope (then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio) said, “You cannot imagine how long I have waited for this moment.”