June 12, 2017

"Horizon Homeless"---a Novel by Larry Peterson about a Family's Journey into the Bog of Homelessness

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Introducing my new Novel: "Horizon Homeless" reality fiction inspired from more than 20 years of experience working with the homeless and the pre-homeless. 

From the beginning of Chapter 6: page 63

"Their newly discovered sense of helplessness had Bob and Tracey emotionally drained and exhausted. They had $40.00 to their name and the electricity had been turned off.  The inside of the house was hovering at about 90 degrees, the refrigerator was rapidly losing its coldness while the hot water heater was slowly losing its hotness. The stove could not be used and the washer and dryer had been temporarily relegated to useless objects just taking up space. Losing power because of a storm was one thing. Having it taken away from you on purpose by the power company was something totally different. A storm could not cause people to feel demeaned and degraded. People could."



Have you ever seen a homeless person and thought, Why don’t they just get a damn job? Did you stop and think that maybe they had a job and then, through no fault of their own, they lost it. Is it possible they tried as hard as they could but could not find another job?  Did you consider that maybe there was an illness that altered their life?  Maybe pain medications prescribed for an unwanted, debilitating injury turned them into a “victim addict”? Maybe they are a vet with a severe case of PTSD?  Maybe it is certain type of mental illness? Do you know anything about that person you are looking at? We should remember that before people become homeless, they lived somewhere.

Homeless sleeping at a bus stop:  commons.wikipedia.org
There are millions of people across this great land of ours that are pre-homeless. Please say hello to Bob and Tracey Slider and their son, Jake.  They are a composite of so many American families that cover our land from ‘sea to shining sea’. They are among the millions of unnoticed, hardworking, Americans, locked into survival mode while trying their best to do the “right thing” every day. What happens when they are confronted with circumstances which place them on a road heading downward where the horizon up ahead turns homeless?  Can they make the turn and begin heading uphill? What choices will they make? What will determine their success or failure? 
                       
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matt: 11:28


www.larrypeterson-author.com   All my books at this link

www.myhelpinghandspress.com   Books available through Helping Hands Press 
Presently available in ebook format

Paperback available June 30, 2017

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017

June 3, 2017

"Little Nellie of Holy God"--The Toddler Who Inspired a Pope*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

 Ellen Organ was born on August 24, 1903 in what was known as the "married quarters" of the Royal Infantry Barracks in Waterford, Ireland. Her dad, William, was a soldier in the British army. Shortly after Ellen's birth she was baptized into the faith at the Church of the Trinity. No one knows why, but from that point on Ellen Organ was called "Nellie".

"Little Nellie of Holy God"  en.wikipedia
Nellie's parents were both devout Catholics and her mom, Mary, had an especially deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. She would take walks with Nellie always talking about Jesus and Mary. She and her husband also made it a family custom to pray the family Rosary every day. Nellie, doing as her mom showed her,  always kissed the Crucifix and the large beads between decades. The first words she learned were "Jesus" and "Mary".

By the age of two, Nellie displayed a pronounced spirituality rarely seen in a child, especially one so young. While walking to Mass holding her dad's hand she would constantly talk about seeing "Holy God". This was something she began saying without having heard such an expression. Even her dad admitted years later he had no idea why his daughter began saying "Holy God".

Nellie's life and the lives of her brothers, Thomas, David and their sister, Mary, were about to change dramatically. Their mom became very ill with tuberculosis. Nellie, the youngest of her siblings, was by her side constantly and was actually hugging her mom when she died in January of 1907. Nellie was three years old.

 The children's dad could not provide proper care for them. Consequently, he turned to his parish priest for help. Thomas, who was the oldest at age nine,  was sent to the Christian Brothers and David to the Sisters of Mercy. Mary and Nellie were taken in by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Cork City. They arrived there on May 11, 1907. The sisters treated them kindly and were very good to the girls. Nellie was happy to call all of the sisters, "Mothers."

Nellie was three years and nine months old when she arrived at the Good Shepherd Sisters home. A young girl named Mary Long, slept next to Nellie. Nellie never complained but Mary heard her crying and coughing during he night. She told the sisters and Nellie was moved to the school infirmary.

Upon examination it was discovered that Nellie had a crooked spine (the result of a serious fall) that required special care.  Sitting up was very painful for the child and sitting still for any length of time caused her great pain. Her hip and her back were out of joint. She was only three and she tried to hide her pain. But she could not "fake" feeling well. All the sisters could do was make the child as comfortable as possible.

Nellie astonished the nuns with her insight and knowledge of the Catholic faith. The sisters and others that cared for Nellie Organ believed without reservation that the child was spiritually gifted. Nellie loved to visit the chapel which she called "the House of Holy God." She referred to the tabernacle as "Holy God's lockdown."  And she embraced the Stations of the Cross. Upon being carried to each station she would burst into tears seeing how Holy God suffered for us. She also developed an acute perception of the Blessed Sacrament.

One day Nellie was given a box of beads and some string. Being a three year old she put some in her mouth and inadvertently swallowed them. People saw her gagging and choking and rushed her into the infirmary. The doctor present was able to remove the beads from Nellie's throat.

They were all amazed how brave the little girl remained as the doctor probed  into her throat removing the objects. She never made a sound. At this time it was discovered that, just like her mom,  she had advanced tuberculosis. The doctor told the sisters there was no hope for recovery and gave Nellie only a few months to live.

Nellie loved the Holy Eucharist deeply. She would ask the sisters to kiss her when they were coming back from Communion so she could share their Holy Communion. She desperately wanted to receive her First Communion. But the rule of the Church was a minimum age of 12. Nellie was only three.

Nellie told of visions she was having of "Holy God" as a child and the Blessed Mother standing nearby. Her faith was so pronounced that the Bishop agreed (since she was close to death) to confirm her. She received her Confirmation on October 8, 1907. Then, on December 6, 1907, after considering all the facts, the local bishop, in consult with the priests, allowed Nellie Organ to receive her First Holy Communion. Nellie Organ died on February 2, 1908.

Nellie Organ's story spread throughout Europe and reached the Vatican. It was presented to Pope Pius X by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry del Val.It was providential because the Holy Father had been looking for a reason to lower the age of receiving First Communion to the age of seven  but was not sure about doing it.

When Pius X read the documents about "Little Nellie of Holy God", he immediately took this as a sign to lower the age. The Pope immediately issued a Papal Decree called QuamSingulari, changing the age of receiving First Holy Communion from 12 years old to age seven.

Pope Pius X, who would become St. Pius X, after issuing Quam Singulari, took up his pen and wrote, “May God enrich with every blessing ---all those who recommend frequent Communion to little boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model.”

Pope Pius X. June 4th, 1912.”

*edited version published in Aleteia on March 3, 2017

                                    ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Right Reserved

May 29, 2017

Chaplain Emil Kapaun—from Farm boy, to Priest, to Medal of Honor Recipient and Future Saint*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Emil Joseph Kapaun, was born on a farm near  Pilsen, Kansas, in 1916. Pilsen was a tiny town of less than 100 people named after after the city of Pizen in the Czech Republic. His parents were Czech immigrants and devout Catholics. Emil, besides being an excellent student, became quite adept at repairing farm equipment and machinery. This knowledge would prove very beneficial later on when he was a prisoner-of-war.

Emil Kapaun was ordained a priest on June 9, 1940. In 1944, he joined the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps. and was assigned to  serve in Burma. He left the army in 1946 to seek an advanced degree in education. He knew in his heart that his priestly ministry was to be a chaplain so, upon graduating with a Master's Degree in 1948, he re-enlisted in the Chaplain Corps.

During the Korean War, Captain Emil Kapaun, U. S. Army,  was the Catholic chaplain assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Cavalry. On November 1, 1950, the feast of All Saint's Day, Father Kapaun celebrated Mass for the soldiers in his battalion. In the minds of the troops the war was about over.

The North Koreans had been beaten back by the U. S. and United Nations forces. The guys were starting to think about being home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those pleasant thoughts of being home for the holidays were a bit premature. Right after midnight of November 2, All Soul's Day, their world exploded. The area held by 3000 American soldiers was unexpectedly attacked by a force of more than 20,000 charging, Chinese troops. The Americans, taken by surprise and fighting valiantly, never had a chance.

Father Kapaun ran from foxhole to foxhole, dragging out the wounded and giving last rites to the dying. Over the sound of gunfire and explosions he heard confessions. Feverishly working beyond the American lines in "no-man's land", he actually stopped an execution and negotiated with the enemy for the safety of wounded Americans. No one knows how many young soldiers he carried to safety on his back. Going back again and again he was finally taken prisoner as he tried to rescue another wounded soldier. He was not the only American GI captured that night.

By daybreak the battle was over and hundreds of  newly captured American POWs, including Father Kapaun, began a forced 87 mile "death march" to a POW camp.  The earlier thoughts about Christmas in America and drumsticks on Thanksgiving quickly evaporated as every step in the mud and snow and freezing cold now occupied the minds of the young soldiers who had suddenly become prisoners-of-war.

The "march" was brutal. Those wounded an unable to continue were shot dead. Father Kapaun picked up a wounded POW and began carrying him on his back. He implored others who were still in fair condition to do the same. Some followed his example and somehow, someway, many managed  to make it alive to the prison camp.

Father Kapaun cared not an iota about himself. Against the orders of his Chinese guards he cared for the sick and wounded, built fires for warmth and cooking, searched for scraps of food, and even set up a make-shift system to purify drinking water. What infuriated the guards was how Father Kapaun managed to gather the men together, officers and enlisted men, black men and white men, even atheists, agnostics and others, to join together in saying the Rosary.

Father Kapaun became an inspiration to the other POWs. The priest would preach openly to the men even though his captors ordered him not to do so. He would pray one-on-one with POWs and some even embraced the faith and were baptized. Praying was banned and when Father Kapaun ignored it and prayed with his men they would strip him naked and make him stand on a block of ice for hours on end. It is hard to imagine enduring such cruelty.

On Easter Sunday, 1951, the bedraggled, starving prisoners saw a silhouetted figure standing alone,  illuminated by the morning sun. As the men approached they realized it was Father Kapaun. He was wearing his purple stole  and holding a Roman Missal. Somehow he had received permission to hold an Easter Service. He could not say Mass but he read some Psalms and everyone recited out loud the prayers from Good Friday including the Stations of the CRoss. Survivors say that some men openly wept.

Father Kapaun, worn down from the horrendous conditions and suffering from his own wounds and poor treatment, died on May 23, 1951. He was credited with saving hundreds of lives through the loving care, compassion and spirituality he demonstrated to all his men.

His  awards  include the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star and many others.

In 1993, Captain Chaplain Emil Joseph Kapaun was declared a "Servant of God" by Pope John Paul II. The canonization process of this selfless priest is underway and there are two miracles under investigation at the present time. The simple priest from a little farm in Kansas is truly an inspiration for us all.

Servant of God, Emil Kapaun, please pray for us.

*This article appeared in Aleteia on Feberuary 21, 2017

                                         ©copyright Larry peterson 2017  All RightsReserved

May 12, 2017

Mother’s Day—After Years of Dreading It I Can Finally Embrace It

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

(updated  from 2016 article)

Mother’s Day is here and I will tell you immediately that it has never been my favorite holiday.

My mother died 56 years ago. She had just turned 40. (She had Leukemia and if you had Leukemia 56 years ago, you were “toast”.)  For some reason, I have only a few obscure memories of her. And, for me, that is an emptiness that has always exploded  inside me during the Mother’s Day celebration.

We were kids when she died. At fifteen, I was the oldest. My sister and brothers (the two youngest have now passed away) remembered details about her such as the softness of her hair, her laugh, how she loved cherry vanilla ice-cream, or pulling the shopping cart to the A&P. As for me, I had nothing except the information they had to share.

My Mom  circa 1939  age 19
I have been told that I was traumatized by her death and involuntarily blocked her out of my mind. I thought, how could that be true? I have experienced death taking my closest family members including: my wife, Loretta, 14 years ago married 35 years),  my second wife, Marty, only five weeks ago (we had been married for 10 years), a  stillborn daughter, my dad,  my two youngest brothers and Grandma, who died as I held her when I was 18. But, fortified by my Catholic faith, I always managed, to move through the grief process and learn to accept what happened.  But with my Mom that process never completed itself.

But I finally came to understand why I have been “stuck in the mud” with my Mom’s sudden passing albeit so long ago. I was selfish. I never thought about what must have been going through her mind as she lay dying at the age of 39. It was always about me and how MY mom died. That was the reason for my decades old problem. Therein was the cause of my emptiness. It was never about her. I felt sorry for myself when she died and kept feeling sorry for myself, year after year after year.

I needed help and finally it came.  Out of the clear blue my daughter, Mary, calls me and, during the conversation says, “Hey dad, do you realize I’m going to be 39 on my next birthday?”
Talk about being hit by lightning. My own daughter was going to be the same age as my own mother was when she was slowly being killed by an insidious, no holds barred, and merciless disease. I had never thought of my Mom as a 39 year old woman with five kids. I thought of her as my Mom, who died on ME. How pathetic is that?

Mary, who also happens to look a lot like the grandma she never knew, had only asked me a simple question. She could not have known the power that was in it. She had no idea that at that moment it removed the veil from my clouded “mom world” and set me on my journey to discover the woman and person who was also my mother.

Following decades of self-pity, I began to quietly ponder about this woman who carried me in her womb, who nursed me, fed me, bathed me, held me and hugged me, nursed me and my siblings through illnesses such as mumps, measles and chicken pox (all of which I have no memory), who cleaned, washed and ironed clothes, cooked, shopped and even worked part time, and how she must have felt as she prepared to leave her family behind while facing death. How awful and terrifying that must have been for her?

How did she hold her year and a half old son on her lap and look at him without going hysterical, knowing soon she would be gone? How did she handle thinking about her six year old son, missing his front teeth, who she would never give a sweet hug to again?  She had a ten year old who was in fourth grade and always needed his mom to help him with his homework. Would his dad help him? Probably not, he was so lousy at spelling and grammar.

And of course, there was my sister, her “little” girl. But she was 13 already, she was growing up. She would need her Mom, to talk to about woman things.  How did she bare holding onto the knowledge that her children would soon be motherless? What did she say to our dad, her husband and lover, as they lay together in bed, in the dark of night waiting for the inevitable as their five kids slept?

Sunday morning at Mass the priest will talk about mothers, living and deceased. This year I will be proud of the God loving, faithful, kind and courageous woman that was MY Mom. I may only have a few scattered memories of her but it doesn’t matter anymore. It was never about “poor me”, it was about her. I was such a jerk not to see it.

On this Mother’s Day I will also thank God for that phone call from Mary. I will then thank Him for my Mom. And to all the loving, caring Moms everywhere, God bless you all and Happy Mother’s Day.

                                ©Larry Peterson 2016 

May 10, 2017

Rejecting "Common Sense" also Rejects the Golden Rule

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

en.wikipedia.com
It seems that the fear of litigation has triggered the ongoing evaporation of  "Common sense".  What triggered my need to defend "common sense" are three separate incidents that I experienced over the past month. As you will see, each of these incidents, though simple and uneventful,  not only rejected the use of "common sense" but the collateral damage from these rejections was the trashing of the Golden Rule.

Incident 1:
My wife was in the hospital during the middle of March. She had been taken off life-support and was in a room breathing on her own but unconscious. I was there with her and her head was bent over onto her shoulder. I thought I might try to lift her head and make her more comfortable. However, I was unable to do it by myself as she had a large CPAP mask strapped on.

Just then a young lady came into the room, gave me a big smile and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

I was thrilled at her timing and I explained how I just needed a bit of help repositioning my wife to make her more comfortable. The young lady shrugs and sheepishly says, "Oh sir, I'm sorry. I'm a volunteer and we are not allowed to touch the patients."

I quickly found out that the volunteers could not feed anyone, touch anyone and can basically do nothing more than be a "gopher" for the nurses or get me a cup of coffee. As far as helping the woman in the bed, NOT allowed.

Incident 2:
I am an EMHC and I bring Holy Communion to about a half dozen seniors in an assisted living facility on Sundays. One of my communicants had five or six newspapers in front of his door. I picked them up and headed to the main desk where a security guard was stationed. I dumped the papers on the countertop and said, "Hey Tony, what's going on down in 103. There is no answer and all his newspapers are outside his door?"

"Oh yeah, Mr. A is in the hospital. They took him earlier this week." Tony refused to tell me what hospital. So I asked, "How come no one picks up all these newspapers?"

He shook his head and shrugged, "We are not allowed to touch anyone including their “stuff”. In fact, if someone falls right in front of my desk I am not allowed to help them up or touch them. I have to call 911. If I touch them I will lose my job."

In my standard inbred NYC manner I say, "C'mon Tony. Gimme a break--whaddaya mean you can't help them. That's ridiculous."

He reached under the countertop and pulled out a sheet of paper. It was the rules and regulations from the facility. "Here, you think I'm making this up?" Everything he told me was on that sheet of paper.

Incident 3:
I have been getting three to four calls a day from a number in area code 954. I have no idea where that might be and I do not care. In addition, the caller(s) never spoke. They just disconnected.  I never answer the phone unless the caller identifies themselves but the relentless pursuit from area code 954 eventually beat me into submission.  I caved and answered the phone. A pleasant, melodic voice floats into my ear saying, "Is this Mr. Peterson?"

My immediate response (I love to get a bit flippy) was, "Ya think. You have been calling me over and over and over never leaving  a message and now you want to know who I am?  Who are YOU?"

“Heather” introduced herself and told me she was calling to see if I wanted to renew my newspaper subscription. "Heather, are you telling me that different phone solicitors from your paper have been calling me three to four times a day and not one of you left a message? Do I have that right?"

"Uh, yes, I'm sorry Mr. Peterson. We are not allowed to leave a message."

There is nothing I can add to that.  These "professional" people will call folks up all day long and never leave a message. They are not allowed. Whew! That, to me, that is harassment. Yet, it is justified because it is a "rule" or "policy" of an invisible entity called a “company”.

 Natural Law , present  in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties." CCC1956

I don't know about you but if I see someone fall I will (if possible) help them up. If I lose my job because of my actions--so be it. If I call someone and I hear a recorded response, I will leave a message.  The Golden Rule and “common sense” go hand in hand. This other stuff is “madness”.

                                 ©copyright Larry Peterson 2017

April 26, 2017

Although Pregnant, Imprisoned and Severely Abused, She Refused to Deny her Faith*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

In 1936,  Civil War erupted in Spain after the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, overthrew the government run by the left-leaning leaders of the Second Spanish Republic. What followed was a period in Spanish history that is known as the "Red Terror".

During the three year period of 1936 thru 1939, tens of thousands of people were murdered by those on the secularized "left" as  this faction enacted an anti-clerical reign of terror against religion and all things Catholic, especially the clergy, who they hated more than can be imagined. The violence was even directed to churches and monasteries and many were burned and pillaged.simply out of hatred.

 What follows is the story, not about a priest or a nun but, rather, about a gypsy girl whose name was Emilia Fernandez Rodriguez. On March 25 of this year, Emilia joined the ranks of those honored as martyrs from the Spanish Civil War. In addition, she will become the first gypsy woman ever beatified by the Catholic Church.

Blessed Emilia Fernandez Rodriguez:  infocatolica.com
Juan Jose Fernandez and his wife, Pilar Rodriguez, were gypsy people who lived in  a "grotto" (cave) in Tijola, Spain. On April 13, 1914, Pilar gave birth to a girl and she was named Emilia. Emilia, the second of three children,  was baptized on the same day of her birth in the Church of Santa Maria. As Emilia began to grow she was taught how to make wicker baskets. This was how the family earned their living.

Juan Fernandez and his wife were survivors. They had no political ideology and worked hard at their meager wicker basket business trying to live their lives as quietly as possible. So did most of the other gypsy people. When the Civil War of 1936 erupted there was no reason for the gypsies to feel in any way endangered. They just kept living their lives doing the best they could with what they had. But circumstances sometimes reach out and grab hold of the unsuspecting and pull them into a world they could never have imagined.

In 1938 Emilia entered into a marriage contract with Juan Cortes, who was her distant cousin and a year younger than Emilia. Emilia's new husband was apolitical and, like Emilia, did not care one bit about either side involved in the Civil War. But those on the "left" thought differently. They demanded that Juan Cortes join their ranks.

Juan had Emilia help him concoct a potion to rub in his eyes causing a temporary case of blindness.  His ruse worked and the powers to be considered him unfit for service. But his "blindness" began to clear up. When the soldiers came back and discovered that Juan could see again they were outraged. They knew Juan had tricked them.

 He and Emilia were immediately arrested and both sent off to prison to await trial.  The date was June 21, 1938.  A few weeks later, on July 9, 1938, Emilia was tried in "court" and sentenced to six years in prison. She was absolutely terrified. She was pregnant and feared for her baby's life.

Emilia felt completely alone in the dank, smelly confines of the prison. She tried to avoid the other inmates but her youth and vulnerability drew the sympathy of some of them. One girl, whose name was Lola and was about the same age as Emilia, was able to befriend her. Lola was a devout Catholic and began teaching Emilia about the faith she knew so little of.

Lola made sure that Emilia made the sign of the Cross properly and taught her the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be. Emilia was soon participating in praying the Rosary with some of the others. She even learned to say "ora pro nobis" in response to the litanies being said in Latin. Soon, the commander of the prison, Pilar Salmeron Martinez, found out that Emilia, the uneducated, ignorant gypsy girl, could pray the Rosary. He was determined to find out who had the audacity to teach her.

Martinez called her into his office and demanded she tell him who taught her to pray. He even told Emilia that he would not only get her released from prison but would also get Juan out of his prison. He told her to think of her "poor baby" and how living in a prison cell was no place for a child. Martinez considered Emilia weak and was sure she would agree. He was wrong.

Emilia's faith was beginning to sprout strong and true. She was only 24 years old, was afraid and pregnant yet she would not reveal the name of Lola. Furious at this "gypsy girl", Martinez ordered her into solitary confinement. He also ordered Lola to be thrown into solitary also. He knew she was the "troublemaker" who was teaching prayers to the inmates. The conditions in solitary were horrendous.

Winter came and the evil Martinez, still trying to 'break" Emilia, cut her already meager food rations. The young woman was getting weaker and sicker by the day and her baby was soon to be full term. At two o'clock in the morning of January 13, Emilia gave birth to a girl on the  floor of her filthy cell. That same afternoon Lola baptized the baby. Emilia and her baby were taken to the hospital. Four days later they were returned to the prison.

Emilia became so ill that they had to return her to the hospital. She died on January 25th, never having turned on the one who had taught her to pray the Rosary. They dumped her body into a common, unmarked grave. No one ever knew what happened to the child. It is assumed she was put up for adoption.

The Catholic Church leaves no doubt that those who die from inhumanity inflicted upon them because of the 'hatred" of their faith are considered martyrs and attain beatification immediately. Many Catholics have died because of "hatred', especially in Nazi and communist internment camps. This is known as "in odium fidei" which means "in hatred of the faith".

Blessed Emilia Fernandez Rodriguez, please pray for us.

*This also appeared in Aleteia on April 11, 2017

                                  ©Copyright larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved  

               

March 28, 2017

An American story about an Irish priest, a brave girl, and the KKK*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Each and every one of us is an individual work of art, crafted by God for Himself. Why would He do that? Because He is Love and wants to share Himself with us. We all are truly special in His eyes. He loves us all, individually and without reservation.

He will forgive each and every one of us for anything we might do to offend Him. All we have to do is admit it and ask Him for his forgiveness. However, that great interloper called "Pride", oftentimes places for many, immovable roadblocks to humility, everyone's needed ally on their path to Love.
Father James Coyle circa early 1900s  en.wikipedia

What follows is an "American" story about a Catholic priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is about love and hatred in America. This is not about present day. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1921.

Father James Edwin Coyle had been born and raised in Ireland and, at the age of 23, was ordained a priest in Rome. The year was 1896. That same year he was dispatched to the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama to begin his ministry. Father Coyle served eight years in Mobile. While there he also became a charter member of Mobile Council 666 of the Knights of Columbus.

Birmingham was rapidly growing and was turning into one of the primary steel-making centers in America. Thousands were flooding into the area and Bishop Patrick Allen assigned Father Coyle to be pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. This was in 1904.

In 1915, inspired by the silent film, "Birth of a Nation" , the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan rose up (the link can explain the first and third generations). These folks were not only anti-black they also hated Roman Catholics, Jews, organized labor and foreigners. They started the use of the "burning cross" as their symbol. By the mid 1920s, there were over 4 million klansmen nationwide.

Father Coyle was a passionate priest who loved his faith deeply and this love was infectious. He taught and inspired his parishioners about the beauty and importance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist and he held a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother.

As the Catholic population in Alabama grew, virtual hysteria on the part of the Ku Klux Klan began to permeate daily life. The Klan was spreading rumors and innuendo about Catholics kidnapping protestant women and children and keeping them imprisoned in convents, monasteries and catholic hospitals. The Klan even spread the narrative that the Knights of Columbus was the military arm of the Pope and that they were stockpiling weapons for the upcoming insurrection.

One of the leading Catholic haters of the day was a klansman by the name of Edwin Stephenson. Stephenson lived about a block or two away from St. Paul's Church. His daughter, Ruth, at about the age of 12, had become fascinated by the coming and goings of the Catholics at St. Paul's every day. One day she walked down to the church and Father Coyle was outside. They began to talk. Her father saw talking to the priest and, screaming at his child, demanded she go home immediately. Then he had a few choice words to say to Father Coyle. He then went home and beat his daughter.

Young Ruth was undeterred and over the next several years even managed to secretly take instruction from the nuns at the Convent of Mercy. She was baptized a Catholic on April 10,1921. She was 18 years old. When her parents found out their wedding gift to her was the worst beating she had ever received.

On August 11, 1921, Ruth Stephenson, of legal age, was seeking full emancipation from her parents. She did this by marrying Pedro Gussman, a former handyman who had worked at the Stephenson house several years earlier. The priest that performed the wedding was a reluctant Father James Coyle.

Later that afternoon, Mr. Stephenson loaded up his rifle and began walking to St. Paul's Church. He had just found out that it was Father Coyle who had performed the wedding. His heart was not filled with love. Rather, with hatred spilling from his eyes, he walked up onto the porch of St. Paul's where Father Coyle was sitting down reading. and shot the priest three times. The final bullet went right through Father Coyle's head. He died in less than an hour.

Stephenson turned himself in and was charged with Father Coyle's murder. The KKK paid for the defense, the judge was a klansman and the lawyer who defended Stephenson was Hugo Black, the future U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Although not a Klan member at the time of trial, Black did become a member afterwards. The verdict took only a few hours to come in. It was "Not Guilty".

Father James Edwin Coyle was a Catholic priest who loved his God, his Faith and his Church. He was hated and murdered because of it. May he forever rest in peace.

 *This article appeared in Aleteia on March 17, 2017

                ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

March 17, 2017

A Catholic Priest has Extraordinary Powers--He Has Been Given the Power of Christ Himself

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Recently I wrote about how being a Catholic caregiver gives that person an "edge". I had no idea that  only a day later I would be standing next to an unconscious body that was being kept alive through the use of mechanical means and medications. Somewhere inside that body was my wife, Marty. She was on "life-support"and my work as a caregiver was either on hold or would soon be ended.

Since early in 2011 Marty has had serious medical issues such as lymphoma and Alzheiemr's Disease. But entering the year 2017 things began spiraling downward. The Alzheimer's was markedly advanced and was even affecting her walking. Several times, she even forgot who I was. One day a week or so ago, I wanted to give her her afternoon meds. She refused to take them. She said she could not let a stranger give her poison. I was accustomed to her unpredictability but this was a first. I was stunned..

As weird as this may seem, I actually had a close friend, Geri, come over to "identify" me to Marty. My wife was unflappable and refused to give in. After about a half-hour of cajoling by Geri she finally, yet haltingly, relented. She gave in and took her pills.

Last Thursday, Marty spent most of the day sleeping. She ate nothing. I attributed it to new meds she had been prescribed. Friday the sleeping intensified and again she did not eat. Saturday was worse and late in the afternoon, when I checked here vitals, her oxygen level was at 82. I knew that was not good. I called 911.

Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction) en.wikipedia.com
The paramedics oxygenated her and took her to the ER. She was freezing cold and they discovered her core temperature was down to 93 degrees. Sepsis was suspected and later on validated. I had gone home because it was to be several more hours before a room opened up. I called in at 4 a.m. I was told that she was in CVICU and on "life-support". She had become "unresponsive" and needed to be intubated.  I was shocked to hear this.

To the point of this article. Through my jumbled thoughts one thought was crystal clear. Call the priest. I immediately did. I had instinctively reached out and taken advantage of my Catholic "edge". I am telling you, it felt good to make that phone call. I knew help was on the way---help for the spiritual side of my wife.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the hospital in the ICU unit,  standing next to my wife who was in her "life-support" bed. All the machines, tubes and hoses made the scene appear to be part of a science fiction movie.  The beeping and ticking was almost like the background for reggae music. All of this was supposed to help her get well. She was sedated and had no clue as to what was going on.

Shortly after,  Father Anthony Coppola, my pastor from Sacred Heart Church, came hurrying into the room. I always have had the utmost respect for the priesthood and the men who wear that collar. But I was about to appreciate the Catholic priesthood and the power that is in it in an entirely different way. I was also about to realize that  the purpose of God's plan for the three of us to be in in that room, together, at that moment, was about to come together.

What happened next is part of the mystery of Faith. It is that great intangible that cannot be seen or touched. If a person has been gifted with faith and has embraced this gift they understand. If not, they have chosen not to. As St. Thomas Aquinas said so long ago, "“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Father and I chatted briefly and then he went to work. He was about to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Extreme Unction). A Catholic priest is the only person who can offer the Holy Mass and administer the Sacraments of Penance, Confirmation (usually the bishop does this) and Anointing of the Sick. He has been given this power because he has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

He opened his prayer book and began to read. Then he took holy oil from a little gold receptacle, dipped his thumb in it, and anointed Marty's forehead and hands with it. He prayed some more and then it happened. He said these words, "By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." 

Marty had just been given what is known as the Apostolic Pardon. This was that moment in time where I understood everything that was going on. She was there, still alive, because God wanted her to be fully prepared for her impending journey, a journey that would now be straight and direct to Jesus Himself. I was there because without me, the priest would not have been available to impart his  power.

But this moment belonged to Father Anthony, a Catholic priest who had the power and authority to impart this pardon. Make no mistake, these are the moments when the radiance of the Catholic priesthood shines through because these are the moments a priest stands in the shoes of Christ . It was a beautiful and humbling thing to see.

                                  ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017


March 10, 2017

The Priest asked, "He must be heavy?" The Boy answered, "No Father, He ain't heavy, He's my Brother." *

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

It was somewhere near Omaha, Nebraska and the year was 1918.  A young, Catholic priest was walking down the dirt road near the boy's orphanage he had recently opened. The priest came upon two boys, one carrying the other on his back. The priest stopped and said to the boy doing the carrying, "Well now lad, he must be heavy."

The boy, hunched over from the weight of the younger boy on his back, answered, "No Father, he ain't heavy. He's my brother."

Father Edward Joseph Flanagan, the priest from County Roscommon, Ireland, soon to become an American citizen, smiled and said, "Follow me boys and welcome. You're safe here."

The priest  had surely followed an unintended, circuitous route to find himself in Nebraska. It is believed that he entered the world prematurely. The story goes that during the first days of baby Edward's life (he was the eighth of eleven children) his grandpa, Patrick, clutched his tiny grandson close to his chest. Then he sat by the hearth for hours on end with his big, calloused hands enfolded around the tiny baby's body.  The warmth, prayers and love that engulfed the child brought him through and he survived.

Father Flanagan with kids at Boys Town  fatherflanagan.org

Edward came to America in 1904. He had graduated college in Ireland and was able to enter Mt. St Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD. Here he received his BA degree in 1906 and his MA degree in 1908. From there he headed to Dunwoodie (just north of NYC, bordering Yonkers) and entered St. Joseph's Seminary (often referred to simply as Dunwoodie).

Double pneumonia complicated by weak lungs from his premature birth, forced Edward to leave Dunwoodie in his first year. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to be with his brother, Father Patrick Flanagan and his sister, Nellie. They helped him back to full health and then it was off to Italy for more study. His next stop would be Innsbruck, Austria where he was ordained a priest in 1912. After his ordination  he was assigned back to Omaha.

Ironically, Father Flanagan wound up at St. Philomena's Parish. St. Philomena, the patroness of babies and youth, may have been sending a subtle message from above as to where the young priest's life would be heading. It was a only a few years later that Father Flanagan opened up a home for homeless boys in Omaha.

Bishop Jeremiah Harty; Bishop of Omaha, after being pestered by the spunky and tenacious priest, finally relented and gave permission to Father Flanagan to open a home for boys. On December 12, 1917 (The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) he moved five boys into his first boy's home. It was called "The City of Little Men". By June of 1918, there were 32 boys and by Christmas there were over 100 boys. By the spring of 1919 the capacity of 150 was reached and bigger facilities were in order.

On May 18, 1921, Father Flanagan secured the deed to Overlook Farm located about ten miles outside Omaha. He managed to get five buildings erected for "his" boys, and on October 22, 1921, they moved in. The Mother Superior of the Notre Dame Sisters with a well trained group of teachers set up a curriculum so all the boys could begin school at their own level. The name, Overlook Farm, was changed. The new name was The Incorporated Village of Boys Town.

As the years rolled by Boys Town grew and, under the watchful, caring and loving eyes of Father Flanagan became the new model for orphanages. Father had deep devotion to Our Lady and prayed the rosary every day. He encouraged every boy to pray but said, "Every boy should pray; how he prays is up to him."

Father Flanagan did not subscribe to the traditional reform schools with their harsh rules and severe discipline. Under his guidance and leadership the Boys Town community grew and prospered. It had its own boy-mayor, a chapel, school, a gymnasium and other amenities for boys aged 10 thru 16. Here, youngsters could learn a trade and receive an education. Father Flanagan's best known quote might be this one: "There is no such thing as a bad boy".

In 1938, MGM introduced the movie, Boys Town , starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. It was a smash hit. Tracy won an Oscar for Best Actor and the world learned of the Irish priest and all about "his" boys. Father Flanagan gained worldwide recognition and was named a Domestic Prelate by Pope Pius XI and assigned the title,  Right Reverend Monsignor. After World War II, President Truman sent him as an emissary to Europe and Japan to advise officials about methods of dealing with all the war's orphaned and homeless children.

Today, Boys Town stretches across America as one of the largest non-profit child care agencies in the USA. Over 2 million people have had their lives impacted through Boys Town. The Boys Town Research Hospital has received more than 8 million calls since it opened in 1977.

On St. Patrick's Day, 2012, Right Reverend Monsignor Edward Joseph Flanagan was given the title, "Servant of God" and his cause for canonization was forwarded to Rome. Upon  Vatican approval  he will be declared "Venerable" Edward Flanagan.

Servant of God, Edward Flanagan, please pray for us.

*Edited version published in Aleteia on February 17, 2017

                           ©Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson All rights Reserved

March 6, 2017

Deacon Roger & Helena Cartier--A Catholic Love Story for Us All to Honor

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


St. John Paul II said, “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church.”

The sainted Holy Father was referring to people like Roger and Helena Cartier when he made that statement. That is because this couple did, in fact, create a domestic church when they took their marriage vows so long ago. These two people, this man and woman, are a Catholic love-story not only for today but for all time. That is because they made the ultimate commitment to each other, emptied themselves for each other and never looked back.

 Secularism has convinced many the world over that marriage is what "you" want it to be, with whomever you want to be with. It also proclaims those of the Judeo-Christian faith have NO love in their cold hardened hearts. This secularistic atmosphere has cut deeply into the very fabric of our society and wounded it severely. That fabric is the family. And the family is the very nucleus of a nation.

Spread across the landscape of our society are many well-springs of marriage and family. These homes have one predominant thing in common. God is the essence and focal point of their lives. Roger and Helena are the patriarch and matriarch of one of those families.

 Roger is a retired letter-carrier. He is also an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church. This past February 12, Roger and Helena celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. Roger will be 91 years old in June and Helena trails him by a few years.

The Deacon is a World War II veteran. He got into the post office after he and Helena were married. A few years after that he became quite active in the Knights of Columbus. He rose to the position of District Deputy  giving him oversight of many K of C councils in the Connecticut area. Then his good friend, Father Kuzdal, suggested to Roger that he should apply to the Permanent Diaconate. Roger was horrified. He believed he was highly "unqualified" to do this.

What Roger and Helena did not realize at the time was that God had chosen both of them. Just as Mary Magdalene was there to help the apostles, Helena would be there to help her husband in a ministry that required ordination into the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They had embraced themselves with each other's love and wrapped their Catholicity around it creating the "domestic church" that St. John Paul II spoke of. God wanted the two of them because without each other, this would never have worked.

Deacon Roger told me how close he was to leaving the diaconate program. All the other candidates were college graduates, seemingly well versed in scripture and well spoken. He was sure he had no business being in such "lofty" company. He went to Father Kuzdal and voiced his concerns. Father looked at him and said, "Roger, you have a quality these other fellas do not have. You are a natural listener. You have a gift. You do belong here."

The final confirmation came from his partner in love and life, Helena. She agreed with Father Kuzdal and in 1986, L. Roger Cartier became Deacon L. Roger Cartier. He was ordained in the Diocese of Norwich, CT and remained there for a year. Then it was on to Pinellas County, Fl where he served until his recent retirement from ministry.

Deacon Roger assisted quietly and efficiently over the years always being there when needed. He was the spiritual director of The Legion of Mary, the spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, he was always Santa Claus at the Christmas parties, he visited the school frequently, talking to the kids about "being Catholic".

He was always available for Stations of the Cross, or Benediction and novenas. Roger visited the funeral homes when folks passed, did internments at the cemetery and always spent time with the families. He was a constant fixture at the local hospital and nursing homes. He also presided over weddings, (mine included), and performed Baptisms.

The one thing that was most noticeable (at least to me) was the "one on one" conversations he always seemed to be having with someone. This is where Father Kuzdal, so many years earlier, had profiled Roger Cartier perfectly. The man was a "listener". People sought him out specifically for that reason. And they still do.

Deacon Roger and his Helena have three daughters, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They are truly a "domestic church" within our midst. As for me, it is my honor and privilege to know them. As for all those who do not, comfort in the fact that people like Roger and Helena are always among us. Goodness does exist and it holds in its arms many a "domestic church".

“The union of man and woman in marriage [is] a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.”

Pope Francis: Rome, Italy, November 17th, 2014
                          ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

March 4, 2017

If You are Anti-Semitic, You are Anti-Catholic/Christian

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

I have come to realize that I have changed. I am no longer the same cradle Catholic that espoused the brotherhood of Judaism. I am not the same because the words I was using then were never really heartfelt. I did believe them but I did not understand. Nor did I truly 'feel" them. How could I?  That all changed five years ago when I discovered my Jewish heritage.

I am a Catholic man. I love my faith and use it frequently as my steadfast companion, always ready to lean on it. Today I find myself actually sickened by the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping our nation and other parts of the world. My own people are being defiled by those consumed by a hatred towards people they do not know. 

Our maternal Grandmother was an immigrant from Austria who arrived here as a teenager in 1908. We kids grew up with Grandma living with us and we took her for granted. We gave it no thought as to "where did she come from?" She was just always there.

Those questions would have come after we grew up a bit. But she died first and the questions were never asked. Mom and dad had passed on too so we could not ask them either (you can see that story here  http://amzn.to/1T2soNh ). 

The thing is this. There was never any "grandpa". There was never a mention of him at all.  As we grew older and wiser and became very smart teenagers, we began to question the story behind the missing grandpa. Years went by with no information and the search became virtually non-existent.

But you never know how things will go. Lo and behold, about five years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) from none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

Vicki had been wondering about our missing Grandpa too. She also had a tenaciousness that none of her siblings or cousins possessed. She had plunged into the murky waters of genealogy and found our long, lost grandfather. His name was Isidore Schul and he was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. The immigration and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1907.

Star of David  US Holocaust Museum
 I have written a number of times how the very first Catholic/Christians were Jewish. Jesus was a Jewish man.  His mom, our sweet Blessed Mother, was Jewish. His step-dad, St. Joseph was Jewish, his apostles were Jewish and many of His followers were Jewish. Many of the first Jewish/Christians were killed for following and proclaiming Jesus Christ. They were martyrs for their new faith.

Understanding my heritage caused my transformation. I now embrace in my own heart the concept of my Jewish connection. The fact is, my maternal grandfather was a Hebrew man from Krakow. He was the only one on his side of OUR family who made it to America.  What we have discovered is that the rest of OUR relatives from his side died in the Holocaust. We have no way of knowing about the fate of our great grandparents, Simon and Regina Schul. Either they died before the death camps began or in one of them.  

 During the Holocaust supposedly civilized people, both men and women, willingly went about participating in the systematic annihilation of close to 12 million people, including six million Jews. Their leaders wanted to eliminate Judaism from the face of the earth. And the '"good" non-Jewish, Aryan citizens did as they were told. They followed "orders". They almost succeeded in their quest.

I do not understand this hate. I know the anti-Semitism will continue unabated. I know the elimination of Christianity through torture and mass murder in the Middle-East will continue because of hatred. Thomas Merton once said, “If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.” 

I believe that is true. Satan rules hell. Satan put himself there and his followers plunged right in with him.  When I bring Holy Communion to someone the first prayer I say is, "We come to know and believe that God is Love. And he who abides in love abides in God and God in him."

We must never forget that Satan is hate. Anyone who chooses to embrace "hate" embraces Satan and Satan him. This war between Good and Evil will continue until the God of Love decides to end it. In the meantime we must fight for the God of Love, no matter what the cost. 

SHALOM

                           ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

February 24, 2017

Alzheimer’s Keeps Reminding Me Why I Love being Catholic

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


I have written about my wife, Marty’s, Alzheimer’s Disease several times. This is another. It was unplanned and spontaneous, triggered by the unique world she and I have come to share together.


pineterest.com

I was trying to write something but I was stuck in “neutral”. No pencil scratching, no pen sliding, no keyboard clicking. Then Marty came in and stood there just looking at me and not saying anything.  I smiled at her and said, “What’s going on?”

She shakes her head and says, “I really do not feel like going to work tomorrow.” (She has not worked in almost ten years)

I nonchalantly reply, “Okay, then don’t.”

“Larry, please don’t start with me. You know I have bills to pay.”

“Well then, I’ll call in for you. I’ll tell them you are not feeling good.”

She quickly throws a curve at me. I back away, surprised at the sudden diversion. Raising her voice she says, “We had better get a few things straight. I have standards and I am not going to be living in sin. I cannot be living here if we are not married.”

I did not know what that had to do with her ‘job” but I mentally bobbed and weaved and circled around. Quickly I said, “We are married.”

She was stunned. She stared at me and I stared back. A moment passed and she said, “We are?”
“Yes Marty, we have been married for ten years.”

“I suppose you know this for a fact? How can you be sure?”

“We have the papers to prove it.”

 I quickly said an emergency “Hail Mary” asking for help. God knew I was in over my head and immediately sent one of His special people. Maybe it was St. Therese or St. Joseph or maybe St. Martha. I really did not care who it was but just like that I had a “thought”. (These folks do not fool around when sent on a mission).

I had her sit down on the sofa and wait for me. I headed back to my “office” (some may call it a man-cave) and began rifling through the file cabinet in the corner. The top drawer is stuffed with all sorts of “important” papers and I knew that somewhere amongst the mass of unorganized stuff was our marriage license. I started scratching away, peeling papers apart.

I did not keep track of the time but when I looked at the mess of papers I had strewn about it must have been fifteen minutes. Then I hit pay-dirt. I found our marriage license. I was sure this would prove to her once and for all that we were, in fact, married.

I hurried back to the sofa and to the woman who immediately asked if I had just gotten home. “Yes,” I shouted. “And look what I have.”

The Pinellas County Marriage License was too confusing for her to understand. The print was small and even though our names were legible and the paper was emblazoned with the words, “Marriage Record”, it did not convince her. I realized she needed “Catholic” proof. That was why she had used the words “living in sin”. Now we come to why I wrote this in the first place.

I slowly headed back to the file cabinet to put the marriage license away. But I had not noticed when pulling the marriage license out that behind it was the 8 X 11 marriage certificate that the church had given us. It was behind the license the whole time. I could not believe it.

It was not a legal document but it was a BEAUTIFUL CATHOLIC document. It had our names on it. On the left side was a Cross with connected wedding bands connected to it. The church’s name was there and it was signed by the deacon and the pastor. It was also perfect for framing.

I had an 11 x 14 frame that was unused. Ten minutes later I brought it out to her. I had her sit next to me on the sofa. “Are you ready?” I asked.

“For what?”

I held this framed certificate up in front of her. She stared and stared at it and then she looked at me and began to cry. She put her head on my shoulder and cried some more. We have used the Hail Mary and the Rosary to help us over some rough Alzheimer moments. This time the purely Catholic marriage document was the answer to the prayer. It now hangs in the Florida room and she can see it every day anytime she needs to. Damn—I love being Catholic.


                                        ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017

February 3, 2017

He was a Catholic Priest--He was Martyred Because of it--He was only 22 years old--*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The damnable and malevolent Cristero War was officially considered ended in 1929. But that did not signal the end of the torture, murder and martyrdom of Catholic religious and lay-persons in Mexico.  The following happened in July of 1931 but first a bit of background.

Dario Acosta Zurita was born on December 13, 1908 in the town of Naolinco in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz. He was one of four boys and had one sister. His dad was a butcher and the family, like most other families in the area, struggled to make ends meet. Dario, like his siblings, was baptized in the local church of St. Matthew and it was his mom who was his catechist as he grew up.

Dario was well behaved, did what he was supposed to and was a relatively quiet boy. When his dad died the family fell into extreme poverty. Dario was forced to find work to help support the family. In his young heart he he had been hearing  the calling to the priesthood but he thought he would never be able to answer it. However, God must have had Dario on His radar screen.

Blessed Dario Acosta Zurita
 Not long after his father's passing Bishop Rafael Guizar y Valencia, ( an entire story unto himself--coming soon) visited Vera Cruz. He was looking for potential seminarians and Dario expressed his desire to become a priest. The bishop (who at one time had to disguise himself as a junkman because there was an order in place for him to be shot on site) told Dario that his responsibility to his mom and siblings superseded his personal wants. In addition, Dario was too young. The bishop told him to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for help and guidance.

Dario's mom knew of this and traveled to Xalapa to see the bishop. She pleaded with Bishop Guizar y Valencia to reconsider. Our Lady must have been in the room that day because the bishop relented and gave permission for Dario to enter the seminary. The young man won his superiors and class mates over with his kindness, charitable persona and his devotion to his faith. In addition, Dario was an excellent athlete and became captain of the seminary football team.

Dario Acosta Zurita became Father Angel Dario Acosta Zurita on April 25, 1931. The new priest was only 22 years old. He celebrated his first Mass in Vera Cruz on May 24 and began serving as a parochial vicar at the Parish of the Assumption in Vera Cruz. Father Dario was very dedicated to teaching the children catechism (adults too) and he loved being able to hear confessions.

At the same time, the Governor of Vera Cruz, Adalberto Tejeda, decided that he was "sick of the religious fanaticism of the people". He issued a decree called the "Tejeda  Law" which basically banned all priests from administering to their parishioners. Mass was banned, catechism classes were  halted and confessions were forbidden.  All priests in the diocese were notified by numbered letter advising them they MUST obey the "Tejeda Law".

However, the priests in the area had gotten together on July 21st and agreed that their responsibility was not to the government but to their priesthood and their faith. The decided that they would not obey the satanic inspired "Tejeda Law".

The law took effect on Saturday, July 25, 1931. It was sometime after 5 p.m. that afternoon the children began arriving for catechism classes at Assumption Parish while people began getting in line for confession. Three priests were in the church. Father Landa, Father Rosas and Father Dario who was in the baptistry. Suddenly, a little after 6 p.m., the three church doors to the church burst open and soldiers charged into the church.

These  men opened fire on the priests. Father Landa was gravely wounded. Father Rosas survived by hiding behind the pulpit. Father Dario, upon hearing the gunfire, rushed from the baptistry. His body was riddled  with bullets. He fell into the sanctuary as all the children and adults watched in horror. Father's last word before he died was , "JESUS!"

Father Dario Acosta Zurita was only 22 years old when he was martyred. He had been a priest for exactly three months.

Father Zurita was beatified and declared "Blessed" on November 20, 2005. The ceremony took place in front of thousands of the faithful at Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins presided under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI.

Blessed Angel Dario Acosta Zurita--Please pray for us all

See edited version in Aleteia Jan 25, 2017

                                   ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved