December 31, 2013

Repost: New Year's Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

by Larry Peterson

This is a redux of last years New Year's blog  that won the "Frankie" Award  ( named after St. Francis de Sales) as the best catholic spirituality blog of  2013.

JANUARY 1, 2013  (and 2014)

New Year's Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

A little about Catholics (myself included)  and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We Catholics have adorned our Blessed Mother with many titles (47 different ones I believe) and she is the greatest of all saints. We believe that she has been spared from original sin and was taken into heaven body and soul never having to die in this world. But, before she left here she lived here, as a woman, a mom and a housewife.  I think we do not pay enough attention to the earthly life of our spiritual Mom. January 1st of each year we Catholics honor her  with a day we call the Solemnity of Mary; the Mother of God. In the catholic world today is a Holy day of Obligation and, just like on Sundays, going to mass is required. This woman is worthy of and deserves this special day of honor..
Remember that Mary  had already survived the possibility of execution by stoning  because she was pregnant prior to her marriage. You can’t tell me that she did not think about the potential consequences of her pregnancy. (Even her Son, the God Man, broke into a sweat in the Garden of Eden thinking about what was coming. Why wouldn't  Mary be worried?) She knew she was pregnant, she knew this was an extreme violation of Jewish law and she knew the penalty.  Her life was out of her hands and her fate thrust into  the hands of another, a man named Joseph, her betrothed. Fortunately, he was the best fiancĂ© ever, married her, took her in and accepted her child as his.
Then, at full term in her pregnancy,  she has to travel with her husband over 80 miles on a donkey to be counted in a census.  She survives the four or five day journey (no rest-rooms between Nazareth and Bethlehem)and the countless contractions she must have had along the way to discover that her frantic husband cannot find a place for them to stay.  She winds up giving  birth in a stable with smelly animals,  lots of straw, no running water and who knows how clean those swaddling clothes were. She was probably all of 14 years old.
Let’s not forget that after  awhile word comes to them that Herod wants to kill their baby. Hey, all you moms and dads, how would you like to know the head of the government has authorized your child’s execution? Can you imagine? So, this poor young mom  is forced to make a 300+ mile journey to Egypt, hiding her child as best she can, while  all the time hoping her carpenter husband can elude the soldiers searching for them. Talk about  anxiety. Talk about fear. Talk about having Faith and praying like you never prayed before.
It probably was a year or two before the family made it back to Nazareth. Here they probably lived in a  typical baked clay and straw brick house. Each day Mary would have to sweep the beaten clay floor, go to the cistern for water, travel outside the town walls for daily necessities such as spices and grain which she would have to grind  into flour to bake fresh bread (no preservatives in those days) . Of course, there was the laundry.  Trust me, there were no laundromats and there were no detergents. There were also no diapers or Pampers or band-aids or cough syrups or baby powder or microwave chicken nuggets or McDonald's either.  Her husband would be in his shop doing his carpentry chores and her boy, Jesus, would be with His dad or maybe helping His mom. And life would go on, day after day after day. The years go by and  she is witness to  his horrendous execution. No mom should ever have to witness her child being butchered. She was there for His first breath and His very last.

In conclusion, He came here for us and she gave birth to Him for us. She wiped His runny nose, changed His dirty diaper and watched Him grow up and be killed for us. That is why we call her MOM too. We believe that she is still watching out for us, her other kids. Ultimately, this  transposes into the Greatest Story Ever Told. Jesus was the leading Man and Mary, the leading woman . You have to LOVE this story and its two main characters, from Beginning to Never-Ending.

December 27, 2013

"Silent Night"-- when Humility crushes Pride

by Larry Peterson

Peace on earth? Where is it? Is it in Syria? How about Pakistan? Maybe Sudan or Iraq? It is definitely not hanging out in Afghanistan or Iran. How about Cuba?  What does "Peace on Earth" mean? It is not a cease fire between warring factions. It is not a complicated or even simple agreement between nations. True Peace on Earth can only come about by the destruction of the great demon, Pride, and there is only one true weapon that can go head-to-head with Pride and crush it. That weapon is more powerful than all the weapons in all of the arsenals in the world put together. That weapon is Humility.

The weapon of Humility came to us in the form of a newborn baby on Christmas.  This story is so amazing that our simple common sense will tell us it was never fabricated or made up. The most creative writers who ever lived could not have conjured up such a preposterous tale. Imagine, a king being born in a smelly, dirty animal stall to a simple teenage girl whose husband was a struggling carpenter with no money. Then the couple would have to take the baby King and run for their lives because the reigning king, Herod, feared the baby might grow up and overthrow him. Herod's Pride seizes him so he sends his soldiers to kill the baby King. You are  familiar with the rest of the story. As preposterous as this story may seem more than a billion people believe it. For two thousand years this belief  has continued to transform the world. Millions upon millions of us  celebrated His birth the world over the other night. How can that be? It is due to that great intangible we call FAITH. You can't see it, you can't touch it and you cannot  smell it. However, if you open yourself up to it, it can grab you in a life-long embrace that might take your breath away.

Peace without love is an illusion. It cannot exist. It can never come from our own agenda. That is because the deadly toxin, Pride, gets inside us and drips its venom into our hearts filling our egos so much that they sometimes explode with hatred. This hatred is quite visible in the Middle East where Christians are being killed and tortured every day because they believe in this baby and who He grew up to be. The Good News is we have been given the antidote. It is Humility.

Our greatest of all gifts, FAITH, allows us to  believe that God, the Creator of all that is, shared Himself with us through  His Son and, in so doing,  humbled Himself in the most profound act of selflessness that was and will ever be. This was God become man for us. He came as a helpless, innocent newborn, barely able to grasp the finger of his Mom. He allowed himself to be born amidst  the squalor and filth of a stable. Poor shepherds from the hillside were His first visitors. Humility lay in a pile of straw and  looked up into the beautiful face of His weary Mom. A few small pot fires provided enough light for the man of the family, Joseph, to see the two people that he had to care for and protect. No bells were trumpets blaring cymbals were smashing. The deafening quiet made this the greatest of Silent Nights.  Thirty-three years later, booming thunder would echo His death and three days after that brilliant sunshine would announce our redemption. It is the most beautiful of all truths.

Seventy-three years ago the story of Our Lady of Lourdes was presented in the movies under the title "The Song of Bernadette". Franz Werfel, the author, had a prologue appear on screen before the movie began. It said, "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe no explanation is possible."  That is not exactly true. FAITH is a gift that many non-believers have seen fit to grab onto. They have responded to God's graces and listened. They have grabbed the 'brass ring'. Many more cannot escape the all consuming Pride that keeps telling them they are so much smarter than all those 'believers'. I only wish they would reach out and allow that little hand to squeeze their finger, just  for a moment. It will not hurt one bit and they might find out they were not so smart after all..

December 23, 2013

THANK YOU Lord, for Christmas

by Larry Peterson

 We Catholics have our "Catholic Hall of Fame" (I call it that) which is filled with people we call saints. The Blessed Virgin Mary is undoubtedly the greatest of all saints and, as the Mother of God, she is highly honored above all others.  But it is important to remember that when they were alive  they did not walk around with glowing orbs wrapped around their heads for all to see. They walked and talked and ate and slept and got sick and even woke up "on the wrong side of the bed" at times...just like the rest of us. They were people like we are. But they had made a choice to open their hearts to God's grace and once they did  there was no turning back.  No matter what they were confronted with, whatever hardship, obstacle, injustice or whatever it might have been, they were determined to serve God before all else even if it meant giving up their very lives. This is how certain people are able to rip their "pride filled egos" from inside themselves and leave it  in the pile of dust of what once was.

Christmas and the great lessons it teaches in giving of oneself to others is once again upon us. A young girl named Mary would listen to a message from the Angel Gabriel and unhesitatingly accept  being  the Mother of God. She would now be pregnant and unmarried. She did not understand any of it. She knew that under Jewish law this could mean her possible execution when people found out. It did not matter. Filled with the grace of God she gave all of her being to Him. She trusted Him completely. Her espoused, Joseph of Nazareth, a carpenter and "righteous" Jew,  kicked  his manly pride to the dusty curb and accepted the  pregnant woman as his wife. He would love her with all  his heart, protect her, provide her a home and be her best friend until the day he died. This was, indeed, a Holy Family.

We Christians believe that the infant born on that first Christmas night so long ago was and is the Son of God. The Creator Himself  sent His only Son to teach us and to save us. What did He have to teach us? He had to first and  foremost teach us how to love one another. Then we needed to learn that Pride leads to all sin. It is the parent of jealousy and greed, envy and anger, lust and gluttony. We needed  to know how to conquer the great sin of pride. So the baby grew and became the Man that preached love and forgiveness. He was kind and caring and cured sick people. He taught us about the evils of "pride". After He finished teaching us how did He save us? He allowed us to kill Him. His Mom was there, watching and feeling the searing pain of Simeon's  prophesied sword pierce her tender, loving heart. She gave Him to the world and watched as the world took Him away from her.

Jesus died for us. He poured out every last drop of His blood so we could once again have access to heaven. He did this out of pure love for each and every person that ever lived or will live. "We come to know and believe that God is Love and he who abides in Love abides in God and God in him"   1 John 4:16

Christmas begins the "Greatest story ever told". It is about love and forgiveness and kindness and sharing. It is about peace and joy. For children it can be about a man in a red suit with a "broad face and a little round belly, that shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly---". It is a beautiful thing, Christmas, a beautiful thing. How can you not love the goodness and peace it represents.  God IS Love.  I would like to join the millions of others around the world and say THANK YOU Lord for Christmas and all it represents.

December 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Irving Schul--I'm Sorry We Never Met

by Larry Peterson

Isidore (Irving) Schul was born on December 18, 1889.  He died in 1965 in New York City, alone and without family. That is so sad because he had family. Today is his birthday.

I have written many times  about the fact that all of the first Christians were Jewish people. Jesus was a Jew and preached in the temple. His dad, Joseph, was a Jewish man faithful to the law of Moses. His mom, Mary, was a Jewish woman who lived true to the law of Moses. This coming Christmas celebration was made possible by Jews. The apostles were Jewish and the first pope was Jewish.  The words Judeo-Christian are forever linked. They cannot be separated. The Old testament was written by Hebrews. The New Testament was written by Christians who were former Hebrews. So, I write this for a man named Isidore (Irving) Schul, a Hebrew man from Krakow, Austria (today Poland)  who  arrived in America on August 17, 1907. I always knew this man existed but I never knew a thing about him until September of 2012. That is when I learned that Irving Schul was my grandfather. Truly, I am a Judeo-Christian man.

I am a "cradle-Catholic".  I was baptized Catholic as a baby, I received First Communion as a first grader, Confirmation as a third grader (which made me a 'spiritual adult' qualified to be a good little soldier and defend the faith) and spent a total of 12 years in Catholic school. Here is the thing with me. I have been blessed. It all "stuck". I love my faith.  Today, as a senior citizen, I have come to understand the simplicity of this faith. I have sifted  through the pile of confusing theology and have come to the realization that if you follow Jesus and truly try to  "Love your neighbor" as He taught, everything else will fall in place. We won't be lying to each other, killing each other, stealing from each other, having 'affairs', or even stealing stuff. If you "love your neighbor" you won't be doing any of that.  And you won't be passing judgment on others because of their race, creed, politics, or whatever else you might pompously deem offensive to your worldview.(Just think about the possibilities.) This applies to a group that Catholic/Christians have had a hard time accepting over the centuries. I am talking about the Jewish people.

When you are a child your world consists of your home and the people in it. My brothers, sister and I had Mom, Dad and Grandma. We were one big 'happy' family living in an apartment in the Bronx. None of us ever thought to ask about a Grandpa. Why would we?  We were young kids and our world  view did not extend very far outside of our apartment building.  Our parents and Grandma died over a period of a few years when we were young. That was when we started asking questions about our family.  One of them was, "What happened to Grandma's husband, our grandfather?" It was too late. There was no one who could answer the question.

My cousin, Vicki, doing an intense genealogy investigation, finally discovered our grandfather. It is all documented and factual. We have the "paper work". Her dad, (my uncle) had passed away ten years earlier and never talked about his father.  My mom or dad never mentioned him either. My dad's parents had passed away. We all knew that. But it was like Mom's dad had never existed...but he had. Why we never knew of him, why he and my devout catholic grandmother married in 1919, how any of that transpired, none of us will ever know. The ones who knew those answers are all gone and have taken their stories with them. Thank you, Vicki, for doing the work. You found our 'missing link'. God bless you for that.

 So...I just want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Grandpa Irving and tell him I am sorry we never met. Hopefully, one day we will. Oh yeah, from your Catholic grandson to you, my Jewish grandfather,  Merry Christmas and belated Happy Hanukkah.

December 14, 2013

Evangelii Guadiam is about Dignity for ALL Men & Women; It Cares NOT for Politics

by Larry Peterson

When Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he also  inadvertently released  a swarm of pseudo experts on Catholicism and the Papacy. Why even Rush Limbaugh, who acknowledged his own non-catholicity, has decided that the Pope  is nothing but a "pure Marxist". Those on the left have assumed that the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,  contraception, women priests, and homosexual behavior and other issues are about to be changed. These folks, left & right,  are living in their own personal world of 'relatavism'. Caught up in the secular world of 'meism' they cannot grasp for one tiny moment that the primary purpose of the Catholic Church is the salvation of souls. First and foremost, the Church is here to guide ALL of us to an eternal life with God, our Creator. Jesus Christ, the Son of God,  founded the Church and appointed its first leader, the apostle Peter who was the first Pope. Pope Francis is #266. Their mission, which they graciously accepted, has always been the same, to lead the flock to Salvation. Nothing has changed.

Okay now, listen up all you clever pundits who have allowed yourselves to become  unknowing prisoners of the secular Age of Relatavism. Pope Francis has done no different than Pope Leo XIII who gave the world Rerum Novarum in 1891 and Pope Pius XI who gave us Quadragesimo Anno in 1931. These documents were papal encyclicals and they dealt with capitalism, socialism, labor, fair wages, working conditions etc. (Please feel free to see for yourself. Just 'google'). We need to remember that Catholic social doctrine deals with the DIGNITY of man/woman because they are made in the image and likeness of God.  Poor and rich alike have responsibility to each other because they are all part of the human equation. There is nothing evil in being rich. There is nothing wrong with workers wanting a better wage and improved conditions. Evil enters when the deadly sin of greed is embraced by people when  they begin thinking of themselves first instead of God. Consequently they want more for themselves at the expense of others. Employers and employees have a responsibility to each other to be fair and just at all times. As Leo XIII addressed the social order so did Pius XI wherein he wrote about the dangers of "unrestrained capitalism" and "totalitarian communism". John Paul II addressed the dignity of man in Centesimus Annus in1991 and  Benedict XVI followed with  Caritas in Veritate in 2009. Pope Francis has connected the dots with the Popes over the last 112 years. The dignity of all people from the lowest to the most exalted is considered. The Pope(s) wants all people to understand that justice must come from all of us not just from some of us.

The Catholic Church is primarily a ship navigating the turbulent and often times violent waters of pride and envy and greed. As the church forges through these deadly waters the ship's captain, (Pope), his officers, (bishops) and  crew (priests and religious)  are supposed to work together to  keep the ship safe and on a true course to Salvation . They are responsible for the millions of souls that are their passengers. They are supposed to be teaching them how to remain safe and secure as they travel along and how to be ready to confront any and all emergencies. Many times an experienced crew member ignore's his/her training. Often times untrained passengers do not listen. Sadly, they are lost. Pride, greed, envy, lust, anger, gluttony and even sloth combine to stretch their tentacles over the ship's railings and grab the indifferent pulling them over the side and down into the blackness. And to think, all they had to do was listen. In the meantime the ship's captain MUST stay the course even though at times he must adapt to changes in the weather. There is one thing he will not do, change the primary mission. No matter what, he will always move forward and never retreat from the goal of reaching the shores of Salvation.

I think we must remember that the Catholic Church is here to guide us to a reward greater than we can ever imagine. It is not here to make everyone feel good about indulging in their own "feel good" world. Just as a parent must say 'no" to their children the Church must say "NO" to ideas, behaviors and personal whims that violate the commandments. In today's world many people do not like being told NO. There seems to be an idea that if  "I'm not bothering you I can do what I want." Well, "NO"--none of us have that luxury. Pope Francis has embraced the people, the common people. It is a beautiful thing and God has done all of us a great favor in giving this man to the world. But make no mistake, he is the captain of the great ship and he is trying his best to guide it to "Salvation". That will always be his primary goal and the ship's ultimate destination.

December 9, 2013

The Sophisticated Barbarism of Euthanasia for Children

by Larry Peterson

I love the Christmas season and throughout my life I have never allowed grinches, grumps, gripers, and all of their grouchy, surly kind to diminish for me what the true meaning of Christmas is and the happiness it brings to so many. Then  along came Christmas season, 2013. A week after Thanksgiving  I was clobbered and knocked senseless by a story I read. Just like that my Christmas smile evaporated.  What wiped the smile off my face is what is going on in Belgium. Yeah--that's right, Belgium. A civilized European nation of over ten million refined, well educated people. Well now, these culturally advanced and  sophisticated folks are about to pass a law that allows euthanasia for children. BOOM!  It was like a right cross to my jaw and I was staggered . I have regained my balance but I am still shaking my head.  Alas, I should not have been shocked. Belgium has allowed euthanasia since 2002.  But this---this is about children.

This twisted, "civilized" plan goes like this. First of all a "terminally-ill minor", has to be judged capable of deciding for him or herself  that the pain is "unbearable and cannot be alleviated". This decision is based on advice from a medical team. Parental approval is then required. Then the child can say "Okay Doc, pull the plug. I'm outta here." To me, a simple, blue-collar Catholic man  here are a few oxymorons for you. I say this is nothing more than enlightened depravity bordering on humane barbarism. Who do you people think you are that you can decide the fate of children based on your perverted sense of virtue?

Belgium is a predominantly Catholic country of  about ten and a half million people. That number also presents a microcosm of the 'civilized' world that we are part of.   Amazingly, three quarters of the population is in favor of euthanasia for children. The bishops and other religious leaders in the country have warned such measures risk "destroying the functioning of society". Nirj Deva, a founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, told Zenit News that 'all Belgians ought to be terrified by the implications of this proposed law."  You think?

Let's imagine a 12-year old girl named "Chrissy". She has cerebral palsy. Her illness has not affected her cognitive function and she thinks clearly and is quite intelligent. She does have difficulty swallowing and has frequent hip subluxation (dislocation). In addition, the child suffers from epilepsy. Chrissy has lived with serious pain her entire life. The years have taken a toll on her parents because they cannot stand to see their child suffer as she does. So, one afternoon, Chrissy's primary, Dr. Egoman, suggests to the parents that Chrissy does not have to suffer this way and does not have to have a substandard life. And he reminds them that they will grow old and asks what will happen to their daughter. He suggests that they might discuss this with Chrissy and ask her what she "thinks". After all, it is HER LIFE. Just think about it. How easy it would be to convince Chrissy that she could have a wonderful life with the angels, never have pain again and all she would have to do is go to "sleep". And of course, it is mommy and daddy  telling her it is a wonderful thing. They love her and will be with her when she goes to "sleep". Tell me that will be that child's OWN life decision.  Chrissy "decides" to say good-bye and goes to sleep--permanently. This example is not far-fetched.

This is messed up folks, very messed up. For crying out loud, it has been proven in Belgium that most requests for adult euthanasia have nothing to do with pain but, rather, it is requested because people are lonely, depressed or even just tired of living. It does not matter. The draft of the bill allowing child euthanisia has cleared the Belgium Social Justice Committee(don't you love that--whose justice?) and now goes to parliament where it will soon be voted on. It is expected to pass. There is widespread public indifference and the media, as in America, is silent. Maybe the indifference has to do with people not knowing about it.

Christmas will be here soon. The child Jesus was instantly hated by a King named Herod. This man wanted to kill a baby because he feared losing his throne. So, ruled by jealousy and hate, Herod committed the barbaric act of killing hundreds if not thousands of children.  Fast forward two thousand plus years. Child euthanasia becomes the "humane" act of using "love" to convince children to kill themselves. Which is truly the barbaric?

                  copyright©Larry Peterson 2013 All Rights Reserved

December 5, 2013

I am the winner of the 2013 Frankie Award!

Official Announcement

Thank you to all our Frankie Award nominees, all those who promoted the contest on their blogs or through Facebook or Twitter, and to everyone who voted. The voting post had over 2100 hits, with 440 total votes. Larry Peterson's post garnered a third of those. Go, Larry!

If you did not win this year, I hope the contest did bring lots of extra traffic to your blog. And think of all those people learning more about the spiritual life, because they read what the Lord is teaching you! Now it's time to start planning for next year's posts. If you have any suggestions on how to improve our contest, please add a comment or send me an email to And some of you should consider becoming members of Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network. Check out our Welcome page for details.

The winning post is re-posted in full below. Larry, please use this badge on your blog with a link to CSBN to announce your win. I will send you your gift certificate to Mystic Monk Coffee shortly.

Please join me in congratulating Larry.


New Year's Day & The Blessed Virgin Mary

A little about Catholics (myself included)  and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We Catholics have adorned our Blessed Mother with many titles (47 different ones, I believe) and she is the greatest of all saints. We believe that she has been spared from original sin and was taken into heaven body and soul never having to die in this world. But, before she left here she lived here, as a woman, a mom and a housewife.  I think we do not pay enough attention to the earthly life of our spiritual Mom. January 1st of each year we Catholics honor her  with a day we call the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. In the Catholic world today is a Holy day of Obligation and, just like on Sundays, going to mass is required. This woman is worthy of and deserves this special day of honor.
Remember that Mary  had already survived the possibility of execution by stoning  because she was pregnant prior to her marriage. You can’t tell me that she did not think about the potential consequences of her pregnancy. (Even her Son, the God Man, broke into a sweat in the Garden of Eden thinking about what was coming. Why wouldn't  Mary be worried?) She knew she was pregnant, she knew this was an extreme violation of Jewish law and she knew the penalty.  Her life was out of her hands and her fate thrust into  the hands of another, a man named Joseph, her betrothed. Fortunately, he was the best fiancĂ© ever, married her, took her in and accepted her child as his.

Then, at full term in her pregnancy,  she has to travel with her husband over 80 miles on a donkey to be counted in a census.  She survives the four or five day journey (no rest-rooms between Nazareth and Bethlehem) and the countless contractions she must have had along the way, to discover that her frantic husband cannot find a place for them to stay.  She winds up giving  birth in a stable with smelly animals,  lots of straw, no running water and who knows how clean those swaddling clothes were. She was probably all of 14 years old.

Let’s not forget that after  a while word comes to them that Herod wants to kill their baby. Hey, all you moms and dads, how would you like to know the head of the government has authorized your child’s execution? Can you imagine? So, this poor young mom  is forced to make a 300+ mile journey to Egypt, hiding her child as best she can, while  all the time hoping her carpenter husband can elude the soldiers searching for them. Talk about  anxiety. Talk about fear. Talk about having Faith and praying like you never prayed before.

It probably was a year or two before the family made it back to Nazareth. Here they probably lived in a  typical baked clay and straw brick house. Each day Mary would have to sweep the beaten clay floor, go to the cistern for water, travel outside the town walls for daily necessities such as spices and grain, which she would have to grind  into flour to bake fresh bread (no preservatives in those days) . Of course, there was the laundry.  Trust me, there were no laundromats and there were no detergents. There were also no diapers or Pampers or band-aids or cough syrups or baby powder or microwave chicken nuggets or McDonald's either.  Her husband would be in his shop doing his carpentry chores and her boy, Jesus, would be with His dad or maybe helping His mom. And life would go on, day after day after day. The years go by and  she is witness to  his horrendous execution. No mom should ever have to witness her child being butchered. She was there for His first breath and His very last.

In conclusion, He came here for us and she gave birth to Him for us. She wiped His runny nose, changed His dirty diaper and watched Him grow up and be killed for us. That is why we call her MOM too. We believe that she is still watching out for us, her other kids. Ultimately, this  transposes into the Greatest Story Ever Told. Jesus was the leading Man and Mary, the leading woman . You have to LOVE this story and its two main characters, from Beginning to Never-Ending.

Being Anti-Christmas Equals Permanent Denial


I admit it. I get pretty ticked off at some of the anti-Christmas stuff that is dumped on us Christmas lovers this time of the year.  If you do not like Christmas, if you do not believe in Christmas, if you are anti-Christian, an atheist, agnostic, or even a Vulcan,  why do you give a ‘flying reindeer’  what we Christmas lovers love?  Why can’t you let us enjoy our creches with the innocent baby and Christmas trees and  wide-eyed children filled with the awe of an impending  visit by Santa on Christmas Eve? How in the name of candy canes and snowflakes can these things bother you? Hey man, I don’t care if you don’t roast chestnuts on an open fire or do not drink eggnog. Why do you care if I and the millions like me, do?  But a heavy weight has finally been lifted from my shoulders. I have finally  accepted the fact that you anti-Christmas people have been around for centuries (ever hear of King Herod) and are never going to stop your ranting and raving. Yes, this Christmas I am at peace with you.
Christmas is so much more than a ‘certain day’ each year. It is about faith and love and goodness and giving and sharing and the twinkle in the eyes of children and songs about  peace and joy and angels and poor people (shepherds) and rich people (the wise men) and the star, the brightest and  most wonderful star ever seen.  For over two thousand years this  star has lit the way for all  blood-lines as they traveled across the centuries. It is about  Salvation–the Salvation available to each and every one of us who has ever lived. So, whatever  is the problem with all of you  anti-Christmas, anti-God, anti-Jesus people who are somehow “offended” by KINDNESS and GOODNESS and LOVE? Why do you want to ruin it for the vast majority of people who LOVE Christmas and all it stands for? How can you be so  self-centered and self-absorbed that you are willing to snatch  joy and happiness right from the hearts of millions of children? What is wrong with you supposedly tolerant, caring, people?  I don’t get it. How can you hate Christmas?  Well, I have decided that you cannot hate Christmas. If you say that you do–you are living in a state of permanent denial.
So, for this Catholic man who believes that the reason for Christmas is the Virgin birth of Christ the Savior  this  is the Christmas that I have come to peace with  you  anti-Christmas folks, all of you. Filled with the “Bah-Humbug” spirit you have tried to bludgeon all of us  Christmas lovers  into submission. And you and your kind have been doing it for centuries, even before Dickens had Scrooge mouth "bah-humbug" back in 1843. It is old news folks, very old news.
Please know that this Christmas this believer will  say a prayer for all of you who do not believe. I will pray that  you catch a glimpse of that star that shines so bright.  Maybe a droplet of its light will find its way into  your heart.  If you do happen to catch a glimpse of it don’t turn away. You will have ignored a beautiful Christmas moment. You will have chosen the proverbial “hunk of coal” over a “sweet candy cane”. I swear, it is true. So keep your eyes and hearts open and Merry Christmas to EVERYONE.  For me, this Christmas is truly Peace on Earth no matter what anyone says or does.

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:

November 19, 2013

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


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.”

October 26, 2013

Talk About a Love Story--meet Mary Clarke aka Mother Antonia Brenner

by Larry Peterson

Mary Clarke was born in Los Angeles on December 1, 1926. Her parents, Joe and Kathleen Clarke, were Irish immigrants and dad  strictly enforced  the catholic upbringing of Mary and his other two children. Joe sold office supplies to the military during World War II and made a lot of money. The family moved to Beverly Hills and hobnobbed with the Hollywood elite on a frequent basis. Life was good for the Clarke family but, no matter how successful Joe Clarke was, he always taught his children to help those less fortunate. The desire to help others was deeply imbedded in Mary Clarke and would one day explode

Mary married at a young age and had three children. The first died shortly after birth. That marriage ended in divorce and as  soon as the divorce was final she married again in Las Vegas. She had five more children from that marriage. That marriage also ended in divorce. Not exactly adhering to her Catholic upbringing, was she? But now the grace of God embraced Mary Clarke squeezing her so tightly that a love inside her burst forth and suddenly the most downtrodden and pathetic among us were about to witness up close and personally the Hand of God working through her. The diminutive woman, twice divorced and the mother of seven grown children, was about to move from Beverly Hills, CA into La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico, home to some of the worst kinds of criminals on the planet.

As Mary's children grew she became more and more involved in charity work. After the kids were grown Mary began making trips to La Mesa Penitentiary to deliver donations such as food, medicine and clothing to the prisoners. Every time she left, the plight of the prisoners filled her with a growing compassion that ultimately would define her. In 1977, after her kids had grown and her second divorce was final, she gave away her  expensive clothes and belongings, moved out of her home in Ventura and headed to La Mesa Prison. She had received permission to move in to La Mesa and was given a 10' by 10' cell to live in. She lived as any other inmate, sleeping in her concrete cell, having only cold water and prison food. The amenities in her room included a Crucifix on the wall and a prison bed.  In the morning she lined up for roll call with all the other prisoners. This became her new home and would be home for the next 30 years.

Mary was an older, divorced woman and according to  church rules could not join any religious order. Undeterred, she went about her work while forming a new order. She received permission to take private vows and donned a habit and became known as Sister Antonia. After a year or so the local bishop, Juan Jesus Posadas, of Tijuana and Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego, officially welcomed and blessed her ministry and made her an auxiliary Mercerdarian, an order that has a special devotion to prisoners. Now, at the age of 50, she had become a sister.

Sister Antonia walked 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 men. Yet she happily walked with them and comforted and consoled them and held their heads when they were dying.
Mother Antonia
Mother Antonia Brenner
 Talk about a 'love story'. She saw the face of Jesus in every prisoner and loved them all. She became know as the "prison angel" and many began calling her "Mama". Mama Antonia Brenner, quelled brewing riots, broke up fights, touched cheeks, gave hugs and became loved by the worst of the worst.

Mother Antonia'a following began to grow and she named her community the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour. St. John Eudes,  a very close friend of Vincent de Paul, was her inspiration. The 'eleventh hour' refers to the call to vocation of older women ages 45 and up. Today there are 22 sisters. Eight work in La Mesa and the others are dispersed throughout the United states    working mainly in prison ministries. Mother Antonia also has seven grown children and many grandchildren. The "Prison Angel" passed away on October 17, 2013. She was 86. For the full story about this amazing woman of God who might very well be canonized a saint one day go to 

October 21, 2013

The Legend of the Jack-O-Lantern----(one version)

by Larry Peterson

Long ago in Ireland, the land of shamrocks, leprechauns, soft winds and smiles, there lived a man named Jack. Jack was quite lazy and did not like to work. But he had the gift of "blarney" and could talk the peat off the moss. He would tell wondrous tales about his adventures as a world traveler and the people in his village would be held spellbound by his golden tongue; however, Jack outsmarted himself when he  stole money from the townsfolk. He thought that they were not very smart and would never find out. But they did find out and began chasing him down the streets of the village.

As Jack ran down the road as fast as he could he rounded a bend and ran smack into the devil. The devil smiled at Jack and told him it was time for him to die and that he was there to take his soul. Jack quickly convinced the devil that if he would let him go and promise to never take his soul he would give him all the souls of the folks who were chasing him. "And how do you plan to do that, Jack?" the devil asked.

"Well now, all ye have ta do is turn ye-self into a pot of gold coins. Then I will give the coins to the people and you will be in all of their pockets. They will be yours."

Since many souls were better than only one, the devil readily agreed and turned himself into a pot of gold coins. Jack gave the coins to all the people and they went away smiling never realizing that they had given themselves to the devil in return for money.

So Jack lived on, grew old and, like all mortal men, finally died. His life had been so sinful on earth that he could not get into heaven and since the devil could not take his soul, he could not get into hell. He had nowhere to go. He asked the devil how he was supposed to see because he was in complete darkness. The devil laughed and tossed Jack a burning ember from the fires of hell, an ember that would never burn out.

Jack, using the ember to guide his way, found a pumpkin patch (some say it was turnips) and carved out a pumpkin. He put the ember inside and began carrying it around so he could see where he was going. To this day he wanders the earth seeking a resting place. And that is why he is known as "Jack-O'-Lantern" or "Jack of the Lantern".

"HAPPY HALLOWEEN"     posted in 2011 and 2012

October 17, 2013

God and Freedom of Religion--Nothing but an Oxymoron

by Larry Peterson

Florida has this peculiar demon called the 'sandspur'. It is a barbed, pointy thing that is attached to a certain type of grass that sticks to your socks, shoes, shoelaces, and, if you happen to be barefoot, your feet. When they do become impaled in your feet they hurt--a LOT. When you try to pull them from your feet or pick them from your socks and/or shoelaces,  they get stuck in your fingertips. (The trick is to always wet your fingers first.) Here's the thing. I never intentionally invaded their territory. It was an accident. They were here before I was. Therefore, I do my best to avoid them. I have made no attempt to eradicate them because that would be impossible. They are here to stay--end of story.

It seems that several months ago the  Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit in U.S. District Court in NY to have the name of God removed from United States currency where it is imprinted with "In God We Trust". These people are atheists who call themselves "nontheists"  because the word 'atheist' is too offensive to most folks. Anyway, they say that using the motto "In God We Trust" is "problematic" because it violates the  First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I maintain that they do not know what they are talking about and neither do all the judges, school administrators, parents, and whoever else complains about using the name of GOD because it violates the Constitution. That is absolute hogwash and I can explain why very simply. God has nothing to do with Freedom of Religion. Nothing at all. It just seems that all of us "Theists" (we are the people who believe in God and number in the countless millions), have become the sandspurs in the heads of the 'nontheists' and they cannot stand the pain and, try as they may, cannot seem to weed us no less eradicate us. For crying out loud, why do they even want to get rid of what we believe if they do not believe it to begin with?

This is the First amendment, word for word:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  I ask you, what is religion? Is it not the manner in which we choose to worship God? God is NOT religion. The Founding Fathers accepted the existence of God as a 'matter of fact'. They just wanted to make sure all the citizens of the new nation would have the CHOICE of worshiping Him anyway they chose. Remember, many folks came here from Europe to escape religious persecution, ie; the Pilgrims, the Puritans, Quakers, French Huguenots and Mennonites (Anabaptists) to name a few. If someone claimed to be a "nontheist" back in the 17th or 18th century and tried to get the name of God eradicated they would have either been burned at the stake or hanged.

Here is a quote from George Washington, the Father of our Country, from a speech he gave to the Constitutional Convention delegates prior to ratifying the constitution:  "If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards, defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of GOD."

There you have it. Before the Founders even started their work the First President told them that ,"the event is in the hand of God." They knew there was a God. They accepted that as fact. They also knew that people had many different ways of honoring and worshiping Him. That is the right they wanted to protect. They NEVER considered for a moment that the name of GOD would violate the First Amendment. To me the entire concept is an oxymoron. Without God you can have no Freedom of Religion. Why would you need it?

So, to all you 'nontheists' (aka atheists) out there who cannot seem to get we Theistic, God believing sandspurs out of your heads, too bad. You invaded our world. Why don't you relax and enjoy the rights afforded you. Why do you even care if we choose to believe in God? What is it to you?  You don't believe he even exists and yet you fight to get rid of Him. You have a problem.

October 11, 2013

Remembering Angelo Roncalli aka Pope John XXIII

by Larry Peterson

When Angelo Roncalli entered the Sistine Chapel with the other Cardinals in 1958 the last thing he ever expected was to leave that place as the new pope.  He was 77 years old. He was not well known, avoided the llimelight as much as possible and, even though a cardinal, was more famous for being "ordinary" than anything else. When  he was elected on the eleventh ballot he knew that his brother Cardinals were basically looking for a Papal 'caretaker' for several years. Taking the name John, after his dad, Pope John XXIII surprised not only them but the entire world.

The new Pope had a quick sense of humor, an affable smile and his chubby presence was a beautiful thing. The world came to love him quickly and he was so respected by world leaders that he was deeply involved in the efforts to resolve the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. No one on the planet considered Pope John XXIII   'ordinary' any more.

Pope John is best known of course for calling the historic, Second Vatican Council together. On October 11, 1962,  all the bishops from around the world convened and Vatican II was underway. The Pope set the tone for the council when, in his opening speech, he said, "The Church has always opposed...errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity."

The "old man" recognized that mercy had to be an intricate part of the reformed Catholic equation. The world was shrinking with advanced communications, commercial jet travel and televisions in millions of homes. Naturally, there were members of the council who thought that the Church was abdicating its sanctity by allowing certain changes. Foremost was  replacing the Tridentine Mass of Pope St. Pius V with the Novus Ordo Mass where the language went from Latin to the vernacular. Suddenly allowing lay persons to distribute Holy Communion horrified many but was also welcomed by many. The early church allowed receiving Communion in the hand and this was now once again allowed. Others thought the church needed to be more progressive  and ordain women as priests and allow priests to marry. The simple man from Lombardy held their feet to the fire. None of the changes implemented were  "uncatholic". They simply allowed the people, especially women,  to be able to participate more fully in the life of the Church.

Pope John XXIII was  a stretcher bearer in the Italian Army during World War I. During World war II, when he was still Archbishop Roncalli, he helped save over 24,000 Jewish people. He wrote the great encyclical, 'Pacem in Terris', which means, 'Peace on Earth'. In this encyclical he wrote, "That every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life..."

Today is Blessed John XXIII's feast day. He will be canonized along with Blessed John Paul II in April of 2014. I was blessed to have lived during the papacy of each of these great men.  

Pope John XXIII 


October 6, 2013

Frank Bernardone (aka St. Francis of Assisi) Would They 'Baker Act" Him in 2013?

by Larry Peterson

On October 4th, we Catholics celebrated the feast day of the great St. Francis of Assisi.  Pope Francis, during his homily at the Mass, encapsulated his namesake with this one brief sentence; "In all of Francis' life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of a coin." 

The  Catholic Church has a rich and fabulous history of people who have been elevated to the rank of Canonized Saint.It is a four  stage process to sainthood.  Reaching the first stage a person is then called "Servant of God". The second stage is called "Venerable". Beatification is the third stage and then a person is called Blessed. Last but not least is the actual canonization. That is when a person is declared a saint.

All of  these people belong in our Catholic 'Hall of Fame' and among them are some who are so well known that  their names are recognizable by most people even after  two thousand years. St. Francis of Assisi is one of those 'Hall of Famers' and he lived about 850 years ago.

I am a cradle Catholic  and I went to Catholic school from grades one through twelve. I learned about many saints and martyrs and it always seemed to me that what we were taught placed these folks in a heavenly world more so than in a real, earthly world. As a kid, I never understood how the martyrs were willingly and happily dying for Jesus. Weren't they scared? Did some of them possibly cry? Were they so filled with the Spirit that they were always stoic and reserved accepting their horrible fate with  joy while thanking God for the honor of a martyr's death?

Fear is a normal emotion. Courage is when you stare it down and confront it regardless of the consequences even unto giving up your life.  Filled with a faith that was unshakable they loved God and their fellow man so much  that their courage knew no bounds even as they faced death. These were people of valor filled with grace, honor, fortitude and foremost, love.

My namesake and one of my favorite saints is St. Lawrence. Legend has it that he  was roasted alive by the Emperor Valerian in August of 258 A.D. The story is that Lawrence, having been tortured for a period of time over hot coals said to his executioners,"I believe I am done on this side, please turn me over." 

I do not believe that really happened but it goes to my point of being taught about the saints being "happy"  even as they endured the most horrible tortures. Anyway, I try to take my supernal heroes and bring them  into my world of the 21st century. Then I imagine them doing their thing in the zero tolerant, politically correct, secularist world that we living, wannabe saints exist in. How do you think St. Francis of Assisi would have fared in the year 21st century?

Peter Bernardone, a wealthy silk merchant from Assisi, and his wife Pica, also from a wealthy family, gave birth to a son in 1181. They named him Johnny but later his father changed his name to Francis because he loved France, a country where he had made a lot of money (maybe dad had his own issues). Anyway, Frank grew up as a wealthy kid and had everything money could buy. He was handsome, courteous and dashing.

In 1204 frank went off to war and had a dream directing him to go back to Assisi. He did return and for some reason lost all desire for the worldly life. He joined a pilgrimage to Rome and joined with the poor who would beg in St. Peter's Square. The experience moved him to want a life of poverty. Back home in  Assisi he began preaching in the streets and soon he had a following.

St. Francis of Assisi dedicated his own life to the poor and to Christ in poverty. He founded the Franciscan Order and the Order of Poor Clares. In 1224 he received the Stigmata, which are the wounds that Christ received when He was crucified. This is not folklore or rumor or an "old wives tale". The Stigmata has been documented and St. Francis did have it. In addition, the man was known for his love of animals, and many of the statues erected in his honor have a bird sitting on his extended finger and maybe a squirrel at his feet. 

So how would Frank Bernardone have fared in modern day  America? What would have happened if he decided to throw off his expensive clothing and don some old clothes he got from a thrift store? What if he wore those clothes to Main Street and started preaching on the corner? What if he had tried to preach that way in front of  a church? What if he went and knocked on the door of the nearest Catholic rectory and asked for some food?

More than likely the priest probably would have given him a number to the parish 'outreach' or maybe St. Vincent de Paul Conference, wished him well and closed the door. Then Frank would have had to find a phone to use and maybe he would have found one and maybe not. Sooner or later he would definitely have been spotted by the cops who would want to see ID and find out what he was doing and where he lived. They probably would have called his father. 

Eight hundred years ago in Assisi, Frank's dad was so infuriated at his son's behavior that when Frank came home from Rome, his dad beat him and locked him in the basement for a year. Today,  Frank's father could not legally  beat his son and lock him in the basement. So he might have asked the cops to 'Baker Act" his grown son. If you do not know what  "Baker Act" means, it is simple. In Florida there is a law that allows the police or family or most anyone to have someone who is acting "irrational', and could be a danger to themselves or others, to be taken into custody and placed in lock down for 72 hours so they can be evaluated. The person has no say in the matter. Then it is up to the courts. If Frank told a modern day judge that he would rather live with the poor and beg for food even though he did not have to that judge may have put him in the 'booby-hatch' for a lot longer than 72 hours. 

Let me, as they say, "cut to the chase'".  Francis of Assisi was a spiritual man who loved Christ and loved the poor. He gave up everything worldly to serve the poor. He asked for nothing and eventually thousands followed him as Franciscan priests, friars, brothers and missionaries. The Order of Poor Clares came into existence because of Francis. Francis of Assisi changed the world through the love of the poor and the love of Christ in poverty. 

I cannot imagine how a man like Francis would do his thing today.  But, all things are possible with God, even in the pompous, secularist, meistic world of the 21st century. Just take a look at who suddenly became our Pope. A simple Argentinian named Jorge Bergoglio  was elected and he took the name of Francis, a simple man from Assisi.

                                                  copyright ©Larry Peterson 2013