April 27, 2018

Mother Mathilda Beasley; "The "Idol of the Poor"


By Larry Peterson
Mother Mathilda Beasley  Old Trolley Tours Blog

 Meet Mathilda Taylor Beasley.

Oftentimes there is scant and/or inaccurate documentation with birth records, especially for people born into slavery. That holds true for Mathilda Beasley. It is thought that Mathilda was born on November 14, 1832, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some folks insist she was born in 1834. Her mother's name was Caroline and she was French Creole. It is not certain if Caroline was 'free" woman or not. Her father's name was James C. Taylor and not much information is available about him either.

There is a period of Mathilda's life that trails off into the unknown. It is speculated that she was orphaned at an early age. It is thought that Mathilda's mom may have died from one of the widespread illnesses that were a constant threat to the people of the time.

It is assumed that Mathilda received her early education from her "owner" who was also her biological father. It is also thought that Mathilda spent time in a Catholic orphanage after her mom passed away. This is where her learning about Catholicism began to grow and flourish.

She also, because of her own circumstances, developed an understanding and compassion for the poor, uneducated and lonely. What is known for sure is this: In the early 1850s, Mathilda Taylor, filled with an empathy for those less fortunate, moved from New Orleans to Savannah, Georgia. This is where her life's story is transformed.

In 1817, the city of Savannah passed a law forbidding the education of black children by white and black teachers.  Then, in 1829, the State of Georgia, passed a similar ordinance. Mathilda was about 20 years old when she opened up her home to black children as a school. It was a"secret" school and the penalty for a black teacher, whether slave or free, was a $100.00 fine and up to thirty-two lashes with the whip in the public square. White teachers were fined $500.00 sans the public flogging. Mathilda Taylor was risking her very life to help uneducated children.

Mathilda managed to keep the "school" open up until 1860. Children devised ways to keep their school activities hidden from the authorities. They used different routes to Mathilda's home, they wrapped their books in old newspaper and even put the books in baskets covering them with wood chips used for fuel. Mathilda's home even had a hiding place in it if the authorities came knocking at the door. Amazingly, her “underground” school was never discovered. Sadly, there are no school records left to document the school and the children that attended there.

As the Civil war began Mathilda began working as a seamstress and then found herself working at a restaurant called the "Railroad House". Here is where she met Abraham Beasley who was a prosperous free-man of color. Besides owning the restaurant, Abraham owned land, a produce market, a saloon and a boarding house. He also earned money in the slave trade.

The records at St. John the Baptist Cathedral confirm that Mathilda was baptized there in early 1869. She and Abraham married on February 9, 1869. They never had any children of their own and Abraham died in September of 1877.  He left his widow five acres of land worth $300.00 and property holdings on the Isle of Hope, Skidway Island, within the Savannah city limits. Mathilda’s life's work was now before her.

Mathilda now embraced her Catholic faith without reservation. She gave her inheritance to the Church with the request that part of the funds be used to establish a home for African-American orphans. She also decided to become a nun and in 1885 traveled to York, England joining the Franciscan novitiate. It is said that Mathilda met some nuns known as "Poor Clares" (which is also the Second Order of St. Francis) on Skidway Island and their influence prompted her to travel to England for vows). She returned in 1887 and opened the St. Francis Home for Colored Orphans.

Around the same time, Sister Mathilda formed the first group of African-American nuns in Georgia. From this point on she would be known as Mother Mathilda. The community she founded was associated with the Third Order of St. Francis. Mother Mathilda and her fledgling group faced many hurdles such as lack of money, being understaffed and being physically attacked at the home. Several attempts to burn the orphanage down were unsuccessful.

Mother Mathilda did whatever she could to keep the orphanage up and running, and even took in sewing to raise money. She operated the orphanage as long as she could take in a breath. On December 20, 1903, she was found in her private chapel, hands clasped together pointing toward a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Next to her were her shroud, burial garments and her last will and testament.

Blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants, attended her funeral Mass. The Savannah Morning News reported there was standing room only. The newspaper called her, “the idol of the poor, especially among the Negroes”. She was buried in Savannah’s Catholic Cemetery.

Today the Mother Mathilda Beasley Society honors her work and promotes her unselfish devotion to those in need. The Society also promotes awareness of African-American contributions within the Catholic Church. Mother Mathilda has been honored as a “Georgia Woman of Achievement”. Her cause for sainthood is under review. (The canonization process can be found here)

Mother Mathilda Beasley, please pray for us.

                                      ©Copyright 2016 Larry Peterson

April 18, 2018

Mesothelioma---The Asbestos Cancer that has no Mercy


By Larry Peterson

I spent over fifteen years working in the building trades in NYC. I was a member of Local 46 of the  Metal Lathers & Reinforcing Iron Workers Union. In  1978, I came down with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and that ended my career in that business. But not before being exposed to asbestos---over and over and over.

To this day, I still have the "webbing" that was left by asbestos visible on a chest x-ray and/or CT Scan of my lungs. It was first discovered over twenty years ago. It is there forever, waiting and lurking, and God is the only one who might know if it will turn into Mesothelioma. So far, so good. I just had a CT Scan last December and I am "good to go". Others are not so fortunate.

Many people are under the false notion that asbestos is totally banned in the United States. Guess what...it is not.  (Please refer to this ASBESTOS link and find out what is and is not banned in the asbestos world.)

 Mesothelioma.net is trying to educate as many people as it possibly can through its incredibly, informative web site. I am posting it here to help spread the word. Mesothelioma is a terrible cancer to get and to receive such a diagnosis is, in most cases, a death sentence.

The link below will direct you to the site. Please take a look, learn a bit about this dreaded disease, and consider helping if you can.



Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma
In recent decades, the association between long-term exposure to asbestos and the development of malignant mesothelioma cancer has become well-established. Although the latency period (or the time from initial asbestos exposure to the first display of symptoms of mesothelioma cancer) for mesothelioma is quite long, the majority of mesothelioma patients are people whose vocations involved repeated exposure to asbestos-containing materials over a lengthy time period.
Most people with mesothelioma worked in construction, shipyards, HVAC, or in vinyl manufacturing—all occupations which frequently involve working with materials that contain asbestos. Thus, most cases of malignant mesothelioma can establish a clear line between asbestos exposure and development of the cancer.

April 17, 2018

Meet “Annie”; One of God’s Great Champions


By Larry Peterson

There is a light that can never be looked upon because it is so brilliant you would be blinded forever.  This light shines inside God’s chosen ones, many of whom are marginalized and disabled. There are many of us who can sense this light and embrace those who have it.  Others ignore and sometimes, even abhor it. That light is the Love of God.
I was recently blessed when I received a letter from a woman in her thirties who had been severely injured a number of years ago and, besides physical handicaps, suffers from brain trauma (I agreed not to identify her so I will just call her “Annie”). The letter was in response to an article I had written and I wanted to share it.

 Its beauty was so profound you can actually feel and see the Hand of God himself acting as Annie’s ‘ghost” writer. It was a lengthy letter so what I post here is out of context. She is certainly one of the Chosen Ones, one of God’s invisible champions. What follows is exactly what she wrote:

“Larry, I has a prayer that I do evry morning for me.. as I humble submit evry day to the lord will and Him direckshun.. (I myself is not the look of world full beuty.. I atrophy from paralyze an very skinny (icky & sickly to some) I do understand my beuty in Elohim* eyes (an my mommah).. evry morning I ask the holy spirit to give me eyes to see how the Lord see us.. I so bless with amaze spiritual giff to see human beuty threw god eyes an ask god to reveel the forgotton ones that world full humans cast a glance an offen tern way.. cood be elderly.. poor.. differen color/accent/name.. mental/emoshunal differen.. too fat/thin.. to short/tall.. disfigure/disable... heck cood even be wrong kine of car in my hoity toity village... some thing that is... TOO... TOO.. I am grace w.Jesus eyes.. I so luck full to see in miracle way that moss can not even imajine…”

The heart and soul of this injured woman shines through her struggled words to reveal an inner beauty that only God can give, a transcendent luminescence that should keep us in awe of Him who created it.

The redemption of our souls, the essence of each of us, is always available to us. In our secular environment of today, many have come to believe that they are in charge of their own destiny. They are their own “god” and should answer to no one but themselves. However, this false religion of“Meism” is a dead end, a road to nowhere, an absolute journey to permanent hopelessness.

The handiwork of God is all around us. From the tiniest flower to the majestic mountains, to the perfection of a universe where you can know to the very second when a solar eclipse will occur and never doubt whether or not there will be 24 hours in a day, every day. Ultimately, when that day is done, you will find God’s most magnificent handiwork in the “least of His brethren.”
More from Annie:

... I use my hugs an love as extenshun of jesus if I is command & order as I believe I juss instrument an vessel for Adonai* to use... heck even thow I juss lern how read write in lass 13 year some pepel (inclue frien or famly) even make fun my English word or spelling.. that is fine by me... God understand my words both spoke an unspoken.... an all moss ever one understand kine in a smile.. a touch.. or hug.. the meanie pepel.. well.. God will deel with the meanies not me..

There are those who have demeaned,  rejected, and abused Annie many times but this physically damaged child of God harbors a love for Him that shines forth from every skinny, atrophied part of her very being and offers love, understanding, and forgiveness. How beautiful is that?

The torchbearer for the Olympic Games runs into the stadium holding high a light for all to see. Annie is the bearer of a light so bright it can never be looked upon. She is a true Champion and will one day have her Gold Medal. And it will be God Himself who gives it to her along with a great, big hug. She will have earned her place among the select ranks of God’s greatest champions.

*Elohim and *Adonai:  Hebrew names for God from the Old Testament
Picture courtesy en.wikipediacommon.org

                                       copyright©Larry Peterson 2017

April 12, 2018

Did Jesus Appear to His Mom after He Rose from the Dead? The Gospels never mention it.


TheResurrection  wikipediacommon.org
By Larry Peterson

Easter was less than two weeks ago, and on that glorious morning we heard from the gospel of John 20:1-9 how ---“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning , while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples He loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they have put Him.”

The gospel read at the Easter Vigil is from  Mark 16: 1-7. In this gospel, Mary Magdalene and Salome have gone to the tomb to anoint Him. This is when the angel appears to them, and tells them He has risen and to go and tell His  disciples.

The following week, on the Second Sunday of Easter ( Divine Mercy Sunday), the gospel is once again from John, this time 20: 19-31. This is when, with the doors locked,  Jesus appears to all of them (except “doubting”  Thomas). Interestingly,  someone is never mentioned in these gospel readings.  That someone is Jesus’s, Mom, The Blessed Virgin Mary.

So where was she when Jesus rose from the dead?  She was His mother. She was nearby throughout the passion and watched Him carry His cross. She watched as they drove the nails through His hands and his feet.  She stood agonizingly and helplessly by as He was raised on the cross. For three hours she stood there watching every drop of blood leave her boy's body. She was at the foot of the cross when He died.

No Mom should ever have to witness such cruelty heaped upon their own child. Who could have loved him more than she? Doesn’t it seem absolutely unquestionable that the first person who Jesus appeared to after He rose was His Mother? Yet there is not a single mention of the Blessed Virgin in the Resurrection narratives.

In 1931, Pope Pius XI, rooted in findings from the Council of Ephesus in 431,  instituted the Feast of the Divine Maternity. Although this particular dogmatic teaching is tied tightly to the dogma of Mary’s “Perpetual Virginity,” it is profound. The Divine Maternity explains to us all that the greatness and majesty that was bestowed on Our Lady was wrapped into a bundle of pure Love from God. For He was the Father of her child. She was the Mom. Every drop of Jesus’s DNA comes from His Mom. The Father in Him is Him. Jesus Christ is truly Human and Divine---.

From the Catechism 496: Mary's Virginity:
From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed". The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own...
So, back to the Resurrection. As a simple man of faith,  I have to believe that Jesus immediately went to see His Mom upon leaving the tomb where he was, moments earlier, dead. I shall end this with the following: 

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 1997 (VIS) –The Holy Father focused the catechesis of today's general audience in St. Peter's Square. Pope John Paul II said, "The unique and special nature of the presence of the Virgin at Calvary," added the Pope, "and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross, seem to postulate a very particular participation on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection."

The Blessed Virgin, who was present at Calvary and at the Cenacle, "was probably also a privileged witness to the Resurrection of Christ, in this way completing her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Embracing the risen Jesus, Mary is, in addition, a sign and anticipation of humanity, which hopes to reach its fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead."
If Pope St. John Paul II says it must be so, that is good enough for me.

                                   copyright©Larry Peterson 2018 All Rights Reserved 

April 9, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "God Bless this Strip of Dirt" by Kathleen Owens Stephens


By Larry Peterson

Book Review: FiveStars *****
“God  Bless this Strip of Dirt”  a Novel by Kathleen Stephens

By Larry Peterson
I shall begin by saying, “I not only loved the book, but I also love the title of this book." The author begins by acknowledging that this 2180 mile stretch of land that swirls up and over and around and down from Georgia to Maine exists because of God’s handiwork.  This is the  Appalachian Trail. She knows she owes all this wonder to the Creator. Instantly I knew this would be an uplifting journey.

Kathleen Owens Stephens was a 54-year-old grandmother of six and mom to four who had never been hiking. Twelve days before she began her hike she wrote down her reasons for doing this. She came up with seven of them, and the final reason encapsulated the entire journey:

*To see the beautiful natural world without a filter. St. Francis said the beauty of nature is the footprint of God. I want to wake up in the middle of God’s footprint every morning and go to sleep in it every night and live surrounded by it every day.

There is only one chapter in this book, and it is titled, “The Hike.” That is followed by dates and areas along the way. She began her journey on April 1, 2013. First stop; Springer Mountain. This is where the trail begins. She said goodbye to her husband and kids and headed off following the most famous trail in the United States. Would she make it all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine?

The author takes us along with her on virtually every step of her journey. It is like you are hiking along with her. You stop at places like Beauty Spot Gap, Hogback Ridge, Groundhog Creek and many other places of rest along the way. You get to meet her new friends, “Songbird” and “Roadkill”; Kathleen was called “Tortoise.” You rest and eat and take off your shoes and rub your burning feet. You get to feel like you are hiking with Kathleen. It is wonderful.

If you wish to spend an adventurous journey with a grandma who has decided to hike the Appalachian Trail even though she has never hiked and would like to experience some of the wonders of God’s handiwork, read this book. You will get to meet Kathleen Stephens and have a grand time hiking along with her. I refuse to tell you if she finished the entire trail—you have to read the book to find out.

April 3, 2018

Irving “Francis” Houle--an Average, Middle Class, Husband and Father from Michigan..He also bore the Stigmata


Irving "Francis" Houle--Stigmatist  mysticsofhtechurch.com
By Larry Peterson

 We know that St. Francis of Assisi was the first known person to receive the Stigmata and another stigmatist who was canonized in 2002 is St. Pio of Pietrelcina. We know him best as Padre Pio. St Catherine of Siena may be the best known Catholic woman who bore the stigmata and, for the most part,  those who have received the stigmata have been women. Then there is Irving "Francis" Houle, just a regular guy from Michigan.

Irving was born in northern Michigan, in the town of Wilson, in 1925. He was one of six boys and one girl born to Peter and Lillian Houle. The family prayed the rosary every day during Lent and their dad had them say the Stations of the Cross every Sunday after Mass. The Houle's were surely a devout, Catholic family.

When Irving was six-years-old he fell from a horse onto a railroad tie, broke three ribs and punctured his lung. He was rushed to the nearest hospital because he was hemorrhaging badly. The doctor thought the child would not survive. His parents quickly called his aunt, a Franciscan nun, Sister Speciosa, and told her what had happened.

The nuns all gathered together and began praying for Irving. The next morning the doctor was amazed to find that the ribs had moved away from his lungs and the bleeding had stopped. All Irving wanted to know was who was the beautiful man standing over his bed with His hand stretched over him. The bishop himself concluded that with such an incredible recovery, it had to be Jesus.

Irving's life was as stereotypical of middle-class-mid-western living as might be imagined. He graduated high-school in 1944 as World War II was raging. The very next day he joined the U.S. Army. He served in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and received the American Theater Sevice Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He was discharged in 1946.

Irving, living the traditional life of a young, Catholic man, married Gail LaChapelle in 1948 and they had five children, Stephen, Peter, John and twins, Matthew and Margo. Raising his family in northern Michigan, Irving worked for Montgomery Ward, a chemical supply company, and as a plant manager. He was an active parishioner at St. Joesph's parish and an active member of the Knights of Columbus where was a District deputy and a member of the Fourth Degree with the honor of being addressed as "Sir Knight". The Houle family could have been the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Irving began calling himself "Francis" after the Stigmata began. It is something he just did and that is how people began to know him. But it was on Good Friday, April 9, 1993, that the Stigmata first began to show itself.  Francis told his brother and the priest, Father Robert Fox,  who wrote the book about him how Jesus appeared to him when Lent began on Ash Wednesday. He told them Jesus  said to him, "I am taking away your hands and giving you mine...touch them." 

On Good Friday, the swelling that had been obvious on the top and bottom of his hands broke open and began to bleed. Walter Casey, a retired policeman who had been appointed by the bishop to stay with Francis at all times, explained how every morning between the hours of midnight and 3 a. m., 365 days a year, Francis suffered the passion of Christ. Francis told him that the Blessed Mother had come to him nineteen times and during those visits told him that she would bring many people to him and him to many people.

It is estimated that "Francis" prayed individually over one hundred thousand people while he was still alive. Folks would wait for hours on end to see the elderly grandpa who bore the stigmata and would lay his hands on them. People would be crying and would touch him and kiss his hands. There is a saying, "slain in the spirit" and this happened to some people as they dropped to the ground at his feet.

Irving "Francis" Houle, never sought any personal attention, financial donations or financial support. He was adamant in the fact that all healing was from God and that no one should look to him but rather to Our Lord Jesus Christ as the true cause of any spiritual or physical healing. "Francis" passed away on First Saturday, January 3, 2009. He was 83 years old and had borne the stigmata of Christ for over 15 years. He is one of the very few laymen in the history of the church who was a victim soul and bore the stigmata.

The two bishops in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, Bishop James H. Garland and Bishop Alexander K. Sample,  found "no fault" with the activity of "Francis" and gave him his blessing. These findings have not yet been forwarded to Rome.

"Francis" wrote the following prayer:


Oh! my Jesus. My heart is so heavy. Your burden is too much for me to bear.Please, my Jesus, let me take your Cross for a while. Just to let you know I care.Look upon me, dear Lord with eyes of your mercy. May your healing hands rest upon me.If it be your will, please give me health, strength, and peace.Amen

                                                       Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017