November 21, 2018

Time to Pause, Take a Break and Give THANKS to GOD


By Larry Peterson

Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.  ~ Psalms 50:14-15

The simplicity of the Thanksgiving Holiday captured my spirit decades ago. This is the one day of the year where we, as Americans, just stop everything and take a breath from the year gone by to say THANK YOU to God for all that we have. We gather with family or friends or maybe even with strangers in a food center who become our new friends, and share the bounty He has so graciously bestowed upon us. All we have to do is "show up". You do not even  have to bring gifts. Just bring a thankful heart and a smile on your face. It doesn't get any better than that. It is a beautiful thing.

So I would like to wish anyone who might read this a God filled and beautiful Thanksgiving Day. I am posting two Thanksgiving prayers that fit the occasion.


by Walter Rauschenbusch

O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

From Living God’s Justice: Reflections and Prayers, compiled by The Roundtable Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors:

Thank you, Father, for having created us and given us to each other in the human family. Thank you for being with us in all our joys and sorrows, for your comfort in our sadness, your companionship in our loneliness. Thank you for yesterday, today, tomorrow and for the whole of our lives. Thank you for friends, for health and for grace. May we live this and every day conscious of all that has been given to us.

November 6, 2018

Smoking and Catholicism---Can it go from being Socially Acceptable to becoming a Mortal Sin?


By Larry Peterson

Magazine Smoking ad  circa late
The Baby Boomer generation (1946 thru 1964) will fully understand what follows. The Generation Z crowd (age 8 thru 23) will not. The generations in between, Gen X and Millenials, I leave for another time. This has to do with smoking.

I grew up way back in the 50s. It was an era when people not only ate and drank, they also smoked. In fact, close to 50% of Americans smoked cigarettes. Both of my parents smoked, and all five of us kids became smokers. It seemed as if everyone smoked and we never even thought about it. It was just the way it was. Doctors even did commercials promoting cigarettes.

Like many others have done, I stopped smoking a long time ago. I used to think about having a “smoke” quite often after quitting, but I have come to a point I no longer give it any thought…until the other day. That is when I heard that smoking was a mortal sin. That was, for me, a shocker.

I was at a weekday Mass in a neighboring parish, and the priest gave a short homily about addiction. He said as plain as can be that smoking cigarettes was a mortal sin because it was self-abuse and smokers were violating and harming the body that God had given them. Instantly my mind took me back in time back to a world where smoking was a “good thing.”  A time when even priests smoked---in public no less.

Baby Boomers will remember the times to which I now refer. A time when smoking was allowed virtually everywhere. People smoked in super-markets, in doctor’s offices, in hospitals, in movie theatres, and most everywhere. We never smoked in church and smoking was not allowed on the subway or buses although many people did “light up” on the bus.

When our first son was born—and so help me, this is true---my wife, Loretta, was lying in bed holding our new baby in the crook of her left arm. She was holding a lit cigarette in her other hand. She was smoking and so was the lady in the next bed who was also holding her baby. A few minutes later, Dr. Karpen, the Ob-Gyn, came in to see how Loretta was doing. He looks at me, shakes my hand, and say, “You have an extra smoke?”

I handed him a cigarette. and both of us lit up, me holding the lighter for him. That’s right; there were four adults smoking, around two newborns, as if it was the most normal thing to do. I imagine in today’s world they would slap handcuffs on us and take the babies away and turn them over to social services.

We had a pediatrician by the name of Jerry Ferber. Dr. Ferber was always quitting smoking. When you would take the little one for a visit he would more often than not say, “Listen, I have not had a cigarette all day. Give me one and there will be no charge for the visit.”

In 1964 the Surgeon General, Luther Terry, issued the first report on the dangers of smoking. It has taken decades to get to a point in time where most everywhere is “smoke-free.” They are even banning smoking in public housing. But to hear a priest say in his homily that smoking is a mortal sin just rattled my cage. 

I understand that to commit a mortal sin you must know it is a serious sin and you must willingly commit the act anyway. Millions of kind, decent people who have left this world for the next were smokers. I’m sure they were never judged on their smoking habits. There are people today who still smoke and I doubt they have never (if Catholic) imagined they were sinning when lighting a cigarette.

The bottom line is this; smoking is addictive. It is very hard to stop doing it. Some people try over and over and never succeed. Many do. But to classify smoking as a mortal sin seems kind of heavy handed. We pray for drug addicts and we have rehab centers for them and all sorts of government programs to help.  Not so much for smokers

            copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

November 1, 2018

All Saint's Day & All Soul's Day--A Time for Peace & Comfort


By Larry Peterson

The annual arrival of All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day always sends me into a bit of melancholia about what was and what might have been. Then the wonder of my faith erupts and shakes off the fleeting dispiritedness morphing it into an inner peace and comfort. Faith is a beautiful thing and a most wonderful gift for sure. But, most importantly, what the great gift of Faith does is to inspire Hope within us, Hope for tomorrow…Hope for eternal salvation.

We have all experienced the death(s) of those close to us. All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day help us to understand and believe that those we loved are not "gone" but have just moved on to a better place. We comfort in the belief that one day we will once again join them in a joyous reunion.

Communion of Saints
My list of those I remember on these two days includes eight primary people. They are all immediate family and five of them, according to my Catholic faith, must be counted among the millions of unknown and unheralded saints that found their way to their eternal reward. Then there are two that have me fully embracing the Hope of their ultimate reward. (Did I mention "inner peace and comfort"?)

My first wife, Loretta, died fourteen years ago, taken by melanoma. Loretta had been ill for a long time. Before cancer struck she was in and out of hospitals with Chronic Pancreatitis, Cirrhosis, (she never drank) Lupus, Vasculitis, Angina, and Diabetes and had numerous surgeries. Through it all she always remained true to her faith, kept a smile on her face and, no matter how poorly she was feeling, always managed to make someone who had come to see her happy that they had. Loretta did receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and Holy Viaticum before she died.

My mom died of leukemia when she had just turned 40. She also was a woman of great faith. She also received Last Rites (that is when it was called Extreme Unction) and Holy Viaticum in the hospital before she died. My memories of her are almost non-existent even though I was 15 years-old at the time. But, I do remember her receiving the sacraments.

Grandma, (maternal) lived with us. Tormented over her daughter's death she went into a strange place mentally, blaming our dad for killing her daughter. Her Faith had seemingly crumbled and she lost Hope.

It was a cold and rainy Saturday evening when Grandma had a massive stroke. Our parish priest, Father Philip Quirk, arrived and administered Extreme Unction to her. She was holding my hand so tightly I thought it might break. Grandma then lapsed into a coma and died shortly thereafter. Once again a faithful servant was awarded with God's loving mercy.

Dad died two years later. After mom died and Grandma began the "Big Hate" against him, he stayed away from home and spent time in the local pubs. He drank too much and had an acute attack of pancreatitis. The attack killed him in two days. The upside was that he, too, received the sacraments and the Lord's mercy before he died.

Loretta gave birth to our fourth child, Theresa Mary, when she was only six months pregnant. Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to the hospital. Theresa was born and died within moments.  I had called ahead to Holy Trinity Parish and Father Murray was there. He baptized Theresa and she is buried with my parents.

My brother Bobby passed away in 2007. He was 53 and, although seemingly in good health, had a heart attack and died. He did not receive Last Rites and was, if anything, a "lukewarm" Catholic.

My youngest brother, the 'baby of the family", died in 2015. His passing was self-inflicted. Johnny was 56. I have no explanation for his actions nor does anyone else. He was a caring, Christian man, who helped others and "loved his neighbor". He was not a practicing Catholic and had found solace in a Baptist church near his home.

Finally, my wife Martha ( I remarried four years after Loretta passed) developed cancer and then Alzheimer's disease. She passed on in  2017. A few days before she received her Anointing of the Sick and also an Apostolic Pardon

I began this essay stating that "the great gift of Faith inspires Hope within us, Hope for tomorrow, Hope for eternal salvation”. The Faith and Hope connection are inseparable yet subject to the free will of each of us. In the secular world “faith & reason” are opposites. If you cannot tangibly prove something it cannot be.

But God’s gift of Faith gives us the desire to Hope for what God has offered us. Therefore, I believe my Faith has allowed me to believe that six of my immediate family have attained their eternal reward. My Faith also allows me to consciously Hope that my other two family members will one day, if not already, also attain that reward.  Sooner or later I know I'll find out. 

I hope and pray that as we honor all the Saints and all the Soul's in Purgatory waiting to be saints, all Catholics can experience the peace and comfort about their departed loved ones the same way I do about mine. Believing without reservation that death is not the end of life but the beginning of a new one is truly a wonderful thing.    

                            ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved