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  #1  
Old Feb 25, '08, 1:05 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Default A Modern Martyr of the Eucharist

A spiritually uplifting account that serves as spiritual reading this Lent.

This happened 100 years ago - 23 February.

While moving to anyone who would dedicate the time to read it, I encourage those of you with young ladies and gentlemen at home to print this out and have them read it. Your children can only benefit from this.



In Cordibus Iesu et Mariae,
Most Rev. Dennis McCormack, S. I.



A Modern Martyr of the Eucharist

by Rev. William Jenkins



Fr. Leo Heinrichs and Saint Therese's Communion Rail




Father Leo Heinrichs knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament in his parish church to prepare for Sunday Mass. At 5:30 a.m. on February 23rd, 1908, the new pastor found Saint Elizabeth’s Church in Denver, Colorado, still shrouded in the chill darkness of a winter’s night, illuminated by the flickering of the parishioners’ votive candles. Slowly the faithful began to file into the tranquil solemnity of Saint Elizabeth’s from the still sleeping street and take their places in the pews. The church bells rang to announce the Mass that would soon begin with the Franciscan priest’s sign of the cross.

Several blocks away, Giuseppe Alio suddenly awoke to the sound of tolling church bells. The swarthy drifter, recently arrived in Denver, arose from his boarding house bed. He dressed quickly and quietly. His final preparations before leaving the room where to throw over himself his bulky winter coat and to tuck into the band of his trousers the loaded pistol with which he had been practicing for months. Thus attired and armed, he stepped out into the crisp pre-dawn darkness and followed the peals of the bells to Saint Elizabeth’s Church. There he signed himself with the holy water and made his way to the third pew from the front on the Gospel side - near the pulpit where he thought Father Leo would soon be preaching.

None of the three hundred or so Catholics at the Mass seemed to pay much attention to the swart little stranger in the third pew. He stood and sat and knelt with everyone else. He even went up with the others to receive Holy Communion. At the rail, Alio knelt as Father Leo approached with the servers holding the candles on either side of the Blessed Sacrament. What happened next is best told by young Joseph Hines, one of the lads who was serving Mass that morning, as reported by The Denver Post on February 24, 1908:

“I was standing on one side of Father Leo and Joe Miller was on the other. I was closer to him and had my eyes on the people to whom he was giving Communion. I saw this man come from his seat, about the third row from the pulpit, and kneel down at the rail. He had his arms crossed when I first saw him kneel. He took the sacred host from Father, I think, but whether he finished or not I could not say positively. I turned away for a minute, and when I looked at him again I saw a gun in his hand.

“Quickly I stepped up to Father Leo and grabbing his robe I said: ‘Look out, Father!’ He turned his head in my direction, but did not say a word. I tried to pull him away, for I almost knew he was going to be shot. I was too late, though, for just as his head was turned that man rose to his feet. He pointed the gun at the father’s breast and pulled the trigger. Father Leo fell back to the floor, directly in front of the statue of Virgin Mary. A man by the name of Frederick Fisher caught him and sort of broke his fall.

“I placed the candle on the altar and leaned over the father, saying: ‘Aren’t you shot, Father?’

“He raised himself up a little and picked up two of the sacred Hosts, placing them in the chalice, then lay down again. His lips moved for a few minutes, I suppose in a dying prayer, and then all was silent.

“I ran upstairs and got Father Wulstan, who came down and, bending over the dying father administered the last sacrament. Father did not say a word, but still I think he was conscious. When Father Wulstan said: ‘Father, I am giving you the last sacraments,’ Father Leo did not answer him. He was smiling, and after the doctor arrived I left, for I heard him say the father was dead.

“I then ran to my home at 1112 Eleventh Street, for I could not bear to see him lying on the altar dead.”
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:06 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Fr. Wulstan Anoints His Dying Superior

Father Wulstan Workman was one of the Franciscan priests assigned to serve Saint Elizabeth’s under Father Leo. It was Father Wulstan who was originally scheduled to offer the 6:00 a.m. Mass that Sunday. As it happened, Father Wulstan was there not to offer Mass but to anoint the dying celebrant of that Mass, his friend and superior. He describes the scene:

“I was to say that Mass, but last night Father Leo came to me and said he would say the 6 o’clock Mass, and I could say a later one. He told me this just before we retired Saturday night. I did not see him again until I found him on the floor dying.

“I was upstairs in the church when I heard a deadened report. I started down. I met young Joseph and he told me what had happened. I rushed to his side and, kneeling over him, I said: ‘Father, I am giving you the last sacraments.’ He said nothing, but I think he was conscious. I could see his lips, which seemed to bear a smile, murmur something. I could not hear what he was saying, but I think it was his dying prayer.

“Before I had finished giving him the last sacrament the police surgeon had reached his side. He said Father was dead.

“After I had become more composed I thought of what Father Leo had told me the night before. I knew then that had he not changed his mind I would have been killed and he would be alive now. There is but one way to solve the affair that I can see, and that is that God chose the better man.” (From The Denver Post, February 24, 1908)

While the scene described by Father Wulstan was unfolding in the sanctuary, the gunman was making his way down the center aisle of the church, waving his revolver and gesticulating wildly. He finally gained the door of the church when he was seized by an off-duty policeman, Daniel Cronin, who had been assisting at Mass. After a struggle in which the assassin fell down the church steps, he was hustled into a nearby carriage and quickly sped away from the gathering crowd toward the police station.

Over the next several days while in police custody, Alio gave a series of stories. At first he insisted that the shooting was an accident. He told police he had shot at the silver ciborium in self defense because the Host had burned his mouth! He then asserted he was a lone assassin who had sought to kill a priest in carrying out a personal vendetta. But in his final story he claimed he was an agent of a secret society of anarchists who had sent him on a mission to murder several Catholic priests.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:07 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Anarchist in Exile: A Death Pact

Giuseppe Alio had been born in Avolo, Sicily, in 1857. He lived a simple life as a cobbler with his wife and three children, apparently content with his Catholic religion until he was thirty-eight years old. One Easter Sunday in his home town, his life changed drastically. News reports differ as to what actually happened. Some say that Alio followed the Easter procession to his parish church, where he heard a priest condemn the socialist agitation and the riots that had recently broken out there, threatening the anarchists with hellfire. Others report that Alio had joined a protestant group and was denounced by the parish priest, so that his wife left him. Still others have it that Alio himself led and assault on the Easter procession and was marked in the territory as an anarchist, so that he had to leave his homeland for exile abroad. In any case, Alio did in fact leave Italy and sought refuge in Buenos Aires.

The true story seems to be that Alio had fallen in with a sect of anarchists and socialists in Sicily. He and his friends became so infamous as troublemakers and agitators that they feared arrest and all fled the area, regrouping in Buenos Aires.

A young priest had courageously and successfully opposed their socialist propaganda in Italy, and in their South American exile they determined to assassinate him and a number of other priests who had withstood them. They drew lots to see which of them would be sent on the mission to murder the priests. The lot fell to Alio. They provisioned him with what little money they had and sent him to New York, since they believed their quarry was now in the United States. The one young priest they sought most avidly had suffered a vicious blow to the head during the Easter Sunday attack in Avolo. They thought Alio would recognize the priest from the scar of that wound.

On May 22nd, Alio arrived on Ellis Island, New York, without passport or funds, but with the cheap pistol he had bought in Buenos Aires. In America, he waited for two months for a letter furnishing him with the address of the priest he sought to kill. All he received from his friends in Buenos Aires were two small red flags as token of his mission. He decided to leave New York and strike out on his hunt for the victim. Everywhere he went in the Italian communities he discreetly inquired about newly arrived Italian immigrant priests, and when he heard of one he went to the church. He was always disappointed - they were all strangers to him.

Upon learning that a new Italian priest had arrived in Denver, Alio headed for that western city. According to The Denver Post report of February 25, 1908: “Alio visited all the Catholic churches in the Italian quarter of Denver on one Sunday morning in January. This little rat of a man with murder in his heart and a big revolver concealed in his clothes visited all the churches, staying just long enough to get a look at the priests. He worshiped with the various congregations, knelt with those who knelt and stole furtive glances at the priests. He saw no priest who remotely resembled the man he had been sent to kill, and no priest with a big white scar on the side of his head.”

Finally, one Sunday in late January, he heard the sound of Saint Elizabeth’s church bells, and the thought struck him that perhaps there he might find his prey. After visiting the church on the following several Sundays he became convinced that the newly arrived Franciscan pastor, Father Leo Heinrichs, was the man who had been awaiting Alio’s bullets. All this time Alio had been practicing with his revolver, going into the countryside and shooting at trees the width of a man. He had filed down his bullets to a sharp point. He was clearly bent on murder.

Alio satisfied himself that if he could just get within ten yards of the priest, he could shoot him dead. On the Sunday of the murder the assassin originally positioned himself near the pulpit, to gun down the priest during the sermon, but there was no sermon at the 6:00 a.m. Mass. As it turned out, the miserable murderer stood across the communion rail from Father Leo, spat out the sacred Host which he later said burned his mouth, and at point-blank range fired into the heart of the man who had just given him the very sacrament of Divine Love. But enough about Giuseppe Alio. It is time to speak of the character of the priest he left dying on the floor of the sanctuary.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:07 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Father Leo’s Path to Denver

Father Leo was born and baptized Joseph Heinrichs on August 15, 1867, in the village of Oestrich, Germany. At the age of nineteen, he applied to the Franciscan Province of Fulda for admission to the Franciscan Order. Due to the anti-Catholic laws of Bismarck, young Joseph was sent to Paterson, New Jersey, where the Franciscans had founded a monastery at the parish of St. Bonaventure. It was to be the center of the future Province of the Holy Name.

Joseph arrived in Paterson in the fall of 1886. He became a novice, receiving the Franciscan habit on December 4th. It was then that he received, with the habit, the religious name of Leo. He pronounced simple vows on December 8th, 1887, and made his solemn profession exactly three years later. Finally, on July 26, 1891, he was ordained priest. For the next eleven years he remained at the monastery in Paterson, exercising positions of responsibility in the community. During that time he was raised to the office of vicar of Saint Bonaventure’s and director of the Franciscan third order.

In April of 1902 Father Leo was sent as pastor to Saint Stephen’s Church in Croghan, New York. It was not an enviable assignment, but one which showed the esteem his superiors had for his diligence and responsibility. A fire had destroyed the entire group of church buildings there, and Father Leo was charged with the task of rebuilding. Within just two years the church, the school, the convent and the monastery were all rebuilt and debt free. But Father Leo was not to bask in the glow of his achievement. No sooner had he completed his task than he was recalled to Paterson to serve as the vicar of the monastery and pastor of the church. Finally, in the summer of 1907, Father Leo was given what was to prove his last earthly assignment: he was appointed superior of the monastery and pastor of Saint Elizabeth’s Church in Denver.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:08 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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A Good Shepherd

Father Leo arrived in Denver on September 23, 1907. His new parish had been founded in 1878, and now had grown to comprise the parish church, a parochial school, a monastery and an orphanage - all debt free. Since the Catholic Church in Colorado would not consecrate a church building until it was free from debt, the new pastor assumed command of one of the few consecrated churches in the State.

The Franciscan soon endeared himself to all by his extraordinary cheerfulness and charity. He was a forward thinking and energetic priest, no doubt similar to Saint John Bosco and Fray Junipero Serra - a fellow Franciscan. He was a great friend of children, and knew by name every child in Saint Elizabeth’s large parish. One of the members of Father Leo’s Franciscan community, Father Eusebius, wrote upon his death: “In our parish today there are no hearts heavier than those of the little children to whom he was indeed a father. He took upon himself the special care of the children and found a favorite in each.”

After twenty-three years in exile from his German homeland, Father Leo was given permission to return to visit his remaining family. As much as Father Leo was anticipating that visit, he postponed it for months. He was preparing seventy children for their First Holy Communion and would not leave until he had the happiness of administering the Blessed Sacrament to them all on June 7th - a day he never lived to see.

Father Leo’s kindness was not limited to his own parishioners, however. The poor of Denver saw him as a great friend and knew that they would never be turned away from the door of Saint Elizabeth’s without receiving something from the pastor’s own hand. It is ironic that Giuseppe Alio hated priests, as he said, for taking advantage of the poor. The Rocky Mountain News (February 24, 1908) reports of Father Leo: “No word has been mentioned in the newspapers of Father Leo’s charity, and no man resented publicity more. But the poor of the city, regardless of their religious beliefs, will mourn in him a benefactor. People living in the vicinity of the church tell the story of the line of hungry men, women and children at the friary gate every morning, where they were received by Father Leo and given food and clothing.

“The neighbors had become so accustomed to seeing this line of people every day that it ceased to be topic of conversation. Wherever Father Leo heard of a sick person in destitute circumstances he went in person. How many people received succor from him will never be known because he never spoke of his charitable deeds. It is only through physicians who were called at his expense and the sick and poor themselves that this phase of the priest’s character can be learned.”
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:08 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Father Leo’s Secret Mortification

The pastor of Saint Elizabeth’s customarily offered the 8:00 a.m. Mass on Sundays. On the day of the shooting, Father Wulstan Workman was slated to offer the 6 o’clock Mass. But late the night before, the pastor arranged for himself to offer the earlier Mass. It seems the Mass he offered that morning was for himself. Just the day before, the mother of one of the lads serving the Sunday Mass had asked Father Leo to offer that Mass for a special intention - Father Leo himself was that special intention.

The pastor made the change so that he might attend a Communion Breakfast for the Knights of his parish later on that morning. As always, he was thinking of how he might be at the service of his people. “He had the faculty of teaching his people,” wrote John M. O’Connell, the commentator for The Rocky Mountain News. “He mingled with them, and his visits were always cheerful. He could sympathize with the sinner or laugh with the happy, and yet, when he stood upon the altar before his flock, he was the soul of dignity and piety.”

His all-consuming piety and devotion were manifest as he sank to the floor of Saint Elizabeth’s. His heart pierced by a bullet, the priest’s last act - his last concern - was to retrieve the consecrated Hosts that had spilled from the ciborium as he fell. “Call Father Eusebius,” he told the server. Not for himself did he send for the other priest, but to care for the Blessed Sacrament by his side.

The sharpened bullet, fired within a foot of his chest, pierced the left ventricle of his heart. Oddly enough, when the chasuble was removed from his body while he lay still in the sanctuary, there was found no blood staining the white alb. At the place of the wound there was only the mark of the bullet’s passage. Otherwise the alb’s purity remained unsullied.

Charity toward the poor and afflicted, with a particular love of children, has characterized the greatest saints - and Our Lord Himself. But one hidden aspect of Father Leo's life which also emulated the saints would not become known until the hours after his death, when his body was taken to the morgue. There the coroner found, wrapped tightly around the priest’s waist and also around both arms, metal chains of steel wire, spiked at intervals of one-half inch, rusted with blood.

So tight were the cincture and armlets that the coroner had to file them off his body. Unknown to even his closest associates, he had been schooled in silent mortification for years. In this way he sought to gain the mastery over his troublesome temper. Here, too, was obviously to be found the secret of his cheerfulness in the face of adversity, the secret of his perseverance and his influence over souls. He endured constant discomfort to win the graces needed by his flock. In this way, too, he resembled the great 18th century Franciscan missionary, Father Junipero Serra, who undertook severe penances to generate the graces needed for the conversion of the Indians of California.

It was indeed fitting that this priest met his death before the statue of the Virgin, which he fell at the foot of her altar and there carefully set the ciborium of Hosts on the altar step. He had been born and baptized on the feast of her Assumption; he had professed his first vows and later his solemn vows on the feast of her Immaculate Conception. Just a few days before that fateful Sunday morning, the pastor delivered a sermon to the young women of the parish sodality in which he exclaimed: “How sweet it is to die at the feet of Mary!” Perhaps these thoughts recurred to him as he lay dying. A number of observers have noted that, prostrate in the sanctuary with a bullet through his heart, Father Leo prayed silently with an evident smile upon his face.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:09 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Faithful Number Thousands at Requiem

The Solemn Requiem Mass for Father Leo took place in Saint Elizabeth’s at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 26th. Among the several hundred parishioners within the church were the governor of Colorado and the mayor of Denver. Another five thousand men and women stood outside in the frigid morning air. The dead pastor’s body lay in the church sanctuary, the foot of the casket toward the communion rail and the head of the casket elevated so that all could see the face of their beloved pastor. The Denver Post of February 25th carried an article by Elizabeth Kelly describing the scene. She reported of Father Leo’s face that “an expression which might be called ecstatic rested on the purple- white features. There was no death agony written there.

“Yes, Father Leo had been glad to die.”

“Verily, he was as much a martyr as the men the Church has canonized.”

“On a pillow of snowy whiteness the tonsured head lay. Simplicity itself was the coffin of black wood which held the dead priest. It was of black wood, for metal caskets are a luxury, and luxury is a word foreign to the lexicon of a Franciscan friar.”

“Before the tabernacle it reposed on an improvised platform, slanting so that the features of the martyred priest could be seen from the pews away back into the body of the church.”

“The center gates of the chancel rail were thrown open and the aisle made by the two rows of palms was just wide enough for the casket. The roses and the candelabra stood at the head of the bier near the main altar, and above all the figure of the Crucified One looked down from a cross of ebony.”

“There was pain written on the face of the Man of Sorrows.”

“There was rapture traced on the countenance of His humble disciple who lay dead at His torn and bleeding feet.”
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:09 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Burial and Reported Miracles

After the funeral Mass the body was conducted in procession to the train depot. There it was placed on the 2:30 p.m. train bound for Paterson, New Jersey. Father Eusebius accompanied the body of his former superior back to its resting place at Saint Bonaventure’s, where Father Leo had begun his religious life twenty-two years earlier. There his remains were laid to rest in the friar’s burial plot.

Immediately the veneration of Father Leo took root among the Catholic faithful. This confidence in Father Leo’s holiness did not go unrewarded. In the years following his death many blessings were attributed to his intercession. A rose taken by a friend from the priest’s casket was still perfectly preserved and fragrant eleven years later - and this despite rather rough handling in the intervening years. The family keeping the rose regards several cures of family members; notably, that of one son given up by several doctors as hopelessly ill, as the fruit of Father Leo’s intercession.

The Catholic newspaper of Denver reported in April of 1919 that the Catholics of that area had received numerous favors through the martyred priest. “These facts have not been officially investigated, but they are worthy of remembering, for we all hope to see the movement set well under way to gain for Father Leo the highest honors that can be accorded him by the Church,” The Catholic Register stated. “To have prayers to this saintly martyr answered is not a new experience for Denver people. Some remarkable instances can be cited.” One author points out that the novena of Communions on nine successive days in reparation for the sacrilegious Communion of the anarchist who shot him has been found particularly efficacious in obtaining favors.

Almost four years after burial, in November of 1911, the body of Father Leo was exhumed for re-interment in a larger section of Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. The casket was thoroughly water soaked and rotted, and the fabric lining the coffin as well as the brown habit in which the body was buried crumbled at the touch. Yet the body itself was found in an extraordinary state of preservation. The priest’s head and face were in perfect condition, showing no signs of decay.

After a lapse of eighteen years, in the summer of 1926, the General of the Franciscan Order asked that the Processus Ordinarius begin for Father Leo’s beatification. In fall of that same year, the Most Reverend John J. O’Connor, Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, organized the Beatification Committee.

In the months afterward, the various steps of the process shifted from Denver, to Paterson and to Cologne, Germany. There were examined the circumstances of his death, the facts of his life, the quality of his writings and the suitability of the Catholic people’s veneration for him.

During the phase of the Process in Denver in the winter of 1927, the bishop of that diocese appointed an old and venerable Jesuit priest, Father Aloysius Brucker, a member of the Beatification Board. Father Brucker carefully documented some forty extraordinary cures attributed to the intercession of Father Leo Heinrichs. The Vice Postulator of the Process summoned witnesses of several of these cases to place them on the official record.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:10 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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A Death on Calvary

In some ways, the circumstances of Giuseppe Alio’s murder of the priest resembles the treachery of Judas Iscariot. Like Judas, Alio took the Blessed Sacrament in the process of disguising his murderous intent. As Alio professed to be moved by concern for the poor and condemned priests for taking advantage of them, so Judas protested that the precious ointment which Mary Magdalene poured over Christ’s head should not have been wasted but rather been sold and the money given to the poor. When Christ’s death was decreed, Judas raged in desperation that he had betrayed innocent blood, so Alio shrieked in misery and rage when he learned he had murdered the wrong priest. The two unfortunate men even shared somewhat the same fate, save that Judas hung himself in despair, while Alio was hung by the State of Colorado, despite the plea for mercy by the Franciscan Fathers of Saint Elizabeth’s Church.

Father Leo’s death also bears some slight similarity in circumstances to the death of his Savior. As Christ died on Calvary, so the young pastor also died on Calvary - in the sanctuary during the Holy Sacrifice Itself. His heart also was pierced, not by the head of a spear, to be sure, but by the lead of Alio’s bullet.

During a funeral Mass the previous Friday, Father Leo admonished the congregation to live so as to be prepared for death and judgment.

“Death may come at any time and under peculiar circumstances,” he said. “We must live so that when the end comes we will be at peace with God, and then to us death will have no terror, but will be merely the transition to a happier life.” (The Rocky Mountain News, February 24, 1908)

The Communion Rail Now Stands in Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church

The communion rail at which Father Leo gave Giuseppe Alio Holy Communion and over which the lethal bullet flew now stands in Saint Therese of the Child Jesus traditional Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Saint Therese’s was the first church building of our traditional Mass chain which was erected entirely new, and which has been from the moment of its inception consecrated exclusively to the traditional Catholic Mass. We feel honored and blessed by Divine Providence to have this sacred “relic” of the martyrdom of the Servant of God, Father Leo Heinrichs, and we pray that he will protect and nurture our parish, and that all of our fellow true Catholics will find strength in the example - and, God willing, aid in the intercession - of this devout pioneer priest.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 1:12 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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I realize this is long, but I do not have a link to this story.

This is too good of a story not to post.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 2:53 pm
AJV AJV is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marymonde View Post
I realize this is long, but I do not have a link to this story.

This is too good of a story not to post.
I found a link here. I'm just wading through it now....
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Old Feb 25, '08, 3:05 pm
marymonde marymonde is offline
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Thank you. A friend of mine sent the story to me in an email. I didn't bother to google.
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Old Feb 25, '08, 7:59 pm
Hijikata Hijikata is offline
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What a beautiful story, yet so sad...
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Old Feb 25, '08, 8:21 pm
allhers allhers is offline
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Thank you for sharing that.
Fr. Leo, pray for us!
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