August Monthly Meeting
Dear members and friends of the Sodality of Charity,
Tomorrow is the greatest of the feasts of the Catholic Church during summertime, the Assumption of Our Lady. Notice that because this feast falls on a Sunday, the blessing of first fruits and flowers takes place before the High Mass, not after, as we usually do, in case you want to bring any to be blessed. You are welcome to visit Our Lady’s tomb and take a bit of blessed herb or flower home with you. It is a precious sacramental, which brings blessings and heavenly protection, which we all need so much on these days.
Keep in mind also on Monday the feast of the father of Our Lady, St. Joachim, “God’s Grandfather.” On Monday we also remember St. Roch, who lived in a time of a horrible epidemic plague, and who bravely went from city to city, caring and attending the sick and dying, many of whom he cured simply by making the sign of the cross over them.
Our Sodality monthly meeting will be this Saturday, August 21, on the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal and Our Lady of Knock. As usual, there will be a sermon about 8:05 and then High Mass at 8:15. Mr. Mike Volz has kindly offered to do archery again. I will also have for most of our members their membership diplomas, together with a frame, if you want to keep yours on your wall.
Bishop Dolan made a trip to our St. Hugh of Lincoln parish in Milwaukee last weekend. He had a record number of 21 Confirmands. On First Saturday he gave them the morning of recollection and told them about Irene Koster. She was a girl from Kenosha, Wisconsin, who died at the age of 12 in 1937, and is known as “the Little Flower of Kenosha.” I’ll give you below a little narrative which tells her life story. I shortened it a little bit, but you can read it whole, as well as many other stories of heroic Catholic children from Fr. Winfrid Herbst’s book Real Life Stories. In 2017 I and some parishioners from St. Hugh made a trip to Kenosha’s St. George cemetery where Irene and her parents are buried, and we prayed the Rosary of the dead for her. You can see in the gravestone, that Irene’s mother Marie lived to be over 90 and died in 1993.
I’ll plan to do Stations of the Cross with the Sodalists and their families this Saturday at noon (as Irene used to do), and we can do it outside if the weather permits. This will give a better chance for our families to take part in our monthly Sodality devotion as well, in case some of you need to depart before the meeting ends. We can have our lunch and movie after the stations, and we’ll end the meeting by 2 PM.
In case you have finished the sick call sacramental bags, please bring them with you to this Saturday.
Have a blessed feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
Yours in Christ and Mary,
Irene Koster, a Little Flower of Kenosha
Of Irene Koster it may be truly said that though she is dead she still lives by the fragrance of her good example. Her parents were a young happily married Catholic couple, who had one child, a boy a year old. The father was an industrious young man engaged in the trucking business, but, in the course of his work, he contracted a cold which developed into pneumonia. In spite of the best medical care, he died on March 7, 1925.
Things looked sad and gloomy for the poor widow, more especially since this once so happy family had been looking forward to the coming of a second child to brighten the already bright and happy home. While anxiously waiting, the mother was comforted by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who extended to her a guiding hand. This vision was, indeed, significant in the light of after years, for the infant daughter, born a few months after the father's death in Mary's own month of May, was in truth Mary’s own child. Another newsworthy incident was the baptism of the little girl on the day on which St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, was canonized. Little wonder, then, that the Little Flower was Irene’s favorite saint. Little Irene, for so she was called, radiated sunshine and brought peace.
However, Mrs. Koster was forced to seek employment in order to support herself and her heaven-sent charges, so a self-sacrificing aunt and uncle came to assume the responsibility of providing a home for these two darling children. Irene was a bright and brilliant child and at the age of five and a half years entered St. George School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to begin her Catholic education and to prepare for her First Holy Communion under the guidance of the Notre Dame Sisters.
In school, Irene was a general favorite both with her classmates and teachers. Her beautiful features were enhanced by her beauty of soul. To know her was to love her, for she was amiability and simplicity personified. Though she cared for no notice or publicity, everybody was forced to notice her, for she was just different. All her teachers unanimously assert that she always came with all her assignments prepared; her work was always neatly and correctly done. The only time when her voice was heard was when she contributed to the class discussion. When unusually difficult problems came up, all eyes instinctively turned to her, for she could be relied upon to give the correct solution. Her school records prove that she was a student of unusual ability. She worked for everything she got, and would not take any credits which she did not really earn.
Irene’s love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was testified to by her daily attendance at this greatest act of worship in the Catholic Church. From her first day at school until her last she attended Mass daily with devotion that spurred on her companions to emulate her. Though she was young in years, she knew that the Lord loved little acts of self-sacrifice, so it was not an unusual thing for her to kneel all during the Mass. Then, too, she did not assist at Mass in an aimless way as is the wont of so many less pious children. She had intentions for which she offered all her little and great devotions, for she offered spiritual bouquets for her dear ones on their various feast days.
Her love for Mary, the heavenly Queen, found its expression in a very real way during the month of May, Mary’s month and her month, for was she not born in May? Her May altar received a great deal of her attention. Fresh flowers were never wanting and every evening, before retiring, she would light the candles, kneel at the feet of her heavenly Mother, and recite her evening prayers. She knew, too, how to keep the devil at bay during the night. Never did she fail to bless herself and her bed with holy water before retiring. She imprinted a loving kiss upon a Sacred Heart plaque every night before she went off to dreamland. She treasured this greatly and placed it at the head end of her bed. Beneath her pillow she had a mission crucifix. Well armed she went to her night’s rest. No wonder then she rose each morning eagerly hungering for the Bread of Life and her daily Mass.
The happiest day of her life was May 21, 1933 – her First Communion day. From that day on she became a daily communicant. Many mornings when she did not feel up to par, her concerned aunt wanted her to eat and drink something hot for her breakfast. But her sweet answer on such occasions would invariably be: “If I receive Holy Communion it will cure me more quickly and more surely.” What could her aunt do, but let her carry her breakfast with thermos bottle to school and eat her breakfast after Mass.
Shortly before she was confined to her bed of illness, it happened that she fainted during Mass. That caused quite a commotion among the school children, and one of the more thoughtless children remarked that she fainted because she had had no breakfast, and was consequently weak. To her brother, who repeated that remark to her, she said: “You tell that person that he is four years behind time, for I have received Holy Communion every morning now for four years, and this is the first time I ever fainted.”
The Lent of 1937 was spent in her usual devout way. She had formed the habit of saying the Stations every noon before going home to dinner. If she was prevented from doing so at noon, she would not neglect the Stations after school. How our Suffering Savior must have loved this friend of His! And because she was so dear to Him, the Lord let her share in His pain, for the year 1937 saw little Irene suffering a real martyrdom, which ended in her holy death.
The first symptoms of her illness were red spots on her beautiful face. The doctor explained that it was simply a rash that was the result of some germs that had found their way into her system. Nobody was alarmed at the outset, but when it spread to different parts of her body and did not submit to treatment, there was cause for alarm. A burning fever aggravated her condition so it was thought advisable to take her to the hospital.
The agony that Irene suffered the three weeks before her death cannot be described. Her body was practically one sore; blood and matter oozed from these sores; her eyes were nearly closed as a result of the swelling. Day and night a nurse was at her bedside, as also was one of her dear ones. There were times when she almost could not stand the hot applications on her sore face, and she would plead with the nurse not to put them on. But the nurse did her duty hoping to save this precious life. Through it all she bore up like Christ’s own little martyr, offering all her sufferings for the “Love of Jesus.” When asked by the priest whether she would be willing to die if Jesus wanted her, and whether she was suffering all patiently for Jesus, she said: “Yes, all for Jesus.”
We may wonder what strengthened her to suffer so heroically and so beautifully, so that she was a marvel to all. The secret was her meeting with the King of Martyrs each morning. The Lord came to His little sufferer each morning until the last day of her life. Only in heaven will we know what these visits meant to brave, suffering Irene. In due time she made her last confession and received Extreme Unction. She was so happy to receive this Sacrament, and then asked to kiss the crucifix and prepared herself for her home-going. She had but one request to make of her dear ones – they should give her up, for she knew that God wanted her and she was willing to leave this world for her heavenly home.
It was hard to part with this treasure, so when it was suggested that a blood transfusion might save her, the uncle who had been a second father to her gave of his blood to save this young life. She had lost a great deal of blood as a result of hemorrhages and bleedings. Her vitality was at a low ebb because of frequent convulsions, so the blood transfusion helped little. God demanded the sacrifice of this loving child, and the good mother and Christian uncle and aunt resigned themselves to her loss. They had left nothing undone to save this precious life for His service. So while the candle was flickering low at her bedside and while the priest was reciting the prayers for the dying, Irene’s eyes grew dim and her soul winged its flight to God, Who was waiting to embrace this loving child of His in His welcoming arms, and to change her unheard-of sufferings into never-ending joys. Irene’s holy death occurred on June 25, 1937.
Though it was vacation time, many of the school children attended Irene’s funeral in a body. Some of her classmates served as pall-bearers. To make it possible for the school Sisters to view her corpse, the coffin was opened in the church entry. Those who viewed her mortal remains will never forget the peace depicted on those features, so lately racked by such intense agony. Little Irene has joined her other little sister, “The Little Flower,” in heaven from whence they will teach their “little way” to all those who are willing to learn and profit by their beautiful example.
The book Real Life Stories can be purchased here: