We are now into the third week of Lent and the road to redemption has been halfway traveled. Throughout the world Catechumens have almost reached their goal of full inclusion into the Catholic Church, which takes place during the Easter Vigil. It is a beautiful thing. In addition, this past December 8, Pope Francis started us on our journey into the Holy Year of Mercy. The slogan for The Holy Year of Mercy is, “A Time to Heal, to Help, to Forgive.” Yes, forgiveness is everywhere.
To give an example of how God’s mercy is ALWAYS available to those who seek it I would like to briefly mention a man by the name of Arthur Flegenheimer. Arthur was born in New York City in 1901, of German-Jewish ancestry. By the time he was 27 he was known as Dutch Schultz and was quickly becoming one of the most feared mob bosses in New York. The “Dutchman” was a bootlegger (running illegal whiskey), a numbers boss operating in Harlem and a “shakedown artist” within the NYC restaurant industry, offering protection while using the restaurant unions as cover.
His main enforcer was the infamous, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, a brutal killer who did Schultz’s bidding without hesitation. Eventually the “Dutchman” got tired of Coll’s wanting more money. As “Mad Dog” sat in a telephone booth talking on the phone he was machine-gunned to death by Schultz’s henchmen. Dutch actually proved to be a more brutal killer than “Mad Dog” Coll. So how does my brain tie together Dutch Schultz and the Holy Year of Mercy combined with Forgiveness? Actually, it is not that hard to do. This is the phenomenal redemption available to all through the Church and her Sacraments.
Dutch Schultz wanted to kill U. S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey (later to be Governor of NY and the presidential candidate losing to Harry Truman in the 1948 election). The Mafia Commission told Schultz, “NO, it would cause us too much trouble.” Schultz refused to listen and decided to kill Dewey anyway. The mob, under Lucky Luciano, sent “Murder Inc.” after Schultz. On October 23, 1935, they gunned him down in a restaurant in Newark, N.J. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness. Enter Mercy.
Earlier, Dutch Schultz had been acquitted on tax evasion charges, and at that time he converted to Catholicism. He believed that Jesus had saved him. When he was shot he did not die right away. He was taken to the hospital for surgery and he immediately asked for a priest. He was 34 years old and his last thought while he was dying was to ask Jesus for forgiveness and mercy. The “Dutchman” went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church by a priest. Then he died. Did Dutch Schultz go right to heaven? Did he get to the “pearly gates” and have St. Peter say, “Sorry, Dutch, that priest made a mistake. What you did was uunforgivable. You are not welcome here.” I think not.
In a few weeks it will be Good Friday. Catholic/Christian people all over the world will mourn and honor the bloodied, tortured and crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ: Jesus, the God-man who embraced forgiveness for all people and extended love to everyone. This is also what He wanted us to do. This is why he suffered and died for us. He offered Himself to His Father for us. Then we celebrate His Father’s gift back to us, the Risen Christ. We all have been saved and we all have the choice of whether or not we want to share eternal life with the Blessed Trinity. All we need to do is seek forgiveness. Because of God’s Mercy, even a Dutch Schultz can join in the Redemption Celebration. It is a beauty beyond description.
©Larry Peterson 2016. All Rights Reserved